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BurmaNet News: March 11, 2001

______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
        An on-line newspaper covering Burma 
         March 11, 2001   Issue # 1752
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________

*Bangkok Post: Dam head taken, three dead in raid
*Bangkok Post: Burma mobilises for attack on Shan base
*Reuters: Myanmar drug production set to explode, Thais say
*The Nation: Three major gangs, 87 production plants 
*The Nation: Deadly river of pills fed by five main tributaries  

*Ontarion (Canada): Campaigning for Freedom

*AFP: Myanmar bans energy drinks, MSG made in Thailand
*Xinhua: Myanmar to Hold 38th Annual Gems Emporium

*Myanmar Information Committee (SPDC): ?unsubstantiated accusations?

__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________

Bangkok Post: Dam head taken, three dead in raid

Karen rebels boast of March 5 conquest

March 11, 2001

Supamart Kasem

A dam construction director was abducted and three Burmese soldiers 
killed in a raid by Karen National Union rebels on a construction site 
in Mon state on March 5, a KNU officer said yesterday. 

Mahn Sharlaphan, general-secretary of the KNU, said the foray was 
carried out by soldiers from the KNU's 6th Division led by Capt Hte Nay, 
Capt Sa Klae and Capt Mahn Htun. 

The attack was on a military force protecting the dam construction site, 
50km south of Moulmein, the capital of Mon state. 

The assault was launched shortly after midnight. Burmese troops withdrew 
from the site after a 30-minute exchange of fire, leaving behind three 
dead soldiers, one of them a captain. 

The KNU soldiers set fire to a warehouse, destroying 120 drums of fuel 
and lubricants for heavy machines, before fleeing. They took with them 
Tint Lwin, the dam construction director. 

Pado Mahn Sharlaphan said the KNU soldiers were heading for a KNU 
stronghold opposite Tak province where the construction director would 
be released. 
The officer said the raid was intended to show Rangoon the KNU is able 
to provide protection for people living along the border and also repel 
invaders in areas under its control. 

However, he said the KNU still adheres to the policy of holding 
ceasefire talks with Rangoon. 

Rangoon and the KNU reached a ceasefire agreement in 1992, but they 
failed in subsequent talks to find ways of peaceful co-existence and 
fighting resumed. 


Bangkok Post: Burma mobilises for attack on Shan base

March 11, 2001

Subin Kheunkaew

Burma has prepared more troops to areas opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Fah 
Luang district for a new attack on the Shan State Army, a Thai military 
intelligence source said yesterday. 

The fresh reinforcements were believed to be from the United Wa State 
Army, who will be backed up by 3,000 Burmese soldiers. 

The SSA was preparing for battle by reinforcing its forces and 
evacuating civilians, said the source, who expects a new round of 
clashes in the next few days at the SSA base at Doi Kor Kham, opposite 
Ban Therd Thai. 

Boonchob Suthamasanwong, a Mae Fah Luang assistant district chief, said 
authorities and local leaders were ready to move people to Ban Therd 
Thai from nine border villages located along the path of the shelling. 

More Thai troops were deployed in the border district yesterday. 


Reuters: Myanmar drug production set to explode, Thais say

By Trirath Puttachanyawong 

 CHIANG RAI, Thailand, March 11 (Reuters) - The tide of methamphetamines 
flowing into Thailand is set to increase by 40 percent this year as 
production in Myanmar is stepped up, the Thai army said on Sunday.   
``We estimate that this year's production will increase to 700 million 
pills from 500 million last year,'' Thai Army Chief of Staff General 
Boonrawd Somtas, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on 
Thailand's drug problem.   

Boonrawd said drug production was expected to grow in Myanmar in order 
to sustain a larger population in drug-producing areas near the border 
with Thailand.   The Myanmar government and its Wa ethnic minority 
militia allies have undertaken the large-scale relocation of Wa people 
from areas near the border with China, south to areas near the Thai 
border.   ``The Wa aim to complete the relocation of 200,000 people to 
the Thai-Burmese border area this year,'' he said. ``This will result in 
an increase of drug production.''   He said since 1999, some 50,000 
ethnic Wa had been moved, and methamphetamine production had risen by 
400 percent.   

