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DAWN Bulletin part 1

Strong Opposition Activities Against the National Convention and the 
Need For International Support 
        After the resolute decision by the National League for Democracy 
to walk out of the National Convention, there are now almost no 
delegates attending the National Convention who were elected by the 
people in the May 1990 national elections.   Slorc Declaration Number 
1/90 issued on 27 July 1990 states that it is the duty of the elected 
representatives of the people to draw up a constitution.  Slorc has 
never repealed or repudiated this Declaration.  The so-called National 
Convention, which is being staged by the Slorc without the elected 
representatives in order to attempt to legitimize military rule, is a 
sham and is a violation of Slorc's own  official Declaration.  
        NLD's decision to boycott the National Convention expresses its 
desire to do what is most beneficial for the people. Since the release of 
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,  from illegal house arrest, the NLD has done 
its best to create conditions conductive to continue the struggle for 
democracy in an peaceful and effective way.  Unfortunately, Slorc has 
continued its campaign of political repression and harassment.  Since 
the beginning of the National Convention, all the democratic forces 
and the overwhelming majority of the ethnic forces have clearly 
opposed it.  The NLD and other opposition groups have a unified view 
of the National Convention which was best expressed by Daw Aung 
San Suu Kyi when she commented that the National Convention was 
not heading for what the people want, and further she stated that the 
National Convention would not bring about national reconciliation, 
multi-party democracy or a constitution acceptable to the people of 
Burma. With no elected representatives of the people in the National 
Convention it can be said that opposing the National Convention is the 
will of the entire people of Burma. 
        Slorc, by ignoring the views and will of the people and 
attempting to continue the illegitimate National Convention without a 
mandate from the people, clearly demonstrates its objective of 
attempting to consolidate a constitutional military dictatorship in the 
future politics of Burma.  In order to consolidate their military rule, 
Slorc will keep committing various forms of oppression against the 
Burmese people and opposition forces.  The international community 
must remain alert to  developments in Burma, and now is the crucial 
time for those in the international  community who wish to see 
democracy and human rights in Burma, who wish  to see Burma gain 
internal peace and contribute to regional security, to express their 
strong and firm views opposing the so-called National Convention.  
This type of  international support will be critical for the struggle for 
democracy and human rights in Burma, and for the unwavering efforts 
of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.   
        Not only the international community but of all those who  wish 
to see democracy triumph in Burma must unite to dissuade Slorc from 
trying to consolidate a constitutional military dictatorship and at the 
same time give  all-out support to the democratization efforts 
undertaken by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD.  Statesmen, 
diplomats, government heads, and other prominent figures should go 
to  Burma and meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD 
leaders.  Actions such as showing support for and maintaining contact 
with NLD, such as condemning the National Convention, such as 
suspending any support or assistance to Slorc, and such as asserting 
more pressure on Slorc to hold a tripartite dialogue between 
democratic forces led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, ethnic groups and 
Slorc, will all be necessary before national reconciliation can occur 
and before a truly democratic nation can be built. That goal, after all, 
is the real aspiration of the people of Burma. 

A report from Rangoon 
The Southeast Asian Information Network (SAIN) 
	The last thing the embattled people of Burma need is more 
bad news. Seven years after a brutal military crackdown on their mass 
movement for democracy and five year 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 have indeed in the tables and figures 
complied by the country's National AIDS Program in their cramped 
and dusty offices in Rangoon. Burma, one of  Asia'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 1989-
90, significant rates were identified in injecting drug users. just three 
years later, in 1993, the virus was being found wherever testing could 
be done, in the big cities of the Irrawaddy delta, 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 were HIV infected the highest rate reported among 
injecting drugs 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 fatal 
virus; but they are. And, given the state of Burma's public health 
system and the political and social realities of life under the 
military dictatorship, the Burmese AIDS epidemic is just getting 
	The global HIV/AIDS epidemic has taken a new turn the 
1990's.. The World Health Organization estimates that 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 
one and two 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 seven million. While these 
figures are disturbing, is not the absolute 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 the 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 clients about the HIV problem. Still, there is 
prostitution 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 progress has 
been made, but the supply I 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 cease-fire 
agreements with the Slorc, fighting continues in Burma's 40 year civil 
war even in these areas. Battlefield conditions in these 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 precautions 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 
government, and in particular the Cliton administration, have 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 
less known is that Burma has also become a heroin consumer. The 
junta currently admits that as many as one in a hundred adult men is 
an active heroin addict, though an earlier (unpublished) report 
suggested that the percentage may be closer to one in 25 men. 
