Daily News-July 16 - 2001- Monday

  • Shan leaders press for inquiry into grisly slayings
  • International Hotel chains move in and out of Rangoon
  • Canadian workers forced to wear sweatshop uniforms
  • Myanmar-Chinese Congratulate Beijing's Successful Olympic Bid
  • Burmese government denies Suu Kyi planning snub on Martyrs' Day
  • Myanmar Produces 6,000 Power Tillers Annually
  • Amnesty: Myanmar Still Holding 1,800 Political Prisoners
  • Myanmar appeals against US garments ban
  • Myanmar Torches Confiscated Thai Goods In Border Town
  • Warplane purchase no cause for alarm

  • Shan leaders press for inquiry into grisly slayings

    source : Burma Courier No. 278 July 14, 2001

    Based on news from S.H.A.N. and the Network Media Group: Updated to July 14, 2001

    TAUNG-GYI -- A source close to the Shan State National Army said that Col Kornyawd, the leader of cease-fire army, went to Rangoon on Thursday to consult about the killing last week of officers and enlisted men of a militia unit associated with the SSNA.

    The killings are said to have taken place on July 7 in Nawngleng, a village about 80 km northeast of Taung-gyi. Among those killed was Sang Htee, a nephew of Kornyawd, and Tha Nge, a long-time associate of the SSNA commander.

    The Network Media Group reports that a surprise raid in the village was carried by a combined column from LIB 512 and LIB 515 commanded by Maj. Myo Sein. During the fighting two officers of the SSNA, Captains Kham Hla and Zai Hpong along with 4 other soldier of the group were killed. Another 11-members of the SSNA militia unit were taken alive and after interrogation were lined up and shot to death.

    Reports said the killings were carried out under direct orders of Maj-Gen Maung Bo, the commander of the Burma Army’s Eastern Command, after he failed in an attempt to gain control over the militia unit commanded by Zai Hpong on June 28. The mass slaying was almost certainly consulted with Gen Maung Aye, second-in-command of Burma’s armed forces, who visited Taung-gyi the following day.

    Kornyawd is accompanied on his visit to Rangoon by Gen Hso-hten, the leader of the combined forces of the SSNA and the other Shan cease-fire army, the Shan State North Army. The ceasefire groups have been at loggerheads with Rangoon since they issued of a joint statement on March 1st calling for Burma’s ethnic nationalities to be included in the talks currently underway between the military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi. The joint statement was also signed by Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, the second party in number of seats held in Burma’s never summoned parliament.
    International Hotel chains move in and out of Rangoon

    Burma Courier No. 278 July 14, 2001

    Based on news from AFP, MTBR and NLM: Updated to July 12, 2001

    BANGKOK, July 12 (AFP) -- French hotelier Accor said Thursday it had taken charge of the 359-room Equitorial Yangon and plans to rename it the Sofitel Plaza Yangon. An Accor spokesman said the company had secured a seven-year management contract beginning in November, but held no equity interest in the property.

    The Equitorial Yangon was recently purchased by Singapore-based United Overseas Land (UOL), which took a 95 percent stake in the property while the remaining five percent is owned by local investors.

    Accor, the French hotel group that owns the Sofitel brand, has recently shown interest in expanding in Asia, and currently has 70 hotels in the Asia Pacific region. The company runs several hotels in neighboring Thailand, and in February took over the Central Grand Plaza, one of Bangkok's grandest five-star hotels through a five-year franchise deal.In June the company took over Bangkok's 454-room Monarch Lee Gardens Hotel and announced plans for a 6.5 million dollar renovation. The hotel will be renamed the Sofitel Silom Bangkok. Accor also owns the U.S. budget chain, Red Roof Inns.

    In another recent change, Austral Amalgamated of Malaysia, owners of the Ramada Hotel at the international airport in Rangoon, announced at the end of June that the company would no longer operate the hotel as part of the Ramada chain.

    "We have stopped using the brand Ramada on our hotel as the five-year contract, under which we hired their management and the right to use their brand, expired on May 25," said Austral director Wong Sek Onn. "The hotel operation has lost US$ 1.5 million in the last five years. As the tourism market in Myanmar is still very soft, the international hotels are suffering with low room occupancy. A hotel should have 70% and upward occupancy." The 120-room hotel will operate with the same staff under the name Seasons of Yangon.

