Daily News- October 18- 2002- Friday

  • U.N. human rights expert begins Myanmar mission
  • U.S senator Rips Rangoon For "Inhumane Treatment" of Burmese People
  • Panic as 10 more bombs discovered
  • Human Rights Watch pushes Myanmar on child soldiers
  • Foreign investment in Myanmar plunges in first half of 2002
  • India Intelligence alert over arrest of Burmese at airport

  • U.N. human rights expert begins Myanmar mission

    YANGON, Myanmar(AP) - A United Nations expert arrived in Myanmar Thursday on his latest mission to assess the human rights situation in the military-ruled country, including allegations that its army uses rape to terrorize opponents.

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro told reporters that he will visit political prisoners he saw on his last trip as well as meet with government and opposition leaders. Pinheiro, who is making his fourth visit to Myanmar, is expected to present his report on Myanmar to the U.N. General Assembly in November. He last visited Myanmar in February.

    Myanmar's military regime has been criticized by Western nations and U.N. agencies for its poor human rights record, including forced labor and the detention of political prisoners.

    Pinheiro told reporters a focus of his visit would be to look into allegations that Myanmar's army used rape as a weapon of terror against women of the Shan ethnic minority, which is fighting for autonomy.

    The government on Wednesday said it welcomed such an investigation by Pinheiro, who will be in the country for 12 days. "The government of Myanmar looks forward to an independent third party review of the situation since false reports of a systemic government policy of rape have been distributed," said a statement from Myanmar's junta, received in Bangkok.

    Myanmar has repeatedly denied allegations that its soldiers raped ethnic Shan women to retaliate against Shan guerrillas. The allegations were made in a June report by the Shan Women's Action Network and the Shan Human Rights Foundation, two Thailand-based rights groups. Their report, which claimed to document 173 cases of rape and sexual violence against girls and women, received widespread publicity in July when the U.S. State Department took note of it.

    In a preliminary report to the United Nations last month, Pinheiro said that Myanmar's people are suffering from severe economic hardship and continuing human rights violations that can only be solved with government cooperation.

    He warned that political and economic factors in the country were leading to a humanitarian crisis and said the situation would not improve until there was "substantive progress in the process of national reconciliation and political transition."

    Speaking Thursday, he said he was especially interested in assessing what had changed after the release from house arrest in May of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.In his report last month, he said her release was an important development and a test of confidence-building.

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    U.S senator Rips Rangoon For "Inhumane Treatment" of Burmese People

    Washington File -(Senator's October 16 speech condemning Burma's military rulers) (520)

    The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee castigated Burma's military rulers for their "inhumane treatment" of the Burmese people in an October 16 speech to the Senate.

    "It is past time for the (Rangoon junta) and its armed forces to respect the human rights and dignity of the people of Burma and to punish those in the military who are responsible for killing and injuring innocent men, women and children," Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat of Vermont) said.

    He added that claims by Burma's military rulers that they are seeking reconciliation with that country's democratic opposition "ring hollow."

    Following is the text of Senator Patrick Leahy from the October 16

    Congressional Record:(begin text)

    October 16, 2002

    Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I want to add my voice to the growing chorus in Washington condemning the State Peace and Development Council's brutal and inhumane treatment of the people of Burma -- including refugees and internally displaced persons.

    We recently heard from the senior Senator from Kentucky, Senator MCCONNELL, who has been a consistent, strong voice for human rights and democracy in Burma. He spoke of the many abuses committed by the SPDC and his concerns that the SPDC's proclaimed interest for reconciliation with the legitimate leaders of Burma --led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy -- ring hollow.

    I am in complete agreement with his assessment.

    It is past time for the SPDC and its armed forces to respect the human rights and dignity of the people of Burma and to punish those in the military who are responsible for killing and injuring innocent men, women and children.

    I was appalled to learn this week that Burma Army Column Commander Khin Mau Kyi, who is reportedly responsible for burning churches and villages and torturing pastors and Buddhist monks, said: "I don't respect any religion, my religion is the trigger of my gun."

    Mr. President, Khin Mau Kyi's so-called "religion" is, according to information I have received, responsible for the murder of the following people at Htee Law Belh on April 28, 2002: Saw Hto Paw, Naw Hsar Kay, Naw Kri Htoo, Naw Ble Po, 5 years old, Daw Htwe Ye, Naw Mu Tha, Mu Pwat Pwat, 7 year old, Saw Ka Pru Moo, Naw Plah, 5 years old,Naw Dah Baw 2 years old, and Naw Pi Lay and her infant.

    The State Department should publicly condemn the SPDC for these atrocities, and call on the SPDC to investigate these crimes and bring those responsible to justice. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe the SPDC will act against its own officers.

    We and the international community should do our utmost to provide assistance to the SPDC's victims.

    In the days to come, I will confer with my friend from Kentucky on appropriate actions we can take to help refugees and internally displaced persons in Burma, including engagement with Thailand to ensure that Burmese fleeing SPDC abuses can enter into Thailand, that international journalists are given free and unfettered access to refugee camps and ethnic minorities, and the UN High Commissioner For Refugees is allowed to provide a safe haven for those fleeing SPDC oppression.(end text)

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    Panic as 10 more bombs discovered

    The Nation

    Ten more bombs were found planted around the Burmese border town of Myawaddy yesterday, spreading fear among the local community and prompting town residents to nervously look through their yards for more explosive devices.

