[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Burmanet News September 19, 1995

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"

The BurmaNet News: September 19, 1995

Noted in Passing:
  I have visited AIDS units in hospitals in Rangoon and seen
people dying of HIV with chains on their legs like 17th-century
prisoners, chains around their ankles tied to their beds because
they are awaiting trial for drug offences.  - John Dwyer, President 
of the AIDS Society for Asia and the Pacific. (quoted in BKK POST: 

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 is available via the WorldWideWeb at:

FreeBurmaWWW http://sunsite.unc.edu/freeburma/freeburma.html
[including back issues of the BurmaNet News as .txt files]
BurmaWeb:  http://www.uio.no/tormodl

Burma fonts: 

Ethnologue Database(Myanmar):


 gopher csf.colorado.edu.

Look under the International Political Economy section, then
select Geographic_Archive, then Asia, then Burma. 

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]
Bangladesh border
Art/archaeology/:            [volunteer needed]
Campus activism:             [on summer vacation]
Boycott campaigns: [Pepsi]   
Buddhism:                    Buddhist Relief Mission, 
                             c/o NBH03114@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Chin history/culture:        plilian@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Fonts:                  		tom@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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]
[Burma-India border]
Pali literature:             "Palmleaf"
                             c/o burmanet@xxxxxxxxxxx
Shan history/culture:        [volunteer needed]
Shareholder activism:        frdc@xxxxxxxxxxx    "Attn. S.
Tourism campaigns:      bagp@xxxxxxxxxx     "Attn. S.
World Wide Web:              FreeBurma@xxxxxxxxx
Volunteering:           christin@xxxxxxxxxx  

[Feel free to suggest more areas of coverage]

September 18, 1995 By JOHN J. TOBIN

Guest Forum, Japan Times

In a recent article (The Japan Times, Aug. 25) Professor
Simon Tay muddles the debate over human rights in Asia. 
He makes obeisance to the universality of human rights, but
calls for development of an Asian meaning of these rights. 
This is unobjectionable.  What is troubling is how arguments
for cultural diversity become apologies for authoritarianism.

In urging an Asian meaning of human rights, Tay relies on
five arguments.  The first, the "we-are - all-somewhat-different" 
argument, is a type of cultural relativism holding
that cultures are distinctive, though not incommensurable,
and that Western human rights may undergo some change
when implemented in Asian societies.

Cultural relativism provides an important anti-imperial
check on the manipulation of human rights, but its dirty
secret is the ambiguity of "culture," its central concept. 
Determining whether a practice is "culture" (worthy of
respect) or "politics" (open to critique) is difficult, since the
two domains are intimately linked.  Moreover, ethnography
has exploded the view of cultures as static, showing them to
be changing, riddled with conflict, and saturated with
power.  Since cultures are incessantly remade out of the
symbols, power relations, and material conditions of the
present, "culture" cannot provide a secure basis for
justifying social practices.

As Yash Ghai has noted, cultures are attributes of
communities, not states, There is thus the large question
whether one can sensibly speak of the "culture" of a nation -state.  
Practices seeking justification in a supposed "national
culture" must be handled with caution.  Finally, Asia's
diversity argues against a single, culturally "Asian" meaning
of human rights.

A second argument is the "full belly" thesis: Observance of
human rights depends on stages of economic and social
development, with civil and political rights coming last. 
China set out one version in a 1991 white paper, arguing
that survival rights - to food, shelter and health - take
priority over freedom of expression and other civil and
political rights, since the latter are meaningless if one is
starving.  Violation of those rights is justified as a trade-off
by states with limited resources.

While the full -belly thesis has the virtue of countering the
big powers' scant attention to economic and social human
rights, it wrongly assumes that "development " will result
from this approach, and will be followed by full civil and
political rights.  Latin America and Africa are littered with
the failures of states which have taken this path.  The
reasons for such failures are complex, but "postponement"
of civil and political rights maintains imbalances of power
and fosters grotesque development skewed in favor of the
powerful.  In this model, corrupt, unaccountable
governments are complicit in denying the very rights they
claim to prefer.

