Daily News-June 10 - 2001- Sunday

  • Dialogue going well, patience needed, inside sources said
  • Australians to pay for new round of human rights training sessions
  • Thaksin to go ahead with visit to Rangoon
  • Than Shwe hears from Shan party leader on pressure
  • Environmentalists renew attack on Yadana pipeline
  • Veterans conference adopts junta chairman's remarks as working guidelines
  • Dozens feared killed in Burma flash floods
  • Import restrictions force Suzuki to reduce production
  • Burma's Bilateral Trade With NEA Countries On Rise
  • Chinese-Built Dredgers Delivered to Burma for Services

  • Dialogue going well, patience needed, inside sources said

    By Tin Maung Htoo
    Burma Media Association (BMA)
    June 9, 2001

    In the mid of growing intolerance on prolong outcome and disillusion over the lack of ethnic engagement in the ongoing dialogue, a leader of Burma Democracy Movement reminded to generate more patience while the process is in its right trail and going well, sources in Burma said.

    According to sources, U Lwin, the joint secretary of NLD's central executive committee, met with representatives of NLD Rangoon Division on June 7 and urged the aforementioned request after some confusion and criticism came out from relevant elements active both inside and outside of Burma.

    Sources said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself did not want to publicize the facts and preliminary drafts while a mutual respect, trust and understanding are being built and further setback to be wiped out before a concrete progress and result have been worked out.

    It is also reported that she has been occasionally meeting with the party's chairman U Aung Shwe and vice-president U Tin Oo for further proceeding and consultation although she still only takes part in the dialogue.

    Sources in Burma said they were expecting a release of some political prisoners especially elderly and sick ones within 90 days from now on, as a good gesture and conciliatory tone of military regime in the talk.

    According to other sources, the military itself is also planning some forms of a withdrawal for inevitable transitional period in Burma, and at the same time, preparing its strength and readiness for future dominance in Burma politics, mobilizing and organizing its patronized organizations throughout the country.
    Australians to pay for new round of human rights training sessions

    By Jayne Dullard
    June 4 - 10, 2001

    THE Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, has announced his government will fund another four human rights training programs for members of the Myanmar government service later this year.

    The workshops, which are aimed at raising awareness of international human rights standards and relevant United Nations conventions, will be held in Yangon, and for the first time Mandalay, in July and September-October.

    The participants will be mid-level public servants drawn from the ministries of education, health, labour and foreign affairs. Representatives of local civil society organisations will also be invited to attend. The four-day sessions will be held in Yangon, and for the first time in Mandalay, in July and September-October.

    They will be conducted by the team from Melbourneís Monash University, which presented the first human rights training programs in Yangon last year; former Australian Human Rights Commissioner Chris Sidoti, and Monashís Professor David Kinley, Kate Eastman and Sarah Joseph. That project involved two short introductory courses in August followed by a two-week intensive for 25 hand-picked participants in October.

    The initiative prompted widespread media criticism in Australia, whose government has a policy of constructive engagement with Myanmar. The next round of workshops will cost the Australians about US$70,000. "We harbour no illusions about the difficulty of promoting change in (Myanmar), but continue to believe that it is worth trying to promote long-term progress through raising awareness in the specific area of human rights," said Mr Downer in a media statement announcing the workshops.

    "We arealso encouraged by the continuation of the direct political dialogue between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the State Peace and Development Council," he said..

    In an interview with Myanmar Times last year (ĎSpreading the right wordí, Vol 2 No 35), Mr Sidoti said international law created "a right to education about human rights, and an obligation to provide that education to people in positions that can affect the human rights of others". "(H)uman rights law is a legal system, itís not just a good feeling and itís not just an ethical or moral system," he said. "There are laws and obligations and requirements. We canít criticise people for breaching those agreements if we donít tell themwhat they are." The continuation of the program, which is funded through the AusAid agency, follows a positive evaluation of last yearís workshops by the Australian and Myanmar governments.
    Thaksin to go ahead with visit to Rangoon

    source : The Nation

    Trip aimed at 'clearing the air' on border clashes, drug-smuggling

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shina-watra yesterday ignored widespread domestic objection to his visit to Burma by confirming the trip would go ahead as planned this month in a bid to "clear the air" and open a new chapter in bilateral relations, which are currently at their lowest point.

