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BurmaNet News: July 30, 2001
- Subject: BurmaNet News: July 30, 2001
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 02:43:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
July 30, 2001 Issue # 1854
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*DVB: Seven political prisoners released unannounced
*DVB : Burmese political prisoner release criticized by NLD official
*International Herald-Tribune: Rocking Burma: A Gadfly With or Without
*AFP: Myanmar to launch "light and entertaining" FM radio station:
*AFP: Myanmar to host new international golf tournament
*Xinhua: Foreign Investment in Myanmar Sharply Up in 1st Quarter
*KNU: Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department: Regime, Thai
businessmen agree on highway and possible dam project
*The New York Times: Yearning To Be Safe
*Kyodo: U.N. envoy Razali to return to Myanmar Aug. 27
*The Straits Times (Singapore) EU sees Myanmar situation as a hurdle
*Daily Yomiuri (Japan): Director determined to complete Japanese-Myanmar
*New York Times: Thailand's Leader Wants to Switch Time Zones
*The Nation: Burma must join a regional effort
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__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
DVB: Seven political prisoners released unannounced
Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 27 Jul 01
DVB Democratic Voice of Burma has learned that the SPDC State Peace and
Development Council military government has released another seven
political prisoners without announcing on 18 July. They are Dr Kyi Min
and U Tint Wai from Insein Jail, and U Tun Kyaw, U Kyi Nyunt, U Sein
Maung, U Mya Saing, and U Kyaw Tha from Thayet Jail.
When Daw Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr Kyi Min
supposedly said that this kind of woman is rare in Burma and that he is
proud to be Burmese. He used his office stationary and distributed the
pamphlets. He was arrested by the SPDC Military Intelligence MI , in
1991 and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. U Tint Wai was arrested
last year without charge and later sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Political sources in Rangoon told DVB that Dr Kyi Min was released
because his time was up while U Tint Wai was released because of his
chronic TB disease.
The other five including U Tun Kyaw from Aunglan were arrested by the MI
in 1997 for disrespecting acts against the national flag and later
sentenced to five years imprisonment each. They raised the SPDC flag and
the NLD flag together at an Independence Day ceremony but forgot to pull
down the SPDC flag at night so action was taken against them out of
malice. Exiled democracy activists have pointed out that at present
there are over 1,000 political prisoners in jails and the SPDC dare not
issue any announcement on their release because it could expose their
More than 50 political prisoners have been released since UN Special
Envoy Mr Razali's June trip but they remain the only seven political
prisoners whose release was not announced. But NLD Central Executive
Committee Member U Lwin said at an interview yesterday that those
recently released were either overdue or on health grounds and they have
nothing to do with the agreement. If it were in accord with the
agreement then many should be released simultaneously.
DVB : Burmese political prisoner release criticized by NLD official
Burmese political prisoner release criticized by NLD official
Text of report by DVB on 26 July
Exiled democracy groups say the ongoing talks between the SPDC and Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi will progress more if all
the remaining political prisoners are freed more quickly. Furthermore,
they are criticizing the unfairness of the junta because the political
prisoners were stealthily arrested en masse but they are being released
in dribs and drabs of two to three a week.
But, SPDC Foreign Minister U Win Aung remarked at the ASEAN Meeting that
the release of political prisoners showed the progress of the talks.
DVB contacted National League for Democracy Central Executive Committee
Member U Lwin and asked him about his opinion of U Win Aung's remarks.
[U Lwin] Well, I wonder how much U Win Aung knows to be talking in this
manner. That is one matter. Another matter is although they have been
releasing the political prisoners we do not know how many were released
because they only inform us if it concerns our party. We are aware of
the prisoners' release but we can tell you only what we were informed.
Last week they released four and this week they released two, that's
what we heard. These are the ones that have been released normally
(receding word rendered in English)after serving their sentences. If it
is to show the progress of the talks then they should release more if
you know what I mean.
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 26 Jul 01
International Herald-Tribune: Rocking Burma: A Gadfly With or Without
Thomas Crampton International Herald Tribune Saturday, July 28, 2001
RANGOON His appetite for sex, drugs and revolution may pale in
comparison with rockers elsewhere, but in Burma, Zaw Win Htut stands out
as a rebel who must fight to keep the government out of his hair.
A harsh military dictatorship once nearly toppled by a mass student
movement, this government has a fear of spontaneous youth culture that
runs so deep that comedians have been jailed for cracking jokes about
As one of Burma's biggest rock stars, Zaw Win Htut faces constant
government scrutiny of his lyrics, album covers and music videos, but
some of his biggest clashes concerned the length of his hair.
While insisting that he has no agenda beyond pleasing fans, Zaw Win
Htut's career has drawn criticism from all sides.
"Politics is a dirty word," Zaw Win Htut said in an interview at one of
Rangoon's recently opened Starbucks-style coffee shops. "We just want
the government to let us play our music."
The government first stopped his music in 1990, when it prohibited
longhaired performers - of which Zaw Win Htut was among the most famous
- from appearing on a public stage.
"Long hair means free spirit, so I refused to cut it," he said.
Tolerance had already increased from the 1970s, when wandering patrols
of scissors-wielding police ambushed and forcibly trimmed longhaired
Several years with long hair and no public performances convinced Zaw
Win Htut to trim his flowing black locks, but it was not long before the
government again took issue with his hairstyle.
Like many young Burmese men, Zaw Win Htut briefly became an apprentice
monk, shaving his head.
Stepping back into the Rangoon rock scene, he kept his head
clean-shaven, following a new fashion trend. The inevitable crackdown
soon came with a ban on bald people from public performance.
During the decades of Burma's self-imposed isolation, rock music has
only seeped into the country through those few who traveled overseas.
Zaw Win Htut remembers small gatherings in Mandalay where seamen on home
leave played smuggled tapes of Rod Stewart, Deep Purple and John Cougar
Fascinated by these unfamiliar sounds, Zaw Win Htut carried his family's
considerable fame - his grandfather and his mother were both celebrated
musicians - into the next generation by forming a band in 1983.
Translating popular foreign hits into Burmese, the band saw its
popularity grow as it recorded a dozen albums of cover songs in less
than a decade.
