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BurmaNet News: February 5, 2001

______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
        An on-line newspaper covering Burma 
         February 5, 2001   Issue # 1727
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________

*AFP: Myanmar dismisses coup plot rumour
*Mizzima: Bangladesh fishermen in Burmese jails face tough life 
Bangladesh fishermen in Burmese jails face tough life 
*Straits Times: Why Myanmar is taking soft approach 

*AFP: Euro-Parliament committee to hear from opponents of Yangon regime
*Bangkok Post: Burma policy vital before visit
*Bangkok Post: Sabotage Fear Forces Troop Boost
*AFP: Thai elephants falling prey to landmines: expert
*Burma Courier: Chins Set the Pace in Preparing State Constitution

*The Independent (Bangladesh): Myanmar Cell? to be set up in Ctg soon to 
boost trade, business
*Burma Courier: Military Company Sets up Disposable Syringe Business

*International Herald Tribune: Get Burma's Minorities Talking
*Friends of Rohingya: "Malicious Misinformation about Arakan Resistance"

__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________

AFP: Myanmar dismisses coup plot rumour 

BANGKOK, Feb 4 (AFP) - Myanmar has dismissed rumours of a coup plot that 
appeared in a Thai newspaper on Sunday. 

 The Nation newspaper, quoting an unnamed source, reported the rumours 
in its Sunday edition, adding they had been circulating for some time. 

 A Myanmar spokesman said such rumours were unfounded. 

 "Recently there has been positive news reporting by the international 
media on the political developments taking place in Myanmar", he said. 

 "Maybe this rumour of a coup is created by certain sectors with vested 
interest with the ill intention of putting a negative spin so that news 
reporting on Myanmar can continue to be negative as before," he added. 

 Myanmar's junta started top-level talks with opposition leader Aung San 
Suu Kyi last October in a effort to build the framework for a dialogue, 
the first since 1994, that could end a decade of political deadlock. 

 A European Union (EU) delegation last week completed a three-day 
mission to Yangon and found that the recent developments were the most 
"promising" in a decade. 


Mizzima: Bangladesh fishermen in Burmese jails face tough life 
Bangladesh fishermen in Burmese jails face tough life 

Dhaka, February 2, 2001 

The Bangladeshi fishermen who are in the jails of Arakan State of Burma 
are facing hardship and difficulties and an appeal has been made to the 
Bangladesh government to work for their immediate release, according to 
the sources from the Taknaf Fishermen Association. There are nearly 200 
Bangladeshi fishermen at present being imprisoned in Sittwe and Maung 
Daw prisons of Arakan State and the fishermen are reportedly not given 
enough food and medicine by the Burmese authorities.  

According to some officials of the Association, who want to remain 
anonymous, more than 100 Bangladeshi fishermen were arrested in last two 
months alone while catching fish near Shin Ma Phyu Island and Sein Mar 
Tin Island in the Bay of Bengal, reportedly inside the Bangladesh water 

Mizzima News Group has learnt that the Taknaf Fishermen Association, 
which is based in the Bangladesh border with Burma, appealed to the 
Bangladesh government last month to work for the immediate release of 
these fishermen in Burmese jails.  

The Bangladesh fishermen accuse the Burmese border security force, 
Nasaka, having often intruded into the Bangladesh water territory and 
arrested them in the Bay of Bengal.  


Straits Times: Why Myanmar is taking soft approach 

Feb. 3, 2001

Economic sanctions by the US and European Union and punishment for using 
forced labour may have driven the junta to the negotiating table  

By James East 


BANGKOK - There seems to be no outward reason for Myanmar's hardline 
junta to even be talking with its political enemies and 'interfering 
outsiders' like the European Union about reconciliation. 

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy has been 
suppressed by mass jailings, its lower ranks intimidated into 
resignation, while the party leader herself has been consigned to house 

Myanmar's rebellious ethnic minorities have also been crushed with 
military offensives, a series of cease-fire deals and poverty. 

Only a few guerilla battalions remain of what, until the mid-1990s, was 
a serious military threat. 

The reins of government appear firmly in place. 

