Daily News- January 28 - 2002- Monday

  • UN rights envoy to make third trip to Burma next month
  • German-owned Spiegel bans BURMA buys
  • Asylum-seekers ‘not encouraged’
  • Rohingyas give themselves up to cops
  • Myanmar to Host 7-Nation Basketball Tournament
  • Malaysia urged to give temporary shelter to Myanmar refugees
  • Indian Firms Buy Stake in Daewoo Hunt for Natural Gas in Myanmar

  • UN rights envoy to make third trip to Burma next month

    RANGOON, Jan 27 AFP- UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro is scheduled to make a 10-day visit to Burma next month, his third trip to the military-ruled state in the past year, an official said today.

    The Brazilian academic was due to travel to Burma from February 10 to 20, Burmese Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win told AFP without providing details about his itinerary.

    The mission would be the third by Pinheiro, who last April became the first UN human rights envoy to be given permission to travel to Burma in five years.During his first visit, Pinheiro met with National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since September 2000 while taking part in landmark talks with the junta.

    Khin Maung Win said plans for a return visit by special envoy of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Razali Ismail, reportedly planned for early February, were as yet unconfirmed.

    The Malaysian diplomat has visited Burma six times in attempts to mediate reconciliation talks between Suu Kyi and the military.

    "We have so many visitors scheduled at this time and we would be so busy that it would be rather difficult to accommodate Mr Razali," he said, adding that he did not know when Razali would be able to return to Burma.

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    German-owned Spiegel bans BURMA buys

    Source : FBC

    Mail Order Giant is 28th Company to Refuse Business with Forced Labor Regime

    WASHINGTON, D.C. " The Spiegel Group, a top U.S. mail-order retailer with nearly $4 billion in sales in 2000, has announced in a letter to the Free Burma Coalition it will not accept merchandise that is sourced from the Southeast Asian country of Burma. Spiegel, which owns Newport News and Eddie Bauer, joins a list of 28 companies that have made similar pledges in the past 20 months against association with the pariah nation, reviled for its use of forced labor. The Otto family of Germany, which controls the world's largest mail-order firm, Otto Versand, owns essentially all of Spiegel's voting stock.

    "We applaud the contribution that Spiegel is making toward human rights in Burma,” says Free Burma Coalition (FBC) fellow Aung Din."No company should support forced labor."

    Since June 2000, 28 companies, including Wal-Mart, Williams Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, and Kenneth Cole have pledged to not import and/or retail goods made in Burma. In January 2002 alone, three companies-- Value City/Filene’s Basement, operator of 110 department stores with over $2 billion in 2000 sales, an un-named company with $1.5 billion in 2000 sales, and Spiegel--have pledged not to import and/or retail goods from Burma. At the international level, Denmark-based IKEA refuses to sell goods from Burma and the Norwegian Olympic team rejected the wearing of the Triumph logo or products unless the company pulls out of Burma.

    Many companies want to distance themselves from Burma due to the close relationship between the apparel industry and forced labor.

    According to the U.S. State Department Country Report on Human Rights released in February 2001, “Forced labor, including forced child labor, has contributed materially to the construction of industrial parks subsequently used to produce manufactured exports, including garments."

    The International Labor Organization, an agency of the United Nations, has called the system of forced labor in Burma "a saga of untold misery and suffering, oppression and exploitation," and for the first time in its 82 year history, authorized its member countries to impose sanctions on Burma. Business with Burma’s junta also helps it acquire the cash it needs for its nuclear technology capacity, a point made by The Washington Post in a January 6 editorial.

    Despite a 1997 ban on new U.S. investment aimed at supporting Burma’s 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and the struggle for democracy in the country, Burmese apparel imports to the United States have skyrocketed in recent years, increasing over 800% from 1995 through 2000. As a result, a coalition of 26 human rights, religious, and labor groups including the American Anti-Slavery Group, Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, Global Exchange, and the National Labor Committee have signed letters calling on companies to stop importing from Burma.

    Spiegel cited human rights as its chief concern in the letter, stating that, "Like the members of your coalition, we are concerned with human rights abuses in Burma/Myanmar" We currently have a policy in place prohibiting any Spiegel Group company from doing direct or indirect business there [in Burma] because of the military and human rights concerns."

    "Companies haven’t take this strong a stance against human rights abuses since they stopped doing business with South Africa in the 1980s,"added Aung Din.

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    Asylum-seekers ‘not encouraged’

    The Star

    Those seeking political asylum in Malaysia are seldom given consideration, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Chor Chee Heung said yesterday.He said it was not the country’s administration style to encourage foreigners to come to Malaysia to seek political asylum.

    "I believe we do not like to meddle in the internal affairs of sovereign countries,’’ he told reporters after giving out ang pows and mini -hampers from Sports Toto to 250 needy senior citizens from various races here yesterday.

    Chor was asked to comment on an incident on Friday in which 28 Myanmar nationals from the Rohingya ethnic minority forced their way into the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) centre in Kuala Lumpur in an attempt to seek political asylum.

