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/* posted 11 Nov 6:00pm 1995 by DRUNOO@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.burma  */
/* --------------" HRSUB: Dept. of Foreign Affairs "----------------- */

[Subject:  To inquire into and report on the human rights situation
and lack of progress towards democracy  in  Myanmar(Burma)  by  the
Human Rights Sub-Committee of the parliament of Australia.
        Submissions made to this enquiry   by  various  people  and
organisations are re-posted here.-- U Ne Oo]


Part 3 of 3.

Economic and Social Rights
53.  An  assessment  of  human rights in Myanmar should address the
economic and social rights of the people of  Myanmar,  as  well  as
their  political  and civil rights. Myanmar is traditionally one of
the most resource rich countries in Asia. Events in  Myanmar  since
independence  have  resulted  in  this  potential remaining largely
unrealised. The people of Myanmar, especially those in remote rural
areas, notably the border regions, continue to suffer as  a  result
of a lack of economic development.

54.  Some  limited  economic  reforms  has  taken place under SLORC
leadership,  such  as  privatisation   of   some   state   economic
enterprises  and  the introduction of a parallel currency which has
helped to  circumvent  the  overvalued  exchange  rate.  While  the
official  economic  statistics, such as the claimed GDP growth rate
of 10.9 per cent  for  the  fiscal  year  ending  March  1993,  are
generally regarded as overstated,(even taking into account the very
low base from which it was measured), most observers agree that the
economy  has  improved  significantly  in  the  last two years, and
should continue to improve. Total  direct  foreign  investment  has
also  grown considerably ( to a claimed cumlative total of a little
over US $ 1 billion). At the same time, residual uncertainty  about
Myanmar's   political  future,  its  lack  of  infrastructure,  and
ambiguities in the foreign investment law continue to hamper growth
and discourage more substantial foreign investment.

55.  While  the  quickening  pace  of  economic   development   and
liberalisation  is encouraging , there are substantial humanitarian
needs throughout Myanmar, especially in the mountainous  areas  and
the border areas. Myanmar's under-five mortiaily rate, at 150 every
thousand  live  births,  is  unacceptably high. Literacy rates have
fallen dramatically (as indeed has fluency in English),  and  there
is a severe shortage of educational materials. Primary health needs
include  malarial  prevention  and  treatment,  improved  water and
sanitation,  further  extension  of  child  immunisation,  improved
treatment   of   respiratory   infection,   leprosy  and  HIV/AIDS.
Significantly, health currently attracts only seven per cetn of the
national budget.

56.  Recent  public  statement  by  senior  SLORC  officials   have
recognised  that  the  border  regions  have particular development
needs and lag behind the rest of the country when assessed  against
economic  and  social  indicators.  In response to these needs, the
SLORC has released its national  plan  for  development  of  border
areas over the next ten years. The plan provides for the investment
of 13 billion kyat (USD 130 million) in infrastructure projects and
socio-economic   development   measures,   opium  eradication,  and
preservation of culture in areas accounting for 7%  of  population.
The  aim  of  the  plan is to close the gap between selected border
areas and the rest of the  country.  The  plan  covers  all  border
states  and  divisions  comprising  of  63 ethnic groups, including
areas still under  the  control  or  administration  of  particular
ethnic  groups  such  as  the Kachin Independence Organization. The
plan also extends to areas where the SLORC  has  yet  to  reach  an
accomodation i.e. the Karen, Mon, and Karenni insurgent groups.

57.  The  SLORC  plan  provides  for  the implamentation of fifteen
projects in  infrastructure  and  socio-economic  development.  The
primary   emphasis   is  on  the  provision  of  roads,  transport,
construction and  communications  which  ,  of  course,  also  have
obvious  military implications. Education, health services, mineral
exploration  and  agriculture  are  key  themes  in  socio-economic
development plans.

58.  The  SLORC clearly sees expanded foreign investment and aid as
essential in promoting exonomic  development  in  Myanmar.  AIDAB's
submission  to  the  Sub-Committee  provides  more  detail on these

Minority rights
59.  The  challenge  of  handling the rights and aspirations of the
ethnic minorities in Myanmar has been high on the courtry's  agenda
since independence. The SLORC now has ceasefire agreements in place
with  all  but  three  of  the  ethnic  insurgent groups, but SLORC
actions  to  date  and  the  proposals  now  before  the   National
Convention  do  not  give  a  clear  idea how this central issue of
national reconciliation will be resolved.

