BurmaNet News: July 16 2003
editor at burmanet.org
editor at burmanet.org
Wed Jul 16 16:35:42 EDT 2003
July 16 2003 Issue #2285
AFP: Myanmar junta condemns US sanctions as weapons of mass destruction
DVB: Anti-junta leaflets emerge in major cities
DVB: Villagers near Dipeyin
Myanmar Times: Myanmar appoints new attorney-general
AFP: Tourism could be tool to unhinge Myanmars junta: industry experts
Xinhua: Myanmar, India hold joint trade committee meeting
Narinjara: Burma and Bangladesh held flag meeting
DPA: Thailand warns US sanctions will deepen Myanmar poverty
AP: UN chief expresses concern at imprisonment of Myanmar opposition
leader, doesnt rule out possibility of UN sanctions
AP: Congress sends Myanmar sanctions bill to president
BNN: Senate leaders demand UN Security Council take up Burma
AFP: Top US official condemns Chinas stance on Myanmar
AP: Myanmar dissidents welcome US sanctions; Thailand says itll maintain
dialogue with junta
ON THE BORDER
Kaladan: Two refugees arrested in Kutupalong camp
Irrawaddy: Elected MP flees
Bangkok Post: Thaksin asserts regional ambitions
Agence France Presse July 16 2003
Myanmar junta condemns US sanctions as "weapons of mass destruction"
Myanmar's junta on Wednesday condemned a United States' vote to tighten
economic sanctions on the military-run country, describing them as
"weapons of mass destruction" that would create havoc.
US lawmakers on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to sanction Myanmar's
government for a new crackdown on the pro-democracy opposition by banning
imports, freezing the regime's assets in US banks and imposing a visa ban.
The bill must be reconciled with similar measures approved by the US
Senate a month ago, and signed by US President George W. Bush before
coming into force.
A spokesman for the Myanmar regime said in a statement titled "Sanctions
Used as Weapons of Mass Destruction" that the measures would deprive
Myanmar people of job opportunities and hurt health care and education in
the impoverished nation.
"Sanctions, in short, are imposed on target countries by the rich and
powerful nations mainly with the intention to create havoc and bring
hardship on the mass population," he said.
The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, which was passed in the US
House of Representatives by a vote of 418 to two, was introduced in
protest over the junta's detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi
on May 30.
"In attacking Aung San Suu Kyi and other supporters of democracy, the
Rangoon regime has sunk to new lows and secured its place among the
world's rogues gallery of chronic human rights abusers," said California
Representative Tom Lantos, top Democrat on the House International Affairs
"The sanctions legislation passed by the House today is a tough measure,
but no tougher than Burma's ruling thugs deserve," he said.
Lantos lashed the regime for the campaign of repression unleashed after
May 30 when supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy
(NLD) were ambushed by a pro-junta mob in northern Myanmar.
"With this brutal campaign against freedom, the national reconciliation
process sponsored by the United Nations is dead," he said, referring to
talks begun in October 2000 which were aimed at introducing democratic
"The Burmese government had two years to deal seriously with Aung San Suu
Kyi, and instead, they viciously attacked the Nobel Laureate."
Myanmar, which was known as Burma until the ruling generals renamed the
country, is under intense international pressure to free Aung San Suu Kyi
and the rest of the NLD leadership which is either in jail or under house
Democratic Voice of Burma July 13 2003
Anti-junta leaflets emerge in major cities
It has been learned that leaflets, agitating to oppose and confront the
SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] military clique to end military
rule and to establish a democratic system, have been distributed in some
major cities including Rangoon and Mandalay.
Those who have seen the leaflets said, the leaflets, distributed by the
People's Oway Front, contained the captions "appeal to the people" and
"battle cry". The main point of the leaflet is urging the people to join
hands with the People's Oway Front in bringing down the SPDC military
government, which has been destroying the economic, education, and social
fibre of the country.
Furthermore, the leaflet pointed out that as long as there is a military
government, the country has no future. Those who have read the leaflets
said the Oway Front will be engaging in lightning guerrilla attacks
against the junta for the demise of the SPDC military clique and the
establishment of a democratic system and urged the people to join forces
According to a latest report, similar pamphlets have been pasted to the
walls of Pegu University and the military intelligence has been kept busy.
Local townspeople said the pamphlets warned the students that it is time
to begin the Third Uprising and reminded them that external forces will
join only if the students initiate the first move.
