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Burma Information Group:
THE IRRAWADDY: A SELECTION OF ARTICLES FROM
VOLUME 3, Nos 23-25
Produced by the Burma Information Group
WHAT IS BIG?
COL KYAW THEIN "WE ARE SPLIT"
THE NEW WORLD ORDER IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AND BURMA
THE TRAGEDY OF BURMA
KABAW VALLEY NEW LIFE PROJECT
"TO BE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC.." AND "... TO BE UNITED"
WIN WIN HTAY'S APPEAL
YANGON IN THERE BABY
FORMER STUDENT LEADER IN BKK
KHIN NYUNT'S PR STUNT?
U THAUNG WON'T FORGIVE JAPANESE
MOVING THE DIRTY MONEY
ROB AND RAPE
WHERE IS MOE THEE ZUN?
PREGNANT ASYLUM SEEKER SENT TO IDC
WHAT IS BIG?
Irrawaddy Vol. 3, No. 23
Slorc arrests man for passing disinformation
5 October 1995
MILITARY intelligence officials have arrested a man allegedly
sent false information about to a Bangkok based dissident
group, the state-owned newspaper New Light of Myanmar said.
Ye Htut, 27, was arrested September 27. Military
intelligence officers said he had incriminating documents and
admitted sending fabricated information to Aung Zaw, alias Kyi
Zaw, leader of the Bangkok-based Burma Information Group. Ye
Htut said he had been paid for his services by the Burma
Information Group since 1992. He also admitted sending
information to dissidents in Canada, the paper said.
Burma Information Group publishes several newsletters
critical of the military government including The Irrawaddy,
Radio Burma and Burma Issue.
The newsletters are regularly sent to the United States
Congress, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the paper said. (BP)
(Here is BIG's recent statement and explanation. Ed.)
On Sept 28 Win Win Htay in Ottawa received a phone call
from Rangoon. She could not help but pray. She was informed that
her brother, Ye Htut, had been taken in for questioning by
Burma's military intelligence.
Afterwards, she called friends in Washington and Bangkok.
She then tried to console herself by thinking that there had just been
a misunderstanding. A week later, the official New Light of Myanmar
reported, "Author of concoctions on Myanmar for anti-government groups
nabbed." Ye Htut, 27, admitted having sent "concocted reports"
to dissidents in Canada and Thailand.
The state-owned media said action is to be taken against Ye
Htut, who allegedly received payment for coming up with reports that
were used to "mislead other nations" with regards to views on Burma.
Ye Htut also allegedly sent false news to the Burma
Information Group (BIG) in Thailand, the newspaper reported.
But nothing was heard from Ye Htut himself as he never had a
chance to tell his side of story. Nor did he even have a right
to question why Burmese officials opened his letters.
In reality, Ye Htut has disappeared since Sept 2 and family
members still do not know where he is being held. Win Win Htay, a
former political activist now residing in Canada, is a former member
and full-time local correspondent for BIG.
Since 1992, BIG had been trying to subscribe to the New
Light of Myanamr but it never received any reply from the publications'
Finally, Win Win Htay decided to contact other members of
family, as well as friends, and asked them if they could send her official
newspapers and magazines. It was Ye Htut who agreed to do this work
without knowing what the consequences of his actions would be.
All the while, Ye Htut believed he had been sending those
materials only to his sisters and her friends. As such, he was regularly
sending copies of the New Light of Myanmar and other publications
approved by officials. Additionally, he wrote letters to his sister.
Win Win Htay noted that most of the correspondence with her
brother focused on family matters. "I like writing a lot. I considered it
[writing letters to family members] normal because there weren't any sensitive
issues involved," she said in a recent interview.
"I didn't think personal letters would effect my brother."
But like many other Burmese Ye Htut may be one of those who
believe in democracy. To many Burmese officials this can be a threat.
In his letters, Ye Htut complained about the rising prices.
He wrote about sports, increasing traffic in Rangoon, the
lives of Burma's famous movie stars and singers, opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Aids in Burma, the weather and etc.
Ironically, Ye Htut sent copies of daily newspapers like the
New Light of Myanmar and The Mirror. Were both of these papers
publishing false and concocted reports in their pages?
It is surprising that Burmese officials made a big issue out
of it at all. They went to the extend of exaggerating Ye Htut
was an enemy of the state because he sent false reports abroad.
As for their charge that Ye Htut sent "concocted news" to
BIG in exchange for payment, the truth is BIG never employed
anyone in Burma because it knew "the person" would be in
serious and immediate danger if found out.
Nevertheless, Win Win Htay herself had agreed to assist the
organization by availing it of copies of newspapers and magazines.
Like Ye Htut, hundreds of Burmese send similar letters to
their friends, and family and relatives residing in other countries.
In fact, the BBC World Service in London receives dozens of
letters weekly from Burma. Some of these letters are broadcast in Burmese
in the "letters to the editor" section, which commands a substantial
Burmese audience. Most letters touched on injustice, repression, forced
labour, high prices, arbitrary arrests and detention, and support to Suu Kyi
Burmese officials and military supporters also send letters
to this section. Obviously, they enjoyed freedom of expression.
If the ruling junta known as the State Law and Order
Restoration Council has any real intention on cracking down on
letters, they might need to arrest hundreds of Burmese all
over the country. Why did they single out Ye Htut? What is
their real intention? Why are they fretting over this man? Was
it a strong warning to people in Burma who send letters to
their friends or relatives abroad?
In truth, Ye Htut's arrest only demonstrates that the
military intelligence services actually open and read all
letters going in and out of the country.
Human Rights Watch/Asia said recently in a statement that it
believed Ye Htut had been arrested "solely for having sent
information to friends and contacts abroad," which under
international law could not be characterized as criminal
behavior. However, it seems that under Slorc's laws Burmese
apparently have no right to write and send letters freely.
The Slorc-controlled media criticism of the BIG also
suggests that Burma's intelligence officers have no clue as to
what BIG is all about, but openly considered it as a only seen
as a "dissident group."
BIG was established in 1992 in Thailand by Burmese and
foreigners mainly to enable Burma to have an independent voice
since local radio, newspapers and television are completely
controlled by the ruling junta.
