Daily News- March 08- 2002- Friday

  • Myanmar quashes rumours of bank note withdrawal
  • Surakiart airs sorrow over deaths of 13
  • Thai couple arrested over deaths of 13 Myanmar nationals
  • Myanmar Releases 28 More Female Detainees
  • Norwegian Oil Fund Heavily Involved with Burma
  • Karenni battles against deforestation
  • 20 Private Banks Established in Myanmar
  • Myanmar authorities arrest relatives of former dictator Ne Win

  • Myanmar quashes rumours of bank note withdrawal

    The Dailystar

    AFP, Yangon :Myanmar's military junta Wednesday moved to quash rumours that it will introduce two high-denomination bank notes and withdraw all other currency in circulation.

    "As we have already declared before, we have no intention of demonetizing the present currency in circulation and there will be no 5,000 kyat nor 10,000 kyat notes issued," said deputy chief of military intelligence Major General Kyaw Win.

    Kyaw Win told reporters the rumours cropped up following the discovery and seizure of counterfeit 1,000 kyat notes in downtown Yangon recently. But he said there was no indication of a well-planned campaign to flood the market with fake banknotes.

    "These were isolated discoveries and we are just in the process of following the paper-trail," he said, adding no arrests have been made so far.

    The military government dealt with similar rumours last November, when it denied widespread speculation it was poised to withdraw the 500- and 1,000-kyat notes from circulation.

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    Surakiart airs sorrow over deaths of 13

    Achara Ashayagachat
    The Bangkokpost

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai expressed sadness and pledged co-operation yesterday during talks with Burmese Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win over the deaths earlier this week of 13 Burmese nationals in Prachin Buri province.

    Mr Khin Maung Win, currently visiting the country to attend meetings of the Joint Boundary Committee and a task force on the repatriation of migrant workers, said Rangoon was concerned by the case because of the high death toll. He expressed confidence in the government's ability to prevent a repeat of the incident.

    Mr Surakiart, who has been assigned to the case by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said the Foreign Ministry and the Thai Embassy in Rangoon would continue to provide information to the Burmese government on investigations into the Prachin Buri deaths, as well as the deaths of Burmese nationals in Tak two months ago.

    ``The prime minister has said any police officials found to be involved in the murders would be treated according to law,'' he said.

    Mr Khin Maung Win said he did not believe the incidents would affect bilateral efforts toward repatriating migrant workers.

    ``We are hopeful that a memorandum of understanding on the repatriation of migrant workers will be signed in the next few months,'' Mr Surakiart said, adding the two sides had also agreed on the demarcation of the border.

    Officials are scheduled to visit the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai in May to further discuss the demarcation of the border area, including the site of a new bridge that provides a link with Burma.

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    Thai couple arrested over deaths of 13 Myanmar nationals

    BANGKOK, March 7 (AFP) - Thai police Thursday said they had arrested a married couple over the deaths of 13 Myanmar nationals who suffocated while they were being smuggled into Thailand.

    Som Poonsombat and his wife Boonta were job brokers who doubled as the ringleaders of a human trafficking gang which brought illegal workers in from Myanmar, police said.The pair were charged with smuggling illegal workers, and negligence causing the death of the 13, aged between 12 and 25 years, whose bodies were found dumped in sacks by the roadside in eastern Prachin Buri province.Forensic experts said they suffocated to death during their arduous secret journey to Thailand.

    "They confessed that altogether they were 30 of them hidden in a pickup truck which was transporting roses to Bangkok," said deputy national police chief General Amnuay Phetsiri."But as they arrived in Bangkok they found 13 had died and then they dumped their bodies in Prachin Buri."

    In separate pre-dawn raids, Som was arrested in the western border province of Kampheangphet and Boonta was taken into custody in the nearby province of Phitsanulok.Police are tracing the 17 who survived the ordeal, and have mounted a close watch on all border checkpoints.

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    Myanmar Releases 28 More Female Detainees

    YANGON, March 7 (Xinhuanet) -- The Myanmar government Thursday released 28 more female detainees on humanitarian grounds, according to an official Information Sheet reaching here.All of the detainees, who are either pregnant or with young children and were incarcerated for various criminal activities, were freed from various "Correctional Facilities", the information sheet said.

