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BurmaNet News: February 29, 2000

=========== THE BURMANET NEWS ===========
== An on-line newspaper covering Burma ==
=========== www.burmanet.org ============

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1.  'We cannot know the truth of reports that leading
Burmese junta members are sharing in drug profits. We know 
for certain the regime is helping the Wa, Khun Sa and others 
to make and sell drugs, and to avoid justice.'


2. If there are two things the Burmese government has specialized
in, they are brutality and mismanagement, politically, socially,
and economically. The situation worsens every year.


Friday, February 29, 2000
Issue # 1474

Inside Burma--









February 29, 2000

By Lalit K. Jha

YANGON (MYANMAR), FEB. 28: They don't understand the language. 
But still the cinema houses are packed  this on a street near
the Yangon Railway station with six cinema halls of which five 
run regular shows of popular Hindi movies, including 'Dil to 
pagal hai',  'Aarzoo', 'Ghulam', 'Baadshah' and 
' Teesra kaun'?

These theatres are always packed to capacity with local 
Burmese and the large Chinese community. A recent Bollywood 
release, 'Taal', after a houseful week, has moved to 
other cities. The talk of the town now is
the latest blockbuster from India staring Shah Rukh Khan 
and Juhi Chawla, 'Phir bhi dil hai hindustani'.

"Fascination for the songs and the stunt action in these films 
attracts the people to the cinema halls," observed 
Mr. Kyaw Min Htun, Editor of New Myanmar journal, a Burmese 
weekly for the youth published from Yangoon.

This fascination is evident not only in Yangon and other cities such as
Mandalay  Myanmar's cultural capital  or the important hill station of
Taunggyi, but also in the countryside and smaller towns. Yangon has over
30 cinema halls and over 50 per cent of them screen Bollywood films.

There is also a considerable build-up before the release of each film.
Besides posters and paintings, cars move around blaring the film songs
to announce the new arrival. Take, for instance, 'Taal', which was
publicized through its popular number, 'Taal se tall mila."

The craze for Hindi films here can be gauged from the fact that the
distribution rights of this film for the entire country were 
reportedly sold at $10,000,  a relatively high amount by Burmese 

"Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani" has already caught the imagination 
of the Burmese youth. It is running to full house at various 
video halls in Yangon and other cities. "Every day we are 
receiving requests for a re-run of this film," said a video hall 
operator in Mandalay, which has over 100 such halls.

"Any film that is released in India reaches here in 
less than a week," said the owner of a cinema hall in the hill 
resort Pyin Oo Lwin. Earlier, known as Maymyo, it was a favorite 
resting place for Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. It has two 
theatres, of which one regularly runs Hindi films.

Generally Hindi films run for a week but some go on for 
two weeks, the latest being the Shah Rukh-starrer "Kuch 
kuch hota hai". The same has been the case with "Taal" in 
some theatres.

By far the most popular actor is Shah Rukh Khan. His posters can be seen
at a number of roadside shops along with other popular Indian stars.
Among the other Hindi heroes popular here are Aamir Khan and Salmaan
Khan, besides Ajay Devgan, Sunil Shetty and Akshay Kumar  again for
their stunts. The popular heroines include Kajol, Aishwarya Rai and
Mahima Choudhary.

"We like the stunt action, which is not generally seen in our films,"
says Mr. Thant Lwin Maung, a student.

Curiously enough, the Indian community seldom frequents cinema or video
halls. Most prefer to see the films in their house.



Shan Human Rights Foundation

 On 30.1.00, 19 relocated villagers who were allowed by 
the local SPDC military authorities to return to their
former  village of Kaeng Kham were massacred by SPDC troops 
from  Nam-Zarng-based IB66 led by Capt. Zaw Thein, at Kaeng 
Kham village, Kun-Hing township.

On 18.1.00, the commander of SPDC Kun-Hing-based IB246,
 Col. Kyaw Aye called a meeting of village and tract leaders
 and people who were forcibly relocated to the town in 1996-98. 
At the meeting, Commander Kyaw Aye told the villagers that he
 received an order from Rangoon that people originally from the
 villages on the main road from Kun-Hing to Kaeng Tawng, in 
Murng-Nai township, would be allowed to go back to their

        Anyone who wanted to return to their former villages
 to clear their places and fix their ruined houses needed to
 get a pass from the military authorities and pay 50 Kyat each
 to the pass issuers, the commander said. After he finished 
talking, the commander immediately dismissed the meeting 
before  anyone could say or ask anything.

