January 2005


Mae Sot: Myanmar’s largest ethnic rebel group said Monday it was prepared to renew its war against the ruling military if Yangon does not resume stalled peace talks.
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The Burmese military government has sent the Karen National Union, or KNU, a message stating that they are now prepared to resume ceasefire talks, said a top KNU leader today.
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January 29: Yangon: Myamar’s top three generals were pictured smiling together in state media Saturday, in what observers said was a calculated attempt to quash rumours of a coup or struggle at the pinnacle of power.
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Yangon: Myanmar Prime Minister Lieut. Gen. Soe Win has called on his country’s youth to keep national solidarity and the union spirit alive among people and actively take part in rural and national development tasks.
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Thailand and the United States have taken legal steps against the biggest, richest druglords in Asia. A US federal court accepted a case against eight leaders and drug peddlers with the United Wa State Army for making, smuggling and selling opium, heroin and amphetamines. (more…)

He has been little known outside the country until he was named by a New York court announcement on 24 January as one of the eight senior Wa leaders being indicted on charges of importing heroin and methamphetamine into the United States.
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Yangon: Myanmar is making more efforts to lift its export of agricultural products of beans and pulses, timber products of sculpture and furniture as well as natural gas.
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For two years in a row, Wa cargo vessels had been traversing the Salween to pick up teak from downstream for export into China in exchange for machinery and dry goods greatly in demand in southern Shan State, according to several sources.
Also among the incoming cargo docked at Kunhing township’s Wan Ing village, just 10 miles north of the Takaw Bridge, were Chinese-made motorcycles. The boats then loaded teak logs waiting at the landing, 20-23 tons each, and labored back to when they started, the Ta Weun Nawng Ferry, roughly between Pangyang on the east bank and Monghsu on the west bank, about 100 miles up stream.

“The Salween is navigable only during the monsoons, 6-7 months, April – October”, said an officer from the ceasefire group, Shan State Army “North”. “But during the two years, 2003-2004, they had been able to help make short work of the teak forest in Kenglom (south of Kunhing – Takaw road).”

As a result, the once teak-green area is left barren in most places. No more than 10-15% of the forest remains, estimates a 10-wheel truck driver. One of the logging companies that had won concession in the township is Law Hsinghan’s Asia World.

The “shipping company” is said to be jointly owned by a Chinese businessman and Ta Hsarm, Commander of the United Wa State Army’s 418th Division, who was implicated in the 354 kg heroin haul in April 2002, according to New Era, June 2002 issue.

Sources however are not sure whether the business will resume this year. “Things have changed,” said a trader visiting Chiangmai. “For one thing, the area is almost denuded of trees. For another, the relations between Panghsang and Rangoon have become somewhat delicate since Gen Khin Nyunt’s departure (in October 2004)”.

January 30: Kuala Lumpur: Half-a-million police and civilian volunteers will begin hunting down hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in Malaysia on Tuesday in a campaign which has caused widespread concern among human rights groups.
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Jakarta: The number of people presumed dead in last month’s Asian tsunamis rose to more than 286,000 Monday, with Indonesian authorities announcing a further increase in the number of dead and missing.
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War appears to have broken out between the junta’s top generals with there being talk of mental instability
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Bangkok: Political “tension” has risen in military-ruled Myanmar after the death of an aide to a senior general, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Friday.
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Phuket: Myanmar denied Friday that a coup d’etat had taken place in the military-ruled country, but hinted at possible changes in the Cabinet.
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Sex and drugs in the Shan state
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The United Wa State Army, or UWSA, on Friday denied that eight of its members charged in the United States with drugs offences were involved in the narcotics trade. A UWSA spokesman, reached by The Irrawaddy by telephone in Lashio, northern Shan State, accused the US of trying to intervene in Burma’s internal affairs.
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Phang Nga: Burma escaped the worst ravages of the Tsunami that devastated other countries in the Indian Ocean, but Burmese migrant workers along Thailand’s western seaboard have fared poorly
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Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia needs an Anti-Trafficking Act to penalize those trafficking in humans for sexual purposes.
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The rise of China and India, and the gradual thaw in their once-frosty relations, appears to be shaping Asia in positive ways. The world’s two most populous nations held their first “strategic dialogue” this week, in advance of a ground-breaking visit to India in March or April by Premier Wen Jiabao .
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Optimists look at the tsunami’s silver lining. Maybe the tragedy will break entrenched political stalemates and perhaps force a degree of humility on despotic leaders. The world’s worst natural disaster in modern times has potentially brought valuable lessons to erring humans that they should change their selfish ways, and to enemies to bury the hatchet in what has been a massive display of community spirit.
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In the absence of a free press, Rangoon’s rumor mill is hyper-active even in quiet times. But in recent days it has bordered on the bizarre, with reports of a gun battle among the Burmese military regime’s top three leaders. Adding fuel has been the mysterious public disappearance of one of them.
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