Kim Jong Il biographies seized in Myanmar

Last Updated: Sat, Jul 31, 2010 04:40 hrs

North Korean diplomats seized translations of a biography on regime leader Kim Jong Il by a local writer prior to a visit of the country's foreign minister, sources said Saturday.

'They came to my office earlier this month and told me to hand over these books,' said Hein Latt, 62, a well-known Myanmar translator of biographies on world leaders.

The Myanmar language-book titled 'Kim Jong Il: North Korea's Dear Great Leader' was recently published in Yangon with permission from the Myanmar Press Scrutiny and Register Department.

The unauthorised seizure took place prior to the visit of North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun to Myanmar this week.

'They demanded I hand over all books including those were already in the stores, but I told them it was impossible to take them back from book stores,' Hein said. 'Finally I had to hand over 310 books that I was keeping with me for sale.'

'I gave my books to them because I did not want to get into trouble with North Korean men,' said the writer, adding that he did not receive any compensation. About 700 books have already been distributed, he said.

'They said I should base translations on facts from those books published in their own country,' Hein said.

There has been no official reaction from Myanmar's ruling junta over the seizure, which has riled local publishers and writers.

'It was an illegal act. They don't have a right to seize books that are legally published in Myanmar,' said a prominent book publisher in Yangon who requested anonymity. 'It is like bullying, and insulting our sovereignty.'

One government official, who also requested anonymity, acknowledged: 'They are not authorized to do this because the book is legally published.'

Myanmar and North Korea have moved closer in recent years as both face crippling economic sanctions from Western nations because of human rights violations.

Both countries have also been criticized for alleged cooperation in the field of nuclear weapons technology.

The two countries resumed diplomatic relations in 2007 after years of hostility following an assassination attempt by North Korean agents against South Korean president Chun Doo Hwan in Yangon in 1983.

The bombing at the Martyr's Mausoleum failed to kill Chun but resulted in the death of 21 people, including four South Korean cabinet ministers.