On 18.1.00, Loong Kyawng Su (m), aged 57, originally 
from Kaeng Kham village, discussed the matter with
his relatives and decided to have a try. Altogether 19 
of them went to ask for a pass from the military and this 
was issued. On the morning  of 19.1.00, they all prepared 
a ration of food and some other necessities and went 
to the deserted village of Kaeng Kham and started to 
clear their old places for the rest of the day.

On 30.1.00, the villagers continued 
to clear a part of the  village which had virtually turned 
into a jungle. At about 12:30 hrs, a column of 
about 85-90 SPDC troops, with 40 forced civilian
porters, from IB66 led by Capt. Zaw Thein came
through the jungle and, when they saw the villagers 
clearing the deserted village,  surrounded and 
shot at them until all of them died.

The SPDC troops claimed that they had shot at
a group of rebels who had come to set up a 
stronghold at Kaeng Kham deserted village.

        The following is the list of the victims:

1. Loong Kyawng Su (m), aged 57
2. Loong Ka-Ling (m), aged 51
3. Loong Aw-Zae-Ya (m), aged 49
4. Loong Pan La (m), aged 47
5. Sai Ma-La (m), aged 45
6. Sai Kyaw La (m), aged 44
7. Sai Woon (m), aged 41
8. Sai Zaam Khur (m), aged 36
9. Sai Thun Awang (m), aged 33
10. Sai Mint (m), aged 30
11. Sai Min (m), aged 27
12. Sai Awng Sa (m), aged 24
13. Sai Nu (m), aged 20
14. Sai Man (m), aged 17
15. Sai Laao (m), aged 16
16. Sai Mu (m), aged 15
17. Naang Ing (f), aged 34
18. Naang Nyunt (f), aged 26
19. Naang Thun (f), aged 22

(Note: Another witness stated that the troops surrounded, 
arrested and interrogated the villagers even after they 
showed the pass to them, and eventually shot all of them dead)



Feb. 2000

	The following statement is from Pu Hranga ( name change ) 
48 years old from Zimpi village of Falam township, Chin State.

There was an extreme landslide near
 the pagoda of Rihkhuadar during the 
monsoon season of 1999. The landslide
 damaged the pagoda. Thus, the company 
commander of Rihkhuadar camp, a Major 
in the Burmese army Light Infantry 
Battalion 266, ordered Chin Christian
 villagers to reconstruct the pagoda in 
November 1999.

	The following villages: Zimte, Zimpi,
 Haimual ( A ) and ( B ), Vuakbuk,Kawilam, 
Khawimual and Hriangngai villages from Tidim
township.  And Hmunluah, Haileng, Tiau, Saek, 
Cawhte, Khuahlir, Tuicirh, Surbung, Lianhna, 
Rihkhuadar ( A ) and ( B ), Phunte, 
Lianhnabawk villages from Falam township 
were compelled to reconstruct the pagoda.
There were about two hundred 
villagers participating in the work.

	At least ten persons from every 
village has to work until the 
reconstruction of the pagoda is finished. 
Now, at the time of the interview, 
November 15, 1999, we have been working on
 the pagoda for two weeks and we 
have completed about only one fourth of
 the work. We carry stones from Tio 
river which is two miles a way from the
 pagoda. We place the stones in a row 
around the pagoda and fill it with soil.

	The villagers are not paid for their
 labour. They have to carry their own 
food and tools. The family who could not 
work had to pay Kyat 1,500 to the army.

	Every day we start work at 7:30 AM
 and stop at 4 PM. The villagers who came 
late were punished by the soldiers. They
 had to do a hundred sit ups. Every 
car that passed through villages around the
pagoda had to carry the stone 
four times from Tio river without payment.

Thos who came late were punished by the 
soldiers. They had to do a hundred sit 
ups. Every car that passed through villages 
around the pagoda had to carry 
the stone four times from Tio river without

The army knows very well that we 
all are farmers and that November is 
harvest time. They forced us to build the 
pagoda at the busiest time of the 
year without allowing us any time to work 
for ourselves.

	Because of excessive forced labour 
and constant military harassment, many 
people from our area have fled to Mizoram 

I heard that those who fled to Mizoram have 
been facing many problems because they 
can not find jobs to make a living.

Chin Human Rights Organization
50 Bell Street N. # 2 Ottawa, ON K1R 7C7, Canada
Phone/Fax: 613 234 2485 Email: chokhlei@xxxxxxxxxxx



Feb. 29, 2000

BURMESE Foreign Minister Win Aung has written a 
letter to his Thai counterpart Surin Pitsuwan urging 
Thailand not to take part in the discussion on Burma 
in Seoul later this week for the sake of "Asean 
spirit and solidarity". 

