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BurmaNet News: December 17, 1995 #3
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Subject: BurmaNet News: December 17, 1995 #304
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"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: December 17, 1995
Noted in Passing:
If you put up a poster about democracy at Rangoon University
you get 15 years in jail, if you hold a meeting to discuss human
rights you get 15 years in jail, but you can sell heroin in the college
dormitory and nobody will bother you. - student veteran of the 1988
movement (see SAIN: OUT OF CONTROL: THE AIDS EPIDEMIC
ASSK: LETTER FROM BURMA
SAIN: OUT OF CONTROL: THE AIDS EPIDEMIC IN BURMA
WASHINGTON TIMES: WHOSE VOICE IS IT?
IHT: OP-ED: THE WORLD CAN LEND A HAND TO BURMA'S DEMOCRATS
IHT: ACTIVISM THAT HURTS PEOPLE IN NEED
IHT: LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: BUSINESS IN BURMA
NEW STRAITS TIMES: KIT SIANG: SUSPEND RELATIONS WITH NIGERIA
WORLD STREET JOURNAL: ACTIVISTS AND EXILES KEEP UP
BLOOMBERG: SHAREHOLDERS ASK COMPANIES TO STOP
REUTER: U.N. PULLS FILM AFTER BURMA PROTESTS
COMMENT BY ZAR NI
ASSK: LETTER FROM BURMA
December 10, 1995
LETTER FROM BURMA by Aung San Suu Kyi
(This is the third in a yearlong series of letters, the Japanese
translation of which appears in the MAINICHI SHIMBUN the same day.)
Mainichi Daily News, Sunday, December 10, 1995
THAMANYA: A PLACE OF PEACE AND KINDNESS
AT THAMANYA (1)
It was noon when we entered the three-mile radius around the hill
of Thamanya that comes under the fatherly care of the /Hsayadaw/. The
air hung warm and still and groups of monks, women ascetics and little
novices were working on the road, the ends of their robes draped over
their shaven heads, their faces well-rounded and cheerful. We passed
clusters of huts and small bungalows smothered in a tangle of greenery
and at last came up through a bazaar to the foot of the hill where there
were some brick buildings and a number of cars. It was not too crowded.
Soon, after the full moon of /Thidingyut/, the place would be bustling
with thousands of pilgrims from all over the country. We had
deliberately chosen to come at a time when we could listen quietly to
the /Hsayadaw/ and absorb the spirit of this unusual domain of loving
kindness and peace founded on the edge of lands where violence had held
sway for decades.
The /Hsayadaw/ divides his time between two monastic residences,
one at the foot of the hill and one near the summit. He received us in
the audience chamber of the residence at the foot of the hill. I was
about to describe the /Hsaydaw/ as tall and well-built, then my eyes
fell on his photograph and it occurred to me that he was not physically
as large as the image impressed on my mind, that in fact he was somewhat
frail. Perhaps it was the aura of protective strength around him that
made him seem bigger than he actually was. There is a Burmese saying:
*Ten thousand birds can perch on one good tree.* The /Hsayadaw/ is as a
strong, upright tree spreading out stout branches thickly covered with
leaves and laden with fruit, offering shelter and sustenance to all who
come under his shade.
On and around the hill which was barely inhabited little more than
a decade ago there now live over 400 monks and between 200 and 300 women
ascetics, all cared for by the /Hsayadaw/. In addition everybody who
comes to the hill can eat flavorsome vegetarian meals without any
payment. Many of the villagers who live within the domain come daily
for their food. On holidays when pilgrims flood in, more than 60 sacks
of rice have to be cooked and almost a whole drum of oil goes into the
curries. The /Hsayadaw/ is very particular about using only peanut oil
in the interest of the health of his hordes of visitors.
There is a large shed in which 20 men cook rice in giant steamers
made of concrete. In the kitchen, appetizing-looking curries bubble and
simmer in huge wok-shaped vessels; the spoons, carved out of wood, are
larger than shovels and the spatulas used for stirring are as big as
rowing boat oars. Not far from the kitchen some people are engaged in
making meat substitute from a type of yam. It is not difficult to be a
vegetarian at Thamanya: the food, cooked with generosity and care, is
both wholesome and delicious. The day or our arrival we had two
lunches, one specially prepared for us and one in the pilgrims' dining
hall. The second lunch consisted of just a few dishes but these were
not inferior in taste to the banquet-like meal we had first eaten and
replete as we were, we found it no hardship to do justice to the food of
But food is not primarily what the /Hsayadaw/ provides for those
who come within his ken.
