Daily News-May 06- 2001- Sunday

  • A Grill of Unocal in Seattle
  • India-Burma hiccoughs over cough syrup trade
  • Fighting flares on Burmese border
  • Thaksin pins hope on talks
  • e-Business Workshop Held
  • Unwanted attention showered on Mayflower bank

  • A Grill of Unocal in Seattle

    By Tin Maung Htoo
    Burma Media Association (BMA)/ 5/5/01

    An American oil company, Unocal, which is allegedly getting involved in human rights abuses and environmental degradation in Burma, is now facing growing public pressure to pull out of its investment in Burma although it could remove a lawsuit last year.

    Today, experts will gather at the University of Washington Seattle campus and scrutiny Unocal's responsibility and accountability of its business in Burma at a forum called "the New World of Corporate Accountability: the Case of Unocal in Burma."

    When asked the reason to hold such forum, Larry Dohrs, the co- director of Global Source Education, replied "This event is meant to use educational standards to examine the case of Unocal in Burma, as a case study in how corporations are increasingly held accountable for their actions." Larry also said, "we plan to examine some of the claims and counterclaims."

    Larry is one of eight panelists along with a Karen-Burmese-ethnic activist and award-winning environmentalist, Ka Hsaw Wa and Christina Fink, author of recent published book, "Living Silence: Burma under Military rule."

    As Larry said, counterclaims will be heard since they invited a representative of Unocal to the event. Michel Thacher, General Manager of Public Relations and Communications of Unocal could be a defender of its corporation at the forum.

    But it is hard for him to defend well in public since TOTAL, its partner's company in Burma natural gas project, and even some judges already made some confessions when they delivered the lawsuit last year.

    For instance, in a Total's letter to Unocal, Herve Chagnoux wrote, "... I could not guarantee that the (Burmese) army is not using labor, I certainly imply that they might..."

    Likewise, in Judge Lew's decision, he claimed that Unocal knew of the crimes committed by its business partner, the Burmese military.However, he technically dismissed the lawsuit saying, "Unocal did not control the military while it was using forced labor and committing human rights violations associated with the Yadana Project. Thus the judges ruled that Unocal could not be held legally responsible.

    However, the appealing process is still going on and other ways of suing Unocal is prevailing, said Earth Rights International, a non-profit organization leading the suit representing 14 Burmese plaintiffs.

    A group called Students for Environmental Actions at Stanford (SEAS) is also mounting pressuring on Unocal and strong protests will be expected to carry out during the Unocal shareholders meeting on May 21, 2001, said Louise.
    India-Burma hiccoughs over cough syrup trade

    The Indian Express, May 4, 2001
    Dalip Singh

    New Delhi, May 3: Ever thought cough syrups could become a nagging issue in a meeting between India and Myanmar? Yes, if the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is to be believed.

    Myanmar has been complaining to India about illegal smuggling of cough syrups, specially Phensedyl, into their country from the North-east border states, Manipur in particular. Phensedyl has been popular among teenagers because it has some alcoholic content.

    NCB senior officials said Mynanmar has been complaining about the large quantities of cough syrups slipping into their territory. This was a matter of concern at the latest meeting between the two countries, held last month. The meetings occur alternatively in Manipur’s Moreh or in Myanmar’s Tamu. Apart from narcotic-related issues, other matters and disputes too are taken up at the bilateral meetings India regularly has with neighbor countries.

    A senior officer, who has attended the meeting in the past, said that though Myanmar has been complaining regularly, they have never provided any evidence to substantiate the allegations. ‘‘We have asked them several times to give us a sample of confiscated bottles so that we could take action against the companies and people pushing it across the border. But till date they haven’t done it,’’ the officer said.

    Popularity and consumption of Phensedyl in Myanmar can be ascertained from the fact that the cough syrups are stacked at liquor shops in the border areas of Myanmar, said NCB sources. Even in India, Phensedyl has a huge market among the youth, who pick up the habit by developing a taste for the kick the syrup gives. The syrup bottles (of 100 ml) too are handy and teenagers manage to have fun without the fear of being caught — a possibility if they are found consuming any alcoholic drink, said officers.

    The abuse of the syrup continues despite the manufacturer dropping one of the constituents derived from a narcotic substance. Because of the serious implications on the country’s youth, the NCB had a meeting with the manufacturers around five years ago. On NCB’s persuasion, the manufacturer decided to drop one of the syrup constituents, ephedrin derived from a narcotic substance, said sources.Extracted from opium, codein is another chemical used in the syrup.

    Manufactured by Mumbai-based Rhone-Poulenc (India) Ltd, the bottles have warning labels that clarifies it should be sold only on prescriptions. The statistics for year 2000 show a seizure of 426 kg of ephedrine (in powder form) in eight cases in the country. National Drug Enforcement statistics show zero seizure for the three years before that.On the flip side, NCB officials said they too have complaints because a large quantity of high quality grade-4 heroine is pumped into North-east states from Myanmar. A senior NCB official attributed the growing incidence of HIV in the North-east to the addicts’ practice of injecting the drug.

    According to a rough estimate, around 10 kg contraband is seized every year. The NCB has so far not seized large quantities of the contraband because the officers said it is smuggled in small quantities. Investigators said smugglers have changed their route. Instead of sneaking into India from Tamu in pitch darkness, smugglers are now covering high and difficult terrain, spread over 4,000 km along the border.
    Fighting flares on Burmese border

    source : The Nation

    VILLAGERS in the border district of Tha Song Yang fled their homes yesterday in reaction to heavy fighting between Karen rebels and Burmese troops three kilometres across the Burmese border, officials said yesterday.

