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BurmaNet News: July 27, 2001
- Subject: BurmaNet News: July 27, 2001
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2001 04:37:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
July 27, 2001 Issue # 1852
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AFP : Myanmar releases Aung San Suu Kyi's relatives from jail
*Far Eastern Economic Review: Burma - No News Is Bad News
*Amnesty International: Fear of torture/ill-treatment--Pastor Gracy [f],
*The Nation: Fishing Rights--Burma Sets Strict Conditions
*DVB: Burmese navy fires at Thai boats found fishing off coast
*Far Eastern Economic Review: MIGS Spell Trouble
*AP: Japan Min Asks Myanmar To Free More Political Prisoners
*The Japan Times: Tanaka tells Myanmar to free more prisoners held on
*AFP: EU asks UN to push democratic reforms in Myanmar
*Bangkok Post: Burma, Vietnam against time zone change
*DVB : Interview with writer Daw San San Nwe of Tharawaddy
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AFP : Myanmar releases Aung San Suu Kyi's relatives from jail
YANGON, July 26 (AFP) - Myanmar's military junta Thursday released from
prison a couple closely related to democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi,
for the first time freeing political prisoners before their sentences
were completed. Nge Ma Ma, a first cousin of the Nobel peace laureate,
and her husband Myint Swe were released from Yangon's Insein prison
Thursday morning, a government spokesman said in a statement.
"They are both in good health," he added.
The pair was sentenced in 1997 to 10 years imprisonment for helping to
smuggle a videotaped message from Aung San Suu Kyi out of the country.
Seven other people involved in the case were also jailed, but they
remain in prison. Dozens of political prisoners have been freed from
jail over the past few weeks, in what have been hailed as signs of
progress from nine-month-old talks between the opposition leader and
However, all the others have been released at the end of their sentences
or on humanitarian grounds because of illness, and Nge Ma Ma and Myint
Swe are believed to be first to be freed before their sentences
"We are always glad when our people get released from jail, especially
now that they do not have to stay for their full sentence," an
opposition National League Democracy (NLD) source told AFP.
The source also said that another party member, Ko Tin Way, was released
on July 18. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2000, but is
believed to have been allowed home because of his poor health.
Two of Aung San Suu Kyi's cousins have now been freed from jail, and
only one more is believed to be still in detention.
The rash of releases over the past few weeks has gone some way to
mollifying fears that the fledgling national reconciliation process had
gone off the rails in recent months.
Temperatures were also raised last week when Aung San Suu Kyi failed to
appear at an important national ceremony marking her father's 1997
Diplomats speculated that the gesture may have been aimed at
highlighting the house arrest restrictions which were placed on her 10
months ago, just before the talks began.
At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Hanoi
this week, Myanmar's Foreign Minister Win Aung insisted the dialogue
remained on track, and cited the releases as a sign of the health of
"If the talks are not smooth and if the confrontational approach went
on, there will not be any releases, of course," he told AFP.
However, he refused to give a timeframe for multiparty elections or
define the type of government that might emerge from a breakthrough in
the talks with the Nobel laureate opposition leader.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer also said at the meeting
that he detected signs of change from the military junta in Yangon
which did not exist 12 months ago.
"This year I get a sense of movement. I don't want to overstate that but
there is a sign of some movement," he said.
However, the European Union's external affairs commissioner Chris Patten
said in Hanoi that much more had to be done in Myanmar, and he urged
the government to include the nation's ethnic minorities in the
The prisoner releases and recent visits to Myanmar by both the EU and
the International Labour Organization (ILO) had been "welcome progress
but can't be said to be great strides," he said.
"We do want to see more done. ... We want to see dialogue involving all
elements in the country."
Far Eastern Economic Review: Burma - No News Is Bad News
Issue cover-dated August 02, 2001
The military junta's lack of transparency over talks with opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi could test international patience By Bertil
IT'S SAID THAT NO NEWS is good news, but that adage could become cold
comfort for Burma's ruling junta. While the generals, apparently acting
under strong international pressure, resumed talks late last year with
pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, they have given no indication of
how far the reconciliation process has really moved, if at all.
When Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy,
failed to show up for Martyr's Day ceremonies in Rangoon on July 19
marking the anniversary of the assassination in 1947 of her father,
independence hero Aung San, speculation was rife that the talks had
A Western diplomat, however, says the process continues and that she was
absent from the ceremony by choice because "she wanted to show that her
movements won't be dictated" by the military government, which is known
as the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC.
But while there may still be a process there appears to have been very
little progress, and political analysts say the ball is now very much in
the generals' court. "The key thing is whether at any stage there will
be a public announcement about the talks," says the Western diplomat.
There is no sign of that at the moment and time is running out for the
generals. Says the Western diplomat: "If no real political progress can
be noticed before October, or not even an announcement a year after the
first talks were held, the international community will run out of
That could include stronger United Nations resolutions condemning
human-rights abuses and urging democratization, and perhaps even tougher
economic sanctions. The United States Senate, for example, is due to
decide soon on whether or not to ban garment imports from Burma on the
grounds of alleged forced labour and child labour in the industry.
Concrete signs of progress in the junta-Suu Kyi talks could have a
bearing on that decision, say analysts.
Western and Asian diplomats in Burma and Thailand reject recent regional
press reports about an imminent breakthrough and the possibility of a
national coalition government between the generals and the NLD as
wishful thinking. And Aung Zaw, a prominent opposition Burmese
journalist in exile in Thailand and editor of the Irrawaddy magazine,
dismisses the talks with Suu Kyi as "an example of diplomatic skills and
a PR offensive staged by the junta." By pretending that some "very
delicate" talks are under way, the junta has been able to stave off
international criticism, he says.
If there are some kind of talks, what are the two sides focusing on and
why the secrecy? Suu Kyi has been held almost incommunicado since
September last year. But, she did meet Malaysia's Razali Ismail, the UN
special envoy to Burma, in January and June. She also received a
delegation from the European Union in January and held private talks in
April with Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a Brazilian political scientist who
had just been appointed UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma.
None have disclosed much about their discussions with Suu Kyi and even
less has been leaked about her talks with the military government.
Foreign diplomats in Rangoon say that the SPDC most likely began talking
to Suu Kyi because of pressure from the UN and member states of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But they reckon there was no
special agenda for the talks.
The sources also say Suu Kyi has pressed hard for the release of NLD
supporters who are serving long prison sentences. According to Aung Zaw,
she presented a list of 200 political prisoners, mainly the sick and
elderly. She has also asked the authorities to let the NLD reopen its
offices around the country, most of which were shut down last year.
She's had some limited success. About 150 prisoners--not necessarily
those on her purported list--have been released since October.
These include San San Nwe, a 56-year old journalist arrested in 1994 and
sentenced to 10 years in jail for giving "false news" to foreign
correspondents. She was freed on July 18. Others recently released were
Suu Kyi's cousin and former aide, Aye Win, whose brother, Sein Win,
leads an opposition government-in-exile, and popular comedians Pa Pa Lay
and Lu Zaw. Known as The Moustache Brothers, the two were arrested in
1996 for making fun of the government at public NLD gatherings. A small
number of NLD offices have also been reopened in Rangoon and elsewhere.
But, as the Western diplomat points out, "the names, not the numbers of
people who have been released, are impressive." Amnesty International
says there are still some 1,800 political prisoners languishing in
prisons around Burma, while Suu Kyi herself remains under de facto house
Meanwhile, Suu Kyi must be acutely aware that the first time she held
talks with the generals, in 1994, the negotiations were stopped when she
issued a statement reaffirming her commitment to democracy and
dismissing rumours that she was about to make a deal with the
That statement was smuggled out of the country, and the government
accused her of breaking her promise not to disclose what was being
discussed. Hence the secrecy this time, says a Rangoon resident: "If she
said anything unilaterally, her meetings with junta representatives
would stop, and there would be no more releases of political prisoners."
Amnesty International: Fear of torture/ill-treatment--Pastor Gracy [f],
26 July 2001
Pastor Gracy, a 27-year-old political prisoner who is reportedly in poor
health, has been transferred to a hard labour camp where conditions are
particularly severe. Amnesty is concerned for her safety and wellbeing.
On 18 July Pastor Gracy was transferred to Mawlaik-Kalay Akhin Htawng
labour camp near Kalaymyo in Sagaing Division, where conditions are said
to be extremely harsh. Pastor Gracy, who is a member of the Chin ethnic
minority, had been sentenced to two years' hard labour on 6 July by a
court in Haka, the capital of the Chin State. She was found guilty of
having provided accommodation to the Chin National Front (CNF), a Chin
armed opposition group fighting the central Myanmar government. Amnesty
International is concerned that she did not receive a fair trial.
