Daily News-May 18 - 2001- Friday

  • Burma protest
  • India and Burma target rebels
  • In Burma, Fuel crisis deepens and Kyat continues to sink
  • S.Korea Hyundai to sell $170 mln gas oil to Burma
  • SEX SLAVES: Girl, 20, shackled for trying to escape
  • 3 fasting Burmese protesters in AIIMS
  • Burmese man source of cholera outbreak in Malaysia
  • Thai-Burmese Demarcation row delays pact on drugs

  • Burma protest

    The Guardian, Thursday May 17, 2001
    Terry Macalister

    Management at Premier Oil yesterday was put on the rack by both institutional and private shareholders angry about the scale of company debt and its refusal to withdraw from Burma.

    More than 20 hostile questions were raised from the floor at the annual meeting in London where protesters demonstrated outside before chairman Sir David John suggested they move on to other business.

    He had earlier apologised for seeming downbeat and said he would look into human rights issues raised over Burma.

    Sir David said last year had been "a [financial] turning point for Premier after two difficult years", adding that debt would be reduced by asset sales and unveiled an "unprecedented" social and environ mental report. Premier produced operating profits of £35.2m last year compared with a £6.3m loss last time, but its share price has remained low.

    Leading the insitutional investors was Morley Fund Management, a branch of insurer CGNU for whom spokeswoman Jo Johnston raised questions about the wisdom of plans to drill in a Pakistan national park. Shareholders seemed unimpressed by management reassurances on this but the bulk of attacks centred on Premier's decision to ignore UK government calls to withdraw from Burma. Individuals berated the company for "compromising itself" by cooperating with a repressive military government.

    Speakers said Premier's pipeline system there was only being constructed alongside a range of crimes and abuses by the local military including rape, violence and torture. This, say critics, makes a mockery of claims to be taking corporate social responsibility seriously but Sir David explained: "We believe that constructive engagement, as opposed to continued isolation and lack of development, is more likely to bring about lasting change in that country."
    India and Burma target rebels

    BBC - Thursday, 17 May, 2001
    By Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta

    Burma and India have begun a joint military offensive on the bases of three rebel groups in India's north-east. The fighting is taking place on a section along the moutainous border that separates India's Nagaland state from Burma's Sagaing region.

    More than 30 rebels and soldiers have been killed since the offensive began last week, first with a Burmese military push and then with Indian troops joining in to block the rebels' escape routes. This is believed to be the largest joint military campaign against the rebel groups on the India-Burma border - an area where dozens of seperatist groups fighting against Delhi or Rangoon have been active for nearly 40 years.

    Assault Indian military officials told the BBC that two light infantry battalions of the Burmese army encircled a rebel base area in northern Sagaing division last week. They said at least 30 rebels and troops were killed in the fighting that has intensified over the past three days as the Burmese pushed into the remote hilly region, capturing a string of smaller bases.

    A spokesman of a faction of the rebel group, National Socialist Council of Nagaland, told the BBC that a second base has been encircled by the Burmese troops. But he said successive attempts to overrun the base have been beaten back. He said that rebels of the United Liberation Front of Assam and the Peoples Liberation Army of Manipur have also joined the battle as their bases in the same area have come under attack.

    Trapped civilians

    A human rights group in north-east India says that at least 300 women and children belonging to families of the rebel fighters have been trapped in the fighting.

    The human rights group Assam Watch has appealed for the fighting to be halted temporarily, to allow women and children to leave the battle-zone. Indian military officials say they are in regular touch with the Burmese, who they say will continue the offensive at least until the oubreak of the monsoon season.
    In Burma, Fuel crisis deepens and Kyat continues to sink

    Rangoon, May 16, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com )

    With the petrol and diesel prices jumping up for about 50% in the last few months and the countryís foreign currency reserve crumbled with the beleaguered Kyat currency, many businesses in Burma have been depressing. In the capital Rangoon, the price of a gallon of petrol is at present 900 Kyat and diesel is 950 Kyat in black market while the same was around 600 Kyats last month.

    The people continue to face the fuel shortage despite the fact that government has been subsidizing petrol and diesel two gallons per day per vehicle with Kyat 180 and Kyat 160 for a gallon of petrol and diesel respectively. There are also reports that the government will ration only a gallon a day by the end of this month.

