BELATED but big congratulations are due to cigarette maker Rothmans for its deal to make and sell cigarettes in Burma in conjunction with the Burmese Government. We completely agree that business and moral issues should never be mixed, and it's heart-warming to learn that despite their other little problems, the citizens of Burma will not be deprived of upmarket cigarettes. Yesterday's story got rather buried, and we omitted to give full credit to Rothmans for being the first major cigarette company to get into Burma. Maybe exposure to Western cigarette brands will contribute to opening up Burma and weakening its totalitarian government. Rothmans' partner in the deal will be Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. Rothmans said yesterday that this was an arm of the Government, which has been controlled for four years by the State Law and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC. SLORC, when not doing deals with big Western companies to boost its foreign-exchange reserves, has a recurring habit of summarily killing Karen people, Muslims and other members of minority groups. Amnesty International in October talked of a ''reign of terror'' characterised by intimidation, rape and other widespread human-rights violations. ''We don't link human-rights issues,'' said Rothmans. The deal, incidentally, was signed some time ago but its release has been timed to create a ''good news'' environment. Rothmans expected problems with Malaysian shareholders as it tried to create a new Asian holding company over the past few weeks, and kept the deal up its sleeve to keep its public image looking good. Radio gaga GREAT news from RTHK on its three o'clock news: the Hang Seng Index had hit 16,600. RTHK is having big trouble with the index now that it's gone past 10,000, but this is the first time it has read out the stock market report 24 hours early. Baring all BARING Securities staff were back at work yesterday, swapping stories about what they did after their amazing pre-Christmas ''lunch''. ''Lunch'', in some cases, means the period between midday and 4.30 am, far more impressive than HG Asia's ''eight-hour'' lunch, which, incidentally, it now says never happened. HG Asia says it should have been ''an hour'', not ''eight-hour'', and we misheard them on the phone. Anyway, one Barings staffer arrived back in their flat late at night, out of their head on booze. They stripped for bed in the living room as they always do, and went into their bedroom for a well-deserved sleep. Note for next year: check to ensure your brother, girlfriend and a guest are not in the living room before trying this again. Another was woken up in bed by a strange woman. ''Who are you? Where is my wife?'' he asked. Actually, that woman is his wife. Unorthodox STOCKBROKERS in the Ukraine, of course, have yet to take their clothes off in front of their friends during their Christmas revelries. That's because they celebrate according to the Orthodox Christian calendar, under which Christmas is going to fall on January 7. Despite this, the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk has already seen 80 Christmas-tree thefts, with culprits ranging from 13-year-old girls to a 90-year old pensioner. One of the most interesting aspects of the Reuter report is that it is all in karbovanets, the new Ukrainian currency. The average monthly salary is about a third of a million karbovanets. You get about 30,000 of them to the US dollar - or you did at 01.29 GMT yesterday. Air craft ONE of the more interesting aspects of the strike by Hongkong Bank employees in Manila was how the bank got its non-striking employees out of the bank despite the pickets. The bank's building is a 15-storey block in Ayala Avenue. Non-striking employees were lifted out of the building using a helicopter. Self-raising A NOTE from the stock exchange yesterday said it was concerned that contrary to the rules, some companies may have been giving out profit forecasts other than through the proper channels. The exchange is also reminding firms that profit forecasts which do not coincide with companies' financial reporting periods are never allowed. In fact, most directors are happy to give a big nod and a wink on future profits, although few go to the extremes reported in Lai See on December 3, about Far East Consortium's habit of giving analysts full profit forecasts up to 1997. When companies offer truly huge hints on what future profits are going to be, it creates something of a dilemma for analysts. Should they fiddle the results up a bit, or down? After all, it wouldn't look good if eight brokerages predicted the profits of a company almost identically, to within 0.1 per cent. Over-ruled THE US Coastguard has just issued regulations saying all oil carriers in US waters must carry oil-spill prevention equipment. The regulations are described as ''interim final rules''. The sequence, as we see it, should go like this: interim interim rules; final interim rules also known as interim rules (final version); final rules (interim interim version); final rules (final interim version); interim final rules; final rules (final version).