Daily News- November 05 - 2002- Tuesday

  • Continuing failure to confront Burma
  • Thai PM demands report on Burmese deaths
  • ASEAN criticised for failure to criticise Burma
  • Myanmar junta says Red Cross team probing Shan rape claims
  • ASEAN countries' investment in Myanmar plunges to zero
  • Myanmar's gems production drops in first half of 2002
  • Koizumi presses Myanmar to democratise

  • Continuing failure to confront Burma

    The Bangkok Post

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra correctly took the problem of security to Phnom Penh for the Asean summit. Terrorists have attacked the region and taken root. But the biggest security threat to Thailand remains the huge influx of drugs, both into and through the country. Drug abuse and its twin problems of a ruined generation and massive corruption also threaten many of our neighbours.

    It is curious and irritating, then, to see Mr Thaksin proceed to Phnom Penh only to avoid any discussion on the biggest drug menace to Thailand. He went armed with maps of opium cultivation to present to his Burmese counterpart. His plan is to discuss the location of opium fields so Burma can act against them. Thailand will stand ready to help Rangoon if that country seriously wants to help farmers stop growing opium and sow other, more profitable cash crops.

    This is not a bad idea but it is spectacularly unimaginative and dangerously outdated. Mr Thaksin will not be the first to show accurate maps of opium cultivation to the Rangoon generals. Both the United Nations and the United States have been making such information available to Rangoon on a regular basis. Many satellite maps are freely available on the internet. To its credit, Rangoon has moved against many opium farmers in the past two years. In fact, a crackdown on opium farming actually has helped Rangoon achieve its racist programme to move the Shan out of the hills area of the north in order to move in settlers from the Wa minority.

    This brings up the real drug problem faced by Thailand, and Mr Thaksin's inexplicable failure to confront it. The Wa, specifically their Rangoon-friendly United Wa State Army, have become the biggest drug dealers in Asia. They deal in heroin, for certain. But the main product of their huge and profitable drug trafficking enterprise is methamphetamines.

    Speed kills, and the methamphetamine tablets produced by the Wa are extremely dangerous to Thailand. Thai officials know who produces the drugs, who sells it, who smuggles it into Thailand. Yet, for complicated if unacceptable reasons, the Thaksin government has completely reversed both its foreign and its drug policies.

    Neither Mr Thaksin nor any member of his cabinet has mentioned the existence of methamphetamines for more than six months. Last year, the prime minister sponsored and spoke at a large drugs seminar that correctly identified methamphetamine trafficking, once again, as the biggest threat to Thai security. This year's follow-up seminar was remarkable for its lack of any discussion on the subject. Army officers indiscreet enough to mention Burma- based drug trafficking of methamphetamines have been quickly and publicly replaced.

    This policy decision not to confront the Burmese generals over their drug- smuggling allies is curious given the lack of achievement. To many, the refusal to face Rangoon on the subject has gained nothing. Burma recently reopened some Thai border crossings but trade between Thai and Burmese companies remains banned. Nor has Rangoon restored any privileges removed during past confrontations.

    When Mr Thaksin swept to power in such a convincing manner last year, one of the top planks in his policy platform was a strong war on drugs. This made excellent sense because of the major threats posed to Thailand by drug traffickers. It is time for the prime minister to explain to the country why he has changed some say abandoned his vigorous campaign against smuggling and the sale of methamphetamines. The threat from heroin trafficking is serious but small when compared with speed tablets. The country would like to know why Mr Thaksin has backed off and is refusing to address the problem of methamphetamines.

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    Thai PM demands report on Burmese deaths

    Wassana Nanuam

    The Bangkokpost

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has ordered the army chief to explain a Rangoon protest over the killing of two Burmese nationals by Thai troops.A source said the prime minister had asked Gen Somdhat Attanand to report the incident in detail to him.Burma lodged a protest over the killings in Chiang Rai province last week.

    According to a Third Army report, a border patrol unit stopped three Burmese villagers for a search near the border in Mae Chan district on Oct 26 following a tip-off of a drug deal under way.

    However, the three opened fire, prompting the patrol unit to return fire. One of the gang members was killed while the other two fled to Burma. The border unit gave chase but ran into Burmese soldiers. The badly injured Burmese later died. The report said a pistol and 10,000 speed pills were seized from the first Burmese national who died.

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    ASEAN criticised for failure to criticise Burma

    ABC Online, Australia
    This is a transcript of PM broadcast at 1800 AEST on local radio.

    Heads of State from around the South East Asian region are having their annual summit in Cambodia today and for all the talking about terrorism and tourism, there is one subject that they dare not speak of; Burma.

    The pariah state's reclusive military leader General Than Shwe has shown up, but the touchy subject of reform in his country is not on the agenda.

    That fact has galvanized campaigners, who have launched a stinging attack on ASEAN for once again failing to challenge the conduct of wayward member states.

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    Myanmar junta says Red Cross team probing Shan rape claims

    YANGON, Nov 5 (AFP) - Myanmar's junta has made a new bid to clear itself of allegations that rape is being used as a weapon of war again ethnic Shan women by inviting the Red Cross to investigate the claims, an official said Tuesday.

    "Violence against women ... has never been a policy or practice of our government," government spokesman Colonel Hla Min said in a statement.

    Hla Min said that an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team left the Myanmar capital Yangon on November 2 to begin their study of the claims contained in a report by two Thailand-based Shan women's groups.

