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BurmaNet News: May 1, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
May 1, 2001 Issue # 1794
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
NOTED IN PASSING:
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AFP: Suu Kyi talks no publicity stunt, says junta
*The Nation: Asean Burma Retreat --drugs on Agenda
*Radio Australia: Thai Foreign Minister starts fence-mending visit to
*AP: Myanmar accuses Thailand of artillery assault at border
*AP: Three villagers killed as Thai forces clash with Myanmar ethnic
*AFP: US says no change in policy after Japan's Myanmar grant
*Reuters: Thai army says ready for more Myanmar shelling
*AFP: Thai army denies supporting rebels along Myanmar border
*Myanmar Cuts Gasoline Quota For Private Cars Tue-Official
*Bernama (Malaysia): Myanmar Struggles To Repair Damage From Bad Press
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AFP: Suu Kyi talks no publicity stunt, says junta
May 1 2001
YANGON: Myanmar's military junta Monday defended its historic talks with
democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, denying reports they have been
derailed and insisting they were not just a publicity stunt.
"We are not playing games for the sake of the media ... this is not a
public relations stunt," said Foreign Minister Win Aung.
"This is for the sake of the people of Myanmar ... if we played games we
might have done so a long time ago," he told reporters after an
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting here.
Diplomats in Yangon say the secret talks appear to have been stalled
since February when the junta's number-four Lieutenant-General Tin Oo
was killed in a helicopter crash.
UN envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail, who helped kick-start the
reconciliation process, has been denied permission to visit since then,
and a widely expected mass release of political prisoners has also
failed to materialise.
The diplomats also say they are concerned at rumours circulating in
Yangon that Aung San Suu Kyi has become frustrated at the lack of
progress made in the contacts which began last October.
Win Aung said that while he could not release details of the dialogue,
which has been held under conditions of strict secrecy, it was certainly
"Confrontation on both sides has stopped -- you notice that in the
papers," he said, referring to the government's order for the official
press to halt its routine personal attacks on Aung San Suu Kyi.
"So you can deduct from what you see, the indicators are that this is
"But we hope that this process, which is very complex and delicate,
should be left at a distance right now because the freedom of the
country depends on this."
The minister said he could not say when the dialogue would produce some
concrete results, but indicated that more prisoner releases were in the
"There is no set time for the dialogue or peace process in Northern
Ireland, or in Sri Lanka or the Middle East," he said. "This is also not
a process where you can start a countdown."
"We are reviewing (prisoners) every month and we will consider it and do
whatever we can."
Win Aung said the contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi, which are aimed at
paving the way for an official dialogue that would end a decade of
political deadlock, began after the opposition accepted a peace overture
from the junta.
"People's perceptions and ideas can change from time to time. You cannot
grasp one thing in hand for a long, long time -- you need to adjust to
the situation," he said.
"(The military regime) offered olive branches for a long, long time.
They they were brushed off before. Now there is no brushing."
ASEAN foreign ministers said after their one-day retreat in the Myanmar
capital that they supported the fledgling reconciliation process.
"I think in this case on Myanmar we are very happy with the process and
I think it's good that they have begun it," said Malaysian Foreign
Minister Syed Hamid Albar.
However, he said the bloc would maintain its "hands-off" policy of
non-interference in member nations' affairs.
"Once they have decided to come together among themselves and have a
dialogue, we have to leave it to them, because this must not be done in
the limelight of publicity," he said. (AFP)
The Nation: Asean Burma Retreat --drugs on Agenda
May 01, 2001.
RANGOON - Asean foreign ministers have agreed to put narcotics high on
their agenda for the group's upcoming annual meeting and look for ways
in which all member countries can work together to eradicate drugs,
Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a retreat here, at which the 10
Asean ministers met informally, Surakiart said the region as a whole
lacked a concerted effort to fight the growing drug trade.
Asean has vowed to make the region a drug-free zone by the year 2015,
while Burma, one of the world's leading producers of opium, has set 2014
as its target.
