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BurmaNet News: July 16, 2001
- Subject: BurmaNet News: July 16, 2001
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2001 03:50:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
July 16, 2001 Issue # 1844
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AP: Myanmar torches confiscated Thai goods in border town
*Muslim Information Center of Burma: Brutal killings of Muslims in Burma
*Network Media Group: Junta blacklists foreign correspondent
*Reuters: Myanmar optimistic ADB aid will restart -- paper
*Reuters: Myanmar garment industry appeals against U.S. ban
*Xinhua: China, Myanmar Sign MOU on Geology, Mineral Resources
*The Nation: Burmese Arms Purchase-- Thaksin brushes off MiG buy
*Bangkok Post: Border patrol boost after big drug bust
*Reuters: Thai soldier killed during drugs seizure
*AFP: Amnesty calls for prisoner releases at Myanmar embassy protest
*Reuters: Myanmar in nuclear reactor deal with Russia
*Washington Post: Remember Burma
*The Boston Globe: Burmese opportunity
*Amnesty International: The Moustache Brothers are released
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AP: Myanmar torches confiscated Thai goods in border town
July 16, 2001
MAE SOT, Thailand (AP) _ Myanmar authorities have burned an estimated
700 million kyat (dlrs 1.16 million) of smuggled Thai commodities seized
at the border between the two countries, Myanmar merchants said Monday.
A Myanmar trader, who did not want to be named, said the goods,
including monosodium glutamate, drinks, medicine and edible oil, were
destroyed over the weekend in Myawaddy, on the Myanmar side of the
Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge.
The trader was speaking in Mae Sot, on the Thai side of the bridge, 370
kilometers (230 miles) northwest of Bangkok.
There is a bustling black market in Thai goods smuggled into
military-run Myanmar, also known as Burma, where some commodities and
consumer products are scarce. Merchants seek to avoid taxes or
circumvent trading restrictions.
Traders in Mae Sot say the Myanmar government is encouraging people to
buy cheaper Chinese goods to lessen its dependence on imports from
Muslim Information Center of Burma: Brutal killings of Muslims in Burma
July 14, 2001
Anti-Muslim riots in Southern Burma
Taungoo, Pegu Division.
On May, 15, 2001, the ruling military junta, State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC), instigated anti-Muslim riots in Taungoo, Pegu division,
resulting in the deaths of about 200 Muslims, in the destruction of 11
mosques and setting ablaze of over 400 houses. According to an
eye-witness (name withheld), over 2000 Military Intelligence (MI)
personnel and members of Union Solidarity and Development Association
(USDA), some of them in disguise of Buddhist monks with pistols and
walkie-talkies, implemented the riots there in Taungoo. The hoodlums
were led by Capt. Khin Maung Yin of MI No. 3 of Taungoo. USDA is a mass
organization of the ruling junta.
On May, 15, the first day of the anti-Muslim uprisings, about 20 Muslims
including 2 Imams of the mosques, who were praying in the Han Tha mosque
were killed and some were beaten to death by the pro-junta forces,
according to a Muslim who escaped. Then the dead bodies were carried
away by the junta s military vehicles. Han Tha mosque was gifted to the
Muslims in seventh century A. D. by Great King Tabin Shwe Htee, a Mon
King. 24 Muslims were burnt into ashes
In the same day in Taungoo town, the houses of Haji U Soe Myint(70 years
old) and his 6 family members, Haji U Maung Sein (60 years old) and his
7 family members, 5 family members of Moe Lin Food-shop (restaurant) and
U Tin Maung and his 3 family members tied up in their respective houses,
were burnt down into ashes, according to a relative of the deceased. The
houses of Haji U Soe Myint and Haji U Maung Sein were on the Koon The
Gyi Road and Moe Lin restaurant was beside Rangoon-Mandalay highway, in
On the following day, Saya Khalid and his 6 family members, Saya Amin s
5 family members, U Kyaw Kyaw and his 6 family members, U Maung Tin Hla
and his 4 family members and Saya Anwar and his 5 family members were
slaughtered when some were beaten to death . The hoodlums firstly looted
the valuables, killed the Muslims and then set on fire their houses,
according to a Buddhist merchant from Taungoo. According to an
eye-witness, 21 other people including U Ahamad (45 years old), a
Store-shop owner, on Bo Mhu Poe Kwant street were slaughtered in
Taungoo main town. 8 mosques alone in Taungoo town, ( Taungoo mosque,
Swad mosque, Han Tha mosque, Wei Zan mosque, Kandaw mosque, Ka Ka
mosque, Pann-The mosque and Railway station mosque) were destroyed or
set on fire by the pro-ruling junta forces. According to another
Buddhist merchant, during the anti-Muslim uprisings in Taungoo, all the
expenses (for food, travellings etc;) of the anti-Muslim elements, were
borne by U Sein Hlaing , Shwe Hnin Ze Burmese cheroots factory owner, a
staunch supporter of the ruling junta in Taungoo. SPDC Generals
On May, 17, 2001, according to a Buddhist merchant, name withheld, Lt.
