BurmaNet News: March 13 2003
editor at burmanet.org
editor at burmanet.org
Thu Mar 13 17:09:50 EST 2003
March 13 2003 Issue #2194
AFP: Exiled Myanmar group calls for release of ailing prisoners
DVB: Burma postpones Mandalay Industrial Expo fearing terrorist attack
DVB: Burmese opposition radio says fatal bus crash unreported in newspapers
Irrawaddy: Dissidents demand change on Human Rights Day
Mizzima: Bank crisis takes toll on traders in India and Burma
AFP: Euro MPs demand revival of peace talks in Myanmar
Nation: Thaksin confirms death threats from drug gangs
Xinhua: Thai army to negotiate withdrawal of Myanmars ethnic troops
AFP: Myanmars number two still in Singapore hospital
China Daily: More K-8 aircraft to enter overseas market
Narinjara: Madrasah students from Burma arrested in Bangladesh
FBC: Saks Sacks Burmese products
Agence France Presse march 13 2003
Exiled Myanmar group calls for release of ailing prisoners
An exiled Myanmar rights group called on the United Nations Thursday to
pressure Yangon's military rulers to release more than 100 ailing
political prisoners held throughout the country.
The All Women Movement Committee of Burma (AWMCB) said in a statement to
the United Nations Human Rights Commission that 129 political prisoners in
Myanmar's jails need urgent medical treatment for conditions such as
severe hypertension, arthritis, malaria, mental illness, heart disease and
"The ruling military junta needs to release those prisoners immediately
and the AWMCB solemnly urges the United Nations Human Rights Commission to
take action effectively on the junta's human rights violations," it said.
"Some of these political inmates have been charged not only with political
acts but the military regime has also labeled them with criminal charges
and other penalties," it said.
Among the ailing prisoners are 11 opposition MPs, four journalists, 11
women and two men over 80 years old, it added.
The letter was released to the media March 13, which was named Myanmar
human rights day in 1989 by Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's pro-democracy
On that day in 1988, General Ne Win's socialist regime was accused of
killing a student during a street protest, sparking nationwide
pro-democracy demonstrations which were brutally suppressed.
Myanmar, formerly called Burma, has endured frequent criticism about its
poor human rights record and has been urged repeatedly to release its
political prisoners, which Amnesty International says number between 1,200
Last week exiled representatives of Myanmar's Mon ethnic group urged the
UN to pressure Yangon to release three ailing Mon leaders jailed on
And on March 9 a Thai-based rights network blasted the junta for using the
suffering of women to solicit aid while doing nothing to tackle the
mountains of abuse heaped on them.
The Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Altsean) said 22 of the 30
articles of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights were being
violated in Myanmar under the ruling State Peace and Development Council.
Democratic Voice of Burma March 11 2003
Burma postpones Mandalay Industrial Expo fearing terrorist attack
It has been learned that the authorities have indefinitely postponed the
Upper Burma Industrial Exhibition. The exhibition, which was originally
planned to open on 3 March at Sinpyukan Grounds in Chanmyathazai Township,
Mandalay, was postponed fearing terrorist acts by destructive elements.
The authorities attributed the indefinite postponement to the discovery of
four bombs at the exhibition venue and intelligence reports that
destructive elements were already in Mandalay to engage in terrorist
Furthermore, the authorities warned that the owner of the booth will be
held responsible if any terrorist act occurred in his booth so the booth
owners and responsible officials were worried, anxious, and overly
vigilant. A local resident said those who came to open the industrial
exhibition booths have run out of rations and are facing difficulties.
The SPDC State Peace and Development Council organize industrial
exhibitions in Mandalay annually to show and promote all the products and
equipments produced at the industrial zones from across the nation. But at
this year's exhibition they plan to introduce products from China, Japan,
and India labelled as made in Myanmar. Local people said it is possible
the exhibition was postponed indefinitely because the authorities fear
lawsuits from foreign companies.
Democratic Voice of Burma March 11 2003
Burmese opposition radio says fatal bus crash unreported in newspapers
A school bus carrying university students from Syriam crashed with a crane
car on 17 February, killing 14 and seriously injuring 12 students, local
residents informed the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB). The students were
on their return trip home from the Institute of Economics in Ywathargyi.
