Daily News- November 14- 2002- Thursday

  • Razali Likely to Meet Sr-Gen Than Shwe
  • Thai Dusit Group set to take over Inya Lake hotel in Rangoon
  • Myanmar junta leader, UN envoy holds talks critical to reform hopes
  • Aung San Suu Kyi greeted by supporters on visit to restive Shan state

  • Razali Likely to Meet Sr-Gen Than Shwe

    By Aung Zaw
    The Irrawaddy

    November 13, 2002-It is likely that the UN special envoy to Burma Razali Ismail’s request to meet Sr-Gen Than Shwe, the head of Burma’s military government, will be granted, say well-informed sources and opposition leaders in Rangoon. Razali has already met once with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during this trip, which began yesterday and marks his ninth mission to Burma since taking the envoy post in June 2000.

    On previous trips, Razali has met with high-ranking junta officials, including Gen Khin Nyunt, Sec-1 of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Before leaving for Burma, Razali told the Kuala Lumpur-based online newspaper malaysiakini that a request had already been made to meet with Than Shwe.

    "I'd like to see the highest people in the government if possible, that is Senior- General Than Shwe. A request has been made [to meet with him]," Razali said during last week’s interview.

    Analysts now believe that Than Shwe is the one who will make any final decisions on whether the government enters into a dialogue with the opposition, and is also the key to any type of power sharing agreement. Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, who met Than Shwe during last week’s Asean Summit in Phnom Penh, urged the senior-general to meet with Razali this week and hear him out.

    Just before leaving for Rangoon, Razali expressed his frustration and disappointment at the slow pace of reconciliation and dialogue. In the interview with malaysiakini, Razali said: "I am hoping to get the momentum moving again, and I want to understand why it has slowed down. I want to get the wheels moving as agreed to by all parties before."

    He also hinted that he might resign if a dialogue did not materialize soon. However, a reliable source in Rangoon noted that Razali has shown no trace of frustration since arriving yesterday, and that he seemed happy with the arrangements of his current trip.

    According to National League for Democracy sources in Rangoon, Razali might hold a second meeting with Suu Kyi in Burma’s Shan State before leaving on Saturday. However, the meeting in the Shan State capital of Taunggyi is still reportedly in limbo, as Razali needs special government permission to travel. Observers say, however, that if Razali does meet with Than Shwe, he will almost certainly hold a second meeting with Suu Kyi, who left for Shan State today.

    Until now, Burma watchers have seen Gen Khin Nyunt as the prime mover in the national reconciliation process. But they say Razali’s request to meet with Than Shwe, clearly shows confusion and a possible change in the power structure among the top leaders.

    "Than Shwe is effectively keeping Maung Aye and Khin Nyunt at bay," said a senior journalist in Rangoon. Deputy Sr-Gen Maung Aye, number two in the SPDC, is the army’s commander in chief. Observers say that despite Than Shwe being chairman of the SPDC, his real power lies in his position as commander in chief of defense services, giving him control over the army, navy and air force.

    Analysts say that some regional commanders and officials in the army who are closely associated with Than Shwe are now more powerful than the high ranking officials of the SPDC. With their support, sources say Than Shwe is believed to be holding back the dialogue process.

    The influence of regional commanders in the dialogue process must not be underestimated, say sources in Burma. Who add that this meeting with Than Shwe does not mean a breakthrough is imminent, due to the many contentious factors that remain, including a possible general amnesty for soldiers and officers.

    To The Top

    Thai Dusit Group set to take over Inya Lake hotel in Rangoon

    Choosak Jirasakunthai

    Thailand's leading hotel group, Dusit Hotels and Resorts, is taking over the management of a luxury property in Burma, the Inya Lake Hotel in Rangoon.The takeover will occur not later than December 15, Dusit said.

    Inya Lake will be Dusit's fifth overseas property, said Rachel Charusila, group director of marketing and services. It already operates the Dusit Dubai and another property in Burma.The Russian-built hotel, which opened in 1962, is regarded as one of the most luxurious in the Burmese capital.

    It is currently owned by the government and Hong Kong- based Pioneer Global Group, Charusila said.The hotel has been managed by American chain Renaissance Marriott for seven years, she said.

    Boasting 211 rooms, Inya Lake Hotel is renowned for the natural beauty of its setting. It occupies 12 landscaped hectares on the shore of Inya Lake, 15 minutes drive from the airport and the central business district.

    Dusit will add new resort facilities, products and services, such as a spa, food and beverage outlets, and banquet and meeting rooms. It also plans to make more use of the lake, with new services such as sunset dinners, cruises and pedal boats.Dusit also operates hotels in Indonesia and the Philippines.

