BurmaNet News, Feb 19, 2004
editor at burmanet.org
editor at burmanet.org
Thu Feb 19 14:39:02 EST 2004
Feb 19, 2004 Issue # 2425
Xinhua: Some factories resume operation in Myanmar since US sanctions
ON THE BORDER
BBC Monitor: Burma News International holds meeting, plans to disseminate
AFP: Thailand catches Myanmar 'courier', three Thais with 16 kilos of heroin
BUSINESS / MONEY
Korea Herald: Daewoo wins bid to explore Myanmar gas field
Korea Herald: Daewoo stocks shine on improved earnings: Former units of
defunct conglomerate post sharply higher operating profits
AP: India launches trade show blitz in Myanmar
JEN: Tokyo court grants refugee status to Myanmar man
Irrawaddy: Malaysia to Favor Immigrant Workers from Southern Thailand
AP: Myanmar-made sweat shirts found in NBA store
OPINION / OTHER
Cape Cod Online: The lady in jail
Dictator Watch: The world stands by and does nothing: the crisis in
SCMP: China paves way for big money to flow down Mekong
The Record: A voice resonates for a forgotten land; Burmese exile enlists
US Campaign for Burma News Update: New UNHCR registration process for
applications from Myanmar asylum-seekers as of 1 February 2004
Irrawaddy: Suspicions in Shan State - An Interview with Col Yord Serk
Feb 19, Xinhua
Some factories resume operation in Myanmar since US sanctions
Some factories in a major industrial zone here, which were suspended due
to US sanctions, are resuming operation with manpower cut and new markets
sought, the local Business Tank reported in its latest issue.
The 31 factories in the Hlaingtharyar Industrial Zone are being rebounded
as 10 factories for normal operation, seeking orders from local as well as
from abroad covering Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, South Korea,
Malaysia, Europe and China's Hong Kong and Taiwan.
According to the report, up to early January this year since the
sanctions, 81 factories closed in Myanmar with nearly 15,000 workers
becoming jobless. Besides, another 37 factories reduced labors, bringing
about unemployment of over 8,000 workers.
Other sources said dozens of garment factories in the industrial zone have
also been shut due to the sanctions. Although there are still some such
factories keep on operation, they have lost the US market, resulting in a
downward trend in the garment products exports.
The Hlaingtharyar industrial zone in the capital, established in 1995,
represents the most developed one out of 19 in Myanmar.
Sine last July, the United States has tightened sanctions on Myanmar on
account of last May 30 bloody incident. The US sanctions not only ban
imports from Myanmar including garment products but also freeze the
government's assets in the United States.
ON THE BORDER
Feb 19, BBC Monitor
Burma News International holds meeting, plans to disseminate news globally
he Burma-Thailand border based Burma News International, BNI, declared
that it would try to make news report on the prevailing situation in Burma
a world-class report and attempt to disseminate the news internationally.
The BNI, formed with seven exiled Burmese media groups, held a media
development meeting on 10-12 February. DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma)
correspondent Maung Too filed this report on the meeting and the
activities of the BNI.
(Reporter) The seven media groups that attended the meeting were
India-based Mizzima News, Kaladan Press Network (Bangladesh-based),
Narinjara News (Bangladesh-based), Khonumthung News, Thailand-based NMG,
Network Media Group, Karenni News Agency and Independent Mon News Agency.
When DVB asked BNI spokesperson Ko Aung Naing about any significant change
regarding cooperation of seven exiled Burmese media groups, he said;
(Ko Aung Naing) After the formation of the BNI, we were able to do more
than we expected.
(Reporter) How far have the seven media groups been able to penetrate and
disseminate news into the international media?
(Ko Aung Naing) Well, we are in the process of attempting to disseminate
news about Burma internationally. First we plan to break into the Indian,
Bangladeshi, and Thai media. Although we have not been able to reach a
high level of achievement yet, we can say we have received recognition to
a great extent.
(Reporter) When asked why the Thailand-based Irrawaddy news group, Khit
Pyaing Magazine and Shan Herald Agency for News are not included in the
BNI, he answered;
(Ko Aung Naing) Well, we could say that they are not ready to join with us
at present. That is why they, Amyin Thit (New Outlook) and The Irrawaddy
attended the seminar on the last day and held frank discussions.
(Reporter) Ko Aung Naing expected the BNI membership to increase from the
current seven media groups and declared to endeavour until independent
news media groups emerged inside the country. Regardless of the situation
in Burma, media personnel have been commenting that as there are no
independent news media groups inside the nation where the people have no
choice but to read, listen and watch SPDC (State Peace and Development
Council)-controlled newspapers, radio and TV, the efforts of these seven
media groups would definitely enhance the development of the Burmese media
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 16 Feb 04
Feb 19, Agence France Presse
Thailand catches Myanmar 'courier', three Thais with 16 kilos of heroin
A suspected Myanmar national and three Thais were arrested in possession
of 16 kilogrammes (35.2 pounds) of heroin, Thai police said Thursday.
They face the death penalty if convicted under Thailand's strict
Kyan Shown Pons, 50, was caught in the Thai capital along with a Thai man
and two Thai women when police searched their car Wednesday night.
"He (Pons) was the courier who was coming from the northern Thai province
of Chiang Rai to provide the drugs for three suspects we arrested earlier,
including two Taiwanese and one Malaysian," police Major General Niphon
Phumarin told AFP.
