Daily News-April 03- 2001- Tuesday

  • UN envoy's trip caps year of change in Burma
  • State council vice-chairman visits Mon State
  • 40,000 Burmese hit by TB; now a mammoth effort ahead
  • 36 Burmese nationals remain under detention in Andamans Islands
  • U.N. Human Rights Monitor arrives Burma
  • Chavalit optimistic Kengtung talks will help strengthen border co-operation
  • Fate of Burma's pro-democracy activist in Malaysia unclear
  • Burma's Leader Stresses Need for Technical Advances
  • Burma claims to have cut trade deficit by 73 per cent
  • UN human rights envoy met with top members of Burma's junta

    UN envoy's trip caps year of change in Burma

    source : The Nation

    THE upcoming visit to Burma by newly appointed U nited Nations human-rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro comes at a time when Rangoon is showing signs of being willing to make some concessions to its critics.

    Pinheiro was quoted by a senior Thai government official as having said he would try his utmost not to leave Rangoon empty-handed.

    The 57-year-old Brazilian political science professor, the first special UN rapporteur to be allowed entry into Burma in nearly five years, has been in Bangkok for the past week holding a series of quiet meetings with diplomats and Thai and UN officials to prepare for his trip.

    He will head to Rangoon today for a three-day visit to meet Burmese generals and opposition leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since September. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won Burma's general election in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern.

    Pinheiro's fact-finding trip includes a visit to Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur before returning here.

    His predecessor, Rajsoomer Lallah - an Oxford-educated judge from Mauritius who resigned in November after four years in the post -had criticised the junta for failing to abide by its commitment to uphold democracy. Lallah was banned from visiting the country.His last report, in October, even accused the military government of torturing, raping and executing civilians, particularly members of ethnic minority groups.

    Pinheiro's mission, on the other hand, comes amid a series of positive developments in the military-ruled, trouble-plagued country.

    "There appears to be a number of changes inside Burma," an informed source quoted Pinheiro as having said.

    Over the past year, the relationship between the UN and the Burmese junta has improved gradually. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent his special envoy Razali Ismail, a Malaysian career diplomat, to Rangoon twice last year. And in January a delegation from the European Union's Troika was also permitted to visit Rangoon, a month after the EU-Asean foreign ministerial meeting in Vientiane.Soon after Razali's visit, a senior member of the ruling State Peace and Development Council,Lt-General Khin Nyunt, and opposition leader Suu Kyi started what appeared to be a very significant development: They began holding direct talks after six years of bickering and mudslinging.

    But leaders of armed ethnic groups fighting for autonomy have warned against being too optimistic, saying details of the dialogue are not known. Moreover, they add, any real reconciliation dialogue in the ethnically diverse country would include them.

    Late last week Japan approved aid for a hospital in what appeared to be another significant development as Tokyo had earlier followed Western countries in imposing sanctions on Burma following the junta's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy students in 1988. Rangoon officials have been receiving training from Canberra on human rights, and the military state is now looking to form a human-rights commission of its own.The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are the only Asean members so far with a national human-rights body.

    However, Burmese human- and labour-rights activists have opposed Rangoon's move to form the commission, accusing the junta of being deceptive.

    According to a Thai government official, Pinheiro was keen to gain better understanding of Thai-Burmese relations. "We told him that it was complicated," the official said.
    State council vice-chairman visits Mon State

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Apr 2, 2001

    Gen Maung Aye, vice chairman of the State Peace and Development Council [SPDC], deputy commander in chief of Defence Services, and commander in chief of army, left Yangon [Rangoon] for Moulmein, Mon State, by military plane yesterday morning and arrived there at 0930 [localtime]. He was accompanied by Lt-Gen Win Myint, SPDC secretary-3 and adjutant general; Commander in Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Kyi Min; Lt Gen Tin Hla, deputy prime minister, minister for military affairs, and quartermaster; ministers, senior militar officers, the deputy minister for agriculture and irrigation, heads of the SPDC Office and departments.

