Daily News- June 20- 2002- Thursday

  • Myanmar's Money Laundering Control Law Not to Affect People's
  • Aung San Suu Kyi Urges Greater Empowerment of Burmese Women
  • Two Thai soldiers hurt by stray mortar rounds on Myanmar border
  • Myanmar asylum-seekers in Malaysia are 'pretending'
  • US has immense skepticism over Myanmar government
  • Myanmar Newspaper: Impossible to Maintain Good Neighborhood With Thailand
  • Australia to Provide Myanmar With More Humanitarian Aid

  • Myanmar's Money Laundering Control Law Not to Affect People's

    YANGON, June 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar Minister of Home Affairs Colonel Tin Hlaing said on Wednesday that his government's currently promulgated Money Laundering Control Law will not affectthe interest of the country's people and national entrepreneurs.

    Meeting with the press, Tin Hlaing denied the rumors that the law has brought about monetary instability in the country, assuring that people's deposits that were made in banks before the law was enacted will not be affected.

    The money laundering control law began to be drafted in May 2000 in conformity with the international conventions that Myanmarhas acceded on implementing money laundering control, and is aimedat cooperating with international and regional organizations and neighboring countries for such control, he said.

    However, he declined to disclose the least amount of money and property designated or considered as illegally obtained. He went on to say that money sent from abroad to local people as aid will not be cognizable under this law.

    He clarified that the law will apply to the offenses of illegally converting, transferring, concealing, obliterating or disguising of money and property obtained from the commission of such offenses as trafficking in and smuggling of women and children, antiques, arms and ammunition, undertaking of a financial institution without license, counterfeiting money, hijacking of aircraft, vessel or vehicle, cyber crimes committed by electronic means and acts of terrorism.

    The Myanmar government promulgated on Monday the Control of Money Laundering Law to control and take effective actions againstmoney and property obtained by illegal means. Under the law, any person residing permanently in the country, who is charged with money laundering within or outside Myanmar, will be punished in imprisonment ranging from at least three yearsup to 10 years or an unlimited period, depending on the graveness of the crimes committed.

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    Aung San Suu Kyi Urges Greater Empowerment of Burmese Women

    Doris Than-Washington
    VOA News

    Burma opposition leader and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has marked her 57th birthday with a call for greater empowerment of women in the military-ruled country. The 1991 Nobel Laureate says the women of Burma are underprivileged and denied rights to security and control over their lives.

    In an audiotape smuggled out of Rangoon and played at a birthday celebration in Washington, Aung San Suu Kyi called for Burmese women to play an important role in working towards democracy. "The women of Burma must shape not only their destiny, but also the destiny of the nation," she said. "For Burma to progress and take its rightful place in today's world, the women must be empowered. They must play a vigorous and leading role paving the way to social, political and economic changes in this country."She said Burmese women have been handicapped by outmoded prejudices.

    The leader of Burma's opposition National League for Democracy also noted that discrimination against women exists in most parts of the world. "In Burma, as in many other parts of the world, women are the underprivileged gender," continued Aung San Suu Kyi. "In areas of conflict and crisis, it is our women and children who suffer most. On the other hand, our women are rarely allowed to achieve decision-making positions even though they are able and well qualified. This means they are neither assured of their right to security nor their right to shape their own destiny. "

    The celebration marked the sixth annual Women of Burma Day as well as Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday.

    Speaking at the Washington event, Congressman Benjamin Gilman, Chairman Emeritus of the House International Relations Committee, noted his concerns about the lack of progress toward democracy in Burma. "With Aung San Suu Kyi just released last month on May 6, some people are expecting there could be some changes there," he said. "I think what we have to bear in mind is that there has been no significant changes."

    Six weeks ago, Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from 19 months of house arrest by Burma's military government. Since her release she has not met with any senior generals, a sign that some observers say indicates national reconciliation talks have stalled.The National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in a 1990 general election, but Burma's military government did not recognize the results and continues to rule the country.

