[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

BurmaNet News: October 23, 1994

************************** BurmaNet ************************** 
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
BurmaNet News: Sunday, October 23, 1994
Issue #40


          The previous government did not have sufficient control over
          its armies.  As you know, most armies prefer war to peace.
                    --Sri Lankan Prime Minister Chandrika
                    Kumarantunga, who is actively seeking peace in her
                    ethnically torn country.

          Beginning from 1989, less than one year after it assumed
          responsibility, the Government made overtures to the armed
          groups to return to the legal fold. Since April 1992, the
          Armed Forces have suspended military offensives against the
          armed groups in the interest of national reconciliation.
          Internal strife for over four decades has not brought
          benefit to anyone.  It has only caused death and destruction
          and untold suffering for the people.  No one appreciates
          peace more than a soldier.
                    --SLORC Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw to the UN
                    General Assembly




[Yesterday, BurmaNet carried the transcript the text of U Ohn Gyaw's speech
to the United Nations General Assembly.  Part of the first page of that
transcript was missing due to a faxing error.  The missing part of his
speech is reproduced here from the transcript as it was published in the New
Light of Myanmar on October 12].

Wednesday, October 12, 1994; Vol II, No. 179
8th Waxing of Thadingyut, 1356 ME
Principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-
interferences must be respected by all.
YANGON, 11 Oct -- The following is the statement by His Excellency 
U Ohn Gyaw, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the 
Delegation of the Union of Myanmar in the General Debate at the 
forty-ninth Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Mr President,
        The Delegation of Myanmar would like to congratulate you 
most warmly on your election as President of the Forty Ninth Session 
of the United Nations General Assembly and to assure you of our 
fullest cooperation in the discharge of your responsibilities. We are 
confident that the wealth of experiences and wisdom which you bring 
with you will prove invaluable in guiding us successfully through the 
present session.
        We also wish to express our appreciation to the outgoing 
President, His Excellency Mr Samuel Rudolph Insanally, for his 
sagacious and outstanding stewardship of the previous session of the 
General Assembly.
Mr President,
        In South Africa, four decades of the despicable system of 
apartheid has finally been laid to rest. The election of President 
Nelson Mandela by the country's first multiracial parliament has given 
birth to a united, democratic and non-racial South Africa. A nation 
that has so courageously overcome such adversity and over-whelming 
pressure deserves our support and acclaim as it faces its future with 
        I am pleased to see the delegation of South Africa rejoining 
us in this august Assembly. Its presence in these chambers also reflects 
the momentous changes taking place in the world today. The 
concerted effort to abolish 'apartheid' in South Africa has finally been 
realized. We welcome our brothers from South Africa and wish them 
every success in rebuilding their nation and look forward to working 
closely with the Government and people of South Africa.

[For the rest of the transcript, please see the October 22 issue of the
BurmaNet News].

