Daily News- November 16- 2002- Saturday

  • Aung San Suu Kyi meets Shan state supporters
  • Protesters target BURMA guide firm
  • Protesters Stop by Burmese Embassy
  • U.N. envoy hopes Burma junta will release "substantial number" of political prisoners soon
  • U.N. envoy ends Burma trip, but mulls quitting post


  • Aung San Suu Kyi meets Shan state supporters

    YANGON, Nov 15 (AFP) - Myanmar pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi met hundreds of supporters Friday on a tour she was continuing through Shan state despite the cancellation of a trip there by a UN envoy visiting the country, a source in her party said.

    But diplomatic sources confirmed that while the UN's Razali Ismail had scrapped his visit to the state, his aides who accompanied him to Myanmar flew Friday from Yangon to the southern Shan capital of Taunggyi where Aung San Suu Kyi was engaged in political business.

    "The three went there this afternoon," a diplomatic source said of UN aides Hitoki Den and Damon Bristow, as well as Razali confidant Leon de Riedmatten of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.It was not immediately clear if the aides had met with the Nobel peace laureate after arriving in Shan state.

    Aung San Suu Kyi has been exercising her newly won right to travel freely in the country by spending an extended period in the restive state, where she is opening four offices of her National League for Democracy (NLD), the party said.She met some 500 supporters and party members in Taunggyi, where she helped erect signboards at the newest NLD office and warned them against seeking personal gain through politics.

    "Please do not join the party because you want privileges," the source quoted her as saying."Your actions should be in the interests of not just yourself but the majority of the people."

    "The Lady", as she is commonly known through much of the country, was due to spend several days in and around Taunggyi before eventually proceeding north to the town of Lashio.

    "In Shan state, the movement of the military is much heavier than in the rest of the country," NLD spokesman U Lwin said."It is an interesting place for her to visit and to start talking about democratisation."

    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.

    On Thursday Razali said he had scrapped his trip to Shan state after meeting with Myanmar's leader, Senior General Than Shwe, in talks critical to the diplomat's efforts to revitalise a stalled reconciliation process.

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    Protesters target BURMA guide firm

    By Jane Picken
    source :Ham and High

    TRAVEL guide publisher Lonely Planet came under fire when protesters staged a vigil outside the firmís Kentish Town offices calling for a tourist boycott of Burma.A Catholic priest and a Burmese monk were among the demonstrators who gathered in Spring Place last Friday to oppose publication of a new Lonely Planet guide to the country.

    The vigil was organised by Burma Campaign UK (BCUK), which has lobbied the publisher since 2000 for the withdrawal of guides to the country.Although Lonely Planet is renowned for producing ethical guides for responsible backpackers and independent travellers, BCUK has accused the firm of making "money out of misery" amid concern that tourism is helping to sustain Burmaís brutal military regime.

    According to BCUK, the Burmese government has forced thousands of civilians from their homes often at gunpoint to make way for hotels, golf courses and other tourist facilities.

    "Human rights abuses have come about as a direct result of tourism", claimed Yvette Mahon, director of BCUK."The Burmese government forced a vast number of slave labourers to prepare the country for tourism in 1996. So tourism development has already been tainted."

    Campaigners targeted Lonely Planet last week after it decided to publish an eighth edition of its Burma guide.

    Protester Father Dominic McKenna, from Our Lady Hal Church in Arlington Road,Camden Town, said: "By having the tourist book on the shelf you really are legitimising and promoting this regime."A lot of people have a lot of faith in Lonely Planet and thatís where Iím disappointed. I thought they were ethical and had an understanding of the situation in Burma."

    But Lonely Planet spokeswoman Maya Catsanis argued that tourism could be positive for the country."Travellers are still going to go to Burma, and we think it would be irresponsible of us not to give them information," she said."A tourist can have a positive impact. They can be an independent observer to what is happening there and increase awareness."

    Burmese monk, U Uttara, said the majority of money from travellers went straight into the governmentís pocket via a system of state-owned tourist facilities.He left his home country in 1992 after the Burmese government threatened to imprison him for his efforts to promote democracy.

    "The majority of tourists arenít interested in suffering and politics," he said."We have to support the people who want freedom and democracy and we will continue to tell people not go to Burma."

    Lonely Planet, refused to withdraw the new guide and insisted that it stood to make very little from the book.During the last 12 months the firm has sold only 8,000 guides to Burma, compared with 94,000 guides to Thailand.

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    Protesters Stop by Burmese Embassy

    By Naw Seng
    The Irrawaddy

    November 15, 2002-A group of French and foreign journalists demonstrated in front of the Burmese Embassy in Paris earlier this week, drawing attention to the countryís list of imprisoned writers as well as its zero tolerance attitude towards press freedoms.

    The event was organized by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and included demonstrations in front of four other Paris Embassies. China, Kazakhstan, Cuba and Russia were also targeted by the group for their draconian censorship laws and imprisonment of journalists.

