Daily News- September 23- 2002- Monday

  • Myanmar opposition leader calls for international support to push reform
  • Thailand billed as Burma skiing gateway
  • Bangladesh seizes weapons from Myanmar refugees
  • Myanmar releases 18 detainees
  • Myanmar FM to visit Thailand for crucial border talks
  • Myanmar arrests nine company chiefs

  • Myanmar opposition leader calls for international support to push reform

    COPENHAGEN, Sept 22 (AFP) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi appealed for international support Sunday to hasten the country's transition to democracy, as a summit of EU and Asian leaders in Copenhagen got underway.

    "I would like to appeal to our friends all over the world to do everything they can to ensure that we progress towards democracy, by which I mean a society which guarantees our people both security and freedom," the veteran pro-democracy campaigner said in a video address.

    "From the point of view of the National League for Democracy (NLD), change could not come fast enough. If change came today, it would still be too late," she told the meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) being held in the Danish capital.

    "There is so much more to be done for this country than I had ever imagined," said the rights activist, freed in May after 19 months of house arrest.

    Aung San Suu Kyi and Yangon remain at odds over key issues such as the pace of political reform and a national reconciliation dialogue.

    "Quick change is necessary. Speedy change is the way to resolve Burma's problems. We cannot afford infinite delay," she said."The longer we take over the proposed changes, the more likely it is that people will lose confidence in the sincerity of those who say they do want change."

    Supporters of the opposition leader -- whose National League for Democracy won a sweeping 1990 election victory never recognised by the ruling military junta -- backed her calls for international pressure.

    "We call on the international community to apply serious and sustained economic and political pressure on the military government of Burma until it reverses its unacceptable treatment of its citizens," said a statement released by the International Burma Summit at their one day conference.

    Human Rights Commissioner for the Baltics, Helle Degn, reacted to the opposition leader's speech saying she wished "that the leaders participating in the ASEM summit could also hear this voice, this cry for freedom and security for Burma."

    "I hope that they could also see the videos which we have been confronted with today, which bear witness to the brutality (of the military regime) that is beyond understanding," said the former Danish minister for international cooperation.

    Since October 2000, Aung San Suu Kyi and the military regime have been engaged in talks aimed at ending years of deadlock since the junta seized power after a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1988.

    Aung San Suu Kyi said when released in May that the talks had moved past an initial confidence-building stage and would now begin to handle thorny issues.But since then there have been no concrete developments, prompting concern that the talks may have ground to a halt.

    Earlier this month, Aung San Suu Kyi met an EU delegation visiting Yangon to press for reform and the release of political prisoners.The European Union has been among the staunchest advocates of political reconciliation in Myanmar, which is subject to crippling sanctions by Brussels.The EU delegation said in a statement at the end of its mission that it had pressed Myanmar's rulers on political reform and expressed "continued concern at the human rights situation."

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    Thailand billed as Burma skiing gateway

    Nondhanada Intarakomalyasut
    The Bangkokpost

    Thailand will promote Chiang Mai as the gateway to Burma's new tourist destination, a proposed ski resort in the northern Kachin state.

    Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has suggested the Tourism Authority of Thailand link the new attraction with its ``Amazing Gateway to Mekong Region' tourism campaign that will promote Thailand along with Southern China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

    Chiang Mai was the ideal gateway to ``the only snow place in Southeast Asia'' as it had advanced hospitality services and was only a two-hour flight away, he said.

    Currently, only a limited number of tourists were visiting the ski resort, said a representative of Rubyland Tourism Services who attended the recent Thailand Travel Mart 2002.

    With its geographic position and advanced hospitality services, Thailand would gain greater benefit from promoting attractions of neighbouring countries. The move would also foster tourism among countries in the Mekong region, Mr Somkid said.

    Thai authorities will team up with local operators in neighbouring countries to promote the region's new attractions.Mr Somkid said that Thailand would be a facilities hub, making it the preferred starting and returning point for visitors touring the region.Thailand should take advantage of its location and high-quality facilities to attract tourists to the country, even while they were visiting other countries, he said.

    During the Thailand Travel Mart 2002 Plus Amazing Gateway to Mekong Region (TTM 2002), many buyers, mainly from Australia, Germany and Italy, showed interest in the region's travel products. Total sales arising from the event were expected to top 10 billion baht.

