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BurmaNet News: May 30, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
May 30, 2001 Issue # 1813
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AP: Myanmar condemns Thai press articles in tit-for-tat protest
*Bangkok Post: Junta to 'Fix Problem' of Thai-bashing News Stories
*Xinhua: Newly-Built Port Terminal Opens in Myanmar
*Defense Week: Burma's " largest wildlife sanctuary"
*Xinhua: Seminar on Myanmar-Japan Economic Cooperation Held in Yangon
*DVB : Rangoon strengthens military units on Thai-Burmese border
*Bangkok Post: Use Snipers, They Cost Less, Says Gen Chavalit
*Bangkok Post: Chavalit to Switch Soft Stance to Sternness
*The Nation: Burma Cans Border Meeting
*South China Morning Post: Burmese bandit a Bangkok folk hero
*Bangkok Post: Navy Needs Better Law on Suppression
*The Dispatcher: Burmese seafarers get justice with ITF help
*The Dispatcher: Vancouver ITF aids Burmese seafarers
*Asia Times: Hush-hush Myanmar talks anger exiles
*ABC Online: Burma's foreign minister to visit Thailand for talks to
*Bangkok Post: What Does Burma Want?
*U.S. Senator Tom Harkin: ? U.S. Apparel and Textile Imports Help to
Sustain the Burmese Military Junta in Power?
*The New light of Myanmar (SPDC): Mom's son
*BurmaNet: Advisory to Burma media outlets re forged news releases
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AP: Myanmar condemns Thai press articles in tit-for-tat protest
May 29, 2001
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ The Foreign Ministry has officially protested to
Thailand about ``malicious articles'' on Myanmar in Thai newspapers,
firing the latest salvo in a dispute that has plunged relations to their
lowest levels in years.
The ministry summoned Thailand's top diplomat in Myanmar, Raden
Suwannakorn, on Monday and told him that the articles could adversely
affect bilateral relations, the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper
Myanmar-Thai relations, strained since February after border
skirmishes, have deteriorated with an escalating war of words and
continuing border fights.
The dispute is principally over Thai allegations that Myanmar's
military regime allows an ethnic Wa army, which has reached a cease-fire
with the junta, to produce illegal drugs at the border and smuggle it
into Thailand. Myanmar denies this and accuses Thailand of supporting
anti-Yangon rebel groups.
On Monday, the Thai government handed an ``aide memoire,'' or a protest
note, to Myanmar's ambassador in Bangkok, objecting to the firing of
mortar shells from Myanmar territory that landed near a royal
agricultural project in northern Thailand on May 22
``Such an unprovoked attack on royal premises ... was an extremely
serious incident,'' the protest note said, and urged Myanmar to take
``speedy actions to remedy the situations.
Apparently retaliating against the Thai move, the Myanmar ``aide
memoire'' took exception to two articles published May 18 and May 20 in
``The Thai media has been carrying out a vicious campaign to denigrate
Myanmar and it has been found that the malicious attacks have reached
new heights,'' the New Light of Myanmar said.
It said the Thai articles were ``aimed at destroying national unity,
tarnishing the image of the country and the government (and) inciting
instability and unrest.''
To protest the articles, the Foreign Ministry ``delivered an aide
memoire protesting in the strongest terms the malicious articles in the
Thai press,'' the report said.
Bangkok Post: Junta to 'Fix Problem' of Thai-bashing News Stories
Wednesday, May 30, 2001
Achara Ashayagachat and Bhanravee Tansubhapol
Burma has acknowledged Thailand's concern about articles in the Burmese
media criticising past Thai kings and has promised to fix the problem,
Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said yesterday.
Burmese ambassador Myo Myint said Thai-Burmese relations remained
?We will solve the problems amicably. We're neighbours,? he said.
The ambassador met Mr Surakiart and conveyed messages from Lt-Gen Khin
Nyunt, first secretary of the State Peace and Development Council, and
Win Aung, the foreign minister.
Mr Surakiart said they acknowledged a Thai government protest about an
article published in a state-owned newspaper
on May 21.
The minister, who was receiving the envoy's first courtesy call,
verbally protested against a second article published on May 28
criticising another Thai king.
The envoy said the articles were written by an individual, and called
for Thai understanding of Burma's concern about a May 18 article in the
Thai media criticising Rangoon and its leadership.
Raden Suwannasorn, an official at the Thai embassy in Rangoon, was
summoned on Monday to receive Burma's protest over the commentary in a
Mr Surakiart told the Burmese ambassador that Thai media enjoyed freedom
of speech but that the government did not support irreverent actions.
?I'd like to ask the Thai media to be more careful and thoughtful and to
report only facts so that neighbouring countries will not be hurt,? he
The envoy said Burma wanted to normalise relations with Thailand, and
confirmed that the Burmese foreign minister would pay a two-day visit
during the third week of June.
A meeting of the Township Border Committee was called off on Monday
after ?security concerns? from the Thai side, the envoy said. He would
pass on Mr Surakiart's request for a meeting of the Joint Boundary
Committee, and for the problem at Doi Lang to be shelved for the time
Social critic Sulak Sivaraksa said Burma was denouncing Thailand to drum
up patriotism at a time of division in its military ranks. He also
criticised the Thaksin government for its human rights stance. The
government ?thinks only of commerce with Burma?, he said.
