[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
DAWn Bulletin Part-2
To Tour in Burma; right or wrong?
The Military regime is pulling out all the stops to encourage
tourism in Burma. The visit "Myanamar Year '96" promotion is expected to
attract around 500,000 visitors. But be warned. Visit Burma and you're
directly profiting from slavery and helping to prop up the most repressive
regime on earth. Furthermore your trip will be against the expressed
wishes of the democratically elected representatives of the Burmese
Accusations of slave labour may seem far fetched at this end of
the 20th century but the evidence is overwhelming. The sheer scale of the
misery being inflicted on the people of Burma is difficult to comprehend.
SLORC talks of a "forceful drive" to promote tourism and their actions
certainly show they are prepared to employ any method, no matter how
ruthless, to achieve their ends. These methods include forced labour,
forced resettlement and grand larceny.
Betraying a military conception of aesthetics, tens of thousands
of people have been forcibly evicted in SLORC's resettlement program. The
International Confederation of Trade Unions reports that half a million
houses have been destroyed in Rangoon alone. Those displaced have been
dumped into new "satellite towns" that are in reality malaria infested
swamps devoid of basic necessities. Many day labourers cannot afford the
bus fare into town to find work. It is no coincidence either that very
often the inner-city neighborhood earmarked for destruction are the areas
that were most active in democracy uprising of 88- 89.
Similarily around 10,000 people have been evicted by the military
from the prime tourist spot of pagan where they have lived for
generations. In Loikaw people living along the main street have been
ordered to rebuild their houses in brick. Many have had to sell and no
compensation has been offered.
Often the people are forced to contribute to their own
destruction. Inle Lake, a prime tourist spot, is being dammed so that it
might remain full and picturesque all year round. The ethnic Intha and
Pa-o people, whose rice growing areas will be devastated by the dam are
being forced by the army to labour on it's construction.
In Mandalay the army has ordered every family to provide at least
3 days labour a month to beautify the city. Professor Yozo Yokota, the
UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Burma adds in his 1995 report
to the UN that " Workers must pay to rent bulldozers, buy their tools and
supply their own food". Large numbers of prisoners in chains are also
involved in doing arduous work such as clearing out the muck from the
bottom of the drained moat of Mandalay Palace.
Burma's infrastructure is so poor that it threatens to undermine
all of SLORC's hard promotional work. Problems such as a lack of good
quality hotels and substandard road, rail and air transport could well
create a backlash against Burmese tourism. Myanamar Air's planes are for
instance, dangerously over used, undermaintained and subject to such ad
hoc methods as having their tyres filled with air. In addition to these
problems Burma's hotel industry is considered by foriegn experts to be
overpriced and short of accomidation space. Tourists also have to contend
with exorbitant visa costs and being required to exchange over $300 US at
the official exchange rate which is over 100% more expensive than the
Attempts to improve infrastructure also include the infamous "New
Death Ye-Tavoy Railway". This project, according to the Sunday Telegraph,
requires 120,000 labourers and has already cost 200-300 lives. Other
projects include a six lane highway between Rangoon and Mandalay is being
built by what the BBC describes as " the largest forced labour gang since
the Japanese occupation ". The prisoners are mostly women and children
with a few prisoners in leg irons.
Notices are arbitrarily posted in villages ordering them to
contribute labour. SLORC has repeatedly claimed that civilian volunteers
to work on these projects. Failure to "volunteer" however, inevitably
results in heavy fines or worse. " Volunteers " are always watched over
by armedguards. " Invitations " often include such threats as, " If you
are absent a bullet will come for you ".
Another infrastructure project is the new airport at Bassein
where, according to the Guardian, 30,000 unpaid labourers have been used.
The BBC reports that hundreds have contracted cholera but have received no
medical treatment. This is typcal of the harsh work regime that SLORC
enforces on its' conscript labourers. Many have to rest up for several
days afterwards. They're the lucky ones. Labourers are routinely
mistreated and subject to rape, beatings, torture and executions. Mass
rape of women forced into porterage is a common feature of army border
operations. The United Nations Human Rights Special Rapporteur Yozo
Yokota's 1995 UN report states that soldiers consider rape a right and are
often encouraged by their officers.
Experts on Burma estimates that 50% of tourist money goes directly
to the military. This is in a country that already spends half it's annual
GDP on the military, has doubled it's army in five years and yet has no
external enemy. It is a society that can barely provide one doctor for
every 12000 citizens. The cost of living has skyrocketed and, with the
exception of the military and their families, everyone in a family has to
work just in order to survive. After her almost six-year term under house
arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi has recently said that Burma needs hospitals, not
luxury hotels. According to the United Nations report, three out of four
children do not complete primary school; 40% of children under three years
suffer from malnutrition; two out of three people drink unsafe water; and
only 2% have access to electricity.
