Daily News-April 04- 2001- Wednesday

  • Malaysia moves Burma T-shirt protester to camp
  • Burmese Apply Trade Pressure on Talks
  • Borders to re-open
  • The boomtown that 'drugs built'
  • Myanmar Chambers of Commerce Membership Expands
  • UN Official Travels To Controversial Burma's Gas Pipeline
  • Rangoon agrees to closer co-operation at Kengtung Talks
  • U.N. rights envoy meets Burmese opposition leaders
  • Japan may provide Burma 3 billion yen for aid

  • Malaysia moves Burma T-shirt protester to camp

    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has moved closer to deporting a Myanmar man who stripped down to a T-shirt celebrating opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a Myanmar Embassy party, a U.N. official said on Tuesday.

    Peter Hee Man and three Malaysians were arrested on Tuesday last week at a party celebrating Myanmar's Armed Forces Day in a Kuala Lumpur hotel. The Malaysians were freed on police bail the following day but Hee Man was held in jail.

    Shinji Kubo, protection officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said on Tuesday Hee Man had been moved to a detention camp, where illegal immigrants are usually held before deportation.Kubo said his office had asked Malaysian authorities to let them see Hee Man.

    "We are constantly trying to meet this guy. Hopefully he won't disappear before we meet him," Kubo told Reuters.

    Malaysia had permitted such meetings before, he said, adding that some had prevented planned deportations."I don't know if it (a meeting) can happen this week," Kubo said.

    Police said on Monday Hee Man had not been charged.

    Supporters of Hee Man, a member of Myanmar's Chin ethnic minority, say his life would be in danger if he was returned to that country.But Kubo told Reuters last week it was possible Hee Man could be deported to Thailand instead of Myanmar.

    Myanmar's ruling military body, the State Peace and Development Council, has had a respite from harsh criticism in recent months after news emerged that it was holding talks with Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi.Her National League for Democracy (NLD) won Myanmar's last election in 1990 but has never been allowed to govern.

    Malaysia has often defended Myanmar, a fellow member of the 10-country Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), against international condemnation of its poor human rights record.
    Burmese Apply Trade Pressure on Talks

    By Maung Maung Oo
    source : The Irrawaddy news magazine

    April 03, 2001--In a move seen as an attempt to apply pressure on Thai negotiators meeting with their Burmese counterparts in the northern town of Kengtung, authorities in the southern port city of Kawthaung, opposite Ranong, Thailand, have ordered a ban on all cross-border trade. According to local sources, the order warns that any transaction with Thailand will be treated as a violation of border trade rules.

    "It seems to be not only retaliation against the Thai Third Army's ban on trade with Burma in February, but also an attempt to put pressure on the meeting of the Regional Border Committee (RBC)," said a trader in Kawthaung.

    The RBC has just completed its second day of talks in the Shan State town of Kengtung, about 60 km from the site of a border conflict that broke out in February. The talks are scheduled to end tomorrow.

    So far, according to a Burmese military intelligence source in Kengtung, no effective compromise has emerged from the talks. This top-level meeting between Thai and Burmese authorities is the first of its kind in two years. It follows a series of township-level meetings in February that failed to defuse mounting border tensions in the area around Tachilek and Mae Sai, on the Burmese and Thai sides of the border, respectively.

    A Burmese delegation led by Maj-Gen Thein Sein, Commander of the Triangle Region Command (eastern Shan State), and a Thai delegation led by Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong, Commander of the Third Regional Army (northern Thailand), are participating in the three-day talks. From Kengtung, the Thai delegation will leave for Rangoon to meet with General Maung Aye, number two in the ruling State Peace and Development Council.

    "Myanmar has agreed to the regional border meeting, which is a good sign because we can clear up all the misunderstanding and thus our relations will be cordial," said Thai Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. But Burmese authorities did not seem to expect much progress to result from this meeting, according to a report from the Shan Herald Agency for News, citing a Burmese military intelligence source.

    People in Tachilek, meanwhile, are anxious to see some signs of a thaw in relations with their neighbors. "People are really upset about this border closure," said a businessman in Tachilek. "We business people are expecting results from this border meeting because our business depends on the Thai side," he added.

    Thailand last month unilaterally reopened its border at Mae Sai-Tachilek, but authorities on the Burmese side refused to respond in kind. The border crossing has been closed since a skirmish between the Thai and Burmese armies claimed lives on both sides in early February.

    Both sides have also traded tit-for-tat accusations about their alleged involvement in the local drug trade. However, analysts have noted that Thailand has toned down its accusations that the Burmese regime is playing host to the region's biggest drug producers, apparently in a bid to ease the way for the current talks.
    Borders to re-open

    source : The Nation

    BURMA will re-open the Tachilek and Three Pagodas checkpoints before Songkran starts on April 13, PM's Office Minister General Thamarak Isarangura said yesterday.

    And border officials would allow tourists to travel to those areas during the three-day New Year's festival, Thamarak said. He did not specify the date the checkpoints would be opened.