General Win Myint, Secretary No.3 of the SPDC and deputy Home and
Religious minister arrived and curfew was imposed there in Taungoo until
today, July, 12, 2001. All communication lines remain disconnected.
On May, 18, however, Han Tha mosque and Taungoo Railway station mosque
were razed to ground by bulldozers owned by the SPDC junta. Throughout
the anti-Muslim uprisings, SPDC security forces were with or beside the
hoodlums, according to eye-witnesses. Killings of Muslim Bus passengers
On 16, May, 2001, during anti-Muslim uprisings, a group of hoodlums,
among them some bogus monks, led by Capt. Khin Maung Yin dragged out
about 35 Muslim passengers from the buses at Taungoo bus station. The
anti-Muslim elements slaughtered 7 of them when the rests could have
fled the deaths, according to a Buddhist merchant who sheltered some
Muslims. On May, 17, the anti-Muslim uprisings spread towards the rural
areas. The scene was very ugly and brutal as some 3 to 5 year-old
children and pregnant women were slaughtered. In the districts of
Oaktwin, Thagaya , Pyu , Yedashe, Swa and Kyauktaga, about 47 Muslims
were killed and about 85 Muslim houses were set on fire, according to a
Muslim from the rural area. Train passengers
On May, 23, 2001, when Mandalay-Rangoon passenger train stopped at the
Lay Daung Kan station, about 40 miles away from Rangoon, 4 bogus monks
accompanied by about 15 security forces, dragged out about 18 Muslim
passengers and slaughtered 4 of them when the rests could have fled the
deaths, according to a Muslim who escaped. On May, 25, 2001, according
to a relative of a Muslim deceased who escaped, 13 Muslims, young and
old, from Taungoo, who fled the religious persecution in Taungoo, were
arrested and shot dead by the armed forces of Light Infantry Battalion
No.39, at a place about 20 miles from Taungoo and about 30 miles away
from Than Daung.
Network Media Group: Junta blacklists foreign correspondent
Mae Sod, July 16
A foreign correspondent who produced a video documentary which was aired
on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was recently blacklisted by
the Burmese Junta.
The Junta gave instructions to all immigration officers that Evan
Williams, who sent the documentary to ABC's current affair program, was
blacklisted and that he could not be approved any kind of visa to enter
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's current affair program aired
the documentary reported by "foreign correspondent" reporter Evan
Williams on the Burmese Junta's involvement in Drug production and
trafficking on the evening of June 19.
Evan Williams's report stated that a huge amount of methamphetamine
pills was captured at the Junta's military base, which was raided by the
Shan State Army, which is currently fighting an independence war with
Evan Williams traveled to the Thai-Burma border with Professor Des Ball
from the Australian National University's Strategic and Defense Study
Center in June 2001 to produce the documentary. "In the case of the
methamphetamine production labs, you've got Burmese troops actually
guarding the plants, you've got military intelligence guys providing the
escorts of the trafficking caravans and military people who allow it to
actually cross the border into Thailand," said professor Des Ball in the
report, as mentioned in The Nation on June 20.
Whether Professor Des Ball has also been blacklisted by the Burmese
Junta is not yet known.
