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BurmaNet News: June 28, 1995 [#192]
- Subject: BurmaNet News: June 28, 1995 [#192]
- From: burmanet@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 20:52:00
------------------------- BurmaNet ---------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: 28th June 1995
NOTED IN PASSING:
"She has endured six long years solitary detention without
trial at the hands of Burma's military regime. There is no
sign at all of her release. We resolutely oppose political
oppression disguised as criminal detention."
11 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates on the Detention of
Aung San Suu Kyi, see <THE NATION:NOBEL LAUREATES
URGE UN TO ACT ON SUU KYI'S PLIGHT>
BURMANET: NOTES ON A TRIP TO RANGOON
SLORC: TO BE NOTICED BY THE PUBLIC WHO LIVE IN 'SHIN SAW PU' WARD
BKK POST:KAREN REFUGEES TO BE RELOCATED
BKK POST: THERDPONG OFFERS GOOD BURMA TIES
THE NATION: POLICE ARREST 61 BURMESE KAREN
THE NATION:ELECTION CLEARS THE WAY FOR OVERHAUL OF BURMA
AP: DEVELOPERS CHANGING THE FACE OF THE EXOTIC OLD CITY OF
BURMANET: LETTER--" SANCTIONS AGAINST BURMA"
THE NATION:NOBEL LAUREATES URGE UN TO ACT ON SUU KYI'S PLIGHT
NATION:'MON REBELS TO SIGN CEASE FIRE'
BKK POST: BURMESE-THAI FURNITURE PROJECT
BKK POST: FIGHTING HIV
XINHUA: HILTON GROUP DEALS IN HOTEL BUSINESS IN MYANMAR
IPS: U.S. MOVES TO BROADEN ANTI-DRUG TIES
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD: SPEECHES ON AUNG SAN SUU KYI AND BURMA
WHITE HOUSE: STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY
NATION: BURMESE MONK SOUGHT IN BRUTAL KNIFING, MURDER
NATION: MON REBEL LEADERS LEAVE FOR BURMA FOR FINAL ROUND TALKS
===== item =====
BURMANET:NOTES ON A TRIP TO RANGOON
by Christina Fink
Co-editor, The BurmaNet News
(The information presented here was obtained from personal
observations and interviews with several people who cannot be
Why Aung San Suu Kyi's book is entitled "Freedom From Fear"
becomes clear after even a short trip to Rangoon. Everyone in
Rangoon is living in a state of fear, not knowing who is an
informer and who is a friend. No one is happy with the
government, but virtually no one dares to oppose SLORC either.
It is extremely
difficult to organize people, because SLORC agents have
every university, pagoda, government office, and large
Besides the dense surveillance network, the constant
presence on the streets from Rangoon effectively deters mass
protests. SLORC troops, carrying machine guns with unsheathed
bayonets on the end, guard all the entrance gates to Rangoon
University and all government buildings. Trucks of armed troops
are frequently seen driving around the city, and blockades are
put up in front of the government TV station every night.
Uniformed SLORC soldiers make regular visits to Shwedagon and
Sule Pagodas, making it clear that even temples cannot serve as
sanctuaries from the regime.
In addition, the SLORC ordered all residents living on major
thoroughfares to build high walls in front of their houses.
Although these walls were ostensibly erected as part of a
beautification project, they are usually topped with barbed wire.
At the same time, the walls make it difficult for protesters to
escape should the military be firing on them. Even more
striking, the SLORC has put gun ports into the walls surrounding
its most important offices, and firing towers are located at each
corner. The construction and use of such defensive structures
suggests that the SLORC has no legitimacy but can only rule
through brute force. If the people accepted the SLORC, it seems
that there would not be a need for these measures.
Aung San Suu Kyi's compound continues to be closely guarded.
Although the blockades which had been placed in front of the
compound gate have been taken down, soldiers are stationed both
within the compound and next door. The soldiers who are on duty
inside the compound are constantly rotated, because otherwise
become too attached to Aung San Suu Kyi. While in 1989-1990,
people displayed photographs of Aung San Suu Kyi in their houses
and shops, now no one dares to do so, and photo shops are afraid
to sell any photographs they may have of her. Even mentioning
her name can bring trouble.
Although statistics show that the Burmese economy is growing
rapidly, most peoples' standards of living are actually
SLORC officials, their relatives, and a select number of
businessmen are living like kings, but everyone else is
struggling to survive.
The reasons for this are many. Most of the foreign
has been put into enterprises such as luxury hotels and gas
pipelines which do not directly benefit local people. Wages have
not kept pace with inflation, and people in the city must work
two or three jobs in order to make ends meet. For instance, a
government employee might make 1200 kyat a month (roughly $12
US), but if he has a wife and two children, he would need almost
10 times this amount to survive in Rangoon.
