Daily News-July 05 - 2001- Thursday

  • ICFTU and FGTB urges the Belgian presidency of the EU to pursue the issue of forced labour in Burma
  • Burma to cooperate with forced-labour probe
  • Tribal Separatist Grp Rejected Burma Junta Truce Offer
  • Famous currency dealer,Ma Khin Aye sentenced to 7 year-imprisonment
  • Malaysia on alert as drug production goes into overdrive
  • Ban on poppy farming in Afghanistan leads to drop in opium production: UN
  • American dreams
  • Driver smuggling illegal immigrants into S'pore nabbed

  • ICFTU and FGTB urges the Belgian presidency of the EU to pursue the issue of forced labour in Burma

    source : ICFTU

    Annual session of ECOSOC (UN) in Geneva

    Brussels, July 2 2001 (ICFTU Online): With the start of the Belgian presidency of the European Union (EU) coinciding with the opening of the annual session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the General Federation of Belgian Workers (FGTB, an ICFTU-affiliate, Belgium's national trade union centre) has asked the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louis Michel, to maintain his hard-line stance towards Burma.

    Indeed, ECOSOC was to decide on Monday whether or not to add an ILO request to the agenda of its 2001 session. In a resolution issued at last year's International Labour Conference (ILC) and re-confirmed at this year's ILC, last month, the ILO has called for measures aimed at forcing the Burmese regime to put an end to forced labour.

    Under the terms of this decision, ECOSOC is once again asked to include the Burmese issue in its agenda. For their part, the member states are asked to "re-examine their relations with Burma and to end those relations that could directly or indirectly perpetuate the use of forced labour in Burma."

    Preliminary reports from Geneva on Monday 2nd July suggest ECOSOC Member States have deferred a decision on including the Burma question in its agenda until later in the present session. Belgium has announced on behalf of the EU it would hold consultations with all those involved on a draft declaration about the question, for which it would seek consensus.

    Canada has supported this approach, adding an ILO representative at the meeting should be allowed to speak. The US has supported both statements. Pakistan, Syria and Burma have opposed the inclusion of the item on the agenda as a matter of principle but said they would accept a delay in order to be consulted on a draft declaration.

    China has opposed the inclusion of the item on the grounds that a discussion might compromise the IlO's September mission and upset the "goodwill" shown by the junta in accepting the ILO mission. Cuba opposed the discussion on Burma, claiming there is no precedent for such a move.

    The FGTB has been pursuing its campaign effort with the Belgian government for several years now. In a letter sent to the Belgium's Minister of Foreign Affairs, the FGTB insisted that Belgium should use its clout as current president of the EU to make sure that the recently adopted ILC position regarding Burma is fully taken into account at the ECOSOC session.

    The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has "warmly welcomed" the attitude of its Belgian affiliate FGTB and calls on Mr Michel to "take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Belgian presidency of the EU to effect true democratic change in Rangoon."

    A preparatory meeting of ECOSOC was held in New York last May, with participants voting against including the Burmese issue in the agenda of ECOSOC's ordinary session, scheduled to for Monday, 3 July in Geneva. Faced with a strong offensive from several Asian countries, relayed by members of the International Islamic Conference, the western countries were absent and the Latin American countries primarily sided with the arguments put forward by the allies of the Burmese regime.

    The ICFTU now fears the member states of ECOSOC might postpone any decision on Burma until its next ordinary session in July 2002. The pretext would most likely be a high-level ILO mission to Burma scheduled for next September and October whose principle was established at last week's ILC. According to an ICFTU spokesman, "such an attitude would amount to ignoring ILO recommendations. Indeed, the ILO clearly feels that the high-level mission is only a first step and would in no way change the implementation of previous ILO decisions."

    A secret memorandum of the Burmese government, which the ICFTU has made allusion to on several occasions in the past few months, shows that the Burmese government's top priority in relation to ILO measures is to prevent ECOSOC from discussing the issue.
    Burma to cooperate with forced-labour probe

    Thomas Crampton International Herald Tribune
    Wednesday, July 4, 2001

    RANGOON Seeking to stem a flood of allegations about the widespread use of forced labor, Burma's government is vowing to cooperate fully with international investigators even as it continues to defend its record on workers' rights.

    The government, likening threatened economic sanctions to nuclear war, said it would offer complete access to a team expected to arrive in September to investigate the accusations.

    Speaking in a rare interview, members of the government delegation to a June 11 meeting about Burma at the International Labor Organization in Geneva said that Burma had instituted important changes in labor practices.U Win Mra, director-general of the international organizations and economic department in Burma's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cited what he called a new spirit of dialogue with international organizations.

    "The ambiance has changed," U Win Mra said. "Up to now, the world has not been treating us fairly."

