Daily News- October 07- 2002- Monday

  • Myanmar dissidents urge international community to withhold aid
  • Suu Kyi attacks Downer policy
  • Aung Suu Kyi Receive Unesco Awards

  • Myanmar dissidents urge international community to withhold aid

    BANGKOK, Oct 6 (AFP) - Myanmar dissidents Sunday urged the international community to withhold aid from the military-run country until the ruling generals commit themselves to democratic reforms.

    The Thailand-based National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), the leading umbrella organisation of dissident groups including ethnic minorities and exiled activists, said aid only worsened the situation in the country.

    "We strongly believe that international aid is used by the regime to create legitimacy where there is none," it said in a statement.

    "Indirect aid frees the regime of its responsibility to the well-being of the people of Burma. Public expenditure on health and education, always minimal under the regime, has actually decreased in the last few years."

    Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared to soften her stance on the issue in August, telling Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi she would no longer oppose foreign aid provided it fell within strict guidelines.Since the Nobel peace laureate's release in May from 19 months of house arrest, she had indicated a new willingness to engage with the generals, with an eye to the start of a landmark political dialogue.

    But in recent weeks, with the dialogue process apparently stalled, the opposition's olive branch on aid, which would have opened the door to foreign-funded infrastructure projects, appears to have been withdrawn.

    Japan -- the biggest creditor nation and aid donor to Myanmar -- has already said it stands to increase aid once the generals and Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) strike a deal on how to receive the assistance.But the United States -- the leading proponent of economic sanctions that have helped cripple Myanmar's economy -- has said it will not consider increasing aid until it sees concrete steps towards reform.Most other western governments are also holding back at least until the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which has so far made only minor concessions, commits to fully fledged political reconciliation talks.

    The NCUB said that international sanctions and pressure had helped secure the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi's and hundreds more political prisoners who have been released from jail over the past two years.

    "Now is the time to escalate the pressure and sanctions to make good these small steps towards political dialogue for change," it said."Therefore we call on the international community to withhold aid, especially through Rangoon, until there is a transitional arrangement for nation-building process as a result of meaningful tripartite dialogue."

    Dissident groups have repeatedly called for the dialogue between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi to be expanded into a tripartite process including Myanmar's ethnic minorities.

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    Suu Kyi attacks Downer policy

    The Age, Australia -October 07 2002
    By Mark Baker -Asia Editor

    Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has attacked Australia's engagement with the country's military regime and urged a united international stand to help bring a return to democracy.

    Ms Suu Kyi said Australia should endorse a tough regime of economic and political sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union and limit its contacts with the regime until it honoured promises to start talks on political reform.

    She described a controversial Australian program of human rights training courses for Burmese officials as pointless and a waste of money.

    "If everybody were to take a united stand it would be far more effective than some people thinking that their way is better than others," the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner told The Age. "I've always thought that a coordinated approach is much better than each country doing its own thing."

    Her comments are a rebuke to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who last week became the most senior Western official to visit Rangoon since the National League for Democracy leader was released in May after 19 months under house arrest.

    Mr Downer held talks with senior members of the regime, which crushed a pro-democracy uprising in 1988, killing thousands of civilians, denied the NLD's 1990 landslide election victory and kept Ms Suu Kyi under house arrest for eight of the past 14 years. He also met Ms Suu Kyi.

    The US and the EU continue to refuse high-level contact with the regime and have imposed crippling sanctions on trade, aid and investment, but Mr Downer argues that Australia can better influence a return to democracy by communicating with the generals.

    Unlike the US, Australia maintains normal diplomatic relations, neither encourages nor discourages Australian companies doing business in Burma, has not imposed a blanket ban on visas for senior government officials and continues a modest aid program.

    "Australia is of interest because we have taken a different, a unique approach to dealing with Myanmar," Mr Downer said while in Rangoon. "So we have some contacts with them in a way that people like the British and the Americans at the other extreme don't have. We are perceived to be a so-called Western country, albeit a regional country . . . and I think that gives us a bit more leverage than would otherwise be the case."

    But Ms Suu Kyi repudiated suggestions that such a policy could achieve results. "We don't agree with some of the ways the Australian Government uses in order to bring about democratic change. We do agree on the need for democratic values to prevail in Burma."

    She urged Australia to scrap a program, recently extended, under which hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent running human rights workshops for middle-ranking Burmese civil servants, including police and magistrates.

    Ms Suu Kyi said foreign governments should limit contacts with the regime until it took steps to begin talks on political reform, and the NLD would oppose foreign aid, investment and tourism until then."We cannot change on matters of policy until such time as political dialogue is in place," she said.

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    Aung Suu Kyi Receive Unesco Awards

    PARIS, Oct 7( Asia Pulse / PTI)- - Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader of Burma, has been selected for UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence while India's Ramakrishna Mission receives Honourable Mention.

    "Aung San Suu Kyi was the laureate of the 1991 Nobel [Peace] Prize for having attempted to establish democracy in Burma. An international symbol of peaceful resistance to oppression, she is still pursuing her non-violent struggle for democracy and tolerance in Myanmar," a UNESCO press release Friday quoted the the jury as saying.

    The Ramakrishna Mission has been selected for the Honourable Mention "for its unrelenting efforts to promote the principles of tolerance and non-violence in assisting disadvantaged groups," it said.

    The international jury for the coveted prize, including former Prime Minister I K Gujaral, unanimously selected Suu Kyi, UNESCO Director-General Konchiro Matsuura said.

    The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence will be presented in a ceremony at Organization Headquarters on Nov 16, International Day for Tolerance which is also the anniversary of UNESCO's foundation.

    The $100,000 prize is dedicated to advancing the spirit of tolerance in arts, education, culture, science and communication. It is awarded every two years to an individual or an institution for exceptional contributions in the field of tolerance promotion.

    The Prize was created in 1995 noted Indian philathrop, writer and diplomat Madanjeet Singh. He is also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

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