Bangkok metropolitan police arrested that trio Sunday in possession of
eight kilogrammes of heroin, and the bust led to the fresh arrests
Police also expressed concern that Pons may be traveling on a forged
passport, Niphon said.
Authorities believed all six suspects were linked to an international drug
ring which had entered Thailand in order to buy large amounts of heroin
from the "Golden Triangle" area where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand come
In January 2003, police discovered 35.5 kilograms of heroin in one of the
largest seizures since the drug's popularity declined in Thailand due to
the increased use of methamphetamines.
BUSINESS / MONEY
Feb 19, Korea Herald
Daewoo wins bid to explore Myanmar gas field - Revekah Kim
Daewoo International Corp. has won the right to explore another gas field
off the coast of Myanmar, the company announced yesterday.
Officials said that the Myanmar Energy Ministry granted rights to the
former trading arm of the now-defunct Daewoo Group to explore for gas in
A-3 Block, which is a 6,780-square-kilometer area in the Bay of Bengal.
The company is slated to start offshore drilling in early 2006 to search
for gas fields after research and technological studies are complete.
Last month, Daewoo led a group that found a gas field in Block A-1, which
is adjacent to Block A-3. The reserves in Block A-1 are presumed to store
up to 6 trillion cubic feet of gas, which is energy-equivalent to between
700 million and 1.1 billion barrels of crude oil, a Daewoo official said
in January. One cubic foot equals about 28.3 liters.
The company, which trades steel, cement, auto parts and other products,
owns 60 percent of the block and expects 100 billion won ($86 million) in
annual profit from it. India's Oil & Natural Gas Corp. owns 20 percent,
the Gas Authority of India Ltd. has 10 percent and Korea Gas Corp. owns
the remaining 10 percent.
Daewoo International also owns a stake in other gas field projects in
Oman, Vietnam and Peru. Korea is the world's second-largest buyer of
liquefied natural gas and depends entirely on imports for its supplies.
Shares in Daewoo International fell 1,350 won to 10,000 won in late
afternoon trading yesterday.
Feb 19, Korea Herald
Daewoo stocks shine on improved earnings: Former units of defunct
conglomerate post sharply higher operating profits
Shares of former Daewoo Group affiliates rose sharply following
better-than-expected corporate results released yesterday.
Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., the world's second-largest
shipbuilder, posted sales of 4.3 trillion won ($3.6 billion), a
28.6-percent increase over 2002, and an operating profit of 345.4 billion
won, a 27.5-percent increase.
However, earnings fell 1.9 percent as it set aside provisions for
"We posted record-high operating profits and sales last year, helped by
sales of high-end ships, such as LNG carriers and large offshore
platforms," said Shim Kyu-sang, the company's chief finance officer.
"Although our net profits declined as the shipbuilding aside 93 billion
won of provisions for severance package, it will help us eliminate
uncertainties in regard to our relationship with employees," Shim added.
Buoyed by its sales performance despite a drop in earnings, investors
snatched up shares of the shipbuilder and pushed its share price up 150
won to 15,300 won per share as of 2:30 p.m. yesterday.
Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co. also released its earnings results
yesterday that attracted investors. Its share price shot up 2.36 percent
to 5.200 won per share as of 2:30 p.m.
The construction company said its sales and net profit last year reached
4.2 trillion won and 163.7 billion won, respectively. That was a sales
increase of 22.6 percent and 34.6-percent rise in net profit, thanks to
the boom in the nation's real estate market last year.
Daewoo Heavy Industries & Machinery Ltd., the nation's leading machinery
maker, which released its last year's results earlier with a 23-percent
increase in sales and 62-percent rise in net profit compared with a
year-earlier, yesterday announced that monthly sales exceeded $100 million
for the first time in January.
The nation's largest maker of construction equipment said its sales in
January rose to 219.1 billion won, up 2.6 percent from the previous month,
and its operating profit surged to 25.5 billion won from a loss of 12.7
billion won in the same period.
"Our performance improved greatly thanks to strong exports," a company
official said. He also added the company benefited from lower interest
payments as it makes efforts to reduce debts.
The machinery maker rose 1.67 percent to 9,150 won per share yesterday on
the local bourse.
Daewoo International Corp., the former trading arm of now-defunct Daewoo
Group, rose by its 15-percent daily limit on news that it is expected to
win a bid to explore for gas off Myanmar.
Daewoo International, which led a group that found gas in Block A-1 off
Myanmar last month, bid for the right to explore the gas fields in the
adjacent Block-3. The Herald Business reported yesterday that Daewoo
International may be named the winner when the government of Myanmar
announces the result of the bidding as early as tonight.
Maeil Business Newspaper also reported that Daewoo International is
expected to post annual profits of more than 100 billion won from 2010
from the development of gas fields.
The four Daewoo companies are former units of now-defunct Daewoo Group,
which collapsed under a mounting of debt after the 1997-98 Asian financial
crisis. All of them are expected to put up for sale, following completion
of their multi-year, debt workout programs.
The Ministry of Finance said last month that it would divide 47 million
worth of shares of Daewoo Heavy Industries & Machinery Co. into defense
and private investment portion and pursue M&A either through a packaged or
"But we will exclude foreign investors in the bidding for the defense
division since it is concerned with national security," an official at the
The ministry will also seek to sell its stake in Daewoo Shipbuilding and
Marine Engineering Co., which graduated from corporate workout in 2001.
"But if finding an appropriate buyer for the shipbuilder proves difficult
an overseas Global Depository Receipt issuance will be executed," said the
Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co. and Daewoo International, both of
which completed workout programs in December last year, are also
anticipated to put be on sale this year by industry watchers.
