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

Burma and the role of Burmese women

Subject: Burma and the role of Burmese women.

        Historians say that in ancient times when human beings were 
developing, there was  
a period called the maternal administrative period in which women could 
hold even the 
highest administrative position.  In the modern social life, women are 
praised by sayings 
such as "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."         
        But in the history of Burma, Burmese women have faced 
discrimination in their 
daily lives and the role of women in Burmese history is blurred. The 
status and 
opportunities Burmese society offered women of all classes did not equal 
that enjoyed by 
the Burmese men.        
        Under successive Burmese dynasties, the primary task for women 
has been to 
fulfill the wishes of men. Women were often given to the king as gifts, 
and a king could 
have any women he wished.  Whenever a king passed away, it was taken for 
granted that 
his wives customarily would become wives of the new king.        
        Even today girls are told by their parents to behave femininely 
and respect men as 
their superiors. A woman has to respect her son as Master and her husband 
as God in 
order to be called a good woman.  This type of traditional belief about 
the model "good 
woman" and the discouragement of the women who working and  shouldering 
the same 
responsibilities as men are the great obstacles for the improvement of 
the status of 
Burmese women.        
        Burma has signed the UN Convention on the Political Rights of 
Women (1952), 
and under the constitution women were guaranteed equal rights with men. 
However, like 
many other social and political protocols approved by governments in 
Burma, such 
declarations of intent conceal a very different social reality.        
        Moreover, most of the victims of human rights violations in Burma 
are women. 
The political upheavals since independence have greatly affected women of 
every ethnic 
background. It is women who have been most exposed to the humanitarian 
of the social and economic collapse. Women also face greater personal 
risk, as they have 
become everyday victims of serious human rights abuses. During three 
decades of military 
rule in Burma, human rights violations of the people by the military have 
been frequent 
and continuous and the plight of Burmese women has steadily deteriorated. 
Reports of 
abuses against women, notably forced porterage, have increased 
dramatically in every 
regions of the country since the SLORC came to power. Many of the gravest 
of human rights violations, including  murder and rape are 
well-documented by the 
international human rights organizations. Women are arbitrarily 
conscripted for military 
service as porters and forced to carry arms and ammunition. Sometimes 
women and girls 
are used as mine sweepers at gun point. At night, the women are 
gang-raped by the 
soldiers. These abuses against women are common practice.        
        The centrally controlled socialist economy, the high inflation, 
and the social, 
economic, educational and political setbacks plaguing the country since 
the military coup 
of 1962 have left many Burmese girls and women with little choice but to 
enter the sex 
industry in Burma, Thailand or other neighboring countries for their 
survival. Since 
SLORC came to power after the bloody coup in 1988, the Burmese people 
have suffered 
more desperate economic hardship than ever before. Just meeting the 
survival needs of  
family has become increasingly difficult for poor and low-educated women 
and girls. The 
prevailing economic and political conditions of Burma are the cause that 
has forced many 
Burmese women to Thailand to end up in the flesh trade.         
        As a consequence of these developments, between 40,000 to 50,000 
people are 
estimated by the WHO to be HIV-positive in Burma.   That high rate of HIV 
people in Burma is distressing, especially for the Burmese women who are 
suffering gravely under the social, educational, and economic pressures 
in the country, and 
who are being severely oppressed by the Burmese military junta. SLORC has 
done almost 
nothing to improve the social welfare for the Burmese women. In this 
research paper, we 
focus on a few important aspects of the political, economic, social, 
education and health 
situation of Burmese women who are suffering in their daily lives.
        During all of Burmese history, the rulers and kings were men. 
During the 
monarchy, women were oppressed and men treated them as property. Very few 
concerning the role of intellectual Burmese women are found in the early 
history of 
        But during the period of struggle for independence and the rise 
of nationalism and 
political awareness among the Burmese people, educated Burmese women got 
involved in 
the Burmese political arena. Though the opportunities and freedom of 
Burmese women 
were very limited under British colonial rule, some Burmese women 
organizations, based 
on patriotism, such as the Burmese Women Union, the Burmese Women 
Council, the Burmese Women Association and Darna Thukha were all 
established and 
became involved in the struggle for independence. During the 1300 
Revolution (1938 
BOC Strike), Burmese women joined hands with t heir male counterparts and 
active roles.
        Also during the Anti-Fascist Peoples Freedom League (AFPFL) 
government period 
after the independence, some women organizations remained continuously 
involved in 
political activities. These women organizations and their political and 
social activities were 
all terminated by the military coup led by Gen. Ne Win in 1962. All these 
organizations were banned.       
        A quarter of a century of lack of freedom combined with 
mismanagement of by the 
Burmese military generals, had resulted in a situation in which the 
Burmese economy, 
educational system and all other basic parts of the infrastructure were 
in ruins. In the 
spring and summer of 1988 the peoples discontent virtually exploded. 
