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BurmaNet News: June 13, 2001
- Subject: BurmaNet News: June 13, 2001
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 23:15:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
June 13, 2001 Issue # 1824
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*BBC: Forced labour mission off to Burma
*Reuters: Myanmar rejects rights group's labour report
*Telerama (France): Staying away from Burma
*Boston Globe: Bills target rights violation--Would curb state pension
investment connected to Burma
*The Nation :Goldmine for ACeS in Burma
*BMA: Ivanhoe Plans $ 400 million Injection in Burma Mining Sector
*Bangkok Post: In brief: Rebels take Thais
*Mizzima: Bullet smuggling rising on Bangladesh-Burma border
*Agence France Presse: Myanmar arrests 355 in drug raids
*Bangkok Post: Chinese crew did not get to see drugs taken off boat
*AP: Human rights groups renew criticism of Myanmar over forced labor
*AFP: Amnesty, Human Rights Watch say forced labor persists in Myanmar
*AFP: Thai defence minister cancels Myanmar visit
*AFP: ILO committee seeks guarantees for Myanmar forced labour probe
*Bangkok Post: Forum-Asia places hope in PM's trip
*Bangkok Post: Maneeloy to close
*The Nation: Chavalit won't go to Burma
*The Nation: Thaksin needs help to mend Burma ties
*Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO): On Recent Anti-Muslim
Riots and destruction of mosques in Burma
*The New light of Myanmar (SPDC): Why so unruly?
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
BBC: Forced labour mission off to Burma
By regional analyst Larry Jagan
12 June, 2001, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
The International Labour Organisation is keeping up the pressure on
stop the use of forced labour. The annual meeting in Geneva decided on
Monday to maintain the measures it adopted last year when it called on
member countries to consider taking tougher action against Burma --
including possible trade sanctions. Burma had asked for these measures
dropped. But the ILO did decided to go ahead with a planned three-week
to Burma, to assess progress towards eliminating forced labour. Analysts
the make-up and the itinerary of the ILO delegation will be determined
Burma's leaders, and there are fears that there's no protection for the
witnesses who provide testimony to the delegation. Larry Jagan reports.)
The international community wants to impress on Burma that it regards
use of forced labour as unacceptable. That's the main reason the ILO has
left the measures its already adopted in place until at least next year.
according to the senior legal advisor at the ILO, the measures cannot be
changed until mid-2003 at the very earliest. And that, he said would
on the recommendations made after the next mission to Burma. Last month
senior ILO delegation visited Burma and were told that they would be
to send a extensive monitoring team to Burma, for upto three weeks, in
September to review the effectiveness of the government's efforts to
eliminate forced labour. But analysts are concerned that the agreement
between Rangoon and the ILO effectively allows the Generals to decide
membership of the delegation and where they go. The mission will not be
allowed to go places which the Burmese Generals regard as a security
Analysts also fear that there is no protection for the witnesses who
testimony to the delegation. This is always the case when the UN special
rapporteur interviews people in Burma and should apply to witnesses who
provide testimony to the ILO mission, a senior UN official told the BBC.
This issue is likely to be discussed again with Rangoon before the
goes ahead. Sources in the ILO told the BBC that while the mission will
spend only three weeks in Burma, it will also spend time visiting the
areas, particularly in Thailand interviewing refugees on force labour
the confiscation of land.
The ILO meeting concluded that one or two missions
would not be sufficient to determine whether the Burmese military rulers
begun to eliminate forced labour, but that what was needed was a
Privately the ILO says it wants to work towards setting up a permanent
presence in Rangoon, only then it says can it effectively monitor the
Burmese government's action on forced labour. The real test, according
the ILO is whether the government punishes anyone found guilty of using
forced labour. Labour organistions and human rights groups all say they
evidence that the use of force labour in Burma is still endemic. Human
Rights Watch Asia says the army still uses forced labour to dig trenches
to build other military installations. Anyone who refuses is arrested
beaten, they say. But for Rangoon the issue of forced labour hasn't been
shelved until after the next ILO mission, the UN's important Economic
Social Council will discuss the issue when it meets in Geneva in July.
Reuters: Myanmar rejects rights group's labour report
BANGKOK, June 12
Myanmar's military government on Tuesday criticised a report by
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch which accuses Yangon of using forced
labour despite an official ban on the practice.
The rights group's report cited witnesses who had seen or taken part in
forced labour this year, although Yangon had banned forced labour in
Yangon condemned the report and Human Rights Watch.
``Human Rights Watch's constant negative attitude, irresponsible
actions and unrealistic expectations are in fact hampering and depriving
the people of Myanmar of their rights to development and prosperity,'' a
government spokesman said in a statement.
The statement said Myanmar was cooperating with the United Nations'
International Labour Organisation (ILO) to reform labour practices and
create ``appropriate jobs.''
``It is regretful to learn that Human Rights Watch is not aware of the
developments taking place and the cooperation the Government of Myanmar
has extended to the ILO,'' it said.
The statement gave no further details.
Human Rights Watch's report said migrants entering neighbouring
Thailand from Mon, Karen and Arakan states, and Pegu and Rangoon
Divisions of Myanmar said they had personally taken part in or had
witnessed forced labor between February and May 2001.
Human Rights Watch on Monday urged business and labour leaders and ILO
member states to press Myanmar to enforce the ban and allow independent
monitors to verify compliance.
Myanmar issued its ban on forced labour in October. Previous orders
prohibiting the practice in 1995 and 1999 were never enforced, according
to the rights group.
Telerama (France): Staying away from Burma
30th may 2001
By Luc Le Chatelier
[Translated by P. Pouvelle for Info-Birmanie.]
Burma has it all. Sun, blue seas, pagodas galore, 5-star hotels at
rock-bottom prices, and a currency with an official exchange rate of 6
to the dollar, or about 1000 on the black market. What's more, the
safety of tourists is guaranteed: on every street corner there are plain
clothes policemen on the lookout, ready to collar any Burmese who might
have contact with foreigners, other than that of a "brief, commercial"
nature. In short, a dream destination, promoted with just a passing nod
to political correctness by the Hachette guide and Lonely Planet. Even
the "Guide du Routard", after devoting just 15 lines to the thorny
question of "Should you visit or not?" answers in the positive, barely
qualifying this with a few ethical recommendations.
