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BurmaNet News: January 23, 2001
- Subject: BurmaNet News: January 23, 2001
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001 11:22:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
January 23, 2001 Issue # 1717
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
NOTED IN PASSING:
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AP: Every dog has its day in Myanmar
*AFP: Myanmar junta laughs off rumours of top-level split
*Shan Herald Agency for News: Poppies being harvested across the border
*Myanmar Times: Interview with the Secretary-1 of the State Peace and
Development Council Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt
*AFP: Outlawed Myanmar separatists arrested in Bangladesh
*AFP: Seafarers' work conditions, wages under spotlight at ILO
*AP: Banned U.S. activist hopes for reprieve from Thai government
*AP: UN Happy With Burma Junta Efforts To Fight Drugs
*Bangkok Post: Traders to Seek re-opening of 2 Northern Checkpoint
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AP: Every dog has its day in Myanmar
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ Myanmar's capital may look down at the heels but
it really went to the dogs Tuesday -- at the country's first pet show
and competition in almost four decades.
More than 120 proud owners turned out with their dogs, cats and birds
to vie for prizes, including a grand prize of 50,000 kyats, equivalent
to a little over dlrs 100.
Organized by the Yangon City Development Council, the competition
required more than two months of planning and preparation, council
official Htay Aung said.
The show was dominated by canine species: smaller-sized dogs cradled in
arms, the bigger breeds _ Dobermans, St. Bernards _ passing the time in
the luxurious confines of their well-to-do owners' cars, sometimes with
air conditioning left on to ensure their comfort.
Htay Aung said the last such competition was held in 1963 during the
then government of Ne Win, a general who took power in a 1962 coup and
stepped down in 1988.
He had promoted a kind of socialism that stifled economic development
and made the country, then known as Burma, one of the poorest in the
The current military junta has kept Ne Win's repressive political
restrictions but tried to liberalize the economy with minor success.
Nonetheless, the past decade has seen the growth of a small monied
class which enjoys the trappings and rituals of Western-style
Htay Aung said the council hopes to hold similar dog shows and dog
competitions every year. ``Our objective is to educate dog owners to
systematically breed their pets.''
Tin Aung, an excited dog breeder and owner, said hopefully the
competition would give Myanmar dog breeders and dog lovers the
opportunity to form an association and ``one day join kennel clubs
The owner of one St. Bernard had less lofty hopes, saying he was just
happy to show off his huge dog, usually stuck inside his housing
compound, and didn't even particularly care if he won a prize.
As an announcer called out the name, breed, age and weight of each
canine contestants, some participants trotted out in style while others
_ shy and inexperienced _ had to be dragged along by their owners onto
the makeshift stage in front of a panel of judges comprising retired
The animals were judged for their grooming and obedience.
AFP: Myanmar junta laughs off rumours of top-level split
YANGON, Jan 23 (AFP) - Myanmar's junta Tuesday dismissed rumours of a
top-level split in the military regime, saying they were an invention of
the foreign press and the diplomatic community in Yangon.
"It's all just wishful thinking on their part," junta number-three
Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt said in an interview with the Myanmar
"We in the military have a tradition of respect from one rank to the
next ... we have a regard for each other. We have no problems," he said,
laughing off the suggestions.
For several years rumours have persisted of an impending power struggle
between Khin Nyunt, powerful chief of military intelligence, and the
regime's number-two Maung Aye, who is in charge of the army.
Maung Aye, considered the more hawkish of the pair, is tipped to take
over when Senior General Than Shwe steps down as head of the regime.
Khin Nyunt's recent move to make direct contacts with opposition leader
Aung San Suu Kyi was interpreted by some analysts as a strategy to
cement his place within the military government.
The UN announced earlier this month that the talks between the two
could pave the way for an historic dialogue between the junta and the
opposition that would break a decade-long impasse between the warring
Shan Herald Agency for News: Poppies being harvested across the border
Jan. 23, 2001
The Season's harvest of opium across the border is expected to be
complete soon, said sources in Chiangmai Province.
Many hilltribes people in Thailand, where law enforcement is relatively
rigorous, have gone to the other side of the border to grow poppies in
the Shan State where war, corruption and economic hardships have made a
joke on the rule of law, they said.
"We pay K. 500 per field to the Wa," said a Lahu from Mornpin Tract,
Fang District, Chiangmai Province. "And we are not forced to sell our
produce. Instead, we can sell it to the buyers right in our fields or
in Nakawngmu (Mongton Township, Monghsat District, Eastern Shan State)
at prevailing market price."
