Daily News- January 29 - 2002- Tuesday

  • Triumph to pull out of Burma
  • Burma denies support for Free Aceh Movement in Indonesia
  • Trade Fair Concludes
  • Illegal Wood Confiscated
  • A lone bookstall on Burma in New Delhi World Book Fair
  • Burmese ethnic group calls Rangoon rulers a "terrorist government"
  • Burmese runway expanded for Russian-made jets
  • Amnesty says UNHCR cavalier on Myanmar asylum seekers
  • Swiss lingerie firm to pull out of Myanmar in working condition flap
  • Myanmar's Sugar Export to Rise Sharply

  • Triumph to pull out of Burma

    From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

    The European lingerie company, Triumph International, is pulling out of Burma after coming under sustained pressure from labour organisations and exiled Burmese groups.

    A spokesman for the company Aloyse Hirzel told the BBC that it was closing down its factory in Pyin-ma-Bin in Burma and laying off 1,000 employees because it saw no prospect of democratic change within Burma in the near future. He admitted that the firm's image and credibility had been damaged by the campaign against it. The company had been operating in Burma since 1996.

    One of the groups behind the publicity campaign The Burma Campaign UK has welcomed the announcement. The campaign had adopted a boycott slogan, 'Support breasts, not dictators'.

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    Burma denies support for Free Aceh Movement in Indonesia

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jan 28, 2002
    Source: Myanmar Information Committee web site, Rangoon, in English 26 Jan 02

    Text from Information Sheet No C-2098 (I) issued by the "Myanmar Information Committee" in Rangoon in English on 26 January; Press Release issued by the Burmese Embassy in Jakarta on 25 January; published by Myanmar Information Committee web site on 26 January.

    The Jakarta Post issued on 25 January 2002 carried a headline news report on its front page quoting a spokesman of the so-called GAM [Gerakan Aceh Merdeka - Free Aceh Movement] who reportedly stated that they have their ambassadors assigned in countries that recognized GAM, such as Myanmar [Burma], Malaysia and several African nations.

    The reference made to Myanmar in that statement is obviously a ridiculous glaring mistake that does not even deserve a rebuttal, as Myanmar's steadfast adherence to the ASEAN's [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] non-interference policy and its long-standing friendly relations with the Republic of Indonesia are well known.

    As a country firmly adhering to the five principles of peaceful co-existence, Myanmar never recognizes or supports separatist movements, such as GAM, in any other sovereign states, let alone receiving an ambassador of such a movement on its own soil. The government of Myanmar reaffirms its recognition of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Indonesia.

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    Trade Fair Concludes

    The Irrawaddy
    By John S. Moncreif

    January 28, 2002 A two-week trade fair intended to boost economic relations between Thailand and Burma concluded yesterday in the Burmese border town of Tachilek. The fair comes just one year after Burmese and Thai troops clashed along Thailand's northern border, when, Mae Sai, a town opposite Tachilek, was shelled by Burmese troops resulting in a five-month border closure.

    During the opening ceremony of the fair, leaders from both countries were able to put their differences aside. Secretary One of the ruling State Peace and Development Council Lt Gen Khin Nyunt and Thai Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chavalit both referred to each other as "big brother" on numerous occasions during their opening speeches.

    Khin Nyunt also met with Wei Hsue-kang, leader of the United Wa State Party (UWSA) on the eve of the fair's opening, according to a report from the Shan Herald Agency for News. Wei Hsue-Kang is wanted by the US and Thailand on drug trafficking charges. The Thai government, at the end of last year, began a campaign to crack down on his drug trafficking network by seizing almost 200 million baht in assets.

    Meanwhile, the exhibition, which was held at the Shan Yoma Department store, featured Burmese traditional medicine, forestry products and famous Burmese jewelry along with goods from fifty-nine Thai companies.

    Despite the fanfare, attendance for the fair fell far short of projections. Many Burmese said they were turned off by the lack of variety. One man complained that the majority of products were herbal medicines that were readily available throughout the country.

    The border checkpoint linking the two towns saw an upsurge in activity as fair goers crossed back and forth. Border officials were concerned that the increase in travel might be used as a shield to increase drug trafficking and during the fair Thai border officials seized a pickup truck filled with drug precursors used for methamphetamines.

    The fair was jointly organized by the Thai-Myanmar Cultural and Economic Association and its counterpart the Myanmar Thai Cultural and Economic Association, which is sponsored by business and government leaders with economic interests in Burma.