Since 1988, several newsletters and bulletins have been
published by dissident groups and political organizations at
home and abroad, although most of them were anti-Slorc.
One of the organization's founding principles states "BIG
decided to strive for impartial and independent news reporting."
Since 1992, BIG has been producing reliable, uncensored and
impartial information on Burma. More importantly, BIG is not
affiliated with any political party or organization.
BIG produces the Irrawaddy newsletters twice a month and
also publishes reports that document regarding the national
convention, human rights abuses and progress of discussions at
the national convention. It also conducts political analyses on Burma.
Considering the situation there, reports from independent
news agencies and the international media are necessary and
play a pivotal role as an alternative source of news on Burma
where press freedom has been dead for many years.
BIG is one of several media groups that provides an
alternative news service to the state-controlled media and
In its 1995 mid-year report, BIG said "It hopes that this
news service will continue to develop and serve the great need
for independent reporting on Burma."
In addition, if one looked closely at the Irrawaddy
newsletters, it easy to see that 65 per cent of news reports
are reproduced from the Nation, Bangkok Post, Asian Wall
Street Journal, Asiaweek, Far Eastern Economic Review, the New
Light of Myanmar, the BBC World Service, Voice of America and
other regional and local newspapers and magazines. Only 35 per
cent of news is derived from its own sources.
This newsletter keeps most Burmese expatriates, Burma
support groups, and Burma watchers from the US, Canada,
Australia, England, the Middle East, Germany and Asean
countries abreast with what is going on in Burma.
BIG has also reproduced articles that appeared in the New
Light of Myanmar. Were they "false reports" and concocted news?"
The ruling junta accused BIG of being a "dissident group."
But BIG has nothing to hide. While it is true that some BIG
members living in Burma participated in the 1988 democracy
movement, this should not be held against them as at least a
million other Burmese took to the streets then as well. It is
already a thing of the past.
At present, there aren't any more "dissidents nor activists"
in the organization as BIG requires only independent-minded
reporters and workers. BIG's founding principles stipulates that it
would only accept independent-minded individual. It is a critical time
for Burma it urgently needs independent newspapers and newsletters.
BIG is determined to fill that role.
Last year, BIG was criticised by some opposition groups in
exile for having pointed to their weakness, factionalism,
infighting, and lack of leadership role. Besides the Irrawaddy Slorc
alleges BIG also produces Burma Issues and Radio Burma. The latter two
are actually produced by non-governmental organizations based in Thailand.
In its 1994-5 proposal, it was noted that "in the future, BIG's real intention
is to publish an independent newspaper in Burma should press freedom
be restored." (Burma Information Group)
COL KYAW THEIN "WE ARE SPLIT"
Irrawaddy Vol. 3 No. 23
Col Kyaw Thein of military intelligence officer came to
Thailand in October. He and his group held a talks with senior
Karen leaders. It was the first time the two sides met, a
source said. "It was just the beginning," added the source.
But reports in Thai local dailies indicated Karen will sign in
the end of this year. In a related development, Kyaw Thein reportedly
told Karen leaders that Slorc is divided in to three. He is belonged to one
faction led by Khin Nyunt. (BIG)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AND BURMA
Irrawaddy Vol. 3, No. 23
With the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Cory Aquino's
earlier people's power revolution, it indeed seemed that the
world, and Southeast Asia too, would be shaped by economic and
political freedom, i.e., by the free market economy and
"middle class" democracy.
The 1988 uprising in Burma which toppled Ne Win's one-man
rule seemed part of a global democratization process. Quite unexpectedly,
however, outside actors... Singapore, China and the Thai military- stepped
in to shore up the new military junta, Slorc, which emerged to forestall
bloodily the rollback of authoritarianism.
This was followed in 1989 by an equally bloody Dengist
rollback of the democratization aspirations of the Chinese people. Since
then, there has been solidified what could be called a "free market,
authoritarian front" of Chinese and Asean leaders and governments.
The line pushed by the powerful front is that economic
development must be (and can be) achieved without the
contamination of such "Western" notions as human rights and
individual freedoms, genuine people's sovereignty, public
constraints of rulers, etc.
The clash between capitalist authoritarianism and capitalist
democracy is precisely what Samuel Huntington's coming "clash
of civilizations" scenario is all about. The point to note is that the clash
appears "cultural" only because culture, instead of the communist threat,
is now being used to defend authoritarian rule.
In substance, the Chinese-Asean authoritarian development
model, shorn of its cultural icings, can be seen as nothing less than an
attempt by authoritarian leaders to prevent a rollback of authoritarianism..
now justified on cultural grounds.
The clash between authoritarianism and democracy is made
complex by the economic success of "Asian" authorita-rianism,
particularly in China (and by the "Asian dragons"), and the
economic decline of democracies.
The perception of the West's economic decline has in turn
unleashed a "cultural war" especially in the United States, whereby
structures of democratic capitalism have come under increasing attack
by conservatives as obstructing "wealth makers" (and "job-creators") and
as the "coddling" of unenterprising elements, i. e.., the poor, the minorities
(including immigrants, illegal and otherwise), welfare recipients, and so on.
From a wider theoretical perspective, it seems that the collapse
of communism has impelled authoritarian regimes to come up with a new
paradigm in defence of authoritarianism. In this connection, there can be
discerned a congruence of interest between national rulers and powerful,
extranational economic actors to contain democracy, perhaps because
democracy gives the powerless the capacity to "obstruct" profit-taking
(on a global-regional scale).
A possible outcome of such a congruence of interest could be
the transformation of national governments into "executive committees"
(to quote Marx) of extranational entrepreneurs and investors, not only in
the "Third World" and the former communist bloc, but even in the West as
well. The above trend is a global one, and it is unfortunate that Burma is
now an arena where the opening battle of the global war between efficient
wealth-making (espoused by authoritarian rulers and conservatives) and
democratic capitalism (aspired to by the ruled) is being fought.