    The study released in May, which documented 625 sex attacks on Shan women and girls by Myanmar soldiers, drew international outrage and has been repeatedly rejected by the Yangon junta.

    The regime last month asked visiting UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to go to Shan state to examine the allegations but he declined, saying the brief trip would not enable him to investigate the charges adequately.Instead, he went to northern Thailand in late October after completing his two-week trip to Myanmar to speak to the reports' authors. He also left members of his team there to continue studying the issue.

    Hla Min said Pinheiro had suggested during his visit, where he met with top junta leaders as well as democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, that the ICRC investigate the rape allegations. "We will ensure the ICRC team has the resources and cooperation they need for a thorough investigation to allegations we know to be false," he said.

    The authors of the report said after their meeting with Pinheiro that the envoy told them the regime admitted to him that the attacks may have occurred.

    "Pinheiro told us that during talks with the Myanmar authorities, they replied that it may have occured, but they rejected that the rapes had been systematic," said Hseng Naung, spokeswoman for the Shan Women's Action Network.

    At a press conference in Bangkok, however, Pinheiro refused to comment on the discussions and said he would release the full findings of his mission in a speech to the UN General Assembly on November 6.

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    ASEAN countries' investment in Myanmar plunges to zero

    EastDay.com, China

    (Xinhuanet)-Investment in Myanmar from member states of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plunged to zero in the first half of 2002, the latest data of the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development showed.

    Such a sharp drop of investment from ASEAN, which used to be Myanmar's largest foreign investor, has never been experienced in the past, it was noted.

    According to official statistics, Myanmar attracted US$32.28 million of contracted foreign investment from ASEAN members in the first six months of last year, of which Thailand represented US$25.75 million, Singapore 3.53 million, Malaysia and Indonesia 1.5 million each.

    Besides the sharp drop of ASEAN investment in Myanmar during the first half of this year, the same happened with investment from other countries and regions with US$1.516 million coming from China's Hong Kong only.

    In sharp contrast, Singapore absorbed foreign direct investment(FDI) of 13 billion dollars in 2001, accounting for 65 percent of ASEAN's total FDI of 20 billion, while Myanmar attracted 58.97 million, representing a negligible 0.29 percent of ASEAN's total FDI during the year.

    The statistics also showed that during the five years since Myanmar joined the ASEAN in July 1997, Myanmar had brought about atotal of 1,169.5 million dollars' contracted foreign investment, of which ASEAN investment was 673.6 million, accounting for 57.59 percent of the total during the period.

    Since opening up to foreign investment in late 1988, Myanmar had absorbed a total of 7,399 million dollars of contracted foreign investment, of which ASEAN's took up 3,800 million or 51.35 percent.

    Major ASEAN investors in Myanmar were lined up as Singapore (1,507 million dollars), Thailand (1,289 million), Malaysia (595 million), taking up 20.36 percent, 17.42 percent and 8.04 percent of the total foreign investment, respectively.

    The sharp fall of ASEAN investment in Myanmar was inseparable from the negative impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Sept.11 terrorist incident, the slowing down of global economic growth and the unfavorable domestic investment environment.

    Meanwhile, on March 1 this year, the Myanmar government introduced a new measure, which restricted foreign investment by stopping issue of import and export permits to Myanmar-based foreign trading companies.

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    Myanmar's gems production drops in first half of 2002

    YANGON, Nov 5, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The production of Myanmar's precious gems including jade, sapphire and ruby, dropped in the first half of 2002 from the same period of last year, the latest figures of the state-run Myanma Gems Enterprise showed.Of the output by the government sector, that of jade fell 87.91 percent to 8.601 tons, sapphire 61.58 percent to 1.035 million carats and ruby 19 percent to 940,251 carats.

    Myanmar is rich in mineral resources with precious jade, sapphire and ruby well known in the world. It has three gem lands scattering in Mandalay division's Mogok, southern Shan state's Mongshu and Kachin state's Phakant.

    To develop its gem mining industry, Myanmar enacted the New Gemstone Law in September 1995, allowing national private entrepreneurs to mine, produce, transport and sell finished gemstone and manufactured jewelry at home and abroad.Since April 2000, the government has started mining of gems and jade in joint venture with 10 private companies on a profit- sharing basis.

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    Koizumi presses Myanmar to democratise

    PHNOM PENH, Nov 5 (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he pressed Myanmar military leader Senior General Than Shwe to pursue democracy when they met on the sidelines of the annual ASEAN summit here Tuesday.

    Koizumi said Than Shwe, the number one in Yangon, had told him that his country was continuing to pursue democracy and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was free to carry out political activities across the country.

    "Aung San Suu Kyi, he said, is free to engage in political activity in any part of the country... and she has been travelling to various parts of the country for her political activity," Koizumi reported.

    Koizumi said he told Than Shwe the international community was expecting Myanmar to continue with its democratisation process and nation building for Myanmar to be a success."And we count on further efforts," Koizumi said.

    The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has drawn leaders from 15 countries for a series of annual summits in Phnom Penh.Myanmar has been ruled by a military junta for more than 40 years and it refused to recognise an overwhelming victory by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1990 elections, instead confining her to house imprisonment.She was allowed to leave her house and resume political activities in May in what international observers hoped would be the start of Myanmar's return to democracy.However diplomats and observers have been disappointed by the lack of progress.

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