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BurmaNet News: July 4, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
July 4, 2001 Issue # 1836
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
NOTED IN PASSING: "We know that government officials have been going
round to money-lenders in the capital trying to buy up dollars, so we
suspect that they only have a few months of hard currency reserves
A diplomat in Rangoon quoted in The Irish Times: Prices soar as Burma
faces financial collapse
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Shan Herald Agency for News: Shan headmen being nabbed in connection
with Shan rebels
*Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Progress in Burmese reconciliation
*The Irish Times: Prices soar as Burma faces financial collapse
*Financial Times (London): Premier Oil receives Dollars 19m Thai gas
*Korea Times: North Korea, Myanmar Explore Military Cooperation
*Bangkok Post: Military Reshuffle--Surayud Ready for Career Boost;
Chavalit Tipped to Offload Burma Role
*Sydney Morning Herald: Thais reel under flood of drugs from Burma
*San Francisco Chronicle: A cruel welcome in Thailand
*Inter Press Service: Ex-prisoners Keep Watch over Those Still Detained
*China Post: Burmese Students among Four Women Killed in Fire
*The Washington Times: Battling oppression of Christians; Group's relief
workers rescue slaves and give aid to persecuted people
*Channel NewsAsia (Singapore): Myanmar says isolation makes fight
against drugs more difficult
*The Independent (London): Book Review-- Stone of Heaven--Myanmar -
Where a Miner's Life Really Is the Pits
*People's Daily (China): Myanmar Beats China 2-1 in Women's Sepak Takraw
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Shan Herald Agency for News: Shan headmen being nabbed in connection
with Shan rebels
July 3, 2001
Since fighting died down in May between Burmese-Wa forces and Shan State
Army, Shan headmen along the Shan State-Thai border were being summoned
and interrogated by local Burmese authorities.
According to the report received on 30 June, Hpawka, headman of
Mongharng Village, Mongton Township (60 miles north of Chiangmai
border) was arrested on 17 June by Captain Han Sein, Commander, Company
1, IB 65. He was charged with collaboration with the Shan army led by
Yawdserk and taken to the battalion command post.
On 21 June, he was temporarily released to treat his injuries incurred
during the interrogation but taken back into custody five days later.
"He wasn't heard since," said the local sources.
On 27 June, Captain Mya Maung, Commander, Company3, IB 225 of Mongton
came to arrest Tawya, secretary to the headman of Hwe-aw, 20 miles
north of the Thai border on the same charge. "But, luckily, Tawya
wasn't at home and they went back empty-handed," said the source from
Hwe-aw. "He has not been seen in Hwe-aw ever since then."
The same company also summoned Headman Teng of Poongpakhem, 10 miles
further south, on the same day to be interrogated. He was later released
"As for Headman Nyein, who was arrested on 28 May, nothing has been
heard about his fate," said a source from Nakawngmu, 30 miles north of
the Chiangmai border. "Authorities have also forbidden each and
everyone from asking anything about him. Anyone who dares to do so is
threatened with execution."
Shan rebels claimed to have captured nearly 200,000 pills of
methamphetamines at the Burmese post of Pakhee, opposite Fang District
of Chiangmai, where fighting lasted from 22 April to 3 May.
The bridge near Mongharng was blown out by the SSA during the battle.
Mongharng was the village where King Naresuan the Great (1555-1605) died
while marching to assist the embattled Khamkai Noi, Prince of Hsenwi.
His unexpected death cost the Shans their independence.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Progress in Burmese reconciliation
July 03, 2001.
Geoff Thompson - Bangkok
Historic talks between Burma's military rulers and democracy leader Aung
San Suu Kyi are showing new signs of progress, with the release of more
After western diplomats decribed the dialogue as stalled, real hope has
returned with the release from prison after five years of Aung San Suu
Kyi's cousin and close aid U Aye Win. The 61 year old was reunited with
his family and has been descibed as looking well even a bit stouter than
before his imprisonment.Recent weeks have seen Burmese military junta
release dozens of members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for
Democracy who were voted into office in 1990's disallowed elections.Nine
members were released just last week. The failure of the junta to
release NLD members has been criticised for hindering the progress of
secret talks which began last October. It's believed that Aung San Kyi
set the release of political prisoners and the reopening of NLD offices
as pre-conditions to the talks continuing.
The Irish Times: Prices soar as Burma faces financial collapse
July 2, 2001
With inflation at 20 per cent and rising rapidly, many Burmese can no
longer pay for basic necessities, reports Nicole Veash from Rangoon
Burma is facing its biggest economic crisis of recent years and has just
two months foreign currency reserves left, local diplomats say. With
inflation running at 20 per cent and rising sharply, the cost of many
consumer goods is spiralling out of control.
Diplomats based in Rangoon say that recent fighting on the Thai-Burmese
border, which hit exports badly, proved to be the catalyst for the
"We know that government officials have been going round to
money-lenders in the capital trying to buy up dollars, so we suspect
that they only have a few months of hard currency reserves left," said
In the past few weeks, the value of the Burmese currency has halved to
around 800 kyat to the dollar. In some shops, labels have been removed
from goods because prices are changing so rapidly.
