Daily News- January 25 - 2002- Friday

  • UNDCP and eight Myanmar groups form grassroots anti-drugs initiative
  • US wants details about reactor Russia is to build in Burma
  • Burma returns fugitive drug trafficker to China
  • Villagers Weave Cloth From Lotus Stems
  • U 20 : Thailand, Vietnam and Burma victorious
  • Myanmar Muslims occupy UN office in Malaysia
  • Myanmar Muslims invade UN agency in Malaysia to seek asylum

  • UNDCP and eight Myanmar groups form grassroots anti-drugs initiative

    The United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) and eight Myanmar non-government organisations have agreed to form a consortium to fight drug abuse.

    A memorandum of understanding on the "Civil Society Initiative" was signed Wednesday at a ceremony witnessed by members of the eight groups, government representatives and local financial institutions, officials said.

    The eight NGOs include religious organizations who pledged to establish a drug-free society in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar."Myanmar's civil society further reiterates its firm determination to realizing the common goal of a drug-free society," they said in a statement.

    The consortium includes the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia, the Border Areas Development Association, Myanmar Anti-Narcotic Association, the Myanmar Council of Churches and the Young Men's Buddhist Association.

    In a keynote address, UNDCP resident representative Jean-Luc Lemahieu said the agency would act as the group's secretariat but it would have its own decision-making executive board.

    "UNDCP will (also) assist approaching potential donars such as the private sector to engage actively in the civil society initiative," he said.Lamahieu said Myanmar, which is considered to be the world's leading producer of illicit drugs after Afghanistan lost the top spot, has been affected by "serious and complex drug problems," he said.

    "After five years in the second spot, the country has regained its title as the largest producer of opiates in the world, representing almost 70 percent of the world's production in 2001," he said.

    Drug abuse is rampant in Myanmar and the spread of the HIV-AIDS epidemic was closely linked to increase of injecting drug users, he added."Against this challenge stands the political and social complexity of this country and the lack of human and financial resources which hinder the impact of the drug control efforts undertaken by the government and cooperating agencies such as UNDCP," he said.

    Myanmar has said it aims to eliminate drugs within 15 years "with or without the international community's assistance," but that assistance from "friendly countries" and the United Nations would speed the process.

    A 2001 report from the International Narcotics Control Board showed opium production in Myanmar had fallen some 40 percent in the past decade.But the 2000 ban on opium production in Afghanistan, laid down by the now-defeated Taliban regime, made Myanmar the world's top drug producer last year by default.

    Lamahieu said that to fight drug abuse in Myanmar, it was vital to "convince and engage" grassroots groups, parents, and children of the dangers of narcotics.

    The UNDCP last year launched the "Stars Against Drugs" initiative in Myanmar, mobilizing the nation's singers, actors and sporting heroes to get involved in the ongoing fight against illicit drugs.

    A member of the NGO panel at the ceremony said that while the consortium was a new concept with no previous models to follow, it could be very effective."We are entering a new area with little experience and no role model to follow but in principle it could be a very effective effort," he said."After all the role of the civil society which is too often neglected can make a tremendous impact in addressing the drug issue."

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    US wants details about reactor Russia is to build in Burma

    By Andrei Surzhansky
    WASHINGTON, Jan 24, 2002 (Itar-Tass via COMTEX) -- The United States wants to get more detailed information about the nuclear reactor which Russian specialists will assist in building in Myanmar (Burma), spokesman for the US State Department Richard Boucher said here.

    According to him, information is wanted about the functions which the reactor will perform and how safe its operation will be.

    Having admitted that Myanmar as co-signatory of the Nonproliferation Treaty has a right to cooperate with other countries in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Boucher at the same time pointed to the effective rules and standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    According to the US spokesman, the delivery of a Russian reactor to Myanmar may be effected exclusively on terms okayed by the IAEA. Boucher said that Washington expects Russia and Burma to secure adherence to international standards in the field of safety and security while implementing this project. The United States hopes that the Asian country's authorities will not use the reactor to manufacture fissile materials without first ensuring their due safety and security.

    Myanmar officials earlier confirmed the plan for building the country's first research nuclear reactor. A draft agreement on its construction has been sent to the government of the Russian Federation after it was screened by all the government departments concerned.

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    Burma returns fugitive drug trafficker to China

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jan 24, 2002
    Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

    Kunming, 24 January: A Chinese drug trafficker who escaped from prison seven years ago was recently arrested by Myanmar [Burmese] police and handed over to the Chinese police.

    According to police records, Yang Chaoming the fixer, 40, is a native of Yongde county in Lincang prefecture, in southwest China's Yunnan Province.

    Police said that in February of 1995, Yang went to Myanmar and brought 10,000 grams of heroin back with him to China. He was arrested and was sentenced to death by the court of Lincang prefecture. By colluding with other prisoners, Yang escaped just before he was due to be executed.Yang then returned to the notorious "Golden Triangle" area and took up drug trafficking.

    In 1998, Yang came back to Yunnan, attempting to kill the people who had reported his drug smuggling, but he failed and returned to Myanmar again.Myanmar police recently arrested Yang in a small border town of Myanmar.

