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BurmaNet News: October 24, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
October 24, 2001 Issue # 1905
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Irrawaddy: More NLD Offices Allowed To Re-Open
*Irrawaddy: Anti-Muslim Riot in Hinthada Township
*Reuters: Muslim-Buddhist violence flares in Myanmar
*Kyodo: Myanmar minister tells Tanaka Japan's aid important
*AP: Dead drug suspects toll wins police the prime minister's award
*Xinhua: Drug Smuggler Seized in Yunnan
*AP: Myanmar military praises United Nations, congratulates Annan
*Irrawaddy: Covering Burma and Asia--Journalists Beware
*Xinhua: Myanmar Calls On U.N. To Support Developing Countries
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Irrawaddy: More NLD Offices Allowed To Re-Open
By Zarny Win
October 23, 2001?Another branch office of the opposition National League
for Democracy (NLD) was allowed to re-open today in Rangoon. The
Thinggangyun Township branch is the twenty-third office to unlock its
doors after talks between NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the military
government began at the end of last year. Like all NLD offices around
the country, it was forcibly shut down in 1991.
"To reopen [the Thinggangyun office], we had to deal with the local
authorities for months, even though the military government had already
agreed to reopen the branches in Rangoon," said a local NLD member who
did not want to give his name. He added that hundreds of branches in
other parts of the country are still closed down.
The NLD won a landslide victory in the 1990 general election but was not
allowed to take power. Afterwards, the military regime shut almost all
branch offices around the country, and put hundreds of members behind
bars. But recent talks and international pressure are creating some
change in the situation. In the words of government publicity, one
"result of the understanding achieved between the military government
and the NLD" in recent talks has been the release of over one hundred
NLD activists and the re-opening of some NLD branches.
The NLD members themselves, however, are not seeing any real change. "I
cannot see that the current political condition of our country is
improving, just because a few NLD branches are allowed to reopen," said
Zin Linn, a high ranking member of the Thinggangyun Township NLD branch,
now in exile. "The branches are not allowed to have political
activities, such as gatherings and meetings." He added that the military
government is playing a skillful political game in order to stay in
power as long as possible. [Top]
Irrawaddy: Anti-Muslim Riot in Hinthada Township
By Ko Thet
October 23, 2001--Buddhist monks and Muslims rioted last Saturday night
in Hinthada Township, in the Irrawaddy division, according to a Hinthada
resident. The riot began in a Muslim-owned tea-shop over a quarrel
between the proprietor and monks. Authorities had declared an urgent
curfew earlier that night, the source added.
"Hinthada is half-Muslim, so the riot spread quickly through the entire
town," a truck driver said. "The riot was not only fighting between
Muslims and Buddhist monks, but rioters were also setting fire to
When the Irrawaddy contacted regional police from Hinthada, an officer
denied any report of the riot. Media groups inside the country are also
silent on the subject. A spokesman for a weekly journal said that they
had heard news of the riot but had not been given permission to cover it
in their publication.
Heavy security has been deployed near mosques and Muslim areas in
Rangoon. A tutor from the Hlaingtharyar Technological University (HTU)
said that the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) was afraid to
interfere, worried that the direction of the violence might shift from
Muslims to the military government.
This incident marks the fourth anti-Muslim riot in a Burmese city this
Reuters: Muslim-Buddhist violence flares in Myanmar
YANGON, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government has imposed a
curfew in three cities to deter clashes between Muslims and Buddhists,
government officials said on Wednesday.
``It is true that dusk to dawn curfew was imposed in Pyi, Bago, and
Hinthada recently to prevent religious riots after brawls between some
Buddhist monks and Muslims,'' a Myanmar government spokesman told
``Local authorities and religious leaders have now straightened out the
problem and the situation has returned to normal, but the curfew is
still on,'' the spokesman said.
Myanmar citizens living along the Thai-Myanmar border told Reuters on
Wednesday clashes between Muslims and Buddhists started in Pyi, some 290
km (180 miles) north of Yangon, on October 8 and spread to the nearby
cities of Bago and Hinthada.
