Daily News- February 12- 2002- Tuesday

  • Burma's Ethnic Groups Banned from Celebrations
  • DVB says border projects planned to gain public trust
  • Udomchai set to visit Doi Lang hill for first-hand look
  • Burmese Police to take training course in China
  • South Korean Company to Drill Gas in Myanmar
  • Karaoke fad fuels video boom in Myanmar
  • More than 200 Burmese illegal workers sent back to Myawaddy
  • Burma military says internal security at risk
  • US pressures Myanmar to move faster on political reform
  • Myanmar Leader Stresses Importance of National Unity

  • Burma's Ethnic Groups Banned from Celebrations

    By Win Htein
    The Irrawaddy

    February 11, 2002- Burma's ruling military government has banned ethnic political parties from participating in tomorrow's Union Day ceremonies claiming the groups did not notify authorities early enough regarding their planned celebrations, according to ethnic leaders in Rangoon. The government said that the groups had to inform them at least two weeks in advance in order to hold any ceremonies.

    "We don't understand why they did this," says Khun Htun Oo, chairman of the Shan National League for Democracy. "We already sent invitations to embassies, political parties and other guests, but we had to cancel everything."

    Tomorrow marks the 55th anniversary of Union Day, which celebrates the signing of the historic Panglong agreement in Burma's Shan state by twenty-one representatives from Burma's ethnic minorities and Burmese independence leader Gen Aung San during Burma's push for independence.

    The government's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has planned a ceremony and is allowing the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) to hold a separate event. Khun Htun Oo and other ethnic leaders had planned a special joint Union Day dinner in Rangoon to celebrate the occasion.

    "Union Day is supposed to unite Burmans and ethnic minorities," shouted Khun Htun Oo. "Without our participation, what is the meaning of ‘union’?"

    Exiled leaders also feel the government's celebrations are just for show."I don't believe that union spirit comes just from dancing," says U Khun Mar Ko Ban. "(The government) is destroying the Panglong spirit."

    The military regime cerebrates Union Day every year but does not invite ethnic politicians or opposition party members. The government, however, requires some ethnic groups to provide traditional dance and food at their ceremonies.

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    DVB says border projects planned to gain public trust

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Feb 11, 2002
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 9 February

    In order to obtain public trust for the Kyant Phut [derogatory term for Union Solidarity and Development Association, USDA], Kawthaung District authorities in Tenasserim Division have been urging Kyant Phut members to engage in border development activities. Regional authorities have dished out the cash for the Kyant Phut to implement the works. DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] correspondent Myint Maung Maung filed the following report on the Kyant Phut's programmes.

    [Myint Maung Maung] A meeting to coordinate and draw up plans for Kawthaung District Kyant Phut's 2002-2003 border region development programmes was held at the District Office on 5 February.

    In March, the Kyant Phut will begin implementing and building one primary school each, expand rural health centre and medicine distribution, expanding agriculture land, and water supply matters at three villages in Southern Kawthaung District and another three villages in Northern Kawthaung District.

    The meeting also confirmed development projects planned for the remaining 10 border village tracts. The No 2 Strategic Command, Coastal Region Military Command, and District Police Force have given approval to the District Kyant Phut chairman to raise funds needed for the development projects.

    According to the agreement, Kyant Phut will receive half of the proceeds of sale of fish confiscated from poaching vessels seized within the district's jurisdiction, half of the proceeds of fines acquired from people who crossed the border illegally, half of the proceeds of fines acquired in the township for traffic violations, and half of the proceeds of fines acquired for failure to register overnight visitors. Kyant Phut will implement its development projects with that money.

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    Udomchai set to visit Doi Lang hill for first-hand look

    The Bangkokpost
    Subin Khuenkaew Wassana Nanuam

    The Third Army chief will visit the disputed Doi Lang hill in Chiang Mai today in the wake of Sunday's attack on a Burmese army patrol by an unknown group just across the border.Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasingh wanted to get a first-hand look at the border situation, said Col Pairath Thongjatu, his civilian affairs chief.

    Thai border troops have been instructed to build up understanding with their Burmese counterparts and to avoid any confrontation which could lead to fresh border tensions, Col Pairath said.Three Burmese soldiers were injured on Sunday when their patrol team was ambushed by unidentified men in an area opposite Mae Ai district, where Doi Lang is located.Hundreds of Thai and Burmese troops have been deployed in the 32-square-kilometre disputed area.Doi Lang was once the military base of drug warlord Khun Sa, who surrendered to Burma's ruling military junta in 1995.