And the French love it: out of a total of 150,000 tourists who
compromise themselves by visiting Burma each year, 50,000 come from
France. It is high time they were told that behind this picture
postcard paradise lurks a hell on earth. Before setting out they ought
to spare a few minutes to read "Birmanie, mode d'emploi" (Burma, a
handbook), the first non-guidebook for tourists, which lists all the
good reasons for steering clear of this country rechristened Myanmar by
a handful of bloodthirsty and corrupt generals. The reader is reminded
that since the 1990 election results were annulled (which gave 83% of
the vote to the National League for Democracy and its leader, Nobel
Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi), the ruling junta, implicated up
to the hilt in drug trafficking, has been systematically destroying the
country. As in the Cambodia of Pol Pot, if in a more refined manner,
any attempt at protest is crushed, the Shan and Karen minorities
decimated, and intellectuals locked up, tortured or deported. The regime
shut down the universities ten years ago and abandoned the schools - the
latter only function thanks to parents' groups - and the army ranks have
swollen from 400,000 to 800,000 men.
"Come when we are free!" is the cry of the rare survivors of the
democratic opposition. A cry which is echoed by Annie Faure, a doctor
and co-author of this little non-guidebook in which she reveals all.
The 20,000 people, among them children as young as 8, enrolled by force
to clean out the moat around Mandalay Palace with their bare hands, and
with neither food nor pay; whole districts evacuated in the space of a
few hours - 5,200 inhabitants of Pagan, nearly 200,000 in the capital,
Rangoon - poor people shipped to the outskirts to leave the coast clear
for luxury hotel development. Historic monuments are demolished, like
the royal palace of Kengtung in Shan province, the emblem of this ethnic
minority, razed in 1991 to make way for a hotel... which has never been
built. As for the hasty, showy restoration of the centres of Burmese
cultural heritage, all the archeologists who have visited the sites have
come to the same conclusion as Aung San Suu Kyi, who calls it a "fascist
If, however, you have already booked your tickets and intend to go
through with your trip, then this anti-guide suggests that you at least
keep your eyes peeled. Be aware of forced labour, child exploitation and
threats to the environment. The book encourages -with caution- the
reader to get off the beaten tourist track, and take one of the packed
minibuses that rattle along to the outskirts of town. But do be careful.
"Protect the Burmese" urges Annie Faure. "Do not openly enter into
contact with them, respect their reticence and do not give them anything
which might be misinterpreted by the police: I was told the story of a
family who, for a 1 franc coin, given no doubt to a child by a tourist,
found themselves in prison for illegal possession of foreign currency."
As in the Spain of Franco, who concreted the coasts and garrotted his
opponents, or modern-day Tunisia, suffocating under a police regime,
tourism, by lending support to dictatorships, can do more harm than
good. In Burma the peace that you find so enchanting is in fact a peace
born of fear.
Birmanie : mode d?emploi a new book by Action Birmanie (Belgium),
Info-Birmanie (France) and Suisse Birmanie (Switzerland) and edited by
Balland (France) is now available. The book is a new alternative guide
on Burma in French. It gives an update on the general human Rights
situation in Burma and explains the links between tourism and human
rights. There are also chapters on the three countries? governments?
position on Burma. Written with the collaboration of Claude Schauli,
Brigitte Mac Donald and Francis Christophe. You can order it by e-mail
at one of these organizations for the price of 10$ (postage fees
included) Action-Birmanie : www.birmanie.net
Info Birmanie : info-birmanie@xxxxxxxxxxxx
Suisse Birmanie : asb@birmanie-int-ch
Boston Globe: Bills target rights violation--Would curb state pension
investment connected to Burma
By Dolores Kong
June 12, 2001
Several bills to make the $30 billion state pension fund more socially
accountable - by requiring divestiture of investments in firms doing
business in Burma and imposing proxy voting policies - will be the
subject of a State House hearing today.
The proposals are part of a longstanding effort to make the
Massachusetts plan more responsive to social concerns and reflect a
growing interest in so-called socially responsible investing.
The bills are among dozens of pension-related bills being heard at 1p.m.
To address human rights violations in Burma, and in response to a US
Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down a 1996 Massachusetts
anti-Burma law, Representative Byron Rushing filed the bill to require
the pension fund to divest itself of companies doing business in Burma.
The high court said the Bay State law interfered with US foreign
''We should be on record as continuing to support the restoration of
democracy in Burma,'' said Rushing, a Boston Democrat.
The Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) board is bound to
''invest state pension assets for the exclusive purpose of providing
benefits to members of the retirement system,'' said Dwight Robson,
spokesman for state Treasurer Shannon P. O'Brien, who is responsible for
the fund. But if the Legislature requires divestiture, ''then obviously
PRIM will implement that mandate,'' he said.
Three other bills would require the treasurer to make proxy votes
public, to vote against corporate boards that aren't diverse, and to
vote in favor of certain shareholder resolutions.
Robson said that the proxy votes are already public, and that while PRIM
supports equal opportunity, ''absent a specific mandate from the
Legislature, it would be tough to achieve consensus on an actual
policy'' on diversity.
Dolores Kong can be reached by e-mail at kong@xxxxxxxxxx
This story ran on page C2 of the Boston Globe on 6/12/2001. © Copyright
The Nation :Goldmine for ACeS in Burma
June 13, 2001
By Usanee Mongkolporn.
Burma's ethnic minorities think nothing of paying as much as Bt80,000
for an ACeS handset and Bt40 per minute for calls. The amount is like
small change to them.
Ethnic minority groups along the country's borders are a goldmine for
regional satellite-based mobile-phone operator Asia Cellular Satellite
(ACeS), said Somsak Padhana-anek, acting president of ACeS Regional
Services (ARS), ACeS' service operator in Thailand and Indochina.
ARS is an offshoot of Jasmine International Plc, one of the four
founders of ACeS.
ARS has 1,500 subscribers in the region, 80 per cent of them Thai. But
the proportion is likely to change soon.
