Daily News- March 26- 2002- Tuesday

  • Thai military to keep eye on Shan State Army
  • Bangladesh Fair in Yangon begins Mar 26
  • Border Trade Given a Boost
  • Myanmar allows UN envoy's visit to country
  • Myanmar General Appears After Coup
  • Annual CPJ Report Released
  • Thailand protests to Burma over clash
  • Myanmar denies hand in clashes that cancelled royal visit

  • Thai military to keep eye on Shan State Army

    Cheewin Sattha
    The Bangkokpost

    The Third Army will closely monitor the movements of the Shan State Army as proof has emerged of its collaboration with the drug-producing United Wa State Army.

    Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasing, the Third Army commander, said yesterday evidence collected from the 13 drug suspects killed in a clash on Friday night indicated some of them were SSA soldiers. Thai soldiers seized 1.6 million speed pills from them.

    In the past the SSA, particularly its leader Col Yawd Serk, were in favour of an anti-drug policy. But there had lately been signs of changes in the SSA stance, leading to the belief that it might have collaborated with the Red Wa in the production and delivery of drugs into Thailand.Suspicions are also growing that the SSA might be planning to set up drug production plants of its own, Lt-Gen Udomchai said.

    Meanwhile, a Thai soldier was killed and another seriously wounded in a clash with a band of 10-15 armed men in Wiang Haeng district yesterday.The clash took place about 11.25am when a patrol of the Pha Muang Force ran into the unidentified armed men near Ban Paek Saem in tambon Wiang Luang.Mst-Sgt Suban Onla of the 10th Cavalry Battalion died from heavy loss of blood and Pvt Kittichai Hatsanat of the 12th Cavalry Battalion was in serious condition at the Wiang Haeng hospital.

    The military suspects the armed men were an advance team of the United Wa State Army looking for a new drug trafficking route.The clash was a result of the Third Army's expanded drug suppression drive along the northern border, following an intelligence report that more than 20 million speed pills would be smuggled into Thailand via Wiang Haeng district.

    Also yesterday, a team of soldiers from the Pha Muang Force searched Ban Lisaw Sam Muen in tambon Piang Luang of Wiang Haeng district and seized 1.8 million baht cash from the house of a suspected drug trafficker who fled before the team arrived.A Shan man with a bullet wound in one hand was taken for questioning.

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    Bangladesh Fair in Yangon begins Mar 26

    The DailyStar

    Bangladesh Week and Fair 2002 begins on Tuesday in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, with the objective to promote Bangladeshi products and culture, reports UNB.

    A 154-member delegation led by Commerce Minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury left here yesterday for Myanmar to take part in the week and fair.The commerce-ministers of Bangladesh and Myanmar will jointly inaugurate the fair. Besides, they will have talks on various aspects of bilateral trade and investment.

    There will be 60 stalls in the fair to display products including medicines, toiletries, construction materials, cosmetics, food, melamine, jute, tea and agri-products.Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) of Bangladesh and Bangladesh-Myanmar Business Promotion Council have jointly organised the Bangladesh Week and Fair 2002.The programmes of the week include exhibition, seminar, food festival, cultural function, fashion show and one-to-one trade negotiations.

    Besides, businessmen of the two neighbouring countries will play a charity golf tournament.A 26-member cultural delegation led by renowned musician and composer Azad Rahman will be visiting Myanmar.

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    Border Trade Given a Boost

    By Shayam Auo/NE India
    The Irrawaddy

    March 25, 2002 - The Indian commerce and industry ministry has decided to open two more border trade points with Burma. The two new trade points will be set up in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland in northeast India.

    Indian Minister of State in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Rajiv Pratap Rudi, said that the move was initiated to boost the ongoing border trade between the two countries. Mr. Rudi, however, ruled out the possibility of reopening of the famous Stilwell Road, which passes through Ledo, Burma and Kunming, Yunnan Province in China. The road was built during the second World War and recently the chief ministers of India’s northeastern states have been calling on the government reopen the road to increase cross-border trade.

    Mr. Rudi added that the Burmese government prefers to improve the Tamu-Moreh border trade post while India is looking to develop new cross-border trade points with its neighbors. Tamu-Moreh has seen an increasing volume of trade during the last couple of years.