Hundreds of 
thousands of people, including women and girls, led by students took to 
the streets and 
called for an end of one party rule. Very significantly Daw Aung San Suu 
Kyi, daughter of 
late Burmese national hero General  Aung San, assumed the most prominent 
role during 
the struggle for democracy. Many women from all walks of life an all 
classes, such as 
merchants, laborers and even the Buddhist nuns, came out on the streets 
and called for the 
restoration of people power. The Burmese military completely ignored the 
wishes of the 
people and brutally suppressed the peaceful demonstrators, including 
hundreds of school 
girls and women demonstrators. After the massacres associated with the 
SLORC military 
coup, thousands of youth and civilians fled to the border areas 
controlled by the ethnic 
resistance groups. A number of girls and women also fled to the areas and 
many are still 
remain in the jungle and fighting for their cause as the members of All 
Burma Students 
Democratic Front and other democratic forces.       
        SLORC has claimed reportedly that Burmese women are already equal 
to men and 
so, according to SLORC leader Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, there is no need to 
demand more 
equality in politics, economics, administration and justice.  But a 
number of women 
prisoners of conscious for their political belief and activities inside 
Burma, and thousands 
of women refugees with stories of extrajudicial execution, rape, forced 
labor, forced 
relocation and other kinds of ill-treatment are all undeniable evidence 
of a pattern of 
massive human rights violations against women.
Political struggle and the role of women in Burma
(A) Burmese women activities during the anti-colonialism period.
        The first and nation-wide Burmese women organization was the 
association founded in 1919. It was also known as the Wunthanu Konmari 
Association for 
its activity.   The members of that association usually wore the 
traditional Burmese Pinni 
blouse and Yaw longyi as their uniform and encouraged the peoples 
awareness of 
Burmese tradition and culture. The aims and objectives of this 
association were to 
promote the knowledge of and appreciation for Burmese customs, religion, 
and traditions among the Burmese women. This organization signified the 
preservation of 
Burmese culture and denoted patriotism in the form of a preference for 
traditional values 
and the eschewal of things foreign. Originally it was non political 
association working only 
to preserve Burmese heritage. But later it expanded its aim and became 
promoting political awareness among the women, and there by quickly 
gained the support 
of many influential and educated Burmese women.  It closely worked with 
other political 
organizations, like the Young Men Buddhist Association (YMBA), working 
for anti-
colonialism activities. In 1920 the YMBA and other minor association 
united to form the 
General Council of Buddhist Association (GCBA).  The Konmari association 
worked with the GCBA.        
        The Wunthanu Konmari Association also worked for Burmese women 
workers who were facing hardships in the foreign countries. Due to the 
extensive campaign, the government made arrangement for the return of 
Burmese women 
laborers working in the tobacco making industries in Malaysia.         
        Another well-known and active women organizations during this era 
were the 
Burmese Women Union, the Burmese Women National Council, the Burmese 
Association and the Darna Thukha association. Those organizations also 
cooperated with 
the YMBA and the GCBA. They sent their representatives to the annual 
meetings and 
took part in the political agendas of anti-colonialism.  The most notable 
work by these 
organizations were boycotting the foreign products made in England and 
encouraging the 
Burmese to use local products instead.        
        In 1921 the British government decided that the recommendations 
of the Montagu 
Mission, in the form of diarchy,  should be extended to Burma. The 
implementation of 
these reforms entailed elections to the legislative council, and that led 
to a split in the 
GCBA over the question of whether or not its members should stand for 
election. After 
the split of GCBA into two factions for the Diarchy, the majority of 
women organizations 
sided with the faction against Diarchy and demanded Home Rule.        
        On August 28, 1920, Governor for Burma, Sir Reginal Gradogh 
enacted the 
University Act that included many restrictions such as only one 
university in Burma; all 
students had to stay in hotels; all students had to get an excellent 
score in English and 
other subjects in the entrance exam and all students had to undergo one 
year in preliminary 
class before enrolling in the university. This University Act placed 
Rangoon University 
under the University of Calcutta, British India. The restrictions were 
generally seen by the 
Burmese as an attempt to limit higher education to a privileged few and a 
boycott against 
the Rangoon University Act took place. Many female university students 
participated in the strike. That strike was known as the very first 
strike spearheaded by the 
students during the independence struggle.  The first day of the strike 
was designated as 
the National Day by the GCBA Conference.      
         An outstanding woman of this period was Daw Mya Sein, a scholar, 
author, teacher, 
wife and mother. The daughter of a distinguished jurist and scholar, she 
was chosen to 
represent Burmese women at a special Burma Round Table Conference in 
London 1931,  
and later on the eve of the second World War, to lead a delegation to 
        In 1936, Rangoon University Students Union chairman, Ko Nu was 
from the university and Ko Aung San , editor of O-way magazine was 
threatened with 
compulsion. As a consequence, a second Rangoon university student strike 
broke out and 
many female students participated.        
        By the time the 1938 uprising ( Revolution of 1300 in the Burmese 
era: this was 
the year according to the Burmese calendar, extending from April 1938 to 
April 1939) 
broke out, the role of the Burmese women in politics had already became 
strong and 
distinguished. During the uprising women participated alongside men. Many 
women were 
arrested, beaten up and dismissed. Women were planning to establish a 
Burmese women's 
organization to fight against Dr. Ba Maws' puppet government, and to 
participate in the 
struggle for independence.        