    The release was another batch in a series since the government granted amnesty to criminal offenders by releasing 68 of them since February 22 this year and the number of such release on humanitarian grounds has been brought to 175.

    In February this year, United Nations Human Rights envoy to Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro visited the country for ten days, and three days after his trip, the Myanmar government started releasing criminal offenders on humanitarian grounds.

    Meanwhile, according to the information sheet, the government also released five more members of the opposition National League for Democracy on Thursday who are identified as U Tin Oo, U Pa Lay,U Maung Soe, U Maung Ponya and U Ohn Maung. So far, the total number of the freed NLD members and its activists since January 2001 has been brought to 232.

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    Norwegian Oil Fund Heavily Involved with Burma

    by Worldview Rights 2002-03-06
    source : Burmapeacecampaign

    The Norwegian Oil Fund presented its annual report for 2001 on March 6th, showing that Norwegian oil funds have been invested in corporations black listed by the international labor movement due to their relations with Burma. The Norwegian Oil Fund has invested in 65 corporations that are specified on the list that the ICFTU has made, showing all the international corporations with interests in Burma.

    The number of corporations that the oil fund invested in has increased since 2000. The annual report for 2000 shows that the oil fund has investments in approximately 20 per cent of the corporations that are black listed by the ICFTU because of their relations to Burma. The share increased to 26 per cent in 2001.

    The International Labour Organization has requested its members, among them Norway, to ensure that they do not contribute to sustaining the use of forced labour through their involvement with Burma. According to the ICFTU, it is impossible to trade or to participate in other economical activity with Burma without supporting the military junta directly or indirectly". Corporations such as Unocal, Total Fina Elf and Premier Oil have now been specified on the ICFTU list. These corporations, which are heavily involved with Burma, have frequently been requested to pull out of Burma by the country’s democratic movement fronted by Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Trine Johansen, Project Manager of Worldview Rights/PD Burma says in a statement that "It is unacceptable that Norwegian oil money are being invested in corporations that the international labour movement considers as accomplices to the use of forced labour in Burma".The guidelines of the Norwegian Oil Fund says that investments can be withdrawn, provided that the corporation is working in variance with the international law obligations that Norway has agreed to follow. The ILO conventions against the use of forced labour have been violated time and again by the military junta. If this does not have consequences for the Norwegian Oil Fund, the guidelines will lose their credibility.

    The Burma Support Group, The Norwegian Burma Committee and Worldview Rights demands that the Norwegian Oil Fund terminates its relations with corporations that are involved with Burma. This week it was clear that the Norwegian Smedvig Group previously this month entered a five-year contract with the UNOCAL company The company has been in the limelight for a long time, having cooperated closely with the military junta in Burma.

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    Karenni battles against deforestation

    Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com) March 8, 2002

    Based in Mae Hong Song, Thailand, the Karenni Evergreen (KEG) organization lies in the heart of the 23,000 strong Karenni refugee community, currently living in Thailand. The KEG is an environmental organization devoted to protecting and repairing the damage done to the Karenni forests, and promoting environmentally friendly lifestyles among the refugees and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP).

    Founded in 1996, the KEG has enjoyed widespread foreign support, and now has one foreign volunteer from Volunteer Services International who adds his expertise in the environment and aids in strategy, and planning.

    The main hurtle for the KEG has been making the Karenni people, as well as their leaders, aware of the necessity and benefits of protecting the environment. Not only does the KEG hold workshops, but also they have made learning about the environment a part of the curriculum in some of the schools in the refugee camps.

    Recently the KEG collected over 13,000 signatures to protest the proposed Salween River Dam project in the Shan State of Burma. They sent this petition to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the Japanese developers currently heading the project as part of a joint effort by NGOs from around the world to head off the building of a dam, which would support an oppressive military regime and destroy the environment.

    The KEG is currently active in replanting sections of the forest in the Karenni State, which has been devastated by more than 50 years of fighting in the area. An estimated 45% of the Karenni forests have been cut down to feed the SPDC’s growing dependency on natural resources. Much of the destruction occurred after the KNPP was forced to surrender much of their territory in 1997 following a breakdown in their cease fire agreement; this along with a severe drought in the Karenni State in 1998, led to widespread logging of the area.

