Daily News- September 20- 2002- Friday

  • Myanmar junta's No. 2, 3 generals promoted
  • Myanmar accepts invite to Hawaii ID lab ahead of recovery mission
  • Myanmar junta's top three generals promoted
  • Myanmar junta says it is working for multiparty democracy
  • Burma Introduces First Internet Cafés
  • Unocal Remains Committed To Yadana Gas Project In Burma
  • Burma says no foul play in NLD prisoner's death

  • Myanmar junta's No. 2, 3 generals promoted

    YANGON, (AP)Myanmar - The second- and third-ranking generals in Myanmar's military junta were promoted Thursday, an official said, in a move that apparently entrenches their position in power.

    The official said that Gen. Maung Aye, 65, the deputy chairman of the military government, was promoted to the rank of deputy senior general, which means he remains the No. 2 behind junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe.

    Maung Aye is the deputy commander-in-chief of the defense services as well as commander-in-chief of the army.

    An official announcement is expected to be published in state newspapers on Friday, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Also promoted was Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, who was made a full general and named adviser to Than Shwe, the chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, as the junta is known.

    Their new rank will maintain the two leaders' seniority following the recent promotion of several major generals to the rank of lieutenant general.

    It is not clear if Khin Nyunt, 63, retains his positions as Secretary One in the SPDC and as chief of military intelligence.

    However, Khin Nyunt's promotion makes it clear that he is still a favored officer in the military government despite his reported friendship with the disgraced family of former dictator Ne Win.

    Ne Win's son-in-law and three grandsons have been tried this year on charges of treason for allegedly planning a coup. A verdict is scheduled to be delivered next Thursday.

    The latest promotions came a day after the 14th anniversary of the takeover of the government by the current junta. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been ruled by the army since 1962.

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    Myanmar accepts invite to Hawaii ID lab ahead of recovery mission

    YANGON, Sept 19 (AFP) - Myanmar officials will make a rare visit to the United States in October to prepare for a joint mission to recover remains of US servicemen whose aircraft crashed in what was Burma during World War II, it was announced here Thursday.

    "It was agreed that next month Myanmar officials will visit the United States Army Central Identification Lab in Hawaii to meet with U.S. forensic scientists who lead field excavations to discuss procedures for the joint recovery operation in northern Myanmar," a government statement said.

    "I myself will personally give full support to this recovery mission," Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, secretary one of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, said in the statement.It did not provide specific dates of the trip or names of participants.

    Last week a US delegation led by Jerry Jennings, deputy assistant secretary for defense for prisoner of war and missing personnel affairs, met here with Myanmar scientists and agreed on a framework for cooperation.

    Yangon said it "pledged its full support to the US in the recovery of American servicemen".Jennings had invited the Myanmar officials to visit the US lab.

    The Hawaii visit is aimed in part at familiarising the Myanmar officials with US remains recovery and identification procedures, the statement said.Technical talks will be held in Myanmar in November to arrange details on the excavation of the four sites in Kachin state in early 2003. The US team hopes to visit each site during the November talks, the US Defense Department said last week.More than 78,000 Americans remain missing in action from World War II.

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    Myanmar junta's top three generals promoted

    YANGON, Sept 20 (AFP) - Myanmar's top three junta leaders have been promoted in a move prompting speculation that the junta number one, Senior General Than Shwe, may delegate some responsibilities to his two deputies, analysts said Friday.

    Number two in the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), General Maung Aye, and number three, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, have been promoted to deputy senior general and general respectively, an official source said.

    Maung Aye is also deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and there is speculation that Khin Nyunt, who is head of the powerful military intelligence unit, will also be named as a military advisor to Than Shwe.

    The source said Senior General Than Shwe, the powerful leader of the SPDC and head of the armed forces, has been given the rank of field marshal.

    "The military promotions are being seen as part of an ongoing process of strengthening the military and further consolidating the hierarchy," one observer said.

    The promotions do not appear to have changed the overall set up within the junta, with the top troika continuing to handle their present responsibilities as chairman, vice-chairman and first secretary, the observer said.

    Analysts said Than Shwe may now delegate some of his current roles to his two deputies."Than Shwe is currently not only the de facto head of state, but also prime minister, SPDC chairman, defence minister and he could very well hand over some of these responsibilities to the other two," one analyst said.Another said the shuffle meant Than Shwe was unlikely to retire any time soon.

