Daily News-July 12 - 2001- Thursday

  • Reuters quote of the day,July 10
  • Crackdown Does Little to Help Burma's Economy
  • Burma Purchases MIG 29s at Discount Price
  • Former School Personnel Arrested In Burma
  • Wa shift drug bases from Burma to Laos
  • Over 441,500 Motor Vehicles in Operation in Myanmar
  • Myanmar illegal nabbed while rowing sampan into Singapore
  • EU wants to send new mission to Burma

  • Reuters quote of the day,July 10

    LONDON, July 10 (Reuters) - Following is a notable quote from history.

    "I am happy to be able to say that despite all that we have undergone, the forces for democracy in Burma remain strong and dedicated."

    - Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar opposition leader, appearing in public for the firsttime after nearly six years under house arrest. She was released on July 10, 1995.
    Crackdown Does Little to Help Burma's Economy

    Thomas Crampton
    International Herald Tribune
    Wednesday, July 11, 2001

    RANGOON Until the police came for her this spring, Ma Khine Aye was known as the woman who ruled Burma's currency, the kyat.

    Operating openly from a shop marked by a signboard in downtown Rangoon, Ma Khine Aye changed dollars to kyat for foreign and local businesses. She even had a listing in the Yellow Pages and advertisements in English-language publications.

    That was before the ruling military junta began a crackdown on unauthorized currency traders in April. It was the latest in a series of awkward attempts to stop the currency's slide from the official rate of 6 kyat to the dollar to the black-market rate of 800 kyat to the dollar.

    Police swept across the capital, arresting Ma Khine Aye and more than 400 other exchange traders, effectively shutting down the private currency market. The crackdown has crept into other markets that affect the currency. Shops selling gold, a favored commodity of financial last resort, were recently warned to set prices at a government-decreed level. About 30 brokers selling cars, all of which must be bought with hard currency, were detained in the past two weeks pending tax inquiries. Taxi drivers complain that gasoline rations have been cut from 3 gallons to just 2 gallons (7.6 liters) a day. "There are undercover military intelligence officers watching from everywhere," one woman said.

    "This is the tightest crackdown we have seen in more than five years."The initiative has temporarily stabilized the exchange rate, but as Thailand's border to Burma reopens after many months of closing, the demand for hard currency may prove tempting to dealers.

    With foreigners returning to Rangoon, the seedy basement bars in the city's five-star hotels are doing a thriving business. Elsewhere, however, the economic outlook remains bleak.Since a burst of foreign investment at the height of Asia's economic boom in the early 1990s came to an end, Burma's economy has been locked in a downward spiral.

    Exports are down, hampered by the country's record on human rights. The government denies Western organizations' allegations that it tolerates forced labor, but union groups and others have been pushing boycotts.

    Investors shun the country, too. Two major foreign banks, frustrated at the lack of economic progress, closed local offices in the past year.

    "The economy may be bad, but there is little motivation for those in control to reform," said one Rangoon-based Burmese economist. "The government alternates randomly between odd, desperate and occasionally appropriate measures." Rules governing the key agricultural sector highlight the impact of seemingly arbitrary policies. Price deregulation of beans several years ago encouraged farmers to grow the crop, which became one of the country's largest agricultural exports. Rice, by contrast, was considered too strategically important for deregulation. As a result, Burma, the world's largest exporter of the crop in the 1940s, now exports little rice.

    Economists now also fear that a confusing currency policy may encourage the development of a cumbersome three-currency economy of dollars, the official Burmese kyat and a proxy currency known as foreign-exchange certificates. The use of dollars in Burma is technically illegal, but the law is frequently flouted by businesses and even the government itself, which often requires dollar payments for services. .Foreign executives and visitors have long been urged by the government to use the certificates.

    To support the proxy currency, tourists entering Burma are required to exchange at least $300 for an equal amount of the certificates, which hold a 1-to-1 value to the dollar. This policy allows the government to collect tourist dollars up front by requiring hotels and citizens to accept the "Monopoly money" certificates as a dollar equivalent. In what observers call a rare act of restrained economic management, the government had maintained the certificates' equal value to the dollar. In the last several weeks, however, the government appears to have switched the peg to a fixed kyat value. Instead of is fixing their value at $1, the government said certificates could be cashed in at government counters for 490 kyat.

    Unless Burma's government follows market trends, adjusting the kyat value of the certificates as the kyat itself varies against the dollar, the certificates could decouple from the dollar and create a third currency, economists warn.
    Burma Purchases MIG 29s at Discount Price

    TTU (France)

    [BurmaNet adds--This article is a translation from the French language newsletter TTU. TTU is an intelligence newsletter that is widely read in French military and government circles. It's former editor is now the communications advisor to France's Minister of Defense. "TTU" is an abbreviation for Tres Tres Urgent (Very Very Urgent).]

