Daily News-July 26 - 2001- Thursday

  • Key Senator Details Proposal for Bush Trade Bill
  • Chairman of SPDC Sends Congratulations to New President of Indonesia
  • Junta under less pressure this year
  • Talks in Rangoon a sham, says ceasefire group officer
  • Yuzana Houses, Apartments on Sale At 20%-30% Discounts
  • Burma sets strict conditions for Thai fishermen
  • Japan Min Asks Myanmar To Free More Political Prisoners
  • Myanmar's Military Releases Two Political Prisoners

  • Key Senator Details Proposal for Bush Trade Bill

    By Doug Palmer

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a move aimed at breaking a seven-year deadlock in Congress, a key Democratic senator on Wednesday outlined a detailed set of proposals to give President Bush the authority to negotiate broad new trade agreements.

    A dispute over whether trade pacts should contain protections for labor and the environment has prevented renewal of ``fast track'' trade legislation -- also known as ``trade promotion authority'' -- since it expired in April 1994.

    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has said he hoped his proposals would lay the groundwork for a bill both Democrats and Republicans could support. According to a copy of his proposals obtained by Reuters, the Montana Democrat's plan would elevate the role of labor and the environment in future trade talks by requiring U.S. negotiators to seek a commitment that countries not weaken their laws in those two areas to boost exports or attract investment.

    Baucus's plan also calls for a greater role for the International Labor Organization in governing world trade, including a pledge by countries in future trade agreements to abide by the ILO's five core labor principles.

    The United States should back up its commitment to the ILO by banning imports from Myanmar, which as been rebuked by the ILO for its labor practices, and by maintaining funding for the U.S. International Labor Affairs Bureau at not less than $140 million per year, according to Baucus.

    Bush has proposed cutting funding for the bureau, which coordinates U.S. activity with the ILO, by about half. In the key area of enforcement, which has been a major sticking point in this year's trade debate,Baucus's plan would require the president to select from several strategies to ensure countries live up to labor and environment commitments.

    Those could include sanctions or fines for noncompliance or incentives to increase adherence to labor and environmental goals, depending on the trade pact, said Baucus, who was set to outline his proposals to reporters on Wednesday.

    Republicans have been opposed to the use of sanctions to enforce labor and environmental provisions, fearing they could create new obstacles to trade and scare developing countries away from trade negotiations.

    Democrats have argued labor and environmental provisions have as much place in trade agreements as other more traditional areas and must be backed up with ``meaningful'' enforcement mechanisms.


    In another area, Baucus' proposals would create a Congressional Trade Office to monitor trade talks and ensure congressional objectives have been met in any final agreement. Under fast track, Congress gives up its constitutional right to amend trade agreements negotiated by the executive branch and agrees instead to vote yes or no on the overall pacts within a specified period of time.

    Supporters say without the legislation countries would refuse to negotiate seriously with the United States because they know Congress could change any pact.Bush wants the authority to forge a free trade zone covering 34 nations from Canada to Chile by 2005 and to help launch a new round of world trade talks later this year.

    Baucus's plan would give the Bush administration fast track authority for just two years, but allow for a possible three-year extension. It would also allow Congress to withdraw fast track if it determines the administration is not pursuing its negotiating objectives. Another element of Baucus's proposal would bar the administration from making any trade agreement that weakens U.S. anti-dumping and other ``trade remedy laws.''

    That could reduce the Bush administration's negotiating leverage in trade talks because a number of countries, such as Japan and Brazil, want changes in that area.
    Chairman of SPDC Sends Congratulations to New President of Indonesia

    Information Sheet - N0. B-1900( I ) - 25th,July, 2001

    Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council of the Union of Myanmar, has sent a message of congratulation to Her Excellency Madame Megawati Soekarnoputri on her assumption of the Presidency of the Republic of Indonesia.
    Junta under less pressure this year

    source : The Nation
    Marisa Chimprabha

    The Asia-Pacific security talks here marked a great departure from those before them. There was less enmity towards Burma, which has long been criticised for maintaining a repressive regime and forcing villagers to labour for no return.

