Daily News-April 22- 2001- Sunday

  • Rangoon Pleased With Talks with Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Struggling Burmese currency hits record low
  • Thai Army sends containers to Bangkok
  • Senior General Than Shwe inspects world's largest 45.06-mme pearl
  • Khin Nyunt urges traders to resist imported goods
  • Burma's Bilateral Trade with Asean Members Up in 2000
  • Burma Publicizes Actions Against Methamphetamine
  • Two DKBA militiamen killed in east Burma attack

  • Rangoon Pleased With Talks with Aung San Suu Kyi

    WorldNews.com, Sat 21 Apr 2001

    VOA News Gary Thomas.

    A senior Burmese official said his government is pleased with the talks so far between top government officials and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win said talks between the government and opposition are being held on a regular basis and are going well: "We see this as a process. So the process is going quite smoothly, and I think that both sides are quite satisfied with the way that things are going. And, as you mention, we are trying to build confidence on both sides. But you will appreciate that both sides have also agreed to keep them confidential."

    The highly secretive talks are seen as the first potential break in the long political stalemate between the military government of Burma or Myanmar, as the government has re-named it and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and leader of pro-democracy movement. Khin Maung Win confirmed that the talks began last October because of an initiative by U.N. Special Envoy Razali Ismail. But no one knows how long the process might take, or what the end result might be.The two sides have been at odds since 1990 when the government nullified the election won by Aung San Suu Kyi's party and moved to suppress the democracy movement.

    Khin Maung Win said there are "many positive developments" that have occurred over the past two or three years. But Aung San Suu Kyi remains in seclusion, some analysts say house arrest in her lakeside home in Rangoon. Requests to the government to be allowed to interview her were turned down.

    The minister who, Rangoon-based diplomats say, wields far more influence than his title suggests said Aung San Suu Kyi is not being detained. "Maybe this may be somewhat surprising to the outside world, but she seems to be quite agreeable and quite happy with the present arrangement. Let me emphasize that we are not keeping her under house detention or that she is being detained in any way," the minister said.

    When asked if she could go out, Khin Maung Win said,"well, you know, she herself is very careful about the process. So let me just say that she herself is happy with the present circumstances."

    With access to Aung San Suu Kyi denied, the assertion could not be directly confirmed. But a senior Western diplomat in Rangoon said Aung San Suu Kyi has, in fact, conveyed to some people that she is content to remain out of the spotlight for the time being, and that he does not believe she is being held under duress.

    Khin Maung Win also had surprisingly high praise for United Nations human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who was allowed to visit Burma earlier this month and met with both Aung San Suu Kyi and top government officials.

    "We believe that he has presented quite an objective and fair and balanced report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission," Khin Maung Win said. "And we hope that this will continue. Because when we speak of human rights I think it is best for the international community and other international organizations to work together than try to isolate a nation. In fact, this was one of the themes he was trying to, as far as we can read (tell), to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, saying that the international community should avoid trying to deepen the isolation of Myanmar."

    The deputy minister indicated that Mr. Pinheiro would be welcome back because of what he termed the "positive nature" of his initial visit.
    Struggling Burmese currency hits record low

    source : CNN
    April 21, 2001

    YANGON, Myanmar (Reuters) --Myanmar's currency, the kyat, has fallen to a new record low because of a lack of confidence in struggling economy, dealers said Saturday.

    The official exchange rate of the Myanmar currency is pegged at six kyat a dollar -- unchanged for more than three decades -- but black market traders in the capital told Reuters the currency had sunk to 600 per dollar on Friday from 530 on April 1.

    It was 585 kyat a dollar a week ago, they said. The previous record low was 590 kyat a dollar on February 20, but it rebounded to 490 kyat a dollar two weeks later.

    Dealers blamed lack of proper handling of the economy and growing inflation as the underlying causes of the free fall.

