Daily News-June 28 - 2001- Thursday

  • Statement by the foreign secretary of UK on Burma
  • 300 Burmese People At Thai Refugee Camp Face Legal Action
  • Refugees threaten action
  • Scholars reserved over Burma
  • Ex-headhunters guard Burmese 'speed' factories
  • Shan State army reported facing "severe financial constraints"
  • Shan army leader admits tear gas bombs mistaken for chemical weapons
  • Burma fined and banned by FIFA
  • Regime Tightens FECs with New Order
  • Twenty-four Burmese arrested on Indo-Pak border
  • Thai Government in dilemma dealing with the Burmese opposition
  • Party of Nobel laureate reopens branch office in Burma after easing of restriction

  • Statement by the foreign secretary of UK on Burma

    Foreign and Commonwealth Office

    'I am grateful to Mr Razali for calling on me today to give his personal account on how his work for national reconciliation in Burma is progressing.

    The United Kingdom fully supports his efforts. I think there are grounds for cautious optimism. I welcome the news from Burma that permission has been granted for the reopening of 18 township offices of the NLD, the democratic party led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

    'I also welcome reports that a number of political prisoners have been released in Burma. They have been incarcerated for far too long. This will provide a boost for the voices of freedom and democracy.

    'We now look forward to further releases, as part of the confidence building measures we hope the regime will take in support of its dialogue with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.'

    Notes for Editors

    1. Talks between the Burmese regime and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi began last October, but until now there have been few signs of significant progress. However, permission has now been granted for the NLD to re-open 18 township offices, and 13 political prisoners have been released over the past fortnight (eight on 14 June, a further five on 21 June). This appears to be in response to the demand for more releases handed over by UNSG Special Envoy Razali on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit to Burma earlier this month (1-4 June).

    2. Those released include ethnic minority leaders Saw Mra Aung (Chairman, Arakanese League for Democracy) and Chin Siang Thang (Chin Zomi leader). Also released were NLD MPs Pa Swe, Han Zaw, Thein Myint, Maung Aye, Myo Win, Aung Soe Myint, Pike Chon, Nyan Win, Dr Thein Lwin and Win Naing, as well as Aung San Suu Kyi's cousin U Aye Win.

    3. Some 1800 political prisoners remain incarcerated in Burma.
    300 Burmese People At Thai Refugee Camp Face Legal Action

    BANGKOK (AP)--A camp for Myanmar refugees will be closed down this year, and about half of its inmates will be prosecuted for entering Thailand illegally, a Thai official said Wednesday.

    About 300 of the 600 inmates at Maneeloy holding center in Ratchaburi province "will face legal action in accordance with the Immigration Act," Khachadpai Burusapatana, the secretary general of the National Security Council, told reporters.

    The center was established in 1995 to house Myanmar dissident students who were given refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Several hundreds have already been resettled in third countries, Khachadpai said.

    However, over the years many more Myanmar people have sneaked into the camp illegally and haven't been recognized as refugees by the UNHCR, he said.

    "The center will definitely close by the end of this year, and the immigration division will deal with those who entered illegally before the camp closes," Khachadpai said. If convicted, they face fines, jail or deportation.

    A UNHCR official in Bangkok said the people who are in the camp illegally may apply for refugee status with the High Commissioner. Some may have already applied and been rejected, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    The UNHCR grants refugee status to those who are persecuted in their country on the basis of nationality, race, political opinion, religion and membership of a social group.
    Refugees threaten action

    source : The Nation

    A Burmese student leader at Maneeloy holding centre yesterday vowed to resist the closing of the centre, saying the students will stage hunger strikes or commit suicide if they are forced to move to another place pending their resettlement in third countries.

    Gyaw Tura, a representative of the Alliance of Burmese Students, said they would file a petition with the National Security Council (NSC) and His Majesty the King to stop the plan.

    According to Gyaw Tura, the students will stay put until democracy in Burma is restored.

