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BurmaNet Topica: July 14, 2001
- Subject: BurmaNet Topica: July 14, 2001
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 14 Jul 2001 02:21:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
July 14, 2001 Issue # 1843
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
NOTED IN PASSING: "Financially, this pariah state cannot afford to turn
into a rogue nuclear nation...But we do keep an eye on the situation and
listen to all the rumors with interest and growing amusement."
A Rangoon-based diplomat quoted in The International Herald Tribune:
Russia Negotiating to Help Impoverished Nation With Reactor Project
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Reuters: Myanmar says Suu Kyi may snub major ceremony
*AFP: Myanmar government denies Suu Kyi planning snub on Martyrs' Day
*AFP: Myanmar releases last MPs held at "guest houses" outside Yangon
*AFP: Myanmar democracy activist dies of AIDS in prison
*Asiaweek: Waiting To Be Wired
*The Nation: IOM to move into Burma
*AP: Australians conduct human rights workshops in Myanmar
*International Herald Tribune: Russia Negotiating to Help Impoverished
Nation With Reactor Project
*Bangkok Post: Chavalit's Burma visit back-dated
*Bangkok Post: Precursor steps top Jia talks--Chemicals flow from China
*Bangkok Post: Rangoon must do even better, says EU--Looser sanctions
in return for freedoms would be the reward
*AFP: EU wants to send new mission to Myanmar
*AP: Rights group praises prisoner release, but 1,800 still detained
*AP: Thailand Allows Over 1M Illegal Workers To Be Registered
*Sen. Mitch McConnell: Burma Military Purchases
*AFP: Myanmar says war on drugs adding to 'national solidarity'
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Reuters: Myanmar says Suu Kyi may snub major ceremony
By Aung Hla Tun
YANGON, July 13 (Reuters) - Government officials said on Friday Myanmar
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will snub a major national ceremony
next week, a gesture which will dampen speculation she may soon be
released from de facto house arrest.
Diplomats said that if Suu Kyi failed to attend the Martyrs' Day
ceremony on July 19, it could be a sign her peace talks with the
military government have run into fresh problems.
Despite her rift with the ruling generals, in recent years Suu Kyi has
always attended the ceremony, which commemorates the 1947 assassination
of her father, independence hero General Aung San, and eight senior
But officials say Suu Kyi will not attend this year.
A diplomatic source told Reuters Suu Kyi had refused to take part in
the ceremony, taking the military by surprise.
Suu Kyi has been kept confined to her house since September, with
diplomatic access to her strictly controlled and her telephone line cut.
But there have been some signs of a thaw in the confrontation between
the military and Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) since
October, when she began confidential talks with the government.
Since then the government has released scores of opposition politicians
from detention, and allowed the NLD to re-open some of its branch
Officials have said the moves were a gesture of goodwill to bolster the
There had been speculation the restrictions on Suu Kyi might be lifted
ahead of the Martyrs' Day ceremony.
(With additional reporting by Andrew Marshall in Bangkok)
AFP: Myanmar government denies Suu Kyi planning snub on Martyrs' Day
YANGON, July 14 (AFP) - Myanmar's military government Saturday denied a
report that democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi plans to snub the junta by
refusing to attend an important national ceremony next week.
A news report citing government officials said the Nobel peace laureate
had surprised the junta by declining to attend Thursday's Martyrs' Day
ceremony, which marks the 1947 assassination of her father General Aung
"The Myanmar Information Committee denies giving such a statement and
urges the media not to speculate in an unconstructive way," a senior
government spokesman said in a statement.
Yangon's rumour mill and dissident Internet sites have been abuzz for
the past few weeks with talk about whether Aung San Suu Kyi will make
her annual appearance at the ceremony held at Yangon's Shwedagon pagoda.
The opposition leader has been held under de facto house arrest since
September, just before she embarked on landmark talks with the military
regime which may be paving the way for a national reconciliation
With the talks being held under conditions of strict secrecy, she has
declined since then to leave her lakeside residence on any personal
missions, even for family funerals.
