Daily News-August 16 - 2001- Thursday

  • Burma says bad publicity hit tourism industry
  • Cooking Oil Shortage Continues
  • Myanmar Increases Edible Oil Import in First Quarter
  • Village abbot seeks Shan group help to tackle drug problem
  • Burmese arrested with Indian faked currency notes but released later
  • Fisheries and border demarcation highlight next month Khin Nyunt's Thai visit
  • Burma warlord says he's fighting drugs
  • Russian Spy Aids Burmese Military
  • Thai-Burma Border Tension Down, Trafficking Up

  • Burma says bad publicity hit tourism industry

    YANGON, Aug 14 (Reuters) - The growth of tourism in military-ruled Myanmar has fallen short of expectations due to bad publicity and the impact of the Asian economic crisis, a senior ruling general was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

    Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, Secretary One of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), was quoted in the official Kyemon newspaper as saying Myanmar had plenty of potential to speedily develop its tourism industry.

    "Due to the currency crisis in southeast Asia in 1997 and misinformation spread by Western news agencies and those who fled abroad after violating the law, the development of the tourism industry in Myanmar fell short of expectations," he said.

    Official figures show there were 208,676 tourist arrivals in the year to end-March, down from 246,007 in the corresponding period a year.

    "Today, peace has returned and true news about Myanmar has gradually become known throughout the world, and the tourism industry has begun to pick up," KhinNyunt said.

    The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, has urged tourists to boycott the country in protest atthe military government. Suu Kyi has been under de facto house arrest in her Yangon residence since last September.

    The country has been isolated by most Western nations due to its political conflict with the NLD and allegations of widespread human rights abuses.

    The military government began confidential peace talks with Suu Kyi in October, and has released more than 150 detained NLD members since then.

    In a bid to improve its image, Myanmar has also begun satellite broadcasts of English-language programmes about the country.The impoverished country's economy is starved of foreign capital, and the government has been trying to promote tourism.
    Cooking Oil Shortage Continues

    By Maung Maung Oo
    source : The Irrawaddy

    August 15, 2001--Burma is facing a cooking oil shortage after the ruling military regime recently made it illegal for non-state owned businesses to import cooking oil. It is believed the government discontinued the imports in order to better control the flow of hard currency leaving the country.

    Beginning on July 10th citizens of Rangoon and Pegu have been forced to wait in lines each day to receive rations of oil from the army-run Myanmar Holding Company Limited (MHCL). Mainly housewives and individuals who are unemployed have been lining up as early as six in the morning to get their rations, according to a source in Rangoon.

    MHCL has been distributing the oil from its fleet of fifty oil tankers. The tankers carry 1,000 viss of oil apiece (1 viss= 3.6 lbs.) and each individual is allowed one-quarter of a viss a day. The government's price for one viss of cooking oil is 350 kyat (1 USD= 700 Kyat). Many citizens who cannot wait in these lines have seen the market prices of oil increase from 630 kyat for one viss last month to 980 kyat in August.

    In Rangoon and Mandalay the military regime recently arrested most wholesale oil distributors, who until recently were the major suppliers of cooking oil to consumers. The regime accused the wholesalers of driving up prices.

    In Burma, most consumers use palm oil, which is an imported good and cheaper than the more traditional peanut and sesame oil. The prices of traditional deep-fried snack foods have risen in the markets as well.
    Myanmar Increases Edible Oil Import in First Quarter

    YANGON, August 15 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar imported 21.9 million U.S. dollars worth of edible oil including vegetable oil and other hydrogenated oil in the first quarter of this year, a 69.7-percent increase compared with the same period of 2000, according to the latest figures issued by the country's Central Statistical Organization.

    Myanmar's increase in the edible oil import was seen as its bid to meet the country's demand, while domestic production was low.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar has been extending oil crops cultivation in the country by private entrepreneurs, to whom more vacant and virgin lands have been leased for the undertaking since early 1999. Besides, the government encouraged the oil crop growers by providing them with agricultural loans and advance payment for the purchase of the crops.