Democratic Voice of Burma July 15 2003
Villagers arrested near Dipeyin
It is reported that there have been continuing arrests in villages around
Dipeyin (Tabayin). A Buddhist monk from Kyiywa Village who told the
villagers to counter attack the USDA members who knocked down villagers
welcoming Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with speeding cars was also arrested and he
is now being detained in Shwebo Prison.
DVBs Khin Maung Soe Minn interviewed a woman from Monywa who took part in
the clash between villagers and USDA members at the entrance of Kyiywa and
filed a report as follows:
Khin Maung Soe Minn : The location of the carefully planned deadly assault
on Daw Aung San Suu Kyis motorcade by the USDA is at the entrance of
Dipeyin called Ywathit, said the woman. A group of USDA members who left
Butalin started to attack the rear end of the motorcade from Kyiwa and the
outraged villagers counter attacked the attackers, she added:
A woman from Monywa : As far as I saw, earlier on, nothing happened there.
Then they said to the villagers, there are some bad people behind us.
Leave. Go home. No sooner had they said that than those people turned up.
They then knocked down the people who came to welcome [Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi] with their speeding cars
The last car plunged into a ditch near
Shitmakhoe banyan tree. They then started to beat up people there and
grabbed motorcycles from them and while they were doing that we hid behind
a broken lion statue in the paddy-fields nearby and watched the scene
unfold. Some people fled but we didnt. We watched the assault. A monk was
there too and he shouted at the people not to just stand there and watch.
Help. Help us, he said. The villagers including me then picked up bricks
from a nearby construction site and hurled them at the USDA members who
were on the car in the ditch. We women carried the bricks for the men with
Khin Maung Soe Minn : How many members USDA member were there on the car?
A woman from Monywa : There were about 50 people on that car. Not many
people escaped. All the villagers attacked them. Some of them died and
some of them were wounded.
Khin Maung Soe Minn : Did the car overturn?
A woman from Monywa : They burnt the car.
Khin Maung Soe Minn : Who did that?
A woman from Monywa : The villagers did that. The villagers didnt bring
any weapon with them. They had to use branches from trees. We were doing a
running battle; they charged at us and we charged at them and the like. As
far as I could see, the people who accompanied Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were
killed and if they were not killed, they were wounded. It happened between
the Shitmakhoe banyan tree and the two bridges. When the attackers left,
the villagers rescued 31 people by carrying them on their shoulders. They
left behind those they could not carry. We had to hide them in the
monastery and treat them with anti-snakebite serum and looked after them.
The villagers were very helpful and did their best.
Khin Maung Soe Minn : She also added that the authorities are also bearing
grudges on the villagers of Kyiwa:
A woman from Monywa : The authorities from Shwebo Township came to the
village and held a meeting at the football field. Only the children and
women turned up. No man dared to go. Dont you have men in this village.
they asked and a very old woman over the age of 90 said, all our men are
dead because you killed them. When they tried to arrest her, the
villagers had to say that she is a bit mad. A Shwebo local authority
member named our village Ma-Kyiywa. We will put your village in the
blacklist, not to the brown list from the white, they told the villagers.
They are imposing curfew on the village at the moment. They are also
threatening to relocate the village. Now, the villagers are unable to eat
their meals to the end. They have to run into the forests whenever the
authorities turned up. But it is not the time to work in the paddy-fields
yet. They would run away with sickles, machetes and spears in their hands.
They have learnt from their past victimised experiences.
Moreover, the monk who asked for help from the villagers, the Reverend U
Wimala, the abbot of Myauk-kyaung was arrested and being detained in
Shwebo Prison. Ko Kyee Nyo, a villager of Kyiywa was held responsible for
the burning of the car and he is being detained, interrogated and tortured
with burning cigarettes at Dipeyin detention centre. Many villagers have
also been arrested to this day.
Myanmar Times July 16 2003
MYANMAR APPOINTS NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL
The government has appointed a veteran public servant, U Aye Maung, as
attorney general to replace U Tha Tun, who died on 9 May.
The appointment of U Aye Maung, 74, the director-general of the Central
Election Commission Office since 1974, took effect on 20 May. U Aye Maung
is also a member of the National Convention Convening Commission, which
was established in the early 1992 to draft a constitution.
U Aye Maung represented Myanmar (Burma) at a conference of attorneys
general from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held last week at
Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah.
The new attorney general has been a public servant since 1955.
In his position as attorney general he is assisted by three deputies - Dr
Tun Shin, U Han Shein and U Myint Naing - who were appointed early this
Agence France Presse July 16 2003
Tourism could be tool to unhinge Myanmar's junta: industry experts
By LAUREN GELFAND
Tourists normally avoid authoritarian nations such as Myanmar, but
industry officials say their ideas -- and their money -- could be key to
bringing down repressive regimes.
