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BurmaNet News: November 23, 2000

______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
        An on-line newspaper covering Burma 
________November 23, 2000   Issue # 1664__________

*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 
from neighbour 
*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 
forced labour 

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 
Myanmar capital.  

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. 

___________________ REGIONAL/INTERNATIONAL___________________

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 
ordeal unscathed. 

Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai praised the rescue mission, saying it 
restored confidence in Thailand after two other violent sieges involving 
Myanmar nationals. 

"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 

Subin Kheunkaew 

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 
from neighbour 

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 
forced labour. 

But Burma did express disappointment, said Don Pramudwinai, the Foreign 
Ministry spokesman. 

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. 

Anuraj Manibhandu 


AFP: Malaysia threatens to downgrade involvement in ASEAN-EU meeting 

Mynardo Macaraig 


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 
junior ministers. 

"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 
forced labour 

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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