Daily News-August 18 - 2001- Saturday

  • Talks in Burma should intensify with pro-active proposals
  • Lao premier to visit Myanmar from Sunday
  • Film puts popular prejudices into focus
  • Burma rebels: 'army smuggles drugs'
  • New drugs trade
  • Buddhists get OK for expansion
  • SEA GAMES COUNTDOWN: Blast from the past
  • Taiwanese man sentenced to death for drugs case in Burma
  • China, Burma Sign Agricultural Factory Project Agreement
  • A New hydro-electricity plant to be built near the Salween

  • Talks in Burma should intensify with pro-active proposals

    New Delhi, August 17, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    Ongoing talks between opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling military generals need not only to continue but also to intensify with pro-active constructive proposals to move forward for the restoration of democracy in Burma, an international expert on transitional justice said.

    Professor Paul van Zyl, program director of the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice, said it is important that the talks and discussions currently taking place between Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to proceed, intensify and continue to try and find acceptable solutions to the current conflicts in Burma.

    "I think the challenge in Burma now is to find a way to allow those discussions not only to continue but to intensify and to start putting pro-active constructive proposals on the table which will allow there to be some forward movements and allow there to be more thorough-going for restoration of democratic rule in Burma", he said in an interview.

    Prof. Paul van Zyl, who was also an executive secretary of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was recently in New Delhi along with his colleague Prof. Nicholas Haysan for a two-day workshop on "Transitional Justice and Constitutional Negotiation" for the Burma pro-democracy activists and ethnic nationalities groups based in India.

    The two-day workshop participated by about 60 activists of Burma ended on August 15. Prof. Nicholas Haysan was legal advisor to the President Mandela for his fourth Presidency and also a central member of Negotiating Team, which facilitated the establishment of a peaceful and democratic South Africa.

    According to Prof. Paul, the discussions and talks on the questions of future Burma should also increase within the different opposition groups as well. "(O)ur conviction is that we need to increase dialogue not only between the Burmese opposition movement and SPDC but also within those particular groups and to encourage people to really discuss the differences rather than allowing those differences to lead to violence or to division or suspicion or hostility". "The question is not so much about trying to eradicate those differences. Differences are and can be healthy."

    He also pointed out that the military junta, being in control of state power, should take initiatives which encourage situation where Burmese people feel that they can participate in the future of their country.

    The international community and opposition Burmese democratic forces have cautiously welcomed the talks which have been going on between the opposition leader and the junta since October last year. However, both sides have not made any announcement on the level and development of the talks.

    (For full interview, please see our webside: www.mizzima.com)
    Lao premier to visit Myanmar from Sunday

    YANGON, Aug. 16, Kyodo - Lao Prime Minister Bounnyang Vorachit will pay a four-day visit to Myanmar from Sunday, diplomatic sources in Yangon said Thursday.

    Earlier Thursday, the official daily New Light of Myanmar reported that Bounnyang was due to visit in the near future at the invitation of Prime Minister Senior Gen. Than Shwe, who chairs Myanmar's ruling State Peace and Development Council.

    It would be Bounnyang's first visit to Myanmar since becoming prime minister in March, though he visited last year as deputy prime minister and finance minister and in 1994 as mayor of Vientiane, according to the Lao embassy in Yangon.

    Myanmar shares 233-kilometer border with Laos, but the volume of trade between the two countries is minimal.
    Film puts popular prejudices into focus

    source : SCMP
    By WILLIAM BARNES in Bangkok

    Big-budget historical movie accused of inflaming anti-Myanmar sentiment has little factual basis

    The most expensive Thai film ever made premieres in Bangkok today. It has been described by local critics as a new high for the Thai cinema - but the cost is likely to be Myanmar's anger. For the film, dressed up as "history", is an anti-Myanmar folk tale without equal.

    Suriyothai retells in a suitably blood-drenched format the legend of a royal Thai consort who sacrificed herself in battle against invading Myanmar 450 years ago.