    Other members of the SPDC, including ten former regional commanders, have also been promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, the official source said.

    The promotions came a day after the fourteenth anniversary of the ruling SPDC taking power in Myanmar in the wake of a crackdown on a nationwide pro-democracy uprising.

    The latest move followed expectations that a major change was about to occur in the SPDC leadership, one Myanmar-watcher said, adding that the actual changes were a let-down.

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    Myanmar junta says it is working for multiparty democracy

    By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer

    UNITED NATIONS - The military junta that has ruled Myanmar since 1962 on Thursday promised to reintroduce multiparty democracy to the Southeast Asian country.

    In an address to the U.N. General Assembly, Myanmar's Foreign Minister U Win Aung said: "It is the goal of our government to bring to reality the aspirations of the people of Myanmar for a multiparty democratic political system."

    He did not give a date for elections, but said the government is "laying firm foundations so that this democratic system will have the strength to withstand any challenges that emerge."

    Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been controlled by a military junta since 1988, a rule that has been internationally criticized for its often bloody human rights abuses.Elections were last held in 1990, but the military refused to hand over power after pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory.Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her peaceful struggle against the regime, was put under house arrest since 1989. She was released in 1995, but the restrictions again were imposed six years later after she attempted to leave Yangon for a political meeting.In May, the government eased its grip and released Suu Kyi from house arrest after it said "significant progress" has been made in healing the rift.

    In his address, the foreign minister said his country is working for an end to conflict and expressed hope that efforts to bring unity to the country are met with understanding and encouragement. The army has been fighting ethnic rebels near the border with Thailand.

    The minister said Myanmar has taken steps to eradicate the cultivation and trafficking of illegal drugs. A project named "New Destiny" launched earlier this year in poppy cultivating regions of the country by educating poppy farmers, offering substitute crops, providing financial assistance and enhancing law enforcement has prevented a potential yield of 55 tons of heroin with an estimated street value of more that dlrs 2.2 billion.In addition, dlrs 1.1 billion worth of narcotics were seized and 26,000 acres (10,500 hectares) of poppy fields were destroyed.

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    Burma Introduces First Internet Cafés

    By Zarni Win
    The Irrawaddy

    September 20, 2002—In a country notorious for restricting access to international media, Burma is now prepared to grant internet-hungry citizens limited access to cyberspace.

    According to the Rangoon-based monthly business journal Living Color, Burma will introduce the country’s first Internet café next month, but customers will not be allowed to use to email services.

    Any company wishing to open an Internet café must do so in cooperation with Bagan Cybertech, one of Burma’s two Internet service providers. The company was founded in Oct 2000, and its CEO is Dr Ye Naing Win, the son of Military Intelligence chief Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt.

    "For the last two years, Information Technology (IT) companies have been trying to get permission to run Internet cafes, so I am thrilled that we will have the chance to finally get a taste of the Internet," said a journalist with close connections to Burma’s two Internet providers.

    In addition to Bagan Cybertech, the Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), a department of the Ministry of Communications, Posts, and Telegraphs, also provides limited Internet services to its corporate clients. Burmese law currently restricts IT access to government and government related organizations.

    According to Living Color, anyone can contact Bagan Cybertech to apply for Internet access. Individuals must pay 260 Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) while businesses are required to pay 600 FEC (1 FEC = US $1). Services will be restricted to 1,400 websites, but businesses can pay 800 FEC for unlimited access to the Web. Some have expressed disappointment at the steep access fees.

    "Now, Internet access is too expensive putting it out of reach for most people," said a computer trainer in Rangoon. "But once the service providers can compete freely and more users have access to the services, Internet will become cheaper."

    Bagan Cybertech currently provides email services to about 3,000 users and MPT has opened about 5,000 email accounts. In Rangoon, Internet and email training has reportedly experienced a small boom in preparation for the opening of the cafés.

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    Unocal Remains Committed To Yadana Gas Project In Burma

    SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--Unocal Corp. (UCL) Friday reaffirmed its commitment to its investment in Burma, despite renewed controversy over business operations by multinational oil companies in the country.

    "Unocal remains committed to its investment in the Yadana Project and the Moattama Gas Transportation Co.," Barry Lane, a Unocal spokesperson based in the U.S. told Dow Jones Newswires Friday.