The first question he asked me after we had made our obeisances was
whether I had come to him because I wanted to get rich. No, I replied,
I was not interested in getting rich. He went on to explain the
greatest treasure to be gained was that of nirvana. How naive I was to
have imagined that the /Hsayadaw/ would have been referring to material
riches. He spoke in parables to teach us the fundamental principles of
Buddhism. But there was nothing affected about him and his deeply
spiritual nature did not exclude a sense of humor.
The /Hsayadaw/ seldom leaves Thamanya but he displays astonishing
knowledge of all that is going on throughout the country. He combines
with traditional Buddhist values a forward-looking attitude, prepared to
make use of modern technology in the best interests of those who have
come under his care. There are a number of strong, useful cars in
Thamanya in which the /Hsayadaw/'s active young monk assistants go
dashing around the domain checking on the road construction projects.
The /Hsayadaw/ himself also goes out everyday (driven in a Pajero
donated by one of his devotees, vastly superior to our borrowed vehicle)
to encourage the workers and to give them snack, /pan/ (a preparation of
betel leaf, lime and areca nuts) and /cheroots/. The sight of his
serene face and the tangible proof of his concern for them seems to spur
on the workers to greater efforts.
Whenever the /Hsayadaw/ goes through his domain people sink down on
their knees on the roadside and make obeisance, their faces bright with
joy. Young and old alike run out of their homes as soon as they spot his
car coming, anxious not to miss the opportunity of receiving his
SAIN: OUT OF CONTROL: THE AIDS EPIDEMIC IN BURMA December 16, 1995 A
report from Rangoon by the Southeast Asian Information Network
The last thing the embattled people of Burma (Myanmar) need is
more bad news. Seven years after a brutal military crackdown on their
mass movement for democracy, and five years after their resounding
choice of a democratic system in national elections,
they still live under a brutally repressive military regime, and they
are still among the poorest people in Asia. But there is bad news
indeed in the tables and figures compiled by the country's National AIDS
Program in their cramped and dusty offices in
Rangoon. Burma, one of Aisa's poorest and most isolated countries, is
undergoing a devastating epidemic of HIV/AIDS. There are many talented
and dedicated physicians, nurses, and public health workers in Burma,
and many are committed to HIV prevention
and AIDS care, but resources are scarce, and the political situation and
the isolation of their country makes their efforts all the more
HIV was first detected in Burma in the late 1980's. In 1980-90, significant rates were identified in injecting drug users. Just 3 years later, in 1993, the virus was being been found wherever testing could be done, in the big cities of the Irrawaddy de
lta, in towns and villages in the far north, in the deep south, on the
Thai border to the East and on the India border to the West. In Kachin
State, a remote mountainous province bordering China, 93% of several
hundred addicts tested in a 1994 survey wer
e HIV infected, the highest rate reported among injecting drugs users in
the world. Wandering the battered pavements of Rangoon, of Mandalay,
it's hard to imagine that as many as 400,000 of the gracious and
long-suffering people one sees are carrying a f
atal virus; but they are. And, given the state of Burma's public health
system and the political and social realities of life under the
countries military dictatorship, the Burmese AIDS epidemic is just
The global HIV/AIDS epidemic has taken a new turn the 1990's. The World Health Organization estimates that the HIV virus is currently spreading faster in Asia than in any other part of the world. The worst hit countries in the region thus far are India
, with more than 1 and 1/2 million infections, Thailand, with at least
800,000; Burma, with perhaps 400,000; and Cambodia with close to 200,000
of a relatively small population of less than 7 million. While these
figures are disturbing, it is not the abs
olute numbers of people infected that have caused such concern in the
international public health community but the unprecedented speed with
which HIV is spreading in these densely populated Asian nations. This
is nowhere more evident than in the case of
Burma, where backward medical conditions, poverty, the country's
ongoing political crisis, mass population movements, and a flood of
cheap heroin have led to explosive HIV spread.
Of the principal routes of HIV spread (unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing of injection equipment among drug users, transfusion of infected blood and blood products, and mother to infant) there is evidence that HIV transmission in Burma now involves
all four. Condoms were illegal until 1992, and they are now used by
less than 1% of the population, making virtually all sex unprotected.
Prostitution is illegal, and men who patronize sex workers can be
charged under laws dating from the 1880's British
colonial penal code which equates these acts with rape. Sentences can
be harsh; up to ten years in prison, and this drives prostitution deeply
underground and, tragically, out of the reach of public health workers
who might educate sex workers and clien
ts about the HIV problem. Still, there is prositution in the country,
and trafficking of Burmese women into other sex markets in the region is
a significant problem.
