Daily News-October 07 - 2001- Sunday

  • Investigators silent after Burma visit
  • ILO team wraps up Myanmar mission on forced labour
  • U.N. condemns use of food as weapon of war
  • Tight security around ailing Ne Win
  • Intelligence directive aims to prevent leak of critical speeches
  • European Union gives $2.2m for aid projects
  • CNF admits it burned trucks and goods
  • Myanmar to Put 31.66 Mln U.S. Dollars' Gems on Sale
  • Myanmar's Cement Production Increases in First Half of 2001

  • Investigators silent after Burma visit

    By Larry Jagan in Bangkok

    A high-level delegation from the International Labour Organisation has finished a three-week investigation of the use of forced labour in Burma.The team, led by former governor general of Australia, Sir Ninian Stephen, was trying to assess whether a government-ordered ban on forced labour was being complied with.

    The delegation met the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi - currently under house-arrest - before they left.

    Unpaid labour

    It has held talks with government officials, opposition leaders and representatives of ethnic political parties involved in labour matters.

    Human rights groups have accused the Burmese Government of forcing citizens to do unpaid manual labour on public works projects and as porters for the army.

    The ILO has been tight-lipped about everything on this trip. They continued to give no details of the visit, as they left the country. However western diplomats believe the investigation has been extremely rigorous.

    In the past three weeks the ILO team has also spoken with the country's military leader and the opposition National League for Democracy.They have also consulted UN officials and representatives of international aid agencies based in Rangoon.

    Most importantly they have travelled around some of the border areas where there have been recent reports of forced labour. They appear to have been given access to all the people and places they wanted to visit.

    But some analysts still fear the military authorities will have ensured that the delegation did not see the real situation for themselves.

    The Burmese military government was stung into action last November when the ILO condemned Burma for its use of what the international community calls slavery.


    The ILO called on members to implement what would in effect be an international economic boycott of Burma. With its economy plunging deeper into crisis, this is the last thing that the Burmese generals want to see happen.

    The Burmese government officially outlawed forced labour and circulated the directive throughout the country immediately afterwards. The mission's main objective is to assess to what extent forced labour has been stopped

    But the ILO is well aware that what is really needed is a permanent presence in Rangoon to continually monitor the situation. Sources in the ILO believe this will be the main recommendation of the ILO team when it makes its reports to the organisation in November.
    ILO team wraps up Myanmar mission on forced labour

    YANGON, Oct 6 (AFP) -A high-level International Labour Organisationteam on Saturday completed a three-week mission to Myanmar to investigate the military regime's efforts at eradicating forced labour.

    The four-member team led by former Australian governor general Sir Ninian Stephen set out to make a grassroots assessment of the problem for a report to be presented to the ILO governing body in Geneva in mid-November.

    While the ILO has released few details about the trip, local sources said the team met for two hours early Saturday alone with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under virtual house arrest at her lakeside home for the past year. On Friday, ILO representatives held talks with junta leader Than Shwe at the Yangon People's Assembly Hall, TV Myanmar said in a dispatch monitored here.

    For the mission, the ILO insisted its four-member team of eminent jurists be given total freedom to carry out its survey, and the junta promised to give them unlimited access, even in the unstable border regions.

    The group reportedly visited Kayah State, Shan State, Kachin State, Arakan State and Tenasserim Division, but did not go to Karen State as had been planned.

    During the visit the ILO team held talks with government ministries dealing with labour issues, UN representatives and Aung San Suu Kyi. They also called on Myanmar-based non-governmental organisations as well as senior members of ethnic minority groups.

    "This is the first time that the ILO has had an opportunity to travel around the country to make its own direct assessment of the forced labor situation," the UN organisation said earlier in a statement. The ILO mission comes after the Geneva-based organisation last year made an unprecedented censure of Myanmar, and threatened to heap more sanctions on the country if it failed to curb forced labour. In a bid to fend off further sanctions, the junta in November declared forced labour illegal for the first time. But it remains unclear how the ban is being enforced, and how effective the junta has been in eradicating the problem.

