Daily News-September 24 - 2001- Monday

  • Myanmar belatedly releases condolence message for the US
  • Shan party leader claims Rangoon dropped action
  • A new umbrella youth organization formed
  • Make Burma safe for and against ethnicity, says non-Burman leader
  • Thai refugee camp under tight security after threats of attack
  • Ad Carabao complains thai govt intends to ban 'pro-Shan' album
  • Myanmar Endeavors for Industrial Development
  • Hong Pang Company begins upgrading Rangoon-Mandalay highway
  • Australia to send aid workers to Myanmar
  • ILO experts fan out across Myanmar to investigate forced labour

  • Myanmar belatedly releases condolence message for the US

    YANGON, Sept 23 (AFP) - Myanmar's military regime has belatedly released a message of sympathy sent to the United States after the terrorist attacks there, and denied rumours that its troops were ready to fight with the alleged perpetrator Osama bin Laden.

    Myanmar's official press maintained a blackout on the attacks until the weekend when it finally ran a letter to US President George W. Bush from junta leader Senior General Than Shwe, sent the day after the attacks.

    "I was deeply shocked by the news of the dreadful violence perpetrated in the cities of Washington DC, New York and Pittsburgh on 11 September 2001," Than Shwe said in the message."At this tragic hour, the people and government of the Union of Myanamr join me in offering our heartfelt condolences to the government and people of the United States of America."

    The Myanmar junta typically has a hostile relationship with the US government, which has led the international community in condemning the regime over its poor human rights record and resistance to democratic reforms.

    Meanwhile, the official press also issued a statement dismissing what it said were rumours of a connection between government troops and fighters aligned with Bin Laden, who the US has accused of masterminding the attacks.

    "The government and the people of Myanmar are quite surprised to learn that in Europe there is a malicious rumour going around stating that the Myanmar soldiers are going to join Usamah Bin-Ladin's forces," it said. The statement said the reports were being spread deliberately by exiled dissidents who were aiming to discredit the government and deter tourists from visiting Myanmar.

    However, the opposition radio network, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) said the government's denial was the first it had heard of the bin Laden connection. "DVB has contacted Europe-based Burmese democracy groups but they said they have not heard the rumours," it said.

    The Myanmar Times said in a report to be published in its Monday edition that Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win had also expressed the government's sympathies over the attacks in a condolence book.

    "These acts were indeed in no way acceptable to all mankind," the minister wrote in the book opened at the Inya Lake Hotel, where a prayer service for the victims was held Wednesday. "In this hour of great tragedy, Myanmar wishes to reaffirm its friendship with the great people of the United States."
    Shan party leader claims Rangoon dropped action

    Text of report by DVB on 22 September

    News has been emerging often about the SPDC Military Intelligence personnel forcing the resignation of the members of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy [SNLD], the party that won the second largest number of elected representatives at the 1990 elections. Sai Pan Lu, the secretary of SNLD party in Hsi-Hseng Township, southern Shan State was forced to resign from his party on 3 September.

    Similarly, SNLD members were forced to resign en masse in May in Langhko and Mong Kung Townships. Regarding this forced resignations against the SNLD, DVB contacted SNLD Chairman U Khun Tun Oo and he said those problems took place sometime back and currently the SPDC has asked the SNLD to let bygones be bygones.

    [Khun Tun Oo] That was clearly the work of the regional commander who ordered the General Administration Department officials to take action. We won in Loilem District and there are nine townships including Langhko, Mawkmai, Namsang, Mong Kung, Mong Pan, Mong Nai, Kunhing, and others. We were told that party politics is no more and we were urged to leave the political arena on our own accord. But our members questioned the officials and said the SNLD is a legitimate political party and have been participating in the ongoing National Convention so what are we supposed to do. They said they did not know anything but orders are orders and the party must be dissolved within seven days. The township parties then said that they could not decide and act immediately but they would seek the approval from the party head office. That's how the matter begins. We were also not sure what to do and we were adopting a wait and see attitude.

    Before long, the responsible SPDC officials came and told me to forget about everything. They said this happened because of a communication problem between the Peace and Development Council authorities. They then told us to continue with our party activities and to disregard the order issued by the regional authorities in all the nine townships of Loilem District. So, we remain just like before and there is no need for members to quit the party anymore.
    A new umbrella youth organization formed

    Chiang Mai, September 23, 2001- Network Media Group

    An Ethnic Nationalities Youth seminar was held on Thai-Burma border from September 18 to 22 and formed a first ethnic based youth organization, United Nationalities Youth League.

