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BurmaNet News: May 20, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
May 20, 2001 Issue # 1808
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
NOTED IN PASSING: 'I can say for certain that whoever has any intention
of intruding directly into Wa territory or violating Myanmar (Burma)
soil will find us fighting side-by-side.
Brigadier-General Kyaw Win, Burma's deputy military intelligence chief
vowing to defend the drug trafficking UWSA and implicitly noting the
difference between ?Wa territory? and ?Burmese soil.? See Bangkok Post:
INSIDE BURMA _______
*The Straits Times (Singapore) Myanmar allows domestic Intranet access
*Irrawaddy: Curfews Declared after Riots Erupt in Two Cities
*MSNBC online: Tourists face tough times is Myanmar
*Shan Herald Agency for News: Kyat falls again to an all-time low
*Mizzima: Burma: Financial crisis and foreign assistance
*Bangkok Post: Rangoon to Honolulu? No problem
*Xinhua: Myanmar Able to Face World Economic Changes: Leader
*Chicago Tribune: U.S., China take sides in border skirmish
*Bangkok Post: Dangerous escalations
*AP: China PM Pledges To Help In Golden Triangle War On Drugs
*Bangkok Post: Former policeman held with 1.1 million amphetamine pills
*Burma Courier: Junta Planning Minister Escapes Arrest in Brussels
*Bangkok Post: Illegal logging and drugs worry border people most
*Shan Herald Agency for News Thai Superstar meets Shan leader
*The Times (London): 'Travelers Should Boycott Burma'
*Bangkok Post: Hitting Criminals in the Pocketbooks
*The New light of Myanmar (SPDC): The attitude of ILO
*Xinhua: Yunnan Beats Myanmar in Volleyball Friendly
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
The Straits Times (Singapore) Myanmar allows domestic Intranet access
May 20, 2001.
YANGON - Myanmar's deprived Internet users - 2,000 government-approved
people who have been limited to using e-mail and barred from the World
Wide Web - came a step closer to joining the cyber bandwagon when they
were permitted access to a domestic Intranet.
Myanmar has one of the most restrictive Internet policies in Asia, with
more restrictions than such tightly-controlled communist nations as
Vietnam and Laos.
The government's Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications is the country's
only Internet Service Provider. Aside from some government ministries
and 11 information technology companies, no one in Myanmar has had
anything more than e-mail.
However, a notice mailed on Friday to e-mail subscribers said they would
be able to access 'Myanmar Intranet services' operated by a local
private company at a cost of US$3 (S$5.40) per hour.
The websites operated by Bagan Cybertech are local commercial websites.
There are six websites under the category e-shopping, one under
e-banking, four under e-reservation and one under e-media.
'There are very few web pages to visit, but for Myanmar users who have
no Internet access, it is a start,' said Mr Kyaw Thura, a 27-year-old
The country's military government is sensitive to the large number of
websites and news groups operated overseas by exiled dissidents and
foreign supporters of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
In January last year, regulations were issued forbidding the posting of
political writings on the Internet.
Prohibitions included publishing anything that is 'detrimental' to
Myanmar or 'directly or indirectly detrimental to the current policies
and secret security affairs of the government'.
In the most draconian measure, unauthorised ownership of a fax modem or
setting up a computer network without the telecom ministry's approval
could result in a jail term of seven to 15 years and a fine.--AP
Irrawaddy: Curfews Declared after Riots Erupt in Two Cities
By Min Zin
May 18, 2001
RANGOON - The ruling military junta has ordered a curfew in two major
cities after anti-Muslim riots that broke out on May 15 spread from
Toungoo to Taunggyi, according to inside sources.
Unconfirmed reports say that on May 15, a gang destroyed shops and
restaurants in owned by Muslims in downtown Toungoo. The motive for
the attack has not been clarified. "The shopowners responded with
furious anger and caused several injuries. At least four or five monks
were hospitalized," a resident of Toungoo stated. Later, a larger mob
joined with local monks to assault other Muslim centres in the city.
According to one report, a Buddhist monk was killed on the first day of
Trains that regularly stop in Toungoo have been instructed to pass
through the station without stopping, since the riots began. Motorized
traffic through Toungoo, considered the half-way point on the main
highway between Rangoon and Mandalay, has been diverted around the city
since the incidents took place. "We had to go around the outside of the
city, instead of passing through downtown," said one traveler from
Mandalay. Unconfirmed reports say the violence has spread to the Shan
state capital of Taunggyi, which has a history of anti-Muslims riots.
State-controlled media have not released any news about the incidents.
MSNBC online: Tourists face tough times is Myanmar
Chronic political instability, poor infrastructure create barriers
Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar remains one of the less discovered travel
destinations in Asia. Pro-democracy leaders call for a tourism boycott,
claiming travel dollars line the pockets of the ruling generals. By
YANGON, May 20 ? Shimmering golden above the city of Yangon is the
Shwedagon Pagoda, the most popular tourist attraction in Myanmar. Monks
draped in red robes chant in front of Buddha statues, worshippers light
incense, and tourists stand awed by the majesty of the main stupa
shrine, which towers 325 feet and is said to be plated in almost nine
tons of gold.
BUT DESPITE the beauty of this and other sites, Myanmar is one of Asia?s
least-known travel destinations. The military government has tried hard
to promote Myanmar but tourists are not flocking in, partly because of
chronic political instability and partly because the country just
doesn?t have the infrastructure.
Pro-democracy opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San
Suu Kyi, who opposes the government and has been kept under house arrest
in the capital Yangon on and off for more than six of the past 12 years,
says tourists should not visit.
She says tourist dollars bolster the military, who have ruled the
country formerly known as Burma since 1962, and help keep the generals
Tourists, Suu Kyi says, should wait until Myanmar is a democracy before
?TOURISM SHOULD BE DISCOURAGED?
Most pro-democracy activists agree, saying just as foreign companies
should be discouraged from investing in the country, so too should
Two British-based groups, Tourism Concern and the Burma Campaign UK,
have even called for a boycott of the popular Lonely Planet travel
guides, because Lonely Planet has refused to bow to calls to stop
printing its book on Myanmar.
Lonely Planet?s founders say they believe tourism to the country will
improve the situation there, while a boycott will simply prolong its
isolation, making it easier for the military to hold on to power.
Some budget travelers, visiting despite the boycott calls, say their
money doesn?t help the government. ?When you are on really big group
tourism then it?s...organized by state-owned companies and the money
ends up in the state,? said Thomas Bosch from the Netherlands.
?If you spend your money really locally and you are coming here as a
backpacker and you use local transport and hire locals then the money is
really being spent locally ? and not going to the government.?
?If you come as a backpacker, you can (exchange) ideas with the
people...and that?s always a good thing,? Bosch said.
While the government?s coffers would certainly benefit from increased
tourism, many ordinary people in Myanmar, where the average annual per
capita income is less than $300 U.S. dollars, say they too would stand
to gain if more people visited.
Sam Kokweng, from Malaysia, said the lack of development was an
essential part of Myanmar?s charm.
?ABOUT TO DEVELOP?
?What appeals to me is actually going to parts of Asia that are going to
be developed really soon, and to catch it as it?s about to develop, and
to see the people as they really are, before commercialism sets in,? he
said. ?That?s really it I think.?
But the lack of development that so charms adventure-hungry backpackers
hampers a more mainstream tourist industry.
