Daily News-May 19 - 2001- Saturday

  • Curfews Declared after Religious Riots Break Out in Two Big Cities
  • Wal-Mart Cut from Social Investing Index
  • Burmese Opposition Grp Urges Sanctions On Military Junta
  • Japan to Help Improve Burma's Water Supply System
  • India Separatist Group Says It Killed 50 Burmese Soldiers
  • Junta in veiled threat to Thais
  • Press Briefing on Mongyun Region of Wa Peace Group
  • Burma, Laos to Promote Border Trade Cooperation

  • Curfews Declared after Religious Riots Break Out in Two Big Cities

    By Min Zin
    source : The Irrawaddy News Magazine

    May 18, 2001-Burma’s ruling junta has ordered a curfew in two major cities after anti-Muslim riots that broke out on May 15th spread from Taungoo to Taunggyi, according to inside sources.

    On May 15, a group of Burmese Buddhists went to downtown Taungoo and destroyed shops and restaurants owned by Muslims. So far, the reason for the destruction is not clear.

    “The Muslim owners responded with furious anger and caused several injuries. At least four or five monks were hospitalized,says a Buddhist resident of Taungoo. Later on people joined with the monks to assault other Muslims in the city.

    According to one report, one Buddhist monk died on the first day of the clash.

    Trains that regularly stop in Taungoo have been instructed to pass through the town since the riots began. Motorized traffic into the town has been diverted, including transport trucks, passenger cars and other vehicles.

    We had to go around the outside of the city, instead passing through downtown as usual, said one traveler from Mandalay.

    The riot later spread to the Shan State capital of Taunggyi, which has a history of anti-Muslims riots.

    Another religiously motivated anti-Christian clash has broken out in the Wekama Township and spread to the neighboring township of Kyonmonge in the Irrawaddy Division. According to a Buddhist Rangoon-based source, the dispute originated over the construction of a Christian church on the property of a Buddhist monastery.

    Approximately eighty nine percent of Burma’s population is Buddhist, while Muslims and Christians each make up four percent of the population. The state-controlled media has not released any news or explanation about these incidents.

    “The blackout of news by the junta makes people feel more worried and caused more rumors, said one Rangoon-based journalist.

    Several political analysts in Rangoon suggested that the religious riots were instigated by military intelligence agents in a bid to divert attention from the current economic crisis of Burma.

    In the last week, the value of the kyat has dropped to its lowest ever and now rests at about 885 kyat to the US$1 on the black market. With the drop of the kyat, the price of other basic commodities has skyrocketed. Additionally, the recent rationing of electricity has driven up the price of petrol, which is used to power small, privately owned generators.

    In early February 2001, several anti-Muslim riots took place in the Arakan State, claiming at least 20 deaths.
    Wal-Mart Cut from Social Investing Index

    Boston, Mass. - May 17 - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was removed from the Domini 400 Social Index SM (DSI 400) due to alleged sweatshop conditions in overseas vendor factories and a history of contracts with firms in Myanmar.

    Social research firm KLD & Co. Inc. suggested the action because it claimed the retailer has not done enough to ensure that its domestic and international vendors operate factories that meet adequate labor and human rights standards.

    The DSI 400 is considered the benchmark for measuring the impact of social screening on financial performance. As recently as Jan. 31 of this year, Wal-Mart was its third largest holding, accounting for 3.87% of its weight.

    Wal-Mart's vendor contracting policies and procedures have reportedly failed to meet the standards set by prominent human and labor rights activists or those attained by other prominent companies that are similarly exposed to sweatshop controversies.

    Once a company is removed from the DSI 400, it is not eligible for addition to the index for at least two years.
    Burmese Opposition Grp Urges Sanctions On Military Junta

    BANGKOK (AP)--A Myanmar opposition group called on governments Friday to stop giving help to Myanmar's military junta, and praised the U.S. for focusing attention on human rights violations in that country.

    The appeal by the National Council of the Union of Burma was in response to a recent announcement that Japan was considering giving a $24 million aid package to Myanmar to help repair a hydroelectric dam and power project.