The third, "authoritarian success story" argument, conjures
national security. China and others have argued that the
denial of civil and political rights is not just a matter of
tough choices, but necessary to maintain tile political
stability required for development and for an eventual
transition of full human rights.  The examples of Singapore,
South Korea and Taiwan, usually trotted out as proof of
this proposition, are not convincing.  Singapore is
anomalous, a city-state with a colonial history. as a regional
entrepot.  The others benefitted from being showcases of
capitalism during the Cold War; it is far from established
that authoritarianism was required for their development. 
The often-cited Philippines as a cautionary tale of too much
democracy conveniently ignores the pernicious legacy of
Marcos-era crony capitalism and the limited nature of
Philippine democracy.

Tay seems to justify Singapore's draconian detention laws,
the most sweeping of which are the Internal Security Act of
1968 and the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of
Crime) Ordinance of 1969.  The latter grants the Home
Affairs minister broad discretion to detain for up to two
years on grounds, inter alia, of maintaining public order. 
Tay does not mention that this ordinance can be used
because Singapore has maintained, for 26 years, the state of
emergency declared during the 1969 intercommunal riots. 
Quite an emergency.

Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR) provides for national security threats;
suspension of some rights is permitted in times of public
emergency, if such measures are strictly required by the
situation.  In his zeal to defend Singapore's policies, Tay
tilts at "those who make propositions not sustained by
human rights law," such as that a person should never be
detained without trial.  He alludes obliquely to the Article 4
mechanism, then without breaking stride notes that "The
laws on detention in Singapore are different, as no
emergency need be declared," and that "human rights do not
absolutely prohibit detention and critics are wrong to
overstate  their case."  

The issue which Tay ought to address is rather, why does
Singapore reject Article 4-style limits on governmental
power? Because of Singaporean "culture"?  Its stage of.
economic development?  The struggle with neocolonial
domination?  Absent a convincing answer, one suspects the
old masquerade: arbitrary power parading as national

A fourth argument cites self-determination, according to
which Asia needs its own concept of human rights for
defense against criticism by "outsiders," and for the
construction of its own future.  Given the disproportionate
power of Western governments and NGOS, the defensive
tone is perhaps understandable, though it can be
compellingly argued that there are no longer "outsiders"
when it comes to publicizing and criticizing human rights
violations.  The danger is that a concept designed to deflect
external critics usually aids in quashing internal dissenters
and suppressing inconvenient facts.  As Tay indicates, 
self-determination requires open societies, in which all can
contribute to an informed debate.

Tay's comment that "some American commentators reject
censorship that protects racial or religious sensitivities" is a
red herring.  Article 20 of the ICCPR prohibits "advocacy of
national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes
incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence" so
Singapore is quite free  to ban such speech, taking into
account its own history and circumstances.  Moreover,
Singapore has not been criticized for such censorship, but
for the abusive application of the Official Secrets Act
against journalists, criminal defamation actions against
academics, and curbs on the circulation of newspapers and

A final argument is the "Occi-genetic fallacy": Human rights
are Western creations, therefore unsuited to Asia.  It is true
that human rights appeared first in the West, initially a
defense of the bourgeoisie against arbitrary state power,
later a defense of workers against the ravages of the market. 
To the extent that Asian societies manifest states and
markets posing "Western" threats to individuals, "Western"
human rights are essential, holding back the oppressive hand
of the state from individuals and communities, fostering the
flourishing of culture and giving some shelter from the
profit seeking market, no respecter of local culture.  In this
very practical sense, "Western" human rights are Universal.

(Iohn Tobin, founding administrative director of the
Harvard Law School's Human Rights Program, teaches
international human rights at Doshisha University.) 


By the International Institute for Strategic Studies 
The Straits Times (Reprinted in The Japan Times,
September 15, 1995)

LONDON - Despite the considerable international attention
that surrounded the release of opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi there are few signs of substantial change in the
political life of Myanmar.

On the contrary, her release is not a sign of weakness on the
part of the State Law and Order Restoration Council, which
assumed power in 1988, but of the growing self-confidence
of Myanmar's military leaders who still determine the
political agenda and are preparing for life after SLORC.

