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BurmaNet News: October 19, 2000
- Subject: BurmaNet News: October 19, 2000
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 08:46:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
_________October 19, 2000 Issue # 1644__________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AFP: Myanmar junta under intense pressure as ILO delegation arrives
*BBC: Burma accused of murder
*Reuters: Myanmar slams U.N human rights report as biased
*AFP: British diplomats confident of activist's release from Myanmar
*Bangkok Post: Karen camp disappoints Ogata
*Bangkok Post: Help urged for Burmese exiles
*Aftenposten (Norway): Bondevik to lead politicians for Burma
*Mizzima: Burma, India foreign office consultancy meeting held in New
*Radio Australia: Two Burmese fishermen detained by Australian
The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AFP: Myanmar junta under intense pressure as ILO delegation arrives
BANGKOK, October 19 (AFP) - Myanmar's military junta is under intense
pressure from the United Nations to fall into line with the
international community or risk being permanently branded a pariah
A procession of influential figures, including UN special envoy Razali
Ismail and the UN high commissioner for refugees, have visited Yangon in
recent days to try to convince the generals to engage with the rest of
They have reminded the junta that they are obliged to respect
commitments made in the various charters and treaties to which they are
a signatory, and that it is in their own interests to play by the rules.
On Friday, it is the turn of a delegation from the International Labor
Organisation (ILO) which will monitor what steps have been taken to
stamp out forced labour.
The team of experts is headed by Francis Maupain from France, as was
the first delegation which visited Myanmar at the end of May. They plan
to stay in the country for a week, depending on the progress they make
during that time.
Myanmar has been in the ILO's sights for some time, particularly since
1998 when a commission of inquiry found that forced labor -- which is
considered a form of slavery -- was "extremely widespread in the
The commission also urged the army to stop imposing its own brand of
forced labor on private citizens.
The ILO has given the junta until the end of November to act on the
issue or face a review of relations with the body's member states and
organisations which could be extremely damaging to the regime.
By all accounts, the military government is taking the threat
seriously. It has already said it is "ready to cooperate with the ILO."
Labor Minister General Tin Ngwe promised to carry out the necessary
reforms in a letter written in May after the ILO delegation's visit,
implicitly acknowledging for the first time that the problem existed.
He assured the Geneva-based body that Myanmar hoped it had shown it was
"sincere in its efforts to resolve the issue of the allegations of
He said necessary action had been taken to ensure the issue was
tackled, and that the country would consider measures to ensure the
prevention of forced labour in the future.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions has put the number
of people in Myanmar subjected to different forms of forced labour at
more than 800,000.
In a report, it said village chiefs have been ordered to supply people
to work as porters in army camps or for road building, or face threats
of fines or other sanctions.
Villagers incapable of contributing to communal work were subjected to
extreme physical violence, it said.
Despite the damning picture, a senior spokesman for the regime in
Yangon expressed optimism over the ILO visit on the eve of the mission's
"The team is made up of legal and technical experts and they will be
working from that point of view. They are quite aware of the situation
here and are not as critical as the media are saying," he told AFP.
He said the issue of forced labor had been turned into a "political
game" designed to focus criticism on Myanmar.
Analysts say that of all the recent high-profile visits to Myanmar, the
ILO's arrival is the most crucial to the fate of the country, which is
suffering from a severe economic malaise.
If it is ostracised by the ILO, Myanmar risks attracting further
international sanctions, adding to the load that has already helped
cripple its economy.
The junta is hoping to walk the fine line between making the
concessions it needs to secure development aid from donor nations, while
also maintaining its iron grip on dissent within its borders.
To that end, it said this week that it will release British-Australian
democracy activist James Mawdsley, who was sentenced to jail for 17
years in 1999 for distributing pro-democracy pamphlets in Myanmar.
It also announced Wednesday it had released six elderly political
prisoners in line with a special request made last week by Ismail during
his visit as an envoy of UN chief Kofi Annan.
The generals have also received -- discreetly -- Vietnamese Foreign
Affairs Minister Nguyen Dy Nien, as Hanoi has taken up the revolving
presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
It is one of many signs that they are anxious to curry favour with
neighbouring nations who are becoming increasingly irritated with
Myanmar's behaviour, and fear it will bring the whole region into
Behind its belligerent and ultra-nationalist facade, the junta is more
than ever in danger of complete isolation.
With so many doors already slammed in its face it apparently has no
desire for the ILO to also turn it out into the cold.
BBC: Burma accused of murder
Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK
Burma's military government has been accused of murder, torture and rape
in a damning United Nations report. The report said some of the worst
violence by the military was committed against ethnic minorities,
particularly the Shan, Karen, Karenni and Rohingya groups.