Some hotels have been built to international standards in recent years
in Yangon and the second city Mandalay, but facilities elsewhere are
Myanmar?s domestic air system has a bad safety record, its roads are
poor and its rail system is rickety. Other hassles are odd foreign
exchange procedures for tourists and the need to get a visa in advance.
Tourist arrivals in Myanmar are falling far short of the government?s
target of 500,000 a year. Official figures show 234,900 visited last
year, a drop of 9.3 percent from 1999.
By contrast neighboring Thailand, a country with culture and geography
similar to Myanmar, got 9.5 million tourists last year and billions of
PLAYING DOWN POLITICS
Myanmar?s director general of tourism, Khin Maung Latt, plays down the
impact of the anti-government campaign in discouraging tourists.
Infrastructure is the problem, he says.
He also blames a shortage of direct flights into the country and the
difficulty in getting visas.
?I don?t believe (it?s) because of that campaign,? he said.
?It?s because of the lack of infrastructure and some of the airlines,?
he told reporters during a recent conference in Yangon. ?We don?t have
many direct ... long-haul flights ?that?s the constraint for us.?
Shan Herald Agency for News: Kyat falls again to an all-time low
May 20, 2001
In spite of the baht falling against the dollar, the Burmese currency
has failed to make any headway with that of its neighbor, reported
Moengzay from the Thai border town of Maesai in Chiangrai Province.
The exchange rate that was B 7 per hundred Kyat last month dropped to B
5.50 on 8 May and down to B 5.20 yesterday. "It's only a matter of days
when it will become B 5.00," sources told S.H.A.N.
According to unconfirmed reports circulating, some of the Burmese
denominations are due to be demonetized soon. Some others, however, say
2-new denominations: K. 5,000 and K. 10,000 are just waiting for an
auspicious day to begin their circuit.
The rage for the baht started when family members and relatives of the
junta's top officials in Rangoon, Mandalay and Taunggyi began buying and
stocking gold and American dollars last month, they said.
According to one gem merchant from Taunggyi who arrived at the border
last week, he had to pay for his telephone bills in dollars after the
officials concerned refused to accept his Kyats.
Mizzima: Burma: Financial crisis and foreign assistance
By Win Htein, May 20, 2001
Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)
Last week, Burma's beleaguered kyat currency fell to 900-kyat per dollar
as a new record low in the recent history while the official rate
remains 6-kyat to the dollar.
The kyat has been gradually sliding in exchange with the foreign
currency since the military came into power thirteen years ago. Last
month, the exchange rate was 500-kyat per dollar. In the beginning of
this year, it was 350-kyat. At the time when the military seized power
in 1988, the exchange rate was 70-kyat to the US dollar.
So, one wonders why the Burmese currency has plunged so badly! A
spokesman of the military junta recently blamed some money dealers in
the country for the kyat slide. "These unscrupulous people are
circulating groundless rumors to fan panic so that they can cash in on
the situation", he said. Some dozens currency-dealers were jailed after
A source in Rangoon said that people have lost confidence on kyat
currency. "It is because of the rumors that the government will announce
deflation soon", said a journalist who works for a business magazine in
There are also reports that the military-own company (U Pi limited) had
lost 2-million dollars in competition with private companies and thus
the junta decided to buy dollars in open market in any rate.
"They needed dollars immediately as a credit before the Asia Development
Bank (ADB) and Least Developed Countries (LDC) annual meetings. So that
they can get resumption of loans from the ADB and the World Bank or the
Last month, the ADB, in its annual report of Outlook for 2001, had
warned that the Burmese junta needs to implement immediate economic
reforms and suggested to change the official exchange rate of 6-kyat per
It said that at the end of March 2000, "the country?s gross foreign
exchange reserves were only about $ 240-million- less than two months of
exports". According to a Washington-based think tank, Cato Institute,
Myanmar is number 122 of 123 countries which have freedom of economy in
The United Nations Human Development report has ranked Myanmar as 125
out of the 174 countries in the world that are the least developed.
However, the regime has its own statistics. The State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC) claimed that GDP of the country is growing 12
percent every year. ?The government constructed the dams, bridges, roads
and all basis infrastructures in the whole country. So the Myanmar is
now progressing like never before," said Gen Than Shwe, head of the
regime, in his recent visit to central Burma.
"This inflation will bite the civil servants whose salaries were just
promoted 5-times recently. Last month, a teacher's salary is 10,000 kyat
or 20-$ while one dollar is equal to 500-kyat. But now his salary is
only 10-$ with the current exchange rate" said a government servant in
Many Burma observers believe that the root of this currency crisis is
based on the international sanctions and on-going Thai-Burma border
After the fighting broke out between the Thai and the Burmese troops in
the northern border in February, the SPDC ordered to ban all Thai goods
and to close border-bridges.
Since then, the border-trade is broken and the Burmese face shortage of
Thai food. The price is now higher and the inflation is wider. The
exchange rate in border is now 16-kyat per 1 Thai Bhat currency from 8
Bhat in early this year.
Although the junta is trying to substitute the shortage of Thai goods
with the Chinese goods, it is not successful. The border-trade with
China is also not working now because of fallen kyat. Now, the kyat is
declined to 90-kyat per 1 Chinese Yen from 60-kyat in January.
"The junta copied many things form China, but not an economic policy,"
said a trader in Sweli (China-Burma border) who had served several years
for the Communist Party of Burma. "China is opening for a real free
market. But in Burma, the generals do just lip service and nepotistic
According to a 'White Paper' of junta's foreign ministry, the
border-trade is the main business to go against the US-led international
trade sanctions on the regime. The 5-pages paper dated 2nd December last
year said, "The ILO and UN's economic and social affairs committee will
sanction us soon due to the exiled groups which are lobbying on human
right records and force labor in the country".
However, the ILO and UN are now on holding their procedures on Burma.
This is because the junta started having 'Secret Talks' with opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi in last October. But the EU Council and US
government decided to continue their trade sanctions on Burma, as they
don?t see any real progress.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government has decided to give 28-million dollar
to junta as a reward for talking with opposition leader while the ASEAN
countries protested against the ILO's decision to punish the junta for
the use of forced labor.
In this situation, is there any way for the junta to come out of the
Last week, the junta's finance minister U Khin Maung Thein appealed to
ADB, in annual meeting at Hawaii, to lift the 1986 aid embargo saying
that his country is on the road to reforms.
However, he did not get positive response from ADB. "We are still
monitoring the political situation in Burma", ADB President replied. He
did not say when and how the ADB plans to resume aid to Burma.
Currently, the junta's economic planning minister U Soe Tha is trying in
a similar way at the Least Developed Countries (LDC) annual meeting in
Brussels to erase the country?s 6-billion dollar debt.
"This is impossible. Because they must do something before they come
here. This includes reforming economic policies and progress on the
country?s human right situation," commented Dr Zaw Oo, a
Washington-based economic researcher who is attending the LDC meeting.
"Without changing the policy, there is no way to solve the current
financial crisis. Without changing the system of government, there is no
hope for external aid", he added.
Win Htein is a correspondent for Democratic Voice of Burma.
Bangkok Post: Rangoon to Honolulu? No problem
"The Insider" column,
May 15, 2001
Those attending the recent Asian Development Bank yakfest that wrapped
up last Saturday were no doubt delighted that the organisers had chosen
Honolulu as this year's venue over, say, some grimy industrial
metropolis in China.