    Rights groups say nearly a million Myanmar people have suffered from the practice, which has helped build roads, ports and tourist resorts as well as assisting in military manoeuvres on the unstable borders.
    U.N. condemns use of food as weapon of war

    UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4, 2001 (Inter Press Service via COMTEX) -- Afghanistan, Israel and Burma stand accused of violating the basic human right to food and of using food as a weapon of war, says a senior U.N. investigator.

    Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, says in a 26-page report released here, that his office has received reports that Afghanistan in particular is in violation of some of the key provisions of international humanitarian law that outlaw the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare. Ziegler says he hopes to be able to carry out a U.N. mission to Afghanistan to examine the allegations and assess the overall food situation in that war-threatened nation.

    He adds that he has received a joint submission -- from Israeli, Palestinian, and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- accusing Israel of denying access to food and water for communities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. These communities have been besieged and cordoned off by Israeli military forces since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000.

    "Siege policies" have prevented or impeded access to food and water, according to the U.N. report. In April, the Israeli military destroyed large parcels of land, together with fruit trees and water wells that were the source of livelihoods for 135 families in the occupied territories. "Several NGOs allege that the Israeli government policies have created hunger and threaten starvation of the most destitute, and have documented long-term or permanent damage to the nutritional needs of especially vulnerable groups, including children and refugees," the report says.

    Ziegler says the allegations also suggest that closures constitute collective punishment and a violation of the provision that food should not be used as an instrument of political or economic pressure.

    These rights were reiterated in the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security and numerous resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. Ziegler also says he has asked Israel for a visa so he can conduct an official U.N. investigation of the allegations against Israel but the country continues to deny access to all U.N. special rapporteurs on human rights. Even the U.N. Israeli Practices Committee, mandated to investigate human rights abuses in the occupied territories, has been denied access since its creation in the 1950s, say officials.

    In addition to Israel, the military government of Burma, also known as Myanmar, is alleged to have committed "gross violations of the right to food" in its bid to quash insurgencies and civil opposition, according to Ziegler's report.

    Since March 1996, the junta allegedly has forcibly resettled more than 300,000 people from some 1,400 villages.

    "Reported malnutrition rates are extremely high in both war- affected areas of eastern Myanmar and peaceful areas, in particular the Karen, Karenni and Shan states, as well as the Delta region," the report says.

    Other alleged violations of humanitarian law include the deliberate destruction by government forces of staple crops and confiscation of food from civilians.

    Conversely, the report also takes to task the United Nations for using food as an instrument of political and economic pressure in Iraq. Quoting Assistant Secretary-General Dennis Halliday, a former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, the report says that "there can be little doubt that subjecting the Iraqi people to a harsh economic embargo since 1991 has placed the United Nations in clear violation of the obligation to respect the right to food of people in Iraq."

    Meanwhile, the United Nations is making frantic efforts to feed the thousands of near-starving people in Afghanistan even as the country is threatened with U.S. military attacks.

    Catharine Bertini, executive director of the World Food Program (WFP), said today her agency is planning to aid drop about 30,000 tons of food to an estimated 100,000 families who have been cut off from food deliveries. "Unfortunately, given the current situation on the ground, it is impossible to pre-position the necessary supplies to last these people through the winter," she said. Without food, they will either have to leave their homes in search of supplies, or die, she added.

    WFP has appealed to donor nations to provide about $230 million in emergency funds in order to feed some 7.5 million people caught up in the crisis in Afghanistan. The agency is feeding about one million people using existing stocks, which it says will soon run out.
    Tight security around ailing Ne Win

    The Straitstimes

    SECURITY was tight yesterday around the hospital room of former Myanmar president Ne Win. Two uniformed security guards stood outside the closed door of the private room, along with a few other plainclothes Myanmar men who kept a round-the-clock vigil.

    The 90-year-old former strongman has been warded at the National Heart Centre in the Singapore General Hospital since last Saturday afternoon.

    His condition is reported to be unstable.The handful of relatives who visited General Ne Win yesterday remained tight-lipped. And no information was forthcoming from either the heart centre or the Myanmar Embassy.

    A spokesman said the embassy would not comment on what was a family affair, as the army general was here in his private capacity.

