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BurmaNet News: October 16, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
October 16, 2001 Issue # 1899
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*BBC: Burma rejects EU charges
*DVB: Restricting Muslims' celebration of Prophet's birthday Authorities
said restricting Muslims' celebration of Prophet's birthday
*Arakan News Agency: Taliban Scare caused Closure of Burma-Bangladesh
*Xinhua: Myanmar Not Facing Food Problem: Leader
*The Los Angeles Times: Myanmar - Natural wonderland
*AFP: Thailand fishery officials visits Myanmar
*DVB: Thailand to upgrade Myawadi-Moulmein road to boost border trade
Thailand to upgrade Myawadi-Moulmein road to boost border trade
*Bangkok Post: Red Wa strengthen town against attacks
*Bangkok Post: Burma situation discussed
*Bangkok Post: Nationwide crackdown on illegal labour begins in two
*Chiang Mai News (Thailand): Burmese workers in Chiang Mai
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
BBC: Burma rejects EU charges
Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
By BBC Burma analyst Larry Jagan
The Burmese Government has rejected allegations made by European MPs
last week that the army was still using forced labour.
The Government spokesman told the BBC that the MPs had made up their
minds without examining the real situation.
Evidence was submitted to hearing at the European Parliament that
British and French oil companies in Burma were dependent on forced
labour to lay their pipeline to Thailand and that the Burmese army
colluded in this practise.
The Burmese Government remains convinced that most of its critics are
In a statement to the BBC the military spokesman Colonel Hla Min said
the European MPs had ignored the facts and were not prepared to
acknowledge the real developments that had taken place in the country.
On the issue of forced labour, Burma's military leaders have good reason
to feel aggrieved - especially at the timing of the MP's renewed
allegations. After all, the Burmese government has just allowed in a
major investigative mission from the International Labour Organisation
to assess Burma's efforts to stamp out the use of forced labour.
Many of the documented incidents of forced labour tabled at the European
Parliament occurred more than a year ago. The government says it
outlawed forced labour officially late last year.
The ILO mission has now completed its research and is currently
preparing its report for the organisation¿s meeting in Geneva next
It is going to be more thorough than any other UN investigation so far
held into Burma's human rights record.
While in Burma, the four-member team travelled independently of the army
to locations they wanted to visit and used their own interpreters to
According to ILO sources, the team were impressed with the courage of
those who came to talk to them.
The mission then spent a week in northern Thailand talking to refugees -
Shan, Karen and Karennis - who had fled Burma to escape being used by
the army as porters.
The ILO is remaining tight-lipped about the mission and say it will all
be in the report when its published.
In the meantime, the Burmese Government continues to insist the
international community still has not given it credit for reforms
implemented over the past year.
The EU has already signalled its willingness to review its policy of
isolating Burma if Rangoon is really committed to introducing political
For Burma's part, the military spokesman told the BBC, the government
always welcomed constructive, realistic and meaningful engagement.
But the question remains to what extent are Burma's ruling generals
actually willing to reciprocate.
DVB: Restricting Muslims' celebration of Prophet's birthday Authorities
said restricting Muslims' celebration of Prophet's birthday
Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma(DVB) on 16 October
DVB has learned that the SPDC authorities have been restricting and
restraining Burmese Muslims from celebrating Prophet Mohamed's
birthday. The Burmese Muslims held prayer services to commemorate
Prophet Mohamed's birthday at the Persian mosque in Keng Tung, Shan
State on 12-14 October. But the SPDC authorities, picking the current
crisis between the United States and the Islamic fundamentalists as a
reason, tried to restrict and prevent the ceremonies. The Shan State
Peace and Development Council summoned the Persian mosque elders on 8
October prior to the occasion and warned them to hold the ceremonies in
a limited manner. The authorities also prevented them from inviting the
usual guests - the Chinese Muslims from Mong La region and other
Islamic brethren from around the nation.
Similarly, in Amarapura, Col Hla Win, commander of Mandalay No. 7
Region, informed the responsible personnel from the respective regions
to take care of security measures in order to prevent religious riots
and disturbances and to remind the respective Muslim elders from the
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 16 Oct 01
Arakan News Agency: Taliban Scare caused Closure of Burma-Bangladesh
By our Special Correspondent
Maungdaw, Oct. 16: A widespread rumour of imminent Taliban incursion
into Burmese occupied Arakan State across Burma-Bangladesh common border
led to the temporary closure of the border and suspension of all
cross-border traffic for three days beginning from October 13.