People in the countryside are no better off. Many people
cannot afford even bananas, let alone any meat or fish to go with
their rice. They are eating nothing but red chili sauce with
What is really pushing people to the margins of survival is
the extensiveness of forced labor. Virtually every railroad,
irrigation canal, reservoir, and road are constructed with forced
labor. When an infrastructure project is being carried out in a
particular area, adults from each household must either go to
work or pay a large sum instead. Schools are closed for the
duration of the project, because teachers must go out and
supervise the work or even do the digging as well. No food,
money, or medicine is provided, and for people who are living
from day to day, the loss of a day of labor means a significant
cut in food supplies.
Mothers must bring their small children with them to the
project sites, and in some cases, these children have died of
heatstroke because of the lack of shade. With teachers also
forced to participate, there is no one to teach the older
children. In fact, children are spending fewer and fewer years
in school. Most drop out after the third standard, and only 25-
30% of the students
complete the fifth standard.
Parents see no value in education under the current system,
because the only available jobs for the educated are in the
government, but the pay is so low that it is impossible to make a
living. Instead, parents are pulling their children out of
soon as they are old enough to be able to work and help the
household. Although UNESCO is working in Burma to expand primary
education, the effects have been minimal. The SLORC has voiced
support for this project, but it has been cutting its own budget
allocations for education.
The lack of concern which the SLORC feels for the well-being
of its own people is also apparent in the health sector. All
hospital patients, no matter how poor, must buy their own
medicines and even the surgical gloves which are used in
operations. Medicine is only available through the black market,
and the prices are extremely high. Goiter, a thyroid disease
which is caused by a
deficiency of iodine, is on the rise. Malaria and diarrhea, two
easily treatable diseases, are the two biggest causes of death in
Burma, because people do not have access to medicine and clean
Local NGOs have been established, but they are derisively
referred to as GONGOs, or government-organized non-governmental
organizations. The Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare
Association, for instance, is run by Khin Nyunt's wife, and the
local Red Cross is recognized as nothing but an extension of the
Some foreign non-governmental organizations are attempting
to carry out humanitarian aid projects within Burma. MSF-Holland
and MSF-France have set up offices, and the international Red
Cross has been active. However, the international Red Cross
recently decided to pull out, because its staff could not visit
political prisoners or carry out their work independently. Other
organizations are having difficulty in implementing their
programs in such a way that would benefit the people rather than
the SLORC. The SLORC tries to ensure that NGOs work through
local Ministries, and much of the equipment and supplies that are
brought over are diverted for other uses.
The Burmese have mixed feelings about the presence of
foreign NGOs. NGOs can help relieve the suffering of the poor
and the sick, and they may also be able to train local staff to
think more broadly and independently. Nevertheless, their
presence gives the SLORC legitimacy, and it is extremely
difficult to make sure that all the aid really reaches the people
who need it. In fact, the best way to improve the well-being of
the people does not seem to be to work with the SLORC but to get
rid of the SLORC altogether.
In the field of foreign investment, Total, Unocal, Texaco,
and Peregrine (Miriam Segal) are by far the biggest players. The
SLORC is particularly counting on the success of the gas pipeline
(financed by Total and Unocal) to bring the regime not only large
profits but also increased legitimacy. Stopping the pipeline
would be a major setback for the SLORC.
Most of the foreign investors in Rangoon either deny or
ignore the human rights abuses which are taking place in Burma.
A representative of Ivanoe, a Canadian mining company, insisted
there was no proof of such abuses. Ironically, the headquarters
of Ivanoe (and Peregrine) are located in the International
Business Center, which is situated on the edge of Inya Lake where
large numbers of pro-democracy protesters were drowned in 1988.
The Total office is just across the street.
The Singaporeans have invested heavily in luxury hotels,
although the profitability of these ventures seems dubious. The
flow of tourists into Burma continues to be a mere trickle, and
Visit Myanmar Year appears to be far better advertised in Burma
than abroad. In some cases, these hotels may be functioning as
money laundering enterprises for those with ties to heroin
production and trafficking.
While Thai businessmen are active in Burma, they are mostly
involved in the extraction of natural resources and smuggling.
The Thais are looked down on by the Burmese both for their wily
business practices and their military weakness. The SLORC is not
afraid of the Thai Army, and it seems that the recent DKBA
incursions into Thailand have been ordered by SLORC in order to
see how far the Thai Army can be pushed.
Because independent newspapers are prohibited and all
published works are heavily censored (or self-censored), the
Burmese rely on the BBC radio, and to a lesser extent the VOA,
for news. Real news is also obtained from old copies of the
Bangkok Post and the Nation (the two English language newspapers
in Thailand) which are surreptitiously sold at book stalls in
Rangoon. Some elites and hotels own satellite dishes and can
receive foreign broadcasting, but the vast majority of the people
only have access to government television programming.
