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Burma Issues Newsletter August
* Burma Issues newsletter for August 1995 *
All correspondence to:
P.O. Box 1076
Silom Post Office
BRIEF NEWS ITEMS
Japanese Aid -- Following the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Japan is
considering reinstating financial aid to Burma which was suspended
in 1988. Foreign Minister Kono expects to see improvements in human
rights and democratization before aid can be guaranteed.
Church Raid -- In Bangkok, Police raided a church service at the
Calvary Baptist Church, arresting 45 Burman and Karen illegal
immigrants. They were detained in jail and later sent back to border
Sanctions -- US Senator McConnell has introduced a sanctions bill
against Slorc, claiming there has been no human rights progress in
Burma despite the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. The move has been
opposed by Winston Lord who claims that there is no international
support for sanctions.
Arrests -- Burmese opposition leaders Thu Wai, Tun Shwe and Htwe
Myint were rearrested and sentenced to seven years in Rangoon's
Insein Prison. No reason for their arrest was given, but it gives
cause for concern about other opposition members who continue to
speak out against the Slorc regime.
Thai Ambassador Visits ASSK -- That Ambassador to Rangoon, Mr. Poksak
has an hour-long discussion with Aung San Suu Kyi. He is the first
representative of an ASEAN nation to have a private conference with
her. Slorc cautioned against the visit, but Thai Foreign Minister
Kasem said the visit was a goodwill visit.
Investments -- Eighteen foreign countries are investing in seven
sectors of Burma's economy. The United Kingdom, France, and Singapore
are the largest investors by volume of investment. Sectoral
investment statistics shows that the highest volume of investment
goes to oil and gas sectors. Hotels and tourism is ranked second
followed by the fisheries sector.
Killings -- Two Burmese fishermen are dead and 24 missing after an
incident with Thai fishermen angered about the concellation of a
fishing agreement they had to fish in Burmese waters. The Burmese New
Light of Myanmar reported the incident, claiming that the agreement
between the fishing company and Slorc had been violated by the Thai
INVESTING IN DEMOCRACY
"In 1988, the Government of the Union of Myanmar (sic) adopted a
market-oriented economic system with the intention of introducing
various reform measures and liberalising the economy for better all
round development. One of the major reform measures undertaken to
induce foreign investment was the enactment of the Union of Myanmar
Foreign Investment Law, followed by the prescription of procedures to
the said law. This law was the first new law to be endorsed in line
with the new economic policy." (Investing In Myanmar 1995-1996)
by N. Chan
Following the 1988 military repression of the democratic movement,
the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) faced a serious
economic crisis. Their coffers were bordering on empty and they
needed quick cash to not only upgrade their military, but also to pay
their soldiers whose loyalty is based on paycheck rather than
ideology. At the same time, the mass uprising of the same year had
alerted the international community to this backwater nation, a
nation in which military human rights abuses against rural ethnic
populations had gone on almost unnoticed since the end of World War
II. The military regime, suddenly finding themselves in the
international spot light, could no longer carry out repression
against their own people without international threats of economic
and political sanctions.
Adopting a market-oriented economic system was Slorc's way of
responding to both of these issues. Rich with natural resources
which had gone almost untouched for five decades, foreign companies
were more than eager to enter Burma and deposit their cash in the
hands of Slorc for the right to exploit these treasures. Teak wood,
gems, fish, and gas began rapidly building up the foreign reserves of
the country, reserves which were used to upgrade the military with
purchases of new weapons from China rather than to improve the life
of the people.
As for international criticism, a market-oriented economy sounded
like a good first step towards democracy. While many governments
continued to lambast Slorc for their human rights abuses, companies
from these countries rushed into Burma claiming that their
investments would open the country up to the world and democratic
changes would certainly follow. Economic improvements were said to
always usher in democracy. Few of these companies had the courage to
look around for the many examples, such as Singapore, which prove
that even an extremely successful economy does not guarantee
democracy or democratic freedoms of the people. Now, almost seven
decades later, Slorc has allowed 138 enterprises to invest in the
agriculture, manufacturing, energy, mining, fishery, tourism and
transport sectors bringing in approximately US$2.7 billion. These
investments come in two forms:
1. An individual foreign investor can establish his business as a
sole proprietorship by bringing in one hundred per cent foreign
capital. Similarly, a partnership firm or a limited company which is
incorporated outside Burma can do business as a foreign branch by
bringing in the total capital required by such a branch.
