Daily News-October 26 - 2001- Friday

  • US' Crate & Barrel puts block on goods from Burma
  • Burmese authorities accused of oppressing Muslims
  • Burma asks its western neighbors not to accept opposition groups
  • Registration makes 1.7 billion baht for Thai government coffers
  • Anthrax fears lead to Burmese cattle import ban
  • Bangladesh says Myanmar troops kill one, abduct 13

  • US' Crate & Barrel puts block on goods from Burma after NGO lobbying

    WASHINGTON (AFX10/24/2001 ) - US retailer Crate & Barrel has stopped sourcing furniture and goods made in Burma for its US outlets following a lobbying campaign by The Free Burma Coalition, according to a spokesman for the campaign group.

    The decision by Crate & Barrel to cease sourcing goods from Burma follows similar moves by Sara Lee Corp, Williams Sonoma, Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Texaco Inc which is now part of ChevronTexaco Corp.

    Crate & Barrel could not be reached for comment today, but company CEO Gordon Segal said in a letter to the campaign group that the retailer has stopped sourcing goods from Burma.

    "In recent months, Crate and Barrel has carried a line of products purchased in good faith through a Thai wholesaler. When the Crate and Barrel furniture buyer responsible for this line discovered that it was actually produced in Burma, she issued an immediate inter-company memorandum discontinuing it from our product offerings," Segal said in the letter.

    "Crate and Barrel has a long-standing zero-tolerance policy against conducting business with any country whose government permits violation of human rights," Segal added.

    "We're targeting any companies that we know about that are importing from Burma," said a spokesman for The Free Burma Coalition in Washington. The spokesman said that forced labor is often used in Burma by the military government and that the military has applied a 5 pct export tax on all exports that leave the country. It then uses the tax revenue to fund weapons purchases.

    Burma's democratically elected opposition leader and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu-Kyi has criticised foreign companies which invest in the country. Suu Kyi said foreign investment in Burma provides foreign currency reserves which the military government uses to consolidate its grip on the country. Crate & Barrel is a unit of Germany's Otto Versand group.
    Burmese authorities accused of oppressing Muslims

    By our correspondent Mizzima News

    Chiangmai (Thailand), Oct. 25: The ruling Burmese military regime, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) confirmed persistent rumors of rioting and clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in Prome (Pyi) in central Burma and clamped down curfews in some cities in the country. The government's confirmation came only after several foreign news agencies reported on the matter during the past week.

    Hla Min, government spokesperson, confirmed only on 19 October that there had been clashes along religious lines at Prome on 9 October. However, to date no details on the clashes and rioting have been provided by the government. "The state-run newspapers, radio and TV stations inside the country did not carry reports of the religious clashes", said a Rangoon resident.

    According to eyewitnesses, the situation had assumed grave dimensions. "Nearly 50 Muslim shops were destroyed. One person was killed and over 100 people were wounded in Prome alone", said a staff member in Prome Hospital. As the clashes spread from Prome to Pegu Township, the authorities imposed curfews in five townships in Pegu Division. In Taungoo Township, police and army were stationed near the mosques.

    Parallel to these activities, the government took "preventive measures" such as imposing travel restrictions on Muslims, not allowing Muslims to attend prayers in mosques and monitoring Muslim leaders' activities. "

    In Tha Kay Ta Quarter in Rangoon, people have not been allowed to pray in mosques since June", said a Rangoon resident. Muslims living in Tha Kay Ta Township are now compelled to conduct their prayers in a mosque in Nwe Aye Ward, Daw Bon Town. "It is now a common practice for mosque-attending Muslims to be watched closely by military intelligence (MI). This is no longer a strange occurrence", commented a Muslim in Rangoon, adding that the practice affected Muslims not only in Rangoon but also in Moulmein, Pegu, Pa-an (Karen State) and Bu Thi Taung, Maung Daw, Kyauk Phyu (townships in Arakan State).

    Another Muslim who recently arrived Rangoon after secretly traveling there from Bu Thi Taung in Arakan State (which borders with Bangladesh) confirmed that MI is watching Muslims in his township. Moreover, authorities have also banned the building of new mosques and the refurbishing of old ones across the country. "If you want to repair a Mosque, you have to pay bribes of 200 to 300 thousands Kyats to local authorities". In Pa-an and Phapon townships in Karen State, the Burmese army not only destroyed mosques but also whole villages inhabited by Muslims.

    Recently, Buddhist monk leaders belonging to the Democratic Karen Buddhists Army (DKBA) which is manipulated and controlled by the Burmese regime, warned villagers in Pa-an Township (in Karen State) not to buy anything from Muslim shops. The monks allege that anyone buying from Muslim shops is an anti-national and a traitor. DKBA monks put up notices to this effect in shops and on trees across the town.

    "Muslim living in Arakan State are being oppressed severely by the authorities", said a Burmese Muslim from Bu Thi Taung. "In Kyauk Phyu, Myay Pon, Bu Thi Taung and Maung Taw towns (which are close to Bangladesh border), a Muslim requires a visa from the immigration office to travel to other States and Divisions, whether he or she has National Identity Card or not", he said. "Two acquaintances need to vouch for the traveler in order for him or her to get a one-month visa. If the traveler does not come back, the two people having vouched for him or her are liable to punishment of three months in jail term and a fine of fifty thousand Kyats".

