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BurmaNet News: May 18, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
May 18, 2001 Issue # 1806
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*The Straits Times: Myanmar's 'lost generation?
*AP: Myanmar opposition group urges sanctions on military junta
*The Washington Times: KLD & Co. delists Wal-Mart
*Reuters: S.Korea Hyundai to sell $170 mln gas oil to Myanmar
*AP: Indian separatist group says it killed 50 Myanmar soldiers
*AFP: Junta to defend Wa region from 'deliberate intrusion' by Thai
*IRNA: India, Myanmar carrying out joint operations
*Bangkok Post: Demarcation row delays pact on drugs
*AP: Last Mogul emperor's grave evoking new passions in Myanmar
*AP: Report: Thai police rescue chained prostitutes from Myanmar
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
The Straits Times: Myanmar's 'lost generation?
May 18, 2001.
Frequent university closures have left students with dented dreams,a low
motivation for learning and an attraction for nothing but the good life
By Edward Tang
MORE than a decade of disrupted education services in Myanmar has given
rise to a generation of young people who have lost the desire to learn
and who seek instant gratification.
Until recently, nearly all universities and some high schools in the
country were closed after major student protests against the government
in 1996. Before then, universities had been shut for extended periods
after another major student uprising in 1988.
The enforced school holidays has dented the dreams of many young people.
The most severely affected in this 'lost generation' are those in their
early 30s. Many of them were undergraduates when military troops cracked
down on the student democracy movement in 1988.
Last year, the government reopened most of the universities but
restricted the student population at Yangon University - the hotbed of
dissent - to those studying for honours and masters degrees.
All other undergraduates have to travel about 40 km to the nearest
universities on the outskirts of the capital, an apparent move by the
government to prevent students from networking.
Since the reopening of universities, a number of older students have
returned to the classroom to make up for lost time, but others have
stayed out, either feeling too old or having lost the capacity to learn.
According to a local journalist, the major impact of the closure of
universities is that the value of education has been diminished in the
eyes of Myanmar's younger generations.
'Many young people now dream of making money, doing business, but they
do not have the educational grounding to understand what it involves,'
'They have lost the desire to learn. All they want is a good life.'
One manifestation of this penchant for instant gratification is the
explosion of nightlife in Yangon, a recent phenomenon in this
There are at least a dozen pubs and discos that cater to foreign and
At the basement disco of the five-star Hotel Equatorial, girls as young
as 15 years dance in the crowd.
Before the night is over, they will have been picked up by a client
looking for paid sex. The price for a night - 10,000 kyat (S$27).
Prostitution is illegal in Myanmar. The police carry out regular raids
on establishments that flout the law, but this has not deterred the
night entertainment business from expanding.
The longer-term implication of the 13-year educational hiatus is a
shortage of skilled manpower in the country such as engineers and
A crumbling economy adds to the problem. Few families can afford to send
their children to local universities, not to mention an overseas
According to a study, only one-third of one million children who enter
primary schools annually will finish four years of education.
Employers here also have difficulties in hiring competent staff.
With all these problems, analysts warn that Myanmar could be headed for
an educational crisis.
AP: Myanmar opposition group urges sanctions on military junta
May 18, 2001
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ A Myanmar opposition group called on
governments Friday to stop giving help to Myanmar's military junta, and
praised the United States for focusing attention on human rights
violations in that country. The appeal by the National Council of the
Union of Burma was in response to a recent announcement that Japan was
considering giving a dlrs 24 million aid package to Myanmar to help
repair a hydroelectric dam and power project.
The Washington-based council is a coalition of exiled political and
ethnic minority groups opposed to the military government of Myanmar,
also known as Burma. It claims to be Myanmar's government-in-exile.
The Japanese ``aid is not going to alleviate the suffering of the
peoples of Burma, who have lost all their human rights under the
repressive rule of the Burmese military authorities,'' the NCUB said in
a statement received here. ``On the other hand, it would be like an
incentive for the military regime to heap more repression on the peoples
of Burma,'' it said. The statement also welcomed U.S. Secretary of
State Colin Powell's comments, criticizing the Japanese aid package
offer. In his testimony at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Powell said it
was inappropriate for the Japanese government to deal with the military
rulers of Myanmar, and that the aid package was ``not a proper
investment ... at this time.'' Describing Powell's comments as ``most
far-sighted and correct,'' the NCUB statement said ``we would like to
call upon all governments in the world to cease the giving of
assistance'' to the junta.''
