[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
BurmaNet News: November 1, 2000
- Subject: BurmaNet News: November 1, 2000
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 02 Nov 2000 03:54:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
________November 1, 2000 Issue # 1653__________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AFP: Myanmar launches crackdown on Indian rebel camps
*Daily Express: How I sang though hell of Burma jail
*Japan Times: Tokyo Takes Tender Tack
*AP: Myanmar students dissidents vow to continue armed struggle
*Bangkok Post: Overcrowded camps worsen with baby boom
*Myanmar Times: Ministers discuss ?net in Hanoi
*The Times of India: Myanmar refugee claim opens can of worms
*Heritage Foundation: Burma Entry for 2001 Index of Economic Freedom
*The Korea Herald: Korea, Myanmar discuss economic cooperation
*Bangkok Post: Editorial - Drug traffickers exploit the weak
The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AFP: Myanmar launches crackdown on Indian rebel camps
GUWAHATI, India, Nov 1 (AFP) - The Myanmar army has launched a crackdown
on Indian separatist guerrillas holed up inside the country, rebel
leaders said Wednesday.
The outlawed National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) said one of
its training camps located inside Myanmar had been torched by government
The NSCN is fighting for an independent tribal homeland in India's
northeastern state of Nagaland, bordering Myanmar.
"Myanmarese troops have launched an offensive since October 15 against
us," Kitovi Zhimomi, the self-styled "prime minister" of the NSCN, told
AFP by telephone from his hideout somewhere in Nagaland.
"We have shown the utmost restraint and have not retaliated as the
Myanmarese troops would indulge in indiscriminate harassment of the
common Naga people living there if we do so," Zhimoni said.
Myanmar troops on October 25 shot dead five Indian frontier guards
along the border.
Myanmar later apologized, saying the troops had mistaken the guards for
Indian separatist guerrillas.
Zhimoni said thousands of Christian Naga people had fled across the
border into India last month, alleging persecution by the military
The Naga people, mostly from villages in the Sagaing district of
northern Myanmar, crossed into Nagaland's Mon district "as their houses
were set ablaze," the NSCN leader said.
"There has been large scale torture of the Nagas, forcing many of them
to desert their villages and take shelter either in the jungles or in
parts of Nagaland."
There are an estimated 20,000 Naga people in Myanmar.
Church leaders said the Naga Christians had been forced to close down
their churches, which had then been desecrated or used as kitchens by
the Myanmar army.
Daily Express: How I sang though hell of Burma jail
Oct 30, 2000.
BY DAVID SMITH
HUMAN rights activist James Mawdsley has told how he survived beatings
in a Burmese jail by reading the Bible and singing two songs - Lord of
the Dance and Singin' in the Rain.
Mr Mawdsley drew fortitude from his faith to endure brutal treatment and
415 days of solitary confinement in the hellish Keng Tung prison.
He also defused the situation and brought smiles to fellow inmates'
faces with his musical renditions.
Mr Mawdsley, 27, a Roman Catholic, is now home after being released
early from a 17-year jail term imposed to punish his pro-democracy
demonstrations against the Burmese military regime's slaughter of ethnic
"I read the Bible several times over and prayed almost continuously," he
told the Daily Express. "I'd read it at school years ago but in prison
it had a massive and wonderful effect. It is very relevant to today's
"It gave me strength because it made me realise the fight has been going
on for thousands of years. Jeremiah was imprisoned and, reading about
the hardships he and others like John the Baptist and St Paul went
through, I wanted to get stuck into the junta.
"Every evening the other prisoners had to line up and sing the junta's
anthem. I disrupted it by singing Lord of the Dance. I could see the
prisoners nearest me all had grins on their faces." Mr Mawdsley even
sang in the moments before his torture began. "They came to beat me the
first time because I was banging on my door in protest at being in
solitary. I realised I wouldn't want to get myself worked up when they
hit me as that would escalate the situation so I sang Singin' in the
Rain to stop myself reacting aggressively."
