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BurmaNet News: August 3
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The BurmaNet News: AUGUST 3, 1995
THE NATION: BURMESE GOVERNMENT REARRESTS THREE REBELS
THE NATION: BURMESE LEAVE FOR CHINA
THE NATION: THE ENVOY TO SEE SUU KYI DESPITE WARNING
THE NATION: KASEM REJECTS CLAIM OF WESTERN PRESSURE BEHIND SUU KYI'S
BKK POST: BURMA, CHINA INVITED TO JOIN PANEL
FEER: AIRWAVES: OUT AND IN
FEER: LAGACY OF FEAR
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===== item =====
BURMESE GOVERNMENT REARRESTS THREE REBELS
3 August 1995, The Nation
THREE Burmese pro-democracy leaders who had already been imprisoned were
arrested again by the Slorc during June and sentenced to seven year terms,
AI said in a statement seen yesterday.
They were sentence after a "summary trail.. that may not have conformed to
international standards, said the AI statement received in Bangkok.
The organization had no details about what the activists were charged with,
but noted that they were arrested after regularly meeting foreigners.
They were Thu Way, former chairman of the now-defunct Democracy Party, and
Tun Shwe and Htun Myint, veteran activists, said the statement.
The three were sent to Insein Prison in Rangoon, where "political prisoners
are generally not given access to proper medical treatment and are sometimes
held in solitary confinement," the statement said.
Pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi has repeatedly called for the release of all
political prisoners in Burma, noting that despite her release from house
arrest on July 10, several hundreds of her colleagues are still
She said in a weekend interview that if she could begin negotiations with
Burma's government today, the first issue would be freeing all prisoners of
The International Committee of the Red Cross is in the process of pulling
out of the Burma because it has been denied access to political prisoners.
"After a certain number of years of negotiations with the authorities on the
issue with no advancement, we feel it is time for us to withdraw," said
Erich Aellen, deputy director of ICRC in Bangkok.
The AI statement said that surveillance of critics of Burma's government by
military Intelligence is pervasive.
"Burmese citizens who meet with foreigners are particularly vulnerable to
such surveillance activists," it said.
"Many political prisoners who are now free have been warned by the
authorities not to become involved in politics, and are also watched by the
===== item =====
BURMESE LEAVE FOR CHINA
3 AUGUST 1995, The Nation
A total of 150 Burmese businessmen and officials left Rangoon for the
northern border with China on Tuesday to take part in a trade fair.
The team was headed by Burmese Trade Ministry Lt Gen Tun Kyi and is expected
to cross the border on August 5.
The delegation was invited to participate in the trade fair in Kunming, the
capital of southern China's Yunnan province, by Chinese Foreign Trade and
Economic Cooperation Minister Wu Yi.
The Kunming Fair, said to be one of the four biggest trade fairs held
annually in China, is scheduled to open on August 8.
Burmese products to be displayed include gems and jewelry, leather-ware,
silverware, agricultural goods, wood produced jointly by Burmese companies
and the Southern Korean firm Daewoo.
Before his return to Rangoon the Burmese trade minister will visit Hong Kong
with senior Chinese officials for a meeting with Hong Kong's's businessmen
to promote bilateral trade between the two countries. (TN)
===== item =====
THE ENVOY TO SEE SUU KYI DESPITE WARNING
3 AUGUST 1995, The Nation
THAI Ambassador to Rangoon Poksak Nillubon will visit opposition leader Suu
Kyi this afternoon, despite being warned off by the Slorc last week,
according to the informed Asean diplomatic sources.
At the instruction of the Foreign Ministry, Poksak last week made
arrangements to meet Suu Kyi, but was warned last Tuesday by the Burmese
Foreign Ministry to reconsider.
The sources said that as matter of courtesy, Poksak had informed a senior
Burmese officials of his planned meeting with Suu Kyi, but was told to think
again. The Burmese said the timing was "inappropriate" because it would
clash with the meting of Asean foreign ministers in Brunei.
At that time Burmese Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw was attending the Asean
meeting as the guest of Brunei.
According to the sources, Poksak will call on Suu Kyi at 3 pm today, become
the first ambassador from an Asean country to establish direct contact with
Poksak, according toone source, had explained to the Burmese official that
the meeting with Suu Kyi was a "Thai goodwill gesture" and pointed to
similar meetings other Rangoon-based ambassadors had with the Suu Kyi.
Malaysian Ambassador to Rangoon John Tenewi Nuek, dean of the Asean
diplomatic corps in Burma, had extended a luncheon invitation to the
50-year-old pro-democracy leader on behalf of Asean countries.
Suu Kyi had accepted, but was later informed that the luncheon must be
postponed, according to the sources, who declined even to be identified by
their respective countries.
Officials from one Asean country yesterday denied that the regional grouping
had completely backed down after the Malaysian envoy last Thursday to
received an aide-memoire and verbal protest over the planned meeting with
Ambassador Tenewi was not available for confirmation yesterday. A Malaysian
embassy official said by telephone that the envoy had returned to Malaysian
and would not return to work until today.
