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The BurmaNet News: December 2, 1997

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------     
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"     
The BurmaNet News: December 2, 1997        
Issue #882


December 2, 1997


KUAIA LUMPUR - Finance ministers from Burma and Laos signed financial
cooperation agreements yesterday with the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (Asean) following their admission to the group m July

The accession to the Asean ministerial understanding on finance was signed
by Burmese Finance Minister Brig-Gen Win Tin and Laotian Vice Finance
Minister Bounlith Khennavong on the sidelines of a two-day meeting on the
regional financial crisis. 



December 2, 1997

Child prostitution is destructive and growing. But some progress is being
made in fighting the trade, Chitraporn Vanaspong writes.

Fourteen-year-old Anna's flight from war inside Burma ended in the same
manner as so many Karen girls before her - in prostitution in Thailand. She
and three other girls were sent to the port town of Ranong by one of the
many procurers who smuggle young Burmese girls across the border.

Anna was locked in a small room with another Burmese girl where they served
their customers, mostly Burmese sailors. The men refused to wear condoms and
Anna soon fell pregnant. This made no difference. She was still required to
receive the same number of customers each night.

When she was three months pregnant, the brothel's owner decided to induce
labour. The guards beat her buttocks and punched her stomach so that blood
gushed out of her mouth until she fainted. Other women organised to put Anna
on a motorcycle taxi and sent her to the hospital. Although she lost her
baby, the doctors were able to save Anna's life.

On July 14, 1993, the brothel was raided by Thai police. In all 144 girls
and young women were arrested together with nine pimps. Anna was placed in a
welfare home for a time and then disappeared. Her fate is unknown.

The sex slave trade is flourishing. Early last month, an international
paedophilia racket, which sold Chinese children into prostitution rings in
the United States, was uncovered in Italy. Children were bought by mobsters
in China and flown to the US via European airports. Police said it was the
biggest child trade ring ever discovered in Italy, and perhaps Europe.

 These are just a few cases among many. The sexual exploitation of children
is an age-old and global problem. However, in recent decades, large and
well-organised child sex industries have emerged, particularly in poor
countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Most of the victims are in developing countries. In India alone, there are
an estimated 500,000 child prostitutes, in China 400,000, while Thailand has
250,000, including both Thai and foreign children. Hundreds of thousands
more are caught in the sex trade in Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines,
Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

While is impossible to come up with an accurate number of children in
prostitution, the Norwegian government reported to the European Ministers of
Justice that every year, one million children are either kidnapped, bought
or in other ways forced to enter the sex market. The profits from this slave
trade amount to billions of dollars annually. The most infamous routes for
trafficking of women and children are in South and Southeast Asia.

As the supply of children from rural Thailand, the Philippines and India
seems to be slowing down, the supply from neighbouring countries is clearly
increasing. The trafficking of children from other regions is now well
organised and growing. The main supply routes start from Nepal and
Bangladesh via India and Pakistan to the Middle East countries.

Another supply route is centred in Thailand. Imported women and girls from
Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and also China are sent by agents mainly to Malaysia
and Australia, but also to the United States and Europe. The Philippines and
Taiwan are other homes to big trafficking rings.

The routes are flexible and the sources of girls keep changing with Nigeria
and Tanzania in Africa eastern European countries recently joining the trade.

Anger comes easy when faced with a 13-year-old girl who has been sexually
abused so much that she has the vacant look of a zombie and bears the scars
of repeated suicide attempts. The obvious response to child prostitution is
to open homes and rehabilitate them by providing counselling and an
accepting environment.

"But there have already been many attempts to provide a rehabilitation
centre for child prostitutes, and none of them have been able to report any
permanent success. The child who is repeatedly abused is usually so
traumatised that complete healing is unlikely," writes Ron O'Grady in "The
Rape of the Innocent".

The understanding that rehabilitation is difficult led children's and
women's rights workers to the conclusion that the only way to approach the
problem was to organise an international campaign aimed at ending the
practice altogether.

Over the last three years, strategies for change have slowly emerged and
centered on four activities among social groups: the first goal was
political action. 

Unless politicians are convinced of the need for changes to the law, there
will be no legal means to protect children. But legal reform alone is not
sufficient, so enforcement of the law became a second priority. This was
followed by an increasing flow of information and finally the implementation
of educational Programmes targeted at people involved in both supply and
demand countries.

Governments around the world have been made aware of the need for action
since the first World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of
Children in Stockholm in August 1996. An Agenda for Action emerged from the
Congress, which was adopted by all 122 governments at the meeting.

The agenda asks governments to work together to face the growing challenge
of child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for
sexual purposes, with support from such organisations as Unicef, End Child
Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual,
Purposes International (Ecpat), a Bangkok-based NGO.

The first fruit of the campaign was seen as governments started to amend
their laws. For example, countries in Asia have changed their laws to enable
the prosecution of foreign sex abusers and give greater protection to
children. Such laws were passed in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and

At the same time, Western countries have introduced extra-territorial laws
which enable them to sentence their own nationals for sex crimes committed
against children overseas. Such laws have so far been passed in Germany,
France, Australia, the United States, Belgium, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway,
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland. The United Kingdom,
Italy and Canada are considering similar legislation.