"We have the political will and the methods to do it," Burmese Foreign
Minister Win Aung told reporters yesterday, adding that counter-narcotic
efforts should not overlook traditional opium-growers, who would have to
find alternative means of making a living.
The issue of illicit drugs has been a sour point between the two
countries, which have accused one another of supporting major drug
In the latest verbal assault, Rangoon issued a statement yesterday
accusing the Thai army of joining Shan rebels, whom it called major
"drug bandits", in an attack on Burma's military outpost at Ban Pachee,
over the border from Thailand's Fang district.
Thailand reportedly fired 30 artillery and mortar "warning shots" across
its Northern border in Chiang Mai province into Burma on Sunday after
receiving a few stray shells from the Burmese army last Thursday.
"Genuine warnings need not come in hundreds of artillery rounds daily
including air-burst shells over the [Burmese] troop positions," the
junta's statement said.
It added: "Most observers tend to believe that the Thai Army is again
coming up with an excuse to be able to give the Shan artillery-fire
support from across the border."
Thailand's Third Army commander Lt-General Wattanachai Chaimuanwong
defended the artillery fire, saying it had been in response to Burmese
shells that had overshot the Pachee outpost, taken by the Shan State
Army (SSA) nine days ago. Burmese troops are intensifying their effort
to recapture the base, about 300 metres from the Thai border.
The statement also blasted the Thai government's "insincere" efforts to
stem the flow of hundreds of millions of methamphetamine tablets
reportedly flooding into the country each year from Burma's
Rangoon-based diplomats and military attaches were briefed last week by
Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win and Colonel Thein Swe, head of a
Defence Ministry think-tank called the Office of Strategic Studies,
about the attack. Rangoon accused the Thai army of taking part in the
offensive along with the Shan rebels.
Burma also dismissed reports that nearly 200,000 methamphetamine tablets
had been found there, claiming the Thai army had twisted the truth to
cover up its troops' involvement in the drug trade.
Among other issues, high on the agenda at the upcoming Asean ministerial
meeting in Hanoi will be how to incorporate the private sector in the
grouping's efforts to bridge the gap between its more developed and less
Past efforts have mainly concentrated on the role of the government
sector, Surakiart said.
The foreign minister also briefed his Asean colleagues on his recent
visit to Washington, in regard to the mid-air collision between a US spy
plane and a Chinese jet.
Radio Australia: Thai Foreign Minister starts fence-mending visit to
May 1 2001
Thailand and Burma are moving to halt a sharp deterioration in
Thailand's Foreign Minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, has arrived in the
capital Rangoon for his first official visit to Burma and a meeting with
his counterpart, Win Aung and the junta's influential chief of military
intelligence, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt.
Souring relations is the angry war of words that has raged between
Thailand and Burma since February, when fighting between rival ethnic
militias along the border sparked a rare clash between the national
Since then, Thailand has accused Burma of failing to clamp down on the
border drugs trade, rated as the nation's number-one national security
The meeting between the two foreign ministers is seen as an opportunity
to clear the air and prevent the spat from developing into a more
AP: Myanmar accuses Thailand of artillery assault at border
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Myanmar accused Thailand on Monday of daily
firing hundreds of artillery rounds across their shared land border
where Myanmar forces are fighting ethnic Shan rebels.
A Myanmar government statement said Thailand was ostensibly firing
warning shots, but was actually giving artillery fire support to the
It is the latest spat to hurt relations. In February, the two countries
had their worst armed confrontation in years when fighting between
Myanmar forces and the Shan rebels spilled into Thailand. At least five
Thai and Myanmar civilians were killed.
``Genuine warning need not come in hundreds of artillery rounds daily,
including air-burst shells over Myanmar troop positions,'' said the
statement received in Bangkok. It did not mention if there had been any
The Thai army said it had fired 30 mortar and artillery shells Sunday
as a warning after shells fired by Myanmar forces fighting the rebel
Shan State Army on the Myanmar side of the border had landed on Thai
soil in Fang district, Chiang Mai province, about 800 kilometers (400
miles) north of Bangkok.
