Daily News- March 29- 2002- Friday

  • UN rights expert says Myanmar destined for democratic change
  • Wa attack an outrage, junta told
  • Chavalit helping bring ethnic groups and Rangoon together
  • Burma appoints new air force, coastal command chiefs
  • Dhaka, Yangon to form jt body to remove trade barriers

  • UN rights expert says Myanmar destined for democratic change

    GENEVA, March 28 (AFP) - The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar said Thursday he believed the country could embrace democracy and he called on the international community to support efforts to bring about change.

    "I think that Myanmar is destined to change," Sergio Pinheiro told the 53-member UN Human Rights Commission, which is currently holding its annual session in Geneva.

    "In spite of the slowness of the process and the limited political results that are so far apparent, I continue to believe that there is a will within the State Peace and Development Council to pursue a transition from political exclusion to cooperation with the National League for Democracy and other components of society," he said.

    Pinheiro said if the international community wanted to see political and human rights progress, it should support the "efforts underway in a spirit of principled engagement".

    The UN expert called on the military junta in Myanmar to free some 1,600 political prisoners, following the 263 released over the last 15 months.

    The Brazilian rapporteur visited Myanmar in April and October 2001, and last month, during which he was able to talk individually with 25 political prisoners who he said had not complained of bad treatment.But he lamented that many countries were being let off the hook for human rights violations because they were instrumental in the fight against terrorism.

    "Some countries have received the permission to continue -- 'Go on, you will not be bothered because you are fighting the evil'," he said during a press conference. He complained that the authorities in Myanmar could watch television news and see other countries receiving different treatment to them.He said as a special rapporteur he was especially angry about the inconsistency of treatment.

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    Wa attack an outrage, junta told

    The Bangkokpost

    The government protested strongly to the Burmese government over an attack by Wa soldiers on an army patrol which caused the cancellation of Her Majesty the Queen's visit to a border village in Chiang Mai's Wiang Haeng district on Monday.

    Burmese ambassador Myo Myint was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to receive an aide memoire from permanent secretary Tej Bunnag, a move directed by Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai. ``The Royal Thai Government condemns in the strongest terms the attack by the United Wa State Army,'' the protest letter said.

    UWSA soldiers intruded into Wiang Haeng district and attacked a patrol which was clearing the way for the scheduled royal visit two hours later. The visit by HM the Queen was cancelled on safety grounds.Due to the timing of the attack, the government considered it ``a serious incident which constituted a grave affront to the Thai public'', the letter said.It expressed ``deepest concern'' and demanded a guarantee there would be no recurrence.

    Spokesman for the ministry Ratthakit Manathat said the Burmese ambassador pledged to convey Thailand's concern to the government in Rangoon. The Foreign Ministry's action came amid reports of continued build-up of UWSA forces across Wiang Haeng district yesterday.Local military sources insisted the Burmese military junta was behind the presence of the Wa soldiers in the area.

    ``UWSA would not dare posing a military challenge without backing from the Burmese military junta,'' said a senior officer of Pha Mueng Task Force. The force is in charge of border security in the upper North area of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces.

    The UWSA's attack on the calvary division patrol on Monday, which left one soldier dead, was intentional and in apparent retaliation for the death of Wa soldiers in an ambush last week in the same area, the officer said.Thirteen UWSA troops were killed and 1.6 million methamphetamine tablets seized when Wa smugglers clashed with a Pha Muang Task Force unit on March 22. One Thai soldier was killed.The source said the seized methamphetamine pills belonged to Wei Hsueh-kang, a leading UWSA member, and the commander of UWSA's 171th rapid deployment division.UWSA's reinforcements opposite Wiang Haeng belong to the same unit.

    ``They suffered heavily from the Third Army's ambush on the drug caravan last week,'' said a senior cavalry officer. It was quite unusual for the UWSA to open fire on Thai soldiers. Three UWSA soldiers were killed and several injured during the clash on Monday. Pha Muang Task Force troops were last night positioned only about 300 metres from UWSA outposts opposite Ban Paek Saem.

    ``The situation is quite tense and anything could happen at anytime,'' said Col Chavalit Sirikij, commander of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment.

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said Rangoon would need to put an end to the problems caused by UWSA. ``We have brought order to our side of the border and Burma should do likewise,'' Gen Chavalit said. ``But I do not think the Burmese leaders have the time right now, as they are still trying to settle internal political turmoil. In a few days I will send a man to meet them.''A source said he planned to send Gen Vichit Yathip, an army adviser.

