BurmaNet News: December 24-29 2002
editor at burmanet.org
editor at burmanet.org
Wed Jan 1 21:10:51 EST 2003
December 24-29 2002 Issue #2146
Xinhua: Myanmar rejects US accusation of rape against national races
AP: Myanmar reiterates denials of using rape as weapon of war
Xinhua: Myanmar exposes 251 drug-related cases in November
SCMP: Seven SAR drug traffickers avoid death penalty
Xinhua: Thai special anti-drug force relieved of suppression role
AP: Total ruffles feathers for oil
Xinhua: Myanmars crude oil reserve reaches over 3 bln barrels
Washington Post: U.S. verifies reports of mass rapes in Burma
AP: State Dept. confirms Myanmar rapes
NYT: U.S. says evidence confirms reports of mass rapes by Burmese
AP: Thai Army repatriates dissidents to Myanmar
AFP: Thailand deports Myanmar dissidents
AFP: Thai-Myanmar joint cabinet meeting delayed by border security fears
Xinhua: Thailand, Myanmar to exchange warship visits
Kyodo News Service: Karen fighters seize Myanmar camp, at least 15 killed
Xinhua: Thai Army denies treating villagers along Thai-Myanmar border
Washington Post: An opportunity in Burma
The Guardian: Freedom slowly coming to Burma
Xinhua General News Service December 27 2002
Myanmar rejects US accusation of rape against national races
The Myanmar government has rejected an accusation made by the US State
Department with regard to the allegation that Myanmar military is using
rape as a weapon against the national races.
In its press release, the Myanmar Foreign Ministry said the government has
never practiced such a policy and never will as accused by the Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the State Department of the United
States on Dec. 17. "The idea of using rape to achieve one's objectives is
alien to Myanmar culture. In Myanmar, rape is considered not only as a
despicable and heinous crime, but also as an unacceptable infringement of
basic religious precepts," the statement said.
The allegations against the Myanmar military emanate from non-
governmental organizations hostile to Myanmar and are patently false, it
Through thorough and extensive investigations, it added, the Myanmar
authorities have uncovered only five instances out of 173 allegations of
The release charged that the allegations are being repeated with ulterior
motives and are aimed at tarnishing Myanmar's image and its armed forces.
In July, two Thai-based Shan rights organizations accused Myanmar army men
of committing sexual assaults on 625 girls and women between 1996 and
Associated Press December 27 2002
Myanmar reiterates denials of using rape as weapon of war
By Grant Peck
Stung by criticism from the U.S. State Department, Myanmar's military
government issued a new denial of charges that its army uses rape as an
instrument of war.
"The notion of rape as a systematic national policy is abhorrent to the
Government of Myanmar, which has never ordered, supported or condoned rape
in any form," read a statement issued in Washington on Thursday by a U.S.
company that lobbies for the military regime.
The government "stands with the rest of the world in denouncing rape of
any kind, especially as an instrument of government policy or war," the
statement said. The State Department said on Dec. 17 that its own
investigation backed up allegations by two Thai-based human rights groups
that Myanmar's military was conducting a campaign of sexual violence
against females from the Shan ethnic minority.
The Shan is one of several minorities that have been fighting for decades
for autonomy from Myanmar's central government.
The State Department said that its "short, preliminary investigation" in
August located many victims whose stories were similar to those
disseminated in a report by the Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan
Women's Action Network.
It said all 12 rape victims interviewed stated that they had been
gang-raped by Myanmar soldiers sometime over the past five years, and most
also reported knowing several other women or girls who had been raped or
"All of the victims under 15 appeared severely traumatized by their
experiences, were disturbed mentally, and spoke in whispers if at all," it
said. "The older women sobbed violently as they recalled horrific
incidents of their own rapes as well as brutal rapes, torture and
execution of family members."
The report issued in June by the Shan human rights groups claimed to
document 173 cases of rape and sexual violence. It received widespread
publicity in July when the State Department said it would raise the issue
with Myanmar officials.
On several occasions since then, Myanmar's government has denied the
accusation and questioned the credibility of the two Shan organizations
that produced the reports. Both have loose ties to Shan anti-government
In its latest denial, Myanmar government spokesman Hla Min was quoted
saying that rape "is not, nor has it ever been an instrument of government
"Prompt legal actions have been taken against servicemen as well as
civilians in isolated cases which occurred not only in the Shan State but
else where in the country," he was quoted saying. "We are committed to
finding and severely punishing the individuals guilty of committing these
heinous crimes, if the allegations are true."