No injuries or serious damage were reported in Thailand.
The statement said that Myanmar forces were conducting their armed
operation with ``much restraint to prevent unnecessary spillover to the
Myanmar forces are currently trying to retake Pachee border camp, which
was overrun by the Shan rebels on April 21. The rebels claimed they
seized 170,000 methamphetamines from the camp. Myanmar maintains it was
a government post used to monitor the border and stop drug traffickers
Myanmar accused the Thai army of fighting alongside the Shan in the
raid and escalating the military situation along the border.
Thailand denies helping the rebels who claim to be fighting for
independence from Myanmar, also known as Burma. Myanmar dismisses them
as drug traffickers.
The drug trade lies at the root of bilateral tensions.
Thailand says Myanmar is not doing enough to stop trafficking of
massive amounts of heroin and methamphetamines across the border by
ethnic armies that have signed cease-fires with the Yangon regime.
Myanmar says Thailand is blaming it unfairly for Thailand's domestic
problems with drug abuse and crime.
Kyodo: Pakistan military chief arrives in Myanmar
YANGON May 1 Kyodo - Pakistan Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf
arrived in Yangon on Tuesday by special aircraft for a three-day
The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Chairman Sr. Gen. Than
Shwe and government members welcomed the Pakistani military leader and
his delegation at the airport, Myanmar News Agency said.
Soon after arrival at the state guesthouse, the first secretary of
Myanmar's junta, Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, paid a courtesy call on the
Later, Musharraf is to call on junta chief Than Shwe at the parliament
building where bilateral agreements for economic and technological
cooperation will be signed.
On Wednesday, the Pakistan delegation will visit Mandalay and Maymyo in
central Myanmar where they will visit military establishments in
addition to cultural sites.
They are to return to Yangon on Thursday to proceed to Vietnam.
Musharraf, who seized power in Pakistan in a bloodless coup in October
1999, is the second senior leader from a non-ASEAN (Association of
Southeast Asian Nations) country to visit Myanmar since the military
takeover in 1988.
Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng visited Myanmar in December 1994.
Musharraf's visit was preceded by a goodwill visit of a flotilla from
the Pakistan Navy, including a destroyer, a submarine and two support
ships, from April 27 to 29.
A 16-member Pakistan National Defense College delegation led by Gen.
Raza Muhammad Khan also paid a weeklong visit from April 23.
AP: Three villagers killed as Thai forces clash with Myanmar ethnic
May 1, 2001
MOLITHAI, Thailand (AP) Three hilltribe villagers from Thailand were
killed and five injured when pro-Myanmar ethnic Karen guerrillas clashed
with Thai security forces at the border of the two countries early
Tuesday, Thai army and villagers said.
Troops of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army attacked a Thai military
checkpoint at Molithai on the Thai side of the border, about 350
kilometers (220 miles) northwest of Bangkok, and battered the civilian
settlement with fire from rocket propelled grenades.
Two Thai soldiers were injured in the attack. It was not clear if the
DKBA suffered any casualties.
The attack was apparently in retaliation for an assault by an
anti-Yangon rebel army, the Karen National Union, on a DKBA border base
on April 22 that killed four people in Myanmar. Myanmar, also known as
Burma, claimed Thailand supported that raid.
Charoen Kawjitpaivoon, 48, the headman of Molithai village, said that
about 60 DKBA troops, who had arrived on the opposite side of the Moei
River border from the village the night before, launched their attack at
5 a.m. Tuesday (2200 GMT Monday).
They exchanged fire with Thai forces using 81 mm mortars and assault
rifles for about 30 minutes. Some rocket propelled grenades hit the
village, which lies near the Thai military checkpoint, causing the
injuries and destroying six houses, Charoen said.