Somsak projected that by the end of this year ARS would sell 2,000
handsets in Burma, up from 200 at present. Total sales in Indochina are
forecast to reach 7,500.
The optimistic projection is based on strong demand among Burma's
minority groups, who are in need of reliable communications devices as
they live in tough border terrain and who have high purchasing power.
Demand is so high they are happy to pay between Bt70,000 and Bt80,000
for ACeS handsets and Bt40 per minute in call charges.
ARS' Thai subscribers pay just Bt40,000 per handset and Bt18 per minute
in connection charges.
Most ARS services are post-paid, but the firm will soon be switching to
a pre-paid phone, which it says is easier to use.
The pre-paid phone service was launched in Burma last month.
ARS next plans to promote the service in Laos and Cambodia.
"We're negotiating a partnership deal with the Laotian government to
jointly distribute ACeS handsets," Somsak said.
The countries of Indochina show strong potential because of their poor
fixed-line facilities and low competition from other mobile-phone
In a separate development, Jasmine's new president, Phongchai
Sirinaruemitr, said the firm was considering selling all of its 33
million shares, or 11.73-per-cent stake, in ACeS.
"If we can make a profit from the sale, it'll be interesting. But if we
do, the sale will not affect ARS' business," he added.
BMA: Ivanhoe Plans $ 400 million Injection in Burma Mining Sector
Ivanhoe plans $400 million injections into Burma mining sector
By Tin Maung Htoo
Burma Media Association (BMA)
June 11, 2001
The Canadian Mining Company that invested in Burma is now planning to
inject huge amount of dollars into their ongoing mineral business with a
new project, a move seemed to be a vital for hard-currency-starving
Burmese regime while investments in Burma have sharply declined with
52.54 percent early this year.
"This would represent the single largest foreign investment in Burma
since international oil cartels developed two offshore natural gas
fields in Burma in the Andaman Sea in the mid-nineties," said Mr. Eric
Mr. Snider, a leading shareholder activist in Vancouver, sent a letter
to Dr. Rey Pagtakhan, the Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) at
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, advising the
minister hold on the government's support, until there has been a
significant change in the country. He also suggested the minister take
necessary action in line with the ILO's resolution toward Burma, in
which Canadian representatives took active role to pass the resolution
at the conference.
In 1998 Canadian government announced a limited economic sanction
against Burma, restricting import and export, but no exact restriction
upon further investment was specified. According to some experts citing
the existing Canadian constitution, Canada can only impose a full
economic sanction against a foreign country under two special
conditions; they are when the UN Security Council decides to do so or
external elements come to threaten to Canadian' internal security.
The Secretary of State, also known as the junior minister responsible to
Asia-Pacific region, is reportedly planning to meet with Ivanhoe's
president Dan Kunz on June 13, 2001 to overview the company's proposed
Meanwhile, Burma activists in Vancouver are planning to carry out a
demonstration this Friday, as the 2001 shareholders meeting of Ivanhoe
is to take place on June 15, 2001 at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver.
"We are planning to hold Ivanhoe accountable for the unscrupulous
behavior by staging a demonstration for the annual general meeting on
June 15," Aaron James, the demonstration organizer, stated.
He explained that Ivanhoe's Monywa copper mine is one of the largest
sources of foreign currency to the military regime, profiting from
environmental destruction, slave labor, and exploitation of workers, and
that is therefore, he said, undermining the foundations of life of the
people of Burma.
Last year September, Canadian Friends of Burma and Mining Watch Canada
released a report about destructive effect of Ivanhoe's Monywa copper
project, and that provoked the Ivanhoe company to challenge the pressure
groups to withdraw the report or face with a lawsuit. The company said,
"the purpose of the documents is to try to influence decision makers in
Canada and to try to hoodwink media."
Amid mounting pressures, the company's stock promotion effort is still
going on - not only merely to maintain the existing business, but also
earnestly to stretch out with hundreds of millions of dollars - down
playing any concern forwarded from pressure groups. On June 6, 2001,
the company president gave an interview with a local radio station in an
attempt to lure more shareholders into a new project.
"Letpadaung is a cornerstone of our strategy of building a low-cost,
world-scale copper business. The first phase, the S&K Mine, has been
very successful, becoming one of the world's lowest-cost primary copper
producers since its start-up in 1998." said in the company's report.
The Letpadaung project, the second phase of Ivanhoe, is projected to
value $ 389 million, and aimed at additional production of 125,000
tonnes. So far a Japanese and Chinese company are said to have interest
to cover financing and construction. The first phase of the S&K Mine
Project is operated a 50/50 joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines and the
state-owned Burma Mining Enterprise No. 1. It produced 20,715 tonnes in
1999 and planed to increase by 40% to 35,000 tonnes a year.
The company stated, "there had never been a better time to be in the
business of mining. While technology has changed many things, including
mining, the need is greater than ever for basic metal such as copper and
steel- essential building blocks of modern economies."
Mr. Snider, however, warned shareholders "you have to have a strong
stomach to invest in smaller resource companies. Unions, religious
groups, ethical funds and others who get involved with this kind of
thing with companies like Unocal steer away from the likes of Ivanhoe
because of the risk involved."
He also pointed the company's downing stock trend, "when Ivanhoe was
just getting the Monywa mine set up in 97 the stock traded in the C$
17-19 range. Right now it's around C$ 2."
According to the company's latest report, copper cathode production at
the Monywa mine was down slightly in the first quarter of 2001 but
expected to rise during the whole year to a level of 28,300 tonnes.
Nevertheless, Monywa copper project, one of the largest copper producers
in Asia, is in fact not only vital for the existence of Burmese military
rulers, but also indispensable for the Ivanhoe company since the major
projects, its derived profit, and future prospect mainly locate in
Bangkok Post: In brief: Rebels take Thais
June 12, 2001
Two Thai workers have been captured by Shan State Army rebels from a
logging site opposite Mae Hong Son, a logging firm source said
The two workers, one from Chiang Mai and the other from Lampang, were
hired by a Thai company to drive tractors for a logging firm owned by
Burma's Ho Mong chief Maha Jah.
The SSA earlier sent a letter demanding 300,000 baht protection fee from
Maha Jah but the demand was rejected.
