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BurmaNet News: November 17, 2000
- Subject: BurmaNet News: November 17, 2000
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 07:40:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
________November 17, 2000 Issue # 1664__________
NOTED IN PASSING: ?Freedom's just another word for cutting a deal with
Business manager of the Pao National Organization, See The New York
Times: By Deals With Burmese Junta, Minorities Thrive
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Agence France Presse: Myanmar faces AIDS disaster unless junta admits
*The New York Times: By Deals With Burmese Junta, Minorities Thrive
*Asiaweek: Signs of the Times--a Sense of Propriety
*Agence France Presse: Myanmar expresses bitter disappointment over ILO
*AP: Myanmar To End Cooperation With ILO
*Bangkok Post: Getting on with the Neighbours: Main political rivals set
different policy courses
*Bangkok Post: Asean/EU Meeting: Europeans expected to show displeasure;
Burma remains a thorn in the side
*Agence France Presse: Euro MPs denounce planned resumption of dialogue
with Myanmar junta
*AP: Bangladesh alerts border guards along Myanmar frontier
*Asiaweek: Intelligence--A Well-Transited Paradise
*Reuters: Protest muted as Myanmar woos India for investment
The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Agence France Presse: Myanmar faces AIDS disaster unless junta admits
November 17, 2000, Friday
YANGON, Nov 16
Myanmar's AIDS crisis, fanned by cheap heroin and a booming sex trade,
will spin out of control unless the military regime swallows its pride
and admits it has a problem, health experts say.
The junta, still furious over a World Health Organisation report that
ranked its health services second last in a league of 192 nations,
insists infections are a fraction of those estimated by international
Myanmar's generals believe AIDS is being used as a tool to criticise the
regime, and regularly lament the fact that wide-ranging sanctions mean
they receive little help to fight the disease.
"There's a political background to discussion on AIDS," Deputy Health
Minister Mya Oo told AFP. "The data is spread by the reactionary
elements ... it is insulting."
The United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates 530,000 of
Myanmar's 48 million people are HIV positive.
But Mya Oo insisted the organisation's methodology was faulty and put
the number at 40,000, while still claiming "we want to face reality
about the figures."
Frank Smithuis of Medecins Sans Frontieres, who has spent six years
working on HIV-AIDS prevention in Myanmar, said he believes the real
number of sufferers could be anywhere between 200,000 and 1,000,000.
"It's hard to give good estimates but it is probably higher than has
been thought," he said. The number who have already died is even harder
"It's high and it's rising and nobody's doing anything about it ... I
think it's the worst AIDS situation in Asia because nothing is being
done," he said.
For now, the disease is largely confined to IV drug users, sex workers
and those living in the border towns and the two main cities of Yangon
But soon the wives and girlfriends of the soldiers, miners, truck
drivers and itinerant workers who have been exposed to the disease will
also become infected.
Tuberculosis, the number-two killer in Myanmar after malaria, is
expected to explode as full-blown AIDS sufferers full prey to
opportunistic infections, and overwhelm the rudimentary health care
And while neighbouring Cambodia and Thailand have received millions to
help fight the disease, few donors are willing to extend a hand to a
regime which is widely accused of gross human rights violations.
Meanwhile, the military government considers its main weapon in limiting
the spread of AIDS is the country's conservative social mores.
"Extramarital sex is rare here and for women our cultural value is
virginity," said Mya Oo. "There is no real sex industry but there is no
doubt there is some casual prostitution going on."
But in a country which ranks with Afghanistan as the world's top heroin
producer, and which borders five nations which all have major AIDS
problems, much more will have to be done.
"Burma has a very high rate of infection, especially in sex workers,"
said Chris Beyrer, director of the US-based Johns Hopkins AIDS Training
"Myanmar has one of the two worst HIV epidemics in Southeast Asia, along
with Cambodia, but at least Cambodia has been improving its response to
HIV," he said at a health conference in Bangkok this month.
"Of the countries in Southeast Asia, Burma is doing the least to address
HIV," he said, using the country's former name.
Opposition leader Aung San Kyi has appealed for greater openness in
discussing AIDS, saying the taboo on discussing topics related to sex
should be overcome.