But eyebrows have been raised about some of the people who made it to
the party, given that the event took place on US soil.
An observer who scrutinised the guest list was surprised to note that
the Burmese delegation included the chairman and two directors of
Myanmar Universal Bank-one of the largest of what passes for private
financial institutions in a country where a functioning market economy
is an abstract concept.
Sources on the border have implicated the bank not just in laundering
illicitly gained cash but in the financing of amphetamine laboratories.
In Rangoon, Myanmar Universal is widely believed to be owned by Wei
Hsueh-gang, who has been indicted on drug-trafficking charges in both
Thailand and New York.
Wei currently has a $2-million price on his head from the US Department
of Justice. (When our informant visited the Burmese Registrar of
Companies in an effort to obtain the bank's registration details, he was
told that he would need written clearance from both the commerce and
information ministries before he would be allowed to peruse any
MUB's rather youthful chairman, who we trust enjoyed a pleasant trip to
sunny Hawaii, currently goes by the Burman name U Tin Sein. He's an
ethnic Chinese from Shan State, is believed to be 33 years old and
apparently speaks only halting Burmese (though his grasp of the Chinese
and Shan languages is probably fluent). Little else is known about him.
Officials of the US embassy in Rangoon might be forgiven for being a
little embarrassed that they processed visas for representatives of a
bank probably owned by a fugitive from American law and definitely
involved in drug trafficking. After all, Bill Clinton signed a
proclamation in 1996 barring admission to "persons who formulate or
implement policies that are impeding the transition to democracy in
Burma, or who benefit from such policies".
It's difficult to imagine many people in Burma who benefit from
government policies than Wei Hsueh-gang or the other crony
businessmen-bankers at the meeting. Others in the delegation included U
Thein Tun (once known as "Mr Pepsi") of the Tun Foundation Bank, and
Aung Ko Win, apparently a former school teacher from Shan State who
emerged from nowhere in the early 1990s to found and chair the Kanbawza
Readers might remember a brouhaha at the ADB conference in Chiang Mai
last year when the Burma delegation included senior management of two
other banks believed owned by suspected (as against indicted) drug
Xinhua: Myanmar Able to Face World Economic Changes: Leader
YANGON, May 20 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar will be able to face challenges
in the light of many changes in the world economy after the 1997 Asian
economic crisis, Myanmar leader Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt said
Speaking at a ceremony here of presentation of master certificates in
business administration to the graduates, Khin Nyunt, First Secretary
of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council, expressed the
belief that "being rich in national resources and highly-qualified
human resources, Myanmar will be able to face any kind of challenges."
According to The New Light of Myanmar on Sunday, Khin Nyunt also
expected that this year, difficulties can be overcome in Asian nations
due to their strong economic infrastructures and favorable economic
foundations, although the world economy shows a trend of slowing down.
He pointed out that in the international trade sector and establishment
of industries, comparative advantage, which was previously regarded as
important, has been replaced by the amount of benefits gained and the
condition of the market. He called for observation of the flow of
international monetary investment.
Khin Nyunt stressed the need to take into account the long-term economic
benefits and the interest of the nation although priority should be
given to benefits in doing business. If those, who pay priority only to
short-term interests, are greater in number, the entire economic system
can be affected, the Myanmar leader warned.
Chicago Tribune: U.S., China take sides in border skirmish
Thais, Myanmar feud over region used by traffickers
By Uli Schmetzer - Tribune foreign correspondent
May 19, 2001
BANGKOK -- Some 5,000 American troops are moving into northern Thailand
not far from the Chinese border this weekend as part of long-scheduled
Cobra Gold 2001 military exercises being staged at a time when Thailand
and Myanmar are trading angry diplomatic missives and live artillery
Among the troops are about 20 instructors from the U.S. 1st Special
Forces Group who will stay behind after the maneuvers to train Thai
commandos in anti-guerrilla warfare.
Thailand and Myanmar, formerly Burma, have been at loggerheads for weeks
over the disputed Doi Lang border area, a longtime stronghold of drug
warlords whose heroin refineries and amphetamine laboratories have
flourished for years with the knowledge of key military officers and
officials on both sides of the border.
Periodic hostilities over control of drug trafficking are no novelty.
But this time the United States and China are playing key roles on
opposite sides, just weeks after the U.S. spy plane incident strained
Navy Adm. Dennis Blair, chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, confirmed
this week at a press briefing that Washington has sent Special Forces
guerrilla warfare specialists to act as "instructors" for a Thai
commando unit known as Task Force 399. Thai military officials said
there initially would be 20 U.S. instructors but more could arrive.
The same Thai sources said Task Force 399 and the U.S. instructors will
be stationed at Mae Rim Village just north of Chiang Mai, a garrison
town on the edge of the infamous Golden Triangle, the poppy-growing zone
on the Myanmar, Laos and Thailand borders.
The highly mobile unit of about 100 men will use two U.S.-donated Black
Hawk assault helicopters to chase and neutralize drug smugglers along
the Golden Triangle, operating less than 100 miles from Chinese border
Their main enemy on the other side of the border will be the United Wa
State Army, an ethnic force loyal to the Myanmar military junta. The
U.S. State Department has identified the Wa as major drug producers.
Western intelligence sources say China is the principal supplier of arms
and expertise for the Wa and the Myanmar armed forces.
Tribe moves south
More than a year ago the Chinese persuaded the ethnic Wa, the most
powerful and most militant of the hillside tribes, to move their people,
their army and their drug laboratories from the Myanmar-China border in
the north to Myanmar's border with Thailand at Doi Lang in the south.
"It was a cunning move. By sending the Wa away from their own border,
the Chinese dramatically reduced drug trafficking into China, which had
become a major problem for their own population. Sending the Wa to the
Thai border meant dumping the problem on the Thais and their Western
allies," said a narcotics expert who requested anonymity.
Asian intelligence sources said Beijing supplied the Wa with
sophisticated weapons and money in exchange for Wa help in constructing
a network of roads through Myanmar from China.
The road system would give Beijing access to seaports and naval bases on
the Myanmar coast, an access the Chinese have coveted for years.
In a blunt warning, Myanmar's ruling military junta announced this
weekend it was ready "to fight side by side" with the Wa.
"If intrusions at the border become direct threats to either Wa
territory or Burmese soil, we are ready to counter them," said Brig.
Gen. Kyan Win, deputy director of Myanmar's military intelligence.
At the same time, Win praised China for "offering material and
technology to develop the border area."
Thai intelligence sources say the Wa have been given sophisticated
Chinese-made HN-5N surface-to-air missiles capable of knocking out
low-flying airplanes and helicopters. On the other side, the U.S. has
supplied Thai forces with the latest night-vision, radar and digital
A warrior tribe, the Wa are known for their do-or-die fighting spirit.
With an estimated 15,000 armed members, the Wa are no pushover for any
conventional army in the rough terrain of their native habitat.
As U.S. forces prepared this week for the annual two-week Cobra Gold
Thai-U.S. exercises, the largest in Asia this year, the Pentagon left no
doubt which side it supports in the looming Thailand-Myanmar drug war.
"As a military man, I support Thailand," Adm. Blair said. Blair was in
Thailand to oversee the maneuvers, which also include Singaporean
officers this year. Both China and Vietnam declined to attend as
observers this year.
Warning for Thailand
Myanmar has warned the Thais that calling in American "specialists" over
the escalating border dispute is perilous to regional peace.