SLORC has set its' face against democratic reform and is holding a
gun to the nation's head. It is waging a merciless bloody war against the
ethnic minorities and the democratic opposition. Tourism is being used by
the regime as a revenue generating exercise to pay for the weapons it feel
it needs to survive.
Some have attempted to rationalize tourism in Burma by claiming
that it exposes the people to new ideas and thus helps to usher in change.
Several guidebook writers have already selflessly volunteered to shoulder
this noble burden. Burma is indeed a beautiful country and its' people
genuinely hospitable to visitors. The countrys' long isolation means that
it is as yet unspoiled by tourism. The temptation to be one of the first
outsiders to explore Burma must be great.
Unfortunately such rationalizations are not supported by the
facts. Not only will tourist money go either directly to the regime or to
line the pockets of the military and their families, but foriegners
talking to Burmese people about politics could very easily land them in
serious trouble with DDSI (Military Intelligence). Most foreigners
seriously underestimate the repressive capacity of SLORC. The NCGUB has
made its' opposition to tourism in Burma under the present circumstances
abundantly clear. In this it is supported by a host of other opposition
and ethnic groups and NGOs. If democratic elections are meaningful
political acts then those so nominated by the will of the people should at
the very least be listened to by the world community regardless of whether
they hold state power or not.
Those who are still determined to visit Burma ought to take the
advise of the Burma relief centre Japan and avail themselves of Burma -
The Alternative Guide by Burma Action Group UK.
Human Rights Profiles
Field reporter from the ABSDF had a chance to interview with two
defected young soldiers from the Slorc army who joined with KNPP in August
and September 1995. Their stories and experiences revealed the clear
picture of corruption, its involvement in drug cultivation and many forms
of power-abuses in their military machenism.
Brief interview with a defected soldier of SLORC
Name Naing Win (a) Naing Naing Htun
Nationality / religion Burmese, Christian
Serial number 862213
Duty in the army private, medic
Battalion: No. 250 LIB, loikaw, Karenni
Address: Tasoe village, Nwahtogyi
Towship, Mandalay Division
Date of enlistment: 25/ 10/ 91
Date of desertion: 21/ 8/
Reason for desertion: Because of unwillingness and
I am the third son of six siblings of U Pan and Daw Kaung Shein
whose address is Tasoe village , Nwahtogyi Township, Mandalay Division. My
father is a medical officer (medic) of the Village Health Care Unit and my
mother is a midwife. I had education up to standard five at the Basic
Education High School of Myingyan Town and I quit school in 1987. I earned
my living as a toddy-palm climber of Shwebaw Kyun village,Myangyan
Township for about half a year.
I twice served in the army. The first time in 1989, I and two
hundred and fifty trainees attended basic military training at No. 3
training company No.5 in Meihtila Town. After the training I was assigned
at (246) LIB in Kun Hein, Shan State. Our main duty was to take the
security guard on the motor road between Taunggyi and Keng Ton, and also
in Mai Shu, Mai Naung, Takaw, Moe Ne' and Sesai.
When I was performing my duty there, we saw poppy plantation on
the hillside between Kun Hein and Ta Kaw, Kun Hein and Nan San and in some
villages of Sesai, we were not ordered by the column commander to destroy
them. There were many corruption and power abuses reportedly happened by
the military officials. For example, in May 1989, about twenty five
soldiers from our platoon, including company commander captain Thein Win
of company No.1, at Myae Ni Gone village stopped and searched a jeep from
Pinlon bound for Mine Shu. They found about fifty packets of opium which
was hid secretly under the seats. The opium was sized by captain Thein Win
individually and the owner of opium and the jeep were set free.
Again in 1990, we had to perform security duty at Nan San market
to protect military officials who would visit there. During my sentinel,
I stopped a person who was walking on his way carrying a package on his
shoulder. He immediately dropped the package on the ground in fear and ran
away. When we searched the package, seven visses of raw opium was found
and it was entrusted to the battalion commander by captain Thein Win. the
battalion commander entered this opium in a ledger less than the real
amount and sold it in consultation with company commander captain Thein
Win. It was reportedly known that the battalion commander invested money
in the poppy growing activities of villages near the battalion. His excuse
was to decrease the villagers' economic hardship to build up the good
organizing activity. During my service in army, the battalion owned a two
billion Kyat personal fund.
