Daily News- October 27- 2002- Sunday

  • NCGUB lauds CRPP for accepting new members to Parliament
  • Students arrested and tried at Insein Prison Special Court
  • New ICFTU evidence of increasing forced labour in Burma and multinational enterprise involvement
  • UN agency seeks to base staff along Myanmar border
  • UN rights envoy meets with Myanmar home ministry officials

  • National Coalition Government of Burma lauds CRPP for accepting new members to Parliament

    Source : Asian Tribune

    The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) is heartened by the recent decisions taken by the Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP) at a regular meeting in Rangoon on 23 October 2002. The legitimate body representing the whole people decided, among others, to bring in leaders of major ethnic political parties as members and expand the CRPP to accept new members.

    The NCGUB also lauds the Chairmen of the Mon National Democracy Front, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, and the Zomi National Congress for deciding to represent their own parties and dedicate their full time to the important work of the CRPP to restore democracy and re-build hand-in-hand the multi-ethnic nation of Burma.

    Today, members of the CRPP--Arakan League for Democracy, Mon National Democracy Front, and National League for Democracy, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, and Zomi National Congress--have shown that they are strong in their unity and are of one mind in their pursuit of democracy and to re-building the Union of Burma. Their display of unity and courage bodes well for the political future of the country because the NCGUB firmly believes that unity among political forces is the most important requisite for the future of the democratic Union of Burma.

    We, elected representatives in exile and the NCGUB reaffirm our unwavering support for these political parties and the CRPP as a whole. We wish the CRPP success in its endeavors and stand firmly behind it and its determined and unswerving endeavor to fulfill the wish of the people as expressed through the 1990 elections.

    We, the NCGUB, appeal to all Governments, Parliaments, the United Nations, and international organizations and institutions to strongly back the peaceful efforts by the CRPP and to encourage the generals to enter into a cooperative relationship with it for the benefit of the country and the people.

    We also wish to remind the SPDC that the military alone can never resolve the current socioeconomic and political problems and that it is vitally important to immediately begin working with the CRPP and elected political parties in order to resolve all national problems, restore democracy, and re-build the nation.

    The CRPP representing the aspirations of all the multi-ethnic peoples of Burma, supported firmly by all forces in the world-wide democracy movement, stands ready to move forward and rebuild the Union of Burma in the mold and direction inspired to by the people of Burma.

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    Students arrested and tried at Insein Prison Special Court

    Source : Democratic Voice of Burma

    The trial of the two law students of Rangoon University who protested peacefully in front of Rangoon City Hall began yesterday at Insein Prison Special Court. Legal experts from the NLD attended the trial to represent the two defendants but it was reported that the SPDC authorities made every effort to deter and frustrate them.

    To confirm the report we talked to the NLD’s spokesman, U Lwin:

    U Lwin: I went to the prison with a group of our elderly social volunteers including two lawyers. They let us into the prison alright. But we were not allowed to enter the court house straight away and we just talked for awhile. When we were eventually allowed to enter, we were not allowed to go the court room. We were ushered into a waiting room while we could hear the procedures of the trial. We protested, and only then they let us into the room. By then, the trial of Thet Naung Soe was over. The judge was angry and asked our lawyers some questions. Thet Naung Soe thanked us for coming to help him. He said I have told them what I had to tell them. I also told the court that the SPDC government is illegal. And the trial is not being conducted according to the law. You can do what ever you want. I don’t care.

    The other one, Khin Maung Win signed an agreement saying that he would accept the offer of our volunteer lawyers to defend him. He will be tried next week on an appointed date. I think Thet Naung Soe would be sentenced by now. We were not told of this yesterday. His trial is over.

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    New ICFTU evidence of increasing forced labour in Burma and multinational enterprise involvement

    Source : Asian Tribune

    Brussels (ICFTU News)--- The release of political dissidents including the NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi combined with a purported opening of dialogue between the Burmese regime and opposition forces may seem to signify a softening stance from the notoriously brutal 15-year military dictatorship in Burma. Yet, in the run-up to the 21-22 October EU General Affairs Council’s 6-monthly Burma review, the ICFTU has released stark new evidence which contradicts this impression.