Many analysts say that sales of government stake in Daewoo companies that
once had been in trouble are welcomed in terms that it would advance the
nation's efforts to recoup the 161.1 trillion won of public funds used to
bail out the country's ailing companies since the 1997-98 Asian financial
"But collection of public funds should be preceded by a thorough
examination of expected buyers. The government should take heed not to
sell its stake hurriedly under the pressure that it should collect public
funds as soon as possible. Selling it at a fair price is more important
than selling it earlier with a lower-than-fair price," said Park Kun-yong,
an official at People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a major
civic group of the nation.
Feb 19, Associated Press
India launches trade show blitz in Myanmar
Indian companies from a range of industries opened a four-day trade show
in Myanmar's capital Thursday, as part of a government policy to
strengthen ties with Southeast Asian neighbors.
Hundreds of curious buyers and entrepreneurs from Myanmar turned up on the
first day of the fair, where more than 20 companies showcased Indian
industry. Booths selling handmade jewelry, silk clothing and shawls were
the biggest draw.
As India's economy has grown rapidly with economic liberalization, its
government has adopted a "Look East" policy of doing more trade with
Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.
Construction, steel, solar energy, and pharmaceuticals companies were just
a few industries represented at the "Made in India" trade show.
Myanmar brings in 8.4 percent of its imports from India, said Commerce
Minister Brig. Gen. Pyi Sone, who opened the show.
After Thailand, India is the second largest export market for Myanmar,
comprising 25 percent of its exports.
Indian Ambassador R.K. Bhatia said bilateral trade reached US$500 million
in 2002-2003, with the balance of trade consistently in favor of Myanmar.
Both countries have targeted US$1 billion worth of trade by 2006, he said.
The relationship between Myanmar and India "stands greatly strengthened
today through a shared political perspective, and a combination of
projects launched or completed," Bhatia said.
India's uneasy political relationship with Myanmar's military junta - over
its crackdown on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party - has also
improved in recent years, with several bilateral visits between army
officials and political leaders.
Although India says it supports democracy in Myanmar, it has not
criticized the junta's abysmal rights' record.
India's forays into Myanmar are also aimed at countering the influence of
China - India's economic and military rival, and Yangon's chief patron.
Feb 19, Japan Economic Newswire
Tokyo court grants refugee status to Myanmar man
The Tokyo District Court on Thursday granted refugee status to a
39-year-old Myanmar man, quashing an earlier decision by immigration
authorities to deny him such a status.
In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Masayuki Fujiyama recognized
the man's claims of persecution as credible and ruled that fears of
detention and torture and the risk to his life on account of his political
views were well-founded.
Fujiyama described the order issued by the Justice Ministry's Tokyo
Regional Immigration Bureau rejecting his refugee status application as
illegal and said it was 'unacceptable' to send him back to Myanmar.
According to the ruling, the man joined a pro-democracy movement in
Myanmar after graduating from university. He fled to Japan in November
1989 and applied for refugee status in 1997, but this was rejected the
He was detained for a year from July 2001 based on a deportation order,
but later took the issue to court, seeking nullification of the refugee
status rejection in 2000 and of the deportation order in 2001.
He is now on provisional release.
Following Thursday's ruling, the man said he hopes that the Japanese
government and immigration officials will act on the ruling and review
their stringent policy in dealing with his compatriots seeking to become
refugees in Japan.
Feb 19, Irrawaddy
Malaysia to Favor Immigrant Workers from Southern Thailand
Malaysia will give priority to people from Thailands Muslim-dominated
South when considering work permit applications from prospective migrants
from the Kingdom, a Malaysian minister said Thursday.
Human Resources Minister Fong Chan Onn said Thailand had requested the
move because immigrant workers from the South have closer cultural and
language links than those from the North, the national news agency Bernama
Thailands southernmost provinces are among its poorest, and have been
wracked with violence blamed on Islamic insurgents. Thailand is
Mostly Muslim Malaysia is one of Southeast Asias richest countries and is
a magnet for foreign workers from poorer Asian nations, who work mostly in
Fong said the proposal to favor Thai workers from the South would be
included in a memorandum of understanding that officials from the two
countries will sign March 1.
The agreement was reached during a recent meeting between Fong and his
Thai counterpart, Uraiwan Thienthong.
Feb 19, Associated Press
Myanmar-made sweat shirts found in NBA store
Sweat shirts manufactured in Myanmar were found on shelves of the NBA's
Manhattan store Wednesday.
The league promised nearly a month ago it would remove the sweat shirts
following charges the store was violating federal law by selling goods
made in Myanmar.
The $55 "I Love this Game" sweat shirts bearing "Made in Myanmar" tags
were found last weekend. Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor
Committee, made the discovery when he returned different sweat shirts
bought in January as evidence the store was selling goods made in the
Southeast Asian country, formerly Burma.
On Wednesday, several sweat shirts made in Myanmar were found mixed in
with others bearing "Made in Vietnam" tags.
On Jan. 21, the NBA said it would pull any items made in Myanmar off its
"The fact that these sweat shirts could make it into the store after all
of this means they are not monitoring this stuff at all," Kernaghan said.
The NBA searched its Fifth Avenue store after being contacted by a
reporter Wednesday and found and removed 12 Myanmar-made sweat shirts.