The first question concerning Suu Kyi's future has been
answered quickly.  Unlike fellow Nobel laureate Nelson
Mandela, she has not been freed to take part in a national

Despite growing international support, she has been
released as an ordinary citizen, subject to the same
draconian security laws as everyone else.

SLORC officials depict her as an irrelevant voice in
domestic politics, sway to Western allegiances (she has a
British husband).  In such a hostile environment, her future
rearrest cannot be precluded.

In response, she has attempted to maintain a conciliatory
pose.  She has concentrated on reviving her near moribund
party, the National League for Democracy, which won a
landslide victory in the 1980 election.

Significantly, she has spent much time with retired military
supporters, and has adopted an appeasing stance toward the
army, which her late father founded.

Her strategy is clearly to pave the way for talks with the
two key SLORC figures, Chairman Gen.  Than Shwe, and
military intelligence chief Lt.  Gen. Khin Nyunt, who both
met her last year.

The council, however, has shown little interest in
responding.  Eventual talks cannot be ruled out as national
reconciliation will one day be essential.  But unless such
talks occur soon, a confrontation is widely predicted.

Many supporters believe Suu Kyi must make her mark
quickly to prevent further erosion of the democracy
movement.  In the coming months, there will be two main
points of contention.     * The first concerns international investment in Myanmar. 
Suu Kyi's assertion that any international investment is
premature without democratic reform has been met with
stinging criticism in the state-controlled press.

SLORC is staking its long-term survival on economic
progress, and should it feel that her words are being heeded,
hardliners will undoubtedly respond.

Its open-door policy is slowly attracting international
investment to the country, especially in tourism and natural
gas.  However, Myanmar is still considered a financial risk
and, after years of conflict and misrule, most sectors of the
economy are in a parlous state.  

* The second point concerns SLORC's reform process
which, after much delay, is now reaching a critical state.
During Suu Kyi's detention, SLORC overruled the 1990
election result and inaugurated its own National Convention
to draw up the new constitution.

Most elected parties have been barred, but several NLD
members, on Suu Kyi's instructions, have continued to
attend.  Despite continuing arrests, this has allowed SLORC to
present the convention as a forum for democratic debate.

It has also accelerated an increasingly successful cease-fire
policy in ethnic-minority regions.  By this June, it had
agreed to military cease fires with the 16 key ethnic
insurgent groups, bringing the first peace in four decades to
several borderland war zones.  A number of these groups
have been attending the convention.

Thus, the next scheduled meeting in October will bring
numerous issues to a head. With the constitution reportedly 
near completion, SLORC will force both Suu Kyi and the ethnic 
opposition to deal with them or risk being marginalized.

Suu Kyi's long-term potential as a unifying symbol for
democratic change can never be discounted.
However, as evidenced by her release, SLORC leaders are
now confident in their ability to control the situation.

Internally, SLORC is aiming for the Indonesian model.  The
armed forces must have the "leading role" in politics,
Myanmar's future president must have military experience ,
and 25 percent of seats in Parliament must be reserved for
military candidates.

Equally striking after the poor showing of its National Unity
Party in 1990, SLORC has formed the mass movement
Union Solidarity and Defense Association in likely imitation
of Indonesia's ruling Golkar party.

Meanwhile, in Myanmar's restive ethnic-minority states,
SLORC is planning to reform local government while
retaining central military rule.

New administrative regions will be created in which leaders
who have signed cease-fires have been promised important

Clearly, SLORC hopes to dissipate ethnic opposition
through cease-fires, but how long these groups will be
allowed to retain their arms is unclear.

Nevertheless, its calculation that many insurgent
commanders in the field put local interests before broader
national concerns has been proved correct.  The main armed
opposition fronts, the National Democratic Front and
Democratic Alliance of Burma, have virtually disintegrated.

This does not mean that Myanmar's long-running ethnic
problems are by any means solved.  Fighting still continues
against the Mong Tai Army of the opium king, Khun Sa. 
Nevertheless, after so many years of conflict, veteran ethnic
leaders want to be on the inside of the process in such a
pivotal era. For this reason, cease-fires are expected to en-

Also delighted by the cease-fire movement and Suu Kyi's
release are Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbors, who
share many concerns over refugees, narcotics and AIDS.  In
the xenophobic world of Myanmar politics, internal security
is always paramount.

