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[theburmanetnews] BurmaNet News: Au
Subject: [theburmanetnews] BurmaNet News: August 28, 2000
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______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
_________August 28, 2000 Issue # 1607__________
NOTED IN PASSING: "This is how foreigners on Burmese soil control the
Burmese worker. `Like water in their hands'".
The National League for Democracy on working conditions in foreign
owned garment factories. See NLD: Korean, Taiwanese garment
factories exploiting Burmese workers
INSIDE BURMA _______
*DVB: Burma dismantling election offices after Democracy League
*Nation: Sergeant at arms?Interview with Yawd Serk
*The Guardian Weekly: Twin boys who took on an army
*Asian Age: India, Burma to start 7th national meet from Monday
*CHRO: 54 Chin Refugees from Lunglei and Lawngtlai Deported
*NLD: Korean, Taiwanese garment factories exploiting Burmese workers
*Myanmar Times: Good conditions the hallmark of industry
*Oil&Gas Journal: Thailand honors Yadana gas purchase agreement
*IID: Delegation from Burma to Visit Philippines
*Radio Free Burma: The recent interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on
The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
DVB: Burma dismantling election offices after Democracy League
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts
August 26, 2000, Saturday
DVB: Burma dismantling election offices after Democracy League
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 23 Aug 00
Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 23rd August
The SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] is reported to be
dismantling ward and township-level NLD [National League for
Democracy] offices as well as election subcommissions in townships
which no longer have NLD branch offices.
DVB correspondent Myint Maung Maung sent the following dispatch.
An election office is the office which endorses the letters of
resignation of NLD members and petitions of no support for the NLD
collected at rallies held in various townships. These offices have
to declare closure of NLD offices after the NLD offices and
signboards have been forcefully dismantled by SPDC lackeys. These
township election offices accept and endorse resignation letters of
NLD members who have been threatened and intimidated by authorities
to resign. The SPDC forced the people to sign petitions declaring no
support for NLD and hold mass rallies to demand dissolution of NLD.
The people were enticed with free rice, cooking oil, sugar, and soap
to attend these rallies. It is learned that election offices in
townships, where NLD branches have been dismantled, are no longer
said to have their function.
It has been learned that the ongoing attempts to hold these mass
rallies have been met with embarrassment. At a recent rally held in
Kawthaung, the presiding chairman asked whether the people support
the motion calling for disbanding of NLD and there was no response
from the audience. Because of this incident, a rallyscheduled to be
held in Mergui to call for dissolution of the NLD has been called off.
Nation: Sergeant at arms?Interview with Yawd Serk
August 28, 2000
Once a partner of notorious drug warlord Khun Sa, Colonel Yawd Serk
now commands the Shan State Army. Following his split with Khun Sa
in 1995, he has based his army along the Burmese frontier, just
across the border from Thailand's Pang Mapha n Mae Hong Son
province. He and his men have been accused of involvement in drug
production. But in an interview with The Nation's Preecha Sa-
ardsorn, Yawd Serk claimed his army was attempting to purge drugs
from both Burma and Thailand and had recently destroyed two large
amphetamine laboratories. The following are edited excerpts from the
How do you view the narcotics situation in Burma?
It has been difficult for the authorities so far. It will continue to
be so because their efforts are misdirected.
What do you mean by 'misdirected'?
The traffickers - the brains behind the trade. These people have
never been targeted. Only the small-fry - the carriers - are ever
caught, while the real traffickers always get away scot-free.
We need cooperation from all sides - the international community,
Thailand, the Shan State - to bring these bigwigs to justice.
Secondly, the international community must do more to help farmers
dependent on opium for their income.
They must provide them with alternative means of livelihood.
We also need democracy.
This is the only way to end trafficking in narcotics, its production
Is Thailand taking the right approach?
Thailand's efforts have been unilateral - vigorous but ineffective.
All sides need to cooperate.
Who are the main perpetrators of the drug trade?
I don't believe the drug problem is the responsibility of any
particular group. It is the handiwork of individuals. It would be
racist to blame it on any particular ethnic group.
This simply complicates the issue.
However, people must realise that the big drug traffickers are being
assisted by the junta in Rangoon.
Is the Burmese government behind the drugs trade?
Vested interests are involved.
Bangkok and Rangoon have engaged in endless discussions about this
problem over several decades.
What's happened? Nothing.
In fact, the drug problem has grown worse. Burma has promised to work
with Thailand to fight the trade in drugs. But why is it that the
drugs production bases remain on Burmese soil?
How does this benefit Burma?