The area under Wa control just across Fang alone is expected to yield at
least 5 tons of opium, "since there are at least 600 acres of poppy
fields and each produce an average of 5 viss (1.6 kg per viss)." The
current prince of opium is B. 20,000 (US$ 500) per viss.
Drug entrepreneurs in uniform
Chung, a Chinese from Nawng-Ook (Arunothai), Chiangdao District,
Chiangmai Province, went a cross the border on 10 January to buy yaba
(methamphetamines) and he was driven to Mongton, 90 miles away by Ah
Chiang, a middleman from Nakawngmu, to meet Maj. Khin Maung Htwe, Deputy
Commander, IB 65, said a reliable source.
An agreement was made to buy 650,000 pills, at B. 10 each, for which he
paid a B. 800,000 advance, and to pay the rest within 9 days, he said.
The next day, the ordered shipment was transported to Nawng Htalang, 2
km east of BP (Border Pass) 1, where Chung was waiting to make
arrangements for a cross-border haul, which he successfully did
Another report tells of Sgt. Maung Kyaw from IB 65 post, commanded by
Lt-Col. Myint Sway, summoning villagers of Monghang, a village between
Mongton and BP-1, to build barracks for 2 squads of soldiers on a hill
south of the village on 7 January.
He told his intimate friends in the village that 3 yaba presses were to
be set up there. He was reported to have said, "Rangoon has ordered
each battalion to establish its own common welfare fund and to raise
funds each in its own way."
Although drug trade is banned locally by both Burmese and Wa, buying and
selling outside the township, especially to Thailand, has not been
barred in any way, said a source. "On the contrary, it is being
A Chinese drug trader in Mongton also told S.H.A.N. source that moving
drugs to Taunggyi, Shan State's capital from where drugs are distributed
"to any place in Burma," had been easily done by himself and others
just by procuring a safe-conduct from the local military intelligence
Myanmar Times: Interview with the Secretary-1 of the State Peace and
Development Council Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt
January 15-21, 2001
Looking to the Future
In an exclusive interview with MT contributing editor MA THANEGI, the
third most senior member of the State Peace and Development Council,
Secretary-1 Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt talks about HIV prevention,peace deals,
education, late nights at the office, and the future of his country.
WHAT do you think is the most important thing to be done for the
"Economic prosperity, of course. But peace and political stability in
the country are also closely linked to it.
"To prosper economically, we also need political stability. But in any
case, economic prosperity is essential to develop the country, to raise
the standard of living of the people.
"Look at the highly developed nations: basically, they are like that
because of economic power. A poor country has little chance to develop.
"Here, in Myanmar, we are not an industrial nation, and compared to
other countries in the region, we have a long way to go to catch up.
"As we are an agrarian economy by tradition, we must improve upon that.
This is what we are trying to do. Once we had only one harvest a year,
but now we have two, and in some places three. To be able to plant
during the dry seasons, we had to build dams to store the rainwater. We
have built well over a hundred dams by now. I think Central and Upper
Myanmar has benefited most from this. From that we have to go on to
What changes have been made to the teaching methods, curriculums etc. in
"We started planning for changes in 1997. We have drawn up a four-year
plan for education.
"Our first aim is to offer all-round education, the second is to raise
the level of studies to be equal to international standards, and the
third is to abolish as much as possible the disparity between education
available in the urban and rural areas.
"With these three main goals in mind we started working in 1997 for
educational reforms. Over the course of a week we held seminars in the
Central Institute of Public Services, Phaunggyi, with township level
educational officers, school principals, and even retired personnel of
the Education Ministry taking part in the discussions.
"There, we decided on the æstudent as the focusÆ plan rather than the
traditional teaching method of the teacher doing the talking and the
students listening in silence. Now, we are trying to change it so that
the main objective is for the student to learn, not merely to listen to
the teacher talking. Things must be explained to the student until he
"We changed the examination system as well. Instead of just one final
examination to be passed in order to go on to a higher grade, the
students sit for end-of semester exams. "These count in the final
marks, so that the test is about what the student learns all through
the school year and not just what is crammed for the finals.
"As for the curriculum, we have included such diverse subjects as
national spirit, love of culture, civic duty etc. So itÆs not just
learning, by heart, lessons out of a book. Senior General Than Shwe has
specifically instructed that Basic Education and Higher Education must
be closely linked, and that in four years our standard of education
must be on par with that of our SE Asian neighbours - by the year 2003.