"We cannot avoid discussions if we are to help those who are already
suffering from HIV, and to prevent the further spread of the disease,"
the Nobel peace laureate said in a statement earlier this year.
Medical experts say that while the government's preoccupation with
denying the extent of the problem has hampered efforts to fight the
disease, there has been an encouraging shift in attitude.
"I think there are positive signs. They are not comfortable about
talking about it publicly but I think they are doing what they can," a
UNAIDS official said.
Smithuis said he had seen a "big change" in the junta's willingness to
accept the situation over recent years.
"There is a trend, but it must go much much faster," he said. "They know
there is a problem but they don't want the rest of the world to know
"Everyone uses the AIDS problem as an insult, so the government becomes
even more sensitive."
Mya Oo said Myanmar had been "unfairly treated" in the debate over AIDS.
"We don't want accusations, we don't want finger pointing, but we will
do our best to fight the disease," he said.
"Positive, constructive criticism is welcome but negative comments made
for political reasons we don't accept."
The New York Times: By Deals With Burmese Junta, Minorities Thrive
November 17, 2000, Friday, Late Edition - Final
Section A; Page 3; Column 1; Foreign Desk
By BLAINE HARDEN
Freedom's just another word for cutting a deal with the generals.
That is what the business manager of the Pao National Organization
explained over a lunch of spicy chicken and avocado salad here in the
rebel outback of a country that is a perennial contender for the title
of world's most repressive state.
By agreeing to a cease-fire with the generals who run what used to be
called Burma, the Pao, an ethnic minority of about 400,000 people in a
country of 50 million, have won themselves civil rights and economic
opportunities all but unimaginable to most Burmese.
A look at the semi-good life in Pao land explains why, in the last
decade, at least 15 armed ethnic minorities in Myanmar have been willing
to end decades of bloodshed and do business with the generals.
"It is not a perfect arrangement," said the Pao business manager,
smoking a cigarette through a bamboo water pipe after lunch. "But it is
better than war."
The Pao are prospering primarily as hoteliers, garlic farmers and jade
miners. But other ethnic minorities -- the Wa and the Shan, in
particular -- have used cease-fires to expand their interests in the
heroin and amphetamine trades, according to the United States Drug
Enforcement Administration. They have also been encouraged by the
government to launder drug profits through the legitimate Burmese
For the generals, ceding "contingent sovereignty" to groups like the
Pao, Shan and Wa has been a win-win deal.
The agreements have, for the most part, ended a series of expensive
insurgent wars that had become a way of life in the mountainous fringes
of this country. Fighting continues against the Karen National Union,
but that group has only 2,000 to 3,000 fighters, a fraction of its
strength before the generals made deals with Karen subgroups.
Probably more important, cease-fires have freed the generals to focus
state resources on saving their own skins. Since killing hundreds of
pro-democracy marchers in 1988 and ignoring an election they lost in
1990, the generals have used an ever-expanding web of repression as the
key to their continued rule.
The long, strong arm of that repression is an agency called Military
Intelligence that locks up opposition leaders, spies on citizens and
forces potential troublemakers like students out of cities.
The general in charge of Military Intelligence is the one who came up
with the idea of making peace with the Pao and other rebel groups: Lt.
Gen. Khin Nyunt, who is often described as the brains behind the
government. In its Orwellian argot, he is called Secretary One.
Secretary One is widely feared by members of the Burman ethnic group.
They live in the lowlands and make up about 65 percent of the country's
population. But among the hill people, Secretary One is not considered
to be such a bad guy.
"He has a very sophisticated political mind, and he keeps his word,"
said the business manager of the Pao. Although he generally has good
relations with Secretary One, he is somewhat afraid of him. To protect
him, this article omits his name.
The business manager, though, was more than happy to explain how life is
better in a world where the generals are no longer your enemy. "The most
important benefit for our people is that they are no longer being forced
to work as slaves for Slorc's army," he said.
Slorc is an acronym for State Law and Order Restoration Council, a name
by which the junta was officially known until 1997. The generals then
changed the name of their government to the State Peace and Development
Council. But most Burmese continue to call the government Slorc.