Making the blood supply safe has been a priority of the underfunded and understaffed national program, and progess has been made, but the supply is far from safe, even in the big cities. In the rural areas blood is still often transfused without testing
; two of Burma's fourteen states and divisions have not yet started HIV
testing. Because so many pregnant women are anemic, and prenatal care
so limited, transfusions after delivery are much more common than in
developed nations, compounding the problem.
And of course, there is the war. While many ethnic groups have now
signed ceasefire agreements with the SLORC (State Law and Order
Restoration Council) fighting continues in Burma's 40 year civil war
even in these areas. Battlefield conditions in thes
e rural ethnic areas are ideal for HIV spread through unsafe medical
practices. A further problem is that approximately 80% of medical
practitioners work in the private sector. Resources are limited,
syringes expensive, and re-use of unsterile equipment
is thought to be a major problem. Even in government facilities,
universal precations to prevent HIV spread in medical procedures are a
luxury few hospitals can afford.
While sexual transmission and unsafe medical practices are compelling problems, the most significant route of HIV spread in Burma is through sharing of injection equipment by addicts. Western governments, and in particular the Clinton administration, ha
ve long pointed to Burma as one of the major opium growing and heroin
exporting countries of the world. Estimates vary, but even the lowest
suggest that Burma produces some 40% of the world's heroin. What is T
less known is that Burma has also become a he
, and carrying syringes can lead to long incarceration. Syringes are
also in desperately short supply. As a result, addicts go to "tea
stalls," shooting galleries behind shops and tea houses where
professional injectors give them their doses. Up to 40
people may be injected with the same needle, efficiently spreading not
only HIV but other blood borne infection including Hepatitis B and C,
syphilis, and malaria. HIV rates among these addicts in 1994-1995 were
over 80% in Rangoon, Mandalay and other c
ities and towns were tests were done. Most of these addicts are young
men, so sexual spread to other groups, including wives and girlfriends,
is likely. Not surprisingly, HIV rates among pregnant women are rising
rapidly as well.
Burma poses special challenges to HIV researchers, donor agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations and bodies like UNICEF and the WHO, all of which have active AIDS programs in neighboring countries including Thailand and India. While it is clear that Bu
rma will need international support to attempt to control HIV and to
cope with the large number of AIDS patients, it is also clear that
working under the generals in charge of Burma's ruling junta is both
difficult and ethically problematic. The Burmese
junta is notoriously one of the worst human rights abusers in the world.
The regime is feared and widely mistrusted by the people, and many of
their policies and laws may actually be facilitating the spread of HIV.
The best example of such policies is B
urma's extensive prison system. All educational materials (indeed all
reading materials) are banned in SLORC's jails, making education of
prisoner next to impossible. Condoms are not available, ensuring that
what sex does occur is unsafe. But more impo
rtantly, prisoners are still used for collection of blood unsafe. A
refusal on the part of the junta to monitor conditions in these prisons
recently caused to the International Committee of the Red Cross to pull
out of Burma. Burma activists, meanwhile,
fear that AIDS control programs are unlikely to reach the people who
need help the most, that accountability of funds is virtually imporrible
to assure, and the regime, which craves international recognition, will
attempt to use high profile AIDS program
s to seek legitimacy.
While the U.N., and indeed the U.S. Congress, have condemned the regime and called for the restoration of democracy in Burma, many major corporations, including publicly owned UNOCAL, of California, continue to do business with the junta.
The SLORC have allowed some HIV programs to function, and have
sanctioned the National AIDS Program, these steps may mask another,
deeper reality of the AIDS situation under the regime. Conversations
with health professionals point to 1988 as the year h
eroin use became widespread among Burma's youth. Before 1988 there had
been scattered addicts, and traditional use of smoked opium was common
among some ethnic groups, but no Burmese could remember rampant and
widespread use of heroin until 1988-1989. T
he heroin epidemic coincides with the suppression of the mass movement
of 1988, when millions of Burma's people rose up against years of
military misrule and demanded democracy in the non-violent uprising that
swept Aung San Suu Kyi to national prominence
. Following the violent crackdown by the junta, elections were held
under U.N. auspices in 1990, and the Suu Kyi's National League for
Democracy won an overwhelming victory, but the military refused to step
aside. The rise in domestic heroin use in Burm
a closely follwed the junta's consolidation of power. In 1995, then
control of the country is close to absolute. They have remained in
power through a combination of brutal repression, attraction of foreign
investment capital, and high levels of militar
y spending. The one sector of the economy they deny involvement in is
the drug business, though heroin is easily Burma's most lucrative cash
crop. Is the military directly involved? One student veteran of the
1988 movement had this to say "If you put u
p a poster about democracy at Rangoon University you get 15 years in
jail, if you hold a meeting to discuss human rights you get 15 years in
jail, but you can sell heroin in the college dormitory and nobody will
The Burmese democracy movement has called for economic sanctions against the junta, and these are currently being debated in the U.S., at the U.N., and by governments worldwide. The dilemma for the Burmese people is that HIV will not wait for the restor
ation for democracy. However, should the junta remain in power, the
political and social realities of their rule may frustrate any attempts
to control HIV, even with donor agency involvement and international
participation. Perhaps the position of Archb
ishop Desmond Tutu during the apartheid struggle best illustrates where
AIDS researchers and organizations eager to help the Burmese people now
find themselves. Tutu opposed the immunization programs UNICEF wanted
to mount in the old South Africa. UNICE
F's position was that "children are above politics." Tutu's position
was that it was the apartheid system, not lack of vaccines, at the root
of the disproportionate mortality among black children. Since UNICEF's
involvement would give legitimacy to the
Apartheid government's claims to be "helping" blacks, it had to be
resisted. The tragedy of Burma may be that without a political solution
to the countries' current crisis, HIV will be impossible to control.
