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BurmaNet News January 21, 1996 #327

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The BurmaNet News: January 21, 1996
Issue #327

Noted in Passing:

		It should be seriously acknowledged by every single 
		human being that our action has saved humanity from 
		the scourge of drugs. - Khin Nyunt on the SLORC's 
		deal with Khun Sa.  (see AFP: WORLD SHOULD 


January 18, 1996

Burma's military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt Thursday said the
world should warmly welcome the unconditional surrender of drug king Khun
Sa's Mong Tai Army (MTA), as it would help reduce the illicit drug trade "to
a certain extent."

Speaking before a group of medical doctors here, Khin Nyunt said the
Burmese military government had single-handedly launched a successful
campaign against drug traffickers at the Thai-Burmese border.
"It should be seriously acknowledged by every single human being that our
action has saved humanity from the scourge of drugs," he said, adding that
Burma would remain committed to eradicating illicit drugs.
Khin Nyunt also said it was necessary to prevent the "underhanded
activities of neo-colonialist to aid and abet drug smugglers." He did not
Khin Nyunt reiterated that Rangoon would continue to extend a welcoming
hand to repentant drug traffickers and treat in a "humane manner."


January 20, 1996

The SLORC Threatens 23 Prominent Politicians for Writing a Letter
Urging Dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Discussions from the Meeting Between 23 Prominent Politicians Who
Signed the Proposed Paper for the National Reconciliation and the
Representatives of the SLORC

On 26/11/95, the representatives of the SLORC (State Law and
Order Restoration Council) - Lt. Colonel Tin Hlaing, deputy-
minister for the Home Affairs, Colonel Kyaw Win, deputy-director
for Burmese Military Intelligence Service, U Soe Win, chief-
director for People's Police Force, Colonel Ba Hein, in-charge of
Criminal Investigation Department - summoned and met with 23
prominent politicians and freedom fighters who signed a paper
on 24/11/95 calling for SLORC to open dialogue with the NLD
(National League for Democracy) led by Aung San Suu Kyi at the
earliest possible opportunity.

"We are telling you what the SLORC leaders have ordered us to
tell you. We received your letter. We the State Law and Order
Restoration Council or the military government are going to tell
you the matters that are related to you.

"You attended the ceremony held to pay homage to the elders on
October 8. You also attended the National Day celebrations held on 16/11/95.

"At this moment we are convening the national convention. At the
same time, discussions are being held for the unity of all nationalities. 
You'll have to consider whether what we are doing is meaningful or not. 

"Your demands are identical with those of the US, the Mr. Nosey.
People from the US embassy visit Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's house on
daily basis. Mrs. Albright also treated us harshly. It looks like
we'll have to work in accordance with the will of the Americans.
We do not want ourselves to become a stooge of the Americans. We
cannot do everything as they wish us to do.

We are working for the emergence of a constitution with a set of
guidelines. You can see what we are doing for the national cause.
Now 15 out of 16 armed groups have returned to the legal fold. We
are also striving for the remaining group so that they can do the
same. We hope and believe that in a very short time they will
return to the legal fold. We are working hard to achieve this goal. 

We are carrying out the three main national causes and 12
objectives. We wish to know if there is anything (among these)
that you cannot accept.      

We cannot tolerate stooges meddling in between. The strength of
the nation can be found only in the nation. We cannot rely on the
foreign (countries). We'll be in trouble if we rely on the foreign (countries). 

The US is setting out guidelines. We know that other embassies
are interfering in our affairs. 

We want all of you who have political traditions to remain
neutral. It wouldn't be any good if there were violent political
confusions. All of you are old. We would like you to live peacefully. 
We are ready to take care of you on social and humanitarian grounds. 
We believe that the NLD is using you. We want you to stay out if 
political movements become more violent. We want you to remain neutral.

People from the US, Britain and Australian Embassies visit Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi every day and give her instructions. Her husband
is also instigating the situation from abroad.

We do not wish you to get involved in this. We'll help you if you
need anything. Do you want to say anything on the existence and
duties that the Tatmadaw is carrying out?"