    Last November the labor organization, a UN affiliate with 175 member countries, called for sanctions against Burma, saying the military government frequently forced villagers to do unpaid work.But U Win Mra said that a recent in-depth self-assessment by the government did not find forced labor and, in addition, a national mechanism would stop incidents of forced labor from occurring.

    The government's finding sharply contrasts with investigations by numerous independent international human rights groups that concluded there was widespread use of forced labor.
    Tribal Separatist Grp Rejected Burma Junta Truce Offer

    GAUHATI, India (AP)--A tribal separatist group that operates along the India-Myanmar frontier said Wednesday it has rejected a truce offer from the military junta in Yangon.

    Myanmar asked for a truce after the National Socialist Council of Nagaland entered into a cease-fire with India in April, said an NSCN leader on condition that he not be identified by name.

    "We are against signing any agreement with a military regime that does not favor democracy," the rebel leader told the Associated Press by telephone from a base in India's northeastern Nagaland state.

    The NSCN is divided into two factions which have been fighting a 50-year-old bush war for an independent homeland comprising Naga dominated areas in India and Myanmar. Both factions have signed a truce with India.

    However, Kitovi Zhimomi, general secretary of the NSCN faction led by S.S.Khaplang, said in a newspaper interview this week that his group's struggle against the military junta in Myanmar would continue despite the cease-fire with India. Zhimomi told The Telegraph newspaper that the Naga-inhabited areas in Myanmar were among the most backward parts of the world, lacking medical facilities and communications.

    The Khaplang branch of the NSCN has bases in several northeastern Indian states as well as in Myanmar. The group says there are approximately 1.3 million Nagas in areas they control.

    More than 25,000 people have been killed since the Naga insurrection began soon after India attained independence from Britain in 1947. The separatists say they are alienated from the rest of India and neglected by the federal government, and that their indigenous culture is under threat.

    The Naga rebels have said they will continue their campaign against Myanmar - also known as Burma - until they reach an agreement with the military junta. "There can be no rest till all Naga inhabited areas are integrated under one administrative umbrella," Zhimomi said in an interview in The Telegraph newspaper.
    Famous currency dealer ,Ma Khin Aye sentenced to 7 year-imprisonment under ESA

    Rangoon, July 4, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    The military government in Burma has jailed a currency dealer in Rangoon for seven years imprisonment under Emergency Security Act (ESA), which is traditionally used against its political opponents.

    Ma Khin Aye, who owns a store near Myaynigone Point in Rangoon, was recently sentenced to seven years in jail for her alleged role in the "currency slide" which the military-run Burma witnessed two months ago.

    Burma's currency, the kyat, fell to lowest record in its exchange with foreign currencies in April and May until the government cracked down on black-market moneychangers in Rangoon and other cities. The kyat sank to 850-900 per US dollar in mid May as lowest ever-level while the official exchange rate is pegged at six kyat a dollar.

    The authorities had arrested several dozens of moneychangers, including Ma Khin Aye, by the end of May to prevent further currency drop. While many of them have been reportedly released since then, Ma Khin Aye was sentenced for seven years imprisonment under 5 J of the Emergency Security Act (ESA) by a court in Rangoon last month.

    "We are surprised that while big moneychangers on Magol Street (Shwebontha Street) are released, the authorities have jailed Ma Khin Aye", commented a money dealer in Rangoon.

    Ma Khin Aye, a not-very-big currency dealer who also has a travel and tour business, had worked as moneychanger since 1998.

    At present, the kyat is being traded at 560 per US dollar in Rangoon.
    Malaysia on alert as drug production goes into overdrive

    KUALA LUMPUR, July 4, Kyodo - Malaysian police are on high alert after intelligence reports showed that drug lords in the Golden Triangle are pushing production of stimulants into ''overdrive,'' a local daily reported Wednesday.

    The New Straits Times said police believe preparations are under way in the Golden Triangle, an area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos converge, to smuggle about 800 million methamphetamine pills and amphetamine-type stimulant pills out for the global market, with Thailand being the first exit point.

    ''It is beginning to trickle out from the north and our proximity does not augur well,'' Narcotics Department deputy director Mukhtar Ismail was quoted as saying. ''A mere 1% of production capacity is sufficient to cause damage.''

    Law enforcement authorities in the region have identified 60 laboratories operating along the Myanmar-Thailand border, the report said.

    Besides Malaysia, authorities in Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore have also been on alert for the expected influx.In Malaysia, authorities have begun another round of operations to dent the local market for MDMA, a synthetic stimulant popularly known as ecstasy, by raiding entertainment outlets and other nightspots. They have identified about 80 unlicensed entertainment centers suspected of serving as distribution points for the drug.

    ''It is a serious problem, and with such production capacity, consumers are definitely our focus of attention,'' Mukhtar said.
    Ban on poppy farming in Afghanistan leads to drop in opium production: UN

    United Nations, Jul 4, 2001

    3 July -Opium production has dropped significantly around the globe, thanks largely to the ban on opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, the world's leading producer, according to a new report released today by the Vienna-based United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP).