In the past month there have even been whisperings of discontent from
Burmese, who know that any form of dissent can lead to years of
Mr Mo Chu (33), a bus driver, says that even basic necessities are now
beyond his reach.
"Everything has doubled in price since April," he said. "A sack of rice,
a cup of tea, even clothes - it's all so expensive."
One month ago, a sack of rice cost 2,400 kyat. This month the same rice
was selling in Rangoon for 4,000 kyat; while a cup of tea went up from
35 to 70 kyat in the same period. Bus fares and taxi prices have
The price of petrol on the black market has seen a 300 per cent rise.
Meanwhile, the country's ruling junta is thought to be propping up the
economy by printing more money, a move that could further fuel inflation
and add to Burma's economic difficulties.
Despite the economic problems Burma's second city of Mandalay and much
of northern Burma is proving to be a magnet to entrepreneurial Chinese
businessmen from across the border.
Happy to exploit the moribund Burmese market, which many Western
companies have boycotted in protest at the unelected regime, they are
providing cheaply made goods to a product-starved nation. In the city's
Zeigyo market, the stalls are packed high with Chinese goods.
Prof Wiorasakdi Mahatdhanopol, from Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University,
observed: "Despite Burma's economic problems, the Chinese know that the
country is a huge market for their products.
"The Burmese people are poor and they can't afford to buy the materials
needed to manufacture their own products or pay for things from
neighbouring countries like Thailand.
"By selling their goods inside Burma at very low prices," Prof
Mahatdhanopol said, "the Chinese are cleverly positioning themselves as
the dominant force in their neighbour's economy."
Financial Times (London): Premier Oil receives Dollars 19m Thai gas
July 3, 2001, By DAVID BUCHAN
Premier Oil announced yesterday it had received Dollars 19.3m (Pounds
13.7m) from PTT of Thailand for gas the Thai utility has contracted to
buy but does not need.
The payment for Burmese gas, made under a contract that obliges PTT to
pay for a set amount of gas from Premier whether or not it uses the
fuel, will ease analysts' concerns about the UK independent's dependence
on ambitious Asian gas contracts.
Such contracts are essential for a smooth revenue flow, particularly in
the case of a relatively small company such as Premier running a big
operation such as the Dollars 650m Yetagun gas field off Burma. But
there is often a note of doubt whether a small company has the clout to
get them enforced.
Korea Times: North Korea, Myanmar Explore Military Cooperation
July 4, 2001, Wednesday
North Korea and Myanmar are strengthening bilateral military cooperation
through exchange visits by foreign affairs and defense officials.
A South Korean government official said yesterday that a high-level
North Korean delegation visited Myanmar's capital of Yangon on June
The Pyongyang delegation, led by Vice Foreign Minister Park Kil-yon, met
Myanmar's Deputy Defense Minister Khin Maung Win and discussed
cooperation in the defense industry.
In November last year, a delegation of the Yangon government made a
secret visit to the North and had talks with high-ranking officials of
North Korea's People's Armed Forces Ministry, the official said.
Another Seoul government official said North Korea and Myanmar appear to
be seeking conventional arms sales and technology transfers rather than
high-tech weapons sales.
According to reports by Jane's Defense Weekly, a Britain-based defense
magazine, North Korea sold Myanmar about 20 howitzers with a range of 27
kilometers in 1998.
Meanwhile, officials said that in the two rounds of talks, Pyongyang and
Yangon did not discuss the reopening of official ties severed after
North Korea's 1983 terrorist bombing of a South Korean delegation in
Bangkok Post: Military Reshuffle--surayud Ready for Career Boost;
Chavalit Tipped to Offload Burma Role
July 2, 2001
[BurmaNet adds--Moving Surayud to the position of Supreme Commander
would be an effective demotion. On paper, the Supreme Commander
outranks the Army chief but in practice, the Army chief has real troops
under his command and the Supreme Commander does not. It is
traditionally a slot filled by people too powerful to sack but who are
out of favor with the Defence Minister who makes the appointment--in
this case Chavalit. A case in point--the last time the positions were
to be filled, Chavalit angled to have is protege Sampao installed as
Army chief. Instead, Sampao was sidelines as Supreme Commander, while
Prime Minister (and Defence Minister) Chuan Leekpai gave the Army
chief?s job to Surayud.]
Army chief Surayud Chulanont is ready to take up the post of supreme
commander, saying it is a step forward in his military career.
He admitted yesterday he knew Supreme Commander Sampao Chusri would
nominate him for the post, but said he had not discussed the matter with
Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.
Gen Surayud declined to reveal who he would pick as his successor.
