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BurmaNet News: August 12, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
August 12, 2001 Issue # 1863
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
NOTED IN PASSING: ?Myanmar is almost bankrupt; its economic
mismanagement is unrivaled in the region.?
Roger Mitton, See Asiaweek : The arms deals; Myanmar and Thailand go
shopping Ours are bigger and better than yours
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Burma Media Association: More NLD Offices Allowed to Reopen
*Shan Herald Agency for News: Another journalist blacklisted
*Burma Courier: Moneyline
*Burma Courier: Marubeni Finances Komatsu Fleet for Dam Construction
*Burma Courier: Cement and Fertilizer Stats Sign of Shifting Priorities
*Asiaweek : The arms deals; Myanmar and Thailand go shopping Ours are
bigger and better than yours
*India Today: Maritime Command: Isles of Influence
*Xinhua: Sub-Regional Senior Officials Meeting on Drug Control Ends in
*AP: Myanmar: Syndicates shift from heroin to amphetamine production
*Deutsche Presse-Agentur: Indonesian President Megawati to visit Myanmar
*The Bangkok Post: Talks on new site to replace overcrowded Tham Hin
*Xinhua: Indian Publication Hails Progress in Relations With Myanmar
*Bangkok Post: Second friendship bridge to be built in Mae Sai
*BurmaNet: Spare an old laptop?
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Burma Media Association: More NLD Offices Allowed to Reopen
By Tin Maung Htoo
August 10, 2001
More regional NLD offices were allowed to reopen in the country's States
and Divisions in the second week of last month. Deputy Chief of Military
Intelligence Col. Than Htun came over to the NLD Headquarters on July 13
and delivered a message to NLD officials, according to reports obtained
BMA learned however that there have been no sign of additional offices
reopened so far. And NLD officials are reported to have put the offer
on hold with the condition, asking Col. Than Htun to issue an official
statement regarding the permission but he refused to do so, and instead
suggested that the rest of NLD offices reopened based on "mutual
Within last two months starting from the end of June this year, 18
township offices were intermittently reopened in Rangoon Division after
being closed down for several months. This is said to be a result of
ongoing "reconciliation process" in the country after having a wide
range of political stalemates.
In the meanwhile, BMA noticed that the regime notably displays a number
of photos taken from the reopening ceremonies of NLD offices on their
official web site, with the heading of "Re-opening of NLD Offices in
Yangoon Allowed by Local Authorities." However, whether the official
announcement was made in public is unclear when those previous offices
were allowed to reopen in Rangoon jurisdiction.
But some observers said this is unscrupulous attempt to degrade the
appearance and strength of NLD as a systematic method to unveil small
number attendance in each reopening ceremony in order to compare with
huge attendance in government-sponsored ceremonies or gatherings.
Shan Herald Agency for News: Another journalist blacklisted
August 10, 2001
A border watcher reported yesterday that George Scott, who wrote
"fabrications" in The Weekend Australian newspaper, has been put on the
blacklist since 3 August.
Burma Courier: Moneyline
August 5-11, 2001
Kyat, Aug 6: 680 [to the dollar];
Kyat, July 30: 680;
Change this year: -36.76%
FEC [Foreign Exchange Certificate], Aug 8: 565;
FEC, Aug 2: 550;
Change since July 21: - 2.72%
Burma Courier: Marubeni Finances Komatsu Fleet for Dam Construction
August 5-11, 2001
RANGOON - Burma's national power company, MEPE, has taken delivery of a
US$3 million fleet of dump trucks for excavation work at the Kunchaung
dam project site near Pyu about 140 miles north of Rangoon.
The purchase of the 12 Komatsu trucks, which can carry loads up to 25
metric tons was financed by the Japanese trading company Marubeni.
The Myanmar Times reports that the giant dumpsters represent the first
in a series of deals with state corporations are working out with
Komatsu which will result in the importation of 135 machines, including
hydraulic excavators, dump trucks and earth graders.