A decision to attend the Martyrs' Day ceremony will be interpreted by
Myanmar-watchers as a signal that the contacts are progressing well, but
a no-show would be seen as a gesture of defiance to the junta.
Diplomats in Yangon said last week that the recent release of dozens of
opposition National League for Democracy members may have a bearing on
"The recent releases might have a bearing on it -- they may be enough
to coax her into going," one observer said.
The junta has also downplayed speculation that it plans to release Aung
San Suu Kyi and announce a new national government on Martyrs' Day.
Those rumours were given fresh impetus last weekend when Thai Defence
Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said a political breakthrough in Myanmar
However, most observers believe Aung San Suu Kyi will not be released
arrest until both sides are ready to make a statement on the content and
progress of the talks -- a stage they say is still a long way off.
AFP: Myanmar releases last MPs held at "guest houses" outside Yangon
YANGON, July 13 (AFP) - Myanmar's military government Friday released
the last three opposition MPs held at government "guest houses" outside
the nation's capital, Yangon, and four other political prisoners.
The MPs had been held since a late 1990s crackdown on Aung San Suu
Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) and were elected in a 1990
ballot which the military regime refused to recognise.
"The last remaining three MPs left the respective guest houses and are
now back together with their families," said a spokesman for the junta.
"At the same time, Pa Pa Law (U Tun Po), U Aung Soe, U Maung Htwe and
Lu Zaw (Po Aye) who were being arrested under the Emergency Provision
Act of 1950 have been released as well," he said.
The release of the MPs and others brings to 40 the number of political
prisoners freed in recent weeks.
Last week the junta released the last seven opposition MPs held at
guest houses inside Yangon city limits.
Even though hundreds more opposition figures remain in jail, the
release of the MPs has been welcomed as a sign of progress in talks
between Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta.
The pro-democracy leader is believed to have demanded the regime
reverse the 1998 closure of the party's branch offices and the detention
of dozens of its senior members as a condition for the talks to
Two weeks ago, her cousin and closest aide Aye Win was also freed from
Yangon's notorious Insein prison where he served a five-year sentence
The military government has said the concessions reflect
"understandings" established in the fledgling dialogue, which observers
hope will pave the way for a complete national reconciliation process.
Six groups of MPs have now been released since United Nations envoy
Razali Ismail visited Yangon in early June on a mission to bring new
impetus to the fledgling talks -- the first between the two sides since
AFP: Myanmar democracy activist dies of AIDS in prison
YANGON, July 13 (AFP) - A young student democracy activist died of AIDS
in prison, a National League for Democracy (NLD) source said Friday.
Sithu, also known as Ye Naing, was sentenced to 10 years in jail in
1989 but continued to be kept for unknown reasons, the source said.
Originally from Yangon, the 34-yer-old Sithu had served out his
sentence at Myanmar's Tharrawaddy prison near the Myanmar capital, and
was a member of the opposition NLD led by Nobel leaureate Aung San Suu
The Myanmar junta has released 231 political prisoners, many of them
ranking NLD members detained in government "guest houses," following
talks between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi that began last October.
Diplomats said NLD MPs remain in jail where they are serving sentences
for subversion, and that a handful of other senior party members could
still be detained without charge at guest houses outside the capital.
Even though they, and hundreds of other dissidents, remain in custody,
the recent releases have been welcomed as a sign of progress in the
talks with Aung San Suu Kyi.
The pro-democracy leader is believed to have demanded the regime
reverse the 1998 closure of the party's branch offices and the detention
of dozens of its senior members as a condition for the talks to
Asiaweek: Waiting To Be Wired
JULY 20, 2001
Although all but banned in Myanmar, the Internet whips up a tempest in a
tea shop By GINA CHON
Aung Soe Min compares the first time he accessed the Internet to being
drunk. The 31-year-old Burmese writer and filmmaker, able to log on
outside his home country while traveling in Southeast Asia, would bounce
from one website to the next for up to seven hours, mesmerized by the
abundant information. "My friends started calling me Mr. Internet," says
Aung. "I spent all my money and time at the cyber cafes."
