Burma News International

Date: March 30, 2005

 

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(1) Burmese Delegation Submits Link Road Design, Land Document to Dhaka

(2) Singapore PM Likely to Press Burma Junta on Asean issue

(3) Shan Independence cause resurrected

(4) Prisoners'  food inadequate in Burmaís jails

(5) Bomb scare mounts security cover in Rangoon hotels

(6) Kalam urged to reopen Stillwell Road to Reach Burma

(7) Convention rep: 'No law in Burma'

(8) Burmaís Mangrove Eco-System Faces Devastation (Article)

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(1) Burmese Delegation Submits Link Road Design, Land Document to Dhaka

 

Chittagong, March 29: A visiting Burmese delegation has submitted the

land-acquisition report and arrangement design for the Burma-

Bangladesh Friendship Link Road to Bangladesh Communications Minister

Nazamul Huda, according to the Daily Azadi, a local Bengali newspaper.

The Financial Taskforce of Burma submitted the report and design to

the Technical Taskforce of Bangladesh in a meeting at the

Communications Ministry here yesterday.

Burma Construction Ministry managing director U Han Zaw led the

visiting five-member financial task force, including the Financial

Taskforce of Burma, Construction Ministry public works director U Kywe

Wa and Finance and Revenue Ministry budget department director U Soe

Thein.

In the meeting, they especially discussed speedy implementation of the

project to connect Dhaka and Rangoon with a direct road link.The

meeting also discussed the prospect of getting financial assistance

from some donor countries and international financial institutions,

including the Asia Development Bank (ADB) and China, in addition to

finances from Bangladesh, to implement the project quickly.

According to sources, construction of the 153-kilometer Ramu-Gundom-

Taungbro-Bawli Bazar-Kyauktaw road alignment of the project would be

done in two phases involving Tk 933.46 crore.

In the first phase, the Bangladesh government will construct the 20

km. Taungbro-Bawli Bazar road, two big bridges and 90 culverts in

Burma at a cost of about Tk 94 crore as a "token of friendship."

Engineers and contractors from Bangladesh will construct the road and

bridges. The Construction Ministry of Burma will provide all other

assistance.

Bangladesh sought financial assistance from the ADB to construct the

110-km. Bawli Bazar-Kyauktaw road, the second phase of the work. This

part of the road costs Tk 770.26 crore.

Assistance will also be sought from China and some other donor

countries in implementing the second phase.

Work on the 23 km. Ramu-Gundom road in Bangladesh in the first phase

will also be done with the Bangladesh government's own finances,

amounting to Tk 163.39 crore.

>From Bangladesh, Chief of the Technical Taskforce of Bangladesh and

Additional Chief Engineer of Roads and Highways Department Md. Idris

Mian, Chief Engineer Faizur Rahman, Communications Secretary Md.

Shafiqul Islam and senior engineers of the department were present at

the meeting.

The two taskforces will discuss the technical and financial aspects of

the project in the next two days.

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(2) Singapore PM Likely to Press Burma Junta on Asean issue

 

Mungpi

Mizzima News

March 29, 2005

 

Singapore Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong's trip to Burma is expected to

voice his government's stand on the Burmese military government taking

up the rotation chairmanship of the South East Asian Nations (Asean)

regional grouping, said a senior politician in Rangoon.

 

Prime Minister  Lee will meet Burma Prime Minister Soe Win and call on

Senior Gen. Than Shwe on Wednesday in Rangoon as a part of his three-

day trip, which includes visits to Laos and Cambodia. The trip ends on

Thursday.

 

"Primarily, his [Lee's] visit will highlight bilateral relations

issues, but looking at the recent criticisms that Singapore has made

on the military junta of Burma, we can expect him on the sideline to

voice Singapore's stand on Burma's chairmanship of Asean in 2006,"

said U Win Naing, a veteran Burmese politician in Rangoon.