"It is complicated to know whether to travel to countries that don't share
our values, but if we only traveled to democracies our itineraries would
be limited," said Francesco Frangialli, the secretary-general of the World
Tourism Organization, after wrapping up a two-day conference on
revitalizing tourism in Asia.
"Increased tourism (to a destination) means an increased freedom of
commerce and, potentially, of people. If a country succeeds like its
neighbors, it will benefit like its neighbors -- not just financially but
with a changed politics and culture."
The junta's human rights record and its recent re-arrest of Nobel laureate
and democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi have helped keep Myanmar off the
list of Asian tourist destinations despite a wealth of architectural,
cultural and natural attractions.
"Tourism is culture and shopping, not politics; most people who come to
Myanmar are not politicians and most people who talk about Myanmar talk
without going there," Brigadier General Aye Myint Kyu, Myanmar's deputy
minister of hotels and tourism, told AFP Wednesday.
"Aung San Suu Kyi is not a talking point of tourism; the EU is interested
in Aung San Suu Kyi but in our country she is not interesting."
Britain issued a strong warning Monday to travel firms operating in
Southeast Asia to consider pulling out of Myanmar, and US lawmakers voted
overwhelmingly Tuesday to join the European Union and Canada in imposing
economic sanctions on the country formerly known as Burma.
Japan, which had been the largest donor of foreign aid to Myanmar until it
suspended contributions in the furor over Aung San Suu Kyi's detention in
late May, maintains it is important to keep politics out of tourism, said
director of tourism policy, Satoru Kanazawa.
"The situation in Myanmar is not bad enough for us to wield our influence.
In the end, no matter what government is in place, exchanges between
people are good."
Such Japanese tolerance extends even to old adversary China, but comes to
a dead stop with North Korea.
"Even though China is a communist dictatorship and we do not agree, we
respect the Chinese choice and encourage tourists to go there because that
will help with understanding" the acrimony between the two nations,
"But while we do not like to use power to discourage people to visit
countries for political reasons, North Korea kidnapped our people and
tourism there will give (North Korean President) Kim (Jong Il) money to
The world needs only to look at the long-standing US embargo against Cuba
to see how preventing tourism can backfire and help maintain an oppressive
government, said Peter de Jong, president of the Pacific Asia Travel
"If the US had been smart and allowed tourism into Cuba sooner, the
situation would be a lot different," de Jong said. "Nothing changes a
country like tourism."
It was tourism, Frangialli said, that helped usher in the free market
democracy that brought an end in 1975 to the dictatorship of Francisco
Franco in Spain.
"Contact with foreigners transformed Spain; when French women lay on the
beach in their bathing suits it showed Spanish women that they could too,"
"I understand that Aung San Suu Kyi may not like it, but tourism may be a
profound factor in laying the ground for democracy."
Xinhua News Agency July 16 2003
Myanmar, India hold joint trade committee meeting
The Joint Trade Committee (JTC) of Myanmar and India met here for the
first time Tuesday following the signing of a memorandum of understanding
(MOU) Monday on setting up the JTC, official newspaper The New Light of
Myanmar reported Wednesday.
The meeting reviewed the two countries' bilateral trade and investment and
discussed boosting of border trade, banking services, items of import and
export goods, cooperation in agricultural sector, and exchange of trade
The MOU on setting up the JTC was signed during a visit to Myanmar of
Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Arun Jaitley, who arrived here on
According to Myanmar official statistics, Myanmar-India bilateral trade
amounted to 440.13 million dollars in 2002 with India standing as
Myanmar's fourth largest trading partner after Thailand, China and
India is also Myanmar's largest export market of beans and pulses and timber.
Since a border trade agreement was signed in 1994, Myanmar and India have
so far opened two border trade points, one at Tamu and the other at
Manipur, and have agreed in principle to open another two trade points, at
Rhi and Champhai respectively, in the future.
Other statistics also show that India has so far injected 4.5 million US
dollars of investment in one project in Myanmar.
Narinjara News July 16 2003
Burma and Bangladesh held Flag Meeting
Maungdaw, 16th July 03: On 6th and 7th July the border police forces of
Burma and Bangladesh met at Aung-yeik-tha Hall, three miles east of the
Burmese border town of Maungdaw, on the Naaf River that serves as the
common border of the two countries, sources in the Nasaka Border Security
Brigadier Aung Ngwe, the commander-in-chief of the Nasaka border security
police in Rakhine State in the western part of Burma, attended the flag
meeting. He was leading an eleven-member group in the talks. From the
Bangladesh side Brigadier Sheikh Muhammad Mahmudur Islam, the chief of the
Chittagong area BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) led the team of eight members who
attended the round of talks.