        In January 29, 1939, the first Women Assembly (Rangoon) was held 
at Shwe 
Dagon Pagoda in Rangoon aiming to establish the Burmese Independence 
(Rangoon). Daw Ank, chairperson of that assembly, stressed the importance 
of the role of 
Burmese women and unity among themselves. She said that unity among the 
women are 
very important. With unity, we can overcome everything. This assembly 
aimed for women 
and their struggle for rights and responsibilities.  In December 20 of 
that year, during the 
Rangoon University boycott, female students actively took part and some 
took leading 
roles. After the successful convening of the women's assembly, the 
assembly founded the 
Burma Independence Women Organization and elected Daw Hla May (wife of 
Dedoke U 
Ba Cho) as Chairperson and Ma Khin Mya (Daw Khin Myo Chit) as secretary. 
It also 
elected its representatives at the township level.         
        After the Second World War, AFPFL led by Gen. Aung San organized 
a first All 
Burma Conference from January 17 to 23, 1946.  Participants from fifteen 
political parties 
and representatives of different ethnic groups attended the conference in 
which  the 
Women League was one of the participants. The Conference passed eight 
resolutions and 
among them the fourth resolution was that all men and women of 18 years 
would have the 
right to vote whether he or she was literate or illiterate.   That 
decision clearly 
demonstrated the policy of AFPFL led by Gen. Aung San towards women.  It 
them to participate in politics equally with men.       
         Countless women participated in the nationalist struggle of the 
colonial period and 
many worked closely with the men who were the leaders. But they never 
leadership in their own right. Though Burmese women took part in the 
struggle with their male counterparts during the colonial era, there were 
no well-organized 
and united women's organizations. Their patriotism caused them to become 
involved in the 
national cause but as different small groups. The role of women 
organizations would later 
decline, but no one could deny the role these women's organizations 
played importantly 
during the anti-colonialism and pro-independence period. Despite the fact 
that the 
women's organizations in that era were short-lived, by the end of that 
era, the social and 
political struggle of Burmese women was in progress and those 
organizations raised 
political awareness among Burmese women.
(B) Burmese women activities after the independence
        Burma gained independence in 1947 and  U Nu became the first 
Prime Minister. 
The role of Burmese women was increasingly improving during the period of 
the U Nu 
government. Daw Khin Kyi , the mother of 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate Daw 
Aung San 
Suu Kyi was one of Burma's most outstanding women politicians.  Daw Khin 
Kyi has 
succeeded her assassinated husband as a Member of Parliament for the 
constituency, but she resigned in 1948 to become the director of the 
Women and Children 
Welfare Board and later Chairperson of Social Planning Commission and the 
Council of 
Social Services. She had traveled extensively in Europe, the US, China 
and Southeast Asia 
region before becoming the first Burmese woman to be given an 
ambassadorial post.   
She supported U Nu's clean AFPFL when AFPFL split and, she resigned her 
post from the 
Council of Social Services. Later she took a post as the Central 
Committee Chairman of  
AFPFL Women Department. She supported U Nus faction, she said  because U 
Nu had 
saved the country when Gen. Aung San and other comrades were 
assassinated, and 
similarly he did again in 1948 when Burma was in the midst of internal 
upheaval.  She 
went on an extensive campaign tour in Upper Burma for U Nu's faction.  U 
Nu's clean 
AFPFL won in the elections.  She went on another campaign across the 
country for the 
development of the welfare of Burmese women on behalf of AFPFL.   She was 
as the first Burmese women ambassador in July 1960, and she worked as the 
ambassador to India and Nepal until she retired in 1967. For her 
performance, she became the most significant symbol of Burmese women in 
that period.        
        During this same period of the U Nu government after 
independence, there was 
only one woman Minister. She was  Mrs. Ba Maung Chein who worked as 
Minister for 
thearen State from 1952 to 1953. She was the first and only woman who has 
taken a 
ministerial position in Burmese history.   Among the political 
organizations, in AFPFL 
organization, Daw Sein Pu was elected as central executive member in 
AFPFL's 1958 
election. She was also a leader of The League for All Burma Liberated 
        Some other women's organizations, such as the Union Women 
Organization and 
the Women Solidarity Organization were founded during the AFPFL 
government period. 
Due to the political splits among  the political parties, the women 
organizations also faced 
internal conflicts.  the Women Solidarity Organization split of two 
factions. In some case, 
some members of one organization formed a completely new organization. 
For example, 
all central executive member except the chairperson of  the Union Women 
resigned from the organization and founded a new organization, All Burma 
Women Association League.        
        During the colonial period, Burmese women involved in 
anti-colonialism and 
independence movement based on their patriotism, were able to maintain 
unity and 
solidarity among the women. But in the post independence period, women 
could not 
establish the same solidarity due to the differences in political beliefs 
and membership in 
different political parties. But since the ruling government  was a 
democratic government,  
women's organization could fully practice their freedom of speech, 
freedom of assembly, 
freedom of association and other fundamental rights.  It is also 
noteworthy to point out 
that this was the only time in the history of Burma that women took high 
positions in the 
government, like ambassador and minister.