It also urged the governments ``to maintain sanctions against the ...
military clique.'' Myanmar's military government has been harshly
criticized by human rights groups and Western countries for its refusal
to hand over power to the National League for Democracy party of Nobel
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi after it won general elections in 1990.
Japan says the aid package offer was to encourage the regime to continue
talks with Suu Kyi that began in secret in October and remain shrouded
in mystery. A final decision on the aid is expected by the end of the
year, after a team of Japanese experts evaluate the extent of repairs
needed at the Baluchaung power plant, which supplies the capital Yangon
and the second-largest city Mandalay. If it comes through, the aid
would be the most significant foreign grant to Myanmar since the regime
took power in 1988 after a bloody crackdown against a democracy
uprising. Since then, donors have only allowed a trickle of humanitarian
Reuters: S.Korea Hyundai to sell $170 mln gas oil to Myanmar
Thursday May 17, 10:55 AM
SEOUL, May 17 (Reuters) - South Korea's Hyundai Corp <11760.KS> has
signed a contract to provide about $170 million worth of Singaporean gas
oil to Myanmar Petrochemical Enterprise, a company official said on
"We will provide 4.50 million barrels of Singaporean gas oil to
Myanmar," the company official told Reuters.
The gas oil is scheduled to be provided by March 2002 to be used as
fuels for automotive diesel engines, power generation and plant
operation, he said. Hyundai used to provide domestic gas oil to Myanmar
but the firm has decided to replace it with Singaporean origin to reduce
shipping time and costs.
Last year Hyundai provided three million barrels or $130 million worth
of domestic gas oil to Myanmar.
Shares of Hyundai rose 25 to 1,780 won by 0243 GMT.
The Washington Times: KLD & Co. delists Wal-Mart
May 16, 2001
The nation's leading index for "socially responsible" investing has
booted Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, from its ranks because of
the company's dealings with a repressive military regime in Burma and
purchases from sweatshop factories in China and Central America.
In a report released yesterday, New York-based KLD & Co., which
compiles the Domini 400 Social Index, concluded that Wal-Mart's
activities no longer meshed with the index's goal of promoting
investment in companies that help improve labor standards overseas.
"We've been looking at them for years," KLD President Peter Kinder
said. "It was not a quick decision, but we had to make it."
The move prompted at least one mutual fund to sell its Wal-Mart
holdings, and a group of investors who follow the teachings of the Roman
Catholic Church may follow suit.
Wal-Mart, of Bentonville, Ark., said it respected KLD's decision
but insisted that it is working to ameliorate sweatshop conditions in
the factories from which it buys its products.
"Wal-Mart makes every effort to do business only with suppliers
that do business legally and ethically," spokesman Bill Wertz said.
Mr. Wertz said Wal-Mart, which posted sales of $191 billion last
year, conducts 200 factory inspections each week to monitor its vendors'
The Domini 400 is a stock index analogous to the S&P 500 but whose
members KLD determines on the basis of whether the 400 companies adhere
to socially responsible principles. Those include, for example, avoiding
gun manufacturers and tobacco companies.
Several mutual funds use the Domini 400 to make investments,
including New York-based Domini Social Investments Ltd., which manages
the $1.4 billion Domini Social Equity Fund that is based on the Domini
index. As a result of the change, which took effect Feb. 1, the firm
dumped $60 million in Wal-Mart stock.
Sigward Moser, president of Domini Social Investments, said the
firm tried to discuss the issues with Wal-Mart before it was removed
from the index, but the company was "very unresponsive."
The $40 million Catholic Values Investment Trust, which invests in
companies that do business consistent with "core Catholic values," also
will review its investments in Wal-Mart as a result of the KLD decision,
said its director, Walter Miller.
The decision is a blow to Wal-Mart, which had cultivated a
reputation among socially responsible investment firms as being an
industry leader in areas such as employee relations and community
Wal-Mart had been part of the Domini 400 since the index's
inception in May 1990.
"The report is a real embarrassment to Wal-Mart, though it won't be
a big hit on its stock," said Simon Billeness, a senior analyst with
Boston-based Trillium Asset Management. "But it will make it much less
likely that we own the stock."