In the flag meeting the Burmese side asked for a solution and end to the
anti-Burmese junta rebel groups operating from inside Bangladesh. On the
other hand the Bangladeshi side demanded a solution to the large scale
smuggling from Burma and prevention of continual infiltration of the
Bengali-speaking Burmese nationals into Bangladesh.
They also discussed the way to prevent the spread of deadly SARS virus by
introducing compulsory medical examination of the travellers on both sides
of the border.
On the 7th July evening the two commanders played golf at the Mayu golf
course at Maungdaw before Brigadier Islams return, he added.
Deutsche Presse Agentur July 16 2003
Thailand warns U.S. sanctions will deepen Myanmar poverty
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Wednesday warned that tough new
sanctions imposed by the U.S. Congress against Myanmar's (Burma's) ruling
junta will result in severe economic hardship.
The sanctions, which include an embargo against Myanmar imports and a
freeze on the junta's assets, was passed by the U.S. House of
Representatives on Tuesday to punish the military regime for its human
rights abuses and its latest crackdown on the country's democracy
"I've been trying to warn Burma that they should not let this embargo
begin, because once it begins it will be hard to end," Thaksin told
reporters at Government House.
"But this is their internal affair. We can only give advice as a friendly
neighbour. We can't force them to follow us," he said.
Thaksin said he has instructed Thai government agencies to prepare for the
likely ramifications of the U.S. sanctions, such as increased poverty
within Myanmar leading to more illegal Myanmar labourers flooding across
the border into Thailand.
The Thai leader has been one of the main proponents of a "constructive
engagement" policy toward the Myanmar junta, arguing that sanctions served
only to further isolate and impoverish the country.
The U.S. and other Western governments have tightened Myanmar's economic
isolation since May 30, when a clash between opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi's supporters and a junta-backed mob in northern Myanmar led to a
crackdown on the junta's opponents.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi and many of her supporters were thrown
in jail and offices of her National League for Democracy were shut down,
along with most universities and colleges.
The U.S. administration has demanded the immediate release of Suu Kyi and
the speedy implementation of reforms leading to democratic rule in the
country, which has been led by a succession of military governments since
Associated Press July 16 2003
U.N. chief expresses concern at imprisonment of Myanmar opposition leader,
doesn't rule out possibility of U.N. sanctions
By JESSICA VASCELLARO
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed concern Wednesday for the
imprisonment of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and did not
rule out the possibility of U.N. sanctions to pressure the country's
military government for her release.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved sanctions against
Myanmar, also known as Burma, to protest the detention of Nobel Peace
laureate Suu Kyi and other political leaders from her opposition party. A
similar measure was passed by the Senate last month and now awaits
approval from U.S. President George W. Bush.
Any U.N. sanctions on Myanmar would have to be approved by the Security
Council, and the issue is not on its agenda yet.
"So it is a bit premature for me to say that it is a possibility," Annan
said. "But I know that some governments are becoming quite exercised by
developments in Myanmar."
Annan was scheduled to meet Wednesday with U.N. Special Envoy Razali
Ismail, a Malaysian diplomat who is the only foreigner to have met with
Suu Kyi's since her May 30 arrest. Razali has said that U.N. officials are
"increasing alarmed" by the deteriorating political situation between
Myanmar's military rulers and Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
"He has been consulting with leaders in the region, and he will be here to
brief me on where we stand and for us to explore what the next steps
should be and what future action we should take," Annan said.
The secretary-general also said he expects Myanmar's Deputy Foreign
Minister Khin Maung Win, a special envoy of the president, to present him
with a message from his government late Wednesday.
Military officials in Myanmar lashed out Wednesday against the United
States for moving toward sanctions, calling the measures "weapons of mass
destruction" imposed by "rich and powerful nations ... to create havoc and
bring hardship on the mass population of the people who need to work to
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the No. 2 Senate Republican, urged Bush to approve
the sanction legislation after meeting with Razali last Thursday. The
legislation bans millions of dollars of imports into the country.
The current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy
movement and two years later it annulled the results of a general election
that Suu Kyi's party won. She was put under house arrest from 1989 to 1995
and again from September 2000 until May 2002, when Razali's mediation
helped secure her release.
