Daily News- May 22- 2002- Wednesday

  • Southeast Asia must keep up pressure on Myanmar: Britain
  • Aung San Suu Kyi Calls for Unity among Burmese
  • Stray Burmese shells force the evacuation of 1,500 villagers
  • Thailand Denies Military Fires Artillery Shells Into Myanmar
  • UN envoy to return to Myanmar for more concessions by junta
  • Aung San Suu Kyi makes visit to second township office
  • Myanmar to Close Checkpoints on Thai-Myanmar Border
  • Retired Myanmar Diplomat On Drug Control

  • Southeast Asia must keep up pressure on Myanmar: Britain

    SINGAPORE, May 21 (AFP) - Southeast Asia should keep up the reform pressure on military-ruled Myanmar despite the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, a British minister said Tuesday.

    Junior foreign office minister Ben Bradshaw told AFP here that although Britain "warmly welcomes" the release, London hoped that it was part of a process of further reforms.

    "We hope that they (developments in Myanmar) are part of a process and we hope that the international community and ASEAN in particular do not let up in their pressure on the Myanmar junta to reform and return to constitutional government and real national reconciliation," he said.

    Bradshaw said Britain "would be concerned" if observers grew complacent after Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's release on May 6 from 19 months of house arrest."This has happened before and the junta has gone back on its promises and we've gone back to square one. I think it's important that the pressure is kept up," he said.

    The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should make clear to the Myanmar junta that although the National League for Democracy leader's release is important, "it must only be seen as part of a process".

    "There are still hundreds of political prisoners, there is still a desperate economic situation and it is in the region's interest... that Burma (Myanmar) flourishes and there is economic and political reform because the country has enormous potential," he said.

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    Aung San Suu Kyi Calls for Unity among Burmese

    The Irrawaddy Press Release -Ref : (01/02)-Date : 21 May 2002

    The Irrawaddy Magazine conducted two separate interviews with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in recent days. In her exclusive interviews with The Irrawaddy, Suu Kyi called for unity among Burmese and also praised UN special envoy Razali Ismail as a man of integrity who wants to bring about desirable change in Burma.

    The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient suspected that the latest political developments have been motivated by a sincere change in the generals’ attitudes and that her release is not a face saving gesture for the United Nations or the military government.

    Suu Kyi also said that her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), is seeking permission to publish a party news bulletin but that she must wait and see whether the authorities will approve this matter. She added that press freedom is essential in the struggle for democracy.

    When asked about her vision for Burma five years from now, the opposition leader said, "I see us in five years time as struggling, but I hope happily struggling, and with liberty."

    Suu Kyi also spoke about her policy towards humanitarian aid: "We have always said humanitarian aid must be given to the right people in the right way, which of course calls for accountability and transparency."

    When commenting on the prospects of a federal union in Burma, she said the word ‘federal’ has been historically misinterpreted with some believing it means the right to secede. ‘Federal’, however, simply means the division of powers between the central government and the state governments, and that the constitution makes it clear how those powers should be shared.

    Suu Kyi emphasized strong relations with neighboring Thailand and said she admires Thai people. Continued cooperation is needed to prevent Burma’s problems from spilling over into Thailand in the future. She added that she thinks the Thai government has taken a more positive attitude towards the NLD, but was careful not to be too optimistic at this point.

    When asked about the role of exiled politicians and Burmese activists, Suu Kyi said that everyone who has been working for the betterment of Burma would have a role to play in the future. This would require unity among Burmese political organizations.

    Full interviews with Aung San Suu Kyi will appear on The Irrawaddy on-line in Burmese at www.irrawaddy.org/bur/ and English at www.irrawaddy.org this coming Friday.

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    Stray Burmese shells force the evacuation of 1,500 villagers

    Cheewin Sattha
    The Bangkokpost

    More than 1,500 villagers have been evacuated from Chiang Mai's Wiang Haeng and Chiang Dao districts after artillery and mortar rounds fired from inside Burma landed in the areas on Monday night.

    Chiang Mai governor Kosin Ketthong said people in three border villages in Wiang Haeng and Chiang Dao were evacuated yesterday after more shells fired from inside Burma landed on Thai territory north of Muang Na Nua, Ban Lak Taeng and Ban Paek Sam villages on Monday night.

    Fighting continued yesterday inside Burma and gunfire could be heard on the Thai side throughout the day, the governor said. He said it might be necessary to evacuate some 4,000 people from another five villages in Chiang Dao if the border tension increased.A border source said 364 people living near Ban Lak Taeng pass in Wiang Haeng were yesterday moved to Ban Jong school, and another 800 living near Ban Pak Saem to Huay Khrai school.