    General Maung Aye and party were welcomed at Moulmein Airport by Deputy Commander of Southeast Command Brig Gen Myo Hla, and military and departmental officers... Gen Maung Aye later held a meeting with local officials at Yamanya Hall of Mon State Peace and Development Council.Deputy Commander of Southeast Command Brig-Gen Myo Hla reported on matters related to gross national product, GNP, of Mon State for 2000-2001 and progress of work, cultivation and production of paddy, rice sufficiency of Mon State and preparations for realization of the objectives of the short-term five-year plan which starts from 2001-2002...

    Then, Deputy Director of Planning Department U Wan Shwe also reported on matters pertaining to the net value of goods produced and services provided in respective economic sectors of Mon State and the rate of economic growth.

    Minister for National Planning and Economic Development U Soe Tha reported on matters related to the total value of goods produced and services provided in states and divisions, the contribution of Mon State to GNP of the state, per capita income and tasks to be carried out by Mon State in connection with the short-term five-year plan.

    Gen Maung Aye said the SPDC is building a peaceful, modern developed nation by laying down the correct political, economic and social objectives and upholding our three main national causes - non-disintegration of the union, nondisintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty. Only when the state has economic, political and defence strength, will our three main national causes be safeguarded forever and the prestige of the nation be recognized in the community of the world. He spoke of the need for officials of Mon State and the people to uphold national policies and objectives laid down and practised by the state in all seriousness and to make concerted efforts in harmony and unity for progress of the nation. Endeavours are to be made for national development and progress of Mon State with patriotism.

    Gen Maung Aye said, according to the reports of officials, the total value of goods produced and services provided of Mon State for 2000-2001 has increased. Similarly, economic progress rates of other states and divisions have also increased. He spoke of the need to implement the plans in order that Mon State does not lag behind other states and divisions in terms of development. According to the production condition, there is surplus food for over 51 million population at present. But arrangements are to be made now for food sufficiency of over 100 million population in the future, he said.

    He spoke on extended cultivation of main crops of the State such as paddy,cotton, sugarcane, peas and maize and other successful crops in the region and seeking ways and means to boost per acre yield. Duties have been assigned to states and divisions to make arrangements in the regions for sufficiency of vegetable and fish and meat besides paddy. Arrangements are also to be made in Mon State and perennial crops that contribute towards economy are to be cultivated, he added. In an effort to develop economic progress, the government has made plans for participation of national economic entrepreneurs by promoting their participation in development of the Mon State.

    Gen Maung Aye explained that an average rate of 7.5 per cent in growth has been achieved since the implementation of , the First Short-Term Four-Year Economic Plan in 1992-93 and that economic growth is expected to average at 8 per cent...

    After the meeting Gen Maung Aye and party inspected the Thanlwin [Salween] Bridge construction project in Moulmein...

    Source: TV Myanmar, Rangoon, in Burmese 1330 gmt 31 Mar 01
    40,000 Burmese hit by TB; now a mammoth effort ahead

    source : The Myanmartimes

    ABOUT 40,000 Myanmar people were infected with the tuberculosis bacteria, which annually killed almost two million people around the world, according to Myanmar Health Minister Maj-Gen Ket Sein.Maj-Gen Ket Sein made his comments during the opening addresss of a seminar held at the International Business Centre to commemorate World TB Day 2001 on March 24.

    The date this year was marked by the release of statistics showing there was little reason for celebration in the world’s fight against the disease.According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Tuberculosis Control Report 2001, tuberculosis infection rates have been aggravated in developing countries by increasing population densities, malnutrition, poverty and HIV co-infections.