September 1994; p.78+
[Caravan is an English-language magazine published in Bangkok]
"The situation was already tense when writer Nick Palevsky slipped onto 
the Malaysian set of John Boorman's political thriller Beyond Rangoon. 
Under threat of censorship, the producers themselves had trimmed the 
film's title. After a few days observing the action, Palevsky was politely,
but firmly removed from the set..."
Bill Rubenstein met me in the lobby of Ipoh's Casuarina Hotel. About one 
evening a week, director John Boorman viewed the rushes which had 
arrived back from processing in London. Bill, who co-wrote the script, had 
been reluctant to invite me down to Malaysia. Now that I had been there a 
few days, he relented and took me to the screening in the temporary 
offices of "Burmat Productions", on the hotel mezzanine. 
John Boorman entered the screening room soon after we did, his weather-
beaten face fitting his outfit: a Burmese longyi and sandals. He looked me 
over, frowning. "I don't believe I know you," he said, displeased to have a 
stranger there, but by then last week's rushes were appearing on the 
Secrecy fits with Boorman's distant style. He kicked off his career with the 
ultra-cool, hyper-stylized Point Blank, rendered in a sixties version of
film noir and starring Lee Marvin as the tough ex-gangster out for revenge, 
and Angie Dickinson as the sister of his wayward ex-wife. A writer 
employed with Metro at the time told me that "...the movie was a mess. 
Boorman came from the BBC-he had been making documentaries- and 
completely reorganized the script. But the film was successful and made 
the studio a ton of money..." 
Now Boorman shoots a different kind of motion picture, made up of long, 
complicated sequences shot on location. Best known are Deliverance, 
based on the James Dickey novel, and Emerald Forest, about the plight of 
Amazonian Indians in Brazil. 
Coordinating a crew on location is difficult; Boorman controls people with 
aloofness. During my time in Ipoh he never fraternised. Early mornings, 
while the rest of the crew commingled at various tables in the hotel coffee 
shop, Boorman sat alone, magisterially reading his copy of the 
International Herald Tribune. On location, cinematographer John Seale 
would set up the shot, the AD (Assistant Director) would block out the 
actors, and the rest of the crew would carry out their preparation alone: 
the energy changed when Boorman-the project's eminence grise-made 
his appearance, right before filming began. 
Location Diary, Morning, April 11th: 
We are driving up the length of Perak State on Malaysia's spanking new 
expressway, racing past limestone cliffs and lush tropical scenery. I can 
see Malaysia's attraction for film-makers: it is beautiful and empty, a 
logistical heaven for moving all the equipment and personnel needed to 
shoot movies on location. Does this compensate for the perils of 
We pay the toll at Perak's royal capital, Kuala Kangsar, and follow the old 
highway down river, past the golden Walt Disney domes of the sultan's 
Ubadiah mosque and on to a jungly bend in the Perak River. We slip in the 
back entrance of a large bamboo hut by the water's edge. 
A jeep pulls up to the front. One of several soldiers crowded into the jeep 
jumps out and shouts into the hut. A middle-aged Burmese man in a 
longyi walks to the door; this is Aung Ko, who plays a dissident 
professor fleeing government persecution . 
Aung Ko says something in Burmese to the soldier. "He's saying, there's 
nobody in here... ," a girl on the crew giggles. Gerry, the mixer, who sits
a large console in the center of the hut, whispers for quiet. The soldier 
barks out an order in Malay and pushes past Aung Ko into the hut (and 
out of the camera's view), pointing his rifle at Bill's head for our
More giggles, tension eases, the scene is over. Bill says: "In the script I 
had named the professor Ko Aung. We auditioned Aung Ko in Paris, 
where he was teaching-that was his real name- so we just reversed the 
name in the script." 
Dr U Kyaw Win, who has been sitting next to me and explaining the 
action, asks plaintively, "Why is the professor wearing farmer's pants?" 
Then he shifts his attention to the actor playing the soldier: "I can't
them speaking Malay. Sophisticated audiences will laugh. There are 
people out there other than Burmese who can understand our language, 
you know. And Aung Ko is wearing sandals. He would never be wearing 
them inside a house!" Dr Win is editor of the Burma Bulletin and 
consultant on the film. 
In fact, the camera is much too far away to see whether he's wearing 
sandals or not. Gerry, who has left his console, assures Dr Win that the 
shot is one long pan, from the time the jeep starts driving along the river 
until the exchange between soldier and professor at the doorway of the 
hut: there are no close-ups. And Burmese dialogue will be looped into the 
soundtrack later on. 
It requires many more takes before the scene is right in its entirety. Then 
Boorman asks the camera man to "Check the gates!" and the crew starts 
preparing for the next location. 
Rushes that week consisted of many takes of a single scene: At the 
beginning, the actors are waist-deep in a pool below a beautiful waterfall. 
At the end, Burmese soldiers shoot a girl student in the stomach, and she 
collapses into the pool. Blood billows through the water as she lies face-
down, inert. "Cut!" and she resurrects herself, gulping for air, the 
casualness with which she ignores her artificial wounds making them all 
the more ghoulish. 
The scene repeated: Laura, an American who has come as a tourist to 
Burma, right at the start of the 1988 uprising, hides in a pool with Aung Ko 
and a young monk. They are accompanied by several students. After a 
few beats, soldiers pour in from the jungle, but the trio have managed to 
hide in a cranny under a boulder and some undergrowth. The less 
fortunate students scatter, the girl gets shot in the stomach again. And so 
Morning, April 12th:
The location has moved to a patch of jungle not far from the Sultan's 
palace in Kuala Kangsar. Patricia Arquette, who plays Laura, is getting her 
face covered with rouge, and her body sprayed down with water to make 
