Daily News- November 17- 2002- Sunday

  • U.N. envoy vows to soldier on with Burma mission
  • Burma embassy Letter bomb not from al-Qaeda
  • Thailand Egat wants China, Burma to join in huge power project
  • Myanmar junta insists it is serious about democratic reforms

  • U.N. envoy vows to soldier on with Burma mission

    RANGOON/KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters)- - A United Nations envoy ended a visit to Burma on Saturday saying he will soldier on with his mission to encourage reconciliation despite the ruling junta's failure to open talks with the opposition.

    Razali Ismail, a veteran Malaysian diplomat, said in Rangoon earlier in the day he was considering quitting, following his ninth visit to the impoverished South East Asian country.

    But by the time he got back to Kuala Lumpur Razali said he had decided to stay on, despite an absence of dialogue in Burma.

    "You can't quit when the job is not quite done," he told reporters at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

    "I've considered, but for the time being of course not," he said, when asked if he was thinking about giving up the job he has held for the past two and a half years.

    But he said he was disappointed about the lack of concrete results.

    During his five days in Burma, Razali held talks with the junta's top leaders and Nobel peace laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but his frustration with the lack of progress was evident.

    The generals have promised a transition to democracy, but they have held no substantive talks with the opposition.

    "The dialogue has not begun. Since the release of Aung San Suu Kyi there had been discussion at a lower level but it was not tantamount to a dialogue," said Razali, who believed in August he had a commitment from the junta to open talks.

    Razali said he could return to Burma in January. He said had asked the junta to release about 200 political prisoners before then.

    He also said he had proposed that a National Convention, which has met intermittently for nearly 10 years to draw up a constitution, should be reconvened. He said his suggestion was being considered by the government.


    Razali met junta chief Senior General Than Shwe on Thursday to urge him to start talks on democratic reform with 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".

    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.

    Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 1990 elections by a landslide but was denied power by the military.

    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.

    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.

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    Burma embassy Letter bomb not from al-Qaeda

    Source : The Philippine Star

    Joint regional intelligence authorities yesterday dissociated the al-Qaeda terror network from the letter bomb which was delivered to and defused at the Burmese Embassy in Makati City Friday.

    Sources told The STAR that the letter bomb that was delivered and subsequently defused by the Makati City police bomb experts at the embassy last Friday was among the letter bombs sent by Burmese rebels to the Burma’s embassies abroad.

    "No, neither al Qaeda nor the Jemayah Islamiya had anything to do with the letter bomb delivered by the Burmese rebels to the Myanmar Embassy in Makati City," foreign and local sources said.

    Instead, sources claimed that the letter bomb originated from the Karen rebel movement which has long been fighting the Burmese military government.

    Bearing a Thai postmark, the letter bomb delivered to the embassy in Makati City was the same type of bomb the rebels previously sent to their embassies in China, Malaysia, Japan and Singapore.

    "Pan-lima na itong sa Makati dahil may na-recover na rin sa mga embassies doon. Walang kinalaman dito and mga terrorist groups," sources told The STAR.

    Inside the envelope was an electronic greeting card that normally plays music. It was rigged with an extra battery to ignite a powerful blasting cap, which is normally used to detonate larger bombs.

    Burma’s military government in Rangoon earlier blamed anti-government groups based in Thailand for mailing letter bombs to embassies last month.

    The letters sent to Tokyo and Singapore contained bombs, said Lt. Col. Nyan Lin, a senior intelligence officer, and the letter to Kuala Lumpur carried a message about pro-democracy demonstrations that shook Burma in 1988.

    The protests were violently quashed by the military, which set up a junta that still rules the country.

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    Thailand Egat wants China, Burma to join in huge power project

    Source : The Nation Star

    The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) will invite the governments of China and Burma to jointly develop a multibillion-dollar hydroelectric scheme on the Salween River in Tak province.

    Higher profit margins from the low-cost electricity generated by the Salween scheme and extending the life of existing power stations will enable Egat to save US$1.75 billion (Bt76 billion) over the next 15 years. It also means that the company will not have to build greenfield plants or buy electricity from private producers.