It's hard to fathom anyone getting worked up about the Web these days.
But in Myanmar, the country's military regime heavily censors all media
and severely restricts Internet access. Most citizens have never seen a
website nor touched a computer. Yet their I.T. appetite runs strong.
Aung's bout with Netoxia made him a popular conversational companion at
the Wuthering Heights tea shop in Yangon, where local intellectuals
longing to join the digital age devour every scrap of information that
can help fill in their imperfect map of cyberspace.
With second-hand knowledge gleaned from pirated copies of books on
computer programming, artists, authors, journalists and academics gather
in bookstores and tea shops to debate philosophy, economics and the
concept of instant messaging. "We are not quite sure what the Internet
is for," says Aung. "But we are convinced it is important."
Important because information is power. For ordinary Burmese,
information is in short supply. Nay Htut, the 28-year-old editor of the
New Myanmar Weekly, was allowed last month to post his newspaper on the
Web for the first time. But he can't read it online because he does not
have surfing privileges. Nay compares the blossoming of Net fever in
Yangon to "a small flower in the desert, where the sun is too powerful."
Adds a local cartoonist: "Ten years ago, the army only had guns. Now
they have the Internet. We do not. Now they know everything."
That sense of being cut off from the information revolution is a common
tea-shop theme. But the government, keen to sprout an I.T. sector as the
country's economy decays, is easing restrictions. More than 600 citizens
are now allowed e-mail accounts, and computer courses are standard in
most schools. Last November, the government set up a task force to study
e-commerce. A high-tech center has been established at Yangon
To Aung and his colleagues, the most heartening development may be the
recent opening of two Yangon Internet cafes through a government/private
sector joint venture. Only members who pay a $500 annual fee can use the
facilities to surf approved sites. The cost, which includes a $65
monthly charge for 30 hours of use, means access is mainly reserved for
Officials say the Net, like booze, is too hazardous for unlimited
availability. "Opening up is very easy," says government spokesman Lt.
Col. Hia Min. "But once there's a serious negative effect, how do we
remedy it? Many friends from [the Association of South East Asian
Nations] have told us to be careful and not do it too quickly."
Despite the virtual blackout, "the intellectual pattern of an Internet
society is already formed," says Aung. "It is based on second-hand books
and caffeinated conversations, instead of electronics." Myanmar will
have to wait before citizens can get wired on more than tea.
Nation: IOM to move into Burma
July 14, 2001
Projects now conducted in Samut Sakhon, Ranong, Tak to be relocated
In its first step toward taking a more active role in the country, the
International Organisation for Migration (IOM) will establish a field
presence on Burmese soil to deal with health issues related to
cross-border migration, IOM Director General Brunson McKinley said
Speaking on his return from a two-day official visit to Rangoon on
Thursday, McKinley said the IOM would initially relocate to Burma
projects that are being carried out in co-operation with the Thai
government. The Geneva-based agency currently operates projects in Samut
Sakhon, Ranong and Tak.
McKinley said he held talks during his July 10-11 trip with State Peace
and Development Council Secretary Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, as well as
officials from related government agencies. He said the Burmese
authorities had been receptive to the role of the IOM.
He said discussions with Rangoon did not focus solely on Thai-Burmese
relations, but covered a range of migration issues from the Burmese
perspective. Rangoon officials also "believe the IOM can help" end their
isolation from the international community, he added.
McKinley said many international bodies have detected a more cooperative
atmosphere in Rangoon, but added that the IOM would give its attention
to human trafficking and health issues.
Rangoon was concerned about the spread of HIV/Aids in Burma and
requested assistance in addressing this issue, McKinley said, adding
that migrants were one of the groups most vulnerable.
