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Burma Related News - May 19, 2003.



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BURMA RELATED NEWS - May 19, 2003.

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HEADLINES

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Reuters - Thailand's Drug War Could Mirror Iran's Failure

AP - Myanmar To Probe Pakistan's Claim Of Citizens Terror Link

AP - Friendly-Fire Clash On Myanmar Border Kills Thai Officer

Asia Pulse - Eu Supports Unitary State of Indonesia, Envoy Says

Asia Pulse - Export Development Fund for India's North-East Region

Time Asia - The U.N. envoy would be allowed back into Burma 

Neftegaz.ru - Total With New Gas Field In Myanmar

Bkk Post - Survey starts for new road from Myawaddy

BBC News - Thailand and Burma build bridges

DS - Border talks with Myanmar from today

Asian Tribune - A Maimed Burmese Needs Your Help urgently.

WSJ - EDITORIALS - Burma Shows U.N.'s Failure

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Thailand's Drug War Could Mirror Iran's Failure
Sun May 18, 9:30 AM ET
By Dominic Whiting

CHIANG MAI, Thailand (Reuters) - "The Thai government's drugs policy: drop dead."

Rojana, a heroin and methamphetamine addict at the age of 14 and a dealer at 15, says the slogan on her T-shirt mirrors the real fear among many Thais that a hard-line crackdown has targeted and killed the wrong people.

"People are scared. They're going after small-time dealers instead of solving the problem at the source," said Rojana, now in rehab, the bruises from injecting faded gray on her forearms.

Vowing to halt a yearly inflow of one billion methamphetamine pills from neighboring Myanmar, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a former policeman, launched a 90-day anti-drugs crusade on Feb. 1.

The aim was to rid the country of the drug, called "ya ba" or crazy drug in Thai, on which an estimated 2.5 million Thai users spend $2 billion each year.

By the beginning of May, security forces had arrested 58,000 drugs traffickers and dealers, and the government had fired 1,300 civil servants suspected of involvement with them.

Authorities say 1,612 dealers and traffickers were killed over three months. Police say they killed only 37, in self defense, and attribute the rest to gang warfare.

Human rights groups are incensed by what they call a policy of extrajudicial killing. And groups campaigning for decriminalizing drug use say the violence is typical of anti-drugs pogroms around the world and is doomed to failure.

They advise the government to look at the case of Iran, which executed hundreds of dealers in the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution but later decided the policy was failing to cut drug abuse or HIV/AIDS infection among users.

Iranian security forces make about 75 percent of the world's opium seizures and have accounted for 50 percent of the heroin haul, at the cost of more than 3,300 police lives in the war against drugs since 1979.

But Iranian officials say traffickers will always find new ways to dodge crackdowns and protect a lucrative business, which supplies drugs to 1.5 million of Iran's 65 million people.

"Traffickers are up to date with government measures," Reza Sarrami, head of Iran's drug treatment policy, told Reuters at a recent conference in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.

"If we work eight hours a day, they'll work 24 hours."

"DOING OUR JOB"

Destruction of opium poppy fields in Iran resulted in higher supply from Afghanistan. When transporting opium became more hazardous, use of its more lucrative and easily packaged refined form, heroin, shot up. And then came synthetic heroin.

Drug purity fell as prices rose, bringing new health risks.

Thai police are spotting the same trends. They say the price of methamphetamines has quadrupled to about 300 baht ($7) a pill since February. Glue and benzene sniffing is on the rise, and more hard-core users, wanting a stronger fix to compensate for a jump in prices, are switching to heroin or injecting a mixture of heroin and much less soluble methamphetamine.
 
This will lead to more drug-related deaths and exacerbate the spread of viruses such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, groups working with drugs users say.

This realization persuaded Iran to change tack eight years ago. Now half its anti-drugs budget goes toward demand reduction.