Many regional governments claim Suu Kyi's release as the
result of their "constructive engagement" with SLORC, in
sharp contrast to the West's isolation tactics.

The greatest public support for SLORC has come from the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which invited the
regime to attend (as observer) its last two annual meetings
in Bangkok and Brunei.

There have been several diplomatic visits, and with the
signing of ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in
July, Myanmar's future membership is virtually assured.

If Myanmar is ineluctably moving into the Southeast Asia
orbit, China remains the most powerful presence on Myan-
mar's borders.  The country's entry into ASEAN, however,
will not worry China, whose policy toward Myanmar has
undergone a major shift.

Following its 1989 cutoff in support to the now-defunct
Communist Party of Burma, Chinese trade has come to pre-
dominate across the northeast.  China is today Myanmar's
largest arms supplier and trading partner, and although
large-scale Chinese immigration is fueling resentment,
diplomatic relations were cemented publicly by Chinese
Prime Minister Li Peng's 1994 visit to Rangoon.

Significantly, however, the greatest international influence
on Suu Kyi's release was probably neither ASEAN nor
China but Japan, which has made her freedom the main
precondition for resuming aid.

SLORC first announced the news to the Japanese Embassy
and, in response, ministers in Tokyo have already intimated
that full development assistance will be restored shortly.
By contrast, the release of Suu Kyi has left Western
governments increasingly wrong-footed.  Western oil
companies are the largest sectoral investors in Myanmar,
but concern over continuing human-rights abuses is still

While international attention has focused on Aung San Suu
Kyi, Myanmar's military strongmen have once again ensured
that they have the dominant say and Western governments
will have to adjust their policies to this reality.

(The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is a
London-based think-tank.  This article is one of a series of
commentaries on strategic global issues examined every
month by the institute.)

September 17, 1995

      BANGKOK, Sept 17 (Reuter) - Burmese dissident students in exile on
Sunday demanded that Burma's ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC) hold talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and release a
student leader detained six years ago. 

    ``We would like to urge the international community to join us to demand
for the unconditionally release of Min Ko Naing and all political prisoners
in Burma,'' the All Burma Students' Democratic Front said in a statement
given to Reuters on Sunday.  It also demanded that the country's military 
rulers hold talks with Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The student group said more than 3,000 political prisoners were still in
Burmese jails.  Ming Ko Naign, 33, was the student leader from Rangoon 
University who led the mass protests against the military. He was arrested 
in March, 1989, and sentenced to 20 years in jail. 

September 19, 1995

BURMA is at the centre of a fastest-growing AIDS epidemic and
countries must help its military government fight it or the
entire effort in the region will fail, according to experts at a
symposium on AIDS in Asia.

     Fuelled partly by increased cross-border travel and trade,
the epidemic is exploding or is ready to do so in all the
countries bordering Burma-in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos
and southern China, which has the country's worst infection rate.

     Drug use is rife in Burma because it forms part of the
"Golden Triangle," where its border meets with that of Laos and
Thailand to form the world's largest source of opium, and its
derivative, heroin. Drug warlords control much of Burma's border

     Western countries and international agencies have curbed
assistance to Burma since the military leaders seized power in
1988 by killing hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators.

     The United States says it will not resume aid until the
human rights situation improves and the government starts ceding
power to elected civilians .

     Of the estimated 3 to 4 million AIDS virus carriers in Asia,
1 million are in India, followed by Thailand, and then Burma,
with 200,000 to 450,000, said John Dwyer, an Australian
immunologist who is president of the AIDS Society for Asia and
the Pacific.

     Burma has an AIDS crisis because "it's got so many borders
and so few friends" Dwyer said. "There simply have been far too
few international cooperative programmes to help Burma with its
problems. It's a major international scandal that we're trying to
contain an epidemic and here the crucible is burning brightly."
Meanwhile, he said, the Burmese Government "is making every
mistake in the book in terms of the problem of HIV."