Pastor Gracy was initially arrested on 13 February. She had been
detained at Haka army camp, where there are believed to be no separate
facilities for women. In May, she was reported to be in poor health.
Pastor Gracy, who studied theology at the Chin Christian College in
Haka, is the minister of Rinpi Baptist Church in central Chin State.
Ninety per cent of the Chin people, who inhabit the Chin State and
neighbouring Sagaing Division in the far west of Myanmar, are Christian.
They are frequently persecuted by the mostly Buddhist, ethnic Burman
authorities. Chin pastors have reportedly been arrested, crosses and
churches destroyed, and Christian civilians subjected to forced labour.
Pastor Gracy's elder brother Pu Hoi Mang was sentenced to two years'
hard labour last year for supporting the CNF. He is also serving his
sentence at Mawlaik-Kalay prison camp. He and pastor Gracy are the only
known political prisoners to be held in hard labour camps.
The Nation: Fishing Rights--Burma Sets Strict Conditions
July 26, 2001.
Junta says Thai trawler operators must adhere to restrictions in
exchange for reinstatement of lost concessions
Burma has set tough conditions in return for granting fishing
concessions to Thai trawlers that were revoked last year after the
seizure by Burmese dissidents of its embassy here, Thai officials said
Burmese junta leaders told Thai Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh
during his recent visit to Burma that they had awarded all the
concessions to Singaporean firms, the officials said.
However, Lt General Khin Nyunt indicated that Burma would discuss with
Singapore about sharing half of the concessions with Thailand, said
General Pat Akanibutr, an adviser to Chavalit.
To make it easier for Burmese authorities to supervise Thai trawlers,
Khin Nyunt wanted them to operate under a single company rather than as
many companies, Pat said.
During their meeting with Chavalit, the Burmese leaders complained about
Thai concessionaires' tendency to ignore concession terms, such as by
exceeding the number of trawlers allowed per company, said Monthon
Kraiwatnusorn, another adviser to the defence minister.
Another headache for Burmese authorities was that Thai concessionaires
had the habit of selling their permit at a profit to other trawler
operators, said Monthon, a former deputy agriculture minister.
The Burmese leaders wanted Thai trawlers to adhere to strict
requirements. They should use fishing nets with broader meshes for
catching tuna, trawl in designated areas only, radio to Burmese
authorities before their arrival to establish proper communications, and
refrain from transferring their catches to other boats offshore,
according to Monthon.
Monthon said the public and private sectors would closely coordinate to
ensure that the Burmese conditions were obeyed if concessions were
awarded. Among the likely measures was for the Marine Police to check
that trawlers leaving for fishing grounds off Burma met the
He expected the Burmese government to allow between 500 and 600 Thai
trawlers to operate in that country's territorial waters.
Khin Nyunt is expected to discuss the possible resumption of fishing
concessions during his visit to Thailand next month, Monthon said.
The Burmese junta revoked all fishing concessions awarded to Thai
companies in apparent reprisal for Thai authorities allowing Burmese
dissidents, who took many hostages at the Burmese Embassy in October
1999, to be released in the jungle along the common border.Sanan
Kachornprasart, the interior minister at the time, described the raiders
as "students fighting for democracy in their homeland". The label
infuriated the junta, which preferred to call them "terrorists"
DVB: Burmese navy fires at Thai boats found fishing off coast
Text of report by DVB on 25 July
DVB has learned that the SPDC navy boats have fired upon Thai fishing
vessels caught illegally fishing in Burmese territorial waters near
Kawthaung in Tenasserim Division. Two Burmese sailors working onboard
the Thai vessel were killed.
At about 1730 [local time] on 22 July the SPDC naval vessel 448 fired at
three Thai fishing trawlers illegally fishing in Burmese territorial
waters at the border of Thai and Burmese territorial limit in Kawthaung
District east of Boyar Island. The boats escaped by entering Thai
territorial waters but one of the boats owned by Pithamein Warehouse
from Parkhong suburb in Ranong was hit by M-60 machine gun fire. Two
Burmese sailors working aboard the Thai vessel were killed instantly
while one Thai and another five Burmese sailors were seriously wounded.
