Daily News- April 13- 2002- Saturday

  • BMA calls for the immediate release of Burmese journalist in Indian custody
  • WHO outlines plan for reducing AIDS threat
  • Edible Oil Import Increases in 2001
  • Thai police arrest illegal Myanmar worker for killing officer

  • BMA calls for the immediate release of Burmese journalist in Indian custody

    Burma Media Association -12 April 2002

    A Burmese journalist who is in charge of New Delhi-based Mizzima News Agency and the vice-secretary of the Burma Media Association (BMA) was arrested by Indian police on 10 April 2002.

    According to BMA's sources, he was sent to Calcutta to appear in court before 16 April. The reason of his arrest is not yet clear but it is believed that he was rearrested for his alleged involvement in plane hijacking 11 years ago.

    On 19 November 1990, Soe Myint and another student activist were arrested at Calcutta airport upon their arrival for alleged hijacking of a Thai Airways' plane. It was widely reported in Indian media at that time that they did not carry any weapon on board - even though they pretended to possess bombs, and they did not mistreat passengers. Their sole intention was reported to draw world's attention to military's human rights violations in Burma.

    For that reason, many Indian human rights campaigners and lawyers volunteered their services to secure the release of Soe Myint and his friend. Nevertheless, they were jailed for about 3 months until they were released on bail. Their case has never been officially closed but suspended for unlimited time. In return, the defendants had to agree to show up at the court in Calcutta at different intervals whenever they were summoned by the court.

    According to BMA's sources, he was recently summoned by a court in Calcutta to appear at 8 April 2002, but his wife Thin Thin Aung, a stringer for BBC Burmese Service, asserted that they did not receive such summons. It is therefore possible that muddle in the postal system might have triggered his recent arrest.

    BMA has also learned that in 1995, the Home Secretary of the West Bengal state government wrote a letter to central government and requested that the case be permanently closed as no violence was involved in their action. However, central government's response to this letter was not made known to public.

    Soe Myint was a final year Rangoon University student specializing the subject of International Relation before he fled to Thailand after military takeover in 1988. Since after his arrival in India he has been living in conformity with Indian law.

    In November 1993, he was even granted refugee status by the UNHCR. Soe Myint has had many chances to leave India for good to reside in other countries, but he decided not to do so as he is exceptionally committed to his journalistic career and to promote freedom of expression in Burma. BMA believes that the recent arrest of Soe Myint was undeserved and therefore calls for his immediate release.

    WHO outlines plan for reducing AIDS threat

    By Nwe Nwe Aye
    The Myanmar Times Volume 6, No.110 & 111 April 8 - 21, 2002

    THE World Health Organisation has pledged to maintain its full cooperation with the government in its efforts to counter malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS. The pledge was given by the WHO’s resident representative in Yangon, Dr Agostino Borra, in comments ahead of World Health Day 2002 on April 7. Dr Borra told Myanmar Times that the WHO was mainly concerned about HIV-AIDS.

    "If we do not focus enough on proactive measures, the disease will become the leading killer in the country, ahead of malaria and TB," he said. "The treatment for malaria takes a few days and for TB a few months, but for AIDS it’s a lifetime."

    Dr Borra said that because of the high cost of treating those with HIV-AIDS, the WHO would focus mainly on preventative strategies, such as promoting the use of condoms. He was optimistic about the gradual acceptance of condom use in Myanmar. Dr Borra welcomed moves to expand a 100 per cent condom use campaign to another 10 communities this year. He said the results of pilot campaigns launched last year in Kawthaung, Tachileik, Pyay and Bago were promising, but cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusions. Dr Borra said he hoped the campaign would cover the entire country within the next few years.

    On TB, he referred to the successful introduction in Myanmar of the Global Drug Facility, under which the WHO and its partners provide free treatments for the disease. On the other main threat to health, the WHO had also launched a project called ‘Roll back malaria’ which would increase the availability of drug treatments and chemically impregnated mosquito nets. Dr Borra said some parts of the country were difficult to reach, especially during the rainy season, and the WHO was considering new ways of extending services to such areas, including the use of mobile clinics.

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    Edible Oil Import Increases in 2001

    YANGON, April 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar imported 83.98 million U.S.dollars worth of edible oil in the year of 2001, a 28.8 percent increase compared with 2000, according to the latest figures of the country's Central Statistical Organization.

    Myanmar produced over 380,000 tons of the oil annually in recent years, accounting for only 76 percent of the country's total domestic demand.Myanmar targeted to yield 413,000 tons of edible oil during thefiscal year of 2001-02 which just ended in March with a projected increase of 32,000 tons over the previous fiscal year, according to the state-run Myanmar Agricultural Service (MAS).The actual production figures are yet to be published.

    The MAS under the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation expected that the increased production would be brought about through growing of three main oil crops of groundnut, sesame and sunflower in three arid divisions of Mandalay, Sagaing and Magway in central Myanmar.Total cultivated area of the crops would expand to 2.55 million hectares with sesame taking up 1.4 million hectares, more than double the area of the other two crops.

    According to official statistics, annual edible oil consumption of Myanmar is about 500,000 tons. As domestic production is still falling short of demand, the country has to import over 100,000 tons of palm oil annually from Malaysia.

    Thai police arrest illegal Myanmar worker for killing officer

    BANGKOK, Thailand - A Myanmar man, one of hundreds of thousands suspected of working illegally in Thailand, killed a police officer during a roundup of the migrants, police alleged Friday.

    Police Sgt. Anurak Phethun was shot to death Thursday night after four officers had detained five suspected illegal immigrants.One of the immigrants pulled out a pistol and shot Anurak while his fellow officers were handcuffing the others, said police investigator Col. Chatchai Watanasuka.The suspect, whose name was withheld, was arrested on charges of killing an on-duty police officer, Chatchai said.

    The shooting occurred about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Bangkok in Samut Sakhon town, a haven for both legal and illegal Myanmar workers.Police have been cracking down on illegal employment since early March, when the Labor and Social Welfare Department announced that only about 300,000 of the more than 500,000 registered laborers from Myanmar had renewed their work permits.At least 30,000 illegal workers have been rounded up and returned to Myanmar, also known as Burma, during the past two months, police said.

    Officials estimate that about 1 million foreign workers from other Asian countries, mainly Myanmar, are being employed as cheap labor in Thailand. More than half of them work in agriculture, construction and fishing.

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