     "I have visited AIDS units in hospitals in Rangoon and seen
people dying of HIV with chains on their legs like 17th-century
prisoners, chains around their ankles tied to their beds because
they are awaiting trial for drug offences," he said. "Of course
they will never go to trial: They are going to die of AIDS," he

     These Southeast Asian countries must cooperate in battling
the epidemic because of the huge cross-border activity, yet
cooperation programmes " have been strikingly missing from this

     The rate of increase of infections will continue through the
year 2005 in Asia, he said even though the projected curb will
start to fall elsewhere.

     For decades shielded by seclusion, the Burmese have
undertaken economic reforms that have increased border trade,
foreign tourists and businessmen. Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are
beginning to show similar problems.


September 19, 1995

BURMA welcomes non-governmental organisations from overseas to
run educational programmes and activities on AIDS in the country
as the deadly disease is rapidly spreading there.

     "They are always welcomed and it will be a big help," said
Dr Rai Mra, a consultant haematologist at the Yangon General
Hospital who visited Chiang Mai for the third conference on AIDS
in ASIA and Pacific, held at the Pang Suan Kaew Hotel since

     He said though the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNDP
are working on such programmes in Burma, there are many
difficulties to overcome, especially the diversity of tribal

     There are more than 100 minority groups among Burma's
population of 40 million and safe-sex campaign publications and
others have to be translated into five major languages, including
Burmese and Chinese.

     Hospital records show Burma has some 400-500 AIDS patients
nationwide 80 per cent of whom are males aged between 20-40.

     He said though the number is still small, the real situation
is frightening as the exact figure of HIV/positive cases remains

     The Burmese doctor added that there will be a big increase
in the number of HIV/positive cases that will develop into AIDS
in the near future.

     Burma has little money to spend on health care and the
standard of medical facilities available is still undeveloped, he

     Burma's economy seemed to get better in recent years, but
AIDS would have bad impacts on its economic development as the
high-risk group is its workforce.

     "We have found some women infected from HIV/AIDS and in the
future we will eventually find AIDS/infected children born to
these women," he said.

     The first Burmese AIDS case was discovered in l988 after a
surveillance research started in 1985. The patient was believed
to have contracted the disease from abroad. The doctor did not
identify the country.

     The doctor said factors of transmission in each part of the
nation are not the same. Cultures and religions play major roles.
People do not talk about sex in public. The government needs to
do more in publicising facts to help people overcome their

     "The knowledge is there, but it is not practised. I think it
is the same problem as in Thailand," he said.
The two main factors contributing to the spread of AIDS are
the use of narcotic drugs and sexual contacts with prostitutes.

     "For sex workers, in general approach, we give them
education on AIDS and introduce condoms. We will put emphasis on
family values to urge people to have only one partner," he said.
 He said it is necessary to develop more resources, such as
condom supplies, educational materials and funds from overseas.

     Burma imports condoms and gives them to over 200 clinics
specialising in sexually transmitted diseases and drug treatment
centres nationwide for free distribution to  visiting prostitutes
and patients.

     "There should be more condoms available to people
everywhere, not just in the clinics. It seems difficult to find
condoms at shops. The quality one can cost about 15-30 kyatts,"he

     Kawthaung and Tachilek provinces opposite Mae-Sai District
of Chiang Rai in Thailand are facing a big increase in the number
of HIV/positive people and there are many AIDS-infected women as
they are working in a cross-border sex trade.

     Burmese prostitutes sent back home from Thailand will return
to their places of origin in the countryside. They can have
medical check-ups, if they wish, at any of the sexually
transmitted disease clinics throughout the country.

     "We do not force them to get their blood checked. But they
must return home," the doctor said.  He said it is difficult to 
suppress prostitution as people are free to cross the border into Thailand.


September 19, 1995

A DELEGATION will be sent to Rangoon this month to tackle
problems in relations with Burma, the Defence Minister said

     Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who went to Burma this month for
the same reason, said the delegation would give the State Law and
Order Restoration Council a progress report.

     Burma, he said, wanted Thailand to show sincerity by
resolving the case of murdered Burmese fishermen, ensuring
security along its border (controlled by Khun Sa) and stopping
Thai encroachment in the Moei River.
Encroachment led to the suspension of construction of a
friendship bridge between Mae Sot, Tak, and Myawaddy town.
 The conditions were conveyed to Gen Chavalit in Rangoon when
he invited Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, the regime's first secretary, to

     Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister indicated that flooding
might put a dampener on Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt's visit.

