Daily News- April 10- 2002- Wednesday

  • Burmese migrants face HIV test
  • Kinnock Wants WTO To React on Burma
  • ICG Report Revives Aid Debate
  • Junta orders end to drug trafficking
  • Decree on Drug Combat Issued in Myanmar's State
  • Propaganda Pamphlets Handed Out at Refugee Camp
  • Burmese prisoners to be repatriated from Bangladesh
  • Myanmar says former dictator Ne Win in good health despite coma rumors
  • Myanmar's Rubber Exports Drop in 2001
  • Myanmar Destroys 8,800 Hectares Poppy Plantations

  • Burmese migrants face HIV test

    By Larry Jagan-BBC's Burma analyst in Rangoon

    Burma and Thailand have agreed on a plan to repatriate more than 500,000 Burmese illegal immigrants currently resident in Thailand. As part of the deal, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai told the BBC, the Burmese workers will be screened for HIV. Those testing positive will be separated from the other workers being repatriated.

    The agreement was reached in a bilateral meeting between the two countries in Rangoon, when both countries were attending a tripartite summit with India. This is part of the Thai Government's efforts under Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to improve relations with Burma.

    Thailand has been anxious to get Rangoon to agree to take back more than 500,000 illegal Burmese believed to be living in Thailand. To achieve this, the Thai Government has bent over backwards to accommodate Rangoon.

    Engagement policy

    Now the policy of renewed engagement is producing results, Mr Surakiart said. The two countries have now ironed out most of the obstacles which had prevented the repatriation scheme from starting.

    The Burmese Government asked Thailand to screen all returning refugees for HIV Aids and Thailand agreed. This is likely to anger many human rights groups, who have already accused the Thai Government of violating the workers' human rights by insisting on a medical examination before they are registered or re-registered.

    Workers separated

    Mr Surakiart said those workers who were diagnosed as HIV positive would be separated from the other illegal immigrants and would be treated as part of a special repatriation scheme. The modalities of the illegal workers' return are still being worked out and should be completed when the joint task force meets again in the next few weeks.

    Mr Surakiart confidently predicted the return of the refugees later this month. However, other Thai Government officials admit this is an optimistic estimate and that even if the repatriation scheme starts this month, it will take months rather than weeks before any appreciable number of workers return to Burma.

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    Kinnock Wants WTO To React on Burma

    by Geir Haugarvoll/Worldview Rights

    In a letter to the EU Trade Commissioner, MEP Glenys Kinnock asks for an "appropriate response" from WTO in connection with Burma’s military regime and their extensive use of forced labour.

    In her letter, Kinnock refers to the conclusions that the International Labour Organization, ILO, has made regarding the use of forced labour in Burma. The ILO reports states that forced labour is still widespread in Burma, and that the military regime has "effectively blocked international efforts to halt the use of forced labour".

    Burma has been a member of WTO since January 1 1995, when the organization was established. During this period, WTO has not at any time criticized neither the regime’s use of forced labour nor the fact that Burma has continually violated basic human rights.

    Kinnock also points out the fact that in December 2000, the ILO Director General sent a request to the WTO, asking the organization to call on its members to review their relations to Burma. WTO has still not replied to this letter.

    Kinnock concludes her letter by saying that "WTO accepts the Burmese regime‘s use of forced labour, and this, in my view, threatens the credibility of the multilateral trading system.". She trusts the Commissioner will raise this question at the WTO meetings. Glenys Kinnock is a member of the European Parliament and the UK Labour Party.

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    ICG Report Revives Aid Debate

    By Neil Lawrence
    The Irrawaddy

    The debate over whether to provide international assistance to Burma has gained renewed attention in the wake of a new report that warns the country could be heading for a humanitarian disaster.

    "Myanmar: The Politics of Humanitarian Aid", released last week by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), urges both sides in Burma’s political standoff to recognize that "the country’s pressing humanitarian problems cannot wait for the slow political process to work itself out," according to ICG Asia Program Director Robert Templer in a press statement.

    The report, accompanied by a briefing paper on HIV/AIDS that estimates one in 50 Burmese adults is infected with the disease, argues that international donors can channel aid to Burma without undermining efforts aimed at democratizing the military-ruled country.

    The report makes a total of 18 policy recommendations addressed to the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), international aid donors, and aid agencies operating in Burma. So far, there has been little public response to the report’s recommendations from any of these groups. But exiled dissidents have cautiously acknowledged that the report could have a significant impact on all parties involved, as concerns over the enormity of Burma’s humanitarian needs continue to grow.

    "Given the magnitude of the crisis in Burma today, the ongoing talks between [NLD leader] Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the SPDC should come up with tangible results as to when it is appropriate for humanitarian assistance to come in and how the crisis and the assistance should be handled," said U Bo Hla Tint, a spokesperson for Burma’s government-in-exile, the Washington-based National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB).

    He also noted that "an apolitical process like addressing the humanitarian needs of the people" could actually advance the national reconciliation process, as it would set "a good precedent for national problems being resolved together."