Reuters: Myanmar optimistic ADB aid will restart -- paper
YANGON, July 16 (Reuters) - Myanmar's military government is optimistic
that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will soon resume assistance to the
impoverished country, the English-language Myanmar Times newspaper said
The newspaper quoted an unidentified senior government official as
saying Yangon had patched up relations with the ADB and expected loans
and technical assistance grants to resume soon.
But an ADB spokesman said in a statement there had been no change in
its position, and while there had been some positive developments in
Myanmar, no decision had been taken to resume aid.
``The ADB is monitoring the situation carefully. Any decision on
resuming assistance to Myanmar will be made by our board of directors,
representing 59 member countries,'' the spokesman said.
The Manila-based ADB has not extended any loans to Myanmar since 1986,
and has not offered any technical assistance since 1987.
Myanmar has been isolated by much of the international community
because of accusations of systematic human rights violations and
suppression of the pro-democracy opposition led by Nobel Peace Prize
Winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
But recent developments, including talks between the government and Suu
Kyi, and the release of more than 100 political detainees, have been
``There have been positive moves on the international and domestic
front. A European mission visited Myanmar. Internally, there has been a
resumption of negotiations between the government and opposition
camps,'' the ADB said.
In April, Japan announced an end to a freeze on aid to Myanmar, saying
it planned to honour a suspended commitment of about 3.5 billion yen
($28.03 million) to help upgrade a dam.
Japanese officials have said the decision was a reward for the start of
talks between the government and Suu Kyi.
Analysts and diplomats say Myanmar is desperately in need of increased
investment and more foreign exchange.
At the ADB annual meeting in Honolulu in May, Myanmar urged the ADB to
resume assistance as soon as possible, saying the suspension was
($1 - 124.85 Yen)
Reuters: Myanmar garment industry appeals against U.S. ban
YANGON, July 15 (Reuters) - Myanmar business leaders appealed to U.S.
legislators not to pass a proposed bill banning garment imports from
Myanmar, saying it would hurt at least 300,000 young workers in the
Htain Win, vice chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers
of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), said the garment workers, mostly
unskilled young women, were employed at over 400 factories in Myanmar,
would lose work.
He told a press conference on Saturday: ``As we all know, the U.S.
Senate is due to make a decision soon on whether to pass Bill S-926 for
banning garment imports from Myanmar on the ground of alleged forced
labour and child labour in this industry.''
The Garment Entrepreneurs Association said the Myanmar garment industry
was not involved in forced or child labour as alleged in the United
States and the European Union.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said in a report in March
that the U.S. and EU backed tough measures, including possible trade
sanctions, against Myanmar to bring an end to forced labour in the
An ILO inquiry in 1998 found forced labour ``widespread and
systematic.'' The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions says
more than a million people in Myanmar are subjected to forced labour,
toiling on construction sites for roads, railways, military
installations and tourism.
Htain Win of UMFCCI said his group on Saturday handed a letter to
Priscilla Clapp, charge d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in Yangon, in
which it sought a review of a bill now in the U.S. Senate that proposed
a U.S. ban on Myanmar garment imports.
Myanmar business leaders said a Myanmar garment worker earned
10,000-30,000 kyats ($20-60) a month, an amount they said was much
higher than what a civil servant earned.
They estimated that Myanmar garment exports totalled about $401 million
in 2000, and garment products accounted for over 90 percent of total
Myanmar exports to the U.S.
Xinhua: China, Myanmar Sign MOU on Geology, Mineral Resources
YANGON, July 16 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources
and the Myanmar Ministry of Mines reached a memorandum of understanding
(MOU) on cooperation in geology and mineral resources here Monday. The
MOU designates that the two parties will encourage scientific research
institutions and enterprises in geology and mineral resources under
their respective ministries to establish and conduct the cooperation to
promote investments on exploration, mining and utilization of mineral
resources. The MOU also designates that the areas of cooperation shall
include, but not be limited to the six areas including mineral resources
assessment and planning, mineral resources exploration and mining, and
establishment of mineral resources information system. The MOU adds that
the two parties agreed to set up a Joint Cooperative Committee which
shall meets in Beijing and Yangon alternately.
