Daily News- June 26- 2002- Wednesday

  • Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in Yenanyaung
  • Myanmar troops poised for fresh offensive against rebel
  • Chavalit launches war of words
  • Myanmar optimistic as billion dollars worth of drugs destroyed
  • Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi due to arrive in Mandalay
  • Unhindered by military, Suu Kyi arrives in Mandalay for landmark visit

  • Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in Yenanyaung, mixing personal with political

    YANGON, June 25 (AFP) - Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has made a stop in the town where her father attended high school on her first political trip outside the capital since being released from house arrest last month, a source from her National League for Democracy said Tuesday.

    The source said Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in the petroleum-producing town of Yenanyaung Tuesday morning, some 48 kilometres (30 miles) north of Natmauk, where the Nobel peace laureate spent Monday evening.

    Aung San Suu Kyi's father, Aung San, is considered the father of Myanmar's independence. He was assassinated in 1947, just months before the British granted the country its independence.

    At Natmauk -- her father's birthplace -- up to 1,000 people waited on the streets to catch a glimpse of her on Monday, the source said.Although she briefly spoke with some of them, she did not give any speeches, he added.

    Aung San Suu Kyi will continue her travels to Meiktila, another 129 kilometres (80 miles) northeast, where she may spend Tuesday night, the NLD source said."She had mentioned to some people that she may decide to spend the night in Meiktila before going ahead to Mandalay," the source said.

    She would then travel on Wednesday to Mandalay, the city that the ruling military regime barred her from travelling to in September 2000, prior to her most recent 19-month period of house arrest.

    An NLD source said Monday that "The Lady", as she is popularly known, had stopped in several towns since her departure Saturday, visiting NLD township offices and several government projects.

    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 NLD won a sweeping election victory in 1990 that was never recognised by the junta.Observers have said a trip outside of the capital would be the true test of the regime's undertaking to allow her full freedom of movement since her release on May 6.

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    Myanmar troops poised for fresh offensive against rebels

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand, June 25 (AFP) - Hundreds of Myanmar soldiers and troops from the pro-Yangon United Wa State Army (UWSA) were Tuesday poised to attack Shan rebel strongholds, a rebel source said.

    About 700 troops were digging in in preparation for attack near the strongholds of Kaw Wan and Kaw Hom, and also shelling Kaw Muang, one of the rebel Shan State Army's (SSA) major bases lying opposite Thailand's Mae Fah Luang district, SSA spokeswoman Nang Khur Hsen told AFP.

    "Their attempt to capture Kaw Muang started last weekend, with the most intense offensive occurring from Sunday afternoon to the next morning," she said.

    The fresh fighting comes on the heels of a major offensive launched by Myanmar and pro-Yangon troops to recapture bases overrun by the SSA last month, which ran from June 6 to June 21.Myanmar's junta said Monday its troops had won back the bases on June 21.

    The most recent batch of attacks slowed Monday with only occasional artillery fire, a Thai villager near the border bases said."A number of shells from the Myanmar army have landed on Thai soil every day," he said, adding that there were also reports of Myanmar's ethnic minorities fleeing the fighting into Thailand.

    A Thai military observer told the Bangkok Post Tuesday that he believed Myanmar's offensive would intensify in the next few days to sweep the SSA from the area.But the rebels expressed confidence in keeping the strongholds.

    "We have no doubt that our fighters will defend the strongholds without any problems," Khur Hsen told AFP."The press conference in Yangon on Monday was like a joke for us," she said, referring to Myanmar announcing it had recaptured SSA-held bases."They knew that the border positions were recaptured only after the SSA withdrew. We were not overrun by their soldiers," she said.She said the SSA remained suspicious that Myanmar troops had used chemical weapons.

    "The SSA fighters at the frontline reported seeing a yellow colour gas in the air after hearing a series of explosions," she said. "Some of the fighters are suffering from mysterious illnesses."Myanmar denied last week using any chemical weapons.