    "This is a labour of love. It is the truth as best as I can make it," said director Chatrichalerm Yukol, who spent five years researching the background. Filmgoers will see hard-eyed "enemy" soldiers plotting and charging warm-hearted Thais, who are cut down trying to defend their country.

    "Five years of research before making the film he was always going to make. It will be many years before a Thai director can make a 'neutral' film about relations with Burma [Myanmar]," said a diplomat who attended an early screening.

    During the Cold War years, when Thailand was surrounded almost entirely by potentially hostile nations, its military-backed rulers tended to turn their backs on suspicious neighbours in favour of trading with the wider world.

    "Thailand is now surrounded by fellow members of Asean [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations]. There is also a growing realisation that Thais need to interact with their neighbours, if only for the sake of the economy.Yet films like this show just how awkward these relationships can be," the diplomat said.

    For most of the past 100 years since Thailand's modern borders were firmly established, Thais have been taught that Myanmar is a nation not to be trusted. Even Thai observers now recognise that the deeply right-wing, highly nationalistic military leaders who dominated for most of the past century used Myanmar - and to a lesser extent other neighbours - as a convenient and believable scapegoat.

    If the often vicious propaganda in the schoolbooks has been watered down, then popular films like Suriyothai still pander to eager local prejudices.Earlier this year, Myanmar protested when the film Baan Rajan - a story of pathetic Thai villages massacred by ruthless invaders - played to packed houses across the country.

    Fantasy met fiction when the director of a popular TV mini-series about "romantic" ethnic Shan guerillas fighting inside Myanmar against the central authorities actually carried a couple of crates of beer to real Shan rebels earlier this year. Another historical film about a Thai princess who fights off an invading Burmese army also triggered protests in Laos earlier this year.

    Mr Chatrichalerm said films like Suriyothai tried to deal with "painful" history that should not be denied by any side. "We are not saying the Burmese [Myanmar people] are bad. Kings and princes did what they thought was best. These were different times," he argued.

    Yet historians from Myanmar complained during the making of Suriyothai that this alleged "major event" is nowhere recorded in the contemporary Myanmar chronicles. The woman certainly existed, and perhaps she did die in battle, but any neutral researcher is likely to conclude that her legend has been conveniently built up to suit the mood of the Thai establishment. The film also taps the Thais' recession-induced paranoia by featuring meddling foreigners who help the invaders, and treacherous Thais who profit by selling out the nation.

    When one Yangon-based expert gently asked at a local seminar when Thai film-makers where likely to make films of the sacking of Cambodia's ancient Kingdom of Angkor by Thais, or the sacking of Vientiane in neighbouring Laos, also by Thais, there was an awkward silence.
    Burma rebels: 'army smuggles drugs'

    ITN Online:

    A Burmese rebel army claims to have ambushed a government convoy carrying thousands of amphetamine tablets bound for Thailand.Fighting erupted between Shan State Army (SSA) rebels and Burmese (Myanmar) troops after the reported seizure.During recent months clashes between SSA rebels, who fighting for an independent homeland, and regular troops have intensified along the mountainous border with Thailand.

    Thailand accuses Burma of using border unrest as a cover for its involvement in the production and distribution of amphetamines and ecstasy to Thailand and beyond.

    Main drugs route

    Thailand is the main market for amphetamine pills in southeast Asia and an important route to other markets for drug traffickers based in neighbouring Burma.SSA leaders say they are looking to safeguard their future and to keep their children away from drugs.

    SSA leader Yod Suk explained: "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. "If many of our people become addicted to drugs, we won't be able to achieve what we want and are fighting for, so eradicating drugs is our priority," he continued.

