[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
BurmaNet News: March 8, 2001
- Subject: BurmaNet News: March 8, 2001
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2001 20:37:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
March 8, 2001 Issue # 1752
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Far Eastern Economic Review: Burma Border Bravado
*AP: Human rights group says Myanmar still using forced labor
*The Nation: Reform- Minded Kachin Rebels Oust Corrupt Leaders in
*AFP: Thai army says border "back to normal" after Myanmar clashes
*Japan Times: Thais make an enemy out of Myanmar
*Bangkok Post: Speaker's Holdings-- Sanit comes clean over share
ownership in Wa-linked firm; Dismisses allegation as a political ploy
*DPA: Thailand ready to help Malaysia on Myanmar, official says
*Bangkok Post: Conflict - Hit Checkpoints with Burmese to re - Open
*Bangkok Post: Life with Rangoon
*ICFTU: Democracy for Burma and the ILO Resolution- Trade Unions in
*Human Rights Watch: Burma Violates Own Ban in Use of Forced Labor
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Far Eastern Economic Review: Burma Border Bravado
A troop build-up has analysts wondering if it's a challenge to Thailand
or masks a power struggle
By Bertil Lintner/CHIANG MAI and Rodney Tasker/BANGKOK
Far Eastern Economic Review Issue cover-dated March 8, 2001
AS THAI AND BURMESE TROOPS face each other in the most serious potential
border confrontation for several years, political analysts reckon
Rangoon's ruling generals are either testing the resolve of the new
government in Bangkok or playing out an internal power struggle.
Military observers in Mae Sai, Thailand's northernmost border town in
Chiang Rai province, say 10,000 Burmese troops are massing just across
the border, backed by 2,500 troops from the ethnic-minority United Wa
State Army, or UWSA.
Facing them are fewer but better-equipped and more mobile Thai Border
Patrol Police units and army border troops. Both sides have moved in
artillery and the Thais have several light tanks. Rangoon's military
junta, known as the State Peace and Development Council, claims it is
preparing an assault on Shan State Army guerrillas occupying a
mountainous area near the border. Senior officials have accused the
Thais of helping the Shans and even assisting their drug trafficking.
But some analysts in Bangkok say the Burmese build-up is designed to
draw attention from an intensifying power struggle in
Rangoon--particularly following the death of the SPDC's No. 4 official,
Lt.-Gen. Tin Oo, in a helicopter accident in late February.
Others think Rangoon might be exploiting Bangkok's recent change of
government, from Chuan Leekpai's tough line toward Burma to a possibly
softer approach by new Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. "The present
government seems to be very sympathetic to the Burmese junta," says Sen.
Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations
Committee. "I think the Burmese are confident the new government will
mitigate any Thai attempt to retaliate--the Burmese are excellent at
exploiting divisions."He's referring to a different approach to the
Burmese problem--involving a cross-border flow of narcotics, refugees
and illegal labour--between the Thai army leadership and new Defence
Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. Gen. Wattanachai Chaimuanwong, commander
of the Thai 3rd Army, which covers most of the Burmese border, on
February 25 declined Chavalit's suggestion to ask Burma for a meeting of
the bilateral regional border committee to discuss easing tension.
Wattanachai was said by the Thai press to believe the Burmese were not
ready to talk. As Kraisak comments: "Wattanachai is a fighter, not a
The general is critical of what he sees as support for the UWSA's drug
operations by elements of the Burmese leadership. The Wa manufacture and
pour millions of methamphetamine tablets across the border for Thai
consumption. The Burmese army's dry season offensives in February and
March usually target ethnic Karen insurgents to the south, but this year
their attention is focused on the Shan."The Shan have recently been
pushing out propaganda internationally about their situation," says a
senior Thai security official. "This is obviously annoying Rangoon."
Shan fighters also have a habit of withdrawing across the border behind
Thai military lines when they are attacked. This has led to Burmese
criticism of the Thais.
The situation is further complicated by the fact the Shan consider
themselves cousins of the Thais, and there are reports from foreign
military analysts in Bangkok that the Thais are covertly using Shan
guerrilla units to hit UWSA methamphetamine refineries and other targets
across the border. The Rangoon power struggle's link to the border
tension revolves around the probability that the late Tin Oo, 67, was
destined to take over from SPDC Vice-Chairman Gen. Maung Aye as army
commander if, as expected, Maung Aye succeeds junta leader Gen. Than
Shwe. Rangoon diplomats say Than Shwe is ailing and may retire soon.
