Daily News- February 27- 2002- Wednesday

  • UN says Burma is world's largest supplier of opium
  • U.S. Sanctions Myanmar on Drugs, Cites Haiti, Afghan
  • Myanmar stymied dialogue on forced labour--ILO
  • ILO mission head disappointed with attitude of Myanmar authorities
  • Korea Daewoo Int'l eyes Myanmar gas drilling start
  • Daewoo Intl To Drill For Myanmar Oil,Gas By End-02
  • Inflow of diseases slowed: Thai Health Minister
  • Myanmar slams "self-defeating" U.S. drugs policy
  • Myanmar proposes appointment of ILO liaison officer
  • Japan gov't rescinds decision to reject Myanmar man's refugee status

  • UN says Burma is world's largest supplier of opium

    ABC Radio Australia News

    The United Nations says Burma is the world's largest producer of opium, accounting for some 50 or 60 percent of the global supply of the drug.

    The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board says Burma, which receives little international aid in fighting the drug trade for political reasons, was the major cultivator of opium poppies in 2001.

    Burma overtook Afghanistan in poppy cultivation, which produces both opium and heroin, after a ban by the Taliban militia on poppy-growing slashed Afghan opium production by 90 percent.

    This week the United States waived narcotics sanctions against Afghanistan in a bid to support its interim government, but kept them in place in Burma. The US says Rangoon has done extremely little to crack down on the production of both opium and methamphetamine.

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    U.S. Sanctions Myanmar on Drugs, Cites Haiti, Afghan

    Washington, Feb. 25 (Bloomberg): The Bush administration said it is maintaining sanctions against Myanmar for its failure to help fight the war on drugs, and cited Haiti and Afghanistan for being uncooperative while waiving penalties against them.

    Afghanistan, the world's leading supplier of raw opium, received the waiver so the U.S. can continue financial aid to the new government, which the Bush administration credited with backing international anti-drug efforts.

    ``This is not a judgment with respect to the current administration in Afghanistan, it is a judgment with respect to the past,'' said Rand Beers, assistant secretary of State for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.

    The Bush administration also certified Colombia as cooperative, even as the federal General Accounting Office identified Colombia as the world's biggest cocaine producer and said U.S. efforts to encourage growers of illicit crops to switch to legal alternatives face ``serious obstacles.''

    Waivers From Penalties: The administration last year listed Afghanistan, Myanmar, Cambodia and Haiti as countries not cooperating in the war on drugs, and provided waivers from the penalties for Cambodia and Haiti.

    Cambodia was removed from the list because it is no longer considered a major shipment route for narcotics. Myanmar, the world's second-largest producer of opium after Afghanistan, remained on the list.

    The three counties named today as not cooperating in the war on drugs were chosen from a list of 23 major drug-transit or major illicit drug producing countries identified by Bush in November.

    Along with Afghanistan, Haiti and Myanmar, the countries named in November were the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

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    Myanmar stymied dialogue on forced labour--ILO

    YANGON, Feb. 25 - Myanmar's ruling military has effectively blocked international efforts to halt the army's use of forced labour, a senior International Labour Organisation (ILO) official said on Tuesday.

    Francis Maupain, who led a week-long mission to the southeast Asian country, said the ILO was disappointed Myanmar had refused to allow it to set up a permanent office -- one of its key demands -- to address the widespread problem of forced labour.

    Maupain also said his team had been prevented from meeting pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday after being turned back at a checkpoint outside her residence in the capital Yangon.

    Myanmar's ruling generals, eager for international legitimacy which could bring more aid, trade and investment, passed a decree in 2000 abolishing forced labour. But an ILO report last year said the Myanmar army was still forcing villagers to farm and work on infrastructure projects or as porters, especially in areas near the Thai border where the army is fighting ethnic minority armies.

    ''All positive things which might have accrued to Myanmar will be lost because the ILO presence could have brought a lot,'' Maupain told a news briefing upon his return to Geneva.

