Daily News- February 05 - 2002- Tuesday

  • Olympics Help Fund Forced Labor, Says Anti-Slavery Group
  • Slovak customs officials seize machinery used in ammunition production
  • Dissidents discuss Burma's labor standards at border town
  • Two more Karen found
  • Japan Provides Grant Assistance to Myanmar
  • Chittagong-Yangon flight from Feb 15
  • Moderate quake hits northeast Myanmar, no damage
  • Death toll from apparent massacre at Burma border climbs to 20
  • Burma: a niche gas producer?

  • Olympics Help Fund Forced Labor, Says Anti-Slavery Group

    PR Newswire - USA; Feb 4, 2002

    The American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) and the Free Burma Coalition (FBC) today announced a campaign of protest over the fact that parts of the 2002 Winter Olympic Torchbearer uniforms were made in Burma.

    The international community has repeatedly condemned Burma's military regime for employing a brutal system of forced labor. Burmese soldiers routinely conscript villagers to work on construction projects, carry supplies, or even sweep for landmines. Many of the victims are beaten or raped; none are paid for their labor.In 1998, the International Labor Organization (ILO) called the system of forced labor in Burma "a saga of untold misery and suffering."

    "Every purchase of a made-in-Burma product supports this regime," explained AASG's David Moore. Responding to the pro-democracy movement inside Burma, numerous companies, governments, and unions have cut ties with Burma. "Everyone else is getting out of Burma," added Moore. "The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should follow suit."

    Ironically, AASG staffers first learned about this development when escaped Sudanese slave Francis Bok donned his uniform to carry the Olympic torch past historic Plymouth Rock. Days earlier, anti-sweatshop activist and torchbearer Leslie Kretzu was shocked to learn that her official uniform bore a Made-in-Burma label.

    Over a thousand on-line activists have already lodged complaints with the. Dennis Brutus - leader of the campaign that barred South Africa from the Olympics - Kretzu, and many others have signed a letter of protest to the IOC.

    Historically, the IOC operates free of politics, but in extreme cases - such as South Africa's - it has sanctioned countries. "Surely, the egregious human rights abuses committed by the Burmese regime also warrant action from the IOC," argued FBC Washington, DC Director Jeremy Woodrum. "Purchasing goods from Burma undermines the Olympic charter's call for the 'preservation of human dignity."

    Not bothering to wait for the IOC, the Norwegian Olympic team recently refused to wear clothing made in Burma."We hope that this was simply an oversight by the IOC," Moore stated. "But now, the IOC should apologize for this mistake and adopt a position against the purchase and use of products made in Burma."

    Campaign URL: http://ga0.org/campaign/Olympics
    MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT - Click Here http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X52653127 The American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG)
    Contact: David Moore of American Anti-Slavery Group, +1-617-426-8161; or Jeremy Woodrum or Aung Din of Free Burma Coalition, +1-202-547-5985
    Website: http://www.anti-slavery.org/ http://www.freeburmacoalition.org/

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    Slovak customs officials seize machinery used in ammunition production

    BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) _ Slovak customs officials confiscated machinery used in ammunition production that was bound for Myanmar, officials said Monday.

    Customs officials seized the machinery Thursday at the border crossing of Cunovo, located just outside the capital, Bratislava, spokeswoman Silvia Balazsikova said. The crossing links Slovakia to Hungary. Customs officials grew suspicious of the material because of its paperwork, which suggested the machinery was used in shoe production.

    The material was being exported by a local company which deals with exports and imports of arms and related items. Customs officials declined to name the company. The value of the cargo, which included six hydraulic presses, was estimated at 31 million Slovak koruna (dlrs 660,000).

    In Slovakia, trade with Myanmar, once known as Burma, is not illegal as such. But under Slovak law, arms dealers must obtain export licenses from the Economics Ministry. No such license was issued in this case. No arrests have been made, and Slovak police declined comment while the case is under investigation.

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    Dissidents discuss Burma's labor standards at border town

    Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

    February 4: A two-day seminar on Trade and Labor Issues, participated by trade union activists from inside and outside Burma, was concluded on 25th January at Moreh, Indian border town with Burma. The seminar held at All Community Hall (ACH) in Moreh was attended by total 45 participants, out of which 31 came from inside Burma, where trade union activities are not allowed by the ruling military junta.

    The Confederation of Trade Unions, Burma, organized the seminar. U Letlam, chairman of Federation of Trade Union-Kuki (FTUK) and U Albert Kima, chairman of Burma Backward Workers’ Organization (BBWO) made the concluding remarks.