The hope of exiled activists that the military might tear itself apart 
has come to naught. 
The command and control structure is apparently as strong as ever even 
if the generals are divided into camps that back either intelligence 
chief and Secretary One Lt-General Khin Nyunt or General Maung Aye, the 
conservative deputy chairman of the State Peace and Development Council 

But the one opposition force the regime has been unable to control is 
the international band of hardball players - the US, the EU, and of 
late, the International Labour Organisation (ILO). 

Asian diplomats in Bangkok now acknowledge that US and EU sanctions, and 
the November decision by the ILO to apply its own punishment for 
Myanmar's use of forced labour, seem to have finally driven the junta to 
the negotiating table. 

Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, the regime's intellectual, is the front man for the 
talks, having met Ms Suu Kyi twice, according to reports. 

But he must have been backed by Army commander-in-chief General Maung 
Aye and SPDC chairman Senior General Than Shwe who hold higher ranks. 

This indicates an across-the-board softening by top brass. How the 
sanctions message got through remains unclear. 

Although poverty stricken, Myanmar's economy has crawled along for years 
and China's trade-what-may attitude has helped shore up what drug money 
could not. The junta could have continued for years. 

But the message that elections and a softening of the grip might be a 
better way forward was conveyed not by the US and the EU but an Asean 
friend last month - Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir 
Mohamad, who may have helped persuade the junta that change was 

The EU troika, after a fact-finding mission to Myanmar this week, 
liberally sprinkled comments on the SPDC-Suu Kyi negotiations with words 
like 'fragile', 'cautious' and 'delicate'. 

The SPDC has begun releasing NLD activists and stopped blasting Ms Suu 
Kyi in the press. It has also talked with the EU about political 
prisoners, forced labour, the ILO decision and its goal to introduce 

The EU mission also got to meet representatives of the ethnic 
It is unlikely that the SPDC would take these measures if it was not 
serious about making progress. 

With the EU due to reassess sanctions in April - they automatically 
expire every six months - Asean, the EU and the US are waiting to see if 
the talks are merely an attempt by the regime to wheedle its way out of 
sanctions or are the prelude to lasting political change. 

___________________ REGIONAL/INTERNATIONAL___________________

AFP: Euro-Parliament committee to hear from opponents of Yangon regime 

BRUSSELS, Jan 5 (AFP) - A European parliament committee on Monday was to 
hear from supporters of Myanmar's opposition after an EU delegation last 
month visited Yangon with an eye toward improving strained relations 
with the military junta. 

 James Mawdsley, a 27-year-old British human rights activitist who spent 
14 months in a Burmese prison for staging pro-democracy demonstrations 
in Moulmein, capital of Myanmar's Mon state, was one of those to testify 
before the Committee on Cooperation and Development Monday afternoon. 

 He told AFP he would be giving the committee insights into the darker 
side of the Burmese justice system. 

 "I will be telling of the advents of genocide that I've seen in the 
border areas, conditions in the prisons, and the absolute mockery the 
Burmese make of the law out there," said Mawdsley, who was released and 
returned to Britain in October. 

 A five-member EU team spent three days in Myanmar last week. 

 They met with Burmese ministers to investigate reports of a thaw 
between the junta and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel 
peace laureate whose National League for Democracy won 1990 elections, 
which were subsequently thrown out by the junta. 

 She has been confined by the military to her lakeside house since 
September 22. 

 But Myanmar's junta started top-level talks with her in October in an 
effort to build the framework for a dialogue, the first since 1994, that 
could end a decade of political deadlock. 

 The EU delegation was to officially report their findings to a meeting 
of EU foreign ministers in Brussels later this month, but were to give 
the committee a briefing at the Monday meeting. 

 "We had the impression that the contacts were the most interesting 
thing to happen since 1990," Borje Ljunggren, representing the EU 
presidency, said in Bangkok last week after the three-day mission to 

 The EU delegation found Aung San Suu Kyi "in a very good mood and well 
in all respects," said Ljunggren, adding the mission had been held "at 
an interesting but delicate moment." 