Associated Press July 16 2003
Congress sends Myanmar sanctions bill to president
By JIM ABRAMS
Moving with unusual swiftness, Congress on Wednesday sent to the president
legislation to impose economic sanctions on the military-led government of
"The message from the U.S. Congress to the world could not be more clear,"
said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before the 94-1 Senate vote in favor of
the bill. "The assault on freedom in Burma will not stand."
The Senate vote came a day after the House approved the measure by a vote
of 418-2 and a little more than a month after the military leaders of
Myanmar, or Burma, re-arrested Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and renewed
their crackdown on the pro-democracy movement she leads.
President Bush is expected to sign the bill.
The bill would ban the import of goods from Myanmar and freeze the
government's assets in the United States. It would expand the current ban
on granting U.S. visas to Myanmar leaders and codify the existing policy
of opposing new international loans or technical assistance to Myanmar.
The United States banned new investment in Myanmar by U.S. companies in
The trade ban would affect Myanmar exports to the United States, which was
about $356 million in 2002, mostly in garments. The measure also directs
the secretary of state to encourage other nations to cut off support for
the Myanmar government and assist the country's democratic movement.
European nations have taken economic actions against Myanmar, and Japan
has announced that it will curtail new aid to the country. But several of
Myanmar's neighbors, including China and Thailand, have been criticized
for continuing relations with the Rangoon government.
"We frankly expect a democratic ally like Thailand to do more to oppose
dictatorship in Burma both out of principle and because of the insecurity
its misrule brings to Thailand," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., adding
that Myanmar could become an issue in U.S.-Thailand relations.
It's time, he said, for a "fundamentally new approach that looks forward
to Burma's liberation rather than a mere moderation of an illegitimate
The military seized power in 1988 and stepped in to void the 1990
elections that would have given power to Suu Kyi and her National League
for Democracy. Suu Kyi was under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and again
for 19 months before her release in May 2002.
Congress considered similar legislation last year but held off after Suu
Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, was released. But on May 30
the government launched an attack on her supporters and again seized Suu
Kyi, reviving the effort to impose trade sanctions.
The one dissenting Senate vote was cast by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., who
opposes unilateral sanctions.
BurmaNet News July 16 2003
SENATE LEADERS DEMAND UN SECURITY COUNCIL TAKE UP BURMA
Following yesterdays U.S. House of Representatives vote overwhelmingly in
favor of sanctioning Burma, prominent Senate leaders urged the United
Nations Security Council to step up pressure on the regime. During Senate
debate today, Senators John McCain, Mitch McConnell, Patrick Leahy, and
Sam Brownback exhorted President Bush to confront Burmas military junta
through the UNSC. [It is] past time for the U.S. and its allies to take
up this issue, said Senator McCain.
The senators excoriated the failed policy of engagement with Burma,
singling out Thailand, Japan, and China for their lenience towards the
junta, and praising democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for her bravery
in the face of the regimes brutality. The Nobel laureate has been held
incommunicado by the junta since a brutal crackdown on her party on May
30th that may have left as many as 70 of her supporters dead.
The 418-2 House vote yesterday occurred a month after the Senate voted
97-1 on a similar bill. Once the Senate and House agree on a common
version, President Bush is expected to quickly sign the bill, which bans
imports from Burma, as well as freezing junta assets in the U.S., and
expands an already-existing visa ban.
In the Senate chamber today, the four leaders voices were unified in
support of action through the UN Security Council, despite the suggestion
that China, a close ally to the regime, might object to such a measure.
I dont care if China vetoes [a resolution. This issue] needs to be
discussed by the Security Council
, and debated by the most important
countries in the world, declared Senator McConnell.
Senator McCain also challenged Burmas regional partnersespecially
ASEANto stop supporting the military regime, and to push for democratic
transition. While welcoming Japans announcement of suspension of future
aid to the junta, McCain offered a caveat: Tokyos existing aid sends
mixed signals, said Senator McCain, referring to Japans decision to
leave intact aid currently invested in Burma.
Senators McCain, Brownback, and McConnell also censured Thailand, an ally
of the U.S., for propping up the regime. Senator Brownback condemned
Thailands harsh policies towards Burmese in exile in Thailand.
Regional group ASEAN also came under fire for its lax approach towards the
junta. Southeast Asia will not be secure as long as the generals rule in
Rangoon, said Senator McCain. The senator warned that ASEANs
credibility will be further undermined as long as Burma festers,
particularly when Burma assumes the presidency of the regional group in
2006. Rangoon will host that years ministerial summit as well as the
ASEAN Regional Forum, which is traditionally attended by the U.S.
Secretary of State.
