Daily News- October 20- 2002- Sunday

  • Australian to re-visit Thai-Burma death railway
  • U.N. Envoy Meets Burma Junta in Rights Probe
  • U.N. human rights expert meets Burma's political prisoners
  • Gasoline, diesel shortage, price rises in Burma

  • Australian to re-visit Thai-Burma death railway

    Source : ChannelNewsasia

    - An Australian Vietnam-war veteran is retracing the journey of prisoners of war who worked on the Thai-Burma Death Railway after the fall of Singapore in 1942.

    The deadly Thai-Burma railway project is something 53-year-old Laurie Sams won't easily forget.

    His father was jailed in Changi before being sent to Thailand to work on the railway.

    In fact, more than 60,000 prisoners of war and 200,000 forced labourers from the region worked on the railway from 1942 to 1945.

    It has been 60 years since the fall of Singapore in 1942.

    But war veterans say there is still much to be learnt from history, especially the sufferings faced by the prisoners of war.

    And what better way than to visit some of the sites where they were forced to do labour.

    Laurie said: "It's very difficult but the feeling of being in the location of what the troops have experienced being on the jungle and of course on the railway itself to get a feeling of the huge waste and loss of contribution of many countries."

    So Laurie is starting his journey from the Changi Chapel and Museum.

    He will go to Kuala Lumpur by train to meet another two Malaysian war veterans.

    The trio will then travel to Thailand before starting their 250-kilometre walk to the Thai-Burmese border to explore the railway area.

    Laurie plans to complete his journey by October 28.

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    U.N. Envoy Meets Burma Junta in Rights Probe

    Rangoon (Reuters) - A U.N. envoy met top members of Burma's ruling military and ethnic minority leaders on Saturday in a bid to spur political change and to probe alleged human-rights abuses, including systematic rape by the army.

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, special human-rights rapporteur for Burma, held talks with the junta's powerful intelligence chief and secretary one, Khin Nyunt, Foreign Minister Win Aung and the leaders of eight ethnic political parties.

    Speaking to reporters after the meetings he declined to discuss the talks in detail, but said time restrictions meant he would not visit eastern Shan State as part of his investigation of reports of hundreds of instances of the rape of ethnic minority women and girls there by government troops.

    "I'm not going to Shan State this time," Pinheiro said.

    "The government kindly proposed it to me, but I don't think I'll be able to write a comprehensive report due to the short time... Maybe I will go there next time."

    He said no firm date had yet been set for a planned meeting with opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi. NLD spokesman U Lwin told Reuters a meeting with Suu Kyi was likely early next week.

    Pinheiro, who arrived on Thursday night, earlier said he planned to discuss the rape allegations with junta leaders as well as push for talks between Suu Kyi and the government.

    Suu Kyi was released from 19 months' house arrest in May, sparking hopes of talks. But so far those hopes have been disappointed, despite repeated calls from Suu Kyi for dialogue.

    The NLD won 1990 elections in Burma by a landslide but has been denied power by the military.

    The government on Wednesday said it invited Pinheiro to make his fourth visit to Burma following expressions of concern from Washington over a report from two minority rights groups saying troops had raped at least 625 girls and women between 1996 and 2001 in Shan State.

    On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch also accused the Burmese military of recruiting some 70,000 child soldiers. It said many had been forced to commit atrocities against ethnic minorities.

    But analysts say they are skeptical Pinheiro will see an accurate picture of the human-rights situation during his trip.

    Pinheiro said he planned to visit political prisoners at the notorious colonial-era Insein prison in Rangoon on Sunday. He is due to leave Burma on October 28.

    The United States and several European countries have imposed political and economic sanctions on the regime, demanding that it clean up its rights record and move Burma toward democracy.

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    U.N. human rights expert meets Burma's political prisoners

    Rangoon (AP) - A United Nations expert investigating human rights in military-run Burma met with political prisoners for several hours Sunday.

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro and two aides were allowed into Rangoon's notorious Insein prison, where some past inmates claimed to have been tortured and brutalized.

    "Being a prisoner is not an easy thing, but the political prisoners I met were not ill-treated," he said afterward. "The purpose of my visit was to interview some of the political prisoners I met during my last visit and see how they are doing."

    Pinheiro is making his fourth visit to Burma. He last visited in February.

    He declined to provide further details. Pinheiro is expected to report to the U.N. General Assembly in November.

    During his 12-day visit, which began Thursday, he is to meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and look into allegations that the Burma's military uses rape as a weapon of terror against women of the Shan ethnic minority, which is fighting for autonomy.

    The government, which has denied the charges, says it welcomes such an investigation by Pinheiro, but he will not travel to Shan State where the alleged rapes occurred.