The deals represented a big jump in sales for Komatsu, which sold only
twenty machines in the country last year. The Japanese firm has been a
leading supplier of heavy vehicles since 1995, accounting for 600
The Kunchaung dam and hydro electric project, seven miles southeast of
Pyu, is one of a cluster of four in the Sittaung river basin announced
last January. It will be a joint purpose facility capable of
irrigating 110,000 acres when completed and of providing water power for
generating 60 MW of electricity.
Burma Courier: Cement and Fertilizer Stats Sign of Shifting Priorities
Based on news reports from Xinhua: Updated to Aug 9, 2001
RANGOON - Production figures released this week by Myanmar's Central
Statistical Organization for two key commodities indicate a shift in
priorities in the use of dwindling supplies of natural gas produced at
inland well sites.
According to the stats bureau, the country produced 120,000 tons of
cement in the first quarter of this year, up by 27% over the same period
of 2000. Production of cement was also up last year to just below the
400,000-ton mark. Present indications are that cement production will
continue to recover and almost certainly move far beyond levels reached
in the mid-nineties, if adequate power and fuel supplies can be assured.
Cement imports were also up in the first quarter by more than 20% in
comparison with the corresponding period of 2000, indicating higher
demand for projects such as roads, bridges and dams and a gradual change
for the better in the construction industry.
The recovery in national production levels is due in part to the
completion of repairs of the kilns at state-owned cement plants in
Thayet and Kyangin townships. At least three large cement factories are
currently under construction, two plants in Kyaukse township, 500 and
400-ton a day plants being built a Chinese companies for the state-owned
Myanma Ceramics Inudstries and the military holding company, UMEHL
respectively. A huge extension of MCI's cement plant at Myaing-gale
across from Hpa'an is also underway.
Increased cement and falling natural gas production from inland wells
have apparently cut back on the amount of urea fertilizer the country's
three plants have been able to manufacture.
According to the stats bureau, only 34,527 tons of chemical fertilizer
were manufactured in the first quarter of this year, a reduction of 18%
compared with the same period of 2000,
Estimates vary, but the country is said to need between 6-800,000 tons
of chemical fertilizer annually, with the clear implication that
production is less than a quarter of the demand to cover basic needs.
Natural gas production from inland fields, important for its use as
feedstock in urea manufacture or as a fuel for cement kilns, has been
moving steadily downward by about 10% per annum over the last few years.
First quarter stats for this year show the trend continuing.
Asiaweek : The arms deals; Myanmar and Thailand go shopping Ours are
bigger and better than yours
August 10, 2001
In a game of tit-for-tat, two of Southeast Asia's testiest neighbors
have gone on an arms-buying spree. Last September, Thailand bought a
squadron of used F-16 fighters from the U.S. for $ 130 million. (It
couldn't afford the more sophisticated F-18s.) The planes were used to
buzz Myanmar troops during a border tiff earlier this year. Soon after,
Myanmar ordered 12 MiG-29 fighters (below) from Russia, for $ 150
million. Now Bangkok has revealed it's getting eight advanced air-to-air
missiles from the U.S. for $ 7 million. Wait for Myanmar to announce it
will buy similar missiles from Moscow.
What's behind the arms race?
Despite warming relations between the two nations, memories of their
conflicts are still vivid and regularly invoked in the media. So they
will continue to be on guard even as trade ties strengthen. But the
buying sprees also reflect the obsession of military men the world over:
boys love their toys. The military in both nations, as in much of the
rest of the region, still retain huge clout. In Yangon, of course, it
rules the country. But other nations have been buying up big: Indonesia
has F-16s and wants Russian Su-30 fighter-bombers; Malaysia has F-18s
and MiG-29s and now wants a submarine; Singapore outdoes them all with a
200-strong fleet including some of the world's most advanced jets.
What's Russia's interest?
It's not just the money. Moscow wants to consolidate its ties with the
Myanmar military and counter the influence of China, Singapore and
Israel, which also supply arms. Myanmar recently sent 300 military
personnel to Moscow for training in flying and maintaining the MiGs and
in rocket technology.
Can Myanmar afford it?
Myanmar is almost bankrupt; its economic mismanagement is unrivaled in
the region. But it is resource rich. Sales to Thailand of natural gas
alone will cover the cost of the Russian jets.
