Daily News-October 12 - 2001- Friday

  • Ne Win returns to Myanmar from Singapore
  • Talk by human rights campaigner on Burma
  • London based mining finance company invested in Ivanhoe Mines
  • Removing Burma From the Guam Visa Waiver Program
  • Higher insurance forces airlines to levy surcharge
  • Satellite dish sales show big increase
  • KNPP Claim Firsthand Knowledge of Forced Labor
  • Incense or Tamarinds
  • UN envoy sees progress on human rights
  • Oilmen teaching human rights to Myanmar regime
  • Myanmar releases 66 Thai prisoners in goodwill gesture

  • Ne Win returns to Myanmar from Singapore

    YANGON, Oct. 11, Kyodo - Former Myanmar President Gen. Ne Win, often dubbed ''the strongman of Burma,'' returned to Myanmar on Thursday from Singapore where he went for medical treatment.

    He was taken to Singapore on Sept. 29 in a chartered light plane by Myanmar International SOS Ltd. after suffering a heart attack. He was treated at Singapore General Hospital.

    Both the authorities and the hospital staff were tight-lipped about Ne Win's condition in Singapore,prompting much speculation in the media. And in Myanmar, state-controlled newspapers did not report his hospitalization, though rumors of his poor health were rampant in the capital Yangon.

    Sources in Singapore said Ne Win, 91, had a heart bypass and a pacemaker implant in Singapore. Official sources confirmed Thursday his return to Yangon, but gave no details on his health.

    The former president was last seen in public when he offered lunch to 99 Buddhist monks and 500 layfriends in March. He was in good health at that time.
    Talk by human rights campaigner on Burma

    Source: Western Morning News, October 11, 2001, Page 14

    JAMES Mawdsley, the 27-year-old human rights campaigner who was imprisoned by the Burmese government on three occasions, gave a talk at The Acorn Theatre, Penzance, recently.

    James helped raise the profile of the Karen people - who fought for Britain during World War II as Ghurka style soldiers - but are today being driven from their homes in Burma.He explained that the Burmese Junta promised to hold elections in 1988 - after the death of 10,000 civilians.

    The elections were held and Aung San Suu Kyi won 82 per cent of the seats, but has never been allowed to govern. However the UN and the British Government have never voted to reject the military junta which is still in power.

    James revealed that during his three spells in a Burmese jail he enjoyed a sympathetic relationship with the prison guards, who were often prisoners themselves - and still eats rice and fish paste from his local takeaway, despite it being the standard food during his imprisonment.Although he was tortured in jail, James said that he was treated more leniently than the Burmese prisoners.

    James also took questions from the audience and urged all local Amnesty International members to carry on with their letter writing campaign to get Penzance's adopted prisoner of conscience, Burmese student leader Thet Win Aung, released.
    London based mining finance company invested in Ivanhoe Mines

    RNS; Oct 11, 2001
    Tiger Resource Finance plc

    Investment in Ivanhoe Mines Limited

    The Board of Tiger Resource Finance plc ("Tiger"), the London-based specialised mining finance company, is pleased to announce that it has acquired 360,000 shares through a private placing at US$1.00 per share in Ivanhoe Mines Limited ("Ivanhoe").

    Ivanhoe is a Toronto listed diversified mining company with interests primarily located in south-east Asia. Following the most recent placing Ivanhoe has 124.9m shares in issue capitalising the company at US$143.8m, at a current share price of US$1.15 per share.

    Ivanhoe is the 50% owner operator of the Monywa copper mine in Myanmar (formerly Burma), one of the lowest cost primary copper producers in the world. Monywa is currently undergoing an expansion programme to quadruple production. In Tasmania, iron ore pellets are produced from the wholly owned Savage River mine. Ivanhoe is developing two high-grade gold projects, in Myanmar and South Korea, while production from the Bakyrchik mine in Kazakhstan is expected to commence by the end of 2001.

    Ivanhoe is currently developing the very exciting Turquoise Ridge copper/gold porphyry project in Mongolia. The first deep hole, Hole 150, assayed 0.81% copper and 1.17 grams/tonne gold over a strike length of 508 metres. Further drilling has confirmed similar copper values with higher gold values, suggesting a high-grade copper/gold porphyry within a large mineralised zone.The deposit lies near surface making it amenable to open pit mining. Three additional drill rigs have been moved on to the property recently to conduct a 16,000 metres drilling programme. Ivanhoe holds an option to purchase 100% of Turquoise Hill from BHP Billiton.
    Removing Burma From the Guam Visa Waiver Program

    8 CFR Part 212 [INS No. 2099-00] IN 1115-AF95

    AGENCY: Immigration and Naturalization Service, Justice.
    ACTION: Final rule.