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    Bangladesh seizes weapons from Myanmar refugees

    COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (Reuters) - Police in Bangladesh have confiscated nearly 160 swords and knives and two guns from Muslim refugees from neighbouring Myanmar, who have been protesting against a government repatriation plan.

    Police raided the Nayapara refugee camp in Cox's Bazar district on Saturday night, seized the weapons and arrested eight inmates, Cox's Bazar police officer Farid Ahmed told Reuters.

    Nayapara houses 9,000 of the Myanmar refugees, known as Rohingyas. Another 12,000 live in nearby Kutupalong camp. Both camps are about 450 km from Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.Some 250,000 Rohingyas crossed the Naaf river into Bangladesh from west Myanmar's Arakan province in early 1992, denouncing persecution by Myanmar's military rulers.

    Most were repatriated under the supervision of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees before Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma, stopped the process more than two years ago.

    Officials said Bangladesh was trying to persuade Myanmar to take back the remaining refugees without delay. The refugees say they want to live permanently in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh.At least 20 people, including five police officers, were injured in Nayapara camp on September 14 during a protest by the refugees against repatriation.

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    Myanmar releases 18 detainees

    BANGKOK, Thailand - Myanmar's military government said Monday it freed 18 political prisoners, including 10 members of the opposition National League for Democracy party, the latest group of dissidents released since the start of national reconciliation talks two years ago.

    A government statement said authorities "will continue to release more individuals who will cause no harm to the community nor threaten the existing peace, stability and unity of the nation."

    The junta is believed to hold up to 1,500 political prisoners, including several hundred members of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, which won a 1990 general election but was not allowed to take power.Instead of convening parliament, the military cracked down, harassing and arresting many members of the opposition.

    The statement said five of those freed were women, four of them NLD members. The detainees were released from various correctional facilities, and "all are in good health and reunited with their respective families," it said.

    The release of political prisoners has been a major demand of the National League for Democracy. Suu Kyi, a 1991 Nobel peace laureate, has been holding political reconciliation talks with the government since October 2000.More than 300 of her party's members have been freed since the closed-door talks began, but apart from those prisoner releases, little else has resulted from the reconciliation talks.Suu Kyi herself was freed from 19 months of house arrest in May.

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    Myanmar FM to visit Thailand for crucial border talks

    BANGKOK, Sept 23 (AFP) - Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung is to arrive in Thailand Tuesday for crucial talks aimed at resolving a lingering border dispute between the neighbours, officials said Monday.The talks were originally scheduled for September 6 but were postponed at short notice by Myanmar officials who cited Win Aung's busy schedule.

    The minister is now to meet with his Thai counterpart Surakiart Sathirathai on Wednesday after lunch with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a foreign ministry official said.He will also have a royal audience with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who has been invited to pay an official visit to Myanmar this year.

    The foreign ministers' talks are to focus on the reopening of border checkpoints between the two countries, which have been sealed since May 22, and on developing mechanisms to prevent future closures.Myanmar unilaterally closed the checkpoints, crippling bilateral trade, after clashes along the border erupted between the Myanmar junta and ethnic Shan rebels, which Yangon accused Thailand of assisting.The historical adversaries then exchanged official protest notes, and Myanmar barred official visits.

    After returning from a fence-mending trip to Yangon last month Surakiart said relations had "normalized".The princess's visit is aimed at showing Myanmar's respect for the Thai monarchy, after Thailand's hackles were raised by a series of articles in the official press that it deemed insulting to the monarchy.

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    Myanmar arrests nine company chiefs

    The Daily Star

    AFP, Yangon - The heads of nine private Myanmar import/export companies have been arrested and had their assets seized in the latest crackdown on trading irregularities, business sources said Sunday.

    The nine companies affected -- Diamond Million, Golden Optic, Green Green One, Kyaw Myint Moe, Min Min Tun, Shwe Myet Hman, Thaung Htike, Thein Htike and Zabu Yit -- are all major trading firms, the sources said.

    "The nine are some of the 299 private exporting companies presently being investigated for malpractice from among 15,000 companies listed with the trade ministry," a businessman who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP.

    "The nine were found to have fudged official import permits issued by the trade department worth over three million dollars."He did not identify those arrested.Some of the firms are known to be fronting for foreign companies, which are banned from conducting import and export business on their own, he

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