But unless the generals step aside soon, Burma will be devastated by
WASHINGTON TIMES: WHOSE VOICE IS IT?
December 13, 1995
Does this sound like the objective Voice of America describing a
military dictator? "In this usual affable way, Gen. Khin Nyunt
jokingly told the VOA that he was dubbed a notorious guy by the
international media crowd, though there is not an ounce of truth in
any of these negative portrayals." Another report quoted the Burmese
ruler as saying his government "has not violated any human rights,"
without mentioning repeated U.N. allegations of widespread human
rights abuses. Those are quotes from recent VOA Burmese-language
service broadcasts that prompted an angry cable from the U.S. Embassy
in Rangoon to Washington and the recall of the head of the VOA service
in Burma. VOA says it is investigating the allegations of bias, but
doubts any of its reporters are sympathetic to the regime.
Douglas Steele, a former reporter in Burma, has exposed the VOA
Burmese-language service on the Internet and sparked anxiety within
VOA headquaters here. "The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon cabled Washington
(last month) to complain about an apparent pro-regime bias in VOA
Burmese-language broadcasts," Mr. Steele wrote. "The Embassy is
complaining about a series of reports filed by the Burmese-language
service chief Myint Zaw Lwin." Ms. Lwin, who was recalled to
Washington, broadcast a lenthy interview with the wife of Burma's
secret police chief, Gen. Khin Nyunt, and was later photographed
making a donation for charity to the general. " American policy is to
treat the (Burmese government) as a pariah," Mr. Steele wrote. "The
image of an American official donating money to the head of Burma's
secret police destroys the efforts of diplomats trying to carry out
the American policy."
VOA spokesman Joe O'Connell told the Associated Press it is unlikely
any of the 12 members of the Burmese-language service, most of whom
are based in Washington, are sympathetic to the Burmese governmment.
"We regard the content of our broadcast very seriously," he said. "We
have a reputation around the world for credibility. It's hard-earned."
The United States cut off aid to Burma after the military government
violently crushed unarmed pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988.
Washington also has refused to name an ambassador to Rangoon. Burma's
rulers refused to honor the results of a 1990 election won by the
party of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released after
six years of house arrest in July.
IHT: OP-ED: THE WORLD CAN LEND A HAND TO BURMA'S DEMOCRATS
November 21, 1995 By David Arnott and Josef Silverstein
New York -- In the struggle between the Burmese military and Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi, the first round went to the lady. Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi has since landed several blows in the form of video-taped
speeches for the UN Women's Conference in Beijing and a labor
conference in Manila, as well as several outspoken press
interviews. Then, on Oct 9, her party, the National League for
Democracy (NLD), made its move and reinstated her as secretary-
general. The military responded by a leaked rejection of the
reinstatement. The NLD says it will stick to its decision.
Burma is a country of vast human and economic potential, but
due to more than a generation of mismanagement by the military,
the economy is in a state of chaos, and Burma is now classified
as one of the poorest countries in the world. A major reason for
this impoverishment is that 50 or so per cent of the national
budget is allocated to the military, and the main areas of the
economy are run by soldiers with no financial or economic
expertise. A major reason for the high military spending is to
prevent the people from rising again. A major reason for popular
unrest is people's increasing poverty. A vicious circle.
For six years the current incarnation of military rule, the
State Law and Order Restoration Council or SLORC, kept Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi under house arrest. During this time she rejected
SLORC's proposal that she buy her freedom by leaving the country
and abandoning Burmese politics. By virtue of the overwhelming
victory her party won in the 1990 elections, as well as her
personal popularity, she is the only figure who can unify the
Burmese people and push through the necessary economic reforms by
means other than fear. Her popularity is why she was kept under
house arrest. It is also why the generals need her now.