Xinhua: Newly-Built Port Terminal Opens in Myanmar
YANGON, May 30 (Xinhua) -- A newly-built port terminal, located upstream
of the Yangon river, was put into service Wednesday, constituting part
of the overall facilities of the Port of Yangon. Built by the local
private Asia World Port Management Co Ltd, the Asia World Port Terminal,
which is the second wharf of the port development project situated in
the capital's Ahlone township, was opened to become fully operational
for container handling. Attending the opening ceremony of the port
terminal were First Secretary of the Myanmar State Peace and Development
Council Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt and Minister of Transport Major-
General Hla Myint Swe. The port terminal offers a wide variety of
facilities to cater to virtually all cargo handling modes, including
breakbulk, container, dry and liquid bulk operations. The construction
of the second wharf under the built-operate- transfer system started in
November 1998 under a contract signed between the company and the
Ministry of Transport. The first wharf of the project was completed and
operational in December 1997. Myanmar has been implementing additional
port development projects to reinforce the handling capacity of the
Yangon Port which is Myanmar's largest port out of nine in the country,
handling all of its imports and over 90 percent of its exports. The
Yangon Port can accommodate 10,000-ton vessels all year round except in
the months of March, April and May which fall in dry season. The
country's state-owned Five Star Line Co owns 21 ocean-going vessels, of
which 11 are of 3,000 tons.
Defense Week: Burma's " largest wildlife sanctuary"
May 29, 2001
WWII Landmark A Sanctuary: A remote valley surrounding a once vital
allied supply route during World War II in Myanmar, formerly called
Burma, is now the nation's largest wildlife sanctuary, the Wildlife
Conservation Society said in a recent statement.
Where once American volunteer pilots, called the "Flying Tigers," flew
the remote land battling the Japanese, now there's a 2,500-square-mile
sanctuary protecting rare Indochinese tigers and rare leaf deer and
The sanctuary was officially created in April by the Myanmar government
help of the conservation group.
The sanctuary surrounds part of the old Ledo Road which connected India
to the more familiar Burma Road in northwest Myanmar. The road,
completed in 1944 at an estimated human toll of "a man a mile" was later
renamed the Stillwell Road to honor American Gen. "Vinegar Joe"
Stillwell, because it was his idea, the conservation group said. The
road provided vital communications and supplies
for the allies.
Over the past half-century the Stillwell Road fell into disrepair and
valley is now largely uninhabited.
Xinhua: Seminar on Myanmar-Japan Economic Cooperation Held in Yangon
YANGON, May 29 (Xinhua) -- The fourth seminar on Myanmar-Japan economic
cooperation is being held here to review the two countries' economic
cooperation in the last few years. The two-day seminar, which began on
Monday, is also aimed at exploring opportunities and prospects for wider
economic cooperation between Myanmar and Japan, encouraging Japanese
entrepreneurs to make more investment in Myanmar and conducting
technical and training programs for development of human resources.
Attending the seminar are officials of five Myanmar ministries and the
Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCI)
as well as Japanese entrepreneurs. In February 1998, Myanmar and
Japanese federations of CCI established an economic cooperation
committee to work for the enhancement of bilateral economic cooperation
between the two countries. Japan, which was once Myanmar's biggest donor
country, suspended its aid to Myanmar in 1988 on account of the
country's domestic political reason, but resumed its humanitarian aid
since 1995. Of the aid, that in 2000 amounted to 1.5 billion yens (12.78
million U.S. dollars), a 70.45 percent increase over 1999. In addition,
the Japanese government also resumed in March this year its official
development assistance (ODA) to Myanmar which had been suspended for 13
years by extending 849 million yens (6. 98 million dollars) of the ODA.
Besides, Japan has also extended to Myanmar for 19 times a total debt
relief of 386.45 million dollars. According to official statistics,
since Myanmar opened to foreign investment in 1988, Japan's investment
in the country has reached 232 million dollars in 22 projects, covering
the sectors of oil and gas, manufacturing, real estate, mining and
hotels and tourism. The Japanese investment ranked the ninth in the
line-up of Myanmar's foreign investors coming from 25 countries and
regions. Meanwhile, Japan has become Myanmar's fifth largest trading
partner after Singapore, China, Thailand and the Republic of Korea. Its
bilateral trade with Myanmar stood at 265.61 million dollars in 2000,
accounting for 6.5 percent of Myanmar's foreign trade of 4.086 billion
dollars during the year. Enditem
DVB : Rangoon strengthens military units on Thai-Burmese border
DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that more personnel and
artillery have been sent to the Coastal Region Military Command area as
reinforcements. Army battalion and company commanders in charge of
long-range artillery batteries for protection against close range air
attacks, border area, and coastal region security units will hold a
tactical meeting on 27 May. DVB correspondent Myint Maung Maung filed
[Myint Maung Maung] At the moment long-range artillery batteries, and
military units on the islands and hills in the border areas of the
Coastal Region Military Command have been equipped with the first batch
of newly-arrived rocket launchers from Russia. Five new battalions have
been reinforced at Kawthaung-based No 2 Military Tactical Command since
April and there is a possibility of a further reinforcement of another
six battalions. On 18 May more 60 mm and 82 mm rockets and anti-aircraft
artillery equipment arrived at the Seventh mile long-range artillery
battery in Kawthaung. Furthermore, advanced air defence equipment will
be installed at all the long-range artillery batteries along the
Thai-Burma border areas by the end of May. Rockets and launchers
imported from Russia have been sent from Rangoon to the Thai-Burma
border areas since late April.
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 24 May 01
Bangkok Post: Use Snipers, They Cost Less, Says Gen Chavalit
Monday, May 28, 2001
Minister worried by high price of defence
Wassana Nanuam and Subin Khuenkaew
Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh thinks the Third Army is spending
too much money to defend the Burmese border and firing too many
expensive artillery shells at foreign intruders.
A source said Gen Chavalit wanted the army to use snipers to warn off
foreign forces instead of mortar or artillery fire.
The deployment of troops along the border and the recapture of Pang Noon
base in Mae Faluang, Chiang Rai, had cost the army several hundred
million baht since February, the source said.
The Third Army pays daily allowances of 90 baht per head to
non-commissioned officers and privates and 135 baht to commissioned
officers. Each border area required troops from at least one battalion
while soldiers from two battalions were needed to safeguard the border
in Chiang Mai.
Each battalion comprises 900 soldiers, to whom the army pays 3 million
baht in monthly allowances.
