Daily News-June 01 - 2001- Friday

  • Japan Trade union asks government to limit aid to Burma to humanitarian aid
  • Chavalit wants 'mock war' with Burma
  • Burma should join Cobra Gold: Chavalit
  • UNCHR withdrawal rumour untrue: Surakiart
  • Plans for a Wa state could threaten national security
  • Old roots for new troubles
  • Shans throw a party
  • New Magwe commander accompanies Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt on tour
  • Government use arrests to halt currency slide
  • Asia World Port Terminal Launched in Yangon
  • UN envoy Razali heads to Rangoon to revive political dialogue
  • Burma's New Light of Myanmar show Friendly signs to Bangkok
  • KNU accused of killing traveller

  • Japan Trade union asks government to limit aid to Burma to humanitarian aid

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 31, 2001

    Text of report in English by Japanese news agency Kyodo

    Tokyo, 31 May: The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) and 10 other groups on Thursday [31 May] asked the Foreign Ministry to limit Japan's official development assistance (ODA) to Myanmar [Burma] to humanitarian assistance, Rengo officials said.

    The 11 groups, which also include the Japan Council of Metal Workers'Unions, made the request on the grounds that Myanmar's ruling junta continues forced labour practices despite the International Labour Organization's (ILO) call for an end to them.

    The written request, presented by Rengo Secretary-General Kiyoshi Sasamori to Director General Kunihiko Makita of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the ministry, also calls for dispatching a mission to check whether Myanmar is trying to comply with the ILO's recommendation.

    Makita was quoted as saying that although the message will be conveyed to Myanmar, it is unknown whether the junta will accept it.

    Source: Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1225 gmt 31 May 01
    Chavalit wants 'mock war' with Burma

    BANGKOK, May 31 (The Nation) -- Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh suggested on Thursday that Thai armed forces and their Burmese counterparts should organise joint military exercises on regular basis to promote closer ties and reduce border tension.

    Gen Chavalit, also deputy prime minister, said the Thai armed forces had been holding regular mock wargames with the United States and Singapore for many years and that such arrangements should be expanded to include Burmese armed forces in the future.

    "I understand that Burma is upset with the recent joint military exercise between Thai and US soldiers [which took place near the Burmese border]," Chavalit said. "We [Thailand] want to make clear that the exercise was aimed at promoting peace and stability -- not provocation or aggression."

    He said the proposed joint military exercise with Burma could be arranged to enhance cooperation between the two countries in drug suppression.

    Thai and Burmese armies have engaged in a series of border skirmishes following incursions by Burmese troops or Rangoon-backed Burmese ethnic guerrillas in recent months.
    Burma should join Cobra Gold: Chavalit

    source : The Nation

    Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said yesterday that Burma should be invited to join Cobra Gold, the annual Thai-US military exercise, to strengthen regional peace and security.

    He said such cooperation could serve as a form of deterrent to prevent violence from occurring.

    Thailand and the United States recently completed this yearís Cobra Gold event, in which Singaporean troops also took part. Chavalit also commented on Task Force 399, which was set up to deal with the drug problem.

    He said the Burmese junta was not happy with the task force, which has caused tension between the two countries. The Burmese misunderstood us and we also misunderstood them, he said.

    Chavalit also contradicted an earlier statement about Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatraís planned visit to Burma, saying no date has been set.The purpose of the visit is to demonstrate Thailandís sincerely in promoting friendship and better understanding, he stated.
    UNCHR withdrawal rumour untrue: Surakiart

    source : The Nation

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai yesterday rejected reports that Thailand was considering withdrawing from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

    It is groundless and I donít know where they [the reports] all came from,he said, after concluding a meeting with ambassadors and consulgenerals.

    Thailand last year became a member of the UNCHR. There are 53 membercountries. The body is regarded as a prime protector and promoter of human rights around the world. Thailandís term with the body expires in 2003 and as yet there has been no debate about whether it will seek to renew its term.

