Daily News- February 20- 2002- Wednesday

  • 'Made in Myanmar' label too tart for Gart
  • 13 Sri Lanka MPs signed for democracy in Burma
  • Hail the drug baron
  • Rice price shot up as junta closes down private rice mills
  • UN rights envoy urges bolder steps from Myanmar government

  • 'Made in Myanmar' label too tart for Gart

    Sporting goods company is dropping apparel made in country condemned for human-rights abuses

    By Rachel Brand, News Staff Writer
    Rocky Mountain News

    Gart Sports will no longer sell clothes manufactured in Myanmar, considered one of the world's most brutal military regimes by human-rights groups. The decision was announced days before human-rights activists protested that Olympic torchbearers' uniforms were made in the Southeast Asian country.

    Gart's general counsel, Nesa Hassanein, said in a letter dated Feb. 5 that the retailer will no longer buy apparel made in Myanmar, "until the authorities in that country institute appropriate and effective reforms to its political and human-rights practices." Myanmar was once known as Burma.

    The announcement came three months after the Free Burma Coalition asked Denver-based Gart Sports, the nation's No. 2 sporting goods retailer, to halt imports. Other retailers and apparel makers that have terminated business with the country include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Gap Inc. and Fila.

    "It was just a matter of, we do some direct-import business on our own, and we were contacted by Free Burma Coalition," said Gart Sports President Doug Morton. A negligible amount of the company's inventory comes from the country, he said.

    "Most of the companies that we source garments from don't use Burma as a source," Morton said. "We may be the last on the bandwagon, frankly. Whatever is going on there -- without going there ourselves -- doesn't appear to be right from a human-rights standpoint."

    The issue gained visibility after human-rights groups learned that torchbearers' uniforms were made in Myanmar.

    Francis Bok, a torchbearer in Boston discovered a "Made in Myanmar" label inside his uniform. The man, himself a child slave who escaped from Sudan, works for the American Anti-Slavery Group, according to Dan Beeton of the Free Burma Coalition. Salt Lake City-based Marker Ltd. supplied the 11,500 red, white and blue Olympic-logo-bearing running suits worn by men and women who ran 13,500 miles carrying the torch.

    Sarah Orellana, who works for Marker's public relations firm, The Intrepid Group, defended the decision, stating that Myanmar is an approved trading partner of the United States.

    Myanmar has been widely condemned for human-rights abuses, including forced labor, torture, summary execution and repression of dissidents. Myanmar's ruling junta, the State Peace and Development Council, seized control of the country in 1988 after crushing a democratic uprising. In 1990, the military regime annulled elections that would have ceded power to Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The democratic leader has since asked foreign businesses to withdraw from Burma and, in 1997, former President Clinton banned all new investments by U.S. companies in the country.

    To The Top

    13 Sri Lanka MPs signed for democracy in Burma

    Mizzima News

    February 19: Thirteen Members of Parliament from Sri Lanka have signed a "MP Declaration on Burma" in support of Burma's Members of Parliament who were elected in the 1990 elections but never allowed to convene the parliament by the ruling military generals.

    According to a release of India-based All Burma Students League (ABSL) yesterday, the Sri Lanka Members of Parliament belonging to People's Liberation Front (JVP) have expressed their solidarity with the Burmese democratic leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who remains under house arrest in Rangoon. Her party National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory securing more than 82 percent of the parliamentary seats in the election held twelve years ago.

    "We are grateful that we have found active support from the MPs of Sri Lanka which has close historical links with Burma. And we hope the support will grow", said Ko Moe, Central Committee member of the ABSL.

    The 'MP Declaration on Burma' which has attracted signatures from over 3.200 parliamentarians in 95 countries calls for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her fellow activists, the recognition of representatives elected democratically in 1990 to form a parliament and for effective dialogue between the regime and the National League for Democracy and ethnic nationalities' representatives towards a peaceful transition to democracy in Burma.

    In India, total hundred and sixteen Members of Parliament from various political parties had signed the declaration. "We are with the democratic movement in Burma and we will do our best for the freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma", said Mr. Nandana Gunathilaka, Member of Parliament from Sri Lanka, in his separate letter to ABSL. 19 Members of Parliament remain in prison in Burma and 25 MPs are in exile.

    To The Top

    Hail the drug baron

    The Nation

    A local Chinese-language daily irked a number of counter-narcotics agencies yesterday when it published a full-page advertisement lauding one of the world's best known drug lords, Lo Hsing-han.

    The advertisement in Shijie Ribao (Universal Daily News) heaped praise on Lo and his wife on their 50th wedding anniversary. The ad also included the names of 93 well-wishers from Rangoon and Lashio, a major city in Burma's Shan State which served as a base for the former drug lord's operations. According to a Thai narcotics officer, the incident raised the eyebrows of Thai, Chinese and American drug officers.

