[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
BurmaNet News: September 16, 1995
- Subject: BurmaNet News: September 16, 1995
- From: burmanet@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 16 Sep 1995 21:26:00
------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: September 16, 1995
Noted in Passing:
SLORC is not ready to concede anything. One glaring factor that
may have been missed just because it is so obvious is the implicit
assumption that something is wrong in Burma and that it needs to
be corrected. SLORC does not share this view. - Harn Yawnghwe,
Editor, Burma Alert (see FACILITATING DIALOGUE)
FDL: FACILITATING DIALOGUE
ABSDF-MTZ: ASSISTANCE TO POLITICAL PRISONERS SEIZED
NATION: BEARING THE CRESCENT
BKK POST: LETTER - WORTHY GESTURE WAY TOO LATE
Produced with the support of the Burma Information Group
The BurmaNet News is an electronic newspaper covering Burma.
Articles from newspapers, magazines, newsletters, the wire
services and the Internet as well as original material are
The BurmaNet News is e-mailed directly to subscribers and is
also distributed via the soc.culture.burma and seasia-l
mailing lists and is also available via the reg.burma
conference on the APC networks. For a free subscription to
the BurmaNet News, send an e-mail message to:
In the body of the message, type "subscribe burmanet-l"
(without quotation marks) Letters to the editor, comments or
contributions of articles should be sent to the editor at:
INFORMATION ABOUT BURMA VIA THE WEB AND GOPHER:
Information about Burma is available via the WorldWideWeb at:
[including back issues of the BurmaNet News as .txt files]
TO ACCESS INFORMATION ABOUT BURMA VIA GOPHER:
Look under the International Political Economy section, then
select Geographic_Archive, then Asia, then Burma.
BURMANET SUBJECT-MATTER RESOURCE LIST
BurmaNet regularly receives enquiries on a number of
different topics related to Burma. The scope of the subjects
involved is simplytoo broad for any one person to cover.
BurmaNet is therefore organizing a number of volunteer
coordinators to field questions on various subjects. If you
have questions on any of the following subjects, please
direct email to the following coordinators, who will either
answer your question or try to put you in contact with
someone who can:
Arakan/Rohingya/Burma- [volunteer needed]
Art/archaeology/: [volunteer needed]
Campus activism: [on summer vacation]
Boycott campaigns: [Pepsi]
Buddhism: Buddhist Relief Mission,
Chin history/culture: plilian@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
History of Burma: zar@xxxxxxxxxxxx
Kachin history/culture: 74750.1267@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Karen history/culture: 102113.2571@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Karen Historical Society
Mon history/culture: [volunteer needed]
Naga history/culture: [volunteer needed]
Pali literature: "Palmleaf"
Shan history/culture: [volunteer needed]
Shareholder activism: frdc@xxxxxxxxxxx "Attn. S.
Tourism campaigns: bagp@xxxxxxxxxx "Attn. S.
World Wide Web: FreeBurma@xxxxxxxxx
[Feel free to suggest more areas of coverage]
FDL: FACILITATING DIALOGUE
by Harn Yawnghwe, Editor, Burma Alert,
Member of the Board of Directors, FDL-AP
Delivered by Dr Thaung Htun, Foreign Secretary
All Burma Students Democratic Front
FORUM OF DEMOCRATIC LEADERS IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC
Seoul, South Korea, 3-4 September 1995
POLICIES TOWARDS SLORC:
To date, many policies to facilitate the democratization process in
Burma have been proposed. One way to classify them is by their
approach to SLORC.
The Tough Approach - This approach sees the issues involved in terms
of right and wrong - SLORC is in the wrong and it should change or
else tough measures will be taken against it. No government to date
has adopted it.
The Conditional Approach - This approach includes that of most
of the western countries - The European Union's Critical Dialogue,
the United State's Two Visions for the Future, Australia's Bench Mark
policy, and Japan's requirement that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi be released
before ODA assistance is resumed. This approach does not see the
issues in terms of right or wrong, but rather in terms of a commercial
transaction - certain privileges are offered to SLORC (they can be aid,
investments, trade, etc) in return for SLORC behaving in a more
The Friendly Approach - This approach includes most of Burma's
neighbours and ASEAN. It does not look at right or wrong and it
does not bargain. Anything is acceptable as long as the relationship
is maintained. With this approach, it is hoped that when the relation-
ship is strong enough, friendly advice can be given to straighten out
the wayward friend.
