Daily News- September 24- 2002- Tuesday

  • Wanted junta's textbooks
  • Myanmar FM arrives in Bangkok for talks on reopening of border
  • Burma's former ruling party criticizes junta for mismanaging economy
  • Burma's currency, the kyat, hits record low against dollar
  • Thailand urged to force human rights improvement in Burma

  • Wanted junta's textbooks

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    Rangoon has been asked to bring textbooks used in Burmese schools to a meeting in Bangkok in November, so Thai officials can point out changes which need to be made.Gen Sanan Khachornklam, secretary of the advisory staff of the defence minister, said the texts were on the agenda for the meeting, from Nov 26-30.

    Burmese officials would be urged to make changes to texts which were seen as harmful to bilateral ties, he said.The textbooks are said to be critical of Thai foreign policy and past kings.

    ``We don't know for sure what the textbooks are all about. We know they attack us. And we want Burma to check them,'' he said.

    Thai and Burmese reporters, including people from Rangoon's mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper, would be invited to the meeting in a bid to promote better understanding between the two countries.

    The gathering would be hosted by the Burmese-Thai Cultural and Economic Cooperation Association founded by Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

    Myanmar FM arrives in Bangkok for talks on reopening of border

    BANGKOK, Sept. 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung arrived in Bangkok Tuesday, starting his official visit to Thailand aimed mainly to negotiate on the re-opening of border check points, according to a report of the Thai News Agency.

    Win Aung is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatraat a luncheon here Wednesday, and then hold talks with his Thai counterpart Surakiart Sathirathai on bilateral issues, with the reopening of border check points on the top of the agenda.

    Mechanism to avoid conflicting problems or misunderstanding which could lead to renewed closure of the border check points would also be discussed, the report said.

    Clashes along the border caused by misunderstanding led to Myanmar's closure of its border check points in May. Yangon alleged that the Thai military supported armed ethnic groups fighting against Myanmar troops. The misunderstanding was later cleared by the governments of the two neighbors.

    Thaksin and Surakiart are now attending the Fourth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM IV), held in the Danish capital of Copenhagen between September 23 and 24.

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    Burma's former ruling party criticizes junta for mismanaging economyr

    Source : AP

    Rangoon- - Burma's former ruling party emerged from obscurity Tuesday with a sharp criticism of the military government for its handling of the economy.

    The National Unity Party was established in 1988 as a new incarnation of the Burma Socialist Program Party, the vehicle for single-party rule by former dictator Gen. Ne Win from the 1960s until 1988.

    Party chairman Tha Kyaw's anniversary message, read out by a party member, said that people are suffering from spiraling consumer prices and inflation due to weaknesses and loopholes in the government's economic policies and its implementation.

    It called for the emergence of a constitutionally elected government to solve the country's political and economic woes.

    The anniversary celebration, held at party headquarters in Rangoon, was attended by more than 300 party members and guests. The press was also urged to attend, unlike previous occasions.

    When Burma was under the rule of Ne Win, it turned from one of the most prosperous countries in Southeast Asia into one of the poorest.

    Ne Win's rule was overturned in 1988 when discontent over economic issues sparked pro-democracy demonstrations. Ne Win was forced to yield the last of his power when the military took over.

    The military staged a general election in 1990, but refused to recognize the results after a landslide victory by the opposition National League for Democracy.

    The NLD won 392 parliamentary seats, while the National Unity Party which had been seen as a strong contender acceptable to the military came in a poor third with 10 seats, trailing an ethnic Shan party with 23 seats.

    Burma has been in a political deadlock since then, with the NLD seeking to have power turned over to a democratically elected government.

    NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel peace laureate, entered into closed-door political reconciliation talks with the junta in late 2000.

    Tuesday's statement from the National Unity Party said it could not support the talks as "the national reconciliation process has to be carried out by all national forces and not by a party or two."

    It urged all forces to "strive for the emergence of a new constitution through the process of National Convention and to work for peaceful transition for the emergence of a democratic nation."

    Burma has had no constitution since the military takeover in 1988. The government opened a national convention to draw up guidelines for a new constitution in 1993, but it has been inactive since 1996. The NLD had originally taken part in the convention but later withdrew, calling it undemocratic.

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    Burma's currency, the kyat, hits record low against dollar

    Source : AP

    Rangoon- - Burma's currency fell to a record low on Tuesday, sliding to 1,260 kyats to the U.S. dollar on the black market, a fall in value of more than 8 percent in recent days.

    The kyat had been trading at around 1,100 to the dollar for the past few weeks since August, before falling to 1,160 last Wednesday. It was hovering around the 750 mark in January this year.

    The official exchange rate is six kyats to the dollar, but most business transactions and consumer sales are based on the rate set by underground dealers.

    The black market is tolerated by the government as necessary to carry on business, because the kyat is not convertible outside the country.

    The currency's devaluation demonstrates an obvious lack of confidence in it, observers say, although no one has pinpointed precise reasons for the drop.

    The decline could also be linked to a weakening of neighboring Thailand's currency, the baht, which fell to 43.43 per dollar on Tuesday, following a weakening Japanese yen. The baht is also widely used in transactions in Burma.

    The government usually blames rumor mongers and market manipulators for currency instability. Authorities usually react to sudden rises in the exchange rate by warning black market dealers or, in some cases, arresting them and giving them long jail sentences.

    Deputy military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Kyaw Win told reporters in the first week of September that the government is trying to make sure that the kyat won't depreciate further. He didn't disclose details of measures taken.

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    Thailand urged to force human rights improvement in Burma

    Source : AP

    BANGKOK- - A regional civil rights group on Tuesday urged Thailand to force human rights improvement in neighboring Burma, whose troops are accused of raping ethnic minority women and committing other atrocities.

    The call by the Bangkok-based Forum-Asia was issued as Burma Foreign Minister Win Aung arrived Tuesday on a two-day visit aimed at improving bilateral relations that have hit an all-time low because of a border skirmish in May.

    Win Aung is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai on Wednesday.

    The Burmese military junta, known as the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC, has faced strong international criticism for suppressing democracy and human rights.

    In July, the U.S. State Department cited allegations that Burma soldiers have raped scores of women from the Shan ethnic minority. The accusations were contained in reports by two Thai-based Shan groups.

    "During meetings with Win Aung, Thaksin should encourage the SPDC to allow international human rights monitoring in ethnic minority areas, and to take immediate action to punish military personnel accused of rape," said Forum-Asia secretary-general Somchai Homlaor in a statement.

    It said the Thai government has closed down the offices of the two organizations that issued the report about the rapes in a bid to appease the military government in Burma.

    "If the Thai government is committed to promoting democratization in Burma, it will protect pro-democracy groups taking refuge in Thailand rather than persecuting them," Somchai said. "The Thai government should not bow to pressure by assisting the SPDC to silence their critics."

    The Thai Foreign Ministry said Win Aung's talks with Thaksin and Surakiart are expected to focus on solving border tensions.

    Burma has closed its border crossings with Thailand since May 20 in retaliation for the firing of Thai artillery into Burma's territory. It has also banned the import of Thai goods, prohibited visits by officials and criticized Thailand's revered monarchy in state-owned media.

    Thailand said it fired the shells when fighting between Burmese troops and ethnic Shan rebels spilled into its territory. However, Burma accuses Thailand of firing the shells to help the rebels.

    Win Aung will return to Rangoon on Wednesday.

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