60. In the Thai/Myanmar border region, there has been  a  reduction
in  the level of conflict and the opening up of a dialogue with the
insurgent groups. Of the various ethnic insurgent groups which make
up of the Democratic Alliance of Burma, only  the  Karen,  Mon  and
Karenni  have  yet  to  enter into ceasefire agreemtnts with Yangon
(these groups have held some preliminary -  but  so  far  fruitless
talks  with  SLORC).  The Karen is one of the largest of the ethnic
minorities, and poses the most significant military threat. The Mon
has a more modest sized army, while Karenni is smaller  again.  All
sides  have  been  required  to make significant concessions in the
course of the negotiations leading to these agreements. Most of the
former insurgent groups which  have  reached  agreements  with  the
SLORC  have  been  allowed  to  keep  their  arms and all have been
permitted to retain a degree of administrative  autonomy  in  their

61.  On 9 October the SLORC announced  the  "return  to  the  legal
fold"   of   the   Shan   State  Nationalities  Peoples  Liberation
Organisation(SSNPLO). In  reaching  the  ceasefire  agreement,  the
SSNPLO  publically  renounced armed struggle and the possibility of
secession, and surrendered its weapons. The  surrender  of  weapons
marked  a  departure  of  previous  practice,  in which other armed
groups, particularly those which controlled territory, were allowed
to retain their arms. With the exception  of  Khun  Sa's  Mong  Tai
Army,  which  the  SLORC  does not include amongst the armed groups
covered by its appeal for political settlements, the return to  the
legal fold of the SSNPO should bring to an end ethnic insurgency in
Shan  State. This agreement brings to thirteen the number of ethnic
insurgent groups joining the process of national reconciliation.

62. The achievement of ceasefires will need to be transformed  into
broader and deeper political reconciliations if lasting peace is to
be  achieved.  The SLORC will have to provide a genuine response to
the aspirations of the ethnic minorities for substantial degree  of
autonomy. As discussed above, the SLORC has sought to address these
aspirations  by  proposing  the  concepts  of states and autonomous
"special areas" with unspecified power for  ethnic  groups  in  the
National  Convention  process.  It  remains  to be seen whether the
SLORC's  constitutional blueprint will satisfy the  aspirations  of
Myanmar's diverse ethnic minorities.

63.  The  Myanmar  Government moved to address the situation of the
Rohingya refugees who fled  to  Bangladesh  in  1992,  agreeing  in
NOvember  1993  to  UNHCR  monitoring  of  their  repatriation  and
reintegration.  The  repatriation  and  resettlement  process   has
proceeded  well,  with  ober 75,000 people being repatriated in the
two years between September 1992 and September 1994.  Approximately
170,000  people remain in camps in Bangladesh awaiting repatriation
which is continuing. Approximately 95% of those Rohingya  currently
in bangladesh have registered to return to Myanmar.

People from Myanmar in Thailand
64. The presence of an estimated 400,000 Myanmar citizens currently
in  Thailand  raises  human  rights  concerns. The vast majority of
these people , approximately 300,000 are illegal workers  drawn  to
Thailand in pursuit of economic opportunities. Approximately 76,000
are people displaced by or fleeing fighting, or seeking refuge from
the   repressive  political  climate  in  Myanmar.  Most  of  these
individuals are in camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, the largest
groups being the Karen (over 55,000) and  the  Mon  (over  10,000).
there  are  approximately  2,300  students and other dissidents who
have been recognised as persons concern  by  UNHCR.  There  are  an
unknown  number  of  other  political  dissidents  from  Myanmar in

65. Thailand has generously provided  temporary  shelter  for  many
Myanmar  citizens. Nevertheless, there have been recent indications
that  Thailand  is  seeking  to  toughen  its  policy.   The   Thai
Authorities have taken action that has resulted in people displaced
from  Myanmar being forced to return to Myanmar against their will.
The most recent incident occurred in  August  1994  when  the  Thai
authorities suspended food aid distribution to agroup of Mon people
in  a border camp, thereby forcing them to return across the border
to  Myanmar.  However,   the   Thai   military   soon   recommenced
distributing  food aid directly to the Mon, and then permitted NGOs
access to resume their welfare activities.

66. Thailand has not acceded to the UN Convention or the  Protocols
relating  to  refugees  and  does  not have a refugee determination
process to distinguish those  asylum-seekers  in  genuine  need  of
protection from illegal immigrants.