Xinhua: Myanmar Implementing Extended Prawn Breeding Plan
YANGON, July 15 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar is implementing a three-year plan of
extending prawn breeding in the country since June 1, 2000, targeting to
extend the breeding area up to 48,600 hectares. According to the Myanmar
Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Sunday, the prawn breeding areas
being extended cover the country' s seven state and divisions along its
long stretch of coastline of 2,276 kilometers. At the very beginning of
the period, there had been altogether 27,316 hectares of prawn extended
and so far the area covered has gone to a total of 40,536.19 hectares,
the sources said. Meanwhile, the Fisheries Department of the ministry
has opened 12 insemination camps along the country's coastline from
Maungtaw in western Rakhine state to Dawei in southern Tanintharyi
division, it disclosed. In addition, eight privately-owned prawn
insemination camps have been built, targeting to produce 231.8 million
fries annually, of which 191.8 million fries by the privately-owned
camps, while 40 million fries by government-operated camps, it said.
It added that up to the end of May this year, a total of 92.27 million
fries had been sold by the camps owned by the fisheries department and
the private sector. According to the sources, from June 2000 up to May
this year, a total of 318.096 tons of prawn had been produced from 55.48
hectares of prawn breeding ponds with the average prawn harvest per
hectare showing 5.728 tons. Myanmar is rich in fishery resources and the
fishery sector has become one of the productive mainstays of its
economy. Official statistics show that the country produces over 910,000
tons of fish and prawn annually, the export of which covers 49 countries
and regions with nearly 60,000 tons, earning about 150 million U.S.
dollars. Fishery sector is the third productive mainstay of Myanmar's
economy after agriculture and forestry, contributing 7.3 percent to the
country's gross domestic product and standing as the third largest
foreign exchange earner.
The Nation: Burmese Arms Purchase-- Thaksin brushes off MiG buy
July 16, 2001, Monday
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday downplayed a Burmese plan to
purchase a squadron of MiG-29 supersonic fighter aircraft, saying it was
common for any government - especially a military government - to do so.
Thaksin, who visited Rangoon last month on a fence-mending mission, said
Thailand had nothing to fear since the countries now had normal
But he deftly side-stepped questions about reports that the junta had
bought the sophisticated Russian aircraft with profits from the joint
Thai-Burmese gas-pipeline project.
Thaksin said Thailand wanted to see Burma develop and prosper.
A US senator has raised serious concern over these latest military
purchases, saying the move has the potential to destabilise Southeast
Mitchell McConnell said last week, quoting Jane's Defence Weekly, that
Burma's State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) had signed a contract
to purchase 10 MiG-29 fighter aircraft from the Russian
Aircraft-building Corporation. These fighters were built in the early
1990s and have been stored at the Lukhovitsy machine-building plant in
the former Soviet Union.
The total cost to Burma of the 10 MiGs is US$130 million (Bt5.9
billion), 30 per cent of which will be paid up front and the balance
settled over the next decade.
McConnell said this development was troubling for several reasons and
underscored the fact that despite its name the SPDC was committed
neither to peace nor to the development of Burma.
Thailand and the United States should, he warned, be concerned about the
acquisition of these aircraft, whose addition to the Burmese arsenal
boosted the junta's capabilities well beyond the 42 Chengdu F-7M and
Nanchang A-5C aeroplanes currently sitting on Burmese runways.
Tensions between Thailand and the junta have already spilled over into
exchanges of gunfire, and any escalation leading to an air war would be
destabilising for the entire region, he said.
McConnell said China might be the only country to view the sale in a
positive light, since the deal strengthened the military capability of
one of its staunchest allies in the region.
>From drug dealing to the forced conscription of child soldiers, the
Burmese military has distinguished itself as one of the world's leading
violators of human rights and dignity, the US politician said.
"This purchase serves as evidence that the regime is committed to
remaining in power at any and all costs.
"The international community must now double its efforts to ensure that
even greater human-rights abuses are not waged against the innocent
people of Burma by the military, which is corrupt to the core.
"The acquisition of MiG fighters adds 10 more reasons why the United
States should view with scepticism the discussions between Rangoon's
thugs and thieves and Burma's legitimate leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."
The senator said this new contract with Russia sent a signal that
despite all the rhetoric and the release of a few prisoners the talks
might be hollow.
He asked: "What meaningful concessions can the generals make to Suu Kyi
if they are arming themselves?"