her look wet and tired from her long jungle trek. 
Patricia's entire family is in movies and television. Her sister, Roseanna, 
starred with Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. Her father played 
J.D. Pickett in The Waltons. Her grandfather ended his career as "Charlie 
Weaver" on To Tell the Truth. Even her young son Enzo (whose father is 
musician Paul Rossi) has acted with Patricia in her previous movies, 
playing her son in True Romance and The Infant Runner. "But this is 
Patricia's first mature role. . . " producer Barry Spikings tells me, and
corrects himself: "That is to say, she has always been a mature actress..." 
In Beyond Rangoon, Enzo will play Laura's dead son: "Which is really 
scary, but he really wants to do it," Patricia says. 
Laura has lost her husband and son in an accident. She and her sister 
escape on a tour of Burma led by an American Buddhist professor, played 
by Spaulding Gray of Swimming to Cambodia fame. (Later, in New York, 
Gray told me that he had modelled his character on Bob Thurman, the mad 
Columbia professor who is the foremost expert on Buddhism in America 
and happens to be Uma Thurman's father). In Burma, Laura meets Aung 
Ko, who agrees to take her upcountry on a tour. When protesters and 
government troops clash, he decides Laura should leave Burma and puts 
her on a train. 
But, as the train groans out of the tiny rural station, she sees Aung Ko, 
who has been blacklisted, being beaten up by government soldiers. A 
student who rushes to Aung Ko's aid is shot dead. Laura jumps off the 
slow-moving train and-taking advantage of the soldiers' confusion when 
confronted with an American-packs Aung Ko into his car and drives off, 
the soldiers in pursuit. 
"Think of it as Deliverance." Peter Benoit, the film's publicist compares 
Beyond Rangoon to Boorman's best-known film. "People go down a river, 
and during the course of the story, each sees what the others are made of. 
Here, Laura is escaping with Aung Ko from government soldiers, but she 
drives his car into the river. Then they have to find a boat and get down to 
Rangoon. Aung Ko is hurt. Laura, a nurse, has to get medicine for him." 
"In the river, she has lost her things, her passport, her identity." Peter 
says. "And this is a prelude to her emotional release, an escape from her 
depression." Later, hiding out in a villa outside Rangoon with Burmese 
students, Laura discovers Aung Ko has lost a wife, murdered at the time 
he was taken as a political prisoner. Others have suffered more than she. 
Trying to obtain another passport at the American Embassy, Laura barely 
manages to elude SLORC agents waiting to abduct her at its entrance. She 
tries to join her sister in Bangkok by going overland to the Thai border. 
Filming starts again. Aung Ko, Laura and a young monk run through the 
jungle, then collapse in a clearing. Aung Ko and the monk have a brief 
argument, which Laura seems to mediate, whispering words of 
encouragement into Aung Ko's ear. Soldiers appear. Laura stands up and 
says, "As an American citizen, I demand that you let me pass." The monk 
tells her not to worry, that these are Karen soldiers who will escort them
their headquarters near the Thai border. 
Between takes, Hani Motisin, the young Malaysian actor who plays the 
monk, explains his role: "In fact, I was a soldier. When they started 
ordering us to shoot children, I ran away and joined the escaping 
students, disguising myself as a monk." 
I asked producer Barry Spikings if Ted Turner, who was financing the 
picture, had any misgivings about Beyond Rangoon's content. "No, not at 
all. He had the presence of mind to ask if they had CNN in Burma, 
though." And during the shoot, the film's working title was simply 
Beyond... Nevertheless Spikings and Boorman, afraid that Malaysia might 
close them down, had approached Thai director Prince Chatri Yukol about 
shooting the film in Thailand . 
I had heard that the Malaysian government was unhappy about having 
Hani Motisin, a Muslim, playing a Buddhist monk. The irony is that 
Motisin's role isn't really that of a monk, but of a soldier. In Dr Win's 
Burma Bulletin, I read about the real-life equivalent of this character: "a 
Burma Army commander was so outraged at what he saw on September 
18, 1988, that he left Burma, gave up his pension and his standing, went to 
the hills and today is advisor to the student army fighting alongside the 
Karen and others as they resist the Burmese military."
Afternoon, April 14th: 
I follow a series of golden arrows across Ipoh town, through an industrial 
complex, and finally into a warehouse, which serves as a sound stage. 
Dozens of "Karen women" in red headdresses and hand-woven outfits 
culled from museum collections in Thailand, mill around the outside. 
Inside, Bill and I examine a simulated sandbank, on a stage lit by klieg 
lights. "It's tough to shoot a night scene on location. In here you can 
control the lighting exactly, much better than if you shoot day for night." 
Behind the beach is a blue sheet of plastic-the river-and the backdrop 
beyond consists of tiny replicas of bamboo huts, depicting the "Karen 
camp", a huge outdoor set I visited a few days before. By now, the crew 
has probably torn it down. Bill points at the blank cardboard behind the 
tiny huts: "They were going to put a night sky up there, but they decided 
they'll just paint it digitally in post-production." 
The "Karen women"-being in fact Ipoh locals-have several children 
with them, the babies bobbing in an ingenious invention consisting of a 
basket hanging from a shock-absorber coil. Playing among the children is 
a blond kid of about four years who turns out to be Enzo, Patricia's child. 
Bill holds a picture of Enzo in his hand as he fishes around for a locket to 
put it in-an important prop in Laura's dream sequence: 
The day Laura and Aung Ko spend in the Karen camp culminates with a 
panoramic view of the Karen resistance. A voice-over of a Burmese 
government announcement describes the resistance as the work of a few 
motley rebels, but the picture, which includes a cast of 
thousands-women, children, Karen soldiers toting guns, 
students-belies these words. When Aung Ko and Laura lie down on the 
