Daily News-October 16 - 2001- Tuesday

  • Burmese opposition criticises UN envoy
  • Lasting image: Prisoners of conscience
  • Myanmar to keep fuel subsidies
  • Junta Hunting Down Muslim Extremists
  • U.Va. endowment sells shares tied to Burma
  • Thailand to upgrade Myawadi-Moulmein road
  • 16 Myanmar nationals rounded up at Malaysia

  • Burmese opposition criticises UN envoy

    From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

    In Burma, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) has criticised the visiting United Nations human rights envoy, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

    An NLD spokesman, U Lwin, told the BBC that Mr Pinheiro was not spending enough time consulting local communities. He said Mr Pinheiro's schedule compared unfavourably with those of previous UN officials, who had spent more time talking to prisoners, opposition activists and ethnic minorities.U Lwin said that a meeting with the central leadership of the NLD planned for Friday had been cancelled.

    It is not known whether Mr Pinheiro's scheduled meeting with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi went ahead. Mr Pinheiro is now visiting the northern Shan state. The Burmese authorities released five NLD prisoners on the day he arrived in the country.

    After his first visit in April, Mr Pinheiro said there was room for cautious optimism about events currently unfolding in Burma.
    Lasting image: Prisoners of conscience

    Source: The Birmingham Post, October 15, 2001

    The plight of 100 prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, formerly Burma, was highlighted on Saturday by the Bournville branch of Amnesty International.

    Members planted bulbs in the Bournville Peace Garden in a gesture to remember the prisoners, who include Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aungsan who was assassinated following elections in 1989 and who is now under house arrest. Her photograph is held here by branch chairwoman Betty Chesner.
    Myanmar to keep fuel subsidies

    The Times of India October 15, 2001.

    YANGON: Myanmar's military government has pledged to maintain its subsidised gasoline and diesel allocations to the public, without raising prices, despite a chronic fuel shortage, a report said Sunday.

    The Myanmar junta distributes 7.5 million gallons of gasoline and up to 19 million gallons of diesel every month at subsidised prices, Energy Minister Brigadier-General Lun Thi told the Myanmar Times. The regime has to import more than five million tonnes of crude oil annually to meet this quota, he said.

    "We have no intention of further reducing the present quota or raising the official price of 180 kyats (36 US cents) per gallon for gasoline and 160 kyats (32 US cents) for diesel," Lun Thi said.

    Last April the energy ministry cut daily fuel quotas from three gallons to two for taxis and private cars. Rumors have abounded since then that another reduction was in the offing.

    On the open market, gasoline costs around 950 kyats (1.90 dollars) per gallon and diesel, used mostly for public transport, more than 1,000 kyats (two dollars). Taxi drivers say the two-gallon allocation does not meet their needs. One told AFP that he had to supplement his allocation with another two gallons bought on the open market.

    "I don't know about the private cars, but taxis have to ply almost the whole day and two gallons are hardly sufficient to keep my taxi running," he said.

    The huge gap between the official and open market prices of gasoline and diesel has resulted in private car owners selling the fuel they don't use at hefty profits. Private cars line up daily at government outlets to buy their two gallons of fuel, half of which many of them hawk on the open market.

    Some have even invested in a cheap extra car for the sole purpose of collecting the official daily quota, observers claim. According to official estimates, there are more than 300,000 cars in the Myanmar capital alone.
    Junta Hunting Down Muslim Extremists

    By Maung Maung Oo
    Irrawaddy Online

    October 15, 2001-Burma's Ministry of Home Affairs last week ordered all police forces and intelligence units to discover the source of anti-American pamphlets being circulated among the country's Muslims, according to a reliable source in Rangoon. The ministry also said that "serious action" should be taken against those caught distributing the pamphlets, which attack the United States for its recent airstrikes on Afghanistan.

    The pamphlets have been distributed widely within Burma's Muslim community, which constitutes roughly 4% of the country's population. They originally appeared early last week in major urban centers of central Burma, including Magwe, Taungoo, and Pyinmana, before spreading to the capital Rangoon a few days later.