The rumour spread like wild fire causing panic among the local people
and visitors from Bangladesh, who have to stay in hotels allowed by the
government, for fear of possible search and arrest. By 2 P.M. on October
13 almost all visitors who went to Burma holding visit permits for
various purposes gathered at Maungdaw jetty to return to Bangladesh.
Maungdaw is an extreme border town in northern Arakan State on the bank
of the common river Naf dividing the two countries. However the
immigration authorities did not allow them to return until a senior
Bangladeshi official intervened and the visitors were finally able to
depart after six hours of ordeal under heavy downpour and uncertainty.
All border crossing points were ordered closed from the Burmese side
since October 13 and security has been beefed up considerably. However
an understanding has been reached between the two governments to reopen
the border with effect from October 16 under a new procedure. According
to the new arrangement only 10 persons from each side will be allowed to
cross to the other side everyday after ensuring that those visited
earlier have returned to the respective sides.
Arakan News Agency
Xinhua: Myanmar Not Facing Food Problem: Leader
YANGON, October 16 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar leader Lieutenant- General Khin
Nyunt claimed on Tuesday that his country does not face any food
problem, saying that it will never face the problem in the future
either. Speaking at a ceremony here marking the World Food Day, Khin
Nyunt noted that in addition to fulfilling its local demand, his country
will also help fulfill the local and international food requirements to
the best of its ability. He told the ceremony that Myanmar's surface
area and population are in a proper proportionate ratio.
He said the Myanmar government is applying various means to extend
cultivated areas, to supply adequate amount of irrigation water and to
develop farm machinery manufacturing enterprises as well as making
arrangements to develop the use of modern agricultural methods and
high-yield crop strains. He called for cooperation among all developed
and developing nations to ensure food sufficiency for the whole
civilization to be free from poverty and hunger.
Myanmar's agricultural sector, in which 65 percent of its labor force
are engaged in, contributes to the country's gross national product by
42 percent. The cultivable area of Myanmar's agricultural sector is
18.225 million hectares, of which 10.125 million have been put under
crops, while 8.1 million remain to be utilized. To promote agricultural
development, Myanmar government has exempted the import duties of
agricultural implements including fertilizer, pesticide, improved
variety and machinery.
The Los Angeles Times: Myanmar - Natural wonderland
In a country that's been off-limits to most tourists for years, it's
finally possible to explore one of the most beautiful beaches in the
world By Carl Duncan
Special to the Los Angeles Times
Originally published October 14, 2001
As the sun rose above a curtain of coconut palms in Myanmar, the honey
light revealed a scene along Ngapali Beach so achingly photogenic that
it felt unreal.
Twenty oxcarts and women with bamboo baskets hanging from poles across
their shoulders waited on the sand for the night fishing fleet. Many of
the solid old boats -- with square sails, long oars and not a motor
among them -- undoubtedly dated to the days of these fishermen's
grandfathers. The men landed and dragged their iron anchors onto the
beach. Two by two, men and women, smiling and laughing, ferried baskets
overflowing with silver fish to immense plaited mats, where the fish
were spread to dry, sparkling like mirror shards. The oxcarts were
pulled slowly into the water alongside the boats and took on the bigger
fish, the barracudas and the yellowfin tuna that would be taken fresh to
the morning market or to the kitchens of the beach resorts.
This was pure old Burma, whose tangled and troubled past wiped it off
the tourist map decades ago. Burma's leaders squandered the wealth of
what was once the richest nation in Southeast Asia, hobbled its people
and, as the world watched disapprovingly, drove the country into an
abyss of isolation, slamming the door shut on the world.
The people, 42 million divided among 132 ethnic groups, many of whom do
not speak a common language, carried on in a place where the cultural
clock stood still, without access to outside media, international
phones, the Internet and, in many cases, visitors.
And yet here I was on the beach, among these friendly villagers,
everyone wearing grass sandals and longyis (the traditional Burmese
sarong), the men tucking theirs up short and the women letting theirs
swirl in the water as they brought in the night's catch. I took one last
look and turned around, heading back to the beach resorts and the 21st
century, to the new Myanmar, a country quietly inviting the world back
by opening the tourist infrastructure to private enterprise and foreign
investment and all but eliminating travel restrictions.
