Daily News-July 31 - 2001- Tuesday

  • Myanmar Times says "nation regrets" Aung San Suu Kyi's absence at Martyrs Day
  • Thai officials 'held in Burma'
  • Policemen, employees complain of compulsory salary deductions
  • India, Burma prepare for a new border trade route
  • New Capital City with land relocation
  • New English TV channel to project "true image abroad"
  • New English TV programme - technical details
  • Thai revokes wa drug king's citizenship
  • Myanmar national gets jail time for drugs possession In Malaysia
  • Myanmar junta frees four more political prisoners
  • Thai PM says Myanmar ethnic army holds seven Thais

  • Myanmar Times says "nation regrets" Aung San Suu Kyi's absence at Martyrs Day

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 30, 2001

    Tributes with full state honours were paid to assassinated independence hero Gen Aung San and eight others during ceremonies last Thursday [26 July] to commemorate the 54th anniversary of Martyrs' Day...

    Wreaths were laid at General Aung San's tomb at the Martyrs' Mausoleum north of the Shwedagon Pagoda by family members on behalf of General Aung San's son, and by NLD [National League for Democracy] central executive committee member U Lwin and two other party members on behalf of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi...

    In a statement released Friday, a government spokesman said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had been "expected" to attend the Martyrs' Day ceremony. The statement said the government had expected the NLD figure to attend because she had done so in previous years, and because it was a national celebration of the memory "of her own father".

    "Besides, on account of the recent positive development taking place between the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] government and the NLD party, the government believes that the road for better understanding and cooperation has been paved optimistically, anticipating the best," the statement continued.

    "In this regard, not only was the invitation officially extended but transportation as well as an escort officer was being arranged for maximum convenience."

    The statement implied the media had sought an explanation from the NLD in response to "speculation on whether Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made a political statement by not attending".

    "One senior NLD member" said "it was her decision", according to the SPDC statement. "The nation regrets her absence and the government has nothing to say but to respect her decision," the statement concluded.

    Myanmar Times was unable to confirm the reasons for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's absence.

    Source: The Myanmar Times, Rangoon, in English 23 Jul 01 p 1
    Thai officials 'held in Burma'

    By Veena Janruang

    Seven officials from the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) and the Defence Ministry's Armed Forces Security Centre are missing in Burma,sources said yesterday.

    The seven were detained by armed men believed to be members of the Wa ethnic group, the sources said. But Burmese authorities said they had no information on the group's whereabouts.

    The seven officials - one woman and six men - had attended a meeting at the Northern Drug Suppression Command in Chiang Mai last Wednesday and were on an assignment to inspect the border area between Thursday and Saturday.

    On Sunday they went on an excursion to Burma's Tachilek town, where, according to the sources, they were captured by the Wa insurgents.Tachilek is opposite the northern-most border town of Mae Sai.

    One of the missing officials, Major Domsak Kamsaisang, is thought to be well-known in the Burmese town, as he heads a Thai liaison committee on border affairs, a source said.The officials were still in contact with their respective main offices until Saturday, the source said.

    ONCB secretary-general Kitti Limchaikit said yesterday his office had lost contact with the ONCB officials since Friday, adding that Burmese authorities had been asked to help locate them.

    When asked whether the officials were collecting intelligence on narcotics, Kitti said they "possibly were on an excursion".

    PM's Office Minister Thamarak Isarangura, who oversees narcotics affairs, said yesterday he wondered what the seven officials were doing in the area.Immigration records showed the officials left the Mae Sai-Tachilek border checkpoint for Burma on Sunday but failed to return that evening as they had told immigration officials they would, Thamarak said.

    Burmese authorities had been unable to locate the missing officials, Thamarak said, adding that he had informed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of the incident.

    Third Army commander, Lt-General Wattanachai Chaimuen-wong also wondered why the officials wanted to cross to Burma as it was clear the nature of their job was well-known among people there. However, he said it would not be too difficult to negotiate with Burmese authorities for their return. "Thailand and Burma now have good understanding between each other," he said.
    Policemen, employees complain of compulsory salary deductions

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 30, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 29 July

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that some policemen have complained to the police director-general [PDG] about the various deductions from their salaries by their superiors. Township police offices have been deducting regularly from the salaries of ordinary policemen citing various social and welfare causes.

