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BURMA HUMAN RIGHTS REPORTS # 14.
/* posted Apr 26 11:10:00 CST 1995 by uneoo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx on igc:reg.burma */
/* ----------------" HRSUB: Ko Benya Aye "--------------------- */
[Subject: To inquire into and report on the human rights situation
and lack of progress towards democracy in Myanmar(Burma) by the
Human Rights Sub-Committee of the parliament of Australia.
Submissions made to this enquiry by various people and
organisations are re-posted here. -- U Ne Oo ]
# SUBMISSION NO. 14 KO BENYA AYE
"A PROFILE OF BURMA - TODAY" submitted by KO BENYA AYE,
01 November, 1994 to MS MARGARET SWIERINGA, Human Rights
Sub-Committee, Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence
and Trade, Parliament house, Act, 2000.
Reports of racial opressions against ethnic minorities in Burma by
fellow Burmans have been at times, misrepresented. They were in
fact, carried out by the military, not by Burmans as a whole. For
example, Amnesty International reported tortures, rapes, human mine
sweepers, porterages etc committed by SLORC to silence its
opposition, not only to ethnics but also Burmans including NLD
leaders. Five hundred thousand Rangoon residents have been forcibly
relocated to further outskirt areas where none of the basic urban
standard facilities are available except that of a mud flat, paddy
When it comes to the media, the reports are mostly from the border
areas of Burma where ethnic minorities generally regard Burmese
military as the Burmans. But there are significant differences
between ordinary Burmans and the military. The 1990 multi party
election showed out-right rejection of the military by Burmans. In
fact, for an ordinary person in Burma, racial background is not an
issue at all. Most Burmese understand that solidarity with ethnic
minorities is vitally important to the country's existance. It was
well promoted and moulded throughout the country.
Races of this planet were defined by man made boundries, and to be
together is solemnly depending on mutual interests and
understanding of one anothers culture, without the use of force.
However by looking at the history of Burma it will explain the core
of all these problems. There are two slightly different pictures of
1) POST COLONIAL RACIAL CONFLICT
British colonial standard of "divide and rule" had set up armies
among ethnic Burmese. According to statistics on the eve of WWII
only 1,893 of the soldiers in the colonial army "Burman Rifle
Regiment" were Burmans, compared to 2,797 Karens of the "Karen
rifle Regiment, 852 Kachins, 1,258 chins and 2,578 Gurakhas
The first racial clash occurred when the 1930's Central Burma
Oilfield general revolt against British rule was put down by the
Karen troops and thousands of Burmese patriots died. However in the
event of racial tension, there was no mention made in any
historical books, of the Karen's participation.
When Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948, the first
Prime minister U Nu played a very good balancing act to bring all
racial armies together, having routine presidency and appointing an
army chief from the ethnic minorities. However when the powerful
communist party of Burma declared the U Nu government A Capitalist
Tool and went underground, followed by other left factions and the
Karen for idependent state army amid severe factional fighting
within the ruling party.
They all were waging arm struggles against the central government
of U Nu from all corners of Burma. The survival chances of the
government were very slim and it was termed as the Rangoon
Government because it controlled only the Rangoon area. The Karens
occuied the lower Burma and advanced to the outskirts of Rangoon.
The fall of Rangoon was imminent. But, eventually it survived the
Karens were repelled and racial tension was created to another
2) GENERAL NE WIN - AN ERA OF RACIAL CONFLICT
General Ne Win's government policy of holding states together by
force has added to already existing racial tensions in Burma. On
top of that, the socialist style economy failure has also played a
crucial part of later conflicts between minorities and the army.
1962's nationalisation of the country's enterprises has not only
brought the whole economic system of the country to its knees but
also introdced a long and hard destructive life style to the
Burmese society for the following three decades.