Possession of drugs and syringes is illegal, 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 
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 1994-95 were over 80% in Rangoon, Mandalay and 
other cities and towns where tests were done. Most of these addicts are 
young men, so sex 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 Burma 
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 law 
may actually be facilitating the spread of HIV. The best example of 
such policies is Burma's extensive prison system. All educational 
materials (indeed all reading materials) are banned in Slorc's jails, 
making education of prisoners next to impossible. Condoms are not 
available, ensuring that what sex does occur is unsafe. But more 
importantly, prisoners are still used for collection of blood products, 
and collection equipment is often reused, making even donation 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 impossible to assure, 
and the regime, which craves international recognition, will attempt to 
use high profile AIDS programs to seek legitimacy. 
	While the UN and indeed the US 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 
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 heroin 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. The heroin epidemic 
coincides with the suppression of the mass ovement 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 UN auspices in 1990, and the 
Aung San 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 Burma closely followed the junta's 
consolidation of power. In 1995, their 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 military 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 
of the 1988 movement had this to say "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." 
	The Burmese democracy movement has called for economic 
sanctions against the junta, and these are currently being debated in 
the US, at UN and by governments worldwide. The dilemma for the 
Burmese people is that HIV will not wait for the restoration for 
democracy. However, should the junta remain in power, the political 
and social realities of their rule may frustrate any attempt to control 
HIV, even with donor agency involvement and international 
participation. Perhaps the position of Archbishop 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. UNICEF'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 AIDS.

Corporate genocide: Multinationals attempt to turn Burma into 
another South Africa 
	Why should we in the US care about corporate investment in 
Burma? Why should we boycott Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, and stop 
drinking Pepsi ( the essentials of the American diets)? Why should we 
boycott and demand divestment from UNOCAL, TEXACO and 
ARCO? Because these US corporation bankroll the illegitimate regime 
in Burma and directly sponsor the human rights violations, in effect, 
supporting one of these most brutal and pariah dictatorships in the 
	Burma renamed as Myanmar by the country's military rulers 
in 1989, has been under the totalitarian rule since 1962. During the 
past three decades, owing to the mismanagement of the economy, the 
political oppression, and xenophobic policies of the regime, the 
country, once one of the most prosperous in Asia, has been 
transformed into a pauper state. Further, the repressive regime in 
Rangoon has denied its people fundamental human rights, such as 
freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom to move  about even 
within the country, Virtually all aspects of the country's livelihood are 
regulated and scrutinized through a pervasive network of intelligence 
and paid-informers. In brief, Burma has become one vast slave labor 
camp, and her 45 million people, prisoners of their own armed forces. 
