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BurmaNet News: November 30, 2000

______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
        An on-line newspaper covering Burma 
________November 30, 2000   Issue # 1672_________

*Far Eastern Economic Review: Opium Bonanza For Burma
*AP: Myanmar could become major food exporter, says junta leader 
*Kyodo:  6 soldiers die in Karen-Myanmar clash 
*Xinhua: Myanmar Leader Warns of Widening Rich-Poor Gap in World
*Irrawaddy: Monks Used to Recruit Forced Labor
*Shan Herald Agency For News: Wa taking over junta offensive against 

*Irrawaddy: Rewriting History
*Myanmar Times: Speculation on aid money

*Norway Post: Norwegian firms continue controversial trade with Burma

*The Age (Australia): Advancing human rights, the Australian way
*The Myanmar Times: [Editorial on the ILO]

The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:

__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________

Far Eastern Economic Review: Opium Bonanza For Burma

Issue cover-dated December 7, 2000

Burma is set to enjoy a bumper opium crop after three years of 
relatively poor production. Cold weather and heavy rain in northern 
Burma seriously affected opium production and prompted many traffickers 
to turn to methamphetamines to make up for lost income. But 
Thailand-based narcotics intelligence officers say Burma's main 
drug-trafficking group, the United Wa State Army, has over the past year 
moved tens of thousands of poppy farmers south to areas nearer the 
border with Thailand, where weather conditions are better. They reckon 
there are now more than 3,000 hectares of new poppy fields in the areas 
where the farmers have been resettled, which means that Thailand can 
expect a new flood of heroin when the opium is harvested in January and 
February. The UWSA expects to harvest more opium than its own refineries 
can handle for conversion into heroin, and at a mid-September meeting in 
the border town of Tachilek, it promised to supply raw opium to heroin 
refineries operated by other traffickers in far northeast Burma's Kokang 
area, the narcotics agents say. Another problem for Thailand is that the 
UWSA and all the other groups at the Tachilek meeting have ceasefire 
agreements with the Burmese government and are recognized as special 
police forces. Moreover, the movement of people from the north to the 
south has been described as a "drug eradication effort" by the UWSA, the 
Burmese government and even the United Nations International Drug 
Control Programme's office in Rangoon.


AP: Myanmar could become major food exporter, says junta leader 

Nov. 30, 2000

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ Myanmar is self-sufficient in food and could 
become a major food exporting country in the future, the head of the 
country's military government has said. 

 In a speech reported Thursday in the state-run New Light of Myanmar 
newspaper, Senior Gen. Than Shwe said every effort is being made to 
develop the agricultural sector, which is the base of economy, employing 
63 percent of the country's labor force. 

 Than Shwe, prime minister as well as head of the ruling junta, spoke 
Wednesday at the opening ceremony of a course on ``Myanmar and 
International Studies'' attended by members of the Union Solidarity and 
Development Association.
 The USDA, established in Sept. 1993, has more than 15 million members 
and serves as a de facto government political party. 

 Than Shwe said the military government had built 144 new dams since 
taking power in 1988, a feat it often mentions when pointing out its 
progress in promoting development. 

 ``Most of the large-scale infrastructure projects under implementation 
in the agriculture sector are about to be completed in not many years, 
and thus, Myanmar will become one of the major food-exporting countries 
in future,'' said Than Shwe. 

 According to government statistics, Myanmar exported 59,700 metric tons 
of rice in the 1999-2000 fiscal year, down from 120,400 metric tons the 
previous fiscal year.
 Visiting Thai Deputy Commerce Minister Paitoon Kaewtong told reporters 
Thursday that rice production in Myanmar _ also known as Burma _ could 
be increased with the building of more irrigation dams and expansion of 
rice-growing areas. He was attending the opening ceremony of the third 
Thai trade exhibition in Yangon. 

 Paitoon said that during his meeting with Myanmar Commerce Minister 
Brig. Pyi Sone Wednesday, he proposed that Myanmar sign an agreement 
with major rice-exporting countries such as Thailand and Vietnam so that 
``there won't be price-cutting.'' He did not give his counterpart's 
reaction to the proposal.
 Thailand is the world's biggest rice exporter, followed by Vietnam. 

