Daily News- March 18- 2002- Monday

  • Wa drug cartel in US sights
  • New Rangoon coastal region commander appointed
  • Coup-related officers face dismissal by 27 March, arrests continue
  • Rights panel calls for probe into deaths of 30 Burmese
  • Myanmar questions more than 100 on foiled coup
  • Former Myanmar dictator Ne Win, daughter under virtual house arrest
  • Democracy movement comes of age
  • Tutu calls for Blair sanctions on Burma's 'tyrants'
  • RSF to present Burma’s press freedom situation to UN Human Rights Commission
  • Doubts on Burma talks after Junta postponed UN visit

  • Wa drug cartel in US sights

    By Alan Dawson
    The Bangkokpost

    The United States has declared the Wa drug dealers are important targets in the war on terrorism, a significant policy change that could put the Burma-based narcotics cartel in the US bullseye.

    Diplomatic sources in Bangkok said it was clear US policy in the region is quickly evolving, and will put pressure on Burma to strike fast and hard against drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang or risk intervention from outside.

    In a separate development, the American military commander in the Pacific, Adm Dennis Blair, stressed the importance of close US-Thai relations.``Thailand is critical to our efforts'' in combatting drug trafficking and in international peace-keeping, he told US senators.

    The key change in US policy came last week, in a separate testimony by two senior diplomats to a US senate committee.

    Rand Beers, assistant secretary of state for drug and law enforcement, and Francis Taylor, ambassador at large for counter- terrorism, said terrorism and drugs are increasingly linked. Often, drug gangs raise money for terrorists, as well as try to weaken target nations by flooding them with drugs.

    The most significant part of their announcement designated the United Wa State Army for the first time as ``a terrorist group with known links to drug trafficking around the world''. Before last week, Washington considered the UWSA only as a drug gang.

    ``The UWSA controlled major drug producing areas in Burma and used the proceeds to carry out an insurgency against the Burmese government,'' Mr Beers told the senate judiciary committee's sub-committee on technology, terrorism and government information.

    ``A ceasefire agreement granted the UWSA enough autonomy to continue drug trafficking for profit,'' he said.

    The testimony was not the first time US officials have linked the war on terrorism to drugs, as well as weapons proliferation.But it marks the first time that a drug-trafficking cartel has been re-designated as a terrorist organisation.

    So far, the US has not officially put the UWSA on its list of known terrorist groups. Last week's testimony was a strong indication such a move is in the works. Diplomatic sources in Bangkok said they were not surprised.

    ``For a couple of months, it has been clear the war on terrorism has a much wider scope than just overthrowing the Taliban'' in Afghanistan, said one official. ``So far as we are concerned, Burma will put the Wa out of the drug business, or the Americans will get directly involved.''

    Adm Blair was reporting to the key senate armed services committee, a chief overseer of the US military. ``Thailand will continue to be our key ally in Southeast Asia,'' he told the senators. He drew a strong link between Operation Cobra Gold and the bilateral US-Philippine operation called Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder), which has put US soldiers in an advisory role against the Abu Sayyaf. The two operations are known jointly as Team Challenge 2002 by the US military.Cobra Gold will still have three participants this year Thailand, the US and Singapore but dozens of observers from 13 countries 14 if Vietnam picks up its invitation.

    To The Top

    New Rangoon coastal region commander appointed

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma on 16 March

    A new commander has replaced Coastal Region Commander Maj-Gen Aye Kywe, one of the four detained high-level commanders implicated in the alleged coup plot [by U Ne Win's family members].

    The current Coastal Region Deputy Commander Brig-Gen Tin Latt will take over the responsibilities of coastal region commander as well as chairman of Tenasserim Division Peace and Development Council. The War Office in Rangoon issued the appointment on 13 March.

    Although the replacement for Coastal Region Commander Maj-Gen Aye Kywe was announced, the replacements for the other three - Triangle Region Commander Brig-Gen Chit Than, Air Force Commander in Chief Maj-Gen Myint Swe, and Police Chief Police Maj-Gen Soe Win - were not known.

    According to latest reports received by DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma], more arrests are being made and the Rangoon War Office is making plans to complete the arrests and dismiss some senior military officers involved in the coup plot before 27 March, Armed Forces Day.

    To The Top

    Coup-related officers face dismissal by 27 March, arrests continue

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma on 15 March

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that plans are underway to dismiss some senior military officials alleged to have contacts with U Ne Win's family before 27 March, Armed Forces Day. Although nothing is known about whom and how many were involved it is said to include regional, divisional, and military operation commanders. Six colonels from the coastal region military command have been recently detained in Mergui and interrogated.

