Independence weekly, No. 2
(9-15 June 2002)
This week's message
I'm proud to introduce you to Ms Wandee "Pheung", our latest staff member, who has been since Monday (10 June), been taking care of our Chuem (News in Thai) section.
She is a graduate of Chulalongkorn University (Journalism) and has worked at the prestigious Features Magazine before coming here.
Needless to say, our news reports in Thai have dramatically graduated from pidgin Thai to standard Thai, which is more than what I can say for our news in English Section.
My message therefore, especially to the reader who's a Thai citizen, is that you have to subscribe to her because if you like our reports in English, you'll like hers even better.
Mysoong! (Wishing You Progress & Prosperity)
(9-15 June 2002)
Shan State Army says it has unsuccessfully attempted to contact the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in order to hand over the 21 prisoners, including 2 women.
Shan Democratic Union calls for an end to war on the border saying the conflict is getting in the way of planned reconciliation talks.
SSA calls for peace talks. Rangoon says it will have to lay down arms.
Col Yawdserk says he believes the Burma Army and Wa will strike simultaneously at his three bases across Chiangmai, Chiangrai and Maehongson. (Bangkok Post)
SSA's Freedom News says during the fighting from 20 May-13 June across Chiangmai, a total of 223 enemies (66 Wa and 157 Burmese) have been killed, 243 (103 Wa and 140 Burmese) wounded and 21 captured.
Col Yawdserk urges the UN to help mediate talks between Rangoon and non-Burmans. He says the Wa will be shipping 300 million speed pills to Thailand once border tension ease.
Aung San Suu Kyi, with regards to current border tensions, says she wants peaceful resolution between the two sides. 'I'm not for fanning the flame', she holds.
Karen National Union claims tension between Thailand and Burma is not caused by the non-Burman rebels but leaders of the SPDC. Rangoon is repaying its debt of gratitude to Thailand by denouncing them in rallies and in state-controlled media, it says.
National Democratic Front, an umbrella organization non-Burman armed groups, also holds the cause of increasing tension between the two countries is the military rule in Burma, an attempt "to delay meaningful discussion with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."
The 5 State Alliance, comprising Arakan, Chin, Karen, Karenni and Shan, also charges that the junta's ongoing offensive along the border is part of its "genocide campaign" and that problems will go away only when power is transferred to the winners of the 1990 elections. The statement also criticizes PM Thaksin for supporting Rangoon's genocidal campaign against non-Burmans.
Karenni Army says it has been engaged in clashes with Burma Army since 7 June. A clash opposite Maehongson today results in 5 enemies killed and 9 wounded.
BBC reports Rangoon renewing Aung San Suu Kyi's isolation. After she attended a prominent wedding recently, the father of one of the couple had all his government contracts cancelled and his mobile phone confiscated.
Aung San Suu Kyi goes on a 2-day pilgrimage to the Buddhist shrine at Thamanya mountain, 320 km southeast of Rangoon.
Bangkok Post says two influential figures, Sunthorn and son Rangsan Rasameereukseth, are sheltering Karen rebels in Kachanaburi's rubber plantation.
AFP reports Burmese soldiers rounding up 200 civilians in eastern border towns to use as porters and using handcuffed prisoners in the battle zone carrying arms and ammunitions for government troops.
(AFP) Rangoon seeks world's approval by torching 102 tons of poppy seeds in Lashio and 12 tons of Laokai. US diplomatic chief in Rangoon, Priscilla Clapp, says "(The proposal) has to be a multifaceted, sustained effort for it to work."
Xinhua reports out of 43 foreign banks in Burma before 1997, only 10 remains. At present there are over 10 local private banks and 5 state-owned banks.
Military forcing the people in Myawaddy to work as porters for troops preparing to attack the Shan, reports Bangkok Post.
Irrawaddy reports Myanmar Sky-link Company that has been selling GSM phones since March is owned by ethnic Wa and Chinese businessmen. Aik Htein is current managing director.
From 1-13 June, Burma has held anti-Thai rallies in 7 cities: Kengtung, Taunggyi, Mandalay, Rangoon, Monywa, Pegu and Moulmein. (Xinhua)
Rangoon's Literacy Work Scrutinizing Committee imposes ban on advertisements for Thai products and tells private publishers they should describe Thailand by its former Burmese name, Yodaya.