Maung Aye's succession is likely to be opposed by the government's No. 3
official, Lt.-Gen. Khin Nyunt, head of military intelligence.
The thinking is that a border conflict with Thailand would unite the
Burmese military to rally behind the flag and divert attention and
energy away from internal power struggles. Burmese TV has been showing
patriotic programmes daily, with choirs praising the army amid stirring
martial music and dramas. The official New Light of Myanmar daily
newspaper has called Thai generals "thugs." As one Rangoon resident
says: "It's unprecedented; it's warmongering."
AP: Human rights group says Myanmar still using forced labor
March 8, 2001
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ A U.S. human rights group has accused the
Myanmar government of allowing forced labor despite issuing a decree
last year making the practice illegal.
In a statement received here Thursday, Human Rights Watch said ``it had
clear evidence'' of forced labor that indicated the decree was passed
only to avoid international criticism.
A Myanmar government spokesman did not immediately respond to a faxed
request by The Associated Press for a reaction.
The allegation by the New York-based Human Rights came a week before
the governing body of the International Labor Organization is scheduled
to meet in Geneva to review the progress made by Myanmar, also known as
Burma, toward eradicating forced labor.
Myanmar's ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development
Council, issued a decree on Oct. 27, making the requisitioning of forced
labor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a fine under
section 374 of the Penal Code.
``Either the Burmese government thought it could avoid international
pressure by a sham decree or it just has made no effort to enforce the
ban,'' Sidney Jones, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, was quoted as
saying in the statement dated Wednesday.
``Neither of these interpretations shows the government in a very good
light,'' she said.
``Since the directive was clearly circulated (in the provinces), the
Burmese government has to explain why the practice is continuing,'' said
In November, the ILO's governing body adopted a resolution urging
international organizations and governments to ``reassess'' their
relationship with the SPDC, saying it is not very clear what it is
actually doing to stop the use of forced labor.
Myanmar has long been assailed by the United Nations and Western
countries for suppression of democracy and its human rights record _
including use of unpaid civilian labor on infrastructure projects.
Myanmar has said civilians contribute their labor voluntarily to
promote development of the nation.
The Human Rights Watch statement said called on the junta to take
immediate steps to enforce the decree and grant access to independent
observers to monitor compliance.
It said it conducted interviews in Thailand's Chiang Mai province in
late February with many Myanmar people ``who had been recently subjected
to forced labor.''
It cited the case of one ethnic Shan farmer who said that in January, a
local unit of the Myanmar military forced him to dig trenches and
fence-post holes for a military base in Ton Hu in Shan State's Nam Zarng
The farmer and some 20 other villagers had to travel to the site five
times during the month for two to three days at a time. Villagers had to
bring their own food, sleep at the work site and were not compensated
for their labor, the statement said.
The Nation: Reform- Minded Kachin Rebels Oust Corrupt Leaders in
Wednesday, March 7, 2001
With relations with Rangoon worsening and suspect business deals causing
internal violence, young members of the junta-allied group have taken
over, raising questions about whether they will stick to the
six-year-old ceasefire, writes Aung Zaw.
Reliable sources in Northern Thailand and Yuili in China have confirmed
that young reform-minded Kachin rebels have ousted the Kachin leadership
in Pajau, the Kachin headquarters close to the Chin border in Kachin
"There has been a change of leadership but no bloodshed or loss of
lives," said a source close to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
On February 20, Brig-General Tu Jai and young Kachin officers took
control of Kachin headquarters in Pajau. Sources said that a temporary
leadership has been installed and Tu Jai, who had previously served as
deputy general secretary of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO),
is now leading it. Internal elections would be held in a few weeks, the
However, the source said General Zau Mai, chairman of the KIO, the
political wing of the KIA, and some KIA leaders are now in custody. But
a KIO source said, "General Zau Mai has been allowed to retire for
health reasons." A senior KIO leader James Lamethong said that reports
about a coup and the detention of Zau Mai were not true.
"He wanted to resign because he was very ill," he said.
But a reliable Kachin source claimed that until recently Zau Mai
appeared healthy. "I saw him, he was fine," he said.