The DKBA guerrillas then retreated back to Myanmar. The situation had
calmed but Thailand bolstered its forces at the border, a Thai army
officer said. He spoke on customary condition of anonymity.
Some 1,500 Thai villagers, all from the Karen ethnic minority that
lives on both sides of the border, were evacuated to a schoolhouse seven
kilometers (four miles) inside Thailand.
The injured Thais were being treated at local hospitals. The fatalities
were identified by hospital staff as 13-year old girl Tholamai
Khirikwin, 21-year old woman Siwaphon Chaodonkhinich, and Loongyin
Tarkham, a 64-year old man.
The Myanmar government gave no immediate comment about Tuesday's
incident, which has heightened tensions at the border, where a string of
skirmishes have soured bilateral relations.
Myanmar's regime claims that the Thai army has been escalating the
military situation by supporting different groups of anti-Yangon rebels
against Myanmar forces, which Thailand denies.
Among the groups it believes Thailand helps is the KNU, which has been
fighting for autonomy in Myanmar for five decades. The DKBA is a
pro-Myanmar army that was set up by disgruntled KNU fighters.
The root of the bilateral tensions is the drugs trade. Thailand alleges
that Myanmar is not doing enough to stop heroin and methamphetamines
crossing their shared border. Myanmar says it does all it can and
accuses Thailand of blaming it for domestic problems such as addictions
and drug-linked crime.
AFP: US says no change in policy after Japan's Myanmar grant
WASHINGTON, April 30 (AFP) - The United States has made no change in its
tough policy towards Myanmar's ruling generals, despite being consulted
by Japan on its largest aid package to Yangon in more than a decade, a
US official said Monday.
The Japanese cabinet will later this year rubber-stamp a 3.5 billion
yen (28.6 million dollar) plan to revamp a hydropower dam in eastern
Myanmar which Japan built in the 1960s, a Japanese embassy official said
in Yangon last week.
Its decision was taken in the light of the fledgling dialogue between
the generals and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which started last
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the fact that
Washington was consulted by Japan, should not imply it agreed with the
move, or that United States was ready to moderate its opposition to
international financial help to Myanmar.
"We have not changed our policy," said the official, adding that
assistance was not warranted until there was substantial and concrete
"progress towards democracy and human rights," in Myanmar.
US policymakers will "weigh" their policy towards Myanmar, the former
Burma, only based on positive developments in the "fragile" dialogue,
the official added.
A senior member of the junta has been meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi
since last October, in a process that could end years of political
deadlock and pave the way for a transition of power in the military-run
Japan is the biggest creditor nation and aid donor to Myanmar. It
suspended all but a small amount of humanitarian aid in the aftermath of
the 1988 military takeover, but the flow of funds resumed in 1994.
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won an overwhelming
election victory in 1990 which was never recognised by the military
The party has since been subjected to a campaign of imprisonments and
harrasments designed to crush its structure and ability to organise.
Reuters: Thai army says ready for more Myanmar shelling
By Dominic Whiting
BANGKOK, April 30 (Reuters) - The Thai army said on Monday it expected
neighbouring Myanmar to step up bombarding rebel ethnic army positions
this week in an area close to the Thai border.
A senior Thai army source told Reuters that Myanmar government troops
were intensifying their efforts to retake three bases -- just 100 metres
from the Thai border -- that were captured by the rebel Shan State Army
earlier this month.
The source, who asked not to be identified, confirmed reports in the
Thai media that the Thai army had fired warning mortar shots into
Myanmar on Sunday after stray fire from Myanmar soldiers landed on Thai
He said the Thai army was ready to respond further to any stray fire or
troop incursions from Myanmar, also known as Burma.
``Since the SSA took over the three bases, the Burmese army has sent
around 1,000 men from Muang Sap to retake the bases,'' the source said.