    On Wednesday, a U.S. federal appeals court reinstated a civil lawsuit against Unocal Corp. for alleged mistreatment of villagers in Burma, reversing a lower court's earlier dismissal of the case.

    The lawsuit was filed by several citizens of Burma on allegations of human rights abuses carried out by the Burmese military during the construction of Unocal's pipeline.

    The Pasedena, Calif., branch of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Unocal may have "aided and abetted" human rights abuses committed byBurma's military, and that the trial court erred in requiring the plaintiffs to prove Unocal's "active participation" in the alleged abuses.

    The judges remanded the case for trial to U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

    "Unocal never 'aided and abetted' anyone in the commission of human rights violations," the Unocal spokesperson said.

    "If this case goes to trial, we will defend our reputation vigorously and expect to be fully vindicated," he added. "We never encouraged or authorized human rights violations in any way."

    Human rights activists have opposed foreign investment in Burma because of allegations of human rights abuses by the nation's military against its people. Buoyed by the recent announcement that U.K.'s Premier Oil will exit its operations in Burma's Yetagun natural gas project, activists said they will continue to press Unocal to back out of the Yadana project as well.

    As reported, Premier Oil Monday announced it would transfer its 26.67% stake in the Yetagun Project in Burma to Petronas, Malaysia's state oil company, as part of Premier's corporate restructuring plan.

    Premier Oil said this was in line with their intention to restructure the company and leave it better balanced to deliver shareholder value. However, the company had previously come under harsh criticism from human rights groups and shareholders for its continued investment in Burma.

    Unocal, with a 28.26% interest, is one of four investors in the Yadana field consortium known as the Moattama Gas Transportation Co.

    French oil and gas company, TotalFinaElf SA (TOT) is the project builder and operator with a 31.24% interest. Other project investors are Thailand's PTT Exploration & Production PCL (H.PTT) with a 25.5% interest and state-owned Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise with a 15% interest.

    The Yadana field has reserves of more than 5 trillion cubic feet and is located 69 kilometers offshore Burma in the Andaman Sea. The Yadana project includes development of the Yadana field, which has four offshore platforms with 14 wells, and construction of a pipeline extending from the offshore field across Myanmar's south to Ban-I-Trong at the Burma -Thailand border.

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    Burma says no foul play in NLD prisoner's death

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters/ AP

    Rangoon, Sept. 20 — Military-ruled Burma sought to head off potential criticism over the death of a prisoner from the pro-democracy opposition on Friday, insisting the detainee had died because of poor health.

    ''While serving his sentence...Aung May Thu recently suffered severe flatulence with hard constipation on 15th September,'' a government spokesman said in a statement faxed to Reuters.

    Aung May Thu, 60, a senior member of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party, had been in jail since 1989.

    He was recently transferred to a hospital for an eight-hour operation and died on September 17 of peritonitis, the statement said.

    Aung May Thu was arrested in 1989 on charges of being linked to the banned Communist Party of Burma and sentenced to 20 year in prison. Although the sentence was commuted to 10 years, he was kept in prison under a law allowing indefinite detention of persons considered a threat to the state.

    News of his death had already been reported by opposition sources, and publicized by opposition media outside of Burma.

    The statement from the government spokesman's office, faxed to The Associated Press in Thailand, said Aung May Thu was transferred on Sunday from Tharawaddy Prison to a local hospital in Bago, 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of the capital, suffering from flatulence and constipation.

    The next day he was sent to Rangoon general hospital where a team of specialists operated on him overnight, but he died several hours later.

    The statement said the government was helping his family with "necessary humanitarian assistance."

    The Irrawaddy online magazine, published in Thailand, reported that Suu Kyi attended Aung May Thu's funeral on Wednesday.

    Under intense lobbying from the international community, Burma's generals released Suu Kyi from 19 months' house arrest in May. But around 250 members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) still languish in Burma's jails.

    The NLD won elections in the impoverished Southeast Asian country in 1990, but have been denied power by the military.

    Human rights groups say the military regularly tortures political prisoners and keeps them in poor conditions.

    But the United Nations human rights envoy to Burma Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who is due to visit the country on October 13, has said prison conditions have improved since the government started to allow Red Cross visits over the past two years.

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