    Thaksin said his trip would be a part of a three-nation tour which will also take him to Laos and Cambodia. He is scheduled to visit Laos on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by Cambodia on June 18 and 19 before flying to Burma, where will stay until June 20.

    This means that he will be absent during the last hearing of the Constitutional Court on June 18, when a verdict is expected on charges that he deliberately failed to declare part of his wealth. The verdict will determine Thaksin's political future. Thaksin said that he was confident that a host of problems, including border clashes, narcotics smuggling, and invocation of historical animosities, would be resolved once and for all when he sat down to heart-to-heart talks with theBurmese leaders, especially General Than Shwe.

    "The trip will clear the air. I am not worried. I think everything will be resolved, and there should not be any further problems," Thaksin said, adding that the countries would open up a new chapter in their relationship. Thaksin downplayed warnings from numerous Burmese experts against the trip, saying that it was prudently planned and an advance team had already been dispatched to lay down the agenda. Various scholars had expressed serious reservations about the merit of hastily arranged summit meetings during a most sensitive phase of relations. "Border trade and fishing can go ahead. Peace will return to the border area. We will not have to worry about clashes which have damaged the investment and tourism atmosphere," he said.

    Thaksin has stated since the first day of assuming the premiership that he will go to Rangoon to mend ties broken by a border incursion by the Burmese military into Thai territory in February.

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said the Burmese authorities had suggested a date for the visit and the Thai government had adjusted it to suit the PM's regional tour. He said both sides were working on the agenda to be discussed. "This will be a new era in our relationship. It will be based on mutual confidence to the extent that whenever a problem crops up we can pick up the phone and talk," Surakiart said, adding that he was confident the Burmese would agree with the idea.

    In affirming his desire to forge trust with Rangoon, Thaksin stated that Thailand would close down the Maneeloy Holding Centre in Ratchaburi, where Burmese student activists fled during the 1988 military crackdown, by early next year. The National Security Council is coordinating with various third countries to resettle hundreds of dissidents now at the centre.He also said that the refugee camps along the border would be gradually shut down but conceded that it would take some time because of accumulated problems.
    Than Shwe hears from Shan party leader on pressure

    BURMA COURIER No. 273 - Jun 3 - 9, 2001

    Based on news from S.H.A.N. and the News Media Group: Updated to June 9,2001

    RANGOON -- The leader of the only legal Shan party in Burma has written a letter to General Than Shwe, Burma's Head of State, objecting to pressures brought to bear on members of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy to resign from the party.

    Khun Htoon Oo, 57, president of the SNLD, filed the complaint with the Office of the SPDC chairman after he received a report from the party branch in Mongkung township northeast of Taung-gyi.

    A Media News Group report this week said that seven executive members of the Mongkung branch were summoned on May 28 to the township PDC office and given an ultimatum by authorities to resign from the party and close up the branch or face charges of collaboration with the armed resistance. The branch executive replied that its decision would be made known within 20 days.

    Pressure from the township authorities followed a meeting of military authorities in Taunggyi on May 26-7 where the strategy of "persuading" SNLD members to resign "on their own accord," was taken, NMG reports. The tactic is similar to that exerted on Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy between 1998-2000 when more than 60,000 party members were pressured into resigning and scores of NLD branch offices were forced to shut down.

    Khun Htoon Oo, a veteran of the opposition political scene in Rangoon is generally held in regard by all non-Burman parties. He has frequenly met with foreign representatives including U.N. emissaries to the country.
    Environmentalists renew attack on Yadana pipeline

    source : The Nation
    Pennapa Hongthong

    Environmental activists plan to launch a seminar in Kan-chanaburi today at which they are expected to charge that the three-year life of the Thai-Burma gas pipeline project has been three years of disaster for Thailand.

    The activists say the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) has met none of the promises it made since the Yadana gas pipeline project came into operation in late-1998. They also say the pipeline has caused higher electricity and gas bills.

