Daily News-October 04 - 2001- Thursday

  • Is Ne Win Dead?
  • Political Prisoner Released
  • Homeowners Arrested in Moulmein
  • Chin welcomes the Dialogue but doubts on no result yet
  • Foreign Investment in Myanmar Down 40 Percent in Six Months
  • Myanmar's Coal Production Down in First Half of 2001
  • Myanmar's Sapphire Production Drops in First Half of 2001
  • Myanmar Crude Oil Output Decreases in First Half of 2001
  • Surakiart, Khin Nyunt meet again
  • Rangoon agrees to set up camps for rejected workers
  • Burma confiscates WTC videos

  • Is Ne Win Dead?

    By Irrawaddy Staff Writers

    October 3, 2001--Is Ne Win really dead? No, not yet. Maybe. But as often happens, the aging strongman's demise is frequently rumored to be imminent.

    According to a source inside Ne Win's family the former dictator has been admitted to Singapore General Hospital but is still alive. Since yesterday, however, news of Ne Win's "death" has been spreading throughout the Burmese dissident community living in exile.

    Burmese Embassy officials in Singapore also dismissed the news of Ne Win's death, and told The Irrawaddy, "it is only rumor." Embassies in Rangoon were not even aware that a rumor was circulating regarding the former dictator's death.Some Burmese political analysts and former close aides of Ne Win strongly believe that Ne Win is still influential in Burmese politics and hope that his eventual death will have strong political implications.

    In May of this year, Ne Win surprised everyone by appearing at the Sedona Hotel in Rangoon to celebrate his 90th birthday. His favorite daughter, Sandar Win, and some old military friends accompanied Ne Win to the ceremony. Those in attendance included Sein Lwin, known as the "Butcher of Rangoon" for his role in the 1988 massacres, Aye Ko and Myo Nyunt. No current military leaders attended the ceremony.

    Ironically, his re-appearance in May coincided with yet another rumor that the dictator had finally died. "Ne Win has died so many times but only in the news," quipped a journalist in Rangoon. The journalist also said that news about the death of Ne Win if invented or spread by the opposition in exile would be counterproductive and could lose its credibility."I first wrote Ne Win's obituary in 1984," said Bertil Linter an authority on Burmese politics.

    Ne Win, originally named Shu Maung, was born in 1911 and was one of the famous "30 Comrades" who liberated Burma from British control during WWII with the aid of the Japanese. Ne Win officially came to power in a 1962 coup and formally stepped down in July of 1988 amid nation-wide protests calling for an end to his 26-years of military rule. A period that drove Burma into extreme conditions of poverty.

    While visiting Singapore in the past, Ne Win often met senior minister Lee Kwan Yew who later wrote in his book: "He (Ne Win) talked about his peace and serenity of mind through his practice of meditation. For two years after he withdrew from the government in 1988, he had been in torment, fretting and worrying about what was going on in the country. Then in 1990 he began to get interested in and practice meditation. He was spending many hours each day in silent meditation. He certainly looked much better than the sickly person I had met in Rangoon in 1986."Perhaps all that meditation is what is keeping the "old man" alive.
    Political Prisoner Released

    YANGON, October 3 (Xinhua)--One more political prisoner, who is serving his prison terms, was released from jail by the Myanmar government Tuesday, according to an official Information Sheet reaching here Wednesday.

    The official statement said the one set freed is a member of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). The release of U Hla Soe has brought the total number of political prisoners freed in the country to 66 since June 15.

    The move came after U.N. Special Envoy Razali Ismail ended his fifth visit to Myanmar in late August in his renewed efforts to bring about speedy compromise between the government and the opposition to settle the country's decade-long domestic political crisis.

    Meanwhile, secret talks between government leaders and NLD General Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi, who is still under house arrest, have been underway since October last year.
    Homeowners Arrested in Moulmein

    By Maung Maung Oo
    The Irrawaddy

    October 3, 2001--Seventy-one homeowners were arrested last week in the Mon State capital of Moulmein for refusing to donate 5,000 kyat to the township’s electricity-distribution program, according to a source in Moulmein.

    The chairman of the district-level Peace and Development Council issued the arrest warrant for the seventy-one people on September 25th and charged them under 5(j) of the Emergency Provision Act, a charged usually enacted against democracy supporters. According to the source, those arrested have been given two options, either pay a 10,000 kyat fine or face a three-year prison sentence.

    In June of this year township-level authorities asked homeowners living in the Zay Cho and Thiri Myaing neighborhoods of Moulmein to contribute 5,000 kyat each to help set up an electricity-distribution program. At that time every homeowner cooperated and made the necessary contribution. The money was to be used to purchase ten generators to help produce electricity during blackouts.

