Daily News-May 04- 2001- Friday

  • World Press Freedom Day prize goes to Burman journalist
  • Thirty 'predators of press freedom' are denounced
  • Burmese talks feared stalled
  • Pessimism over Burma talks
  • Promoting freedom in Burma
  • S-1 green light for Intranet e-commerce
  • Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers ask court to throw out eviction suit
  • Exiled Burmese leader welcomes Rangoon-Suu Kyi talks
  • Irish Campaign Targets a Student and a Journalist
  • Thai Government seeks ways to tone down antidrugs strategy
  • Pak. pushes for direct trade links with Burma
  • Myanmar Chamber of Commerce changes tune on sanctions
  • Thai PTT wants changes to burma gas contract

  • World Press Freedom Day prize goes to Burman journalist

    Cyber Thesis Journal

    Win Tin, a journalist who has been in prison in his native Burma (Myanmar) since 1989, has won this year's UNESCO world press freedom prize.

    Incarcerated on charges of belonging to a communist organization, Tin was chosen by a committee of 16 professional journalists to receive the prize on the occasion of Press Freedom Day.
    Thirty 'predators of press freedom' are denounced

    From Lara Marlowe, in Paris
    The Irishtimes

    In a joint message issued today to mark World Press Freedom Day, the UN Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs Mary Robinson and the Director-General of UNESCO Mr Koichiro Matsuura "urge the international community to defend and protect the right to receive and impart information free from censorship, through any media and regardless of frontiers".

    However, nearly a third of the world's population live in countries where there is no freedom of the press. The Paris-based organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) notes that 86 journalists are imprisoned throughout the world, more than half of them in Iran, Burma and China.

    Thirty-two journalists were killed in 2000, 329 were arrested and 510 threatened or assaulted, RSF reports. Four more journalists have been murdered since the beginning of this year.RSF publishes its catalogue of abuses annually, but for the first time the group today denounces 30 "predators of press freedom" whom it holds personally responsible.

    "Whether they be president, minister, attorney general . . these predators of freedom of the press have the power to have journalists imprisoned, kidnapped, tortured and, in the worst cases, murdered," writes Robert Ménard, the secretary-general of RSF. "Because these predators have faces, they must be made known so they can be denounced." That Mollah Moham mad Omar of Afghanistan, President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran abuse press freedom comes as a surprise to no one. But RSF's blacklist includes leaders who are on good terms with Europe and the US, including Saudi King Fahd, the Chinese President Jiang Zemin and the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Their images will be unfurled on a 180sq m banner denouncing the 30 in central Paris this morning.

    Two of the "predators" are categories - the Basque nationalist group Euskadi ta Aska tasuna (ETA) and the kidnap ping mafia in Chechnya. "More and more often, these predators [of press freedom] are not official representatives of a state," says Robert Ménard. Several journalists were wounded by ETA bombs last year and José Luis Lopez de Lacalle, a correspondent for El Mundo, was assassinated. Three journalists were killed by Chechen rebels.

    The military junta in Burma is singled out for severe criticism by RSF and UNESCO. The Burmese President, Gen Than Shwe, refuses all compromise with the party of the Nobel prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Four journalists have died in the custody of his security forces.

    The photograph of San San Nweh (55), stares out from the cover of a video-cassette and CD made by RSF. She has been held in a small cell in Rangoon for seven years and is serving a 10-year sentence for "publishing information harmful to the state". According to RSF, she and other women prisoners are forced to sit cross-legged on the ground from 6 a.m. with their heads bowed.

    UNESCO today awards its World Press Freedom Prize to U Win Tin, who like San San Nweh, is imprisoned in Rangoon. The newspaper editor was a founder of the National League for Democracy and has been jailed for 11 years. Five years were added to his 14-year sentence when writing materials were found in his cell.