"Given our process this should not have been able to happen," league
spokesman Matt Bourne said. "We are currently investigating how this
Last July President Bush signed the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act,
which bans imports from Myanmar. It went into effect in September.
Congress passed the law because of Myanmar's poor human rights record,
which includes the jailing of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi,
who is currently under house arrest.
Bourne said in January that NBA licensees must sign a code of conduct that
requires factories "meet NBA standards regarding working conditions."
Kernaghan said the league's standards must not be very high.
"The message that they are delivering to their licensees must be very,
very weak," he said. "The sad part about it is the NBA is powerful, the
players and the owners are powerful, and if they stood up and tried to
make a statement they could have tremendous impact."
OPINION / OTHER
Feb 18, Cape Cod Online
The lady in jail: Recognize Aung San Suu Kyi for who she is - another
Last May, a mob of government-sponsored thugs attacked Aung San Suu Kyi's
motorcade at Dipeyin in Burma.
Suu Kyi is the only daughter of Burma's great independence hero Aung San,
who was assassinated when she was only 2.
To millions of Burmese, she is seen as their only hope for democracy and
freedom from a repressive regime.
But since the attack in May, when she and 19 members of the National
League for Democracy were taken into "temporary protective custody" - Suu
Kyi remains in jail.
She has been under some form of restraint, mostly house arrest, for almost
all of the past 13 years.
"Alone in her cell, still wearing the same blouse and skirt she was
arrested in May, she remains the most influential person in Burma," writes
Gwynne Dyer, an international correspondent based in London. "The generals
have the guns and the money, but she has the legitimacy."
She is the 21st-century version of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or Lech
Walesa, yet the U.S. public knows little about this modern-day hero.
Her saga began about 15 years ago, when the original Burmese tyrant, Ne
Win, resigned after more than two decades in power. His aim was to
transfer power to an elected government while retaining control.
But his plans went awry when Suu Kyi happened to be in Burma in 1988, home
from her quiet life as an academic and mother in England to nurse her
"At the time, Southeast Asia was in political ferment: the example of the
nonviolent democratic revolution led by Cory Aquino in the Philippines in
1986 had already spread to Thailand and Bangladesh, toppling long-ruling
military regimes, and now threatened the control of the Burmese military
as well," Dyer said.
Suu Kyi quickly became the symbol of the pro-democracy movement in Burma.
After three months, the military leadership, realizing that events were
spinning out of control, took back power and authorized the massacre of
thousands of citizens in Rangoon.
In 1990, the regime held a carefully staged election to gain some
international respectability. Suu Kyi and the NLD had won by a landslide:
82 percent of the votes.
"The army immediately canceled the results and arrested all of the NLD's
leaders, but it never got over the effects of that mistake," Dyer said.
Last year, a new generation of generals released Suu Kyi from house arrest
in the hope that they could end the foreign boycotts and rejoin the world
without giving up power.
Suu Kyi openly criticized the regime in more and more speeches, and as the
crowds increased in size, the regime unleashed its thugs in May and once
again arrested her.
Now, the regime is back where it was, loathed by foreigners and Burmese
alike. How long can it hold out against the united disapproval of
practically everyone? Quite a long time, if the past is any guide.
The international community must not allow that to happen.
(The renaming of Burma as Myanmar in 1989 was a cynical ploy by the
military regime intended to win the support of Burmese nationalists, and
is not recognized by the democratic opposition.)
Feb 18, Dictator Watch
The world stands by and does nothing: the crisis in eastern Burma Roland
This is an update on the internally displaced person (IDP) crisis now in
progress in Eastern Burma. Please see
www.dictatorwatch.org/phshows/ethniccleansing2.html for the Free Burma
Rangers relief team mission report (with photography and map) covering the
period January 2-31.
FBR relief teams have treated 3,991 IDPs for medical problems and 124 for
dental problems. In addition, they are documenting the ongoing Burma Army
campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Karen and Karenni peoples, and
other specific war crimes including:
Destruction of villages
Theft and destruction of villager belongings and crops (the intentional
Laying of new land mines
Torture of villagers
Breaking News Update: The number of known IDPs is now 5,700. In addition
to the 3,500 displaced persons in Muthraw District, Karen State, which are
described in the mission report, the FBR relief teams have determined that
there are an additional 2,200 IDPs in Toungoo District (the northernmost
district in Karen State). However, the number of Karenni IDPs who fled
north from Southern Karenni State (which borders Toungoo District and
which is the epicenter of the ethnic cleansing) is still unknown, so the
total resulting from the latest Burma Army atrocity is likely much larger.
Also, although Burma Army attacks in Muthraw District have for the time
being ceased, such attacks are now intensifying in both Toungoo District
and Southern Karenni State, as the Army has engaged eight more battalions.
In other words, this is no longer simply a crisis; it is a disaster.
Further, it is a disaster to which there has been no international or
United Nations condemnation, much less a concerted, on the ground,
Indeed, it is extremely telling that while all of this has been taking
place, the international community has actually been renewing its contacts
with Burma's junta, the SPDC. Many diplomats and journalists have even
gone so far as to call recent developments in the country: "progress."
Obviously, they are excluding from their list of developments this massive
and systematic commission of crimes against humanity. Perhaps if each such
diplomat and journalist had IDP relatives who had seen their homes burned
down and lives destroyed, or a family member being tortured in one of
Burma's prisons, they would realize just how ludicrous their position is.
All such supporters of SPDC propaganda are living in a fantasy world. Just
because you want something to work, doesn't mean that it will. Than Shwe's
strategy is to let Khin Nyunt and Win Aung conduct an international charm
offensive, while Maung Aye's Burma Army continues its brutal repression.