Moving troops and weapons around has also used up 5,000-10,000 litres of
fuel-which has to be paid for.
The source said the Third Army had fired more than 1,000 mortar shells
in retaliation against Wa forces and Burmese soldiers. The cost of the
border defence operation already totals 200-300 million baht.
Third Army commander Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong defended the
deployment of forces at the border, saying it was aimed at protecting
He insisted it was the military's duty to prevent border
?We have to return fire when foreign troops attack our bases or intrude
onto our soil.
?If shells land on our territory, we have to fire a warning shot. Our
troops would not dare fire a single shot if they were mainly concerned
about the budget,? Lt-Gen Wattanachai said.
?We know that every military operation requires money. It is necessary
to fire warning shots and return fire. If we are told that no funds will
be provided, we will have to stop firing.?
The border situation in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district and Chiang Mai
remains tense as Burma has reinforced its troops and weapons opposite
Burmese soldiers from two battalions yesterday arrived at Huay Due,
about 50km from Tachilek. It was not known which outpost they were going
Thai troops and explosives experts continue to remove landmines and
boobytraps from Hua Lone hill, planted by Red Wa troops when they
briefly seized the hill last month.
Meanwhile, Wa forces were reported to have arrested Shan leaders in Na
Yao, Kok and Hai villages in Kan and Toom border towns, opposite Mae Fah
Luang district, Chiang Rai.
Bangkok Post: Chavalit to Switch Soft Stance to Sternness
Tuesday, May 29, 2001
Cuts sweet-talking with Rangoon
Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has decided to get tough with
Burma, the defence spokesman said yesterday.
"We will henceforth not be seeing a sweet-talking defence
minister," said Col Chongsak Panitchkul. The spokesman said Gen
Chavalit "had to be soft" because he was also a deputy premier
and therefore required to play along with the country's foreign policy
"But now he is determined to wear his defence hat and
single-mindedly pursue protection of the country... No more speaking in
defence of the neighbour," said Col Chongsak, who also blamed the
media for fomenting misunderstanding between the defence minister and
troops safeguarding the Thai-Burmese border.
Col Chongsak denied news reports that Gen Chavalit was worried about
spending by the Third Army in defence of the northern border. "Gen
Chavalit isn't a stingy man. He is aware of what the troops are doing
there. He knows he can't specify how much should be spent when it comes
to protecting sovereignty," Col Chongsak said.
The Nation: Burma Cans Border Meeting
Tuesday, May 29, 2001
In a snub to Thai efforts to diffuse current tensions, Burma yesterday
called off border committee talks and gave no timeframe when it would
resume such meetings.
Chief negotiator Col Akadej Songvoravit was informed by his Burmese
counterpart Lt Colonel Aye Saw of the cancellation an hour before the
meeting was to take place in the border town of Mae Sai.
Aye Saw said Rangoon had instructed him to postpone the meeting, without
giving any reasons for doing so.
Third Army Commander Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong yesterday accused
Rangoon of being insincere about resolving border tensions. He believed
the latest Burmese move was a tit-for-tat reaction to the tough
statement made on Saturday by Defence Minister Gen Chavalit
Chavalit had said Thailand was ready to go to war with Burma given its
improper attitude expressed in the state-run media last week toward the
The planned meeting of the township border committee (TBC), which has
not convened since April after a series of Thai-Burmese border
skirmishes, was called to protest Burma's shelling last week of a Royal
agricultural project at Doi Angkhang. It was also due to discuss the
reopening of the Burmese border checkpoint in Tachilek.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Norachit Singhaseni said the TBC meeting was
a prerequisite for the prime minister's planned visit to Rangoon.
Meanwhile, Thai Ambasador to Burma Oum Maolanont said that relations at
the local level must be "steady" before the two governments
could engage in any fence-mending. He said a visit by Burmese Foreign
Minister Win Aung by the end of next month would be very critical,
adding that the willingness to visit on the part of the Burmese was
already a good sign.
Speaking yesterday to a conference of Thai consular chiefs and
ambassadors, Thaksin - who previously indicated wanting to visit Burma
earlier next month - said he had to wait for the right time and the
right diplomatic framework. He believed relations were not beyond
repair, and that his visit would clear mutual suspicions plaguing ties.
He also called for restraint and firmness on the part of Thais to avoid
interference by "third parties". He did not, however,
The issue of Burma was discussed at length at the diplomats' conference.
Oum expressed concern that verbal sparring through the media and rising
nationalism on both sides had constrained diplomatic efforts.
In another blow to the fence-mending efforts, Rangoon's state-run
newspaper New Light of Myanmar yesterday ran a commentary that likened
19th century Siam to a "public rest house, offering refuge to all
The commentary was written by Ma Tin Win, the same author whose article
about King Mongkut (Rama IV), published on May 21, prompted a protest
letter from the Foreign Ministry.
In his follow-up commentary yesterday, Ma Tin Win likened Thailand in
the 19th century to a thalayan, or "public guest house",
opening its doors to both British and French colonial influences. He
added: "Although our kings, true to being human, had flaws, our
nation did not become a public rest house because of them."
The author concluded: "Why is Siam clinging to those who never
treated them on an equal footing?" He was making an apparent
reference to the Western democracies that now enjoy relations with the
In an aide memoire handed yesterday to Burmese Ambassador to Thailand,
Myow Myint, the government protested against the May 22 shelling of the
Royal project and urged Rangoon to seek preventive measures to guard
against further incidents.
South China Morning Post: Burmese bandit a Bangkok folk hero
May 27, 2001
Shan guerilla leader Yot Serk - a drug bandit according to Burma's
military - is rapidly gaining a reputation as a folk hero in Thailand
where, until recently, few people would have heard of this self-styled
freedom fighter, even after he branched out on an anti-drug campaign.