They said more than 100 people were wounded and one killed in the clash
in Pyi, but officials declined to comment on figures.
They said authorities in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar had banned all
vehicles from entering Yangon after the riot in Hinthada on Sunday.
Sources in the towns said the riots were caused by a brawl between the
families of a Buddhist teenager and a Muslim man she eloped with.
Rivalry between Buddhists and Muslims, who make up almost four percent
of the country's 51 million people, is not uncommon in Myanmar.
The first clash this year was in February in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine
State, 490 km (300 miles) northwest of Yangon. Another one took place in
May in Taungoo, a city in Bago Division, 265 km (166 miles) north of
Curfews were imposed for some time in both cities. Government and
private sources said the riots were sparked by religious differences.
Political analysts say Myanmar authorities have been taking special
care to prevent riots between Buddhists and Muslims since the suicide
attacks on the United States on September 11.
(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan in Bangkok)
Kyodo: Myanmar minister tells Tanaka Japan's aid important
TOKYO, Oct. 24 Kyodo - Myanmar National Planning and Economic
Development Minister Soe Tha told Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka on
Wednesday that Japan's anticipated aid for rehabilitating an aging
hydroelectric power station is crucial, a ministry official said.
AP: Dead drug suspects toll wins police the prime minister's award
October 24 2001
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Police in a northern Thai province who this
year had at least 66 drug trafficking suspects die during the arrest
process have won an award from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's
office, a provincial police officer said Wednesday.
Eleven other drug suspects went missing and more than 100 others fled
the area from January through September this year, said police Maj. Gen.
Prachuab Wankhaikhaew, commander of the provincial police in Loei, 430
kilometers (267 miles) north of Bangkok.
The criminals were all on a blacklist of 500 drug suspects, he said.
Prachuab denied a report in the Thai newspaper The Nation on Monday
that his men have killed 66 suspected drug traders for resisting arrest,
telling The Associated Press they were killed in fighting against rival
``The figure of drug traders killed is accurate but we used the tactic
of instigating the suspects to double-cross and kill each other,''
Prachuab said, implicitly denying that the suspects were victims of
He claimed his tactics had succeeded in reducing by 80 percent the
influx of drugs smuggled into the province from Myanmar via neighboring
Tens or hundreds of millions of methamphetamine tablets are produced in
Myanmar and smuggled into Thailand each year. With the Thai army trying
to seal the border with Myanmar, smugglers have tried to send the
illegal stimulant into Thailand through Laos.
Prachuab said hundreds of thousands of tablets used to be smuggled into
Loei monthly, but now the number is less than 10,000 a month.
Thailand considers methamphetamine trafficking and consumption to be
such a serious problem that it considers it a threat to national
``This successful tactic of drug suppression made us win the prime
minister's award for this year,'' said Prachuab, who added that he had
his men brief his superiors on the tactics.
The government denies having a shoot-on-sight policy toward drug
traffickers, but killings at arrest scenes are not rare.
There is no official record of suspects shot during arrest but media
reports indicate that more than 40 suspected drug traders were killed in
alleged shootouts with police during the past six months, not including
those killed in Loei.
Xinhua: Drug Smuggler Seized in Yunnan
KUNMING, October 23 (Xinhua) -- Chinese police in southwest China's
Yunnan Province have taken into custody a suspected drug smuggler from
Myanmar believed to have trafficked narcotics in China for years. Shang
Chaomei, 37, is a native of Tengchong County in Yunnan Province. He
later obtained Myanmar citizenship, police said. Police reports show
Shang smuggled 500 kg of heroin to China in the period between 1998 and
April 2001. As Shang is now a Myanmar citizen, he will be extradited to
Myanmar and be punished in accordance with that country's laws. Enditem
2001-10-23 Tue 10:11
AP: Myanmar military praises United Nations, congratulates Annan
October 24, 2001
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ Myanmar's military leaders on Wednesday night
congratulated U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan for winning this year's
Nobel Peace prize and reaffirmed support for the world body's efforts
for a developed and peaceful world.