    National reports from across the developing world show consistently upward trends in the spread of the disease, despite efforts by health agencies and individual governments to combat it.According to an official from Myanmar’s National TB Program, about five per cent of TB sufferers died each year.Dr Daw Ti Ti said the upwards trend was largely attributable to patients failing to properly take medicines, and infecting other people around them. The spread of multi-drug resistant TB is a new and major concern across the developing world. TB bacilli become resistant to TB drugs when treatment is irregular, or drugs are taken in the wrong combinations; it makes the cure of TB difficult, and often prohibitively expensive.“Patients fail to take drugs once they recover in one or two months, and that leads to the deterioration of the patient and drug resistance,” Dr Ti Ti said.“Even more pressing, is that those patients then spread the disease to others in a form which is already resistant to drugs.

    “We are now conducting ‘direct observation treatments’ in which a patient is watched by a health worker or a family member to make sure the patient takes the drug in a timely fashion.Dr Ti Ti said the government had set up a plan, under the auspices of the WHO, which aimed at halving the number of TB cases by 2010. But the realisation of that goal would require a mammoth effort, she said.

    For the time being, let alone halving the trend of the disease, we are striving to keep the trend from continuing,” she said.

    TB is a bacteria which infects the human respiratory system.It is spread when saliva droplets containing the TB bacilli are transmitted from a TB patient through coughing, sneezing or spitting.A person with active TB will, on average, infect 15 other people annually.In a new threat to the health of developing nations, TB is now the biggest killer of people who are HIV-positive, accounting for one third of AIDS deaths worldwide and 40 per cent of AIDS deaths in Asia.Around the world each year, TB strikes eight million people and kills nearly two million.
    36 Burmese nationals remain under detention in Andamans Islands

    Kolkata, April 2, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    More than three years have passed that the investigation of the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) is unable to conclude and with the Ministry of Defence virtually refusing to cooperate, the36 Burmese citizens remain under illegal detention in the Andamans Islands of India.

    The humanrights lawyers of India are filing petitions before the court in Port Blair this week for theimmediate release of 36 Burmese nationals. Although the light for their release remains dim, theirfreedom, if it were, would expose the true story behind this “controversial” episode.

    On February 12, 1998, Major-General S.C Chopra, Additional Director General, military operations, Ministry of Defence announced in a press conference in New Delhi that Indiansecurity forces had intercepted, on 11 February, a major gang of international gunrunners in theAndamans Seas and they had arrested 73 gunrunners who were supplying arms to the North Eastmilitant groups. The authorities claimed that six persons were killed in the encounter. The arrestsand seizure of around US $ 1 million worth arms was described by the Indian armed forces as“Operation Leech”, a joint operation of army, navy, air force and Coast Guards.

    However, the other side of story is totally different. In their letters from the jail to outside world,the prisoners revealed that they were Arakan and Karen ethnic people from Burma engaged in thestruggle against the Burmese military junta.

    According to them, the Indian army had allowed them to operate from Landfalls Island in the Andamans. In exchange for this facility, a colonel of theIndian army Lt. Col. Grewal - had taken thousands of dollars and gold in exchange for the useof the island but he double-crossed them and shot dead six of their senior leaders in cold blood.

    After months of detention and investigation, the CBI revealed in the court that 37 of those held under detention were in fact fishermen and thus they were released on 7th May 1999 and later deported to Burma.

    The CBI said that it has not concluded investigation on the remaining 36 accused persons. In its appeal filed before the court in Port Blair on 17th May 2000, CBI mentioned the delay in investigation due to non-cooperation of Indian Defence authorities.

    The 36 are charged under the ordinary criminal code for waging war against India, under the Arms and Explosive Substances Act, and under section 3 (1) (b) of the National Security Act,1980. The detention under the National Security Act, 1980 was for one year and not renewed after the one-year period completed on May 15, 1999.

    Out of 36 detenus, 25 belong to National United Party of Arakan (NUPA) and 11 are from Karen National Union (KNU), both fighting against the Burmese junta with armed struggles.