Any projects to tackle the spread of HIV/Aids that are introduced in
border areas would also benefit neighbouring countries, he added.
McKinley said he did not discuss in detail the issue of safe areas for
repatriated Burmese refugees with Rangoon officials, who said an
understanding with Bangkok would be a prerequisite to any IOM assistance
in this regard. "It is still one of the possibilities on the table," he
Bangkok recently proposed that self-subsistent communities for returnees
be established with the help of the IOM and multinational corporations
with interests inside Burma. The UN High Commission for Refugees has
also floated a similar idea.
IOM officials will be dispatched to Burma soon, initially to get the
health-related projects off the ground, McKinley said, adding that the
planned schemes were "not huge, but not insignificant" and that he was
confident the necessary funding would be secured.
McKinley said he had urged Burma to apply for observer status to the
IOM, adding that the organisation would not set any preconditions for
"The role of the IOM is not to talk about politics or human rights
issues," he said, quickly adding that the body does advocate the
improvement of human-rights protection, especially for migrants.
McKinley said the IMO could not afford the luxury of dealing only with
democratic governments because of the need to address problems relating
He conceded that there has been a mixed reaction to the role of the IOM
from the diplomatic corps in Bangkok, saying some countries had welcomed
the move, while others questioned whether Rangoon had done enough itself
to warrant such assistance.
AP: Australians conduct human rights workshops in Myanmar
July 13, 2001
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ Australia plans to conduct a workshop on human
rights for officials in Myanmar next week as part of an assistance
package designed to reduce abuses in this impoverished Southeast Asian
country, the Australian ambassador said Friday.
The workshop, which will held in Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest
city, will cover international laws and the charter and conventions of
the United Nations, said Australian Ambassador Trevor Wilson.
``It may take a long time for big improvements in the human rights
situation but we hope that the participants will learn things they can
implement in their work and in their human rights practices,'' he told
The seminar comes after the conclusion a four-day session in Yangon,
which ended Thursday and was attended by 25 officials representing
several ministries, the attorney general's office, the Supreme Court and
The military-run regime in Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been
widely criticized for imprisonment of political prisoners, torture and
other human rights violations. It denies these charges.
Chris Sidoti, a human rights official and lecturer at Monash
University, heads the Australian government's program. He visited
Myanmar in 1999 to discuss the establishment of an independent human
rights commission in the country.
More seminars are planned for September.
International Herald Tribune: Russia Negotiating to Help Impoverished
Nation With Reactor Project
July 14, 2001
RANGOON In a bid to join the world's atomic nations, Burma is
negotiating to build a nuclear reactor with Russian financial and
Nuclear experts say that the research reactor project, to be built in
accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines, could not
easily be retooled to produce nuclear weapons. But officials from donor
governments privately have expressed shock at such expenditure by one of
the world's poorest and least developed countries.
The project would also put high-maintenance nuclear technology in the
hands of a government that is now unable to provide a constant supply of
electricity to the country's capital.
Burma and Russia quietly agreed early this year to build a 10-megawatt
research reactor. Russian officials affirm that intense discussions are
now under way on implementing the agreement.
Eager to raise cash by exporting nuclear know-how, Russia recently
angered the United States by helping build a reactor in Iran and
providing nuclear fuel to India, which runs an active weapons program.
"This project is foolish because it is beyond Burma's means to build and
service a reactor," said one international nonproliferation official
familiar with the project. "Problem is, the Russians will sell equipment
to anyone." Burma's secretive military government declined requests to
discuss details of the project, but a furtive and unauthorized look
around the recently established Department of Atomic Energy on Pyay
Pagoda Road in Rangoon revealed little visible progress toward a nuclear
program. Slipping past a sleepy security guard at the entrance, a
foreign journalist wandered among the complex's buildings for several
minutes before being escorted out, but found no evidence of new
construction, computers or, for that matter, air-conditioning, despite
the sweltering tropical heat. Russia's ambassador to Rangoon calls the
nuclear project the most important cooperative effort between the two
countries in decades and said Burma, also known as Myanmar, could pay
for the reactor in cash or in trade.
