Daily News- December 04 - 2001- Tuesday

  • UN envoy encourages parties to move to 'substantive' talks
  • UN envoy 'satisfied' with Burma talks
  • Oil firms called to account
  • Investors link for Burma protest
  • Two old railway projects set to be revived
  • Ivanhoe Mines continues to expand high-grade gold mineralization in Myanmar
  • Myanmar's Metal Export Rises in First Eight Months
  • U.N. wants Burma to release political prisoners

  • UN envoy encourages parties to move to 'substantive' talks

    UN news center

    3 December - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's envoy for Myanmar has concluded his mission to the country after encouraging both the Government and democracy leaders to develop their talks "as soon as possible" into a substantive dialogue, a UN spokesman in New York said today.

    Special Envoy Razali Ismail also urged the Government to continue to release political prisoners, in particular the 19 MPs still detained, to create a political climate conducive to advancing the dialogue spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

    During Mr. Razali's weeklong visit, he met separately with leaders of the Government and the National League for Democracy (NLD), including Lt.-Gen. Khin Nyunt, Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), and NLD General Secretary Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. He also met with several ethnic nationalities leaders and travelled to the Wa and Kokan areas in Shan State, the spokesman said.

    "Mr. Razali was pleased that all parties remain committed to the process of national reconciliation and democracy," Mr. Eckhard said. "He is hopeful that some significant progress could be achieved in the near future."

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    UN envoy 'satisfied' with Burma talks

    By the BBC's Burma analyst Larry Jagan in Bangkok

    The United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail has told the BBC he is satisfied with his latest mission to Burma aimed at reviving the talks between the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling military junta.

    After a week meeting government, opposition and ethnic leaders, he is reported to have urged Burma's military leaders to speed up the process of releasing political prisoners. So far only 200 prisoners have been freed since the dialogue process began more than a year ago.

    Mr Razali was very tight-lipped when he left, Rangoon - he would only say the talks had gone well. He told the BBC he had attended some very good meetings, and he hoped these would produce some good results soon. UN secretary general Kofi Annan is expected to make a statement on the visit in the next day or so.

    Opposition verdict

    The opposition say they are are also satisfied with the mr Razali's visit. A spokesman for the National League for Democracy said he thought it would produce results.

    Mr Razali, he said, endorsed the NLD's concern that the process of releasing political prisoners should be stepped up. The NLD, through Mr Razali, has urged the military authorities to release the remaining 1,600 political prisoners by the end of the year. Failing that, the NLD says, it wants a timetable established.In return, the NLD is prepared to see more international humanitarian aid, targeted at the spread of Aids in Burma.

    Mr Razali is obviously optimistic that the process is moving forward - there were good signs, he told the BBC. But time is running out. There is growing frustration within the opposition that there's been little progress from a year of contact with the military authorities. The international community's patience will also be tried if this trip does not produce some concrete results this time.

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    Oil firms called to account

    Terry Macalister
    Monday December 3, 2001
    The Guardian

    Pension funds tell Burma operators to justify risks to shareholders

    Eight top pension funds with 400bn under management have joined forces to highlight the risk to shareholders of companies operating in Burma. The radical approach by Jupiter Asset Management, Morley Fund Management and others will put intense pressure on companies in Burma such as Premier Oil and TotalFinaElf.

    But the pension funds argue their concerns extend well beyond Burma and take in other developing countries with dubious human rights records such as Nigeria or Colombia where Shell, BP and other major British firms are active.

    "Companies operating in unstable political climates can be exposed to loss of shareholder confidence, negative press and publicity campaigns, safety risks and corruption. In the case of Burma, there is also the possibility of a democratically elected government returning to power and penalising companies that supported the military regime," says a joint statement from the companies.

    The pension funds do not directly call for divestment from Burma but demand companies justify their continued presence there "in the light of the risks that such activity imposes on shareholders".

    The institional investors say companies should publish independently verified social impact assessments, establish effective policies for managing risks, promote human rights and combat corruption. They should also maximise the positive impact of their actions through collaberation with other companies or respected organisations.

    Other fund managers in this initiative are Europe's second largest pension company, PGGM of Holland, Friends Ivory & Sime, the Universities Superannuation Scheme, Hen derson Global Investors, the Cooperative Insurance Society and Ethos Investment Foundation of Switzerland.

    Rob Lake, head of strategy and socially responsible investment at Henderson, says the move is not in any way politically inspired but purely commercially driven. "We can not be written off as lefty fund managers as we have 400bn of investment under our control. It is our responsibility to assess risk and to look after those investments wisely."

    Premier Oil last night insisted the pension fund initiative would not change its commitment to Burma. Chief executive Charles Jamieson said: "They are not asking us to pull out, just have a strategy in place for properly managing risk, and we have that. We have been giving human rights training to the military, police and home affairs ministry. We are already at the forefront of corporate social responsibility."

    It is understood to be the first time that a group of diverse managers have cooperated this way, and could pave the way for more initiatives in future. The Association of British Insurers issued guidelines on October 23 about how to handle risk from environmental and ethical issues.

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    Investors link for Burma protest

    Financial Times; Dec 3, 2001

    Eight of the largest UK and continental European investors will today join forces to put pressure on companies with interests in Burma, amid continuing evidence of human rights abuses.

    In a joint statement, the investors will call on companies to "justify their involvement" in Burma by publishing independently verified assessments of the risks they are taking with shareholders' money. They will also urge companies to establish effective strategies for promoting human rights and combating corruption.

    The move has been fuelled by frustration that companies are not heeding their private warnings about the considerable "reputational" risks of operating in Burma.