Human rights groups and the State Department say forced labor has been
and remains a common practice here, with Slorc forcing thousands of
citizens to build roads and bridges and serve as coolies during military
Besides freedom from forced labor, the business manager said the
benefits of making peace with the generals include freedom to travel
abroad without paying bribes for passports, to import cars without
paying bribes for import licenses and to run businesses without
generals' extorting profits.
For most Burmese -- the tens of millions who have not been able to fight
the generals to a standoff -- all of these difficulties persist, along
with a fear of being jailed and tortured by Military Intelligence.
One freedom the business manager enjoys, but did not mention, is the
right to carry a gun. He hides an automatic pistol in his four-wheel
As it turns out, the right to keep and hide weapons has been a primary
guarantor of the cease-fire agreements that the Pao and most other
ethnic groups have made.
"We keep our weapons, and we don't tell them where they are or how many
we have," the Pao leader said. "If Slorc does not deliver on its
promises for schools, roads and health clinics, we have the option of
going back to war."
So far, he said, Slorc has mostly delivered.
What the generals buy with these expenditures, according to experts and
diplomats, is the ability to isolate their primary political threat, the
Burman majority, from their primary military threat, the well-armed
minorities in the hills.
The deals that the ethnic minorities have made with the generals appear
to have weakened the already weak hand of the country's primary
opposition group, whose leader is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the winner of
the Nobel Peace Prize. She is again under house arrest in the capital,
Yangon, as she has been for much of the last decade since her party, the
National League for Democracy, won an overwhelming victory in
For the Pao, as for many of the ethnic minorities here, Mrs. Aung San
Suu Kyi is not the saint-like, charismatic political figure that she is
for many Burmese and for human-rights champions around the world.
"We are neither for her or against her," the business manager said.
"What we are for is getting the best deal possible from the government
so that we can have a maximum amount of political and commercial
Among the ethnic groups that have profited from peace, the Pao National
Organization is probably the most successful in legitimate (that is,
The organization owns two popular tourist hotels on scenic Inle Lake.
With profits from the hotel, the Pao are investing in orchid farming and
manufacture of commercial-grade dyes, and they are soon to open a
tourist restaurant here in Kekku.
It was here at the restaurant, which offers a splendid view of ruins of
medieval pagodas and Buddhist shrines, that the business manager made an
international appeal for the commercial interests of the Pao.
"Tell people to come and visit us," he said. "The restaurant will be
open to the public by January."
Asiaweek: Signs of the Times--a Sense of Propriety
November 17, 2000
An attractive actress holding meat buns in a TV commercial was
considered too racy, so the ad was banned from Myanmar TV. The generals
also consider ballroom dancing a Western cultural pollutant -- the
editor of the Myanmar Times was reportedly advised to pull a story about
a dance studio and an ad for ballroom dancing from the paper.
Agence France Presse: Myanmar expresses bitter disappointment over ILO
November 17, 2000, Friday 11:17 AM, Eastern Time
YANGON, Nov 17
Myanmar expressed bitter disappointment on Friday over the ILO's
decision to invite its members to bring sanctions against the military
regime over the issue of forced labour.
A senior spokesman for the junta said that efforts to stamp out the
practice, and its willingness to cooperate with the International Labour
Organisation (ILO) monitoring team which visited Yangon twice this year,
had been ignored.
"The ILO decision to activate measures against Myanmar proves that the
ILO and the governing body in particular have already made up their
minds and don't want to be confused with any facts," he said.
"They have turned a blind eye on the efforts, positive developments,
sincere cooperation and the political will the Myanmar government has
taken to be in accordance with the ILO convention (on) forced labour."
The spokesman said "big and powerful nations" were using labour rights
as "a pretext to coerce, pressure and interfere in the domestic affairs"
of poorer countries.
The ILO had ordered Myanmar to comply with recommendations made by a
1998 committee of inquiry which found use of forced labour to be
"widespread and systematic."
Sanctions were recommended by the International Labour Conference in
June but put on hold until the end of this month to give the junta time
to adopt concrete action.
