Daily News- January 16 - 2002- Wednesday

  • US urged to strike
  • Rangoon City FM radio extends services, goes commercial
  • Myanmar Projects Highest Jute Exports in 20 Years
  • Myanmar junta stages mass rallies as democracy talks falter
  • U.N. seeks aid for Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh
  • Myanmar To Hold First Fisheries, Livestock Fair

  • US urged to strike

    Don Pathan

    The United States should take military action against the pro-Rangoon Wa drug army if the group does not end its illicit narcotics operations by the 2005 deadline it has set itself, a leading Thai politician said yesterday.

    "The US should consider making contingency plans to carry out strikes and take out the Wa military if they do not stop producing heroin, opium and methamphetamine by 2005 as they have promised," said Kobsak Chutikul, vice-chairman of the Lower House's Foreign Affairs Committee.

    "Such surgical air-strikes would be in line with the emerging international order following the September 11 terrorist attacks [against the US]," said Kobsak, deputy leader of the Chat Thai Party and a former top-ranking diplomat."The international community has the right to take action against those who pose a threat to humanity, wherever they may be," he said.

    The United Wa State Army (UWSA), widely considered the world's largest armed drug-trafficking group, signed a cease-fire agreement with Burma's military government in 1989 in return for limited self-rule in parts of Shan State, bordering Thailand and China.

    Thai drug officials blame the UWSA for producing the millions of methamphetamine tablets that flood into Thailand annually, while international anti-narcotics agencies have accused the 20,000-strong outfit of supplying the bulk of the world's heroin.

    Burma has come under strong criticism over the years from the international community for not doing enough to curb the Wa's illicit activities. Rangoon has ruled out military operations against the UWSA, saying there are other ways of dealing with the Wa, such as crop-substitution programmes, infrastructure development and economic engagement.

    Kobsak said drugs and terrorism are inseparable because they "feed on one another".While Rangoon's cooperation and consent to a military strike against the Wa would be preferable, Kobsak said, they should not be pre-conditions for such action.

    Thailand donated Bt20 million to a project to help the UWSA build a drug-free village modelled on the Mae Fah Luang Royal project in Chiang Rai.

    Kobsak criticised the Thai government for "being too generous" in its dealings with the UWSA, saying Bangkok should rethink its strategy and adopt a "carrot-and-stick" approach.Burma replaced Afghanistan as the world's largest source of heroin following the US-led air and ground war against the Taleban.

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    Rangoon City FM radio extends services, goes commercial

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jan 15, 2002
    Source: The Myanmar Times web site, Rangoon, in English 7 Jan 02

    Yangon's [Rangoon] City FM radio station has launched a campaign to attract advertising following its official launch on New Year's Day. Myanmar's [Burma] first FM radio station, which has been broadcasting on a trial basis since early November, has also extended its air time to nine hours a day: 8am to noon and 1pm to 6pm. Its programmes include chat shows with actors, actresses and singers, international and Yangon top 20 music, listeners, requests, comedy and sport.

    "City FM is a new form of media to reach the most of the five million residents in Yangon," said U Hla Myint Swe, head of Yangon City Development Committee's public relations and information department, which operates and manages the station. U Hla Myint Swe said the station can reach 80,000 private car owners, passengers in the city's 20,000 taxis and more than a million people who commute by bus each day. The potential audience also includes customers at 10,000 teashops and cold drink outlets, guests at 150 hotels and workers at 30,000 businesses. U Hla Myint Swe said advertising would help the station to develop its resources. The station's policy is to accept no more than six minutes of advertising an hour. No advertisements will be accepted for cigarettes or alcohol products. The station will air commercials of between 10 seconds and one minute's duration.

    Advertising rates vary between 1,000 kyat to 3,000 kyat for Myanmar products and 3 FEC [Foreign Exchange Certificates] to 15 FEC for foreign products, depending on the broadcasting time. A recording of the commercial, along with the script and product information, must be submitted in advance for censorship approval...

    Myanmar Projects Highest Jute Exports in 20 Years

    YANGON, January 15 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar exported 4.2 million U.S.dollars worth of raw jute and jute products in the first nine months of the present fiscal year 2001-02 ending March and another about three million dollars worth of them are projected to be exported in the rest of the fiscal year, according to the state-run Myanma Jute Industries (MJI).

    The total export earning of about 7.2 million dollars through sale of jute in the fiscal year would stand the highest in 20 years, the MJI predicts. The MJI attributed the possibility to being able to win direct sale contracts with foreign importers without going through international tenders.

    Prompt customer services including speedy shipments of orders are said to help establish markets in Asian countries such as China, Indonesia, Japan and Pakistan.

    Meanwhile, according to the MJI, by the first week of January, it had purchased nearly 40,000 tons of jute from growers, also the highest registered in 20 years, and it is estimated that the amount of jute bought this fiscal year would go up about 20 percent over the previous fiscal year. The MJI disclosed that it reserved 15,000 tons yearly for production of various exportable items.

    Raw jute of Myanmar is said to fetch about 200 dollars a ton and export volume in the nine-month period totaled 18,000 tons. Myanmar's jute is cultivated from February to April in the country's three divisions of Ayeyawaddy, Bago and Yangon.