    SUMMARY: This rule adopts without change the interim rule published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Service) in the Federal Register on January 3, 2001, that removed Burma (internationally recognized as the Union of Myanmar) from the list of countries authorized to participate in the Guam Visa Waiver Program (GVWP). The GVWP waives the nonimmigrant visa requirement for nationals of certain countries, applying for admission as nonimmigrant visitors for business or pleasure for the sole purpose of visiting Guam for a period not to exceed 15 days. DATES: This final rule is effective November 13, 2001.
    Higher insurance forces airlines to levy surcharge

    By Thet Khaing
    Myanmartimes-October 8-14, 2001

    MYANMAR Airways International has begun collecting a US$2 surcharge from passengers to meet higher insurance premiums arising from the September 11 suicide terror attacks in the United States. An airline official said it had been collecting the surcharge, which has been introduced by many other carriers worldwide, since October 1. The domestic carriers, Yangon Airways and Air Mandalay, are likely to introduce a $1.25 surcharge on passengers to meet higher insurance costs.

    Airlines throughout the world were asked by their insurers to introduce surcharges to help cover the enormous losses incurred by international insurance firms as a result of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. Yangon Airways general manager, U Zaw Win, said all airlines would need to collect the surcharge from passengers for at least another three years. He said Yangon Airways was insured by Lloyds of Britain which had urged the airline to introduce the surcharge a week after the terror attacks. U Zaw Win said airlines were given seven days’ notice to respond to the insurance company’s request to begin collecting the surcharge. He said Yangon Airways was yet to respond to the request but was aware that it would not be able to operate unless the surcharge was introduced.

    Yangon Airways,which operates two ATR72 planes, stood to collect more than $200,000 a year once the surcharge was introduced, he said. U Zaw Win said Yangon Airways’ insurance policy had covered war risk but since the US attacks it had been asked by Lloyds to pay a separate war risk premium.

    It is understood that the airline has a $150 million total risk policy with Lloyds but has been asked to take out a separate $50 million war risk policy. Myanmar insurance law does not allow insurance to be bought direct from overseas firms and Yangon Airways and the other carriers have re-insurance arrangements with either the state-owned Myanma Insurance Corporation or the semi-government Myanma International Insurance Corporation. Meanwhile, Myanmar airlines have reported further passenger cancellations for the coming tourist season, as initially reported in Myanmar Times.
    Satellite dish sales show big increase

    By Myo Lwin

    Myanmartimes-October 8-14, 2001

    SALES of television satellite dishes are reported to have risen sharply since the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, according to retailers. The increase in sales has also coincided with rising prices since Myanma Post and Telecommunications called in August for all satellite dish owners to ensure the devices were licensed. The annual licence fee has been fixed at K12,000.

    "After the news of suicide attacks in the US, receiver sales increased dramatically," the manager of an electronic sales centre in Mahahandoola Street told Myanmar Times. However, Yangon’s top distributor of receivers and satellite dishes said the increased sales were due to the announcement on licences. He said sales had doubled in the last month.

    "In my opinion, sales have increased because of the government’s directive and have nothing to do with the US attack," said the dealer on condition of anonymity. The prices of Chinese brand receivers such as Innovia, Next Wave, Hic Way have risen to between K60,000 to K80,000, a jump of at least 30 per cent since last month.

    A better quality Echostar satellite receiver from South Korea was selling well at K170,000, while most domestically-made dishes sell for varying prices. The prices for a receiver, dish and a device called Low Noise Blockdown Converter cost from K 200,000 to K 700,000 depending on the range of Business is booming, say retailers channels available, the dealer said. The increased sales have resulted in a delay in installations. The government has given the owners of satellite dishes a licensing deadline of 100 days from August 22.
    KNPP Claim Firsthand Knowledge of Forced Labor

    By Tony Broadmoor and Doh Say
    The Irrawaddy

    October 11, 2001- Members of the Committee for Internally Displaced Karenni People (CIDKnP) have found evidence of forced labour as well as recently planted landmines in the Karenni State, according to a spokesman from the Karenni National Peoples Party (KNPP).

    The fact-finding mission traveled to areas around the old Taungoo Road in District Two of the Karenni State and found local residents clearing a section of the road located ten miles from Mawchi. The KNPP told The Irrawaddy that the Burmese junta plans to use the road again. KNPP officials said that one Karenni village has been ordered to clear a one-mile stretch of road as well as thirty-feet on both sides of it.

    According to the CIDKnP each village was to receive 8000 kyat (US $17) and two sacks of rice for their work. Villagers said they were given no choice in the matter and that the headman of their village was called to the Burmese military headquarters in Mawchi to answer as to why villagers had not reported to work.