Hla Min said his government was ready "to assist and fully cooperate with
any independent international organization," and had agreed to let the
International Committee of the Red Cross carry out its humanitarian work
in the areas where the rapes allegedly took place.
A statement from Myanmar's Foreign Affairs Ministry charged that the rape
allegations "are being repeated with ulterior motives and are aimed at
tarnishing the image of the country and its armed forces.
"It is not uncommon for insurgent groups and their supporters to propagate
falsehoods whenever possible."
It said the government "places the highest priority on national unity.
Therefore, it is completely illogical to allege that it could commit acts
that would result in discord among the national races."
Xinhua General News Service December 28 2002
Myanmar exposes 251 drug-related cases in November
The Myanmar authorities exposed a total of 251 narcotic-drug-related cases
in November this year, said a report of the Myanmar Central Committee for
Drug Abuse Control available here Saturday.
During the month, the army units, police and the customs seized 20.19
kilograms opium, 15.76 kg heroin, 470.57 kg ephedrine and 86,951 tablets
of stimulant drugs. The authorities punished 417 people for being
involved, it said.
According to official statistics, since the beginning of this year, the
Myanmar authorities have exposed a total of 2,217 drug- related cases,
seizing 1,757.19 kg opium and 315.76 kg heroin as well as 9.277 million
tablets of stimulant drugs.
The statistics also show that Myanmar produced 1,097 tons of opium in
2001. It is predicted that the production will be 828 tons in 2002 and the
country targets to reduce the output to 400 tons in 2003.
South China Morning Post December 28 2002
Seven SAR drug traffickers avoid death penalty; Much to the surprise of
legal experts, China's biggest cross-border smuggling operation results in
By Chow Chung-yan in Qujing, Yunnan and Heike Phillips
Seven Hong Kong people convicted of organising China's largest
cross-border heroin trafficking operation escaped death sentences at a
court in the western province of Yunnan yesterday.
SAR residents Lam Yip-shing, Fong Che, Choi Pui-shing, Cheung Siu-pao,
Wong Kin-keung, Choi Wai-shan and Kwok Wing-wah were found guilty with six
mainlanders of trafficking 672.9kg of heroin from Myanmar into the
mainland in November 2001.
The drug was destined for sale in Hong Kong where it could have fetched
more than $ 80 million on the streets. Lam, 40, the ringleader, was
sentenced to life imprisonment, Choi Wai-shan to five years imprisonment
and the other five Hong Kong people received 15-year jail terms, according
to Qujing People's Intermediate Court.
Legal experts last night expressed surprise at the "exceptional" leniency
of the sentences. Drug trafficking usually carries the death sentence on
In his written judgment delivered to the defendants in a detention centre,
Judge Qi Qiaofang said Lam and his associates were treated softly because
they were "co-operative" and "showed signs of remorse".
He said the convicts had 10 days to appeal. So far only mainlander Wang
Xingchan, given life imprisonment, has done so.
Lam and Wang were said to be the masterminds of an international drug
syndicate that smuggled heroin manufactured in the Golden Triangle area
straddling Myanmar, Thailand and Laos into Hong Kong via the mainland,
according to the judgment.
Wang handed the heroin divided into 651 blocks to Lam on November 5 last
year. Lam arranged to have the drug hidden inside two hollow logs for
shipment to Dangshui in Guangdong.
The truck carrying the logs was intercepted by police near Luopin town in
Yunnan on November 8. Officers inspecting the truck became suspicious when
they found marks on the surface of the logs and arrested the mainland
driver, the judgment read.
Lam was arrested in a hotel room in Dangshui on November 12. Police found
more than half a million Hong Kong dollars in cash, a piece of emerald and
three mobile phones on him.
Two days later, the police arrested another Hong Kong resident, Fong Che,
47, who came to meet Lam to buy drugs. The price for the heroin had been
set by the gang at $ 120,000 per kilogram.
Police later also arrested two other Hong Kong residents, Cheung and Kwok,
who were employed to take the drugs across the border.
Andrew Lam Ping-cheung, chairman of the Criminal Law and Procedures
Committee of the Law Society of Hong Kong, said: "The sentences are
exceptionally lenient - normally in China drug trafficking of even minimal
quantities of drugs carries capital punishment.
"We don't have evidence of corruption, but it may well be the case. There
have been cases where offenders from a strong political background have
been treated differently, although this case is unlikely to be political."
David Hodson, director of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for
Criminology and former assistant commissioner (crime) of the Hong Kong
Police, said: "It sounds like they were very lucky. Certainly in both Hong
Kong and China drug trafficking is considered a very serious offence. More
than 600kg of heroin is a huge case."
