Daily News- June 27- 2002- Thursday

  • `The Lady' gets huge welcome
  • Prolonged custody to Democracy Party leaders
  • UN sees Myanmar turning corner on drugs fight
  • Thai army radio fires first salvo at junta
  • Burma's big mouth is a lady after all
  • Thaksin slams Reuters criticism
  • Reinforcements join Burma's war on SSA
  • Aung San Suu Kyi enjoys first political trip unhampered
  • Thaksin demands action from Myanmar over press articles

  • `The Lady' gets huge welcome

    The Bangkokpost

    Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi made a triumphant arrival in Mandalay yesterday afternoon to a tumultuous welcome by some 5,000 people on her first political trip outside Rangoon since she was released from house arrest last month.

    The cheering, festive crowd packed the streets, climbed trees and filled the tops of buildings surrounding the headquarters of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), to give a roaring welcome to the hugely popular leader.It took some 15 minutes for her to make her way from her car to the headquarters as the throng fought for a glimpse of her.

    ``The Lady,'' as she is popularly called in Burma, eventually clambered to the terrace at the top of the four-storey headquarters, where she threw flowers from the garlands people had given her and addressed her supporters by microphone.

    ``I thank the people of Mandalay for extending such a warm welcome ... Mandalay may be the nation's second-biggest city but in the hearts of its citizens it is the nation's first city,'' she said, before speaking of the importance of their support.``Your strength and support is very important for us. We hope we can always depend on your support. If the people are not on our side we cannot be successful.''

    The NLD's Mandalay headquarters which reopened on May 21, is housed in an impressive, freshly-painted building, a sharp contrast to the ramshackle NLD headquarters in Rangoon.The Nobel Peace laureate went on to give a 10-minute speech similar to those she has given on visits to townships in the Rangoon area since her release from house arrest on May 6.

    ``I want very much for our country to develop but we need people with the right kind of attitude and mental strength. Only then we can be confident of development,'' she said, adding that education was a vital component of a successful future for the country.

    ``I believe that education is very important. We need education to nurture valuable young people and we want everyone, both the young and the old to support this attitude... I know that given the right opportunities we can become the leading nation in Southeast Asia.'' Burma's military junta shut the country's universities in 1988.

    Today representatives from 15 townships near Mandalay are to converge on the city for a party meeting with Mrs Suu Kyi. The Mandalay trip is seen as a test of the junta's undertaking to allow Mrs Suu Kyi full freedom of movement.

    Prolonged custody to Democracy Party leaders

    source : DVB

    The SPDC has decided a 6-month prolonged imprisonment to U Thu Wai, the Chairman and U Htwe Myint, the Deputy Chairman of Democracy Party by using article 10/a. Both of them are going to complete their 7 years custody on 3rd of July this year but they both were officially informed about the six months extension on 15th of June. However, their families' members are still hoping them to be released on 3rd of July and worried about their health condition. According to their families, U Thu Wai is getting medical treatment at Insein Prison Hospital and U Htwe Myint at Insein Township General Hospital Prison Ward.

    Ko Aung Tun is in serious health condition

    DVB has learnt that health condition of Ko Aung Tun who has been sentenced for long-term imprisonment is in serious. He is a former student of Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT) and detained for writing a book on Burma's students' political movement. With the recommendation of prison doctors, he was transferred from Thayawaddy prison to Insein prison on June 15. Although he was moved to Insein prison, he has not been supplied the medical treatment yet and was put in solitary confinement. He is unable to walk properly and he has tumours at his feet especially on his left calf.

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    UN sees Myanmar turning corner on drugs fight

    YANGON, June 26 (AFP) - A senior United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) official issued unqualified praise Wednesday for Myanmar's efforts at combating drug production and said it could help prompt political change in the military-ruled state.

    Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UNDCP's Yangon representive, said he was "extremely happy" about how the country condemned for being the world's biggest opium producer has made major strides in fighting the menace.

    "Myanmar has seen a 40 percent reduction in opium production. That speaks for itself."He was speaking to reporters at a Yangon ceremony celebrating the incineration of what the ruling junta said was more than one billion dollars worth of drugs including opium, heroin and methamphetamines.

    Some 200 people including Myanmar's leader, Senior General Than Shwe, attended the burning which marked the United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

    Lemahieu's praise, he admitted, ran starkly counter to his stance earlier this year and in late 2001, when he said he was concerned that narcotics production in impoverished Myanmar would soar."I didn't see enough positive progress back then," he said.He expressed relief at how Myanmar was able to keep its harvests down despite a heroin shortfall from war- ravaged Afghanistan, where the fundamentalist Taliban regime had imposed a strict ban on opium poppy cultivation last year which saw production tumble."It didn't happen," he said of the expected increase here, noting that Afghanistan's production figures climbed back up recently.

