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Burma Newsletter, Oct. '93 (long)

Subject: Burma Newsletter, Oct. '93 (long)

Burma Issues Newsletter
October 1993


Burma Issues, (formerly Burma Rights Movement for Action,
B.U.R.M.A.) is a Bangkok-based non-governmental organization that
monitors events in Burma with a focus on human rights, ethnic
minorities and the ongoing civil war.

Burma Issues
PO Box 1076, Silom Post Office
Bangkok 10504 Thailand

phone: 662 234 6674

United Nations
The UN Secretsry- General, Butros Butros-Ghali, has told the Thai
prime minister, Chun Leekpai, that the Burmese military junta has
yet to prove its willingness to turn power over to the people.
Butros-Gahli said he agreed with Thailand that Burmese leaders have
softened their stance and were turning more towards negotiations
with ethnic insurgents, but progress was not satisfactory,
according to Thai government spokeman Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Thai Fishing Companies
Following discussions from 14-18 September between the Thai
Fisheries Dept. and Slorc, both sides agreed that Thai fishing
companies to be selected to join the joint fishing operation must
not have been engageed in fishing activities in Burmese waters
before. The Slorc has revoked old Thai fishing company contracts in
Burmese water as the Thai companies violated the Slorc's
regulations.  Apprently the Fisheries Department of Thailand is
suppose to slect new fishing comapnaies to resume concessions in
Burmese waters soon.   
Berli Jucker Co. Ltd of Thailand
Berli Jucker, one of the largest trading firms in Thailand, decided
to set up it's consumer market in Burma by the end iof this year.
The first products that will be launched in Burma in addition to
parrot and Lervia soap is Trebor which is a snack. The Co. will
spend Bt 7 million this yearr for advertising and promotion and
another bt. 15 million in the next year in order to gain a higher
market share in the Bt 1.5 billion market.


Stop Arms to Burma
Last year China sold F-6 and F-7 bomber fighters, Patrol boats and
light arms worth 1.3 Billion US dollars to the military regime.  It
is these weapons which Slorc is now using to kill civilians in the
delta.  Hundreds of villages have already been burnt down and
hundreds of thousands of people have become homeless.  
A German private-owned company, Fritz Werner, has directly been
involved in the killing since 1962.  At one time it was owned by
the West German government and produced the G-3 and G-4 assault
rifles used by the Burmese military against the people.  During the
student's demonstration in 1962, hundreds of students were shot
down in the streets by the Fritz Werner produced assault rifles. 
In 1984, Fritz Werner started a joint venture with the junta's
Heavy Industry Corp. for manufacturing ammunition in Burma. 
According to staff in the Defence Weapons Industry of Burma, German
experts are still providing the technical skills needed to produce
the weapons.  Some raw materials are also being imported from
Germany to Burma.  In 1988, Fritz Werner-made rifles were the most
effecting for shooting down about 8,000 innocent students and
civilian demonstrators.  Moreover, the company has indirectly been
involved in the killing of the ethnic people for more than 30
Singapore's Allied Ordnance is one of the major suppliers for the
Burmese military junta.  Allied Ordnance is a joint venture of
Sweden's Nobel Industry and Singapore's Shengli Holding.  At the
end of 1990, Singapore exported ammunition to Burma.
Pakistani arms, mortars, rocket launchers and rifles worth of US$20
million have arrived in Burma the middle of this year.  Some of the
weapons were made in China and Eastern Europe.
Yugoslavia's G-4 Super craft and training aircraft have arrived in
Burma in late 1991. 
The result of all these weapons provided by foreign countries
includes the creation of about 500,000 refugees and 12,000
political prisoners in Burma.  None of the weapons are useful for
any kind of purpose except maintaining the power of the military
regime over the people.  The military's  dry season offensive this
year will increase tremendously the number of refugees and deaths
of the ethnic people in Burma.  The military still demands that all
the ethnic and political dissidents surrender unconditionally.  To
promote a peaceful solution to the war in Burma, all the arms
shipments to Burma must immediately be ended.
The United Nations can play a very important and significant role
in bringing this about.  The UN Security Council has the power to
initiate, not only an arms embargo, but also economic sanctions
against the Slorc.  This they could and should do in order to abide
by their mandate to promote peace and human rights for all people. 
This is the Year of Indigenous People, and therefore would be an
very auspicious time for the UN Security Council to take action
which would save the lives and property of the indigenous people of
Burma.  You are urged to write to the United Nations, imploring
them move quickly before hundreds of thousands more ethnic people
of Burma become refugees, displaced persons, or simply more
statistics of the 45-year-long civil war of Burma.