    The ministers attending the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) mostly welcomed political developments in the military-ruled country, while urging the ruling junta to go the extra mile and make positive steps towards national reconciliation and democracy, according to a diplomat who was present at the talks.

    "The mood in the ARF towards Burma was better when compared with those in the previous sessions," the diplomat said.

    "Many countries expressed satisfaction and welcomed the developments, which they considered very encouraging," he added.

    Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung yesterday briefed his colleagues from Asean, as well as representatives from dialogue partners, including the United States, Canada,China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and European Union countries.

    Win Aung later told reporters that the release of political prisoners this month showed that watershed talks with National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi remained on track. He said remaining political prisoners would be freed on a "case-by-case" basis.

    However, he refused to give a timeframe for multi-party elections, or define the type of government that might emerge from a breakthrough in the talks with Suu Kyi.

    In an ARF statement, the ministers described developments in Burma, particularly the national reconciliation process, as encouraging.
    Talks in Rangoon a sham, says ceasefire group officer

    Shan Herald Agency for News
    25 July 2001
    No: 07 - 15:

    A top official from a Shan ceasefire group, interviewed by S.H.A.N. by telephone, dismissed reports of talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the generals as a ruse to woo foreign assistance.

    "Nobody really knows what the talks are all about," he said. "Considering everything else the junta is doing to the people, it is hard to believe it is going to give up power."

    Asked by S.H.A.N. whether reports about Rangoon's invitation to surrender its arms and set up a political party in preparation for general elections, the officer, who requested anonymity, replied in the negative. "We've heard them from the Burmese officers often enough," he acknowledged. "But there hasn't been any formal proposition from anybody so far."

    He also confirmed the killings of 17 Shan militiamen by junta troops 7 July in Panglong, southern Shan State. "The Burmese were afraid they might join Yawdserk's Shan State Army South," he said.

    The Shan State Army "North" and Shan State National Army a.k.a. Shan State Army "Central", both of which enjoy ceasefire agreements with Rangoon, are united under the banner of Shan State Peace Council. Both have also formed an alliance with the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, the party that won the most seats in Shan State in 1990.
    Yuzana Houses, Apartments on Sale At 20%-30% Discounts

    Information Sheet - N0. B-1900( I ) - 25thJuly, 2001

    Apartments and houses of Yuzana Company went on sale at Yuzana Head Office at the Yuzana Centre on 24 July. The company has built modern houses and high-rise buildings in the townships in the Yangon City. The company is offering 20 to 30 percent discount rates during the festival which will continue till 2 August.
    Burma sets strict conditions for Thai fishermen

    source : The Nation
    Veena Janroung

    Junta says Thai trawler operators must adhere to restrictions in exchange for reinstatement of lost concessions

    Burma has set tough conditions in return for granting fishing concessions to Thai trawlers that were revoked last year after the seizure by Burmese dissidents of its embassy here, Thai officials said yesterday.

    Burmese junta leaders told Thai Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh during his recent visit to Burma that they had awarded all the concessions to Singaporean firms, the officials said.

    However, Lt General Khin Nyunt indicated that Burma would discuss with Singapore about sharing half of the concessions with Thailand, said General Pat Akanibutr, an adviser to Chavalit.

    To make it easier for Burmese authorities to supervise Thai trawlers, Khin Nyunt wanted them to operate under a single company rather than as many companies, Pat said.

    During their meeting with Chavalit, the Burmese leaders complained about Thai concessionaires' tendency to ignore concession terms, such as by exceeding the number of trawlers allowed per company, said Monthon Kraiwatnusorn, another adviser to the defence minister.

    Another headache for Burmese authorities was that Thai concessionaires had the habit of selling their permit at a profit to other trawler operators, said Monthon, a former deputy agriculture minister.

    The Burmese leaders wanted Thai trawlers to adhere to strict requirements. They should use fishing nets with broader meshes for catching tuna, trawl in designated areas only, radio to Burmese authorities before their arrival to establish proper communications, and refrain from transferring their catches to other boats offshore, according to Monthon.