Those who are unhappy with the SLORC derive great pleasure
from hearing or reading reports of international condemnation of
the SLORC and the abuses which the regime is committing. Many
continue to hope that the international community will apply
enough pressure on the SLORC that the regime will fall. Although
people are too afraid to rise up against the SLORC right now,
some say they are waiting for something to happen which will
create a window of opportunity. What form that might take
remains to be seen.
In conclusion, the standard of living is declining for all
but a select few, and forced labor continues to be used on a
massive scale. Although the SLORC seems to be convinced that it
is giving the country exactly what it needs, the SLORC itself
fears the anger of the people. The SLORC has been consolidating
its control and benefiting from foreign investment, but it still
appears to only be able to rule by brute force and intimidation.
SLORC: TO BE NOTICED BY THE PUBLIC WHO LIVE IN 'SHIN SAW PU' WARD
[This is a translation of an order for forced labor in Pegu]
According to the implementation plan of the State Law and Order
Restoraton Council (Slorc), to carry out the construction of the
branch of 'Zaung Tu' irrigation canal, every owners of the houses
and tenants who live in 'Shinsawpu' ward must contribute labours
voluntarily. Like the families of the ward, the government
departmental persons must also contribute labours.
(I) The volunteer must contribute labour by his own programme and
himself at 'Baw Nat Gyi' village, No (1) branch of Zaungtu'
irrigation canal at the rate of three pits per one family.
(II) If the volunteer can not contribute labour, he must
contribute 350 kyats in cash for the rate of three pits per one
(III) For this implementation plan, the default of labour or
cash, the criticism and the detamation would be punished
effectively. The person who transgress these actions must be
recognized as a sabotour of the state plan under the existing law
and orders. He must be known these penalties.
The volunteers who want to contribute labours themselves must
report at 'Bawnatgyi' camp, No.(1) branch of the irrigation
canal. The travelling expenses would be 35 kyats.
The persons who go together by the arrangement of the Ward Law
and Order Restoration Council must pay 20 kyats for travelling
So, the volunteers who give their names at the responsible 'Yar
Aine Hmu' (the Headman of the hundred houses), must pay the
travelling expenses, 20 kyats at the some time.
The starting date of the volunteers will be 8.12.94. The person
who want to contribute labours must report finally to the
responsible 'Yar Aine Hmu' at (7. 12. 94). The families who can
not contribute labours must pay 350 kyats to the respective area
'Yar Aine Hmu' at 15. 12. 94. as the last date.
Ward Law and Order Restoration Council
Instructions to be followed by the owners and tenants who live in
Section: (I) To know for one month reporting
The Persons who get permission for one month stay in 'Shin Saw
Pu' ward are: the students, government services and the workers
who came from other townships & villages for their respective
work. They can be reported for one month of the guest's list.
To report one month, he must submit the recommendation of 'Ya Wa
Ta'(i.e. Ward Law and Order Restoration Council) where he first
lives in and new recommendation of respective 'Yar Aine Hmu' of
the Ward where he lives now, and then must bring the host.
Section (ii) To know for the temporary guest
The temporary guest can stay only three days by bringing the
Natonal Registration Card and also the host to 'Ya Wa Ta'.
Section (iii) To know for the tenants
The tenants who had lived in this ward for six months must get a
To get family Schedule.
(1) The persons who came from the other divison/township must
bring from No. 10 of the immigration office.
(2) The persons who came from village/ward must bring the
recommendation of 'Ya Wa Ta (i.e. Ward/Village Law and Order
Restoration Council). For the family schedule all necessary
recommendations must be completed and all these facts are warned
Shin Saw Pu Ward Law and Order Restoration Council
BKK POST: KAREN REFUGEES TO BE RELOCATED
25 JUNE 1995
MAE HONG SON preparations are under way to move all
Karen refugees who fled recent fighting in Burma to an area
near Ban Mae Lama Luang in Sob Moei distric.
About 20,000 refugees have been staying in camps along the
border in Sob Moei and Mae Saring districts since they fled
Rangoon's drive against Karen National Union camps.
National Security Council deputy secretary-general Kachadpai
Buruspattana said Thailand's policy was to provide
humanitarian assistance to these refugees and send them back
to their country when the situation returned to normal.
The refugees would brought together at Ban Lama Luang in
Sob Moei district for better control before they were
POLICE ARREST 61 BURMESE KAREN
TAK police yesterday arrested 61 Burmese Karen believed to
have snaked into Thailand through Mae Sot and a Thai couple
thought to have helped them.
Police said they were arrested about 5 after the driver of a
six-wheel truck they were travelling in failed to stop at a
police checkpoint in Mae Sot district.
Police chased the truck and arrested the driver and his wife-
identified as Raem Prempri, 27, and Affine Khongthai,
23.The Karen, aged 23 to 30 years, were found hidden in the
back of the truck, which was covered with a large plastic
sheet. There were 41 men and 20 women.
