Daily News- April 03- 2002- Wednesday

  • Rangoon says Thai patrol crossed border
  • Revenues From Myanmar's Gems Industry on Rise
  • Residents Speak Out Against Forced Relocation
  • Burma's military junta mobilises
  • Myanmar's Rice Export Up Sharply in 2001
  • Thailand says facts over border clash need checking

  • Rangoon says Thai patrol crossed border

    Saritdet Marukatat
    The Bangkokpost

    Burma says Thai soldiers intruded into its territory on March 25, not the other way around, sparking a clash which left one Thai soldier dead.

    The countries have been exchanging diplomatic protests in the wake of the incident, in which Thailand says the United Wa State Army attacked Thai forces at a border village in Wiang Haeng district, Chiang Mai, two hours before a planned visit by Her Majesty the Queen.

    On Monday Thai ambassador Oum Maolanon was summoned to meet Thaung Tun, director-general of the Burmese Foreign Ministry's Political Department.The meeting came four days after the Foreign Ministry handed a protest letter to Burmese ambassador Myo Myint in Bangkok.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Rathakit Manathat said Mr Oum was handed an aide-memoire to counter a protest note which foreign permanent secretary Tej Bunnag gave to the Burmese envoy.

    A junta-controlled newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar, on Monday quoted Rangoon's foreign ministry as saying the UWSA did not intrude into Thai territory.The clash took place between UWSA soldiers and drug traffickers, led by Yawd Serk, and ``some Thai security forces who entered Burmese territory'', it said.``The armed clash occurred inside Burma and the Wa militia at no time transgressed into Thai territory,'' the newspaper said.

    Col Yawd Serk is commander of the Shan State Army but the ruling State Peace and Development Council labels him a drug trafficker.Rangoon said the Thai media were trying to spoil relations between the two countries.

    ``Some elements at the lower level are trying to put obstacles in the way at a time when the countries are endeavouring to promote closer relations,'' the Burmese daily quoted a senior Burmese official as telling the Thai ambassador.

    Gen Kyaw Win, deputy chief of SPDC military intelligence, said officials were talking to UWSA leaders who took part in the clash. They had confirmed that the fighting broke out between the UWSA and Col Yawd Serk's camp inside Burmese territory.

    Revenues From Myanmar's Gems Industry on Rise

    by Duan Tingchang

    YANGON, April 2 (Xinhuanet) -- The eight-day 39th Annual Myanma Gems Emporium, which ended here recently, was an exceptionally grand event attended by 485 foreign gem merchants from 11 countries and regions including China, China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Thailand, Singapore and Japan.

    Also taking part in the annual event were 234 Myanmar gem traders from 85 local private companies.This year's gem emporium fetched a total of 20.089 million U.S.dollars, a 98.5 percent increase over last year's.

    Myanmar is rich in mineral resources with ruby, sapphire and jade well known in the world.Myanmar has mined in Mandalay division's Mogok gem land a ruby of seven inches in length, 4.5 inches in girth, four inches in height and 21,450 carats in weight, and another star sapphire which weighs 63,000 carats.Myanmar claimed that these ruby and sapphire mined are the largest ever discovered in the world. In addition, Myanmar has also found a giant jade stone in kachin state's Phakant Mine, which is 70 feet long and 16 feet tall, with a girth of 20 feet and weight of about 2,000 tons.

    Up to now, Myanmar has a total of three gem lands scattering in Mandalay division's Mogok, southern Shan state's Mongshu and Kachin state's Phakant. Of them, ruby and sapphire are mainly produced in the Mogok Mine.

    According to the figures released by the Myanma Gems Enterprise (MGE) under the Ministry of Mines, in the fiscal year 2000-01, the production of the country's jade, ruby and sapphire were 4,730 tons, 1.96 million carats and 6.05 million carats, respectively. Of them, the production of jade and ruby fell by 512 tons or 9.76 percent and 1.2 million carats or 37.9 percent, respectively, from the previous fiscal year. The production of sapphire increased by 1.53 million carats or 33.8 percent.