    Re-opening the border checkpoints had been agreed, he said, during the ongoing Thai-Burma Regional Border Committee meeting in Keng Tung in Burma's Shan State.

    Burma closed the Tachilek checkpoint into Chiang Rai province in February after a series of clashes. The Three Pagodas Pass was apparently closed in retaliation for Thai criticism of Burma's involvement in drug trafficking.
    The boomtown that 'drugs built'

    By Peter Alford, South-East Asia correspondent
    The Australian

    THIS is Mong Yawn: Asia's new drug capital, say Thai and US authorities, but according to Burma merely a township of former hill-tribe people grown suddenly wealthy on mining and agriculture.

    These images, published for the first time by The Australian, are from material gathered by Thai army intelligence and shown this month to Thailand's Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

    They include before and after satellite photographs of Mong Yawn, 5km inside the Burmese border opposite Thailand's northern Chiang Mai province.

    The first photograph was taken in October 1999, when the former hamlet already had about 10,000 residents under control of the United Wa State Army, a powerful ethnic militia aligned with Rangoon.

    The second, from January, shows a modern provincial city of 55,000 people, linked by new heavy-duty roads to other UWSA bases in Burma's southern Shan state, with a hydro-electric plant, schools, hotels, a hospital and military installations.

    The Thais claim that a large casino-hotel complex is under construction, but the Burmese Government denies this and insists Mong Yawn is not a drugs centre.

    "The Wa people are involved in many development projects in the country such as mining, fisheries, logging, agriculture . . . recently they have discovered a huge mine containing at least nine different minerals," a Rangoon spokesman said.

    But Thai Third Army commander Wattanachai Chaimuanwong, who is responsible for security on the northern borders, says the whole enterprise is funded by the UWSA's production of heroin and "speed" - methamphetamines.

    The US Drug Enforcement Agency holds the UWSA responsible for about half of Burma's heroin production and 80 per cent of the speed that is ravaging southern China, Thailand and Laos, and beginning to sweep the rest of the region.

    Although the UWSA has gradually been occupying the border area of southern Shan state since the mid-1990s, Thailand's speed problem was relatively under control until 1998. That year the Wa began building up Mong Yawn, and an estimated 100 million pills, about 1 tonne of methamphetamines, were smuggled into Thailand.

    This year, the Thais expect at least 700 million pills to be smuggled across the border.But while Mr Thaksin says Mong Yawn "was built on Thai tears", some of his countrymen have profited enormously by trafficking in Wa products and supplying the chemicals needed for drug production.

    In the bitter propaganda war over Mong Yawn, Burma claims to have a list of 10 Thai politicians involved in the drug trade.A former minister and suspected narcotics godfather has commercial interests in Mong Yawn.

    General Wattanachai will ask his Burmese counterparts for the list of Thai politicians at a border committee meeting this week, although he says he already knows who the politicians are but is powerless to act against them.
    Myanmar Chambers of Commerce Membership Expands

    2001.04.01- YANGON, April 1 (Xinhuanet) -- The Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) has expanded to comprise a membership of 9,363, said official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar Sunday.

    Of the 9,363 members, 5,815 are Myanmar companies, while 708 are foreign companies and 2,840 are individual members. Among the UMFCCI members, there are 16 state and division CCI, 9 border trade associations and 16 other associations, the report said.

    Myanmar Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1906 when the country was under colonial rule and Myanmar national entrepreneurs were not allowed to join in until 1919. The chamber was upgraded to the UMFCCI in 1999.

    T he UMFCCI, which represents all the Myanmar 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 economies.
    UN Official Travels To Controversial Burma's Gas Pipeline

    Rangoon (AP)--A United Nations human rights official traveled Wednesday to a gas pipeline project in southern Burma where activists claim local people have faced abuses by the army, official said.

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the first U.N. human rights rapporteur to be allowed into the military state in five years, flew to Kanbauk and was due to return to the capital later in the day, an employee of Premier Oil said.

    Kanbauk, 300 kilometers southeast of Rangoon, is the starting point on land for a gas pipeline that carries natural gas from the offshore rigs in the Andaman Sea to Thailand. Companies operating there include Premier Oil of Britain, U.S.-based UNOCAL and Total of France.

    Human rights activists critical of the Burmese military regime claim forced labor was used in construction related to the projects and have urged multinational oil companies to pull out of the country.

    Pinheiro, a Brazilian politics professor, is scheduled to return later Wednesday to Rangoon where he is due to meet with U Lwin, a central executive committee member of the main opposition National League for Democracy, official sources said.

    A meeting with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi isn't on his official agenda, said officials who insisted on anonymity.

    Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her democracy struggle, has been kept under virtual house arrest since Sept. 22 after she defied a travel ban.

    Pinheiro has described his three-day visit, which ends Thursday, as "exploratory." He met Tuesday with Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, a leading member of the ruling State Peace and Development Council. He also met separately with the foreign minister, home minister and labor minister.

