Daily News- February 28- 2002- Thursday

  • Myanmar-India gas pipeline via Bangladesh awaits PM's nod
  • UNDCP office closes temporarily in Wa area
  • Red Cross seeks funding
  • Threatened Shan stronghold becomes off-limits
  • 3 Myanmar nationals arrested for forging documents
  • 19 Myanmar held over killing
  • All quiet on western front
  • Burma opens way for labour organisation office

  • Myanmar-India gas pipeline via Bangladesh awaits PM's nod

    The Dailystar

    UNB, Dhaka-An international consortium has proposed setting up of a gas pipeline over Bangladesh connecting Myanmar with Indian states of Tripura and West Bengal. Sources said the energy ministry has put forward the proposal of "Trans-Myanmar-Bangladesh Gas Pipeline" to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia for approval on principle.

    The consortium mentioned that they got letters of no objection for the proposed gas pipeline from the governments of Myanmar and India as well as of Tripura and West Bengal.

    The proposal suggested that Bangladesh government would not make any investment in pipeline construction. The entire investment will be met from foreign private sources, including payment for land acquirement.

    Gas Transmission Company Limited (GTCL), a subsidiary of the Petrobangla, has been proposed as the authority for inspecting pipeline Gas Transmission Company Limited (GTCL), a subsidiary of the Petrobangla, has been proposed as the authority for inspecting pipeline construction and maintenance that will bring foreign exchange.

    It categorically mentioned that the proposed line would not be an alternative or competitor to proposal of gas pipeline between Bangladesh-India of UNOCAL or any other international oil company.

    The proposed Trans-Myanmar-Bangladesh gas pipeline will also not be connected with any local gas field but can be used in future if gas import is deemed necessary for the country. If the pipeline is constructed, Bangladesh will also get a gas line connection up to Thailand, as an export pipeline between Myanmar and Thailand is now under construction.

    The pipeline is being constructed after the largest off shore gas field of Myanmar was found in the Bay of Bengal about 30-km off the Myanmar west coast in the surrounding area of the Cheduba Islands. Gas field is developed there under a production-sharing contract (PSC) with a multinational energy conglomerate and the export pipeline is under construction to connect the consumers in Thailand.

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    UNDCP office closes temporarily in Wa area

    Network Media Group

    Chiang Mai, February 27, 2002 - The office of the Wa Area Development Program (WADP) under the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP), in Mong Phan on the Sino-Burma border was closed yesterday, February 26, according to a source from the Sino-Burma border.

    An argument broke out between the Wa troops and the UNDCP delegate, Mr. Xavier Bourn, after Mr. Bourn found out the poppy fields being destroyed had already been exploited. Mr. Bourn closed the WADP office in Mong Phan and left to Mong La last night after a commander of the Wa troops shot a bullet into the air.

    Mr. Xavier Bourn inspected the poppy field destruction in Nam Phai area yesterday and found the poppy fields had already been exploited and gave a complaint to the Wa troops who were destroying the poppy fields.

    Kya Chin, a commander of Mong Kan operation force (Wa troops) complained in Chinese through U William Naing, a staff of WADP, to Mr. Bourn that the Wa troops were trying their best but UNDCP did not show any understanding to them. Kya Chin shot a bullet into the air as Mr. Bourn was leaving from the poppy field destruction site in the evening.

    Mr. Bourn contacted the Rangoon UNDCP headquarters when he got back to his office in Mong Phan and decided to close down the WADP's Mong Phan office for the security of the staff in the office. He left on the same night to Kengtung through the border town, Mong La, according to a Burmese opposition intelligence source.

    The UNDCP office in Bangkok stated that they haven't got any information about the closure of the office in Mong Phan. "I know nothing about that. As far as what I know is no office closed in Burma," said Mr. Yngve Danling, a law enforcement advisor of the UNDCP office in Bangkok.

    The United Wa Solidarity Party was faced with the protest of the poppy farmers in the area against the poppy field destruction. According to recent information from the Sino-Burma border, the poppy farmers in the region told UWSP authorities that they would commit suicide if their poppy fields are destroyed.