	In 1988, the whole country erupted into a series of massive 
pro-democracy demonstrations calling for an end of totalitarian rule 
and the restoration of democracy and human rights. As to be expected, 
the military slaughtered several thousand unarmed peaceful 
demonstrators including students, civilians, Buddhist monks, women 
and children. In 1990, the military allowed democratic elections to be 
held for the first time since the inception of its totalitarian rule in 
1962. In the elections, the military-backed National Unity Party won 
only a handful of seats in the parliament whereas the popular National 
League for Democracy won 385 seats out of 450. The regime simply 
nullified the election results and blatantly violated its promise to 
transfer power to the elected representatives to form a democratic 
	Meanwhile, the regime has stepped up its terror campaign 
against pro-democracy activists in particular, and the populace in 
general. It also incarcerated to top NLD leaders including the party's 
founder 1991 Nobel Peace Price recipient  Aung San Suu Kyi for about 
6 years, her only crime being that she spoke out against the regime's 
injustices against its people. Despite her expected released on July 10 
this year, the country's human rights situations remain virtually the 
same. The October 26, 1995 report by Amnesty International states 
that '" the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on 10 July 1995 was a 
positive and welcome step taken by the State Law and Order 
Restoration Council (Slorc, Myanmar's military regime). however, the 
human rights situation there remain critical. Thousands of poltical 
prisoners remained behind bars, among them at least 50 prisoners of 
conscience." Various forms of human rights violations such as ethnic 
cleansing, forced labor, arbitrary arrests, torture, summary executions, 
gang rapes, forced relocation and displacement of its citizens, are 
being carried out by the regime. As a consequence of these atrocities, 
indigenous communities are being wiped out and hundreds of 
thousands of people flee the country to become  refugees in 
neighboring Thailand, Bangladesh, and India. 
	While the human rights situation continues to worsen within 
Burma, the military has expanded its army from China, Poland, 
Singapore, and  Pakistan. The military expenditure amounts to 40 per 
cent of the national budget. the arms build-up is made possible by the 
fact that the regime has been selling off the country's natural resources 
at bargain prices after the bloody crackdown of democracy movement 
in 1988. Neighboring Asian countries such as Thailand, China, 
Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Brunei are taking full 
advantage of the so-called "constructive engagement" policies to cash 
in on the regime's desperate need for hard currency. Later Japan and 
Australia have joined the lead of the aforementioned countries in 
exploiting Burma's natural resources. 
	While the US government along with other European 
countries has taken a strong stand against the regime, several major 
US corporations, most notably, PepsiCo and the oil giants, UNOCAL, 
TEXACO and ARCO are among the top investors in Burma. PepsiCo 
has a monopoly over soft-drinking bottling, while UNOCAL jointly 
with French government owned TOTAL Oil off-shore natural gas 
production project worth over US$ 1 billion per year with the military 
	The regime is also eager to bring in foreign tourists for want 
of their dollars and yens. To build the much-needed infrastructure for 
its "Visit Burma Year 1996" tourism promotion project, the regime 
has reportedly used slave labor throughout the country. people 
including children as young as eight are being forced to work under 
blistering tropical heat, literally at gun points to make the country 
ready for western tourists as well as wealthy businessmen from Japan, 
Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and Hong Kong. US alumni 
associations at various universities including Duke, Stanford, Yale, 
Northwestern, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Brown, 
University of Southern California and Notre Dame are planning to 
send alumni vacation trips to Burma. 
	The consequences of these collaborative and irresponsible 
activities with Burma's pariah regime are of critical importance. First, 
they provide the military regime with much-needed foreign currency to 
further consolidate its reign over the people. Second, the economic 
projects, such as clearing-cutting of topical rain forests (Burma houses 
about 80 per cent of the world's remaining teak forests) will certainly 
produce disastrous impacts on the environment and ecosystem. Third, 
as the giant natural gas production project is to be carried out in the 
areas where Burma's indigenous ethnic minorities live, these people 
are being conscripted as porters and slaves to build roads and railways 
while their villages are burned down to clear way for the natural gas 
pipeline construction. Fourth, because Kyat(Burma's currency) is 
utterly worthless outside the country, corporations such as PepsiCo 
repatriates their profits by buying and selling agricultural products 
produced by the regime-sponsored slave labor thereby directly 
encouraging the regime's ruthless behaviors toward its own people. 
Finally these corporations lobby the US Congress on behalf of the 
regime and hence legitimating the illegitimate regime. 
	the leader of the democracy movement in Burma, Daw Aung 
San Suu Kyi has put forward her conviction that economic 
development must not come at the expense of the people of Burma. 
