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BurmaNet News: October 10, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
October 10, 2001 Issue # 1896
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AFP: Major Muslim Mosques Under Close Surveillance in Burma
*AFP: UN rights envoy to see Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
*Irrawaddy: Burma Tries To Curves Flow
*Bangkok Post: Walkbridge backed for casino trade
*Irrawaddy: Burma Tries To Curves Flow
*AFP: Gem merchants gather in Myanmar
*Kyodo: Tanaka welcomes release of political prisoners in Myanmar
*Bangkok Post: Thousands of evicted Shan to ask Thaksin for refugee
*Irrawaddy: Burmese Language Training Continues
*Irrawaddy: NSC Meeting Held in Mae Sot
*Narinjara News: Burmese Prisoners at Bangladesh Jail in uncertainty
*The Daily Yomiuri (Japan): Letter-- to Be less Democratic Means less
*Irrawaddy: Letter--On Open Societies
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AFP: Major Muslim Mosques Under Close Surveillance in Burma
YANGON, Oct 9 (AFP) -- Classes at the US-sponsored international school
in Yangon have been suspended and security at sensitive embassies has
been stepped up in the wake of the US-led attacks on Afghanistan,
sources said Tuesday. A heavy security presence has been laid out around
the US, British and Israeli embassies and diplomatic residences, over
and above precautions taken after the September 11 terrorist assault on
New York and Washington. The stretch of Merchant Street in front of the
US embassy in downtown Yangon has been off-limits to traffic since
Monday night and similar measures have been introduced at the British
and Australian embassies on Strand Road. The Yangon International School
has told its students not to attend classes until further notice, school
sources told AFP. The major Muslim mosques in predominantly Buddhist
Myanmar are under close surveillance, other reliable sources said.
AFP: UN rights envoy to see Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
YANGON, Oct 10 (AFP) - UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro is
expected to see democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and visit northern
Shan state during his 12-day mission to Myanmar, official sources said
Pinheiro's itinerary is being kept under wraps, but he is likely to be
interested in investigating zones for villagers displaced by border
fighting, and visiting ethnic political leaders.
He is also expected to make a side-trip to the ancient capital of
After his arrival in Yangon Tuesday, the Brazilian academic met with
Home Minister Tin Hlaing and is due to see Chief Justice Aung Toe and
Attorney General Tha Tun Wednesday.
The mission is the second by Pinheiro, who in April became the first UN
human rights envoy to be given permission to travel to Myanmar in five
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the results of the April trip,
and the working relationship was cemented Monday when the junta released
five top political prisoners to mark Pinheiro's arrival.
The releases, described as a "goodwill gesture by the government",
bring to 174 the number of opposition National League for Democracy
(NLD) members freed this year.
During his first Pinheiro was also allowed to see Aung San Suu Kyi, who
has been under house arrest for the past year while taking part in
landmark talks with the junta.
After his historic first visit, Pinheiro spoke of an atmosphere of
"cautious optimism" for possible change in the country.
"Every person that I met conveyed to me this impression, the government
gave me an impression of respect for the opposition," he said.
Irrawaddy: Burma Tries To Curves Flow
By Maung Maung Oo
October 9, 2001?Rangoon?s latest attempt at curving the flow of illegal
migrants heading to Thailand is bad news for thousands of Burmese
nationals who rely on Thailand?s job market. A new law enacted on
October 5 states anyone caught illegally crossing into Thailand from
Burma faces a fine or a mandatory prison sentence, according to
Irrawaddy sources in Kawthaung, a Burmese border-town opposite Ranong in
On October 5, the Tenasserim Division?s General Administration
Department notified all police stations, immigration departments and
township-level authorities of the new law. The number of migrant workers
crossing into Thailand has been increasing substantially in recent
months as the October 13 deadline for obtaining a legal work permit
Burmese analysts see the new law as an attempt by the Burmese government
to cooperate with Thai authorities in reducing the flow of illegal
immigrants into Thailand, a problem that has plagued Thailand for
Sentencing under the law is divided into three sections depending on
one?s age and residence. Anyone under thirty-five years of age living in
Kawthaung faces one-and-a-half years in prison or a 15,000-kyat fine and
anyone over thirty-five years of age faces two-years in prison or a
20,000-kyat fine. The last section is for all Burmese nationals living
outside of Kawthaung, if apprehended they face a three-year prison
sentence or a 30,000-kyat fine.