2. A foreign investor can enter into a partnership with his local
counterpart or set up a limited liability company with shares held by
local investors. He can also join with any individual, firm, company,
co-operative or State-owned enterprise from Burma to establish a
joint-venture either as a partnership firm or a limited company. In
all such cases, the foreign capital to be brought in must be at a
minimum 35 per cent of the total equity capital.
Since Burma has no middle class to speak of, almost all
joint-ventures are carried out with State-owned (Slorc) enterprises.
Some eighteen foreign enterprises are wholly-owned. Most of these are
related to the tourism business.
One of the attractions for foreign enterprises to invest in Burma is
the huge cheap labor market. The minimum daily wage for an unskilled
worker in the State sector is 20 kyats. The buying power of this 20
kyats is equal to about US$0.17. One kilo of rice, a staple for all
people in Burma, costs nearly 70 kyats. While foreign investors may
get their work done cheaply, the people are left with little hope
that they will ever escape their poverty. Skilled labor will probably
receive more pay, but with an inflation rate of over 30% in the
country, even these skilled laborers have a difficult time existing.
Hiring qualified staff must be done through township labor offices.
The procedures are:
1) A private and cooperative business undertaking employing 5 workers
and above has to notify the Township Labor Office of his intention to
recruit workers in the prescribed form.
2) The Labor Office will prepare a list of candidates who meet the
requirements mentioned in the form and send these candidates to the
employer. 3) The employer is to select the most suitable person from
among the candidates submitted by the Labor Office.
This system provides Slorc, which mans and controls the Township
Labor Offices, with complete power over who is qualified for a job.
People in Rangoon often complain that only family members of Slorc
officials, or those who can afford to pay bribes, are selected by the
Labor Offices for jobs with foreign companies. They also suggest
that Slorc uses this system to place informers in all offices to keep
track of foreign activities.
So has this new open-market economy brought hope for democracy to
Burma? Recent visitors from Rangoon say no. One visitor lamented
that at one time Burma had at least a small middle class of which he
was a member. Now the middle class has all but vanished. The economy
continues to worsen, according to this visitor, and Slorc is actually
fearful of a new mass uprising from an angry and hungry population.
Some suggest that Slorc suddenly freed Aung San Suu Kyi to help
release some of this pent up pressure.
If the middle class in the urban areas is crumbling, the poor in the
rural areas are facing an even worse future. Reports of starvation
are filtering in from some distant rural villages. Of the 33 million
rural people, only 11 million have at least 3 acres of land, the
minimum needed for subsistence living. A third to one half of village
households lack any farm land at all. Forced relocations, rape,
pillage, and forced labor continue to be rampant throughout the
border areas and rural people sense no move towards democracy and
respect for human rights as a result of these foreign investments.
Foreign companies, themselves, do not have enough faith in their
belief that their investments will actually open Burma up to
democracy to seek out the truth. Invitations by organizations and
individuals working with the victims of Slorc's abusive policies for
representatives of some of these corporations to visit border areas
and interview victims have all fallen on deaf ears. UNOCAL's senior
public relations representative, David Garcia, continues to decline
invitations by the chairman of the Karen district of Mergui-Tavoy to
meet with people who have fled the route of a gas pipeline which
UNOCAL of the USA and Total of France are constructing. These
refugees claim to have been forcibly evicted from their villages by
Slorc to provide more security for the gas pipeline. Some have even
stated that they were used as forced labor to begin clearing the area
through which the pipeline will pass. This is hardly fertile ground
for democracy to grow and flourish on, and UNOCAL, along with other
investors in Burma, must deal with this reality.