The top-level discussion on Burma will be attended by 
high-powered delegations from the Western countries 
which spearheaded the current sanctions against the 
Rangoon junta. At a meeting last year in Britain, 
Deputy Foreign Minister MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra gave 
a briefing on the current situation in Burma. Seoul 
has invited Sukhumbhand to attend as Thailand's 

The Burmese request has annoyed top-echelon 
officials. They view Burma's request as blatant, if 
not outright, interference in Thailand's internal 
affairs. If that is the case, which Burma repeatedly 
reminds everybody of. 

Somewhere along the lines, Burma has realised the 
importance of this meeting, and it wants Thailand out 
of it. So what is interesting is how Surin will 
respond to Maung's request. Moreover, Burma is 
constantly testing Thailand's unity on its policy 
towards Burma. Last week Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai 
said that Burma had to come to grips with the new 
reality that Thai-Burmese relations were in civilian 

Yet apparently the Burmese junta leaders, who are 
used to manipulation, are trying to drive a wedge 
between the top policy-makers in the Foreign 

One wonders what the junta leaders in Rangoon will 
accomplish if the Seoul meeting takes place without 
Thailand? We must wait and see.
The Nation (February 29, 2000)



Feb. 28, 2000

A TWO-YEAR-OLD boy was killed on Saturday when a
steel plate fell from a construction site in
Minburi, according to police. The toddler, who
was identified simply by his nickname Pepsi,
was the only child of two Burmese illegal 
immigrants. They were working at the site of
the new Minburi provincial court building at
the time of the accident. 

Witnesses said the
boy was wandering about the construction site
when the steel plate fell from the unfinished 
building and crushed him. The boy's parents, 
who had been working illegally in the country
for five years, were arrested for illegal 
entry and would be sent back to Burma. 

However,  a police spokesman said the two, whose names 
were not given, might be allowed to stay for 
the funeral of their son before being expelled
 . Police charged Sathit Pititraisakul,
supervising engineer of the building project,
with negligence leading to the death of the child. 



February 24, 2000

by Richard Humphries

There are maybe one hundred of them in this Thai sweatshop. 
They range in age from eleven or twelve to their late teens.
They are not at school but at work. And they work long and
hard. Six days a week, from eight in the morning until eleven 
at night. There is some time off for meals. And pay? Yes, there
is pay but it isn't much, less than ¥5,000 a 
month-even for the foremen.

While Thailand is host to over 100,000 refugees from Burma, it
is also host to hundreds of thousands of other Burmese. Burma
suffers from a severe, unremitting level of poverty. It is not
simply product of the Asian economic crisis though that crisis
has deepened the trouble. With Burma, it is important to look
inward before looking outward.

If there are two things the Burmese government has specialized
in, they are brutality and mismanagement, politically, socially,
and economically. The situation worsens every year. Economically,
inflation has been running at roughly 20% a year and the Burmese 
currency, the kyat, has halved in value since 1997. Prices for
basic staples are rising. Additionally, the crucial rice harvest
has suffered from severe difficulties in certain areas. Everywhere,
people who are living on the margin are seeing that margin slip away.

Large numbers have thus made the hazardous overland trip to
 Thailand. For those seeking work, their status as illegals
 renders them instantly vulnerable. In Thailand's unregulated 
border business environment, this opens the doors very wide
 to exploitation. 

Consequently, the working conditions for these illegals range 
from the tolerable to the appalling and to the downright
 dangerous. In a sense, though, the youngsters I saw at 
one sweatshop in the town of Mae Sot were the lucky ones,
 especially the girls. At least they weren't in one of the 
area's many brothels like so many of their compatriots.
 In all of those places HIV infection is rampant. In 
some of them the women are virtually slaves.

This sweatshop was, I was told, similar to hundreds of
others in Thailand. The building was a ramshackle affair,
rather dark and dusty inside. The industry represented here,
though, was very much an unusual one. These workers were 
making fake diamonds.

The foremen claimed that the base rock, which consisted of topaz,
was brought from Brazil or Nigeria to Thailand. Here it was processed
into stones that, at first glance, looked uncannily like diamonds.

The process involved three steps. First the stones were cut 
and shaped using grinders. Then they were glued onto a 
special type of stick.  