    The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Port Blair, on October 13, 1999, released the 36 accused persons on bail when a well-known human rights lawyer Ms. Nandita Haksar filed petition for their release. The local Superintendent of Police, however, passed an order, immediately re-arrested them and put them under arrest in a building in Port Blair.

    Since then, they have been held under “illegal” detention in the police-guarded building although the conditions of detention have improved over the months due to interventions of their lawyers.

    The 36 Burmese have approached the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR) for protection and UNHCR has agreed to consider it.

    In her letter to the UNHCR in Geneva on January 15, 2001, Ms. Nandita Haksar has mentioned that if her clients are not given the protection of the UNHCR, they could be held indefinitely or be deported to Burma. All the 36 detenus have a well-founded fear of persecution if they are deported.., she wrote.
    U.N. Human Rights Monitor arrives Burma

    Rangoon (AP)--The first U.N. human rights official to visit Burma in five years arrived Tuesday for a groundbreaking visit that signals the governing military junta's willingness to loosen restrictions.

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a Brazilian politics professor, is expected to meet with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been kept under virtual house arrest since Sept. 22 after defying a travel ban.

    Details of Pinheiro's schedule or the length of his trip were not immediately known, and a United Nations Development Program official would only confirm his arrival. The government also didn't issue a statement.

    The junta has in recent months showed signs that it is prepared to seek reconciliation with Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party, which has long been a target of its repression. It was reported late last year that junta leaders had held secret talks with Suu Kyi. The state media also has stopped its almost-daily diatribe against Suu Kyi and the NLD.

    Pinheiro was named U.N. human rights representative in February, replacing Rajsoomer Lallah, a Mauritian judge who resigned in November, saying he didn't have the resources to carry out his task. His predecessor, Japanese professor Yozo Yokota, resigned for similar reasons.

    Burma's junta never allowed Lallah, who took the job in 1996, to visit the country, accusing him of being unfairly critical of the regime.

    But the Foreign Ministry said last week that Pinheiro was being welcomed because he seems to be "pragmatic and non-biased."

    The current military regime took power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy uprising. In 1990, it held national elections that were overwhelmingly won by the NLD, but the generals refused to hand over power. During the last decade, hundreds of NLD activists have been jailed.
    Chavalit optimistic Kengtung talks will help strengthen border co-operation

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh is hopeful that ongoing border talks in Burma's Kengtung would help strengthen Thai-Burmese ties and border co-operation.

    One had to be optimistic over the April 2-4 Regional Border Committee meeting, jointly chaired by Third Army chief Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong and his Burmese counterpart Lt-Gen Thein Sein, he said yesterday.

    Gen Chavalit has made it a precondition that the talks be held before he makes an official visit to Burma.

    Gen Chavalit said border disputes between Thailand and Burma were nothing unusual, likening them to frequent clashes between a person's tongue and teeth.

    The defence minister said Thailand and Burma were still good neighbours so one had a very good reason to be optimistic that the meeting would have some positive result.

    The Thai-Burmese border situation tensed up following clashes between troops of both countries in early February after Burmese soldiers seized a Thai border outpost at Ban Pang Noon in Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang district.

    Thai security forces later recaptured the outpost and retaliated by heavily shelling Burmese forces who were operating against ethnic Shan rebels in the area.

    Lt-Gen Wattanachai said in Chiang Mai before leaving for Kengtung that he was optimistic the meeting would help strengthen border co-operation between the two countries.

    The Third Army chief said issues that could not be resolved during the meeting would be left for further talks at a much higher level.

    The Third Army would propose that two areas-Chiang Mai's Doi Lang and Chiang Rai's Koo Teng Na Yong at Mae Sai border town-be made demilitarised zones.

    Co-operation against drug trafficking along the common border would also be raised unofficially.
    Fate of Burma's pro-democracy activist in Malaysia unclear

    KUALA LUMPUR, (AFP)--- Fears that Malaysia will deport a Burmese pro-democracy activist remained real on Monday as the UN refugee agency said it has yet to interview him in police custody.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said it wants to interview Peter Hee Man to assess whether he should be granted refugee status in Malaysia.

