Daily News- October 19 - 2002- Saturday

  • UN rights envoy meets junta leaders, UN agencies
  • Aung San Suu Kyi rallies supporters on trip to northern Myanmar
  • Burma's denial of the use of child soldiers not credible
  • Police Avert Fight Between Indon And Burmese Workers in Malaysia

  • UN rights envoy meets junta leaders, UN agencies

    YANGON, Oct 18 (AFP) - United Nations human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro met leaders in Myanmar's military junta and UN agencies operating here Friday as he began his fourth mission to the country, officials said.

    The Brazilian academic is expected to see democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi before leaving Myanmar on October 28, but no date has been set for the talks.After arriving in Yangon late Thursday Pinheiro was greeted at the airport by Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win and the pair met again for an hour on Friday morning.He also held a conference with the heads of six UN agencies operating in Myanmar including the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, officials said.

    According to an official schedule, he is expected to see Foreign Minister Win Aung and Home Minister Colonel Tin Hlaing later Friday. On Saturday he is slated to see influential military intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt.

    Khun Tun Oo, chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) told AFP that his party and others representing ethnic minorities were also due to see Pinheiro on Saturday.

    The UN envoy's visit comes as the ruling junta faces a series of damning human rights allegations.The US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday it believed more than a fifth of the soldiers serving in Myanmar's army could be under the age of 18.And in July, two Thai-based rights organisations representing the Shan ethnic minority released a report claiming the military used rape as a weapon of war against their people.Myanmar's government has repeatedly denied the rape allegations and said this week that it had invited Pinheiro to make an "independent review" of the claims.

    Pinheiro is due to make a three-day visit to Shan state beginning on October 22, but Shan groups have said they have little faith the military government will allow him to investigate the issue thoroughly.

    "The mission was at the invitation of Yangon's military regime and they will show him only what they want," said Hseng Noung from the Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN) which helped compile the rape report.

    Hseng Noung said Thursday that Myanmar authorities had already taken steps to cover up the truth in many areas where major human rights and sexual abuses were taking place.

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    Aung San Suu Kyi rallies supporters on trip to northern Myanmar

    YANGON, Oct 18 (AFP) - Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has returned from a trip to northern Myanmar where she met thousands of supporters and promised to do her utmost to achieve political change, her party said Friday.

    Aung San Suu Kyi drove into Yangon late Thursday shortly after UN rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro arrived for an 11-day mission during which he is expected to meet the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader.The four-day journey to Pyay in Pago division, some 180 kilometres (110 miles) north of Yangon, took in many towns and settlements along the way.

    "There were no less than 500 to 1,000 townspeople on hand to greet her at every stop," an NLD official monitoring the trip told AFP.On Wednesday night she stopped at Min Hla, a town roughly halfway between Yangon and Pyay she was prevented from entering in 1998 by military authorities.

    Speaking to a crowd of 800 supporters waiting to greet her there, she promised to do everything she could to bring about political change in the military-ruled country."Taking time to do something is very different from wasting time going about it," she said in an apparent reference to her stalled dialogue with the junta, which began in October 2000.

    The party official said in impromptu speeches to large groups of party members and supporters gathered along the route, she discussed issues like high food prices, electricity shortages and bad roads.

    "This shows the country needs political change," she was quoted as telling the crowds, while emphasising reform could only be achieved with the support of the people.

    The political trip was one of a series Aung San Suu Kyi has undertaken since May when she was released from 19 months of house arrest with a promise from the ruling junta that she would be free to travel throughout the country.Previous attempts to defy a ban on leaving the capital Yangon had ended in stand-offs with the government.

    During the latest trip, she also took the opportunity to pay homage at famous Buddhist shrines along the route, the NLD official said.Plainclothes security officers were present throughout the journey, where she was accompanied by NLD vice chairman Tin Oo and 15 members of the party's youth wing, eyewitnesses said.

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    Burma's denial of the use of child soldiers not credible

    Source : Asian Tribune

    New York-- The Burmese government's claim that it does not use child soldiers is contradicted by the evidence, Human Rights Watch said today. Burma has said a recent Human Rights Watch report is "just another example of attempts to tarnish the image of Myanmar and the Myanmar Tatmadaw (military) in the eyes of the international community."

    "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. "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."

    On October 16, Human Rights Watch released a report based on numerous first-hand testimonies of children who had been forcibly recruited by Burma's military. The report found that boys as young as 11 are forced into the army, brutally treated, and forced to commit human rights abuses and fight against armed opposition groups. Although the vast majority of Burma's child soldiers are in government armed forces, armed opposition groups were found to include children as well.

    The government claimed on Thursday that the military is purely voluntary and that national laws setting the enlistment age at 18 are "strictly enforced."

    "Burma's denial of the use of child soldiers is not credible," said Becker. "We urge the government to take positive steps to confront the problem. These include demobilizing all children from its forces and putting effective systems in place to ensure that children are not recruited and that those responsible are held accountable."

    The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, is currently in Burma for his fourth visit to the country.

    Human Rights Watch has urged him to raise the recruitment and use of children as soldiers with the government of Burma and to report on this issue to the United Nations General Assembly.

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    Police Avert Fight Between Indon And Burmese Workers in Malaysia

    PENANG, Oct 19 (Bernama) -- Police averted a fight between Indonesian and Burmese workers Saturday by rushing to a construction site in Jalan Bukit Gambir here following a tip-off.

    A police spokesman said 20 foreign workers, including two women, were arrested in the operation at about noon.

    "On seeing the police, most of the workers fled into a jungle on a nearby hill," he told reporters at the scene.

    Police believed the suspects did not have valid travel documents, he said.

    He said the workers had gathered there for a fight after failing to resolve a debt-related problem on Friday.

    On receiving information about an impending fight, police sent a team from the district police headquarters and Federal Reserve Unit personnel to the work site.

    No weapons were recovered from the area.

    He said General Operations Force personnel had been deployed to hunt for the workers who escaped into the jungles.

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