Daily News- October 26- 2002- Saturday

  • UN rights envoy to Myanmar meets with military, opposition members
  • Rangoon red-tape hits imports, exports
  • Myanmar to put 25.41 mln dollars' gems on sale
  • Burma’s deteriorating crisis – Answer is Better Governance – Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Peoples Parliament of Burma nominated new ethnic Parliament members

  • UN rights envoy to Myanmar meets with military, opposition members

    YANGON, Oct 25 (AFP) - UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro met with a regional military commander and opposition party members in southern Mon state Friday as his fact-finding mission here continued.

    The envoy spent Friday in the Mon state capital Mawlamyine, 280 miles (450 kilometres) south of Yangon, where according to local officials he held talks with the commander of the southeast military division, Brigadier-General Thura Myint Aung.He also visited the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters where he met with with party members, the officials said.

    Pinheiro is on an 11-day visit here assessing the human rights situation.He has held talks with top guns in the ruling junta including military intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt and Foreign Minister Win Aung, and has also met with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    After their Tuesday meeting Pinheiro said prospects for the dialogue between the Nobel peace laureate and the junta on national reconciliation were good. The talks have been running since October 2000, but are widely believed to have stalled.

    While in Karen state, Pineheiro met with Christian and Buddhist leaders in Kyar-inn-seikkyi and travelled to Tha- ma-nya-sayadaw, where he called on a highly-revered Buddhist monk of the same name.

    During his remaining time in Myanmar, the Brazilian academic is expected to visit at least one other jail.He has already visited Yangon's notorious Insein prison and met with several prisoners, whom he said complained about their treatment.International concern has been raised over elderly and sick prisoners failing to receive appropriate medical treatment while in the impoverished country's jails.

    The junta originally invited Pinheiro to travel to northeastern Shan state during his visit here to investigate a report by two Shan women's groups based in Thailand who alleged that the military used rape as a weapon of war.But Pinheiro cancelled the planned three-day trip, saying it was not possible to do enough fact-finding within the short period.Pinheiro is due to leave Myanmar on October 28.

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    Rangoon red-tape hits imports, exports

    Supamart Kasem
    The Bangkokpost

    Despite the Thai-Burma border having reopened, trade between Mae Sot district and Myawaddy remains extremely slow due to Rangoon's restrictions on imports and exports.

    Mae Sot customs checkpoint chief Boonthiam Chokwiwat said the value of cross-border trade between Mae Sot and Myawaddy averaged only 600,000 baht a day since the reopening on Oct 15. He believed trade would remain slow until the two countries held official local- and regional-level talks.

    ``Burmese authorities still impose strict measures on border trade by banning 16 kinds of goods for import and 28 types of goods for export.''

    There was still no progress on rescheduling the 19th Local Thai-Burma Border Committee Meeting in Mae Sot and the Regional Thai-Burma Border Commitee Meeting (RBC) in Moulmein, Burma.

    Panithi Tangphati, adviser to the Tak Chamber of Commerce, said Burma had reopened its border but was still imposing restrictions on trade to protect its own industries and prevent inflation.The import/export quotas and the ban on many goods resulted in Thai goods worth tens of millions baht being stranded in Myawaddy warehouses, he said. It was also unusual and surprising that cross-border trade had not picked up in the ``golden time'' between the end of Buddhist Lent and the Songkran Festival.

    On Thursday, the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Border Trade Committee resolved to consult Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and all provincial chambers of commerce on how to boost cross-border trade.

    The 16 banned imports include monosodium glutamate, biscuits, chewing gum, cakes, wafers, chocolates, canned food, instant noodles, liquor, beers, cigarettes, fresh fruit, plastic products and occasionally-controlled goods.

    The 28 banned exports include teak wood and products, petroleum, gems, rice, arms, shrimp, ivory, some animals (cattle, elephants, horse and rare animals), antique objects, cotton and wool, leather, peanuts, fresh water fish, silver, tin, gold, diamond, jade, chickens/ducks/pigs/goats/lambs, rubber, zinc, bronze, pearls, charcoal, zeorite, lead and other metals.

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    Myanmar to put 25.41 mln dollars' gems on sale

    YANGON, Oct 25, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The 11th Mid-Year Myanmar Gems Emporium is due to start here on Oct. 26 with a total of 25.41 million US dollars' worth of locally-produced quality gems, jade, pearl and jewelry to be put on sale through competitive bidding, tender and at fixed prices.

    About 190 merchants of 80 companies from 12 countries and regions, mostly from China, China's Hong Kong and Thailand, are expected to attend the eight-day state- sponsored emporium, said Myanmar Deputy Minister of Mines U Myint Thein at a press briefing here Friday afternoon.Meanwhile, local gem traders are also invited for the bidding.