Rangoon would have suppressed the trade a long time ago if it didn't
benefit from it. To maintain its international status, Rangoon
encourages individuals to produce drugs.
Burma also benefits from international efforts to fight the drug
trade. It receives money to do so.
It actively raises money supposedly for fighting drugs trafficking.
Instead, Rangoon has used the money to buy weapons.
Rangoon collects a percentage of the profits from the drug trade.
Rangoon is waging a covert war on Thailand by flooding it with drugs.
How long will it take Burma to win?
In 10 years' time, Thailand will become a nation of junkies. Arms
will no longer be necessary because everyone will be on
amphetamines. One a haul of 1000 tablets was considered large -
worthy of notice. Now, a million tablets hardly raises an eyebrow.
The longer the narcotic situation persists, the more the country will
Given the chance of a talk with Thai authorities, what would you say?
I would ask them to cooperate with us and find a common solution.
Would not leave Thailand vulnerable to accusations that it is
interferring in Burma's internal affairs?
We would be joining hands to crack down on drugs, and the world
community should be encouraged to participate in our efforts. It is
not a war of land grabbing, but a war against narcotics. Such a task
requires careful planning and we have to trust each other.
How do you answer accusation that your own army is directly involved
in narcotics production?
Such rumours have been spread by journalists who have never been
given a true picture of life here, or any insight into our efforts
to stop the drug trade. We are always happy to provide information
to the media.
Why has the Shan State Army been tainted with these accusations? That
is exactly what they are - 'accusations'. Our policy is to crackdown
on narcotics. Traffickers are upset because there's a lot of money
at stake. Are you saying categorically that you are not involved in
the narcotics trade?
We have said so several times via the media.
We are not, however, in a position to explain that to Thailand's anti-
drug agencies. But I believe the press will be able to deliver that
message, in a free and fair way.
Is it possible that some elements of the Shan State Army are involved
in narcotics trafficking?
It is possible for anyone to get involved in drugs - members of the
Shan State Army are no exception.
But it is unfair to accuse everyone.
Take the ethnic Wa for instance, you cannot accuse every Wa of being
involved. Accusing us of being involved is unfair. We have
consistently cracked down on narcotics. Is mid-July we destroyed two
amphetamine factories, we set them on fire.
So what is the difference between the time when you worked with Khun
Sa and now?
Drug problems existed before Khun Sa, they existed when Khun Sa was
active and they exist now that Khun Sa is gone.
How do you regard Burma which you accuse of masterminding the drug
trade? Burma has always been our enemy.
I do not fear the junta.
The Guardian Weekly: Twin boys who took on an army
August 10, 200
Johnny and Luther Htoo are fighting a hopeless war. The small band of
guerrillas they command is up against 21,000 troops of the Burmese
army who have wiped out or displaced their people, the Karen. But the
war is also about the building of a gas pipeline. Maggie O'Kane went
to their jungle hideaway
Twin boys who took on an army
There is a crunch of bamboo stalks underfoot, and the first of four
bodyguards appears, wearing a black judo guerrilla uniform and a
black headscarf. He scans the clearing. Then the 12-year-old
commander of God's Army of the Holy Mountain arrives.
Luther Htoo is dressed in a short-sleeved khaki shirt with an
Airforce One badge on his right arm. On his forearm is the tattoo of
a fish pierced with a spear. He nods to one of the bodyguards, who
passes him a lit cheroot, then he spits and climbs on to his
bodyguard's knee. His special protector is called Rambo, a 28-year-
old fighter who has been with him for three years. He likes playing
with Rambo's long, thick, black hair. Luther, the leader of the
youngest and most desperate guerrilla army in the world, accepts a
chocolate biscuit. He says his younger twin, Johnny, second in
command of Burma's God's Army of the Holy Mountain, may be along
later. Or he may not.
The meeting with the twins has taken two months to organise. The
final part of the journey began in the middle of the night with a
nervous, greedy taxi driver who could be bribed to drive to the
jungle, but who played the Best Gospel Album In The World over and
over to comfort himself. As he raced against the dawn to pass the
last military checkpoint while its guards were still sleeping, a
young Vera Lynn-like voice belted through Soul Of My Saviour again
Then, mosquitoes and steamy jungle heat along a path that went up and
up. A mountain jungle blocked by fallen trees, sprinkled with giant
anthills and odd, empty cartons of UHT milk chucked into the bushes
by passing guerrillas. God's Army of the Holy Mountain was born three
years ago when the Burmese army moved in to swamp the route of a
multimillion-dollar gas pipeline and clear thousands of people before
them. For 50 years the army and the Karen, one of Burma's three main
ethnic groups, had skirmished, but in the early 90s the army launched
operation Spirit King. Its aim was to wipe out the Karen and secure
the route of the pipeline. A hundred thousand Karen fled to refugee
camps across the Thai border. The Jubilee Campaign, the London-based
human rights organisation that is campaigning for the Karen, claims
that at least 30,000 people have died in the military's secret
The British consortium Premier Oil began pumping gas through Karen
land in April. The UK energy consultant Wood McKenzie estimates that
the pipeline will earn Premier Oil - whose partners in the project
include Japanese and Thai oil companies and the brutal Burmese
regime - almost $800m over the next 25 years.
