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Burma Focus,Vo.4,No.7,Sept93

Subject: Burma Focus,Vo.4,No.7,Sept93

/* Written  2:48 am  Nov  8, 1993 by absdf@xxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.seasia */
/* ---------- "Burma Focus,Vo.4,No.7,Sept93" ---------- */
*                                                               *
*                         BURMA FOCUS                           *
*                                                               *
*      Published By the All Burma Students' Democratic Front    *
*                                                               *
*                    Bi-monthly News Letter                     *
*                                                               *
*  Vol.4                        No.7             30 Sept 1993   *
Unwelcome Anniversary
Five Years Under the Burmese Military Junta
September 18, 1993 was the fifth anniversary of the coup staged by
the Burmese military to prevent the people from toppling the
military-backed dictatorial regime.
Burmese dissidents in exile rallied in front of the Burmese Embassy
in Bangkok to mark the fifth anniversary of the Burmese military
crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in Burma.
In Hong Kong, 15 Christian groups issued a statement condemning
continued army rule in Burma and urging the release of Nobel Peace
Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
In Montreal, Canada, President of the Intentional Centre for Human
Rights and Democratic Development(ICHRDD) Ed Broadbent called for
ending the five years of terror in Burma.
Five years ago, hundreds of thousands of students marched in the
streets of Rangoon. Today, hundreds of thousands of people are
internally displaced or languishing in camps in neighboring states,
he said in a statement issued on 17th Sept.
Burma has been described as a golden land, a land of greenery, and
as the rice-bowl of Asia.  That, however, is not true today.
Instead, there are human rights abuses, civil war, slavery and
military oppression under the current regime, the State Law and
Order Restoration Council(SLORC).
During the five years of SLORC's rule, it has developed the largest
army in South East Asia with some 355,000 soldiers, its reign of
terror has persecuted ethnic minorities and perpetuated a civil
war, its export of teak and the rampant selling of oil and gas
concessions to foreign investors have caused environmental damage.
These are the accomplishments of a regime, apparently established
to "restore law and order," said Ed Broadbent.  The US State
Department reported recently that SLORC continues to intrude into
the lives of private citizens.  Forced entry and searches of
private homes, without warrants are frequent in the towns and the 
In February this year, a group of Noble laureates who witnessed the
victims of human rights violations in Burma called on intentional
community and United Nations to impose economic sanctions, to
withdraw Burma's membership in the United Nations and to continue
to refuse Burma membership to the Association of South East Asian
Nations (ASEAN) and to use their influence to pressure the SLORC to
permit the restoration of democracy.
To make possible the return of power to the rightful in Burma,
international community must keep on pressuring the military junta
through tough sanctions.
What so ever international community says, military generals in
Rangoon celebrated the fifth anniversary of their hold on power on
18th Sept 1993 with the present of visiting Thai Foreign Minister
Prason Soonsiri.  Mr Prosong proposed Burma's military junta to
participate in the Association of South-east Asian Nations(ASEAN).
Asean governments best positioned to persuade SLORC to change, is
far from helpful. Five years of constructive engagement has given
Burmese army generals, the confidence to carry on their brutal
suppression of the people.
It is time to re-evaluate how constructive the policy of
"constructive engagement" has been.   Its price has been countless
human lives, untold human misery and indeed, freedom itself said Ed
We will have to mark the sixth anniversary of the coup staged by
the Burmese military to prevent the people from toppling the
military dictatorial regime in Sept 1994 unless international
community especially those engage with SLORC take tough actions.
(Sources#Bangkok Post, Sept 19 & 20 Sept, The Nation, Sept 20 &
ICHRDD's statement, Sept 17)
SLORC Survives from Foreign Investments
When Burmese military regime had assumed power on 18th Sept 1988 in
the weak of nation wide uprising for democracy, Burma's foreign-
exchange reserves were believed to have been down to a mere US$12
million.  Foreign trade had plummeted to a trickle and the
country's foreign debt stood at a staggering US$5.98 billion,
requiring US$238 million a year to service.