Even the most conservative of Iran's religious leaders gave the green light to dispensing methadone, a synthetic drug less addictive than heroin, and pushing sales of sterile syringes.

Thailand, where involvement of Buddhist monasteries and community groups was held as a model for treating drugs users, is now going in the opposite direction, activists say.

"The crackdown has certainly resulted in the issue, and users, being forced underground, making it difficult to reach out to them," said Ton Smits of the Asian Harm Reduction Network, which works with drugs users.

The Thai government says it is promoting treatment alongside its get-tough policy on dealers. It says 285,000 drugs users have reported for rehabilitation since February.

But cases such as Rojana's serve to show the line between drug user and small-time dealer is blurred, critics argue.

Yet public backing has given the government confidence to brush off criticism of its heavy-handed measures.

"Human rights groups and non-government organizations are doing their own jobs and we're doing our job," government spokesman Sita Divari said.

"I think the Thai public believes in a drug-free Thailand and the government has been well supported."

One survey showed 90 percent of the population in favor of the crackdown. But many are torn. With so much pressure on security forces to produce results, seven out of 10 respondents feared arrest on trumped up charges.

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Monday May 19, 7:08 PM
Myanmar To Probe Pakistan's Claim Of Citizens Terror Link

BANGKOK (AP)--Myanmar said Monday it will investigate the case of one of its citizens arrested in Pakistan for suspected links to the terrorist group al-Qaida.

"The government of Myanmar will investigate this allegation with utmost urgency once it has the opportunity to review the information and materials obtained by the Pakistani authorities," government spokesman Col. Hla Min said in a statement.

Burmese national Abdul Mutallib, 27, was arrested Thursday in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi following information from two al-Qaida suspects in police custody.

The two suspects, Mohammed Anwar and Habibullah, were arrested last month in Karachi with Waleed Mohammed Bin Attash, a Yemeni national suspected of involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., and three others.

Attash is also the alleged mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing off Yemen in 2000 that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Mutallib allegedly bought weapons for Attash and others, Pakistani police investigator Abdul Hamid Gulla said.

Myanmar said it was sharing information with the U.S. and other countries "on terrorists operating along Myanmar's western border and within the region" with connections to al-Qaida and Afghanistan's Taliban.

The government statement claimed that "an armed Muslim separatist group calling themselves Rohinga issued a unilateral 'Declaration of Independence,"' from Myanmar. It said that some of its members were trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan and in terrorist training camps in the Middle East.

The Rohinga, usually called Rohingya, operate in Myanmar's western Rakhine state near the border with Bangladesh.

Little information has emerged about links between radical Islamic groups and Myanmar, aside from a handful of reports about rebels receiving training in Afghanistan before the fall of its Taliban government.

A report on terrorism issued in January by the Singaporean government mentioned an alleged link between the Rohingya and regional terrorist groups focused around Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida-linked group suspected of masterminding the Bali, Indonesia, bombings that killed 202 people in October last year.

It said Jemaah Islamiyah's spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir, now in custody in Indonesia, initiated an alliance with the Philippine's Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as well an unnamed "jihad" group in southern Thailand and a faction of the Rohingya who have exiled themselves in Bangladesh.

Myanmar's Arakan Rohingya National Organization has denied links to al-Qaida.

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Monday May 19, 6:09 PM
Friendly-Fire Clash On Myanmar Border Kills Thai Officer

BANGKOK (AP)--Two groups of Thai police officers pursuing an alleged human smuggling gang near the Myanmar border mistakenly shot at each other, leaving one officer dead and another injured, officials said Monday.

An unidentified officer from the Border Patrol Police was killed after the pre-dawn incident Sunday with members of a police task force monitoring illegal migrants at the border, said police Maj. Gen. Sawek Pinsinchai.

Acting on a tip-off, the task force police arrested eight Myanmar nationals in the jungle of Baanmai Seritham in Tak province, 370 kilometers northwest of Bangkok, he said.