It is still uncertain how many Kachin leaders were being detained but an
independent source said at least three were now in custody. The source
said that during the annual meeting recently held in Pajau, Zau Mai was
asked to resign. The source said another prominent Kachin leader, Dr Tu
Jai, has also been detained as he is also close to Zau Mai, but this
claim has not been confirmed.
Lamethong denied the report, saying Tu Ja will maintain his previous
position as deputy secretary of the KIO. Tu Jai is also a senior KIO
leader and, according to a Kachin source, "he is well-respected".
Zau Mai obtained a BA from Rangoon University in 1959, joined the KIA in
1962 and participated in peace talks with Burmese leaders in 1963, then
again in 1993, a year before the KIO reached a cease-fire agreement with
the ruling junta.
It was not immediately known what triggered the bloodless coup in the
KIA but Kachin analysts suggested there were many reasons. "General Zau
Mai is a greatly-feared but not highly-respected Kachin leader," a KIO
One independent observer in northern Thailand noted that since Zau Mai
became the chairman of KIO, "he has become a selfish businessman".
He is also thought to be close to the ruling State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC), and his agreements with the SPDC have been too
compromising, a Kachin source said.
In addition to his dubious connection with Burma's generals, his close
business ties with Chinese businessmen from China's Yunnan Province have
also upset many Kachins and KIA officers.
"All kinds of business concessions have been given to Chinese
businessmen, but the Kachin get nothing," a source complained.
Zau Mai and his associates have engineered all business decisions
concerning gold and jade mining and logging concessions. As the Kachin
leadership has lost respect among the Kachins, the mood within the
organisation has not been much better.
Zau Mai had reportedly had numerous and occasionally violent run-ins
with his own officers over grievances against Burmese troops for
violations of the cease-fire pact as well as his business deals with
Many Kachins are tight-lipped about this recent development, but said
that the change of leadership would be good for the Kachin people. They
are also worried that the cease-fire deal with Rangoon has been the
cause of open hostilities in their homeland.
Last year fear grew among Kachin people as many Burmese troops were
stationed in Kachin State. There are now about 50 Burmese battalions
stationed there - 10 more than in 1994. The KIA has about 4,000 foot
So far, there has been no political dialogue between the SPDC and the
KIO, which was expected to take place after the signing of a cease-fire
agreement. Yet the Rangoon junta says it has no legal mandate to
negotiate, being an "interim" military regime. The result is that Kachin
youth are becoming restless and drifting into a political limbo as they
wonder where their future lies.
Since the cease-fire, the Kachin, who are predominantly Christian, have
been allowed to practice their religion freely, and a number of local
charitable organisations have been given permission to operate without
SPDC interference. Incidences of forced labour and other human rights
abuses by Burmese troops also have decreased markedly in recent years.
In 1998, the KIO opened an office in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State.
There is also widespread cynicism about Rangoon's contribution to Kachin
State's economic development, which to date has consisted of the
construction of a new bridge in Myitkyina and an airport that is used
exclusively for military purposes. One senior Kachin official noted that
other ethnic cease-fire groups, notably the Wa and the Kokang Chinese,
have fared much better with "self-help" measures promoted by the SPDC,
including the production of narcotics.
Burmese military officers have reportedly wrested control of the state's
jade mines from the KIO, a further blow to the organisation's economic
and social standing. As things stand at the moment, the SPDC has troops
near Pajau, but they have not yet been given the order to enter. The
immediate question is: will the new leadership stick to the cease-fire
agreement? It is uncertain where this situation will lead, but Burma's
big neighbours are definitely keeping their eyes on events at Pajau.
China, which shares a border with Kachin State and is Burma's major
ally, would never tolerate Burma slipping back into civil war.
AUNG ZAW is the editor of the Irrawaddy magazine.
AFP: Thai army says border "back to normal" after Myanmar clashes
CHIANG RAI, Thailand, March 8 (AFP) - The situation on the stretch of
Thai-Myanmar border where bloody clashes broke out a month ago is now
back to normal after successful negotiations between the two sides, a
Thai army chief said Thursday.
Lieutenant-General Wattanachai Chaimeunwong, commander of the Third
Army which patrols the region, said that while both national armies were
still on standby, there was no chance of further bloodshed.
