Daily News-May 29 - 2001- Tuesday

  • Dutch groups oppose Bras made in Burma
  • Burmese government, Japanese business group begin talks on trade, investment
  • Burmese students protest Japan aid plan
  • Students ask Burmese govt to honour '90 election results
  • Indian MP wrote to UNHCR for Burmese asylum seekers
  • Thai PM Favors Direct Talks With Burma About Border
  • Burma cans border meeting
  • Use snipers, they cost less, says Gen Chavalit
  • Ministerial-level meet of BIMSTEC in Yangon begins June 18

  • Dutch groups oppose Bras made in Burma

    29/05/01 | ABC Radio Australia News

    Several Dutch humanitarian organisations and the main Dutch trade union FNV have launched a campaign against lingerie made in Burma by the Swiss firm Triumph International.

    The organizers are distributing around 240-thousand postcards showing a woman in a barbed wire bra for their campaign.

    The union FNV, says the barbed wire represents the military regime in Burma, which it says uses forced labour to build roads and military objects.

    The organizers also asked the Dutch retail group Vendex KBB to stop selling lingerie made in Burma.

    The Dutch action is part of a larger campaign against Triumph started in January by the Clean Clothes Campaign, a non-governmental organisation that works to improve the working conditions in the garment industry world-wide.
    Burmese government, Japanese business group begin talks on trade, investment

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 28, 2001

    Text of report in English by Japanese news agency Kyodo

    Yangon [Rangoon], 28 May: Japan's Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), its most powerful business lobby, and the Myanmar [Burmese] government began a two-day meeting Monday [28 May] to explore ways to promote economic cooperation between Tokyo and Yangon.

    The talks follow Tokyo's decision last month to provide a grant to repair an ageing hydroelectric power station in Myanmar after the Yangon junta last October resumed dialogue with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time in seven years.

    The meeting is meant to step up private-sector economic cooperation, especially in the fields of trade and investment, and help push the regime to hold dialogue with Suu Kyi, Keidanren officials said.

    Delegates from Keidanren and the Myanmar government are scheduled to discuss how to promote information technology-related businesses in Myanmar and accelerate Japanese firms' trade and investment in the country, the officials said.

    Source: Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1019 gmt 28 May 01
    Burmese students protest Japan aid plan

    The Delhi Age (New Delhi)
    May 28, 2001

    New Delhi, May 27: A large number of Burmese students affiliated to various organisations protested against the recent announcement of the Japanese government to consider giving a $24-million aid package to the junta regime in Burma.

    Describing the Japanese decision as dangerous and premature, the protesters at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday said this will help strengthen military dictatorship in the country. They also presented a memorandum on the issue to the Japanese embassy.

    According to a spokesperson of the All Burma Students' League, the students also launched a global protest calling for more international pressure on the Burmese junta to release all political prisoners and stop military hostilities.

    The student organisations are demanding that "talks" between Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta be made transparent to the people.The "talks" are supposed to centre around the results of the 1990 elections in the country.
    Students ask Burmese govt to honour '90 election results

    The Indian Express (New Delhi)
    May 28, 2001

    EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE/NEW DELHI, MAY 27-MEMBERS of a Myanmarese student organistion today held a protest in the Capital demanding more international pressure against their country's government. Today is the eleventh anniversary of the 1990 Myanmarese general elections in which the Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory. Similar protests were held in USA, Japan, Australia, Canada, Thailand and other countries.

    The All Burma Students League (ABSL) submitted a memorandum to the Japanese Embassy in Delhi to protest its government's recent announcement that it was considering to give a US $24 million aid package to the Myanmar government. ABSL representatives said the Japanese government's decision was dangerous and premature and would help strengthen the military dictatorship in Myanmar.

    The NLD had secured more than 82 per cent of the parliamentary seats, in the 1990 elections. "However, to date there is no sign of implementing the election results by the military junta", ABSL president Kyaw Than said.

    "Unless the verdict of the people is implemented the crisis and problems being faced by the country today can't be solved" he said. ABSL said the talks between Suu Kyi and the military government, which started last October, were initially supposed to act as a way to implement the results of the 1990 elections.

