Daily News- November 13- 2002- Wednesday

  • Karenni rebels committed to armed struggle despite defection reports
  • Suu Kyi tests Burma junta's nerve with Shan trip
  • Aung San Suu Kyi's party asks UN envoy to push junta into dialogue
  • Burma newspaper hails China-ASEAN framework agreement on economic cooperation

  • Karenni rebels committed to armed struggle despite defection reports

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Nov 12 (AFP) - Karenni rebels vowed Tuesday to continue their armed resistance against the Myanmar junta despite a report that 153 of their comrades had surrendered to the regime.

    Myanmar's official press said this week that a contingent from the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), including two senior commanders, turned themselves in at a ceremony Saturday in Loikaw, the state capital of Kayah.But KNPP officials on the Thai border disputed Yangon's claims that their comrades had defected from the ethnic militia which has resisted central rule for decades.

    "We still believe our people were forced to surrender by the SPDC (the ruling State Peace and Development Council) when they were in Loikaw for peace talks," KNPP information officer Khu-U Rae told AFP by telephone.

    He said the group was on high alert following the announcement of the surrender and that rebel leaders were weighing their options.

    "The KNPP will continue to carry out its armed resistance movement with around 2,000 members," Khu-U Rae said.

    The group confirmed it sent a delegation led by senior commander Kari Htoo earlier this month to peace talks in Loikaw, but dismissed the number of reported defections as an exaggeration.

    It claimed instead that just 40 KNPP rebels were present at the ceremony, while the rest were civil administration officers from Karenni villages or villagers engaged in business with the junta.

    Khu-U Rae conceded there were rumours that a split had emerged within the group, with a minority supporting a peace deal with the junta.

    Other senior KNPP leaders, including the group's secretary general Raymond Htoo, were at a meeting on the remote Thai-Myanmar border Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

    Ethnic insurgencies have plagued border areas since Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948. By the end of the 1990s, the junta had signed ceasefire accords with 17 groups, leaving a handful still fighting Yangon's rule.Tens of thousands of villagers have been displaced as a result of the conflicts, with many of them living in refugee camps on the Thai side of the border.

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    Suu Kyi tests Burma junta's nerve with Shan trip

    Rangoon (Reuters)- - Burma's pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi left Rangoon for Shan State in the east of the country on Wednesday in a trip likely to test the military junta's nerve while a key U.N. envoy is visiting.

    Since the military released Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi from house arrest in May, she has been allowed to travel freely to visit members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in central Burma and Mon state.

    But a visit to Shan state is much more sensitive because of allegations by rights groups that the Burmese army carried out human rights abuses in the region, including forced conscription of child soldiers and systematic rape of Shan women and girls.

    NLD spokesman U Lwin told Reuters Suu Kyi would travel throughout Shan state, a region embroiled in armed conflict between ethnic minority separatist militias and the Burmese government.

    "She will cover the entire Shan State and we cannot say how long it will take," U Lwin said.

    Suu Kyi's trip coincides with a visit to Burma by U.N. special envoy Razali Ismail, who is trying to encourage the ruling generals to start talks with the NLD on political change.

    Razali, who said this week he would consider quitting if there was no progress, met Suu Kyi on Tuesday and has requested a meeting with the junta leader, Senior General Than Shwe.

    Burma's military has kept a tight grip on power for the last 40 years, ignoring results of 1990 elections that the NLD won by a landslide.

    Since entering into U.N.-brokered "national reconciliation" talks with Suu Kyi in late 2000, the junta has released more than 400 political prisoners and promised a transition to democracy.

    But many analysts and diplomats say the junta has no real intention of stepping down. They say the ruling generals took a calculated risk granting Suu Kyi freedom in the hope of breaking the country's political isolation and attracting trade and investment into a crumbling economy.

    Many Western countries, including the European Union and the United States, have imposed political and economic sanctions on the regime, accusing it of widespread human rights abuses and of being a drug-producing haven.