Another way of classifying the various policies towards SLORC is by
the organizations involved:
- World Bodies - example, the United Nations,
- Regional Bodies - example, ASEAN,
- Individual Governments - example, Thailand, Japan, USA etc,
- Non-Government Organizations - example, FDL-AP, Carter Center, etc,
- Religious Organizations and Individuals - example, U Rewata Dhamma
No matter how they are classified, the various policies have at least
three things in common. The first is that there is a basic and
implicit assumption that something is wrong in Burma and that things
need to be changed. The second common point is that each approach
assumes that there is a middle ground where both SLORC and the Burmese
democratic movement can meet. The third common point is that none of
these policies work.
This last point may seem very pessimistic and some of people may point
to the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to argue that one or more of
these policies has worked. One cannot argue with success but one
cannot dismiss the possibility that she may have been released in spite of
these policies and because of a combination of factors which may or may
not have had anything to do with the effectiveness of the policies
being pursued. This statement is not meant as a criticism of existing
policies. The various governments and organizations that have been
working consistently on the behalf of the people of Burma should be
thanked and encouraged. However, if one wants to bring about a dialogue
that will eventually lead to democracy in Burma, one needs to examine
the various approaches critically in order to find a more effective way.
The various policies have not worked because there is no middle ground
on which SLORC and the democratic movement can meet. One party wants
democracy and the other wants a permanent role for the military in
politics. The two objectives are mutually exclusive. There can be no
middle ground. One side or the other has to concede. That is why, to
date, SLORC has not responded to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's offer of a
dialogue even with no conditions attached.
SLORC is not ready to concede anything. One glaring factor that may
have been missed just because it is so obvious is the implicit
assumption that something is wrong in Burma and that it needs to be
corrected. SLORC does not share this view.
SLORC'S POINT OF VIEW:
As far as SLORC is concerned, there is nothing wrong with military
rule in Burma. In the minds of the generals, democracy is equivalent
to anarchy, chaos and loss of control, which is not a desirable goal.
SLORC also believes that whatever mistakes may have been made by the
military in the past, the current SLORC leadership is capable of
solving all of Burma's problems. SLORC may have been very vulnerable
and uncertain of itself when it first emerged in 1988. But since then
it has found out that the international community is not a monolith.
In SLORC's estimation, there are many players involved in the
international arena from governments to non-government organizations
to business concerns, many of whom can be bought for a price. SLORC
has very skilfully capitalized on the self-interest and limitations
of many nations and played off one country against another.
This can be clearly seen in the case of SLORC using its friendship
with China to intimidate India into becoming a less vocal critic.
It can also be seen in the case of SLORC using Korean and other
Southeast Asian businesses to motivate Japan to renew ODA assistance
in order to enable Japanese firms to join in the competition for
business in Burma. American oil companies are also being held
hostage with the spectre of lucrative contracts going to French and
other interests. The most blatant case of SLORC manipulation,
however, involves Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. When SLORC was
weak, it welcomed Thailand's friendship to shield it from
international criticism and to open the door into ASEAN. While
Thailand expected to be thanked by SLORC as well as benefit
economically from the relationship, SLORC had no such intentions.
Contrary to Thai belief, SLORC did not look up to Thailand as an
elder brother that could teach it valuable lessons. SLORC had its
own agenda for Burma's traditional enemy and saw Thailand as a
nation to be exploited. Once Singapore and ASEAN became more open
to SLORC, the generals started to move away from Thailand. Now that
Indonesia is beginning to look favourably on SLORC, the generals are
even moving away from Singapore whom they consider to be too bossy.
They had only intended to use the island nation as a stepping stone.
As for Thailand, SLORC has found another use for it. Building on
pent-up frustration amongst Burmese refugees over Thailand's support
of SLORC and resentment against unethical practices employed by Thai
businessmen in Burma, SLORC has revived latent historical anti-Thai
feelings among Burmans to divert attention from the military. The
Burman nationalism campaign is gaining momentum. Trade along the
long land border has come to a virtual standstill and a boycott of
Thai products has been launched by SLORC.