    Under these circumstances, many Muslims prefer to travel to Rangoon and other cities secretly, bribing authorities along the journey. The unfortunate ones are caught. U Kar Man (41) from Bu Thi Taung was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment in August this year when he was intercepted by the Ward authorities in Nwe Aye Ward, Daw Bon town, Rangoon, when traveling secretly from Bu Thi Taung to Rangoon. A spokesman from an exiled Muslim group alleged that Muslims in Burma have been oppressed by the authorities since 1962.
    Burma asks its western neighbors not to accept opposition groups

    Chiang Mai, October 25, 2001
    Network Media Group

    Burmese military regime asked India and Bangladesh not to accept the opposition groups on their soil in recent border meetings, leaked meeting reports mentioned.

    On October 18, preliminary meeting for the 19th border meeting, which will be held on November 23 between Burma and India, was held at the border town of Tamu. During the meeting, Burmese commander of Light Infantry Battalion 87 Lt. Col. Win Pe asked the India Rifle Brigade 7 commander Col. Khamna to clear up the Burmese opposition armed groups mentioning the name of Chin National Front, mentioned in the report.

    Similarly, Regional commander level meeting of Burmese Army and Bangladesh army held on October 17 at Maung Daw on Burma-Bangladesh border and Col. Aung Ngwe, supervisor of border trade control committee (Maung Daw), asked his Bangladesh counterpart not to accept Burmese armed opposition in Bangladesh. During the meeting, Bangladesh delegation asked Burmese delegation to remove the land mines on the border area.

    "We are working to achieve democracy in Chin land and there are no armed members in neighboring countries like India and Bangladesh. We follow the regional laws of the neighboring countries whenever we take refuge there," said Dr. Salai Sui Khar, Secretary of External Affairs of the CNF during interview with NMG.

    Chin, Arakan (Rakhing) and Muslims from Arakan State are operating along the Burma western border, adjacent to India and Bangladesh, opposing against Burmese military regime.
    Registration makes 1.7 billion baht for Thai government coffers

    Supamart Kasem Penchan Charoensuthipan
    The Bangkokpost

    The state earned more than 1.7 billion baht from the registration of 540,000 alien workers, which began last month and ended yesterday.Permanent secretary for labour Irawat Chanprasert said the total was well below the 700,000 registrations expected earlier.

    Premsak Piayura, the House labour committee chairman, demanded the government use the money transparently and for the benefit of local communities which hired the immigrants. The government allows employers in 10 types of industry to recruit alien workers, most of them Burmese, but they must register them.The fees are 3,250 baht for a six-month stay and 4,450 baht for one-year's employment.On Monday police begin searching factories and arresting unregistered foreign workers, who will be deported.

    Dr Premsak, who observed the registration in Tak with 15 committee members, told local authorities he would ask the government to organise a workshop on the problem of illegal alien labourers, who could pose threats to national security. Local groups and employers should be given a say.Deputy Labour Minister Ladawan Wongsriwong said the department was considering heavier penalties for employers and foreign migrant workers who break alien employment law.

    Employers are liable to a maximum three-year jail term and/or a 60,000-baht fine. Illegal workers face three months in jail and a 5,000-baht fine. Employers sheltering illegal immigrants are liable to 10 years in jail and a 100,000-baht fine.
    Anthrax fears lead to Burmese cattle import ban

    Cheewin Sattha
    Cattle imports from Burma have been banned to prevent a possible outbreak of anthrax, border sources said yesterday.A one-month ban had been imposed amid fears that the cattle, mostly from India, Pakistan and Nepal, might be infected during transit.No official reports of anthrax infection had come to light.

    Hundreds of cattle are imported from Burma via Ban Sao Hin in Mae Sariang, Huay Ton Num in Khun Yuam and Huay Phueng in Muang district each day.The cattle would be trucked to other northern provinces including Chiang Mai and Lamphun.Authorities in Lamphun, meanwhile, yesterday reported an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in three tambons.

    Some 1,300 cattle in tambon Si Bua Ban in Muang district were infected with the disease which spread into tambon Pasak and tambon Makhuajae.Measures were being stepped up to contain the disease, said Piyarat Khongdaeng, acting livestock chief, with 17 cattle put in quarantine and 700 others vaccinated.

    Farmers said the cattle could have contracted the disease from water sources which were close to old dump sites.Health officials yesterday dismissed reports of foot-and-mouth disease infections spreading to people, saying four patients admitted to hospital were being treated for non-life threatening skin diseases.
    Bangladesh says Myanmar troops kill one, abduct 13


    COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Oct. 26 Myanmar border troops shot dead one Bangladeshi man, wounded two and abducted 13 on Friday while they were fishing in the Naf river which divides the two countries, Bangladesh security officials said.

    An officer in the Bangladesh Rifles border force told reporters the people were attacked by Myanmar troops while fishing in the Bangladesh part of the river.

    The Bangladesh Rifles had lodged a protest with the Myanmar military and asked for a meeting on the incident. ''We have not received a response from them yet,'' Bangladesh Rifles Major Ashraful Hossain told Reuters.

    He said Myanmar troops had seized at least 150 Bangladeshis including fishermen and loggers on what he described as false charges of trespassing over the last two years. Some of them have been freed following talks between the two sides but others are languishing in Myanmar jails, he said.

    The Naf river forms part of the 320 km-long (200 miles) Bangladesh-Myanmar border. In the past Bangladesh had complained that Myanmar forces planted landmines along the border, apparently trying to block the movement of Muslim rebels seeking a separate homeland in Myanmar's western Arakan state, bordering Bangladesh's southeastern Cox's Bazar.

    Mines have killed about 30 Bangladeshis, mostly people collecting timber in forests along the frontier, as well as nearly 20 elephants since 1997, local officials say. Nearly 21,000 Myanmar Muslims, known as Rohingyas, have been living in two refugee camps in Cox's Bazar since 1992 after they fled from their country alleging persecution by the ruling military.