    He has been transferred to Rangoon general hospital where he is believed to be seriously ill. The junta says it will free him if he renounces all political activity.
    Burmese talks feared stalled

    Thursday, 3 May, 2001, /BBC

    By South-East Asia analyst Larry Jagan

    There is growing concern in Burma that talks between the military authorities and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi have stalled.

    The dialogue, which started nearly seven months ago, has been taking place in complete secrecy.Neither side had said anything publicly until earlier this week when Burma's Foreign Minister, Win Aung, told journalists in Rangoon that the process was not just a publicity stunt and was progressing according to plan.

    Both sides have also refrained from criticising each other. But, according to senior opposition sources, there have been no direct talks between the two sides for more than two months.

    Two-month silence

    Although the Burmese foreign minister said dialogue was progressing well, diplomats in Rangoon fear the process is in fact in danger of complete collapse.

    They believe the UN special envoy, senior Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail, needs to return to Rangoon immediately to help revive them.

    Mr Razali told the BBC that he was keen to return to Rangoon and was working on a date with the military authorities. But while Mr Razali remains hopeful, the Burmese Government so far has has not agreed to a new visit. And privately they have told diplomats that it's not likely to happen in May.

    Opposition sources believe this is probably because the generals are not anxious to have their public relations advantage dented.Mr Razali is one of the few people who has access to the opposition leader and is able to assess the state of the talks.


    Senior leaders in the National League for Democracy believe Aung San Suu Kyi is increasing frustrated by the lack of progress being made, including the failure of the military authorities to keep several promises such as releasing more political prisoners.

    They also believe that Aung San Suu Kyi now wants all restrictions on her movement lifted. She accepted them initially when the talks were at a confidence-building stage.

    Now that they have stalled, say NLD leaders, only the military authorities benefit from her continued detention.

    The international community is also increasingly anxious to see some concrete results from the talks.So far the Burmese generals have been complimented for starting the dialogue process, and although the international community wants to encourage it they may soon run out of patience.

    The International Labour Organisation will review Burma's use of forced labour at its annual general meeting in Geneva next month. And the generals will certainly have to provide concrete evidence of change if they are to avoid another stronger censure being passed at that meeting.
    Pessimism over Burma talks

    By William Barnes in Bangkok
    Published: May 3 2001

    A "deafening silence" surrounding the talks between Burma's military regime and Aung San Suu Kyi, opposition leader, has convinced many observers that their primary purpose was to fend off unprecedented international attacks on an already feeble economy.

    Critics of military rule are particularly concerned that Razali Ismail, the United Nations' special envoy to Burma and Malaysian diplomat, has not been back to Rangoon since January. "We've very strong feelings of disquiet," said one diplomat in the capital.

    The "businesslike" Mr Razali is widely seen as a key broker in the talks, which started last October, partly because he is close to Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysian prime minister, who is sympathetic to the regime.

    Win Aung, the Burmese foreign minister, denied this week that the "complex and delicate" dialogue had stalled. But many suspect that it was the International Labour Organisation's call for sanctions against Burma last November, combined with fears of a US ban on Burmese garment imports, that persuaded the regime to talk to a woman they previously castigated in the state media as a dangerous and malevolent force.

    A Burmese foreign ministry document published in December outlined plans to ship exports of pulses and beans through Singapore and Malaysia to avoid any boycott by unfriendly port unions, showing how seriously it took this threat. The document also notes that garment exports, worth $400m to the US alone, were also vulnerable.

    Meanwhile, Japan has attracted US criticism after it said last week it would provide $28m to rebuild the dilapidated Baluchuang hydro-power dam in Kayah province that supplies Burma with a third of its electricity.A State Department official said Japan had sent the wrong signal. The dialogue appeared "fragile and is at a sensitive stage" and such aid was "unwarranted" in the absence of substantial and concrete progress towards democracy and human rights.

    Asian neighbours are increasingly reluctance to toe a strict western line on Burma. In Rangoon yesterday, General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military ruler, described his visit - the first to Burma by a national leader outside the Asean block or China for a dozen years - as "most fruitful, profitable and mutually beneficial".

