Daily News- January 03 - 2002- Thursday

  • Journalists under fire
  • 2001 Marks Greater Diplomatic Achievements for Myanmar
  • Greed, Lust, Death and Jade

  • Journalists under fire

    Paris - Journalists around the world faced growing restrictions on their freedom to operate during 2001, the pressure group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Wednesday, citing statistics compiled during the year.

    The number of journalists killed as a result of their work remained stable at 31, but arrests, threats, attacks and acts of censorship were all sharply up, Reporters Sans Frontieres said.

    "The situation deteriorated considerably in numerous countries (Bangladesh, Eritrea, Haiti, Nepal and Zimbabwe, among others), whereas very few regimes made progress in terms of press freedom," the Paris-based organisation said.

    Eight journalists were killed covering the war in Afghanistan, one died in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre, and journalists were murdered in Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Kosovo, Spain, Colombia and Haiti.

    The number of journalists arrested during 2001 was up to 489 from 329 the year before. Iran, Myanmar, China, Eritrea and Nepal are holding the largest numbers in prison, RSF said, and Cuba, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe all detained more than 20 in the course of the year.

    RSF said that the aftermath of the September 11 attacks had had "considerable consequences on press freedom in the world". "Several laws adopted for fighting terrorism are especially worrying, and weaken the basic principle of the free circulation of information. In Canada and the US some of the measures throw the protection of sources into question and strengthen surveillance of the Internet," it said. -AFP

    To The Top

    2001 Marks Greater Diplomatic Achievements for Myanmar

    YANGON, January 2 (Xinhuanet,By Duan Tingchang ) -- Year 2001 was one in which the Myanmar military government has scored greater achievements on itsdiplomatic front since it took over power in 1988. The frequent exchange of visits at high levels between Myanmar and foreign countries highlighted Myanmar's diplomatic achievements in this year.

    According to incomplete statistics, in 2001, the presidents of China, Pakistan and Indonesia, prime ministers of Malaysia, Thailand and Laos, Lao National Assembly president, deputy prime minister of Thailand and vice-president of Laos visited Myanmar.

    Meanwhile, Chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and Prime Minister Senior-General Than Shwe successively toured Malaysia and Brunei, and SPDC First Secretary Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt went to Thailand and Brunei. These exchange of visits at high levels has enhanced the mutualunderstanding and expanded the common views, paving the way for strengthening bilateral friendly and cooperative ties in the new century.

    Another fact that signified Myanmar's diplomatic achievements is that the country hashosted a series of regional meetings in 2001.

    These meetings were the Retreat Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Third Meeting of Trade and Economic Ministers of the BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand-Economic Cooperation), Regional Committee Meeting of the World Health Organization South East Asia Region, Ministerial Meeting of Six MOU countries ( China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) on Drug Control in the Subregion of East Asia and the Pacific, Senior Officials Meeting Among China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand on Drug Control, Meeting of the SME (small and medium enterprises) Agencies Working Group of the ASEAN and Tenth Ministerial Conference on Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation.

    These meetings have expanded Myanmar's diplomatic space to certain extent, adding to the degree of popularity of the country internationally and enhancing the development of its friendly and cooperative ties with foreign countries.

    During this year, Myanmar also successively forged diplomatic ties with Uzbekistan and Uruguay, bringing to 88 the total number of countries with which Myanmar has diplomatic links in the world.Up to now, Myanmar has opened 30 embassies, two permanent missionsand two consulates-general in the world.

    In 2001, Myanmar's military diplomacy also bore rich fruits. During the year, high-level military delegations of India, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Russia, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia have visited Myanmar. A fleet of Pakistani naval vessels, comprising a sub-marine, a destroyer and a tanker, made a nearly-week-long friendly call at Myanmar's Yangon Port, registering the first ever visit to a Myanmar port by foreign military vessels in several decades. In addition, Myanmar and Russia also signed a contract in August 2001 on the sale of 10 Russian MIG-29 fighter aircrafts to Myanmar worth 130 million U.S. dollars. It was the first time for Russia to sell such fighters to Myanmar. Equipped with these advanced fighters, Myanmar air force's fighting capability will greatly increase.

    A fact that deserves special mention is that in 2001, Myanmar made a break-through in breaking the sanctions imposed by western nations. A convicing example is that Japan, ignoring the strong pressure exerted by the United-States-led "Rich-Country Club", absolutely resumed its Official Development Assistance to Myanmar that had been terminated for 13 years. Besides, during the year, the Japanese government also provideddebt relief to Myanmar for two times totalling as high as 3.594 billion yens (about 29.22 million dollars).