67.  The  SLORC  has  commenced a dialogue with the UN on political
developments in Myanmar. While in  New  York  in  October  1994  to
attend the UN General Assembly, Myanmar Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw
held  a series of meetings with representatives of the UN Secretary
-General. It is hoped that this marks the commencement  of  greater
UN   involvement   in  the  discussion  about  Myanmar's  political

68. In October 1993 the Government  of  Myanmar  withdrew  previous
reservations on key articles of the Convention on the Rights of the
Child,  to  which  it  acceded  in July 1991. Specifically, Myanmar
withdrew  reservations  to  Article  15   (regarding   freedom   of
association)  and Article 37 (regarding the prohibition of torture,
cruel,  inhuman  or  degrading   treatment   of   children   during

69. It has also agreed to  begin  working  with  the  Interantional
Committee  of  the  Red  Cross (ICRC) to train military officers in
international humanitarian law following Myanmar's ratification  in
1992  of  the  four 1949 Geneva Conventions. These improvements and
reforms have been welcomed in various  United  Nations  resolutions
and by a range of international NGOs.

Australia's approach
70.  Australia  has  interests  in  a  politically  stable and more
democratic Myanmar which is not aligned in  a  way  that  adversely
affects regional security; in promoting economic reform in Myanmar;
in  improving  living  conditions  for  its  people;  and in seeing
greater  respect  for  human  rights  in  that  country.  The  high
proportion  of  narcotics  entering Australia from Myanmar, and the
presence of a  substantial  Myanmar  community  in  Australia,  are
important other factors.

71.  Australia's approach to Myanmar gives particular weight to the
fundamental objectives of encouraging Myanmar  to  develop  a  more
particapative system of govrnment, to improve the lot of its people
and  to  observe  internationally  recognized  standards  of  human
rights. The main strands of Australia's current policy in  relation
to Myanmar are conditioned by these aims. There is a ban on defence
exports  to  Myanmar  and  a  suspension  of  defence  visits  from
Australia; the government  continues  the  suspension  of  Austrade
visits  to  Yangon,  while  maintaining  a locally-staffed Austrade
office with guidelines to "neither encourage nor discourage" trade.
While  the  Government  has  suspended  direct  bilateral  aid,  it
continues  to  provide  humanitarian assistance to displaced people
from Myanmar, in Bangladesh and  Thailand,  as  needs  dictate.  In
addition, we use our best endeavours to confine assistance programs
of UN organisations in MYanmar to grassroots activities.

72.   While   direct  bilageral  development  assistance  has  been
suspended, in 1994/95 a total of $1,000,000  is  budgetted  in  the
Myanmar  program  for humanitarian aid delivered through NGOs. This
aid delivery has a number  of  dimensions:  assistance  to  Myanmar
students  in  Thailand enabling them to undertaken tertiary studies
in Australia; AIDS education, prevention and  control  programs;  a
maternal  and  child health program; an funding of a position under
the UN Drug Control Program in Myanmar. Relief assistance  is  also
provided;  in 1993;94 a totals of $1.5 million was provided through
Australian NGOs to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. It is  expected
that  a  similar  amount  will  be provided in 1994/95. Support for
people displaced from Myanmar, sheltering  in  Thailand,  has  been
provided since 1989/90.  In 1993/94 $300,000 was provided for these
displaced  people  and this form of assistance is continuing in the
current financial year. We have dedicated $200,000 in  1993/94  for
HIV/AIDS  prevention  in  Myanmar.  Mr Bilney has recently approved
continuation of this program in 1994/95, and introduction of a new,
additional $200,000 program  in  1994/95  for  maternal  and  child
welfare. These funds are to be channelled through Australian NGOs.

73.  We  also  remain  concerned about the situation of people from
Myanmar  currently  sheltering  in   neighbouring   Thailand.   The
government  has  provided approximately A$1 million in humanitarian
assistance to people  from  Myanmar  located  on  the  thai-myanmar
border  since  1989/90,  largely  in  support  of relief activities
undertaken by  international  and  Australian  NGOs.  This  include
$300,000  package  of assistance announced in April this year by Mr
Bilney. These funds will  be  used  for  the  purchase  of  medical
supplies, the provision of immunisation and other medical services,
water  supply  and sanitation, rice and other food items, mos2quito
nets, and transportantion. AIDAB  will  provide  the  Sub-Committee
with more detain on aid delivery in its submission.