"The situation is back to normal. There will be no more fighting on the
border," he told reporters.
Both armies had promised to respect an agreement not to intrude into
each other's territory, and to refrain from firing across the border, he
Myanmar has also agreed to Thailand's request for a meeting of the
regional border committee to be convened for the first time in two
"We will talk about our long-time conflicts, particularly about the
border demarcation dispute," he said, adding that the meeting will be
held at the end of this month or early April.
The Mae Sai-Tachilek border crossing, a vital artery for trade between
the two countries which was strafed by stray shells during the clashes,
is to be re-opened next Monday, he said.
However, supplies for the Myanmar military including medicine, rice and
fuel will still be blocked.
The checkpoint was closed after Myanmar troops pursuing ethnic rebel
armies strayed into Thailand on February 11, prompting retaliation by
the Thai army and a tense month-long standoff with heavy troop build-ups
on either side.
Wattanachai downplayed the fact that the military presence remained in
place despite the agreement between the two sides, which was thrashed
out in two meetings between local Thai and Myanmar authorities.
"We have agreed to not fight and we will not cross over the border. But
we have to stand by because Myanmar still has some of its troops
standing by on the border also," he said.
Japan Times: Thais make an enemy out of Myanmar
Issue of March 9, 2001
By PHILIP CUNNINGHAM
Special to The Japan Times
No one knows who put a bomb on a Thai Airways jet scheduled to carry
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Chiang Mai, but respected
media outlets such as the Matichon newspaper and the Bangkok Post have
hinted that the bombing may have something to do with drugs from
"Unfortunately it's to be expected," sighs Sunait Chutintaranond, a
Burmese-speaking Thai scholar who notes that the initial U.S. media
reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing also involved finger-pointing
based on unfair ethnic stereotypes. Sunait, an advocate of friendship
and understanding between the two nations, is worried about the tendency
to blame Myanmar for everything that goes wrong in Thailand from petty
crime to terrorism. Director of the Thai Studies Center at Bangkok's
Chulalongkorn University, Sunait, educated at Cornell University, is the
author of "On Both Sides of the Tenasserim Range" and "The Image of the
Burmese Enemy in Thai Perceptions and Historical Writings."
"During the Cold War, 'communist' was the catch-all term for evil,"
explains Sunait. "It was a way of labeling the enemy, assigning blame
and creating a pretext for a certain kind of policy. Nowadays, the
buzzword is drugs. The nuance of the Thai term 'ka buan kan ya sep dit'
(narco-terrorism) is important; it goes beyond illegal substances and
points to an organized criminal force."
The origin in Myanmar of the drugs crippling contemporary Thai society
adds fuel to the fire, given the "dormant historical enmity" between the
Thais and Burmese. While the current border troubles are primarily about
domestic politics in Myanmar -- there is a brutal power struggle between
Yangon and restive minorities that is being played out on the border --
there is the danger that Thais will misconstrue the slightest spillover
as a deliberate provocation and attack on Thai sovereignty.
Last year, Sunait organized a joint Thai-Burmese conference at
Chulalongkorn's Faculty of the Arts to discuss the mythologies of Thai
history and the demonization of Myanmar. He marvels at how little
anti-Thai sentiment can be found in Burmese popular culture. "Thailand
is never mentioned as an enemy," which is a stark contrast to the heavy
dose of anti-Myanmar sentiment in Thai textbooks, films and media
reports. Two current big budget films, "Bangrajan" and "Queen
Suriyothai," pit heroic Thais against villainous Burmese, while
Myanmar's celluloid epics, such as "Never Shall We be Enslaved" tend to
be about fighting the British since nationalism there was shaped in a
How did Myanmar get to be the bogeyman? "Laos is too small, China is too
far, Cambodia is 'ungrateful' but not threatening, and conflicts with
Vietnam, with no shared border, usually focus on Cambodia." Thailand
constructed its national myth with Myanmar as the archetypal other,
dating back to the Burmese sacking of Ayutthaya in 1767.
The frail state of the Thai economy is cause for further worry. Many
Thais share the perception they were beaten up and humiliated by the
International Monetary Fund and powerful bankers, which has fueled
nationalist sentiment of the sort that kept George Soros from showing up
for a scheduled speech at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok last month.