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    Two Thai soldiers hurt by stray mortar rounds on Myanmar border

    BANGKOK, June 20 (AFP) - Two Thai soldiers were injured by stray mortar rounds that hit an outpost on the Thai- Myanmar border, a Thai army spokesman said Thursday.

    Colonel Somkuan Saengpattaranetr told AFP the mortar rounds, fired from Myanmar, hit the outpost Wednesday in Wieng Haeng district of Chiang Mai, some 700 kilometres (435 miles) north of Bangkok.Two rounds slightly injured two soldiers and caused damage to a flagpole, he said.

    Several rounds also landed in nearby jungle, he said, adding Thailand had fired smoke rounds as warnings in response."The Pha Maung border task force will send a protest letter over yesterday's incident to Myanmar," he added.

    Myanmar said Thursday there was no exchange of fire between the two countries."There is no exchange of fire between the Myanmar and Thai troops on the border," spokesman Colonel Hla Min said in a brief statement.

    Meanwhile, more than 300 Thais were evacuated Wednesday from the border area in Tak province's Phob Phra district as fighting between Myanmar troops and ethnic minorities continued, Colonel Somkuan also said.The fighting persisted overnight, he added.On June 4 Yangon announced its troops and allies in the United Wa State Army (UWSA) were launching an all-out offensive against the SSA to reclaim their lost border posts.Yangon has made no public reference to casualties since its offensive began.

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    Myanmar asylum-seekers in Malaysia are 'pretending'

    YANGON, June 20 (AFP) - A group of 18 Muslim illegal immigrants from Myanmar who are refusing to leave the grounds of a UN refugee agency in Malaysia are "pretending" to seek asylum, a Yangon official said Thursday.

    "Some individuals or groups are trying to get into Malaysia using various ways and means, including pretending to seek asylum with the help of human traffickers and some NGOs," Myanmar's junta spokesman Colonel Hla Min told AFP.

    The group invaded the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) centre in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in two batches on Monday and Tuesday.In the junta's first comments since the incident, the spokesman said the 18, who are members of Myanmar's minority Rohingya Muslim community, originally went to Thailand to work illegally.

    "The 18 persons seeking asylum in Malaysia are I believe those who went to Thailand to work there as illegal workers. But due to the changes of policy on foreign illegal workers these 18 people went to Malaysia to seek jobs," Hla Min said."But the government of Myanmar is sending workers to Malaysia through proper official channels, creating difficulties for those who enter Malaysia illegally," he said, adding that this had led them to pretend to seek asylum.

    The 15 men, two children and a woman have remained camped in the compound of the centre and say they will not leave until they are granted asylum in Malaysia or a third country.The immigrants said previous asylum appeals had always been rejected, but there was no other place for them to turn to as they were being persecuted in their own country.

    In January, more than two dozen Rohingya immigrants stormed the centre to seek asylum, but were handed over to immigration officials who said they would be deported.

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    US has immense skepticism over Myanmar government

    WASHINGTON, June 19 (AFP) - The United States still harbors huge skepticism towards Myanmar's military regime, but will respond with positive gestures should Yangon make genuine efforts to promote political reform, a senior US official said Wednesday.

    US officials have however held "brainstorming" sessions to examine their options in Myanmar policy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Matthew Daley said in testimony to a House of Representatives committee.

    Daley warned that Washington had no intention of easing or lifting a punishing range of sanctions designed to nudge Myanmar towards democracy, despite the recent release from house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    "We have to keep the pressure up, we have enormous skepticism towards the regime," he told the House International Relations subcommittee on East Asia, on the day when Aung San Suu Kyi celebrated her 57th birthday.

    Hardline US policies towards Myanmar have come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks, following signs that a secret dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta, brokered by United Nations envoy Razali Ismail, may be making slow progress.US officials admit they are not sure exactly how well the process is moving ahead, because both sides have honored a promise to keep the deliberations confidential.But Daley said that Myanmar could influence the US position by moving towards democratic reform, for the first time since annulling a 1990 election victory by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

    "Significant, concrete steps including the improvement of human rights will spur a positive response on our part," Daley said.Daley did not specify what steps officials had in mind. However, US policymakers have told AFP on condition of anonymity in recent weeks that they have a full toolbox of diplomatic options short of lifting sanctions.

