Daily News-November 27 - 2001- Tuesday

  • Porter shortage affects junta troops search for Mon splinter group
  • US soon to decide twins' fate
  • Temporary end to timber import ban being sought
  • Garment sector under pressure as US decisions aid other producer nations
  • Collaboration on human rights issues is deepening, Minister tells seminar
  • Symposium on Myanmar
  • UN hopes for Burma progress

  • Porter shortage affects junta troops search for Mon splinter group

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) on 25 November

    DVB has learned that 32 prisoners have died and another 127 have absconded from the 500 prisoner labourers recruited to work at the construction site of the new headquarters for Military Operations Management Command [MOMC] No 19 in Mon State's Ye Township.

    The 500 prisoners were recruited from Moulmein prison in October. They were not only used as labourers at the construction site but also as porters for the front-line military columns. It is believed that the many deaths and desertions of prisoner labourers and porters could seriously affect the MOMC-19's search for the NMSP [New Mon State Party] splinter group led by Nai Pan Nyunt.

    Thus, the MOMC-19 has requested the Mon State Prisons Department for an emergency supply of another 500 prisoner porters to be recruited immediately in order to continue with the military operation.

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    US soon to decide twins' fate

    The Bangkokpost
    Wassana Nanuam

    The United States will decide next month whether to accept the Karenni twins Johnny and Luther Htoo and their 12-member delegation who are currently refugees in Thailand.

    A military source yesterday said that the US had earlier agreed to accept the 15-year-old twins who led the Karen God's Army ethnic rebels their sister and parents, but the twins wanted nine fellow rebels who had surrendered to migrate with them to the US.The US embassy has yet to interview all the Karenni people and will decide their fate next month.

    ``The US will decide who should go. It will pick only the people who will not cause harm or be a burden. The twins want their loved ones and close friends to go too. Above all, it depends on the US,'' the source said.The source said the twins have been asked by some Karenni refugees and their parents to stay in Thailand while some God's Army rebels wanted to travel to the US with them.

    Maj-Gen Mana Prajakjit, commander of the Kanchanaburi-based Surasee task force, confirmed a report the US had yet to interview the people and make a final decision.``I think the twins want to go to the US rather than stay here. When the US finishes the process, they will be ready to travel with their parents and sister,'' he said.

    Maj-Gen Mana regularly visits the twins, who are staying at a Border Patrol Police unit in Suan Phung district, Ratchaburi.He said the twins have gained weight, but were still chain smokers. Some border police tried to teach them but they were not co-operative.The twins and their rebels surrendered to Thai authorities on Jan 16.

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    Temporary end to timber import ban being sought

    The Bangkokpost
    Supamart Kasem

    Importers of wooden furniture in Tak have asked the Third Army commander to temporarily lift a ban on imports.Fifteen importers from Mae Ramat, Tha Song Yang, Phop Phra and Mae Sot districts yesterday met Col Saksilp Klansanoh, commander of the 13th Infantry Regiment, and sought permission to import as they had no products to sell.

    Sujin Saelee, head of the group, said the Nov 7 ban was hurting their business. Orders worth hundreds of million baht had been stalled in Burma, and they had no money to pay their employees.

    The Third Army imposed the ban along the northern border after local authorities discovered 800 illegally felled trees and thousands of planks in a forest reserve in Mae Ramat district late last month.The ban is aimed at discouraging illegal loggers from felling trees in Thailand, processing them in Burma and then importing them as furniture.

    Mr Sujin, who used to run a sawmill in Burma, said the importers were running a legitimate business and the ban was not only unfair to them but was also hurting the state.He said when furniture imports from Burma started in 1996, the Customs Department generated revenue through import taxes, which last year totalled 160 million baht.He said prior to the permission, importers had to smuggle their goods into the country and pay kickbacks to officials.

    Boonthiem Chokevivat, customs chief in Mae Sot, said local authorities agreed yesterday to open the border pass on the Thai-Burmese friendship bridge to permit temporary furniture imports. The bridge links Ban Rim Moei village in Thailand with Myawaddy in Burma.However, the action still needs final approval from Third Army commander Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkasing.

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    Garment sector under pressure as US decisions aid other producer nations

    By Myo Lwin
    the Myanmar Times -Volume 5, No.90-November 19-25, 2001

    THE garment industry in Myanmar is coming under pressure because of decisions by the United States which benefit manufacturers in African nations and Vietnam. Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association chairman U Myint Soe said some manufacturers were diverting their business to African nations following US decisions to lift duty and quotas on imports from the continent.

    U Myint Soe said Washington had also given US$200 million to the US-Africa Trade Promotion Committee to help boost exports to the United States. He said the US had also cut tariffs on textiles imported from Vietnam by 37 per cent, to just three per cent. However, there had been no adjustment in charges imposed by the US on textiles from Myanmar, which ranged between about 40 per cent and 65 per cent.U Myint Soe said there had been little change in the domestic garment industry in recent weeks, but indicated that the outlook did not appear bright.