    However, since the talks have been shrouded in mystery and secrecy, expectations are gradually waning. "We strongly hold that the current secret talks between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the military regime are not a political negotiation," protester said.
    Indian MP wrote to UNHCR for Burmese asylum seekers

    New Delhi, May 28, 2001
    Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

    A Member of Parliament from India has recently written to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in India to "sympathetically" consider the plight of 24 Burmese asylum seekers for the refugee status. Mr. S. Ramachandran Pillai, a Raja Sabha (Upper House) MP also requested the UNHCR-India Chief of Mission Mr. Augustine Mahiga to expedite the interviews of the Burmese.

    "Given the internal situation in Burma, their request for refugee status should be sympathetically considered. I therefore request you to expedite the interviews and other formalities in this regard", said the letter dated May 22.

    Twenty-four Burmese asylum seekers staged a hunger strike in front of the UNHCR office in New Delhi early this month, claiming that UNHCR has neglected their plight for protection. They said that they left their native places in Burma due to the repression of the military government. All of them belong to Chin ethnic nationalities of Burma.

    After a week of the hunger strike, UNHCR office has agreed to interview all the 24 asylum seekers for their refugee status. Mizzima has learnt that UNHCR has been interviewing the 24 Burmese over the last two weeks. The interviews will be completed tomorrow and the results are expected to follow soon.
    Thai PM Favors Direct Talks With Burma About Border

    BANGKOK (AP)--Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Monday that he favors face-to-face talks with leaders of Myanmar to salvage frayed relations, which suffered another blow after Myanmar refused to attend a scheduled round of bilateral border talks.

    Thaksin said he is keen to travel to Myanmar to meet the country's military junta leaders. Ties between the two countries have reached their lowest level in years over border fighting, drug smuggling and aid to separatist groups.

    "I still think this (direct talks) is the best way to resolve the problem. (But) we have to wait for the right timing and right diplomatic framework," Thaksin told reporters. "Some more talks are needed (at a diplomatic level) before I can go there," he said.

    Thailand said Myanmar has refused to attend the Thai-Myanmar Regional Border Committee's talks scheduled to be held Monday in the northern Thai border town of Mae Sai. Myanmar officials didn't immediately confirm the report.

    Myanmar's state-run newspapers have also called for a boycott of Thai goods.

    "This is a good example that if we leave the matter unattended it can only get worse," Thaksin said.
    Burma cans border meeting

    source : The Nation

    In a snub to Thai efforts to diffuse current tensions, Burma yesterday called off border committee talks and gave no timeframe when it would resume such meetings.

    Chief negotiator Col Akadej Songvoravit was informed by his Burmese counterpart Lt Colonel Aye Saw of the cancellation an hour before the meeting was to take place in the border town of Mae Sai. Aye Saw said Rangoon had instructed him to postpone the meeting, without giving any reasons for doing so.

    Third Army Commander Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong yesterday accused Rangoon of being insincere about resolving border tensions. He believed the latest Burmese move was a tit-for-tat reaction to the tough statement made on Saturday by Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

    Chavalit had said Thailand was ready to go to war with Burma given its improper attitude expressed in the state-run media last week toward the Thai monarchy.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Norachit Singhaseni said the TBC meeting was a prerequisite for the prime minister's planned visit to Rangoon.

    Meanwhile, Thai Ambasador to Burma Oum Maolanont said that relations at the local level must be "steady" before the two governments could engage in any fence-mending. He said a visit by Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung by the end of next month would be very critical, adding that the willingness to visit on the part of the Burmese was already a good sign.

    Speaking yesterday to a conference of Thai consular chiefs and ambassadors, Thaksin - who previously indicated wanting to visit Burma earlier next month - said he had to wait for the right time and the right diplomatic framework. He believed relations were not beyond repair, and that his visit would clear mutual suspicions plaguing ties. He also called for restraint and firmness on the part of Thais to avoid interference by "third parties". He did not, however, elaborate.

    The issue of Burma was discussed at length at the diplomats' conference. Oum expressed concern that verbal sparring through the media and rising nationalism on both sides had constrained diplomatic efforts.

    In another blow to the fence-mending efforts, Rangoon's state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar yesterday ran a commentary that likened 19th century Siam to a "public rest house, offering refuge to all and sundry".