    A senior Third Army officer believed the attack on Burmese troops on Sunday was a well-planned attempt to cause suspicion and mistrust between Thailand and Burma. The officer said the anti-Rangoon Shan State Army might be behind the attack.The Shan rebels stood to gain from a renewed Thai-Burmese border tension, he said.But the SSA military chief, Jao Yawd Serk, denied his group had anything to do with the attack on Sunday.

    Col Samphan Sriratchbuaphan, chief of a military-trained paramilitary regiment which has deployed its men at Doi Lang, said so far there has been no response from the Burmese side to a Thai request for details about the Sunday clash across the border.``We don't know exactly what was happening there and it was just our pure assumption that a foreign force may have been involved in the attack,'' said the colonel.The officer said there were no guerrillas from the SSA or other Burmese ethnic groups operating in the area where the clash took place.There were only fighters of the United Wa State Army which was an ally of the Rangoon junta, he said.

    Meanwhile, a Burmese army officer was reported killed and another seriously injured on Sunday afternoon when they stepped on a booby-trap bomb.They were returning to their outpost, located opposite Ban Mae Moh village in Mae Fa Luang district, after meeting Thai officers on border co-operation.

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    Burmese Police to take training course in China

    Network Media Group

    Mae Hong Son, February 10, 2002 - Burmese Police personnel will take a training course on illicit drug control in the Yunnan Province of China, starting on February 23, as a part of Sino-Burma joint drug control program, according to a source from the Sino-Burma border. The training will be held at Yunnan People's Security College in Kunming, a city in the Yunnan Province in the People's Republic of China.

    Police personnel from Burma will reach the Jae Gong checkpoint near the border town of Ruili on February 19, and Chinese authorities will be delegated to take care of them. Burmese police will be allowed to wear their own Burmese police uniforms during the training.

    The training is part of the two countries' drug control program. There will also be a meeting on February 16 between Chinese and Burmese drug control personnel at Pansan, a border town in the Wa area, where the Headquarters of the United Wa Solidarity Party is based. Wa and Lahu ethnic leaders will be included in this meeting, where they will discuss a Crop substitution program, according to the information from Thai-Burma border.

    China is facing an increase in the number of HIV infected people every year because of the commercial sex industries and illicit drug use. Although the official Chinese statement cites 20,000 cases of HIV/AIDS, Chinese health personnel say there are more than 600,000 persons infected with HIV in China, mentioned in reports from international news agencies.

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    South Korean Company to Drill Gas in Myanmar

    YANGON, February 11 (Xinhuanet) -- A company from the Republic of Korea, Daewoo, is planning to start drilling of oil and gas at a reserve off Myanmar's west coast by the end of this year, according to the Energy Planning Department of the Myanmar Ministry of Energy.

    The reserve, block A1, off the Rakhine state's Sittwe and 483 kilometers northwest of the capital of Yangon, is estimated to have a gas reserve of 396.2 billion cubic-meters. Daewoo will take 40 percent of the gas drilled under a project agreement with Myanmar which hopes to sell gas to India and Bangladesh.

    According to official statistics, Myanmar produced a total of 3.91 million barrels of crude oil and 7,333 million cubic-meters of natural gas in the first 10 months of 2001, 22.6 percent and 12.5 percent up, respectively, from the same period of 2000. Meanwhile, the country exported 5,138.97 million cubic-meters of natural gas during the 10-month period of 2001, up 347.88 percent from the corresponding period of 2000, earning 477.89 million U.S. dollars.To meet its domestic demand, the country imported 209.89 million dollars worth of crude oil during the period.

    Since Myanmar opened to foreign investment in late 1988, the investment in the oil and gas sector coming from oil companies of Australia, Britain, France, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and the United States has reached 2.355 billion dollars in 51 projects, accounting for 31.8 percent of the country's total contracted foreign investment by sector.

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    Karaoke fad fuels video boom in Myanmar

    The Straitstimes

    The number of video-related enterprises increased to 36,000 in 2001

    BANGKOK - Myanmar's video industry enjoyed a boom last year thanks partly to the growing popularity of karaoke in the military-ruled state, a news report said yesterday. The number of Myanmar's video-related enterprises, including karaoke businesses, filming, editing, copying and producing videos, reached 36,000 in 2001. This represents an increase of 10,000 from 2000, the Myanmar Times reported.