    Burma has ordered 10 MIG 29s, including 2 MIG 29 UB. Russia is conducting a very aggressive commercial policy in the bay of bengal: in 1999, Bengladesh successfully bought the same aircraft for $ 11 million each, including maintenance and associated services, and $ 13 million for aircraft negotiated in March 2001.

    Burma obtained this tariff. The Burmese contract - $130 million- contains important payment delays, an opportunity for a country known for its financial difficulties. One third has to be paid on delivery and the remaining in 10 years. this purchase should contribute to a new deterioration of relations with Thailand.

    [BurmaNet adds--The Mikoyan MIG 29 Fulcrum is a sophisticated Russian-made aircraft primarily useful for air to air combat but with some air to ground capabilities. The MIG 29 is far superior to any aircraft in Burma's current inventory which is primarily made up of F-7 fighter-interceptors and A-5 fighter-ground attack aircraft. The MIG 29 UB is a two seat trainer. The MIG 29 is roughly comparable the American-made F-16s. The Thai Air Force operates 32 F-16s which are the most potent weapons their inventory. Thailand used F-16 flyovers to intimidate Burmese troops during border clashes earlier this year.]
    Former School Personnel Arrested In Burma

    By Maung Maung Oo
    source . The Irrawaddy News Magazine

    July 11, 2001--Four retired education workers in the southern Burma City of Mergui were arrested and detained last month for their criticism of a new Burmese textbook that depicts Thai people in an unfavorable light, according to a source in Mergui.

    Troops from the No.19 Intelligence Unit of the Mergui District led by Captain Nyi Nyi Min reportedly arrested the individuals in the middle of the night at their homes and charged them with obstructing the pursuance of peaceful education. The teachers are currently being detained at an unknown location, according to the source.The individuals under arrest are members of an educational consultant committee for the Mergui District, according to the source.

    On June 10th, during an education seminar held by the education department of the Mergui District, the committee member's reportedly criticized the government regarding the textbook. They accused the regime of attempting to instill hatred in the youth of Burma by disseminating unfavorable views of Thai people. They also criticized the government for bringing teachers and students into the political arena.

    Those currently being detained are U Chin sein, a retired middle school teacher, Daw Shwe Than Tin, a retired high school teacher, Daw Myint Myint, a retired assistant township level education officer and U Aung Gyi, a retired high school headmaster.

    The new history book issued by the ruling military regime contains material that describes Thai people as servile and lazy and accuses them of sympathizing with anti-Rangoon insurgency groups based in Thailand. The book claims Thailand is supporting these groups both directly and indirectly and is benefiting from illegal logging and fishing as well as participating in drug related activities.

    Dr Than Tun, a well-known historian in Burma and the Southeast Asian region, expressed his unhappiness with this new textbook, "We are not happy about it. Neither side should indulge in hatred."

    The new textbook issued last month is to be used in 2001-2002 school year that is currently in session. The book also covers the invasion of Thailand by Burmese kings in the past among other historical topics. Thai analysts have said that Thailand has also been guilty of distorting regional history in the past.
    Wa shift drug bases from Burma to Laos

    Subin Khuenkaew

    One million pills made every month

    The United Wa State Army is moving its methamphetamine production bases from Burma to areas in Laos opposite Chiang Rai, Phayao and Nan.

    The Third Army and the Narcotics Control Board have common intelligence that drug factories were being moved from Burmese areas opposite Chiang Mai to Bo Kaew and Chai Buri provinces of Laos.The new spots are adjacent to Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong and Wiang Kaen districts in Chiang Rai, and several areas opposite Phayao and Nan.

    A military source said the Wa moved 11 factories to an area opposite Chiang Saen in addition to five other factories already run by Shan people who were former members of the Mong Tai Army. Their combined production capacity should reach a million pills a month.

    The move reportedly received co-operation from Hmong people, including former Hmong rebels, who helped arrange new locations and armed troops to guard the factories."The authority of the Lao government does not reach to such areas. This allows the outlaws to share the benefits from drugs," the source said.The source said the move might have resulted from pressure applied by Asean members and China on the Burmese government to stop drugs production on its soil.

    Military intelligence expected more smuggling to originate from Laos, crossing the Mekong river to Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong and Wiang Kaen, as well as on land routes across the border to Phayao and Nan."Smugglers should rely mainly on the Mekong river. They can use long-tailed boats to reach Chiang Rai, their major destination. Drug smuggling is not new in the area but it was done on a small scale in the past. Active smuggling will now take place," the source said.

