Daily News-November 02 - 2001- Friday

  • Myanmar students say peace talks a farce
  • Intention of Burmese regime on Dialogue, doubtful ABSDF releases a statement
  • No Easy Cures For Burma's Ills
  • Foreign Investment in Myanmar Down in 1st 8 Months of 2001
  • Myanmar's Foreign Trade Up in 1st 8 Months of 2001
  • Bernas, Myanmar department sign counter trade agreement
  • Rebel group to join narcotics talks

  • Myanmar students say peace talks a farce

    BANGKOK (Reuters) - A group of exiled anti-government Myanmar students on Thursday accused military rulers of using talks with the pro-democracy opposition as a way of securing foreign aid and avoiding trade sanctions.

    The All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) said in a statement marking the 13th anniversary of its founding that the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) was negotiating in bad faith.

    "It is easy to decode that holding long-lasting, secret talks between democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the SPDC is just a political deception which the SPDC aims to (use to) lift the international sanctions and re-obtain the international aid," said the statement sent to news organisations. "Under present circumstances, many phases still need to be reached before there is true, politically balanced dialogue," it said.

    The ABSDF is made up of pro-democracy exiles mainly living in Thailand, many of whom fled Myanmar after the military crushed a student-led democracy uprising in 1988. The group usually reflects the views of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, which won Myanmar's last democratic election in 1990 but has never been allowed to govern.

    Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has been held under de facto house arrest for more than a year, cut off from most contact with the outside world. But since last October, the military government has been holding regular meetings with her to discuss ending the political deadlock. But so far there have been no concrete signs of progress and concern has been growing that the talks are deadlocked.

    The ABSDF called on the international community to maintain pressure on Myanmar's generals. The military has ruled the country, which is also known as Burma, since taking power in a 1962 coup.
    Intention of Burmese regime on Dialogue, doubtful ABSDF releases a statement

    Chiang Mai, Network Media Group

    November 1, 2001 -All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF) accused Burmese regime that conducting one year long talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is only the tactical step to reduce international sanctions and to get back international assistance, mentioned in the ABSDF's 13th anniversary statement released on November 1, 2001.

    According to Secretary 1 of ABSDF, Wai Lin Zin, NMG learnt that ABSDF celebrated its 13th birthday on three main sites on Thai-Burma border as well as in different camps today. Early this year, ABSDF released a welcoming statement on the dialogue process mentioning the event as "historical break through".

    ABSDF urged democracy and peace loving international family to oppose against Burmese regime, mentioned in today anniversary statement. "The regime took the State power by force and ignored the result of 1990 general election. The regime is continuing the act of putting more than (1800) political prisoners in the prisons, engaging offenses in ethnic nationalities areas, blocking the organizing activities of political parties and continuing the human rights abuses," the 13th anniversary statement mentioned.

    "When we heard about the dialogue from UN special envoy Mr. Razali Ismail, we welcome the process as ABSDF always asked for the tripartite dialogue to solve the problems in Burma. But, after a period of one year, no positive progress has been found and SPDC doesn't change its oppression on the people and political parties. So, we come to realize that Military Junta is using dialogue as part of their strategy to reduce the international pressure and regain the international assistance," said Thein San, Secretary 2 of the ABSDF.

    The secret talks between Burmese regime and opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi started since last year October, many media reported. Although both parties have not yet made any official statement on the progress of one year long talk, the spoke persons of both the regime and the National League for Democracy, the main opposition party in Burma, told the media that "trust building talk" is going on.

    All Burma Students' Democratic Front was formed after the crack down of 1988 pro-democracy uprising in different ethnic areas with the students and different people from Burma on different borders of Burma to conduct a struggle against Burmese military regime.
    No Easy Cures For Burma's Ills

    By Bertil Lintner
    Issue cover-dated November 08, 2001
    Far Eastern Economic Review

    Book Reviews:

    Burma: The State of Myanmar, by David Steinberg.Georgetown University Press. $67.50
    Burma: The Curse of Independence, by Shelby Tucker. Pluto Press. £12.99 ($18.50)

    BURMESE WHO cherish their independence will not like the subtitle of Shelby Tucker's book--The Curse of Independence--but it is one of the most comprehensive accounts of modern Burmese history written in recent years. He outlines Burma's descent into chaos after independence from Britain in 1948, and gives his view on why the country has been engulfed since then in a civil war.

    Tucker, a British-based American lawyer and writer, walked through rebel-held areas in northern Burma from January to April 1989. This is his second book. His first, Among Insurgents, is a lively description of that trek, from China to India, across areas controlled by Burmese communists as well as ethnic rebels.

    David Steinberg's Burma covers a broader range of issues. It is an account of recent developments in the country, especially since the crisis of 1988, when massive street demonstrations almost toppled the military-dominated regime. It is also a serious attempt at a more objective look at the situation of "the sick man of Southeast Asia" by a scholar who has written numerous books and articles about that country.

    While Tucker's book is likely to make the Burmese government furious, Steinberg's suggestions that the outside world should create an atmosphere conducive to dialogue--by dampening criticism of Burma's human-rights record and restoring aid--is bound to be perceived by the opposition as pushing a policy of appeasement with the ruling junta.

    That contradiction in itself reflects the Burmese conundrum: Why is it that some sort of compromise has never been part of the Burmese equation? Why is the country still at war with itself?