river bank that night, she gazes at the locket before drifting to sleep. In
dream she sees her dead son laughing, then he slowly vanishes. She is 
ready to give up her old life and start a new one... 
It started politely, but by the end of the night, everyone was soaked. After 
the screening, the Burmese community of Penang, along with members of 
the crew, put on a show for us in the hotel banquet hall. Dr Win did duty 
as announcer, explaining that today was Thingyan (the Burmese name for 
Songkran) . Even Aung Ko danced for us, accompanied by Burmese 
musicians. A pretty girl performed the last dance, dipping a sprig into a
tin cup and daintily spraying the audience. Soon large squirt guns appeared, 
supplied by Eddie Fowlie, the prop man. 
I had first met Eddie, whose wild shock of white hair and bushy eyebrows 
make him look a bit fierce, buying hundreds of knives from a bewildered 
shopkeeper in Kuala Kangsar ("Don't bother wrapping them-just lay 
them in the truck!"). I ran into him a second time on location, talking to
assistant who had located a government bureau specializing in 
transporting unwanted buffalo. "Good," Eddie gestured with a broad 
sweep towards a miniature pagoda, some buffalo quietly grazing next to it, 
a few huts, and a wharf weighed down with baskets: "All of this will be 
gone by tonight I need it for the Karen Camp." 
Bill told me a bit of Eddie's history as we escaped the increasingly unruly 
Water Festival. Working for David Lean on Bridge Over the River Kwai, 
he had started the train toward the ill-fated bridge. "Of course, he jumped 
out before the bridge exploded." 
Morning, April 17th: 
"Freedom is for those who dare to fight. To die fighting is better than to 
live as a slave," says the sign we pass as Eddie drives me into the "Karen 
Camp". Manerplaw, the real Karen headquarters, is a narrow, dusty place. 
Hollywood places it in a gorgeous setting, at the foot of dramatic Karst 
cliffs. Odd props are left over from the filming of Inochine. This locale 
served as the fishing village where the lead couple seeks refuge-the 
cliffs resemble the hills around Halong Bay north of Hanoi. 
Some of the Sri Lankan crew are busy hauling away a large Burmese-style 
Buddha-the leadership of Kawthoolei is by and large Christian. Since 
they first worked with Fowlie on River Kwai in their native country, the Sri 
Lankans have worked all over Asia, on many other movies. Production 
crews come and go in the region, but they stay. 
Foraging among Eddie's props, I see many signs which seem to flesh out 
the background of the film: Rangoon Orthopedic Clinic, Burma Railways, 
and Gen. Ne Win, Murderer. At the camp, a big sign over a little hut warns 
Explosives! in large red lettering. Posted at the camp exit gate, a sign 
warns that Narcotic Drug Hoarding, Trafficking and Marketing are strictly 
Prohibited. Whoever Trespasses the Law shall be Punished. Is this to let 
us know that the Karens don't trade in heroin? Or is the sign for the 
benefit of Malaysian officials? 
"Megad Junid said it was wrong for the Hollywood firm... to ask Muslims 
to play the role of monks during recent filming for a movie called Beyond," 
AFP reported at the end of April. Two weeks before, I had applied to 
interview John Boorman. When he finally realised I was there to do a 
story, he threw me off the set. Later, in Bangkok, as I read the AFP
Boorman's misgivings about publicity started to seem justified 
"We clearly outlined that they cannot touch on sensitive issues like the 
people's religion and culture, " the Deputy Home Minister was quoted as 
saying. Six weeks earlier, the crew had created a full size replica of the 
Shwedagon pagoda on a Penang wharf (for a scene where Aung San Suu 
Kyi addresses the people of Rangoon). Would this, in the Deputy Home 
Minister's words, "hurt people's feelings?" Driving through the 
countryside near Kota Gajah, I had come upon a "Burmese temple," an old 
teak house on the roof of which the crew had placed a spire, and behind 
the front door, a Buddha image. Had this been an offense against local 
people's "religion and culture?" 
I thought about the old man who played a Burmese headman in Beyond 
Rangoon, magical Hindu-Buddhist "tattoos" inked onto his skin. "During 
World War II, the Japanese would have shot me for having these," he 
laughed. Was he thinking of the (much milder!) censure he would receive 
from his own government? Muslims "should have known what role they 
were playing and should not have placed monetary gains above religion." 
Does it matter that Hani Motisin was really playing an ex-army 
commander, not a monk? 
Beyond Rangoon is the only feature film (to my knowledge) set in Burma, 
except for Harp of Burma, about a Japanese soldier who disguises himself 
as- you guessed it!-a monk. Neither film has a Burmese protagonist, 
and each romanticises Burma from its own viewpoint. In Beyond 
Rangoon, the camera follows Laura, not Aung Ko: the picture is shot from 
an American-read Hollywood-point of view. But being a Hollywood 
movie is precisely what makes Beyond Rangoon important. "Not so much 
impact, as awareness," Dr Win phrased it to me. Beyond Rangoon is the 
only movie about political repression in Burma likely to get a worldwide 
Fortunately, the filming of Beyond Rangoon is now finished. It would 
have been ironic if the film had been stopped, not because of repression in 
Burma, but because of the censorship of a neighbouring country. In the 
Burma Bulletin, ex-Ambassador Burton Levin describes Burma's pre-1962 
government as " not the best in the world, but looking toward 
development of a political system that reflected human decency, that 
offered human rights, that was based on trying to raise the living standard 
of the people by a broad national education..." 
In the 1990's the rules and the rhetoric have changed. Although in 
education and standard of living the achievements of Burma and Malaysia 
have diverged wildly, the two governments seem to concur that freedom 
of speech is no longer a fundamental human right, or that human rights in 
general are secondary. Do the citizens of these two countries agree? 
--Beyond Rangoon will be screening in Bangkok later this year.

