Daily News-August 21 - 2001- Tuesday

  • U Maung Maung named recipient of 2001 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award
  • Officials, diplomats welcome UN agencies appeal
  • Myanmar, Egypt Discuss Educational Matters
  • Myanmar to Train Chinese Language Tourist Guides
  • Government of Myanmar Works to Eliminate Drug Trade
  • Myanmar Produces More Paper in First Quarter
  • Big jump in jobs for sailors
  • Burma revamps education system to raise standards

  • U Maung Maung named recipient of 2001 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award

    Burmanet/AFL-CIO: August 1, 2001

    The 2001 George Meany - Lane Kirkland Human Rights award was awarded to U Maung Maung, founder of the Federation of Trade Unions in Burma (FTUB), for bringing the plight of Burmese workers to the attention of the world.

    Chicago, Illinois

    2001 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award

    In 1988, students, monks, civil servants and workers by the hundreds of thousands took to the streets in cities all over Burma demanding an end to 25 years of brutal military rule. Tragically, the military responded by opening fire on the peaceful protests, massacring thousands. Many others were forced to flee the country.

    Now 13 years later, Burma's military regime desperately clings to power after having been singled out by the international community as one of the worst violators of basic human rights in the world. Last year, the International Labor Organization (ILO) agreed to implement measures it had never imposed against a member state in its 80-year history to compel the military regime to end its widespread use of forced labor. Freedom of association does not exist anywhere in Burma despite the fact that Burma ratified ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association over 40 years ago. Any attempt to organize an independent trade union is repressed with violence.

    One of the participants in the 1988 demonstrations was U Maung Maung. A geologist by trade, Brother Maung Maung's trade union activism brought him to the pro-democracy movement. As the elected president of the Ministry of Mines Union, he and six other union leaders were fired from their jobs for participating in the 1988 protests. He was forced to flee his home and escape to the Thai-Burma border in December of that year after the Military Intelligence came looking for him at his in-law's home.

    Two years after fleeing Burma, Brother Maung Maung helped to form the Federation of Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB). In doing so, he mobilized other exiled workers to come together to protect basic worker rights, while simultaneously acting to restore democracy in Burma. Beginning with virtually no resources, Maung Maung has built an effective grassroots organization that has had a tremendous impact on bringing the plight of Burmese workers to the attention of the world. The AFL-CIO is proud of the solidarity support we have been providing to the FTUB for many years.

    Now based in Bangkok, the FTUB is the only effective voice for the over 1.5 million Burmese migrants working in Thailand. It has successfully organized underground unions inside Burma, often at great peril and sacrifice of its leaders. Two FTUB activists, arrested in Rangoon over four years ago, have not been seen since in spite of an international trade union campaign demanding their release. The FTUB has also supported the organization of trade unions in many of Burma's ethnic states. The ethnic trade unions represent the first democratic institutions organized in these areas.

    When he fled Burma in 1988, U Maung Maung left behind a wife and young son. He has not seen either of them for 13 years and avoids any communication with them for their own protection. His ability to remain optimistic in his belief that one day democracy will come to Burma and that he will be reunited with his family and friends in a democratic Burma is truly remarkable. For his inspiration, leadership, and personal sacrifice, the AFL-CIO is pleased to award the 2001 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award to Brother U Maung Maung.
    Officials, diplomats welcome UN agencies appeal

    The Myanmar Times
    August 13-19, 2001, Volume 4, No.76

    MYANMAR government officials and Yangon-based diplomats and non-government organisations have welcomed the call for increased international aid.

    An Education Department official, who requested anonymity, said increased foreign aid would benefit a range of education projects. He said most UN educational aid was for primary school students.

    An official from the Myanma Posts and Telecommunications Department said increased UN assistance would be welcomed. Forest Department coordinator, Professor Saw Eh Dah, said the UN had provided substantial aid to the forestry sector in the past. But he said the Department had received little or no UN aid money in recent years.

    South Korean embassy counsellor Mr Park Ro-byung was among the diplomats who backed the call by the UN agency chiefs. Mr Park said an increase in aid money would contribute towards easing problems and also help to improve health care and education. A European diplomat, who did not wish to be named, said more assistance would benefit HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns, as well as those involving food security and the suppression of narcotics.

    There was widespread support for the appeal from some of the 25 NGO's active in Myanmar, which are involved in projects ranging from HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention to crop substitution schemes aimed at eliminating narcotics.

    In an apparent reference to sanctions imposed by some countries, Mr Frank Smithuis from health care NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), said AIDS programs should be exempt from political interference. "The AIDS epidemic is not limited by time or geography," he said, warning that problems would intensify unless more aid was made available to fight the disease.

