Daily News- March 16- 2002- Saturday

  • EU team says Myanmar political talks need to pick up speed
  • EU Visit Sheds Little Light on Myanmar Future
  • Myanmar junta frees more dissidents, women prisoners
  • Ailing ceasefire leader back from Hong Kong

  • EU team says Myanmar political talks need to pick up speed

    By DAN LOVERING, Associated Press Writer

    BANGKOK, Thailand - Reconciliation talks between Myanmar's military junta and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi have made some progress but the process needs to pick up speed, an EU official said Friday.

    "Some things have happened. Evidently the pace is something that can be improved," said Rafael Conde, leader of a four-member European Union mission, after ending a three-day visit to Myanmar.

    Conde, director-general of the Asia and Pacific division in the Spanish Foreign Ministry, was speaking to reporters at Bangkok airport after arriving from Yangon, the Myanmar capital.He declined to say anything more about the reconciliation talks, which aim to end a political deadlock caused by the junta's refusal to hand over power to Suu Kyi, whose party won the 1990 general elections.

    The contents of the closed-door talks have not been revealed and the only tangible outcome thus far has been the release of more than 200 political prisoners, including many members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party, or NLD.

    The EU team also met earlier Friday with Suu Kyi, who has been under virtual house arrest since September 2000. "She was in good health. We had a long and fruitful meeting," Conde said, without revealing the contents of the discussion.

    Conde said junta leaders assured the EU team that recent disclosure of an alleged coup attempt would not affect the reconciliation process. Last week, the government arrested a son-in-law and three grandsons of former dictator Ne Win, accusing them of plotting to overthrow the government.

    A statement issued by the EU team said the visit's objectives were to encourage progress in the reconciliation talks, urge the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and ask the junta to restore freedom of association, assembly and expression.

    The Myanmar government said it released five NLD members from various prisons Friday. Also freed were 25 female detainees either pregnant or with young children held on criminal charges, the government said.So far, 272 female detainees have been released in recent weeks.

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    EU Visit Sheds Little Light on Myanmar Future

    By Aung Hla Tun and Andrew Marshall

    YANGON/BANGKOK (Reuters) - European diplomats held rare talks with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday to gauge prospects for political change following claims by the ruling junta it had foiled a planned coup.

    But the delegation of for European Union diplomats ended a three-day visit to Myanmar unable to offer any fresh insights into the country's immediate future after years of repressive military rule.

    The team of four diplomats met pro-democracy champion Suu Kyi at the Yangon lakeside residence where she has been held under house arrest for the last 18 months. The military government has been holding confidential talks with her since October 2000, saying it wants to end the political deadlock. But no concrete results have emerged, and the EU team shed no light on the progress of the dialogue.

    "We have to respect the confidentiality of the process," delegation leader Rafel Conde, director general for Asia at the Spanish foreign ministry, told a news conference in Bangkok. "I can confirm that the talks are taking place, and that we sincerely hope that they will mature and prosper in the shortest possible time."

    The diplomats arrived in Myanmar on Wednesday with the country abuzz with rumors and political gossip after the ruling junta announced it had arrested relatives of elderly former dictator Ne Win for plotting to overthrow the government. The junta says cronies of Ne Win, who ruled the country for more than 25 years until 1988, were conspiring to install a puppet government with help from some senior commanders and an expert in black magic hired to provide astrological advice.

    But some foreign diplomats are skeptical a coup was planned, saying the allegations and arrests may stem from disagreements in the government over how to deal with Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD).


    Analysts say a faction led by military intelligence head Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt favors dialogue with the opposition, but supporters of army chief General Maung Aye are against making any concessions to Suu Kyi.

    Ne Win's family is seen as close to Khin Nyunt, and some analysts say the current purge could be a bid by hard-liners to get the upper hand and scupper any easing of military rule. But other observers say the crackdown on Ne Win's family may speed political change, as the former military strongman had tried to use his influence to block progress.

    The EU diplomats met Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung, but a requested meeting with Khin Nyunt was not granted. Officials said Khin Nyunt was too busy. But Conde said he did not read anything into the failure to meet Khin Nyunt.

