Daily News- September 12- 2002- Thursday

  • Asian Rights Group Takes Action to Stop Rape by Myanmar Soldiers
  • EU Delegation Presses Burma on Human Rights
  • Three Myanmar dissidents expected to obtain refugee status in Korea
  • More armed clashes forecast
  • Burmese troops held at border to be freed
  • Burma, Thais seek to make up after border clashes
  • Crime Wave Linked to Hunger

  • Asian Rights Group Takes Action to Stop Rape by Myanmar Soldiers

    Jim Lobe,OneWorld.net

    A prominent Asian human rights organization is putting pressure on the military regime in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) to cease its use of "rape as a weapon" against minority groups in the Southeast Asian country.

    The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has launched an online petition to press Myanmar's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to halt the "widespread and systematic use of rape as a weapon of war" in northeastern Shan State, home to country's largest ethnic minority group, the Shan.

    The move followed the publication Monday of a report, 'License to Rape,' by the Thailand-based Shan Women's Action Network and the Shan Human Rights Foundation, which found that over a five-year period there appeared to be "a concerted strategy by the Burmese army troops to rape Shan women as part of their anti-insurgency activities."

    The report, which is being circulated by AHRC, cited 173 incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence, involving 625 girls and women, reportedly committed by Burmese soldiers, including officers, in Shan State between 1996 and 2001. Due to reluctance among the victims to report rape, the actual number of incidents is likely to have been far more, according to the Shan organizations.

    Like other ethnic minorities in Myanmar, the Shan population, which comprises some 10 percent of the nation's almost 50 million people, have long resisted central rule, particularly that of the SPDC, which has also been opposed by the pro- democracy movement headed by Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Amnesty International reported in mid-July that while the human rights situation in Myanmar's capital, Yangon (formerly Rangoon), had improved since the regime began secret talks with Suu Kyi earlier this year, the plight of ethnic minorities in the eastern area of the country, where insurgencies persist, was as bad as ever.

    Shan, Mon, and Karen communities were still subject to unpaid forced labor in construction projects and in military camps, despite government claims that it had outlawed such practices. Torture and summary killings by the military also continued, according to the Amnesty report which was based on interviews with some 100 migrants from the region.

    The high rates of rape and other sexual violence, the Shan report charged, was due to the increased militarization of Shan State where the number of army battalions has tripled since 1988. Most of the incidents, it said, took place in central Shan State where over 300,000 villagers have been forcibly relocated since 1996.

    Of the total incidents detailed in the report, 83 percent were committed by officers, usually in front of their own troops. The rapes often involved "extreme brutality" and torture, such as beating, mutilation, and suffocation. Almost two thirds of the incidents involved gang rapes, and 25 percent resulted in death, in some instances with bodies being displayed publicly in order to terrorize local communities.

    Many rapes took place when girls or women were caught outside relocation sites, usually searching for food. Rapes also occurred when women were working in forced labor projects or when they were stopped at military checkpoints, according to the report.

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    EU Delegation Presses Burma on Human Rights

    Ron Corben
    VOA news

    The European Union says Burma can expect a positive response if it moves to improve the political situation in the country. The four-member EU delegation issued a statement after wrapping up a three-day visit to Burma.

    In its statement, the delegation said the "European Union stands ready to respond positively and proportionately to substantive improvement in the political climate of the country."

    The delegation called on Burma's military government to release all prisoners of conscience and improve human rights, particularly for the country's ethnic minorities.Human rights organizations say Burma continues to hold than 1,000 political prisoners.

    During its fact-finding mission, the delegation was not able to meet with any of Burma's senior ruling generals. Officials did, however, talk with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The delegation will present its findings next month at a meeting to review European sanctions on Burma.

    The EU visit is the latest in a series by foreign officials to encourage the government to hold substantive talks with the democratic opposition of political transition in Burma.The two sides have been engaged in private dialogue for two years and that has resulted in a series of confidence building measures. Hundreds of political prisoners have been freed, the opposition National League for Democracy has been allowed to resume limited activity and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest and permitted to travel around the country.

    The NLD, backed by international envoys, says it is now time to talk about tough issues, specifically moving Burma toward democracy.The military government, which prevented the NLD from taking power after the 1990 elections, says it will move at a pace designed not to destabilize the country.

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    Three Myanmar dissidents expected to obtain refugee status in Korea

    By Kim Ji-ho Staff reporter
    The Korea Herald

    The government is expected to grant refugee status to three Myanmar dissidents claiming to have fled political persecution by their military government, officials said here yesterday.

    If the refugee recognition process is completed, it would be only the second such case in Korea. The Seoul government accepted an Ethiopian national as a refugee in February 2000.

    In a recent meeting held by officials from the Justice Ministry, Foreign Ministry and other related government agencies, participants agreed that the trio deserves refugee status.A higher-level interagency panel will finalize the decision by either holding a meeting or exchanging documents on their cases, said a Foreign Ministry official.

    The three asylum seekers reportedly include a 36-year-old man who is a member of the National League for Democracy, Myanmar's opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The other two are also democratic activists in the Southeast Asian country, which is ruled by a military junta.