Then, and on the following two days, 15 men trooped into Mr Mawdsley's
toad, bat and rat-infested cell and some beat him savagely with 3ft
He recalled: "I prayed, saying I would do whatever was required but I
would be very grateful for a change. I was confident in God because He
has been helpful so many times.
"And the next morning a prison officer apologised, promising to take my
message to the authorities and that such incidents would never recur. He
even offered to punish those who had beaten me. I said: 'No, they are my
mates.' They were trustee prisoners who had been carrying out orders and
who wept in shame afterwards."
Mr Mawdsley, from Ormskirk, Lancashire, also gained solace from other
prisoners, British diplomats in Burma and his family, as well as
pressure groups the Jubilee Campaign and Christian Solidarity
Worldwide.But about the future he is uncertain. "I do know to get
arrested there again would be stupid. But Burma will stay with me until
it has democracy."
Xinhua: Motor Vehicles in Operation Increase in Myanmar
YANGON (Oct. 30) XINHUA - The number of motor vehicles in operation in
Myanmar totaled 434,315 at the end of June this year, an increase of
25,614 or 6.26 percent compared with a year ago.
Of the total registered motor vehicles, there were 173,081 passenger
cars, 54,576 trucks, 16,660 buses and 174,490 motor cycles, according to
the latest Economic Indicators published by the country's Central
The number of motor vehicles in Myanmar increased by 31,828 annually in
the last four years.
These motor vehicles used in Myanmar are mainly those manufactured in
Japan and most of them are second-hand or outdated ones.
To ensure smooth transport and traffic safety, the Myanmar transport
authorities have introduced harsher measures to punish drivers who break
the traffic rules.
Meanwhile, there are also unlicensed motor vehicles smuggled from the
country's border regions to inland areas reaching the capital of Yangon.
Measures are being taken against such vehicles.
Besides, the Myanmar authorities have banned use of cars imported under
the transit trade system to a third country since September 1997.
The authorities have also prohibited enterprises doing business in the
country from re-selling their motor vehicles imported with tax relief
and tax exemption beginning November 1998.
Japan Times: Tokyo Takes Tender Tack
Allies' disapproval prompts Japan to reconsider Myanmar panel meeting
By HISANE MASAKI
Japan's Myanmar policymakers are facing a dilemma of whether they should
honor their pledge and hold a second meeting of the Japan-Myanmar
Or delay it for a lack of progress.
With Myanmar politics showing no sign of breaking through a recent
logjam, the policymakers are having second thoughts about the planned
second meeting of the fledgling joint panel by the end of this year.
The panel, which consists of both senior government officials and
private-sector experts, was inaugurated earlier this year to help the
impoverished Southeast Asian country promote economic reforms.
When the panel members gathered in Yangon in June, they agreed to meet
again in Tokyo by the end of this year, although no specific date was
"Our plan to hold another meeting of the joint economic panel (at some
time) remains unchanged despite the current situation in Myanmar," a
senior Foreign Ministry official said, requesting anonymity. "We are not
discussing Japanese financial assistance at the panel. We are just
advising Myanmar on how to promote reforms of its economic structure.
"Therefore, (holding another panel meeting) is a matter that should be
thought about separately from political issues such as the lack of
democratization or violations of human rights."
But if the second panel meeting is actually held in Tokyo despite no
improvement in Myanmar politics, Japan may face a barrage of criticism
from the U.S. and Europe as well as human-rights activists both at home
and abroad. This is the prospect that worries Japan's Myanmar
While insisting that there is no change in Japan's basic policy, the
official acknowledged that the next meeting may be delayed until early
"We want to closely watch developments in Myanmar politics for a while
before deciding when -- and how -- the second panel meeting should
convene," the official said. "Even if the next panel meeting is actually
held by the end of this year, as currently planned, we may have to keep
a low profile."
The current showdown between the Myanmar military junta and prodemocracy
leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy erupted in early
September when Suu Kyi was forced to end a nine-day roadside protest
just outside Yangon.
The military regime now refers to itself as the State Peace and
Development Council, or SPDC.
The military regime forcibly returned the Nobel Peace Prize laureate to
her Yangon home and confined her there. Although Suu Kyi was released
from effective incarceration 13 days later, she was again placed under
effective house arrest following another failed attempt to travel
outside the capital.
