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BurmaNet News: November 23, 2000
- Subject: BurmaNet News: November 23, 2000
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2000 11:08:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
________November 23, 2000 Issue # 1664__________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Reuters: Suu Kyi appoints lawyers to argue for Yangon house
*DVB: Burmese naval vessel sinks near Daung Kyun island, eight killed
*AFP: Thai commandos shoot Myanmar escapees, rescue hostages
*Bangkok Post: Burmese killed in clash with rangers
*Bangkok Post: Junta feels let down on ILO vote: Rangoon expected help
*AFP: Malaysia threatens to downgrade involvement in ASEAN-EU meeting
*Asiaweek: Battle for the Media
*The Times (London): Boycott Burma, minister says
*The Sydney Morning Herald: Exiled leader asks for sanctions to fight
The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Reuters: Suu Kyi appoints lawyers to argue for Yangon house
WIRE:11/23/2000 05:25:00 ET
YANGON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi
has appointed three lawyers and an agent to represent her in a court
case filed by her brother over the ownership of her lakeside Yangon
home, lawyers said on Thursday.
Suu Kyi"s lawyer, Kyi Win, told Reuters he met the 1991 Nobel Peace
Prize winner twice this week at her residence where she is under house
The pro-democracy campaigner failed to turn up for a court hearing in
Yangon on Tuesday despite promises by the military to allow her to go to
Adjourning the hearing in her absence, Judge U Soe Thein told a Yangon
Sub-Division court the hearing would continue ex parte on November 27.
Suu Kyi, 55, is being sued by her estranged elder brother, Aung San Oo,
a U.S. citizen, for half the home in an elite residential area of the
Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) have been locked in
a battle for the hearts and minds of the Myanmar people for more than a
The NLD won the country"s last general election in 1990 by a landslide
but has never been allowed to govern. The ruling generals say Myanmar is
not ready for democracy.
The legal action filed by her brother is convenient for Myanmar"s
military authorities which have been trying for several years without
success to get Suu Kyi to leave the country and give up her political
Real estate agents in Yangon estimate the value of her estate, including
the colonial style two-storey house where she has lived since 1988, at
least $1 million.
DVB: Burmese naval vessel sinks near Daung Kyun island, eight killed
Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1245 gmt 22 Nov 00
Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 22nd November
One SPDC State Peace and Development Council naval vessel blew up and
sank near Daung Kyun in Tenasserim Division's Mergui District on 16th
November killing and injuring many SPDC naval officers and men. Here is
DVB Democratic Voice of Burma correspondent Myint Maung Maung with the
Myint Maung Maung At 0720 local time on 16th November naval vessel
Khakhwe 207 from the No. 41 Naval Base exploded and sank east of
Paleahmaw, Daung Kyun in Mergui District's offshore. The naval vessel is
in charge of surveillance to conduct a military offensive on Daung Kyun.
The vessel has been conducting surveillance, taking videos and photos,
mapping the routes around the islets, engaging in hydrography, and
computer data collection since 11th November. The captain, Lt Cmdr Mya
Aung, two petty officers, and five sailors were killed while an officer
and two sailors were reported missing. The survivors - one navy
lieutenant and nine sailors who were adrift were rescued by Naval Vessel
No. 552. The ship caved in and sank as the explosion occurred in the
midsection. Naval officers from Tenasserim Naval Base are speculating
whether the explosion was due to mechanical failure, a KNU Karen
National Union attack, or by hitting a submerged mine.
AFP: Thai commandos shoot Myanmar escapees, rescue hostages
BANGKOK, Nov 23 (AFP) - Thai commandos Thursday shot dead nine Myanmar
prison escapees and freed the three prison officials they had taken
hostage before making a dramatic overnight dash for the border.
Prison governor Somwong Sirivej was seriously injured during the rescue
mission but miraculously no other hostages or police died in the hail of
gunfire that ended the 21-hour crisis.