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    Illegal Wood Confiscated

    The Irrawaddy
    By Win Myint

    January 28, 2002 Fifteen tons of illegally imported wood from Burma were seized on Wednesday night at the Hwe Ya Au checkpoint just east of Mae Sot, Thailand after authorities received an anonymous tip regarding the Bangkok-bound shipment, according to a customs official.

    The shipment, with an estimated worth of 1.3 million baht (US$ 29,545), is believed to be the largest haul of Burmese wood confiscated by Thai authorities since the government implemented an import ban on wood and wood products from Burma on November 7.

    Tak province's Deputy Customs Chief told reporters that they have been closely monitoring all checkpoints in order to thwart smuggling efforts in the area. Wood products are in high demand in Thailand due to a countrywide moratorium on logging that began in the late 1980s.

    Meanwhile, two mills in Burma's Karen state, opposite Tha Song Yang in Thailand, have requested that the Thai government allow them to transport logs bound for Hong Kong across Thai soil. The two mills are owned by Kyaw Myint Naing Co Ltd, which has close affiliation with the pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). The petition, filed by managing director Swe Myint, is still under review.

    Although the November 7 directive is still recognized, there has been some debate among Thai authorities as to whether they should maintain the ban, according to one Thai official.

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    A lone bookstall on Burma in New Delhi World Book Fair

    Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

    New Delhi, January 28: The 15th New Delhi World Book Fair opened this morning at Pragati Maiden in New Delhi with more than 1,000 publishing industries including of foreign countries participating. The mega book fair, which was first organized in 1972, has become the largest book fair in Asia and Africa. The book fair would continue till February 4 and entry to the Book Fair site is free as "a gesture of goodwill in "The Year of Books - 2001-2002".

    The theme of the book fair this year is "globalization of the written word: translating creative diversity". There are more than one thousand participants with books on a variety of subjects as well as languages and about 30 foreign countries including Australia, Brazil, Netherlands and Sri Lanka are among the participants.

    Burma is not participating in the book fair. "We sent invitation to every countries including Myanmar. But some countries do not participate in the book fair due to expenses", said Ms. Neera Jain, Assistant Editor (Information and Publicity) of the National Book Trust, India which organized the book fair.

    The Irrawaddy Publications, headed by Dr. C.P. Prabhakar (U Maw Thi Ri) is a lone stall, which has books on Burma with the title of "Golden Literature from the Land of Pagodas". Some of the books in display are "Selected Burmese Short Stories", "Modern Burmese Poetry", "Saturday Son", "Songster in a boat", and Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's "Letters from Burma". The Hindi books include Kaala Jawahar (selected stories of Thein Phe Myint), Barfiley Hiren (Poetic Journey of Burmese Poets), Purab Se Ug Raha Suraj (Thein Phe Myint's ever-memorable work of fiction.

    Dr. Prabhakar, who is the former supervisor of the All India Radio-Burmese Service has translated more than 150 Burmese books into Hindi language. "Burma and India had very close historical links in various ways. But the people here knew very little about Burmese literature and my aim is to spread the Burmese literature in India", said Dr. Prabhakar who was awarded the Best Litterateur Award by the then Burmese government in 1964. His Irrawaddy Publications, established in 1985, has now tied-up with publishing houses in other states of India such as Orissa, Rajasthan and West Bengal. "That means Burmese books will soon translated into other Indian languages such as Oriya and Bengali", he added.

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    Burmese ethnic group calls Rangoon rulers a "terrorist government"

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma on 27 January

    The SPDC [State Peace and Development Council]-controlled newspaper article strongly criticized the KNU, Karen National Union, branding it as a terrorist organization and opposing and obstructing the democratic process.

    The article which appeared in yesterday's issue, the 26 January issue, of the Myanmar Alin newspaper written under the nom de plume of Kaythu Nilar accused Saw Ba Oo Gyi, the first KNU leader, as a lackey of the capitalist and a separatist insurgent. Furthermore, the article criticized and condemned the KNU's entire history and it also threatened that it will appear in series.

    When DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] contacted the KNU to obtain its reaction to the attack in the SPDC newspaper, KNU Joint Secretary Phado David Thakapaw gave the following remarks.

    [Phado David Thakapaw] What I would like to say is, only the SPDC is a terrorist organization. The SPDC came to power after using force and massacring tens of thousands of innocent people in the mass democracy demonstration and became a government. This kind of government should be branded as a terrorist government.

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    Burmese runway expanded for Russian-made jets

    Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma on 27 January

    Ten MIG-29 fighter jets newly-purchased from Russia are expected to arrive at Meiktila Air Base in the near future. The runway at Meiktila Air Base has undergone expansion and maintenance works since November 2001 in order to accommodate the MIG-29s and is nearing completion. One military source told DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma], of the two runways, one is 9,000 feet long and 100 feet wide while the other is 12,000 feet long and 150 feet wide.

