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Wired News on August 1- 3, 1995

Attn: Burma Newsreaders
Re: Wired News on August 1- 3, 1995

Japan Urges Burma to Move Toward Democracy

      By K.T. Arasu 

    BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, Aug 3 (Reuter) - Japan on Thursday urged
Burma's military regime to ``proceed towards democracy'' and improve human

    While welcoming the release of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi,
Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono warned that unless Burma made progress
on these fronts ``the harsh assessment of the world will remain unchanged.'' 

    He was speaking at a news conference following a meeting between the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its so-called dialogue
partners -- the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand,
Canada and the European Union. 

    ``We and many other countries are encouraging Myanmar to make that kind
of progress. We hope Myanmar will also place stronger importance to its human
rights situation,'' he said. 

    The meeting was preceeded by a two-day meeting of ASEAN members Brunei,
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam over
the weekend and the 19-member meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia's
premier security conference. 

    Kono said Japan has been encouraged by Burma's release of an increasing
number of political prisoners, including the ``symbolically important''
freeing of Suu Kyi last month after six years of house arrest. 

    He said Japan believed that Suu Kyi's release was a Burmese initiative
and not due to Rangoon's isolation by Western nations. 

    ``Myanmar released Aung San Suu Kyi on its initiative. We don't believe
the release of Aung San Suu Kyi was brought about by isolation of Myanmar
from the international community,'' he said. 

    Western countries have been pressuring Burma to release Suu Kyi and
encourage democracy by isolating Rangoon economically and politically. But
ASEAN members have pursued a policy of ``constructive engagement'' with the
Burmese government. 

    Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said earlier at the meetings that
Suu Kyi's release was a vindication of the ASEAN policy. 

    But Suu Kyi has been critical of ASEAN's stance. 

    ``I do notice that while promoting the policy of constructive engagement,
some ASEAN nations are careful to say that they do not want to interfere in
the internal affairs of another country,'' she was quoted as saying in
Thailand's Nation newspaper on Monday. 

    ``The question is for whom has it been constructive? Was it constructive
for the forces of democracy? Was it constructive for the Burmese people in
general? Was it constructive for a limited business community or was it
constructive for the SLORC,'' she said referring to Burma's ruling military

    Japanese deputy Foreign Minister Hiroshi Fuduka hinted on Monday that
Tokyo might resume financial aid to Burma following the release of Suu Kyi. 

    Japan suspended its Official Development Assistance (ODA) funds when
thousands of Burmese were killed or imprisoned during a brutal military
crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988. 

    ``We are encouraged by recent developments in Myanmar and when those kind
of encouraging things happen, of course our state of mind can be affected
positively,'' Fukuda told reporters after talks between Kono and his Burmese
counterpart Ohn Hyaw here on Monday. 

    Burma last week took the first step on the road to full membership of
ASEAN by acceding to its founding treaty. Ohn Gyaw attended this year's
annual meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers as a guest of the host country. 

Reut02:56 08-03-95

Australia Calls for More Progress in Burma 

      By Robert Birsel 

    BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, Aug 2 (Reuter) - Australia welcomed on
Wednesday the release of Burma's dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi but said
Rangoon's inclusion in regional groups should be pegged to further progress
in human rights and democracy. 

    Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, at a meeting of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its seven dialogue partners, urged Asia
not to send the Rangoon military government the wrong message by accepting
Suu Kyi's release as sufficent for acceptance into the regional community. 

    ``We, of course, welcome the release of Aung San Suu Kyi as an important
step by the military leadership of that country,'' Evans said. 

    ``It is heartening that since her release she has laid stress on the need
for dialogue, for reconciliation and for inclusiveness rather than for
confrontation and division,'' he said. 

    Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi was released from nearly six years of
house arrest on July 10. She has called for talks between the military and
the opposition, including the democracy movement and autonomy-seeking
minority groups. 

    Some officials from ASEAN have seen her release as a vindication of their
policy of forging closer political and economic ties with Burma, rather than
isolation as recommended by several Western governments. 

    ASEAN groups Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore,
Thailand and Vietnam. 

    Australia has recommended what Evans calls a benchmark policy towards
Burma, the linking closer ties to specific improvements in human rights and

    Japanese officials hinted this week Tokyo might resume aid to Burma but
Evans cautioned against sending Rangoon the wrong message. 

    ``It is vital that none of us in the region should now send a message to
the military leadership of Myanmar (Burma) that it has now done enough...that
it simply has to wait out international disapproval for a year or two more
and that it will be accepted into regional organisations without need for
further change.'' 

    ``All of us should make clear to the military leadership of Myanmar that
we need further indications of its intention to move down the path towards
reconciliation,'' he said. 

    Burma's Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw was in Brunei for this year's annual
meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers as a guest of Brunei. 

    Last Thursday, Burma took the first step to full membership of ASEAN by
acceding to its founding treaty. 

    Ohn Gyaw told Reuters that Suu Kyi's marriage to a foreigner and certain
``foreign assistance'' she has received were likely to preclude her from ever
participating in politics. 

    A constitution being drawn up by a military-appointed body contains a
clause barring anyone married to a foreigner from taking part in politics. It
also guarantees the military a ``leading role'' in politics. 

    Suu Kyi is married to British academic Michael Aris. 

Reut05:03 08-02-95

Burma Hopes Changes Will Help Perk Up Economy

      By Deborah Charles 

    RANGOON, Aug 1 (Reuter) - Still dogged by its unenviable status as a
``least developed nation'', resource-rich Burma's military rulers are
struggling to make moves that might attract investments and shore up the

    Diplomats and businessmen say economic factors probably played an
influential role in the military's unexpected July 10 release of opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi after six years of house arrest. 

