Daily News-November 07 - 2001- Wednesday

  • Politicians sceptical of 'concessions' from military regime
  • U2 tribute to Nobel winner
  • Media enemies listed
  • AAPP Book Release
  • Shans remain unshakable with their call
  • Junta to Issue ID Cards
  • Application rejected, 63 sent home
  • Myanmar, Thailand to Cooperate in Drug Elimination
  • Myanmar's Water Supply Project Benefits Over 263,000 People
  • Myanmar Produces Less Fertilizer in First 8 Months
  • Trade sanctions against Burma fully compatible with WTO rules, says ICFTU

  • Politicians sceptical of 'concessions' from military regime

    source : ABC

    United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on Burma's military regime to continue releasing political prisoners to consolidate the process of national reconciliation in the country.

    Since three visits to Burma by special UN envoy, Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail, the regime has released 174 political prisoners and top officials have held secret talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    But Burmese politicians in exile say apparent concessions by the regime must be viewed with caution.

    Related story :
    Situation of human rights in Myanmar
    U2 tribute to Nobel winner

    The Sun

    IF you’re wondering who that woman in U2’s new video is, I have the answer. Bono and Co have paid tribute to Burmese democratic leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi on the promo for their Christmas single Walk On.

    In the clip, Bono wears a T-shirt depicting the Nobel Peace Prize winnner she was held under house arrest in the country for six years.

    A U2 spokesman told me: It is a tribute to her. She is the rightful democratic leader of Burma but is unrecognised. It’s something they feel very strongly about.She was also given the Freedom of the city of Dublin at the same time the band were.

    U2’s support for Aung meant their last album All That You Can’t Leave Behind was banned in Burma. Anyone found with a copy faces 20 years jail.I could understand that for a Steps record ...
    Media enemies listed


    Berlin - The 38 worst enemies of press freedom include leaders of China, Iran and Russia as well as Israel's chief of staff, said the media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders in a statement on Monday.

    "Violations of press freedom don't just happen. People are responsible including presidents, ministers, state prosecutors, generals or other military officials," said a statement by Robert Menard, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders.

    Press freedom foes listed include leaders of numerous countries as well as guerrilla and terrorist movements. Several states have more than one person named. The list, which is not a ranking but rather alphabetical, includes Spain's ETA terrorist group, the Palestinian security forces and the Israeli armed forces chief of staff Shaul Moffaz. Russia's entry includes Russian President Vladimir Putin and what Reporters Without Borders terms "the Russian kidnapping mafia" in Chechnya. Colombia's entry is limited to three guerrilla groups (AUC, ARC, and ELN).

    Countries which have leaders or other senior officials on the list are - Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burma, Burkina Faso, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Iran, Laos, Libya, Malaysia, North Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, Syria, Togo, Turkey, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
    AAPP Book Release

    By Ko Thet
    The Irrawaddy

    November 06, 2001- Former political prisoners from Burma are set to release a book today that accurately depicts life inside the notorious walls of Burmese prisons. The book, titled "Spirit for Survival", contains one poem and almost twenty essays that vividly describe the trials and tribulations of prison life in the military-ruled country of Burma.

    The book has been published by the Mae Sot-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPP). Mae Sot is a Thai-Burma border town that is home to a variety of groups fighting for democracy in Burma.

    The authors of the essays are all active members of AAPP and have spent time in numerous Burmese prisons, including the infamous Insein prison that lies on the outskirts of Rangoon.

    The book also contains two articles from Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s highly acclaimed book, "Letters from Burma". Suu Kyi was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

    An excerpt from an essay titled, "Let’s Fight Against the Unjust", by Ko Tate, states, "Some people were arrested for possessing guns. Later, all of the Karen villagers near that place were arrested, tortured or killed. Is this the building of national solidarity?"

    The author’s point is that despite the military government’s claim that it is working towards a democratic system, people throughout Burma continue to be harassed, tortured and imprisoned for speaking out against the regime.

