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BurmaNet News: May 22, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
May 22, 2001 Issue # 1810
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AP: Reports-- Religions Clash in Myanmar
*Japan Times: Labor leader urges Japan not to resume Myanmar aid
*Mizzima: Construction works handed over to private companies in Burma
*AP: Myanmar, Singapore To Hold Economic Talks This Week
*Los Angeles Times: Unocal's Shareholders Reject Two Resolutions on
*The Orange County Register: Unocal dealings decried
*BBC: Burma hit by Indian rebels
*The Nation: Three join Shan 'party'
*Mizzima: India builds friendship bridge with Burma
*Daily News (Thailand): [Summary of editorial calling for hard line
*The New light of Myanmar (SPDC): Insincere Siam ( Thailand )
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AP: Reports-- Religions Clash in Myanmar
Tuesday May 22 3:43 AM ET
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - A curfew has been imposed in a northern town of
Myanmar where simmering tensions between Buddhist and Muslim residents
erupted into rioting last week, travelers said Tuesday.
Members of the two communities in Toungoo town attacked each other with
sticks and stones, while several mosques were set on fire, said a Yangon
resident who returned from Toungoo on Monday.
A Muslim resident of Toungoo who fled to neighboring Thailand told The
Associated Press in the Thai border town of Mae Hong Sot that Buddhist
monks and laymen killed four Muslims, including a 60-year-old woman.
The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Buddhists
set fire to about 140 Muslim houses and 14 mosques, eight of which were
Telephone lines to the town were disconnected, and the account could not
independently confirmed. A terse Myanmar government statement said
``some clashes took place ... after a brawl started between some locals
A curfew has been imposed, and the ``situation is under control and
contained. An official investigation is in progress,'' the statement
said, without elaborating.
Muslims comprise 3.9 percent of Myanmar's 51 million people, while
Buddhists form nearly 89 percent. Myanmar's military junta allows
freedom of worship to all faiths, but clashes between people of
different religions are not uncommon.
Toungoo, a trading town known for its betel nut crop, is on the highway
to Myanmar's second largest city, Mandalay, and is 155 miles north of
the capital, Yangon.
Japan Times: Labor leader urges Japan not to resume Myanmar aid
May 22, 2001
More than 3 million people have been forced into slave labor under the
military government in Myanmar, according to a Myanmarese labor leader
Maung Maung, secretary general of the outlawed Federation of Trade
Unions-Burma, said that Japan should not resume official development
assistance to Myanmar, saying that such assistance will strengthen the
Maung Maung, 48, said that since the junta came to power in the late
1980s, the economy has deteriorated because of sanctions placed on the
With the national budget under pressure, the proportion devoted to
military expenditure has expanded to nearly 50 percent, he said.
Due to the lack of money, the military government has been forcing
farmers to build dams, roads and military facilities without pay.
Poverty and famine are subsequently becoming serious problems in rural
areas, as farmers are unable to attend to their fields.
According to Maung Maung, foreign aid is being funneled to the military
and Japan will be unable to clearly monitor what its aid is used for.
European countries and the International Labor Organization have voiced
concerns over the use of forced labor in Myanmar and have toughened
their sanctions on the military government.
Tokyo is considering resuming aid to Myanmar, following the beginning in
October of talks between the military and prodemocracy leader Aung San
Japan suspended assistance to Myanmar in 1988 when the junta took power.
Mizzima: Construction works handed over to private companies in Burma
Rangoon, May 19, 2001
The constriction works, which were undertaken by the Ministry of
Construction till recently such as Yangon-Mandalay Highway, Pyi-Mandalay
Highway and Magwe airport constriction project, have been handed over to
private companies in Burma since April. The seven private companies
including Asia World, Dagon International Ltd., Olympic and Shwe Than
Lwin have received the contracts from the government for the
The Asia World company (whose Managing Director is son of former Opium
Kingpin Lo Hsing Han) has started its project of constructing the Magwe
airport in western part of Burma since the beginning of April. Most of
these private companies have dubious background. For example, the
Olympic Company is linked to Kokang group, which has a cease-fire
agreement with the military government. Its managing director is ethnic
Kokang U Eike Htun.
