Daily News-May 15 - 2001- Tuesday

  • The ICFTU condemns the EU's decision to allow a minister to come to Brussels
  • Govt of Japan: Reply to Questions about Burma on ODA, Forced Labor and Suzuki
  • What to do with Burma?
  • Action, not words, needed to stem flow from Burma
  • Sanctions Against Burma
  • Fresh Border Dispute Puts Thai PM's Burma Trip On Hold
  • Thaksin hopes to iron out Thai-Burmese spat with June visit
  • ``The Mummy'' meets ''Indiana Jones.''Film To Shoot In Burma

  • The ICFTU condemns the EU's decision to allow a minister from the Burmese regime to come to Brussels


    Brussels, 11 May 2001 (ICFTU Online): The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has condemned the European Union's decision to grant a visa to the Minister of Economic Planning and Development, U Soe Tha, enabling him to participate in the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCIII) scheduled to take place in Brussels from 14 to 20 of May.

    As a reminder, as soon as the ICFTU caught wind that this high-ranking official of the Burmese regime had submitted a visa request to the German consular authorities (Belgium not having any diplomatic representation in Rangoon), it made it known that granting a visa to such an individual so that he may come to Brussels was entirely unacceptable. Indeed, Mr U Soe Tha is on the EU's blacklist of members of the Burmese regime.

    The ICFTU also backed its Belgian affiliate FGTB in a letter sent to the Belgian Foreign Minister, Mr Louis Michel, on 9 May. In this letter, the FGTB requested that the Minister intervene to prevent this visa from being granted. Although well-aware of Belgium's obligations as host of the UN conference, the FGTB and the ICFTU feel that these obligations cannot take precedence over the ethical principles contained in the EU's April 2000 position (1) and therefore condemn the EU's decision.

    In light of the serious accusations of human and trade union rights violations hovering over the Burmese regime, the ICFTU also feels that the EU's decision strikes a negative note on the eve of a conference that the international trade union movement hopes will establish a clear, inalienable link between economic development and compliance with fundamental social standards.

    (1) European Council's joint position adopted on 26 April 2000 (item 5), whereby the European Council seeks to bar entry and transit through the territory of a member state to blacklisted high-ranking officials of the Burmese regime and their families. Mr U Soe Tha's name is on this blacklist.

    The ICFTU is a member of the Global Unions group. Learn more about Global Unions at: http://www.global-unions.org
    Govt of Japan: Reply to Questions about Burma on ODA, Forced Labor and Suzuki

    source : Burmanet

    [BurmaNet adds: Under the Japanese Parliamentary system, Mps can submit written questions to the government which the government has to answer. Yasuku Takemura, a Member of the Japanese Parliament and of PD Burma submitted questions on Japanese development aid to Burma, forced labor and Suzuki's activities in Burma. This is the response to those questions as translated by PD Burma-Japan. PD Burma is a league of parliamentarians from around the world who support the movement to restore democracy in Burma.]

    Reply to the questionnaire submitted by Ms. Yasuko Takemura, PD Burma member Translated by PD Burma-Japan

    To: Mr. Yutaka Inoue Chairperson of the House of Councillors,

    From: Yoshiro Mori, Prime Minister of Japan
    April 20th, 2001

    Re: Questionnaire by Yasuko Takemura, a member of the House of Councillors, regarding the policy of Japanese government on Myanmar (Burma)

    1, We think highly of the direct dialogue between the Government Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi which started from December of Heisei 12th, as an important step toward democracy in Myanmar. To bring this dialogue, there has been preserved effort by the international society including Japan, especially by Mr. Razali Ismail, Special Envoy of UN Secretary General. We will continue to encourage Myanmar to put effort towards democracy through various channels by co-operating with Mr. Razali Ismail.

    The article in the New York Times indicates that the Government of Japan is going to resume its total Aid, which has been ceased since Showa 63rd. The dialogue is the main reason. However, regarding development Aid to Myanmar, we had been practising under the scheme of case-by-case bases such as continuous programs and basic human needs programs, which directly benefit the people, by having the democratisation and human right situation in our mind. There have been no plans to change this policy, nor to resume the total Aid.

    2, The Government of Japan replied to the letter from Mr. Juan Somavia, General Secretary of ILO as follows;

    1) The relation between Japan and Myanmar does not include conducting forced labour in Myanmar, directly or indirectly. There have been no Japanese programs, which are involved in forced labour practices.

    2) The Government of Japan hopes the forced labour problem in Myanmar will be solved as soon as possible. For this purpose, we hope constructive dialogue between Myanmar and ILO will be taken in its earliest occasions.

