Daily News- September 25- 2002- Wednesday

  • DVB:NLD's 14th anniversary in Rangoon
  • Talks expected to bear fruit
  • Australia foreign minister to visit Myanmar
  • Myanmar tribunal to deliver verdict in Ne Win treason trial
  • Myanmar, Thailand hold upbeat talks and easing tensions
  • Burma says it will reopen Thai border in a few weeks


  • DVB:NLD's 14th anniversary in Rangoon

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 23 Sep 02"

    NLD is going to celebrate the 14th anniversary of its founding at NLD headquarters in Shwegondaing, Rangoon on Friday, 27th September", NLD spokesperson U Lwin told DVB.

    Ethnic representatives, leaders of national races, Rangoon-based diplomats and NLD members plan to attend the ceremony.Members of NLD-Youth are going to perform drama in the afternoon. Some of NLD representatives have already arrived to Rangoon.

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    Talks expected to bear fruit

    Achara Ashayagachat
    The Bangkokpost

    The removal from the border of foreign aid workers and activists, and hard economic realities in Burma, are expected to aid high-level Thai-Burmese talks in Bangkok today.

    Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung said shortly after his arrival yesterday he had come as a friend to discuss the reopening of the border. The minister said he hoped for a normalisation of relations.Burma closed the border on May 20 after accusing Thailand of helping Shan United Army rebels.

    A tight schedule today calls on Win Aung to be granted an audience with Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, a courtesy call on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and talks with his Thai counterpart, Surakiart Sathirathai.During the audience with the princess at Chitrlada Palace, Win Aung is expected to extend a formal invitation for her to visit Burma, sources said.The long-planned trip had been rescheduled from late next month to March next year, the sources said.

    Sources predicted today's talks were likely to bear fruit as Thailand had ``cleared the runway'' by deporting some foreign and ethnic workers in Tak province, and removing some activists from Kanchanaburi.

    These moves followed the publication by non-government organisations of the report Licence to Rape, accusing Burmese soldiers of using rape as a weapon against the Shan, a charge which Rangoon has denied.

    The talks also follow dire economic conditions in Burma where the kyat has depreciated against the baht and the US dollar. Before the Burmese border closure, 100 kyats could be exchanged for five baht but yesterday this had dropped to 3.5 baht.Likewise, 800-900 kyats could buy one US dollar, but yesterday it took 1,150 kyats to buy the same. The official rate is six kyats to a dollar.

    Meanwhile, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) has called on the Thai government to guarantee protection for rape victims fleeing systematic abuse at the hands of Burmese soldiers and to prevent further crackdowns on pro-democracy and human rights activists as a result of the Win Aung visit.The regional human rights organisation fears Thailand may agree to trade-off the safety of Burmese asylum-seekers and pro-democracy activists for better relations, particularly trade relations with Burma's ruling military junta.

    The government has yet to guarantee protection against repatriation or allow access to humanitarian assistance for these victims, despite the Licence to Rape report, which has received wide international attention for its well- documented account of the systematic use of rape as a weapon.According to the report, published by the Shan Women's Action Network and the Shan Human Rights Foundation, 83% of rapes documented were committed by officers, in most cases in front of their troops.The rapes often involved extreme brutality and torture, 61% were gang-rapes, and in some cases, women were detained and raped repeatedly for up to four months. The youngest victim was only five years old.

    The Thai government last month shut down the offices of both organisations, and Forum-Asia fears for the safety of the authors.

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    Australia foreign minister to visit Myanmar

    CANBERRA, (reuters) -Sept. 25 - Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer will visit Myanmar on October 2-3 to meet top military leaders and pro- democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, his office said on Wednesday.

    The visit by Downer is one of the first by a Western government official following the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi from house arrest in May, which raised hopes the military junta may be opening Myanmar to democratic reform.

    ''It will be an opportunity for him to register with all sides Australia's view of the importance of the process of political and national reconciliation and of course of improving the human rights situation,'' a spokesman for Downer told Reuters.

