Daily News-May 13 - 2001- Sunday

  • Burma drug burn is more than a dog-and-pony show
  • Chavalit Rejects Charges Jets Fired Into Burma
  • Powerful trade union lobbies Unocal investors
  • Ivanhoe pushes ahead with gold exploration project
  • MacLean labels Singapore fair a success
  • Jaya Transporter-2 Handed Over to Java Marine Lines
  • BIMSTEC meeting to focus on setting up road, sea & air links
  • Myanmar-Korea Trade Promotion Meetings
  • Riches of the sea whet adventurers' appetites in Burma

  • Burma drug burn is more than a dog-and-pony show


    YANGON, Myanmar, May 12 Close to a billion dollars in opium, heroin and amphetamines went up in smoke Saturday as authorities in Myanmar sought to impress foreign governments and media with the seriousness of their efforts to stamp out the illicit drug trade.

    The destruction of seized drugs was staged to coincide with a regional meeting held to coordinate the anti-drug efforts of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The three-day meeting, held under the auspices of the United Nations International Drug Control Program, ended Friday, but many delegates stayedon to see Myanmar's real efforts in the field.

    Drug burnings have become a ritual in Southeast Asian countries, making a public relations virtue out of the necessity to dispose of the dangerous drugs.Myanmar has conducted 15 such events. On Saturday, the seized drugs were laid out along tables set end to end for about 66 feet. The drugs including 2,862 pounds of opium, 255 pounds of heroin, 968 pounds of marijuana and 2.7 million amphetamine tablets were mostly in their original packing: brown paper wrapping, plastic bags and jute sacks.Below the tables was gasoline-soaked wood for kindling.

    The total street value of the drugs in the United States would be $920 million, officials said. At each of these drug burning events, foreign drug experts are invited to test random samples. A typical program includes slicing open a bag and dropping a sample into a test solution: amphetamine turns the solution orange, heroin a shade of purple.

    Observers are then motioned back for the big moment. A button ignites a fire that engulfs the table, burning the packets and sending white powder spilling to the ground. The opium burns slowly, like peat. Heroin, its derivative, burns slightly faster. The marijuana burns like the dry leaves it is. Amphetamines send flames high into the air, burning fiercely with huge heat and billowing black smoke.

    Afghanistan and Myanmar are the top two producers of opium and heroin. Hoping to shake off its unsavory reputation, Myanmar is eager to show off its drug-fighting efforts.While Myanmar's military government has curbed opium production considerably, the country has in recent years become a major source of methamphetamine, the cheap and popular stimulant that is wreaking social havoc in several Asian nations.

    Police Maj. Gen. Soe Win, secretary of the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control, said Myanmar cannot be blamed entirely for methamphetamine production because other countries supplying the raw materials have an obligation to tighten their law enforcement.
    Chavalit Rejects Charges Jets Fired Into Burma

    PHAMUANG, Thailand (AP)--Thailand's defense minister on Saturday rejected Myanmar's accusations that Thai jets fired missiles into its territory, and said the recent border fighting was not serious enough to warrant such an action.

    Myanmar Friday lodged a "strong protest" against Thailand, saying two F-16 fighter jets fired seven missiles, of which three exploded and injured four adults and two children.

    After touring the border area, the scene of the fighting between Myanmar and Thai troops, Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said the Myanmar accusations were incorrect.

    "The situation along the border isn't so tense that we needed to use the air force. Besides, such an attack needed an approval from the defense minister," Chavalit told reporters accompanying him.Earlier, Chavalit was briefed about the skirmishes by army officers of the Phamuang Task Force at the border, 580 kilometers north of the capital, Bangkok.Chavalit said the situation at the border "was not a big deal. Thai and Myanmar soldiers have no dispute at all," he said.

    But Myanmar's warning Friday that it "reserved the right to take appropriate action" have escalated tensions between the uneasy Southeast Asian neighbors, who have had angry exchanges for years, principally over a dispute involving illegal drugs.Thailand says the drugs are smuggled in huge quantities from Myanmar's border regions by the pro-Yangon ethnic Wa guerrillas and that Myanmar's military junta does little to stop it. Myanmar, also known as Burma, denies the accusations.

    Chavalit said the misunderstanding over the F-16 flights could have resulted from the "centralized" system of government in Myanmar, indicating that it was a communication gap between Myanmar field officers at the border and the military junta's generals in Yangon.