"We cannot offer so much credit," said Gleb Ivashentsov, the Russian
ambassador. "So we could, for example, accept payment for the reactor in
rice, teak or perhaps fish."
The price of the reactor depends on its political importance, but
experts say that even small models can cost up to $5 million, equivalent
to more than Burma's 1999 national health budget.
Rangoon and Moscow, which enjoyed close relations during the Soviet era,
are now in the process of rebuilding lapsed links.
In addition to helping construct dams and hospitals in the 1950s, Soviet
engineers built and staffed the Rangoon Institute of Technology. Nikita
Khrushchev, the Soviet leader from 1953 to 1964, paid two visits to
Burma, during one of which he reputedly designed the swimming pool
alongside the Soviet-built Inya Lake Hotel.
Cooperation ended as Burma's government severed ties to the outside
world and the Soviet Union collapsed, but within the last few years
Moscow has courted Rangoon as a counterbalance to China's increased
influence in Burma. Burma's nuclear intentions have, however, puzzled
diplomats, who point to the global decline of interest in research
reactors. There are roughly 400 research reactors worldwide, about half
of which have been mothballed, according to the International Atomic
Energy Agency in Vienna.
The prime mover behind the reactor project is Burma's minister of
science and technology, U Taung, who reportedly considers nuclear
research necessary for a modern nation. As for military concerns, Burma
has been a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency since 1957,
acceded to the nonproliferation treaty in 1992 and agreed to a protocol
allowing inspections in 1995. But this has not left the foreign
diplomatic community complacent.
"Financially, this pariah state cannot afford to turn into a rogue
nuclear nation," said one Rangoon-based diplomat. "But we do keep an eye
on the situation and listen to all the rumors with interest and growing
Shortly after hearing about the Russian reactor, one foreign diplomat
was shocked to see expansive blueprints depicting a missile-like object
posted in the science minister's office. Closer scrutiny, however,
revealed the diagram to be an architect's drawing of restoration work on
the pointed peak of Shwedagon, Rangoon's enormous gold-festooned pagoda.
Bangkok Post: Chavalit's Burma visit back-dated
July 13, 2001.
Rangoon agrees to the change
Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's visit to Burma has been
back-dated for the second time to July 23-24, says a Defence Ministry
Rangoon had agreed with the change from July 19-20 since July 19 is
Martyrs' Day, a public holiday.
The visit, originally set for July 28-29, was earlier brought forward to
July 19-20 with Burmese leaders citing a heavy workload. The visit was
aimed at strengthening ties after border skirmishes in the North.
Gen Chavalit will be accompanied by his deputy Gen Yuthasak Sasiprapa,
defence permanent secretary Gen Thawat Ketangkul, Supreme Commander Gen
Sampao Chusri, army chief Gen Surayud Chulanont, navy chief Adm Prasert
Boonsong and air force chief ACM Pong Maneesil.
Gen Chavalit is also set to visit Vietnam on July 18-19 and attend a
Thai-Cambodian military meeting in Phnom Penh on July 27-28.
Bangkok Post: Precursor steps top Jia talks--Chemicals flow from China
July 13, 2001.
Stemming the flow of drug precursor chemicals to Thailand's northern
border area will be the main topic for discussion when China's public
security minister Jia Chunwang visits next week.
Gen Thammarak Isarangkul na Ayudhya, PM's Office minister, said
Beijing's co-operation was crucial.
Huge amounts of precursor chemicals were being smuggled from China for
use by methamphetamine producers.
"If we could efficiently stem the flow it would have a strong effect on
the production of yabain the northern border area," he said.
China also had a problem with methamphetamines in its southern region.
Gen Thammarak supervises the Narcotics Control Board.
Mr Jia, who heads China's drug suppression drive, is to visit Thailand
from July 19-25. He will be taken to see the drug suppression operation
in the North, including Royal-sponsored crop substitution projects.
