Daily News- March 19- 2002- Tuesday

  • U.N. disappointment at Myanmar's postponement of U.N. visit
  • Professor Gets 7 Years for Protest
  • Junta War Office bars movement, travel of officers in capital, Pegu
  • Myanmar snubs India, frees rebels
  • Thai-Burmese trade deal
  • Myanmar coup issue no bar to peace talks-U.N.envoy
  • Myanmar says recent coup attempt forced postponement of UN envoy visit
  • Campaigners Call for Tougher Sanctions Against "The Next South Africa"

  • U.N. disappointment at Myanmar's postponement of U.N. visit

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The United Nations expressed disappointment Monday that Myanmar has postponed a visit by a U.N. envoy who is trying to promote reconciliation between the military regime and the pro-democracy opposition.

    The Myanmar government informed the United Nations that the visit by Razali Ismail, scheduled to begin on Tuesday, had been postponed due to Deputy Foreign Minister U Khin Maung Win's illness.

    "We are disappointed to hear of this development but we hope that the mission can be rescheduled as soon as possible in order to facilitate the national reconciliation process," said U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe.

    Razali has brokered secret talks between the government and the opposition. After his last visit in November, he said he was hopeful that "significant progress" could be made in the near future on reconciliation talks in the southeast Asian nation.

    The postponement came on a day when Myanmar's junta disclosed it had 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.

    Okabe said the United Nations had been informed by the government and the opposition National League for Democracy "that the ongoing talks between the two sides will not be affected by the coup plot."

    Last Friday, the United Nations announced that during Razali's four-day visit from March 19-22, he was to hold talks with Senior Gen. Than Shwe, the chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, as the junta calls itself, and with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and senior members of her National League for Democracy. Win, the deputy foreign minister, was not mentioned.

    A government official in Myanmar's capital, Yangon, who also disclosed the postponement, said Razali was to be the guest of the deputy foreign minister, who was reported to be ill. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no new date has been set for the visit.

    Razali, a former Malaysian diplomat, facilitated face-to-face talks between the junta and Suu Kyi, which started in October 2000. This week's visit would have been his seventh to Myanmar since his appointment in April 2000.

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    Professor Gets 7 Years for Protest

    By Kyaw Zwa Moe
    The Irrawaddy

    March 18, 2002- Dr Salai Tun Than, a retired professor who was arrested last November for staging a one-man protest against Burma’s ruling junta, has been sentenced to seven years in prison, according to a reliable source in Rangoon.

    Dr Salai Tun Than, 74, was sentenced under Article 5(J) of the 1950 State Emergency Act for his solo protest in front of Rangoon’s City Hall on Nov 29. According to the source, a special court in the compound of Insein Prison, where he is currently being held, passed the sentence on Feb 8.

    During his protest, Dr Salai Tun Than, the former rector of Yazin University in Pyinmana, Upper Burma, distributed copies of a letter he wrote to demand political reforms. In the letter, he also expressed a willingness to pay a high price for his protest. "It is better to die than to live under the military regime," he wrote.

    The source added that the retired rector, who is an ethnic Chin, is now permitted to receive visits from relatives. In February, he also met with the United Nations’ Human Rights rapporteur for Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.The source also noted that Dr Salai Tun Than suffers from a serious eye condition that needs to be operated on within the next six months.

    Since talks between Burma’s ruling junta and the democratic opposition began a year and a half ago, 243 political prisoners have been released from the country’s gulag. Most of these prisoners had already served out their sentences and were due to be released, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Despite persistent calls from opposition groups and the international community for more releases, the regime continues to detain around 2,000 political prisoners, according to AAPP.

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    Junta War Office bars movement, travel of officers in capital, Pegu

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Mar 18, 2002
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 17 March

    The SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] War Office in Rangoon issued a directive yesterday stating that all military gazetted officers above the rank of second lieutenant who are either on leave or on duty in Rangoon and Pegu have been ordered to return to their mother units before 20 March.

    The directive also urged the battalion and company commanders not to send on duty or grant leave to any defence services personnel either to Rangoon or Pegu except under special circumstances. Furthermore, it ordered military officers to remain in their respective military commands and not to go even on a visit to other military commands. The directive notified in advance that special investigation teams from the War Office will begin their inquiries in Rangoon and Pegu Division on 20 March. This directive was issued in light of the attempted coup by U Ne Win's family members. Special investigation teams were sent to find some military officers involved in the coup attempt who have absconded.