"The information Thai people get about Burma comes from two main
sources, the military and the merchants. Not surprisingly, the military
paints Burma more darkly and wants the border sealed, whereas those
interested in trade and tourism want an open border. Newspapers reflect
this split rather evenly, but television, being more conservative, tends
to offer short and sensational reports of border trouble," said Sunait.
The Thai Army, preoccupied with security and sovereignty (not to mention
funding), has its own reasons for playing up the apparent threat. Yet
Thaksin's new defense minister, Gen. Chavalit, enjoys good personal
relations with power brokers in Yangon, so the dynamic might change
slightly, with some military elites shifting to favor engagement and
trade with Yangon, while other elements of the military and
parliamentary opposition continue to argue for sanctions.
"Most of Thailand's current troubles have nothing to do with Burma at
all," said Sunait. "But Burma is the most convenient enemy."
Philip Cunningham teaches media studies in the Faculty of Communication
Arts at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok.
Bangkok Post: Speaker's Holdings-- Sanit comes clean over share
ownership in Wa-linked firm; Dismisses allegation as a political ploy
March 8, 2001
Senate Speaker Sanit Vorapanya was yesterday forced to admit he owns
shares in a firm associated with the United Wa State Army but strongly
denied any involvement in the company.
Mr Sanit insisted he did not know he held 1,000 shares in Nancy P Trade
Co until he checked with the Commercial Registration Department.
Samart Rattanapratheepporn, a Nong Bua Lam Phu senator and the speaker's
aide, said Mr Sanit had already sent an urgent letter to the firm
demanding to be removed as a shareholder.
"He was totally unaware of those shares and does not want them. He has
never attended a shareholder meeting, not even once," said Mr Samart.
The shares came into the speaker's possession thanks to Prakij
Meepanitch, who transferred some of his shares to Mr Sanit in 1990, said
"The firm was founded in 1989. His name wasn't there," he said.
Mr Sanit had dismissed as another plot to undermine his credibility the
share ownership matter which was reported by Prachachart Turakij
The speaker came under fire last week when his ex-aide was accused of
demanding bribes from National Telecommunications Commission candidates.
Nancy P Trade Co is one of several firms owned by Nongyao Palangkun,
wife of former Third Army commander Lt-Gen Prom Piewnuan.
Mrs Nongyao is reportedly a business partner of Supoj Thongvila,
suspected of running the financial affairs of the pro-Rangoon United Wa
State Army operating in Shan opposite Chiang Rai.
Prachachart Turakij asked if the companies were being used to launder
money for the Wa, the main drug producer in the Golden Triangle.
Mr Sanit had admitted that he knew Mrs Nongyao and the former Third Army
Gen Siri Thiwapan, a senator for Phitsanulok, said yesterday he had a
single share in PN Precious Stone, owned by Mrs Nongyao.
He said all he knew about the firm was that it was involved in a gem and
jewellery business in Chiang Mai.
The senator said he did not know the couple was associated with the Wa.
DPA: Thailand ready to help Malaysia on Myanmar, official says
March 8, 2001
Thailand's newly appointed foreign minister Surakiat Sathirathai said on
Thursday his government is ready to help Malaysia in its efforts to
bring about national reconciliation in Myanmar.
He said the core policy of the new administration of Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra was to "build upon trust" among neighbouring
countries, such as Malaysia and Myanmar.
"We adhere to the principle of non-intervention and we welcome the
process of talks for national reconciliation in Myanmar," he told
reporters in Kuala Lumpur where he is on an overnight visit.
Surakiat, who spoke after a meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Syed
Hamid Albar, said Thailand welcomed recent efforts by Prime Minister
Mahathir Mohamad and Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail to bring about
national reconciliation between Myanmar's military rulers and
"I think that is a very positive step indeed, and Thailand is very ready
if we can be of assistance at all in the whole process," he said.
Asked about the recent border clashes between Thai and Myanmar forces,
he said it was being handled by existing committees handling border
issues. "It will not escalate to the national level at all," he said.
Surakiat and Syed Hamid discussed various issues such as fisheries
cooperation, border disputes, the Malaysia-Thai gas pipeline project,
and Malaysia's proposal for a new global financial architecture to help
developing countries against future financial crises.