Thai army sources say the relocation of Wa people is aimed at boosting 
the strength of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), an ethnic Wa militia 
group which controls most of Myanmar's drug production and is allied 
with the Myanmar army.   The Myanmar army and the UWSA are a battling 
separatist Shan guerrillas in northeastern Myanmar's Shan State.   
Boonrawd said Thai authorities were having only limited success in 
intercepting drug consignments entering Thailand across its porous 
borders with Myanmar and Laos.   ``At least 85 percent of this 
production gets through to addicts - about 2 million throughout the 
country,'' he said.   The street value of methamphetamines - stimulants 
which affect the central nervous system - is around 50 baht ($1.14) a 


 Newly elected Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters he 
was stunned by photographs shown at the conference of a prosperous and 
growing drug-producing town in Myanmar.   He said Thailand wanted 
``sincere'' discussions with Myanmar on the drug issue.   

``We need a decisive response from Myanmar to help solve this problem,'' 
he said.   Thaksin did not say when he or other ministers would meet 
their Myanmar counterparts.   

The conference, attended by Thai government, police and army officials, 
focused on the flood of methamphetamines from the ``Golden Triangle'' - 
the region where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet.   The 
Golden Triangle has long been notorious as one of the world's main 
opium-growing regions -- heroin is refined from opium -- but the drug 
gangs in recent years have been diversifying into methamphetamine 
production.   In recent weeks fighting between the Myanmar army and its 
UWSA allies, and ethnic Shan rebels has simmered along the Thai-Myanmar 
border, with skirmishes occasionally spilling over onto Thai territory.  
 Thai army sources have said the fighting is linked to control of the 
drugs trade.   ($1 - 43.5 baht) 
2001-03-11 Sun 03:51 


The Nation: Three major gangs, 87 production plants 

March 10, 2001

THERE are 87 methamphetamine production plants across the Thai-Burma 
border, according a report by the Third Army Region's investigation 
Most of the factories stretch from Panghsang on the Chinese border to 
Mong Yawn, adjacent to Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district, a source quoting 
the report said.  
Three major trafficking rings were using 15 different routes to smuggle 
the drug into Thailand, the source said. Each monthly assignment in 
Chiang Mai alone earnt these gangs at least Bt1 billion, the source 

The army apparently knew about the bustling drug trade in the area but 
had done nothing because politicians and senior military officers 
protected the gang leaders, the source said.  

The information compiled by the investigative team will be presented at 
the anti-drug trafficking meeting in Chiang Rai today and tomorrow.  

The information of drug trafficking in the northern provinces compiled 
by the Third Army Region will be presented to the meeting of government 
agencies on anti-drug trafficking to be held in Chiang Rai today and 

According to the report, just under a third, or 23 of the 87 factories, 
mix the chemicals first for methamphetamine production. The chemicals 
are then passed to the other plants to be moulded into tablet form. 
Every tablet from these plants carries a "WY" trademark.  

The plants churning out these tablets are about five kilometres away 
from the Thai border.  

The tablet-making plants have two machines each that produce seven 
tablets per second and can be run for six consecutive hours. Each of the 
64 plant has two tablets making machines, each of which and produces 
seven tablets per second or 25,200 tablets per hour. Each machine can 
work for six consecutive hours.  
The plants where these tablets are churned out are located about five 
kilometres away from the Thai border. They are scattered along the 
border, from area opposite Mae Hong Son's Pang Mapha district to Chiang 
Mai's Wiang Haeng, Chaiya Prakan, Fang, and Mae Ai districts to Chiang 
Rai's Mae Sai district.  
The tablets are first stored in Burmese towns along the border before 
being carried into Thailand, the source said.  

The tablets are stored in key Burmese towns along the border before they 
are smuggled across the border via the 15 routes, the source quoted the 
report as saying.  
Third Army Region Commander Lt General Watthanchai Chaimuanwong said an 
estimated 800 million to one billion tablets were produced last year, 
and about 200 million tablets were in storage waiting to be smuggled 
across the border.  
Smugglers are given Bt1 to Bt3 for each tablet they carry across the 
border, those providing protection earn between Bt1 to Bt2 per tablet 
and those who allow the drug to be stored at their homes earn about Bt1 
per tablet.  