After her release, Aung San Suu Kyi has strongly urged foreign 
investors not to rush in to do business with the regime, until the 
regime is prepared to carry out genuine democratic changes. In the 
December 4, 1995 issue of the New Republic, Madeleine K.Albright, 
the US permanent representative to the United Nations, who met with 
both democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta, writes 
that "Democracies should be ashamed to encourage their business 
people to be "first in Burma," for this would provide the Slorc with the 
booty it needs to resist mounting pressure for a political 
opening......International banks must not bail the Slorc out." 
	Despite the repeated calls for a political dialogue s a means 
for national reconciliation made by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and forces 
of democracy both within and without Burma, the regime shows no 
sign of easing its authoritarian grip over the people. On November 28, 
1995 the regime reconvened the National Convention which, 
according to the regime, will produce a constitution for the country 
and which most diplomats and Aung San Suu Kyi's winning National 
League for Democracy party call as sham. Regardless of whatever 
forms the future governments may take, the regime has made it clear 
that it will dictate the country's destiny, hence institutionalizing the 
military's belief that it is above any law. 
	In the light of the regime's highly repressive and reactionary 
policies and behaviors towards its own people, there is an urgent need 
for imposition of economic sanctions, consumer boycott against greed-
driven and morally bankrupt multinationals such as PepsiCo and 
UNOCAL, and university divestment. A second South Africa 
movement is in order. South Africa's Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond 
Tutu wrote in an article entitled "Burma as South Africa", 
"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."	 
	At the US Congress level, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-
Kentuky) is preparing to reintroduce an economic sanction bill against 
the regime. City Councils across the US, including Oakland, San 
Francisco, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago and Seattle are 
considering passing of selective purchasing ordinances modeled after  
South Africa resolutions. Already Berkeley (California) , Madison 
(Wisconsin) and Santa Monica (California) passed selective 
purchasing ordinances this year. In the US, there is a growing 
grassroots movement for a Free Burma. On October 27 this year about 
70 US Colleges and universities including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, 
Northwestern, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Indian, Michigan, Columbia, 
Berkeley and University of California (Los Angeles) participated in 
nation-wide protest demonstrations against US corporations that 
bankroll the dictatorship in Burma. These Free Burma groups at 
various campuses are urging university boards of regents and of 
trustees to: (1) sponsor shareholder resolutions at annual meetings to 
end corporate funding to Burma's dictators as in the case of the 
University of Washington; (2) divest university's money from those 
corporations that continue to do business in Burma as in the case of 
Stanford; and (3) drop alumni tours to Burma as in the case of Yale. 
	A handful of US corporations including Levi Strauss, Eddie 
Bauer, and Liz Claiborne however pulled out of Burma citing as the 
main reason the impossibility of doing business in Burma without 
helping perpetuate the regime's strangle hold over its people. Recently 
UCLA dropped its planned alumni trip as it was strongly protested by 
Burma activists and politically enlightened alumni. 
	One of the pillars of this Free Burma movement is the 
Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) across the US 
campuses. The other two groups that participate fully in the movement 
are human rights and women's group. The organizers are eager to 
form a coalition with other activist groups with similar goals and 
visions. Already at places like the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 
Students for a Free Tibet, East Timor Action Network, University of 
Washington Greens, Student Labor Action Coalition, Community 
Action for Latin America and Teaching Assistant Association are 
working together to create a social movement, the ultimate goal of 
which is the adoption of socially responsible investment policies on the 
part of the universities. 
Zar Ni, co-cordinator for the Free Burma Coalition, is a Burmese 
political exile. He is writing Ph.D. dissertation on the politics of 
education under military rule in Burma (1962-88) at the University of 
Wisconsin at Madison.

DAWN News Bulletin  Vol.5 No.5. November/December
ABSDF (Dawn Gwin)