All admitted they had crossed illegally into Thailand and
hoped to work in Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan or
Bangkok. Each had agreed to pay their illegal labour agent
Bt2,000, police said. (TN)
THERDPONG OFFERS GOOD BURMA TIES
THE Democrat Party is trying to win support in Tak by
promising it will try to improve Thailand's sour border
relations with Burma.
Therdpong Chaiyanant, who is leading a three-member
Democrat candidate team, told a rally in Mae Sot district the
Government realised the importance of good relations with
neighbouring countries but no substantial action had been
taken because of the election.
The attempt to restore good border relations with Burma
would be top priority if the Democrat Party headed the next
Thailand and Burma have a long history of close and warm
relations. It will be a grate pity if this good relationship
deteriorates, he said.
Mr Therdpong's team-mate and brother, Rak, said the cool
relationship at the border stemmed from Burma's belief that
Thailand still supported minority rebels and drug warlord,
Burma's attitude could also be caused by some third countries,
with vested interests in that country, fearing Thailand could
be a competitor.
Describing the problem as a misunderstanding, Mr Rak said
Thailand's policy toward Burma was crystal clear.(BP)
THE NATION:ELECTION CLEARS THE WAY FOR OVERHAUL OF BURMA
POLICY ELECTION CLEARS THE WAY FOR OVERHAUL OF BURMA POLICY
26 JUNE 1995
Despite the campaign rhetoric of a few candidates calling for
a revision of the Thai-Burma relationship, it remains to bo
seen whether the nest government will rethink constructive
engagement - a policy that is often criticized as a thinly
disguised agreement aimed at protecting Thailand's business
[some material lost here] rest with the ruling Slorc.
As it stands, the next government has two choices: either
continue with its passive attitude and play down disputes
between the two countries as bilateral issues or
internationalize future incidents by requesting
organizations such as the United Nations (Asean) provide an
arena for discussion between the two countries.
Prof Vitit Muntarbhorn of the Chulalongkorn University Faculty
of Law said Thailand's passive attitude had destroyed the
country's credibility in the eyes of Slorc. He called the
constructive engagement a slap-in-the-face policy and said
Slorc did not talking Thailand seriously. As two examples he
cited the abrupt decision by Rangoon to stop construction of a
bridge over the Moei River,as well as the numerous incursions
into Thai territory by Slorc-backed rebels earlier this year.
Burma Construction Minister U Khin Maung Yin ordered a halt to
the building of the bridge on June 5 because he claimed
Thailand was encroaching onto Burmese territory. The Slorc
argued that the construction had changed the course of the
river, which technically serves as the natural boundary
between the two countries. The dispute on border demarcation
has been going on for decades and it was surprising to see
such drastic action being taken by the Burmese.
Despite the fact that the Bt70 million bridge construction
project was entirely funded by the Thai government, not to
mention the 600-truck-loads of soil provided by Thailand,
Defence Minister Gen Vijit Sookmark still managed to be
optimistic and expressed his confidence that the two sides
could soon resolve the dispute that had brought the bridge
construction to a complete stop.
Prof Vitit argued that constructive engagement has not been as
fruitful as Thailand had expected - pointing to the huge
projects and contracts that Burma has awarded to neighbouring
countries such as Indonesia and Singapore. His comment was
reinforced by the recent trip by Slorc chairman Than Shwe to
Indonesia and Singapore which was deemed as an attempted to
strengthen Burma's economic ties with other Asean countries.
At the present, Thailand is caught between the devil and the
deep blue sea. The next government cannot continue with its
business-as-usual attitude and expect Burma to respect the
nation's time, bringing the Thai-Burma dispute onto the Asean
table will meet stiff opposition from both Indonesia and
Singapore because of their growing business involvement with
Slorc. But these countries don't have to put up with the
influx of refugees fleeing Slorc's relentless prosecution.
Yet, for Thailand to internationalize the dispute now would
be nothing less than a public admission of past mistakes -
something that doesn 't happen too often in Thai politic.
Asean Western counterparts are expected to press for Burma's
human rights record to be on the agenda of the next Asean
meeting. The timing is good for Thailand because July 19 will
also mark the sixth anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi's unlawful
house arrest and it is expect to be attract lots of attention
from the international community.
In short, internationalization would mean going beyond a
simple cease-fire or any other half-hearted schemed of the
past that were often deemed controversial and never directly
addressed the main reason behind the systematic persecution of
the past that were often deemed controversial and never
directly addressed the main reason behind the systermatic
persecution of the Karen and other ethnic minorities in Burma.