He said the court would have taken the men's prior convictions for drug
trafficking and illegal gambling into account, as these were a
Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, associate professor at City University's school
of law and an expert in Chinese law, said the possibility of corruption
could not be excluded, but cautioned against jumping to conclusions.
"The provincial court may have taken into consideration the Hong Kong
people and been more careful in its sentencing."
Xinhua General News Service December 26 2002
Thai special anti-drug force relieved of suppression role
Thailand's special anti-drug unit, Task Force 399, has been relieved of
drug suppression role because Myanmar appears to regard it with suspicion
and the Thai Army can not afford the budget burden, the Bangkok Post
The task force, a combined unit of four companies of special warfare
soldiers, infantrymen and border patrol police, was set up in 2001 when
Surayud Chulanont was army chief, specifically to fight drugs. The United
States has promised to give 2.3 million US dollars to assist its drug
suppression work, but has not yet handed over the amount.
Moreover, Myanmar accused Thailand of sending Task Force 399 across the
border during a Thai military exercise in May to attack positions of the
ethnic Wa army, which was believed to be the most powerful methamphetamine
producer and trafficker in the region.
Thai Defence Minister Thammarak Isarangkura na Ayudhaya affirmed the move,
saying that in order to dispel Myanmar's suspicion and because of budget
problems, the army had decided to relieve Task Force 399 of its drug
Thammarak also reiterated that Thailand has no policy to allow any of its
armed units to launch attacks inside any of its neighbors.
Associated Press December 26 2002
Total ruffles feathers for oil
By Kim Housego
As TotalFinaElf has aggressively searched for new oil fields to explore,
it hasn't been deterred by controversy.
The French energy giant has provoked outrage in other countries by doing
business with such pariahs as Iran and Myanmar. And the world's
fourth-largest oil group has positioned itself to profit when Iraq is free
of UN sanctions.
"We have to go where the oil and gas is," said Christophe de Margerie,
executive vice president in charge of exploration and production. "Though
not at any cost." The secret behind Total's success is its exploration. It
has the widest geographical spread of any major oil company and has made
some of the biggest oil and gas discoveries in the last decade, notably in
Angola, Iran, Venezuela and Kazakhstan - where costs are lower.
Its assertive stance has allowed it to surpass larger rivals. While
industry giants ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch/Shell and BP PLC have downgraded
oil production targets amid tumbling profits, Total says it's on track to
increase output 10 percent this year.
"TotalFinaElf has been able to expand production and, above all, do it
profitably," said John Parry, analyst at U.S.-based petroleum consultancy
John S. Herold.
The company posted net profits of $4.65 billion in the first nine months
of this year, down from the same period in 2001 but still in line with
Total brushed aside U.S. objections and invested heavily in Iran during
the mid-1990s, then insulated itself from the threat of U.S. sanctions by
selling its American activities.
At the same time, it opened negotiations with Saddam Hussein's government
to develop two vast oil fields once the UN lifts sanctions imposed after
the Gulf War.
Does expanding into unstable countries not leave the company vulnerable to
Third World political risks such as coup d'etats, nationalization or
De Margerie, who sees Total's diversity as one of its greatest assets,
"We split our risks," he said in an interview at Total's headquarters
outside Paris. "No one country has such an exposure that it would put our
company at stake."
Rising demand over the next 20 years, he said, means oil companies will
need to find much more oil, but "it's not easy to find new opportunities,
it's a big fight."
"When we see new opportunities, we are very aggressive," he said. "But we
will never operate in a country unless we are certain we can uphold our
rules of conduct and respect the laws."
That wasn't the case in Myanmar, according to labor unions who lodged a
complaint in August alleging the company used forced labor in the
construction of a pipeline. Total denies any wrongdoing.
De Margerie rejected calls from some rights groups for Total to leave the
country because of the ruling junta's poor human rights record, citing the
company's commitments to communities there.
Asked about Iran, de Margerie said Washington's decision to bar U.S.
companies from doing business there did not apply to Total.
Now the company is focused on Iraq. It is eager to develop vast energy
deposits in a post-Saddam Iraq but also fears that two tentative
agreements it has signed with the regime could be voided by U.S.-led
"The contracts . . . would be a major addition to the French company by
giving them access to cheap oil," said Dr. Fadhil Chalabi, director of the
Center for Global Energy Studies in London.
Iraq has the second-largest proven oil reserves - an estimated 112 billion
barrels - just after Saudi Arabia.
Total, formed in the merger of Total Fina and the former state-owned oil
company Elf Aquitaine, has also had to contend with damage to its
reputation at home.