    Tucker and Steinberg seem to agree on a few points. One is that both consider Burma's ethnic issue to be at the root of the country's many problems. Burma, with its present borders, is a colonial creation, linking people who have little or nothing in common other than that legacy. The authors, both eager to see peace, normality and democracy restored in this troubled nation, have entirely different outlooks.

    Steinberg identifies areas where he believes Burma's many opposing groups and parties could find common ground. Among his suggestions are that the outside world should guarantee Burma's territorial integrity to "assuage fears of national dismemberment." But that assumes that a main reason why the military holds on to power is its fear of the country breaking apart.

    Tucker, on the other hand, writes that he has "little faith in fundamental change happening through peace as an inherent dynamic of healing and reconciliation, or trust-building by economic and social progress." The generals' vested interests in continuing the existing system is too entrenched and their fear of reprisals for what they have done to the population too strong, he argues.

    Perhaps there is no solution, and Burma may survive by hobbling on from crisis to crisis. That is at least the impression gleaned from reading these two different accounts of the background to the situation in Burma today.

    What the books have in common is that neither offers convincing arguments that change is possible. But that is not the fault of the authors.
    Foreign Investment in Myanmar Down in 1st 8 Months of 2001

    YANGON, November 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Foreign investment in Myanmar totaled 49.49 million U.S. dollars in 10 projects in the first eight months of this year, reducing by 34.98 percent from the same period of 2000, according to the latest figures issued by the country's Central Statistical Organization.

    Of the investment, which came from seven countries and regions during the period, Thailand took the lead with 25.75 million dollars, followed by south Korea (9.21 million), Hong Kong (7.5 million ), Singapore (3.53 million), Malaysia and Indonesia (1.5 million each) and Canada (0.5 million).

    Of the sectors injected by these foreign investment, manufacturing stood the highest with 23.24 million dollars, followed by construction (20.5 million), hotels and tourism (5.25 million) and mining (0.5 million).

    Meanwhile, investment drawn specifically from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) amounted to 32.28 million dollars in five projects during the first eight-month period, taking up 65.22 percent of Myanmar's total foreign investment.

    According to official statistics, since opening to foreign investment in late 1988, Myanmar had drawn a total of such contracted investment of 7,390.253 million dollars in 366 projects as of the end of August 2001. Of the leading foreign investors, Singapore ranked the first with 1,507.53 million dollars, followed by Britain with 1,401 million and Thailand with 1,289.75 million dollars.
    Myanmar's Foreign Trade Up in 1st 8 Months of 2001

    YANGON, Nov 1, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar's foreign trade, including the border trade, totaled 3,666.54 million U.S. dollars in the first eight months of this year, up 32.98 percent from the same period of 2000, the country's Central Statistical Organization (CSO) said in its latest data.

    Of the total trade volume during the first eight-month period, imports were valued at 2,032.12 million dollars, increasing by 18.91 percent, while exports amounted to 1,634.42 million dollars, rising by 55.92 percent. However, the trade deficit stood at 397.7 million dollars, the CSO said.

    The data show that there are 14 countries and regions in the world with which Myanmar is mainly trading. Of them, Thailand had the largest bilateral trade volume with Myanmar during the eight-month period with 648.89 million dollars, followed by Singapore (542.94 million), south Korea (309.62 million), Japan (287.64 million), India (279.95 million), China (251.02 million) and the United States (245.9 million).

    The statistics also show that Myanmar's bilateral trade with five member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines -- totaled 1,669.01 million dollars in the first eight months of this year, up 51.92 percent from the same period of 2000.

    The regional bilateral trade accounted for 45.52 percent of Myanmar's total foreign trade during the eight-month period with its import from these ASEAN members representing 944.25 million dollars and its exports taking up 724.76 million dollars.

    The figures also indicate that Myanmar's private sector accounted for 1,221.27 million dollars or 60 percent of the total import value, while it made up 805.4 million dollars or 49.27 percent of the total export value in its foreign trade during the period.
    Bernas, Myanmar department sign counter trade agreement


    PADIBERAS Nasional Bhd (Bernas) and Myanmar Agricultural Produce Trading (MAPT) yesterday signed a counter trade agreement to facilitate the supply of agricultural products.

    Bernas, in a statement to the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE) yesterday, said under the agreement, it would supply two commodities contracts to MAPT, a department in the Myanmar agriculture ministry. The contracts would be valid up to seven months from the date of completion of the first supply contract.In return for these contracts, MAPT would supply super quality white rice and broken rice to Bernas.
    Rebel group to join narcotics talks

    The Nation

    Thailand, Burma and a major drug producer, the Wa State Army, will meet in Rangoon next week to seek ways to eliminate the production and spread of illicit drugs, a senior government source said yesterday.

    The meeting will be the first to include representatives from the WSA, which Thailand has blamed for the widespread flow of narcotics particularly amphetamines into the country and the region, the source said.

    Bangkok will be represented by Kitti Limchaikit, chief of the Office of the Narcotic Control Board, while Rangoon’s representative will be a police directorgeneral.The source, who did not reveal the date of the meeting, said the WSA has not yet submitted a list of participants to the Thai side.

    The meeting was arranged after Rangoon asked Bangkok to act as a mediator in the fight against drug production and trafficking in the region. The Wa State Army controls a “special” zone inside Burma that is believed to be a major source of drug produc¬tion. Rangoon claims the zone is beyond its control.

    The source said the meeting expects to hear from the WSA about its plans to fight against drug trafficking. The Thai side will offer assistance in growing substitute crops after poppy fields are eradicated and amphetamine plants destroyed.