    Ms Michiko Ito of Japanese NGO, Karamosia International, said Myanmar deserved more financial support from the international community. "We should have greater understanding of the dynamics of Myanmar society," Ms Ito said. Ms Ito added that Myanmar's humanitarian needs would benefit from a closer partnership between the UN and NGOs.
    Myanmar, Egypt Discuss Educational Matters

    Information Sheet-N0. B-1927( I )-20th August, 2001

    A Myanmar delegation led by the Deputy Minister for Education discussed educational matters with an Egyptian delegation led by Minister of Education Dr. Hussein Kamel Bahaa E1-Din of the Arab Republic of Egypt at the SEAMEO Regional Centre for History and Traditions on 19 August.

    The Myanmar delegation comprised Deputy Minister, the director-general and presidents of Myanmar Academy of Arts and Science and rectors of the universities in Yangon, and the Egyptian delegation comprised Dr. Hussein Kamel Bahaa E1-Din and Official on Special Duty Mr. Osana Mohammed Fattouth. The guests also visited the Drug Elimination Museum.
    Myanmar to Train Chinese Language Tourist Guides

    YANGON, August 17 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar has planned to conduct a special training course,aimed at producing qualified Chinese language tourist guides as part of its measures to promote the country's tourism industry and provide systematic guide to tourists coming from neighboring China.

    The special course, to be conducted by the Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, will commence in the beginning of September, according to sources at the ministry Friday. The measure came eight months after Myanmar reached a memorandum of understanding with China in December last year on the implementation plan for outbound travel to Myanmar by Chinese citizens at their own expenses. China, along with Thailand, is a main supplier of tourists to Myanmar from its neighboring countries.

    According to official statistics, the number of registered tourist guides in Myanmar, who speak different foreign languages, reached 3,768 so far, of whom Chinese guides accounted for 222. The other languages guides cover English, Japanese and French.

    The statistics show that 234,900 foreign tourists visited Myanmar in 2000, falling by 9.9 percent from 1999 and the number of those who travelled the country in the first quarter of this year came to 42,998, also dropping by 37.8 percent compared with the same period of 2000. Myanmar's short-term target is to draw 500,000 foreign tourists annually.
    Government of Myanmar Works to Eliminate Drug Trade

    source : CNN
    Aired August 19, 2001 - 14:16 ET


    SHIHAB RATTANSI, CNN ANCHOR: According to the United Nations, Myanmar is the second biggest opium producer after Afghanistan, and many accuse Myanmar's military-led government of turning a blind eye to the use of its territory for the production and cross-border distribution of illegal stimulants.

    But the government has held a gathering which it hopes will prove otherwise. Officials have recently destroyed more than $900 million worth of illegal drugs. The move came in front of international drug officials, to show Myanmar's commitment to stamping out its drug trade. As Myanmar Radio and Television reports, the country is trying to tackle the problem at its source.


    LAING MAUNG PAN, MYANMAR RADIO AND TELEVISION REPORTER (voice- over): At a recent ministry-level meeting on drug control, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a senior Myanmar official, pointed out that the raw materials, the chemicals that required equipment and machinery that produces chemists and technicians, as well as the funds all came from outside Myanmar. He reiterated Myanmar's strong commitment and determination to eliminate narcotics drugs in the whole country in 15, starting from 1999.

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We in Myanmar are committed (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in our fight against narcotic drugs.

    PAN: The UNDCB representative for East Asia and the Pacific also noted that...

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the plans. The problem is not having good plans, the problem is having good international support for these plans, and this is the reason why we are meeting here to have the support of the international community, to show that it works, that this kind of a approach is effective, and convince the international community, through the United Nations, to support the effort of the government and the people of Myanmar.

    PAN (on camera): The opium, heroin and stimulants are worth $900 million in the streets of the United States of America. The grand total worth of all the narcotics drugs today destroyed is estimated at $920 million U.S.

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I find it commendable. They say seeing is believing, so today what we have seen is really commendable, and the government is doing a fantastic job in eradicating all the drugs.

    PAN: Now you can witness the burning of ceased narcotic drugs as Myanmar's national efforts, not only with Myanmar but with the cooperation of international and regional will bring faster elimination of the menace. This is Laing Maung Pan, Mynmar Radio and Television, for CNN WORLD REPORT.(END VIDEOTAPE)
    Myanmar Produces More Paper in First Quarter

    YANGON, August 19 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar produced 4,270 tons of all sorts of paper in the first quarter of this year, 4.73 percent more than the same period of 2000, the latest data of the country' s Central Statistical Organization show.

    During the period, Myanmar imported 18.9 million U.S. dollars worth of paper goods, an increase of 34 percent compared with the corresponding period of 2000, to meet its domestic demand. In 2000, the country produced 16,894 tons of paper and imported 48.1 million dollars worth of paper manufactures.

