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BurmaNet news january 12, 1996

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------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"

The BurmaNet News: January 12, 1996
Issue #319

Noted in Passing:

	There's no transparency.  No one knows what SLORC is planning.
	- one investor in Burma 


January 11, 1996
from caroline@xxxxxxxxxx

        Eyewitness traveling through Burma by land from Moulmein to Ye in
the Mon State have reported that resumption of forced labor on the
Ye-Tavoy railroad is occurring.  Thousands of people are being forced to
labor on a new section of the railroad from Ye to Kanbauk. Villagers from
Kan Bauk in particular was suffering enormous hardship a deadline was
given for the embankments on wither side of the railway to be finished by
December 15,1995.
        Over the last two years reports from human rights groups,
embassies, media, and relief agencies have given details of how forced
labor was being used to build a new section of railroad from Ye to Tavoy.
These reports revealed how 30-60,000 civilians were being used as convee
labor by the Slorc army. Village headmen from villagers in the Ye-Tavoy
townships were receiving orders directly from Slorc commanders to send
members of their village for work on the railway. Many people died, were
forced to work even though sick, and no one whether you were man, women,
child, pregnant old or sick was spared.
        The situation in the Ye-Tavoy area is again very serious.
According to reliable sources in Rangoon, the Slorc were told not to build
the railroad along the route they have taken, that is west of valley in Ye
township as there could be problems come rainy season with the earth
possibly subsiding. The rainy season is now over and indeed the valley has
completely subsided leaving the railway track suspended with very little
support. So, a new route is now being used, from Ye to Kan Bauk and
reports of up to 50,000 people being forced to work on the railroad are
being confirmed by those fleeing from the area to Thailand. Foreign
eyewitnesses have also confirmed that forced labor is being used along the
railroad from Moulmein to Ye and have seen people living in makeshift
tents supplied by the Slorc from the Ye-Kan Bauk railway. The big
difference this time is that the majority of people being forced to work
on roads and railways at the moment are children, some as young as eight
years old. It is harvest time in Burma and villagers are having to fulfill
their increased rice quotas. Thus men and women are fully engaged at work
on the harvest. At the same time, orders come from the Slorc demanding
labor from the villages for work on the railroad. The only labor left in
most village is therefore children.
        According to the statement issued by Professor Yokota, the Slorc
have said that they have sent a "secret directive" to regional commanders
to stop forced labor. As the above information proves this is not the
        Other eyewitness account state that there is forced labor being
used to repair and widen the highway in Pegu township. Local sources state
that each household is being ordered to 50 kyats per member in the house
every two weeks for their contribution to the construction of this
highway. The money is not going to those who are being forced to work but
towards the use of steamrollers and machinery for making tar.  The jobs
that people do range from sorting out stones that come from the quarry,
carrying the stones from one point to another, sifting gravel through
bamboo sieves and mixing and laying down the tar. The eyewitnesses state
that conditions are very bad, heat and dust being the major factors of
hardship, especially for the children. The quarry is being worked on by
prisoners, some of whom are extremely young, and all are in chains. Other
areas of confirmed reports from eyewitness of forced labor are in Yin
Nyein, Belin, Thaton township and periodically on the car road to
        Impact of tourism on local communities in Mandalay, Sagaing,
Ammarapurra is now becoming apparent. Children wait for tour groups to
arrive in places such as Pagodas and other sites of interest. They follow
tourists around begging for presents and money and at times perform for
the tourists, smiling, holding their hands etc.  these children are
earning up to 800 kyats a day which s four times what their parents are
earning. According to conversations that eyewitness had with some parents
and other local sources at these sites these children are now being sent
to earn money for their families in this way and not going to school.
There is great concern about the increase of this situation especially for
young girls who will when older be uneducated and unable to have a chance
to enter into what is already a competitive workplace.
        The Slorc have now issued a directive that all hotels in Burma
must join the recently created Hotel and Tourism Committee. Hotel managers
are complaining that you have to pay to join, then contribute funds to the
committee for "community projects".  Their attitude is that these
"community Projects" do not benefit the community at all but a corrupt
State raking in the money from tourism.

