Daily News-November 16 - 2001- Friday

  • US Lawmakers Pass Resolution Honoring Aung San Suu Kyi
  • ILO: Permanent monitors needed to oversee ending of forced labor in Myanmar
  • ILO keeps up pressure on Myanmar on forced labour
  • ILO builds pressure over forced labour
  • Military Shakeup Hits Business Community
  • Burma moves against Indian separatists
  • Thailand urges Japan to help create jobs for returned Burmese workers
  • Dialog plans to expand Myanmap operations
  • Myanmar Exports More Marine Products in 1st 8 Months
  • Thai Trade Exhibition to Be Held in Myanmar
  • Myanmar authorities seize 6.85 million amphetamine pills
  • Burmese authorities raid opium refinery in Kokang
  • Myanmar cabinet reshuffled after sackings
  • White elephant worth its weight in good luck

  • US Lawmakers Pass Resolution Honoring Aung San Suu Kyi

    Deborah Tate
    VOA News

    Washington - The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a non-binding resolution, 420-0, congratulating Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the tenth anniversary of her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. The resolution calls on the Burmese government to restore human rights.

    Members of the House heeded the call of Republican Chris Smith of New Jersey to support the resolution, which he co-sponsored. "I urge unanimous vote in favor of this important resolution, which makes clear the continued strong support of Congress for freedom and democracy in Burma, and for the struggle of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and the National League for Democracy to assert the fundamental rights of the Burmese people," he said.

    The resolution which does not have the force of law calls on the Burmese government to recognize the results of the 1990 general elections, in which the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory.

    The resolution calls on Burma to release political prisoners, end heroin production and the practice of human trafficking.

    The measure also looks forward to the day when Aung San Suu Kyi can address a joint session of the U.S. Congress as the leader of a free and democratic Burma. The Senate has not acted on the measure.

    Another co-sponsor of the House resolution, Congressman Tom Lantos a Democrat from California, noted that Aung San Suu Kyi recently began talks with the Burmese government, and he expressed hope for their success.

    Toward that end, he has introduced legislation that would prohibit Burmese imports into the United States until President Bush certifies that Burma has made progress toward democracy and restoring human rights.

    "We must keep the pressure on that dictatorial regime until democracy prevails in Burma," he said.

    Aung San Suu Kyi was released from six years of house arrest in 1995, but the military government continues to restrict her activities and harass and imprison her supporters.
    ILO: Permanent monitors needed to oversee ending of forced labor in Myanmar

    GENEVA (AP) _ The International Labor Organization said Thursday it wants to send permanent monitors to Myanmar, because legislation passed there last year has failed to wipe out forced labor. The governing body of the U.N. labor agency agreed unanimously to start talks with Myanmar, aiming to have monitors in place by March.

    The body passed a resolution expressing "profound concern" and saying it "intends to remain vigilant" because not enough has been done to stop forced work since a law banning the practice was passed in October 2000. The resolution cited the "limited impact" of the law, and the "persistent impunity" for people who break it.

    ILO officials said Myanmar's delegate at the meeting could not say whether the country would accept full-time monitors, claiming he had no instructions from the government. Calls to Myanmar's U.N. mission in Geneva went unanswered Thursday afternoon.

    Myanmar, also known as Burma, has long been assailed by the United Nations and Western nations for its human rights record, including forcing its citizens to do unpaid manual labor on public works and to serve as army porters. In an unprecedented move in November last year, the ILO urged its 175 member governments to impose sanctions and review their dealings with Myanmar to ensure they are not abetting forced labor.

    The government claimed the new law meant forced labor had ended, but ILO officials said Myanmar's delegate had accepted the report even though it said the opposite.

    The ILO decision on monitors follows two days of discussions by the governing body of a 35-page report prepared by a high-level ILO team that visited Myanmar in September and October. Myanmar rarely allows such international delegations into the country. The four-member team toured Myanmar for three weeks, meeting with government officials and with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under virtual house arrest.

    In the report, the ILO team said many military commanders are ignoring the law, and feel safe from criminal prosecution because people fear reprisals.It alleged that people were killed for complaining about being pressed into service after the law was passed.