    Another directive issued yesterday by the War Office warns all military gazetted officers participating in the 57th Armed Forces Day marching parade to stay at their designated hostels and not with friends or relatives. The remaining leave days, address and contact phone number of all officers who are away on leave must be reported to the War Office within 24 hours. No officer must be allowed to leave his battalion without prior approval from the War Office.

    According to sources, DVB has learned that some soldiers from battalions under the Coastal Region Military Command and the Triangle Region Military Command participating in the Armed Forces Day military parade have been implicated in the attempted coup by U Ne Win's family members. In addition, some officers from the parade have been interrogated by the Military Intelligence as well as two military officers in charge of the security of Myanmar [Burma] Radio and TV Department [MRTD] and two MRTD officials.

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    Myanmar snubs India, frees rebels

    Rahul Karmakar Hindustan Times

    New Delhi March 18, 2002 - In an apparent snub to New Delhi, Myanmar has released all the 192 Manipur rebels who were apprehended in November last year following a series of military interaction between the two countries.

    Intelligence officials say that the rebels were released under pressure form China. But there are reasons to believe the Myanmar military junta had reacted to the Indian propaganda’ that Myanmar had given asylum to Bashiruddin Mahmud and Abdul Majit, two pro-Taliban Pakistani nuclear scientists.

    The Tatmadaw or Burmese Army had nabbed the 192 militants after raiding seven camps of various Manipur outfits around Tamu in the Sagaing division early November last year. The apprehended included ‘six top leaders, including UNLF chairman R.K. Meghen and PLA commander Jiban Singh. The Tatmadaw seized from these militants 40 kg of gold, currency worth millions, currency printing machines and 1,600 pieces of weapons supplied by China.

    India approached the junta for handing over to the militants. But in January, the junta suddenly changed tack, maintaining that the rebels were Burmese. It released some 50 militants on January 3. The others were let go in four batches, the last group of 27 being released on February 14.

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    Thai-Burmese trade deal

    Woranuj Maneerungsee
    The Bangkokpost

    Thailand and Burma agreed to sign an account trade agreement to boost bilateral trade, commerce ministers of both countries said during their third bilateral trade meeting yesterday.

    The two-day meeting took place in Bangkok yesterday. Thai Commerce Minister Adisai Bodharamik led the Thai delegation while Burmese Commerce Minister Brig-Gen Pyi Sone led the Burmese team. Both sides agreed to sign the agreement today.

    Burma will become the sixth country to sign an account trade agreement with Thailand after Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Indonesia and Zimbabwe. But so far no country has traded under the system.

    Mr Adisai said the account trade was the highlight of the meeting, as it could help boost mutual trade significantly. Thailand also encouraged Rangoon to introduce account trade activities along border, which accounted for about 50% of the total two-way trade.The accommodation of border trade would benefit people of both countries, as it directly distributed wealth to people in rural areas, Mr Adisai said.

    Brig-Gen Pyi Sone said Bangkok and Rangoon should step up trade relations by conducting an account trade system. In 2001, two-way trade jumped by 50% year-on-year to US$1.1 billion. Thailand exported goods totalling $356 million to Burma, a 30% drop from the year before, and imported $803 million worth of products, up 211% year-on-year.

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    Myanmar coup issue no bar to peace talks-U.N.envoy

    KUALA LUMPUR,(Reuters) March 19 — Myanmar military authorities' problems with alleged coup plotters should not be allowed to derail reconciliation talks with the pro-democracy opposition, U.N. special envoy Razali Ismail said on Tuesday.

    ''Whatever is happening, we must continue with the process of national reconciliation,'' Razali told Reuters the day after Yangon authorities postponed his trip to the country.

    Myanmar said earlier on Tuesday it was too busy dealing with an alleged coup plot to meet Razali, raising doubts about the future of talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    ''The U.N. in New York has asked that I be rescheduled to come in the first week of April,'' added Razali, who said recently that peace talks were not proceeding as fast they should. Razali, a Malaysian diplomat, had been due to start his latest visit on Tuesday, but was asked at the last minute to postpone the trip.