``They are now sending reconnaissance teams to attack the SSA bases. I
think the fighting will continue and the Burmese will try to defeat the
He added that Thai troops were ready for any overspill of heavier
fighting, expected in the coming days when 500 Shan reinforcements move
into the mountainous area.
``If they shoot mortar over the border we will warn them and prevent
their soldiers from entering Thai territory,'' he said.
He said Thai soldiers had fired ``a lot of rounds'' over the border on
Sunday after mortar and howitzer fire landed on Thai territory over a
SMOKE BOMBS AND MORTAR
``Thai soldiers tried to warn them by shooting smoke bombs over the
border, but when the Burmese didn't stop, we shot mortar fire and then
they stopped,'' he said.
No injuries were reported on the Thai side of the border, according to
More than 600 residents of the area were evacuated when fighting flared
A Shan State Army spokesman said on Monday that Thai troops had
``forced the Burmese army to retreat'' by firing around 100 mortar
rounds on Sunday. He added the Shan had killed more than 100 Myanmar
soldiers since April 22.
The Myanmar Embassy was unavailable for comment.
Fighting between the Myanmar army and the Shan State Army has simmered
along the Thai-Myanmar border for weeks, often spilling over to Thai
In mid-February the Thai army fired mortar rounds across the border,
after it said Myanmar soldiers had entered Thai territory and seized an
outpost while attacking Shan positions in Myanmar.
The fighting has been linked to control over drug production in the
Thailand has accused the Yangon-backed United Wa State Army (UWSA) of
producing hundreds of millions of methamphetamine tablets that have
Myanmar says the Shan rebels are the main culprits, and has repeatedly
accused the Thai army of supporting the drugs trade.
The border friction and drugs issue is likely to overshadow an informal
meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Yangon on Monday, where
Thailand's new foreign minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, was due to meet
his Myanmar counterpart Win Aung for the first time.
AFP: Thai army denies supporting rebels along Myanmar border
Tuesday May 1, 5:30 PM
BANGKOK, May 1 (AFP) - The Thai army Tuesday denied accusations from
Myanmar's military government that it had fired artillery warning shots
towards Myanmar to protect ethnic Shan rebels, an army statement said.
The statement said fighting on Sunday between Myanmar troops and Shan
State Army (SSA) soldiers along the Thai-Myanmar border had directly
affected Thailand as Myanmar shells had landed on Thai soil.
The shelling had endangered Thai villagers and property, leading
Thailand's 3rd Army to unleash warning shots "towards only the area that
shells spilled over the border."
"The Royal Thai Army has to protect our sovereignty and bring peace and
security to Thai people," the army said.
The exchange comes as Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai begins
his first official visit to Myanmar, where he and his counterpart Win
Aung will try to halt an alarming deterioration in relations between the
Surakiart's visit on the heels of an informal retreat by Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers in Yangon Monday is
overshadowed by the war of words that has raged between the two
countries in recent months.
The friction began in February, when fighting between rival ethnic
militias along the border sparked a rare clash between their national
Since then, Thailand has accused Myanmar of failing to clamp down on the
border narcotics trade, rated as the nation's number-one national
Myanmar fired back last week by accusing Thailand of jeopardising ASEAN
unity, dashing hopes that the new administration of Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra would herald an era of closer relations between the
In the latest border dispute, Myanmar's ruling junta on Monday lashed
out at Thailand, saying it had used its firepower to defend ethnic SSA
soldiers along the border.
"The Thai army is again coming up with an excuse to be able to give (the
an artillery fire support from across the border creating military
escalation and causing unnecessary aggravation and tension," the Myanmar
junta said in a statement.
Myanmar also accused Thai troops of participating in an attack last week
by SSA troops that left seven government soldiers dead.
In helping the SSA, Thailand was effectively harbouring drug criminals
as the ethnic militia had been shown to be involved in the heroin and
amphetamine trade, the statement said.
Yangon has accused the Thai army of using the SSA to fight a proxy war,
while at the same time justifying its crackdown on the rebels to curtail
their role in the production and trafficking of drugs.
