Daily News-July 10 - 2001- Tuesday

  • Secret Burma talks may mean freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Freedom hope for Suu Kyi after talks with Burmese junta
  • Junta Announces New Naval Base
  • Burma, New Zealand visas under review
  • New law to get Burma firms to use local supplies
  • Japan extends Burma aid for judo equipment
  • One-Fourth Farmland Ploughed by Machines
  • Burma Sets Up 18,129 Cooperatives in Nine Years
  • 3 M'sian men charged with murder of Burmese national

  • Secret Burma talks may mean freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi

    Scotsman Online

    THAILAND’S defence minister suggested this weekend that Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be freed from house arrest to join an interim national government with the military. He told Bangkok newspapers that secret talks between the Nobel peace prize winner and Burma’s military rulers were aimed at forming an interim government ahead of new elections. The minister, General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, is said to be close to the Burmese junta.

    New speculation that Ms Suu Kyi could be freed could easily be premature. But publicly at least Burma’s military is moving to accommodate supporters of one of the world’s most celebrated champions of democracy.

    "Once all groups are engaged in a national government and get to work, confidence among the former rivals will soon be established," said Gen. Yongchaiyudh. "After a while, a new election should be held."

    Burma has been under military rule for about forty years.Ms Suu Kyi returned to Burma in the late 1980s. Her party won general elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power. Burma’s generals ignored the results and placed her under arrest. Last week Burma released seven members of Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, among the last of more than 200 elected lawmakers who were detained three years ago when the party tried to convene a parliament. In a brief statement the regime announced that seven MPs "staying at government guest houses in Rangoon have left the guest houses to return home to their families". However, a senior official of the NLD said that at least three elected representatives remained in detention.

    Suu Kyi and her top two aides, party president Aung Shwe and vice chairman Tin Oo, also remain under house detention, enforced since September when Suu Kyi tried to travel outside Rangoon, in defiance of official restrictions.

    The secret talks have been called the most significant direct contact between the two sides in a decade of bitter political deadlock. Dozens of detainees have been freed. Since June, 29 NLD members who won seats in the 1990 elections have been released from government "guest houses,"' a euphemism for detention centers mostly located on military camps.

    According to the NLD, nearly 965 party members, including 203 of its elected representatives, were rounded up in 1998 and put in such guest houses, soon after the NLD set up a committee which it said represented parliament. The NLD won 392 of the 485 contested seats in the 1990 elections. It set up the committee as the military had ignored its repeated demands that a proper parliament be convened.

    Last month the party won permission to reopen a branch office outside the capital. About 30 members and leaders of the National League for Democracy attended a ceremony to fix a party signboard on a rundown thatch and bamboo hut scheduled to serve as the party office in Taikkyi town. It was the first party office allowed to be reopened since a crackdown in 1998 closed many of the 40 branches in and around the capital, Rangoon. A party executive committee member called it "an auspicious moment" and a result of the talks.

    For good luck, a bunch of euginia leaves was tied to a pole atop which a faded party flag fluttered. About 15 plainclothes intelligence officers and police, however, took photos and video of the proceedings.Authorities have also given the NLD permission to reopen 18 branch offices around Rangoon, out of which nine will be allowed to put up party signboards. The boards are the only visible symbol of the opposition in a country that remains firmly in the grip of the military.

    The current group of generals came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement in which thousands were killed. The junta called elections in 1990 but refused to hand over power.
    Freedom hope for Suu Kyi after talks with Burmese junta

    The Independent - United Kingdom; Jul 9, 2001

    THE STRAWS have been blowing in the wind for several weeks. A handful of Burma's 1,800 political prisoners have been set free, a United Nations human rights official has been given permission to visit, and the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party headed by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, has been allowed to reopen some of its offices.

    Now, Thailand's Defence Minister, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who is known to be close to Burma's ruling junta, says Ms Suu Kyi may soon be released from house arrest, which could lead to fresh elections.

    No independent confirmation of the report was obtainable. The opposition leader, who is under house arrest in her lakeside home in a Rangoon suburb, began secret talks with the junta late last year. Neither side has commented on them, and access to information within Burma is rigidly controlled.