Aung San Suu Kyi has cautioned foreign investors to think carefully
before bringing money into Burma. Democracy does not grow on money,
it grows on respect for the dignity and rights of each individual
within the society. Only when this is first established can economic
growth benefit those who suffer the most. The most important
investment in democracy is not financial, it is guaranteeing the
human rights of every individual in the society.
Investing in Myanmar 1995-1996
Harvard Institute for International Development Report to the UNDP,
"Landlessness, Poverty, and the Environment in Myanmar: Can
Grassroots Initiatives Create Sustainable Progress?"
February 10, 1995
FORCED LABOR IN KYAUK KYI TOWNSHIP
(First in a three-part series)
Burma's military junta is not shy to advertise its intentions to
"develop" (quotation marks heretofore omitted) Burma's rural economy.
As had been suggested in previous issues of this newsletter ("Global
Economic Warfare," June, 1995; "The Dark Side of Development"...)to
assume that development is a process that actually benefits the
people at large -- or even that one understands what the word means
to Burma's military -- can be dangerous, and even fatal for the
people bearing the brunt of progress. Burma-watchers are
well-acquainted with forced labor, torture and execution on notorious
public works projects such as the Ye-Tavoy and Loikaw-Aung Bauk rail
roads and restoration of the Mandalay palace moat. Despite Draconian
labor practices, the perceived or professed aims of these projects --
to improve rural transportation links or beautify an important
historical site -- are not by nature destined to cause suffering. A
rail road, or a natural gas pipeline, or a moat, or a public highway,
does not necessarily incur human rights abuse, death and destruction.
In fact, as infrastructure and economic systems these examples have
quite a number of advantages: rail freight is sixty times cheaper by
the ton than road transport, and sweet natural gas is the cleanest
burning fossil fuel around. It is the entire process of how the work
is carried out through which people choose to levy suffering upon
Forced labor -- apart from military portering -- has apparently been
rampant in rural Burma for many years. However, the Burma army's
recent push to promote development of border areas has seen an
upsurge in both the use of forced labor and the scale and diversity
of projects. In Pegu Divisions' Kyauk Kyi township, the push to
develop the rural economic infrastructure has followed increased
control over once-guerrilla held and administered areas. As the Burma
army extends its influence over both lowland and highland regions of
Kyauk Kyi, development projects have increasingly become a platform
for forced labor, property confiscation and military oppression. In
the first six months of 1995, local Burma army Infantry Battalions
(IB) 60 and 39, and Light Infantry Battalion 351 under Tactical
Command No. 3 quartered in Kyauk Kyi, began at least three rural
development projects using forced labor. Individually, these projects
harmed the natural environment and local economy; collectively, they
depict the silent and ongoing suffering in one corner of rural Burma.
During the 1994 rainy season, Kyauk Kyi suffered severe flooding and
an unknown acreage of paddy was destroyed. Villages within reach of
Burma army bases are customarily required to surrender part or all of
their rice harvest to the army, and then receive rations from the
military granary, thus disabling villagers from supporting the Karen
National Liberation Army rebels with rice. Furthermore, the
villagers' rice is used to provision Burma army troops stationed both
in the immediate area and deeper in the forest. Last year's flooding
strained the rice supply for all of these mouths: the farmers
themselves, the rebels who rely on their support, and the army which
both needs the rice itself and wishes to control the people's
political activities through its distribution.
Damming the Kyauk Ke Kyi Stream
Tactical Command No. 3, headed by Lt. Colonel Nyi Soe, belongs to the
army's Southern Region Command, led until 15 June 1995 by General Soe
Myint and based in Toungoo. The General ordered Nyi Soe to conduct a
feasibility study for increasing the electricity supply to Tactical
Command headquarters in Kyauk Kyi by constructing a dam and
hydro-electricity generating station along the Kyauk Ke Kyi stream.
In addition, the reservoir created by the dam was to be used for
irrigating army-controlled rice fields in Kyauk Kyi township.
