Daily News- September 07- 2002- Saturday

  • US rebukes Myanmar over jailing of NLD activists
  • No date set yet for crucial Thai-Myanmar meeting: Thai FM
  • Kraisak ups anti-abuse campaign
  • Burma urged to join ASEAN Visa-free agreement

  • US rebukes Myanmar over jailing of NLD activists

    WASHINGTON, Sept 6 (AFP) - The United States rebuked Myanmar on Friday after two members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) were jailed for three years for dissident activity.

    The State Department said the arrests of the two men "appear inconsistent with the regime's stated commitment to political reform," dealing a new blow to Myanmar's recent efforts to improve its appalling relations with Washington.

    "We urge the regime to release all those detained for the peaceful expression of their political views," the department said in remarks to AFP."We expect these cases to be handled according to international norms of due process."

    The two activists -- Aung Thein and Kyaw Naing Oo, both members of the NLD youth wing -- were arrested on August 22 and tried successively on August 23 and 26, NLD officials in Yangon said.They were found guilty under a 1950 emergency provision act and sentenced Thursday, even as seven other NLD members were released from jail in a gesture designed to mark a European Union delegation visit to Yangon this weekend.

    Myanmar's ruling junta also announced Thursday that 39 female prisoners and another prisoner jailed "for connection with unlawful organisations" had been freed from jail.Hundreds of political prisoners have been released since the beginning of 2001 in goodwill gestures linked with fledgling talks between the junta and the opposition, but 1,500 are believed to still be incarcerated.

    Aung San Suu Kyi has said her party's top priority is to secure the release of all the political prisoners and suggested last month that a mass release would be a precondition to a long-awaited political dialogue with the regime.

    The arrests come amid rumors here in the dissident community that initial contacts between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi prodded by UN envoy Razali Ismail have cooled.The State Department had no comment on that issue, but stressed that it hoped a substantive dialogue could begin soon.

    Myanmar, which is treated as a pariah state by Washington and some of its Western allies has recently made attempts to improve its standing in the US capital, hiring a lobbying firm and making major policy announcements here rather than in Yangon.

    In a statement issued here in July, the junta claimed it was victim of a vicious "smear" campaign designed to frustrate its goal of improving poisoned relations with the United States.

    The tirade followed allegations that Myanmar troops had systematically raped women and girls in Shan state."These allegations are completely false, and we refuse to be deterred by those who would stand in our way of seeking cooperation with the United States on drug eradication, terrorism and promotion of human rights," said the statement.

    The United States has warned junta that a bevy of sanctions and investment restrictions will be lifted only when substantial progress is made towards democratic reform.Washington is a staunch supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi, who's NLD won an overwhelming election victory in 1990 never recognised by the government.It also accuses Yangon of doing too little to crack down on the trade in illegal narcotics.

    To The Top

    No date set yet for crucial Thai-Myanmar meeting: Thai FM

    BANGKOK, Sept 6 (AFP) - No date has been set yet for key ministerial talks between Thailand and Myanmar on defusing a months-long border crisis, Thailand's foreign minister said Friday, contradicting an earlier ministerial statement.

    Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said that his Myanmar counterpart Win Aung, whom he met in Johannesburg during the UN Earth Summit, had only indicated he wished to shift the meeting to the end of the month.It had originally been set for Friday.

    "Win Aung wanted to come here during the third week of September or from September 23 to 25, but I have to attend an ASEM (Asia-Europe meeting) in Denmark then, and we also have to check the prime minister's schedule as Win Aung wants to see him too," Surakiart told reporters.

    Thai defense minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapha had earlier told reporters the two would meet on September 30.Yuthasak had also said the talks would focus on the reopening of border checkpoints between the two countries, which have been closed since May 22, and on developing mechanisms to prevent a closure recurring.

    Surakiart said Friday that while the issue would be discussed, it was not impacting bilateral relations.He also said that in Johannesburg Win Aung had reaffirmed Myanmar's commitment to hosting a visit by Thailand's Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, to show the country respected the Thai monarchy.The two foreign ministers had agreed to arrange the visit when they met in Yangon in February this year. Surakiart said then that it was likely to take place in late October or early November.

    Myanmar particularly raised Thailand's hackles in recent months when it published a series of articles Bangkok deemed insulting to its monarchy.Thailand barred the two Myanmar journalists responsible for the stories and Myanmar in retaliation banned 15 Thai journalists from Myanmar.

    To The Top

    Kraisak ups anti-abuse campaign

    Supoj Wancharoen Pradit Ruangdit
    The Bangkokpost

    Kraisak Choonhavan upped the ante in his campaign against Burma's treatment of ethnic minorities yesterday, using his strongest language yet to condemn what he called systematic rape, torture and murder on a large scale.

    Mr Krasaik, chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, insisted that as many as 600 Shan women had been systematically raped by Burmese troops.

    ``In the central plains of the Shan state, unarmed villagers were threatened and suppressed. The worst are systematic rapes. More than 600 people have been raped. Some of them have been raped for three to four years. ``The victims included 11-year-olds and even a 60-year-old.