Also any residents of Kawthaung caught housing individuals who are
trying to illegally enter Thailand will be subjected to the same
The law states that Township-level courts must hand down judgements
within twenty-four hours of the individual arrest. If the fines can be
paid the subjects will reportedly be returned to their homes and have
their movements restricted, according to sources familiar with the law.
Bangkok Post: Walkbridge backed for casino trade
Gambling qualms could frustrate plan
Thai businessmen are pushing for a walkbridge across the Ruak River
linking Burma to Chiang Saen district to benefit a hotel and casino
complex, says an MP.
Thai Rak Thai MP for Chiang Rai Sarit Ung-apinan said Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt,
first secretary of Burma's State Peace and Development Council, had
proposed the bridge linking the Golden Triangle to Chiang Saen.
Thai businessmen affiliated with the Golden Triangle & Paradise Resort
Hotel in Burma opposite Ban Sob Ruak had offered to fund the
The walkway needed approval from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the
National Security Council and other agencies.
Mr Sarit said he would sound out local opinion and he was against any
project which supported gambling.
Last month, then-Chiang Rai governor Samrerng Boonyopakorn presented
Burmese authorities with a proposal to upgrade Ban Sob Ruak border
crossing as a permanent checkpoint.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Transport Minister
Wan Muhamad Nor Matha met Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt in Tachilek of Burma. They
also inspected the site of the second Mae Sai-Tachilek Bridge.
AFP: Gem merchants gather in Myanmar
YANGON, Oct 9 (AFP) - Some 260 foreign gem merchants gathered in the
Myanmar capital this week to offer jade, pearls and gems worth more than
30.5 million dollars, the state-run media said.
After three days of viewings, the merchandise which includes 1,375 lots
of jade, 329 lots of gems and 133 lots of pearls will be put on sale
from Wednesday, organisers said.
The merchants represent 98 gem houses from nine countries as well as a
large contingent of local gem traders, the state press said.
Kyodo: Tanaka welcomes release of political prisoners in Myanmar
TOKYO, Oct. 10, Kyodo - Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka said Tuesday she
welcomes the release the same day of five more political prisoners by
Myanmar's military junta.
''The Myanmar government has been working positively on the release of
political prisoners, including those elected to parliament in 1990, and
I welcome the fact that the number of those freed have reached a
considerable figure,'' Tanaka said in a statement.
Tuesday's release brings to 174 the number of political prisoners
affiliated with the National League for Democracy (NLD) who have been
freed since January.
Tanaka said Japan will ''fully support'' the process of dialogue and
trust-building between the junta and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi which
is expected to lead to political stability and eventual democratization
Bangkok Post: Thousands of evicted Shan to ask Thaksin for refugee
Monk says they are trapped along border
More than 300,000 Shan who claimed to have been evicted from Burma and
fled into Thailand between 1996-1998 are seeking refugee status.
A source said representatives of Shan people seeking refuge in
Thailand's border areas would submit a letter to the prime minister
requesting refugee status.
The National Security Council has yet to decide whether to recognise the
group as refugees, though the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees has agreed to welcome the Shan to refugee camps, the source
Phra Khru Inta Inthawaro, abbot of Wat Pa Pao in Chiang Mai who has long
helped Shan immigrants, said more than 300,000 Shan people were living
harsh lives along the border because they could not return to Burma and
were considered illegal immigrants.
These people needed permission from the government to seek refuge in
Thailand and would be willing to go home when the situation returned to
normal, the monk said.
``It was tragic that they had to flee into the country after being
suppressed by armed troops who claimed to be Burmese soldiers and came
to seize their assets, houses and farmland.
``Many who resisted were killed and several hundred others died while
escaping. In most cases, the soldiers set fire to their homes and
evicted them from the villages,'' he said.
Phra Khru Inta said many of the Shan immigrants were living in border
areas and working as labourers.
About 10,000 others were stranded along the border opposite Chiang Rai,
Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son since they were not allowed to enter
Jai Nuan, a Shan, said many Shan immigrants, who earned their living as
workers in fruit orchards in border areas of Fang district, risked
arrest since their employers did not register them as foreign labour.