In Burma, the battle is an unequal one since external support for
democratic capitalism is, to quote a famous playwright, "all sound and fury,
signifying nothing" whereas support for Slorc has been significant since it has
fulfilled the role expected of national governments of the post-cold war, new
world order as an executive committee for extranational wealth-accumulators
Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe is a Ph.D. candidate at the University
of British Columbia, who is writing his dissertation on
military intrusion into politics in Burma, Thailand and
Indonesia. He also teaches in the Political Science Department
at Simon Fraser University. His late father, Sao Shwe Thike is
Burma's first president and died in prison after Gen Ne Win
took power in 1962.
THE TRAGEDY OF BURMA
Irrawaddy Vol.3, No.24
Khin Maung Nyunt
Just after the coup that took place in Burma on September 18,
1988, the Slorc vowed and made known worldwide to establish
democracy based on the true will of the people with
participation of political parties in Burma. In addition, the
then coup leader, Gen Saw Maung made a promise that soldiers
would return to barracks after transferring power to the
government by the people's representatives who were to be
elected in elections.
Well, let's recall the political events that followed. General
elections were held in May 1990 and the NLD won most of the seats
with overwhelming support from the people. Then, the Slorc declared
that drawing up of a new constitution was a must before the transfer of
power.Thus, the National Convention was organised with the Slorc
handpicked delegates and M.Ps elected by the people. Anyhow,
the number of the former is much larger than that of the latter!
At the sessions of the Convention, the Slorc has
manipulated through the former to include such strange,
substandard and undemocratic clauses as Parliament must
consist of not only people's representatives but also those
chosen by Tatmadaw (armed forces); Tatmadaw must take a
leading role in national politics; a coup can be staged by the
commander-in-chief of Tatmadaw in times of national chaos,
disorder and danger; Head of the State must be a typical citizen of
Burma, not married to a foreigner. These are just a few to mention.
The National Convention and a new constitution which would
be adopted at the end of this year or in the following year,
reflect the true colour of the Slorc instead of transferring
power back to its own people, it consolidates its present
position with the aim of making Tatmadaw a sole and
uncontested heir of political power in Burma.
Almost after six years of house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi has
been released because of pressure and the confidence of the
Slorc in itself. Since the release, Suu Kyi has persistently
requested the Slorc to open a dialogue in order to cooperate
and coordinate efforts for a timely national reconciliation
and rebuilding of the country, one of the poorest nations in
the world today despite its richness in natural resources and....
Gen Ne Win who foolishly clung to power for 26 years by
using Tatmadaw as a stooge, has virtually destroyed Burma and
its people in almost every sphere of life education, health,
economy, national character and so on. We Burmese have already
had very painful lessons at the expense of our identity in the
world today. Enough is enough. Now, it's a national duty and
responsibility of every citizen of Burma not to let that
history be repeated.
When my friends and I were at the Defence Services Academy
(DSA) in Burma from 1955 to 1959, we had to learn a lesson
called Appreciation in military science in order to draw up
practical strategy and tactic that would in turn guarantee
victory over a potential enemy.
Now, the time would be a bit late but I sincerely believe
there are still some workable options left. For this reason,
may I take this opportunity as a last earnest request to all
professional soldiers of Tatmadaw and some of my friends who
still hold positions in the Slorc to do a genuine appreciation
again for proper understanding and recognition of facts and
situation, not relating to any possible enemy this time, but
for our country and people who have longed for genuine
democracy and a true national reconciliation since March 2, 1962.
The author is the graduate of DSA's first batch. In 1965 he
was detained along with Brig-Gen Aung Gyi, Col Kyi Maung and
other military officers for their democratic ideas. He was
released in October 1968. In 1972, he joined Parliamentary
Democracy Party led by the late Prime Minister U Nu, waging an
arm-revolution against Ne Win. In late 1974, he resigned from
the revolution. Since then, he has been living in Thailand as
a political exile. He contributed this article to the Irrawaddy.
KABAW VALLEY NEW LIFE PROJECT
Irrawaddy Vol 3, No. 23
Everyday on TV Myanmar program, the Slorc publicizes
its biggest development projects. At the top of the list is the
Kabaw valley development program New life projectö. Kabaw
valley is located in northern Sagaing division, close to India-Burma
border. It seemed to be part of the border development project.
The following interview with a former prisoner who had to
work on the Kabaw project sheds light on the true conditions
of Slorc projects.)
ôPlease allow me not to use my name and village. I am a Karen,
Buddhist and married. My friends and I cut down trees and sold
them to Thai traders. We had to give 500 baht a week to
Slorc's army camp. In the beginning of 1993, we were arrested
by a patrol from another unit and put on trial in Myawaddy.
The court sentenced me to 3 years in prison. I was beaten in
the early days in police detention cell and the Moulmein
prison. Four months later, Moulmein prison authorities sent me
to the Rangoon-Mandalay road project. It was only 6 or 7 miles
from Rangoon and my duty was to crush stones. I was chained
because the rule said all prisoners at work camps have to stay
one year in chains. About two months later, they sent me to
Kalewa hydro-electricity project. I had to work two months for
a contractor who paid 80 kyats a day for a prisoner to prison
authorities. But we received nothing and the food we had was
the worst we had ever had. Then, we were sent to Kabaw valley
work camp, in the northern part of Kalewa. It was the camp for
those who had to clear thousands of acres of land for rice planting.
There were always over one thousand prisoners. If there
were less than one thousand prisoners, they brought more from
other prisons. Our duties were to clear the ground and grow
rice for all seasons. There were no machines or draft animals.
We cut down trees and removed them and stones (to create
fields), ploughed the ground, grew seedlings, transplanted
them and did everything. Those who did not know how to do it
were beaten. The work started from about 9 a.m (mist usually
disappears around 9 o'clock in that hilly region) and finished at 4 a.m.
The authorities issued only one blanket per person even
when it was very cold. There was a clinic which had no medicines.
Seriously sick prisoners were allowed to rest. Food wasn't bad
(we ate meat once a week) but the work was very hard. At least
one or two prisoners died everyday. The maximum number of dead
was six in one day in the hot season. They died because of
fever, exhaustion and cholera. Some died because trees fell on
them. Cutting trees and removing them was very dangerous and
hard. Ten prisoners from Moulmein prison worked together with
me at Kabaw valley project. When I left, only two were alive.