The roof of the jungle is webbed in a fine green net from the ferns
of the bamboo trees. Today a wind rattles the stalks of bamboo. When
the wind stops there is complete silence. There are no birds: the
people have eaten them, as they have eaten most of the jungle cats
and monkeys. Luther and Johnny were discovered three years ago by a
television crew who went looking for the Burmese students who had
fled after taking over the Burmese embassy in Bangkok. The cameras
found the students in the camp of the twins, who were nine years old
at the time, and the myth of the guerrilla children who smoked
cheroots and were scarcely big enough to hold an M16 rifle was born.
In Canada, prompted by the TV pictures, a retired Playboy Bunny
offered to adopt them.
Then the twins disappeared into the jungle. Now they keep
disappearing in the middle of a question to slide down the river-
banks with the other boys in their group on the back of a cardboard
box with the words "Instant Noodles in Sour Shrimp Paste" on it.
Their army is an army of orphans, their camp a mobile foster home for
the remnants of the Karen people's 50-year fight for independence
from the Burmese.
Two years ago, at the end of 1998, God's Army had 500 soldiers, and
Johnny and Luther were reported to be working miracles: landmines
were jumping up in front of them, and soldiers who fought with them
were able to brush off bullets like a jungle shower. The Baptist
preachers who brought Christianity to the Burmese jungle from Salem,
Massachusetts, 100 years ago also brought the cult of deliverance to
a destroyed people. The Karen needed saviours.
In March 1997, in the Htaw Maimaw district of eastern Burma, a
pastor, Thah Hpay, brought two illiterate nine-year-olds to the Karen
military chief and said the Lord had spoken to them, and they would
save the Karen people. News of the visitation passed
through an area where the army was cracking down after the Karen had
killed eight pipeline workers.
The military chief gave the children a "pistol complete with bullets
and everything", says Hpay, who also went with the twins into their
first battle. "That morning there were 20 enthusiastic men there, and
our commander, Luther, shouted, 'God's Army!' and everyone in the
cart shouted back, 'God's Army!' At 6.20pm at the . . . church where
the enemy was, we selected eight from among us to serve as commandos
and we named them 'Jesus Commandos'. We attacked the enemy . . . and
shot dead 24 of them. For the next battle, at Aimlat, we started to
fight at 3pm, and the battle lasted for two hours. Those that
attacked were 16, but the enemy were hundreds." So the beautiful myth
of divine salvation for a desperate people was born, and the cult of
the twins began to grow. The old Karen military had become corrupt,
and the twins represented purity. Hovering in the background at the
camp, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, is the twins' dwarf uncle, a man
called Mr David, who reminds them of the rules: "No duck, no pork, no
eggs, no swearing, no womanising."
Johnny doesn't smile much. He is dressed in a black judo suit and his
long chestnut hair just covers his shoulders, where a badge
reads: "Number One Military Commander".
Luther does the talking from his bodyguard's knee, swatting at a
yellow butterfly that comes again and again to settle on his head. "I
shoot the Burmese army because of what they do to our people," he
says. "They beat and rape Karen women, they steal from us and burn
down our houses. Some holy thing touched my heart and I became a
How did the holy thing touch you? Did it come in the night? "No, in
the day." How did it touch you? "I don't remember."
Would you like to go in an aeroplane and see the world outside the
jungle? "No, I want to stay here with my people. In my homeland, in
my own area." What do you do all day? "I play - at fake battles,
shooting birds. We use real guns."
When was your last real battle? "A month ago. We were gathering
chillies in the field and we saw a Burmese army patrol and we killed
two of them." Do you miss your mother? "Yes." She is in a refugee
camp on the Thai border. "But I love my people more."
Luther is bored now with questions and wants to play with the tape
recorder. "Give it to me and I will take it into the battle. I will
tape the sounds of fighting on the battlefield, and when we capture a
Burmese soldier I will ask him questions and give it to you."