    Mong Pauk district is situated on the Sino-Burma border in the southern part of Wa special region 2 and under the control of UWSP and the population, of which is mainly dominated by Lahu nationalities.

    UNDCP started its pilot projects in Wa area in 1995. UNDCP extended its project under WADP office into two other townships; Mong Khar and Nam Phai in the year 2000. The poppy fields destruction has been going on in Nam Phai area since February 23 with the arrangement of UWSP.

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    Red Cross seeks funding

    By Nwe Nwe Aye
    source : Myanmartimes: Volume 6, No.104-Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2002

    MYANMAR Red Cross Society is seeking funding from international sources as well as local partners to implement a strategic five-year health plan, focusing on HIV-AIDS and reproductive health, first aid, health education and recruiting blood donors.

    "The Society has a limited budget for its activities so channelling funding from outside as well as domestically is important," said Dr Than Swe, the head of the MRCS health division. He said the overseas sources from which the Society would seek funding included its sister societies throughout the region.

    Dr Than Swe was speaking at last week’s launch of the Society’s strategic plan for 2002-2006 aimed at expanding its activities in health care and disease control in conjunction with domestic and international partners. He said international support for the plan would be sought at meeting beginning in Jakarta on March 10 of Asia-Pacific Red Cross groups and their donors.

    Dr Than Swe said that while the MRCS had a network of about 300,000 volunteers, its ability to promote public health services was hampered by a lack of funds. He said the successful implementation of the services required a commitment by policy makers in the MRCS and the volunteers. This would ensure that activities were sustained in a comprehensive way.

    "Internal reforms have to be made in order to provide services and resources to the grassroots level in an effective manner," he said. The MRCS established the health division last year with the help of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent.

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    Threatened Shan stronghold becomes off-limits

    Shan Herald Agency for News :27 February 2002 ,No: 02 - 25:

    Loi Kawwan, the Shan State Army's eastern bastion near the Golden Triangle has been closed off to outsiders especially the media since Monday (25 February), according to the border sources.

    "The local TV Channel 7 reporters have been on top of the border security forces' watch list," said a source who requested anonymity. Channel 7 recently won the Mekhala award for its border news coverages that included vivid scenes of fighting between Shan and Burmese forces.

    The closure came at a time when imminent attack of the stronghold of Loi Kawwan, opposite Mae Fa Laung district, Chiangrai province, is being predicted by several Thai border-watchers.

    This latest Thai move to seal the border has been played down by the SSA leaders, who had earlier voiced concern through Bangkok Post (10 February, Perspective) and their own bulletin, Freedom News (9 February).

    S.H.A.N.'s report on Tuesday (26 February) on allegations of pressure by Bangkok to withdraw Shan forces from the area was also dismissed as unwarranted, according to a rebel source. Loi Kawwan is located near the site of the proposed Thai development project for the Wa people from the Chinese border who are being resettled in the area.

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    3 Myanmar nationals arrested for forging documents

    Three Myanmar nationals were arrested at a flat in Block 27 Toa Payoh East on Wednesday. Forged documents and paraphenalia used for forgery were also seized from a bedroom in the flat.

    These include 13 Myanmar immigration stamps, three Myanmar passposts and a Singapore immigration long term pass. Police raided the flat following a tip off.

    The 29-year-old male suspect was holding a valid special pass issued by Singapore Immigration and Registration, while the two female suspects were believed to be immigration offenders. The 39-year-old owner of the flat was also arrested. The three foreigners will be charged in court on Thursday.

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    19 Myanmar held over killing

    New Straits Times (Malaysia); Feb 27, 2002

    MALACCA, Tues. - Police detained 19 Myanmar nationals yesterday to help in their investigation into the death of a Myanmar worker who was stabbed during a brawl at the Merlimau Polytechnic construction site on Sunday.

    State Criminal Investigation Department chief Assistant Commissioner Ahmad Nasiruddin Mohd Shari said the man was believed to have been stabbed repeatedly on his throat and neck.The body of the unidentified victim was found by a storekeeper at about 1am.