    The report, Global Illicit Drug Trends 2001, states that last year, Afghanistan accounted for 70 per cent of global opium production, followed by Myanmar with 23 per cent. The report predicts that "the current ban on opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is likely to dramatically reduce opium production in 2001."

    Overall, opium production dropped by 19 per cent worldwide, to about 4,700 tonnes. Global cocaine production remained more or less stable in 2000. In the absence of reliable data on cannabis cultivation, ODCCP notes a 35 per cent increase in seizures of herbal cannabis and says this points to "continued widespread production and trafficking of the drug."

    In 1999, a third of all illegal drugs were seized in North America, a quarter in Western Europe, a fifth in Asia and a tenth in South America, according to the report.

    On the consumption side, ODCCP estimates that in the late 1990s, 180 million people consumed illicit drugs annually. This figure includes 144 million for cannabis, 29 million for amphetamine-type stimulants, 14 million for cocaine and 13.5 million for opiates. Because some people use more than one drug, the figures are not cumulative, the agency notes. The strongest increases were for cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants, according to the report. Cannabis abuse is generally increasing in Europe the Americas, Africa and Oceania, while decreasing in South and South-West Asia. Heroin abuse, which remained generally stable in Western Europe, increased in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South-West Asia and, to a lesser degree, some countries in East and South-East Asia.
    American dreams

    source : The Orange County Register
    July 4, 2001

    As one O.C. immigrant becomes a citizen in time to commemorate the Fourth of July, others yearn for their own big day.
    By ANH DO

    This will be his first July 4 setting off fireworks with his sons. His first celebration, joining "my fellow Americans" as a U.S. citizen. Those newly naturalized and more than 1 million people waiting for citizenship will help America celebrate freedom today, giving fresh perspective to the meaning of the Fourth.

    Jan Novak, tennis instructor, fled communism and Czecho slovakia for opportunity and love of a game. "I am happy to be in my second home." Novak, of Garden Grove, is among 10,000 immigrants across the nation who were sworn in as citizens Tuesday -- just in time for the holiday.

    They include Thuya Maw of Garden Grove, who fled political repression in Burma, and Mohammed Abbi of Anaheim, whose brother and sister were murdered in Somalia.

    In America, the three of them say, you can play the sport of your choice. You can protest. You can sing in the streets or send your children to the school of their dreams. And you can breathe without fear of oppression. They rejoice in this haven from strife. Particularly Novak, who relishes life in a place where it's possible to succeed, "even when age is against you," like his hero, Andre Agassi.

    Thuya Maw of Garden Grove thinks it has wonderful, perfectly modern hospitals.He dreams of working in one, of a future as a public health official when he can use his passion for medicine to aid the disadvantaged.

    In a hot fall in 1988, he stood with thousands at a huge student demonstration against the military dictatorship in Burma, in power since 1962. "We saw our people without rights, without property and any decision in anything, so we had to protest," he said.

    Maw, a rising leader, was forced to leave Rangoon, the capital, for the jungles along the Thai-Burmese border. He was six months away from graduation at his veterinary science college.

    The city boy adjusted to village living, sleeping in bamboo huts, eating fish paste mixed with rice, vegetables and caring for the locals. The ethnic Karen, a minority tribe, supplied him with food in exchange for medical assistance. Goods, from bandages to anti-malaria drugs, came from nonprofit groups and friends in Thailand.

    During those seven years, he taught himself English from donated books. Maw married another activist and moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to edit a health magazine. By 1997,with his mother settled in California, he applied to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees and was allowed to enter the United States.

    When he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport in 1999, "I knew that we were free," he remembered. "We didn't have to worry about unexpected arrests or anybody punishing us for our beliefs."

    Maw now works in a laboratory processing blood and urine samples. "I feel I'm lucky because I'm still surviving," he says. In America, he can freely write to the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, to ask after a job helping people fight off addiction. They told him to try when he becomes a citizen. He still needs a green card. He can't wait.
    Driver smuggling illegal immigrants into S'pore nabbed at Woodlands Checkpoint

    (Channel NewsAsia)

    A 25-year-old Malaysian's attempt to smuggle 4 illegal immigrants into Singapore was foiled at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Tuesday night.Immigration officers say at about 7.30pm, a Malaysian-registered metallic green Nissan Serena was signalled to stop for checks at the arrival bay.

    They then noticed an unusual bulge under the chassis, which suggested the car had been modified.When officers lifted the carpeted floorboard, they found 4 illegal immigrants - 3 Myanmar men and a 21-year-old Indian national - hiding in a specially-built compartment, which had 2 ventilation tubes to supply air.

    Immigration officers then seized the car and arrested all the 5 men, including the driver. They will be charged in court and if convicted, they could be jailed, caned and fined.