Daily News-September 27 - 2001- Thursday

  • International Labour team at controversial Burma pipeline site
  • Than Shwe highlights growth, avoids politics
  • Myanmar pledges reforms, at 'its own pace'
  • MIS to Receive a Facelift
  • Press Leaks Point to Junta
  • Activists pledge to integrate women rights into mainstream human rights
  • Southeast Asia drug flow up as Afghan border closed
  • Privatization breathes life into Myanmar economy
  • Chin immigrants being evicted from Mizoram

  • International Labour team at controversial Burma pipeline site

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Sep 25, 2001

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the visiting ILO [International Labour Organization] high-level delegation has split into two groups and begun their study tour of Arakan State and Tenasserim Division. A six-member ILO team led by the delegation leader, Sir Ninian Stephen, arrived in Tavoy today and the team later inspected Myittha and Yebyu Villages in Tavoy District in the afternoon. Forced labour and confiscation of land were rife in the region due to the construction of the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] natural gas pipeline. The other ILO team has already arrived in Maungdaw, Arakan State yesterday...

    The ILO team arrived in Rangoon last Monday [17 September] and the teams will go for field inspection trips in the forthcoming two weeks. An ILO official said the teams currently touring Arakan State and Tenasserim Division will return to Rangoon on Friday and they will be leaving for other states and divisions next week. DVB correspondent Aye Chan Naing contacted a local abbot from Tavoy and inquired about the ramifications of the visit.

    [Unidentified abbot] I do not think it will make any difference because they will not be able to visit the places they wanted on their own.

    [Aye Chan Naing] The government has promised them that they will be allowed to go anywhere they want.

    [Unidentified abbot] Well, the government did give their promise but I think what they had promised before and what they are going to direct now will be different.

    [Aye Chan Naing] What is your view then?

    [Unidentified abbot] Well, I do not want to give my view because it will not be appropriate. That is why I do not want to say anything.

    [Aye Chan Naing] Do you know that the ILO delegation has arrived?

    [Unidentified abbot] We heard that they are in Rangoon.

    [Aye Chan Naing] The latest we heard was that they have arrived in Tavoy today.

    [Unidentified abbot] Well, I haven't heard about that. They may have arrived but I do not know. It does not concern us too.

    [Aye Chan Naing] What about the current situation? Do they still use forced labour?

    [Unidentified abbot] Well, think for yourself. What they say and what they do are two different things. It will be much better now with the arrival of the inspection team. They have reduced and later stopped the practice before the arrival.
    Than Shwe highlights growth, avoids politics

    By Barani Krishnan

    KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Myanmar's military junta invited Malaysian investors on Wednesday to help jump start its economy but brushed aside questions on political reform and when his country might embrace democracy.

    "Myanmar today is politically peaceful and stable, economically vibrant and dynamic. It is on the threshold of rapid economic growth," Senior-General Than Shwe told a lunch hosted by Kuala Lumpur's business community.

    Tan Shwe, who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday for a three-day visit to the country, said Malaysians were already the third largest investors in Myanmar, committing some $600 million in manufacturing, oil and gas, hotels, tourism and real estate. Bilateral trade was worth $200 million with a surplus in Malaysia's favour, he said.

    Tan Shwe invited local entrepreneurs to come more often to Yangon, and highlighted potential in pulp and iron industries he said offered huge and largely untapped resources. "With the participation and assistance from our friends like Malaysia, we will surely be able to accomplish more in a shorter period of time," he said.

    But the military leader declined to take questions from the audience, leaving the task to Brigadier-General David Abel, a minister in his office. Abel refused to discuss domestic politics, particularly questions on how Tan Shwe's State Peace and Development Council was faring in talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, seen by many Western nations as Myanmar's rightful leader.

    He also declined to say if Nobel laureate Suu Kyi would soon be freed from the house arrest imposed by Tan Shwe's government. "I think we are gathered here to answer economic issues," he said to a question on whether there was any chance of an immiment agreement between Suu Kyi and his government.

    Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won Myanmar's 1990 elections by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern. Instead, her supporters have been detained and harassed. The 56-year-old Nobel laureate herself has spent the last year locked inside her Yangon house, cut off from contact with the outside world except for a handful of foreign diplomats the government has allowed her to see. The military, which has led Myanmar since 1962 and crushed all attempts to promote democracy, began reconciliation talks with the NLD last year. Veteran Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail is acting as a special U.N. envoy and mediator to the talks. Two weeks ago, the junta released six NLD members in a gesture of goodwill.

