Daily News-February 15, 2000, Tuesday
UN to move for new talks with junta
Special envoy to be assigned for Burma
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
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
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
"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
BBC - 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
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
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.
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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