Total Fina first took a beating after an aging tanker it contracted sank
off the coast of Brittany in 1999, washing 10,000 tons of gluey oil up on
Two years later, an explosion in a TotalFinaElf subsidiary's fertilizer
factory killed 30 people, injured hundreds and damaged many buildings in
TotalFinaElf, France's biggest company, is responding, de Margerie said.
"We have taken new measures to ensure maximum possible security," he said,
saying that the company would invest $500 million in more precautions over
Xinhua General News Service December 26 2002
Myanmar's crude oil reserve reaches over 3 bln barrels
The recoverable reserve of crude oil in Myanmar's onshore and offshore
areas have reached 3.154 billion barrels (419.5 million tons), according
to the latest figures released by the state-run Myanmar Oil and Gas
Enterprise ( MOGE).
Meanwhile, the recoverable reserve of natural gas in the two areas totaled
50.956 trillion cubic-feet (1,442.05 billion cubic- meters). Myanmar
produces annually over four million barrels (530,000 tons) of crude oil
and over eight billion cubic-meters of natural gas, exporting over five
billion cubic-meters of the gas and earning over 500 million US dollars.
There are a total of 19 inland oil fields in Myanmar where at present
foreign companies from Indonesia, Bahamas, Britain, Cyprus and China are
Myanmar's offshore oil and gas fields concentrate in Rakhine, Tanintharyi
and Mottama areas.
The MOGE figures also show that the gas reserve in Myanmar's western
offshore Rakhine state has increased from 13.4 trillion cubic-feet (379.22
billion cubic-meters) to 47.3 trillion cubic- feet (1,338.6 billion
Myanmar's domestic crude oil production is far from meeting its demand and
has to annually import crude oil.
Last year, Myanmar bought 100 million gallons (420,000 tons ) of gasoline
and more than 300 million gallons (1.26 million tons) of diesel.
Washington Post December 26 2002
U.S. Verifies Reports of Mass Rapes in Burma
By Glenn Kessler
A State Department investigation has corroborated reports earlier this
year that Burmese military officials have systematically raped ethnic
minority women and girls, according to a recently declassified copy of the
The Burmese government has denounced as a fabrication reports of mass
rapes by the military. In June, the Thailand-based Shan Human Rights
Foundation and the Shan Women's Action Network detailed rapes involving at
least 625 girls and women by Burmese army troops in Shan state, the
largest of the seven ethnic minority states in Burma, also known as
The report by the Thailand-based groups concluded that the Burmese
military, as part of its campaign to bring ethnic areas under its control,
officially condones rape as a "weapon of war" against civilians. At the
time, the State Department issued a statement saying it was appalled by
the report and urged an investigation by the Burmese government, a step
the regime initially resisted. Washington then sent a State Department
investigator to the Burma border in August to make its own assessment. "We
were able to locate many victims and record chilling new stories of rape
and other atrocities in just three days," the investigator reported. All
of the victims had been gang-raped by Burmese soldiers within the past
five years, including a 13-year-old girl who had been raped two months
"The older women sobbed violently as they recalled horrific incidents of
their own rapes as well as brutal rapes, torture and execution of family
members," the State Department report said. "Most of these women had just
recently arrived in Thailand and were thin, lethargic, despondent and had
no belongings or hope for the future."
The investigator, to try to assess the credibility of the original report
by the Thailand-based organizations, also met with one woman whose case
was documented in the report. The woman, who had been gang-raped when she
was seven months pregnant, "told us her story in generally the same terms
as those recorded in the report."
The State Department probe has helped spur the U.S. government to seek an
international investigation of the rape charges, a State Department
official said. The State Department investigation "collaborates that the
rapes have been going on and likely on a widespread basis," the official
"The international community cannot stand by and allow these heinous
crimes by the Tatmadaw [the Burmese military] to continue with impunity,"
the department report concluded. "We should continue to pressure the
regime to end this violence and punish the perpetrators."
Last month, Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly blasted the
regime's handling of the rape allegations, including an effort to claim
that a field trip into the region by the International Committee of the
Red Cross represented an investigation -- which the Red Cross denies.
"For a regime spokesman to deny categorically all charges of rape without
any investigation does more than strain credulity," Kelly said. The
approach by the government "devalues the representations of the [regime]
to the point that even tentative concrete steps -- such as the eventual,
reluctant, acknowledgement by the government that rapes had indeed been
committed by soldiers -- are submerged in the outrage over the
Human rights groups allege that the military regime has forced village
elders in Shan state to sign petitions that the rapes did not occur.