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 25 Jul 01
Far Eastern Economic Review: MIGS Spell Trouble
Issue cover-dated August 2, 2001
By Bertil Lintner
Just when Burma's military rulers had started to reap some of the
rewards of engaging with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, they may
have blown it. Japan announced in January--after the talks became public
knowledge--a $28 million aid package to refurbish a hydroelectric power
plant in northeast Burma. It was the first major new Japanese aid
project since 1988, when most donors suspended aid in protest at the
brutal suppression of the pro-democracy movement, and bucked the trend
of Western countries that maintain aid embargos on Burma because of the
repressive policies of the regime. But news in July that Burma would buy
10 MiG-29 fighter aircraft for $130 million from Russia "risks
undermining its case for further foreign aid and loan write-offs," the
United States-based on-line newsletter BurmaNet News wrote on July 13.
Every year, Japan forgives about $150 million in interest payments on
previous loans. Burma's total foreign debt amounts to $6 billion, of
which half is owed to Japan.
The acquisition of the MiG-29s marks the first time Burma has purchased
a sophisticated interceptor and it is seen as an attempt to offset
Thailand's air superiority. Relations between the neighbours are
prickly. Earlier this year, Burmese troops clashed with Thai soldiers
while attacking ethnic rebels along their mutual border. The Thais
buzzed the Burmese forces with their U.S.-supplied F-16s to demonstrate
their air superiority.
The planned purchase will worry countries such as the U.S. that abhor
the military regime in Rangoon and are anxious to see stability in
volatile Southeast Asia.
Washington approved the sale of eight AIM-30 advanced medium-range
air-to-air missiles to Thailand once the deal with Russia became known.
It had previously opted to keep such sophisticated weapons out of the
The irony is that the Thais may have inadvertently helped pay for the
MiGs. The downpayment, 30% of the total, came in the same week that the
state-owned Petroleum Authority of Thailand paid Burma $100 million in
royalties for gas due to be piped ashore from fields in the Gulf of
Martaban. Before the Thais paid up under the terms of a 1995 contract,
Burma had almost depleted its foreign exchange reserves.
According to Robert Karniol, Asia editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, the
Russians were unwilling to sell aircraft to Burma until revenue began to
flow from the Martaban gasfield, which is one of the country's few
sources of significant foreign exchange. But if the Burmese keep on
spending their meagre hard-currency reserves on military hardware, even
Japanese aid is in jeopardy, talks or no talks in Rangoon.
AP: Japan Min Asks Myanmar To Free More Political Prisoners
Thursday July 26, 4:37 PM
HANOI (AP)--Japan's foreign minister said Thursday that she has asked
Myanmar to free as many political prisoners as possible and take other
steps to improve relations with Japan.
Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka met in Hanoi with Myanmar's Foreign
Minister Win Aung, during an annual conference sponsored by the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Speaking afterwards with reporters, she said Myanmar's contention that
it faced "internal problems" wasn't an excuse not to make progress.
"It's true Myanmar has internal problems, but all countries have their
own problems," Tanaka said. "Myanmar should develop as quickly as
possible into a country with which we can cooperate."
Tanaka said she also discussed the situation of pro-democracy leader
Aung San Suu Kyi.
Myanmar's military has been holding talks with Suu Kyi since late last
year, and recently has freed some political prisoners, but the human
rights group Amnesty International says hundreds more remain behind
Win Aung told reporters earlier this week that the talks with Suu Kyi
are not stalled, as has been widely speculated.
In April, Japan broke ranks with Western-led sanctions against Myanmar,
providing it with a $28 million aid package for a dam project.
The Japan Times: Tanaka tells Myanmar to free more prisoners held on
July 27, 2001
HANOI (Kyodo) Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka urged Myanmar on Thursday
to quickly release more political prisoners to promote democracy in the
country, a Japanese official said.
In a meeting with Foreign Minister Win Aung, she said that the release
of more political prisoners by Yangon's ruling junta is key to
democratizing Myanmar, the official said...
Win Aung said Myanmar has been edging toward democracy and national
reconciliation and that he hopes the trend will continue, according to
But he also insisted that Myanmar could be thrown into confusion, such
as that in Indonesia, if democracy movements are pushed too hastily.