Some have pointed out that internationalizing the border issue
will lessen the burden on Thailand because responsibilities
would be shared. Such responsibilities may include providing
security for the displaced people who have fled armed
conflict, as well as creating a sound logistical basic
necessities such as food and medicines. National Security
Council deputy security General Khachadpai Busphas insists
that there is no need to bring in international organizations
to monitor the refugees. He cites Thailand's experience in
dealing with the influx of Indochinese refugees in the past
During the series of incursions by the DKBA in the recent
months, the Thai authorities consistently played down the
incident as a local issue. They emphasized the fact that the
two countries share a common border that stretches 800 km, and
to the political instability in Burma that would suggest that
these border incidents are more or less inevitable.
Moreover, the government of Thailand, and particularly those
responsible for maintaining border security, went out of their
way to avoid direct confrontation with Slorc. Even on Thai
soil, the authorities had left the Karen to defend themselves
by allowing them to keep a few weapons, but with a
understanding that they keep a low profile. This
turning-the-blind-eye approach ended when the Burmese cried
In a recent interview on the Nation TV, Nam Thai candidate MR
Sukhumbhand Paribatra suggested what many of fellow
politicians had deemed to radical.
WE should be in the position to push Burma into accepting the
opinion of the international community and show them the right
path to take in order to be accepted internationally, said MR
Sukhumbhand, a former political lecturer at Chularlongkorn
Phogphol Adireksarn of the Chart Thai Party, on the order
hand, unabashedly argued that there is no other way to coax
Burma into political reform than through economic cooperation.
He said his party would use state enterprises to spearhead
economic cooperation with Burma.
Currently, Thailand ranks fifth in the world in terms of
investment with Burma with nearly US$ 260 pledged _ in
addition to the numerous off-the-record business transactions
between local influential figures of both countries.
The Thai authorities know very well that the incursions of the
recent months are nothing less than a direct assault on
Thailand's sovereignty. And for the authorities to play these
incursions down as minor or local incidents is to put economic
gains before national sovereignty.
With a new government due to take power soon as a result of
the July 2 election, Thailand has the option to admit that the
so-called constructive engagement of Asean has failed and look
into new approaches in dealing with Burma. In short, the
policy has failed because it has not stopped Burma's
persecution of its own people. Moreover it has failed because
it has created a situation where the Slorc is taking
Thailand's sovereignty for granted, and also because it has
caused more problems than the economic gains that were
One thing is clear - clinging on to the business-as-usual
attitude towards future incidents along the border will
further damage the country's already -fragile credibility. And
unless the next group of policy markers comes up with a new
platform to address the problems between the two countries,
the next government of Thailand will continue to get a cold
response from Rangoon. (TN)
AP: DEVELOPERS CHANGING THE FACE OF THE EXOTIC OLD CITY OF
Shopping centres and hotels take over
The Nation/ Denis D GRAY
RANGOON- Burma-With hammers and crowbars they're knocking down
old, atmospheric Rangoon, one of Asia's last reminders of the
past, to make way for high-rise hotels and shopping centres.
The 20th century has finally caught up with Rangoon, where high-
rise once meant the soaring spires of Buddhist pagodas and tree-
lined avenues were flanked by probably the largest collection of
British colonial buildings in the world.
Now, big chunks of the uniform urban-scape are being ripped out
of the heart of Rangoon, and the skyline has already been pierced
by several buildings approaching 20 stories.
Foreign investors are putting up office complexes, department
stores and hotels that will cater to an expected tourist boom in
this still exotic land.
Business is very good. The government really wants to change the
economic policy. We will have many high-rises. In the next 10
years Rangoon will be like Bangkok, says real-estate developer
Soe Myint, referring to Thailand's capital, an urban nightmare
which has bulldozed many vestiges of its past.
Rangoon had been frozen in time because a socialist, xenophobic
government kept out investment and all but ruined the domestic
economy. Major construction was rare.
The current military junta, which seized power after crushing a
pro-democracy uprising in 1988, has liberalized the economy,
invited foreign investors and laid down modernization plans.
Irrevocable changes to Rangoon's character began about two years
The prospects for saving old Rangoon are not promising, although
Lt. Gen. Kyaw Ba, minister of tourism, maintains that some of
Rangoon's antique colonial buildings must be preserved. The high-
rises will be scattered.
Leading the development are overseas Chinese entrepreneurs who
have shown little mercy to architectural legacies elsewhere in
For all parties involved, more money can usually be made by
tearing down and building anew.
There's also no local lobby, public forum or foreign pressure
group currently standing up for preservation. The military rules
by decree, and also profits substantially from many foreign
Nobody would dare oppose military plans to modernize the city,
says one Western resident who requested anonymity. From time to
time you hear individuals grumble. There's a sigh and resignation
that there goes another old building.
A 23-story hotel is under construction on the northern end of
Sule Pagoda Road, the main avenue laid down by the British in the
mid-19th century where structures average four stories. Another
hotel and a 25-floor Japanese office building will go up nearby.
At the lower end of the avenue, little more than 100 meters
(yards) from the Sule Pagoda, foundations are being laid for the
French-owned Sofitel Hotel, which will dwarf the sacred, ancient
epi-center of Rangoon with its twin towers and 22 floors.
