Daily News- September 05- 2002- Thursday

  • ILO appoints permament liaison officer in Myanmar
  • Thai authorities fear 42 refugees killed in flood, mudslide disaster
  • DVB: Dr Salai Tun Than's health condition
  • Iran, Myanmar Keen to Expand Mutual Ties
  • Burma releases eight political prisoners ahead of visit by European Union team

  • ILO appoints permament liaison officer in Myanmar

    GENEVA, Sept 4 (AFP) - The International Labour Office (ILO) has appointed a Vietnamese national as its permanent liaison officer in Myanmar to oversee efforts to wipe out forced labour.

    Hong-Trang Perret-Nguyen, who is director of the ILO's industrial relations department, will take up her new post in Yangon in early October, an ILO press release said.Her appointment follows an understanding reached between the Geneva-based ILO and the military junta in Myanmar in March that the role of liaison officer would cover all activities relevant to ensuring the "prompt and effective" elimination of forced labour in the country.The ILO stipulated on Wednesday that "she should be extended all facilities and support to that effect".

    Under the mandate, the liaison officer, in cooperation with the authorities, "will have to help establish strategies to effectively address the root causes of the forced labour situation in Myanmar", the statement said.

    A 1998 ILO inquiry found the practice of forced labour was "widespread and systematic" and targeted ethnic minorities living in border regions.

    Perret-Nguyen takes over from interim liaison officer Leon de Riedmatten who was appointed in May.

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    Thai authorities fear 42 refugees killed in flood, mudslide disaster

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Sept 4 (AFP) - At least 42 people are feared dead in mudslides and flash floods at a refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border, with 16 bodies retrieved so far, officials said Wednesday.

    There is little hope of finding the 26 people missing since heavy rains hit on Monday, said rescue organisers at Ban Sala camp in northeastern Mae Hong Son province, home to some 15,000 Karen and Karenni refugees.

    Local Administration Department chief Apai Chandanachulaka said the first 14 bodies recovered had been quickly buried. Most of the refugees in the camp are Christian."The bodies of the missing have probably been washed into the Salween river, as we can't find them on the banks," Apai said in a television interview.

    A Civil Defence Office spokesman said district officials reported that two more bodies were found Wednesday, bringing the number of bodies retrieved to 16.Apai said the disaster happened when flash floods came tumbling down steep terrain that surrounds the camp, which is also flanked by two streams that flow into the Salween.

    The landslide and floodwaters destroyed more than 200 makeshift homes and damaged 121 dwellings as well as two hospitals, two churches and four schools, leaving more than 1,000 people homeless.

    "It happened so quickly, in only about 15 minutes the floods washed away everything," he said.

    Wai Lin Zin from the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), an activist group operating in the camp, said eyewitnesses reported that the mudslides damaged at least two dozen houses."Most of the victims fell into the overflowing stream in the dark and were carried away by the flash flood," he said.

    With rain continuing to pour down, waters in the camp were rising again, posing a serious risk of more floods and the spread of disease, and forcing trapped refugees to scramble to higher ground.

    "The majority of Ban Sala camp is submerged," said Wai Lin Zin. "The refugees are suffering shortages of fresh water after the main water supply line was seriously damaged by the mudslide."The activist said efforts to provide emergency aid and evacuate survivors were slow and ineffective because transport routes were badly damaged and the area was largely inaccessible.

    "The refugees need emergency aid of food, clean water and medicines," he said. "I believe authorities should make efforts to control diseases like diarrhoea and others which could occur due to the clean water shortage."

    Interior Minister Purachai Piumsombun flew to Mae Hong Son Tuesday but has been unable to visit the camp as roads leading to it are impassable, blocked by floodwaters and thick mud.He told reporters Wednesday that although rescuers were rushing to evacuate refugees to higher ground, the Thai government had no intention of moving the camp permanently.

    Hundreds of soldiers, border patrol police and staff with non-governmental organisations are engaged in rescue work, searching for bodies and helping the homeless.The public health ministry mobilised 200 medical staff and set up a relief center at nearby Mae Sariang hospital to treat the casualties.

    The camp is one of 17 in the border provinces of Tak and Mae Hong Son which give shelter to more than 120,000 ethnic Karen, Karenni and Mon refugees who have fled fighting and political persecution in Myanmar.

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    DVB: Dr Salai Tun Than's health condition

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 4 Sep 02

    Dr Salai Tun Than who has been sentenced for a seven year imprisonment has not met his request to get the eyes operation yet that was requested more than three weeks ago. He is now suffering from high fever and flu.

    Dr. Salai Tun Than, 74, a retired professor of Agronomy from Yezin University is suffering from eye problems and has been supplied medical treatment at Insein Prison Hospital since July 29. According to prison doctors, his eyes need to be operated. He has been applied to get an operation outside the prison as there are no eye operation facilities inside prison. His family members are very worried that he could turn blind if the operation takes not on time.

    Dr Salai Tun Than was arrested in front of Rangoon City hall on 29 November 2001, while peacefully distributing a personal petition calling for multiparty general elections within one year under an interim civilian government, and unconditional transfer of power to the victor.

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    Iran, Myanmar Keen to Expand Mutual Ties

    TEHRAN -- Iran's non-resident Ambassador to Yangon Rasoul Eslami and Myanmar's Minister of Foreign Affairs Win Aung on Tuesday emphasized the need for expansion of bilateral political and economic ties.

    Eslami, inviting Aung to visit Tehran in the near future, expressed hope that the trip would lead to further promotion of Iran-Myanmar relations.Aung, for his part, announced his country's interest in developing cooperation with Iran.

    Pointing to the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran enjoys an important position in the Middle East, he said that Myanmar would soon open its embassy in Tehran.

    In another development, Eslami held talks with the country's Minister of Industry Aung Thaung.During the meeting, the two sides urged top officials of the two countries to prepare the ground for expansion of bilateral ties.

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    Burma releases eight political prisoners ahead of visit by European Union team

    Source : MSNBC / AP

    Rangoon, Sept. 5 --Burma's military government said it released eight political prisoners on humanitarian grounds Thursday ahead of a visit by a European Union delegation to observe the political situation in the country.

    Seven of the freed political prisoners are members of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party while the eighth was in prison for having ''connections with an unlawful organization,'' a government statement said. It did not elaborate.

    The government also released 39 women who were pregnant or had young children. They were not jailed on political charges.

    Thursday's development raises to 310 the number of NLD members freed since the junta entered into closed-door reconciliation talks with Suu Kyi in 2000 to end the country's political deadlock.

    Suu Kyi herself was freed from 19 months of house arrest on May 6. Another 255 NLD members remain in jail. More than 350 non-NLD political prisoners have also been released, but human rights groups say about 1,000 others are still in jails.

    Apart from the prisoner releases, generally regarded as a confidence-building gesture, little else has come of the reconciliation talks.

    A four-member EU mission, which is scheduled to arrive in Rangoon Sunday for a three-day visit, plans to meet with Suu Kyi, government leaders, senior NLD members and some leaders of ethnic groups.

    The European Union is one of the strongest critics of the ruling military junta, and imposes heavy restrictions against members of the regime who want to travel in Europe.

    The junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement. It called elections in 1990 but annulled the results after the National League for Democracy won.

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