On 22 November 1990, a quarrel between four privates from my
company, namely Win Soe, Soe Lwin,Than Naing, Kyi Soe and section
commander corporal Aye Thaung was broke out while they were performing
security duty at Taunggyi Department Store. Corporal Aye Thaung, who was
drunk at the time, was shot dead and we all ran away from the scene.
From this place, having hide with my relative' in Sinhnakhaung village
near Mandalay, I rejoined the army a second time, at Meihtila recruitment
center on 11 October 1991. I did not want to jion the military again but
the life especially daily survial was so difficult. This was only one way
to join the military for poor education and no money youth like me, to get
the pay and some other benefit. I enrolled military training at No.3
training school, company No.1, from 1 November 91 to 30 April 1992. My
personal number is 862213. When the training was over twenty four persons,
including myself, moved to LIB No. 250, Loikaw, Karenni State on 7 May
1995. I was assigned to the medical platoon of H.Q. company. I have been
stationed at Shardaw, Htee Hta, Saw Hta and Hway Pon Long and have been
given duty on operational columns at Sebu, Se Pyaung, Maw Che, Phar Saung
in Karenni State.
From 1992 till now, some departmental military servants, section
officers and the bureau chief from the permanent rear area base of LIB No.
250 have had to give bribes to adjutant/quarter master official Lieutenant
Ko Ko in order not to go to the front line. Department are obliged to pay
some amount of money for this reason monthly without fail. For example,
500 Kyat for the medical troop, 2000 Kyat for the equipment store, 200
Kyat for animal husbandry and 2000 Kyat for the battalion ration store.
All of the deparment can earn this money in their own way. In addition to
these bribes from the battalion, they set up a check point on the road
between Pakyal village and the battalion in loikaw and all bullock pass-by
were ordered to pay 100 kyat each time.
On 27 January 1994, temporary battalion commander Major Tin Win
pocketed compensation money for two soldiers; Zaw Htun of company No. 2
and Ba Thein of company No. 5, died in action in fighting between KNPP
troops and SLORC. These compensation were supposed to send their parents.
But in stead of sending back the money, he informed their parents that
these two had deserted from the army and took the money.
Private soldier Win Ko of company No. 2 of LIB No. 250 went
missing without leave or information in January 1993. But adjutant/quarter
master Lieutenant Ko Ko reported this case to his superior officer only in
December pocketing the pay of Win Ko from February till December.
Adjutant/quarter master Lieutenant Win Ko failed to distribute
rations from May to December 1994 to the families in the rear base. In
this case, the private soldiers were angry with Lieutenant Ko Ko because
they saw that Ko Ko sold army rations such as beans, condensed milk and
sugar at the Loi Kaw people's bazaar ( south ). He bought Win three boxes
of tined fish and fifty packages of steamed duck for battalion commander
major Tin in order not to take any action. He resumed the ration in
January 1995 but no expalin for the last three months' ration.
Lieutenant Ko Ko had the relation with Ma Ye Win, 22, daughter of
U Ba Win and Daw Ngwe Ye from Loi Kaw Town, caliming that he was sigle.
Actually he was married with one child. When she became pregnant in
january 1995, she asked Ko Ko to marry her in accordance with his promise.
Ko Ko asked her to have an abortion and let her down. Having learnt the
whole story about Ko Ko, she hung herself at her home.
In January 1995, soldiers from every company of LIB No. 250 had
to save the sum of 100 Kyat through their salary corporals. Some soldiers,
angry with salary corporal Win Aung, from company No. 2, for embezzeling
the money saved by others for his own interest, killed the corporal near
Pa Kyal village and dispossed of his corpse. No-one has been arrested yet.
Interview with Slorc's private soldier "Zin Min Thein"
Following is the interview with the defected soldier who defected
on the Sptember 17, 1995 with one G-3 rifle, 48 rounds and one
Name- Zin Min Thein
Age- 19 years old
Nationality- Buddhist Burmese
Serial Number- 963956
Regiment- Law-pee-ta based No.72 Light Infantry
Parents' Name- U Hla Myint and Daw Thein Han
Address- Kyee Phaya Road, Min Yat Quarter,
Date of enlistment - 17/6/94
Reason for enlistment- being conscripted
Date of desertion- 17/9/95
Reason for desertion- low morale and did not want to continue
in the armed service.
I am the fifth son of U Hla Myint and Daw Thein Han, living at
Kyee Phaya Road, Min Yat Quarter, Pan-daung Township of Pegu Division. At
the age of eleven, when I was in my third standard in High School No (3)
in Pan-daung Township I quitted my education. From 3/10/90 to 5/4/91, the
group of 250 recruits including me, attended to six months basic military
training at Nam-ma-tu based Company No(4) of Training Base No(8) in
Northern Shan State. It was my first experience in the military service.