Talks Between KIO and Slorc
On the 2 of October, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)
carried out a voluntary cease fire dialogue with the military
regime in the capital of the Kachin State, Myitkyina.  The KIO is
the second strongest member of the Democratic Alliance of Burma
(DAB) which is the organization of the allied armed dissident
groups.  A KIO source said that neither political nor formal
military agreements had been signed yet.  Further information
indicates that the KIO is still searching for any possible way to
solve the four-decade-long civil war in Burma.  During the past
year, there has been no sign of a Burmese army military offensive
in the Kachin State.
KNU Emergency Central Committee Meeting
The Karen National Union (KNU) called a meeting on September 20,
and carried out a two-week-long discussion regarding possible
dialogue with the Slorc.  Following the discussion, the KNU reached
a consensus that and talks should only be held between the DAB and
Slorc rather than with any single group.  The president of the KNU,
who is also the chairman of the DAB, stressed that the Slorc should
show sincerity by releasing all political prisoners and announcing
a total cease fire in all areas of hostility.
The DAB set up the following preconditions to dialogue with Slorc:
1) talks must be held in third world,  
2) freedom of the press at the talks must be guaranteed, 
3) UN officials and representatives from the respected countries
shall be observers during the dialogue. 
The DAB is still discouraging its members from holding independent
talks with Slorc in order to show a unified voice.
Slorc Reinforcements in Karen State
In the first week of October, Slorc sent two new infantry regiments
to Saw Hta which are a direct threat to Manerplaw.  The Karen
National Liberation Army is building up their own reinforcements in
order to protect this area in which the Salween Dam Construction
project, which is a joint project between the Slorc and Thailand,
is being planned.
Similar reinforcements appeared in the southern Karen State and
ethnic Mon area which is where the proposed gas pipeline from Burma
to Kanchanaburi province of Thailand is to pass.  The gas project
is a venture being carried out by Slorc and PTTEP of Thailand.
The Karen and allied armed forces are preparing for a possible
Slorc offensive aimed at taking over these areas.

Constructive Engagement Economics
The ASEAN constructive engagement policy promotes the idea that
helping the military regime of Burma open up its economy is an
important step in bringing about a gradual change towards
democracy.  While this may sound feasible to those involved in
businesses which can make profits from present-day Burma, some
economists are raising serious doubts that under the present
military regime, economic changes will bring much if any benefits
to the common people.
Thailand and Singapore companies, for example, have moved into
Burma in very large numbers during the past few years.  The vast
majority of their economic involvements are related to the
import/export business.  When their activities are explained in
terms of dollars and cents, it may look good for the Burmese
people, but the actual process of their business leaves the vast
majority of the Burmese people out in the cold.
For example, a Thai company called Burthai Export/Import might
import cement into Burma.  They sell their cement to a Burmese
company called Burma Cement which pays Thaibur in local kyats.  The
Burmese kyat has no value outside the country, so Thaibur needs to
convert the kyat back into something of real value.  So, they
contact a Burmese company called Burma Teak and use the kyats to
purchase teak logs.  By law, they are allowed to purchase logs that
have a value of 20% higher than the value of the cement they
imported.  They then export the logs which they can sell outside
Burma at a very healthy profit.  Burma itself has gained nothing. 
They have simply exchanged some teak logs for cement at a loss.  
Burma Cement and Burma Teak are probably related companies so that
the kyats simply revolve between them.  Their profits are increased
by gaining a contract from the military regime to cut more teak
logs, thus expanding their power to barter for more international
goods.  The only way the people themselves can benefit from this
economic process is to sell their labor to Burma Teak for cutting
down their forests.  The salaries they earn are minimal and hardly
provide sufficient funds to feed their families.  Thus the
purchasing power of the people continues to decline despite the
fact that economic figures might show some economic growth for the
Not many of the present economic investments in Burma are of a
long-term, development nature.  Most, like that of Thaibur
Import/Export are designed to gain as much profit as possible
within the shortest time possible.  When Burma Teak has no more
teak logs to cut and sell, Thaibur can move elsewhere, losing
almost nothing in investment, but gaining a lot in short-term,
immediate profits.  The people of Burma will remain with empty
pockets, and with an environment that has been shattered.  They
face no hopeful future under this economic arrangement.
Under these circumstances, Burma watchers argue that an
international economic boycott of Burma would bring little if any
added hardships on the people.  Economic sanctions would, however,
hurt Burma Cement and Burma Teak, and would also cut off the
financial power of the military regime which can collect large sums
of money through taxes and corruption.  Thaibur Export/Import would
also suffer since they would lose a very lucrative (and probably
very short-term) business arrangement.  
Consequently, international economic sanctions against the military
regime of Burma might be one of the more effective and peaceful
ways of bring about the democratic changes which the people so
yearn for.  They are gaining virtually nothing from the present
foreign investments which are flooding the country, and thus they
would probably be little affected by such sanctions.
Constructive engagement, on the other hand, has been called by some
Burma watchers as simply a nice sounding term for rapid and total
economic exploitation of the people.  ASEAN nations need to
seriously consider the long-term effects which their constructive
engagement policy may bring to the people of Burma as well as to
the stability of the region.

