Daily News- May 11- 2002- Saturday

  • DVB Interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Press bodies demand release of U Win Tin
  • Japan promises dlrs 4.9 million in aid after junta frees Suu Kyi
  • Burmese democracy leader Suu Kyi hopes to visit Japan
  • Malaysian politician urges UN envoy to give up business interests in Burma
  • Malaysian politician urges UN envoy to give up business interests in Burma
  • Japan Minister says UN envoy's work led to Burmese democracy leader's release
  • Australia's ambassador in Burma meets with Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Karen villagers flee as troops burn homes
  • Veteran Burmese politicians urge crisis talks

  • Press bodies demand release of U Win Tin

    BANGKOK(AP)- Thailand - Following the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, two international media organizations urged Myanmar's military rulers on Friday to free one of her colleagues, journalist Win Tin, who has been in prison for nearly 13 years.

    The World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum said Win Tin should be released "as the next step in the confidence-building process between the government and democracy advocates."

    The two Paris-based groups said they made the appeal in a letter to Myanmar's junta leader Gen. Than Shwe. Excerpts of the letter were faxed to The Associated Press. The two groups said they represent 18,000 publications in 100 countries.

    Win Tin, a recipient of the World Association of Newspapers' 2001 Golden Pen of Freedom Award, is one of the founders of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.He was arrested on July 4, 1989, tried in a closed military court and sentenced to 14 years in prison for allegedly being a member of the banned Communist Party of Myanmar. He is being held at Yangon's Insein Prison. The association said he was sentenced to an additional five years in jail for possessing writing materials. He is reported to be in poor health.

    Last year, San San Nwe, Win Tin's co-winner of the Golden Pen of Freedom award and a leading female journalist in Myanmar, was freed after serving seven years of a 10 year sentence.

    Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says at least 12 journalists are still in jail in Myanmar, also known as Burma. The military, which has ruled since 1962, keeps tight control on the media and stamps on any sign of dissent.

    The junta has refused to hand over power to the NLD, which won the 1990 general elections. Suu Kyi's release has raised hopes that the junta may be willing to restore democracy.

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    Japan promises dlrs 4.9 million in aid after junta frees Suu Kyi

    By AYE AYE WIN, Associated Press Writer

    YANGON, Myanmar - Japan said Friday it will give Myanmar's military government 628 million yen (dlrs 4.9 million) to renovate a hydroelectric power plant, in an apparent reward for freeing democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

    The grant will pay for the restoration of six generators and related substation equipment at the Baluchaung No. 2 Hydro Power Plant in Kayah state, more than 320 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of Yangon, a Japanese Embassy statement said.

    It is the second most significant foreign aid package to Myanmar since the junta took power in 1988 after a bloody crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising. Since then, donor nations including Japan have allowed only a trickle of humanitarian assistance.

    Last month, when it became clear that Suu Kyi was going to be released soon, Japan pledged 792 million yen (dlrs 6.09 million) for the purchase of medical equipment for Yangon hospitals.

    Japan has been critical of the junta's human rights record and suppression of democracy but does not participate in sanctions or the ban on new investment imposed by the United States.Japan eased its attitude in late 2000 when the junta began closed-door reconciliation talks with Suu Kyi.

    She was released Monday after 19 months of confinement at her lakeside villa. She said at a news conference hours after her release that her National League for Democracy party had not changed its policy of discouraging aid to Myanmar on political grounds.

    On Friday, Suu Kyi met with Japanese Ambassador Shigeru Tsumori for about an hour at her residence.The Japanese Embassy statement said the power plant aid agreement was signed by Tsumori and Myanmar's National Planning and Economic Development Minister Soe Tha.

    The Baluchaung plant was built in the 1950s with Japanese war reparation grants totaling dlrs 200 million. It is operational but is not functioning at full capacity.The embassy statement said the aid is expected to "improve the humanitarian situation in Myanmar by preventing the occurrence of major accidents in the power plant and supplying necessary electricity in a stable manner."

    Myanmar rations electricity, and blackouts lasting up to three days are common in Yangon and across the country.Last year, Japan had said that rehabilitating the Baluchaung plant would cost 3 billion yen (dlrs 24 million). It was not clear if Japan was planning to give more money to foot the bill.

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    Burmese democracy leader Suu Kyi hopes to visit Japan

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 10, 2002-Source: Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1313 gmt 10 May 02

    Tokyo, 10 May: Myanmar [Burma]'s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, freed this week from virtual house arrest, said Friday [10 May] she hopes to visit Japan, a Japanese opposition party leader said.

    In a phone conversation lasting about 20 minutes, Takako Doi, leader of the Social Democratic Party, said Suu Kyi hoped first to visit Norway and then Japan some time later. Norway has been supportive of Myanmar's democracy movement.