    Their spokesman had claimed that they could not return to Myanmar as the military junta was persecuting the Rohingyas, especially those in the Arkan region.

    Chor said he did to know whether the Rohingyas had the right to be given consideration for political asylum or not. He said there were cases such as in Sabah where Filipinos were given temporary residential passes which they had to renew yearly. He said the passes were given out on the basis of sympathy as there were so many Filipinos who had ran to Sabah and stayed there, adding that the Government encouraged them to return to the Philippines.

    On illegal immigrants, Chor said the Home Ministry would direct all enforcement agencies such as the police, immigration and navy to carry out integrated operations to catch them.He said they would then be repatriated fast to avoid problems which had occurred in the past such as riots and strikes. He said Sabah police had briefed him during his recent visit to the state that they would act swiftly to repatriate illegal immigrants.

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    Rohingyas give themselves up to cops

    The Star

    KUALA LUMPUR: The 28 Myanmar Rohingya political asylum seekers, who forced their way into the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) centre here on Friday, have given themselves up to the authorities.

    All the 28 Rohingya Muslims, comprising 15 men, two women and 11 children, were detained at the UNHCR centre’s compound at 1pm yesterday. They were later peacefully led away from the centre in Jalan Bukit Petaling in a police Black Maria and two vans to be handed over to Immigration officials.

    Earlier at 10.30am, several of the Rohingya men looked sad after they were told by a UNHCR officer that all of them would have to be deported. Some were seen consoling their wives and children.

    Brickfields OCPD Asst Comm Koh Hong Sun said police and officers from the Immigration Department managed to convince the Rohingyas to give themselves up. A UNHCR representative, Lowell Martin, said the Rohingyas would be detained by the Immigration Department before being sent to a neighbouring country, possibly Thailand.

    "The UNHCR thanks the authorities as they managed to solve the problem peacefully without any untoward incident,’’ he added. The Rohingyas forced their way into the UNHCR compound at 6.30am on Friday to request for political asylum.

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    Myanmar to Host 7-Nation Basketball Tournament

    YANGON, January 27 (Xinhuanet) -- A seven-nation basketball friendly tournament for both men and women will be held here on a grand scale in the last week of February this year, according to sources at the Myanmar Ministry of Sports on Sunday.

    The tournament, aimed at promoting Myanmar basketball standard and gaining international experiences, will feature teams from Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and hosts Myanmar.

    The friendly is jointly sponsored by the ministry, the Department of Sports and Physical Education and the Myanmar Basketball Federation. The tournament will be the one participated by the largest number of athletes from Southeast Asian (SEA) nations since 1969 when the 5th SEA Games were held.

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    Malaysia urged to give temporary shelter to Myanmar refugees

    KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 (AFP) - A Myanmar group Monday urged Malaysia to give temporary shelter to 28 Rohingya Muslims who sought refuge at the UN refugee agency's compound here amid a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

    The 28 Rohingyas entered the UN High Commisioner for Refugeescentre in the capital on Friday to seek refugee status but were handed over to the immigration department Saturday.

    The Royingya Information Center office here protested the UNHCR action, saying the 28 were among some 7,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees stranded in Malaysia since fleeing persecution by Myanmar's military regime 1988.

    "As the authority of Malaysia recently intensifies deportation of illegal immigrants, they are in great need of shelter," secretary-general Syedul Amin Syed Ahmad said in a statement."They cannot return to Myanmar now as the prevalent situation there is still unsafe for the Rohingyas' life, liberty and human rights," he said."We beg the government of Malaysia... for sympathy so as to give us temporary shelter until our return to our homeland is safe for our life."

    The move to seek asylum by the 28 Myanmar immigrants came amid an intense police crackdown on illegal immigrants after recent riots by Indonesian workers here.Police said Monday they had detained some 700 illegal immigrants under a nationwide operation since the first riot on January 17.

    The Rohingya Information Centre criticised the UNHCR for its "inhuman treatment" in surrendering the group to Malaysian authorities and for its failure to help the oppressed Rohingya community.

    It urged the UNHCR to "treat Rohingya Muslims equally at par with other asylum seekers and stop such attitude of inhuman treatment against Rohingya asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia."

    Malaysian immigration deputy director Ahmad Ismail said the immigrants would be placed in a detention camp pending approval from Myanmar for their repatriation.

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    Indian Firms Buy Stake in Daewoo Hunt for Natural Gas in Myanmar

    SEOUL, Jan 28 Asia Pulse - India Petroleum Corporation and India Gas Corporation will take part in Daewoo International's hunt for natural gas in Myanmar, according to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy Monday.

    Daewoo International will sell a 20 per cent stake in the project to India Petroleum and a 10 per cent stake to India Gas in a signing ceremony scheduled for Monday at the Daewoo Center, according to the Ministry. Daewoo International launched the project in August 2000 but sold a 10 per cent stake last year to Korea Gas Corporation.

    A Ministry source said that it is customary to organize an international consortium to develop gas fields because such projects require huge capital outlays. The participation of the two Indian corporations will help speed up the field's development. (Yonhap)

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