Daily News- April 11- 2002- Thursday

  • Downer soft on Burma's hard men
  • Burmese journalist arrested for hijacking
  • Foreign Investment in Myanmar Down in 2001
  • Myanmar's Imports, Exports Up in 2001

  • Downer soft on Burma's hard men

    By Craig Skehan, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
    Sydney Morning Herald

    The Australian Government has succeeded in watering down a United Nations resolution which aimed to increase pressure on Burma's military junta.

    The European Union proposed a strongly worded resolution to the UN Human Rights Commission, but Australia warned that it would not co-sponsor the resolution unless it was changed.

    The European draft condemned lack of progress towards restoring democracy and referred to rights abuses, including child and forced labour.One European diplomat said yesterday that Australia's doggedness to dilute the resolution "caused a lot of surprise" at talks behind closed doors.

    A regional human rights group, Forum Asia, said Australia had shifted from being an advocate of human rights in Burma "to an overt defender of the Burmese military regime".

    A Bangkok-based Burma democracy activist, Debbie Stothard, said Australia should not be "sticking its neck out" for a rogue state. The Howard Government's stance on Burma was adding to the damage to Australia's international reputation caused by its treatment of asylum seekers.

    A spokesman for the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said yesterday that Australia's promotion of political reconciliation in Burma arose from "the repeated failure of other approaches to improve the political and human rights situation there".

    The European Union has been the strongest advocate of a hard line towards Burma, including the imposition of sanctions.

    Mr Downer's spokesman said while Australia wanted the UN resolution to express deep concerns about continuing serious human rights abuses in Burma, it should also welcome "steps in the right direction" and encourage further advances.He said last night that Australia was pressing for further changes to the wording of the Burma resolution, though it had agreed, as a result of alterations to the draft, to co-sponsor it.

    Since a dialogue began between the military regime and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi more than a year ago, about 200 political prisoners have been released. However, independent Burma analysts say dozens of other democracy campaigners have been arrested and many political activists remain in jail, even though their sentences have been completed.

    Critics of Australia's approach argue there has so far been little evidence that the military, which has ruled Burma for 40 years, is willing to share power or provide for democratic elections.

    The Sydney-based campaign co-ordinator for the Free Burma Action Committee, Maung Than, told the Herald: "Australia has a human rights training program in Burma and it wants to try and show that it is working."The reality was that gross human rights violations continued unabated, but for diplomatic reasons Australia wanted to avoid international condemnation of the regime."I am not happy about the Australian Government position," he said. "I want the Australian Government to stand firmly with Aung San Suu Kyi and not with the regime."

    According to non-government organisations lobbying in Geneva, Australian diplomats presented 10 pages of objections and amendments to the draft UN resolution on Burma.This came amid speculation that the country's ruling generals could this month release Ms Suu Kyi from house arrest.

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    Burmese journalist arrested for hijacking

    From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

    Police in India have arrested a Burmese journalist on suspicion of involvement in the hijacking of a passenger jet to Calcutta more than 11 years ago.

    Soe Myint, who works for a Burmese news agency based in Delhi, was arrested on Wednesday after being taken into custody for questioning. Officials say he will go on trial in Calcutta later this week.

    A BBC correspondent in Calcutta says Burma may have put pressure on the Indian authorities to arrest Mr Myint, whose reporting has been critical of Burma's military government.

    He is accused of hijacking a Thai Airways flight in November 1990 to draw attention to alleged atrocities committed by the military in Burma.

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    Foreign Investment in Myanmar Down in 2001

    YANGON, April 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Foreign investment in Myanmar totaled 57.43 million U.S. dollars in 13 projects in the year of 2001, down 69.15 percent from 2000, according to the latest figures issued by the country's Central Statistical Organization.

    Of the investment coming from nine countries and regions during the year, Thailand took the lead with 25.75 million dollars, followed by Republic of Korea (9.21 million), China's Hong Kong (7.5 million ), Japan (4.69 million), Singapore (3.53 million), China(3.25 million), Malaysia and Indonesia (1.5 million each) and Canada (0.5 million).

    Of the sectors injected by these foreign investment, manufacturing stood the highest with 27.93 million dollars, followed by construction (20.5 million), hotels and tourism (5.25 million), oil and gas (3.25 million) and mining (0.5 million).

    Meanwhile, investment drawn specifically from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) amounted to 32.28 million dollars during the year, taking up 56.2 percent of Myanmar's total foreign investment. According to official statistics, since opening to foreign investment in late 1988, Myanmar had drawn a total of such contracted investment of 7,398.193 million dollars in 369 projects as of the end of 2001.

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    Myanmar's Imports, Exports Up in 2001

    YANGON, April 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar's imports and exports totaled 5,077.58 million U.S. dollars in value in the year of 2001,an increase of 24.7 percent from 2000, the country's Central Statistical Organization (CSO) said in its latest data.

    Of the total, imports amounted to 2,789.58 million dollars, rising by 15.73 percent, while exports were valued at 2,288 million dollars, increasing by 37.73 percent.However, the trade deficit stood at 501.58 million dollars during the year, 33 percent less than 2000, the CSO said.

    During 2001, the import value of intermediate goods, capital goods and consumer goods respectively accounted for 39.54 percent, 33.58 percent and 26.88 percent of the total imports.

    The figures show that Myanmar is mainly trading with 14 countries and regions in the world, having the largest bilateral trade volume with Thailand during the year with 852.05 million dollars, followed by with Singapore (784.7 million), with Malaysia(460.74 million), with Japan (453.67 million), with India (381.7 million) and with the Republic of Korea (370.17 million).

    The data also show that Myanmar's bilateral trade with five member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-- Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines --totaled 2,227.13 million dollars in 2001, up 43.63 percent from 2000.

    The regional bilateral trade accounted for 43.86 percent of Myanmar's total foreign trade during 2001, with its imports from these ASEAN members taking up 1,289.48 million dollars and its exports representing 937.65 million dollars.

    The statistics also indicate that during 2001, Myanmar's private sector accounted for 1,744.86 million dollars or 62.54 percent of the total import value, down 5.76 percent from 2000, while it made up 1,216.37 million dollars or 53.16 percent of the total export value, up 0.22 percent from 2000.

    Meanwhile, the government sector in 2001 took up 1,044.71 million dollars or 37.46 percent of the total import value, up 86.9 percent from 2000, while it represented 1,071.69 million dollars or 46.84 percent of the total export value, up 139.47 percent from 2000.

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