Daily News-May 05- 2001- Saturday

  • Blast in Mandalay market leaves several injured
  • Protesters clash with riot police outside Burmese Embassy
  • Analysis: Burmese economy under siege
  • Shan State Army claims aims achieved, withdraws troops
  • Army reinforces border with Burma
  • Thaksin hopes to visit Yangon by June to mend relations
  • Rangoon approval for road construction
  • Old despots never die...

  • Blast in Mandalay market leaves several injured

    Yangon, May 4. (DPA) / AP--- A bomb blast today in the main market of Mandalay, Central Myanmar (Burma), smashed shop windows and injured several people, eyewitnesses said.

    There were no immediate reports of deaths. Authorities allegedly discovered two more bombs in the Zegyo -- the marketplace -- and removed them before they exploded, Mandalay residents told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) in a telephone interview.

    Mandalay Division Commander Major General Ye Myint closed down the market to investigate the explosion and clear debris from the area.

    The explosion occurred on the ground floor of the four-story Zay Cho market, and several people were seen being taken to hospital, residents said, contacted by telephone. All spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The cause of the explosion wasn't known immediately, and it wasn't immediately clear if it were a bomb.

    One resident said a suspicious-looking packet was found by shoppers in the west wing of the market. It exploded while several onlookers were standing nearby. The market then was sealed off immediately by security forces, the resident said.

    Zay Cho is Mandalay's biggest market, selling various commodities ranging from meat to textile and electronic goods.

    Mandalay, Burma's cultural and trading center, is 560 kilometers north of Rangoon. A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the explosion but refused to give details.

    Bombing are rare in Burma, which has been ruled by the military since 1962. Occasional bombings have been blamed on ethnic rebels or communist insurgents. The rebels, however, typically accuse the government of staging the attacks to justify subsequent crackdowns.

    An explosion at a movie theater in Mandalay in May 1998 killed one woman and injured 11 others. In December 1996, a bomb exploded at a pagoda in Rangoon, killing four people and wounding 18.

    The city is Central Myanmar's main trading hub, with roads leading from the city to the country's borders with neighbours India, China and Thailand.
    Protesters clash with riot police outside Burmese Embassy

    source : ABC

    Riot police clashed with protesters outside the Burmese Embassy in Canberra as part of an international day of protest against Burma's military regime.

    Protesters are calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to forced labour in Burma.Proceedings were peaceful until protesters tried to burn a Burmese military regime flag.

    Police immediately forced themselves through the crowd to extinguish the flames with protesters then attacking riot police shields with their placards.

    Protesters tried to burn the flag again with the situation becoming more tense as protesters again hit out at police.

    Organisers managed to calm the crowd down with protesters then marching to the Thai Embassy and back to the Burmese Embassy to stage a sit-in.

    Burmese Embassy protesters condemn police action

    Organisers of a protest outside the Burmese Embassy in Canberra say they were surprised at the actions of police during what was meant to be a peaceful gathering.

    Around 60 people were at the protest, watched by more than 50 Australian Federal Police, including ten in riot gear.

    Police charged into the crowd when protesters twice set fire to the Burmese flag, with several Burmese activists hitting back and suffering cuts before calm was restored.

    Organiser Maung Maung Than says the police action was unnecessary."They're very angry. They are similar to the Burmese military regime back in Rangoon - very brutal, very ignorant of civilian lives and rights," Mr Than said.

    Local trade union leader Jeremy Pyner accused the police of overreacting by pushing the protesters aside to extinguish the flag during what had been a peaceful protest.

    "They were out there at the intersection, the police just went ape and waded in with fire extinguishers," he said.

    "There was barging and barging, it was just an absolutely unbelievable response by the police."

    Police also confiscated what they said may have been a molotov cocktail from a car carrying protesters. The protesters said the bottle contained urine.
    Analysis: Burmese economy under siege

    Friday, 4 May, 2001,
    source : BBC
    By regional analyst Larry Jagan

    Burma's economy is currently facing enormous problems. The value of the kyat has been nearly halved in the last month, and prices of many consumer goods are spiralling out of control.

    Analysts believe the Burmese Government is trying to get itself out of trouble by printing more money which they say will only aggravate the country's economic problems.

    Earlier this week the government reduced petrol rations from three gallons a week to two, forcing motorists and transport companies to seek more of their petrol needs from the black market. Bus and taxi fares have already risen. Diplomats believe there will also be a major rise in the official petrol price soon.

    Prices of many consumer goods have also sky-rocketed within the last few weeks as the value of the kyat has plummeted on the unofficial markets.

    Shoppers stunned

    The kyat has fallen by nearly 100% to more than 750 kyat to the US dollar in the last six weeks. The value of the FEC (foreign exchange certificates) has also fallen.

    This has caused the price of imported goods like condensed milk, monosodium glutamate, medicines and toiletries to rise significantly.

    Customers at many of Rangoon's small shops and supermarkets have been stunned by the doubling of prices of many of their regular purchases within the last week.

    One money dealer said the drastic fall in the value of the kyat was caused by the military authorities desperately buying up dollars.

    Diplomats in Rangoon believe the Burmese Government has less than two months of foreign reserves and the recent fighting along the Thai-Burma border has increased their need for more foreign exchange.

    Inflation fuelled

    Regional economic analysts in Singapore believe that the government has also been recently printing substantially more money, in excess of what would be economically prudent, which in turn is fuelling inflation.

    The Burmese Government increased the salaries of civil servants by more than 500% a little over a year ago so that they could cope with spirally prices, but this has only served to further fuel the country's inflation. Economists estimate that this is currently around 20% and likely to rise significantly now.

