- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2001

Colombo sets amnesty for turning in guns

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka The new government has announced an amnesty next week to recover large quantities of automatic weapons in the hands of politicians and criminals.

"After the amnesty, we will launch a major crackdown to get at the illegal weapons, which are contributing to the massive crime wave today," Interior Minister John Amaratunga told reporters on Thursday, promising to provide details later.

Thousands of guns were issued to all mainstream political parties in the late 1980s to protect their leaders and activists against attacks from a Marxist rebel group.

After the rebels were crushed in 1990, the recipients kept the guns and all previous attempts to recover them have failed.

Nepalese rights group says innocents held

KATMANDU, Nepal A number of lawyers, journalists and teachers are being held incommunicado by security forces under Nepal's anti-Maoist state of emergency declared Nov. 25, activists report.

Thursday's claim came as another four persons were killed and the residence of a state minister was bombed in the latest violence since the far-left guerrillas last month revived their military campaign to overthrow the monarchy.

The Human Rights Organization of Nepal urged Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to make public the whereabouts of several people unconnected with the Marxists who it said had been arrested since the emergency was imposed.

Bangladesh newsman held on treason charge

DHAKA, Bangladesh A journalist and Hindu activist held on suspicion of treason, a capital charge, was refused bail by a magistrate on Thursday, his attorneys said.

Defense lawyers added that Shahriar Kabir, jailed after he investigated reputed abuses against the minority-Hindu community, was told this week he would be held for another three months.

Mr. Kabir was produced in a magistrate's court, where his attorneys sought bail, arguing that government detectives had already questioned him for four days. Bail was refused.

Burma once again top opium producer

BANGKOK Burma is once again the world's top opium producer because of a sharp drop in production of the drug in Afghanistan, according to the latest U.S. government survey.

It overtook Afghanistan, which had been the No. 1 opium producer for the past three years, despite having its smallest opium harvest since the mid-1980s this year, the survey showed.

Burma harvested an estimated 865 metric tons of opium in 2001, down from 1,085 tons in 2000, a U.N. official said Thursday, citing the State Department's Annual Survey of Opium Cultivation and Production.

Weekly notes

A unilateral truce announced by Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels at midweek was seen in Colombo as a harbinger of peace talks. The government welcomed the offer of a monthlong cease-fire starting Christmas Day, but did not immediately reciprocate. Burma's military regime released four political prisoners belonging to democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Thursday, an official statement said. The junta said the release of four party members brought the number freed this year to 198.

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