Gen Thammarak said he was confident the coming four-nation summit in
Kunming would be a major step toward in eliminating drug production in
the border area of Burma, Laos, China and Thailand.
"Co-operation on drugs by all countries affected is vital.
"Burma, Laos and China have their own drug problems and we have ours, so
we have to join in a common fight to root out the problem," he said.
Mr Jia will lead a nine-member delegation, including representatives
from the autonomous Guang Xi and Yunnan provinces.
He will call on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and discuss bilateral
security co-operation with ministers of the interior and foreign affairs
and the National Security Council.
AFP: EU wants to send new mission to Myanmar
BANGKOK, July 12 (AFP) - Belgium hopes to send a European mission to
Myanmar during its tenure as president of the European Union (EU), the
Belgian ambassador to Thailand said Thursday.
Belgian Ambassador Pierre Vaesen said the visit, which would follow a
EU mission to Yangon earlier this year, could take place before the EU
reviews sanctions against Myanmar this fall.
"We would like to have a second troika visit under our presidency," he
said. "I would expect this to happen in October, maybe even November."
He added that additional visits by United Nations (UN) envoy Razali
Ismail and UN human rights special rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro were
"There will be more visits and contacts in the coming weeks," Vaesen
said. "Razali should go back fairly soon to Yangon, and Pinheiro might
also go back."
"We really want the political dialogue to proceed," he said. "It seems
indispensible to us that some strong guarantees should be given by the
government to the opposition parties."
The release of further political prisoners and "freedom of movement and
action" for political parties in Myanmar are "prerequisites" for the
EU's review of the sanctions it renewed in April for six months, he
The EU's policy towards Myanmar would also hinge on information from
other forthcoming visits, including a three-week International Labour
Organisation (ILO) mission to investigate forced labour in September.
"If by the end of September we could get some very significant
information based on this ILO mission, based on the Razali visit, maybe
another Pinheiro visit -- we would have the elements to review the
situation," he said.
In April, the EU renewed its sanctions against military-ruled Myanmar
for six more months, stating that the human rights situation in the
Southeast Asian nation remains "extremely serious."
In a statement, EU foreign ministers said the common position of the 15
EU member states -- including an arms embargo, a visa ban on junta
members and associates, and a suspension of non-humanitarian aid --
would remain intact through October.
Nevertheless, the ministers said they "sincerely hoped" that contacts
between the junta and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi would lead to
Aung San Suu Kyi met with the first EU delegation in January, her first
confirmed contact with foreign diplomats since UN envoy Razali visited
her twice earlier this year.
Bangkok Post: Rangoon must do even better, says EU--Looser sanctions in
return for freedoms would be the reward
July 13, 2001.
The European Union wants more political prisoners released and freedom
of movement for the opposition before lifting sanctions against Burma.
Speaking for the EU presidency, Belgian ambassador Pierre Vaesen said
the findings of an International Labour Organisation mission to Burma in
September would also be important to the decision.
The EU council in April resolved to keep in place its position on Burma
for another six months.
The position, which was adopted under the Swedish presidency, includes a
ban on the export to Burma of equipment that might be used for internal
repression or terrorism, a ban on visas for members and supporters of
the military regime and a freeze on their assets. The next review is set
for Oct 28.
Mr Vaesen said positive signs had emerged since the EU troika went to
Burma at the end of January, including a visit by the special rapporteur
for human rights Paulo Pinheiro, and release of 136 political prisoners,
including 36 opposition MPs.
But another 42 MPs of the National League for Democracy were still in
detention, with the number of political prisoners nationwide put at
1,600-1,700, he said.
"We want more significant releases of people," he said, pointing to
elderly and sick people, as well as MPs.
"There should also be real freedom of movement for political leaders,
and freedom of action for parties." The ILO mission, expected to take
three weeks, was important to the human rights issue, he said.