    Despite some achievements made on its diplomatic front, Myanmaris now still facing many difficulties and challenges.

    Under the pretext of human rights, democracy and labor issues, western countries continuously put pressures on Myanmar. Up to now,the U.S. and member nations of the European Union have not yet lifted their sanctions against Myanmar for many years.

    Myanmar has upheld the following basic principles as part of its present foreign policy -- the observance of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, adherence of the U.N. Charter,and maintenance of friendly relations with all countries in the world, particularly its neighboring countries.

    It has strongly opposed the interference, aggression and control of a country by another. In defiance, Myanmar has stand firm in accepting foreign assistance only without any pre-conditions attached.

    To The Top

    Greed, Lust, Death and Jade

    By Derek Parker
    FEER- Issue cover-dated January 10, 2002

    by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark. Little Brown & Company. $24.95

    THE GREATEST IRONY OF JADE is that it is believed to be a symbol of good luck, yet it seems to leave a trail of misfortune and catastrophe in its wake.Such, in any case, is the theme of The Stone of Heaven, a remarkable, if eccentric, look at a stone more valuable than gold or diamonds.

    Levy and Scott-Clark--a pair of British journalists with a long background in Asia--note that jade and China have always had a deep, symbiotic relationship. Strangely, the word 'jade' is European in origin, apparently coined by Nicholas Mondardes, a Spanish doctor who used the substance to treat kidney complaints and called it piedras hijades, 'stone of the flank.'

    Long before this, jade had been used in China for a range of medicinal purposes. There was even a belief that an elixir made from powdered jade could bring immortality. Sex manuals made metaphorical references to jade gardens, jade stalks, jade perfumes and so on. But the first key figure in the jade story was the Emperor Qianlong, who ruled China in the 18th century.

    Qianlong was enraptured with jade--most of all the variety of deepest green--purely for aesthetic reasons.He collected pieces by the hundreds, commissioning jade artworks large and small. He also wrote hundreds of (rather banal) verses in praise of it, and even slept on a bed of jade. He eventually built whole palaces just to house his collection.

    The problem was that the only known source of Asian jade was--and still is--not in China but in Burma. Qianlong almost bankrupted his empire trying to seize the mines by force, but eventually had to settle for a trade agreement.

    Jade found its way out of Asia in significant quantities only after French and English troops sacked the Imperial Summer Palace in 1860. It sparked a jade frenzy in Europe and, later, America. Many of the collections of Chinese art in the world's museums began with this monumental haul of loot--which was only a small part of the treasure amassed by Qianlong.

    The other great collector was the Dowager Empress Cixi, in the dying days of the imperial system. Her particular obsession was with jade jewellery: She ordered so much that she could not keep track of it. Hundreds of pieces were stolen by servants and sold on the burgeoning international market.

    The last emperor, Henry Pu Yi, paid for his life in exile by selling bits of the imperial collection. Chiang Kai-shek also seized a large cache of jade that he used to finance his military campaigns and bolster his political claims.For Westerners seeking fame and fortune in China in the 1930s, Shanghai was the place to be and jade the stuff to have. Some became knowledgeable collectors. American heiress Barbara Hutton built a valuable collection, including a necklace of perfect stones. But like many in the jade saga, Hutton ended up destitute and alone.

    All this makes for a colourful historical story, laced with poignancy and occasional humour. But then Levy and Scott-Clark suddenly shift the book in a markedly different direction. Two chapters of The Stone of Heaven are devoted to the authors' attempt to reach the remote jade mine of Hpakant, in the Kachin mountains of Burma. They are initially thrown out of the country by the military government, but manage to return in disguise, eventually reaching Hpakant.They quickly realise why the government is so sensitive about the area. Hpakant turns out to be a purgatorial place of degraded land and degraded souls.

    Qianlong's goal has been, in a way, attained: Most of the mining is supervised by Chinese companies, though the ruling junta and the local drug lords collect a hefty cut. The miners, for their part, are paid mainly in heroin, dying of starvation, Aids or slow rot. Welcome to jadeland.

    It is hard to deny that this section of the book is powerful, and Levy and Scott-Clark deserve credit for taking such a chance to tell the Hpakant story. But this point aside, one must ask: Why is it here? Its inclusion gives the book a broken-backed quality, making it an awkward mix of historical romp and current-affairs seriousness. We are left with the impression that Levy and Scott-Clark did not know what sort of book they wanted to write. Nevertheless, The Stone of Heaven has much to say that is interesting, even fascinating. Jade is beautiful, yes, but it is a beauty that has led to sad ends.

    To The Top