     M.R. Kasem S. Kasemsri was speaking after talks with a
Burmese Foreign Ministry delegation led by Tun Ngwe, deputy
director-general of the International Affairs Department,
visiting Thailand until September 27.


Septbember 19, 1995

     RED CROSS officials have had to leave Burma because they are
unable to do their job. The [International Committee of the Red Cross recently
closed its office in Rangoon only three years after Burma acceded
to the four Geneva Conventions in August 1992.

     The State Law and Order Restoration Council has followed one
of the peacetime obligations stipulated by the conventions-
spreading the principles of humanitarian rules in the conduct of
hostilities -and has done little or nothing else.

     It denied the committee access to its prisons and private
visits to political prisoners. It refused to allow the committee
to take care of the wounded when the SLORC army attacked the
Karen head-quarters at Manerplaw and Kawmoora.

     "Political opportunism" motivated the SLORC to accede to the
conventions, according to Friedrun Medert, who has been with
committee in Rangoon for four years.

     The accession was timed a few weeks before the annual
meeting of the United Nations General Assembly where the SLORC
had expected to be under fire for its human rights record.

     Since the house arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi in 1988 and the refusal by the SLORC to recognise the results
of the 1990 general election, the General Assembly has passed
several resolutions against the SLORC.

     The SLORC in April 1992 concluded an agreement with the
neighbouring Bangladeshi government to repatriate more than
200,000 ethnic Rohinyas who had fled political and military

     But by August, the SLORC continued to deny the United
Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees the right to oversee the
repatriation and not one Rohinya had returned home.

     Medert stressed that the SLORC had been fully briefed about
the obligations under the conventions and the committee
had made it very clear to the junta that it was not in Burma "for
Suu Kyi" or to question its right to imprison people it believed
should be behind bars.

     Rather, the committee stressed to the SLORC that persons put
in prison should be treated well and not be tortured.

     The committee made its first request for access to prisons
in 1988 and the mention of prison visits turned out to be the
best way to end a conversation with senior SLORC officials,
according to Medert.

     Negotiations took a hopeful turn in 1993, a few months after
Burma acceded to the conventions, when the SLORC hinted at
possible approval, saying it was ready to discuss the subject.

     But it was not until last year that the SLORC asked the
committee to submit a list stating all procedures involved. Nine
months were to pass before the committee received an answer in
March this year.

     The answer was a counter-proposal from the SLORC's Ministry
of Home Affairs: The committee was to have access to "some"
prisons but was to be accompanied by SLORC officials. It made
no mention whether the committee could repeat the visits, only
that the political prisoners it visited could be registered.

     The committee's practices are the same in all countries. It
seeks access to all prisons, private visits to political
prisoners, their registration and the right to repeat the visits.

     "It's a package deal, all or nothing," said Medert.

     She explained that one main aim of the  committee's prison
visits was to persuade prison authorities to improve the living
conditions of inmates. It was be impossible to find out about
problems when inmates could not speak freely for fear of

     "The fact the government admits the committee to its prisons
does not mean there is a problem (with their prisons). It means
only that the government is ready to talk to the committee."

     But these reassurances fell on deaf ears. Medert thinks that
it may be because the committee's mandate went beyond being a
charitable organisation, in that it also provides assistance and

"Protection from whom" the SLORC must have thought, Medert said.
 The one positive side of the committee's efforts in Burma
was its ability to hold three training courses for senior
military officers on the principles of the conventions.

     According to Medert, who saw some of the classes, it was
clear these senior military officers had never before heard of
humanitarian principles in the conduct of hostilities.

     "They couldn't even conceal that they were astonished," she
said, when the committee trainer spoke about treating wounded
enemy like their own soldiers.

     SLORC leaders always said they had their sets of principles,
a "Buddhist Code of Conduct" which they never explained but
insisted was better than the Geneva Conventions.
 Each training course in 1993-94 was attended by 20-30
officers from lieutenant-colonel up.

     Although the committee has closed its Rangoon office, its
regional base in New Delhi will keep open communications by
sending its officials to Rangoon every three or four months.