Last year, kyaw Ba stressed there were regulations against
building large structures near religious edifices. But in another
interview recently the tourism minister argued that Sofitel could
be built because the Sule Pagoda was already surrounded by other
buildings which obstructed its viewing from farther away.
The profit motive, however, is also protecting some of the dark
red brickwork, the fanciful turrets and neo-Grecian columns of
The Strand, one of the finest hotels in Asia when it was built in
1901, has been renovated and now charges $300 a night for a taste
of bygone elegance. The Victorian headquarters of the Burmese
railway department will be converted into a 90-room, five-star
Unable to compete with foreign companies coming in to build mega-
room hotels, Burmese businessman Khin Shwe says he has sought out
old, unique properties for renovation.
Last year he opened the 15-room Mya Yeik Nyo Royal, the
magnificent former mansion of Chartered Bank managers set atop
Rangoon's second-highest hill.
Staying there, or at one of several surrounding bungalows, is
truly a step back into the world of lawn parties, gin and tonics
at sundown and stiff upper lips.
But on the grounds, Khin Shwe has had a large mural painted which
showcases Burma's natural and man-made wonders, including,
naturally, his own hotel. Rangoon itself is depicted as a
phalanx of skyscrapers, and could easily be mistaken for
BURMANET: LETTER--" SANCTIONS AGAINST BURMA"
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
225 North Mills Street
Madison, WI 53706
Zar Ni (510) 597-1255
On July 11 Burmese Nobel Peace Prize recipient and the
popular democratic leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will begin the
seventh year of imprisonment in Rangoon. Her continued
imprisonment is symbolic of the blatant denial of the Burmese
peoples' political and civil liberties by the military regime.
After the bloody crackdown of the popular pro-democracy
uprisings in 1988, the Burmese military regime renamed itself the
State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and changed the
country's name to Myanmar. It held multi-party elections to
appease the angry nation. But the intransigent regime then set
the political clock back by refusing to transfer power to the
National League for Democracy Party (NLD) which won a
landslide in the elections, the first to be held since 1962.
Furthermore, its leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been kept in
captivity since July of 1989. Indeed Burma has become a vast
prison camp with 45 million people prisoners of their own armed
Foreign governments and international agencies including
the US Statement have condemned strongly the SLORC for its gross
human rights violations such as ethnic cleansing, forced labor,
arbitrary arrests, torture, summary executions, religious
persecution, rape, forced relocation and displacement of people.
But effective actions, such as economic
sanctions, have not been taken yet.
In the meantime, the regime has made attempts to entrench
itself in power, following the so-called Chinese model of
development: political stability first, market second, and, if
there is any time left, democracy and human rights last! Under
the SLORC's iron-fisted rule Burma is now up
Several US corporations, most notably, PepsiCo and the
oil giants, Unocal and Texaco, are only too eager to respond to
the SLORC's invitation to a large scale exploitation of Burma's
natural and human resources: Burma has 80% of the world's teak
forest, many ruby mines, fertile soil, oil and natural gas
reserves, minerals, and cheap labor. PepsiCo has a monopoly
over soft-drink bottling in the country while Unocal has obtained
a natural gas production contract worth over $400 million with
the Burmese military.
The advocates of the "Constructive Engagement" approach
to Burma's problems (including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and
the Philippines) have argued that only by constructively working
with an international pariah regime such as the SLORC will there
be significant political and economic change in Burma. Their
message: persuasion, not isolation; business, not sanctions.
But a different story is told by former US Ambassador
Burton Levin who knows the country intimately. Levin stated,
"foreign investment in most countries acts as a catalyst to
promote change, but the Burmese regime is so single-minded that
whatever money they obtain from foreign sources,
they pour straight into the army while the rest of the country is
collapsing." Already the SLORC has bought over $1 billion worth
of arms from its neighbor-mentor, China and doubled the size of
its army since 1988.
Is constructive engagement really helping the people as
its advocates claim?
Constructive engagement and its resultant economic growth
benefits only a very tiny group of individuals made up of SLORC
generals and those businesses that bribe the SLORC handsomely for
their share of the pie. Even a successful Burmese businessman who
was recently in the US conceded to this during our conversation.
The fact is business and governmental advocates of constructive
engagement have never lived under totalitarian regimes and their
argument is far removed from the daily realities of the
people and hence it rings hollow. Indeed constructive engagement
serves as a convenient excuse for bankrolling Burma's
illegitimate regime and disguising the all too familiar "if-we-
Then what is the alternative?
Economic sanctions. If imposed, they will hurt a handful
individuals: the local business-associates of the SLORC and those
employed by foreign corporations. But they will have little
impact on the vast majority of people, the supposed beneficiaries
of economic development. Most people live in rural areas and not
dependent upon constructive engagement for their livelihood,
Burma being an essentially agricultural country. Even when there
was not one single foreign corporation operating in the country
owing to past isolationist policies (1962-88), we survived
economically. It is rather curious that now all of a sudden the
economic life of my people is being portrayed as though its
survival rested on the presence of the corporations.
