The Kachin Independence Organization, or KIO, and a splinter group headed by its intelligence chief, Col Lasang Awng Wa, have agreed to patch up their quarrel, a senior Kachin leader announced on Sunday. (more…)
Tuesday, November 16th, 2004
Tue 16 Nov 2004
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Yangon: Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe has stressed the need to ensure food security for the country’s growing population in the next three decades. (more…)
Tue 16 Nov 2004
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Myanmar will complete the construction of a new terminal at Yangon International Airport before the country hosts an ASEAN summit in 2006, a local weekly journal reported Tuesday. (more…)
November 15: Mahngdaw: Thousands of Muslim Rohingyas of Arakan celebrated their religious festival Eid-ul-Fitr today like Millions of Muslims in the world celebrated it after one month of fasting, reported by an elite Rohingya from inside Arakan on condition of anonymity. (more…)
Tue 16 Nov 2004
Filed under: Health / AIDS,News
November 15: A presenter at a two-day workshop on HIV/AIDS in Shan State held in Chiangmai has tagged the problem in Burma’s largest state as a crisis, said women participants at the 13-14 November meeting.
The Update on HIV in Burma in October 2004 by Jamie Uhrig, a researcher who had worked in Burma, called the rising prevalence of the epidemic as “The Crisis in Shan State.”
According to his paper, over 80% of injecting drug users (IDUs) in Lashio, most of them who inject heroin, were found HIV infected and many of them have died.
Dr Chris Beyrer, American authority on HIV/AIDS who had conducted “Sentinel Surveillance” in September-October 1999 in Burma, also estimated the 2004 HIV prevalence in Shan State as follows:
Lashio – Northern Shan StateÂ —— 74.0%
Muse – Sino-Burma borderÂ ———- 92.3%
Taunggyi – Southern Shan StateÂ — 13.0%
TotalÂ —————————————– 42.0%
In addition, the 1999 survey came across high HIV prevalence rates among ante-natal clinic (ANC) pregnant women:
Lashio Northern Shan State —– 1.0%
Muse Sino-Burma border ——— 6.5%
Taunggyi Southern Shan State – 1.5%
Tachilek Eastern Shan State —- 3.0%
Uhrig’s paper noted that the military government has begun small-scale activities in Shan State such as condom promotion, support for outreach, needle and syringe programs, life skills training, minimum package of care
and prevention of HIV infection in mothers and young children, with a $ 50 million total committed funding.
However, crackdowns on sex work and human trafficking have disrupted HIV prevention programs and led to greater vulnerability of sex workers to HIV.
1.31% of all adults in Burma are estimated to be living with HIV in Burma, according to the National AIDS Program’s official estimate, revised in September.
Far Eastern Economic Review, 15 July, reported that 5% of the 7 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Asia-Pacific Region are in Burma, while 61% are in India, 13% in China, 11% in Thailand and 10% in other countries.
“The Burmese (generals) need not worry about destroying the Shans,” a woman social worker told S.H.A.N. “AIDS is already doing the job for them.”
Tue 16 Nov 2004
Filed under: News,Regional
Phnom Penh: A conference opened in Cambodia on Tuesday aimed at tackling human trafficking in one of the Asian nations at the heart of the illegal trade.
Cambodia, one of the world’s poorest nations, is viewed as a sender and receiver of trafficked people because of its weak border controls and poorly enforced migration laws.
An estimated 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked annually across borders worldwide in a billion-dollar illicit trade, with a growing crisis in Asia.
Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar signed an agreement last month in Yangon to cooperate in combatting trafficking.
US ambassador Charles Ray said more needed to be done in Cambodia to prosecute those responsible for trafficking.
“The courts in Cambodia have to be held accountable for acting transparently and professionally when investigating, prosecuting and convicting traffickers and sex tourists.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen acknowledged growing trafficking, particularly in urban and border areas.
“Human trafficking is not only a crime of serious human rights violation, it affects seriously socio-economic development process,” he told the gathering of officials, donors and other groups that ends Wednesday.
He conceded the kingdom still lacked some laws to fight trafficking.
Tue 16 Nov 2004
Filed under: International,News
In the first of a two-part series, our correspondents examine the role of microfinance in relieving poverty around the globe – Farhan Bokhari, Fiona Harvey, Amy Kazmin and Amy Yee
Not long ago, 46-year-old Than Than Win and her husband eked out a living by working the fields of landowners in Kangyi, a small village about half a day’s journey from Rangoon. Along with many of Burma’s poor, Ms Win had
little means to improve her life or those of her six children.
