Daily News- Apr 19- 2002- Friday

  • Razali to make three-day trip to Myanmar from April 23
  • Burma Urged to Lift Trade Ban
  • PTT may buy more Burmese gas
  • 140 Mayanmar, Thai prisoners shifted to local jails
  • Indo-Myanmar marine research project takes off
  • Repatriation next month
  • Villagers flee border clash
  • Burma tells rebels no peace without surrender
  • Burma, Thailand to tackle hot issues during army chief's visit
  • S Korea, Burma Seek Cooperation in IT Sector

  • Razali to make three-day trip to Myanmar from April 23

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 (AFP) - The UN special envoy to Myanmar, Razali Ismail, said Thursday he would visit the country for three days from April 23.

    Razali has been instrumental in facilitating dialogue on national reconciliation between the Yangon regime and the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

    "Yes, the reconciliation dialogue will include the release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. I will travel to Myanmar on April 23," the Malaysian diplomat told AFP.Asked if he was happy with the progress of the long-running talks, he said: "I do not want to comment on that before I go."

    Aung San Suu Kyi, whose NLD was barred by Myanmar's ruling military junta from assuming power after a landslide election victory in 1990, has been under virtual house arrest in her Yangon home since September 2000.

    The United States has grown impatient over the slow pace of the reconciliation talks, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said last week.Washington was also anxious to see Aung San Suu Kyi released from house arrest, he told reporters during a visit to Thailand.

    Razali had been due to visit Yangon on March 19 but the ruling junta requested a postponement after announcing it had scuttled a coup plot mounted by the family of 92-year-old former dictator Ne Win.Razali, who was appointed in April 2000, recently said the talks between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi were not proceeding as fast as they should.

    To The Top

    Burma Urged to Lift Trade Ban

    Far Eastern Economic Review INTELLIGENCE -Issue cover-dated April 25, 2002

    Burma's military government is under strong pressure to reverse a decision to prevent foreign trading companies from importing and exporting. Japan, South Korea and Singapore have protested against the ban, which has been confirmed by government officials but not formally announced.

    One minister tells the REVIEW that the ruling has driven up the price of imported medicine, milk powder and other products by as much as 50% in the past month. "Now that they have heard the criticism and seen the suffering on the ground, I think they'll have to sit down and rethink the whole thing," the minister says.

    The only explanation for the move, which critics call "backdoor nationalization," was given by Commerce Minister Brig. Gen. Pyi Sone in a March 30 speech not reported by local media. He said foreign trading companies, as well as joint ventures between Burmese and foreign partners, are being restricted "to protect the interests of the national people." Burmese cannot compete with foreign exporters, who are buying up local products at high prices, he said.

    Hardest hit are Indian traders, who dominate the annual export of about $260 million of beans and pulses, mainly to India. Analysts predict the ban will reduce Burma's already meagre exports and foreign-exchange earnings, because local companies don't have the overseas contacts and experience to take over all export trade.

    PTT may buy more Burmese gas


    Natural-gas imports form Burma will account for almost half of Thailand's total natural-gas consumption by November. PTT Plc last month boosted its natural-gas purchases from Burma to 870 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) and may increase this volume to about 1,000 mmcfd by November, PTT president Viset Choopiban said. PTT is Thailand's sole natural-gas procurer and distributor. According to the National Energy Policy Office, domestic natural-gas consumption currently totals about 2,200 mmcfd.

    PTT has contracts to buy at least 725 mmcfd of gas from Burma - 525 mmcfd from the Yadana field and 200 from the Yetagun field. The excess amount will be used to compensate for a previous shortfall in delivery, he said. PTT's contracts with Burma include a "take-or-pay" clause. PTT has already made US$840 million (Bt36.4 billion) in advance payments for the contracted amount of natural gas, although it has not yet transported the full amount, Viset said.

    Gas imports from Burma will probably increase in November if Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding begins operating its third "combine-cycle" power generating block - with greaterr demand for natural gas - as scheduled, he said. Following a one-year delay, Ratchaburi last month started its first and second combined-cycle power blocks. In response, PTT increased its gas purchases from Burma to 870 mmcfd. This month, PTT will buy about 850 mmcfd, he said. Meanwhile, Ratchaburi is considering refinancing options for its Bt42.5 billion in debts, according to managing director Boonchoo Direksathapon.