(C) Burmese women activities during the  BSPP government
        The democratic government of U Nu was overthrown in military coup 
led by Gen. 
Ne Win on March 2, 1962. Since then, the Burmese people lost their 
democratic and 
fundamental human rights, and the activities of Burmese women were 
exterminated. A 
Revolutionary Council composed with high level military officials 
declared the Policy of 
Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP) and introduced the Burmese 
Socialist Party on 
July 4, 1962.        
        Students were the first group who confronted the Revolutionary 
Council.  On July 
7, 1962, students from Rangoon University, including many female 
students, staged a 
demonstration and were brutally crushed by the military.  Many of them 
were brutally shot 
down by the military troop in the campus and the Students Union building 
        During the BSPP era, Sao Nang Hearn Kham (Mahadevi), a Shan woman 
and wife 
of  the first Burmese President Sao Shwe Theik (1948-52) became prominent 
for her 
political activities. She was elected as Member of Parliament from Theini 
(North), Shan 
State in 1956 until the Caretaker Government took over two years later. 
She was in 
England when the military staged a coup and arrested her husband on March 
2, 1962. She 
returned to Burma after her husband died in custody, and fled to Thailand 
in 1963 where 
she founded the Shan State Army that was joined by the Shan State 
Independence Army 
and the Shan National United Front . Based in the Shan State, she led the 
armed struggle 
movement fighting against the military regime.  For her work against the 
military regime in 
armed struggle, she has been recognized as the most prominent woman 
leader from Shan 
State in Burmese history.
        Under the reign of the BSPP one-party system, a series of 
significant uprisings 
- 1969 South East Asian Games demonstration
- 1974 U Thant's funeral riots
- 1974 worker demonstration
- 1975 June 6 uprising
- 1976 uprising commemorating the centenary of Thakin Ko Daw Hmaing 
of the anti-colonial poet's death)
- 1988 August 8 nation-wide general strike, known as the 8-8-88 uprising.
        Women took part in all of these uprising against the one party 
dictatorship system 
in Burma.  Especially in the 1988 uprising, millions of women came out on 
the streets and 
joined in the demonstrations.
        In 1974, the BSPP government passed a BSPP constitution in which 
demonstration that did not threaten the Socialism are allowed. In 
reality, however, all 
peaceful demonstrations were suppressed in a violent way.  In December 
1974 when U 
Thant's (former UN Secretary-General) funeral riot occurred, over 5000 
were arrested and sentenced to 3-7 years imprisonment. One of the 
prominent female 
student activists during this demonstration was Ma Suu Mar from Thuwunna, 
She was sentenced to four years in prison. Many other students were also 
sentenced with 
imprisonment and expelled from the university.        
        When the worker strikes broke out in June 1974, the government 
shot down the 
worker demonstrators and killed many workers in the Thamine textile 
factory and 
Sinmalite dockyard. Like the previous strikes, students joined with their 
comrades.  The 
next year on the one year anniversary of bloody worker riots, another 
demonstration was 
held by students and many of them were arrested again. About 250 students 
secondary school students and students from many universities and 
colleges were arrested 
and sentenced to four years to nine years imprisonment. All the schools 
and universities 
were shut down for seven months.         
        Among the arrested students, were Naykyi Ba Swe and Nayye Ba Swe, 
both of 
them were daughters of  Burmese former Prime Minister, U Ba Swe.   They 
arrested on June 11, 1975 and sentenced to five years imprisonment with 
hard labor for 
their involvement in the 1975 demonstration.  They emerged again in 
political arena in 
1990 elections as the candidates. Naykyi Ba Swe, law graduate from 
Rangoon University 
ran for AFPFL in Ahlone township constituency and her younger sister, 
Nayye Ba Swe, 
graduate from Institute of Economics ran in Sanchaung township 
constituency for the 
same party.        
        Another prominent woman demonstrator of 1975 was Nan Khin Htwe 
daughter of Dr. Saw Hla Htun who was a former Minister for Karen State 
during  U Nu's 
AFPFL government. She was a second year student at the Institute of 
Rangoon when the demonstration broke out. She was put in jail from 1975 
to 1978 for her 
participation in the demonstration. She ran in the 1990 election for the 
National League 
for Democracy in Pa-an township constituency, Karen State and was elected.
        Another uprising commemorating the centenary celebrations of the 
birthday of 
Thakin Ko Daw Hmig was held on March 23,  1976 led by the university 
Students published a leaflet named Yin Pwint Than Ni Dan that criticized 
educational system devised by BSPP government to suit its own purpose. 
About 230 
students from different universities were detained  and sentenced 
imprisonment from five 
years to fourteen years by the military tribunals. Hundreds of university 
were expelled for 
life. In this uprising, Ma Hla Myaing (a) Mai Po Po Tin became prominent 
for her active 
role during the uprising.  She was sentenced to nine years imprisonment 
in Insein and 
Taunggu prisons. Her elder brother, Ko Tin Maung U was also a leader 
sentenced to 
death penalty by the military  tribunal. She is a symbol of the hundreds 
of other female 
students whose names are not widely known but who have stood up for their 
for freedom from the dictatorship.