    There are 32 cross-border trade points in northeast India, of which only 12 are currently in use while the rest are in a dilapidated state due to the neglect of the Indian government. Of the 12 functioning trade points, Champhai and Tamu have been earning the Indian commerce ministry the largest revenues.

    During the recently concluded Kunming Initiative in Bangladesh, officials favored reopening the Stilwell Road for increasing trade with Southeast Asian countries. The members attending the meet unequivocally said that once the Stilwell Road is reopened, the entire Southeast Asian region would benefit.

    Meanwhile the commerce ministry's decision to keep the road closed has irked the Chief Minister of northeast India. They said that the commerce ministry has ignored Southeast Asia despite having immense potential.

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    Myanmar allows UN envoy's visit to country

    The Times of India

    YANGON: Myanmar said on Tuesday UN special envoy Razali Ismail could visit at the end of April, after ruling generals cancelled his visit last week to deal with an attempted coup by relatives of ageing former dictator Ne Win.

    Stopping Razali's visit had raised fresh fears about the fate of talks between the military regime and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy won democratic elections in 1990 but has never been allowed to rule.

    But on Tuesday, Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung said the Malaysian diplomat's visit could go ahead on April 22."We have invited him to come here on April 22," Win Aung told Reuters. "As usual for three or four days."

    The visit had been scheduled for March 19 and was aimed at boosting the bogged-down talks, begun late in 2000, between the military and the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

    Three weeks ago, Myanmar's military intelligence arrested a son-in-law and three grandsons of Ne Win along with three senior officers in the military, accusing them of plotting to overthrow the junta's top leaders.Ne Win, 92, and his daughter Sandar Win have both been confined to their house, and the military say they have interrogated 100 suspects in the coup plot.

    But many diplomats are sceptical a coup was planned, saying the allegations and arrests may stem from disagreements in the government over how to deal with Suu Kyi and the NLD.They say the crackdown could be part of a power struggle between Army chief Maung Aye and Military Intelligence chief Khin Nyunt, officially number two and three in the junta.

    However, state run newspapers on Sunday ran photographs of the pair inspecting troops together in an apparent effort to play down any suggestions of a rivalry.

    Khin Nyunt is seen as Ne Win's hand-picked choice to lead Myanmar but also as more moderate than Maung Aye, who is seen as a hardliner resistant to a political settlement with the NLD.Some observers say the regime wants to sideline Ne Win, who ruled Myanmar with an iron fist from 1962 to 1988, and his clan, so that it can move ahead with some kind of power-sharing deal with Suu Kyi.Since the talks began, the military has freed more than 200 political prisoners but has shown little sign of loosening its vice-like grip on power.

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    Myanmar General Appears After Coup

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - The head of Myanmar's military government has made his first public appearance since the junta said it had foiled a coup plot three weeks ago.

    Myanmar's state-owned newspapers on Tuesday published photographs of Gen. Than Shwe the chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, as the government is known inspecting an exhibition at the Military Museum on Monday.

    The government has claimed that the alleged coup plotters, led by the family of former dictator Ne Win, were planning to abduct Than Shwe and other military officials, and then take power on Wednesday, the 57th anniversary of the armed forces.

    The newspaper pictures showed Than Shwe accompanied by his No. 2, army chief Gen. Maung Aye; and his No. 3, military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt. The photographs of the three leaders on the front pages of the newspapers Tuesday supported an official denial of rumors that there was dissension within the junta.

    Authorities arrested Ne Win's son-in-law, Aye Zaw Win, and his three sons on March 7 for allegedly trying to overthrow the military government with help from some military commanders. Aye Zaw Win and his sons are under arrest while Ne Win and his daughter Sandar Win are under de facto house arrest. The government has also dismissed the air force chief, the national police chief and two regional military commanders for the alleged coup plot. Ne Win stepped down in 1988 after running the country formerly known as Burma for a quarter century.

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    Annual CPJ Report Released

    By Kyaw Zwa Moe
    The Irrawaddy

    March 26, 2002 - The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its annual survey "Attacks on the Press in 2001", which documents press-freedom conditions around the world. The survey includes three special reports on Syria, Burma and Colombia.

    CPJ’s special summary on Burma explains how the country’s media has been under severe control by the ruling military regime and barred from reporting on even the most mundane events such as floods, fires and natural disasters, let alone the political dialogue between the regime and the opposition.

