Daily News-November 20 - 2001- Tuesday

  • SPDC holding secret talks with armed groups
  • Four More Political Prisoners Released
  • An indigenous group forced to flee from its own land
  • Thailand funds crop substitution in Myanmar drug areas
  • India sanctions 50m rupees to build trade centre at Burmese border
  • Myanmar-Teknaf border trade suspended due to extortion
  • Myanmar rejects ILO call for permanent presence
  • UN to resettle 200 Myanmar exiles by year-end
  • New project to repatriate Burmese girls from Thailand

  • SPDC holding secret talks with armed groups

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) on 18 November

    DVB has learned that prisoners from various prisons have been sent to a logistics battalion in Pa-an to be deployed in Karen State open season offensive. On 13 November, 125 prisoners from Akyab jail together with 350 prisoners from Insein, Henzada, and Prome jails were sent to No.1 Logistics Battalion in Pa-an, Karen State.

    Prisoners instead of ordinary civilians are being used since the International Labour Organization, ILO, issued a report condemning the practice of forced labour in Burma. The prisoner porters were sent en masse for the offensive at a time when there is speculation about the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] holding secret talks with the KNU - Karen National Union, KNPP - Karenni National Progressive Party, and SSA - Southern Shan State Army.

    In another news report, the Police Director-General's Office has issued an emergency directive to township police stations. The directive states that all burglars, robbers, thieves, fraudsters, gamblers, human traffickers, etc. detained at the police stations should be charged, sent to court, and sentenced immediately. Then they should be sent to the logistics battalion and attached to the forward areas as logistics support personnel [porters].

    DVB has learned that local police stations are preparing to send all criminal cases to court for immediate sentencing and then to send the prisoners to the forward areas.

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    Four More Political Prisoners Released

    YANGON, November 19 (Xinhua)--Four more political prisoners, who are all members of the opposition National League for Democracy(NLD), were freed by the Myanmar government on Monday afternoon, said an official statement.

    The document said the four NLD members were "released from the correctional facility in Mandalay," identifying their names as U San Lwin Lay, U Tin Aung, U Maung Kyaw and U Po Aye.

    The release has brought the total number of the NLD's political prisoners freed in the country to 190 since January of this year, it added.

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    An indigenous group forced to flee from its own land

    By Richard Alleyne
    The Daily Telegraph

    THE Karenni people are the oldest of seven ethnic groups indigenous to Burma.After independence from the British Empire in 1948, the group refused to recognise the new government of the country and have been persecuted by the military junta ever since.

    Some have been internally displaced throughout Burma while others, about 100,000, have fled to northern Thailand where they live in refugee camps stretching along the border.

    A mixture of Buddhists and Christians, the Karenni have been allowed to set up the communities in the Maehong Son district, although soldiers stop them from venturing further into Thailand.They are an industrious but poor people. The economy is primarily agricultural, with rice being the main crop. Fishing and forestry are also important.They have their own national party and have been fighting for an independent state ever since the end of British rule.

    In 1993 they became a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation but it has done nothing to stop the repression.During the wave of forced relocations from 1996, it is estimated that 20,000 to 30,000 Karenni lost everything - homes, land and belongings. Most of them were sent to relocation camps in the state, while others fled to Thailand.

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    Thailand funds crop substitution in Myanmar drug areas

    BANGKOK, Nov 19 (AFP) - Thailand has set aside almost half a million dollars to fund crop substitution programs in drug-infested areas along the border with Myanmar, a Thai minister said Monday.Prime minister's office minister General Thamarak Issarangkun Na Ayutthaya said a tripartite meeting between Thailand, Myanmar and ethnic Wa leaders, who control a semi-autonomous region in Myanmar, would discuss the plan.

    Thailand hopes to encourage members of the Wa ethnic group who live along the mountainous border to change from growing opium to other economically viable crops, he said."Thailand has given initial funding of 20 million baht (450,000 dollars) for a crop substition program in the Wa-controlled area," Thamarak told reporters, adding that the project would begin in the border town of Mong Tum.

    He added that Thailand will also send experts to assist the Wa in the border area to support local farmers who have switched to traditional crops as a means of pressuring others still involved in the narcotics trade.

    The crop substitution plan would also be aimed at drug traffickers operating in the region."The program could curb major drug dealers and make drug trafficking more difficult," Thamarak added.

    Myanmar is one of the world's main producers of illicit drugs, which come from the opium-rich Golden Triangle region where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet.Cheap methamphetamine pills, known in Thailand as ya baa, or crazy medicine, have replaced opiates as the drug of choice in recent years.

    An estimated 800 million tablets were trafficked in Thailand last year, up from 100 million in 1998, mostly from jungle laboratories on the Myanmar side of the border, according to the United Nations.