    Another French company ready to get in on the Burma tourist trade is Electricite et Eaux de Madagascar which has been in discussions over the past year on the construction of resort hotel at Shwewagyaing along the Ngapali beach near Thandwe (Sandoway) on the Arakan coastYangon. Yangon Wood Industries is reported to be a partner in the arrangement.

    Thailand’s Green Paradise Holding Company has formed a Myanmar subsidiary and has plans to build a resort hotel at Maungmagan beach on the Tenasserim coast near Tavoy (Dawei). The proposal is in line with long range plans by Kanchanaburi interests to construct a highway linking the two cities and open up the area for tourist, mining and forestry investment.
    Canadian workers forced to wear sweatshop uniforms

    Burma Courier No. 278 July 14, 2001

    Based on an article by Natasha Grzincic in This Magazine: Date not shown

    TORONTO- Many Canadians may be wearing "dirty clothes" made in Rangoon garment sweatshops without wanting to do so, research carried out by a writer for the labour-friendly "This Magazine" shows.

    Imports of occupational clothing from Burma jumped from just over C$ 500,000 in 1999 to over to over C$ 10 million last year. Occupation clothing includes uniforms that employers require their workers to wear on the job. It now amounts to more than 20% of Canada’s clothing imports from Burma which are already up by almost 60% this year.

    While consumers can always check the label to see where goods are made, uniforms worn at work have no such mandatory requirements.

    The use of occupational clothing headed for Canada came to light when an American visitor touring a Korean garment factory in Rangoon noted that it was producing police uniforms destined for Montreal. The factory pays its workers the equivalent of C$ 0.11 cents an hour.

    This Magazine contacted all the police forces with detachments in Montreal. All denied that their uniforms were made in Burma. Chief Inspector Alain Barbagallo of the Montreal Urban Community MUC police force (MUCP) was confident "neither the materials nor the actual conception of the uniforms is done anywhere other than in North America."

    But investigations conducted by the magazine’s research staff showed that the producer of the MUCP’s shirt fabric, Raeford Burlington, a subsidiary of Burlington Industries, was on the U.S. National Labour Committee’s blacklist of companies that source production in Burma. A second supplier, Horace Small Apparel, which provided MUCP with trousers. has also sourced clothing in Burma and come under fire from the Needleworkers Union for operating sweatshops on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

    What the magazine discovered was that it is extremely difficult to trace products back to sweatshops, or to trace sweatshop products to their buyers. Corinne Baumgarten, the program director of Canadian Friends of Burma, said that the uniforms would probably not be linked directly to Burma. "The majority of imports go through shipping companies. It’s really, really hard to trace that."

    In response, The Ethical Trading Action Group in Toronto has launched a corporate disclosure campaign, demanding that companies reveal the names, locations and working conditions of factories where their products are made in order to sell their products to public institutions. They’re also asking the government to legislate mandatory disclosure, and further, to impose a total ban on all Burmese imports until the country’s human rights situation improves.
    Myanmar-Chinese Congratulate Beijing's Successful Olympic Bid

    source : Peopledaily

    Representatives from 184 Myanmar-Chinese and overseas Chinese social organizations in different parts of Myanmar jointly signed a letter of felicitation on Sunday in congratulation of Beijing's successful bid to the right of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games after hearing the news of the successful bid.

    The letter said July 13, 2001 was the day that deserved celebration by the Beijing citizens, Chinese people and overseas Chinese and Chinese citizens residing in all parts of the world, adding that Chinese generations abroad are proud of and excited over the successful bid.

    The success of Beijing's bid for hosting the Olympic games was significantly important and will greatly inspire the national spirit of the Chinese nationalities, the letter stressed, describing that it was the victory of the great unity of the Chinese people of different nationalities as well as that of the broad masses of overseas Chinese and Chinese citizens residing abroad.

    The letter pointed out that Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games will initiate a new era of Chinese sports as well as a new starting point for the Chinese nationalities. The letter also expressed convince that the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will become a most remarkable one since historic times.
    Burmese government denies Suu Kyi planning snub on Martyrs' Day

    YANGON, July 14 (AFP) - Myanmar's military government Saturday denied a report that democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi plans to snub the junta by refusing to attend an important national ceremony next week.