Finally they were polished and faceted, using metallic templates. I
was told the "diamonds" were exported to Japan and Europe. 

While the process was in and of itself fascinating, and I wondered
whether the stones were being marketed to gullible foreigners 
as a "woman's best friend", the facility was clearly not healthy.
The workers were seated on plastic chairs without backs. The use 
of grinders meant that the air was full of particles from the 
stones, but no one was given safety goggles to wear. The dusty 
atmosphere hazardous for their young lungs as well. What light 
there was, was provided by a few fluorescent tubes and some
smaller light bulbs, the latter muted by being lit within their 
original cardboard packaging.

The living conditions were just as bad. A separate area of the 
compound had two makeshift levels, where all workers slept in
 sardine-like proximity. The cooking area was small and they 
were only two toilets for everyone. If I was distressed by 
what I saw, the workers did not appear to be. Their world was small.
They did not leave the compound for fear of arrest and then 
deportation (unless they could bribe the police). Still, they
did not appear sad and smiled readily. They did know that if
they gave up their jobs there would be many wanting to take 
their places. And that is something their employers know only
too well. 



YANGON, Feb 29 (AFP) - Thailand and Myanmar have launched a new drive to 

check the spread of AIDS and malaria along their common borders, a 
senior Thai 
minister said.

The two neighbours plan to set up a "joint task force" to work in border 

areas to tackle both diseases, deputy prime minister Korn Dabbaransi 
reporters late Monday after handing over 3.3 million baht 
(86 million dollars) worth of medical supplies and equipment.

"Malaria and HIV have increased substantailly during the last two or 
years, especially along the wstern border of Thailand and the eastern 
ofy Manmar," said Korn, after meeting the First Secretaroy f Myanmar's
military government, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt.

Korn said the meeting would enable Thailand and Myanmar to promote 
"wholesome cooperation" for years to come. The task force in due toh old 
first meeting in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai in June or July, 
Korn, who also serves as Thailand's health minister.

Myanmar alst year denied warnings from the United Nations that it was 
ignoring a rising AIDS epidemic in the country. There is concern among 
workers that Myanmar's growing sex industry, udrg use and poor public 
education could fan the epidemic.

UNAIDS estimates 440,000 people afflicted with HIV and AIDS in Myanmar 
of population of about 48 million.

The junta,w hich seldom releases figures on AIDS infections, says it has 

taken great steps to control the epidemic since 1985 and denies claims 
that it 
is spreading AIDS to neighbours like Thailand and India.

Thailand hais ts own huge problem with AIDS, around 950,000 people or 
in sixty Thais are either HIV positive or hav developed AIDS.
Experts say however that educoatin campaigns are now working and the 
of new HIV infections is slowing.

Since AIDS was first detected in Thailand in 1984, more than 35,000 
have died of the disease.

Thailand and Myanmar werea lst year listed along with India and Cambodia 
coutries in Asia of most critical concern during the A IDSepidemic.


Feb 29, 2000

Bangladesh-Burma border news: Victims and Winners

February 29, 2000
Mizzima News Group

Recently, Burma border security forces arrested ten Bangladesh nationals
while catching fish in Bangladesh water territory. According to news
from the Taknef border town Fishermen Association, while 40 Bangladeshi
were catching fish in 10 mechanized boats in their territorial waters
near St. Martin Island in this month, 20 uniformed men from Burma border
security force came in a speed boat and arrested 10 working persons and
seized two motor boats. Other Mechanized boats and other fishermen fled.

The Taknaf Fishermen Association said that more than 300 Bangladesh
nationals were arrested by Burmese forces in similar situation while
fishing in Bangladesh waters during 1999. 20 of them were released in
January this year.

On the other hand, some Bangladesh nationals are freely catching fish in
the Burmese waters as they hold both countries' Engine License. They go
up to Akyab, Kyaukphu and stealthily catch fish. Many of them are
working under the protection of Akyab-based Burma Military Intelligence
No. (10).

Although there is often interrogation by Burma border patrol forces, as
they could speak Arakanese, they pretend that they are from Arakan State
and thus freely catch fish in waters of both countries.

Moreover, goods from Mon State and Arakan Delta of various kinds,
smuggled goods, like rice, cows, buffaloes, teak, utensils, are brought
at Shin Ma Phu Island (in Burma) daily by Burmese traders after bribing
Burma police and Military Intelligence or doing joint-venture with them.
The Burmese border force personnel are in the know of the smuggling
activity and usually wait in the Bay of Bengal water and seize the boats
for which 50 thousand Kyat for each boat was taxed.