Asked whether he had raised the issue of Malaysia's compensation to
Thailand for not opening up its automotive sector under the ASEAN Free
Trade Area (AFTA) scheme, he said he would likely discuss it at dinner
on Thursday with Malaysian officials.
Surakiat would hold talks later on Thursday with Mahathir.
His visit is in keeping with the traditional "familiarisation" trips
made by newly appointed foreign ministers of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to member countries soon after their
The Harvard-educated economist said recently that he would abide by the
"Asian way" in conducting foreign diplomacy under the new Thai
government, with an emphasis on economic gain and good relations with
ASEAN has long adopted a "non-confrontational" approach when dealing
with bilateral and regional issues, in which the 10 members countries
reach a consensus and speak with one voice.
However, in recent years, officials from the Philippines and Thailand,
in particular Surakiat's predecessor Surin Pitsuwan, have irked ASEAN
countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, by commenting on "sensitive"
issues such as human rights and internal political conflicts. dpa gb js
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
Bangkok Post: Conflict - Hit Checkpoints with Burmese to re - Open
Thursday, March 8, 2001
Checkpoints at Mae Sai-Tachilek and Mae Sot-Myawaddy will re-open on
Monday because conditions on the border have settled, Third Army
commander Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuanwong said yesterday.
The Third Army closed all border checkpoints with Burma in Chiang Rai,
Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Tak provinces after Rangoon launched
military operations against Shan State Army rebels early last month.
Burmese troops intruded into Thai territory and seized a Thai outpost at
Ban Pang Noon in Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Lung district on Feb 9, prompting
Thai military retaliation which resulted in heavy Burmese casualties.
The following day, Burmese forces fired mortar shells into Mae Sai
border town in Chiang Rai, killing two people and wounding others. The
situation worsened with heavy military reinforcements on both sides of
Burma began pulling out some of its troops early this month although
meetings of the Thai-Burmese township border committee failed to bear
Lt-Gen Wattanachai yesterday said Rangoon proposed to hold a
regional-level meeting, which has been postponed for two years, on March
17 at Keng Tung province.
However, the Thai side asked that the meeting be put off until later
this month, he said.
- Col Akaradet Songworawit, commander of the 3rd cavalry regiment, has
been appointed chairman of the Township Border Committee. He succeeds
Maj-Gen Tawat Jarukiat.
Bangkok Post: Life with Rangoon
Thursday, March 8, 2001
It's hardly news that there is no love lost between the Burmese junta
and Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong, commander of the Third Army in
Thailand's North. But it might come as a surprise to some that Lt-Gen
Wattanachai's tough line against Burma could see him transferred in a
special mid-year round of military musical chairs. Or so go the rumours.
The scuttlebutt has become even more strident since a trip to Rangoon a
few weeks back by Gen Pat Akanibutr, Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chavalit
Yongchaiyudh's advisory chairman, where he attended the funeral of
Lt-Gen Tin Oo, the Burmese army chief-of-staff and reputedly the fourth
most powerful member in the Rangoon junta. Tin Oo died in a helicopter
crash near the Thai border.
Gen Pat is said to have had a private chinwag with Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt,
the junta's, or State Peace and Development Council's, secretary number
one. Apparently, the Burmese lieutenant-general felt comfortable enough
to make no secret of his extreme dislike of the Thai lieutenant-general.
He also made no bones of the fact that things were unlikely to improve
along the border until Lt-Gen Wattanachai, a classmate of Army
Commander-in-Chief Gen Surayud Chulanont, was removed from the area.
Lt-Gen Wattanachai has said several times that his command would not
push for a meeting of the regional border committee, which he himself
chairs jointly with his opposite number across the way, because it is
the junta's turn to host a meeting. The last get-together was held in
Phuket back in 1998.
The general said Thailand would lose face if the Third Army pushed for a
meeting as the latest flare-up along the border was the work of Burma,
when its forces overran the border on Feb 9 and seized a forward outpost
at Ban Pang Noon in Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang district.
Another aide to Gen Chavalit, who doubles as defence minister, said
Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt had agreed in principle to push for a meeting of the
regional border committee, a precondition, we're told, before Gen
Chavalit pops over for a visit with his buddies in Rangoon.
Apparently, the minister's military aides are looking into whether an
army officer more amenable to the Burmese position can be chosen to
replace Lt-Gen Wattanachai as head of the Thai delegation at the
committee meeting, should it go ahead.
