Thailand Faces Flak for Backing Mekong Dams

BANGKOK, Jul 29, 2010 (IPS) – Northern Thai villagers living on Mekong River’s banks are poised to join a growing tide of opposition against a planned cascade of 11 dams to be built on the mainstream of South-east Asia’s largest body of water.

These communities, many of them from the northern Thai province of Chiang Rai, are drafting a petition to be submitted in the coming weeks to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. They see this step as the first in a long battle to protect a riverine culture and livelihood that has come down generations.

The target of the Thai villagers’ ire is the Sayaboury dam, to be built across a part of the Mekong that flows through neighbouring Laos. In opposing it, they are coming up against powerful Thai interests behind this dam project.

The 1,260-megawatt Sayaboury dam is the one in the most advanced planning stage among the 11 dams, followed by the 360-mw Don Sahong dam, which is also in Laos, where nine of the lower Mekong dams are to be built. Two other dams on the river’s mainstream are planned in Cambodia.

The backers of the Sayaboury dam include a Thai-based dam developer, four Thai commercial banks that are reported to have pledged funds for the dam and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), a state utility that signed an agreement in Laos in June to buy power once the new dam’s turbines come to life.

“The local communities are upset at the direct involvement of Thailand in a dam that could permanently damage their livelihood,” said Pianporn Deetes, coordinator of Save the Mekong Coalition, a Bangkok-based network of environmentalist and grassroots activists. “Their fishing livelihood will be affected, because the dams across the Mekong’s mainstream will damage fish migration patterns for spawning.” Continue reading “Thailand Faces Flak for Backing Mekong Dams”

Temple Row Sours Thai-Cambodian Ties – Again

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Jul 31, 2010 (IPS) – Thailand’s tempestuous relationship with its eastern neighbour Cambodia looks set to worsen, fuelled by the latest round of anger over the future of a 10th- century Hindu temple perched atop a steep cliff along the two countries’ border.

By Friday, Bangkok and Phnom Penh were both claiming victory following a decision by the U.N.-backed World Heritage Committee (WHC) to postpone till next year a decision about a management plan for the temple, a world heritage site listed by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Cambodia had an edge going into this week’s WHC’s meeting in Brasilia. After all, the much poorer and less powerful South-east Asian nation had succeeded in getting the committee to recognise Preah Vihear as one of its own UNESCO heritage sites at a 2008 meeting in Quebec.

That decision in the Canadian city enraged nationalists in the more affluent and more powerful Thailand. Nationalist groups rallied near the temple, chanting inflammatory slogans and accusing Cambodia of having “stolen” the temple from Thailand.

This wave of Thai hysteria, which drove both countries to increase their troop strength along the border to a dangerous level, sought to stamp out history that stood in Cambodia’s favour. In 1962, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had ruled that Preah Vihear was within Cambodian territory, a ruling that was not challenged by Thailand, then under a military dictatorship.

But what the court in The Hague did not resolve was a 4.6 square-kilometre stretch of overlapping territory near Preah Vihear, making it a flashpoint along the disputed 800-km border the two kingdoms share. In fact, Thailand and Cambodia use different maps to demarcate their respective borders.

Fearing that a Cambodian plan to manage Preah Vihear may lead to a loss of Thai territory, the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva instructed its team at the WHC meeting, which included three ranking military officers, to challenge Phnom Penh’s management plan even to the point of Thailand threatening to quit the committee.

Thai anger was also reflected in protests staged outside the UNESCO office in Bangkok, prompting a letter of concern by Irina Bokova, the U.N. body’s director general, who called for “dialogue in safeguarding the Temple of Preah Vihear.” Continue reading “Temple Row Sours Thai-Cambodian Ties – Again”

Tata Motors to set up HCV unit in Myanmar

Sources: Financial Express

The Indian automobile giant recently entered into a contract with state-run Myanmar Automobile & Diesel Industries Ltd (MADIL), to set up a heavy truck plant at Magwe, around 480 km from Yangon. The facility would be producing around 1,000 HCVs per annum initially, which could go up to 5,000 units later.

Tata Motors corporate communications head Debasis Ray said, “We will set up a heavy commercial vehicle plant on a government of India credit line. It will assemble Tata trucks out of kits being sent from here.”

Asked how long the company been involved with the project, Ray added, “since earlier this year.”

Though the quantum of credit line offered by the Indian government to Myanmar for the HCV facility could not be known, Ray said the plant will begin operations in the last quarter of this financial year.

Though the trucks would be produced under the Tata Motors brand, MADIL would be marketing and selling them.

The facilities that will come up at the plant include a flexible chassis and frame assembly line along with a cab manufacturing, painting and trimming setup area.

Earlier in the day, Myanmar’s military ruler Than Shwe visited the Tata Motors HCV plant in the steel city. He met senior Tata Motors officials, including plant head S B Borwankar, before flying back to Kolkata.