BOHMU AUNG SAID, "Let me tell you something. We are not stooges
of anyone. We never were. We work and say in accordance with
our own sincere beliefs and will. We want to see everyone united
before we die. Nobody forces us to do it. We do not want any
outside interference. We'll have to prevent it from happening
with a united force. We'll fight along side with the Tatmadaw if
there is a foreign invasion. There has been proof of this. We
are just doing what should be done for the restoration of peace,
and prosperity of the country because we want to see these things
happen before we pass away. 

We attended the ceremony held inside Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's house
because the students wanted to pay homage to us, believing that
there would be no problem. National Day celebrations were held as
a part of our tradition. These used to be held in my premises. Now that 
there was no place available, we held it where a place was available.

There is no outside interference or instigation in writing you
this letter. We do not accept any interference at all. We wrote
to you because we want to be friendly with you before anything
becomes tangled. We don't want to see the situation change for
the worse. You can use the letter if you wish. We'll wait and see
if you say so. We'll take oath that we wrote the letter with utmost 
sincerity. We consulted (among us) and wrote it because we
(you and us) should not hold grudges against each other. We just 
made this request of you because we believe that we still have a duty 
to the country. We don't like bloodshed. We are ready to lay down 
our lives along with the Tatmadaw should danger befall the country."

LT. COLONEL TIN HLAING SAID, "What you are doing is identical
with what the US has said. We are working for the country as
well. Is there anything wrong with our work? It appears that there is 
foreign interference. It also appears that the NLD has dragged you along."

BOHMU AUNG SAID, "We want to see our people happy and peaceful
with plenty of food and materials before we die."

LT. COLONEL TIN HLAING, "Is there anything that you don't like
among the tasks the Tatmadaw is carrying out? The Tatmadaw really
wants peace. We are performing the tasks which no other government 
has ever been able to do. Why did you have to write this letter?"

BOHMU AUNG, "It comes from our heart. There is nothing that we
can do if this is similar to other people's opinions." 

LT. COLONEL TIN HLAING, "If we don't do anything, people will
blame us, and when we are doing something, we are concerned that
someone will meddle with our work. We summoned you to explain
this so that you can see and understand what we are doing. We are
telling you this so that you can stay out of trouble when the
situation becomes chaotic."

M.I COLONEL KYAW WIN SAID, "The Senior General and group 
read the letter the day it was received. Like we said earlier, it doesn't
do any good for the country when you are used for this. And we
believed so, that is why we are trying to explain this to you. We
believe that what is contained in the letter is nothing but your
opinions. We'll report to our leaders that you did it with
sincere goodwill. We learned the spirit of imperialism from the
books. Mrs. Albright treated us very rudely. We cannot tolerate
this. What she said is related to your request letter. We'll
report back that you wrote the letter without any foreign
influence and with a sincere desire to have everyone united. Our
leaders have ordered us to treat you with respect. We can talk
again if there is a confusion."

BOHMU AUNG SAID, "If there is dead meat, the flies will swarm
around it. We wrote the letter because we don't want this to
happen. We neither want  dead meat nor flies. The opinions are
of the same identical nature, but I assure that we have nothing
to do with it. We have nothing but goodwill. I can take oath for that."

LT. COLONEL TIN HLAING SAID, "We want you to know our stance."

BOHMU AUNG SAID, "I fought against the imperialists and their
oppression. We had to remain under the British until we lost the
hair knot that was our tradition (meaning for along time). Only
because we weren't killed in the struggle, we can talk to you
now. I used to live near the Mandalay, but because my grandma
told me not to go near that Kular Town, I did not even know what
it looked like. (Kular is a derogatory word for Indians and
British. Kular town here means Mandalay palace). I sacrificed
everything and I will not hesitate to sacrifice again.

(Translated from the document acquired from inside Burma.
Research Department, ABSDF-MTZ).