    Ms Suu Kyi, who has been under virtual house arrest for nearly eight months, has told visitors the talks are confidential although the NLD broke its own silence this week in urging the military to work for a "new democratic state" as quickly as possible so that the country's problems could be solved.

    The military, which ignored a massive NLD election victory in 1990, has released some political prisoners and toned down its normally vituperative reporting on the opposition but it has yet to make any more significant gestures, such as allowing the legal opposition to operate freely or to cease hostilities against ethnic minorities, said Debbie Stothard, the co-ordinator of the Alternative Asean Network on Burma.
    Promoting freedom in Burma

    Only the generals have the freedom of the press in Burma - but the internet is providing one channel for real information

    Aung Zaw, Editor, Irrawaddy magazine Tuesday May 1, 2001/ The Observer

    As an exiled journalist who is detested by the Burmese military government, my life is full of challenges. Yet I have also had some fascinating and unexpected experiences since I began my career as journalist in 1993, when I set up an independent media group to publish a political magazine reflecting the Burmese situation.

    This magazine provides an alternative to those who are fed up with both the regime-controlled papers and bulletins put out by members of the opposition in exile.

    Promoting freedom of the press among Burmese people both in and out of Burma is a tough job, but after suffering years of oppression, there are many Burmese who appreciate the nobility and importance of this freedom. These days, healthy debate and professional, constructive reporting are in constant demand from Burmese living both in and out of their homeland.

    The internet is a miraculous tool for disseminating news and information. Nevertheless, many tend to abuse it rather than using it in constructive ways to help mankind. The benefits of using the internet for Burmese in exile are tremendous: better communication and better information.

    However, the generals in Rangoon see use of the internet as a threat to their authority. Recently, the military intelligence chief in my country said that press freedom in Burma is permitted to an appropriate degree. This claim is total nonsense, as, in fact, press freedom in Burma is completely non-existent.

    At this moment, about twenty professional journalists are languishing in Burma's gulag. Nevertheless, in a sense he is right, as the generals themselves enjoy absolute press freedom. They can attack democratic principles, insult the whole population and publish whatever they like in the government-controlled papers, radio and TV.

    Aung Zaw is the editor of Irrawaddy magazine, established by Burmese citizens in exile to promote press freedom and access to unbiased information and which also covers other areas of Southeast Asia.
    S-1 green light for Intranet e-commerce

    Myanmar Times April 23-29, 2001, Volume 3, No.60

    SECRETARY-1 Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt has given approval to launch an Intranet e-commerce system in country with a launch scheduled for next month.

    In his meeting with the country's leading IT companies - Bagan Cybertech and Business Information Group - in Yangon on April 18 he said the initiative was all part of the push for greater computer technology."As a signatory of the e-ASEAN agreement, we have to work with might and main for progress," he said.

    Under the new scheme allotted users in Yangon will log on to the system with ability to access financial transactions, home shopping, air ticket reservation and interactive communications, all key aspects of the Intranet.

    An Intranet member club capable of handling 300 subscribers is also set to be established with a joining cost of FEC50.And according to a Bagan Cybertech official the nation's 3000 e-mail users will be able to use the system at around K300 per hour.

    "We have limitation in accepting large number of users at this moment. Our system has only 16 telephone lines," said the official.But he said widespread of use of e-commerce and e-education in all parts of the country, and not just Yangon, should be possible after a V-set system is installed in September.

    Myanmar along with nine other ASEAN members signed e ASEAN accord in Singapore last November paving the way for cross border trading. The signing has been generally interpreted in Myanmar as the signal to fast track attempts to embrace Internet systems.

    "Although it is a big step in our country's IT revolution, without full access to the Internet, Intranet would be confined only to local users," said one IT expert who refused to be named.