The feeling is that things might get even more tense if Lt-Gen
Wattanachai is allowed to speak for Thailand.
ICFTU: Democracy for Burma and the ILO Resolution- Trade Unions in
International Confederation of Free Trades Unions
28 February-1 March, 2001
The Tokyo Declaration and Plan of Action
Leaders and representatives of the international union movement met in
Tokyo from 28 February to 1st march 2001, in the context of the
Resolution on Burma adopted by the 88th ILO COnference in June 2000.
They adopted a global trade union plan of action aimed at the full
implementation of the measures contained in this historic ILO decision,
in line also with the Resolution on Burma adopted in November 2000 by
the ICFTU Executive Board..
The Conference heard reports regarding the continuation of forced
labour since the ILO Governing Body had confirmed the ILO Resolution in
November 2000. Forced labour is continuing on a widespread scale and is
accompanied by massive violations of other human rights. Men and women
of all ages are forced to work against their will, including children
and elderly people. Women are particularly at risk. Incidents of gang
rape by soldiers are frequent, and many victims have been murdered
Forced labour is absolutely incompatible with the establishment of
democracy. This fact is also recognized by the ILO Commission of
Inquiry report. The 1990 electoral victory of the NLD has been thwarted
by the junta. NLD leaders, when not in prison, face continuous threat
and harassment. NLD offices throughout the country have been closed.
NLD members who have been detained have suffered torture at the hands
of Military Intelligence (MI).
The Conference condemns the union organizing/education work carried out
by the Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB), including its
co-operation with unions representing workers belonging to the ethnic
nationalities. The Conference calls on the international trade union
movement to strengthen material support to the FTUB so as to enable it
to increase its capacity in organizing, research and information.
The role of the United Nations Specialized Agencies' was also stressed
in this context. In particular, the need for coordination between the
various agencies active in Burma was underlined and affiliates need to
publicly lobby their governments to ensure that no UN programs has the
effect of perpetuating forced labour. The Conference insists that no
ODA be provided to the military and other official structures but,
rather that it be used to promote the restoration of democracy..
The international union movement also has a responsibility to increase
pressure on the International Financial Institutions (IFI's) to ensure
funds are not made available to Burma which could be used to perpetuate
the use of forced labour or to support in any way the corrupt and
undemocratic regime existing there.
The Conference recognizes the important role played so far by the
European Union, which has imposed sanctions on the regime, including a
ban on arms sales, on entry visas for senior SPDC officials, and a
freeze of some of their bank accounts. The Conference expresses strong
concern, however, at the EU's perceived reluctance to strengthen these
sanctions. Pressure has to be increased by EU affiliates, with the aim
of imposing an EU ban on investments in and on trade with Burma by
EU-based companies. Continued pressure against, and discussion
regarding Burma is also necessary within the ASEM context. The
co-operation of the ETUC is a vital requirement of these processes. The
current and future EU Presidencies must also be pressured to bring
about these results.
Employers also have an essential responsibility towards the ILO and the
international community at large, including the workers and people of
Burma. It is impossible to maintain business relations with Burma
without directly or indirectly supporting forced labour. Accordingly,
national and multinational companies trading with and/or investing in
Burma should withdraw as an matter of urgency. The union movement must
initiate early discussion with such companies. Failure of companies to
comply will mean public exposure by the international trade union
movement and other action as appropriate, such as consumer pressure and
boycotts. Public targeting of companies implied specific
responsibilities for trade unions.
Workers' shareholder action needs to be expanded and strengthened. The
April 2001 meeting of the ICFTU/ITS/TUAC meeting on Workers' Capital
offers a unique opportunity to coordinate action in that respect. The
OECD Guidelines on multinational companies should be put to use in
order to put pressure on companies investing in or trading with Burma.
The UN Global Compact can also constitute an important forum in which
companies can be pressured to implement the ILO decision.
Unions have a particular responsibility to inform their rank-and-file
membership, as well as the wider community, about the situation in
Burma. Optimal use of union publicity material is an urgent priority for
the trade union movement.
The Conference issued a call for an International Day of Union Action
for Burma, to be held on 1st May 2001, during which affiliates should
lobby governments, pressure companies, create public awareness and, in
particular, target Burmese embassies for protest and other action.