On July 10, the head of state, Senior General Than Shwe sent
a letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi asking her to "help towards
achieving peace and stability in the country". This is precisely
the task that SLORC set itself seven years ago. Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi accepted the offer. Her interest, as it has been all along,
is a dialogue between the democratic forces and SLORC that will
lead to genuine democracy, financial and economic reform, and a
just political settlement of the civil war.
The generals hope that by releasing Suu Kyi and entering a
"dialogue" with her and her colleagues, they will gain domestic
and international approval. They would like eventually to have
her and her colleagues as puppets behind whose popularity and
legitimacy they continue to exercise the real power. This is
where the battle lines are now drawn: a genuine federal democracy
vs a unitary military state behind a civilian front.
Another reason for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's release is that
the economy is in acute crisis and in urgent need of
international assistance. The Japanese have repeatedly told SLORC
that releasing Suu Kyi is the key to the international (or at
least the Japanese and Asian Development Bank) treasure chest.
Japan has already begun to renew assistance to Burma. SLORC hopes
that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's release will also satisfy the
European Union and the United States, and open the doors to
further bilateral and multilateral assistance, including World
Bank and IMF loans. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of course is aware of
these motives. Since her release she has repeatedly asked
foreign governments not to rush to restore trade and other links,
and has said that international pressure should continue.
These then are some of the reasons behind the generals'
release of their great adversary. There is also a logic in the
timing: In terms of the civil war and internal military control,
SLORC feels at the peak of its power. This might decline from now
on for various reasons including, in the rural areas, increasing
poverty with attendant malnutrition and health problems; and in
the cities, especially Mandalay, growing unrest over Chinese
Also, the old dictator Ne Win is still alive (we assume) and
this fact gives a measure of cohesion to the army. The head of
military intelligence, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, has said
that the army might split if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were released.
This danger would be increased after the Old Man's death.
Another timing factor is that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's release
came shortly before the beginning of the ASEAN foreign ministers'
meeting, where SLORC hoped that the release would win it
increased economic and diplomatic support and, ultimately,
membership. And indeed, SLORC was allowed to sign the Treaty of
Amity and Cooperation which is a necessary step toward
membership. (It may be that the welcome SLORC received at that
meeting made some generals feel they could do without the popular
support which only an agreement with Aung San Suu Kyi can
provide, and that this is behind their wavering stance and the
leaked prohibition of her reinstatement as secretary-general.)
How can the international community help Burma move toward
First, the UN General Assembly should ask the UN secretary-
general to facilitate round-table negotiations between SLORC, the
political opposition, and representatives of the different ethnic
groups, and impose a time-frame.
Second, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues should be
given economic leverage: Though they have the mandate of the
people, they lack other forms of power. One way that
international actors, including ASEAN countries and Japan, can
advance the democratic process is to help correct the imbalance.
This can be done by ensuring that all international
involvement in Burma (investment, bilateral and multilateral
assistance and so on) is subject to the guidelines, approval and
monitoring of the representatives of the Burmese people, namely
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, her colleagues and the leaders of the
different ethnic groups. Such an approach could increase the
bargaining power of the democratic forces in their dialogue with
SLORC, and assist the building of a genuine rather than a
symbolic democracy in Burma.
Mr Arnott is secretary of the Burma Peace Foundation. Mr
Silverstein is a Rutgers University professor and the author of
several books on Burma. They contributed this comment to the
IHT: ACTIVISM THAT HURTS PEOPLE IN NEED
December 12, 1995
by Joe Pang ( The writer is managing director of Victoria Garment
Manufacturing Company in Hong Kong, which has four factories in Burma.
He contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune .)
Rangoon _ Should human rights activists in Western nations, in their
campaign for democratic reform in Burma, take away the right to work
of thousands of Burmese with jobs in garment factories?
In 1989, as Burma began its open-door economic reforms after nearly
three decades of socialist isolation, I visited Rangoon to explore the
feasibility of a setting up a garment factory.
I was shocked to discover that unemployment was 60 percent and that
many young people in their mid-20s with high school or even college
eduaction had never had an opportunity to work. Practically the only
jobs avialable were in the civil service or small scale shops and restaurants.
After several months of negotiations, we opened our first joint venture
factory with Myanmar Textile Industries, a division of the Ministry of Industry.
I still remember the day we began recruiting. Despite heavy monsoon
rains, more than 2,000 young Burmese came for the 400 jobs. Many were
malnourished, and those who were unsuccessful at first refused to
leave when we announced that the positions had been filled.
