Daily News- September 08- 2002- Sunday

  • Defying power in community service
  • Thai PM vows punishment after logging which led to deadly floods
  • EU delegation in Myanmar, will meet Suu Kyi
  • Myanmar posts "wanted" pictures in latest anti-crime effort

  • Defying power in community service

    Arabella Newnham
    BusinessWorld Internet Edition

    Dr. Cynthia Maung was not able to travel to Manila to accept her Ramon Magsaysay award and deliver her public lectures for fear that she might not be able to return to her clinic on the Myanmar-Thai border.

    Ms. Maung is a supporter of Myanmar political leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party. "She has ultimately received the ire of the Myanmar military," a co- worker of Ms. Maung said.

    The winner of the award for Community Leadership, Ms. Maung has been recognized for "her humane and fearless response to the urgent medical needs of thousands of refugees and displaced persons along the Thailand-Burma border."

    She has been treating victims of the brutal Thai-Burmese war for fourteen years. Tens of thousands of Karens and Burmese minorities have found sanctuary at Mae Sot in Thailand, where Ms. Maung runs her clinic.

    Born to a Karen family herself, Ms. Maung and some other medical students fled to Mae Sot when Burma's military junta launched a bloody crackdown against democracy advocates in 1988. She set up a makeshift clinic in response to the trauma and illness that was rampant amongst refugees in Mae Sot. Ms. Maung trained health workers to assist in the clinic and to serve as "backpack medics" across the border. By 1996 she supported six clinics in the Karen war zone.

    Today, Ms. Maung's clinic provides free health care to 30,000 people a year. The clinic has a laboratory and prosthetics workshop. It also deals with the social effects of refugee life. She set up women's organizations and youth programs to deal with problems of domestic violence and education.

    A spokesperson for the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation said they were sad such an inspirational individual could not attend the awards in person. A co-worker told media Ms. Maung was just too fearful of not being allowed back to her clinic if she left.

    Dr. Junice Melgar accepted the award on Ms. Maung's behalf at the ceremony last Saturday. Ms. Melgar is a member of Likhaan, a nongovernmental organization that works with Ms. Maung and her clinic in Mae Sot. The exchange program between Dr. Maung's clinic and Likhaan started in May 2000.

    Ms. Maung said in a message, "We strongly urge all countries, not just our neighbors, to support us in our struggle to free Burma from the military dictatorship."

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    Thai PM vows punishment after logging which led to deadly floods

    BANGKOK, Sept 7 (AFP) - Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Saturday blamed illegal logging for the death and destruction caused by recent floods and mudslides in northern Thailand, and vowed to punish officials he said were responsible.

    At least 41 people, including 16 mainly Karen refugees, have died over the past five weeks in massive floods that have wreaked havoc across the north and northeastern regions of Thailand, according to the interior ministry.

    "It is clear that forests in watershed areas had been massively depleted over a long period, causing soil and logging to be washed away with flood waters," Thaksin said in a weekly radio address."I want to blame those selfish people who illegally encroach and cut logs, especially in watershed areas, and particularly those who are government officials," he said."My administration will employ decisive measures against them," he said, though he did not identify any officials.

    Thaksin pointed to the worst disaster since the flooding began, in Mae Hong Son province, where 16 refugees were killed Monday when a mudslide and flash floods swept through the Ban Sala camp on the Thai-Myanmar border.Twelve people there remain unaccounted for and are presumed dead.

    Most of the dead in the camp had been killed by large trees toppled over by floods cascading down the mountainside, causing land slippages and damaging hundreds of makeshift homes and buildings including hospitals, churches and schools.

    Thai authorities had blamed the disaster on illegal logging carried out by the mostly Karen refugees, hired by timber dealers to cut down trees growing in a nearby national forest reserve.But on Friday the refugees blamed the disaster on unscrupulous Thai businessmen operating in the area.