        The confrontation between the students and governments riot 
police had reached 
into climax after the March affair 1988 when students were brutal cracked 
down. Students 
held a peaceful rally in Rangoon university compound on March 16, 1988 
concerning the 
death of Maung Phone Maw, a Rangoon Institute of Technology who was shot 
to death 
by the riot police three days ago. Later the student demonstrators 
marched towards 
Rangoon University (Hlaing Campus) to join with the other students there. 
Hundreds of 
students demonstrating on the street were blocked on the way and beaten 
up by the riot 
police. About 100 students, especially female were drowned in a nearby 
lake while trying 
to escape the brutalities. Many girls were beaten up by the riot police 
and dragged to the 
army trucks.
        On March 17, 1988, the army raided the Rangoon University 
compound and 
arrested the students remained inside. Ma Ohnmar Thwe, a female student, 
majoring in 
Burmese, was beaten unconscious before her arrest on 17 March, when the 
security forced 
entered the main campus When I came to gain, I found myself in a room 
window. I had no idea where I was. There were six policemen and an 
officer there. But 
they didnt ask me any questions.  I was taken away to a place near a 
water-tank. There, I 
was raped, first by the officer and then by the policemen. I lost 
conscious again, and when 
I woke up, a doctor was examining me. I know that this happened to other 
girls also. 
Some of them committed suicide.  About 150 students were arrested in one 
hostel on 
that day among which forty were female.
        On August 8, 1988 students spearheaded the nation-wide uprising 
calling for 
democracy in Burma and joined by the people from all walks of class. Many 
women organizations emerged during the uprising.
        Among the prominent political leaders during the uprising, Daw 
Aung San Suu 
Kyi, daughter of  Burmese national hero Gen. Aung San has become the most 
leader. Her first public appearance was her public gathering at Shwe 
Dagon Pagoda on 
August 26, 1988. About 500,000 people attended the gathering and 
expressed their 
support for her. The demonstration became to an end when the military 
staged a coup and 
suppressed the peaceful demonstrators in violence. Thousands of 
demonstrators including 
women and shoolgirls were killed during the uprising.
        During the reign of BSPP government. it is clear that the role of 
women and their 
rights to take part in their political, social, economic and cultural 
life by forming the 
association were ignored by the BSPP government. The freedom of 
association was 
absolutely banned during this time.  According to the BSPPs Law 
protecting against the 
disintegration of  national unity, all organization and association 
including the women 
organizations were banned that led to the end of Burmese women activities.
        Under the tight control of BSPP government, only three quasi 
organizations were allowed to form as the representative organizations 
based on the 
working classes. They were Peasants Association, Workers Association, and 
Lanzin Youth Organization.Burmese women have enrolled all of these 
without their enthusiasm. There had no other alternatives  but to join 
these organization 
for their job-related  situation, or some possible opportunity for being 
a member of these 
organizations or some other circumstances. These organizations did not 
take appropriate 
measure to promote the role of women and women empowerment but forcibly 
the Burmese Way to Socialism. The idea of democracy, human rights and 
rights were forbidden in everyday life in Burma. When the 8888 uprising 
broken out, these 
women took part in the active role that shows their dissatisfaction and 
agony of one-party-
controlled system.
        Since 1962 military coup in Burma, military have controlled 
entire Burma and both  
political leading sector and administrative sector are monopolized by the 
current or ex- 
military officers. During the time of BSPP, despite the theoretical 
equality women are 
supposed to enjoy, few have ever reached really senior position . In its 
People Assembly 
there were very few number of  woman representatives but they were not 
elected by the 
people but selected by the central administrative system.. They did not 
have the chance to 
express their opinion and views in the assembly. They had to act and 
speak under the pre-
planned programs in the assembly and no criticism was allowed. Though 
there were nine 
women representatives in the first BSPP people assembly (Hluttaw) and 
thirteen women 
representatives in second peoples assembly, they were just 
representatives without the 
mandate to express their own opinion. But 8888 uprising arouse the 
political awareness 
among the Burmese women.        
        Women always took in the struggle to end the military 
dictatorship in Burma since 
the military took power in Burma. Burmese Communist Party was the strong 
armed group that has been fighting against the central government. Some 
Burmese women 
joined the Burmese Communist Party and armed struggle. Their sacrifice of 
their lives and 
suffering hardships in the jungle are remarkable.
        In reviewing the role and activities of Burmese women under the 
BSPP reign,  it is 
notable that women actively joined  with other people in struggling 
against the one party 
(D) Burmese womens  activities under SLORC
        State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) took power on 
September 18, 
1988  after the series of brutal suppression in which thousands of 
demonstrators were 
killed.  Even though its nature of isolations,  picture of Win Maw Oo, a 
fatally wounded 
14-year-old school girl with her blood-soaked school uniform was smuggled 
out into the 
international media. (she died in the hospital later) It could draw a 
international attention 
into the human rights violations inside Burma. 