The capture of the Thais was believed to be a warning.
Dhaka, June 12, 2001
Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)
The smuggling of bullets across the Bangladesh-Burma border
has been rampant in recent months and the Na Sa Ka personnel based in
Maung Daw township in Arakan State of Burma are allegedly involved in
the smuggling racket, sources in the border areas say.
The sources added that some Na Sa Ka Burmese border security personnel
are allegedly selling out the bullets to the petty smugglers in the
border. A M-16/ AK-47/G-3 bullet can be bought with kyat 200 from Na Sa
Ka forces and the same can be sold in Bangladesh side with taka 100-150
(about kyat 1200-1800). As the bullet smuggling is paying wealth, many
local people are now involved in this smuggling business.
On May 26, two Rakhine nationals residing in Bangladesh were arrested
along with 400 rounds of bullets at an army gate of Bangladesh Defence
Rifles in Cox's Bazar. The local police said that the two had been doing
this bullet smuggling for several months and they reportedly admitted
that they sold the bullets to some Bangladeshi politicians in the area.
Acting on the revelation of the arrested duo, the police have been
searching for a Rakhine national living in Nilla village of Bangladesh
border, who is believed to be the link between the Burmese Na Sa Ka and
Agence France Presse: Myanmar arrests 355 in drug raids
June 12, 2001, Tuesday 6:12 AM
Myanmar authorities arrested 355 people on drugs charges and seized 60.7
kilograms (133.5 pounds) of raw opium and 9.7 kilograms (21.3 pounds) of
heroin in April, state-run media reported Tuesday.
Police and customs arrested 280 men and 75 women in 251 cases during a
nationwide crackdown, TV Myanmar said in a broadcast monitored here.
Nearly 920,000 amphetamine tablets and 4.8 kilos (10.5 pounds) of
marijuana, as well as large quantities of heroin-refining chemicals and
illegal medicines, were also confiscated.
Myanmar's ruling junta has come under harsh international criticism,
particularly from the United States and Thailand, for its alleged
involvement in the narcotics trade and its failure to clamp down on
illegal drug producers. The junta denies the charges.
Bangkok Post: Chinese crew did not get to see drugs taken off boat
June: 13, 2001
By Teerawat Kumtita, Chiang Rai
Thai police yesterday questioned eight crew members of a Chinese vessel
seized by Burmese troops on Sunday.
The boat, loaded with farm products from China, was searched while it
was docked at Mueng Pong in Burma on its way down the Mekong river to
Chiang Rai's Chiang Saen port.
The boat and its crew arrived in Chiang Saen yesterday following their
release from Burma earlier in the day.
The boat was inspected by Pol Maj-Gen Somkid Boonthanom, chief of Chiang
Rai police. The skipper and his men were invited in for questioning.
Skipper Wang Zuming, 38, said he had been hired by a Burmese man for
2,000 baht to deliver 10 sacks weighing 50kg each from Mueng Pong in
Burma to a port at Wat Pong Sanuk in Chiang Saen. The skipper said he
accepted the job without knowing what was inside the sacks.
The boat was raided by Burmese soldiers after only three sacks were
loaded onto the vessel. The Burmese hirer fled in a car, he said. The
skipper said the Burmese soldiers claimed there were at least six
million methamphetamine pills in the sacks. However, the crew was not
allowed to see the drugs.
The skipper and his men were then taken to Tachilek town for
questioning. They spent Monday night in a cell before their release
Pol Lt-Col Kollachai Preechaona, the Chiang Saen immigration police
inspector, said stricter measures might have to be imposed on foreign
vessels visiting Chiang Saen port.
He said police were checking if Yang, or Saengmuang, Yipa, a Chinese Haw
shareholder of a local shipping firm, was involved in drug smuggling.
Police investigation showed the man had used the service of the Chinese
vessel seized on Sunday.
The provincial police chief, Pol Maj-Gen Somkid Boonthanom, said
authorities would keep a close watch on the eight crewmen as well as
other people suspected of involvement in the smuggling of drugs by boat.
Border security would be stepped up ahead of the June 24 implementation
of a policy to liberalise water transport.
AP: Human rights groups renew criticism of Myanmar over forced labor
BANGKOK, Thailand - 2001-06-12 Tue 12:51
Two human-rights lobbying organizations on Tuesday renewed their
criticism of Myanmar's military regime for its use of forced labor.
The statements by New York-based Human Rights Watch and London-based
Amnesty International were released during the annual conference of the
U.N.'s International Labor Organization in Geneva, which began last
In an unprecedented move last November, the ILO urged its 175 member
governments to impose sanctions and review their dealings with Myanmar _
also known as Burma _ to ensure they are not abetting forced labor.
The body left it up to individual governments, organizations and labor
unions to determine what they will do.
Myanmar has continued using forced labor even though it officially
banned the practice more than eight months ago, Human Rights Watch
The government denies the allegation. Previously it defended the
practice by describing such work as traditional voluntary community
In a news release, Human Rights Watch said it had evidence that forced
labor was continuing as recently as last month.
The group urged business and labor leaders, as well as ILO member
states, to press the Myanmar regime to take immediate action to enforce
a ban on forced labor enacted in October last year and verify compliance
through regular visits by independent monitors.
``If Burmese authorities are serious about ending forced labor, they
should mount a nationwide program to enforce their own ban,'' Sidney
Jones, executive director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch,
was quoted saying. ``Then they should invite independent monitors in to
see for themselves.''
Jones said, ``The international community should keep up the pressure,
and until all forced labor is ended and this has been independently
verified, foreign companies should refrain from investing in Burma.''
The ILO said Monday that it would send a team of investigators to
Myanmar to assess progress in stopping forced labor in the country.
The ILO ``welcomed Myanmar's decision to renew cooperation'' with the
organization, but ``deplored the lack of progress in eliminating forced
labor,'' said John Doohan, spokesman for the U.N. labor agency. Myanmar
threatened to end cooperation with the ILO after last November's finding
Legal changes in Myanmar aimed at stopping the use of forced labor were
``a relevant but insufficient basis'' for improving the situation
there,'' Doohan said.