A resident of Syriam recounted the accident in detail to DVB.
Unidentified Syriam resident The school bus overturned because it overtook
the crane car. While it was overtaking, the school bus brushed against the
crane car and overturned. When that was happening, a container carrier
coming from the opposite direction hit the school bus. Nine students were
killed on the spot, five more died later. That is what I know for certain.
About 12 others were wounded quite seriously. One student had his leg
amputated, two others lost their arms, and one lost an eye.
The local resident said government newspapers have not reported the accident.
Unidentified Syriam resident Of course, they have covered up the news.
Normally, people would not know about it. We found out about it from
sources close to those involved in the accident. The majority of the
people do not know about the accident. End of recording
Another resident of Syriam said only the names of two victims were carried
in the obituaries sections of newspapers.
Unidentified resident With the exception of a 21-year-old male student
which appeared in the Myanmar Alin and one female student whose name
appeared in the obituaries section of Kyemon - I don't subscribe to that
newspaper - no other names were mentioned.
DVB You mean, only two names out of the 14 killed appeared in the newspapers?
Resident Yes, even those two names were reported separately in two
newspapers, one name each in a newspaper. Of course, we were curious. We
wanted to know who the victims were and from which areas they were from.
We looked for the names but there was no report at all for about a week...
End of recording
According to the latest reports, the school bus driver has been placed
under arrest and charged. School authorities are also trying to placate
the students and taking care to resolve their problems. DVB has learned
that the education minister himself personally attended the funeral
proceedings for the students killed.
Irrawaddy March 13 2003
Dissidents Demand Change on Human Rights Day
By Naw Seng
Burmese dissident groups have today called on the ruling junta to steer
towards democracy and solve the ongoing political impasse in commemorating
Human Rights Day of Burma. Junta leaders in Rangoon, however, remain
silent and continue to shun talk with the countrys opposition groups.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the All Burma Federation of Students
Union (ABFSU) and Patriotic War Veterans of Burma (PWVB), both based in
Thailand, today issued separate statements urging Burmas ruling military
regime to initiate meaningful dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu
They have also called for dialogue with other opposition organizations and
ethnic groups to solve the countrys political and economic problems.
"Burmas political dilemma will ease with talk," said Sai Win Kyaw, of the
PWVB. "We do not agree with soldiers as rulers and dont like the way the
Burmese army is used as a tool to crush its own civilians."
The PWVB urged the international community to assist Burmas democracy
movement and strengthen their own initiatives for peace and democracy in
The ABFSU condemned the junta for avoiding the national reconciliation
process. The federation also called for the release of all political
prisoners, including famed student leader, Min Ko Naing.
On this day 15 years ago, Rangoon Institute of Technology student Phone
Maw was gunned down by authorities during a peaceful demonstration in
Rangoon. He was the first causality in the pro-democracy uprising of 1988
and Human Rights Day of Burma has been remembered in his honor on March 13
every year since 1989.
Mizzima March 13 2003
Bank crisis takes toll on traders in India and Burma
Guwahati: In a bid to solve the ongoing bank crisis, traders in Burma have
convened a meeting in the border town Tamu. Several Indian traders have
been invited for the meeting set to be held by next week. Export and
import between the countries has been affected to a large extent due to
closure of banks in Burma .
Reportedly, only a small quantity of goods amounting to Rs 10,000 kyat are
allowed to cross the border, causing severe problems for the
traders."Moreover we are yet to receive pending dues from Burmese traders
despite repeated requests", Indian traders reported. They also revealed
that Burmese traders are unable to complaint to the authorities, fearing
punishment from the junta.
The bank crisis started in Burma last month, following the withdrawal of
money by some private firms which resulted in the closure of some leading
banks of the country. The Burma Economic Bank located in Tamu, for
instance, was closed down, causing severe loss to traders in Burma and
India. Burmese traders are reportedly demanded that "both governments
should take urgent steps in this regard".