    The PTT says the project has played a major role in reducing fuel costs and generates electricity worth more than Bt 14.7 billion a year. Songkiat Tansamrit, head of PTT's public relation department , said recent increases in electricity and gas bills were caused by events in the world economy that have nothing to do with PTT. "If the country didn't have the Yadana project, you would be paying higher bills than you pay today," he said.

    Activist Phinant Chotirossani said all PTT's promises to rehabilitate forest areas along the pipeline and to reduce fuel costs were "propaganda" aimed at deceiving the country. She added that the PTT once claimed that the project had to be finished before August 1998, or the Burmese government would fine Thailand.

    "Why has the country had to pay a fine of more than Bt29 billion over the three years the pipeline has been operating?" Phinant asked. Songkiat said the money Thailand paid to the Burmese government was not a fine, but an advance payment for gas the PTT could not discharge as a result of the unfinished construction of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat)'s power plant in Ratchburi province.

    He said the agreement for the project between PTT and the Burmese government included a "take-or-pay" clause, meaning PTT had to pay for the gas whether it could use it or not. He said the gas PTT has paid for can be discharged later, when the country is ready to use it. "How can you say it is a mistake?" Songkiat said. "If the gas is discharged and the country doesn't use it, I agree that's a mistake. But at least three power plants - Egat's plant in Ratchburi, an independent plant owned by Tri Energy Co and Egat's Wang Noi power plant - all generate electricity from the Yadana gas."

    Songkiat said the PTT is in the process of rehabilitating the affected forest areas by co-ordinating with academics to find the best way villagers who have stayed in the area can benefit from the forest. The pipeline was constructed amid protests from local villagers and environmentalists who were worried about the damage it would do to the forest among other concerns.

    Environmentalists said the pipeline-which carries gas from Burma-was unnecessary as Thailand had sufficient energy reserves of its own.
    Veterans conference adopts junta chairman's remarks as working guidelines

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 9, 2001

    Text of report in English by Burmese newspaper The New Light of Myanmar web site on 8 June

    Yangon [Rangoon], 7 June: Myanmar [Burma] War Veterans Organization Conference (2001) held at Defence Services Orthopaedic Hospital (500-bed) in Mingaladon Township from 1 to 5 June passed two resolutions, approved one matter and placed five matters on record. The two resolutions were to accept and regard the guidance given by Patron of MWVO Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior Gen Than Shwe on 5 June as working guidelines, to approve the motion submitted to the conference and to regard seven future tasks included in the report of the central organizing committee of MWVO as the future tasks of the organization.

    The one matter approved by the conference was the report of MWVO submitted to the conference. The five matters placed on record were the guidelines given by Chairman of the Central Organizing Committee of MWVO Lt-Gen Win Myint on 2 June, the activities which were carried out by State/Division WVOs in a year's time and which were submitted to the conference on 2 June, the findings got through group discussions on the national political sector, the national defence and security sector, the economic sector, the social welfare sector, the community welfare sector on 4 June, the activities of social organizations and the Union Solidarity and Development Association hailing Myanmar War Veterans Organization Conference (2001) on 5 June and the donations of well-wishers hailing Myanmar War Veterans Organization Conference (2001) on 5 June.
    Dozens feared killed in Burma flash floods

    YANGON, June 8 (Reuters) - Dozens of people were feared killed in central Myanmar after a dam overflowed in torrential rain and swamped nearby villages, residents and officials said on Friday.

    The water level at Montine Dam, 350 miles (560 km) north of Yangon, rose seven feet (2.14 metres) in two hours on June 2, an agriculture ministry official told Reuters.

    "People were caught by surprise," one district resident told Reuters by telephone. "They did not have time to prepare anything when their villages were inundated by the flash floods."

    A senior official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation told Reuters lives were lost and property damaged but he declined to give details. The official said the dam's overflow had run into the neighbouring Panlaung River and the situation had returned to normal.

    "The water level at the Montine Dam suddenly rose because of the torrential rain and it overflowed the service spillway around midnight on June 2," said the official, who declined to be identified. He did not elaborate.

    Witnesses in the area said dozens of people had been killed and many were still missing.