But Ms Win says receiving microfinance loans to buy a flock of ducks through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1998 changed her life.
Her first loan of Dollars 6 (Euros 3.3, Pounds 4.6) was used to buy 50 ducks, whose eggs she sold at the local market for a profit of Dollars 1 a day.
Microfinance has traditionally consisted of distributing small loans worth between Dollars 25 and Dollars 2,500 to help the urban and rural poor start small businesses, with typically high rates of repayment of up to 97 per cent in some developing countries. Successful initiatives show an average rate of return of about 2.5 per cent of total assets.
The concept evolved in response to the deficiencies of the traditional banking system whose high overheads often made small loans unaffordable to relatively poor clients. Microfinance sought to reduce the cost of lending either by linking lenders to existing development projects where borrowers had a track record, or by using non-governmental organisations to vet prospective customers.
Other techniques used to reduce risk have included lending to a group of poor borrowers who between themselves decided how much money to pass on to a member and who are collectively responsible for managing a default by any individual member.
Microfinance has grown at an average annual rate of 25-30 per cent over the past five years, involving an increasing number of banks such as Citibank, Deutsche Bank and India’s ICICI.
On Thursday the UN will declare 2005 the International Year of Microcredit. “Microfinance has proved its value, in many countries, as a weapon against poverty and hunger,” said Kofi Annan, the UN secretary- general, yesterday. “It really can change peoples’ lives for the better – especially the lives of those who need it most.”
The UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says giving the poor access to basic financial tools will help meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.
But for microfinance schemes to reach “a meaningful number of the world’s poor”, more banks and more NGOs need to get involved, says Henri Dommel, IFAD’s rural development technical adviser.
Critics say, however, that no matter how fashionable, microfinance is no panacea in the fight against poverty. Such loans often still carry relatively high rates of interest and the number of poor who can be helped is limited.
In the largest micro-finance initiative by any government, Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister, has moved to fulfil a campaign promise made four years ago to provide each of Thailand’s 70,000 villages with a Bt1m (Dollars 24,761, Euros 19,150, Pounds 13,413) microcredit fund.
But Thai academics have questioned whether the poorest and most needy villagers have had access to the funds, and whether money has been used for productive investment or simply for conspicuous consumption.
Some economists have suggested that some Thai families are being forced to borrow from money lenders in order to repay the village funds. Kazi Matin, chief economists for the World Bank in Bangkok, says successful microfinance projects generally require well-developed regulatory frameworks to ensure that they are sustainable and do not add to financial
pressures on vulnerable families.
“If you actually give relatively large loans and that money actually does not get used productively, it could get people into trouble if you try to enforce the repayment,” says Mr Matin. “They get into trouble trying to repay, and that is the category of risk that is worst for the poor households.”
In Pakistan, economists warn of limitations to a plan to expand the role of microfinance in the country’s fight against poverty.
“The idea of microcredit has been fashionable and you would find many people pleading the case for more such ventures,” concedes a senior Pakistani government official. “The problem is that there continue to be practical difficulties. When you give out small loans, you just can’t do this without charging high interest rates. But high interest costs defeat the purpose of lending to the poor to deal with their predicament.”
Such objections are being met with growing calls within the community of aid donors for a redefinition of microfinance.
Elizabeth Littlefield, a former banker who runs the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, a Washington-based consortium of 30 donor agencies, says the real challenge is not only to distribute more small loans but to overhaul entire financial systems. “This means making poor people central
to the financial systems in poor countries,” she says, “whether in making it easier with the help of new technology for urban workers to send remittances to family in the countryside or to build local financial intermediaries to harness savings.” Reporting by Amy Yee in New York,
Fiona Harvey in London, Amy Kazmin in Bangkok and Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad The second part of this series, focusing on the developed world, appears on Thursday For more reports see www.ft.com/globaleconomy
November 12: The fall of Asia’s longest-serving intelligence chief.
General Khin Nyunt, the chief of the Office of Military Intelligence, or OCMI, and since August last year prime minister of Burma, took a day off from his hectic schedule of public engagements to celebrate his 65th birthday on October 11. Seven days hence he was going to have a lot more free time. (more…)