Officials are even being told to avoid Bangkok as a transit point in
favour of other neighbouring airports. Therefore, as far as SLORC is
concerned, instead of having to beg for assistance, it is now in a
position to dictate its own terms to those wanting to benefit from
>From SLORC's point of view, it has been able to turn around Burma's
economic decline. From a nation that had less than US\$15 million
in foreign exchange reserves, the generals are very proud of the fact
that they have now attracted over US\$1 billion in investments. The
fact that these investments will do little for the Burmese economy
and the Burmese people is immaterial. As far as SLORC is concerned,
the economy is a success story. The generals are getting richer. In
fact, the generals have never in their wildest dreams imagined how
rich they could get from business propositions.
>From the generals' point of view, the civil war is also a success
story. While none of the ethnic people are happy with the military
cease-fires they have been forced to sign with SLORC, the Burmese
military has never had such success. With 15 groups agreeing to a
cease-fire and the headquarters of the Karen National Union captured,
SLORC no longer has to fear that it will be defeated in battle. As
far as the generals are concerned, fighting may flare up again from
time to time, but it has at least bought the generals time and, in
the meanwhile, they can get rich.
Politically, the generals are also very satisfied. Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi's release has won SLORC an entry into ASEAN, Japan is on the
verge of renewing ODA assistance and the rest of the world will wait
and see how things develop.
As for the Burmese public, the generals hope that the continuing news
blackout on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will slow down any possible political
development. Again, the generals have bought time to consolidate their
FACILITATING A DIALOGUE:
Given SLORC's assessment of its position internationally and
domestically, there is not the slightest possibility that SLORC will
of its own accord enter into a dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. In
offering a dialogue, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, "We have to choose
between destruction or dialogue" or words to that effect. While her
statement reflects the opinion of the world community that Burma is on
the edge of disaster, the difficulty is that SLORC does not share this
view. As outlined above, SLORC believes that it is doing well, that it
is in control and that things can be worked out as the generals would
like them to be.
Does this then mean that there is no hope for a dialogue or a
transition in Burma?
No. first, the generals have seriously miscalculated the mood of the
Burmese people and their determination to end military rule. Second,
SLORC has also seriously miscalculated the impact of Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi's release. They have been known to miscalculate in the past: the
1990 elections being the most obvious example. It is very likely that
in spite of the many restrictions, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to
re-vitalize the Burmese democracy movement and SLORC will find that it
cannot control events.
This is where the role of the international community becomes critical
if it is serious about facilitating a dialogue between Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi and SLORC. If the international community does not act or decides
to wait and see, SLORC will have gained a tactical advantage and the
chances for a dialogue will diminish.
In trying to facilitate change in Burma, it must always be remembered
that SLORC does not believe that there is a problem in Burma and that
it needs to start a dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to resolve it.
The generals will only enter into a dialogue if it offers them a
tactical advantage. SLORC will not enter into a dialogue unless the
cost of not doing so increases significantly.
Therefore, to bring about a dialogue, the international community must
work to achieve two key objectives:
1. Increased personal safety and freedom for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and
2. Increased cost for SLORC of not entering into a dialogue.
These two objectives are necessary because SLORC does not see the need
for, nor desire a dialogue. In other words, conditions have to be
created to make SLORC want a dialogue. However, as the pressure on
SLORC increases, the generals will be tempted to crack down hard on
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the democracy movement. Therefore, the first
objective is crucial. Only when SLORC sees that cracking down on Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi will be detrimental to its well-being, will it
reconsider its options and decide on a dialogue.
But when a dialogue begins, it will not mean that the generals have
conceded to the demands for democracy. SLORC will only enter into a
dialogue to buy more time. Therefore, the pressure cannot be let up.
To achieve the objectives that will bring about a dialogue which, in
turn, will facilitate the process of democratization in Burma, the
following possibilities are outlined for each objective:
For the first objective of Increased Personal Safety and Freedom for
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, it is proposed that:
a) There be a De Facto Recognition of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as
head of state -
- by ensuring that ambassadors accredited to Burma visit her regularly,
- by ensuring that official delegations visit her as a matter of
- by ensuring that visits of eminent persons are arranged at regular
b) There be Widespread Dissemination of News and Views of D A S S K -
- by increasing coverage of Burma in the mainstream media,
- by increasing support for the Democratic Voice of Burma Radio in
- by increasing support for other media in Burmese and ethnic languages.
c) There be Increased Support for Organizing Work at the Grass-roots Level -
- by trying to assist non-SLORC political parties in Burma,
- by supporting the democracy movement's political defiance program, and
- by supporting seminars and/or disseminating information on democracy.
