Daily News- November 04- 2002- Monday

  • Wa launder proceeds at gems auction
  • Myanmar gems fair attains record sales
  • Karenni rebel group holds peace talks with Burma's junta
  • EU extended its visa ban, assets freeze to Junta members for another six months
  • Burma's rubber export and cotton yarn production

  • Wa launder proceeds at gems auction

    The Bangkokpost

    UWSA buys back own lots worth about $3m

    The United Wa State Army reportedly used a gems auction held by the Burmese government in Rangoon last week to launder millions of baht in drug money.

    Wa traders bought gems from miners, which they then bid on at the auction, paying up to 10% more than the original cost to launder as much cash as possible, a source said.The highest Wa bid amounted to about 80 million baht.

    ``The Wa brought more than 500kg of gems worth at least US$1.5 million to the auction for the sake of money laundering, in addition to jade of around the same value,'' the source said.

    The junta and the UWSA signed an agreement in June 2001, under which the Wa were expected to cease production of drugs and switch to gem trading.

    Myanmar Gems Enterprise, under Burma's Ministry of Mines, holds gems auctions twice yearly. This year's event drew about 500 Thai investors, as well as businessmen from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. During the event, most Rangoon hotels were full, and all Thai Airways International flights between Bangkok and Rangoon were sold out.

    Myanmar gems fair attains record sales

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ Myanmar's semiannual government-backed gem sale, held last week, achieved record sales of more than US$30 million, state-run newspapers reported Sunday.

    Last week's midyear emporium was the first in which sales proceeds from gems and jade exceeded the floor price, which was set at a total US$25.41 million, said the New Light of Myanmar daily.

    Actual sales surpassed that by almost 21 percent to total US$30.71 million. The previous record was more than US$20 million set in March 2002.Nearly 600 gem buyers from 10 countries and 370 local gem merchants took part in the eight-day sale and exhibition.

    Myanmar, also known as Burma, produces some of the finest quality jade,rubies, sapphires and pearls in the world.The government has held gems emporiums annually since 1964, usually in February, but supplemented them with ``midyear'' sales in 1992 when the economy was liberalized and private dealers were allowed to participate.Private dealers now dominate the proceedings. The stones are certified by the government, which gets a 10 percent commission on sales.

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    Karenni rebel group holds peace talks with Burma's junta

    MAE SOT, Thailand (AP)- - A Burma ethnic rebel group has started preliminary peace talks with the military government, seven years after their cease-fire broke down, rebel officials said Monday.

    They said a 16-member delegation from the Karenni National Progressive Party, which operates along the Thai-Burmese border, left on Friday for the Karenni state capital Loi Kaw at the invitation of the Burmese junta.

    The government did not immediately comment on the talks.

    "We sent our delegation because we would like to know whether they want the real peace or not," said Karenni party Secretary-General Rimond Htoo in a telephone interview.

    Htoo said it was not known how long the talks will last, or who will represent the government.

    The Karenni party, which claims to have about 1,500 troops, has been fighting the government in a five-decade struggle for more autonomy. A cease-fire in March 1995 broke down three months later, after government troops reportedly entered Karenni party territory.

    Some 21,000 Karenni villagers, displaced by the fighting, still shelter in refugee camps in Thailand.

    Htoo said his party is entering the talks with nine demands, including that the government stop uprooting Karenni villages, stop using the villagers as porters in the battlefield and stop the killing and rape of Karenni people.

    The party also wants the junta to resolve the country's political stalemate with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won the 1990 general elections but was never allowed to take power.

    The Burmese regime has reached cease-fires with most of the country's several ethnic insurgent groups since it took power in 1988, but has not reached a political settlement with any of them.

    Loi Kaw is 885 kilometers (550 miles) northeast of the Burmese capital, Yangon, and 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the Thai border.

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    EU extended its visa ban, assets freeze to Junta members for another six months

    Source : Asian Tribune

    The Council adopted a Common Position amending its Common Position in order to take into account changes in the composition of the regime in Burma/Myanmar and extending it for another six months. The Common Position includes restrictive measures (visa ban, assets freeze) against a number of persons.

    The Council adopted the following conclusions:

    "The European Union has long urged the restoration of democracy, the pursuit of national reconciliation and the protection of human rights in Burma/Myanmar. The European Union continues to follow closely developments in the country and the Council expressed its strong support for the efforts of Sri Razali, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General.

    The EU has welcomed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in early May 2002. The EU has also noted the subsequent release of a number of political prisoners, and the relaxation of some constraints on political activities in the country.

    The Council is disappointed, however, that these promising first steps have not led to the start of a wider political process. The European Union noted with grave concern the reports of recent politically motivated detentions and arrests in Burma/Myanmar, including the detention of several students in August and, most recently, of 30 people in the last week of September.