    Friday's phone conversation marked the first time Suu Kyi had contact with a Japanese Diet member since her release from nearly 20 months of virtual house arrest.Doi said the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate had also received an invitation from Malaysia to visit the country and had a lot to talk about.Doi responded that she and Suu Kyi, leader of the pro-democracy National League for Democracy, can discuss the future of Asia together.

    Before the phone conversation, Doi and some other lawmakers held talks in Tokyo with visiting UN special envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail. In them, Razali said that if discussions on democracy moved forward, Suu Kyi might visit Malaysia and Japan by the end of the year.

    According to Doi, Suu Kyi said she was busy and felt physically fit. She also reportedly asked Doi to visit Myanmar, Doi said.Doi said she promised Suu Kyi that she would visit Myanmar after the current Diet session ends June 19.

    In the past, Doi held talks with Suu Kyi after the Myanmar pro-democracy leader was cited as recipient in 1996 of an award by the Foundation for Human Rights in Asia, a private organization co-chaired by Doi.

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    Japan Minister says UN envoy's work led to Burmese democracy leader's release

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 10, 2002 - Source: Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1318 gmt 10 May 02

    Tokyo, 10 May: Japan's foreign minister said Friday [10 May] that UN special envoy to Myanmar [Burma] Razali Ismail was vital to the release of Myanmar's pro-democracy leader from nearly 20 months of virtual house arrest, a Foreign Ministry official said.

    In talks at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo between Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and Razali, currently visiting Japan, Kawaguchi said Aung San Suu Kyi's release resulted from the envoy's perseverance in talks with Myanmar's military government, the official said.

    Razali, a Malaysian, is considered to have played an important role in brokering the truce between the ruling junta and the pro-democracy movement led by 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi.

    The UN envoy said he was hopeful for the prospects of the democracy movement in Myanmar, the official said.The official said Razali believed the junta seemed open to the possibility of becoming democratic, and that Suu Kyi, in turn, appears set to cooperate with the junta.

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    Malaysian politician urges UN envoy to give up business interests in Burma

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 10, 2002 - Source: Malaysiakini web site, Petaling Jaya, in English 9 May 02

    Thursday 9 May: United Nations Special Envoy to Burma Razali Ismail should relinquish his interests in a Malaysian technology company or cancel the controversial deal signed by the company with the Burmese government, said an opposition leader today.

    DAP [Democratic Action Party] International Secretary Teresa Kok said Razali should resign as chairman of IRIS Technologies to maintain his role as the peace-maker between the Burmese military government and National League for Democracy [NLD] party leader Aung San Suu Kyi to avoid a conflict of interest.

    "Razali Ismail has played an important role in the negotiations between the Burmese military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD. Unlike previous special envoys, Razali's mediations have been well accepted by the generals as well as Suu Kyi."Therefore, it is important for Razali to continue his role till the process of democratisation is realized in Burma," said Kok, member of parliament for Seputeh, in a press statement.

    Razali recently courted controversy over reports that his company signed a deal to supply 5,000 chip-embedded passports to the Burmese government just weeks before securing an unconditional release for Suu Kyi after 19 months under house arrest.

    Kok added that according to the May 7 edition of the International Herald Tribune, Razali had offered to resign from his company and from the peace initiative if officials of the United Nations, European Union and United States said his business deals with the Burmese government was a conflict of interest.

    "His resignation from his present position in the UN will not be beneficial for the peace and democratisation process in Burma. Therefore, I urge Razali to seriously consider resigning from the chairmanship of IRIS Technologies or cancel the deal with the Burmese government," said Kok.

    However on Monday, UN officials defended Razali saying that his dual role did not represent a conflict of interest as his contract did not stipulate any restrictions on business activities.According to the UN, Razali was already chairperson of IRIS prior to his appointment as the special envoy to Burma. The company is said to have business dealings with all ASEAN countries, not just Burma.

    IRIS, established in 1994, is one of the major information technology companies accorded special status in Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor. It is involved in smart card and chip technology and has supplied more than a million Malaysian high-tech passports since 1998.Razali has a 30 per cent share in the company. Other shareholders are the Berjaya group (50.5 per cent) and IRIS Corporation (19.5 per cent).

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    Australia's ambassador in Burma meets with Aung San Suu Kyi

    ABC Radio Australia News

    Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Australia's ambassador in Burma has today met with the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. .Aung San Suu Kyi was recently released after 19 months of house arrest.

    Mr Downer says the purpose of the meeting with Australia's Ambassador are twofold.

    I'm very pleased that he's managed to get a meeting with her now that she's been released and it will be an opportunity to hear not only how Aung San Suu Kyi feels negotiations with the government in Burma are progressing but for our ambassador to find out if there is anything Australlia can do to encourage a successfull conclusion to those negotiations.