    Due to the continuing fuel crisis, major export businesses of the country have been badly affected. As electricity in Burma is an all-time failure, many businesses like garment business have to depend on diesel for continued existence.

    The prices of gold, cars and other imported items have also risen along with the inflation. I sold a Supersloon with 44 lakhs Kyats yesterday. I would get only 35 lakhs if I sold it last monthĒ, a car dealer said. The shortage of hard currency in the hands of government has stopped the flow of importing new cars into the country.

    Taxi drivers on the streets are also affected. I have to raise the taxi rate because the petrolís prize is increasingly higher. But the passengers do not want to give the rate I ask, said a taxi driver in Rangoon. I have to buy the petrol from black market with high price. But I donít get a full gallonĒ, he complained.

    Meanwhile, Burmese Kyat currency continues to tumble down to a new all time low of Kyat 850 to US one dollar today. It was 390 to the dollar in August last year. A cup of tea in Rangoon is 50 Kyats while it was 25 Kyats three months ago.
    S.Korea Hyundai to sell $170 mln gas oil to Burma

    SEOUL, May 17 (Reuters) - South Korea's Hyundai Corp <11760.KS> has signed a contract to provide about $170 million worth of Singaporean gas oil to Myanmar Petrochemical Enterprise, a company official said on Thursday.

    "We will provide 4.50 million barrels of Singaporean gas oil to Myanmar," the company official told Reuters.

    The gas oil is scheduled to be provided by March 2002 to be used as fuels for automotive diesel engines, power generation and plant operation, he said. Hyundai used to provide domestic gas oil to Myanmar but the firm has decided to replace it with Singaporean origin to reduce shipping time and costs.

    Last year Hyundai provided three million barrels or $130 million worth of domestic gas oil to Myanmar. Shares of Hyundai rose 25 to 1,780 won by 0243 GMT.
    SEX SLAVES: Girl, 20, shackled for trying to escape

    source : The Nation

    Police yesterday rescued 30 hilltribe and Burmese women who were being held as sex slaves at two houses in Lat Phrao district.

    The Crime Suppression Divisionís (CSD) 20member commando unit searched the isolated houses after receiving tipoffs from local residents.In addition to the women aged between 20 and 25, police also found six hilltribe men, allegedly hired by Kitti Tochaicharoenporn, the owner of the houses, to guard the captives.

    Police found Lhong, a 20 year old Burmese girl, chained to a staircase when they raided the house. She told the officers that she was chainedup because she once attempted to escape.Her right ankle was bruised and swollen from being shackled.

    According to the findings of the initial investigation, Kitti allegedly paid the parents between Bt20,000 and Bt30,000 for each girl. They were then taken to the houses where they were forced to provide sexual services.Most of the women had been captives inside the homes for several months. Local residents contacted police after becoming suspicious of all the visitors the houses attracted.

    Colonel Sopon Pisutiwong, who headed the police team, said Kitti had not been caught. But he said based on the interrogation of the other men, the suspect would be charged with illegally detaining people, procuring prostitutes, and sheltering illegal foreigners.After questioning, we will send the women home,he said.

    An informed source said Kitti ran a front company dealing in timber, and was on his way to buy wood from Chiang Rai when the police raided the houses. They expected an early arrest.
    3 fasting Burmese protesters in AIIMS

    The Asian Age (New Delhi)
    May 16, 2001

    New Delhi, May 15: Three Burmese asylum seekers, among 24 Burmese on a hunger strike to demand protection form the UN High Commissioner of Refugees, were under observation at a Delhi hospital following a deterioration in their condition on Tuesday.

    A spokesman for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences said the three Burmese girls, aged between 20 and 22 years, were under observation in the AIIMS casualty department. They had been put on intravenous drip and their condition was stable, he added.

    The three girls were identified as Ronies Sui Hniang Tial, 20. According to one of the Burmese protesters, Van Hnin Thang, the asylum seekers were demanding assistance and protection form the UNHCR as they could not go back to their country.

    They had gone on a hunger strike outside the UNHCR office here on May 8 but had called off the protest after the chief of mission assured them that they would be interviewed within a week.

    However, in reality, the UNHCR staff is not treating us the same as promised. Five of us were supposed to be interviewed according to the schedule. However, UNHCR staff said that it would interview only two persons. Therefore, we felt that some UNHCR staff are not keeping the promise you have given us. As a result, none of us were interviewed,Mr. Van Hnin Thang said in a memorandum to the UNHCR on Tuesday.