In a blunt diplomatic note this week, the junta demanded the Thai
military withdraw from 35 border outposts that Yangon claims are within
its own territory. Bangkok has ignored the demand.
Blair said the U.S. Special Forces instructors and two U.S. Black Hawk
helicopters had joined Thai Special Forces in the troubled north to
"teach skills needed to patrol the border."
The Americans are working closely with Thailand's 3rd Army, a force
largely untainted by military involvement in the narcotics trade.
Although the maneuvers are publicized as an anti-narcotics campaign,
some Western diplomats say the extensive military mobilization and
American participation also are aimed at containing growing Chinese
influence in the region.
Narcotics experts blame Beijing for precipitating the current tension by
urging the Wa to go south.
These observers fear the escalating border incidents, with casualties on
both sides, have the potential to explode into a conflict drawing China
and the U.S. into a confrontation.
The military government in Yangon, formerly the Burmese capital of
Rangoon, made a deal with the Wa in 1989. Diplomats say that in return
for allowing their poppy-growing and heroin refineries, the Wa would
have autonomy in their region and police tracts of border areas against
armed incursions by the Shan people, an ethnic group allied with
The Shan have been fighting Myanmar troops for years.
The Shan also control parts of the border on behalf of their Thai
neighbors. Myanmar claims the Thais, who long have shown a preference
for making deals rather than fighting, are allowing the Shan to run
their own narcotics trade along the border.
The focus of the current trouble is a 20-square-mile border region known
as Doi Lang near Thailand's northern city, Chiang Mai. Doi Lang
virtually straddles the border. This makes it a perfect smuggling post
for drug trafficking.
Narcotics laboratories on the Myanmar side import chemicals and export
heroin and amphetamines through Thailand.
In yet another attempt to crack down on drug peddling, especially in
schools where up to 35 percent of students have tested positive for
amphetamines, the Thais on April 18 executed four narcotics dealers by
firing squad in Bangkok and televised their final hour.
The Thais say the Wa settlement of Mong Yawn, which has schools,
hospitals, stores and bars, has only one industry--laboratories that
refine opium into heroin or fabricate amphetamines with imported
The settlement is just 15 miles inside Myanmar, opposite the booming
Thai border town of Chiang Mai and less than an hour by road from the
headquarters of Task Force 399.
The man who founded Mong Yawn was Wei Xue-Gang, a Chinese-born drug
lord. He was indicted by a New York court in 1993 for drug trafficking
and is on a State Department list of the most wanted drug lords.
Soon after Wei changed from producing drugs to laundering drug money,
the Wa negotiated a contract with the United Nations. In exchange for
giving up growing poppies, the Wa would receive UN financing for
Drug experts say the irresistible lure of vast profits from drugs makes
any such deal shaky and difficult to police.
Aware the UN would check to see if the poppy crop had been replaced, the
Wa thought of a lucrative alternative: The mass production of
amphetamines, known as Yaa Baa in Thailand and "Ice" in its crystalline
form in the West.
The amphetamine industry, based at clandestine Wa laboratories that
produce the designer drug with imported chemicals, flooded Asia with an
estimated 800 million pills last year. Revenue from this new narcotic
windfall provides an estimated $250 million annual profit, far more than
what the UN could offer.
Unlike opium, which is refined into heroin, the pills have rarely found
their way to the United States, one reason why the sudden military
crackdown with U.S. help is believed to be more a strategic rather than
a narcotics-based decision.
Tour of rice warehouses
The current trouble started after the UN suspended its alternate crop
aid to the Wa, who then began a campaign to prove they had reformed and
were no longer the scourge of the Golden Triangle.
This week, in one of those many guided tours by which drug lords
periodically try to prove they are bona fide tribal leaders with no
interest in drugs, the Wa invited media and UN officials to visit Mong
Their visit was to ascertain that the amphetamine laboratories
identified by the Thai military were in fact rice storage warehouses.
As expected, the visitors saw plenty of rice and no amphetamines in the
"Come back anytime," a beaming tour guide told the visitors, without
mentioning that laboratories can be relocated rapidly.
Bangkok Post: Dangerous escalations
May 20, 2001.
BORDER TENSIONS: Thai-Burmese border tensions have already spilled over
into sporadic shelling resulting in deaths on both sides. But if Burma
still won't clean up its drugs act and stick to its own territory, all
that may soon seem like child's play compared with what's to come Surath
'I can say for certain that whoever has any intention of intruding
directly into Wa territory or violating Myanmar (Burma) soil will find
us fighting side-by-side." The blunt statement, delivered by a senior
Burmese government spokesman on Thursday, reflects the depth of bad
feeling that lies under the ongoing border conflict between Thailand and
It apparently is prompted by the start of the annual Thai-US military
exercises, codenamed Cobra Gold. Normally the exercises are held in
coastal areas, but this year they are being held against the backdrop of
drug suppression activities of the Thai Third Army, which is based near
the Burmese border.
The strongly worded statement from Brigadier-General Kyaw Win, Burma's
deputy military intelligence chief, comes on the heels of a prior
escalation in the war of words coming out of Rangoon. Last Sunday, May
13, Thai Army Commander-in-Chief Surayud Chulanond delivered a shocked
protest after reading a statement by the Rangoon military junta, which
said that Thai troops must be withdrawn from the rugged terrain of Doi
Lang in the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai.
Part of the letter reads, "If the Thais won't withdraw, they will be
forced to retreat by Burmese forces."The Burmese assertion surprised
Thai army top brass. Third Army Regional Commander Lt-Gen Wattanachai
Chaimuenwong had recently returned from Burma with an overall favourable
impression of his meetings. But some analysts are not surprised by the
unpredictable Burmese attitude, "because drug money is involved and
because, like Thailand, the Burmese see national sovereignty as the No.1
priority."Another analyst expressed grave concerns about the situation,
fearing that northern Thailand could be the stage for a confrontation of
global proportions, with America backing the Thais and China backing the
RELATIONS TURN SOUR
The sporadic exchange of mortar fire these days on the border is a vivid
testimony to souring relations, in the midst of what were generally
Less than two months ago, on April 2-4, Lt-Gen Wattanachai, in his
capacity as head of the Thai delegation to the Regional Border Committee
meeting in the Burmese town of Kengtung, talked about Burma with a big
smile on his face, because of the attitude of cooperation he found from
the Burmese side. The three-day meeting was designed to enrich relations
and drug suppression efforts between the two countries.
By the time the Thai delegation departed Kengtung, they had secured an
agreement that Thai and Burmese military representatives would meet
regularly and Burma would help to annihilate drug factories in its
territory along the border. Lt-Gen Wattanachai was quoted at that time
as saying: "They (the Burmese military leaders) say that they are ready
to help Thailand destroy border drug factories." Rangoon has lately been
preoccupied in an effort to convince the world that it is not involved
in drug producing and trafficking in its own backyard. "Unbiased
reporters" were invited to inspect the Wa border township of Mong Yawn,
to confirm that its construction and development was not funded by drug
money from the United Wa State Army (UWSA), but with a special budget
But, in the eyes of the world, and particularly the United States, the
Burmese authorities need to do much more to be convincing when they talk
about drug suppression operations along the border.
An annual US State Department report issued on March 1 has continued to
brand Burma as the world's second-largest source of opium, the raw
material for heroin, after Afghanistan. The UWSA is also considered by
US narcotic authorities to be the biggest drug trafficker in the Golden
For decades, Burmese drugs, including heroin and methamphetamines, have
flooded markets in neighbouring countries, threatening their stability.
