Daily News-August 13 - 2001- Monday

  • Karens held matyr's day ceremonies
  • UN agency to step up work in response to plea from Rangoon
  • IKEA destroys Burma goods in world warehouses
  • IVANHOE declares allegiance in sanctions warfare
  • Marubeni finances Komatsu fleet for dam construction
  • Mild quake on Indo-Myanmar border
  • WHO:HIV infection still an upward trend in Burma
  • Burma's Rubber Export Declines in First Quarter
  • The arms deals; Burma and Thailand go shopping
  • Indonesian President Megawati to visit Burma in this month
  • Indian Publication Hails Progress in Relations With Burma
  • Junta freed MP Daw San San

  • Karens held matyr's day ceremonies

    Members of the Karen National Liberation Army salute fallen commrades during martyr's day ceremonies Sunday, August 12, 2001, at their camp in Wahlerkee, Myanmar. The ethnic Karen was been battling against the government in Yangon for more than 50 years and still seek an autonomous state. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
    UN agency to step up work in response to plea from Rangoon

    Bangkok Post - Thailand; Aug 12, 2001

    The World Health Organisation will take "immediate action" to step up its work in Burma in response to calls from UN representatives in Rangoon.

    Matilda Kentridge, communications officer for the WHO in Geneva, said the organisation would "intensify" its focus on the HIV/Aids epidemic, maternal health, tuberculosis and malaria.

    In response to queries from the Bangkok Post, Ms Kentridge dismissed earlier reports the WHO received an appeal from its representative in Burma to lift sanctions against the country on humanitarian grounds.

    She said Gro Harlem Brundtland, the WHO director-general, and the heads of other UN agencies with offices in Burma, received letters from representatives in Burma encouraging the agencies to "consider ways in which approaches to UN mandates and activities in Burma could be made more consistent and cohesive.

    "The letter also drew attention to the level of Official Development Assistance for Burma and called for support for increased advocacy to expand assistance," Ms Kentridge said. "The letter cited HIV/Aids, illicit drugs and food security as three important areas for consultation and common action.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Unicef, and the UN Development Programme also have offices in Burma.

    "WHO has studied the letter carefully," she said. "WHO's director-general recognises that complex humanitarian issues are faced by the people of Burma and takes this situation extremely seriously.

    "In consultation with other UN organisations in Burma, we will take immediate action to step up our work with the people of this country. We are already intensifying our co-operation on HIV/Aids work in conjunction with other UNAIDS co-sponsors," she said, citing Unicef, the UN Population Fund, and the UN Drug Control Programme.

    "WHO's country office in Burma and regional office in New Delhi, together with the different technical departments in Geneva, were involved in a co-ordinated response to this complex humanitarian situation. "Among other health-related issues, we will intensify our focus on the HIV/Aids epidemic, maternal health, tuberculosis and malaria in Burma, as well as in other countries in the region that are similarly affected."Burma was ranked 118 among 162 countries surveyed in the UNDP's latest Human Development Index.

    At the end of 1999, 1.99 million adults aged 15-49, including 180,000 women, and 14,000 children aged up to 14 were said to be living with HIV/Aids.

    Another 256 people per 100,000 were afflicted with malaria.The infant mortality rate per 1,000 births was 79 and the maternal mortality rate was 230.
    IKEA destroys Burma goods in world warehouses

    Burma Courier No. 282 Aug 11, 2001
    Based on news and letter posted on Free Burma Coalition website:

    WASHINGTON - Swedish furniture maker IKEA has contacted the Free Burma Coalition saying that it has ordered its chain of retail outlets throughout the world not to sell products that have been sourced in Burma.

    In response to a letter from FBC, IKEA International, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, said that ordering from Burma had been terminated in May 1999 and that the company had issued order to destroy any stock from Burma still in its warehouses. IKEA said its units in Thailand and Singapore were aware of and totally supported the decision not to do business with Burma.

    The IKEA letter is among several new ones from companies, principally clothing retailers, posted on the FBC website that advise that they are refusing to accept products made in Burma.

    Columbia Sportwear wrote on July 24 to say "Columbia" labels seen being sewn into garments at a Burmese factory were either "counterfeit" or manufactured for a foreign company using the name "Columbia". The U.S. sportswear dealer said that it had ceased all production in Burma in 1994, "as a direct result of concerns regarding that country’s human rights violations".