September 19, 1995

BURMA'S RULERS and its opponents agree on one thing; Rangoon
gives women full equal, rights with men.

     When Maj-Gen Soe Myint, head of the Burmese delegation told
the United Nations' Conference on Women in Beijing that his
country's women needed no special arrangement, the Burmese
Women's Union quickly agreed.

     The union said in a statement that Burmese women were
equally treated with man when they were subjected to summary
executions, torture, forced labour, arbitrary arrest, forced
portering, denial of their rights to participate in the political
process, religious persecution and forced relocation.

     The girls and women of Burma, especially whose who are
ethnic minorities, were raped during military offensives, raped
while serving as porters and sold into prostitution.

     Violence against girls and women is pervasive under the rule
of the State Law and Order Restoration Council, according to the

     Women in Burma bear the brunt of SLORC's policies of forced
relocation under which families are expelled from their homes to
new satellite town which lack electricity, clean water and access
to transport.

     Further, in the preparation for "Visit Myanmar Year" in
1996, many women, including those who are pregnant, are among
hundreds of thousands of people forced to work as slave labourers
in "beautification" projects and  construction of railways,
roads, bridges and airports, according to the women's group.

     The union and the Norwegian Burma Council called on SLORC to
begin talks with democratic forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi and,
representatives of ethnic minorities. 

     They called for the release of all political prisoners and
for prosecution of the government agents responsible for abuses,
in particular rape and trafficking of girls and women into sexual

     SLORC should take immediate steps to comply with the UN
Economic and Social Council resolution of March 8,1995 and the UN
General Assembly resolution of last December 2 " to end
violations of the right to life and the integrity of human
beings, to end torture, abuse of women and forced labour,
enforced displacement of the population and enforced
disappearance and summary executions and allow all citizens to
participate freely in the political process".

The statement urged the international community to refrain
from improving relations with SLORC until the regime showed a
genuine commitment to a democratic and civil, open society.

     Their demand was echoed at the Non-Governmental Forum  on
Women, which ended a week earlier than the UN conference.

     "Slorc must show its sincerity to change," said Hnin Hnin
Pyne, an exiled Burmese member of the union. "It must hold
dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi," she told a workshop.
  Pyne said pressure from world community would greatly help a
change toward democracy in Burma.

     Economic sanctions were needed. Each women participant could
help by boycotting trans-national companies that invested in
Burma and their governments if they supported such investment.

     "We will continue to lobby for companies to stop investing
in the country," she said.  International aid agencies were asked to 
take precautions before granting aid to Burma.

"The Slorc does not allow access to problem areas, where help is
most needed," Pyne said, warning that otherwise aid might end up
it the pockets of the SLORC.

     The problem in Burma is not limited to democracy but also
equal rights among minority groups.
Pyne said the SLORC should hold talks not only with Suu Kyi,
but also with ethnic groups.

     Research by Images Asia showed that Burmese women were
forced to cross the border into Thailand because of suppression
and economical problems in Burma. Most of these women were of
ethnic minorities the Burmese government chose to ignore.

     Without proper documents, some women ended up locked in
detention centres where corrupt Thai officials demanded kick-
backs. However, when these women were asked whether they wanted
to return to Burma, most refused to do so unless the situation in
Burma improved.

     Groups in Europe, North America and Thailand have set up
networks to help women and keep the SLORC under pressure. One
representative from the Norwegian Burma Council told conference
participants that past efforts proved that even small
organisations could contribute to the cause. She urged advocates
in each country to lobby their government to pressure SLORC to
restore democracy in Burma.



Illegal Immigrants rounded up: Bkk Post/ 18.9.95

Some of the 71 illegal immigrants, mostly Burmese caught in raids
between Friday and yesterday in Ratchaburi and Bangkok. They were
shown to the press at the Immigration Office yesterday.


"A picture of Burmese students demonstrators who were setting a
fire on the up-side-down Burma flag(BSPP & SLORC Flag) in front
of the Burma's embassy in Bangkok, appeared on the Page 6 of
BANGKOK POST newspaper(19.9.95) with the following caption."