 In January this year, Gen. Maung Aye, the second-ranking member of the 
junta, said that arrangements are underway to increase rice production 
by putting 18 million acres (7.2 million hectares) under cultivation 
compared with the current 14 million acres (5.6 million hectares) and 
raising the per acre (hectare) yield. 

 ``Expansion of paddy cultivation will not only ensure self-sufficiency 
even when the population reaches the 100 million mark but could also 
(allow for) exporting the surplus,'' he said. Myanmar's current 
population is 42 million.

Kyodo:  6 soldiers die in Karen-Myanmar clash 

November 29, 2000, Wednesday 

BANGKOK, Nov. 29 Kyodo 

Six soldiers belonging to an insurgency group died Wednesday in a 
gunbattle with Myanmar government troops, according to sources at a Thai 
border town. 

The 15-minute clash reportedly occurred at Paloo Noi Camp across from 
the Thai village of Mae Goangane in the Mae Sot district, some 500 
kilometers northwest of Bangkok. 

The dead soldiers were members of a Buddhist group of ethnic Karen, 
according to the sources who were contacted at the town of Mae Sot. 

The group splintered from the more mainstream Karen National Union 
(KNU), which has been dominated by Christians since 1995, the sources 

In a related incident, a 7-year-old boy was injured by shrapnel from a 
mortar round that crossed into Thai territory during fighting in an area 
north of Mae Sot. 

The KNU is the largest group representing an ethnic minority in Myanmar. 
It first took up arms in 1949 to demand autonomy from the military 


Xinhua: Myanmar Leader Warns of Widening Rich-Poor Gap in World 

YANGON, November 30 

November 30, 2000 

The world is witnessing a widening gap between the poor and the rich 
with developing countries bearing the brunt of the impact and some 
losing their national wealth owing to heavy debts, Myanmar leader Than 
Shwe has warned. 

Speaking at the opening here on Wednesday of a training course on 
Myanmar and international studies, Than Shwe, chairman of the Myanmar 
State Peace and Development Council, also said that since industrial 
capitalism came into existence, the problem of environmental 
degeneration has affected all parts of the world, official newspaper The 
New Light of Myanmar reported Thursday. 

"As these problems caused a decline in capability, there have appeared 
political interference, economic pressure and manipulation," he noted. 

Although it is a developing country, Myanmar does not have a heavy load 
of debt compared with some countries facing heavy burdens of debts, he 
said, adding that Myanmar can be seen as an independent nation with no 
strings attached. 

"Despite facing external pressure and interference common to some 
developing countries, Myanmar has been able to safeguard its own stand, 
maintaining friendly relations on the basis of the Five Principles of 
Peaceful Coexistence," he stressed. 

He insisted that Myanmar is free from environmental degeneration 
suffered by most parts of the world, keeping its own environment intact 
with a proper and reliable scheme. 

On the government's achievements made since coming to power in 1988, he 
said domestic peace has been achieved with 17 anti-government ethnic 
armed groups and the government was able to stop the economic decline 
and successfully implemented a four-year national plan (1992-93 to 
1995-96), thus maintaining the country's economic growth. 


Irrawaddy: Monks Used to Recruit Forced Labor

October 2000 issue

As the UN?s International Labor Organization continues its review of the 
forced labor situation inside Burma, the ruling State Peace and 
Development Council (SPDC) appears to be experimenting with new means of 
recruiting unpaid labor for infrastructure projects. 

According to reliable sources, military authorities in Karen State have 
been turning to local Buddhist abbots to recruit villagers for 
road-building and other construction projects. The sources added that 
sizeable donations were being offered to the senior monks in exchange 
for their cooperation.

In one recent case, authorities made an offering of one million kyat 
(US$ 2,400) to the abbot of a monastery in the village of Mae La Ma, 
Kawkareit Township, following a request for his assistance in recruiting 
laborers for a 24-km long road being built about 32 km from the 
Thai-Burma border. According to one villager from the area, however, 
local people complained after the abbot called on them to work on the 
road. "People from Mae La Ma and the five neighboring villages were very 
upset about being called on by the abbot to do road construction at the 
expense of their daily work," he said.

