India invests $2b in Myanmar

BANGKOK – INDIA is investing US$1.35 billion (S$1.9 billion) in gas projects in military-ruled Myanmar, the two governments have announced, as the neighbouring nations pursue closer economic and diplomatic ties.

India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and Gas Authority of India Ltd (Gail) will spend US$1.1 billion on rights to develop two gas field blocks and US$250 million on a connecting pipeline, India’s energy ministry said in a statement.

Myanmar’s military government confirmed the gas investment in a statement following broader diplomatic talks held with an Indian delegation on March 1 in its remote capital Naypyidaw.

Myanmar ‘welcomed the additional investment of US$1.1 billion… for gas field development and upstream projects’, it said in a statement, referring only to the gas fields deal. ‘Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in this field,’ it said.

The other US$250-million investment gives India a 12.5-per cent stake in a US$2-billion pipeline being built by China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), China’s top oil producer. The first gas is expected in early 2013.

ONGC will spend US$167.8 million while Gail will invest US$83.8 million in the 771-kilometre (480-mile) pipeline which will transport gas from the two blocks off the Myanmar coast to China. The connected gas blocks are jointly owned by South Korea’s Daewoo, Korea Gas Corp, ONGC and Gail.

Mongla calls for acceptance of 6 point proposal

In a written response by Mongla-based National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) to Naypyitaw on Sunday, the group repeated that it would choose to retain its ceasefire status until its 6-point proposal is accepted by the Burmese junta authorities, according to sources close to the Mongla leadership.

The letter was sent on 28 February, soon after the conclusion of its two day meeting. It was held at its main base Mongla, opposite China’s Daluo, following the junta’s options given on 25 February: To become a BGF (Border Guard Force), surrender or return to being “an unlawful association.”

The meeting was presided over by its leader Sai Leun.

The letter said the junta authorities so far have not taken any considerations of its proposal, but instead have kept forcing the group to accept its own demands.

The NDAA’s proposed 6 points ( presented on 6 November 2009 to Naypyitaw) are:

• No junta officers within the ranks at least during the trial period
• No military trainings outside the Mongla territory
• Not to discharge members over 50
• To keep Hsaleu and Nampan inside Mongla territory as it is (Naypyitaw has placed Hsaleu inside Mongyang township and Nampan inside Mongyawng township)
• Not to bring junta civil administrative apparatus to Mongla as yet
• To maintain the Mongla administrative apparatus

“We believe in the principle of ‘one country, one government’ system,” the source quoted the letter as saying. “We don’t entertain any ideas of secession.”

An observer from the China border commented that the group has been under increased pressure after the January assassination of Min Ein, General Secretary of NDAA. Min Ein was said to be a supporter of the BGF policy.

Mongla is not alone in opposing Naypyitaw’s Border Guard Force program. Its closest ally the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and 4 others: Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’, Kayan New Land Party (KNLP) and New Mon State Party (NMSP) have so far refused to accept the program unless their autonomy demands are met.

Thousands of troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been deployed along the border as Naypyitaw’s 28 February deadline

More Chinese troops on the border
WEDNESDAY, 03 MARCH 2010 10:45 S.H.A.N.
Thousands of troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been deployed along the border as Naypyitaw’s 28 February deadline to the ex-communist ceasefire groups drew to a close, according to Wa and Shan sources.

At Menglian (known by Shans as Monglem), opposite the Wa capital Panghsang, some 2,000 new troops armed with anti aircraft guns, are reported by the local Shans.

The arrival of the PLA coincided with reports of aerial exercises of MiG29 fighters newly purchased by Naypyitaw in Kengtung just 100 km south of Panghsang.

According to the non-ceasefire Shan State Army (SSA) South, the Wa territory is under siege by 3 Light Infantry Battalions: 99th in the north, 55th and 33rd in the west and south, except in sectors occupied by the United Wa State Army’s western ally the Shan State Army (SSA) North and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA).

Apart from the UWSA, only the NDAA has requested for the extension of the deadline. All of them, including the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), are reportedly holding emergency meetings to consider how to deal with the Burma Army, whose vocabulary does not seem to include the word “give-and-take”.

Some Burma watchers think recent deployments by the Burma are “just one big bluff”. Continue reading “Thousands of troops from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been deployed along the border as Naypyitaw’s 28 February deadline”

China arranging refugee camps near Burma border

Kachin News Group
TUESDAY, 02 MARCH 2010 16:10

China is planning to set up refugee camps, for both Burmese and Chinese citizens, in the country’s southwest Yunnan province, bordering northern Burma, sources near the border said.

The camps will be located in the Longchuan River Valley, Longchuan (or Nshawn in Kachin) County, in Dehong Dai Jinghpo (or Kachin in Burmese) Autonomous Prefecture, Kachin residents of Longchuan said.