 

He further said that Singapore has been practicing Asean's non-

interference policy regarding the internal affairs of its member

states. But lately, as some Asean nations expressed frustration over

Burma's slow pace of political reforms, Singapore is likely to unveil

its stand on Burma during the talk.

 

Prior to Lee's visit, Singapore voiced its disappointment over

sluggish political reform in Burma. Reuters quoted Singapore's Foreign

Ministry spokesperson as saying "Some hard messages may very well have

to be put across, because what happens in Myanmar (Burma) will affect

Asean as a whole."

 

In Rangoon, the visit of Singapore's premier is stirring expectations

among the business community while the political circle is closely

observing the change of events, said U Win Naing.

 

Burma is set to assume the rotating presidency of Asean in mid-2006.

 

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(3) Shan Independence cause resurrected

29 March 2005

S.H.A.N

 

Thoroughly put off by the rejection of the ethnic nationalities'

federal union proposals by Rangoon, which arrested and tried 10 of

Shan State's leaders in February, radical Shans are banding together

to reactivate the long dormant total Independence theme for Shan

State.

 

"The Yawnghwe brothers have been misleading us for so long," a

grizzled exile growled to S.H.A.N. yesterday, referring to Chao Tzang

(who died last year) and Harn Yawnghwe, founders of the National

Reconciliation Program that has steadfastly advocated tripartite

dialogue and, through it, a federal democracy for Burma, "It's time we

handled things in the right way."

 

According to an insider report on a top secret meeting held in

northern Thailand last week, the participants are planning to form

an "interim Shan State Government" and "defeat the Marns (Burmese

military) without bloodshed."

 

China, long since regarded as a stumbling block to Shan aspirations

for a separate sovereign entity, does not present much of a problem to

the group. "Our friends in China are ready to help convince Beijing to

stay neutral," said the source.

 

So, when will the Shan State government become a reality? "Soon,"

replied the source, "but I cannot say exactly when. We still need to

hold at least another round of meetings before we can set the wheels

in motion."

 

Other Shan activists, though viewing the said report as another

exercise in futility, saw it as a natural outcome of the string of

arrests made on Feb. 8-9. "Federalism has become a bad name," said a

prominent exiled Shan in Chiangmai. "To the junta, it is interpreted

as secession in disguise, while to the radicals, it is continued

slavery under the Burmans in another form."

 

Another Shan who had worked closely with Chao Tzang and Harn

lamented, "I don't see how we can stem this rising tide of separatist

tendencies unless Rangoon frees Hkun Htun Oo, Sao Hso Ten and their

colleagues."

 

Hkun Htun Oo, whose party won the most seats in Shan State in the 1990

elections, and nine others are being tried for treason inside the

notorious "Insane" (Insein) jail outside Rangoon. The arrests have

resulted in strained relations between Rangoon and the non-Burman

nationalities.

 

His aunt by marriage, Austrian-born Sao Thusandi of the former

princely Hsipaw House, who wrote the widely-read Twilight over Burma

in which sh e recounted the mysterious disappearance of her husband,

Prince Sao Kya Seng after he was detained by the military in 1962, has

warned Rangoon that because of its persistent repression and rejection

of federalism, the country is heading towards a breakup, an

eventuality the Burmese military has been claiming to prevent,

according to the Democratic Voice of Burma March 20.

 

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(4) Prisoners'  food inadequate in Burmaís jails

 

Narinjara News

Akyab, March 29

Prisoners in the police detention center at Akyab do not receive

enough food every day from the police department because of a lack of

financial support by the authorities, according to a former prisoner

recently released from the Akyab police detention center.

 

As the food and water in the police detention center is inadequate,

the prisoners have to get food and water from outside the jail by

offering bribes to the police officers. "In the police detention

center of Akyab there is not enough food and water for prisoners.

Therefore we had to get food and water from outside. My family has to

give 500 Burmese kyat to police officers for food and 200 kyat for a

bath whenever they bring food and water for me," he explained.