India Today: Maritime Command: Isles of Influence
August 13, 2001
India sets up a major command in Andaman and Nicobar Islands in an
effort to monitor strategic trade routes, protect its waters and thwart
pirates and gun-runners
After the 1857 War of Independence, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
served as a convict settlement colony for the British Raj. Spread over
an area of 8,325 sq km in the Bay of Bengal, these island territories
have been known for exotic turtles and virgin tropical forests. A tiny
and remote speck on the vast Indian canvas. But that's about to change.
The islands may soon become a symbol of Delhi's bid for the global stage
with the Government clearing the decks for a tri-service military
command at Port Blair.
After the green signal from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the
Defence Ministry last month cleared the appointment of the first
commander-in-chief and other senior staff appointments of the Andaman
and Nicobar Command (ANC). The command, which will be headed by the
three-services in rotation, will function under the to-be-appointed
chief of defence staff. It will be directly responsible for military
operations in the Andaman and Nicobar theatre.
Although envisaged as a maritime surveillance command, its significance
lies in its location. The island territories sit at the mouth of the
Malacca Straits, which is the second-busiest sea lane of communication
(SLOC) in the world. Most of the ships approach the straits through the
10 Degree Channel, which bisects the Andaman Islands and the Great
Nicobar Islands. Indira Point, the southernmost tip of India, is
actually separated by the Great Channel from Indonesia's strife-torn
Banda Aceh territory. This means that by setting up the ANC, India will
now have the capacity to protect and monitor sea traffic bound for the
South China Sea. According to a US National Defense University study,
more than 42.4 per cent (around $200 billion or Rs 9,20,000 crore) of
Japan's and 21.8 per cent (in excess of $100 billion) of China's exports
to the Gulf and Europe pass through the Malacca Straits. The sea lanes
are vital for India's energy security as it is also looking for oil and
gas supplies from Myanmar and Vietnam. The importance of the Malacca
Straits, which is roughly 500 miles long, 72 ft deep and 1.5 miles wide
towards its eastern end, can be gauged from the fact that the cost of
India's iron ore export to Japan will go up by 4 per cent if this
channel is blocked. With at least one crude-oil tanker passing through
these straits every 30 minutes, the hike in the freight charges will be
enormous in the worst-case scenario. By creating an infrastructure for
deployment of larger forces at Port Blair, Delhi is sending a signal
that its area of interests extends up to the Malacca Straits.
Besides the force projection, at the heart of the ANC creation is
perhaps the Indian intention to secure the Bay of Bengal in the backdrop
of the evolving security scenario in south Asia. The Andaman Sea has
become a cause of concern for Delhi with gun-runners, narco-traffickers
and pirates operating with impunity. Incidents of piracy in the South
China Sea are on the rise and gun-runners use the Andaman Sea to supply
arms to insurgents in north-east India via Myanmar and Bangladesh.
However, Vice-Admiral P.S. Das, former head of the Eastern Naval Command
and a member of the task force on Higher Defence Management, says the
island territories are India's sea frontiers. The ANC gives the country
the opportunity to defend well away from our coastline. According to
him, the ANC has been created as there was a need to maintain
self-sufficient forces under a unified command. "It is a facility to
extend India's reconnaissance and surveillance reach," he says.
During the April visit of Defence Minister Jaswant Singh to the
Pentagon, India conveyed to Washington that its area of strategic
interests stretched from the Persian Gulf to the mouth of the South
According to the Indian plans, the first ANC commander will be a
vice-admiral from Naval Headquarters. He will be assisted by a two-star
officer from the army, who will function as the chief of staff to the
ANC. The navy has the largest presence in the island territories with 14
large ships, including those used for amphibious operations, operating
out of the Port Blair harbour. It is also flying surveillance missions
using the IL-38s and the Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft from its
airport at Campbell Bay in the Nicobar Islands.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) proposes to deploy a fighter squadron and
mi-8 or mi-17 helicopter unit for logistics and troop re-deployment
purposes at its base in Car Nicobar. The length of the runways at the
Port Blair and the Car Nicobar airports have been increased to allow
fighter operations. It is learnt that fighter practice "runs" will take
place as soon as the ANC commander is appointed by the Government. The
ANC command will also have additional land forces. At present, there is
a brigade-level (around 3,500 men) formation to man the island
territories. It is proposed that this number be increased to nearly
division level (around 8,000 men) in the coming years. But it is the
surveillance capabilities that will give the ANC its teeth.