But he had talked the matter over with army unit commanders and would
submit the army's reshuffle list to the supreme commander by the end of
His criteria for selection would be their capability, experience and
Sources confirmed Gen Sampao, who retires in September, was certain to
pick Gen Surayud, who retires in 2003, for the top job at the Supreme
Command. Gen Surapol Chinachit, deputy armed forces chief-of-staff,
would step up to become the new chief-of-staff, replacing Gen Sommai
There were three candidates in the running to replace Gen Tawat
Ket-angkoon as defence permanent secretary Adm Preecha Puangsuwan, the
deputy permanent secretary who retires next year, Gen Samphan
Boonyanant, who retires in 2003, and Gen Thamnoon Kulpradit, who retires
next year, the sources said.
Gen Tawee Somraikhing, director of the Office of Defence Policy and
Planning, who retires this year, was likely to be replaced by Lt-Gen
Uthai Shinawatra, the deputy director and elder brother of Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Sources said there were only two serious challengers in the running for
the army chief's post Gen Niphon Parunnit, assistant army chief, and Gen
Boonrawd Somthas, army chief-of-staff. Both are due to retire next year,
but Gen Niphon is the more senior officer.
Lt-Gen Watanachai Chaimuanwong, Third Army commander, was a strong
candidate for the post of assistant army chief. The other candidate was
Gen Wichit Yathip, a chief-of-staff officer and adviser to the defence
But since Gen Chavalit was not happy with his role in handling the
border conflict with Burma, Lt-Gen Watanachai might instead be made
deputy armed forces chief-of-staff.
At the navy, although Adm Prasert Boonsong is not due to retire until
next year he might still be replaced by Adm Narong Yuthawong, the deputy
supreme commander, who is said to be close to Gen Chavalit.
At the air force, ACM Pong Maneesilp was expected to remain as air force
chief until his retirement next year, the sources said.
Sydney Morning Herald: Thais reel under flood of drugs from Burma
July 3, 2001
By Alex Spillius in Doi Kew Hung
Scan even the most detailed map of the Thai-Burmese border and you will
be lucky to find Mong Yawn. There is certainly no hint of a bustling
community with its own army and barracks, a school, a hospital, a casino
and a hydro-electric power plant.
Yet the town is one of the Golden Triangle's biggest success stories.
The reasons are clearly visible to the Thai soldiers peering through
high-powered binoculars across the border into what is nominally Burma.
Clearly visible in the valley ringed by craggy mountains are a pair of
large, shed-like buildings where, the Thais claim, up to 300,000 pills
are manufactured every day.
Consisting chiefly of caffeine and the common cold cure ephedrine, the
pills are sent across the border into Thailand's Chiang Mai province,
carried by ant armies of smugglers along hundreds of forest trails.
Burmese officials claim that the buildings are rice warehouses. If so,
it must be a particularly expensive strain of rice. Until recently
little more than a simple bamboo settlement, like the surrounding
villages that it now dwarfs, Mong Yawn now has a population of some
60,000 and is expected to grow to 80,000 within two years.
International experts estimate that a billion pills will leave Mong Yawn
and about 30 other factories in Burma this year. Two-thirds of them will
be consumed in Thailand, which is fast becoming a nation on "speed".
Mong Yawn is controlled by an obscure guerilla force, the United Wa
State Army (UWSA), a segment of the small but ferocious Wa tribe that
gave up headhunting only a generation ago.
They were never mastered by British colonialists or the military regimes
of independent Burma. Now the Thais are finding them hard to defeat in a
war against the drug methamphetamine.
A Bangkok-based expert describes the UWSA's operation as a "country
within a country" and the Wa as the new kings of the Golden Triangle,
the mountainous region where Thailand, Laos and Burma converge and
central authority has never had a grip.
For Thailand, the effects are horrendous. The press is full of stories
of unemployed men wild on crazy medicine, as methamphetamine is known,
committing serious acts of violence.
Schools have introduced urine testing to combat rampant abuse, while one
in 10 novice monks have sought help for addiction.
The Thai army has beefed up border patrols, seizing 18million pills this
year and provoking fierce clashes with the UWSA and regular Burmese
forces, who have pledged to defend the guerillas against Thai
Last month, the Thai and Burmese leaders agreed jointly to fight drug
production and to resolve border tension. But there is much patching up
to do. The two sides have engaged in months of mutual recrimination,
with senior officers on both sides accusing the other of profiting from
The Thais have accused Rangoon of turning a blind eye to the UWSA's
activities as a reward for ending their guerilla war 12 years ago.
But Wei Hseuh-kang, the mastermind of the UWSA, travels freely between
Thailand and Burma, is a citizen of both and is able to exploit corrupt
officialdom on either side.
Whenever he leaves Mong Yawn, he knows an army of 20,000, equipped with
automatic weapons, artillery and heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles
will protect his interests.
The Telegraph, London
San Francisco Chronicle: A cruel welcome in Thailand
Burmese refugees fleeing poverty and war endure brutal treatment in
Sara Lazarovich, Chronicle Foreign Service Tuesday, July 3, 2001
Mae Sot, Thailand -- T
his story is one in a series on Pacific Rim issues and culture that
appears every Tuesday in The Chronicle World section.
Thousands of Burmese migrants who have fled poverty, war and forced
labor are subject to cruel punishment by Thai officials, who are rarely
charged with any crime, human rights workers say.