They said the Chinese government is also planning to feed the arriving refugees and intends to provide every refugee living in the camps with 8 Chinese Yuan (US$1.14) per day.

Thousands of acres of sugar cane on both sides along the two countries’ border are being quickly cut down and harvested, because of concerns expressed by the Chinese Border authority about renewed armed conflict, according to farm owners in the area.

The camps will accept ethnic Kachin people who live along the border who will flee if the civil war resumes between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Burma’s ruling junta, because of failed negotiations about the formation of a Border Guard Force, residents of the area said. Continue reading “China arranging refugee camps near Burma border”

Mr. Phaithoon Kaeothong, Minister of Labour, stated that approximately 50,000-60,000 alien workers in Samutsakorn Province have not applied nationality verification.

Minister of Labour, Minister of Home Affairs of Union of Myanmar went to Samutsakorn Province to ensue the progress of Myanmar nationality verification and work permit extension in Samutsakorn. There are presently 152,707 Myanmar workers out of totally 160,253 workers working in Samutsakorn Province.
Mr. Phaithoon Kaeothong, Minister of Labour, stated that approximately 50,000-60,000 alien workers in Samutsakorn Province have not applied nationality verification. The Nationality verification process is likely to be completed by 2 March 2010. H.E. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo insisted that Myanmar workers would not be levied, detained or arrested. According to a discussion between Thai and Myanmar, Myanmar workers who completed nationality verification would be allowed to temporary work in Thailand for 2 years and can extend work permit for another 2 years, totally 4 years. After completion the allowed period, they must return to Myanmar for at least 3 years before being able to reentry to work in Thailand.
H.E. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo, Minister of Home Affairs, stated that most foreign workers working in Thailand are Myanmar residing at frontier. Accordingly, the nationality verification process will be conducted at three centers in Tachilek, Myawaddy or Koh Song. Currently, there are 40,973 workers have completed Myanmar nationality verification. In anticipation, from April onward, a number of workers who complete nationality verification received temporary passport would increase from 500 workers/day to 1,000 workers/day or 100,000 workers/ month. In 2010, it is anticipated that the number of such workers would be 600,000 and increase to 1,200,000 within 2012. In this regard, Myanmar nationality verification process starts from 08.30 am.-6.00 pm. A delay has partly resulted from the departure process in Thailand including checking the documents at immigration check-points causing a delay to arrival around 11.00 am. Myanmar government will issue temporary passport to elder entourage and see of eye for Myanmar worker’s children.
“Myanmar workers who go through nationality verification will not definitely be levied, detained or arrested and only 100 baht will be charge for a fee. In addition, Myanmar government has no policy to send officials to proceed nationality verification in Thailand” H.E Maj. Gen. Maung Oo said at the end.
There are totally 152,707 Myanmar workers out of 160,253 workers working in Samutsakorn Province or equivalent to 95.29%. According to the record of Samutsakorn Office of Labour on 25 February 2010, there are 30,507 migrant alien workers, whose nationality are Myanmar, Lao, Cambodian, filled in nationality verification form and extend work permit, classified into 29,614 Myanmar workers, 831 Lao workers and 62 Cambodian workers.
Mr. Phaithoon Kaeothong, Minister of Labour, attended the meeting to discuss with H.E Maj. Gen. Maung Oo , Minister of Home Affairs of Union of Myanmar, on alien worker registration in Samutsakorn Province. He also called on alien workers working in Thai Union Frozen Products, Plc., Muang District, Samutsakorn Province. (02/03/2553)

Drugs:A war with many fronts

The role of Thailand in the world campaign against illicit drugs is unique. Because of its strong actions against traffickers and its equally determined help to farmers, the country has basically ended its role as a maker of narcotics to be smuggled to the world.

On the other hand, because of the growth and prosperity of the country as a whole, particularly the cities, our nation has become a target of international drug traffickers seeking to sell illicit drugs to Thais, rather than to buy from them.

And finally, because of geography, traffickers who have found safety and even asylum in neighbouring countries funnel huge amounts of drugs into Thailand to try to build new and growing markets for their odious trade.

In recent weeks, anti-drug forces have seized nearly two million amphetamine-type “speed” pills and dozens of kilogrammes of crystal methamphetamine and heroin – two hugely different drugs aimed a similar market of so-called recreational drug users. Customs Department officers acting on a tipoff arrested a Pakistani man carrying heroin into Thailand.

The obvious question is whether this was a rare and lucky break, or whether the world trafficking cartels now intend to flood Thailand with heroin from Afghanistan.

The biggest security threat lies on our northwestern border. Drug gangs tolerated by the Burmese government have inundated Thailand with dangerous drugs in two ways. Gangs have set up crude plants to make methamphetamine pills and, recently, the crystal form known as ice. Continue reading “Drugs:A war with many fronts”