    However, the Thai Ambassador to the UN mission in Geneva, Veerasak Footrakul, said there was a lot of politicking in the commission, as with the UNís General Assembly, where human rights had become nothing more than a pretext to pursue other agendas. There is immense pressure and the degree of emotional intensity is very high, said Veerasuk.

    Meanwhile, Thailandís position regarding Burma at the International Labour Conference next month would depend on the ILOís report in the wake of its recent visit, he said. The missionís aim was to conduct an objective assessment of Rangoonís compliance to ILO demands on forced labour. The missionís entry followed a pledge by Burmese Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Muang Win to the ILO director general Juan Somavia to cooperate with the international community.The issue will be discussed at a special sitting, said Veerasak, adding that he expected the current pressure heaped on Burma would be reduced.

    He said if the mission was not satisfied with the situation, there could be another special resolution on Burma.

    It will also determine whether there would be a commonAsean position in defense of Rangoon or not.Prapan Hutasingh of Forum Asia, a regional human rights NGOs, lamented alack of progress in the establishment of an Asean regional human rightscommission.

    He urged Thailand which has enjoyed the fruit of human rightsto take a leading role in promoting other people in the region to taste adecent degree of freedoms. He said it would be a mutual benefit that Thailand helped its friends finda way to "step down from the tiger's back without being eaten by the tiger".Surakiart sai the fourday meeting with ambassadors had enabled them toclearly understand the thrust of the government policy and explain to theforeigners.

    It is a kind of road show," he said.The meeting also meant to bring the envoys to meet and exchange ideas withcivil society and businessmen. "It showed the importance(thegovernment)attached to participatory democracy".Among the new initiatives proposed are the linking of information betweenprivate sectors with the foreign missions overseas, and urging the envoysto promote the country's capital market based on cooperation with theSecurities Exchange Commission.Surakiart also reassured that foreign policy should nonpartisan for thebenefit of the country.
    Plans for a Wa state could threaten national security

    source : Bangkokpost(31/05/01)
    Wassana Nanuam

    The Wa tribal minority's plan for a Wa state could pose a threat to national security, says the Third Army commander.

    Lt-Gen Watanachai Chaimuanwong said the United Wa State Army would need more money to pay for its plans and a huge increase in drug production could be expected.

    The United Nations Development Programme had moved 50,000-100,000 Wa people from Burma's northern border to areas opposite Chiang Mai to stop them making opium. They had turned to making methamphetamines for the Red Wa, since help with occupational development was rather slow, Lt-Gen Watanachai said.

    Drug factories in Mong Yawn were moved into jungles near the Salween river and that was why Thai officials on a recent trip to the Wa-controlled town did not spot any drug activity. There were a lot of "mobile" factories which could be moved anywhere, he said.

    The Red Wa also moved some factories to border areas opposite Tak and used the pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army to make and sell speed.

    Lt-Gen Wattanachai said some reports suggested that five factories were operating in a military base in Laos, which used a resort owned by a Burmese as a front. He said Thailand was intercepting only 10% of drugs from Burma. An estimated 600-700 million pills would be made this year.

    Lt-Gen Watanachai said special task force 399, set up to deal specifically with drugs and trained by American soldiers, would not cross the border to crack down on manufacturers because that violated international law.

    "Drug factories would have all been gone if we really launched cross-border operations," he said. "But we won't do that because it is not right." He appointed a panel to investigate officers who allowed six trucks to enter Burma through a closed border pass in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district on Tuesday. Some officers in border areas were corrupt, he said.
    Old roots for new troubles

    source : Bangkokpost

    As if things weren't bad enough along our border with Burma, a couple of generals in Rangoon are having a row and this is just making things worse. - - Not only do those Shan people just across the border know how to put up a decent struggle, they also can party. - - Pongpol Adireksarn, the some-time novelist, has put together a team and they're going to make sure the whole world knows about Thailand and things Thai.

