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BurmaNet News: October 17, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
October 17, 2001 Issue # 1900
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Reuters: UN envoy cuts short Myanmar trip for health reasons
*AFP: Myanmar aims to cast off pariah image with closer international
*Xinhua: Myanmar Striving to Overcome Negative Impact on Economy: Leader
*AFP: UN rights envoy meets Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
*Shan Herald Agency for News: Townspeople near projected bridge living
*Kyodo: Myanmar youth devour religious books amid hazy future
*Network Media Group: Two hundred prisoners replaced for 120 prisoners
in hard labor camp
*In These Times: Backing Out of Burma
*Shan Herald Agency for News: Alien Workers Registration way below
*EarthRights International: Testimony at the hearing of the Development
Committee of the European Parliament on October 11th, 2001, on European
Oil Companies in Burma
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Reuters: UN envoy cuts short Myanmar trip for health reasons
By Aung Hla Tun
YANGON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - The U.N.'s human rights envoy to Myanmar is
cutting short a visit to the military-ruled country for health reasons,
officials said on Wednesday.
They said Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N.'s special rapporteur for
human rights in Myanmar, would return to his native Brazil. He arrived
on October 9 and had been due to stay until Saturday.
``Mr Pinheiro is leaving Myanmar this evening,'' a United Nations
official told Reuters.
Pinheiro declined to comment on his visit when contacted by Reuters by
``It's a bit premature to comment. I'm preparing a press communique,''
he said. ``Our headquarters in Geneva will issue it today.''
Pinheiro, making his second visit to the country, met senior government
members before leaving for the Shan, Kachin and Mandalay areas of the
country on October 13.
The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), which won elections
in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern, criticised
Pinheiro for not doing enough on his current trip to investigate the
human rights situation.
``During this visit, he shouldn't have spent so much time with
government and other officials without investigating the basic human
rights situation,'' NLD Secretary U Lwin told the BBC's Myanmar-language
U Lwin said Pinheiro had not met NLD leaders during his current visit.
Myanmar is regarded as a pariah state by much of the international
community because of its human rights record and its treatment of the
NLD Secretary-General Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace
Prize, has been held in de facto house arrest for more than a year.
The government began regular confidential meetings with Suu Kyi a year
ago, aimed at breaking the political deadlock.
The talks have not yielded any concrete political deal, but since they
began the government has been steadily releasing political detainees.
On the day Pinheiro arrived, five NLD prisoners were freed, bringing
the total number of releases since the talks began to 174.
Pinheiro first visited Myanmar in April after being appointed as
special envoy in February by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
A report written by Pinheiro and released by the U.N. earlier this
month welcomed efforts by Myanmar's ruling military to improve human
rights in the country, but repeated calls for the release of all
Amnesty International says there are more than 1,500 political
detainees in Myanmar.
Pinheiro's predecessor, Rajsoomer Lallah, was never allowed to visit
Myanmar, and in his final report last year he accused the military of
torturing, raping and executing civilians.
(With additional reporting by Andrew Marshall in Bangkok)
AFP: Myanmar aims to cast off pariah image with closer international
BANGKOK, Oct 17 (AFP) - Myanmar will step up efforts to engage
neighboring countries and the international community in an attempt to
dispel "jaundiced views" that have cast it as a pariah state, the state
media said Wednesday.
Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, the ruling junta's number-three leader,
was quoted as saying the regime would "cooperate more closely with our
neighbors in the political, economic and social fields".
"Just as emphasis is being given to bilateral relations, Myanmar will
focus on achieving solidarity with regional organisations ... (and) seek
to be more active in the international arena," he was quoted as saying.
The military intelligence chief was speaking to government officials at
the close of a course on diplomacy at Myanmar's foreign ministry.
Khin Nyunt said Myanmar had shown "genuine sincerity" in cooperating
with an International Labour Organisation (ILO) delegation that toured
the country last month to inspect government attempts at eradicating
For the mission, the ILO insisted its four-member team of eminent
jurists be given total freedom to carry out its survey, and the junta
promised to give them unlimited access, even in the unstable border
The ILO mission came after the Geneva-based organisation last year made
an unprecedented censure of Myanmar, and threatened to heap more
sanctions on the country if it failed to curb forced labour.
