Daily News-November 13 - 2001- Tuesday

  • Analysis: Power changes in Burmese junta
  • Army directed to tighten security ahead of reshuffle
  • World trade talks, forced labour in Myanmar, on ILO agenda
  • New link for Chiang Rai and Burma
  • Myanmar reassigns 10 senior generals in shake-up of military regime
  • Burma rejects US criticism over religious freedom

  • Analysis: Power changes in Burmese junta

    source : BBC

    By BBC's Burma analyst Larry Jagan in Bangkok

    Burma appears to be going through the biggest government shake-up in years. Two top generals have been sacked. Five other ministers have been retired - only two of them voluntarily.

    There have been constant reports of division within the army ever since Burma's military leaders started reconciliation talks with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi more than a year ago.

    But there is certainly no evidence of a power struggle at the top of the military government. Sources in Rangoon believe the head of state, General Than Shwe initiated the moves, and that there is no doubt that the other two members of the country's ruling triumvirate - the army chief and Defence Minister General Maung Aye and the military intelligence chief Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt - fully supported it.

    "The changes, in fact, show the unity and strength of the top three," said a western diplomat based in Rangoon. "They seem to have a tight grip on the government."


    There is growing concern among Burma's top leaders that their South East Asian neighbours are getting increasingly annoyed at the country's problems with corruption. Several countries have raised it directly with General Than Shwe.

    "These two generals were sacked because their involvement in corruption was too blatant," one western diplomat told the BBC. But most analysts are sceptical that these sackings will have any real impact on corruption.

    The other sackings, however, appear to be more to do with government plans to revitalise the country's administration and root out the hard-liners who may be opposed to the government's reconciliation process with National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Many analysts believe the government will use the opportunity to promote several regional commanders. Many of the regional commanders have been critical of the talks with Aung San Suu Kyi. There are also reports that some are unhappy with the government's attempts to stop the use of forced labour - something highlighted by a recent investigation by the International Labour Organisation.

    The government shake-up certainly provides General Than Shwe with the opportunity to bring the most-resistant regional commanders to Rangoon and sever their connection with their soldiers. This would certainly help Rangoon re-establish control over the regional commanders.
    Army directed to tighten security ahead of reshuffle

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) on 11 November

    According to latest reports received by DVB, the War Office in Rangoon has issued a directive yesterday, Saturday [10 November], to the regional military commands that the replacement for the seven top generals and ministers will be from among the regional military commanders.

    The positions vacated by the regional military commanders will be filled with divisional commanders and column commanders while their places, in turn, will be replaced by strategic commanders and tactical commanders. The Military Appointments General's Office has ordered the qualification sheets of present strategic commanders and tactical commanders to be sent to the office before 20 November.

    At the same time, the battalions are also directed to have security awareness. The officers from the various military commands, divisions, battalions, and companies are warned to maintain close control over the soldiers and to inspect the weapons facilities and ordnance depots twice daily. Furthermore, the usage of ammunition and ordnance by the forces in the forward areas are to be reported daily and the officers are urged not to allow the soldiers to listen to any foreign radio stations.
    World trade talks, forced labour in Myanmar, on ILO agenda

    GENEVA, Nov 12 (AFP) - Globalisation of trade and forced labour in Myanmar are set to dominate the agenda of the bi-annual assembly of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over the next four days.

    Officials said that on Monday the 56-member ILO governing body would debate an ILO report on the social impact of globalisation, which coincides with attempts by 142 countries to launch a new round of trade liberalisation talks at the World Trade Organisation's ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar.

    The report by an ILO working group on the social dimensions of globalisation counters assumptions about freer trade stimulating economic growth and says that they "rarely apply in the real world", according to an ILO statement. It added that some developing countries have paid a heavy price to adjust to trade liberalisation, experiencing "a contraction in output, high unemployment and wide trade deficits".

    The report follows calls at a Global Employment Forum organised by the ILO ten days ago for an international effort to minimise the social costs of trade liberalisation, "through measures such as prior analysis of their social impact", including the effects of price changes on the poor, the possible destruction of markets for poor producers and shifts in the demand for labour.

    The governing body is also expected on Wednesday to examine a report by an ILO-appointed investigative team on forced labour in Myanmar, following a three-week mission there which ended at the beginning of October, a spokesman said.

    The report by four independent experts, published last week, concluded that forced labour under military authorities continues in Myanmar even though the country officially outlawed the practice last year.

    Myanmar has come under ILO scrutiny after a first investigation in 1998 revealed the "widespread and systematic" use of forced labour in the country. The ILO had asked its members to "reconsider" their relations with Myanmar last year but decided to maintain permanent surveillance and contact with the authorities there. The ILO is a tripartie organisation, bringing together 174 governments, as well as employers and labour representatives.
    New link for Chiang Rai and Burma

    source : The Bangkokpost

    A second bridge across the Mae Sai river linking Chiang Rai with Burma is expected to be completed around the middle of next year, the government says.The two-lane bridge, now being designed, is to be built about 2.5km east of the old bridge at an estimated cost of 28 million baht, as part of a comprehensive plan to expand transport networks between Thailand and neighbouring countries.