    It could have a significant impact on some 250 companies that have resisted calls by human rights activists to withdraw from Burma. These include TotalFina, the French oil group, and Premier Oil of the UK. According to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, US companies with links to Burma include American Express, 3M and Compaq Computer.

    The group of institutional investors, with about Pounds 400bn of assets under management, comprises three pension funds - the Co-operative Insurance Society and the Universities Superannuation Scheme in the UK and PGGM in Holland - and the Ethos Investment Foundation. It also includes four UK fund managers: Friends Ivory & Sime, Henderson Global Investors, Jupiter Asset Management and Morley Fund Management.

    In their statement, the investors stop short of calling for companies to pull out of Burma, although several, including Pepsi, the drinks company, and Texaco, the oil group, and Tommy Hilfiger, the clothes company, have already done so.

    Instead, they urge companies who stay "to adopt responsible business practices so as not to contribute to, or perpetuate, human rights abuses committed in the country". In particular, they want to be "confident that (company) directors have considered the risks and, at the very least, have established policies for managing them".

    The Burma Campaign UK, one of the leading pressure groups, whose patrons include Glenys Kinnock and Sir David Steel, welcomed the move, but feared it may fall short of its objectives.

    "Their analysis is good," said John Jackson, the campaign's director, "but their recommendations aren't far-reaching enough." www.ft.com/montedison www.global-unions.org/burma

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    Two old railway projects set to be revived

    The Bangkokpost

    Thailand and Burma have agreed in principle to revive two old railway projects linking the two countries.The plan to revive the Kanchanaburi to Three Pagoda Pass and Kanchanaburi to Mong Ye railway routes was agreed during the Nov 30-Dec 2 meeting of the Thai-Burmese Cultural and Economic Association in Rangoon.

    The meeting was co-chaired by Gen Pat Akkanibutr, the defence minister's chief adviser, and Air Vice Marshal Kyaw Than, a former Burmese air force chief. Gen Sanan Kachornklam, secretary to the defence minister, said Veera Musikapong, the State Railway of Thailand board chairman, consulted with a Burmese minister in charge of railways. The two also proposed a new railway project linking Thailand's Tak province with Myawaddy in Burma.

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    Ivanhoe Mines continues to expand high-grade gold mineralization in Myanmar

    SINGAPORE, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire/ - Ivanhoe Mines' Chairman Robert Friedland and Executive Vice-President, Exploration, Douglas Kirwin announced today that underground exploration at the Modi Taung gold project from July to the end of November has demonstrated persistence in grade and continuity along the northwesterly strike and the down-dip extension of this bonanza-grade gold discovery.

    The Modi Taung Project is situated approximately 150 kilometres southeast of Mandalay, in central Myanmar.

    Since discovering the gold vein system at Modi Taung in late-2000, Ivanhoe has explored the project with a series of trenches, adits and crosscuts.Gold contained within the veins occurs as free gold, in vughs and associated with pyrite. During the recently-ended monsoon season, Ivanhoe focused its exploration efforts on the development of adits to provide underground access to the mineralized veins.

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    Myanmar's Metal Export Rises in First Eight Months

    YANGON, Dec 3, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar's base metal export rose 16.41 percent in the first eight months of this year, registering 23,400 tons compared with the same period of 2000, according to the latest official Economic Indicators.

    Meanwhile, the country increased import of base metal manufactures in the period, buying in 169.96 million U.S. dollars'worth of them, 19.13 percent more than the corresponding period of 2000, said the indicators. Myanmar annually exports 19,460 tons of base metal and ores, while importing 255 million dollars of such manufactures.

    Myanmar is well endowed with mineral resources, having two state enterprises under the Ministry of Mines undertaking the production of metallic minerals such as gold, copper, silver, lead, zinc, tin and tungsten, and that of non-metallic minerals such as coal, barytes, limestone, gypsum and dolomite. The production of precious stones such as gems, jade and diamond is handled by another state enterprise known as the Myanma Gems Enterprise under the same ministry.

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    U.N. wants Burma to release political prisoners

    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters)- - A U.N. envoy who ended a visit to Burma on Monday was hopeful "significant progress" towards democracy could be achieved in the near future and told the government to release more political prisoners, a U.N. spokesman said.

    Razali Ismail, a former Malaysian U.N. ambassador and General Assembly president who spent a week in the southeast Asian country, met Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, general-secretary of the opposition National League for Democracy, as well as top government officials.

    "Mr Razali was pleased that all parties remain committed to the process of national reconciliation and democracy," U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said. "He is hopeful that some significant progress could be achieved in the near future."

    Suu Kyi has been under virtual house arrest for more than a year, despite having entered into secretive talks Razali brokered with the military government. Her party in 1990 won the last election in Burma, by a landslide but the junta refused to step down.

    Razali encouraged both the government and Suu Kyi "to develop their talks as soon as possible into a substantive dialogue," Fred Eckhard said.

    The U.N. envoy urged the government to release political prisoners, particularly 19 members of parliament, "to create a political climate conducive to advancing the dialogue," the spokesman said.

    Razali has visited Burma six times in the past 18 months in an effort in an effort to end the country's political deadlock.

    Since January, when Razali disclosed that the talks were underway, the government has freed 190 political prisoners, mostly members of Suu Kyi's party, one of her key demands before talks on substantive issues can get underway.

    "The talks are still at the confidence-building stage because there are many prisoners still waiting to be released," U Lwin, secretary of the National League for Democracy, said in Yangon last Thursday.

    Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962. The current group of generals came to power in 1988 after leading a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations. According to Amnesty International, more than 1,500 political prisoners are still in jail.

    One of the world's least-developed countries, Burma has received almost no international funding or development aid over the past decade. Western and Asian governments, have put trade bans on Burma but are offering to ease some of them in proportion to what the government offers the opposition.

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