    To The Top

    140 Mayanmar, Thai prisoners shifted to local jails

    The Independent Bangladesh

    BANDARBAN, Apr 17: A total of 140 Mayanmar and Thai prisoners have been shifted to Comilla and Noakhali jails from Bandarban jail on charge of agitation.

    The jail authorities informed that they under green signals from the higher authorities kept 552 Myanmar and Thai prisoners confined in separate cells by resorting to different techniques and the police under tight security and special arrangement shifted 35 Mayanmar and Thai prisoners to Noakhali jail on April 5 and 105 prisoners to Comilla jail on April 7. Before their shifting, they were assured of being sent to their own countries.

    DIG of prison of Chittagong and Sylhet division, Md. Abdus Salam monitored the shifting of the prisoners.The shifting of other prisoners will be completed soon.

    A source in the Bandarban prison said the prisoners might resort to tougher agitation at any moment as the government in utter violation of its promise to send them to their countries, started shifting them to different prisons across the country.

    The agitation on the charge of which the government started shifting the prisoners to different prisons was in the form of their declaration that they would commit enmass if they were not sent to their countries. They, as a first step to this, went on hunger strike. Their demand to send them to their countries came at the backdrop of the fact that their punishment period ended long since and that the governments of their countries were reluctant to bring them back.

    On March 30, 552 Myanmar and Thai prisoners withdrew their hunger strike on the assurance by the parliamentary advisor to the Prime Minister, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and State Minister for Environment Zafrul Islam Chowdhury that they would be sent to their countries soon. But the government took a secret decision to shift the foreign prisoners to weaken their strength so that they, who are expert in Kungfu Karate, might not encounter the police in clash. The shifting of 140 prisoners was the first step to the government plan to baffle the prisoners plan of committing suicide enmass.

    Sources said the foreign prisoners underwent untold sufferings in the prison where 800 prisoners have been kept against its capacity of accommodating only 114. Their long prison life in the midst of scarcity of food, lack of medicare facilities and their exposition to infectious diseases turned unbearable to them and the prison turned a hell to them.

    After the end of their punishment period, they had to pay Tk 500 each to the jail authority a month for accommodation in the jail and in case of otherwise they were given accommodation in rooms which appeared to be health hazard to them. Moreover, the reluctance of their governments to bring them back home forced them to the suicidal plan to realise their demand.

    Indo-Myanmar marine research project takes off

    By Papri Sri Raman, Indo-Asian News Service

    Chennai, Apr 16 (IANS) India and Myanmar have begun a joint study of the Sea of Andaman to determine the diversity of marine life and effects of climate change. The exercise began Monday evening as research vessel Sagar Kanya set off from Chennai to the sea along the coast of Myanmar and north of India's Andaman and Nicobar islands.

    The project, funded by India's National Institute of Oceanography in Goa and the ministry of external affairs, is being conducted under a programme for Collaborative Oceanographic Research and Learning. The 35-day venture will cost at least Rs.3 million.

    The 100-metre-long Sagar Kanya, on its 175th voyage, will collect baseline data on the biological character of the region and transmit it via satellite. It will also conduct bio-sampling of the ocean floor to map the diversity.

    "Scientists on board will study the physical, chemical and geological processes in the Sea of Andaman," P.S. Rao, the chief scientist at the Chennai office of NIO, told reporters before setting off. While Rao leads the Indian team, Swe Thwin, a scientist at Mawlamyine University, leads the Myanmarese scientists.

    The two countries will jointly place 400 marker floats outside the Indian Economic Zone. They would dip to two km depths and bob up periodically, said ocean development department secretary Harsh K. Gupta. India would drop 150 such floats. The department is also upgrading data on India's continental shelf, Gupta said. "The present data was from the 1960s survey and the shelf has undergone several changes since," he pointed out. The data would determine the area India can exploit for economic purposes.