Mizzima has learnt that the authorities did not make any official
announcement in giving out tenders to these companies. Only when these
companies advertise for job vacancies for such and such work, the people
came to know about the construction works being handed over to the
Many road and building construction projects under the Ministry of
Construction, except the bridge projects, have been incomplete and
stopped due to the lack of financial support from the government. Parts
of Pegu-Mandalay Highway, Pyi-Mandalay road and Pegu-Thathon road are
gradually deteriorated and the government does not have funds to repair
and maintain these roads.
Many of the construction works of all the fourteen divisions under the
Ministry of Construction, except Pegu-Hantharwadi Palace project being
done by the construction division (14), are run just as a show-off.
?The government does not sanction budget for the maintenance of highways
in the townships. The people of the townships themselves have to do
maintenance of these highways with their tax money. But again, TPDC
(Township Peace and Development Council)?s allocated money is not enough
even for the salaries of the engineers and thus the authorities collect
money to patch the roads?, said an assistant engineer from the Ministry
of Construction in Rangoon.
With the handover of these construction projects to the private
companies, some people hopes that it will partly solve the country?s
grave unemployment problem. However, many engineers are worried that
there will be no job assurance and stability in the private companies in
Burma where rights of workers are not guaranteed even in public sector.
Moreover, job advertisements in the daily newspapers show that private
companies want only the engineers who have experience of seven or more
years for their projects.
AP: Myanmar, Singapore To Hold Economic Talks This Week
Tuesday May 22, 3:52 PM
SINGAPORE (AP)--The top economics minister from Myanmar's military
regime will hold talks with Singapore's trade minister this week, the
Singapore government said Tuesday.
Wealthy Singapore is Myanmar's largest foreign investor. In 2000,
Singapore had US$1.51 billion invested in the country - 21% of the total
investment in the Myanmar.
Brig. Gen. David Abel, a Myanmar government minister, will meet
Singapore's Trade and Industry Minister George Yeo in Singapore Friday
for the fourth Joint Ministerial Working Committee between the nations,
the government said in a statement.
The first such meeting was held in 1996 and has led to projects in
agriculture, tourism development, transportation and trade development,
the statement said, adding that more than 1,000 Myanmar officials
participated in the joint programs.
Asian companies have continued to invest in Myanmar despite calls from
human rights groups to boycott the country to protest against its human
Myanmar is also known as Burma.
Los Angeles Times: Unocal's Shareholders Reject Two Resolutions on
Tuesday, May 22, 2001
Energy: Measures sought to pressure the company to abandon a venture in
country criticized for human rights abuses.
By DOUG YOUNG, Reuters
Two resolutions aimed at pressuring oil exploration company Unocal
Corp. to abandon its natural gas venture in Myanmar--whose military
government has been criticized for human rights abuses--were defeated
Monday at Unocal's annual shareholder meeting.
A resolution that would have required Unocal to adopt a code of
conduct discouraging business involvement in countries that used forced
labor received about 22% of the vote, preliminary results show.
The second resolution, which would have tied executive compensation to
the company's ethical and social performance, did even worse and
received just 15.4% of the vote.
The board of El Segundo-based Unocal had recommended against
passage of both resolutions, saying they were unnecessary because
similar policies already were in place.
The California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS--the
nation's largest pension fund--voted in favor of both resolutions.
CalPERS, which is known for lobbying for improvements in corporate
governance, holds 1.5 million Unocal shares.
The meeting was conducted in a Unocal auditorium in Brea while 40
protesters, many of them Burmese, demonstrated outside.
"They're fully aware of what the brutal military regime is doing,"
said Heidi Quante, coordinator of Unocal Campaign, a group seeking to
educate Unocal shareholders about the company's activities in Myanmar.
"We're arguing that the cost of doing business there isn't worth the
Quante said the group she leads has been joined this year by a
number of labor groups, including the AFL-CIO, which also had a
representative at the meeting.
As shareholder activism has increased this year, a number of Unocal
board members have met individually with concerned stakeholders, Unocal
spokesman Barry Lane said. He also defended the company's actions in
"Go look at the region where the [natural gas] pipeline is," he
said. "The standard of living is significantly higher there. There's
been an increase in population there because of the opportunities. If
you had more Western involvement, you'd see a much broader impact on the
Unocal has been dogged by protests for six years because of its
involvement in the Yadana natural gas project off the Myanmar coast.
Human rights groups allege that the Myanmar military used forced labor
in constructing a pipeline that connects the gas field to Thailand.