Thai Foreign Ministry officials in Rangoon and Bangkok yesterday declined
to comment on Poksak's meeting and the Asean luncheon. They said all
questions should be addressed to higher authorities or to Foreign Minister
MR Kasem Kasemsri. (TN)
===== item =====
BURMA, CHINA INVITED TO JOIN PANEL
3 AUGUST 1995, Bangkok Post
CAMBODIA, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam adopted rules of procedures for the
council of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) yesterday and said they would
formally invite Burma and China to join as full members.
The four country also agreed to endorse a report made at an informal council
meeting in the northern Thai city of Chiang Rai in March.
"We will invite China and Burma to join as within the framework of the great
family of the Mekong .. in the capital of full members," council chairman
Ing Keith said. (BP)
===== item =====
KASEM REJECTS CLAIM OF WESTERN PRESSURE BEHIND SUU KYI'S RELEASE
3 August 1995, The Nation
FOREIGN Minister Kasem Kasemsri yesterday told Asean members and their
dialogue partners that Aung San Suu Kyi's release was not the result of
Western pressure but reflected the Burmese military junta's confidence it
could maintain control.
Kasem also defended Asean's constructive engagement policy with Burma and
warned that the continued application of pressure by the West would work
against the national reconciliation process in the country.
Trade and arms sanctions like those applied to Bosnia-Herzegovina should
not be used on Burma as there was no guarantee that Burma's State Law and
Order Restoration Council (Slorc) would bow to the pressure, Foreign
Ministry spokesman Suvidhya Simasakul quoted Kasem as saying.
No one can guarantee that if the sanctions are applied to Burma and the
Slorc, the Slorc would kowtow to that pressure, Kasem was quoted as
telling Asean and its seven dialogue partners.
The Burmese should be allowed a chance to reconcile among themselves
without interference by outsiders, he said.
Asean foreign ministers yesterday began sessions without their dialogue
parters, including the United States, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the
European Union and South Korea.
The political situation in Burma was a major point raised in the
international meetings. The military junta has been criticized for not
giving up administrative power to the National League for Democratic
(NLD) party which won the general elections in 1990.
In a surprise move, the Slorc in early July released Aung San Suu Kyi,
the leader of the NLD party, from nearly six years under house arrest.
Asean has vowed to continue what it calls a policy of constructive
engagement with Burma.
The release of Suu Kyi happened not because of pressure from the West and
other countries but because the Slorc is can now handle the situation,
Kasem told the conference that no country, including immediate neighbour
Thailand, actually knows Burma, which has its own cultural background and
way of thinking.
Asean has never expected rewards from the release of Suu Kyi or said that
her release was the result of the constructive engagement policy. Other
countries should be aware that despite her release, Burma still has
internal problems, Suvidhya quoted Kasem as saying.
Kasem added that one of the most important points to consider now was how
to help the Burmese people.
Asean dialogue parters yesterday also praised Suu Kyi's release, but said
they would wait to see if there are subsequent improvements in Burma.
Kasem's remarks on Burma were apparently in response to Australian
Foreign Minister Gareth Evans' remark that recent political developments
in Burma represented only one of ten bench marks for progress proposed by
Australia to the Asean ministerial meeting in Bangkok last year.
Australia also called for the release of political prisoners in general,
International Red Cross access to prisons, and broad engagement of
elected members of parliament in the process of drafting a constitution.
===== item =====
AIRWAVES: OUT AND IN
27 July 1995, FEER
Burma ' s official media haven ' t yet reported the release of Aung San Suu
Kyi. Even so, some TV owners in the country have been treated to extensive
coverage of the event courtesy of their own national TV channel.
It happened because of a fortuitous combination of circumstances: the coming
to Burma of modern satellite communications and the lack of anything more
than the most basic transmission control in Rangoon.
Since 1990, TV Myanmar has been available on the Star TV network via a
transponder on the Asia Sat satellite. At the time it was made, the linkup
allowed the junta to broadcast its views to the outside world.
But that same link also allowed the news and views of the outside world to
get into Burma at least to anyone with a satellite dish. With rules for
private satellite dish ownership unevenly enforced, thousands of people all
over the country can watch the BBC, MTV, Star TV and other international
The contradictions became even more tangled when drovers of TV crews
descended on Rangoon in the second week of July to cover the release of Aung
San Suu Kyi. TV Myanmar ' s transponder was the only link between Burma and
the outside world through which it was possible for foreign news crews to
send and receive TV images. Thus, during the periods before and after
regular state TV programming, foreign TV crew were busy feeding their
footage to their home stations on TV Myanmar ' s Asia Sat frequency.
The problem was: Asia Sat also transmits TV Myanmar to all owners of a Star
TV satellite dish. Thus, Burmese dish owners could watch the unedited
material on Suu Kyi ' s release in its entirety including scenes of
commentators fixing their hair on TV Myanmar ' s Asia Sat channel.