The Namphalang market - which is said to be the backbone of Burmese
economy - is in dire straits in view of the bank crisis. A section its
traders have already closed down their business due the crisis. A senior
officer of the government of Manipur (north east India) reported having
taken up the matter with the Indian Commerce ministry for an early
Agence France Presse March 13 2003
Euro MPs demand revival of peace talks in Myanmar
The European Parliament Thursday demanded the military government of
Myanmar revive peace talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
"MEPs urge the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to revive the
process of dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi in order to resolve the severe
problems Burma is currently facing, including the banking crisis," said a
Peace negotiations between the SPDC, the military junta's formal name, and
the Nobel Peace Prize-winning opposition leader have long been stalled.
The European Parliament's resolution took note of Myanmar's dire economy,
hampered by both international sanctions and gross mismanagement. There
has seen a rush on the country's private banks in recent weeks.
The resolution also called for the immediate release of all political
prisoners, including Shan Nationalities' League for Democracy
Secretary-General Sai Nyunt Lwin.
The MEPs further demanded an end to forced labour, with unrestricted
access to all parts of Myanmar by the UN's International Labour
"The House strongly urges the SPDC to stop the systematic use of rape
against ethnic women as a weapon of repression...," the resolution added.
It pressed the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, "to ensure
that support for humanitarian aid is done without political interference
by the military, and that international NGOs (non-governmental
organisations) are involved".
Nation March 13 2003
Thaksin confirms death threats from drug gangs
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday confirmed reports that
"foreign elements" have put a price on his head.
"Reports have come from our intelligence that a group of international
mafia bosses want to kill me," he said. "This is not a mere threat. They
A senior security officer also told The Nation yesterday that his agency
has been keeping an eye on a Thai national suspected of being hired to
kill the premier for a huge fee of Bt200 million. For the time being,
there is not enough evidence to press charges against the individual, the
officer said on condition of anonymity.
The suspected hit-man is believed to have been hired either by drug
dealers upset at the government's ruthless anti-drugs campaign or by
people who have suffered financial losses following the government's
decision to prohibit Thai nationals from crossing into Cambodia until
Phnom Penh compensates Thai interests for damage inflicted during
anti-Thai riots there on January 29.
There are seven casinos along the Cambodian side of the border. Six have
been shut down indefinitely since the border closure. Most of the casinos
are believed to be partly owned by influential Thai figures.
Police chief General Sant Sarutanond, who claimed to have information
about the plot to assassinate the premier, said the pro-Rangoon United Wa
State Army (UWSA), a 20,000-strong outfit that operates just inside
Burma's borders with Thailand and China, was behind the threat.
Local news reports yesterday also accused the UWSA of putting an
Bt80-million price on Thaksin's head, but the premier did not single out
the Wa, saying only that it was "a group outside the country".
A senior Wa leader dismissed the allegations that his group has put a
price on Thaksin's head in retaliation for the government's anti-drugs
In a telephone interview with The Nation from the UWSA headquarters in
Panghsang, bordering Yunnan, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Li Jia-jun
dismissed the reports, saying he did not know where the allegation
Deputy Premier Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said other senior government
officials would have to be careful as well, even though the primary target
On the other hand, Yongyuth Thiyapairath, secretary to the prime minister,
urged the press not to blow the story out of proportion, saying such a
threat is nothing out of the ordinary.
Furthermore, both civilian and military intelligence officers dismissed
the report, saying they had received no information to support the claim
that the Wa or any other foreign elements were out to remove the premier.
"It just doesn't make sense," said one senior Army officer in Chiang Rai
monitoring the Wa's activities along the border. "The implications would
be too great if the Wa were to pick a fight with the Thais," he said.
Moreover, covert meetings have been held between the UWSA and Thai Army
officials in China to clear the air over a number of issues, particularly
the presence of 10,000 Wa soldiers near the Thai border and the forced
relocation of tens of thousands of villagers to areas bordering Thailand.
The UWSA has been carrying out forced relocations of people living in
areas along the Chinese border under their control to newly built towns
adjacent to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. Moreover, half the
UWSA's 20,000 troops are positioned in the area. The Thai Army sees their
presence as a threat to the nation's security.