    The PDG's Office has already deducted the salaries for the police force fund and mutual saving funds so ordinary policemen have objected to the salary deductions at other levels.

    Policemen from Taungdwingyi Township police station in Pegu Division and Salin Township police station in Magwe Division have sent complaints to the PDG earlier this month. So far no definite reply has been received from the PDG's Office.

    Similarly, the salaries of employees from various government departments have also been deducted citing various causes. The deductions were not only to collect funds to build pagodas and monasteries, and to donate alms for monks but it was also to cover entertainment expenses of visits by ministers and deputy ministers.

    An employee from the Ministry of Finance and Revenue told DVB that even money to buy presents for the ministers' wives were deducted from the employees wages.

    DVB has also learned that soldiers who have invested in military-controlled economic enterprises have not received their dividends. The military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd [UMEHL] has not paid six soldiers from Shan State-based LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] 312 and LIB 33 their dividends worth hundreds of thousands of kyats. They were not given any cash but the money was credited to their accounts.

    A soldier investing 100,000 kyat should receive 2,500 kyat monthly dividend while a soldier investing 200,000 kyat should receive 5,000 kyat monthly dividend. They had to sign a receipt stating that they have received their annual dividends ranging from 30,000 to over 100,000 while the money would be credited to their bank accounts. It is not known why they did not give cash.

    Military-owned UMEHL is engaged in the export and import business and controls many economic enterprises. They have made joint ventures with foreign companies and have become a major investor in the garment industry. The UMEHL was established in 1990 with the state owning about half the shares.

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 29 Jul 01
    India, Burma prepare for a new border trade route

    Aizawl, July 30, 2001 Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    The legal border trade between India and Burma is likely to get a boost after preparations for a new trade route connecting Mizoram State of India and Chin State of Burma is completed.

    The preparations are in full swing in both sides to launch the new trade route crossing Tio River between Zokhuthar Village in Mizoram and Rih village in Chin State. Customs and immigration buildings, export-import buildings and several stores are being built by the Mizoram government at the border village Zokhuthar while construction of the border bridge crossing the Tio river has been undertaken by the Public Works Department (PWD) of Mizoram State.

    The bridge, which will be named as India-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, is being constructed with the assistance of Indian government and expected to complete before end of this year. Burmese government has also requested assistance from India to construct a motor road linking the border with Mizoram to Kalaymyo in Sagaing Division. It is also constructing a bridge at Himual Village in Chin State to facilitate smooth transportation in the area.

    At present, small-scale traders from both sides are doing their business through Rih-Zokhuthar route without much official regulations. Onions, beetle nuts, rice, clothes (mainly made in China and Thailand) are being imported into Mizoram while medicines and bicycles parts are being exported into Burma via this route. The people have to cross the about 40-feet wide Tio River either by foot or boat carrier. Smuggling activities are also active in this area.

    Mizoram authorities are concerned with the increasing inflow of drugs and arms from Burma to the State via the 404-kms long international border with Burma. “We want to regulate the border crossing. That’s why we have submitted a proposal to the Central Government for border fencing with Burma, said Chief Minister Mr. Zoramthanga last week before leaving to Delhi to meet with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

    India-Burma bilateral border trade is currently being carried out largely through Tamu-Moreh route in Manipur State of India.
    New Capital City with land relocation

    By Tin Maung Htoo -Burma Media Association (www.bma-online.net) -July 27, 2001

    It is reported in Rangoon that a huge portion of land has been relocated for a newly designated capital city, a sensitive move amid the government's human rights practices are being put on the international microscope.

    This setback report came out as some welcoming political progresses have been made in the country with the releases of hundred of political prisoners and a glimmer of hope for political breakthrough in Burma.

