Daily News-October 27 - 2001- Saturday

  • Myanmar frees eight more political prisoners
  • Task Force to combat narcotic smuggling across Indo-Burma border
  • Chinese delegation to discuss cooperation on drugs
  • Unregistered labour faces tough action
  • After Burma, U. Virginia board mulls investment plan
  • Myanmar arrests two suspects linked to huge Thai maritime drug

  • Myanmar frees eight more political prisoners

    YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government freed eight more political prisoners on Friday, but the country's pro-democracy opposition said the pace of releases was too slow.

    Friday's move brings to 182 the number of prisoners released since the government began landmark peace talks with the National League for Democracy (NLD) last year.

    "This afternoon eight NLD members were released from various correctional facilities to build confidence (in talks with the NLD)," a government statement said. "They are all in good health and are back with their respective families."

    The NLD won Myanmar's last election in 1990 by a landslide but was never allowed to govern. Its leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, has been held in de facto house arrest for more than a year. The military opened confidential talks with Suu Kyi last year, and has been steadily releasing prisoners. The talks have not yet produced any agreement, with diplomats saying they are still at the confidence-building stage.

    NLD Secretary U Lwin said the government was not releasing enough prisoners. "At first, they released people once a week, then once a fortnight and now once a month only," he told reporters. He said many NLD members were still being detained, including Suu Kyi.

    Amnesty International says there are more than 1,500 political prisoners in Myanmar's jails. But the government disputes this, saying most of the prisoners cited are in jail for criminal offences rather than political acts.
    Task Force to combat narcotic smuggling across Indo-Burma border

    By Our Correspondent
    Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

    Guwahati, Oct. 26: The Government of India has constituted a Task Force comprising the representatives of the anti-smuggling units and the Border Security Force (BSF) to contain narcotic smuggling across the Indo-Burma border. The task force has been constituted especially for the North East India in bid to gear up anti-smuggling operations in the region. The Government's move came in the wake of growing incidents of Ephedrine smuggling across the international border. The task force will gather reports on the North Eastern regions and suggest concerted efforts to scale down the narcotic smuggling.

    Official sources informed Mizzima correspondent that the task force would share intelligence reports with various agencies engaged in the region in combating narcotic smuggling. On increasing incidents of Ephedrine smuggling in the region, sources said that is posing a serious threat to the northeastern states as consumption of Ephedrine is increasing gradually. To contain the problem, the task force would prepare a detailed report covering all aspects of the region.

    It is pertinent to mention that Ephedrines are brought from the southern Indian states and then sent to Burma across the border points where it has been converted to various narcotic items and again brought back to India.

    Throwing more light on the narcotic smuggling, sources said that Ephedrines have a good demand in South Asian countries for which the northeastern region has become a focal point of the smuggling.

    "We have confiscated several consignments in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh during the last couple of years meant for Myanmar", sources added. They further stated that the anti-smuggling operations have failed to yield desired results in the region due to stepped up operations of the underground militants. "Inspite of having specific information, on various occasions we can't launch operations due to their activities", they added.

    To overcome the problem, the task force has been constituted by providing modern equipment. Another important fact is that taking advantage of undulating forest coverage and terrain the smugglers have been running the business leading to a major problem for the agencies deployed in the region to combat anti-smuggling operations.
    Chinese delegation to discuss cooperation on drugs

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Oct 26, 2001
    Text of report in English by Burmese newspaper The New Light of Myanmar web site on 26 October

    Yangon [Rangoon] 25 October: Chairman of the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control [CCDAC] Minister for Home Affairs Col Tin Hlaing received the delegation led by Director-General of the Public Security Department of Yunnan Province of the People's Republic of China Secretary-General of Yunnan Province Drug Control Committee Mr Sun Dahong at his office this afternoon. The delegation is currently here to discuss bilateral cooperation on drug elimination and alternative development tasks in Kokang region,Shan State (North).

    Also present were CCDAC Secretary Director-General of Myanmar [Burma] Police Force Police Maj-Gen Soe Win and officials. The Yunnan Province delegation and CCDAC also held a coordination meeting the Drug Elimination Museum at the corner of Hanthawady Road and Kyundaw Road in Kamayut Township this morning. The discussions between the Myanmar delegation led by Police Maj-Gen Soe Win and the Yunnan Province delegation focused on matters related to PRC [People's Republic of China]'s assistance for drug elimination, alternative development tasks to be carried out in Kokang region and bilateral cooperation. The Yunnan Province delegation visited the museum in the evening.
    Unregistered labour faces tough action

    The Nation-Published on Oct 27, 2001

    Almost 560,000 people, the greatest number of them from Burma, registered recently with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare under its month-long amnesty period for illegal foreign workers.

    But as from yesterday - when the registration period expired - law enforcement officers will take strong action against unregistered illegal foreign workers as well as their employers, said permanent secretary for labour Elawat Chandraprasert.Elawat said that from now on officials at the Ministry of Labour, the Army, Navy and Police would work together on arresting any foreign workers that have illegally entered and worked in the Kingdom. Those arrested will receive the maximum sentences permissible under the Foreign Labour and Immigration Acts.

    The maximum sentence as stated in the Foreign Labour Act is three years' imprisonment or a Bt60,000 fine, while the maximum sentence under the Immigration Act is three years' in prison or a Bt50,000 fine.Employers caught illegally employing foreign workers would have to shoulder the expenses of deporting those employees.