The Thai Farmers Bank Research Centre reported that up to 400 million
methamphetamine pills manufactured in Burma ended up on the streets of
Thailand last year.
Thai drug suppression authorities say that the UWSA runs an estimated 55
illegal laboratories along the northern border, which are capable of
producing 600 million pills a year.
Because of the scale of the drug influx over the Burmese border, and the
devastating effect on some segments of the population, anti-drug
operations have become a national security issue in Thailand.
And, if the Burmese government is not actually supporting and
controlling drug production, it is widely believed that they are
sanctioning and profitting from it. According to a senior US anti-drug
official, drug traffickers and their families are among the leading
investors in major infrastructure projects in Burma. "They are allowed
to launder money with impunity through banks controlled by the military
junta," the official claimed.
Ending the drug trade in Burma will never be easy because of the role it
plays in internal politics and economic development. The Burmese
military is known to have used drug warlords as a counterweight to
anti-government ethnic insurgents. In exchange, they are allowed to
carry out the drug business as they please.
Rangoon has succeeded in securing alliances with minority groups,
including the UWSA, considered by Thailand to be the major
methamphetamine producer along the border. The partnership has allegedly
filled government coffers with money and provided manpower and weapons.
The Wa, who have long waged war in the jungle, are familiar with the
rugged areas which are the strongholds of insurgent groups.
The UWSA was formed in 1989 shortly after the fall of the Communist
Party of Burma (CPB). The Burmese regime quickly signed a ceasefire
agreement with them for fear they would arm other rebel groups. The Wa's
weapons are supplied by China, according to Thai and foreign military
Soon afterwards, the Wa expanded its drug network from their main
stronghold in Panghsang, on the Sino-Burmese border, to areas adjacent
to the northern Thai provinces of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. In fact, it
was the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), successor to the
Burmese State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), that encouraged
the UWSA to move from their homelands on the Sino-Burmese border, and
head south to eastern Shan state, opposite
Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
Thai authorities are convinced that the Wa's Mong Yawn community, close
to the Thai border opposite Chiang Mai, was developed with drug money.
Drugs are moved south and goods are moved north.
Apart from a source of income and military assistance, the Wa have
proved useful to Rangoon in their campaign to eradicate ethnic Shan. The
Wa were encouraged to move their civilians south as well, in so doing
encroaching on Shan territory.
The Burmese military junta and Wa have joined hands in fighting against
Shan ethnic rebels led by Col Yawd Serk, once a partner in crime of
notorious drug warlord Khun Sa.
Yawd Serk currently commands the Shan State Army (SSA), after having
split with Khun Sa in 1995.
The conflict recently spilled into Thailand when Burmese troops, in
pursuit of SSA forces, crossed the Thai border in Chiang Rai and
occupied Ban Pang Noon camp in Mae Fah Luang district.
The mountain ridge base offered clear visibility for Burma to shell the
rival Shan army.
After Bangkok's demand for the withdrawal of Burmese troops fell on deaf
ears, the fighting erupted two days later, on February 11, at Ban Pang
Noon. Two Thai troops were killed and five injured, while sources
reported that Burma sustained many casualties.
At one point during the clash, Burma opened fire on Thai villages in
Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district, killing two civilians and damaging
Thai military forces responded by shelling Phuteng Nayong, killing
several Burmese troops.
Col Yawd Serk's base at Doi Tai Liang, which has been occupied by the
SSA for more than half a decade, is a strategic defensive position as
well as potentially an area for major drug trafficking.
Drug barons, including Wei Hseuh Kang of the UWSA, have long wanted to
take control of the area to develop this potential.
Wei, the most notorious drug trafficker in the Golden Triangle, is one
of three brothers who have dealt in narcotics for decades.
Despite their vast network that stretches beyond Mong Yawn to Mong Toom,
Mong Mon, and Mong Sad, the Wa fear that the Shan will block their
routes to the south and prevent access into the Thai checkpoint towns of
Mai Sai and Mae Fah Luang in Chiang Rai, and San Ma Khet and San Ton Du
in Chiang Mai. Taking control of Col Yawd Serk's Shan stronghold would
enable the Wa to expand its trafficking route to the South.
Wei Hseuh Kang was born in Yunnan province in southern China. His family
fled to the Shan State of Burma after the communist victory in 1949.
They later settled in Vingngun in the Wa region.
When the Chinese nationalist Kuomintang's power faded in Burma, the
brothers allied themselves with Khun Sa, leader of the Shan United Army
(SUA) in 1975, though Khun Sa was still in jail.
Soon they became well-versed in the drug trade and politics of the Shan
State, and advanced to powerful positions in the SUA. However, after
Khun Sa was released from jail by the Burmese government, he had Wei
Hsueh Kang arrested and fired his two brothers from their positions.
Convinced that it was time to switch alliances, Wei Hsueh Kang soon
escaped and later began to work with the Wa along the Thai border to
develop their drug network. When the CPB was defeated, ethnic groups in
the area formed their own political groups. The Wa formed the United Wa
State Party (UWSP) and United Wa State Army (UWSA), in which the Wei
brothers took an active role.
The Wa agreed to cooperate with the Burmese military to defeat Khun Sa,
in exchange for autonomy. After Khun Sa surrendered in 1996, Wei Hsueh
Kang became a member of the administration committee of the UWSP.
In addition, the Wei family is in control of Mong Yawn. Under their
supervision, it is estimated that several billion baht has been spent on
projects to build up the town, including a dam to supply water and
electricity, a new hospital, housing units and comfortable hotels.
Intelligence reports reveal that Rangoon and Wei Hseuh Kang have a
secret agreement that allows the latter to continue freely with its drug
production and trafficking until 2007.
The contract also permits the Wa warlord to retain control over the drug
businesses of other minority groups, provided that they share profits
and pay taxes to the Burmese military regime, say the reports. The
secret deal between Rangoon and the Wa has upset a certain faction
within the ruling SPDC who feared the agreement would tarnish its
country's image even further. Against the backdrop of uncertainty in
Rangoon, fighting erupted on the Thai-Burmese border.
Reacting to the Burmese demand that Thai troops vacate Doi Lang, Lt-Gen
Wattanachai of the Third Thai Army said simply, in his normal tone of
voice, "If Burma insists that Doi Lang belongs to them and attempts to
use force to push our troops back....then this could mean war."He made
it clear that the Thai army will never retreat from the disputed area.
Thailand and Burma have long contested ownership of the 32 square
kilometres of land on Doi (mountain) Lang. Thailand claims it is a part
of Chiang Rai's Mae Ai district. The Burmese military junta say that it
is deep inside Burma.
Earlier this month, a unit of pro-Rangoon Wa soldiers captured Hua Lone
Hill, about 400 metres into Thai soil. The Third Army knew that the
outlaw fighters had taken the hill only to protect their large drug
production plants and trafficking routes within the area. Several days
of counter-attacks by the Third Army drove the jungle fighters away.
Since then the sporadic shelling from Burmese Army mortars has broken
out over the disputed areas of Doi Lang. The mortar shells sometimes
land in villages and cause damage.
