April 2005

The European Commission raises eyebrows by commissioning two Burma experts, known for their military regime sympathy, to write a report for a Brussels meeting.

A US Campaign for Burma statement released today urged people in Burma to boycott the products of the Hong Pang Group, who are allegedly involved in drug trafficking. The director of the pro-democracy activist group, Aung Din, said “It’s a dirty and corrupt company operated by druglords who support Than Shwe [the ruling junta’s top leader].”

Curb the anti-India militants, Rangoon is told

Beijing: Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said here Friday that China is ready to step up efforts to promote bilateral ties with Myanmar.

Burmese teenager says she was left with fractured skull, broken back

A Burmese teenager working as a maid at an apartment in Huai Khwang district has filed a complaint with police, accusing her Thai employer of giving her such a severe beating that she suffered a fractured skull, a broken back and shattered ribs.

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Friday defended the blocking of a parliamentary motion seeking to deny Myanmar the ASEAN chairmanship next year unless it implements democratic reforms.

April 28: Talks between Thailand and Burma have found they both have complaints against the other, and both see the other’s complaints as unfair:

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees urged Thai authorities to grant more freedom to Myanmar (Burmese) exiles and to improve their living conditions in border refugee camps, The Nation reports.

As the recent arrest of key Shan figures casts a cloud over the National Convention’s attempts at national integration, ethnic minority in-fighting continues to play into Rangoon’s hands.

Burma’s wealthy tycoon and arms broker Te Za has expanded his involvement in the telecommunications sector by taking over a profitable GSM mobile phone contract reached between the Rangoon regime and China’s ZTE company, according to business and diplomatic sources in Rangoon.

Te Za is very close to the family of the military government’s top leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

The GSM phone contract between the government’s Myanmar Post and Telecommunications and China?s ZTE, the country’s leading telecommunications manufacturer, was signed during a visit to China last July by former prime minister Gen Khin Nyunt. The contract provided for the sale of 100,000 mobile phones in Rangoon and Mandalay.

The official price of a GSM phone is 1 million kyat (about US $1,100), but on the black market it fetches more than $2,000.

One businessman in Rangoon suggested that Te Za had been awarded the mobile phone contract in return for his involvement in building the controversial Nanmyint Tower at the Pagan World Heritage Site. It is believed that the recently-inaugurated tower was Than Shwe’s idea.

As President and Managing Director of the Htoo Trading Company, Te Za is a major player in Burma’s tourism, logging, real estate, and hotel and housing development sectors.

Since the early 1990s, he has also been involved in arms trading. He is the junta’s sole representative of Russia’s Export Military Industrial Group and the Russian helicopter company Rostvertol. In this capacity, he helped the military buy MiG-29 fighter jets and helicopters from Russia.

One western diplomat in Rangoon disclosed that Te Za was now selling arms not only to the military government but also to the United Wa State Army, the Wa group associated with the drugs trade. The UWSA is the biggest ceasefire group, with a 16,000-strong army, which recently launched serial attacks on a Shan rebel group in Shan State. Is there no stopping him (Te
Za) the diplomat asked.

Observers feel it will indeed be difficult to stop the forward progress of Te Za, as he is favored by the junta’s No. 1 leader Than Shwe. In recent years, when Than Shwe and his family holidayed at Ngwe Saung beach, Irrawaddy Division, they stayed at the Myanmar Treasure Beach Resort owned by Te Za, the Rangoon businessman said.

In Ngwe Saung alone, the businessman added, Te Za owns at least three big hotels and has been building an airport there. He is becoming the owner of the country, he commented wryly.

April 28: The Vigorous Burmese Students Warriors (VBSW), a secretive underground Burmese group said it was not responsible for recent bomb blast at Mandalay Zegyo Market and denounced the action.

April 28: Former Burmese student leaders and political activists, U Tin Aung and Ko Tin Aye were released from Rangoon Insein Jail on 28 April after spending more than a decade and a half in prison. The followings are comments of fellow ex-political prisoners who were released recently:

April 27: Radio Free Asia is seeking one (1) Burmese-language International Radio Broadcaster in Washington, D.C. This private, non-profit corporation broadcast news and information in 9 languages to listeners in those Asian countries where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable.