Nothing has changed. The SPDC's reign of terror proceeds unabated.
Further, they will never willingly leave, or even share power. The
relaxation of pressure by the international community, starting with by
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand, is accomplishing the exact
opposite of its stated objective: a transition to democracy. Instead, the
SPDC is using this period to secure new funds and arms, and to entrench
its military positions around the country such that, at least concerning
an internal uprising, it is invincible.
With no internal uprising, and with the countries of the world supporting
Burma's ruling mass-murderers (both tacitly and economically), the nation
How will the international community respond to this disaster? Will there
even be a
response? After the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi, didn't the leaders of
say: Never Again!? At least peacekeepers have been sent to the conflict in
Eastern Congo. Why not Burma? Does Thaksin have that much influence?
demand access to eastern Burma through Thailand's border, other nations,
United Nations, are deferring to him, and the body count continues to rise.
The IDPs remain in grave danger: under fire, starving and freezing. How
they wait before the world comes to their aid?
Feb 19, South China Morning Post
China paves way for big money to flow down Mekong: Frenetic trade is
creating a boomtown in Thailand's sleepy northern border province, writes
Manop Kanthakat is a happy man. The longan farmer from Chiang Rai's Mae
Chan district has just sealed a deal to sell the entire harvest from his
orchard to a dried fruit company in China.
"Life has been a struggle, but things are looking up," he says. "In the
past, every year after the harvest, my family would help me sell the fruit
at a stall on the highway. We'd be up at 4am, and work until after
midnight. But this new deal means a chance to make some real money."
The farmer says he is thinking about buying more property to expand his
operation and, if things go well, he might even set up a fruit-preserving
Similar deals are being struck all around this sleepy northernmost
province of Thailand, formerly famous chiefly for being part of the
notorious drug hub, the Golden Triangle.
Investment from China is now pouring into Chiang Rai, following the launch
of a free-trade area pact between the two countries covering fruit and
vegetables, and the conclusion of a controversial Chinese-led operation to
blast underwater rocks and reefs in the Mekong River to let in large
ships. "The whole place is buzzing," says Mr Manop. "Deals are being done
every day. People are very optimistic. I would say within five years, you
won't recognise Chiang Rai, it's going to be an important trading centre."
That's a sentiment shared by the Thai government, which is preparing to
inject billions of baht into infrastructure projects.
Chiang Rai deputy governor Sriprom Homyog says plans are well under way
for a second river port in Chiang Saen, the small tourist town close to
the Golden Triangle from which you can gaze across the Mekong to Burma and
Laos, and where the tip of China's southernmost Yunnan province is also a
stone's throw away.
More than 3000 Chinese boats are expected to arrive at the existing port
this year, up from fewer than 1,000 in 2003. According to Xinhua, the
Chinese news agency, shipping between the two countries rose to 235,000
tonnes last year, up from 168,600 tonnes two years earlier. "The new port
will accommodate vessels with a gross weight of 500 tonnes," says Mr
Sriprom. "The current facility's two terminals can only handle vessels up
to 120 gross tonnes.
"We are very excited. Chiang Rai has been chosen as the core province in
the north to spearhead border trade in the region. Apart from the port, we
are looking at a road that will link Chiang Rai and Jinghong, in Yunnan,
passing through Burma."
A bridge across the Mekong in the area was also under consideration, as
well as another road which would connect Chiang Kong, another riverside
town in Chiang Rai, with Luang Nam Tha in Laos and on to China.
A 20 billion baht (HK$ 4 billion) investment had been earmarked for 410km
of new railway tracks, from the central province of Phitsanulok via Chiang
Mai to Chiang Kong. The new line would cut the present rail journey by
more than four hours. Meanwhile, Southeast Asian Technology Co and Golden
Pan Co are completing a feasibility study and design for the new port,
with construction expected to begin in 2006.
Besides these megaprojects, says Mr Sriprom, rubber growers in Chiang Rai
are planning to expand plantations by almost half to more than 10,000
hectares and plantations of tea - which grows well in the cool, hilly
province - will also be doubled to more than 20,000 hectares within two
years. Thai Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade chairman Ajva
Taulananda predicts that within five years, Thai exporters will be
shifting more than 60 billion baht worth of produce annually along the
Mekong to China.
Meanwhile, dozens of big corporations from Yunnan have announced plans to
develop an industrial estate in Chiang Rai to accommodate the trade boom.
Yunnan governor Xu Rongkai visited the province in December, and said the
investment, which would be "huge", was part of China's commitment to
enhancing co-operation in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, a body
established with Asian Development Bank help in 1992 to facilitate trade
and development between China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and
Vietnam - all of which share the Mekong.
Mr Xu said the industrial estate would serve investment in high
technology, manufacturing and tourism industries. Joint venture partners
from Thailand were being sought. So far more than 20 corporations from
Yunnan had signed on as backers.
The three-phase project - a "commodities city, duty-free zone and a
supplier's centre" - will be built in Chiang Saen district and is expected
to be completed 10 years from now, according to Dai Jie, deputy director
of Yunnan Provincial Bureau of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation.
The Chinese state-run Ya Zin company is now negotiating with the Thai
authorities to establish the 500 million yuan (2.5 billion baht) economic
zone on a 32- square-kilometre plot about 6km back from the river. The
blasting of the Mekong has cut the journey between the two countries for
big ships to around a day. Before, it took more than a week to sail the
1,500km from Guangdong province to Thailand.
