Daily News- October 04- 2002- Friday

  • 'Sex Child' Was Ambassador's Domestic
  • US panel suggests action against 12 nations
  • Downer calls for thai govt to turn up heat
  • A NLD MP, Do Htaung's health condition
  • Court Decision Raises Questions on the Justice System
  • Amnesty Issues Warning
  • Lottery Woes Plague Capital
  • US dismayed at arrests in Burma

  • 'Sex Child' Was Ambassador's Domestic

    Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)
    October 4, 2002 -Posted to the web October 3, 2002
    Wisani Wa Ka Ngobeni

    Johannesburg - In a new twist to the Myanmar (formerly Burma) embassy child sex scandal, information has emerged that the 15-year-old Asian girl at the centre of the saga was brought into the country as a "domestic worker" for the Myanmar ambassador, U Tin Latt.

    At the same time it has emerged that diplomats from the Myanmar embassy in Pretoria may have flouted South Africa's protocol procedures in their attempt to get the girl returned to them by the police.

    Last week the Mail & Guardian reported that the South African police had launched a high-level probe into allegations of sex slavery and prostitution at the embassy after the girl informed them that she had been sexually and physically abused there.According to a police report the Pretoria district surgeon who examined the girl -- who Myanmar embassy officials this week described as "a private employee to the ambassador" -- found that she had been "sexually abused and possibly misused for the purpose of prostitution".

    This week the M&G obtained documents that show the girl was issued with a South African "courtesy visa" to work as a domestic worker for the ambassador.Also this week the Myanmar embassy wrote a lengthy letter to the M&G to put the alleged sexual abuse "in true perspectives".

    "The embassy has a staff of four males and two locals and no Asian girl working. The girl in question has not even set foot on the premises of the embassy since her arrival in the Republic of South Africa on 31 October 2001," the embassy wrote.The embassy, however, also confirmed that the girl worked as a domestic "helper" at the Myanmar ambassador's residence in Pretoria's plush suburb of Waterkloof.

    The embassy accused the M&G of publishing unsubstantiated allegations. It also claimed that it was unaware of a police investigation into the matter.Speaking to the M&G this week Hla Myint, minister counsellor at the embassy, said the girl in question was "a private employee for the ambassador". Asked why Myanmar embassy diplomats were involved in the ambassador's private matter, Myint said the embassy was not aware that the girl had informed police that she was sexually abused there until the matter was raised by the M&G.

    In its letter to the M&G the Myanmar embassy said the girl disappeared from the ambassador's residence on September 7 and was reported missing the same day at the Brooklyn police station. On September 18, the letter states, the embassy was informed that the girl had been found and kept at the Eersterust police station.

    "Some embassy staff went to the station to ascertain the girl's identity and, without being allowed to meet the girl, asked to present proof of her legal entry into RSA," the letter says.

    A protocol official at the Department of Foreign Affairs this week said the Myanmar diplomats appear to have breached diplomatic protocols by dealing and communicating directly with the South African police.

    When asked about this Myint was vague. He said his diplomats only formally communicated with the police after they demanded proof of the girl's legal entry into the country.The Department of Foreign Affairs was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

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    US panel suggests action against 12 nations

    The Hindustantimes

    A US Government advisory panel has recommended that the State Department designate 12 nations "countries of particular concern" because of their alleged violations of religious freedom, a move that could trigger sanctions against them.

    The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said the targeted nations should include Myanmar, North Korea, India, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

    The International Religious Freedom Act adopted in 1998 requires that countries found in particularly severe violations of religious freedom be considered by the US President for diplomatic or economic sanctions.

    "We hope to see actions commensurate with the severity of these abuses," said commission chairwoman Felice Gaer after sending the recommendations to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

    The State Department designated Myanmar, China, Iran, Iraq, and Sudan as "countries of particular concern" in 1999 and 2000 and added North Korea to the list in 2001.But so far, it has resisted doing the same with Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and Laos, despite the commission's recommendations.The panel is asking to add India, Pakistan and Vietnam to the list for the first time.

    Over the past year, the Chinese government has intensified its violent campaign of repression against Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and groups such as the Falungong that have been labeled as "evil cults," the commission said.It pointed out that the Indian government has tolerated severe violence against religious minorities.In 2002, at least 1,000 Muslims were killed and more than 100,000 forced to flee their homes as a result of violence by mobs in Gujarat state after 58 people were killed on a train in Godhra, according to the panel.

    A commission delegation that visited Vietnam last March found that religious dissidents remain under house arrest or are imprisoned in that country, including Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, who was detained after submitting testimony to the commission last year.

    The panels accused Pakistan of failing to adequately protect religious minorities from sectarian violence and upholding discriminatory religious legislation.

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    Downer calls for thai govt to turn up heat

    Achara Ashayagachat
    The Bangkokpost

    Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer yesterday urged the government to adopt a firm stance against the Burmese government, saying rigorous international pressure was key to improving human rights and bringing about national reconciliation in the country.