"You try to guard yourself by saying it is not real," Somerset Maugham
once wrote of Burma. "It is a beauty that batters you and stuns you and
leaves you breathless." Maugham knew it, and now Myanmar wants the world
to know it, too.
On this fine february morning, i ended my run at the Bayview Resort and
walked over to the pool deck, where Maria, my traveling companion, sat
sipping English tea. I ordered robust French coffee, eggs benedict, half
a papaya with lime, and chilled orange juice. And some warm, just-made
For years, Burma was completely off the circuit. Since the early '60s,
the country has been ruled first by a military despot and then by the
military itself. Then, a glimmer of light: The first free multi-party
elections in 30 years, held May 27, 1990, gave the main opposition
party, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, a decisive victory. But the light faded
quickly; the military refused to hand over power and has been ruling
When the government organized a "Visit Myanmar Year 1996/97," Suu Kyi,
daughter of one of the country's early heroes and winner of the 1991
Nobel Peace Prize, and her party called for a tourist boycott, saying
the proceeds would go into military coffers, not to the people.
In those days, when tourists were forced to use overpriced government
hotels and inefficient government transportation almost exclusively, the
boycott made sense to many. "Visit Myanmar Year" was a flop. It
embarrassed the government and disheartened the people, tens of
thousands of whom lost their jobs when the expected tourists never
The 1997 Asian financial crisis further strained the economy. Together
they helped galvanize the government into making much-needed reforms.
New ministers replaced old; government red tape was cut; liberal
privatization laws encouraged foreign investors and local entrepreneurs;
and travel restrictions were lifted. A new era of internationalism had
Today tourists can use private hotels, airlines and travel agencies and
countless private entrepreneurs exclusively as never before. With
privatization and a growing free market, tourist dollars are directly
supporting growing numbers of local people, and enthusiasm for the
tourist boycott has dwindled. Even Paris-based UNESCO now favors
increased international tourism to Myanmar and disagrees with leader Suu
Kyi and her National League for Democracy, who still oppose the
development of the tourism industry.
The tide is turning, but the numbers are still small. Last year,
according to official Myanmar statistics, 200,000 foreigners entered the
country, although those numbers may be inflated. That's a trickle in a
nation the size of England and France combined.
Those who do visit, however, find a warmth and a welcome that are
touching, even overwhelming. One afternoon, while I stood on the
platform below the immense golden Shwe Dagon pagoda in Rangoon, now
called Yangon, an elderly monk making his meditational rounds stepped up
beside me and lowered his fan. "What country are you from?" he whispered
in cultured British English. When I told him America, he smiled.
"So glad you're here!" he said.
The new spirit of international tourism, with its nearly unrestricted
geographical freedom, has finally opened up the coast, one of the last
natural wonderlands of Southeast Asia, and made it easily accessible to
The beaches of Myanmar loop south from Bangladesh nearly to Phuket in
southern Thailand, a 1,760-mile coastline that includes more than 850
tropical islands (the largest of which is larger than Tahiti). Much of
this area is virgin territory to the tourist. Ngapali Beach (known as
Sandoway to the British who once ruled the country) on the Bay of Bengal
in the sparsely populated state of Rakhine is the shining exception.
We had heard about this beach years ago from an old Asia hand who had
been there. "If you ever get the chance," he had said, "check out
Sandoway Beach. Best-kept secret in Southeast Asia."
So we were drawn here, as are others, by a culture that is authentic and
undiluted, by a people who are deeply religious and respectful, by a
place that is stunningly beautiful and unmarked by the masses.
At Sandoway, sea turtles swim ashore at night to lay their eggs in the
still-warm sand. And just off the beach you could swim with huge whale
sharks, docile, vegetarian creatures that congregate offshore during
their winter migration.
In the past, travel along the coast was slow and difficult. Now our
50-minute flight to Thandwe from Yangon saved us about 15 hours by car
or five days by ancient coastal vessel. We flew northwest over a rugged
mountain range that still isolates Rakhine state from the rest of
Myanmar. Until 1783, this coastal region was an independent kingdom
called Arakhan. (The fabulous ruins of Mrauk U, about 175 miles north of
Ngapali, was the capital.) No taxis waited outside the sleepy airport,
just a half-dozen small buses beside the banana trees, one from each of
the beach hotels.