The officers then waited in the dark to capture members of a human smuggling gang when the border patrol officers appeared and a gunfight ensued.

"With the misunderstanding and poor cooperation when the firefight broke out, one border patrol officer was killed and one other was injured," Sawek told reporters.

He said he had urged the National Police Bureau to appoint a team to investigate the incident "to prevent further misunderstandings."

Both police units were given the same information about Myanmar nationals being spirited into the country and were working on the same mission, he added.
Gangs that smuggle illegal Myanmar workers into Thailand have been a long-standing problem. More than a million migrant workers from Myanmar work in Thailand, more than half of them illegally.


Monday May 19, 11:18 AM
Eu Supports Unitary State of Indonesia, Envoy Says

JAKARTA, May 19 Asia Pulse - The European Union [EU] has expressed its support for the unitary state of Indonesia as well Indonesia's efforts to lure foreign investment, said Sabato Della Monica, EU ambassador and head of the EU delegation to Indonesia.

Speaking to journalists last Wednesday in an informal luncheon to mark Europe Day on May 9, Sabato said the EU's support for Indonesia is part of the EU's effort to develop its bilateral relations with Indonesia.

He said the strengthening of bilateral relations with Indonesia was part of the EU's policy to develop ties with ASEAN member countries.

Meanwhile, Ulrich Eckle, counsellor for political and economic affairs at the EU delegation in Indonesia, said foreign investors were hoping Indonesia could create a new, more conducive investment climate, apart from ensuring political stability in the country.

Robert Schuman, on May 9, 1950, made an historic declaration which led to the institution of Europe Day. It marked the start of Europe's journey towards unity based on peace and solidarity, democracy and human rights.

The EU delegation, in a press release issued on Europe Day, said the EU had a high stake in the consolidation of democracy in Indonesia.

"The EU remains committed to supporting the reform process in Indonesia begun in 1998, including the peaceful solution of conflicts," the press statement added.

The EU is not only the most accessible market to Indonesian exporters but also a key source of investment and technology, the statement said.

Ambasssador Sabato said the EU also provided financial and human resources to assist Indonesia in tackling developmental challenges, including the areas of governance, the management of its natural resources and the strengthening of social services, such as education and health.

The European Union is already the world's largest economic block with currently 15 member states, namely Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

ASEAN groups Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

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Monday May 19, 7:23 PM
Export Development Fund for India's North-East Region

KOHIMA, May 19 Asia Pulse - The Indian government has created an "Export Development Fund (EDF) with an aim to boost trade from the North East under the Prime Minister's package of new initiative for the region.

The development of trade and exports in the region, which borders countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar, has been given priority by the federal government after the announcement of the specific set of measures under the "PM's action plan for the North-East" in January 2000, an official statement said here.

The federal government has so far sanctioned Rs 79.5 million (US$1.69 million) for 21 projects to boost trade related activities in the region and the Department of Commerce has introduced transport subsidy for horticultural produces under the EDF, it said.

Initially, 10 products have been identified for the transport subsidy in addition to bamboo and cane products from Tripura and, kiwi, apple and pineapple from Arunachal Pradesh, it said.

Recognising the crucial need of infrastructure at important locations, a special scheme "Critical Infrastructure Balance Scheme (CIBS)" has been implemented for providing the same at designated pressure points.