    The flooding, in some locations the worst in 40 years, swamped 51 of 76 provinces nationwide, with 33 provinces still inundated, according to the interior ministry's civil defense department.Over 760,000 people have been affected, with more than 1,400 roads, 66 bridges and 265 reservoirs damaged, 628,329 acres (251,300 hectares) of farmland inundated and 118,087 livestock killed.The economic damage was estimated at 265.2 million baht (6.3 million dollars).Illegal logging is routinely blamed for flash floods and mudslides in Thailand despite a nationwide logging ban in place since the late 1980s.

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    EU delegation in Myanmar, will meet Suu Kyi

    YANGON, Sept 8 (AFP) - A European Union (EU) delegation began a three-day mission in Myanmar Sunday which will include meetings with the ruling military junta as well as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, diplomats here said.

    It is the fourth official EU trip to the military-ruled state since 1999 and the first since the junta released the veteran pro-democracy campaigner in May from 19 months of house arrest.

    Sunday was being spent visiting non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies, sources said.It was to include a 1030 GMT meeting with the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), which groups the pro- democracy parties representing Myanmar's seven major ethnic groups.

    On Monday and Tuesday the Europeans will meet generals of the junta and separately with the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

    "They are seeing all the usual actors, including people from ethnic minority groups, and obviously the NLD and other interested parties," a diplomat close to the delegation told AFP."They've come to assess the situation," the diplomat said, adding that the delegation, led by Danish foreign ministry regional director Carsten Nilaus Pederson, had a Tuesday appointment with NLD head Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel peace laureate.

    During the last EU mission to Myanmar in March, the delegation pushed hard for prisoner releases, including that of Aung San Suu Kyi herself.Aung San Suu Kyi has said her party's top priority is to secure the release of the some 1,500 political prisoners still in the country's jails.

    She said last month that a mass release would be a precondition to her beginning a long-awaited political dialogue with the regime.Last week the junta announced it had freed eight political prisoners and 39 women prisoners ahead of the latest EU visit.But in an opposing move, it also sentenced two NLD members last week to three years in jail, for possessing a dissident journal.

    UNA spokesman Khun Tun Oo, who is also chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), said he hoped the EU delegation would push the cause of ethnic minorities, many of whom have been at historical odds with Myanmar's leadership.

    "We will press for substantive dialogue between the military and the NLD and ask the EU to press for the legalization of all political parties, especially ethnic parties," he said.

    All the parties except the SNLD were deregistered after the 1990 elections, which the NLD won in a sweeping victory never recognised by the junta.

    The EU in May welcomed Aung San Suu Kyi's release but said it was not enough for Brussels to lift its sanctions on the country.The sanctions include an arms embargo and a travel ban on members of the junta. The European Parliament has suggested they be extended to include a ban on EU investment.

    The current mission to Myanmar includes representatives from the Danish presidency, the future presidency Greece, the European Commission, and the Council Secretariat which services the Council of Ministers.

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    Myanmar posts "wanted" pictures in latest anti-crime effort

    YANGON, Sept 8 (AFP) - A crackdown on crime in Myanmar has taken on new dimensions as police have begun displaying photos of suspected criminals on public notice boards in the capital Yangon, according to state- controlled media.

    Suspects are also being listed in the seven weekly journals published by the police force as the military-ruled state struggles to reduce criminal activity, the Myanmar Times reported in its edition to be published Monday.

    "We need the closer cooperation of the public so that suspects can be detained as soon as possible," police inspector U Aung Lwin was quoted as saying.Any member of the public knowing the whereabouts of suspects named on the boards or journals should contact police immediately, Aung Lwin added.

    Notice boards list the suspect's name, age, address, features and the offence for which they are being sought, the English-language weekly said.The latest policy has its limitations, the inspector conceded.

    "As long as man exists, crime will exist," Aung Lwin said. "We can only reduce the rate of crime and can not totally eliminate crime."

    The newspaper did not say whether photographs of any political dissidents who may be wanted by the ruling military junta would be included on the notice boards.

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