    The plan, supervised by the Transport Ministry, is the result of a high-level tourism workshop held in Chiang Mai in April.The ministry has been given five tasks, one of which is to study the possibility of creating and expanding air and land transport networks between Thailand and close neighbours.

    Agreements have been reached with Burma to build a second bridge across the Mae Sai river, and to develop a route from Mae Sot to Rangoon via Myawaddy and Pa-an.Thailand has also reached an agreement with Laos on the construction of a second bridge across the Mekong river in Mukdahan province as part of the Mukdahan-Sawannakhet-Vietnam route.

    The bridge, now under construction, is expected to be completed in 2006 to link up with a road to be built in Laos in 2004.Also, Thailand, Laos and China will jointly build a Huayxai-Bo Tane route linking Thailand with southern China via Laos. Construction costs will be split.Flight services from Sukhothai and Laos' Luang Prabang have begun since early this month.

    Meanwhile, Cambodia is to allow a private firm to build a road between Poipet and Sisophon.Also, an existing but heavily-damaged rail line will be repaired and extended to Vietnam and southern China.Thailand's Highways Department has suggested building a route from Si Sa Ket's Sa Ngam to Siem Reap in Cambodia.Also, the Thai government will allocate a budget of one million baht and send army soldiers to help build a 138km route linking Trat with Sihanoukville.

    In a deal with Malaysia, the Highways Department will build a bridge across the Su-ngai Kolok river in Narathiwat to provide access to Malaysia's Kelantan.A cargo rail service from Su-ngai Kolok to Kota Baru is now on a trial run.Unlimited flights between Thailand and Malaysia, and Thailand and Singapore have been allowed.

    Another task given the Transport Minister is to promote Chiang Mai as an aviation centre linking Thailand with southern and western China.In late October, Bangkok Airways Co launched a flight service from Chiang Mai to Jing Hong in China. Also, Thai Airways International offers two flights a week between Bangkok-Chiang Mai-Kunming, and five direct Bangkok-Kunming flights a week.The ministry must also try to raise income from tourists in transit.
    Myanmar reassigns 10 senior generals in shake-up of military regime


    YANGON, Myanmar, Nov. 13 In the most significant shake-up of Myanmar's military regime in four years, 10 powerful regional army commanders are to be reassigned to the capital, a senior officer said Tuesday.

    All will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and take positions in the Ministry of Defense, a senior military officer, who did not want to be named, told The Associated Press. While the commanders are likely to gain privileges, some observers said they would lose power and autonomy, which would reassert the authority of the regime's top three generals.

    A former military officer, who also requested anonymity, said the move was a clear indication that the ministry was ''expanding and consolidating its strength.''

    The reassignments, which have not been officially announced, follow the unexpected dismissals last week of seven top officials including the junta's fourth-ranking general Lt. Gen. Win Myint and deputy prime minister Lt. Gen. Tin Hla, who was also minister for military affairs. Also fired were two aging deputy prime ministers; three other ministers were ''permitted to retire.'' The government has given no reasons for the changes.

    It is the biggest shake-up of the regime since November 1997, when the original junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, was dissolved and renamed the State Peace and Development Council, with younger officials drafted to replace entrenched and corrupt military leaders.

    Myanmar's 12 regional commanders are all members of the elite 16-member council, but the body is dominated by its three top generals junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe, army chief Gen. Maung Aye and military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt. However, in their areas of control in the provinces, the regional commanders are very powerful. The Cabinet of ministers is appointed separately and is much less influential.

    Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been ruled by its military since 1962. It has faced international condemnation for alleged human rights abuses and refusing to honor the 1990 landslide election victory of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently under house detention in Yangon.

    It was not yet clear if the 10 regional commander positions had been filled, or whether the incumbents would retain their positions in the council. Only two of the current regional military commanders will remain in their posts.
    Burma rejects US criticism over religious freedom

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Nov 13, 2001
    Source: The Myanmar Times web site, Rangoon, in English 5 Nov 01

    Myanmar [Burma] has rejected criticism of the country's record on religious freedom in a report issued by the United States. "Myanmar has been singled out for reasons other than religion," said U Thaung Tun, the director-general of the Political Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    U Thaung Tun said Myanmar should be regarded as a model society when it came to religious tolerance and freedom. He was reacting to a report on religious freedom released by the US State Department on 26 October which listed Myanmar as a country of "particular concern" for the third consecutive year.

    The report also named China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Sudan as being countries of particular concern. There was also criticism of some countries regarded as US allies, including France, Germany, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    In its reaction to last year's report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that while Myanmar was 90 per cent Buddhist, members of the Christian, Islamic, Hindu and other faiths were free to practice their beliefs "without hindrance".The State Department report was issued under the 1998 US International Religious Freedom Act...