    In the development of its gems industry, Myanmar has taken several measures to boost its production.Gem emporiums are considered an effective way to attain this purpose. Myanmar started holding its first gem emporium in 1964, and since 1992, apart from an annual gathering, a mid-year event has been introduced. Myanmar has earned 360 million dollars from past gem emporiums.Myanmar has als introduced competition to the industry by breaking the monopoly of the state-run MGE in mining, processing and sale of gems. Since 1990, the Myanmar government has been cooperating with private enterprises in mining gems on a profit sharing basis. The state will get 40 percent of the profits, while the remaining 60 percent is to be held by private entrepreneurs.To further raise the enthusiasm of private enterprises, the Myanmar government has cut its profit share to 25 percent and gave up the rest 75 percent to private investors.

    In order to improve its gemstone law, Myanmar promulgated a New Gemstone Law in 1995, allowing the private enterprises to mine, transport, process and sell gems.After the enactment of the law, the annual production of Myanmar's jade, ruby and sapphire has increased sharply. Of them, jade production rose by 131 times, while that of ruby and sapphire went up by 61 and 62 times, respectively, in 1996 from 1994.

    Besides, Myanmar took an active part in gem fairs in other countries or regions including Israel, Singapore and China's Hong Kong to promote Myanmar gems.The Myanmar gems have occupied a leading position in the world in terms of both production quantity and quality.

    However, due to Myanmar's less developed industrial infrastructure and backward processing technology, the country's gem production lacks competitiveness in the world market. This has constituted a sharp contrast to its counterparts in Hong Kong and Thailand.At present, Myanmar still remains a source of primary products or raw materials on the world gem market.

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    Residents Speak Out Against Forced Relocation

    By Kyaw Zwa Moe
    source : The Irrawaddy

    April 02, 2002— Homeowners in Rangoon’s Kamaryut Township were told by military officials last week to evacuate their homes by April 5 or face arrest. The residents were not given any reasons for the forced relocation nor have they been offered any compensation thus far, Kamaryut residents told The Irrawaddy.

    A total of 25 homes are being taken over by the government in the Waggi quarter of Kamaryut Township. The residents were approached last week by Col Yan Naing Oo, commander-in-chief of the Kamaryut Township Peace and Development Council, who told them that they had until April 5 to clear their homes of any belongings they wished to keep.

    Khaing Su Wai, who lives in Kamaryut, told the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) yesterday that when she informed Col Yan Naing Oo that her parents were too sick to be moved, the colonel told her that if they defied evacuation orders they would be transported to a prison hospital after sentencing.

    Local authorities detained Khaing Su Wai at the township office for four hours after she lodged her complaint. She told RFA, "[Local authorities] are trying to frighten us, but we are not afraid because we didn’t do anything wrong." Numerous other residents also spoke out against the relocation order during yesterday’s RFA broadcast. The homeowners have also filed a complaint with Burma’s top military leaders.

    A Rangoon resident who had listened to the RFA broadcast told The Irrawaddy: "Forced relocation is not unusual in this country. But what I am surprised about is that the people are speaking up this time. They know that they could be arrested for speaking out using their real names. This is a kind of defiance that emerges from discontent."

    Among the 25 homeowners being forced out are Shwe Gu May Hnin, an author and elected Member of Parliament from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), respected critic and poet Maung Swan Yee, and a retired judge.

    A former Waggi resident said that two years ago a local investor gave him given 6 million kyat (US $7,000) to move out of his house. The property was later converted into a car wash and an auto repair shop. He said that there had been a deal between the investor and local authorities to move people out of Waggi.

    Forced relocations have been commonplace in Burma since the military crushed a pro-democracy uprising in 1988. In urban areas, the government has strategically relocated thousands of people to the outskirts of town in hopes of deterring any future protest, while in the countryside, forced relocation has frequently been used to cut off support to armed rebel groups.