    The Washington-based council is a coalition of exiled political and ethnic minority groups opposed to the military government of Myanmar, also known as Burma. It claims to be Myanmar's government-in-exile.

    The Japanese "aid is not going to alleviate the suffering of the people of Burma, who have lost all their human rights under the repressive rule of the Burmese military authorities," the NCUB said in a statement received here.

    "On the other hand, it would be like an incentive for the military regime to heap more repression on the people of Burma," it said. The statement also welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's comments, criticizing the Japanese aid package offer. In his testimony at a Senate hearing Tuesday, Powell said it was inappropriate for the Japanese government to deal with the military rulers of Myanmar, and that the aid package was "not a proper investment...at this time."

    Describing Powell's comments as "most far-sighted and correct," the NCUB statement said "we would like to call upon all governments in the world to cease the giving of assistance" to the junta." It also urged the governments "to maintain sanctions against the...military clique."

    Myanmar's military government has been harshly criticized by human rights groups and Western countries for its refusal to hand over power to the National League for Democracy party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi after it won general elections in 1990.

    Japan says the aid package offer was to encourage the regime to continue talks with Suu Kyi that began in secret in October and remain shrouded in mystery. A final decision on the aid is expected by the end of the year, after a team of Japanese experts evaluate the extent of repairs needed at the Baluchaung power plant, which supplies the capital Yangon and the second-largest city Mandalay.

    If it comes through, the aid would be the most significant foreign grant to Myanmar since the regime took power in 1988 after a bloody crackdown against a democracy uprising. Since then, donors have only allowed a trickle of humanitarian assistance.
    Japan to Help Improve Burma's Water Supply System

    YANGON, May 18 (Xinhuanet) -- The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has agreed to help improve the water supply system in two cities and other dry areas of Myanmar.

    According to the Yangon City Development Committee (CDC) Friday, the Japanese organization will implement the projects of improving water supply system in Yangon and Mandalay, and the dry regions in central Myanmar.

    The minutes of discussion on the projects were signed here Thursday between the JICA and the Yangon CDC, Mandalay CDC and Myanmar's Development Affairs Department (DAD) under the Ministry of Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs.

    Meanwhile, the JICA has also started in April implementing a rural water supply project in the country's eastern Shan state in cooperation with the DAD, covering 250 villages and using heavy equipment of the JICA, according to an earlier official report.
    India Separatist Group Says It Killed 50 Burmese Soldiers

    GAUHATI, India (AP)--An Indian separatist guerrilla group operating out of bases in Myanmar said Friday it repelled a Myanmar army attack and killed 50 soldiers in less than two weeks.

    "Since Wednesday, the area is again under our control," Kitovi Zhimomi, general secretary of the banned National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang Group), said when reached by the phone at his base in India's northeastern state of Nagaland.

    Zhimomi said three rebels also were killed in the fighting that began May 6. There was no immediate comment by the Myanmar military junta. The gun battle was fought in northwest Myanmar, across the Mon and Tuensang districts of India's northeastern state of Nagaland.

    Nearly 900 Myanmar nationals have fled their villages in the battle zone and taken refuge in the adjoining Indian territory in Nagaland, state police chief Lokhe Sema said. The Indian and Myanmar governments are providing food and relief to the civilians, Sema said.

    The NSCN, fighting for an independent Nagaland state, split in 1988 into two factions - NSCN (Isac-Muivah) and the NSCN (Khaplang). The NSCN (Isac-Muivah) group has signed a cease-fire agreement with India and is holding peace talks with the government for a solution to the Naga insurgency problem. The rival group, the NSCN (Khaplang), has also signed a truce accord with the Indian government, but it is yet to begin peace negotiations.

    Meanwhile, the Indian Army has denied local newspaper reports that it has launched a joint offensive with the Myanmar army against the NSCN (Khaplang) separatists. The Indian army has no role in the fighting in the Myanmar territory, an Indian Army officer said on condition of anonymity.