Burma's rock and roll renaissance came with the heady atmosphere of
change brought by the mass student movement of 1988.
Popular pressure pushed the government to ease restrictions on the
playing of rock and even allowed the first-ever outdoor concert, an
event attended by thousands.
Strutting up on stage to perform their rendition of Rod Stewart's
"Sailing," Zaw Win Htut and his group walked off as one of Burma's first
bona fide rock stars.
Calling themselves Emperor ("We want to be the emperors of rock"), the
group also composed original lyrics that irked the government.
In "I Am the Conqueror," a song released shortly after the military
crushed the student movement in late 1988, a son assures his mother he
will win many battles in life.
"I did not write this as a political song," Zaw Win Htut said. "But the
BBC played the song so many times that some people thought it took on a
Another popular band, Iron Cross, led a more blatant rock rebellion
several years later in issuing an album with the title "Power 54." The
implied reference to 54 University Avenue, home address of the
opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, prompted the government to
destroy all copies of the album and intensify scrutiny by the department
that musicians sarcastically call the Ministry of Rock 'n' Roll.
Lyrics, submitted in writing to the Press Scrutiny Department, must be
approved and exactly match words sung on demo tapes.
"They hate screaming and they don't like us to shout exclamations," Zaw
Win Htut said. "They like words, so most songs are about love." The
album title, cover art and photographs each require explicit approval
and may be subject to the whim of censors.
"They rejected one album cover because I wore blue jeans instead of a
longyi," Zaw Win Htut said, referring to the Burmese sarong. "We had to
reshoot the photograph in traditional dress."
Despite his clashes with the government, Zaw Win Htut has also been
criticized for keeping close relations with Burma's despised military.
Fellow musicians and fans accuse him of selling out with an album
released shortly after he chopped off his hair in order to resume public
performances. The album, a series of songs praising Burma's pagan-era
kings that was co-written with an army major, was considered by many to
be blatant pro-regime propaganda. Burma's leaders often assert their
legitimacy by drawing links to the all-conquering 11th-century kings.
"My fans didn't like the album, because they thought it supported the
government," Zaw Win Htut said. "Truth is, I had long wanted to write
about this theme, and my good friend who wrote the lyrics just happened
to be in the army."
The suspicions against him were not without basis. Burma's military has,
with limited success, often employed popular singers to support its
Zaw Win Htut's grandfather, Shwe Taine Nyunt, composed songs denouncing
Britain's colonial rule and a famous marching song of tribute to the
dying independence hero and father to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, General Aung
Still a well-known tune, "Only the Army Can Save the Country" is
frequently played by the government radio station on national holidays.
This penchant for patriotic tunes has banished rock music from the
airwaves and eliminated any chance of a reliable top-40 list. Burma's
only domestic broadcaster, Radio Myanmar, serves a steady stream of
old-style music and propaganda broken by just 30 minutes of popular
music each week.
The music shops crowded along Barr Street informally compile their own
top-10 lists, but a more neutral measure of popularity is those songs
most frequently played by cover bands at popular hangouts like Hurricane
Even celebrity flamed by controversy does not guarantee a rock star
wealth in Burma.
Cassette tapes, of which popular musicians aspire to sell 50,000, sell
for 400 kyats each, a bit more than 60 cents. Compact disks, still a
relatively new technology, retail for about 1,300 kyats, but sales are
often lost to pirate copies that sell for 700 kyats each.
To earn extra cash, Zaw Win Htut rents out his recording studio and
created his own Emperor Music Group recording label. He has acted in
television commercials and is now featured on billboards promoting Max
He and his wife live in a modest suburban Rangoon home where their
bedroom doubles up as a sound booth for recording vocals.
His main rock star indulgences are snakeskin boots and a red 1963
The establishment air about Zaw Win Htut's lifestyle fits with his
current drift away from the cutting edge of youth culture.
While techno and rap took Rangoon by storm last year, Zaw Win Htut
released an album combining rock rhythms with traditional melodies
played by instruments like gongs used by the Shan ethnic minority. In
June he released what may be Burma's first original blues album.
Despite this new creative direction, Zaw Win Htut still considers
himself a liberated rebel rocker.
"By now I do not notice the censorship," Zaw Win Htut said. "For me, it
is all about the music and not the lyrics. Listening to the music I
AFP: Myanmar to launch "light and entertaining" FM radio station: report
YANGON, July 27 (AFP) - Myanmar's military government plans to liven up
Yangon's airwaves with "light and entertaining" broadcasts from a new FM
radio station to be launched by the end of the year, a report said
The Yangon City Development Committee will run the station from city
hall, treating listeners to a potpourri of daily traffic reports, city
news and entertainment, the
Burmese language Myanmar Times reported.
The committee expects to deploy a team of reporters across the city who
will file dispatches via walkie-talkie to the station while providing
"early warning" traffic reports for motorists who tune in.
Programs airing on the station will be "light and entertaining" and
unlike the decidedly more stern broadcasts heard on Myanmar's state
radio. Western and Myanmar music will also be featured.
More than 100,000 dollars-worth of broadcast gear has reportedly been
ordered from Singapore to equip the station which will be broadcast on
the 99 Mhz frequency.
The radio station would be the latest modern amenity in Yangon, a city
of 5.5 million
inhabitants where posh residential houses, shopping malls and high-rise
office buildings have become increasingly common.
The FM station is slated to begin broadcasting by November.
AFP: Myanmar to host new international golf tournament
YANGON, July 28 (AFP) - Myanmar will soon play host to a new
international golf tournament in another sign that the military-ruled
nation is becoming a mecca for aspiring Asian professionals, organisers
Secretary of the fledgling Myanmar Professional Golfers' Association
Chan Han said the championship called the Myanmar London PGA
Championship would be held in Mandalay, 450 miles north of here from
September 26 to 29.
"The fact that we can hold this event here shows that the standard of
golf in Myanmar is quite high," Chan Han told reporters ahead of the
launching of the five-venue local circuit scheduled for July 30.
An established leg on the Asian professional golf circuit, Myanmar
already hosts the internationally recognised Myanmar Open.