    Egat governor Sitthiporn Ratanopas said he would again raise the issue of the Salween project with high-ranking Burmese energy officials during his trip to Rangoon next Thursday and Friday. While Egat is prepared to finance the whole project at an estimated cost of $5.5 billion, it would welcome a partnership with the governments of China and Burma.

    "The total amount of water in Burma's Salween River is twice that in Bhumipol Dam, so a dam built across it could produce a lot of electricity at much lower cost. Cost per kilowatt-hour of power generated from the Salween project would be $0.02, or half what we currently pay for electricity from the Nam Tuen project in Laos," he said.

    Egat will acquire all output from the 5,000-megawatt power plant as there is no demand for electricity on the Burmese side of the river. The scheme will be built along the border in the Mae Sareng district of Thailand's Tak province.

    "The project would be totally owned by the governments of Thailand, Burma and possibly China with no investment from the private sector," Sittiporn added.

    Egat is considering a public issue of five-year debentures in two tranches to finance the project in addition to the Bt20 billion in cash it currently holds. The board yesterday agreed in principle to the proposal, and it will now be considered at the government level.

    The Egat board also approved the extension of the life span of 10 retired power stations in Rayong, Bangpakong and Bangkok with a combined capacity of 2,8000MW. The move is expected to save Egat at least $203 million over the next 15 years.

    Through renovating and reconditioning existing power plants, Egat will save 30 per cent on the cost of building completely new facilities. For example, the cost of developing a new gas turbine is $400,000 compared to only $120,000 to recondition an old one, Sittiporn said.

    With the renovation of retired power stations, Egat will not need to expand its production capacity again until 2009. The assumption is based on existing power development analysis that forecasts Thailand's electricity demand will grow 6.3 per cent over the next 10 years to a maximum 16,661MWs.

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    Myanmar junta insists it is serious about democratic reforms

    YANGON, Nov 17 (AFP) - Myanmar's junta has insisted it is serious about introducing democratic reforms, after UN envoy Razali Ismail said his latest mission here to advance the process had made little headway.

    Razali said Saturday after wrapping up a five-day visit to Myanmar that he was disappointed with the slow progress in reviving a dialogue between the military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).

    But a government spokesman told the Myanmar Times that the regime's number-three, military intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt, had assured Razali of "Myanmar's earnestness on political evolution".

    "We feel as though the process is moving forward," he told the semi-official weekly in its edition to be published Monday."Such movement can only occur at a pace with which we are comfortable," he said, adding it "was simply not true that the talks have stalled."Much has been achieved already this year and people have to understand the process may be slow because it is complicated."

    Contacts brokered by Razali between the junta and the opposition have completed a confidence-building stage, but since Suu Kyi's release from house arrest in May a hoped-for political dialogue has failed to materialise.

    The envoy said that although low-level discussions were being held between the ruling generals and the NLD, this was not tantamount to a dialogue.

    "I am always disappointed where there are no full results but that's the nature of my mission," the Malaysian diplomat told reporters on his return to Kuala Lumpur.

    "I can't expect good results all the time. I now understand how complicated the issues are. Nevertheless, the UN will keep on insisting that the reconciliation process must continue.

    Political analysts in Myanmar were divided over Razali's support for the convention process, with some saying it played into the government's hands while others argued it had some merit within strict guidelines.

    Khun Tun Oo of the Shan NLD, an ethnic minority party, said he would support the proposal as long as the convention was made more representative and became a political platform where all opinions could be expressed freely.

    Analysts were now focusing on a speech by Myanmar's leader Senior General Than Shwe scheduled for Monday, to the annual national conference of the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA).The USDA, officially a social organisation with some 19 million members, has been conceived by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) as a political powerbase which it could use in any transition to democracy.

    Its annual conference has been postponed for six months, leading to speculation that the SPDC is keen to use the occasion to announce the next step in its reform plans.

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