    Other villagers told the CIDKnP that they had offered the military troops 10,000 kyat in return for not working but were required to work any way. The KNPP has said that despite the nominal fee paid to villagers this still constitutes forced labour. The CIDKnP’s mission concluded just as the International Labor Organization (ILO) began its fourth trip to Burma to investigate the continued use of forced labour. The ILO’s trip is now also finished although the results of the investigation will not be available for some time.

    Brief history of the Taungoo Road:

    The Mawchi -Taungoo road was built during World War II. The Burmese Socialist Programme Party(BSPP) later used the road to send military supplies from Taungoo to Mawchi. The road was abandoned twenty years ago. The road is ninety-six miles long with roughly a third of it in theKarenni State and the remainder in the Karen State.

    In 1991, the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) began repairs on the road using forced labour to clear and reconstruct a twelve-mile section from Mawchi heading towards Taungoo. During that period, villagers from the Karenni State, including the elderly, women and children were ordered to repair the road.

    During this period, there are numerous reports of villagers being killed or maimed by SLORC land mines. Now in addition to these older land mines, newer land mines have been laid by Burmese military troops, perhaps even as recently as this year. These newer land mines remain on the very stretch of road that Karenni villagers are being forced to clear. Military soldiers also remain near the Karenni villagers as they work, according to the KNPP.
    Incense or Tamarinds

    By Zarny Win and Ko Thet
    The Irrawaddy

    ctober 11, 2001--Burma is not know as a country with a penchant for resource conservation or environmental stability. As seen in a recent report released by the Geneva-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Burma was among the top ten countries in the world for net losses of forested area since 1990.

    The latest resource thought to be endangered in Burma is the tamarind tree. According to sources in Burma, tamarind trees have been disappearing throughout central Burma as a result of a booming incense industry—an industry that relies heavily on tamarind trees as a raw material.

    The rise in popularity of incense, or joss sticks as they are known in Burma, can be traced to an increase in television commercials that portray joss sticks as a necessary and important part of life. There are only three televison channels in Burma and the channel predominantly watched in Burma airs only commercials. Many Burmese, after years of watching propaganda-filled newscasts, have switched to the easier-to-watch commercial channel for regular viewing.

    "Joss stick commercials have been appearing more and more on televison to promote them throughout the country.The actors in the commercials say that everything will be okay if you burn joss sticks. Unfortunately, the more people who use the joss sticks, the faster the tamarind trees will disappear," said a teacher from Burma’s Dagon University.

    Many Burmese are worried that the disappearance of tamarind trees will also threaten central Burma’s dry zone.Lu Du Daw Ahmar, a highly acclaimed writer and social critic, wrote last year that, "It will be very sad if the tamarind trees disappear because of this business."

    Magway Division’s Yasegyo Township is famous for its tamarind grooves. "In Yasegyo, the tamarind trees are almost all gone because the local people have been selling them to joss stick manufacturers," said a man in Yasegyo. "Even the trees inside Buddhist monasteries have been cut down."

    Historically joss sticks have only been used by Buddhist practitioners and also by some ethnic-Chinese living in Burma.Joss stick makers have been replacing the more tradtional Indian names with more powerful Burmese names to help attract consumers. They have changed some of the names to Aung Tate-di ("power"), Lo-ta-ya ("get whatever one wishes for"), Kan Pwint ("lucky"). The customers appear to be falling for the names, as sales continue to soar throughout Burma.

    Nobody is exactly sure how many of the trees have been logged, but the state-run MRTV television station advised people to stop using the whole tree when cutting it for wood, according to a tutor from Ye Zinn Institute of Agriculture in Mandalay Division.

    Wood-apple trees or elephant-apple trees have already disappeared in Mandalay Divison’s Pyinmana Township and surrounding areas due to the joss stick business. Wood-apple trees were also used as a raw material for joss sticks.
    UN envoy sees progress on human rights

    YANGON, Oct. 12 — The U.N.'s human rights envoy to Myanmar believes the military-ruled country has made some progress on human rights in recent months, foreign diplomats said on Friday.

    Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N.'s special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, arrived in Yangon on Tuesday and is due to stay in the country till October 20, meeting government officials, opposition and diplomats, U.N. sources said.

    Diplomats who met Pinheiro on Thursday said he gave a fairly optimistic view of recent developments in Myanmar, where secretive talks between the ruling military and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi have been continuing for a year. ''He said he sensed more progress in the situation on human rights since he last came here in April,'' one diplomat from a Southeast Asian country told Reuters.