The ruling junta has been the frequent target of criticism from the
United Nations and its associated agencies, which have condemned it for
human rights abuses.
But the government recently has attempted to woo the international
body, allowing two U.N. investigative missions to visit the country in
the past month. A special U.N. representative late last year helped
initiate a dialogue between the military and pro-democracy leader Aung
San Suu Kyi.
The occasion for praising the U.N. was a ceremony at the capital's
Parliament building marking United Nations Day.
``The United Nations organization, which has traversed more than half a
century, has managed to preserve the sacrosanct principles of the
(U.N..'s founding) Charter, and it is most fitting that it also has been
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with the Secretary General,''
said a message from junta chief Senior General Than Shwe, read by
Foreign Minister Win Aung.
The government has never lavished such praise on the country's own
Nobel peace laureate, Suu Kyi, who heads the opposition National League
Suu Kyi won the 1991 prize for her nonviolent work for democracy.
Myanmar's military, which kept Suu Kyi under formal house arrest from
1989 to 1995, refused to hand over power to the NLD after it
overwhelmingly won a general election in 1990. After the polls, it
harassed and arrested hundreds of NLD members.
Suu Kyi has again been confined to her house since September last year
after she was blocked from traveling outside the capital to meet members
of her party.
Also speaking Wednesday evening, third-ranking junta member Lt. Gen.
Khin Nyunt reiterated Myanmar's commitment to the work of the United
Nations and urged the world body and its agencies to support Myanmar's
efforts to promote development.
Heads of U.N. relief and development agencies in Yangon appealed in
June for increased foreign aid for Myanmar to tackle problems of
HIV/AIDS, illicit drugs and food security. Most Western countries block
aid to show their disapproval of the junta's poor human rights record
and failure to hand over power to a legally-elected government.
Body of drowned German ship captain found in Malaysian waters
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ A search team found the body of a German
ship captain believed to have fallen off his vessel and drowned off
Malaysia's west coast, the national news agency reported Tuesday.
Kuttig Manfred Herbert Paul, 59, was reported lost Saturday while the
cargo ship MV NTK was on its way from Singapore to Myanmar with a load
of cigarettes and alcohol, Bernama news agency reported.
Details about his hometown in Germany were not immediately available.
The vessel, which had a crew of seven Myanmar citizens and one
Indonesian, suffered engine failure Oct. 13 and had taken anchor at sea.
Marine authority spokesman Abdul Rahman Munap said the German's body
was found floating about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from shore Monday and
had been sent for a post-mortem. His widow in Singapore had been
Bangkok Post: Senate panel to hold talks
October 24, 2001.
The Senate foreign affairs panel will today hold talks with
representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
about Burmese refugees in northern border provinces.
Expected to be raised during the talks is a group of Burmese refugees
who came to Thailand to flee poverty rather than unrest, said senator
The planned talks have been agreed by the National Security Council's
secretary-general Kachadpai Burusapatana, said the senator, who once
chaired a Senate panel studying minority groups along the Thai-Burmese
``Some refugees didn't flee from unrest. They fled from poverty. When
they were arrested they sought shelter in the refugee camps,'' Mr Udon
The refugees in border camps have posed problems for Thailand by
allegedly felling trees, polluting water resources and posing health
risks to locals, Mr Udon said. As ties with Rangoon had improved, it was
time to talk of repatriation, he said.
Irrawaddy: Covering Burma and Asia--Journalists Beware
Vol 9. No. 7, August -September 2001
Reporting from Burma can be hazardous to your reputation, as a growing
roster of foreign journalists is discovering.
by Aung Zaw
Burma is not a journalist-friendly country.
For foreign journalists, writing about Burma is no easy task, as they
are not welcome in this military-ruled country. Many foreign journalists
who have been to Burma felt nervous as they learned their activities
have been monitored by intelligence officers or informers?and in
addition to that, some of them have been harassed.