There was nobody with a tape recorder to tape the sounds of the
Burmese army arriving at the village of Ler Per Her last month. The
only sound there now is the plop, plop, plop of raindrops dripping
through the holes in the roof of the schoolhouse that the army burned
down. The remains of the lesson are still on the blackboard. The
senior class was doing multiplication; the juniors were learning a
song in English: "I'm a little teapot, short and stout. Pick me up
and pour me out."
Now, like the other Karen villages that once lined the route of the
pipeline, Ler Per Her is almost deserted. Its only remaining
inhabitant, a woman named Wah Wah, is cooking rice in a hut in the
afternoon downpour. She is tired of running; over the past 10 years
she has been driven from four villages by the army.
Across the river that marks the Burma-Thailand border Dr Bill Greiser
of the Christian fundamentalist group Strategic World Impact is one
of the few aid workers treating the Karen who have escaped. "These
people are mostly suffering from exhaustion and stress from being
continually on the move," he says. "There's malaria, there's
malnutrition, but mostly they are chronically depressed - they've
been running like this for years." A preacher, a tall American in his
30s, calls on these wet, miserable people who are covered in jungle
muck to stand up and "take the Lord into their hearts". Under the
leaking bamboo shelter he shares out anti-malaria pills with his big,
warm, white hands, then raises them towards the roof and cries: "We
thank the Lord for bringing us home to you." It was in a heaving,
overcrowded refugee camp that Luther's bodyguard, Rambo, found God
three years ago. He wears his Bible around his neck in a green silk
purse. His only other valuable possession is a Burmese passport
carefully wrapped in plastic, which tells him he is a citizen of a
country he is not allowed to live in. "Other young Karen men like me
are trying to get out, to go to Australia, but God has told me to
fight for my country and to follow Luther and Johnny."
It is Rambo's job to translate the Scriptures that the illiterate
Luther can't read. He opens his Bible and in a halting, reverent
voice reads from Corinthians: "'But God hath chosen the foolish
things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the
weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.'
"That's one of his favourites," says Rambo, searching again through
his Bible wrapped in paper with pale pink roses. "He likes this one
as well. Timothy, chapter 6, verse 12: 'Fight the good fight, lay
hold on eternal life, where unto thou art also called.'"
When Luther is faced with a difficult question he turns to Rambo. On
philosophical matters he is vague: "I say my prayers and the Lord
Why did God choose you and your brother? Luther looks puzzled, and
Rambo fills in: "God chooses the weakest to do his best for the
people. It matches with what God says in the Book of Corinthians,
chapter 1, verse 27." On military matters Luther is more precise: "We
have lost 13 of our God's Army soldiers. They sacrificed themselves
in the battle. Two of them were children. No, I am not afraid. I am
serving my people."
Have you been wounded? "No, the Lord has protected me."
Even with God behind them Luther and Johnny Htoo can't fight the
pipeline that brought 10 infantry battalions to their land. By
January this year there were 21,000 troops in an area where there had
once been 1,500. "Economically, the gas pipeline had to go through at
all costs," says Sister Mary Roberts, a Roman Catholic nun from
California who has been in the area since 1951. "The oil companies
were very clever. They let the Burmese military do the dirty work and
then pretended they didn't know anything about it."
Premier Oil, which is running one of two pipeline consortiums cutting
through the Karen area, says it knows there were human rights abuses
by the military, and it condemns them. The company's chief executive,
Charles Jamieson, says: "We're satisfied that human rights abuse
aren't taking place in the area we are responsible for. If we come
across them we report them to the relevant authorities." The Jubilee
Campaign says the "relevant authorities" are the Burmese military.
Johnny and Luther have tired of sliding on the cardboard box, and now
the saviours of the Karen people are splashing in the river with
other boys, just a little older, all lost in oversized military
shirts from Thai army surplus shops. Their old Vietnamese guns lie on
the river-bank. "For me there is no reason not to believe that at a
time when people are being exterminated God should send someone to
fight at their side," says Sister Roberts.
But over the past two years the soldiers of God's Army have began to
drift away to find work in the fishing ports in Thailand that nobody
else will do, supporting the Karen women and children who now
permanently live in the refugee camps. "There are about 20 of us
now," says Luther. But most of those 20 are children.
"If the army finds Luther and Johnny they will kill them," says
Rambo. He looks like a man who would die trying to stop that happen.
And he may have to.