    "We came to Thailand not to stay permanently. Once democracy is restored in Burma, we will return. We are fighting for democracy. If the camp is closed, how can we do that," he said.

    Gyaw Tura said the students were concerned with security at the new centre in Tak province. They fear it is too close to the border and are not sure the communication facilities there will be as convenient as they are at the Maneeloy camp.

    NSC secretary-general Khachadpai Burusapatana said the camp would be closed down this year, and about 300 of 600 inmates would be prosecuted for entering Thailand illegally. A UNHCR official said the people who are in the camp illegally may apply for refugee status with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Some may have already applied and been rejected, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    Scholars reserved over Burma

    source : The Nation
    Vorapun Srivoranart

    Scholars yesterday welcomed an easing of tensions between Thailand and Burma in the wake of the Prime Minister's meeting with Burmese leaders, but warned against pinning too much hope on an abrupt normalisation.

    Thai-Burmese problems were structural in nature and had been left unattended for decades, the scholars said. They agreed on the urgent need to remove conditions that could lead to war and for the creation of an atmosphere of friendship based on mutual appreciation of each side's constraints.

    Burma expert Sunait Chutintaranond questioned the substance of last week's summit meeting other than the reopening of the Mae Sai-Tachilek border checkpoint. It would not be fair to place a "high ceiling of expectation" on Thaksin's 25-hour visit to Burma, he said at a seminar on Thai-Burmese relations at Chulalongkorn University.

    "The key is to build mutual acceptance of the constraints faced by both sides," he said, adding that in reality Rangoon could not rein in the Wa, while Bangkok could not muzzle the media.
    Ex-headhunters guard Burmese 'speed' factories

    By Alex Spillius in Doi Kew Hung
    Electronic Telegraph

    SCAN even the most detailed map and you will be lucky to find the town of Mong Yawn. There is certainly no hint of a bustling community with its own army and barracks, a school, a hospital, a casino and a hydro-electric power plant.

    Yet the town, in the heart of the notorious Golden Triangle, is one of the region's biggest success stories. The reasons are clearly visible to the Thai soldiers peering through high-powered binoculars across the border into what is nominally Burma. Clearly visible in the valley ringed by craggy mountains are a pair of large, shed-like buildings where, the Thais claim, up to 300,000 pills are manufactured every day.

    Consisting chiefly of caffeine and the common cold cure ephedrine, the pills are sent across the border into Thailand's Chiang Mai province, carried by ant armies of smugglers along hundreds of forest trails. Burmese officials claim that the buildings are rice warehouses. If so, it must be a particularly expensive strain of rice. Until recently little more than a simple bamboo settlement, like the surrounding villages that it now dwarfs, Mong Yawn now has a population of some 60,000 and is expected to grow to 80,000 within two years.

    The Thais and international experts estimate that one billion pills will leave Mong Yawn and about 30 other factories in Burma this year. Two thirds of them will be consumed in Thailand, which is fast becoming a nation on "speed".

    Mong Yawn is controlled by an obscure guerrilla force, the United Wa State Army, a segment of the small but ferocious Wa tribe that gave up headhunting only a generation ago. They were never mastered by the British colonial authorities or by the military regimes of independent Burma. Now the Thais are finding them equally hard to defeat in a war against the drug methamphetamine. A Bangkok-based expert describes the UWSA's operation as a "country within a country" and the Wa as the new kings of the Golden Triangle, the mountainous region where Burma, Thailand and Laos converge.

    For Thailand, the effects are horrendous. The press is filled with stories of unemployed men wild on yaa baa (crazy medicine), as methamphetamine is known, committing serious acts of violence. Schools have introduced urine testing to combat rampant abuse, while a tenth of novice monks have sought help for addiction. An infuriated Thai army has reinforced its border patrols, seizing 18 million pills this year and provoking serious clashes with the UWSA and regular Burmese forces, who have pledged to defend the guerrillas against Thai "incursions".