    ''When it became clear that because of the strict instructions invoked on the side of the authorities that there was no basis to pursue dialogue, we made clear that if we had known that we would not have sent the mission,'' he added.


    Myanmar's proposal for an ILO ''liaison officer'' based abroad fell short of ILO requirements for providing technical expertise to help eradicate forced labour, he said. It is now up to the ILO's governing body to consider what action to take at a meeting expected around March 20, he said.

    In November 2000, the ILO executive, made up of 28 governments, 14 employer groups and 14 trade union bodies, urged all 174 member states to review relations with Myanmar's ruling junta. The unprecedented call was the closest the United Nations labour agency can get to calling for outright sanctions.

    On Monday, the ILO delegation's car was turned away from a checkpoint outside Suu Kyi's residence in Yangon, where the Nobel laureate has been under house arrest for more than a year.

    ''It was clear from the beginning our intent was to see Suu Kyi. We were not allowed to go through the checkpoint and see her,'' Maupain said.

    The move followed criticism of the junta by ILO officials meeting in neighbouring Thailand, who said Myanmar was doing too little to curb the use of forced labour.

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    ILO mission head disappointed with attitude of Myanmar authorities in forced labor visit

    By JONATHAN FOWLER, Associated Press Writer

    GENEVA - The head of an International Labor Organization mission to Myanmar on Tuesday said he was disappointed with the government's lack of cooperation during a visit to assess progress in ending forced labor.

    Francois Maupain returned to Geneva Monday after seven days in Myanmar, saying that authorities had misled the U.N. labor agency in issuing the invitation to check on conditions.

    The ILO wants to send permanent monitors to the Southeast Asian nation, but Maupain said officials in Myanmar had stalled on the issue. Although local authorities were ready to consider some form of U.N. presence, they wanted to impose weeping restrictions, said Maupain.

    "It became evident that there was no basis to pursue a dialogue," he said of the talks in Yangon. "We made it clear that if we had known this before, the mission would not have been sent."

    Myanmar has long been criticized by the United Nations and Western nations for its human rights record, including forcing people to do unpaid manual labor on public works and to serve as army porters. In November 2000, the ILO urged its 175 member governments to impose sanctions and review their dealings with Myanmar to ensure they are not abetting forced labor. An ILO team visited the country last September and said forced labor was continuing despite a law aimed at ending the practice .

    Maupain refused to be drawn on what action the ILO would likely take against Myanmar. He said he would submit a report of his visit to the ILO governing body, which will discuss the problem next month. "It's up to the governing body to draw its conclusions" he said.

    Maupain criticized Myanmar authorities for blocking access to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. On Monday a motorcade carrying Maupain and secretary Richard Horsey was stopped at a security road barrier about 100 meters (yards) from the entrance to Suu Kyi's lakeside home. She has been kept there under virtual house arrest since September 2000.

    Police officers at the checkpoint told him they had no instructions to let him in, said Maupain. "This was not in accordance with our understanding" of the terms of his visit, he said.

    Myanmar's military seized power in 1988 after crushing a democracy uprising. It called national elections in 1990, but refused to honor the results that gave Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party an overwhelming victory.

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    Korea Daewoo Int'l eyes Myanmar gas drilling start

    SEOUL, Feb 26 (Reuters) - South Korea's Daewoo International plans to drill for gas off the shore of Myanmar from next year, but it may bring the plan forward, a company official said on Tuesday.

    Daewoo is the operator of the A-1 gas field off Myanmar's northwest coast and holds 60 percent of the block, which could yield about 10 trillion cubic feet of gas or 1.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

    "We are planning to drill from next year, and we are still working on appropriate spots for drilling," the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "Usually, the best timing for drilling is between April and November, so we could start drilling from this year if possible," the official said.

    Daewoo was granted development rights to the site in the Bengal Basin in August 2000. India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has 20 percent of the stake in the gas project and state-run gas marketing firm Gas Authority of India Ltd and state-run Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS) hold 10 percent each. KOGAS is the world's second-largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and South Korea's sole gas distributor.