Slorc Raises More Taxes
On October 26, the military regime ordered house owners in Rangoon
to pay higher taxes but they did not announce the exact amount of
taxes to be paid.  According to the regime, the tax rate will be
based on the size and design of the houses, and  all the house
owners must inform the government of the details of their houses. 
The regime also threatened that if any body fails to provide this
information, drastic action would be taken.  The military gave the
explanation to the people that the tax will be used to build up
Rangoon to the international level.  In fact, the military appears
to be using this tax to cover its military expenses in the civil
Currently, the total tax collected by the military is estimated to
be US$38.17 million.  Reports suggest that Slorc is using an
estimated US$3.69 million daily in the civil war.

First Joint Venture Bank
The military has opened a joint venture bank with a private
businessman on 1 October in Rangoon. This is the first such joint
venture bank to be opened in three decades.  The bank was named
"Myanmar Citizen's Bank Ltd." and has US$153.85 million as capital. 
Slorc owns 45% of the total capital investment.   

Slorc Raises More Taxes
On October 26, the military regime ordered house owners in Rangoon
to pay higher taxes but they did not announce the exact amount of
taxes to be paid.  According to the regime, the tax rate will be
based on the size and design of the houses, and  all the house
owners must inform the government of the details of their houses. 
The regime also threatened that if any body fails to provide this
information, drastic action would be taken.  The military gave the
explanation to the people that the tax will be used to build up
Rangoon to the international level.  In fact, the military appears
to be using this tax to cover its military expenses in the civil
Currently, the total tax collected by the military is estimated to
be US$38.17 million.  Reports suggest that Slorc is using an
estimated US$3.69 million daily in the civil war.
First Joint Venture Bank
The military has opened a joint venture bank with a private
businessman on 1 October in Rangoon. This is the first such joint
venture bank to be opened in three decades.  The bank was named
"Myanmar Citizen's Bank Ltd." and has US$153.85 million as capital. 
Slorc owns 45% of the total capital investment.   
The Economics of Opium 
According to a US government survey, Burma will produce
approximately 2500 metric tons of opium in 1993.  This is double
the production in 1988.  (Report to the Honest Ballot Association,
May 6, 1993)
This translates into a very large amount of heroin, and an even
greater amount of money.  The economics are staggering.
Two thousand five hundred metric tons of opium can produce about
434,028 kilograms of almost pure heroin.  In Burma one kilogram of
heroin now brings about 80,000 kyats on the market.  This is equal
to US$800 at the illegal exchange rate (US$13,300 at the legal
exchange rate).  The 1993 crop will therefore be worth
approximately US$345,222,400 in Burma at the illegal kyat exchange
rate.  At the legal exchange rate it is well over 5 billion us
dollars!  The street value in a US or European city is many many
times this.
We all know where the heroin ends up.  It feeds the addictions of
people around the world, especially in the large urban centers. 
But what about all the money generated inside Burma by the heroin
trade?  Where does it end up?  This is a question many people are
asking, but there are few direct answers.  Since the military
controls every aspect of Burmese life, one can only speculate that
it goes into their pockets to help pay for all the weaponry they
have been purchasing during the past few years.  
Slorc has been calling for international aid to help them fight
opium in the country.  They argue that they do not have sufficient
funds to carry out their anti-opium campaign, and that the opium is
grown in areas controlled by the ethnic nationalities, making it
difficult for them to go in and clear the fields.  However, the
vast majority of the opium is now being produced in areas where
Slorc has been able to sign cease fires with the ethnic groups, and
therefore should be able to suppress the drug trade - if they
themselves were not directly involved in it.
A total of 17,607 foreign tourists visited Burma from April to
August this year compared to 5,829 during the same period last
year.  This is a 300+% increase. (NLM 931010)
Each tourist must exchange US$200 at the airport upon arrival, and
is not allowed to change this money back upon departure if it has
not all been spent.  This represents a profit of almost
US$3,521,400 for the military regime.  The tourist receives
approximately 1,200 kyats for the US$200 (legal exchange rate)
which actually only has a buying power of approximately US$10 in
the country (based on the illegal exchange rate which reflects a
more authentic kyat value).