    The report surveys not only the daily hurdles of Burmese journalists, but also the difficulties faced by foreign journalists, who are routinely denied proper visas and are under constant surveillance by intelligence officials.

    The Committee’s annual report is also critical of The Myanmar Times, a Rangoon-based weekly newspaper edited by Australian Ross Dunkley. The CPJ said, "It is allowed more latitude in its reporting and presentation than staid mouthpieces such as the official daily the New Light of Myanmar."

    "The Myanmar Times is the product of the Office of Strategic Studies (OSS) and part of the intelligence apparatus," noted A Lin Neumann, author of CPJ’s Burma report. "There appears to be some kind of disagreement over how to present the regime’s propaganda between ministry of information and OSS," he added.The OSS is led by high-ranking intelligence officers who are keen to polish Burma’s international image.

    "I think The Myanmar Times is a way for the government or military intelligence people to say, ‘Look, we’re not so bad. We’re actually letting people to discuss these things,’" Neumann added.

    Meanwhile, The Myanmar Times has also came under heavy criticism from local readers and journalists in Rangoon. The arrest of members of the Ne Win clan, accused of plotting to seize power from the ruling junta, was prominently featured in the latest issue of both the English and Burmese editions of the weekly. In Burma, only a few weekly journals, including The Myanmar Times and Maha, have been allowed to cover the alleged coup plot by relatives of the former dictator Ne Win. Maha is a Burmese-language weekly journal backed by intelligence officers.

    Readers were especialy critical of the Burmese-language version’s presentation. "People at The Myanmar Times cannot even write proper Burmese," remarked some readers.

    Although it is allowed to report about some sensitive issues, including the Ne Win drama, critics also noted that the paper is not allowed write its own comments or publish other people’s opinions. Nor is it allowed to write its own editorials.

    The CPJ report stated that as of the end of 2001, 12 journalists were imprisoned in Burma because of their contact with the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

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    Thailand protests to Burma over clash

    ABC Radio Australia News

    Thailand has lodged an official protest with Burma over a clash with a Thai border patrol that forced Queen Sirikit to cancel a scheduled visit to the area.

    Thailand's deputy defence minister has ordered an investigation into the fighting which left one Thai soldier dead and another wounded in northern Chiang Mai province.

    Thai army officials believe 30 rebel fighters belonging to the United Wa State Army, which is widely accused of controlling the drugs trade along the border, were involved.Queen Sirikit had been due to fly from Chiang Mai to visit a royal project on the border, but the gunfight flared up shortly before her scheduled arrival time.

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    Myanmar denies hand in clashes that cancelled royal visit

    Thai defence officials said Myanmar had denied its troops had engaged in a clash with Thai border forces that forced Queen Sirikit to cancel a scheduled visit to the area.

    Deputy defence minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapa said Tuesday he had ordered the Third Army, which patrols the region, to investigate Monday's fighting which left one Thai soldier dead and another wounded.

    "The Third Army regional commander contacted Myanmar authorities who denied Myanmar soldiers were involved," he told reporters.

    Yuthasak said he believed the estimated 15 to 30 rebel fighters were with the United Wa State Army (UWSA), a group also known as the Red Wa, which is widely accused of controlling the drugs trade along the border.

    Thailand's Queen Sirikit had been due Monday to fly from the northern city of Chiang Mai to visit a royal project on the border, but the gunfight flared up three hours before the scheduled arrival time, forcing a cancellation.The royal-sponsored demonstration farm was only three kilometres (two miles) away from the clash site and the Third Army commander recommended palace authorities cancel the trip on security grounds.

    The area, in Chiang Mai's Wieng Haeng district, was also the scene Friday of a fierce gunbattle with a Thai border patrol that left 12 alleged drug runners and a Thai soldier dead.Police there seized a haul of 1.6 million amphetamine tablets from a caravan which Thai intelligence reports said was making its way across the border from Myanmar.

    Heroin and amphetamine trafficking is rife along the Thai-Myanmar border, and clashes between narcotics-financed ethnic armies are common during the dry season.Myanmar's junta has criticised recent finger-pointing by Thai politicians who admonished it for its alleged role in drugs trafficking, saying the charges were fabrications aimed at covering up Thai misdeeds.The regime has insisted that the UWSA, which has signed a ceasefire with Yangon, was earnestly trying to stamp out narcotics.

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