"They are fair game, treated worse than animals," said Ko Thet Hmu, a
member of a migrant workers' support group called the Yaung-Chi-OO
Take Ma Se, one of many young women who came to Thailand to avoid forced
labor demanded by Burma's repressive military government.
"We were forced to work for months on road building," recalled the
18-year- old refugee, who insisted on using a pseudonym. "My mother and
father told me to escape over the border (to Thailand)."
Shortly after arriving in this bustling border town last year, Ma Se was
thrown into a police car after she failed to produce identification
papers. She said she was driven to a deserted field outside town and
raped by a police officer before she managed to escape.
"No legal action will be taken, even though there were at least two
witnesses to Ma Se's abduction," said Ko Thet Hmu.
In recent months, undocumented workers have also been systematically
ill- treated before deportation, according to Amnesty International.
When caught, they are typically placed in cage-like trucks and carted
off to detention centers, where they are beaten, shackled continuously
for months at a time, held in solitary confinement for extended periods
or held in extremely crowded conditions. Immigration police Col.
Rutchata Sibasai says the government aims to return 300,000 illegal
immigrants to their countries by September.
Previously, foreign workers were tolerated because they provided
low-wage labor, but after the economy took a sharp downturn in 1997,
they have been regarded as a burden.
ETHNIC MINORITIES IN BURMA
The number of Burmese refugees is difficult to assess because the number
rises and decreases according to military strikes by Burmese soldiers
against rebel groups along the border and periodic crackdowns by Thai
immigration officials. Most refugees are from the Karen, Kareeni and
Shan ethnic minorities who are fighting the Rangoon government.
The lucky ones find protection in camps under the auspices of the U.N.
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Some estimates say there are 1
million illegal immigrants in Thailand from poorer neighboring countries
such as Burma and Laos. In Mae Sot, there are an estimated 60,000 in a
town of 28,000 permanent inhabitants with factories that use cheap
migrant labor to churn out consumer products for the export market.
The Burmese are fleeing one of the region's most repressive regimes;
Burma has an annual per capita income of about $400 and an average life
span of just 55 years.
Last year, the International Labor Organization voted to urge
governments and international donors to impose sanctions on Burma for
its policy of forced labor. In 1997, the Clinton administration banned
new American investments there.
Burmese migrants -- including legitimate asylum seekers under
international law -- have few legal options once they arrive in
Thailand, because there is no law to determine whether a refugee has a
well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion,
nationality, political beliefs or membership in a particular social
group, the usual basis for establishing such status.
Human rights activists say abuses against Burmese refugees stem partly
from the failure of the Thai government to ratify the 1951 U.N.
Convention on the Status of Refugees, the treaty that legally protects
The result is a lawless limbo that leaves many illegals prey to police
and immigration authorities, employers and criminal gangs. And while
Burmese men are victims of robbery and murder, women appear to be the
"We must always be careful where we go," said Ma Se, who now works at a
rubber-gloves factory, earning $1.50 a day for an 8-hour shift, less
than half the nation's minimum wage. "I usually stay near the factory
where I work because it is safer."
Ko Thet Hmu says that in Mae Sot, there are an average of two reported
rapes a month of Burmese women.
And in a report released last year by the Women's Commission for Refugee
Women and Children, a nongovernmental organization in New York, Dr.
Cynthia Maung, a prominent physician who runs a border health clinic,
told the commission that the bodies of Burmese women are often found
burned and abandoned on local farms or roads. Maung said, "Rapes and
murders of Burmese women occur here regularly."
In a telephone interview, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
in Bangkok, who refused to give her name, said her ministry saw no need
to investigate such accusations "since we have not received any
evidence. We have only unclear allegations."
Human Rights Watch in New York has criticized the UNHCR for not taking a
stronger stance. While acknowledging the United Nations' need to
maintain cordial relations with Thai authorities, the group claims the
UNHCR "has been unnecessarily weak in its efforts to challenge Thai
policies that undermine refugee protection."
Moreover, the latest U.S. State Department human rights report on
Thailand criticized the fact that "there is no legislation regarding the
treatment of refugees." The annual report to Congress also indicated
that even though the Thai government has investigated extrajudicial
killings, it has prosecuted few police or military officers accused of
"Most cases were eventually dismissed because regulations outlined in
the Criminal Code required public prosecutors to rely exclusively on
recommendations of police when determining whether to bring a case for
criminal prosecution," the report said. "Police investigators routinely
determined that police took no wrongful action."
Lt. Col. Sorrapol, former head of immigration in Mae Sot, reflected such
thinking in discussing the widely known beating of a 15-year-old Burmese
girl last year at a detention center then under his jurisdiction.
"The men in my department wouldn't do such a thing. It must have been
another agency," he said in a recent interview. "Bring the girl to me
and then perhaps we can investigate."
However, a witness to the beating who asked not to be named said he
feared identifying the assailant. Activists say many witnesses return to
Burma in fear for their lives.
Activists say the situation for Burmese migrants will not improve until
there is a policy change in Rangoon.