        SLORC declared the Law for Multi-party General Election 
Commission on 
September 21, 1988 and National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw 
Aung San 
Suu Kyi was founded on September 24, 1988. NLD became the 
largest-supported legal 
political party but SLORC put various restrictions on NLD and its 
leaders.  Especially 
Daw Aung Suu Kyi has become the target of harassment during her campaign 
tours across 
the country. At last she was detained under house arrest on  July 20, 
1989 under section 
10(b) and 14 of the 1975 law to safeguard the State against the Dangers 
of those Desiring 
to Cause Subversive Acts.
        SLORC announced the abolishment of BSPP one party system and 
allowed to 
form the political party to run in the election. 236 political parties 
registered. Many 
veteran women political activists before the 1962 military coup 
reappeared in the current 
political scene. Among the 236 political parties, three parties namely 
Union for the 
Improvement of Burmese Women (Central Headquarters), All Bd were killed. 
In many cases, women 
are used for more purposes than men. Women are more versatile in their 
forced labor to work as porters; human shield for the fighting army; 
property that can be 
redeemed for a good sum of money; and entertainment for soldiers which 
ends in repeated 
        During the Nagha Min Operation launched in December 1991 by SLORC 
Karen State, many female porters were conscripted by the military and 
some fortunately 
escaped and revealed their stories. Daw San, aged 42 years, Ma Khin Mya 
aged 32 years, 
Ma Thanda Soe , aged 16 years and Ma Khin Khin Saw aged 20 years were the 
porters who escaped from the forced porterage during the military 
offensive operation. 
They have worked over twenty days and later escaped.  According to their 
interviews with 
ABSDF, they told some more forty women worked as porters and carried 
ammunition for 
the military.  
        All escaped porters told that the military usually give them only 
watery bean curry 
with a little salt and sometimes they are given only half dishes of 
watery rice soup. Sick 
porters go untreated. But in the response to the questionnaires of Mr. 
Yozo Yokota, UN 
special raporteur on Human Rights in Burma by Burmese permanent 
representative to the 
UN, According to instructions issued by the office of the quartermaster 
General on 
March 1993, a civilian labor is to receive a daily wage of 20 kyats. In 
addition to the daily 
wage, the following daily rations are to be issued:
        (a) rice: 28 ounces
        (b) cooking oil: 1.75 ticals
        (c) salt: 1.75 ticals
        (d) split peas: 5 ticals
        (e) saltfish: 5 ticals (in area where saltfish is not available, 
four ounce of canned 
food may be substituted). Civilian laborers used in operation areas are 
looked after by the 
Tatmadaw. Besides giving out daily wages, the Tatmadaw provides medical 
care for 
sickness and injuries. A compensation equivalent to 36 times a months 
earning is paid to 
the family on the death of a laborer. These matters are carried out 
systematically according 
to the Defense Services Council Order No. 17/90 issued by the Office of 
Quartermaster General on 3 September 1990  
        Having the law does not grantee to adhere the law in Burma. The 
stories of 
escaped porters are contrary to the order. Porter who are drafted into 
military service are 
given only boiled rice and watery bean soup to eat and are not given any 
against the weather. Many suffer from malaria, diarrhea and other 
diseases but are still 
forced to carry heavy loads without medical treatment according to the 
porters recently 
escaped from the SLORC offensive attack in Karenni State since June 1995. 
(F) Civil war and Burmese women refugees
        The military has committed human rights violations in the context 
of its counter-
insurgency activities against various armed ethnic minority groups, who 
have been 
struggling for greater autonomy since 1949 after Burma gained 
independence from the 
British. Gross human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial 
executions, have 
undoubtedly been committed by military in Burmas long-running civil and 
conflicts. The ethnic people suffer as a result of human rights abuses 
committed during 
Tatmadaw operations, especially during the forced relocation of villages, 
portering and the seizure of land and property. These abuses have 
included extrajudicial 
executions, arbitrary arrest, torture, beating , rape and forced 
        But the SLORC repeatedly claims tat there were no civil war and 
refugees in 
Burma. In Working People Daily newspaper in Burmese dated January 1995, 
denied the people in the refugee camp inside Burma are not refugees.
        Refugees are the civilian who fled the civil war and took refuge 
the safer place. In Burma, even the insurgents and their family members 
return back to legal folds and no action is taken . They are fully 
enjoying in 
the peaceful life without any discrimination. The criminals and fugitives 
not recognized as refugees. Refugee means a person who left his country 
a fear of arrest or persecution for his political opinion, nationality 
religion. As Burma has no refugee, there is no refugee camp. 
        Inconsistently, the are thousands and thousands of ethnic 
refugees from Burma 
taking refuge in neighboring countries. The plight of refugees and human 
rights violations 
by the SLORC troops are well-documented by the international human rights 
organizations.  Another major cause of the refugee exodus is the 
increasingly price of 
basic needs and high taxes levied without due process. That is not only 
the level of 
taxation that was fueling the exodus but the atrocities associated with 
failing to pay the 
required amount.