Somwong was shot four times, once in the head, and had been flown to
Bangkok where he was undergoing emergency surgery, officials said. A
warder was stabbed in the back by the fugitives but was not in danger.
Somwong's deputy and a police officer were being treated for minor
wounds, and a Thai prison inmate who the armed escapees had bundled into
their escape vehicle to act as a go-between with police survived the
Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai praised the rescue mission, saying it
restored confidence in Thailand after two other violent sieges involving
"We have been watched worldwide during these three incidents that have
occurred in Thailand but by taking effective measures we have restored
confidence," he said.
A hospital siege mounted by 10 Myanmar rebel gunmen in January ended
with all 10 being shot by Thai commandos, while last October dissidents
opposed to the junta briefly seized Myanmar's Bangkok embassy but were
allowed to escape.
Police said the convicts involved in the latest incident were all wanted
on criminal charges, including drug trafficking and murder, and that
none were political prisoners.
The group seized governor Somwong and six warders mid-morning Wednesday
at the jail south of Bangkok, and shot dead a prison religious
instructor who attempted to resist the takeover.
After a tense eight-hour stand-off with negotiators, the gunmen broke
down the main prison gates and drove out of the compound in a stolen
pick-up truck, pursued by hundreds of police.
The convicts headed for the border region, demanding safe passage to
Myanmar, and released four hostages along the route.
Police successfully stalled their progress throughout the night and the
rescue mission took place just after 7:30 am (2330 GMT) in the border
province of Kanchanaburi.
Police commandos opened fire on the convicts, who were armed with
grenades and handguns, after two flat tyres forced them to halt their
vehicle and they alighted to inspect a replacement truck.
Television footage showed the balaclava-clad officers surrounding the
vehicles and letting off a sustained volley of gunfire that obscured the
scene in a cloud of smoke.
Interviewed from his hospital bed later, deputy governor Sema Kumpanon
said the captives never expected to live through their ordeal.
"When we left the prison we thought we would not survive, so we talked
about dying together," he said.
Sema said he had managed to lie low during the hail of gunfire.
"After police opened fire, the prisoners started to shoot back and after
a few minutes I opened the door and threw myself out of the car," he
The hostage-takers' bodies have been taken to a local temple where they
will be kept for a month and cremated unless they are claimed by
Bangkok Post: Burmese killed in clash with rangers
Aftermath of Shan raid on drug factory
Nov 23, 2000.
A Burmese soldier was killed and two Thai paramilitary rangers wounded
in a border clash in Mae Fah Luang district, Chiang Rai, yesterday.
The clash took place near an area where Shan rebels had attacked a drug
plant guarded by Burmese troops.
The Third Army's Pha Muang Task Force boosted security along the border
around Ban Pa-sang Na-ngern, opposite Ban Muser Abi, Burma, where 13
men, including two Thais, and 100,000 methamphetamine pills were seized
this week by the Shan State Army.
Third Army commander Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong praised the Shan
State Army, led by Chao Yod Suek, for its anti-drug efforts.
Two rangers posted near Ban Pa-sang Na-ngern, 8-10km southwest of Mae
Fah Luang, were wounded after rocket-propelled grenades, believed to
have come from junta forces, exploded near the village, 1.5km from the
Lt-Gen Wattanachai said the clash might be the result of a
misunderstanding, with Burma suspecting that Thai soldiers were involved
in Shan-led assaults on Ban Muser Abi. "Thai soldiers won't do such
things," he said.
Among the people taken by the Shan were Burmese government troops and
soldiers from the United Wa State Army, the Shan's arch-rival.
"This shows Burmese soldiers were directly involved in the drug trade
along the border," said a security official.
"They were captured at the drug factory where the Shan State Army made
its assault." A pick-up truck with Thai plates and five motorcycles were
The Shan handed over the drugs and the two Thais. Lt-Gen Wattanachai
said he ordered the task force to retaliate after Burmese forces shelled
an area near a military post.