    According to the latest US State Department anti-narcotics report published this year, Myanmar is the world's largest producer of illicit opium.Yangon said last month that its forces had blocked cultivation of 149,750 hectares (374,000 acres) of poppy which could produce 264 tons of raw opium.

    Lemahieu said Yangon and foreign governments should focus their efforts on eradicating the scourge in Myanmar so as to facilitate political dialogue which has been mired in deadlock since 1990, when the opposition National League for Democracy won a landslide election victory that was never recognised by the junta.

    "If you don't tackle drugs now, it will make a political transition here more difficult," Lehamieu said, adding that international asistance in the drug fight here was crucial.

    Myanmar is one of three countries in the world not certified by the United States on anti-narcotics issues, which prevents Washington from giving any assistance to Yangon to fight drugs, said a diplomat who asked not to be named.The other two countries, Afghanistan and Haiti, have had their de-certification waived to allow aid into those countries.The diplomat said Myanmar has made "positive" efforts in fighting the trade and that Yangon says it aims to earn Washington's certification by year end.

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    Thai army radio fires first salvo at junta

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    The Defence Ministry struck back at Rangoon yesterday through a radio commentary on Burma's shattered peace since it gained independence from Britain.

    The Burmese military attache was also summoned to receive a formal note from the Supreme Command protesting at recent Burmese intrusions into Thailand and newspaper articles criticising a Thai king.The protest demanded both the Burmese government and the writer of the article show responsibility for the offence. The attache did not indicate when he would answer the summons.

    In contrast to the military, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was conciliatory. He told the Associated Press he would ensure the army did not support anti-Rangoon ethnic rebels along the border.

    The defence commentary was broadcast on 126 army-run radio stations at 6.30pm. It was seen as retalitation against Burma's insulting remarks directed at a Thai king of the Ayutthaya period.

    The military has refrained from retaliating to criticism in the past, but a full- scale war of words is now in the making.``Where is Peace?'' was presented by Maj-Gen Palangkoon Klaharn, deputy defence spokesman.

    The commentary began with the ministry's protest note to Rangoon over articles in New Light of Myanmar , the junta's official mouthpiece, attacking King Naresuan the Great of Ayutthaya.

    Quoting experts on Burmese history, the commentary moved to the Burmese political situation and the Panglong conference after World War II, when Burma demanded independence from Britain.The conference, called by Gen Aung San, father of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, resulted in the Panglong agreement. It stated that freedom would be more speedily achieved through the immediate cooperation of the Shan, the Kachin and the Chin with the interim Burmese government.

    ``The Panglong agreement would lead to the promulgation of a constitution and a general election in Burma. On January 4, 1948, Burma gained independence,'' he said.``But the Panglong agreement was never put into practice, resulting in disorder and fighting in the country.''The programme ended with a song written by King Rama VI which said a state ruled by the unrighteous was a condemned state.

    The ministry was expected to continue the attack in the Siam Manusati radio programme, starting at 6.45am today.This commentary was to focus on consequences of Burma's failure to implement the Panglong agreement and the effects on Thailand.It was also to touch on Burma's support for drug production by the Wa and encroachment on Thai sovereignty during fighting between junta troops and ethnic rebels.Burma was to be advised to be sincere and fair in resolving conflicts with ethnic groups and bringing peace to the region.

    At army headquarters yesterday, a press statement reprimanding the Burmese junta and Ma Tin Win, who wrote the article criticising the former Thai king, was read out by Lt-Gen Suraphan Phumkaew, the defence spokesman.An air of seriousness filled the press conference room. National flags were displayed in the background while Lt-Gen Suraphan read out the statement.

    ``The writer harbours bad attitudes towards Thailand. She deliberately distorts history and insults the monarch. This person and the Burmese government must show responsibility to the Thai people,'' he said.They must start by stopping reporting news and publishing articles related to the monarchy, correcting any distortions and apologising to the Thai people.

    Asked why the armed forces were slow to respond, he said the military kept quiet because it wanted to help maintain Thai-Burmese relations.

    ``King Naresuan the Great is the beloved king of the military, so we won't tolerate any insults directed at the king. Our patience for insults to the monarchy is limited,'' he said.Lt-Gen Suraphan said the protest was being made by the armed forces and had nothing to do with the government.

    The Defence Ministry would mobilise its resources to strike back if Rangoon failed to end its propaganda war against Thailand, he said.In the meantime the ministry would broadcast information over its radio and television network to promote understanding by the Thai people.

