Daily News- September 18- 2002- Wednesday

  • UN to probe Burma rape allegations
  • Myanmar soldiers burn villages, leave hundreds homeless: KNU rebels
  • Activists Laud Hess, Premier Exit From Myanmar Interests
  • Myanmar's electric power installed capacity reaches 1,149 mw
  • Burma offers 'full support' for search for World War II missing Americans

  • UN to probe Burma rape allegations

    From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

    United Nations officials say that the human rights rapporteur for Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, is to visit the north-eastern Shan state after allegations of systematic rape by the Burmese army.

    UN officials in Geneva say that the allegations by human rights groups that the army has systematically raped ethnic Shan women will be an important part of Mr Pinheiro's mission to Burma next month. The Burmese military government has dismissed the allegations as a tissue of lies.

    A BBC correspondent in the region says Mr Pinheiro is also likely to investigate the conditions in Burma's jails, alleged violence between Muslims and Buddhist monks last year, the military's use of child soldiers and the issue of political prisoners. It will be the fourth visit to Burma by the UN rapporteur since his appointment nearly three years ago.

    Myanmar soldiers burn villages, leave hundreds homeless: KNU rebels

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Sept 17 (AFP) - Nearly 300 Karen villagers have fled into Myanmar's southern jungles after government troops torched three villages in Pa-An province, the rebel Karen National Union (KNU) said Tuesday.

    The three villages, Mae Thamuhta, Wuntho and Kyelupu, were located in Karen State's Hlaing-Bawe district, according to a spokesman for the ethnic militia, Mahn Nyein Maung.The villages were burned down on Thursday after the troops accused the villagers of being involved in the KNU guerrilla network, he told AFP by telephone.

    "The soldiers usually take this kind of action when they suspect some of the Karen villagers are linked to the KNU, so they set fire to all the houses in the village," he said.The soldiers also arrested Mae Thamuhta village's headman Hpa Yukhe, Mahn Nyein Maung said.

    More than 60 families were left homeless, he said, adding that some of them were now living in the forest while others headed to refugee camps on the Thai border.

    A string of 17 camps in Thai territory shelter more than 120,000 ethnic Karen, Karenni and Mon refugees who have fled fighting and political persecution in Myanmar.

    The KNU is one of the few ethnic armies which continues to fight against Myanmar for autonomy. Most other rebel groups have signed ceasefire pacts with the Yangon junta.

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    Activists Laud Hess, Premier Exit From Myanmar Interests

    By Stephen Parker

    NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Human-rights activists heralded a decision this week by Amerada Hess Corp. (AHC) and Premier Oil PLC to shed business ties with an authoritarian regime in Southeast Asia.

    In a deal announced Monday, Amerada Hess agreed to exchange its 25% equity interest in U.K.-based Premier Oil, which is a partner with the military regime of Myanmar, formerly Burma, in the Yetagun natural gas project. In return, Hess will receive a portion of Premier's stake in an offshore Indonesian field.

    The agreement also transfers Premier's 26.67% stake in the Yetagun Project to Petronas International Corp., Malaysia's state oil company, Premier said in a statement.

    "Our primary reason for doing this was to obtain recognition for the value of our investment (in Premier)," said Amerada Hess Vice President Carl Tursi. "We never felt we had any interest in Burma, but we were happy to have that issue removed from the table. It was certainly a consideration."

    The Yetagun gas project in Myanmar includes an offshore production platform to tap the Yetagun field in the Andaman Sea, and a pipeline to carry gas through Myanmar to the Thai border.Amerada Hess Corp. has no direct operations in Myanmar, but had been criticized for maintaining an equity stake in Yetagun partner Premier Oil.

    Human-rights activists have opposed foreign investment in Myanmar for a decade because of human-rights abuses by that nation's military regime against its own people. What's more, activists have accused the military of using forced labor along the Yetagun pipeline route.U.S.-based activists, who had already pressed many other companies to abandon business interests in Myanmar, touted the Hess and Premier exit as a fresh victory.

    "Risk has been expanded for businesses in this day and age," said Heidi Quante, coordinator of the Burma Project in San Francisco. "If you're involved in something egregious, the rest of the world will find out about it, and it can come back and affect the bottom line."