Those hired were trained by our technicians for three months. Then we
began shipping top quality garments to customers in the United States
including well known labels such as Liz Claiborne, Eddie Bauer and
R.H. Macy. Customer reaction was so positive that our group now has
four factories in Burma employing 3,300 workers.
Other foreign investors followed our example, and today there are
eleven joint venture garment plants in Rangoon employing some 15,000
Burmese. An experienced garment worker can earn between $30 and $40 a
month - nearly double the salary of a director in a state enterprise
or government body.
Business in supporting industries has also grown, and the trickle-down
economic effect has been significant, as shown by the shops that have
opened near the factories.
However, since last year many of our U.S. customers have been under
pressure from various human rights groups, including the New York
based Coalition for Corporate Withdrawal from Burma. These activists
threaten to picket any stores selling Burmese-made goods. They also
threaten to buy shares of any publicly listed company importing such
goods, to voice their views at annual stockholders' meetings.
Initially the activists' threats were ignored. However, under continuous
pressure, including picketing, some of our customers finally caved in.
Garment exports to the United States from my group of companies in
Burma reached $32 million in 1994. This year we expect the figure to
fall below $10 million. Workers' average pay, which is mainly
calculated by piece-rate, has fallen to $12 dollars a month. In the
next few months we expect to have to lay off up to half of our
workforce because of the slump in American demand.
American human rights activists assert that the Burmese government
violates human rights and represses democracy. But do they consider
the rights of workers in Burma? Their misguided actions will hurt the
very people they purport to help.
IHT: LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: BUSINESS IN BURMA
December 14, 1995
Joe Pang (''Activism That Hurts People in Need,'' Opinion, Dec. 12)
justifies his company's business in Burma because it provides employment to
3,300 workers. Moreover, he adds, the ''trickle-down economic effect has been
Of course Burmese workers flocked to his jobs that pay a pittance. It is
beyond heroic for a slave to starve himself when a crumb is offered. And it is
beyond belief that Mr. Pang claims noble purpose when he preys on people
desperate enough to work for next to nothing.
Businessmen like Joe Pang simply hire the slaves that the military regime in
Burma conveniently provides. His interest is in keeping wages low, so he
cooperates with the regime.
Abraham Lincoln no doubt heard plantation owners in the Confederacy brag
about how much they did for their black slaves, and how they would worry about
the slaves' fate if they wound up with no white boss to feed them. President
Lincoln didn't buy such arguments then and the world shouldn't buy them now.
GARY GENTRY. Jakarta.
NEW STRAITS TIMES: KIT SIANG: SUSPEND RELATIONS WITH NIGERIA
December 13 Excerpt on Burma
(Malaysia's) opposition leader Lim Kit Siang....On Myanmar, Lim said the
Malaysia and Asean countries should review its constructive engagement policy
with the country's military government as they had failed to improve human rights
despite the release of the leader of the main opposition party, Aung San Suu Kyi.
He said the Myanmar leaders should not have been invited as observers to the
Asean Heads of Government summit in Bangkok this week. "Malaysia and Asean
should send a clear message to the military junta," he said during the debate on the
Foreign Ministry's allocation at the committee stage.
WORLD STREET JOURNAL: ACTIVISTS AND EXILES KEEP UP
PRESSURE ON SLORC IN THE WEST
December 11, 1995 By Eduardo Lachica
Most prospective American investors are likely to wait 'until they see
an improvement in the political situation' in Burma, says Mark Mason,
a professor at Yale University.
Washington - A loose but effective network of human-rights activists
and Burmese exiles is almost all that stands between Rangoon's
military junta and international respectability.
While the Association of South East Asian Nations is expected this
week to take another step toward eventually admitting Burma as a full
member, activists and exiles are making it hard for Burma's State Law
Order Restoration Council to attract foreign aid and investment from
Western governments and investors.
The latest product of these tireless anti-Slorc efforts is a United
Nations General Assembly resolution that knocks the junta for failing
to live up to its promise to restore civil liberties in Burma. Human
Rights Watch/Asia, a U.S. advocacy group group at the heart of this
movement, expects the resolution to be approved early this week.
The timing is awkward for Burma's generals. The resolution will
hardly help Rangoon make its case for admission to Asean at the
regional group's annual summit in Bangkok later this week. But
experts say neither is it likely to stop Asean's move toward admitting
Burma into the fold.
" Asean shouldn't accept Burma too quickly because that regime isn't
accountable to anyone," says Sein Win, head of a group of Burmese
exiles and anti-Slorc activists that calls itself the National
Coalition Government of the Union of Burma.
