Daily News- May 25- 2002- Saturday

  • Aung San Suu Kyi calls for release of all political prisoners
  • Thai govt pins border hopes on soaps
  • Rangoon paper heaps blame on Thai army
  • Thai military checkpoint attacked

  • Aung San Suu Kyi calls for release of all political prisoners

    YANGON, May 24 (AFP) - Freed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for the release of all political prisoners in Myanmar during a visit to the township of Kamayut Friday.

    "Our primary objective at this point is to obtain the release of all political prisoners not only of our party but also of others who are still in jail," she told a 500-strong crowd outside the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Kamayut, eight kilometres (five miles) northwest of central Yangon.Around 1,500 political prisoners are held in Myanmar jails, of which 800 are NLD members. Of those 800, 17 were elected as members of parliament in the 1990 elections that have never been recognised by the country's ruling military regime.

    "I acknowledge the fact that the Kamayut township especially has always been in the forefront of our political activities, and this is attested by the fact that 30 of our members from this township -- 20 of them who are youths -- are still in prison," she told a captivated audience.The trip to Kamayut was her third such visit to a township on the outskirts of Yangon since she was released on May 6 from 19 months of house arrest.

    A cheering crowd greeted the Nobel peace laureate as she arrived by car at the small NLD office, with many youths sporting the wide-rimmed, pointy bamboo hats that the party popularised during the 1990 elections.

    Her discussion in the office with NLD members about party business was broadcast by a public address system to the crowd outside, after which Aung San Suu Kyi stood on a small dais and spoke through a microphone to the throng.She reminded the crowd that "politics is everyone's concern"."That is why I would request you not to neglect it, and I on my part pledge that we will never neglect you. We understand that we cannot make the people strong unless we ourselves are strong.

    "For this we need your full support and encouragement and we hope we will achieve democracy before long," she said in her 10-minute speech.

    "Democracy does not guarantee prosperity. But it guarantees you the basic right to improve your life... We (the NLD) cannot go it alone. We cannot do it only by ourselves, the people must also lend their full support so I would like to appeal for your help and support," she added.

    This was Aung San Suu Kyi's first-ever visit to Kamayut township, whose parliamentary seat was won by NLD executive committee member U Lwin in 1990.The bystanders, many of whom had come in the hope of just catching a glimpse of "the Lady", as she is popularly known here, had refused to disperse when a 10-minute downpour occurred just prior to her arrival.

    "She looks very serene. She has honesty written all over her face," one elderly woman said. "This is a very special treat for me, that I have got to see her in person."

    Aung San Suu Kyi is next scheduled to visit the nearby township of Kemmendine.The Kamayut and Kemmendine NLD offices were reopened after a "reconciliation dialogue" was initiated between Aung San Suu Kyi and the military in October 2000, a month after she was confined to her famous lakeside home.

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    Thai govt pins border hopes on soaps

    The Nation

    In a bid to ease ongoing tension with Burma, Thailand will send copies of two Thai soap operas, one of them Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's favourite, to Burma's junta leaders, Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha said yesterday.

    Thaksin, whose diplomatic style is based on personal relations, will give copies of two soap operas, "Ban Sai Thong" and "Vaen Thong Louang", as a gift from the Thai people to Burma, Yuthasak said.

    Based on the novel "Kor Surangkanang", "Ban Sai Thong" is a love story about a girl named Pojaman from a noble family who fights with relatives to obtain her right as the real owner of the castle. The fighting ends in happiness when she finds true love with the son of one her relatives that she is fighting with.

    "Ban Sai Thong" has been made into a film and a television series several times in the past four decades. A version of the film starring Jarunee Suksawasdi brought good luck to Thaksin in the early 1980s when he was involved in a debt-ridden film business. Thaksin once said the reason he had chosen the film to screen at his cinema in Chiang Mai was because the main character's name was Pojaman, the same as his wife's. The film ended up making a lot of money for Thaksin.

    "Vaen Thong Louang" is also a love story, about a woman who wears a brass ring living in misery until she finds her lost love.