January 4, 1996

(BurmaNet Editor's Note: This piece is already two weeks old, but should
still be of interest to BurmaNet readers.  Because it is so repetitive, it has
been abridged.)

Translated text of a message from Senior General Than Shwe, prime minister
and chairman of the State Law and Order Restoration Council SLORC , to the 48th
Independence Day ceremony in Rangoon's People's Square on 4th January. 

   On the auspicious occasion of the 48th Independence Day of the Union of
Myanmar Burma , I cordially and respectfully greet the people of all national
races residing in the country.

   Our Union of Myanmar stood as a sovereign nation in the world for thousands
of years until we were enslaved through unjust aggression and occupation by
colonialists. Our patriotic national brethren fought against this aggression and
occupation through the use of force and other means. They fought valiantly with
whatever weapons they could lay their hands on. The patriotic heroes from among
the national races - such as the Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Bamah, Mon, Rakhine
and Shan - who took part in the anti-colonialist and national liberation
struggle will be recorded in the annals of our history. Similarly, members of
the defence services, the offspring of the national races who fought many
battles and risked their lives in defence of independence, public service
personnel and the people should also have for their spirit of sacrifice placed
on record.

We, the people of all national races, must always strive with our own
strength to enable Myanmar to stand tall among the world's nations as an
independent nation and perpetuate its sovereignty. This is a national duty to be
discharged by all the people of the Union - to always cooperate to protect and
defend their nation. Moreover, all the national races are duty bound to continue
to ensure that national solidarity, stability, communal peace and the rule of
law and order last forever. At the same time, all the people must remain
patriotic and alert to deter any instigations, schemes or incitements aimed at
disturbing peace and stability in the country. 

 When we review the historic events we have experienced, we see that all the
citizens of the Union have always been able to attain victory against all kinds
of internal and external enemies that were attempting to cause the
disintegration of the country, which is home to the people born in this land and
residing together through good and bad times.

During the time of the State Law and Order Restoration Council, which 
emerged according to the historic need of the nation, firmer foundations 
have been established and all-around developments have been achieved 
in the nation's political, economic, social, educational and health spheres 
with the public's cooperation.  Hence, it is necessary for the people of the 
national races to make every effort and play whatever role they can to keep 
the present rate of all-around development growing unhindered. 

The government has been implementing construction projects such as schools;
bridges; hospitals; dispensaries; and electric power, communications and
irrigation networks with added momentum for the long-term development of border
areas and our national brethren, utilizing substantial cash, workforce and
investments. At present, 15 armed groups, having realized the government's
genuine goodwill, have returned to the legal fold and are now implementing
construction projects alongside the public.

   The National Convention is deliberating the basic principles for the
emergence of a new state constitution that would suit the wishes and aspirations
of the people of the Union and which would enable them to enjoy the rights they
are entitled to and promote social development. It is doing so to ensure
smoothness and success at different stages of its undertakings in accordance
with its six objectives. It has already laid down the chapter headings of the
constitution and the principles to serve as the basis in formulating the
fundamental principles of the state and is discussing in detail the main
chapters, such as the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. All citizens
are responsible for extending all-out efforts to support the emergence of an
enduring constitution in accordance with the six objectives of the National

Based on favourable conditions already attained, the SLORC - which is leading
the state - will continue to exert strenuous efforts to further the development
and emergence of the following constructive activities:

   A. Constantly safeguarding our three main national causes -
non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and
perpetuation of sovereignty.

   B. Ensuring the prevalence of the rule of law and communal peace and
tranquillity; ensuring secure and smooth transportation; and easing the people's
need for food, clothing and shelter.

   C. Emphasizing tasks for the development of all national races in Myanmar. 

   The Union Solidarity and Development Association - which will translate
morale, discipline, solidarity and unity into action for the perpetuation and
consolidation of the Union of Myanmar - was formed over two years ago with five
noble aims, and its annual general meetings have been successful. The
association is actively organizing rallies and holding discussions throughout
the country to express support for the success of the National Convention,
currently in session. It is thus acting to transfer to new generations its good
groundwork, which will set our minds at peace about any Union affairs in the
long run.