Fifteen minutes and two thatched villages later, we pulled into the
Linthar Oo Lodge, a mid-range cabana hotel that sits in its own shady
compound in the middle of the beach. We chose one of the older
wood-and-fan bungalows at the northern end, liking the feel of these
inexpensive units more than the newly upgraded concrete and
air-conditioned cabanas on the other side. Ours had two beds and a
cold-water shower, and a pleasant porch looking under the palms to the
It was the British, ruling this region as a colony until 1942, who named
this country Burma after the dominant ethnic group, the Burmans
(although, at first, England referred to it simply as "further India").
Yangon was anglicized into Rangoon, and Thandwe ended up, poetically
enough, as Sandoway, a name that attached itself also to the nearby
beach. In 1989 the military government changed the official country name
to Myanmar, reviving the formal, pre-British name. Many other names on
the map followed.
One afternoon, after a lunch of green curry chicken and crisp salad, and
with a cold Mandalay beer to sip, I asked Oliver his opinion of the
"Tourism breaks chains," he said. "That's why I never could understand
Aung San Suu Kyi and the boycott. A few months ago, I was driving my
guests past the old government hotel here. There was a group of
prisoners working on the road wearing their white longyis and white
shirts. They had chains on their legs. It was hard to explain to the
tourists what they were seeing."
All prisoners, he said, must work, and hard labor shortens their prison
time. "I wrote the minister of tourism a long letter and suggested it
was not a good image for the tourists to see when the West thinks so
badly of Myanmar anyway. Maybe, I suggested, the prisoners could wear
their chains under their longyis so they wouldn't be seen. "Well, three
weeks later I drove by the same prisoners again. I noticed this time
they wore their longyis over their chains. Then the next time I saw them
I couldn't believe my eyes. There they were in their white prison
longyis, carrying axes and machetes, and they had no chains at all. I
said to myself, 'Now the minister has gone too far. He's not only taken
away their chains, he lets them go about armed!' That's when I realized
that tourism can break chains."
My travels have taken me all over Asia, so I've seen my share of
beaches. I'd rank Ngapali as the most relaxing beach I've visited. Our
afternoons were given over to rejuvenating siestas. We whiled away the
hours in the half-shade and read and snoozed. Our sole distraction was
deciding where to dine. Thursday night was easy: That was the big beach
barbecue at the Bayview, with tuna and barracuda and a dozen kinds of
pasta for just $10 per person.
Like the more family-oriented Bayview, the Sandoway is a small resort,
and the manager takes a personal interest in his guests. Alberto Peyre,
from Milan, Italy, is not only the general manager but also the hotel
architect. He oversaw the production, hired the local labor and chose
the local material.
"You have to be a bit crazy to work here," he said. "Myanmar is crazy.
But Myanmar is one of the last countries in Southeast Asia where you see
the people with the natural smile."
Carl Duncan, who lives in British Columbia, last wrote about Hong Kong
for the Los Angeles Times' Travel section, to which he is a frequent
AFP: Thailand fishery officials visits Myanmar
Tuesday October 16, 12:23 AM
BANGKOK, Oct 15 (AFP) - A high-ranking official delegation from
Thailand's fisheries department arrived in Yangon on Monday to meet
Myanmar authorities to discuss re-deployment of Thai fishing trawlers in
Myanmar waters, state media said.
A 13-member Thai mission, headed by Dhammarong Prakobbon, Director
General of the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry's Fisheries
Department, was welcomed at Yangon airport by their Myanmar counterpart,
TV Myanmar reported late Monday.
The official invitation to the Thai mission was made under the agreement
of bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries, it said
without eleborating further details.
Myanmar cancelled Thai fishing licenses in October 1999 after the Thai
government supplied an escape helicopter to five anti-junta gunmen in
exchange for the release of hostages held captive at Myanmar's embassy
Since then, Thai Fishery Department and Foreign Ministry officials have
travelled several times to the military-ruled nation in the hope of
negotiating a workable deal for Thai trawlers.
Despite a series of talks, the two sides have failed to reach agreement
on the revival of fishing concessions in a stand-off that has cost Thai
The relations between the two neighbouring countries has improved
following the two leadership's recent goodwill visits. Thai Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra visited Yangon in June and the Myanmar
junta's number three, military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt, travelled
to Bangkok last month.