Doi Lang was once a military base for drug warlord Khun Sa, whose Muang
Tai Army was defeated by the UWSA in 1981. Burma subsequently reinforced
its troops stationed on the mountain, drawing strong protests from the
Thai army, which has traditionally also deployed its troops there. In
some areas Thai army outposts are located just a few hundred metres from
Burmese stations. In last week's letter of protest, Burma claimed that
26 Thai positions on Doi Lang were encroaching on Burmese territory.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had been expected to sign a memorandum
of understanding on drug suppression on a scheduled trip to Rangoon some
time next month.
Amid the recent confusion, a source simply says the premier's schedule
has yet to be finalised.
As the mortar rounds fly from both sides, it seems that everyone has
forgotten the friendly talks held in Kengtung last month. And the
tension can only be expected to mount during the ongoing Cobra Gold
exercises, which began last Tuesday and last until May 29.
AP: China PM Pledges To Help In Golden Triangle War On Drugs
Sunday May 20, 12:51 PM
BANGKOK (AP)--Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji pledged China's support
for a war on drugs in the so-called Golden Triangle and offered help to
Thailand's vital agricultural sector, Thai officials said Saturday
Zhu is on a four-day visit to Thailand, intent on strengthening already
close economic and political bilateral ties and boosting regional
Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai told reporters that Zhu
offered to host a drug summit for leaders of Thailand, China, Myanmar
During talks with his Thai counterpart, Thaksin Shinawatra, Zhu also
said China would buy at least 200,000 tons of rice and up to 600,000
tons of rubber from Thailand this year, the foreign minister said.
The first drug conference by the four prime ministers will be held in
Kunming, capital of China's southern province of Yunnan. A date wasn't
The countries are on the frontlines of a war against narcotics
trafficking out of the Golden Triangle, one of the world's largest
sources of illicit narcotics.
China also plans to support Thailand's attempts at Asian cooperation to
stabilize international agricultural prices. Thailand is the world's
largest exporter of rice and rubber, and any significant drop in prices
of these commodities can have a devastating effect on Thai farmers.
The Chinese side reiterated plans to invest $1 billion to produce paper
from eucalyptus plantations in Thailand that will be exported to China.
The project has drawn fire from Thai environmentalists, who cite
degradation of soil and a history of clearing often more biodiverse land
for forest plantations.
Zhu was scheduled to travel to the seaside resort of Hua Hin on Monday
to meet Thailand's constitutional monarch Bhumibol Adjulaydej, whose
family has forged strong links with China.
Queen Sirikit and two of her daughters have visited China in the recent
past. Crown Princess Sirindhorn is a keen Mandarin linguist and student
of Chinese culture.
Relations between Thailand and China have strengthened in recent years,
especially in the economics area.
China is now Thailand's fourth-largest trading partner, with bilateral
trade in 2000 soaring 51% above the previous year.
Investment and tourism between the two countries have also increased.
However, Thai economists warn of possible problems. Cheap Chinese goods
are flowing into the country in greater volumes, knocking out local
China's export machine also could harm Thailand in key markets for Thai
exports such as the U.S. and the European Community, while foreign
investors may well opt for China rather than Thailand when deciding
where to park their funds.
Bangkok Post: Former policeman held with 1.1 million amphetamine pills
May 20, 2001.
Suspect hired by Red Wa to make delivery
A former police sergeant-major was arrested in Mae Chan district
yesterday for allegedly trafficking in 1.1 million methamphetamine
The drugs were found in a Honda car driven by Pol Sgt-Maj Banleng or
Thanapol Inthakhan, 42, along with 40kg of ephedrine which could be used
to produce 1.6 million methamphetamine pills.
Pol Sgt-Maj Banleng told Mae Chan police, who stopped him at a
checkpoint, that the Red Wa, an ethnic minority force across the
Thai-Burmese border, would pay four million baht for his freedom.
The police took the offer as they hoped to make more arrests.
Pol Sgt-Maj Banleng led a police team to a point on the Sai river in Mae
Sai district, opposite Burma, where he phoned the Red Wa and asked them
to bring him four million baht.
They waited for three hours but no one came.
The police then took Pol Sgt-Maj Banleng back to Mae Chan and charged
him with possessing illicit drugs with intent to sell.
The suspect confessed he had been hired by the Red Wa, a major drug
producer, to deliver the tablets to a customer in Chiang Rai for 400,000
He claimed it was the first time he had acted as a courier, but police
were not convinced.
Background checks revealed Pol Sgt-Maj Banleng was transferred from Mae
Sai to Mae Hong Son in 1997 on suspicion that he was involved in drug
He resigned from the police force after he was moved to Payao province
Burma Courier: Junta Planning Minister Escapes Arrest in Brussels
Issue of May 13 - 19, 2001
Thalif Deen of Terra Viva (with additions from U Soe Tha's speech): May
BRUSSELS -- A behind-the-scenes attempt to obtain a magistrate's warrant
to arrest the head of the Burmese delegation attending a United Nations
conference here failed at the eleventh hour due to a "technical hitch",
a Burma activist group said Friday.
Action Birmanie, a Brussels-based NGO, sought the warrant to arrest U
Soe Tha, the Burmese junta's minister of National Planning and Economic
Development, as soon as he set foot on Belgian soil last week. Gregor
Chappelle, a lawyer acting for Action Birmanie, said that a technical
hitch had prevented the group from obtaining the arrest warrant from a
local magistrate. "We don't want to say anything beyond that because we
are going try again and we want to make sure don't fail the second time
around," he said.
U Soe Tha was named in the warrant for arrest on charges of "crimes
against humanity". Although not personally accused of the alleged war
crimes, he was said to be implictly involved because of his position as
a member of the Burmese government.
Belgium has a three-year old statute on the books which permits the
arrest of an individual accused of crimes against humanity, if he or she
happens to be on Belgian soil. The trial could proceed in a local court
of law, Chappelle said.
At a press conference Thursday, Glenys Kinnock, a member of the European
Parliament, challenged the right of the Burmese delegation to
participate in the UN's Lesser Developed Countries (LDC) conference.
"We can understand the legality of granting visas under UN charter
obligations," she said, "But Burma also has pressing and unfulfilled
obligations on human rights, good governance and democracy."
Kinnock said the European Union had to send a clear message that the
military leaders are not the legitimate rulers of Burma. "Until
democracy is restored, we should not have any dealings with Burmese
military rulers. We want them to leave immediately after the
conference. There is no question of shopping at Harrods in London."
The planning minister's speech to the LDC conference was hardly worth
all the messy business of risking arrest. Burma had achieved an annual
GDP growth rate of 8.4% over the last five year and had even reached
double-digit growth in 1999 and 2000, he claimed. Inflation had declined
from 20% in 1996 reduced to -1.6% in 2000, and exports had increased at
an average annual growth rate of 13.1 percent during the last five
years, he said.
The only cloud on the rose-coloured horizon was "the tightening of
certain international restrictions upon Myanmar" which had resulted in
"a perceptible slowdown in foreign capital inflow" starting in 1997, but
even that had begun to turn around in 2000, the minister noted.
U Soe Tha did find it necessary to point out that Overseas Development
Assistance (ODA) levels to Myanmar are "much lower than those provided
to other economies in transition in the [southeast Asia] region. For
example in 1997, ODA per capita provided to three neighbouring countries
of Myanmar were about US$ 14 to 82 while in Myanmar it was only $1."
Nevertheless, the minister concluded, there was room for encouragement.
"Should there be no restrictions imposed on Myanmar, we believe that
Myanmar will be able to graduate from Lesser Developed Countries list
within this decade".
