Daily News-August 08 - 2001- Wednesday

  • Burma Education Reform Questionable
  • Myanmar Leader Links Development with Education Sector
  • Watchdog slams call to lift sanctions
  • Indian leaders to address media on human rights in Burma
  • Iraqi foreign minister confers with Burmese forestry minister
  • Iraq, Burma sign agreement on trade, economic cooperation
  • Burma to set up job agency
  • Burma's ethnic refugees in Indian border get no help
  • Myanmar Designates Some Narcotic Drugs As Illegal Sale
  • Burmese students hold embassy demo on protest anniversary
  • Russia set to strike arms deal in Burma
  • Maj-Gen Thein Sein to visit Thai aircraft carrier

  • Burma Education Reform Questionable

    By Tin Maung Htoo
    Burma Media Association (www.bma-online.net)
    August 7, 2001

    Lecturers serving for various Burma's universities and colleges were ordered to upgrade with the doctorate degree, and most of those who handed in their assigned thesis were subsequently honored with the Ph.D. within a few months,said sources in Burma.

    However, it is seen as a questionable practice of the current regime under its ongoing effort of "Education Reform" as the required timeframe for receiving Ph.D. degree on the reported account is extremely short while getting the same identical degree abroad is quite competitive and lasting so many years.

    The possible reason, sources in Burma said, is insufficient number of professors in Burma. Sources familiar to Burma education sector said there are only 30 Burmese professors who got their Ph.D. degree from world-famous universities, and they are, along with the low-profile lecturers and instructors, working for 123 universities and degree colleges with the student population of 530,000.

    The number compared to neighboring countries is much lower, and in Thailand alone, there are more than 500 western-trained Thai academics and intellectuals teaching and guiding their students, along with the hundreds of expatriate Burmese academics.

    The ruling military government lunched an "Education Reform" in 1997 but actually intensified with the so-called "Four-year Education Plan (2000-2004)" in 2000 in order to fix up a long plaguing education system.

    The plan, according to Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, is aimed at offering all-round education, raising the level equal to international standards and eliminating the disparity between educational availability in the urban and rural areas.

    According to sources, he is the one who gave the order to the lecturers with master degree to take Ph.D. in order to increase the high-profile academic number in the country and to boost the achievement of one of the objectives that is to reach the international standards.

    On the contrary, he is also known as the chairman of Education Board giving order to shut down universities and colleges for so many years in order to crack down student movements in the country with other stringent measures. Nevertheless, the military government boosted in recent months that they had allocated $10 million for education sector in the fiscal year 2000-01 as the second consecutive increment and the evidence of how they are sustaining the education standard.

    But Vancouver editor of weekly "Burma Courier," Mr. Eric Snider countered the junta's claim in the way that, "US$ 10,400,000 spent on 7,330,000 students equal to US$ 1.42 per student to educate Myanmar's youth in 2000-2001," noticing "Lots of bang for the buck in Myanmar!"

    It is often reported that more than 40% of annual government budget is used for military at the expense of social, health and education.
    Myanmar Leader Links Development with Education Sector

    YANGON, August 7 (Xinhuanet)-- Myanmar leader Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt said Monday that advances in science and technology accelerate globalization, playing a key factor that affects the development of the education sector.

    Meeting with the country's basic education teachers here, Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council, noted that rapid advances in science and technology have brought about the gap of technology among the nations of the world,which in turn leads to the widening gap of wealth and development among them , official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported Tuesday.

    He stressed the importance under these circumstances to lay down plans in his country's education sector with national awareness.He told the teachers that the government is systematically implementing the education reform programs, designed to produce highly-qualified human resources in an effort to enable the nation to keep abreast with other nations in the international community and effectively use its own national forces.

    Myanmar started planning its education reform in 1997 and has drawn up a four-year special national education promotion plan(2000-04 ) which aims at offering all round education, raising the level of studies to be equal to international standards and abolishing as much as possible the disparity between education available in the urban and rural areas.

    Meanwhile, the Myanmar government allotted 2.252 billion Kyats (5.9 million U.S. dollars) plus 4.5 million dollars in implementing the country's education program in the fiscal year 2000-01 which ended in March,according to the Myanmar Education Ministry.

    The ministry's figures also show that over 200,000 teachers are teaching over 7 million students at over 39,000 basic education schools.
    Watchdog slams call to lift sanctions

    source : The Nation

    A Washington-based labour rights watchdog yesterday slammed a collective call to lift international aid sanctions against Burma, saying the move may have been triggered by false information about the situation in Burma.