        The ethnic people suffer as a result of human rights abuses 
committed during 
Tatmadaw operations, especially during the forced relocation of villages, 
portering and the seizure of land and property. These abuses have 
included extrajudicial 
executions, arbitrary arrest, torture, beating , rape and forced 
porterage. More than eighty 
per cent of refugees are women and children. There is no doubt that 
refugee women, 
particularly those on their own, are more vulnerable to exploitation and 
deprivation of 
rights at every stage of flight, than are refugee men. Those who escaped 
the human rights 
abuses in Burma by fleeing to Thailand faced further persecution and 
human rights 
violations there. In violation of the common international standards set 
out in the U.N 
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Thailand is not a 
party, no person 
entering Thailand illegally from Burma are permitted to apply for asylum. 
As a result there 
is no permanent international presence within the camps, leaving the 
refugees, especially 
women, exposed to sexual abuses by Thai Border Patrol Police and pressure 
to force them 
to return to Burma. Women also face abuses during the deportation process 
or while they 
were in the refugee camp. Moreover,  SLORC attacked on the refugee camps 
Thailand. For instance, on July 1994, over one hundred troops from the 
Tatmadaw 62nd Battalion marched into a section of Holockani Mon refugee 
camp in 
Three pagodas Pass region, they arrested the camp leader and rounded up 
all the men of 
the camp. They also looted and razed most of the refugee camp.  In 
another case, after 
the fall of Manaplaw, three Karen refugee camps inside Thailand were 
attacked and razed 
by the SLORC and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a breakaway 
faction of 
the KNU between January and May 1995. 
        Many of Burmese women who have taken no part in conflicts are 
being murdered, 
raped and mutilated. Other have endure the loneliness and vulnerability 
of separation and 
bereavement. Hardship and deprivation  face women who have to support a 
family alone, 
in an economy itself distorted by the violence. These women have lost 
their homes, their 
possessions, their family and they are struggling for their daily 
survival in the strange 
place. For them, to work actively for upgrading the political, economic 
and social life is 
(G) Forced Prostitution of Burmese Women and HIV
        To escape from the daily economic hardships in Burma, which is 
the result of 
economic mismanagement for over 30 years, many women and young girls from 
go to neighboring countries with the widespread belief that there are 
good employment 
opportunities there. They are lured by unscrupulous recruiters to 
Thailand with promises 
of good jobs and cash advance, often paid to their parents and they are 
sold in the brothels 
and forced to work as prostitutes when they get in Thailand.  Since 1989 
women and girls 
from Burma have formed the bulk of the flesh trade in Thailand. According 
to 1992 
report, there were at least 40,000 women and child prostitutes from Burma 
in Thailand.  
This report was released two years ago so that the numbers has much 
increased now.  
There are similar reports of the Burmese woman trafficking in Mizoran, 
India and Burma-
China border.
        With the collusion of police and military personnel from Burma 
and Thailand, gang 
bring young victims across to Thai border towns like Chiang Mai, Mae Sai, 
and Ranong where they are sold into forced prostitution for from US$ 100 
to US$ 600. 
Although some have gone willingly for economic reasons, many have been 
lured on the 
false promise of other jobs, while others have been forced into 
prostitution and brutally 
beaten if they refuse customers or try to escape. 
        Poverty is the common denominator. Many Burmese women are victims 
of this 
trafficking business, but ethnic minority women predominate. Some girls 
are sold by their 
own parents to reduce the economic burden.  A 10-year-old Akka hilltribe 
girl was sold 
for 2000 baht by her father . She was rescued from the brothel in 
Thailand and repatriated 
back other six girls to Burma, according to the Thai official from 
Interior Ministry. 
        Imprisoned in the dark brothel rooms, speaking no Thai, the girls 
from Burma have 
little chance for escape. Conditions are appalling. They work without pay 
in prison-like 
condition in buildings surrounded with barbed wire. Those who refuse 
customers or try to 
escape are often brutally treated. 15-year-old Burmese girl rescued from 
Ranong told that 
she was sold for 5000 baht and forced to work as prostitute in the 
brothel without pay. 
She was forced to have sex with the customer although she was pregnant. 
        Because of language barriers and the illegal methods by which 
they have been 
brought into Thailand, most Burmese women work in the lowest class 
brothels. This puts 
them at great risk. Since they illegally entered Thailand and are forced 
to work, they do 
not have a chance for the sex education and medical check-up. This has 
accelerated the alarming rise in rates of AIDS and HIV-infection in 
Thailand. In June 1991 
when 25 Burmese prostitutes were rescued after a brothel raid in Ranong, 
all of them were 
found to be HIV-positive, according to a Thai senior police officer. 
        These HIV-positive women faced other kind of abuses when they got 
back to 
Burma. Persistent reports have arisen regarding SLORC executing persons 
with AIDS 
who have been forcibly repatriated by Thailand to Burma.  According to 
The Bangkok 
Post newspaper, some Burmese girls found to have AIDS, when sent back to 
country, are allegedly reported to have been given cyanide injections to 
execute them. 
        Asia Watch, a division of Human Rights Watch based in New York 
published a 
report on the trafficking of Burmese women into Thailand their 
confinement in illegal 
brothels throughout Thailand where they are forced to work off their debt 
through what 
amounts to sexual servitude. It systematically documented the debt 
bondage, wide range 
of abuses, including illegal confinements; forced labor; rape; physical 
abuse; exposure to 
HIV/AIDS; and in some cases, murder of the Burmese women and girl. 