    However, Inforithm's CEO U Chit Tun Pe, who himself has a commercial website, said "It's a right start," and added "It's a good opportunity for Myanmar's basic IT infrastructure because only when the locals are familiar with the usage of Intranet, would they be ready for the Internet.Whether it's the Intranet or the Internet, both of them will meet on the cyberhighway."

    Ten high - profile businesses including AWB Bank, City Mart, Columbus Travel & Tours, Air Mandalay, Sandy Gift Shop, e-Journal, Trade.net, Innwa Books and the Myanmar Chamber of Commerce are to have featured web pages on the new Intranet.
    Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers ask court to throw out eviction suit

    YANGON, May 2 (AFP) - Lawyers for Aung San Suu Kyi Wednesday asked a court to throw out a property suit filed by her brother Aung San Oo, who is making his second bid to evict the democracy leader from her lakeside home.

    US-based businessman Aung San Oo's first attempt to claim half-ownership of the house, where Aung San Suu Kyi has been confined for the last eight months by the ruling junta, was dismissed on a technicality in January.

    Last month he lodged the case for the second time by applying for a legal partition of the property. Opening the defence case Wednesday, Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers said Aung San Oo had no right to apply for his sister to be evicted because, as a foreigner, he has no right to own property in Myanmar.

    They also said his application for partition was filed after the statute of limitations expired in the case, coming more than 12 years after the death of their mother who formerly owned the house.

    Judge Soe Thein set a date of May 14 for the next hearing into the case, where Aung San Oo's legal team is expected to open its argument.

    If he wins the case, Aung San Oo is expected to turn his share of the house over to the government, a result which would put Aung San Suu Kyi in an extremely precarious position.

    Ironically, the legal action has been lodged at a time when relations between Myanmar's junta and the opposition leader are believed to be at their highest point in years.The two sides have engaged in a series of high-level contacts that may be preparing the ground for the launch of a landmark official dialogue -- their first since 1994.

    Aung San Oo has never played a political role in Myanmar but makes regular low-key personal and business trips here. While not overtly political, he is far less critical of the junta than his sister and the two are not close.The legal action is believed to be driven by Aung San Oo's wife, motivated more by a family rift than by political concerns.

    Nevertheless, there are fears that if the suit is successful it could derail the tentative dialogue which has entered an extremely delicate stage.
    DVB: Exiled Burmese leader welcomes Rangoon-Suu Kyi talks

    source :Burmanet

    Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 30 Apr 01

    Prime Minister Sein Win of the US-based National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma has welcomed remarks by the foreign minister of Rangoon's ruling State Peace and Development Council, U Win Aung, that talks with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were making progress.

    Sein Win said the talks should be reported in local media. Rangoon should honour its promise to release political prisoners, Sein Win said. Rangoon should also abolish forced labour, rights abuses and restriction of social freedom because these issues are not related to the talks, Sein Win added.

    The following is an excerpt from a report by Burmese opposition radio on 30 April

    SPDC State Peace and Development Council Foreign Minister U Win Aung said today that the SPDC-Daw Aung San Suu Kyi talks continued to make progress and was not a political ploy. U Win Aung told this to reporters at the end of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat...

    DVB Democratic Voice of Burma correspondent Ko Moe Aye contacted Dr Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma NCGUB , and interviewed him about his views regarding SPDC Foreign Minister U Win Aung's remarks. He first asked Dr Sein Win's comments on the remarks.

    Dr Sein Win-- In his comments he said the talks are not stalled and continued to make progress. He also mentioned that it is not a publicity stunt and it is aimed at the future of Burma. That is why we are happy and we welcomed the remarks because the talks are very important for the country. We believe that the talks should and must continue.

    Ko Moe Aye --U Win Aung also said by looking at the halt in the attacks between the SPDC and the National League for Democracy NLD one can see the positive affects of the talks. What is your opinion?

    Dr Sein Win
    -- We are also happy about that because to stop confrontation preceding word rendered in English is a good sign.

    Ko Moe Aye-- Furthermore, the SPDC claimed they are considering monthly to release political prisoners. They have are also released some political prisoners. What do you think about that?

