Daily News- March 13- 2002- Wednesday

  • Still Behind Bars
  • Who is Kyaw Ne Win?
  • Smokes and Gold on the Rise
  • Thai army chief says Burmese situation has no impact on national security
  • Myanmar gems auction nets millions of dollars
  • European Union team plans to meet Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Key political events in Myanmar's history

  • Still Behind Bars

    By Shawn L. Nance
    The Irrawaddy

    March 12, 2002— U Win Tin, journalist and a founding member of the National League for Democracy, will celebrate his 72nd birthday in detention today.

    Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières—RSF) and the Burma Media Association (BMA) are demanding that Win Tin be released on medical grounds, arguing that a return to prison would endanger his life. RSF has sent the Burmese embassy in France a petition for his release and will raise Win Tin’s case at the next session of the UN Human Rights Commission.

    Win Tin is currently being treated for a hernia at Rangoon General Hospital and will probably soon be returned to Insein prison, according to UN special rapporteur to Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.During his 13 years of detention, much of it spent in solitary confinement, Win Tin has suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes and spondylitis (inflammation of the vertebra).

    Win Tin was the former editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Hanthawathi until it was closed down in 1978 for voicing criticism against the ruling Burma Socialist Program Party. He was also vice-president of the Burmese Writers’ Association where he became active in the pro-democracy movement. In September 1988, he became a member of the board of directors of the National League for Democracy and a senior advisor to party leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    On July 4, 1989, he was sentenced to three years’ hard labor for allegedly having a telephone conversation with the father of a fugitive. The sentence was subsequently extended by eleven years a few months before his release.On March 28, 1996, an additional seven years were added to his sentence after the junta convicted him of smuggling letters describing conditions at Insein prison to Professor Yozo Yokota, the former UN special rapporteur for human rights in Burma.

    Win Tin was awarded the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, sponsored by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for his contribution in promoting press freedom. The prize, established in 1997, is named after assassinated Colombian journalist and editor, Guillermo Cano. According to RSF, at least 17 media professionals are still jailed in Burma. Journalist Sein Hla Oo, whose sentence ended in August 2001, remains in prison.

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    Who is Kyaw Ne Win?

    By Aung Zaw and Ko Thet
    The Irrawaddy

    March 12, 2002— As members of Burma’s most influential family, Aye Ne Win, Kyaw Ne Win and Zwe Ne Win have long enjoyed undreamed-of advantages in this country of deeply deprived citizens. Now in custody, the three brothers are facing charges of planning to overthrow the government.

    Of the three, Kyaw Ne Win, 24, is perhaps the most notorious. Never alone, he is notorious for cruising Rangoon in the company of his entourage of bodyguards, some of them army captains. Like official state vehicles, his half-dozen or so Land Cruisers and Pajero SUVs are adorned with two flags: the Union flag of Burma and another, "one- star" flag that he uses as his personal emblem.

    "He is a prince but he wanted to be the king," commented one source in Rangoon. "He was untouchable."

    Inspired by his grandfather, Gen Ne Win, Kyaw Ne Win always aspired to absolute power, recalled some people who knew him well. "He never hid his desire to become a king and he always acted like a king."

    Like his grandfather, Kyaw Ne Win was also well known for his violent temper. In a brawl at Bogyoke Market in downtown Rangoon, he pulled a gun on the son of a well-known businessman, who was also armed. The volatile situation had to be defused by Sec-1 Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt.

    When he wasn’t threatening to gun down those who offended him, Kyaw Ne Win was busy visiting Singapore, where a number of relatives and close friends live. He was also involved in business, importing Mercedes, Hammers and high-priced SUVs for an elite clientele of bankers, leading businessmen and close relatives of ethnic leaders from ceasefire groups in Shan State.

    But Kyaw Ne Win was best known for his involvement in gangs. He was once the leader of the Scorpions, a group notorious for drug trafficking and terrorizing ordinary citizenry. According to an anonymous source, however, Kyaw Ne Win fell out with the gang after he killed some of its members. A recent crackdown on the gang is now believed to have been orchestrated by Kyaw Ne Win.

    According the source, Kyaw Ne Win is finally get his just desserts for putting many of his friends in the grave or behind bars. "This is payback time for Kyaw Ne Win," the source said.