    In a statement sent to The Nation, the Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB) cited a June 26 report by the state Chinese media, Xinhua News Agency. The report quoted Rangoon's No 3 leader, General Khin Nyunt, as saying that sanctions by the West did not have much impact because economic and social infrastructure was progressing steadily.

    However, according to a May report of the FTUB, quoting figures from 1988 to last year, government expenditure on defence had increased from 22.35 per cent to 49.93 per cent. At the same time, spending on health-care and education had dropped from 4.71 per cent and 12.9 per cent to 2.53 and 6.98, respectively.

    The statement was in response to the call by officials of nine UN agencies in Burma including the UN Children's Fund, the UN Drug Control Programme, the World Health Organisation and World Food Programmes.

    The nine agencies, in a joint statement, said that with some 500,000 people HIV-positive and a high infant-mortality rate, Burma was on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. The statement added that 25 per cent of all newborn babies in Burma were underweight and one in three children would be malnourished by the age of five.

    Rebutting their argument, the FTUB statement quoted a Burmese figure from the Central Statistics Organisation that foreign investment in Burma for the first quarter of this year rose by US$41.49 million (Bt1.87 billion), representing a 315.2-per-cent increase from the same period last year.

    "As Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and the Central Statistics Organisation are never wrong, we may conclude that the UN employees are wrong," the statement said. Countering the UN's argument, the FTUB suggested the UN agencies should instead tell the junta to increase spending on health and education, restructure the country's Foreign Direct Investment to benefit agriculture - its main economic sector - and stop using forced labour.

    The FTUB said the Burmese regime - not Western nations or democratic forces - had imposed sanctions upon itself by refusing to cooperate with the IMF on poverty-reduction and good-governance programmes.

    The Burmese labour organisation challenged the UN officials to report to the UN headquarters how they had been restricted from going into the field to obtain information.

    "This would help the UN and the international community get an unbiased view and would be extremely useful in the decision-making process regarding Burma," the FTUB said.
    Indian leaders to address media on human rights in Burma

    New Delhi, August 7, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    Leaders of major political parties in India will address "the situation of human rights in Burma and the response of Indian government" in a press conference tomorrow on the 13th Anniversary of Burma's democratic uprising, according to a press release today.

    Under the banner of "Friends of the Democratic Movement in Burma", Indian political leaders both from the opposition and ruling parties are scheduled to address the Indian media at Press Club in New Delhi to commemorate the Burmese people's uprising for democracy and human rights thirteen years ago.

    The speakers will include Mr. Shambhu Sharan Srivastav, spokesperson of Samata Party, Mr. Sitaram Yechury, Politburo member of Communist Party of India (Marxist), Mr. J. Chittaranjan, Member of Parliament from Communist Party of India, Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Member of Parliament from Congress party. While Samata Party whose leader Mr. Gorge Fernandes is known for his outspoken support towards Burmese democratic movement is a partner in the ruling coalition government in India, the other parties are opposition parties.

    Mr. Ravi Nair, executive director of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC) will also address the press conference, the release said. After initially supported the democratic movement in Burma, India is currently engaging with the Burmese military regime. It conferred the prestigious peace award of Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for 1993 to the Burmese pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 1995.

    The Friends of the Democratic Movement in Burma, is an umbrella of Indian civil society groups and Burma's democracy activists and ethnic nationalities living in India. A public demonstration of Indian and Burmese activists will be held later in the evening in New Delhi to protest against the ongoing political repression in the military-run Burma.
    Iraqi foreign minister confers with Burmese forestry minister

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Aug 6, 2001

    Text of report by Iraqi radio on 6 August

    Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr Naji Sabri received Mr Aung Phone, Myanmar [Burmese] minister of forestry, and the accompanying delegation. The foreign minister stressed the importance of visits between the two friendly countries in strengthening bilateral relations in all fields, especially since Iraq and Myanmar are being subjected to colonialist pressures targeting their independence and national sovereignty under pretexts known to all.

    The foreign minister reviewed Iraq's valiant steadfastness under the leadership of President Saddam Husayn, may God protect him, in the face of the fiercest colonialist military campaign.

    Aung Phone expressed his country's firm desire to develop relations with Iraq in all fields and voiced Myanmar's solidarity with Iraq and support for Iraq's legitimate calls for lifting the embargo. He expressed his country's condemnation of the flagrant aggression led by the United States.