   At present, the Union of Myanmar has achieved much progress and favourable
conditions in international relations; cooperation with nations in the region;
cooperation with international organizations, including the United Nations; and
foreign trade. Internally, it is also necessary to make sustained efforts for
all-around development to maintain and promote progressive conditions in
agriculture-based production, trade services and transport sectors.

   On the other hand, it is also important for us to safeguard the nation
constantly and remain alert in guarding against and preventing internal and
external threats and interference as a national duty. We must also constantly
bear in mind the truth that the strength of the nation lies in the perpetual
consolidated existence of the state as a modern, developed and peaceful nation.

Therefore, I urge the entire mass of the national people to safeguard, defend
and build an independent and sovereign nation and implement with zeal,
perseverance, strength and awareness the national objectives for the 48th
Independence Day:

   1. The entire mass of the national people should always join hands and strive
together to perpetuate state independence and sovereignty;

   2. The entire mass of the national people should strive with unity and might
for the emergence of an enduring state constitution and to build a new, modern
and developed nation;

   3. The entire mass of the national people should strive to keep its
patriotism dynamic and alive, and to safeguard the national character ;

   4. Successful implementation of the four political objectives; the four
economic objectives; and the four social objectives in order to build a new,
modern and developed nation.


January 18, 1996 By Osamu Yasuda
>From brelief@xxxxxxx     (abridged slightly)

(NOTE: BurmaNet completely disagrees with Yasuda's assessment 
but wants BurmaNet readers to be exposed to a range of views.  We
encourage you to write a letter to the editor of the Daily Yomiyuri or
to post your comments on BurmaNet.)

[Letters to the Editor can be sent to FAX #:  +81 3 3279 - 6324 ]

The house arrest of Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung
San Suu Kyi six and a half years ago was given only a small
amount of play in most Japanese newspapers.  But when she
was released those same newspapers emblazoned the news
across their front pages and made a beeline to her door seeking

In these interviews, Suu Kyi uses an apt expression to describe
the current situation in her country: "If the sun is too hot, the
people have no choice but to divest themselves of their
clothes." This is really a piece of advice to Japan and other
countries to exercise caution in resuming official development
assistance to Myanmar.

She is, in effect, criticizing the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations for its "constructive engagement" strategy that is
designed to open up Myanmar through the expansion of trade
and investment.

Whereas the United States and Europe maintain that economic
sanctions are necessary to force Myanmar to change its hard -
line policy, ASEAN believes that gradual economic
development of the nation - expedited by their constructive
engagement strategy -- can change the country's oppressive
political climate.  ASEAN insists that Suu Kyi's release from
house arrest is evidence that they have chosen the right course.

ASEAN nations believe that what Myanmar needs is not a
"north wind" in the form of sanctions, but abundant sunshine in
the form of constructive engagement.

The association expected Japan to resume ODA to Myanmar
and that Japanese companies would leap at the chance to invest
in the country as soon as Suu Kyi was released.  This was
because ASEAN believed such assistance would expedite its
efforts to bring Myanmar into its economic sphere and
accelerate the country's transformation.

But Japan gave short shrift to these expectations, with the
government evidently finding in Suu Kyi's assertions reason to
be cautious.

Suu Kyi maintains that resuming ODA and investment at this
time would only help the junta remain in power, without
explaining why this would happen.  She has yet to come up
with her own set of policies.

While she was under house arrest, Myanmar's economy was
transformed significantly because of the flow of foreign
investment into the country..

Does Suu Kyi not realize that ASEAN's constructive
engagement and China's impressive economic inroads echo a
common chord within the Myanmar people?

The people are naturally attracted by the prospect of affluence
and dream about the country's economic growth.  With their
English ability, they are quick to absorb information from overseas.

When we talk about Myanmar and Suu Kyi, it may be useful
to look at 1986 when Corazon Aquino became president of the
Philippines.  People had high expectations because she was
considered an ordinary housewife and there was a sense of true
democracy in the air.  But she soon gained the reputation of a
political amateur.

