Daily News-October 05 - 2001- Friday

  • Strongman Ne Win is in a coma
  • Six Nobel laureates move against Unocal
  • Pottery Barn Bins Burmese Goods
  • Wa torn by factional struggle, says Lahu source
  • Corruption threatens forests: FAO
  • Penang port commission chief to lead mission to Myanmar
  • Myanmar Generates Slightly More Electricity in First Half of 2001
  • Singapore clamps tight security around ailing Ne Win
  • Ne Win in coma at Singapore hospital

  • Strongman Ne Win is in a coma

    BANGKOK, Oct 4 (AFP) - Myanmar's reclusive former dictator Ne Win, 90, is in serious condition at a Singapore hospital, sources close to the family said Thursday.

    "Ne Win's health condition is very, very serious," one source said, adding that some 30 of Ne Win's family members had gathered at Singapore General Hospital to offer support.

    A Thai military intelligence source said the former autocrat, who seized power in Myanmar in 1962 and stepped down in 1988, had slipped into a coma and was unlikely to recover.

    "As far as we know he has not died yet, and he is in a coma," the source said. "He's not likely to live long."
    Six Nobel laureates move against Unocal

    Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) ( October 04, 2001 )

    Washington (dpa) - Six Nobel Peace Prize laureates have spoken out against a California-based energy company for doing business in military-ruled Myanmar (Burma) and urged a university to drop its shares in the company, a U.S. human rights group said Wednesday.

    Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was among the signatories to a letter urging the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to drop its assets in Unocal, which has helped build a gas pipeline from Myanmar to neighbouring Thailand.

    The Yadana natural gas project has stirred controversy because of reports of human rights abuses by Burmese troops guarding the pipeline, which runs through rebel territory, and because revenues from it help support a regime considered a pariah in the West.

    "While Unocal turns its back on the conditions surrounding its pipeline, its partners, the illegal military junta, are torturing, killing, raping, and enslaving thousands of people," read the letter, released by the Free Burma Coalition.

    Other signatories were Nobel laureates Betty Williams (Ireland, 1976), Oscar Arias (Costa Rica, 1986), Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala, 1992), Jose Ramos Horta (East Timor, 1996) and Jody Williams (United States, 1997).

    In their open letter, which supported a student resolution on the issue, they pointed out that a fellow Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, remains under house arrest in Myanmar, where a military regime has held on to power despite losing an election to her party.

    "We, Aung San Suu Kyi's fellow Peace laureates, remain steadfast in our support of her courageous struggle to restore democracy and human rights to Burma," the group wrote."Just as the divestment campaign against South Africa helped bring down apartheid, so too will your action help free Aung San Suu Kyi and restore democracy and the rule of law in Burma."

    University spokeswoman Carol Wood said the governing board would consider the proposal at a meeting later this month. The institution owns Unocal shares worth about 1.5 million dollars, she said.

    Unocal said on its website it could not rule out that human rights abuses occur in Myanmar, "a country under authoritarian rule", but that it is "confident that no such abuses have taken place at our work sites or in activities directly related to the Yadana project". "We have met with the government numerous times to express our concerns about such abuses," the statement said. "We continue to believe that the presence of Unocal and other companies with high standards of business practices can have a positive impact on Myanmar's political and economic climate."
    Pottery Barn Bins Burmese Goods

    FEER, Issue cover-dated October 11, 2001

    Pottery Barn, an upmarket American home furnishings chain, has cut its business links to Burma because of the repressive political situation in the military-ruled Southeast Asian nation.

    The decision followed threats by the Free Burma Coalition to mount protests at the San Francisco-based chain's outlets in six U.S. cities on September 15. Pottery Barn, in two letters to the activists, said it had withdrawn Burmese-made products from its store shelves, catalogue and on-line stores.

    Pottery Barn joins 19 other international retailers--including Wal-Mart,Costco, Ikea and Sarah Lee--that have suspended business dealings with Burma over the past 14 months, according to estimates by the Free Burma Coalition.Last year, Pottery Barn imported items worth $322,000 from Burma.
    Wa torn by factional struggle, says Lahu source

    Shan Herald Agency for News -4 October 2001 -No: 10 - 01:

    The Wa are splitting into two main factions, according to a Lahu news and source confirmed by several border watchers.

    The Chiangmai-based Lahu National Development Organization reported on 16 September and again yesterday that at least the southern Wa forces had divided into two separate commands since last year when feuds between the two Weis, Hsiaokang and Hsaitang (not related by blood) came to a head later last year.

    Wei Hsaitang, 48, commands Brigade 894 and Wei Hsiaokang, 52, wanted in Thailand and the United States on drug charges, commands War Zone 171. Both units are in eastern Shan State opposite Thailand's Chiangmai, Chiangrai and Maehongson provinces.