Mr. Win, a nephew of postwar leader General Aung San and a first
cousin of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, is the closest
thing that the Burmese diaspora has to a leader. He fled Burma in 1990
after Slorc repudiated the National League for Democracy's landslide
electoral victory and threw protesting citizens, students and Buddhist
monks in jail. But before departing for self-exile, the
German-trained mathematician was named prime minister of a
"provisional" Union of Burma government by a coalition made up of the
NLD, the largest democracy party, and groups representing the Karenni,
Arakan, Chin and Shan minorities. Its claim to speak for such a union
isn't recognized by any country, although the organization indirectly
gets financial support from some Western governments.
Working out of a low-rent, two-room office in downtown Washington, Mr.
Win helps keep the cause of Burmese democracy alive among a number of
friends in the Clinton administration and Congress. The most vocal of
them, Sen. Mitch McConnell, keeps in his desk the draft of a bill that
would restrict U.S. business dealings with Burma so long as political
repression continues. The Kentucky Republican hasn't introduced the
bill, but the mere threat that he will gives a number of prospective
Mr. Win leaves much of the public advocacy to Mike Jendrzejczyk, Human
Rights Watch/Asia's Washington director. The HRW/A office also runs
the Burma Roundtable, which draws other special-interest groups such
as those concerned with refugees and the rights of indigenous people
into the mix.
There doesn't appear to be any central direction in what's arguably
one of the most productive, low-budget lobbying efforts on behalf of a
developing country. "We're just a loosely knit, information-sharing
operation," says Mr. Jendrzejczyk, some events, such as the picketing
of U.S. companies with interests in Burma by Greenpeace and the Rain
Forest Action Network, are just "spontaneous" actions taken at those
groups' own initiative, he says.
It isn't just words that U.S. groups are throwing at this cause. This
year the congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy will
spend some $350,000 in taxpayers' money on a Burmese-language
"alternative" newspaper distributed inside Burma; on the Democratic
Voice of Burma radio program, which is taped in Bangkok and broadcast
by shortwave from Oslo, Norway; and on several other anti-Slorc
activities. Mr. Win says his government-in exile also gets support
from the U.S. fund as well as from similar funds in Sweden, Norway,
Denmark and the European Union.
Mr. Win acknowledges that the world isn't prepared to punish
Slorc-ruled Burma as harshly as it did South Africa for that country's
apartheid plicy. But even the half-measures applied by the U.S. and
other Western countries - neither encouraging nor discouraging
business dealings with Burma - are having some effect, he says.
Although there has been a resurgence of foreign investment in Burma -
a cummulative $2.65 billion since 1989 by Rangoon's count - much of it
is in energy projects that won't start generating significant income
for many years.
Unocal corp., for instance, is aware of strong anti-Slorc sentiment in
the U.S. and has structured its Burmese venture accordingly. There
won't be any "instant reward" to the Burmese government for Unocal's
$1 billion joint project with Total SA to pipe natural gas from the
Andaman Sea to consumers in Thailand and Burma, a Unocal spokesman
Unocal and its French partner have paid Rangoon only $20 million in
cash for the gas concession, Unocal Chairman Roger Beach told the U.S.
Senate at a hearing earlier this year. Royalties to Rangoon for gas
production will be paid in kind as gas that the government can use for
power generation or to produce fertilizers, Unocal says.
Texaco Inc. has yet to determine whether its offshore gas find 420
kilometers south of Rangoon is commercially viable. But it, too, is
making some accommodations to the anti-Slorc campaign. "Should we
expand our activities in Myanmar ( Slorc's name for Burma ), we
believe that our presence could help build economic conditions that
encourage human-rights advancement," the New Yoprk company says.
Texaco also intends to be a "positive influence" there by "respecting
the rights of individuals and by conducting our operations in an
Mark Mason, a professor at Yale University's management school who
closely watches the Burmese investment scene doesn't see much U.S. and
European money going into nonenergy ventures. By other accounts, most
nonoil investment is coming from other Asian countries - notably
Thailand and Singapore - that have a higher comfort level with the
current regime. But most prospective American investors are likely to
wait "until they see an improvement in the political situation," Mr. Mason says.
Even Japan, has the closest ties to Rangoon among the industrialized
countries, isn't totally immune to the anti-Slorc campaign. Since Ms.
Suu Kyi's unconditional release from house arrest in July, there has
been a resumption of Japanese aid but not enough to materially improve
the government's fortunes, Japanese diplomats say. The regime is
getting two grants - $16 million for the construction of a nursing
school and $50 million to reduce Burma's Japanese debt. But assistance
for higher-visibility projects such as the renovation of Rangoon's
airport is still awaiting a go-ahead from Tokyo.
Tokyo says it provides aid to Burma on a "case-by-case" basis. A rough
translation of this diplomatese is that further business with Slorc will
depend on the reopening of political discourse with the Burmese people.