    About 150 soldiers from the Karen National Union (KNU) launched simultaneous all-out offensives against two Burmese military positions in a failed bid to regain the strategic locations.

    The fighting lasted for about three hours. The sound of gunfire and mortar shelling could be heard in Tha Song Yang. Scores of villagers abandoned their homes. Thai border police and soldiers were dispatched to the scene to prevent the fighting from spilling over into Thailand.

    Sources with the border police said Burmese government troops had for the past few weeks been increasing their presence along their side of the Moei River, which serves as the border.
    Thaksin pins hope on talks

    source : Bangkokpost

    Troops reinforced as MPs urge caution

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra pins hopes of settling conflicts with Burma on a planned visit to Rangoon. Mr Thaksin said he was confident disputes would be solved amicably.

    "There shouldn't be any problem. Wait until I pay a visit to Burma which could be later this month or early next month," he said.

    As Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai visited Rangoon this week, Burma accused Thailand of supporting anti-Rangoon rebels.

    Mr Thaksin said the talks between Mr Surakiart and Burmese leaders went well and both sides were frank about their concerns. He said Thailand and Burma would have to "talk things out" and take action over trafficking problems.

    Meanwhile, the army has told troops to reinforce the Thai-Burmese border and given them the green light to retaliate to cross-border attacks. Lt-Gen Phitsanu Urailert, the Supreme Command's civilian affairs chief, said the Naresuan and Pha Muang task forces had been told to step up security. Relations remain tense following an assault by pro-Rangoon troops this week in which three Thai civilians were killed.

    Lt-Gen Phitsanu said the situation was under control and officials were trying their best to maintain good relations. Spokesman Col Somkuan Saengphattaranet said the army commander has told the Third Army to continue its drive against drugs."The commander has given a clear message about trafficking. The government will take care of diplomatic problems," he said.

    Col Somkuan denied any conflict between the defence minister and the Third Army commander, saying the army always followed government policy.

    In the wake of the cross-border attack, commander Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong called for a tough response while minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh pleaded for patience.

    Interior Minister Purachai Piemsomboon yesterday issued a general warning to proceed carefully with Burma. "We are neighbours. It will cause trouble for both sides if we are always fighting. It's useless to fight each other," he said.

    Gen Chavalit denied any conflict and said disputes should be solved with patience and understanding. "Nobody wants to make foes of their neighbours. When something happens, we talk straightforwardly," he said.

    Kraisak Choonhavan, head of the Senate foreign affairs committee, also downplayed conflict between the defence minister and the commander. "It happens all the time in a situation like this. While the army has to protect sovereignty, the government has to maintain good relations."
    e-Business Workshop Held

    source : MIC

    An e-Business Workshop, supervised by Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and jointly organized by Asian Institutes of Technology Alumni Association AITAA (Myanmar Chapter) and GTZ Gmb H+School of Management, Ait, was held at the Central Hotel in Yangon on 4 May. The workshop which will continue on 5 April. A total of 60 representatives of business associations attended the workshop.
    Unwanted attention showered on Mayflower bank

    Burma Courier No. 268 May 5, 2001

    Based on news from NLM and the Financial Times: Updated to May 5, 2001

    MYITKYINA- A small private bank in Burma that has been the object of some unwanted attention in the southeast Asian financial press this week got a ‘boost’ in the Kachin state capital on Friday.

    According to a national media report on Saturday, Commander of Northern Command Maj-Gen Kyaw Win, Deputy Commander Brig-Gen San Tun, Secretary of Kachin State Peace and Development Council Lt-Col Myint Thein, Commandant of Myitkyina Air Force Base Brig-Gen Bo Kyi, civil and military officers, heads of department and officials, as well as entrepreneurs of the Traders’ Association, Forest Entrepreneurs Association and guests, all showed up at a ceremony and dinner in the Myitkyina city hall to hear Executive Director U Win Naing and Managing Director U Khin Maung of the Mayflower Bank explain the modern banking services of their institution.

    Under the headline, "Burma tribe takes over bank", a news story in Singapore’s Financial Times on Tuesday, reported that the 21-branch Mayflower bank and its subsidiaries, including a large share in a major GSM phone project and lucrative gem mining concessions, were "ailing" and had been taken over by the United Wa State Army.

    Identifying the UWSA as "the world’s biggest gang of armed drug traffickers", byliner William Barnes said that Wa chief Pao Yu Chang had recently taken over control of the Burmese national carrier, Yangon Airways, also under the Mayflower umbrella.

    Barnes didn’t name his sources but did cite a "drug analyst" who told him that "drug traffickers have taken over more and more of the legitimate economy [in Burma].

    Up until recently, the Mayflower group, which also includes a trading, shipping, timber and antinomy mining interests, has been under the control of U Kyaw Win, who made his money in the timber trade in the Tachilek area and is reputed to be close to General Maung Aye of the ruling military council.

    Another subsidiary of the Mayflower group was also named as the money behind the prospective coal-fired power plant in Tachilek that caught national attention in Thailand recently when trucks carrying the machinery needed to set up the generating station were prevented from crossing the northern Thai border.