    Others were less sanguine about the prospects of genuine cooperation between the SPDC and other groups. Aung Moe Zaw, chairman of the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), said he doubted the SPDC would accept the ICG report’s proposals. "I think the SPDC will have a hard time agreeing to some recommendations proposed by ICG because it asked for cooperation among Burmese, including ethnic groups, NLD and the SPDC," he said.

    There was also concern that the closed-door talks between the NLD and SPDC in Rangoon could unduly influence the debate over the resumption of aid. "Aid should not be given because of the talks between the NLD and the SPDC," said Dr Naing Aung, leader of the Network for Development and Democracy (NDD), reflecting opposition worries that aid could be used to reward the regime for engaging in talks that have thus far yielded little in the way of tangible results.

    Some believed that the report itself would likely tip the balance of opinion in favor of resuming aid sooner rather than later, regardless of the slow pace of political progress. "Western countries will pay attention to the ICG report and some donor countries in Europe who were unsure whether aid should be given to Burma will change their minds," commented political analyst Aung Naing Oo. Meanwhile, for many inside the country, the political debate is completely moot.

    "I welcome this news," said one veteran journalist in Rangoon when informed about the report. "We need aid for education and health. I want this assistance to be separated from politics. If not, it will only create more confusion and prolong our problems. All of us here are suffering. We are living in the Dark Ages. I am talking to you in the dark, we have no electricity here," he added.

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    Junta orders end to drug trafficking

    Subin Khuenkaew
    the Bangkokpost

    In a bid to improve the way it is viewed overseas, the Burmese military junta has told minority groups that drug trafficking will no longer be tolerated by Rangoon.

    State Peace and Development Council first secretary Khin Nyunt had briefed minority groups thought to be involved in drugs before issuing the instruction on March 22 in Lashio, a source said.

    The intelligence chief was quoted as saying that drug crimes including production of heroin and methamphetamine, trafficking, possession of precursor chemicals and drug paraphernalia, and poppy cultivation would no longer be tolerated.Punishment would range from life imprisonment to death.

    The United Wa State Army, widely regarded as the biggest drug traffickers in the region, had been told about the order.The UWSA, in turn, had told its forces not to get involved in drugs. ``No organisation nor individual shall refine heroin and manufacture stimulant tablets in the Wa region.'' Trafficking was also prohibited. The UWSA would send inspection teams to areas it controlled to see whether the policy had been put into effect.

    Meanwhile, Rangoon is cracking down on illicit businesses in Tachilek, opposite Mae Sai. It has closed buildings thought to have ties to drug traffickers.

    Firms affected included the Hong Pang Group of drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang, and the Golden Star Group of influential figure Jai Lin and two hilltribe groups. Buildings owned by Kan Yod from the Shan State Army had also been closed, the source said.

    Several Thai businessmen, however, doubted that the clampdown was serious. Butham Thipprasong from the border traders' association of Mae Sai district said most of the lucrative businesses in Burma were controlled by the Wei-led Hong Pang Group.

    The group had monopolised imports via Mae Sai-Tachilek checkpoint and demanded protection fees from small-scale Thai merchants wanting to export goods, he said.``I wonder if this very powerful group will so easily agree with this, '' Mr Butham said.

    Decree on Drug Combat Issued in Myanmar's State

    YANGON, April 9 (Xinhuanet) -- The Administrative Committee of Kokang of Myanmar, Shan State Special Region-1, has passed a decree, aimed at effectively combating narcotic drugs, official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported Tuesday.

    Quoting March 28's notification of the administrative committee,signed by its Chairman U Phon Kyar Shin, the paper said the decreewas passed as narcotic drugs continue to threat the country and local national races at present despite considerable achievements made in the region's over 10 years' fight against drugs.

    The decree states that action will be taken against whoever engages in poppy cultivation, narcotic drugs production, trafficking and drug abuse. Punishments ranging from prison term, life imprisonment and death sentence will be meted out to those guilty of producing and trafficking of narcotic drugs, it said, adding that poppy fields shall be destroyed and legal action be taken against the poppy growers who cannot be admonished not to grow poppy.

    The decree also said effective and deterrent action will be taken against narcotic drug abusers.In addition, the paper also carried a similar order issued on March 26 by the state authorities of Wa, Shan State Special Region-2.

    However, the order did not cover the range of punishment on various kinds of drug offenders.The two state authorities of Myanmar have declared target of total elimination of poppy cultivation in the two regions by the year 2005.

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    Propaganda Pamphlets Handed Out at Refugee Camp

    By Ko Thet
    The Irrawaddy

    April 09, 2002-Burma’s military government began distributing leaflets in Thailand’s Tham Hin refugee camp in February of this year, asking Karen National Union (KNU) soldiers believed to be residing there to peacefully surrender, according to residents of the camp, which is located 20 km from the Burmese border.

    The leaflets were reportedly delivered to the camp by Burmese Military Battalion 285 and are printed in both Karen and Burmese. The pamphlet, titled "Path of Peace", is also signed by the battalion's military commander. The pamphlet encourages KNU insurgents to surrender in order to bring peace to the Karen State.

    Tham Hin residents told The Irrawaddy that they view the pamphlet as nothing more than propaganda from the regime but that they are afraid they will eventually become targets of a Burmese military campaign.