    To The Top

    Repatriation next month

    Achara Ashayagachat
    The Bangkokpost

    Senior Thai officials will tour a reception centre in Myawaddy today in preparation for the repatriation of illegal Burmese workers next month, labour and foreign ministry sources said.

    Tej Bunnag, the permanent secretary for foreign affairs, will lead an inter-agency delegation to the Burmese border town opposite Tak's Mae Sot district. He will meet Burmese Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win and inspect the designated holding centre.

    Thai employers have until April 26 to re-register Burmese workers after which those without papers will be sent back to Burma.So far, 414,000 of the 568,000 workers registered previously have gone through the process again.Sources said workers who failed to re-register would be ``prime targets'' for repatriation next month.

    ``In addition, there are some 100,000 undocumented Burmese illegal immigrants still at large. If any of these are caught, they too will be sent back,'' a source said.Burma agreed to take back illegal workers at a meeting in January of the Joint Commission on Bilateral Co-operation.A taskforce met twice to work out details.

    Repatriation of Burmese workers will also be discussed during an official visit to Thailand next week of Maung Aye, Burma's army commander-in-chief and a leading member of the ruling junta in Rangoon.But officials did not think a memorandum of understanding on the issue would be ready for signing as earlier hoped.

    Villagers flee border clash

    The Nation

    More than 100 Thais fled their village on the border in Tak province yesterday following fighting between Burmese government troops and the rebel Karen National Union (KNU). The villagers fled their homes early in the morning after four mortar-launched bombs from the fighting nearby landed in Ban Huay Pla Kong in Mae Ra Mad district, but there were no reports of casualties, according to a Thai military source.

    The ethnic Karen guerrilla force was earlier this week accused by Burmese authorities of being behind a bomb blast in a coffee shop in Myawaddy, near the Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge, that killed five people and injured more than 30.

    The KNU's top commander, Bo Mya, denied the allegation, saying that it was unfair to blame his force since Burma's military junta was also in conflict with many other groups, both inside and outside the country.

    "The junta has a lot of enemies, not only the KNU. Numbers of people want to destroy the regime in Rangoon since it has created massive problems for them," he said.

    The explosion on Monday was alleged to be the Christian-dominated KNU's revenge against its rival Democratic Karen Buddhist Army for the bombing of a KNU-owned gas station. However, Burmese authorities have arrested two Buddhist monks in connection with blast over the past few days and another monk suspect is being followed, the Thai military source said.

    To The Top

    Burma tells rebels no peace without surrender

    Rangoon (Reuters)- - Burma's military government has brushed aside an olive branch from the largest rebel force still fighting its grip on the country, saying the Shan State Army (SSA) would have to surrender if it wanted peace.

    Thailand's Bangkok Post newspaper quoted SSA commander Yod Suk on Thursday as saying he wanted Thailand to mediate truce talks with the Rangoon junta. But he said the SSA, which has battled Burma troops in the volatile Golden Triangle region for years, would not agree to lay down its weapons before starting peace talks.

    A senior Burmese military intelligence officer said the junta regarded the SSA as nothing more than a splinter group of the Mong Tai Army of former opium warlord Khun Sa, who surrendered in 1996 with many of his troops.

    "There is no way we will have peace negotiations with the (SSA) because they are a splinter group of the Mong Tai Army that has already surrendered unconditionally to the government," Lieutenant-Colonel San Pwint told Reuters.

    "But if they want to exchange their weapons for peace, they are welcome."

    Several guerrilla groups operate in Burma, a product of the country's bloody history and its fractured patchwork of different ethnic groups and religions.

    The military, which has ruled Burma since 1962, has often cited the danger to national unity posed by rebellious ethnic minorities as a justification for its grip on power.


    Over the past decade the military government has pursued a policy of seeking deals with the ethnic minority rebel groups, and has reached peace agreements with 17 of them.

    But three major groups still stand against Rangoon -- the SSA, the Karenni National Progressive Party and the Karen National Union (KNU). The first two are separatist groups while the KNU is fighting for greater autonomy in a federal, democratic Burma.

    Many of the government's deals have involved giving the former rebel groups considerable autonomy in return for dropping their fight against Rangoon.