    Mr Thaksin told Associated Press the May 20 cross-border shelling of Burmese and Wa positions was an accident, ``which I am not very happy about''.While the army needs to protect the country's sovereignty, it ``should not interfere in the internal affairs [of Burma] by helping the minorities fight against the government.''He acknowledged that some minority groups were close to the Thai army, which led to ``misunderstandings''.

    However, Burma should not use its state media to hit out at Thailand.``If the Myanmar [Burmese] government would like to enjoy a good relationship with the Thai government they should trust my leadership,'' he said.

    Burma's big mouth is a lady after all

    Supalak Ganjanakhundee
    The Nation

    Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh seems to have a keen intuition for gender. The same cannot be said, however, for his intelligence services.Based on intelligence information, Chavalit told reporters two weeks ago that Burmese columnist Ma Tin Win, who attacked the former kings of Thailand in a series of essays, was a man. The information had apparently come as a surprise to the deputy prime minister, who said he had initially attributed the author's "big mouth" to a more feminine outlook.

    However, Ma Tin Win, in an article appearing last Monday in Burma's state-run New Light of Myanmar, announced her true sex."I am a lady. My real name is Tin Win. If I used the name Dr Tin Win, I would be mistaken for a man. That is why I use the name Dr Ma Tin Win in my articles," she wrote.

    The writer also paid homage to Chavalit's intuition for femininity. She wrote that she did in fact have a wide mouth, which had made her attractive when she was young, although now her mouth was smaller and no longer beautiful because her cheeks were fatter.

    "I would like to give a broad smile to those who mistook me for a man," she said in the article and added that she had seen Chavalit on television and appreciated his attitude towards Burma.

    Ma Tin Win, an official at the Institute of Education, regularly publishes historical articles attacking Thailand whenever Thai-Burmese relations sour.But Ma Tin Win is not a historian by training, said Burmese affairs expert Sunait Chutintaranond, who has connections with many senior historians in Rangoon.

    "It seems she is interested in history, but most well- respected Burmese historians disagree with her attitude and the way she interprets history," he said.

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    Thaksin slams Reuters criticism

    The Nation

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday hit back at international news agency Reuters for its criticism of his foreign policy on Burma and his Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) initiative.Reuters said Thaksin's foreign policy was his weakest point.

    It was also critical of the way the prime minister was handling Thailand's problematic relationship with Burma and his creation of the ACD, which critics say is yet another regional talkfest unable to come up concrete results.

    The thorny relations between Thailand and Burma have been Thaksin's biggest foreign policy problem. Reuters labelled his policy as "appeasement of Burma".It also attacked the ACD, which failed to live up to its grand vision. The forum, which comprised 17 Asian nations, avoided controversial issues and there was no formal agenda.

    "It is typical for foreign media to criticise us whenever we do something different from their opinion because they want us to follow their way," Thaksin said. "We have to accept that when problems arise we have to solve them on our own. Therefore, this government conducts its own policies and [we] stand on our own feet," he added.

    Reuters' quoted retired Thai ambassador to the United Nations, Asada Jayanama, as saying: "Thailand has become a laughing stock among the diplomatic communities."

    Thaksin said: "I never thought an established news agency like Reuters would have such bad standards. The story quoted only two people, one of whom has a conflict with the foreign minister and abandoned his duty before his mandatory retirement. The story was below the usual standard of Reuters."

    Reinforcements join Burma's war on SSA

    Subin Khuenkaew
    The Bangkokpost

    Rangoon has mobilised armed units of some ethnic minority groups to join its ongoing drive against Shan State Army rebels, a source said yesterday.The units mobilised were the 171st Special Division of the United Wa State Army under drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang, and the 7th Division under Lt-Col Dao Kwan and the 815th Special Division under Lt-Col Jai Luen, both of the Shan State Army (North).

    These two Shan divisions have defected to the Burmese side, leaving only fighters of the Shan State Army (South) under Col Yawd Serk fighting against Rangoon at the moment.

    Both Lt-Col Dao Kwan and Lt-Col Jai Luen were known to have been involved in the drugs trade, the source said. The 815th Division, in particular, has set up its headquarters at Mak Yang village near Tachilek.The source also said the Burmese government has already returned the control of Mong Yawn town to Wei Hsueh-kang.

    Earlier, the junta had ordered him to withdraw his Wa fighers from Mong Yawn, located opposite Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district, following strong criticism from outside Burma that Wei had turned the town into a major production base of illicit drugs.The source said Wei also had financed the transport of troops from northern Burma to take part in Rangoon's drive against Shan rebels based near the Thai border.Wei's division had provided weapons to the two Shan divisions that defected to Rangoon, the source added.

    Lt-Col Dao Kwan's 7th Division, with between 500-700 fighters, is based at Mong Nong and Kun Hing west of Keng Tung. It has been offered a special administration area located in Burma opposite Chiang Mai's Chiang Dao and Wiang Haeng districts.The 815th Division has been offered a special administration area opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Fa Luang and Chiang Saen districts.