``We do not want to violate Thai law but it can't be helped. Hundreds of
women have become prostitutes and hundreds of teenagers have to work for
drug dealers in border areas. We need help from the Thaksin government
and Thais for humanitarian reasons,'' Jai Nuan said.
Irrawaddy: Burmese Language Training Continues
By Zarny Win
October 9, 2001?Thai Prison officials began a four-month Burmese
language course this week in the Thai-Burma border-town of Mae Sot in
order to communicate with the growing number of Burmese prisoners. There
are more than 1,400 prisoners incarcerated in Mae Sot, which is located
in Tak province, and roughly half of them are Burmese.
Thai prison officials in Mae Sot receive Burmese language training
"According to our government's policy, government employees working in
border areas must learn the language of the neighboring countries," said
Tanachai Pyayoomsa Wat, a high-ranking prison official in Mae Sot. "If
we know their language, we can solve their problems much easier."
The Burmese prison population has been on the rise in border areas due
in part to a renewed police crackdown against Burmese nationals living
and working illegally in Thailand. There is estimated to be three
million Burmese in Thailand.
Thai officials from throughout Tak province also recently finished a
three-month Burmese language course to better deal with the areas
swelling migrant worker population. The language course was the first of
its kind and was attended by forty officials from a variety of
departments including Immigration, Customs and Transportation.
Winmit Yosalawin, the Burmese language teacher in charge, said that
trainees are not only learning to speak but to also read and write.
According to officials taking the course, they are also learning about
the Burmese culture so they can better understand Burmese people and in
turn have better relations.
Tak province is home to thousands of Burmese migrant workers and
businessmen as well as a large number of Burmese pro-democracy
supporters living in exi
Irrawaddy: NSC Meeting Held in Mae Sot
By Ko Thet and Chan Mya Aye
October 9, 2001--The secretary general of Thailand?s National Security
Council (NSC) met with regional authorities in the Thai-Burma border
town of Mae Sot last week to discuss the status of Burmese migrants and
refugees living in the area, according to a source who attended the
The meeting, which took place on Oct 4, was held to discuss progress in
implementing a recently introduced program that would allow Burmese
migrants to work legally in Thailand if they or their employers paid a
registration fee. Also on the agenda were the roughly 120,000 refugees
from Burma housed in camps along the border.
"Before starting this program, we expected that at least 500,000 migrant
workers would have registered by now. But after ten days, only about
180,000 have applied for work permits," the NSC secretary general,
Khajadpai Buruspatana, was quoted as saying.
Khajadpai also said that Burma?s ruling State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC) had pledged to assist Thailand in its efforts to control
the migrant worker population. "When (SPDC Secretary One) Lt-Gen Khin
Nyunt was in Bangkok last month, he agreed to co-operate in resolving
the Burmese migrant worker problem, but the details will be worked out
later," he said.
Concerning the large number of refugees currently sheltering on Thai
soil, Khajadpai said that Thailand had been taking care of over 100,000
refugees from Burma for fifteen years, but like Cambodian and Laotian
refugees before them, they would eventually have to go back home.
Padoh Mahn Sha
However, Padoh Mahn Sha, the general secretary of the Karen National
Union, told The Irrawaddy that Thailand should regard Rangoon as the
source of the refugee problem, rather than a potential partner in
resolving it. "The main cause of refugees in Thailand is Rangoon?s
offensives in ethnic regions. The only way to end the refugee crisis is
to stop the offensives and resolve the problems by political means."
In the Mae Sot area alone, there are three camps?Beh Klaw (Mae La),
Umphiem and Nopho?housing an estimated 60,000 refugees, according to
Padoh Mahn Sha.
Narinjara News: Burmese Prisoners at Bangladesh Jail in uncertainty
Cox's Bazaar,Oct 10: Though the Burmese Authority promised to receive
the 129 Burmese prisoners from the Cox's Bazaar jail in Bangladesh on
30th September 2001, the Burmese never came to their rescue. According
to our correspondent in Cox's Bazaar, many of the Burmese prisoners have
been long past their prison terms, some as much as six or seven years.