    The commentary was written by Ma Tin Win, the same author whose article about King Mongkut (Rama IV), published on May 21, prompted a protest letter from the Foreign Ministry. In his follow-up commentary yesterday, Ma Tin Win likened Thailand in the 19th century to a thalayan, or "public guest house", opening its doors to both British and French colonial influences. He added: "Although our kings, true to being human, had flaws, our nation did not become a public rest house because of them."

    The author concluded: "Why is Siam clinging to those who never treated them on an equal footing?" He was making an apparent reference to the Western democracies that now enjoy relations with the Kingdom.

    In an aide memoire handed yesterday to Burmese Ambassador to Thailand, Myow Myint, the government protested against the May 22 shelling of the Royal project and urged Rangoon to seek preventive measures to guard against further incidents.
    Use snipers, they cost less, says Gen Chavalit

    source : Bangkokpost
    Wassana Nanuam and Subin Khuenkaew

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh thinks the Third Army is spending too much money to defend the Burmese border and firing too many expensive artillery shells at foreign intruders.

    A source said Gen Chavalit wanted the army to use snipers to warn off foreign forces instead of mortar or artillery fire.

    The deployment of troops along the border and the recapture of Pang Noon base in Mae Faluang, Chiang Rai, had cost the army several hundred million baht since February, the source said.

    The Third Army pays daily allowances of 90 baht per head to non-commissioned officers and privates and 135 baht to commissioned officers. Each border area required troops from at least one battalion while soldiers from two battalions were needed to safeguard the border in Chiang Mai.Each battalion comprises 900 soldiers, to whom the army pays 3 million baht in monthly allowances. Moving troops and weapons around has also used up 5,000-10,000 litres of fuel-which has to be paid for.The source said the Third Army had fired more than 1,000 mortar shells in retaliation against Wa forces and Burmese soldiers. The cost of the border defence operation already totals 200-300 million baht.

    Third Army commander Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong defended the deployment of forces at the border, saying it was aimed at protecting national sovereignty. He insisted it was the military's duty to prevent border intrusions. "We have to return fire when foreign troops attack our bases or intrude onto our soil. "If shells land on our territory, we have to fire a warning shot. Our troops would not dare fire a single shot if they were mainly concerned about the budget," Lt-Gen Wattanachai said. "We know that every military operation requires money. It is necessary to fire warning shots and return fire. If we are told that no funds will be provided, we will have to stop firing."

    The border situation in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district and Chiang Mai remains tense as Burma has reinforced its troops and weapons opposite those provinces. Burmese soldiers from two battalions yesterday arrived at Huay Due, about 50km from Tachilek. It was not known which outpost they were going to.

    Thai troops and explosives experts continue to remove landmines and boobytraps from Hua Lone hill, planted by Red Wa troops when they briefly seized the hill last month.

    Meanwhile, Wa forces were reported to have arrested Shan leaders in Na Yao, Kok and Hai villages in Kan and Toom border towns, opposite Mae Fah Luang district, Chiang Rai.
    Ministerial-level meet of BIMSTEC in Yangon begins June 18

    The Independent Bangladesh
    by Diplomatic Correspondent

    A three-day ministerial-level meeting of the BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar,Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation) will be held in Yangon in the third week of June.

    The meeting, scheduled to be held from June 18 to 20, will mainly deal with matters relating to the diversification of trade among the member countries, the Foreign Office sources said yesterday.

    State Minster for Foreign Affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury will lead the Bangladesh delegation to the meeting which will also review the progress achieved so far in different sectors and discuss availability of funds for various BIMSTEC projects including Trans-Asian highways and railways.

    The ministerial-level meeting will be preceded by a session of the senior officials . This will be the fourth ministerial-level meeting of the BIMSTEC, while the last one was held in New Delhi in April, last year.

    The five-member sub-regional grouping, formally launched in Bangkok in 1997, looks forward to promoting cooperation in the spirit of equality and partnership and thereby contribute towards peace, progress and prosperity in the region.

    The six areas of cooperations of the BIMSTEC, so far been identified, are: trade and investment, technology, transport and communication, energy, tourism and fisheries.