    The project was briefly reported on Rangoon-based Australian-edited
    Myanmar Times magazine on June 5, but there was no exposure of such relocation being taking place or would take place on the targeted place. Although the writer of the report stated the government offices would move in within five years, it didn't mentioned about the relocation process, which now reportedly affected thousands of residents living about eight mails away from Rangoon Downtown, between Thaketa and Thanlyin townships.

    "The plans and projects for construction of State buildings are being implemented with the aim of turning Dagon Myothit Seikkan Township into a highly developed region of the Future State," it quoted as saying of SPDC Secretary-1 Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt to a township development meeting. Although BMA could not confirm the exact number of those affected, inside sources said more than 1000 portions of 40"/60" ft. land have been taken away by the military government. But sources familiar to this action said the same portion of land is now giving away at different locations as a reparation, or payment can be obtained in the form of limited amount of money the government set up for taking over the land.

    But sources said this dramatic action enormously depreciated the land value overnight and subsequently precipitated the real estate market.

    The designated area for the new capital city is in Dagon Myothit (New Dagon), one of the industrial zones at the suburb of Rangoon, established last four years ago. And most of the lands were distributed to government servants with the deposit of 20,000 kyat for each portion of 40"/60" land. However, the land price was skyrocketed to 800,000 kyat within a few years. Sources close to estate market said now the price went down to 20,000 and 30,000 kyat after the news of relocation scattered,

    "I have several quarters of land that I bought with 400,000 kyat for each that once used to worth at 800,000 kyat. But they are now just valued at 20-thansand kyat, which is equivalent amount of the government's payback for every taken land.

    A businessperson requested to keep the identity added, "I can take over government compensation amount but is nothing compared to what I spent for each one. So there is no choice but to accept the given land quarters in different location." Other sources said it's not big deal for business people but for majority of low-income government servants, it is a devastating effect for their livelihood, as they will have to rebuild their houses with new cost at new location.

    According to sources, the new location is between 45 minutes drive away from Rangoon downtown to Pegu City, located at Yarthargyi and Inntine villages on the side of Pye Highway. Although the project is ambitious attempt of the current military regime -- probably the last one and biggest accomplishment of their legacy in power, it is somewhat critical for international rights advocate organizations since large amount of land relocation are involved without giving sufficient assistance for those who are affected.
    New English TV channel to project "true image abroad"

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 30, 2001

    Text of editorial in English entitled: "Myanmar mosaic, a treat"; published by Burmese newspaper The New Light of Myanmar web site on 30 July

    That the Myanmar [Burma] Radio and Television is launching a new channel MRTV 3 is certainly good news. Going global, one might say, for it will be beamed on the footprint of the telecast satellite MRTV is currently using. Technical details are published in this paper daily in advance of the launch date.

    The footprint, according to technical sources, is capable of carrying the beam right into the homes of prospective viewers in some 120 countries, thrice a day beginning 4 August 2001. Understandably, MRTV 3 will facilitate projecting Myanmar's true image abroad more distinctly and more attractively, since a panoramic view will be created by new staff assisted by the veterans. Local news will be a major reflection of events here at home, interspersed with updates, situationers and suchlike as the telecast proceeds.

    Viewers will be able to feast their eyes on Myanmar mosaic made up of cultural performances, arts and crafts, scenic spots, pristine beaches and others that would constitute culture tour or nature tour for those who would like to sample Myanmar before visiting here. Myanmar abounds with folk lore and traditional dances of the many national races which have made Myanmar their hearth and home for centuries and their costumes, chants and dances mingle to make the telecasts more unique. All the wonders that viewers might sample are packed into each schedule, and at the flick of a button on the remote control, Voila!, our friends abroad tuning in via satellite will be able to usher Myanmar right into their homes. Recipes and menus have been assembled to whet the taste-buds of viewers, and our good chefs will prepare savoury samples.

    Delicious dishes, Myanmar's culinary delights, will be there on screen at your bidding, not difficult to prepare anywhere in the world, yet suiting your palate. Myanmar abounds in flora and fauna, what with her expanse of forest cover, and viewers will find it a treat to have some of them visit their homes. Wild geese, among the migratory birds which seek Myanmar's warmth when harsh winter comes to their natural habitat will be there to see and study, plus stints of bird-watching and other attractions of the eco-tours.