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    Release of Aung San Suu Kyi spurs Myanmar currency

    YANGON(Reuters) May 10 - Myanmar's kyat currency has surged since the military government released pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest earlier this week, on hopes Western sanctions will be lifted from the impoverished country.

    Dealers said the kyat was being quoted on the black market on Friday at 740 to the dollar, up from 950 a week ago and a record low of 1,000 at the end of April, when authorities arrested several currency traders in a bid to halt the currency's slide.

    ''Some of them think all economic sanctions will be lifted and loans and investment will pour in,'' one local currency trader told Reuters. The kyat is officially pegged at 6.9 to the dollar but this rate is only quoted by official government outlets.

    Diplomats said the country's flailing economy and the threat of tougher Western sanctions persuaded the ruling generals to release Suu Kyi from 19-months of house arrest on Monday. But Suu Kyi, greeted at the offices of her National League for Democracy (NLD) by a cheering crowd of around 300 supporters, said the NLD had not changed its opposition to foreign investment and tourism while the military was still in power.

    Diplomats who met Suu Kyi this week said she ''was very aware'' of the economic crisis in the country, and was more open than in the past to foreign aid, if it was channelled carefully.

    On Thursday, the junta and the NLD said they were preparing for a new round of talks, which have been stuck in a ''confidence-building'' phase since they were brokered by the United Nations 18 months ago. Diplomats say the next step could be the establishment of a joint committee to deal with social and humanitarian issues, and maybe even the economy.

    International financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, refuse to lend to Myanmar's military government.

    Yangon's business community is clinging to hopes investment and loans will start flowing in after Suu Kyi's release. ''Merchants and entrepreneurs are waiting for further progress in the political weather conditions,'' said one businessman. ''If it does not produce further progress within a certain period or if the sanctions are not lifted, the kyat will certainly dive again,'' he said.

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    Karen villagers flee as troops burn homes

    Cheewin Sattha
    the Bangkokpost

    Burmese government forces continued to crack down on minority rebels in border areas opposite Mae Hong Son, forcing more than 500 Karen people to flee into Thailand, border sources said.

    Some 500 Burmese troops from the 44th Light Infantry Division were suppressing minorities in areas opposite Mae Sariang district after having captured the Karen National Union's strongholds at Ban Dipunu and Ban Kho Khrae, one source said.

    The Burmese had burned down more than 50 Karen homes and forced at least 50 Karen villagers to work for them as porters, the source said.

    KNU guerrillas and anti-Rangoon Burmese students had tried in vain to recapture one of the seized bases yesterday morning.They later retreated north of the Salween river to wait for support from the Karenni National Progressive Party, which had strongholds in areas opposite Mae Hong Son's Khun Yuam and Muang districts, the source said.Meanwhile, a military source said more than 10 Burmese soldiers were killed in clashes with KNU rebels.

    Officials, volunteers and foreign NGO workers were en route to an area near Mae Sariang district to help more than 500 Karen seeking refuge.

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    DVB interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

    DVB (2002 May 10)

    Interview conducted by Moe Aye, News Editor

    (Ko Moe Aye) There has been wide coverage in the international media (about your release). First of all, I would like to ask how do you feel the difference between the first release from house arrest and the recent one? We have heard that you mentioned this time is hotter. What do you mean by that?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) This time, the weather is hotter than last time. The first time I was released in July, which is in the middle of the rainy season. The most significant difference is that I can move freely this time. The road to my home is still blocked, but that is due to the agreement between the two parties. My movement is a lot freer. I can go anywhere and no one is following me. They allow me to meet whoever I want.

    (Ko Moe Aye) According to the statement yesterday and your speeches, you stressed the importance of the release of more political prisoners. Do you have any plans to visit the political prisoners and their families?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) We always visit the families of political prisoners, especially those of our (National League for Democracy) members. We always visit them whenever the need arise because of social matters. I will continue with such meetings, and have met some who came to the office. When it comes to visiting the prisoners, it is only possible for relatives according to the prison rules and regulations.

    (Ko Moe Aye) Do you have any plan to give speeches to the masses gathered in front of your home, as you did after your first release?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) I have no such plans because I can now go to our township offices. In short, our people do not need to come to me because I can go to them.

    (Ko Moe Aye) People said that the confidence building stage is over. While there is enormous coverage in the international media about your release, there is no mentioning of it in the media inside the country. What is your comment on that?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) That is of no great significance. What I said is that the confidence building stage is over, and therefore we need to reach a more meaningful stage. When we reach that stage, the style of the media must also be changed.

