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BurmaNet News: November 30, 2000
- Subject: BurmaNet News: November 30, 2000
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000 02:38:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
________November 30, 2000 Issue # 1672_________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*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
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
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
"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".
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
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
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.
The Age (Australia): Advancing human rights, the Australian way
By ALEXANDER DOWNER
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
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
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
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
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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