Agence France Presse July 16 2003
Top US official condemns China's stance on Myanmar
A top United States official Wednesday criticised China's stance on
Myanmar, saying Beijing was isolated in its failure to condemn the
military junta and should use its leverage to push for change.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Randy
Schriver said virtually all Asian nations had made it clear they opposed
the detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, except China.
"That leaves China isolated," he said in an interview with Radio Free Asia.
"China alone has sustained its policies in light of what recently occurred
there, the tragic attack.
"China is missing an opportunity in my view, and I think in the view of
the United States government, if they don't join with the rest of the
region and the rest of the international community to put whatever
pressure we can on the regime there, to free Aung San Suu Kyi and allow
the people a greater degree of freedom and political participation."
US lawmakers on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to sanction Myanmar's ruling
junta, impose trade restrictions, freeze the regime's financial assets in
US banks, and install a visa ban on regime members seeking to enter the
China, one of the few countries which maintains political ties with
Myanmar, has recently boosted its economic influence in the country and
has refused to get engaged in what it terms "internal affairs".
"The question of Aung San Suu Kyi is very clear: it belongs to the
internal affairs of Myanmar and it's between the government of Myanmar and
the opposition party," foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said this
"We believe that the people and government are capable of handling that
"Basically, China is not in favour of exerting pressure to others. It will
not be helpful to solve the question, rather it will complicate it."
Schriver acknowledged China was looking after its own interests but said
Beijing was becoming an outcaste on the issue.
"China is going to make its own decisions based on its own interests. We
know that," he said.
"But they're increasingly isolated, and again I think they're missing an
opportunity if they don't use some of their leverage and pressure to
change what's going on in Burma."
Myanmar's rights record has been put under the spotlight since opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi was put in custody after vicious clashes between
her followers and pro-regime elements at the end of May.
Sino-Myanmar relations have generally been strong, except for a brief
period during the 1960s when the Cultural Revolution swept across China
and spilled over the border into Myanmar.
Associated Press July 16 2003
Myanmar dissidents welcome U.S. sanctions; Thailand says it'll maintain
dialogue with junta
by ALISA TANG
Exiled dissidents Wednesday welcomed news of tough U.S. economic sanctions
against Myanmar, but neighboring Thailand plans to maintain a
"constructive dialogue" with Yangon despite Washington calls for pressure
on the military regime.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to impose sanctions in
response to the junta's latest detention of opposition leader and Nobel
Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as well as its crackdown on her
The generals moved against Suu Kyi after a deadly May 30 clash between her
supporters and government backers.
The vote came a month after the U.S. Senate approved a similar measure.
U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law when
the two chambers agree on a common version.
Zar Ni, founder of the dissident group Free Burma Coalition, said the
sanctions "are a step in the right direction" against the junta in
Mynamar, also known as Burma.
"The U.S.-led sanctions weaken the regime financially and further inspire
the Burmese democrats to persevere in their arduous fight for freedom," he
said in a statement issued in Washington.
The bill would ban the import of goods from Myanmar and freeze the junta's
assets in the United States.
It would also expand the current ban on granting U.S. visas to the
regime's leaders and codify the existing policy of opposing new
international loans or technical assistance to Myanmar.
Aung Din, also from the Free Burma Coalition, cautioned that the sanctions
would be only one step toward ending repression in Myanmar.
The measures "must be only the first step in a broader effort for regime
change," he said.
Meanwhile, Thailand pledged to maintain a "constructive dialogue" with
Myanmar despite U.S. calls for two of Myanmar's neighbors and main trading
partners - Thailand and China - to exert greater pressure on the military
"We believe we should have a constructive dialogue with the Myanmar
government," Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow told
The Associated Press.
"We should work with the Myanmar government to see how the process of
dialogue and national reconciliation can be further pursued," he said.
He described Washington's sanctions "an internal matter of the U.S. side."
Sihasak said Thailand - which is a key U.S. ally in Southeast Asia - wants
to see Suu Kyi released. Yangon has yet to publicly divulge where she is
Myanmar has been ruled by the military for more than four decades. The
current regime took power after crushing a pro-democracy uprising in 1988.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won 1990 elections, but was
never allowed to rule.
Her struggle was internationally recognized when she won the 1991 Nobel
Myanmar's official media recently accused Suu Kyi of being a pawn of
Washington. It also claimed the United States and Europe, which also has
sanctions against Myanmar, were hindering its efforts to become
The detention of Suu Kyi after the May 30 clash, in which an uncertain
number of people were killed, has prompted concern from Myanmar's
neighbors within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The 10-member grouping though still advocates engaging the junta rather
than isolating it.