But the political impasse in Burma required a dialogue, and that meant
the junta's release of politicians.
"Dialogue for us is essential. If we want some progress, you really need
a political dialogue," he said.
At the same time, the EU wanted to address the plight of Burmese people,
he said, citing a mission that went to Burma last month to look at aid.
Klauspeter Schmallenbach, head of the European Commission delegation in
Bangkok, said some action on the humanitarian side was already under way
through the efforts of NGOs. Mr Vaesen expected the EU to have enough
information to review sanctions by the end of September, following the
ILO mission, as well as follow-up trips by Razali Ismail, the United
Nations special envoy, and Mr Pinheiro. "We want to be flexible. We want
to give positive signals to the authorities of Burma but on the other
hand we want to be very cautious. "Once you have changed the system,
waived some measures, it would be rather difficult to re-establish
them," he said.
AP: Rights group praises prisoner release, but 1,800 still detained
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ A human rights group has praised the release in
Myanmar of several political detainees, including comedians known as
``the Mustache Brothers,'' but says the military regime still holds
1,800 prisoners, a statement seen Saturday said.
The Myanmar government Friday released seven detainees, among them
three elected representatives of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for
Also freed were Pa Pa Lay and his cousin Lu Zaw, a comedy team
imprisoned after a 1996 performance that poked fun at the country's
generals and described government cooperatives as thieves.
``We hope that they can soon return to the business of making jokes and
entertaining the Burmese people without fear,'' said the London-based
Amnesty International which had campaigned for their release. Myanmar is
also known as Burma.
The government said it has released 140 people since January _ since
starting secret talks late last year with Suu Kyi, the most substantial
dialogue between the two sides in a decade of bitter political deadlock.
But Amnesty said the regime was still holding 1,800 prisoners,
including scores of ``prisoners of conscience.'' It has also placed Suu
Kyi under virtual house arrest.
On Saturday the Yangon government denied press reports that its
officials had said Suu Kyi would snub next Thursday's Martyr's Day
celebrations, a sign that her talks with the military were running into
There has been speculation that Suu Kyi will be allowed to attend the
ceremony marking the assassinations of her father and national
independence hero Gen. Aung San in 1947.
The NLD representatives released were identified as Tin Htut Oo, Dr.
Aung Moe Nyo and Saw Hlaing. The NLD says 37 of its elected
representatives are still in jail.
The three were the last of 203 elected NLD representatives detained
three years ago when the party tried to convene a parliament, in
accordance with the NLD's 1990 election victory that was not honored by
the military. Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle
against the military government.
Despite the recent string of releases marking an easing of restrictions
on the NLD, the status of the talks between Suu Kyi and the government
remain a mystery nine months after they began.
AP: Thailand Allows Over 1M Illegal Workers To Be Registered
July 13, 2001
BANGKOK (AP)--After trying unsuccessfully to expel hundreds of thousands
of laborers from neighboring countries, Thailand Friday agreed to allow
official registration of more than one million of these illegal
immigrants, officials said.
The immigrants, mostly from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, have been
working illegally in fishing, construction and agriculture since 1992,
when the government allowed a small number of aliens to work in certain
This sparked an influx, some 80% of it from Myanmar, and created social
and security problems. When the Asian economic crisis hit Thailand in
1997 and the need for cheap labor plummeted, the government attempted
"We rounded up and pushed back more than 460,000 illegal workers, mostly
from Myanmar, during the past three years but most of them returned," an
official of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Jirawat
Chanprasert, told reporters. He said the crackdown also spawned labor
"Accepting reality, the ministry decided to legalize those immigrants
and set rules to control them systematically and to prevent employers
from exploiting them," Jirawat said.
The ministry will allow employers to register their alien workers and
enroll them in a social welfare scheme under which they will be entitled
to the legal minimum wage, proper housing and medical care. The ministry
set an Aug. 31 deadline for the registration.