    Furthermore, 23 truckloads of ammunition were sent from Rangoon to the coastal region military command on 6 March and military intelligence personnel are investigating these shipments thought to be associated with the failed coup attempt by U Ne Win's family. Coastal region commander Maj-Gen Aye Kywe is detained in Rangoon and questioned. Vice-Chief of Defence Services Intelligence Maj-Gen Kyaw Win said at a press conference that U Aye Zaw Win and his sons tried to persuade the commanders loyal to U Ne Win and family. Nothing has been confirmed so far about the arrest and interrogation of senior military officers.

    According to latest reports, two soothsayers from Bahan Township and one palmist and a sculptor named U Tin Sein from Tamwe Township have been detained recently. They were all arrested for allegedly participating in designing the arm badge, uniforms, and other office symbols for use by U Ne Win's grandsons.

    A Rangoon-based diplomat said although the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] held two press conferences in connection with the arrest of U Ne Win's family members, the developments caught most observers and Burmese people by surprise. He said U Ne Win and his family members were thought to be untouchables until last Friday [8 March] and they themselves thought so.

    The SPDC military personnel closed the Ady Road residence of U Ne Win and Daw Sandar Win last Friday. It remains cordoned off with barbed wire barricades said the Western diplomat. He added that the phone lines were cut and it is believed that Daw Sandar Win's mobile phone was also confiscated. He said that most are doubtful about the SPDC's claim that they were all arrested for allegedly plotting a coup but no one could give a definite answer. The one sure thing is the demise of U Ne Win's era. Rumours have been spreading among the Rangoon public that U Ne Win lost his power only now and not in 1988 [when there were nationwide mass demonstrations for democracy].

    Another diplomat said at present Rangoon is calm with some military trucks and checkpoints stationed there because of the annual Armed Forces Day programme and not related with the incident. When asked about the affect on the SPDC-Daw Aung San Suu Kyi talks he said it is still premature at this point but the meeting could be suspended. He said it was suspended for some months when SPDC Secretary-2 Lt Gen Tin Oo died in a helicopter crash in February 2001 and caused a commotion in the Defence Services. He added that a black and white answer could emerge when UN special envoy Mr Razali arrive Rangoon next Tuesday [19 March].

    The news of the arrest of U Ne Win's family has suddenly become the favoured topic of the people and the Myanmar [Burma] Alin newspaper has become the beneficiary where the price of a newspaper has risen to 100 kyat. Rangoon-based diplomats remarked people were rushing to buy the newspapers because only now the newspaper has carried news.

    To The Top

    Rights panel calls for probe into deaths of 30 Burmese

    Penchan Charoensuthipan
    The Bangkokpost

    The National Human Rights Commission yesterday urged the Interior Ministry to launch an investigation into the recent deaths of 30 Burmese immigrant workers in Mae Hong Son and Prachin Buri provinces, saying it was duty-bound to find and arrest those responsible.

    Jaran Ditha-apichai, who sits on the panel, said the country's reputation would suffer unless action was taken to prevent a recurrence of the incidents. During a seminar held by a committee campaigning for democracy in Burma, Mr Jaran said it was the duty of his panel to protect human rights for all in the country, including immigrant workers.

    According to Pramon Somwong, co-ordinator of a health project, a number of immigrant workers die every day, but most go unreported. Nopparat Suparakan, of the Asian Studies Institute, said without limits on the amount of foreign labour that could be registered, there would be a sharp increase in the number of immigrant workers and brokers, who demand money for jobs that often do not exist.

    Premsak Piayura, Khon Kaen MP and chairman of the House committee on labour affairs, called for the early completion of work-permit renewals and health checks for foreign labourers.

    To The Top

    Myanmar questions more than 100 on foiled coup

    YANGON, (Reuters)March 18 - Myanmar's military government said on Monday it was interrogating more than 100 people about an alleged coup plot by the family and cronies of former dictator Ne Win. Kyaw Win, deputy chief of military intelligence, told a news conference relatives of Ne Win had hoped to set up a dynasty which would keep their family in power for generations.

    ''It can be assumed that they intended to hold power forever by founding a monarchy,'' he said. Kyaw Win said suspects being questioned included private security guards employed by Ne Win's family, some members of the military and a well-known expert in black magic who the junta says was hired by the conspirators for astrological advice.

    He said Ne Win himself had not yet been questioned, and nor had his daughter Sandar Win, seen as the most influential of the former military strongman's children. ''It is too early to say if Ne Win and Sandar Win were involved,'' Kyaw Win said. ''Ne Win is in good health and we provide necessary medicines when asked.'' Ne Win ruled Burma, as Myanmar then was known, for more than 25 years until 1988 and presided over its decline into isolation and poverty.