Amnesty International said Tuesday it had released a new report
highlighting the use of forced labor against ethnic minorities in
``Ethnic minorities continue to be targets of repression and suffer a
wide range of human rights violations, but the most common abuse is
forced labor duty,'' said Amnesty in a news release.
``The military frequently forces men, women and children from ethnic
minorities to carry heavy loads over tough terrain for days or weeks at
a time or to work on construction projects such as building railways,
roads and dams. Hundreds have died from exhaustion and beatings,'' it
AFP: Amnesty, Human Rights Watch say forced labor persists in Myanmar
BANGKOK, June 12
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) Tuesday denounced the
use of forced labor in Myanmar, saying the brutal practice persisted
there despite an official ban introduced last year.
"If Burmese (Myanmar) authorities are serious about ending forced
labor, they should mount a nationwide program to enforce their own ban,"
the US-based HRW said in a statement.
Amnesty said ethnic minority groups were a particular target for forced
labor, especially in disputed zones where armed opposition groups
continue to fight the military.
"The military frequently forces men, women and children from ethnic
minorities to carry heavy loads over tough terrain for days or weeks at
a time or to work on construction projects," it said in a statement.
"Hundreds have died from exhaustion and beatings."
The ruling State Peace and Development Council last year introduced
legislation making forced labor a criminal offense, in a bid to head off
a damning International Labor Organisation (ILO) resolution.
The ILO nevertheless called on its members to review their ties with
Myanmar, an unprecedented step that paved the way for possible
HRW said that as recently as May, migrants coming into Thailand from
Myanmar said they had taken part or witnessed forced labor projects
overseen by military police who beat villagers to make them work faster.
Some of the workers were just 10 years old, the witnesses told HRW.
The rights group said it is "not aware of a single case in which a
Burmese (Myanmar) official has been sanctioned for violating the order
.. which provides for a penalty of up to one year in prison, a fine or
HRW urged business, labor leaders and ILO member states "to press the
Burmese government to take immediate action to enforce the October 27
ban and verify compliance through regular access to Myanmar by
Myanmar's relations with the ILO have thawed since the November
resolution, which prompted the generals in Yangon to declare they would
completely withdraw cooperation with the organisation.
In May, an ILO technical team made an unpublicised visit to Myanmar to
negotiate an accord on the eradication of forced labor, and another
visit is to take place in September.
The ILO said last week that the September mission, which could last
three weeks, is to review the impact of steps taken by Myanmar to end
Members of its Committee for the Application of Standards insisted the
team be granted "broad powers, access to regions and information and
witnesses, and that there be protection for those witnesses."
AFP: Thai defence minister cancels Myanmar visit
BANGKOK, June 12
Thailand's Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh Tuesday cancelled his
plans to visit Myanmar to prepare for a much-awaited debut trip by Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Chavalit, who also serves as deputy premier, was due to fly to Yangon
on Monday ahead of Thaksin's March 19-20 visit.
"Defence Minister Chavalit will not go to Myanmar as he has to be
acting prime minister while Prime Minister Thaksin is away," deputy
defence minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa said.
He did not explain why one of Thaksin's other four deputies could not
stand in for the premier when he visits Cambodia on June 18 and 19.
The Myanmar trip is the most sensitive leg on a three-nation tour this
month which will also take the prime minister to Laos on Wednesday and
Chavalit, a former army chief, is reputed to have a good working
relationship with the generals in Yangon. These links had been expected
to help foster cordial relations between the junta and Thaksin's
administration which came to power in the January elections.
However, for most of this year the neighbours have been embroiled in an
increasingly bitter row over who is responsible for the rampant border
Thaksin has repeatedly said he is confident the problems will be ironed
out during his first visit to Myanmar.
On Tuesday he said that in meetings next week with his counterpart,
Senior General Than Shwe, he expected to table the drugs issue, as well
as border security and economic cooperation.
"Chavalit has coordinated well (with Myanmar) on many issues, thus my
work is smooth and Myanmar's attitude is gradually becoming more
positive," he said.
Thaksin said China will soon set a date for an upcoming four-nation
drugs meeting with Thailand, Laos and Myanmar which is to be held in
Chinese city of Kunming.
AFP: ILO committee seeks guarantees for Myanmar forced labour probe
GENEVA, June 11
An International Labour Organisation (ILO) committee on Monday sought
extended powers for a mission it will send to Myanmar in September to
review the impact of steps taken to end forced labour.
Meeting at the organisation's annual assembly, members of the Committee
for the Application of Standards insisted the mission be granted "broad
powers, access to regions and information and witnesses, and that there
be protection for those witnesses," the ILO said.
Like all of the organisation's bodies, the committee is made up of
country representatives, workers and employers.
The high-level ILO mission, which could last three weeks, would review
the impact of steps taken by Myanmar to end forced labour, under a plan
announced by Yangon in October, officials announced last week.
The Myanmar government agreed to the visit and said, according to a
protocol accord released by the ILO last week, that team members would
be free to travel and arrange meetings unless there were "valid security
The committee on Monday said it welcomed "the Myanmar government's
decision to renew cooperation with the ILO," adding that it "nonetheless
deplored the lack of progress in eliminating forced labour."
According to the ILO statement, "certain legislative changes that have
been introduced since October last year ... were relevant but an
insufficient basis for improving legislation."
The dozen or so members of the mission will be chosen for their
impartiality and their knowledge of the region, and while Myanmar said
it wanted to approve the envoys, its request was turned down.
The mission is expected to report to the Geneva-based ILO in November.
Last November, the ILO recommended that its members review their
relations with Yangon, an unprecedented step paving the way for possible
Myanmar has been under fire in the ILO since 1998, when an inquiry
commission said it had significant direct testimony of the systematic
and general use of forced labour, particularly involving ethnic
Bangkok Post: Forum-Asia places hope in PM's trip
June: 13, 2001
By Achara Ashayagachat
A regional human rights group was confident Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra could forge closer ties with Burma during his visit to
After a meeting yesterday with the Bangkok-based group, Foreign Minister
Surakiart Sathirathai said the government hoped an increase in
people-to-people contacts would bridge the gap between the two nations.
Gothom Arya, adviser to the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development
(Forum-Asia), said bilateral dialogue should be promoted in various
tracks both in secret and in the open.