Human Rights Watch says that even though Burmese officials issued a
decree last year abolishing forced labor, they have violated their own
ban by continuing to allow local leaders to requisition village labor to
dams, maintain military bases, construct temples, guard villages and
porter for military patrols."
"Villagers receive no pay, must supply their own food and have been
threatened with imprisonment should they refuse to participate," said a
Human Rights Watch report.
Inter Press Service: Ex-prisoners Keep Watch over Those Still Detained
July 2, 2001, Monday
By Satya Sivaraman
MAE SOT, Thailand, Jul. 2
In this highly-selective club, the minimum qualification for membership
is at least a few years spent in one of Burma's numerous and notorious
Welcome to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a
lobby group set up by former Burmese political prisoners in exile to
campaign for the release of those still in jail and to find financial
support for their families inside Burma.
Since its inception in 1999, the group has emerged as a consistent voice
on behalf of the country's jailed dissidents and a constant reminder to
the rest of the world about their plight under the military regime.
"We do not admit even seasoned pro-democracy activists fighting the
military regime in Burma -- if they have not spent some time in a
Burmese jail," says a proud Bo Kyi, the softspoken chairman of the AAPP
who spent eight years in jail.
A former student activist, his crime, like that of all other AAPP
members, was to demand the restoration of democracy in Burma.
Since the pro-democracy uprising in 1988, hundreds of student and other
activists have been imprisoned by the military junta in Rangoon for
treason, subversion and other charges.
According to the AAPP, there are now more than 2,500 political prisoners
inside Burma. The human rights group Amnesty International sets the
figure at around 1,700.
>From its office in the western Thai town of Mae Sot bordering Burma, the
AAPP monitors the situation of political prisoners and tries to create
public awareness about their condition.
The organization also collects funds from supporters worldwide to be
channeled to families of political prisoners, who use this for both
their own sustenance as well as for regular visits to their kin in jail.
"The AAPP is the first step toward creating an independent Burmese human
rights body and I think they have a strong vision to work on the
transition to justice in future Burma," says Min Zin, a Burmese
journalist based in Thailand.
In its brief couple of years of existence, the AAPP has run several
international campaigns for the release of political prisoners, most
notably on behalf of well-known student leader Min Ko Naing who has been
in prison since 1989.
Serving a 20-year sentence, Min Ko Naing has been held for long periods
in solitary confinement and is currently reported to be in poor health.
"The idea of setting up an organization of former Burmese political
prisoners was born not just because of the growing numbers of prisoners
under the repressive military government but also in recognition of
their special needs," says Bo Kyi.
Often imprisoned without trial, physically tortured and psychologically
tormented, Burma's political prisoners need concerted efforts both to
secure their release as well as rehabilitation once they come out of
prison, he explains.
"It was the combination of physical torture, the systematic attack on my
emotions, thoughts and the lack of information about anything outside
the prison that was unbearable," recalls Ko Myo, a 26-year-old former
student activist who now lives in exile.
He spent six years in prison, out of which nearly three were in solitary
Human rights activists and former detainees say physical torture is
rampant in Burmese prisons and is the first line of attack pursued by
authorities when they try to extract information from prisoners or break
their morale, and intimidate them into abandoning their political goals.
"When the activists or suspected persons arrive at an interrogation
center, they are treated very brutally and they have no choice except to
confess what they know," says an AAPP document on the status of
prisoners in Burma.
It says new prisoners are kept in the interrogation center for one to
three weeks, during which there is non-stop interrogation by rotating
teams of military intelligence personnel. Most are not allowed to sleep
and usually not fed or given any water, the paper adds.
On a routine basis, critics say, the methods of abuse and torture
include electrocution, sleep denial, forcing people to stand or squat in
uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, rolling iron or wood
rods along a person's shins, pouring water over a person's head covered
in plastic and forcing them to kneel on sharp stones or pieces of glass.
Some women also suffer from sexual abuse, such as having some or all of
their clothes removed during interrogation.
According to the AAPP's estimates, at least 43 political prisoners are
known to have died in custody since the military's suppression of the
democracy movement in 1988, although the true number could be much
"One of the most frightening aspects of being a prisoner is that Burmese
prisons have become distributing centers of communicable diseases, such
as AIDS, because one needle is used on many political prisoners when
they feel sick or are vaccinated," adds Bo Kyi.
According to him, many of the deaths in custody have been also because
there is not enough medicine, doctors or timely treatment and the
prisoners' health deteriorates as a result of torture, improper food and
In 1997, the Burmese regime, under pressure from various international
human rights groups as well as its own need to improve its global image,
announced a program to improve prison conditions. But the improvements,
the AAPP says, have been too minor to make any difference.
Since May 1999 for example, the International Committee of the Red Cross
has been allowed to visit prisons inside Burma.
But AAPP activists point out that the prisons are usually "well prepared
and spruced up" prior to such visits, making the entire exercise a
public relations stunt.