UN special investigator Rajsoomer Lallah said he had received reports of
massacres in which more than 100 minority people had been killed this
Mr Lallah was not allowed to visit Burma, also known as Myanmar, but
collected information for his report in other countries.
He said the most frequent human rights violations involved extortion,
rape, torture and forced labour, along with some summary executions and
forced relocation of minorities.
Mr Lallah also noted government attempts to destroy the opposition
National League of Democracy (NLD). The NLD, headed by Nobel laureate
Aung San Suu Kyi, won Burma's elections in 1990, but the military
refused to hand over power.
Mr Lallah said NLD members and sympathisers were subject to
intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention under "an arsenal of laws".
"Torture or other forms of inhuman treatment of political detainees are
believed to be routine, especially during initial interrogation," he
Many prisoners lacked medical attention, were fed inadequate diets and
kept "in tiny cells meant for dogs".
Cases documented by Mr Lallah include: -
one man jailed for seven years for displaying a poster calling for
another jailed for two years for allegedly tuning his radio to Voice of
a journalist sentenced to ten years jail for passing information to
The report also drew attention to the plight of children in Burma, where
unofficial reports put the number of child soldiers at 50,000, the
highest of any country.
"Violence against children is reportedly on the increase, especially in
rural ethnic minority areas," Mr Lallah said.
"[We] continue to receive information on incidents of wilful killing,
torture, trafficking and forced labour of children."
Reuters: Myanmar slams U.N human rights report as biased
WIRE:10/18/2000 02:19:00 ET
YANGON, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Myanmar"s military government said on
Wednesday a U.N report on human rights in the country was highly biased,
derogatory and based on information provided by insurgents and
The U.N report drafted by U.N. special rapporteur Rajsoomer Lallah and
circulated on Monday, noted "with deep concern the continuing
deterioration of the human rights situation in Myanmar." Lallah, who was
not allowed to visit Myanmar but collected information in other
countries, said the most frequent violations involved "extortion, rape,
torture, forced labour and portering," along with summary executions and
forced relocation of minorities.
But Myanmar"s Office of the Strategic Studies, part of the ministry of
defence, dismissed the claims. "The report of the special rapporteur, as
in previous years, is highly biased and derogatory," it said in a
statement. "Moreover, the allegations are completely untrue since Mr
Lallah has based his report on information obtained from armed insurgent
and dissident groups attempting to compromise the unity, stability and
development of our country," it said.
It said the U.N report completely ignored the "unprecedented peace and
tranquility" which now prevailed in Myanmar as a result of the
government"s efforts to stem insurgency.
The military has ruled Myanmar for most of the last four decades.
Fighting in the country has eased in recent years following a series of
offensives against rebels by the Yangon government and peace accords
signed with other groups.
But Yangon"s critics say human rights in Myanmar are widely disregarded
and the country has made no visible progress towards democracy despite
holding democratic elections in 1990.
The National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung
San Suu Kyi, won those elections but has never been allowed to govern
and many of its members and elected representatives have been detained.
The Yangon statement said Myanmar regarded the appointment of a special
rapporteur as unnecessary and politically biased, and noted it had
dissociated itself from the decision in 1992 to appoint a special
rapporteur. "Mr Lallah"s report vindicated our decision which we had
taken with great reluctance," the statement said.
The U.N report said some of the worst indiscriminate violence by the
military was committed against civilians belonging to minorities,
particularly the Shan, Karen, Karenni and Rohingya groups.
AFP: British diplomats confident of activist's release from Myanmar
YANGON, Oct 19 (AFP) - British diplomats here said they were confident
jailed democracy activist James Mawdsley would be released Friday, but
Myanmar's military junta said he may not be allowed home until next
"We are working with the foreign ministry on a Friday release," a
spokesperson for the British embassy said Thursday, adding that a number
of "logistical" matters were still being discussed.
The embassy's vice-consul is to travel Friday to Keng Tung prison, 630
kilometres (390 miles) north of Yangon, and hoped to return to Yangon
with Mawdsley the same day.
"I'm sure he knows he is to be released ... and I'm sure he's very
happy," the spokesperson said.
Mawdsley was jailed for 17 years in September 1999 after being caught
distributing pro-democracy leaflets. He had already been deported twice
from Myanmar in the two previous years.
His mother, Diana Mawdsley, is waiting in Yangon for her son's release
and the pair are expected to take the first available flight out of the
However, a senior spokesman for the Myanmar junta said late Wednesday
there was a significant amount of work to be done before Mawdsley is
released from the jail where he has spent more than a year.