    Myanmar authorities arrested the husband and three sons of Sandar Win earlier this month, accusing them of plotting to overthrow the government and install a puppet regime. But some foreign diplomats are sceptical a coup was planned, saying the allegations and arrests may stem from disagreements in the government over how to deal with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD).

    The NLD won elections in 1990 by a landslide but the military refused to hand over power. Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has been held under house arrest for the last 18 months.


    The military says it wants to build a democratic state but that moving too fast could unleash anarchy. It has been holding secretive talks with Suu Kyi since October 2000 but no concrete results have been announced.

    Analysts say a faction in the government led by military intelligence head Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt favours 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 hardliners 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 dictator had tried to use his influence to block progress.

    The U.N. envoy to Myanmar, Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail, is due to arrive in Yangon on Tuesday for his latest visit. Diplomats say they hope he will be able to announce progress in the dialogue with Suu Kyi and shed light on the coup claims.

    A European Union delegation, which visited Myanmar last week, shed little light on the prospects for political change. The diplomats said they had to keep most of their findings private.

    Razali played a key role in encouraging the military to start talks with Suu Kyi and diplomats hope he can push the government to make fresh concessions to keep faith in the dialogue alive. A key demand of the international community is for her freedom.

    Analysts say the lack of tangible results from the talks is causing increasing frustration both inside and outside Myanmar, and that the junta needs to take steps to show they are serious about building democracy rather than just trying to improve their tarnished image in the hope of ending international isolation. (With additional reporting by Andrew Marshall in Bangkok)

    To The Top

    Former Myanmar dictator Ne Win, daughter under virtual house arrest

    YANGON, (ASSOCIATED PRESS)Myanmar, March 18 - Myanmar's military junta has put former dictator Ne Win and his daughter Sandar Win under virtual house arrest after his son-in-law and grandsons were arrested for plotting to overthrow the government.

    ''They are not under house arrest but no one is allowed to go in or come out of the house, for security reasons,'' Maj. Gen. Kyaw Win, deputy head of military intelligence, told a news conference Monday. ''We cannot allow family members to visit Ne Win.''

    Sandar Win's husband, Aye Zaw Win, and their three sons were arrested March 8 for allegedly conspiring to stage a coup by trying to recruit military units to kidnap and coerce the junta leaders to give up power and swear allegiance to Ne Win. Since then, access to the homes of Ne Win and his daughter, which are in the same compound, has been blocked by barbed wire barricades.

    Kyaw Win said ''We are not allowing anyone to go in now. Ne Win is in good health and his daughter Sandar looks after Ne Win's health. We are providing necessary medical assistance.'' Ne Win, 90, is known to have been ailing for years now. He had a pacemaker implanted last year in a Singapore hospital.

    Kyaw Win said authorities had not yet raided the house nor has Sandar Win been questioned. He said Sandar Win's sons tried to befriend and organize the company commander and his unit in charge of Ne Win's security. The three had reportedly told the commander's associates that they had been planning a change of government before the Armed Forces Day on March 27. Kyaw Win said details of the coup plot were revealed by Aye Zaw Win, 54, the alleged mastermind.

    Ne Win, a highly superstitious man, ruled Myanmar for 26 years until 1988, leading the country to authoritarianism and economic ruin. He was replaced by the current group of generals who have also been criticized by the international community for failing to respect human rights and democracy. The junta has refused to hand over power to pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won the general elections in 1990. Both sides are now engaged in reconciliation talks.

    To The Top

    Democracy movement comes of age

    The Bangkokpost

    The Democratic Party for a New Society has spent its youth butting heads with a group of old generals. Now approaching middle age, they want a chance to help pick up the pieces in Burma.

    The Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) was formed in October 1988, two months after the popular democracy uprising that killed thousands of people in Burma.It was made up mainly of students and members of the younger generation ranging in age from 18 to 30.

    When the military took over after the 8-8-88 uprising these youths needed a new platform to carry on with their crusade to restore democracy to the country. And since the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) could not be established as a legal political party it was decided the DPNS be formed.The main reason for establishing the party was to continue with its political campaign to create a democratic atmosphere in the country.

    The founder was Moe Thee Zun, a prominent student activist during the 1988 uprising and secretary-general of the ABFSU.

    We did not compete for seats in the 1990 elections as a tactical move, explains Aung Moe Zaw. At that time the goals were to see that a democratically elected government be established in the country and to make sure the military-backed National Unity Party, formerly Burma Socialist Programme Party, was defeated. So we fully backed Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party (NLD).

    At the time it was decreed by Slorc that unless a party registered to compete in three constituencies it would be dissolved. So DPNS registered in 10 constituencies nationwide, allowing it the right to campaign.

