Daily News- Marchy 28- 2002- Thursday

  • Myanmar leadership wants to bring peace, says official
  • Indian foreign minister to visit Myanmar for three-nation road project
  • Tense standoff with UWSA
  • Thai army on full alert, vows to shoot back
  • Business Greed Behind Burma Arrests
  • Tensions Grow on Thai-Myanmar Border
  • Professor Receives Harsh Sentence

  • Myanmar leadership wants to bring peace, says official

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Myanmar's military government, which claimed to have foiled a coup attempt recently, is dedicated to bringing peace to the country before handing power to a civilian government, the junta leader said Wednesday.

    "Peace and tranquility (are) vital for the nation's development,'' Gen. Than Shwe said in a speech to mark the Armed Forces Day. The military "is making endeavors in every aspect to enhance the political, economic and military might of the nation,'' he said, addressing members of the armed forces and top leaders of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, as the military government is known.

    The junta disclosed earlier this month that relatives of former leader Ne Win were planning to launch a coup by abducting Than Shwe and other junta leaders on Armed Forces Day this year. According to the government, the coup plotters, headed by Ne Win's son-in-law, Aye Zaw Win, wanted to make Than Shwe and others swear allegiance to Ne Win and set up a puppet government. Aye Zaw Win and his three sons were arrested March 7. Aye Zaw Win's wife, Sandar Win, and Ne Win, are under de facto house arrest.

    Than Shwe did not mention the coup plot in his speech, but said: "Efforts are being made to ensure that when the time comes to hand over the responsibilities of the state, succeeding governments will be able to provide leadership with rectitude.''

    The military government has said in the past too that it will hand over power to a civilian government "when the time comes'' but has never given a time frame.

    Than Shwe's speech did not indicate that the junta was ready to make concessions to pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi and the junta have been holding closed-door reconciliation talks since October 2000 in a bid to bring democracy to the country. The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962 and the current group of generals came to power in 1998, replacing Ne Win's administration after crushing a pro-democracy movement. The junta called national elections in 1990 but refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party won handsomely.

    In his 20 minute speech, Than Shwe also did not refer to the talks with Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel peace laureate. But he also did not criticize Suu Kyi, a regular feature in the past speeches.

    The Armed Forces Day is held every year on March 27 to commemorate the day when the Myanmar army rose up against Japanese occupation forces in 1945.

    Than Shwe's No. 2 man, army chief Gen. Maung Aye, did not attend the parade by about 7,000 soldiers. Officials said it was because of security reasons. Foreign journalists were also not allowed. - AP

    Indian foreign minister to visit Myanmar for three-nation road project

    NEW DELHI, March 27 (AFP) - Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh will visit Myanmar April 5-7 to discuss plans to construct a three-nation highway connecting India, Myanmar and Thailand.

    "The proposal has been under consideration for some time and will consolidate the relationship between the three countries by providing better connectivity for trade, tourism and people-to-people contacts," an Indian foreign ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday.

    Singh will hold talks with Myanmar's Foreign Minister Win Aung and Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai in Yangon, the spokeswoman said.India and Myanmar will also discuss cooperation in oceanographic surveys as well as medical and educational fields.

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    Tense standoff with UWSA

    Wassana Nanuam Onnucha Hutasingh
    The Bangkokpost

    The United Wa State Army has reinforced four bases opposite Wiang Haeng district of Chiang Mai, where about 300 of its troops equipped with 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars were yesterday involved in a nervy confrontation with the Third Army, according to a source.

    Col Somsak Nilbancherdkul, chief-of-staff of the Pha Muang Force, denied the deployment of soldiers, armoured vehicles and artillery to the border area indicated plans to shell the UWSA bases. ``We simply want to be prepared for any outcome,'' he said. ``We will fire our artillery only in the case of a border incursion, or if mortar rounds land on Thai soil.''

    A group of Wa soldiers ventured about 30 km onto Thai soil on Monday, when they clashed with a patrol that had been sent to secure the area ahead of a planned visit by Her Majesty the Queen.The incident, in which one Thai soldier was killed, prompted the cancellation of the visit and the lodging of a protest with Rangoon.

    According to Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkasing, Third Army commander, the matter would be raised during a Regional Border Committee meeting to be held late next month in Moulmein, Burma.He said the incident had not affected bilateral relations, adding Monday's attack may have been launched in retaliation for an ambush on a drugs caravan last week, in which 13 traffickers were killed and 1.6 million methamphetamine pills seized.

    Kobsak Chutikul, deputy chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, yesterday sought clarification on the issue.``Is it true the government is unable to protest to Rangoon simply because the incident involved an ethnic minority group?'' he asked.

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    Thai army on full alert, vows to shoot back

    The Nation, Published on Mar 28, 2002

    The Army is on full alert and ready to shoot in the event that United Wa State Army troops invade or spill over into Thai territory, Third Army Region Commander Lt-General Udomchai Ongkasing said yesterday.

    "We will definitely not allow Wa troops to enter our territory. My order is for Thai troops to shoot if Wa members are found in our territory. In addition, if fighting between Burmese and Wa troops spills over, we will definitely shoot back," said Udomchai.

    The Thai-Burma border in Chiang Mai province has been in the spotlight this week after Thai troops clashed with armed Wa troops on drug-trafficking caravans. The fighting killed a Thai soldier and an unknown number of Wa.

    The government on Tuesday lodged a protest note to the Burmese government despite the fact that Burma claimsit has no control over the Wa. The border has been tense since Burmese troops launched their annual dry-season offensive against ethnic minorities. The recent clash has also resulted in the cancellation of Her Majesty the Queen's visit to a nearby area for security reasons.