        For Burma, the social and health consequences of the trafficking 
of Burmese 
women are immense. Women returning from prostitution in Thailand are 
spreading the 
HIV infection and adding to the dramatic rise in the disease already 
caused by growing 
intravenous drug use. According to World Health Organization (WHO) 
estimate for 1994, 
Burma has up to 400,000 HIV-carriers (one per cent of the total 
population) today, 
putting it on an international emergency rating with both India and 
Thailand.  While this 
estimate is suggested by WHO, there are no reliable figures on 
HIV-infection in Burma. 
With little testing completed, just over 7,000 cases have been reported. 
But on the 
SLORC side, they declared that there were 8,191 people with HIV-positive 
and 334 were 
full-blown stage, according to AIDS Disease Control Committee.
        To cure the AIDS epidemic in Burma, the government can take a 
important role in 
educating the people. Unless there coordinated and firm action taken by 
the concerning 
governments in the near future, the spread of AIDS in Burma will continue 
to grow. For 
the future of Burmese women, there is a desperate need for action more 
than talk. 
Burma and International Laws
        SLORC has signed and ratified some of the international human 
rights conventions  
setting basic manimum benchmarks for the universal recognition and 
protections of humna 
rights, as the member of United Nations. According to the Universal 
Declaration of 
Human Rights, it said; Member states have pledged themselves to achieve, 
cooperation with United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for 
and observance 
of human rights and fundamental freedoms. 
        Moreover, in terms of women rights, the UN Declaration 
prohibiting violence 
against women calls for  the universal application to women of the rights 
and principles 
with regard to equality, security, liberty, intergrity, and dignity of 
all human person. All 
governments including SLORC are morally obliged to uphold this 
        The Burmese military is legally bound under these international 
human rights 
conventions and laws to ensure that the principles enshrined are adhered. 
It is also legally 
bound by international human rights treaties not to violate the 
fundamental human rights 
of their own citizens including women and children.     
        In 1993 the UN unequivocally stated that womens rights were human 
rights. The 
Declaration of the UN World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna in 
June 1993 
states: The human rights of women and of the girl-child are an 
inalienable, integral and 
indivisible part of universal human rights. In case of Burma, the pursuit 
of liberty for 
women from oppression and of womens rights in general is inextricably 
intertwined with 
the ongoing struggle for liberation of the whole population from the 
SLORCs iron fist 
and for restoration of democracy and human rights. The issues cannot be 
separated. To 
end the human rights violations including womens rights in Burma, it is 
essential to end 
the SLORCs military doctatorship.
        Slorc is known as one of the notorious human rights violators in 
the modern 
world. But Slorc repeatedly and shamelessly denied the allegations by the 
human rights organizations including UN Human Rights Commission. Under 
the Slorc s 
military rule there is no independent right of enquiry or representtions, 
and no independent 
judiciary. All reports of human rights abuses are met with blanket 
denials and accusations 
of outside interference or neo-colonialism. For example, in awidely 
circulated report in 
April 1993 replying to the documented criticisms of the UN Special 
Rapporteur on Human 
Rights, the Slorc still insisted that it was incapable of any wrong-doing:
Myanmar is well-known for its unique culture, the hall-marks of which 
are tolerance and compassion. This cultural environment underpins 
respect for human rights. These rights are guranteed not only by law but 
are encouraged and practised as a matter of tradition. There is no 
discrimination in Myanmar whatsoever on grounds of race, religion or 
sex.(Working Peoples Daily, 6 August 1991)
        In line with argument, the Slorc has always invoked the law as 
the basis for all its 
actions in both armed opposition and government-controlled areas. These 
affect all 
Burmese groups equally regardless of religion, ethnic groups or sex. The 
law most 
commonly used by the Slorc have been the 1950 Emergency Measures Act, the 
Unlawful Associations Act, the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration 
Law, and 1975 
State Protection Law. Each allows for long periods of imprisonment for 
any citizen 
deemed guilty of criticising the government, and those arrested have come 
from virtually 
every political and ethnic background.
        Burma has signed a number of interntionally recognized human 
rights conventions 
but failed to adhere the principles and norms of conventions. It has 
signed the UN 
Convention on the Political Rights of Women (1952), but despite the 
theoretical equality 
women are supposed to enjoy, few have ever reached really senior 
position. According to 
the principles laid down by SLORC for the National Convention convened by 
military junta to draft a new constitution for Burma, the Head of State 
is to have 
experience in military affairs. This would effectively exclude a woman 
from becoming a 
Head of State. 
        Women and children are the most vulnerable victims of human rights
violations by the military in the war-zone. There is a clear evidence that
the majority of the refugees from Burma who have fled Thailand to take
refuge are women and their children. The global situation of women is
inflected in Burma; most of the casualties of war are women and their
children; most of the refugees and displace people are women and their
children;  most of the poor are women and their children in Burma. Over
the years there have been many reports of the arbitrary arrest, shooting
or extrajudicial execution of women in ethn 
Part (1) 

Documentation and Research Centre 
All Burma Students' democratic Front 
July 31, 1995