Daily News-July 24 - 2001- Tuesday

  • ICFTU condemns Russia over nuclear and arms deal with Burma
  • Asean Human rights commission still years away
  • Burma political dialogue in tatters
  • Chavalit seeks end to junta's import ban
  • Mizoram wants border with Burma to be fenced
  • Ties with Myanmar improve
  • NZ Will Resume Contacts With Myanmar This Week

  • ICFTU condemns Russia over nuclear and arms deal with Burma

    Brussels July 23, 2001 (ICFTU OnLine):Despite mounting international pressure on Burma's military junta, the Russian government has moved ahead with a plan to sell a nuclear reactor and military aircraft to Rangoon.

    The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), which is leading a world-wide campaign against Burma for its widespread and continuous use of forced labour, has protested to Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging him to halt both transactions which, the ICFTU believes, would only encourage further oppression of the Burmese people and ethnic nationalities by the military regime.

    In a letter sent on 20th July to the Russian Federation's President, the ICFTU considers that Russia’s reported intention to sell Burma a nuclear reactor, for alleged "scientific" purposes, and the sale of 10 MIG 29 fighter planes, is in clear breach of a crucial ILO resolution adopted in June 2000 by the 88th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC).

    The latter calls on all ILO constituents, meaning governments,employers and trade unions, (including Russia, which is a member of the ILO's decision-making Governing Body), to review their relations with Burma and cease any such relation that may have the direct or indirect effect of perpetuating the system of forced labour.

    We have been shocked to learn from the Russian Ambassador in Rangoon, H.E. Mr. Gleb Ivanshentsov, of the probable intention by Burma to pay for the nuclear reactor with a barter deal involving timber, rice and fish. The production of all these items has repeatedly been linked to forced labour, as evidenced by successive reports by the ILO Director-General to the ILO’s Governing Body, said Bill Jordan, ICFTU General Secretary.Russia should immediately cancel the deal, he added.

    In his letter to President Putin, Bill Jordan noted that the MIG 29 was produced by a state-owned company, the Moscow Aircraft Production Organisation (MAPO) and that the proposed contract was handled by the Russian Aircraft-building Corporation (RSK), which incorporated MAPO in 1999. He went on to say that "the sale would thus specifically involve the responsibility of the Government of the Russian Federation itself."

    The underground Federation of Trade Unions - Burma (FTUB), which is closely associated with the ICFTU and its Asian and Pacific Regional organisation (ICFTU-APRO), strongly opposes the sale. FTUB General Secretary Maung Maung believes the arms deal would indirectly bring support to the illegitimate military regime and spread the arms race in the ASEAN region.

    The ICFTU has also called on its three affiliates in Russia, which jointly represent 35 million workers (nearly one fifth of Russia's population), to urge their government to cancel the deal. In a similar case, in 1992, the ICFTU led a high profile campaign against Poland to delay an arms deal with Burma. In co-operation with its Polish affiliate, NSZZ "Solidarnosc", the ICFTU successfully called on the Polish government to cancel the sale of 12 helicopters produced by the "Swidnik Communications Equipment Corporation ("WSK "Swidnik").

    The MiG-29s have reportedly been acquired for a total of US$130 million. According to the TTU French intelligence newsletter, the MiG-29 jet fighters, which can also be used for air-to-ground attack, were purchased in March, most likely in response to a perceived threat from Thailand. Further reports confirmed that the purchase came as Japan concluded a deal with Burma to provide billions of yen in aid to repair a dam and power station which the recipients claimed they were too poor to carry out by themselves. According to military experts, the purchase price of two of the MiG-29's would have covered the price of repairs to the hydro-electric power plant.

    The ICFTU's affiliated organisation in Japan, "JTUC-Rengo", had last May called on its government to reconsider resumption of Japanese official development assistance (ODA) to Burma.Quoting "lack of progress in resolving the forced labour issue in Burma", Rengo had specifically opposed the Japanese government's plan to finance repairs to the Burmese hydro-electric power station.

    The ICFTU represents more than 156 millions workers in 221 affiliated organisation in 148 countries and territories. ICFTU is also member of Global Unions: http://www.global-unions.org
    Asean Human rights commission still years away

    ARTIN ABBUGAO of Agence France-Presse in Hanoi
    source : SCMP

    Southeast Asian governments, some of which stand accused of stifling dissent and holding political prisoners, are coming under pressure to set up a mechanism to check human rights abuses.

    Campaigners from non-governmental organisations are pushing for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to hasten the establishment of an Asean human rights commission.

    Rights advocates, who have formed a regional working group, met senior Asean officials on the eve of the 10-nation group's annual meeting of foreign ministers.They discussed the fate of a draft agreement they had presented in Bangkok last year to create an independent, seven-member commission with powers to investigate and hear complaints of alleged rights abuses.