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    Smokes and Gold on the Rise

    By Kyaw Zwa Moe
    The Irrawaddy

    March 12, 2002— If you did not stock up on cigarettes over the weekend or had visions of the Midas touch, news of the thwarted coup in Rangoon is going to cost you. The prices of both commodities and consumer goods have increased after plans to overthrow Burma's military government were uncovered on March 7, according to reliable sources in Rangoon.

    "Prices have gone up following the news [of the plotted coup]," a Rangoon resident told The Irrawaddy. A pack of cigarettes jumped from 240 kyat (780 kyat = 1 USD) on Sunday to 290 kyat today, according to the source. Since news of the planned coup broke the price of gold has also risen from 120,000 kyat to 140,000 kyat per tical (15.3 gram), according to a gold shop owner in downtown Rangoon.

    Members of the family of former Burmese dictator Gen Ne Win were arrested on Thursday while eating dinner at restaurant in Rangoon. They include Ne Win's son-in-law, Aye Zaw Win, and three of Ne Win's grandsons. They were arrested on charges of planning a coup and attempting to split the military.

    People inside and outside the country continue to question who exactly was behind the planned coup. The State Peace and Development Council's (SPDC) Sec-1 Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt was not seen in public until last Sunday following Thursday's arrests, leaving some to question where the junta's number-three man fits into the regime's ongoing power struggle.

    Meanwhile, more barricades were placed around Ne Win's lakeside compound in Rangoon, where the former dictator and his daughter Khin Sandar Win, wife of Aye Zaw Win and mother of three arrested grandsons, are being kept under house arrest.

    Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has also cancelled a scheduled trip to Burma on March 21-22 following news of the planned coup, according to Thai newspapers.

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    Thai army chief says Burmese situation has no impact on national security

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Mar 12, 2002
    Text of report by Thai radio on 11 March

    Army Commander in Chief Gen Surayud Chulanont believes that tensions in Burma will have no impact on Thailand's national security.

    Commenting on the Burmese government's crackdown on high-ranking officers who attempted to stage a coup, the army chief said the incident was unlikely to have any impact on Thailand's national security as it is an internal affair of Burma.

    Regarding the fighting along the Thai-Burmese border, he said that fighting frequently broke out among minority groups during the dry season. If no stray shells land on Thai soil and if the fighting does not affect Thai villagers along the border, Thai soldiers will not get involved.

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    Myanmar gems auction nets millions of dollars

    YANGON, March 12 (AFP) - Myanmar sold more than 20 million US dollars worth of precious stones at an annual gems emporium and auction in Yangon, state-run television station reported Tuesday.

    The government sponsored 39th gems emporium, which opened on March 5, was attended by 485 foreign gems merchants from 11 countries and more than 200 local byers, TV Myanmar said in a dispatch monitored here.

    Auctioned were a total of 307 lots of jade, 88 lots of gem stones and 20 lots of pearls, as well as fixed-price jade carvings and jewellery, the report added.Myanmar's military government has a monopoly on precious stones and pearls in the country.

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    European Union team plans to meet Aung San Suu Kyi

    BANGKOK, March 13 (AFP) - A European Union delegation due to arrive in Myanmar Wednesday expects to meet with senior officials of the military junta as well as democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, officials said.

    The March 13-15 visit comes shortly after the military regime announced it had foiled a coup plotted by the family of former dictator Ne Win.

    The trip is the first of its kind in more than a year, and follows a January 2001 Swedish-led mission to Yangon which tried to encourage the junta and the democratic opposition to break their decade-long political deadlock. Since then, talks between the two sides have continued, but European and other Western governments have urged faster progress towards political reform and the release of the hundreds of political prisoners in Myanmar's jails.

    The Europeans, due to arrive in the capital Yangon late Wednesday, were effectively guaranteed the same access to figures in Myanmar as the previous mission, said a source close to the delegation.

    "The team was promised some time ago by (Myanmar's) deputy foreign minister that they could see Aung San Suu Kyi and anyone else basically," he said, adding that a visit to her lakeside home was listed on a preliminary schedule.

    Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), has been kept under house arrest since September 2000, a month before starting historic talks with the junta.

