Daily News-October 21 - 2001- Sunday

  • Burma curfew amid rising religious tensions
  • Moderate earthquake hits near Sittwe
  • Changes made in Director General Office of Burmese Military Intelligence reported
  • Thai army counts on helpful neighbours
  • Myanmar Holds ICT Forum
  • Myanmar Takes Measures in Tobacco Use Control

  • Burma curfew amid rising religious tensions

    By BBC Burma analyst Larry Jagan

    The Burmese Government has imposed dusk-to-dawn curfews in several towns to prevent violence between different religious communities. There are signs that tension between Muslims and Buddhists is growing in the wake of the attacks in New York and Washington and the US bombing of Afghanistan.

    In one incident last week, more than 40 Muslim shop owners had their properties destroyed when some 200 visiting Buddhist monks went on a rampage, a senior Burmese Islamic leader told the BBC. The government says it is not going to tolerate ethnic violence and has also begun to enforce travel restrictions on Muslims.

    Extremely tense

    Government spokesman, Hla Min, told the BBC the government had imposed the curfew, as a precautionary measure. He admitted that there had been some problems in the town of Prome but he said the authorities had quickly restored order. A senior Muslim leader told the BBC the military had indeed intervened, but not before 40 shops owned by Muslims were destroyed.

    Diplomatic sources say there is also an informal curfew operating in at least two other towns where there has been unrest in the past.

    International aid organisations with contacts in Rakhine state, where the greatest concentration of Muslims are, say there is an extremely tense atmosphere.

    Travel restrictions

    They say the government is so concerned about the situation getting out of hand they have imposed travel restrictions on Muslims there. Last week, without warning, the government limited the number of people crossing the border between Burma and Bangladesh to 10 - usually hundreds cross the border daily. Senior Islamic leaders say Muslims must apply for travel permits to move outside their area of residence.

    The official spokesman told the BBC these travel restrictions were being enforced to prevent - as he put it - hate crimes and religious harassment of any kind happening. He also said the government was concerned to prevent illegal immigrants of dubious background coming into the towns and cities and causing what he called an unnecessary security problem.

    Bin Laden ban

    The Burmese Government is anxious prevent violence against Muslims erupting at the moment. They fear it could lead to Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad being less supportive.

    Burma's generals are so sensitive that Osama Bin Laden tee-shirts - mass produced in neighbouring Thailand and sold extensively throughout Thailand and Malaysia - are not on sale in Burma. There is no actual ban on the product, a Burmese businessman told the BBC, but cross-border traders would not dare try to import them for fear of the authorities' reaction.
    Moderate earthquake hits near Sittwe

    YANGON, Oct. 20 - A moderate earthquake shook northwest Myanmar, but there were no reports of damage or loss of life, officials said on Saturday. The quake, measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale, struck near Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, at around 1:30 p.m. (0730 GMT) on Friday.

    ''We haven't heard anything about damage or fatalities yet,'' said an official from the meteorology and hydrology department. ''We don't think there would be severe damage because the intensity was moderate and there are no high-rise buildings.''
    Changes made in Director General Office of Burmese Military Intelligence reported

    Network Media Group

    Tachilek, October 20-Officers from the Office of Strategic Study (OSS) were promoted and moved to the office of Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) and some of the structure in the DGMI has been changed, reported by a reliable source.

    Two departments namely Socio-economic department and Media department were added to the structure of the office of DGMI. Brigadier General Than Tun will be head of department in the newly formed Socio-economic department and Colonel Min Thu will lead as head of department in Media department.

    The substitutes as heads of department for the previously running departments are Brigadier Kyaw Thein in Information Intelligence (SigInt) department, Brigadier Myint Zaw in Planning and Security department and Brigadier Thein Swe (Air Force) in Internal and External Information department.

    Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt and Brigadier General Kyaw Win will stay in their old positions as Director General and Deputy Director General of DGMI.Lt. Col. San Pwint and Lt. Col. Hla Min were promoted and appointed as General Staff Officer I (G-1) in Military Intelligence.

    Burmese military regime didn't make any announcement although there was news about dissolving the Office of the Strategic Study (OSS) in early last month. A scholar watching the structure of Burmese military said that the news could be correct due to the new structure of the DGMI. Lt. Col Thet Tin Sein was appointed as director for the office of DGMI. The new structure of the office of DGMI obviously enforces on news, information and media.
    Thai army counts on helpful neighbours

    Subin Khuenkaew Shinawat Singha

    The Third Army commander hopes to stamp out drug trafficking with the co-operation of three neighbouring countries.Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasingh said the anti-drug drive could get a boost from joint patrol operations along the Mekong river by Thailand, China, Burma and Laos.

