Daily News- September 10- 2002- Tuesday
EU delegation holds talks with Myanmar junta, minoritiesThaksin refuses to face Burma realityEU team meets Burma opposition leader Suu KyiDaewoo to conduct seismic work on offshore Burma block3 Burmese held for theft of jewellery in ThailandSuu Kyi tells EU she is neutral on Myanmar sanctions
EU delegation holds talks with Myanmar junta, minorities
YANGON, Sept 9 (AFP) - European Union delegates held talks here Monday with officials of Myanmar's ruling military junta as part of their three-day mission to assess the country's progress in political reforms, officials said.
The first European delegation to visit Yangon since the May release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with deputy foreign minister Khin Maung Win, sources in the ministry told AFP.
Details of the talks were not revealed, but the Europeans were due to meet later in the day with home minister Tin Hlaing and labour minister Tin Winn before dining with the deputy foreign minister.Sources also said it was now likely the delegation would meet Tuesday afternoon with the number three in the Myanmar troika, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt.
The Europeans, led by Danish foreign ministry regional director Carsten Nilaus Pederson, expect to meet Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) on Tuesday, sources in her party and diplomats said.
It is the fourth official EU trip to the military-ruled state since 1999 and the first since Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was released from 19 months of house arrest.
Experts have said a meeting with Suu Kyi would help the EU assess whether or not a change in sanctions status should be considered and under what conditions.
The delegation also met Monday with representatives of the 17 ethnic minority groups which have signed cease- fire agreements with the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), sources said.Ethnic insurgencies have plagued border areas since Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948. By the end of the 1990s, the junta had signed cease-fire accords with the 17 groups but some rebel armies -- notably of the Karen and the Shan -- continue to fight Yangon's rule.
On Sunday the EU delegation held "very satisfactory" talks with a second ethnic minority group, the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), according to its chairman Khun Tun Oo.
The UNA, which groups the pro-democracy parties representing Myanmar's seven major ethnic minorities, is angling for eventual inclusion in tri-partite national reconciliation talks following commencement of political dialogue.
The delegates are expected to address the issue of human rights on their trip, which comes in the wake of allegations by Thai-based Shan ethnic groups that Myanmar's military committed systematic rape and murder.Yangon has dismissed the allegations as "preposterous accusations."
The current mission to Myanmar includes representatives from Denmark, which holds the EU revolving presidency, incoming presidency holders Greece, the European Commission, and the Council Secretariat which services the Council of Ministers.
To The TopThaksin refuses to face Burma reality
The Nation-EDITORIAL - Sep 10, 2002
If his most recent radio address is any indication, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra might be looking to do some serious soul-searching over his policy towards Burma. The fact that his administration has been held up for scrutiny in diplomatic circles as the junta tramples all over the olive branch he has extended to Rangoon should be more than enough reason for the premier to rethink his dealings with the generals.
In his latest weekly radio address, the prime minister catalogued a host of problems, including recent attacks against Thai school children in Ratchaburi, the 120,000 refugees along the border, Aids, malaria and over one million illegal foreign workers - all of which have a "Made in Burma" tag attached to them. But Thaksin apparently couldn't find it in him to spell out Burma as the source of all these woes. Perhaps he was afraid that the generals in Rangoon would take it too personally.
The premier went on to say that it was time the government re-evaluated its policy towards our neighbours. For a brief moment, there was some hope. But in the end, the weekly address ended on a very disappointing note. The prime minister just wouldn't stray far from his instituted brand of diplomacy, perhaps for fear that he would have to admit he was wrong from the very start. Never mind dignity. What appeared to have prevented him from doing so was his ego.
He just couldn't find it in him to admit to the public that he and his foreign policy team have been on the wrong track in their dealings with Burma. Instead, he went on discussing his theory of how economic prosperity will bring about stability and security along Burma's frontier and, thus, free Thailand from many more tedious years of dealing with refugees, insurgent groups, drug trafficking, and so on.
It makes all the sense in the world - well, for him anyway - to say this, as it permits some interest groups to continue to engage the Burmese regime economically, even at the expense of the nation's dignity and international standing.