Foreign diplomats in Yangon have not been allowed to visit Suu Kyi at
The military took power in a 1988 coup. It then nullified the results of
a 1990 election in which Suu Kyi's NLD won a landslide victory. Suu Kyi
was placed under house arrest for nearly six years until the summer of
Japan, the United States and many industrialized countries in Europe
claim that the military regime's current constraints on Suu Kyi are
virtually the same as her 1989-1995 house arrest.
But while calling for improvements in the protection of human rights and
democratic principles, Japan has taken a much softer approach toward
Myanmar's military rulers than have the U.S. and Europe. Japan has
argued for a "constructive engagement" approach toward the junta to
bring about favorable changes there, instead of ostracizing it
Although Japan has suspended large-scale economic aid for new projects
since the 1988 coup, largely out of fear of drawing flak from the U.S.
and Europe, it continues to funnel some financial aid to the military
Tokyo insists the aid -- a relatively small amount in comparison with
what it would likely provide under normal circumstances -- goes for for
"humanitarian" projects in health and other areas.
In stark contrast, the U.S. and Europe have toughened sanctions against
Myanmar during the past decade.
Neither approach appears to be paying any dividends, and the current
standoff between the SPDC and Suu Kyi's NLD now poses the biggest-ever
challenge to Japan's policy of "constructive engagement."
Japanese officials say they firmly believe that driving Myanmar further
into a corner through sanctions will only backfire.
"It will encourage Myanmar's military rulers to build a wall around
themselves and make them even tougher toward domestic opposition
forces," one government official said, asking that he not be named.
The U.S. and European nations disagree. In their New York meeting in
September, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, an ardent personal
admirer of Suu Kyi, implicitly urged her Japanese counterpart, Yohei
Kono, that Japan abandon its constructive engagement efforts with
Myanmar and follow the U.S. and European example.
The U.S. is even critical of Japan's launching of the joint economic
panel, claiming it will only spoil the SPDC by sending the wrong signal
-- one that says Japan condones the lack of progress on democratization
and the protection of human rights.
Even Japanese officials are not sure whether the Myanmar situation will
get better or worse.
"The current political stalemate is probably the result of a tug-of-war
that is taking place behind the scenes between hardline conservatives
and moderates within SPDC over how to deal with Suu Kyi and her NLD,"
one government source said. "Therefore, we cannot predict at all what
action the SPDC will take next."
The source added: "Japan has not attached -- and will not attach -- any
political condition for hosting the second meeting of the joint
Japan-Myanmar economic panel. But if the SPDC goes even further and
takes a drastic step like outlawing the NLD, then it will become almost
impossible to hold the meeting."
AP: Myanmar students dissidents vow to continue armed struggle
November 1, 2000
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Myanmar's leading group of exiled student
dissidents marked its 12th anniversary Wednesday, vowing to continue an
armed struggle against the military regime.
``The political problems in Burma will not be solved if the regime
remains inflexible and power-mad,'' said the All Burma Students'
Democratic Front in a statement issued in Bangkok.
``The ABSDF will have to continue its armed struggle as one of the
means necessary to fulfill the political needs of the movement,'' it
The group was formed by students who fled Myanmar, also known as Burma,
after a bloody crackdown on 1988 prodemocracy demonstrations against the
military, which has kept an iron grip on the country since 1962.
Thousands of protesters were killed and thousands more fled into exile
in neighboring Thailand. Some took up weapons, to fight alongside ethnic
insurgents seeking greater autonomy in Myanmar.
In 1997, the ABSDF said it would focus on peaceful political
activities, but squabbles within its ranks that led to some leading
members leaving the organization has seen another shift in policy.
The ABSDF says it has 1,300-1,500 members, including about 500 people
under arms inside Myanmar, fighting with ethnic armies along the border
The armed resistance to the regime has dwindled in recent years due to
increased military pressure from the Myanmar government, which has
reached cease-fires with most rebel groups over the past decade.