    Myanmar authorities were also criticized for failing to publicize the forced labor ban properly in the media, which is state-controlled, and for failing to translate the decree into minority languages.

    Myanmar's military seized power in 1988 after crushing a democracy uprising. It called national elections in 1990, but refused to honor the results that gave Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party an overwhelming victory.
    ILO keeps up pressure on Myanmar on forced labour

    GENEVA, Nov. 15 - The International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Thursday kept up pressure on Myanmar to stamp out forced labour by urging the military government to accept a permanent ILO presence in the country.

    The United Nations agency also called on Myanmar, which officially abolished forced labour in a decree last year, to set up a special ombudsman with powers to investigate allegations of continuing abuse.

    A high-level ILO mission, which recently returned from a three-week visit to the country, reported that while there had been some progress in eliminating it, forced labour was still widespread in areas under direct military control. Its report was formally approved by the ILO's governing body on Thursday.

    ''Profound concern was expressed...over the limited impact of government measures to end forced labour, and the governing body called for the setting up of a permanent ILO presence in the country to monitor continued efforts to eradicate the practice,'' the ILO said in a statement.

    The ILO, which has spearheaded an international campaign to get Myanmar to introduce effective labour reform, said that Director General Juan Somavia was asked to seek agreement with the military government on the two demands.

    If the military rejected the request for a permanent mission and the call for an ombudsman, then the governing body would see what further action it should take, the ILO said.

    Francis Maupin, a special adviser to the ILO, told a news conference that this further action could involve greater pressure on the body's 174 member states to limit relations with the Asian country, also known as Burma, which has been under military rule since 1962.In November 2000, the ILO urged its members to review relations with Myanmar -- as close as the Geneva-based body can get to calling for outright sanctions.

    But Maupin said many states had taken little action then, preferring to wait for the outcome of the recent four-member mission, chaired by Australian Sir Ninian Stephen, a former judge of the U.N. International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The mission by the so-called High Level Team was the United Nations' latest bid to wipe out Myanmar's use of people in slave-like working conditions.

    According to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, more than a million people in Myanmar are subjected to forced labour on construction sites for roads, railways, military installations and tourism.
    ILO builds pressure over forced labour

    By BBC Geneva correspondent Emma Jane Kirby

    The International Labour Office (ILO) has expressed "profound concern" over the limited impact of government measures to end forced labour in Burma. The organisation has called for a permanent ILO presence in the country to monitor continued efforts to eradicate the practice. The decision came after a debate on the report of a high level team in the country, but the ILO said it was satisfied that some progress had been made.

    The governing body of the ILO concluded that, in spite of legislation introduced a year ago, the practice of forced labour persisted in many parts of Burma, especially in areas where the military has a significant presence.

    Credibility gap

    While acknowledging that Burma had made some efforts to remedy the problem, the governing body endorsed the report's proposal to establish an ombudsman in the country, to whom complaints could be submitted and who would have a mandate to conduct impartial investigations into alleged cases of forced labour.

    Throughout the debate, the lack of credibility of Burma's legal system was raised and the governing body acknowledged that if the authorities were to allow a permanent ILO representation in Burma, more victims of forced labour would feel able to come forward and the practice could be monitored efficiently. Francis Maupain, a special adviser to the ILO said Burma had not ruled out such a proposal.

    Positive signs

    "The really good and terrific thing is that the report was considered as a fair basis by everybody including Myanmar [Burma], so that is something quite exceptional," he said. "So now, in a way, the ball is in the camp of the authorities and they have not closed the door. It can be reasonably hopeful that maybe they are going to follow up and at least to engage in a discussion." The ILO's governing body is due to review the situation in Burma again in March.
    Military Shakeup Hits Business Community

    By Ko Thet
    The Irrawaddy

    November 15, 2001- Just days after the Burmese government sacked two leading generals, one of the country's largest construction companies has filed bankruptcy, according to a business source located in Rangoon. The Ping Long Htake Htar Construction Company (PLHHCC) declared bankruptcy on Tuesday in Rangoon.

    PLHHCC gave no reason as to why it declared bankruptcy but analysts believe it is the company's direct link to recently fired Lt-Gen Win Myint, one of the company's largest shareholders. The company is also connected to other businesses with ties to Win Myint, according to the source.