Already a state-of-the-art Thomson-CSF air surveillance radar with a
range of 200 nautical miles has been installed by the Indian Navy to
monitor traffic north of the Landfall Islands. This is significant as
the radar location is near Myanmar's Coco Islands. Intelligence inputs
indicate that the Great Coco Islands have a radar base-built with
Chinese help-with a 50 m high antenna since 1992. It is at Coco that the
Chinese are reportedly picking electronic intelligence from missile
tests at Chandipur-on-Sea and the Defence Research and Development
Laboratory in Hyderabad.
India has aworrisome neighbour to its west. By setting up the ANC, it
seeks to reduce the likelihood of surprises on its eastern flank.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Provides India leverage over the energy security of south Asia.
Allows forward deployment of forces to protect Indian coastline.
Checks arms and drugs from reaching Indian shores.
Used by gun-runners and narco-traffickers to smuggle arms and drugs into
Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh. The final destination is India's North-east.
As many as 114 supertankers carrying 9.5 billion oil barrels for south
Asian markets traverse this route.
With 52 per cent of world cargo at stake, the straits are a happy
hunting ground for pirates.
Xinhua: Sub-Regional Senior Officials Meeting on Drug Control Ends in
YANGON, August 11 (Xinhua) -- The two-day Senior Officials Meeting among
China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand to enhance cooperation for control and
suppression of narcotic drugs in the sub-region ended here Saturday.
This is the first meeting of its kind of the four countries hosted by
Myanmar. During the meeting, the delegates from the four nations
discussed cooperation of drug eradication, supply reduction and demand
The meeting passed in principle the "Beijing Declaration" and the "Press
Release" to be issued at the Ministerial Meeting to be held in China and
the agenda of the Ministerial Meeting. The initiation of the
four-country meeting at three levels -- senior officials meeting,
ministerial meeting and meeting of the heads of states -- was raised by
Myanmar and Thailand during Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's
visit to Yangon in June and the present meeting was agreed upon during
Myanmar Foreign Minister U Win Aung's visit to Bangkok later in the
month. The senior officials meeting will be followed by a ministerial
meeting on 28 August in Beijing. China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand and
the United Nations Drug Control Program are founding members of the 1993
Memorandum of Understanding signed in New York for drug control in the
sub- region, the membership of which was later enlarged to include
Cambodia and Vietnam in 1995.
AP: Myanmar: Syndicates shift from heroin to amphetamine production
August 10, 2001
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ A senior Myanmar official said anti-drugs
cooperation with China, Laos and Thailand was forcing international drug
syndicates to abandon heroin production along their common borders and
make amphetamines instead.
Home Minister Col. Tin Hlaing said traffickers were shifting base from
the Golden Triangle, the mountainous opium-growing region where the
borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, to along the Mekong River.
Myanmar is also known as Burma.
He made the comments in an opening address to a two-day meeting in
Yangon of senior anti-narcotics officials from China, Laos, Myanmar and
They are preparing for a ministerial meeting between the four countries
on drug control cooperation, to be held in Beijing at the end of this
The Mekong threads from China, through all three countries, until it
enters the South China Sea from Vietnam in the south.
Myanmar is the world's largest source of opium, the raw material for
heroin. In recent years, producers have diversified into production of
synthetic drugs like amphetamines, which are easier to produce, have a
bigger market and offer fatter profits.
Thailand, which has a huge problem with amphetamine addiction, has
accused Myanmar of dragging its feet in its counter-drugs efforts,
failing to crackdown on ethnic armies it says produce the drugs in
Myanmar's military regime claims it does all the suppression it can
Tin Hlaing said that the bulk of the illegal stimulant tablets
manufactured at the borders of the four countries were trafficked across
borders to China and Thailand.