The reigniting of anti-Burmese nationalism in Thailand, fuelled by anger
over the wave of drugs pouring across the border, has thrown the
spotlight on this hitherto obscure figure.
A man who sprang from humble origins inside the Shan state to command
perhaps the most vigorous armed rebellion against the junta's mighty
army is "a genuine hero" in the eyes of Thailand's most popular folk
singer, known as Ad Carabao.
Thailand's "Bob Dylan" sent him 50 cases of beer for last Monday's Shan
national day celebrations at his headquarters near the Thai border in
Mae Hong Song province.
Thai TV producer Noppon Komarachoon made it to the national day shindig,
along with his actress girlfriend and a noted songwriter. Noppon said
he plans to base a new TV series around the "heroic" struggle of a Yot
Senior Thai generals - who used to be circumspect in supporting Burmese
rebels - have lately been praising "our friend" Yot Serk for smashing
drug factories near the border.
Shan and Thais are ethnic cousins with a similar language and have found
it easy to take the same side in confronting the prickly Burmese. Thais
at every level claim to distrust ordinary Burmese. This may be partly
because they are often poor and desperate foragers in the big
But the Burmese are old enemies who are still bitterly blamed in Thai
history books for destroying the old royal capital at Ayuddhya. A new
film of the doomed heroics of a Thai village that tried to fight off
invading Burmese 250 years ago, Bang Rajan, has been playing to packed
The Burmese in turn habitually complain that the Thais are "slippery
hypocrites". So when drug producers in the Shan state turned their hand
in the 1990s to making amphetamines - or "crazy drug" as the Thais call
it - to sell into Thailand and the rest of Asia, history had primed the
two countries nicely for a confrontation.
In February, the two sides fought a half-day border war around the
northern Thai trading town of Mae Sai after Burmese infantry tried to
cross through Thai territory to attack one of Yot Serk's units. More
recently, the Thais shelled and strafed (at least according to the
Burmese) a disputed hilltop. Just last week the Thais said the old
enemy had shelled a royal-sponsored agriculture project on the border
in a "deliberate act of provocation".
Yot Serk's Shan State Army has in some ways become the sharp spear of a
frustrated Thai military seemingly unable to neutralise the traffickers
who are blamed for devastating Thai society with hundreds of millions
of amphetamine tablets.
If in the past he was tainted by his association with the notorious, now
"retired" drug warlord Khun Sa, this is largely forgotten.
What Thailand has not done, however, is offer support except in the most
general way to the ethnic peoples who claim to suffer great hardship
under the Burmese. Yot Serk may be a "hero" in the eyes of some Thais,
but that does not stop the authorities pushing refugees back across the
border. Nor are they keen on blocking businessmen jockeying to do deals
Bangkok Post: Navy Needs Better Law on Suppression
Monday, May 28, 2001
Naval officers and law experts have agreed in principle to push the
government for a new law to curb drug trafficking activities at sea
which are now on a steady rise.
Due to a relentless drive against drug trafficking on the northern
Thai-Burmese border over the past two years, drug smugglers have turned
to the Andaman sea as a new route to transport drugs from the
Burma-based drug-making laboratories to third countries. Fishing boats
were mainly being used to ferry drugs from Kawthaung, opposite Ranong,
to Phuket before being shipped to Singapore. The seizure of seven
million methamphetamine tablets and 116 kilogrammes of heroin from two
Thai trawlers cruising off Surin island earlier this year was clear
proof of their preference for the sea routes.
Justifying this new threat, the naval officers and narcotics agents
gathered for a seminar in Chon Buri last week to discuss loopholes in
the existing anti-drug laws.
They said the present law, enacted in 1947, authorises the navy to only
suppress some minor offences committed at sea. It gave the navy only
limited power in handling drug offences. The seminar unanimously agreed
that the navy should be given unlimited authority on this. Right now
they have the power to arrest but not question the suspects.
The participants agreed that naval officers should be allowed to search
foreign ships for drugs in Thailand's 200 nautical mile exclusive
offshore economic zone. If prior permission was not sought, foreign
ships could not be searched under the present law.
The Dispatcher: Burmese seafarers get justice with ITF help
By Tom Price
(Published by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union) January
The captain of the APL Mexico added the last straw to the load of its
Burmese crew when he asked them to sign a false pay sheet, They were
already fed up with closely rationed food and pay deductions for such
work necessities as gloves and comforts like soap. They knew their pay
was inferior to the standards the Mexico was required to pay under its
ITF contract, and they knew it had a lot to do with their being Burmese.
Since their ITF-affiliated Seafarers Union of Burma was busted by the
military dictatorship a decade ago, sailors form that country have to
register with the government and promise to stay away form the ITF and
other unions. The military has jailed or killed thousands of activists,
and was recently cited by the International Labor Organization of the UN
for the use of forced labor. The most unscrupulous companies and their
captains take advantage of this, treating the Burmese workers at sea
with the same disregard as their military treats them at home.
But on the Maxico things were different. Inspired by world condemnation
of the Burmese junta, the sailors weren't afraid to call the ITF last
Dec. 13 to assist in the repatriation of a crewman who had suffered a
"After getting him off the ship in Long Beach I found out about the pay
rates and decided to take action," ITF Inspector Rudy Vanderhider said.
The crew were not only denied ILO-sanctioned rights to organize, they
also were paid beneath the ILO seafarers,' standard wage for their
65-hour workweeks. Vanderhider wrote directly to the ship' owner about
the substandard wages, but got no response. Then the ship returned to
Long Beach Jan. 13 and the crew stood down.
"They wanted the crew to sign a second portage bill with ITF-approved
wages so the captain could show ITF inspectors if they came on board,"
Vanderhider said. "The crew refused, knowing this would waive their
unpaid wages. I got copies of what they actually signed on for, the
earlier portage bill, and the pay was drastically lower than the one
they refused to sign."