    "In the seminar, the participant expressed that there must be a change in the standard of workers' condition in Burma. For this, they appeal to international community, particularly to Internal Labor Organization (ILO) to take stringent actions and appropriate measures to heal the wounds of the workers in Burma", said a press release of Confederation of Trade Unions, Burma received by Mizzima News today.

    The release further said that workers in Burma are "the worst sufferers and unprivileged class even though they form the backbone of the country's economy". The Confederation of Trade Unions, Burma is an umbrella of Burma’s ethnic nationalities’ workers organizations formed outside the country to struggle for the rights of workers in Burma.

    It includes: Federation of Trade Union - Arakan (FTUA), Kachin Federation of Trade Union (KFTU), Federation of Trade Union - Kuki (FTUK), Federation of Trade Union - Zomi (FTUZ), Burma Backward Workers' Organization (BBWO), Working People's League of Burma (WPLB) and Chin Labor Union (CLU).

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    Two more Karen found

    The Bangkokpost
    Supamart Kasem

    The dead bodies of two more Karen men were found yesterday in Mae Lamao stream in Mae Sot district, Mae Sot police said.On Saturday, seven Karen men and seven Karen women were found in the same stream, but in tambon Mae Jarao in Tak's Mae Ramat district.

    Pol Lt-Col Ampol Wongyai, deputy superintendent of Mae Sot police station, said the victims had their throats cut like those found on Saturday.The two bodies were sent to Mae Sot hospital for an autopsy.

    Tas Jaipanta, a villager who found the two bodies, said he believed the victims were illegal workers from Burma.Local security officials believe the victims were killed because they had witnessed illegal activities while administrative officials suspected a conflict over wages.

    Lt-Col Maung Chit Tu, a battalion commander of the pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, said no villagers under his care were reported missing.

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    Japan Provides Grant Assistance to Myanmar

    YANGON, February 4 (Xinhuanet) -- The Japanese government has provided grassroots grant assistance of 331,184 U.S. dollars to Myanmar for 13 projects during the period from December 1, 2001 to February 1, 2002, according to a press release of the Japanese embassy here Monday.

    The assistance covers construction projects of four primary and one middle schools, medical equipment and water supply and electrification projects in Myanmar's seven states and divisions.Meanwhile, the Japanese government has provided about 20 million U.S.dollars of technical aid to Myanmar in the current fiscal year ending in March, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency which has been extending such aid to the country for over 20 years.

    Another embassy figures show that in 2001, Japan provided Myanmar with the Official Development Assistance (ODA) worth 1.689 billion yen (about 13.8 million U.S.dollars), and in January this year, a similar aid of 203 million yen (about 1.65 million dollars)for human resources development scholarship project was extended.

    Besides, up to 2001, Japan has provided 20 times of debt relief to Myanmar including a sum of 3.594 billion yen (about 29.22 million dollars) in 2001.

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    Chittagong-Yangon flight from Feb 15

    The Daily Star

    Biman Bangladesh Airline, will start operating flights from Chittagong to Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, from February 15. State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin said this while Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh U Ohn Thwin called on him at his office yesterday.

    They also discussed matters of mutual interests. They hoped that the existing ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar would be strengthened further in the days ahead. Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism Shafiqul Islam and Mya Tun, counselor and Deputy Chief of the Mission, embassy of Myanmar were present.

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    Moderate quake hits northeast Myanmar, no damage

    YANGON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - A moderate earthquake, measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale, shook a sparsely populated region in northeastern Myanmar early on Sunday, the country's Meteorology and Hydrology Department (MHD) said.

    A MHD official said on Monday the quake at 1938 GMT Saturday, centred near the Chinese border about 372 miles northeast of Yangon's Kabar-Aye seismological observatory, did not cause any damage or casualties. "We don't think there would be any damage since the area is almost uninhabited."

    Myanmar's thinly populated northeastern and northwestern regions are quake-prone. The strongest jolt in the two areas a few years ago measured 6.5 on the Richter scale.

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    Death toll from apparent massacre at Burma border climbs to 20

    MAE SOT, Thailand (AFP)

    Thai police said Tuesday the death toll from an apparent massacre of ethnic Karen villagers had risen to 20 after four more bodies were pulled from a river on the Burma border.

    They said the corpses believed to be of ethnic Karen, Burma's largest ethnic minority, were found floating in the Moei river blindfolded with their hands and feet bound, their throats cut and decomposed beyond recognition.

    Police on Saturday spotted 14 bodies in the river, which demarcates the border between Thailand and Burma, while another two bodies were discovered Monday.

    The slayings may have been the result of a conflict between drug trafficking gangs operating along the border as the victims appeared to have been brutally executed and dumped in the river, police said.