    Another impressive piece, "Could Mandela Survive Here", was written by Moe Aye, who was incarcerated in Insein prison. Moe Aye writes, "I admire Nelson Mandela who spent twenty-seven years in a South Africa prison, but I wonder whether Mandela could have survived in Insein prison."

    The author goes on to describe the deplorable conditions found at Insein prison and just how difficult survival is for political prisoners being held there. The book also allows us a look at the strong spirit and bravery shown by the thousands of innocent individuals imprisoned for simply standing up for what they truly believe in: freedom and democracy.

    Although the book only tells the stories of a few courageous individuals, other former political prisoners who have read the book say it is an extremely accurate portrayal of just how bad life is inside the walls of Burmese prisons.

    Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the AAPP said, "Whoever can pay the postal charges for sending the book, we would be glad to mail them a copy." He also added that the book is not for sale, but donations would be greatly appreciated. The money will go to a fund to help rehabilitate former political prisoner.The AAPP can be contacted at bkstudent21@yahoo.com
    Shans remain unshakable with their call

    Shan Herald Agency for News
    6 November 2001
    No: 11 - 03

    A monthly meeting of the campaign committee for Shan refugees on Saturday (3 November) ended with the resolution to fight on for a safe sanctuary in Thailand despite repeated rejections by Bangkok.

    Refuting National Security Council's Khajadphai Burusphat's contention that the war in Burma was over, Saengmuang a.k.a. Bawdin Kinawong General Secretary of the campaign committee, said: "The war in Shan State as wel as other non-Burman areas are being fought in a different mode."

    Chairman Ood a.k.a. Thanoo Wittayakarnyutthakul read out a Thai translation of a pamphlet, dated 10 October 1988 by the Organization for the Preservation of the Fourth Burmese Empire, believed in general as the pseudonym of the present regime, exhorting "all Burmese soldiers and compatriots in Shan State" to wage economic and social offensive war against all non-Burman groups by using every kind of tactics available. It also promises monetary rewards by the State for 'any good son ... who can occupy Shan women'.

    A social worker, supporting the committee's argument, said, "It is getting more difficult for the rebels to begin a fight with the Burma Army, because every time there is an armed clash the local people are being held responsible and have to pay for it."

    He pointed out last year's massacres of more than a hundred men, women and children in Kunhing following an ambush by the Shan State Army on 9 May 2000. Saengmuang also rebutted the NSC chief's saying the majority of Shans had fled into Thailand to look for jobs. "If it were true, why are they bringing their children, wives and old people along?" he asked rhetorically. "Most of them are dependents and we are concerned about their well-being."

    The meeting also reported a petition to the United Nations High Commissioner on 28 September to consider setting up a refugee center in Fang, 160 Km north of Chiangmai, where the majority of Shan refuge-seekers reside. The 7 person Campaign Committee for Shan Refugee Camps was founded on 15 September in Chiangmai.
    Junta to Issue ID Cards

    By Maung Maung Oo
    The Irrawaddy

    November 06, 2001 - Burma's Ministry of Immigration and Population issued a directive on October 20 stating that members of cease-fire groups living in Rangoon and Mandalay are eligible for national identification cards, according to a source in Rangoon. The order states that individuals who have lived in Rangoon or Mandalay for the past five years are eligible.

    The ID card in Burma equates to full citizenship. The groups with the most applicants thus far are from the Wa and Kokant, according to the source.

    "The Wa have been recommending that Chinese immigrants who illegally migrated from main-land China to Rangoon and Mandalay take this opportunity to also register," said a businessman from Rangoon's China town. "Many of the recent Chinese immigrants have connections with the Wa and Kokant through different business dealings," he added.

    Ethnic Chinese and Indians born on Burmese soil, however, have never been granted the aforementioned ID cards and despite the latest directive they are still being prohibited from attaining full citizenship. Their children are also disbarred from attending institutions of higher education such as medical school and technological universities.

