Daily News-June 27 - 2001- Wednesday

  • Burma Doesn't Want To Be Isolated
  • Burma junta opens drug museum in Yangon
  • Burma Calls for Struggle Against Drugs
  • Launching Ceremony of MV Chindwin
  • Indonesia's GMF to Cooperate With Myanmar Airways
  • Burma Builds 122 Dams in 13 Years
  • Burma Said Revoking Money-Dealing Licenses in Bid to Stabilise Currency
  • Change of guard among FEC dealers
  • Burma says Thailand ties recovering from bid to "destroy" friendship
  • Thai-Burmese Border panel to work on mending ties

  • Burma Doesn't Want To Be Isolated

    YANGON (AP)--Myanmar recognizes the need to stay in the international mainstream but will do so according to its priorities, a top government leader said, adding that international economic sanctions on the country have failed.

    "Under the present circumstances when globalization is taking place at a fast speed, no nation can stay aloof or isolated," Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the No. 3 leader in the military junta, said in a speech Monday. It was reported by state-run newspapers Tuesday. But, Khin Nyunt said, Myanmar is trying to be in the mainstream of international community "in accordance with our policies and priorities."

    Myanmar faces regular criticism, largely from the West, for suppressing the opposition National League for Democracy party of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The party won the 1990 general elections, but the generals never allowed it to take power. Both sides are now holding reconciliation talks.

    The junta is also accused by the West of abusing its citizens' human rights, including using forced labor. To force Myanmar to change its ways, the U.S. has banned new investments in the country, and virtually every donor country has imposed development aid embargo.

    Khin Nyunt, who is also the chief of military intelligence, said the sanctions have failed. "It is more than 10 years since the imposition of economic sanctions by some Western nations, but such pressure tactics had not much impact since the country's economic and social infrastructure continues to grow steadily," he said.

    The country's average annual growth rate was 8.4% during the period 1996-97 to 2000-2001, he said at the opening ceremony of a course in diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry.

    He said Myanmar's differences with Thailand have been resolved through "friendship, understanding and cooperation," and credited Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for the breakthrough. "Due to sincere efforts undertaken during the goodwill visit of Prime Minister Thaksin, the problems were resolved," Khin Nyunt said.

    He blamed the tensions on opposition groups and biased media organizations, which he didn't name. Since Thaksin's visit to Myanmar last week, the two countries have stopped trading accusations. Myanmar also reopened over the weekend a border checkpoint that had remained closed for four months after border clashes between the Thai and Myanmar armies. The tensions between the two uneasy neighbors were over drug trafficking from Myanmar and support for anti-Yangon rebels. Thailand and the U.S. accuse the junta of not doing enough to crack down on drug lords in its border areas.
    Burma junta opens drug museum in Yangon

    YANGON, June 26 (AFP) - Mynmar's military government Tuesday unveiled a 1.4 million dollar museum to celebrate its anti-narcotics efforts, even as the country was recently named the world's top drug producer.

    The junta's number-three, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt said at the opening ceremony that the museum represented a "concrete landmark" that "truly reflected Myanmar's concerted efforts to combat narcotic drugs." He said the museum's exhibits -- from documentary photos to maps of drug trade routes -- showed opium in East Asia had caused havoc throughout the world and been used as a "powerful weapon" by colonial forces.

    "The introduction of opium to East Asia, including Myanmar, is indeed a dark page in the history of mankind and ... the people of the world have suffered bitterly from this problem," he told an audience that included foreign diplomats and military attaches.

    Reformed drug kingpin Lo Hsin Han also attended the ceremony and told AFP he had contributed 5.0 million kyats (8,780 dollars) towards the 800 million kyat (1.4 million dollar) cost of constructing the museum.

    The international community has roundly condemned Myanmar for allegedly turning a blind eye to the massive production of drugs in areas controlled by ethnic armies which have signed fragile ceasefires with the junta.Until last year Myanmar ranked behind Afghanistan as the world's top drug producer.