According to Han, who also runs the Han Golf Masters Pte Limited, the
tournament will be the first-ever international-level championship held
in Mandalay, the seat of
Myanmar art and culture.
"This is also another milestone for professional golf here, with 40 of
our pros, including four to six of our top amateurs, having an
opportunity to play against international players," he said.
The championship organisers expect about 70 licensed professionals will
take part in what has been described as an "opportunity tour" intended
for second-tier professional players but have not qualified for major
"Looking at it from the point of view of our local players, this is
truly a golden opportunity for them," Han said. "They will be able to
compete with foreign players both here and in Mandalay."
"As far as I'm concerned this is unbelievable, and we can even look
forward to the local circuit eventually becoming an international
event," he added.
Han said Myanmar was to be one of four or five nations, including
Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, who plan to introduce similar
"opportunity tournaments" as stepping stones for the more than 500 Asian
golf pros and up to 400 more attending qualifying schools.
The local golf circuit was organised in 1998 under the auspices of the
Myanmar Golf Federation and sponsored by Rothmans of Pall Mall Myanmar
Ptd Ltd, a private joint venture with the ruling military government.
The "London" tournament moniker was taken from the joint venture's
locally-produced brand of cigarettes.
Tournament developer David Parkin said in a statement that he was
"honored" to stage another international golf event in Myanmar and
"especially excited" that Mandalay had been chosen as the location.
Xinhua: Foreign Investment in Myanmar Sharply Up in 1st Quarter
YANGON, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Foreign investment in Myanmar totaled 41.49
million U.S. dollars in seven projects in the first quarter of this
year, rising by 315.2 percent from the same period of 2000, according to
the latest figures issued by the country's Central Statistical
Organization. Of the investment, which came from five countries and
regions during the period, Thailand took the lead with 25.75 million
dollars, followed by Hong Kong (7.5 million dollars), the Republic of
Korea (4.21 million dollars), Singapore (3.53 million dollars) and
Canada (0.5 million dollars). Of the sectors injected by these foreign
investment, construction stood the highest with 20.5 million dollars,
followed by manufacturing (15.24 million dollars), hotels and tourism
(5.25 million dollars) and mining (0.5 million dollars). In 2000, there
came investments in Myanmar from nine countries and regions, mainly from
the Republic of Korea, Britain, China and Canada, with a total amount of
152.8 million dollars. These investment during the year were mostly
injected into the sectors of manufacturing, oil and gas and agriculture.
According to official statistics, since opening to foreign investment in
late 1988, Myanmar had drawn a total of such contracted investment of
7.34 billion dollars in 356 projects as of the end of 2000. Of the
leading foreign investors, Singapore ranked the first with 1.504 billion
dollars, followed by Britain with 1.401 billion dollars and Thailand
with 1.264 billion dollars.
Thailand's local business team has meet with the Burma army's frontline
officer a Thai-Burma border opposite Kanchanuburi proFrom:
UNITY(Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department) [ehna@xxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Saturday, July 28, 2001 8:49 PM
To: DVB; Newera; RFA; BurmanetEditor
Subject: Info. Release (DAM)
Thai Businessmen and Burma army agreed on Thai-Burma highway and
possibility to build a dam on Tenasserim River
KNU: Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department: Regime, Thai
businessmen agree on highway and possible dam project
Karen National Union
28 July, 2001
Thailand's local businessmen have met with Burma army's frontline
officers at a Thai-Burma border opposite Kanchanaburi province and
agreed to start construct Kanchanaburi-Tavoy highway and there is
possibility of the construction of a dam on Tenasserim River for coming
On July 17, 2001 Thai businessmen from The Federation of Thai Industries
(Kanchanaburi) and Kanchanaburi Tavoy Development Company met the local
Burma army officers from No.9 Operation Commanding HQ at Burmese troop's
outpost Mai Tha Mee Hkee on the Thai-Burma border, in the west of
Bangkok. Both sides agreed to start construction on the
Kanchanauburi-Tavoy highway and the Burmese troops responded that the
area is peaceful and promised to provide security. They agreed to start
construction in the September.
This project has delayed for five years because of security concerns.
Fighting between Karen resistance group Karen National Union (KNU) and
Burma army troops occurs frequently. On February 19, 2001 KNU's soldiers
has captured four officers from Burma's Kyaw Lain Naing Company who are
surveying the road, but they were released within a few days.
The latest information from Thai businessmen has said that there will be
construction of a dam which included in Kanchanaburi-Tavoy highway
project agreed by Thai companies and Burmese military authorities. The
purpose is to sell and supply the electric power to Thailand. But the
detail of the construction of the dam is not known and confirm.
The dam project and other projects within Kanchanaburi-Tavoy Highway
project plan will affect mostly ethnic Karen people who are native to
this area while dam construction site and the logging area are in their
native land with deep evergreen forest. Many Karen civilians in this
area were already drove out by Burma army in 1997 to Thailand in their
offensive to secure their Yadana gas pipeline area and other business
purposes. The deforestation and the loss of native Karen people's land
will be the major effect.
In other hand Burma army forced local villagers and prisoners to
construct the car road from Thenchaung to Mae Tha Mee Hta, and Myitta to
Mae Tha Mee Hta for their military transportation. Many villagers were
forced to transport military food and supplies regularly to Burma army's
outposts in this area. Especially for the car road from Myitta to Mae
Tha Mee Hta, villagers were forced to construct every time when after
eroded by the rain. These two roads alignment for Kanchanaburi-Tavoy
The Federation of Thai Industries (Kanchanaburi) group was allowed to
construct a highway from Burma's Theyetchaung town, Thenchaung to
Thai-Burma border Mae Tha Mee Hkee while Kanchanaburi Tavoy Development
Company was allowed to construct a highway from Burma's Tavoy town,
Myitta to Thai-Burma border Mae Tha Mee Hkee. They were allowed to build
a separate highway.