    The weatherman or a lady fair will fill you in on the current situation, and commodity markets for importers, will keep you updated. Myanmar is ensconced in a tropical climate, straddling the equator. Yet from the snow-capped Mt. Khakaborazi in the far north, from the confluence of the Maikha and Malikha right to the sea, the mighty Ayeyawady [Irrawaddy] River flows, and along its banks there is much to tape for it stretches 1,238 miles to the south. The new channel is inter-active, to borrow the term. You can help the station improve by sending in reports. Happy Viewing!

    Source: The New Light of Myanmar web site, Rangoon, in English 30 Jul 01
    New English TV programme - technical details

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jul 30, 2001

    Yangon, 27 July: The trial run of Myanmar Radio and Television English Programme (MRTV3) will be telecast from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily as of 1 August 2001 after the daily regular TV programmes. The trial run for foreign countries will go on air as of 4 August. The programme will be broadcast three times 1.00 p.m., 6.00 p.m. and 11.00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

    The programme can be received by TVRO through satellite. The audience at home and abroad can send their suggestions to Myanmar Radio and Television, Pyay Road, Yangon.

    The technical data are as follows:

    Satellite Thaicom-3 (78.5 East)
    Beam Global Beam
    Down Link Frequency 3675.5 MHz
    Symbol Rate 5.787234 M Syn/sec
    FEC (Forward Error Coding) 3/4
    Polarization Horizontal
    Modulation QPSK
    Recommended TVRO Size 3.0 sq.m. ...

    Source: The New Light of Myanmar web site, Rangoon, in English 28 Jul 01
    Thai Interior minster revokes wa drug king's citizenship

    The Nation

    The Interior Ministry yesterday revoked the Thai citizenship of Wei Hsueh-kang, who is reputed to be the new drug kingpin of the Golden Triangle.

    Interior Minister Purachai Piumsombun said he had signed an order revoking the citizenship of Wei, whose Thai name was Charnchai Cheevinnitipanya.Purachai said he acted after the National Citizenship Committee recently identified Wei as a threat to national security.

    Wei, 55, is wanted in the United States for alleged drug trafficking. He was granted Thai citizenship on July 2 1985 and arrested in Chiang Mai on November 23, 1988 on charges of attempting to smuggle 680 kilograms of heroin out of the country.

    Wei escaped conviction for drug trafficking by jumping bail, which he had been granted by a Thai judge under mysterious circumstances, and fled to Burma.

    He currently heads the 361 Brigade of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), now believed to be the prime producers of heroin and methamphetamines in the Golden Triangle - the lawless tri-border area where Thailand, Burma and Laos converge. The UWSA's mass production of methamphetamines, expected to surpass 600 million speed pills this year, most of which are destined for the Thai market, has severely strained Thai-Burma relations.

    Wei, of mixed Chinese and Wa ethnicity, reportedly worked closely with Khun Sa, the former kingpin of the Golden Triangle, in the early 1970s.
    Myanmar national gets jail time for drugs possession In MalaysiaBy Satwant Singh
    The New Straits Times Press July 30, 2001

    A Myanmar national was sentenced to seven years' jail by the Sessions Court today and ordered to be given 10 strokes of the rotan for possessing 11.53gm of drugs.

    Judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, who found Khin Zaw @ Md Eussof, 27, guilty after a trial, said the accused had failed to raise a reasonable doubt. He also ordered the sentence to begin from his date of arrest on Aug 30 last year.

    Khin Zaw had pleaded not guilty to possessing a mixture of heroin (1.83gm) and monoacetylmorphine (9.70gm) at Flat Taman Miharja, Jalan Cheras, about 2.15pm on Aug 30 last year.

    In mitigation, counsel Bhagwan Singh said that Khin Zaw previously worked as a labourer with a company in Selayang. He said Khin Zaw was married and his family was in Myanmar. Bhagwan said Khin Zaw entered Malaysia legally and urged the court to impose the most lenient sentence possible.

