Daily News- November 18- 2002- Monday

  • Myanmar troops attack Shan rebels during Suu Kyi visit
  • UN Envoy Razali Ismail Brief meeting with Burmese SPDC Leaders fuels speculation
  • China, Burma Sign Contract on Building River-crossing Bridge
  • U.S City may revoke Burma law

  • Myanmar troops attack Shan rebels during Suu Kyi visit

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Nov 17 (AFP) - Ethnic Shan rebels said Sunday that Myanmar government troops had attacked one of their positions near the Thai border during a visit to their home state by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The three-pronged attack took place shortly before midnight Saturday on a Shan State Army (SSA) frontline position near the top of Mai Yom Mein hill which lies opposite Thailand's Chiang Mai province, they said.A close-range gun battle raged for 30 minutes before the Myanmar troops withdrew, said Shan spokeswoman Nam Khur Hsen, adding that there were no reports of casualties.

    Khur Hsen accused the Myanmar troops of mounting the attack to disrupt Aung San Suu Kyi's visit, and to draw Thai border forces' attention to the battle zone and away from drugs shipments heading into Thailand.

    "The fighting that broke between government troops and the SSA looks like an excuse to stop Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's visit to Shan State by showing the region is unsafe for her," she told AFP.

    National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi is in Shan State on a nine-day political tour.After being released from house arrest in May, she has been exercising her right to travel freely around the country by spending an extended period in the restive state, and opening several NLD party offices.

    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 visit, which will focus on building up the NLD which has suffered in recent years due to government repression.Although the junta has not interfered in her recent trips around the country, it is informed of her movements in advance and dispatches a security detail for her "protection" wherever she goes.

    "Aung San Suu Kyi is not the enemy, she will never be harmed by SSA troops, " the ethnic army said in a statement.The SSA is one of the few militias still fighting Yangon's rule. Dozens of other groups have signed ceasefire pacts with the military government in return for a degree of autonomy.Myanmar's junta and the SSA routinely trade allegations that each other is involved in the drugs trade which sees vast amounts of heroin and methamphetamines trafficked into Thailand.

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    UN Envoy Razali Ismail Brief meeting with Burmese SPDC Leaders fuels speculation

    source : Asia Tribune

    It has been learned that the UN special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, met with Gen Than Shwe, chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) on the morning of 14 November. SPDC Secretary-1 Gen Khin Nyunt and Vice Sr Gen Maung Aye were also present at the meeting. The meeting lasted for only 20 minutes. Razali did not reveal what they discussed at the meeting.

    The Rangoon diplomatic circles speculated that it is not a good sign for the country to have a meeting lasting just only 20 minutes in , Razali Ismail’s important itinerary. A diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, said that such a meeting should have at least taken about one or one-and-a-half hours and but he speculated that an unfavorable situation must have prompted the meeting to conclude within minutes.

    After his meeting with the top SPDC leaders, Razali met with leaders of the United Nationalities Alliance, UNA, in the afternoon. To find out more about this meeting, Ko Moe Aye of the Democratic Voice of Burma [DVB] interviewed Salai Lian Phone, chairman of the Chin National League for Democracy of the UNA group.

    The first question Ko Moe Aye asked over the telephone was about the attendees at the meeting on November 14 the morning.

    Salai Lian Phone: Shan, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, and all others, including Rakhine, attended as observers. Also Razali brought two visitors along with him. One of them is from the Japanese embassy.

    Question: We learned that Razali first met with the SPDC leaders and then with the leaders of the Nationalities [UNA]. Did he tell you about his meeting with the SPDC leaders?

    Salai Lian Phone : Yes, he did. He said when he met with Sr Gen Than Shwe, they talked about the National Convention and related matters. I said, this is impossible.

    Question: Does Razali mean that the SPDC chairman wants to reconvene the National Convention?

    Salai Lian Phone : I guess so. If they had discussed the reconvening of the National Convention, the same process could not be used again. Without having a proper dialogue, the National Convention could not be held the way the Panlong Conference was held.

    Question : What did Razali say when you explained this to him?