Sunday, October 23, 1994
NEW DELHI - Tribal guerrillas blamed for massacring 45 bus 
passengers earlier this week in Manipur killed four more people 
overnight international he eastern Indian state, the Press Trust of India 
(PTI) said yesterday.
Some 30 insurgents from Manipurs Kuki tribe attacked rival Naga 
tribes people late on Friday night in Chandel district and hacked to death 
four people after dragging them out of their homes, eyewitnesses told 
Two others were injured in the attack, it added.
The overnight raid followed Wednesdays massacre by the Kukis of 45 
bus passengers, including 32 Nagas, in the Manipur town of Noney, 63 
kilometres from the state capital, Imphal.
Some 20 guerrillas from the outlawed Kuki National Front hijacked the 
bus carrying 52 people to Noney, and after ordering several local 
residents to disembark, they pushed the vehicle into a deep gorge.
The attackers riddled the tumbling bus with gunfire, killing some of the 
people who tried to jump out of the vehicle.
Police stepped up security across Manipur amid fears of retaliation by 
Naga tribes people, who comprise 40 per cent of Manipurs 1.8 million 
Nagas hit back on Thursday by killing two Kuki bus passengers.
Some 700 people died in Manipur during 1993 in fighting between the 
Kukis and the Nagas, waging a 40-year-old battle for a Naga homeland 
to be carved out of Manipur, Nagaland and Burma.
India imposed direct rule in Manipur in January, four months after 87 
people died on August 14, 1993, in a Naga-Kuki firefight. The two rival 
groups are also battling over control of a highway from Burma, amid 
suspicions that the route is a key drug trafficking pipeline into India.