The ILO team, which made a six-day mission to the country last month,
found the government had made progress in changing its laws to end the
use of forced labour, but far less in putting legislative changes into
In the months preceding the ILO's decision, Myanmar's generals had
indicated they were extremely concerned about the action, which could
lead to further sanctions from its member states and organisations.
It now remains to be seen what action will be taken against the regime,
which is already labouring under wide-ranging international sanctions
that have helped cripple the economy.
Sources in Yangon said the junta was anxious to avoid trade union bans
that would see its agricultural exports turned away from ports around
the world, particularly on the eastern seaboard of India.
It is feared that any new trade bans would deal a mortal blow to the
economy, which critics say is saved from complete collapse only by the
thriving black market and profits from the drugs trade.
Sources close to the negotiations between ILO team leader Francis
Maupain and the government said the two sides developed a good working
relationship during the mission's visits.
Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win told AFP last week that Myanmar
was "hoping for the best but prepared for the worst" ahead of the ILO's
vote, but nevertheless the decision has come as a great disappointment.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) says nearly
one million people are currently subjected to forced labour in Myanmar.
The Brussels-based organisation said this week it had also examined more
than 400 labour requisition orders issued by members of the army and
several dozen witness statements since June.
ICFTU's general secretary Bill Jordan has welcomed the ILO's "firm
position" and said it "not only sends a strong signal to the generals in
Rangoon but is also a message of hope for Burmese democrats and for the
hundreds of thousands of victims of inhuman exploitation."
AP: Myanmar To End Cooperation With ILO
November 17, 2000
Myanmar said Friday it will stop cooperating with the International
Labor Organization on forced labor issues a response to the U.N. body's
decision to impose unprecedented sanctions on the country.
A Myanmar government statement warned that the decision by the ILO's
governing body would have a ''negative impact on the very people it
purports to protect and serve.''
Myanmar ''totally and categorically rejects the governing body
resolution,'' the government statement said.
''As such, Myanmar will cease to cooperate with the International Labor
Organization in relation to the ILO Convention 29 and any activity
connected with it,'' the statement said. Convention 29 deals with forced
and compulsory labor.
The statements raised fears that the Myanmar government would roll back
the few reforms it has attempted to end the widespread practice of
forced labor in the country.
In an informal vote Thursday, 52 of the ILO governing body's 56 members
agreed to go ahead with sanctions against Myanmar over its use of forced
labor. The sanctions will take effect Nov. 30.
Unlike U.N. Security Council sanctions, which spell out limits on trade
and other punishments, the ILO would leave it to individual governments,
employers and labor unions to determine what they will do. The ILO has
174 member nations.
The ILO ''decision sets a most dangerous precedence in which big powers
can use the pretext of labor rights and unfounded allegations to exert
pressure and interfere in the internal affairs of developing nations,''
the Myanmar government statement said.
In Geneva, ILO spokesman John Doohan said Myanmar's decision does not
change the situation much.
''The dealings with Myanmar have already been restricted to this
particular question of forced labor,'' he said. ''The desire of the ILO
is not to punish the people of Myanmar but to compel the government to
eliminate forced labor, consistent with commitments it has made to the
Myanmar's military government had long denied the existence of forced
labor here, claiming that civilians work voluntarily to promote the
development of the nation. In recent months it has accepted that there
have been cases of forced labor, and last month it amended its laws to
make forced labor a criminal offense punishable by one year in jail and
''The ILO and the governing body in particular have turned a blind eye
to the comprehensive framework of legislative, executive and
administrative measures put in place in Myanmar,'' the government
statement said. Despite the ILO decision, Myanmar will continue to
''implement these positive measures in the interest of the entire
people,'' the statement said.
Bangkok Post: Getting on with the Neighbours: Main political rivals set
different policy courses
November 17, 2000
The Chuan government won't be remembered for its innovation, except in
the area of foreign relations, where there has been a challenge to the
old order. Thai Rak Thai might take us all the way back.
Anuraj Manibhandu and Saritdet Marukatat
Thailand looks set to return to an old approach in its dealings with
Burma if the Thai Rak Thai party takes over the reins of the Foreign
Ministry after the coming election.