I worked nearly 2 years there before I was released. The Slorc
proudly publicized that Kabaw New Life project was part of
its successful development program. But for us, it was the
hell. To us, it was the New Death project. (BIG)
This story was interviewed and translated by Min.
"TO BE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC.." AND "... TO BE UNITED"
Irrawaddy Vol 3 No. 23
I have read your commentary on U Thaung's Bangkok Post
article, Blank cheque for Aung San Suu Kyi, in your esteemed
newsletter of 15 August 1995. For fairness' sake kindly let
met share my different point of view with your readers regarding this article.
U Thaung's good works for the sake of Burma's struggle for
democracy are appreciable and, as one of the most well-known
old hand journalists living outside Burma, his tireless effort
for Burma's freedom are really admirable. However, I was
indeed shocked by the said article in which he opposed the
inclusion of the ethnic leaders in the widely supported demand
for a tripartite dialogue between the present military
government, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi And other political leaders,
including representatives from the ethnic groups.
Far from being a demand made by one or two dissident
voices from stray politicians abroad (sic!) as he has mentioned in
his article, the tripartite dialogue has actually been advocated by Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi, the United Nations and the political actors at the
front-line of the democratic struggle such as the National Coalition
Government of Union of Burma, Democratic Alliance of Burma,
National Democratic Front, All Burma Student Democratic Front,
National League for Democracy (Liberated Areas), National Council of
the Union of Burma, the Kachin Independence Organisation and the
underground All Burma Students Union active inside Burma.
In supporting this tripartite dialogue Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
stated that ôit has always been the firm conviction of those working for
democracy in Burma that it is only through meaningful dialogue between
diverse political forces that we can achieve national reconciliation, which
is the first and most vital requisite for a united and prosperous country.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's demand for a 100% support from the entire
Burmese people does not mean to exclude the ethnic leaders from the
proposed tripartite dialogue. The keywords in her concept are "national
reconciliation" and building "a united and prosperous country".
Two times in his article U Thaung emphasized that to
prioritize the ethnic problem ahead of the democratic process
would certainly delay the march toward the goal. The concept
of national reconciliation actually prioritizes neither the
ethnic problem nor the democratic process but is a process by
itself and the absence of the ethnic leaders in the tripartite
dialogue would make the national reconciliation process
completely meaningless. The ethnic issue and the long standing
civil war has been undeniably the main source from which the
military has built up its power and eventually kicked the
civilian politicians out of power. Thus, the key three
political players throughout our history since Independence
have been ethnic groups, the military and the civilian
politicians. It is surprising to read U Thaung's further
statement that "it is obvious that as almost all ethnic groups
signed the cease-fire agreement, what they want is nothing but
a chair at the meeting table for themselves." The present
ceasefire agreements, made between the military regime and
some ethnic organisations, are, of course, complicated if not
analytically assessed in light of historical context of Burma's civil war.
Burma needs a genuine nation-wide ceasefire and peace
parleys to stop bloodshed and to alleviate the sufferings of
the people, and to pave the way for a peaceful political
atmosphere conducive for national reconciliation to proceed.
The present piece-meal cease-fires, with the military's broken
promises and breaching of the agreements, have yet to come any
closer to a long term solution to Burma's political problems
as envisioned by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the ethnic leaders.
Throughout the history of Burma's civil war almost all
Burman-led armed revolutions ceased to exist half-way before
reaching their declared goals and their leaders surrendered to
the military rulers leaving behind the ethnic nationalities.
Some classic examples are the Parliamentary Democracy Party,
led by the ex-Prime Minister U Nu, Thakhin Soe's Red Flag
Communist Party of Burma and U Aung San's People's Volunteer
Organi-sation that had gone underground following his
assassination and Burma's Independence.
General Ne Win managed to make a big media coup in 1980
with fanciful coverage of his meeting with his battlefield
adversaries such as U Nu, Thakhin Soe, Bo Thet Htun of the
White Flag Burma Communist Party and other "back to the legal
fold" returnees. But the propaganda at that time neither
convinced the Burmese masses in general nor the ethnic
nationalities in particular that the struggle for freedom had
come to an end. Neither did it serve as a point for rejoice
nor celebration of ôpeaceö restored. But the extinction of
these armed organisations did not mean that their leaders had
willingly accepted the military dictatorship. During the 1988
mass uprisings U Nu and Bo Set Yaung, one of the leaders of
the underground PVO and nick named ôson of Aung Sanö because
of his obsessive love and respect for U Aung San, re-emerged
on the political scene and voiced their opposition against the one-party
system. Bo Set Yaung was eventually tortured to death in prison.
Even Thakhin Soe, at the height of the 1988 uprisings,
voiced his support for the people's demand for democracy and
from his death-bed demanded the military step down! Moreover,
many of the ex-PDP, CPB, BCP, PVO etc. embraced the people's
demand for democracy and rejoined the ethnic armed revolutionary
camps in the jungles after the 1988 uprisings were brutally crushed,
not to mention the many newly-formed organisations led by our Burman
brothers that had freshly joined the armed ethnic groups.
Peace talks or ceasefire agreements made between the
military regime and the ethnic nationalities and other armed
organisations prior to 1988 failed to bear fruits and therefore fighting
resumed again and again.
Despite the present ceasefire agreements there is no way of
saying that the civil war has ended and no one has ever rejoiced nor
celebrated them as such. It may be the reason why Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi said during an interview after her release from the house arrest that
"now that ceasefire agreements have been made, it is necessary to
sign peace accords".
Moreover, the earlier ceasefire groups recently formed an
alliance called the Peace and Democracy Front, made up of Wa,
Kokang and three other groups, and jointly declared their support for
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and called for genuine political dialogue.
NLD members and some elected representatives, including
members of the ABSDF who have left the liberated areas and
"surrendered", still voice their support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
At present the following NDF members have not yet signed
any ceasefire agreements with the military, namely Arakan
Liberation Party, Chin National Front, Karen National Union
Organisation, Palaung State Liberation Front, Pa-O People's
Liberation Organisation, Wa National Organisation. The Karenni
National Progressive Party, also a member of NDF that had
signed a ceasefire agreement, but has recently resumed fighting.
