Daily News-October 18 - 2001- Thursday

  • Birthday celebration for imprisoned Burma student leader planned
  • U.N. human rights investigator meets opposition leader
  • Two hundred prisoners replaced for 120 prisoners in hard labor camp
  • Myanmar aims to cast off pariah image with closer international ties
  • Myanmar Striving to Overcome Negative Impact on Economy
  • India's Ovl in Exploration Talks With Korean, Indonesian Firms
  • Malaysia Issues Work Permits

  • Birthday celebration for imprisoned Burma student leader planned

    Mizzima News

    Washington, Oct. 17: The birthday of Burma's imprisoned student leader Min Ko Naing is being celebrated tomorrow in the Capitol offices of US congressmen Lane Evans and Tom Lantos. October 18th marks the student leader's 12th consecutive birthday behind bars.

    Min Ko Naing, a prominent student leader who led the 1988 nationwide uprising in Burma was arrested in March 1989 by the military regime and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for his anti-government activities. Although his sentence was later reduced to 10 years under general amnesty, he remains in jail. He has been held in solitary confinement for most of his imprisonment, which resulted in poor physical and mental health.

    In a rare meeting with the then Congressman Bill Richardson in Sittwe Jail in Rakhine State in 1994, he reportedly refused amnesty in return for exile in the US.

    The date of celebration is honored by the Capitol celebration (convened by the Washington-based Free Burma Coalition) and a candle light vigil tonight in front of the residence of Burmese ambassador in Washington.

    United Nations Human Rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro who is currently on a fact-finding mission in Burma has specifically called on the Burmese authorities to effect Min Ko Naing's release.Amnesty International recognizes Min Ko Naing as a prisoner of conscience and had appealed the Burmese government for his immediate and unconditional release.
    U.N. human rights investigator meets opposition leader

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ A senior United Nations human rights investigator met Wednesday with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, shortly after his U.N. team returned from inspecting prison conditions outside the capital.

    The three-member U.N. team, led by Brazilian political scientist Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, visited the towns of Lashio and Muse in northern Shan State, centers for ethnic minority populations, said a U.N. official on condition of anonymity.

    The group also visited a prison in Mandalay, Myanmar's second biggest city, where they were allowed to speak privately with some prisoners, the official said.

    A planned trip to Kachin State was canceled, and Pinheiro was due to leave Myanmar Wednesday night, three days ahead of schedule. No official explanation was given for the change in schedule.

    The ruling military of Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been widely condemned for extensive human rights abuses including torture, killings and rape in ethnic minority areas such as Shan and Kachin states. It denies the charges.

    The military seized power in 1988 after crushing a democracy uprising. It called national elections in 1990, but refused to honor the results that gave Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party an overwhelming victory.

    Pinheiro, who arrived on Oct. 9, met earlier with Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, secretary of the ruling junta, and Foreign Minister Win Aung _ as well as Yangon-based ambassadors and ethnic representatives of political parties.

    The U.N. envoy also met in Mandalay with some members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. Details of Pinheiro's talks were not made public.

    Pinheiro was the first U.N. human rights investigator allowed into the country in half a decade. He last visited Myanmar in April after being named U.N. human rights rapporteur in February, replacing Rajsoomer Lallah, a Mauritian judge who was never allowed entry. The United Nations and Myanmar's Western critics have welcomed closed-door negotiations that Suu Kyi and junta officials have been holding for almost a year in a bid to end the country's political deadlock. Since they began, the government has released more than 100 imprisoned members of Suu Kyi's party as a goodwill gesture.
    Two hundred prisoners replaced for 120 prisoners in hard labor camp

    Network Media Group

    ICRC suggested some prisoners are not suitable for hard labor

    Moreh, October 17, 2001 -A total of 200 prisoners from Monywa are to be replaced for more than 120 prisoners who were sent back to original prisons on October 15 with the suggestion of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from three hard labor camps in Tamu district near Indo-Burma border.

    The prisoners sent back to original prisons with the suggestion of ICRC consist of 39 from Oakpho hard-labor camp, 60 from Saya San camp and 24 from Yesagyo 1 camp. They were suggested by ICRC, not to do hard labor due to their health conditions, old aged and some are too young.

    The conditions of the prisoners under so called "new life project" number 1 were deteriorated due to continuous hard work for the whole day, insufficient food and malaria. The mortality rate of the prisoners in these camp ranges from 24 to 30 percent every year, according to the reports of the directorate of prisons.

    An investigation team from ICRC visited these camps during last month and suggested some prisoners are not suitable for hard labor. How many prisoners unsuitable for hard labor among new 200 prisoners to be replaced, is not yet known.
    Myanmar aims to cast off pariah image with closer international ties

    BANGKOK, Oct 17 (AFP) - Myanmar will step up efforts to engage neighboring countries and the international community in an attempt to dispel "jaundiced views" that have cast it as a pariah state, the state media said Wednesday.

    Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, the ruling junta's number-three leader, was quoted as saying the regime would "cooperate more closely with our neighbors in the political, economic and social fields". "Just as emphasis is being given to bilateral relations, Myanmar will focus on achieving solidarity with regional organisations ... (and) seek to be more active in the international arena," he was quoted as saying.