Forced labor in Pegu division
        Local villagers from Ban Laung district, Pyu township, Pegu
division were ordered to work for the building of three-mile-long water
drain during October and November 1995. One convee laborers from each
household brought their own food and tolls and worked three days per week
until the work was done at the end of November 1995. At least 500 people
were at the worksite daily. Similarly, villagers from Kyauk Kyi township,
Pegu Division were also forced to work for the construction of motor-road
between Kyun Bin Seik and Tha Htay Gone village. For the government -owned
fish pond project in Kanyunt Kwin township, Pegu Division, all villagers
from the township were required to work unpaid laborers.

Monks are under pressure for attending "people forum" of Daw Suu
        Buddhist monks from Nyaung Done monastery in Bahan township and
Gandha Yon monastery in Kaba Aye Pagoda road were threaten by Slorc not to
attend the "people Forum" weekly gathering in front of the Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi house. The Slorc authorities ordered the abbot to issue a
regulation for the monks and novices in the monastery forbidding
participating in the weekly gathering.

Refugee killed in Bel Kalaw refugee camp
        Fifteen DKBO entered the Bel Kalaw refugee camp, Ma la in Tha Song
Yang district and killed Phu Thaku (former KNU general) who was suffering
paralysis. DKBO entered about 1:00am on January 11, 1996 and shot down in
in his house.



January 8, 1996

SLORC Offensives in Karenni State
Karenni National Progressive Party
Government of Karenni

Name of the SLORC operation: Pyi Nyein Aye (Peace in the nation)
Name of the SLORC commander: Lt. Colonel Nyi Nyi Hlaing

SLORC battalions in Kauk Kauk battle field; 337, 428, 429, 578,
531, 102, 72, 427, 438

1) 24/12/95
The SLORC began the battles using the heavy guns.

2) 2/1/96, 09:00 am
The SLORC launched another offensive with more man power and

Htar Na Khwel battle field news
SLORC battalions: 250, 336, 261, 423, 421, 54, 426, 425, 424, 420

1) 28/12/95, 
The SLORC's offensive against Nwar Gone (or Htee Htae Camp)
started at 05:00 am and ended around 03:00 pm.

2) 31/12/95, Midnight
The SLORC launched simultaneous assaults on both Htee Htae camps.

3) 1/1/96, 14:00 pm
The KNPP troops withdrew from both posts.

4) 2/1/96, 10:00 am
The battles continued in the area and the fighting died down in
the evening.

5) 3/1/96, At dawn
The SLORC continued their assaults on other camps in the area and
the fighting died down in the evening.

6) 4/1/96, At dawn
Using more manpower and weapons, the SLORC launched offensives
against Htar Na Khwel and Dawl Takhae camps. After heavy clashes,
the KNPP troops retreated from both camps.

7) 5/1/96, From dawn to the evening
The fighting continued.

The weapons the SLORC uses in the offensive: 60mm, 75mm, 61mm,
81mm, 82mm, 84mm, 120mm, 189mm, .5 inch.

The SLORC lost 70 men and 20 wounded, and the KNPP lost one man
and two others listed as missing during the clashes from
(28/12/96) to (5/1/96).

Please note: Most of the SLORC troops are stationed in Kayah
(Karenni) State.     (Sources: KNPP, Government of Karenni)


December 31, 1995                    From: carol@xxxxxxx (Carol Schlenker)
(printed in Mainichi News)

"Young Birds Outside Cages"