    But the grounds for optimism have been building rapidly. Last Monday the junta released Aye Win, 60, a top aide of Ms Suu Kyi and her cousin. The release came after Mr Win had served a five-year prison term for "subversion". An NLD politician said: "Since there are some political prisoners who have not been released even after serving their terms, we cannot say there is no significance to this release."
    Junta Announces New Naval Base

    By Maung Maung Oo
    Source : The Irrawaddy News Magazine

    July 9, 2001--Plans to build the largest naval base in Burma were announced on June 10th during a meeting of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Burma's ruling military body. The proposed base will be located in the Kawthaung district of the Tenasserim Division in southern Burma.

    The new naval base will include a tactical operation command post for the Tenasserim Naval Region Command Headquarters located in Kyun Su. The base will also act as a year-round deep-sea port for major war vessels, according to a well-placed source close to the Burmese navy.

    Burma's Navy has been upgrading its naval infrastructure and increasing its capabilities at sea since 1988 with the assistance of China, a major ally in the region. In 1992, with the help of China, Burma's military regime set up signals intelligence equipment (SIGNIT) on Hainggyi Island, Coco Island and Zadetkyi Island, enabling them to better monitor maritime activities between the Tenasserim Coastal Region and the Straits of Malacca to the south.

    Currently in the Tenasserim coastal region, Burma's Navy has a base on Zadetkyi Island, base No. 58, as well as naval outposts on Mali Island, Kadan Island, Sakhanthit (Sellore) Island and Pearl Island. Although the Burmese Navy faces no serious naval threats from other countries, it frequently exchanges fire with the Royal Thai Navy over a fishing area in disputed territorial waters.
    Burma, New Zealand visas under review

    source . The Nation
    Pranee Muenpangwaree, Piyanart Srivalo

    Changes in the status of visitors from Burma and New Zealand are among topics expected to be discussed when authorities meet this week to review immigration regulations.

    Representatives from the National Security Council (NSC), the Foreign Ministry, the police and the Tourism Authority of Thailand are also likely to consider increases in visa fees, sources said.They added any increases were likely to be opposed by the TAT, the state tourist agency.

    According to present immigration regulations, nationals from a number of countries - including the United States, Japan, New Zealand, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore - are entitled to one-month visas with no charge when entering Thailand.Nationals from several other countries - including Japan, India, Russia and Hungary - can obtain visas on arrival that allow them to stay up to 15 days.

    "The review of the visa-free agreement on the Burmese turns on the fact that Burma does not have a reciprocal agreement for Thais," a senior Foreign Ministry source said.However a high-ranking source at the NSC said that a series of recent incidents involving Burmese had played a major role in the review of visa policies.

    The incidents included the seizure of the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok in 1999 and a hospital in Ratchaburi province last year. Burmese students who are allowed to reside in a detention camp along the border were involved in those incidents and have also carried out "many crimes and offences", the source said.

    "In any case the Burmese should not be considered potential tourists to Thailand as they are generally poor, having no time or money to visit our country," he added.

    The source at the Foreign Ministry said the review of visa rules for New Zealanders was based on the fact that Wellington has revoked visa-free privileges for Thai visitors. "We believe that the agreement should be a reciprocal one," he said.New Zealand stopped allowing Thais to enter the country without a visa because too many were abusing the privilege to work illegally there.Visa requirements for African countries whose nationals rarely visit Thailand will also be reviewed at this week's meeting.
    New law to get Burma firms to use local supplies

    by Indochina bureau chief Romen Bose
    source . Channel News asia

    'Buy Myanmar' - that's what the Yangon government is trying to get manufacturers in the country to do with a new ruling that makes export earnings untransferable.The law puts an end to Myanmar companies pooling the amount of foreign parts and materials that they're allowed to import.

    When Myanmar began opening up its economy a decade ago, businesses wanting to import parts, machinery and equipment could use up to 80% of export earnings to buy them.Those wanting more foreign raw materials were allowed to pay other exporters for their excess quota.But the new ruling bars such transfers as it aims to get more manufacturers to use local supplies to make Myanmar more self-sufficient.