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    Chavalit launches war of words

    Wassana Nanuam Yuwadee Tunyasiri
    The Bangkokpost

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has finally run out of patience and ordered the military media to strike back at Burmese media insults directed at a Thai king who freed the old capital of Ayutthaya from Burma.

    Since May 20, Burma's state-owned New Light of Myanmar has mentioned wars between Thailand and Burma in the Ayutthaya period and repeatedly accused the Thai military of supporting Shan rebels against Rangoon.

    Defence permanent secretary Samphan Boonyanan yesterday chaired a meeting of defence and armed forces spokesmen and senior officers to plan an appropriate response.

    Gen Chavalit told reporters earlier in the day Thailand would not sit idly by if the nation's most respected institution was insulted.``Thailand is ready for talks at any time. We never close our border checkpoints,'' Gen Chavalit said.``Burma unilaterally ordered the closure of its own checkpoints. It is up to them when they are ready for talks.''

    A defence source said Gen Chavalit was most upset by articles slandering King Narasuan the Great, who freed Thailand's old capital of Ayutthaya from Burmese control several hundred years ago and was revered by the military.

    ``The military will ask experts in Thai-Burmese history to write articles for broadcast to bring about an understanding of history and to strike back at Ma Tin Win, who wrote articles attacking Thailand and Thai kings in Burma's newspapers,'' the source said.

    More than 200 military radio stations, army-run TV Channels 5 and 7, and defence and military spokesmen would head the attack, which would start today.

    The military was also checking the background of Ma Tin Win, who was thought to have attended training courses at the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Chulalongkorn University. It was clear he had a poor knowledge of Thai history and a bad attitude towards Thailand.

    The Foreign Affairs Ministry has so far sent three protest letters to Rangoon over the matter.

    Assistant army chief Gen Watanachai Chaimuanwong said the junta was using propaganda to arouse Burmese people against the Shan State Army and Thailand. ``The Burmese junta government fears the Burmese people will turn to support National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi,'' he said.

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    Myanmar optimistic as billion dollars worth of drugs destroyed

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ Myanmar's military junta on Wednesday claimed it was winning the war against drugs, as it set fire to more than a billion dollars worth of illicit narcotics and stimulants in a public ceremony to showcase its "commitment."It said greater success could be achieved with more international aid, which is now denied them because of the West's disapproval of the country's authoritarian regime.

    The drug burning demonstrates "a tremendous commitment by ... Myanmar to eradicate illegal drugs, considering that we receive almost zero assistance from the international community for our efforts," a government statement said.

    But U.S. narcotics officials remain skeptical, citing the continued existence of powerful drug lords in border areas of Myanmar. It is suspected that the drug rings collude with military officials.Myanmar, also known as Burma, is the world's biggest producer of opium and its derivative, heroin. In recent years it has also become a major source of methamphetamine, the illegal stimulant sometimes called "ice."

    With banners, balloons, red, yellow and blue bunting and a school marching band, the burning _ to mark the U.N.'s International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking _ seemed like a festive occasion.

    More than 3 tons of opium, almost 35 million amphetamine tablets and sack-fulls of other drugs with an American street value of dlrs 1.078 billion were incinerated.

    Wednesday's event was the 16th drug burning event since 1990. Earlier this month, more than 290 tons of poppy seeds, which would have had a yield of 55 tons of heroin worth dlrs 2.2 billion, were destroyed in the northern Shan state.

    Myanmar's opium production in 2001 was an estimated 865 metric tons, its lowest level since 1987, and a decrease from 1,085 tons in 2000. From 1989-97, yearly production ranged in the 2,000 metric ton range.