Trillium invests about $600 million for clients on the basis of
socially responsible criteria and does not hold Wal-Mart in its
portfolio, Mr. Billeness said.
In its report, KLD said Wal-Mart has not followed other retailers
in agreeing not to buy from Burma, which is under a strict U.S. trade
and investment embargo aimed at forcing the repressive military junta
that governs the country to relinquish power.
KLD also said that Wal-Mart lied about its contracts with a
sweatshop in China and that it refused to help independent observers
gain access to its suppliers' factories in Central America.
Wal-Mart did not respond to the individual charges.
Charlie Kernaghan, director of the New York-based National Labor
Committee, a labor rights advocacy group, said Wal-Mart's focus on the
bottom line has driven it to ignore labor conditions overseas.
"In any country, if you find the worst factories, you'll find
Wal-Mart," Mr. Kernaghan said.
In recent years, socially responsible investing has gained favor as
mutual funds based in the principle have demonstrated they can deliver
returns comparable to traditional investors.
The Domini Social Equity Fund, for example, has had a 19 percent
annual return to investors over the last 10 years. That performance
barely outpaced funds based on the S&P 500, which delivered a 17 percent
return, though Domini lagged behind the S&P last year.
Wal-Mart's stock closed yesterday at $51.76, up 11 cents, on the
New York Stock Exchange.
AP: Indian separatist group says it killed 50 Myanmar soldiers
May 18, 2001
GAUHATI, India (AP) _ An Indian separatist guerrilla group operating out
of bases in Myanmar said Friday it repelled a Myanmar army attack and
killed 50 soldiers in less than two weeks. ``Since Wednesday, the area
is again under our control,'' Kitovi Zhimomi, general secretary of the
banned National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang Group), said
when reached by telephone at his base in India's northeastern state of
Nagaland. Zhimomi said three rebels also were killed in the fighting
that began on May 6. There was no immediate comment by the Myanmar
military junta. The gun battle was fought in northwest Myanmar, across
the Mon and Tuensang districts of India's northeastern state of
Nearly 900 Myanmar nationals have fled their villages in the battle zone
and taken refuge in the adjoining Indian territory in Nagaland, state
police chief Lokhe Sema said. The Indian and Myanmar governments are
providing food and relief to the civilians, Sema said. The NSCN,
fighting for an independent Nagaland state, split in 1988 into two
factions _ NSCN (Isac-Muivah) and the NSCN (Khaplang). The NSCN
(Isac-Muviah) group has signed a cease-fire agreement with India and is
holding peace talks with the government for a solution to the Naga
insurgency. The rival group, the NSCN (Khaplang) too has signed a
truce accord with the Indian government, but it has yet to begin peace
Meanwhile, the Indian Army has denied local newspaper reports that it
has launched a joint offensive with the Myanmar army against the NSCN
(Khaplang) separatists. The Indian army has no role in the fighting in
the Myanmar territory, an Indian Army officer said on condition of
anonymity. India and Myanmar exchanged high-level visits in recent
months. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singhs trip to Myanmar was
followed by the visit of a high-level Myanmar military delegation to
AFP: Junta to defend Wa region from 'deliberate intrusion' by Thai
YANGON, May 17 (AFP) - The Myanmar junta said Thursday its forces would
fight side-by-side with an ethnic Wa army accused by Thailand and the
United States of involvement in the international drugs trade. A senior
junta spokesman said government forces would use their fire-power to
defend Wa territory along the border and accused Thailand of raising
tensions with "deliberate intrusions".
"If these deliberate intrusions at the border become direct threats to
either the Wa territory or Myanmar soil, we are ready to counter them,"
said deputy military intelligence chief Brigadier-General Kyaw Win. "I
can say for certain that whoever has any intention of intruding directly
into Wa territory or violate Myanmar soil will find us fighting
side-by-side." The strongly worded statement came at the start of annual
Thai-US military exercises focusing on the law enforcement and drugs
interdiction tasks of Thailand's Third Army, based on the Myanmar
border. The exercise, codenamed Cobra Gold, involves Thai and US troops
as well as Singaporean officers. It also follows efforts by Thailand to
downplay recent border tensions ahead of a planned visit to Yangon by
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra aimed at normalising relations.