    The source said the Burmese junta, by giving some minority groups some autonomy in these special administration zones, has effectively created more buffer zones along its border with Thailand.

    An officer of the Pha Muang Task Force guarding the frontier in the Upper North said the presence of drug-producing minority groups along the border would certainly cause more drug problems for Thailand.

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    Aung San Suu Kyi enjoys first political trip unhampered

    MANDALAY, Myanmar, June 27 (AFP) - Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has enjoyed complete freedom of movement on her trip to Mandalay, her first political voyage outside the capital since she was released from house arrest last month, party sources said Thursday.

    "She is free to go anywhere. There have been no problems or interference," Mandalay's National League for Democracy (NLD) chairman Bo Zan told AFP as the party leader was nearing the end of a week-long excursion in the country's north."In Mandalay when we were doing the organisation for her welcome we had a freehand," he added.

    The immensely popular leader left Yangon on Saturday for her first political trip outside the capital since she was freed from 19 months' house arrest on May 6.The trip has particular significance as Mandalay, lying some 695 kilometres (430 miles) north of Yangon, was the city the ruling military regime barred her from travelling to in September 2000.

    Soon afterwards the generals confined her to her famed lakeside villa in the capital.Observers have noted that a trip such as this would be a true test of the regime's undertaking to grant Aung San Suu Kyi freedom of movement.

    An estimated 5,000 jubilant people turned out to greet Aung San Suu Kyi on her arrival in Mandalay Tuesday, prompting concerns among NLD members of what the regime's reaction would be.

    "We had been rather apprehensive of how the authorities would react to there being so many people before she arrived," an NLD township chairman Ba Kyaw told AFP."We were very relieved when we found there were no restrictions."

    Crowds also waited hours to catch a glimpse of her at Mandalay's Martyrs' Mausoleum, where the leader paid respects to her father on Wednesday, witnesses said.Aung San is known as the father of Myanmar's 1948 independence, although he was assassinated in 1947.

    Residents in downtown Mandalay were in a celebratory mood Wednesday night."Last night from around 8:30 pm (1300 GMT) over 200 people on motorbikes and many in cars roamed around Mandalay city, hooting horns and shouting, 'Long life and good health to Aung San Suu Kyi'," one resident and NLD follower said Thursday.

    "Her visit here has really rejuvenated the people spirtually and mentally. The fact that she's been given freedom of movement is a good sign that things are going well between her and the authorities," he added.

    Aung San Suu Kyi was scheduled Thursday to visit projects overseen by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)."She has left to visit UNDP projects at Monywa and Sagaing," Mandalay's NLD chairman Bo Zan said.Monywa lies 154 kilometres (96 miles) west of the capital of Mandalay division, while Sagaing is 26 kilometres away.

    "Today has been kept for this observation trip. She will not meet with party members today," he said, adding that she was not expected to return until early evening.On Friday NLD members from 16 district townships are expected to converge on the Mandalay divisional headquarters to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, he said.

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    Thaksin demands action from Myanmar over press articles

    BANGKOK, June 27 (AFP) - Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra Thursday demanded action over a series of articles published by Myanmar state press that Thailand considers offensive to its monarchy.

    "The newspaper that published the insulting articles was under government control. They were not appropriate so it should quickly correct them," he told reporters, adding it was up to Myanmar to show it wanted to repair tattered links between the two countries.

    "Whether relations between Thailand and Myanmar are normalised or not depends upon Myanmar, not Thailand," he said."At this point, we could be at a crossroad. Myanmar must show more understanding and must decide how to proceed."

    Thaksin's comments come a day after the defence ministry angrily reacted to an article in the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper that attacked the Thai monarchy.

    Relations between the historic enemies ebbed to a low last month, following clashes along the border during which ethnic Shan rebels overran Myanmar military bases.Myanmar accused Thailand of providing support to the rebels, a claim the Thai military has consistently denied.After both countries exchanged protests, Yangon slammed shut its border checkpoints with Thailand, banned official visiting delegations, and launched a patriotic tirade against Thailand in its state-run press that is still going strong.

    Thailand has indicated on numerous occasions that it was ready to talk the issue through, but has been repeatedly snubbed by Myanmar's junta -- despite Thai defence minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's reputedly excellent connections with some of the country's top generals.

    Thaksin said Myanmar should realise the dissatisfaction the Thai people feel over the articles and that the Thai military was right to lodge a protest with Myanmar over the articles."It's legitimate for the Thai military to protest," he said.

    Deputy defence minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa told reporters that the Thai Supreme Command would Thursday summon Myanmar's deputy military attache to lodge a protest note.

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