In the meantime, Tanaka reiterated Tokyo's readiness to resume aid to
Myanmar to repair an aging hydroelectric power station in the country.
Japan began studying the resumption of providing grants to Yangon
following the start last October of dialogue between the junta and Suu
Kyi after a seven-year hiatus. Tokyo stopped governmental grants to
Myanmar in 1988 after the junta took power.
The Cabinet is expected to approve a grant of about 3 billion yen to 3.5
billion yen in official development assistance by the end of this year.
AFP: EU asks UN to push democratic reforms in Myanmar
Thursday July 26, 9:55 PM
HANOI, July 26 (AFP) - The European Union urged the United Nations
Thursday to continue prodding Myanmar to embrace democratic reforms
following the release of dozens of political prisoners in the
military-ruled Asian country.
The dissidents' release, including a couple closely related to Nobel
laureate democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, came after talks between the
junta and Suu Kyi brokered by Malaysia's Razali Ismail, a special envoy
of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
"We hope Ambassador Razali will be able to go back soon to Burma
(Myanmar) and resume his mission of intermediation so that the recent
progress can be strengthened," said Foreign Minister Louis Michel of
Belgium, the current holder of the EU presidency.
Michel was addressing counterparts from the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Hanoi during annual talks.
Myanmar is a member of ASEAN, which also comprises Brunei, Cambodia,
Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and
Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung did not attend the EU dialogue,
sending instead a senior government official who rebutted point by point
Michel's statement, according to an official who was present at the
The Myanmar official, who was not identified, said Razali was welcome to
visit Yangon any time.
Myanmar's junta for the first time freed two political prisoners before
their sentences were completed.
Nge Ma Ma, a first cousin of Aung San Suu Kyi, and her husband Myint Swe
are closely related to the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has been held
under de facto house arrest since September just before she embarked on
the landmark talks with the junta.
Dozens of political prisoners have been freed in recent weeks in what
have been hailed as a sign of progress from the nine-month-old talks
between the opposition leader and the junta.
Michel said the EU hoped that the release would "put this important
country on the way back to democracy, national reconciliation and the
rule of law".
"It is essential that the current discussions between the authorities
and the opposition continue and develop into a real process of
rebuilding the nation in harmony," he said.
On Wednesday, Michel told AFP that Myanmar should do much more than
release political prisoners to show it was serious about restoring
But Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said changes in Myanmar
would occur gradually through dialogue.
The EU has imposed sanctions against Myanmar for human rights
violations, but ASEAN has adopted a policy of "constructive engagement"
with the ruling generals.
"It is more productive. You cannot isolate countries. If you isolate
countries you will not allow them to change," the Malaysian minister
"We think that people should bring Myanmar into the mainstream by
bringing economic development, by assisting them to grow and by
interacting with them. They will become more comfortable and they will
be able to change accordingly.
"But if we force upon them, they have been closed for a long, long time
and they have survived," Syed Hamid said.
The country also "would like to be democratic, to be free, but they also
have to tackle their ethnic differences, their economic development
programmes", he said.
Myanmar would have a family to rely on in ASEAN.
"We believe that Myanmar ultimately will be like any one of the
democratic ASEAN countries," the minister said.
Bangkok Post: Burma, Vietnam against time zone change
July 25, 2001.
Burma and Vietnam were cool to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's idea
of advancing Thailand's time by one hour, Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh
The defence minister said in Rangoon yesterday that Mr Thaksin had asked
him to sound out reactions from neighbouring countries on the proposed
When he raised the idea with Burmese Prime Minister Gen Than Shwe, he
got a reply that the current Thai time was just fine, Gen Chavalit said.
Vietnamese Defence Minister Pham Van Tra reacted the same way when they
met in Hanoi last week, he said.
Gen Chavalit said he had conveyed Mr Thaksin's invitation for Burmese
military leaders to visit Thailand. Gen Than Shwe responded that he
would have to clear any trips first.
DVB : Interview with writer Daw San San Nwe of Tharawaddy
DVB is pleased to present interviews with a prominent writer Daw San San
Nwe of Tharawaddy, who was released on 18th July, and was a co-recipient
along with editor U Win Tin of the Golden Pen of Freedom award.
Welcome to DVB home page at http://www.dvb.no/.
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