Of course, this caused problems on the dock. An un-crewed ship is an
unsafe ship, and loading could not occur without the crew's assistance.
Vanderhider quickly arranged portage bill with supposedly correct ITF
wages. But Vanderhider knew better.
"I started negotiating to get their legitimate back pay," Vanderhider
said. "I had both sets of documents. From there it was a slam-drunk and
the ship's agent said they'd pay."
But there was one catch?the payment would have to be made at the ship's
next stop, Manzanillo, Maxico. It would take too long to get the money
to Long Beach and the ship had a schedule to meet. The ship's charter
contract contained a provision that if it were delayed due to a labor
dispute, its charter would be revoked and the crew would be out of their
That proved to be a deal-buster. The crew wanted off the ship in the
worst possible way, and they were willing to forgo pay in favor of
repatriation rather than sail three days to Manzanillo, Maxico. It was
around 2:00 a.m. on Jan. 11 when Vanderhider went below to meet with
"I told them the company guaranteed to pay the wage claim, and the only
reason they did it is because you control whether or not this ship sails
tonight," he said. "If you stop this ship you hurt them in the worst way
you can, and then why should they pay you? The captain will repatriate
you, because legally he has to, but we'll have no leverage to get the
pay if the ship doesn't move."
With the whole deal hanging in the balance, Vanderhider called Peter
Lahay at the ITF's London headquarters. If the ship didn't sail, the
crew stood to lose all their back pay, a whopping $91,440.96. The ITF
contract contains provisions to fly an inspector to a place like
Manzanillo to settle a claim, Lahay said, and Vanderhider got the ship's
agent to authorize payment for his flight.
"I got them letters of indemnity, a legal document between the ITF, ship
owner and crewman saying tithe the payment of wages the dispute is
settled," Vanderhider said. "If they go after a sailor after this is
signed, the ITF typically hires counsel and goes after them."
The crew also got their seamen's books cleared up, saying they were not
at fault for the incident. Vanderhider, armed with signed agreements to
pay each sailor and repatriate him to Burma, then promised the crew he
would meet them in Manzanillo if they would sail the ship there. But the
crew still didn't trust the owners.
"I had left my last copy of The Dispatcher when I visited the ship in
December with a story about the ILWU's support of Burmese workers, which
they read carefully. Their English was really excellent," Vanderhider
said. "They said that they knew they could trust the ILWU after reading
about our support for them."
The crew was also aware of the increasing worldwide support and felt
empowered to move. However, six of them jumped ship in Long Beach, an
extremely rare occurrence even on flag-of-convenience ships. The
remaining crew sailed the ship to Manzanillo, arriving at 3:00 a.m. Jan.
13. Vanderhider arrived four hours later and continued negotiations.
Everyone waited anxiously until 2:30 that afternoon, when an armored car
arrived on the dock. Several shotgun-wielding guards jumped out and
brought the cash on board.
"They got paid off that day, the next day we hooked up at the airport in
Mexico City for a very emotional reunion as I flew back to L.A. and they
took off to Burma," Vanderhider said.
He expressed his concern for the crew's safety once they returned to
Burma, but they were determined to do the right thing.
"Some people have to make themselves vulnerable if anything if going to
change," he said.
"This crew of thirteen will be part of history and the ITF and the ILWU
will be on the front line with them. Harry would be proud.
The Dispatcher: Vancouver ITF aids Burmese seafarers
By Tom Price
(Published by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union) January
The ink was barely dry on the APL Mexico deal when the ITF DISCOVERED
TWO MORE EXPLOITED Burmese seafarers. The SD victory arrived at
Vancouver Jan. 24 to load sulfur and its crew contacted ITF Inspector
Myles Parsons. They had tired of getting verbal abuse form the captain
and getting cheated on their pay. They wanted the ship's ITF contract
"I did a routine inspection and asked the captain for the wage sheet,"
Parsons said. "He gave it to me, and I went below to talk to the crew.
They show to talk to the crew. They showed me their pay slips. Showing
what they actually got, and it was far below the ITF rate."
He found the two Burmese second mates were underpaid by more than
$14,000 each. The captain came below to try to intimidate Parsons and
the Filipino crew, who were also owed a considerable sum of money. He
threatened to call the Port State Authority and the police, Parsons
"I told him to go ahead. Howie Stohl, the Local 500 BA, was there and he
told the captain the ILWU wasn't pleased with the way the crew was
treated and wondered whether they could work safely," he said.
The captain got on the line to the ship's Greek owner, getting him out
of bed. They agreed to pay the Burmese $14,750 each. They took the money
and ask for repatriation to Thailand, where the ITF-affiliated Sefarers
Union of Burma resides in exile. Its president, U Khin Kyaw, remains in
custody since his arrest in 1997.
The union fled Burma when the military refused to turn over power to the
democratically elected government headed by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu
Kyi in 1990. She won by four-to-one margin, but remains under house
arrest in Rangoon.
While Burmese seafarers face serious problems on their return home,
there have been positive moves. The ITF and unions such as the ILWU
passed resolutions supporting the return to democracy and showed they
were willing to back up Burmese workers whenever possible. The
International Labor Organization of the UN effectively kicked Burma out
and called on all member nations to assess their relations with Burma,
renamed Myanmar by the military. The crew of the APL Mexico cited
support form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) along
with the ILWU and ITF as reasons for their willingness to act for their
Suu Kyi and the military have engaged in a quiet dialogue since October
2000, brokered by UN special envoy Razali Ismail, a Malaysian diplomat.
The Jan. 21 edition of the New Delhi-based Hindu newspaper quoted
sources saying the talks came about as result of pressure form the ILO,
ASEAN and the UN. Both sides are keeping quiet, though the junta
instructed media in the country to cool attacks on Suu Kyi.