"Not only did we change the curriculum, we are changing teaching methods
as well. In the past in Yangon, we had schools of such high calibre as
MEHS, now Dagon SHS 1, then Latha SHS 2, and St PaulÆs which is now
Botataung SHS 6, also Sanchaung SHS 1.
"In these schools they had great teachers. So for each subject, we taped
on video how these teachers taught their classes. These tapes we sent
out to schools for other teachers to learn from.
"IÆll give you one example. I was in a town called Lwemway, near
Kyaington, and found there a high school in which no one had passed
matriculation for nine years running.
"When I went there, the school year had been underway for three months.
When I got back to Yangon I sent them a TV, a VCR and the teaching
tapes. By the next matriculation, there was a passing average of 27
percent, and two students got three distinctions each!
"Whenever I travel to rural areas I take along TVs and VCR and teaching
tapes to give to the schools. Of course, we give batteries, too, since
most places have no electricity.
"That is the change in teaching methods; as for the curriculum we are
changing it to be on par with O Levels and A Levels."
Can you say something on preventive measures being taken against HIV?
"HIV, AIDS...itÆs a national cause. If we ignore it, it will be the
scourge that will destroy entire races.
"For some years, we have been working closely with the Ministry of
Health on this.
"But, as you know, we are a very conservative, religious society, and it
was rather against our culture to put condoms on show as a means of
prevention. In other countries, they even distribute condoms at
schools. But here we had to try other means so that the message will
get through, for the people to accept it.
"For prevention, we had to make sure that young girls do not cross over
the border to work in the sex trade and also we needed to control drug
"Since seven years ago, we have set up workshops in the border towns so
that young girls can learn a trade to earn their living. Combined with
HIV awareness lessons, these are part of the plan of lessening HIV
"In the early days, Health Ministry officials said that to put up
posters saying that AIDS is fatal gives too harsh a message, that it
will cause psychological trauma to those suffering from it.
"But I personally felt that many more needed to understand the warning
clearly, so I insisted that they put this on all posters: that AIDS
kills, no cure, no hope.
"Now personnel of the Ministry of Health and NGOs such as the Maternal
and Child Welfare Association are teaching HIV awareness.
"To be frank, monitoring infected cases is difficult. We have no means
of getting the exact data on how many cases there are. To test each
person would cost around US $2, and really we cannot afford it.
"We have asked WHO (the World Health Organization) for assistance, but
we have not received anything sufficient.So, we rely on ourselves. We
must start the monitoring system, and we will do it with our own
limited resources. "We need to get test kits. Also, another plan is to
set up care centres for AIDS patients. Their days must end in some
comfort and ease and it will also help contain the disease. " First we
need to start with centres in the cities, and then on to towns on the
(To be continued)
AFP: Outlawed Myanmar separatists arrested in Bangladesh
CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh, Jan 23 (AFP) - Bangladeshi police said Tuesday
they have unearthed a suspected den of Myanmar separatist militants
arresting two people, including an alleged top leader.
Two houses in the southern port's Chandgaon area was raided Monday by
police who said one was used as a hideout by the Arakan Rohingya
National Organisation (ARNO).
They said ARNO was an extremist fundamentalist group, set up last year
and fighting for the independence of Myanmar's Arakan province bordering
Selim Ullah, 40, was accused of being the group's "chief of military
staff" while the second man under arrest was named as Faiz Ahmed, an
officer in the investigation team told AFP.
The Jugantor daily, quoting police, said the group had links to
Bangladeshi fundamentalist groups, including the Harkatul Jihad, as well
as two unidentified opposition political parties.
ARNO has its headquarters in Libya, the officer said, adding they had
found a picture of Ullah with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi taken when he
was undergoing training in Libya.
The police source said they first arrested Abu Yassir, the commander of
a hill-top camp in Cox's Bazaar at a jungle hideout in Ukhia, and raided
the Chittagong base after questioning him.
"They smuggle in weapons from Malaysian extremist groups and Libya and
sell them here to mainly Muslim fundamentalist groups as well as
terrorist organisations," the police said, on condition of anonymity.
"They are also involved in supplying weapons to Assamese separatists,"
The officer said the main objectives appeared to be making money by
smuggling weapons and creating lawlessness ahead of general elections in
Bangladesh due this year.
"They are supporting these fundamentalist groups as they believe they
will be properly rehabilitated here if they win the polls," he said.
