Daily News- July 16- 2002- Tuesday

  • Rights group urges Thailand, Myanmar to lift journalist blacklists
  • Thai deputy PM to meet Myanmar leader soon
  • Myanmar to implement Japanese-proposed water supply project
  • US soldiers ‘involved in cross-border raids’
  • Deposits warning to non-bank firms

  • Rights group urges Thailand, Myanmar to lift journalist blacklists

    BANGKOK, July 15 (AFP) - Human rights and development watchdog Forum-Asia on Monday called for Thailand and Myanmar to lift recent bans on their journalists and comply with international standards of press freedom.

    The Bangkok-based group condemned directives by the Thai foreign ministry on barring two Myanmar journalists from entering Thailand and Yangon's military junta which banned 15 Thai journalists from Myanmar.

    "We call on both governments to immediately revoke the blacklists," Forum-Asia said in a statement."These absurd directives of the Thai government and the SPDC (the ruling State Peace and Development Council) once again violate freedom to express the view of the media and the right to receive information which directly relate to public interest of both countries," it added.

    The tit-for-tat bans have fueled a diplomatic brawl between the historic adversaries, which was sparked by a border crisis that erupted in May.They began June 28 when Thailand blacklisted Ma Tin Win, the author of a series of articles in the official press accused of insulting Thailand's revered monarchy, and editor Maung Maung of the New Light of Myanmar.On July 12 the SPDC announced it barred 15 Thai reporters from entering Myanmar on the grounds they wrote anti-government articles aimed at damaging bilateral ties.

    "Both governments should report the actual information to the public, rather than blacklisting the journalists," Forum-Asia said.

    Relations between the neighbours soured badly in May following clashes along the border during which ethnic Shan rebels overran Myanmar military bases.Myanmar accused Thailand of providing support to the rebels, a claim the Thai military has consistently denied.After both countries exchanged protests on May 20, Yangon slammed shut its checkpoints on the Thai border, banned visiting official delegations and launched a nationalistic tirade against Thailand in the state-run media.

    Thai deputy PM to meet Myanmar leader soon

    BANGKOK, July 15 (Xinhuanet)-- Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has said that he expected to meet Myanmar leaders soon to discuss issues concerning bilateral ties and cooperation, the Thai News Agency(TNA) reported Monday.

    Chavalit told TNA on Sunday that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would inform him of when he would meet Myanmar leaders as planned, but he expected the meeting would be held shortly.Chavalit also expressed optimism that pending border and other problems between Myanmar and Thailand would be eventually settled although it could take some times.

    Myanmar and Thailand are close neighboring countries with common border, and are both member countries of the Association ofSoutheast Asian Nations (ASEAN); so, naturally, we have to live and cooperate with each other. Either of us can live alone; thus, I believe pending problems between us will eventually settled although it may take some times, he said.

    The deputy prime minister, however, refused to talk about Rangoon's move last week to put 15 Thai journalists on its blacklist for allegedly writing anti-Myanmar articles constantly, saying that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would take care of thematter; while the military would take care of border problems.

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai told reporters late lastweek that he would hold bilateral talks with his Myanmar counterpart Win Aung during the upcoming annual meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Brunei, which will be held on July 29.

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    Myanmar to implement Japanese-proposed water supply project

    YANGON, July 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar will implement a Japanese-proposed project to improve the water supply system in the capitalof Yangon, according to a latest report of the Yangon municipal authorities.

    The 1.5-billion-US-dollar project was put forward to the YangonCity Development Committee recently by consultants from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Japanese government'soverseas aid agency.

    The two-stage project will meet the estimated daily demand of nearly 2 million cubic meters of water by 2020 against the currentdaily figure of about 615,000 cubic meters.

    The first stage of the project (2004-2010), estimated at a cost of about 800 million dollars, would include rehabilitation of old pipes and improvement of the supply and distribution network and the reservoir system. Some of the pipes supplying water to the municipal area, including the six downtown townships, were installed at least 50 years ago.

    According to the report, the second phase of the project would involve developing a management plan for ground water, strengthening the distribution network and replacing three pumps at the Gyobyu water reservoir, one of the main water sources for the capital.

    Yangon city is reportedly short of water supply for its 5.5 million population. The city's main sources of water supply, including three major water reservoirs, provide about 363 million liters a day, so far meeting the consumption need of up to 70 percent of the total municipal population. The rest of the city population have to depend on supply from very limited tube wells and some public water supply stations.