Because of to this "value-added system" the price of every 
methamphetamine tablet is based on the how far it is carried. For 
instance, each tablet transported three kilometres across the border 
carries a wholesale price-tag of Bt15 to Bt18.  

The price rises to about Bt20 to Bt25 when it reaches distributors in 
the North. The drug is retailed at between Bt30 to Bt40 in the northern 
provinces, while the street price in Bangkok ranges from Bt50 to Bt70 
per tablet.  

Money from drug trafficking was laundered at 13 banks in Chaiya Prakan, 
Fang and Mae Ai districts, according to the Third Army Region report.  

The 13 banks had a joint circulation of about Bt2.4 billion a month. 
Some 1.4 billion comes from lychee and orange trade, but the origin of 
the remaining Bt1 billion could not be attributed, the source said.  


The Nation: Deadly river of pills fed by five main tributaries  

March 10, 2001
THE production in Burma of methamphetamine pills, almost all destined 
for Thailand, is divided among five armed groups, anti-narcotics 
officials said.  

The United Wa State Army is believed to account for 60 per cent. The 
20,000-strong outfit is headquartered in Panghsang near the northern 
border with China.  
Over the years, it has expanded its stronghold to the southern part of 
Shan State, where it established its southern command centre in Mong 
Yawn, opposite Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district.  

Chinese-Kokang drug lords, based in northern Shan State near the Chinese 
border, are believed to be responsible for 20 per cent.  

Next comes a splinter group of former opium warlord Khun Sa's Mong Tai 
army which, together with a fourth group, the Chinese Haw, accounts for 
10 to 15 per cent.  
The fifth group, believed to be responsible for 5 per cent, is composed 
of remnants of the Communist Party of Burma still active in Mong La and 
Mong Ma.  
This small but wealthy group has entered into "joint ventures" with the 
Wa and the Chinese-Kokang to produce narcotics. The area under its 
control is also used as a major transit point for precursor chemicals 
used in drug production smuggled in from China.  

Thai officials said the thriving drug-manufacturing business in Burma 
was directly linked to the continuing conflict between the military 
government and the armed ethnic groups fighting for autonomy.  

Many of these rebel groups have turned to drug trafficking to finance 
their military campaigns. The country is the second largest processor of 
opium and its derivative, heroin.  

In recent years, these groups have turned to mass-producing 
methamphetamine tablets, millions of which flood Thailand every month 
with no end in sight.  

___________________ REGIONAL/INTERNATIONAL___________________

Ontarion (Canada): Campaigning for Freedom

By Katie Meyer

[March 2001]

(Note: "Ontarion" is the name of the student-run newspaper at University 
of Guelph)

Min Ko Naing was a student, but now he is a political prisoner. For the 
last twelve years he has spent his life in solitary confinement 
suffering physical and mental torture because he wanted something that 
you and I take for granted every day. 

Students at the University of Guelph and other campuses and 
organizations around the country are now involved in a nation-wide 
campaign for Min Ko Naings' release.

"We want freedom for Min Ko Naing and we want to raise awareness for 
Canadian students so they can put pressure on the Burmese military 
government," says Julia MacIsaac a 4th year Biology student and a member 
of the University of Guelph's OPIRG (Ontario Public Interest Research 
Group) branch in the South East Asian Working Group. MacIsaac returned 
from Thailand last Tuesday where she met and interviewed Ko Bo Kyi, a 
colleague of Min Ko Naing during her five-week stay in Mae Sot on the 
Thai/Burma border.

The campaign was initiated by Burmese and Canadian activists through the 
International Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Development 
(ICHRDD). Amnesty International and Canadian Friends of Burma are two of 
the groups working with ICHRDD to raise awareness in Canada.

"Amnesty International has a year-long campaign against torture and at 
the moment we're concentrating on Burma. The first case we're focusing 
on is Min Ko Naing because he should have been released by now and he 
has been severely tortured," says Brian John, the Myanmar National 
Coordinator for Amnesty International's Canadian English-speaking 

The national campaign reached the University of Guelph's OPIRG who will 
be distributing post cards this week asking for Min Ko Naing's 
unconditional release and that of "all other prisoners of conscience."