Surakiart Sathirathai, the man responsible for the party's foreign
affairs, believes in building "a network for dialogue" with Burma.
"Every ministry involved with Burma has to sit down to formulate a
policy on how to create trust and respect, and engage Burma
constructively," he said in a recent interview.
The Industry Ministry, for example, needs a policy to improve energy
co-operation with Burma. The Commerce Ministry should focus on how to
foster border trade, the Finance Ministry must concentrate on finance
for projects with Burma, and the Foreign Ministry needs to talk with
China about co-operation on drug problems with Rangoon.
"We have to build a network of dialogue through several channels," he
Mr Surakiart's view recalls a previous strategy, when military leaders
used personal contacts with the junta in Rangoon to solve problems
informally. The practice ended when Gen Chettha Thanajaro stepped down
as army commander-in-chief in 1998. Gen Surayud Chulanont, his
successor, has kept the top brass out of foreign affairs.
Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan maintains that the Foreign Ministry must
take charge in order that Thailand speaks with one voice.
"In the beginning there was a problem of co-ordination. In some areas,
there were problems of turf," he said in a recent interview. "But I
believe this is the right direction. The Foreign Ministry should set the
policy. Other agencies are instruments."Mr Surin also insisted on a
formal approach towards Burma. "We will have to base our activities on
bilateral agreements, international law and international practices," he
said after a day-long visit to Rangoon late last November, seven weeks
after Burma closed its waters to Thai fishermen in retaliation for the
storming of the Burmese embassy in Bangkok on Oct 1 by its own ethnic
"From now on, we hope our relations will be on a formal footing."Mr
Surin had held talks with Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the ruling
State Peace and Development Council, and Foreign Minister Win Aung. He
secured the re-opening of four border checkpoints. The Mae Sot-Myawaddy,
Mae Sai-Tachilek, Three Pagodas Pass, and Ranong-Kawthong checkpoints
re-opened on Nov 24, after meetings of the local townships.
Thai-Burmese relations have been "up and down" throughout his three-year
tenure, the minister admitted. They were "rosy" around the time of the
fifth Thai-Burma Joint Commission in Rangoon in August last year, after
which Burma agreed to release 53 Thai prisoners.
That sent a signal to Thailand that Rangoon was adapting to Thailand's
changing strategy because normally it was the army chief, not the
foreign minister, who secured the freedom of Thais from Burmese jails.
The storming of the Burmese embassy in October and the taking of
hostages by members of the dissident God's Army from a hospital in
Ratchaburi three months later soured these ties. But the minister said
they had picked up during the visit to Thailand in April of Gen Than
Shwe, prime minister, defence minister and head of the ruling SPDC, when
the two countries agreed to co-operate against drugs.
Thai-Burmese relations are expected to remain unstable until Burma can
solve its internal problems as the conflicts "at several levels" and
points are "overflowing" into Thailand in the form of refugees and
Relations were further complicated by differences in political systems.
"One country is wide open. The other is the most closed in Asean ," he
Mr Surin also attributed Thailand's problems with Laos to its internal
problems and the difference in political systems.
"No two democracies ever go to war," he said, pointing out that
relations have been smooth with Cambodia and Malaysia even though there
are questions of overlapping waters.
Flexible engagement, he maintained, had achieved "a certain level of
"With neighbours, we must have the right to suggest. This is not a
question of interfering. We are interdependent. We can't choose our
neighbours. The question is how to co-exist peacefully."No single
contentious issue should be allowed to harm every aspect of relations,
he said. "We have to learn to live among the differences.... A mature
foreign policy must be able to contain problems, not exacerbate them."Mr
Surakiart, finance minister in the Banharn Silpa-archa government in the
mid 1990s, emphasises the multi-dimensional nature of international
relations and believes in using successful co-operation to bolster other
"We have very good co-operation in energy, while that on human rights,
politics and labour in international forums is not very good," he said.
"We have to use warm ties to sweeten sour relations" instead of using
approaches which disrupt every area of co-operation.