On 7/4/94, after the trainign course, the sixteen private soldiers
including myself, were assigned at Battalion No.(323) in Thein-di Township
in Shan State. During my time in Company (2) of LIB No(323), I sent off
to the villages in Thein-di, Nam-ma-tu, Tant-yan, and Kwan-Lon Townships
in Shan State. Since I returned back on 8/3/93 to see my parents on my
leave, I never went back to my battalion, and I was posted as a deserter
As the Township authority compulsorily summoned recruits throughout the
quarters and villages where I lived, I had to enlist to be a soldier as
second time. At that time, 250 recruits including myself, had to attend
four months basic military training at Company No(2) of Training Base
No(4) in Pin Laung Township, Southern Shan State. Then, on 5/11/94, we,
21 private soldiers who had just finished training, assigned to LIB No(72)
based in Law-pee-ta, Loikaw, Karenni State. When I was in Company No (2)
of LIB No(72), I was assigned as a guard on the hills surrounding the
Hydra-electric power plant No(2) for security reasons, and sometimes in
Company No(1) and (2), I had to patrol around Loi Kaw and Shadaw Township.
In July, 1991, while I was in Company No(2) of LIB No(323), our
troops comprising of 65 private soldiers led by Capt. Aung San Chit,
Company No(2) leader, escorted a convey of small vehicles number ranged 94
to 130 from Lashio to Musel- Nam Khan on the China Border. The vehicles
were Volkswagens and others with the CRAB brand. i had been escorted for
seven times like that. We saw that these vehicles were driven by Chinese
drivers, drove into China via Lashio-Musel-Nam Khan.
At the end of July 1991, our troops escorted a convoy of the
twelve military vechicles which covered up completely, driven by Chinese,
from China via Musel-Nam Khan to Lashio. We were told that these trucks
were carrying the wepons such as cannon and other heavey artillery from
China, according to our sergeants. And we also obviously saw the wheels
of the cannons embarked on some vechicles. But, the models and quantities
were unknown. We later knew that LIB No(41) escorted these twelve army
vechicles from Lashio to Kyauk Mae, LIB No(22) escorted from Kyauk Mae to
Mandalay. In August, 1991, our company No(2) went to front-line, therefore
we no longer knew that how many more vechicles and ammunitions were
imported from China to Burma.
While I was on duty at Company No(2) of LIB (323) in Thein-di,
Nam-ma-tu, Tant-yan and Kwon-lon Townships, I saw poppy fields in
somewhere, grown by Chinese , Shan-Chinese and Wa; however, the commander
of our column just took a blind eyes. They didnot order to destory them.
In October, 1991, a column included Company No(1) and (2), led by Col.
Aung Min of LIB No(323), captured eight viss of raw poppy at a unknown
Chinese village in Kwon-lon Township, but only two viss of poppy were
entrusted at his Battalion. And furthermore, in November, eight viss of
raw poppy were captured at Ho Tone village in Thein-di Township, but no
amount were entrusted to authority. It was obvious that the officers
resold those which captured, to make their own money.
At the end of 1994, when I was in LIB No(72), Capt. Htay Win, Capt. Wai
Zin Htun, Capt. Nyan Htun and Capt. Myint Lwin cooperated with venerable.
U Thaw Pe Ta, a Buddhist mission from Pa Laung village monastery in Loi
Kaw Township, who was sent by Lt-Gen. Myo Nyunt, Minister of Religious
Affairs did some corruption for their own business. They collected the 200
Kyats and three logs of teak or hard wood of two feet in diameter and 18
feet in length by force, from each house in Daw Tago, Daw Khe, Daw Kheraw,
Lein Ein Su and Pa Laung village in Pa Laung Township for the reason of
building of monasteries and schools in the region. The teaks were
extracted and sold, and the profits were benefited by U Thaw Pe Ta and the
I did not want to work in the military service anymore because of
hardship and brutality by the officials towards the private. most of the
privates were very young and they did not dare to speak out. we were told
that we would be killed brutally if we were caught or defected to the
opposition armed groups. They officials also told us we can do whatever we
want when we arrive to the civilian villages ant they would not take any
action or that. I feel very sorry for the civilian and other hardship
dircted me to join the KNPP. I brough my G.3 with me and fled to the KNPP
region on September 17, 1995 while I was on duty in the KNPP region.
DAWN NEWS BULLETIN Vol.5 No.5 November/December
ABSDF (DAWN GWIN)