    Dr Sein Win
    --What I would like to say at this point is that it is a good thing to release political prisoners especially the youth but as far as we are concerned, there are about 300 political prisoners whose release dates are overdue. Only 20 among them have been released. We see that there are no reasons whatsoever for them to keep the political prisoners in jail. Therefore, the remark that the SPDC will gradually release the political prisoners is not genuine because once the talks have started why should the political prisoners remain in jail. We feel that it is time to release the political prisoners.

    Ko Moe Aye-- U Win Aung continued to say that the talks are very delicate, difficult, and complicated and he cited examples of peace talks in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and the Middle East. What about that?

    Dr Sein Win
    -- Firstly, I want to say that these are not directly related to our affairs. For example, the Middle East crisis involves two countries whereas ours is solely an internal matter, an internal conflict. I think that was not an appropriate example to give. Another matter of concern is the 1990 general elections. The general elections which the SPDC/SLORC State Law and Order Restoration Council themselves sponsored was held nearly 11 years ago. We have not only just formed. The people voted and the National League for Democracy NLD won the elections and received the people's mandate. That was almost 11 years ago. That is why the comparison that talks should take as long as required is not reasonable.

    At the same time, no matter how difficult the talks may be, I believe that forced labour, human rights abuses and restriction of social freedom should not continue to exist anymore because they are not related to the talks. They need to get rid of all these which are not relevant in a civilized society preceding two words rendered in English If they continue with the abuses, the talks will be just talks, while the people continue to suffer and the country degenerates. Therefore, I would like to urge them it is time to stop such acts.

    Ko Moe Aye-- Finally, U Win Aung said the SPDC has been offering the olive branch for a long time. It has taken so long because the NLD did not accept it. The talks started when NLD accepted the offer. What is your opinion?

    Dr Sein Win
    -- That is totally false. NLD offered to hold talks immediately after winning the elections. It was also mentioned in the Gandhi Declaration. We definitely offered to hold talks. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself has been calling for a dialogue since 1988. That is publicly known to all. Another thing I want to say is that if they genuinely feel that the talks are for the good of the country they should issue an internal report and inform the public. So far the SPDC's information service - newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV stations have not been instrumental in announcing the talks to the public. I do not see that as a good sign. If they are true and honest it is high time to let the people know.
    Irish Campaign Targets a Student and a Journalist

    By Tin Maung Htoo Burma Media Association (Canada Branch) 2/5/01

    Amnesty International Irish Section announces that they have been lunching a campaign for Burmese political prisoners since April 17, 2001, particularly a young man and an elderly one but both are prominent in the democracy movement in Burma.

    The targeted political prisoners are Min Ko Naing, a famous student leader, and U Win Tin, a prominent journalist. Both were imprisoned for leading the movement against the military rule in Burma and have been in prison for twelve years.

    According to the press release, Sean Love, Director of Amnesty International's Irish Section, went to meet with Ireland Foreign Minister Brian Cowen early this April and got assurance for pressuring the release of these two prisoners.

    "The Minister has promised to highlight the cases of Min Ko Naing and U Win Tin," the press quoted on saying of Love. As part of their campaign, Love said they would lobby governments and investors to push for human rights improvements in Burma.

    "The international community must continue to highlight these concerns at every opportunity. Foreign investors also have a responsibility to ensure that their operations are not contributing to human rights violations."

    On April 18, the Amnesty International released a list of political prisoners in which Min Ko Naing and U Win Tin were included. And this is the first time for Amnesty International to issue such comprehensive list of names and cases of 458 political prisoners out of 1850 detainees for political reasons in Burma.

    Lim Kit Siang, National Chairman of Malaysia's Democratic Action Party, has also sought for release of U Win Tin in a statement that issued yesterday, calling on his own government, Parliament and ASEAN to campaign for immediate release of U Win Tin on the occasion of World Free Freedom Day that falls on May 3rd.