It could take "several days to work through the technicalities
involved," the spokesman told AFP.
Analysts say Myanmar's decision to release Mawdsley is aimed at
removing an increasingly troublesome irritant in its relations with the
A diplomatic row erupted between Myanmar and Britain last month after
Mawdsley said he had been beaten by his guards after complaining about
being kept in solitary confinement.
And last week the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
declared the 27-year-old activist was being held in prison illegally.
The Myanmar embassy in London has said the decision to let him go was
based on the "personal offers" of unnamed "prominent politicians" to
persuade him never to return illegally.
But diplomats said that while it is possible the junta was responding
to representations by the British and Australian embassies -- Mawdsley
is a citizen of both -- it was more likely motivated by a desire to be
seen as cooperative and responsive to Western concerns.
The government also announced Wednesday that it had released six
elderly political prisoners in line with a special request made last
week by visiting UN special envoy Razali Ismail.
Myanmar has been under the spotlight in recent months since opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi made a highly publicised bid to travel outside
Yangon in defiance of a travel ban that limits her to the capital.
On Friday the military government will host a delegation from the
International Labour Organisation (ILO) which is checking progress on
measures to halt forced labour.
The junta is keen to impress the ILO, which has given it until the end
of November to act on stamping out forced labor or face a review of
relations with the body's member states.
The ruling generals are also thought to be increasingly anxious to win
favour among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which
are fed up with the bad publicity surrounding Myanmar's membership of
The European Union halted ministerial contacts with ASEAN after Myanmar
joined in 1997.
A landmark meeting of foreign ministers from the two blocs planned for
December could still be derailed by the row over the junta's treatment
of Aung San Suu Kyi and a wider crackdown on her National League for
Many believe Myanmar hopes Mawdsley's release will go some way to
mollifying the EU and smoothing the way for the meeting to go ahead.
Bangkok Post: Karen camp disappoints Ogata
Oct 18, 2000.
REFUGEES - Karen camp disappoints Ogata
Shelter conditions 'shocking', she says
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, was
shocked by living conditions at this camp for Karen refugees, describing
them as "very bad" and "crowded".
Speaking to the press after a two-hour tour of the living quarters,
school, and hospital, she said: "I have not seen such a crowded
[situation], shelterwise very bad."Located 10km from the Burmese border
in Suen Pueng district of Ratchaburi province, Tham Hin houses 8,212
Karen Christians, most of whom are women and children.
"I have also seen many other Thai camps. Not like this one, I'm sorry to
say that. I was quite shocked. May be that's why you use it as a
temporary area," she added.
Mrs Ogata cited the need to improve shelter facilities, to provide more
space, and expressed concern about sanitation.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was ready to help the
Thai government bring improvements to these areas if it put forward such
a request, she added.
The Thai government has experience and expertise in setting up refugee
camps, she pointed out.
"But this one, I was quite surprised. In this case, they are not doing
what they can do," she said.
Mrs Ogata visited refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border about seven
years ago before the last Cambodian war refugees headed home in time for
the first post-war general election in May 1993.
A senior Thai official who asked not to be named, however, called for a
proper perspective on the situation.
"The conditions in our own Isan area are worse than this," he said.
Set up in May 1997, Tham Hin is spread over 40 rai of land, but the
living quarters are closely packed.
During talks with Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai in Bangkok yesterday, Mrs
Ogata expressed a wish for UNHCR officials to be allowed to stay in Tham
Hin so that they could see to humanitarian questions and criteria for
According to Mrs Ogata, the prime minister promised to consider this.
Pollawat Chayanuwatr, the deputy governor of Ratchaburi, briefed Mrs
Ogata before she began the two-hour tour of Tham Hin.
While he called it a temporary shelter, she maintained that it was a
Bangkok Post: Help urged for Burmese exiles
Oct 18, 2000.
Premier wants to see bigger UNHCR role
Thailand yesterday called on the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees to play a bigger role in solving the problem of Burmese exiles.
Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai made the call during a meeting with Sadako
Ogata, who flew into Bangkok yesterday after talks with Burmese leaders
According to Deputy Foreign Minister Sukhumbhand Paribatra, Mrs Ogata
said the Burmese leaders had agreed to consider the UNHCR's proposal to
operate in Burma.
Speaking to reporters, M.R. Sukhumbhand stressed the importance of such
an operational presence for the safe repatriation and dignity of Burmese
refugees now in Thailand.