Letter from Burma (No. 6) by Aung San Suu Kyi

	There is a well-known book by Ludu U Hla, one of the foremost literary
figures of modern Burma, about the heart-rending fate of young prisoners.
The title of this book translates literally as Caged Young Birds or Young
Birds Inside Cages.  During the last seven years many young people have been
put into the prisons of Burma for their part in the democracy movement.  But
it is not about them that I would like to write today, it is about the other
young people, those who are left outside when one, or in a few cases both,
of their parents are imprisoned for their political beliefs.
	Throughout the years of my house arrest my family was living in a freed
society and I could rest assures that they were economically secure and safe
from any kind of persecution.  The vast majority of my colleagues who were
imprisoned did not have the comfort of such an assurance.  They knew well
that their families were in an extremely vulnerable position, in constant
danger of interrogations, house searches, general harassment and
interference with their means of livelihood.  For those prisoners with young
children it was particularly difficult.
	In Burma those who are held to endanger state security can be arrested
under a section of the law that allows detention without trials for a
maximum period of three years.  And prisoners who have not been tried are
not entitled to visits from their families.  A number of political prisoners
who were placed in jail for their part in the democracy movement were kept
without trial for more than two years.  For more than two years they did not
see their families at all.  Only after they were tried and sentenced were
they allowed family visits: these visits, permitted once a fortnight, lasted
for a mere 15 minutes at a time.
	Two years is a long time in the life of a child.  It is long enough to
forget a parent who has vanished from sight.  It is long enough for boys and
girls to grow up into young adolescents.  It is long enough to turn a
carefree youngster into a troubled human being.  Fifteen minutes once a
fortnight is not enough to reverse the effects on a child of the sudden
absence of one of the two people to whom it has habitually looked for
protection and guidance.  Nor is it enough to bridge the gap created by a
long separation.
	A political prisoner failed to recognize in the teen-ager who came to see
him on the first family visit after more than two years in detention the
young son he had left behind.  It was a situation that was familiar to me.
When I saw my younger son again for the first time after a separation of two
years and seven months he had changed from a round faced
not-quite-12-year-old into a rather stylish "cool' teen-ager.  If I had met
him in the street I would not have known him for my little son.
	Political prisoners have to speak to their families through a double
barrier of iron grating and wire netting so that no physical contact is
possible.   The children of one political prisoner would make small holes in
the netting and push their fingers through to touch their father.  When the
holes got visibly large the jail authorities had them patched up with thin
sheets of tin.  The children would start all over again trying to bore a
hole through to their father: it is not the kind of activity one would wish
for any child.
	I was not the only woman political detainee in Burma: there have been --
and their still remain -- a number of other women imprisoned for their
political beliefs.  Some of these women had young children who suddenly
found themselves in the care of fathers worried sick for their wives and
totally unused to running a household.  Most of the children, except for
those who were too young to understand what was going on, suffered from
varying degrees of stress.
	Some children who went to elitist schools found that their schoolmates
avoided them and that even teachers treated them with a certain reserve: it
did not do to demonstrate sympathy for the offspring of political prisoners
and it was considered particularly shocking if the prisoner was a woman.
Some children were never taken on visits to prison as it was thought the
experience would be too traumatic for them so for years they were totally
deprived of all contact with their mothers.  Some children who needed to be
reassured that their mothers still existed would be taken on a visit to the
prison only to be deeply disturbed by the sight of their mothers looking wan
and strange in their white jail garb.
	When the parents are released from prison it is still not the end of the
story.  The children suffer from a gnawing anxiety that their fathers and
mothers might once again be taken away and placed out of their reach behind
several barriers of brick and iron.  They have known what it is like to be
young birds fluttering helplessly outside the cages that shut their parents
away from them.  They know that there will be security for their families as
long as freedom of thought and freedom of political action are not
guaranteed by the law of the land.

Myanmar takes a Circuitous, rocky route toward prosperity
January 5, 1996 (Asiaweek)

By Susan Berfield Yangon

WANTED: Investors with nerves of steel to take advantage of 
Myanmar's economic opening. The ideal candidate would be 
comfortable operation in a country emerging from decades of 
decline. He or she should have a proven ability to meet 
deadlines and wait - paintently - for returns. Experience with 
military governments is greatly perfered, but not essential. 
We offer a vast store of natural resources, relatively cheap 
labour and some 100,000 tourists a year. Place contact the 
appropriate minister with proposals.

