BurmaNet News: March 23, 2004
editor at burmanet.org
Tue Mar 23 10:26:20 EST 2004
A listserv covering Burma
March 23, 2004 Issue # 2443
AFP: Thailand tips Suu Kyi to be released, convention to begin before
Irrawaddy: Two Karen Military Officers Demoted
Irrawaddy: Fifteenth Anniversary of Min Ko Naings Arrest
DVB: KNPP prepares for a ceasefire talk
DVB: My father is unfairly imprisoned
Narinjara: Arakanese Farmers forced to sell rice to the Burmese Army
AP: Myanmar Gas Discovery Brightens Economic Future
Nation: UNHCR barred from giving status
OPINION / OTHER
Mizzima: Compromising With The Enemy
March 23, Agence France Presse
Thailand tips Suu Kyi to be released, convention to begin before mid-year
Myanmar's junta is likely to release Aung San Suu Kyi and begin a national
convention to write a new constitution before the end of June, Thailand's
Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Tuesday.
Speculation is intensifying that the opposition leader will be freed from
house arrest next month, just short of the one-year anniversary of her
detention during political violence that flared on May 30 last year.
"The national convention can only start if Aung San Suu Kyi is released
and it is expected to take place in the first half of this year, therefore
I anticipate that Suu Kyi must be freed by then," Surakiart told
"Whether she will be freed before or after Songkran (traditional new year
celebrated from April 13) is a matter for Myanmar to consider. But the
sooner she is released the better," he said.
Until now Myanmar's military government has only said that the landmark
national convention -- the first step in a seven-point "road map" to
democracy -- will be held some time this year.
Thailand is eagerly awaiting a date for the convention to be announced
before convening the second meeting of its multi-nation "Bangkok Process"
aimed at encouraging democratic reforms in neighbouring Myanmar.
In another hint that Aung San Suu Kyi could be freed within weeks,
Surakiart said Thailand is preparing to hold the Bangkok talks some time
next month, to allow the junta to brief the international community on
steps towards reform.
"The Bangkok Process, political developments and the national convention
are all related to the release of Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.
In December, 12 nations attended the inaugural meeting in the Thai capital
to discuss prospects for change in Myanmar, which has been run by the
military for four decades.
Surakiart said that political progress would improve the climate for an
April 17-18 meeting of European and Asian foreign ministers in Ireland.
The ministers from the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) are gathering ahead of
an summit in Vietnam scheduled for October, which has been jeopardised by
the European Union's concerns over the human rights situation in Myanmar.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) wants its
newer members -- Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar -- to be included in the
biennial summit in return for the participation of 10 EU candidate
countries who join the bloc in May.
However, the European Union, and in particular Britain, is opposed to
Myanmar's entry unless the junta lifts restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi
and other leaders of her embattled opposition National League for
Surakiart said the membership wrangle was "one of the most important
issues" to be taken up at the April ministerial meeting.
"So more positive political developments in Myanmar will be beneficial for
the talks," he said.
March 23, Irrawaddy
Two Karen Military Officers Demoted
The main ethnic Karen rebel group recently demoted two military officers
their roles in an attack on a Burma Army outpost in February, said a top
Karen leader today.
Vice-chairman of the Karen National Union, or KNU, Gen Bo Mya said the
organization demoted operations commander Col Joe and military
intelligence officer Capt Kha Htut both to ordinary soldier for their
responsibility in the attack.
But other KNU sources said they have not received official word about the
On Feb 23, soldiers of the KNUs 3rd Brigade attacked the Burma Army
position in Donzayit village in Pegu Division, about 85 miles from
Rangoon, on February 23, just hours before representatives of the KNU and
the junta started peace talks in Moulmein.
The KNU said three Burmese soldiers were wounded during the attack and
took responsibility for destroying an arsenal and seizing 39 weapons and
radio communication equipment.
The KNU plans to return the seized weapons to the Burma Army.
"We will return all 39 assorted rifles, one radio and one charger," Bo Mya
said. "I am sorry for this accident while we were holding ceasefire
He added: "We do not want to delay our talks. We would like to finish in a
He continued that the KNU would return the weapons to the junta when the
next round of peace talks resumes early next month.
By Aung Su Shin/Mae Sot
Irrawaddy, March 23
Fifteenth Anniversary of Min Ko Naings Arrest
Burmese student unions and rights groups in exile called for the immediate
release of Min Ko Naing, the student leader who was arrested 15 years ago
today. Despite his long detention, a former colleague in Rangoon says the
leaders spirit is still strong.