74.  We also have a program to assist displaced Myanmar students in
Thailand to study in Australia, and a Special  Assistance  Category
(SAC)  for  Burmese  in Thailand under the immigration program. The
number  of  places  allocated  under  the  SAC  has  recently  been
increased  from 50 to 100. It will be noted from the above that the
bulk of humanitarian and other  assistance  is  currently  expended
outside Myanmar.

75.  In  pursuit of our human rights objectives, Australia seeks to
apply a range of measures  in  promoting  human  rights  observance
including public statements, diplomatic representations, efforts to
sterngthen  the  UN's  human  rights mechinery and the promotion of
legal and human rights infrastructure in general.

76. Australia  has  been  prominent  in  international  efforts  to
pressure   the   SLORC to implement political reforms and adhere to
universally accepted standards of human rights. We  have  condemned
the  detention  of political leaders in Myanmar, and encouraged our
international partners to use  their  influence  and  contact  with
Myanmar  to  promote  change  in  that country. Other measures have
included active support for strong resolutions at  the  UN  General
Assembly  and  UN  commission  on  Human  Rights,  support for ICRC
objectives,and encouraging the continuation of  the  UNHCR  program
which  manages  the  safe  return and reintegration of the Rohingya
refugees from  Bangladesh  into  Myanmar.  We  have  also  promoted
reconciliation  between the various parties to conflict in Myanmar;
and in January 1994 arranged the  Experts  Workshop  with  Griffith
University  as a means of identifying fresh and creative approaches
to the situation in Myanmar.

77. The  Australian  Government  has  a  continuing  dialogue  with
Myanmar  authorities  on  human  rights  and  kinderd  issues.  The
Government's concern on human rights issues are regularly  conveyed
through  our  Embassy  in  Yangon.  Moreover, Senator Evans has met
Myanmar Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw on a number of occasions,  most
recently  in  Bangkok   in  Jyly  1994  and again at the UN General
Assembly in New York in October 1994.  AT  these  meetings  Senator
Evans conveyed the hope that the meeting between the SLORC and Aung
San  suu  Kyi  would  lead  to  a dialogue of real substance on the
constitutional and political future of Myanmar and take forward the
process of national reconciliation.

78. At his meeting with U Ohn Gyaw in October 1994,  Senator  Evans
sought   clarification   about   the   direction  of  the  National
Convention, registering concerns about  deficiencies  of  form  and
substance  in  relation  to  this  process.  While recognising some
positive  strands  in  the  SLORC's  proposals  for  the  country's
political  future, such as greater recognition of the rights of the
minorities, we are concerned about other  elements,  notably  those
which  entrench  the  military's  dominant  place  in the political
affairs. We are also concerned that there is no timetable  for  the
Convention process and no evidence of transitional arrangements for
a  return  to  a  more  participative  and genuinely representative
system of government in Myanmar. Senator Evans has also  ex0pressed
the  view  that  free  participation  by  the full range of elected
representatives in the Convention's deliberation, and easing  other
restrictions  which  inhibit debate on constitutional and political
reform,  would  significantly  enhance  the  credibility   of   the
convention process.

79.  At  the  ASEAN  Post Ministerial Conference in Bangkok in Jyly
1994, there  was  general  acceptance  among  ASEAN  countries  and
dialogue  partners  that  any progress in Myanmar would be achieved
through dialogue and engagement  by  the  international  community,
rather  than  through  confrontation  and isolation. Senator Evan's
idea that "benchmarks" provided a  means  of  guaging  movement  in
Myanmar achieved widespread acceptance; and it was also agreed that
there  should be a relationship between concessions to the SLORC an
d progress in Myanmar.

80. At the ASEAN PMC Senator Evans identified a series of  possible

- the unconditional release of Aung San suu Kyi;

- the commencement of a serious dialogue between the SLORC and Aung
San Suu Kyi about the political and constitutional evolution of the

-  access  to political prisoners by the International Committee of
the Red Cross, UN Special Rapporteur and other outsiders;

- a  review  and  reduction  of  sentences  imposed  for  political

-  significant  progress in the proposed dialogue between the SLORC
and the UN;

- a clear timetable for the constitutional process  with  delegates
able to participate more freely;

-   agreement  by  the  SLORC  to  the  inclusion  of  transitional
provisions   in   the   new   constitution    permitting    further
constitutional development;

-  the  provision  of legal guarantees for the rights of the ethnic

- the cessation of forced labour  and  porterage  beyond  what  are
traditional practices; and

- the repeal of censership and state protection legislation.

