Daily News- September 04- 2002- Wednesday

  • Myanmar says relations with Thailand improving after border row
  • Myanmar gov't progresses in national reconciliation
  • Myanmar denies demonetization of some currency notes
  • Natural gas contributes much to Myanmar's economy
  • Flash flood kills 16 refugees
  • Myanmar postpones key ministerial meeting with Thailand
  • Junta denied rice distribution in Yangon is in short supply

  • Myanmar says relations with Thailand improving after border row

    YANGON, Sept 3 (AFP) - Myanmar's ruling military junta said Tuesday that its relations with historic adversary Thailand were on the mend, after a May border clash sparked a diplomatic row between the neighbours.

    "Bilateral relations will improve in the future, it will not do otherwise," deputy military intelligence chief Major General Kyaw Win told reporters here ahead of key talks between the two sides set for Friday.Foreign Minister Win Aung is due to travel to Thailand for the meeting aimed at ending the rancor and divisiveness that have marked bilateral ties over the past four months.

    Kyaw Win said that the talks would also address the re-opening of the common border, which has been sealed since Yangon slammed shut border crossings in the wake of the row.The spokesman admitted that bilateral ties have been at a "standstill" lately, but that Yangon was now "quite positive" about the future of relations with Thailand.He also dismissed criticism of the junta by dissident groups and Thai politicians as "insignificant".

    Relations between the two countries spiralled on May 20 when border clashes erupted between the Myanmar junta and ethnic Shan rebels, which Yangon accuses Thailand of assisting.The two countries exchanged official protest notes, and Myanmar barred official visits and sealed all the border checkpoints, crippling bilateral trade.But after returning from a fence-mending trip to Yangon last month Surakiart said relations had "normalized".

    Lawmakers and human rights groups criticised a crackdown on Myanmar activists in Thailand last month and said it was clearly part of the Thai government's efforts to secure Myanmar's agreement on reopening the border.

    Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi also protested the action, telling the Chiang Mai-based magazine Irrawaddy that "it is not appropriate to crack down on dissidents and pro-democracy supporters who do not break the laws."

    Meanwhile, a foreign ministry source confirmed that a European Union delegation would arrive in Yangon on September 8, describing it as a "routine visit" ahead of the United Nations General Assembly."The team is expected to be here for two days and will meet with top leaders as well as high officials of the foreign ministry,' the source told AFP, but declined to give specifics as their program "has not been finalised".

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    Myanmar gov't progresses in national reconciliation

    YANGON, Sept. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- A high-ranking Myanmar official Tuesday claimed that the government has made certain progress in the country's national reconciliation process.

    While meeting with the press, Major General Kyaw Win, vice chief of the Military Intelligence, said the talks between the government and the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) has produced some outcome. He cited the free movement of Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK), NLD general secretary, reopening of the party's several branch offices and observation of some government projects under UN aid by ASSK after her release on May 6.

    Since her release, ASSK has so far travelled out of the capitalof Yangon to Mandalay, the country's second largest city and Mon state's Mawlamyine and the number of NLD branch offices reopened has come to 36 in Yangon area.

    Meanwhile, the number of detained NLD members released after restriction on ASSK was lifted has also reached 55 and it is reported that there still remain 249 NLD members in detention by the government, including 17 parliament members elected in the 1990 general election.

    After ASSK's release, the NLD has pledged to work for the release of all political prisoners in the country as the first priority, pointing out that there is still no substantive progressin the national reconciliation process, calling for prompt tripartite dialogue among the government, the party and the ethnic minorities. Meanwhile, the international community including the United Nations is working to push forward Myanmar's national reconciliation process at a faster pace.

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    Myanmar denies demonetization of some currency notes

    YANGON, Sept. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- The Myanmar authorities Tuesday denied allegations that 200- and 500-kyat currency notes are goingto be demonetized and 5000-kyat note will be introduced for circulation.

    The denial was made at a press briefing here by government spokesman Colonel San Pwint, Deputy Head of Department of the Defense Ministry, who confirmed that the government will not take the aforesaid move. Such rumors came out of unfavorable economic situation in the country.

    Since independence in 1948, Myanmar has demonetized three timesits currency notes in the time of previous governments, the first on May 15, 1964, the second on Nov. 3, 1985 and the third on Sept.5, 1987.

    Recently, the value of the Myanmar currency kyat has plunged toas low as over 1,100 against the US dollar at the market rate, which is 174 times more than the official exchange rate. The official rate has remained at 6.5 kyats per dollar for the past many years.

    Myanmar Minister of Culture and Labor U Tin Winn clarified that the devaluation of the Myanmar kyat is due to various reasons, saying that such phenomena are normal and similar to many other countries in the world.

    Official statistics show that in the fiscal year of 2001-02 which ended in March, prices of rice went up by 431 percent, cooking oil 458 percent, pork 305 percent, milk 643 percent, chicken 230 percent and eggs 216 percent from 1997-98.

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    Natural gas contributes much to Myanmar's economy

    YANGON, Sept. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- Natural gas has contributed a lot to Myanmar's economy with its high export value and extensive use in electricity generation. The export earning through gas accounted for about 200 million US dollars or 11 percent of the country's total export value annually in the past four years, becoming a major dollar earner along with the nation's agricultural, forestry and fishery export goods.

    Myanmar produced 8,787.4 million cubic-meters of natural gas in the fiscal year 2001-02 ending last March, of which 6,713.4 million cubic-meters or 76.3 percent were exported to earn hard currency, while the rest were stored for domestic use including for electricity generation.