In Kuala Lumpur, Cynthia Gabriel, executive director of rights group
Malaysian People's Voice, welcomed the U.S. sanctions and urged ASEAN to
consider imposing similar measures.
"We believe the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that
sanctions may just be what is needed to bring reforms to the country as
diplomatic overtures have failed," she said.
ON THE BORDER
Kaladan Press July 16 2003
Two Refugees Arrested in Kutupalong Camp
Ukhia, Coxs Bazar, July 16: Two registered Rohingya refugees from
Kutupalong Camp were sent to Cox's Bazar District Jail for not signing
Voluntary Repatriation Form, said a refugee leader from the camp.
They are Jamal Hossain (a refugee teacher), son of Abu Taher, Myanmar
Refugee Card (MRC) No. 41666, Shed No. 27/3 and Moulana Mohammad Islam (a
religious leader), son of Mohammad Sultan, MRC No. 19916, Shed No. 199/1,
he further said.
They were charged under Section 14 of the Foreigners Registration Act 1946
and other criminal offence. The case against them was registered with
Ukhia Police Station and the case number is 6 and GR# 90/03, according to
a source from Ukhia Police Station. The camp authorities alleged that the
two refugees were involved in anti-repatriation activities and were found
living outside the camp, he further said.
According to inmates of the refugee camp the two refugees are innocent.
They were arrested from their sheds in the camp. They were mercilessly
beaten while in the custody of the Refugee Camp Police, said another
refugee leader from the camp. Immediately after arrest, the UNHCR
Protection Assistant Officer Ms. Joinab Begum asked the Camp-in-Charge
Mohammad Yasin to release them on the ground that they were innocent. But
her request was rejected saying that the two refugees were involved in
anti-repatriation campaign and the arrest was recommended by UNHCR Field
Assistant Mohammad Islam, he further added.
The refugees also allege that Bangladeshi local UNHCR staffs are partly
responsible for forced repatriation. Earlier the local UNHCR staff
Mohammad Islam was caught red-handed while trying to traffic two refugee
children from Kutupalong camp. Being a near relative of the children
Moulana Mohammad Islam had protested the action and complained against the
said UNHCR staff, but no action was taken against him, said a relative of
A Rohingya refugee leader from Khutupalong camp said, "we want to be
ensured the right to voluntary repatriation." He also appealed to
international community through news media for an immediate solution of
their long-standing problem and demanded immediate release of Burmese
opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Irrawaddy July 16 2003
Elected MP Flees
By Naw Seng
July 16, 2003A senior member of the National League for Democracy (NLD)
from Kachin State told reporters this morning he left Burma soon after the
May 30 clash, fearing certain arrest.
Du Wa Maran Zau Aung, 71, an elected MP from Kachin States Wai Maw
township, said the ambush of Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters in
Depayin was plotted by the junta to create turmoil among the Burmese
Zau Aung fled his home shortly after the crackdown which followed the
Black Friday clash. "I was so shocked and sad when I heard the news of May
30," he recalled. He left his home under the presumption he would be
quickly arrested, and currently resides in a liberated area outside Burma,
He called the attack on the opposition members "high treason plotted by
the junta, that should not have taken place."
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) should help Burmas
national reconciliation process, says Zau Aung. He believes helping Burma
in the political arena does not equate to interfering in their internal
affairs. "If we dont stop our neighbors from fighting, we will have to
bury their dead bodies," he said.
Authorities threatened Suu Kyis supporters during her last visit to
Kachin State, in early May, said the elected MP. People were ordered not
to go out on the street to see the NLD leader, or to speak with her. "It
is not logical that the military authorities would let Aung San Suu Kyi
travel but not allow the people to even talk to her," said Zau Aung, who
met the opposition leader on her trip to his hometown. He also entertained
Suu Kyi in his home during her first visit to Kachin State in 1989.
Zau Aung was arrested in August 1999 by the Military Intelligence in
Rangoon and sentenced to 21 years imprisonment for trying to submit a
letter calling for national reconciliation to members of the State Sangha
Mahanayaka Committee, Burmas leading council of monks. He was released in
2001 due to failing health, but was kept under close watch after leaving
Bangkok Post July 16 2003
THAKSIN ASSERTS REGIONAL AMBITIONS
By THITINAN PONGSUDHIRAK
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has taken initiatives over the past few
months that point to his regional leadership ambitions. With no visible
threat that could derail his premiership at home, he is preoccupied with
raising his international profile and regional stature.