    The seventy-five youth representatives from different ethnic groups including individual Burman ethnic representatives attended the seminar. The seminar had been organized for more then one year and supported by National Reconciliation Program, one of the biggest and most funded program on the border, said Nan Kyi Aye Shwe, chairperson of the organizing committee for the seminar.

    More then one hundred youths and guests attended the closing ceremony of the seminar held on the evening of September 22. "The United Nationalities Youth League is the first and biggest youth organization formed ever in the movement and the decisions and agreements should be carried out as discussed," said U Terriburi, one of the Ministers of the National Coalition Government of Union of Burma (NCGUB) and chairman of the Members of Parliament Union in the closing ceremony of the seminar. "Youths should participate in the transitional preparation programs," he continued.

    The United Nationalities Youth League will be lead by two representatives from different ethnic youths; Karenni, Kayan, Palaung, Karen, PaO, Mon, Burman, Shan, Arakan, Kachin, Lahu and Chin. "We will try to organize other ethnic youths to participate in UNYL," said a spoke person from organizing committee of the seminar. "It is the new step of the youth in the movement," said Dr. Naing Aung, coordinator of the National Reconciliation Program.
    Make Burma safe for and against ethnicity, says non-Burman leader

    Shan Herald Agency for News -23 September 2001 -NO: 19 - 12

    Paraphrasing an American politician and writer, a Pa-o leader warned a gathering of youth on Friday (21 September) that unless there is a new political order that all major ethnic groups in Burma, including Burmans, can accept, continued strife and suffering in the country is inevitable.

    "The challenge is to make Burma safe for and against ethnicity," Hkun Okker said during the 5-day long Nationalities Youth Seminar that ended yesterday (22 September), rewording Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who wrote: The challenge is to make the world safe for and against ethnicity.

    Khun Markoban, MP (Pekon), Shan State, agreed. "The myth of 135 races fighting for independence is the invention of the military dictatorship to vindicate its refusal to hard over power," he said. "On the contrary, the 53 Chin groups (or 'races' as the regime prefers) have been calling for no more than a single autonomous state for themselves. So have the others."

    Both of them were speaking as invited guests at the seminar held by the Nationalities Youth Development Committee. Among others were Sao Sengsuk (Shan Democratic Union), Hkun Teddy Buri (Members of Parliament Union), Dr Naing Aung (Network for Democracy and Development) and Peter Mortensen of Danish Burma Committee.

    The 72 participants of the meeting were from 12 ethnic groups including Burman. Among the group was Aung Moe Zaw, president of the Democratic Party for New Society. The seminar examined presentations on youth development and politics submitted by the participants and discussed how best all could cooperate. The resolution was to set up the United Nationalities Youth League with 2 representatives, preferably but not compulsorily 1 male and 1 female, from each ethnic group.

    The seminar also agreed on the draft statement, to be issued today, that welcomed the ongoing talks in Rangoon between opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the military authorities and promised "to push for Tripartite Dialogue."
    Thai refugee camp under tight security after threats of attack

    MAE SOT, Thailand, Sept 23 (AFP) - Thailand's military said Sunday it had stepped up security around a major refugee camp on the Myanmar border, acting on rumours that a rebel militia had targeted it for attack.

    Fourth Infantry commander in Tak province, Colonel Anek Inamnuay, said the Myanmar-aligned Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) was believed to be planning a revenge strike against the Karen National Union (KNU).

    Sources on the border said rumours were sweeping intelligence circles that the KNU had captured high-ranking DKBA leader Kyaw Than during a raid on one of its bases earlier this month. The DKBA planned to retaliate by torching the Ban Bae Koh refugee camp in Tak province's Tha Song Yang district, one of the biggest facilities on the border and home to 37,000 Karen.

    Anek said the Thai army was checking on the rumours, and in the meantime tightening its guard over the camp. "The intelligence reports we have say it is possible that the camp in Tha Song Yang district will come under attack," he told AFP. "We have increased security around the camp."

    However, KNU secretary general Pado Mansha denied having 51-year-old Kyaw Than in his custody, and said his fighters had raided DKBA headquarters, not the base closer to the border as the Thais believed.

    He told AFP that during the raid they found no top leaders, but seized four lower-ranking officers and held them overnight before releasing them. About five buildings at the headquarters were set alight and destroyed. The KNU leader said he had also heard rumours of an imminent attack on the camp, although he believed the smaller Mae La camp was being targeted.