Bangkok Post: Illegal logging and drugs worry border people most
May 20, 2001.
Illegal logging and drug trafficking are the major causes of concern for
residents along the Burmese border, Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong said
The Third Army commander said illegal wood was being supplied to more
than 100 sawmills along the border.
Some 60% of the sawmills were foreign-owned.
Those benefiting from the illegal businesses were mostly military
personnel on the Burmese side of the border.
"When these people have a conflict of interest, they fight, thus
affecting people's livelihoods," he said.
Pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army soldiers attacked a
government outpost at Ban Muen Ruechai, Phop Phra district, early this
month because their methamphetamine deliveries were blocked by Thai
soldiers, Lt-Gen Wattanachai said. Three civilians were killed in the
Thai troops earlier seized more than 10 million speed pills smuggled
into the area by DKBA soldiers.
The Third Army commander yesterday accompanied Gen Surayud Chulanont,
the army chief, on a tour of military and police units in Mae Sot, Mae
Ramat, Phop Phra and Tha Song Yang districts.
Shan Herald Agency for News Thai Superstar meets Shan leader
17 May 2001
No: 05 - 09
One of the Thai-language newspaper disclosed recently of the meeting
between Thailand's famous pop singer and the Shan State Army leader
Yawdserk on its latest issue.
The Nation Weekend, 14-20 May, featuring Yuenyong Opharkul, 47, better
known as Add Carabao, in Shan army uniform, with Shan State Army's Col.
Yawdserk on its cover, also carries an article by the singer former
himself on Page 10.
He said he arrived at the Shan camp, across Fang District, Chiangmai
Province, on 4 May, 2-days after the battle of Pakhee where Shans were
reported to have seized nearly 200,000 amphetamine tablets.
"It was only a morale boosting visit and an informal meeting between a
former fighter from the (defunct) People's Liberation Army of Thailand
and Chao Yawdserk, the top leader of the Shan resistance army," he
He commented to S.H.A.N. four days later that during his days as a
fighter against the then military dominated government in Bangkok, the
greatest need was to cultivate and preserve one's ideology. "But in a
national independence struggle, you need a hero to keep you going
through hell and water," he said.
"I'm sure Chao Yawdserk fits that role."
Add Carabao has been one of Thailand's most popular singers since he
made his first major hit with the song, "Made in Thailand" during the
early 1980s. Throughout the years he also wrote songs lauding the
struggles of Shans, Karens and Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Times (London): 'Travelers Should Boycott Burma'
Burmese people want freedom from a brutal regime, not tourists, argues
European MEP Glenys Kinnock Wednesday, May. 9, 2001
On March 19 this year TIME Asia published a Travel Watch article on the
debate raging on travel to Burma. Glenys Kinnock, a member of the
European Parliament, has long argued against travel to the military-run
country. This is her response to TIME's "Burmese Daze: Should We Boycott
or Go?" Holidays, of course, should be about fun and relaxation. But
how many of us have ever questioned our right to travel and enjoy total
freedom of movement? Probably not many.
And yet this is a very real issue -- you could say it's a matter of life
and death -- for those in a certain country who are asking us to make an
ethical decision to stay away at present. They're not some radical,
out-of-touch extremists; in fact, they form a democratically elected
party that won 82% of the seats in a parliament that has never been
allowed to convene. These people have made very clear policy decisions,
specifically asking foreign visitors to stay away, until the brutal
military junta that rules the country allows them to take up their
rightful place in government. The country is Burma. And the party that
has pleaded with tourists not to visit their country is the National
League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel
Recent evidence given to the United Nation's International Labour
Organisation (ILO) estimates that around 8 million men, women and
children are forced to labor on construction projects, including those
linked to tourism, every year. Hundreds of thousands of Burmese people
have been forcibly relocated from their homes over the last few years in
order to develop the country's infrastructure, much of which was created
in order to boost tourism. In light of this evidence the ILO adopted a
resolution last year, which called on its members to review their
relations with Burma.
In spite of these horrors, though, many in the media and the travel
industry have consistently argued for tourism to Burma to continue --
often arguing that it benefits Burmese people. In fact, only the tiniest
minority of Burma's 48 million people are even touched by tourism.
Around 75% make their living from agriculture; of the remaining 25% only
a small percentage comes into contact with tourists. So whilst you may
be able to give a few dollars to benefit someone working in the tourism
industry, the scales don't quite balance when tourism is simultaneously
helping to prop up a regime that keeps 48 million people in the most
In a country that has measured the opinions of its people only once in
the last 41 years, and even then chose to disregard them, there is
little to guide us as to what ordinary Burmese people really feel about
tourism. Wild claims from some in the industry that the "overwhelming
majority" want tourism are pure fantasy. The fact is the NLD is the only
party mandated to represent the interests of Burma's people -- and
theirs is a voice that continues to draw the support and respect of
people both inside and outside the country, despite a vicious campaign
of persecution by the regime to silence it.
I have been fortunate enough to meet Suu Kyi, after travelling into the
country under the cover of a tourist visa obtained in Bangkok. Her
courage and heroism is breathtaking, and her grace, composure and
dignity affected me deeply. She is a remarkable woman, with sharp
political insight, a fierce determination to bring about freedom in
Burma, and a strong and phenomenal sense of calm given the personal
suffering she endures and the extreme pressure she is under. She and the
NLD are trying to work out nonviolent strategies to oust a regime that
has few competitors in terms of its horrific human rights record.
One night, after meeting Suu Kyi, I found a scrap of paper on my pillow
in my hotel room in Rangoon. It was inscribed with her name -- nothing
more -- and was presumably put there by a brave hotel worker trying to
communicate support for the pro-democracy leader. That simple act took
Burmese people want freedom from a tyrannical and brutal regime -- one
engaged in killings, rape, genocide and the perpetration of relentless
misery. I remain convinced that we must respond to this terrible human
suffering. We have a duty and a responsibility to call for political
action and for the isolation of the regime.
Suu Kyi has asked a simple thing of the international community. She
hasn't asked for us to be courageous; she hasn't asked for money; she
hasn't asked for military help. She's asked for sanctions so that the
junta will be starved out of existence. I believe the international
community should impose sanctions, but there is also something that
ordinary citizens can do: we can impose our own sanctions and not go on
holiday to Burma.
As Suu Kyi has said: "Sometimes breadth of vision dictates that travel
be curbed in the interests of justice and humanity".
Bangkok Post: Hitting Criminals in the Pocketbooks
Sunday, May 20, 2001
There has always been great debate about how to approach the fight
against dangerous and illegal drugs. There are advocates of taking the
fight to the drug traffickers, to cut the supply. Others favour
education and rehabilitation, to cut the demand. Within each of these
general approaches there are other choices. Addicts can be forced or
convinced into rehab programmes, for example. Free societies often
debate how much power authorities should have in their attempts to
finger, track and catch drug makers and smugglers.
One action against drug traffickers is almost without controversy. In
retrospect, one wonders why governments and anti-narcotics agents took
so long to target the wallets of the drug smugglers and sellers. The
illicit drug trade is conducted wholly for the obscenely huge profits.
Take away the profit motive, and the trafficker can-and will-no longer
Take away his profits and you also can punish him.