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    Daewoo Intl To Drill For Myanmar Oil,Gas By End-02-Report

    SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--South Korea's Daewoo International Corp. plans to begin drilling for oil and gas offshore Myanmar by the end of this year, the Myanmar Times & Business Review said in its Feb. 11-17 edition.

    U Soe Myint, director general of Myanmar's Energy Planning Department, made the announcement after a visit by Daewoo International president Lee Tae Yong.

    Block A-1, located off Sittwe, 300 miles northwest of Yangon, has gas reserves estimated at 14 trillion cubic feet, the report said. Daewoo, which is the operator and holds 60% of the block, has rights to 40% of natural gas produced, the report said. Myanmar hopes the gas will be exported to India or Bangladesh.

    ONGC Videsh Ltd., the international arm of India's state-owned Oil & Natural Gas Corp. (P.ONG), holds 20% of the block, while Gas Authority of India Ltd. (P.GAI), or GAIL, and Korea Gas Corp. (Q.KGS), or Kogas, hold 10% each.

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    Inflow of diseases slowed: Thai Health Minister

    The Nation

    Joint efforts over the past year by Thailand and Burma to control the spread of Aids, malaria and tuberculosis in border areas had yielded satisfactory results, Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said yesterday.

    The aim of the joint campaign in Chiang Rai, Tak, Kanchanaburi and Ranong provinces, plus four Burmese border towns, was, she said, to reduce cases of malaria by 5 per cent a year, encourage 100-per-cent use of condoms among groups at risk from Aids and to cut cases of tuberculosis by 85 per cent.

    The number of cases of malaria in the Thai border provinces had been reduced by 25 per cent, Sudarat said. But it was still early days in the tuberculosis campaign, she said, and the number of infected patients had declined only slightly.

    Sudarat said some US$3 million (Bt131 million) would be sought from international organisations to fund the programme, in addition to funds supplied by the Thai and Burmese governments.

    She was speaking after meeting her Burmese counterpart Maj-General Ket Sein and senior officials from the two countries in Ranong and Burma's Victoria Point. The Burmese health minister said the junta had invested a lot of money in public health, which he said was one of the country's top priorities.

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    Myanmar slams "self-defeating" U.S. drugs policy

    YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's ruling generals said on Wednesday a U.S. move to keep the country on a drugs black list was self-defeating.

    The comments follow U.S. President George W. Bush's announcing this week that Myanmar, Haiti and Afghanistan had failed to cooperate against the drugs trade in the last year.

    But the United States will only keep sanctions on Myanmar, stopping most kinds of U.S. aid flowing to the country, after declaring that helping Haiti and Afghanistan was in the U.S. national interest.

    Myanmar condemned the U.S. stance and said it was slashing the cultivation of opium, the raw material for heroin production. "The (U.S.) President's counter narcotic determinations...are very alarmingly controversial in nature and self-defeating in practice," said a Myanmar government statement. "In fact, the U.S. Opium Field Survey Team is currently in Myanmar working closely together with Myanmar officials," it said.

    The U.S. State Department has said that despite some reduction in the last three years, Myanmar continues large-scale poppy production and opium production. It also says the military government in Yangon refuses to hand over known drugs warlords and tolerates money laundering.

    Many Western countries, accusing Myanmar of a poor record on human rights, drugs production and repression of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), have imposed limited sanctions on the country.

    But the impoverished Southeast Asian country, desperate for aid, trade and investment, has tried in the last two years to project a clean image to the outside world.

    Foreign journalists are regularly taken into the country to witness soldiers burning poppy fields to stop opium production. Myanmar has also agreed on anti-narcotic talks with neighbouring Thailand and China, who are increasingly disturbed by the hundreds of millions of methamphetamine pills flooding in through their porous borders each year.

