Daily News- June 21- 2002- Friday

  • U.S. Officials Seek AIDS Funding for Myanmar
  • Chavalit opts out of talks with Burma
  • Cracks in Burma's Ties With The Wa
  • Defendants in Myanmar coup trial plead innocent
  • UN to reach decision soon on Myanmar Muslim asylum seekers

  • U.S. Officials Seek AIDS Funding for Myanmar

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials Wednesday asked Congress for $1 million to fight HIV/AIDS in Myanmar despite strict US sanctions on the military-led country, saying it was now the center of the disease in the region.

    Washington cut off bilateral aid to Myanmar, also called Burma, in 1998. But after opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in May the Bush administration said it would consider funds for nongovernmental organizations specifically for the fight against HIV/AIDS.

    "We think Burma, not Cambodia, may now be the epicenter for HIV/AIDS Southeast Asia," Karen Turner of the US Agency for International Development told a House International Relations subcommittee on the region.Up to 4% of Myanmar's population may be affected by HIV/AIDS, said Turner, USAID's deputy assistant administrator in the Asia and Near East bureau.

    Turner said Myanmar needs about $35 million a year to begin to effectively combat the disease. USAID wants Congress to approve a $1 million effort that would include a primary prevention program aimed at prostitutes and drug users, education for the general population and training for health care providers.

    Congressional members, who criticized the current leadership in Myanmar but also expressed concern about the high rate of HIV/AIDS incidence, were generally receptive.

    President Bush Wednesday pledged $500 million to help fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The money would help buy anti-HIV drugs for pregnant women and their babies, and improve health facilities by assisting hospital programs, hiring medical professionals and supporting other efforts aimed at reducing mother-to-child transmission.

    Washington observes an arms embargo against Myanmar, as well as an investment ban, visa restrictions and a freeze on new lending and grant programs by international agencies.The Bush administration has made it clear that this policy will not change unless Myanmar does more to improve its record on issues such as human rights and drug trafficking.

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    Chavalit opts out of talks with Burma

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has opted out of any talks to clear the air with Rangoon, saying it is not part of his job. ``I want to repeat that negotiating is none of my business. I act as a coordinator only. The Foreign Ministry is in charge here,'' he said.

    The comment comes after Burma rejected a protest note by the Third Army through the Township Border Committee (TBC) at Mae Sai, Chiang Rai. The army complained about stray shells from fighting in Burma.The Burmese TBC at Tachilek said it had been told not to accept any protest note from its Thai counterpart. The note should go to the Burmese embassy.The rejection is the first since the TBC was set up in an effort to solve border conflicts at the provincial level.

    Gen Chavalit's comment raised eyebrows as he has been seeking talks with Burma. He had told army specialist Vichit Yathip to arrange talks on the border with Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the State Peace and Development Council, at the border in Chiang Rai. The Burmese refused.

    Cracks in Burma's Ties With The Wa

    source : FEER-Issue cover-dated June 27, 2002

    Signs are emerging that the Rangoon government may be turning against its drug-running ethnic Wa allies in the north.

    Burmese troops arrested two prominent leaders of the minority Wa community in Shan State near the border with Thailand in early May, according to senior Thai officials. Both were thought to be deeply involved in the trafficking of methamphetamine drugs into Thailand.

    One, Wei Sai Tan, was reportedly released soon afterwards and handed over to Wa authorities. His assistant, Sai Lu, is said by the Thai officials to have committed suicide while in custody. Although it is not known exactly why the two were arrested, elements of the Burmese army are thought to have tried, largely unsuccessfully, to enforce an order for the Wa to hand over their weapons.

    Thailand has long been asking Burma, without much success, to cooperate in stamping out the drug-manufacturing and smuggling activities of the Wa. But Burma's powerful army commander, Gen. Maung Aye, promised to help stem the flow of drugs when he visited Bangkok in April.

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    Defendants in Myanmar coup trial plead innocent

    By AYE AYE WIN, Associated Press Writer

    YANGON, Myanmar - Four relatives of former dictator Ne Win, who are accused of planning a coup against Myanmar's military junta, pleaded innocent to the capital charge of high treason on Friday.

    The defendants entered their pleas after a special tribunal formally accepted the treason charge laid out by the prosecution against Ne Win's son-in-law Aye Zaw Win and three grandsons.Myanmar's military government alleges that Aye Zaw Win and his sons Kyaw Ne Win, Aye Ne Win and Zwe Ne Win tried to recruit military units to kidnap junta leaders and force them to form a new regime loyal to Ne Win. They were arrested on March 7, and if found guilty, could be sentenced to death.The four men are also charged with the illegal importation and use of telecommunications equipment.

    "After listening to the deposition of 46 witnesses and examining the evidence produced before court, the court has decided to charge the accused with high treason," said presiding judge Aung Ngwe.He then asked the defendants to enter their pleas. Wearing white shirts and sarongs, the four men stood up one by one and announced, "I plead not guilty."

    The judge set the next hearing for Monday when defense lawyer Tun Sein will re-examine four prosecution witnesses and produce 13 defense witnesses.

    Ne Win, 91, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1962. He led Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to economic ruin before stepping down in 1988 in the face of pro-democracy demonstrations that were quashed by the military.The government says his family planned the coup because they were upset about losing some of their economic and social privileges.

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    UN to reach decision soon on Myanmar Muslim asylum seekers

    KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 (AFP) - The fate of 18 Muslim illegal immigrants from military-ruled Myanmar will soon be sealed, five days after some of them first occupied a UN refugee agency here, an official said Friday.

    "We are in the final stages of making a final decision soon, in coordination with our headquarters," said Shinji Kubo, protection officer of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) centre in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.The members of Myanmar's minority Rohingya Muslim community invaded the UNHCR centre here in two batches on Monday and Tuesday.

    Myanmar's junta spokesman Colonel Hla Min said Thursday the 18 immigrants were "pretending" to seek asylum and had originally gone to Thailand to work illegally. Due to the changes of policy on foreign illegal workers in Thailand these 18 had sought employment instead in Malaysia, he said.

    "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," he said.

    Kubo, who had earlier said interviews with the Rohingyas would be carried out to "establish their claims", declined to reveal results of initial investigations."I cannot make a comment on the the contents of (Colonel Hla Min's) claims, " Kubo told AFP."But we are still in the midst of interviewing them," he said, adding that he was not sure when a final decision would be made.

    Kubo said security at the agency would be stepped up to deter future attempts by refugees at storming the centre."We have already asked for cooperation from the Malaysian police and we have always been sensitive to the security requirements here," he said."There are more than 300 refugees who need our attention, so there is no justification to sacrifice the others whenever a group of immigrants invade our grounds."

    The Muslim immigrants, who have been given food, shelter and medication, said previous asylum appeals had always been rejected, adding that there was no other place for them to turn to as they were persecuted in their own country.Around 2,500 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar for Malaysia in 1991-92 alleging persecution by the army, but most were later repatriated with the help of the United Nations.

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