    ''He'll indicate Australia's willingness to support that process of reconciliation in ways that are appropriate and that will be considered helpful,'' the spokesman said.

    A European Union delegation visited Myanmar earlier in September to assess the extent of political progress. But while they met with Suu Kyi, a planned meeting with a top military leader failed to materialise.

    Australia has been a vocal critic of the detention of political prisoners in Myanmar in recent years, including the house arrest of Suu Kyi, but has used its embassy in Yangon to keep diplomatic channels open.

    MEETINGS SCHEDULED

    The spokesman said Downer was scheduled to meet with senior representatives of the government and Suu Kyi as well as with United Nations representatives and aid agencies working in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

    ''The idea of the visit is to allow him to gain a first-hand appreciation of the situation in Burma, including the humanitarian situation, which is of growing concern,'' the spokesman said.

    Western nations have taken tentative steps to welcome democratic change in Myanmar, which has been ruled by the military since 1962 despite a landslide election victory for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1990. The government has said it is committed to democracy, but that moving too fast could unleash anarchy.

    The European Union has said it needs to see significant political progress before it reviews its position on Myanmar. The bloc has imposed sanctions on Myanmar including an arms embargo, a visa ban on senior Myanmar officials, and a ban on all bilateral aid other than 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 held sporadic meetings with Suu Kyi over the past two years. But the talks have yet to start addressing substantive political issues, and the junta has held no meetings with Suu Kyi since she was freed from house arrest. In August, the United Nations special envoy to Myanmar, Razali Ismail, said meaningful talks would begin soon. But since then, hopes of an imminent breakthrough have faded.

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    Myanmar tribunal to deliver verdict in Ne Win treason trial

    By AYE AYE WIN, Associated Press Writer

    YANGON, Myanmar - A special tribunal will deliver its judgment Thursday in the treason trial of four relatives of former dictator Ne Win and if history is any indication the verdict won't be lenient.

    Ne Win's son-in-law Aye Zaw Win and three grandsons have been tried on charges of recruiting army officers for a coup against Myanmar's military junta. They could be sentenced to death if convicted. They have pleaded innocent.

    During the 3 1/2 month trial, the prosecution built a strong circumstantial case against the defendants, portraying them as a family hungry for power and whose members resorted to black magic and treachery but who were exposed by loyal army officers.

    Ne Win, who came to power in a 1962 coup, stepped down in 1988 in the face of pro-democracy demonstrations that were crushed by the military. The generals, who took over power, continue to rule today.

    Alleged coup plotters have never been treated leniently by Myanmar courts.In 1976, the ring leader of a group of army captains accused of plotting to assassinate government leaders including Ne Win was found guilty and executed. The others were given prison sentences. A former Socialist Party member was tried for high treason in 1977 and was also found guilty but not executed.

    The government has said that Ne Win's relatives planned the coup because they were upset at losing some of their economic and political privileges as Ne Win's behind-the-scenes influence waned.

    Aye Zaw Win, 54, and his sons were arrested in a restaurant on March 7. Since then, Ne Win, 91, and his daughter Sandar Win " Aye Zaw Win's wife " have been kept under house arrest.Aye Zaw Win and the others Aye Ne Win, 25, Kyaw Ne Win, 23, and Zwe Ne Win, 21 - are also charged with inciting military personnel to commit high treason and the illegal importation and use of telecommunications equipment.

    Nothing could be further from truth, the defendants say."We never discuss politics at home and we have no interest in politics or have any political ambition," Aye Ne Win testified.

    On Sept. 12, a military tribunal sentenced more than 80 soldiers to 15 years in prison for their role in the alleged coup plot. The soldiers were from a regiment responsible for guarding Ne Win's 28-acre (11-hectare) lakeside compound.

    Myo Myint Aung, a soothsayer employed by the alleged coup plotters, was sentenced to 21 years in prison on July 26 in a separate case for printing photographs of himself and distributing them to followers without proper registration.Although Myo Myint Aung was not accused of black magic, the prosecutors have suggested that the Ne Win family used voodoo during the coup plot. As part of evidence they displayed three miniature dolls of the junta's top three leaders, generals Than Shwe, Maung Aye and Khin Nyunt, apparently used in black magic rituals.