That, roughly, is the message Myanmar's ruling militatry 
government has been sending out to entrepreneurs around the 
world. Since late 1988 the junta, known as the Slorc, has 
slowly begun steering the economy off the disastrous :Burmese 
way to socialism." It has done that by taking the first steps 
to sell off government assets, permitting some private 
domestic banks to operate, promoting foreign investment and 
allowing grater economic freedom for farmers and the 
burgeoning business elite. The emphasis, though, has clearly 
been on foreign investment. "No matter what else the reforms 
accomplish," says a businessman in Yangon, "the government 
wants to suck foreign currency into the country like a black 

In a move designed in part to increase that inflow, the 
military junta a released opposition leader Aunt San Suu Kyi 
from six years of house arrests in July 1995. That has sparked 
some new investor interest, particularly from the Japanese. 
Despite the uneven pace of reform and serious questions about 
the country's economic stability, many other Asian firms have 
been eagerly staking a claim. But so far few are willing to 
make major commitments. Most prefer, for now, to invest their 
time establishing contacts rather than their money.

Renewed interest from Japan may change the equations. Many 
Jpanpese have been sitting on their hands as Southeast Asians, 
particularly Singaporeans and Thais, have opened their wallets 
in Myanmar. Before the military crushed a democracy movement 
and retook power in 1988, Japanese trading houses had a strong 
presence in Tangon. But when Tokyo followed the West's lead 
and suspened its generous aid program after Slorc came to 
power, corporate Japan pulled back. Now that Suu Kyi is free, 
Japanese executives appear poised to go on a buying binge and 
Tokyo has promised to resume aid. As Uchida Katsumi, a 
Japanese diplomat in Yangon, puts it, "Now it's time to 
encourage Myanmar to move ahead."

Among those eager to give Myanmar a helping hand are 21 major 
Japanese firms, including Fuji Bank, Hitachi and trading giant 
Marubeni. Company bosses visited the country in early December 
"to window-shop first," as an observer discribed it. Few doubt 
they will be back to invest. One leading plant engineering 
firm, Chiyoda Crop..., recently announced it will propose 
development projects in Mandalay, 700 km north of the capital. 
And Japan and Myanmar recently agreed to open a direct air route.

Opportunities are springing up elsewhere. Myanmar is likely to 
become an official observer of Asean this year and could 
recently received an International Monetary Fund team to 
upgrade its ability to collect economic statistics. It is a 
"step in the right direction to seek further IMF support," a 
Fund spokesman says. The IMF and the World Bank stopped aid 
and assistance to Myanmar in 1990, when Slorc ignored the 
results of an election in which Suu Kyi's National League for 
Democracy won a landslide vistory.

A matter of timing

Suu Kyi has asked investors and donors to wait and see if 
Slorc is really serious about democracy before pouring money 
into the country. "That's a joke," replied Brig-Gen David 
Abel, minister for national planning and economic development. 
"Money motivates big businessmen. They are not worried about 
what politicians say."

Maybe not. In the seven years since Slorc began courting 
investors, foreign money has helped reinvigorate Yangon and 
Mandalay. Four and five star hotels are rising against the 
capital's colonial-era skyline; a few modern office buildings 
have appeared along the city's airport road and in its still-
decrepit central district. Billboards advertising imported 
Japanese and Korean Tvs, refrigerators and karaoke machines 
stand next to those touting military slogans.

Other signs of modernity are creeping in. Japanese cars and 
pickup trucks are replacing the vintage Morris sedans at a 
quick pace. The government has started collecting parking 
fees; residents even talk about the beginnings of traffic 
jams. They also comparenotes on new restaurants. "The city is 
more vibrant than it was just 18 months ago," says Bernard Pe-
Win, a Hong Kong trained businessman who negotiated and 
oversaw the renovation of yangon's venerable Strand Hotel in 
the early 1990s.