    The origins of their disputes could be found in the history of the United Wa State Army that was formed in 1989 following the expulsion of the Communist Party of Burma from the Wa region, said Yaphet, Chairman of the LNDO.

    "Wei Hsiao-kang who borke away from Khun Sa (in 1984) to form the Wa National Council under Ai Hsiao-hsu was having trouble fighting alone against Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army in Mongyawn when he joined the UWSA," he recalled. "Panghsang (the Wa capital) dispatched several units under the command of Wei Hsaitang to the south as a result."

    Yaphet a.k.a. Jakui reported that Hsaitang had initially demanded B. 100,000 compensation for each KIA (Killed in Action) during 6-year battle against the MTA. "The exact figure is not available," he said. "But there were more than a thousand killed during the conflict."

    However, Wei Hsiaokang a.k.a. Ta Ngao for some undisclosed reason, refused. Wei Hsaitang then paid B. 70 million to Hsiaokang "for his past contributions" and ordered him to move out. "We fought and died for this land," he was reported to have told Wei Hsiaokang," so it's ours now."

    The result was Wei Hsiaokang's expansion to areas into the west once under Khun Sa in Mongton Township in September last year and the recent exodus to the areas opposite Laos, he said. Wei Hsiaokang is reportedly close to Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, Secretary One of the ruling military council and Burma's intelligence chief.
    Corruption threatens forests: FAO


    GENEVA, Oct 3: Forests are disappearing at a rapid rate in tropical countries but are on the increase in Europe where they help to protect biodiversity and provide jobs, said a new report published here on Wednesday by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

    But the biggest threat to successful forest management is corruption and illegal forest practices, the FAO said in its biannual report, State of the World's Forests 2001. "During the 1990s, the loss of natural forests was 16.1 million hectares per year, of which 15.2 million occurred in the tropics", the organization explained. Deforestation was highest in Africa and South America.

    The organization said the major cause for the loss and degradation of natural forests was conversion to other land uses and to agriculture in particular. Only one million hectares of this lost land was later re-used for forest plantations, it said.

    "The countries with the highest net loss of forest area between 1990 and 2000 were Argentina, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Myanmar, Mexico, Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe," said the report. Elsewhere, however, natural forests have been growing at a rate of 3.6 million hectares a year, mainly in non-tropical countries, it said. "Forest expansion has been occurring for several decades in many industrialized countries, especially where agriculture is no longer a viable land use," the FAO said. -AFP
    Penang port commission chief to lead mission to Myanmar

    PENANG, Oct 3 (Bernama) -- Penang Port Commission (PPC) General Manager Captain Abdul Rahim Abdul Aziz will lead 30 PPC officials and businessmen on a three-day visit to Myanmar from Oct 16.

    He said the delegation would study the existing barter trading arrangements and also explore general business opportunities.Barter trade between Penang and Myanmar had been increasing and last year alone 79 ships were involved in this trade which amounted to between RM5.7 milion and RM6 million. In the first nine months of this year, 42 vessels were involved in the trade which ranged from RM9.8 milion to RM6 million.The delegation will also visit the Thilawa Port in Yangon and the Bo Aung Kyaw and Sule wharves.

    Abdul Rahim said the delegation would call on the Minister at the office of the Chairman of the State, Peace and Development Council, Brg Gen D. O. Abel and Myanmar's Minister of Commerce as well as meet the Chairman of the Asian Wealth Bank, Aik Htun.Also in the delegation is Waris Ali Abdul Carrim, Vice-President of the Malaysian Malay Businessmen and Industrialists Association and President of the Association's Penang Branch.

    Barter trade items from here involved cooking oil, playing cards, used clothing, assorted biscuits, wheat flour, palm olein, bitumen and baking flour while Myanmar items comprised frozen fish, prawns and marine products, salted fish, wood, sawn timber, teakwood and yellow maize.

    Abdul Rahim said the PPC was also initiating barter trade between Penang and Acheh in Sumatra and a mission to Acheh would be arranged to build trade ties with the north Sumatran region.
    Myanmar Generates Slightly More Electricity in First Half of 2001

    YANGON, Oct 4, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Electric power generated by the state-run Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE), the main electricity supplier of the country, totaled 2.418 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh) in the first half of this year, 0.68 percent more than the same period of 2000, said the latest issue of the government Economic Indicators.

    However, the installed generating capacity of the MEPE remained at 1,172 mega watts (mw) at the end of June this year, the same as previous year ago. Official statistics show that in 2000, electric power generated by the MEPE went to 5.028 billion kwh, 17 percent more than 1999.