    Malaysia, which regards Myanmar as an important regional ally, said on Tuesday Tan Shwe's administration had made "very positive" progress in its talks with the opposition. But it said Yangon should be left to negotiate at its own pace.

    Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said earlier this year that future elections in Myanmar should not "undermine authority" and suggested Yangon adopt Southeast Asian political models rather than Western-style democracies. Than Shwe, who held talks with Mahathir and visited landmarks in the capital, left on Wednesday for a tour of the northern Langkawi island before a scheduled departure on Thursday.
    Myanmar pledges reforms, at 'its own pace'

    Straits Times

    PUTRAJAYA - Burma's military leader General Than Shwe met Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad here yesterday and pledged to forge ahead with democratic reforms, but stressed that the regime would proceed at its own pace.

    Gen Than Shwe was congratulated by Dr Mahathir on recent steps that the Burma junta has taken - including opening talks with the country's opposition, Foreign Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar said after the leaders met.The minister said Malaysia hoped Burma's move would help bring it into the mainstream.

    'The leader stressed that he looks at Dr Mahathir as a close friend and thinks highly of his leadership, and he considers him an example,' he told reporters.He said Gen Than Shwe also stressed the Burma leaders would like to go forward with the democratic process they are discussing with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    'But at the same time it is important...that they will do it at their own pace.'

    Gen Than Shwe, who arrived yesterday accompanied by five ministers on a three-day goodwill visit, met Dr Mahathir for nearly an hour. Earlier, senior officials from both governments signed two agreements on boosting cooperation in information and tourism.The two leaders also discussed strengthening the region's economy in the wake of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, including a proposal to boost bilateral trade.

    Gen Than Shwe's visit is being watched carefully by analysts because Malaysia helped broker reconciliation talks between the military and the opposition.
    MIS to Receive a Facelift

    By Maung Maung Oo

    The Irrawaddy

    September 26, 2001-Burma's military government is set to initiate a large-scale reform of its notorious Military Intelligence Service (MIS) in October of this year, according to a source close to the army. The source said the government is involved in a plan to increase security throughout the country.

    MIS will soon be composed of twelve battalions as part of a larger Military Intelligence Force. Each battalion will have four companies with each company having three platoons. The units are to be divided into a front line and a support line. Each battalion will serve as an intelligence net for its companies and platoons. The companies will be responsible for district-level intelligence and the platoons will be in charge of intelligence on the township level.

    Under the new reform, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt will become Commander-in-Chief (CIC) of Military Intelligence. Burma now only has CICs for its army, navy and air force. Currently, Khin Nyunt is serving as the Director of Defense Services Intelligence (DDSI). He will be in command of twelve military intelligence commanders and twelve lieutenant commanders. It is unclear what is going to happen to the DDSI.

    MIS officers are viewed by Burmese citizens as the most powerful and dangerous body in the entire military. Since the military coup of 1988, MIS officers have penetrated almost every corner of Burma in an attempt to stamp out any cells of subversion, including pro-democracy groups.
    Press Leaks Point to Junta

    By Zarny Win

    The Irrawaddy

    September 26, 2001--A confidential report that was supposedly sent to Than Shwe, Burma's top general, by other high-ranking generals was leaked to the public recently. The uncharacteristic leak has many wondering if this is just another PR move by the ruling military regime.

    Burmese observers have been questioning the authenticity of the report, with some even wondering if the opposition created it. However, some exiled Burmese politicians feel the alleged report was concocted by the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) to sound out the opposition's thinking on the talks.

    Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst in exile, said that some of the report's details regarding the secret talks between the opposition and the junta clearly indicate that the report is the work of the Burmese government. "But some of the information has clearly been created and is just not reliable," he adds.

    The report mentions different details regarding the ongoing secret talks between opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta. The report states that Suu Kyi agrees with both Sec-1 Lt Gen Khin Nyunt and Maj Gen Kyaw Win on many of the topics being discussed during the talks.

    "The junta is implementing a well-planned psychological warfare campaign against the opposition and the media," said a student activist in Rangoon. "They want to hold power for as long as they can and by tricking people into believing the opposite they will be able to prolong their grip on power," he added.

    The report quotes one prominent Burmese politician, Bo Hmu Aung, as saying that Suu Kyi and the junta have agreed to give military representatives one-quarter of all seats in any future parliament. Suu Kyi also said that Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are concerned about the future progress of Burma and any political changes that might be taking place, according to the report.