He also questioned the financial source of the$130-million contract,
adding that the junta had consistently failed to make the welfare of the
people of Burma a priority. "From an escalating HIV/Aids crisis to
forced labour practices, the junta has yet to demonstrate the political
will to tackle the hardships the Burmese face every day," he said.
Bangkok Post: Border patrol boost after big drug bust
July 16, 2001.
METHAMPHETAMINE -- Forty million speed pills on their way
The Third Army has stepped up drug suppression patrols along the border
with Burma after learning that 40 million methamphetamine pills are
ready for gradual smuggling into Thailand.
The 2.6 million pills seized following a clash in Mae Sot district of
Tak on Friday were believed to be part of the stockpile, a Third Army
A Thai soldier, Sgt Seksan Suwansilp, was killed in the clash between
the smugglers and a joint patrol of Task Force 399 and the Fourth
Infantry Regiment Task Force.
Sgt Seksan was a member of Task Force 399, which was trained in drug
suppression by special warfare troops from the United States. The US
soldiers are still in Thailand. They will continue to provide training
for two infantry companies, one special warfare company and one Border
Patrol Police company until next month.
The source said the Third Army has stepped up patrols along the border
in Mae Ramat, Mae Sot and Phop Phra districts of Tak province on reports
that Red Wa, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and Kokang tribesmen
produced about 40 million speed pills and planned to gradually smuggle
them across the border into Thailand.
At the next meeting of the bilateral Regional Border Committee, which
has still to be scheduled, Third Army commander Lt-Gen Watanachai
Chaimuanwong and Burma's Regional Triangle commander Maj-Gen Thein Sein
were expected to discuss the destruction of drug production plants in
Thai intelligence services earlier estimated 600-700 million speed pills
would be produced this year inside Burma.
Lt-Gen Watanachai said the 2.6 million speed pills seized on Friday were
from drug plants opposite Chiang Mai. The drugs were brought down to an
area opposite Mae Sot and then taken across the Moei river in a
On the Thai side, the drugs were taken aboard a six-wheel truck with
four armed men as guards. The truck was to head for Mae Sot town to load
cattle before leaving for the Northeast along the
Tak-Sukhothai-Phitsanulok-Phetchabun road. The delivery was foiled by
the patrol that spotted the truck.
Truck owner Chak Wuthikraithe was a former employee of Padaeng Industry
Co. Apart from the drugs, soldiers recovered from the truck a list of 11
drug traders in Thailand, one of them a tambon chief, and their
telephone numbers. Lt-Gen Watanachai said he would raise the issue with
Burmese leaders when he accompanies Defence Minister Chavalit
Yongchaiyudh on a visit to Rangoon on July 23.
Reuters: Thai soldier killed during drugs seizure
BANGKOK, July 14 (Reuters) - Thai security forces said on Saturday they
intercepted about 2.6 million methaphetamine tablets being smuggled in
from neighbouring Myanmar.
Thai army colonel Chucheep Srisomboon told reporters a Thai soldier was
killed during a brief clash with drug-smuggling ethnic Karens near the
western Thai border town of Mae Sod.
He said the armed Karen forces abandoned the drugs and retreated into
Myanmar after the fighting.
The methaphetamine seizure was one of the biggest made by Thai forces
since Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visited Myanmar in June.
Thai anti-narcotics officials estimate that some 700 million
methaphetamine tablets enter the country from its neighbours each year,
mostly through its porous northern border with Myanmar and Laos.
AFP: Amnesty calls for prisoner releases at Myanmar embassy protest
BANGKOK, July 16 (AFP) - Amnesty International called Monday on
Myanmar's ruling junta to release hundreds of political prisoners in a
petition delivered to the Myanmar embassy in the Thai capital.
A dozen Amnesty campaigners held banners outside the embassy in central
Bangkok at the end of a four-month campaign where they gathered
signatures from across Southeast Asia.
The rights group welcomed the release over the past few weeks of dozens
of prisoners, in what the military regime says is a sign of the progress
being made in ongoing talks with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
But it said much more needed to be done in Myanmar, which has been
roundly condemned for its poor human rights record.