Slorc's opinion of what the future of Burma should look like is
best reflected perhaps by their view of past history.  On October
12, Ohn Gyaw, Foreign Minister of Slorc and head of the Burmese
delegation to the 48th session of the United Nations General
Assembly, stated it this way:
"The history of the modern Myanmar [Burma] is synonymous with the
history of the Tatmadaw [military].  Since the time of our struggle
for national independence it has been in the forefront of national
politics.  The Tatmadaw does not covet power.  Nor does it have any
desire to hold on to the reins of power.  It is above party
politics." (NLM931014)  
Burma observers may have difficulty reconciling this statement with
the fact that during the 1991 elections, Slorc initiated at least
one political party called the National Unity Party to contest in
the elections, and has been putting pressure on the national
convention to assure that the military will continue to play a
leading role in the future of Burmese politics.  In Burma,
especially since 1962, the words military and politics have become
almost synonymous.  A civilian role in the political process has
seemed only a vague concept, and the military has always been quick
to justify their hold over every aspect of life in Burma by
claiming a threat by the ethnic nationalities to split apart the
union, or a lack of proper civilian leadership to take over the
role of guiding the country into the future.  Strangely enough,
Burma has a vast number of highly trained and skilled civilians who
could direct economic, social and political development while the
military, which holds these positions, has proven themselves quite
inept at keeping any of the country's institutions together. 
Burma's once proud educational institutions are now in shambles,
the economy is one of the worst in the world, and health care has
deteriorated to the point that one Rangoon resident said, "Now we
no longer go to the hospitals to get healed, we go there to die."
The justification of the Slorc to remain in almost absolute power
is a difficult one for even Burmese, long accustomed to the
military's double talk, to swallow.  In mid-September, Lt-Gen Maung
Aye, addressing a group of graduating under-officers, repeated
Slorc's rationalization once again.
"The country is not for the Tatmadaw, but the Tatmadaw is for the
country.  The Tatmadaw is known to remain on the side of the
country and the people.  The Tatmadaw is known to have carried out
reconstruction and development of the State time and again and this
proves that the Tatmadaw is acting without wishing for nay favors. 
It is now in need of a definite assurance for the Tatmadaw to be
able to participate in the national political leadership role of
the State and hence it has been included as one of the six
objectives of the National Convention where fundamental principles
to be included in the constitution are being discussed."  (NLM
The development of a truly democratic system is a long and
laborious one.  No one can expect that democracy will come easily
or quickly to a country which has been under colonial rule for
almost one hundred years and then under military dictatorship for
over 30 years.  However, for democracy to be able to grow, a
democratic process must be initiated and given a chance to evolve. 
This means much more than simply allowing an election to be held or
a few "people's representatives" to sit in a parliament.  Before
Burma can experience a move towards democracy, the civil war and
its root causes must be directly dealt with and solved.  Then, and
only then, can people begin to participate in a way which will
allow Burma to have a new future, free from military dictatorship.