For the second objective of Increased Cost for SLORC of Not Entering
into a Dialogue, it is proposed that:
a) Support for the Burmese democracy movement be increased -
- by increasing support for the NCGUB's lobbying campaign,
- by facilitating the development of a forum for ethnic leaders,
- by facilitating the development of a future constitution,
- by facilitating the development of a future economic plan,
b) Support be Given to the UN Secretary-General's Mediation Efforts -
- by ensuring strong resolutions are passed at the UNGA and HR
- by ensuring own governments fully back the UN Secretary-General,
- by ensuring all private mediation efforts complement the UN's, and
- by lobbying on behalf of the Burmese people and the UN.
c)Punitive Economic Measures Against SLORC are increased -
- by lobbying own governments to enact arms and economic embargoes,
- by lobbying the business and tourist community to refrain from
supporting SLORC, and
- by continuing to encourage boycotts and corporate withdrawal
The above recommendations are by no means exhaustive and are only given
to facilitate further discussion.
ABSDF-MTZ: ASSISTANCE TO POLITICAL PRISONERS SEIZED
September 15, 1995
ALL BURMA STUDENTS' DEMOCRATIC FRONT
Date: September 15, 1995
Regarding the Aung San Suu Kyi's assistance to the political prisoners last
month, a Rangoon resident said that all assistance to the political prisoners
contributed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were seized by the prison authorities at
the prisons according to the order from the superior. It was first allowed by
the Col. Kyaw Win, Deputy Military Intelligence chief of the Slorc, who passed
the oral message of Gen. Than Swe for unconditional release of Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi on July 10 and frequently visited her residence since then, he added.
She provided the assistance to the poor family members of the political
prisoners, particularly, 5000 kyat each to the family members of the political
prisoners who died in the prisons while serving their sentences.
Family members of the following three prisoners have been well received the
assistance, he confirmed.
NAME CHARGED BY THE SLORC DIED
1. U Tin Maung Win Action was taken against him on 21.11.90 18.1.91
51 years under section 212(l) and 124 of the penal Insein Prison
MP of NLD code for his involvement in attempting to
form a parallel government
2. U Thaw Ka sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on 11.6.91
62 years 5.11.98 under section 5(a) and (b) of Insein Prison
Former Major in the 1950 emergency act provisions Act
Burma Navy and for organizing and exhorting the Tatmadaw
famous author personnel from the Navy to dissociate
from the combined armed forces.
3. U Maung Ko A member of the NLD HQs. Detained for his 9.11.90
50 years involvement in attempting to form a Insein prison
OTHERS DIED IN THE PRISONS (SLORC presentation to UN special rapporteur Mr.
Yozo Yokota in November, 1994)
1. U Zaw Ti Ka sentenced to three years imprisonment 18.11.92
60 years on Feb 8 under section 5(j) of the 1950 Insein Prison
Buddhist Monk emergency act and under section 295 of hospital
the penal code for involvement in a strike organized by the monks
2. Khin Maung Myint sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on 16.2.93
64 years 6.11.89 under section(5) of the 1950
Emergency Act and section 17 of the 1908
Unlawful Association Act involvement in
the under ground movement of the BCP
3. Kyaw Myo Thant A member of DPNS sentenced to one years 20.5.90
(a) Japan Gyi imprisonment under section 505(b) of the Maubin prison
25 years penal Code on 7.11.89 for distributing illegal leaflets
4. Sow Win sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on 3.5.91
72 years 6.11.89 under section 5(j) of the 1950 Insein Prison
Emergency Act and section 17 of the 1908 hospital
unlawful Association Act for involvement
in the underground movement of BCP.
5. Nyo Win Charged on 18.7.89 under section 19(a) of 8.3.91
58 years the Unlawful Association Act for circulating Insein
disinformation and distributing illegal prison leaflets.
6. Khin Maung Sentenced on 2.11.89 to five years 7.3.90
(a) Bo Set Yaung imprisonment under section 5 (j) of the 1950 Insein
Emergency Act and section 17 of the 1908 Prison
Unlawful Association Act for involvement in hospital
the underground movement of BCP.