Even after leaving the country, journalists are not safe yet. In
Bangkok, Burma?s intelligence officials and their network are believed
to follow the activities of journalists and, of course, check what they
write in their respective papers, magazines or electronic media. If
their report is not satisfactory for the intelligence officials, the
journalists could be banned from entering Burma again for years.
Rule number one is: Don?t be too sympathetic with the democratic
opposition or with Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Dominic Faulder, who was the first foreign journalist to interview
Sr-Gen Saw Maung, former chief of the State Law and Order Restoration
Council (Slorc), now renamed the State Peace and Development Council
(SPDC), also experienced difficulties from 1990 onwards, after he
started reporting that the results of the elections were unlikely to be
honored. "Up until the end of 1988, I visited anonymously and did not
use my own byline. I had relatively good access in 1989, when I
interviewed Saw Maung, up until Suu Kyi?s detention when I was perceived
by some as being too sympathetic to her," he recalled.
He is now allowed to go back to Burma.
There are a few journalists who have not been allowed to enter Burma for
more than a decade. Bertil Lintner is one of them. Lintner has written
numerous articles and books on Burma, and is considered to be one of the
most knowledgeable foreign journalists on Burmese affairs. The junta
slammed him, saying his reports on Burma are groundless and based on
wishful thinking. He is now on the blacklist, and has been barred from
entering Burma since 1989. Does he care? Not really. "Blacklisting
people never works," said the Swedish journalist based in Thailand.
His argument is that journalists who get blacklisted are usually very
interested in Burma and knowledgeable about the country. Besides, they
have a better network of sources than other journalists who parachute in
with new contacts and almost no background. That?s the chief reason they
are not allowed in. Blacklisted people tend to be better respected, too.
"If anything happens inside Burma, I am usually the first foreign
correspondent to learn about it. For instance, I was the first foreign
journalist to learn about Aung San Suu Kyi?s release from house arrest
in 1995, and I had the news even before the diplomats in Rangoon knew
what had happened," Lintner said.
However, some journalists working for news services or international or
regional magazines do not want to rock the boat. They would rather
compromise and be quiet or at least careful in order to get a visa.
Some less well-known freelance journalists apply for tourist visas to
enter Burma, while others want to keep steady relations with some
high-ranking officials in the intelligence service. Of course, it is
helpful to have friends there, as incentives are also involved. Some
officers at the intelligence service can be very cooperative.
Col Kyaw Thein, Maj-Gen Kyaw Win, Col Thein Swe and Lt-Col Hla Min are
favorites among foreign journalists. "They are interesting people. They
speak English very well, and are well-educated," said a Western
journalist based in Bangkok. What else? "They are hard-line, too," the
foreign journalist told this correspondent at a coffee shop in Silom
Road, looking around as if someone was monitoring the conversation.
Megumi Niwano, a Japanese journalist working for a TV station in Tokyo,
recalled that she applied for a visa several years ago but was denied.
Yet she did not give up, and went to see Col Thein Swe, who was then a
military attach? in Bangkok.
"I was surprised that I was denied the visa, because I had done nothing
wrong," the Japanese journalist said. But Col Thein Swe thought
differently. Upon meeting her in his office, Col Thein Swe told her that
she had met some Burmese dissidents in Bangkok. The military attach?,
now in charge of the Office of Strategic Studies (OSS), told her
bluntly: "I know you have met Aung Zaw [this correspondent] and a few
other activists. They are no good for our country."
It is still a mystery how he found out about Niwano?s appointments and
meetings. It is, in fact, normal for reporters to meet with fellow
journalists to find new sources of information.
In any case, in recent years, some journalists in Bangkok have found
that it is getting a bit easier to obtain a visa.
According to Denis Gray, who is now the Associated Press bureau chief in
Bangkok, "Visas to Burma are still not that easy to get, but certainly
easier than they were a few years ago."