Paw Oo Htun, better known as Min Ko Naing, or "Conqueror of Kings," was
arrested by Burmas military intelligence in 1989 for his leadership role
during the nationwide democracy uprisings a year earlier. In 1988 he also
became chairman of the All Burma Federation of Students Unions, or ABFSU,
which is now banned in Burma. Min Ko Naing is now detained in Sittwe Jail,
more than 300 miles northwest of Rangoon.
A joint statement released today by the ABFSU and Assistance Association
for Political Prisoners-Burma, or AAPP, two Burmese groups in exile,
called his arrest unjust.
Min Ko Naing is in good health but getting thin, said one of his
colleagues who was recently released from another prison after serving 14
years for his leading role in the movement. The colleague was given
information by the student leaders family, who also said Min Ko Naing has
asked for various kinds of books from relatives, indicating the leader
must spend much of his time reading. Only recently, however, have
authorities granted permission for inmates to possess books in prison.
Throughout Min Ko Naings 15-year-imprisonment, the student leader has
been kept in solitary confinement. His family can only visit him twice a
year since the jail is far away from their home in Rangoon, said the
Min Ko Naings colleague said the juntas detention of the student leader
shows that they are still afraid of him. The military leaders feel that
Min Ko Naing has the power to "re-ignite the flame of democracy" among
students if he is released, he added.
Despite having already completed his 10-year sentence in July 1999, the
student leader is now being detained under Article 10(a) of the State
Protection Act that allows the authorities to detain individuals without
trial for up to five years.
Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the AAPP, said that Min Ko Naing is due to be
released in July in accordance with the law, but he is not sure whether he
will be set free. Bo Kyi, who is a close friend of Min Ko Naing, also
feels that military leaders are afraid to release the student leader.
Bo Kyi, who is also a former political prisoner, recalled Min Ko Naings
casual meeting with Burmas deputy home minister who visited Insein Jail
in 1997 when Min Ko Naing was detained there. Bo Kyi recounted Min Ko
Naing as telling the official, "The fact you dont dare release me shows
that I am defeating you."
By Kyaw Zwa Moe
March 23, Democratic Voice of Burma
KNPP prepares for a ceasefire talk
The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), one of the remaining armed
ethnic national groups still fighting the military junta of Burma, State
Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has decided to go to the countrys
capital Rangoon to hold a ceasefire talk with the junta.
According to KNPP General Secretary Khoo Rimond Htoo, the decision came
after a meeting of top KNPP Executive Committee members on 21 March and
the organisations decision will be notified to the Burmese embassy in
The KNPP is sending a team of delegates to Rangoon in April and they will
try to discuss the means of consolidating the agreements reached with the
junta in 1995. In 1995, the two sides agreed to hold a ceasefire but it
collapsed soon after.
March 23, Narinjara News
Arakanese Farmers Forced to Sell Rice to the Burmese Army
Sittwe, March 23: The troops under the Western Command of the Burmese Army
have been buying rice from the Arakanese local farmers since February the
Though some farmers received money in return, in some areas there have
been cases of farmers being robbed of rice by the army.
"In the remote villages, especially those up-stream on the Lay Myo River,
the army buys 10 Tinn ( a tinn equivalent to 32 kg) with money and then
force farmers to give 10 more Tinn for free as a 'donation' to the army,"
said a local farmer from Mrauk-Oo.
In Mrauk-Oo and Kyauk Taw townships, there were some reports that the
local Military Intelligence (MI) and the local troops looted rice from the
farmers to fill up their yearly supply.
The SPDC in Rangoon set the rice price at 1,300 kyats a tinn (32 kg) in
the army purchase, but in some places that amount is not paid in full.
"They only pay 900 kyats for a tinn of rice. However in the Receipt they
write 1,280 kyats. They say the discrepancy is to cover the costs of the
soldiers' trip to collect the rice." The farmer informed us.
In the whole of Arakan, the army personnel, with the help of the local
administrative authorities from the Peace and Development Councils are
forcing the farmers to sell rice for their supply. However, since the
rice price is declining, there are incidents in some regions of willing
cooperation from the farmers.
In Mrauk-O Township, 192,000 tinn of Ema Dha brand rice have been
collected for the Army supply, according to an unconfirmed report from the
region. The Army Supply Authority claimed to have bought the rice at
1,250 kyats per tinn .