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    Villagers Weave Cloth From Lotus Stems

    Source: just-style.com

    The ancient art of weaving cloth from lotus stems has been rekindled by a village cooperative in Burma's (Myanmar's) Shan state, a newspaper claimed on Monday.The Myanmar Times said the traditional craft has been revived by the Padonmar Kyar Thingan cooperative association.

    Blazers made from the elaborately prepared lotus fibre cloth sell in Japan for about 1,500 each, with around 220,000 stems needed to make enough cloth for a set of monk's robes.

    Cooperative supervisor Than Htay explained to the Myanmar Times that the cloth is made in five stages. "First we remove the fibre from the stems, then the fibres are joined manually to produce the thread," she said.

    "Then the thread is spun, attached to the loom and finally, it is woven into cloth," she said, adding that it retains a pleasant lotus fragrance."

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    U 20 : Thailand, Vietnam and Burma victorious

    The Bangkokpost
    Tor Chittinand

    Thailand defeated Indonesia 3-1 yesterday for their second successive win in the 1st Asean Youth U20 Football Championship at the Thai-Japanese stadium.In their opening match Thailand beat Singapore 5-1.Thailand took the lead against Indonesia after just eight minutes through an excellent free-kick by Satid Mukkratok from just outside the penalty area.

    The Thai side kept up the pressure throughout the first half but could not find the back of the net and the score remained at 1-0 at half-time.However in the 78th minute Thailand added to their lead with a penalty, Satid notching his second goal.Indonesia revived their hopes when they were awarded a penalty in the 80th minute and Boy Jati Asmara made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-1.Thailand clinched the game just before full time with a goal from Preecha Chaokla to make the final score 3-1.

    In yesterday's other match Burma trounced Singapore 7-1.Thailand will play their next match tomorrow against Burma while Singapore will take on Indonesia.

    In Phnom Penh, Vietnam went to the top of their group defeating the Philippines 6-0.The Philippines previously lost to Laos in a 4-0 shutout on Wednesday. Vietnam defeated Cambodia 3-1 in the opening match. In yesterday's other match, Cambodia played to a 1-1 draw with Brunei.The semi-finals and final will be held in Bangkok.

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    Myanmar Muslims occupy UN office in Malaysia

    By Jalil Hamid

    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Three Muslim families from Myanmar occupied the grounds of a U.N. refugee office on Friday in a bid for asylum. The 28 men, women and children, from three ethnic Rohingya families, were let into the compound of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kuala Lumpur early in the morning.

    They said they entered Malaysia illegally several years ago to escape persecution in their homeland but an ongoing crackdown on illegal immigrants in Malaysia has exacerbated their plight.

    "We are stateless, we can't go back to Burma (Myanmar) because of the oppression," Habib Peter, 36, told Reuters across the fence of the UNHCR compound. "We can't stay in Malaysia either because of the constant police crackdown. Seven of our family have been arrested and we are asking for help from the UNHCR," he said.

    Yoshiteru Fuji, officer in charge of the Malaysian UNHCR office, said some of the Rohingya occupying his office had had earlier requests for refugee status rejected. He said the U.N. body would consider their appeals on a case-by-case basis. He gave no further comment.

    Twenty more Rohingya, who come from western Myanmar, arrived later in the morning but fled as more than a dozen police patrolled the entrance to the building. Police caught two of them. Habib estimated there were between 2,000 and 3,000 Rohingyas living in Malaysia.

    "We have no documents so we can't find regular work here. My children can't go to school" said Habib, who first arrived in Malaysia in 1992 and returned after being deported to Thailand.

    Zainal Abidin Jalaludin, 30, cradled a 20-month old baby as he recounted how he spent four years in jail for illegal entry. Another man called Hassan said his wife and two of their four children were in jail.

    In February last year, about 450 Rohingyas were killed in clashes with Buddhists around Akyab town in Myanmar, according to a statement released by Arakan Rohingya National Organisation. Malaysia, with a population of 23 million, has two million immigrants, less than half of whom are legal.

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    Myanmar Muslims invade UN agency in Malaysia to seek asylum

    KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 (AFP) - More than two dozen Muslim illegal immigrants from military-ruled Myanmar on Friday invaded the grounds of the UN refugee agency in Malaysia to seek asylum.

    A total of 28 immigrants from Myanmar's minority Rohingya Muslim community entered the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) centre here at dawn and camped in the compound.Police were called and kept guard outside the UNHCR building.

    "We came here to ask them to help us find a solution to our situation, to find a way to ensure our lives are safe," Abib Peter, 36, told reporters through the centre's fence.Abib said he had been living in Malaysia for the past eight years as an illegal immigrant and hoped the UNHCR could grant him and his family asylum in a third country.

    "Right now, wherever we go, we are in danger. Our kids cannot even go to school," he said. "It doesn't matter where they send us, we just want our lives to be safe."He claimed some 2,000-3,000 Rohingyas were staying in Malaysia after fleeing persecution and torture in military-ruled Myanmar.Many of those deported by the Malaysian authorities have "just disappeared," he alleged.

    UNHCR officer Yoshiteru Tsuji told reporters he would interview the 28 immigrants individually and record their requests but the group would not be allowed to stay at the centre.He declined to say whether they would be granted asylum.

    Around 2,500 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 1991-92 alleging persecution by the army, but most were later repatriated with the help of the United Nations.

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