 Nirj Deva, a Euro MP who has been a champion of Burmese democracy and 
who was also to address the committee meeting, said he was "keen to put 
a line, some sort of wall, between Burma and the rest of ASEAN (the 
Association of Southeast Asian Nations". 
 ASEAN, ignoring EU protests, admitted Myanmar as a member in 1997. 

 "I feel that bringing Burma into ASEAN without any conditions at all 
was a great mistake," Deva said in a telephone interview. 

 He said pressure from Malaysia and Singapore was largely responsible 
for Myanmar's acceptance, calling it "a huge structural mistake for 

 "Part of their financial problems are due to that," he said. "And so 
there are global economic implications as to what has happened with 

 Deva said a major issue in any normalization of EU-Burmese relations 
was the drug problem. 

 "Besides chasing people around the streets in police cars in England, 
or in Paris, we won't make any difference unless we do something to stop 
the drugs from coming over at the source," he said. 

 "And who are the biggest propogators of the drugs trade? The Burmese 


Bangkok Post: Sabotage Fear Forces Troop Boost


Refugee camps could be target for attacks

Security has been stepped up at four refugee camps to prevent the 
possibility of attacks by border insurgents.

Mae Hong Son governor Pote Uthana, as director of the province's 
Thai-Burmese border centre, said he ordered tighter security to guard 
against the possibility of sabotage attacks by guerrillas. 
The shelters are Ban Nai Soy in Muang district, Ban Mae Surin in Khun 
Yuam district, Ban Mae Khongkha-Sala in Mae Sariang district and Ban Mae 
Lama Luang in Sop Moei district.

Some foreign troops were thought to be operating along the border and 
likely to storm Ban Nai Soy and Ban Mae Surin shelters, he said. 
 Meanwhile, officials were reportedly questioning a suspected Burmese 
spy who was recently arrested at Ban Nai Soy shelter.

They said he posed as a monk to spy for Burmese troops stationed 
opposite Ban Nai Soy after five Burmese soldiers were killed by a group 
of Karenni National Progressive Party guerrillas.


AFP: Thai elephants falling prey to landmines: expert 

BANGKOK, Feb 5 (AFP) - At least 10 elephants were injured by landmines 
in Thailand last year, an expert said Monday after the death of a calf 
whose mother stepped on a mine in the country's north. 

 The calf suffered no serious injuries in the blast but collapsed and 
died suddenly Sunday, said staff at the Lampang Elephant Hospital where 
the pair were brought late last month. 

 The mother, named Mo-hay, suffered severe wounds to her left front foot 
but keepers were now more worried about her mental state, describing her 
as distraught and tearful after the death of her calf. 

 Staff believe the baby may have been injured during the truck journey 
down from the Myanmar border where 29-year-old Mohay had laboured in the 
timber forests. 

 Elephants as the innocent victims of landmines along the border of 
Thailand and Myanmar came to worldwide attention last year when an 
elephant named Motala lost her front left foot to a landmine. 

 She was also taken to the Lampang centre where vets amputated part of 
the limb and began intensive rehabilitation. 

 "There have been more than 10 elephants injured by landmines in the 
past year," said senior veterinarian for Thailand's Forest and Industry 
Organization Preecha Phoangkum. 

 "This year there has been more monitoring than in the past. The 
elephants are stepping on landmines near military encampments along the 
Myanmar border. The soldiers keep putting landmines near water sources," 
he said. 

 Veterinarians said Mo-hay's condition is "unpredictable" but better 
than Motala's, although she would need surgery in the future. 


Bangkok Post: Burma policy vital before visit

Feb. 4, 2001

Senator tells Thaksin to tread carefully

The Thai Rak Thai-led coalition government's policy on Burma must be 
carefully thought out, given the sensitive nature of problems between 
the two countries, the chairman of the senate foreign affairs committee 
said yesterday.

Kraisak Choonhavan said Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Rak Thai party 
leader, should work out his government's foreign policy in detail before 
undertaking his planned visit to Burma.

Mr Kraisak said this is because the sensitivity of issues between the 
two neighbours touching on drug trafficking, illegal immigrants, 
minority groups and fishing disputes could not be taken lightly.