    A news report citing government officials said the Nobel peace laureate had surprised the junta by declining to attend Thursday's Martyrs' Day ceremony, which marks the 1947 assassination of her father General Aung San.

    "The Myanmar Information Committee denies giving such a statement and urges the media not to speculate in an unconstructive way," a senior government spokesman said in a statement.

    Yangon's rumour mill and dissident Internet sites have been abuzz for the past few weeks with talk about whether Aung San Suu Kyi will make her annual appearance at the ceremony held at Yangon's Shwedagon pagoda.

    The opposition leader has been held under de facto house arrest since September, just before she embarked on landmark talks with the military regime which may be paving the way for a national reconciliation dialogue.With the talks being held under conditions of strict secrecy, she has declined since then to leave her lakeside residence on any personal missions, even for family funerals.

    A decision to attend the Martyrs' Day ceremony will be interpreted by Myanmar-watchers as a signal that the contacts are progressing well, but a no-show would be seen as a gesture of defiance to the junta.

    Diplomats in Yangon said last week that the recent release of dozens of opposition National League for Democracy members may have a bearing on the decision.

    "The recent releases might have a bearing on it -- they may be enough to coax her into going," one observer said.

    The junta has also downplayed speculation that it plans to release Aung San Suu Kyi and announce a new national government on Martyrs' Day.

    Those rumours were given fresh impetus last weekend when Thai Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said a political breakthrough in Myanmar was imminent.

    Hoever, most observers believe Aung San Suu Kyi will not be released from house arrest until both sides are ready to make a statement on the content and progress of the talks -- a stage they say is still a long way off.
    Myanmar Produces 6,000 Power Tillers Annually

    YANGON, July 15 (Xinhuanet) -- Four agricultural equipment factories in Myanmar are producing a total of 6,000 power tillers annually, according to the country's Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation Sunday.

    Of the four factories, two were built in the past, while the other two added in recent years, said the Department of the Agricultural Mechanization (DAM) of the ministry.Besides, a new agricultural equipment producing factory is being built in Kyaukse, the country's northern Mandalay division, with the loan from China, the sources said.

    On completion of the Chinese-aid factory, it will be able to produce 10,000 power tillers and 5,000 harvesters annually, it added.The DAM is making efforts to produce parts of agricultural machinery including tractors, rotary power tillers and gear boxes. Power tillers being produced are mainly of 16 horse-power.

    Myanmar, an agro-based country, is striving to transform its traditional farming to mechanized one for the development of its agriculture.According to official statistics, the number of tractors in the country has gone to 8,600, of which 5,500 are owned by the private sector, while 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.

    The statistics also show that a total of 2.835 million hectares of Myanmar's farmland are now ploughed by machines, accounting for 23.34 percent of the country's cultivated land which stretches 12. 15 million hectares, while the land ploughed by draught animals covers 9.315 million hectares, taking up 76.66 percent of the total cultivated land.The country's agriculture represents 37 percent of its gross domestic product and 25 percent of the export value.
    Amnesty: Myanmar Still Holding 1,800 Political Prisoners

    BANGKOK (AP)--Amnesty International urged Myanmar's military regime to release more political prisoners Monday, saying that despite recent releases, there are still at least 1,800 under detention.

    Amnesty said its activists were sending petitions with thousands of signatures of people from across the Asia-Pacific region to the Myanmar government this week, calling for releases and human rights reforms.

    "The recent release of some prominent political prisoners is a step in the right direction, but at least 1,800 political prisoners are still held, often in appalling conditions," the London-based group said in a statement received in Bangkok.

    "The petitions show the extent of regional concern about these and other violations." Amnesty said at least 41 political prisoners have recently been released, including 38 members of parliament elected in the May 1990 elections, most from the National League for Democracy of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The vast majority of them had been detained in government "guest houses" since 1998 without charge or trial after the NLD set up an ad hoc parliament because of the junta's refusal to honor the party's 1990 general election victory. But hundreds of other prisoners of conscience and political prisoners are still held, including politicians, students, doctors, farmers, teachers, journalists, writers, lawyers, comedians and housewives serving long prison terms in very poor conditions, Amnesty said.

    The statement mentioned Win Tin, 71, a journalist and founding member of the NLD, imprisoned in 1989 and serving a 20-year sentence for his peaceful political activities. He is in very poor health, Amnesty said.