"Exchanges of cultural and religious activities would be good
channels."Ahead of the prime minister's visit to Rangoon on Tuesday, the
Bangkok-based NGO insisted true peace and democracy would not be ensured
unless the Burmese government co-operated with the opposition party and
the ethnic minorities.
"We're willing to help support the reconciliation process, if we're
allowed to do so," he said.
Mr Surakiart said the NGO could discuss the matter with Burmese
diplomats in Thailand or Foreign Minister Win Aung, but it should not
interfere with Burma's domestic affairs.
Any initiative should be in line with that of the United Nations
secretary general's special envoy Ismail Razali, Mr Surakiart said.
Forum-Asia also pushed forward the establishment of the Asean human
rights mechanism and hoped the Asean ministerial meeting in Hanoi would
deal with the issue.
They raised the pending ratification of the Rome Statute, which would
require Thailand to co-operate with other signatories to bring those who
committed crimes against humanity to international trial.
Bangkok Post: Maneeloy to close
June: 13, 2001
The Maneeloy holding centre for Burmese students in exile will be closed
in September, the Interior Ministry's foreign affairs division said.
The closure was discussed yesterday by Pairoj Promsan, deputy interior
permanent secretary in charge of security, and Jahanshah Assadi,
representative of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Nirand Kallayanamitr, head of the foreign affairs division, said the
centre had sent 5,800 students to a third country since 1992.
Only 400 students remain. The centre would be closed tentatively in
September after the last batch leaves, Mr Nirand said.
The Nation: Chavalit won't go to Burma
June: 13, 2001
GENERAL CHAVALIT Yongchaiyudh has been at the forefront in Thai-Burmese
relations, yet next week when Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra heads to
Rangoon, the deputy prime minister and defence minister will stay
Instead, Chavalit will serve as acting prime minister in Thaksin's
absence, a senior government official said yesterday.
Chavalit, whose personal diplomatic efforts helped Thaksin secure an
earlier trip to Burma, is unable to accompany the premier to Rangoon on
from June 19 to 20.
He is scheduled to visit China at the invitation of his Chinese
counterpart from June 20 to 24, Deputy Defence Minister General Yuthasak
But his absence should not be a problem since he has already talked to
Burmese authorities and laid the groundwork for Thaksin's visit,
The Foreign Ministry will be responsible for setting the agenda of the
The Defence Ministry, meanwhile, will deal with measures to build
confidence between the two countries' armed forces, Yuthasak said.
General Chetta Thanajaro, who is an adviser to Thaksin and is a good
friend of the Burmese junta's leader, will accompany the premier along
with two other soldiers who have a good knowledge of Burma.
Chavalit, known for his rapport with Rangoon and an unpopular go-softly
approach to Burma, was a no-show from the high-profile drug conference
in Chiang Rai in March. He gave no details on the reason for his
But sources close to the Chavalit said his absence from this trip was
purely the call of duty.
PM's office minister General Thamarak Issarakura said Thaksin had
personally requested Chavalit to remain in Thailand to look after the
Also, protocol does not require the first deputy prime minister to
always accompany the premier, Thamarak said.
TheNation: Thaksin needs help to mend Burma ties
June: 13, 2001
By Vorapun Srivoranart.
After four months of conflict, with ties at their lowest ebb, the two
countries must find new rules of engagement
Every conflict yields a new set of rules governing the relationship of
those involved, and that between Thailand and Burma is no exception. How
the conflict is resolved will immediately become a benchmark for the
future conduct of bilateral ties.
Too much has occurred during the past four months to permit turning the
clock back to the time before the border clash between the respective
armies at Pang Noon. The articles in the Burmese state mouthpiece, The
New Light of Myanmar, slandering Thai kings and the introduction of a
history textbook slighting the Thai people offer a glaring example of
the new reality of Thai-Burmese relations.
These two incidents could be viewed as the culmination of problems
emanating from different causes that have arisen in the interstate
conflict. They also signify that a subtle alteration has been made to
the rules of engagement between the two countries and hence new limits
have been set.
One might dismiss the seriousness of the recent historical debate
between the two sides as an over-reaction since history is a very
subjective field and always open to interpretation. Academically, this
might be true, but it is not the case in the present context when
history is misrepresented through anachronism and selective emphasis for
a political objective. Worse, the process is happening on both sides of
The spat also reflects the nature of historiography in Southeast Asia,
which is very biased and devised to foster a sense of nationalism and
anti-colonialism. Indeed, history is significant for the life of a
nation and more often than not becomes an effective political instrument
due to its ability to shape the minds of its people.
For the sake of national unity and, to a greater extent the security of
the ruling regime, a common enemy has to be produced, projected and
sustained. In essence, the resulting conflict is often portrayed as a
moral battle between dharma (virtue) and adharma (evil) according to the
Theravada Buddhism prevalent in both Thailand and Burma.
In this environment, the manner in which the people of both countries
relate to each other is through "negative identification", emphasising
the differences between them rather than what they hold in common. The
process will inevitably lead to a perception of "us versus them", which
is not conducive to healthy relations.
Therefore, Rangoon's systematic campaign to project Thailand as a new
enemy to the three pillars of Burmese history - national unity,
anti-colonialism and the independence struggle - is a cause for serious
concern. Before, Thailand rarely merited a place in Burmese history, not
to mention a school textbook, because for them the chief enemy was
always the British.
Therefore, a new history textbook on Thailand and Burma, hastily
introduced, represents a crucial turning point in mutual relations. The
effect will certainly not be immediate, but in the long run will
gradually foster a new "bad guy" image, and be inscribed in popular
perception as "our permanent and natural enemy".
On the other hand, a similar process had begun long ago in Thailand and
the present tension only reaffirms the perception of a bellicose Burma
arrayed against a benign Thailand.
So why worry about a mere textbook instead of the articles in The New
Light of Myanmar? The answer lies in the forceful effect the textbook
will have on the socialisation of a future Burmese generation and their
relation to their Thai counterparts which could do more harm than
newspaper articles which no one believes are impartial.