Karen Youth Organization Youth Bulletin
October, 1994 (Issue #4)

Over the last few decades, while neighbouring Thailand has been 
enjoying rapid economic growth, Karen State, like the rest of
Burma, has  experienced economic decline.
Basic living standards have continually deteriorated, due to the
civil war  and systematic persecution by the Burmese army. In
1993, a crisis point  was reached as thousands of villagers faced
shortages of food.  

It was this disaster that caused the Karen to realise just how
serious the  situation had become. It provided the impetus for
the form attain of a new  type of Organization: an ethnic Karen
NGO. The Karen Office for Relief  and Development (KORD) was set
up in Manerplaw in April 1993.   

KORD was set up to promote and manage relief and development 
programs in Karen State. It will also serve as an interim ediary
between  foreign founders and Karen villagers, most of whom live
in remote  mountainous regions. 
The KORD central committee is chaired by Padoh Yoshu, a Rangoon 
university graduate, and is made up of Karens experienced in
health,  education, agriculture, income generation and relief.
Similar sub- committees have been set up in each of the seven
districts where KORD  will operate. 
Due to the urgent need for food assistance, the focus of KORD's
activities  over the last year has been on relief work. KORD
successfully mobilised  the Karen from the leadership level to
the grassroots, in order to get the  aid quickly and safely to
the worst affected areas. 
Over fifty KORD relief workers have completed a BRC [Burmese Relief Centre-
Chiang Mai] training course on  management of relief aid. The training
covered needs assessment,  prioritization, organization and reporting. 
Since April 1993, KORD has organised several mobile medical teams
and  has distributed rice and blankets to afflicted areas all
over Karen State.   

A typical relief assistance trip usually involves a team of five
to ten  persons including a KORD monitor leaving from the Thai
border to trek for one or two weeks to the affected area. 
As food shortages reach their peak during the wet season, the
relief team  will of often have to clamber through thigh-deep
mud, facing attacks of  malaria and possible attacks by SLORC'
troops on their journey to deliver  assistance. The dedication of
KORD staff, who regularly endure these  difficulties is
Padoh Yoshu feels it is important to balance relief aid, which
could  damage people's ability to be self-sufficient, with
developmental aid,  which aims to empower the villages to improve
their own lives. While he  admits that any very visible
development project will be at risk from  SLORC troops, he feels
that some progress is possible now, and that if the  Karen people
can learn about development, they will be prepared for the  time
when peace finally comes to their region. 
In May 1994, the BRC funded a development training course given
by a  Canadian expert for 30 KORD staff. The raining focused on
practical small- scale community development. 
It is likely that KORD will be seeking funding for a number of
development  projects in the near future. The majority of
projects that KORD are  considering at present relate to
agriculture, such as the digging of  irrigation channels, or the
introduction of new crops. However, they are  also interested in
setting up primary school and health facilities in areas  where
none exist, and in small-scale manufacturing such as the
production  of groundnut oil, or fish paste, the Karen staple. 
KORD staff are highly motivated to learn more about development
work,  and keen for further trainings. 
KORD has already gained great momentum. It presents an excellent 
opportunity for the poverty-stricken villagers of Karen State to
improve  their own lives. 
(Ref. BRC News Letter No. 10)


 Bt.: THAI BAHT; 25 Bt.=US$1 (APPROX),