    Means of developing bilateral relations and the desire of both countries' leaderships to open new and varied horizons of cooperation in the service of their mutual interests were also discussed during the meeting.
    Iraq, Burma sign agreement on trade, economic cooperation

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Aug 6, 2001

    Text of report in English by Iraqi TV on 6 August

    Iraq and Union of Myanmar [Burma] have signed today an agreement for trade and economic cooperation. The Iraqi side was headed by Minister of Trade Dr Muhammad Mahdi Salih, while the side of Myanmar was headed by Minister of Forestry Mr Aung Phone.

    Dr Salih delivered a speech on the occasion in which he stressed that the agreement will participate in developing cooperation between both countries in various fields.

    For his part, Mr Phone also delivered a speech in which he expressed pleasure to sign the agreement, stressing his country's keenness to develop trade and economic relations with Iraq.

    On the other hand, Iraqi Industries Union and Union of Trade and Industrial Chambers in Myanmar have signed an agreement of joint cooperation.
    Burma to set up job agency

    source: The Nation

    Rangoon plans to set up a job-placement agency to standardise procedures for its nationals to participate in the Thai labour market, a senior Thai Labour Ministry official said yesterday.

    The ministry would also assign a unit to coordinate the intake of Burmese migrant workers, Permanent Secretary Elawat Chandraprasert said. Elawat had discussed the issue of the millions of illegal Burmese workers in Thailand with Burma's Labour Ministry during his visit there last week.

    He applauded Burma's move, saying it would help bring order and transparency to the hiring of foreign labourers. "With the job-placement company run by the Burmese government, workers from Burma would come to Thailand through legal channels. The Thai side would also be able to get an accurate number of Burmese workers in our country," Elawat said.
    Burma's ethnic refugees in Indian border get no help

    Kaki Village (Indo-Burma border), August 7, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    A large number of Arakanese refugees who fled from Burmese military's repressive measures have been living silently in the Indo-Burma border areas in Mizoram State of India without receiving assistance from outside world.

    Most of them came from Arakanese villages of Palatwa Township in western Burma and they have been scattering along the Mizoram-Burma border and Bangladesh-Mizoram-Burma border areas since 1988.

    Without any assistance and not getting even awareness on their existence in these remote areas, the Arakanese refugees are facing enormous survival problems and many have died over the years due to lack of basic medicines and food.

    There are at least five Arakanese "refugee" villages in Mizoram (such as Kaki, Laung Machu, Duduswara, Laungatoan, Hmawngbuchhuah) along the border areas with Burma and upto 400 families live in a village. While the State government has failed to recognize them as "refugees", the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in New Delhi does not cover its actions in this north eastern state of India.

    Transport and communication even to the nearest Lawngtlai town in southern Mizoram is very difficult due to porous terrains. The lack of medicines, doctors and food has made many refugees die every year in winter and rainy seasons.

    The Arakanese are one of the ethnic nationalities of Burma and the refugees alleged that they were the victims of dictatorial and repressive actions of the Burmese military government, now known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Many refugees recall their bitter experiences of forced labour, forced porter, forced tax-collection, rape and various arbitrary abuses of the Burmese soldiers in their native villages in Arakan State.

    "We fled our villages when we could no longer bear the repression of the Burmese army. But, since we arrived this area (refugee village), we have been facing several problems. We do not have proper shelter and work to survive. We don't have any land to farm ", said a refugee who left his village (Poan Nyinn Wa village) in Arakan border in 1989.

    According to him, despite the International Labor Organization's pressure on the Burmese regime to end the use of forced labor in the country, the Burmese army continues to practice forced labor in a large scale in remote villages in northern Arakan State.

    Although they yearn for going back to their homes in Burma, they said they couldn't do so as the human rights abuses of the Burmese army continue unabated inside the country. Burmese government last year reportedly asked these refugees to come back but the refugees are not willing until their life is guaranteed in Burma.
    Myanmar Designates Some Narcotic Drugs As Illegal Sale

    YANGON, August 7 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar has designated some six kinds of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as illegal sale if they are possessed or transported or transferred with the weight specified or more than it, official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar quoted a recent order issued by the Ministry of Health as reporting.