Sources said 500 Burmese reinforcements were sent to the clash site. Ban
Pa-sang Na-ngern villagers were evacuated amid fears tensions would
Bangkok Post: Junta feels let down on ILO vote: Rangoon expected help
November 23, 2000
Burma yesterday stopped short of criticising Thailand for refusing to
join other Asean countries in protecting the military junta from
sanctions by the International Labour Organisation aimed at ending
But Burma did express disappointment, said Don Pramudwinai, the Foreign
The disclosure followed talks between Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan
and his Burmese counterpart Win Aung on the sidelines of preparatory
talks for the Asean summit opening tomorrow.
Win Aung said he "expected help from neighbours," but "understood that
Thailand has the right to decide which way to choose," Mr Don said.
Thailand stayed out of the move led by Malaysia and joined by the
Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam, which held that Burma had made
progress in complying with Convention 29 on forced labour in terms of
legislation as well as an "institutional mechanism".
But the ILO governing body on Nov 17 maintained there had not been
sufficient progress and invoked article 33 of the constitution to call
on member states to take "appropriate measures" to compel Burma to
comply with the convention which it ratified in 1955.
Mr Surin said he had pointed out there could not be an Asean consensus
on every issue. Thailand holds that forced labour and adverse economic
and security conditions are among factors that pushed a large number of
refugees, and several hundred thousand illegal workers across the
Mr Surin said he stressed that that no single issue should affect
overall relations, adding that Win Aung acknowledged the point.
The minister also secured "formal acceptance" from Mr Win Aung that
Burma would take back Burmese refugees at the points where they crossed
the border. They agreed on the need to ensure that the refugees return
in safety. They, however, decided against a "formal mechanism" as this
would be tantamount to admission of guilt on the part of the refugees.
Yesterday's discussions also covered the question of illegal Burmese
Mr Surin called on Burma to enter into a bilateral pact for the
suppression of drugs over and above the multilateral framework backed by
the United Nations Drug Control Programme. He cited Thailand's bilateral
pact with China, and secured Burma's promise to consider signing a
memorandum of understanding on the matter.
AFP: Malaysia threatens to downgrade involvement in ASEAN-EU meeting
SINGAPORE, Nov 23
Malaysia threatened Thursday to downgrade its involvement in next
month's ASEAN-EU dialogue if the European bloc sends junior officials
instead of ministers.
"The meeting should be on an equal level," Zainal Abidin Bakar, a
Malaysian delegate at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
summit here told AFP.
The December 11-12 meeting in Laos will be the first between the two
blocs since relations cooled when ASEAN admitted Myanmar as a member in
Laotian foreign affairs permanent secretary Bounkeut Sangsomsak said
here Wednesday that 11 of the 15 European Union (EU) nations had so far
confirmed they would attend, but most were sending deputy ministers.
There have been unsubstantiated reports that some EU ministers were not
attending because of continued opposition to Myanmar's presence.
Zainal said Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar had issued a
statement saying "ASEAN-plus-three plus EU were equal partners and
should be treated equally.
"If they are sending a low ranking official then our foreign minister
will not be attending," he said, adding he was expressing Malaysia's
position and not that of ASEAN.
But Syed Hamid refused to repeat his threatened non-appearance when
questioned on his reaction if the European delegation consisted of
"We will attend the meeting. Malaysia will attend the meeting," he said
without specifying who would attend.
"All ASEAN countries have agreed to participate in the ASEAN-EU meeting.
Malaysia will attend the meeting in the spirit of ASEAN fratenity."
Syed Hamid said the issue of Myanmar would not be on the agenda, and the
European Union did not want the rift-healing talks postponed.
"The relationship between ASEAN and the EU is too important,
economically and investment wise, that it should move forward not
withstanding whatever differences that we have" over ASEAN's internal
affairs, he said.
When the decision was made to resume ASEAN-EU meetings, French Foreign
Minister Hubert Vedrine said EU members "we're shooting ourselves in the
foot," by linking the ASEAN dialogue with the question of Myanmar.