However, effective law enforcement is central to any legislative approach.
Low salaries, lack of accountability, lack of training and poor selection
lead to corruption and weak enforcement in many countries. Police must be
highly skilled and trained to deal with the increasingly-sophisticated
organised criminal network and computerised child pornography.

The changes in legislation which have taken place since the Stockholm
Congress are encouraging, but in themselves form only part of the solution.
To be effective, law must be accompanied by educational programmes, and
especially implementation.

It is an evil that commercial sexual abuse of children occurs at all. It
would be an even greater evil if we ignored taking action to stop it.

Chitraporn Vanaspong is the information officer for Ecpat.



December 2, 1997

Letter to the Editor

This is my response to a report in the column by Bangkokian ("A case of
going to bed with a drug lord", The Nation, Nov 8) in response to a report
which originally appeared in the Nation magazine from the United States,
published on Oct 20.

The international current affairs programme "Dateline" on SBS TV of
Australia broke the story over a year ago, and your paper ran news reports
of it from the wire service at the time.

As the reporter on the programme, "Singapore Sling", along with producer
Kate Gunn, we were surprised that more was not made of it at the time.

The Singaporean government never addressed the central, moral question of
dealing with companies associated with Lo Hsing Han while, at the same time,
hanging traffickers caught with over 15 grammes of heroin or 500 grammes of

Singapore seemed to argue that it was a business deal like any other, never
mind that Lo has long been considered a key player in the heroin trade.

The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GSIC), through its
holdings in the Myanmar Fund, co-invested with Lo in the Traders Hotel and
held 25 per cent of Asia World belonging to Lo's son, Steven Law.

Law had companies registered in Singapore and visited regularly.

Something he couldn't do in America because he was banned from getting a
visa to enter the US on suspicion of involvement in the drugs trade.

To say that Singapore didn't know who it was dealing with is also false.
Myanmar Fund documents described the GSIC as a "core shareholder" and the
GSIC's Eddie Taw Cheng Kong was on the Myanmar Fund's investment committee
which decided where and with whom to invest Singapore's Central Provident
Fund money - this was no passive investment.

Then along comes Leslie Kean of the Nation magazine. I sent her documents,
and she wrote her piece without acknowledging the source of most of her

It was a cynical and unethical example of investigative journalism at other
people's expense. Still, it did turn your excellent paper's attention to the
reality of business in Burma.

If Kean and (co-writer) Dennis Bernstein hadn't relied so heavily on SBS
material and done some of their own research, they would have learnt that
the Myanmar Fund was wound up well before their piece was published in the
Nation magazine - but I suppose they didn't know.

Michael T Carey



December 2, 1997

Tariff collection system likely to be revised

Supamart Kasem, Tak

Burma has suspended the imports of Thai goods via the Mae Sot border
checkpoint since Friday.

A Thai border trader said Thai exports worth millions of baht including
consumer goods, construction materials, auto parts were left stranded at
many ports and warehouses in Mae Sot district after Myawaddy authorities
ordered the suspension of imports on Friday without giving any explanation
to merchants.

Imports of Thai products to Tachilek opposite Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai
and Kawthaung opposite Ranong had been earlier cancelled by Burma and
merchants were told to export their goods only through the Mae Sot checkpoint.

Only Burmese nationals were being allowed to cross the Thai-Burmese
Friendship Bridge into Thailand to buy small quantities of consumer goods
for daily use, the source added.

In October, the value of Thai exports to Burma increased to 480 million baht
from 158 million baht in August and at least 80 trucks were used to deliver
Thai products from Mae Sot to Myawaddy at the end of the Buddhist Lent.

According to a Thai customs official, Burma suspended its imports from
Thailand pending the improvement of its tariff collection system and things
were expected to return to normal this Friday.

A Thai border official said the move came after the Burmese currency became
extremely weak against the Thai baht and the US dollar late last month.



December 2, 1997

PTT says media fed false information

The Petroleum Authority of Thailand yesterday accused opponents of its gas
pipeline project of having misinformed the media about its pipeline
construction through a forest in Kanchanaburi.

In a statement, PTT denied allegations it had fell more trees than
officially permitted and had cut a new road in the forest.

The 260-km pipeline goes through 50 km of forest areas including Sai Yok
National Park and a lush forest reserve.

PTT said its workers, supervised by horticulture experts, were identifying
large trees which should be saved along the route, adding they would be
removed and planted elsewhere.

The pipeline corridor in the forest area would be reduced from 20 to 14
metres to minimise its impact on the environment, it said.

Once the pipeline project was completed, it said, the area would be restored
and reforested.

Its public relations chief, Songkiert Tansamrit, said in the statement
opponents of the project were welcome to inspect the area and question
company officials directly to prevent misunderstanding.

In response to a complaint filed with the police accusing PTT of having
felled trees outside permitted areas, Mr Songkiert said all activities were
carried out with the Forestry Department, adding the company had submitted
necessary documents to the police to verify its facts.