The Guardian Weekly 10-8-2000, page 22
Asian Age: India, Burma to start 7th national meet from Monday
The Asian Age, New Delhi, Aug. 26:
The seventh national level meeting between India and Burma under the
umbrella of the memorandum of understanding signed by the two
countries in 1994 will be held at Rangoon from august 28 to August
31. The MoU had been signed for maintaining peace and tranquillity
all along the Indo Burma border.
According to a home ministry spokesperson, the Indian side will be
led by Union home secretary Kamal Pande while from Burma
representatives will be led by Brigadier General Thura U. Myint Maung
who is hte deputy minister of home affairs. He added, "The meeting
will further cement economec, trade and cultural relations between
two friendly neighbouring countreis. India and Burma have sset up an
excellent tradition of conducting national meetings in a spirit of
friendship, mutual trust and understanding through the institutional
mechanism of home secretary level meetings."
The prime issue in the agenda will be discussion on effective curbing
of all illegal and negative activities such as trans-border mevement
of insurgents and other nefarious activities. Another important thing
that will be discussed will be hte MoU on border crossing between the
In addition to this, issues like prevention of drug trafficking and
smuggling will be taken up besides strengthening of infra-structure
and security to facilitate border trade between India and Burma.
The spokesperson further said that the other issues which will figure
in the four-day talks include the bridge on river Tiau, Indo-Burma
border issues, Kaladan river project and Tamanthi hydro-electric
CHRO: 54 Chin Refugees from Lunglei and Lawngtlai Deported
27 August 2000
Chin Human Rights Organization received a report that the Mizoram
continue the arrest and deportation of Chin refugees in the town of
Lunglei and Lawngtlai.
On 23 August 2000 Mizoram police deported 18 Chin refugees from
to the border town of Hnahthial.
The other group 36 Chin refugees from the town of Lawngtlai were
the border village of Vombuk ( Indian side ) on 25 August 2000. Now
had already deported 250 refugees from Burma in this month. Indian
handed 23 refugees to the hand of Burmese police on 21 August 2000
Burmese authority sent them to the town of Falam, Chin State.
CHRO learned that Mizoram police arrested 6 more refugees in Aizawl
August 2000.The arrest of refugees from Burma is continue in the
Aizawl, Lunglei, Champhai, Lawngtlai and Saiha of Mizoram State.
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
NLD: Korean, Taiwanese garment factories exploiting Burmese
National League for Democracy
No: (97/B), West Shwegonedine Road
Bahan Township, Rangoon
Statement 130 (8/00) (translation)
1. We have information about the exploitation, denial of workers
rights and unjust treatment of the Burmese workers at the factories
which are situated in the Hlaing-tha-ya industrial zone, Rangoon
the Myanmar Yes garment factory,
Apolo Garment (Taw-Win factory) and the
Jong Lih back-pack manufacturing factory.
2(a) The Myanmar Yes factory is Korean owned (foreigner) employing a
total of about 1400 workers. Average wages is Kyats 10/- per hour.
Though the working hours are stipulated as 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
workers are compelled to do overtime work from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00
p.m. When demand is great they have to work into the morning hours
the next day. Default or fail to work overtime results in dismissal.
(b) In addition to the absence of any form of medical assistance
there are severe restrictions on toilet services in Myanmar-Yes.
There is a range of 10 lines at this factory with over 100 workers in
each line. Only one toilet card is given for each line. (Without the
toilet card entry is denied). Cost of transportation provided by the
employer is deducted from the wages.
(c) On the 16 May, 2000, one Ma Moe Moe Htay (worker on Line 6) took
seriously ill at her workplace while working. Permission to rest was
refused so she cried and begged the supervisor who saw her condition.
She was then asked to hide behind the stacks of garments so that the
employer would not see her. She was absent from works the next day.
On 18 May 2000, clothed in the Myanmar Yes uniform, her dead body was
found in the gutter running along the front right side of Na Wa De's
house. The employer did nothing for her despite the circumstances of
her death and the police did no investigation. This has made the
other workers very disgruntled.
3 (a) The Taw-win garment factory is owned by Apolo Garment and is
situated in the No 1 Hlaing-tha-yar industrial zone and belongs to a
Taiwanese. About 700 workers are employed and basic pay is Kyats 1500
a month. Working hours is from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and overtime to
10:00 p.m. is compulsory every alternate day. If the day's production
is over 100, an increase of one or two Kyats is paid at the
discretion of the owner. There is nothing fixed.
(b) In addition to the basic pay, a sum of Kyats 1600/- is paid for
regular work but this is separated into two parts. Kyats 800/- is for
the first fifteen days of the month (first part) and Kyats 800/- for
the next fifteen days (second part). This entitlement is lost for one
day of absence or failure to do overtime. No conversation, no
flowers, no Thanaka, no make-up is allowed.