"We're giving 100 cards to each residence hall president. They will get 
signatures and OPIRG will collect them," says MacIsaac.  Off-campus 
students will be able to sign cards and put them into boxes located on 
the Ontarion racks in the UC. 

"60,000 cards have been produced in Canada," says MacIsaac. "Then in 
February (March) the signatures will be presented to Ambassador U Nyunt 
Tin at the Burmese Embassy in Ottawa."
The campaign also involves a series of lectures and seminars, some of 
which took place in Guelph last November.  

The campaign is going on in Guelph, Charlottetown, Ottawa, at the 
University of British Columbia, University of Western Ontario and the 
University of Alberta. 

Tin Maung Htoo was a Burmese student who spent three years in a Thailand 
prison for his political beliefs. He has since come to Canada where he 
is a student and activist at the University of Western Ontario. Now he 
is the General Secretary of the Burmese Students' Democratic 
Organization (BSDO) another active group in the campaign.

"I know the feeling of being a political prisoner. I am now free in 
Canada but I cannot forget the past memories," says Tin Maung Htoo. 
"Sometimes it frustrates me that the movement is taking so long-12 years 
now, but it still doesn't push me out of the movement. We still know 
that there are civilians and students risking their lives for 

Min Ko Naing is one of a reported 2500 political prisoners in Burma, but 
he has gained international attention over the last few years because of 
his devotion to the Democratic movement in Burma.

"If he admits what he did was wrong then he would be released. He 
doesn't believe in violence and what he did was right for the people. 
That is why I admire him," says Tin Maung Htoo. "Some students fled to 
the border or fed the military a line. Not Min Ko Naing. He stayed in 
Rangoon and encouraged people to fight in the struggle for democracy."

On December 10th 1999 Min Ko Naing was awarded the John Humphrey's 
Freedom Award by the ICHRDD which spearheaded the campaign for his 
release and raised more awareness about the political situation in Burma 

"Prison conditions in Burma are appalling...The few people who have seen 
Min Ko Naing have reported that he is in poor condition. He was made to 
stand in water for two weeks until he collapsed. They say he suffers 
from nervous tremors and a gastric ulcer," says John.

Activists in Canada and Burma are asking that economic sanctions be 
carried out on Burma. "If we invest in Burma, we give the military money 
and strengthen their power. We have to cut off our relationship with the 
military," says Tin Maung Htoo.

Former Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Llyod Axworthy 
passed a resolution in 1997, imposing voluntary economic sanctions to be 
placed on Burma until their human rights record improves. This means 
that though the government discourages investment in Burma, Canadian 
companies can still negotiate trade with the Burmese military. 

"This measure has been completely ineffective in promoting democracy 
because since that time import trade has more than doubled," says 
Corinne Baumgarden, Executive Director of Canadian Friends of Burma.  

"Child labour, forced labour and other human rights violations are 
imposed on the people," says Tin Maung Htoo. "That's why we're asking 
countries not to invest in Burma because that's not investing in the 
daily lives of civilians in Burma. The profit for the military is not 
going to the people, its going to strengthen the military power."

"The most effective way for student to effect change is to show 
solidarity as students," says Baumgarden. "By signing the postcards, 
holding talks, passing resolutions or asking their student councils to 
pass resolutions making sure that the University isn't doing business 
with companies that support the Burmese military."


_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________

AFP: Myanmar bans energy drinks, MSG made in Thailand 

YANGON, March 11 (AFP) - Myanmar stepped up its war of words against 
Thailand Sunday, announcing a ban on imports of energy drinks and goods 
containing the flavour enhancer MSG, made in the kingdom.   

"Thai-made monosodium glutamate and various kinds of energy drinks such 
as Red Bull ... are being illegally imported from Thailand into Myanmar 
 ... and distributed in the country by smugglers," the official media 
said.   "With a view to safeguarding public health, authorities have 
banned the importing, trading and consuming of above-mentioned illegally 
imported items," it said, adding that they were "injurious to health."   