According to the newspaper, the group has 5,000 armed cadres using AK47
rifles, light machine guns, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns,
with bases in Chittagong and nearby beach resort district of Cox's
Bazar, bordering Arakan.
Police seized pictures, documents and personal computers during the
raid on the two houses.
The police officer said ARNO was a new alliance of several groups,
including the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation and National United Party
of Arakan headed G. Maung.
The two under arrest were taken to Cox's Bazar where sedition charges
have been filed against them and a magistrate court Tuesday granted a
police request to question them for 10 days, police said.
More than 380,000 Arakanese fled to Bangladesh in 1992 alleging
persecution by Myanmar troops -- a charge Yangon denies.
Most were repatriated after a 1991 agreement between Dhaka and Yangon,
followed by a second one in 1993 between the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees and the Myanmar authorities.
Some 21,000 remain in two camps in the Cox's Bazar area awaiting
Several rebel groups are known to be fighting for the independence of
Arakan, but ARNO remains a little known group and no further details
AFP: Seafarers' work conditions, wages under spotlight at ILO
GENEVA, Jan 23 (AFP) - The International Labour Organisation (ILO) hosts
talks here this week on increasing the currently recommended
435-dollar-a-month (462 euros) minimum wage of able seafarers.
The five-day meeting also will work towards working out a new "bill of
rights", laying down a single minimum international standard for sailors
in areas such as safety, working conditions and living conditions on
board, the ILO said.
About 30 different conventions currently exist on seafarers'
conditions, the ILO said.
"In absolute terms, average wage rates for able seafarers have declined
between 1992 and 1999," a report prepared for the ILO talks said.
Sailors from developed countries have been especially hard-hit.
In Australia, the average monthly earnings of an able seafarer dropped
by 65 percent over the seven-year period, while in Japan and Germany it
dropped by 53 percent, by 49 percent for the Dutch and 14 percent for
the French, the report said.
Two reasons are that salaries calculated in dollars may have been hit
by changing exchange rates for the dollar, and owners hiring seamen from
countries with generally lower salaries to meet demand.
But wage rates for Brazilian, Bulgarian, Philippino, Indonesian,
Latvian and Russian seafarers showed no significant change in absolute
While in Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Hong Kong, India and Poland, they
increased between 25 and 91 percent in absolute terms.
Applying the minimum wage recommendation is not mandatory unless a
government chooses to make it so through its legislation.
"I strongly encourage the social partners in the shipping industry to
intensify their social dialogue in order to ensure decent work for
seafarers," ILO director-general Juan Somavia said at the meeting began
The ILO said about 1.25 million seafarers are employed on ships, of
which one third are officers, while about 50,000 ships are plying their
trade in international waters.
The ILO said the number of ships in the world fleet had increased by 10
percent in the past 10 years and its tonnage had risen by 35 percent.
AP: Banned U.S. activist hopes for reprieve from Thai government
Jan. 23, 2001
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ An American social worker barred from Thailand
after helping the needy for more than two decades hopes the country's
new government will withdraw the ban, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Max Ediger, 53, was stopped from entering Thailand after he returned on
Dec. 31 from a trip to the United States, apparently because of his
involvement with illegal Myanmar refugees.
He was told by immigration officials that he was on an Interior
Ministry list of foreigners declared persona non grata, said the lawyer,
Somchai Homla-or of the Law Society of Thailand.
Somchai said Ediger and his supporters were hoping Thailand's new
government, which is expected to take office next month following its
Jan. 6 election victory, would lift the ban on Ediger's entry.
He said they would lobby ``to try to let the new government know he is
a good man.''
Somchai said it appeared that Ediger's sole right to formal appeal
expired 24 hours after he was denied entry at Bangkok's international
Ediger, who went to Hong Kong after being turned away from Thailand,
cold not be reached for comment.
He came to Thailand in 1978 after doing social work in Burundi and
Vietnam. He has worked with prostitutes, slum dwellers, drug addicts and
refugees. A native of Turpin, Oklahoma, Ediger has spent most of his
adult life abroad.
In the early 1990s, Ediger began helping refugees from military-run
Myanmar and seeking to promote nonviolent solutions to that country's
political deadlock. He helped found Burma Issues, a research and
Ediger's work with Myanmar refugees is sponsored by the Mennonite
Central Committee _ a pacifist U.S.-based Christian group.