    According to official statistics, Myanmar cultivates 650,000 hectares of oil crops, of which 450,000 hectares are covered by groundnuts and 200,000 hectares by sunflower, the two major oil crops in the country. In addition, cultivation of soy beans and oil palm is also being extended for extracting edible oil.

    The statistics also show that annual production of edible oil amounts to 200,000 tons, while annual import stands at 100,000 tons. Meanwhile, an edible oil industrial zone is being developed near Yangon's Thilawa Port to boost the country's oil production.
    Village abbot seeks Shan group help to tackle drug problem

    Text of report by DVB on 13 August

    DVB has learned that a dispute broke out between the regional SPDC battalion and border supervisory company, and the Shan State National Army [SSNA] because the abbot of Maw Win Village in Northern Shan State sought assistance from the SSNA for elimination of narcotic drugs in the village.

    The youths in Maw Win Village have become addicted to opium and other narcotic drugs and the abbot has sought help from the regional battalion and the township authorities but to no avail. So he finally wrote to the SSNA in July seeking their assistance to eliminate the drug problem.

    Over 10 SSNA members came to Maw Win Village during the second week of July and held talks with the abbot on anti-drug measures. At that time U San Phaw, chairman of the Village Peace and Development Council, together with members of LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] 312 came to the abbot and told him that the government is engaging in anti-narcotic drug activities while the regional authorities are implementing anti-drug measures. They blamed the abbot for contacting the SSNA, told him that there was no need to do so, and confiscated the weapons from the SSNA members and left.

    The SSNA is one of the groups that signed a cease-fire agreement with the SPDC. The SSNA troops were also warned that they would be arrested and action taken if they intrude other regions like this in future. The SSNA broke away from the ranks of former drug kingpin Khun Sa and signed a cease-fire agreement with the SPDC in 1995. DVB has learned that the SSNA broke away from Khun Sa because of his involvement in narcotic drugs.
    Burmese arrested with Indian faked currency notes but released later

    Aizawl, August 15, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    Two Burmese nationals were caught with faked currency notes in an Indo-Burma border end of last month but later released by the local police, according to intelligence sources here.

    Mr. Maung Maung and Mr. Tin Maung who are residents of Tahan in Kalaymyo township of Sagaing Division in Burma were arrested by Assam Rifles Battalion No. 19 in Chhungte Bawk, which is about four miles far from Champhai in Mizoram State.

    The duo were arrested with Indian faked 500-currency notes worth seven and half lakhs Rupees on 28th July. The two were handed over to local police the next day.

    However, the Burmese were released by the police on the same day. Contrary to the army, one of the Champhai police officer claimed that the seized currency notes were, in fact, not faked currency and that is why the duo were released.
    Fisheries and border demarcation highlight next month Khin Nyunt's Thai visit

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Closer co-operation on border and economic issues will highlight next month's meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Burma's State Peace and Development Council First Secretary Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt.

    Gen Sanan Kachornklam, secretary of the deputy premier's advisory team, said Gen Chavalit was confident that Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt's trip would lead to more economic co-operation.

    ``The defence minister will be directly responsible for the meeting's agenda and measures to strengthen bilateral ties will be raised for discussion with Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt,'' said Gen Sanan.

    Gen Chavalit hoped for progress on fishery and border demarcation. So far only 60 kms of their common border had been demarcated.

    Gen Chavalit invited Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, Burma's intelligence chief, during his trip to Burma last month.

    Gen Chavalit suggested that engineering and medic soldiers from both sides should develop the border area.
    Burma warlord says he's fighting drugs

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    TAUNGKYI, Burma, Aug. 16---Yod Suk, commander of an ethnic militia battling the Burma military in remote jungles near the Thai border, has been branded a criminal and narcotics trafficker, but he insists he is fighting to stamp out drugs.

    The Shan State Army (SSA) leader told Reuters at his headquarters in Burma that his soldiers were doing their best to intercept drug convoys bound for Thailand, where hundreds of millions of methamphetamine pills are sold every year.

    'The reason why we are focused on intercepting drugs at the moment is because narcotics are not only affecting Thailand and the outside world. It is directly threatening and affecting our own Shan people as well,'' Yod Suk said.

