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SLAVE LABOR, SLORC and ITS WESTERN
Subject: SLAVE LABOR, SLORC and ITS WESTERN APOLOGISTS
SLAVE LABOR, SLORC and ITS WESTERN APOLOGISTS
The following is a response from Nicholas Greenwood, a travel writer and
Burma activist to Wilhelm Klein, the author of the Insight Guide to
Myanmar. Mr. Klein denies the use of slave labor in SLORC's economic
projects. (Also see "Burma in Chain: U.S. Corporations profit from Slave
Labor" by Brad Miller in October 1995 issue of the Progressive Magazine.
It's already on the Net.)
BEGIN TEXT HERE.
"I am ...aware of prisoner's labor, but this I cannot see as slave labor,
since it is a pattern found all around the world": anti-Semitism is found
all around the world, does that makes it acceptable?
"... some groups ...said that slave labor has been used for the gas
pipeline work...this work has not even started.": I presume that Mr. Klein
has therefore personally inspected the gas pipeline. I also presume that
when the work does start, Mr. Klein will have no objections to the use of
slave labor in its construction.
"...what I found was that villages have been ordered to supply stones and
other construction materials free of charge and a certain amount of people
of each village had to work unpaid on stretches within their district. The
workers I talked to, saw this as the usual way roads are built in Myanmar
and they are not aware of a different way of organizing it. In their own
words it has always been so and they were happy to get some infrastructure
to get their goods to the market." In the Middle Ages in England we used
to burn witches at the stake--it had always been so--but in 1995 we no
longer burn them.
These are the recent words of the infamous Austrian-born but German-based
Wilhelm Klein, author of, amongst other SLORC-friendly publications, the
Insight Guide to Myanmar (not Burma).
Klein is well-known amongst fellow Burma travel writers for his tacit
support of and connivance with Burma's detested military dictatorship, the
State Law and Order Restoration Council. For it was only by collaborating
(quite willingly it must be said) with the government bodies such as
Tourist Burma (as was)--and now Myanmar Travels & Tours (MTT)--that Klein
(and fellow photographer, the Frankfurt-born Guenter Pfannmueller) obtained
permission to visit many of Burma's then off-limits areas. This
permission, however, was not granted without a catch--Klein's books had to
be military-friendly, had to gloss over the events of 1988, give limited
coverage to the Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and not to be
overly critical of butcher Ne Win and his misguided socialist and
subsequent fascist policies. Instead, the books were to present the
smiling, friendly face of Burma and its repressed people, lots of glossy
photos, nostalgic tales of Kipling, Burma girls a-settin' and whackin'
white cheroots. Any mention of human rights abuses--and other foolish
Western concepts--was strictly taboo.
It is alleged that Klein (and colleague Pfannmueller) were richly rewarded
by SLORC on recent visits to, amongst other places, Mergui. A leading
local SLORC official (and a rare critic of the military regime), who for
obvious reasons must remain anonymous, told me that Klein and Pfannmueller
had received the "red carpet treatment" in Mergui, had a government boat
laid on free charge to transport them around the archipelago and were paid
US$1,000 per day to present the "right image" of Myanmar to the Western
Whether these allegations are true is something to which only Klein and the
SLORC are privy, but on perusing the Insight Guide to Myanmar and the more
recently published glossy coffee-table book Burma The Golden, Klein's tacit
support of the SLORC is obvious. In Klein's introduction to Burma The
Golden, the only mention of the military's brutal massacres of 1988 appears
in the brief phrase "After the political turmoil of 1988". Klein goes on
to say: " With the new constitution implemented, one which is supposed to
be similar to the Indonesian one, and an abated civil war, yet untouched
regions will be opened to visitors".
On turning to the end of the book (page 161), one reads: "Both Pfannmueller
and Klein were fortunate in the assistance of Myanmar Travels & Tours."
In compiling his own Guide to Burma (and the hardback edition Burma Then
and Now), this writer neither sought nor employed the assistance of MTT.
Wherever possible he used the services of private, non-SLORC-operatives and
still managed to reach more destinations than Klein. And I would certainly
not have contemplated giving MTT an acknowledgement in any segment of my
*End text here.