    "A raid on a camp would cause heavy casualties, but the Thai army has them tightly secured so we don't expect them to be attacked by the DKBA," he told AFP by phone from his secret base.
    Ad Carabao complains thai govt intends to ban 'pro-Shan' album

    The Nation-Published on Sep 24, 2001

    Song-for-life singer Yuenyong Ophakul - better known as "Ad Carabao" - yesterday complained that the government wants to ban his new album because its lyrics support the anti-Rangoon Shan State Army (SSA), or Thai Yai, in Burma.

    Ad said the government believed the recording "Mai Tong Rong Hai" (Don't cry) should not be distributed at this time, given that it might damage the current warm relationship between Thailand and Burma.

    "I've heard that if I launch my new album, all copies will be taken away immediately," he said.The songs on the new album all contain messages concerning the Thai Yai's fight for democracy, with one featuring SSA leader Colonel Yod Suek. But an informed source said a piece entitled "Ying Chao Kala" was the most irritating to the Thai government because it contains a phrase about "shooting and killing Burmese people".

    Whether any such ban will really take place has yet to be seen, but an informed source said rumours like this had already severed the 20-year relationship between Ad and his marketing company "Krabu and Ko" (Buffalo and Ox). The unidentified source said the company's biggest shareholder happens to have a close connection to a Cabinet member.

    Ad said the content of his new album had already been leaked to the Prime Minister's Office. Ad was inspired to write music about the Thai Yai after Yod Suek, or Chao Yod Suek, had invited him to visit an SSA stronghold on the Burmese border opposite Mae Hong Son. The singer said he started researching the long history of the Thai Yai's fight after returning to Thailand.

    "I made my new album with the feeling that I am a Thai Yai. If what they have gone through ever happened to Thailand, I would fight to the death. But as it is the struggle of some folks close to us, I will let my songs fight instead," he said.

    PM's Office Minister General Thamarak Isarangura said he had been informed that Ad's new album would talk about the Thai Yai, but he personally had not heard any of the songs. He also said that he had no mandate to ban any album because such a move would have to be made by the police."The relationship between Thailand and Burma needs to be considered," he said, admitting that he was personally close to Ad.

    Thamarak described the relationship between the two countries as "very good", but conceded that the album could have an adverse effect on bilateral ties. An informed source at the Office of the Prime Minister said that Ad's new album was still in the production process, and it was still possible that the songs could be changed. Public Relations Department director-general Suchart Suchartvejjabhumi said an official |ban could only come into effect once an album had gone on sale.
    Myanmar Endeavors for Industrial Development

    YANGON, September 23 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar has been making efforts to transform its low-productivity agricultural economy to industrial economy since the present government took over the power of state in late 1988. The endeavors being made are based on high-productivity agricultural system.

    The country formed the Myanmar Industrial Development Committee in August 1995 to formulate industrial policy and provide guidelines for industrialization. The committee was later reconstituted in December 1997. In May 1999, Myanmar formed a 12-member Myanmar Industrial Development Central Committee, chaired by Vice-Chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council General Maung Aye.

    The country laid down five policies in the development of the industries and establishment of an industrialized nation.The policies designate that the industries be set up by three sectors -- the state, the cooperative and the private sectors. Of them, the state-owned facilities be permitted to run as the cooperative or private industry or with the foreign investment.

    The policies restrict that only the state shall have the right to operate the industries producing the required and important goods for the nation's defense such as arms and ammunition. The policies give encouragement and support to emergence of industries that base on domestic resources.The policies emphasize that industries be developed in accordance with the state's economic objective, that is the initiative to shape the national economy must be kept in the hands of the state and the national people.

    With the aim of regrouping the once scattered industries of the country, Myanmar has set up 18 industrial zones across the country including four in the capital of Yangon since 1995.

    With the participation of the private sector, the country strives for setting up of import-substitute industries. According to the latest official statistics, the number of industries in Myanmar reached 53,338 in 1999 including 1,600 state- owned, 637 cooperative-run and 51,101 private-operated ones. More statistics show that up to the end of May this year, there were 4,159 registered private industries in the 18 zones, including 424 heavy industries, 565 medium-sized enterprises and 3, 170 cottage industries.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar also introduced a privatization plan in January 1995, according to which state-owned industrial enterprises, including those nationalized in the 1960s by the then government, are to be transferred to financially strong and technically manageable private enterprises for further operation by way of auctioning, leasing and joint ventures with local and foreign entrepreneurs.