    The asylum seekers resumed their hunger strike on Monday night and the three girls were rushed to AIIMS following a deterioration in their condition, he added. (UNI)
    Burmese man source of outbreak

    The Star - May 17, 2001.
    By Loong Meng Yee and Edward Rajendra

    KLANG:A 36-year-old Myanmar national is suspected to be the source of the cholera outbreak in Selangor early this month.

    It is learnt that the Myanmar immigrant who worked as a food handler at a nasi lemak stall at the 5th Mile, Jalan Meru, had assisted in preparing food which was served to some 3,000 people in the area. He has been quarantined at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang. Ninety-seven others were warded at the hospital and the Kuala Langat and Sungai Buloh hospitals after they tested positive for the vibrio cholerae bacteria.

    Apart from the Myanmar national, two Indonesians were also confirmed as carriers and one factory worker has died as a result of the outbreak confined mainly in Meru. There are also 146 suspected cases throughout the state so far. The authorities have closed down 136 food outlets while 732 food handlers have been given antibiotics as a preventive measure.

    State Local Government, Environment, Housing and Squatters Committee chairman Datuk Mokhtar Dahalan said people who came down with cholera in Petaling Jaya and Kuala Selangor had eaten the nasi lemak at the Meru stall. "We have the whole situation under control with the foodstalls in Meru closed temporarily while the cholera patients have been quarantined. All the 97 patients will only be allowed to go home once the doctors certify that they are free of the disease," he said. Mokhtar also ordered local councils to demolish illegal foodstalls and inspect the hygiene level at all food outlets to ensure that the cholera outbreak did not recur. He added that Alam Flora had been ordered to conduct more frequent garbage collection at all residential housing areas as an additional measure to check the outbreak.

    A state senior health medical officer said the involvement of the foreign workers raised concern about the spread of transmittable diseases from less developed countries. "We do not know what kind of diseases they have before entering Malaysia. In our country, some of the foreign workers inevitably end up in the food industry and chances of food contamination are high. "There are, at least, records to trace the legal foreign workers. The illegal ones pose a bigger threat because we do not know their health history or their migration pattern," he said. The health officer clarified the cholera outbreak in Meru was defined as a limited one, instead of a full-blown outbreak affecting the entire state. He added that the clarification was important because the state Health Department had received telephone calls, some from as far as Taiwan, enquiring the severity of the outbreak.

    Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Suleiman Mohamed urged the public not to be alarmed over the outbreak as the number of confirmed cases had dropped significantly over the last two days. Dr Suleiman, who earlier visited cholera patients at the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital, said the situation was under control and preventive measures taken by the state Health Department were successful in containing the outbreak.
    Thai-Burmese Demarcation row delays pact on drugs

    Source : Bangkok Post

    The agreement that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is supposed to sign with Burma on the border and drugs has hit a snag.

    Officials are trying to draw up a memorandum of understanding on Thai-Burmese co-operation. A dispute over demarcation of border posts is holding it up, said Supreme Commander Sampao Chusri.

    The MoU is to be signed by either Mr Thaksin or Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai with his Burmese counterpart on a yet-to-be-fixed date.

    Gen Sampao said Burma wanted the MoU to define the border in detail, but the Thai side disagreed.

    Burma wanted to adhere to its map, which would put Thailand at a disadvantage, while the Thai side wanted to use satellite and aerial photos and modern techniques in demarcation, he said.

    The border dispute at Doi Lang in Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district should be settled first through government-level talks, he said.

    The Thai military had proposed that Thailand and Burma jointly survey the area.

    Burma has not replied to the proposal although Burmese ambassador Win Aung has met Mr Surakiart.

    Gen Sampao said he had also proposed Thai and Burmese troops jointly patrol Doi Lang.

    He once raised the idea with Gen Maung Aye, the Burmese army chief, who disagreed, he said.

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh had agreed to work with the Foreign Ministry and Burmese leaders on demarcation talks, he said.

    Meanwhile, Thai soldiers along the border in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai have been told to stay on alert, especially on Doi Lang, as tensions mount. "Thai and Burmese soldiers who used to stay together on Doi Lang in a friendly atmosphere have become hostile towards each other. We have to be very careful with every move," said Col Narongchai Kaewkla, commander of the 121st Cavalry Battalion.