Daily News-May 24 - 2001- Thursday

  • Burma insults Thai former King
  • ILO back on slave labour warpath
  • Rumors Drive up Prices in Burma
  • DVB says inter-religious clashes spreading
  • Burma Links Sovereignty to Development
  • Pro-government Karen, Wa "urgently" drafting new recruits
  • UN envoy Razali to return to Burma as talks enter critical stage
  • Burma agrees to ILO probe of measures against forced labor
  • Thailand to close Burmese student camp by year-end

  • Burma insults former King

    source : the Nation
    Sa-nguan Khumrungroj

    Burma's state-run New Light of Myanmar on Monday attacked a Thai King who ruled Siam in the mid-19th century, distorting a Thai academic's work to accuse the monarch of wrongdoing.

    Due to legal implications, The Nation is unable to quote verbatim from the article titled "Never been enslaved, but real slave", which appeared in Monday's edition of New Light of Myanmar. It was penned by Ma Tin Win, of Burma's Institute of Education.

    Quoting at length the research by Thai historian Rong Syamananda as a pretext to |heap criticism on this particular king, Tin Win chose to interpret Rong's scholarly and respected work - which detailed Siam's negotiations with Britain on August 16, 1855 - in ways that appear designed to serve Bur-ma's ongoing propaganda campaign against Thailand.

    Tin Win also compared the differences between Burma's and Siam's response to colonial pressures. She concluded that Burma was smarter in dealing with Britain because Burma refused to give extra-territorial jurisdiction to Britain following its defeat in the first Anglo-Burmese war.

    The New Light of Myanmar is the official mouthpiece of the Burmese junta leaders, known as the State Council of Peace and Development.

    In response to this serious allegation, and others made on Saturday and Sunday by the same mouthpiece, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai yesterday instructed Thai ambassador Oum Maolanond to lodge an oral protest to U Thaung Tun, Burmese Director General of the Political Department of the Foreign Ministry, according to the ministry's spokesman, Norachit Singhaseni.

    The spokesman said that these articles were not conducive to Thai-Burmese relations. "It will inevitably cause damage to bilateral ties. The Royal Institute is the most revered institute in Thailand. To engage the Royal members in such a way is unfitting and will not help boost ties," Norachit said.This is not the first time the New Light of Myanmar has attacked a Thai monarch. In the past few months, it has criticised Thailand and Kings in general without naming names, as it did in the past few days.During the previous government, the strongest protest by top leaders and summons of Burmese envoys were common.

    On May 19 last year, the junta's mouthpiece threatened to expose Thai officials engaged in drug-trafficking "including those of Royal blood". In response, former foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan confronted Gen Khint Nyunt on June 6 at Don Muang Airport.Thailand raised this issue again at the Asean Summit last November in Singapore. Former deputy foreign minister MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra also summoned previous Burmese ambassador U Hla Maung when Burmese troops violated Thai territory.

    Thai-Burmese relations have undergone severe tests under the Thaksin government. Border clashes and other forms of agitation have been frequent along the 2,401-km border. Since coming to power, Thai leaders including the prime minister, Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Foreign Minster Surakiart Sathirathai have expressed a desire to visit Burma. Surakiart did go recently, but failed to achieve any tangible results.

    Thaksin also said he would visit Burma to improve ties. Yet no Burmese leaders have visited Thailand. Burmese Foreign Minister U Win Aung said he would pay a return visit to Thailand but has so far given no timeframe for such a trip.
    ILO back on slave labour warpath

    source : SCMP
    Thursday, May 24, 2001

    An International Labour Organisation (ILO) team made an unpublicised visit to Burma last week to negotiate an accord on the eradication of forced labour with the ruling junta.

    The four-man technical team was led by Francis Maupain of France, who ran a similar mission to Rangoon last October to assess the junta's efforts to stamp out the entrenched practice of slave labour, an ILO representative said.

    The following month the ILO's governing body made an unprecedented decision to call on its members to review their ties with Burma - a move aimed at tightening sanctions that have helped cripple the country's economy.

    Bitterly disappointed, the junta shot back by declaring it would "cease to co-operate" with the ILO, in an apparent declaration that the monitoring mission would not be allowed to return.

    But sources in Rangoon said the team had been permitted to visit from Thursday to Saturday last week to negotiate the text of an accord under which the military junta would separately monitor the eradication of forced labour in the country.

    An ILO official in Bangkok said the mission was likely to return to Rangoon within a few months to implement guidelines developed last week.

    The renewed contact with the ILO is another sign that a political shift may be under way in Burma, where top junta leaders have been meeting opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in secret for the past eight months.