While Myanmar doesn't yet have many publicly owned compaines, 
the government is bullish on the prospects for astock market. 
Some 20 local firms have already sold stakes to individual 
investors. More than a year ago, the government and Daiwa 
Securities Co. Of Japan began working together to establish a 
formal exchange. Once Yangon enacts securities exchange laws, 
Daiwa and the state-owned Myanmar Economic Bank are to start 
up a joint venture to supervise the existing trading. This 
could happen within the next six months, says Martin Pun, CEO 
of Serge Pun-Associates and a consultant to Daiwa. A full-
fledged bourse could be up and running within six years.

The government claims that its reforms helped the economy grow 
by 6.8% in 1994 and that the privatesector now accounts for 
just over 75% of the country's output. Total approved foreign 
investment since 1990 is about $2.5 billion. Myanmar, as 
advertised, has an urban labour force willing to work for an 
average of about a dollar a day - not to mention gas reserves, 
teak, rubies, unpolluted rivers, fertile land and a virtually 
untouched domestic market of some 46 million people.

In short, it could be a nimble investor's land of opportunity. 
"Myanmar is like Malaysia in the 1950s," says Hishamuddin Koh, 
whose Kuala Lumpur-based WHS Resources is just digging into 
the mining sector. "But its economic take-off will be faster 
because they have Asian models to emulate." Lt Gen Kyaw Ba, 
minister of hotels and tourism, agrees: "We won't make the 
same mistakes as other counties."

The down side

But a closer look reveals that Slorc's reform program does not 
measure up to the hype, and widespread corruption and some 
government polices still weaken the economy. Foreigners can 
wholly own certain businesses in Myanmar.But if a company 
needs a local partner, most get better initial results if the 
partner is connected to the government. Slorc maintains a 
monopoly on the export of rice, teak and minerals. This means 
that the government's claim to account for only 22% of the 
country's output is a disngenuous. Agricultural production 
makes up about 40% of the country's GDP and is still basically 
government-controlled. Privation has hardly advanced; the 
government so far has succeeded in unloading a few cinemas. 
The financial sector also remains closed to foreigners. The 
generals, one Yangon resident says, can set their own agenda, 
and the command economy is still very much the order of the 
day. Meanwhile, the black market remains huge and flourishing.

The biggest drag on growth, and perhaps investor confidence, 
may be Myanmar's grossly overvalued kyat. The country's 
official exchange rate is about six kyat to the dollar; in the 
"free-market," a greenback fetches about 123 kyat. The 
distorted rates make many government statistics suspect. It is 
also why nearly all of the money entering the country goes 
into industries that generate foreign currency. The fat kyat 
is one of two principal reasons that multilateral lenders like 
the World Bank don't loan money to Myanmar to build badly 
needed roads, ports and power plants.

The other reason is that major Western donors want to see more 
political reform and fewer human rights sbuses before they 
help Slorc. The generals have so far shown no inclination to 
reconcile with the opposition. When in late November Suu Kyi's 
NLD boycotted the military-run National Convention drafting a 
consitution, Slorc replied that it would "annihilate" troublemakers.

Little international support and years of bad management have 
left the economy in a shambles. Inflation is high, official 
savings are low and Myanmar isn't paying back its foreign 
debt, half of which is owned to Japan. The World Bank reports 
that investment in such areas as health and education as a 
percentage of GDP has been decreasing over the past five 
years. About 75% of Myanmar's children don't complete primary 
school, according to the UN Development Program in Yangon. 
Only defense spending is protected. Since 1989 it has gobbled 
up between 36% and 45% of the government's budget. Vietnam, by 
contrast, spent less than 10% on defense in 1994.