The Federation of Thai Industries (Kanchanaburi) has submitted a project
profile of Dawei Export Centre (DEC) project to the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC now SPDC) in1996 to invest estimate worth
more than 100 million US$. Both The Federation of Thai Industries
(Kanchanaburi) group and Kanchanaburi Tavoy Develop Company's objectives
is to build an international standard deep seaport in Tavoy that will be
the world's 5th largest shipping centre, and to develop Tavoy and its
surrounding area as export centre, the establishing of industry park for
the processing of agriculture, lives stock, fishery, forestry, mining
and many other export-oriented production including a wide range of
manufactures, to build a highway from Tavoy to Kanchanaburi (about 110
kilometer), to build a satellite communication station, and tourism and
The New York Times: Yearning To Be Safe
July 29, 2001, Sunday, Late Edition - Final
By SASHA ABRAMSKY; Sasha Abramsky is the author of "Hard Time Blues: How
Politics Built a Prison Nation," to be published in January by St.
THAILAND was no good," 8-year-old Pyi Son Aung said, his black hair
flopping forward on his forehead, his dark eyes open wide. To explain,
he held his palms together and cocked his fingers in the time-honored
imitation of a gun. "Brrrr, brrrr, brrrr, brrrr, brrrrrr," he shouted as
he sprayed the walls of his living room with bullets from an imaginary
The apartment in which Pyi Son is reliving his past is tiny, a
one-bedroom fourth-floor walkup on 187th Street, just off the Grand
Concourse in the Fordham section of the Bronx. The neighborhood is
working class, characterized by bodegas, greasy chicken restaurants and
car-repair shops. Pyi Son lives here with his parents, his three sisters
and, sometimes, an uncle and a family friend.
A decade after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the
cold war, New York is home to large numbers of a special kind of
immigrant: refugees from around the globe.
Pyi Son's family fled to Thailand from the military dictatorship in
their native Myanmar (formerly Burma). But the city's refugees come from
many other places. Some are from the former Soviet republics or Vietnam.
Others have fled messy conflicts and local tyrannies that have spewed
forth in this new multipolar world: civil wars in Africa, ethnic strife
in the former Yugoslavia, and fundamentalist religious regimes or
More than 42,000 of them arrived in the city from 1994 to 2000,
according to the State Bureau of Refugee and Immigration Affairs. The
numbers of refugees entering New York ballooned in the mid-90's, as tens
of thousands escaped the Balkan wars and fighting in central Africa.
Today a smaller but steadier stream arrives from around the world.
Unlike many immigrants, refugees often arrive with little property, no
money and physical and psychological ills. And while in an age of jet
travel it is increasingly easy for immigrants to visit their homeland,
for refugees there literally is no going back.
Pyi Son's family came to the Bronx nearly a year ago after years of
terror in Southeast Asia. First they endured the political turmoil in
Myanmar; then, after fleeing to Thailand in 1998, they spent two
devastating years in a refugee camp. What would happen if they returned
home? In response, Pyi Son's father, Khin Maung Htwe, drew his fingers
across his throat: the family would be slaughtered.
They had arrived with virtually nothing. Among the few possessions from
their former life is a photograph showing Pyi Son with an aunt, a sister
and a friend. He is wearing an orange monk's robe and his head is
What Pyi Son and his family remember mostly is trauma, fear and
political disarray. As a result, their adjustment to life in New York is
beset by special emotional and practical problems.
To an outsider, their life in the Bronx might seem pinched and their
options few. But in their eyes, New York, and America, truly seems like
a promised land.
Odyssey From Fear
On Sept. 2 of last year, Khin Maung, his wife, Yin Yin Thein, and four
of their six children stepped off a plane at Kennedy International
Airport. It was late at night. They were met by a representative from
the International Rescue Committee, an organization set up before World
War II to bring over refugees from Europe and that now resettles about
500 refugees annually in New York City alone. The family, destitute and
dependent on others for financial survival, was driven to its new home.
It was crowded. The parents and the three girls shared a bedroom, and
Pyi Son and a family friend slept on pullout beds next to a refrigerator
in the living room.
Burmese have been coming to this country in greater numbers since 1999,
when the United States government approved a program permitting them to
be processed by refugee agencies before making the often difficult
journey to America. Although statistics on the number of Burmese in New
York are sketchy, several hundred have settled in the state, according
to the State Bureau of Refugee and Immigration Affairs. Until recently,
most went to cities in upstate New York. Since late last year, however,
in part because of the efforts of the rescue committee, an increasing
number have landed in the Fordham section of the Bronx.
Khin Maung is a stocky 45-year-old whose right arm and left hand are
tattooed with dark green tigers, the animal associated with the year of
his birth. After the political crackdown that began in 1988 and led to
the creation of the State Law and Order Restoration Committee, known by
the Orwellian acronym Slorc, he left his home and trekked for five days
through the jungle to join the armed forces of the All Burma Student
Democratic Front, a rebel group. Skinny and sick with malaria, Khin
Maung, a tailor by trade, began to sew uniforms.
But he eventually quarreled with the group's local leadership. Fearing
both the brutal Burmese government and the rebels, he and most of his
family slipped across the border into Thailand. At first, things were no
better, with Khin Maung spending two months in prison. But after two
years, the family was granted official refugee status -- and the
documents that would let them come to America.
They flew to Tokyo and then Los Angeles, where they told immigration
officials that they had different last names because, like many Burmese,
they did not use a common family name. They continued to Detroit and
then to New York, an odyssey condensed by air travel into a few dozen
None of them spoke any English and none had ever traveled by plane. A
few Burmese friends and Yin Yin's brother had preceded them to New York,
but they had just hazy, cinematic ideas about the city: images of large
buildings and fast cars, vague impressions garnered from village
conversations thousands of miles away. Nevertheless, speaking through an
interpreter, Khin Maung said that when he arrived, at close to midnight
in the dying days of summer: "I felt freedom. This is my new place."
Ruled by Law, Not Men
It has been nearly a year since the family's flight touched down at
Kennedy Airport. In that year the number of Burmese settling in New York
has increased. At least a score live in Khin Maung's neighborhood, some
in his building, and each week, it seems, more friends or relatives
For all that is imperfect in their newly adopted homeland, for all the
inequality and racial tension and hardship, Khin Maung and his fellow
refugees still find something magical about America.
"In our country," said a Burmese friend who arrived the same day as Khin
Maung, "there is no law. Everybody is afraid. In the United States, we
need to obey just the law. We don't need to obey man to man. It's a very
different experience for us."