    The ILO visit came ahead of next week's return to Burma of Razali Ismail, the UN envoy who helped broker talks between the junta and Ms Aung San Suu Kyi.
    Rumors Drive up Prices in Burma

    source : The Irrawaddy News Magazine
    By Maung Maung Oo

    May 23, 2001- Recent rumors in Rangoon that the government is planning to introduce a new 10,000-kyat note have fuelled rampant inflation inside Burma, according to sources in the capital. Observers noted that the introduction of new 500 and 1,000 kyat notes in recent years has caused commodity prices to double almost overnight in the past.

    People have also been speculating that plans are afoot to start paying civil servants in Foreign Exchange Certificates (FECs), a dollar-denominated unit that is used only inside Burma. According to the sources, government employees are expected to soon start receiving salaries in FEC at the official exchange rate of 6.50 kyat to the FEC, which is officially equivalent to one US dollar. On the black market, the dollar currently fetches around 800 kyat.

    In a recent article in the state-run New Light of Myanmar, Burmese authorities warned merchants not to drive up prices by hoarding essential commodities such as rice, petroleum and cooking oils. The military junta routinely blames rising prices on "greedy" businessmen, and frequently conducts mass arrests of moneychangers to control sudden drops in the value of the kyat.

    However, most sources inside Burma note that much of the hoarding is being done by consumers fearful of a further plunge in the value of the kyat, which would hasten the rate of inflation. Wealthier Burmese have also been buying up real estate and luxury items in a bid to offset the plummeting value of their cash assets.

    Last year, when civil servants were given a five-fold pay raise, most staple goods quickly doubled in value.

    Businessmen in Burma say they believe the country’s foreign exchange reserves are far lower than the regime clams, adding to doubts about the viability of an already fragile economy.
    DVB says inter-religious clashes spreading

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 23, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 22 May

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has already reported on Saturday [19 May] about the religious riots which broke out between Muslims and Buddhists in Toungoo [Pegu Division, in central Burma]. A few people died and several were wounded. A curfew was imposed and many were detained by the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] Military Intelligence [MI] personnel.

    Today, an SPDC spokesman issued a statement and admitted that the news was true. The SPDC statement noted that a night curfew is still in force today in order to control the situation. They have also studied the circumstances and investigations are under way. According to latest reports received by DVB, although the situation is calm in Toungoo, the riots have spread to Swa [north of Toungoo], Pyu [south of Toungoo] and other rural towns.

    The riots in Toungoo started near the (?Yantha) Mosque when a group of Muslim youths that harassed a young Buddhist nun going on her alms collecting rounds clashed with a group of Buddhist youths. Altogether 24 monks died and about 50 were injured but the number of those detained at the Southern Military Command is not yet known.

    A Toungoo resident remarked that it is strange for the authorities especially Toungoo-based Southern Military Command to let the riots continue instead of controlling the situation. Meanwhile, exiled opposition groups attributed the riots to the SPDC MI's carefully planned ploy to divert the people's attention away from the current political impasse, economic hardship and border tensions. In the past too, the SPDC have used similar tactics to divert attention from political and other problems.

    DVB contacted a leader of an exiled Muslim liberation organization at the Thai-Burma border and an exiled Buddhist monk and asked them about their views.

    [U Kyaw Hla] According to the news we received about Toungoo, on 6 May Capt Khin Maung Yin from MI Unit No. 3 met with some MI officers and planned this plot. They used the Kyant Phut [derogatory term for Union Solidarity and Development Association] members disguised as bogus Buddhist monks and they protested to destroy (?Yantha) mosque in Toungoo. We felt sad about the whole thing because the nationalities regardless of the religious belief, are our own brethren. If only the government intervened in this matter it would have been solved earlier. Because of the government's neglect the problems are occurring. There was a similar riot in Arakan State some time ago and now here in Toungoo. This goes to show that no effective action has been taken by the government.

    [Ashin Ottara] The most important thing is not to become a religious extremist. Both the Muslim side and the Buddhist side, avoiding the extremes, should find the root cause of the problem, discussed it with a cool head and you will definitely find the right answer. But if a person did it and you labelled it as a group or a religious organization or a social organization then it is a problem. There could be no problems in Burma if we solve them in an unbiased and unprejudiced manner. But unfortunately in Burma all the problems are not solved in that manner so it is a very sad situation. [end of recording]

    Those were the views of U Kyaw Hla, chairman of the Muslim Liberation Organization of Burma, based at the Thai-Burma border and Ashin Ottara, abbot of Waterloo Monastery in London, urging all to solve the problems in Toungoo by peaceful means and not to be easily influenced by the MI's flattery.