    Yuthasak said the copies would be handed to Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung, who also loves the two television soap operas and had asked for copies of them.

    Relations with Burma deteriorated early this week following border skirmishes that led to an exchange of official protests and closure of border checkpoints. "It is not in exchange for reopening the border, but we hope the two soap operas will maintain positive feelings with the leaders in Rangoon," he said.

    Developments on the border yesterday remained unchanged with no sign of Rangoon reopening border checkpoints despite the withdrawal of Thai troops from the area.

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    Rangoon paper heaps blame on Thai army

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    The Thai army had deliberately harmed relations between Thailand and Burma even as their governments tried to strengthen ties, said Burma's official newspaper the New Light of Myanmar.The newspaper, which serves as the government's mouthpiece, said the Thai military was to blame for a new round of border tension.

    ``At a time when Myanmar [Burma] is promoting Myanmar-Thai friendship, the Thai army is acting to the detriment of it,'' it said.

    Army spokesman Col Somkhuan Saengpataranetr said the army was merely defending Thai sovereignty.``The army has no intention to stir up tension,'' he said.

    The newspaper said the ruling State Peace and Development Council closed border checkpoints with Thailand on Wednesday after the Thai army provided military support to Shan State Army rebels.A SSA operation, launched early this week opposite Chiang Mai's Wiang Haeng district, inflicted casualties among Burmese border forces.

    Col Somkhuan said the army could not ignore intentional cross-border shellings from foreign forces. ``Cross-border fire from Burmese forces or Wa has to be countered in line with rules of military engagement. We have no desire to seek confrontation with Burma,'' said the colonel.The army had not given support to the SSA, he stressed.``We want to see peace along the border, as we have to provide help to people fleeing from fighting for humanitarian reasons,'' he said.

    Thai military checkpoint attacked

    Supamart Kasem
    The Bangkokpost

    Army soldiers clashed with unidentified troops from Burma who attacked a military checkpoint in Phop Phra district in the early hours of yesterday. No casualties were reported.

    The intruders crossed into Thai territory at Ban Morker Thai and attacked a border checkpoint of the 113th Infantry Battalion with grenades and small arms at 3.15am yesterday.Thai soldiers returned fire and a 15-minute gunfight ensued before the intruders retreated into Burma.After the clash, Col Saksilp Klansanoh, commander of the 13th Infantry Regiment Task Force, inspected the scene of fighting and sent patrol teams to check out the intruders' escape route.

    Two spent rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) shells were found on a village road while a lot of spent cartridges from AK47 and M16 assault rifles were found scattered on a hill, about 50-70m behind the attacked checkpoint.Col Saksilp said the attack could be the work of an armed group affected by army crackdowns on drugs, log poaching, and human and furniture smuggling in the area.Military teams and volunteers from Ban Morker Thai were trying to track down the intruders who numbered between 5-7 men, he said.

    According to Col Saksilp, who also chairs the local Thai-Burmese border committee, his Burmese counterpart Maj Thet Lwin has not yet responded why Burma decided to close its border with Thailand since Wednesday.However, Col Saksilp remained optimistic about the future prospect of Thai-Burmese relations, saying he expected talks between the governments of the two countries to mend ties very soon.

    On Wednesday night, the Thai military fired four warning 81mm mortar shots after two 60mm mortar rounds were fired at a Thai border patrol team from the pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army's Ye Gyaw camp, located opposite Mae Ramat district.Meanwhile, a Thai couple captured by DKBA guerrillas on Monday were released and returned to their village in Mae Sot district yesterday.

    District chief Samart Loifa said Chan Chantib, 48, and his wife No, 46, were seized by DKBA guerrillas from the 907th Battalion while they were crossing the border from Ban Mae Kone Kane to Burma's Min Lat Pan village to trade.Their capture followed the Karen National Union's attacks on Min Lat Pan and Palu villages in Burma on May 15. The couple were detained on suspicion they were spies and were injured while in detention, he said.

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