Daily News- March 05- 2002- Tuesday


  • Myanmar frees five political prisoners, 28 women
  • Repatriation of workers to be discussed
  • Border meeting to focus on trouble spots
  • Myanmar Makes Progress In Health Sector
  • Myanmar junta frees five political activists, 24 women prisoners
  • Thai police find 13 murdered Myanmar nationals
  • Tax-Free Markets Flop
  • USDA sells applications for Malaysian jobs


  • Myanmar frees five political prisoners, 28 women

    YANGON,(Reuters) March 4 - Myanmar's military government said on Monday it had freed five members of ''armed outlawed groups'' and 28 pregnant women prisoners, in an apparent response to lobbying by the United Nations and the Red Cross.

    The ruling generals, desperate for international legitimacy, have freed more than 100 prisoners in the last three weeks, including at least 21 political prisoners.

    Government statements received by Reuters said the women were freed ''on humanitarian grounds'' from Yangon's notorious Insein Prison. They gave no details of the five freed men. ''Altogether five persons who were detained for illegal activities and unlawful connections with the armed outlawed groups were released from various correctional facilities,'' a statement said.

    Myanmar's army has fought several ethnic minority armies over the last decade, but now has ceasefires with most. The ruling generals have also accused pro-democracy activists of armed insurrection in the past.

    The government began a slow stream of releases in late 2000 when the military began U.N.-brokered talks with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. But the pace has been upped since U.N. human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro visited the Southeast Asian country in early February to finish a report on the human rights situation.

    Fellow U.N. envoy Razali Ismail, who brokered the talks between the military and the NLD, told Reuters at the end of last week that he hoped the generals would free more prisoners and release Suu Kyi from house arrest. Razali is due back in Myanmar for a four-day visit on March 19 to encourage the process of national reconciliation, which some in the NLD say is going too slowly and not yielding any real political change.

    Pinheiro, who focused his attention particularly on women and elderly prisoners, said after his visit that conditions in Myanmar's prisons had improved since the Red Cross was given access to prisoners two years ago.He said he told the generals that, at the current rate of releases, it would take 12 years for Myanmar's prisons to be emptied of the estimated 1,500 political prisoners.Pinheiro's report, to be presented to the United Nations in early April, will influence Western countries' attitudes.

    The European Union and the United States have aid and trade sanctions against Myanmar, citing Yangon's human rights record, failure to cooperate on fighting drugs, and political repression.

    Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since September 2000 and her party has been prevented from organising nationally since it shocked the military with landslide victory in Myanmar's last democratic elections in 1990. (With additional reporting by Dominic Whiting in Bangkok)

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    Repatriation of workers to be discussed

    Achara Ashayagachat
    The Bangkokpost

    The government hopes to make progress in talks later this week in Phuket on negotiating with Burma for the ``quick and effective repatriation'' of illegal Burmese workers.

    Tej Bunnag, permanent secretary for foreign affairs, will co-chair the second inter-agency talks on Thursday and Friday with Khin Maung, Burma's deputy foreign minister, on the repatriation of cross-border migrant workers.Rangoon agreed to take back all Burmese working illegally in Thailand during the joint commission on bilateral co-operation held in Phuket in January.The first follow-up talks were held in Rangoon during Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai's visit to Burma early last month.Burma asked Thailand to send a list of workers to be repatriated before sending them to the ``agreed holding centre'' in Myawaddy.

    In the latest talks, Thailand would use the meeting to ask for more specific endorsement of the timeframe for the repatriation. The two sides will also discuss possible participation of international organisations in the repatriation process. ``We cannot talk about the post-repatriation scheme at the holding centre until we reach a deal on how to send the workers back to Burma,'' sources said.

    Thailand has said the migrant workers would be sent to a holding centre on Burmese soil where occupational or agricultural training could be arranged for them with assistance from certain international organisations. But Burma has remained noncommittal to this idea.The Thai side has also proposed the opening of two other holdings centres in areas near Ranong and Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district.

    The Labour Ministry and the Social Welfare Office for the Administrative Commission on Irregular Immigrant Workers has set March 25 as the deadline for re-registration of the 450,000 migrant workers, who were issued work permits since last September.Those who fail to re-register within the deadline and those who could not pass health tests, including HIV/Aids checks, would be sent back to Burma.

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    Border meeting to focus on trouble spots

    The Bangkokpost

    Border tensions in two trouble spots near Burma will top the agenda at the 23rd Township Border Committee Meeting tomorrow.Representatives from Thailand and Burma would use the Tachilek meeting to try to alleviate tensions in Doi Lang, in Mae Ai district, Chiang Mai, and Kuteng Nayong, in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai.

    Thai and Burmese soldiers have been engaged in conflicts in those villages since 1995. Rangoon rejected a Thai proposal that both sides withdraw their troops to within 1km of the border.``It was agreed at the previous meeting that neither side would expand military bases in those troubled areas,'' he said.

    Decha Sathapol, the Mae Sai district chief, said the meeting would also touch on a joint project to ease pollution in the Sai river, also a border marking.

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    Myanmar Makes Progress In Health Sector

    YANGON, March 4 (Oana-Xinhua) -- Myanmar has been making progress in the health sector, giving priority to health care by extending and upgrading the existing hospitals and opening new hospitals and specialised ones.

    According to the Myanmar Ministry of Health, the number of hospitals in the country has grown to 750 now from 631 in 1988 and the number of doctors rose to 14,626 from 12,268 then. Meanwhile, during the period, the number of nurses increased to 12,821 from 8, 349 and that of midwives rose to 11,180 from 8,121.

    In the meantime, the country established two more institutes of medicine and one more institute of dental medicine. In addition, there are also now three institutes of nursing, two institutes of pharmacy, two institutes of pharmacology and one university of primary health care, and the number of nurses training schools has gone to 43, up from 28.

