Daily News-July 15 - 2001- Sunday

  • Burmese Garment Workers Protest US Bill To Stop Imports
  • Burma in nuclear reactor deal with Russia
  • Amnesty welcomes release of Burmese detainees
  • Another Political Prisoner Dies in Burma
  • Wa rushes speed over border before plants shift to Laos
  • More than a million pills taken last month
  • Thai soldier shot dead in drugs bust
  • Burma Implementing Extended Prawn Breeding Plan
  • Indo-Burma border trade declining

  • Burmese Garment Workers Protest US Bill To Stop Imports

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP)--Thousands of workers in more than 400 garment factories sent an open letter to the U.S. Embassy saying a proposed bill prohibiting import of Myanmar products would cause great hardship to 300,000 textile workers and their families in Myanmar, authorities said Saturday.

    The letter was in response to a bill submitted to the U.S. Senate on May 22 prohibiting the import of Myanmar products. The U.S. has strongly criticized Myanmar's military regime for alleged violations of human rights, and some economic sanctions are already in place.

    "On behalf of the employees, we would like to request madame charge d'affaires' appreciation and kind understanding of our situation and the very source of livelihood of the over 300,000 employees and their dependent families, about 1.5 million people, and the multiplier effects on the whole population," stated the letter to the U.S. Embassy official, Priscilla Clapp.

    "Socio-economic sufferings and woes befall us, as we are going to be laid off if the factories were to shut down," the letter said, adding that although the bill was apparently aimed at exerting pressure on the government, "the poor mass will be the target and will have to bear the punch."

    At a briefing at the Union of Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vice President Htein Win said that out of the $401 million worth of apparel exports last year, Myanmar companies received $40.1 million, of which 2% went to the government in taxes and the remaining $39.3 million was paid for overhead and wages.
    Burma in nuclear reactor deal with Russia

    By Dan Eaton

    BANGKOK (Reuters) - Myanmar's ruling military is negotiating with Russia to buy a nuclear reactor,in a move that raises concerns over the impoverished nation's ability to cope with high-maintenance technology.

    David Kyd, chief spokesman of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that although Yangon had asked for "general advice" on the purchase, there were safety concerns.

    The deal would provide Myanmar -- snubbed by much of the Western world for its human rights record and alleged involvement in the illicit drugs trade -- with its first taste of nuclear technology.

    "We have not been asked to get involved, except to give technical advice on what the establishment of a research reactor involves," Kyd told Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday. "If asked for further advice, we will be impressing on Myanmar authorities that they don't just have to get the piece of equipment and the instruction book. You have to be sure you have the scientific ability to operate it, to maintain it in good condition and to supervise its safety," Kyd said.

    "You don't just hand this over to a bunch of scientists and say: 'get on with it'." Nuclear experts say that of the roughly 400 research reactors world-wide, nearly half have been mothballed due to their expense and complicated maintenance.

    "Thailand already has one such reactor, and it has been struggling with the construction of a second with technical problems, financial problems, and in the case of Thailand, which I don't think will be a problem in Myanmar, with environmental and political opposition," said one non-proliferation expert.

    Myanmar officials have declined to discuss the reactor deal, but a nascent Department of Atomic Energy is now in evidence on Yangon's Pyay Pagoda Road, in the form of a blue and white sign in front of a cluster of low-slung, largely empty buildings.

    Moscow and Yangon reached an in-principle agreement earlier this year, and are in ongoing talks to finalise the technical and commercial aspects of the transaction.

    "The idea is that Myanmar wants to have this reactor and the Ministry of Atomic Energy in Russia is ready to cooperate," Russia's Ambassador Gleb Ivashentsov said in a recent interview in Yangon. "Do not demonise Myanmar. They should not be denied the right to develop their own atomic science. If the U.S. has no doubts in making up their minds to supply reactors to North Korea (why not Myanmar)."


    Ivashentsov declined to give the reactor's specifications, describing it only as "a kind of small research reactor." "It is purely scientific, non-military," he said.

    A source close to the deal said the reactor was likely to be in the five-to-10 megawatt range with a cost of between $1 million and $5 million. "The 10 megawatt is the standard model you will be offered when you walk into the showroom," he said.

    Kyd confirmed that such a reactor was not likely to be suitable for the production of nuclear weapons. "A research reactor of this type would be to advance science and not have a more suspect dimension to it. However, we do keep our eyes on more elaborate nuclear research reactors of this type. There have been worries, for example, about one in Algeria built by the Chinese."