"We wish to demonstrate our genuine sincerity in cooperating with the
ILO and prove that accusations made by opposition groups, insurgents and
expatriates are unfounded," Khin Nyunt said.
The military intelligence chief said the world economy was set to
deteriorate further in light of the US-led war against terrorism,
hitting small, weak countries such as Myanmar particularly hard.
He added that military authorities would continue efforts to improve
the international community's "appreciation of Myanmar's objectives and
policies," while diplomats should be "well acquainted" with policies of
"At the same time as Myanmar enters the mainstream of international
activities and plays an increasingly active role, those who are
responsible for international relations must be highly qualified," he
One year ago this month, the junta embarked on historic talks with
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in their first official contacts
Amid hopes that the dialogue is paving the way for democratic reforms,
the international community has muted its criticisms of Myanmar which
for decades has been roundly condemned for its poor human rights record.
Over the past year the capital Yangon has witnessed an unprecedented
flurry of diplomatic activity, with visits from the ILO, European Union,
UN envoy Razali Ismail and UN human rights rapporteur Paulo Sergio
Xinhua: Myanmar Striving to Overcome Negative Impact on Economy: Leader
YANGON, October 17 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar is striving to overcome the
negative impact on its economy arising out of the adverse effects on
world economy due to vast transformation taking place in the world, said
Myanmar's top leader on Tuesday. "There is no doubt that this situation
will have a negative impact on small countries like ours that are not
economically strong," noted Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the Myanmar
State Peace and Development Council, at a graduation ceremony of
officers in diplomacy course conducted by the foreign ministry, official
newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported Wednesday. He predicted that
the world economic situation will deteriorate even further, saying that
the condition is likely to last for some time.
He warned that the adverse trends are bound to have negative impacts to
certain extent on the regional economic situation, especially the
Southeast Asia region which is just beginning to see hopeful signs of
recovery from the 1997 financial crisis. In such a situation, he said,
Myanmar is making its utmost efforts to overcome the adverse effects
from the outside and to develop political, economic and foreign
relations. With regard to Myanmar's foreign relations, he said that the
country is actively engaged in international and regional affairs in
keeping with its independent and active foreign policy, placing special
emphasis on relations with neighboring countries and others in the
region and pledging to cooperate more closely with them in the
political, diplomatic, economic and social fields.
The Myanmar leader said that his country will work hard in United
Nations organizations and regional ones such as ASEAN ( Association of
Southeast Asian Nations), BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri
Lanka and Thailand-Economic Cooperation) and the Mekong-Ganga
Cooperation. He stated that internal strife, which once hindered the
development of Myanmar, is coming to an end, adding that "we have left
the door open for those who have not yet returned to the legal fold." On
the country's economic sector, Khin Nyunt noted that the Myanmar
government has been endeavoring to improve its economy, to reduce the
gap between the urban and the rural areas and for all the national races
to enjoy the fruits of development equally.
AFP: UN rights envoy meets Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
YANGON, Oct 17 (AFP) - United Nations human rights envoy Paulo Sergio
Pinheiro met Wednesday with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi after
cutting short an upcountry tour of Myanmar for health reasons, official
The ageing Brazilian academic met with the Nobel peace laureate at her
lakeside home for at least an hour, and was due to leave Yangon late
Wednesday at the end of a nine-day visit.
Pinheiro travelled north from the Myanmar capital on Saturday to meet
with ethnic minority and democratic opposition leaders, but called off
trips to Myintkyina, in Kachin state, and the ancient city of Bagan.
The rights envoy visited Shan state and the city of Mandalay, 540 miles
(860 kilometres) north of Yangon, but did not meet with representatives
from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) as planned.
Pinheiro was not due back in Yangon until Friday, but returned early
due to health problems, according to official sources. No details about
his condition were available.