BLOOMBERG: SHAREHOLDERS ASK COMPANIES TO STOP DOING
BUSINESS IN BURMA December 14, 1995
New York, Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Burma's release this summer of its most
famous dissident isn't deterring shareholders from demanding that PepsiCo
Inc., Texaco Inc. and Unocal Corp. stop doing business in the Southeast Asian
Their complaint: The Burmese military junta is still violating human rights.
``Even though they released Aung San Suu Kyi, nothing else has changed,'' said
Simon Billenness, analyst at Franklin Research & Development Corp., a
socially-responsible investment firm in Boston.
The Burmese military junta, which chose its own name for the country --
Myanmar, has refused to relinquish power to the democratic opposition that won
82 percent of the vote in 1990 elections.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Price laureate and head of the party that won
Burma's 1990 election, was held under house arrest for almost six years before
she was released this July.
Human rights groups have reported that the government, called the State Law
and Order Restoration Council -- or SLORC --has murdered, raped and tortured
Burmese and minorities, driving hundreds of thousands of refugees into
Bangladesh and Thailand.
A United Nations report released earlier this month said the SLORC has used
forced labor to spruce up the country as it mounts a campaign to boost tourism
and attract desperately-needed foreign currency.
``Aung San Suu Kyi has said that foreign investment in Burma is inappropriate
at this time,'' said David Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate
Members of this shareholder umbrella group, which represents 275 religious
organizations that together have $50 billion assets under management, have
filed these resolutions.
They've also filed resolutions at PepsiCo, Texaco and Unocal, as well as
Atlantic Richfield Co. and Halliburton Co. asking them to review and develop
guidelines that would stop them from doing business in any country where there
is ongoing violations of human rights.
A number of U.S. companies, including Levi Strauss Associates Inc., Federated
Department Stores Inc.'s Macy's, Liz Claiborne Inc., Spiegel Inc.'s Eddie
Bauer unit and Amoco Corp. have stopped doing business in Burma.
Barry Lane, a spokesman for Unocal, said the oil company was still reviewing
the shareholder proposals.
In a statement, Texaco said that it conducts offshore oil exploration in Burma
and if it does expand its business there, its ``presence could help build
economic conditions that encourage human rights advancement.'' Executives from
the other companies could not be immediately reached for comment.
Religious groups aren't the only shareholders who want companies to get out of
TIAA-CREF, the world largest pension fund, Harvard University and Williams
College all have backed anti-Burma proposals in the past few years, according
to the Investor Responsibility Research Center, which tracks proxy voting.
Pressure on these companies is coming from other sources as well. Santa Monica
voted earlier this month to boycott all companies doing business in Burma.
Similar resolutions have been passed by Berkeley, California and Madison,
And in Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) plans to introduce
legislation that would ban U.S. investment and trade with Burma, and suspend
our bilateral and multilateral assistance to countries, his press aide said.
REUTER: U.N. PULLS FILM AFTER BURMA PROTESTS
December 15, 1995
UNITED NATIONS -- Bowing to a protest from Burma, the United Nations
canceled the screening of a movie critical of the southeast Asian nation's
military government. "Beyond Rangoon" had been scheduled for a Wednesday
showing in the U.N. staff union.
The movie was pulled when Burma's government protested, U.N. spokesman
Ahmad Fawzi said Thursday. The Burmese government said the film "was
deliberately misleading about the situation in Burma," Fawzi said. "If a
presentation offends a member state, it cannot be shown in this house," he
said. "We are not in the business of offending member states." U.N.
staffers are free to show the film outside the United Nations, he said.
Earlier this month, a Yugoslav film portraying a romance between a Serb and
a Croat was pulled at Croatia's insistence. The Croatian mission claimed
that the film "Vukovar" was biased, insensitive and inaccurate.
COMMENT BY ZAR NI
This type of reasoning is completely lame. Why should an international
body like the UN comply with an objection by a member state, which has as
yet to heed the UN resolutions (one after another) concerning human rights
violations, blatant rejection of elections results, and barbarity of its
unscrupulous rulers? (Issuing resolutions, one after another every year,
seems to have become a collective past time or the most it can do, as it
does not have capabilities to enforce any.)
It's tragic that UN careerists have consistently failed to ask "who voices
are heared in the disguise of a state." Words are cheap. They would do
well if they listen to what Rev. Desmond Tutu has to say:
International pressure can change the situation in Burma. Tough sanctions,
not constructive engagement, finally brought the release of Nelson Mandela
and the dawn of a new era in my country. This is the language that must be
spoken with tyrants__ for, sadly, it is the only language they understand.