    A first step might be to lift the ban on Myanmar officers of the rank of general and above traveling to the United States, while a second could be to fill the vacant ambassador's post at the embassy in Yangon.

    If progress leads to a fundamental shift in Myanmar's political climate, the United States may consider easing prohibitions on lending to the military government by international financial institutions.

    Already, the State Department has pledged to work with Congress to provide aid for NGOs not linked to the military which are tackling Myanmar's explosive HIV/AIDS crisis -- a measure some observers say is way overdue.

    Karen Turner, an administrator at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said at the hearing that Myanmar, formerly Burma, was becoming the "epicenter" of East Asia's AIDS epidemic.Most current US government assistance towards Myanmar AIDS sufferers is confined to refugees from the country living in refugee camps inside the Thai border.However USAID is proposing a "limited focus" program in Myanmar to include primary prevention programs for most at risk groups likes prostitutes and drug users.General anti-AIDS education and training for healthcare providers would also be in the package, Turner said."All activities will be closely coordinated with Burma's democratic forces inside and outside of Burma," she said."No assistance will be provided to the military regime."

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    Myanmar Newspaper: Impossible to Maintain Good Neighborhood With Thailand

    YANGON, June 20 (Xinhuanet) -- The official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar carried an article on Thursday attacking Thailand, saying that it is impossible to maintain good-neighborly relations with that country.

    "We can never accept Yodaya (Thailand) as a good neighbor as long as it is practicing the policy of self-interest," said the article titled "Existence of Insurgents Benefits Yodaya".

    Since the outbreak of Myanmar-Thailand border clashes last month, the Myanmar authorities calls Thailand as Yodaya as a warning for Yodaya is historically the former Thai capital which Myanmar forces captured and destroyed in 1767.

    The article blamed Thailand for allowing refugees into its territory along the border with Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, out ofwhich, it said, Thailand is enjoying three kinds of benefits. The benefits, which the article charged, include the creation of a buffer zone by accepting "insurgents" under the pretext of refugees, using family members of them and other villagers forcefully taken as human shield in the zones.

    Other benefits, it said, are that Thailand earned income from the refugee aids provided by non-governmental organizations and that Thai businessmen are able to exploit the labor of the refugees at low wages.

    The article went on to blame that Thailand is always enjoying atrade surplus with its exports to Myanmar triple the amount of imports from Myanmar, attributing the imbalance to illegal trade on account of the existence of "insurgents".

    Meanwhile, Myanmar has held a series of mass rallies so far in 10 areas in the country since the beginning of this month to condemn Thailand's backing of the SURA.

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    Australia to Provide Myanmar With More Humanitarian Aid

    YANGON, June 20 (Xinhuanet) -- Australia will help Myanmar combat HIV/AIDS and train government officials on protection of human rights under its humanitarian assistance program, according to a latest report of the weekly Myanmar Times journal.

    The report quoted the Australian embassy sources as saying that the humanitarian aid of 6.2 million Australian dollars (about 3.35million U.S. dollars) represents an increase of 50 percent extended to the country compared with last year.

    The grant aid would be used for projects implemented by the United Nations and international non-governmental organizations tofight HIV/AIDS as well as child health projects in the country. Funds will also be allocated to conduct two human rights workshops in Myanmar's Mandalay and Taunggyi next month to train Myanmar government officials on protection of human rights, the report said.

    According to the journal, the Australian government has funded such training for seven times since 2000 with 151 Myanmar officials so far trained. Moreover, the Australian government would also help Myanmar train judges on judicial administration and reform, it added.

    The Myanmar government and the Australian Human Rights Commissioner agreed in Yangon in August 1999 on cooperation in thefield of human rights.

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