    "We are trying to get the UN protection officer to interview him next week," a UNHCR official told AFP Monday.

    The UNHCR and human rights groups have urged the government not to deport Hee Man as they fear for the activist's safety at the hands of Burma's ruling military junta.

    Hee Man and three Malaysians were arrested on March 27 after some 20 activists gatecrashed a Burmese embassy party and stripped off to reveal T-shirts emblazoned with the image of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest in Rangoon since September.

    The three Malaysians were detained overnight and then released.

    One of them, K.P. Lee of the Burma Solidarity Group Malaysia, urged the UNHCR not to delay the interview.

    "Time is running out. Hee Man has been in custody for almost a week. Any further delay will put him in danger of deportation. He may be classified as illegal and deported," he told AFP.

    Lee said that UNHCR protection officer Shinji Kubo, who has the authority to accord Hee Man refugee status, had told him early on Monday that the UNHCR has not been able to fix an interview date with Hee Man.

    Kubo is away attending a seminar in the eastern state of Sabah on Borneo island. Lee said Hee Man told him he while they were being held together that he fears deportation.

    "His intention is to be safely resettled in a third country. Being deported to Burma is something he does not want," he said.

    The human rights group Aliran said last week that to deport Hee Man would be "an inhuman act that would condemn him to torture or even death at the hands of the ruthless Burmese military junta."

    Another rights group Altsean-Burma said it also had "grave concerns" for the safety of Hee Man should he fall into the hands of Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council.
    Burma's Leader Stresses Need for Technical Advances

    Source : Xinhua

    Burma's leader Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt has stressed the need to place emphasis on technical advances and strong economy, calling on his country people to work for the goal in unity and with might and main, official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday.

    Speaking at an annual general meeting here of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), Khin Nyunt, First Secretary of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council, said that science and technologies are advancing at a blistering pace and globalization is taking place under the present international situation.

    He noted that every nation is making all-out efforts to uplift their national economic life and not to lag behind others in the process of international development.

    He blamed that some developed nations, that have gained the upper hand in terms of technology and economy, have come to use their advances in technology and strong wealth as a weapon, as a result of which, he added, the gap of technology and wealth among the nations in the world is getting wider and wider.

    He pinpointed that it is a significant condition of the world today that some developing nations, that want to safeguard against inequality of opportunity for economic development, have come to place emphasis on cooperation on a mutually beneficial basis rather than economic competition and formed economic cooperation organizations.

    Accordingly, he said, Burma is striving for the improvement of national economic life in the international front, cooperating with regional economic organizations.

    The UMFCCI, which represents all the Burma's businesses of national entrepreneurs, has joined the Paris-based International CCI and ASEAN CCI and has also signed memorandums of understanding with 18 organizations from 13 countries.
    Burma claims to have cut trade deficit by 73 per cent

    Source : Deutsche Presse-Agentur

    Burma slashed its trade deficit by 73 per cent during the first ten months of fiscal year 2000/01, news reports said Sunday.

    The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper cited the ruling junta's first secretary, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, as claiming the deficit had been reduced to 285 million dollars during the period, compared with a deficit of 1.054 billion dollars in the same period of 1999/00.

    Burma's fiscal year starts April 1 and ends March 31.

    Khin Nyunt, in a speech to the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce on Saturday disclosed that Burma's exports during the April 2000 to January 2001 period reached 1.237 billion dollars, while imports hit 1.521 billion.

    During the same period in fiscal 1999/00 Burma exports were 910 million dollars and imports were 1.964 billion, Khin Nyunt revealed.

    Trade statistics are rarely disclosed in Burma, where a military junta has ruled with dubious economic results, since September 1988.

    Macroeconomic statistics have become increasingly scarce since the Asian crisis of 1997 that adversely affected Burma's ability to attract foreign investment and trade with its Southeast Asian partners.