(c) In this factory, there are only 2 days of closure a month.
Officially declared public holidays and religious celebration
holidays are not observed. The employer refused to allow the workers
the day off on the 19 July 2000, the fifty-third anniversary of
martyrs day. This caused the workers to be most aggrieved because
martyrs day is a day which is observed by the whole country as a day
of mourning so they made their request to the employer who insisted
that they attend work or have their "regular work allowance" cut.
When the workers said they were prepared to have the allowance cut,
he reluctantly caved in and granted them the day off.
4. (a) The Jong Lih back-pack manufacturing factory is situated in No
4 industrial zone in Hlaing-tha-ya and is owned by a Taiwanese.
About 750 workers are employed getting a basic salary of Kyats 7000/-
a month. There are three shifts and no overtime work. The first
shift is from 7:20 to 11:00 a.m., the second shift is from 12:50 to
5:00 p.m. and the third shift is from 5:20 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
(b) Workers can be dismissed for absence due sickness or if absence
is due to a wife giving birth to a child. Very rigid and undesirable
restrictions prevail at the workplace as for example only 6 minutes
is permitted for bowel movement. One extra minute attracts a fine
(c) This factory is closed for only 2 days in a month which is not
fixed but declared at the discretion of the owner. Workers were
required to work on Waso full moon day and the 53 anniversary of
Martyrs Day. No holiday was granted. Workers eat and sleep at the
factory. No leave is granted on other than the two days in the
month. When the factory is not declared closed, workers have to
remain on the premises and are not allowed to receive visitors.
5. This is how foreigners on Burmese soil control the Burmese
worker. "Like water in their hands". With heads bowed they have to
suffer this exploitation. The military anashins have completely
ignored the rights of the Burmese workers and allowed the foreigners
to do just as they please. There are no workers unions to defend the
rights of the Burmese workers and this accounts for the abuses. We
therefore urge the military anashins to seriously consider the rights
of the worker and permit the formation of workers unions. Burma is a
signatory to the International Labor Organization Communiqu? No 87
with regard to the right to form unions and accordingly, permission
should be granted to the Burmese workers to form such unions.
Central Executive Committee
National League for Democracy
14 August 2000.
Myanmar Times: Good conditions the hallmark of industry
August 14-20 ,2000
MYANMAR'S garment industry is attracting increasing numbers of foreign
investors who are drawn by one key factor: the availability of skilled
labour at a regionally competitive price.Myanmar Guston Molinel runs a
factory employing more than 300 workers in Hlaing Tharyar Industrial
Zone, about 20 km west of downtown Yangon.Its administrative manager,
U Kyaw Win, said Myanmar textile workers' wages were marginally lower
than those of their Vietnamese counterparts, and had a productivity
rate that was "almost equal".
He said Guston Molinel workers were offered a range of incentives and
bonuses additional to their base wage because the company realised it
was important to keep staff turnover low.And like its competitors, the
company understood that its clients expected Guston to provide its
employees with a good working environment, he said.Myanmar Times
approached the privately-run company after claims by a United States
workers' union, reported by the Reuters news agency, that the local
textile industry used forced labour ("US' forced labour claims
irresponsible, says SPDC", MT, 7-13 August).
"Labour is recruited through the offices of the Labour Department
which has branches in all the townships in Yangon as well as in other
towns throughout the country," U Kyaw Win said."A worker from our
production line earns K7000-K9000 per month."Supervisors receive the
remuneration of K18,000-K23,000 per month.""They are entitled to free
general medical care.
"The company arranges daily commuting between the factory and homes of
the employees and snacks are given free in the afternoon," he
added.The company uses a system designed to both retain its workers,
and enable them to save some portion of their wages," he said.
"Bonuses are given at the end of every month for those who have had no
days of absence during the month.
"A separate bonus is handed out for good performance at the start of a
new calendar year."Most companies provide their workers with long-term
benefits like year-end bonuses and high performance bonuses to provide
them with a greater incentive.""Our clients want to make sure that no
controversial issue arises on account of labour," he said."We have to
make sure that we adhere to the standard rules and regulations."Our
clients want a continuous supply of products from us and they make
sure we are adhering to certain conditions from the outset."Sometimes,
they come and see for themselves the real working conditions of our
"What's more, we hold a general meeting once a month where anyone can
present his or her difficulties and desires," he said."This is unique
to Myanmar Guston Molinel."Asked about the Reuters allegations, U Kyaw
Win said: "Journalists of those media do not try to gain real access
to our work environment". "If a worker wants to resign, we have no
right to keep him," he said.MT spoke to one worker who had left
another company to work for Guston.
