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SLORC found a friend in Manhattan (
- Subject: SLORC found a friend in Manhattan (
- From: tun@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 25 Jan 1994 18:34:00
Subject: SLORC found a friend in Manhattan (part 1/2)
Sorry if there are spelling mistakes and typos...I had to type it in
by hand and I am still not finished...
Shunned by the West, Burma's Rulers Find an Ally in Manhattan
Is Miriam Segal a Visionary, A Pawn of Rangoon Or Just a Savvy Operator
Friendship Forged in Shrimp
By James P. Sterba, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
Jan 11, 1994
Rangoon, Burma - He calls her "Miriam." She calls him "My General." She's
a wealthy New Yorker whose former Fifth Avenue objets d'art boutiques
blossomed into Burmese business deals. He's a devout Buddhist whose jet-flying
lessons at Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base eventually propelled him to
No. 2 in Burma's air force and then into the unlikely job of Minister of
Livestock Breeding and Fisheries.
Their liasion has all the makings of a convoluted Burmese cinema classic except
one: What brings Miriam Marshall Segal and Brig. Gen. Maung Maung together
isn't love. It's shrimp a tiny joint venture processing them for export.
The setting is a lush Texas-sized nation of 42 million people that was sealed
off from the modern world for nearly three decades, wracked by sputtering
civil wars fought by Communist insurgents and secessionist hill tribes, mis-
ruled since 1962 by military dictator, and economically ruined by his so-called
Burmese Way of Socialism. Once the world's biggest rice exporter, Burma
sank into near bankruptcy, a resource-rich but undeveloped Southease Asian
afterthought where time stood still, water buffalo still plow fields and
elephants haul logs. Rangoon, a commercial and social mecca when Singapore
and Bangkok were malarial swamps and opium dens, sanks into moldly decay.
Now, like China and Vietnam, Burma has begun to open up and stir. Market-
oriented "reforms" have begun to move a moribund economy, sprout private
Burmese entrepreneurs and lure foreign inversters and Burmese expatriates.
The U.S Embassy called last year's reported 10.9% growth in gross domestic
product "a stunning recovery from years of slow or negative growth."
Authorities hae struck cease-fire deals with nine of 11 major ethnic
insurgent groups it has been fighting since the end of World War II, thereby
opening Asia's last frontier wilderness area for development. Regional
investors and governments are actively planning a "Golden Triangle" of
economic boon where Burma, China, Laos and Thailand come together - an area
long known as the opium-growing Golden Triangle. A huge Thai-financed
casino is under construction there now.
There is only one problem here: Burma is ruled by one of the world's most-
loathed military juntas, a group of 22 generals who seized power in 1988
under the banner of the State Law and Order Restoration Council or Slorc and
proceeded to mow down hundered of unarmed students and other pro-democracy
demonstrators, imprison thousands more and send tens of thousands fleeing
Which brings us back to our main characters. Gen. Maung Maung, a gentle man
with a ready smile, isn't a member of Slorc. But as a cabinet minister, he
works for Slorc, which is desperate to earn hard currency. Seafood exports,
he says, could quickly become the country's biggest hard-currency earner.
Meanwhile, his partner, Mrs. Segal, has become Slorc's most passionate
American defender, even though she describes herself as "not political
person at all." She has also become one of the most visible American
investors in Burma.
While others file sharholder resolutions calling for corporate withdrawal
from Burma of its biggest Amercian investors, including Texaco Inc., Unocal
Corp. and Amoco Corp., Mrs. Segal is running a one-woman crusade to get
Americans more involved. She has testified before Congress on Slorc's behalf,
feted Burmese government delegations at her Central Park West apartment
in Mahhatten, buttonholded politicians, penned position papers and letter
to editors, and bent telephone ears arguing that Slorc is the much-maligned
victim of bad diplomacy and biased journalism. She wants the U.S to grant
Burma most-favored-nation trading status and adopt the kind of "Constructive
engagement" that Singapore, Thailand and China have followed.
Trouble is, this is the same Slorc that President Clinton accused in May of
creating a "tragic human-rights situation." He ordered a policy review with
a view toward imposing economic or other sanctions. Slorc, says Rep. Jim Leach,
a Republican from Iowa, is "as odious" as its name sounds. Republican Rep.
Dana Rohrabacher of California says it deserves "gangster status," and the
last U.S ambassador to Burma, Burton Levin, calls Slorc a collection of
"thugs and dopes." The U.S and other governments excoriate Slorc for con
tinuing human-rights abuses, and embargo foreign aid. Human rights Watch calls
it a "human-right pariah," noting thatit has kept Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel
Peace Prize-winning political opponent, under house arrest for 4 1/2 years
(Slorc says she's free to leave the country anytime).