    A good old-fashioned struggle between the forces of change, in the shape of Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the sinisterly titled State Peace and Development Council, and the forces of keeping things just the way they are, in the form of Gen Maung Aye, the Burmese army commander-in-chief, is being blamed for the present oppressive mood along the border dividing Thailand from Burma.

    The recent shelling of a royal project in Chiang Mai's Fang district from across the border and sharp criticisms of two past Thai monarchs by Burma's state-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper can be traced back to this conflict in Rangoon, according to knowing sources.

    "The sharp criticism of the Thai kings came as a real surprise," said one senior member of the Thai cabinet. "Rangoon should be well aware that this kind of attack on our highest institution must worsen ties between our two countries."

    The minister is convinced that the recent escalation of tensions along the border are the direct result of the intensifying power struggle in Rangoon between Gen Maung Aye and Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt. The latter is the head of the Burmese military intelligence and No.3 in the overall junta hierarchy.

    Among the pair's differences was Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt's strong opposition to Gen Maung Aye's efforts to name Lt-Gen Tin Oo, who died in a helicopter crash near our border in late February, as his successor.

    One veteran border watcher said the Stalinist New Light of Myanmar was under the direct command of Gen Maung Aye.

    It was Gen Maung Aye, the State Peace and Development Council's vice-chairman, who accused Thailand early this month of bombing and firing rockets from an F-16 jet fighter at Burmese troops posted near the disputed Hua Lone hill. The claim has been rejected by the top Thai government and military chieftains.

    It is widely believed among border watchers that Gen Maung Aye was also a prime mover behind Rangoon's surprise demand for the Thai army to withdraw its troops from the disputed Doi Lang in Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district.

    There are real concerns here that the Burmese troop build-up along parts of the border, including the rugged terrain around Doi Lang, could degenerate into military confrontation. But a lieutenant to Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh quoted the boss as saying he thought things could be worked out through the process of informal discussions.

    "There are some encouraging developments from above that the situation will soon return to normal," said the go-for. "Neither side will benefit from a worsening border situation, so the defence minister is trying his utmost to prevent tensions from turning explosive."
    Shans throw a party

    source : Bangkokpost

    The recent partying along the border at Doi Tailaeng, opposite Mae Hong Son's Pang Mapha district, to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the establishment of the Shan State Army had that little but extra frisson of excitement as the SSA had recently been having a real knees-up time attacking Burmese government positions along the border.

    Members of the Thai and foreign press made it to the bash despite the warnings from the Third Army. The local troops kept a close watch on people wanting to cross the border at Ban Pang Kham in Pang Mapha district. Thai troops have to be careful as they have been accused of supporting the Shans in their struggle against the Burmese.

    Party host Col Yod Suek, the SSA leader, gave a pep talk to his fighters in which he described the Thai media as a great friend of the Shan people.

    Reporters, being reporters, are said to have been especially pleased to see there was no shortage of "logistic supplies" to support the celebrations. Add Carabao, or Yuenyong Ophakul, the lead singer of the folk-rock band Carabao and now the presenter of the Beer Chang promotion campaign, came good by providing 50 cartons of beer for the festivities.

    As things moved along, Col Yod Suek raised a can of beer over his head and asked the Shan people: "Khon Tai Rue Plao?" (Are you Tai?). The Shan people of Burma are from the same ethnic group as Thais and the commander was imitating the Chang ad which features Add Carabao.

    The Caravan band was also on hand to entertain the party guests. Nga Caravan, or Surachai Chanthimathorn, of Caravan wrote a song "Tai Nai Mok" (Tai people in the Fog) for the rebels.

    Donations from the Thai people of Shan origin in the North were presented to the SSA and, more importantly, a key worker for the Thai Rak Thai party contributed financial and material support to the rebels.