Thai-made MSG and energy drinks are popular products in Myanmar and have 
been widely circulated for many years in a trade that has until now been 
ignored by the authorities.   The move may have been prompted by ongoing 
friction in the wake of clashes at the Mae Sai-Tachilek border crossing 
between the two neighbours, which prompted Thai authorities to close the 
checkpoint last month.   

Thailand's army said last week that the crossing would be reopened from 
Monday, but that supplies for the Myanmar military including medicine, 
rice and fuel would still be blocked.   The state press has defiantly 
said that Myanmar would not be concerned if trade were permanently 
halted at the northern border town as the military-run nation can easily 
meet the needs of its citizens.   "It is the Thai traders who will 
suffer," an official commentary said Sunday.    


Xinhua: Myanmar to Hold 38th Annual Gems Emporium

YANGON, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar will start its 38th annual gems 
emporium on Sunday, putting on sale a total of 29.13 million U.S. 
dollars worth of locally-produced quality gems, pearl and jewelry 
through competitive bidding, tender or at fixed price. About 300 
merchants of 98 companies from 13 countries and regions, mostly from 
China and China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as well as 
Thailand, are expected to attend the eight-day state-sponsored emporium, 
said Myanmar Deputy Minister of Mines U Myint Thein at a press briefing 
here Saturday. 

The emporium, sponsored by the Myanma Gems Enterprise of the ministry, 
aims to enable national gem merchants to engage in gem trading in 
accordance with the market-oriented system, to study the situation of 
foreign gem market, to meet and coordinate with foreign merchants, to 
boost earnings and to obtain the raw gems for making the finished gems. 
At the 37th annual Myanma gems emporium held in March last year, a total 
of 24.17 million U.S. dollars was earned, breaking the highest record of 
1990's 27th emporium which fetched 14.839 million dollars. Myanmar, a 
well-known producer of jade, ruby and sapphire in the world, has been 
holding gems emporiums annually since 1964 with additional mid-year ones 
being introduced in 1992. The country has earned a total of over 320 
million dollars from its 37 annual and nine mid-year gems emporiums, 
according to official statistics.


Myanmar Information Committee (SPDC): ?unsubstantiated accusations?

Text of "Special Feature" in Information Sheet No. B-1737(I) issued by 
"Myanmar Information Committee" in Rangoon on 8 March 2001 in English 
carried by Myanmar Information Committee web site on 8 March  

Let us enhance friendship and good neighbourliness and avoid in making 
hostile and irresponsible remarks.  

It is very unfortunate that certain quarters in Thailand are still 
continuing to act in a hostile and irresponsible way by making 
inflammatory remarks in spite of the understanding and goodwill shown by 
the two governments in resolving the recent border tensions. It is also 
disappointing to learn that a recent study shows that a steady stream of 
irresponsible speculations and allegations have been systematically 
launched against Myanmar Burma by some Thai officials.  
Since the beginning of this year, a number of unsubstantiated 
accusations were launched against Myanmar which eventually were found 
out to be purely wild and irresponsible speculations or deliberate 
cover-ups to serve the interests of certain quarters in Thailand.  

To mention a few of the obvious ones:- 

(a) The murder of six Thai civilians in Suan Pueng, 150 km west of 
Bangkok on 30 December 2000, was alleged to be carried out by Myanmar 
troops but later turned out to be committed by a faction of the Karen 
National Union KNU (an armed terrorist group based in Thailand) known as 
the God's Army.  

(b) The very recent assassination attempt on the Thai prime minister 
where a Thai Airways jet was sabotaged. The United Wa State Army was 
almost staged as the culprit until the Thai Office of the Narcotics 
Control Board dismissed that suggestion.  
(c) The sensational story of the two so-called defected or captured 
Myanmar soldiers by the KNU confessing that their infantry unit was 
responsible for shooting down a Thai helicopter, 4 years ago.  

Very soon, these very same sources will be daringly claiming that 
Myanmar was responsible for the 1997 Asean Association of Southeast 
Asian Nations financial crisis that hit the region.  


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