Burma shuts down electricity supply from Chiangrai. Portable power generators become popular overnight.
PM Thaksin says talks with Rangoon will have to wait until Burmese troops retake camps sacked by the rebels.
Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasingh says buffer state policy ended 20 years ago during the Prem Tinsulanond administration. Wa, on the other hand, has become Rangoon's buffer against Thailand, comments a general.
Non-Burman leaders should be made cabinet ministers in a national reconciliation government, says Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Defense Minister.
Gen Sampan Bunyanant, defense permanent secretary, says Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt wrote 3 letters to the defense minister last week: the first one, a letter of condolence on the death of Gen Chavalit's mother, the second to inform Rangoon's planned military strike and the third that he was ready for talks.
Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh warns Burma against making scathing remarks about the Thai monarchy in New Light of Myanmar. Burmese article describes Thailand as a bad neighbor whose lack of trustworthiness had led to the sacking of Ayutthaya in 1767.
Bangkok Post reports rerun of Keb Phaendin, a television series depicting an ethnic group fighting against Rangoon has been cancelled.
Gen Khin Nyunt has been invited to attend the birthday celebrations of Thai-Burma Economic and Friendship association next month in Kanchanaburi, says Gen Pat Akhanibutr.
Jaran Ditapichai, National Human Rights Commission member, says government should allow independent fact-finding missions to visit hot spots.
General Thammarak Issarangkura na Ayutthya, PM Thaksin's drug czar, says he has been requested for talks on drug suppression cooperation in Rangoon next month.
Rangoon belittles Thai policy of neutrality toward 40-year internal war quoting Bush's famous phrase: "either you are with us or against us."
Rangoon claims to have recaptured all outposts lost to the SSA except Pang Maisoong. "We do not intend to respond to (Thai feelers) until our counter-offensive in completely over," says Maj-Gen Kyaw Win.
PTT has delayed payment of B 4.5 billion to Rangoon for the supply of gas in March.
"Yodaya-made" red bull brand energy drinks destroyed in Rangoon on 29 May, says junta bulletin.
Unocal of Yadana Pipeline project ordered by California Superior Court to go on trial on 26 September for abuses committed by the Burmese military.
India unhappy with its militant groups, particularly the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) setting up camps in Burma with assistance from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Rangoon, reports Mizzima.
|*||As we cannot change the neighbor, we have to find a way to live together as good neighbors.|
|Maj Gen Kyaw Win, Myanmar Times, 3-9 June 2002|
|*|| The media cannot give Thailand a bad image - only people who act badly can do that.
Editorial, Bangkok Post, 11 June 2002
|*||We have shifted from the buffer state policy (20 years ago) to intelligence operations outside Thai boundaries, or defense diplomacy as it is called by this government.|
|Gen Chavalit Youngchaiyudh, Bangkok Post, 11 June 2002|
The other side of the new light
behind anti drug development projects in Shan State
It is easier to give a balanced view of things happening in a country, when there is freedom to investigate, inform your findings and, especially, people are allowed to have their say about what's best for them. However, when no such things are allowed there plus one is being flooded with all the propaganda about what the generals, in all their infinite wisdom and foresight, have done for the people whose life, by all accounts, have succeeded in progressing from bad to worse, one naturally wants to know what's on the other side of all these showers of self-acclaims.
It was to satisfy this curiosity when S.H.A.N. set out in late March to Mongpawk, a town under Wa control where the UN's Wa Development Project (WADP) has been undergoing, and other townships in eastern Shan State. The journey took S.H.A.N.'s reporter ten days, which was evidently not sufficient for making an in-depth study that was any how impossible under the prevailing circumstances.
The result, supplemented by reports from S.H.A.N.'s principal local source, Awng Marn, and others in the area, gives a rough sketch of the drug situation in the area that competent researchers may be able to study in depth hopefully in the near future.
Thank you so much for reading us. Comments and questions shall be highly appreciated.
Mysoong! (Wishing You Progress & Prosperity)
Drugs in UN's Mongpawk
S.H.A.N. was in the district governed by the young brother of the supreme Wa chieftain Pao Yuqiang for two days.
Mongpawk, the district seat, is 220 km north of Kengtung and some 50 km southeast of Panghsang, the Wa captial. It has 5 townships: Mongpawk, Hotao, Mongphen, Mongka and Namphai.