Some business people suggest that the rice was bought for the export
market, though the authority claims it for the Army supply, due to the
large quantity of the Army purchase.
March 23, Democratic Voice of Burma
My father is unfairly imprisoned
The daughter of U Salin, Ma Mee Mee told DVB that her father was unfairly
imprisoned by Burmas military junta, State Peace and Development Council
U Salin is a member of Maymyo (Pyin U Lwin) Township National League for
Democracy (NLD), Mandalay Division in central Burma. He was recently
sentenced to 2 years in prison for allegedly hurling abuses at the
junta-sponsored United Solidarity Association (USDA).
They sentenced him to 2 years in prison without swearing at the USDA as
they alleged. It is a deliberate ploy. He is not allowed to say anything.
Daddy was going out on a bicycle to attend to some businesses when he was
accosted by the police and told to follow them to the police station for
some questionings. They never released him. They detained him. We have
evidences on our part but they never allowed us to speak, said Ma Mee
Local Maymyo residents say that U Salin was, in fact, imprisoned for his
active role in the arrangement of Daw Aung San Suu Kyis previous trip to
southern Shan State.
Meanwhile, U Nyein Maung a petroleum industry worker from Chauk in central
Burma who was released on 12 March told DVB that he was imprisoned
unfairly in December 1996 by the junta and beaten up badly by prison
authorities while he was detained.
March 22, AP
Myanmar Gas Discovery Brightens Economic Future
The discovery of a new natural gas reservoir could make Myanmar a major
exporter in the next five years amid growing regional demand, a senior
official was quoted as saying.
The gas reserves off Myanmar's northwestern Rakhine state in the Bay of
Bengal opened up "a whole new vista of exploration activities," Soe Myint,
director general of the Energy Planning Department, was quoted as saying
by The Myanmar Times on Monday.
Soe Myint said commercial production of natural gas in Block A-1 was
expected to begin in 2006-2007. The report didn't give details on the size
of the newly found reserves.
The semiofficial newspaper quoted Soe Myint as saying that South Korea's
Daewoo International -- a major partner of the Korean-Indian consortium
that discovered Block A-1 -- has been awarded the contract to explore
another block in the area.
India's GAIL and China National Offshore Oil Corporation were interested
in exploring other blocks off Rakhine's coast as well, Soe Myint said.
Myanmar currently produces natural gas from two other reserves. The Yadana
gas field in the Gulf of Martaban, which began production in 1998, exports
600 million cubic feet (17 million cubic meters) a day to Thailand.
The Yetagun gas field off the Tanintharyi coast, which began production in
2000, exports about 300 million cubic feet (8.50 million cubic meters) a
Exports are expected to increase between 380 million and 400 million cubic
feet (10.76 million and 11.33 million cubic meters) a day, Soe Myint said.
He said the failure by other major gas-producing countries in Southeast
Asia to find new reserves, as well as the development of interregional gas
pipelines, was working in Myanmar's favor.
While the consumption of natural gas in the Asia-Pacific region is
growing, no new substantial reserves have been discovered in the past 10
years by major producing countries such as Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia,
March 23, The Nation (Thailand)
UNHCR barred from giving status
The government will no longer allow the United Nations High Commissioner
on Refugees (UNHCR) to grant any status to Burmese asylum seekers in an
effort to control their movements and anti-Rangoon activity.
Instead, Thai authorities would screen new refugees from Burma with the
UNHCR acting only as an observer, National Security Council (NSC) deputy
secretary-general Prakit Prachaonpachanuk said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on Burmese refugees at
Chulalongkorn University, Prakit said the screening process would now be
carried out by the Provincial Administration Board, which was headed by
governors of Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Tak and Kanchanaburi provinces.
The UNHCR has previously granted 'persons of concern' (POC) status for
about 1,600 Burmese asylum seekers. A POC entitles refugees to a small sum
of financial support and to travel around Thailand with prior permission.
Many Burmese POCs lived at the Maneeloy Holding Centre in Ratchaburi until
it was closed in 2001. They were shifted to the Tham Hin refugee camp near
the Burmese border in an effort to control their anti-Rangoon activities.
Last July, the government severely criticised the UNHCR for granting POC
status without informing them.
Meanwhile, Bhairaja Panday, the UNHCR's deputy regional representative for
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, told a seminar that the United
States had offered to consider Burmese POC holders for resettlement.
A decision is expected in September.