    "The government of Myanmar should release more prisoners of conscience and take further steps to improve the human rights situation for all the people of Myanmar," Amnesty said.

    Torture and ill-treatment continue unabated and ethnic minorities are still subjected to a range of violations, including forced labor, the statement said. Since the start of the year, a total of 140 political prisoners have been freed, apparently the result of secret talks between Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, and the military, which has ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, since 1962.

    Suu Kyi and her top two aides, party president Aung Shwe and vice chairman Tin Oo, remain under house detention, enforced since Sept. 22 when Suu Kyi tried to travel outside Yangon in defiance of official restrictions.
    Myanmar appeals against US garments ban

    source : Bahrein Tribune

    YANGON: Myanmar business leaders appealed to US legislators not to pass a proposed bill banning garment imports from Myanmar, saying it would hurt at least 300,000 young workers in the country.

    Htain Win, Vice-Chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), said the garment workers, mostly unskilled young women, were employed at over 400 factories in Myanmar, would lose work. He told a Press conference on Saturday: As we all know, the US Senate is due to make a decision soon on whether to pass Bill S-926 for banning garment imports from Myanmar on the ground of alleged forced labour and child labour in this industry.The Garment Entrepreneurs Association said the Myanmar garment industry was not involved in forced or child labour as alleged in the United States and the European Union.

    The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said in a report in March that the US and EU backed tough measures, including possible trade sanctions, against Myanmar to bring an end to forced labour in the country. An ILO inquiry in 1998 found forced labour widespread and systematic.

    The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions says more than a million people in Myanmar are subjected to forced labour, toiling on construction sites for roads, railways, military installations and tourism.

    Htain Win of UMFCCI said his group on Saturday handed a letter to Priscilla Clapp, charge dŐaffaires of the US Embassy in Yangon, in which it sought a review of a bill now in the US Senate that proposed a US ban on Myanmar garment imports. Myanmar business leaders said a Myanmar garment worker earned 10,000-30,000 kyats ($20-60) a month, an amount they said was much higher than what a civil servant earned.

    They estimated that Myanmar garment exports totalled about $401 million in 2000, and garment products accounted for over 90 per cent of total Myanmar exports to the US.
    Myanmar Torches Confiscated Thai Goods In Border Town

    MAE SOT, Thailand (AP)--Myanmar authorities have torched an estimated 700 million kyats of smuggled Thai commodities seized at the border between the two countries, Myanmar merchants said Monday.

    A Myanmar trader, who declined to be named, said the goods including monosodium glutamate, drinks, medicine and edible oil were destroyed over the weekend in Myawaddy, on the Myanmar side of the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge.The trader was speaking in Mae Sot, on the Thai side of the bridge, 370 kilometers (230 miles) northwest of Bangkok.

    There is a bustling black market in Thai goods smuggled into military-run Myanmar, also known as Burma, where some commodities and consumer products are scarce. Merchants seek to avoid taxes or circumvent trading restrictions. Traders in Mae Sot say the Myanmar government is encouraging people to buy cheaper Chinese goods to lessen its dependence on imports from Thailand.
    Warplane purchase no cause for alarm

    source : The Bangkokpost

    Thaksin says it is not a threat

    Burma's plan to procure MiG-29 jet fighters from Russia does not worry key figures like Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa who view the issue as normal defence preparations.

    Mr Thaksin said yesterday that he did not consider the plan a threat because any government had the duty to have weaponry for national defence. "Today, Thai-Burmese relations have returned to normal. Burma is developing itself in many aspects. We are ready to co-operate on development. We would like to see our neighbour improve," the premier said.

    Gen Yuthasak said that the Burmese air force needed to upgrade its fleet because its existing aircraft were out of date. "Of course, a new procurement must mean modern aircraft. They have a capability close to Thailand's F-16s. "What will matter are the arms to be equipped on board. In this case, the Amram missiles (advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles) are considered perfect," the deputy defence minister said. He said it was normal for Burma to need new aircraft for defence because it bordered India and China.

    In Thailand's case, Singapore and Malaysia had strengthened their weaponry, but posed no problems to relations with Thailand, he said. "In the future, economic problems will be more important than military issues," Gen Yuthasak said.