Accusations over illicit drugs and skirmishing among ethnic militias
along the rugged border earlier this year touched off a bitter row
between the countries, which are historical enemies.
In February, fighting between the United Wa State Army with close ties
to Yangon and the rival Shan State Army, which reputedly has the backing
of the Thai military, prompted the first clash in years between the two
national armies. Since then, the uneasy neighbors have traded barbs over
who is responsible for heroin and methamphetamine factories that
flourish along the ill-defined mountainous border. Much of Thailand's
ire is directed at the Myanmar town of Mong Yawn, in Wa territory near
the border, which officials say is home to a multitude of drugs
factories flooding Thailand with cheap methamphetamines. "To say that
Mong Yawn was built on drug money is totally wrong," said the Myanmar
spokesman Thursday. He said the Wa made their money from legitimate gem,
jade and ore mining ventures.
IRNA: India, Myanmar carrying out joint operations
New Delhi, May 18,IRNA -- Indian and Myanmarese security forces are
carrying out joint operations against some rebel groups in NE border.
According to PTI, informed sources said last night that
these operations along areas in the Indian northeastern (N-E) border
were not targeted against any major militant faction.
India and Myanmar have an agreement to cooperate in combating militancy
in the region.
Bangkok Post: Demarcation row delays pact on drugs
May 18, 2001.
Soldiers still on alert at troubled frontiers
The agreement that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is supposed to sign
with Burma on the border and drugs has hit a snag.
Officials are trying to draw up a memorandum of understanding on
Thai-Burmese co-operation. A dispute over demarcation of border posts is
holding it up, said Supreme Commander Sampao Chusri.
The MoU is to be signed by either Mr Thaksin or Foreign Minister
Surakiart Sathirathai with his Burmese counterpart on a yet-to-be-fixed
Gen Sampao said Burma wanted the MoU to define the border in detail, but
the Thai side disagreed.
Burma wanted to adhere to its map, which would put Thailand at a
disadvantage, while the Thai side wanted to use satellite and aerial
photos and modern techniques in demarcation, he said.
The border dispute at Doi Lang in Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district should be
settled first through government-level talks, he said.
The Thai military had proposed that Thailand and Burma jointly survey
Burma has not replied to the proposal although Burmese ambassador Win
Aung has met Mr Surakiart.
Gen Sampao said he had also proposed Thai and Burmese troops jointly
patrol Doi Lang.
He once raised the idea with Gen Maung Aye, the Burmese army chief, who
disagreed, he said.
Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh had agreed to work with the
Foreign Ministry and Burmese leaders on demarcation talks, he said.
Meanwhile, Thai soldiers along the border in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai
have been told to stay on alert, especially on Doi Lang, as tensions
mount. "Thai and Burmese soldiers who used to stay together on Doi Lang
in a friendly atmosphere have become hostile towards each other. We have
to be very careful with every move," said Col Narongchai Kaewkla,
commander of the 121st Cavalry Battalion
AP: Last Mogul emperor's grave evoking new passions in Myanmar
May 18, 2001
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ After he died in exile in British captivity, the
last Mogul emperor of India was buried and forgotten as a footnote in
history. Nearly 140 years later, Bahadur Shah Zafar is stirring new
passions. Since the discovery of his grave in 1991 in a quiet, leafy
part of Yangon, the foreign king has been worshipped as a ``pir,'' or
saint, by Myanmar's Muslims as well as people of other faiths. The
tomb has also become the focus of a diplomatic tussle between India and
Pakistan, with both trying to assert themselves as the rightful
inheritors of the emperor's legacy. Pakistan, carved out of India as a
homeland for Muslims when British colonial rule ended in 1947, maintains
Zafar was a Muslim emperor rather than an Indian emperor.
``Who was this man called Zafar? He was a Mogul Muslim king who ruled
India,'' Pakistan Embassy diplomat Sahebzada Khan said. But to the
caretakers of Zafar's mausoleum, he was simply a saint, a poet-scholar
and a symbol of communal harmony. ``He was not only a king but also a
saint. Even Buddhists, Hindus and Christians come here to seek his
blessings,'' said Abdul Rahim, a member of the committee that manages
the mausoleum. He said 20 to 25 people visit his tomb every day and
sit at its foot to meditate, believing that wishes made there are
fulfilled. Zafar's aura of holiness is due to his reputation as a
scholar of Sufism, an ascetic movement within Islam. The folklore and
the mystery surrounding his long-lost grave has added to the mysticism.