He said that setting up the four-country cooperation was agreed in
principle at a visit to Myanmar by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra in June.
That visit was aimed at patching up bilateral relations, which had been
strained by their disagreements over the drug trade.
Tin Hlaing reiterated the need for cooperation and assistance from the
international community, which he said should take an active role in the
fight against drugs as the efforts of the four countries alone could not
overcome the problem.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur: Indonesian President Megawati to visit Myanmar
August 13, 2001
Newly appointed Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri will pay a
one-day visit to Myanmar (Burma) later this month, diplomatic sources
said on Saturday.
Megawati, who on Thursday named her cabinet, has accepted the invitation
of Myanmar's junta leader Senior General Than Shwe to visit the country
on August 24, according to Yangon (Rangoon) based diplomats.
She will lunch with Than Shwe, discuss matters of common interest and
depart on the same day.
Her predecessor, the recently ousted Abdurrahman Wahid, also visited
Myanmar a few weeks after he became president on November 7, 1999.
Myanmar became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) in July, 1997, despite opposition from the United States of
America and the European Union which continue to condemn the ruling
regime for its poor human rights record and failure to impliment
The Bangkok Post: Talks on new site to replace overcrowded Tham Hin
Burmese residing in Unhealthy conditions
August 12, 2001
Saritdet Marukatat and Bhanravee Tansubhapol
The National Security Council will hold talks on finding a new home for
Burmese refugees at the overcrowded and health-threatened Tham Hin camp
A high-level official said a meeting would take views on whether there
was a need for the relocation.
Thailand has been asked to find a new place for refugees who live in
crowded conditions and amid disease.
Malaria, diarrhoea and other sanitary problems are common.
The camp, which sits in the valley about 20km from the district town of
Suan Phung and the same distance from the Thai-Burmese border, handles
almost 8,250 refugees, says the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees. Most are Karen fleeing suppression and fighting inside Burma.
UnHCR chief Sadako Ogata criticised conditions on a visit last year. She
urged expansion but the government ruled out the option because the
compound was surrounded by reserved areas. The 15-member European Union
backed relocation. Its officials met NSC secretary-general Kachadpai
Burusapatana last month about deteriorating situations at the camp.
Thai agencies remain divided. Some say a new, better home could attract
more Burmese incomers and trigger confrontations with local villagers.
"We should not use Western standards such as those from the EU as a
yardstick", the NSC official said, pointing to Thais living nearby whose
lives were not better off. Moving the camp could cause trouble, he said.
But another official overseeing the camp acknowledged the connection
between overcrowding and health problems. "When the camp is jammed, the
environment is vulnerable to health deterioration," he said.
A new home would give refugees more breathing space and a better chance
of improved health. Officials had found a possible site, a deserted rice
field in the same district.
Officials would have an easier time at that site controlling movements
of refugees than at Ban Tham Hin, where they had trouble keeping the
Burmese in check, he said.
Xinhua: Indian Publication Hails Progress in Relations With Myanmar
YANGON, August 10 (Xinhua) -- There has been significant progress made
in recent years in the bilateral relations between India and Myanmar
with all-round intensification of exchanges in a wide range of sectors
-- political, economic, commercial, cultural, scientific and technical,
and defense. The Indian News Annual 2001, lately published by the Indian
Embassy here, attributed the encouraging development of their bilateral
relations mainly to the visit to India by General Maung Aye,
ice-chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)
and deputy commander-in-chief of the Defense Forces and
Commander-in-Chief of the Army, in November last year, and that to
Myanmar by Jaswant Singh, Indian External Affairs Minister, in February
On the two countries' military cooperation, the Indian publication said
the defense forces of India and Myanmar have enjoyed close and friendly
relations since the independence of the two countries with regular
exchange of visits of defense chiefs of the two countries and a
tradition of regular cross-border meetings between armed forces units
stationed at the common border.