There are 4,000 Burmese who have applied for POC status. They would also
be eligible for the relocation to a third country, Bhairaja said.
Sunai Phasuk, a political analyst with Forum Asia, said that Thailand had
used harsh measures against Burmese refugees since the Thaksin
administration came to power. The government had moved closer to the junta
in the hope of gaining economic benefits.
He said the Burmese junta was involved in the screening of new refugees,
as it wanted to detect anti-Rangoon activists.
Many speakers at the seminar voiced concern that the Thai government had
reduced the UNHCR's role in giving protection to Burmese refugees.
Expressing the difficulties the UNCHR was facing, Panday said: 'It is
working under conditions that are less than ideal.'
However, he said: 'We cannot take the government to court.'
Asada Jayanama, a former Thai ambassador to UN, said the UNCHR could raise
the Thai government's violation of international norms on refugees'
treatment at the UN General Assembly, which could be damaging politically.
Beside 'persons of concern', there are some 120,000 displaced people from
Burma, mostly ethnic Karens, living in nine camps along the Thai-Burmese
border.March 22, XINHUA
Roundup: Sino-Myanmar bilateral economic, trade ties get new momentum
The bilateral economic and trade relations between Myanmar and China
continued to develop in recent years, attributing to being deepened by
China's policy of good neighborly and friendly cooperation with its
neighbors including Myanmar as well as Myanmar's of maintaining
friendship with neighbors.
According to official statistics, Myanmar-China bilateral trade, including
border trade, exceeded 1 billion US dollars in 2003 with Myanmar's exports
to China amounting to about 170 million and its imports from China 900
Under the economic and technical cooperation between the two countries,
Chinese companies have initiated a large number of projects in Myanmar,
covering hydropower plants, commercial network projects, cement and paper
plants, agricultural machinery factories, bridge projects and processing
of forest and marine products.
Myanmar official figures indicate that China has so far injected over 64
million dollars into the country in over 10 projects, ranking the 15th in
the line-up of Myanmar's foreign investment.
Of China's investment in Myanmar, Yunnan Province's in major projects,
already completed, has reached 227 million dollars. These projects include
some container wharves, exported dredges, cement plants and exported
hydropower plant equipment.
On the basis of mutual benefit, China encourages its major domestic
companies to engage in overseas investment to enhance its economic and
trade links with developing countries, thus prompting a large number of
Chinese companies to have access to Myanmar for exploring more prospects
in the country.
Meanwhile, several exchange of visits between leaders of the two countries
in recent years has also strongly pushed the development of their economic
and trade ties. According to numeral agreements signed during their visits
to each other's country, China has extended to Myanmar a great deal of
assistance in projects of agriculture, industry, transport, electric
power, education, health and human resources development.
Especially during Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe's visit to
China in early January 2003, an agreement on economic and technical
cooperation, which is one of the three, is for China to provide a 50
million yuans of aid to Myanmar and a largest ever preferential loan of
200 million dollars at low interest rate for carrying out Myanmar's
790-megawatt Yeywa hydropower project.
Also during Chinese former vice-premier Li Lanqing's visit to Myanmar in
late January 2003, the two sides reached an agreement on partial debt
relief for Myanmar, a memorandum of understanding on extending a grant for
the supply of cultural, educational and sporting goods by China to Myanmar
and another MoU on the program of aerospace and maritime courses by China
Moreover, during Assistant Minister of Commerce of China Chen Jian's visit
to Myanmar in December 2002, the two sides signed a framework agreement on
China's provision of concessional loan and another agreement on economic
and technical cooperation. These loans extended by China are believed to
contribute to the improvement of Myanmar's infrastructural and economic
This week, Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi will pay an official visit to
Myanmar as the third leg of her four-Asian-nation tour which also covers
Laos, Cambodia and Maldives.
Wu's visit is believed to further push the development of China-Myanmar
bilateral economic and trade ties.
OPINION / OTHER
March 23, Mizzima
Compromising with the enemy is a necessary evil.
It can end deadly and protracted conflicts. It can save lives. It may even
herald a process that leads to greater good in the long run. In these
things, the notion of compromise is revealed as noble and pragmatic- it is
the essential element in resolving conflicts.
However, the price of compromise is often high, and may even demand life
as collateral. Comrades can become foes, and organizations disband when
they cannot come up with a compromise acceptable to everyone. Indeed, this
progress is the often unavoidable factor in bringing an end to deep-rooted
conflicts. To resolve such troubles, sacrifice is the
mandatory and sometimes painful necessity.