On January 5, 1995, officers from IB 60 and LIB 351 ordered work on
the dam to begin, using involuntary, unpaid labor from local
villages. Approximately 700 villagers, of whom 200 are reported to
have been women and children, were involved in constructing the 8
foot high dam wall. Work progressed more slowly than the local
authorities planned, due in part to their own faulty surveying (the
dam site had to be moved after seven days of full-scale labor) and
partly due to lack of equipment. Villagers had to provide their own
tools and ox carts, along with food and medicine if they got sick.
In a construction accident, two people were killed, including a high
school student from Kyauk Sa Yit village. Although it is believed
that the families were compensated with 7000 kyats each
(approximately US$58), the bodies of the dead were not returned,
apparently in an attempt to keep news of the accident from spreading.
Although work was to be finished by the water festival in mid-April,
it was not completed on time. As this information was collected, the
villagers' greatest fear was not of the forced labor itself, but of
the danger posed by the dam's shoddy construction. With memories of
devastating floods last year, the idea of a dam bursting under the
pressure of Kyauk Ke Kyi stream's rainy season capacity has the
people fearing for the land and homes. Furthermore, they are afraid
that even if the dam holds, the local ecosystem, especially the
vegetation now cut off from a normal water supply below the dam, will
be damaged in the long run.
Rice is both the backbone of rural society in Burma and a crucial
political and strategic weapon in the battle to control troubled
civil war areas. As the next instalment of this series will show,
rice cultivation and distribution will continue to influence forced
labor and warfare in Kyauk Kyi.
REFUGEE LABOR COMES CHEAPLY
By La Lor
American Reebok Company, which produces the internationally famous
Reebok shoes, is proud of its reputation of being a company committed
to human rights. Providing a just salary and avoiding child labor
and/or forced labor is an important part of their standards. Company
inspectors regularly visit Reebok factories around the world to
ensure that all workers, most of whom are women, receive proper
Even with this serious attempt to live up to good human rights
standards, problems do emerge. Reports in some newspapers have
brought to light a serious problem in one of the Reebok factories in
Kwangtung China where workers had to live in sub-standard living
quarters on the seventh floor of the factory. The rooms were smaller
than acceptable and at night the doors and windows were locked to
prevent the workers from leaving.
Most Reebok factories are in areas where cheap labor is readily
available. In 1987, they began moving their factories from South
Korea and Taiwan to Thailand and other countries in the area such as
Indonesia, Philippines, China and India were labor was cheaper and
more abundant. With this cheap labor, good quality shoes could be
produced at a reasonable price for the world market. However, as
countries industrialize, labor begins to organize. The Thai labor
movement has worked hard to increase the minimum wage of workers to a
level which makes it more possible for them to survive in the rapidly
growing economy of Thailand. This has pushed companies like Reebok to
seek new sources of cheap labor. One such area is the Thai/Burma
border where refugee camps provide a source of hundreds of unemployed
refugees who welcome jobs.
In 1994 the Mae Sot Bangkok Rubber company opened in Mae Sot town of
Tak Province in western Thailand. This company, a producer of Reebok
shoes, made the move ostensibly out of sympathy for the refugees
whom, the company said, needed jobs. Of the 180 workers hired, all
are from a Karen refugee camp nearby. They are almost all women and
the youngest is 15 years old. If accepted for work, the women must
spend 120 hours learning how to cut and stitch shoes. During this
time they receive no salary. If they pass the training successfully,
they begin work and receive a salary of 50 baht per day
(approximately US$2). The minimum wage for Thai workers is 118 baht
per day, more than double what the Karen refugees earn. Work is from
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with Sundays and official holidays off.
In Thailand, even Thai workers have a difficult time getting
protection for their rights, so the Karen have little hope of
successfully demanding better pay and work conditions. Their
situation depends entirely on the compassion of the factory manager.
An official of the Tak Labor Office says that his office can not
effectively check on and control the working conditions in factories
which hire foreign laborers. There are yet no laws which effectively
regulate the treatment of illegal laborers even though there is now a
provision that factories can hire refugees and illegal immigrants in
many of the Thai provinces along the Thai/Burma border. When
approached about the low salary paid to the refugees, a company
official said that he feels 50 baht is an appropriate amount and is
equal to what other factories in the area pay. He said that if his
company gave higher wages, problems would be created between his
company and other border companies.