    ''If many of our people become addicted to drugs, we won't be able to achieve the goals we are fighting for, so eradicating drugs is our priority.''

    Thai anti-drugs officials say the United Wa State Army (UWSA), an ethnic army allied with the Rangoon government, is the main producer of the methamphetamine pills flooding Thailand.

    Methamphetamines are increasingly supplanting heroin as the main drug produced in the infamous Golden Triangle region where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos converge.

    The Burmese government insists the UWSA is not involved in drug production or trafficking, and says Yod Suk and the SSA are the main culprits. It has accused the Thai military of siding with the SSA and of profiting from the drugs trade.

    Yod Suk was formerly part of the Mong Tai Army of drug warlord Khun Sa, who surrendered to Burma troops in 1996 and now lives in Rangoon under government protection.

    Yod Suk says there are some 20,000 soldiers in his army, including thousands of new recruits. The SSA, which has been fighting for independence from Burma for more than 40 years, is the most powerful anti-government militia in the country.

    Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has made peace with 17 ethnic militia groups in recent years, allowing many of them, like the UWSA, considerable autonomy in return for dropping their struggle against Rangoon.

    But the SSA, as well as the Karen National Union (KNU), are still fighting the government, saying they want independence for their people.

    During recent months clashes between the SSA and soldiers of the UWSA and Myanmar military have intensified along the mountainous border with Thailand. Relations between two countries have soured this year, boiling over in February when Thai and Burmese soldiers clashed and dozens were killed.

    Since then, the two countries have tried to patch up ties. Yod Suk said the detente was unlikely to last for long.

    ''I see relations between Thailand and Myanmar as on and off. Whenever the relationship has improved, it didn't last for long and was always fragile,'' he said.
    Russian Spy Aids Burmese Military

    Source : Far Eastern Economic Review

    Burma is gaining a new military partner: Russia. Following the recent deal to purchase 10 MiG-29s, Mikhail Dmitriyev, deputy defence minister and chairman of the Russian committee on military-technical cooperation with foreign countries, visited Burma in early August.

    While in Rangoon, Dmitriyev held meetings with Lt.-Gen. Tin Hla, minister of military affairs and deputy prime minister, to discuss military cooperation and the sale of Russian arms to Burma, Western diplomats in the Burmese capital say. While the arms deals may be commercially motivated, Russia's partnership with Burma is coming at a time when Moscow is establishing closer relationships with other Asian countries that are critical of the United States and the West, such as China and North Korea.

    Western intelligence sources note that Dmitriyev is a former hardline operative of the KGB's First Chief Directorate, which was in charged of foreign intelligence. Cold War-veteran Dmitriyev served in East Germany before German reunification.

    Burma's military rulers may have good reason to want to deploy the advanced Russian-made jet fighters as soon as possible. Some Western diplomats in Bangkok believe two Thai American-made F-16 fighters sent to buzz Burmese troops who strayed over the Thai-Burmese border in June may, in fact, have dropped two bombs. The Burmese claimed at the time that they were bombed, while the Thais said the flights were only reconnaissance missions. Either way, the Burmese withdrew.
    Thai-Burma Border Tension Down, Trafficking Up

    Source : Far Eastern Economic Review

    The previously tense relations between Thailand and Burma may have improved considerably following visits to the Burmese capital by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in late June and Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh in July.

    But, according to Western narcotics officials based in Thailand, drug traffickers appear to be taking advantage of the now more relaxed situation along the Thai-Burma border. The former Thai policy of getting tough along the border was obviously working as many traffickers felt the squeeze and were unable to move their wares.

    Since June, however, traffickers in the Burmese sector of the Golden Triangle have been successfully making more deals involving not only methamphetamines but increasingly also heroin. Burma's heroin production is up again after a few years in the doldrums due to the El Nino weather phenomenon.

    Reports from drug trafficking centres inside Burma indicate that business is brisk. Meanwhile, Thai authorities have seized more heroin than earlier this year: In the latest bust, on August 8, they seized 37 kilograms of pure No. 4 heroin from a car on its way from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.