    Mid-year gems emporiums were introduced in October in addition to the annual ones since 1992 to boost the country's foreign exchange earning, while the annual events, usually in March, have been held for 39 times since 1964.

    At the last March annual event, over 20 million US dollars were fetched, 98.5 percent more than the previous year's annual emporium.The March emporium attracted a total of 485 merchants of 212 foreign companies from 11 countries and regions.

    Myanmar, a well-known producer of jade, ruby and sapphire in the world, has earned nearly 360 million US dollars from those gems emporiums of two kinds, according to official statistics.

    To develop the gems mining industry, Myanmar began enacting the new gemstone law in September 1995, allowing national entrepreneurs to mine, produce, transport and sell finished gemstone and manufactured jewelry at home and abroad.Since April 2000, the government has started mining of gems and jade in joint venture with 10 private companies under profit sharing basis.

    Official statistics show that the Myanmar government sector produced 31.464 tons of jade, 2.313 million carats of sapphire, 2. 008 million carats of ruby and 5.741 kilograms of pearl in the fiscal year 2001-02 which ended in March.There are three famous gem lands in Myanmar -- Mogok in Mandalay division, Mongshu in Shan state and Phakant in Kachin state.

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    Burma’s deteriorating crisis – Answer is Better Governance – Aung San Suu Kyi

    Source : Asia Tribune

    Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and the leader of the non-violent movement for human rights and democracy in Burma, strongly hoped and believed by millions of Burmese as the beacon of hope for the return of peace and normalcy in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader, was freed on 16 May 2002, after 19 months under house arrest. After her release from the housed arrest she said, “It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power, corrupts those who wield it. Fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” Aung San Suu Kyi, in the 15 years she’s been on the world’s political arena she has displayed her steely will power, determination and has shown her own fearlessness.

    Asian Tribune gives below her latest interview:

    Transcript Of the Interview With Aung San Suu Kyi:

    Question:Is increased funding the answer to Burma's humanitarian crisis?

    Aung San Suu Kyi: No, better governance is the answer to Burma's humanitarian crisis.

    Q: Do you think that increasing humanitarian assistance to Burma will increase the capacity of civil society? Why? If not, what will?

    ASSK: No, simply by increasing assistance, you are not going to do anything to change the situation of the civil society. Other measures have to be taken to ensure that civil society is strengthened. For example, there have to be measures that will enable pluralism to flourish in Burma, without pluralism, there can't be a strong civil society.

    Q: Those who advocate caution over a massive increase in humanitarian funding have been described as " irresponsible," " lacking in compassion," and " valuing politics over human suffering." Do you have a comment?

    ASSK: I think this is a very, very sweeping statement, to say that simply because people advise caution over something they are to be considered irresponsible, lacking in compassion, etc, etc. I thought, caution was something that every reactionary rather approved of. Now, it's strange that reactionaries would be saying this thing that caution means irresponsibility. I think if people don't like what you are doing then they will say you are irresponsible because you are doing too much and then again, if they don't like the fact that you are doing too little, they start saying you're irresponsible too. So, I think this is a very subjective comment.

    Q: Are those who want to attach conditions to aid being too inflexible? Why?

    ASSK: Too inflexible? … not at all, because it depends very much on the conditions. If the conditions are reasonable, then you cannot say that there is inflexibility.

    Q: Those who promote increased humanitarian assistance to Burma say that the humanitarian crisis in Burma cannot wait for political change. Do you agree with this assertion?

    ASSK: I think what I would like to say is that Burma cannot wait for political change, but we need it now!

    Q: The larger amounts of aid being received by Burma's neighbors are sometimes cited as justification for a massive increase in aid to Burma. Is this comparison a valid justification?

    ASSK: Not at all, it depends on what the differences between Burma and her neighbours are. What we have to look at is, why Burma's neighbours are receiving more aid than what we receive and then we have to decide whether or not this difference is justifiable.

    Q: What conditions are necessary to ensure that humanitarian assistance to Burma will benefit its people?

    ASSK: I've said this ad nauseam, accountability, transparency and independent monitoring. Unless there is accountability and transparency, you can never say what happens to all that assistance. It may not go to help the people; on the contrary, it may go into schemes that harm the people. So unless there is accountability and transparency we cannot say that humanitarian aid is assisting the people.

    Q: If you could speak to those who would make decisions on increasing aid, or humanitarian assistance to Burma, what would you say?

    ASSK: What I would like to say is the most important aspect of humanitarian assistance or any kind of assistance is good governance. Unless there is good governance, you cannot ensure that the assistance will really benefit the country. So, we cannot say often enough that good governance is the answer to Burma's humanitarian problems.