Hurry up and wait

To invest in Myanmar you have to bet long on the government, 
or on peaceful political change. The country is too risky for 
many Western companies - with the exception of large 
investments in gas exploration. The favored phrase among Asian 
entrepreneurs is "it's still the early days." Of the $2.5 
billion worth of projects approved since 1990, at the most 
about $190 million has actually been implemented each year. In 
comparison, Vietnam has approved S13 billion of investments since 1988.

The big questionis when is the right time for investors to 
jump in. "The government is going through some growing pains," 
say Pat James, a US business consultant who has lived in 
Myanmar since the late 1980s. "But the next four years will 
give new meaning to the phrase 'sleeping tiger.'" Until then, 
he counsels executives to spend money and time cultivating 
contacts among Myanmar's officials and fledgling business 
class. The Singaporeans and Japanese, James says, "are very 
smart about doing business here." They pay to train workers 
and they provide technical expertise to the government.

But the Singaporeans are not just building trust; they want 
short-term gains as well. "None are as single-minded about 
Myanmar as the Singaporeans," says an observer in Yangon. They 
have stakes in hotels and in Myanmar Airways, an agreement to 
build an international airport in Mandalay, and banks just 
waiting for permission to start up. The emphasis, in other 
words, is largely in tourism, where companies earn dollars, 
not kyat. Indeed, at most hotels, everything from postcards to 
car service is priced in dollars.

Investors don't like to deal in the over-valued kyat partly 
because Myanmar prohibits foreigners from freely converting 
the currency to dollars. Nearly three years ago, the 
government introduced Foreign Exchange Certificates and last 
month opened 10 official kyat-FEC exchange centers. But 
companies that esrn kyay can only  convert their profits into 
foreign currency by exporting goods from Mynamar. Usually that 
means shrimp or pulses. "That kind of counter-trade may be OK 
for half a million dollars," says Bangkok based lawyer Gary 
Biesty, "but there is just not enough shrimp in Myanmar for 
multi million dollar projects."

Yet another economic drawback is infrastructure: there is no 
efficient transport, constant power supply or reliable 
telecommunications. How bad is the situation? A local 
distibutor of Rothmans cigarettes in the central town of 
Taunggyi told her managing director that she preferred to 
transport shipments to her hometown by air rather than by 
land; the 400-km journey takes a good truck driver five days.

Smoky signals

Then there is the bureaucracy. Business consultants bullish on 
Myanmar say the approval system is straightforward and the 
government's reform program is on track. "It's two-step 
process," says John Lunbeck, Yangon research manager at Kerry 
Securities Limited. "You need ministerial and Myanmar 
Investment Commission approval." Sure, says James and then the 
Cabinet could veto the idea and you have to start wooing 
ministers all over again. "There are no guarantees in 
Myanmar," he warns, "until you're operational and have proven 

Though the legal code is British based and well-entrenched, it 
is also antiquated and largely untested. Tun Shin, legal 
adviser to the Myanmar Investment Commission, insists there is 
no cause for worry. "Our legal system is solid and stable," he 
says. "It wasn't born yesterday." Still, some say negotiating 
a contract is more a matter of personal finesse than legal 
skill. "If a company is looking for everything in black and 
white," says Pun of Serge Pun Associates, "then this is not 
the right time to come in."

That could sum up the recent experience of foreign businessmen 
in Myanmar. "There's no transparency," says one investor. "No 
one knows what Slorc is planning." Most agree that the 
generals are cautious; some say risk averse. "They haven't 
taken the kinds of tough decisions that Deng Xiaoping did in 
the late 1970s," says Gerald Segal of the International 
Institute for Strategic Students in London.

There are good reasons for Slorc to hesitate. It's been burned 
by investors out to make a fast buck, such as unscrupulous 
Thai logging and fishing companies. And though there are some 
very capable ministers in the government, the overall level of 
economic expertise is low. The biggest obstacle to reform, 
though, could be the junta's fear of unrest if economic 
reforms cause high inflaction or put people out of work. "The 
potential for experiment is less than it was when China first 
opened up," Segal says, "and the potential for things to go 
wrong is grater."

