Daily News- July 28- 2002- Sunday

  • Southeast Asian ministers urged to pressure Myanmar
  • Myanmar Releases Political Prisoners
  • Myanmar's foreign investment drops sharply in fiscal 2001-02
  • New Market for Burmese Gas

  • Southeast Asian ministers urged to pressure Myanmar

    BANGKOK, July 27 (AFP) - A group of Southeast Asian human rights and exile groups on Saturday called on the region's ministers to use "whatever means they have at their disposal" to pressure Myanmar to end years of political stalemate.

    Eight organizations highlighted what they described as worsening conditions in the military-ruled state in an open letter to foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), who meet Monday in Brunei.

    "While the recent release and freedom of movement of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been a cause for great optimism, we note with regret that the problems of Burma have actually worsened in the year since the last ASEAN ministerial meeting," the letter said, referring to Myanmar by its former name."Burma continues to pose a threat to regional security."

    Among the signatories to the letter were rights and development group Forum-Asia, the National Council of the Union of Burma, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and Altsean-Burma.

    Myanmar's ruling military junta has long been ostracized by world powers for what critical governments and pressure groups describe as a terrible human rights record, and its suppression of the pro-democracy movement of Aung San Suu Kyi.

    "We urge the governments of ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum to support all efforts in the pursuit of a peaceful political solution using whatever means they may have at their disposal as a grouping, and as individual governments," the groups said.The groups pointed to Myanmar's distinction as the world's largest producer of narcotics and its dramatic rise in methamphetamine production as a key area of concern.

    "Such an alarming proliferation of drugs has inflicted serious damage to people in Burma and neighbouring countries," the groups said, adding that despite a humanitarian crisis, the junta continues to fund the expansion of the military at the expense of basic social services.

    In addition, they urged ASEAN ministers to insist on the inclusion of ethnic minorities in the national reconciliation talks and the announcement of a nationwide ceasefire.Several armed minority groups, including the Shan, the Karen and Mon, continue to battle against forces loyal to Yangon.

    The letter also called for the ruling State Peace and Development Council to release all political prisoners in the country and continue with the secret talks between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi that have been brokered since October 2000 by the UN's special envoy to Myanmar, Razali Ismail.Razali is due to visit Yangon August 2.

    While Myanmar foreign minister Win Aung is expected to attend the Monday meeting of ASEAN ministers in Brunei, the junta has tried to prevent elaborate discussion of its human rights record at the regional meeting amid expected criticism from the European Union and the United States.

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    Myanmar Releases Political Prisoners

    YANGON, July 28 (AFP) - Myanmar's military junta said Sunday it had released 32 people from its prisons, including 14 members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), a day before a gathering of regional foreign ministers in Brunei.

    "This morning, 32 individuals serving sentences for breach of law were released from various correctional facilities," the regime said in a statement."Out of the total 32 individuals released today, the first 14 persons are members of the National League for Democracy," it said, adding that all of the newly freed were in good health and reunited with their families."The government of Myanmar will continue to release more individuals who will cause no harm to the community nor threaten the existing peace, stability and unity of the nation," it said.

    The NLD members were listed as: Tun Kyaing, Myint Oo, Khin Maung Kyi, Myo Thura, Nyein Chan, Zaw Moe, Than Nwe, U Thitsar, Zaw Win Naing, Khin Maung Thaung, Maung Toe, Thaung Pu, Sein Maung and Maung Maung Thaung.

    The figure brings to at least 42 the number of NLD members freed by the junta since NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi herself was released on May 6 from 19 months under house arrest.Since her release, the Nobel peace laureate has said her party's number one priority is to procure the release of all political prisoners.

    Around 1,500 political prisoners are held in Myanmar jails. Of the NLD prisoners, 17 were elected as members of parliament in a 1990 election that was swept by the NLD but never recognised by the regime.Some 297 NLD members have been released in recent months, while another 261 now remain in detention, according to the junta.

    The gesture comes one day ahead of a gathering of foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in which Myanmar's heavily criticised human rights record was expected to come under scrutiny.Diplomats have said Yangon is trying to hush up any criticism at the annual meet in Brunei, and has objected to language in a joint communique to be released by the ASEAN ministers which mentions the state of political affairs in Myanmar.

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    Myanmar's foreign investment drops sharply in fiscal 2001-02

    YANGON, Jul 28, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar received only 17.46 million US dollars of foreign investment in the fiscal year 2001-02 which ended in March, a sharp drop of 91.9 percent from 2000-01 when it brought in 217.69 million, according to the latest figures of the government Economic Indicators.

    The investment was injected into only two sectors: oil and gas, and manufacturing. The amount absorbed in the oil and gas sector was 3.25 million dollars, while that in the manufacturing was 14. 21 million, the figures show.

    Six economies invested in Myanmar during the year. They are the Republic of Korea (5 million dollars), Japan (4.69 million), China (3.25 million), Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (1.52 million), Indonesia (1.5 million) and Malaysia (1.5 million).

    Of them, two are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. They invested three million dollars, taking up 17.1 percent of the total.

    Observers believe that the sharp drop in Myanmar's foreign investment was due to the impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the slowing down of global economic growth and domestic investment environment.

    According to official statistics, since opening up in late 1988, Myanmar had drawn some 7.4 billion dollars in foreign investment for 370 projects by March 2002.

    New Market for Burmese Gas

    Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

    New Delhi, July 28: The Gas Authority of India Ltd. (GAIL) plans to buy natural gas from Burma to in order to be able to install "hassle-free" gas connections in Kolkata, West Bengal of India via a pipeline from Burma.

    "The state is in an advantageous location strategically as several projects are currently going on in Bangladesh, Burma and Tripura (India). When the negotiations are concluded, Kolkata will be the closest location in India benefiting from the provision gas under the new plans", GAIL officials said.

    India thus figures as the new market for Burma's ruling elites who are widely criticized for human rights violations.

    "Unocal, Brown & Riot and the Indian government are believed to have conducted initial feasibility studies for the construction of a 1,100km undersea gas pipeline from Burma to India", stated World Markets Analysis in its report.

    Burma has proposed to Bangladesh the building of a pipeline through Brahmanbaria on the Bangladesh border and the Indian State of Tripura to Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

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