    3) It is not the fact that the office of Myanmar economical adjustment task force is existing in the building of the Ministry of Economy Planning in Myanmar. Regarding the symposium of Promotion of Investment to new ASEAN entries, it was held for the purpose of promoting co-operation between Japan and ASEAN. It aims to encourage investment from Japan to the new ASEAN members: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, to adjust the economical difference and to support the integration process in ASEAN. It does not have any factors to conduct forced labour in Myanmar.Regarding the development Aid to Myanmar, we had been practised under the scheme of case-by-case bases, such as continuous programs and basic human needs programs, which directly benefit the people, by the democratisation and human right situation in our mind. This scheme is depend on the ODA charter (approved by the cabinet in June 30, Heisei 4th), to pay attention to promoting democratisation in developing countries, ensuring the basic human rights and freedom. The ODA has been enforced by considering every aspect of the requests by the counterparts, economical and societal situation, and bilateral relations. Japan does not suppress the direct investment on Myanmar by Japanese private investors. The Government of Japan thinks it will benefit the democratisation process in Myanmar to have various ties between international societies.

    4, We understand that Suzuki Corporation is producing daily- life- use of two-wheeled vehicles (125cc) and four-wheeled vehicles (1000cc) by establishing Myanmar Suzuki Corporation together with Myanmar Auto Diesel Industry Corporation (MADI) and other two enterprises. The Government of Japan thinks the direct investment on Myanmar will promote the democratisation process in Myanmar to have various ties between international society. We think this will be applied on the venture businesses between Japanese private enterprises and the public sectors of Myanmar.
    What to do with Burma?

    Bangkok Post - May 14, 2001.

    Editorial from Daily News

    Are Thailand and Burma on talking terms? Violence erupted along the border in Chiang Mai last week when Thai troops tried to push Burmese and Wa soldiers out of Thailand. The battle raged for three days before the intruders abandoned a hilltop position.

    When Thailand lodged a protest against the incursion, Burma claimed the intruders were not Burmese, but Wa soldiers who are not under its control.

    Because the hilltop is in Thai territory, Thai soldiers must do their utmost to dispel intruders.However, as the fighting raged on last week, Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh took a soft stance towards Burma. He said the relationship between Thailand and Burma was still good and that both sides were on talking terms.

    Don't take a negative view of the situation, Gen Chavalit said, adding that Thai soldiers fired warning shots when armed people intruded on to Thai territory.The problem must be solved through peaceful negotiations, the defence minister emphasised. He also dismissed speculation that Burma was supporting the Wa soldiers who intruded into Thailand.

    Burma is a difficult problem for Thailand. When Prime Minister Thaksin took office in February, he pledged to promote good relations with all neighbours of Thailand. He said some top people in the government had good connections with our neighbouring countries, particularly Burma.His words were proven wrong a few weeks later. After a border clash in Chiang Rai, Burma closed its border checkpoint at Tachilek. And last week its troops overtook a hilltop position inside Thailand.

    All this shows that Burma is not sincere towards Thailand. It has no qualms about invading the territory of its neighbour.
    Action, not words, needed to stem flow from Burma

    South China Morning Post -Monday, May 14, 2001
    WILLIAM BARNES in Bangkok

    Burma may be learning how to polish up its image as a drug fighter, but most observers are waiting to see action rather than words.

    A United Nations-sponsored gathering of the six Mekong region nations in Rangoon last week agreed to try to stop the spread of the precursor chemicals used to make the synthetic drugs that have flooded the region in the past decade. More than three-quarters of the amphetamines seized in the world last year were discovered in the six countries Burma, China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Of these, Burma remains the biggest producer.

    Besides agreeing to control the movement of chemical precursors such as ephedrine and caffeine, the ''Mekong six'' also promised to try to lift highland villagers out of poverty so they are not tempted to produce drugs.

    ''Some delegates were quite sympathetic to the regime's efforts, but I don't think anyone thought [the Burmese generals] are hurting the traffickers nearly as hard as they could,'' said one official at the meeting. Rangoon cannot or will not move against the country's principal drug traders because they are political allies, he said.

    Relations between Rangoon and Bangkok are at their lowest ebb for years following a series of border spats triggered by blatant drug production in those regions.

    Home Affairs Minister Colonel Tin Hlaing told the UN meeting that since 1988 the authorities had destroyed four tonnes of heroin and 82.5 million methamphetamine tablets. Yet this is a fraction of the drugs produced in Burma's Golden Triangle region, where Thai officials estimate 800 million amphetamine tablets will be made this year alone.

    The Burmese military has hatched ceasefire deals with about 16 rebel groups that effectively allow some to traffic drugs as long as they do not engage in political activity. Many observers claim the Burmese army co-operates with the traffickers and even protects them. The regime does not deny that many drug dealers or retired traffickers invest a lot of their profits in Rangoon's legal economy.

    Some drug eradication officials hope to see China use its special relationship with Rangoon's ruling generals to persuade them to act with greater determination against the trade. Certainly few doubt that Beijing is fiercely anti-drug, as evidenced by the execution of scores of traffickers. But it may be wishful thinking to imagine that China will insist on a tough crackdown, when it values Burma as an ally in a potentially critical location. Burma offers indirect access to the Indian Ocean for China's western provinces.