The Orange County Register: Unocal dealings decried
Protestors allege human-rights violations in Burma over pipeline;
company denies involvement.
May 22, 2001
By ERIC CARPENTER
BREA -- Protesters wrapped in chains and carrying bullhorns demonstrated
outside Unocal Corp. headquarters Monday in a continuing effort to
persuade the company to stop doing business in Burma.
About 50 protesters -- including labor unionists and Burmese nationals
-- marched on the street corners near Unocal headquarters, banging on
tambourines and shouting "Unocal, out of Burma!"
"Their participation there does nothing good for the Burmese people,"
said Kolatt Myatt Kyaw, 34, a protester from Los Angeles and a Burmese
It's at least the fifth year protesters have appeared at Unocal's annual
shareholders meeting to protest the company's investment in the Yadana
Field natural-gas pipeline in Burma, also known as Myanmar.
Reports from human-rights groups inside Burma have indicated numerous
human- rights violations committed by Burma's government in conjunction
with the pipeline project, including forcible relocation of residents
and use of slave labor, activists said.
"There's no evidence to suggest that Unocal is responsible for any of
that," said company spokesman Barry Lane.
"Economic and social change cannot be brought about without engaging in
Inside the meeting, Unocal shareholders rejected two resolutions related
to the pipeline.
A resolution that called upon Unocal to adopt and enforce a workplace
human-rights code failed with 22 percent of the vote; it needed 51
percent to pass.
Another resolution linking executive salaries to the company's ethical
and social performance failed with 15 percent of the vote.
Still, some activists were optimistic.
"With that many shareholders in support, management can't ignore us any
longer," said Kenneth Zinn, national director of the International
Federation of Chemical Energy Mine & General Workers Union.
BBC: Burma hit by Indian rebels
Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
By Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta
At least 50 Burmese soldiers are said to have been killed in heavy
fighting with separatist Indian rebels inside Burma.
Two rebel groups say they have beaten back a Burmese military offensive
on their bases along a remote frontier region.
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and the United
Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) rebel groups say the fighting broke out
earlier this month in the upper Sagaing division of north-western Burma.
Both these Indian rebel groups and some of their allies from the
country's north-eastern region have maintained bases in the region for
more than three decades.
But earlier this month they were faced with a Burmese military offensive
backed up by Indian forces.
An Ulfa spokesman told the BBC that the rebels had also suffered some
casualties but was unable to say how many.
It is not yet clear if Burma, which has played down the offensive from
the very beginning, has reacted to the outcome.
Indian military officials say they have not been informed by the Burmese
on whether the operation has been discontinued.
But they are still deploying large numbers of troops on the Indian side
of the border anticipating that the rebels, if further pressed, may
break up into small groups to sneak back into Indian territory.
This is the second time in the past 15 years that the Burmese have tried
to dislodge the north-east Indian rebels from upper Sagaing, a hilly
area so remote that maintaining logistics, particularly with the onset
of the monsoon, is a real challenge.
India and Burma have improved their bilateral relations in the past two
years, particularly in the sphere of combating separatist movements
along their lengthy border.
The Nation: Three join Shan 'party'
May 22, 2001
Rangoon fumes as television couple, singer take part in National Day
celebrations for Burmese rebel group
Three thai celebrities could find themselves in trouble for joining Shan
rebels in celebrating their National Day yesterday.
The three, Noppol Komarachoon, Preeyanuch Panpradab and Surachai
Chantimathorn, were invited along with other foreigners and journalists
by Shan State Army (SSA) leader Colonel Yawd Serk to attend the lively
ceremony, in which about 5,000 rebel troops participated at Loi Tai Lang
in Shan State.
Loi Tai Lang is over the border from Ban Pang Mapha in Mae Hong Son
province. Smaller ceremonies were held in 12 other bases on the
Actor turned TV producer Noppol and his actress girlfriend Preeyanuch
planned to shoot a new TV series, using Shan locations, after their
success with "Keb Phaen Din" ("Preserve Our Land") which Noppol produced
and directed and Preeyanuch scripted.
The series, broadcast last year on military-run television Channel 7,
depicted the struggle and suffering of another ethnic Burmese insurgent
group, presumably the Karen. Surachai, veteran songwriter and musician,
wrote the score and sang a song for the series, showing sympathy for the
A guerrilla officer confirmed to the Associated Press yesterday that
Surachai had performed his nationalist song for the troops.
