Archive for Myanmar
The government has insisted both the British and Myanmar embassies in Thailand “have no problems” with the Thai police’s handling of the Sept 15 murders of two British tourists on Koh Tao even as police face claims the Myanmar suspects were tortured. Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn said he was confident the case would not lead to any disputes between Thailand and Myanmar because he had spoken with the embassy and it did not have any problems with the investigation results. His remarks came after the police held a press conference Tuesday to insist on the accuracy of the investigation which had resulted in charges against two Myanmar men. Police and diplomatic sources said that the British ambassador or a senior embassy official would attend the press conference. Instead, the embassy was not represented. The bodies of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found on a beach of the southern island of Koh Tao in Surat Thani province on Sept 15. Police pursued the case for more than two weeks before they detained three Myanmar migrant workers, two of whom were charged over the murders while the other was treated as an eyewitness. National police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang defended the arrest of the two Myanmar men for the murders even though the suspects claimed they were tortured by police while in custody. Contradicting earlier reports that Myanmar embassy officials were satisfied with explanations provided by Thai authorities over the arrest of their nationals, Htun Aye, the embassy’ s second secretary, told the Bangkok Post Tuesday it was too early to say whether his team was satisfied with all the information they were given by authorities.
The embassy pledged to assist Myanmar workers who faced murder charges. Three Myanmar workers based on Koh Tao off the Surat Thani coast have accused police of torturing them to try to extract information about the murder of two British citizens last month. The three men were from a group of six Myanmar workers. The three were released by police but two colleagues were arrested and eventually charged with the murders, while the sixth man is believed to have agreed to give evidence against the two who have been charged. The three men who were released have alleged that Thai police poured hot water on them. They later met with a Myanmar labour leader who took photos of burn wounds on their bodies and sent them to the Myanmar embassy. The embassy reportedly said later that it was ready to assist their colleagues who have been charged.
The US Embassy on Wednesday issued a warning to its citizens traveling in eastern Myanmar after clashes between the military and ethnic minority rebels. Various rebels groups have battled the central government in Burma since shortly after its independence in 1948. While the government has in recent years struck ceasefires with almost all factions, clashes occasionally flare up. The US Embassy said incidents over the past week included a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a bus in Karen State and the discovery of two improvised explosive devices in the Karen State town of Myawaddy on the border with Thailand. “If you see something suspicious, leave the area immediately and report it to local authorities,” the embassy posted on its Twitter account. “Do not touch, move, or tamper with any suspicious package.”
Canada formally opened its embassy in Yangon on Friday, aiming to further promote cooperation between Canada and Myanmar, and between Canada and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Visiting Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said the opening of the embassy is to establish long-term relations between the two countries and between Canada and the ASEAN with which Canada is one of the dialogue partners. Canada and Myanmar established diplomatic relations in 1958, but the Canadian embassy with Myanmar were stationed in Bangkok, Thailand ever since. Canada downgraded its relations with Myanmar in late 1988 and imposed economic sanctions, barring trade with Myanmar and banning visas for then Myanmar’s high ranking military officials. The two countries later normalized their relations. In April 2012, Canada suspended most of its prohibitions on trade with and investment in Myanmar in recognition of the Myanmar’s reform progress.
Thailand’s military coup has delayed the planned introduction of a visa-exemption program for Myanmar nationals, a senior embassy official says. Myanmar has said it wants to tie up visa-exemption arrangements with all fellow ASEAN members, but so far it has only agreed deals with Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. Chainarong Keratiyutwong, deputy chief of mission at the Thai embassy in Yangon, said that a planned deal with Thailand has stalled due to political turmoil of the past six months, which prompted the military to seize power in late May. One issue to be ironed out is who would be eligible for the program. According to Mr Keratiyutwong, Myanmar has requested a visa exemption for all tourists travelling to Thailand, but Bangkok has resisted because of concerns about Myanmar nationals overstaying illegally. It has instead proposed granting visa exemptions only to those arriving in the country by air. Myanmar citizens travelling to Thailand must currently apply for a visa at the Thai embassy in Yangon.
The Labour Attache to the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok landed in Phuket on Friday to dig into allegations by Myanmar construction workers of labor law violations. “I came down to Phuket to follow up on a complaint on March 5 against Nantawan Co, Ltd, which employs about 200 workers from Myanmar,” said Kyaw Kyaw Lwin. Mr Lwin had just spoken with Yutthakarn Owasit, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Labor Protection and Welfare Office, to glean information about Myanmar nationals working in Phuket. “At the time the complaint was filed, the employees alleged that the company had not paid them any wages for a month. They also said that they were only getting half of what they were owed for overtime, which should amount to 1.5 of their hourly rate,” Mr Lwin said in an exclusive interview with the Phuket Gazette. “Additionally, they alleged that the company charged them 19,500 baht for work permits instead of the standard 10,000 baht fee.”
A terror suspect claimed that police investigators had forced him to confess to being involved in a foiled attempt to bomb the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta in May. During a court hearing, Sigit Indrajit, who is accused of masterminding the plot, told a panel of judges at the South Jakarta District Court that he was not even aware of the bomb plot, let alone the mastermind behind it. “My friend only told me to buy an alarm clock so I did, because in this world, we should not ask too many questions,” he testified at the trial of his alleged accomplice, Achmad Taufiq alias Ovhie. Sigit, a 23-year-old herbal product seller, insisted that he had no idea that the alarm clock was to be used as a detonator for five pipe bombs. The prosecutors claim that Sigit came up with the plan to bomb the embassy in retaliation for the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The plan was foiled when the police detained Ovhie and Mambo and confiscated the bombs in Jakarta on May 2, a day before the planned attack. After being on the run, Sigit was finally arrested at Tanjung Priok Port in North Jakarta on May 22. When presiding judge Soeprapto asked Sigit why he was making a contradictory statement, Sigit answered: “I was forced to [make false a statement] by investigators.” The charges leveled against Sigit and his accomplices carry the death penalty.