    Diplomats were initially told the visit had been put off because Myanmar's deputy foreign minister had suffered a heart attack. But in a statement on Tuesday, the government said it had asked for a delay because of the discovery of the coup plot.

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    Myanmar says recent coup attempt forced postponement of UN envoy visit

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ The military government Tuesday blamed an alleged coup attempt by the family of Myanmar's former dictator Ne Win for its postponement of a U.N. envoy's visit.

    U.N. mediator Razali Ismail, who 18 months ago initiated landmark talks between Myanmar's generals and detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had been scheduled to arrive Tuesday.

    There had been hopes that his four-day stay would help accelerate the slow-moving reconciliation process.

    A government statement Tuesday said Myanmar officials were "preoccupigd with issues that need immediate attention after the recent coup attempt." It said Razali, a Malaysian diplomat, would "postpone his visit ... to a date convenient to both sides in the near future."

    The government had said Monday that the visit was delayed due to the illness of Razali's host, a deputy foreign minister. The government gave no explanation Tuesday of why its reason for the postponement was changed.

    U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said in New York Monday that the world body was disappointed by the postponement. It would have been Razali's seventh visit since he was appointed U.N. envoy in April 2000.

    The government has freed more than 200 of Suu Kyi's supporters from prison since January 2001 after the talks began three months earlier. But more than 1,500 political prisoners remain behind bars and Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has been detained at her Yangon home.

    Myanmar's political situation has been muddied since March 7 when the military arrested Ne Win's son-in-law and three grandsons and accused them of planning a coup. Ne Win and his daughter, Sandar Win, have also been confined to their home. Ne Win seized power in 1962. His authoritarian rule ended in 1988 after the current military regime crushed a democratic uprising. Two years later, Suu Kyi's party won elections, but the generals refused to step aside. The moves against Ne Win and his family might remove a hurdle to political reconciliation. They are known to dislike Suu Kyi and her democratic reform agenda that would wipe away"vheir lingering influence.

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    Campaigners Call for Tougher Sanctions Against "The Next South Africa"

    Daniel Nelson,OneWorld UK

    British lawmakers are being asked Monday to press the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair for sanctions against the military dictatorship in Myanmar (formerly Burma), bolstered by a declaration from Nobel peace prizewinner Desmond Tutu that "Burma is the next South Africa."

    Members of a new coalition--including The Burma Campaign UK, Friends of the Earth, Tourism Concern, and the Body Shop--have backed sanctions calls by Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town, and pledged to apply pressure in their own sectors to help Burmese people who are "engaged in an epic struggle for freedom."

    Tutu praised the United States federal ban in the late 1990s on investment in the southeast Asian country and said Britain and other European governments must follow suit by stopping their companies from investing in tyranny.

    "It's time for sanctions and not just pious words," said Barry Coates, director of the London-based World Development Movement, which campaigns for stronger regulation of the international trading system to ensure it benefits people in poorer countries around the world.

    Tourism Concern's Lara Marsh, said the British government accepts that holiday travel to Myanmar does not help its development of democracy or human rights. But she wanted the government to impose a direct ban on British tourism companies with investments in the country.

    Geoff Wilson, a spokesman for Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said that European Union countries, including the U.K., had already imposed an arms embargo, frozen assets held in the U.K. by members of the regime, and stopped issuing them with visas. It had also banned the sale of arms, equipment that could be used for torture, and non-humanitarian assistance.

    These sanctions would remain in force until the regime showed its commitment to political reform, said Wilson, but there were no plans for stronger sanctions. "We think the measures we've taken are appropriate," he said.

    A leading group in the new coalition said Monday that a political shift might be under way in Burma following the reported arrest of the country's former military ruler, Ne Win, and members of his family earlier this month. John Jackson, director of The Burma Campaign UK, said the regime had succeeded in lifting some of the pressure on it by engaging in talks with the opposition. He welcomed the talks, but said they must be backed up by international pressure, "otherwise they serve to legitimize the regime."

    Today's move coincides with the unexplained last-minute cancellation by the Myanmar government of a visit to Yangon (formerly Rangoon) by a United Nations special envoy, Razali Ismail, who has been trying to promote reconciliation between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, which won a landslide election victory in 1990 but was barred from taking office by the military regime.

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