Another singer, Yuenyong Opakul, who had recorded a song in support of
the Shans' struggle, did not attend the ceremony but sent 50 cases of
beer, said a Shan officer who did not wish to be identified.
Thai immigration officers said yesterday the three would face arrest and
a Bt2,000 fine for illegally leaving Thailand and their films would be
Sources close to the celebrities said they expected them to return to
The Shans' celebration of Resistance Day normally attracts a small group
of foreign media, but this year's, the 43rd, was deliberately enlivened
to boost morale.
The minority group is among a few armed ethnic rebel groups still
resisting Burmese rule.
Reports that the three attended the ceremony further infuriated Rangoon,
which has been accusing Thailand over the last three months of
supporting the Shan rebels.
Thai Immigration Police feared the three celebrities might face arrest
by Burmese authorities or be caught in the fighting amid intelligence
reports that Burmese troops planned to launch a major offensive against
the Shan rebels to coincide with their national day.
But heavy downpours yesterday turned out to be a blessing for the rebels
since the bad weather discouraged the planned attacks by Burmese troops
supported by Wa rebels.
Mizzima: India builds friendship bridge with Burma
Aizawl, May 22, 2001
Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)
India has already started its work to construct a bridge at Indo-Burma
border to felicitate the trade between Mizoram State of India and Chin
State of Burma. The Bridge is to cross the Tio River, which borders Zo
Khuttha village in Mizoram and Rih village in Chin State. The agreement
to build the bridge was signed by both authorities last month in Mizoram
According to the agreement signed on 25th April, India will provide all
the financial, skills and material assistance to construct the bridge.
The Chief Minister of Mizoram Mr. Zoramthanga said foundation for the
bridge was laid recently and the construction works are going on.
India has also agreed to build a motor road connecting the Indian border
to Tittim -Kalaymyo in Sagaing Division in Burma. The
Haimual-Tittim-Kalaymyo road is estimated 120-km long.
India had already built the 165-km long Tamu-Kalaymyo-Kalewa road in
Sagaing Division of Burma at the cost of Rupees 100 crores. The road,
built for three years, connects northern Burma with India's national
highway 39, which terminates at Moreh in Manipur State of India.
India and Burma are currently operating its border trade mainly through
Tamu-Moreh route. However, the two countries are making efforts to open
additional trade routes and one of them is Rih-Zo Khuttha. Moreover,
another northeastern state of India, Nagaland, had also identified four
trade centers on international border to boost two-way trade with Burma.
Daily News (Thailand): [Summary of editorial calling for hard line Burma
May 22, 2001
[Summary translation of Thai language editorial] Foreign News editor
TRAIRAT SUNTHONPRAPHAT condemns the Burma's continual hostility against
Thailand, and urges Thailand to employ tougher policy toward Burma as
equal retaliation. Thai politicians and military personnel must also
stop doing business with the Burmese junta government while Thai
academics must stop thinking of Burma in positive way. Burma will never
change from current situation to the better or developed democratic
country. The editor feels sorry that the world community and the United
States do not take adequate, vigorous/strenuous action on Burma issue.
It is probably because they are not directly affected by the situation
there. If Burma was Columbia, the US may have already staged certain
military operation toward this country.
The New light of Myanmar (SPDC): Insincere Siam ( Thailand )
Tuesday, 22 May, 2001
Unexpectedly, I have read a news report featured in the 11 May issue of
New Strait Times daily which was sent to me by my friend in Malaysia
through the fax. The news report said " Thai police yesterday arrested
two army sergeants with more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition, land mines
and grenades that they said were being sent to an insurgent group in
Indonesia. The soldiers were driving two pickup trucks in southern
Songkhala province when they were stopped by the police who were acting
on a tip-off. A search of the trucks exposed the ammunition, 16 kg of
TNT explosives, 60 grenades and 48 land mines, packed in wooden boxes".
Oh goodness! It is clear that it is an act of interference in the
internal affairs of a country. The act of providing arms and ammunition
to insurgents in Indonesia was caught red-handed. It is no doubt an act
of interference in the internal affairs of a neighbouring nation.
The shameless perpetration to provide arms and ammunition to insurgents
in Indonesia to distrub its internal stability was exposed. Such
shameless tactics are being applied on Myanmar too.