    Donors reluctant

    Myanmar, also known as Burma, has a serious foreign reserves shortage,according to the Asia Development Bank.

    The bank said on Tuesday that the country's gross foreign exchange reserves at end-March 2000 were only about $240 million -- less than two months of exports -- and reflected the fragile state of the external balances.

    ADB said in its Asian Development Outlook for 2001 that ending the policy of multiple exchange rates would remove both an existing distortion in resource allocation and a strong disincentive to investment.

    Foreign donors remain reluctant to help Myanmar because of the country's human rights record. The pro-democracy opposition, led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has campaigned to discourage foreign investment in the country until the military allows political reform.
    Thai Army sends containers to Bangkok

    source : The Nation

    THE Third Army yesterday ordered 44 containers carrying electricity-generating equipment destined for a power plant being built just inside the Burmese border to be returned to Bangkok after local residents threatened to set fire to the shipment.The villagers fear the lignite-fuelled plant will spew pollution across the border.

    The Third Army will meet with National Security Council officials next week to discuss possible legal conflicts regarding the containerised shipment, sources said.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who on Friday ordered the containers stopped before they crossed the Mae Sai-Tachilek border, insisted he would not allow the trucks to cross into Burma unless Rangoon could prove that the shipment belonged to the government.

    More than 500 villagers in the northern border town of Mae Sai in Chiang Rai province yesterday threatened to set fire to the containers and block the road if authorities allowed the truck convoy to cross into Burma.They also demanded that the containers be opened to verify the contents. The villagers said they suspect the trucks also contain a chemical liquid used in the production of amphetamines.

    The villagers strongly criticised security officials for failing to ascertain whether the containers held equipment that could be a threat to national security or the environment. If not for the soldiers who arrived just in time to stop the trucks, the containers would have crossed into Burma, the villagers said.

    Local residents have many concerns about the power plant, which is being built about 4.5 kilometres from the Thai-Burmese border. Villager leader Chalermchai Chaimanee said that Mae Sai residents have long studied the effects of sulphur dioxide emissions from lignite-fuelled power plants.

    "The villagers believe that this power plant would facilitate the production of amphetamines," he said.

    Thaksin said he had ordered the block of 44 containers stopped at the border because security forces believed that most of the supplies were bound for the United Wa State Army's (UWSA) headquarters in Mong Yawn, 80 km southwest of Tachilek.Authorities had blamed the ethnic minority militia as being responsible for a flood of narcotics into Thailand.

    Thaksin said Thailand was ready to cooperate and let the trucks cross the border if Rangoon could prove that the equipment belonged to the government and not to the UWSA. Thaksin called on Burma to help tackle the drug trade and suggested that it take action against the UWSA.

    The premier said Burma's military government appeared confused about its relationship with the UWSA, which has been branded a major producer of heroin and methamphetamines by US and Thai anti-narcotics agencies.

    "Rangoon is still confused over the roles and its relationship with the Wa," Thaksin told reporters on the sidelines of a tourism industry meeting in Chiang Mai.

    "If Rangoon thinks the Wa, which we believe is a major drug producer, is just a (rebel) ethnic group, that's fine. But if Burma accepts that they belong to the country, the Burmese government must help us handle the drug issue."
    Senior General Than Shwe inspects world`s largest 45.06-mme pearl

    source : NLM

    Yangon, 20 April - Chairman of the State Peace and Development CouncilCommander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Than Shwe inspected the world`s largest natural pearl at the hall of the Office of theCommander-in-Chief (Army), the Ministry of Defence, at 1.30 pm today.

    Found on the seabed at Mukkalauk pearl oyster ex-ploration area north-west of Zadetgyi Island in Kawthoung Township, Taninthayi Division, the pearl is 6.2 cm in length, 5.3 cm in width and three cm in height, exceeding the measurements of the Hope Pearl recorded as the world`s largest in the past.