    Salai Lian Phone : He said he expects some significant changes will take place within one or two months.

    Question : What kind of significant changes did he mention?

    Salai Lian Phone : He did not specify what kind of changes, but he said he expects significant changes around January.

    Question: As far as we know, before heading to Burma, Razali said that if there were no significant changes, he would resign from his duties. You may have also heard this. Regarding this, did he say anything to you?

    Salai Lian Phone : Yes, he also said this to us. He said he came here [Burma] with the thought of quitting his job at the end of the year, but he also said he will be able to do something significant.

    Question: In his [Razali's] earlier speech, he said that the SPDC wanted to reconvene the National Convention. What is the UNA's opinion on this matter?

    Salai Lian Phone : As for us, we think the National Convention should not be reconvened at all. However, one national convention should be held. In the previous National Convention, it included representatives of the laborers and peasants and the military. They should not be included in the [future] national convention. The (future) national convention should only include national ethnic groups just like they were included in the Panlong Conference, which was led by Gen Aung San, to form a union. Government employees should not be included (in the future national convention).As you know, the National League for Democracy (NLD) quit the National Convention. If the National Convention is to be reconvened, a dialogue meeting and a decision on who should attend the National Convention must be made first. If it was done this way, it would be a very good plan for the benefit of all nationalities and the union.

    Question : Regarding today's meeting with Razali, what is the opinion of the leaders of the parties in the UNA. Are they satisfied with the meeting?

    Salai Lian Phone : Well, he has visited here several times and we met him quite a few times. However, there have not been many changes politically. We hope and pray to see some political changes because before coming here this time, he said that he would resign at the end of the year if there were no changes.We met him six or seven times in the past years but there was not much improvement in the situation. There are still many political prisoners who are not released yet. In our ethic groups, there are two Mon groups. U Nai Wai Thein from one of the groups is facing difficulties in a prison. We mentioned this to Pinheiro and Razali...

    Question: What if there is no significant change and Razali quits in December as he said?

    Salai Lian Phone : Well, it is his own wish. We cannot tell him to stay or to quit.

    Question: What will be the impact on Burma's democratic affairs if Razali resigns?

    Salai Lian Phone : Well, I believe in the mass. The people also understand that the country is down and out in many areas today, but they will not allow to continue.After the meeting with the UNA leaders, Razali went to the NLD headquarters to meet with party leaders again. To find out about this meeting in detail, Ko Moe Aye of the DVB interviewed NLD spokesman U Lwin.

    Question: We have learned that Razali met with NLD leaders again.

    U Lwin : That is right. He hastily came to greet us and said he had discussions with the ethnic leaders. Generally, he said that he had a 20-minute discussion with Sr Gen Than Shwe and that he had reported whatever he had to report [to Sr Gen Than Shwe] and that Sr Gen Than Shwe told him that he was doing his best for the betterment of the country. He greeted us and left after telling that.

    Question: So, Razali did not give a detailed explanation on his meeting with the SPDC chairman.

    U Lwin : Since the discussion took only 20 minutes, this is what he said.

    Question: Do you have any plan to meet with Razali again?

    U Lwin : No. He has an appointment to have a lunch in Rangoon tomorrow. After the lunch, he said, if he has time, he will travel [to Shan State] to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Since there is not enough time, I think he will not be able to meet with her.

    Question: Regarding the second meeting today, Razali had nothing special to say but only to greet. Is it correct?

    U Lwin : Yes. He came just to greet us only. I mentioned to you just now, what he said in general. The facts are well known. What we told him was that we wanted to hold talks on any subject at any time, and to start the talks as soon as possible. That is all he has to say [to the SPDC].

    Question: Did he convey any message from the SPDC chairman?

    U Lwin : He may have things to say but he said only one line and that is: He is speeding up and is doing his best for the good of the country.

    Question: So in this trip, Razali met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, SPDC Chairman Sr Gen Than Shwe, the NLD leaders, and the ethnic leaders. How would you round this up?