    The military intelligence chief was speaking to government officials at the close of a course on diplomacy at Myanmar's foreign ministry. Khin Nyunt said Myanmar had shown "genuine sincerity" in cooperating with an International Labour Organisation (ILO) delegation that toured the country last month to inspect government attempts at eradicating forced labour.

    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 ILO mission came 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.

    "We wish to demonstrate our genuine sincerity in cooperating with the ILO and prove that accusations made by opposition groups, insurgents and expatriates are unfounded," Khin Nyunt said.

    The military intelligence chief said the world economy was set to deteriorate further in light of the US-led war against terrorism, hitting small, weak countries such as Myanmar particularly hard.

    He added that military authorities would continue efforts to improve the international community's "appreciation of Myanmar's objectives and policies," while diplomats should be "well acquainted" with policies of the state. "At the same time as Myanmar enters the mainstream of international activities and plays an increasingly active role, those who are responsible for international relations must be highly qualified," he said.

    One year ago this month, the junta embarked on historic talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in their first official contacts since

    Amid hopes that the dialogue is paving the way for democratic reforms, the international community has muted its criticisms of Myanmar which for decades has been roundly condemned for its poor human rights record.

    Over the past year the capital Yangon has witnessed an unprecedented flurry of diplomatic activity, with visits from the ILO, European Union, UN envoy Razali Ismail and UN human rights rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.
    Myanmar Striving to Overcome Negative Impact on Economy

    YANGON, October 17, Xinhuanet,-- Myanmar is striving to overcome the negative impact on its economy arising out of the adverse effects on world economy due to vast transformation taking place in the world, said Myanmar's top leader on Tuesday.

    "There is no doubt that this situation will have a negative impact on small countries like ours that are not economically strong, " noted Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council, at a graduation ceremony of officers in diplomacy course conducted by the foreign ministry, official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported Wednesday.

    He predicted that the world economic situation will deteriorate even further, saying that the condition is likely to last for some time. He warned that the adverse trends are bound to have negative impacts to certain extent on the regional economic situation, especially the Southeast Asia region which is just beginning to see hopeful signs of recovery from the 1997 financial crisis.

    In such a situation, he said, Myanmar is making its utmost efforts to overcome the adverse effects from the outside and to develop political, economic and foreign relations.

    With regard to Myanmar's foreign relations, he said that the country is actively engaged in international and regional affairs in keeping with its independent and active foreign policy, placing special emphasis on relations with neighboring countries and others in the region and pledging to cooperate more closely with them in the political, diplomatic, economic and social fields.

    The Myanmar leader said that his country will work hard in United Nations organizations and regional ones such as ASEAN, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, BIMST-EC, Bangladesh, India , Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand-Economic Cooperation, and the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation.

    He stated that internal strife, which once hindered the development of Myanmar, is coming to an end, adding that "we have left the door open for those who have not yet returned to the legal fold."

    On the country's economic sector, Khin Nyunt noted that the Myanmar government has been endeavoring to improve its economy, to reduce the gap between the urban and the rural areas and for all the national races to enjoy the fruits of development equally.
    India's Ovl in Exploration Talks With Korean, Indonesian Firms

    NEW DELHI, Oct 17 Asia Pulse - ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the overseas subsidiary of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) (BSE:ONGC), is in talks with Korea's Daewoo International Corp and Indonesia's Pertamina for investments in exploration blocks in Myanmar.

    Sources said OVL was in talks with Daewoo International to pick up a 30 per cent stake in the Arakan offshore exploration block, near Myanmar's border with Bangladesh. The offshore A.1 Block in the Bengal basin is estimated to have eight trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.

    OVL is also in talks with Indonesia's state-run oil company Pertamina for investing in two blocks (M1 & M2) in Moattama offshore, sources said, adding "we have been seeking opportunities abroad as the domestic output of ONGC has been falling because its main oil fields are declining."

    The company is also negotiating for exploration blocks in Nepal, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Algeria, Libya and Venezuela.
    Malaysia Issues Work Permits

    By Ko Thet
    Irrawaddy Online

    October 17, 2001- There appears to be good news on the horizon for Burmese nationals hoping to come and work in Malaysia. The Malaysian government has agreed to issue 30,000 work permits to Burmese citizens currently living in Burma after government officials from the two countries struck a deal last month, according to a Rangoon-based magazine.

    The magazine stated that the Malaysian government would also provide assistance to the workers by helping them to remit as much as 50% of their wages back to their families in Burma. The Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) will also reportedly help facilitate the money transfers.

    "The program starts at the end of this month but is only open to people who can either weld or sew," said a Burmese man hoping to go to Malaysia. The man added that according to rumors circulating in Burma only those people related to army personnel could apply for the permits.

    A Burmese man who has been working in Malaysia for six years said that workers can expect to make 600 to 700 Malaysian Ringgits per month (1 USD=3.8 MYR) with the salaries gradually increasing over time. The salaries in Malaysia are substantially higher than in Burma, where an ongoing economic crisis continues to plague the country.

    Despite the issuance of these permits, Burmese nationals who have obtained permits in the past have complained of corruption in the workplace. "After I got my work permit, my boss confiscated my passport so I could not try and find a better job," said a Burmese man working in a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. "Our salaries are also much lower than what Malaysians receive," the man added.

    Malaysia has been a popular spot for Burmese wishing to work abroad since the early 1990's. The majority of the workers are Burman but other ethnic minorities from Burma are also working in Malaysia.