Some prisoners, like Tun Zaw Zaw, an opposition youth leader arrested in
June 1998 who lost his vision while in prison, have been given an early
release. But hundreds of others who are critically ill continue to
languish in Burmese jails.
The AAPP is also skeptical about the release of several dozen political
prisoners, mostly belonging to the opposition National League for
Democracy (NLD), since January this year. It points out that much more
needs to be done urgently.
The release of prisoners, including many NLD members of parliament who
won in the 1990 elections that the junta refuses to recognize, follows
months of dialogue between the regime and opposition leader Aung San Suu
Kyi for the normalization of political activity in the country.
"The release of these activists has been possible only because the
regime wants to continue its political dialogue with the NLD. But we
will welcome such moves only when the authorities release hundreds of
political prisoners every month," said an AAPP statement on the recent
developments inside Burma.
A fundamental change in the condition of Burmese political prisoners
will come only when there is a democratic government that respects human
rights and values and solves political problems in the right way, the
China Post: Burmese Students among Four Women Killed in Fire
July 3, 2001
Hsinchu police said two of the four women killed in yesterday's predawn
fire at a rental house on the city's Chunghua Road were international
students from Burma. Local fire department received the call for help at
around 4:20 a.m. and immediately dispatched 11 fire trucks along with
some 100 volunteer firemen to arrive on the scene to put out the house
However, as rescuers got to the site, they soon discovered that the
street where the burning building was located was too narrow for the
reach of some fire engines. Pressed for time, firemen were forced to
rely on less efficient fire-fighting devices to extinguish the fire.
And when rescuers finally managed to keep the blaze under control, they
then discovered four badly burned bodies, all female, on the second and
third floors of the house. Upon investigation, authorities learned that
the two Burmese students killed in the fire were students at Minghsin
Institute of Technology in the area.
Other than the two international students, one of the other two women
perished in the predawn blaze was the wife of Hsu Chung-chen, the man
who leased the rental house from its owner. Authorities said aside from
Hsu's wife, the three women found dead in the tragic incident were all
tenants who subleased rooms in the house from Hsu, said investigators.
Meanwhile, upon an initial survey of the scene, fire fighters said the
blaze first broke out on the three-story house's first floor, where Hsu
and his late wife used to run a vegetarian restaurant. Investigators
also pointed out that the reason the occupants died was because all
exits that could have been used as fire escapes were all installed with
anti-theft iron bars.
The Washington Times: Battling oppression of Christians; Group's relief
workers rescue slaves and give aid to persecuted people
July 03, 2001
FRONT ROYAL, Va. - It's only a small, unimposing two-story wooden house
on a quiet street in a sleepy northwestern Virginia town, but from this
quiet base, members of Christian Freedom International strategize how to
sneak doctors into Burma, supplies to oppressed Christians in Indonesia
and slaves out of Sudan.
Braving perils from shootings to land mines, contagious diseases and
arrest, CFI's relief workers conduct missions in territory more
befitting paramilitary groups than nonprofit organizations.
"It's not the sort of thing for the faint of heart. It's not a picnic,"
said Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who has
accompanied CFI on trips to Burma and Indonesia. "You can't come away
without a sense just of hideous tragedy."
The human rights advocacy group helps persecuted Christians in oppressed
areas and war zones. CFI began in 1983 as the U.S. branch of the
Christian Solidarity International group based in Switzerland. It broke
away in 1995, and since 1998 has been functioning under its current
Its small staff and modest accommodations help the group maintain a low
overhead. Funded by private donations and small foundation grants, the
organization directed 84 percent of its $653,000 budget towards its
programs in 2000.
One ethnic group to which they devote significant resources, the Karen
in Burma, has been persecuted by that country's military since the end
of Word War II.
"The military junta of Burma is one of the most repressive regimes in
the world," CFI President Jim Jacobson says. "I believe the ongoing,
systematic oppression in Burma, especially in the minority areas, is one
of the most underreported stories of our time."
Some 300,000 ethnic Karen, many of them sick and malnourished, hide in
remote villages or flee to refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border. CFI
has developed two relief programs for them, "freedom hospitals" and
The "freedom hospitals" program constructs mobile clinics and staffs
them with ethnic Karen medics. Six hospitals currently exist, each
staffed with 12 medics. They are simple structures consisting of a few
rooms enclosed by bamboo planks and leafy roofs. Each "freedom hospital"
costs $7,740 per month to supply, staff and maintain.
In the past three years, at least five CFI field hospitals have been
attacked and burned to the ground by Burmese militia.
The "backpack medic" program sends ethnic Karen trekking into Burma with
a sack of medicine and Bibles to supply the hospitals and assist people
in isolated areas.
CFI has also established five "jungle schools" staffed with Karen
teachers. Development director Vickie Koth says these informal academies
help Karen children, who usually spend their lives either bored or on
the run, to get an education.
"These people, given that they've been oppressed and persecuted for so
long, statistically speaking, could be wiped out in 10 years," she says.
"The hope being that by providing medicine and an education for these
people, they can stand strong and not die out."