The other NDF members, the New Mon State Party and the Kayan
Newland Party still maintain their membership with the front
despite the cease-fire agreements. Cease-fire or not the
ethnic organisations remain a significant political force that
should not be ignored and this force will never simply disappear.
U Nu's PDP and the White Flag CPB became defunct because
of their apathy towards the ethnic nationalities' long standing
demand for mutual respect and national equality in the form of
federalism. History should not be allowed to repeat itself in
this way if we are to gain freedom and democracy.
It is high time that we all draw lessons from our past
history and work together towards building a truly united and
prosperous new federated nation. Tensions arose between the
ethnic nationalities and the NCGUB when the later failed to
incorporate the ethnic representatives in the exile government,
and as a result the NCGUB was unable to secure the vital 100%
support from the ethnic groups. However, the recent reformation of
the NCGUB, which has included some federal union and its
consequent call for "all forces, inside or outside Burma, whether they
have signed ceasefire agreements, are in the process of negotiating
ceasefires or are continuing their resistance...., to unite and double
their efforts...." is a welcome move.
The NDF, the alliance of the ethnic nationalities, has
offered its platform as a spring board for the democratic forces from
the urban areas to expand the struggle for freedom and democracy
into the international political arena. Consequently these urbanites
together with the Burmese exiles contribute enormously for the
common cause of the entire Burmese people.
After a long bloody history that the ethnic nationalities
have been sharing with the Burmese, many controversies among
today's front line fighters have, unlike in the past, been relatively overcome.
At this critical moment of time the mutual understanding,
respect and solidarity among them to remains strong. Despite
the different approaches, U Thaung's otherwise good efforts
for the sake of Burma's freedom and democracy are really valuable.
Finally, to be realistic, it is important to take note that
given the present power holders' rather bizarre way of thinking,
the prospect of the proposed tripartite dialogue remains unclear.
"To be cautiously optimistic...." and "....to be united" is the message
to the people from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Salai Kipp Kho Lian
European Burmese Association Hamburg, Germany
WIN WIN HTAY'S APPEAL
Irrawaddy Vol. 3 No. 23
I, Ms. Win Win Htay, am writing to you concerning the arrest
of my brother, Ye Htut of Rangoon, by the Burmese government called
the State Law and Order Restoration Council, Slorc or ôNa Wa Taö. Ye
Htut, 27 is my full blood younger brother, not my cousin as Slorc
said. It is true there has been correspondence, once every two/three
months, between us since the days I fled Burma in September 1988
after Gen Saw Maung's coup. This is the one and the only curative of
my nostalgia, in exile first in Thailand and then here, Canada,
reading letters, few and far between, from my loved ones.
My brother, Ye Htut, on my insistance, sometimes sent to me
some monthly Burmese magazines such as Ma Hay Thi, Si Pwar Ye, Dana ,
Ah Pyo Ma and other popular magazines in Burma all passed by the Press
Scrutiny Board called Sar Pe Si Sit Ye , an agency completely
manned by Na Wa Ta's Military Intelligence (MI) officers.
As a matter of fact, Ma Hay Thi is published by an ex Burma Army
Major turned publisher and is purely a non political magazine. Si
Pwa Ye and Dana are business magazines published by the pro
military circles who thrive by collaborating with Slorc, both echoing
and sometimes even indirectly supporting Slorc's forced developments
and shun the open-door market economy in which only those in green
and their newly recruited parasites are thriving. A Pyo Ma or Belle is a
magazine devoted totally to women's interests and has nothing to do with
I know that my relatives and my fellow citizens are living in
a hellish country under Slorc's iron rule. We strictly limit our
letters to our own family, such as which of my elders is no more or
which of my brothers or sisters is getting married to who or who has
moved to where, to other new places etc. I always make sure that they
do not mention the situation in Rangoon. Because I do not need to
know the continuing terrible situation in my native land from them.
We have ample sources to know about Burma these days, from sources
such as the Internet or the BBC or the foreign media or even from
Amnesty in London and so on.
Two years ago, I was working with the Burma Information Group.
I asked Ye Htut to enclose some newspaper clippings, from Burma's only
two newspapers, namely, New Light of Myanmar and the Mirror and
to send them only by the regular, slow and unsafe government postal
service to make it legal.
None of this was urgent or serious to know I wanted to configure
things at home in my vague memory by means of this news, so to speak.
BIG itself asked me to get the newspapers since it did not receive
any reply from the New Light of Myanmar.
My brother did it. His doings were absolutely legal acts, even
under the existing Laws and Orders of Slorc.
But when I heard of his arrest by Slorc on the ground that he
was passing news to Canada, as if Canada is a belligerent country to
Burma, I was so surprised that my surprise even inundated my anger
and sorrow. I also heard that he was forced to confess his guilt. But
I do not understand how this act of writing to a sister abroad has
become illegal in Slorc's eye.
I by no means am an arch political rival of Slorc. I used to work
for the BIG as an independent stringer. I'm just an exiled Burmese
who is now going back to school in Canada dreaming that my continuing
study here might be useful for my native country, Burma, in a time I
do not know when. My brother, Ye Htut, also is by no means a big guy
in Burma who can challenge Slorc's power or its military might. He is
just a daily wage earner who innocently loves his sibling sister who
has missed the family since 1988.
All I can say now is that, even here in Canada, half a world
away from home, I feel that I still am being persecuted by Slorc. I have
nightmares of Slorc's soldiers torturing my brother. I wonder why
can't the rest of the world stop Slorc doing these atrocities to
Burmese people, one of them is Ye Htut, my beloved brother.
Ms. Win Win Htay
YANGON IN THERE BABY
Irrawaddy Vol 3, No. 23
"God I hate it when they do that", says Bob, pointing to the
same goons in sunglasses who'd stared us down during dinner.