    A sour note afterwards was that the presence of the media and musicians was reported in some Thai newspapers in such a way as to subject those at the party to possible arrest and detention. There were even reports of people being there that weren't. These included Noppol Komarachun and Preeyanuch Panpradab, producers of Kep Paen Din, a series of television dramas which depicted the struggle for freedom by ethnic minorities along the border. It had been reported earlier that these people would be arrested for illegal entry into Burma and Burmese soldiers might launch an attack on Doi Tailaeng while the celebrations were in progress.
    New Magwe commander accompanies Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt on tour

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 31, 2001

    Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council [SPDC], accompanied by ministers, chief of staff air, deputy ministers, Chairman of Magwe Division Peace and Development Council Col Zaw Min [replaces Brig Gen Thein Zaw who was appointed as minister of communications, post, and telegraphs on 10 May 2001], senior officials from the SPDC Office, and departmental officials, left Yangon [Rangoon] in a military plane in the morning on 27 May and arrived in Nyaung-u in Mandalay Division at 0815 [local time].

    The secretary-1 and party then inspected Ngathayauk river water pumping station in Ohnnechaung village in Nyaung-u Township... The secretary-1 and party then inspected the site of Ngathalauk river pumping station and cultivation of summer paddy, sesame, and cotton fields irrigated with water from the Irrawaddy River in Letpanyebaw area... They then went to Letpanchepaw river water pumping project in Letpanchepaw region, Nyaung-u Township...

    The secretary-1 and party then inspected model experimental agriculture farm on the eastern bank of Irrawaddy River operated by Hong Pang Company near Nyaung-u on Pagan-Chauk Road. Farm in-charge U Hla Mun briefed the secretary-1 and party on cultivation of water melon, grapes and cucumber and preparations to grow pomelo and durian...

    Hong Pang Company General Manager U Li Khan Min and Farm Manager U Kyaw Naing reported on needs for electric power and communications for the model experimental farm and future expansion programme. Secretary-1 Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt gave suggestions on successful cultivation of dry zone crops and distribution of seeds and dissemination of cultivation methods to local farmers. The secretary-1 and party then inspected mangoes and water melon farmed by Hong Pang Company and experimental vineyard...

    Source: TV Myanmar, Rangoon, in Burmese 1330 gmt 28 May 01
    Government use arrests to halt currency slide

    source : The Irrawaddy News Magazine

    By Maung Maung Oo

    May 31, 2001--In an attempt to halt its plummeting currency, Burma's government began cracking down on black-market moneychangers last week. Sources in Rangoon have estimated that over one hundred people have been arrested and charged with 5 J under the Emergency Security Act (ESA). The regime has historically used the charge of 5 J against political activists and anybody who has shown opposition to the government.

    In the past the government has simply detained moneychangers until the currency has stabilized rather than actually arresting and charging them with a crime. Analysts feel the government's decision to charge the moneychangers with 5 J indicates the government is seriously concerned about the declining economic situation in Burma.

    Areas in downtown Rangoon, such as Shwe Bon Thar Street, Bo Gyoke market and Barr Street, which are usually buzzing with the activity of moneychangers' are now quiet as the fear of being charged with 5 J spreads.

    As a result of these massive arrests the government has halted the sliding currency, the kyat, and temporarily increased its exchange rate. Before the arrests, the kyat had been trading at roughly 900 to 1 USD, the lowest in Burma's history. But according to sources from the business community in Rangoon, the rate is now around 600 kyat per dollar.

    In addition to the arrests in Rangoon, the government has issued mandatory exchange rates in towns along the Thai border. Warnings have been given to merchants in the border towns of Myawaddy and Kaw Thaung that 1400 kyat is to be traded for 100 baht ($US 2.20). The warning goes on to say that any violation will result in immediate arrest and detention. In Kaw Thaung, a southern border town, many moneychangers have already been arrested.

    Although the government has carried out recent large-scale arrests of black-market moneychangers, others secretly continue to operate underground. In these markets, hundreds of thousands of US dollars are waiting to be exchanged but the traders are fearful of government retribution and an unstable kyat.