    Foreign diplomats in Yangon said they were aware of the deal, and that a number of technicians from Myanmar were believed to have left for Russia earlier this year for training.Ivashentsov said the financial aspects of the deal had yet to be finalised, but that Myanmar could pay in cash or barter with produce such as timber, rice and fish.

    "Russia is not in a position to provide long-term credit, (but) we can offer them technology," he said. Russia and Myanmar have a long history of close bilateral cooperation, which fizzled out with the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was resumed in the mid 1990s, and since then Moscow has sold around a dozen Mi-17 transport helicopters to the military regime, the ambassador said.

    The most obvious signs of the early years of cooperation include a hotel in the capital, a university, and a number of dams and irrigation schemes. The Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev also visited Yangon twice, in 1955 and 1960.
    Amnesty welcomes release of Burmese detainees

    source : Ananova

    Amnesty International has praised the release in Burma of several political detainees but says the military regime still holds 1,800 prisoners.

    The detainees included three elected representatives of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.Also freed were Pa Pa Lay and his cousin Lu Zaw, a comedy team known as the Moustache Brothers, imprisoned after a 1996 performance that poked fun at the country's generals and described government co-operatives as thieves.

    "We hope that they can soon return to the business of making jokes and entertaining the Burmese people without fear," said the London-based human rights group, which had campaigned for their release.

    The government said it has released 140 people since January since starting secret talks late last year with Suu Kyi, the most substantial dialogue between the two sides in a decade of bitter political deadlock.

    But Amnesty says the regime is still holding 1,800 prisoners,including scores of "prisoners of conscience". It has also placed Suu Kyi under virtual house arrest.

    The NLD representatives were identified as Tin Htut Oo, Dr Aung Moe Nyo and Saw Hlaing. The NLD says 37 of its elected representatives are still in jail. The three were the last of 203 elected NLD representatives detained three years ago when the party tried to convene a parliament, in accordance with the NLD's 1990 election victory that was not honoured by the military. Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the military government.

    Despite the recent string of releases marking an easing of restrictions on the NLD, the status of the talks between Suu Kyi and the government remain a mystery nine months after they began.
    Another Political Prisoner Dies in Burma

    By Kyaw Zwa Moe and Zarny Win
    source : The Irrawaddy News Magazine

    July 14, 2001--Another political prisoner passed away in Burma last week due to health problems he incurred as a result of becoming HIV-positive while in prison. Si Thu also known as Ye Naing, died in Tharawaddy hospital in central Burma on July 12, 2001, after serving over eleven years in prison, according to reliable sources in Rangoon.

    This marks the fifty-third political prisoner who has died at the hands of the ruling military junta in Burma since 1988, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPP). The AAPP estimates that 2,000-plus political prisoners remain incarcerated in absolute inhumane conditions in Burma’s archaic penal institutions.

    Si Thu, 35, reportedly began suffering lung and heart problems sometime last week while incarcerated at Tharawaddy Prison. He was then transferred to a local hospital where he later passed away, said a source close to Si Thu.

    Before he was transferred to Tharawaddy Prison he had been held at the notorious Insein Prison in Rangoon. Though he had been in poor health for sometime he never received the proper medical treatment he needed according to friends who were incarcerated with him at Insein Prison.

    Inmates at Insein Prison constantly run the risk of HIV infection due to unhygienic practices in the prison's medical ward. Not only are needles reused at Insein, but they often are not even disinfected before being used again on other inmates. This completely unintelligible practice has added to the growing HIV infection rate among inmates. Drug abuse among inmates at Insein is also high and contributes to the infection rate as well.

    Si Thu was a second-year college student at Rangoon University when he joined the pro-democracy movement in 1988. He later became a member of an underground Student Union which was outlawed by the military-government in Burma. Due to his political activities, he was arrested in 1990 and was sentenced to 10-years in prison under the 5j section of the Emergency Security Act which is often used against pro-democracy supporters.

    After moving to Tharawaddy Prison from Insein Prison, prison authorities informed him that his sentenced had been extended under Article 10/a of the State Protection Act which allows the government to extend prison sentences without reason. A full explanation as to why his sentence was extended was never given. Upon having his sentence extended he was transferred to a special cellblock at the prison, where only political prisoner detained under Article 10/a of the State Protection Act are held.

    Immediately after he was transfered to this cell his health condition rapidly deteriorated. At least seven additional political prisoners remain in this special cellblock for unknown reasons despite serving all of their initial sentences, according to Kyi Lwin from the AAPP.

    These prisoners are Zaw Aung from the National League for Democracy (NLD), Zaya,leader of the Democratic Party for a New Society and two other activists U Aung May Thu and Htay Kywe, who were close friends of Si Thu. Also in this cellblock are three members of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF). They are Soe Moe Hlaing, Thaung Htike and Yin Htwe.