Thai police raided the Burma Issues office _ which also served as
Ediger's home _ in February last year and found Myanmar people living
Ediger was given a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine
equivalent to dlrs 250 after he pleaded guilty to a charge of harboring
The court suspended the prison sentence after determining Ediger to be
of good character and his work ``beneficial to Thai society and the
The raid came after a Burma Issues publication was found on the body of
one of 10 young Myanmar rebels who raided a hospital in the western Thai
province of Ratchaburi, holding patients and staff hostage for 22 hours
before being killed by Thai commandos.
The same group had in October 1999 seized the Myanmar Embassy in
Bangkok, letting all their hostages free after being granted safe
passage to the Myanmar border.
The two incidents caused the Thai government to tighten its controls
over the hundreds of thousands of Myanmar refugees here, especially the
former students who are politically active in opposing their country's
AP: UN Happy With Burma Junta Efforts To Fight Drugs
Tuesday, January 23 3:39 PM SGT
BANGKOK (AP)--Burma's ruling junta is serious about fighting drugs, and
its commitment is showing good results in controlling opium and
amphetamine production, U.N. officials said Tuesday. The "problem has
not been solved. The problem will not be solved tomorrow," Sandro
Calvani of the U.N. International Drug Control Program told a news
conference to discuss the UNDCP's second World Drug Report.
The report, released Monday in Vienna, says Burma remains the
second-largest producer of illicit opium in the world after Afghanistan.
The two countries accounted for 95% of opium production in 1999 with
Afghanistan's share at 75%.
While Afghanistan remains a challenge to the global community, there is
reason for hope in Burma, said Yngve Danling, a law enforcement adviser
to the UNDCP, who also addressed the news conference.
"We are seeing that junta authorities(SPDC)...are serious (and)
committed. They are doing what they promised to do and they are
performing. And they are getting results," said Calvani, the UNDCP's
east Asia and Pacific representative.
According to the World Drug Report, the production of opium poppy fell
from 1,303 tons in 1998 to 895 tons in 1999. The seizure of
amphetamine-type stimulants increased from 50 kilograms in 1997 to 160
kilograms in 1998.
Amphetamines are the new scourge on the drug scene, with their
trafficking growing more strongly than that of any other drug over the
last decade, the World Drug Report said.
Burma has emerged as a leading center for amphetamines, bringing it
international opprobrium second only to the criticism it faces for
suppressing democratic rights.
Amphetamines are made by Burmese rebel groups such as the Shan and Wa in
makeshift laboratories strung along the border with Thailand and China,
where the junta has little control.
The two rebel groups have signed peace accords with the junta, which
gives them virtual autonomy in large enclaves dominated by their
But by choosing to make peace with the rebels, the junta may have
compromised its fight against drugs to some extent, Danling, the UNDCP
Danling and Calvani also praised Burma for cooperating with neighbors
Thailand and China in fighting drug lords by sharing information about
their trafficking activities.
Burma has also cooperated with the U.N. in running successful programs
on making villagers give up the cultivation of poppy, Calvani said.
He said the U.N. estimates it will need a $10 million investment by the
international community to fight the drug problem in Burma, including
providing alternative sources of income to villagers. But so far only $1
million has been provided, mostly by the U.S. and Japan.
The international community has in the last three years invested 300
times more in Thailand in fighting drugs compared to Burma, he said.
This is largely because of the pariah status that Burma has in the West
over its refusal to hand over power to the National League for Democracy
party of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which won the 1990
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
Bangkok Post: Traders to Seek Er-opening of 2 Northern Checkpoint
JANUARY 23, 2001
Military keeps them closed to fight drugs
Traders will ask the incoming government to reopen two northern border
checkpoints, closed by the military to stop the flow of drugs.
A source said the traders want the reopening of Kiew Pha Wok checkpoint
in Chiang Mai and Ban Huay Phung in Mae Hong Son to facilitate
Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai and the military rejected earlier calls for
their reopening. They also ordered the closure of Son Ton Du checkpoint
to damage the drug trade. The traders have been lobbying both local and
national-level politicians, the source said.
"Exporters will renew their calls for the reopening of the checkpoints.
They believe the next government will support their calls since Thaksin
Shinawatra has promised to promote cross-border trading," the source
Meanwhile, Burma's recent ban on Thai products has caused cross-border
trade in the North to plummet.
Sakhon Apiniwet, secretary to the Chiang Rai chamber of commerce, said
Burmese authorities banned 15 Thai products in November without giving a
Mr Sakhon said the ban had caused the export volume to Burma to drop by
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