We'd began our night out at the Inya Lake Hotel, reputedly
the best restaurant in the city (apart from Sylvie's, the
French alkies' joint). Powdered Cream of Asparagus Soup
served in a neon lit, Stalinist aircraft hangar. Being
Saturday night, it was pretty busy with at least five of the
80-odd tables occupied by paying customers, plus another two
taken by our dorky looking 'minders'.
Bob's company had recently invested about US$80 million into
Burma, so he's on the list of people to be protected from
the pernicious gossip" and "evil influence" of local people.
He and his young Slorc shadow are inseparable- which would
certainly set tongues wagging in Bangkok. After eating, we
head for the Nawarat Hotel, to the only bar in town. And I
do mean the only bar. Reputedly owned by the daughter of
General 'No.1' Ne Win, the bar only accepts US dollars or
American Express cards (God bless'em, never leave Western
democracies without them).
Quiet during the week, on Fridays and Saturdays, the long
thin bar is reminiscent of a scene from James Bond. A crush
of dodgy diplomats, Slorc spies, CIA, the gilded, overweight
youth of Tatmadaw, Russian prostitutes and me. Slugging down
tequila and pitchers of draught beer, this bizarre crowd
know how to party, swaying and boogying to the sensuous,
pulsating rhythms of the exotic Filipino cabaret band
playing Knock Three Times.
"Dancing is actually against the law in Burma." Even TV
singers are forbidden from moving their arms in case they
arouse the hot passions of the chicks in longyis. But under
the security umbrella of No.1's daughter, the well-heeled
007 set openly do their curious wiggles when the band breaks
into Tie A Yellow Ribbon.
Is this some reference to Aung San Suu Kyi perhaps? Even the
hatchet-faced Burmese tyranny who runs the diplomat's
prostitution ring is seen smiling, tapping his manicured
hand against smooth shaven thighs.
Our goons, however, are not smiling. Positioned by the door,
they stare intently and note down precisely how many beers
we've downed. I want to invite them over, but Bob advises
no. They'd get in trouble if their cover was found to be
blown. We're not supposed to notice they've been following
us for four hours now.
A couple more beers, then we go in search of a mysterious
new disco reputed to have opened in the ballroom of an empty
hotel in middle class Golden Valley- but the lights are out
when we arrive. The police closed it down because there was
too much 'inter-racial mixing' going down in the karaoke room.
Desperation sets in. Next stop is to pick up some black
market gasoline from amongst the prostitutes and junkies
hanging around darkened avenues around the university.
Patpong this is not. We briefly considered the leisure
possibilities, but reckoned the Strand Hotel would not
appreciate a couple of smacked out, $5, sarong-Suzies accom-
panying us to our $300 night rooms.
We did take a detour round Aung San's house, but it seemed
she was out... Bob's still fretting about the spooks.
"They'll be ringing me up about you, first thing Monday
morning", he says. He wouldn't even stop when we drove past
a crowd of citizens being marched by soldiers down Sule
Pagada Road. Spoilsport.It's getting pretty late by Rangoon
time (around 9.30 pm), so we make one last attempt at fun.
We've just missed the local jazz band at the Strand Hotel
bar, which is empty except for the Austrian general manager,
Sue 'Third' Reitz, who's flicking through six month old
copies of Marie Claire, and some British Embassy people and
their (presumably) Burmese staff strumming songs on an
The gin fizzes are excellent, but I can only take the
strains of the Second Secretary wailing Kum By Ya My Lord
for so long. I make a dash for the baby grand, bash out a
few chords of Rule Britannia whilst a game English couple
simulated sex on the piano lid. The Peter, Paul and Mary of
the Diplo-Set glared daggers, and violently strummed Leaving
On A Jet Plane. Oh I wish!
If you have any ideas on how to improve Rangoon's moribund
nightlife, you can contact Brig Gen Abel on tel 89666 or
80817, or fax 82101.And don't say I gave you the number...
FORMER STUDENT LEADER IN BKK
Irrawaddy Vol .3 No. 23
IT was Maung Maung Kyaw who shook hand with the then Army
chief Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudth in 1989. It was Maung Maung
Kyaw who agitated the socialist regime headed by Gen Ne Win.
He was well-known student leader during "June Affairs" in
Rangoon University compound in 1988. Although like many
other students he fled to Thailand he and his group
surrendered to Slorc in 1989.
He was detained in Insein prison for almost four years after
He founded the exile National Liberation Party (1988), was
believed to be disheartened by his fellow exiled students
and the rather small number of followers the NLP had
compared with the ABSDF.
He was seen with Thai student activists on many occasions in
1989. He is back. But no one knows why he came to Thailand.
Some said he is fear of arrest and possible uprising. According to
sources in Bangkok he wants to establish a new student group. [BIG]
KHIN NYUNT'S PR STUNT?
Irrawaddy Vol.3 No.23
Believe it or not, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, Slorc first secretary,
has called for an elaborate ceremony to commemorate the
United Nations' 50th anniversary. Burma has regularly
observed UN Day on October 24 but plans to do it "on a grand
scale" this year in order to "significantly express the
country's fine tradition of active cooperation with the
organisation," official newspapers quoted Khin Nyunt as saying.
His statement came out as UN Rapporteur Yozo Yokota was in
Burma to collect facts for an annual human rights report on the country.
Yokota's previous request to meet Suu Kyi were turned down
by the junta. ICRC office in Rangoon was kicked out as the
junta refused to cooperate. Now Lt Gen Khin Nyunt is
commemorating the United Nations' 50th anniversary.
[If you have any comment you can directly write to Lt Gen
Khin Nyunt. Ed]
Irrawaddy Vol.23 No. 3
"Don't expect they [Slorc and Suu Kyi] are going to have a
formal meeting. Rather expect something informal," a Burmese
marchant in Rangoon said.
The atmosphere should be peaceful and the two sides should
both be in good moods, he added.
A tea party or reception where they can have informal talks
then, if they think they can go ahead, then there should be
a serious discussion, he added.
He blamed western governments and opponents calling for a
"dialogue". What do they expect? he asked.
Sitting face to face in a meeting hall and talking about
politics or sharing power "No way!" he said.