"If I were in the cabinet, I would keep energy co-operation as one of
the closest ties in order to use it as a channel to talk with Rangoon in
"We have to start with sincerity and respect domestic problems Burma
has." Adopting a Western approach to democracy and human rights and
speaking through the foreign press will not help, he said.
Asean doesn't need to talk about "flexible engagement", Mr Surakiart
said. It has to adhere to the principle of non-intervention, but in
reality there has to be "constructive" intervention that does not
antagonise the member state in question.
"For Burma, we have to build trust, which was a key factor towards
Thailand's success in helping resolve conflicts in Cambodia," he said.
Mr Surakiart was an adviser in the late 1980s to the Chatichai
Choonhavan government that helped break the impasse on Cambodia by
engaging the Hun Sen government in Phnom Penh.
Three years after its launch, Mr Surin's "flexible engagement"
initiative continues to stir debate. Michael Leifer, the British
political scientist, said there was a "compelling logic" to the
minister's proposal, which was based on concern about domestic disorders
spilling over national boundaries.
But it was not compelling enough to convince other Asean member states
that they shared a common interest.
"There is not a working consensus on the issue, despite the paper
agreement on the troika last July," Mr Leifer said, referring to the
idea proposed by Thailand for an Asean troika made up of the immediate
past, present and future chairmen to act on issues of regional
"The debate that led on to the alternative euphemism of 'enhanced
interaction' has been sterile, primarily because Asean governments
joined the association to protect sovereignty and not to qualify it," he
"It would be interesting to test whether the government of the
Philippines, a supporter of flexible engagement, is as enthusiastic
since the Abu Sayyaf episode prompted the prospect of external
intervention."Surin Maisrikrod, a Thai political scientist teaching at
James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, maintained that Minister
Surin's initiative was a revolution "But other Asean leaders got it all
wrong in thinking that the minister was talking about meddling in
others' internal affairs," he said.
"Minister Surin was not talking about meddling in other people's
internal affairs. He was pointing to the reality of the globalised world
which has blurred the dividing line between domestic and international
matters, and that therefore Asean countries would have to be sensitive
to and adaptive to the new reality. Part of such adjustment would
include closer co-ordination in various policy areas."Conservatives in
Asean were "not very receptive to the proposal because they thought they
could no longer hide their authoritarianism and abuses of power behind
the non-interference principle", the academic said.
"This is something which is crucial to Asean's future credibility and
relevance as an international player. The minister was trying to salvage
Asean's credibility in light of the rapidly changing international
"Asean was founded primarily to prevent intramural conflicts. On that
score, Asean has been quite successful. But Asean has to move on; it has
to demonstrate that it has become more mature politically and
diplomatically."Involving the public in diplomacy would help to bolster
the flexible engagement concept, the academic Surin said.
"This means the inclusion of civil society groups in Asean diplomacy...
non-government organisations will have to be recognised as key players
in the international politics of Southeast Asia.
"This should be a stronger, more legitimate basis for further
development of the flexible engagement. This is not a linguistic
argument, but about the democratic essence being a foundation for future
"Flexible engagement really means we should be more flexible about our
rigid adherence to the principle of non-interference in each other's
internal affairs. And these internal affairs are no longer the affairs
of the privileged few or those who operate within the walls of defence
or foreign ministries or security officials."Foreign Minister Surin's
bid for more openness within Asean may need more time to produce
results. Burma continues to keep up its guard but showed with the
re-opening of the border with Thailand last November that it accepts
Bangkok Post: Asean/EU Meeting: Europeans expected to show displeasure;
Burma remains a thorn in the side
November 17, 2000
Thailand is concerned about the expected absence of key European
ministers for the first ministerial meeting of Asean and the European
Union since Burma's entry into Asean in 1997.
Sources said Britain, Denmark and France would not send foreign
ministers to the talks set to take place in Vientiane from Dec 11-12.
Britain and Denmark are among the EU member states' staunchest opponents
of the Burmese junta.
France holds the rotating presidency of the EU, but sources said the
expected absences could be linked to an EU conference in Nice from Dec
As well, a year-end EU summit and a Nato meeting may keep people away.