When Khin Maung's family first arrived, they were deeply fearful. Yin
Yin was particularly anxious. She had heard rumors: that Asians were
viciously discriminated against, that refugees were shunned. Shopping
for food without being able to speak English terrified her. The noise
and bustle of the streets confused her. She was afraid that her children
would be swallowed up by the anonymity of the city and that their
cultural heritage would vanish like a bubble on the breeze.
Within a few months, however, her feelings had changed. The city hadn't
rejected her family. Nor had it peeled off its culture. On the contrary:
she was developing a network of friends, fellow Burmese refugees, along
with people from the rescue committee, with whom the family explored the
city. And her children were developing hybrid identities.
"We will try to keep our children in the Burmese culture as much as we
can," Yin Yin said. "But we understand it is not Burma. We will not
totally keep the Burmese culture." She has come to accept that one day
her family might even ask her to cook a Thanksgiving dinner.
The family's economic situation had also brightened slightly.
Clifford Rames, the committee's director for New York resettlement, said
families were eligible for up to eight months of cash assistance. They
are also eligible for a month's free rent provided by the committee.
Most refugees may also receive Medicaid, food stamps and free school
lunches. Refugees who do not have a job after eight months can be moved
into the city's workfare program.
Khin Maung was lucky. He found a job quickly. Last December, at the
Buddhist temple where he worshiped, he met a Vietnamese man, Thina
Nguyen, who worked for a Westchester County company that made sun roofs
for cars. Thina Nguyen urged his boss to hire Khin Maung, saying that
although Khin Maung spoke virtually no English, he was a hard worker and
adept with his hands. The request fit into what Thina Nguyen called the
Buddhist "wheel of help."
The boss agreed, and Khin Maung started work. He put up a blackboard in
his living room and tried to learn the English words used in his new
trade, scrawling Burmese words and, opposite, their English
counterparts. The pay was only $7 an hour, and out of his weekly
paycheck of $350 Khin Maung, who owned no car, had to pay a friend $15 a
week to drive him to and from work.
The family lived frugally, rarely even using the subway. Yin Yin bought
only the most basic staples: the cheapest cuts of meat, lots of rice and
noodles. Every stick of furniture in their $600-a-month apartment was
provided by the Rescue Committee. But Khin Maung felt that the family
could one day buy a house and send the children to college. "And," he
added, with a glint in his eye, "if they try hard, maybe they'll
A Boy With Racing Dreams
Because Yin Yin was one of the few women in a refugee community composed
mostly of young men -- fighters weary of fighting -- she had become
something of a den mother to the group. On weekends, 10 or more people
came to her house to eat coconut rice and spicy ounkow soup, a Burmese
specialty, along with American fried chicken.
They sat cross-legged on her bare living room floor, their shoes piled
up in the hallway in traditional Buddhist fashion. Smoking Marlboros and
drinking Heineken beer (bought with pooled money from the group), they
sang Burmese folk songs while Khin Maung played the guitar. He had
pasted a sticker showing a bare-chested Jesse Ventura on his instrument,
and his friends were as likely to request American rock anthems as the
mournful, yearning folk songs and resistance ballads from home.
The children watched college basketball and Burmese martial arts videos
on the television set while the adults grew merrily tipsy on beer. When
the doorbell rang, the youngsters charged downstairs, barefoot, to
escort new guests up to the apartment.
Khin Maung's children quickly adjusted to life in America. The eldest,
Win Thanda, 13, was less sure of her surroundings and slower to learn
English than the younger ones. Sometimes, her siblings yelled at her
when she didn't understand an English phrase quickly enough. But Pyi Son
and his sisters Soe Sanda, 6, and Thin Zu Hlaing, 3, were thriving.
Thanks in part to English classes run by the rescue committee, Soe Sanda
and Win Thanda could read English.
Pyi Son was fascinated by baseball, football and hockey and by computer
games like Game Boy. At school he was learning to play the violin and
drums. He also had a dream.
"I like motorcycles and cars and car races," he said. He has already
decided he wants to be a race car driver when he grows up.
A Little Lady Liberty
One of the best things that happened to Khin Maung's family is that
Annie Smith, a project manager for the rescue committee's youth program,
practically adopted them. Ms. Smith, 34, a short, vivacious woman with
curly, shoulder-length brown hair, was drawn to the family members, she
said, "because they're so open, generous and warm and giving of
There is almost nothing Ms. Smith won't do for the family. She helps the
adults fill in immigration paperwork and navigate the food stamp
bureaucracy. She took Khin Maung to the doctor when he hurt his arm at
work. She walks the children home from the English language classes.
Ms. Smith often visits the family in their apartment. The adults speak
pidgin English combined with miming, while Ms. Smith, like a charades
player, teases out what they are trying to say.
"Khin Maung, money?" Khin Maung asked anxiously one day recently,
holding up a welfare form. Ms. Smith figured out he was asking whether
the government would send him money or was saying he owed money. She
reassured him that didn't owe the government money.
She also takes the family on outings, sometimes paying for their subway
tokens. One lovely spring day, she took the family to the Statue of
Liberty. After being cooped up in the small apartment, the children were
eager to run around and play in the grass. Khin Maung was in a
particularly good mood because he had got a raise to $7.50 per hour.
Yin Yin packed a huge noodle picnic to eat in the park. The children
dressed up for the occasion. Soe Sanda wore a green coat and bright red
lipstick; Pyi Son had a new red baseball cap, worn backward.
Ms. Smith bought their tickets. As the boat pushed off from Lower
Manhattan, members of the family crowded against the railing, staring
back toward the receding skyline and then craning their necks as they
approached the huge statue.
When the boat docked, they hurried down the gangplank. Lying flat on the
ground, Khin Maung took out his camera, aimed it at his children and
snapped, hoping to catch the size of the statue as it reached up toward
the sky. Thin Zu was a small bundle of energy, racing around and
squealing with delight. At the sight of the statue, she balled her
little hand into a fist and stuck her arm up and forward, looking for
all the world like a miniature Liberty with her torch.
