Daily News- June 25- 2002- Tuesday

  • Myanmar says Suu Kyi dialogue continues, UN envoy may visit in July
  • Aung San Suu Kyi continues on her road to Mandalay
  • Thailand tells Myanmar stop insults, start talking
  • UNHCR expels asylum seekers from Malaysia office

  • Myanmar says Suu Kyi dialogue continues, UN envoy may visit in July

    YANGON, June 24 (AFP) - Myanmar's ruling military junta said Monday that it is still talking with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and indicated UN envoy Razali Ismail may visit in July.

    "The dialogue process continues and will go on. There is no change from before," deputy head of military intelligence Major General Kyaw Win told reporters."We have our communication lines open," Kyaw Win said, adding that while he had not seen her, others in the junta had.

    The secret talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta, which Malaysian diplomat Razali was instrumental in brokering, began in October 2000. Razali was appointed as a UN envoy in April 2000.

    Meanwhile the labour minister, Tin Win, who usually meets with Razali when he visits, said the Malaysian diplomat may visit next month."Mr. Razali may come in July, but I'm not sure. We are still synchronizing the date," said Tin Win.

    The closed-door talks aim to end the years of deadlock that have followed the rise to power of the current batch of generals after a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1988.Aung San Suu Kyi was released from 19 months of house arrest on May 6, shortly after Razali's most recent visit - - his seventh -- in April.The charismatic leader said upon her release that the talks had moved past an initial confidence-building stage and would now begin to handle thorny issues.

    But since then there have been no concrete developments, prompting concern from some that the talks may have ground to a halt.

    The long-running discussions have borne some fruit, helping to secure the release not only of Aung San Suu Kyi, but of more than 250 political prisoners.Myanmar, the former Burma, has been mired in political isolation since Ne Win seized power in 1962.Its political climate lapsed into complete deadlock when the military refused to accept the NLD's overwhelming 1990 election victory.

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    Aung San Suu Kyi continues on her road to Mandalay

    YANGON, June 24 (AFP) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday continued without incident her first political trip outside the capital since her release last month from house arrest, her National League for Democracy (NLD) said.

    The Nobel peace laureate left Yangon early Saturday on a weeklong whistle-stop tour of the north which is expected to reach its peak Tuesday in Mandalay, the city which the ruling military junta barred her from traveling to in 2000 prior to her detention.

    "She will spend the nights of June 25 and 26 in Mandalay, and she will also visit Mon Wya," a town some 80 kilometres (50 miles) away, an NLD member told AFP, asking not to be named.

    The trip to Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city and the northern hub of NLD activity, is Aung San Suu Kyi's first since the league won a sweeping election victory in 1990 which was never recognised by the junta.

    The NLD source said the democracy leader had stopped in several towns along the way."She not only visited NLD township offices to meet with NLD members, but she also inspected some government irrigation projects," the source said.She visited a river water pumping station in the town of Aung Lan, as well as the Yan Pai dam project at Taung Dwin Gyi, the source added.

    Aung San Suu Kyi has been at odds with the ruling junta over the running of the country, but her inspection of government initiatives suggests there has been coordination between her and the regime on her excursion.

    In the town of Kyaukpadaung, where she spent the night Sunday, she met with dozens of NLD members and also made a brief public address to some 200 supporters, the source said.

    She was due to spend Monday night at Natmauk, near the famed temples of Bagan, to visit the birthplace of her father, independence hero Aung San who was assassinated in 1947.

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    Thailand tells Myanmar stop insults, start talking

    BANGKOK,(Reuters) June 25 - Thailand told Myanmar's military junta on Tuesday to stop trading insults and sit down for talks to resolve border tensions that have battered bilateral relations between the two countries. Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said he was upset by recent articles in Myanmar's New Light of Myanmar English-language newspaper, seen as a mouthpiece for the junta, which criticised former Thai kings.

    ''They have been like this (criticising former Thai kings) for so long, we need to react, we can't let it go like this,'' Chavalit told reporters before a weekly cabinet meeting. ''We are always ready to talk. We are waiting for them to be ready,'' he said.