    A letter from Betsy Reithemeyer, director of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart Stores, declares that the internationally known retailer will not source its own brand products in Burma, nor sell from suppliers who have sourced there.

    Jeremy Woodrun, FBC’s executive director, said that Wal-Mart Canada had refused to provide the guarantee over suppliers in previous correspondence. "In-store label checks will determine if Wal-Mart has really cleaned up its act and stopped propping up the [Burmese} junta," commented Woodrun.

    Other North American companies jumping on the Burma ban bandwagon include Family Dollar Stores, TJX Companies, Fila U.S.A., Costco Wholesale, Kenneth Cole, and A.S.L.
    IVANHOE declares allegiance in sanctions warfare

    Burma Courier No. 282 Aug 11, 2001

    VANCOUVER- A statement issued by Ivanhoe Mines, posted this week on a Myanmar government website, refers to sanctions as "a form of war" and declares that the company will not "become a casualty of external political confrontation that has no certain outcome".

    An Ivanhoe spokesperson told the Burma Courier that the statement had been issued at the time of the company’s annual meeting in Vancouver in June, but would not say who was responsible for it. Pictures of both Robert Friedland, Ivanhoe board chairman, and Daniel Kunz, company president,accompany the statement on the Myanmar government site.

    The Ivanhoe statement also says that delay or cancellation of a proposed $US 400 million expansion project at the mine the company operates in partnership with Myanmar’s military government would affect the lives of thousands of people who would benefit from the effects of the expansion. The company says allegations that substantial profits from the mine are a major source of revenue for the government of Myanmar and its military budgets are false.

    Mining analysts have cast doubts on the viability of Ivanhoe’s investment in Myanmar because of its association with the military government which is being targeted for international sanctions over its refusal to respect the basic human and civil rights of millions of its citizens.

    A "values" statement issued by Ivanhoe says the company is committed to "enterprise that demonstrates its support for human rights and social justice", but according to the company statement posted on the Myanmar website, its "social priorities" will not be "controlled by those with the megaphones whose motives approve of the publication of false and defamatory claims slated to mislead and influence decision makers in Western societies".

    A peaceful sidewalk picket, staged outside Ivanhoe company headquarters in Vancouver this week by Burma exiles and their supporters to mark the 13th anniversary of the bloody suppression of demonstrations against military rule in Myanmar, was under close surveillance by security personnel and civic police forces.

    Canadian poet and journalist Karen Connelly told a couple of dozen demonstrators and passers-by who stopped to listen: "We are here to commemorate the lives of the people who died in the 1988 democracy uprising. We are here to stand behind the people of Burma as they continue working against the violence and degradation that is a daily part of their lives. There is a direct link between military violence in Burma and the money-making ventures of companies like Ivanhoe Mines. By its presence in Burma, Ivanhoe Mines and other Canadian and international companies prop up a savage military regime and make money on the backs of impoverished and oppressed Burmese citizens.

    "We are here to remind ourselves that Burma is not so far away. Most of the heroin that circulates on the streets and in the veins of this city comes from Burma. The billions of dollars Canadians taxpayers pay to manage the social and medical costs of heroin addiction are a direct result of the Burmese military's engagement in the opium trade.By investing in Burma, Ivanhoe Mines and other businesses are also investing in the international heroin trade.

    "Everything is connected. That is what we are here to remember: the present is connected to the past, and to the future. Tomorrow, August 8,Burmese exiles and refugees everywhere in the world, as well as 50 million people in Burma, will remember the atrocities that were committed thirteen years ago, when Burmese people cried out for political change. We are here to add our voices to their voices."
    Marubeni finances Komatsu fleet for dam construction

    Burma Courier No. 282 Aug 11, 2001

    RANGOON- Burma's national power company, MEPE, has taken delivery of a US$3 million fleet of dump trucks for excavation work at the Kunchaung dam project site near Pyu about 140 miles north of Rangoon.

    The purchase of the 12 Komatsu trucks, which can carry loads up to 25 metric tons was financed by the Japanese trading company Marubeni.

    The Myanmar Times reports that the giant dumpsters represent the first in a series of deals with state corporations are working out with Komatsu which will result in the importation of 135 machines, including hydraulic excavators, dump trucks and earth graders. The deals represented a big jump in sales for Komatsu, which sold only twenty machines in the country last year. The Japanese firm has been a leading supplier of heavy vehicles since 1995, accounting for 600 machines.