    Two months ago, a private speech given by Home Affairs Minister Col Tin Hlaing was also leaked out. Genuine news leaks are extremely rare in Burma, where the military government maintains almost total control over the flow of information.

    The opposition National League for Democracy has said that the talks have not reached a dialogue yet, but that the two parties are still going through confidence-building measures. Secret talks have been under way between the ruling junta and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi since October of last year. However, the details of those talks have not been released.
    Activists pledge to integrate women rights into mainstream human rights

    Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

    New Delhi - A five-day intensive training on women rights for the exiled Burma women activists ended this evening in India with the participants pledging to relay their experiences to fellow women activists in their respective areas. The training organized by Women's League of Burma (WLB) from September 21st to 25th was held in Haryana State of India, a few kilometers away from New Delhi.

    Total eighteen women activists who belong to various pro-democracy women groups based in India and Bangladesh participated in the training. These women participants were chosen from the two previous training held in July and August this year on human rights and capacity building.

    "This is a great opportunity for me to be with these women because I was really pleased to see their active participation and their active learning for women rights, human rights and also the skills of leadership. The skills they learnt from this workshop will be very helpful for their practical life and also to strengthen the unity and solidarity among women groups and individuals", commented Aung Myo Min who is the instructor of the training.

    Aung Myo Min who heads the Thailand-based Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) has been conducting a series of human rights education training and workshops in the past two years for the Burma activists based in Thailand, India and Bangladesh.

    Women's leadership skills, child rights, international human rights mechanism, international non-governmental organizations and "dealing with media" are some of the main subjects of the training.

    "We also had a very good discussion on how to integrate women rights into the mainstream human rights in terms of how women can participate and how women can integrate their rights into our Burmese struggle. And we found out a lot of possibilities, very good references and recommendations on which way is the best way and which are the possible ways to integrate women rights into the mainstream human rights".

    Aung Myo Min has received several human rights awards from universities and rights groups honored for his work on human rights education in Burma.

    At the closing of the training, the women participants said that they intend to relay their knowledge to their fellow women activists who are based in border areas of Burma. "We believe that the relay of training will be very helpful for future Burma. The activists should know that women rights are human rights and they know how to integrate women rights into human rights and how to educate the people to understand what is the genuine meaning of women rights", said a leader of WLB, which is an umbrella of eleven Burma women organizations.
    Southeast Asia drug flow up as Afghan border closed

    PHNOM PENH, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Southeast Asia must brace for a boom in drug trafficking, as the closure of Afghanistan's borders will spur demand for drugs, United Nations officials said on Wednesday.

    The notorious "Golden Triangle", where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos converge, now monopolises the Asian drugs trade as supply from Afghanistan -- the world's leading supplier of opium -- has effectively stopped.

    "The borders are completely closed in Afghanistan so you can't do any business, legal or illegal," Sandro Calvani, regional representative for the U.N. Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCP) office, said in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

    "The Golden Triangle...is now moving all the drugs of Asia because Afghanistan is out of business for illcit drugs. (They) now have a monoply because they no longer have to compete with the 'Golden Crescent'."

    Calvani said that Afghanistan had accounted for around 85 percent of the world's opium supply.The Taliban government banned the cultivation of the poppy plant last year, but opium stocks inside Afghanistan have only now been stemmed by the recent closure of borders, he said.

    Calvani, who was in Cambodia to meet Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top government officials, warned also that drug traffickers have been "market testing" new smuggling routes through Cambodia. Until last year Cambodia was estimated by the U.N. to be one of the largest producers of marijuana for the world market, a business thought to be worth almost $1 billion annually. Cambodia's northern border with Laos is seeing increased inflows of drugs and the Mekong River is becoming the main artery of distribution in the country and the transit route to third countries, he said. "It is really a threat to the security of the country," Calvani said. Cambodia's porous borders and struggling law enforcement institutions have earned it the title of the "weak link" in regional efforts to fight drug trafficking.
    Privatization breathes life into Myanmar economy

    China Daily

    YANGON: Myanmar has been transforming its low-productivity agricultural economy into an industrial economy over the past decade. The efforts are based on a 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 drafted detailed policies for the development of the industries and establishment of an industrialized nation. The industries are categorized as state-run, co-operatives or private. The state-owned facilities are permitted to run as co-operatives or private industry. They also can accept foreign investment. But the policies also say that only the state has the right to run the industries producing the arms necessary for the nation's defence.