    "I think the reality should be put forward to the people of the world; we are going to erase the image of being the No. 1 producer of narcotic drugs," Foreign Minister Win Aung said at the drug burning ceremony. "We are very serious."The government claims success of a program to get farmers to plant alternative crops such as soybean instead of opium poppies by providing them with seeds."I think that this year we can come up with very very much less poppy production than in the past," said Win Aung, a member of the government's main anti-drug body. "Next year there will be a very dramatic reduction, a very serious reduction, you will see."

    Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the resident representative of the United Nations International Drug Control Program, praised the crop substitution program."If you want to make it sustainable you cannot forget your farmers," he said. "It is a very good step in the right direction, but you don't need one step you need 1,000 steps."In neighboring Thailand, 28 tons of drugs worth 5.3 billion baht (dlrs 126 million) were set on fire in a public ceremony.

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    Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi due to arrive in Mandalay

    MANDALAY, Myanmar, June 26 (AFP) - Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was due to arrive in Mandalay around midday Wednesday on her first political trip outside Yangon since she was released from house arrest last month, her party said.

    "Aung San Suu Kyi is expected around lunchtime," National League for Democracy (NLD) party official Maung Than told AFP."She will have lunch at the NLD headquarters office," he said.

    The trip is being seen as a test of the military regime's undertaking to allow Aung San Suu Kyi full freedom of movement since her release on May 6.

    Maung Than told AFP the arrival of "the Lady", as she is popularly known, was keenly anticipated in Mandalay, 695 kilometres (430 miles) north of the capital Yangon."We've been inundated with questions, asking whether she is here, or when she is arriving here. There's a tremendous amount of public interest in her coming," he said.

    The chairman of the Mandalay NLD, Bo Zan, had left to meet Aung San Suu Kyi half-way from Meiktila, a town some 155 kilometres from where she spent Tuesday night, he added.

    The NLD's Mandalay headquarters are housed in an impressive, freshly-painted four-storey building -- a sharp contrast to the ramshackle NLD headquarters in Yangon. They were reopened on May 21.

    On Tuesday already, the NLD's distinctive red flags were flying aloft, accompanied by a "Welcome Aung San Suu Kyi" sign and a small notice announcing that NLD vice-chairman U Tin Oo and Aung San Suu Kyi would be arriving.

    "This is a symbol of the rejuvenated NLD here," Maung Than said of the headquarters. "By looking at this imposing building, the supporters who have always rooted for the NLD will take heart and know that things are looking up."

    The visit to Mandalay has particular symbolic significance for the charismatic leader as it was while she was on her way here that the ruling military regime barred her from travelling in September 2000, prior to her most recent 19- month period of house arrest.

    She was last in Mandalay in 1989, when she was campaigning prior to the 1990 elections that her party won in a landslide victory, but have never been recognised by the ruling military junta.

    After lunch at the Mandalay headquarters, Aung San Suu Kyi is scheduled to pay her respects to the Buddhist clergy at the famed monastery of Payagyi, a few kilometres south of Mandalay.Her schedule on Wednesday is unplanned, Maung Than said.On Thursday representatives from some 15 townships surrounding Mandalay were due to converge on Mandalay for a party meeting with their leader, he added.

    Unhindered by military, Suu Kyi arrives in Mandalay for landmark visit

    YANGON,(AP) Myanmar, June 26 - Unfettered by Myanmar's military rulers for the first time in her 14-year political career, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrived Wednesday in the northern city of Mandalay on a landmark visit.

    Suu Kyi, who left Yangon on Saturday for the 350-mile road trip, made several stops in small towns before arriving in Myanmar's second largest city. It is her first political trip outside Yangon since being released from house arrest on May 6, and is a test of the junta's sincerity in keeping its promise to allow her political freedom. In Mandalay, she will seek to rebuild her National League for Democracy party. She is scheduled to stay there for a few days.

    Reaching Mandalay, she drove straight to the NLD office where she was greeted by a crowd of about 300 supporters that swelled to about 2,000 in an hour, party officials in Yangon said. They spoke on condition of anonymity. Suu Kyi later came out of the office to meet with the supporters, said one official.

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