GRAPHIC: Photos: PILGRIMAGE -- Khin Maung, back row center, his wife and
four children visiting a city landmark they treasure. (Edwine Seymour
for The New York Times)(pg. 1); AT HOME IN THE BRONX -- Khin Maung and
his family live in a one-bedroom fourth-floor walkup with donated
furniture. When he arrived nearly a year ago, he said, "I felt freedom."
(Ruby Washington/The New York Times); FINDING A PLACE -- Khin Maung's
oldest daughter, Win Thanda, above; his wife, Yin Yin Thein, and their
youngest daughter, Thin Zu Hlaing, inset; top left, the family in their
living room. "We will try to keep our children in the Burmese culture as
much as we can," Yin Yin said. "But we understand it is not Burma."
(Above, photographs by Ruby Washington/The New York Times; right, Edwine
Seymour for The New York Times)(pg. 8)
Chart: "HOMELANDS: FROM AROUND THE GLOBE"
The State Bureau of Refugee and Immigration Affairs says that from 1994
to 2000, 43,802 refugees settled in New York City, out of slightly more
than 60,000 statewide.
The top 10 countries of origin for refugees in New York City from 1998
Bosnia and Herzegovina: 833
Sierra Leone: 313
Only 13 Burmese settled in New York City from 1998 to 2000. Statewide,
222 Burmese came in those years, making it the country with the 13th
highest number in the state in that period. The International Rescue
Committee resettled several dozen Burmese in the city recently; others
are due this year. (pg. 8)
Kyodo: U.N. envoy Razali to return to Myanmar Aug. 27
HANOI, July 27, Kyodo - Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung said Friday
that Razali Ismail, a special envoy of U.N. Secretary General Kofi
Annan, will return to Yangon on Aug. 27 to facilitate the process of
reconciliation between the ruling junta and pro-democracy leader Aung
San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).
Wing Aung also said in an interview with Kyodo News that the ruling
State Peace and Development Council will ''cautiously'' proceed with the
dialogue begun with Suu Kyi and the NLD last October.
He called it a ''healing'' process to build confidence and trust between
the junta and NLD, which won the 1990 general elections by a landslide
but was prevented by the military from taking power.
Win Aung did not disclose how long Ismail will be in Yangon.
The special envoy, who hails from Malaysia, was appointed in April 2000
to help break the long-running deadlock between the junta and the NLD.
Win Aung said the national reconciliation process should not be
''cosmetic'' or ''rushed'' as there are wounds to be healed.
''We need to have a comprehensive resolution to solve many problems,''
he said. ''We cannot afford any more mistakes. We have to move
Wing Aung declined to reveal what the next steps will be following the
government's release from detention so far this year of more than 100
political prisoners belonging to the NLD.
The foreign minister expressed satisfaction with ongoing talks with the
NLD, saying, ''There have been no more confrontations and there is
better understanding emerging from the other side.''
He said both sides have agreed to keep confidential the contents of the
Wing Aung also played down speculation about Suu Kyi's no-show at a
Martyr's Day ceremony on July 19, saying it was a family decision and
should not be viewed as a gesture of dissatisfaction with the ongoing
dialogue with the government.
Win Aung was in Hanoi to attend a series of ministerial meetings hosted
annually by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which
Myanmar is a member.
The ASEAN foreign ministers, in a joint communique Tuesday, noted
''encouraging developments'' in Myanmar and reiterated their support for
the on-going process of national reconciliation there.
But the European Union (EU) called for ''new significant and definite
steps'' towards in restoring democracy in Myanmar.
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, whose country is the current
holder of the EU's presidency, told a press conference Friday in Hanoi
that the EU awaits ''definite and positive'' developments to that end
before it will consider lifting sanctions imposed against Myanmar's
''The ball is in their camp,'' he said.
The Straits Times (Singapore) EU sees Myanmar situation as a hurdle
July 28, 2001
EU is keen to forge stronger links, with plans for new offices in Asean,
but says human rights are a priority in its relationship with the group
By Lee Kim Chew
CHIEF REGIONAL CORRESPONDENT
THE European Union (EU) is setting up new offices in Singapore and three
other Asean countries to promote political and economic links with
South-east Asia, but cooperation between the two groupings remains
stalled because of differences over Myanmar.
The EU President, Mr Louis Michel, said the EU wanted to help build a
better investment climate in Asean, but he warned that the lack of
human rights and democracy could be obstacles as these were important
factors for the European countries.
The EU is drawing up a new strategy to raise its profile and expand its
activities in Asia. It will focus on trade and investment, security,
political developments and poverty alleviation.
Human rights and democracy will be given priority to underline the
emphasis the EU gives to developing civil society and the rule of law.
Mr Michel, who is Belgium's Foreign Minister, said: 'We have to take
into account the strong public opinion on this.'
He stressed the importance of the EU-Asean relationship, but said there
must be more progress in the talks between the military government and
the National League for Democracy (NLD) to bring back civilian rule in
'We hope that the recent developments in Myanmar will put this important
country on the way back to democracy, national reconciliation and the
rule of law,' he said in a reference to the junta's release of political
prisoners and reconciliation talks with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
'It is essential that the current discussions between the authorities
and the opposition continue and develop into a real process of
rebuilding the nation in harmony.'
The EU Commissioner for External Relations, Mr Chris Patten, said it was
not sensible for the Asean-EU relationship to be held hostage to
Myanmar's political stalemate.
But the EU would not lift its political restrictions, such as a visa ban
on Myanmar officials, unless the situation improved, he added.
This puts the EU at odds with Asean, which maintains that Myanmar must
not be discriminated against in Asean-EU dealings. Because both sides
have refused to budge from their positions, Asean-EU ties have suffered
in recent years.
Many Asean-EU cooperation projects had stalled since Myanmar joined
Asean, and a bid to relaunch the relationship at a ministerial meeting
in Vientiane last December produced no breakthrough.
Besides Singapore, Mr Patten said the EU's new offices in Malaysia,
Cambodia and Laos would open by the end of next year.
These would facilitate Asean-EU cooperation programmes and strengthen
the EU's political and economic relations with South-east Asian
countries, he said.