    More measures were also taken which include increase of disbursement of loans to industrial enterprises, fixing the annual interest rate for such loans as low as 15 percent, only 3 percent higher than that for saving deposits which is 12 percent. At the same time, it also cuts the rate of revenues payable by industrial entrepreneurs. The annual output of Myanmar's industrial sector is valued at over 1 billion U.S. dollars.
    Hong Pang Company begins upgrading Rangoon-Mandalay highway

    Hoovers: September 23, 2001

    The Central Supervisory Committee for Ensuring Safe and Smooth Transportation meeting No 5/2001 was held at the meeting hall of the Army Commander in Chief's Office at 1300 today. Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, chairman of the committee and secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council [SPDC], attended the meeting and delivered an address.

    SPDC Secretary-1 Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt said: with regard to ensuring safe and smooth transportation, the task of upgrading Yangon [Rangoon]-Mandalay Highway into a six-lane expressway has been assigned to national entrepreneurs. As SPDC Chairman Sr Gen Than Shwe gave guidance on the participation of national entrepreneurs in national development endeavours duties have been assigned to the entrepreneurs and they have been allowed to participate in the task of bringing about safe and smooth transportation.

    As the tasks are to be carried out in accord with the guidance of the SPDC chairman and the requirements of the nation, national entrepreneurs are required to strive for timely completion of upgrading the six-lane Yangon-Mandalay Highway. During this month, a ceremony to begin the task of upgrading Mandalay-Meiktila section, the northern part of Yangon-Mandalay Highway, by Hong Pang Company was held and construction work has begun. Other entrepreneurs are also engaged in tasks such as finding the axis for the respective sections of the highway, drawing road designs, and collecting fuel oil and machinery.

    In conclusion, the secretary-1 urged all to work for the emergence of the six-lane Yangon-Mandalay Highway of high standard and assured them that the government and responsible departments will provide necessary assistance.
    Australia to send aid workers to Myanmar

    CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia said on Monday it would send aid workers to Myanmar in recognition of recent improved political conditions, but said it wanted the release of imprisoned pro-democracy politicians to continue.

    Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he was encouraged by last month's release from house arrest of National League for Democracy (NLD) chairman Aung Shwe and vice-chairman Tin Oo by Myanmar's military government. The release of politicians, members of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy NLD who had been elected at the last democratic poll in 1990, brings the total number of political prisoners released since January to more than 160.

    "However, we remain deeply concerned that many Burmese citizens remain imprisoned for their political beliefs and we will continue to impress the importance of further prisoner releases," Downer said.

    Downer said Australia would send an aid project team to investigate ways to alleviate child nutrition problems in the poor country. The Australian team will arrive in Myanmar on Monday and stay until October 13.

    "We hope that this small measure will send a signal to the SPDC that progress on human rights and political reconciliation will enhance Burma's prospects of receiving international assistance that will help relieve its pressing humanitarian problems," Downer said.

    The NLD won the 1990 election by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern. Myanmar's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has never recognised the result of the election and has detained dozens of opposition politicians since. Tension between the military and NLD has eased since the start last year of secretive talks between Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, and the country's ruling generals.The human rights group Amnesty International says there are still about 1,500 political prisoners in Myanmar.
    ILO experts fan out across Myanmar to investigate forced labour

    YANGON, Sept 24 (AFP) - A high-level International Labour Organisation (ILO) team has fanned out into Myanmar's provinces to investigate at first hand the junta's efforts to eradicate forced labour, an official said Monday.

    The four-member team separated into two groups, which headed for the military-run nation's west and southern regions to make grassroots assessments of the problem, ILO official Reuben Dudley said.

    Dudley said that the delegation, led by former Australian governor general Sir Ninian Stephen, was happy with the progress of its mission after spending a busy week in Yangon consulting widely on the issue.

    The officials were given access to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held under house arrest for the past year, as well as ministers from the foreign, home and social welfare ministries.

    "Generally it went well. We had all the meetings that we had planned to have, with the government at all levels, international and national NGOs (non-government organisations), and within the UN system," he told AFP."They seem to have got all the information they needed so now they will make an assessment on the ground."

    The team members left on the field trips Sunday and will return on Friday before departing on another one-week survey of different regions on about October 1.

    "So by the end of that week they hope to have enough material to prepare their reports," Dudley said."They have not quite decided exactly where they will go on the other trip, it depends on how much information they can gather in the meantime."

    The ILO mission comes 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.In a bid to fend off further sanctions, the junta in November made forced labour illegal for the first time. But it remains unclear how the ban is being enforced, and how effective it has been in eradicating the problem.

    Rights groups say nearly a million Myanmar people have suffered from the practice, which has helped build roads, ports and tourist resorts as well as assisting in military manoeuvres on the unstable borders.

    The ILO has insisted its four-member team of eminent jurists be given total freedom to carry out its survey, and the junta has promised to give them unfettered access, even in the unstable border regions.