    He said the industry was neither expanding nor contracting at the moment. The deputy manager of the government’s No. 17 garment factory,Daw San San, and a spokesperson for the domestically-owned Myanmar Beautex Garment Factory, said their businesses were operating normally. According to a report released earlier this month by the International Labour Organisation, about 20-per cent of the country’s 400 garment factories had closed down and a further 40 per cent were producing at below capacity.

    The US Congress is considering whether to impose an import ban on textiles from Myanmar because of allegations that forced labour is used in the garment industry. If the ban was introduced it would affect tens of thousands of garment industry workers, most of whom are young women with families to support, as reported in Myanmar Times (‘US threat to 300,000 workers,’ page 1, Vol. 4, No. 71). U Myint Soe said last month that the response by foreign traders to the ILO report would have a major effect on the garment industry. Myanmar’s total apparel exports last year were valued at US$400 million.

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    Collaboration on human rights issues is deepening, Minister tells seminar

    By Nwe Nwe Aye
    The Myanmar Times-Volume 5, No.90-November 19-25, 2001

    MYANMAR has been moving towards greater collaboration on human rights with international institutions, says the Minister of Home Affairs,Colonel Tin Hlaing. Col Tin Hlaing, who is chairman of the Myanmar Human Rights Committee, was making an opening address at an international seminar on the rights of children in Myanmar at the Sedona hotel last week. He said the greater international collaboration was demonstrated by the frequent visits of the United Nations special envoy, Mr Razali Ismail, and the UN rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Mr Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

    "We also received the ILO high level team. All of these visitors were allowed to go anywhere in the country and meet anyone they wished to," said Col Tin Hlaing. He said that Myanmar ratified the convention on the Rights of the Child in July 1991. "Even before Myanmar ratified this convention, it had faced accusations from Western nations and the imposition of sanctions," the minister said. "However, we have always strived to protect the rights of child with whatever means and resources at our disposal." The seminar heard that 40,000 children died throughout the world each day because of malnutrition, diseases including AIDS, a lack of clean drinking water and the absence of adequate sanitation.

    The president of the International Institute for the Rights of the Child, Mr Bernard Comby, said the right to health of children remained unsatisfactory, particularly in developing countries. "We want to push all states so that they are committed to supporting and encouraging international cooperation in order to gradually achieve full accomplishment of the rights to health of the child," Mr Comby said.

    According to a UNICEF report, children in many developing countries also suffer because they are denied adequate education. About 130 million children, most of whom are girls, are unable to receive an education or attend schools with inadequate facilities. Mr Comby stressed the importance of free primary education for all children as well as secondary education which satisfied the academic or vocational interests of children. This would help to close the development gap between rich and poor countries. The four-day seminar was attended by the academics and personnel from the Social Welfare Department and representatives of national and international non-government organisations.

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    Symposium on Myanmar

    Yomiuri Shimbun

    A Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization, Mekong Watch, Japan, will host an international symposium on Myanmar in connection with its development, environment and human rights.

    The symposium will be held on Dec. 15 from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center near Sangubashi Station on the Odakyu line in Tokyo.

    Simultaneous interpretation is available in English and Japanese at the event. Japan's official development assistance to Myanmar will be discussed. Guest speakers include two representatives from Myanmar.

    Those who would like to participate are asked to register in advance. Admission is 1,000 yen. For more information or to make a reservation for the event, call the NGO at (03) 3832-5034 or send an e-mail to mekon-w@co.xdsl.ne.jp.

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    UN hopes for Burma progress

    By the BBC's Burma analyst Larry Jagan in Bangkok

    Renewed efforts are underway in Burma to facilitate talks between the military government and the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail arrived on Tuesday at the start of a week of meetings with both military, opposition and ethnic leaders. Nearly 200 political prisoners have been released from jai since contacts between Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling generals started more than a year ago.

    But there has been growing concern amongst diplomats in Rangoon that the talks between the two sides have stalled and the generals are now just trying to spin the process out.

    This is the Mr Razali's fourth visit to Burma this year and the hope is he can provide a further impetus to the dialogue process. Each time he has visited Rangoon he has managed to re-invigorate the dialogue process. Sources close to the envoy believe this trip should also help move the process forward.

    For the opposition, the main sticking point remains the release of political prisoners - international human rights organisations estimate there are more than 1,500 political prisoners still in jail.

    Aid carrot

    Mr Razali, according to UN sources, will try to encourage the military to speed up the release of these prisoners by offering the prospect of international aid.

    Last time Mr Razali was in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi indicated her willingness to allow limited humanitarian assistance, provided it did not directly benefit the army. As a result many countries, particularly Japan and the European Union, have signalled their willingness to support a new international aid programme which is carefully monitored.

    Mr Razali, according to UN sources, is keen to see aid resume and will be suggesting the way forward might be to set up a co-ordinator to oversee both non-government and international aid.

    However, few outside the UN are optimistic that Mr Razali will be able to bring the two sides closer to substantive talks which might lead to the formation of a transition government in the near future .

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