Given these uncertainties, foreign punters are waiting for 
substantive changes. "In Myanmar, most are optimistic in the 
long-term," says one observer, "but few in the short-term." In 
other words, in this volatile emerging market, the weak-
hearted need not apply. (AW)


January 5, 1996

If there is one thing that can unsettle Myanmar's tough ruling 
generals, it is watching the price of rice increase. The high 
cost of the grain and other essential goods was one of the 
sparks that fueled anti-government protests in 1988. Today, 
the price of the staple is on the rise again; it has doubled 
in a year. Even some middle-class entrepreneurs complain they 
have to dig deep into their pockets to buy enough rice to feed 
their families.

Though no one is predicting renewed protests, the government 
is not Trade, the sole legal rice exporter, announced in 
November that it had postponed all exports of the grain in 
order to ease prices in domestic markets. Foreign contractors 
who ordered 700,000 tons of rice for delivery by December will 
have to wait at least until the end of January.

What went wrong? Rice production in Myanmar has actually 
increased 35% since 1990. That's largely because the 
government has increased  the amount of land under cultivation 
and upped the number of harvests per year from two to three. 
In past years, rice has made up about 15% of Myanmar's 
negligible exports.

The trouble began in the fiscal year that ended March 1995. 
That's when rice accounted for 40% of all exports, edging out 
timber as the top foreign-currency earner. Officials boasted 
that they has sold 1 Million tons of rice, nearly five time 
the previous year's exports. The huge increased was made 
possible by setting aside more of the domestic rice output for 
foreign buyers, not by increased yields. Yangon normally gets 
its rice by requiring farmers to sell a percentage of their 
grain at below-market prices. But to fill the giant export 
contracts, Yangon was forced buy from private traders, who are 
increasingly asking top kyat for the grain. And with demand 
up, traders are hoarding rice in anticipation of even higher 
prices, further exacerbating the situation.

It is not quite accurate to say there is a domestic rice 
shortage, says Kyaw Tin, general manager of the private cargo 
inspector SGS (Myanmar) in Yangon. Better, he says, to call it 
"a miscalculation by the government." In the meantime, it is 
the average family  in Myanmar who is paying the high price 
for the mistake. (AW)


January 11, 1996

Burmese troops continued their offensive against ethnic 
Karenni rebels yesterday, but a force of 400 guerrillas 
recaptured and held out at a stronghold they called "Rambo 
Hill." About 1,600 Burmese soldiers shelled Karenni positions 
as the Rangoon government sought to crush one of the last 
groups blocking its effort to control all of Burma.

The Burmese military stepped up its campaign against the 
Karenni after imposing a peace settlement on opium warlord 
Khun Sa and his ethnic Shan army, which controlled an area 
immediately north of the Karenni enclave. The Karenni, like 
the Shan, have waged a decadeslong struggle for independence 
from Rangoon.

"The Burmese propaganda says there's no fighting in Burma," 
said Abel Tweed, foreign relations officer for the Karenni 
National Progressive Party. "But there is no peace in Burma. 
We can hear the mortars and machine-guns." Tweed spoke by 
telephone from his office-in-exile in Mae Hong Son, 25 
kilometres southwest of the Karenni base lying just across the 
Thai-Burmese border.

Burmese troops have used 120mm artillery and mortars to 
capture three of the area's strategically important hills 
since they launched their attack late on Monday. But after a 
five-hour battle, Karenni guerrillas retook the tallest peak, 
dubbed Rambo Hill, after the one-man army popularised by 
Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone.

Burmese reinforcements were arriving to help in the assault, 
Tweed said. Burmese commanders, he said "have been instructed 
to finish us all off_ to kill and capture as many as they can."

A senior Thai border police officer said the region's rugged 
terrain favoured the defenders. The officer said his men were 
preparing to evacuate Thai civilians from the area if fighting 
split across the border. Eight mortar shells have landed on 
Thai soil, police said.