    The government also stated that individual families would also be registered with the government. All Burmese citizens have state issued ID cards and the members of each family are registered with the government under what are called 'family registration lists'.

    Burmese authorities often conduct surprise checks late at night to examine these registration lists. If someone is found residing in the particular home and is not on the list they are subjected to arrest and detainment.

    There are two types of cease-fire groups in Burma, groups who have surrendered their arms and groups who still maintain their arms. The registration will be open to members of both groups if they can meet the eligibility requirements.

    Burmese citizens are becoming increasingly displeased with the ruling military government for its allowance of an increased population of Chinese migrants in Mandalay, Burma's second largest city and the heart of Burmese culture.

    A few years ago, high-ranking officers located at Immigration Departments along the Burma-China border were arrested for issuing ID cards to illegal Chinese immigrants in return for bribes. The officers are currently imprisoned for the violation. Over 100,000 illegal Chinese immigrants are thought to have become Burmese citizens by bribing immigration officers.
    Application rejected, 63 sent home

    Anchalee Kongrut
    The Bangkokpost

    Sixty-three Burmese immigrants seeking refugee status in Thailand were forcibly sent home yesterday, Maj-Gen Mana Prajakjit, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, said.Thailand could not afford to grant refugee status to these illegal immigrants, Maj-Gen Mana said. Under standing policy they could only be given in refugee camps if they were fleeing a war.

    The Burmese, mostly women and children, had crossed into Thailand on Oct 25 to escape poverty in their home country. They had been allowed to stay at Rai Pa Village in Thong Pha Phum district, Kanchanaburi, since their arrival.

    ``We allowed them a short stay because there were children and sick among them. We gave them medical treatment and sent them back to a safe place,'' he said.They were dropped off at Hteewadoh Village in Mon State, a war-free zone where more than 1,000 Karen civilians are already staying.

    Aid workers said there was no guarantee these immigrants would be safe because Rangoon had signed a ceasefire treaty with Mon State and not the Karen minority.
    Myanmar, Thailand to Cooperate in Drug Elimination

    YANGON, November 6 (Xinhuanet) -- The anti-drug authorities of Myanmar and Thailand met here on Monday and discussed matters on cooperation between the two countries in drug elimination.

    According to the Myanmar Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) Tuesday, the meeting was attended by the Myanmar delegation, led by CCDAC Secretary Police Major-General Soe Win and the visiting Thai delegation, headed by Secretary-General of Drug Abuse Control Organization Kitti Limchaikit.

    The discussions covered assistance offer by Thailand for Myanmar's drug eradication and alternative development tasks in Mongyawng, southern Wa region of the country's eastern Shan state. The seven-member Thai anti-drug delegation arrived here on Monday for the meeting and during their four-day visit in the country, they will also tour the Shan state and meet with the Wa ethnic leaders, according to the CCDAC.

    In June this year, Myanmar and Thailand reached in Yangon a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemical control. The MOU also includes cooperation in information exchange on illicit drug-related issues and establishment of three anti-drug trafficking border outposts in Tachilek-Maesai, Myawaddy-Maesot and Victoria Point-Ranong.
    Myanmar's Water Supply Project Benefits Over 263,000 People

    YANGON, November 6 (Xinhuanet) -- A total of 263,100 rural people in Myanmar's dry zone were benefited in the first year of implementation of the country's 10-year water supply project, according to the Myanmar Ministry for Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs Tuesday.

    These people are from 714 villages in the three divisions of Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay, the sources said. There are altogether 15,802 villages in the three divisions where a total of 10 million people inhabit and have been facing problems of insufficient water supply, unclean water and even no access to water supply.