    Pinheiro was named U.N. human rights rapporteur to Burma in February, replacing Rajsoomer Lallah, a Mauritian judge who took office in 1996 and resigned in November.

    The junta never allowed Lallah into the country, accusing him of being unfairly critical of the regime. In his reports, Lallah had accused the junta of suppressing all opposition political activity and engaging in "inhuman treatment" of opposition members and ethnic minorities.
    Rangoon agrees to closer co-operation at Kengtung Talks

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Thailand and Burma agreed yesterday to strengthen border co-operation, including joint efforts to fight drugs.

    Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuengwong, the Third Army commander who heads the Thai delegation, said he was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting.

    The issue of joint suppression of drugs along the common border was raised during a private meeting between Lt-Gen Wattanachai and Maj-Gen Thein Sein, the Burmese commander in charge of security in Burma's border area opposite northern Thailand.

    An informed source said Lt-Gen Wattanachai had raised several border issues for frank discussion with Maj-Gen Thein Sein, who promised co-operation against drugs.

    "Burma is ready to help us destroy drug plants in the border area provided we give them information on their precise locations, so they can verify and destroy these drug plants," said a security source.

    He added that both sides would step up border co-operation, especially on intelligence exchanges.

    The Thai side was surprised by the Burmese team's positive responses to a number of issues raised by the Third Army chief, said one member of the Thai delegation.

    Maj-Gen Thein Sein agreed with Lt-Gen Wattanachai's proposal that both sides withdraw their forces deployed at Doi Lang in Chiang Mai's Chiang Dao district since 1997.He also backed the idea that a disputed area at Koo Teng Na Yong in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai border town should be made a demilitarised zone.

    Maj-Gen Thein Sein said the idea would be forwarded to Rangoon for further consideration.

    On the issue of Burmese refugees housed in Thai border camps, Maj-Gen Thein Sein reportedly said there should be no problem in taking back those refugees. However, he disagreed with a suggestion that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees be allowed to look after them inside Burma.

    The Kengtung meeting is scheduled to end this morning with the signing of a memorandum of understanding by Lt-Gen Wattanachai and Maj-Gen Thein Sein.

    Lt-Gen Wattanachai will fly to Rangoon in the afternoon to meet Gen Maung Aye, the Burmese army commander, and Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, secretary one of the State Peace and Development Council.
    U.N. rights envoy meets Burmese opposition leaders

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    Rangoon, April 4 ---U.N. human rights envoy to Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, met senior members of the pro-democracy opposition on Wednesday on the penultimate day of a landmark visit to the military-ruled country.

    Pinheiro met five members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) executive committee at the party's Rangoon headquarters, but has not yet held talks with the party's leader, pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has been held under de facto house arrest since September with access to her strictly controlled.

    Pinheiro declined to comment on the progress of his visit, saying he would make a statement only after arriving back in Geneva on Friday.

    ''Things are very delicate,'' he told reporters in Rangoon.

    He met representatives of non-governmental organisations on Wednesday evening and was due to have dinner with diplomats from Asian countries.

    Pinheiro, a Brazilian who took over as U.N. special rapporteur on Burma after the resignation of his predecessor Rajsoomer Lallah in November, on Monday met the powerful Secretary One of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, and Foreign Minister Win Aung.

    The NLD won Burma's most recent general election in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern.

    But relations between the military and pro-democracy opposition have improved in recent months with a series of private meetings between Suu Kyi and senior generals.

    Diplomats see Pinheiro's visit as another sign of rapprochement between the two sides in Burma.

    Lallah, who resigned in November after four years in the job, was never allowed to visit Burma.

    His last report, in October, accused the military government of torturing, raping and executing civilians, particularly members of ethnic minority groups.

    The United States' annual report on global human rights, released last month, grouped Burma with Cuba and North Korea as the world's three worst countries for human rights abuses.
    Japan may provide Burma 3 billion yen for aid

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    TOKYO, April 4--- Japan may provide Burma with about three billion yen ($23.89 million) for humanitarian aid and pave the way for full resumption of official assistance which it halted in 1988, Jiji news agency said on Wednesday.

    Last month, Kyodo news agency reported citing officials that Tokyo was considering resuming full official development assistance (ODA) because it saw a softening in the military government's stance.

    The three billion yen aid will be aimed at repairing a power plant and also to promote dialogue between the country's military regime and pro-democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Jiji said.

    Japan has provided technological aid and grants for humanitarian purposes since 1995 but has held off from resuming full-fledged assistance, which would include new yen loans, after Burma's military crushed a pro-democracy uprising.

    Japan provided Burma with 50 billion yen ($398.1 million) in ODA up to 1988, the officials said.

    In contrast, grants for humanitarian purposes totalled only 880 million yen in fiscal 1999 and 1.5 billion yen ($11.94 million) ($12.78 million) in fiscal 2000, they said.

    Burma has been requesting Japanese support for such projects as dam and road construction, domestic media said.
    ($1-125.59 Yen)