But the destruction over the past year of 11 big rapids and rocky outcrops
along the 5,594 km river - nine in Laos, one near the Sino-Myanmar border
and one in Thailand - has aroused as much controversy among
environmentalists, farmers and fishermen as it has optimism among traders.
China has invested millions of dollars in the blasting, which was done
with the co-operation of Thailand and Laos.
One NGO, the Thailand-based Towards Ecological Recovery Regional Alliance,
said the ill-effects of the project would be reaped for generations. "The
Environmental Impact Assessment, which concluded the blasting would have
little effect, was a joke. It was done in less than a year," says
spokesman Premrudee Daoroung. "The river's ecology and flow have been
Joern Kristensen, chief executive of the Mekong River Commission, said
China had repeatedly refused invitations to join the body, which comprises
members from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. "China, like other
giant countries, is reluctant to engage in multilateral co-operation," he
Following the outcry the blasting provoked, China has agreed to postpone a
second phase, in which a further 51 reefs would go.
Mae Lue, 48, is a farmer from Chiang Saen who sold up and bought a stall
concession, where she sells fake Nike shirts, assorted trashy trinkets and
towels emblazoned with naked women. "There are more and more Chinese
coming every day," she says. "They're full of big talk about all the money
they're going to invest. And they like to flash their cash."
She looks down the road, which is lined with fume-belching tourist buses
parked in front of concrete shop-houses, and smiles. "There's money in the
air. Can't you smell it?"
Feb 19, The Record
A voice resonates for a forgotten land; Burmese exile enlists students'
help - by Brian Aberback, Staff Writer, North Jersey Media Group
Moe Chan had a keen interest in democracy while growing up in Burma. And
with good reason: Freedom is a foreign concept in his native land, which
is ruled by a military dictatorship.
"We were all excited and wanted to know what democracy was," Chan told 60
eighth-graders at Smith Middle School on Wednesday. "The students wanted
Chan, 27, spoke to the youngsters Wednesday on behalf of the International
Campaign for Democracy in Burma, one of many organizations fighting for
human rights in the Southeast Asian country now officially known as
Still commonly called Burma, it has been a military state since 1962.
About the size of Texas, it's bordered by Thailand, China, and India.
The eighth graders are studying Burma as part of their World Cultures
class. They've also studied other troubled populations, such as the Ogani
tribe in Nigeria, who have been forced by their government from their
The people of Burma live under brutal conditions imposed by the ruling
dictatorship, said Chan, who left the country to join family in America
when he was 12. For example, he said, people can be imprisoned for singing
pro-democracy songs, parents have to bribe principals in order to send
their children to school, and many are forced into slave labor to work on
The government also arbitrarily kicks people off their land, Chan said.
About 60 percent of the country's 42 million inhabitants are farmers.
"If the government sees the land is good, they say, 'You're out. This land
is owned by us,'-" said Chan.
"What can you say? If you resisted, you were beaten to death," he said.
"That's the situation."
Chan left Burma after a student uprising in 1988. According to a
documentary that the students watched, thousands were murdered,
imprisoned, and tortured following the revolt.
The uprising ultimately led to legitimate elections in 1990. The
pro-democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi won an overwhelming 82
percent of the vote, but the military dictatorship refused to turn over
Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been under house
arrest for most of the past 15 years.
The United States has imposed economic sanctions on Burma, as have some
"Many are reluctant to do anything," Chan said. "We are very grateful to
the United States. Their sanctions have cost the regime millions."
Chan said he was impressed with the students' knowledge of his country.
"You've probably learned more about Burma than most adults," he told them.
Smith School Principal Richard Wiener said teaching about troubled
countries helps students put into perspective what they've learned about
subjects such as democracy, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
"We're giving them a look at real situations," Wiener said. "The question
is, what is [the students] responsibility? Are you going to do something
about this progress toward democracy now and as you grow up? That's what
you have to decide."
The students appeared to have taken the call to heart. Following the
presentation, some spoke of organizing a fund-raiser for the pro-democracy
movement in Burma.
"I think it's our responsibility to at least inform everyone about what's
going on," said Dan Clarke, 14.
Glynis Fasan, 13, said that studying dictatorships has "helped us look at
our own lives and be more thankful for what we have."
Feb 18, US Campaign for Burma News Update
New UNHCR registration process for applications from Myanmar
asylum-seekers as of 1 February 2004
Editor' (US Campaign for Burma) note
Dear Readers, You can find the latest UNHCR memo in this issue. As you'll
notice the Bangkok office of the UNHCR is resuming the refugee status
determination-but only for the purpose of referring people for relocation
into the camps, which are very close to the border. The plan to relocate
all persons of concern (POCs) including a lot of Burmese dissidents into
the camps appears to be moving ahead in March of this year. A lot of
political asylum seekers have concerns for their security if they are sent
to the camps, especially since its almost certain that the Thais will
share the list of POCs with the Burmese military junta.
Now Burmese dissidents in Thailand who don't have any documents are
hesitant to register for UNHCR status because it essentially means they
will be sent to the camps. Basically that means that the only security
they have against deportation is to rely on being able to bribe the police
when they get arrested, this doesn't always work of course and has become
increasingly difficult over the past few months.
It seems very probable that Thais will conduct a sweep to round up the
remaining groups after the relocation process. Thai police are already
watching the Burmese dissident groups that they think will not go into the
camps so they can 'round them up' after some sort of deadline for this is
set. The main intention of Thai government is to stop Burmese dissidents
from conducting political activities from Thai soil.