    The Kunchaung dam and hydro electric project, seven miles southeast of Pyu, is one of a cluster of four in the Sittaung river basin announced last January. It will be a joint purpose facility capable of irrigating 110,000 acres when completed and of providing water power for generating 60 MW of electricity.
    Mild quake on Indo-Myanmar border

    SHILLONG: An earthquake of mild intensity having a magnitude 4.6 on the Richter scale shook Shillong and its neighbouring area at 0728 hours on Sunday, according to the Seismological Observatory Centre here.

    The epicentre of the quake was located at latitude 23.3 degree north and longitude 93.1 degree east on the Indo-Myanmar border, sources said. The tremor lasted for few seconds. No loss of life or damage to property was reported, official sources said. ( PTI )
    WHO:HIV infection still an upward trend in Burma

    HANOI (Reuters)---Asia may have beaten the worst of the AIDS epidemic with condoms, but the region's growing sex industry highlights the need to promote wider usage to prevent new infections, World Health Organization experts said on Monday.

    Speaking at the start of a five-day conference in Hanoi they said the numbers of people in Thailand and Cambodia with HIV-- the virus that attacks the immune system and leads to AIDS -- had dropped steadily thanks to wider use of condoms.

    However, a WHO statement said 800,000 people were still expected to die of AIDS every year in Asia by 2005 and the course of the epidemic depended on how heavily populated countries like China and India responded.

    Many parts of Asia are witnessing an increase in part-time prostitutes, working in bars, health clubs, massage parlors, karaoke bars, restaurants and hotels.

    The WHO said these women included students who did not see themselves as sex workers at high risk and therefore did not insist on condom use.

    The WHO said HIV infection was on an upward trend in Burma and some Indian states. The infection had continued to spread among needle injecting drug users, with more than 50 percent infected in Nepal, southern China and northeast India.

    Cambodia was the worst-hit country outside Africa, with 2.8 percent of its adult population aged between 15 and 49 infected, while Thailand, Burma and some Indian states also had rates of 2-3 percent among adults, it said.

    However, new infections each year in Thailand had dropped to 20,000 in 2000 from 143,000 in 1991, while in Cambodia, new infections among sex workers under 20 had fallen to 23 percent last year from more than 40 percent in 1998.

    Thailand's 100 percent condom use program directed at sex workers and their clients prevented millions of HIV infections in the 1990s, it said.
    Burma's Rubber Export Declines in First Quarter

    Rangoon, Aug 13(Xinhua) -- Burma exported 4,700 tons of raw rubber in the first quarter of this year, a 56-percent decrease from the same period of 2000, the latest data of the official Economic Indicators show Monday.

    The earning through the export of raw rubber during the period was registered at 2.4 million U.S. dollars, reducing by 58.4 percent compared with the corresponding period of 2000.

    Meanwhile, during the three-month period, the country imported rubber goods worth 7.3 million dollars.

    According to official statistics, Burma exports 26,300 tons of raw rubber annually, earning 22 million dollars of foreign exchange.

    Burma has been striving to extend the cultivation areas of rubber which is one of its major industrial crops and one of its major foreign exchange earners.

    A latest report said the country has extended the rubber plantation area from two divisions and states to four with the increase of the hectarage from 81,000 in 1994 to 182,250 at present.

    In Burma, 2.62 million hectares are reportedly suitable for rubber growing.

    Of the country's present rubber plantations, 13 percent is owned by the state and 87 percent by the private sector, while of the rubber production, 15 percent is by the state and 85 percent by the private enterprises.
    The arms deals; Burma and Thailand go shopping

    Source : Roger Mitton, Asiaweek

    What's happened?

    In a game of tit-for-tat, two of Southeast Asia's testiest neighbors have gone on an arms-buying spree. Last September, Thailand bought a squadron of used F-16 fighters from the U.S. for $ 130 million. (It couldn't afford the more sophisticated F-18s.) The planes were used to buzz Myanmar troops during a border tiff earlier this year. Soon after, Burma ordered 12 MiG-29 fighters from Russia, for $ 150 million. Now Bangkok has revealed it's getting eight advanced air-to-air missiles from the U.S. for $ 7 million. Wait for Burma to announce it will buy similar missiles from Moscow.