    Sources have reported signs of Muslim unrest throughout central Burma since the attacks on Afghanistan began last Monday. In Prome, located about 300 km northwest of Rangoon, five people were believed to have been killed last week in communal clashes between Muslims and non-Muslims, while many others were reported injured, according to sources. Although the country's military regime has not reported the recent violence, sources in Prome said that a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew has been imposed, and all phone links to the city have been cut. The unrest appears to have been brought under control, the sources added.

    Earlier this year, a wave of anti-Muslim violence swept much of central Burma, as well as areas of the northwestern part of the country bordering Bangladesh. Information about these incidents was also suppressed in Burma's strictly controlled press.

    According to sources, the recently circulated pamphlets accuse the United States of unfairly blaming Muslims for a series of terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept 11. Echoing sentiments expressed throughout the Muslim world, the pamphlets say that the US has offered no evidence to prove that Osama bin Laden and the Taleban regime in Afghanistan were behind the attacks, which claimed at least 6,000 lives. The pamphlets, believed to have been published by an extremist Islamic group, also call on Burmese Muslims to join the global jihad, or holy war, against America.

    News of the events of Sept 11 has been subject to stringent censorship in Burma, with the regime reportedly concerned about the risk of renewed communal violence. Although the junta has denied reports published in Jane's Defense Weekly and the New York Times that there are terrorist cells linked to bin Laden operating in Burma, mosques around the country have come under intense scrutiny since Sept 11.
    U.Va. endowment sells shares tied to Burma

    Yahoo Daily News

    A money manager for the University of Virginia's endowment has sold the school's shares in an energy company with ties to the Burmese military.

    Alice W. Handy, the president of U.Va.'s Investment Management Co., wrote a letter to the student council president stating that the group had sold 50,000 shares of Unocal Corp. held by the university. The letter was released Friday.

    Students have been urging the sale for months because Burmese soldiers hired to provide security for a construction project by a consortium that includes Unocal have been linked to human rights violations.

    "As is our normal mode of operation, this was an investment decision made by our manager based on his assessment of Unocal's prospects," Handy wrote in the letter.
    Thailand to upgrade Myawadi-Moulmein road to boost border trade

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma on 14 October

    DVB has learned that Thai deputy prime minister and party met and held talks with Lt-Col Kyaw Soe, chairman of Myawadi District Peace and Development Council, in Myawadi, Burma [Myanmar]. DVB correspondent Maung Too filed this report.

    [Maung Too] In his meeting with newsmen in Mae Sot this evening, the Thai deputy prime minister said that since Myawadi-Pa-an-Moulmein road is very narrow it is hampering the smooth flow of Thai produce from the border trade to reach Burma. That is why Thailand has planned to renovate and expand the road, that the Myanmar side has agreed on the proposal, that the project is estimated to cost about 300-700m baht, and the work is expected to begin soon.

    While the road project is under construction and since Myawadi-Rangoon trip takes about one day by car, the Thai side told the Burmese authorities that they would allow the Burmese traders to come to Mae Sot and fly to Rangoon in order to get there quickly. The Burmese side said they would inform the War Office in Rangoon [Yangon] and would accept the proposal of allowing the Burmese traders to go to Mae Sot and fly to Rangoon once they receive confirmation from Rangoon. But the Thai deputy prime minister failed to mention whether today's meeting also discussed that both sides lift the restrictions and allow the import and export of restricted items, and the subject of narcotic drugs trafficking from Burma to Thailand.
    16 Myanmar nationals rounded up at Malaysia

    BUKIT KAYU HITAM, Oct 14 (Bernama) -- Sixteen Myanmar nationals who crossed over to Malaysia by cutting the security fencing at the Malaysia-Thailand border in Chuping were arrested by the General Operations Force (GOF) personnel today.

    Its 18th Battalion Commanding Officer Supt Zaidi Morshidi said a 60-member patrol team led by Insp Rahman Ahmad detected the encroachment at about 3am. He said the illegal immigrants had cut the security fencing and hid in the sugar cane plantation but they were caught shortly.

    The team is entrusted with the task of patrolling the 33.3km Malaysia-Thailand border from Bukit Kayu Hitam to Padang Besar in Perlis, he told reporters at the GOF operations base here.

    Zaidi said the illegals, four of whom women, left Myanmar on Wednesday with the help of a Thai agent who charged them 500 Bahts (about RM48) a person. The foreigners, aged between 20 and 45, said they entered Malaysia to find jobs, he added.