    The pearl`s weight is 45.06 mommes, 845 carats, 169 grams and 929.50 yatis.According to Gemological Institute of America, the Hope Pearl found in about1800, was 5.71 cm in length and 90 grams in weight.

    The silvery pearl was found in an oyster of Pinctada Maxima species.MyanmarAndaman Pearl Co Ltd found the pearl on 18 April in the pearl oyster exploration area and handed it over to the State. The company is working under the profit-sharing agreement with Myanma Pearl Enterprise.

    In addition to the pearl`s size, it is also a rare, significant and quality gem, the find of which is auspicious news to the State and the people.
    Khin Nyunt urges traders to resist imported goods

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Apr 20, 2001

    Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt has asked Myanmar [Burmese] traders to maintain a patriotic outlook and work for the interests of the nation and cautioned them against reliance on imported goods.

    Contemporary Myanmar entrepreneurs should adopt the attitude of their predecessors circa 1919 who held the motto that "only when the economy is strong, can nationalistic spirit be strong", he said.

    Speaking at the 10th annual general meeting of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry at Traders Hotel, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt urged delegates to support moves against the import of goods which were not in the population's best interests.

    "For example, monosodium glutamate, a wide range of drugs and energy drinks can be harmful to the people's health," he said. In another development at the meeting, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt confirmed the chamber had been authorized to establish a website to promote contact with foreign organizations "thereby leading to e-commerce", he said...

    Traders told Myanmar Times after the meeting, in response to the secretary-1's comments, that the roll back of border trade would not seriously affect them. "Even if the bilateral trade was totally prohibited,there would be no serious matter at the national level," said one trader.

    "Trade between Thai and Myanmar is only a part of the overall border trade."Another said price rises would be an issue but that locally-made products or those imported from alternate sources "would gradually substitute them".

    "Here, one of the issues is that we need better incentives from the government, such as in tariff and infrastructure facilities," he added. The chamber and independent traders have been applying for tax reductions since 1999 in a bid to make locally-produced goods more affordable.Another issue cited by the businessmen is communication facilities, including the cost of telephone connections and subsequent low rate of usage.

    Source: The Myanmar Times web site, Rangoon, in English 20 Apr 01
    Burma`s Bilateral Trade with Asean Members Up in 2000

    Xinhua News Agency - April 18, 2001

    YANGON, Apr 19, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar's bilateral trade with five other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines -- totaled 1.651 billion U.S. dollars in 2000, up 8.76 percent from 1999.

    According to the latest figures published by the country's Central Statistical Organization, trade with the five countries accounted for 40.4 percent of Myanmar's total foreign trade during the year with its import from these ASEAN members amounting to 1.243 billion dollars, while its export to them valued at 408 million dollars.

    Of Myanmar's bilateral trade with these ASEAN member states during 2000, that with Singapore accounted for the highest volume with 756.96 million dollars or 18.5 percent of the country's total foreign trade, followed by that with Thailand, 534.41 million dollars or 13 percent, that with Malaysia 242.39 million dollars or 5.93 percent and that with Indonesia 114.26 million dollars or 2.79 percent.

    However, import from the Philippines was nil, and the export to that country was worth only 3.85 million dollars.

    In 2000, Myanmar's total foreign trade, including the border trade, totaled 4.086 billion dollars, of which imports were valued at 2.567 billion dollars, while exports amounted to 1.519 billion dollars. The trade deficit stood at 1.048 billion dollars.
    Burma Publicizes Actions Against Methamphetamine

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP)--Myanmar, under severe criticism from neighboring Thailand which alleges it is the source of huge quantities of the illegal stimulant methamphetamine, publicized two crackdowns on the drug in its state-controlled press Saturday.

    Police in Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city 560 kilometers north of Yangon, arrested four people and seized nearly 300,000 methamphetamine tablets Apr. 2, the Myanmar-language Kyemon daily reported Saturday.