Perhaps it would help if the prime minister spoke to some of the country's security officers who are at the front line and got their take on it. If they could speak freely, they would no doubt tell the prime minister that his brand of diplomacy is a sham and that his foreign policy team is out of touch with reality.
They would probably ask the prime minister how many of his so-called advisers know what the Thai-Burmese border looks like or whether they understand the complexity of it? Because if they did they would realise that the security arrangement along the Thai-Burmese border constitutes a very important aspect of Thailand-Burma relations.
Moreover, our men on the front line would tell the prime minister that permanent peace along the border can never be achieved until there is an adequate political settlement between the ruling junta and the armed ethnic groups, some of whom are still fighting Rangoon.
Last but not least, they would tell the prime minister that the private armies of drug warlords allied with the Rangoon government have in fact became the biggest card, a trump card perhaps, for Burma in its dealings with Thailand.
The prime minister must now step back and truly assess Thai-Burmese bilateral ties in a comprehensive manner. The public has heard enough of how his heart bleeds for the country and how he promises to make things better. It's time he delivered on the high expectations that the public has placed in him.
To The TopEU team meets Burma opposition leader Suu Kyi
Rangoon (Reuters)- - A European Union delegation visiting Burma to assess the extent of political progress met pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday and said it hoped to meet a top military leader later in the day.
The four-man team, which arrived in Burma on Sunday, aims to press for the release of more political prisoners and for the start of substantive talks between the junta and Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
The diplomats met Suu Kyi and other senior NLD leaders at the party's ramshackle Rangoon headquarters on Tuesday afternoon.
The EU has said it needs to see significant political progress before it reviews its common position on Burma -- the bloc imposes sanctions on Burma including an arms embargo, a visa ban on senior Burmese officials, and a ban on all bilateral aid other than strictly humanitarian assistance.
Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, was released from 19 months of house arrest in May, raising expectations of political progress. Senior members of the ruling junta have also been holding sporadic meetings with Suu Kyi over the past two years.
But the talks have yet to even start addressing substantive political issues, and the junta has held no meetings with Suu Kyi since she was freed from house arrest.
Last month, the United Nations special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, said meaningful talks would begin soon. But since then, hopes of an imminent breakthrough have faded.
The EU delegation has also held talks with representatives of major ethnic groups and with government officials, but there have been no meetings yet with senior government leaders.
EU sources said the team hoped to meet Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, number three in the ruling junta, later on Tuesday, but it was not yet clear whether he would be available.
The delegation was due to leave Burma in the evening. The visit is the fourth by a EU delegation since 1999.
The previous visit, in March, shed little light on the country's murky political machinations. Some senior members of the ruling junta said they were too busy to meet the delegation, and members of the EU team were unable to reveal any fresh insights into Burma's political future.
Diplomats say the main reason the junta has eased its stance towards Suu Kyi is the dismal state of the economy -- the ruling generals want to get crippling international sanctions lifted. But they say the junta hopes to avoid making any further concessions to Suu Kyi and the NLD.
The NLD wonBurma's last elections, in 1990, by a landslide, but the military refused to hand over power.
To The TopDaewoo to conduct seismic work on offshore Burma block
Hong Kong (Platts)--10 Sep 2002
South Korea's Daewoo International is to carry out seismic interpretation, geological survey and prospect evaluation in October or November this year at the A1 block off northwest Myanmar, a company official said Tuesday. "We plan to drill one well in the block in November 2003 so the work we are beginning this October/November will help us decide the best location for the well," he said. Daewoo has "estimated the block's gas potential to be anything in the range of 13.4 to 47.3 Tcf," he said. If the estimated range proves accurate, the field will be larger thanBurma's two other producing gas fields of Yadana and Yetagun, each of which holds gas reserves of over 5 Tcf. The block, which lies near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, covers an area of 3,800 sq km, and is Daewoo's only prospect in Burma.