"I quit my former job to join Guston as more benefits, like casual
leave, are available to me," said Khin Khin Kyaw, a line supervisor of
Guston."Another advantage is that a worker of any level can talk
directly to the management."Another employee said his wages were
adjusted according to the price index. "Our employer cares about our
welfare," said Ko Moe Zaw. "The salaries are reviewed from time to
time to be commensurate with our performance and to be in line with
the price index."
Oil&Gas Journal: Thailand honors Yadana gas purchase agreement
Online Story (Aug 24, 2000)
BANGKOK-After extensive deliberation and debate, Thailand has decided
not to declare force majeure on its unfulfilled obligations to
purchase gas from two Myanmar fields but instead to honor the
commitment. The stance follows the recent completion of a thorough
investigation by government agencies of the legal, economic, and
political implications arising from the thorny issue.
Following the investigation, the National Energy Policy Office (NEPO)
advised Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) to pay what is due to
the groups developing the Yadana and Yetagun gas fields but at the
same time to seek relaxation of the take-or-pay terms stipulated in
the gas supply accords. NEPO's recommendations were used by the Thai
state oil and gas enterprise as a guideline in negotiations with the
Yadana gas consortium, led by France's TotalFinaElf SA, and the
Yetagun gas group, headed by Premier Oil PLC of the UK.
Under its take-or-pay obligations, PTT must pay for the gas it has
contracted to buy in full, although it has taken delivery of only a
fraction of the quantities because of delays in the construction of
the Ratchaburi power plant, built largely to run on gas piped from
Myanmar's Gulf of Martaban (OGJ Online, May 2, 2000).
Following the NEPO ruling, PTT handed a $277 million check to the
Yadana consortium to settled the overdue payment for Myanmar gas. The
check was sent to the Yadana group July 31, 5 months after the Mar. 1
due date, much to the delight of the Myanmar military junta, which
had earlier warned Thailand that further delay in payment would
damage the already rocky relationship between the two countries.
The Thai state oil firm, however, has refused for the moment to pay
some $7 million to the consortium as interest accrued from the
delayed payment of the 1999 gas bill, citing differences in
interpretation of the calculation methods in the contract, according
to PTT executives. But PTT hopes that the payment will improve the
air of tedious negotiations in which the Thai outfit has been trying
to persuade the Yadana group and Rangoon to make a series of
amendments to the contract terms, not only for gas from Yadana but
also for the other offshore Burmese gas field, Yetagun.
"The payment shows our goodwill to resolve sticky pending issues in
an amicable manner," said a senior PTT official. "We hope Burma would
appreciate our effort."
The payment came in the wake of the NEPO's assertion that the
interest burdens arising from loans PTT has taken to make full
payment for the Burmese gas should be split among the parties
involved. The resolution put an end to the quarrel between PTT and
Electric Generating Authority of Thailand as to who should be held
responsible for the interest burdens.
Savit Bhotiwihok, minister of the prime minister's office in charge
of energy policy, said the government should share the burden because
it was the cabinet that approved the Yadana gas purchase contract
with the consortium. Also, following the de facto devaluation of the
baht in July 1997, he said, it was the cabinet that approved a
decision allowing government contractors to delay completion dates
for their projects by 180 days. One of the projects affected by that
cabinet resolution was the Ratchaburi power plant.
The "economic system," a term used by Thai authorities to refer to
the general public, is to share 48% of the total interest burden; the
state, 27.8%; EGAT, 12.8%; and PTT, 11.4%. PTT and EGAT cannot pass
on their respective interest burdens to consumers in the form of
increased gas and electricity tariffs, although the burdens shared by
the economic system and the state-totaling 75.8%-will be pushed into
the gas price of PTT. That would result in a 35 satang/kw-hr rise in
power tariffs in the base case, if no additional measures were taken
to alleviate the take-or-pay gas obligations. But the power tariff
could decline during 2001-11 if all the proposed changes take place.
Contract amendments sought
NEPO advised PTT to negotiate with the Myanmar gas producers certain
points in the contracts in order to reduce the burdens Thailand must
shoulder. NEPO said PTT should:
* Seek the right to double the make-up of gas volume-the amount of
gas which is not taken in the failed period but can be recovered in
the subsequent period-to 30% of contractual volumes, so that PTT can
quickly collect all the gas it was not able to take in the failed
* Ask to postpone the delivery of natural gas supply from Yetagun
field's second stage development (OGJ, Jan. 17, 2000, p. 23).