 

The police serve a single plate of food to prisoners at a time, but it

is not enough for the prisoners. They are only served food two times a

day in all the jails of Burma. "In the Akyab police detention center

there were 49 prisoners, along with me, but the police did not bring

enough food for us. Sometimes they only brought 19 plates of rice to

us," he said.

 

Most prisoners from the rural areas are suffering the most, in

terrible pain because of lack of adequate food in the jails, and they

do not have relatives in Akyab to make up for it. Prisoner numbers in

the Buthi Daung and Maung Daw police detention centers are quite large

and food is always needed for the many prisoners. Some police wives

often ask for leftover food from police families for the prisoners,

said a prisoner's relative from Maungdaw.

 

According to a police source, about 20 kyat is allotted for a

prisoner's food per day, not even enough to buy an egg.

 

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(5) Bomb scare mounts security cover in Rangoon hotels

 

Mizzima news (www.mizzima.com)

March 28, 2005

 

Rangoon: A phone call threatening to explode bombs in Rangoon's top

hotels on the government's "fascist" revolution day sent authorities

scurrying for extra vigilance in Burma's capital yesterday.

 

An anonymous phone call made to the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel threatened

simultaneous bomb blasts in  Rangoonís top hotels - the Sedona,

Traders and the Kandawgyi Palace. In an instant reaction to the panic

situation, hotel authorities took precautionary measures and extended

duty hours of employees overnight.

 

The military government marked March 27 as Armed forces Day while

dissidents continued to observe it as the Fascist Revolution Day. 

With the recovery of a bomb two days ago in the Dagon Center

Supermarket in Sanchaung Township, authorities ordered the supermarket

to remain closed for two days March 26-27.

 

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(6) Kalam urged to reopen Stillwell Road to Reach Burma

 

Surajit Khaund / Mizzima News   

March 28, 2005  

 

Guwahati: Pursuing reaching the Burma market in the wake of improved

bilateral relations, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs

Bijay Krishna Handique has submitted a memorandum to President APJ

Abdul Kalam to reopen the famous Stilwell Road which connects India,

Burma and China.        

 

Handique called on the Indian president and sought his intervention to

reopen the 1,040-mile transnational road, originating from Ledo in

Assam in Northeast India and passing through Burma to connect with

Kunming, China. The half-hour discussion between the president and

Handique emphasised early steps on clearing the route to help explore

the Burma market.       

 

Constructed during World War 11, Stilwell Road covers 38 miles on the

Indian side to pass through Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. About 50

percent of this stretch has been repaired with the active initiative

of the Assam and the Arunachal Pradesh governments. Trade groups have

been demanding repairing the rest of the road.  

 

In 1998, seven states in Northeast India jointly proposed opening

Stilwell Road, but it was turned down by the Indian Home Ministry

because of a growing insurgency problem in the region.  

 

The road runs through areas dominated by major militant groups such as

the United National Liberation Front Of Asom (ULFA) and National

Socialist Council of Nagalim-Issac Muiva (NSCN-IM).     

 

However, in view of recent progress in Indo-Burma relations, the

Indian government is understood to have re-thought the proposal. The

Indian Commerce Ministry has already completed its feasibility study

on the road in India. Major  trade bodies of India, including the

Confederation of  Indian Industry (CII), Indian Chamber of Commerce

(ICC) and Indo-Myanmar Traders Union, have  been requesting the Home

Ministry for early clearance.   

 

Meanwhile, the India Customs department has already taken steps to set

up a customs point at Pangsau Pass so traders can take advantage of

it.

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(7) Convention rep: 'No law in Burma'

 

S.H.A.N

 

Reporter: Hawkeye

"There is no law in Burma except what comes out of the generals'

mouths," sighed a delegate from Shan State, one among the thousand-

plus people ordered to attend the National Convention, as he prepared

to return from his weekly outlet in Rangoon to the venue at

Naunghnapin, 40 kilometers away:

 

"The Wa tried on the preceding Friday (March 18) to recapitulate on

what they had proposed during the last round (May 17-July 9, 2004),"

he related, without going into  detail," but they were barred from

doing so, resulting in some tensions."