According to a source, Borwankar will soon be moving to Pune as head, manufacturing, for Tata Motors’ entire commercial vehicles operations. He will replace S N Ambardekar, the current head, commercial vehicles business unit, who retires in early September. P K Chobe, who is currently plant head, Uttarakhand, will replace Borwankar in Jamshedpur.

အမ်ဳိးသားအတြက္ မွန္ကန္ေသာ ဆုံးျဖတ္ခ်က္ကုိ ကရင္ျပည္သူမ်ား ႀကဳိဆုိ by KIC

ဒီေကဘီေအ တပ္မဟာ (၅)မွ ဗ်ဴဟာမွဴး ဗုိလ္မွဴးႀကီး ေစာလားပြယ္ႏွင့္ လုပ္ေဖာ္ကုိင္ဖက္တခ်ဳိ႕

ဇူလုိင္လ ၃၁ရက္။ ေစာသိန္းျမင့္(ေကအုိင္စီ)

နအဖစစ္အစုိးရ၏ နယ္ျခားေစာင့္တပ္ဖဲြ႕စည္းေရးကို လုံး၀ျငင္းဆန္ေၾကာင္း ဒီေကဘီေအတပ္မဟာ(၅) ကလုိထူးေဘာဗ်ဴဟာ ဗ်ဴ ဟာမွဴး ဗုိလ္မွဴးႀကီး ေစာလားပြယ္၏ ဆုံးျဖတ္သည္ မွန္ကန္သည့္ ဆုံးျဖတ္ခ်က္ျဖစ္ေသာေၾကာင့္ အျပည့္အ၀ ေထာက္ခံသည္ ဟု ျပည္တြင္း၊ ျပည္ပရွိ ကရင္ျပည္သူမ်ားက ေျပာဆုိေနၾကသည္။

နယ္ျခားေစာင့္တပ္ အသြင္ကူးေျပာင္းေရးႏွင့္ ပတ္သက္၍ ဒီေကဘီေအ စစ္ဦးစီးခ်ဳပ္ ေက်ာ္သန္းအျပင္ နအဖစစ္တပ္မွ ထိပ္ ပိုင္းအရာရွိမ်ားက ဗုိလ္မွဴးႀကီး ေစာလားပြယ္(ဗုိလ္ႏႈတ္ခမ္း)ကုိ အႀကိမ္ႀကိမ္ ဖိအားေပးခဲ့ေသာ္လည္း ဗုိလ္မွဴးႀကီး ေစာလားပြယ္ သည္ ဆုံးျဖတ္ခ်က္အတုိင္း ေျပာင္းလဲသြားျခင္းမရွိဘဲ ယေန႔အခ်ိန္ထိ လူထုဘက္ကုိ ရပ္ေနလွ်က္ရွိသည္။ Continue reading “အမ်ဳိးသားအတြက္ မွန္ကန္ေသာ ဆုံးျဖတ္ခ်က္ကုိ ကရင္ျပည္သူမ်ား ႀကဳိဆုိ by KIC”

HIV increasing among Burmese migrant workers, survey claims

IMNA : According to the Pattanarak Foundation, a Thai non-governmental organization, a recently conducted HIV survey in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province has revealed that 3% of the 300 Burmese migrant workers tested were HIV-positive.

Testing for the survey took place from July 20th to July 26th, amongst 300 Burmese workers in the VITA FOOD Factory in Tahmaka District, Kanchanburi province. Medical professionals that conducted the exam informed IMNA that the survey’s results indicate that HIV is on the rise in Thailand’s Burmese migrant worker population.

“People are lacking in knowledge of HIV prevention education…None of them use condoms when they have sex. That’s why it is easy to spread HIV virus among the migrant workers,” a medic explained.

Sources speculated to IMNA that many Burmese migrant workers are afraid to get tested for HIV, due to cultural prejudices against sex/HIV education. Naw Htoo from Thailand’s Phamit2 program, claimed that survey takers had to rely on the VITA FOOD factory manager to force unwilling workers to participate in the survey; Burmese migrant workers frequently have tenuous legal status and must heed the dictates of their employers.

“We had to negotiate with the factory authorities to test people in the factory, otherwise no one would come and get tested. Only when the authorities said that they would fire the ones who would not come, did people come to get tested,” Naw Htoo explained.

The VITA FOOD factory work force is comprised of 15,000 people, but only 8,100 are Burmese workers with legal Thai work permits. Of these legal workers, 300 Burmese migrant workers were selected for testing. According to medic Saw Abow, five women and four men were confirmed to be HIV-positive; an additional 10 people’s test results were unconfirmed, are still considered at risk for HIV.

He added that the Pattanarak Foundation plans to report the survey’s results to  the Thai Health Organization in Kanchanaburi in order to obtain antiretroviral drugs for  the HIV-positive patients in the VITA FOODS factory.