    While in front of the Burmese Embassy, protesters taped signs on the Embassy gate reading: "When you enter here, you enter a country where news is censored." A small sign with the words "Prison de Win Tin" was also pasted on the Embassy placard, in reference to Burmese writer U Win Tin, who has been jailed in Burma for more than 13 years.

    RSF also held its annual "Sponsorship Day" yesterday, which encourages individuals from around the world to actively publicize the plight of a particular imprisoned writer.The group estimates that 110 journalists are behind bars-including 24 in Nepal, 16 in Burma, 11 in China and 10 in Iran. RSF just compiled its first press freedom index, citing North Korea, China and Burma as the worst violators of press freedoms and Finland, Iceland Norway and The Netherlands as the most tolerant.

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    U.N. envoy hopes Burma junta will release "substantial number" of political prisoners soon

    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP)- - A U.N. mediator voiced hopes Saturday that Burma's military government would release at least 200 political prisoners before the end of this year as a step toward restoring democracy.

    Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail returned from a five-day mission to Burma expressing resolve that "the reconciliation process must continue" between the military government and the opposition led by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    But Razali's visit ó his ninth to the country since being appointed the United Nations special envoy to Burma in April 2000 ó ended with little indication that he had made progress in persuading the government to start talks with the opposition.

    Razali said he had urged junta leaders to reconvene a national convention "in a manner acceptable to all parties" and to release "a very substantial number of political prisoners by the end of the year."

    "I'm talking in terms of 200 (prisoners) at one time," Razali told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. "I'm very hopeful that the government will take steps to release the prisoners."

    Prisoner releases are a major demand of Suu Kyi. Human rights groups say the junta holds more than 1,000 political prisoners and that dozens have died in detention.

    The current junta took power in 1988 and called elections in 1990. However, it refused to hand over power after Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won.

    Razali initiated a reconciliation process between the junta and Suu Kyi in October 2000. But after initial talks with Suu Kyi, who was released from 19 months of house arrest in May, the junta has given no sign that it wants to discuss substantive issues.

    While he admitted he was "always disappointed" when progress appeared to be slow, Razali stressed that he would not quit "for the time being."

    "The job is not done yet," he said. "You can't quit when the job is not quite done."

    In an interview with a Malaysian Internet news site last week, Razali voiced frustration at the pace of reconciliation, and hinted he might step down if there wasn't more progress.

    Razali said Saturday he hoped to make his next trip to Burma as early as January.

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    U.N. envoy ends Burma trip, but mulls quitting post

    Rangoon (Reuters)- - A top U.N. envoy ended a visit to Burma on Saturday saying he was considering quitting if the ruling military made no move to hold meaningful talks with Aung San Suu Kyi's democratic opposition.

    Razali Ismail, a veteran Malaysian diplomat, told Reuters he would make an official statement on his talks with the junta's top leaders and Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi on his return to the Malaysian capital.

    "I will make an official statement in Kuala Lumpur," he said at his hotel, before leaving for the airport.

    Ahead of his five-day visit, Razali said he might resign from his post as U.N. special envoy to Burma if there was no progress in the reconciliation process he helped broker two years ago.

    "I still have to consider. I haven't made a decision," he said on Saturday when asked if he would resign as he wrapped up his ninth mission to the impoverished Southeast Asian country.

    Razali met junta chief Senior General Than Shwe on Thursday to urge him to start talks on democratic reform with opposition leader Suu Kyi amid growing scepticism over the military's pledges to loosen its four-decade grip on power.

    The two other members of Burma's leadership triumvirate, powerful military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt and army chief Maung Aye, were also at the meeting, which Razali described afterwards as "very important".

    During the week he also met Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 1990 elections by a landslide but has been denied power by the military.

    Suu Kyi, who was released from 19-months under house arrest in May, left Rangoon on Wednesday for a visit to eastern Shan state to open several party offices.

    NO PRECONDITIONS

    She has made several government-sanctioned visits outside Rangoon to see supporters since her release, but analysts see the Shan state trip as a test of her new-found freedom of movement, given recent reports by human rights groups of army atrocities there, including the systematic rape of ethnic minority women.

    The junta has denied those reports.

    Ahead of Razali's meeting with Than Shwe, the NLD said the U.N. envoy's two previous meetings with the top general on earlier missions had been courtesy calls, but this time the meeting would be more serious.

    The NLD said it was ready for talks at any time.

    "We are ready to sit at the negotiating table anytime, anywhere without any preconditions," said NLD spokesman U Lwin.

    The generals have released more than 400 political prisoners, many from the NLD, from Burma's ramshackle prisons since late 2000.

    They have promised a transition to democracy, but diplomats say the generals have not talked to the NLD on political change or even on possible cooperation on humanitarian issues.

    Many analysts and diplomats believe the junta has no real intention of stepping down.

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