Daily News- January 14 - 2002- Monday

  • Burmese junta to build new artillery, infantry battalions in north
  • India concerned about Beijing's new naval base in Burma
  • Ministry rejects royal statue
  • Myanmar to Have More Electricity in Next Five Years
  • Burma rebels want talks with government to resume

  • Burmese junta to build new artillery, infantry battalions in north

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma on 11 January

    A military study team from the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] Defence Services toured places in Putao Township, Kachin State on 7 January and chose sites for establishment of new artillery and light infantry battalions. The team was led by Maj-Gen Thura Shwe Mann, joint chief of staff of army, navy, and air force; Maj-Gen Kyaw Win, chief of military training, Maj-Gen Ye Myint, chief of Bureau of Special Operations-1, and Brig-Gen Maung Maung Swe, the new northern military command commander.

    A site near Monlashidi Village in Putao Township was chosen for new artillery and infantry battalions while a site near Lon San Village in Putao Township was selected for a new light infantry battalion.

    After the dismissal of top generals including SPDC Secretary-3 Lt-Gen Win Myint and the reshuffling of regional commanders in November 2001, the SPDC has so far failed to issue any official news report. According to news report received by DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma], all 10 new commanders have already been appointed and the 10 former commanders have been reassigned. DVB has already reported about the 10 new commanders.

    Of the 10 former commanders, the following four have been appointed as chiefs of Bureau of Special Operations. 1. Maj-Gen Khin Maung Than 2. Maj-Gen Ye Myint 3. Maj-Gen Maung Bo 4. Maj-Gen Aung Htwe .

    Of the remaining six, Maj-Gen Thura Shwe Mann was appointed as joint chief of staff of the army, navy, and air force; Maj-Gen Soe Win as chief of staff of air defence, Maj-Gen Tin Aye as chief of military ordnance, Maj-Gen Kyaw Win as chief of military training, Maj-Gen Thein Sein as adjutant-general; and Maj-Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo as quartermaster general. Since all the commanders' positions have been substituted, it is evident that the SPDC Secretary-2 and the SPDC Secretary-3 positions will not be filled. Observers believe that the reins of the current SPDC will be held by a troika of generals - [SPDC Chairman] Sr Gen Than Shwe, [SPDC Vice-Chairman] Gen Maung Aye, and [SPDC Secretary-1] Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt.They are also believed to control the ongoing talks with the opposition.

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    India concerned about Beijing's new naval base in Burma

    By Jon Dougherty

    China has agreed to a $1.5 billion deal to purchase two more Russian-built Sovremenny-class destroyers, which Beijing will add to its current growing blue-water fleet of ships able to operate further from Chinese shores.

    According to Defense News, the ships will be armed with a variety of modern, high-tech weapons and technology, including Moskit (Sunburn) anti-ship missiles, considered a legitimate threat against U.S. carriers and their accompanying battle groups. Russia sold China two Sovremmeny-class destroyers in 1997 for $1 billion, delivering them in 1999 and 2000. The new contract was signed Dec. 3.

    Meanwhile, the Indian government is concerned about the modernization of the Chinese navy, including a new naval base and port facility China is building in Burma.

    The base is being built at the mouth of the Irrawaddy River, across the Bay of Bengal from India, according to Al Santoli, national security aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and editor of The American Foreign Policy Council's China Reform Monitor newsletter.

    That project is being built with a large number of Chinese workers, Santoli said, and Burma has used Chinese contractors to produce the project.

    Additionally, weapons Indian intelligence agencies captured in Burma in December are part of a Chinese shipment sent to insurgents in India's northeastern states. Since then, Indian agencies believe, two more caches of Chinese arms have been delivered to the region.

    "Senior Indian officials said that the presence of 2,500 AK-47s 'floating about' in the northeast is reason for concern," Santoli wrote. "This is in violation of a 1998 understanding between India and China that Beijing would not offer encouragement to northeast militants."

    As tensions between India and its nuclear-armed neighbor, Pakistan, worsen, China has made overtures to Islamabad, pledging to provide support to the Islamic nation "in all eventualities," according to Pakistani Maj.-Gen. Rashid Qureshi. A separate official government statement said that Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Ronji, during a visit to Pakistan earlier this month, "expressed his apprehension at the potentially volatile situation that has arisen due to the assembling of Indian forces close to the Pakistani border."

    In a meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Zhu promised "principled and everlasting support for Islamabad." "China considers Pakistan its very reliable and close friend and will always stand by Pakistan," Zhu said, according to published reports.

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    Ministry rejects royal statue

    The Bangkokpost
    Wassana Nanuam

    The Foreign Ministry has objected to a Third Army proposal to build a monument of King Naresuan the Great in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district for fear it could affect Thai-Burmese relations, an army source said.