    Similarly, a Min Ko Naing's release campaign was carried out by Vancouver-based Burma activists when they held an event called "Peace for Burma Concert (2)" on April 26, 2001, in Vancouver, Canada.

    Soe Kyaw Thu, the event's organizer, said, " Many people signed Min Ko Naing cards and petition for Canadian Government." He also informed that seventy people attended the event and the concert was featured with songs of freedom for Burma by Class 88 (Burmese Activist Band), Rock music with Over Joy (local Canadian Band) and Brazilian Dance with Ginga Samba (local Brazilian Band).
    Thai Government seeks ways to tone down antidrugs strategy

    source : The Nation

    Concerned that renewed tensions with Burma could escalate further, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday sought to review his antidrugs strategy to minimise its effects on the border disputes

    Thaksin’s latest bid to amend the strategy comes after a bloody raid on Tuesday on a border village in Tak by the proRangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). Three Thai civilians were killed. The Thai army believed the attack was in retribution for its recent seizures of more than 13 million methamphetamine tablets, which were said to have come from areas controlled by the DKBA.

    Thaksin said he would continue to pursue an aggressive campaign to stop the flow of illegal narcotics from Burma. But he stressed that such efforts should be carried out more in tandem with diplomatic efforts to resolve the tensions.The government is trying to get the military and the Foreign Ministry to work toward the same direction, he said.

    His comments shed light on the conflict over the implementation of the antidrugs campaign between Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Third Army Commander Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong. On one hand, Chavalit convinced Thaksin that the aggressive tactics employed by Wattanachai would disrupt border security. On the other, Thaksin believed the measures were somewhat necessary until Rangoon clearly signalled that it would cooperate on drug sup¬pression.

    The signal from Burma so far has been far from clear. The DKBA raid on Tuesday came as Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai was on an official visit to Rangoon to resolve the bitter border disputes. On the following day, the Burmese junta accused the Thai Army of trying to defame it by planting the stimulant pills in raids on Burmese posts along the border.

    It was clear that Surakiart’s visit had failed to even reduce tensions, even though Burma’s mili¬tary government agreed in principle to sign a memorandum of understanding to jointly suppress drugs along the border.Surakiart said his talks with Burmese leaders provided a strong foundation for resolving future border flareups and that the two sides agreed that the conflicts should not escalate into a governmentlevel dispute.

    Thailand lodged a protest over the DKBA raid with the Burmese side of the Township Border Committee the lowestlevel mechanism to solve border conflicts.But the situation remained tense yesterday as the DKBA bolstered its forces in the areas opposite Phop Phra district in an apparent move to make another strike on the Thai border.

    Burmese government troops also recaptured their outpost at Pachee, opposite Chiang Mai’s Fang district, which fell to the Shan State Army last week. The move completes the Burmese army’s dryseason offensive against the rebels. The junta has accused the Thai military of supporting the Shan rebels.

    PM’s Office Minister Thamarak Isarangura, who is to leave for Burma next week to discuss antidrugs cooperation, said it is crucial to distinguish between drug problems and ethnic insurgencies.The tension along the ThaiBurmese border could be cate¬gorised into two sets of problems: ethnic minorities fighting against Burmese government and narcotics,he said. The attack by the DKBA is an example of the issues being unnecessarily intertwined, he said.It is proof that millions of tablets of drugs confiscated by the Thai army belonged to this group, thus infuriating them,Thamarak said.China, whose border is adjacent to Burmese territory controlled by drugproducing ethnic Wa armies, must be brought into the talks to resolve the conflict and the drug problems, he said.

    Thamarak defended the hardhitting Wattanachai, saying the general would be right to retaliate should an external force encroach upon Thai territory. Wattanachai’s vow to track down the perpetrators that caused the deaths of Thai nationals is not prohibited. But the action should not complicate talks at the government level.