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    India sanctions 50m rupees to build trade centre at Burmese border

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Nov 18, 2001
    Text of report by Indian news agency PTI

    Aizawl, 18 November: To facilitate border trade with Myanmar [Burma] along the Zokhawthar side of Mizoram, the federal government has sanctioned 50m rupees for building trade infrastructure in the area.Official sources said the amount, sanctioned by Federal Ministry of Commerce, would be spent for constructing a trade centre at Zokhawthar hamlet on the bank of the Mizoram-Myanmar border river of Tiau.A bailey bridge over the river has already been built by the state PWD [Public Works Department].

    Meanwhile, Border Roads Organization (BRO) has begun construction of a customs office and other facilities on the Indian side of the Myanmarese business hub of Khawmawi to facilitate border trade, the sources said.

    People from Myanmar side bought sugar, medicine and other manufactured goods like bicycles from Phulmawi hamlet and Champhai town while Indians come to Khawmawi to buy canned food and rice, traders said.Both Indian rupee and Myanmarese kyat are accepted in Khawmawi, the traders said.

    However, State Bank of India officials here said the discrepancies in the official and acutal exchange rates of rupee and kyat could pose serious problems in the balance of trade when the Indo-Myanmar border trade at this sector was implemented.

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    Myanmar-Teknaf border trade suspended due to extortion

    The Daily Star
    BSS, Cox's Bazar

    Businessmen and Clearing and Forwarding (C&F) agents have suspended border trade at Myanmar-Teknaf border point for indefinite period yesterday in protest against alleged toll extortion and harassment in Cox's Bazar-Teknaf road

    It was decided at a meeting of businessmen and C&F agents at Teknaf on Saturday. Leaders of border trade association and Teknaf C&F agents said that the border trade would not resume until stoppage of extortion.

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    Myanmar rejects ILO call for permanent presence

    YANGON, Nov. 20 - Myanmar said it will not allow the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to set up a permanent office in the military-ruled country, but will cooperate with the body which accuses Yangon of failing to stop forced labour.

    The announcement late on Monday followed a high-level ILO mission to the country and the publication of a report which said an official decree to abolish forced labour last year had failed to stamp it out.

    ''It was found that some of the ILO governing body's conclusions include some points that are difficult for Myanmar to accept as well as some constructive and positive ones,'' a Myanmar foreign ministry statement said.

    ''Myanmar is not in a position to allow the opening of a permanent resident's office of the ILO at the moment...Myanmar will continue to cooperate with the ILO where possible,'' it said. Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win said in a briefing to heads of foreign missions in Yangon that the government had found all the forced labour complaints by the ILO to be groundless.

    ''Following the transmission by the high level team of some complaints regarding forced labour, the authorities concerned launched thorough investigations,'' he said. ''These investigations showed the allegations were baseless and false.''

    The ILO in Geneva last week urged Myanmar to accept a permanent presence for the United Nations agency and it also called on Myanmar to set up a special ombudsman's office to investigate allegations of continuing abuse. A high-level ILO mission, which visited Myanmar around two months ago, reported that while there had been some progress in eliminating forced labour, the practice was still widespread in areas under direct military control.

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    UN to resettle 200 Myanmar exiles by year-end

    BANGKOK, Nov. 20 - The United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday it hoped to resettle the last batch of 200 exiled Myanmar students living in a Thai border camp by year-end. Indrika Ratwatte, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) liaison officer for Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, told Reuters the camp was scheduled for closure in December.

    ''We have 200 people and think we can send them all to third countries by the end of this year,'' said Ratwatte. ''These people have been accepted by third countries and are waiting to be processed before they can actually leave Thailand.''

    The Maneeloy camp, around 150 km (95 miles) west of Bangkok, was set up in 1992 to host pro-democracy student activists who fled Myanmar after crackdowns by the military in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It once held as many as 3,000 refugees.

    The Myanmar military held elections in 1990, which were won by the National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi. But the military ignored the result and many opposition supporters fled the country.

    The UNHCR has relocated some 1,500 refugees to third countries since the camp was set up, Ratwatte said. Most were resettled in the United States, Australia and Europe.

    NSC secretary-general Kachadpai Burusapatana on Tuesday confirmed the the camp would be closed in December as announced earlier this year. ''We certainly will close the Maneeloy camp in December and we will take drastic measures to deal with illegal immigrants,'' Kachadpai told Reuters.

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    New project to repatriate Burmese girls from Thailand

    The military junta in Burma will, for the first time, co-operate with the repatriation of young women sold into prostitution in Thailand.A Thai official says Burmese girls will be rehabilitated and then sent home through official channels under a new aid project.

    Last month, 35 girls were returned home in a transfer organized through the project by the international aid group, World Vision, to prevent trafficking in women and children.

    Previously, girls sent back to the border and left to fend for themselves would often return to Thailand. Now they can be received by the Burmese Department of Social Welfare.

    The new project will help girls rescued from Thai brothels and bars by sending them to a shelter in Bangkok where they can get schooling and vocational training for a few months before they are ready to go back to Burma.