Mizzima News Group
Dhaka, February 28, 2000

Smuggled goods from Burma, worth of more than Taka 80 lakhs (Burmese
Kyat nearly Kyat 500 lakhs) were seized by Bangladesh police on a motor
road nearby Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Two truck-loads of Chinese-made
towels, torchlight, batteries, shoulder bags and Burmese goods were
seized in the morning of February 26 by a squad of anti-smuggling
Bangladesh police and two Bangladesh nationals were arrested in
connection with this.

Despite Bangladesh and Burma's agreement to increase the legal border 
trade during a visit of Burmese trade minister Lt. Gen. Kyaw Than to
Bangladesh in October 1999, illegal smuggling trade between the two
countries continues to grow.

Burmese traders prefer to do illegal trade as they have to pay tax with
US dollar (US one hundred dollar is equivalent to Kyat 35,000 to 
38,000 in black-market) to the Burmese authorities and
bribe the authorities of both sides in the legal trade. Moreover,
traders from Bangladesh side are lately giving low price for the goods
coming from Burma.

According to daily newspapers in Dhaka, Bangladesh authorities were able
to seize smuggling goods from Burma worth of Bangladesh Taka hundred and
one million and three lakhs (nearly Kyat 100 crores) in 1999 alone.



Feb. 29, 2000

Burma has no media except the media run by the government. 
The latest outburst from official newspapers on the subject 
of drugs shows some serious problems at the heart of the Burmese
 dictatorship. According to Rangoon, the drug epidemic in 
Thailand and our region is entirely our fault. This is because
 Thailand-and China and India-allow shipments of precursor 
drug chemicals to the makers of narcotics makers of Burma.

This lamentable diatribe from Rangoon is three times distressing.
First of all, it is ignorant. Thailand is not a source of the
ephedrine used to make amphetamine drugs, acetic anhydride to
make heroin, or any similar product. These chemicals are, and
have been, long banned for general use in Thailand. The import
and handling of these chemicals are carefully controlled. It 
is a shame Rangoon did not know this basic and public practice.

It also is far behind the times. The effort to control international 
shipments of chemical precursors has been going on for a long time.
In the past decade, it has been the subject of numerous 
international conferences and regulations. Attempts to smuggle 
chemical precursors into, or through, Thailand have been
frequently intercepted. A major diplomatic incident occurred
several years ago when the Customs Department seized tons of
ephedrine which were illegally shipped through Thailand by
North Korea. It is a shame Rangoon is unaware of these basic
and public facts.

Second, the Burmese dictatorship displays a remarkable attitude
in fixing blame. It is the fault of Thailand, China and 
India-according to Burma-that chemicals are smuggled into Burma. 
The logic here is difficult to fathom. Borders have two sides.
If illegal materials are smuggled into Burma, are the Burmese
border forces not involved? Or is Burma claiming, through its
official media, that the drug-making chemicals are perfectly
legal in Burma once they have been transported across the border?

Third, and most importantly, the Rangoon authorities again
reject the concept of acting together with their neighbours
on this serious problem. It is this attitude which often
leads Burma's neighbours to criticise the Rangoon dictators.
International criminals continue to seek refuge and help
inside Burma. Rangoon refuses to co-operate on this
cross-border problem.

Burma clearly provides aid and comfort to the international
drug traffickers. Rangoon has recently forced 50,000 people
out of their homes in the Shan state in order to turn the 
area over to ethnic Wa. New settlers loyal to the United
Wa State Army are taking over the opium fields once tilled
by followers of Khun Sa. Already the world's leading 
amphetamine dealer, the government-backed UWSA is moving 
to take over the region's entire opium and heroin traffic.

Rangoon has long had the option of helping to fight such
international criminals. Instead, it continues to help
them, for political and financial reasons. We cannot
know the truth of reports that leading Burmese junta 
members are sharing in drug profits. We know for certain
the regime is helping the Wa, Khun Sa and others to make
and sell drugs, and to avoid justice.

The Burmese argument that somehow this is all the fault
of Thailand, India and China reeks of self-justification.
The government mouthpieces speaking for the dictatorship
cannot evade their own responsibility so easily. The
drug trafficking that threatens the fabric of our 
nation has a Burma connection. Ending the drug trafficking 
from Burma is not an easy task. Ending it without
Burmese co-operation may be impossible. Burma is 
inviting severe criticism, or worse, if it continues
to co-operate with narcotics peddlers.

Bangkok Post (February 29, 2000)


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