The presence of a credible international organisation in Burma was a
"first step" to build confidence among those deciding to return or to
stay, he said. "If there is no confidence in this regard, there probably
won't be any volunteers for the repatriation," he added.
Mrs Ogata visited the Tham Hin refugee camp in Mae Sot after two
separate rounds of talks with the prime minister and M.R. Sukhumbhand.
Mr Chuan noted that the UNHCR had helped find third country resettlement
for former Burmese students, a government spokesman said.
But he stressed that Thailand was still having to extend humanitarian
assistance to people fleeing conflict in Burma, and that the
international community should help shoulder the burden. Due to leave
office at the end of the year after a 10-year term, Mrs Ogata thanked
the Thai government for looking after refugees from Cambodia, Laos and
Vietnam during her tenure.
She stressed that the UNHCR wanted to enhance its role with regard to
Burmese refugees and to have constant access to Burma, M.R. Sukhumband
said. The prime minister affirmed Thailand's readiness to help the UNHCR
in all matters. Citing the long-term partnership over Indochinese
refugees, M.R. Sukhumbhand urged consultations over any sticky points.
Thailand's absence from the Convention on Refugees came up during talks
between M.R. Sukhumbhand and Mrs Ogata, with the latter asking when
Thailand would accede.
M.R. Sukhumbhand said it might now be timely to sound out the opinions
of government agencies on the matter because of several developments
over the past three years.
He also emphasised that it made no difference in practice whether or not
Thailand was a party to the convention.
He told reporters that a main Thai concern was the requirement for
refugees to be given the same treatment as nationals. "Thai people have
a lot of rights. We don't want refugees to protest in front of
Government House," he said.
Aftenposten (Norway): Bondevik to lead politicians for Burma
Oct 18, 2000
Former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has been chosen to
head an international network of politicians working for democracy in
Burma. Bondevik founded and headed the group in 1996-97.
Bondevik told the annual meeting of PD Burma thatpressure had to be
mounted against the military regime in Burma, and that a dialog between
the regime and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was necessary
for a transfer to democracy.
Mizzima: Burma, India foreign office consultancy meeting held in New
Burma, India foreign office consultancy meeting held in New Delhi
New Delhi, October 19, 2000
Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)
As part of regularizing the bilateral relationship and promoting
cooperation in common interests, Deputy Foreign Minister of Burma U Khin
Maung Win and Foreign Secretary of India Mr. Lalit Mansingh met in New
Delhi yesterday to discuss a number of issues including cross-border
security, border trade and cooperation in energy, science and
technology. The two sides agreed to step up cooperation in curbing
insurgency activities on the borders and boosting the border trade,
which has been operationalized since April 1995. Burmese deputy foreign
minister U Khin Maung Win will meet IndiaÆs Foreign Minister Mr. Jaswant
Singh and other high level Indian officials today.
Burma and India, which share about 1,643 kilometer (1,018 mile)-long
land border, are cooperating currently in many fields including
countering insurgency of the two sides in the border, checking narcotics
smuggling across the border, sharing of intelligence, trade and
investments. The two countries have had seven annual national level
meetings between high officials of Home Ministries since 1994 with the
last meeting held in Rangoon in August this year, where Mr. Kamal Pande,
Home Secretary of India led the Indian delegation and Deputy Minister of
Home Affairs Brig. Gen. Thura Myint Maung led the Burmese delegation.
The two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in January 1994
to regularize and promote informal trade across the border. India is
currently building a 115 km-long Tamu-Kale-Kalewa road inside Burma,
which is to be completed by the end of this year.
The border trade is currently mainly conducted through Tamu-Moreh route
(Tamu in Sagaing Division of Burma and Moreh in Manipur) and another
trade route Rid-Zokhutha (Chin State of Burma and Mizoram State of
India) is to be operationalized soon. Moreover, the two countries are
looking at ways to jointly explore gas in the Arakan region of Burma,
which can be piped to India along a corridor through Bangladesh. India
is also planning to import a large quantity of rice from Burma through
Moreh in Manipur State.
Radio Australia: Two Burmese fishermen detained by Australian
Oct 20, 2000
Two Burmese fisherman who jumped ship in the northern Australian city of
Darwin have been placed under detention by immigration officials.
The men are seeking political asylum, saying they could be murdered if
they return to Burma because they're known supporters of theOpposition
leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
A Darwin boxing promoter, Phillip Player, who gave them refuge overnight
says he felt compelled to help when he heard their plight.
A friend called me last night and told me of their plight and I agreed
to help them because I don't agree with injustice. I dont want to see
them go back or spend any time in prison or jail or undergo the
conditions the conditions they would see in Burma or in Australia
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