Years of economic hardship forced the people who had most suffered,
people of the frontiers, ethnic minorities, to find an alternative;
to have their own state and run themselves. The very unique example
of Burma is that the ethnic minorities can do so, by their
constitutional rights of "Pin Lon" signed between Burma and the
British in 1947. It was further fueled by General Ne Win's
socialist style economic mismanagement and forced unification of
Although the historic Pin Lon, the independant treaty between Burma
and Britain, has paved the way for minorities to break away if they
wish, after 10 years of the independance in fact, the minorities
want to be in the union if there is a proper democratic government
in Burma. By demanding statehood, it means opposition to Ne Win's
The Manerplaw agreement signed by the ethnics of Burma including
the exile government, NCGUB, renounced secessionism in future
government of Burma, was a historically important step towards
peace in Burma. They all realised that secessionism spelt disaster
to all of them and the future of Burma.
ASSESSMENT OF PROGRESS OF HUMAN RIGHTS & DEMOCRACY IN BURMA
There are very limited sources available to monitor the progression
of Human Rights and Democracy in Burma. The international media is
greatly restricted in the freedom of information and only a few are
permitted to operate within the strict guidelines of the State Law
and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) . However the history and
overall assessment of SLORC will somehow predict what SLORC is up
to and the future of Burma as far as Human rights and democracy are
All of SLORC's members were old school military personnel and have
had no experience or awareness of Human Rights and Democracy. The
1988 uprisiog has indeed, frightened SLORC immensely. At the same
time, SLORC's predecessor BSPP - Burma Socialist Programme Party
has come to realise, after 26 years of mismanagement, the economy
is undeniably a disaster. It agreed to the peoples' demands of free
and fair multi-party election. Hoping that by imprisoning its
leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, would frighten the people into voting
for them as they had done in the past and succeeded. Instead the
pro-military party, National Unity Party(NUP) won only 2 seats out
of a total of 485 and NLD won 388 seats.
Burma's military governmet has repeatedly misled international
communities by playing "carrot and stick games" - when the pressure
is applied, it goves in a bit for example by releasing inactive
political prisoners with undisclosed conditions. when the United
Naitons genearl assembly conference was about to be held it
televised its official meeting wiht Daw Aung San Suu Kyi without
releasing the agenda of the talk and declared Cease Fire peace
talks with ethnic minirities just before the monsoon season
started. The ethnic groups under the banner of the Democratic
Alliance of Burma(DAB) have always been open to peace talks with
SLORC but only asa unfied group. They also demand that the talks be
held in a third country and attended by international observers and
press. SLORC have refused to accept any of these conditions . The
military often manipulates the law to suit theri purposes. There is
no independent judicial system in the country.
According to UNHCR reports, there are still almost 200,000 Burmese
refugees in Bangladesh, 70,000 in Thailand and 30,000 in China and
india. Also there are about 40,000 Burmese women and children sold
into prostitution in Thailand, which was unheard of in Burma a few
Reports from international Human Rights Law Groups said that SLORC
soldiers usually stop the buses, trains and rounded up cinemas to
arrest people for porterage. In many cases they even take children,
pregnant women and old people. YET, the international communities
are patinetly waiting for SLORC's mercy on granting Human Rights
and Democracy to its own citizens, is a grove shame and self
Cleraly, SLORC is buying time for itself - whilst opening up the
country for foreign investment and selling out natural resources
ruthlessly and creating an illusion of prosperity for the country,
it simply believes that people will forget and forgive them of
therir sins of the degradation of humanity in Burma since 1962. At
the same time, SLORC is putting up the National Convention as a
show case and another attempt to fool international communities of
its willingness to honour the 1990 election result.
Although the SLORC has brought 700 delagates to the National
Convention, only 156 of the delegates are leaders chosen by the
people in the 1990 election. The rest were hand-picked by the
SLORC. (Inter-Human Rights Law Groups)
SLORC has also pressured the delegates to include a clause in the
constitution which guarantees the military a leading political role
in the future government. Howerver, opposition alliance of Burma
argued that SLORC has no legitimacy to call for a National
Convention what-so-ever. It is up to the delegates who were elected
in the 1990 election.
Another prediction is that SLORC and its hired public relations
firm are trying to duplicate the military dominated government of
Indonesia and Thailand - a booming economy with a military
There are crucial differences existing between SLORC and where
Saharto's gavernment was. Soeharto's government was not hated by
the majority of the people. It had not brought the country down,
from being one of the richest Asian countries to one of the poorest
in the world. Soeharto's government instead improved its economy.