He was originally expected to have spent the remainder of the tour in
Kachin state, where he was due to meet Myanmar officials and leaders
from the Kachin Independence Organisation.
On Thursday, he was scheduled to visit the capital of southern Shan
state for talks with another minority group that has signed a ceasefire
pact with the government, the Pa-o National Organization.
The mission, originally slated to last 12 days, was the second by
Pinheiro, who in April became the first UN human rights envoy to be
given permission to travel to Myanmar in five years.
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the results of the April trip,
and the working relationship was cemented last week 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 visit Pinheiro was also allowed to see Aung San Suu
Kyi, who has been under house arrest for the past year, and took part in
landmark talks with the junta.
The UN Human Rights Commission passed a resolution in April with the
support of 53 countries saying human rights abuses and persecution of
the political opposition in Myanmar were unacceptable.
But the ruling junta insisted the resolution failed to accurately
portray the situation, particularly because it relied on information
supplied by the UN's previous rights rapporteur.
Shan Herald Agency for News: Townspeople near projected bridge living
Oct. 17, 2001
Some 40 households living near the projected second friendship bridge
across the river of Maesai between the Thai town that bears its name and
Shan State's Tachilek are undergoing a nightmare of their homes and
land being confiscated by their military authorities, reported two Shan
social workers in Chiangrai yesterday.
Foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai announced in August of the
agreement that was made between Rangoon and Bangkok of the plan. He
held talks again with Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt in Tachilek on 7 October on the
construction plans of the bridge, reported The New Light of Myanmar,
Rangoon's official bulletin, on 11 October.
The social workers said the area, once a large paddy field, was
confiscated several years ago and sold to the people who are now living
there. "Many of them now regret they had ever bought it from the
authorities," one said. "They also hope Bangkok might be able to
persuade Rangoon to pay compensations to the affected households."
Sources said there was one 4-storey building and the rest were either 2
The bridge is due to finish within the next year, they said.
Kyodo: Myanmar youth devour religious books amid hazy future
By Nattha Keenapan
RANGOON, Oct. 17, Kyodo - As the sun rises behind the Shwedagon Pagoda
in Myanmar, hundreds of devoutly Buddhist locals gather to pray and
meditate. Elsewhere in Rangoon, the sound of prayer echoes in
monasteries situated along the capital's lush and clean roads.
Such daily scenes and the proliferation of Buddhist temples across
Myanmar make it clear why the country has been dubbed the ''Land of
Over the centuries, Buddhism and monks have played important roles in
Myanmar and the country's rich Buddhist culture has been deeply absorbed
into the minds of the majority of its people.
It should thus come as no surprise that bestsellers in most of Rangoon's
bookstores are religious books, though it may surprise some that most of
the buyers are youngsters.
Under the surface of Buddhist tranquillity, however, worries lurk in
many people's minds and their future is vague.
Myanmar has been ruled since 1962 by the military, which has refused to
hand over power to the victor of the 1990 general elections -- Aung San
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy -- which won 80% of
Universities and colleges have been closed down intermittently since
1962 due to periodic uprisings against the military regime, and for
almost seven years following a 1988 bloody uprising they were completely
Since reopening, they have been relocated to remote areas, and students
have been made to sign papers vowing they will not engage in dissident
While schools are back in session, hundreds of thousands of students
have slipped through the educational gap, failing to return to their
The economy suffered severely under the 26 years of socialist
mismanagement and has yet to fully recover.
Prices of major consumer goods have soared 25 times since 1988. Foreign
investors have hesitated to come due to the government's inconsistent
economic and trade policies and Western sanctions imposed over the
junta's alleged violations of human rights.
''Everybody is going ahead, and we stand still. We still do not have
Internet access and other facilities. We are not being provided with
enough information,'' said a 25-year-old graduate student who asked not
to be named for fear of the authorities.
''Whenever we meet people from abroad, like young people in the same age
group, we can get depressed comparing our opportunities, our knowledge
and ourselves. We're so far behind and we cannot do anything about it,''
the student said.