    The specifications cover 3 grams (gm) of Amphetamine, 2 liters of Codeine liquid, 5 gm of Codeine tablets, 0.25 gm of Diphenoxylate, 10 gm of Pethidine injection and 10 gm of Pethidine tablets.

    Myanmar enacted a new Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law in January 1993, declaring 126 drugs as narcotic, 34 substances as psychotropic, 3 plants as narcotic and 8 chemicals as precursors.

    Since then 14 death sentences, 84 sentences for unlimited number of years, 35 life sentences and 7 above-20-year sentences have been passed on drug offenders, according to Myanmar's Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control.

    Meanwhile, during the first five months of this year, the Myanmar drug control authorities exposed a total of 1,251 drug- related cases, seizing 419 kilograms (kg) of opium and 25.25 kg of heroin, and punishing 1,781 drug offenders.
    Burmese students hold embassy demo on protest anniversary

    BANGKOK, Aug 8 (AFP)

    Burmese students held a protest outside the military regime's embassy in the Thai capital Wednesday to mark the anniversary of Rangoon's bloody 1998 student uprising.

    A group of six students held aloft a large picture of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and shouted slogans at the brief demonstration at the gates of the Bangkok mission.

    In a statement the group, calling itself the Music League for Democracy, demanded the military government release Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and free other political prisoners from the nation's jails.

    It also called for the contents of the regime's 10-month dialogue with the Nobel peace laureate to be revealed.

    "(We) strongly demand the junta government immediately hand over the people's power to the National League for Democracy party which won a landslide in the general election of 1990," it said in a statement.

    Myanmar opposition groups operating in Thailand were forced to scale down commemorations of the "8/8/88" protests in light of violent rebel actions on Thai soil including the siege on the Burma embassy in October 1999.

    At the Maneeloy holding camp for Burmese dissidents, the scene of unruly protests in past years, some 400 people gathered peacefully Wednesday to hear speeches by Buddhist monks and chant slogans calling for political reform.

    Across the border in the Burma jungles, two pro-democracy groups -- The National Council of the Union of Burma and the All Burma Students' Democratic Front -- held meetings to mark the anniversary.

    In Thailand's Kanchanaburi province near the Three Pagodas pass, some 30 Burmese minorities held a ceremony honouring those killed in the uprising, and donated blood to Thai hospitals.

    In Rangoon, sources from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) said Tuesday that the opposition party was planning to mark the anniversary for the first time in several years.

    By mid-afternoon the low-key ceremony had not gone ahead but party sources said events may take place later in the day.

    Annual ceremonies to mark the bloody protests of August 8, 1988 petered out during the late 1990s crackdown on the NLD, which came close to collapse in the face of a brutal campaign of repression and arrests.

    Hundreds of democracy demonstrators were gunned down in the 1988 Rangoon student uprising, paving the way for a junta to take power from longtime military strongman Ne Win the following month.

    The junta allowed free elections in 1990, which the NLD won convincingly, but the military regime has always refused to recognise the result.

    The resulting decade-long stand-off showed the first signs of cracking late last year when, at the urging of United Nations envoy Razali Ismail, the two sides began their first dialogue since 1994.
    Russia set to strike arms deal in Burma

    MOSCOW, Aug 8 (AFP)

    A high-ranking Russian military delegation has arrived in Rangoon on a four-day visit to sign arms contracts with the Burmese government, the Russian defense ministry said Tuesday.

    Russian Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Dmitryev, who arrived in Rangoon Monday, is to sign an agreement on military cooperation as well as a series of arms-sales contracts with Burma's deputy prime minister and defense minister, Lieutenant-General Tin Hla, the AVN military news agency quoted the ministry as saying.

    Although the Russian defense ministry did not disclose the content and the amount of the contracts, AVN said they could include the sale of MiG-29 fighters to Burma and exceed 100 million dollars.

    Russian officials said earlier that Moscow considers Burma a promising partner in the Asia-Pacific region.

    The Burma junta is accused by the United States and the European Union of frequent human rights abuses.
    Maj-Gen Thein Sein to visit Thai aircraft carrier

    Source : Bangkok Post

    A Burmese delegation would visit Chakri Naruebet aircraft carrier at Sattahip naval base during a meeting of Thai-Burmese Regional Border Committee later this month, a source said.

    The meeting, on Aug 22-24 in Pattaya, would be chaired by Lt-Gen Wattanachai and Burma's Regional Triangle commander Maj-Gen Thein Sein.

    The navy usually allows visitors to visit the ship at weekends.