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    Chavalit helping bring ethnic groups and Rangoon together

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has been mediating truce talks between Rangoon and ethnic rebel groups, the Karen National Union and Shan State Army.The KNU and SSA are the Burmese junta's main opponents.

    The deputy prime minister and defence minister said he had taken up the mediator's role because he knew many Burmese military leaders, including Gen Saw Maung. Burma wanted the country to be democratic and to hold elections, he said.

    The junta wanted to see proper power-sharing but were unable to reach that goal because the KNU and SSA wanted their own territory, armed forces and economic system.

    ``Senior Burmese military leaders could not contact the KNU and SSA, so I volunteered to be a mediator. ``We want peace in the region. With Burma still troubled, we would continue to face problems from illegal labour and drugs,'' Gen Chavalit said.

    He was speaking during a lecture on security at Chulalongkorn University's faculty of political science.Gen Chavalit said the best way to maintain security was to make friends with neighbouring countries.

    ``Early last year Thai-Burmese relations were poor because we were not seeing each other for talks. ``We solved the problem by starting them up again. As a result, the situation in the country has remained quiet. Even after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the situation in the South stayed calm,'' Gen Chavalit said.He said he had not pressured the SSA to ally with the United Wa State Army.

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    Burma appoints new air force, coastal command chiefs

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Mar 28, 2002
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 26 March

    It has been learned that the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] has made a temporary replacement in the position of Maj-Gen Chit Than, commander of the Triangle Command, who was detained for his involvement in the failed coup led by U Ne Win's family members.

    Brig-Gen Sein Lin, commander of the No 55 Light Infantry Division, has been appointed as temporary commander [of the Triangle Command]. It as been learned that Brig-Gen Sein Lin graduated from the Officer Training No 14, and his gazette officer number is C12292.

    It has also been learned that the SPDC has made a replacement in the position of Air Force Commander in Chief Maj-Gen Myint Swe, who was removed from his post. Col Myat Hein, commander of the Shante Air Base in Meiktila, has been promoted to brigadier-general and appointed as air force commander in chief.

    Maj-Gen Aye Kywe, commander of the Coastal Command, was replaced by Deputy Commander Maj-Gen Tin Latt.So far no replacement has been made in the position of Police Maj-Gen U Soe Win, who was removed from his post.

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    Dhaka, Yangon to form jt body to remove trade barriers

    M Shamsur Rahman from Yangon
    The Dailystar

    Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to form a joint economic council to remove barriers that stand in the way of trade between the two neighbour countries.

    The decision came at a meeting between the visiting Bangladesh trade delegation led by Commerce Minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury and Myanmar's highest policy making body State Development Council Secretary-I Lt General Khin Nyunt on Tuesday.

    The joint economic council will meet every year, Khosru said whiling talking to journalists. Both the countries also agreed to introduce 'account trade' and 'counter trade' to facilitate improved trade.

    Explaining it, the commerce minister said under the account and counter trade arrangements, the Myanmar businessmen will keep the money they receive through export of goods to Bangladesh in an account for importing similar amount of goods from Bangladesh by using the money. "And similarly our exporters will also keep their sale proceeds for importing from Myanmar."

    Currently, due to foreign exchange crisis the Myanmar government does not allow opening of direct letters of credits (LCs). The LCs are mostly opened by third parties from other countries like Japan and Singapore. "We also discussed on the formation of a standing committee for resolving issues relating to border trade which crop up time to time," the commerce minister said speaking on the outcome of his four-day visit of Myanmar.

    Commerce Minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury and his Myanmar counterpart Brigadier General Pyi Sone also jointly inaugurated weeklong Bangladesh trade fair on the day at Yangon Trade Cente in Mingala Taungnyunt township here. The fair will conclude on Saturday. The two ministers urged the businessmen of the two countries to come forward in boosting bilateral trade relations.

    Some 60 Bangladeshi companies are participating in the fair to showcase their products to explore the market of the next-door neighbour. A Bangladeshi cultural team is also holding shows here. Prior to leaving the Myanmar capital, Khosru termed his four-day mission 'a very successful one'. He said the turnout at the fair is good and Bangladeshi goods are in great demand in Myanmar.

    Earlier on Monday Khasro addressed a seminar titled Prospects of Myanmar-Bangladesh Bilateral Trade at the Information and Communication Technology Park auditorium. Leading businessmen of Myanmar attended the seminar.

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