    The four-person EU team will include Rafel Conde, director general for Asia at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Pierre Amilhat, head of the policy planning unit at the directorate for Asia of the European Commission.Spain currently holds the presidency of the European Union.Denmark, which will next hold the rotating presidency, will send a foreign ministry representative, while the fourth member is not yet confirmed, the EU's Bangkok office said.

    The EU has imposed sanctions on Myanmar in a bid to press the junta to initiate reform.Lately however it has eased a ban on contacts with the military regime and signalled a further easing of sanctions could follow if Myanmar makes concrete steps towards political reform.

    UN envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail, who is credited with helping broker the dialogue, is also expected to visit Yangon later this month.Top junta officials said this week that the failed coup attempt would not derail the dialogue between the regime and the opposition which was brokered by Razali.

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    Key political events in Myanmar's history

    YANGON,(Reuters) March 12 - Just days after Myanmar's junta said it foiled a coup plot, European officials begin a short visit on Wednesday in a bid to encourage democratic reforms and end the impoverished nation's long isolation.

    The delegation plans to meet pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest for more than a year, and will try to assess whether government claims to have uncovered a planned coup signal a major shift in the political landscape.

    The ruling junta says the son-in-law and three grandsons of elderly former dictator Ne Win had been plotting to install a puppet government, aided by a handful of senior commanders and a well-known astrologer and black magic expert.

    The claims have caused a sensation in Yangon. Official newspapers, which carried a long report on the coup plot on Wednesday, sold out early in the day and residents were paying up to 10 times the cover price to get their hands on a copy.'Business was very brisk this morning,'' said one vendor. ''I sold about 100 newspapers in less than 20 minutes.''

    But many foreign diplomats are sceptical that a coup was being planned, saying the allegations may be the latest salvo in a power struggle between Myanmar's top generals.


    Diplomats say the government is divided over how to deal with Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD), which won elections in 1990 but was prevented from taking power.The military has been holding confidential talks with Suu Kyi since October 2000, saying it wants to agree a framework for a transition to civilian rule. But Suu Kyi remains under house arrest, and the talks have produced no concrete results.

    Diplomats say Myanmar army chief General Maung Aye is opposed to making any concessions to the NLD, but a rival faction led by military intelligence head Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt favours a flexible approach to try to ease Myanmar's isolation.

    Ne Win's family is seen as close to Khin Nyunt, and some analysts say the current purge could be a bid by hardliners to get the upper hand and scupper any concessions to Suu Kyi. But the government said on Tuesday the dialogue with Suu Kyi would not be affected by the coup plot.

    NLD Secretary U Lwin told Reuters on Wednesday he also thought the talks would continue. ''I think the dialogue will be unaffected, and will keep going,'' he said. ''It is taking place at a regular pace now.''

    The leader of one of Myanmar's many ethnic minority parties said the government should move quickly to build a democratic system to avoid future coup attempts. ''I think building a democratic society is the only way to avoid this kind of thing,'' Khun Tun Oo, leader of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, told Reuters. Myanmar's government says it is committed to building democracy but that moving too fast risks unleashing anarchy.


    The European Commission's representative in the EU team, Pierre Amilhat, said the coup claim had complicated the visit. ''This is a completely new event and we'll be discussing it on our flight,'' Amilhat told Reuters shortly before leaving Brussels for Yangon, where they will arrive late on Wednesday. ''We want to inform ourselves of the situation and meet everyone concerned to see what their assessment is.''

    The government has been making some concessions to the NLD since the talks with Suu Kyi began. It has released more than 200 political prisoners, and last month it also started releasing female prisoners who were pregnant or had children.

    In a statement, the government said it released 25 female detainees on Wednesday, bringing to 220 the number to have been recently freed from the country's notorious jails. But the international community says this is not enough.

    Top of the EU's demands is the immediate release of Suu Kyi, and an estimated 1,500 political prisoners in Myanmar's jails. The EU team is scheduled to arrive in Yangon on Wednesday evening and depart late on Friday. The visit aims to assess the human rights and political situation in Myanmar a month before the EU ''common position'' is reviewed. Myanmar has practically no development assistance and faces sanctions from the EU and the United States. (Additional reporting by Dominic Whiting in Bangkok)

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