According to the New Light of Myanmar, the UN Drug Control Program's Wa Development Project (WADP) for this mountainous area, under the nominal control of Chin Yong, began in 1998. Cultivation of rice and tea and conducting livestock breeding, health care services, water supply and road construction are the ongoing UN activities, according to Xaviar Bouan, UNDCP's project coordinator.
A month earlier, on 26 February, an argument broke out between the local Wa troops from Pao Yuhua's 486th Brigade and Bouan over the discovery that poppy fields destroyed by the Wa security personnel had already been harvested beforehand, according to Network Media Group. Mr Bouan then closed the WADP office in Mongphen and left after the Wa commander fired a gun in anger into the air, it reported.
As Mongphen was some distance from Mongpawk, S.H.A.N. was not able to verify the news. However, sources in Mongpawk told S.H.A.N. the UN was a lame duck there. "Speed and white powder (heroin) are being sold quite openly here and the UN is helpless", said one, "because it is not free to go anywhere without prior permission from the Wa authorities. The two Burmese officials working for the UN, Kyaw Kyaw Lwin and Aung Kyaw Myint, just stay idle most of the time."
Just traveling along the motor-road, both sides of which the eyes could detect no poppy fields, and just staying in town, a less informed outsider can easily be convinced that opium days are over. The driver, a long time friend, assured S.H.A.N., "Farmers are only following Burmese and Wa orders that they are not allowed to grow poppies on the forehead (meaning within eyeshot) but only on the nape (meaning out of eyeshot)." The availability of drugs in town appeared to prove his point.
There are 17 villagers around Mongpawk: 8 Lahu, 3 Chinese and 6 Wa. "All grow opium," said one source, "although the Chinese are engaged more in the business side of the drug industry."
What about the refineries? More than ten of them around the town, they swore, some producing methamphetamine and some heroin.
Are there no penalties for drug abuse and trafficking at all? "There are a lot," answered a Lahu, "for not paying your debts. But I haven't heard anybody being arrested for either smoking opium or pushing drugs here."
The situation had become really serious, said a Wa villager. "Out of every ten youth here, 8 are either addicts or already using drugs. As for the two non-users, one is a student and the other a retarded or disabled." Another one told S.H.A.N. he had seen a 7-year old addict.
Maybe general Maung Aye and Khin Nyunt help ease their difficulties, S.H.A.N suggested, to which they scoffed. A villager quoted a Wa officer saying, "We Wa are like a volleyball. Khin Nyunt tosses us up in the air and Maung Aye just smashes us down to the earth."
What this old villager said was still on S.H.A.N.'s mind as he left Mongpawk for Kengtung.
Wa bans drugs around Monghsat
Local confirmed reports of Wa prohibiting cultivation of opium poppies from Wanhong (near Monghsat) to Loi Tawkham (near Tachilek) a distance of some 100 km on arrival in Monghsat.
"Both Wa and Rangoon want the area to be free of poppy fields so they can say the Wa's reputation as a drug trafficking organization is a myth," the driver told S.H.A.N. as the latter was busy scanning thousands of acres of orange trees around Wanhong, a few miles southeast of Monghsat and known as Wei Hsuehkang's town. Even Burma Army veterens were moved out of their homes when Wei moved in 1997 from Mongyawn in the south. "Although we are not allowed to grow opium, the Wa said we could become their sales agents if we wanted to make money."
It was almost the same words S.H.A.N. had heard in Mongtoom on the way to Monghsat. "Poppy cultivation shall be no more beginning next year in this area. Any fields found in the vicinity shall be destroyed," Wa officers told the locals. "We want Mongtoom free of drugs for the royal project (from Thailand). But if anyone wants to sell drugs, they can contact us."
While Mongyawn, it was reported, was slated to become a tourist attraction, Mongtoom, one of whose villages is Nayao a.k.a. Yawngkha, was to become a "model" drug-free community with the B. 20 million assistance from Bangkok.
At present, there are 2 refineries near Mongtoom's Punako village jointly owned by the Wa and Lahu and paying tax to the military. The tax collectors were identified as Maj Than Zin Aung, rear base commander, LIB 554 and Sgt Hla Htay from the Military Intelligence Service.
The Chinese chemist there was known as Ah Yong. "He's good at his job," said a source from Mae Jok, another village in the Mongtoom tract. "For every ten viss of opium, he can get us 2 blocks (1 block = 700 gram) of heroin."