    Justice Ministry officials said applications from about 50 other seekers of refugee status are currently under review.Korea became a signatory to the International Convention of Refugees in 1992, but has been under criticism from human rights groups for its "rigid" refugee system.

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    More armed clashes forecast

    Wassana Nanuam

    The Bangkokpost

    The National Defence College will present Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with a report recommending the military remain in a state of readiness for clashes with Burma as diplomatic moves were unlikely to resolve bilateral relations.

    Drafted by students under the supervision of Lt-Gen Praparn Nilawonge, chief of the armed-forces security centre, the report advises the government be prepared to deploy its military resources to handle further ``low-intensity conflicts.''

    Diplomacy alone would prove inadequate in mitigating frictions with Rangoon, it said.

    Although relations with the Burmese junta would improve over the next five years, a degree of mistrust would prevail, undermining efforts to iron out long- standing differences.

    The report urged the government to strengthen support for national reconciliation in Burma, saying instability within the ethnically divided country posed a threat to domestic security.

    On diplomacy, the report recommended bilateral points of contention be ranked, with the least troublesome issues tabled for discussion first.Matters that remained unresolved would require constant talks to keep them from degenerating.

    The report said unrest along the Burmese border would continue to adversely effect domestic issues, such as drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

    Burmese troops held at border to be freed

    Two Burmese soldiers arrested by Thai rangers on Doi Lang in Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district on Monday will be freed by the Third Army which says it was a misunderstanding.

    Col Pichet Sukpongpisit, head of the Third Army's civil affairs division, said Third Army commander Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasingh yesterday ordered the release of the two Burmese soldiers as the arrests were made out of a misunderstanding over a disputed border area and Burmese troops' request for their release was initially denied due to communication problems.

    The two Burmese soldiers, attached to the 277th infantry battalion, were caught while picking tea leaves on Doi Lang. They will be handed back to the Burmese military today.

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    Burma, Thais seek to make up after border clashes

    Rangoon, Sept 12 (Reuters)- - Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung will make a delayed visit to Thailand later this month for talks aimed at ending a bilateral row that has shut border crossings between the two countries since May.

    "Win Aung is tentatively scheduled to arrive in Thailand in the last week of this month to discuss bilateral issues with his Thai counterpart," Thaung Tun, director-general at Burma's foreign ministry, told a news conference in Rangoon on Thursday.

    "An exact date is still to be fixed at the mutual convenience of the two ministers."

    Relations between Thailand and Burma plummeted in May after a series of clashes on their border. Burma shut border crossings and accused Thailand of aiding ethnic minority rebel groups fighting the Rangoon junta, a charge Bangkok denied.

    Thailand sought high-level talks to try to patch up ties but was rebuffed until July, when Win Aung met his Thai counterpart Surakiart Sathirathai at a regional security meeting in Brunei. Last month Surakiart went to Rangoon for more talks.

    Border crossings remain closed, however. Officials said the subject of a possible re-opening would be discussed when the two ministers meet.

    Analysts say the closure of the border crossings has dealt another blow to Burma's tottering economy.

    Win Aung had initially been scheduled to come to Thailand for talks last week, but the visit was postponed, with officials saying the Burmese minister's schedule was too busy.

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    Crime Wave Linked to Hunger

    Source : Irrawaddy Magazine

    A wave of violent crime appears to be spreading across Burma, as the country’s crumbling economy continues to drive its poorest citizens to increasingly bold acts of desperation.

    Sources report that robbery and looting have become rampant in the impoverished satellite towns of Rangoon and Mandalay, Burma’s two largest cities. Elsewhere in the country, there have been reports of travellers being confronted by local people demanding food and money.

    "A bus on the Rangoon-Mandalay highway was stopped and robbed by hungry-looking villagers near Pyinmana last week," confirmed the assistant manager of a tour agency in Rangoon. "Company vehicles have also been targetted," he added.

    "In some cases, the villagers, including children, stopped vehicles and begged for food and money from bus passengers and private car owners. They didn’t steal anything, but they looked so desperate that the motorists were afraid to refuse," the source continued.

    The crime wave has even hit relatively prosperous areas of the Burmese capital, where there have been a rash of reports of daytime looting and break-ins.

    "In our neighborhood alone, there have been five break-ins since last week," said Myo Lwin, a resident of Rangoon’s Tamwe Township. "In most cases, a group of people knocked on the apartment door and then rushed in when the tenant answered." Similar incidents have occured in nearby Yankin Township, he added.

    News of skyrocketing crime rates comes amid evidence that Burma’s poor have been hard hit by the recent plunge of the kyat and a concomitant rise in food prices. The kyat was valued at 1,100 kyat to the US dollar yesterday, up from all-time lows of 1,200 to the dollar earlier in the week.

    Reliable sources report that in many rural areas, some villagers have nothing to eat except bamboo shoots. Meanwhile, in the Rangoon satellite townships of Shwe Pyithar and Hlaing Tharyar, many families have been reduced to eating just a thin rice gruel, or in some cases, just water used in cooking rice.

    Burma’s strictly controlled media has been instructed not to report on the recent dramatic rise in hunger-related crimes.

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