    Sixty-seven-year-old Lo controls Burma's largest business conglomerate, Asia World Company, and maintains close relations with the military government in Rangoon. Lo, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1973 but released as part of an amnesty in 1980, insists that he is no longer involved in the drug trade, although the international community is not convinced. His son, Steven Law, was refused a visa to the United States in 1996 on suspicion of drug trafficking.

    Born in Kokang district in Shan State, Lo started his career as an opium-trafficking insurgent in the 1950s. During his career Lo repeatedly switched allegiance between the government and rebel sides.

    To The Top

    Rice price shot up as junta closes down private rice mills

    Narinjara news

    Sittwe, 19th February 02 : The price of rice, the staple food of the people of Myanmar, recently shot up sharply in the south-western state of Myanmar due to forced shut-down of all privately owned rice mills, our correspondent writes.

    In a bid to realize the target of rice purchase in the 2001 2002 rice season, the State Peace and Development Council junta of Myanmar took some drastic measures against the interest of the rice growers, one of which is complete shut-down of small private rice mills. As a result the price of one kg of rice has gone up from kyat 40 to kyat 120 within one month in the interior areas, and in the border areas of Maungdaw and Buthidaung a kilo of rice is now selling at kyat 250.

    According to a rice merchant from Mrauk U, because of the junta-adopted measures there is an artificial shortage in supply of rice in the open market already. The rice growers also could not maintain their usual annual rice stock as the junta resorted to collecting rice from the growers by applying the force of its troops. With the passing of days the situation is aggravating since there is no government supply of rice in co-operative shops or through rationing in the towns for the consumption of the general public as before.

    Meanwhile the private rice mill owners are milling rice by bribing the local Military Intelligence agents in the interior hard to reach areas of Rakhine State. Quoting a rice mill owner our correspondent added that, the previous price for milling ten kg of rice was kyat 20 while at present it is kyat 50, because each of the mill owners has to bribe an amount of kyat 50,000 to kyat 100,000 for 'clandestine' milling of rice to the junta intelligence agents during the harvest season.

    To The Top

    UN rights envoy urges bolder steps from Myanmar government


    A UN human rights envoy has urged the military government in Myanmar to take bolder steps towards political change by involving the pro-democracy movement in managing humanitarian assistance to the country.

    In an advance version of his report to the UN Human Rights Commission released on Tuesday, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, said the junta must speed up the process of political change.

    "It is time for the government to start a substantive dialogue with the leaders of the (opposition) National League for Democracy (NLD) and all other political parties and ethnic nationalities if the government is serious about achieving national reconciliation and the restoration of democracy," Pinheiro said.

    The report, due to be presented to the annual session of the Commission beginning here on March 18, was compiled before Pinheiro's latest 10-day visit to Myanmar, which ended last Tuesday.

    "In order to address the humanitarian situation more adequately, it is crucial that the commitment of the government go hand in hand with the involvment of the NLD in the planning and management of international humanitarian assistance," he added.

    Pinheiro said the "bolder moves to carry forward the present process" should include the full and unconditional release of all political prisoners, monitoring of human rights violations, and a "substantial enlargement" of freedoms for political parties and ethnic groups.

    He also called on the junta to use maximum restraint in military action against armed opposition groups and to resort more to political dialogue to resolve differences.

    During the trip this month, Pinheiro met government officials as well as NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her lakeside residence, where she has been under house arrest.

    The United Nations said he will be making an oral presentation to the UN Commission about the findings of his latest visit.In his report, Pinheiro noted an "undeniable" if gradual improvement in the political atmosphere and an opening to the outside world.

    He said there were still reports of serious human rights violations, "but on a different scale than before".

    Pinheiro also questioned the accuracy of reports about the use of child soldiers in Myanmar, saying they "lack a solid factual basis for what is presented nevertheless as a widespread phenomenon and pattern".He said he would look further into the issue in his next fact-finding missions.

    "The challenge now, besides calling for more international awareness of what is wrong, is how to encourage the confidence-building process, without ignoring large scale human rights violations and seeking to eliminate them through change," Pinheiro wrote.

    His report outlined how UN humanitarian aid to Myanmar -- which forms the bulk of outside assistance to the country while international sanctions are in place -- could be managed by a "mixed committee" which would include the government and the NLD.

    Pinheiro said it would enhance the "trust building process" initiated by talks between the two parties over the past year.The UN envoy's report is largely based on his mission to Myanmar last October and on information gathered in December 2001.

    To The Top