 

"So were the Karenni (Nationalities People Liberation Front) people,"

added another delegate.

 

The delegates from ceasefire groups, who had previously proposed a

federal structure for future Burma, were later informed by one of the

conveners that further attempts to discuss their demands would come to

nothing. "The best you can expect is some rewording in the preamble

and perhaps, in the appendices, if there are any," they were

reportedly told, "because the main text of the constitution has

already been drafted."

 

"I don't want to attend it anymore," said the first delegate. "What's

the use of it if you are not allowed to say what you believe is in the

interests of the people. But I have to, because I don't want to get

into trouble."

 

The other delegate also questioned the whole point of holding the

convention to lay down guidelines for the constitution if Burma's

rulers are not ready to listen to the participants, let alone consider

their ideas. "That's the disciplined-flourishing democracy for you,"

he concluded. "It means nothing other than a chameleon democracy."

 

The _expression chameleon (Pok-thin-nyo) in Burmese gives a sense

totally different from that in English. Whereas in the latter, it

means '"vacillator" or "shifter'," in the former, it stands

for "yesman'," as the chameleon is commonly known in Burma for its

habitual head-nodding.

 

With regards to the adjournment of the National Convention, the

delegates confirmed it would be before the annual water festival April

13-16, though the exact date has yet to be announced. "They never

bother to tell us when it will stop or start again," grumbled a

delegate, as he hurried off for Nyaunghnapin.

 

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(8) Burmaís Mangrove Eco-System Faces Devastation

 

By our Special Correspondent

Mizzima News

March 29, 2005

 

Developments have raised an alarm from affected people in delta areas,

besides NGOs and tourism operators. "Help us! Save our lives," cried a

man based in the Irrawaddy delta's Bogale township as sea water and

tide eroded land areas to contaminate the farms.

 

Mandalay: Increased population and the demand for firewood shooting up

in power-strapped Burma have led to rampant felling of trees,

resulting in near destruction of the country's enormous mangrove area

and its unique ecosystem.

 

Invaded by steadily encroaching fisheries and illegal logging of

species, mangrove areas in the country's coastal region, especially in

the 35,138-kilometer Irrawadday  (Ayeyarwaddy) division, have received

the most awesome blow to be depleted 80 percent over the past seven

decades.

 

Gifted with natural environmental resources, the 1,200-odd miles of

the Bay of Bengal coastal fringe of this Southeast Asian country have

a vast pool of genetic material for marine life and varieties of

abundant coastal inhabitants.

 

Among those varieties of resources are mangrove areas and their eco-

system, very unique and significant for their international attraction

as well as building a sustainable eco-system. But recent years are

witness to the inscrutable destruction of the mangrove eco-system

which could have been utilized for a healthy local economy. Known as

filthy wetland by local people, mangrove areas had been a happy

hunting ground for thatch (Nypa frutican) for house covering, firewood

and charcoal for the last seven decades.

 

"That's mainly because of mounting demand for charcoal from the

increased population in the stretched-out urban centers. The situation

was worsened by the shortage in local electricity supply and the

global fuel crisis in the 1970s," said a Rangoon-based non-

governmental organization. "The problem became more complicated in the

1980s when degraded forest areas were put into paddy fields under a

local food-sufficiency scheme," he said.

 

Myaung Mya and Mawlamying Gyun townships and the upper parts of

Bogale, which fall under the division, were defensive against brackish

water to remain high in paddy yield. But the yield declined by 50

percent in six year after townships like Lupputa came up in the

depleted forest areas in the lower delta.

 

"Yield per acre dropped 50 percent to 25 baskets, due to extrusion of

salt water from below," the official said. "The development has led

farmers to reclaim new farm lands in the nearby mangrove forests to

save their income," he said. Reusing discarded farm areas was also

found to be unproductive, even about 20 years afterwards, he said.