He said unlike many of the party's other policies spelled out in detail 
during the election campaign, its foreign policy initiatives were not 
clear-cut. The party also has not made it clear whether Surakiart 
Sathirathai or Pitak Intrawityanunt will be the next foreign minister.

"I can't say whether Mr Thaksin will choose a policy of friendship first 
with Burma like when Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was the prime minister. 
But such a relationship benefited only a small group of businessmen, 
such as log merchants and hotel and casino operators.

"In the long run it won't be good for Thailand because it increases our 
social problems," Mr Kraisak said.

The Nakhon Ratchasima senator said the Chuan Leekpai government's 
foreign policy which was decidedly "cool" towards Burma was responsive 
to the US position and forced Rangoon to negotiate with Aung San Suu 

But it also had its drawbacks as it failed to solve drug and illegal 
labour problems.

"By just saying that we will pursue a good and close relationship with 
Burma is not sufficient," Mr Kraisak said


Burma Courier: Chins Set the Pace in Preparing State Constitution

Courier News Service:  January 31, 2001

WASHINGTON - The publication of an initial draft of the constitution of 
the state of Chinland has focused attention on efforts by Burma's ethnic 
minorities to carve out a place for themselves in negotiations on 
Burma's future as a federal state.

The draft constitution, along with other background papers, was 
published in January by the Chin Forum, a group representing Chin exiles 
in many parts of the world.  It is  currently being circulated to get 
feedback and amendments.

The document, described as a "framework" for discussion, provides 
preliminary definitions of the Chin people, territory and emblems, as 
well as proposals for the legislative bodies and executive and judicial 
branches and the designation of the official languages of the State of 

The Chin group is believed to be the first among Burma's minority ethnic 
nationalities to produce a draft of this nature.   Representatives of 
several ethnic nationalities of Shan state, including the Lahu, Pa-O, 
Palaung, Shan and Wa peoples are also reported to be engaged in drafting 
a constitution for their state which is due to be published in draft 
form later this year.

The Chin constitution would appear to be in line with federal principles 
espoused in a statement issued by the United Nationalities League for 
Democracy (UNLD), at the end of its congress at the Thai-Burma border in 

The UNLD statement affirmed a view of a "decentralized" federal Union of 
Burma consisting of eight "national states" to be constituted "in terms 
of ethnicity, rather than geographical areas".  It named the national 
states as Chin State, Kachin State, Karen State, Kayah (Karenni) State, 
Mon State, Myanmar or Burman State, Rakhine (Arakan) State, and Shan 
State.   According to principles put forward in the statement, a future 
central government in Burma would be entrusted with control over 
monetary and defense policy, foreign relations and only such other 
matters as the member states chose to vest in it temporarily.

The vexed matter of the "division of powers" in any future Union and the 
relationship between Burma's ethnic minorities and the central 
government is also reported to be the subject of continuing study and 
discussion by the National Convention Convening Commission, which 
functions as a branch of the military government.  The group, chaired by 
cabinet minister Maj-Gen Saw Lwin is said to meet regularly, but it has 
never published substantive reports of its findings or proposals.

_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________

The Independent (Bangladesh): Myanmar Cell? to be set up in Ctg soon to 
boost trade, business

Feb. 5, 2001

by Economic Reporter

In order to create a new avenue of increased trade and business, a cell 
titled Myanmar Cell?, would be established immediately at the Chittagong 
Chamber to conduct all the business activities to be done through 
Myanmar-Bangladesh border. 

This was disclosed at a meeting of the Chamber leaders with Md Abdul 
Mojid, Director, Board of Investment (BOI) held at the Chamber office at 
Chittagong yesterday, says a press release. Earlier, President the 
Chamber Saifuzzaman Chowdhury Javed welcomed the guest. Urging the 
visiting government official to update and to well equip the Chittagong 
based BOI office Javed said that the entrepreneurs has to rush to Dhaka 
to get permission from the concerned ministries and departments together 
with the Department of Environment for establishing new industries which 
causes the entrepreneurs waste their time and money.

The Director of BOI informed that some Tk 100 crore has been earmarked 
for equity finance to develop information technology and agro processing 
industry. He also revealed of the consent of Japan to resume the project 
work such as construction of a tunnel under the river Karnaphuli and 
establishment of a special economic zone as earlier proposed by JICA. 
The visiting BOI official also informed that a two-day international 
standard seminar regarding the matter will shortly be organised in 

SM Nurul Hoque, Senior Vice-President of the Chamber spelled out the 
various hindrance being faced by the RMG sector and observed that a 
complete list of industries along with relevant data and information of 
those should be kept with the BOI for the ready reference of new 
entrepreneurs. He said that this will facilitate investment process with 
less time consumption.MA Latif, Vice-President of the Chamber said that 
investment of Tk 200 crore was required to flourish the hatchery sector. 
But Tk 500 crore has already been invested in this sector. From which a 
lot of industry has become sick. 

He pointed out that Tk 100 crore has been wasted due to negligence of 
the government recently. Chamber member Syed Mahmudul Hoque said that 
Bangladesh shall have to strengthen the regional cooperation to cope 
with this age of globalisation. In future the economy of Bangladesh will 
be more prosperous if the country could be linked up with trans Asian 
Railway and ASEAN countries. He also gave importance to boost up 
Bangladesh?s business and investment with Myanmar, which has huge 
natural resources.


Burma Courier: Military Company Sets up Disposable Syringe Business

Based on a news item in the New Light of Myanmar:  January 31, 2001 
RANGOON - A company whose only shareholders are active-duty personnel of 
the Burmese military has gone into the business of producing disposable 
medical syringes.
A sales centre for the syringes manufactured by a subsidiary of the 
Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) was officially opened Monday on 
Pansodan street in Kyauktada township in Rangoon. The ceremony was 
attended among others by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Military 
Affairs Lt-Gen Tin Hla, Rangoon Commander Maj-Gen Khin Maung Than, the 
Attorney-general, the Chief of Staff (Navy), senior officers of Ministry 
of Defence, Ministry of Health brass and invited guests.   After Deputy 
Minister of Health Dr Mya Oo spoke on the prevention of infectious 
diseases through the use of disposable syringes, the ceremony came to an 

According to public health experts, one of the reasons for the high rate 
of HIV infection in Burma has been needle sharing by addicts who inject 
heroin and other drugs intravenously.  Habitual drug users work in "tea 
stall" shooting galleries, where they reuse needles.  The country has 
been plagued by an extreme shortage in the supply of medical syringes.

It not known whether the measures to increase the syringe supply will 
also lead to changes in the "paraphernalia" laws in Burma which make 
carrying needles without a medical licence a crime.  However, with 
products in hand blessed by the deputy prime minister, the attorney 
general and the deputy minister of health, prosecutions under the law 
will hopefully become rarer. 

The syringes are produced in a plant equipped with machinery imported 
from Germany. In addition to its newest venture, MEC is invested in the 
banking, insurance, real estate, cement, gems mining and information 
technology sectors.