For those who manage to flee the jungles, CFI gives aid at refugee
The group has also established Karen orphanages, a self-help program,
and a child-sponsorship program.
"Our goal is to come alongside indigenous communities and try to make
them self-sufficient and free from persecution," Mr. Jacobson says.
To create jobs for refugees, CFI purchases hand-crafted Karen products
and sells them in the United States. Free-lance writer Sam Dealey, who
has accompanied CFI on four trips to Burma and Indonesia in the past two
years, said he can see progress as a result of CFI's efforts.
"You can see the schools and the clinics and the good that's doing in
the community, but you also see that the Karen are losing the war and
being run out of base camps," he says.
CFI will host a "Christian Freedom Conference 2001" at the Washington
Court Hotel Sept.13-14 in the District to educate the public and
government about religious persecution.
"Jim Jacobson 's whole plan is that these places are such hellholes that
he wants to bring awareness to the West and the world at large," Mr.
Dealey says. "You've snuck into a totalitarian state in an active hot
zone and you're hearing land mines going off and shots in the distance.
It's not a cakewalk."
Needless to say, hostile regimes are not receptive to CFI's work.
"Most relief groups operate where they have permission," Mr. Jacobson
says. "But we have found that regimes that are trying to wipe out their
own people never offer invitation to bring relief to their victims."
CFI also sponsors an Indonesian project, where it distributes hammers,
saws, fishnets, chisels and other necessities. It encourages business
development in areas around Ambon in the Moluccas, also known as the
Spice Islands. These have been devastated by a religious war that began
in January 1999.
CFI also has an "underground railroad" operating in Sudan for runaway
slaves. Locating needy persons through familial contacts in the United
States, CFI completes paperwork, secures train tickets to Cairo, and
takes care of the asylum seekers once they arrive in Egypt.
"We have worked hard to move legitimate cases of slavery and persecution
from bondage to freedom, without providing financial incentives for the
abduction of others," Mr. Jacobson says. "CFI does not support slave
buybacks in Sudan or any other place."
Its former parent organization, Christian Solidarity International, does
favor the redemption of slaves. The differing philosophies over whether
to offer money for slaves to Arab slave traders is what led to the split
between CFI and CSI.
"CFI goes into the worst places in the world to help the people the
civilized world has forgotten," says one journalist who accompanied CFI
on several trips to Southeast Asia and East Africa. "The hospitals they
build are burned, but they keep building. The medics that they train are
sometimes captured and killed, but they refuse to give up and that's
what makes CFI unique."
Channel NewsAsia (Singapore): Myanmar says isolation makes fight against
drugs more difficult
July 2, 2001 Monday
Myanmar says no country can solve the region's drug menace on its own
with isolation and sanctions making matters worse for poorer ASEAN
Opening Yangon's first ever Drug Museum, Secretary of the State Peace
and Development Council, LTG Khin Nyunt also noted that problems cannot
be solved by finger pointing and making unfounded allegations.
He was referring to recent charges by Thai authorities that Myanmar
troops were assisting drug lords in smuggling drugs across their common
It was a colourful affair in Myanmar's capital as senior military and
government officials witnessed the opening of the US$1.8 million drug
The museum, say officials, is to educate people on the adverse
consequences of the drug trade.
But more importantly it is to show the world that Myanmar is taking the
drug war seriously and making sincere attempts to eradicate drugs
despite border problems with its neighbours.
"The drug problem in Myanmar is a very complex and delicate issue since
it is linked not only to the political, social and economic aspects of
the nation but also involves the national races in border areas who lag
behind in development." said the general.
"So the problem must be tackled with patience and understanding and will
necessitate a certain amount of time," added LTG Khin Nyunt.
The history of Myanmar's drug eradication is displayed via dioramas and
They show the government's success in achieving peace with 16 ethnic
armed groups and the crop substitution measures in places like the
northern Shan state to prevent villagers from going back to Opium or
Critics are charging that the government is not doing enough to remove
drug traffickers and their factories located in Myanmar.
But officials say its 15-year plan to remove all drugs from Myanmar must
be given a chance to work.
"The people who are directly involved in addressing the drug problem are
very serious especially not only our neighbouring countries but all the
countries in the world especially in ASEAN," said Colonel Kyaw Thien,
Member, Myanmar Central Committee for Drug and Narcotics Control.
"I have attended a lot of ASEAN senior officials drug meetings and I
have seen them, met them and talked with them and I know they are quite
serious," the colonel added.
Also in pride of place at the museum is a large picture of Thai Prime
Minister and Senior General Than Shwe at the signing of a drugs
agreement, a clear sign that the two neighbours are back on talking
Although the opening of the museum is aimed at showcasing Myanmar's
fight against drugs, the main challenge say officials is in getting
enough funds to fight rich druglords that operate on the countries
Without adequate funding, the war against drugs is expected to continue
for a long while more.