On the India-Myanmar economic relations, it said since the establishment
of diplomatic relations between the two countries, India has extended to
Myanmar a loan of 400 million rupees (about 8.8 million U.S. dollars)
and a credit line of 25 million dollars. In addition, India has also
spent 1 billion rupees (about 22 million dollars), building for Myanmar
a 160-kilometer-long Tamu- Kalewa highway in the two countries' border
areas. Meanwhile, Myanmar and India have also signed the trade
agreement, air transport agreement, border trade agreement, science and
Specifically with regard to the India-Myanmar trade relations, the news
annual said India is Myanmar's largest export market today, taking over
80 percent of the country's exports of beans and pulses, timber, and
also a significant quantity of gems. While Myanmar's exports to India in
1999-2000 were 128 million dollars, India's exports to Myanmar have been
rising steadily in recent years from 5.9 million dollars in 1990-91 to
68.6 million dollars in 1999-2000. Myanmar and India established
diplomatic relations on January 4, 1948, signing a Treaty of Friendship
on July 7, 1951 and a Boundary Agreement on March 10, 1967.
Bangkok Post: Second friendship bridge to be built in Mae Sai
August 11, 2001.
Phuket meeting to discuss fishery rules
Thailand and Burma have agreed to discuss fishery rules and to build a
second bridge linking Mae Sai and Tachilek, Foreign Minister Surakiart
Sathirathai said yesterday.
Mr Surakiart and his Burmese counterpart Win Aung discussed the issues
during a tripartite lunch in Tachilek that was joined by Somsavat
Lengsavad, the Lao foreign minister.
Mr Win Aung also offered to host, in Mandalay, the first discussion with
Thailand and India of a proposed road linking the three countries.
The Burmese minister proposed another road link between Laos, Thailand,
Burma and India, according to Bounkeut Sangsomsak, the Lao deputy
In order to sustain the tripartite forum, Laos, which had initiated the
lunch meeting in Tachilek, might also invite Mr Surakiart to a similar
gathering after a Lao-Burma Joint Commission meeting in Huayxay,
northern Laos, at the end of this year, Mr Bounkeut added.
The Thai and Lao ministers had co-chaired meetings of their joint
commission and arbitration committee before crossing the border to lunch
with their Burmese counterpart in Tachilek. Mr Surakiart said the
question of fishery rules would be on the agenda of the Thai-Burma Joint
Commission due to take place in Phuket early next month. It would be the
first formal discussion of the issue since Burma banned Thai fishermen
from its waters following the storming of the Burmese embassy in Bangkok
by exiles in October 1999.
The joint commission would also touch on the Thai-Burma-India road link
in preparation for the later meeting in Mandalay.
The second Mae Sai-Tachilek bridge would give Thailand a new access to
South China's market of 42 million people through northern Burma, Mr
Surakiart noted. Thailand and Laos earlier agreed to develop a road from
Chieng Khong to Huayxay and Luang Namtha to South China.
The new Mae Sai-Tachilek bridge, which would take about two years to
build, would be bigger, and more suited to accommodate heavy trucks than
the existing one, which would then be used for smaller vehicles and
pedestrians, Mr Surakiart said.
Burma was currently working on the road, due to be completed in March,
from Tachilek to Kengtung in northern Burma that would link up with
Jinghong, in China's southern Yunnan province, he added. The three
ministers did not discuss drug co-operation as their senior officials
and colleagues from China were currently meeting in Rangoon on the
matter, he said. Their ministers would meet in Beijing later this month,
and in Brunei in November to pave the way for the four-country drug
summit in Beijing close to yearend.
The Thai and Lao ministers agreed in Chiang Rai that a committee set up
to arbitrate trade and investment conflicts would not interfere in the
legal procedures of either countries.
Mr Surakiart said the committee would not have the same powers as the
courts of law or tribunals but its opinions and recommendations would
"carry weight and reliability."The meeting also set up two subcommittees
to be respectively headed by Prachuab Chaiyasarn, Trade Representative,
and the Lao deputy foreign minister.
Thailand had submitted 34 cases to the committee, most of which
concerned violations of investment rules in Laos. Laos was expected to
submit about 20 cases.
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