"We may consider transporting the gas by ship [as LNG] or through a direct pipeline to India, depending on how much gas is found," the company official said. "Construction of an LNG plant is possible depending on how much gas we ultimately produce, but it is too premature to speculate now," he added. Daewoo signed a production sharing agreement for the block with Burma's Ministry of Energy in August 2000. Daewoo holds 60% of the block, while India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp has 20%, and the Gas Authority of India Ltd and Korea's Kogas each holds a 10% stake.
To The Top3 Burmese held for theft of jewellery in Thailand
Source : The Nation
Police arrested three Burmese maids on Sunday on suspicion of stealing Bt490,000 worth of valuables from a jeweller just one month after he hired them.
The suspects were arrested separately on charges relating to the theft, which occurred on August 21, police said at a press conference yesterday. The three were identified only as Yi, 21, Ra, 26 and Aye, 25.
The suspects allegedly stole the valuables, including a Rolex watch worth Bt240,000 and a platinum necklace, from jeweller Songwit Pakdiwuththam. Songwit hired them to do household chores from 6am to 6pm every day for Bt2,000 a month each.
In less than two months, according to police, the maids had learned where the valuables were kept in the house and stole them. Following the theft, they sold a gold necklace for Bt24,000 and shared the money among themselves. Later, they split up and went into hiding, police said.
Police charged the three with theft and were investigating whether they had entered the country legally. If they had not, police said, they would also face charges of illegal entry.
To The TopSuu Kyi tells EU she is neutral on Myanmar sanctions
YANGON, Sept 10 (AFP) - Myanmar's pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told a visiting European Union delegation on Tuesday she was "neutral" towards the crippling economic sanctions imposed on her country.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) leader held more than two hours of "comprehensive talks" with the EU delegation at her party's headquarters, NLD deputies said.
Party spokesman U Lwin said the Nobel peace laureate, for years viewed as a key advocate of economic sanctions, believed it was up to outside governments and institutions to formulate their economic policy on Yangon.
"Countries do what they feel they have to do," U Lwin quoted Aung San Suu Kyi as saying."She made no comment for or against the sanctions. She has taken a neutral position in this respect," he added.
The EU's first mission to Myanmar since the ruling military junta released Aung San Suu Kyi in May from 19 months of house arrest was aimed at assessing the country's political reform.
But when asked if the EU delegation had made any significant progress, U Lwin said: "The EU has only been meeting with salesmen and not with the manager."So far, the meetings have been with low-level people. How can you consider this to be significant?"
The NLD meeting was to be followed by separate EU talks with number three in the Myanmar troika, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, a source close to the junta said. But bad weather was preventing Khin Nyunt from returning from an excursion outside the capital and the meeting was facing cancellation.
Europe has been among the staunchest advocates of political reconciliation in military-ruled Myanmar, which is subject to crippling sanctions by Brussels and the United States.
Experts have said a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi would help the 15-nation EU assess whether a change in sanctions status should be considered and under what conditions.
The popular leader signalled a softening in her position last month when she told visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi she would no longer oppose foreign aid to the impoverished country, so long as it clearly benefitted the Myanmar people and fell within strict guidelines that ensured its transparency.
The delegates were expected to raise the issue of human rights, following allegations by Thai-based Shan ethnic groups that Myanmar's military committed systematic rape and murder.Yangon has dismissed the allegations as "preposterous accusations".
The delegation, led by Danish foreign ministry regional director Carsten Nilaus Pederson, lunched on Tuesday with diplomats from several embassies, diplomats said.But an afternoon meeting with the Japanese ambassador and other diplomats was scrapped as it conflicted with the possible talks with Khin Nyunt, they said.
The three-day visit is the fourth official EU trip to the military-ruled state since 1999.On Monday the delegation met with deputy foreign minister Khin Maung Win, representatives of various ethnic minority groups and non-government organisations.During the previous EU mission in March, the delegation pushed hard for prisoner releases, including that of Aung San Suu Kyi herself.But that visit ended on a flat note as a meeting with Khin Nyunt was cancelled.
The current delegation includes representatives from Denmark, which holds the EU revolving presidency, incoming presidency holders Greece, the European Commission, and the Council Secretariat which services the Council of Ministers.They were due to depart Yangon for Bangkok on Tuesday evening.
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