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Time Asia
 May 26, 2003 / Vol. 161 No. 20
Notebook
U.N.-Turn
The U.N. envoy would be allowed back into Burma 
BY ROBERT HORN/BANGKOK

Razali Ismail, the United Nations special envoy to Burma, is a devoted practitioner of quiet diplomacy. His subtle prodding was widely credited with persuading Burma's military junta to free, in May last year, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. So it was a surprise when, in late April, the Malaysian diplomat told reporters in Bangkok he was "perplexed and disappointed" with the generals' refusal to grant him a visa for the past six months so that he could try to foster dialogue between the two sides: "I really cannot understand why I'm being denied access." Apparently the change in tactics was effective. Junta spokesman Colonel Hla Min announced last week that the U.N. envoy would be allowed back into Burma for four days beginning June 6. Several analysts said the generals may have relented because of hints the European Union and the U.S. were considering broadening economic sanctions against the regime. Burma's banking system is already near collapse, prices for rice and other essentials are spiraling higher and government harassment of the opposition is on the increase. But as a diplomat in Rangoon conceded, the generals have so little contact with outsiders that "none of us really know the reasons behind the decisions." Few in Rangoon expect, however, that Razali's visit will move the long-promised reform process forward. Even in a miserable economic climate, the junta is buying time.

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Neftegaz.ru
Total With New Gas Field In Myanmar
19.05.2003 10:23
 
Total, the French oil company, has confirmed plans to develop its Sein natural gas field in Myanmar.

The company plans to invest around $35 million in the project, which should start producing in 2005. The reserves are estimated to be 200 Bcf.

The gas is likely to be exported to Thailand. Gas demand in Thailand has started to climb recently.

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Bangkok Post - Monday 19 May 2003
Survey starts for new road from Myawaddy
First step on the Asian Highway
Supamart Kasem in Tak

Thai and Burmese officials have begun the surveying of a planned 18-kilometre highway to link Myawaddy, opposite Mae Sot district, with inner Burma.

The dual carriageway road would be seven metres wide and lined with asphalt.

Design work will be completed in July and construction begin in October, said Viroj Vacharasin, deputy chief of the Tak highway construction centre. It is being built with an 80-million-baht grant.

The 18km road will run from Myawaddy to a village called Thinganyinaung.

The Highways Department will handle construction which will take an estimated 18 months.

Construction would take that long because the road has to pass through rough terrain and cross many streams, Mr Viroj said.

Chaphan Chawacharoenphan, chairman of the Tak Chamber of Commerce, said the road marked the start of a United Nations plan to connect the Asian Highway with neighbouring countries to the West _ from Mae Sot in Thailand to Burma, Bangladesh and the Middle East, connecting to Europe at Azerbaijan.

``The road will back up an Industry Ministry plan to set up a Mae Sot economic zone with an initial fund of eight billion baht. The plan has yet to be approved by cabinet,'' Mr Chaphan said.

The road is also part of the plan for a highway connecting Thailand, Burma and India agreed by the foreign ministers of those countries last year in Mandalay.

In line with this plan India has built a road to Tamu, a border town in Sagaing division of Burma and handed over the building equipment to Burma to extend the road to Rangoon.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Burma's State Peace and Development Council first secretary Khin Nyunt will lay a foundation stone for a new cross-border bridge in Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai today.

The bridge will connect Tha Phakkad on the Thai side with Ban Mae Khao on the Burmese side and will be built with a Thai grant of 38 million baht.

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BBC News - Monday, 19 May, 2003
Thailand and Burma build bridges
By Larry Jagan
BBC correspondent on the Thai-Burmese border

Thailand's Foreign Minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, and the Burmese intelligence chief, General Kinyunt, have celebrated the laying of the first foundations of a new bridge that will link the two countries.

The two sides also discussed improving transport links between the two countries, and how to combat the trafficking of drugs across the border.

Ties between Burma and Thailand have often been strained, and there were fears last year that they would fight a full-scale border war.

But on Monday, amidst much pomp and ceremony, the two ministers celebrated the laying of the first stone of the new friendship bridge at Tachilek.

The bridge will be finished within the year, according to the Thai authorities who are paying for its construction.

The Thais hope that the increased trade which they expect the bridge will bring will help the whole region develop economically.

Local Thai businessmen and politicians who came to witness the ground-breaking ceremony were obviously delighted.

They expect the value of trade to increase tenfold in the next two years. It is already worth more than $10m a year, just at this checkpoint.