    However, the proposed commission would only be allowed to make its findings as "persuasive recommendations and not judgments" because it is not a court of law, according to the draft, which the Asean governments have held back for further study.

    But in a region where talk about human rights still rattles some government nerves, advocates admit it will take years to set up such a body.

    The Asean countries diverge widely in economic development and political systems, from democracies to communist and military regimes. Asean's jealously guarded policy of non-interference in members' internal affairs is another hindrance.

    "Some are thinking that you can come out with the protection and promotion of these rights only after a certain level of economic and political development has been reached," said Philippine human rights lawyer Wigberto Tanada. He said the non-governmental organisations faced the problem of how to set up the commission without coming into conflict with the principle of non-interference.

    Within Asean, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia have all emerged from coups or decades of rule by strongmen to have lively and open political systems. But another member, Burma, is a pariah in the West for its alleged large-scale human-rights abuses, including the detention of political opponents.

    Vietnam and Laos have communist regimes while other Asean countries - Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Brunei - have been attacked for imposing restrictions on press freedoms and opposition activity.

    But rights campaigners say they are making progress simply in bringing the issue, once a taboo in Asean, out into the open."We have been going on a step-by-step, building-block approach precisely because of the policy of non-interference and the sentiment or the thinking that human rights still seem to be matters of domestic concern rather than belonging to the international domain," Mr Tanada said.
    Burma political dialogue in tatters

    U Ne Oo
    23 July 2001

    The noted absence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Martyr's Day Ceremony (19th July) has put an end to much heated debate about whether the secret political dialogue in Burma is genuine or is progressing well.Her absence is a clear signal that the one sided dialogue with junta is getting nowhere.


    On drawing conclusion from the information I could gathered, the so-call secret dialogue is more likely to be a case of the junta one-sidedly persuading ASSK under a psychological pressure. Firstly, she has been place in an isolation from her NLD colleagues and outside supporters. We have also witnessed Mr. Aung San Oo, elder brother of Suu Kyi, had been demanding half-share of the house which Suu Kyi lives. Obviously, Suu Kyi has been put through under various methods of personal distraction and that of pressures. The fact ASSK was never allowed to speak to the public about dialogue has made clear to us that the so-call dialogue is a one-sided in nature.

    Although I have much suspicion about this dialogue soon after its announcement, the earliest sign of trouble I could picked up was in April. The apparent sign of impasse in the dialogue came up during the UN Envoy Mr. Razali visit in early June, when the envoy left Rangoon rather strangely (news report enclosed). There has been token release of political prisoners -- to the delight of Amnesty International --following the period of Mr Razali visit. However, the talk is clearly remains stalled.

    Although I have had much suspicion of the talks in Rangoon, and be concerned about ways in which the talk been conducted, as a grassroots activists, I alone cannot do much to change the situation. As of early this year, there are some democratic governments as well as pro-democracy groups within our movement seem wishing to give a chance to the so-called secret dialogue. Hopefully, with the given signal from ASSK, all groups within our movement are now united in forming the view that it is time to stepped up pressure on the junta.


    There have been two schools of thought on transition. One is which the junta should unconditionally surrender state power to the elected representatives of May 1990 general election. The other is to form a government of national unity with elected representatives, and draft a federal constitution with participation of ethnic minorities. The junta is likely to put pressure on Suu Kyi to exclude ethnic minority groups in any of the transitional plans.

    The participation of ethnic minority groups and the request of transparency in dialogue have been made by leading pro-democracy organisations and ethnic resistance groups. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,under pressure, appears to be holding the line on this point in negotiation with junta. From many year of our experience with Suu Kyi, we can certainly trust that she will not disappoint us on this matter.


    When looking back on the so-called secret dialogue since January this year, the only positive outcome has been the Burmese junta recognising Aung San Suu Kyi as the legitimate person to be negotiate with. In fact, the junta's political legitimacy now rest upon how well it gets along with ASSK. When Suu Kyi has send us a clear signal that things are not going well, we must not fail to put pressure on the junta.
    Chavalit seeks end to junta's import ban

    By Panya Tiwsangwan
    The Nation, Rangoon, Tuesday - Jul 24, 2001

    Burma says it is prepared to resume the fishing concession for Thailand that was abruptly cancelled in 1999 following the Burmese Embassy hostage crisis, Defence Minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said. Chavalit arrived in Rangoon yesterday for a two-day visit aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and securing a promise that Rangoon would lift its ban on Thai imports.

    Two years ago Burma unilaterally ended the fishing concession, and Chavalit wants this decision rescinded, too. Speaking after his meeting with General Than Schwe, chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, Chavalit said the matter had been raised with Than and that Singapore could also now be included in the scheme.