Although the SPDC has often claimed that workers "donate" their labor on 
construction sites as an act of religious merit making, it is unusual 
for the military regime to actually seek the cooperation of abbots in 
carrying out such projects. This latest development may be part of a 
move to lend more credence to its claims that villagers are volunteering 
their labor. So far, however, the results have been disappointing for 
the regime: resistance from villagers, as well as security concerns, 
have delayed construction on the Mae La Ma road, which Karen rebels 
claim is being built for military purposes


Shan Herald Agency For News: Wa taking over junta offensive against 

Nov. 28, 2000

An insider source reported S.H.A.N. today that the first wave troops 
from  the United Wa State Army have arrived in the area once known as 
the Free  Territory of Shan State.

The source told S.H.A.N. news reports about Light Infantry Divisions to  
take over the offensive against Yawdserk's Shan State Army were just red 
 herrings. "This is the real thing", he said. "The first wave of the 5  
battalions from Wei Xiaokang's 171st Division are arriving in the  
Mongtaw-Monghta area (west of Mongton-Poongpakhem road), and 7 more are  
still waiting for movement orders".

He said he did not know whether the local Burmese units would be 
withdrawn,  but only that the Wa have been given a free hand. Col. Win 
Kyi, until  lately the area military operations commander (MOC), has 
been dismissed  after a series of counter attacks by the SSA followed 
the Burmese assault  on Loilam (Doidam in Thai) opposite Wianghaeng 
District, Chiangmai  Province, on 5-6 November. Another officer, Lt-Col. 
Chit Hla, commander of  LIB 225 (Mongton), due to rotate back to 
Mongton, was instead ordered to  launch a search-and-destroy operation 
as punishment. His replacement,  Lt-Col. Aye Kyaw, commander, IB 43 
(Mongpiang), has already arrived in Pang  Maisoong HQ a week ago.

(A 5,000 baht compensation for 2 assault rifles lost to the SSA on 17  
November was imposed on the villagers, reported Saeng Khao Haeng.) 
The source, highly reliable so far, said: "The Wa shall be waging a  
three-month long '4-cuts' campaign in the area east fo the Maekun (a  
Salween tributary further west) just like the Burmese have been doing in 
 Central and Southern Shan State. There will be no quarter for anybody  
suspected of connection with the SSA. Already more than 20-suspects from 
 Nakawngmu, Huey Aw and Poonpakhem have been arrested by the Wa." 
The reason for the Wa presence, he said, was Rangoon knew too well to 
what  extent it would cause international outrage if the junta forces 
themselves  were to involve in the operation "So they are handing over 
to the Wa to do  the dirty job".

The only silver lining in the cloud, he said, is that 6-SSA men captured 
by  the Wa in September are still alive and well-fed in Mongyawn. "It is 
a  signal to Yawdserk that they're still open to initiative for 
negotiations  from him".

___________________ REGIONAL/INTERNATIONAL___________________

Irrawaddy: Rewriting History

October 2000 issue

The wife of former dictator Ne Win was in Tokyo recently to conduct 
research for a project to "rewrite modern Burmese history," according to 
a report from Radio Free Asia?s Burmese-language service. Ni Ni Myint, 
who is also the director of the Historical Research Center in Rangoon, 
was accompanied by several other historians on her trip to meet Japanese 
experts on Burmese history. This was her second visit to Japan in two 

Other Burmese scholars have greeted news of Ni Ni Myint?s new project 
with skepticism. "My concern is that whenever they do research, Ni Ni 
Myint and other historians (inside Burma) always approach those who are 
likeminded," remarked Prof Min Nyo, a Burmese historian based in Japan. 
He added that the group would be working according to a pre-conceived 
plan that was not likely to challenge the official version of recent 
historical events.

Ni Ni Myint?s reputation as a scholar has suffered as a result of her 
marriage to Ne Win, whose dictatorial rule shaped much of Burma?s 
post-independence history. In a recent interview with Hong Kong-based 
Asiaweek magazine, however, she angrily denied that her work would be a 
whitewash of Ne Win?s political legacy, which reduced Burma to one of 
the world?s most impoverished nations. "It will be balanced and 
objective," she insisted. 

Ni Ni Myint is not the first woman associated with a major historical 
figure to look to Japan for clues about Burma?s past. Aung San Suu Kyi, 
who for the past twelve years has also been attempting to rewrite 
Burmese history, was a visiting scholar at Kyoto University in 1985-6, 
where she researched the role of her father, Gen Aung San, in Burma?s 
independence struggle against British colonial rule.