The battle against money laundering has been exceptionally slow to take
hold, even in the countries most at risk. The United States remains the
centre of the money laundering business, with even US banks reluctant to
help in an important national struggle. In the past two years, Thailand
has joined the fight against money laundering. In the past year, it has
become a major partner in the effort.
There was no shortage of skeptics when the Anti Money Laundering Office
was set up. It was slow getting to work. We know now that this was
mainly because of the careful vetting of the secretary-general, Pol Gen
Wasana Permlap, his assistants and the AMLO staff.
Contrary to early fears of the cynical, the AMLO has got quickly down to
work. In February, agents made their first
important seizure, arresting a drug courier and seizing the 35 million
baht he had. A "cold hit" at an expressway toll plaza further
boosted both the reputation and morale of the AMLO. The office has more
than 50 cases under scrutiny.
Authorities freely admit this is barely a start. It is also no secret
that drug traffickers still move in polite company including-if credible
reports are true-around and even in Parliament. But the Thai example and
enthusiasm have set a snowball running downhill.
The European Union announced last week it will open its regional
anti-money laundering office in Bangkok, next month. Seven
countries-Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, China and
Vietnam-are already in line for training by the EU experts. The US
Embassy held four-day seminar on the problem last week in Bangkok, and
75 law enforcement officials from 16 nations attended.
The knock-on effect in the region has reached even further. Amazingly,
Burma, whose dictatorship has welcomed money launderers with open arms,
was forced to announce it will write a law to ban the practice.
The country was shamed into it, as the host of an anti-drugs conference.
This is a watershed of sorts. Rangoon not only welcomes laundered drug
money as foreign investment, it provides amnesty, shelter and honour to
the drug lords and their money-washing agents.
Burma claims it will write and enforce a law that is line with the
international legal system. That leaves little room to manoeuvre. Drug
barons like Lo Hsing-han, the hotel investor, will have to be attended
to under such a law. The rich, international fugitive Khun Sa will also
In short, the law against money laundering is a good idea by itself.
Attacking drug traffickers through their pocketbooks can wipe out their
trade and their ilk.
But properly employed, the battle to remove profits from the drug trade
is valuable in other ways, some of them unforeseen. Who would have
imagined that Burma could be shamed into taking at least token action
against its richest criminals?
The New Light of Myanmar (SPDC): The attitude of ILO
Friday, 18 May, 2001
(Continued from 17-5-2001)
When the Labour Department team asked local elders and people of the two
villages whether they knew the Order 1/99 of the Ministry of Home
Affairs or not, it was found that these people knew very well about it.
They understood that the people have the right to make complaints if any
government organization summon them for forced labour. The government
departments also understand the fact. No government department will
commit acts that may stir up a hornet's nest.
When the team summoned all the villagers including aged persons and
children and asked them whether they were forced to work at the corn
field of the local battalion, the answer they heard was totally
different from the accusation of the International Labour Organization.
The villagers heartily told the team members that as the local
battalion paid a daily wage of K 150 per person to villagers who worked
in the field during cultivation, weeding and harvesting seasons, the
local people who were skilled in farming worked there; and that in
addition to the daily wage of K 150 per person, the employer (the local
battalion) offered a free dish for every lunch and tea in the afternoon
daily to its farm workers.
They also said that the working time was not from dawn to dusk and not
without intervals; that the first shift was three hours from 8 am to 11
am; that the afternoon shift was three hours from 1 pm to 4 pm; that the
daily working time was only six hours; that as a recreation plan, the
workers were offered free video shows in the evenings; and that at the
free video shows the aged persons and children could be seen in the
front rows although they did not work in the corn field. This is the
It was not because of the wrong information sent by the satellite, but
because of its acceptance of the slanderous accusations of the
tricksters and flatterers as true, the ILO did not know the harmonious
and beneficial relations between the villagers and the local battalion
and echoed the fabrications in a swaggering manner. It is known that
which of the gangs and fellows have the habit of doing such tricks and
lies. In this incident, the ILO became totally blind and deaf for it
wholly put its trust and reliance on its servants.
The ILO has lost all its reputation and glories as it has to follow the
plots of liars and tricksters much instead of doing the right thing
concerning the labour affairs of Myanmar. Here, I would like to show an
area where the ILO may win back good reputation if it has the goodwill
to solve the problem which requires a practical solution.
As Cynthia Maung, a female doctor and a twister who is illegally staying
in Maesot in Thailand, using the town as the base to earn her living and
springboard to promote her position, had the ability to foresee the
opportunities, she, in an effort to outwit the Thai authorities and to
extend her sources of revenue, held a seminar on the health of her
minions who were residing in the surrounding areas of Maesot under the
name " refugees". The seminar was held at a makeshift hut in the remote
Maehtawle in October 2000.
A paper which was presented at the seminar said that the monthly salary
of the labourers who were working at the production businesses near
Maesot in Thailand unprotected by workers' rights or any laws was less
than half the amount of the lowest official monthly salary in Thailand;
and that in accord with the official monthly salary rates prescribed by
the Thai government, all the illegal labourers working in Thailand were
under labour exploitation.
The paper also stated that the illegal workers' labouring time was 12
hours a day; when demands were high, the workers at a wool factory had
to work day and night for three consecutive days; and that the employers
(Thais) were so wicked that they gave water which was mixed with
stimulant drugs (amphetamine) to the workers as a tonic.
It then stated that there was no first aid for occupational hazards and
that the workers had never heard of the word " first aid"; that the
workers could not enjoy any medical or maternity leave; that in accord
with the hygienic guideline, the standard of the food given to the
workers at the factories was very low; that the illegal workers"
shelters were worse than the shelters at a pig farm; and that their
shelters had no ventilation or clean water supply.
Acting as real saviours, the Thais have lured the illegal immigrants
and minions under the name of asylum seekers into their country and gave
shelters to them; but in reality the Thais accepted them with every
intention of exploiting them. And anyone who wishes to know more
precisely about the events should contact Dr Cynthia Maung who is
well-versed in the social graces. As I have already shown the ILO
saviours not only the tip but also the whole iceberg, we will have to
wait and see the Organization's attitude towards the workers who are
facing extreme exploitation in Thailand.
Author :U Kappiya Kangaung
Xinhua: Yunnan Beats Myanmar in Volleyball Friendly
YANGON, May 19 (Xinhua) -- China's Yunnan provincial women's team beat
Myanmar selected women's team 3-0 in a second friendly volleyball match
at the National Indoor Stadium here Saturday evening. The Yunnan team,
with an average age of 21 and height of 1.79 meters, won the match
decisively against the Myanmar team, which has an average age of 23 and
height of 1.7 meters, with the set scores of 25-15,25-16 and 25-10.
The Myanmar selected women's team's coach U Tint Lwin told Xinhua after
the match that "we got many experiences from these two friendly matches
with the Yunnan team." "After these two friendly matches, the Myanmar
team will jointly do 3-day training with the Yunnan team so as to learn
good technique and training procedure from them," he disclosed. The
Yunnan team defeated the Myanmar selected women's team 3-0 in the first
friendly volleyball match on the same venue here on Thursday, scoring
25-11, 25-16 and 25-15. Under the cultural exchange program between
China and Myanmar, a 14-member Yunnan team, comprising 10 sportswomen,
arrived here on Wednesday to play two friendly matches with the Myanmar
selected women's team. In October 1993, a Yunnan provincial women's team
visited Myanmar and played three friendly matches with the Myanmar
selected women's volleyball team and the Yunnan team won all the three
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