The SSA has yet to agree to a ceasefire with Yangon. It has been
fighting for an independent state for decades
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
Myanmar Cuts Gasoline Quota For Private Cars Tue-Official
May 1, 2001
YANGON (AP)--The official quota of gasoline for private cars has been
reduced from three gallons a day to two gallons a day, an energy
ministry official said Tuesday.
The quota reduction, which became effective Tuesday, wasn't officially
announced in the media, and many car owners found out about the change
only when they went to top up their tanks at their local gas stations.
The energy ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said
that government cars would also face a decreased quota effective from
Tuesday, but he didn't know the size of the cut.
The reason for the change wasn't made known, but Myanmar's foreign
exchange reserves have come under pressure from a fall in the value of
the national currency, the kyat. The kyat is trading at record low free
market rates of about 640 to one U.S dollar, more than a hundred times
the official exchange rate, dealers said.
The official exchange rate remains about 6 kyats to the dollar, but most
business and consumer transactions are based on the rate quoted on the
black market, which is tacitly tolerated by the government as necessary
to carry on business.
The reduction of the gasoline ration is likely to result in higher taxi
fares and higher prices for basic commodities.
Another official who also didn't want to be identified said that the
reduction was an apparent effort to prevent wastage.
With limited domestic oil production and tight foreign exchange
reserves. Myanmar suffers from a constant fuel shortage, so gasoline is
sold under a rationing system in Yangon. Each car has a ration book for
making daily purchases.
Owners of both private cars and government cars who don't need their
full quota sell their excess fuel to black market gasoline sellers, from
whom people with demands greater than their quota buy it at inflated
A gallon of gasoline which is bought under the quota system at 180 kyats
can fetch 400 kyats per gallon on the black market.
The sales of excess quotas are used by some government officials as well
as private citizens to augment their incomes.
Myanmar, once one of the region's important oil producers, produced
32,000 barrels of crude per day in 1979, but production has declined to
about 18,000 barrels per day while domestic fuel consumption has
increased. According to the most recent official figures available,
there were 107,284 cars in Yangon in December 1998, three times the
total 10 years earlier.
To meet the shortfall, the government regularly buys crude from abroad,
usually from Malaysia and South Korea
Bernama (Malaysia): Myanmar Struggles To Repair Damage From Bad Press
By Roslan Ariffin
May 1 2001
[BurmaNet adds....Bernama is part of Malaysia's state press and reflects
the views of the Mahathir regime.]
YANGON, May 1 (Bernama) -- If foreign media reporting of Myanmar is to
be taken seriously, the country has gone to the dogs.
An iron-fisted military government, backward economy, drug trafficking,
riots, forced labour, religious intolerance and massive political
instability are some of their portrayals of Myanmar.
A group of Malaysian journalists on an eight-day "rare" tour of Myanmar
recently however found Myanmar to be a country on the go and things are
far from hopeless as foreign media reports seem to suggest.
The visit to the "Suvanna Bhumi" (Golden Earth) was organised to enable
the Malaysians to obtain the latest information and first-hand look at
the country which has been under military rule since 1988.
Disembarking at the Yangon International Airport after a 150-minute
Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur and then off to Yangon City
in a 20-minute bus ride, one could see many new structures --
condominiums, apartments, four-star and five-star hotels -- along the
Visitors anticipating to see troops in every corner of Yangon's streets
could see none, instead they were met with robust traffic movement --
cars honking and over-packed public transport.
"My mother actually cried when told that I was to be transferred to
Myanmar. She begged me not to come here because of all the bad things
written about the country. That was five years ago and now she is a
regular tourist here," said Steven Twang, an executive chef at the
Yangon Micasa Hotel Apartment.
Twang, from Muar in Johor and married to a Myanmar woman, said foreign
reports on Myanmar were "unreal and grossly biased".
"There is peace and stability in this country for the last decade. You
can ask around. The people don't really care about politics, their
priority is to improve their income and their lot," he said.