DVB: Thailand to upgrade Myawadi-Moulmein road to boost border trade
Thailand to upgrade Myawadi-Moulmein road to boost border trade
Text of report by Democratic Voice of Burma on 14 October
DVB has learned that Thai deputy prime minister and party met and held
talks with Lt-Col Kyaw Soe, chairman of Myawadi District Peace and
Development Council, in Myawadi, Burma [Myanmar]. DVB correspondent
Maung Too filed this report.
[Maung Too] In his meeting with newsmen in Mae Sot this evening, the
Thai deputy prime minister said that since Myawadi-Pa-an-Moulmein road
is very narrow it is hampering the smooth flow of Thai produce from the
border trade to reach Burma. That is why Thailand has planned to
renovate and expand the road, that the Myanmar side has agreed on the
proposal, that the project is estimated to cost about 300-700m baht, and
the work is expected to begin soon.
While the road project is under construction and since Myawadi-Rangoon
trip takes about one day by car, the Thai side told the Burmese
authorities that they would allow the Burmese traders to come to Mae Sot
and fly to Rangoon in order to get there quickly. The Burmese side said
they would inform the War Office in Rangoon [Yangon] and would accept
the proposal of allowing the Burmese traders to go to Mae Sot and fly to
Rangoon once they receive confirmation from Rangoon. But the Thai deputy
prime minister failed to mention whether today's meeting also discussed
that both sides lift the restrictions and allow the import and export of
restricted items, and the subject of narcotic drugs trafficking from
Burma to Thailand.
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 14 Oct 01
Bangkok Post: Red Wa strengthen town against attacks
Wednesday 17 October 2001
By Wassana Nanuam
The Red Wa-controlled Mong Yawn town in Burma has been fortified against
anticipated air attacks on drug factories, an army intelligence source
The United Wa State Army has installed Chinese-made anti-aircraft guns
and started building a fence and forts around the border town last
month, the source said.
The town's defence system was specially designed to cope with air
attacks amid fears the Thai military would step up drug suppression
efforts against the Red Wa.
The source said the Red Wa was expected to produce up to one billion
speed pills next year despite the Rangoon government's policy to rid
Burma of drugs in five years.
Bangkok Post: Burma situation discussed
October 16, 2001.
Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and British ambassador Lloyd
Smith met yesterday to discuss the national reconciliation process in
Burma, a defence source said.
Mr Smith said he was concerned about a reported conflict among the junta
leaders which could pose a setback to the process, said the source.
Gen Chavalit assured the ambassador there was no conflict among Burmese
strongmen Gen Than Shwe, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and Gen Maung Aye.
The minister said he was confident the process would get under way soon.
Gen Chavalit has close ties with the Burmese military leaders.
A dialogue process is under way between Rangoon and opposition leader
Aung San Suu Kyi.
Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt has asked Gen Chavalit to get the rebel groups
The minister would begin with the Kaya rebels and the Karen National
Union. The Shan State Army would be left until later as it had set a
large number of conditions
Bangkok Post: Nationwide crackdown on illegal labour begins in two weeks
October 16, 2001.
Nationwide crackdowns on illegal alien labour will begin on Oct 29 after
the extended registration period ends, says Labour Minister Dej
Workplace inspections would start the day before and a proposal to fine
lawbreakers would go to cabinet soon. Officials were already preparing
for the crackdown, the minister said.
The official deadline expired on Saturday. Foreign workers who failed to
tell the Labour Ministry about their intention to register are no longer
eligible to register during the extended period.
A small number of foreign workers turned up at registration centres
yesterday but many requests were rejected because they had come in too
Employees serving restaurants, hotels, bars, massage parlours and
karaoke bars made up the biggest group of applicants before yesterday,
94,279 of whom were Burmese, 20,816 from Laos, and 7,519 others from
Chiang Mai News (Thailand): Burmese workers in Chiang Mai
Tuesday, October 16, 2001
October was a busy month for illegal workers in Chiang Mai and the
provincial hall, who were busy registering and legalising Laos,
Cambodian and Burmese illegal workers. Household help, labourers,
waitpersons and farm workers who have no id cards and are working here
illegally were allowed to register for a work permit at the provincial
hall and the deadline for this was the 28th of October.
Estimates are that there are around 16,000 -20,000 illegal workers
in Chiang Mai who registered, but those under the age of 19 were not
allowed to register and their numbers must surely be very high also.
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