    "In Myanmar, everything is centralized in Yangon which might not be that good but that's the way they run the country. So if anything happens (at the border),everyone must wait for Yangon to give an order," Chavalit said .

    On Friday, the Thai air force said two F-16s flew sorties over the border area on a routine reconnaissance mission, but dropped no missiles or bombs. It said the loud bang heard by residents on both sides of the border were sonic booms. But Thai residents at the border said the planes dropped missiles, which they fell into Thai territory and caused no injuries.

    The F-16 flights came after the army said it had driven out a group of ethnic Wa guerrillas from a disputed hill. Chavalit canceled a scheduled trip to the hill because of bad weather.
    Powerful trade union lobbies Unocal investors

    source : Burma Courier No. 269 May 12, 2001
    Based on an ICEM release and a Dow Jones news story: May 11, 2001

    BRUSSELS-The 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) is calling on shareholders of energy multinational UNOCAL to support important resolutions on Burma at the company's annual meeting in California on May 21.

    In a letter sent today to Unocal's top 100 institutional investors, Kenneth Zinn, ICEM's regional co-ordinator for North America, asked them to back a resolution put forward by the LongView Collective Investment Fund of the Amalgamated Bank of New York, urging the Unocal board of directors to adopt a code of conduct based on the workplace human rights conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Unocal has received significant criticism over an investment in a pipeline in Burma that was allegedly constructed in part using forced labour.There are no trade unions as such in factories or other workplaces in Burma.

    "The ICEM has consistently pressed multinational companies in its industries to withdraw from Burma until full democracy and human rights, including trade union rights, are restored there," commented ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs in Brussels today. "Through the US shareholder lobby, the Asia-Pacific action and other means, we are now intensifying that campaign."

    Investigations by the UN's International Labour Organization had "shown beyond any shadow of a doubt that the use of forced labour in Burma is as systematic as it is brutal," Higgs said. "The ILO has advised companies, states and international organizations to review their relations with Burma, so as to ensure that they do not in any way support or condone forced labour.

    A company spokesperson in Brea, California said the resolutions would have "no impact on plans for Myanmar". Barry Lane noted that the gas pipeline is complete and that Unocal currently has no further investment plans for Myanmar. U.S. sanctions against Myanmar prohibit companies from making additional investments there.

    ICEM is also asking shareholders to vote in favour of a resolution of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, the Interfaith Center of CorporateResponsibility, As You Sow Foundation and Walden Asset Management that calls upon Unocal's board of directors to appoint a special committee of the board to review ways to link executive compensation with the company's ethical and social performance.
    Ivanhoe pushes ahead with gold exploration project

    Burma Courier No. 269 May 12, 2001
    Courier News Service: May 10, 2001

    SINGAPORE- Ivanhoe Mines says that "very high grade gold assays" have been recorded in samples taken on its Moditaung project southeast of Mandalay in central Burma.

    Since the gold discovery was first made on the south end of its Block 10 concession late last year, the company has explored the project area with trenches and adits to determine the size and quality of the deposit.

    According to a company release posted on its website on May 10, "very high grade gold samples have been recorded in the trenches, as well as multi-ounce gold values in the adits."

    The project area is approximately three kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide with the main quartz veins in which the gold has been discovered being "remarkably and unusually consistent", the release says. Ivanhoe says it will continue with underground development work on the project from late-May through mid-September and will commence diamond drilling for further samples when the monsoon season ends.

    The company has avoided pinpointing the exact location of its gold find, but it is believed to be in the eastern sector of Pyawbwe township southeast of the regional centre of Meiktila.

    The Moditaung exploration program is a joint-venture project between the Ministry of Mines of Burma's military government and Ivanhoe Myanmar Exploration, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ivanhoe Mines. Ivanhoe Mines has an 83% stake in the project. The company's major investment in Burma is a joint venture copper mine in which it is also in partnership with the military government near Monywa in Upper Burma. The partners are currently seeking international financing for a US$ 400 million dollar expansion of the copper mine.
    MacLean labels Singapore fair a success

    The Myanmar Times -April 30 - May 6,2001,Volume 3, No.61

    MYANMAR, Vietnam and Cambodia proved to be popular Asian travel destinations at the Asia Pacific Tourism Association (PATA) exhibition, held in Singapore earlier this month.Myanmar's emerging tourism market, often under pressure from outside countries, has faired well for the past two years in the international tourism trade fair, said Mr Laurent Kunezle, a participant in this year's PATA exhibition. Mr Duncan MacLean, a leading member of the Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB), supported Mr Kunezle's view on the PATA fair and said it provided a good opportunity to meet serious players. He praised PATA organisers for their pre-arranged list of potential customers.

    Mr MacLean, who represented MTPB, said he was convinced the exposure Myanmar received at the fair would be positive and added that tour operators from around the world, particularly from Scandinavian countries, had shown a great deal of interest.

    "Myanmar is definitely gaining credit in the international travel market. If there is a significant amount of development, many of the tour operators will start openly promoting the destination," Mr MacLean said. Speaking about the PATA fair, he said although the PATA tourism fair holds a large stake in the industry, being the second most important travel association after Asia Travel Fair, he doubts their importance will continue. "The Fair's participation fee is expensive and being annually venued in Singapore creates less enthusiasm," said Mr MacLean.

    But, compared to the International Tourism Exchange fair held in Berlin, he said PATA had a better structure."Lists with potential tourism buyers visiting the fair, which is not the case in Berlin has an effect of wooing players," he said.Several local agencies attended the event and Mr Kunezle said his agency, Asian Trails, had met several new customers. Mr Frenz Fiesher of Diethelm said, "Business was down compared to last season. There are too many tourism trade fairs. People are simply fed up with attending travel shows."
    Jaya Transporter-2 Handed Over to Java Marine Lines

    Information Sheet - N0. B-1813 (I)- 12th May, 2001

    A ceremony to hand over Jaya Transporter-2 (60-m) built by the Myanma Shipyard (MS) of Ministry of Transport for Java Marine Lines Pte. Ltd. of Singapore was held at Nanthida Jetty on 11 May, attended by Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council Lt- Gen Khin Nyunt.

    Managing Director of MS and Mr. B H Lau of Java Marine Lines Pte Ltd signed and exchanged the documents. MS and Java Marine Lines signed an agreement to build Jaya Transporter-1 (50-m), Jaya Transporter-2 (60-m) and Jaya Supply Transporter (56-m) for Java Marine Lines Pte Ltd. Myanma Shipyard handed over the Jaya Transporter-1 in April 1999 and the Jaya Supply Transporter (56-m) in August 2000.

    The Jaya Transporter-2 is 63 metres long and 12 metres wide. Operated by a 22-member crew, the ship can load up to 940 tons of freight, and its two 540-hp engines can travel up to 9.5 nautical miles per hour. Its draught is 2.5 metres
    BIMSTEC meeting to focus on setting up road, sea & air links

    source : Daily Star
    M Anwarul Haq

    The ministerial meeting of the five BIMSTEC countries in the Myanmar capital Yangon later this month will focus on setting up multi-modal communications including surface, sea and air links among the members to bolster economic co-operation.

    The meeting will also deliberate on removal of impediments to operational aspects of the Trans-Asian Highway, which provides scope for setting up of arterial road links among four of the five member countries.The scope for establishing shipping links is seen as 'excellent' since all the five are littoral countries of the Bay of Bengal.

    The BIMSTEC, launched in Bangkok in 1997, comprises Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The grouping is considered a potential economic platform for promotion of trade, investment, tourism and aviation among its members. Although the exact date for the meeting is yet to be announced, officials indicated that it could take place towards the end of this month.

    This would be the fourth minister-level meeting of the BIMSTEC, to be represented by state ministers or deputy ministers for foreign affairs. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury will lead the Bangladesh delegation at the meeting.

    The meet is likely to deliberate also on tapping the potential in energy sector, collaboration and pipeline supply of gas among the countries concerned. It will review the six thrust sectors for which committees have earlier been set up. Bangladesh will head the committee on trade and investment while India, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka will lead the bodies on technology, transport and communications, energy, and tourism and fisheries respectively.

    The grouping is working on forging stronger ties with development partners and international financial organisations. It isearnt to be seeking support of ESCAP for technical co-operation, particularly in the communication sector.

    The first ministerial meeting of the grouping was held in Bangkok, the second in Dhaka and the third in Delhi in July last year. Besides, in February this year, a meeting of commerce ministers was held in Yangon. Discussions centred on the possibility of creating a preferential trading arrangement among the five member countries. Commerce Minister Abdul Jalil led the Bangladesh delegation. The forthcoming meet may also take up issues like formulation of standard customs procedure.