In the O-7 hill incident which occurred in February 2001, innocent
people were killed and injured due to the heavy weapons shells fired by
the Thai army on Tachilek. Similarly, during the Pachee outpost
conflict, SURA opium trafficking insurgents were put in the front as
dummies and the Thai army gave heavy weapons barrage from the rear.
Searchlights were projected at the outpost from the Thai military base
during the conflict. When the Myanmar Tatmadaw retaliated, the Thai army
shouted stating that as if the Tatmadaw's heavy weapons rounds landed
inside Thai territory. It fired about 30 heavy weapons projectiles on
the Myanmar side with the excuse that they were "warning shots".
The Thai army never admits its sins. It is obvious that it is always
scheming wicked plans against our nation. The Myanmar Tatmadaw never
intrudes on any neighbour's territory and yields to any intrusion or
I went to Golden Triangle area together with my family during a visit
to my relatives in Tachilek in the last week of December 2000. The area
was crowded with stalls selling souvenirs such as clothing, shoulder
bags and hats. The fare of a boat ride on the Mekong river was five
bahts per person. A wooden signboard bearing the words " Golden
Triangle" with the painting of a poppy plant on it could be found there.
>From the signboard, we could view the Golden Triangle Hotel of Myanmar
and the Nagayon Pagoda. We saw about ten children wearing traditional
costumes of Lahu and Lishaw near the signboard in the territory of the
other country. It cost five bahts for a visitor to have a souvenir
photograph taken together with one of them in front of the signboard.
During the visit, I found tourists having photographs taken together
with the children. When the foreigners asked " Where is poppy
cultivated?" a finger was pointed to Myanmar side. Goodness! It is the
proof how wicked the Thais are.
Recently, our nation filed complaints against intrusion on our
territory. We did so in accord with the procedures. Myanmar also filed a
complaint against the matter concerning the setting up of Thai military
camps on Myanmar territory at Loi Lan region. But the Thai officials
ignored our complaints. And despite their words, stating that it was not
a problem between the two nations, but a misunderstanding at the border;
an approach had to be sought; however they were not in a position to
find a solution. Instead, they moved ahead.
Concerning the border problem, a special task force was formed at
Myanmar-Siam (Thailand) border and training was given to its members. It
is known that members of a special task force from the United States
gave training to the members; and that Thailand bought helicopters, arms
and ammunition worth about four billion baht to combat drugs. But
Thailand, while praising the internationally known drug trafficker Ywet
Sit group as the freedom fighter of Shan State, is calling the Myanmar
Tatmadaw and the ethnic people of Myanmar, who have already discarded
drug business and are engaging in large-scale farming business for
region development, " drug dealers" . Thailand's intention is clear
whether it is heading towards eliminating of narcotic drugs or
materializing its scheme to control Myanmar under orders of its master.
On 6, 7 and 8 May, while local militia took control of Ywet Sit
insurgent camp to clear the area, the Thai army gave heavy weapons
supporting fire to the Ywet Sit insurgents.
When Myanmar filed complaints against Thai aerial intrusion and attack
on Myanmar territory at Wawle, Thebawbo and Kyaukket in Kayin State on 9
May and near Lwehsansaw village in Mongkin region on 10 May, Thailand
made brazen lies.
Till now, the Myanmar Tatmadaw is exercising with great care in view of
the friendly relations between the two nations. It has given warnings
and reacted as required in an appropriate manner. It has to retaliate
the intrusion and aggression as necessary. But if Myanmar repulses the
intrusion and the aggression, Thailand and its masters will exaggerate
the matter and will shout that Myanmar's drug problem has led to
regional instability. In reality, it is Thailand that is trying to cause
regional instability. When the attempts to provide arms to insurgents of
Indonesia and the current border problem are assessed, the answer is
clear that the one that is trying to destroy ASEAN unity and to turn the
stable ASEAN region into a battlefield is Thailand.
The ones who are mainly suffering from the Thai army's acts are the
people of Thailand. The conditions of the Thai people at the border area
are deteriorating. Thai merchants find their business in a downturn. The
persons who are conducting business with loans are facing a suicidal
condition. It is required for the Thai people to try to find an answer
to and the real culprit of the problem. Because of the current
incidents, the countries in the region have acknowledged Thailand as "
Author: Pho Khwa
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