    An excerpt from the leaflet reads: "KNU leaders and comrades: Regions where peace has been attained are now modern and developed. Your parents and relatives are waiting for the day of your return. Are you, brothers, willing and eager to help with the development of Karen State and the benefit of Karen people? It is time to exchange arms for peace."

    The leaflet also claims that if KNU soldiers turn themselves in to Burmese officials and say that they are responding to the letter they will be "recognized as peace delegates and will be warmly welcomed by the army without fear of danger."

    The pamphlet also instructs Burmese authorities not to harm anyone who turns himself in and has a copy of the letter. The letter goes on to say that: "Having been recognized as a peace delegate, those who bear this letter must be treated well and sent to the concerned authority as soon as possible. [The individual] must not be persecuted, their belongings must not be confiscated and action will be taken against anyone who does not follow this warning."

    Over 9,000 people live in the Tham Hin camp, most of them ethnic-Karen from Burma's Karen State. The camp was established in May 1997. Burma's military regime has long voiced its disapproval of the refugee camp. The regime claims that the majority of the camp's inhabitants are relatives of KNU soldiers and that the camps are bases for insurgent activities. There are an estimated 134,000 refugees from Burma living in Thailand.

    Burmese prisoners to be repatriated from Bangladesh

    Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

    Dhaka, April 9: Bangladesh government has decided to send over 100 Burmese prisoners to their homeland in phased manner. There are over 500 Burmese and Thai prisoners kept inside different prisons throughout the country, told a senior Bangladeshi government official.

    Following the increasing demand for repatriation to the respective home countries as their jail terms had ended long back, the present government headed by Khaleda Zia has come to the decision. Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner In-Charge of Bandarban Jail in northern Bangladeash, Shamsul Kibria Chowdhury informed newsmen that around 150 Burmese and Thai prisoners had started agitation inside the jail for their immediate repatriation, reports Daily Star, a leading English daily from the capital city Dhaka.

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    Myanmar says former dictator Ne Win in good health despite coma rumors

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ The military government Wednesday denied that former dictator Ne Win had fallen into a coma while under virtual house arrest in the wake of an alleged coup attempt by some of his relatives.

    The denial followed speculation that his daughter, Sandar Win, has sought official permission to take the 91-year-old former autocrat to Singapore for medical treatment.

    "Rumors that Ne Win was in coma are not true," a military official told The Associated Press, on condition of anonymity. "He is in good health. The news that Ne Win and Sandar Win plan to travel to Singapore is only a rumor."

    Ne Win was ordered not to leave his home after his son-in-law, Aye Zaw Win, and his grandsons, Aye Ne Win, Kyaw Ne Win and Zwe Ne Win, were arrested March 7 on accusations they were plotting to overthrow the government. Since then, the government has severely restricted access to Ne Win's home. However, it has denied that he is under formal house arrest.

    A Singapore Embassy official had no information about possible plans by Ne Win to travel to the city-state.

    Ne Win came to power in Myanmar, former Burma, in a 1962 coup and stepped down in 1988 in the face of pro-democracy demonstrations that were quashed by the military. In recent times, Ne Win has frequently visited Singapore for medical treatment. He had a pacemaker implanted in a hospital there last month.

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    Myanmar's Rubber Exports Drop in 2001

    YANGON, April 10 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar exported 18,400 tons of raw rubber in the year of 2001, a 29.23 percent decrease from 2000,the latest data of the official Economic Indicators show.The earning through the export of raw rubber during the year registered at 8.95 million U.S. dollars, reducing by 33.45 percent compared with 2000.

    Meanwhile, during the year, the country imported rubber goods worth 34.77 million dollars, 12.96 percent less than 2000.Myanmar has been striving to extend the cultivation areas of rubber which is one of its major industrial crops and one of its major foreign exchange earners.A latest report said the country has extended the rubber plantation area from two divisions and states to four with the increase of the area from 81,000 hectares in 1994 to 182,250 hectares at present.

    In Myanmar, 2.62 million hectares are reportedly suitable for rubber growing.Of the country's present rubber plantations, 13 percent is owned by the state and 87 percent by the private sector.

    Myanmar Destroys 8,800 Hectares Poppy Plantations

    YANGON, April 10 (Xinhuanet) -- A total of 21,840.54 acres (8,845.41 hectares) of illegally-grown poppy plantations were destroyed in the entire Myanmar by the authorities during the 2001-02 poppy cultivation season which lasted until the end of March, the Myanmar Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control said Wednesday.

    The plantations, destroyed by the army units, police force and anti-drug squad, were illegally grown in the country's Shan, Kachin and Magway states and divisions. The plantations, destroyed during the 2001-02 cultivation season, were 2.81 percent more than 2000-01 when 8,603 hectares were spoiled.

    Meanwhile, according to official statistics, in 2001, the Myanmar authorities exposed 2,933 drug-related cases, seizing among others, 1,770.76 kilograms opium and 96.74 kg heroin as well as 32.438 million tablets of stimulant drugs.During the year, a total of 4,256 people were punished for being involved in the cases.

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