    The government in April said that drug eradication efforts, bad weather and pests had combined to produce the poorest opium crop in more than a decade. And a report earlier this year from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) showed opium production in Myanmar had fallen some 40 percent in the past decade.

    However, last year Afghanistan's ruling Taliban banned the opium crop and UN surveys confirmed a dramatic reduction in its cultivation -- elevating Myanmar to the top spot by default.

    Khin Nyunt said Myanmar's drug problem was "a very complex and delicate issue" linked to national political, social and economic issues.He said Myanmar aimed to eliminate drugs within 15 years "with or without the international community's assistance," but that assistance from "friendly countries and the United Nations" would speed the process. The opening of the Drugs Elimination Museum vividly illustrated Myanmar's "firm national resolve to totally eliminate narcotics drugs," he said.
    Burma Calls for Struggle Against Drugs

    YANGON, June 26 (Xinhua)--Myanmar Home Minister Colonel Tin Hlaing Tuesday called on the Myanmar people of different walks of life to get fully involved in the struggle against narcotic drugs in accordance with the motto Sports Against Drugs designated by the U.N. Drug Control Program.

    In his message on the occasion of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Tin Hlaing, who is also chairman of Myanmar's Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control, said that by participating in sports activities, it can increase actions in the elimination of drug abuse.

    Quoting the government-released figures, he noted there are 68, 683 addicts in Myanmar, of whom most are from the 20 to 29 and 30 to 39 age groups. For this, he stressed the need to concentrate on the students and youths to eradicate the habit of narcotics abuse among them.

    Since 1988, the Myanmar government has taken on the task of eliminating narcotic drugs as a national duty and has been escalating these activities year by year, placing emphasis on the development and income substitution of the opium cultivating areas. Myanmar started in 1999 implementing a 15-year plan of total drug eradication in the country, covering 54 drug cultivating and producing townships--25 townships targeted in the first five years, 20 townships in the second five years and 9 townships in the third five years.

    The plan, which costs 33.588 billion Kyats (about 50 million U.S. dollars) and 150 million dollars, covers five prioritized activities--eradicating poppy cultivation, eliminating drug abuse, enforcement, organizing the local populace to participate in the activities and international relations.
    Launching Ceremony of MV Chindwin

    Information Sheet - N0. B-1863( I ) - 26th June, 2001

    Launching Ceremony of MV Chindwin of Myanma Five Star Line(MFSL) under the Ministry of Transport was held at Nanthida Jetty in Seikkan Township on 25 June, attended by Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt.

    Yunnan Machinery Import and Export Corporation (YMIEC) built MV Chindwin for MFSL. The first ship MV Thanlwin was launched on 2-3-2000. In honour of the two prominent rivers in Myanmar, the first of the two sister ships was named Thanlwin and the second Chindwin.

    MFSL has 26 ships and can now provide effective transport services. International Organization for Standardization ISO 9002 certificate and International Safety Management certificate were accepted in 2000. At the Maritime Safety Committee held at IMO on 31 May 2001, Myanmar has been put on the white list.

    Managing Director of MFSL and Chairman of YMIEC Mr. Chen Fang formally launched MV Chindwin. MV Chindwin, is worth US $ 7.75 million. It was built at Wu Song Dockyard in Shanghai, the People Republic of China.

    It is 550 ton in weight, is a four-docker ship, 76.86 metres long, 13.6 metres wide and 14.05 metres high. Its draught is 3.45 metres and it can cruise at 15.5 knots. It can carry 440 passengers including 28 high-class passengers. It will ply between costal towns in Taninthayi Division and Rakhine State.
    Indonesia's GMF to Cooperate With Myanmar Airways

    JAKARTA, June 26 Asia Pulse - Garuda Maintenance Facility [GMF] of the state-owned airline company Garuda Indonesia has announced plans to form a long term cooperation in aircraft maintenance with Myanmar Airways International.

    Myanmar Airways is interested in the performance of GMF, Maung Maung OPh, chairman of Myanmar Airways, said after the completion of maintenance of a Boeing 737-300 aircraft of the Myanmar Airways by GMF in Cengkareng, Monday.

