Daily News- October 23- 2002- Wednesday

  • UN rights envoy meets Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi
  • U.N. rights envoy to visit children's project in Myanmar
  • Burma gets one foreign investment in first half of 2002

  • UN rights envoy meets Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi

    YANGON, Oct 22 (AFP) - United Nations human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said the prospects for a long- running dialogue on national reconciliation in Myanmar were good after meeting opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi Tuesday.

    "The prospect of dialogue is good. I do not want to elaborate on it. In fact, I have to keep everything confidential," he told reporters after a 90-minute meeting with the leader and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD).

    Myanmar's military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi have been engaged in a landmark dialogue, brokered by the United Nations, aimed at national reconciliation since October 2000.Although the talks have so far resulted in her release from 19 months of house arrest in May, they are now widely believed to have stalled and have not progressed beyond the confidence-building stage.

    Pinheiro, who arrived in Yangon last Thursday and will spend 11 days here, has also held talks with leading members of the ruling junta including military intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt and Foreign Minister Win Aung.

    "My mission is successful in terms of full cooperation from the authorities, " he said. "I have had the opportunity to elaborate on the need to pursue negotiations for national reconciliation."But Pinheiro cancelled a three-day trip to Myanmar's Shan state which was due to begin on Tuesday.

    "I can't travel to the Shan state because of the impossibility of doing fact-finding within a few days. But I will visit again in February next year," he said, without specifying if the visit would include a trip to Shan state.

    The junta had invited him to go there to investigate a report by two Shan women's groups based in Thailand who had alleged that the military used rape as a weapon of war.Myanmar activists welcomed his decision to scrap the plans, saying that the government would have stage- managed his trip and prevented him from speaking to victims.

    Instead, according to his revised official schedule he will head to Mon state over the next three days where he will visit prisoners in an effort to assess the overall human rights situation in Myanmar.The Brazilian academic has already met with several prisoners during his visit.

    "The prisoners I have met are old, aged, who are serving prison terms for more than five years. They have some complaints concerning treatment," he said.

    International concern has been raised over elderly and sick prisoners failing to receive appropriate medical treatment while in Myanmar's jails.

    Pinheiro's visit also comes as Yangon fends off mounting criticisms of its human rights record.In addition to the rape allegations, US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said last week it believed more than a fifth of the soldiers serving in Myanmar's army could be under the age of 18 and that some of them were forced to participate in atrocities.Myanmar's government has repeatedly denied all the allegations. Pinheiro is due to leave Myanmar on October 28.

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    U.N. rights envoy to visit children's project in Myanmar

    YANGON, Myanmar - A day after meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, United Nations human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro traveled Wednesday to Myanmar's southeastern Karen State to visit a relief project for children.

    Pinheiro, on his fourth visit to assess human rights conditions in the military- ruled country, is expected to present his report to the U.N. General Assembly in November. The Brazilian politics professor said he would visit a UNICEF project and local judicial and government officials before returning to the capital Friday. On his return, Pinheiro is due to visit the notorious Tharawaddy Prison, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Yangon, before leaving Myanmar next Monday.

    Pinheiro was invited by the government to travel to northeastern Shan State to investigate allegations that the military uses rape as a weapon of terror against women of the Shan ethnic minority. But Pinheiro said he would not go because he would not have time during his short stay to fully evaluate the situation.

    On Tuesday, Pinheiro met with Suu Kyi and senior members of her National League for Democracy party for talks he described as "very fruitful."

    When he arrived for his 12-day visit on Oct. 17, Pinheiro said he was especially interested in finding out what had changed after Suu Kyi's release from 19 months of house arrest in May. Pinheiro has also met with government officials, ethnic minority representatives, diplomats and workers from international aid agencies. He met with political prisoners at Yangon's notorious Insein prison.

    Myanmar's military regime has been criticized by the West and U.N. agencies for its poor human rights record. The junta refused to recognize the results of a 1990 election, in which Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory. The junta has been holding closed-door reconciliation talks with Suu Kyi, a 1991 Nobel Peace laureate, since late 2000, but with few apparent results.

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    Burma gets one foreign investment in first half of 2002

    Rangoon (AP) - Only one foreign company invested in military-ruled Burma in the first half of this year, an amount of only US$ 1.5 million, according to an official report.

    The investment was a drastic fall compared to US$ 44.49 million invested during the same period last year.

    Official statistics published by the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development said the single investment this year was in the manufacturing sector by an investor from Hong Kong. It did not give details.

    According to businesspeople, the plunge in foreign investment was partly due to the government's unpredictable trade policies and an unrealistic foreign exchange rate where the free-market rate hovers around 1,100 kyats per dollar while the official rate remains at about 6 kyats to the dollar.

    In 2001, Burma's foreign investment came from 10 countries, amounting to US$ 58.97 million. The five sectors that attracted investments were manufacturing, construction, hotels and tourism, oil and gas, and mining.

    While no country has imposed a trade embargo on Burma, the United States banned all new investment in 1997 and the European Union has had an arms embargo and a suspension of bilateral aid in place for 11 years.

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