    The KEG is fighting its own battle against the deforestation of the Karenni State by replanting large tracts of cut forest with the indigenous plants. This reforestation project helps the Karenni people by giving them jobs raising awareness of the harm of logging. The project also helps the opposition soldiers in the area by providing safe cover and convenient food provided by the fruit bearing trees also part of the reforestation project.

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    20 Private Banks Established in Myanmar

    YANGON, March 7 (Xinhuanet) -- A total of 20 private banks have been established across Myanmar since the country allowed the private sector to run banks again in 1992, nearly three decades after the nationalization of private banks in the early 1960s.

    Of the 20 private banks, the Asia Wealth Bank, Myanmar Mayflower Bank, Yoma Bank, Kanbawza Bank, First Private Bank and Myanma Oriental Bank are the leading ones. They now have a total of about 350 branches in operation throughout the country, according to the latest figures released by the country's Bankers'Association.

    Meanwhile, deposits at the 20 private banks in Myanmar have come to 331,316.83 million Kyats (about 946.61 million U.S. dollars) as of March 2001, up 135,181.53 million Kyats (about 386.23 million dollars) from a year ago.

    The figures also show that total loans extended by the 20 private banks to private entrepreneurs reached 109,298.71 million Kyats (312.28 million dollars) as of March 2000, up 50.91 percent from April 1999 when it registered 72,425.3 million Kyats ( 206.92 million dollars).

    All the private banks give 10 percent annual interest for deposits, 15 percent for the loans and 0.05 percent for the remittances fixed by the Central Bank of Myanmar.

    Private banks as well as foreign bank branches were allowed in the 1950s after Myanmar's independence until they were nationalized in 1964 in accordance with the then economic policy adopted by the then government.

    So far, there are also five state-owned banks including the Central Bank of Myanmar, Myanma Economic Bank, Myanma Foreign Trade Bank, Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank and Myanma Agricultural and Rural Development Bank.

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    Myanmar authorities arrest relatives of former dictator Ne Win

    YANGON (ASSOCIATED PRESS): March 8 — Myanmar authorities have arrested a son-in-law and two grandchildren of former dictator Ne Win and sealed off the family home in the capital, relatives said Friday.

    The reasons for the move against the family of the man who ruled this country for 26 years until his retirement in 1988 were not clear. There was no official announcement from Myanmar's military government.

    Ne Win's son-in-law Aye Zaw Win, a businessman, was arrested Thursday night while having dinner at a Chinese restaurant, said the family members, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Aye Zaw Win's two adult sons also were arrested.

    Access to the house they share with the 90-year-old former dictator and his daughter Sandar Win - Aye Zaw Win's wife - was blocked with street barricades early Friday morning, neighbors said. Plainclothes police officers stood near the gate of the house in northern Yangon.

    A family member said Sandar Win, a businesswoman, was under a restriction order amounting to house detention. Ne Win's status was not known. A third grandson also lives in the house. Telephone calls to the house went unanswered.

    Ne Win was at the forefront of Myanmar's struggle for independence from Britain, which was achieved in 1948, when the country was known as Burma. He seized power in a bloodless coup in 1962 and his subsequent authoritarian rule sullied his reputation as a national hero. The dictator retired in 1988, just before a popular uprising for democracy that was triggered by his quarter century of misrule.

    A 1990 election catapulted Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the late independence hero Gen. Aung San, to political prominence. But her victory at the polls was never recognized by the military. The military regime that succeeded Ne Win remains in power, while Nobel Peace prize winner Suu Kyi continues to lead the pro-democratic opposition. For the past year, the regime and Suu Kyi, who is under virtual house arrest, have held inconclusive closed-door talks to end the political deadlock.

    Since stepping down from power, the reclusive Ne Win is believed to have a great though waning influence on the current government. In March last year, he made a rare public appearance when he attended a religious ceremony at a Yangon hotel, where he offered a meal to 99 Buddhist monks. Video footage of the ceremony showed that he appeared healthy.

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