    What's behind the arms race?

    Despite warming relations between the two nations, memories of their conflicts are still vivid and regularly invoked in the media. So they will continue to be on guard even as trade ties strengthen. But the buying sprees also reflect the obsession of military men the world over: boys love their toys. The military in both nations, as in much of the rest of the region, still retain huge clout. In Rangoon, of course, it rules the country. But other nations have been buying up big: Indonesia has F-16s and wants Russian Su-30 fighter-bombers; Malaysia has F-18s and MiG-29s and now wants a submarine; Singapore outdoes them all with a 200-strong fleet including some of the world's most advanced jets.

    What's Russia's interest?

    It's not just the money. Moscow wants to consolidate its ties with the Burma military and counter the influence of China, Singapore and Israel, which also supply arms. Burma recently sent 300 military personnel to Moscow for training in flying and maintaining the MiGs and in rocket technology.

    Can Burma afford it?

    Burma is almost bankrupt; its economic mismanagement is unrivaled in the region. But it is resource rich. Sales to Thailand of natural gas alone will cover the cost of the Russian jets.
    Indonesian President Megawati to visit Burma in this month

    Source : Deutsche Presse-Agentur

    Rangoon, August 13---Newly appointed Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri will pay a one-day visit to Burma later this month, diplomatic sources said on Saturday.

    Megawati, who on Thursday named her cabinet, has accepted the invitation of Burma's junta leader Senior General Than Shwe to visit the country on August 24, according to Rangoon based diplomats.

    She will lunch with Than Shwe, discuss matters of common interest and depart on the same day.

    Her predecessor, the recently ousted Abdurrahman Wahid, also visited Burma a few weeks after he became president on November 7, 1999.

    Burma became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in July, 1997, despite opposition from the United States of America and the European Union which continue to condemn the ruling regime for its poor human rights record and failure to impliment political reforms.
    Indian Publication Hails Progress in Relations With Burma

    Source : Rangoon,(Xinhua)

    There has been significant progress made in recent years in the bilateral relations between India and Myanmar with all-round intensification of exchanges in a wide range of sectors -- political, economic, commercial, cultural, scientific and technical, and defense. The Indian News Annual 2001, lately published by the Indian Embassy here, attributed the encouraging development of their bilateral relations mainly to the visit to India by General Maung Aye, vice-chairman of the Burma State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and deputy commander-in-chief of the Defense Forces and Commander-in-Chief of the Army, in November last year, and that to Burma by Jaswant Singh, Indian External Affairs Minister, in February this year.

    On the two countries' military cooperation, the Indian publication said the defense forces of India and Burma have enjoyed close and friendly relations since the independence of the two countries with regular exchange of visits of defense chiefs of the two countries and a tradition of regular cross-border meetings between armed forces units stationed at the common border.

    On the India-Burma economic relations, it said since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, India has extended to Burma a loan of 400 million rupees (about 8.8 million U.S. dollars) and a credit line of 25 million dollars. In addition, India has also spent 1 billion rupees (about 22 million dollars), building for Burma a 160-kilometer-long Tamu- Kalewa highway in the two countries' border areas. Meanwhile, Burma and India have also signed the trade agreement, air transport agreement, border trade agreement, science and technology agreement.

    Specifically with regard to the India-Burma trade relations, the news annual said India is Burma's largest export market today, taking over 80 percent of the country's exports of beans and pulses, timber, and also a significant quantity of gems. While Burma's exports to India in 1999-2000 were 128 million dollars, India's exports to Burma have been rising steadily in recent years from 5.9 million dollars in 1990-91 to 68.6 million dollars in 1999-2000. Burma and India established diplomatic relations on January 4, 1948, signing a Treaty of Friendship on July 7, 1951 and a Boundary Agreement on March 10, 1967.
    Junta freed MP Daw San San

    Source : BBC World Service

    The military authorities in Burma have released two more opposition activists from detention - Duwar Zaw Aung and Daw San San.

    About 150 political prisoners have been freed so far this year.

    The releases come amid long-running talks between the military government and the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

    She is still under virtual house arrest.

    The opposition National League for Democracy won elections in Burma in 1990, but the military has never allowed it to take power.