Daily News- May 28- 2002- Tuesday

  • Junta must honour 1990 elections, Aung San Suu Kyi's party insists
  • Government Cracks Down on Advertisers
  • Soothsayers give testimony at Myanmar treason trial
  • Thai defence minister to meet Myanmar junta over border row
  • A second, revered white elephant caught in Myanmar jungles
  • Rangoon wanted to frame us, says KNU
  • Latest Wa assault `provocative'
  • Burma Won't Issue Visas For Official Thai Visits

  • Junta must honour 1990 elections, Aung San Suu Kyi's party insists

    YANGON, May 27 (AFP) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday joined members of her National League for Democracy in a call for the military junta to honour the NLD's sweeping 1990 election victory, and a vow that it would not accept a new election.

    The Nobel peace laureate, newly freed from 19 months house arrest, and some 1,000 NLD members, supporters and Western diplomats gathered to commemorate the twelfth anniversary of the election, which the party won in a landslide which the junta later rejected.

    "The NLD calls on (the SPDC, the ruling State Peace and Development Council) to sooner or later convene the parliament with elected candidates from the May 27, 1990 elections," the party said in a set of 21 resolutions released here."The NLD will not accept new elections" which ignore results of the previous poll, the resolutions said."We also will not accept any constitution other than the one which recognises the fact that power resides in the people and which was drafted by democratic means."

    The anniversary was commemorated at the NLD's ramshackle headquarters and was the largest political gathering Aung San Suu Kyi has attended since she was freed May 6.The resolutions did not appear to break new ground, but their high-profile release on the election anniversary brought added weight to the party's call for accountability by Myanmar's military rulers.On May 27, 1990, the NLD bagged 392 out of 485 seats in parliamentary elections, but the junta refused to recognise the results.

    To chants of "long live Aung San Suu Kyi," the pro-democracy leader appeared in light blue traditional dress and praised unity within the NLD, and stressed that earning the trust of Myanmar citizens was paramount.

    "We must pledge to behave properly and to be worthy of the trust and the confidence of the people," Aung San Suu Kyi told dignitaries in the building as well as several hundred supporters listening from the roadside via loudspeaker.

    "I myself pledge I will never lie to the people, or do anything against the wishes of the people," she said in her brief speech.

    Some 80 NLD "parliamentarians", many of whom had traveled from distant provinces, were among those commemorating the democratic election which was supposed to have brought them to power a dozen years ago.

    "The failure to convene the elected parliament has led to many political, economic, and social problems in this country," the party said in a statement.

    The NLD had attempted to convene party congresses on previous anniversaries but was stymied by the junta, which routinely jailed NLD members in order to prevent the gatherings.

    Aung San Suu Kyi led a minute of silence at the event to honour those who died in the struggle for democracy.

    Myanmar has been ruled by a series of secretive military regimes since 1962, when strongman Ne Win seized power in a military coup.Ne Win stepped down in 1988 after an oppressive quarter-century rule which saw Burma, as the country was then known, deteriorate from one of Asia's richest countries to one of its poorest.Aung San Suu Kyi and the latest ruling generals have engaged in a secret UN-brokered dialogue since October 2000, but the NLD stated a third party to the talks was now required.

    "We must strive to bring about, as soon as possible, tripartite talks which will include ethnic nationalities in accordance with UN resolutions," the statement said.

    On Friday Aung San Suu Kyi visited the NLD office of nearby Kamayut township, where she called for the relase of "all political prisoners, not only of our party but also of others who are still in jail."

    Around 1,500 political prisoners are held in Myanmar jails, of which 800 are NLD members.Exiled dissidents also commemorated the election anniversary.

    Some 200 pro-democracy dissidents staged a ceremony organised by the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) at a secret camp along the Thai-Myanmar border.

    Echoing the NLD's statements, the NCGUB and others called for the release of political prisoners and the reinstatement of the 1990 election results, a dissident leader at the secret camp told AFP by telephone.