    Q: What type of aid do you think is important to sustain at this stage?

    ASSK: It is possible that there are some forms of humanitarian aid that can be used properly at this time because there's accountability and transparency and at the same time it is possible that there some kinds of development aid which also fit the bill.

    Q: What about HIV/AIDS projects?

    ASSK: There is a lot of interest in HIV/AIDS projects and I think that's a good thing because, certainly we need to be very concerned about this problem. But, I don't think that we should forget other problems, because there is so much concentration on HIV/AIDS.

    Q: You have also stressed that aid should directly benefit the people and bring about democratisation. It has been claimed that trade and aid that increases the size of the middle class will bring about democratic change; therefore massive amounts of economic aid are needed for Burma. Do you agree?

    ASSK: I don't think that just because you create a middle class that you will bring about democratic change. I don't think those two necessarily go together and I do not think that you can claim that, certain forms of economic measures will bring about political reform automatically - political reform is political reform. I would have thought that on the contrary, it is the right kind of political reform that can promote economic reform.

    Q: What are your criteria to determine satisfactory community consultation and community participation? Would the assertion that "our door is always open" or " they know where we are and they can talk to us when we are on-site" constitute adequate community consultation?

    ASSK: No, of course not. In the community, the people of the community have to feel free to say what they want to say (and) they have to feel free to go and see whom they want to go and see. So, unless there is that kind of freedom, freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, I do not think that you can say that it is a satisfactory situation.

    Q: Do you have an ideal model community participation?

    ASSK: No, I don't have an ideal model. I don't think you can talk about ideal models, because one community is quite different from another. The basic requirements, as I said, are freedom of speech and freedom of association. Unless there are freedom of speech and freedom of association, I do not think that community participation could be absolutely satisfactory.

    Q: Should consultation include ethnic nationality groups?

    ASSK: I think agencies should try and get in touch with everybody who is concerned with the projects that they are trying to run. I don't think you can just say that, " in this matter we will only consult ethnic nationalities," or in " this matter we will not consult ethnic nationalities," it's very much on the kind of project they are running. They have to consult whoever would be affected by these projects.

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    Peoples Parliament of Burma nominated new ethnic Parliament members

    Source : Asia Tribune

    Rangoon, October 26---The Committee Representing People's Parliament (CRPP) held its regular meeting at the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Rangoon on 23 October.

    Present at the meeting were NLD leaders, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, members of the CRPP, and chairmen of the Mon National Democracy Front, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, and Zomi National Congress.

    The meeting released Declaration No. 1/10-02.

    An NLD office in charge read the declaration as follows:

    (NLD official) Declaration No. 1/10-02 of the Committee Representing the People's Representative elected by 1990 Multi-Party Democracy Elections.

    The CRPP held a meeting on 23 October 2002 and made the following decisions:

    1. U Aye Thar Aung is to continue performing his duties as the secretary of the CRPP.

    2(a) U Aye Thar Aung will represent the Arakan League for Democracy in the CRPP.

    (b) U Nai Tun Thein (chairman of the Mon National Democracy Front - MNDF) will represent the MNDF in the CRPP.

    (c) U Khun Tun Oo (chairman of Shan Nationalities League for Democracy - SNLD) is to represent the SNLD in the CRPP.

    (d) U Pu Cin Shing Thang (chairman of the Zomi National Congress - ZNC) will represent the ZNC in the CRPP. 3. Dr. U Saw Mra Aung (chairman of Arakan League for Democracy - ALD) will officiate as the designated Speaker of the Parliament in the CRPP.

    4(a) the meeting decides to accept new members and expand the CRPP.

    (b) U Aye Thar Aung has been given the responsibility to draft necessary procedures to accept new members in the CRPP.

    5. The work affairs committees under the CRPP will be reviewed.

    Meanwhile, Democratic Voice of Burma, (DVB), Burmese broadcasting station based in Norway, conducted an interview with U Khun Tun Oo, Chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and U Aye Thar Aung, Member of the Central Executive Committee of the Arakan League for Democracy in connection with the expansion of the CRPP.

    U Khun Tun Oo, Chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy:

    DVB: Can you please give us your opinion about the leaders of ethnic political parties joining the CRPP?

    Khun Tun Oo: Since we are elected representatives of the people, we are obliged to do something for the country and the people. Let us say that we have joined the CRPP because of that conviction. We have done it because we believe that this is something that political parties must do.

    DVB: Does that mean, uncle, that you all will be devoting your full time to the CRPP?

    Khun Tun Oo: Yes.