    The ICFTU represents 157 million workers in 225 affiliated organisations in 148 countries and territories.

    Massive forced labour is actually on the increase. Its uses include opium production and forced conscription into the army. Trade union groups are becoming the focus of violent attacks and foreign multinational investment is helping keep the junta afloat as the world’s governments look on. In evidence submitted to the United Nations’ ILO, the ICFTU has transmitted allegations of connections between oil giant, TOTALFINA-ELF, the Burmese military and the use of forced labour.

    Trade Unionists Increasingly Targeted As Forced Labour Increases In Burma

    On 4 August 2002, a Burmese union official, U Saw Mya Than, was slain in cold blood by soldiers, having been forced to work as a porter for the army’s Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) n° 588, led by one Major Myo Hlaing.

    This is just one incident revealed in 350 pages of condemnatory evidence sent this week to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The evidence - covering October 2001 to September 2002 - reveals that, far from keeping its promise to eradicate the practice of forced labour, the military junta continues to use it on a massive scale, and is actually stepping up brutal operations against underground trade union structures.

    This is the first time the ICFTU has released details of underground trade union activities in Burma since it started investigating forced labour in the country over a decade ago. In its submission, the ICFTU denounces the military junta for attacking Federation of Trade Unions – Burma (FTUB) facilities, as well as looting food stocks of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and burning down elementary schools, a hospital, and a workshop for disabled workers.

    The information reveals that in retribution for trade union activities, on 3 May, the military torched the Kawthoolei Education Workers’ Union (KEWU) office in Kho-Kay, North Pa-, as well as a local school, attended by 300 students. On 6th August, army troops burnt down a 20-bed hospital, a disabled persons’ workshop, another school and several houses. Over 500 IDPs who had taken shelter in the village were forced to escape across the border into Thailand. On 7 and 8 May, another 169 IDPs lost their homes when an army column attacked their village in Kho-Kay and looted 30 paddy barns. Among the victims whose houses had been destroyed were several KEWU members, including its President, M. Saw Lah Say.

    The story concerning the murder of U Saw Mya Than is particularly damning. Having been elected as “headman” of his village, Kaleiktoat, in Ye Township (Mon State) he was forced to work as a porter for the army. When the army column came under attack from elements of the ethnic independence movement shortly before nightfall on 4th August 2002, Saw Mya Than was killed in cold blood as an act of retaliation by the very soldiers he was forced to work for.

    It is common practice in the Burmese military to recruit forced labourers as porters and “human shields” who are often made to march at the front of battalions to “protect” soldiers against ambushes- the role U Saw Mya Than was playing immediately before he was murdered. It is also clear that there is a direct link between Than’s trade union role and his murder. After having been trained as a human and trade union rights’ specialist by the FTUB and FTUK in 2001, Than became well known in his area for his involvement with human rights and was thus elected as a headman. He was also widely known to be an official of the Kawthoolei Education Workers Union (KEWU).

    The ICFTU charges that this was why he was forcibly recruited as porter for LIB 588, since headmen, whose responsibility it is to satisfy the army’s endless demands for porters and other forced labourers, are normally not forcibly recruited themselves. The report also contains details of the training activities carried out deep inside Burmese territory by the FTUB and the Federation of Trade Unions Kawthoolei (FTUK) prior to the punitive attacks carried out by the military. The two organisations, which co-operate closely inside Burma, also maintain structures in neighbouring countries.

    Multinationals Profiting From Forced Labour: EU Members Must Ban Investment In Burma

    Culpability for forced labour is not simply limited to the regime itself. Despite a high-profile international campaign led by the ICFTU, foreign multinationals continue to financially support the junta. The role of the French oil giant TOTALFINA-ELF, long involved in Burma, comes particularly under the spotlight in the new evidence. The information supplied to the ICFTU alleges that forced labour is being used for road building and other infrastructure work connected to TOTALFINA-ELF’s Yadana pipeline operation. According to the latest FTUB report on the subject, civilians in at least 16 villages in Burma’s Southern Tenasserim Division were forced to construct a highway between Kanbauk and Maung Ma Gan.