    According to Chavalit, the Burmese leader defended Rangoon's recently announced decision to purchase a squadron of 10 MiG29 jet fighters from Russia. The Burmese leader said negotiations began two years ago and their acquisition had nothing to do with the cross-border shelling in the North earlier this year.

    Before leaving for Rangoon, Chavalit dismissed suggestions that the situation along the border was still tense despite the high number of troops there.

    "They are just there to keep law and order," he said, in reference to what appeared to be a standoff between Thai and Burmese troops in a number of hot spots, including the de-militarised zone bordering Chiang Rai province. Thai-Burmese relations were severely strained earlier this year following border clashes and a war of words. Trouble erupted after fighting between Burmese junta troops and Shan rebels spilled into Thailand, drawing Thai troops into the picture. Burma closed the border and posted a number of battalions on the front line. The border crossing was opened earlier this month.
    Mizoram wants border with Burma to be fenced

    Aizawl, July 23, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    India’s North Eastern State Mizoram wants its border with Burma to be fenced to check infiltration of immigrants from Burma into the State. Mr. Zoramthanga, Chief Minister of Mizoram said today that he has already submitted a proposal to the Central Government for the border fencing to contain the influx of immigrants from Burma, particularly from Chin State of Burma.

    Mizoram which has 404 km of international border with Burma is facing problems of having received a large number of immigrants from the military-rule Burma. Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have estimated that the numbers of Burma citizens in Mizoram are around fifty thousands, mostly Chins. There are also hundreds of Burmese weavers who are surviving in the handloom industries of the state. These immigrants are residing in the state illegally without any official documents.

    The Mizoram government claims that more than 75% of crimes and drug-related activities in the state are being committed by the people from Burma, mostly Chins.

    In a measure to check the illegal immigrants in the State, Mizoram authorities are going to issue identity cards to the permanent residents in the state within this year, added Mr. Zoramthanga. By issuing identity cards to those who are permanently settled in the state, Mizoram government hopes to identify the outsiders.

    The Chief Minister has also proposed to start issuing travel documents for the people of both countries who want to visit each other through borderland routes.

    In order to regulate the people’s movements along the border, we need the cooperation of the Burmese government and the government of India as well.
    Ties with Myanmar improve

    Ritwik Mukherjee
    The Economic Times- July 23, 2001

    KOLKATA- CALL it successful Track ii diplomacy or something else, the recent Bengal Initiative delegation to Myanmar has managed to convince the Myanmarese government to reopen its consulate in Kolkata after three decades.

    The Myanmarese government has also pledged to work out modalities for re-introducing the steamer service between Kolkata and Yangon via Chittagong, Amiya Gooptu, chairman of Bengal Initiative (BI) and leader of the recent Good Will Mission to Myanmar, told ET here on Sunday.

    The Junta government of Myanmar also assured that they would take up with the Indian government the case of reopening of the road and rail links between the two countries.

    The visit was an eye-opener to all of us. The main purpose of the delegation, which comprised industrialists, lawyers, medical practitioners, painters, academics, social activists, was to involve itself in Track ii diplomacy to bring about improvements in the understanding between the two countries and their people. And the visit has been a great success.

    The 22-member BI delegation, first such in last 20 years, met Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, secretary 1 of the State Peace and Development Council, U Win Aung, foreign affairs minister, U Myo Nyunt, deputy minister of education, U Soe Nyunt, deputy minister of health, Brigadier Gen D O Abel, deputy minister of culture, president and members of Myanmar Chamber of Commerce, chairman of Myanmar Film Association and members of the Myanmar National Working Committee for Womens Affairs.

    The BI chairman said that the two sides had agreed that the scope for improving bilateral trade in areas like petroleum, petrochemicals and tourism was just enormous.
    NZ Will Resume Contacts With Myanmar This Week

    WELLINGTON (AP)--New Zealand will resume contacts with Myanmar this week, ending a decade-long breach in relations fueled by disapproval of the South Asian state's military regime, officials said Tuesday.

    Foreign Minister Phil Goff will hold talks with his Myanmar counterpart at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hanoi. The talks follow what he called democratic progress in Myanmar.

    "We have kept at arms length from Myanmar because of the overthrow of the democratically elected government a decade or more ago," Goff said.

    Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won the 1990 elections but the military refused to allow her to take power.

    Australia has already opened dialogue with Myanmar, with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer actively encouraging liberalization by the country's military rulers by pushing ahead with human rights training projects, in spite of criticism of his actions.

    Goff said he also would meet representatives from Canada, Thailand, East Timor, the U.S. and China during the Hanoi meeting.

    Topics for discussion included New Zealand's continued push to end nuclear testing, reducing nuclear stockpiles and the ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons.