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BurmaNet News: April 17, 2001
- Subject: BurmaNet News: April 17, 2001
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 07:03:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
April 17, 2001 Issue # 1782
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
NOTED IN PASSING: "This will certainly play to their habitual paranoia.
It's a mistake to think they don't believe their own propaganda that
they are surrounded by a lot of bad people plotting against them."
An unnamed diplomat on the regime?s view of US troops helping Thailand
combat drug trafficking from Burma. See South China Morning Post:
American presence likely to anger junta
INSIDE BURMA _______
*DVB : Firing by "unidentified" group in border area
*DVB: Junta troops, Chin group clash in Thangtlang
*Kachin National Organization: Burma Army Atrocities in Kachinland
*Bangkok Post: Burma urged to exchange drug officials
*South China Morning Post: American presence likely to anger junta
*The Nation: Net Gain: Zero
*University of Michigan Daily: U of Michigan passes Burma divestment
*Xinhua: Myanmar Exports More Rice in 2000
*The Nation: EU sends useful reminder to Burma
*Thinkcentre (Singapore): New book--Democratic Transitions In Asia
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
DVB : Firing by "unidentified" group in border area
DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the townspeople of
Myawadi in Karen State were terrified when a group of unidentified armed
men fired heavy artillery shells at about 2000 on 15 April. Although
there were no destruction it is not known whether there are any
casualties. DVB correspondent Maung Tu filed this report.
[Maung Tu] A Myawadi resident said the firing came from the direction of
Ywagyi Camp, the base of the DKBA, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, which
is located inside Burma about three miles opposite Htat Maha Village on
the Thai side. Another Myawadi resident said the DKBA fired the heavy
artillery last night in order to threaten the BDSC [Border Development
Supervisory Committee] so that they will not inspect the blackmarket
commodities illegally imported by the DKBA from Thailand.
The DKBA and the BDSC are at loggerheads and they are frequently having
problems with each other. On 26 March when BDSC commandant, Maj Thant
Zin, tried to inspect the trucks owned and run by the DKBA at the
checkpoint entering Myawadi, the DKBA members refused to be inspected
and pointed their guns at him. The authorities are blaming the DKBA for
the bomb explosion at Myawadi market on 26 March, while, a bomb
discovered near the house of DKBA Maj Hla Tar on 28 March was thought to
be the work of the BDSC. At the same time, although there are people who
believe that it could be the work of the KNU forces, KNU General
Secretary Phado Mahn Sha categorically denied their involvement.
DVB: Junta troops, Chin group clash in Thangtlang
DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the Chin National Army
[CNA] and the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] forces had a
skirmish near a church in Thangtlang Village of Chin State on 1 April.
The battle took place when the soldiers from SPDC's LIR [Light Infantry
Regiment] No. 269 arrived at a prayer meeting held at a Christian Church
in Thangtlang where a CNA member was singing a song and playing his
guitar. The battle took about 15 minutes and there were no casualties on
both sides. When the CNA retreated, officers from LIR 269 came to
Thangtlang village and accused the village of aiding and abetting with
the CNA. The village elders were made to stand in the sun all day as a
mean of punishment.
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 16 Apr 01
Kachin National Organization: Burma Army Atrocities in Kachinland
On March 21, 2001, the Burma Army Regiment (KMY 323) under the command
of Lt. Col. Nyo Win and Maj. Hla Aung leading a force of 150 men
attacked a demonstration crop replacement plantation at Sisa Pa being
operated by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in the 4th Brigade (KIA)
area of northern Shan State. The following KIA soldiers were captured
on March 21 and after being tortured, were beaten and stabbed to death
on March 22, 2001:
1. 2nd Lt. Hpau Wang Naw Seng (KC-1054) - Officer in charge of
2. Sgt. Lamai Gam Seng (A-30885)
3. LCpl. J K Nyi (A-40699)
4. Pvt. La Mai Brang Aung Mai (A-43848)
4. Pvt. Nane (A-43890)
Their bodies were burned by the Burma Army in an attempt to hide the
evidence but they were found later by villagers and exhumed and examined
before being given a proper burial. One carbine and three M-21
automatic rifles were captured by the Burma Army as well.
In addition, elements of Burma Army Regiment (KLY) 242 under the command
of Maj. Khin Maw Aye, launched an attack about the same time in the
village of Lau Lai in which the following four KIA soldiers were
similarly captured, tortured and killed:
1. Cpl. Zutau Dau Hkawng (A-34734)
2. Pvt. Dawshi Nawng Hkum (A-41654)
3. Pvt. Kareng Tu Lum (A-41670)
4. Pvt. Lahpai Zau Bawk (A-39518)
The following personal weapons were captured by the Burma Army: 1 M-21
automatic rifle (AR), 2 M-22 AR, 1 M-79, and one transceiver
Two villagers were killed as well. They were Zum Zang Dong Lum and Su
Sung Lang. It is reported that the Burma Army troops still occupy the
plantation and village. Apparently General Khin Nyunt has been made
aware of the incident but he has asked the local leadership to keep
things under wraps for the time being.
Bangkok Post: Burma urged to exchange drug officials
April 17, 2001.
Thammarak's bid to boost co-operation
Burma will be urged to exchange its drug officials with Thailand's in a
move to strengthen co-operation on drug suppression along the common
border, Gen Thammarak Issarangkura na Ayuthaya said.
The PM's Office minister, who supervises the government's drug
suppression campaign, said the proposal was aimed at boosting
co-operation against drugs, as agreed at the Regional Border Committee
meeting in Kengtung, Burma, early this month.
Gen Thammarak, who oversees the Office of the Narcotics Control Board,
said he would raise the issue for informal discussion in Burma early
next month with a senior Burmese official in charge of drug suppression.
Gen Thammarak, a former armed forces security chief, was hopeful the
Burmese side would respond positively to the idea.
China had already agreed in principle to post drug officials in Thailand
to strengthen co-operation against drugs, he said.
Gen Thammarak said it was unlikely for Thailand to root out drug
trafficking problems unless "we got help from our neighbour since the
flow of illicit drugs came from that direction."
The minister said he was much confident his idea would help strengthen
understanding and co-operation on the narcotics issue, especially at a
time of Thai-Burmese border tension which had stalled collaboration
between the two sides.
"This channel will always be kept open so that both sides can keep
working on border drug problems even when there is a border dispute."
South China Morning Post: American presence likely to anger junta
Tuesday, April 17, 2001
WILLIAM BARNES in Bangkok
The introduction of a score of US special forces soldiers into the
northern Thai border is likely to rile Burma's military regime,
diplomats in Rangoon said. The highly trained team is expected to be in
place by the middle of the year, after the annual Thai-US Cobra Gold
They will become part of a special anti-drug taskforce of Thai soldiers
and policemen designed to provide Bangkok with a sharper punch against
the traffickers who bring hundreds of millions of amphetamine tablets
across the border from Burma.
Although Thailand has long had close military relations with the United
States, previous Bangkok governments might have hesitated in making such
a provocative move.
Thai irritation over the activities of traffickers operating out of
Burma's Shan state has reached such a point that it is no longer shy
about taking such bold steps.
There is little doubt that the move will be seen by the ruling generals
in Rangoon as yet another scheme by the "perfidious" Thais to load the
drug blame on to Burma.
One diplomat said: "This will certainly play to their habitual paranoia.
It's a mistake to think they don't believe their own propaganda that
they are surrounded by a lot of bad people plotting against them."
Burma habitually claims Thailand should take much of the blame for
buying drugs and supplying traffickers with raw materials.
The deployment of military personnel might even be counter-productive if
it irritates the Burmese so much that they are less inclined to take
action against ethnic trafficking gangs like the United Wa State Army,
said one military analyst. "You can't say that the
Thais don't have their own highly trained special forces," he said.
Yet Bangkok-based analysts believe such fears miss the point. "The
Burmese have had their chance," one observer said. "From the Thai point
of view things are getting worse, not better, in the Shan state - and
the Burmese are hardly doing a thing about it."
Privately, Thai drug officials expect little from a regime that has
higher priorities than smashing a drug trade that - directly or
indirectly - helps prop up a shattered economy.
The Nation: Net Gain: Zero
April 16, 2001.
The fishing industry in Mahachai is manned mostly by Burmese migrants
hoping to improve the lot of their families back home. But in most cases
they have little to show even after years of hardship. Subhatra
IT was the late afternoon when the Rue Lak Khoo (two trawlers with a net
in between) chugged into port at Saphan Pla in Samut Sakorn province. On
board the boats, young men smiled. Home again. Thao Kae, the boat's
owner, was waiting on the jetty next to the trucks from a fish sauce
It takes about two hours to unload the tons of small fish onto the
trucks, so the crew can reckon on being with their families again by
sunset after their eight days at sea.
"They have to back here again at midnight to unload the larger fish for
the Saphan Pla market," said Thao Kae, "and tomorrow afternoon, the
Taikong (captain) will take them back out to sea for another ten days."
Thao Kae is about 45 and inherited the business from his father who
started running fishing boats out of Mahachai (Samut Sakorn) 40 years
ago. The Taikong has been working with his family for decades. Although
Thao Kae is always there when the boats come in to take care of
business, out at sea the day-to-day operations are left to the
50-year-old Taikong - one of only two Thais on Thao Kae's boats. The
other 15 men were migrant workers.
"There are three Burmese and 12 Mons," he revealed.
With 30 years experience on fishing boats, the Taikong has taught many
young men to accept the life of a seaman.
"They know they only have a few hours on shore, then it's goodbye and
back to work," he said. It's a tough life.
However, having spent years at sea he knows all too well how the men get
homesick. But in this case most of his crew are not just pining for
shore leave; they are longing to return with their families to their
real homes - in Burma.
"They say they will go home when they have saved enough," said Taikong,
but as they only earn Bt4,000-Bt5,000 a month and have to feed their
family here, returning home remains a distant dream.
"Yao" is now 28 and comes from Yangkon. He began working in Ranong
province as a seaman when he was only 13 years old. The boat he was
working on got caught in Burmese territorial waters and Yao was jailed
in Burma's Insein Prison for three years. After his release, Yao came
back to Thailand and worked on a boat out of Samae-sarn (in Sattaheep
district). This time he saved a little money and returned home to marry.
On his third venture in Thailand Yao came alone and signed a three-year
contract to work on a large deep sea trawler that fished the waters
"But I changed my mind after working for a year and asked to leave when
the ship docked in Pattani Port. My employer agreed but refused to pay
me anything, claiming I had broken the contract." Yao watched speechless
when he saw his employer pay his Thai colleagues who had also decided to
quit the job - as an illegal migrant worker there was nothing he could
When he found a new job with a fishing boat at Mahachai, Yao was paid
Bt4,000 a month. "But my health is really bad and I can no longer work
as a seaman. I will have to quit," he said.
What's more, his wife had only arrived in Mahachai three months ago and
Yao had to spend Bt6,500 of his savings to the broker who brought her
"So I don't have money to see a doctor and can only take five bags of
yah thamjai (cheap pain killers) every day," he said. "I feel ashamed to
see my wife working alone to earn our living," he said despairingly,
adding that he is thinking about giving himself up to the police and
getting sent back to Burma.
"If I stay here but can't work hard enough, I know I won't be paid," he
There are almost 2,000 fishing ships in Samut Sakorn. Depending on the
size of the ship, crew numbers can vary from 10 to over 100 men. It is
no secret that around 95 per cent of these crews are illegal migrant
workers from Burma. This doesn't include their family members in the
town that make Mahachai seem like 'Little Burma' today.
The men go to sea while the women and children work in the factories and
shrimp markets. These people somehow survive on the pitifully low wages
for long hours of work.
"I would ask the Thais to understand that these people don't take jobs
from Thai workers. They came because the brokers said they were needed,"
said Thon, another Mon who has been living in Thailand for 30 years.
Thon has a special card granted by an initiative of the late Mother
Princess that allows people from ethnic groups to live in Thailand.
"This is from the kindness of Somdej Yah (the Princess Mother)," said
Thon, proudly showing the card. He now works as a volunteer for a
non-governmental organisation that provides information about HIV-Aids
to migrant workers and their families in Mahachai.
"I'm an unpaid volunteer but I'm happy to do something for these
unfortunate people," said Thon, adding "as far I can see they are
working at jobs in conditions that that no Thai would accept."
Thao Kae agrees with Thon and admitted that he used to pay a broker
Bt3,000 for every migrant worker. He can't remember how long it was
since Thai workers refused to work on his boats. "Maybe it was seven
years ago. In any case, I paid them much more money than these Mon and
Burmese," he said.
Meanwhile "Sa", an 18-year-old Burmese woman said she had paid Bt6,000
to the broker who brought her to work in a shrimp factory in Mahachai.
Sa shares a room with 20 other Burmese women, and wakes up at 1am. An
hour later, they have to leave to start work. At the factory, everyone
wears boots and rubber gloves while they clean however many shrimps the
employer has ordered.
"Normally we work until 5.30pm," said Sa, and complained that sometimes
her hands continued to work after she falls asleep. "I cry everyday
because I miss home. I don't know how long I'll continue working here. I
only know I won't return home before I have saved money."
Sa's dream is no different from many other migrant workers around the
world. But she is well aware that her wage of Bt500 to Bt1,000
(depending on the weight of shrimp) per ten days makes her dream seem
just that - a dream. At the moment, all she can do is send money home to
her parents via the broker.
The young woman looks down at her hands and notices how raw and chapped
they have become from wearing rubber gloves 12 hours a day. Yet, these
hands can still earn money for the five members in her family back in
"My parents have no job and my three younger sisters are still in
school," she said.
Like other migrant workers, Sa knows that her job in Mahachai will end
on August 31, due to the government's planned deregulation law that
forbids certain industries from using illegal migrant workers.
"I still have no plans, but if I can continue working here I will. I
don't want to go home poor."
Good luck to both her an all migrant workers who dream that one day they
can earn enough to go home.
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
University of Michigan Daily: U of Michigan passes Burma divestment
MSA takes up local, international issues
Daily Staff Reporter, April 17, 2001
Treasurer Josh Samek was one of many Michigan Student Assembly members
who, at last night's special meeting, posed the question "Where do we
draw the line?"
This question was in reference to the three controversial resolutions
the assembly passed last night regarding divestment in Burma, the New
Era hat company's alleged use of sweatshop labor and intelligent design
creation theory in schools. Although these resolutions were pertinent to
the University in some way, assembly members questioned how involved MSA
should be in matters of state, national and international governments.
The first resolution opposed Michigan House Bill 4328, which would
require students be taught not only that evolution is an unproven
theory, but that life is the result of the "purposeful, intelligent
design of a creator."
"The sponsors of the bill do not understand what is meant by a
scientific theory," Rackham student John Solum said. Solum was one of
several graduate students in science who came to the meeting to speak
for the resolution. "There should be an avenue in the classroom to maybe
be able to talk about creation," LSA Rep. Omari Williams said.
Another resolution asked the University to withdraw any money it has
invested in companies that do business with the government of Myanmar,
which is accused of perpetuating human rights violations against its
people. "I pay tuition to the University of Michigan and I do not want
that money to support human rights abuses and military dictatorship,"
LSA freshman Mara Neering said.
Aside from passing these resolutions, the assembly created the Campus
Improvement Taskforce Initiative but tabled the creation of a Greek
Relations Taskforce until next fall. They also distributed money
garnered from student fees to student groups for the second time this
semester. "MSA has never done a second funding cycle before, and that's
absolutely amazing," said President Matt Nolan.
LSA Rep. Rob Goodspeed moved to adjourn the meeting after old business,
forcing the voting on MSA code amendments to be postponed until next
fall. "We were going to discuss code amendments that could be
controversial," Goodspeed said. "I wanted more assembly members present
and interested." When the meeting began there were slightly more than
enough members to legally vote on resolutions, and by the time the
meeting was adjourned, only the minimum voting block remained.
"I was disappointed that we adjourned," Nolan said. " But what we did do
tonight was great."
Although the year ended on a tense note, several assembly members said
they were happy with the new assembly and anticipated a successful
semester in the fall.
"When we come back in the fall, campus will notice a change in MSA,"
Vice President Jessica Cash said.
Xinhua: Myanmar Exports More Rice in 2000
YANGON, April 17 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar exported a total of 141, 600 tons
of rice in 2000, earning a foreign exchange of 141.5 million U.S.
dollars, the country's Central Statistical Organization said in its
latest data. The export volume and foreign exchange earning were
respectively up 122 percent and 84.2 percent compared with 1999. To meet
its food demand and to export more rice, Myanmar has since 1999
reclaimed 467,370 hectares of vacant, virgin, fallow and wetlands in the
country for cultivation by private entrepreneurs. At the same time, it
has also exempted the import customs duties levied on agricultural
implements including pesticide, fertilizer, improved variety and
machinery. Myanmar's cultivable land stretches 18.22 million hectares,
of which 9.31 million are utilized, while 8.91 million remain to be
reclaimed. The country's agriculture accounts for 37 percent of the
gross domestic product and 25 percent of the export value
The Nation: EU sends useful reminder to Burma
April 16, 2001.
Rangoon's angry reaction to the European Union's decision last week to
extend its sanctions against Burma for another six months was to be
expected. Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung said that the regime would
disregard the EU's "bullying tactics", calling Burma "a dignified
country that refuses to beg".
Behind the strong words though was probably a certain amount of relief.
With Burma's economy in freefall, Western sanctions and the "local
agents of foreigners" have provided the junta with their last refuge
from attacks they have led the country to ruin. If not for the
sanctions, the only explanations left for Burma's dire predicament would
be gross economic mismanagement and private greed.
Rangoon actually has nothing to "beg" for. The generals simply need to
make some genuine progress on their seven-month-old talks with the
opposition and begin paving the way for handover of power to a
democratically elected government, as they promised to do 12 years ago.
As the EU foreign ministers, who announced their decision in Luxembourg
following their monthly meeting, explained, none of that has yet
happened. Despite the release of a few token political prisoners and a
muzzling of the libellous state-run press, there have been no signs of a
substantial improvement in Burma's human rights situation.
And the EU had already eased its pressure on Burma, granting the country
a duty-free access to the European market as a least-developed country
as of last month. The sanctions that remain include an arms embargo and
a ban on non-humanitarian aid and visas for members of the Burmese
Whether sanctions actually work remains the subject of much debate -
even many exiled activists aren't convinced of their effectiveness. The
new Bush administration is also reviewing the sanctions the US has
imposed on 75 countries, including Burma.
Whatever the doubts, the EU's action serves as a timely reminder that
little has materialised to date from the talks in Rangoon, which started
Rangoon has released some political prisoners, and by talking to Aung
San Suu Kyi, granted de-facto recognition of her importance on the
political landscape in Burma.
But elsewhere little has changed. As last November's International
Labour Organisation report on the use of forced labour in the country,
and other human rights reports have noted, the country remains a grim,
repressive source of regional instability. And as the Mae Sai border
clash earlier this year demonstrated, living next door to dictatorship
is never easy.
Sanctions may not do much to change Rangoon's behaviour but they are an
important indicator of Rangoon's legitimacy.
Burma has much to do.
Thinkcentre (Singapore): New book--Democratic Transitions In Asia
Democratic Transitions In Asia
edited by Uwe Johannen and James Gomez, Singapore: Select Books, 2001,
ISBN-981-4022-17-9, pp. 280, S$ 29.00.
Available from 2pm Today at
Select Publishing Pte Ltd
19 Tanglin Road
#03-15 Tanglin Shopping Centre
Tel: (65) 732 1515
Fax: (65) 736 0855
Contact person: Ms. Nancy Chng
Democratic Transitions In Asia focuses on the political changes in the
East and Southeast Asian region. Post-Asian crisis developments show
that the countries of the region are seeing greater demands for
freedoms by its peoples. The symbol of the region?s democratisation
struggle was marked with the issuance of the Nobel Peace Prize to the
President of South Korea, Kim Dae Jung in 2000, who joined the
still-growing list of recent Asian Nobelists including Aung San Suu
Kyi, the Dalai Lama, Bishop Carlos Belo and Jose Ramos Horta.
But where does the region stand in real terms with regards to
democratisation? Indonesia?s presidency under Gus Dur continues to be
problematic as the country deals with internal challenges. In the
Philippines, popularly elected President Joseph Estrada was facing an
impeachment trial when he was forced to step down by massive
demonstrations popularly known as People Power 2ö The constitution of
Thailand is only slowly being translated from paper to practice but
Thaksin Shinawatra was still popularly elected as Prime Minister even
though he was under investigation for corruption charges. In Malaysia,
the sacking and conviction of the former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar
Ibrahim has heightened the political process. In Singapore, talk of
civil society is rife but the rules of the game have not changed. Many
are sceptical of the government?s setting up of the Speaker?s Corner in
the Republic. Meanwhile, in Burma Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house
arrest. The regimes in Vietnam and Laos are still reluctant to open up.
The politics of violence continues to plague Cambodia.
Under this struggle to democratise politicians, civil society activists,
journalists and academics go beyond the usual theory and talk about how
to translate democracy into practice. In this volume they examine the
reforms needed for democratic transitions in Asia to take place.
Independent political institutions, human rights, the rule of law, free
media, civil society, demilitarisation, local economy and the
development of free market economy are examined. The aim is to
consolidate democratic gains thrown up by the Asian crisis and to
tackle the problem areas, head on.
The contributors in this volume present their arguments and solutions
for the process of transition to move smoothly and what needs to be
done after identifying the obstacles ahead. It goes beyond the usual
academic discourse and talks about practice. The way politics should
Students, observers, commentators and promoters of democracy will find
this volume crucial to the understanding of this region.
Surin Pitsuwan, Uwe Johannen, James Gomez, Donald Emmerson, Marzuki
Darusman, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mulyana W. Kusumah, Prakob Chirakiti,
Lung-chu Chen, Martin Lee, Kanishka Jayasuriya, Sein Win, Malou
Mangahas, Kim Sei-ung, Steven Gan, Michael Vatikiotis, Bi-Khim Hsiao,
Agus Widjojo, Harold Crouch, Kim Sang-woo, Michael Backman, Lily
Zubaidah Rahim, Andi A. Mallarangeng, Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr, Yoo
Jay-kun and Rainer Adam.
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