The NLD demonstrated the strength of its opposition movement on February
12, 2004, 57th Union Day in Burma. NLD leaders and members gathered and
commemorated the Union Day under the continuous harassment of the military
intelligence and reaffirmed the position of NLD, calling for tripartite
dialogue among the military junta, NLD and ethnic nationalities to solve
the problems of Burma peacefully.
New UNHCR registration process for applications from Myanmar
asylum-seekers as of 1 February 2004
As of 1 January 2004, UNHCR suspended its refugee status determination
activities for new applications from asylum seekers from Myanmar, at the
request of the Royal Thai Government. The reasons for this suspension were
outlined in a note issued by UNHCR on 6 January 2004.
Following further discussions between UNHCR and the Royal Thai Government
regarding asylum seekers and refugees ("Persons of Concern" ["POCs"]) from
Myanmar in Bangkok and other urban centers, it has been agreed that as of
1 February 2004, UNHCR will recommence registration of new asylum
applicants. The registration process will be for the purpose of referring
new applicants for admission to the camps located at the Thai-Myanmar
border, in accordance with the Royal Thai Government's policy that POCs
from Myanmar may not remain in Bangkok or other urban centers. New
applicants will not be eligible for financial assistance from UNHCR in
Admission to the border camps will be determined under screening
procedures still to be decided by the Thai authorities. Following
discussions with the Royal Thai Government, UNHCR understands that these
new screening procedures will be established in the near future. Lists of
those registered with UNHCR from 1 January 2004 will be shared with the
Royal Thai Government and the screening body that is eventually
At the same time, UNHCR will continue to focus its attention on clearing
the backlog and issuing decisions to thousands of asylum applicants from
Myanmar who applied under its refugee status determination procedures
prior to 31 December 2003.
UNHCR Regional Office for Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam 31 January
Feb 19, Irrawaddy
Suspicions in Shan State - An Interview with Col Yord Serk
Col Yord Serk is the commander of the Shan State Army-South. He talked
with The Irrawaddy correspondent Nico Westerbann about the prospects for
bringing national reconciliation to Burma, the drug issue, and the role of
Thailand in forging peace with Burmas ethnic insurgents.
Question: Has there been any approach by the State Peace and Development
Council to the Shan State Army for talks?
Answer: AThere has been no direct contact between the SPDC and the SSA.
They have not approached us. The SPDC, with [Prime Minister] Khin Nyunts
roadmap and the recent talks with the KNU [Karen National Union], are just
buying time and trying to solicit support from the international
The Burmese are on their own way, and they do not consider what the rest
of the world thinks, or what the ethnic groups in Burma think. They think
they can rely on the PRC [Peoples Republic of China] to back them and
Q: How do you feel about the ceasefire talks between the KNU and the SPDC,
as the KNU is part of your Military Alliance?
A: We have a military alliance, but there are no terms that you should not
negotiate with the enemy. We strongly believe that by negotiation we shall
solve all the disputes. And the KNUs terms are not much different from
ours. We formed the military alliance because we share a common enemy.
There is no way that because of the KNU talks with the SPDC our military
alliance will break up. But I think the talks between will lead nowhere,
because the generals are not sincere and we do not trust them. They are
just lying and buying time.
Q: Would the SSA be willing to hold talks with the SPDC now?
A: If we hold ceasefire talks with the SPDC, they will be only willing to
talk about military issues. But we need to talk with them about political
issues first. Before we enter into cease-fire talks with the SPDC we have
two demands: (1) The SPDC should declare a nationwide ceasefire. During
the ceasefire talks, the generals must demonstrate that they are sincere
and are willing to solve all the disputes. And they must withdraw their
troops that are now close to our camps, and go back to the garrisons and
barracks; and (2) when we go to discuss the political situation, the
generals must show that they are sincere, and ensure that all ethnic
nationalities are able to discuss freely among each other. These are our
only two demands, we are ready to talk any time.
Before the [Yawng Kha drug eradication] project started it was a Shan
village, but now the Wa have come to live there. The Thais say it is a
crop substitution project, but actually what they have substituted is only
Q: Do you think that the appointment of Gen Khin Nyunt as prime minister,
and the announcement of a roadmap to democracy are positive developments?
A: It seems that they are changing, but actually they are not. It is the
same as in 1993. It is the same policy. We analyzed the situation, and
concluded that the roadmap is a lie, and that actually there are no
changes. Nothing has improved.
Q: Can you say something about previous attempts by the SSA to hold talks
with the SPDC?
A: We have approached the SPDC several times for negotiations, but we have
had no response. Even the fighting has never stopped. They are going the
same old way, and nothing changes. The situation is the same as in Iraq,
but in Iraq there were many war correspondents, but not in Shan State, so
there is a news blackout. The SPDC used to blackout newsthey just let
journalists look around in the cities and at some development projects. If
the generals truly wish to solve the problemthe political disputes and
the narcotics problemthey should let reporters go freely everywhere, so
that they can learn the true situation. All ethnic armed and political
organizations are willing and ready to accept reporters. That is why the
SPDC is forbidding reporters to go. If these observers can move about
freely, then the true situation would be exposed.
Q: What do you think about ceasefire groups attending the National
A: I think they will not benefit from it. It is not good, because these
representatives from ceasefire groups only represent their organizations.
