Daily News- March 30- 2002- Saturday

  • Myanmar junta frees seven democracy activists
  • Druglord's VCD business targeted
  • Panel fails to stop repatriation of 70
  • Japan Extends More Grant Assistance to Myanmar
  • Asian finance ministers to meet in Rangoon Apr 5-6

  • Myanmar junta frees seven democracy activists

    YANGON, March 29 (AFP) - Myanmar's military junta said Friday it had released from prison seven members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), bringing to 41 the number freed since mid-February.

    "Today seven NLD members were being released from various correctional institutions," a government spokesman said in a statement. "They are in good health and reunited with their respective families."

    The statement identified those released as Thein Zaw, Than Swe, Tin Myaing, Khin Mg Lin, Win Ni Oo, Thein Htay and Aung Kyi Myint.

    The junta, which earlier this month announced it snuffed out a coup attempt, said this week that a visit by UN envoy Razali Ismail which was cancelled due to the dramatic events would now be allowed to proceed in April.Prison releases in Myanmar are routinely timed to coincide with official visits of international dignitaries or rights monitors.

    Some 41 political prisoners and 318 women detained on criminal charges have been released by the military government since February 12, when UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro made his third trip to the country.

    Pinheiro said in Geneva Thursday that he believed Myanmar 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," he told the annual session of the 53-member UN Human Rights Commission.He also called on the military junta to free remaining political prisoners in Myanmar, 263 of whom have been released since it embarked on landmark talks with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi in October 2000.

    Myanmar has been mired in political deadlock since 1990 when the military refused to accept the NLD's overwhelming election victory.The secret talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under virtual house arrest in her Yangon home since a month before the dialogue began, have raised hopes of democratic reforms in the military-ruled state.

    Razali, a Malaysian diplomat who was appointed in April 2000 and brokered the talks between the two sides, recently said that they were not proceeding as fast as they should.

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    Druglord's VCD business targeted

    Theerawat Khamthita
    The Bangkokpost

    Police have seized a large number of illegal VCD/MP3 players and other electrical equipment worth around four million baht allegedly owned by associates of drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang.

    About 400 untaxed VCD/MP3 players were seized and two people, Tinnakorn Asawasukhon, 37, and Prayat Tayaso, 42, arrested in the first raid on a three-storey shophouse in tambon Wiang, Chiang Saen district. Another lot of 1,440 VCD/MP3 players, more than 100 air-conditioners and other electrical items were confiscated from a warehouse belonging to TM Mae Sai Trading Co, in Mae Sai district.

    Preecha Aswasukhon, 53, and Paisal Saenliew, 50, a Chinese national holding a Hong Kong passport, were arrested.The suspects were charged with smuggling contraband goods.The raids were supervised by Chiang Rai police chief Pol Maj Gen Wut Vithitanont.

    Pol Col Rakchart Rajakij, deputy provincial police chief, said police would ask the Anti-Money Laundering Office to investigate their assets.One of the suspects, Mr Preecha, is the brother of Thana Asawasukhon, an alleged associate of drug fugitive Wei Hsueh-kang.

    In December last year police seized Mr Thana's assets worth more than 100 million baht and confiscated the assets of Nauvarat and Arunee Prueksaphanthawee worth around three million baht.Earlier, leaflets were distributed alleging that Mr Thana was a major dealer in methamphetamines. The man has two wives from the Prueksaphanthawee family and owns restaurants, petrol stations, housing estates, markets, fruit orchards and transport firms in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

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    Panel fails to stop repatriation of 70

    Supamart Kasem
    The Bangkokpost

    Some 70 Burmese refugees from Mae La camp in Tha Song Yang district have been repatriated this week over objections by the camp committee.The first batch of 20 refugees was taken to the border at Ban Mae Salit on Tuesday.A second group of about 50 refugees was sent to Burma's Kok Ko across the border from Mae Ramat district yesterday.

    A border official said the National Security Council had asked the Interior Ministry and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to screen 60,000 Burmese refugees at three Tak camps and arrange repatriation on a voluntary basis.

    A total of 6,778 refugees at Mae La camp were found not to qualify as refugees. They had deserted the camp in search of work and failed to register with the UNHCR, the official said. Those people were told last week about the repatriation plan and offered 600 baht each for travel expenses.

    People who do not qualify as refugees can choose to go home via Myawaddy opposite Mae Sot, three Burmese towns opposite Tha Song Yang, or Kok Ko opposite Mae Ra Mat.Meanwhile, a Mae La Refugee Camp Committee member said fighting on Burma's borders could put the refugees in danger.Only 1,853 Burmese refugees at the camp agreed to go home while the 4,925 others refused, the panel member said.Members were trying to figure out ways to stop people being sent back.

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    Japan Extends More Grant Assistance to Myanmar

    YANGON, March 29 (Xinhuanet) -- The Japanese government has provided grassroots grant assistance of 612,267 U.S. dollars to Myanmar for 15 more projects this month, according to a press release issued by the Japanese embassy here Friday.

    The assistance, extended during the period from March 1 to 8, covers projects of construction of primary schools, vocational training centers and medical equipment supply to hospitals and clinics. The aid was another one of its kind following the 317,940-dollar grant aid provided to Myanmar by the Japanese government inFebruary this year.

    According to the release, during the fiscal year of 2001-02 ending March, the Japanese government has provided Myanmar grassroots grant assistance of 3,072,420 dollars in total for 93 projects.

    Meanwhile, the Japanese government has provided about 20 million dollars of technical aid to Myanmar in the current fiscal year ending in March, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency which has been extending such aid to the country for over 20 years.

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    Asian finance ministers to meet in Rangoon Apr 5-6

    Rangoon (Reuters)- - Finance ministers and senior central bank officials from 13 Asia countries including Japan and China will meet in the Burmese capital of Rangoon next week to discuss regional economic integration, officials said on Friday.

    A senior Burmese finance ministry official said the meeting, organised by the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), would also be attended by the president of the Asian Development Bank, Tadao Chino.

    Japan, China and South Korea have been discussing with ASEAN the creation of a loose East Asian economic community since the collapse of several of the region's currencies and economies during the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98.

    In recent years finance ministers from the region have agreed a series of pacts to support each other if their currencies come under pressure on foreign exchange markets.

    ASEAN, with a population of about 500 million and a combined gross domestic product of some $740 billion, groups Brunei,Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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