Maung Aung Swe, 29, a Mon prisoner recognized by the UNHCR Bangladesh in
June this year as a refugee and received by the UNHCR authority in
August this year, 131 Burmese prisoners were moved to the Cox's Bazaar
jail from Comilla jail in August this year and were supposed to be
handed over to the appropriate Burmese authority.
Among the 131, one died of disease and another has been hospitalised. In
Comilla jail alone there are 144 more Burmese prisoners left, 18 of
which are Rakhaing while the rest are Muslims. Among them there is an
81 year old Rakhaing from Kyauk-pru island, south of Sittwe. Though the
prisoners from Burma are long past their jail term, the Bangladeshi
authority cannot hand them over to the proper Burmese authority due to
the reluctance of the Burmese Government to either identify or receive
their own people back. Neither the Burmese Embassy in Dhaka nor any
border authority in Maungdaw ever recognizes these prisoners of Burma.
Altogether there are about nine hundred Burmese prisoners in the jails
of Bangladesh languishing for their release. It is alleged that the
Muslim prisoners from Burma are released secretly along the border area
while the Buddhist and Christian Burmese prisoners are kept behind bars
The Daily Yomiuri (Japan): Letter-- to Be less Democratic Means less
Islam can flourish in freedom
As a Burmese Muslim, I strongly agree with Mr. Surin
Pitsuwan("Southeast Asian Islam a model for others,"THE DAILY YOMIURI,
Sept. 25, Page 9) that Southeast Asian Islam is relatively less rigid
and adopts modern ways of living more readily than its counterparts in
other parts of the world. I also agree that we should be grateful that
the fabric of our societies remains strong and the traditional values of
tolerance, compassion and moderation are intact. However, I have
reservations about agreeing that the members of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations should become a new role model for multicultural
and multiethnic coexistence for other peoples and regions.
If ASEAN Nations want to become a model for others, their values
should make room for democratic norms and western liberalism. ASEAN
should accept the fact that individual freedom and political liberalism
is indispensable for achieving comprehensive religious, ethnic, and
However, there is widespread political and religious persecution in
ASEAN nations. One member, Burma, is under one of the most brutal
governments in the world. Though majorities Burmese Buddhist have
remarkably tolerance toward their Muslim and Christian brothers, the
military junta fabricates religious riots to divert attention from its
political and economics crises. Furthermore, the communist dictators
rule the Vietnam and Laos.
What Mr.Surin should add is that if a constitution based on the Koran
should were drafted, it would be very much like the constitution of the
United States. To avoid any repetition of the evil carnage we witnessed
on Sept. 11,the west and especially Japan should help the Muslims learn
that Islam is very much compatible with democracy and the acts of
terrorism is nothing to do with Islam.
Ota, Gunma Prefecture
Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (Japan)
Irrawaddy: Letter--On Open Societies
By Brad Kammer
October 9, 2001--Your editorial Training: For Who's Sake? scratched at
the surface of a very important issue. I believe, in fact, that this
subject requires a more in-depth consideration as it is of vital
significance not only for the Burmese community, but also for our global
I am from the U.S. and spent 9 months in Mae Sot, Thailand, living,
working and sharing amongst the Burmese population in exile there. I
came independently, simply in hopes of offering some support to the
Burmese people. What I encountered there were international aid
organizations that made me sad and ashamed to be a representative of the
What needs to be emphasized are not the benefits or shortcomings of
training efforts, but the motivations behind these efforts. As implied
in the editorial, "at a more fundamental level", what are the ruling
principles and understanding with which these organizations come to
?help? the Burmese (or any people placed in such a vulnerable and
precarious life situation)? This we must explore - together.
The organizations I encountered in Mae Sot were the representatives of
the western world, in the sense that they were actively imposing systems
of structure from the top-down. This is not something they might admit,
and in fact, I believe it is something that they cannot even see. And it
is not something new. It is something deeply ingrained in the western
mindset and therefore creates a very difficult and complex situation.
It is difficult because it reeks of moral superiority. ?Manifest
Destiny?, and all the other justifications for western domination ?
manifest in the forms of the religious crusades, imperialism,
colonialism, and now, ?neo-liberalism? ? reflect a distorted evolution
in the psychological development of man. It says that some people know
the Truth, or Reality, and this makes them Good. Others do not know the
Truth, are primitive, and oftentimes evil; or at least, in need of
salvation (be it religious, political, or economic). With this embedded
in the psyche of western man, when those from the west come to help the
struggling Burmese, this moral superiority inevitably has influence. In
some way, the fact that we are bred to view ourselves as keepers of the
'free world' plays a role in our ability to meet people from very
different backgrounds, beliefs, perspectives, and ways of living.