    Last week at least 12 people were killed in northern Myanmar when a train was derailed by heavy rains and raging mountain torrents. The early rainy season has seen unusually heavy downpours in Myanmar and neighbouring Bangladesh.
    Import restrictions force Suzuki to reduce production

    BURMA COURIER No. 273 - Jun 3 - 9, 2001

    Based on an article by Myo Lwin in the Myanmar Times: June 4, 2001

    RANGOON - Tough import restrictions have forced Myanma Suzuki to cut back severely on its assigned production of motor bikes, passenger cars and small trucks, an article in the June 4 edition of the Myanmar Times reveals.

    In its third year of operation the factory had an assigned capacity of 5,000 vehicles, but manager U Ne Lin Oo of SPA, one of the company partners, told the Times that this had been reduced to 1,680 vehicles due to a cut back in import allowances for the fiscal year 2000-1.

    "As a matter of fact, parts for manufacturing even that number have not arrived yet, though the production date is three months over due."

    No breakdown of the number of each type of vehicle was provided, but figures provided for the previous year showed assigned quotas of 920 bikes, 488 cars and 436 trucks.

    The vehicles are assembled and painted in the company's South Dagon plant mostly using parts imported from Japan, although some come from the U.S., Indonesia and India.

    The prices of the wagons and carry trucks are fixed at US$10,976 and US$6,624 per unit, but buyers face waiting times of more than one year to take possession of their vehicles. Government policy restricts the purchase of the cars and trucks produced by the company to private users who bring in export dollars to the country.

    Myanmar Suzuki is a joint venture between the Suzuki Motor Corp of Japan (60%), the government's Ministry of Industry-2 (30%) and local companies SPA and Tomen Corp (5% each). The assembly plant was opened in 1998.
    Burma's Bilateral Trade With NEA Countries On Rise

    YANGON, June 9 (Xinhuanet) -- Bilateral trade between Myanmar and three Northeast Asian (NEA) countries -- China, Japan and Republic of Korea (ROK) -- totaled 187.69 million U.S. dollars in the first two months of this year, a 36.3 percent rise compared with the same period of 2000, the latest Economic Indicators issued by the government show.

    Of the total, Myanmar's imports from the three NEA countries amounted to 167.02 million dollars, while its exports to them was valued at 20.67 million dollars.

    The bilateral trade between Myanmar and the three NEA countries during the two-month period accounted for 24.4 percent of Myanmar' s total foreign trade which was registered at 769.15 million dollars. The trade deficit stood at 146.35 million dollars during the period.

    Of this, Myanmar's bilateral trade with China represented 81.47 million dollars or 10.59 percent of Myanmar's total foreign trade, followed by that with Japan at 58 million dollars or 7.54 percent and that with ROK at 48.22 million dollars or 6.26 percent.

    Of the three NEA nations, China, which has border trade with Myanmar in addition to normal trade, stood as Myanmar's third largest trading partner for the period after Thailand and Singapore, while Japan and ROK remain as the country's fourth and fifth largest trading partners respectively.

    According to official statistics, in 2000, Myanmar's foreign trade, including the border trade, totaled 4.086 billion dollars, of which imports were valued at 2.567 billion dollars, while exports were worth 1.519 billion dollars. The trade deficit stood at 1.048 billion dollars during the year .
    Chinese-Built Dredgers Delivered to Burma for Services

    YANGON, June 9 (Xinhuanet) -- Three dredgers, purchased by the Myanmar water transport authorities from a Chinese Yunnan company, were formally handed over Saturday to the Myanmar side for services.

    The three dredgers, built by Tianjin Xinhe Shipyard, were exported by the Yunnan Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation (YMEC) of China to the Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River System of Myanmar.

    The delivery ceremony, held at Yangon's Nanthida Jetty, was attended by First Secretary of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, Myanmar Minister of Transport Major-General Hla Myint Swe and Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Li Jinjun.

    The three dredgers, which worth 8.9 million U.S. dollars, are the first batch of dredgers of its kind imported by Myanmar from China.The commission of the three dredgers into services are expected to greatly speed up Myanmar's dredging work, thus promoting the development of the country's water transport.