Both sides expect the bridge to strengthen bilateral economic ties between the two countries, and allow Thailand to tap into the markets of southern China.
Drugs trade

The Thais certainly hope that the greater economic integration that the bridge is expected to bring will lessen the likelihood of the return to cross-border tensions.

But local Thai government officials are also privately worried that the bridge might encourage an increase in illegal trade, especially the flow of synthetic drugs, or methamphetamines, into Thailand.

Some 10,000 "ya ba" tablets were seized only three days ago, as they were being smuggled across the border.

Combating drugs was also extensively discussed by the Thai foreign minister and the Burmese intelligence chief.

After laying the foundation stone for the new bridge, Burmese officials took the Thai foreign minister on a helicopter tour of inspection along the border, to see for himself what the Burmese were doing to stamp out drug trafficking.

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The Daily Star - Mon. May 19, 2003
Border talks with Myanmar from today
Staff Correspondent

The director general level meeting of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and the Immigration Headquarters of Myanmar opens to discuss border issues at the BDR headquarters in Dhaka today.

A seven-member Myanmar delegation led by Director General of Immigration U Maung Htay arrived yesterday to attend the meeting. The team also brings together officials from immigration, migration, social welfare and relief ministries.

Major General Mohammad Jahangir Alam Chowdhury will lead a 12-member Bangladesh side at the meeting. His team will also include officials from the BDR headquarters and representatives from home, foreign, disaster management and relief ministries and survey directorate, joint river commission and immigration and passport directorate.

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Asian Tribune
Date : 2003-05-18
A Maimed Burmese Needs Your Help urgently.

This is a tale of woe - a tragic story of an innocent Burmese, who fled his country for survival from persecution to Thailand, has ended up as a cripple and today seeks the generosity of large-hearted persons like you.

He is Maung Saw Win, from the Waw Township of Pegu .He fled Pegu to Thailand and was working in a garment factory in Mae Sot, Thailand

He worked without proper documents and was considered as an illegal hand.

While he was working in the garment factory, on March 14 he had an electric shock and was rush to the hospital.

In the hospital, both the hands of Maung Saw Win were surgically amputated and he is today a cripple.

The factory has not come forward to pay any compensation even though the tragic incident took place, whilst Maung Saw Win was on duty at the garment factory. Furthermore, as he was an illegal worker, it is believed that it is very difficult to get any compensation for this innocent Burmese.

It is learnt that he and his mother are finding life miserable at Mae Sot and their daily survival is becoming more and more difficult.

It is revealed that Ko Saw Win wants to go back to his village and to rear livestock for his and his family?s survival. Therefore, Ko Saw Win now needs your generous help:

You are kindly requested to come forward and give assistance or donation to Ko Saw Win and his mother as much as you can.

If you want to donate anything for Ko Saw Win, please contact to the following Address:

Aung Ko, CEC, Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) Tel: 66 1 8838381
Than Soe, Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), Tel 66 55 545529
E-mail: koaungko@xxxxxxxxxxx or  violet@xxxxxxxxxxxxx

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Wall Street Journal May 12 2003
EDITORIALS - Burma Shows U.N.'s Failure
By TIN MAUNG THAN

Let me put it bluntly: The United Nations is hopeless in dealing with dictators. As a Burmese, I know this first-hand because I've seen the U.N. sit by and do virtually nothing to help free my people from the oppression of the military junta. That's why I wasn't the least bit surprised to see the U.N. fail to deal with another dictator, leaving it to U.S.-led coalition forces to take on the task of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. For over a decade, the U.N. adopted numerous resolutions urging the Burmese military junta to honor the results of the 1990 elections, to respect human rights, to free all political prisoners and to launch a dialogue with the National League for Democracy and members of ethnic groups.