    Myawaddy authorities are still searching for more explosives, they said.The 10 bombs were found in separate searches throughout the small frontier town, which sits across the river from Tak's Mae Sot district. There were no reports of any arrests.

    The officials conducted the searches after two separate bombs exploded in Myawaddy on Tuesday and Wednesday. No one was injured in the blasts. The explosion on Tuesday coincided with the re-opening of the Myawaddy border checkpoint and two other gateways, which Rangoon had ordered shut in May.

    The Burmese government blamed the bombings on the rebel Karen National Union (KNU), which has not yet reached a peace agreement with the junta."The KNU terrorist group was systematically scheming to commit terrorist acts to panic the people, to delay the flow of commodities, and to jeopardise Myanmar-Thai normalised relations," the government-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.The KNU denied any involvement, saying its armed units don't target civilians.

    Thai officials suspected that the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, a splinter group that broke away from the KNU and re- aligned with the Burmese government, might be behind the terror campaign.They said the DKBA had benefited tremendously from the five-month-long border closing because they controlled the area where illegal crossing were carried out.

    Local Burmese residents in Myawaddy, on the other hand, said the Wednesday explosion may have been caused by leftover ordinance from fighting between KNU and Burmese government troops.

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    Human Rights Watch pushes Myanmar on child soldiers

    NEW YORK, Oct 17 (AFP) - Human Rights Watch pressed its case Thursday against Myanmar's military regime, insisting a report claiming more than a fifth of the soldiers serving in its national army were children was accurate.

    "We're very disappointed that, despite ample evidence to the contrary, the government continues to deny the military's use of children as soldiers," said Jo Becker, children's rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based watchdog group.

    "It is the widespread forced recruitment of children by Burma's army that tarnishes the image of the country, not efforts to bring these abuses to light. "

    The report released Tuesday revealed children as young as 11 were being forcibly recruited into the army where they were made to participate in human rights abuses.

    The regime in Yangon slammed the report as a smear campaign. "It is no accident that the report appeared on the eve of the visit by a high-ranking UN official and at a time the UN General Assembly is starting to consider human rights questions," it said.

    UN special rapporteur on human rights Paulo Sergio Pinheiro was due to arrive here for an 11-day visit -- his fourth to the country.The government had asked the Brazilian academic to investigate allegations made in another report released in July which said the military used rape as a weapon of war against the Shan ethnic minority.Myanmar's army has doubled in size since 1988, and with an estimated 350, 000 soldiers, it is now one of the largest in Southeast Asia.

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    Foreign investment in Myanmar plunges in first half of 2002

    YANGON, Oct 18, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Foreign investment in Myanmar plunged by 96.59 percent in the first half of 2002, compared with the same period of last year, registering only 1.516 million US dollars, according to the latest official figures.

    The single investment was injected into the manufacturing sector by an investor from China's Hong Kong, said the government- published Economic Indicators without identifying the investor.

    The sharp drop in Myanmar's foreign investment was attributed to the negative impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the slowing down of global economic growth and the unfavorable domestic investment environment.

    In 2001, Myanmar's foreign investment coming from 10 countries and regions amounted to 58.97 million dollars and the five sectors into which the investment was brought about were manufacturing, construction, hotels and tourism, oil and gas, and mining.

    According to official statistics, since opening up to the outside world in late 1988, Myanmar had absorbed 7,399.7 million dollars of foreign investment in 370 projects as of June 2002.

    Meanwhile, since March this year, Myanmar authorities has stopped issuing import and export permits to Myanmar-based foreign trading companies, resulting in the withdrawal of a lot of such companies.

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    India Intelligence alert over arrest of Burmese at airport

    Source : The India Times

    KOLKATA---Detention of a Burmese national at the Netaji Subhas international airport sent the intelligence agencies into a tizzy on Thursday.

    Ziaw Min (25) was apprehended by immigration officers at Netaji Subhas International airport at Dum Dum just before he was to board IC 727. “He had a ticket to Rangoon with him,” a senior immigration officer said.

    According to intelligence sources, the arrest assumes significance, because a few days ago, another Burmese youth was held for his alleged connection with a Pakistan-based terrorist outfit.

    “However, nothing can be conclusively said right now,” sources said.

    Abu Fazi alias Fazle Rehman was arrested at the Sealdah station on October 8. CID sources said Fazle was a Burmese national who lived on the Bangla-Burma border in Chittagaon district.

    Police said Ziaw Min’s visa had expired, yet he could not give any satisfactory explanation as to why he had over-stayed in India.

    Secondly, the local address he had given was that of Ahmedabad, which he never visited during his stay in India. He could not give a satisfactory reply as to why he had given a wrong address.

    After he was grilled for over two hours, he revealed that he had never visited Ahmedabad. But he clandestinely went to Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. His movement in the country was bound to evoke suspicion. Preliminary investigation revealed that Min visited several places in Uttar Pradesh. “We are yet to know the purpose of his travel,” police said.

    The police are facing trouble interrogating him as Min does not know Indian languages very well. “He could only speak in broken Hindi,” an immigration officer said.

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