He insisted the Burmese way is most appropriate one. Meet
and talk at some kind of ceremony or in front of a respected
monk will be the best way. (Inside sources)
U THAUNG WON'T FORGIVE JAPANESE
Irrawaddy Vol 3 No. 23
Sometimes the Mirror U Thaung may be too out-spoken and
hard-hitting. In an article in the August edition of Radio
Burma, he said Burmese won't forgive Japan if it helps the
military junta. Obviously the author is unhappy to learn
Tokyo's recent decision to resume development aid to Burma.
The beginning of his story is interesting indeed. Many
Burmese still cannot forget Japanese brutality during the
war. "I myself wrote a true story [after the war]," U Thaung said.
The story went like this "A small Japanese warship was shot
up by a British fighter.
A Burmese fishing boat near the ship rescued five Japanese
soldiers from drowning.
On the fishing boat there were four fishermen. As the boat approached
the jetty one young man took a mirror to comb his hair.
When the Japanese officer saw it he began a terrible and
merciless interrogation of the Burmese man as he suspected
the young guy had signalled the British planes.
He was tied up. But the Japanese soldiers had no guns and
not even bayonets. So they looked around.
Discovered a weapon. It was a mouse hiding on the boat.
He then placed the mouse on the chest of the young man and
then covered it with a pot. The mouse ate the young man's stomach."
Though, the Japanese lost the war, Burmese have no hatred
against them, U Thaung wrote. But since the coup in 1962
Tokyo assisted the Ne Win regime because of this, many
Burmese were unhappy.
And now Tokyo is helping the dictators in Rangoon because of
they freed Suu Kyi. U Thaung warned at the end of his article that if
Japan helped the Slorc before achieving democracy Japan's repeated
apologies for its war crimes mean nothing.
"The Burmese population will not forgive Japan," U Thaung
said. (Radio Burma & BIG)
MOVING THE DIRTY MONEY
Irrawaddy Vol .3 No.24
The trial of the US-based triad connection, Hong Kong
citizen Kon Yuleung, saw lengthy testimony on money
laundering. The money laundering process detailed in
Thailand is taken from records of Kon's trial, which centred
on drug sales and money movements in the late 1980s.
Bangkok-based officials said the money obscure since then.
To begin the laundering process, the US-based part of this
cartel gathered the money from heroin sales in cash.
Hired "mules" then carried cash-stuffed suitcases to Hong
Kong and to Paraguay. The dollars went directly into
legitimate banks deposits.
The Paraguay diversion was the first the many washings of
the money, designed only to wear off suspicion by constant
laundering. Cash deposits were credited to the Che Watch Co,
an actual firm in Paraguay but controlled by the heroin
cartel. Che Reta wired the deposit to Kon's Hong Kong
accounts immediately after its arrival at the Paraguay bank.
After disposing of the cash from heroin sales by the bank
deposits, the gang now could begin serious laundering. One
of the main tasks was to finance further heroin purchases from
the Burma-based manufacturers such as Khun Sa and Lo Hsing-han.
The problem was to get the money from Hong Kong to Burma.
For this purpose, Kon and his gang turned to a money-moving
network using both legitimate and "parallel banks" in Hong
Kong, Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Mae Sai.
Cash was withdrawn from the Hong Kong accounts and carried
to the Phoe Kuan Cahn Man Choeng Finance Co at Hong Kong 's
Western Market district. Chan Man Choeng now is known as a
major firm in the parallel banking system. (Phoe Kuan is a
Tae Chew Chinese phrase which literally means "message house").
>From Hong Kong, this firm contacted the Chin Hua Heng
goldsmiths to notify it of a deposit from the triad.
The Bangkok shop thus had authority to release equivalent
funds?minus a small transaction fee?to Suchin, the Thailand
head of the trafficking cartel. Suchin collected the baht
equivalent of the PhoeKuan transfer from the goldshop.
He then immediately deposited the cash in accounts he had
set up and controlled in legitimate banks in Bangkok.
>From Chiang Mai shops. The funds moved along the parallel
banking trail to Mae Sai. The money now was firmly in the
hands of a single extended family in four Thai and Burmese
cities. This family was trusted by the drug cartel to launder and
move their money to the final destination. The trust was well placed.
Notification was first sent from the Chiang Mai family member to
his sibling in Mae Sai. If anyone thought the money laundering
process was already confusing, he hadn't seen anything yet.
The money itself seemed to disappear at Chiang Mai. At Mae
Sai, the Phoe Kuan dealer did not hand over a large amount
of cash to her customer.
Instead, using a prearranged formula, she gave the drug
dealers only a few l-kyat notes from Burma. The only
outstanding point about these notes was that they were new,
and numbered consecutively.
(In recent years, thanks to Burmese inflation, money
launderers have begun using 10-kyat notes for this purpose.)
Each Kyat note represented a certain amount in Thai, Burmese
or even US currency. For example, one of the kyat bills
might be redeemed later for 10,000 baht, or 10,000 kyat or,
in some known cases, $10,000.
The advantages are obvious. A drugs middleman could walk
into the hills of Burma to a drug warlord without fear of
being robbed. Business was transacted on a face-to-face
basis, and everyone trusted the Phoe Kuan dealers to reveal
the laundered money later on. No extra security was
necessary. Finally, the heroin seller and heroin buyer need
not trust each other, but only trust the parallel banking system.
The heroin purchase concluded, the gang was set for another
round. It only remained to smuggle the heroin into the
United States to begin again.
Not counting Paraguay, use of this system involved at least
four different national currencies, two bank deposits, three
bank wire transfers, at least three conversions from paper
money to bank account and back, and a minimum of four
branches of the Phoe Kuan system?all of this in four
Irrawaddy Vol 3 No. 25
The honeymoon is over. The battle is about to begin.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi let her cat out of the
bag. Suu Kyi's party the National League for Democracy
boycotted the Slorc-sponsored national convention.
She explained at her lakeside residence the convention does
not abide by the democratic principles and did not represent
the will of the people. Suu Kyi and NLD leaders said some
changes are needed at the convention. But the junta refused
to budge. Instead the junta severely attacked Suu Kyi and her party.