While youngsters in other troubled parts of the world may find respite
from their worries through entertainment in nightclubs and other fun,
there are few such diversions in Myanmar for those without means, a
situation that has led many youth to seek solace in religious books.
A 54-year-old Burmese Buddhist monk, Sayadaw U Jotika, has in recent
years become one of the most popular monks among Myanmar youth, with his
books becoming bestsellers in most local bookstores.
A 27-year-old civil servant, Zin Zin, not her real name, who grew up in
a devoutly good Buddhist family, said she started reading Jotika's books
three years ago and found them to be a source of healing for her stress
''It's true that the general situation in Myanmar makes me read this
kind of book, let alone our own personal problems,'' she said.
She said the books taught her to prepare and cope with stress and
depression in daily life, while they also taught her to pick up the
habit of being mindful and trying to understand her own mind and the
imperfection of herself and others.
''Stay calm. Wait. Be patient. Do whatever is possible at the moment.
Nothing lasts forever. Things will change, possibly for the better, if
you stay clear and calm,'' Jotika said in one of his books, following
Buddha's teaching that everything is impermanent, including life, and
that one should be with the present.
Zin Zin said Jotika's books are commonly given as presents.
''We buy them as presents for others and they spread around, like a
multiplier effect. Young people here find a better way to solve their
problems compared to youths in other countries who may go out to
nightclubs. We can't afford that. It's a different way of solving
problems,'' she said.
Jotika, however, views himself as an ordinary person rather than a monk
although he has been ordained since the age of 27.
''I don't want people to just blindly follow my idea or my discussion
because I don't think of myself as a preacher. I'm just a human being,''
''I understand that what most people feel and look for is what I've felt
and been looking for all my life. What people really want is courage,
confidence and spiritual strength, not money or fame,'' he said.
Jotika agreed that youth these days are facing difficulties with their
own stress and social problems linked together. He urges his readers to
try to understand the problems and find good solutions to heal society.
''I don't encourage anyone to be violent. It will give a negative answer
and cause more problems. We need a strong, peaceful and loving mind with
deep understanding and real courage to take responsibility and to find
solutions for social problems,'' he said.
''Don't act with anger, calm down,'' Jotika told a group of lay
disciples who sought his advice.
Network Media Group: Two hundred prisoners replaced for 120 prisoners
in hard labor camp
ICRC suggested some prisoners are not suitable for hard labor
Moreh, October 17, 2001
A total of 200 prisoners from Monywa are to be replaced for more than
120 prisoners who were sent back to original prisons on October 15 with
the suggestion of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from
three hard labor camps in Tamu district near Indo-Myanmar border.
The prisoners sent back to original prisons with the suggestion of ICRC
consist of 39 from Oakpho hard-labor camp, 60 from Saya San camp and 24
from Yazagyo 1 camp. They were suggested by ICRC, not to do hard labor
due to their health conditions, old aged and some are too young.
The conditions of the prisoners under so called "new life project"
number 1 were deteriorated due to continuous hard work for the whole
day, insufficient food and malaria. The mortality rate of the prisoners
in these camp ranges from 24 to 30 percent every year, according to the
reports of the directorate of prisons.
An investigation team from ICRC visited these camps during last month
and suggested some prisoners are not suitable for hard labor. The number
of prisoners unsuitable for hard labor among new 200 prisoners to be
replaced, is not yet known.
In These Times: Backing Out of Burma
October 29, 2001
Sara Lee, owner of Hanes, and Williams Sonoma, owner of Pottery Barn,
both promised this month to pull Burmese imports off their shelves.
That makes 20 companies in the last 14 months to cut off production in
Burma because of human rights abuses by the ruling military regime.
The International Labor Organization has called working conditions in
Burma "a modern form of slave labor." In 1997, the United States banned
direct investment in Burma by American corporations but did nothing to
prevent those corporations from licensing the production of their goods
to factories run by the military regime. "We saw a gigantic spike in
imports after the 1997 ban," says Jeremy Woodrum, director of the
Washington office of the Free Burma Coalition. The companies pulled
out under pressure from activist groups such as the Free Burma
Coalition, Global Exchange and the National Labor Committee.