In November, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the United Nations special rapporteur
on human rights in Burma, reported to the U.N. General Assembly that the
regime had given him "detailed briefings" on its investigations into the
rape charges. He said he sought to explain that probes undertaken by the
military "lacked the independence required to be convincing and credible"
and that an international probe, either under U.N. control or with U.N.
technical assistance, was required to address the charges.
"We remain skeptical that any proper investigation into this issue can
take place inside Burma while the military regime remains in power," said
Mo Lao of the Shan Women's Action Network, which co-wrote the original
Associated Press December 27 2002
State Dept. Confirms Myanmar Rapes
The State Department has confirmed the systematic rape of ethnic Shan
minority women and girls by the military in Myanmar and says it is
Department officers located many of the victims, whose mistreatment over
the last five years was detailed initially in June by the Shan Human
Rights Foundation and the Shan Women's Action Network in Myanmar, also
known as Burma. Rape continues to be a widespread problem in Myanmar, the
department said in an announcement issued by its bureau of democracy,
human rights and labor Dec. 17.
The U.S. government has expressed its deep concern to the Myanmar
government and urged an investigation.
Twelve rape victims were interview by State Department officers and all
said they had been gang-raped by Myanmar soldiers.
The New York Times December 27 2002
U.S. Says Evidence Confirms Reports of Mass Rapes by Burmese
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
The United States has obtained corroborating evidence that mass rapes of
hundreds of girls and women have been carried out by the Burmese army in
central Shan Province, where the military government has tried for years
to suppress an ethnic rebellion, the State Department said today.
A department spokesman said the United States government had expressed
"deep concern" about the rapes and other abuses to Myanmar, formerly
Burma, and urged the government there to punish anyone guilty of "such
heinous crimes." Washington has also called for the United Nations to
carry out a more extensive investigation of the rape charges, which were
first made by human rights groups.
The Burmese government has denied the allegations.
Washington has cooperated with other countries to impose economic and
political sanctions against the military junta of Myanmar. The junta took
power in 1988 and nullified the results of a parliamentary election in
1990 that was won overwhelmingly by the National League for Democracy, the
political party led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Earlier this year, several nongovernment organizations published reports
alleging human rights violations by the military in its effort to crush
Reports prepared by the Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan Women's
Action Network said army troops had raped at least 625 girls and women as
a "weapon of war" against civilians. Many victims of government repression
have fled to Thailand for safety.
In November, James A. Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian
and Pacific affairs, said rape was not the only abuse against civilians.
"We are deeply troubled by extrajudicial killings, forced relocations and
forced labor that have intensified the refugee flow into Thailand this
year and created a large population of internally displaced people," he
In general, Mr. Kelly said, the release earlier this year of Mrs. Aung San
Suu Kyi, the principal Burmese opposition leader, from house arrest had
not led to an easing of political repression, as many human rights groups
hoped, although her political organization was allowed to open some
offices around the country.
In August the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and
Labor conducted its own investigation of the rape charges, locating
several women who gave dramatic, detailed accounts from northern Thailand,
where they had fled. Some said they had been gang raped by soldiers, with
some attacks dating back five years. A 13-year-old girl said she had been
raped in June.
"All the victims under 15 appeared severely traumatized by their
experiences, were disturbed mentally and spoke in whispers, if at all,"
according to a State Department report released on Dec. 17 and described
today in The Washington Post. "The older women sobbed violently as they
recalled horrific incidents of their own rapes as well as brutal rapes,
torture and execution of family members."
The report said that although the testimony was "necessarily anecdotal,"
the stories were consistent with each other and therefore credible.
The State Department's report said the United Nations envoy for human
rights in Myanmar raised the possibility of a separate investigation when
he visited the country.
The State Department said Washington was urging Myanmar to cooperate with
outside investigators and to carry out its own inquiry.
Associated Press December 28 2002
Thai army repatriates dissidents to Myanmar
About 100 Myanmar exiles who had sought refuge in Thailand are hiding out
in the jungles just inside Myanmar after being evicted by the Thai
military, one of the exiles said Saturday.
The Thai army has acknowledged deporting some Myanmar nationals, saying
they were involved in illegal activities. But it denied media reports that
force had been used to evict them.
One of the leaders, contacted by mobile telephone, said the group was
recently given two days to leave the western border district of
Sangklaburi and return to Myanmar, also known as Burma, or face arrest and
repatriation. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Thai border has been a refuge for a welter of dissident groups opposed
to the military regime in Myanmar. Thailand has normally turned a blind
eye to their activities but the current Thai government is seeking to
improve relations with its neighbor and has put pressure on the activists.