"From now on there will be no cat and mouse game, and the repatriation
plan will be put on hold," Jirawat said, referring to border officials
trying to prevent expelled laborers from sneaking back into the country.
He said that after proper registration, Thailand would deal with the
labor problem directly with governments of neighboring countries.
Sen. Mitch McConnell: Burma Military Purchases
Statement from the floor of the US Senate, July 12, 2001
Mr. President, the illegitimate regime in Rangoon has once again shown
its true colors. On this bright, sunny morning in Washington, I want to
draw the attention of my colleagues to gathering storm clouds in
According to Jane's Defence Weekly, Burma's State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC) has signed a contract to purchase 10 MiG-29 fighter
aircraft from the Russian Aircraft-building Corporation. These fighters
were built in the early 1990s and are being stored at the Lukhovitsy
machine-building plant. The total cost of the 10 MiGs to the SPDC is
$130 million, 30 percent of which will be paid up front and the balance
settled over the next decade.
This purchase is troubling for several reasons, and underscores that
despite its name the SPDC is neither committed to peace nor the
development of Burma. Thailand -- and the United States -- should be
concerned with the acquisition of these aircraft, which boosts the
junta's capabilities well beyond the 42 Chengdu F-7M and Nanchang A-5C
currently sitting on Burmese runways. Tensions between the Thais and the
junta have already spilled over into exchanges of gunfire and mortars;
an escalation to an air war would be destabilizing to the entire region.
China may be the only country to view the sale in a positive light, as
it strengthens the military capability of one its staunchest allies in
From drug dealing to the forced use of child soldiers, the Burmese
military has distinguished itself as a world's leading violator of human
rights and dignity. This purchase serves as evidence that the regime is
committed to remaining in power at any and all costs. The international
community must now double its efforts to ensure that even greater human
rights abuses are not waged against the innocent people of Burma by the
military, which is corrupt to the core.
The acquisition of MiG fighters adds 10 more reasons why the United
States should view skeptically the discussions between Rangoon's thugs
and thieves and Burma's legitimate leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The
contract with Russia sends a signal that despite all the rhetoric and
few prisoner releases, the talks may be hollow. What meaningful
concessions can the generals make to Suu Kyi if they are arming
The $130 million contract (and where is that money coming from, Mr.
President?) demonstrates yet again that the junta has not made the
welfare of the people of Burma a priority. From an escalating HIV/AIDS
crisis to forced labor practices, the junta has yet to demonstrate the
political will to tackle the hardships the Burmese face every day.
Finally, the sale is an indication that the Russians are willing to
sell military hardware to anyone, anywhere. We can add Burma to the
growing list, which includes Iran and North Korea, of Russian client
AFP: Myanmar says war on drugs adding to 'national solidarity'
YANGON, July 13 (AFP) - Myanmar's military government has said efforts
to wipe out the illegal drugs trade with the help of ethnic minorities
had contributed to a sense of "national solidarity."
The junta's number-three, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, said the junta
had come to realise that using military means to fight narcotics were
not only futile but had resulted in the loss of countless lives.
"It is found that the success which has been achieved in rooting out
the drugs is also contributing to national solidarity," Khin Nyunt said
in a speech published in the New Light of Myanmar.
The military had turned to persuasion and the promise of peace and
development to win over the ethnic minorities, especially those from the
poppy cultivating regions of Myanmar's Shan State, he said.
He said the push against drugs had started to pay off and the various
ethnic groups had adopted the government's goal to eradicate illicit
narcotics within 15 years.
Until last year, Myanmar ranked behind Afghanistan as the world's top
The government in April said drug eradication efforts, bad weather and
pests had combined to yield the poorest opium crop in more than a
And a report earlier this year from the International Narcotics Control
Board showed opium production in Myanmar had fallen some 40 percent in
the past decade.
However, last year Afghanistan's ruling Taliban banned the opium crop
and UN surveys confirmed a dramatic reduction in its cultivation --
elevating Myanmar to the top spot by default.
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