The Independent (London): Book Review-- Stone of Heaven--Myanmar - Where
a Miner's Life Really Is the Pits
July 2, 2001, Monday
The Stone of Heaven: the Secret History of Imperial Green Jade by Adrian
Levy and Cathy Scott-clark (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Pounds 20)
IN JULY 1998, an extraordinary article appeared in the magazine section
of The Mail on Sunday. Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark had somehow
managed to penetrate Myanmar's most guarded site. In the heart of what
used to be called Upper Burma, they had visited a complex of valleys
where a prized strain of jade was mined for the mainly Chinese market.
But the tale they told was scarcely one of simple extraction. At
Hpakant, the callousness of the Rangoon regime was grotesquely manifest.
>From all over Myanmar, workers had been dragooned into a sealed system
of profit and death. In a sprawling shanty city wages were part-paid in
heroin and the rest spent on prostitutes. Needles were scarce (a
solitary and illegal doctor estimated the share-rate as 800: 1) and
condoms disparaged. Among miners, a near-100 per cent HIV infection rate
pertained. The few who escaped returned to their villages to spread the
The whole show was not only sanctioned but organised by the generals.
The army provided the heroin and licensed both shooting galleries and
brothels. It also milked fat profits, either by mining the best seams
itself, or taxing Chinese entrepreneurs.
For serious Burma-watchers, all this was and wasn't a revelation. The
authors' exposures tallied too well with data filtering out of Myanmar,
and with the growing acceptance that a regime that claimed to be
fighting narcotics was overseeing their manufacture. But what astonished
and dismayed was the sheer scale. Hpakant's floating, dying population
was around a million.
How did Levy and Scott-Clark gain access? In The Stone of Heaven, they
describe how, having been blacklisted as journalists, they forged fresh
credentials as gem prospectors and returned through the front door. From
there it was a matter of paying bribes: a scary ploy, given that no
other Westerner had been allowed near Hpakant, but one that paid off.
Accompanied by a bullying English-speaking corporal, they got to the
This scoop is now expanded into the most damning chapters I have yet to
read about Myanmar's criminal government. Greed, oppression, corruption
and concealment are the only instincts of Rangoon's self-enriching
militocracy. But the same chapters form only a quarter of the narrative,
albeit the culminating quarter. The bulk is given over to the
extraterritorial story of Burma's "imperial green jade", from the 18th
Presumably, the purpose is to treat the reader to the largest possible
tapestry of first oriental, then Western, venality, as a way of showing
why Hpakant exists. Levy and Scott-Clark take us on a whirlwind tour of
recent Chinese history. Cixi the Dowager Empress, Barbara Hutton and
Madame Chiang Kai-shek are just some of the ghouls who crowd their
pages. But, as historians, their skills lag way behind their talents as
Mao Zedong was not a founder of the Chinese Communist Party, any more
than foot -binding existed during the Han dynasty. Cixi mounted her
"charm offensive" against Western diplomats after, not before, the Boxer
rebellion of 1900. But if there are elementary errors, then so too do
the broad brushstrokes fail, beginning with the Chinese emperor
Qianlong's foreign policy. While he may indeed have been obsessed with
Burmese jade, to infer that this was the overriding motive of his
Burmese strategy is mistaken. Rather, he pursued a well-established
programme of shoring up China's landward defences, and denying Ming
loyalists space in which to operate.
Levy and Scott-Clark's vision of the past is speculative and
tendentious, as though the bare mention of jade were sufficient
explanation. Conversely, sifting through forgotten archives in New
Delhi, they do shed light on early British activities in Upper Burma,
while their wicked sketches of contemporary dealers - Christie's and
Sotheby's as well as less honoured names in Hong Kong and Taiwan - are
polemically valid. Compared, however, to their unquestionably heroic
exploits in Hpakant, the surround does less than justice to the stone.
People's Daily (China): Myanmar Beats China 2-1 in Women's Sepak Takraw
July 2, 2001
Myanmar Beat China 2-1 in their second women's sepak takraw friendly
game at the National Indoor Stadium Sunday night in Yangon.
The sepak takraw game is played in a best of three regus, with each regu
contains three sets and the visiting Chinese team jumped to an early
lead of 1-0 as they trounced the home side 15-7 and 15- 12 in the first
Myanmar team tied it at 1-1 after they took the second regu 15- 4, 8-15
and 6-1 and never looked back to win the deciding regu in 15-4 and 15-4.
Sepak Takraw, a traditional sports in the south-east Asia, is a ball
game played by two teams of three players each, with only their feet
kicking, passing, setting, striking and blocking the sepak takraw and
prevent it from falling on the ground.
Each team has three players on the court which being divided into to
halves by a net. The sport has many similarities like volleyball,
badminton but players only are allowed to play with their feet.
China beat the host side 2-1 in their first encounter at the National
Indoor Stadium here Friday.
It is the first time the Myanmar team, which has been preparing for the
coming XXI Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, playing with a international
game in the country during 10 years.
The Myanmar team is aiming to get gold medal in the SEA Games slated on
September 8 to 17 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In December 1998, Myanmar women's sepak takraw team won the gold at the
XIII Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Chinese team is on a three-game tour with the host side and the
third game will be on the same venue on next Tuesday.
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