    Deputy Public Prosecutor S. Devanandan said the offence committed by Khin Zaw was serious. He said although Khin Zaw had entered the country legally, it did not mean that he could do as he wished, like possessing drugs. Devanandan urged the court to impose a severe sentence as a lesson to Khin Zaw and also members of the public who had intentions to get themselves involved with dangerous drugs. The offence carries a minimum jail sentence of five years and maximum life, with a minimum 10 strokes.
    Myanmar junta frees four more political prisoners

    YANGON, July 31 (AFP) - The Myanmar junta Tuesday freed four more political prisoners, all members of Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) who were elected as MPs in the disallowed 1990 elections.

    The four are all in good health, said a spokesman for the military regime, which is progressively releasing dozens of Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters, aides and relatives as landmark talks with the opposition leader proceed.

    The parliamentarians -- Khin Maung Win, Chit Htwe, Aung Myint and Nyunt Aye -- were released from jails around the country before the end of their sentences.Earlier, the spokesman said five opposition figures had been released Tuesday but later removed one of them, Ohn Maung, from the list without giving a reason.

    According to the junta, more than 150 dissidents have been freed in Myanmar since the beginning of the year, in a sign that the contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi that started in October are making headway.

    However, the Nobel laureate and her two most senior lieutenants, Aung Shwe and Tin Oo, remain under house arrest restrictions in Yangon, helping ensure that the contents of the dialogue remain secret.

    While the international community and dissident groups have welcomed the releases, they note that many political prisoners remain behind bars in Myanmar. International rights group Amnesty International recently put the number detained at 1,800.

    The junta embarked on the talks with Aung San Suu Kyi at the urging of the United Nations and its envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail, who has been a regular visitor to Yangon since late last year.

    The contacts, the first since 1994, are aimed at paving the way for a full-blown national reconciliation dialogue which could lead to some sort of democratic reform and end four decades of absolute military rule.
    Thai PM says Myanmar ethnic army holds seven Thais

    BANGKOK, July 31 - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Tuesday seven Thai officers missing along the Thai-Myanmar border since Sunday had been detained by an ethnic minority army allied to Myanmar's military government.

    Thaksin told reporters the United Wa State Army (UWSA) was holding the Thais, military and civilian anti-narcotics officials, in Myanmar. All seven were safe, he said.

    ''I have been told that they were arrested by the Wa and the Myanmar government has promised full cooperation,'' Thaksin said.

    Seven Thai officials from the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) and the Ministry of Defence, including one female Army colonel, went to Tachilek town in Myanmar on Sunday after attending a drugs seminar in Chiang Mai, Thai officials said. Tumnu Sirisingha, head of the ONCB's northern office, said the Thai officers got permission from Myanmar police to enter Tachilek to survey drugs problems in the town, opposite the northern Thai border town of Mae Sai.

    Tumnu told reporters the group might have been captured because they were driving a suspicious-looking vehicle which had heavily tinted windows and high powered radios. ''The Wa may have suspected them of spying or committing a robbery, so they captured them,'' he said.

    The UWSA is said by Thai authorities to be a major producer and supplier to Thailand of methamphetamine tablets. Officials say as many as 800 million of the Myanmar-made stimulant pills could reach Thailand this year, from 500 million last year.Thai officials say most of the tablets are manufactured in makeshift laboratories in areas under the control of Myanmar ethnic minority groups which, like the Wa, have signed peace deals with the Yangon military government in return for relative autonomy. The region forms part of the notorious ''Golden Triangle'' -- where the Thai, Myanmar and Laotian borders meet -- and is believed by international agencies to be one of the world's top heroin-producing regions.

    Thai narcotics experts say production of methamphetamines is increasingly supplanting opium and heroin there as the main threat. Thaksin has said fighting drugs is one of his government's top priorities.

    Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni said Bangkok had asked Yangon through diplomatic channels for help in finding the missing Thais. Myanmar officials had said their local authorities had already sent out search parties to find the group, he said.