A statement from the Thai Army Friday said troops of its 9th Infantry
Division were following a policy that does not allow any foreign groups to
use Thai soil to conduct any activities which would be harmful to
Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, said last week
that six political activists from the Mon ethnic group were arrested Dec.
20 and released by the Thai military at the frontier after their offices
in Sangklaburi, 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of Bangkok, were shut
A number of other offices of Myanmar dissidents in the area were also
closed at the same time, Amnesty said.
The leader interviewed said some of those deported had lived in Thailand
for the past decade. He said the evicted group had not carried out armed
resistance but was involved in education.
Agence France Presse December 29 2002
Thailand deports Myanmar dissidents
The Thai military said Sunday it had rounded up two batches of Myanmar
dissidents illegally based along the border over the past week and
deported them, realising fears voiced earlier by human rights groups.
Army spokesman Somkhuan Saengpattaranate told AFP that two groups of
Myanmar dissidents illegally living in Thailand were deported Wednesday
and Friday from western Kanchanaburi province, but he did not specify
Local media have reported that 65 Karen villagers were sent back. "After
the Surasi Task Force inspected the border area, we found that these
people had set up their own office on Thailand's soil," Somkhuan said,
adding that the army would not permit foreign groups to use Thailand as a
base for activities against a neighbouring government.
The Surasi Task Force is charged with overseeing security along Thailand's
western border with Myanmar.
"Those who illegally entered or were without identification cards were
sent back to Myanmar," he added.
The spokesman said the move was not done to appease Myanmar's ruling
military junta, but was merely the enforcement of Thai immigration law.
Rights groups last week raised the alarm over the possibility of
dissidents being repatriated to Myanmar after they reported that six Mon
political activists were arrested and then released on the border on
According to Amnesty International, their offices were shut down and other
dissident offices were also told to close.
"Amnesty International fears that in the following days Myanmar political
activists in Thailand are at grave risk of being sent across the border by
Thai security forces," the group said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Many of these asylum-seekers would face human rights violations if
returned to Myanmar, including arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and
Rights watchdog Forum Asia also reported on the Mon arrests and said it
feared further crackdowns by Thai authorities.
In June this year Thailand's National Security Council vowed to clamp down
on dissident groups from Myanmar, including refugee students who oppose
the junta in Yangon.
It also accused the dissidents then of being intent on using Thai
territory as a springboard to carry out attacks.
Agence France Presse December 27 2002
Thai-Myanmar joint cabinet meeting delayed by border security fears
Thailand's planned joint cabinet meeting with Myanmar will be delayed due
to concerns over security along their common border, Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra said Friday.
Thaksin said the meeting would be the last in a series of get-togethers
with the leaders of neighbouring countries.
A meeting with Malaysia's cabinet in the southern city of Hat Yai earlier
this month was marred by a violent clash between police and protesters
demonstrating over a planned Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline. After the
trouble which broke out on the eve of the December 22 meeting, an
unprecedented security operation involving 5,000 police, army and air
force was rolled out in Hat Yai.
Thaksin said the Myanmar talks would be held last after meetings with the
cabinets of Singapore, Cambodia and Laos early next year.
"The planned joint cabinet meeting with Myanmar probably will be last
among our neighbouring countries due to border security concern," he told
Several rebel armies operate on the Thai-Myanmar border, many of them
involved in the opium and methamphetamines trafficking trade.
Clashes between these groups and the Thai and Myanmar armies flare up
frequently and are the source of constant diplomatic rows between the
Thaksin also said that the joint cabinet meeting with Cambodia is expected
to be held in March in the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket.
He said the meeting may be followed by dinner at Preah Vihear, an
important 1,000-year-old temple set on a high ridge on Cambodian
territory, which is only accessible from Thailand.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, a dispute over the ownership of the
temple seriously strained relations between the two countries. The World
Court ruled in 1962 that the temple, consecrated to the Hindu god Shiva,
belonged to Cambodia.
The next joint cabinet meeting will be with Singaporean ministers on
Xinhua General News Service December 30 2002
Thailand, Myanmar to exchange warship visits
Thailand and Myanmar have agreed to exchange visits of warships to each
other's naval bases for the first time, according to local TV news reports
The agreement was reached at a meeting of the bilateral Regional Border
Committee in Moulmein, Myanmar, last week. Thailand has been requesting
for such an exchange for a long time and will be the third country to
exchange such visits with Myanmar after China and India.
The activity, for which the schedule is yet to be finalized, will see
warships of the two countries entering each other's waters and naval
Thai officials said although both sides have not agreed to conduct a joint
naval patrol, the exchange of warship visits is a good sign of further
naval cooperation between the two neighboring countries.