    Udomchai said that despite the protest, both Burmese and Wa forces had deployed more troops in the area, but fierce fighting was not foreseen. An extra battalion of 700 troops was being rotated in to Chiang Mai's Wiang Haeng district to ensure tight levels of security, Army spokesman Colonel Somkuan Saengpattaranter said yesterday. "However, the region is calm today, there's nothing happening," he said.

    Meanwhile, the body of the dead soldier, Sergeant Supan Ornla, reached his hometown in Nan province in a coffin covered by the national flag. The United Wa State Army,a group also known as the Red Wa which has signed a ceasefire with the military regime in Rangoon, is widely accused of controlling the drugs trade in the region.

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    Business Greed Behind Burma Arrests

    Far Eastern Economic Review,Issue cover-dated April 4, 2002

    Burma's military junta decided to come down on the family of former dictator Ne Win after they ignored warnings from one of the country's top three rulers to end their business shenanigans.

    The government officially says Ne Win's son-in-law, Aye Zaw Win, and three of the old man's grandsons were arrested on March 7 because they had been conspiring to abduct the country's top three leaders--ruling State Peace and Development Council Chairman Gen. Than Shwe, army chief Gen. Maung Aye and intelligence boss Lt.-Gen. Khin Nyunt--and form a new military government loyal to the 90-year-old Ne Win.

    But diplomats and informed Burmese citizens in Rangoon say the coup claims were simply a convenient excuse for getting Ne Win's cocky and unpopular relatives out of the way. They say the triumvirate had earlier decided to clip the wings of Ne Win's son-in-law, Aye Zaw Win, and three grandsons because they were getting too big and arrogant in the Burmese business world, threatening local competitors and foreign investors.

    Khin Nyunt, a protégé of Ne Win, had been distancing himself from the former first family for more than a year and he was charged with admonishing them when things were getting out of control. The family ignored the warning.

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    Tensions Grow on Thai-Myanmar Border

    BANGKOK, March 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Tensions of a possible conflict are growing along the Thai-Myanmar border as Thai border troops and Myanmar's Wa nationality have both enhanced military buildup following a bloody incident earlier this week, the Nation TV Channel reported Thursday.

    Thai intelligence sources said the United Wa State Army (UWSA), an armed Myanmar minority ethnic group, has reinforced four bases opposite Thailand's border areas in Chiang Mai province, 900 kilometers north of here, where Thailand has already deployed over 1,000 soldiers, heavy weapons and attack planes.

    The move followed a Monday incident in which a Thai border patrol team was said to be attacked by UWSA intruders within the Thai side of the border, and a Thai soldier was killed during a four-hour exchange of fire.More seriously, the incident forced the Thai government to cancel a scheduled trip by the Queen of Thailand to a nearby border village.

    Thailand has already lodged a protest to the Myanmar authorities, although the UWSA is not directly linked to the Myanmar government.

    Thai Third Army Commander Udomchai Ongkasing, who oversees security on the Thai-Myanmar border, said the matter will be raised during a Thai-Myanmar border committee meeting to be held late next month in a Myanmar city.However, he said the incident will not affect bilateral relations between the two countries, adding Monday's attack may bea retaliation for the killings of 13 Wa drug traffickers by Thai border troops during an anti-drug operation last week.

    Thai media reported that the Wa nationality's militants often cross border to enter the Thai soil and are involved in drug trade along the Thai-Myanmar border areas.

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    Professor Receives Harsh Sentence

    Human Rights, Wed 27 Mar 2002

    (Geneva, March 27, 2002) - The harsh prison sentence given to a prominent Burmese academic this week underlines the urgent need for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva to increase pressure on Burma to unconditionally release all political prisoners, Human Rights Watch said today. The Commission will review a report on the human rights situation in Burma tomorrow.

    "With this sentence, the Burmese government is making it clear that it will crush any and all dissent. The harshness of the sentence suggests that, political dialogue notwithstanding, the Rangoon regime is fundamentally unchanged."

    Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division On March 25, the military government announced that Dr. Salai Tun Than, a retired university professor, had been sentenced to seven years in prison under Burma's national security legislation.

    Since October 2000, the Burmese government has been carrying on confidence-building talks with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest in Rangoon. Serious human rights violations have occurred in Burma since the violent suppression of the pro-democracy movement in 1988.

    Dr. Salai Tun Than, seventy-four years old, was arrested for conducting a peaceful protest on November 29, 2001, in front of the Rangoon City Hall. He distributed copies of a petition letter calling on the Burmese government to hold a general election in one year and to transfer power to the winners. Burma has refused to implement the results of the May 1990 election that was overwhelmingly won by the National League for Democracy (NLD).

    Dr. Salai, retired from Yezin University in Pyinmana, Upper Burma, was convicted under Article 5(j) of the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, a sweeping provision that says any person who "infringes on the integrity, health, conduct and respect of State military organizations and government employees," or "spreads false news about the government" or "disrupts the morality or the behavior of a group of people" shall be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

    In a written submission to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur for Burma, condemned controls on freedom of expression under more than half a dozen laws, including the Emergency Provisions Act of 1950, noting that these laws are frequently used to imprison people for peacefully expressing their views or even for reading materials deemed illegal. He welcomed the release of some Burmese political prisoners since the beginning of 2001, but said that the unconditional release of all political prisoners "is a pre-requisite for moving to the next phase of talks" between the NLD and the government.

    Pinheiro is due to report on March 28 on the results of his most recent fact finding trip, and the Commission will later consider a resolution on human rights in Burma, which should include strong recommendations, Human Rights Watch said.

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