In its statement, the ABSDF demanded the regime release all political
prisoners in Myanmar and hold dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader
of the prodemocracy party that swept the 1990 general elections but was
not allowed to take power.
``No democratic system can grow under the dictatorship,'' the statement
``The military dictatorship must be abolished to allow democracy and
human rights to flourish in our country and to promote equality for all
the nationalities of Burma.''
Bangkok Post: Overcrowded camps worsen with baby boom
Nov 1, 2000.
Problems multiply as birth rate soars
The birth rate among Burmese refugees is four times the national
average, posing problems for already-jammed camps.
The Interior Ministry says average population growth at shelters inside
Thailand is about 4%, compared with a national rate of 1%.
The problem is most serious in camps at Tham Hin in Suan Phung district,
Ratchaburi, and Mae La in Tak's Tha Song Yang district.
Every month 20 babies were born at Tham Hin camp, said one official.
The figure is even higher at Mae La, which is the biggest camp with some
The Tham Hin camp houses more than 8,000 ethnic Karen fleeing fighting
between Karen armed groups and Burmese government forces inside Burma.
Thailand has about 101,000 Burmese refugees, mostly Karen, in border
camps in Mae Hong Son, Tak, Kanchanaburi, Ratchaburi and Chumphon, said
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Last month while visiting Tham Hin, UNHCR chief Sadako Ogata said the
camp lacked adequate space and sanitary conditions.
The government said it has no intention of expanding camps to alleviate
Officials have encouraged refugees to plan their families and use
condoms, with only limited success. Birth control is contrary to the
religious beliefs of many refugees. Forcing the issue would raise
concerns about human rights violations.
Health officials say a camp environment is not the best place to bring
up a child. Fungpit Boonliang, a doctor with Thai Red Cross, said babies
may encounter developmental problems. Their mothers were stressed, and
with many children competing for food they may suffer malnutrition.
"Maybe children look normal now but they could develop slowly or not
develop at all in years to come. That's what we're most worried about",
said Dr Fungpit.
Though HIV/Aids and narcotic addiction were still the biggest problems
among camp refugees, the high birth rate could not be overlooked, he
Myanmar Times: Ministers discuss ?net in Hanoi
October 23-29 ,2000
THE signing of a memorandum of understanding on a national communication
plan and pledges to stay united in the face of bad press formed the core
of discussions among ASEAN?s 10 information ministers in Hanoi last
week. The two-day meeting raised a series of issues for discussions,
including the development of an ASEAN website and the possibility of
staging the bloc?s regular forums on the internet. Myanmar?s Deputy
Minister for Information, Brig-Gen Aung Thein, represented Myanmar along
with aids including Lt-Col Tin Oo, a Senior Defence Ministry official
responsible for the country?s IT development program.
The meeting, which was held under the Chairmanship of Brunei, urged a
united front against negative media coverage. ?We?ve agreed on several
action plans to restore confidence back to ASEAN and put up a united
front to counter negative media reports,? Hussein Mohamed Yusof,
Brunei?s Culture Minister, told the meeting. At a press conference after
the meeting, the secretary general of the ASEAN Secretariat, Rodolofo
Serverino, defended ASEAN?s long-standing policy of non-interference in
the internal affairs of the member states, saying it was the basis of
the UN charter and the established protocol of international relations.
The Times of India: Myanmar refugee claim opens can of worms
Tuesday 31 October 2000
By Akshaya Mukul
NEW DELHI: Jafar Alam, a Rohingya refugee and political activist from
the Arakan region of Myanmar, who was languishing in Deoband jail since
1998, was released on Monday and later rearrested. Chances are that he
might be deported to Myanmar.
Meanwhile, the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC),
which has been fighting for granting refugee status to Jafar, wrote to
the National Human Rights Commission on Monday to intervene immediately
in this matter. On its part, the NHRC has sent SAHRDC's request to the
ministry of external affairs and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) for speedy action.