Moreover, one should also not overlook the political mentality of the
Burmese of good conscience who have to endure the military regime's
brutality and who harbour contempt for their actions. It was this
political mentality that played a part in the landslide victory of the
National League for Democracy in the 1990 election.
In anticipation of new problems, it is worthwhile to look back at the
beginning of the conflict four months ago, and ask ourselves: How did
things reach this state? What went wrong with foreign policy? For one
thing, everyone has forgotten about the genesis of the conflict that has
brought Thai-Burmese relations to the lowest point ever, since responses
have been anything but coherent and tend to drift from problem to
The signals sent out by both governments have been equally confusing as
a result of competitive manipulation by various interest groups to gain
primacy. So, it has been four months of disunity against disunity,
resulting in chaos and the victory of a personality-driven approach. An
interesting question here is whether the whole affair is a product of
international relations or a product of domestic political disruption in
A clear answer is needed before Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra boards
a plane to Rangoon next week because foreign policy cannot afford to
operate on a trial-and-error approach.
For now, it seems both Thaksin and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence
Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh are following closely a popular theme of
Thai history about the emergence of a great man. The future will judge
whether their statesmanship is genuine or presumptuous .
Regardless of the outcome of the conflict, the two nations have to move
on and it is best for the people of both sides not to put their future
only in the hands of a few leaders. The future belongs to everyone and
it would be a noble dream if we the people of Thailand and Burma could
one day live together in a "security community".
Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO): On Recent Anti-Muslim
Riots and destruction of mosques in Burma
7th June 2001
In Burma frequent outburst of anti-Muslim riots in different parts of
Arakan and Burma resulting in the death of Muslims and plundering their
properties. The present ruling military junta State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC) by and watched the looting of Muslim
Several anti-Muslim riots took place in Sittwe (Akyab), from 4th to 8th
February 2001, the provincial capital of Arakan, and other towns of
Kyaukpru, Pauktaw and Maybon. In this riots at least 40 Muslims were
dead and over 30 injured including one Buddhist monk. About 80 houses
were burnt down including 30 shanty-houses of Buddhist community and 10
shops, one boarding owned by Muslims were razed to the ground.
This riots continued for 5 days but military and the police did not
stop the riots, though their camps are near the riots places. The
military and police also encouraged and physically participated at the
side of the Buddhist rioters. The youths of Union Solidarity and
Development Association (USDA) of ruling junta disguising as young
Buddhist monks and their followers attacked the Muslim quarters.
It is the phenomena of the successive Burmese governments that whenever
they are facing critical situation either of economical or political,
they use to divert the situation into a riot between Buddhist and
Muslims in which Muslims are always made as a escape-goat. At present
Arakan is like a big jail for the Rohingya Muslims. After happening the
riots, travelling of all Rohingya Muslims from any parts of the Arakan
to Akyab (Sittwe) are totally banned by the authority. The ruling junta
has been creating anti-Muslim sentiment among the Buddhist of Arakan. It
is widely believe that whatever happenings in the form of riots in
Arakan are not accidental but an act of pre-planned arrangement
systematically being carried out throughout the time.
Recently in Maungdaw township 12 mosques attached with religious schools
in Ghodosara Village Tract, 10 Mosques with attached 5 religious
schools in Baggona Village Tract, 2 mosques in Chairapara
(Pa-Yaungbangyi), one Mosque in Kilaidaung (Cheradan), one mosque in
Ludine (Dodan) Para, in total 26 Mosques including religious schools
were destroyed by the Na.Sa.Ka authority from 13th to 20th May 2001.
Many religious leaders who opposed against such action of ruling junta
were beaten and detained while some were went into hiding. The Na.Sa.Ka
authorities have also listed to destroyed many mosques and religious
schools in near future particularly at Maungdaw north, Buthidaung and
In this regard, a team of religious leaders from Maungdaw township
comprising of Dr. Nurul Hoque, Chairman of Religious Council, Mr.
Salim, Chairman of Myanma Muslim Organisation and Hafiz Noor Mohammed,
an E.C Member of Jamaitul -Ullama met the Director General of Na.Sa.Ka,
Headquarters at Kowarbil (Gyiganbin) and the Director told them that
these were done by the order of the higher authority. He told them that
he will summit this matters to the higher authorities not to occur in
Similar anti-Muslim riots were broken out during the months of March and
April in 1997. About 30 mosques were also demolished in the mainland
Burma, particularly, in the cities of Rangoon, Mandalay, Toung Ngu, and
Prome etc.. Earlier a number of mosques in Arakan including the historic
Sandi Khan mosque built in 1430 C.E were razed to the ground. In 1997
alone atleast 42 mosques were demolished throughout the country.
On 15th May 2001, a group of Military Intelligence (MI) disguising of
young Buddhist monks and hundreds of their followers from USDA came to
Muslim quarters of Taung Ngu and suddenly attacked 14 mosques at a time
while Muslims were praying. As a result 5 mosques and 200 Muslim houses
were burnt down to ashes, destroyed many shops and restaurants owned by
the Muslims. Two monks also were killed during the two days long riots.
Among them 4 Muslim leaders died when the rioters cut their throats and
the owner of a restaurant was beaten to death. Most of the Muslims of
Taung Ngu were compelled to flee to the neighbouring townships.
During this time, Muslim villages of Kywe Kyaw, Auk Nyein and other
villages were also under the arson attacks. The Iman (who leads prayer
in the mosque) Moulvi Anwar of Taung Ngu Jam-e-Masjid was hacked into 3
pieces and kept on Rangoon-Mandalay highway to make it known to the
Buddhist public, as an act of timely needed one.
The riots also spread to Taunggyi, Thagaya, Swa and Pyu, Taungdwingyi,
Yadashe and Nyaunglebin on 20th to 23rd of May 2001, resulting at least
20 people dead, more than 100 houses were burnt down, and thousands of
Muslims became homeless.
The above religious riots were instigated and pre-meditated by military
intelligence against in a bid to divert attention from the current
economic and political crisis of Burma. In the 2nd week of May, 2001,
the value of the Kyat has been dropped to its lowest ever and now rests
at about 885 Kyat to the one US$ on the black market. With the drop of
the Kyat, the price of other basic commodities has skyrocketed.