Dr. Thirasri Thamarak of the Thai Labor and Social Welfare Department
says that if Thailand wants to use imported labor for its industries,
it must make suitable laws to protect the workers and provide them
with a minimum wage which is fair and just. Without such a law,
Thailand will soon face severe criticism from the international
community for abuse of the human rights of these workers, and could
even face an international boycott of any goods produced in Thailand
by refugee labor. There is also a possibility that in the future
Burma will find fault with Thailand for paying Burmese workers a
lower salary than Thais receive.
The problem is not that the refugees are given jobs. They are usually
happy to put their time to use earning some money for their families.
The problem lies in exploiting this cheap labor for the benefit of
the company's profits. Unemployed Thais in the area complain that
they now can not get jobs because the companies would have to pay
them a minimum wage of at least 118 baht instead of the 50 baht they
can pay for refugee labor. Human rights workers also point out that
the U.N. Convention relating to the Status of Refugees stipulates
in Article 24:
1. The Contracting States shall accord to refugees lawfully staying
in their territory the same treatment as is accorded to nationals in
respect of the following matters:
a) In so far as such matters are governed by laws or regulations or
are subject to the control of administrative authorities:
remuneration, including family allowances where these form part of
remuneration, hours of work, overtime arrangements, holidays with
pay, restrictions on home work, minimum age of employment,
apprenticeship and training, women's work and the work of young
persons, and the enjoyment of the benefits of collective bargaining:
Even though Thailand has not signed this convention, companies whose
reputations are built on a respect for human rights and dignity
should make certain that wherever they are, all of these rights
guaranteed under the United Nations Charter of Human Rights are fully
available to all workers in their industries.
PKJ daily 950710 950724
SOME IMPORTANT RESOURCES
Burma: the Politics of Constructive Engagement
An up-to-the-minute analysis of the present state of Burma both
nationally and internationally is presented in this small book
published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham
House, 10 St James's Square, London SW1Y 4LE England on 31 July 1995.
"Burma is torn by issues such as the role of the army, the validity
of western political models and autonomy for the ethnic minorities
which comprise 440% of the population" says author John Bray, "and as
the economy becomes reintegrated into the wider regional and global
economies, the ensuing political change will not be easy to control."
The study owes much to interviews with first-hand observers in Burma
and Japan as well as the rest of Asia, Europe and the United States.
It looks at the stance and interests of different world players
vis-a-vis Burma and argues that the international community has a
legitimate interest in facilitating peaceful political evolution to
promote both national and regional stability. John Bray is Head of
Research at Control Risks Information Services, a London-based
political and security risk consultancy, and is a specialist in
Southeast Asian affairs.
Burma: the Politics of Constructive Engagement by John Bray, 80
pages, published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs,
July 1995, price 6 pounds.
Life on the Line
A video of a journey into the killing fields of Burma, where a modern
holocaust is being fuelled by foreign money.
Just before Christmas 93, the Karen National Liberation Army visited
a village deep in the Burmese jungle. With them were two British
film-makers - director Damien Lewis and anthropologist Tom Sheahan of
Bare Faced Productions. Villagers greeted them warmly.
It was a different story when Lewis and Sheahan came back a few days
later. Slorc troops had descended on the village on Christmas Day,
raking it with machine-gun fire and grenades and killing a woman and
all but one of her daughters.
Bare Faced's film assesses the reasons for this brutality. It argues
that Western companies, now benefiting from the opening-up of what
was Asia's most isolated economy, bear some responsibility for the
repression that has followed.
For further information: Damien Lewis, Bare Faced Productions,
Warwick House, 106 Harrow Road, London W2 1XD, England.