Again compared to the Thai government, Thailand did not kill its
own people as frequently as the Burmese army has done and once
again was not rejected by the general public. It did not reduce its
country to a shanty town and further more Thailand has a monarchy
over the military and government.
There are generations of Burmese people growing up under the
military regime, experiencing the degradation of their human
rights, the murder, corruption, lies, cheats and manipulation of
the people, their loss of self esteem, independence and right to
live in peace. A result of 30 years of military rule, hard to
forgive and forget.
Most of the SLORC leaders lack any sort of formal education and
have grown up in a failed socialist economic era of Burma. They are
well short of business sense and fnow now and are out of touch wiht
current economic trends.
They often conduct a military style approach to business which
often ends up a disaster. 10% of children under 3 suffer
malnutrition, US$200 per capita income a year and 3,500 people per
doctor are some of the symptoms of economic failure that people
under the military rule since 1962.
People have had to rely on the black market for 80% of their needs
to live on. An average wage earner needs 4 time more than what he
earns. Therefore people are forced to take part in the corruption
cycle which is controlled and manipulated by the military and its
As economically powerful countries, the World Bank and IMF continue
to refuse much needed loans for large scale investments in the
country, SLORC is unable to fulfill the ganeral public's engagement
on the economy. ONly a handful of quick profit making investors are
now operating in Burma. Although SLORC opens the country for
logging, oil concessions to foreign companies, 40-50% of its budget
is spent on military purposes compared to 8-12% for health and
education. As a result only the military class have benefited and
the general public are left with the uncontrollable inflation rate.
Therefore peoples' resentment towards SLORC is growing.
To deal with the growing resentment SLORC has supressed all
opposition by military means which caused massive violation of
human rights and democracy. SLORC has also just signed a Universal
Human Rights agreement. If SLORC continue to remain in power the
situation may very well be explosive. Misunderstanding between
Burmans and ethnic minorities could reach to an irrepairable stage.
Tamadaw or the military has been well loved and respected by those
of General Aung San's era, but not any more. Ne Win has destroyed
this reputation. Nowadays in Burma, people are disgusted by the
military instead. THE SLORC MUST GO.
The fall of SLORC and the regaining of human rights and Democracy
would not necessarily bring about prosperity for the country, but
it would pave the way to negotiate and sort out the problems and
obstacles in order to progress.
SLORC by nature is a type of fuedal warlord, conquering and ruling
over others, therefore to bring down SLORC by military method would
be futile and counter productive because SLORC has been in the war
business for three decades. Economic sanction would also prove less
effective as SLORC has isolated itself for so long and survived.
The most recent move of SLORC speaking to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is
an indication of a negotiated settlement with the opposition. This
time, SLORC is willing to talk; perhaps SLORC has no more cards
left to play. Whether it is a cosmetic gesture or not, the
international community should take advantage of the occasion.
Before moving on, it is important to understand the history of
SLORC. After 30 years of rule, SLORC has riddled itself with guilt
and failure. Attempts to overcome these aspects have again failed.
Unity amongst the SLORC party is very much dependent on the old man
Ne Win who is now 83 years old repported to be in ill health. The
loyalty of his people is purely one of ruthless dictatorship and
the Burmese tradition of obedience to your leader. However the
popularity of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the respected demonstrated
by the people of Burma, to her is absolutely unmatched, as seen in
the 1990 election.
Her way of improving the country by creating a harmony wiht
material and social values is very appealing. Many countries taday
are prioritising and achieving material wealth. As a result it is
creating a "fat pig" society; well fed and surrounded by material
wealth but little value of human nature, is becoming a burdon to
our planet and no longer a slolution to our future society.
The latest stand point of the SLORC to try and have an Indonesian
style military power, is not a threat to the country, as resentment
of the majority of people towards the SLORC and strong descreet
support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi even within the army, will mean
much of the army will rally behind her with the rest of the people
within a few years time.
There the Australian involvement in a power sharing settlement
along with the ASEAN countries is crucially important for the
future government of Burma the region.
Written and Submitted by
KO BENYA AYE.
/* ENDREPORT */