    Mr Downer made his remarks after signing an agreement on co-operation in the war against terrorism with Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

    His stopover in Bangkok followed a two-day trip to Rangoon, during which he held talks with State Peace and Development Council first secretary Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Mr Downer quoted Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt as saying he understood the link between political reforms and foreign investment in his country.``They told me they were committed [to reforms], but did not give a timeframe,'' he said.However, Ms Suu Kyi expressed doubt over the junta's intentions.

    ``I told her to be patient, and we will continue to argue over the pace of reforms,'' Mr Downer said.He said the recent release of some political prisoners by Rangoon was encouraging, but would require follow-up action.``This represents slow progress, and we look forward to further moves in the weeks ahead, not some time next year,'' he said.

    Mr Downer requested Burmese leaders allow NGO representatives and NLD members to take part in a human-rights workshop sponsored by Canberra.Ms Suu Kyi doubted the initiative would have any impact on living standards in Burma, he said.

    Meanwhile, Mr Surakiart said Mr Downer's approach was ``well-balanced and realistic.''``Issues like poverty have to be addressed along with problems related to a move toward democracy,'' he said.

    The Narcotics Control Board would seek support from relief agency Aust Aid for an opium-crop substitution programme in Burma, to be introduced by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation.

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    A NLD MP, Do Htaung's health condition

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 3 Oct 02

    "There are 18 MPs who are detained in prisons in Burma including Do Htaung who is in severe health condition", U Ohn Myint, vice chairman of NLD Humanitarian Assistance Committee told DVB.

    Do Htaung, 62, a NLD elected representative for Kale Township constituency - 1, Sagaing is suffering from hypertension, coronary arthrosclerosis and hearing impairment in Mandalay prison, he added. Do Htaung, a Chin Ethnic, was arrested in May 1996 and sentenced for long-term imprisonment.

    Most of the political prisoners including Dr. Zaw Min, Ko Win Naing (Kale), Ko Tin Myint (Mandalay), Ko Naing Myint (Rangoon), U Soe Thein, Ko Soe Min Naing are suffering from depression.

    U Tin Ngwe from Kale is suffering from hypertension, U Soe Aung from Mandalay is suffering from tuberculosis, Ko Myint Naing from Pegu is suffering from hearing impairment and Ko Tin Aye from Rangoon is suffering from arthritis, U Ohn Myint told DVB.

    Nilar Roma company banned

    DVB has learnt that Nilar Roma diesel, petrol and gasoline Company has been banned from running trade. The company is owned by U Aung Ko Win (a) Saya Kyaung, Chairman of Kanbawza Bank Ltd who has a good relationship with General Maung Aye.

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    Court Decision Raises Questions on the Justice System

    By Irrawaddy reporters
    The Irrawaddy

    October 03, 2002-As many expected, lawyers defending the high treason case of Ne Winís close relatives lodged an appeal yesterday.

    Last week, Aye Zaw Win and three of his sons were given death sentences as they were convicted of plotting to overthrow the military government known as the State Peace and Development Council [SPDC]. The trial lasted more than three months. But analysts and dissident lawyers say that the prosecution lacked key witnesses and hard evidence.

    B.K. Sen, an experienced lawyer now in exile, said Sandar Win was kept away during the whole trail period. Sandar Win, daughter of Ne Win and mother of three sons, is now under house. She is now with her father, Gen Ne Win at their compound.

    "Where is Sandar Win? If she is a mastermind [of the plot] or a key witness, she should come to the court and give her testimony." B.K. Sen commented.

    Initially, many analysts at home and abroad believed that Sandar was involved in the coup plot and was a key person in the scheme. But according to journalists and witnesses at the hearing, three of her sons were careful not to mention their motherís name during the testimony.

    This is not the first time Sandar was linked to such a risky pursuit. She was also accused of masterminding 1988 massacre during the democracy uprising. Her father, Gen Ne Win, formally stepped down as chairman of Burma Socialist Program Party [BSPP] during the uprising.

    Though there is no hard evidence to back up these accusations, Sandar, throughout the pre and post-Ne Win era, has remained a powerful figure in Burma. She and her family members controlled hotel and telecommunication businesses. Now, Sandar is not allowed to see her sons or her husband, Aye Zaw Win.

    Lawyers in Rangoon suggest that the government will not carry out death sentences, as the death penalty is no longer practiced in Burma. "It is very likely that their sentences will be commuted to life imprisonment," commented a lawyer in Rangoon.

    Still the case is incomplete, lamented B.K. Sen, who practiced law for many years in Rangoon. He said that the prosecution built a strong circumstantial case, based on letters and testimony given by former army officers who were believed to be consulted by Ne Winís grandsons.

    "It seems to me that justice has been done but this is not the case. More key witnesses including Sandar Win should be brought to the court for hearing." B.K. Sen said. B.K. Sen said that with or without intention, the case was mishandled and did not act according to existing laws.