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 22 May 01
    Burma Links Sovereignty to Development

    May 23 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar can exist as a sovereign nation only when its economic, political and social sectors develop on all fronts, said Wednesday's official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar.

    Quoting the country's senior leader General Maung Aye, the paper pointed out that there are independent countries, sovereignty of which is not firm or perpetual. Meeting with local administrative officials of Western Rakhine state during his inspection tour on Monday, Maung Aye, Vice- Chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services and Commander-in- Chief of the Army, said his government is striving on all fronts to enable the country to stand firmly as a sovereign nation and to protect it from falling under the domination of the big nations.

    He warned that his government will not let an inch of the nation's territory be lost, saying that at the same time it has no wish to intrude into or occupy other's territory. He also pointed out that at present, the practice of hegemonism is existing in the world with the big nations applying various means to dominate the small nations by giving human rights, democracy and drug elimination as excuses.

    He pledged that Myanmar is exerting its utmost efforts to stand firmly on its path and get abreast with other nations, while building all sectors including the political, economic and social fields. He reaffirmed Myanmar's foreign policy that it maintains its cordial relations with other countries in accordance with the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the ten principles of Bandung Conference. Myanmar regained independence and became a sovereign nation in 1948.
    Pro-government Karen, Wa "urgently" drafting new recruits

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 22, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 21 May

    Amid growing criticisms over the People's Republic of China [PRC] premier's visit to Thailand, the PRC government's displeasure over the Thai and US troops' joint military exercise near the Thai-Burma border, and increasing tension at the Thai-Burma border over anti-narcotics activities, the remnant Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, DKBA, and the drug-producing United Wa State Army, UWSA, have been spending lots of money for the urgent conscription of new recruits. Thailand-based DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] correspondent Maung Tu filed this report.

    [Maung Tu] A Karen State resident told DVB that the DKBA, the remnant Karen rebel group, and the UWSA, the Wa armed group, are urgently drafting new recruits by giving 100,000 kyat [Burmese currency unit] and a gold chain weighing one tical [16.4 g] to every new recruit in Pa-an, Hlaingbwe, Kawkareik and Myawadi townships in Karen State. Not only were the new recruits given incentives but those who brought along the new recruits were also rewarded with 2,000 kyat per person. Due to this method of recruiting new blood, the DKBA managed to get 500 new recruits in 20 days - from early May to date.

    The DKBA forces split from the Karen National Union, KNU, and joined hands with the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] in 1994. Similarly, the Wa troops laid down their weapons to the SPDC earlier than the DKBA.

    Later, the SPDC military clique granted all the national races groups with cartes blanches to engage in any business. News began to emerge that the DKBA and the Wa group started engaging in all kinds of businesses, from ordinary trading to illegal drug trafficking.

    Earlier this month there were some incursions into Thailand by the DKBA and Wa troops. Meanwhile, the Thai army is becoming very anxious and is keeping a close watch on the DKBA and the Wa group's urgent conscripting of new recruits.

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 21 May 01
    UN envoy Razali to return to Burma as talks enter critical stage

    Rangoon (AFP)---UN special envoy to Burma Razali Ismail is to visit Rangoon next week at a critical stage of the eight-month-old dialogue between the junta and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, sources said.

    "He will come from June 1 to 4," a source in Rangoon told AFP. "His program is not known but he is likely to see Aung San Suu Kyi."

    The green light for the Malaysian diplomat's fourth trip to Burma comes after months of delays which had raised concerns about the future of political reforms in the military-run country.

    Razali, who brokered landmark talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the military regime which began last October, has been denied permission to visit since January as the dialogue entered a delicate decision-making phase.

    Sources close to the secret talks said earlier this month that the process had ground to a halt as dissenting factions within the junta began to baulk at the prospect of ushering in far-reaching reforms.

    Diplomats in Rangoon said it was too soon to know whether the junta's decision to allow Razali into the country was an indication that the national reconciliation process was back on track.

    "This is a good sign but we will have to see what kind of feedback he gets when he gets here," one said.

    "Certainly, coming after the indications that his next visit would not be on the cards for several more months, if they have decided to let him in there must be a little bit more flexibility."

    Razali's visit ends just a day before the International Labor Organisation (ILO) convenes its annual meeting where it is expected to roundly condemn the Rangoon junta's record on forced labour.

    The ILO's governing body last November issued an unprecedented call for its members to review their ties with Burma -- a move aimed at tightening the sanctions load that has already helped cripple the economy.