    Repair of the aircraft's cabin and painting of its body at the GMF took one month.Maung Maung said Myanmar Airways will send another Boeing 737-300 aircraft for repair to GMF later this month.

    GMF is also handling repair of two Boeing 737-200 aircraft of Phuket Airlines, three Boeing 737-200 planes of Phoenix FZE (Dubai) and a Boeing 737-200 of NAT Aviation of the United States.
    Burma Builds 122 Dams in 13 Years

    YANGON, June 25 (Xinhuanet) -- Altogether 122 dams were built in Myanmar as of June this year since late 1988 when the present government took office, irrigating 694,980 hectares of farmland,according to the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation Monday.

    The 122 dams, which mostly lie in the country's Bago, Mandalay and Magway divisions, were built at a cost of 40.2 billion Kyats ( about 114.85 million U.S. dollars).With the addition of the 122 dams in 13 years' time, the total number of dams in the country has been brought to 260.

    Besides, a total of 253 river-pumped water stations have so far been set up in Myanmar, irrigating over 81,000 more hectares.Myanmar's cultivable land stretches 18.225 million hectares, of which 10.125 million hectares have been put under crops and 19 percent of them are cultivated through irrigation.The country's agriculture accounts for 37 percent of its gross domestic product and 25 percent of its export value.
    Burma Said Revoking Money-Dealing Licenses in Bid to Stabilise Currency

    June 24 (AFP) -- Myanmar is trying to shore up its dollar-denominated special currency by revoking the licenses of all but a few dealers allowed to sell it, a Yangon source said Sunday.

    Myanmar's military government cancelled all Foreign Exchange Certificate (FEC) licenses over the past week before reissuing new licenses to a handful of select dealers, including the junta-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings and Myawaddy Bank.

    The freshly certified money handlers have taken over 10 counter spaces at the FEC trading center in downtown Yangon, where they are expected to buy and sell the notes using the local currency, the kyat, at a fixed rate.

    A source told AFP the government-approved dealers would buy FECs for 490 kyats and sell them for 500 kyats each. The move appears to be a push by the government to stablise Myanmar's wildly fluctuating currency values, which have plummetted to new lows in recent months, and hem in Yangon's thriving black market. While the FEC rate currently hovers around 560 kyats, US dollars trade at roughly 575 kyats, up from an all-time low of 800 kyats to the dollar.

    Myanmar's military government put the FEC into circulation in 1995 as a substitute for the US dollar to be used inside the country where it was illegal for nationals to handle foreign currency.

    While the unit value of the FEC was originally equivalent to one dollar, since late last year it has declined in value to the point where by mid-February it sold at a 25 percent discount to the greenback. The growing price disparity has been attributed to over-printing of the special currency, which has meant that the amount in circulation exceeds the number of dollars collected by the government. The shortfall was quickly accounted for in the local economy and some restaurants in Yangon began charging 15 percent more for meals paid for in FECs instead of dollars.

    With the city awash in FECs and demand shrinking, people eager to hedge their bets offloaded the currency and bought up dollars or gold, sending the price of gold shooting up.
    Change of guard among FEC dealers

    By Myo Lwin
    source : The Myanmartimes
    June 25 - July 1, 2001

    A MEETING of the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) held on June 19 has seen the licences held by all 10 Foreign Exchange Certificate changers revoked, and five new licences issued. Two of the new licensees, Myanmar Commercial Limited and C T Holding Limited, opened their counters at the CBM building on Theinbyu Road last Wednesday.

    The other three are yet to commence trading. The new licences were signed by central bank Governor U Kyaw Kyaw Maung, and the companies have been directed to set up their counters at the desks inhabited by their predecessors.

    "We didn't know about this in advance," said a consultant for Myanmar Commercial Limited. "It is more like an assignment that we became an authorized FEC exchanger ," he said. On the company's first day of trading in FEC exchange, a CT Holding source said only "four or five customers came here as this is the very first day". "They are the ones who have to pay for phone bills, visa fees and for library fees," he said.