Syed Hamid said the meeting was to be as one regional grouping with
another and "as far as Malaysia is concern the EU has accepted that
principle. The date of the meeting in Laos was fixed by the EU."
A list produced by Bounkeut of the Laotian foreign affairs department
showed Finland, Belgium and Germany sending foreign ministers to the
meeting in Vientiane, Austria sending a special envoy and the other
names were of deputy ministers.
Four EU nations -- Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and the Netherlands --
have yet to confirm they will attend.
Asiaweek: Battle for the Media
A growing "free press" is challenging ASEAN's old order
Nov. 24, 2000
Like ASEAN itself, ASEAN's journalists are divided. It is increasingly
difficult to forge any kind of consensus among the region's reporters
and press organizations. Just as governments range from the dictatorial
to the democratic, press practices in the 10 nations of Southeast Asia
vary from freewheeling in the Philippines and Thailand to totalitarian
in Vietnam and Burma. In between are Singapore and Malaysia, where the
semi-controlled press has long been in vogue.
In the last few years Cambodia and Indonesia have joined the "free
press" club. Long suppressed and inexperienced, their journalists are
eagerly exploring a world with fewer limits. Sometimes criticized for
being overly cynical and negative, they will improve in time. Filipino
and Thai journalists themselves aren't exempt from criticism. Too often
those who have enjoyed a tradition of freedom resort to shallow or
sensational reporting. They have been accused -- sometimes rightly -- of
distorting complex issues and inflaming public passions.
But the Filipinos and Thais are the region's most combative and best
organized reporters. Over the last 30 years they have fought dictatorial
regimes in order to gain their freedom. In all four "free press"
countries, despite public criticisms, journalists continue to receive
wide support in showdowns with government or corrupt officials. At a
regional level, the struggle is on as never before between journalists
of the free press and the restricted press.
Least free are Burma, Laos and Vietnam, which use the media as tools of
state propaganda and "nation-building." Political discussion is
forbidden but these nations recognize that in order to lure dollars,
economic information must flow a little freely. So they permit tame
English-language publications to be published -- often ventures with
foreigners -- to persuade outsiders that these places are good for
More sophisticated are Singapore and Malaysia. They use the media to
manufacture consent, exercising strict press licensing and directly or
indirectly controlling most news outlets. People read the papers to find
out what the government thinks and wants them to think. In both
countries, mainstream press reports are closely scrutinized and
self-censored. Online newspapers like Malaysiakini.com are an exception.
Because it wants investment in information technology, Malaysia allows
freedom on the Internet and a few sites are providing balanced and
courageous coverage. What is worrying, however, is that the
semi-controlled model is moving beyond Singapore and Malaysia. They
believe that a semi-controlled press is good for business and government
and their media establishments have invested in Thailand and Cambodia as
well as Hong Kong.
These different traditions make it difficult for journalists in the
region to cooperate. For 25 years, they have been linked through the
Confederation of ASEAN Journalists (CAJ), brainchild of Harmoko,
Indonesia's minister of information at a time when its press was
controlled. A quarter-century ago, Indonesia wanted ASEAN journalists to
network, not to promote press freedom but consensus within ASEAN and
information about the grouping, which was establishing its identity. The
region has changed but the CAJ has not.
Independent journalists in ASEAN are increasingly frustrated with the
old network of journalists, which has failed to respond to regional
dynamism and join forces with the free press. The CAJ remains a
monolithic organization, specializing in so-called development
journalism and lackluster conferences. Illustrating the division was a
walkout by Thai journalists at a CAJ assembly in Singapore last month.
The Thais accused the host of lacking transparency and accountability
and failing to discuss a Thai proposal to amend the CAJ charter,
including abolition of the secretariat office in Jakarta and the post of
permanent secretary. The changes, which would allow each country to help
determine CAJ directions and core activities, are pivotal to its
rejuvenation. The protest in Singapore has sparked spirited discussions
about the very existence of the CAJ.