WOMEN IN BURMA
Women in Burma have never suffered the cultural disadvantages of
their sisters in other parts of the world. Throughout their history,
Burmese women have enjoyed equality with men in the household and the
economy. Marriage was and is a civil act; women retain their own
names, and divorce is a simple procedure with no stigma attached to
either party. More important, women have always had the right of
inheritance. Only in Buddhist religious terms were they considered
inferior. Countless women participated in the nationalist movement in
the colonial period. The census for colonial Burma in 1872 stated
that "female education was a fact in Burma before Oxford was
founded." Leaving their classes, the female students took part in
demonstrations marching alongside the men. At this time, Burmese
women held office in the Rangoon City Corporation and in the
Legislative Council. They were also members of the Rangoon University
Students Union. Daw Khin Myo Chit, Shwe Gu May Hnin, Ludu Daw Ah Mar
and Kyi Aye became well-known for their contribution to early Burmese
modern literature. Daw Mya Sein, a scholar, teacher, wife and mother
was chosen to represent Burmese women at a special Burma Round Table
Conference in London in 1931 and later, on the eve of the Second
World War, to lead a delegation to China. In 1953 the late U Nu,
Burma's only elected president, appointed Daw Ba Maung Chein to
represent the Karen state, making her the first and only woman to
reach cabinet rank. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's mother, Daw Khin Kyi, was
made Ambassador to India. Sao Nan Hearnkham was a well-known Shan
politicians in the 1950s. Under the BSPP rule (1962-1988), nine women
were elected to the fist Pyithu Hluttaw (People's Assembly).
The continued repression in Burma means that women are facing
different types of difficulties. The most obvious ones are listed
Economics and Family Life
High inflation means that just keeping the family fed and clothed is
an increasing burden. Sometimes the wife must find paid work, like
her husband, in addition to taking full responsibility for the family
Education and Employment
Equal rights to education for men and women have been eroded until
military rule, and now apply only up to the end of high school.
Although more women than men pass their final exams, they are then
only permitted to study limited subjects at university level. After
finishing their studies, women stand little chance of obtaining jobs.
Female porters are used by the Burmese to carry the same heavy loads
as the males. Bad and insufficient food, lack of medicine, and
extreme brutality in the face of sickness or exhaustion on the part
of the porters all contribute to this misery. Additionally female
porters are regularly raped by the army.
Sexual Abuses and Trafficking in women
SLORC soldiers regularly commit sexual abuses on women. Military
commanders may summon village women of any age, married or not, to
their camps where they frequently rape them at gunpoint. It is
estimated that around 40,000 women and children, mostly aged between
10 and 16, have been kidnapped in Burma and sold to the brothels of
Thailand. With the collusion of police and the military from Burma
and Thailand, young victims are trafficked across to Thai border
towns like Chiang Mai, Mae Sai, Kanchanaburi and Ranong where they
are sold into prostitution. Prices range of US$100 to US$560. The
prostitutes include ethnic Burmese and other tribal people. The girls
live in conditions of slavery, poorly-fed, beaten and tortured,
sometimes to death. Escape is practically impossible: but if they do
so, they risk being either imprisoned or sent back to Burma. Their
health is not monitored and those who contract the HIV virus may be
forced to continue work until too ill to do so. Some are then
released, others killed.
Abuses of Development and War
Development in Burma, as in many other countries, has led to the
impoverishment of women, depriving them of the means of subsistence
and forcing them out of rural areas. Forced labour, which is
inflicted on the whole Burmese population, is especially hard on
women, who must either bring their children to the work site with
them, which is often an inappropriate environment, or abandon them in
uncertain conditions. Any woman unable to contribute labour must
either hire someone else to replace her or pay a fine at the
SLORC-fixed rate. Many have been uprooted from their home communities
by SLORC's relocation campaigns, herded into cramped concentration
camps, sometimes separated from their families, often deprived of
adequate food and clean water, and frequently subjected to beatings,
back-breaking labour, devastating disease and repeated rape.
Other women have faced the experience of internal displacement,
hiding in the jungle, not knowing where to go next, or how to find
food or medicine for the hungry or sick. Providing a decent life for
their children is the deepest wish for most women world-wide, and is
nearly impossible in the unstable environment of a civil war.
Amongst the nearly 90,000 refugees along the Thai-Burma border, the
great majority are women. The death rate amongst them is high, and
many deaths are caused by preventable or treatable diseases like
malaria, diarrhoea and cholera. Some deaths are attributable to
malnutrition. Many of the children have never known a normal, healthy
life and both mothers and their children lack education due to the
disruptions of war.