As for Mae Jok, just one kilometer north of Chiangrai's border, "it is where Yaba (methamphetamine) has already replaced tea for serving guests," as S.H.A.N. found out. (The reporter unfortunately or rather fortunately forgets to mention whether or not he accepted his host's offer). It is also where one can leave one's "goods" for safe-keeping until he finds a purchaser at a price: 500 baht for 1 viss of opium, 20,000 baht for 100,000 speed pills and 2,000 baht for 1 block of heroin.
The whole township of Monghsat apart from those under Wei Hsuehkang's sway, were still engaged in opium cultivation, all the locals openly owned up. "We don't have to hide the fact," said one Lahu villager from Tangseng, north of Monghsat. "Even Col Tint Lwin from the Military Operations Command #14 (based in Monghsat) was careful to instruct his men who were on the seasonal destruction details not to destroy all but only those fields that were either harvested or not productive."
However, with growing concern among the Burmese and Wa for a better image, the prospects, they agreed, were not good. "Some of us have been discussing about moving to Mongton (the neighboring township in the west)," said a Lahu source (S.H.A.N. speaks the language.) "Things are easier there."
Balloon effect in Mongton
S.H.A.N. from Mongton reports that the township had an influx of 4 new refineries that were transferred from the neighboring Monghsat during March:
* to Hoyawd from Mongyawn;
* to Mongkhid Mai from Mongyawn;
* to Htamkeut south of Maeken, from Base 46; and
* to Mongkhid Kao, from Wanhong.
(S.H.A.N. reported in March there were 54 refineries along the 4 border townships: Monghsat, 10; Mongton 36; Tachilek 6 and Homong 2.)
The report claims all the 8 tracts in Mongton: Township seat, Nawng Payen, Wanna, Hpakhae, Maeken, Mongharng, Hwe Aw and Poongpakhem are involved in the production. For example, the village of Loinawk in Hpakhae Tract has 64 households. All without exception grow poppies: 10 for themselves, 20 for the Wa, 15 for IB 225 and 19 for Kokang Chinese.
The quality of the sap varies, so does the price. Opium from Loi Khilek in Maeken tract fetches 14,000 baht per viss, 2,000 baht more than the produce from other areas, because "while 5-6 viss of it can get you 1 block of heroin," chemists have to use as much as 8-10 viss of lower quality opium in order to acquire that much. Sources said opium from areas west of the Salween, that were of even more inferior quality "11-13 viss to produce just one block", the price fluctuated between 9,500 - 10,000 baht.
Did one have to pay tax? They did. "You pay 5,000 kyat per acre to the local military and nobody is going to bother you", said one. Many had not heard any destruction of fields in Mongton except in the papers and expressed mild surprises.
Both of the Burmese and Wa also tax the transactions. For each viss of opium, the military collected 500 baht and the Wa 200 baht.
The heart of the drug business in Mongton is, in fact, the IB 65 command post, they said. The Burmese and Wa share 50:50 from all the sales. Captain Han Sein, Commander of Company 1, is a constant feature in all the drug reports coming from the area.
However, since tensions with Thailand grew, the 65th had taken precautions to move the merchandise underground inside the compound. "The site is 20 meters south of the battalion commander's office and covered with gasoline barrels on top," described the informed source. "At least 100 blocks of heroin, 2,500 viss of raw opium and 2 million yaba pills have been stored there since the beginning of May."
S.H.A.N. talked to the source about recent "crackdowns" on Wa following US designation of Wa as a terrorist group, and asked whether Rangoon really meant business this time. "We'll believe that," answered a Shan from Mongton, "when the 65th is out of business."
|Township||Tract||# village||ethnic group||# households (estimate)|
|Monghsat||Tangseng||12||Akha / Lahu||350|
|Mongtoom||6||Akha / Lahu||210|
|Mongkiet||17||Akha / Lahu||n.a.|
|Mongton||Naung Payen||5||Lahu / Wa / Shan||240 out of 280|
|Wanna||8||Lahu||300 out of 450|
|Maeken||6||Lahu / Shan||96 out of 125|
|Mongharng||4||Lahu / Shan / Lisu||107|
|Hwe Aw||2||Shan / Wa||45 out of 80|
|Total||11||72||1,962 out of 2,216|
N.B. The two reporters were not able to visit everywhere.