    Clashes between the anti-Rangoon Shan State Army and the pro-Rangoon United Wa State Army continued yesterday, forcing another 162 Shan villagers to flee across the border. Two Wa fighters posing as refugees were arrested.

    In Chiang Dao, 499 people were evacuated from Arunothai and Muang Na Nua villages to Na Wai school after three mortar rounds landed on the villages around 10pm on Monday.It was reported yesterday that Shan rebels had captured all UWSA strongholds located along the Burmese border opposite Wiang Haeng.

    More than 50 Shan fighters were killed in the fighting which forced Wa troops to retreat towards the towns of Pang Sang and Yawn. The SSA also captured four Wa strongholds opposite Mae Hong Son's Pang Ma Pha district.

    Thailand Denies Military Fires Artillery Shells Into Myanmar

    BANGKOK, May 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyuth Tuesday denied Thai forces had intentionally fired artillery shells into the Myanmar territory, saying they were justmortars fired in military exercises, the Thai News Agency reported.

    Myanmar Monday summoned the Thai ambassador to hand a formal protest about a heavy artillery barrage claimed to have been fired earlier in the day by Thai forces in support of the Shan State Army, an anti-Government rebel group.

    Chavalit, who is also defense minister, said the Thai side had conducted a fact-finding and found the military did not fire any shells from 105mm or 155mm artilleries into Myanmar. The Thai soldiers just fired 81-and 82-mm mortars as part of the month-long military exercises along the frontier with Myanmar.

    Asked whether the protest would lead to sour relations between the two neighboring countries again, he said Thailand and Myanmar had good understanding since Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra held talks with Maung Aye, deputy chairman of State Peace and Development Council during his recent visit to the country. It was usual the way to improve the bilateral relations would not be a rosy path. But the two countries must tolerate and join hands to cope with obstacles, he said.

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    UN envoy to return to Myanmar for more concessions by junta

    By JASBANT SINGHKUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ The U.N. envoy who brokered this month's release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest plans to return to Myanmar soon to seek further concessions from its military government.

    Razali Ismail said on Wednesday that U.S.-led economic sanctions against the Southeast Asian country were likely to remain until it was clearer that the junta was cooperating with the Suu Kyi to end a long political deadlock.

    Razali met U.N. officials in New York last week and said Wednesday that he would make his eighth visit to Myanmar in a few weeks.

    The generals freed Suu Kyi on May 6 after 19 months of house arrest. However, they have not announced a date for talks with the opposition leader, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent promotion of democracy.

    "They are not going to tell you when they are going to meet," Razali, a retired Malaysian diplomat, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. "You shouldn't look for a situation where it is a formalized structured arrangement."

    Euphoria over Suu Kyi's release has given way to questions about when the military, which has ruled since 1962, will hold talks with Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy. The party won parliamentary elections in 1990, but was never allowed to take office. Suu Kyi has spent most of the past dozen years under various degrees of confinement. Hundreds of political prisoners remain behind bars.

    "The priorities are more releases of people who are in custody of the government, greater freedom of activity for all political parties, not just the NLD, matters like that," Razali said.

    Progress in reconciliation talks was vital for the lifting of economic sanctions, Razali said. Myanmar is among the world's poorest countries.

    "It is not a question of asking for sanctions to be lifted," he said. "It is having things happen in the country that would make it unnecessary for the sanctions to be there."

    Razali made the comments at the public signing of an agreement with a local bank to handle the flotation on Malaysia's stock exchange of Iris Technologies, a microchip document company that he chairs. Iris and Razali were at the center of conflict-of-interest questions on the eve of Suu Kyi's release when it was revealed that the company had sealed a deal to supply the Myanmar government with high-tech passports.

    Razali has rejected accusations that the deal compromises his work with the United Nations, which appointed him as a part-time envoy to Myanmar, also known as Burma, in April 2000.

    On Wednesday, Razali said he would not give up his jobs at either the United Nations or Iris. He holds a substantial stake in the company. "I am disciplined enough, I think I have enough integrity, to be able to deal with whatever my responsibilities are and whatever my business commitments are quite separately," Razali said.

    Razali said he had spoken to Suu Kyi on the issue and quoted her as saying it was "no problem." U.N. authorities have said Razali did not violate the organization's rules.