    ``The SLORC has seen the possibilities and potential for the economy with
investment,'' said a diplomat, referring to the military's ruling State Law
and Order Restoration Council. ``The carrots were dangling.'' 

    Once considered one of the region's most promising countries because of
its wealth of natural resources, educated workforce and strategic location,
Burma's economy suffered at the hands of the military government over the
past four decades. 

    A disastrous 26-year experiment with the ill-fated ``Burmese Way to
Socialism'' doctrine started the economy's decline in the 1960s by virtually
sealing Bumra off from the rest of the world. 

    In 1987, the United Nations dealt Burma a harsh blow when it grouped the
Southeast Asian nation with Bangladesh and Ethiopia as the world's poorest

    But since assuming power in 1988, the SLORC has tried to improve the
situation. It adopted an open-market economy plan and has worked to entice
foreign investors and funds by loosening up investment laws. 

    Foreign investment in Burma has been on the rise in recent years.
Projects through mid-May totalled $2.6 billion, up from about $2.38 billion
at the end of January. 

    Burma desperately needs the hard currency to help boost foreign reserves.
Although the economy has been growing steadily over the past few years,
inflation is the highest in Asia and the foreign debt is mushrooming. 

    Diplomats estimate Burma's foreign debt is more than $5.5 billion, and
say arrears on debt servicing likely top $1 billion while foreign exchange
reserves as of March were only $533.9 million. 

    Although investments are growing, political uncertainty and concern over
human rights violations have kept the large-scale investments at bay. 

    Suu Kyi's release may usher in a new era, businessmen say. 

    Daniel Cannon, an American currently doing feasibility studies on a
variety of infrastructure projects in Burma, welcomed Suu Kyi's release and
said he thinks the country offers a great investment opportunity. 

    ``I think it's terrific,'' he said of Suu Kyi's release. 

    ``I think it will lead organisations like the World Bank, Asian
Development Bank... and other multilateral financial organisations to rethink
their aid plans. They said they would not give aid until they released Suu
Kyi, so now I challenge them to act.'' 

    Most Western countries and international agencies cut off aid to Burma
after the military brutally supressed 1988 pro-democracy uprisings, killing
or imprisoning thousands. Suu Kyi was arrested in 1989 for outspoken attacks
on the military. 

    Asian business analysts have said foreign aid is key to getting the
necessary infrastructure improvements if Burma hopes to attract more

    Since her release Suu Kyi has urged governments, agencies and investors
to wait before stampeding in with money. 

    ``Please wait and see before rushing in with any new investment and aid
until we know more about which way things are going,'' Suu Kyi said in a
recent news conference. 

    Despite the words of caution, investors are gearing up to pour more money
into Burma, where there are ample opportunities to exploit natural resources
like oil, teak and gems in addition to Burma's fertile agriculture base. 

    ``This is a very rich country,'' said Cannon. ``If the project is right,
money can be made right now. The risk factor is quite acceptable. The money
I've invested is money well spent.'' 

    Others may be more cautious, due to fundamental problems. 

    Erratic electricity, petrol shortages, an insufficient road and
telecommunications system, and poor port facilities all need fixing. 

    The hugely over-valued official exchange rate also hampers business
because foreign investors must pay the bulk of their expenses in hard
currency at the official rate. 

    The Burmese kyat trades at about six to the dollar at the official rate
and around 100 on the black market. 

 REUTERReut 01:49 08-01-95

Burma, China invited to join Mekong Commission

   (Updates at end of first day) 

    By Maja Wallengren 

    PHNOM PENH, August 2 (Reuter) - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam
adopted rules of procedures for the council of the Mekong River Commission
(MRC) on Wednesday and said they would formally invite Burma and China to
join as full members. 

    The four countries also agreed to endorse a report made at an informal
council meeting in the northern Thai city of Chiang Rai in March that
clarified the goals of the river body. 

    ``We have adopted the rules of procedures for the council and we have
endorsed the report of the joint committee on the Chiang Rai meeting, so I
think that is a good sign today -- now we can work faster,'' council chairman
Ing Keith said. 

    ``Tomorrow (Thursday) we have to consider some sensitive questions such
as the chief executive officer, the contributions of the countries and some
internal questions related to the activity of the Mekong,'' Kieth said. 

    He said the presence of Burma and China in the body was important. 

    ``We will invite China and Myanmar (Burma) to join us within the
framework of the great family of the Mekong...in the capacity of full

    The mighty Mekong River rises in Tibet and flows south passing through
southern China. 

    Along its 4,184-km (2,600-mile) course it serves as the boundary between
Laos and Burma, most of Laos and Thailand, before passing through Cambodia
and southern Vietnam to the South China Sea. 

    Kieth, Cambodia's deputy prime minister, said the two-day meeting was
aimed at setting up the framework needed for economic development utilising
the Mekong. 

    ``There are many, many projects related to the Mekong River and we have
to get them connected,'' he said. 

    Future projects named in the Chiang Rai agreement include ones on
hydroelectric power, irrigation, fisheries, navigation and transport. 

    Kieth said Cambodia was interested in hydropower schemes. 

    ``We are depending on each other for economic development of the
region,'' he said. 

    Cambodian Environment Minister Mok Mareth said on Wednesday he was
concerned that unsustainable development of the river could cause a threat to
forests and wildlife. 

    ``I am concerned. The possibility to build a hydropower dam across the
mainstream of the Mekong River for example is a big concern, so we will
re-consider, we will review all of this project,'' Mareth told Reuters. 

    One source of potential friction among commission members is concern
about development plans by upstream states. 

    The United Nations Development Programme is playing a key role in
promoting cooperation and dialogue between the Mekong river countries. 

Reut08:56 08-02-95

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