* Seek to cut the contractual volume of gas delivery for this year
both from Yadana and Yetagun.
* Seek to revise the contractual rate of gas delivery in such a way
that assures the same rate of return on investment for gas
Internally, Thai concerned parties will take a number of actions
aimed at speeding up the usage of the Myanmar gas. Among them are
expediting the construction of the Electricity Generating Authority
of Thailand's Ratchaburi power station as well as speeding up the
laying of a new west-east gas pipeline from Ratchaburi to Wang Noi,
so that part of the Myanmar gas can be diverted to an EGAT plant
Other proposed actions include using natural gas to substitute for
fuel oil at EGAT's South Bangkok and Bang Pakong power plants and
promoting the use of natural gas in the industrial sector and for
_____________________ OTHER _______________________
IID: Delegation from Burma to Visit Philippines
Initiatives for International Dialogue
63-2-911-0205 / 63-2-435-2900 (Telefax)
August 28 - September 2, 2,000
A delegation from the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB)
will visit the country on August 28 to September 2, 2000. The primary
purpose of the visit is to seek the support of Philippine
parliamentarians for their counterparts in Burma, who have been
prevented by the military regime from fulfilling their mandate since
their election in 1990. Worldwide, 1214 MPs have expressed their
solidarity with the parliamentarians of Burma. The visit also seeks
to emphasize ASEAN's role in the pursuit of democracy in Burma, and
highlight issues such as continued use of forced labor and the ILO
resolution; the education crisis because of the prolonged closure of
schools and the situation of women in armed conflict.
The members of the delegation are:
Mr. Teddy Buri, Minister Asia Pacific Affairs, National Coalition
Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB)
Mr. Maung Maung, Secretary General, Free Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB)
Mr. Sonny Mahinder, Assistant Secretary, Foreign Affairs Department,
All Burma Student's Democratic Front (ABSDF) and
Ms. Khin Ohmar, Foreign Relations, Women's League of Burma
The delegation is available for interviews.
The Inter-Parliamentarian's meeting is jointly organized by the
Office of Representative Ranjit Shahani and Initiatives for
International Dialogue (IID) Manila/ Free Burma Coalition-Philippines
with the assistance of the Offices of Representatives Jose Lozada and
28 AUGUST Monday
3:25 P.M. ARRIVAL from BANGKOK
Media briefing at NAIA
6 P.M. Meeting with Senator Raul Roco
Visit at the Senate Session Hall
Philippine Senate, Pasay City
NCUB delegation will be recognized at the Senate Floor
8: P.M. Dinner with Representatives Shahani, Lozada
Hotel Rembrandt, Quezon City
29 AUGUST Tuesday
1 P.M. Joint Press Conference
NCUB delegation and Representatives Shahani,
Lozada and Rosales
Venue: Speaker's Conference Room
House of Representatives
2:30 P.M. Joint Committee Hearing
Committees on Foreign Relations and Higher
Venue: Speaker's Conference Room
House of Representatives
4:30 P.M Visit to the Session Hall
30 AUGUST Wednesday
10 A.M. Meeting with President Dr. Francisco
Nemenzo, Vice Chancellor Dr. Maria Serena Diokno and other UP
System Chancellors and Deans
Venue: Office of the President, UP
10 A.M. Forum on OPEN SCHOOL CAMPAIGN*
University of Santo Tomas, Manila
6:30 P.M. DINNER CUM MEETING with
Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats
31 AUGUST Thursday
10 A.M. Forum on FORCED LABOR
Hyatt Regency Hotel, Manila
1 SEPTEMBER Friday
10 A.M. Forum on WOMEN OF BURMA*
sponsor: Representative Patricia Sarenas
Venue: Hotel Rembrandt
1:30 P.M. Forum with Labor Groups
AMOSOP, Intramuros, Manila
6:30 P.M. DINNER-DIALOGUE
with Free Burma Coalition-Philippines
Venue: Partnership Center, 59 C. Salvador St., Loyola
Heights, Quezon City
2 SEPTEMBER Departure
*Activity to be finalized.
For details, please call Merci Ferrer or Karen Azupardo, IID Manila
911-0205, 435-2900 (Telefax)
Feny Solis, House of Representatives 931-6475
Initiatives for International Dialogue
63-2-911-0205 / 63-2-435-2900 (Telefax)
Radio Free Burma: The recent interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on
August 28, 2000
The recent interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Dateline is
available as a Real Video file from
Also interviewed was Yuzana Khin.
Peace and Courage,
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