Gathering news and information, developing ideas and proposals for programs; conducting research for stories and interviews, writing news scripts, and preparing and presenting reports, programs, and program segments.

Bachelor degree from an accredited college or university degree in journalism or related field preferred. One year experience in broadcast and/or specialized journalism. Knowledge and understanding of current political, economic and social conditions in Burma. Good news judgment and fluency in Burmese and English required.

All candidates must be eligible to work and provide proof of eligibility.

Send cover letter & resume via fax to 202-530-7797 or e-mail www.jobs@rfa.org.

RFA is an equal opportunity employer.

Washington, DC: The US Campaign for Burma today urged the people of Burma to boycott the products of the Hong Pang Group of Companies, a major Burmese conglomerate operated by drug lords indicted by a federal court in the United States.

April 27: The prickly question of Burma’s assumption of the Asean chair next year has been deferred to the formal Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting in Vientiane in July.

New Delhi: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Thursday the world body would offer Myanmar’s military junta any help it needed to move towards democracy.

Cox’s Bazar: Burma has become a source of raw materials for Bangladesh through the exportation of several kinds of raw materials to Bangladesh via both legal and illegal methods. (more…)

Dhaka: Bangladesh and Myanmar have exchanged prisoners in a sign of improving relations between the two South Asian neighbours, officials said Thursday.

New Delhi: United Nations members generally agree that Asia should provide the next head for the global body, after a break of three decades, Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Thursday.

Bangkok: The self-declared “Shan government,” which earlier this month claimed independence from Myanmar (Burma), is seeking recognition from the United Nations and several countries including Thailand, leaders of the rebel government said on Thursday.

“We are in the process of seeking recognition for a number of countries including the United Nations,” said Hkun Hom, self-proclaimed foreign minister of the Shan government.

On April 17, Shan Prince Surkhanpha, son of Myanmar’s first post-independence president Saopalong Sa Shwe Thaike, declared the Shan State of northeastern Myanmar independent and the establishment of a Shan government with himself as president.

The self-proclaimed government has called on the U.N. to send in a peace-keeping force to the Shan State to help remove Myanmar troops from their territory to pave the way for a free election.

“We have foreign troops in our country and have to see that they withdraw back to Burma before we can hold an election to elect a new government,” said Hkun Hom, addressing an informal gathering of journalists in Bangkok.

Hkun Hom said the Shan government has also sought support and recognition from Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, head of state of Thailand.

“We have no quarrel with the Thai government. In fact, we share the same heritage, history and culture so we would welcome full cooperation with the Thais,” said Surkhanpha.

Surkhanpha, a geologist by profession who has been living in exile in Canada since 1966, claimed he had earned his mandate from the Shan people by secretly canvassing for their support over the past two years.

“Our government’s mandate comes from 48 townships out of 56 in the Shan State who voted for independence,” said Surkhanpha.

He claimed firm support from the eight million people residing in the Shan State, including the Shan State Army (SSA) and other rebel groups who have been waging insurgencies in the area for the past five decades.

Surkhanpha said Myanmar, which has been under military rule since 1962, had lost its constitutional right to preserve the country as a union because of the Yangon-based military regime’s mistreatment of ethnic minorities, including the Shan.

“The 1948 Union of Burma does not exist. The Burmese generals have converted it into a Burmese empire,” said Surkhanpha, who refused to call the country by its now official name “Myanmar.”

He dismissed concerns raised by other ethnic minority groups that the Shan government would exclude them from their territory.

“There used to be 34 princes in the Shan states and they were all equal, with their own territory,” said Surkhanpha. “The only difference now is that there are no more princes.”

The Shan are one of a host of ethnic minority groups in Myanmar who claim the right to independence and territorial sovereignty from the Burman-dominated central government.

Most of Myanmar’s insurgent groups have signed peace pacts with the Yangon regime, and are participating in the drafting of a new constitution that will, in theory, address the sensitive issue of sharing power with the minorities.

An estimated 60 pert cent of Myanmar’s population are Burmans. The Shan, traditionally based in the country’s northern territories, ruled much of what is now Myanmar for 300 years before being defeated by the Burmans in the 17th Century. They enjoyed a high degree of autonomy under the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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