International Herald Tribune: Get Burma's Minorities Talking  

Feb. 5, 2001

Josef Silverstein  

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey As representatives of the military government 
in Burma continue secret talks with the opposition leader, Daw Aung San 
Suu Kyi, both sides should be aware that the central problem today, as 
it was when Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948, is national 
unity. It does not exist because there is a lack of equality and trust 
between majority Burmese and other ethnic groups, and between the 
military and the people.
Restoration of democratic rule and respect for human rights and civil 
liberties are, of course, important. But if the talks are to be the 
first step in solving long-standing problems, then the interests of the 
ethnic minorities must get high priority. They represent a third of the 
national population, but most do not feel part of the nation.
After so many years of war, misunderstanding and division, the basic 
issues of unity, trust and peaceful resolution of problems must be 
discussed openly, honestly and in depth so that a new social basis can 
be found and built upon.
The military rulers defend their seizure of power in 1962 and again in 
1988 as necessary to preserve national unity, territorial integrity and 
sovereignty. They claim that any mistrust is a legacy of colonial rule. 
They say that the cease fires they negotiated with ethnic minorities 
were first steps toward equality, sharing of power and trust. Such 
principles, they claim, will be in the new constitution.
In 1989, when the Burma Communist Party imploded and the minority 
representatives who served as its cadres broke away and formed ethnic 
groupings, the government offered them cease-fire agreements to end 
their wars against the state. It allowed those who accepted to keep 
their weapons, administer their areas and run their economies with a 
minimum of interference.
However, the government did not allow them to discuss their political 
future. That was to be put off until a new constitution was in place.
In 1993, the junta created a national convention at which invited 
Burmese and minority representatives were supposed to develop the 
principles for a new constitution. The move failed because it was 
tightly controlled and the participants were denied free speech and 
interaction. After a walkout by Shan minority delegates, Daw Aung San 
Suu Kyi withdrew the delegates of her National League for Democracy.
Most of the ethnic minorities contend that the conditions that drove 
many to fight the central government or resist in other ways have their 
roots in inequalities inscribed in the 1947 constitution and in the 
absence of full autonomy, resource-sharing and participation in 
decisions affecting their future. They also deeply resent the emergence 
of Burmese culture as the national culture, instead of a multiculture 
reflecting the diversity of the population.
For half a century the minorities have been victims of rules made in 
Rangoon, the central government's violence and unwillingness by those in 
power to discuss the grievances of ethnic minorities and work together 
to find real solutions.
While the Karens continue their war against the government, their 
leaders have been on record since 1984 as saying that they no longer 
seek independence. They refuse to accept a cease-fire because its terms 
say nothing about the future. A significant portion of the Christian 
Karens also have religious differences with the Burmese, who are 
As dialogue between representatives of the military and the people 
progresses, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the logical person to speak for the 
people. She is committed to a free, democratic and peaceful Burma based 
on equality for all, the rule of law and human rights. She respects the 
cultural diversity of the nation and the rights of the people to retain 
their identities, languages and traditions. She trusts the people, as 
most trust her.
She should have minority leaders at her side to participate in the 
discussions and speak to the issues which directly effect their people. 
That would be the best symbol possible of equality, unity and trust as 
efforts are made again to build a united Burma.
The writer, professor emeritus of politics at Rutgers University, 
contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune. 


Friends of Rohingya: "Malicious Misinformation about Arakan Resistance"

Feb. 3, 2001.  Posted on the Maykha mailing list.

Recently, members of a Burma resistance group, ARNO,
have been taken into custody in Bangladesh, simply for
their expression of political views against the rulers
of the neighbor country, Burma (Myanmar). This was
accompanied with a very vicious campaign of lies and
slander through the Bangladesh press. In reality, ARNO
is a coalition of Rohingya Muslims and also Rakhaine
Buddhist groups aimed at bringing democracy to Burma
and its province Arakan which they share as a homeland
in happier times. They are most certainly not
fundamentalists or extremists, but are believers in
tolerance and equal rights for all regardless of
ethnicity, faith or gender. They are a small group
simply struggling to survive, with no real source of
support in finance or arms, and have sought to expose
the terrible narcotics trade linked to the Burmese

The ARNO's main actions are as a voice of advocacy for
the oppressed in Arakan who suffer tortures, slave
labors and murders at the hands of Burma's army, on a
routine daily basis. This mistreatment of Arakan
people is verified by the UN, ILO and Amnesty reports.

The Burma military dictatorship's genocidal policies
has led to thousands and thousands of refugees flowing
away from Arakan.The ARNO group was simply trying to
stay nearby Arakan, to monitor and publicise the
situation and encourage some small level of local
resistance. It must surely be emphasized that this has
had nothing whatsoever to do with Bangladesh, or with
any political parties or conflicts within Bangladesh.
The last thing ARNO wanted was to be involved in any
of that. So it is to be regretted if this small
Burmese democracy group is being made a "political
football" and lied about in Bangladesh, which after
all enjoys its own democracy, free press, etc. unlike
Burma. Also, any contacts with foreigners by
resistance members have been made in efforts to ask them to use
their countries' diplomatic skills to pressure the
Burmese government to observe human rights. It is to
be desired that all of Burma's neighbors spend their
time encouraging Burma towards democracy, and not
harassing those who promote Burma's freedom.

Friends of Rohingya


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