They can not speak on behalf of all the people, or all the States. Khin
Nyunt handpicked most of the participants. So even if the representatives
of ceasefire groups attend, it is not enough to balance against the SPDC.
If they do not let people speak on behalf of one ethnic group or one State
it is not enough. If Khun Htun Oo attends he is not allowed by the
generals to represent Shan State, but only his political party. They
should accept all stakeholders in the Union of Burma to participate in the
NC. If not, it will be useless. The problems will not be solved, and maybe
it will create even more problems for the future.
Each ceasefire group has its own political aims and objectives, and maybe
they can make some proposals and demands at the NC. If these are not
acceptable, they can take up their arms again, and the cycle will start
anew. They made a ceasefire in order to negotiate, but until now there
have been no negotiations.
In our opinion the NC cannot solve the disputes, and we have no hope in
the roadmap. The SPDC is trying to erase the Panglong Agreement [the 1947
pact signed by ethnic nationalities leaders and Burmese leader Aung San]
for good. For all ethnic nationalities the Panglong Agreement is very
important, but not for the generals. If we do not start from this, the
problem cannot be solved. A new roadmap is not necessary. If the generals
honor the Panglong Agreement, everything can be solved. The Union of Burma
was founded on it. Without that, there would be no Union of Burma, and
there would be no Burmese government. The generals can use force and
oppress the people but the Panglong Agreement is the key issue. That is
why the generals are trying to erase it, and why the ethnic nationalities
are trying to uphold it. That is why they cannot solve the problem. The
generals pretend that they do not know this is the root cause, but
actually they know it.
Q: Is there any Thai pressure on the SSA to talk with the SPDC?
A: Thai support is only for the SPDC. There is no pressure from the Thais
on us, it is business as usual. They told us to negotiate, but it was just
a suggestion. They know that whatever they have agreed with the SPDC, the
SPDC will never keep its promise. In the minds of Burmese, Thais are
always regarded as their enemy. The SPDC knows what is on [Thai Prime
Minister] Thaksins mind. Khin Nyunt knows well that while Thaksin is
talking about peace and roadmaps, in fact what he really wants is
business. That is why they became friends, but it is only in words, not in
their hearts. With the Shan and the Thais it is different: in words we
cannot make friends, but in our hearts we know we are friends.
Q: What are you doing at the moment about the drugs issue?
A: Our policy has never changed, but the Thais block reporters, so that
news about our activities is not exposed. We are doing the same things as
before. Because the Thais and the Burmese are talking to each other, they
want no conflict between each other, so they prevent the media from
meeting us in order not to expose the news about what we are doing,
because it could have some impact on their relations. We are waging a war
on drugs, but we cannot release it to the media. Furthermore, we are still
waiting to observe the success or the failure of the Thai-Burmese joint
eradication project at Yawng Kha. We strongly believe that without
participation of the Shan, or the people of Shan State, drugs cannot be
eradicated in Shan State. The Thais joined hands with the Burmese,
believing they can truly eradicate drugs. But this project will not
benefit the people, who have lost their homes and farmlands. Before the
project started it was a Shan village, but now the Wa have come to live
there. The Thais say it is a crop substitution project, but actually what
they have substituted is only the people. The project is also just a way
to launder money. The Thais gave 20 million baht, but that money never
reached the project, and the UWSA [United Wa State Army] sponsored the
project themselves. Those who benefit are businessmen, not the people.
The Thais like to make a big show, but actually nothing is going on. They
are good at talking one thing, and doing another. In the Thai "war on
drugs," nearly 2,800 people were killed, but these were only small people,
not the big drug kingpins. Without permission from the higher level of
Thai authorities, how could all these drugs reach Bangkok from the border?
In their "war on drugs" they were closing the mouths of informers, to
The improved relations between Thailand and the Wa are because of the
Burmese. If the Burmese and the Thai do not have a close relationship,
they would never let this drugs business by the Wa continue. They know the
Wa are involved in drugs along the border, but they do not want to touch
them, they do not want to lose face with the generals in Rangoon.
Q: How do you think that the SPDC is involved in drugs?
A: It is 100 percent sure that they are involved in drugs. They are
involved in three ways: (1) They have their authorities everywhere and in
every aspect. They have the capacity and authority to act on it, so if
they were sincere to eliminate drugs, it would be possible. But they let
it continue because they get the lions share of its benefits; (2) first
they blamed Lo Hsing-han as the "drug kingpin," then it was Khun Sa. And
now these two drugs kingpin are staying with the generals, and the drugs
business is still flourishing. So you can see that the generals are using
drugs to repress the ethnic people. They allow drugs to flourish then
blame the ethnic groups as the culprits, while they solicit the
international community for drugs enforcement aid. Once Khun Sa
surrendered and moved to Rangoon, they never spoke of him again as "drugs
kingpin." It is crystal clear they that are not sincere in drugs
suppression; and (3) The UWSA made a cease-fire, and is under the SPDC.
Whenever Khin Nyunt travels to UWSA or Sai Lin area, he always gets
something for his pocket. Wei Hseuh Kang is also still doing business.
This is the proof that they are involved from the top. At the mid-level,
such as Division commanders and Brigade commanders, officers get bribes
from drug dealers, cultivation tax from poppy fields, tax from drugs
traders, and protection fees. This is done without direct knowledge from
the top. Mid-level officials try to hide this from the top level. But they
know what is happening at the mid-level, and also the mid-level knows what
is happening at the top. Both are at fault, so they cant blame each
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