    Production of methamphetamines has mushroomed in the "Golden Triangle" region where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos converge, in recent years. Rival ethnic minority armies are tussling over the lucrative trade, but early last year the Myanmar and Thai militaries traded live ammunition as well as accusations of involvement in drugs trafficking.

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    Myanmar proposes appointment of ILO liaison officer

    YANGON, Feb. 27, Kyodo - Myanmar has proposed that the International Labor Organization (ILO) initially appoint an officer to liaise with the junta instead of opening a representative office in Yangon as it has urged it be allowed to do, Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win said Wednesday.

    Khin Maung Win made the remarks to a press conference in Yangon in the wake of a Feb. 19-25 visit by a four-member ILO mission to assess the forced labor situation in the country and to discuss the proposed opening of an ILO representative office in Yangon.

    ''Modalities for opening a resident representative office of the ILO are delicate and sensitive,'' he said, noting that the International Committee for Red Cross also started with the appointment of a liaison officer.

    ''We would cooperate with such an ILO liaison officer, as in case of the ICRC, and work together toward common goals before an ILO representative office can be opened. I hope the ILO will accept our proposal,'' he said.

    On ILO mission leader Francios Maupain's failure to meet with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday, Khin Maung Win called it an unfortunate incident arising out of lack of proper communication.

    Maupain's car was turned back from a police checkpoint near the house of the National League for Democracy leader, who has been prevented from leaving her home by the military authorities.

    ''Mr. Maupain went to her place without earlier informing the relevant authorities and the police at the checkpoint did not get prior instruction from above,'' Khin Maung Win said.

    After returning to Geneva, Maupain, a special adviser to ILO Director General Juan Somavia, on Tuesday criticized the Yangon government, telling a press conference at ILO headquarters that he had explained to the junta the intention behind his visit.

    He said that while the junta was in principle willing to accept a permanent ILO office in Yangon, the ILO would not be able to conduct a ''meaningful'' operation there because the junta has imposed excessive restrictions.

    The fact-finding mission is scheduled to present a report of its findings to the ILO Governing Body next month, which will decide whether to remove or continue sanctions imposed in November 2000 against Myanmar.

    Last November, the ILO Governing Body called on Myanmar to allow a permanent ILO presence in the country to monitor efforts to end forced labor and to set up an independent watchdog body to receive and investigate complaints regarding forced labor.

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    Japan gov't rescinds decision to reject Myanmar man's refugee status

    TOKYO, Feb. 27, Kyodo - Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said Wednesday that her ministry has rescinded an earlier decision rejecting a Myanmar man's application for refugee status. The 29-year-old man has a lawsuit pending with the Tokyo District Court seeking a court decision to nullify the ministry decision.

    ''We have decided to rescind our earlier decision having taken into consideration the facts that were revealed in court,'' Moriyama told the Judicial Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives.

    While it is extremely rare for the ministry to change a decision in the middle of a court case, the man's lawyers criticized the move, saying, ''It is trying to gloss over the mistake by avoiding a ruling at a time when a court decision is about to be made.''

    The man, whose identity has been withheld, was informed of the change Feb. 20, two weeks before the scheduled conclusion of the trial. Takumi Nakao, head of the ministry's Immigration Bureau, told the committee that the ministry will immediately notify the man of the approval of his refugee status after it reconfirms his situation.

    According to his lawyers, the man arrived in Japan in March 1998 and was detained at Narita airport. He applied for refugee status the following month saying he fled Myanmar after having joined an opposition movement against the military government. The ministry rejected his application in June that year and ordered his deportation, his lawyers said.

    The man filed an appeal, but the appeal was rejected in October 1998. He then filed the lawsuit against the ministry. During the trial, the ministry said the man's claims were inconsistent and false.

    Nakao, meanwhile, said that the ministry's earlier decision to reject the man's application was appropriate, saying it did not grasp all of the factors surrounding his case at that time. The lawyers said the ministry has not offered an apology or an explanation and they plan to seek compensation.

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