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    Government Cracks Down on Advertisers

    By Ko Thet
    the Irrawaddy

    May 27, 2002 -Burma's Ministry of Home Affairs ordered a Rangoon-based weekly journal to refrain from accepting advertisements from General Service Companies. The Market Journal, a business and finance oriented journal, was informed of the directive on Friday of last week, according to a Rangoon-based editor with close ties to the journal.

    "This order came from the [Ministry of Home Affairs] but they didn't give any reason for it," the editor told The Irrawaddy. He added that the journal was not informed of how long the ban was to be in but that The Market Journal received over ninety percent of their advertisements from effect these companies.

    The term General Service Company is used in Burma to describe private companies that are involved in multiple businesses such as the United Wa State Army (UWSA) controlled Hong Pang Company, which participates in everything from road construction to raising pigs. General Service Companies are also owned by independent shareholders.

    Although no reason was given for the directive, one Rangoon-based journalist told The Irrawaddy that managers from two prominent General Service Companies, who regularly advertise in The Market Journal, were detained early last week. The journalist said while it was unclear as to why they were detained, the directive was issued shortly after their arrest.

    A businessman from Burma, however, told The Irrawaddy that, "Authorities began cracking down on private companies last week because they were unable to produce the proper accounting records."

    The Market Journal was established in 1997. Nearly half of the journal's fifty-pages are used for advertisements.

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    Soothsayers give testimony at Myanmar treason trial

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ The treason trial of four relatives of former dictator Ne Win moved into the realm of the supernatural Monday, as state prosecutors presented two so-called spiritual advisers to testify against the defendants.

    Myanmar's military government alleges that Aye Zaw Win, the husband of Ne Win's daughter Sandar Win, and their three sons tried to recruit military units to kidnap junta leaders and force them to form a new regime loyal to Ne Win. They were arrested on March 7.

    The four men face charges including high treason, inciting military personnel to commit high treason and the illegal importation and use of telecommunications equipment. High treason is punishable by death. The defendants have not commented publicly on the charges. Soon after their arrest, the government presented several pieces of evidence against them, including accouterments of black magic, belief in which runs deep in Myanmar.

    Testifying at the trial Monday were two men identified as spiritual advisers to the alleged plotters. In Myanmar society, such men are both fortune tellers and practitioners of black magic.

    Chit Thein, 76, testified that Ne Win's three grandchildren alleged to be involved in the plot came to him on the morning of March 7, asking him to look after Ne Win's health and pray for them because they were going to "meet someone." He said they gave him 300,000 kyat (dlrs 333). That evening they and their father were arrested when they went to a restaurant to meet a high-ranking military officer, who had tipped off security officials about the plot.

    Also testifying Monday was Setkya Aung Pwing Khaung, 38, another soothsayer who had been linked to miniature dolls of the top members of the ruling junta that were found in the defendants' possession. At a news conference on March 12, a military intelligence official identified Setkya Aung Pwint Khaung as the personal astrologer of the plotters.

    Official said they had seized from the defendants' not only the type of equipment that might be used in a coup attempt _ radios and uniforms _ but also three miniature statues of the junta's top three generals, Gen. Than Shwe, Gen. Maung Aye and Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, and other materials apparently used in black magic.

    Ne Win, 91, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1962. He led Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to economic ruin before stepping down in 1988 in the face of pro-democracy demonstrations that were quashed by the military. When in power, he was known for paying close attention to his personal soothsayer in state affairs. He even printed currency notes in denominations divisible by his lucky number, nine.

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    Thai defence minister to meet Myanmar junta over border row

    BANGKOK, May 28 (AFP) - Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said Tuesday he soon will meet with top Myanmar officials in efforts to defuse escalating border tensions."I will travel to Myanmar soon," Chavalit told reporters at parliament.

    The minister did not reveal who he would meet or where, but he indicated that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had already tried to speak with General Maung Aye, Myanmar's army chief and the country's number two leader.

