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BurmaNet News: June 22, 1995 [#188]

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------------------------- BurmaNet ---------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: 22 June 1995
Issue #188

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In Washington:


===== item =====


Burma's image in the wake of recent fighting along the
Thai-Burmese border has dented its growing tourist industry,
say travel-business executives. 
The government has not released any figures, but officials in
Rangoon say privately that the number of arrivals in March was
significantly less than the total for the same month last
year. The shortfall is being blamed on the international
publicity attracted by the military junta's dry-season
campaign against ethnic Karen rebel along the Thai-Burmese
border. Burma is aiming to attract some 300,000 tourists to
Burma in 1996. Last year, tourist arrivals, which include
businessmen, stood at 67,000. (FEER)

21 June 1995

Burma hopes to see direct foreign investment reach Bt4 billion
by the end of the year thanks to "growing confidence" in the
business climate here, a government minister said yesterday.

Brigadier General David Abel, who heads the military
government's ministry of national planning and economic
development, said Britain currently topped the investment
list, followed by France, Thailand and Singapore.

Addressing a news conference at the opening of an
international exposition in Rangoon yesterday, Abel said there
were already 139 foreign investment projects under way valued
at $2.752 billion.

"On the completion of these projects by the end of this year
we hope that the amount will be four billion (dollars)," he

Abel spoke of a notable increase in foreign investments which
indicated "a growing confidence" on the part of foreign
companies in the investment climate in Burma.

Britain headed the list of investors largely due to the fact
that companies from Hong Kong, the British Virgin Islands,
Bermuda and other territories were registered around the

But with charges taking place "almost by the minute" in the
investment fields, other countries might surpass Britain, Abel
said, adding that Thailand and Singapore had the largest
number of companies doing business in Burma.

Investment sectors included agriculture, forestry, fisheries,
mining, oil and gas production, manufacturing and services, he

Some 116 companies from 18 countries were taking part in the
four-day international exposition, 60 per cent of them
returning after taking part in the first such fair last year,
according to organizer Koh Kim Seng.

"It also shows confidence in the overall environment in
Myanmar and demonstrates investment has to be easy here," said
Koh, of Applied Investments (Asia) Pte Ltd.

Myanmar is the official name of Burma. The show was divided
into three broad categories, Koh said - building materials and
construction machines, garment and textile machinery and
accessories, and computer, telecommunications and consumer
electronics. (TN)

21 June 1995

With the continued closure of checkpoints between Burma and
Thailand restricting trade, northern businesses are calling on
the Thai government to patch up relations with Burma before
the situation worsens.

"If this policy is not reviewed, we will lose our standing and
then will face more difficulties with our neighbouring
countries," warned Panithi Tangpati, vice-president of the Tak
Chamber of Commerce.

Burma has closed several checkpoints including one at
Thachilek and may close the Victoria checkpoint opposite
Ranong province in retaliation for the closing of Thailand's
Mae Sai checkpoint.

Concern over the border policy and the need for the private
sector to give the Government more information about border
conditions were among issues raised at last weekend's meeting
of the Private Enterprise Committee, composed of members from
nine northern provinces.

Committee chairman Pravit Akarachinores said the border
problem was an outgrowth of recent political games and tricks.
The halt in construction of the Thai-Burmese bridge in Mae Sot
has added fuel to the fire.

Implementation of Thai policy toward Burma has been
inconsistent, notably during the term of the Chuan Government,
Mr Panithi said.

He believes that officials unfamiliar with the highly
sensitive issues involved in the border situation might be
unwittingly exacerbating problems.

Maintaining a balance in border areas involves effective
juggling of a number of factors such as minority groups,
border trade and foreign affairs.

Frequent turnovers of foreign ministers have not helped
alleviate tensions, said Mr Panithi.

"The Thai government's support of the Karen minority group
will spoil the country's reputation," he said, adding that
Thailand is using the minority group as a "buffer state".

According to Mr Panithi, Thais have also contributed to border
tensions by burying earth in the riverbank in order to claim
more territory, and some Thais are illegally constructing
buildings along the Moei riverbank.

This has led to anti-Thai sentiment among the Burmese;
pamphlets denouncing Thai consumer goods are even being
distributed in town markets, particularly in Myawaddy, the
Burmese town opposite Mae Sot.

Mr Panithi said that border closures seen as "economic
sanctions" only against Burma are also hurting Thai merchants,
since Burmese imports of Thai consumer goods and construction
materials have been severely reduced.

The Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce and Mae Sai merchants have
asked Governor Kamroon Booncherd to reopen the border pass.

Mae Sai traders hope that candidates for the July 2 election
will be able to help remedy the situation, said Vivat
Sirijangkapattana, president of the Chiang Rai Chamber of
Commerce. (BP)

21 June 1995

Burmese authorities in Myawaddy have launched a campaign
urging local people to boycott Thai products and purchase
goods from China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, Thai
businessmen said.

Anti-Thai leaflets, which were said to have been produced in
Rangoon, were being distributed to public and civil servants
at government offices in this eastern Burmese border town
opposite Thailand's Mae Sot district, they said.

Posters were also said to have been put up in several public
places urging the boycott.

No official explanation was given for the campaign, but some
businessmen in Mae Sot suspect the move was initiated to help
promote local products manufactured in the country by foreign
investors from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Thailand and Burma have been at odds following several border
incursions and the alleged safe haven provided to ethnic
Burmese groups in both countries enabling them to carry out
attacks across the border.

Several Burmese traders, who regularly cross into Thailand on
business said they did not think the campaign would succeed
because people, including senior government officials, still
preferred Thai products.

"Thai goods are better in quality, and they have been very
popular among the Burmese people for a long time," one trader

Burmese sources in Myawaddy said the leaflets and posters were
produced in Rangoon and dispatched to several Burmese border
towns for distribution.

The sources said acquiring Thai goods was still legal and the
ruling Burmese junta was merely asking the public to promote
everyday products and basic necessities locally manufactured
by foreign investors.

Suchart Triratwattana, general secretary of the Tak Chamber of
Commerce , said he did not believe the campaign would affect
the sale of Thai goods to Burma because most of the customers
were from the country"s middle-class.

But he said the campaign could have a psychological impact on
the Burmese people in general.

"The majority of those living at grassroots level do not buy
Thai products, only the middle class have the purchasing
power. But the move could have psychological effects on the
population in general," Suchart said.

The Tak Chamber of Commerce, he said, would not take any
action over the campaign because the issue was a domestic
However, it would suggest to local Palang Dharma MP Udon
Tantisunthorn the establishment of several committees to help
resolve a number of pending Thai-Burmese disputes and
disagreements, including the sudden halt to construction of a
bridge linking Mae Sot and Myawaddy, he said.

Mae Sot traders have cautioned the Thai government and the
private sector against raising too many hopes of economic
opportunities in Burma, saying Thai businessmen and investors
were still lagging behind those from other countries in terms
of trade and marketing strategies.

They said the anti-Thai campaign was another move by foreign
investors in Burma to break the Thai monopoly among the
Burmese middle class. The investors were also targeting
low-income earners, they said. (TN)