    Burma's military junta mobilises

    Bangkok Post - Thailand; Apr 3, 2002

    Burma locked up the founders and financiers and took over the country's first GSM mobile telephone network; with Ne Win's daughter Sandar Win and others locked away, the military junta said it would soon begin selling 100,000 handsets on the shadowy Sky-Link network, built by Siemens of Germany and ZTE of China in a $144 million project; persistent and credible reports said Sky-Link is now backed and probably owned mainly by the United Wa State Army drug gang through the unusually famous May Flower Bank; Sky-Link itself is registered in the British Virgin Islands wink-wink.

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    Myanmar's Rice Export Up Sharply in 2001

    YANGON, April 3 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar exported 692,700 tons of rice in the year of 2001, up 389.19 percent from 2000, the country's Central Statistical Organization said in its latest data. The figure was the highest picked up in three years from 1999 when it dropped to 63,700 tons from 111,700 tons in 1998.

    The foreign exchange, earned through the export of rice during 2001, amounted to 80.35 million U.S. dollars, up 263.5 percent from 2000, it added.

    Myanmar was once a great exporter of rice, exporting over 1 million tons in the 1950s. After 1988, rice was not exported to ensure domestic sufficiency and Myanmar's foreign rice market was almost lost. In recent years, the country exported rice to gain foreign exchange, while ensuring domestic demand.

    As part of its efforts to meet its food demand and for rice export, the Myanmar government has since November 1998 leased out 467,370 hectares of vacant, virgin, fallow and wetlands for cultivation by private entrepreneurs. At the same time, it has also exempted the import customs duties levied on agricultural implements including pesticides, fertilizers and machinery to encourage agricultural undertakings.

    According to official statistics, in the fiscal year of 2001-02 ending in March, Myanmar produced over 830 million baskets (17.347 million tons) of paddy out of 15.45 million acres (6.25 million hectares). Myanmar set an annual target of producing 1 billion baskets (20.9 million tons) of paddy out of 18 million acres (7.29 million hectares) grown including monsoon and summer paddy. Myanmar's cultivable land stretches 18.225 million hectares, of which sown area has reached 15.04 million hectares. The country's agriculture accounts for 42 percent of its gross domestic product and 25 percent of its export value.

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    Thailand says facts over border clash need checking

    BANGKOK, April 3 (AFP)

    Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Wednesday that disputed facts surrounding a clash on the Thai-Burmese border needed further verification by each country.

    Surakiart was responding to claims by Burma's ruling military junta on Monday that a clash on March 25, which left one Thai soldier dead and another injured, occurred outside Thailand.

    According to the Thai government, the United Wa State Army, an ethnic militia allied with Rangoon, attacked a Thai army unit who were sweeping a border area in Chiang Mai province prior to a royal visit there.

    The minister said Thailand was satisfied with Rangoon's response to a Thai protest letter issued over the attack, but not with their dispute over where the incident occurred.

    "We are satisfied with Myanmar's response to our letter, but we are not satisfied with the difference of opinion over the facts, which we have to verify further," he told reporters.

    The junta said in an aide memoire handed to the Thai ambassador in Rangoon that the Wa did not cross into Thai territory.

    "The Wa did not transgress Thai territory and the Thai media reports (alleging this) are untrue," the aide memoire said.

    Instead, it said the Wa soldiers and combined forces of the Shan State Army and Thai security forces had travelled about 1,000 yards (914 metres) inside Burma territory.

    Thai foreign ministry spokesman Rattakit Manathat told reporters that Thailand would investigate the matter further, and he hoped that Burma would as well.

    Then, if the countries could not agree on the facts, "the two sides should meet to exchange information at the local level," he said.

    Queen Sirikit's planned visit to the area was cancelled following the skirmish.

    Surakiart is scheduled to arrive in Rangoon late Friday to attend a three-way meeting on economic cooperation with India and Burma which will focus on plans to construct a highway linking the nations.

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