    The European team was in Myanmar to assess the human rights and political situation in Myanmar a month before the EU "common position" is reviewed. The diplomats also repeated the EU's demand that Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners be freed.

    Suu Kyi's NLD won Myanmar's last elections in 1990 by a landslide but the military refused to hand over power. The junta says it is committed to democracy but moving too fast risks unleashing anarchy.

    Conde said Suu Kyi, 56, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, had asked that details of her discussion with the EU delegation be kept secret. "I can say she is in good health," he said. "She is an extraordinary lady."

    The EU currently maintains a visa ban on the junta's leaders, as well as trade and aid sanctions. Conde said the EU planned to offer $4.4 million to help fight Myanmar's HIV problem, adding more aid might be forthcoming if there was political progress but nothing was currently on the table.

    Since the dialogue between Suu Kyi and the junta began, more than 200 political prisoners have been released. The government said it had freed another five on Friday. But the opposition says more than 1,000 political prisoners still languish in jail. The EU team will now report back to member states on its assessment of the political situation in Myanmar.

    Asked about the prospects for progress, Conde said: "One can only wait and see, and hope."

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    Myanmar junta frees more dissidents, women prisoners

    YANGON, March 15 (AFP) - Myanmar's ruling junta Friday freed five opposition activists and 25 women prisoners from jail, in the latest of a rapid series of releases announced over the past month.

    The military government said five members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) were released from jails around the country.The five, identified as Waine San, Thaung Sein, Tun Kyaing, Aung Than Nyunt and Tin Aung, were all in good health, a spokesman said in a statement.

    "Twenty five female detainees, all either pregnant or with young children were released today on humanitarian grounds from various correctional facilities," he said, adding the women had been held on criminal charges.

    The releases bring to 34 the number the political activists released since mid-February, while a total of 272 women prisoners have been freed.

    The United Nations's human rights envoy to Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, earlier this week hailed the moves as a "positive step" and said he was "encouraged that the government of Myanmar is beginning to address this concern".In a report compiled after his third visit to Myanmar last month, Pinheiro said female prisoners with children or who are pregnant were one of the most vulnerable groups of the prison population.During that trip he also called for the release of all political prisoners in Myanmar.

    Since the junta began historic talks with Aung San Suu Kyi in October 2000, a process aimed at paving the way for democratic reforms, more than 250 male and female dissidents have been freed.However, many high-ranking NLD leaders remain in jail, and Aung San Suu Kyi herself has been under house arrest since September 2000.

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    Ailing ceasefire leader back from Hong Kong

    Shan Herald Agency for News No: 03 - 05:

    15 March 2002 - Lin Mingxian a.k.a. Sai Lin (Sai Leun), leader of Special Region #4 (Mongla) in eastern Shan State, had returned from Hong Kong where he had been taking treatment after a second massive stroke, reports Moengzay from Chiangrai.

    "He appears to be feeling better," said a source from Kengtung. "He can walk with a stick now though shakily and speak with some difficulty."

    Another change has been made in the leadership, according to him. Zhang Zhiming a.k.a. U Kyi Myint, who became chairman a month ago, has now been elevated to the position of "patron" together with two others, Liu Chingpao and Khun Myint.

    The new chairman is Sarm Pler, who used to be commander of the security force in Mongla. The three vice chairman are Khun Sanglu, Hsiao Per a.k.a. Htun Hlaing and Lin Taoter a.k.a. U Htein Lin, Sai Luen's son, who doubles as commander-in-chief of the National Democratic Alliance Army (Eastern Shan State).

    The army has three brigades: 815th in Mongla, whose commander's name is unavailable, 911th in Mongyawng commanded by Sai Htoon, Lin's younger brother, and 369th, commanded by Kham Mawng and Oon Mao.

    Lin, 53, is a native of Panghsai, Muse District, near the Chinese town of Wanting, Yunnan Province. He joined the Red Guards during the tumultuous Great Cultural Revolution in China and returned in 1968 to fight with the Communist Party of Burma's People's Army. In 1989, along with the Wa, Kokang and other groups, he concluded a truce agreement with Rangoon. His father-in-law is Peng Jiasheng, leader of Kokang group.

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