    Meanwhile, under Japan's Official Development Assistance program, the JICA began in 2001-02 implementing a 624-million-yen (5.13-million-dollar) rural water supply project in Myanmar's eastern Shan state covering 250 villages and using heavy equipmentof the agency.

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    US soldiers ‘involved in cross-border raids’

    By Thet Khaing
    Myanmar times-Volume 7, No. 124

    UNITED States soldiers joined Thai troops and Shan rebels in a cross-border raid last May, according to a report in a regional magazine quoted by a government spokesperson last week. The report in the July 11 issue of the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review was cited by Lt Col Min Lwin of the Ministry of Defence at a media briefing last Friday.

    The report said the Americans joined Thai military personnel and members of the Shan United Revolutionary Army in the attacks on Myanmar army positions last May 20 and 21, said Lt Col Min Lwin. He said the magazine also reported that three American soldiers were injured during the fighting.

    Lt Col Min Lwin said the report also quoted a US diplomatic source as denying the claims of American involvement in the border incursions. The source said the US troops had been working near the border while training members of a Thai anti- narcotics task force. The government had earlier said that the cross-border raid involved SURA members who had been supported by Thai artillery.

    But at the briefing last Friday, Lt Col Min Lwin said Thai soldiers disguised as SURA rebels had also taken part in the assaults on the army positions. He said the Thai army had been preparing for the cross-border assaults when it launched military exercises close to the border in May. Lt Col Min Lwin said the exercises, involving 20,000 Thai troops backed by heavy weapons and armoured personnel carriers, had targetted Myanmar as an enemy. The 18 days of exercises, which began on May 6, had coincided with the SURA attacks, he said.

    In another development, the government has blacklisted 15 Thai journalists in reprisal for a decision by Bangkok earlier this month to ban two Myanmar journalists. Most of the blacklisted journalists are from the vernacular press, but five are from two English-language dailies, the Bangkok Post and The Nation. The move comes after two journalists at the state- owned New Light of Myanmar were banned from entering Thailand because of reports deemed insulting to the country’s monarchy. The decision affects the newspaper’s chief editor, U Maung Maung Aye, and a columnist, Dr Ma Tin Win. Lt Col Min Lwin told last Friday’s briefing that the 15 Thai journalists had written reports aimed at causing misunderstanding among Myanmar’s leaders. Their reports had also sought to cause discord between the Tatmadaw and the people as well as between the government and those groups which had signed peace agreements.

    The deputy chief of Military Intelligence, Maj Gen Kyaw Win, has also dismissed a Thai media report about a bilateral meeting of senior military officers. The report said the officers were planning to hold a Regional Border Committee meeting next month.

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    Deposits warning to non-bank firms

    By Kyaw Zaw Oo
    Myanmar times-Volume 7, No. 124

    THE government has warned private companies outside the banking sector not to accept deposit accounts. The warning was issued by the Minister of Home Affairs, Col Tin Hlaing, at a meeting attended by about 30 senior executives of companies which had been accepting deposits in breach of the Financial Institutions Law.

    The meeting, held earlier this year, coincided with instructions to media organisations not to accept advertisements from the companies. A number of well-known companies had been accepting deposits on which they promised to pay unusually high interest rates. Newspaper and television advertising by the companies had given the impression that their activities were legal.

    A prominent trading company in Mandalay has already gone into liquidation after accumulating massive debts as a result of its financial services activities. At least one Yangon company is said to be in financial difficulties after accepting millions of kyat in deposits on which it was offering monthly interest rates averaging 4.5 per cent, a yearly equivalent of 54 per cent.

    U Zaw Min Oo, the managing director of the company, Arrow Paper Services, told Myanmar Times that the claims were not true. U Zaw Min Oo said his company had begun accepting deposit accounts in March last year. It had accepted only as much as it could properly manage. He declined to say how much the company had accepted in deposits or to give the total number of depositors. However, he admitted that his company was facing difficulties in buying the paper needed to make its ‘Arrow’ brand exercise books, which are heavily advertised. U Zaw Min Oo said his company had sold six million exercise books last year. This was about 8.3 per cent of the targetted sales figure this year of 72 million exercise books. U Zaw Min Oo said his company was producing at least 264,000 copies a day. The government has also tightened its supervision of credit co-operatives societies, issuing a regulation stipulating that their maximum assets must not exceed K10 million.

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