    Col Nakhon Sripetphan, commander of the Pha Muang task force, said his force was moving its anti-narcotics focus to the Thai-Lao border in the North, especially along the Mekong river border.The military would not, however, neglect old smuggling routes along the Thai-Burmese border, Col Nakhon said.
    Over 441,500 Motor Vehicles in Operation in Myanmar

    YANGON, July 11 (Xinhuanet) -- The number of motor vehicles in operation in Myanmar reached 441,549 at the end of February this year, an increase of 11,850 from a year ago, according to government-released figures.

    The official Economic Indicators, published by Myanmar's Central Statistical Organization, said in its latest issue that the total registered motor vehicles running in the country included 174,570 passenger cars, 53,816 trucks, 16,890 buses and 174,507 motor cycles. These motor vehicles used in Myanmar were mainly manufactured in Japan and most of them are second-hand or outdated ones since the import of brand-new vehicles decreased.Meanwhile, more than 819,000 persons in Myanmar are holding driving licenses, the country's Ministry of Transport disclosed.

    Official statistics show that Myanmar has so far built 6,916.8 km of roads since 1988 when the present government took office with its total length extending up to 30,232.8 km now. Of them, 80 roads are designated as the country's union highways stretching 24, 659 km. Myanmar enacted a new Highways Law in November 2000, aimed at bringing about easier communication and transportation among regions of the country for quick flow of commodities.

    The country has also laid down plans for systematic and better transportation, building more new roads along with bridges in its bid to uplift socio-economic life of local people and development of the nation. Accordingly, there has been a number of local private companies building roads in the country under the build-operate-transfer contracts with the transport authorities.
    Myanmar illegal nabbed while rowing sampan into Singapore

    Channel News Asia

    An illegal immigrant from Myanmar has been arrested after trying to row his way into Singapore on a sampan.Police say they received a call at about 12.22am on Tuesday that a sampan was being rowed slowly towards the Kranji Park shoreline from the direction of Johor.

    A police coast guard craft sent to the scene intercepted the 25-year-old Myanmar national's boat.He admitted he had planned to enter Singapore illegally to seek employment.

    Acting Commandar of the Police Coast Guard, DSP Anthony Ng thanked the member of the public who had tipped them off.He said this shows that a good working relationship between the police and the community can help combat crime and make Singapore a safer place to live in.

    The Myanmar national will be charged in court on Wednesday for illegal entry into Singapore.
    EU wants to send new mission to Burma

    BANGKOK, July 12 (AFP) - Belgium hopes to send a European mission to Myanmar during its tenure as president of the European Union (EU), the Belgian ambassador to Thailand said Thursday.

    Belgian Ambassador Pierre Vaesen said the visit, which would follow a EU mission to Yangon earlier this year, could take place before the EU reviews sanctions against Myanmar this fall.

    "We would like to have a second troika visit under our presidency," he said. "I would expect this to happen in October, maybe even November."

    He added that additional visits by United Nations (UN) envoy Razali Ismail and UN human rights special rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro were expected soon.

    "There will be more visits and contacts in the coming weeks," Vaesen said. "Razali should go back fairly soon to Yangon, and Pinheiro might also go back."

    "We really want the political dialogue to proceed," he said. "It seems indispensible to us that some strong guarantees should be given by the government to the opposition parties."

    The release of further political prisoners and "freedom of movement and action" for political parties in Myanmar are "prerequisites" for the EU's review of the sanctions it renewed in April for six months, he said.

    The EU's policy towards Myanmar would also hinge on information from other forthcoming visits, including a three-week International Labour Organisation (ILO) mission to investigate forced labour in September.

    "If by the end of September we could get some very significant information based on this ILO mission, based on the Razali visit, maybe another Pinheiro visit -- we would have the elements to review the situation," he said.

    In April, the EU renewed its sanctions against military-ruled Myanmar for six more months, stating that the human rights situation in the Southeast Asian nation remains "extremely serious."

    In a statement, EU foreign ministers said the common position of the 15 EU member states -- including an arms embargo, a visa ban on junta members and associates, and a suspension of non-humanitarian aid -- would remain intact through October.

    Nevertheless, the ministers said they "sincerely hoped" that contacts between the junta and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi would lead to political reconciliation.Aung San Suu Kyi met with the first EU delegation in January, her first confirmed contact with foreign diplomats since UN envoy Razali visited her twice earlier this year.

    Razali later revealed that the Nobel peace laureate had held secret talks with the junta since October in an effort to try to resolve the decade-old political standoff.Belgium officially took over the EU's presidency from Sweden on July 1, and will lead the 15-nation body for six months.