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    All quiet on western front

    The Bangkokpost

    We were told to expect the occasional shell straying onto our territory as Rangoon tried to blast the hell out of some upstart minority people, but nothing has come of it. - Nothing also has come of the courtroom clash between some prominent politicians. - And nothing has come of a plan plotted by a man barred from political office to change the political office make-up of the Democrat party.

    The Burmese territory just across the border from Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang was unusually quiet this past week despite statements by Burmese officers that Rangoon forces were planning an assault on Shan State Army bases in the region.It is estimated that around 2,000 Burmese soldiers, including forces from the United Wa State Army, have been massed around the five SSA bases along the border.

    One seasoned border watcher believes Rangoon is determined this year to wipe the SSA bases, including the main command at Gor Wan. The bases are said to barrack between 800 and 1,000 armed fighters.

    The surprising peace so far along the border was attributed by some, if only partly, to a visit by Thai security officers believed sent by Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to brief the SSA commander, Jao Yawd Serk, on talks between Bangkok and Rangoon aimed at producing a lasting peace in the region.

    That's one theory doing the rounds, but an aide to Gen Chavalit said the minister had never ordered such a mission, although it was his policy to end the mistrust that has characterised our relations with Burma for so many years.But one person we spoke to claimed a member of mission was heard to tell Jao Yawd Serk that: "This is part of the new government's policy to strengthen and bring prosperity to the border region and to develop it as a tourist spot." A golf course is no doubt already being draughted.

    Security officers with the 3rd Army's Pha Muang task force, which is in charge of security along the border fronting Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces, also were not aware of this meeting."We were not told of the mission but this is not surprising as people up above can push directly for such initiatives," said one.

    Strikes on the SSA bases might have been put on hold to give the SSA the opportunity to agree to a reconciliation with Rangoon.Seventeen armed groups, including the disbanded Mong Tai Army once led by drug kingpin Khun Sa, have agreed over the past decade to join Rangoon's "Armed Groups' Return to the Legal Fold".

    Jao Yawd Serk was told this week by the Thai security officers to also join this scheme or face the consequences. But a senior SSA officer said: "Our leader [Yawd Serk] has little faith in the initiative, although he is not opposed to truce talks with Burma."The officer said he was worried the planned strike on Gor Wan would break the back of the SSA resistance if Thai border troops added their weight to the assault.

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    Burma opens way for labour organisation office

    Rangoon (Reuters)- - Burma's military government said on Wednesday it would allow the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to set up a "liaison office" in Rangoon, apparently softening its attitude towards the body's investigations into forced labour.

    The comments follow criticism by an ILO team, which left Burma last week, that the country had refused to allow it to set up a permanent office -- one of its key demands.

    According to the ILO, Burma had proposed a "liaison officer" based abroad -- which fell short of ILO requirements for providing technical expertise to help eradicate forced labour.

    But Burma said on Wednesday, it would allow an ILO liaison office to open in Rangoon, which could be upgraded later if relations between the ILO and the government improved.

    "Having a permanent representative office instantly is very sensitive and delicate but as a sign of showing our flexibility, we went so far as to agree to open an ILO liaison office in Yangon," Myanmar's deputy foreign minister Khin Maung Win told a news conference.

    "When mutual understanding, confidence and respect are established, then we can go further step by step," he said. "We hope the ILO will understand and accept this proposal."

    Burma'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 Burma 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.

    Many Western countries, including the European Union and the United States, have imposed limited trade and aid sanctions on Burma citing its human rights record and repression of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).

    The ILO team said it was denied access to Suu Kyi, who is being held under house arrest, during its week-long visit to Burma. Team leader, Francis Maupain, said he and a colleague were turned away at a check point near Suu Kyi's residence in central Rangoon.

    Khin Maung Win said the ILO team had not gone through the right channels.

    "(They) went there alone without informing the departments concerned in advance so the responsible security personnel did not allow them in," he said.

    The NLD romped to a landslide election victory in 1990, but was never allowed to rule. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for much of the last decade.

    According to Amnesty International, over 1,500 political prisoners languish in Burma's jails.

    The Red Cross has had access to Burma's prisons since setting up a liaison office in Rangoon two years ago. According to the United Nations human rights envoy, the Red Cross visits have resulted in better conditions for the prisoners.

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