    Throughout Burma more than forty political prisoners are currently being detained under section 10/a according to the AAPP, including student leader Min Ko Naing.

    A former political prisoner from Tharawaddy Prison recently told the Irrawaddy: "Their health conditions are ver poor, Yin Htwe of the ABSDF is now almost totally deaf and also suffers from a lung disease."

    In a related development, the Burmese junta, yesterday released two famous comedians from Mandalay as well as two NLD members after they each served five years of their original seven year sentence. The two comedians Pa Pa Lay and Lu Zaw, were imprisoned in Myitkyina and Katha prisons since 1996 when they were arrested for a performance they gave at the home of NLD- leader Aung San Suu Kyi during an Independence Day ceremony. The two released NLD members are U Aung Soe and U Htwe.

    Amnesty International, the London-based human rights watch group, had continuously campaigned for the release of these prisoners and immediately welcomed their release.

    Since the beginning of the year, Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has released 147 political prisoners. Most of them have been NLD members who had been held at military Guest Houses.Some feel that the recent release of these prisoners is the result of talks between Suu Kyi and the ruling military junta that began some nine months ago.

    Opponents of the regime as well as former political prisoners noted that despite the timing of Pa Pa Lay and Lu Zaw's release, this has nothing to do with the on-going talks between the NLD and SPDC.

    "No wonder they were released, they get 18 months remission according to the law, that's why they are supposed to stay in prison 5 and half years for a seven year sentence," explained Thet Aung, a former political prisoners now in exile.
    Wa rushes speed over border before plants shift to Laos

    Subin Khuenkaew
    source : Bangkokpost

    The United Wa State Army is making speedy deliveries of methamphetamine pills to northern Thailand before moving its factories from Burmese soil to Laos.

    The Wa had just supplied about 500,000 pills to four Chinese traffickers from Chai Prakan district of Chiang Mai, a source said. The drugs were sold for 11 baht a pill. One trafficker was identified as Jia Hong from Tham Ngorb village and the other three were said to come from Mai Nongbua village. The delivery took place at Doi Kangtee opposite Ban Tham Ngorb on Thursday.

    The source said the Wa were moving production from areas close to the border, in line with Burma's policy to rid areas opposite Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai of drugs by next year. Many left-over pills would be smuggled into Thailand before the move and the price was expected to decline.

    Burmese soldiers are replacing Wa troops at outposts near Chiang Rai. Burma deployed Wa soldiers in February when bilateral border disputes started. At the new site the factories would still be close to northern Thailand: they were moving into bordering areas in Bor Kaew province of Laos, the source said. Sixteen factories had been moved to Bor Kaew while many more factories of the Wa and Shan were still occupied on the Burmese side of the Mekong river opposite Bor Kaew.

    Meanwhile, a military court in Tachilek has reportedly sentenced three Thais from Chiang Mai to 24 years jail for possessing 900 kilogrammes of drug chemicals. Only one Thai man was identified as Phiyap Tinama, 42. He and another Thai man and a Thai woman were arrested together with three Burmese.
    More than a million pills taken last month

    Wassana Nanuam
    source : Bangkokpost

    Some 1.3 million speed pills were confiscated last month by the Third Army, said spokesman Col Somkhuan Saengpattaranate.

    Besides methamphetamines, 80 grammes of heroin, one kilogramme of marijuana and two tonnes of caffeine were seized, he said. This is a drop on previous months, but Third Army commander Lt-Gen Watanachai Chaimuangwong put it down to poor intelligence rather than a fall in production.

    Activity went on unabated, he said, but authorities failed to curb illicit operations. Some drug factories are moving from Burma to Laos. However, Thailand would supply information about drug plants along the border to Burmese authorities during the Regional Border Committee meeting in Pattaya in August, he said. At the previous meeting an agreement was reached to crack down on the plants. There were 55-60 plants along the border and several others on the Thai-Lao border, he said.

    In a bid to boost ties, Lt-Gen Watanachai would play golf in Chiang Rai on July 23 with Burma's Regional Triangle commander Maj-Gen Thein Sein. Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh would lead a trip by armed forces leaders to Burma on July 23-24. Col Somkhuan said the army expected to treat 5,000 drug addicts each year under the government's rehabilitation programme.

    About 25 military camps nationwide would be used as rehabilitation centres-six under supervision of the First Army, and five under the Second Army. Another seven come under the Third Army, five under the Fourth Army and two at the Special Warfare Command Unit, he said.
    Thai soldier shot dead in drugs bust

    From AFP
    July 14, 2001

    A THAI soldier was shot dead when security forces clashed with drug traffickers carrying more than five million amphetamine tablets, border patrol police said today.

