Daily News-June 26 - 2001- Tuesday

  • AIDS Hidden in Burma, Expert Says
  • Trial Session In Suu Kyi Lawsuit Postponed Until July 9
  • The junta's great white elephant in a Golden Land
  • Refugees to gain from thai FM's idea
  • Thai charge of loggers' disappearance in Burma rejected by Shan army
  • Thai police crack down on Burmese exiled groups in Chiang Mai
  • Secretary-1 Meets Flood Victims in Wundwin Township
  • China, Burma cooperate to develop transport on Irrawaddy River

  • AIDS Hidden in Burma, Expert Says

    June 25, 2001
    source : The New York Times

    An American expert on AIDS in Southeast Asia says that the military government of Myanmar is falsifying statistics to hide evidence that the disease has reached epidemic levels there.

    The specialist, Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore, has just completed a study concluding that 3.46 percent of adults are infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

    Dr. Beyrer's study will be presented Monday during a special United Nations General Assembly session on AIDS. Although this percentage is well below the worst levels of some African nations, it would make Myanmar the second-worst case in Southeast Asia, which has the highest reasonably confirmable rates in all of Asia. Cambodia, for instance, has a rate of infection of about 4 percent of adults.

    Medical experts classify a disease as an epidemic when the level of the population affected reaches 2 percent or more.

    "The bottom-line issue here is that people who know about the H.I.V. epidemic in the region are very concerned about the situation in Burma," Dr. Beyrer said in an interview, using the country's traditional name. He described the response of the military government as "ominous silence."

    The conclusions of Dr. Beyrer, who has worked as a consultant for the World Health Organization in Myanmar, are broadly supported by the findings of United Nations AIDS experts. Unaids, the coordinating body working on the disease within the organization, estimates that 48,000 people in Myanmar died of AIDS in 1999, the year on which Dr. Beyrer and his team based their study. That year, the Burmese government officially reported 802 AIDS deaths.

    In the mid-1980's, Myanmar began to follow Thailand's example and take regular measurements of the spread of H.I.V. infections. Dr. Beyrer added that Health Ministry officials compile accurate numbers which international agencies get and pass on to experts abroad only to have them brushed aside by the country's military leadership.

    In conducting the Johns Hopkins research, Dr. Beyrer and his team looked at the government's own figures collected at clinics and hospitals.

    Among Burmese men aged 20 to 44, the researchers calculated, the infection rate is about 5.3 percent. The infection rate for women nationally was below 3 percent, except in the Shan states. In general, the study found, 1 in every 29 adults in Myanmar carries H.I.V.
    Trial Session In Suu Kyi Lawsuit Postponed Until July 9

    YANGON, June 25 (Oana-Kyodo) - The judge presiding over a lawsuit filed against Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi by her elder brother Aung San Oo for ownership of their parents' estate today adjourned the court until July 9 to consider the plaintiff's application for an amendment of the plaint.

    Aung San Oo, who lives in the United States, lodged the suit at the Yangon Division court in September for partition of their parent's estate at 54 University Avenue in Yangon where Suu Kyi currently lives.

    The court dismissed the plaint in January this year, on grounds of procedural errors. Aung San Oo filed another suit at the same court in April, this time seeking ownership of the estate instead of partition.
    The junta's great white elephant in a Golden Land

    Scotland on Sunday; Jun 24, 2001

    WHEN Kipling wrote 'Mandalay', he conjured up an exotic land of pagodas and temple wind chimes. Today, an altogether more surreal sight greets visitors travelling on the famous route.

    In a desolate landscape of parched farmland stands a gleaming state-of-the-art airport which puts modern terminals in Britain to shame.However, the Mandalay International Airport has a few problems: a bumpy runway, no tourists and no foreign flights. This great white elephant is the latest vanity project undertaken by Burma's ruling military junta.

    The unelected government, who are international pariahs because of their appalling human rights record and refusal to recognise democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has sunk GBP110m into the airport.The only trouble is that it is a no-go zone for large aeroplanes such as the Boeing 747, used to fly internationally, because the runway lacks the precision surface required for the jets to land safely.