Alam, who entered India illegally at the end of 1997, was earlier a
member of the National Democratic Party for Human Rights. Once in India
Jafar went to meet his brother, Budiul Alam, a UNHCR refugee, in
Deoband. Since Jafar was travelling without papers, Budiul came to Delhi
to talk to UNHCR officials to grant him refugee status. In a sworn
affidavit, Budiul says that by the time he returned to Deoband, Jafar
was arrested by UP police under section 14 of the Foreigners Act for
illegal entry on January 29, 1998.
After his arrest, UNHCR officials interviewed Jafar twice in Deoband
jail. But Budiul alleges in his affidavit that when the first interview
was conducted by NL Rao on May 7, 1998, Jafar was not informed who he
was. Neither was he told that it was a determination interview.
Moreover, no interpreter was present during the interview, since Jafar
speaks only Arkanese and Burmese.
But on June 11, 1998, the UNHCR wrote to Jafar saying that he could not
be granted refugee status because he has not been able to show that he
or any member of his family suffered or could suffer treatment of such
gravity as to amount to refugee related persecution. However, Budiul
claims that Jafar was arrested by the military government in 1989 and
was released only in 1994. Again, in 1996, the military authorities had
taken him to the Indo- Myanmar border to do forced labour.
Not happy with the outcome of the first interview, Budiul appealed on
behalf of his brother. The second interview took place on September 25,
1998 and was conducted by Shambul Rizvi Khan of the UNHCR. Budiul, who
acted as the interpreter, says that Khan was satisfied with the
interview. But in October, when Budiul went to UNHCR, NL Rao allegedly
told him that there is little chance of Jafar getting refugee status as
there was pressure from the government to deny Muslims from Myanmar
However JM Castro-Magluff, deputy chief of the UNHCR in Delhi, denies
these allegations. Jafar, he says, was not suffering on the ground of
race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or
political opinion. Also, Castro-Magluff says there is no reason why
Jafar should get refugee status just because his brother is one. ``We do
prima-facie determination on an individual basis,'' he says.
On the allegation that the UNHCR is under pressure not to give refugee
status to Muslims, Castro-Magluff says that the fear is unfounded since
the maximum number of refugees in India are Muslims. He also denies
there is any pressure from the government on this issue. However, he
adds that Jafar's case can be reconsidered if some new element is added
by him in his request.
With time running out, however, it seems improbable that Jafar will be
accorded refugee status
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
Heritage Foundation: Burma Entry for 2001 Index of Economic Freedom
Oct 31, 2000
[BurmaNet adds...The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think
in Washington and is influential among Republican policy makers.]
Scores for Prior Years: 2001 4.20 2000 4.10 1999 4.10 1998 4.20 1997
4.30 1996 4.30 1995 N/A
Burma?s military junta suppresses pro-democracy forces, and its economic
policies have been equally repressive. Approvals for foreign direct
investment fell by 96 percent in 1999. The government focused instead on
improving agricultural output, largely by making more land productive.
Unfortunately, agricultural production barely keeps pace with population
growth. Inflation has averaged slightly below 30 percent for the past
decade and is expected to remain at this level as the government
continues to print money to fund its budget deficit. Massive spending on
agricultural subsidies and state procurement of rice has led to bad
debts that could soon result in a systemic banking crisis. The
government?s foreign investment regime has become more onerous. As a
result, Burma?s overall score is 0.10 point worse this year.
Score: 5?Stable (very high level of protectionism)
Burma?s average tariff rate is 50.7 percent (based on total taxes on
international trade as a percent of total imports). Non-tariff barriers
include licenses and import bans. The Economist Intelligence Unit
reports that new import restrictions were imposed in March 1998.
Specifically, "Only prescribed items may be imported; importers must
purchase essential imports before permission is given to import selected
non-essential items. The junta also banned private exports of key
Fiscal Burden of Government
Score?Income and Corporate Taxation: 2.5?Stable
(moderate tax rates)
Score?Government Expenditures: 1?Stable
(very low level of government expenditure)
Final Score: 2?Stable (low cost of government)
Burma?s top income tax rate is 40 percent; the average taxpayer is in
the 5 percent bracket. The top marginal corporate tax rate is 30
percent. In 1999, government expenditures equaled 11.8 percent of GDP.