    The idea was raised at a recent meeting in Beijing between the countries.``It is being considered by the Foreign Ministry. Personally, I believe it would benefit us all. I hope to use such operations in suppressing drugs,'' he said.Lt-Gen Udomchai was happy to hear that drug manufacturing plants on the Burmese border were moving further inland.Some were reportedly moved along the Burmese-Lao border close to the Mekong river.

    The commander said security would be stepped up in areas thought to serve as trafficking routes.``The Mekong river is likely to be used to smuggle drugs,'' said Lt-Gen Udomchai.

    Special Task Force 399 had been deployed along the Burmese border in Tak's Phrop Phra district.The task force is an elite unit, well-equipped and specially trained for ground operations at night.

    Lt-Gen Udomchai believed Burma was sincere in its efforts to solve border problems, especially trafficking.He said booby traps which injured four Thai soldiers on a patrol mission in Mae Hong Son's Pang Ma Pha district were not planted by drug traffickers.The traps might have been planted by Burmese ethnic rebels to guard against attacks by Rangoon troops, he said.
    Myanmar Holds ICT Forum

    YANGON, October 20 (Xinhua)--An information, communication and technology (ICT) forum was opened here Saturday, aimed at meeting the challenges of the knowledge-based age and raising public awareness of the value of ICT and its development.

    The forum, jointly conducted by the Myanmar Computer Scientists Association and the Myanmar Computer Industry Association, will discuss opportunities and issues for ICT applications and ICT industry development. Meanwhile, a three-day ICT exhibition also began on Friday, which is believed to reflect the current status of ICT in Myanmar as well as to indicate the future trends of ICT. At the exhibition/"35 companies and organizations are displaying their computer products, related equipment and books on computer science.

    In recent years, Myanmar made some achievements in the ICT sector. At present, almost all basic education schools in Myanmar including the primary level have already established or in the process of establishing multi-media classrooms. In addition, 20 computer colleges have also been set up across the country. Recently, an electronic-learning center was opened in Myanmar with the assistance of Japan to train IT professionals.Moreover, a consortium of private companies are building an ICT park in the country which will be operational by the end of this year.

    Myanmar is a signatory to e-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Framework and an e-national task force has been formed to implement the framework. Meanwhile, efforts on development of e-commerce, e-government, e-education, preparation of Cyber laws and improving the ICT infrastructure by the e-national task force are in progress.
    Myanmar Takes Measures in Tobacco Use Control

    YANGON, October 20 (Xinhuanet) -- Among Myanmar's general population, the prevalence use of tobacco is 38 percent, of whom men account for 63 percent, according to official statistics.

    In the country's urban general population, 46.6 percent use tobacco. Of students aged 10 to 20 years, 44.6 percent have experienced smoking. Total tobacco consumption is in the range of 2,000 to 3,000 cigarettes per adult per year.

    Smoking not only constitutes a major threat to the health of human being and an impact on social and economic development, but also brings about pollution to the environment.

    In face of the many dangers brought about through tobacco, the Myanmar government is positively responding to the call by the World Health Organization (WHO), taking control of the cultivation of tobacco and production of cigarettes and working towards gradual realization of the target of tobacco-free.

    The Myanmar government has mainly taken the following measures in tobacco control. Firstly, disseminate health education messages via mass media as well as exhibitions to promote the community awareness on tobacco control, urging people to actively participate in the anti- tobacco activities.

    Secondly, ban cigarette advertisements in the newspapers and TV and ban sale of cigarettes near the environs of hospitals and schools.

    Thirdly, designate no smoking areas. The Myanmar government bans smoking in all hospitals, schools, cinema halls, factories and government offices as well as buses, trains, boats, airplanes and at the airport.

    Fourthly, draw up and implement anti-tobacco plan of action and draft law on smoking control. The Myanmar government introduced a plan of action in July 2000 and is now in the process of implementation. In addition, an expert committee has drafted a law on smoking control and is in the process of scrutiny at the Ministry of Health.

    According to the data published by the WHO, Myanmar has been producing an average of 40,000 tons of unmanufactured tobacco annually since 1990, equivalent to 0.5 percent of the world production. In 2000-01 fiscal year, Myanmar produced 2.521 billion cigarettes, taking up 0.1 percent of the world total. Myanmar owns two tobacco manufacturing factories with a total of 88,400 people engaged in work related to tobacco.

    Myanmar grows two types of tobacco -- Virginia and Myanmar tobacco. In mid-1980s, Myanmar's total harvested area of tobacco reached up to 53,460 hectares. At the end of the 20th century, Myanmar's total tobacco harvested area declined to 36,045 hectares, accounting for only 0. 5 percent of the country's arable land.

    To realize as early as possible the target of a world tobacco- free, the Myanmar government has called for enhancing of cooperation and coordination among countries against tobacco, urging developed countries to provide necessary aid to the developing countries.