    A week before sentencing Ne Winís relatives, a military tribunal handed down severe prison sentences to soldiers and officers who were bodyguards of Ne Win and his grandsons.

    B.K. Sen said tribunals should be held at the same time. Judges cannot make independent decisions because the military tribunal sets precedents, commented B.K. Sen.

    Nevertheless, lawyers and observers in Rangoon said that expecting justice in military-ruled Burma is impossible. "Burmaís judicial system is controlled by the military government," said Cho Cho Tun Nyein of the Burma Lawyerís Council, based in Thailand, adding that there is no accountability and transparency.

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    Amnesty Issues Warning

    By Naw Seng
    The Irrawaddy

    October 03, 2002-Amnesty International says that it fears Burmese democracy activists and former political prisoners rounded-up in a surprised crackdown in Burma on September 25 could very well be tortured while in detention, according to a statement released by the London-based human rights group yesterday.

    The statement says "torture often takes place during interrogation and pre-trial detention in Myanmar" and that those arrested could be "at risk of torture and ill-treatment by Military Intelligence (MI)."

    The rights group has also called for information concerning the detainees' whereabouts, and under what charges they were brought in on. More than 30 democracy activists and former political prisoners were arrested during nighttime raids on their homes. Dozens more have since gone underground for fear the crackdown will continue.

    Family and friends of those arrested said they have been denied visitations, and have yet to be informed of where their loved ones are being held. The Burmese embassy in Bangkok did not respond to queries by The Irrawaddy regarding the recent sweep.

    Sources say the crackdown is continuing with the vast majority of those arrested to date having been former political prisoners."In this political atmosphere of simmering unrest, the military junta usually cracks down on political activists," says Ko Tate, secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPPB). "The detainees havenít been charged because the international community is watching."

    In August, MI officers arrested 15 students in Rangoon for handing out anti- government pamphlets and protesting against the regime. Two NLD members were also arrested in July for possessing copies of a dissident publication and were reportedly sentenced to three years in prison.An estimated 1,300 political prisoners remain incarcerated in Burma for their political beliefs. More than 300 political prisoners have been released since January 2001, however, the majority of them had already completed their sentences or were never charged with a crime.

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    Lottery Woes Plague Capital

    By Ko Thet
    The Irrawaddy

    October 03, 2002-Bookies and gamblers involved in Burma's so-called two-number illegal lottery have found themselves in a bind after the government announced on Tuesday that they would only be releasing numbers once a month instead of seven times, according to a Rangoon residents.

    Sources say the news is quite troubling for individuals who rely on the lottery for their livelihood. "When [the government] announced the news on Tuesday night, dealers and gamblers were shocked and depressed," one Rangoon resident told The Irrawaddy. "They donít know what to do now."

    The two-number lottery is an illegal form of gambling based on the official Aung Bar Lay lottery, which is played from the third to the ninth of each month and offers a top prize of five million kyat (1,140 kyat = 1 USD). But because the odds are so high residents began gambling on the last two numbers of the official lottery at odds of 80:1.

    "From the third to the ninth of every month, people were busy with the lottery," said a mini mart owner in Rangoon. "But this month, everybody looked unemployed."A businessman from Rangoon said that this is just the government's way to control the lottery, but that an alternative way to gamble on the lottery would undoubtedly present itself in the future.

    The two-number lottery is played throughout the country, not just in Rangoon. It is not uncommon for people to gamble up to half of their monthly salary, but residents say most people come up empty handed. The two- number lottery began in 1988.

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    US dismayed at arrests in Burmal

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    WASHINGTON ó The United States is dismayed at the arrest of some 30 activists in Burma, a State Department spokeswoman said on Thursday.

    The Washington-based Free Burma Coalition said it had received reports that the military government had arrested 30 or more activists in what could be a crackdown to prevent any organized civil unrest in the country.

    It named three of them as U Zaw Pe Win and Khin Tun, former leaders of banned parties, and lawyer Ko Htay, a member of a political party led by U Aung Gyi.

    ''The whereabouts and circumstances surrounding their arrests remain shrouded in mystery, and their families and friends are deeply concerned,'' the coalition said.

    The State Department said it could not give details of the arrests but spokeswoman Brenda Greenberg said, ''We are dismayed at the recent arrests of activists in Rangoon (Yangon).''

    ''These arrests are inconsistent with the regime's stated commitment to political reform and represent a significant step backward. We continue to urge the regime to release unconditionally all those detained for the peaceful expression of their political views,'' she added.

    The government of Burma has promised political reform but its critics say they doubt it is serious.

    Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who ended a visit to Burma on Thursday, said the ruling generals had given him no time frame for reform and that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi doubted the junta would allow change.

    The founder of the Free Burma Coalition, Zarni (one name), concurred. ''The world should not be fooled by the ... generals' rhetoric of commitment to democracy. These arrests indicate the generals have absolutely no plans to democratize the country,'' he said in a statement.

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