 

The development raised an alarm from affected people in the delta

areas besides the NGOs and tourism operators. "Help us! Save our

lives," cried a man based in the Irrawaddy delta's Bogale township as

sea water and tide eroded land areas to contaminate the farms.

 

Pointing out to the sea a mile away from what is now the beach, a 

community leader said some parts of his village area, where he used to

play in childhood, was now under sea water. "In the next four to five

years, a land area on the outskirts, which accommodates a monastery

and a pagoda, will also meet the same fate," the 44-year-old village

head said.

 

A senior executive of a Rangoon-based NGO, which has been approached

to  restore mangrove forests around the hamlets and surrounding area,

said about 10 more villages were desperately in need of mangrove

restoration programs.

 

"There is a good response from the community, which is becoming well

aware of the importance of mangrove forests, and is increasingly

appreciating reforestation through community participation. We are

seeking funds to help them out," the official said.

 

Tied up with Action for Mangrove Reforestation (ACTMANG) and David

Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), the NGO had so far restored more

than 600 hectres of mangrove forests in seven villages in the

Irrawaddy division's Bogale Township between 1999 and 2003 in

cooperation with the Tokyo-based ACTMANG, he claimed.

 

"The second cycle of the project is involved in restoring 550 hectres

in another seven villages in Bogale with a plan to complete it by

2008," the official said.

 

The delta was once a refuge to armed insurgents, which was why the

Forest Department could not control the area. With the government

becoming well aware of the situation in the 1990s, action was taken

against illegal felling in the delta. "But the action came too late.

Illegal loggers turned to the mangroves in the Taninthari and Rakhine

(Arakan) coastal regions, leaving the delta denuded of trees," he said.

 

"These are time-valued forest areas in the coastal regions and can be

saved," the official said. The country has already had the know-how to

reforest degraded mangrove areas with fast-growing species such as

Kambala (Sonneratia apetala), Thamegyi (Avicennia officinalis)and

Thamebyu (Avicennia marina).The Rangoon-based NGO has also called for

the Forest Department to enthusiastically cooperate with it in

restoration and conservation of forests.

 

"Just authority is not enough to conserve natural resources. Community

participation and NGOs' persuasive activities are essential. Also,

mangrove-related eco-tourism can not be promoted without the mutual

reinforcement that the NGOs and local community provide", he said.

 

But, looking at the way natural resources are utilized in Burma, it is

evident that the interests of a limited businesses are calling the

shots over that of local communities and the national economy.

 

The recent extension of aquaculture along the coastal line has also

dealt a severe blow to the natural mangrove forests. It has resulted

in a decreased supply of aquatic species like fish and has also

damaged other coastal resources including coral reefs and sea grass.

 

"Local communities are well aware of their daily catch of fish

declining due to the rate of depletion of mangrove areas nearby," the

official said. "Moreover, mangrove forests act as a natural barrier to

floods and storms, protecting people in the coastal regions," he said,

citing the example of Malaysia, which was least affected in the

tsunami last December because of mangrove forests.

 

To a question, he said Irrawaddy delta's Byonehmwe island,the 

Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary and the Ngwesaung beach resort had

potential for promoting ideal eco-tourism. "The government is expected

to come up with a sound land use policy, which is crucial to balance

development and conservation," the official said.

 

Regretting that the rich mangrove ecosystem in Burma was being

misutilized, a young businessman attributed the reasons to low budget

and institutional constraints. "There are weaknesses in the process of

development and promotion of eco-tourism projects. Awareness about

environmental issues is high although not as developed as it should

have been," said the 35-year-old man with a business focusing on

developing this niche market, viable in the long run.

 

With proper rules and regulations, plus entrepreneurship, utilizing

the mangrove ecosystem can still mean a healthy economy, he said,

encouraging entrepreneurs not to wait and see who would take risks

initially and to go ahead with their visions.

 

****End****

 

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