Daily News- October 24- 2002- Thursday

  • Myanmarese youth question status, seek asylum
  • The Kachin Rally continued
  • UN Rights Envoy to Meet Prisoners on Visit to Burma's Mon State
  • Burma sees more dialling into Internet

  • Burmese youth question status, seek asylum

    Express India

    New Delhi, October 23: ABOUT 300 Burmese youth demonstrated before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ office today demanding asylum in India. They said that unless the UNHCR gave them a definite answer regarding their applications on ‘refugee status’, they would start an indefinite hunger strike.

    ‘‘We have no legal status in this country and nor can we resume our studies or get any employment,’’ said Samuel, a student. Living in remote corners of the Capital, they said that they were helpless as they had exhausted their funds.

    Breaking out in slogans, chanting prayers and songs, the protestors alleged that the military junta in Myanmar had subjected them to religious persecution. The students, who are mostly Christian, said the junta had prevented them from organising a religious convention and even tortured them after which they fled the country.

    They alleged that even after several months of waiting, UNHCR had interviewed 180 of them and rejected their applications. The demonstrators through their representatives asked UNHCR to consider their demands.

    The Kachin Rally continued

    Thun Naing -Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com) 22 October 2002

    A public meeting organized by Kachin Independent Organization (KIO) to discuss issues of concern to the Kachin peoples is taking place in the Burma-China border between 21 and 25 October. The Kachin Independent Organization (KIO) and Kachin nationals from Bamaw, Myitkyina, Yangon and other places, as well as KIO Central Committee and NDA organization members and university students are attending the meeting.

    The meeting is chaired by Dr. Tu Ja while Sakhun Taint Yain of the NDA, chairman of the KIO U La Mung Tu Jang and U Sun Luat Kan served as members of the presidium. The KDA (Kachin Democratic Army), which has reached a ceasefire agreement with the SPDC did not send a representative to the meeting but conveyed a memorandum.

    While on the first day statements were read, participants' discussion on 22 October focused strongly on the unification of Kachin peoples and the choice of their representatives. Reportedly, persons connected to the military were thought unsuitable for representative functions. Evening entertainment featured traditional songs, dances and the western music.

    According to reports by a local Kachin national, military intelligence is closing following the meeting and discussions.

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    UN Rights Envoy to Meet Prisoners on Visit to Burma's Mon State

    Source : Teheran Times

    Rangoon -- UN Human Rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro arrived Wednesday in southern Burma's Mon state for a regional tour which is scheduled to include meetings with political prisoners.

    Sources familiar with the envoy's trip said Pinheiro reached the state capital Mawlamyine, 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Rangoon, on a late morning commercial flight.

    He is scheduled to spend three days there visiting several prisons in an effort to assess the overall human rights situation in Burma, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.

    The envoy, who arrived in Rangoon last Thursday and will spend 11 days here, has held talks with leading members of the ruling junta including military intelligence Chief Gen. Khin Nyunt and Foreign Minister Win Aung.

    On Tuesday he also met with the country's pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, AFP reported.

    The United Nations has been instrumental in brokering a landmark dialogue between the military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi, but the talks are now widely believed to have stalled and have not progressed beyond the confidence-building stage. Pinheiro on Tuesday qualified his mission here as "successful in terms of full cooperation from the authorities." But the Brazilian academic canceled a three-day trip to Burma's Shan state which was due to begin on Tuesday, citing the "impossibility of doing fact-finding within a few days."

    He said he would return to Burma next February, but did not specify 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, AFP reported.

    Pinheiro has already met several prisoners during his visit and told reporters that some had complained about their treatment.

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

    Pinheiro's visit also comes as Rangoon fends off mounting criticisms of its human rights record.

    In addition to the rape allegations, U.S.-based watchdog human rights watch said last week it believed more than a fifth of the soldiers serving in Burma's Army could be under the age of 18 and that some of them were forced to participate in atrocities.

    Burma's government has repeatedly denied all the allegations.

    Pinheiro is due to leave Burma on October 28.

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    Burma sees more dialling into Internet

    KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Internet usage in military-ruled Burma is expected to jump 10-fold in the next two years, although blocks on certain political Web sites and pornographic channels will stay, an official from a state-run agency said on Thursday.

    Burma's ruling junta, in power for four decades, has promised to move towards democracy and gradually liberalise an economy tottering close to collapse.

    The junta allowed the country to dial into the worldwide Web in January, but not many people in this impoverished nation of 51 million people can afford to go on-line.

    Pyone Maung Maung, joint-secretary of Burma's e-National Task Force, told Reuters 20,000 Burmese people now surf the Internet and the number could rise to 200,000 in the next two years as connectivity improved.

    Local and expatriate residents of Rangoon say Pyone's figures sounded a little high, adding that high costs prohibited most people from having access though the government had relaxed many restrictions on Internet usage in recent months.

    Pyone said affordability and scarcity of local content would remain key bottlenecks after the initial explosion of interest.

    "Our people are still mostly farmers and the per capita income is still low at $700-$750," said Pyone, who was attending an ASEAN Internet Trust Symposium in Kuala Lumpur.

    "Very few speak English. If there's no local content, there won't be any usage."

    Burma approved the setting up of a second Internet service provider this year, breaking its traditional iron-fist control on the sector by allowing enterprises to take equity in the ISP.

    Pyone said Burma had overcome fears the Internet would be a source of negative influence for its people, and censorship would be kept low to spur usage.

    But residents of Rangoon say there continues to be some censorship, with many sites blocked. "Compared to the past, many restrictions have been lifted," one Rangoon resident told Reuters. "Recently they allowed the general public access. It used to be just about 12 companies that could get on the Internet."

    Cross-border online purchases still can't be made, though a domestic e-commerce network exists.

    "At the moment, only domestic e-commerce is possible," Pyone said. "But we are trying to sign pacts with other international and regional partners to enable cross-border online business."

    He said his government was unlikely to back-pedal on liberalisation, citing communist China as an example of success.

    China's telecoms and technology sectors have grown by leaps and bounds, and the world's most populous nation is now Asia's biggest buyer of personal computers and cellphones.

    "There's no reason to, look at China," Pyone said. "We are already a latecomer, if we turn back, we will always be left behind."

    Burma is a poor, agrarian country, whose political and economic isolation meant it was left behind when other Southeast Asian countries industrialised their economies in the last few decades.

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