NLD's present chairman Aung Shwe read out his statement
after he and all NLD delegates attended the opening of the
national convention on 28 November. It was only to lend an
ear to Myo Nyunt's speech. Lt Gen Myo Nyunt is the chairman
of National Convention Convening Committee and religious
minister. He is a former commander of the Rangoon division
and it was believed that, the general was actively involved
in the 1988 killings and following years of political persecution.
Aung Shwe later said NLD delegates found neither a
compromising stance nor a willingness to open a dialogue
between the party and the ruling junta. Just before the
resumption of the convention Aung Shwe had sent two letters
to chairmen of the national convention convening committee
urging them to open a dialogue.
Myo Nyunt said that the NLD move was aimed at disrupting the
convention with a view of furthering the party's interests
rather than those of the nation. He said Slorc won't
tolerate any attempt to disrupt or destroy the progress and
achievements made so far.
Suu Kyi said "There are dangers involved, and we are
willing to face them for the sake of the people." It is not
unusual for Suu Kyi to take risks. But from now on, if she
takes more risks, she herself and dissidents might find
themselves in the dock.
Indeed, it is discouraging to see the current political
development in Burma as not only a lack of progress but is
also a setback.
Since the opposition leader's unexpected release many
crossed their fingers hoping to see a historical handshake
as had taken place in the Middle East or South Africa between
two opposing sides. But Suu Kyi, who some have called Burma's
Nelson Mandela, realised there is no Burmese de Klerk.
Suu Kyi, in the eyes of generals, is 'destructive element.'
More strongly-worded charges are coming firebrand,
malcontent or traitor.
The military leaders now accuse her and the NLD of taking a
confrontational line. She disagreed, saying she but asking
for a face-to-face meeting. Perhaps?it won't happen. The
door to dialogue is still shut.
Seemingly, the military leaders do not believe in dialogue with the lady.
The Slorc has, in another word, no intention to reconcile
with the Suu Kyi-led movement. The junta leaders are just
paying lip service to national reconciliation and buying
time to consolidate their power.
Without doubts, many dissidents in exile and democracy-
loving people in Burma would welcome the NLD's latest move.
But it needs support not only from inside but also from outside.
The UN, western countries, Japan and Asean should carefully
monitor the present unhealthy atmosphere in Burma. The
businessmen from the west and east should study the
situation. They should hold back otherwise it will only
encourage the junta.
"Something will eventually happen," said Burma expert Martin
Smith whether it is sudden or slowly, over time."
The grip in Rangoon is stronger. No dramatic positive
changes are coming but worst might come in the near
future.There is a possibility of a political crackdown in
the near future. Slorc itself might create unrest and can
put the blame on Suu Kyi.
It is happening. All parties, particularly the human rights
watchdogs must monitor the current development.
The junta today is strong and gaining confidence. Thanks to
foreign investment, constructive engagement, Slorc's
Secretary Two said the country was "building strong,
consolidated and durable armed forces" and warned the armed
forces would resolutely take action against and 'annihilate'
those who mar the interests of the entire nation. In any
case, the NLD's recent move is provocative but the right
one. It has finally shown it respects the will of the
people. At least, even though there will be no gain as a
result of a boycott, the party did demonstrate to people at
home and abroad that it won't allow itself to prop up the
military dictatorship in Burma. Slorc lost face as it has
invested so much in the national convention.
If the NLD is united and receives wide public support from
in and out, the junta, in a nutshell, will have no choice
but to open a political dialogue with the party.
There is nothing to fear or ignore by talking if there are
unresolved conflicts or problems. Slorc, for the sake of the
country, should facilitate a genuine political dialogue.
Dialogue doesn't mean winners or losers. The best solution
can come out.
Suu Kyi has said openly there would be give and take in
negotiations. But it seemed the military leaders opted for
This is a political setback for the country's 45 million
people. They have been suffering and sacrificing under the
military dictatorship for decades. And obviously they still
Suu Kyi said they are preparing for worst while hoping for
the best. The worst is coming. Even so, it will only be a
new battle for the restoration of freedom and justice and
democracy in Burma. ?The Editor
ROB AND RAPE
Irrawaddy Vol 3 No. 25
Karen State - 1995 July - Tint Naing and his wife returned
to Phapon from Kyun Pin village where the two visited their
relatives. On the way back, they were robbed by a group of
soldiers. The soldiers, according to two reliable sources,
beat Tint Naing to death while they raped his wife. She was
four months pregnant. She was killed too. Names of the
soldiers were not available but only identified as one
sergant, one corporal and three soldiers from Regiment 77.
But Tint Naing happened to be a relative of the second
Battalion commander 19 based in Karen state. The military
officer opened the case. Five soldiers were tried. But the
outcome was not known.But sources added, when the result of
matriculation was announced the couple was passed. "Many
villagers and family members were very sad," sources said. (BIG)
PREGNANT ASYLUM SEEKER SENT TO IDC
Irrawaddy Vol 3 No. 25
23 November - approximately 15 Burmese asylum seekers were
rounded up in Bangkok. One out of the 15 is a pregnant
woman. Officials from the UN went to a police station and
tried to negotiate with police. But the attempt failed. The
15 were sent to the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC).
Prior to the Slorc chairman Senior Gen Than Shwe visit to
Bangkok there would be a crackdown on dissidents in exile,
said a military intelligence source. The NLD (LA) has been
preparing to commemorate the diamond jubilee of the Rangoon
University in Bangkok's safety place. (BIG)
WHERE IS MOE THEE ZUN?
Irrawaddy Vol 3 No 25
Informed sources said that military attache Col Thein Swe in
Bangkok had earlier urged Thailand to deny entry into the
country of ABSDF chairman Moe Thee Zun who might help
instigate protests in Bangkok during Vice-Adm Maung Maung
Khin's official visit.Moe Thee is reported to be visiting in
the US with support from the Albert Einstein Institute. His
close aides said he will be meeting with Burma support
groups and activists in the US and Europe. He was joined by
Aung Naing Oo from foreign affairs department. Aung Naing Oo
left for Europe since last year. (BIG)