    We have been suspecting for some time that the Burmese are secretly supporting [the DKBA] in the same way as Burma is suspicious of us,” he said. “When a problem arises, we need to talk tough but in times of negotiation, both sides need to set out their own problems and if there is a genuine cooperation, problems will gradually dissipate.Force must be met with force when dealing with narcotics suppression,Thamarak said.The recent decision by Chavalit to rein in Wattanachai was out of concern that the situation would escalate into a war, Thamarak said. But it is good for each govern¬ment to keep a check on the other and the ongoing verbal clashes in the field are “normal”, he said.

    Chavalit yesterday again urged restraint, saying “resorting to force is an easy way out”.“However, it does not mean we should be restrained to the point of dereliction of duty. The Third Army commander is a good person – a real soldier. We need to understand him.
    Pak. pushes for direct trade links with Burma

    Yangon, May 3. (DPA): Pakistan plans to boost its trade with Myanmar (Burma) by forming direct business links with the country, Pakistan's visiting Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf said today.

    ``Now we are trading with Myanmar via Singapore. We will do business directly in the future,'' said Gen Musharraf, speaking at a press conference at Yangon international airport. Gen Musharraf arrived in Myanmar on May 1 for a three-day official visit designed to boost diplomatic and economic ties between the two countries, deemed pariahs among western democracies for their poor human rights records and undemocratic means of holding power.

    Gen Musharraf, who departed today afternoon for Vietnam, claimed that there were bright prospects for improved trade relations between Pakistan in Myanmar, although the current volume is only $20 millions.

    He said Pakistan planned to export a cement plant and fertilizer plant to Myanmar, and would seek to increase its imports of Myanmar's pulses (a type of bean) and timber products.

    While in Myanmar, Musharraf and his Myanmar counterpart, Senior General Than Shwe, witnessed the signing of an agreement on cooperation in science and technology and issued a joint communique.
    BurmaNet: Myanmar Chamber of Commerce changes tune on sanctions

    source : Burmanet
    May 2, 2001

    In today's Business Times (Malaysia), the chairman of the Mandalay branch of Burma's Chamber of Commerce and Industryis quoted as saying that Burma was
    "in no way affected by [US sanctions] as they have alternatives to boost their economic activities, mainly using local resources, especially wood and agriculture products as well as cheap labour."

    His assertion stands in some contrast to an open letter organized by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry last December in which the organization pleaded with the International Labor Organization not to impose further sanctions.

    In that letter, the MCCI wrote "With the imposition of restrictions and sanctions, the international trading and business activities in Myanmar, of which we form the cornerstone, will be crippled and widespread national economic decline will occur." See Myanmar Times: Workers, businesses unite to plead an ILO sanction rethink. December 4-10, 2000.

    Even though the ILO has yet to impose additional sanctions, widespread national economic decline does appear to be occurring, with the Kyat plunging past the 600 to the dollar mark.
    Thai PTT wants changes to burma gas contract

    BANGKOK, May 2 (Reuters) - State-run Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) said on Wednesday it wanted to change a contract to buy natural gas from Myanmar because rising world oil prices and a weakening baht had made the gas too expensive.

    "A rise in oil price of around eight percent and a 21 percent fall in the Thai baht since April last year has resulted in an increase in gas prices (for us)," the president of PTT Gas, Prasert Bunsumpun, said in a statement.

    "Consequently, an amendment to our gas purchase agreement terms and the gas pricing formula will be negotiated to make it more appropriate to the changing situation," he said.

    The PTT missed a deadline on March 31 this year to make a $280-million payment to the Myanmar government and the developer of Yadana natural gas fields.

    Thai PTT is obliged to buy the gas under a take-or-pay agreement, but has said it has been unable to accept delivery of the gas since demand from local power producers and other industries has been lower than estimated.

    The PTT has asked the Myanmar government to reduce the minimum amount of gas it is required to buy under the contract to 450 million cubic feet a day from 525 million cubic feet a day contracted.

    PTT management has said it would be easier for PTT to make the payment if the both parties agreed to reduce the minimum requirement.