Recently refugee camps have been attacked by forces from Burma. Some
camps have been burned and refugees killed. Thai security was
completely inadequate to prevent repeated raids on the camps, so that
many refugee families have had to flee into the unfamiliar Thai
jungle, where they must feed and care for themselves as best they
In an attempt to escape the dependence and hopelessness of refugee
life, some women hire themselves out as cheap labour on building
sites or domestic servants. They hope to earn enough to keep their
families supplied with essentials: but because of their illegal
status, they are frequently exploited and have no redress if their
employers ill-treat or refuse to pay them.
The liberation of women from social injustice is intertwined with the
liberation of people from all walks of life. Determined not to be
intimidated by the formidable forces ranged against them, the
following women are just 5 of the many who have been willing to fight
oppression, and suffer for their beliefs in Burma's future.
Ma Theingi is a well-known art teacher in her early 40s who acted as
a personal secretary to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She has also written a
book on the tradition of puppet theatre in Burma. Arrested along with
U Ba Thaw (Maung Thaw Ka), who later died in prison, and forty-one
others on 20 July 1989 at the NLD headquarters, she was held in
Insein Prison until 1993.
Daw San San Win obtained the BA (LLB) degree from Rangoon University
in 1972. She attended a training course for apprentice lawyers for a
year at the Supreme Court and served as an advocate. In 1988 she
participated in the demonstrations with the Lawyers Thamag. She
successfully contested the General Election in 1990 for the NLD,
winning a seat in Ahlon Township. The authorities alleged that she
attended a clandestine meeting called to form a temporary government
in 1990. Daw San San obtained a B.Sc (Biology) degree from Rangoon
University in 1954. She served as a teacher first at the Central High
School and then as a demonstrator at Rangoon University. Daw San San
won the State Scholarship award and attended a training course in
oceanography in Yugoslavia in 1955-56. She also served as a
demonstrator to the Assistant Director of the Labour Department from
1959 to 1988.
During the pro-democracy movement in 1988, Daw San San chaired the
Labor Directorate Worker's Thamaga. As a result of her involvement
in the demonstrations, she was forced to resign from her job. As a
successful NLD candidate in 1990, she was elected as the Hluttaw
representative for Seikkan Township. The authorities alleged the Daw
San San attended a clandestine meeting on the formation of a
temporary government in 1990. She also held discussions at her house
with other elected NLD members. She was reportedly sentenced to
twenty-five years' imprisonment.
Ma Khin Htwe first met U Hla Pe when she attended his mathematics
tuition class in 1979. During the pro-democracy movement she was in
contact with the activists U Ba Tint and Daw Khin Kyway through U Hla
Pe. When U Hla Pe fled to the Thai-Burma border in 1990 as part of a
group of exiled elected representatives who later formed the NCGUB,
Ma Khin Htwe acted as an intermediary, passing letters amongst
democracy movement members. Before her arrest, she was planning to
join the underground People's Democratic Front. (U Hla Pe, NCGUB
Minister of Information, died in mysterious circumstances in Bangkok
Ma Thi Da is a doctor and short story writer in her late twenties.
She worked in a philanthropic Muslim Hospital before being arrested
with ten other political activists on 7 August 1993. All of them were
held without legal representation or contact with close associates
until their trial started on 27 September. SLORC was forced to
adjourn the hearing after a large crowd turned up at the court. Ma
Thi Da was a close associate of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi before she was
placed under house arrest in July 1989. Ma Thi Da became well-known
for her short stories. She has also written novels which, with the
exception of her latest novel, the SLORC refused permission to
publish. Although publication of her latest novel was allowed, it has
been banned. On 15 October 1993 Ma Thi Da was sentenced to 20 years
in prison. She was convicted under the emergency regulations for
having, among other charges, had contact with illegal organisations
and distributing anti-SLORC leaflets.
Women in Politics, report produced by Burma Information Group
The Burmese Women Union, background paper, may 1995