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BurmaNet News: January 9, 2001
- Subject: BurmaNet News: January 9, 2001
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 09 Jan 2001 19:14:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
January 9, 2001 Issue # 1706
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Bangkok Post: God's Army fighters get ultimatum--Surrender in a week or
face death hunt
*AP: Myanmar, Suu Kyi have launched talks, U.N. says
*Reuters: Albright unsure if Myanmar-Suu Kyi dialogue genuine
*Xinhua: Annan Urges National Reconciliation in Myanmar
*AP: Bangladesh and Myanmar troops exchange gunfire
*Reuters: Myanmar suspends dam building on Bangladesh border
*Agence France Presse: Mahathir praises Myanmar junta on return from
*The Independent (London): The Obsessive Traveller?Burma Update
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Bangkok Post: God's Army fighters get ultimatum--Surrender in a week or
face death hunt
- January 09, 2001.
The Karen God's Army guerrillas who killed six Thai villagers in Suan
Phung district of Ratchaburi on Dec 30 have been given a week to
surrender or they will be tracked down and shot.
Army chief Gen Surayud Chulanont said the army had contacted the
guerrillas through their relatives living along the border to turn
themselves in to Thai authorities within seven days.
A large number of Karen people would have difficulty crossing the border
if the attackers did not surrender, as it would be sealed and security
stepped up, he said.
According to Gen Surayud, the anti-Rangoon Karen National Union has
promised to help with the search for the 15 guerrillas, for fear of
repurcussions from the possible closure of border passes.
More than 200 villagers staged a rally in front of Suan Phung district
yesterday to demand the relocation of Karen refugees away from their
The villagers told the district chief they wanted the refugees removed
from the camp in Tham Hin village of Suan Phung district.
They criticised officials of the camp and the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees for negligence of duty, saying many Karen
refugees entered and left the camp freely. Some reportedly provided food
supplies to the so-called God's Army.
District chief Phayakphan Porkaew promised to look into the complaint
and forward their demand to higher authorities
AP: Myanmar, Suu Kyi have launched talks, U.N. says
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Myanmar's military junta and opposition leader
Aung San Suu Kyi _ bitter rivals since the junta took power 13 years ago
and violently crushed a democratic uprising _ have launched face-to-face
talks, the United Nations announced Tuesday.
It was the first confirmation that Suu Kyi and the Southeast Asian
nation's military rulers have ever spoken.
The announcement came just hours after U.N. envoy Razali Ismail
concluded a five-day mission to Myanmar, where he met with the military
government and with Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace
``During his mission, Mr. Razali was able to confirm that the two sides
had started a direct dialogue since last October,'' U.N. spokesman Fred
Eckhard said in a statement. He said the sides are ``satisfied with the
results achieved so far in the area of confidence building'' and are
expected to start more substantive discussions on national
Stephane Dujarric, another U.N. spokesman, confirmed that Suu Kyi
herself had taken part in more than one round of talks since October
with Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, a senior leader in the ruling junta.
The talks represent a major advance in relations between the military
government and Suu Kyi, who has faced years of harassment for her
attempts to bring democracy to Myanmar.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been ruled by the military
continuously since 1962. The current generals took power in 1988,
gunning down thousands of pro-democracy protesters nationwide. Suu Kyi's
National League for Democracy was formed two weeks later.
In 1990, the military leaders organized general elections, and the NLD
easily won, taking 82 percent of the seats. But the military refused to
acknowledge the results and yield power. Afterward, NLD members were
subjected to a nearly constant campaign of harassment and arrests.
Suu Kyi spent the years from 1989 to 1995 under house arrest on
trumped-up national security charges. Since her release, her movements
and activities in Myanmar have been severely restricted.
In a cruel test of her commitment, the government in early 1999 refused
to grant her husband, British academic Michael Aris, a visa to visit
her, even though he was dying of cancer. The government suggested
instead that she go to her spouse's side in Britain _ an offer Suu Kyi
regarded as a one-way ticket to exile. She stayed, and her husband died
in March of that year.
Suu Kyi has been held under virtual house arrest since last fall, when
she tried to leave Myanmar's capital, Yangon, on party business.
Until now, Myanmar's military government has consistently refused to
negotiate with the opposition if Suu Kyi took part. With word of a
breakthrough Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged both sides
to ``seize the momentum and work to achieve national reconciliation in
Myanmar at an early date,'' Eckhard said.
Earlier Tuesday, Razali told The Associated Press in Malaysia that his
mission had been ``very satisfactory'' and that he intended to return
Xinhua: Annan Urges National Reconciliation in Myanmar
UNITED NATIONS, January 9 (Xinhua) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Tuesday reiterated his call for the government and the National League
for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar to work toward national reconciliation at
an early date. His remarks came after the conclusion of a recent trip by
his special envoy for that country, Razali Ismail. Annan said he was
"encouraged to learn" that during his visit, Razali was able to confirm
that representatives of the Myanmar government and Aung San Suu Kyi's
NLD had started a direct dialogue last October. The two sides in Myanmar
are "satisfied" with the results achieved so far in the area of
confidence building and are expected to start more substantive
discussions shortly, according to U.N. information.