    There is a major paper mill known as the Sittoung Paper Mill in Myanmar's southern Mon state operating since 1994 and mainly supplying paper for domestic use. Meanwhile, a Chinese Tianjin Company concluded a 3-million- dollar contract with Myanmar in September 1999 to build a 25-ton- daily-capacity newsprint mill inPaleik, the country's central Mandalay division.
    Big jump in jobs for sailors

    By Myo Lwin
    The Myanmar Times
    August 13-19, 2001, Volume 4, No.76

    JOB opportunities for merchant seaman have surged following the decision by the International Maritime Organisation to add Myanmar to its "white list" of approved nations last June.

    Figures released by the Department of Marine Administration show that the number of jobs provided on foreign vessels rose from 761 in June to 1138 last month.

    "These are the results of Myanmar being "white listed" by the International Maritime Organisation," the Department's director general, Captain U Soe Win, told Myanmar Times.

    In recent weeks, two companies have agreed to hire nearly 200 seafarers. They include a new foreign shipping company which has agreed to hire 100 seafarers on a trial basis for three of its 28 vessels and more are likely. If the trial is successful, more seafarers will be hired by the company, which has not been named. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagle International company has offered the highest salaries to 90 seafarers who will begin work on four ships in November. The company employed Myanmar sailors on high salaries for six of its boats last December.

    Seafarers are hired under agreements arranged by the Seamen Employment Control Division of the Department of Marine Administration. As reported previously in Myanmar Times (" Maritime body changes mind: Myanmar now on "white list", page 1,Vol 4, No 68), the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee decided to add Myanmar to its "white list " of certified countries along with 22 other nations.

    Since the decision was made, Myanmar seamen have also enjoyed higher pay, boosting the amount of hard currency from their earnings that will flow back into the country.Under current regulations, the government levies a 10 per cent income tax on the sailors, from whom it also receives a US$4 monthly service charge. Money deposited at the government bank by sailors has risen from US$3.32 million in 1997-98 to $15.73 million in the 2000-2001 financial year. Captain U Soe Win said the amount could rise to $70 million if better incentives were provided to the sailors. Myanmar sailors are not required to send home any of their earnings, unlike their counterparts in the Philippines, which has 300,000 merchant seamen, more than any other country.

    Filipino seamen are required under its Central Bank regulations to send 80 per cent of their basic salary back to their families. Sailors from Indonesia usually send between 50 per cent to 75 per cent of their basic pay to their families, although this is not mandatory. Home remittances are not compulsory for Singapore sailors but it is compulsory for them to contribute 20 per cent of their wages to the nation's Central Provident Fund, to which their employers have to make an equal contribution. Singa-pore workers can withdraw money from the Fund when they reach 55. Bangladeshi sailors are required to send home two thirds of their wages but are exempt from income tax. The wages of Indian merchant seamen are also tax exempt. They also enjoy some duty free privileges and are entitled to participate in a savings scheme if they are employed through an Indian union.
    Burma revamps education system to raise standards

    Source : Channel News Asia

    Burma is launching an open education concept which includes the transmission of lectures via a data broadcasting system in an effort to educate more of its people.

    The lessons on topics ranging from the life sciences to literature, are targeted at university and pre-university students, and can be received at specially set up centres throughout the country.

    More than 200 e-Education learning centres have also been set up to provide the vast country with access to the latest educational curriculum and learning methods coming out of the capital.

    The revamp, one of the most significant in recent years, affects the entire education system, from tertiary to primary level.

    Not enough children in Burma have embarked on a formal education, prompting schools to launch an 'enrolment week' to get more parents to see its importance.

    It is part of the government's overall efforts to raise education standards in the country.

    And teachers are not forgotten - a series of refresher courses are in store for them.

    At tertiary level, the Education Ministry has set up 11 new universities and institutes and upgraded 11 others with new facilities.

    Most are located outside the capital and in the suburbs in an effort to minimise participation by students in violent protests and demonstrations in Rangoon, a problem faced by the government when opposition groups start mobilising people for mass protests.

    The involvement of undergraduates in violent protests in 1996 had led the government to temporarily close down tertiary institutions in the country, with most of the universities only just reopened earlier this year.

    Another preventive measure is the promotion of distance learning.

    Dr Tint Swe, Exiled National League for Democracy MP, said, "It's good for some students who cannot afford to pay the money, so they work in the daytime, they take the tuition, and the distance education system so the number of enrolment students is increasing. But you know it is very limited, only major subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Burmese History, no scientific."

    To meet the shortage in engineering and technology courses, the military has set up several universities that provide such teaching, but only to students from the armed forces.

    As Burma moves towards globalisation, schools in the country have begun making IT and economics an important part of their curriculum.

    And now that universities are open, and with a new education plan, officials are hopeful that they are on the right track to educational reform.