Kyodo News Service December 27 2002
Karen fighters seize Myanmar camp, at least 15 killed
Karen National Union (KNU) fighters seized a Myanmar military stronghold
after launching a massive attack on Friday morning that killed at least 15
Myanmar soldiers, Thai military officials said Friday.
The clash occurred around 3 a.m. when some 150 Karen soldiers attacked the
Myanmar military's Burengnong Camp opposite the Phop Phra district of
Thailand's Tak Province, about 500 kilometers northwest of Bangkok. The
KNU seized the camp after both sides exchanged heavy weapons and mortar
fire for about three hours. There has been no estimate of casualties on
the KNU side, the Thai military said.
The KNU has been fighting for Karen autonomy from the central government
in Myanmar since 1949.
The Friday attack is believed the largest this year, the Thai officials
Xinhua General News Service December 27 2002
Thai Army denies treating villagers along Thai-Myanmar border violently
Thai Army denied that army troop from the 9th Infantry Division burnt a
residential area of Karen in Kanjana Buri province, 150 kilometers west of
A fax sent to Xinhua from the Office of Thai Army Secretary on Friday
noted the press report that Thai Army treated Karen villagers violently
and threatened to arrest and deport them to Myanmar is groundless. The fax
said the 9th Infantry Division/ Surasi Task Force only resettled these
villages along the border for security according to the government's
policy that does not allow any foreign groups to use Thai soil to perform
any activities against neighboring country's government.
According to army unit's investigation, Myanmar nationalities had
secretary done activities against neighboring government by settling an
office in Wia Ka Dhi village in Kanjana Buri province, therefore Surasi
Task Force searched and reordered the village and found this illegal
immigration group, the Fax explained.
The fax also stressed that according to immigration law, Surasi Task Force
had closed their office and deported them back to their country without
Washington Post December 27 2002
An Opportunity in Burma
ONE OF THE CHALLENGES for those seeking to promote democracy in tyrannies
around the world is the frequent absence of a peaceful opposition to work
with. In Iraq, the reception exiles might receive upon return is
uncertain, and Saddam Hussein's secret police have quashed any possibility
of civil society inside the nation. North Korea's people are beaten into
submission and starvation. In Iran, to complete the tour of President
Bush's "axis of evil," there is a vibrant opposition, but America's
checkered history in that country means that any support must be offered
with delicate sensitivity. All of which makes Burma all the more
remarkable as an exception to the rule. It's a lush and potentially
wealthy nation with a population of close to 50 million, but its despotic
regime (which calls the country Myanmar) would fit comfortably on Mr.
Bush's axis. The ruling generals enrich themselves, protect drug lords and
have imprisoned more than 1,000 people who peacefully expressed a desire
for freedom. And yet, amazingly, a pro-democracy party survives. Led by
Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy enjoys legitimacy rare
in a dictatorship because it overwhelmingly won an election in 1990; the
junta, having wildly mistaken its own popularity, annulled the results.
Aung San Suu Kyi, though under house arrest for most of the past dozen
years, continues to enjoy enormous respect and popularity, judging by
reports of crowds that turn out to see her when she travels the provinces
-- even though her party is not permitted to publish any kind of newspaper
and the state-controlled press never reports on her travels.
You would think this rare circumstance would be seized upon by the Bush
administration as an opportunity. Some officials do in fact seek to
support the democrats. But others are inexplicably tempted to consort with
the dictators. There was lately a misguided move to increase cooperation
on drug control that was derailed with difficulty, thanks in part to
pressure from pro-democracy Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), incoming
chairman of the Appropriations Committee's foreign operations
subcommittee. More recently, America's highest-ranking diplomat in Burma
gave a cheery interview to the junta's stooge newspaper. What could she
have been thinking?
Under pressure from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and others, the
junta released Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel peace laureate, from house
arrest on May 6 and promised to initiate a dialogue with her party. But no
dialogue is taking place; in fact, things seem to be moving in the wrong
direction. A crowd of 20,000 people who gathered to hear their democracy
leader in a provincial city recently was threatened with fire hoses; she
climbed aboard a fire engine to block such abuse, then persuaded the crowd
to peacefully disperse. President Bush should make clear that dialogue
must begin; a number of levers, including a possible import ban, remain at
his disposal. He'll rarely have a more unqualified chance to show U.S.
support for nonviolent democrats.
The Guardian December 30 2002
Freedom slowly coming to Burma
By Gwynne Dyer
One should not speak ill of the dead, but an exception is justified in the
case of Burma's late dictator Ne Win. He was responsible for almost 40
years of tyranny and poverty in his country, and most Burmese would gladly
dance on his ashes if it were allowed. By the time he died at 91 on Dec.