Aung San Suu Kyi did meet directly with government leader Lt. Gen. Khin
Nyunt, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday. Razali's visit is his third since
his appointment last April. He is expected to make another trip to
Yangon soon, the spokesman said. In May 1990, a general election was
held by the present Myanmar military government which took power in
September 1988. In the election, the NLD won the majority of the
parliamentary seats. It complains that after 10 years the election
results have not been materialized. Beginning late 1997, the government
and the NLD have tried several times in vain to have their leaders meet
formally, as the government insisted on excluding Aung San Suu Kyi from
the meeting, while the NLD stuck to her inclusion. Meanwhile, the
government has repeatedly stressed that it is a caretaker or
transitional government without intending to hold on to power for long.
Reuters: Albright unsure if Myanmar-Suu Kyi dialogue genuine
WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
said on Tuesday time would tell if a new dialogue between Myanmar's
military rulers and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was
``Obviously we will have to see where it leads and whether it is a
genuine dialogue, rather than the kinds of patronizing and cruel
conversations that were evident when I was there,'' Albright said,
referring to a trip she made to meet Suu Kyi in Yangon in 1995, when she
was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The military government, which has stopped Suu Kyi's National League
for Democracy from governing despite its landslide election victory in
1990, have held initial direct talks with her and are expected to hold
more substantive discussions soon, a U.N. spokesman said on Tuesday.
He was speaking after U.N. special envoy Razali Ismail ended a five-day
trip to Myanmar saying he was optimistic about prospects for dialogue
between the 1991 Nobel peace prize winner and the military government.
Suu Kyi has experienced years of isolation and harassment at the hands
of Myanmar's military leadership. She spent six years under house arrest
by the military until 1995 and three months ago was again padlocked
inside her house after a nine-day protest against government
restrictions on her freedom of movement.
Albright said the level of the dialogue was important, and it had to be
one where Suu Kyi was taken seriously.
She should be ``respected as a political leader and not, as was framed
to me, as a 'little sister', that they had to take care of by keeping
her in her house,'' Albright said.
Myanmar has faced international condemnation for its treatment of the
National League for Democracy and its leader Suu Kyi. Razali was the
first foreign diplomat to see her since she was placed under house
arrest in September.
President Bill Clinton's administration has long argued for a dialogue
between Myanmar's government and the Nobel laureate, leader of the
National League for Democracy.
Albright praised U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for sending the
Malaysian diplomat Razali to Yangon, where he told diplomats he was
optimistic that political deadlock there could thaw.
But speculation the restrictions on Suu Kyi would be eased during his
visit proved groundless.
AP: Bangladesh and Myanmar troops exchange gunfire
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ Bangladesh and Myanmar border troops exchanged
gunfire over Myanmar's building of an embankment on a river that divides
the two neighbors, officials said Tuesday.
No casualties were reported during Monday's skirmish along the River
Naaf that forms part of a 500-kilometer (310-mile) frontier between the
two countries, Maj. Gen. Fazlur Rahman, head of Bangladesh frontier
The gunfire began after the Myanmar border troops roughed up a
Bangladeshi guard who had carried a letter protesting the construction
of the embankment 100 meters (yards) inside Bangladesh , Rahman said.
In Dhaka, the foreign ministry lodged a protest with Myanmar's
Ambassador U Ohn Thwin.
``We are awaiting reports from our government,'' the Myanmar ambassador
told reporters after the meeting.
Bangladesh has reinforced its 1,000-strong border guards along the
river, 310 kilometers (200 miles) south of Dhaka.
Tension mounted in the region where Bangladesh has put up nearly 22,000
Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled Myanmar in 1990, accusing the Myanmar
soldiers of torture and persecution.
Reuters: Myanmar suspends dam building on Bangladesh border
DHAKA Jan 9 (Reuters) - Myanmar has suspended the construction of a
controversial dam on a border-river after an exchange of gunfire with
Bangladesh troops, Bangladesh security officials said on Tuesday.
``The building of the dam has been suspended after Monday's brief
exchange of fire,'' Colonel Mohammad Shawkat Ali, a sector commander of
the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border guard, told Reuters.
A Bangladesh security official in the border town of Teknaf said troops
from the two sides briefly exchanged fire across the Naf river, although
there were no reports of any dead or wounded.
``Myanmar messengers crossed the Naf river into Bangladesh, waving a
white flag, following the exchange on Monday, and informed us they have
stopped construction of the dam,'' Ali said.
Myanmar authorities have released no official statements on the issue
and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bangladesh Home Minister Mohammad Nasim said he wanted a high-level
meeting with Myanmar to settle the dispute.
``We are concerned...I have requested the foreign ministry for a
high-level meeting with Myanmar to settle the dispute. I believe it will
be settled,'' Nasim told Reuters on Tuesday. Bangladesh officials said
Myanmar began building the dam last week at Totardia, some 100 km (62
miles) southeast of the Bangladesh town of Cox's Bazar.