    Acting on a tip-off, local police together with intelligence officers put a house in Mandalay under surveillance and arrested a man named Li Su Kyin who turned up with 298,400 methamphetamine pills, the newspaper said. His arrest led to the capture of three other suspects, including a woman.

    The newspaper also reported that a court in the northeastern city of Lashio last month sentenced five men to prison terms of 20 years each in connection with a huge seizure of methamphetamine in June last year. Local police and anti-narcotic forces seized the 4,486,000 methamphetamine tablets from a truck carrying drums of tar on the Naungcho-Maymyo highway, about 600 kilometers north of Yangon. The contraband was hidden inside the drums.

    The official Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control admitted earlier this year that although production of opium has fallen sharply - Myanmar is, with Afghanistan,one of the world's two biggest producers of opium and its derivative, heroin - amphetamine-type stimulants have been posing a new threat since 1996.More than 26 million methamphetamine tablets were seized in 2000 and 4 million tablets have been seized in the first three months of this year, according to figures from the government committee.

    Thailand accuses Myanmar's ruling military of turning a blind eye to the production of methamphetamine at laboratories near their common border. The Thais says the drug is produced by ethnic minority groups who are given some autonomy in return for agreeing to end armed rebellions against the central government. Thailand has called the influx of methamphetamine a threat to national security and recently began expediting the execution of criminals convicted of drug trafficking.

    On Friday, Thai police seized 1.2 million methamphetamine tablets of in the northern province of Petchabun and arrested five Thais who are facing trafficking charges, national police chief Gen. Pornsak Durongavibul told reporters Saturday. One of those arrested was a prominent businesswoman in the province.

    On Monday,the Thai military confiscated 7.6 million methamphetamine tablets, the country's second largest seizure ever. The seizure took place when the army intercepted a drug caravan in the northwestern province of Tak near the border with Myanmar, also known as Burma.
    Two DKBA militiamen killed in east Burma attack

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    BANGKOK, April 22---Two members of a Burma's ethnic minority militia force allied with the military government were killed on Sunday in an attack by unidentified rivals in the east Burmese border town of Myawady , Thai military sources said.

    ''At around 4:00 am (2100 GMT) an unidentified rebel group, armed with rifles and mortars, opened fire on the DKBA troops for about half an hour,'' said a Thai military source based on the Burmese-Thai border.

    Two fighters from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) were killed and two wounded in the attack. Two villagers were also wounded, the Thai sources said.

    The DKBA and Burmese government forces fight the autonomy-seeking Karen National Union (KNU) guerrilla army in that part of eastern Burma but the KNU had not claimed responsibility for the attack, the Thai sources said.

    Thai military authorities closed the border crossing between the Thai town of Mae Sot, about 500 km (300 miles) northwest of Bangkok, and Myawady after the attack.

    The area of the attack is believed to be one of Burma's main areas for producing illegal methamphetamines, which have been flooding into Thailand in recent years.

    Thai military sources say the DKBA, formed by a KNU splinter faction in 1994 after a split with the Christian-led, anti-Rangoon group, is involved in the drugs trade.

    In a related development, Thai authorities ordered a convoy of trucks trying to take power-generation equipment to the northeast Burmese town of Tachilek to return to Bangkok, Thai media reported on Sunday.

    Thai authorities stopped the convoy crossing from the northern Thai town of Mae Sai into Tachilek last week because they believed the power equipment was bound for another Burma's ethnic minority militia group blamed for large-scale drug production.

    Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Saturday he had ordered the convoy of trucks carrying the equipment to return to Bangkok as Thai security forces believed most of the supplies were bound for the United Wa State Army (UWSA) militia group.

    Relations between Burma and Thailand soured earlier this year when their troops clashed at the border near Mae Sai and their governments traded accusations of support for the drugs trade.

    The UWSA, which is allied with the Burmese army, has been branded a major producer of heroin and methamphetamines by U.S. and Thai anti-narcotics agencies.