According to the Phamit2 project manager, the Pattanarak Foundation plans to initially focus on HIV testing among migrant worker populations, and then move on to testing for syphilis.

Saw Abow reported to IMNA that after conducting testing in three provinces – Ubonrathani, Kanchanaburi, and Kalasin – Pattanarak medics confirmed 11,000 syphilis cases, signaling a serious need for sex/STI- related education in all three regions.

The Pattanarak Foundation, which is run under the Phamit2 program, is supported by Global Fund in its fight against HIV/AIDS and syphilis within disadvantaged populations in Thailand. The foundation is also involved in community development, culture heritage preservation, and environmental conservation.

Prominent Historian Monk U Pyinya Sara Arrested in Sittwe

Sittwe: Burmese military authorities on Tuesday arrested prominent Arakanese historian monk Ramar Waddy U Pyinya Sara in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, on accusations that he abused Buddhist religious principles, said another monk from Sittwe.

Speaking to Narinjara over the phone, the monk who wished to remain anonymous said, “A combined force of police and officials from the religious department arrested him at his monastery in Sittwe on the morning of Tuesday on accusations of breaking religious principles.”

U Pyinya Sara is a well known Arakanese historian as well as a leading abbot of the Buddha Vihara Mahamuni orphanage, where more than 100 orphans live and receive an education.

“I went to police station No. 1 to inquire about his arrest but the police official could not provide me with the real facts of his arrest. I was unable to see him at the police station as the authorities are not detaining him there,” said the monk.

The authority brought him to an unknown location in Sittwe after his arrest.

A trustee in the monastery said, “The authority told us the reason for his arrest is that he was living with a woman against the religious law. But I do not believe the accusations of the authority and strongly believe his arrest was related to politics.”

As U Pyinya Sara is a respected historian, he always reveals the history of Arakan through articles published in journals and magazines. The authority, however, sees this as behavior against solidarity of the union.

It was learned that residents of Sittwe are eager to know the reason behind the arrest of U Pyinya Sara after reports of his arrest began spreading in the city.

narinjara news

CYCLONE NARGIS_ NGOs cut programmes as government takes on recovery oversight

BANGKOK, 30 July 2010 (IRIN) – Funding shortages are forcing NGOs to cut operations in the Ayeyarwady Delta, as the Myanmar government takes on oversight for recovery efforts two years after Cyclone Nargis on 1 August.

“The need is enormous,” said Prem Shukla, programme director in Myanmar for Plan International. “Nargis is forgotten though.”

Plan, which started work in Myanmar only after Nargis, will wrap up its work in June 2011, while Save the Children and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are cutting their operations.

U.S. urges Myanmar to abide by U.N. sanctions on N. Korea: State Dept.

The United States Thursday called on Myanmar to abide by an arms embargo and other U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea for its nuclear and missile test last year.

The remarks by State Department spokesman Philip Crowley came as North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun arrived in Yangon, Myanmar, earlier in the day for a four-day trip.

“We have concerns about the nature of the relationship between North Korea and Burma,” Crowley said. “We don’t see the transparency in that relationship that we’d like to see. North Korea is a serial proliferator. North Korea is engaged in significant illicit activity.

Burma, like other countries around the world, has obligations, and we expect Burma to live up to those obligations.” Arms sales are one of the major sources of revenue for North Korea, suspected of being behind nuclear and missile proliferation in Syria, Iran, Pakistan and several other countries.

Last June, a North Korean cargo ship, possibly on its way to Myanmar, returned home after being closely tracked by U.S. Navy vessels.

Israel said in May that the 35 tons of North Korean arms seized at the Bangkok airport in December were destined for the Hamas and Hizbullah militant groups via Syria.

Dennis Blair, then U.S. director of national intelligence, has said the cargo was bound for the Middle East, without elaborating.

A pay-off years ago by Israel reportedly failed to persuade North Korea to stop shipping weapons to the Middle East.

The United Arab Emirates last July seized a Bahamian-flagged ship carrying North Korean rocket-propelled grenades and other conventional weapons labeled as machine parts, the first seizure under Security Council Resolution 1874, adopted a month earlier after North Korea’s nuclear test in May.

India seized a North Korean ship off its coast last August but found no weapons aboard.

“It’s difficult to evaluate because of the lack of transparency in that relationship,” Crowley said. “It is something that is of concern to us, given North Korea’s historical record. And it is something that we continue to watch very carefully.” The spokesman was echoeing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks in Hanoi, Vietnam, last week that expressed concerns about North Korea’s alleged proliferation of nuclear technology to Myanmar.

“I’ve also shared with the minister our concerns about the exporting by North Korea of military materiel and equipment to Burma,” Clinton said. “We know that a ship from North Korea recently delivered military equipment to Burma and we continue to be concerned by the reports that Burma may be seeking assistance from North Korea with regard to a nuclear program.”