Thursday 30 November 2006

Myanmar denies closing down of ICRC field offices

Nay Pyi Taw: The Myanmar government denied on Wednesday that it has closed down field offices of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) in five areas of the country, but saying that it was just a temporary suspension.

The denial was made by Police Chief Brigadier-General Khin Yi at the first press conference held in the new capital of Nay Pyi Taw.

Some foreign media had reported that the government had ordered five ICRC field offices in Myanmar outside Yangon to close, namely, in Mandalay, Mawlamyine, Hpa-an, Taunggyi and Kyaing Tong.
Khin Yi stressed that all organizations in Myanmar, including the ICRC, must abide by Myanmar’s related rules and regulations for their functions. He disclosed that the government is preparing to promulgate new rules and regulations to govern the launching of operation of all organizations.

He said that before the introduction of the new rules and regulations, the government temporarily suspended the operation of the ICRC field offices but is still in contact with the ICRC.
Between 1999 and 2005, the ICRC made 453 visits to prisons and labor camps across Myanmar, according to ICRC.

Fifty customs officials arrested in new police sweep – Khun Sam

More than 60 Burmese Customs Department officials have been arrested in countrywide raids and a similar number have gone into hiding, according to border sources.

The junta issued warrants for the arrest of 114 officials, 61 of whom had been detained, the sources said. Police were searching for the others.
The latest raids follow an earlier sweep resulting in the imprisonment of about 60 customs officials and traders in Rangoon and Shan State on charges of corruption, illegal trading and tax evasion. One prominent defendant, Customs Department Director-General Col Khin Maung Lin, received a 66-year sentence.
Among those arrested in the latest police action was the Custom Department and Border Trade’s deputy director-general in the Shan State border town of Tachilek, Win Swe. A police official in Tachilek confirmed that two arrests had been made there.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese political analysis based on the Burma-China border, said police and Special Bureau Investigation officials from Rangoon and local police had raided the Muse customs office in northern Shan State, near the Chinese border, on Monday evening.
Aung Kyaw Zaw said two officials had been arrested and around a dozen had escaped to China. One official had reportedly committed suicide.

Police sources told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the latest arrests were ordered by the newly appointed Customs Department Director-general, Col Hla Win, in a move to sever links with his predecessor.

The arrests follow an announcement in state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar on November 21 by Burma’s Ministry of Finance and Revenue, inviting members of the public to "file complaints against any misconduct" by its staff members in a drive to ensure a so-called clean administrative machinery.

In recent months several customs officials at Burmese airports, sea ports and border trade offices have been replaced. The property and assets of those convicted and jailed have been confiscated by the state.
The regime scheduled a press conference for Wednesday, at which more details of the latest arrests were expected to emerge.