    Families were often forced to work for 20 days or more per month, each having to build a 20-meter long, 4-meter wide stretch of road in April 2002. They were told that this was not forced labour and that they would be duly paid. In May, villagers heard that TOTALFINA-ELF had paid the authorities for the road building and inquired with their village elders about the money. They were told that their complaint would be referred to “higher authorities”, but are still waiting for the money months later. This issue is raised directly in the ICFTU report to the ILO.

    In the light of this evidence, the ICFTU is calling on the EU Council of Ministers to strengthen its Common Position on Burma at their 21-22 October Luxembourg meeting to include a ban on all European investment in the country.

    The ICFTU will shortly release new evidence of multinational investment in Burma, as union researchers uncover new examples of corporations profiting from one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.

    Multinationals such as TOTALFINA-ELF have long maintained that there is no link between their investments in Burma and the growing use of forced labour. This new evidence poses real questions about the connections between multinational enterprises, the Burmese military and the use of forced labour. The EU must act now,” said ICFTU Burma expert Janek Kuczkiewicz.

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    UN agency seeks to base staff along Myanmar border

    YANGON, Oct 27 (AFP) - The United Nations refugee agency has sought permission from Myanmar to base staff along its border with Thailand if any agreement to repatriate refugees is made between Yangon and Bangkok, a report here said.

    Approximately 120,000 refugees are living in 11 holding camps in Thailand, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) figures.

    Erika Feller, director of the UNHCR's Department of International Protection in Geneva, told the Myanmar Times during a visit to Myanmar earlier this month she had raised the issue with ministers in the ruling military regime.

    "We did raise with the authorities here the possibility of early access (to border areas) in anticipation that we will be able to play a constructive role in helping people return in an organised way," Feller told the semi-official weekly in its edition to be published Monday."We are ready to play our proper role in this regard to assist the government to receive the people," she added.

    There had been positive talks on the repatriation issue in early October between officials from Myanmar and Thailand, she said.Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said last year that refugee camps along the Myanmar border would be gradually closed after several violent incidents involving refugee political activists.

    Most refugees in the Thai camps have escaped fighting in border areas between rebel ethnic minority armies seeking independence from Myanmar and Yangon-aligned forces.The majority wish to return to Myanmar if ceasefire arrangements are implemented, and are not seeking settlement in a third country.

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    UN rights envoy meets with Myanmar home ministry officials

    YANGON, Oct 26 (AFP) - UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro met with Myanmar home ministry officials as he continued his low-key monitoring mission here Saturday, official sources said.Pinheiro met with Home Minister Colonel Tin Hliang and police chief Brigadier General Htin Yee, the sources said, but details of their discussions were unavailable.

    The Brazilian academic is here on an 11-day mission to build a picture of the human rights situation.Since his arrival here on October 17, Pinheiro has held talks with top guns in the ruling junta, opposition members, religious and ethnic minority leaders, and prisoners.

    He has met with powerful military intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt and Foreign Minister Win Aung, as well as the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi.Pinheiro, who is on his fourth visit here, also spent three days travelling in Mon and Karen state, southeast of Yangon, to assess the situation there.

    His regional trip came after he cancelled a three-day visit to northeastern Shan state. He had planned to investigate claims of systematic rape by soldiers, following reports by Thailand-based Shan women's groups which have been vehemently denied by the junta.But Pinheiro cancelled the planned trip, saying it would be impossible to gather enough facts within the short period.

    In his most recent report to the UN General Assembly, Pinheiro said the "recent mellowing on the political front" -- referring to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in May -- was not enough to improve the human rights situation.

    He urged the UN to get ready to help with the transition to democracy, saying: "The present delicate situation... needs to be handled with great care and generosity on the part of those who wish the people of Myanmar well."Pinheiro is due to leave Myanmar on Tuesday.

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