    The country's Video Censorship Board reportedly approved 900 locally-made movie, music and karaoke videos last year, up from 700 in 2000.

    The weekly said official statistics reflected the industry's growth, with nearly 20 movies produced in Myanmar in 2001 and just 12 in 2000.

    Mr Thein Tun Aung, director of the state-run Myanmar Motion Picture Enterprise, told the paper that revenue from videos hit 113 million kyat (S$298,000) in 2001, an increase from 98 million kyat in 2000. He was quoted as saying: 'Videos are easy to produce and the tapes are easy to carry. It is easier to screen video pictures than motion pictures.'There are many video halls in small towns and videotapes are penetrating even into village tracts.'While Myanmar's video industry has prospered as a result of the boom, many find the growing trend an irritation.

    Myanmar newspapers carry letters complaining of noisy karaoke lounges and video booths. They also express concern over the circulation of pirated, uncensored and 'immoral' video tapes.

    Mr Thein was quoted as saying that the Myanmar authorities were cracking down on video piracy, and that 14 people were handed jail terms of up to nine years and three months in January. 'Those who break laws protecting intellectual property rights or who show videotapes which have not been passed by the censor board can expect severe punishment,' he said.'We will protect the national culture.'

    A total of 800 obscene videotapes and laser discs, all made overseas, were seized and destroyed by the Video Supervisory Committee last year and police, the Myanmar Times said. --AFP

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    More than 200 Burmese illegal workers sent back to Myawaddy

    Network Media Group

    Chiang Mai, February 10, 2002 - More than 200 Burmese illegal workers were arrested in Mae Sod yesterday and sent to Myawaddy this morning at the start of a three-month long crackdown against illegal workers, a source from Mae Sod said.

    Although the Thai government planned to start the three-month long operation against illegal workers on the 10th of February, they began yesterday with more than 200 illegal workers arrested in Mae Sod, a town on the Thai-Burma border.

    The workers arrested yesterday were handed over to Immigration officers in Myawaddy this morning. To show that they were arrested workers, Thai immigration imprinted a stamp on the hands of individual workers before handing them over to Burmese immigration officials. The arrested workers were detained in the newly built detention center near the Friendship Bridge in Myawaddy.

    "This morning there were some arrests in Mae Sod. Thai police took a truckload of people this morning to the immigration detention center. There may have been about 60 or 70 people in the truck. But, we haven't heard that they were sent to the Burmese side." said a leader from Moe Thauk Pan (Aurora) Workers group.

    Agreements to send back illegal workers from Thailand to Burma were reach both in the Foreign Ministerial meeting held in Phuket in early January and during the Thai foreign minister's recent visit to Nga Pali, a famous beach in Burma.

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    Burma military says internal security at risk

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    Rangoon, Feb. 12- Burma's military government, its talks with the pro-democracy opposition bogged down for over a year, called on Tuesday for people to work with the armed forces to ward off what it described as internal threats to stability.

    In a separate development, six ethnic major ethnic groups, recalling the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, called for creation of a federal state.

    Military leader General Than Shwe, used his annual ''Union Day'' message, to call for help to build a ''disciplined'' nation.

    The message, read out by a ruling party official at a rally in the capital Rangoon, denounced unspecified ''destructionists from inside and outside the nation, who are disturbing the state's stability, peace, modernisation and development.''

    The military traditionally uses Union day -- the anniversary of a deal between Burma's main ethnic groups in 1947 that paved the way for independence from Britain -- to sharply criticise the opposition led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

    That criticism fell almost silent last year thanks to talks between Suu Kyi and the junta.

    This year's message was not as vitriolic as in the past but the tone was less conciliatory than a year ago, when United Nations-brokered talks between the military and the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) had just begun.

    The level of criticism may reflect difficulty in the dialogue. The government has released some political prisoners and allowed the League to reopen some offices, but the opposition has shown frustration over the slow pace of the talks.


    Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the League to a landslide election victory in 1990 but was never allowed to govern, is still under house arrest. According to human rights watchdog Amnesty International, some 1500 political prisoners still languish in Burma's jails.

    The League was due to mark Union Day with a low-key ceremony involving its own members and representatives from ethnic political parties later in the day. U.N. human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who is in Burma to assess the human rights situation, was expected to attend.

    The government's celebrations were held at the golden Shwedagon Pagoda, which towers over central Rangoon.