7. Man Dar Weit Sentenced to eight years imprisonment on 12.7.92
55 years 27.11.89 under section 17(2) of the 1908
Unlawful Association for seeking assistance from KNU insurgents
8. Mohammed Ilyas Detained for having laid explosive mines 23.6.92
(a) Maung Nyo near the Golf club at Maung Daw Maung Daw jail
OTHERS NOT PRESENTED BY THE SLORC AT MR. YOZO YOKOTA'S VISIT
1. U Sein Win lived in Thone Khwa township in Rangoon January, 1991
2. U Thar Htun A well-known history expert in Araken and August, 1990
82 years a member of ALD(Arakan League for Democracy)
was arrested on 7.5.90 and sentenced to
three years Imprisonment under section 5 (j)
of the 1950 emergency act
3. Ko Kyaw Win arrested in June, 1989 and was detained in early, 1990
30 years without trial and sentence Mandalay Prison
4. Ko Than Win a member of NLD at Maubin township was
arrested and detained at Tharyawadi Unknown
5. U David arrested in 1988 2.8.92
6. U Aye Lwin sentenced to death penalty under fighting December,92
38 years against the Thin Gan Kyun police station Insein Prison
7. Maung Aing Ko Workers Collegue Union 13.10.93
31 years Tha Yet Prison
9. Ko Soe Htay a member of NLD was arrested on 12.4.91 16.4.91
10.Ko Kyaw Soe arrested in January, 1989 two day
22 years after the arrest
11.Ko Zaw Win Htun university student was arrested on 2.10.88 30.12.89
21 years (4th year, Physics)
12. Ko Ne Win Aung fled to Thai border and returned Burma a few days
22 years in 1988 under Slorc amnesty and arrested after the
a few days later in Rangoon arrest in Insein Prison
13. Ko Hernit A Muslim fled to Thai border and returned Insein Prison
21 years under the Slorc's amnesty was arrested
14. Ko Aung Moe Fled to Thai border and returned under
Slorc's amnesty and arrested after the arrest Insein prison
Information Department: ALL BURMA STUDENT'S DEMOCRATIC FRONT
for more information Please contact: Zaw Min_Joint Secretary of
Foreign Affairs of the ABSDF
NATION: BEARING THE CRESCENT
September 15, 1995
Burma's small but wealthy Muslim communities have made easy
targets for Slorc's policies of hate. But the policy is likely
cause friction between Rangoon and Asean. DONALD WILSON AND
DAVID HENLEY of Crescent Press Agency write.
Ordinary Burmans are often resentful of the Muslims' financial
success, and this makes them a useful target for the Slorc
when it seeks to divert popular antagonism
from the government.
Burma or Myanmar, as that country's military rulers would have it
called is, like Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country. Like
Thailand, other faiths are represented as well, and Muslims at
about 5 percent of the total population make up the largest
religious minority. Not that it's that simple seemingly nothing
in Burma ever is.
A recent report from Rangoon suggests that the country's military
rulers, the Slorc, are moving against the capital's numerous and
successful Muslim businessmen, forcing them to close their
enterprises and move, lock, stock and barrel, into the
wilderness. But who exactly are these Muslims? What have they
done to antagonize the Slorc? And perhaps most crucially, in the
light of Burma's attendance at last month's Asean meeting as
"observers", what does it mean for Asean solidarity?
The report claims that, ever since its seizure of power in 1962,
the Burmese army, or Tatmawdaw, has "cherished the ambition of
eradicating Muslims and ethnic minorities from the country". The
"Burmese Buddhist masses", by contrast, have never been
prejudiced against Muslims, Christians, Hindus, or any of the
numerous ethnic minorities professing different faiths living in
Though the first part of this equation is essentially correct,
the latter part - that is, the attitude of Burma's Burman
Buddhist majority, is overly simplified and requires further
elaboration. The Burmese military isn't always, invariably, as
evil as calculating as it is painted: nor are the ordinary
Burman people quite so tolerant as the tenets of Buddhism should
ideally make them. Finally, and confusingly, Muslim Burmese
aren't a homogenous people - there are at least ten separate
minority groups in Burma professing Islam. Some are more, secure
than others, though all make good stalking horses for Burman
nationalism, and all live on a knife-edge of insecurity, as they
have since independence in 1948.