Government Intervention in the Economy
Score: 3?Stable (moderate level)
Government expenditures equaled 11.8 percent of GDP in 1999. (Data on
government consumption are not available; therefore, data on government
expenditures were used as a proxy.) In 1997, Burma received 30.4 percent
of its total revenues from state-owned enterprises and from government
ownership of property.
Score: 5?Stable (very high level of inflation)
>From 1990 to 1999, Burma?s weighted average annual rate of inflation was
Capital Flows and Foreign Investment
Score: 5?Worse (very high barriers)
Government policies actively, if not officially, deter foreign
investment. Foreign direct investment approvals plummeted from a high of
$2.8 billion in 1996?1997 to only $29.5 million in 1998?1999. Foreign
investors face a massive bureaucracy and extensive government
corruption. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, "With no
improvement in sight either in terms of political compromise or economic
reform and recovery, Myanmar appears all set to remain on the back
burner for all but the most risk-averse investors." Foreign investors
also face popular opposition from those who believe that their presence
only solidifies the military regime?s grip on the country. In response
to this popular and official hostility, a number of foreign firms have
left the country. "Privately," continues the EIU, "foreign investors say
that activist efforts have not done nearly as much damage as have the
unpredictable, sometimes bizarre, policies of the junta itself.
Widespread corruption, heavy taxes, poor infrastructure, and policies
forcing foreign firms to repatriate profits only at the skewed official
exchange rate make it virtually impossible to turn a profit." As a
result, Burma?s capital flows and foreign investment score is 1 point
worse this year.
Banking and Finance
Score: 4?Stable (high level of restrictions)
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the government controls
the banking system almost completely. There is little competition, and
those private banks that did emerge during the 1990s are under fire from
the government as the economy shrinks. Foreign banks have been willing
to open only representative offices in Burma, and a number of these
offices have been closed during the past two years, both because of the
presence of the junta and as a result of the Asian financial crisis. The
government has enacted some reforms of the financial sector; the 1996
Insurance Business Law, for example, opened the government monopoly in
the insurance industry to private (including foreign) competition.
Wages and Prices
Score: 4?Stable (high level of intervention)
In many industries (such as public utilities and some agricultural
goods), the government has primary responsibility for setting wages and
prices. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, it also controls
prices through direct ownership of such industries as postal services,
telecommunications, utilities, and rice. Prices are becoming more
Score: 4?Stable (low level of protection)
According to the U.S. Department of State, "The judiciary is not
independent of the military junta?. Pervasive corruption further serves
to undermine the impartiality of the justice system?. Throughout the
year, the Government continued to rule by decree and was not bound by
any constitutional provisions providing fair public trials or any other
Score: 5?Stable (very high level)
According to the U.S. Department of State, "The concept of a
market-oriented economy, including reliance on market forces, has not
worked its way through the bureaucracy to eliminate burdensome
regulations and procedures?. Burma?s economy remains riddled with
uneconomic, inefficient policies which have hampered development."
Overall, reports the Economist Intelligence Unit, "Myanmar continues to
offer little incentive to investors, domestic or foreign, and the
business environment remains bureaucratic and cumbersome."
Score: 5?Stable (very high level of activity)
Burma?s black market, mainly in consumer goods and pirated intellectual
property from Western countries, continues to grow. Criminal activity of
all sorts, including drug trafficking and arms smuggling over the Thai
border, thrives in the black market and shows signs of increasing rather
than decreasing. Burma is the world?s biggest producer and supplier of
The Korea Herald: Korea, Myanmar discuss economic cooperation
Oct 31, 2000.
Shin Kook-hwan, minister of commerce, industry and energy, met with Pyi
Sone, Myanmar's minister of commerce, to discuss economic cooperation,
ministry officials said yesterday.
Minister Shin asked the Myanmar minister to help Pohang Iron & Steel Co.
(POSCO)'s company in the country secure import licenses smoothly.
POSCO's company in Myanmar imports raw steel directly from its
headquarters in Korea every month, but recently saw delays in obtaining
import licenses, officials said.