For these reasons, compromise is hardly an easy process and not a desired
option. Perhaps easier said than done, this is what the political and
military leaders should bear in mind. For they face great risks when going
to the table where compromise takes center stage in negotiation. Simmering
internal dissentions often implode in their faces, not only threatening
organizations that they lead but also their own lives. Compromise can be
understood as a true double-edged sword-tiptoeing the fine line between
making progress and yielding in weakness
to the demands of the enemy.
Yitzhak Rabin was killed because of the compromise he made with the
Palestinians in Oslo in 1993, noted Jan Egeland, an experienced
international mediator and former State Secretary of Norway. He was
referring to the assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister in 1995
during a peace rally. His comments were carried in a booklet on
international mediation published by the Olof Palme International Center
And sadly, Rabins legacy did not live on and Israelis and Palestinians
conflict continue to claim lives on a daily basis.
Compromise is painful, especially when power asymmetry between
adversaries favors ones side over the other, said Min Zaw Oo, a conflict
management researcher. Indeed, the ultimate outcome of a compromise is
based on power imbalance.
Under this circumstance, one side gives up more than the other. It does so
mostly - like it or not - with the knowledge that only a portion of the
conflict is resolved. Even in conflicts in which both factions walk away
with 50-50 gains, it clearly means that 50% of the outstanding problems
remain to be solved. In conflicts where compromise cannot be worked out,
such as the Palestinian conflict and the political standoff between the
Burmese junta and its opponents, all 100% of the problems stand to be
Compromise may result when parties in conflict cannot win over each other
militarily, such as in Iran-Iraq war in 1980-1988. Disputants may
compromise when they feel it is better than continued conflict. They may
also arrive at a compromise solution when all available resources to
continue the conflict become exhausted. In more serious situations, such
as the truces in Burma, compromise is reached to avoid possible military
defeat by Burmas armed forces. In other situations, leaders who stand in
the way of compromise are removed - mostly violently and by the use of
threat of force - paving the way for eventual compromise. Also, in rare
circumstances, compromise can be reached when leaders from both sides of
the aisles are far-sighted, flexible and forgiving, and understand for the
need to bring about a joint-gain.
There is also resistance to compromise. This may arise from the
possibility of losing ones political standing and privileges if and when
compromise is reached. Tactical, strategic and ideological differences may
bar one from compromising. Sometimes it is an unyielding
attitude entering important discussions, or insistence that certain
conditions must be met before going to the table. This may prevent
positive responses before the process even commences, such as Irans
refusal to negotiate with Iraqs Sadam Hussein. And sometimes, compromise
is not possible when parties at war, having shed blood and tears, feel
strongly despite the obvious fall of fortunes on both sides and their
refusal to budge.
Compromise is sometimes made with an aim to create an opening in a system
otherwise rigid, inflexible and uncompromising. But closer to compromise,
the more internal tension surfaces within each delegation, remarked Jan
Egeland in the same booklet, referring to the criticality
of compromise even in a small group of people negotiating on behalf of an
organization. He claims that the intra-party tension among delegation
members from each side is as big as the inter-party tension.
Compromise may transform politics as well as the political culture. But
according to Min Zaw Oo, compromise can happen only when there is the
ability to think rationally. He said that one must also be able to
separate emotion and strategy, and see the consequences of alternative
to compromise. Further, he said, one must have the ability to see what
the reality is. Of course, along with these comes the willingness to take
risks, without which compromise cannot be realized and political
transformation may not take place.
Understanding the nature of conflict resolution is thus to understand
compromise. However, this is not the name of the game in Burmas political
tussle. Since the news broke in October 2000 that the junta and the
National League for Democracy were negotiating, all negotiating
patterns have remained the same classic positional bargaining situation.
This is the bargaining dilemma in which neither side wants to come closer
to the other in the hope of compromising. In other words, no side is
prepared to meet in the middle in order for compromise to occur. And the
band plays on.
Burma has had a history of examples of compromises. Min Zaw Oo cited
General Aung Sans compromise with the British in 1947 and the Panglong
Agreement in the same year as prime examples of good compromises. But will
the protagonists in Burmas conflict follow these examples? Will the
erstwhile enemies embark on a joint-problem solving journey? Only they can
answer these questions.
Aung Naing Oo is a political analyst living in exile.
Ed, BurmaNet News
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