    But when township authorities returned on September 20th and again asked the residents to donate 5,000 kyat in order to install lampposts, the residents declined. According to the source the residents told the authorities that they were not interested in participating in the township’s electricity-distribution program.

    In Burma due to serious electricity shortages many cities and towns are trying to set up township run electricity-distribution programs and these programs depend on community contributions. Township authorities often require citizens to contribute to community and district level infrastructure projects.
    Chin welcomes the Dialogue but doubts on no result yet

    Chiang Mai, October 3, 2001
    Network Media Group

    Chin National Front (CNF) hold fourth Central Committee Meeting from September 3 to 25 and made an announcement on September 26 stating that CNF welcomes the dialogue process but has doubts on sincerity of the Burmese military regime as there has been no official result worked out yet.

    CNF also welcomes the acceptance of military regime to high-level delegation of the International Labor Organization (ILO) but also stated there are still forced labor in the remote border regions, the statement mentioned.

    The fourth Central Committee Meeting of CNF was held at the general headquarters of CNF on Burma's western border from September 3 to 25. During three weeks long meeting, two replacements in Central Committee was made. The statement of the central committee of CNF asked military regime to release all the political prisoners in Burma including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from virtual house arrest.

    Chin National Front is the ethnic Chin armed group fighting for ethnic equality and democracy in Chin Land of Burma on Burma's western frontier since 1988. CNF vowed to continue its struggle together with other resistance groups, mentioned in the statement.
    Foreign Investment in Myanmar Down 40 Percent in Six Months

    YANGON, October 2 (Xinhua)--Foreign investment in Myanmar totaled 44.49 million U.S. dollars in nine projects in the first half of this year, reducing by 40 percent from the same period of 2000, according to the latest figures issued by the country's Central Statistical Organization.

    Of the investment, which came from seven countries and regions during the period, Thailand took the lead with 25.75 million dollars, followed by China's Hong Kong (7.5 million ), South Korea (4.21 million), Singapore (3.53 million), Malaysia and Indonesia ( 1.5 million each) and Canada (0.5 million).

    Of the sectors injected by these foreign investment, construction stood the highest with 20.5 million dollars, followed by manufacturing (18.24 million), hotels and tourism (5.25 million) and mining (0.5 million).

    Meanwhile, investment drawn specifically from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) amounted to 32.28 million dollars in five projects during the first six-month period, taking up 72.55 percent of Myanmar's total foreign investment. In 2000, there came a total of 152.8 million dollars' foreign investment in Myanmar from nine countries and regions, mainly from South Korea, Britain, China and Canada.

    These investment during the year were mostly injected into the sectors of manufacturing, oil and gas, and agriculture.

    According to official statistics, since opening to foreign investment in late 1988, Myanmar had drawn a total of such contracted investment of 7,385.253 million dollars in 365 projects as of the end of June 2001. Of the leading foreign investors, Singapore ranked the first with 1,507.53 million dollars, followed by Britain with 1,401 million and Thailand with 1,289.75 million.
    Myanmar's Coal Production Down in First Half of 2001

    YANGON, October 2 (Xinhua)--Myanmar produced 24,420 tons of coal in the first half of this year, down 13.4 percent from the same period of 2000, according to the latest data published by the country's Central Statistical Organization. In 2000, Myanmar produced 52,811 tons of coal.

    Coal, a non-metallic mineral, is among minerals being explored and mined by foreign companies investing in Myanmar. Beginning 1998, Indonesian and Chinese companies have respectively agreed with the Myanmar mining authorities to undertake prospecting, exploration and feasibility study for the development of coal resources in the country's southern Tanintharyi division and northern Kachin state.

    Meanwhile, by using coal for the first time mined in iws northeastern Shan state, Myanmar is planning to build its first coal-burning electric power station.

    Since Myanmar enacted its New Mining Law in 1994, a dozen foreign firms from Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States have been engaged in mining activities in the country covering gold, copper, lead, zinc and tin, and the contracted foreign investment in the sector amounted to 522.5 million U.S. dollars as of the end of June this year, according to official statistics.

    The Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources and the Myanmar Ministry of Mines reached a memorandum of understanding in July this year on cooperation in promotion of investment on exploration, mining and utilization of mineral resources.
    Myanmar's Sapphire Production Drops in First Half of 2001

    YANGON, Oct 3, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The production of Myanmar's sapphire reached 2.643 million carats in the first half of this year, down by 5.2 percent from the same period of 2000, according to the latest figures published by the country's Central Statistical Organization.

    However, ruby production went to 1.184 million carats during the period, up 13.19 percent from the same period of 2000.In addition, the country produced 69.645 tons of jade during the six-month period.