Thai Statement
On October 8 of this year, a Member of the Thai Parliament, Dr.
Sutin Nophaket, read a statement to the international press calling
for ASEAN to set conditions on Burma's invitation to attend the
1994 ASEAN meeting in Thailand as observers.  Dr. Sutin was
representing the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human
Rights which was set up following the May 1992 uprising in Thailand
to monitor human rights issues and make recommendations to the Thai
parliament on positions and actions they should take.
The statement expressed a position which is diametrically opposed
to the position the Thai government is presently taking towards
Burma as expressed through their "constructive engagement" policy.
In his statement, Dr. Sutin said in part, "...we never imagined
that Slorc's silent war against the ethnic villagers living along
the borders of Burma would continue so savagely in the form of
forced labor, rape, forced relocations, the establishment of free
fire zones and executions.  This has already been going on for over
45 years, and still the world knows little of these atrocities."
On behalf of the Parliamentary Committee for Justice and Human
Rights, he made the following demands:
1.  The immediate and unconditional release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
and all other political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
2.  That all members of parliaments and the governments of the
region bring pressure on Slorc to return full human rights to all
the people of Burma.
3.  That ASEAN nations set conditions on Burma's acceptance as a
member of ASEAN, including:
a.  the immediate and unconditional release of all political
b.  an immediate nation-wide cease fire and the cessation of all
violations against the human rights of the ethnic peasants,
c.  a guarantee that all ethnic nationalities will be allowed to
live in safety and peace, and
d.  the turning of political power over to the winners of the 1991
national elections.
War Crimes Proceedings
United States based organizations are now initiating war crimes
proceedings against commanders of the Burmese army's Division 99,
based on compelling evidence of Division 99 deliberately committing
severe abuse of civilians in Pa'an, Papun, and Thaton areas during
Anyone with background information on Division 99, particularly
details regarding Division 99 officers, should send the information
Project Maje
14 Dartmouth Rd.
Cranford NJ 07016, USA

Burma Pipeline
Groups in the US continue to call for a boycott of Texaco and
Unocal companies who are involved in gas and oil exploration in
Burma.  Recent gas discoveries have resulted in a plan to build a
gas pipeline from Burma to Thailand.  The pipeline will run through
territory occupied by Karen and Mon ethnic villagers and will
result in tremendous suffering for these people as well as serious
ecological damage to the area.
The US groups are asking people to cut up their Texaco and Union 76
charge cards and send them back with a letter demanding that they
withdraw from Burma until the civil war is ended and the people
have true participation in planning use of the country's resources.
Write to:

Richard Stegemeier
Chairman and CEO, Unocal Corporation
P.O. Box 7600
Los Angeles, Ca 90051, USA
Tel:  213-977-7600

Alfred C. DeCrane, Jr.
Chairman and CEO, Texaco Inc.
2000 Westchester Ave.
White Plains, NY 10650 USA
Tel:  914-253-4000

The negotiations between the Slorc and the KIO on October 1, has
created a complex situation among the dissident groups in Burma.
Reports continue to be contradicting as to what has actually taken
place, but the negotiations will have an affect on the line of
coordination among the jungle based dissident groups in Mannerplaw.
The foreign minister of the Slorc. Ohn Gyaw, stressed at the 48th
session of the United Nation General Assembly held on 12 October
that "Just last week, as the result of negotiations held between
government and Kachin National Leaders in a spirit of mutual
accommodation and understanding as befits blood brothers, the
Kachin terrorist returned to the legal fold and have already joined
hands with the government."
This was contradicted by a KIO source in Bangkok which said that no
agreements had yet been sign with Slorc.  The KIO is seeking every
possible way for peace.  The mediator between the KIO and Slorc,
Saboi Gam said on 14 October at the UN building in New York that
"up to now it is a only gentlemen's agreement but we will make a
formal agreement in the near future, during this month."
Slorc has done, perhaps, their most politically beneficial campaign
in the United Nation since the start of the four decades of the
ethnic struggle.  However, since the details and clear public
information from both sides has not been released, the exact
process is difficult to analyze.  However, the independent talks of
the KIO will affect coordination among the allied groups.
Basically, the members of the DAB insist that they will not carry
out any independent peace talks, and that such negotiations must be
done with the consensus of all the members of DAB.