If the foreign governments at that time had squeeze, it would have
been only a matter of months before the military government had run
out of money-and bullets.
However, after the Thai army general Chaovalit visited Burma in Dec
1988, several major business deals including logging concessions
were announced.  Rangoon's Timber Corp. estimated revenues of
US$112 million annually from Thai logging.
Investment in Burma is not limited to neighboring Asian countries. 
Western countries which have previously called for trade sanctions 
and isolation for Burma are also keen to enter.
Official statistics showed that since Burma opened for foreign
investment in 1989, there are 195 joint ventures between private
Burmese firms and foreign investors as of June 1993.
Among them, Singapore topped the list with 38 ventures, followed by
Thailand, 29 and the United States, 18 and Hong Kong, 13. Japan is 
the biggest overall investor with projects worth US$6.15 million, 
followed by the US(US$5.46).  Singapore(US$3.98) and Thailand
(US$3.5 million).
As of June, there were 56 foreign investors involved in joint
ventures with the Burmese government, involving capital estimated
at US$3.56 billion.  Among them, Singapore is still on the top,
followed by Thailand, Hong Kong and Bangladesh.  The US whose
president Bill Cliton is going to review the country's position
towards Burma, is also in the top ten list of foreign investors.
Recently, Japanese Foreign Minister has expressed full support for 
the Asean policy, the economic battle among foreign investors in
Burma will become much more active - while the issue like human
rights abuses there be overlooked.
The people are poorer than ever.  The standard of living is lower. 
Human rights violations have increased.
Meanwhile, despite the disturbing developments, Thailand and its
Asian friends continue to blindly misjudge the situation in Burma,
abnegating all responsibility by saying they have no which to
interfere in another country's internal affairs.
Observers said this trend towards economic prosperity in Burma will
only strengthen the power of the military regime and ensure the
continued detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD's General
Secretary and 1991 Nobel peace laureate, who has been put under
house arrest since 1989 and other political prisoners.(Sources#Far
Eastern Economic Review, July 22 & Bangkok Post, Sept 26)
Inside Story
Anti-Govt Rally Broken Up
The Nation, Sept 21 - Soldiers broke up an anti-government rally in
Mandalay, Burma's second largest city, injuring at least seven
people and detaining 27, an anti-government activist said.
About 1,000 protestors, mostly from University students had staged
a rally near the city's market on 18th Sept to mark the fifth
anniversary of the control of SLORC.  Violence broke out when
soldiers stormed the site to disperse the crowd and hit protesters
with clubs and gun butts, he said.
The protestors moved their rally to a hospital where the injured
were being treated.  Burmese state radio confirmed that people had
been injured and detained, but said the crowd had gathered after a
car accident.
Singapore Takes Over Burma's airline
The Nation, Sept 20 - A Singapore-based consortium has taken 
over the international operations of Burma's state airline.
Indonesian-born entrepreneur Oci Hong Leong told reporters he had
signed a deal recently with the Burmese military junta to set up
Myanmar Airways International(MAI) which operates flights to
Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore. MAI operates scheduled flights
from Rangoon with a Boeing 757 leased from Royal Brunei Airlines. 
The new airline which employs 100 people including British pilots,
had been granted landing rights by 37 countries.
Burmese Parallel Govt Sacks its FM
Bangkok Post, Sept 22 - Peter Limbin, foreign minister of the 
National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma(NCGUB) has been
sacked and stripped of all posts effective Sept 15.
A brief statement, signed by NCGUB Prime Minister Dr Sein Win, did 
not specify why Mr Limbin was expelled.
International Relations
Burma and the case of Thai tonsillitis
Bangkok Post, by Vitit Muntarbhorn, Sept 23 - (The author is 
Professor at the Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University. The
following article is extract from a paper he will present at a
seminar today on "Thai Foreign Policy and the Burmese Issue.")