    According to the business community, another reason that US dollars have recently flooded the black-market is that most importers have refused to recognize the current black-market exchange rates.

    Earlier this month, the Burmese government warned merchants not to drive up prices by hoarding essential commodities such as rice, petroleum and cooking oils. Black-market moneychangers were also warned not to add to the instability of the nation by increasing exchange rates.
    Asia World Port Terminal Launched in Yangon

    MIC/Information Sheet/ No.B-1833 (I) / 31st May, 2001

    Asia World Port Terminal installed with modern cranes and machinery on12.09-acre port area was opened in Ahlon Township, Yangon on 30 May.

    A build-operate-and-transfer contract (BOT) was signed between Myanmar Port Authority (MPA) and Asia World Port Management Co Ltd (AWPM) on 25 April 1996 to upgrade No.2 Ahlon Jetty in Yangon.

    The jetty was commissioned into service on 20 December 1997. Another BOT agreement was reached between the two enterprises on 25 November 1998 to upgrade the No.1 Ahlon Jetty situated next to the No.2 Jetty.

    Soft opening of the No.1 Jetty was held on 19 March 2000 and some sectors of the port services also started on that day. Located in a 1.32-acre area plot, the No.2 Jetty upgraded by AWPM is 511 feet long. The No.1 Jetty situated on a 10.77-acre plot is 651.5 feet long. The total area of Asia World Port Terminal is 12.09 acres. Installed with modern cranes and machinery, the port will handle general cargo and containers.

    The project is an accomplishment of AWPM, which is owned by national entrepreneurs.
    UN envoy Razali heads to Rangoon to revive political dialogue

    Rangoon, June 1 (AFP)

    After a five-month absence, the UN envoy to Burma Razali Ismail will arrive here Friday and attempt to breathe new life into talks between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi, which he helped initiate.

    The Malaysian diplomat's four-day visit comes at a crucial stage in the dialogue, which is believed to have ground to a halt after factions within the ruling junta balked at the prospect of introducing democratic reforms.

    Razali, who acted as a catalyst for the secret talks which began last October, is almost certain to be given permission to see democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has been confined to her home since September.

    Observers in Rangoon hope that the UN special envoy's visit will bring fresh impetus to the national reconciliation process which could end four decades of military rule in Burma.

    There are also hopes that the generals in Rangoon will use the opportunity to shed some light on the direction and intent of the talks which have so far been held under conditions of strict secrecy.

    "I do hope that his present visit will signal the start of a full-fledged dialogue or come out with something really positive at the very least," said one analyst in Rangoon.

    The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) hopes that even if Razali fails to nudge along the talks, his visit will at least be marked by the release of more of its jailed members, especially the sick and elderly.

    "I'm sure he'll make such a request," one NLD member told AFP. "There are quite a number of very sick and old persons who have yet to complete their sentences but may not make it through ... we are very concerned about them."

    The green light for the Malaysian diplomat's fourth trip to Burma came after months of delays which had raised concerns about the future of political reforms in the military-run country.

    But diplomats in Rangoon said it was too soon to know whether the junta's decision to allow Razali into the country was an indication that the national reconciliation process was back on track.

    "This is a good sign but we will have to see what kind of feedback he gets when he gets here," one said.

    "Certainly, coming after the indications that his next visit would not be on the cards for several more months ... there must now be a little bit more flexibility."

    Razali's visit ends just a day before the International Labor Organisation (ILO) convenes its annual meeting where it is expected to roundly condemn the Rangoon junta's record on forced labour.

    The ILO's governing body last November issued an unprecedented call for its members to review their ties with Burma -- a move aimed at tightening the sanctions load that has already helped cripple the economy.

    Bitterly disappointed, the junta shot back by declaring it would "cease to cooperate" with the ILO, in an apparent declaration that a technical mission which had visited in October would not be allowed to return.