Shin also asked Pyi Sone for support for an oil exploration project
underway in Myanmar, a $55 million investment fully financed by Daewoo
In return, Minister Pyi Sone called on Korea to increase investments and
technological support for his country through seminars and job training.
Pyi Sone is in Korea at the invitation of the Foreign Affairs and Trade
Ministry. He leaves Seoul Thursday after taking part in a Myanmar
Bangkok Post: Editorial - Drug traffickers exploit the weak
Oct 31. 2000.
Congratulations are due to the anti-drug officers involved in last
week's huge haul of heroin in Fiji. They seized more than 300
kilogrammes of the drug, most of it bound for Australia where it had a
street value of around US$150 million. The shipment had been tracked by
authorities of four nations. It originated in Burma, and two ethnic
Chinese couriers were arrested when the drug payload was seized in Suva
The seizure itself is a success for the men and women who put their
lives on the line against international drug traffickers. Laboratory
testing appears to bear out the claim that the seizure is one of the
largest of the year. The arrests of the two men may yield other agents
and smuggling facts back up the drug line. Justice Minister Amanda
Vanstone said the Australian agents who have been stationed in Burma for
the past 10 months were vital to tracking and seizing the drugs.
But while the drug bust is a commendable accomplishment, it shows once
again the major, uphill struggle faced by civilised nations. The fame of
the Burmese heroin operation has been eclipsed by the methamphetamine
traffickers in recent months.
Reliable sources in the anti-narcotics police have said for more than a
year that Chinese triads have moved into the Burma-based operations.
Gang chiefs have moved some of their operations to Thailand to be close
to the action.
The triads now have become part of the heroin operation once controlled
more exclusively by Khun Sa. The heroin warlord is a welcome guest of
the Burmese government. They have made no move to investigate him,
arrest him, extradite him, or close down his opium and heroin
Much of the day to day heroin business inside Burma has been assumed by
the United Wa State Army, which also fully controls the methamphetamine
trade. For the past year, the Wa leaders have been moving their own
people into former Shan areas. They have begun cultivating the vast
opium fields of northern Burma, which yield more drugs per year than in
any other country but Afghanistan.
The Fiji seizure also demonstrates that the drugs trade, too, has become
globalised. Fiji has been a diplomatic basket case since a racist coup
overthrew the democratic government in May. The government is weak, the
nation is unstable and justice is arbitrary.
Drug traffickers saw an opportunity to exploit the weakness and moved
against Fiji. It was their bad luck that they had, in fact, alerted
Burma continues to acquiesce in a drug trade which threatens its
neighbours and troubles the world. The military junta's recent claims to
have a secret, 15-year plan to eliminate drugs in Burma are not
Also troubling are other weak links in the hoped-for chain of
international responsibility. Officials involved in Saturday's seizure
said it was clear that Fiji was used as a transit point because of the
weakness of its government and police.
Several world leaders have been outspoken in their opinions about Fiji.
Helen Clark, prime minister of New Zealand-Fiji's closest neighbour-has
refused to sit at the same dining table with the new head of the racist
New Zealand was one of the countries involved in the successful effort
of the 300kg heroin shipment, along with the US, Canada and Australia.
Other countries, including Thailand, are both willing and able to help.
It is clear that a major international effort is needed in order to
fight the traffickers. It is sobering to realise that on average, only
10% of smuggled drugs are intercepted.
Against the likes of Fiji and Burma, only better co-operation across
borders can make that record better.
The BurmaNet News is an Internet newspaper providing comprehensive
coverage of news and opinion on Burma (Myanmar) from around the world.
If you see something on Burma, you can bring it to our attention by
emailing it to strider@xxxxxxx
For a subscription to Burma's only free daily newspaper, write to:
You can also contact BurmaNet by phone or fax:
Voice mail or fax (US) +1(202) 318-1261
You will be prompted to press 1 for a voice message or 2 to send a fax.
If you do neither, a fax tone will begin automatically.
Fax (Japan) +81 (3) 4512-8143
T O P I C A The Email You Want. http://www.topica.com/t/16
Newsletters, Tips and Discussions on Your Favorite Topics