"The recent release of some prominent political prisoners is a step in
the right direction, but at least 1,800 political prisoners are still
held, often in appalling conditions," Amnesty said in a statement.
"The petitions show the extent of regional concern about these and
The junta on Friday released seven political prisoners, including the
last three opposition National League for Democracy MPs who have been
held at government "guest houses" since a late 1990s crackdown on the
The others freed were Pa Pa Lay and Lu Zaw, two comedians known as "The
Moustache Brothers", and their two colleagues, whose case has won
"We are delighted that the four, who have been imprisoned since 1996,
have finally been released," Amnesty said in a statement.
"We hope that they can soon return to the business of making jokes and
entertaining the Burmese people without fear."
The Moustache Brothers, both aged in their 40s, were sentenced in March
1996 to seven years' imprisonment for one of their comic performances.
Two activists who arranged the performance were also sent to prison.
Amnesty said the pair were rounded up after a performance at Aung San
Suu Kyi's home where they joked about government cooperatives as thieves
and sang a comic song about Myanmar's generals.
Reuters: Myanmar in nuclear reactor deal with Russia
By Dan Eaton
BANGKOK, July 14 (Reuters) - Myanmar's ruling military is negotiating
with Russia to buy a nuclear reactor, in a move that raises concerns
over the impoverished nation's ability to cope with high-maintenance
David Kyd, chief spokesman of the Vienna-based International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA), said that although Yangon had asked for ``general
advice'' on the purchase, there were safety concerns.
The deal would provide Myanmar -- snubbed by much of the Western world
for its human rights record and alleged involvement in the illicit drugs
trade -- with its first taste of nuclear technology.
``We have not been asked to get involved, except to give technical
advice on what the establishment of a research reactor involves,'' Kyd
told Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday.
``If asked for further advice, we will be impressing on Myanmar
authorities that they don't just have to get the piece of equipment and
the instruction book. You have to be sure you have the scientific
ability to operate it, to maintain it in good condition and to supervise
its safety,'' Kyd said.
``You don't just hand this over to a bunch of scientists and say: 'get
on with it'.''
Nuclear experts say that of the roughly 400 research reactors
world-wide, nearly half have been mothballed due to their expense and
``Thailand already has one such reactor, and it has been struggling
with the construction of a second with technical problems, financial
problems, and in the case of Thailand, which I don't think will be a
problem in Myanmar, with environmental and political opposition,'' said
one non-proliferation expert.
Myanmar officials have declined to discuss the reactor deal, but a
nascent Department of Atomic Energy is now in evidence on Yangon's Pyay
Pagoda Road, in the form of a blue and white sign in front of a cluster
of low-slung, largely empty buildings.
Moscow and Yangon reached an in-principle agreement earlier this year,
and are in ongoing talks to finalise the technical and commercial
aspects of the transaction.
``The idea is that Myanmar wants to have this reactor and the Ministry
of Atomic Energy in Russia is ready to cooperate,'' Russia's Ambassador
Gleb Ivashentsov said in a recent interview in Yangon.
``Do not demonise Myanmar. They should not be denied the right to
develop their own atomic science...If the U.S. has no doubts in making
up their minds to supply reactors to North Korea (why not Myanmar).''
NO MILITARY USE
Ivashentsov declined to give the reactor's specifications, describing
it only as ``a kind of small research reactor.''
``It is purely scientific, non-military,'' he said.
A source close to the deal said the reactor was likely to be in the
five-to-10 megawatt range with a cost of between $1 million and $5
``The 10 megawatt is the standard model you will be offered when you
walk into the showroom,'' he said.
Kyd confirmed that such a reactor was not likely to be suitable for the
production of nuclear weapons.
``A research reactor of this type would be to advance science and not
have a more suspect dimension to it. However, we do keep our eyes on
more elaborate nuclear research reactors of this type. There have been
worries, for example, about one in Algeria built by the Chinese.''
Foreign diplomats in Yangon said they were aware of the deal, and that
a number of technicians from Myanmar were believed to have left for
Russia earlier this year for training.
Ivashentsov said the financial aspects of the deal had yet to be
finalised, but that Myanmar could pay in cash or barter with produce
such as timber, rice and fish.
``Russia is not in a position to provide long-term credit, (but) we can
offer them technology,'' he said.