    India and Myanmar exchanged high-level visits in recent months. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singhs trip to Myanmar was followed by the visit of a high-level Myanmar military delegation to India.
    Junta in veiled threat to Thais

    Agence France-Presse

    RANGOON: The Burma junta said yesterday its forces would fight side by side with an ethnic Wa army accused by Thailand and the United States of involvement in the international drugs trade.

    A senior junta spokesman said government forces would use their fire-power to defend Wa territory along the border and accused Thailand of raising tensions with ``deliberate intrusions''.

    ``If these deliberate intrusions at the border become direct threats to either the Wa territory or Myanmar [Burma] soil, we are ready to counter them,'' said deputy military intelligence chief Brigadier-General Kyaw Win. ``I can say for certain that whoever has any intention of intruding directly into Wa territory or violating Myanmar [Burma] soil will find us fighting side by side.''

    The strongly-worded statement came at the start of annual Thai-US military exercises focusing on the law-enforcement and drugs interdiction tasks of Thailand's Third Army, based on the Burma border. The exercise, codenamed Cobra Gold, involves Thai and US troops as well as Singaporean officers.

    It also follows efforts by Thailand to downplay recent border tensions ahead of a planned visit to Rangoon by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra aimed at normalising relations. Accusations over illicit drugs and skirmishing among ethnic militias along the rugged border earlier this year touched off a bitter row between the countries.

    In February, fighting between the United Wa State Army 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.
    Press Briefing on Mongyun Region of Wa Peace Group

    MYANMAR INFORMATION COMMITTEE- Information Sheet/ N0. B-1819 (I) /18th May, 2001

    A Press briefing on Mongyun region of Wa Peace and group in Eastern Shan State was held at the Defence Services Guest House in Yangon on 17 May. Officials of the Ministry of Defence highlighted the fact that delegates to Ministerial and Senior Officials Meetings of Signatory Countries to 1993 Memorandum of Understanding on Drug Control in East Asia and Pacific Region and local and foreign journalists visited Mongyun region of Wa Peace group in Eastern Shan State on 13 May. The Press briefing was to recount what Wa national race leaders said to journalists of news agencies and periodicals who were not included in the study team.

    He also briefed them on the background history of the region, regional development undertakings, implementation of the task to completely rid the entire Wa region of narcotic drugs in 2005, success in cultivating seasonal and perennial opium substitute crops in Mongyun region, the Thai media?s irresponsible accusations that Mongyun region was "a stimulant pill production area," and the objective conditions of the region which do not at all tally with the irresponsible accusations.

    He also pointed out the fact that the Wa national people have extended invitations to everyone to visit any place in their region at any time under the Government?s permission. Replied to queries raised by the journalists. The journalists also viewed the map showing the current situation of the recaptured Pachee outpost and the documentaries on the planting of lychee in Wanhon region, development projects in Lwehsansaw and Mongyun regions,reclaimed land in Mongyun region, paddy warehouses which Thailand falsely accused of being drug refineries, the Mongyun Conference Hall as a five star hotel, the Mongyun Market as a drug production department and the hydel power station in Mongyun Township as another drug refinery.
    Burma, Laos to Promote Border Trade Cooperation

    YANGON, May 18 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar and Laos have held a ministerial meeting in Kengtung, Myanmar's eastern Shan state, on the promotion of cooperation in the two countries' border trade, the Myanmar Ministry of Commerce disclosed Friday.

    The meeting, held on Tuesday, was attended by Myanmar delegation, led by Minister of Commerce Brigadier-General Pyi Sone, and Lao delegation, headed by Minister of Commerce and Tourism Phoumy Thipphavone.The meeting also discussed exhibition of bilateral trade fairs and designation of border trade sites.

    It was the first ministerial meeting held under a memorandum of understanding on border trade pursuant to the trade agreement signed between the two countries in Vientiane in December 2000 when General Maung Aye, Vice-Chairman of Myanmar's State Peace and Development Council, visited Laos.

    The 15-member Lao delegation arrived in Kengtung on Tuesday for the meeting at the invitation of Pyi Sone.Laos is one of Myanmar's five neighboring countries. However, there are few economic and trade links between the two countries, while Myanmar has nine border trade points with China, four with Thailand and one each with India and Bangladesh.