Thaksin has been travelling in a bullet-proof van this week rather than
his usual car, and authorities are now scouring Government House for bombs
twice a week. The boosted security follows the weekend shooting of an aide
to Interior Minister Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, the key official in the
ongoing anti-drug campaign, which has so far claimed at least 1,500 lives,
many of them people with no involvement in drugs at all. The government
has blamed the UWSA, dubbed the world's largest armed drug-trafficking
group, for the millions of methamphetamine pills flooding the country on a
The UWSA has consistently denied any involvement with illicit drugs but
has admitted that farmers in Wa-controlled areas grow opium. The group
vowed to eliminate all opium cultivation by 2015, with large areas being
taken out by 2005.
Thailand's campaign against drugs is mainly targeted at metamphetamines,
which an estimated 5 per cent of the country's 63 million people use
Xinhua News Agency March 13 2003
Thai army to negotiate withdrawal of Myanmar's ethnic troops
Thailand's Third Army stationed at the northern border will negotiate the
withdrawal of Myanmar's ethnic Shan State Army (SSA) troops from bases in
the area, reported Bangkok Post on Thursday.
The talks would focus on the withdrawal of the SSA troops from strongholds
along Thailand's northern border to Myanmar, Third Army commander Udomchai
Ongkhasing was quoted as saying.
The Third Army's deputy chief Saprang Kallayanamitr had been sent to sound
out the SSA executives, including their leader Col Yod Suek.
The Thai military wished the negotiation, which might take place around
the middle of March, would ease tensions, stop drug influx along the
border and show the Thai military's sincerity about softening the tense
relations between the SSA and Myanmar's authority.
"We will not push them back to Myanmar, but we will find new places for
them and control their use of weapons," said Udomchai.
The Thai military also hoped the move would convince the government of
Myanmar to ask the ethnic United Wa State Army to withdraw troops from
Udomchai said a joint military control and border demarcation are expected
to follow if the plan went smooth.
Agence France Presse March 13 2003
Myanmar's number two still in Singapore hospital: source
Myanmar's army chief General Maung Aye, the number two in the military
regime, was still in a Singapore government hospital Thursday taking
medical treatment, informed sources said.
Officials from the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) declined to confirm or
deny the general's presence but reports from Yangon said the 65-year-old
was flown to the city-state for further treatment on an enlarged prostate
Myanmar embassy officials could not be reached to confirm the general's
The informed source told AFP "he's still here" at the hospital but
declined to give other details.
Maung Aye is vice-chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development
Council and is seen as a hardliner in the military leadership.
In October 2001, former Myanmar dictator Ne Win was hospitalised at the
SGH for nearly two weeks with heart trouble, sources close to his family
said at that time.
Several men in shirts and ties had guarded Ne Win's hospital room, and
visitors to other patients in the ward said police and security guards
were patrolling the area.
China Daily March 13 2003
MORE K-8 AIRCRAFT TO ENTER OVERSEAS MARKET
China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp (CATIC) has agreed
to buy 100 K-8 aircraft from the Hongdu Aviation Industry Group for
The two companies signed an agreement in Beijing yesterday. Xu Zhanbin,
vice-president of China Aviation Industry Corporation II (AVIC II), the
parent of Hongdu Aviation, said the order for the 100 new aircraft showed
that AVIC II's K-8 was making inroads into overseas markets.
In December 1999, CATIC signed a contract with the Egyptian Defence
Department to export 80 K-8 aircraft and its production line.
The K-8 aircraft is designed for both training missions, involving take
off, landing, stunt-flying, night and spin flights, and armament operation
The K-8 aircraft has already been exported to several countries such as
Pakistan, Myanmar and Zambia.
The test flights indicate that the aircraft is an excellent basic trainer
with good flight quality and performance, and provides satisfactory
training efficiency at low operation and maintenance costs, said Zhang
Yanzhong, president of AVIC II.
"We will try our best to make the K-8 aircraft a bestseller by taking
feedback from customers and improving the product in accordance with
customer needs," he said.
Company sources said several Middle Eastern countries have shown strong
interest in the K-8 jet.
Other Southeast Asian and South American countries are also interested in
purchasing the aircraft, however sources failed to specify the progress of
these potential deals.