The country's leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has put
forward her conviction that economic development must not come at
the expense of the people in whose name it has ostensibly been
sought, and yet whose fundamental human concerns the SLORC
continues to disregard.
In light of the situations in Burma it is now high time
that the international community takes strong actions such as
economic sanctions and an arms embargo against the SLORC. In the
words of Desmond Tutu, "international pressure can change the
situation in Burma. Tough sanctions, not constructive
engagement, finally brought the release of Nelson Mandela and the
dawn of the new era in my country. This is the language that
must be spoken with tyrant--for sadly, it is the only
language they understand."
Zar Ni, a member of the Free Burma Coalition and the Bay Area
Roundtable, is a Burmese exile and human rights activist
currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin at
THE NATION:NOBEL LAUREATES URGE UN TO ACT ON SUU KYI'S PLIGHT
SAN FRANCISCO- Nobel Peace Prize laureates appealed on Sunday for
UN action on the release of Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi,
calling her plight "political oppression disguised as criminal
In a statement issued for the UN 50th anniversary ceremonies, 11
laureates called for freedom for the Burmese leader, another
peace laureate who has been under house arrest for six years.
Two of the Nobel laureates present for the ceremonies in San
Francisco went further in criticizing Burma's military regime,
and one - South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu - called for UN
sanctions on Rangoon.
As we write, thousands of people are currently incarcerated or
detained as political prisoners, among them our sister Nobel
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi," the joint statement said.
"She has endured six long years solitary detention without trial
at the hands of Burma's military regime. There is no signed at
all for her release. We resolutely oppose political oppression
disguised as criminal detention."
The laureates call on the world community working through the
United Nations to help obtain freedom for prisoners of
conscience, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
Tutu, in a statement to a forum here for the UN anniversary,
called for sanctions to be imposed on Burma and other countries
with serious human rights violations.
"Why should we not act decisively ... in a case of Burma, which
still holds our sister laureate under house arrest?" he asked.
Betty Williams, a 1976 Nobel Laureate present for the ceremony,
also had harsh words for the Burmese military regime, and
referred to Aung San Suu Kyi as " my beloved sister".
"The people of Burma -not Myanmar, there is no Myanmar- loved
Aung San Suu Kyi." Williams said. "Release her from terror she
lives through every day."
Williams addressed another Nobel laureate at the event- Polish
President Lech Walesa-appealing for Poland to stop supplying
weapons to the Rangoon regime.
"I beg your government not to supply them with military
hardware," she said, and added a similar appeal to South Africa.
Williams, Tutu, walesa and former Costa Rican president Oscar
Arias were present for the event. Also signing the statement were
Nobel laureates Norman Borlaug, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Adolfo
Perez Esquivel, Elie Wiesel , Mikhail Gorbachev, Shimon Peres and
# Agence France -Presse reports from Dhaka: Some 20,000 Burmese
Muslim refugees in Bangladesh were forced to enroll as voters by
gangs who plan to sell them to highest bidders at the next
general election, a news paper said yesterday.
Gangs along the entire Burmese border are involved in the
process, the morning Sun reported.
Election officials said they had heard such reports, but not yet
verified them. "We have not got anything in writing." Mohammad
Yusuf Ali, a local polls official, told the daily.
The region is a stronghold of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-islami
NATION:'MON REBELS TO SIGN CEASE FIRE'
Burma's ethnic minority Mon guerrilla group, which has been
fighting for grater autonomy since 1949, is set to sign a cease
fire with Burma's military government, a senior Thai source said.
Mon guerrilla commander Nai Shwe Kyin will lead a delegation to
the southeastern Burma's city of Moulmein to sign a ceasefire
with Burma's powerful military intelligence chief Lieutenant-
General Khin Nyunt before the end of the month, the Thai official
said at the weekend.
The Thai official, who monitors developments along the Thai-
Burmese border and declined to be identified, said Burma ruling
Sate Law and Order Restoration Council(Slorc) had agreed to let
the Mon nationalists administer 19 small areas of about 10 square
km each, in southeast Burma's Mon State.
The New Mon State Party (NMSP), and its military wing the Mon
National Liberation Army, is one of the last ethnic minority
guerrilla groups still fighting the Slorc, which since 1989, has
agreed to cease fire accord with 14 different guerrilla forces.
The Thai official said he was optimistic the Karen National
Union, which has also been fighting since 1949, would also sign a
deal in coming months.
BKK POST: BURMESE-THAI FURNITURE PROJECT
27 JUNE 1995
The state-owned Myanmar Timber Enterprise and Thailand's Santi
Forestry Co have formed a joint-venture factory to make wooden
furniture mainly for export.