The junta released 85 political prisoners in a good will gesture before
European Union delegates met with Suu Kyi in late January. The
Australian Broadcasting Company quoted Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohammad in a Jan. 29 story saying the junta told him they would hold
new elections in a couple years, but no official announcements have been
Asia Times: Hush-hush Myanmar talks anger exiles
May 30, 2001
By Boonthan Sakanond
CHIANG MAI, Thailand - Nearly nine months after talks began to end
confrontation between Myanmar's military junta and pro-democracy
political groups, there is little sign of progress in their arriving at
a consensus on the country's future.
Despite initial reports that the negotiations would prompt the release
of hundreds of political prisoners and the resumption of political
activity by the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), nothing
of the sort has happened. The talks seem to be bogged down due to
differences of opinion within the ruling military government.
While a section led by the powerful chief of military intelligence
Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt favors sharing power with opposition
groups, other hardliners within the military are not prepared to
consider any proposals which they believe will "lead to uncontrollable
In the meanwhile, frustration is growing among Myanmese activists in
exile over what they feel is a lack of transparency in the highly
secretive negotiations between NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the State
Peace and Development Council or SPDC, as the military rulers call
"The government is supposed to be discussing the future of the Myanmar
and the Myanmese people, so why can't they let everybody know at least
the agenda for their talks?" says Bo Gyi of the Association for
Assistance to Political Prisoners, a Myanmese dissident organixation
based in Thailand.
The SPDC is reported to have entered into negotiations with the NLD only
on condition of strict secrecy over proposals. Even many senior leaders
of the organixation who are not part of the talks have little idea about
what is being discussed.
In the absence of hard information, various rumors are doing the rounds
in the Myanmese capital, Yangon. According to some, the SPDC has mooted
a proposal for it to hand over power to a transitional government led by
the NLD provided the military is allowed to retain control over defense
and home affairs and given substantive representation in any new
Parliament. Although the NLD won the 1990 general elections by a
majority of more than 90 percent of the votes cast, the military regime
has refused to hand over power.
"It is difficult to figure out where the talks are leading to, assuming
of course they are taking place in a proper way at all," says Zaw Min, a
former student activist and currently in charge of foreign affairs for
the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), a Myanmese opposition
Reports coming from diplomatic sources in Yangon indicate that in recent
weeks, the talks have been stalled due to the death in mid-February of
Lieutentant-General Tin Oo, a hardliner opposed to sharing power and a
powerful member of the SPDC hierarchy. Tin Oo died with several other
military officers in a mysterious helicopter crash, attributed to
sabotage by rivals within the SPDC, while on an inspection tour along
the Thai-Myanmar border. His death is believed to have sparked off a
severe power struggle inside the SPDC and made the dialogue with the NLD
an issue of serious contention among the generals.
Many observers point out that even if the talks do go ahead as planned
and produce some kind of framework for a transition of power from the
military to civilian institutions, there is bound to be serious
opposition from Myanmar's numerous ethnic minority groups, many of whom
have been battling Yangon for decades to seek autonomy or even
The ethnic groups have been left completely out of the talks and have
demanded inclusion if the discussions are going to have any real
political meaning for all populations living in Myanmar.
"The current negotiations between the military and the NLD are welcome
but very inadequate without the participation of all ethnic groups,"
says Saw Ba Thein, president of the Karen National Union, which has been
fighting for autonomy on behalf of the Karen minorities for more than
half a century. According to him, what most ethnic groups want is a
genuinely federal Myanmar where ethnic groups will have the freedom to
socially and economically develop their societies without domination by
the majority Myanmarns.
In fact, the question of how to bring in the various ethnic minorities
into the transition process may prove to be the most contentious and
divisive issue during the talks between the NLD and the military. While
the SPDC has successfully signed ceasefire agreements with many of the
erstwhile rebel groups, many senior military leaders still think of the
ethnic minorities as being discontented populations to be suppressed and
controlled without any consideration for their aspirations.
"All the ethnic minority groups are willing to be part of a Myanmar that
is democratic and under a leadership that can be trusted to abide by the
principles of federalism, but there is no way they will accept the
current military regime," says Ba Thein.
One unfortunate fallout of the secrecy surrounding the negotiations in
Yangon has been a growing distrust between Myanmese dissident groups in
exile and the ethnic rebel groups. Some ethnic minority leaders see the
talks between the pro- democracy opposition groups and the military as a
entirely "Myanmarn affair" and a snub to smaller ethnic populations
inside the country.
"Whether or not the talks produce any transition to democracy, the SPDC
is sure to emerge the winner in this episode because it has managed to
cast aspersions on the motives of the NLD and divide the Myanmar
opposition activists from the ethnic minority rebel groups," says an
Asian diplomat here.
Among the other rewards that Myanmar's military rulers have reaped by
taking part in the dialogue with the NLD is a softening of the
international stand against their regime, whose human rights record has
been called one of the worst in the world. While some foreign
governments like the Japanese have taken the talks as an excuse to break
sanctions and restart financial aid to Myanmar, others have decided to
tone down their opposition to the SPDC to "give them a last chance".
With the Myanmese economy in dire straits and on the verge of collapse,
some see the entire talks as a charade carried out by the military
rulers to buy time. The SPDC's foreign minister Win Aung, asked by
visiting foreign reporters about a timeframe for the talks to conclude,
replied: "There is no set time for the dialogue or peace process in
Northern Ireland, or in Sri Lanka or the Middle East. This is also not a
process where you can start a countdown. This is timeless."
For the people of Myanmar, already laboring under four decades of
military rule, waiting for the military to make up its mind about giving
up political power may not be a very appealing idea.
(Inter Press Service)
ABC Online: Burma's foreign minister to visit Thailand for talks to mend
Wed May 30 06:14:34 UTC+0900 2001
Burma's foreign minister to visit Thailand for talks to mend relations
Burma's Foreign Minister Win Aung will pay a two-day visit to Bangkok in
the last week of June in a bid to mend sour relations with Thailand.