    Under the policies, the industrial businesses must be developed in accordance with the state's desire to keep the national economy in the hands of the state. The policies give encouragement and support to the emergence of industries based on domestic resources.

    To regroup the once scattered industries of the country, Myanmar has set up 18 industrial zones across the country, including four in the capital of Yangon. The number of industries in Myanmar reached 53,338 in 1999: 1,600 state-owned, 637 co-operatives and 51,101 private ones. And through May 2001, statistics show, 4,159 private industries registered in 18 zones, including 424 heavy industries, 565 medium-sized enterprises and 3,170 cottage industries.

    Under a privatization plan Myanmar introduced in January 1995, state-owned industrial enterprises and those nationalized in the 1960s are to be transferred to financially strong and technically manageable private enterprises by way of auctioning, leasing and joint ventures with local and foreign entrepreneurs. Other measures taken include the increase of low-interest loans to industrial enterprises and a reduction in the rate of revenues paid by industrial entrepreneurs.
    Chin immigrants being evicted from Mizoram

    Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

    New Delhi, Sept. 27: Thousands of Chin nationals who are living in Lunglei District of Mizoram State are being asked to leave the place by the powerful local Mizo body, according to some of them who fled from Mizoram to New Delhi.

    A 48-year old Pu Pan Tu who arrived New Delhi this morning told Mizzima News that he had to leave his house in Lunglei District after local branch of Young Mizo Association (YMA) issued an eviction notice that all the "foreigners" who are staying illegally in the area have to leave their houses. He had been staying in Lunglei District for more than ten years.

    In Lunglei district, five Quarters namely Ramthar Veng, Salem Veng, Electric Veng, Chanmari Veng and Farm Veng house many of the Chin nationals from Burma. Most of them survive on daily-wage odd jobs. Lunglei District is one of the eight districts of Mizoram State, which has about 400 km long international border with Burma.

    On August 18 this year, Ramthar Veng Branch of the Young Mizo Association made a wide spread circular announcing that all the foreigners and non-Mizo living illegally in the locality have to leave their houses by the end of August and action will be taken against even those who receive them secretly. Mr. K. Lalhmingliana, secretary of the Ramthar Veng Branch of the YMA, signed the circular.

    Similar eviction announcements were made in other adjoining localities. On September 8, Salem Branch of the Young Mizo Association made an announcement to the effect that all the foreigners and non-Mizos in the area have to leave their houses by September 15 and urged the house owners not to rent any one of those "illegal foreigners". Mr. C. Lalrimawia, secretary of the YMA Salem Branch, signed the announcement, which appeared on a daily newspaper, Lunglei Times.

    "Following the announcement, some YMA members came into our house and broke our dishes and threatened us not to dare to live anymore", recalled Pu Pan Tu who lived in Ramthar Veng with his family of five. "The worst is that YMA even does not allow us to bury those who died in the locality. We are forced to bury the body in far away villages. For us, there is no place even to bury our body after we die".

    Pu Pan Tu, along with two closed friends, fled to New Delhi to seek support from their fellow countrymen, non-governmental organizations of India and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in New Delhi for the plight of Chins in Mizoram. He worked as a joint secretary of National League for Democracy (NLD) in his San Baung Quarter in Matupi township of Chin State until March 1990 when he fled from the eminent arrest of the military authorities for his political involvement.

    According to local people, there are over 5,000 Chin nationals from Burma living in Lunglei District alone and some NGOs estimates the total number of Burma immigrants living in the entire state to be around fifty thousands although the exact numbers are not available. With the new drive against "foreigners" (Chins) in Lunglei District, some families have already left their homes to the far away villages and border areas in the past few days. Many of them rent new houses in villages, pretending to be Mizo nationals. These Burma nationals who are mostly from Chin State of Burma left their native places due to deteriorating political and economic situation under the military regime.

    Mizoram government officials and YMA leaders said that the overwhelming presence of the Chins in the state threatens the economic, political and societal stability of Mizoram. And it had tried several times in the past to deport these Chin immigrants to Burma but forced to stop deportation after outcry from NGOs and human rights organizations in India and abroad.

    In an interview in July this year, Mizoram Chief Minister Mr. Zoramthanga once again expressed his worry over the presence of a large number of Chin nationals who are staying illegally in the state. He wants the border with Burma to be fenced to check further infiltration of immigrants into the State. Moreover, Mizoram government claims that more than 75% of the crimes and drug-related activities in the state are being committed by the people from Burma.