    However, a four-man team again led by Francis Maupain of France was allowed to travel to Rangoon last month to negotiate an accord on the eradication of forced labour with the junta, the ILO confirmed Wednesday.

    The renewed contact with the ILO is another sign that a political shift is under way in Burma, and that the junta is willing to take some modest steps towards improving its relationship with the international community.
    Burma's New Light of Myanmar show Friendly signs to Bangkok

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Burma's New Light of Myanmar changed its tune yesterday, praising Their Majesties the King and Queen, whose historical trip to Burma in 1960 helped strengthen bilateral ties.

    The move is seen as a positive gesture for Bangkok and is expected to help bring about an early visit to Rangoon by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

    He wants to salvage the diplomatic ties threatened by a recent spate of border conflicts in the North.

    The state-run daily, which criticised two late Thai monarchs for their handling of Western colonisation in the mid-1800s, and angered the Foreign Ministry, was full of praise for Their Majesties in its edition yesterday.

    "This is the first positive sign from Burma that could help speed up Mr Thaksin's trip.

    "The visit is likely to be made in early June if arrangements can be settled by the government's advance team," said a political source.

    Gen Vichit Yathip, chief of the defence minister's staff officers, told Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh of the development and a copy of the article was faxed to the prime minister.

    Some advisers had opposed plans, mooted this week, to speed up Mr Thaksin's trip, unless there were positive signs from Rangoon.

    "The premier was urged to be cautious in moving up his visit to Rangoon," the source said.

    Speaking before he was told of the newspaper article yesterday, Mr Thaksin was non-committal on whether he would speed up his visit.

    "I don't want to discuss it in detail, especially when it deals with national security," Mr Thaksin said. The government wanted good border co-operation and believed tensions would soon ease.

    The prime minister said he would visit Rangoon after arrangements were worked out.

    However, sources say the omens are good.

    "Once a positive sign is transmitted directly from Burma, the premier will decide when he will make his move. Now we have this sign," a source said.

    In an article called
    "Placing loving kindness", Ma Tin Win said she wrote the two previous offending articles because she wanted to rebut "slanderous" accusations against the Burmese.

    She recalled fond memories of a visit by Their Majesties to Burma in 1960.

    She wrote: "The news photo of the King and Queen offering meals to the eminent monks of Myanmar enhanced the view that we were of the same Buddhist faith and aroused our loving kindness towards the country."Ma Tin Win said her admired book collection included Maha Janaka , a book written by the King to cherish perseverance.

    She said she read the book with much devotion.

    "It is obvious in the concluding parts of the book that the King has wished to clean all the filth in the social, education and cultural spheres of Siam with the teachings of Buddha.

    "After reading the book, my respect for the King has been further enhanced."-
    KNU accused of killing traveller

    Source : South China Morning Post

    A Burmese government newspaper on Friday accused an ethnic rebel group of waylaying a car in eastern Burma and killing a 50-year-old woman passenger.

    The Myanma Ahlin newspaper said Karen National Union rebels armed with grenade launchers and small arms attacked the car on Wednesday near the eastern town of Myawaddy, killing the woman and injuring four others.

    The rebel group, which is fighting a guerrilla war for autonomy for the ethnic Karen minority, denied the charges.

    "KNU fighters were not involved in the attack. The KNU never attacks civilians and reports in Burmese newspapers always make the international community misunderstand the KNU," Manh Sha, a leader of the group, said in neighbouring Thailand, where he is based.

    The Myanma Ahlin newspaper said "the KNU rebels who are trying to disrupt peace and stability in the country are committing terrorist activities by killing and robbing innocent citizens."

    It said the car was travelling from the border town of Myawaddy to the nearby Kawkareik town. The army is in pursuit of the "terrorists" who fled after the attack, the newspaper said.

    Myawaddy is about 250 kilometres east of Rangoon.

    The Karen National Union is the only major ethnic rebel group that has not yet reached peace agreement with the ruling military government.