Myanmar Times: Speculation on aid money   

Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2000
AN article in a Bangkok-based publication, Irrawaddy Magazine, has 
fuelled speculation that the Japanese Government will consider the 
resumption of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to Myanmar. The 
online publication has reported that a researcher commissioned by the 
Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), who arrived in Yangon 
this month, was part of preparations for the resumption of ODA at the 
first sign of dialogue between the State Peace and Development Council 
and the National League for Democracy. In the absence of negotiations 
commencing within two years, ODA could be resumed regardless, it said. 
But JICA?s Yangon representative, Toshimichi Aoki, has denied the 
claims. Mr Aoki told Myanmar Times that two teams from the agency?s 
Japanese headquarters had been in town, but said their visit was 
concerned with ongoing education and economic structural adjustment 

_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________

Norway Post: Norwegian firms continue controversial trade with Burma

29. November 2000 
Norwegian firms continue controversial trade with Burma - The government 
plans no boycott 

Norwegian firms continue to trade with Burma, despite an appeal by 
Norwegian authorities to boycott the regime. 

Norway has so far this year imported among other things, lumber and 
furniture worth NOK 9 million, more than twice the value of last year's 

In a letter to the Government, the National Congress of Labour Unions 
(LO) has asked that Norway introduce a legally binding economic boycott 
of Burma.

However, Development Minister Ann Kristin Sydnes says that the 
Government will not impose an economic boycott of the Burma military 
regime. She is of the opinion that a unilateral boycott by Norway would 
have no effect.

Former prime minister Kjell Mangne Bondevik, of the Christian Peoples' 
Party, who has engaged himself in Burmas's fight for democracy, says he 
is disappointed over the Norwegian trade with the country.


Rolleiv Solholm 


The Age (Australia): Advancing human rights, the Australian way    

Wednesday 29 November 2000

Australia has a distinctive approach to human rights. This approach is 
pragmatic but also rooted in a commitment to liberal democratic ideals. 
This blend of the practical and the idealistic reflects the character of 

Australians care about human rights because they believe strongly in a 
fair go and take particular exception to abuses of power. They also 
prefer to cut through the rhetoric and do something useful.

There is a tendency in some circles in the developed world to see human 
rights as the soft underbelly of foreign policy, something that can be 
dispensed with when hard strategic decisions have to be made. And in 
some developing countries, human rights are still seen as the soft 
underbelly of domestic policies: the luxury that is added on when more 
important things like the economy have been attended to. Both these 
perceptions are misguided.

Every year we see examples of governments getting into trouble when they 
have ignored human rights. They realise too late that if the 
institutions are not there to protect human rights, the rest will prove 
to have been built on sand. 

It is no surprise that countries that try to uphold human rights do not, 
on the whole, pose a threat to international peace. Suppression of human 
rights is almost always the source and the consequence of serious civil 
and international conflicts. So human rights are central to the 
maintenance of a peaceful world and our nation's security. 

Effectiveness is the litmus test for everything this government does in 
the field of human rights.

On the multilateral front, we want the human rights machinery to 
function effectively, because the principles it is supposed to advance 
are too important for it to do otherwise. The government's review of the 
UN treaty body system this year had its origins in our sense that the 
system was not only drowning under its own weight, but had moved too far 
away from its original vision. 

Clearly we are not turning our backs on the United Nations. The recent 
election of Australia's Professor Ivan Shearer to the Human Rights 
Committee demonstrated our commitment and UN members' recognition of 
that commitment.

We acknowledge that the array of UN human rights standards, the 
international institutions and emerging body of international law have 
contributed to the emergence of a remarkable new human rights culture in 
international affairs.

The would-be Pol Pots and Ceaucescus are now on notice. The Pinochets 
and Milosevics of the future, still in their prams, are going to grow up 
in an international environment that will give them pause. They should 
note the lesson from recent history that those who hold on to power by 
denying their people the right to participate in government, or by sheer 
terror, will have their day of reckoning. 

The International Criminal Court will make an enormous contribution to 
shaping this environment and I take pride in Australia's role in its 
birth. Moreover, the government has worked hard to encourage the 
establishment of national human rights institutions, including through 
funding for the Secretariat of the Asia Pacific Forum for National Human 
Rights Institutions.