    Conscientious travellers have voted with their feet not to visit the beautiful 'Golden Land', as it is known. Not wanting to contribute to the junta's coffers - all visitors have to change a mandatory US$200 into special Burmese 'tourist money', known as Foreign Exchange Certificates on arrival - they have stayed away. Last year, just 240,000 tourists visited Burma, a drop of 14% on the year before.

    Consequently the airport is deserted. It is believed that it, like many similar projects, was built with forced labour. The UN estimates that up to 800,000 people - from a population of 41 million - are being forced to work without pay building roads, bridges, and even golf courses.

    Currently, Burma is facing its biggest financial crisis in recent years, with inflation rising sharply and some consumer goods showing 100% price increases within the past few months.

    Georgia Bush, an Asia expert for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said although reliable economic information from the junta is hard to come by, the signs indicate serious economic instability. "The country is certainly going through some kind of crisis," she said. "They have severe currency depreciation, a border closure with Thailand which has hit the export economy badly, and an apparent stalling in talks with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi."

    A British colony until 1948, resource-rich Burma was once among the most developed countries in the region, and before the Second World War, the world's biggest rice supplier. However, following the assassination of independence leader General Aung San (father of Suu Kyi) in 1947, the country has effectively been ruled by the unelected military junta.
    Refugees to gain from thai FM's idea

    source : The Nation

    Thailand yesterday approached Japan to join in its endeavour to create jobs inside Burma to support Burmese refugees once they returned home.

    The idea was floated yesterday by Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai during his meeting with Japanese Ambassador Nobutoshi Akao. Surakiart had earlier proposed to the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) that it set up an office in Rangoon to help the refugees earn a living after their return.

    According to Surakiart, Japan has agreed in principle to his initiative and he will discuss it further when he visits Japan in August.

    The minister said US-based Unocal and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand were keen to develop self-supporting communities inside Burma to help the refugees resettle in their homeland. Both petroleum-suppliers are partners in a controversial pipeline project in Burma that supplies Thailand. He said Thailand would help Burma find a market for products from these community projects.

    He added that if negotiations with Rangoon on the return of Burmese refugees were successful Thailand, other friendly states and the IOM would proceed with the self-supporting community idea.

    During Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's fence-mending visit to Burma last week, Rangoon repeated its position that it was willing to allow refugees to return provided they were proven to be genuine Burmese. Thailand is housing more than100,000 Burmese refugees, mainly ethnic minorities, at sprawling camps along its border with Burma.

    Meanwhile the Mae Sai-Tachilek checkpoint was yesterday bustling with Burmese rushing to buy Thai consumer goods.The immigration office at Mae Sai has recorded nearly 3,000 Burmese visitors since the checkpoint reopened on Sunday after being closed for five months. Deputy chief of the Mae Sai Customs Office Veerapong Pannaratch said export orders for Thai goods had reached more than Bt700,000 on the first day of opening. He said Burma had started to take in cement and iron rods while strategic goods like petrol and vehicles that had been banned were still on the order list but not yet exported.

    However, a group of villagers who have resisted the construction of a lignite-based thermal power plant in Tachilek yesterday expreseed its concern that the reopening of the checkpoint would make it easy for machines for the plant to get into Burma.

    In a related development, the Thai-owned Regina and Gold hotel in Tachilek reopened yesterday, offering customers up to 50 per cent discounts on room rates to stimulate demand following its closure as a result of the border seal. But the hotel, which includes a casino, only managed to draw a small number of customers.
    Thai charge of loggers' disappearance in Burma rejected by Shan army

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 25, 2001

    Text of report Shan Herald Agency for News report dated 24 June in English by Burmese opposition electronic newspaper BurmaNet News on 25 June

    Shan army leaders deny newspaper reports Col Yawdserk and his deputy flatly rejected Thai newspaper reports of his involvement in the recent disappearance of Thai loggers and drug activities.

    "We had nothing to do with their disappearance," he said on 17 June, when he was inquired by S.H.A.N. [Shan Herald Agency for News] about the report that appeared in Bangkok Post, 12 June, about two Thai workers from a logging firm being allegedly captured by the Shan State Army.