    Myanmar nationals The Straits Times spoke to here were surprised to learn that Gen Ne Win was in Singapore. Mr Maung Maung, 43, who owns a Myanmar restaurant, said: 'I only read about it in The Straits Times. Most of the Myanmar nationals who come here are not aware.'

    Polytechnic student Tina Aye, 23, said: 'After he left office in 1988, we did not know what happened to him.'

    Mr Maung Maung said: 'General Ne Win is well respected in Myanmar as he was a member of the small, original group of fighters who fought for Myanmar's independence. 'I would visit him in the hospital if I had the chance, but security is too tight.'

    It is believed that there are more than 20,000 Myanmar nationals living in Singapore.

    Former Myanmar leader Ne Win gets pacemaker in Singapore

    SINGAPORE,(KYODO) Oct. 5 - Former Myanmar military leader Ne Win has been fitted with a pacemaker at a Singapore hospital,reliable sources said Friday.
    Intelligence directive aims to prevent leak of critical speeches

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Oct 6, 2001
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 4 October

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the SPDC Directorate of Defence Services Intelligence [DDSI] has issued a directive to employees of departments under the Ministry of Home Affairs that severe action would be taken to those responsible personnel in connection with the leakage of SPDC Home Minister Col Tin Hlaing's speech to foreign radio stations.

    The speech delivered by Home Minister Col Tin Hlaing at a July meeting was smuggled out of the country by corrupt employees and some foreign broadcasting stations broadcast the news. The directive reminded that this leak tantamount to breaching the country's security act.

    The DDSI directive also stated that the disclosure of the country's secret is the same as high treason. Some foreign radio stations and political opposition groups based in Thailand bribe government employees including junior officers by giving them twice their government salaries and attempt to obtain copies of important speeches by cabinet ministers. The DDSI directive urged all the heads of departments to be always watchful of their junior officers.
    European Union gives $2.2m for aid projects

    The Myanmar TimesVolume 5, No.83 October 1 - 7, 2001

    THE European Union has allocated more than US$2 million to Myanmar for health care and other projects which will benefit about half a million people. The donation of two-million euros (about $2.2 million) will be channelled through the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to non-government organisations in Myanmar during the next 12 months.

    It brings to more than $6 million the amount allocated by the EU to aid projects in Myanmar since 1996. The EU announced the latest allocation in a statement issued on September 21.

    Residents of Yangon and of Rakhine, Kayin and Mon states will be the main beneficiaries of projects ranging from building and equipping health centres to digging wells. Some of the funds will be allocated to four NGOs " Medecins Sans Frontieres (France), Medecins Sans Frontieres (Holland), Malteser Hilfsdienst and Aide Medicale Internationale" for projects aimed at benefiting 415,000 people in the Yangon area and 20,000 people in Mon State. The projects include family planning, ante natal clinics, AIDS education campaigns, health care training for doctors, nurses and health workers and malaria control and prevention. Two NGOS, Save the Children and Action Contre la Faim, will launch projects in Rakhine and Kayin states to increase sustainable access to safe water and to improve sanitation. The projects will include installing 3000 sanitary latrines, building nearly 100 shallow tube wells and conducting more than 1700 hygiene education sessions.

    A spokesman at the European Commission's Bangkok office, Mr Steve Needham, said that during the past five years ECHO had allocated about 5.475 million euros ($6.16 million) to NGO projects in Myanmar which focused on water, sanitation and health care. This year's allocation was the largest single contribution. He said that since 1999, the European Commission had also contributed 10 million euros (nearly $11 million) to programs assisting persons who had returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh.

    The head of Action Contre La Faim's Yangon office, Mr Stephen Williams, said the EU had indicated it would increase humanitarian aid to Myanmar ahead of a visit by its troika mission last January, as reported in Myanmar Times ('Hope for progress but no verdict until April, page 1, Vol 3, No. 49). Mr Williams said his French-based agency expected to receive $300,000 from the latest allocation. He said ECHO funds technically sound NGOs throughout the world, rather than European agencies alone. EU funding to Myanmar, in euros at current US dollar rates, has been as follows:

    YearEurosUS dollars
    1997: 675,000$741,760
    2001:2,000,000 $2,197,800
    Total: 5,475,000$6,016,480

    CNF admits it burned trucks and goods

    Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

    Aizawl, Oct. 6: The Chin National Front, an armed ethnic organization fighting against the Burmese military junta, said that it burned some trucks and goods on the roads leading to Indian border because the owners of the goods did not pay "mandatory tax" to the organization.