To become more competitive in the international market, Hongdu Aviation
has decided to invest more to upgrade and improve production. Founded in
1979, CATIC is a foreign trade joint venture between the China Aviation
Industry Corp I and the China Aviation Industry Corp II. It is one of the
country's 500 key State-owned companies.
Narinjara News March 13 2003
Madrasah Students from Burma arrested in Bangladesh
The BDR, border guards of Bangladesh, arrested twenty-one Burmese Muslim
students from Burma on 19th February, said our correspondent quoting a
source in the area.
The students were on their way to enrol into an Islamic Madrasah college
in Patiya, near Chittagong the main port city of Bangladesh. The Burmese
nationals were arrested on charges of illegal entry. The arrested persons
have now been shifted to the Coxs Bazaar prison in the southeastern part
of the country.
The move has been contrary to the undeclared permission of allowing
Burmese Muslims to continue their religious studies in many madrasahs of
the country, a practice that has never been challenged either the courts
or Bangladesh or the law enforcement agencies here.
An Islamic cleric from Coxs Bazaar told our correspondent that since
there is no permission for the Muslims of Burma to go to an outside
country for religious studies, and because the Burmese junta do not issue
legal passports to the Muslim madrasah students, they have no other way
than illegally cross the border to Bangladesh and get degrees on Islamic
studies from the Madrasahs in Bangladesh.
Free Burma Coalition March 13 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 13, 2003
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum, 202-547-5985; Aung Din, 301-602-0077
ATTENTION: Business, foreign affairs editors and journalists
Saks Sacks Burmese Products
Upscale Retail Giant Saks Inc. Becomes 39th Company to Ban "Made in Burma"
WASHINGTON, DC and NEW YORK - Saks Incorporated, owner of ten major retail
chains and 350 stores, has announced in a letter to the Free Burma
Coalition a policy against sourcing or retailing products made in the
Southeast Asian nation of Burma. Saks, with $5.9 billion in 2002 sales,
joins companies like Wal-Mart, Federated, and Tommy Hilfiger as the 39th
U.S. company to ban goods from Burma in three years. Increasingly,
companies are shunning Burmese products to avoid providing cash to Burma's
brutal military regime and to steer clear of rampant human rights abuses
there. Saks owns the chains Saks 5th Avenue, Profitt's, Younkers, Boston
Store, Parisian, McRae's, Herberger's, Carson Pirie Scott, Bergner's, and
"By banning sourcing and retail of products made in Burma, Saks is taking
a stand against oppression and dictatorship in Burma," says Aung Din,
Director of Policy for the Free Burma Coalition. "We applaud their
Within days of receiving a letter of complaint from the Free Burma
Coalition and other groups concerned about human rights abuses in Burma,
the company responded with a commitment to not stock products from Burma.
"Our policy applies to all suppliers - private label and otherwise," Saks
stated in a letter Tuesday. Since Saks is a major retailer, the
announcement marks a significant victory in the Free
Burma campaign, meaning that another large share of the U.S. retail market
is now off limits to products "Made in Burma."
Saks' decision follows recent moves by retailers including Mothers Work,
the 950-store U.S. maternity wear company, Burlington Coat Factory, and
Federated, owner of Macys and Bloomingdales. One of the only companies
that still hocks Burmese products is May Department Stores, owner of 14
mega-chains, including Foley's, Hechts, and Lord & Taylor.
"Why is it so easy for Saks and other major retailers to stand up for
human rights but so hard for May?" Aung Din asks.
According to the U.S. State Department, Burma's garment industry is
closely tied to a system of forced labor. Its 2002 human rights report on
Burma stated: "Forced labor, including forced child labor, has contributed
materially to the construction of industrial parks subsequently used
largely to produce manufactured exports including garments." Burma's
democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi has
repeatedly called for foreign businesses to avoid Burma until democracy
and human rights are restored. She has stated that sanctions send a
"strong political and economic message" to Burma's military regime, and
Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has called Burma the "new South
Africa" - comparing the Free Burma struggle to the anti-apartheid movement
when hundreds of U.S. companies cut ties to South Africa.
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