    One of his staff officers agreed, saying a Thai villager from the nearby village of Hualarng by the name of Singh (surname unidentified), who was also dealing in cross-border timber business, disappeared in a neighbouring area frequented by the besieging Wa units. "If the report of their disappearance were true, they must have met the same fate," he said.

    Col Khurh-ngern, Chief of Staff, Shan State Army, also dismissed a report by the Nation, 7 May, about "a heroin lab in the Mae Kun area adjacent to Mae Hong Son's Pai district receives protection from a unit of the Shan State Army", when he was questioned on 22 June. (Both interviews took place at Loi Taileng, the SSA base, across Mae Hong Son's Pang Mapha District.)

    "That was totally untrue," he said. "We are not doing this (anti-drug campaign) just to please the world. On the contrary, we are doing it because we mean it."

    The one-armed fighter (he lost his right arm in 1983) succeeded Yawdserk as chief of staff when the latter became president of the Restoration Council of Shan State that was formed in May last year.
    Thai police crack down on Burmese exiled groups in Chiang Mai

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 25, 2001

    Text of report "Thai police crack down on Burma exile groups" in English by Burmese opposition electronic newspaper BurmaNet News on 25 June

    A police crackdown in Chiang Mai has caused most exile groups there to close their offices for the duration.

    The crackdown is the first since a similar one which happened when the Asia Development Bank held its annual meeting there last year. The number of exiles arrested is unknown but growing.
    Secretary-1 Meets Flood Victims in Wundwin Township

    MIC-Information Sheet N0. B-1862( I ) 25th June, 2001

    Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and party arrived at Wundwin Township in Meiktila District on 23 June. The Secretary-1 met officials of Meiktila District and Townships, Chairman of Wundwin Township Peace and Development Council and members, departmental personnel, townselders and members of social organizations at the township hall.

    Chairman of Mandalay Division Peace and Development Council reported on flooding caused by unusual rain in some regions in Wundwin, Meiktila and Mahlaing Townships on 2 June, extent of destruction, resettlement of households and assistance. Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation also reported on systematic building of dams in Meiktila District and reducing the impact of floods by building of dams.

    There were unprecedented floods in some wards and villages in Wundwin, Meiktila and Mahlaing Townships because of unusual heavy rain. In spite of the heavy rains well-built dams and embankments reduce the impact of the floods.

    Regional authorities and ministries concerned and wellwishers will provide assistance to flood victims. The Secretary-1 presented cash and rice to flood victims from Thedawlay Village in Meiktila Village in Mahlaing Township and wards and villages in Wundwin Township.They also donated 3,500 dozens of exercise books and 3,500 dozens of pencils and K.10 million for repair of schools damaged by floods and other requirements. Mayor of Mandalay presented K 2.5 million donated by Mandalay City Development Committee.

    At the ceremony today, K 20,000 was donated to each household that experienced the floods. The donation K 20,000 each included K 15,000 each by (Kanbawza Bank), K3,000 each by (Kyauk Sein Naga Co) and K 2,000 by (Asia World Co). In addition, a bag of rice was donated to every household. The donation included 323 bags of rice (Yuzana Co) and 200 bags by wellwishers. After the ceremony the Secretary-1 and party inspected rehabilitation camps in new block of Wundwin and met with flood victims.
    China, Burma cooperate to develop transport on Irrawaddy River

    Kunming(Xinhua )25 June: Southwest China's Yunnan Province is increasing cooperation with Myanmar [Burma] to develop a road-water transportation line for more efficient trade.

    The province and the country expect a portage to be completed in the near future between a road in the province and the waterway of the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. The 2,150 km river originates on the Tibet Plateau and flows through Yunnan and Myanmar and empties into the Indian Ocean.

    Through the waterway, China now exports building materials, machinery and electronic products, textile products and garlic, and imports marine products, peanuts, rice and timber.

    A survey shows that the shipping distance and time for exports from southwest China will be cut by 3,000 km and one week respectively,compared with the traditional shipping line via the Malacca Straits in Southeast Asia.

    The province is upgrading the highway connecting Kunming, capital of Yunnan, and Ruili City on the Sino-Myanmar border.