Daily News- November 07 - 2002- Thursday

  • Be patient over democratic reforms in Myanmar: Malaysian PM
  • Student Sentenced to Jail for Protest
  • Isoc says 700m pills expected from Burma
  • USAID Seeks Medical Help for Burma

  • Be patient over democratic reforms in Myanmar: Malaysian PM

    KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 (AFP) - Progress is being made towards democratic reforms in Myanmar but they will take time and the world needs to be patient, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Thursday.

    "The Myanmar government is taking steps to release prisoners etcera, so to me that is progress," he told a news conference.Mahathir also pointed to meetings between democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of the military government as a good sign, although "it's not being publicised."

    Asked if the ruling generals were genuine in their promises to introduce democratic reform, Mahathir said: "I think eventually they will. It takes a little bit of time, we have to be patient."

    The United Nations special envoy to Myanmar is a Malaysian, Razali Ismail, and he is to visit the country again next week on his ninth mission to promote reforms.Razali described his last visit to Myanmar in August, where he again met with the ruling generals and opposition leaders including Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, as "productive".

    Razali, who was appointed two years ago as the personal representative of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, is credited with brokering landmark secret talks between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi which began in October 2000.They have so far led to Aung San Suu Kyi's release in May after 19 months of house arrest, but are yet to progress beyond an initial confidence-building stage and in recent months are seen as having completely stalled. However, since her release the charismatic leader has been permitted to make a number of political visits outside the capital, drawing huge crowds of supporters.Razali's last trip to Myanmar was aimed at establishing when the two sides will begin a fully fledged political dialogue and the new visit is likely to be focused on the same issue.

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    Student Sentenced to Jail for Protest

    AYE AYE WIN-Associated Press

    YANGON, Myanmar - A law student who staged a solo protest to demand the release of political prisoners in Myanmar was sentenced to 14 years in jail under emergency laws imposed by the military government, lawyers said.

    The verdict was passed Tuesday, a week after United Nations human rights envoy Paulo Pinheiro ended a 12-day tour of the country by severely criticizing the junta for holding political prisoners. He demanded their immediate and unconditional release.

    Thet Naung Soe, a final-year law student from Yangon, was tried in a special court at the Insein prison where he is being held, the officials said. He was sentenced to two seven-year terms on two separate charges, said a lawyer who did not wish to be named.

    He said Thet Naung Soe was charged under the all-encompassing emergency laws that can be used to suppress any allegedly political or economic crime.

    Myanmar's military government strictly controls the judiciary and the media, and trials of political dissidents are held behind closed doors. Verdicts are almost never made public.

    Thet Naung Soe was arrested on Aug. 18 for protesting in front of Yangon City Hall by holding a red flag on which was printed a fighting peacock, a symbol of the National League for Democracy party of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    He was among the 17 political prisoners met by Pinheiro inside Insein prison during his visit last month.

    The NLD has been leading a pro-democracy campaign since 1988 when the current group of generals came to power after a bloody crackdown. The junta called elections in 1990 but refused to hand over power to the victorious NLD.

    Another law student, Khin Maung Win, who was arrested the same day as Thet Naung Soe for distributing anti-government leaflets in the university campus is currently facing trial at Insein prison and will be charged soon, the lawyer said.According to Pinheiro, there are 1,200 to 1,300 political prisoners in the country.

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    Isoc says 700m pills expected from Burma

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    The Internal Security Operations Command has predicted that as many as 700 million methamphetamine pills will flood across the Burmese border next year.

    Drug-producing groups in Burma, including the Wa, had set a combined production target that represented a 30% increase over current inflows, said Gen Pallop Pinmanee, Isoc deputy director. About 500 million speed pills were smuggled into the country last year, he said.

    Similar figures were expected this year, with only 120 million pills having been intercepted by authorities. Meanwhile, the Narcotics Control Board sounded a warning over a rise in the popularity of the party drug ecstasy, especially among teenagers in Bangkok.

    Wa drug gangs had hired two Dutch chemists to assist in the production of ecstasy along the Burmese border, while pills were also trafficked from labs in Indonesia, said Chartchai Suthiklom, ONCB deputy secretary-general.

    A total of 120,000 ecstasy pills had been seized this year, marking a significant increase over previous years.

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    USAID Seeks Medical Help for Burma

    Source : Far Eastern Economic Review

    Burma may soon be getting its first assistance from the United States since the current military leaders seized power in 1988 after suppressing a pro-democracy uprising.

    The U.S. Agency for International Development has asked Congress for $1 million to fund HIV/Aids education programmes through non-governmental organizations during the fiscal year that began on October 1, according to a U.S. State Department official.

    This figure is expected to rise to $3.5 million next year and $10 million the year after, adds the official, who insists that none of these funds will benefit the military government. Washington also provides $6.5 million a year for democracy and leadership training among Burmese refugees in Thailand.

    Analysts assume the aid request will be approved because Congress has been pushing for an HIV/Aids programme in Burma.

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