The AP bureau chief was not able to gain entry into the country for
several years, then at the beginning of this year he was given a visa,
but not without a problem.
"My only frustration and problem on that trip was the short length of
the visa?seven days," said Gray. "Otherwise we?a photographer and
myself?had no problems."
He added that he did not believe his movements had been monitored either
in Rangoon or upcountry. "We moved about independently, without any
government guide or escort. We rented a car through a private tour
company. We were asked about our itinerary prior to arrival but we
decided where we would go and this was accepted. We spent several days
in the area about half way between Rangoon and Mandalay and the rest of
the time in Rangoon itself."
Upon returning from his trip, he produced both "tough stories" like one
on education, and softer features, like a story on elephant logging. "We
were not told what to write or not write on that trip. The decision on
what we write about Burma is dictated by our own thinking and planning,
and certainly not on whether we will be granted a visa in the future,"
the AP bureau chief said.
For some journalists, applying for a visa is even less of a challenge.
According to Lintner, "It?s also worth noting that if a certain writer
gets a visa to Burma more than once, almost everyone thinks there?s
something fishy going on, or that that writer is being used. That, in
turn, affects that writer?s reputation."
Some writers who were allowed into Burma several times lost the trust of
journalist friends. This is a high price to pay for stories that are
often very superficial or just plain bad.
Dominic Faulder, a well-known photographer and journalist who works for
the Hong Kong-based Asiaweek magazine, noted that visa restrictions are
much less stringent when the regime is looking for publicity: "Visas are
given out freely when there is a propaganda trip for, say, a narcotics
Faulder said that he recently turned down an invitation from the junta.
"I was invited not so long ago by military intelligence, but declined
because I could not get advance confirmation about whom I would get to
see on the government side. This is very important to me. I do not want
to be used as a propaganda tool??Well, we let Dominic in only last
month??if the visit isn?t likely to yield anything worthwhile."
He added that, "All known journalists are under surveillance, and their
writings are carefully scrutinized."
"All known journalists" includes a handful of journalists who have been
writing accommodating stories in the international press.
According to a high-ranking Burmese official, who is now based in a
Western country, the military regime is impressed with some foreign
journalists and their stories on Burma. The Burmese official reportedly
confided to a guest, "We like Roger Mitton, Stephen Brookes and Martin
Smith. Their writings are fair and well-balanced."
Roger Mitton, who now writes for Asiaweek magazine, is frequently
criticized for writing stories that are seen to be pro-junta, and has
lately been predicting a historic political agreement between the
military junta and NLD leaders. His recent know-it-all stories have
raised eyebrows among Burmese and Burma watchers, and stirred strong
Many serious Burmese watchers question Mitton?s understanding of Burma
and his analysis of the current situation. Donald M. Seekins, a
professor of Burmese history at Meio University in Japan, said recently,
"Mitton has been advertising for the junta."
Inside Burma, respected journalists and writers who have seen Mitton?s
pieces joke about his stories. "Mitton seems to have a spy network
everywhere in Burma," quipped U Sein Win. "He is a laughing stock among
us?if you are bored with politics in Burma, you will be amused (reading
Mitton?s stories). His inside stories are very entertaining," the
respected journalist in Rangoon said.
But junta officials appear to be pleased with his "entertaining
stories." Mitton has been allowed in and out of Burma many times, and
some high-ranking officials, including the junta?s powerful Secretary
One Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, have given him exclusive interviews.
Martin Smith, who has written several reports and books on Burma, was
also allowed into the country recently. However, his reputation is still
largely intact, as he has long been highly regarded as an authority on
Burma. Stephen Brookes, who used to work for the defunct Asia Times
newspaper and was the only foreign journalist with regular access to
Rangoon for several years, has less impressive Burma credentials. His
stance is clear: The evils are not so bad. Brookes? articles sometimes
appear in The Myanmar Times, edited by Ross Dunkley, an Australian now
based in Rangoon. Dunkley is also dependent on the junta?s favour,
without which it would be totally impossible to run a newspaper in
Lintner thinks the military intelligence must have discovered that
Mitton knows nothing about Burma, and therefore decided that he would be
easy to manipulate. "Neither Mitton?s nor Smith?s reports are objective
and fair. Mitton?s reports reflect his ignorance and are simply bad
journalism," said Lintner. The Swedish journalist thinks that Mitton?s
failure to do his homework has backfired badly, leaving his reputation
in tatters. He adds that Mitton?s credibility among diplomats and
serious journalists is zero.