    The sudden bankruptcy has shocked the entire Burmese business community due to the PLHHCC's dominating reputation in Burma. Business analysts could not identify any evidence of financial problems within the company.

    Sunny Thwin, Managing Director of PLHHCC, told the Myanmar Times Journal in August that the company had not been affected by the 1998 downturn in Burma's real estate market and had not halted any of its current operations. He went on to say that business has been strong despite the gradual rise in real estate prices.

    In 1997, shortly after General Tun Kyi and Kyaw Ba were sacked, the government confiscated their properties and took action against all businesses with ties to the generals.
    Burma moves against Indian separatists

    By the BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta

    More than 200 separatist rebels from India`s north-eastern state of Manipur have been arrested in counter-insurgency operations by the Burmese army. The Burmese army started operations in a wide stretch of territory bordering India's Manipur state last month. Last week, they overran three Manipuri separatist camps. Three more have fallen to Burmese troops so far this week.

    Leaders captured

    The Inspector-General of the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) Manipur, Mr P.K.Mishra, told journalists that the Burmese have now informed them of the progress of the operations.

    Mr Mishra said more than 200 guerrillas of three separatist groups in Manipur, including seven of their leaders, have so far been arrested. They includes the chairman of Manipur's largest separatist group, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), Rajkumar Meghen.

    The UNLF's General Secretary, Khaidem Hamedou, its women wing chief, Nganbi Devi, and the chairman of a smaller Manipuri separatist group, the Kangleipak Communist Party, Th.Sanachou, have also been arrested. Mr Mishra said more than 1,600 weapons, including Chinese-made assault rifles, mortars, machine guns and rocket launchers, have been recovered from these six rebel camps.

    Large quantities of gold and gems worth millions of rupees and several printing machines producing fake Indian and foreign currencies have also been recovered, he said.

    Military officials say never before have so many weapons been seized during one single operation from any rebel group anywhere in the country. Burma and India agreed this year to coordinate military operations against separatist armies operating on the nearly 1,500 kilometres of border they share.
    Thailand urges Japan to help create jobs for returned Burmese workers

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Nov 15, 2001
    Source: Kyodo News Service

    Bangkok, 15 November: Thailand wants Japan to help create jobs in Myanmar [Burma] for illegal Myanmar labourers in Thailand who will be repatriated, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Thursday [15 November].

    Surakiart was speaking in advance of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's visit to Japan on 18-21 November aimed at enhancing economic cooperation and bringing more investment to Thailand.

    He said Thaksin will address the issue with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, telling him Thailand wants Japan to play more roles in Southeast Asia and help Thailand with repatriated Myanmar labourers.

    "If there is more stability around our neighbour countries, honestly, it will be a strong market for Japan in the future," Surakiart added...
    Dialog plans to expand Myanmap operations

    BUSINESS TIMES(Malaysia)

    LOCAL oil, gas and petrochemical company Dialog Group Bhd plans to expand its existing operations in Myanmar after enjoying similar success in other South-East Asian countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

    Currently, the company's initial activities in Myanmar is in marketing of specialty chemicals and providing technical services to the country's gas exploration industry.

    "We plan to offer plant maintenance services later," group chairman and managing director Ngau Boon Keat told a press conference after the company's annual general meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

    The marketing and technical services are expected to contribute positively to the group's revenue and profit in the future, mitigating the lower revenue from another core business--engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) services. The EPCC services' performance is expected to slow down following the forecast fewer investments in greenfield projects by major oil, gas and petrochemical corporations.

    Dialog's key specialty chemical products include Conoco Specialty Products Inc, LiquidPower Flow Improver, ICI Synetix catalysts and Shell MDS Sarapar/Saraline drilling base oil. Ngau said Dialog is also eyeing for refinery plant maintenance jobs in Thailand to offset the dip in revenue from its EPCC services.

    Dialog registered a RM15.072 million pre-tax profit for the first quarter ended September 30 2001, an increase of 3.6 per cent from RM14.549 million registered for the corresponding period last year. Revenue increased by 5.6 per cent to RM78.402 million against RM74.234 last year, while earnings per share for the quarter rose 4.2 per cent to 12.5 sen from 12.0 sen previously.