Co-operation for this Day of Action should be sought from other
representative elements of civil society, such as student and religious
groups, consumer organizations and NGO's.
Human Rights Watch: Burma Violates Own Ban in Use of Forced Labor
(New York, March 6, 2001)-Human Rights Watch said today that it had
clear evidence that forced labor in Burma was continuing, despite a
government decree issued last October to abolish the practice. It called
on the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to take steps
immediately to enforce the order and grant access to independent
observers to monitor compliance.
The governing body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) will
be meeting in Geneva next week to review Burma's progress toward
eradicating a practice that is in clear violation of international human
In November 2000, the ILO governing body adopted a resolution urging
international organizations and governments to "reassess" their
relationship with the SPDC to avoid contributing to the use of forced
labor. While the resolution was vaguely worded, many interpreted it as a
call to stiffen sanctions against Burma. The ILO action came just days
after the SPDC's October 27, 2000 decree instructing all local officials
to stop using forced labor except in public emergencies. The order
states explicitly that violators will be penalized under Section 374 of
the Burmese penal code, which provides for the punishment of anyone
found to be compelling others to work against their will.
"Either the Burmese government thought it could avoid international
pressure by a sham decree or it just has made no effort to enforce the
ban," said Sidney Jones, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. "Neither
of these interpretations shows the government in a very good light."
In interviews conducted in Thailand's Chiang Mai province in late
February, Human Rights Watch talked with a number of Burmese who had
been recently subjected to forced labor. One ethnic Shan farmer said
that in January 2001, a local unit of the Burmese military had forced
him to dig trenches and fence-post holes for a military base in Ton Hu
in Shan State's Nam Zarng Township. The farmer and some twenty other
villagers had to travel to the site five times during the month for two
to three days at a time. Villagers had to bring their own food, sleep at
the work site and were not compensated in any way for their labor. Of a
dozen Shan villagers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, eleven said that
either they or a family member had been subjected to forced labor since
the government ban was declared. Reports from many other states in
Burma suggest that forced labor continues to varying degrees.
The SPDC claimed to have circulated the order to local level civil and
military authorities, and Human Rights Watch said its interviews
indicated that indeed, the order had been widely circulated to village
headmen. Burmese villagers interviewed in Thailand two weeks ago were
also aware of the order.
"Since the directive was clearly circulated, the Burmese government has
to explain why the practice is continuing," said Jones. "We also need to
know how widespread the practice continues to be, and that is only going
to be possible through systematic monitoring."
For many years the Burmese government, especially the army, has
requisitioned village labor to build roads and dams, maintain army
bases, construct temples, guard villages, and porter for military
patrols. Villagers receive no pay, must supply their own food, and have
been threatened with imprisonment should they refuse to participate.
Porters have been beaten and killed when they tire under their heavy
The BurmaNet News is an Internet newspaper providing comprehensive
coverage of news and opinion on Burma (Myanmar) from around the world.
If you see something on Burma, you can bring it to our attention by
emailing it to strider@xxxxxxx
To automatically subscribe to Burma's only free daily newspaper in
English, send an email to:
To subscribe to The BurmaNet News in Burmese, send an email to:
You can also contact BurmaNet by phone or fax:
Voice mail or fax (US) +1(202) 318-1261
You will be prompted to press 1 for a voice message or 2 to send a fax.
If you do neither, a fax tone will begin automatically.
Fax (Japan) +81 (3) 4512-8143
Burma News Summaries available by email or the web
There are three Burma news digest services available via either email or
Burma News Update
Availability: By fax or the web.
Viewable online at http://www.soros.org/burma/burmanewsupdate/index.html
Published by: Open Society Institute, Burma Project
The Burma Courier
Availability: E-mail, fax or post. To subscribe or unsubscribe by email
Viewable on line at: http://www.egroups.com/group/BurmaCourier
Note: News sources are cited at the beginning of an article.
Interpretive comments and background
details are often added.
Viewable online at http://www.worldviewrights.org/pdburma/today.html
To subscribe, write to pdburma@xxxxxxxxx
Published by: PD Burma (The International Network of Political Leaders
Promoting Democracy in Burma)
T O P I C A -- Learn More. Surf Less.
Newsletters, Tips and Discussions on Topics You Choose.