Daily Yomiuri (Japan): Director determined to complete Japanese-Myanmar
Asami Nagai Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
For a decade, film director Koji Chino has worked hard to fulfill his
dream of making a movie of the best-selling Myanmar novel, "Thway"
(Blood). Chino has already had to abandon the project once during
filming, after several companies that promised funds for the film went
Now, though, he has found new sponsors and is hopeful the fruit of the
Japan-Myanmar project will make it to the big screen before too long. A
cast and crew from the two countries is scheduled to resume filming in
Myanmar later this year.
Chino, 70, first read "Thway," written by Garnye Gyaw Mamalay, in 1990.
He was given a Japanese translation of the book by a friend who hoped
Chino would make a film of the story.
The book, set in the 1960s, focuses on a young Japanese woman named
Yumi, whose father is a former lieutenant colonel of the Imperial
Japanese Army. Before he dies, he tells Yumi that he has a second wife
and child in Burma--as Myanmar was known before 1990. This prompts Yumi
to go to Burma to search for her half brother. But upon finding her
sibling, she struggles to establish a relationship with him.
Chino views the subject as an important one because of the number of
former Japanese soldiers who fought in Burma during World War II and
still feel ties to the country. Despite the devastation the war wrought
upon the country, many of the ex-soldiers remember the locals--most of
whom were Buddhist--as being devout and generous people.
Massive military forces from several countries were deployed in Burma
during the war. Of the battles fought in the region, the most famous was
the Battle of Imphal-Kohima in eastern India in 1944. British, Indian
and Japanese forces all suffered a great number of casualties in the
battle. During World War II, as many as 180,000 Japanese soldiers were
killed or died from illness in Burma, according to one estimate.
After reading "Thway," Chino, who has no personal connection with
Myanmar, wanted to learn more about the country. He has since read more
than 350 books on the subject.
He first visited Myanmar in 1990. During his stay, he was struck by the
beauty of the scenery in the impoverished country. He said it seemed to
have remained unchanged from some distant time in the past.
Soon after he returned home from the trip, the first company that had
offered to fund the film went bankrupt. After this happened several more
times, Chino decided to abandon the project.
Somehow, though, it seems he was destined to make the film. In 1993, he
took part in a tour to Myanmar with former Japanese soldiers who had
survived the fighting there, as well as others who had lost loved ones
in the country during the war.
Chino said that during the tour, which retraced the journeys of the
soldiers, he felt choked with sorrow. He spent much time imagining what
it was like for the poorly fed soldiers marching through the country on
He said at one point a person whose father had died in Burma during the
war broke down and cried out: "Father! Now, you've become Burmese. It's
been 50 years since you died here." Chino said that after witnessing
this scene, he decided to try once more to make the film, regardless of
the difficulties that might arise.
He wrote the script himself, for the most part sticking to the story in
the book. He did, however, shorten Yumi's stay in Burma from two years
to two weeks.
Once the synopsis was ready, he had to to obtain permission to shoot the
film in Myanmar. He first had the script translated into the local
language, then he took it to the Myanmar authorities. With the help of
people from the country's film industry, his plan was finally approved
"My Myanmar crew told me that the authorities' approval marked the first
time a foreign film crew had been allowed to collaborate with locals to
produce a feature-length film," Chino said.
Three years later, when the crew embarked on the first stage of filming,
their activities drew much attention from the media in Myanmar.
Part of the reason for this attention was the novel. Released in 1973,
it was unusual in that it featured a Japanese girl as the heroine. It
also included insights into Japanese culture, which was the result of
two visits to Japan by the author.
"Since its publication in 1973, 'Thway' has been widely read and become
very famous in Myanmar. Almost everybody has read it," said Maung Htet
Myat Oo, a 36-year-old Tokyo-based Myanmar businessman who has been
involved in fund-raising for Chino's film project. "People in Myanmar
have been longing to see this film. It needs to be completed and
screened in Myanmar."
In the film, Yumi, played by up-and-coming Japanese actress Mifuyu
Ikeda, earnestly wants to establish a friendly relationship with her
half brother, Maung Maung. But Maung Maung, played by Min Maw
Kun--arguably the Myanmar equivalent of Japanese singer-actor Takuya
Kimura--refuses to talk to her. This is because he was bullied during
his childhood for having a Japanese father.
After the book's publication in Myanmar, the author received hundreds of
letters from readers. Many said that, thanks to the book, they were able
to overcome the anti-Japanese sentiment they had felt since the war.
In terms of completing the film, Chino said funding has been his biggest
headache. So far, he has only been able to raise about half the money
In May, though, Chino received the encouraging news that several
individuals in Japan had set up a group to raise funds for the project.
The group consists of people who have personal connections to Myanmar,
such as Myanmar expatriates living in Japan and Japanese married to
people from Myanmar.
"What's unique about my film project is that I am receiving financial
support from (Japanese) ex-servicemen too," Chino said.
In the past couple of months, money has slowly begun to flow in. Elated,
Chino has made plans to fly to Myanmar in November, once the rainy
season is over.
"We have to carry every single gadget needed for filming over there.
It's very costly," Chino said.
For the supporting cast, he says he will probably use mainly Myanmar
locals. "I'm going to need several men for the role of soldiers, and
they must be real skinny," Chino said. "These days, Japanese are rather
chubby, so I will probably opt for slender Burmese."
While working with Myanmar locals in the past, Chino came to realize
their true feelings toward Japanese. His original script included the
line, "Japan's involvement in the war contributed to the independence of
Myanmar." However, his crew argued it was local people who fought for
independence. "I should've been more considerate of the feelings of
Burmese people, as they were the ones who suffered under British
colonialism," Chino said.
"It takes extra effort to lead an international crew (rather than a
Japanese-only one)," Chino said. "But, their (the Myanmar) contribution
to the filming is indispensable. I appreciate that, and I must duly meet
The movie is to be called Thway--Chi no Kizuna (Ties in Blood). Since
most of the dialogue is in Burmese, subtitles will be provided for
screenings in Japan and other countries.
Chino said that, as a Japanese, he aims to make the film a requiem for
Japanese soldiers who died in Myanmar in World War II. The bodies of
many of those soldiers still lie buried in Myanmar soil. Equally
important is the memory of thousands of non-Japanese soldiers who died
in the war.