    Bitterly disappointed, the junta shot back by declaring it would "cease to cooperate" with the ILO, in an apparent declaration that a technical mission which had visited in October would not be allowed to return.

    However, a four-man team again led by Francis Maupain of France was allowed to travel to Rangoon last week to negotiate an accord on the eradication of forced labour with the junta, the ILO confirmed Wednesday.

    The team was permitted to visit between May 17 and 19 to negotiate the text of an accord under which the military government will independently monitor the eradication of forced labour.

    The renewed contact with the ILO is another sign that a political shift is under way in Burma, and that the junta is willing to take some modest steps towards improving its relationship with the international community.

    An ILO official in Bangkok said the mission was likely to return to Rangoon within the next few months to implement the guidelines developed during the May visit.

    "In late summer or early fall they will go back and follow up and implement these terms of reference," he said.
    Burma agrees to ILO probe of measures against forced labor

    GENEVA, May 24 (AFP)

    Burma, under fire from abroad over charges of forced labour, will allow the International Labor Organisation (ILO) to make an independent probe into government efforts to end the abuse, an ILO official said.

    It was earlier reported from Bangkok that an ILO team had made an unpublicised visit to Burma last week to negotiate an accord with the ruling junta on eradicating forced labor.

    ILO team leader Francis Maupain, outlining the accord, told AFP here the object of this month's mission had been to discuss modalities of an ILO assessment of measures announced by the Rangoon government following an earlier ILO visit in October.

    "The Burmese authorities have agreed to discuss the modalities of this objective evaluation," he said.

    The International Confederation of Trade Unions (ICFTU), linking more than 221 labour unions in 148 countries, said last year that nearly one million people were subjected to forced labour in Burma, particularly in building roads, railways and military installations.

    The army has been singled out as a main offender due to its practice of using villagers, often from ethnic minorities, as porters.

    Last November, the Geneva-based ILO called on its members -- workers and employers' groups, and countries -- to review ties with Burma and take steps to ensure these ties did not support forced labour.

    Maupain said an ILO team would return to Burma, probably in late summer when it would be easiest to travel around the country.

    Asked about the atmosphere of the Rangoon talks this month, the official said: "It's never easy, but we do have agreement."

    Following the ILO visit to Burma in October, the Burmese interior minister issued an order banning forced labour. This was later backed up by a military directive in November.

    But the ILO considered the measures indaequate and impossible to verify, and invited members to reconsider relations with Rangoon.

    The junta retorted that it would cease to cooperate with the ILO, in an apparent declaration that the monitoring mission would not be allowed to return.

    Sources in Rangoon said earlier the ILO team had been permitted to visit on May 17 to 19.

    "An ILO technical team came last week to Yangon," a senior spokesman for the military government confirmed in a statement. "I cannot elaborate on the content and results at this stage."

    The renewed contact with the ILO is another sign that a political shift is under way in Burma, where top junta leaders have been meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in secret for the past eight months.

    If it can convince the ILO and foreign governments that it is making headway on the issue of forced labor and taking steps towards democratic reforms, the junta may be able to start peeling back sanctions and start developing the creaking economy.

    A report on the agreement reached this month in Rangoon will next month go before an ILO general assembly in Geneva.
    Thailand to close Burmese student camp by year-end

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    BANGKOK, May 24 ---Thailand hopes to close a border camp for exiled Burmese students by the end of the year after sending the refugees to other countries, a senior Thai official said on Thursday.

    Bhairote Brohmsarn, a deputy permanent secretary at the Interior Ministry, told Reuters Thailand was trying to send all 498 Burmese students at the Maneeloy camp to other countries.

    ''We are trying to send the remaining students to the third countries and hope to close the camp as soon as possible, possibly by the year-end,'' Bhairote told Reuters.

    The camp, around 150 km (95 miles) west of Bangkok, was set up in 1992 to host pro-democracy student activists who fled Burma after crackdowns by the military in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It once held as many as 3,000 refugees.

    The Burma's military held elections in 1990, which were won by the National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi. But the military ignored the result and many opposition supporters fled the country.

    Bhairote said Thailand had coordinated with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to relocate the students to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia.

    He said about 50 students in the camp had not yet been found a country to go to.

    Thai security authorities last year said they hoped to close the camp early this year.

    Maneeloy is one of 11 refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border housing a total of around 140,000 refugees.

    U.N. agencies have voiced concerns about living conditions in some camps. But Thai officials have defended them, saying conditions there are no different from villages nearby.

    Bhairote said Thailand also planned to close down a small refugee camp near the Thai-Laos border, after all 38 people there had been sent to other countries.