    "It looked like the executioners wanted to warn that if you act like this, you will face the same fate as them," Major General Sawek Pinsinchai, police commander of western Tak province, told AFP.

    Samart Loyfah, district chief of Mae Sot, some 560 kilometers (348 miles) from Bangkok, said he suspected the murders stemmed from a conflict among gangs smuggling illegal workers from Burma to Thailand.

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    Burma: a niche gas producer?

    Godwin Chellam

    SINGAPORE (Reuters)--- Burma's success in finding oil and gas has been patchy with more misses than hits in the 12 years since it rolled out the welcome mat for foreign explorers.

    Few Western companies have had the stomach to invest in the country, which has been isolated politically and economically by U.S. and European hostility since 1990 when the military government ignored the result of democratic elections.

    Even those companies willing to operate in Burma have to overcome hurdles ranging from a lack of capital and technology to difficult and costly terrain.

    The long-term energy bet for Burma, a country with an area the size of Britain and France combined, may be as a small, niche supplier for a Southeast Asian gas pipeline connecting regional governments.

    "Myanmar may not hold much promise right now but it could be a key producer in the future, especially when the Trans-ASEAN gas pipeline project is completed in about 15 years," Guillermo Balce, executive director of the ASEAN Centre for Energy, told Reuters by telephone from Jakarta.

    The Trans-ASEAN line aims to link the main gas supply and demand centres of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Burma, Vietnam and Thailand within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

    Burma already has gas pipelines, run by foreign companies, linking its fields in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Martaban to neighbouring Thailand.

    TotalFinaElf's 410-kilometre (256-mile) pipeline from the Yadana field can transport 900 million cubic feet per day (mcfd) of gas, while Premier Oil's 280-km (175-mile) pipeline from the Yetagun field has a capacity of 660 mcfd.

    South Korea, China and India have been knocking on Rangoon's front door to get a foothold in the fledgling industry.


    Burma's military government, facing a slump in domestic oil production and a lack of foreign reserves to import crude, ended its isolationist stance in 1989 and moved to attract investment.

    The decision reversed a 26-year ban on foreign participation in oil exploration and development and prompted a flood of international interest with 20 production sharing contracts (PSC) quickly signed with state-run Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.

    But enthusiasm soon dried up.

    In 1990, the military regime ignored national elections won by the opposition National League for Democracy, drawing sharp criticism from Western states, who slapped informal sanctions on Rangoon leaving few oil companies willing to risk the wrath of governments or their shareholders for such uncertain rewards.

    Within three years, 12 PSCs had been terminated, leaving six contracts onshore and two offshore.

    Analysts say contracts were also terminated because of a low success rate in finding commercially viable fields, a lack of capital and technology and a slowdown in domestic economic activity - problems that are little changed today.

    "Myanmar is just not attractive right now because the lack of capital and technology makes it very hard to properly exploit the reserves that are in the ground," Norman Valentine, oil and gas analyst at Edinburgh-based Wood Mackenzie told Reuters.

    "It's also not what you would call a big growth market because of the political and economic situation."

    According to MOGE estimates, Burma has total gas reserves of 45.3 to 51.0 trillion cubic feet and oil reserves of about 3.158 billion barrels. Analysts say most of the oil and gas is not commercially viable.

    "Commercial gas reserves are probably at nine trillion cubic feet, while commercial oil reserves total 120 million barrels," said Wood Mackenzie's Valentine.


    Burma's inhospitable terrain also has been a deterrent as has a lack of infrastructure to support oil exploration and production.

    ING Baring's Bangkok-based energy analyst Paworamon Suvarnatemee said logistical problems put a premium on production and transportation costs. Gas from Burma sold into Thailand was more expensive than that sourced from the Gulf of Thailand.

    "The wellhead cost in Myanmar can be 50 cents to $1 higher (than Gulf of Thailand) at $3.50-$3.60 per million British thermal unit, while transportation costs are also greater," Suvarnatemee said.

    Despite the difficulties, companies already operating in Burma say the problems can be overcome.

    "We have a gas sales agreement with Thailand that's fairly tight so commercially, it's a reasonable piece of business for us," said Premier Oil's Rangoon-based general manager Joe Patrick.

    "Sure, there is not a lot of infrastructure, but that problem exists in other places like Vietnam as well. It's a problem that's inherent in this part of Asia," Patrick said.

    TotalFinaElf agreed the problems were not insurmountable.

    "Yes, there is a lack of capital and technology, but these are problems that can be overcome," said TotalFinaElf's Rangoon-based operations manager Bernard Rochet.

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