Chino still needs more than 100 million yen to complete the film. To
make donations, call (03) 3567-7901.
New York Times: Thailand's Leader Wants to Switch Time Zones
By WAYNE ARNOLD
BANGKOK, July 27
With his country's economy seeming to wind down by the day, Thaksin
Shinawatra, the prime minister of Thailand, and his government are
considering whether they might not hasten a return to better days by
setting the country's clocks ahead.
The novel proposition, which has attracted widespread opposition within
Thailand and among its neighbors, would move the country one hour
earlier, from seven hours before Greenwich Mean Time to eight, the same
time zone observed by Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong (as if Chicago
wanted to be on New York time).
Mr. Thaksin's argument is that jumping into the next time zone would
help financial markets in Bangkok operate in closer harmony with larger
markets in Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, attracting more
More broadly, Mr. Thaksin said he hoped the shift might help shake the
perception among investors that Thailand is behind, more in tune with
sleepier Southeast Asian economies like Myanmar. He has asked several
government bodies to examine the potential economic benefits of the
proposal. While foreign investors have been selling Thai stocks --
Bangkok's benchmark index has dropped more than 13 percent this year --
economists say they would be more impressed if the government tried to
increase flagging exports and clean up Thailand's banks. "The thing that
the government needs to focus on right now is restructuring the
nonperforming loans," said Thanomsri Fongarunrung, an economist at
Merrill Lynch in Bangkok.
The government is moving to address these issues, though not with the
kind of speedy determination investors want to see.
On Wednesday, Thailand's central bank lowered its estimated range for
the nation's economic growth this year to 2 to 2.5 percent, from an
earlier forecast of 2.5 to 4 percent. Exports in June shrank 0.75
percent from the level of the same month a year ago.
Mr. Thaksin's time-zone proposal is not the first of his ideas to have
raised eyebrows. In May, he fired his central bank governor for defying
a call to raise interest rates and prevent the nation's currency, the
baht, from falling further. Mr. Thaksin said a higher baht rewarded
depositors and promoted consumer spending. Economists said it would
squelch economic growth further.
Some economists have also questioned the economic wisdom of Mr.
Thaksin's plan to hand over roughly $1.5 billion to the nation's
villages and be lenient with farmers on about $1.6 billion in interest
payments. In April, Mr. Thaksin announced a discovery he said could pay
off Thailand's mounting national debt: a hidden treasure left by fleeing
Japanese troops in a cave after World War II. The cave turned up empty.
Changing the time in Thailand would put it an hour ahead of its
neighbors to the east -- Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Thailand's official
timekeeper has opposed the plan, saying it would disrupt lives
There are stranger policies on time. China's 1.2 billion people, for
instance, live in a single time zone, from Manchuria to the Himalayas.
And, of course, the United States changes its time twice every year.
Whether or not Mr. Thaksin can change the country's time, the clock may
be ticking for him personally. The country's constitutional court is due
to rule early next month on whether the prime minister is guilty of
financial wrongdoing. If it does, it could signal the end of Mr.
The Nation: Burma must join a regional effort
July 30, 2001
There is no possibility of stopping the drug traffickers without
determined and continuing international co-operation, first of all
within the region. Each country in this area faces serious problems of
drug abuse and trafficking. The drug merchants have been winning in
recent years by exploiting inexperience, inaction and incompetence along
the borders. The visit of China's top policeman and security official
could help to change that.
There are strong signs that the countries involved and endangered by the
drug lords may have had enough. Thailand has convinced the United States
to help train our often out-gunned and out-manoeuvred border forces. The
government of Laos has slowly extended its concern and enforcement, and
continues to cut back opium production. Even Cambodia has asked for help
in combatting the drug traffickers.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has made combatting drugs a personal
priority. Laws against money laundering, unexplained wealth and immoral
banking procedures are beginning to take hold.
There are other positive signs. And the May visit to Thailand by Chinese
Premier Zhu Rongji could have been a turning point. It led directly to
last week's week-long visit by Public Security Minister Jia Chunwang.
His presence in Bangkok and in the Golden Triangle area was a strong
sign that Beijing intends to join the regional fight against the drug
China has been engaged for a decade in fighting drug traffickers, and
has co-operated with other countries. But Beijing has shied away from
multilateral action. Mr Zhu changed that policy when he set up the
four-nation battle against drugs. That is shaping up as a series of
major policy meetings, beginning late next month and climaxing with a
full summit in Yunnan. Mr Jia clearly was briefing himself on the
situation, with a personal tour of the drug-producing region, including
interviews with senior Thai officials.
The major question in everybody's mind must be Burma. China holds more
influence with the Rangoon dictatorship than any government. Beijing
obviously will be putting pressure on Burma in coming weeks and months
to change its ways and co-operate. As long as Rangoon continues to
provide a safe haven for drug traffickers and money launderers, the
region will continue to bear the consequences.
No matter how much it goes against China's policy of non-interference
with other regimes, Beijing must be willing to press Rangoon hard. China
is in the midst of a drug-abuse epidemic in the border province of
Yunnan. That has led directly to a second and arguably more fearful
epidemic of HIV and Aids. As in Thailand, the flood of drugs into China
has created a major security threat.
The drug cartel of the United Wa State Army is prospering and expanding.
Its new alliance with the Hong Kong-based 14K triad has begun shipping
heroin out of the Mong Yawn area in massive amounts. The seizure on July
17 of 74kg of Wa-14K heroin was, as usual, the tip of the iceberg. The
Chinese syndicates are fighting turf wars in Bangkok, endangering our
Time will tell, but Beijing appears determined to step up the fight
against the drug traffickers through regional co-operation. China has
been slow to join such regional efforts. That now appears to be
changing, at least in fighting drugs and cross-border crime. Such an
effort is overdue. As Mr Thaksin told Mr Jia during his visit, each
country now realises drug trafficking undermines development.
Time is extremely short, but Burma must join this regional effort.
Officials have begun discussing the drug summit, and security ministers
will meet in Beijing to hammer out policy within the month. It will be
obvious if Burma drags its feet.
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