    According to official statistics, in the last fiscal year of 2000-01, Myanmar grew nearly 48,600 hectares of jute and it was nearly 56,700 hectares this fiscal year. It plans to increase up to 60,750 hectares in the future. Myanmar exports various kinds of raw jute and jute products such as jute and hessian bags, carpet backing and carpets.

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    Myanmar junta stages mass rallies as democracy talks falter


    Myanmar's military junta is staging mass rallies in major cities around the country in an attempt to prop up support for the regime as historic talks with the democratic opposition falter.

    The events have been organised by the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the military's de facto political party which is expected to be its future power base in any power-sharing scenario.

    Beginning in the capital Yangon from January 8, soon after the important January 4 Independence Day celebrations, the rallies have been held in various cities and divisions including the northern city of Mandalay and southern Kayin state bordering Thailand, and attracted crowds of up to 44,000.

    Observers say they are designed to send a message to the population that the military is the only institution capable of running the country, and to defuse resentment over the lack of progress made in talks between the junta and the democracy opposition led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Since the unprecedented contacts began in October 2000, the regime has freed some 198 NLD members and allowed some of its branches to reopen.But despite hopes the dialogue was paving the way for a fully fledged reconciliation process and democratic reforms, they are now believed to have reached a near standstill.

    At the rallies, USDA spokesmen made speeches promoting the junta's achievements over the last dozen years since a bloody 1988 pro-democracy crackdown and disallowed 1990 elections.

    "All of us understand that the government has been carrying out tasks to maintain national consolidation, peace and stability, to develop infrastructure, strengthen the economy, develop human resources, promote social skills and to forge international cooperation," one said."It is imperative that the USDA and the rest of us do our best to see to the materialisation of these objectives and tasks, for the sooner that can be done, the better off we will be," said an editorial in the state press.

    Myanmar citizens from all walks of life attend the rallies freely as members of the USDA, a status which gives them special privileges and protection within the feared military regime.

    Analysts said the timing of the rallies after Independence Day, which commemorates the end of the colonial era 54 years ago, was significant.Hopes had been raised that more political prisoners could be released on the day, and the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) took the opportunity to press for more progress in the reconciliation talks.

    "In line with its fine traditions to safeguard the interests of the people it behoves on the Tatmadaw (military) to speed up the dialogue process leading to politically meaningful negotiations so that democracy, much longed-for and desired by the people, can be realised," the NLD said in a statement.

    Debbie Stothard from the Bangkok-based pro-democracy group ALTSEAN-Burma said the USDA rallies were a sign of the junta's insecurity and an attempt to quell impatience over the lack of tangible results from the talks.

    "Obviously when there were several large batches of releases last year and when some of the NLD offices were allowed to reopen it built up a public expectation that political reforms were on the way," she said.

    "The USDA rallies are an attempt to reassert to the population that the military is still in power."

    Stothard said that during the coming year the international community would have to take a stand on the slow progress of the talks.

    The modest concessions made so far have succeeded in softening the stance of several countries, including top donor Japan, while others have said they will wait for more progress before handing out rewards.

    "It's hard to say whether this has been a plan the SPDC has orchestrated from day one, or whether it's in response to internal conflict and fears surrounding where the talks could lead to," Stothard said.

    "But clearly the military regime needs to be told they can't fool about like this any more."

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    U.N. seeks aid for Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh

    DHAKA, Jan. 16 The United Nations' World Food programme (WFP) launched on Tuesday an appeal for food aid for 21,500 Muslim refugees from Myanmar living in Bangladesh.

    The WFP, which is asking for food aid worth $2.1 million, said the refugees in two camps in southeastern Bangladesh were heavily dependent on food aid.

    ''The refugees have suffered from chronic malnutrition since they arrived as part of a 250,000 people fleeing the North Rakhine province of Myanmar in 1991-92,'' it said in a statement. The bulk of the refugees returned home under an agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees two years later.

    ''We urge donors to give us the means to help this group of people for whom there is not yet a permanent political solution in sight,'' the statement quoted Pieter Dijkhuizen, WFP country director for Bangladesh, as saying.

    The statement said the refugees were due to be sent back to Myanmar but remained because of reluctance to leave on their part and because of a protracted repatriation clearance process by authorities in Myanmar.

    The refugees had originally fled to escape alleged persecution by Myanmar's military rulers, but officials in Bangladesh say many of them are economic refugees.

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    Myanmar To Hold First Fisheries, Livestock Fair

    YANGON, Jan 16 (Oana-Xinhua) -- Myanmar will hold a fisheries and livestock fair here from February 16 to 22, aimed at raising international awareness of the country's fisheries and livestock products, finding more markets, attracting foreign investment and getting technical expertise, according to the Myanmar Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries.

    The week-long fair, the first of its kind, is jointly sponsored by the ministry and the Ministry of Commerce and is also aimed at promoting intra-regional trade in the sector as the fair.

    It will be also participated by nine other member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and Sri Lanka.

    Held under the theme "Myanmar's Fish and Meat for All," the event, with 400 expected exhibitors, will feature fisheries, marine and livestock products, animal feed, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, packing materials and fishery-related machinery and equipment.

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