The Thai Foreign Ministry made the announcement after a meeting with
Burma's Ambassador Myo Myint.
Ministry officials say the discussions would cover a wide range of
matters, including cooperation in combating the production and
trafficking of narcotics.
After border disputes in February, Thailand and Burma have been
embroiled in a diplomatic war of words, and this month have lodged a
series of protests with each other.
Bangkok Post: What Does Burma Want?
Tuesday, May 29, 2001
Several days have passed but Burma has yet to respond to Thailand's
protest against the shelling of a royal project in Chiang Mai's Fang
district. A mortar shell landed near a villa at Doi Angkhang royal
The shelling coincided with the publication of an article in the Burmese
government-owned New Light of Myanmar which was deemed insulting to the
The article, written by Ma Tin Win, sharply criticised King Rama IV for
the way he handled the colonial powers in the mid-1800s.
The writer also extolled the heroism of a Burmese king who did a lot of
good deeds for his country. Given the nationalist tone of the article,
one can't help wonder whether some Burmese are trying to undermine
relations between the two countries.
Rama IV is recognised by Thai and foreign scholars for his diplomatic
skills, which enabled Siam to survive the colonial period while its
neighbours fell to European powers.
In the article, Ma Tin Win also ridiculed the presence of prostitutes in
Thailand, saying it helped to promote the country's image in foreign
Burmese Ambassador to Thailand Myo Myint was summoned last Thursday to
receive a strong protest from the Foreign Ministry over the article, but
so far there has been no official response from Burma.
Meanwhile, Burma has been silent on Thailand's proposal for a local
border committee meeting to discuss border problems.
Thailand has tried its best to befriend Burma and solve the disputes
peacefully. What can we do in the absence of positive signs from Burma?
Editorial from Arthit Daily
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin: ? U.S. Apparel and Textile Imports Help to
Sustain the Burmese Military Junta in Power?
STATEMENT FOR THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
BY U.S. SENATOR TOM HARKIN
MARCH 1, 2001
? U.S. APPAREL AND TEXTILE IMPORTS HELP TO SUSTAIN
THE BURMESE MILITARY JUNTA IN POWER?
Mr. President, I introduced legislation last October to impose a ban on
textile and apparel imports from Burma. My colleagues, Senators Leahy,
Wellstone, Hollings, Feingold, Lautenberg and Schumer joined me as
original cosponsors on the bill. In introducing sanctions last session,
I was motivated by the desire to help the 48 million people of Burma,
terrorized for the last 12 years by the Burmese military junta.
This brutal regime is notorious for gross human and worker rights
violations, including the use of widespread forced labor and child labor
to build roads and dams and to transport military goods. It is
responsible for the exploitation of 50,000 child soldiers?more than any
other country in the world. It is deeply involved in international drug
trafficking. It continues to deny the results of a democratic election
in 1990 and has kept Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma?s democratically-elected
leader and 1991 Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, under house arrest
for much of the past decade. It is arguably the worst offender of basic
human rights and worker rights in the world today, having imprisoned,
tortured, and killed tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of
its own citizens whose only crime has been to support democracy.
Quite simply, the Burmese military junta has committed such horrific
and appalling human rights and worker rights violations, that we have no
choice but to unite with other nations around the world and take
The foundation is already in place. A bipartisan majority of the
Congress in 1997 enacted limited sanctions combined with a ban on new
U.S. investment. Many other national governments, as well as scores of
city and state governments (including the State of Massachusetts) in the
U.S., did the same.
However, when I began investigating U.S. trade with Burma last summer,
in concert with the National Labor Committee, I was alarmed to discover
skyrocketing U.S. apparel and textile imports from Burma. In fact, U.S.
apparel imports from Burma have increased by 372% since supposedly
?tough sanctions? were first enacted. They increased by 118% last year
Accordingly, last November I wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Madeline
Albright to request copies of an unclassified cable sent from the US
Embassy in Rangoon to the State Department to see for myself exactly
what officials in Washington knew about soaring US apparel imports from
Burma. It took nearly four months for me to obtain this unclassified
cable, once my request cleared Freedom of Information Act processing.
Its contents are very troubling and I request that the cable be
re-printed in its entirety at the conclusion of this statement.
The U.S. Embassy reports that the garment industry in Burma is
booming. It is one of the few growing industrial sectors in Burma, and
the main Burmese export to the United States. But, Mr.President, what my
colleagues probably don?t know is that the Burmese military junta has
taken over the lucrative, apparel-manufacturing industry by forcing
foreign companies to enter into joint ventures with that military
government?s state-owned enterprises.
Most disturbing, the American people have no idea that the jeans or
sweaters they are buying and that were made in Burma quite probably were
made by workers being paid as little as eight cents an hour or $3.23 for
a 48-hour work week. Among the labels manufactured in Burma in July
2000, were Nautica, Jordan, Jordache, Kenneth Cole, Fila, Asphalt and
Arrow Golf. Other labels seen in Rangoon outlet stores included K-Mart,
WalMart, Family Dollar, Ames and Montgomery Ward. While Tommy Hilfiger
items were still displayed in Rangoon?s store windows at the time, it
supposedly stopped producing in Burma following consumer boycott fears
Clearly, the limited sanctions imposed on the Burmese regime in 1997
are not enough. This cable provides strong evidence that our current
sanctions policy on Burma has been far more bluster than bite.
Essentially the U.S. Government has provided the Burmese military regime
with very easy access to the U.S. apparel market with 95% of their
products under no practical import restrictions at all.
Furthermore, since our diplomats in Rangoon blew the whistle last July,
U.S. policy-makers at the Departments of Commerce, State, Treasury, and
Labor and the USTR in Washington, D.C. have done nothing to bring our
policy in line with our rhetoric.
As a result, most of $403 million dollars from apparel imports from
Burma last year alone went straight into the coffers of arguably the
worst human rights and worker rights violators in the world.