    Khin Nyunt noted that public sector imports in the first ten months of fiscal 2000/01 had declined by 30 per cent while private sector imports increased 5 per cent.

    Public sector exports in the same period hit 395 million dollars, a 66 per cent jump over the same period in 1999/00, while private sector exports were 842 million dollars, up 25 per cent.

    Burma's chief exports items are timber and fisheries products, pulses and beans.

    The Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce, started in 1999, has 5,815 Burmese members, 708 foreign companies and 15 state enterprises.

    Prior to 1988, when Burma was still following the "Burmese Way to Socialism," the private sector was generally excluded from all aspects of the economy, save the booming blackmarket.
    UN human rights envoy met with top members of Burma's junta

    Rangoon, April 3 (AFP)

    The United Nations' new human rights envoy met with top members of Burma's junta Tuesday, which analysts say is another sign of the political shift taking place here.

    Brazilian academic Paulo Sergio Pinheiro flew into Rangoon for the first time early Tuesday after being given permission to travel to the military-run country just weeks after his appointment.

    His predecessor, Rajsoomer Lallah, quit last year after never visiting the military-run country.

    It remains unclear if Pinheiro will be allowed to see opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since September, but his packed three-day schedule appears to leave no time for such a meeting.

    On his arrival aboard a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok, Pinheiro was greeted by Burma's former representative to the UN, Win Mra, who heads the Department of International Organisations and Economic Relations.

    After talks with Foreign Minister Win Aung, the special rapporteur went on to see Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, who has been meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi in historic contacts that began last October.

    The secret dialogue has raised cautious hopes that the two sides may be able to negotiate a power-sharing agreement and a transition to democracy that would end a decade of political deadlock.

    The junta's decision to allow Pinheiro in so promptly has been hailed as a new sign of the ruling State Peace and Development Council's willingness to begin cooperating with the outside world.

    Diplomats note the move comes ahead of this month's UN general assembly on human rights, and after last year's damning resolution by the International Labor Organisation which caused deep concern in Rangoon.

    "This is a very positive sign," said one observer. "They need to normalise their relations with the international community."

    Special rapporteurs are independent experts whose mandate is to present reports to the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights which then decides whether to take further action.

    By all accounts, Pinheiro's discreet approach to the job so far has won plaudits among Burma's generals who deeply resented the approach taken by the outspoken Lallah, who filed a string of critical reports.

    "This is a no-lose situation for the SPDC. It's not likely that Mr Pinheiro will issue a report more damning than Lallah did," said Debbie Stothard from the activist alliance Altsean-Burma.

    Stothard welcomed the visit as a valuable opportunity for Mr. Pinheiro to gain entry into Burma.

    But she warned the junta must prove its recent gestures were more than an cynical attempt to deflect criticism.

    "The military regime has obviously gone on a big public relations exercise and are very keen for the international community to ease off the pressure," Stothard said.

    "They also now realise that they catch more flies with honey."

    During the visit, meetings are also slated with Home Affairs Minister Colonel Tin Hlaing and Labour Minister Major-General Tin Ngwe, as well as Women's Association leaders and representatives of the UN agencies in Rangoon.

    Discussions with representatives of the ethnic nationalities, whose agreement will be crucial in any transition to democracy, and the business community in Rangoon are also on the agenda.

    On Wednesday the special rapporteur is due to take a trip outside the capital to a controversial gas pipeline, which the junta's critics say has been built at the cost of gross human rights violations.

    Before departing on a flight to Bangkok Thursday Pinheiro is to have a final wrap-up meeting with Win Aung.

    The Burma's junta has been singled out as one of the world's worst human rights offenders, responsible for political repression, torture and forced labour within its borders.

    The UN Human Rights Commission last year passed a resolution expressing grave concern at the "systematic and increasingly severe" rights violations in the country.