Granted that Thailand managed to revert to democratic rule in 1992 
after a series of setbacks caused by it own authoritarian elements,
one is naturally tempted to ask: To what extent is Thailand helping
to support democratic aspiration in Burma?  The answer lies in the 
tongue-tied tonsillitis of our key foreign policy-makers; while
they are quite willing to become inflamed when Thai commercial
dealing are at stake, they prefer to opt for atrophied ambivalence
when democracy and human rights are in issue.
To these policy-makers imbued with opportunism, the question should
rather be: What does Thailand gain economically and commercially
from dealing with the Burmese authorities?  Democratic aspirations
are, therefore, subsumed under the shadow play of statal
commercialism and cross-border mercantilism.
Will they ever recant?  Unfortunately, not.  Or not yet, anyway.
The stark reality is this. The fact that some of the key players in
Thai foreign policy reached their position in 1992 via democratic
means does not necessarily guarantee that they are democratic by
nature or that they are committed to the universality of human
So they are willing to turn a blind eye to the illegitimacy of the 
current military junta in Burma, SLORC.  They are willing to forget
that SLORC stole democrat from the Burmese people. And they delude 
themselves by cushioning all these travesties under the rubric of 
"Constructive Engagement." If we wish to gauge how the world
community feels, the tendrils of opinion are evident from various
statements of United Nations bodies.  This August, the United
Nations Human Rights Commission(UNHRC) urged the Burmese
authorities to take firm steps towards the establishment of a
democratic state.
The guidelines set by the UNHRC for the future include the
following: allow all citizens to participate freely in the
political process, convene the Parliament of those elected in 1990,
abolish constraints currently placed on political leaders, ensure
that political parties can function freely, respect the right of
association and assembly and the right to freedom of opinion and
expression, protect the rights of persons belonging to minority
groups, improve conditions in jail, end violations of human rights
such as torture, enforce disappearance and summary executions,
abuse of women and forced labor, prosecute those responsible for
human rights violations, release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, facilitate
the return of refugees to Burma and fulfill the international
obligations undertaken by Burma.
These guidelines provide a universal approach for scrutinising
foreign relations with Burma and for preventing the foreign
policies of other states from colluding with the dictatorial rule
in Burma.
Thai foreign policy-makers and their neighbors in the Association 
of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) who are now incorrectly thinking
of inviting Burma to join ASEAN should take heed of these
orientations which are internationally espoused as the basic
approach for dealing with Burma.  Any other approach can only be
seen as destructive opportunism deserving international reprimand
and vocally concerted tonsillectomy. 
Burma and Japan
Japanese FM backs Thai "Burma Policy"
Bangkok Postly Weekly, Sept 24 - Japanese Foreign Minister Tsutomo 
Hata on September 15 voiced support for the constructive engagement
policy and will cooperate with Thailand in opening up Burma.
Japan's stance was made clear when Mr Hata called on Prime Minister
Chuan and held talks with Foreign Minister Prason.
The new Japanese foreign minister told his Thai counterpart Tokyo 
and Bangkok could join efforts to open up Burma "as soon as
possible," said a Japanese embassy source.
The source said Japan welcome efforts by Thailand to encourage
Burma to join ASEAN "and we are watching closely any efforts on the
part of Thailand."
Japanese suspended aid to Burma in 1988.
Human Rights Violations
Monk tells of Persecution at Home
Bangkok Post Weekly, Sept 24 - Burma has a history of politically 
active monks.  But now they are allowed to function only on a
ceremonial level.
"More than 300 monks have been jailed," Dr Ashin Siri Okkantha
said.  Ashin Okkantha is a Burmese Buddhist monk and he had spent
11 year of studying in three universities in India.  He returned
Burma in Nov 1992 and he stayed until last May.  "It was very sad,"
he says about his last visit.