Muslim communities live scattered throughout Burma, from Kachin
State in the north to deepest Tenasserim, on the Frontiers of the
Malay world in the south. Some are truly indigenous, like the
Rohingyas of Arakan. Others, like the Chinese Panthays, have
acquired indigenous status through long-term residence which, to
the Slorc, means having been established within the frontiers of
present bay Burma since before the arrival of the British in
Arakan and Tenasserim in 1826.
By these rigorous standards most Muslims inevitably, are "recent
arrivals". They do not have indigenous status, and are thus
handicapped by lack of identity cards and the privileges (such as
they are) of full Burmese nationality. By and large they are of
south Asian origin - albeit from regions as diverse as Chittagong,
Madras Peshawar - and their arrival in Burma is associated with
the time of the British Raj.
During the century or so that Britain ruled Burma, Indian Sikhs
and Hindus as well as Muslims_ fairly flooded into the country
changing the demographic basis of the main cities, so that native
Burmans became a minority in their own capital. In 1948, at the
time of British withdrawal, the population of Rangoon was 58
percent Indian. This was deeply resented by the Burmans, who
devoted the first 15 years of independence before the military
take-over in 1962 to forcing out these unwelcome migrants.
Kyaw Nyein, Deputy Prime Minister of Burma in the late 1950s,
pretty much summed up what the average Burman felt when he
described the country in colonial times as " a social pyramid
with millions of poor, ignorant, exploited Burmese at its base,
and a few outsiders_ British, Indians and Chinese_ at its apex".
Independent Burma - both before and after the military take-over
of 1962 - subjected these Indian and Chinese "outsiders" to
considerable political and economic hardship. As a consequence,
millions fled the country, often "returning" to a homeland they
had never seen.
Hindus, Sikhs, the much-disliked Chettiar money lenders, all left
en masse. The Chinese, too, departed Rangoon_ especially after
the anti-Chinese ethnic rioting of 1967. Many Muslims left as
well. But others stayed behind, chiefly because of the roots they
had put down. Unlike the caste-conscious Hindus, Muslims were
quite content to marry local Burmese women and raise families.
This gave rise to a mixed-race community, Burmese-speaking, but
Muslim, generally known as Zerbadees.
Burman nationalists have never known quite what to make of, or do
with, the Zerbadees. They cannot easily be "sent home" like other
migrant communities - they are Burmese born, Burmese-speaking, and
they identify with Burma. However they are Muslims, not
Buddhists. It is this community, as well as remaining South Asia
Muslim migrants from British times, together with their
descendants that not just the Slorc, but many ordinary Burman
people deprecate. Like the Chinese, most are city dwellers, and
they excel at business. Ordinary (Buddhist) Burmans are often
resentful of their financial success, and_ again, like the
Chinese_ this makes them a useful target for the Slorc when it
seeks to divert popular antagonism away from the government.
These days, however, the Chinese are very much "in" with the
Slorc. Since the military crackdown of 1988, Beijing has emerged
as Rangoon's major ally and main source of armaments. Under these
circumstances, Burma's ethnic Chinese citizens are "off limits"
as targets of communal hostility at least for the present. That
leaves the Muslims, who were in any case blamed by the Slorc for
initiating the 1988 riots.
The most recent instance of anti-Muslim discrimination by the
Slorc involves Pabedan Township, a district of central Rangoon
stretching from Shwe Dagon to Sule Pagoda Rofdads, around and
behind the Bogyoke Zay Market. This area of prime real-estate has
long been dominated by wholesale and retail agencies selling a
wide variety of hardware and construction equipment, small
printing presses and food stalls. Pabedan, perhaps the largest
trading centre in downtown Rangoon, is overwhelmingly Muslim
whilst up to 80 percent of the businesses located there are
According to reports from Rangoon, Slorc recently issued notices
to nearly 2000 shop-keepers in Pabedan, requiring them to wind up
their businesses and move out. Their destination is a township
called Sawbwa Gyi Gone, well out of town in the direction of
Mingaladon Airport, where Burmese military personnel have been
allotted land at a token price. The Muslim shop-keepers have been
given the choice of purchasing plots of land in Sawbwa Gyi Gone
at greatly inflated prices, or moving out of town together.