    Around 15,000 people from government-linked organisations and Burma's ethnic groups turned up to hear Than Shwe's message.

    Representatives of six major ethnic groups used Union Day to issue a statement calling for a federal state.

    ''We honestly believe that it is more crucial for non-disintegration of the Union to practice a genuine federal system rather than controlling the Union by the strength of the armed forces,'' a statement received by Reuters said.

    ''Lessons should be taken from the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, which were controlled by a single party system,'' it said.

    Burma's generals, in power since the early 1960s, have shrugged off Western criticism of military rule, arguing a strong hand is vital to hold the ethnically diverse country together.

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    US pressures Myanmar to move faster on political reform

    The United States urged Myanmar's military rulers in a report to speed up their tentative political dialogue with confined democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    In a report to Congress Monday, the US government, one of Yangon's most vociferous critics, held out the prospect of an easing of US sanctions against the country, in the event of tangible progress towards democracy.

    Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of junta leaders are currently engaged in a covert confidence building progress, envisaged at paving a way out of the stalemate that has afflicted Myanmar since annulled elections in 1990.

    "The United States welcomes this confidence building process but urges the regime to move from confidence building to genuine political dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi aimed at returning the country to democracy and civilian rule," said the report.

    "Critical next steps include release of the over 1,000 political prisoners still in jail, Aung San Suu Kyis full release from house arrest, full and free operation of NLD party headquarters."

    The report, prepared by the State Department and the US embassy in Yangon, noted that the dialogue process had contributed to some mutual understanding, and the release of around 180 political prisoners.

    "Aung San Suu Kyi has emphasized that she is hopeful regarding the current talks, but has not revealed any of the substance of the discussions.

    "She has also indicated that she will not emerge from confinement unless she is allowed to fully and freely resume all her duties."

    The assessment, a regular six-month survey of events in Myanmar mandated by Congress, came out on the day UN Human Rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro met senior junta leaders at the start of a 10-day visit to the country.

    Its findings, including a condemnation of deteriorating living conditions, could anger the junta on the eve of Union Day, the date when ethnic minorities agreed to join a national union, paving the way for independence from Britain in 1948.

    The United States and the European Union levy coordinated sanctions against Myanmar designed to convince the junta to improve human rights and move towards a democratic transition.

    "Should there be significant progress toward those goals, the United States would look seriously at measures to support a process of constructive change," the report said.

    Aung San Suu Kyi heads the opposition National League for Democracy, (NLD) which won the 1990 elections which were never recognised by the military.

    The report also noted that the government-controlled media had halted vituperative attacks on Aung San Suu Kyi, and permitted a number of NLD offices to open nationwide.But while its criticism of the junta was comparatively muted, the report bemoaned living conditions in Myanmar, the former Burma.

    "The quality of life in Burma continues to deteriorate. Poverty is widespread, and the economy has continued to show the effects of a growing government deficit, rising inflation, shortfalls in energy supplies and continuing foreign exchange shortages.

    "The overall human rights situation in Burma remains deplorable, and widespread human rights abuses continue.

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    Myanmar Leader Stresses Importance of National Unity

    YANGON, February 12 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe Tuesday stressed the importance of flourishing national unity and union spirit for the existence and perpetuation of the country, saying that the country's history is a history of national races.

    In his messages on the occasion of Myanmar's 55th anniversary Union Day, Than Shwe, the chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, noted that in times of national solidarity, the nation was strong and commanded a great deal of respect of neighboring countries.

    "At the time when union spirit was ebbing away and national solidarity was on the wane, not only did the political, economic and social status of the union fall into decline, but the security and sovereignty of the nation were encroached upon as well," he added.

    He attributed the nation's falling into servitude to lack of unity, blaming that the past colonialist system generated suspicion among union-born national races and undermined unity in order to prolong the rule over Myanmar.He complained that although the country regained independence in 1948, it was not in a stable condition because of the after-effects of colonialism, resulting in that priority could not be paid to development bringing about the lagging behind in development of the nation.He called on the country people to maintain and safeguard unprecedented national solidarity with union spirit to enable Myanmar stand tall in the world for ever.

    Myanmar's Union Day was designated on February 12, 1947 when Myanmar ethnic leaders met at the Panlong Conference in northeastern Shan state and signed the Panlong Agreement to strive in unity for the country's independence from the then British colonialist rule.

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