    Since its sapphire, ruby and jade are well known in the world, Myanmar put them on sale along with pearl and jewelry at its annual and mid-year gems emporiums through competitive bidding, earning huge foreign exchange every year.The state-sponsored emporiums allowed private gems merchants to participate in and sell their gems products in recent years.

    According to official statistics, the country has earned a total of over 330 million U.S. dollars from the last 38 annual and nine mid-year gems emporiums which attracted annually hundreds of gems traders from over a dozen countries and regions, mostly from China's Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan and Singapore.

    The annual events, which are usually held in March, started in 1964, while the mid-year ones, which used to take place in October, were introduced in addition since 1992 to boost the country's gems sale.

    Myanmar enacted the New Gemstone Law in September 1995, allowing national entrepreneurs to mine, produce, transport and sell finished gemstones and manufactured jewelry at home and abroad.Since April 2000, the government has reportedly started mining of gems and jade in joint venture with 10 private companies under profit sharing basis.
    Myanmar Crude Oil Output Decreases in First Half of 2001

    YANGON, Oct 3, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar produced a total of 1.639 million barrels of crude oil in the first half of this year, 10.38 percent less than the same period of 2000, according to the latest data issued by the country's Central Statistical Organization.

    During the six-month period, the country yielded 684 million cubic-meters of natural gas, also falling by 10.8 percent from the corresponding period of 2000. In 2000, the country produced 3.538 million barrels of crude oil and 1.538 billion cubic-meters of natural gas.

    Since Myanmar opened to foreign investment in late 1988, such investment in the oil and gas sector coming from oil companies of Australia, Britain, France, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and the United States has reached 2.355 billion dollars in 51 projects, taking up 31.8 percent of the country's total contracted foreign investment by sector.

    So far, Myanmar's petroleum and its products are insufficient to meet the demand and the country still has to import over 2 million barrels of crude oil along with a lot of petrol and diesel oil annually.
    Surakiart, Khin Nyunt meet again

    The Bangkokpost
    Sa-nguan Khumrungroj

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai holds talks with Burmese junta first secretary Khin Nyunt on Sunday on a new bridge linking the countries.

    Ministry spokesman Rathakit Manathat said the pair would meet in the Burmese border town of Tachilek to talk about preliminary plans for construction, and inspect the site.The bridge would link Tachilek and Mae Sai trade town in Chiang Rai, easing traffic problems on the present bridge which is old and narrow.Mr Rathakit said the bridge would also foster ties and promote business and trade relations. It would take two years to build.

    Sunday's meeting will be the second between the pair in the past two months. Mr Surakiart joined Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for talks with Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt in September in Bangkok. It comes on the eve of a ministerial meeting of Asean countries and China in Chiang Rai, to look at development efforts in the Mekong sub-region.

    Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt will not join the regional gathering but will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win.
    Rangoon agrees to set up camps for rejected workers

    The Bangkokpost
    Penchan Charoensutthipan

    Burma will set up four camps to accommodate returning villagers if their work permits are not renewed after six-months of employment in Thailand.Irawat Chanprasert, permanent secretary for labour, said Rangoon had agreed to prepare shelters for deported immigrant Burmese workers.

    Thailand is registering immigrant workers, mostly from Burma, Laos and Cambodia.They will be given work permits lasting six months and then be required to have a health check-up. If there are no problems their permits will be renewed. If not, they will be deported. Mr Irawat said Burmese being deported will first be sent to camps at Mae Sai, Mae Sot, Ranong and Kanchanaburi.

    Pusak Thammasarn, deputy chief of the Employment Department, said the number of registered immigrants reached 150,000 on Oct 1 and almost 300 million baht in registration fees had been collected.About 120,000 were Burmese and the rest Lao and Cambodian.

    Sources said about 20,000 had worked as maids in Bangkok. Their employers included businessmen, senior government officials and cabinet ministers.Many fake banknotes were handed over during the registration process, Saksakol Jindasawat, director of the immigrant worker registration centre, said.
    Burma confiscates WTC videos

    BBC World Service

    Reports from Burma say that the authorities have confiscated pirated videos of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

    The country's state-run media have run a commentary accusing what they called unscrupulous businessmen of exploiting the tragedy by copying the scenes illegally from satellite television and selling them on at exorbitant prices.

    Correspondents say that public interest in the attacks is unlikely to have been quenched by the state media's cursory coverage of events; footage of the attacks has not been shown since the day they took place and the official press has made only passing mention of the strikes.

    The military government delayed for several days releasing a letter of condolence from military leader General Than Shwe to US President George Bush.