    U Lwin : To round up, he is the only person who will be able to see everything. We know only our part. We do not know the part about his separate visit to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at her house. We were not free on that day. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was also not free on that day, and she left for Taunggyi the next morning. We have not met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi since then.

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    China, Burma Sign Contract on Building River-crossing Bridge

    Source : China People's Daily

    The China CAMC Engineering Co. Ltd and the Public Works (PW) under the Myanmar Ministry of Construction signed a contract Monday in Rangoon on building Burma's Mandalay Ayeyawady River Bridge (Yadanabon) by the Chinese company.

    On behalf of the respective sides, President of the Chinese company Luo Yan and PW Managing Director U Nay Soe Naing signed the document.

    Present at the signing ceremony were Chinese Ambassador to Burma Li Jinjun, Economic and Commercial Counselor Jin Honggen and Burmese Minister of Construction Major-General Saw Tun.

    The four-lane river-crossing highway bridge will be located on the Ayeyawady River in Mandalay in the central part of the country,with its main bridge extending 1,126 meters and its largest span being 224 meters.

    Under the contract, the Chinese side will be responsible for the bridge's design, equipment supply and technical supervision, while the Burma side for the civil construction. The building ofthe bridge is set to complete in two and a half years.

    The bridge is an important transport construction project of Burma crossing the country's Ayeyawady river and standing as an important link connecting Mandalay and Sagaing areas.

    On completion, the bridge will promote Burma's socio-economicdevelopment and will become a symbolic construction building of Mandalay with shining beauty added to the second largest city of the country.

    The project is the sixth major one of its kind contracted by the Chinese company since it entered the Burma market in 1995. Before this, it had built and completed five major bridges for thecountry, namely the Myitkyina bridge (Bala Mintin), Maubin bridge,Nyaungdon bridge (Bo Myat Tun), Ayeyawady bridge (Magway) and Ayeyawady bridge (Dedaye).

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    U.S City may revoke Burma law

    Source : www.dailycamera.com.

    Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court denied the authority of cities to issue sanctions against Burma, Boulder plans to revoke its unenforceable law.

    That doesn't mean the city will stay silent about its view of the notoriously repressive government in the Asian nation formerly known as Burma.

    Boulder's defunct law, passed in 1996, barred the city from buying goods or property from anyone doing business in Burma, a country controlled over the past four decades by a military junta with an abysmal human rights reputation.

    The Supreme Court, ruling in 2000 on a lawsuit challenging a Burma boycott law in Massachusetts, said such actions are matters for the federal government. After two years in which cities and research groups looked for ways around the ruling, Boulder is giving up.

    The City Attorney's Office is asking the City Council to void the local rule and then pass a resolution asking federal elected officials to turn up the heat on Burma's government.

    A copy of the resolution is on the council's agenda for discussion on Tuesday.

    "What it says is that this government is a bunch of thugs," said Deputy City Attorney Jerry Gordon.

    While the council has recently been reluctant to pass some "foreign policy" proclamations — on Oct. 1, it declined to condemn war with Iraq in an official city letter — Boulder has some close ties to the issue of human rights in Burma.

    Inge Sargent, a Boulder resident, wrote a book about being married to Sao Kya Seng, a Colorado School of Mines-educated Burmese prince. She lived in Burma, as it was then called, between 1953 and 1964, spending the last two years under military house arrest with her two daughters after her husband was executed by the government, Sargent said.

    Today, Sargent regularly speaks about her experiences and the ongoing plight of Burma's non-Burmese ethnic minorities. She runs Burma Lifeline, an organization that tries to help refugees from Burma settle in northern Thailand.

    Human rights groups and the United Nations have accused the military government of persecuting minority groups, using systematic rape and murder as "ethnic cleansing" tools, frequently using forced labor, manufacturing and exporting drugs, and refusing to recognize the elections that would have given the nation's leadership to Aung San Suu Kyi, a dissident who was under house arrest until this fall.

    Sargent said it would be appropriate for Boulder to replace a boycott it can't enforce with a stern resolution.

    "The people here should not forget the reason we had for the Burma law in the first place — to let people know what is happening," she said. She urged people to boycott Burma goods on their own.

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