    Last week, Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Prime Minister, ended a two-day visit to Burma which he described as "very successful" with an agreement jointly to fight drug production and to resolve border tension. But there is a lot of patching up to do. The two sides have engaged in months of mutual recrimination, with senior officers of both armed forces accusing each other of profiting from drugs.

    The Thais have accused Rangoon of turning a blind eye to the UWSA's activities as a reward for ending their guerrilla war 12 years ago. For all the commitments of both the Thais and Burmese to wiping out narcotics, Wei Hseuh-kang, the mastermind of the UWSA, travels freely between the two countries, is a citizen of both and is able to exploit corrupt officialdom on either side.

    He also has a large house in Chiang Mai, the northern Thai capital. Whenever he leaves Mong Yawn, he can rest assured that an army of 20,000, equipped with automatic weapons, artillery and heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles remains to protect his interests."We would like to arrest him," said a Thai army intelligence officer, "but somehow it is difficult."
    Shan State army reported facing "severe financial constraints"

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 26, 2001

    Text of report by Shan Herald Agency for News report dated 25 June in English, carried by Burmese opposition electronic newspaper BurmaNet News on 26 June; subheading as carried

    Shan army facing financial difficulty

    The only Shan group that is actively fighting against Rangoon has been under severe financial constraints since its anti-narcotics principle came into force in 1998, according to Shan resistance quarters.

    During a meeting of army officers that was held on 22 June, 1900-2300, chaired by Col Khurh-ngern, vice-president, Restoration Council of Shan State and chief of staff, Shan State Army, a list of the army's unsettled bills was read out.(For reasons of security, the figures shall not be quoted).

    "That is the burden for trying to live up to our principles," said Khurh-ngern. One participant agreed. "The Burmese have been accusing us all along of Thai support for Shans. They should have seen our list." Khurh-ngern, however, was confident the army would be able to overcome the present difficulty through revenue totally unrelated to drugs. "Financial problem is nothing new for us," he said.

    The meeting was attended by several prominent leaders, including Lt-Col Wanli, commander of the crack 198th Brigade and Maj Oomliang, officer-in-charge of the chief-of-staff office. Col Yawdserk left a day earlier from Loi Taileng, opposite Mae Hong Son's Pang Mapha District, on a trip.
    Shan army leader admits tear gas bombs mistaken for chemical weapons

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 26, 2001

    Text of report by Shan Herald Agency for News report dated 25 June in English, carried by Burmese opposition electronic newspaper BurmaNet News on 26 June; subheading as carried

    "Chemical weapons" were tear-gas bombs, said Yawdserk

    In reply to S.H.A.N.'s [Shan Herald Agency for News] question concerning reports of Rangoon's employment of chemical weapons during the Pakhee Battle, 22 April - 3 May, a Shan army leader acknowledged that they were actually tear-gas bombs.

    "The bombs were fired onto Honok (near Pakhee, Mongton Township, opposite Fang District of Chiangmai) on 30 April," he told S.H.A.N.. "They exploded in mid-air, emitting a black smoke that changed into white. Many of our men went dizzy and some of them unconscious."

    One officer who witnessed the event added: "At first, we thought they were dead, but after some time they regained their consciousness." The Pakhee Battle, where Shans captured nearly 200,000 pills of amphetamines from the Burmese outpost, further strained the relations between Thailand and Burma.
    Burma fined and banned by FIFA

    Kuala Lumpur, June 27, IRNA -- The Organising Committee of the 2002 World Cup Korea/Japan decided that Myanmar, who withdrew from the qualifying tournament, would be fined 40,000 Swiss Francs.

    The Committee further decided that Myanmar would be barred from competing in the next FIFA World Cup competition, according to the Asean Football Federation (AFF) on Wednesday .