    On August 28, the Cabinet assigned the Ministry of Labour to register foreigners who had illegally entered and worked in Thailand. The ministry then announced an amnesty period between September 24 and October 25, to allow those foreign workers to register with the ministry to work legally in the country.

    Of the 560,000 newly registered workers, around 447,000 are from Burma, 58,000 are from Laos, and 54,000 are from Cambodia. Most of the workers that registered during the past month are in the agricultural sector - about 103,000 are farm workers while around 99,000 are in the fishery industry.
    After Burma, U. Virginia board mulls investment plan

    By Justin Bernick
    Cavalier Daily- U. Virginia

    (U-WIRE) CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- In light of University of Virginia's recent divestment from Unocal, a controversial company involved in energy speculation in Burma, the Student Affairs and Athletics Committee of the Board of Visitors heard Friday a student presentation regarding ethics in University investment.

    The University needs a "plan for institutionalized ethics in investment," Student Council President Abby Fifer said. "We are delighted that the University divested from Unocal; we look at it as a case study."

    The University's divestment sets an example and is a "small step to provide inspiration to take a leap" toward an international code of ethics in investing, she said.

    Unocal is an oil company that has been accused of hiring corrupt Burmese soldiers to protect a natural gas pipeline in Southeast Asia. A California federal judge has ruled evidence suggests soldiers have raped, murdered and enslaved local villagers. The judge declined to rule Unocol intentionally encouraged these practices.

    Although the University owned only 0.02 percent of Unocal's publicly traded stock, the divestment had tremendous symbolic impact, said Andrew Price, president of the Free Burma Coalition.

    News of the University's divestment has been broadcast on Radio Free Asia and has inspired real hope in Burmese people, he said. He added divestment helped put the reputation of ethically questionable companies on the line, he said. "This is a great step toward promoting ethics, not just on Grounds but throughout the world," he said.

    Price outlined several suggestions for the Board on how to improve investment ethics, including establishment of a student and faculty investment ethics advisory board, a policy requiring University to vote in shareholder resolutions and specific divestments from other ethically questionable companies.

    Requiring the external money managers who handle the University's endowment fund to abide by a code of conduct in all University investments also would promote ethical investments, Price said.

    Although many members of the Board praised Student Council for its role in the Burma issue, Board member Benjamin Warthen expressed concern that so few members of the student body openly expressed support for the Student Council's position and recent actions. "99.9 percent of students are unconcerned about the issue," he said. "Is Student Council truly reflective of the student body? Somehow I want to see more support."

    The University divested from Unocal last week when Richard Mayo, an independent University investment manager, sold the stock in response to a severe drop in the stock's value after the Sept. 11 terorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C, and in response to student ethical concerns on Grounds.The investment manager made the decision to sell completely independent of the Board of Visitors. The Board does not deal with the everyday trading of University stocks, Board secretary Alexander "Sandy" Gilliam Jr. said.

    "Mr. Jefferson would be very proud" of the concerned student groups, Board member Terence P. Ross said. "With reasonable civil discourse you persuaded people," he said, praising Fifer and Price for their work. During Student Council's presentation to the Board, about two dozen protestors gathered on the steps of the Rotunda to voice their support. "We're here to voice our support for investment ethics," fourth-year College student Ross Kane said. "It's a matter of the University using the leverage it has as an investor to support ethics in the international community."
    Myanmar arrests two suspects linked to huge Thai maritime drug

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ Two persons linked to a major drug seizure by Thai authoritigs in the Andaman Sea in January have been arrested in Myanmar, a government press release said Friday.

    Thai authorities on Jan. 7 seized 116 kilograms (255 pounds) of heroin and nearly 8 million methamphetamine tablets from two Thai-registered fishing trawlers off Surin island in Phang-nga province, 650 kilometers (400 miles) southwest of Bangkok.

    The boats were intercepted after a tip-off, in an operation involving Thai, Myanmar and U.S. authorities. The street value of the drugs was estimated at tens of millions of dollars.

    Twenty-four seamen on the trawlers were arrested and four other suspects were arrested in the Thai capital Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Rai. The arrest of the four latter suspects led Myanmar authorities to Nyein Kyaw, alias Xi Yong Qin, after Thailand's Narcotics Control Board provided a phone number to Myanmar's Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control. He was arrested at the Eastern Hotel in Yangon.

    Xi was said to have confessed and namff as the financier of the smuggling operation Kyaw Hlaing, alias Lauk San, who was arrested at Kalawy, 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Yangon in Shan State, the press release said. It was not clear exactly when the arrests took place.

    Myanmar rivals Afghanistan as the world's largest heroin exporter and has also become a leading production center for the stimulant methamphetamine. Most of the drugs are trafficked through China and Thailand to third country destinations. Faced with security crackdowns on traditional overland smuggling routes in northern Thailand, smugglers have begun using sea lanes.

    Friday's government statement said that Myanmar, also known as Burma, continues its transnational drug control activities with all nations,particularly its neighbors.It cited cases in April and September where Myanmar law enforcement authorities handed over to their Chinese counterparts two Chinese drug fugitives, Tan Xiaolan and Xian Quo Min.

    It also pointed out thav"Myanmar drug officials in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police arrested two Myanmar nationals, Twan Sin Htan,30, also known as Maung Win, and Aik Tun, 24, also known as Aung Kyaw, in Yangon on April 1 for their alleged connection with more than 350 kilograms (770 pounds) of heroin seized at a port in Fiji last year.Drug trafficking is punishable by death under Myanmar's drug law although death sentences are rarely carried out.