    Ceasefire groups such as the United Wa State Army have been allowed to keep control over their territory and retain their weapons. The United Wa State Army is widely accused of being the region's main narcotics producer.

    But Burma's government says the United Wa State Army is committed to eradicating drugs, and accuses the SSA of being the country's main narcotics producer and trafficker.

    Yod Suk was formerly a lieutenant of Khun Sa, who now lives in Rangoon after surrendering to the Burmese military. Khun Sa was a major opium producer, but claimed he was forced to grow the crop to finance his struggle against the Burmese government.

    The Bangkok Post quoted Yod Suk as saying neither side should set preconditions for talks. It said the SSA commander wanted similar privileges to those granted to the United Wa State Army -- which runs its part of Burma in northeastern Shan State as an autonomous fiefdom.

    The newspaper said Yod Suk suggested that Thai Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh help broker peace talks.

    It said Chavalit would informally raise the issue of talks with Burma army chief General Maung Aye during his visit to Thailand on April 23 to 26.

    Burma has in the past accused the Thai army of giving support to the SSA, and the two countries have fought sporadic skirmishes along their border over the issue.

    To The Top

    Burma, Thailand to tackle hot issues during army chief's visit

    Source : AFP

    Thailand and Burma will tackle a range of contentious issues including narcotics, illegal workers and fisheries disputes when Rangoon's army chief General Maung Aye visits next week, officials said.

    Maung Aye, number two in the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), will also be granted a royal audience with King Bhumibol Adulyadej during the four-day trip that starts on Tuesday.

    The general is the first top Burmese official known to have travelled out of the isolated country since the junta announced last month it had foiled a coup attempt by relatives of former dictator Ne Win.

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said during the talks with Maung Aye, Burma will be notified that Thailand will deport "hundreds of thousands" of illegal Burmese workers.

    "Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will ask Myanmar to expedite the signing of a memorandum of understanding which will deal with illegal workers," he told reporters on Friday.

    On the narcotics suppression issue, Thailand will offer assistance for schemes like crop substitution which are designed to decrease the production of opium inside Burma, he said.

    The two sides will also try to reach agreement on fishing licences for Thai boats, which were suspended a year ago after a half-day border skirmish between the two national armies.

    "Thailand will ask Myanmar to speed up a written answer concerning the joint fisheries agreement," Surakiart said.

    The two countries will also discuss joint tourism projects and road links across Thailand's western border with Burma, which Thailand will provide loans funds for.

    On the political front, Thailand will reiterate its support for the national reconciliation process in Burma, where the junta is holding 18-month talks with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    "Thailand will reiterate the importance of national reconciliation and Thailand is ready to help realise the reconciliation process which will be positive for everyone," Surakiart said.

    After arriving at a military airport Tuesday, Maung Aye will be whisked to the Chitralada Palace for an audience with King Bhumibol Adulyadej before attending a dinner hosted by Thaksin.

    He then leaves for the resort island of Phuket, where he will play a round of golf and dine with Surakiart before returning Thursday for talks with the premier.

    Thai military sources told the Bangkok Post that border areas would be under the "highest security" to prevent unrest during the visit.

    But Thai army spokesman Somkuan Saengpattaranetr rejected the report, saying there was "nothing to be concerned about" as there was no indication of upcoming trouble.

    To The Top

    S Korea, Burma Seek Cooperation in IT Sector

    SEOUL, April 19 (Asia Pulse/Yonhap)- - South Korea Friday asked for Burma to help Korean firms join the project to modernize telecommunications network of the southeast Asian nation.

    Vice Information and Communications Minister Kim Tae-hyun made the request at a meeting with his Burmese counterpart Thien Zaw.

    At the meeting, the vice minister explained Korea's e-government project and other current information policies and requested Burma to join hands with Korean businesses for its own e-government and network modernization projects.

    In response, the Burmese minister said the country has forged an "e-national task-force" to proceed with information projects and asked the Korean government to impart its own experience and know-how to the task force.

    Earlier, Vice Minister Kim held the Korea-Burma IT Forum which was attended by 200 government officials and IT experts from research institutes and businesses.

    To The Top