During his time, Zafar was one of the foremost poets of the Urdu
language and an accomplished calligrapher. His poems, or ghazals, are
still popular in India and Pakistan, the two countries that together
formed the Mogul empire that was established in 1526. It ended when
Zafar was dethroned by the British in 1858. He died four years later
at age 87 after penning his own epitaph in the form of a ``ghazal,'' a
bitter lament against the British for leaving him to die in a foreign
land: How unlucky Zafar is!
For his burial,
he couldn't get even two yards of earth
in my beloved country.
Born to a Muslim father and a Hindu mother, Zafar succeeded to the
throne in 1837 but only as a figurehead. India was really controlled by
the British East India Company. When Muslim and Hindu soldiers of the
East India Company revolted in May 1857, Zafar became a rallying point
for what some now call India's first independence war. The mutineers
proclaimed Zafar the true emperor of India. But the rebellion was
crushed and Zafar was exiled for life to Myanmar, or Burma as it was
known. In Rangoon (now called Yangon), Zafar was kept in a shed
attached to the bungalow of a junior British officer.
He died on Nov. 7, 1862, and his grave was deliberately concealed to
prevent it from becoming a focus of nationalist sentiments. According
to a 19th century account of the burial, Zafar's jailer wrote this about
the grave: ``By the time the fence is worn out, the grass will have
again covered the spot and no vestige will remain to distinguish where
the last of great Mughals (sic) rests.'' Later, Zafar's wife Zeenat
Mahal and granddaughter Raunaq Zamani Begum were buried at the site; by
then no sign of Zafar's grave remained. Eventually, mausoleums were
built at the site for Zafar and his family. But the emperor's grave was
not found until 1991 during the digging for the foundation of a memorial
hall paid for by India.
Today, the mausoleum includes the hall and a room containing the tombs
of the wife and granddaughter. A stairway leads to an underground
chamber containing Zafar's tomb covered by a green satin cloth. As
part of tradition, every visiting dignitary from secular India has paid
respects at Zafar's tomb _ including former Prime Ministers Indira
Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi _ and India has succeeded in lobbying the
Myanmar government to prevent Pakistan from playing a role in the upkeep
of the mausoleum. Earlier this month, when Gen. Pervez Musharraf
became the first Pakistani head of state to visit Myanmar in 16 years,
he also paid his respects at Zafar's mausoleum and promised to donate
dlrs 50,000 for building another hall. Khan, the Pakistani diplomat,
pointedly said that Musharraf's visit had been to the tomb of a great
Muslim ruler, not an Indian ruler. ``If our Indian friends perceive it
as going to an Indian emperor's grave, it is their shortsightedness,''
he said. 2001-05-17 Thu 23:45
AP: Report: Thai police rescue chained prostitutes from Myanmar
May 17 2001
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Police on Thursday raided a house where 40
women from Myanmar were working as prostitutes and found several chained
by their ankles to keep them from running away, a Thai television
station reported. Six Thai men at the three-story house in northern
Bangkok were arrested on charges of illegal detention, forcing women to
be prostitutes, and sheltering illegal immigrants, reported the ITV
network. The head of the operation was being sought. Television
pictures of the police raid showed at least four women with chains
around their ankles. ``We were stunned by what we saw,'' Police Col.
Sophon Phisuthiwong, who led the raid, told ITV. ``Some of them had been
chained for several days because they refused to work.'' Police, who
acted on a tip-off from neighbors, said the women were sent out to
hotels and massage parlors. It was unclear if they were escorted when
they were sent out. Sophon said the women had no identification, but
told police investigators they had been brought from Myanmar, also known
Traffickers in human beings often take away their identification in
order to make it more difficult for them to escape. The report said
that some of the women, who were aged 18-23, entered the prostitution
business intentionally, but others had been tricked. Thailand has a
huge sex industry, often employing women from poorer neighboring
countries. There are estimated to be as many as 1 million illegal
immigrants from Myanmar and other neighboring countries working in
Thailand, mostly at low-paying or dangerous jobs shunned by Thais.
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