As the "free press" grows, its journalists are establishing local and
regional associations. The sea change in Indonesia following Suharto's
departure in 1998 and the country's burgeoning free press have inspired
the independent media to unite. In Thailand, the Philippines and
Indonesia, they joined hands to form the Southeast Asian Press Alliance
in 1998. An alternative forum for the independent media, SEAPA will soon
be joined by Cambodia and East Timor.
SEAPA has taken bold steps to fight for press freedom. It helps fund
Malaysiakini.com as well as projects to promote access to information
and combat corruption. Its Jakarta office is at the forefront of efforts
to protect the press from abuse by police and mobs. SEAPA is also
helping journalists in East Timor to rebuild their media infrastructure.
Region-wide, the media "gap" is likely to grow wider as the semi-open
press continues to assert itself as a viable choice. A new generation of
ASEAN journalists is emerging with the vision to challenge old ways of
doing things. In the long run, the only viable press will be a free
The Times (London): Boycott Burma, minister says
November 23, 2000, Thursday
John Battle, the Foreign Office Minister, urged tourists to boycott
Burma, saying they would otherwise help to prop up a vicious military
dictatorship. He said an entry fee of Pounds 143 that visitors are
required to pay "supports that regime in its dealings and brutal ...
The Sydney Morning Herald: Exiled leader asks for sanctions to fight
By Craig Skehan, Herald Correspondent in Bangkok
Nov 23, 2000
Burma's democracy movement has called on the Australian Government as
well as trade unions and companies to implement economic sanctions
against the ruling military junta after a United Nations report
condemned the widespread use of forced labour.
"There is a lot Australia can do," said Sann Aung, a Bangkok-based
minister in Burma's government-in-exile.
"The Australian Government should shift its position and support the
imposition of internationally co-ordinated economic sanctions."
Sann Aung called on Australian unions to refuse to handle Burmese goods
and to cut electricity and water supplies to the regime's embassy in
On September 16, the governing body of the UN's International Labour
Organisation (ILO) passed a resolution clearing the way for members to
apply sanctions over labour violations in Burma.
This followed the ILO's determination that the country's military rulers
had failed to end the practice of forcing tens of thousands of people to
serve as military porters or as labourers on infrastructure projects.
The resolution called for "appropriate measures" by governments, unions
and companies to ensure business, aid and other relationships with Burma
did not "perpetuate or extend" the system of forced labour.
The resolution, adopted despite strong opposition from Malaysia and a
number of other Asian countries, leaves it up to individual
organisations and governments to decide what punitive action to adopt.
The democracy movement believes virtually all co-operation with the
military regime assists in keeping the junta in power and therefore
perpetuates abuses such as forced labour.
Burmese leaders said the ILO resolution constituted "unjustified
pressure tactics" which did not
take account of attempts by the central administration to curtail forced
labour in outlying areas.
A recent report by Burma's Federation of Trade Unions carried first-hand
accounts of villagers and prisoners forced to work as porters or
labourers being underfed, beaten and murdered. There were also
descriptions of villagers suffering hardship because the practice of
forced labour had disrupted their normal food production.
The Australian Government has during the past year substantially
increased its level of diplomatic engagement with the military regime in
a bid to gain influence.
The Australian Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, says sanctions have failed
to bring reform.
The United States and the European Union were strong supporters of the
ILO adopting the new resolution on forced labour.
Sann Aung said yesterday that it was only the US which had implemented
tough economic sanctions but, to be effective, there needed to be
co-ordinated international pressure on Burma.
Australian human rights seminars conducted for government officials in
Burma have been branded an exercise in propaganda by the democracy
Melbourne's Monash University, which conducted the seminars with
Australian Government funding, is currently reviewing their
A spokeswoman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs said
yesterday that the scope of a planned review of relations with Burma
would be discussed with the ILO. However, the imposition of sanctions
was "not envisaged".
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