Russia and Myanmar have a long history of close bilateral cooperation,
which fizzled out with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It was resumed in the mid 1990s, and since then Moscow has sold around
a dozen Mi-17 transport helicopters to the military regime, the
The most obvious signs of the early years of cooperation include a
hotel in the capital, a university, and a number of dams and irrigation
The Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev also visited Yangon twice, in 1955
Washington Post: Remember Burma
Sunday, July 15, 2001
FEW FOREIGN policy questions have totally clear answers. Every choice
carries risks, every option has trade-offs. But the southeast Asian
nation of Burma is the exception that proves the rule. The ruling junta
is so exceptionally inept, immoral and corrupt, and the oppressed
opposition so exceptionally deserving of recognition, that only one
policy toward Burma is defensible. As the Bush administration enters a
season of Asia-focused diplomacy, it should use Burma to prove its
commitment to democracy around the world.
Burma, also known as Myanmar, is a lush nation of 48 million people
blessed in resources and cursed in leadership. Its thuggish ruling
elite trafficks in drugs and in people -- in forced labor, child labor,
slave labor. It throws people into medieval torture chambers at the
slightest pretext: for owning a fax machine, for making jokes about the
regime, for listening to foreign broadcasts. There are some 1,800
political prisoners. Meanwhile universities have been shuttered for
much of the past decade, and poverty has deepened; annual income has
sunk to an average of $300 or less per person.
Unlike in other dictatorships, there is a democratic opposition, ready
and entitled to govern. In 1990 the National League for Democracy won
four out of every five seats in a parliamentary election, but the
generals never allowed the parliament to meet. Many of those elected
were jailed. The party's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a slight but
indomitable 56-year-old woman, has been under house arrest pretty much
ever since. But she has never abandoned her commitment to a nonviolent
struggle for democracy, nor have many in her party despite unspeakable
The generals manage to enrich themselves even as their population
suffers. A few companies, such as Unocal, are happy to do business with
the regime. Textile imports from Burma into the United States are
growing. Japan is ever-eager to slip sanctions and resume development
aid to better position its corporations. Just this week, the fruits of
this kind of engagement again became clear: Burma was revealed to be
buying 10 MiG-29 advanced fighter jets from Russia, the better to
threaten its own people and its Thai neighbors.
>From time to time there are reports of compromise and dialogue between
>the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi, and a few prisoners are turned loose.
>The generals know they are ruining their country, but they do not dare
>relinquish power. Dialogue may be useful as a transitional tool, but
>the only thing that can save Burma is to seat the democratic government
>that was elected 11 years ago. President Bush indicated his
>understanding of this in a May 31 letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell
>(R-Ky.), a longtime champion of Burma's democrats. Referring to Burma's
>rightful leader by her honorific title, Mr. Bush wrote, "We strongly
>support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's heroic efforts to bring democracy to the
>Burmese people." As Secretary of State Colin Powell prepares for a July
>25-27 summit with Asian foreign ministers and Mr. Bush gets ready for a
>subsequent trip to China, the administration should put muscle behind
>that pledge. Nothing would better advance U.S. interests in Asia than a
>turnaround in Burma.
The Boston Globe: Burmese opportunity
S SECRETARY of State Colin Powell prepares to attend the Ministerial
Meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations later this month
in Hanoi, he would do well to follow the advice offered to him in a
letter signed by 36 US senators. The letter urged Powell to ''reaffirm
US commitment to democracy and human rights in Burma.''
This is not merely an idealistic stance that sounds good in a press
release. Burma's military dictatorship is a major exporter of heroin,
refugees, cross-border warfare, HIV/AIDS infections, and strategic
threats to neighbors.
If Powell fails to place America four-square on the side of the
oppressed people of Burma and of that country's anxious neighbors, he
will inevitably raise doubts about Washington's reliability as a
defender of stable development and the rule of law.
The junta thwarts the will of citizens who voted overwhelmingly in 1990
for the National League for Democracy, the political party of Nobel
Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The generals have transformed what
was a prosperous, highly literate country into an impoverished society
intimidated by government informants.