    The minister is meeting Thai military commanders on Tuesday to discuss how to react to a barrage of criticism from Myanmar officials and media, a defence ministry spokesman told Reuters.

    Myanmar officials and newspapers have been calling Thailand ''Yodaya'' -- a reference to a former Thai kingdom centred on the city of Ayutthaya which was sacked by an invading army from Myanmar in 1767. Daily articles in newspapers have attacked the Thais and their monarchy -- a very grave insult in Thailand.

    Tempers flared between the two countries last month after Myanmar accused Thailand of aiding the Shan State Army, an ethnic minority rebel group fighting the junta and its allies in the United Wa State Army, an ethnic militia allied to Yangon which Thailand blames for most drug production in the Golden Triangle. Thailand has repeatedly denied aiding Shan and Karen guerrillas fighting the Myanmar junta. But diplomats say many in the Thai military view the Shan as an essential counterbalance in the Golden Triangle region to the Wa.


    The row has presented Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with a thorny foreign policy problem. Thaksin is keen to improve relations with Myanmar, and has so far not responded to the series of verbal attacks from the junta. But he has also pledged to crack down on drugs, and vowed to capture notorious Wa druglord Wei Hseuh-Kang ''dead or alive.''

    Thai newspapers said the border tensions sparked a split between the government and military, with Thaksin trying to placate the junta while the military favoured a firmer line. Thailand has been pushing for talks with Myanmar for weeks, but has so far been rebuffed.

    Chavalit said exchanging insults would help nobody. ''It will escalate to be out of control if we both leave it like this. I don't want to give the impression I am begging them, but I don't want this deadlock to continue,'' he said.

    The ethnic minority Wa army, former rebels who signed a peace deal with the Myanmar government in 1989, is accused by Thailand of producing much of the heroin reaching the West and most of the methamphetamine pills flooding Thailand each year. Myanmar says the Wa are committed to eradicating drugs and says the Shan guerrillas are the main narcotics traffickers.

    Thai Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha said on Tuesday the country did not back the Shan rebels but did allow humanitarian assistance to those affected by the border fighting.

    ''It is a humanitarian matter. No matter what their nationalities are -- Myanmar, Shan or Thai -- we allow those who are running away from the fighting to stay, and then we push them out when the battle ceases,'' he said. ''But we will not allow any side to use even a single square inch of our soil for fighting.''

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    UNHCR expels asylum seekers from Malaysia office

    KUALA LUMPUR(Reuters) June 25 - The United Nations refugee agency has handed over to police 18 Myanmar citizens camped in the compound of its Malaysian office for more than a week seeking refugee status, a diplomat said on Tuesday.

    ''We asked them to leave after ascertaining they were not refugees but they refused to leave,'' Shinji Kubo, protection officer at the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees office in Kuala Lumpur, told Reuters. ''We had no choice but to seek the intervention of the Malaysian police and immigration,'' he added.

    A statement by the UNHCR, criticised as cavalier by rights group Amnesty International when it turned in a previous group of 28 Myanmar citizens to police last January, said officials had conducted thorough checks on those inside its compound since June 18. The would-be asylum seekers are members of Myanmar's ethnic Rohingya community.

    ''As of 24 June 2002, it had been concluded that the 18 asylum seekers have not provided substantial or credible information to establish their individual refugee status,'' it said. ''UNHCR urges the Malaysian community to sympathetically and seriously look into the plight of many Rohingya migrants in Malaysia who have been suffering tremendous human security problems due to their unclarified citizenship for more than a decade,'' it added.

    Malaysian police, who would generally hand over foreigners without papers to the immigration authorities for deportation, were not immediately available for comment. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya people fled from western Myanmar's Arakan state into neighbouring Bangladesh in the early 1990s, citing persecution by the military of the mostly Buddhist country.

    Nearly 230,000 of them went home under UNHCR supervision in the mid 1990s but some 21,000 remain in Bangladesh. There are as many as 3,000 estimated to be in Malaysia.

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