On the bilateral front, we have developed many practical programs of 
human rights assistance in partnership with other governments. The 
government spent more than $72million last financial year on civil 
society and human rights activities in the overseas aid budget.

In Indonesia, three provincial workshops on the international human 
rights system are being conducted for a total of 450 officials, 
parliamentarians, police officers and media. We have provided practical 
support for the Indonesian human rights commission, Komnas Ham.

Our bilateral human rights dialogue with China provides a framework for 
a range of activities called the Human Rights Technical Cooperation 
Program, now running at about $1million annually. It has a strong 
emphasis on legal reform, without which a better human rights situation 
will remain simply an ideal.

In Burma, we have run three workshops for 51 mid-level officials, 
covering international law and human rights treaties. I would be the 
last to inflate the prospects of turning around the very poor situation 
in Burma, but we had reached the stage when other approaches did not 
seem to be having the slightest effect.

The Burmese are under no illusion that Australia is content only to have 
conducted the workshops and hear that Burma is setting up a national 
human rights institution. They know they will have to follow through 
with concrete action if Australia is to take our initiative forward. 
After 10 years of disappointment, the world is not disposed to give 
Burma the benefit of the doubt. 

The argument that, because there are still political prisoners in China, 
or because Aung San Suu Kyi is still under de facto house arrest in 
Burma, the dialogue or the workshops have failed, has surprising 
currency. Alas, the world does not work like that. It is simply not in 
our gift to work transformations in other countries, to command that 
their military or police stop committing human rights abuses. Australian 
jurisdiction stops at our borders and other nations guard their 
sovereignty very zealously. 

I have a clear bottom line on human rights policy: to ask whether the 
alternative would be or was any better. 

Until I have evidence that confrontation, isolation and unalloyed 
criticism work more effectively than dialogue, education and other 
assistance programs, I am happy to have a distinctive approach to human 

Alexander Downer is the federal Minister for Foreign Affairs.


The Myanmar Times: [Editorial on the ILO]

[BurmaNet adds?This untitled editorial appears in the news section of 
the online edition of The Myanmar Times.  The Myanmar Times is nominally 
privately owned but tends to reflect the regime?s views.]

Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2000

THIS journal, Myanmar?s first with joint foreign and local ownership, 
has long been seriously concerned by the consistently negative 
international reportage of events that occur in this nation of 47 
million people. That concern has been intensified by the decision of the 
International Labor Organisation to apply punitive measures against 
Myanmar. Like many local and regional observers, Myanmar Times finds the 
decision lamentable.It is concerned, specifically, that the decision was 
informed less by a rational reaction to fact than by the entrenched 
perspective of a global political hegemony. 

The measures taken by the military government to conform to the 
provisions of the ILO?s Convention 29 on forced labour have been 
implemented only recently, but they surely are a move in the right 
direction. It is regrettable that the ILO?s Governing Body could not 
have allowed time for those measures to take effect before casting its 
judgement. Indeed, the ILO?s cry of ?too little, too late? has 
highlighted its lack of understanding of political process in this 
region, and Myanmar in particular.It is significant that most Asian 
nations did not back the ILO decision, and that China, India and 
Indonesia were prepared to actively support Myanmar. It is notable that 
those three countries alone constitute more than one third of the 
world?s population.

We cannot help but conclude that what lies behind this development is 
political chicanery. It is clear the intention of some western nations 
is simply to make life as difficult as possible for the present Myanmar 
administration until it shows greater progress to a western-defined 
democratic ideal. Myanmar Times believes this is an inappropriate, and 
ultimately unworkable strategy.The ILO?s decision cannot be good for its 
future work. It will now be an organisation clearly divided along 
east-west political lines following an unusually acrimonious debate in 
Geneva, and its credibility will be impaired.

This paper feels the Myanmar administration was right to reject the 
ILO?s decision. Many countries arguably have warranted, and continue to 
warrant, the ILO?s critical attention and yet no penalty such as that 
imposed on Myanmar has previously been exercised in the organisation?s 
81-year history. It may now be in the best interests of Myanmar to seek 
to have the issue revisited at the ILO?s next full session in June 2001. 
Myanmar must now rely upon the reason and sense of ILO member nations to 
not turn this paper decision into practical action that could damage 
Myanmar?s economic development. Its leaders, and its business sector, 
should be lobbying the international community to ensure that such a 
scenario does not eventuate.


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