    Meanwhile, Austria's Lauda Airlines has become the first European carrier to offer direct flights from Vienna to the Burmese capital.Thailand's privately run Phuket Airlines also plans to begin flights to two tourism destinations in Burma, Bagan and Mandalay. Thai Airways International has signed a code- sharing agreement with Phuket Airlines for the service to Burma.

    To The Top

    Myanmar junta leader, UN envoy holds talks critical to reform hopes

    YANGON, Nov 14 (AFP) - UN envoy Razali Ismail met with Myanmar's leader Senior General Than Shwe Thursday in talks critical to the diplomat's efforts to revitalise a stalled reconciliation process, officials said.

    Razali, who warned recently he would quit if the junta failed to make progress on democratic reforms, had planned to confront Than Shwe over a broken promise to begin a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    But in an indication that little was achieved, the meeting which was also attended by junta number-two Deputy Senior General Maung Aye and number-three General Khin Nyunt lasted just 15 minutes, official sources said.

    "It can't be particularly good. You'd have thought that if they went to the lengths of committing to the meeting then it would have been half an hour or so at least," said one Yangon-based diplomat."Fifteen minutes is not much... it's not usual," he said.

    Razali was tight-lipped after the meeting, saying only that he had cancelled a visit to northeastern Shan state planned for Friday where he was scheduled to see National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    But he told ethnic party leaders later that he had urged Than Shwe to hasten the release of political prisoners which began at the beginning of 2001, and suggested 200 more be released by the end of the year.

    Shan NLD leader Khun Tun Oo also said Razali told them he proposed that an ongoing national convention aimed at drafting a new constitution be revived as a way of continuing the reform process.

    The NLD withdrew from the convention in 1995 after Aung San Suu Kyi declared it a sham. Most of its 700 members were handpicked by the military and routinely shut out proposals put forward by the pro-democracy minority.

    "We are all for the national convention, as long as it is representative and the NLD is part of it," Khun Tun Oo told AFP.

    Razali had indicated that the meeting with Than Shwe was the top priority during his ninth mission to Myanmar, which is aimed at breathing new life into the reconciliation process he brokered two years ago.

    Landmark contacts between the junta and the opposition have completed a confidence-building stage but since Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest in May a hoped-for political dialogue has failed to materialise.

    Razali told the Malaysiakini Internet news service that he wanted to convey international concern over "why since the lifting on the restrictions on Suu Kyi in May, a dialogue did not take place."

    Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) said earlier that the meeting between Razali and Than Shwe was crucial to the envoy's efforts to reignite the reform process."Mr. Razali asked us what our proposals are for when he meets this man Mr. Than Shwe. We told him we should start the dialogue right now," NLD spokesman U Lwin told AFP."The main thing is that he requests that dialogue will begin."

    To The Top

    Aung San Suu Kyi greeted by supporters on visit to restive Shan state

    YANGON, Nov 14 (AFP) - Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was greeted by thousands of supporters on a visit to Shan state Thursday as she exercised her newly won right to travel freely through the country, party officials said.

    National League for Democracy (NLD) spokesman U Lwin said the Nobel peace laureate would make an extensive tour of the restive state during the nine-day trip which began Wednesday."She is going to open four NLD offices there," he told AFP.

    The trip was meant to coincide with a separate visit to Shan state by United Nations envoy Razali Ismail, who is in the midst of a crucial five-day mission aimed at reviving Myanmar's stalled political reconciliation process.

    The pair were scheduled to meet Friday in the southern Shan capital of Taunggyi, giving them an opportunity to discuss the Malaysian diplomat's talks with junta leader Senior General Than Shwe.But in a sign that little was achieved, Thursday's meeting lasted just 15 minutes. Razali declined to comment on their progress but told reporters that he would not now be travelling to Shan state.

    Aung San Suu Kyi continued her tour of southern Shan state Thursday, stopping in several villages and towns where supporters lined roadways to meet and catch a glimpse of her, U Lwin said.She was due to spend the next few days in Taunggyi before proceeding north to the town of Lashio.

    Rainy weather and landslides may force the opposition leader to fly to Shan's northern regions instead of traveling overland as she usually does.

    Aung San Suu Kyi has made several political trips around the country since she was released in May from 19 months under house arrest with a guarantee that she would have complete freedom of movement.Her trips have gone off smoothly, although Yangon is informed of her movements in advance and dispatches a security detail for her "protection" wherever she goes.

    Shan state, where ethnic unrest and tensions with government forces have simmered for decades, has been in the spotlight recently with the release of a report alleging systematic sexual abuse of ethnic minority women there.However, Aung San Suu Kyi is not expected to look into the rights abuse claims during her trip, which will focus on building up the NLD which has suffered in recent years due to government repression.

    The military has ruled Myanmar for the past four decades, and refused to recognise a landslide election victory claimed by the NLD in 1990.

    To The Top