"Shwe Phone Pwint, a 70 year-old monk was arrested, and he died in 
Insein prison in 1992" he said.
He listed some other senior monks jailed in Burma.  They are: 
Bandanta Tilawkabiwontha, 60, from Insein Ywama Monastry and
Professor of Buddhist Philosophy Rangoon Sanga University, jail in
Insein prison;
Bandanta Panitarlinkara, 60, Mahabodi Monastery, Rangoon, jail in
Insein prison, 1990;
Bandanta Kawvidabiwontha, 67, Masoeyein Monastery, Mandalay,
Mandalay prison, 1990; 
Bandanta Yarzadamabiwontha, 60, New Masoeyein Monastery, Mandalay, 
Mandalay prison, 1990; and 
Bandanta Thumingalar Linkaryarbiwontha(Tipitaka), Kaba Aye,
Rangoon, imprisoned in Myaitkyina, Kachin State and released in Feb
The government has disrobed some monks.  They are released by the 
government in street clothes, but the people still see them as
monks, even without the robe, Ashin Okkantha said.
Menchu Calls for Focus on Burma
The 1992 Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu called on
international community to pay close attention to the situation in
Burma and the plight of the refugees along the Thai border.
Menchu visited two Karen refugees camps along the Thai border on 15
Sept and had documented human rights abuses committed by the
Burmese military junta against the ethnic minority groups.
Menchu said in a statement issued on 23rd Sept after returning from
Thailand that she had heard many stories of Burmese army
Among them, she said she met a thirteen year old Karen girl who was
forced to work for Burmese army soldiers for more than two months, 
and raped repeatedly before being imprisoned under charges of being
a spy for the insurgents.
She said "she was told by leaders of the Burmese pro-democracy
movement that the refugees crisis would persist as long as the
SLORC military government retained power and continued its military
Menchu called on military regime in Burma to immediate and
unconditional release of all political prisoners including Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi and transfer power to the elected representatives of
1990 May election. 
She had also called on international community to impose arms and 
trade embargo against the SLORC until the above- mentioned
conditions are met.
"It is also imperative that closely supervised humanitarian
assistance be administered to the non-SLORC controlled parts of
Burma," she added.(Oficina de Rigoberta Menchu, Premino Nobel de la
Paz 1992, Sept 23, Tokyo, Japan)
No Deals with SLORC
The Nation, Opinion, Sept 16 - Imagine for a moment that Thailand
was living under a severely repressive military dictatorship. Now
imagine that a big foreign power came in and signed all kinds of
deals with this undemocratic government to exploit our resources.
Imagine they cut down our forests and took the timber; ran fishing
trawlers through our seas pumped our gas out of the Gulf and sent
it to their country through a long pipeline; built huge dams on our
rivers and took not only the electricity but even the water. Extend
this scenario a bit and imagine that all the money for these
contracts went into the hands of the dictators. This is what
Thailand is planning to do to Burma.
Thailand are now negotiating with Burma concerning a pipeline deal 
to pump gas from Burma's Gulf of Martaban. Other items on the
discussions could include Thai logging concessions in Burmese
forests, Thai fishing concessions in Burmese waters and future
plans to build dams on the Salween and Moei Rivers, all for the
benefit of Thailand.
Total, the French oil company which has ignored international
opinion by investing in Burma, is operating the Martaban Field, but
Thailand may take 30 per cent ownership. The pipeline alone will
cost Bt50-75 billion and the combined cycle generating plant needed
to burn the fuel may cost Btl00 billion more. 
It's true we need gas, electricity and water, but we also need our
security, and our self-respect. Thailand should not make any more
deals with SLORC until it makes concrete moves toward democracy.
For more information, please contact ABSDF Europe Offce;
ABSDF Europe Office
P.O Box 6720
St.Olavs Plass
0130 Oslo
Tel:   47-22-60 85 97
Fax:   47-22-60 85 98