Additionally, the recent rationing of electricity has driven up the
price of petrol, which is used to power small privately owned
A Western diplomat in Rangoon said that it was a pretty big rampage by
the young Buddhist monks and the Burmese ruling junta has ordered a
curfew after anti-Muslim riots was over. The military junta had not
immediately released official statement on the riots. But after passing
a long time, the SPDC has carefully admitted the occurrence of
anti-Muslim riots in Burma and the SPDC reasoned that it was an internal
problem between the Muslim and Buddhist community. According to
Buddhist monk Khin Ma-Thara, President of the Young Monks Association of
Burma, based on Thai-Burma border, the riots may continue up to
September 2001 because these riots were organised under the direction of
Regional Military commanders. The intelligence apparatus of ruling junta
has been publishing and distributing pamphlets on which they stated that
today in Burma the Muslim population is more than 20% of the total
population. The pamphlet also indicates that Burma is turning into a
Muslim country in a shot time if Muslims were let free.
Therefore, the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO), Arakan,
strongly condemned the present ruling military junta SPDC of Burma for
creating such heinous anti-Muslim riots and destruction of religious
I, on behalf of ARNO and the Rohingyas of Arakan in particular and the
Muslims of Burma in general appeal to the International Community, the
Governments of World and World Bodies including UNO, OIC, NAM, SAARC,
ASEAN, NGOs, IGOs and other Humanitarian and Human Rights Organisations
to help stop further escalation of the anti-Muslim riots in Burma and to
investigate the real situation of Muslims and to raise the issue at an
appropriate forum of the World Bodies.
We, also particularly appeal to our neighbouring Bangladesh Government
and the People of Bangladesh to press the present Burmese ruling junta
to protect the mosques and the Islamic religious institutions in Arakan
and Burma and also to ensure the security of lives and properties of
Arakan Rohingya National Organisation
The New light of Myanmar: Why so unruly?
Friday, 8 June, 2001
In the sports world, our coaches have often said "lay it hard, but not
rough. If you want to win, you must play hard. But you will be sent out
if you play unruly, and hitting others.
Ó In this case, your unruly acts are too much. You hit other country's
territory with heavy weapons and also with fighter-bombers. Do you think
we Myanmars are physically handicapped?
Myanmars have always upheld the values of Myanmar society "Enhance
amity, diminish enmity". We Myanmars cannot be flattered to act in a
funny way as you do.
In the past, they were known as Siamese but now they are called Thais.
They are highly civilized people. They greet people by putting their
palms together in a gesture of respect.
During a festival in Tachilek in 1955, Thais came to the town to sponsor
gambling ventures and stage Lamon traditional dances and Thai boxing
matches at the festival. The song "Lele-kaw Mar-chin-laung" sung at the
Lamon dance show is still in my heart.
Kayin soldiers from the Myanmar Tatmadaw also took part in the Thai
boxing matches. The winner got K 50 and the loser, K 30. As even a
loser would get K 30, he could enjoy the festival together with his
friends with his prize money.
In one match, Yin Maung, a Myanmar soldier, faced a young Thai boxer
whose height was five feet eight inches. But Yin Maung was only five
feet four inches tall. Thus, the Thai boxer had the advantage in weight
as well as in height.
As soon as the first round began, the Thai boxer pressed hard to struck
blows on Yin Maung who was dodging in the ring. In the second round,
the attacking young Thai seemed to be a little tired.
Yin Maung then made faces at the competitor as he had done during his
fight at the Myanmar traditional boxing championship match in Kayin
State. The Thai boxer was imitating his acts. Yin Maung then bent his
legs, and when the Thai boxer followed his posture, he jumped onto the
Thai's lap, grabbed his head and hit his chin with his knee. In a
stunning situation, the young Thai boxer who was caught by a surprise
attack had to clean the blood from his mouth with his hand and glanced
at Yin Maung.
Grabbing this right opportunity, Yin Maung gave left and right fly kicks
at the chin of the Thai boxer. The Thai youth fell onto the floor. When
the judge's count reached "eight", the Thai boxer put his palms
together and told Yin Maung that he was not able to continue the fight
as Yin Maung was so superior to him.
This was the spirit of sportsmanship. In other words, as a Thai, he had
shown the civility of his people.
I was wondering "From where did the barbarians arrive in Thailand and
mingle with the civilized Thais?"
History stands witness to the fact that Myanmars were much friendly
towards the Thai people.
The Burma Independence Army was founded in Bangkok on 16 December 1941
to win back independence.
When the two nations were enjoying a closer bilateral friendly
relations, who tried to ruin the relations, and for what reason? The
Myanmar people find it amazing.
But Thais are saying that Myanmars have intrusion into their territory
throughout history. But who were the Jon invaders who attacked Bago
during the Bagan period? Who were the intruders that attacked
Taninthayi Division which had made King Bayintnaung to conquer Siam
during his endeavours to reunite the nation.
According to Maha Yazawin (History), the Siamese troops attacked Dawei,
Myeik and Mottama and seized Myeik region during the reign of King Min
Ye Kyaw Htin (1673-1698).
Who was the real culprit in history? When U Aungzeya (King Alaungphaya)
was reuniting the nation, he had to drive out the Siamese intruders
from Taninthayi. As the Siamese tried to defy the King, he had to chase
the enemies who fled into Siam. So, who was responsible for all this?
Though Myanmars can forget these events with the conviction "Enhance
amity, diminish enmity", why can't the black sheep of Thailand have the
wish to enhance amity?
I would like to raise a question. Why is the country thinking the wolf
from ten thousand miles away to be a noble person while refusing to
have the brethren spirit on its immediate neighbour? In Myanmar
history, there was an event. The event is "that the hero, Kyansittha,
tried to rescue Prince Saw Lu, who was taken prisoner by Ngayamangan,
in much difficult condition. Saw Lu, who had false hopes over the enemy
shouted "Kyansittha is trying to take me away". So, Kyansittha left him
behind and ran away. But Saw Lu was murdered by his enemy. A black mark
was left in history because of mistrust.
And now, we are brethren neighbours. The problems between us can be
solved through the diplomatic channel. Don't get rough due to the
flattery of others.
Author : Thila
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