About 50 people rally at Burma's embassy on Sathorn road
yesterday to mark the 7th Anniversary of the crushing of pro-
democracy demonstrators on September 18, 1988. They called for
the unconditional release of political prisoners in Burma,
including student leader Min Ko Naing.

Typed by the Research Department of the ABSDF [MTZ]   19/9/95


Dear Burma Activists, 

The McConnell bill (the Free Burma Act of 1995) needs support now!  If you
haven't written your two U.S. Senators yet, please do so!  We are seeking
two things:  (1) each U.S. Senator should co-sponsor the legislation, which
is bill # S. 1092 and (2) each U.S. senator should support McConnell when he
seeks to add the Free Burma Act language as an amendment to the Foreign
Operations bill, a larger piece of legislation that will definetly pass the
Senate in some form. 

I've written my Senators and wanted to share the draft of my letters.
Please feel free to adapt/use as you see fit -- but let them hear from you
now, in the next week!   If you are uncertain who you're Senator is, you can
call your local town hall or send me an e-mail which tells me what state you
live in.  
As an additional thought to my urging you to send letter to U.S. Senators,
of course green card holders and other non-citizens can write letters to
their Senators too.  The only way they can calculate interest in an issue 
is by the number of letters and phone calls they get, which is why it's important 
that everyone write.

The address for all Senators is:  Senator _________
                                  U.S. Senate
                                  Washington, D.C.  20510

Thanks for your commitment and help on this!  Cheers, Phil

September --, 1995

Senator ________.
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator ________, 

I am writing to request your immediate support for the Free Burma Act of 1995
(S. 1092), a bill to impose economic sanctions on the Burmese military junta
which Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch/Asia and other major human
rights organization continue to classify as one of the most egregious human
rights abusers in the world today.  Specifically, I would urge you to co-
sponsor this important free-standing bill, which was introduced by Senator
McConnell, and also support Senator McConnell when he offers this bill as an
amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill in the third week of

This is a very important matter to me.  My personal interest in the fight for
democracy and human rights is ...

I have noted the calls of 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate and Burmese opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi (recently released from six years of illegal
detainment at the hands of the military) for continued international
economic pressure to force the military to negotiate in good faith with her.
So far there has been no indication that the military junta (known as the
State Law and Order Restoration Council, better known as SLORC) is willing
to do so, a fact to which U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East
Asia, Kent Weidemann, testified in the House yesterday, September 7th. 

In fact, virtually all observers of the Burmese scene, both here in the U.S.
and in Asia, believe that Aung San Suu Kyi's release in July only occurred
because the SLORC thought it would further open possibilities of foreign aid
and investment in the country.  The argument that investment will raise the
quality of life is, in Burma, a farce because foreign investment primarily goes
to either SLORC-controlled firms or companies controlled by retired military
men.  In fact, SLORC relies heavily on forced labor for infrastructure projects
(a fact which has been repeatedly condemned by the International Labor
Organization), has been dispossessing its citizens of land to make way for
hotel construction in major cities, and presides over an economy which has the
highest inflation rate (over 40%) of any country in Southeast Asia.  The
SLORC and its cronies are getting richer and consolidating their hold on power
because of foreign investment at the expense of the majority of Burmese, who
continue to get poorer.  

The simple fact remains that the Burmese people continue to overwhelming
support Aung San Suu Kyi as the legitimate leader of Burma (her party, the
National League for Democracy, won 392 of 485 seats in the 1990 elections
which the military arbitrarily disallowed) and she has called for greater
economic pressure against Burma.  There are very clear parallels between her
call and that of Nelson Mandela to maintain economic sanctions against South
Africa when he was seeking to push the National Party to allow elections is 
entirely appropriate.  In fact, fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu
has also spoken in favor of economic sanctions against Burma, in support of
his fellow Laureate's call. 

Please take a strong stand and support S. 1092 and the McConnell amendment
to the Foreign Operations bill.  Only with significant international pressure
with the military junta in Burma realize that the world is not going to look the
other way, that they need to negotiate seriously with the Burmese democracy
movement, and that their refusal to reinstate the results of the free and fair
1990 elections will not be allowed to stand. 

I look forward to hearing from you on this important issue to me. 

                                        Sincerely yours,