    Observers point out that the Burmese authorities have always taken an idiosyncratic approach to the economy. However whether this will continue to work in the long term is questionable.

    At present they are managing by relying on massive logging operations and plundering the country's natural reserves.

    But with increasing interruptions to the country's domestic and industrial power supplies, the economy is increasingly a problem the government does not seem able to cope with.
    Shan State Army claims aims achieved, withdraws troops

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 3 May

    The Shan State Army, SSA, issued a statement today noting that all their forces have retreated from Par Khee hill where they have been engaging in fierce battles since 22 April.

    The statement said they have accomplished their two original objectives - to avenge the massacre of 17 Shan nationals and to expose and prove the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] Defence Services' involvement in narcotic drugs trafficking.

    The statement also quoted Col Yawd Serk, the SSA commander in chief, who said since they have achieved their two main objectives their forces have been given the order to return to base.

    To learn more about the latest situation in Par Khee, DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] interviewed SSA information officer U Sai Tun.

    [U Sai Tun] It is like a successful ending to one of our guerrilla operations. As we never planned to hold on to the camp for long we retreated successfully from the camp. We have retreated totally from Par Khee camp early this morning, 3 May.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Do you mean to say the SPDC forces have captured Par Khee camp?

    [U Sai Tun] Well, yes. Since we are not there definitely they will reoccupy the camp. We have learned that they have reoccupied Par Khee camp after we have retreated.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] All right. After the retreat by SSA today, can you tell me the latest situation and the casualties of both sides throughout the occupation.

    [U Sai Tun] According to our statistics, up to 30 April, the SPDC lost 160 men while another 97 were wounded. But, the battles carried on for another two days - 1 and 2 May. We heard that the SPDC lost over 50 soldiers. So far we do not know how many were wounded.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] How about the casualty list from the SSA?

    [U Sai Tun] Well, the SSA lost two men - one before 30 April and another in the past two days. Apart from that we have nothing. Four of our men were wounded.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Apart from Par Khee hill, do you have any other SSA-SPDC battles?

    [U Sai Tun] Almost everyday we have been engaging in skirmishes from the central Shan plateau to the border area. We are always fighting the SPDC in a guerrilla-style offensive. We are fighting with the SPDC all the time.

    [Htet Aung Kyaw] Since the battle for Par Khee is over, can you tell me what the SSA plans to do with the SPDC forces along the border areas.

    [U Sai Tun] Well, it is very difficult for me to tell you the military offensive plans. But, in accordance with our anti-drug policy we will continue to fight (?words indistinct) and there are many reasons for a recurrence.
    Army reinforces border with Burma

    The Nation ( BKK ) May 04, 2001

    BANGKOK, May 4 (The Nation) -- The Supreme Command said on Friday it had instructed the Third Army to reinforce its positions and maintain a state of preparedness to protect the country's sovereignty along the border with Burma following a series of clashes with Burmese and ethnic guerrillas during the past few months.

    Lt Gen Pitsanu Urailert, spokesman of Supreme Command, said the regional army had also been told to carry out measures to better protect villagers living along the tense border with Burma by relocating them away from volatile areas.

    "The Third Army has been ordered not to allow any armed group from using any part of Thai territory as springboard to launch attacks on others," Pitsanu said.

    "This is consistent with Thailand's position of neutrality in the armed conflicts on the Burmese side of the border." He said the regional army had the capability to defend the Thai territory against incursions by foreign forces.
    Thaksin hopes to visit Yangon by June to mend relations

    BANKGOK, Thailand (AP)--Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Friday he plans to make a fence-mending visit to neighboring Myanmar by early June.

    Bilateral relations are at the lowest point in years, following a rare armed confrontation at the border between the two countries in February and continuing military tension.

    "I plan to visit Myanmar either in late May or early June and hope that the problems will be resolved when high level (officials) of both sides hold talks," Thaksin told reporters. There was no immediate comment from the Myanmar government about any prospective visit.

    Thaksin made the remarks after meeting Friday with Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who visited Yangon this week for talks with the Myanmar military regime.During his visit, Myanmar publicly accused Thailand of giving military support to anti-Yangon rebels at the border and planting illegal drugs at Myanmar military outposts to discredit the government.

    The main source of the bilateral discord is the trafficking of methamphetamines from Myanmar, which Thailand says the government is doing little to stop. The illegal stimulant is the main cause of crime in Thailand.
    Rangoon approval for road construction

    source : Bangkokpost

    Kanchanaburi-Burma has approved construction of a 130km road linking Kanchanaburi and Tavoy, according to the deputy chairman of the Kanchanaburi industrial council.

    Pattana Sinkanchanamalai said the council had first proposed the road in 1994. Burma had finally approved it in March. Representatives of the council will travel to Burma when Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visits the country to sign the construction contract.

    Construction, to be completed in four years, is expected to begin in October, he said. Mr Pattana said the road would cost about US$28.2 million. This would be raised from the business sector in the province and from bank loans.

    "We want to open the door of Kanchanaburi to the world. With the road, we will be able to connect with India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and boost trade," he said.
    Old despots never die...

    Asiaweek - ABIX; May 4, 2001

    A long-reigning despot is still alive in Myanmar. He is the 90 year-old Shu Maung, who once ruled Myanmar for 26 years.

    He was forced to stand down in 1988. His daughter held a celebration party for him in Rangoon in April 2001.

    Shu Maung and the father of Aung San Suu Kyi (the democracy activist) helped to liberate what was then Burma from British rule in 1947.

    There is some talk that Shu Maung still controls much of the agenda in Myanmar, although he is so old. Shu Maung is hoping to live to be 99.