Daily News- November 25- 2002- Monday

  • Burma junta says aiming to cut opium production by half next year
  • Bangladesh draw with Burma U-23
  • Trying to get by without sincerity

  • Burma junta says aiming to cut opium production by half next year

    Rangoon, Nov 25 (AFP) - Burma's junta said Monday it planned to cut opium production by half next year, and rejected a forecast that a record one billion "speed" pills would be trafficked into Thailand in 2003.

    The United Nations says opium production in Burma, the world's biggest producer of the drug in 2001 when Afghan production slumped under a Taliban ban, had declined to 828 tonnes in 2002 from 1,097 tonnes in 2001.

    The military government's anti-narcotics spokesman Colonel Kyaw Thein said in an official information sheet that Burma aimed to reduce the opium crop by another 50 percent next year, down to about 400 tonnes.

    "We have achieved much progress by implementing a multi-pronged narcotics control program on our own with limited resources to eliminate opium production which is threatening the youth of today," he said.

    The junta also hit out Monday at the Thai army's comment that it was braced for the flood of methamphetamines manufactured in Burma laboratories to increase from about 700 million pills believed to have been trafficked in 2002. "It is not only regretful but perplexing to know how a responsible Thai institution can come up with amazing speculation on how much methamphetamine pills... came and will come across the border from Myanmar," a spokesman for the regime said in a statement.

    "If that institution is so effective and efficient in gathering intelligence ... why is it that Thailand managed only to catch a mere small fraction of the drugs sold inside the country," he added.

    However, Thai defence ministry spokesman Major General Palangkoon Klaharn defended the prediction of a dramatic increase in trafficking across the border, saying it was prepared in consultation with US anti-narcotics experts.

    "This is an estimate based on trafficking figures collected from this year, " he told AFP in Bangkok, adding that Thailand would continue to cooperate closely with Burma on drugs suppression activities.

    The border drugs trade, which Thai and US authorities say is masterminded by the Yangon-allied United Wa State Army (UWSA), is a perennial irritant to relations between Thailand and Burma.

    Both countries trade accusations that the other supports ethnic armies accused of involvement in the trafficking business.

    After decades of programs to eradicate opium production in the famed "Golden Triangle" region which takes in parts of Thailand and Burma, heroin production has fallen off, only to be replaced by methamphetamines.

    The cheap and highly addictive pills are responsible for a massive addiction problem in Thailand, where an estimated four percent of the population is estimated to be hooked on "yaa baa" or "crazy medicine".

    Burma has made strenuous efforts to prove that it is serious about eradicating drug production on its soil.

    The Washington Post reported Friday that US State Department officials were close to recommending Burma's removal from a list of major drugs producers, a move that would need to be reviewed by the White House.

    But US officials said no decisions had been taken yet on downgrading Burma's status, although the move was under review.

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    Bangladesh draw with Burma U-23

    Source : The Independent (Bangladesh)

    Bangladesh national football team's officials once again showed their ignorance about people's interest in the most popular game in the country.

    Bangladesh, now in Burma, drew their second and last friendly match with the local Under-23 side on Sunday.

    But neither team leader Shawkat Ali Khan Jahangir - a seasoned official - nor manager Saeed Hasan Kanan - a former national goalkeeper - could inform who scored Bangladesh's goal in Rangoon.

    According to a brief message received in Dhaka, Bangladesh forward Ujjal missed a certain chance to make the scoreline 2-0 three minutes from the final whistle.

    The message, signed by Kanan, added that a mistake by Bangladesh goalkeeper Aminul Islam one minute later aided the home side to equalise.

    The Burmese U-23 team beat Bangladesh by a solitary goal in the first match two days ago.

    Bangladesh footballers are expected to return home today.

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    Trying to get by without sincerity

    Source : Editorial
    Bangkok Post

    The military junta ruling Burma is stuck in a particularly cruel and vicious circle. We saw another example of this last week. The United Nations envoy stepped up diplomatic pressure on Rangoon to keep its promises to negotiate for democracy. The generals reached into a literally bottomless supply of political prisoners and released another 115 of these hapless people. This process has been going on for 11 years now. The regime is clearly never going to run out of such prisoners.

    The current military dictatorship seized control of Burma in 1988 in one of Asia's worst bloodbaths. After killing thousands of Burmese in August of 1988, the regime locked up thousands more. Since then, an unaccountable system has continued to jail peaceful opponents of the regime, and then release them to pacify sensitive but conventional diplomats. This process began in early 1992. After officially lifting martial law, the regime released 500 political prisoners.

    Because the Rangoon regime refuses to account for its activities to its citizens, no one knows how many prisoners the generals hold on strictly political charges. The world does know however that the junta lies about it and counts on the short memories of the diplomats charged by the United Nations with replacing its harsh regime. Rangoon said last week's promise to release 115 prisoners was the biggest ever. But in the 1992 release, 500 were supposedly set free.

    The size of such releases is one of many tactics the Rangoon dictators use to avoid discussing their responsibility to the world body _ to negotiate a regime change with democracy leaders. The UN has wisely refrained from setting any preconditions on what form of government Burma should have after the dictatorship. That is up to the Burmese. What a shame the generals refuse to allow them to choose.

    It is appalling in this year 2002 that Burma holds any political prisoners. Many of those still locked up are members of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. Their crime was to win election to parliament in 1990. That occurred in stunningly honest elections run by the generals in order to identify their political enemies, and to deal with them. But it is not difficult to go to jail for political reasons in Burma. Three weeks ago, law student Thet Naung Soe received a 14-year prison sentence for _ ironically? _ calling publicly and peacefully for the release of political prisoners.

    The promise last week to release 115 political prisoners represents little. It digs only casually into the vast store of people to release. By the lowest of estimates by the UN, Burma holds 1,200 to 1,500 such unfortunate people. Amnesty International believes there are 1,500 to 2,000. Ms Suu Kyi believes more than 2,000 are held, including many locked into their homes, as she was on three different occasions.

    The Burmese regime has many responsibilities it fails to meet. It has taken no discernible action to stop its drug trafficking Wa allies from soiling and eviscerating Thai youths and ethics. It cows its people rather than protect them, and fosters a huge, seething unrest that threatens major internal violence once again. Burma has most spectacularly, and most importantly, failed its promises and responsibility to be a civilised and responsible member of the world community.

    The United Nations has charged a special envoy and a human rights office with convincing Rangoon to negotiate a peaceful change of political system. Burma promised to participate and broke its promise. Rangoon's actions threaten regional and world instability. Last month, Europe promised to punish Asean economically if Burma refuses to negotiate with democratic forces next year. Thailand must join the world in putting forceful diplomatic pressure on Burma to act responsibly or pay the price of other recalcitrant, unsociable regimes.

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