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Daily News-February 15, 2000, Tuesday

UN to move for new talks with junta
Special envoy to be assigned for Burma
Achara Ashayagachat

Bangkok Post -
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to assign a new special envoy to resume dialogue with Burmese leaders in a bid to open up domestic political reforms.

Mr Annan said yesterday he would name a replacement for Alvaro de Soto, who has been assigned UN representative to Cyprus.

The UN is keen for the Burmese government to move towards democratisation, he said at the end of his four-day stay in Bangkok.

Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung told delegates his country needed international financial to aid infrastructure development, social stability and the economic wellbeing of the country before democratisation could be achieved.

In response Mr Annan said: "To create a type of confidence, we would like to see what measures the [Burmese] government is going to take to open up political reforms and democratisation."Mr de Soto failed to start dialogue with the Burmese military junta when he was assigned last year to meet with State Peace and Development Council chairman General Than Shwe and Secretary One Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt.

Some Asean countries informally expressed views that the new UN chief's envoy should be a person from Asia, especially from Japan, since Japanese officials successfully intervened in the Cambodian political crisis over the last two years, official sources said.

"Burma seemed reluctant last year to open room for the UN role in its country, but now it is calling for international sympathy for national infrastructure development. "It would be useful to have such a person as Mrs (Yasushi) Akashi in the UNHCR to lead talks with Rangoon as Tokyo has more potential to give more carrots to draw Rangoon's attention to co-operate in political terms," said a Thai official.

On the Indonesian issue, the UN secretary-general said he would visit Jakarta within three days and hold talks with Indonesian leader Abdurrahman Wahid.

"Indonesia is facing major transitional issues and these affect the country's prosperity and stability and I'm following developments there very closely," he said.

Mr Annan added he would take the "wait and see" approach and let the Indonesian president resolve problems. "The UN will organise an election for the East Timorese, but I can't say the timetable now," Mr Annan added.

The UN secretary-general is to visit Singapore today before going on to Indonesia, East Timor, Australia, and New Zealand.

Jailed Briton's family protest over Burma
The parents of a British pro-democracy activist, imprisoned in Burma, are joining human rights campaigners in a protest at alleged atrocities carried out in the country.

James Mawdsley, who is 27 on Monday, was arrested on 31 August last year for distributing anti-Government literature near Burma's border with Thailand. He was given a 17-year jail sentence.

Mr Mawdsley is protesting against what human rights campaigners describe as genocide being carried out against the country's Karen minority group.

At least 30,000 civilians have been murdered since 1993, according to the human rights group Jubilee Campaign. James' parents David and Diana Mawdsley are joining the group in a symbolicprotest outside the Burmese Embassy in London on their son's 27th birthday.

Mrs Mawdsley told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The demonstration today is something he would want us to do.

"Many people speak of genocide from the safety of our own established democracies but James has spoken of genocide from its very heartland." she said.

No appeal

Mr Mawdsley, a committed Catholic, is being held in a prison in Keng Tung, in what his family fear are increasingly harsh conditions.

James' mother said her son had not been allowed to receive letters or books since the start of the year.

The British Consul had also passed on news that Mr Mawdsley's exercise allowance had been reduced and regular visits from officials had been withdrawn, she said.

"It is our feeling in the family that they are doing their utmost to try to break him." she told Today.

Last month the family heard that Burmese officials had no intention of reducing Mr Mawdsley's 17-year sentence, saying they had no guarantee he would not reoffend.

The former Bristol University student has said he will not appeal against his conviction because he refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the regime and the sentence. Mr Mawdsley had been arrested on two previous occasions in Burma.

The first arrest came in September 1997 after chaining himself to a fence in Burma's capital of Rangoon and shouting pro-democracy slogans.

He was immediately deported but returned less than a year later and was re-arrested and held for 99 days during which time, he says, he was tortured.

Last November 28-year-old Briton Rachel Goldwyn was freed from a seven-year sentence imposed by a Burmese court for singing pro-democracy songs.

She had signed a written undertaking never to engage in political activity in the country again.

'Deep respect'

Diana Mawdsley admitted some people in Britain would not understand why her son kept returning to Burma. "It is easy to say he is foolish from a perspective of safety but having been to Burma myself and having spoken to the people who are suffering under that regime, their opinion is quite the contrary, they hold James in deep respect." she said.

A large gifted-wrapped bamboo cell will be placed outside the Burmese embassy at 1400GMT with a banner calling for an end to the killing.

Mark Rowland, campaign manager at Jubilee Campaign, said: "I think people in this country are aware that it is an undemocratic regime in Burma, but I don't think the general public is aware what is happening fits the legal definition of genocide.

"The publicity will hopefully serve as the platform for the Burmese authorities to address the issues."

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