Shortly before his successful trip to Washington and a fruitful meeting
with President George W. Bush on June 10, he was instrumental in launching
the Asia Bond, worth $ 1 billion (41.5 billion baht) with contributions
from 11 Asia-Pacific countries, led by Thailand's $ 200 million (8.3
When he returned from Washington, Mr Thaksin called on Burma's military
junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi from forceful detention, an influential
request in view of the Thaksin government's close ties to Rangoon. As he
makes one move after another on the international stage, Mr Thaksin is
evidently grooming himself as the new leader of East and Southeast Asia.
As Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad winds down his illustrious
career towards his retirement later this year, the region's new voice may
well emanate from Bangkok.
To be sure, the Asia Bond does not amount to much in itself. The $ 1
billion fund is to be invested in the sovereign bonds of member countries
but will be denominated in greenbacks rather than in local currencies,
betraying a mutual lack of confidence in each other's macro-economic
health. But the fund is significant in being a by-product of a
longstanding but thus far quixotic effort to promote regional economic
The fund is also significant for having emanated from the nascent Asia
Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), the intended vehicle of Mr Thaksin's regional
leadership aspirations. When the Asia Bond was announced during one of the
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ministerial meetings in Thailand, Mr
Thaksin promptly claimed credit for his regional leadership effort.
The ACD now looks like it might soon eclipse other regional cooperation
bodies, particularly the Asean Plus Three (the 10 members of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus China, Japan and Korea), which
has been promoted by Dr Mahathir.
As leader of Thailand, Burma's front-line and one of its most important
neighbours along with China, Mr Thaksin has commented on the sensitive
issue of Rangoon's problematic road towards democratic rule, and has urged
its State Peace and Development Council to release Mrs Suu Kyi and restart
the dialogue process.
In line with US demands, Mr Thaksin's recent remarks stood out in the
absence of bold criticisms from other leaders around the region. The Thai
prime minister's assertiveness on Burma was new and reversed his earlier
accommodating position. The worldwide condemnation of the SPDC's latest
detention of Mrs Suu Kyi had provided Mr Thaksin with plenty of ammunition
and political leverage to bring pressure to bear on Rangoon.
Since calling for Mrs Suu Kyi's prompt release last month, however, Mr
Thaksin has cracked down on Burmese dissidents in an apparent move to
appease Rangoon. Despite his seemingly inconsistent prodding and
pacification of the generals in Burma, it is difficult to dispute that Mr
Thaksin is now looked upon as the region's leading Burma peacebroker, with
enough clout and diplomatic wherewithal to nudge the SPDC towards
reconciliation and the resumption of talks with Mrs Suu Kyi.
Mr Thaksin's recent Washington trip, the Asia Bond, and his relatively new
and nuanced line on Burma are just the early manifestations of the Thai
leader's growing statesmanship and budding regional leadership.
He has shown charisma, stature and leadership skills his regional peers
among the post-Mahathir generation simply do not match. Like Dr Mahathir
before him, Mr Thaksin is armed with political legitimacy based on a one
party-dominant democratic system. He has complete control of his country's
political landscape to enact policies that reflect his vision. He even has
his own development strategy, known as Thaksinomics, a self-styled
approach that blends neo-liberal, export-led growth with grassroots-based
Another similarity between Mr Thaksin and Dr Mahathir is their
authoritarian tendencies under democratic guises.
Dr Mahathir is known to have used his overwhelming parliamentary majority
to rule with an iron grip, willing to legislate draconian anti-subversion
laws and put political opponents in jail.
Mr Thaksin has used his unassailable legislative majority to implement a
series of measures to sideline and suppress shady, influential figures,
reportedly including his political opponents and dissenting civic groups
and journalists. Not to be underestimated, Mr Thaksin speaks passable
English, a prerequisite in the global arena rarely enjoyed by preceding
elected Thai leaders.
The ACD will allow him to trumpet Thailand's strategic objectives and the
region's major causes, sometimes but not always in confrontation with the
interests and demands of the West.
Most important, Mr Thaksin has longevity in office that other democratic
leaders in Asia cannot count on, and he presides over a currently robust
economy second only to China's.
In the wake of Dr Mahathir's departure from the scene, Mr Thaksin has a
good shot at filling the ensuing regional leadership vacuum. Whether or
not he measures up to the Malaysian leader will depend on Mr Thaksin's
ability to uphold domestic political legitimacy that is largely rooted in
a sustained and stable trajectory of economic growth.
- Thitinan Pongsudhirak is a lecturer with the Department of International
Relations, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.
More information about the Burmanet