Enterprising individuals were quick to see a new opportunity for profit in
the state ' s lapse. Especially upcountry, where controls seem to be more
lax, some quickly taped the material and sold the Video cassettes to those
not connected to satellite dishes.
===== item =====
LEGACY OF FEAR
27 July 1995, FEER
Despite the release of democracy campaigner and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu
Kyi, there are signs Burma ' s military overlords are tightening, rather
than relaxing, their political control.
Fear still pervades the country, where the ruling State Law and Order
Restoration Council, o Slorc, calls all the shots. Rangoon residents have
noticed military intelligence agents taking pictures of those who gathered
outside the gate of Suu Kyi ' s house over the past week. Some residents of
the capital even report that civil servants have been told by their
superiors to stay away from that house.
Most people are happy with Suu Kyis release, says a foreigner who lives in
Rangoon, but very few dare to express their feelings openly. Indeed, there
were only a few hundred people gathered outside the gates of Suu Kyi ' s
house following the news of her release. Back in the heady days of Burma ' s
pro democracy movement in 1988 89, she attracted tens of thousands of
admirers even in small upcountry towns.
This has led some Rangoon residents to suggest that many of those who
supported Suu Kyi before her house arrest nearly six years ago now prefer
to stay clear of politics. Says the foreign resident: At that time, many
business people were behind her in the belief that democracy would also mean
an open economy with business opportunities. The Slorc may not have
permitted any political freedoms, but it has opened up the economy. People
who are now making money don ' t really want to change the status quo.
A glance at the newspapers gives a good indication of what that status quo
is. More than a week after Suu Kyi ' s release, the official media were
still full of reports about army officers signing contracts, to purchase
equipment for shipyards, visiting newly constructed flood prevention
embankments, and the like.
Many column inches were also devoted to the latest activities of the Union
Solidarity and Development Association, a mass organization set up by the
military in 1993 to provide it with a civilian support base.
In mid June, the military led government expanded. It now comprises 36
ministers and 24 deputies, most of whom are either serving or retired army
officers. A number of hard line field commanders, meanwhile, were promoted
to prominent posts within the military, emphasizing the army ' s intention
to maintain its absolute grip on power. Seven commanders of the Burmese
army's battle hardened light infantry divisions were promoted to regional
commanders, giving them administrative control through local law and order
restoration committees as well as the Union Solidarity group.
The military also has let it be known that it wants a permanent share of
power, if not the dominant role, in any future Burmese government. Burma ' s
generals clearly admire the dwifungsi, or dual function ideology of the
Indonesian military, which would let them play a role both in defence and
An easy in the military controlled newspaper New Light of Myanmar said the
military should be given a role in the future political leadership. Many
analysts believe the piece, written under a pen name, was the military ' s
opening position on the draft of a new constitution.
But through Suu Kyi might be willing to live with a role for the generals
in the short term, she has made it clear her final goal is a fully
democratic government. Nonetheless, the democracy leader has taken a
remarkably conciliatory line since her release. She has made several
reference to South Africa, evidently hoping that her freedom will lead to
national reconciliation similar to that between the white minority regime
and Nelson Mandela after his release from jail.
Once bitter enemies in South Africa are now working together for the
betterment of their people. Why can ' t we look forward to a similar
process? she asked on July 11, the day after her release.
But observers point out that there are some very fundamental differences
between South Africa and Burma. Within days of his release after 27 years
of incarceration,Mandela met South African President Fredrik Willem de
Klerk. The white leader then announced publicly that the time for
negotiations has arrived. The event was well covered by the South African
media, which made clear that the process of dismantling the apartheid system
and replacing it with a new democratic order had begun.
In Burma, however, Suu Kyi ' s release has not received a line in the
official press, and there is absolutely nothing to indicate that the Slorc
is about to dismantle military rule, say a Rangoon based Asian analyst. An
information Ministry official even called Suu Kyi ' s release a private
affair, refusing to make further comments to reporters in Rangoon.
While Mandela returned to lead the well organized African National Congress,
Suu Kyi has no similar structure to back her. Her National League for
Democracy once had branches all over Burma, but following its victory in the
May 1990 poll the military regime closed its offices and cowed its activists
into silence and submission.
Only if Slorc surprise the world by holding official talks with Suu Kyi
could all this change. In South Africa, the authorities quickly discovered
the benefits of openness, which encouraged them to continue their
political reform programme says a Bangkok based African diplomat.
Those hoping for something similar in Burma might have taken heart on July
17 if they saw the long line of National League for Democracy MPs marching
into the compound of Suu Kyi ' s house. The MPs,who were elected in 1990 but
prevented from taking power, came dressed in the clothes that marked them
during the pro democracy campaign five years ago: dark longyis traditional
Burmese jackets and badges with the party emblem.
At the same time, a new telephone line was being installed in Suu Kyi ' s
house to replace the one that was cut on July 20, 1989, the day she was
placed under house arrest. Those who wish for democracy in Burma can only
hope that when lines of communication are restored, anything is possible.