    Meawhile, Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd (MARC) has reaffirmed corporate credit rating of Dialog. In a statement, MARC said the reaffirmation reflected, among others, the group's strong business position in the plant construction aspect of the oil, gas and petrochemical industries.
    Myanmar Exports More Marine Products in 1st 8 Months

    YANGON, Nov 15, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar exported 39,600 tons of fish and prawn in the first eight months of this year, 7.9 percent more than the same period of 2000, according to the latest figures released by the country's Central Statistical Organization.

    Of the exports, fish accounted for 30,600 tons or 77.27 percent, while prawn represented 9,000 tons or 22.73 percent. Although the export of fish during the eight-month period was up 15.47 percent from the corresponding period of 2000, that of the prawn was down by 11.76 percent. Export earnings from them totaled 77.53 million U.S. dollars.

    There is about 40,536 hectares of fish and prawn breeding ponds in Myanmar at present and more such ponds, especially the prawn breeding ones, are being extended in the country's seven states and divisions along its long stretch of coastline of 2,276 kilometers under a three-year plan, which began from June 2000. It targets to extend such area to 48,600 hectares.

    Myanmar is rich in fishery resources and the fishery sector has become one of the productive mainstay of its economy. Official statistics show that the country produces over 910,000 tons of fish and prawn annually, the export of which covers 49 countries and regions with nearly 60,000 tons, earning about 150 million dollars.

    Fishery sector is the third productive mainstay of Myanmar's economy after agriculture and forestry, contributing 7.3 percent to the country's gross domestic product and standing as the third largest foreign exchange earner.
    Thai Trade Exhibition to Be Held in Myanmar

    YANGON, Nov 15, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- A Thai trade exhibition will be held here from November 29 to December 2, aimed at promoting Thai products in Myanmar and enhancing the trade and investment between the two countries.

    The Thailand Exhibition 2001, organized by the Department of Export Promotion of the Thai Commerce Ministry (DEPTCM) in cooperation with its Myanmar counterpart,will be the fourth of its kind held in Myanmar, Thai Ambassador to Myanmar Oum Maolanon said at a press conference Thursday.

    The exhibition will feature export products from 127 prominent Thai manufacturing and exporting companies covering auto parts and accessories, vehicles, chemical products, construction material and hardware, cosmetic, electrical products, food, garment and textile products and machinery.

    From next year, the DEPTCM is planning to hold the Thailand Trade Exhibition twice a year in Myanmar, he disclosed.The first, second and third trade exhibitions were respectively held here in December 1998, 1999 and 2000.

    According to official statistics, Myanmar-Thailand bilateral trade, including the border trade, in the first eight months of this year amounted to 648.89 million U.S. dollars, accounting for 17.69 percent of Myanmar's total foreign trade in the same period, with Thailand standing as Myanmar's largest trading partner.
    Myanmar authorities seize 6.85 million amphetamine pills

    BANGKOK, Nov 15 (AFP) - Myanmar authorities seized 6.85 million amphetamine pills in a raid in the southeastern Karen state and arrested five suspects, state media reported Thursday.

    The drugs were seized on October 13 at a road check point near the town of Pa-An in an operation by narcotics police and military intelligence agents, Radio Yangon said in a dispatch monitored in Bangkok. The pills were hidden inside the body and gas-tank of a pick-up truck. Two people who had been in the vehicle were arrested, the report said.

    Three other suspects were arrested on October 15 in a hotel in Mandalay, the military-run country's second-largest city, it said. All the suspects were charged under a drug law that carries the death penalty for convicted drug smugglers.

    Myanmar narcotics officials also seized more than two million amphetamine pills on October 27 in Tachilek, a border town near Thailand, an official report this month said. Eight suspects were arrested. Myanmar is one of the world's largest sources of drugs, which come from the opium-rich Golden Triangle region where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet.
    Burmese authorities raid opium refinery in Kokang, Shan States

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma on 13 November

    A combined team consisting members of the SPDC authority raided an opium refinery in Laukkai, a town in Kokang Special Region-1, Northern Shan States on 6 November. The refinery was in the centre of Laukkai, near SPDC field teams which were working on development tasks in the region.