More than 1,500 Karenni refugees have crossed the border into 
Thailand since the assault began. In Chiang Rai, the local 
security chief said yesterday that measures were in place to 
cope with Burmese-Karenni clashes. The border remained tense 
but the clashes were unlikely to spill across the border, said 
Col Chusak Anuchornphan, commander of Chiang Rai's internal 
security operations office. (BP)


January 12, 1996

AMNESTY International yesterday called on the Burmese 
government to release "immediately and unconditionally" 
eight performers arrested last week for publicly poking fun 
at the political situation. 

According to a statement released yesterday by the London-
based human rights watchdog, eight members of the dance 
troupe Myo Daw Win Mar Anyeini were arrested in Mandalay on 
the evening of Jan 7 after returning from a Jan 4 
performance celebrating the country's independence day.

The performance was held in the compound of Aunt San Suu 
Kyi, who leads Burma's main opposition party, the National 
League for Democracy.

"The troupe... evidently made some frank jokes about the 
political situation in the course of their performance. When 
the dance troupe returned to their home in Mandalay, they 
were arrested by members of Military Intelligence Unit 16," 
the statement said.

Officials at the Ministry of Information in Rangoon declined 
to comment on the statement yesterday.

In an interview with The Nation,, Amnesty International 
officials in London said it was not known what charges, if 
any, have been brought against the performance, who have not 
been heard from since their arrest.

The group called on the Burmese government to immediately 
release the dancers "If they have been arrested solely for 
exercising their rights to freedom of expression and 

"Amnesty International is concerned for the well-being of 
the eight performers, because torture and ill-treatment are 
common both during interrogation and after sentencing," the 
statement said.

The government has consistently denied allegations of human 
rights abuse from the international community and rights 
organizations. (TN)

*excerpt from BKK POST: 8 Held For Lampooning Slorc
January 11, 1996, AFP

The eight members of the opposition National League for 
Democracy (NLD), detained on Sunday on their return from 
Rangoon, included comedian Par Lay who was released last year 
after 18 months' detention for his satire of the military 
junta, officially called the State Law and Order Restoration 
Council (Slorc), the source said.

Win Htain, NLD internal affairs liaison, had been picked up 
for questioning regarding the party's Independence Day plans 
and released ahead of the day. Diplomats in Rangoon said 
authorities had called on Win Htain to get the NLD to cancel the plans.

Performers at the private celebrations included the 1991 Nobel 
peace prize winner's younger son, Kim, who played guitar with 
an NLD youth band from Irrawaddy division, participants said. 


January 11, 1996   (abridged)
United Press International

NEW DELHI- Indian officials met with representatives of 
neighbouring Burma on Tuesday to talk about curbing the 
illegal drug trade between the two countries reports said.
The talks are aimed at boosting cooperation between the countries' 
respective intelligence networks to stem the flow of heroin from 
Southeast Asia into India, a spokesman for the Indian government said. 
The narcotics are frequently smuggled across the Indo-Burmese border 
into India and then sent to Western countries.

January 11, 1996   (abridged)

THAILAND will proposed to Burma that a problem section of the 
Moei River flowing between Thailand's Mae Sot district and 
Burma's border town of Myawaddi be turned into a joint 
development area, a government source said yesterday.

Under the proposal mooted by a committee to settle border 
disputes along the Moei River and endorsed by the Cabinet 
yesterday, the construction of the Thai-Burmese friendship 
bridge in the vicinity will resume and the border checkpoint 
there will re-open while the waterway is returned to its 
previous course as requested by Burmese authorities.

According to the source, Thai border authorities have yet to 
begin reshaping the river bank, pending a reaction from the 
Burmese side on the latest proposal.

The committee has asked Deputy Interior Minister Suchart 
Tancharoen to probe the Burmese position and the Foreign 
Ministry's Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs to summon 
Burmese Ambassador to Thailand Tin Maung Winn and the 
country's military liaison for  consultations on the matter.