    DVB: When the CRPP was formed in 1998 and plans were made to convene the Parliament, the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) took action to prevent it from taking place. Do you expect that from happening again?

    Khun Tun Oo: Yes, we expect it. This is because... but under the circumstances, ( cannot hear the words here) and it does not matter. If arrests and releases take place again and again, the situation will only create more hardships. We believe that the CRPP is formed only because the talks are not going on smoothly. In other words, we have to join the CRPP and work for it because we are representatives elected by the people and given mandate by them.

    DVB: The CRPP has decided to expand its membership. Do you think political parties like the National Unity Party can also join the CRPP?

    Khun Tun Oo: Of course, it can. If the NUP accepts the principles and procedures of the CRPP it can join also. By the way, it is not only the NUP but also the other parties that can join the CRPP.

    DVB: I see. If the NUP and other political parties join the CRPP, what sort of political significance...

    Khun Tun Oo: It will be difficult to forecast or predict. This is because if all political parties join, the CRPP will be able to make good decisions and create good conditions for the country. In addition, all of the parties can come up with good suggestions and make collective decisions in a peaceful way and hold talks with the SPDC.

    DVB: I see. So, how would you, Uncle Khun Tun Oo, like to describe the main objective of expanding the CRPP?

    Khun Tun Oo: What we have done is to prepare for a dialog. That is the main idea, and we have said it many times. That is the responsibility of a representative of a political party elected by the people. We are showing the people that we are doing our duty. U Pu Cin Shing Thang (some unclear words here). But, what is problematic is that nothing really is peaceful and problems are not getting resolved. They are only getting worse. Pressure from the international community is growing, economic hardships are worsening, and (unclear words). So we thought we cannot just stand idly by. We thought we need to change our strategy. That is why we have done it. If the path is blocked, we have to find an exit or a way out. Isn't it true? We need to do something. We cannot suck our thumbs and sit idly by. Nothing has improved. People are starving and the situation is getting worse with time. We are trying to find a solution to the problem. Our country is in a situation where it cannot move forward or go backward and the people are facing worsening hardships. We joined in to do our duty. We need to find a way out, resolve the problem through political and peaceful means.

    DVB: So, can we say that the expansion of the CRPP is a politically significant move?

    Khun Tun Oo: Certainly, it is politically significant. That is because we see the move as an attempt to achieve a breakthrough in the political stalemate. We will try to reform the political system through peaceful means. The country is facing socioeconomic, education, health, and all other forms of hardships. Hence, political parties that are elected by the people and that consider themselves responsible are compelled to do their duty. When do we do it if not now? Do we-- political parties and elected representatives--stand by without doing anything for years? Or, do we try to find a solution by holding talks with the SPDC? Now is the time for us to be thinking about it seriously. Hence, even though there is danger for us, we have to do it. It is not that we are not afraid, of course, we are. And, we do see the danger. We are afraid and we see the danger and we are not rushing in blindly. The burden of responsibility is on our shoulders and we have no other choice but to do our duty.

    DVB: In other words, you mean you have already considered all the consequences of expanding the CRPP.

    Khun Tun Oo: Yes. But we cannot just look at the negative consequences only and fear for ourselves. We are bound by our duty. We established a political party and ran in the elections because we want to serve the interests of the people and the country.

    U Aye Thar Aung, member of the Central Executive Committee of the Arakan League for Democracy:

    UATA: Previously, I represented four political parties. But, I now only represent the Arakan League for Democracy but will continue serving as the secretary of the CRPP.

    DVB: Are there any other changes of responsibilities from the original CRPP?

    UATA: No, no changes. We have subcommittees under the CRPP. I will share the responsibilities with the three chairmen (of Mon National Democracy Front, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, and Zomi National Congress) who have now joined the CRPP.

    DVB: How would you describe the expansion of the CRPP in political term?

    UATA: Politically speaking, the CRPP will have a lot more work to do. That is the reason why it is being expanded. It will be accepting as ethnic political parties as well as other political parties which won in the elections.

    DVB: Politically speaking, is it possible that the expansion of the CRPP result in a confrontational situation because it is taking place at a time when the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) is delaying the talks?

    UATA: Well, you cannot look at it that way. If they are to start the talks, then we, as the CRPP, will also have things to talk about too. The CRPP will be carrying out the tasks as necessary.

    DVB I see, since you said that the CRPP will be doing whatever is necessary, may I ask, if I may, what you as its secretary intends to be doing?

    UATA: The CRPP has two important tasks. It will be working for the emergence of the Parliament and while the Parliament cannot yet be convened, it will function as a Parliament. Those are the two tasks that the CRPP will continue to carry out.

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