I saw this first-hand in Mae Sot. The international aid organizations,
dealing with vulnerable refugees and exiles who are basically at their
mercy, have the power. They are making the rules. The Burmese exiled
populace has a choice: follow the rules or lose your privileges. This is
conditional support, mirroring the western political mindset, evidenced
by the globalized economic policies of ?structural readjustment? ? "we
will give you what you need if you allow us to restructure your
society." In some ways, it is more vicious to have your culture
readjusted than your economy. In cultural readjustment, people lose
their souls. But what choice do the exiles and refugees have? They need
food, housing, security, and money. Sadly enough, they are at the mercy
of these foreign organizations.
These organizations therefore continue their way of structuring
readjustment - mistaking acquiescence for consent - oftentimes
disregarding the people's needs and desires, ultimately leading to
distrust. The Burmese people I met, who have spent their whole lives
under an authoritarian regime, do not want this. But again, what choice
do they have? They are being told that this is what they need. This is
dangerous for they are individuals with real needs - needs which must be
met. But one would not know about these needs unless one asked, and
What I heard is that Burmese people want to have influence in the
process of fulfilling their own needs. This is the ?empowerment? that
aid organizations speak about. However, looking in from outside, they
think empowerment is teaching disenfranchised individuals how to live
realistically in a global world. Will computer training truly assist in
maintaining the Burmese culture? Will English instruction help Burmese
people integrate? Will multi-ethnic classes move the diverse Burmese
population closer together? Will seminars on diplomacy enhance Burmese
dignity? Will political workshops teach Burmese groups democracy? Or are
there deeper and more complex issues involved?
Are the western organizations in fact perpetuating the fallacy of
western moral superiority? "We, from the west, know the way to uphold a
prosperous democracy and to champion a free world, and we are going to
teach you how to be like us." Or, in other words, offer salvation.
This is what seems to lie beneath the aid. There is no doubting the
intentions of western individuals who give up the comfort and security
of their own homes to come to Thailand to assist the Burmese people. And
there is no doubting some of the programs and assistance that have
helped the exiled Burmese survive and develop. But beneath these noble
intentions, programs and assistance, a pestilence lurks.
International aid workers have the responsibility to combat this
pestilence within themselves. They are put in a position of great power
- dealing with vulnerable individuals and fledgling cultures - and
therefore must check to see that they are not perpetuating the suffering
of these individuals and their cultures. One cannot underestimate the
affect external forces have had in Burmese history, and continue to have
presently in the Burmese struggle for freedom. Disregarding this history
leads to distrust. Yet, as everyone recognizes, foreign organizations
can provide needed support for the Burmese people and their movement.
Based on my own experiences amongst the Burmese community in Mae Sot, I
have come to the conclusion that any support, if it is to be truly open,
constructive, beneficial and long-lasting, must come from attentive
listening to the people while respecting their needs and desires; only
then can true support be offered. Then western aid workers will be able
to work with, and for, the people, ensuring their needs are met.
Otherwise, they will be missionaries, and there is great danger in
proselytizing a system that is unfamiliar and adversarial to the people.
But in fact, the aim is not to create foreign systems, to force
projects, to introduce more divisions, or to preach western values, the
aim is to support the Burmese people and their struggle.
Together, we can build open societies, but to be a truly global
community everyone must have a place, everyone must be respected, and we
all must work hard at remaining truly open. What international aid
workers can give to the people is so much more than simply aid - they
can give themselves, and hopefully, their full and unconditional
support. This might level the notion of moral superiority and pave the
way for new relationships, which might just lead to a new understanding
of our global society. As Eduardo Galeano phrased it, "I don't believe
in charity; I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it's
humiliating. It goes from top to bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It
respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from
So as far as ?Training: For Who's Sake?? - the answer is for everyone's
sake. We all have a lot to learn from each other.
Brad Kammer was a teacher in Mae Sot, Thailand and is currently working
as a freelance writer in the United States.
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