    Most rapes were started by colonels and completed by their subordinates. They raped in villages and military camps and two-thirds of the victims were killed,'' Mr Kraisak said at parliament.

    ``Children and adults were tortured and killed without a reason. They were soaked in hot water and had their heads punctured and were left to bleed. We have the names of the victims and Burmese soldiers responsible,'' he said.

    Mr Kraisak vowed to continue exposing alleged abuses in Burma. He had asked the United Nations to investigate and sent the details to its headquarters in Geneva and local branches of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. His committee obtained the details from reports of the Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan Women's Action Network. The information matched what his panel had heard itself from Shan refugees in Wiang Haeng district, Chiang Mai, on a visit there on Aug 15.

    Burmese soldiers from at least 52 bases together with Wa colleagues had abused the ethnic people sexually, he said.

    On Tuesday, Burma's Labour Minister Tin Win and intelligence deputy chief Kyaw Win denied the claims, saying Mr Kraisak hated Burma and supported the Shan United Revolutionary Army. Mr Kraisak said he had no hatred of Burma but sympathised with the Burmese people.

    Without the junta, Mr Kraisak said, Burma would be a much more developed place, especially in terms of tourism.

    What was unacceptable was the way Burma violated the human rights of its own people. The Thai government was also at fault, Mr Kraisak said, for trying to deny entry to Burmese refugees and allowing them to live on their own in border areas. Sixty were killed by flash floods in the North this week.

    Although Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra insisted that refugees would be treated fairly, staff from the National Security Council admitted a directive to reject refugees existed. If the government did not want to take care of the refugees, it should hand over the burden to the United Nations.

    Mr Kraisak said the Thaksin government was too keen to please Burma, and to no avail. Thailand, he said, paid Burma 37 billion last year for the unfinished gas pipeline connected to the Yadana gasfields. It had also paid 400 million baht to build roads and 20 million baht to suppress drugs in Burma.

    Despite the favours, Burma closed its border with Thailand in May, and its soldiers skirmished along the boundary, Mr Kraisak said. The Chuan Leekpai government steered clear of Burma, but during its term in office Rangoon had closed only its Tachilek border pass.

    Meanwhile, 93 women's groups yesterday asked the government not to push Shan minority people back to Burma, where rape and other forms of brutality awaited them. In a letter to Mr Thaksin, the groups said the government should protect Shan people on the border by working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to set up refugee camps and giving refugees access to humanitarian aid. The government must not send the Shan people back to Burma without taking into account the situation in the Shan State and ``behaviour'' of Burmese soldiers, they said.

    ``More importantly, the government must not send Shan women and children back to face sexual assaults in Burma,'' they said. They based their calls on a report, ``Licence to Rape'', by the Shan Women's Action Network and the Shan Human Rights Foundation, two Thai-based groups. The report documents 173 cases of rape and sexual violence against Shan girls and women by Burmese troops between 1996 and 2001. It claims 83% of the cases involved rape by Burmese soldiers, a quarter resulting in the death of the victims. Some 61% were gang-rapes or repeated rapes. The report says only one assailant was punished and the penalty was light.

    ``The report proves that Burmese soldiers used rape as a weapon in their war against the Shan rebels fighting for independence,'' the letter said. Burma claims the report was fabricated by people with connections to the Shan State Army in a bid to discredit it.

    To The Top

    Burma urged to join ASEAN Visa-free agreement

    Source : The Bangkok Post

    A meeting of immigration officials from 10 Asean countries agreed in principle yesterday to work towards making the region a visa-free zone for their citizens in a bid to promote intra-Asean tourism.

    Speaking after the three-day meeting which ended yesterday, Ahmad Mokhtar Selat, Asean deputy secretary-general on corporate affairs, said the initiative would be signed in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh in November as part of an Asean Tourism Agreement.

    Mr Ahmad said the visa-free travel agreement has been in place for six of the 10 Asean countries _ Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

    The remaining four _ Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam _ have been urged by the meeting to join the agreement, Mr Ahmad said.

    He said the meeting also agreed to work together with other Asean bodies involved in combating transnational crimes, such as women and children smuggling and movements of terrorists into Asean countries. The two issues were high on the agenda of the meeting, which agreed immigration officials and other law enforcement agents would step up joint training and coordination in intelligence gathering. This included exchanges of information to safeguard the integrity of passports and security features.

    To make relevant information more accessible to the public, especially visitors to the region, the immigration websites of member countries would soon be linked up via the Asean Secretariat based in Jakarta, Indonesia, he said.

    Pol Maj-Gen Sothorn Vanitsathien, deputy chief of the Immigration Bureau, said he would be pleased if Thai nationals could travel to Laos, Burma and Cambodia without a visa.

    The visa-free zone agreement would help strengthen not only tourism but also other areas of cooperation, he said.

    Pol Maj-Gen Sothorn also said a regional approach would be needed to combat women and children smuggling.

    ``Thailand is now used as a transit country for international gangs to smuggle women and children to developed countries in Europe and America,'' he said.

    To The Top