"Yangon is now something like Kuala Lumpur in the late seventies, but it
is doing the catching up very, very fast."
Myanmar, with a 50 million population and a land area of 676,577 sq km,
shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand.
The Myanmar goverment agreed that the closed-door policy of the previous
government is the main reason why Yangon, once better off than any other
city in South East Asia, has remained backward.
"It's true that previously we could not show the country to the world
because of the insurgency problem that the government has to contend
with. That is why outsiders are not fully aware of the real situation in
this country," said Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, Secretary of the State Peace and
Development Council of Myanmar.
Since independence in 1948, Myanmar with its 135 ethnic groups has not
enjoyed stability because of one insurrection after another.
The military had to intervene a few times in the 60's and in 1988, it
had to come in and take over the running of the country then on the edge
Gen Khin Nyunt, the country's de facto Prime Minister, said peace and
stability in the last decade had permitted Myanmar to improve its
economy and relax its travel restrictions imposed on foreign tourists.
"Seeing is believing. One should come and personally see Myanmar," he
told the Malaysian journalists.
Even with biased foreign reporting, Myanmar -- famous for its
archaeological sites among others -- has managed to capture the hearts
of many a visitor as can be seen by the rising number of tourists.
Last year, some 207,665 tourists entered the country through Yangon, up
from 196,158 the previous year.
The trend indicates that more foreign tourists are coming to Myanmar
every year even after the United States issued warnings to its citizens
against travelling to Myanmar.
Last year alone, the hotel industry in Myanmar made US$572.94 million.
As peace beckons in Myanmar, the government is opening up more areas to
tourists, especially the border zones previously kept off-limits due to
the dangers posed by rebels and drug trafficking groups.
Asians account for 63.2 percent (131,165 people) of tourists to the
country, mainly from Taiwan and Japan, and Western Europe accounting for
25.9 percent (53,739 people) mostly from France, Germany and the United
"Come and see for yourself, the country is one of the safest places for
tourists," said Lieutenant Col Hla Min, a Defence Ministry official.
"We are in transition, moving from 26 years of centrally-planned
socialist system to a market-oriented open economy," he told the
To outsiders, Myanmar is very much a misunderstood country and the
Malaysian Ambassador here Datuk Mohammad Noh agreed that western
mediareporting of the country had been biased.
"Some western reporters have never even been to Myanmar, they just pick
up news from somewhere," he said.
To Malaysian companies and entrepreneurs, he said: "You have to come
here and see Myanmar for yourself".
Mohammad said the excellent ties between Myanmar and Malaysia should
pave the way for Malaysian businesses to be set up here and expand.
Sein Wein, the Kyodo news agency correspondent here, said the western
media were still confused over the country's and the capital's names.
Myanmar and Yangon were the original names respectively but renamed
Burma and Rangoon by the British Colonial Administration. Reverting to
the original names have been accepted by the United Nations but not by
the western media.
Criticisms of the country's human rights record have resulted in
economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union.
The National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi won the 1990
election by a landslide but the military refused to let it govern.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was later put on house arrest
until 1995 before being granted limited movement.
Things are looking up with the military government recently starting to
have regular meetings and dialogue with Suu Kyi.
Gen Khin Nyunt said the military government is only a transitional
government and "it is our wish to relinquish power to a strong
"There must be peace, order and economic growth in the country and only
then will the military relinquish power to the government elected by the
people through the democratic process," he said.
"I don't think there is a need for us to drag our feet."
He also urged Western nations to have some understanding as the people
of Myanmar were only beginning to taste democracy and formulate its own
Japan last week announced a US$60 million (US$1=RM3.80) aid to revamp a
hydropower dam in eastern Myanmar, the biggest Japanese grant to the
country since 1988.
Japanese Embassy officials here have said the aid package is being made
in light of positive steps taken by the government in allowing the
dialogue to take place. -- BERNAMA
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