    In a press release made available today, the commander of the Tactical (1) Area Headquarters' self-styled Lt. Sunny Ngun Awi, said that three trucks and some goods were burnt on 20th September on the Tiddim-Haimual motor road and one truck along with goods were destroyed next day on the Falam-Rih road. Both roads are used by traders who do business between Burma and Mizoram State of India. The Burma rebel leader further warned that it would continue to take "actions" against those who refuse to pay tax to the CNF.

    According to sources on the border, a driver of the trucks was also arrested by the CNF soldiers at that time although the CNF's today press release did not mention anything about the driver.

    The Chin National Front imposed a road blockade on two main roads connecting cities of Chin State and Indian border from August 5 to September 5, as it claimed that the traders are not giving regular tax to the organization.

    Although it varies from time to time and circumstances, the business persons are being asked to pay Indian rupees 10,000 (about US $ 210) for one small truck load of goods and rupees 15,000 for bigger load. Truck owners also reportedly have to pay rupees 5,000 per year to the rebel group. The rebel commander, in today's release, said the whole people of Burma need to join the movement against the military regime "from whatever role they are in" for democracy, human rights and self-determination.

    Meanwhile, India and Burma authorities are planning to inaugurate the newly-built "Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge" across the Tio river. Both sides expect that the volume of bilateral border trade will be increased with the new bridge, which connects Rih Village in Chin State and Zokhuthar Village in Mizoram State.
    Myanmar to Put 31.66 Mln U.S. Dollars' Gems on Sale

    YANGON, Oct 6, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar's 10th Mid-Year Gems Emporium is due to start on Sunday with a total of 31.66 million U.S. dollars' worth of locally-produced quality gems, pearl and jewelry to be put on sale through competitive bidding, tender or at fixed price.

    About 260 merchants of 98 companies from nine countries and regions, mostly from China, China's Hong Kong and Thailand, are expected to attend the eight-day state-sponsored emporium introduced in addition to the annual one, said Myanmar Deputy Minister of Mines U Myint Thein at a press briefing here Saturday, one day ahead of the event. Local private gem traders are also allowed to sold their gems at the emporium as in the previous years, he said.

    At the last annual Myanmar gems emporium, which was the 38th held in March this year, a total of 10.12 million U.S. dollars were earned. The March gems emporium attracted a total of 674 merchants from 15 countries and regions, mostly from China's Hong Kong, Thailand and China's mainland.

    Myanmar, a well-known producer of jade, ruby and sapphire in the world, has fetched over 330 million dollars from its 38 annual and nine mid-year gems emporiums, according to official statistics.

    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.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar's sapphire production reached 2.643 million carats in the first half of this year, down by 5.2 percent from the same period of 2000, while ruby production went to 1.184 million carats during the period, up 13.19 percent from the year-ago corresponding period. The production of jade over the six-month period marked 69.645 tons, according to the official Economic Indicators.
    Myanmar's Cement Production Increases in First Half of 2001

    YANGON, Oct 6, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar produced 211,150 tons of cement in the first half of this year, 20.81 percent more than the same period of 2000, according to the latest issue of the official Economic Indicators.

    During the six-month period, the country increased importing of cement, buying in 15.36 million U.S. dollars worth of the goods, 8.62 percent more than the corresponding period of 2000. In 2000, Myanmar, in addition to producing domestically a total of 393,355 tons of cement, also imported 27.18 million dollars worth of the goods.

    In the wake of the rising demand for cement in its infrastructural construction such as roads, bridges and dams, Myanmar is also making efforts to build more cement plants.

    In June 2000, Myanmar signed an accord with a Chinese company to build a 500-ton daily-capacity cement plant in Kyaukse, central Mandalay division of the country.