    A second special tribunal, which tried Aye Zaw Win and four others including one of his sons for illegally importing unregistered vehicles and satellite phones, is also scheduled to deliver its verdict on Thursday.The two tribunals were held at Yangon's Insein prison, where the defendants are detained.

    Of its 46 witnesses, the prosecution relied mostly on Col. Than Htay, a senior army commander who testified that he arranged to meet Aye Zaw Win and his sons at the restaurant on the day of their arrests.He said he had earlier tipped off military intelligence officials that the four wanted his help with the coup plot.He said one of the sons had told him that a change was needed in the country and that he was asked to provide security for Ne Win while the coup plotters carried out a plan to abduct the junta leaders and force them to take an oath to form a new regime loyal to the former leader.

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    Myanmar, Thailand hold upbeat talks and easing tensions

    BANGKOK,(AP) Thailand - Myanmar's foreign minister on Wednesday met with the Thai prime minister in a bid to patch up strained relations between the two Southeast Asian neighbors.Win Aung told reporters his 30-minute meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai was "very, very friendly and very, very fruitful."

    Relations between the two countries plummeted after the Thai army fired shells into Myanmar territory during a battle between the Myanmar army and ethnic Shan rebels in May. Thailand said it only fired warning shots when the fighting spilled into its territory.Myanmar's military government reacted sternly to the incident, closing its border with Thailand, banning the import of Thai goods, prohibiting visits by Thai officials and publishing a barrage of anti-Thai propaganda in its state-owned media.Until now, it has rebuffed several attempts by Thailand to mend relations and have the border reopened.

    But on Wednesday, Win Aung told reporters that "opening the border is not a problem." He did not elaborate or say when it will reopen.Asked if he expected positive results from his two-day visit, Win Aung said: "If there's no good news, I would not be coming here."

    Thaksin echoed Win Aung's optimism, describing the talks as useful. "Myanmar trusts Thailand" and wants relations to return to normal "as soon as possible," the Thai premier said.

    Win Aung, who arrived on Tuesday, is reciprocating a visit to Myanmar by his Thai counterpart Surakiart last month.Win Aung also confirmed that Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer will pay an official visit to Myanmar on Oct. 2.Such a visit would be a diplomatic breakthrough for Myanmar, whose military regime is generally shunned by the West because of its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

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    Burma says it will reopen Thai border in a few weeks

    BANGKOK (Reuters)- - Burma Foreign Minister Win Aung held four hours of talks with his Thai counterpart aimed at restoring battered bilateral ties on Wednesday and later said Burma would soon reopen its border with Thailand.

    "In a few weeks," Win Aung told reporters when asked how soon trade along the border would resume.

    Win Aung held talks with Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, and also met Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

    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 Surakiart at a regional security meeting in Brunei. Last month, Surakiart went to Rangoon for more talks.

    But the border crossings remain closed, and that has dealt a further blow to Burma's tottering economy and severely hurt trade in several Thai border towns. Win Aung said there was no conflict between Thailand and Burma.

    "Because we live in the same region, share the same culture, we don't want to see any conflict," he said.

    He said border checkpoints would open once officials had worked out the logistical details. Surakiart said a senior Thai foreign ministry official would lead a delegation to Rangoon next week to work on the details.

    Other areas of talks included cooperation in fighting illegal drugs and the repatriation of 500,000 Burmese citizens working illegally in Thailand, Surakiart said.

    Thailand has been flooded in recent years with billions of methamphetamine pills, believed to be mainly produced by an ethnic minority force allied to Burma's military rulers that operates in the Golden Triangle drug-producing region.

    But Win Aung insisted Rangoon was determined to eradicate poppy plantations and methamphetamine production.

    "We don't want to see our people or the Thai people suffer because of drug trafficking. We'd like to see our youth and the Thai youth free from these drugs," he said.

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