    (Ko Moe Aye) You have clearly stated that there is no change in the policy matter. However, I still want to ask you for further clarifications concerning humanitarian assistance. Some people are suggesting that people need humanitarian assistance. Can you explain this in a clear way for the people?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) To make people understand the matter concerning the international assistance, which include humanitarian assistant, it must be really effective and reach those in real need in the right way. To be so, there should be accountability and transparency (in the handling of the assistance). Furthermore, the minimum requirements for the channeling of assistance must be independently monitored. It should be assessed whether the situation is right for the assistance and whether it is handled properly or not. The assistance matter is included in our policy; that is why we stated that the policy has not been changed. In the mean time, since I am free now, we would like to monitor the handling of humanitarian assistance, how effective the international assistance is, and how it is handled. I hope we will get such a chance to monitor it.

    (Ko Moe Aye) A Spanish newspaper yesterday quoted you saying that economic sanctions are effective. Do you want to say something concerning that?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) Some say it (the sanctions) is effective and some say it is not, and some even say it effects only the people. We cannot say that sanctions have effects on no one at all. Countries imposing sanctions (on Burma) are only a few and they are not the ones with huge investments in Burma. ASEAN countries, from which investments are among the highest, are not imposing sanctions. They decide whether or not to prolong investments simply based on the economic opportunities in Burma. I have said that economic sanctions are effective politically.

    (Ko Moe Aye) There is concerns that the economic sanctions have effects on the living conditions of ordinary people. What is you view on that?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) As I said earlier, how can it be argued that sanctions have effects on no one? People who are involved in businesses affected by the sanctions may be affected. I said that it cannot be argued that the effects are huge, because those countries with the biggest investments are not the ones imposing sanctions. Those ASEAN countries that cease doing business in Burma are not doing so due to the economic sanctions, but due to the opportunities for their businesses.

    (Ko Moe Aye) What gives you the most satisfaction concerning NLD offices being reopened?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) We are so busy because we have to reopen offices. What I am satisfied with is that our members are so active and helpful (in the reopening process). I am so satisfied with it. Concerning activities, we cannot say for sure that we fully posses the right to political activities as a political party. But we have to increase our efforts to get more rights.

    (Ko Moe Aye) We know you are busy, but I just wonder whether you will write letters like "Letter from Burma", as you did after your first release?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) I always want to write. I have no time yet, but I will manage in time.

    (Ko Moe Aye) What message do you want to deliver to the democracy organizations in exile?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) I continually ask for unity among them, that they work together. No matter how many times I repeat it, it must be more than mere words. Work together; if there is disagreement, try to find a solution together by negotiating with each other. It is a democratic spirit. If one is working for democracy, one must be able to practice it. If someone is capable of doing things, others should help him so he can do more. Please do not approach others who are capable of doing things with jealousy. Please be united. Please be open-minded. When democracy is restored in the country, everyone will enjoy the benefits.

    (Ko Moe Aye) Do you have any special message that you would like to deliver to the people and members of the League (NLD)?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) I just have to repeat what I said earlier because I sometimes think I cannot make them understand. I think they do not understand it fully, therefore I would like to repeat it. It is that all citizens have to help to achieve changes in the country that will benefit all. The fact that some people wait and see while others are doing things, or are just being disappointed with the situation without doing anything will not contribute anything; we do not want the situation to continue. Members of the League have more responsibilities, as we believe they joined the League to work for the restoration of democracy in this country. I want to stress again that members of the League and people who will enjoy the benefits should put in all efforts to achieve democracy as soon as possible.

    (Ko Moe Aye) If an ordinary citizen asks you when he will see significant changes, what do you answer?

    (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) I answer this question quite often because they ask me often. I answer that the harder they work, the sooner they see the changes. If you really want to know how fast you will see the changes, I will ask you to question yourself how hard you are working.

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 10 May 02

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    Veteran Burmese politicians urge crisis talks

    Source : MSNBC

    Rangoon, May 11---A group of veteran Burmese politicians called on the country's ruling military on Saturday to follow up on the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest with meaningful reconciliation talks.

    The 21-strong group, including some who held key government positions during Burma's last period of parliamentary democracy shortly after independence from Britain, also called for the unconditional release of all political prisoners.

    National League for Democracy (NLD) leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi was released from 19-months of house arrest last Monday.

    ''We who participated in the nation's independence struggle most humbly appeal to the SPDC and the NLD to open talks immediately...for overcoming the political, economic and social crisis currently facing the country,'' the open letter said.

    ''We also appeal for the including of representatives of ethnic groups in these talks.''

    Burma has been under strict military rule 1962 and public calls for the military to negotiate on political reform and release political prisoners are rare.

    The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) said on Thursday it was preparing for a new round of talks with Suu Kyi's NLD.

    Most of the veteran politicians held political posts in the post-independence 1950s, before General Ne Win seized power with a military coup in 1962.

    Talks between the junta and the NLD began secretly in late 2000 after Suu Kyi was confined to her home for defying orders not to travel outside the capital Rangoon to meet party supporters.

    But the talks have not progressed past a confidence-building phase and have yielded few concrete results.

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