    The proposal was made in April last year by Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuanwong, who was then Third Army commander. He believed the monument could boost the morale of Thai soldiers and the people of Mae Sai.At that time Thai-Burmese relations were at their lowest because of escalating military tensions along the border between the two countries.

    The Third Army had asked the Fine Arts Department to design the monument. Instead of working on the design right away, the department turned to the ministry for approval.The project first ran into delays on the ministry's insistence that the Fine Arts Department alter the design which was originally meant to see King Naresuan mounted on horseback and holding a sword in his right hand.The ministry wanted it to be an equestrian King Naresuan, but without a sword.

    In the latest move, the ministry sent a letter to the army, saying that the monument could put the improving Thai-Burmese relations in jeopardy as the area where the monument would be built is only one kilometre from Kuteng Nayong, a disputed area which is claimed by both countries.

    If it was built, the monument of the late Thai king would confront the monument of Burma's King Bayingnaung in Tachilek.

    According to the source, the ministry even sought the reaction of the Burmese government but Rangoon had ``nothing to say''.This prompted the ministry to urge the army to review the project.

    The source said consent or no consent, the army would go ahead with the monument once it is able to raise the seven million baht needed for the project. The Third Army is trying to raise funds by selling statues and coins of King Naresuan. The army also planned to build a ``victory pagoda'' next to the monument, which was expected to cost another 30 million baht, the source said.

    But military relations are certainly improving between the two sides. Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasing, the Third Army commander, will soon be meeting Maj-Gen Chit Tan, Burma's Triangle Region commander.At the same time, Gen Wattanachai, who is now assistant army chief, visited Burma last week at the invitation of Maj-Gen Thein Sein, the former Triangle Area commander.

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    Myanmar to Have More Electricity in Next Five Years

    YANGON, January 13 (Xinhuanet) -- There are so far over 10 hydro-electric power projects under implementation in Myanmar, aimed at easing the country's electricity shortage problem, according to the country's state-run Myanma Electric Power Enterprise (MPPE).

    As part of the projects, a total of 470 mw of generating capacity will be added to the country after five of the projects are successively completed by the end of 2004.

    Of the five projects, a 30-mw one near Kantbalu in northwesternSagaing division is expected to be put into service early this year, while another two, which are of 280 mw and 25 mw in capacityand located respectively near Pinmana in northern Mandalay division and Nyaunglaybin in southern Bago division, are due to open in 2003.

    The remaining two, which are of 75 mw and 60 mw and are respectively situated in central Magway division's Saytottaya and southern Bago division's Phyu, will be commissioned in 2004 as planned.

    According to official statistics, the installed generating capacity of the MPPE remained at 1,172 mw so far and electric power generated totaled 2.418 billion kilowatt-hours in the first half of 2001.

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    Burma rebels want talks with government to resume

    Source : MSNBC (AP)

    NYA LI PHYO HTA CAMP, Burma, Jan. 14- The rebel Karen National Union urged Burma's military regime on Monday to initiate peace talks aimed at ending five decades of fighting.

    The call came as well-armed guerrillas joined villagers and children at a jungle camp to celebrate the Karen New Year.

    Talks between the rebels and the Burmese junta, known as the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC, broke down in 1997.

    ''Now again, we would like to solve the problem politically by negotiation with the SPDC,'' said Mahn Nyein Maung, a KNU central committee member.

    Although the regime is urging the KNU to give up its armed struggle, it failed to restart peace talks, he said.

    ''The SPDC must contact the KNU officially. Then we will welcome negotiations,'' he said.

    The KNU has been fighting the central government since Burma achieved independence from Britain in 1948. Unlike most other ethnic rebel groups, the KNU has refused a cease-fire, demanding a political settlement first.

    Rebel fortunes have fallen sharply in recent years under military pressure.

    The group once controlled a large area of Burma's eastern border region but now has no fixed territory and is thought to have only about 2,000-3,000 troops, a fraction of its former military force.

    On Monday, about 250 Karen civilians, including old women smoking cheroots and girls in traditional dress, gathered just across the Moei River border with western Thailand to watch a military parade and eat a celebration meal.

    The festivities, which included children playing sports on a dusty marching ground, masked worries about security after recent nearby clashes with Burmese government forces.

    About 50 mostly young KNU troops armed with assault rifles patrolled the camp perimeter as their battalion commander read a speech by leader Ba Thein vowing to continue the struggle for more autonomy in the eastern Karen State.

    The speech claimed the Burmese government army had forced hundreds of thousands of Karen people to flee their homeland and had made the country ''a big jail and refugee camp.'' More than 100,000 mostly Karen refugees are in camps inside Thailand. The Thai government wants to repatriate them, but Burma remains reluctant to accept them since many support the KNU.

    The KNU held its ceremony in secret. An Associated Press reporter was driven there from Thailand by the rebels. The rebels said a Burma army camp was less than four miles from Nya Li Phyo Hta.

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