Lintner believes that Smith has also been manipulated by the government
to drive a wedge between him, as a well-known writer on Burmese affairs,
and others. "So, in a way, that?s ?divide and rule? or rather,
?manipulate and divide?," he said.
Both Mitton and Smith were contacted for this article, but failed to
reply to email queries.
Though divided, many foreign journalists covering Burma can agree on one
thing?Burma is tightly controlled and the military government makes a
poor presentation of its case. In 1996, high-ranking intelligence
officials led by Kyaw Thein and Kyaw Win launched a "meet-the-press"
campaign, holding official press conferences every month. That did not
last long, as many activists, writers and students in Rangoon tried to
establish contacts with foreign journalists who have no hesitation to
flock into the capital.
Subsequently, students from Rangoon University staged a daring street
protest under the eyes of the international press. Indeed, more critical
stories appeared in regional papers, and the "meet-the-press" campaign
was abruptly cancelled.
"It is the government that has things to say at the moment, but they are
very poor at presenting their case. This is one of the reasons why Suu
Kyi shines above them with such ease. On the NLD side, there is not a
lot new to be said, and on that basis visits from people like me can
cause more problems than are justified by the results they produce,"
At the moment, the junta may be winning the game, keeping journalists at
bay. "Once we are in Burma, we are careful about meeting with activists,
opposition members and ordinary people," said a Western radio journalist
in Bangkok. Indeed, simply contacting ordinary Burmese would put them at
high risk. In the past and until now, some Burmese have been thrown into
jail after being accused of meeting and giving "distorted" information
to foreign journalists.
Lintner has had some unpleasant experiences. Ronald Chan Htun, also
known as Ye Htoon, was picked up, had his teeth kicked out and was given
a lengthy jail sentence in 1990. The crime, according to the junta, was
that he had met Bertil and provided him with information. He is also
accused of being a ghostwriter for Outrage, a book authored by Lintner.
But Lintner has a different version of the story: "Although I met Ye
Htoon in Rangoon in April 1989, he was never one of my sources." He
continued: "It?s safer for everybody if I meet the people who can leave
the country here in Thailand, and that I communicate with others in a
safer way than meeting face to face under MI surveillance in a Rangoon
Xinhua: Myanmar Calls On U.N. To Support Developing Countries
YANGON, October 24 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar leader Lieutenant- General Khin
Nyunt Wednesday evening called on the United Nations to support
developing countries to achieve their development objectives in the
rapidly globalizing world. Khin Nyunt, First Secretary of the Myanmar
State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), made the call at a ceremony
here marking the 56th anniversary of the U.N. Day. Warning that the
financing for development is a critical issue, he said, "Without the
needed financial resources, these countries will continue to face
hurdles in the elimination of poverty and the promotion of economic and
social equity". He called for reform of the Security Council, saying
that these efforts will not be effective without the meaningful reform
of the council.
Accessing the achievements made by the U.N. throughout its history, he
said the organization registered more success stories than setbacks, and
it "has withstood the test of times and proven beyond doubt its
significance as an instrument of global cooperation for the common
good". He said his country has consistently upheld the purposes and
principles of the U.N. Charter and cooperated with the organization.
Meanwhile, a message of Myanmar SPDC Chairman Senior-General Than Shwe
on the occasion emphasized that the problems of this time are so complex
that no one country is capable of resolving them on its own, saying that
the problems can be solved effectively only through cooperation,
partnership and burden sharing.
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