    According to the MEPE, since 1988, Myanmar's electric power installed generating capacity has increased by 509 mw, of which that of natural gas power plants rose by 255 mw, while that of steam power plants by 143 mw and that of hydropower plants by 111 mw.

    Myanmar is implementing five more hydropower plants -- Paunglaung, Zaungtu, Mone, Thaphanseik and Maipan. Three of them are being built by China. Upon their completion, the five power plants will add 407 mw more to Myanmar's installed generating capacity and is expected to greatly ease the serious electricity shortage problem of the country.
    Singapore clamps tight security around ailing Ne Win

    SINGAPORE, Oct 5 (AFP) - The health of former Myanmar dictator Ne Win was shrouded in mystery Friday following reports he was in a coma, with tight security blocking access to his private room at Singapore General Hospital.

    The 90-year-old was flown to Singapore last weekend and admitted to the coronary care unit at the hospital's National Heart Centre.

    A Thai military intelligence source said the former autocrat, who seized power in 1962 in Burma, which he later renamed Myanmar, and stepped down in 1988, had slipped into a coma and was unlikely to recover.

    But a man identifying himself only as a family friend, told AFP at the hospital Friday that it was inaccurate to say Ne Win was in a coma."He's sleeping now, and in a stable condition," he said without elaborating.

    Several men in shirts and ties stood outside Ne Win's hospital room, and visitors to other patients in the ward said police and security guards were patrolling the area.One hospital source told AFP that no staff other than approved doctors and nurses were allowed into Ne Win's room.

    Other sources said Ne Win's family had demanded no publicity, and they were under strict orders to divert all calls to the Myanmar embassy.Embassy staff refused to even acknowledge Ne Win was receiving medical treatment in Singapore.

    "We are unable to comment. He is a private citizen now," an embassy counsellor Ohn Kyaw said.An unidentified diplomat told AFP: "We don't know anything about this. Do not contact our embassy."

    An AFP reporter who went to the coronary care unit was told by nurses Ne Win was not a patient, before three hospital staff escorted her from the building.

    As a young man, Ne Win was a key member of the "Thirty Comrades" which joined with Japan in World War Two to fight British colonialism under the charismatic leadership of independence hero Aung San, who was assasinated in 1947.

    He seized power in a 1962 coup, ruling until 1988, by then an ageing and reviled dictator who would come into conflict with Aung San's daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi after she emerged at the head of the pro-democracy movement.

    By the time he stepped down, Myanmar -- once considered one of Asia's potentially wealthiest countries -- was one of the world's poorest thanks to his stubborn neo-Marxist "Burmese Way to Socialism."

    Analysts say Ne Win has continued to wield influence behind the scenes despite having withdrawn from power, saying that significant political change is unlikely to occur while he remains alive.
    Ne Win in coma at Singapore hospital

    The Striatstimes

    Myanmar's former leader not expected to recover

    BANGKOK - Former Myanmar President Ne Win, 90, is in serious condition at a Singapore hospital, sources close to the family said yesterday. 'Ne Win's health condition is very, very serious,' one source said, adding that about 30 of his family members had gathered at Singapore General Hospital to offer support.

    A Thai military-intelligence source said the former strongman had slipped into a coma and was unlikely to recover.

    He reportedly left Yangon recently with the family of his daughter, Ms Sandar Win, who is a doctor and has looked after his health.His youngest son, Mr Phyo Wai Win, is also known to have joined him here, another source said.

    As a young man, he was a key member of the 'Thirty Comrades', who joined Japan in World War II to fight British colonialism under the charismatic leadership of independence hero Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947.He seized power in a 1962 coup and ruled till 1988, clashing with Aung San's daughter, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, after she emerged at the head of a pro-democracy movement.

    By the time he stepped down in 1988, Myanmar - considered in 1962 to be one of Asia's potentially wealthiest countries - was one of the world's poorest nations.

    Analysts say he has continued to wield political influence behind the scenes despite having officially withdrawn from power, and that significant political change in Myanmar was unlikely to occur while he remained alive.


    Born in 1911, Ne Win was a Burmese soldier and political leader.
    In 1941, he abandoned his original name, Shu Maung, when he joined a Japanese-supported nationalist military group.
    In 1943, he became commander of the Burmese Independence Army, and he later turned against the Japanese.
    In 1948, after Burma's independence from Great Britain, he became Home and Defence minister.
    In 1958, he deposed prime minister U Nu. U Nu returned from 1960 to 1962, but Ne Win removed him again in a coup.
    By 1971, Ne Win had transformed Burma (now Myanmar) into a one-party police state led by the Myanmar Socialist Programme Party.
    From 1974 to 1981, he was president under a constitution adopted in 1974.
    He remained party head until 1988, when he resigned, admitting to economic mismanagement.