    The European Union calls on the authorities of Burma/Myanmar to immediately cease the arrest and detention of people on political grounds. The Council believes that the political process can no longer be put off if the Burma/Myanmar authoritiesí stated ambition of national reconciliation, respect for human rights and transition to civilian rule is to be achieved. The lack of progress casts doubts on the sustainability of the current process and serve to increase the human costs suffered by the people of Burma/Myanmar.

    Therefore, the Council stressed the necessity for the Government of Burma/Myanmar to engage, without further delay, in substantial dialogue with the opposition, leading to a peaceful political transition and national reconciliation. Such a dialogue should ultimately include all relevant political players, including the ethnic nationalities and lead to the re-establishment of a genuine and legitimate democratic government in Burma/Myanmar, which could benefit from full international support.

    The Council expressed its serious concern about the continuing human rights violations in Burma/Myanmar and reiterated its full support for the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights, Paolo Sergio Pinheiro. The Council urged for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, with a special priority for the elderly and sick detainees. The Council also invited the authorities to pursue the co-operation with the ICRC with a view to improve the conditions in the countryís prisons. The Council reiterated its call for the lifting of all restrictions on freedom of association and expression, including the freedom of the media.

    The Council expressed its serious concern about the disproportionate sufferings of ethnic minorities, women and children, and internally displaced persons also in the non-cease fire areas, from the ongoing and systematic violations of the civil, political, social, and cultural rights, including the use of rape.

    The Council urged the authorities to permanently eradicate the practice of forced labour and encouraged the Government to actively work with the ILO Liaison Officer in this field.

    The Council also urged the authorities to take vigorous action to combat the production and trafficking of drugs.

    The Council expressed its grave concern about the humanitarian situation in Burma/Myanmar and urged the authorities to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the most vulnerable part of the population. In particular the Council underlined the need to address urgently in collaboration with all interested parties, including the NLD, the HIV/AIDS epidemic given the exponential pace, with which this disease is spreading in Burma/Myanmar. In this context, the Commission is in the final stage of preparation of its Euro 5 million programme to assist in combating HIV/AIDS in the country. If Burmese authorities appropriately facilitate the implementation of the programme, the Commission and EU Member States will consider granting further assistance to the Burmese population.

    The Council expressed its preoccupation with the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in the country, and the first indications of social unrest due primarily to a failure to meet the basic need of some populations groups. The Council encouraged the Burmese authorities to accept the invitation from the International Financial Institutions to initiate a substantive dialogue on macro economic reforms.

    The Council also encouraged the early accession by Burma/Myanmar to the eight UN anti-terrorist conventions to which it is not a party, as well as the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and the Palermo Convention on Transnational Organized Crime.

    The Council decided to extend the EUís Common Position on Burma/Myanmar for a further six months and to keep the evolution of the political situation in the country under close scrutiny. The Council is prepared to continue to react proportionately to developments in Burma/Myanmar, either positive or negative."

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    Burma's rubber export and cotton yarn production

    Source : Xinhua News Agency

    Rangoon, Nov. 4 -- Burma's raw rubber export increased by 117.2 percent to 18,900 tons in the first half of 2002 compared with the same period of last year, according to the latest figures of the state-run Myanma Agricultural Produce Trading.

    The export fetched 8.2 million US dollars during the period, up90.6 percent from the corresponding period of 2001.

    Meanwhile, during the six-month period, the country also increased import of rubber goods by 33.3 percent to a value of 21.97 million dollars.

    In 2001, Burma exported 18,400 tons of raw rubber, while importing 35.32 million dollars worth of rubber goods.

    Rubber is one of Burma's major industrial crops and also one of its major foreign exchange earners.

    The country has been making efforts to extend the cultivation area of rubber and such area has been expanded to four divisions and states from two with the area increasing to 182,250 hectares now from 81,000 hectares in 1994.

    Out of Burma's rubber plantations, 13 percent are owned by the state, while 87 percent by the private sector.

    Burma's cotton yarn production fell 36 percent to 1,937 tons in the first half of 2002 from the same period of last year, according to the latest figures released by the state-run Myanma Textile Industries (MTI).

    During the period, the country's cotton fabrics production alsodropped 24.41 percent to 8.534 million meters from the corresponding period of last year.

    In 2001, Burma produced 5,552 tons of cotton yarn and 21 million meters of cotton fabrics.

    The MTI's production is believed to meet only 13 percent and 9 percent of the nation's yarn and cloth demands, respectively.

    The demand for Burma's 52-million population is 1.7 kilogramsfor cotton yarn and 14.62 meters of cloth per capita per year, so the country needs 88,400 tons of cotton yarn and about 760 millionmeters of cloth.

    According to official statistics, in the fiscal year of 2001-02 which ended in March 2002, Burma grew 295,423.7 hectares of cotton.

    Meanwhile, Burma has designated a special cotton belt area across two divisions of Magway and Sagaing, in which 262,440 hectares of land will be put under cotton in order to supply enough cotton to the textile plants where production is underway.

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