    The drug caravan was intercepted late yesterday at the western border town of Mae Sot by an anti-narcotics task force attached to Thailand's Third Army, which patrols the drug-infested Burma border region.

    Sergeant Sansern Suwansithi was shot dead in a brief exchange of gunfire, police said. Task force 399 found more than five million amphetamine tablets in the traffickers' truck.

    It is the first major drug seizure since Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra paid an official visit to Burma last month, where he discussed drug-control strategies with the military government.
    Burma Implementing Extended Prawn Breeding Plan


    Rangoon, Jul 15-- Burma is implementing a three-year plan of extending prawn breeding in the country since June 1, 2000, targeting to extend the breeding area up to 48,600 hectares.

    According to the Myanmar Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Sunday, the prawn breeding areas being extended cover the country's seven state and divisions along its long stretch of coastline of 2,276 kilometers.

    At the very beginning of the period, there had been altogether 27,316 hectares of prawn extended and so far the area covered has gone to a total of 40,536.19 hectares, the sources said.

    Meanwhile, the Fisheries Department of the ministry has opened 12 insemination camps along the country's coastline from Maungtaw in western Rakhine state to Dawei in southern Tanintharyi division, it disclosed.

    In addition, eight privately-owned prawn insemination camps have been built, targeting to produce 231.8 million fries annually, of which 191.8 million fries by the privately-owned camps, while 40 million fries by government-operated camps, it said.

    It added that up to the end of May this year, a total of 92.27 million fries had been sold by the camps owned by the fisheries department and the private sector.

    According to the sources, from June 2000 up to May this year, a total of 318.096 tons of prawn had been produced from 55.48 hectares of prawn breeding ponds with the average prawn harvest per hectare showing 5.728 tons.

    Myanmar is rich in fishery resources and the fishery sector has become one of the productive mainstays of its economy.

    Official statistics show that the country produces over 910,000 tons of fish and prawn annually, the export of which covers 49 countries and regions with nearly 60,000 tons, earning about 150 million U.S. dollars.

    Fishery sector is the third productive mainstay of Myanmar's economy after agriculture and forestry, contributing 7.3 percent to the country's gross domestic product and standing as the third largest foreign exchange earner.
    Indo-Burma border trade declining

    Source : The Times of India

    MOREH, Manipur---The volume of border trade between India and Burma is sliding, thanks to the dumping of cheap Chinese goods in the North East and a 'not-so-supporting' government, besides red tape, traders in this chandel district town of Manipur claim.

    In 2000-01, Indian export through Moreh was only Rs 57 lakh while in 1997-98 it was about Rs 5 crore, a decline of about 70 per cent, president of Moreh Chamber of Commerce (MCC) N. Kumar said.

    China was dumping its goods in India through Burma, besides Nepal and Bhutan, and people were losing interest in Indian goods as Chinese products were cheap, Kumar said.

    Indian products were pushed back from the border as Burma has also become a dumping ground for China. Besides, poor people of the North-East also prefer the cheap products and, that was why the trading community was facing a struggle for survival, he said.

    From needle to building materials and from almirah to electronic goods, Chinese items included everything people needed in their day-to-day use.

    MCC secretary Prakash Jain said that most of the business establiments and shops in Moreh were being closed down as traders were not getting government support whereas the Burmese government was backing its traders in several ways, including finance.

    In a one-way traffic of business, Burma was draining out Indian money through Moreh, Jain said, adding both the Central and Manipur governments should act fast to revive trade in Moreh.

    Moreover, a Chandel district officer said, Burmese officials at the ground level enjoy the authority to take decisions in disputed cases any time, while local Indian officials could not take quick decision on any matter.

    The MCC demanded immediate review of the Indo-Burma trade agreement signed in 1994. From its inception, the agreement was not reviewed, he said.

    The MCC also submitted a memorandum to Union minister of state for commerce and industries Dr Raman Singh recently requesting him to take up measures to enhance Indo-Burma free border trade commencing from 1995.

    The memorendum also urged the Centre to allow the traders to export all items under OGL to boost trading.

    The superintendent, land custom, Moreh, A. Swamy, said that from March 1 last, the government removed restrictions on 1,429 items for international trade but his office was dealing with only 22 items as agreed exchangeable commodities. The traders requested the government to improve communication system, abolition of state taxes, construcation of warehouses and weigh bridge, pass for Indian traders to visit Mandalay in Burma and for Burmese traders to visit Imphal.