    AFF said the organising committee, which discussed Myanmar's late withdrawal at its meeting recently, took into considerations the various facts before reaching its decision. However, the Committee felt that article 9.4 of the FIFA Regulations for the 2002 World Cup must be respected and as such Myanmar was liable to a fine of 40,000 Swiss Francs.

    The Committee also noted that article 9.7 of the same regulations had been breached and as a result, Myanmar would be disqualified from competing in the next World Cup.

    AFF stressed that the Myanmar FA were informed of the Organising Committee's decision in a letter from FIFA General Secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen.

    Myanmar announced their withdrawal from the World Cup qualifying tournament in November last year during the Tiger Cup in Thailand. Myanmar had a disappointing run in the Tiger Cup.
    Regime Tightens FECs with New Order

    By Tin Maung Htoo (Canada)
    Burma Media Association(www.bma-online.com)
    June 26, 2001

    With the downfall of Burmese currency Kyat, the ruling military government has been helpless over the past months. However, now a radical effort has been set forth, issuing an order restricting the holding and trading of Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC), according to inside sources familiar to the markets.

    The order was issued on June 21 after rounding up hundreds of people involved in the markets and terminating of their trading licenses. The guidance was also reportedly sent to foreign banks in Burma, instructing all transfer accounts including Burmese working abroad to be passed through Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB).

    Most observers regard this latest direction as the devastation for all people involved in the market, as well as an embarrassment for foreign businesses. But for some it's an inevitable choice to bring down the troubled currency into under control while no backup is sustainable to dollarize the Kyat in accordance with the prevailing market rate.

    However, some observers pointed the immediate effect of the raising price in terms of limiting the market consumption. "We ordered 100 air conditions from a foreign company but only allowed to buy ten," a Rangoon-based businessman who requested to be an anonymous said.

    According to other sources, only five FEC trading licenses have been issued to Burma's four major private banks after abrogating hundreds in recent. Sources closed to banking sector said Kabawza Bank obtained two licenses, Mayflower, Roma, and Thonggu (from upper Burma) got one for each.

    It is also reported that Kabawza Bank has just opened a new office in Rangoon and now buying up FECs - one-dollar equivalent FEC with 500 Kyat. But there is no report of FECs on sale. Some observers predicted the regime could eliminate the use of FECs in Burma. It was initially introduced for foreign tourists as a mean of exchange with the U.S dollar when they arrived at Burma's Airports,but it's not for such a widespread use in the market.

    However the FECs became popular among Burmese - although a painful burden for tourists. Thereafter, the value of Kyat became useless with daily decline. And now the regime is so ardent to get rid of the FECs as a factor of plaguing the Kyat while other aspects of fetching more tourists into Burma and earning U.S $300 from each foreigner has been a failure.
    Twenty-four Burmese arrested on Indo-Pak border

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 27, 2001

    Text of report by Indian news agency PTI

    Jodhpur, 27 June: Twenty-four Myanmar nationals were arrested while trying to sneak into Pakistan, crossing international border along Ganganagar district in northwestern state of Rajasthan, Border Security Force (BSF) sources said Tuesday [26 June].

    The illegal migrants were apprehended three kms from the border in Anupgarh sector by a BSF patrol party on Saturday, they said.

    Preliminary interrogation revealed that they had entered India about two months back and worked as labourers in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.From there they came to Hanumangarh town in Rajasthan by bus and were heading towards the border, the sources said. The BSF later handed them over to Rajasthan police.
    Thai Government in dilemma dealing with the Burmese opposition

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Thai government will be hard put to keep its credibility with the Burmese opposition parties now that it has kissed and made up with the ruling junta, academics said yesterday.

    Surachart Bamrungsuk, a Chulalongkorn University political scientist, said the government could not avoid dealing with the issues of democratisation and national reconciliation in Burma. The previous government had advocated democratisation as its main policy towards Burma.

    Sunait Chutintaranond, an expert on Burmese history, said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra now had to prove his ability to deal with other political forces in Burma, such as the National League for Democracy and ethnic minorities.