The senators' letter, co-sponsored by Democrats Patrick Leahy of Vermont
and Tom Harkin of Iowa as well as Republicans Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky and Jesse Helms of North Carolina, asks that Powell in Hanoi
''address the production and transshipment of illicit drugs from Burma,
including heroin and methamphetamines.''
The wisdom of the senators' counsel ought to be evident. The regime of
the generals running Burma has become a fountain spouting many of the
transnational ills that haunt the contemporary world. The letter calls
on Powell to raise the issue of hundreds of thousands of people from
Burma who were forced to flee the depradations of the junta and seek
refuge in Bangladesh or Thailand. The senators also ''respectfully
request'' that Powell bring up ''the twin evils of child and forced
labor,'' suggesting that as a career soldier he must be particularly
sensitive to the horror of Burma's ''estimated 50,000 child soldiers,
the highest number in the world.''
Another ominous aspect of the junta's rule not mentioned in the
senators' letter is the extent to which the military has made Burma a
client state of Beijing. Not only does the junta spend obscene sums
buying arms from China. It has also caused considerable concern in India
by making Burma a platform for the projection of Chinese power in Asia.
Powell should seize the opportunity he will have in Hanoi to prod ASEAN
countries to demand that the junta release imprisoned members of the
National League for Democracy and conclude the current talks with Suu
Kyi by permitting a revival of Burmese democracy.
Amnesty International: The Moustache Brothers are released
July 16 2001
Amnesty International welcomes the release today of prisoners of
conscience U Pa Pa Lay and his cousin U Lu Zaw, two Burmese comedians
known as "the Moustache Brothers", and their colleagues U Aung Soe and U
Htwe. They have been the focus of widespread and sustained campaigning
by Amnesty International members around the world for the last five
"We are delighted that the four, who have been imprisoned since 1996,
have finally been released. We hope that they can soon return to the
business of making jokes and entertaining the Burmese people without
fear," Amnesty International said today.
Thousands of Amnesty members around the world have called for the
release of U Pa Pa Lay and his friends. The international campaign has
featured performances by famous fellow comics, articles in national
newspapers, Myanmar embassy vigils, a joint action by the Body Shop and
Amnesty International, and a play performed by high school students in
their honour. Local Amnesty International groups in Belgium, Canada,
Faroe Islands, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, UK, USA, and Sweden, have worked
tirelessly during the last five years on their case.
The two comedians, U Pa Pa Lay, 49, and U Lu Zaw, 45, were sentenced in
March 1996 to seven years' imprisonment for one of their comic
performances. U Htwe and U Aung Soe, two political activists who
arranged this performance, were also sentenced to seven years'
On 4 January 1996, the anniversary of Myanmar's independence from the
UK, U Pa Pa Lay's Anyeint troupe, a traditional Burmese entertainment
group, performed for a celebration at the home of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
in Yangon (Rangoon, the capital). She is the leader of the main
opposition party National League for Democracy and is currently held
under de facto house arrest.
In their routine U Pa Pa Lay and U Lu Zaw joked about government
cooperatives as thieves and sang a comic song about Myanmar's generals.
Following the performance, they were arrested after they returned to
their homes in Mandalay. U Aung Soe and U Htwe, two NLD members who had
arranged the performance, were also arrested.
In early April 1996 U Pa Pa Lay and U Lu Zaw were transferred from
prison to Kyein Kran Ka labour camp, 25 miles from Myitkyina in Kachin
State. They were forced to work with iron bars across their legs and
their health deteriorated. U Pa Pa Lay was later transferred to
Myitkyina Prison, Kachin State and U Lu Zaw to Katha Prison, Sagaing
The NLD won over 80% of seats in the May 1990 elections.
Despite this victory, the ruling military authorities - the State Peace
and Development Council (SPDC) - has not handed over power to the NLD
nor convened parliament.
In October 2000 the SPDC and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi embarked on
confidential talks, the contents of which have not been made public.
Beginning in January 2001, the SPDC began to release some political
prisoners. With the release of U Pa Pa Lay and his friends, 147
prisoners have been released so far.
However some 1800 prisoners, including scores of prisoners of
conscience, remain behind bars.
Amnesty International welcomes the recent releases and encourages the
SPDC to release all those held solely for peacefully expressing their
beliefs, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
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