As Asean co-ordinator until July this year, Thailand had steered moves
to restore talks at the ministerial level between the two groupings,
whose last meeting was three years ago in Singapore. While Britain
remains unclear who will represent Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Denmark
is expected to be represented by an ambassador. French Foreign Minister
Hubert Vedrine is expected to be represented by Charles Josselin, who is
in charge of development co-operation with Asia.
Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan will attend. A senior ministry official
expressed concern about the possible non-shows. "Thailand is quite
concerned how other Asean partners will regard the absence of
equal-capacity representation," he said.
The Asean-EU ministerial meeting in Berlin in March last year was
The Asean side decided not to join after the Europeans, citing Rangoon's
poor human rights records, banned Burmese participation. But the blocs
resumed senior official-level talks in May last year.
Agence France Presse: Euro MPs denounce planned resumption of dialogue
with Myanmar junta
STRASBOURG, Nov 17
Members of the European Parliament on Thursday denounced EU plans to
resume dialogue with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),
whose 15 mamber states include the Myanmar regime.
Several British Euro MPs call for a meeting planned for December 11-12
to be delayed indefinitely.
It was naive to think that the talks are going to change this regime,
argued Labour Euro MP Neena Gill. All that such dialogue would achieve
is to lend legitimacy to the regime, she added, a view echoed by her
compatriot Glenys Kinnock, another member of British Prime Minister Tony
Blair's ruling party. She said the planned negotiations were a
EU ministers have not attended a ministerial meeting with ASEAN since
the 1997 admission of Myanmar, ruled by a military junta that refuses to
recognise a 1990 election victory by the country's democratic
A European Parliament resolution called for the EU-ASEAN talks to be
The points the Euro MPs want discussed are: Unconditional release of all
political prisoners and total freedom of movement for Myanmar opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Also the Euro MPs want the Myanmar junta to
engage in dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy
(NLD) and with ethnic minorities.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for almost two months since
the junta slapped restrictions on her after she attempted to board a
train to Mandalay in defiance of a travel ban.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) called on its members in
Geneva Thursday to review their ties with Myanmar because of the
country's use of forced labour, a spokesman for the ILO said.
The ILO's governing body rejected a last-minute attempt by Malaysia to
put off the sanctions against Myanmar which will take effect from
November 30, spokesman John Doohan said.
The move, adopted without a vote, is the first of its kind in the
Geneva-based ILO's history.
AP: Bangladesh alerts border guards along Myanmar frontier
Nov 17, 2000
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) _ Bangladesh has put its border guards on
alert Friday and warned villagers to keep away from frontier areas after
officials said Myanmar began deploying soldiers along their common
Myanmar began amassing troops and laying land mines on its side of the
border after Rohingya insurgents attacked a border outpost on Nov. 10,
according to Bangladesh border officials.
Myanmarese officials have said they reinforced their border guards _
but did not deploy the army _ to prevent further rebel attacks. They
denied they laid mines.
The Rohingya insurgents, who are mostly Muslims, are fighting for
independence in Myanmar's Arakan state, bordering Bangladesh.
After a 1991 crackdown, at least 250,000 Rohingyas crossed over to
Bangladesh, where nearly 180,000 still remain in refugee camps.
At a meeting of border officials Tuesday in the frontier town of
Teknaf, Myanmar officials said that the Rohingya rebels fled inside
Bangladesh after the Nov. 10 attack.
Bangladesh denied that.
A Bangladeshi border official on condition of anonymity told The
Associated Press that intelligence reports showed Myanmar was moving up
regular soldiers. He said international law prohibits moving regular
soldiers within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of a border.
On Wednesday, the Bangladesh Rifles, which is in charge of border
security, sent official notes protesting troop deployment and planting
of land mines to its Myanmar counterpart, known as NASAKA.
Bangladesh stepped up its border security after getting no response
from Myanmar by Thursday.
Bangladesh and Myanmar share a 270-kilometer (168-mile) border,
comprising areas of dense forests, hills and 63 kilometers (39 miles) of
Meanwhile, three woodcutters were reportedly killed this month after
stepping on land mines near the Myanmar border, police in the frontier
district of Ukhia said.