5, however, the process of undoing his malignant legacy was well underway.
Last May, Aung San Suu Kyi, the woman who is as much the symbol of
democracy in Burma as Nelson Mandela was in apartheid South Africa, was
freed from house arrest by the generals who are Ne Win's successors. "My
release should not be looked on as a major breakthrough for democracy,"
Suu Kyi warned -- but she added: "I would cautiously say that where we are
is better than where we have ever been."
Even as he neared death, Ne Win tried to kill the hope for democracy in
Burma: his son-in-law and three grandsons were arrested last March while
trying to organize a coup that would have unseated his successors and
aborted the talks for Suu Kyi's freedom. They were sentenced to be hanged,
and Ne Win died a lonely and unhonoured death this month under house
arrest at his home on a lake in central Rangoon -- just across the lake,
in fact, from the house where Suu Kyi had been confined for so long. It
couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
Other Southeast Asian countries also had liberation heroes who turned into
monsters and blighted their people's lives -- Indonesia's Sukarno and
Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh spring to mind -- but none lasted so long or did as
much damage as General Ne Win.
One of the legendary 'Thirty comrades' who began Burma's war for freedom
from Britain, he overthrew the country's shaky democracy in 1962 and ruled
with an iron hand for the next 28 years.
Ne Win was so superstitious that he once replaced the country's existing
paper currency with 45-kyat and 90-kyat notes because nine was his lucky
He was so suspicious of foreigners that he walled Burma off from almost
all outside contact, imposing an erratic 'Burmese Road to Socialism' that
turned the region's richest country into its poorest in only three
decades. And then, when popular protests broke out in 1988, he abruptly
A new kind of non-violent democratic revolution was toppling dictators all
across Asia in the late '80s -- in the Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh,
South Korea -- and in 1988 Burma was swept along.
So was Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma's greatest independence hero
Long settled in Britain with her English husband and their two sons, Suu
Kyi just happened to go home that year to nurse her dying mother. To most
Burmese her father, who had been assassinated when she was just two, was
still the most powerful symbol of the future that had been betrayed, and
so she suddenly found herself leading a democratic revolution.
Then the frightened generals massacred thousands of citizens in the
streets of Rangoon to save their power, Ne Win came back to power in
another coup, and Suu Kyi discovered her destiny.
Ne Win's new junta opened the country to foreign investment in an attempt
to revive the devastated economy, and so much oil and timber money poured
in that the regime was emboldened to hold an election in 1990.
But the brief burst of prosperity changed nobody's mind: 82 per cent of
the voters backed Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy against the
So Ne Win simply refused to accept the election's outcome, jailed most of
the NLD's elected members, and embarked on a long duel with Suu Kyi (who
won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991) over the future of Burma.
What is going on now is a delicate and secretive process in which the
repressive regime negotiates a safe exit from power and an indemnity for
its past crimes -- rather like the first year after Nelson Mandela was
freed from jail in South Africa.
As General Khin Nyunt put it in August, "The democracy that we seek to
build ... will surely be based on universal principles of liberty, justice
and equality ... (but) such a transition cannot be done in haste and in a
Aung San Suu Kyi concedes that after all this time it cannot simply be a
matter of handing power over to the NLD government that was legally
elected in 1990.
But, she adds, "who's to say we won't get a bigger majority this time?"
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are
published in 45 countries.
The Houston Chronicle December 28 2002
Myanmar Rapes; The world must end sexual violence as war tactic
The brutality that humans are capable of inflicting on each other
apparently is limited only by the imagination. Among such cruel outrages
that recently have come to light are the systematic gang rapes of ethnic
Shan minority women and girls by the military in Myanmar. But all is not
fair in war, and the world must condemn the use of rape as a weapon of
The U.S. State Department this week confirmed the reports of widespread,
government-sponsored rapes after department officers interviewed several
victims, including a 13-year-old, who had been assaulted during the past
five years. The horrors first were reported by human rights and women's
advocacy groups in Myanmar.
The Myanmar government, which is a military dictatorship, has denied the
use of rape as a means of controlling ethnic minority separatists in the
eastern state of Shan. But the government also has yet to undertake a
credible investigation of the allegations.
Its report on the allegations, readily available online at myanmar.com, is
It's not enough to condemn the horror of mass, government- condoned
violence. The United States and the United Nations must do more to support
the Myanmar people's efforts to shake off their military oppressors,
especially as the country incubates a pro-democracy party, which is led by
Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel peace laureate who won a popular election
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