    "Mr Thaksin is now riding the tiger and all eyes are watching how he will move from this point to advocate concerns like human rights and humanitarianism in the neighbouring country," Mr Sunait said.

    The premier's 25-hour visit to Rangoon last week, he stressed, could not be expected to solve Burma's structural problems affecting Thailand including a long-time quest for national unity.

    There were also the problems of refugees, economic migrants, and drugs, which had been systematically developed like a legal business since pre-independence days, Mr Sunait said.

    The fishing ban on Thai trawler operators did not only involve a fishing concession, "but the issue of long-term natural resources management".

    The reopening of the Tachilek-Mae Sai border was no sweet deal but an exchange for the lifting of tariff barriers, he said.

    Towards better ties, Thailand and Burma must understand each other's limitations: Burma's inability to control the Wa, and Thailand's to control the media.

    Mr Surachart stressed the need for Thailand to manage relations with neighbours like Burma properly as small states could not afford to go to war with each other.

    To this end, he proposed:- Reactivation of operation-level dispute mechanisms like the Township Border Committee and the Regional Border Committee would help.

    - Encouragement of cross-border contact between chambers of commerce and local communities as alternative channels in the event of a military conflict.

    - Employing more than maps to negotiate border demarcation since that could put the country at a disadvantage.

    "We may have to exchange certain pieces of land with each other to really settle the remaining non-demarcated 2,351-kilometre borderline, or, we may have to build up an additional database from annexed protocols or treaties other than maps," he said.
    Party of Nobel laureate reopens branch office in Burma after easing of restriction

    Source : MSNBC / AP

    TAIKKYI, Burma, June 28 ---Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's party reopened a branch office outside the capital Thursday as the military junta freed nine more party members in its latest concession to the pro-democracy opposition.

    About 30 members and leaders of the National League for Democracy attended a ceremony to fix a party signboard on the rundown thatch and bamboo hut that will serve as the party office in Taikkyi town.

    it is the first party office allowed to be reopened by the junta since a crackdown in 1998 closed many of the 40 branches in and around the capital, Rangoon. ''This is an auspicious moment, and the result of the talks between the NLD and the military leaders,'' said Soe Myint, a member of the party's Central Executive Committee.

    The tin board is the same one that was removed from the party office, then located in a different building, during the 1998 crackdown. The party name was painted afresh on the reverse side of the board.

    For good luck, a bunch of euginia leaves was tied to a pole atop which a faded party flag fluttered. About 15 plainclothes intelligence officers and police took photos and video of the proceedings.

    Soe Myint said another branch office is scheduled to reopen Friday in Hmawbi, 15 miles from Yangon. Taikkyi is about 40 miles north of Rangoon.

    The junta has been holding reconciliation talks for the last 10 months with Suu Kyi while keeping her under virtual detention in her house. Party chairman Aung Shwe and vice chairman Tin Oo also remain under virtual house arrest.

    Details of the talks have not emerged but the junta appears to have been easing the restrictions in recent months.

    Nine elected representatives of the NLD who were detained in government guests houses were allowed to leave Thursday, an official statement said. ''They are in good health,'' the statement said.

    Thirteen more elected representatives were released in two batches earlier this month, leaving 12 more in detention. About 100 lower-raking members have also been freed since January.

    Authorities have also given the NLD permission to reopen 18 branch offices around Rangoon, out of which nine will be allowed to put up party signboards.

    The boards are the only visible symbol of the opposition in a country that remains firmly in the grip of the military, which has been in power since 1962.

    The current group of generals came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement in which thousands were killed. The junta called elections in 1990 but refused to hand over power to the victorious NLD.

    The party's call in mid-1998 to unilaterally convene a parliament triggered the government crackdown.

    Tin Shein, chairman of the Taikkyi office, said the party will hold regular meetings but only after notifying authorities.