Slorc has justified this action by branding Pabedan an eyesore,
out of place in central Rangoon on the eve of 1996 "Visit
Myanmar" year. The Muslim community of Pabedan feel otherwise.
They claim the Slorc's plans to promote tourism are being used as
an excuse to persecute Muslims and they are probably right.
>From a Slorc perspective, the perceived need to make Pabedan fit
for international tourism dovetails nicely with chance to turn
some of Rangoon's unpopular Muslim businessmen out of the it_ and
to make an additional personal killing through land sales at
Sawbwa Gyi Gone on the side.
Nor is Pabedan Township the first case of this kind. Four years
ago the Burmese military authorities closed down two important
Muslim-dominated business areas in the capital.
One was at Kyettan, a scrap-iron market Pazundaung Township in
east Rangoon and automobile and spare parts market close by
Myenigone Mosque in the township of the same name. Against, the
majority of the traders were Burmese Muslims. According to
well-placed sources, part of the land thus expropriated was given
to the children of high-ranking military officers, who built
Rangoon's biggest department store, the Yuzana, in the area.
More recently, at the beginning of 1994 the Burmese military
authorities issued papers expropriating "prime business locations
and land" at Oaksu Ward on Tamwe Township, also in Rangoon. About
80 percent of the families living in the area are estimated to
have been Muslim, mainly petty traders, skilled workers, and
white collar employees. When the land was taken over by Slorc
these unfortunate residents were "ejected to far off satellite
towns where there are no proper facilities like transport,
schools,. hospitals or electricity". But to the Slorc out of
sight is, generally, out of mind, and Burma's Muslims are a
"forgotten minority" with no-one to champion them.
No-one, that is, except those regional. states anxious to see
Burma re-admitted to the community of nations and, more
particularly, an active, prosperous and democratic member of
Asean. Malaysia and Indonesia, the most important members of
Asean's Islamic southern tier, have already made very clear their
concern for Burma's indigenous Rohingya Muslim minority in
Arakan. Now, as several major Asean forums approach, it might be
a good time for Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur as well as Bangkok and
Singapore to pay some attention to the plight Burman Muslims.
BKK POST: LETTER - WORTHY GESTURE WAY TOO LATE
September 15, 1995
SIR: How laudable of the United States to send American
Ambassador to the United Nations Ms Madeline Albright to deliver
a tough message to the Burmese generals to hold talks with
dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, or else face economic and political
isolation from the West (Bangkok Post, September 11).
How unfortunate that the Western democracies did not react the
same way three decades ago when the Burmese armed forces
overthrew the freely elected government of U Nu in 1962. Within a
few days the ruling Revolutionary Council was recognized by the
West despite reports that the entire Cabinet was imprisoned.
Three years later in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson received
coup leader Gen Ne Win at the White House, thus approving an
Instead of punishing the regime, the West bank-rolled a
dictatorship that made life hell for ordinary Burmese. To the
people, the Socialist dictatorship has meant blood, sweat
and much tears. The communist-style economic and political system
forced the fiercely proud people to beg, borrow and steel.
Widespread hunger and malnutrition ravaged a country that had
never known food shortages in its history. Ironically, after $5
billion In Western aid the Burmese became one of the poorest
people in the world.
In 1988 the Burmese overthrew the Western-backed regime that had
pauperised them by confiscating their properties and cancelling
their banknotes. During the 26-year socialist revolution
thousands were jailed for trying to make a living. The revolt.
was about gut issues: rice, salt and cooking oil.
Meanwhile, when Ms Albright was meeting Suu Kyi, fellow NLD
leaders Tin Oo and Kyi Maung were also present. Apparently, the
American envoy was unaware that she shook hands with two former
army officers who in the past had no love for democracy
Colonel Kyi Maung was a member of the 17-man Revolutionary
Council that overthrew the democratically-elected government in
1962, while General Tin Oo was the army chief when troops killed
scores of students 4 during riots over UN Secretary-General U
Thant's funeral in 1974.
With such varied degrees of ignorance, I fear for Burma...
A word to the wise: you cannot shun a country that has turned
isolationism into a statecraft. I believe l that only massive
international aid i, will strengthen the people and force g the
military back to the barracks. One cannot fight for freedom on an
[Typed by the Researach Department of the ABSDF(MTZ)]