    To raise awareness last year, activists gathered outside 14 Hess gasoline stations from Massachusetts to Florida, waving signs that read, "Honk for human rights" and, "Leave Burma now." They called on Amerada Hess to insist that Premier leave Myanmar.

    "Hess, Hess, what the Hess? Out of Burma! It's a mess," about 20 protesters shouted at a Hess station in New York City. "They rape the people, rape the earth. We know what your oil is worth!"

    The U.S. State Department, U.N. International Labor Organization and private human-rights groups have reported widespread abuses by the Myanmar military.The Myanmar regime, which calls itself the State Peace and Development Council, "continued to restrict severely freedom of speech, press, assembly and association," the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor said in a country report. The report didn't link any abuses directly to the natural gas operations.

    Myanmar's defense ministry denies allegations of human-rights abuses in a nine-volume treatise titled "The Truth," published on the Web at Myanmar.com.

    Buoyed by the announcements this week from Amerada Hess and Premier, Quante said the Burma Project will continue to press Unocal Corp. (UCL) to back out of a separate gas project in Myanmar.

    "It's really just time for Unocal to go," Quante said. Over 50 corporations have left Burma, and I think that speaks volumes. Our recommendation is to take the high road and get out of Burma."

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    Myanmar's electric power installed capacity reaches 1,149 mw

    YANGON, Sept. 18 (Xinhuanet) -- The installed generating capacity of electric power of Myanmar has reached a total of 1,149 megawatts (mw) now, according to figures released by the country's Ministry of Electric Power.

    Of the total, 588.300 mw were installed before the present government took power in 1988, while 560.900 mw were added in 14 years after the government assumed office.

    Of the electricity produced in the country, the majority were generated by natural gas power accounting for 698.7 mw or 60.79 percent, followed by hydropower which took up 390.572 mw or 33.98 percent and the rest went to steam power.The number of hydropower plants so far reached 42, while that of natural gas power 14 and steam three.

    The government has laid down a five-year plan (2001-02 to 2005-06) to build nine hydropower plants of 5,862.4 mw in total. It is estimated that by 2005-06 when all the targeted plants are completed, the country would have a total installed generatingcapacity of 8,981.672 mw.

    Myanmar is a country seriously running short of electricity. Even Yangon-based foreign embassies and organizations cannot receive normal power supply and have frequently to depend on theirown power generators to carry out normal functions. The electricity shortage problem of the country has much negative impact on its economic development and incoming foreign investment.

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    Burma offers 'full support' for search for World War II missing Americans

    Rangoon (AP)- - Burma's government has pledged "full support" for a pioneering U.S. mission to search for the remains of U.S. servicemen whose planes crashed in the Southeast Asian nation during World War II.

    Burma agreed for the first time to allow U.S searches on its territory during a visit last week by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs Jerry D. Jennings, a U.S. diplomat said Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

    "Myanmar authorities have pledged full support to permit the recovery mission to explore the sites believed to contain the wreckage of U.S. military planes," said the diplomat.

    The mission would seek to retrieve plane wreckage and the remains of missing servicemen from four sites where U.S. military aircraft are believed to have crashed during supply missions to China.

    The agreement was originally announced late Monday in Washington. Defense Department officials there said experts from the Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii technical talks would hold technical talks in Burma in November and visit the four crash sites early next year.

    Burma's relations with the United States are cool, because Washington disapproves of the military regime's poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

    The junta is keen to patch up relations by stressing the common cause it has with the United States in matters such as battling terrorism and the war against drugs.

    The U.S. Army lab has conducted similar searches at World War II crash sites in other Asian nations, including China. More extensive search and recovery operations are carried out in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to find servicemen missing from the Vietnam War era.

    About 600 aircraft went missing in India, Burma and China during World War ll Allied supply missions flying 800 kilometers (500 miles) over the Himalayas from India to China.

    About 600 servicemen and other persons involved in the supply missions are listed as missing in action, the U.S. diplomat said.

    In 1996, Burma handed over remains and wreckage from a U.S. C-47 aircraft which had crashed during the war in the rugged terrain of Kachin State.

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