According to the International Land mine Monitoring Report 2000, 53
people have been killed and 125 maimed by land mines along the
Bangladesh-Myanmar border since 1993. The report is published in Geneva,
Switzerland by the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines.
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
Asiaweek: Intelligence--A Well-Transited Paradise
November 17, 2000
If you're a diver or a tourist seeking a relatively undeveloped tropical
paradise, the islands around the southern Philippines and eastern
Malaysia are pretty much out of bounds these days. The threat of
kidnapping remains just too daunting, no matter how great the effort by
authorities to provide security for vacationers. There are plenty of
alternatives, but an as-yet undeveloped area attracting Singapore
interested is the Mergui Islands, near Myanmar's southernmost tip.
(Singaporeans are among Myanmar's heaviest investors.) The islands --
there are more than 800 of them in the archipelago that runs north-south
along the Myanmar coast -- are near the Yadana offshore natural gas
fields that supply Thailand via a controversial pipeline. Despite the
industrial activity, the waters are relatively unaffected. That part of
the Andaman Sea has some of the world's best commercial fishing grounds.
One drawback -- the convoluted coastline is a thoroughfare for arms
being moved by secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to their
home bases in Sri Lanka. In the past, the Tigers have used much of the
coast from the mainland port of Mergui in Myanmar for about 500 km down
to Phuket in Thailand. Still, it's a beautiful spot to visit, even with
all that diverse boat traffic.
Reuters: Protest muted as Myanmar woos India for investment
By Kamil Zaheer
NEW DELHI, Nov 17 (Reuters) - India talked business and diplomacy with
military-ruled Myanmar on Friday, undeterred by minor protests over its
efforts to engage with a country buffeted by allegations of human rights
General Maung Aye, vice chairman of the State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC) and commander-in-chief of the army, told Indian business
leaders in New Delhi that Myanmar was now a attractive place for foreign
``We have changed our economic system to make it market-oriented and
have allowed privatisation of the state sector,'' Aye said.
``Our efforts since 1988 have resulted in 17 out of 18 armed groups
coming into the legal fold. We are a peaceful country and welcome
Aye, the most senior Myanmar government member to visit India since the
SPDC took power in 1998, earlier met India's interior minister and
discussed the question of separatist insurgents in states along the two
countries' 1,600-km (1,000-mile) border.
Relations cooled when India gave sanctuary to anti-government Myanmar
exiles after the military bloodily suppressed a 1988 uprising in Yangon.
But over the past decade New Delhi, driven by trade, investment,
security and geostrategic considerations -- including checking China's
influence on Myanmar's military regime -- has sought to put the
bilateral relationship on a firm footing.
Some 100 Myanmar dissident students protested against Aye's visit in
the Indian capital on Thursday, and some were briefly detained by
They plan further protests before the end of the week-long visit by Aye
and his high-powered government delegation.
``The keeness of the Indian government to become hand-in-glove with the
oppressive military junta in Burma (Myanmar) is damaging India's
democratic credentials,'' Kyaw Than, president of Delhi-based All Burma
Students League (ABSL), told Reuters.
Than and about 20 other Myanmar dissidents live on the premises of
Defence Minister George Fernandes' residence.
Indian government officials said the socialist minister, who has been a
supporter of Myanmar dissidents, was not scheduled to meet the visiting
Aye, speaking at a meeting organised by the Confederation of Indian
Industry, told his audience that Myanmar had received $7.3 billion in
foreign investment and its economy was growing at 7.5 percent.
Myanmar Commerce Minister Brigadier General Pyi Sone said India and his
country would open a second border trading point, in the northeastern
state of Mizoram.
Bilateral trade between India and Myanmar was around $216 million in
1999/2000 (April-March). Most trade goes via Singapore because there are
almost no shipping links between the countries.
The neighbours are also building a 165-km (100-mile) road connecting
India's national highway with Myanmar, opening the way for a boost to
trade and linking the subcontinent to Southeast Asia.
Press Trust of India reported that in a morning meeting with Home
Minister Lal Krishna Advani, Aye said Myanmar would destroy camps on its
side of the border of separatist insurgents from India's troubled
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