    These preparations were carried out with the assistance of experts from the Russian Air Force led by Col Kopov Timborev [name as heard]. Although the existing runway was able to accommodate Chinese-made F-7 2K and A-5 2K fighter jets, it was found to be inadequate to handle the MIG-29s. Thus, Meiktila Air Base runway was expanded and revamped. As the Air Base has run out of runway lights due to the expansion of the runway, they are using Guinness gas lamps as a temporary measure.

    The 10 MIG-29 fighter jets were purchased by the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] from Russia last year with an estimated cost of about 130m US dollars. Military observers believed that the purchase was an attempt by the SPDC to compete with the US-made F-16 fighter jets from neighbouring Thailand. The 10 Russian-made fighter jets are to arrive in Burma at a time when the debate is heating up over Burma's purchase of a nuclear reactor from Russia.

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    Amnesty says UNHCR cavalier on Myanmar asylum seekers

    source : Reuters

    KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 29 - Human rights group Amnesty International criticised the United Nations refugee agency on Tuesday for handing over Myanmar asylum seekers to Malaysian immigration officials.

    Three Muslim families from Myanmar, who sought refuge in the grounds of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Malaysia last Friday, were handed over to immigration officials the following day.

    ''The cavalier manner in which they were handed over to the police, with no apparent regard to their safety, does not inspire confidence in the UNHCR,'' Amnesty International in Malaysia said in a statement.

    The 28 men, women and children from three ethnic Rohingya families had entered the compound seeking asylum, saying they fled to Malaysia several years ago to escape persecution in Myanmar.

    Kuala Lumpur Immigration Department deputy director Ahmad Ismail said on Saturday his officers were questioning the immigrants to determine their status. He said it was not known when they would be sent back to Myanmar, adding they would be held at a detention camp for immigrants in the western state of Negeri Sembilan during investigations.

    ''We also urge the Malaysian government not to deport the Rohingyas, who will almost certainly face persecution if they are repatriated to Myanmar,'' Amnesty said.

    The refugees have seen their plight exacerbated by a crackdown on illegal immigrants in Malaysia. An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Rohingyas live in Malaysia. Last February, 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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    Swiss lingerie firm to pull out of Myanmar in working condition flap

    source : AFP

    Swiss lingerie group Triumph International is to pull out of Myanmar because of a "public debate" over working conditions that have been condemned by the International Labor Organization, a company statement received here said.

    "Triumph International has taken a decision in principle under which it will soon stop production in Myanmar," the company said."The decision is motivated by a public debate in Europe on the political situation in Mynamar that has become increasingly charged emotionally."

    Swiss activists grouped in a movement called Campaign Clean Clothes launched a campaign a year ago to pressure the firm to pull out of Myanmar, accusing it of using forced labor.Last November, British activists mounted a boycott of the company's products.

    Triumph International has denied that any of its facilities in Myanmar make use of forced labor, insisting that conditions for its 1,000 employees there are much better than the norm.

    The ILO in November 2000 called on its members -- governments, unions and employers -- to reconsider their ties to Myanmar because of the persistence of forced labor.

    Triumph International, which has produced lingerie in Myanmar since 1997, for the last several months has tried to find another group to take over its operations in the country.But having failed to find a buyer it has decided to close down its activities there gradually.

    "Ending production in Myanmar will impose serious personal difficulties on our workers, which Triumph sought to avoid," the company said.

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    Myanmar's Sugar Export to Rise Sharply

    YANGON, January 29 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar's sugar export is predicted to reach 100,000 tons in the present fiscal year 2001-02 ending March with the export earning from it to amount to 25 million U.S. dollars, according to the state-run Myanma Sugarcane Enterprise (MSE).

    During the last fiscal year of 2000-01, the country exported only 20,000 tons of the commodity, fetching 5 million dollars.Since 1994, Myanmar's cultivated area of sugarcane has expanded from 52,650 hectares in the past to 162,000 hectares, while the number of sugar mills set up by the government has risen from 8 to 17.

    To ensure operation capacity of the mills during the production season, harvesting of about 3.7 million tons of sugarcane are needed, according to the MSE. Myanmar grows sugarcane mainly in five divisions and states of Mandalay, Bago, Magway, Sagaing and Shan.

    Myanmar sells its sugar on export market at a price of about 250 U.S. dollars per ton.Sugarcane is one of Myanmar's four pillar crops and extensive and intensive cultivation of the crop is being made around the areas of sugar mills for sufficient supply of cane to the mills.

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