This deplorable situation merits congressional hearings, especially
before the Bush Administration reaches conclusions about when and where
sanctions are warranted and effective. Mr. President, I am also going to
re-introduce legislation soon and hopefully on a bipartisan basis to ban
all apparel and textile imports from Burma and I will push hard for its
enactment this year.
The New light of Myanmar (SPDC): Mom's son
[BurmaNet adds--This editorial from The New Light is noteworthy because
it defends and repeats comments that the Thai government contends are
insulting to the Thai monarchy.]
Wednesday, 30 May, 2001
My name is Lin Aung. I always call the writer Dr Ma Tin Win " Mom". It
has been long since I have known mom, a retired professor, who is
enthusiastic in giving lectures and writes as freely as she thinks.
These days, I have been able to talk with her. But we can't meet in
person as we both are busy. I phoned Mom and told her "After reading the
first series of your articles in the dailies, I have to thank you. As
you were concentrating your efforts more on writing religious matters, I
was thinking that I would not be able to read articles on history, mom
usually wrote. I was much pleased to read your works on history again. I
thanked you for the articles."
Mom laughed and said, "I also was thinking that I would not write
articles on history any more. But this time, it is the duty assigned by
the requirement of the time. So, I have to write about them". Even on
the phone conversation, Mom told me the facts that should be known to
I phoned Mom early in the morning that day. " I heard from BBC last
night that there have been repercussions on your article." Mom said " Oh
its too fast. BBC asked me by phone just yesterday evening." I too was
Mom asked me " Tell me what the BBC had announced." I told her " It was
said in the news report that when the columnist was asked about the
article, she said that she had presented her thoughts based on the
references she made from the Siamese (Thai) history books compiled by a
Siamese historian; that The Nation daily said that she distorted the
Siamese history; that when the columnist was asked about it, it was
known that her thoughts in the articles were based on the history book
compiled by professor Rong Syamananda. The first edition of the history
book was published in 1971. I am glad. Because the BBC announcement has
boosted the publicity of your articles. I thank you for being able to
learn the essential facts."
Mom said " Oh son, I have told BBC a lot. It seems that it summerized
my words because of the time limit". Then, I requested her. " What have
you told BBC?" Oh son, " I told BBC interviewer the publishing dates of
the book. The first edition was published in 1971 and the eighth
edition, in 1993. I also told him that the book is still in my hand. The
facts were extracted from Rong's compilations. There were not any of my
own words." When I told him that, the interviewer said " As your article
includes " I can think and create them into words" , aren't they your
own words?" " He was clever at asking questions most thoroughly."
So, I answered his question, " Yes those are my words. But they did not
come from random thoughts. I made a reference on what the history
Professor Rong himself has stated in his book that after Siam (Thailand)
reached agreement with the British officer Sir John Bowring, it lost its
judicial power and the monetary system. The judicial sector which is the
most important department of a nation was destroyed because of the
concession over extraterritorial jurisdiction. The lost of the monetary
system is harmful to the national sovereignty. I didn't forget to add
necessary things in my conversation. Rong even said in his book that the
royal goods department had to be closed once and for all. The monopoly
of the royal goods is important. There should be monopolized products.
Because the nation will have to suffer if the foreigners are allowed to
exploit the natural resources for profits at will. Even after losing two
wars with the British, King Mindon of our country had been able to
continue the control over the royal goods department. According to Rong,
the situation reached to closing the royal goods department. This meant
that the nation fell under subjugation though the King was still on the
throne." Mom is old, but she said these words with eagerness.
When I said "Yes Mom" in support of her words, she continued, " I told
BBC that I will continue to write more articles. But I will refer to the
facts compiled by Rong. I am writing articles not with the wish to
slander anyone, but with the will to let the people of our country know
the facts of history. Besides, I felt much heavy-hearted while reading
the Siamese history books. I told BBC that it is much heart-rending for
me to learn that the Siamese too had suffered from the cruel acts of the
colonialists like us; and that it is a proper duty for me to write the
We had a long phone conversation. Mom could talk eloquently as she had
studied and read much. I was glad to hear such valuable words from her.
I concluded my conversation saying " Mom, I wish you good health as it
is the most important thing for you." I wrote this article, as I want to
say that I am in support of what Mom has stated in her interview, " It
is much heart-rending for me to learn that the Siamese had suffered from
the cruel acts of the colonialists" and "But I will have to continue to
write more articles".
Author : Lin Aung
BurmaNet: Advisory to Burma media outlets re forged news releases
May 30, 2001
[This advisory is intended primarily for BurmaNet subscribers who are
members of the press and cover Burma for their publications.]
The BurmaNet News is among a group of Burma media outlets that has
recently received forged news releases purporting to be from Arakanese
or Rohingya political organizations. It appears that a group of
Arakanese students based in Bangkok who are opposed to an alliance
between two groups operating in the Arakan State are forging news items
and press releases in an effort to cause conflict.
The forged news items and press statements are ostensibly from either
the National Unity Party of Arakans (NUPA), the Arakan Rohingya National
Organization (ARNO) or the Arakan Army. The organizations are all real
but some of the material circulating in their name is not. Some of the
forgeries are fairly good, even down to obtaining organizational
letterhead and distributing scanned copies. Media organizations
receiving press statements from these groups should be especially
vigilant to ensure that the statement is not a forgery.
By way of background, NUPA, an ethnic Arakanese (Rakhaing) organization
has entered into an alliance with ARNO, an ethnic Rohingya organization
to oppose the military regime in Burma. The Arakanese are, in general,
Buddhist and the Rohingya Muslim. The Rohingya are the object of
considerable discrimination by the military regime but also by some
Arakanese and Burmans who are opposed to the regime. The forged
postings appear to be the work of a small group of Arakanese who are
opposed to the regime but are also xenophobically anti-Rohingya.
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