    Monthon said the public and private sectors would closely coordinate to ensure that the Burmese conditions were obeyed if concessions were awarded. Among the likely measures was for the Marine Police to check that trawlers leaving for fishing grounds off Burma met the requirements.He expected the Burmese government to allow between 500 and 600 Thai trawlers to operate in that country's territorial waters.

    Khin Nyunt is expected to discuss the possible resumption of fishing concessions during his visit to Thailand next month, Monthon said.

    The Burmese junta revoked all fishing concessions awarded to Thai companies in apparent reprisal for Thai authorities allowing Burmese dissidents, who took many hostages at the Burmese Embassy in October 1999, to be released in the jungle along the common border.Sanan Kachornprasart, the interior minister at the time, described the raiders as "students fighting for democracy in their homeland". The label infuriated the junta, which preferred to call them "terrorists".
    Japan Min Asks Myanmar To Free More Political Prisoners

    HANOI (AP)--Japan's foreign minister said Thursday that she has asked Myanmar to free as many political prisoners as possible and take other steps to improve relations with Japan.

    Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka met in Hanoi with Myanmar's Foreign Minister Win Aung, during an annual conference sponsored by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

    Speaking afterwards with reporters, she said Myanmar's contention that it faced "internal problems" wasn't an excuse not to make progress.

    "It's true Myanmar has internal problems, but all countries have their own problems," Tanaka said. "Myanmar should develop as quickly as possible into a country with which we can cooperate."

    Tanaka said she also discussed the situation of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar's military has been holding talks with Suu Kyi since late last year, and recently has freed some political prisoners, but the human rights group Amnesty International says hundreds more remain behind bars.

    Win Aung told reporters earlier this week that the talks with Suu Kyi are not stalled, as has been widely speculated.

    In April, Japan broke ranks with Western-led sanctions against Myanmar, providing it with a $28 million aid package for a dam project.
    Myanmar's Military Releases Two Political Prisoners

    YANGON (AP)--Myanmar's military regime freed two political prisoners Thursday, including a cousin of Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been sentenced to 10 years for trying to smuggle abroad a video of speeches by the opposition leader.

    An official statement said that Nge Ma Ma Than and her husband Myint Swe were released from Insein prison in Yangon at 11 a.m. (0430 GMT) and were in good health. They had been jailed in June 1997.Party sources of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy confirmed the releases and said that both were well.

    Nge Ma Ma Than and her husband had been sentenced to three years under the Printing and Publishing law and seven years under the Emergency Provisions Act.

    Since January, the government has released 153 political prisoners from jails across the country, following secret talks between Suu Kyi and the regime, the most significant move towards reconciliation in a decade of political deadlock. The releases are the chief sign of any progress in the talks, the substance of which haven't been made public.

    Suu Kyi's failure to appear at an official ceremony last week to honor her late father, independence hero Gen. Aung San, fueled speculation they weren't going well, although other analysts said the opposition leader was rather trying to demonstrate to the international community she still faced restrictions.

    Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her democracy struggle, has been under house detention since September after she tried to travel outside Yangon for political meetings.

    On July 2, Suu Kyi's other cousin Aye Win, who was her former liaison officer, was also released from Insein prison at the end of a five-year jail term. Political prisoners are often held after completion of their sentences

    Nge Ma Ma Than's brother Cho Aung Than, who was arrested at the same time as her and her husband, is still in prison. He is an NLD member and aide to Suu Kyi.

    A list of Myanmar political prisoners supplied to the Associated Press in Bangkok by the human rights group Amnesty International said all three were arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle abroad a video tape of speeches by Suu Kyi, and convicted of high treason and association with unlawful organizations.

    Amnesty says that there are still at least 1,800 political prisoners in Myanmar, also known as Burma.As well as the 153 prisoners released so far, 32 NLD representatives who won parliamentary seats in 1990 elections have also been freed from government "guest houses." The NLD won more than 80% of the seats in the election but was barred by the military from taking power.