    The most troublesome traffickers ethnic Wa rebels are also former communist fighters, which may blunt any Chinese action, one source said.
    Sanctions Against Burma

    THE BOSTON GLOBE/Monday, May 14, 2001

    In a letter last month to President George W. Bush, 35 U.S. senators made a strong case for maintaining sanctions against Burma, noting that "the sanctions have been partially responsible for prompting the regime to engage in political dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters.

    " The letter also said there was "strong evidence directly linking members of the regime" to the trafficking of "the heroin which plagues our communities."

    Mr. Bush should insist that the junta take measurable steps toward the retrieval of democracy in Burma, and not merely for altruistic reasons. Next to the regime in North Korea, the Burmese junta has been Beijing's chummiest ally, permitting China to project its burgeoning power into the Bay of Bengal, to the dismay of India.

    Were a democratic government to replace the junta, neighboring Thailand, suffering from an influx of drugs from Burma, would join India and the rest of the region in breathing a sigh of relief.
    Fresh Border Dispute Puts Thai PM's Burma Trip On Hold

    BANGKOK (AP)--A fresh conflict along the disputed Thailand-Burma border has put on hold a planned fence-mending visit by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Burma, officials said Tuesday.

    Relations between the two countries, already strained by eruptions of border fighting, have reached a new low point with Burma demanding Thai troops withdraw from 35 outposts which it claims are positioned on its soil.

    "The army has reaffirmed that those 35 points are clearly on Thai soil," Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai told reporters.

    He suggested that the two countries should single out the problems and have various border committees resolve them.

    A special border committee, set up more than 10 years ago, has yet to make progress on conflicting claims along the 2,400-kilometer frontier.

    Thaksin earlier planned to visit Rangoon, the Burmese capital, in late May or early June to improve strained relations but decided to postpone the trip after the latest flare-up.

    "The prime minister has a very tight program at home and will not be able to travel to Myanmar this month," Surakiart said, declining to say when he would visit Rangoon.
    Thaksin hopes to iron out Thai-Burmese spat with June visit

    BANGKOK, May 15 (AFP)

    Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Tuesday he hoped to iron out a spat with Burma over alleged border incursions and ease tensions during a visit to Rangoon next month.

    A war of words has been brewing between Thailand and Burma for several months with both sides accusing each other of involvement in the international drugs trade.

    "I hope all disputes will be resolved when I pay a visit and hold talks with them," Thaksin told reporters Tuesday.

    He said the trip was planned for June, although an exact date had yet to be agreed on.

    Burma's ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry to receive a protest note over incursions into Thai territory by a Rangoon-allied ethnic armed group which earlier this year prompted the first clash in years between the two national armies.

    The protest note followed a letter from Rangoon which demanded the Thai army withdraw from 35 outposts along the disputed border or face the use of force.

    "Although the intrusion was by an ethnic minority force, Thailand has to assert its standpoint. We will protest and ask Myanmar to handle the matter," Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said said of the summons to Burma's ambassador.

    He rejected Burma's letter threatening force as an "old issue" relating to unclear border demarcation which should be solved by a joint border committee.

    "But we are confident all of these disputed areas are in our territory," the foreign minister said.

    A spokesman for the Burma's junta confirmed the note had been sent demanding Thai troops withdraw.

    "This is the fortieth time the Myanmar side has sent similar letters," he said.

    The latest exchange of notes comes just a day after Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said relations between Thailand and Burma were back on track after Bangkok and Rangoon accused each other of involvement in the international drugs trade.

    Accusations over illicit drugs and skirmishing among ethnic militias along the rugged border earlier this year touched off a bitter row between the countries, which are historical enemies.

    In February, fighting between an ethnic Wa force with close ties to Rangoon and the rival Shan State Army, which reputedly has the backing of the Thai military, prompted the first clash in years between the two national armies.

    Since then, the uneasy neighbors have traded barbs over who is responsible for heroin and methamphetamine factories that flourish along the ill-defined mountainous border.
    ``The Mummy'' meets ''Indiana Jones.''Film To Shoot In Burma

    Source : Reuters

    CANNES --- Christophe Gans, director of French hit ``Brotherhood of the Wolf,'' is developing an ambitious $30 million English-language picture described as ``The Mummy'' meets ''Indiana Jones.''

    ``The Adventurer,'' based on Henri Vernes' bestselling series ``The Adventures of Bob Morane,'' will shoot in London, Paris and Burma sometime next year. Gans and co-writer Stephane Cabel, who also co-wrote ``Brotherhood,'' will have a first draft ready by the end of summer.

    Gans said, ``The film will be very phantasmagoric with lots of action, but taking place against the backdrop of a real episode in history -- the end of Britain's colonization of Burma -- which adds another layer of meaning.''

    The film is set up at French producer StudioCanal, a sister company of Universal Pictures. Richard Grandpierre, head of StudioCanal film unit Eskwad, told Daily Variety that ``The Adventurer'' will be ``'The Mummy' meets 'Indiana Jones,' a truly international adventure pic.''