    The government has pledged to carry out the project for these areas with the full use of money and machinery in the present second year (2001-02) of the project, it added. On completion of the 10-year water supply project, the current population in the dry zone is expected to enjoy adequate supply of clean portable water.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar also began in July 2000 another three-year project of securing water supply in dry zone in the country in cooperation with two Japanese organizations, sinking a number of tube wells in four villages and supplying water to over 3,200 villagers.
    Myanmar Produces Less Fertilizer in First 8 Months

    YANGON, November 6 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar produced 52,596 tons of chemical fertilizer in the first eight months of this year, a reduction of 49.56 percent as compared with the same period of 2000, according to the latest figures of the country's Central Statistical Organization

    Meanwhile, during the eight-month period, the country imported 11.42 million U.S. dollars worth of fertilizer. In 2000, Myanmar produced 167,599 tons of chemical fertilizer, up 14.8 percent from 1999.

    Up to now, the country has only three fertilizer plants which can only produce urea and are far from meeting its annual demand of over 800,000 tons of chemical fertilizer. To promote agricultural development, Myanmar government has exempted the import duties of agricultural implements including fertilizer, pesticide, improved variety and machinery.
    Trade sanctions against Burma fully compatible with WTO rules, says ICFTU

    Brussels November 05, 2001 (ICFTU OnLine): The persistence of forced labour on a large scale in Burma, widely expected to be confirmed next week by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), should prompt all Member States to impose binding trade sanctions on the Burmese regime, says the ICFTU. With the WTO Ministerial Meeting set to open in Qatar on Friday, the ICFTU has released a 5-page report affirming that no legal obstacles stand in the way of such sanctions by virtue of these countries' WTO commitments. The briefing was sent along with a joint letter to EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the ICFTU.

    In its letter to the EU Trade Representative, the two Brussels-based labour groups re-affirm that the International Labour Conference resolution of June 2000 is fully compatible with WTO rules. It implies that those members of the ILO, the EU included, who have expressed their commitment to the eradication of forced labour in Burma are free to fulfil their ILO responsibility to act in defence of the human rights of the Burmese people.

    Last year's adoption by the ILO's annual conference of a strongly-worded resolution on Burma opened the way for all Member states, as well as employers organisations and trade unions, to adopt measures aimed at ensuring that any links they might have with Burma would not aid or abet the junta's use of forced labour.

    On November 15, the letter continues, the ILO Governing Body is due to discuss the report of the visit to Burma of the ILO's High Level Team (HLT). However, this is unlikely to result in any finding that forced labour is now being tackled effectively in Burma.

    The ETUC and the ICFTU consider therefore, that after the November 15 ILO Governing Body meeting, the EU Council should hold an extraordinary discussion of Burma in order to act on the ILO's findings. The Council should decide to step up the EU's measures to stop the violation of human rights in Burma by implementing restrictions on the EU's imports from and exports to that country and by imposing a ban on investments from the EU in Burma.

    “The time has come for decisive economic pressure to be put on the Burmese military in order to convince them that they should desist once and for all from forced labour”, says Bill Jordan, ICFTU General Secretary. The junta's systematic use of forced labour was assimilated by the 1998 report of an ILO Commission of Inquiry to a crime against humanity.

    While many governments and corporations have hidden behind an alleged incompatibility of trade sanctions against Burma with WTO rules, the ICFTU's briefing rejects their claims as "legally unfounded and morally wrong", Jordan said today.

    The legal briefing addresses six issues, including article XX(a) of the GATT Agreement (General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade) which refers to “measures necessary to protect public morals as an acceptable justification for restrictions on trade. In this regard, the briefing continues, it is clear that a national choice to refuse to undertake trade with a country employing forced labour is an expression of the public morals of the country taking such measures.”

    Additionally, the briefing argues that swift use should be made of GATT Agreement articles relating to human health - XX(b), prison labour - XX(e) and the possibility to use the UN Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security - XXI(c). Such measures, the ICFTU believes, would put enormous pressure on the junta to cease the present worsening level of violations of basic human rights, especially forced labour.

    “The legal and the moral cases for action are clear. There is no further excuse for governments refraining from implementing trade action against Burma at the earliest possible time”, the ICFTU General Secretary concluded.

    Related story :