    Military governments have ruled Myanmar for most of the last four decades, locking up opposition and allowing little dissent. Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been under de facto house arrest since September 2000. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) won the country's last elections in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern. But a year ago, talks began between Suu Kyi and leaders of the ruling State Peace and Development Council and since then many pro-democracy activists have been released from detention and public criticism between the two sides has virtually ceased.

    On Tuesday, the day Pinheiro arrived, five more NLD prisoners were released, bringing the total number of NLD detainees sent home by the authorities to 174.

    Pinheiro, a Brazilian, first visited Myanmar in April after being appointed as a special envoy in February by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. A report written by Pinheiro and released by the U.N. last week welcomed efforts by Myanmar's ruling military to improve human rights in the country, but repeated calls for the release of all political prisoners.

    Amnesty International says there are more than 1,500 political detainees in Myanmar. The international community has welcomed the dialogue between Suu Kyi and the government. But the talks have so far yielded no concrete political deal and opposition activists have become increasingly pessimistic over their progress.

    Pinheiro's predecessor, Rajsoomer Lallah, was never allowed to visit Myanmar, and in his final report last October he accused the military of torturing, raping and executing civilians. (With additional reporting by Chris Johnson in Bangkok)
    Oilmen teaching human rights to Myanmar regime, Euro MPs told

    BRUSSELS, Oct 11 (AFP) -An independent British oil company said Thursday it is providing human-rights courses to officials in Myanmar, including the national police chief, in cooperation with French group TotalFinaElf.

    Richard Jones, global social responsibility officer of Premier Oil, said the program began earlier this year, targeting "senior government officials, the intelligence services and senior military officers."The third round of courses, "using international experts," ended just last week, Jones told the European Parliament's committee on development and cooperation in Brussels.

    "This focused very specifically on humanitarian law and law enforcement officers," he said. "In fact, I can confirm to you that the national chief of police was one of the participants of this program."

    Premier Oil and TotalFinaElf, the world's fourth-biggest oil company, are cooperating on the courses, as well as on an "embryonic" program to monitor human rights along pipelines that carry their gas output, Jones said.

    Premier Oil and TotalFinaElf exploit gas fields in the Andaman Sea that power electrical generating stations in Thailand via two parallel 60-kilometer (35-mile) pipelines that cut across southern Myanmar.

    Both groups have come under fire from human rights groups which accuse them of profiting from the military junta that runs Myanmar, where UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro arrived Tuesday for a 12-month mission.

    Marco Simons of EarthRights International, a US-based pressure group, who also testified Thursday, called on TotalFinaElf and Premier Oil to pull out of Myanmar until the human rights picture improves.Citing recent field interviews, Simons said two Myanmar army batallions are conscripting inhabitants along the pipeline corridor for "forced portering" -- carrying heavy loads of ammunition and supplies for troops without pay.This is despite the lifting of a law permitting forced labor that dated back to 1906, when Myanmar -- then known as Burma -- was part of the British empire.

    Jean-Pierre Cordier, chairman of TotalFinaElf's ethics committee, told the parliamentary commiteee Thursday that his group only employed Myanmar citizens who are "adult, willing and paid."But he contended that it was not the group's place to judge the countries in which it does business -- a task that he said was better left to "international organisms."

    "TotalFinaElf is an industrial corporation... We have neither the competence, nor the legitimacy to bring judgement on the actions of a country in which we operate," he said.

    The parliamentary commitee also heard Thursday from Loic Picard, deputy director of the judicial department of the UN's International Labour Organization, but he declined to discuss the results of the most recent ILO mission to Myanmar.

    The four-member ILO mission, led by former Australian governor general Sir Ninian Stephen, completed last Saturday a three-week tour that included a two-hour meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
    Myanmar releases 66 Thai prisoners in goodwill gesture

    BANGKOK, Oct 12 (AFP) -Myanmar released 66 Thai prisoners Friday as a goodwill gesture to solidify relations between the two countries following a visit by Myanmar's intelligence chief Khin Nyunt last month.

    Thai military airport officials said most of the prisoners were jailed on criminal charges of illegal migration, fishing and drug possession.They were released from eight prisons throughout Myanmar and transported on military aircraft from Yangon, arriving in Bangkok in the early afternoon.

    Myanmar authorities set special guidelines for the releases, saying they will have to serve out the remainder of their sentences in addition to any new penalties if they violate Myanmar laws again.

    Thailand and Myanmar agreed to release the prisoners when the Myanmar number three, Khin Nyunt, visited Thailand in September on a three-day trip aimed at smoothing over a row centred on border issues and the drugs trade.

    The spat was set off in March when the two national armies staged a half-day clash after becoming embroiled in fighting between rival ethnic militias accused of involvement in drug trafficking.Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made an inaugural visit to Myanmar in June that largely diffused the argument.