    Cross-border skirmishes

    Relations between Thailand and Burma have soured in recent months, almost boiling over at one point in February into full-blown warfare. Burmese regular troops ventured across the border, briefly capturing a Thai military outpost and shelling the nearby Thai town of Mae Sai.The Thai army retaliated by reinforcing the border and pounding Burma's troops with artillery. The situation has calmed down, but is still tense with both sides trading accusations of cross-border violations.

    Rebel army

    Although Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has made peace with 17 anti-government groups, the SSA is determined to continue its armed struggle.

    The Yangon government has vehemently denied any involvement in the narcotics trade.The SSA has been fighting for independence from Burma for more than 40 years and is the most powerful antigovernment force in the country.The group wants freedom for ethnic minorities in Burma and has spent the past few years trying to prove that it is not involved in drug production and trafficking.

    Despite pressures from the international community, Burma's military government has turned a deaf ear to calls for an end to its repression of opposition groups.The European Union has suspended aid to Burma and the United States has imposed economic and trade sanctions.
    New drugs trade

    ITN Online:

    Thailand is expected to be flooded with more than 900 million methamphetamine pills next year.That is 200 million tablets more than this year. In its crystallised form, the drug is sold in Europe as "ice". Increased demand and a new plants in Laos are being blamed for the increase.

    General Pallop Pinmanee, a security adviser to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said the greater popularity of the stimulant pills in Australia and Europe has encouraged drug factories in Myanmar and Laos to step up production.

    Methamphetamine pills are increasingly supplanting heroin as the main drug produced in the infamous Golden Triangle region. That is the area where the borders of Burma, Laos and Thailand converge.It is is produced by ethnic minority militia groups in Burma.

    Thailand says most of the pills are produced by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), a militia allied to the Yangon government. General Pallop said despite closer co-operation with Burma to intercept smuggled pills, the drugs producers have shifted five to six plants from Burma to Laos.

    General Pallop said the drug was also increasingly being exported to Australia and Europe. "Now people all over the world have said the pills are from Thailand, which has damaged our reputation," General Pallop said.
    Buddhists get OK for expansion

    Published in the Asbury Park Press 8/17/01

    MANALAPAN -- For the members of the American Burma Buddhist Association, Manalapan is more than just a town -- it's a small slice of Nirvana.

    For the past two years, the association, comprised of Burmese Buddhists who settled in Manalapan in 1995, has worked to build a new temple in the township. Since 1981, the association's home temple has been the Universal Peace Buddha Temple of New York, located in Brooklyn.

    The group received approvals from the Zoning Board to build an octagonal pagoda next to the existing meditation center two years ago.

    Last night, the board approved the group an extension for site plan approval of the temple; a draft site plan has not been presented yet.

    "In New York though, we don't have enough space for people," explained Ashin Indaka, chief monk of the association. "That's why we feel that Manalapan is a good place. It's very quiet."

    Indeed, Indaka and Venerable Pyinnya Thiha, head monk of the small Mahasi Retreat Center on Gordons Corner Road, said New York City is simply not the right place to enter into the serenity of meditation. Traffic, alarms, airplanes flying overhead -- all of these factors make it difficult for one to achieve enlightenment through inner contemplation, Thiha said.

    In contrast, the Manalapan farmhouse where Thiha holds twice-daily meditation sessions is surrounded by trees and relative calm.Purchased by the association five years ago, the retreat center would be perfect -- if more than 10 people could fit inside it at once, Thiha said.

    The estimated price tag for the new temple is $2 million; the members of the association, most of whom live in the Freehold and East Brunswick areas, have raised $500,000 so far, Thiha said.

    The monk said he is not worried about coming up with the needed $1.5 million. More people will donate money once construction on the temple begins, he explained.
    SEA GAMES COUNTDOWN: Blast from the past

    source : The Nation

    Burma organised the Games for the second time in 1969 after hosting the second edition in 1961. The sports festival was again staged in the Burmese capital Rangoon from December 6 to 13.

    Cambodia cried off from the competition for the second time after withdrawing earlier from the 1967 Games in Bangkok. There were only six countries - Laos, Malaysia, Singapore,Thailand and Vietnam besides the hosts - for the biennial meet.

