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Democracy lives at BAIJ meeting


Burmese Association in Japan (BAIJ) held its 7th annual meeting on Sept. 10
in Tokyo. The more than 40 people who attended included members of other
democracy groups in Japan, a reporter for NHK radio and two special guests:
veteran journalists U Thaung and U Tin Maung Win, who were visiting Japan
following their participation in a seminar in Seoul, Korea, sponsored by the
Forum of Democratic Leaders.

The meeting was called for the purpose of electing new members to the
executive committee.  When the general secretary asked for volunteers,
however, no one stood up. The patron of BAIJ, Dr. Tun Aye, suggested that
instead of an executive committee, the organization form a "working
committee" (which would eliminate the position of patron).  Seven people
volunteered for the working committee, although one of them resigned
immediately after some members opposed his inclusion.  Moreover, four BAIJ
members took the opportunity to terminate their membership with the
organization.  BAIJ ended the meeting without a clear policy or leadership.


The dwindling support for BAIJ leadership can be attributed to their support
of the Japanese government's policies toward Burma.  BAIJ's president Ko Win
Naing, in a Nov. 17, 1994, article in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said,
"Overseas investment to Myanmar has increased and the military government
has launched economic reforms; the international community recognizes these
realities.  We can't compete (with the military government) by simply
opposing (it)." His comments drew sharp criticism from democracy groups in
Japan (including Burma Youth Volunteer Association, Burmese Relief
Center--Japan and International Network for Burma Relief) and around the
world who support sanctions against SLORC. Responding to the backlash, he
said, "SLORC agreed to free Aung San Suu Kyi and to adopt a democratic
system of government.  I therefore agree with the following: (a) a role for
the military in the parliament, (b) the continuation of the economic
policies of the military junta."

The results of the BAIJ meeting may have been a defeat for the
organization's leadership, but they were a victory for BAIJ's rank-and-file
as well as the democracy movement as a whole.  The members of BAIJ sent a
clear message to their elected leaders, and if those leaders truly believe
in democracy they will listen and act accordingly.  If they do not, they
will find themselves like any leader in a democratic system who ignores the
will of the people -- out of a job.

News report by Aung Thu, BYVA
Opinion by Carol Schlenker, BRC--J

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