    The raid was launched under the order of SPDC Secretary-1 Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt. The Chinese authorities had pressures for this during the October session of China-Burma joint narcotic drugs eradication programme. The Chinese representative gave the exact location of the refinery to the Burmese representative and stated that the drugs produced at the refinery were smuggled into China.

    Four Chinese-Kokang nationals, processed heroin, stimulant tablets, chemicals used in processing drugs, and machinery were seized during the raid. The refinery was owned by the Kokang cease-fire group and was run openly in the centre of the town with the permission of the security officer of the regional control command, Brig-Gen Zaw Win.

    The two deputy chairmen of the Kokang cease-fire group U Pai Sup Sin and U Lu Jon Sin denied they were owners of the refinery and said the real owner was U Kyo Sun Tint who lived outside Laukkai.

    The refinery raid was taped on video by the departmental head of Drug Abuse Control Board of Kunming, Yunnan Province. The SPDC news department reported on the raid on Friday but not in detail.

    Laukkai is one of the towns under the control of Wa military unit. The AP news agency reported on Friday [9 November] that the Thai Drug Abuse Control Board delegation toured the Wa region, especially the Mong Yawn region which was well known for drug production. The delegation met Wa national leader Pauk Yu Ri and discussed the eradication of narcotics and development and prosperity programme for Wa nationals. The delegation also inspected cultivation and domestic breeding farms of the Wa people in Mong Yawn region. The Thai delegation arrived in Rangoon on Monday and discussions drug eradication and implementation of development tasks at Mong Yawn in Wa region with the SPDC. AP news revealed Thai Drug Abuse Control Board consisted of seven representatives headed by Kitti Limchaikit.
    Myanmar cabinet reshuffled after sackings

    Myanmar's military government has reshuffled the cabinet following the recent sacking of high-ranking officials, state media reported.

    Tin Win, a former minister at the prime minister's office, will take on two portfolios -- culture and labour.A former ambassador to the United States, Tin Win speaks English and has a strong understanding of the west.

    Another minister, also from the prime minister's office, Lieutenant-General Tin Ngwe, will become minister of cooperatives.

    Other changes announced in the state press by the junta's head of military intelligence, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, called for Major General Sein Htwa, minister of social welfare relief and resettlement, to add the immigration and population portfolio to his duties.

    Former minister of labour Major General Tin Ngwe, who has the same name as the new minister of cooperatives, has also been assigned to the prime minister's office, the reports said.

    The redistribution of portfolios fills posts vacated after the sackings last week that saw two generals among seven high-ranking officials relieved of duty.The third secretary of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, Lieutenant-General Win Myint, and Military Affairs Minister Lieutenant-General Tin Hla were fired and are being investigated for bribery and corruption.

    State-run media Sunday announced the "retirement" of five more ministers, including deputy premiers Vice-Admiral Maung Maung Khin and Lieutenant-General Tin Tun, who were in their late sixties.The officials were fired in a sweeping move believed to be aimed at rooting out endemic corruption and injecting fresh blood into the ageing leadership.

    The elderly pair had been widely expected to be pensioned off, but the other casualties -- Culture Minister Win Sein, Cooperatives Minister Aung San and Immigration and Manpower Minister Saw Tun -- made surprise departures.With Friday's reshuffle, the Myanmar cabinet is nearly complete except for the military affairs post formerly held by Lieutenant-General Tin Hla and three vice prime minister posts.
    White elephant worth its weight in good luck


    A white elephant captured in a jungle area of Myanmar, former known as Burma, has been welcomed in Yangon with ceremonies and festivities.Discovery of a white elephant is traditionally regarded as a good omen in the predominantly Buddhist country, so much so kings in ancient times even waged wars to acquire one.

    Senior junta figure Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the top-ranking secretary of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, sprayed holy water on the "the royal glorious white elephant."

    The albino male, 8-years-old, was among eight elephants captured by the Forest Department in Rathe-taung township of Rakhine State.It is currently being housed in a temporary shed, together with another young elephant, in a northern suburb of the capital.