    "The situation will return to normal soon as senior government figures are already contacting each other," Chavalit said.He said Myanmar "is considering opening up some vital border checkpoints" which were sealed suddenly by the junta last week following an exchange of mortar fire across the border some 800 kilometres (500 miles) north of Bangkok.

    Both sides swapped protest notes on May 20 after Thai troops and the United Wa State Army (UWSA), a Yangon-aligned ethnic militia, traded fire across the border in Thailand's northern province of Chiang Mai.The UWSA is accused of controlling much of the heroin and amphetamine trafficking that is rife along the Thai-Myanmar border.

    On Tuesday, Myanmar's junta accused the Thai army of launching artillery attacks against several of its military bases in the same area, in coordination with the rebel Shan State Army.Thailand has insisted its troops do not provide military support to any minority rebel groups.

    Thai deputy defence minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapa indicated last week that an offensive was being conducted by Myanmar's military rulers against rebel groups operating in the border region.Traders have said the closures at four main gates along the 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) border are costing over a million dollars per day in lost trade revenue, and Myanmar citizens are suffering shortages of food and medicine.

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    A second, revered white elephant caught in Myanmar jungles

    YANGON, Myanmar - A rare white elephant, a traditional symbol of royalty, power and prosperity, has been caught in the jungles of western Myanmar, state media has reported.

    The animal was captured in January in a dense forest in the western state of Rakhine by the government agency charged with logging, radio and television stations said Monday night.The capture was hailed as an auspicious event that augurs well for the country. A another white elephant was caught last year in the same region and has been treated royally since.

    White elephants, actually albinos, have for centuries been revered in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and other Asian nations. They were normally kept and pampered by monarchs.

    The reports said the latest to be captured was about 25 years old, with a calm disposition and endowed with characteristics of white elephants such as pearl-colored eyes, white hairs on the body and a light pink skin.

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    Rangoon wanted to frame us, says KNU

    Supamart Kasem Cheewin Satha
    The Bangkokpost

    The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army was responsible for last week's attacks on Thai military bases and border villages, claims a rival group, the Karen National Union.

    Gen Bo Mya, the military leader of the anti-Rangoon KNU, said the attacks were made by the pro-Rangoon DKBA with the aim of framing his group.After Burma closed its border with Thailand as a result of the border tension, the DKBA also tried to stir up more trouble in a bid to stop Thailand's drugs suppression in border areas, he said.Gen Bo Mya also alleged that Rangoon was still co-operating with its ``proxy forces'' to produce and sell drugs in order to raise money to run the country.He added that when Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh blamed the recent border skirmishes on ``third parties'', he was referring to ethnic minority groups in Burma including the KNU.

    Gen Mo Bya said KNU forces stormed DKBA and Burmese military strongholds opposite Tak's Mae Sot district on May 15 following a tip-off that 14 million speed pills were kept there for smuggling into Thailand. An unidentified group attacked the 113th Infantry Division's Ban Morker checkpoint in Phop Phra district on May 24 and left behind helmets and scarves carrying the KNU symbol.

    A new round of border fighting is looming near Ban Lak Taeng pass in Wiang Haeng district after a massive Burmese troop build-up, said Third Army commander Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasingh.Troops were on full alert while preparations were under way to evacuate local Thais from the border area.

    The Shan State Army overran two Burmese border outposts at Pang Mai Soon and Pang Kham Kor last week. Heavy fighting could be expected if Burmese troops tried to recapture the outposts, Lt-Gen Udomchai said. Intelligence sources said nine Burmese battalions had been moved to the border area near Ban Lak Taeng. Seventeen Burmese soldiers are thought to have been killed and 42 wounded in last week's surprise attack. Thirteen others were captured.

    Latest Wa assault `provocative'

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    The UWSA's assault on two Thai outposts in Chiang Mai's Chiang Dao district will only worsen the already tense border situation with Burma, army chief Surayud Chulanont said yesterday.``This incident was intended to provoke tensions,'' Gen Surayud said.