    Many businessmen in the country say the economic crisis in the late 90s has shown Myanmar that opening up too soon may cause instability.Dr Y. M. Hassanjee, a shop owner, said: "We have got the open-door policy but the door is not open very wide. "It is just a slit, according to my opinion. But there are some businessmen here flourishing like anything. "They are from India, Bangkok and Malaysia, Indonesia. "Now we are progressing, step by step. We don't want to jump like Indonesia. "We want to go slow and steady."

    Companies that sell steel nails, barbed wire and mesh are among those at the front line of the latest economic policies as many of their materials come from neighbouring Thailand and China.It's a reflection, analysts say, of the realities facing the government.

    The skirmish with Thailand over border disputes and drug traffickers earlier this year led to a sealing of the borders.The lack of border trade and a stop to the import of Thai products and goods that followed caused the currency the Kyat to weaken against the greenback and raised prices of goods.

    With the re-opening of the border this month, the Kyat is expected to stabilise, helping to bring prices down.But experts say much more needs to be done to draw back foreign direct investments which have been on the decline.

    Investments from Myanmar's biggest foreign investor, Singapore, for instance, fell from S$1.3b in 1997 to S$940m last year.There was however good news in that economic growth for Myanmar exceeded 8% last year.

    Although many in the country are positive about the business climate, they hope the law will be amended to allow Myanmar to get more materials and goods not available locally but are essential in enhancing goods it exports in order to compete in the international arena.
    Japan extends Burma aid for judo equipment

    YANGON, July 9 Kyodo - Japan has agreed to provide 40 million yen for use by the Myanmar Judo Federation to buy mats, uniforms and training equipment, the Japanese Embassy in Yangon said Monday.
    One-Fourth Farmland Ploughed by Machines

    YANGON, July 8 (Xinhuanet) -- A total of 2.835 million hectares of farmland are now ploughed by machines in Myanmar, accounting for 23.34 percent of the country's cultivated land which stretches 12. 15 million hectares, according to the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation Sunday.

    The land which is ploughed by draught animals covers 9.315 million hectares, taking up 76.66 percent of the total cultivated land. The ministry disclosed that so far the number of tractors in the country has gone to 8,600, of which 5,500 are owned by the private sector and 3,100 by the department. Besides, the number of power tillers owned by the private sector has reached 49,000.

    Meanwhile, the country has also set up 22 mechanized farming villages across the country to boost agricultural production and to reduce labor cost and time in the undertaking. At the same time, the government has also exempted the import duties of agricultural machinery along with fertilizer, pesticide and improved variety.

    Myanmar, with its economy based on agriculture, is striving to transform its traditional farming to mechanized one for the development of its agriculture and food security of its 52-million population which is estimated to grow 2 percent annually. The country's agriculture represents 37 percent of its gross domestic product and 25 percent of the export value.
    Burma Sets Up 18,129 Cooperatives in Nine Years

    YANGON, July 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Altogether 18,129 cooperatives have been established in Myanmar since the country promulgated its Cooperative Society Law in 1992, giving priority to the development of agricultural productivity, according to the Myanmar Ministry of Cooperatives Sunday.

    The cooperatives include 10,994 agricultural producers' and 1, 280 industrial producers'. The agricultural producers' cooperatives produced 12.27 billion Kyats (about 2.045 billion U.S. dollars) worth of agricultural crops in fiscal year 2000-01 which ended in March, the sources said. Meanwhile, the industrial producers' cooperatives produced 714. 7 million Kyats (about 119.12 million dollars) worth of import- substitute items in the same fiscal year, it added.

    In addition, the cooperative sector has achieved 11.2 percent growth rate in the 2000-01, the sources claimed, targeting to achieve 8.4 percent annual growth in the value of production and services during the country's current five-year plan period (2001- 02 to 2005-06). The Central Cooperative Society of Myanmar joined the International Cooperatives Alliance (ICA) in 1993.
    3 M'sian men charged with murder of Burmese national

    Channel NewsAsia

    The court heard that Jeffrey Anak Randi, 26, Anak Bukok, 20, and Jamal Anak Nyalau, 19, attacked the deceased between 3am and 4am last Saturday at the back lane between Lorong 22 and Lorong 24 Geylang.

    The deceased, 36-year-old Thet Lwin, died of serious head injuries. The three accused are in police custody for a week for investigations. Their case will be heard again next Monday.