The PTT was using, but not expanding, some of these old roads to facilitate
its construction work, he said.

He added PTT would plant trees on these roads after the completion of the
pipeline project.

He said PTT would make its contractors follow environmental mitigation
measures strictly.

Those opposing the project including the Kanchanaburi Conservation Group and
11 other non-government groups, will petition Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai
today for suspension of construction work under the project pending a new
round of talks between the project opponents and PTT.

They have threatened to close off the forest if their demands are not met.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press quoted Burma's state-controlled press as
reporting yesterday that the construction of a 410-km pipeline to transport
natural gas from offshore fields in Burma to Thailand had reached its final

The pipeline is a project of Total, a French oil company, and the American
oil company Unocal, which holds the production-sharing contract for the
Yadana gas field in the Gulf of Martaban. PTT also has a small share in the

A ceremony to mark the completion of the laying of the offshore pipeline was
held aboard the ship CSO Venturer on Sunday, attended by two top leaders of
the country's ruling junta, Gen Maung Aye and Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt.

The laying of the 346-km offshore stretch of the pipeline began in March
this year.

The foreign investors in the gas project have come under heavy criticism
from democracy activists inside and outside Burma, who contend the revenues
that will be generated will help support repression by Burma's military



December 2, 1997



Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai has been in office just two weeks, but already
he is being encouraged to assert his clout as government leader and defence
minister to improve Thailand's position with Burma.

Mr Chuan's government was sworn in on Nev 15, just four days after the
military junta in Rangoon gave a clear example of where its preference lay.
On Nov 11 it released 98 Thai fishermen during a visit to Rangoon by Thai A
my Chief Chettha Thanajaro rather than a week earlier when then Foreign
Minister  Prachuab Chaiyasarn was in the Burmese capital.

As the first civilian head of government in 21 years to also hold the
defence portfolio, and to have his own party men in the Foreign Ministry, Mr
Chuan needs to show the military junta in Rangoon that their days of   such
divisive politics are numbered.

Ensuring unity among government agencies is the most important way of
showing this, according to a senior foreign ministry official after Foreign
Minister Surin Pitsuwan invited department directors-general to come forward
with their ideas on the government's Burma policy.

Another way, he said, was to give the Foreign Ministry the leading role in a
united Burma policy. And this policy should be one of truly constructive
engagement with Burma.

By constructive, the official means many things, including a more
prominent and consistent role by Thai members of parliament, less
obstruction in the work of non-government organisations, more exchanges of
Thai and Burmese scholars, more help for the Thai media to play a role of
informing the Burmese people, and a definite green light for the Thai
Embassy in Rangoon to cultivate contacts with the Burmese opposition.

Giving Thai MPs a greater say  would give the government more choices, and
increase its agility and  flexibility,  according to the official. House
commissions on human rights as well as on social and cultural affairs, could
help persuade Burma to come round to the widespread wish' for more progress
on democratisation and human rights in that country.

A clear policy of "non-obstruction" with regard to NGOs working along the
Thai-Burmese border is needed because these organisations effectively
relieve the government of what would be a major burden. They also help
improve the country's image.

Promoting exchanges of scholars would help boost the information flow vital
to a better understanding and a better attitude between the people of the
two countries.

Although the Burmese government currently is limiting information flow
through strict controls on the international media, the Thai government
should do all it can to help the Thai media raise the level of understanding
among Burmese people about Thailand.

Thailand would also broaden its base of information on Burma if the
government were to give a clear policy for the Thai Embassy in Rangoon to
cultivate contacts with the opposition, especially members of the National
League for Democracy headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, which is the biggest group.
Thai Ambassador to Rangoon Poksak Nilubol attended the recent Burmese
National Day celebrations at Ms Suu Kyi's house.

Towards the same end of broadening knowledge, Thai diplomats stationed
abroad should be encouraged to open lines of communication with
pro-government organisations as well as NGOs that are supportive of the
opposition in Burma. 
In order to improve "people-to-people" contacts, the official pointed to the
success of the cultural policy on Laos, which includes exchanges of films,
features and other arts for radio,  television and the print media.

The official also suggested that the Chuan government do with Burma what
past governments have done with Laos that is, encourage regular contact
between people~ living on both sides of  the border through the promotion of
traditions and festivals which they both observe.

The economic interests in Thai-Burmese relations pose the biggest challenge
for the Chuan government, just as they have for his predecessors.

However, the official's familiar call for a de-linking of political and
economic interests may not prove such a tall order for Mr Chuan.

While his predecessor as prime minister and defence minister, Gen  Chavalit
Yongchaiyudh, said he was confident his personal friendships with the top
brass in Rangoon would make life better for Thai-Burmese relations, in fact
he achieved little.

Mr Chuan, on the other hand, could achieve more by virtue of his lack of

A civilian without vested business interests and cronies might pull the
surprise that is needed to improve Thailand' position with the State Peace
and Development Council, the body that recently replaced the State Law and
Order Restoration Council as the Burmese ruling elite.