    A June report by two Thailand-based rights groups claimed to document 173 cases of rape and sexual violence against girls and women. It received widespread publicity in July when the U.S. State Department took note of it.

    Burma's military regime has been criticized by Western nations and U.N. agencies for its poor human rights record, also including forced labor and alleged use of child soldiers.

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    Gasoline, diesel shortage, price rises in Burma

    Source : Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo

    We understand that gasoline and diesel oil prices have been rising exorbitantly in Myanmar [Burma] in recent days. The price of diesel oil per gallon was over 70,000 kyat last week [as heard] and it has risen to over 80,000 kyat this week.

    The price rises came despite the introduction of non-driving days every other Sunday for military vehicles and daily calls by SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] newspapers to save fuel oil.

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] called Yangon [Rangoon] and contacted a person in the trucking business to ask him why fuel oil prices were rising uncontrollably and what were the difficulties caused by the price rises. Here is that interview.

    [DVB] We have heard about the rapidly rising gasoline and diesel oil prices.
    [Unidentified person] Yes. Yes, that is true.

    [DVB] How much have they risen?
    [Unidentified person] I think diesel oil is over 80,000 kyat.

    [DVB] I see. How much was it before? Say, a week or two ago?
    [Unidentified person] About a week or two ago, it was about 70,000 kyat.

    [DVB] You mean the price rose by about 10,000 kyat in just a week or two.
    [[Unidentified person] Yes, that is true.

    [DVB] Why do you think it rose so fast in just about a week?
    [Unidentified person] I don't really know, only the traders will have that answer. I am just a person in the truck business, and I just buy oil at the price they quote.

    [DVB] If that is the case, we understand that Nilar Yoma gasoline and diesel stations were closed down all over the country recently... [ellipsis as received]
    [Unidentified person] Yes, that is true. Well, those Nilar Yoma stations did help us a little.

    [DVB] Have you ever bought gasoline from those Nilar Yoma stations?
    [Unidentified person] They only sell diesel oil.

    [DVB] Have you used their service before?
    [Unidentified person] Yes, but I was told they do not sell fuel oil anymore, and we are still enquiring.

    [DVB] Are they still closed? What have you learned about them?
    [Unidentified person] They are open but I am told diesel will be sold to people with [quota] books. They said we must register for the books. But the books... [ellipsis as received]

    [DVB] Does that mean you have to buy with books at Nilar Yoma stations?
    [Unidentified person] Yes, that is true.

    [DVB] Are you not certain that they are officially opened?
    [Unidentified person] I don't know if they are officially opened. But I think they will sell at around 650 to 700 kyat.

    [DVB] Do you mean per gallon?
    [Unidentified person] Yes, per gallon.

    [DVB] On the basis of that price, how much would a drum cost?
    [Unidentified person] Each drum holds 50 gallons, and if each gallon is sold at 650 kyat, then the price would be around 32,500 kyat.

    [DVB] So, if Nilar Yoma stations reopen, the price would be half of what the cost is now?
    [Unidentified person] Well, I don't think they can sell at all because there isn't any oil left.

    [DVB] Is it easy to buy at government-regulated price?
    [Unidentified person] Government-regulated price is only for government departmental cars.

    [DVB] Isn't it possible for non-government car owners to buy it?
    [Unidentified person] No.

    [DVB] Since gasoline and diesel oil prices are rising, haven't the prices of commodities gone up as well? How about the freight charges? Are they more than before? How about passenger buses, are they charging more?
    [Unidentified person] Of course, how could they not rise? We still travel the same journey. For instance, we received 8,000 kyat for (words indistinct), but we told them that we can only carry their load if they pay us about 11,000 kyat, and we carried the goods and came here at the new rate.

    [DVB] Is it because of the fuel oil price rise?
    [Unidentified person] Yes, of course.

    [DVB] Only recently, we heard that 14 containers belonging to son of General Khin Nyunt, Ye Naing Win, and "Yuzana" U Htay Myint [owner of Yuzana group of companies] were seized at Sule Wharf. Have you heard about that case?
    [Unidentified person] We are just people in the truck business and we are on the move, so we have not heard about that news.

    [DVB] Newspapers have been calling for frugality in using gasoline and diesel oil every day. In addition, they are keeping all military-owned vehicles off the road every other Sunday. With regard to these actions, what do you people feel about it?
    [Unidentified person] We don't know much about it because it concerns government departments.

    [DVB] As an owner of a vehicle, what do you think should be done to bring down prices of gasoline and diesel oils in Myanmar?
    [Unidentified person] Prices will go down if a lot more fuel oil is sold. If no arrests are made and if oil is sold abundantly, prices will go down. Previously, we usually buy oil for our trucks in Hlegu, but they raided those shops and made some arrests. It is not easy for people like us in the business.

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