    To promote effective medical treatment for the people, 248 specialists have been appointed to deal with specialised subjects, and modern medical equipment has also been put in use. Special treatment dealing with complex surgical procedures such as heart and kidney transplant operations can now be performed in the country.

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    Myanmar junta frees five political activists, 24 women prisoners

    Myanmar's military junta said it has freed five more political activists and 24 women prisoners in the latest releases since a UN envoy last month called for all political prisoners to be freed.

    Some 120 mothers or expectant mothers, who had been held in jail on criminal charges, have been released over the past week, including the 24 freed Tuesday, a junta spokesman said Tuesday.

    The regime late Monday also announced the release of five activists -- Yin Htwe, Thaung Htike, Tint Swe, Zaw Aung and Kyaw Oo Nyo -- who had been held at Tharawaddy and Myaungmya prisons.The five were all student activists, and at least two of them -- Tint Swe and Kyaw Oo Nyo -- were known to be affiliated with the Burma Communist Party.

    They were "detained for illegal activities and unlawful connections with the armed outlawed groups," the spokesman said, without elaborating on their affiliation."They are all in good health and back together with their respective families," he added.

    A prominent person in the group is Yin Htwe, one of 24 activists whose original sentences were extended for having written a letter from jail to the former UN rapporteur for human rights on prison conditions.

    Current UN human rights envoy, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, visited Myanmar late last month and renewed calls for the junta to "release all political prisoners."After completing his third trip to the military-ruled state, Pinheiro said prison conditions were better here after some 150 missions by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).Jean-Michel Monod, the ICRC's Asia, Pacific and Latin America regional representative, was also in Myanmar for a visit earlier this month.

    Among the earlier releases, five members of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) were freed from jail last Friday.Though Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for over a year, the NLD and the ruling State Peace and Development Council embarked on secret talks in October 2000 aimed at paving the way for democratic reforms.

    Some 236 political prisoners have been released since the talks began, according to the junta.The release of the women prisoners appears to be a "merit-making" gesture linked to the consecration of a massive Buddha image in Yangon last week.

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    Thai police find 13 murdered Myanmar nationals

    BANGKOK, March 5 (AFP) - The bodies of 13 Myanmar nationals including three children were found murdered and dumped in sacks on a roadside in Thailand's eastern province of Prachin Buri, police said Tuesday.

    The dead included six men, four women, a girl and two boys. The adults were believed to be illegal workers from the military-run state.

    "They were Myanmar illegal workers, and were hit on the head and strangled," Prachin Buri police deputy commander, Colonel Somnuk Purami, told Police also found one Myanmar passport and Myanmar currency with the bodies.

    Somnuk said investigators believed the 13 were killed elsewhere, possibly in an area close to the Myanmar border, and then dumped in this eastern province.

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    Tax-Free Markets Flop

    By Zarny Win
    The Irrawaddy

    March 05, 2002 Tax-free markets established by Burma's military government to decrease the cost of essential goods have failed to meet consumer demands despite private firms being forced to provide products to the government run markets, according to sources in Rangoon.

    "People are queuing in front of the markets before 5:00 am to buy eggs and things," said a Rangoon resident. "But they (the markets) do not have enough stock for the people."

    The Rangoon City Development Committee (RCDC) opened the markets in March 2000 and sells products such as cooking oil, eggs and soap. The markets were created in hopes of easing the effects of Burma's continuing economic crisis on the local population by allowing them to sell their goods without having to pay a tax to the government, according to sources familiar with the markets.

    "The growers or producers can sell directly to the buyers without paying tax to our department," said a RCDC spokesperson. "The tax-free markets have been opened with the aim of making vegetables, meat and fish available at reasonable prices for customers."

    Sources say only restaurants and residents who live near the markets rely on them for goods. Local customers reportedly sell goods purchased at the tax-free markets for an inflated price at other markets, says another Rangoon resident.

    The government has only been able to supply 500 eggs to each of the four markets and allows each person to buy ten eggs, causing many to leave empty handed. Tensions reportedly run high at the markets where fighting among customers is also commonplace.

    Rangoon residents have told The Irrawaddy that the price of consumer goods has been skyrocketing and that the government needs to open more tax-free markets in order to offset the continuing economic downturn.

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    USDA sells applications for Malaysian jobs

    Network Media Group

    Mae Hong Son, March 5: The Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) is selling the job application forms with Kyat 500 each to Burmese youths, who want to go and work in Malaysia, in different townships in Burma since the beginning of January this year, according to March 4 news release of the Information Department of National Coalition Government of Union of Burma (NCGUB).

    USDA got Kyat 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 in each township as they sold 2000 to 3000 application forms in each township, also mentioned in the release. USDA officials told Burmese youths who want to work in Malaysia that they will get 600 to 700 Malaysian Ringgit every month as salary.

    Those who are selected to work in Malaysia need to pay Kyat 60,000 again to USDA for the arrangements and Burmese government will tax 4,800 Ringgit in first year and Ringgit 2,000 each for second and third years from the salaries. The rest of the money, Kyat 30,000 nearly equivalent to Ringgit 200, can be received by the families of the workers in Burma every month, according to another source from Mae Sod. How to arrange the living of workers in Malaysia is not yet clear.

    USDA opened Malaysian language schools for the workers in Rangoon, Mandalay and Pegu and the first round of the classes had already finished, said a leader from "Aurora" workers' group in Mae Sod.

    USDA was formed as a reserve force for "Tatmataw", Burma Army, in 1994 and set up offices in every township in Burma. According to the merchants coming from Burma, USDA members got special privileges in traveling, job submissions and transporting different kinds of goods in Burma.

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