Nothing happened. The NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won 82% of parliamentary seats in the 1990 polls. But instead, a few years later, the State Law and Order Restoration Council convened the National Convention and filled 85% of the seats in the body with its own appointees. It would take three years after the U.S. and EU imposed limited sanctions on Burma for the generals to finally accept U.N. Special Envoy Razali Ismail as a mediator between them and Ms. Suu Kyi. In May 2002, after releasing Ms. Suu Kyi from house arrest, the junta declared that Burma had entered "new pages of history." Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the military intelligence chief and secretary of the junta, promised Mr. Razali a dialogue with Ms. Suu Kyi would happen. The world thought a political breakthrough was imminent.

But a year later, we have had nothing. In an interview in November with Malaysiakini, the Malaysian Internet news service, Mr. Razali puzzled over why the junta broke its promise. He mused that, though the generals did not give him an exact timetable on which they would start talks with Ms. Suu Kyi, they had said dialogue would begin "very soon." Mr. Razali said that in his understanding "very soon would be like a couple of weeks or three to four weeks." So why nothing? The fact is that the military dictators treat the U.N. with contempt. By contrast, even as they were snubbing the U.N., Burma's rulers were busy seeking a dialogue with the U.S. Why? Because they knew they had to watch their step with the Americans. Especially when Lorne Craner, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for human rights, democracy and labor, had warned that: "Our patience for positive change is beginning to run out and we, along with the U.K. and others, are considering all options, including further sanction." A week after those remarks were made in February, the junta issued a statement urging the U.S. to enter into a "constructive dialogue toward humanitarian, economic and political development in Myanmar" and welcomed "American advice on making the transition to a stable democracy."

Quite likely, Burma had noticed the American forces that had by then massed on Iraq's border. For although the generals may shrug off the U.N., but they dare not ignore the United States' muscle, military or economic.

The U.S. already imposes on Burma an investment ban, travel restrictions on junta members and an arms embargo. Further sanctions were expected after Mr. Craner's remarks. And the generals understood that the United States means what it says. In that is a lesson for all: Those who stand firm against dictators get treated with respect. That's why Burma's rulers are afraid of the U.S., but not the United Nations.

U Thant, the late Burmese secretary-general of the United Nations, saw the world divided between civilized nations and uncivilized regimes, not between East and West. His view is as relevant today as when he ran the world body. But the experience of Burma, which has endured brutal military dictators for 40 years, leads me to believe that we need to expand on U Thant's understanding. Although we cannot ignore the uncivilized world, we must speak to it in a language it can understand. Unfortunately, that language is force, which is necessary if civilization is to triumph against tyranny and terrorism. As the United States has shown it understands, and rightly, sometimes must overcome barbarity with war. Although war can be the shame of humanity, war dedicated to humanity is not. On the other hand, a peace that provides no space for democracy is a sham; in war some innocent people may die, but peace under a dictatorship represses all. The need for war results from the failure of existing rules of international diplomacy and a dated understanding of the concept of sovereignty. This lies at the heart
of the problem for international relations. The U.N. and others often refrain from action because of their understanding of sovereignty. Yet if after the Cold War the United States and Europe had been less particular about sovereignty and poured all their effort into a global agenda against tyranny, Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Il might have been removed sooner.

What we need is a new order to achieve sustainable peace by empowering people and their institutions through a new set of international rules that refuses to recognize that tyrants have sovereignty over the land and people they terrorize. The U.N. and all it symbolizes has been shown to be inadequate to the task, as Burmese can testify. We need a world body willing to take action, one that is less particular about concepts like sovereignty when it comes to tyrannical regimes and one that is willing to act as forcefully in a multilateral manner as the U.S. has done unilaterally. Maybe then my people can be free.

Mr. Tin is the former editor of Thint Bawa magazine, which was shut down in 2000 by the military in Burma. He is an editorial consultant for Radio Free Asia (Burmese Services) in Washington, D.C. and for the Democratic Voice of Burma, which broadcasts out of Norway.

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