"Doing business with a military regime is hard, a little bizarre,"
says Heidi Quante, coordinator of Global Exchange's Burma Project.
"It's a risky, unstable environment. I think that in itself serves as
Major American corporations that continue to import goods from Burma
include Crate and Barrel and Ames. Federated Department Stores --
owner of Bloomingdale's, Macys and Burdines and the single biggest
clothing dealer in America -- also continues to sell Burmese products
in its stores.
Shan Herald Agency for News: Alien Workers Registration way below target
17 October 2001
No: 10 - 05:
The registration of migrant workers from Burma that began on 24
September and to be ended tomorrow bagged 20,000 short of the minimum
50,000 mark in Chiangmai, according to a Thai social worker.
"Most of them don't have the money to pay for the work permit," he said.
According to the conditions laid down by the Ministry of Labor and
Social Welfare, it costs each applicant B. 3,250 for the first six
months of the year and another B. 1,200 for the second six months.
The majority, especially in Fang, Mae Ai and Chaiprakarn districts where
there are large fruit plantations, receive pay only when there is work
in the fields that demands additional labor, according to other sources.
"There must be about 150,000 of them," said one social worker from Fang,
160 km north of Chiangmai.
The social worker from Bangkok, who speaks Thai, Shan and Burmese
fluently, reported only 40% of the applicants could pay for themselves,
while for 20% the fee is paid by the employer "who is going to cut it
back from the employee later" and another 30% by loaning. "Only 10% of
them were paid for in full by their employers, who consider them as
'part of the family'," he said.
The social worker also related how some applicants came to inquire
whether they could apply for marriage certificates and driving licenses
by using the work permits. "Of course, we had to advise them to seek
answers from departmental officials under the Ministry of the Interior."
The deadline of registration was extended from 13 October to 18 October.
"The 30 government officials, assisted by the Migrant Assistance
Program, an NGO based in Chiangmai, have been working through weekdays
and weekends for 25-days in a row now," he said.
a. Applicants by age
15-20 = 30%
20-35 = 50%
35-50 = 15%
50-60 = 5%
b. Applicants by sex:
c. Applicants by states:
Agriculture comes on top followed by factories and small industries,
housekeeping and entertainment.
EarthRights International: Testimony at the hearing of the Development
Committee of the European Parliament on October 11th, 2001, on European
Oil Companies in Burma
Over the past ten years, the Burmese military has committed
widespread and egregious human rights abuses for the benefit of western
oil companies, including Premier Oil and TotalFinaElf. The companies
hired the military to provide security and build infrastructure for
their gas pipeline projects even though they knew the military would
commit abuses on their behalf. Despite these abuses, Premier and Total
remain in partnership with the Burmese government. Burmese soldiers
continue to provide security for their pipelines, and continue to
commit human rights abuses for their benefit.
We have ample evidence that Total and Premier have long known
of the dangers of using the Burmese military to provide security, yet
went ahead with their projects nonetheless. A U.S. federal judge
recently found that there was evidence to show that partners in Total's
pipeline knew of the military's poor human rights record, hired the
military to provide security, and knew or should have known that the
military would commit human rights abuses in the course of providing
security. Additionally, an impact assessment done for Premier's
pipeline consortium, as well as declassified cables from the U.S.
embassy in Rangoon, demonstrate the companies' knowledge of the
likelihood of human rights abuses being committed by the soldiers
The military has provided at least three key services to the
companies. First, the military secured the region before work on the
pipelines began. As part of this effort, the military forcibly
relocated several villages and committed countless human rights abuses.
Second, as onshore work was commencing, the military directed the
construction of service roads and helipads, as well as their own camps
and barracks, through the use of forced labor.
Finally, the military provides ongoing security for the pipelines.