They warned the dam could cause flooding and erosion of its territory,
could damage shrimp farms and also violated a 1962 agreement on the
Myanmar Ambassador Tint Lwin was summoned to the foreign office on
Monday where he was conveyed Bangladesh's concerns, a foreign ministry
BDR officials said on Monday that more than 1,000 BDR soldiers were
deployed along the Naf river border where they were facing some 2,000
There are usually just a few hundred soldiers stationed on both sides
of the border at the Naf river, they said.
``We are ready to defend Bangladesh's interests along the 320 km (200
miles) border with Myanmar,'' Col. Ali said.
The BDR has nearly 40,000 soldiers.
The two countries fought a brief border battle in 1967 over a similar
attempt by Myanmar to build a dam on the Naf.
Agence France Presse: Mahathir praises Myanmar junta on return from
January 9, 2001, Tuesday 1:09 AM, Eastern Time
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 9
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad returned Tuesday from a
week-long visit to Myanmar and praised the military junta's development
Mahathir, quoted by Bernama news agency, said the purpose of his visit
was to obtain first-hand information on the situation there.
"There were reports which we had obtained from other sources which
showed that things were seemingly bad," he said.
In fact, he said, the Myanmar government was trying to develop the
country and its people, especially rural residents.
The United States and European Union have imposed economic sanctions on
Myanmar in protest at its human rights record.
Mahathir said Myanmar has invited more Malaysian investment.
"They would like Malaysia to study the possibility of investing in
Myanmar for the processing of raw materials, including fisheries," he
told a press conference.
The country, he said, offered much investment potential and Malaysia
could buy a variety of agricultural produce.
Mahathir's visit coincided with one by the UN special envoy to Myanmar,
Razali Ismail, who is a former Malaysian diplomat.
The two trips, while not officially linked, raised suggestions that
Malaysia could play a key role in breaking the political deadlock
between the junta and the oppostion.
Mahathir gave no indication Tuesday that he had played any political
role during his visit.
Razali confirmed that the junta has held secret talks with opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Independent (London): the Obsessive Traveller--burma Update
January 7, 2001, Sunday
I have been planning to visit Burma for several years and, because it
has been out of the news for a long time, could you tell me something
about the current situation. What are the best ways of getting there?
Phil Haines replies:
Tourism is the world's fastest-growing industry, representing about 7.5
per cent of total world trade. Consequently, it has an ever-growing
responsibility. Travel to Burma is a controversial issue, with the key
debate being whether to exercise the freedom to travel, or to eschew the
country on political grounds.
The question of tourism to Burma is as hotly disputed as its name. The
ruling military dictatorship changed the name to Myanmar in May 1989,
but, although recognised by the UN, it is rejected by the elected
government, that of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner said as recently as January 1999: "I still
think that people should not come to Burma because the bulk of the money
goes straight into the pockets of the generals. They seem to look on the
influx of tourists as proof that their actions are accepted by the
world. It's not good enough to suggest that by visiting Burma tourists
will understand more. If tourists really wanted to find out what's
happening in Burma, it's better to stay at home and read some of the
many human rights reports there are."
Indeed, the notion of "going and seeing for yourself" is arguably
irrelevant in a state that has moved villagers from tourist areas,
including the capital. You will neither see where your expenditure ends
up nor how forced labour is used for tourism and tourism-related
projects. Furthermore, if you decide to travel independently, hoping to
stay in people's homes and use local restaurants, you will still be
obliged to exchange $ 300 on arrival and use domestic airlines, hotels
and "dollar-only" retail outlets owned by the regime and its associates.
The British government and European Union have taken the unprecedented
position that tourism to Burma is inappropriate under the current
regime. Last May, the Foreign minister John Battle stated: "The
Government wishes to draw attention to the views of Aung San Suu Kyi,
and other pro-democracy leaders in Burma, that it is inappropriate for
tourists to visit Burma at present. We think it right that those
considering a visit to Burma, and travel guide publishers promoting the
country, should be aware that Aung San Suu Kyi and others have urged
tourists to postpone their trips to Burma."
I visited Burma in 1984 and feel sad and frustrated to be unable to
return; not because of the culturally fascinating and breathtakingly
beautiful gilded pagodas of Rangoon, the 4,000-plus temples and pagodas
of Pagan and Kipling's Irrawaddy at Mandalay, but because of the violent
To obtain more detailed information that may help your decision contact
The Burma Campaign (tel: 020-7281 7377; email: bagp@xxxxxxxxxx), which
will send you a copy of its Alternative Guide to Burma. More background
on responsible tourism can be obtained from Tourism Concern (tel: 020-
7753 3330; net: www. tourismconcern.org).
Send your questions to: Travel Desk, Independent on Sunday, 191 Marsh
Wall, London E14 9RS. Or email: sundaytravel@ independent.co.uk.
GRAPHIC: Burma abounds with beautiful statues, shrines and temples, but
human -rights activists advise against visiting the country TONY STONE
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