81.  The Australian Government will continue to engage the SLORC in
dialogue to explain our concerns. We will also continue  to  stress
that  progress  on political development and human rights issues is
critical to Myanmar returning to the international mainstream,  and
to urge progress against the identified benchmarks.

82. Australia remains committed to the pursuit of political reform
and  respect  for  human rights in Myanmar. While an early, smoothe
transition to democratic governemnt in Myanmar would be  consistent
with Australia's values and interests in the region, Australia does
not  realistically  expect  Myanmar  to  introduce  a Western-style
democracy overnight given the history of the  country  since  1948:
apart  from  a  brief  period  of  parliamentary government between
independence and the military's taking of power in 1962, there  has
been   no  established  tradition  of  parliamentary  democracy  in
Myanmar. While the political problems facing Myanmar are undeniably
complex and difficult, the approach taken  by  the  SLORC  to  date
reflects  disturbingly  little commitment to democratic principles.
The SLORC continues to argue that Myanmar needs  a  strong  central
government with a significant military component to ensure national
security  an  stability.  While  the  SLORC claims that its role is
temporary, and that power will be transferred to a  new  government
following  the  National Convention, indications are that the SLORC
is determined to entrench the role of the military in the political

83. There have also been some significant shifts in the region over
the past twelve to eighteen  months  which  have  implications  for
international approachs to Myanmar, including Australia's position.
The  ASEAN  countries  have  clearly  decided  that developments in
Myanmar are sufficient to warrant a form  of  engagement  with  the
SLORC, with consequent more extensive high level bilateral contact,
and  the  decision  to invite Myanmar to the 1994 ASEAN Ministerial
Meeting as a guest of Thailand. Key ASEAN members are promoting the
long-term idea of a South East Asian community taking in all ten of
the South East Asian countries, which would include Myanmar. At the
same time, ASEAN has appeared willing to embrace  the  "benchmarks"
approach prososed by Australia at the 1994 ASEAN PMC , and is in no
rush to accelerate its embrace of Myanmar at this stage.

84.  In  our dealings with Myanmar, we see a firm but graduated and
nuanced approach as having  the  greatest  chance  of  success.  In
seeking  to  advance  the situation in Myanmar, we see the best way
forward  as  to  encourage  the  Governmet  of  that   country   to
accommodate  democratic and other concerns on a step-by-step basis,
by combining a judicious mix of pressure and persuasion on our part.
Ther is clearly no point in continuing  to  call  for  economic  or
other  types  of  sanctions  against  the SLORC, as it has not been
possible to mobilise significant international  support  for  them.
Nor is it clear how effective such measures, if set in place, would
actually  be  in  bringing  about  positive  change in isolationist
Myanmar.  At  the  same  time,  measured  pressure  on  the  SLORC,
bilaterally  and  through multilateral institutions, to open itself
to dialogue and adhere more  closely  to  internationally  accepted
human  rights  standards,  offers  the  best  prospect of achieving

85. The limited progress that has taken place in the political  and
human  rights  situation  in Myanmar suggests that this approach of
dialogue  with  SLORC  is  yielding  some  dividends.  The  Myanmar
leadership is increasingly interested in being part of the regional
and internaitonal community. Moreover, the prospective link between
economic   and  political  liberalisation  provides  a  substantial
argument in favour of greater dialogue and contact on the  part  of
the international community with the Government of Myanmar. However
the  SLORC  must also continue taking further tangible steps in the
right direction.

86. WE recognise that Australia on its own lacks decisive  leverage
vis-a-vis  the  SLORC.  Given  its legitimate interests in Myanmar,
however, Australia will continue to strive to inject new approaches
and  creative  thinking  into  regional   consideration   of   this
significant regional problem.

87.  In  our  view,  against  this  background, the best option for
Australia, regional countries and the international community is  a
sustained  exercise  requiring  patience  and determinatioon,with a
focus  on  confidence-building  and  the  gradual  phasing  out  of
military  authority over the longer term. The Australian Government
will continue to work  hard,  in  concert  with  the  international
community,  to  promote  positive  change in Myanmar. In pursuit of
these aims, we will maintain contact  with,  and  seek  input  from
concerned  NGOs  and other groups such as the Parliamentary Friends
of burma.

Part 3 of 3.