According to deserters that we have interviewed, at least two infantry
battalions#273 and #282 were created specifically for pipeline
security, in addition to several other battalions that patrol throughout
the region. The fact that these battalions provide security for the
pipeline is well known; for example, one villager interviewed this
summer described #273 and # 282 as the battalions hired by Total, and
another described both of them as providing security for the
Recent interviews conducted by EarthRights International confirms that
the military units who provide security for the pipelines are still
procuring forced labor. The worst form of this is forced portering,
where the soldiers force villagers to join them on patrols, carrying
heavy loads of supplies and ammunition, often beating them or even
leaving them to die.
According to a villager from the pipeline region who we
interviewed in July, a delegation from the Burmese government in Rangoon
came to his village earlier this year to explain to them that there
would be no more forced labor. After this delegation left, the village
was visited by the captain of the local military unit. The soldiers
warned them that they would be punished if they told anyone that they
still had to do forced labor and portering.
We have multiple reports from villagers in the pipeline region
that forced labor is in fact continuing; for example, three individuals
from the same village told us that battalion #273, one of the battalions
created to guard the pipeline, has forced civilians to work for them
within the past few months. One man from another village near the
pipeline told us earlier this year that, within the previous year, he
had been forced to porter ten times, mostly for battalions #273 and
#282. He was forced to porter even after signs were posted in his
village indicating that no one would be required to porter anymore.
While portering, he was beaten by soldiers and witnessed another porter
who had died. Another villager from the region told us that, in May of
this year, soldiers from battalion #282 arrested several villagers and
forced them to porter. They were then forced to help clear the local
road for several miles.
In addition to battalions #273 and #282, other battalions also
patrol to provide security for the gas pipelines. One man from a
village near the pipelines told us that battalion #410, which we had
previously confirmed as providing pipeline security, regularly
conscripts porters to patrol along the pipeline.
In addition to interviews, we also have evidence of
communications between military units indicating that forced labor is
continuing. Soldiers have told each other to be wise when using forced
labor, and have been instructed not to leave any written documentation
of forced labor orders; if they do give written orders to the village
headmen, they are instructed to get the orders back from them.
Other abuses by the military also continue, though some have
changed in subtle ways. For example, villagers were formerly required
to pay a monthly portering fee directly to the local military
commanders. The villagers still have to pay the armyin fact, one woman
from a village near the pipelines told us of three people being beaten
by the soldiers from battalion #282 because they refused to give money
to the soldiersbut the labels for the fees have now changed. Instead
of portering fees, villagers are required to contribute to funds such
as the Frontline Soldiers' Fund, or the Police and Militia Security
Another ongoing problem for villagers in the pipeline region is
that the military does not allow them to come and go freely. In order
to tend their farms in outlying areas, they must obtain passes from the
military. These passes are not always given out, putting the
villagers' livelihood at risk. We have also heard multiple reports of
soldiers forcing villagers to give them food, as well as confiscating
rice paddies for their own use.
The activities of Premier Oil and TotalFinaElf in Burma are in
flagrant violation of the companies' own internal standards, and in
violation of international law. For example, both Total's and Premier's
human rights policies indicates that the companies respect the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Premier's indicates that it
will withdraw from relationships with business partners who do not make
progress toward implementing human rights standards. Overwhelming
evidence indicates that the Burmese military, the business partner of
the companies as well as their agent for pipeline security, has
committed massive human rights abuses. Accordingly, in keeping with
its own policy, Premier should terminate its partnership with the
military and withdraw from its project.
Not only do Premier and Total fail to meet their own stated
standards of behavior, they fail to meet basic standards of corporate
accountability. True corporate responsibility would require several
elements. Most importantly, the victims of human rights abuses must
have some form of redress. International law, including the European
Convention on Human Rights and other major human rights treaties,
requires that victims of human rights abuses be provided with a remedy.
Redress itself is therefore a human right.
Without providing redress to the victims of their actions, and without
a commitment to halt the conduct that causes ongoing violations of
human rights, Premier and Total cannot claim that they are good
corporate citizens, regardless of what their new policies and codes of
conduct may say.
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