    The United Wa State Army, considered the biggest drug traffickers in the Golden Triangle, could be retaliating for the serious disruption to business caused by Thai troops' drive against border smuggling in the area, he said.

    An estimated 30 Wa troops attacked two Thai outposts in Chiang Dao's Ban Muang Na early on Sunday. The positions were 700 metres inside Thailand and manned by paramilitary forces.The attacks could also be linked to the rumour that Thai border forces provided support for last week's attacks by the Shan State Army on Burmese and UWSA forces opposite Chiang Mai's Wiang Haeng and Chiang Dao districts, the army chief said.

    Gen Surayud said the army had never made an assault across the border. This would be an act of aggression against Burma.The army chief had instructed border troops to follow ``rules of border engagement'', whenever there was fighting at the border area.

    ``We have to closely follow these rules,'' he said. ``Our border forces will respond in accordance with the situation.''It was necessary to be realistic in dealing with the border situation since the fighting was in a remote area. ``It would be much too late if our border forces had to wait for orders from their more senior commanders.``They can react and counter swiftly if there is intentional provocation.''Gen Surayud indicated he disagreed with Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's order to cut short a military exercise along the border last week.

    The Surasi 143 military exercise was 80% completed when Gen Chavalit issued the order, he said. The army pulled back the troops as ordered but would conduct new exercises when needed.``We had to conduct our exercises. We cannot stop exercising just because it may upset some countries,'' said Gen Surayud, apparently referring to Burma.

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    Burma Won't Issue Visas For Official Thai Visits

    Rangoon, (AP)--Burma won't issue visas for any official delegations from Thailand until its government agrees to hold a "serious discussion" on issues causing tension along their border, a military intelligence official said Tuesday.

    The surprise move flies in the face of assurances from Thai officials, including Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, that bilateral relations were on the mend.

    Friction between the two countries flared up on May 20, when Burma accused the Thai military of firing artillery into its territory in support of attacks by antigovernment Shan ethnic rebels on Burmese army outposts.

    Last week, Myanmar closed its four main border checkpoints with Thailand through which much traffic takes place. The announcement came the same day that Thaksin said he was ordering Thai military forces to withdraw from border areas to ease tension.

    "We have tolerated the un-neighborliness of Thailand for a long time but our period of tolerance is over," deputy military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Kyaw Win told reporters Tuesday at a press briefing in the capital, Rangoon. "We have to have serious discussion to prevent recurrence of border problems."

    "Until we can resolve the border problems, we will not issue visas to any official delegation from Thailand or send any Myanmar delegation to Thailand," he said.

    He added that individuals such as tourists and businessman would still be issued visas.

    Asked what other actions might be taken against Thailand, Kyaw Win said, "Our military is always alert but military means will be the last resort."

    In Bangkok, Thai government spokesman Yongyuth Tiyapairath told The Associated Press that Burma's move was the result of a "misunderstanding."

    He said the Thai Foreign Ministry had been ordered to give an official explanation of the events on May 20 to Burma's government, and that communication between the two countries would soon put an end to their dispute.

    Thai army spokesmen have said the Thai army fired "warning shots" into Burma after stray shells from fighting there landed in Thai territory, but denied supporting the rebels.

    Thailand's tolerance of Burma ethnic rebels is a long-standing issue of contention between the two countries. Burma frequently alleges that the Thai military actively aids the rebels in their activities, a charge denied by Bangkok.

    Thailand, in turn, often complains that Burma's military government turns a blind eye to the production and trafficking of illegal drugs by some ethnic minorities, especially the well-armed United Wa State Army.

    Bangkok blames the Wa for the massive influx of methamphetamine into Thailand, causing serious social problems. One account of the May 20 fighting said it involved Thai attacks on bases controlled by Wa guerrillas.

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