    DPNS's task was to urge the people to vote for the NLD, and they succeeded with Suu Kyi's party winning more than 80 percent of the votes. They did not vie for seats as the members were very young. The years of struggle haven't turned them from their mission.

    As a senior member of the Democratic Party for a New Society said: ``We are much older today and have enormous potential to help build the country. Not when we are in our sixties.''

    To The Top

    Tutu calls for Blair sanctions on Burma's 'tyrants'

    source : Ananova

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called on the UK Government to impose sanctions against the military junta ruling Burma.Archbishop Tutu, a veteran of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, is backing the launch of the Burma Sanctions Campaign, backed by British businesses, unions and campaign groups.

    He says the south-east Asian state is "the next South Africa" and calls on the international community to take action similar to the sanctions against apartheid in the 1980s.Archbishop Tutu said: "We find ourselves in a situation where governments are waiting on other governments to act, and so everyone simply waits.

    "A journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. Collective action is the gathering of many individual actions."The UK can take a lead within Europe by imposing sanctions against Burma now. It can also encourage others to follow."

    Archbishop Tutu is scathing in his condemnation of the Slorc military dictatorship which has refused to hand over power to fellow-Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, despite her landslide victory in the country's last free election in 1990.

    He said: "Burma is the next South Africa. Its people are engaged in an epic struggle for freedom.

    "Burma's military has put millions of civilians into forced labour, imprisoned hundreds of political prisoners, has created more child soldiers than any other country in the world and has forcibly 'relocated' half a million ethnic people.

    "The UK Government, and indeed the governments of Europe, must prevent their companies from investing in tyranny. The US has already taken such action. If other countries follow suit, then sanctions will have a powerful political, economic and psychological effect on the regime."

    To The Top

    RSF to present Burma’s press freedom situation to UN Human Rights Commission

    By Maung Maung Myint
    Burma Media Association

    17 March 2002 -- Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontičres - RSF) will discuss Burma’s press freedom situation during an oral presentation to the UN Human Rights Commission meeting that begins on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland. RSF, which holds an observer status in the UN Human Rights Commission, has the possibility to present particular cases or stories to the commission.

    In a telephone interview with BMA, RSF spokesperson Mr. Gen Julliard said, "This year, we have decided to present about the systematic repression on press freedom in Burma, particularly about U Win Tin’s case. We will also talk about other journalists still being incarcerated in Burmese prisons, and U Sein Hla Oo’s case is a good example.”

    U Win Tin who has been imprisoned since 4 July 1989 is a former editor-in-chief of the daily Hanthawathi and Central Executive Committee member of the National League for Democracy. He was sentenced to a total of twenty years for sending to the UN special rapporteur for Burma a document on prison conditions and mistreatment in Insein prison.

    Recently, RSF and BMA called on Burma's ruling junta that U Win Tin be released on his 72nd birthday for medical reasons. However, military junta in Rangoon has not yet responded to the petition. "We will send another letter to find out why they didn’t answer to our petition. If they fail to respond to us this time again, we will then intensify our campaign by fiercely promoting international awareness on Burma issue," said Mr. Gen Julliard.

    "We always work with international media, especially in Europe. In fact, almost thirty European media have sponsored Win Tin’s case, and raised this issue on his birthday. All we have to do now is to intensify the momentum so that enough pressure is placed upon Burmese junta to release the remaining journalists".

    According to RSF, at least 17 media professionals are still jailed in Burma. RSF is especially worried about journalist Sein Hla Oo, whose sentence ended in August 2001, but who has still not been released.

    To The Top

    Doubts on Burma talks after Junta postponed UN visit

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    Rangoon, March 18--Burma has told U.N. envoy Razali Ismail to postpone a visit scheduled to start on Tuesday, diplomats said, raising fresh doubts about the future of talks between the ruling junta and pro-democracy opposition.

    Razali, a Malaysian diplomat, played a key role in persuading the military to start talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in October 2000, and has made regular visits to the country to evaluate progress and try to encourage political change.

    His visit this week was scheduled at a particularly sensitive time -- the military government said earlier this month it had foiled a coup being plotted by relatives and cronies of elderly former dictator Ne Win. The news caused a sensation in Rangoon and sparked fevered speculation about the country's political future.

    Diplomats in Rangoon said the government had told them the visit had been postponed because the deputy foreign minister had suffered a heart attack. They said that while the postponement was not a good sign, it was too early to judge whether the talks with Suu Kyi were in jeopardy.

    ''The decision was very sudden,'' one ambassador in Rangoon told Reuters.

    ''I've been told it was postponed by the government. I don't know whether they gave a reason, but the deputy foreign minister, who usually hosts Razali's visits, has had a heart attack.''

    Razali was not immediately available to comment.

    To The Top