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    Aung San Suu Kyi's party asks UN envoy to push junta into dialogue

    Source : AFP

    Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party says it has urged visiting United Nations envoy Razali Ismail to convince Burma's junta to move ahead with a stalled political reconciliation process.

    "We urged him to try to get the dialogue to move forward and he said he would try his best," said National League for Democracy (NLD) party spokesman U Lwin.

    "He appears hopeful of making progress this time. As far as we are concerned we are prepared at any time to start a meaningful dialogue," he told reporters after the envoy met with party leaders.

    Razali arrived in Rangoon Tuesday on a five-day mission to revive the dialogue between the military government and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi which he initiated two years ago.

    In a recent interview, he warned the process was moving too slowly and that he could quit his position if the government continued to resist democratic reforms.

    The Malaysian diplomat met with Aung San Suu Kyi and military intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt on Tuesday, but so far a hoped-for meeting with the nation's leader Senior General Than Shwe has not been confirmed.

    Razali told the Malaysiakini Internet news service that he wanted to ask Than Shwe why the junta had reneged on a promise to kick off the dialogue soon after Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in May.

    "Senior General Than Shwe is the only one who can give answers to his questions. If he cannot do so, nobody else can," said U Lwin.

    Razali declined Wednesday to indicate how his mission was progressing, saying he was "still in the middle process of having my discussions so I'll not pass on anything at this point."

    Asked whether he expected the meeting with Than Shwe to go ahead, he said "I've asked to see him and I'm waiting for confirmation."

    Official sources said that the envoy and Aung San Suu Kyi were scheduled to meet again in Shan state on Thursday, where they are both travelling on separate visits.

    The opposition leader has made several political trips around the country since she was released from 19 months under house arrest. The latest trip to Shan state will run to the end of the week, sources said.

    Shan state has been in the spotlight recently with the release of a report that claimed the military was using systematic rape as a weapon of war against ethnic minority women there.

    However, Razali's visit is expected to be aimed more at including the ethnic nationalities in the fledgling political reconciliation process rather than looking at the rights abuse claims which fall outside his job description.

    Also present at the meeting at NLD headquarters Wednesday were representatives of ethnic political parties who will see Razali again Friday before he departs Rangoon.

    The envoy is scheduled to hold talks with Home Minister Tin Hlaing and junta figure Brigadier-General David Abel later Wednesday.

    Shan NLD party leader Khun Tun Oo said in an interview with the dissident Democratic Voice of Burma that there could be disastrous consequences if Razali resigned.

    "It would be a great loss to us if someone like him who is comfortable with all of us decided to abandon us," he said.

    "If the UN is not able to help, there would be no help from other quarters. I think that scenario could become an unimaginable nightmare."

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    Burma newspaper hails China-ASEAN framework agreement on economic cooperation

    Source : Xinhua News Agency

    Rangoon, Nov. 13 -- Burma's official newspaper The New Light Wednesday hailed the recent signing of the Framework Agreement on China-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Cooperation, saying that the agreement is a milestone for regional economic cooperation.

    The agreement, signed at the ASEAN+China Summit held in Phnom Penhon Nov. 4, aims to establish a free trade zone between China and countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)not later than 2020.

    The establishment of the China-ASEAN free trade zone is "an inevitable result of the development of the ever-closer economic relations between them," the paper said in an article. It is a great strategic decision to set up such zone with a view to strengthening the good neighborliness between the two sides, it added.

    The proposed free trade zone will cover 1.7 billion consumers, a combined gross domestic products of 2 trillion US dollars and 1.2 trillion dollars of trade volume, the paper said. It said that it will be the most populous free trade zone in the world and the largest one made by developing countries.

    Noting that Burma will also take part in the zone not later than 2015, the paper anticipated that the zone will render greaterassistance to the continued development of the country's national economy in the future.

    The paper said that the setting up of the free trade zone will lead to boosting the economic development of China and the ASEAN and widen the scope of bilateral trade between the countries, resulting in the enhancement in the whole region's competitive power.

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