    Although a clause in the licence said FEC exchange rates could be set through mutual agreement between the buyer and seller, CBM fixed buying and selling rates at K490 and K500 to one dollar equivalent respectively.

    The FEC exchange counters enable customers to convert their English pounds, US dollars, Japanese yen, French franc, Swiss franc or German mark into FECs and kyats. They cannot, however, buy any of those currencies with FEC or kyat.

    Under new regulations, the licence holders are allowed to open counters in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Nyaung Shwe. A prior permit must be sought from the CBM to open branches at any other locations.

    The new changers are required to make a weekly report to the Department of Foreign Exchange Management detailing their trade details.

    In a related development, U Sein Win of Myanmar Oriental Bank and Dr Sein Maung of First Private Bank denied reports that all private banks would now be permitted to handle FECs. Currently, the banks' trade is conducted in kyats only.
    Burma says Thailand ties recovering from bid to "destroy" friendship

    Rangoon, June 26 (AFP)

    Relations between Burma and Thailand are returning to normal after a rocky period where opposition groups attempted to "destroy" the friendship, a senior member of Burma's junta said.

    The regime's number three, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, said Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's visit earlier this month helped heal the rift.

    "In recent months opposition groups and people holding negative views have tried to destroy the existing friendship between Myanmar and Thailand," he told officials attending a diplomacy course at the foreign ministry.

    "(But) the attempts to drive a wedge between the two countries have failed and I am happy to inform you that the situation is now returning to normal," the state-owned "New Light of Myanmar" quoted Khin Nyunt as saying.

    "The understanding reached and the resolution of the issues involved is also due to the sincere efforts undertaken during the recent goodwill visit of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra."

    On his return from Burma, Thaksin said the troubled bilateral relationship would be back to normal "within two months".

    During his visit the two countries signed an agreement to cooperate more closely in fighting rampant drug trafficking along their border, the issue that sparked off months of turmoil between the neighbours.

    A comprehensive joint statement also detailed common stands on the touchy issues of border security, dispute resolution, the refugee crisis and trading checkpoints which were closed off when the row erupted earlier this year.

    Relations with Burma have deteriorated alarmingly this year despite Thaksin's election at the helm of an administration which was seen as having closer links with Burma than the outgoing government.

    The wrangling was touched off in February, when fighting among ethnic militias on the drug-infested border sparked a six-hour battle between the national armies.

    After that the row degenerated into a slanging match that saw Burma's official press hurl insults at Thailand's revered monarchy, while Thailand was accused of trying to smear the military-run nation's reputation.

    In what has been seen here as an attempt to make amends for the "royal slur", Than Shwe has now invited Thailand's king and queen to make an official visit to Burma.
    Thai-Burmese Border panel to work on mending ties

    Source : Bangkok Post

    The Regional Border Committee will meet in Pattaya in August in a bid to restore Thai-Burmese relations.

    Maj-Gen Prasart Luewattananon, head of the Joint Operation Command-103 Centre, said Burma's Regional Triangle Commander Maj-Gen Thein Sein and Third Army chief Lt-Gen Watanachai Chaimuanwong would be present. A recent Township Border Committee meeting agreed the generals would meet unofficially over a game of golf in Chiang Rai beforehand, and that the TBC would meet twice a month, he said.

    Relations would return to the state they were in before Thai-Burmese border skirmishes in February.

    All temporary border checkpoints and crossings in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai had been reopened, except San Ton Du checkpoint in Chiang Mai opposite the Red Wa's Mong Yawn town, and San Ma Khet checkpoint in Chiang Rai.

    The Mae Sai-Tachilek checkpoint reopened last week but a change of Burmese officials there has caused problems for goods moving from Thailand into Burma.

    Meanwhile, a military source said Burma was going ahead with plans to build a power plant in Tachilek, despite concerns of residents.

    Burma said modern technology would ease pollution concerns and that there were no plans to sell power from the new plant to Mong Yawn.

    Television commercials for a brand of tonic drink depicting ancient Thai-Burmese battles at Bang Rajan village were withdrawn after Burma protested, the source said.