    The electricity yielded by natural gas represents 54 percent of the total produced in the country. In 2001-02, 3,072.69 million kilowatt-hours (kwh) were generated by gas out of a total of 5,671.78 million kwh yielded by the state's Myanma Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE).

    So far seven new oil and gas fields have been found at the country's inland blocks, while three discovered at its offshore areas.

    According to official statistics, Myanmar has a proven recoverable onshore natural gas reserve of 1.7 trillion cubic-feet(TCF) (48,110 million cubic-meters) and offshore gas reserve of 14TCF (396,200 million cubic-meters).

    Meanwhile, foreign investment in Myanmar's oil and gas sector has reached 2.563 billion dollars since late 1988. These investments include those under 34 contracts in exploring oil and gas at 47 inland blocks and 15 joint venture contracts with Myanmar in the same undertakings at 25 offshore blocks at Mottama,Tanintharyi and Rakhine coastal areas.

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    Flash flood kills 16 refugees

    The Bangkokpost

    Sixteen Karen refugees were killed, 20 others missing and 200 houses destroyed when a flash flood and landslide triggered by heavy rain hit their camp on the border in Mae Sariang district on Monday.

    Interior Minister Purachai Piumsombun, who inspected the flood-ravaged area yesterday, said all victims would get full government assistance regardless of their status or nationality.

    The provincial administration and the Third Army had already sent help and relief supplies to Camp 9, located on the border at Ban Tha Sala-Ban Mae Kong Kha, Mae Sariang district, which housed 15,574 Karen refugees from fighting in Burma between Burmese government troops and Karen National Union rebels since 1995.Several roads to the camp were made impassable by the flood, forcing rescuers to trek about five kilometres to get there.Help from 10 international organisations was reportedly on the way.

    Mr Purachai said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was very concerned about the refugees' plight and ordered all concerned to take good care of them.The interior minister said the refugee camp might have to be evacuated as more rains were expected this month.

    The Interior Ministry, the Forestry Department, the National Security Council and the provincial administration already had plans to move Camp 9 refugees to a shelter at Ban Mae La Ma Luang, Sob Moei district, in a bid to save the forest from further destruction.Camp 9 is located in the Salween national park and wildlife sanctuary. Some authorities held heavy illegal logging in the national park partly responsible for flash floods in the area.

    The Meteorological Department, meanwhile, said heavy rain would continue in the North, Northeast and the Central Region.The department warned people in Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Phetchabun, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok, Loei, Nong Khai, Udon Thani, Nong Bua Lamphu, Chaiyaphum, Khon Kaen and Lop Buri to stay alert for flash floods.The Chao Phraya river was rising in Nakhon Sawan and Chai Nat, but its level remained normal in Bangkok, the department said.

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    Myanmar postpones key ministerial meeting with Thailand

    BANGKOK, Sept 4 (AFP) - Myanmar has postponed a key ministerial meeting with Thailand that was intended to defuse a months-long border crisis, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Wednesday.

    Myanmar officials confirmed that Foreign Minister Win Aung, who was due to travel to Thailand on Friday for talks with his counterpart Surakiart Sathirathai, would instead attend international meetings abroad.

    "I have been informed by Foreign Minister Surakiart that Win Aung has asked for a postponement of the September 6 meeting as he will be engaged in visiting countries near South Africa," he told reporters."Thus he requested the meeting be postponed for two to three weeks."

    Win Aung is attending the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, and sources in Myanmar's military junta told AFP he would be heading to the UN General Assembly in New York prior to returning home.

    There was some confusion regarding Win Aung's schedule, with unnamed sources telling the Thai press that the minister would embark on missions to the Middle East and Europe before going to the UN session.

    Thaksin shrugged off the Myanmar postponement and reiterated Thailand's position in its troubled relations with its historic adversary."It's up to Myanmar," he said of the talks. "We have our own standpoint, so each party does what they think is correct. It was Myanmar's issue, so we are not distressed at all."

    On Tuesday Myanmar gave an upbeat review of bilateral ties, with deputy military intelligence chief Major General Kyaw Win saying the relationship was on the mend after a May border clash sparked a serious diplomatic row.

    Thaksin said Thailand would not attempt to pressure Myanmar to open the border during the foreign ministers' meeting."Negotiation with Myanmar is a separate issue from opening the border," Thaksin said. "If they want to re-open it they can reopen it. If they don't, they don't."

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    Junta denied rice distribution in Yangon is in short supply

    MIC :Press Conference - Yangon [ 3rd September, 2002 ]

    Rumours have been circulating that due to floods in Ayeyarwaddy Division, Bago Division, and along the banks of the Chindwin and Ayeyarwaddy rivers in Upper Myanmar, paddy supplies have been ruined; that rice supplies for Yangon have been greatly reduced and that the price of paddy in Ayeyarwaddy Division is now exorbitant. All these are rumours without any foundation.

    During the current rainy season there have been flooding of rivers in many countries of the world. Floods have also occurred in Myanmar, but in no part of Myanmar has stores of paddy been destroyed.

    Likewise, there has been absolutely no destruction of sown paddy lands. There is a regular supply of over 30,000 bags of rice arriving daily in Yangon and this is being distributed and sold. There are adequate supplies of rice for the population of Yangon.

    That paddy prices in Ayeyarwaddy Division are exorbitant is another rumour that is utterly baseless. Traders and cultivators still have large quantities of paddy in hand.

    So the news that floods have destroyed vast quantities of paddy and that Yangon is receiving only small supplies of rice are all rumours being circulated by fraudulent and dishonest traders and brokers who wish to hike up the price of rice.

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