Sanfoco Wood Industries is located at Dagon Nyothit in suburban
Rangoon. The contract was signed contract was signed by Myanmar
Timber managing director Myat Win and Santi Forestry chairman
Santi Vayakonvichitr. (BP)
27 JUNE 1995
The Myanmar Medical Association recently began a one-year project
to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Rangoon.
Funded by the Japanese government, the programme targets taxi and
trishaw drivers. (BP)
WASHINGTON, (June 21) IPS - Despite worsening human rights
conditions in Burma,
the administration of President Bill Clinton has decided to
increase its cooperation on anti-drug efforts with the military
The new policy -- described as a compromise between anti-drug
hawks in the administration who wanted stronger ties and the
State Department Human Rights Bureau which opposed them -- was
announced today at a Congressional hearing. Lee Brown, head
of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy,
told lawmakers on the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee of the
House of Representatives that Burma now accounts for most of the
heroin that reaches the United States.
About 60 percent of the heroin that is sold in the United
States is believed to come from Southeast Asia, and almost all
of that is from opium grown in Burma. The rest comes from Central
Asia, especially Afghanistan, and Latin America.
Brown outlined a three-pronged approach in U.S. drug policy in
Burma. It includes continuing a "general dialogue" with the
Burmese regime on anti-drug efforts; exchanging information with
officials there to aid their anti-drug efforts; and launching in-
country training of the government's anti-drug forces .
Brown stressed that units to be trained will specifically be
selected "on a case-by-case basis" to ensure that officers
charged with rights abuses or drug-trafficking are not chosen.
In addition, Brown said Washington will continue supporting
U.N. drug-control efforts in the region and consider increasing
aid there to the U.N. Drug Control Program (UNDCP). It will also
encourage China and Thailand to exert their own pressures on the
military government to curb drug production and trafficking.
The new policy falls somewhat short of what the
administration's anti-drug hawks had hoped. Brown and the State
Department's Bureau of International Narcotics Matters, which is
led by Robert Gelbard, had wanted to provide equipment, including
helicopters and other aircraft, much as it has done in
other drug-producing countries.
But Human Rights Assistant Secretary John Shattuck and others
insisted that such a step would go too far and could be used by
the authorities in their counter-insurgency campaigns against
ethnic minority and other groups. "That was
just too much," said one official.
Still, human rights activists and others criticized the new
policy, arguing that it will undermine other U.S. policy
objectives in the country.
"This initiative undermines the administration's human rights
policy in Burma, " said Mike Jendrzeijsczyk, Washington director
of Human Rights Watch/Asia, formerly known as Asia Watch.
"The administration told the regime there would be no
additional anti-narcotics aid unless there was progress on
drugs, human rights, and
democratization. And there hasn't been any," he told IPS.
Washington's relations with Burma, whose name the military
regime changed to Myanmar, have been virtually frozen since 1990
when elections swept by the opposition National League for
Democracy were ignored by the army which placed
NLD's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest.
Since then, Burma has opened its economy to foreign
investment, while the regime, the State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC), has occasionally hinted that it was ready to
release Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as
part of a rapprochement with the United States and other Western
Those hints have so far come to nothing, however. At the
urging of Washington's Southeast Asian allies, Washington
offered to upgrade relations significantly late last year on
condition that the SLORC release Suu Kyi and
make other reforms. But the offer was spurned outright, according
to U.S. officials.
In the meantime, the amount of opium and heroin flowing out of
Burma has grown steadily, as has heroin usage in the United
States. Those statistics have strengthened the voices in the
administration who favored closer cooperation
with the regime.
Brown noted today that heroin is increasingly being used in
suburban, middle class communities throughout the United States,
in addition to the inner-city ghettoes with which it is more
identified in the public mind. Spot checks inhospitals and
treatment centers show "substantial increases" in heroin use
since the mid-1980s, according to Brown.
He was joined today by Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, a long-
time Congressman from Harlem, New York. While deploring the human
rights situation in Burma, Rangel said he supported steps to
improve cooperation between the two countries to fight drugs.
"I just appeal to this subcommittee to have some concern of
the human rights of people in my district and throughout these
United States that are seeing bumper crops (of opium) coming out
of Burma," he said. "I'm asking you...to not
use human rights to sever relationships that could cause the
stoppage of tons" of heroin from entering this country.
But Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher questioned whether
stepped-up cooperation makes sense. "The people who I have talked
to all across the border there with Thailand and Burma and
Laos," he said, "indicate that where the SLORC
regime's troops are, there you'll find poppy fields and
"There seems to be evidence that this regime itself is in bed
with the drug lords," he added.
Brown, however, insisted that there "is no strong evidence to
suggest that the government itself is involved in drug
trafficking or directly profits from the drug trade."
He did indicate that "individuals at a lower level" may be