    A total of 145 gold medals, the same number as in the fourth episode, were on offer. Gymnastics was added for the first time while sepak takraw, which was there in the previous two Games, was removed. Competitions in 15 disciplines were held, athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, cycling, football, judo, tennis, shooting, swimming, table tennis, volleyball, weightlifting, sailing and gymnastics.

    As expected, the overall championship went to hosts Burma, who won 57 gold medals. However, the country could not break the Thai record of 77 gold medals, the highest number of gold medals won by any country until 1967.

    Three-time champion Thailand had to be content with second place, having won 32 gold medals. They narrowly beat Singapore, who won 31 gold medals. It was the best haul by the tiny city-state since their participation in 1959.

    Malaysia and Vietnam took 16 and nine gold medals respectively to finish fourth and fifth. Laos finished at the bottom with only three bronze medals.
    Taiwanese man sentenced to death for drugs case in Burma

    Source : Times Of India

    BANGKOK---A Burma district court has sentenced a Taiwanese man to death for possessing heroin, the country's state-run television reported on Friday.

    Yuming Yu, 45, was arrested at the Yangon International Airport on June 2nd trying to board a Taipei-bound flight, TV Myanmar said in a dispatch monitored here. The officials found 500 grams of heroin in his possession, the report said.

    The seizures were made by military intelligence agents and special anti-narcotic police officials squad and after receiving a tip-off, it added.

    The man was charged under the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances law, it said.

    In a separate report, TV Myanmar said authorities arrested 406 people including 81 women on drugs charges in June.

    More than 2.5 million amphetamine tablets, 2.6 kilograms (six pounds) of heroin and 55 kilograms (121 pounds) of raw opium were seized during the nationwide raids, it said.

    A further 7.1 kilos (16 pounds) of marijuana, a large quantity of heroin-refining chemicals and illegal medicines were also confiscated, the report added.

    Burma is one of the world's biggest producers of heroin and is accused of hosting hundreds of amphetamine factories in its east and northeast regions.
    China, Burma Sign Agricultural Factory Project Agreement

    Source : China Peoples Daily

    China and Burma signed an agreement Friday in Rangoon on China's assistance to an agricultural machinery factory project in Burma's northern Mandalay division.

    According to the agreement, the factory, to be built in Ingon, Kyaukse township, will produce annually 10,000 sets of walking tractor and 5,000 sets of reaper.
    A New hydro-electricity plant to be built near the Salween

    Source : Shan Herald Agency

    A New hydro-electricity plant to be built near the Salween A new hydro-electric power station is to be constructed 30 miles northwest of the Tasarng Bridge over the Salween, said sources fleeing from the area.

    "It would be near the Fahpa Waterfall on the Teng River that is some 40 ft high," said one source from Kengtawng, Mongnai Township.

    A Burmese survey team, led by U Thaung Htun, was there on 12 August. It was estimated that 250 kw of power would be generated during the rainy season and 75 kw in the dry season.

    It was not however known when the plant was to be constructed that would house two 100 kw generators.

    Logging, as a result, has been going on the area, some 850 square miles, since March. The contractors are reported to be Law Hsinghan of Asia World and Mahaja of Homong.

    Meanwhile, operations at Tang Palao, the projected dam site north of Tasarng, appeared to have ceased altogether for two months, said refugees who rafted down the Salween.

    "We saw only a sergeant by the name of Aung Myint with a handful of soldiers from IB 225 at Tang Palao collecting fees from the wayfarers," said one. "No security forces were seen on the west bank either."

    The GMS Power, based in Bangkok, had been active in the area, conducting feasibility studies, from 1997 until late last year. According to Japan-based Mekong Watch, the installed capacity of the proposed dam, would be 6,400 mega-watts, while the scale of the project would be $ 3 billion "for technical aspects only."