    BIMSTEC is being increasingly considered a bridge between the SAARC and the ASEAN. To give it a more institutional shape, ambassadors of its member countries in Bangkok have started holding informal consultations every week. The last meeting in Delhi launched the BIMSTEC Economic Forum to promote private sector trade, investment and tourism.
    Myanmar-Korea Trade Promotion Meetings

    Information Sheet- N0. B-1813 (I)- 12th May, 2001

    A meeting on promotion of Myanmar-Korea trade, sponsored by the business association of Embassy of the Republic of Korea and organized by the Seo-gu inchon Metropolitan City of ROK, was held at the Sedona Hotel on 11 May.

    Present at the meeting were the representatives of 11 Companies from ROK led by Head of Seo-gu inchon Metropolitan City Mr. Park Hyun Yang, and the entrepreneurs of 56 companies from Myanmar. They discussed matters related to boosting bilateral trade.

    Moreover, the President, General Secretary and member of Central Executive Committee of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) also met the delegation led by Mayor Mr. Park Hyun-Yang at the Head Office of UMFCCI on 11 May. They discussed matters related to promotion of bilateral trade, investment in industry and exports.
    Riches of the sea whet adventurers' appetites in Burma

    MERGUI, Myanmar, May 13 (AFP)

    For many years Burma has dreamed of reclaiming its vast fishery resources, which until now have been far more ably exploited by neighbouring Thailand.

    But a French colonel-turned-businessman, who has established close links with the generals in Rangoon, promises to change all that by building the first deep sea port along the military-run nation's 2,800 kilometres of coastline.

    Jean Pichon, an old Indochina hand who settled in Rangoon in the early 1990s, has a grand vision.

    In Mergui, a picturesque archipelago of 800 islands in the south of Burma, the old soldier turned business mercenary plans to construct the "biggest fishing port in Asia".

    Vice-chairman and CEO of Myanmar Fisheries International (MFI), he says there is "an abdundance of marine resources in Myanmar's seas even though others around it have become depleted."

    "Myanmar's fish are the only ones in the world which die of old age," he quips.

    Ground was broken on the project a year ago and the first phase of construction is already completed at a cost of some 10 million dollars.

    The site covers a 55-hectare (150-acre) industrial zone which within another 12 months time, if all goes to plan, is destined to host a processing factory and a container port that will be linked with the local airport.

    According to the grand design it will eventually be transformed into a complex integrated facility complete with customs, immigrations services, banks and other infrastructure.

    The icing on the cake is a planned 120-kilometre (75 mile) "highway" which in three years would link Mergui with the southern Thai port of Bang Saphan.

    The Thai capital Bangkok, with its established markets and teeming tourist industry, will then be less than six hours drive away.

    All up, the project is worth some 70 million dollars, representing the biggest private investment ever to land in the laps of the military regime which runs the woefully underdeveloped country.

    Pichon -- a former colonel in the French marines who has no qualms about his involvement with the pariah government -- controls 60 percent of the project trough his company Setraco, in association with an unnamed "powerful Singaporean partner".

    The fisheries ministry holds 30 percent and a Burmese businesswoman Kyawt Kyawt Lwin controls the remaining 10 percent.

    Today, a 225 metre long jetty, bristling with 21 cranes, stands waiting to welcome its first visiting vessels which are due to begin sailing in at the end of this month.

    Meanwhile, A dozen trawlers busily unload empty barrels on the pier in a dry run aimed at ensuring everything goes smoothly when the fish begin pouring in to the facility.

    "Opposite the jetty, a "international auction room" sprawls over 20,000 square metres. Very soon, Pichon dreams, it will be alive to the cries of prices being set for fish destined for Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and elsewhere.

    "If it works, there will be a second one," says 58-year-old engineer Jean-Robert Behar, who is supervising the work.

    The idea is to encourage the use of Mergui to process fish from Burma waters which until recently have been offloaded at the Thai port of Ranong, depriving Burma of profits estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

    "The advantage of Mergui is its proximity to fishing zones, which are a maximum of eight to ten hours away," says Pichon, adding that the project is also more ecologically friendly.

    "Before, there was appalling wastage. Now the Myanmar government has given us the right to control the marine resources with its coast guards. All the trawlers will be equipped with the Argos geo-positioning system to monitor their movements."

    "We hope for the first time to monitor the stocks," says oceanographer Jacques Marcille, 57.

    Yet some observers in Rangoon are sceptical about Pichon's motives as well as the predictions of a fortune in fish out there for the taking, which they say is not backed up by scientific data.

    They put the whole scheme down to the megalomania and empire-building of an old soldier.

    But, say Pichon's friends and fellow adventurers, "all that's just jealousy."