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    Aung San Suu Kyi makes visit to second township office

    YANGON, May 22 (AFP) - Myanmar's recently freed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited her party's office at the dockyard township of Dawbon some eight kilometres (five miles) east of downtown Yangon Wednesday.

    Hundreds of well-wishers greeted the pro-democracy leader as she arrived by car at the dilapidated National League for Democracy (NLD) office, where she oversaw the formation of a new youth organising committee for the local party branch.

    In her speech to party members about to vote for new committee office-bearers, which was broadcast by a public address system to the crowd outside, Aung San Suu Kyi urged them to choose the right people.

    "The National League for Democracy has had to overcome numerous problems and had to face all kinds of dangers. We still have a difficult time ahead and so we need a lot of good and sincere friends," she said.

    "It is very important that you choose the right people for the posts... It goes without saying that you should try to avoid those who are only motivated by self interest. It is important that the person knows not only how to handle victory but also take defeat graciously," she said.

    The visit is the second the Nobel peace laureate has made to a satellite township on the outskirts of Yangon since Myanmar's ruling military regime released her from 19 months house arrest on May 6.On Friday she visited Shwepyitha township, which lies around 18 kilometres (11 miles) north of central Yangon, adjacent to Insein township.Aung San Suu Kyi has said the military released her unconditionally, but observers are keenly awaiting her first visit outside the capital.Party spokesman U Lwin told AFP on Monday that the leader would travel outside Yangon as soon as work and weather permit.

    Myanmar to Close Checkpoints on Thai-Myanmar Border

    BANGKOK, May 22 (Xinhuanet) -- The Myanmar government Wednesday decided to close some major checkpoints along the Thai-Myanmar Border, accusing Thailand of firing shells into Myanmar's territory.

    An officer of Tak province, 370 kilometers west to Bangkok, said that hundreds of tourists, local residents and traders were turning away from the Mae Sot checkpoint, which is the important passageway along the border between the two countries.

    On Monday, the Myanmar government accused Thailand of firing artillery across the border in Chiang Mai province, 700 kilometersnorth to Bangkok, to support anti-government Shan rebels who attacked four military positions held by Myanmar and allied ethnic Wa forces. While, the Thai authority argued that Thai forces only responded to stray shells from Myanmar by firing several warning shots from 105mm artillery into Myanmar.

    Retired Myanmar Diplomat On Drug Control

    YANGON, May 22 (Xinhuanet) -- A retired Myanmar ambassador has complained that it is hard to stop both cultivation of opium and trading of narcotics because of difficulties in using force in solving such problems with social matters involved.

    In his article titled "The Drug Trade and Double Standards" in the latest issue of the weekly Myanmar Times, U Maung Maung Soe Tint, the retired Myanmar ambassador, said if the cultivation of opium poppy is to be stopped, the peasants who almost entirely depend on production of opium for their livelihood will find it hard to make ends meet unless crop substitution schemes are to be implemented.On the other hand, he pointed out, It will also be very difficult to prevent addicts, by law and by force, from taking drugs.

    "The poppy farmers remain poor but the traffickers and avaricious insurgents have become millionaires and billionaires," he also pointed out.

    He argued that if the people who have to grow opium poppy to meet their food, clothing and shelter needs are to be blamed for the drug problem, then those who buy narcotics for exorbitant prices for their own use or abuse should also share the blame."If those who use narcotics can be prevented from buying them, the cultivation and production of narcotics would cease," he argued further.

    He said the drug problem is much worse and more ruthless than the September 11 terror attacks on the United States that killed more than 3,000 people.He stressed the need for the United States to join hands with all nations in the fight against narcotic drugs just as it cooperates with many nations in the war against terrorism.By doing so, it would be of great benefit not only to the United States but also to the mankind, he concluded.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar's opium production has been declining steadily since 1997, according to a Myanmar-U.S. joint survey of Myanmar's opium yield in the country's Shan state beginning 1993.The survey shows that the opium production dropped from 2,365 tons in 1997 to 865 tons in 2001, representing a drop of 64 percent, while the country's poppy cultivation area decreased from151,201 acres (61,189 hectares) in 1997 to 61,824 acres (25,019 hectares) in 2001, a reduction of almost 60 percent.

    However, the figures of the United States show that the poppy cultivation area in Myanmar in 1997 was 381,669 acres (154,457.6 hectares), while that in 2001 was 260,000 acres (105,220 hectares),a reduction of only 31.87 percent.

    The International Narcotics Control Board of the United Nations said Myanmar is the largest opium producing country in the world with its output accounting for about 50 to 60 percent of the world 's opium supply.

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