Aquino may shine in Philippine history because she departed
from Ferdinand Marcos' violent rule, but she lost her stature
because of the nation's slow economic development.  Fidel
Ramos, who succeeded Aquino in 1992, has put things on the
right track.

Is there any danger of Suu Kyi going through the same
experience as Aquino?

What Suu Kyi must do is show us that she has organizational
ability and draw up viable policies.

Right now, she appears to have no policy that would help her
country move toward a brighter future.

Suu Kyi has actually resided in her own country for a fairly
short period - not much longer than her house arrest.  What she
needs are people who can provide her with a real picture of her
native land and help her to come up with real policies.

Even if Suu Kyi takes over the reins of government, the
problems now besetting the country will not disappear
overnight - achieving progress in economic development,
reconciling ethnic minorities and accelerating democratization. 
The question that must be answered is: "How can the nation
develop economically without permitting foreign aid and
investment into the country?"

The Philippines is poised to make a fresh start under Ramos. 
What about Myanmar?

The tragedy of Myanmar is that those with little knowledge of
economics had gathered the reins of power into their hands and
they relied heavily on the military to deal with ethnic conflicts,
a legacy of colonial rule.

What Myanmar needs is not a Suu Kyi of nobel character but a
Suu Kyi of political skill.

(Yasuda is director at The Nomura Research Institute)


January 19, 1996

Please join us in congratulating Ko Tun Myint, who just received the Martin
Luther King jr. Award from the Indiana University Black Student Union.

Here is a congratulatory note from an Indiana student to Ko Tun Myint.

 Congratulations Tun!

        I would like to congratulate Tun Myint who received the Martin Luther
King Jr. Award from the Black Student Union this past week.  I could not
imagine another student here at Indiana University who deserved this
award as much as Tun Myint.  Tun in his fight for justice embodies the spirit 
and dedication of Martin Luther King Jr.
Congratulations Tun!


January 19, 1996
Saeng Seuk, a former leader of the Shan State Army, outlines 
the history of the Shan's armed struggle for autonomy. This 
is the first of a two-part series.

The Shan patriotic movement traces its origins to the 1930s 
when Shan students at Rangoon University formed the Shan 
State Students' Association and the Shan Literary Society. 
Among the active founding members were Dr Sao Naw Kham, U 
Kya Bu and Dr Ba Nyan. Later, Dr Ba Nyan, supported by Sao 
Fa Luong of Hispaw Sao Oh, set up the White Hat organisation 
which was aimed at instilling national consciousness in Shan 
children and youth.

Although Shans were ruled by feudal princes in 33 states, 
the people had the right to choose their own prince through 
a unique democratic electoral system. Shans enjoyed full 
autonomy under the British colonial system after the princes 
signed an agreement with the British to become protectorate 
states of Great Britain.

Even during the Japanese occupation of Shan State during 
World War II, Shans still enjoyed autonomy. The Japanese 
imperial government recognised the separate entity of the 
Shan states and Karenni state.

As is well known, the Shans joined the Union of Burma under 
the Panglong Agreement which guaranteed them the right of 
secession, equality, full autonomy as they had enjoyed for 
countries, non-interference in the internal affairs of other 
states by the Burmans, and creation of new states for ethnic 
minorities which meet the standard criteria to form a state. 
Chapter 10 of the 1948 constitution of the Union of Burma 
clearly states that the Shans had the right to secede from 
the Union.

The U Nu government started to abuse that right of autonomy 
by sending Burmese Army troops into Shan areas and 
interfering in the administration of the Shan state in 1953. 
That action sparked the first efforts by Shan youth to form 
a resistance movement.

It was at Rangoon University and the Shan Literary Society 
that the question of genuine federalism and the central 
government's abuse of ethnic and states' rights was first 
widely discussed.

By 1955-56, it became the hot topic of discussion among high 
school students and even at the level of the Farmers 
Associations in Shan state and elsewhere in other states. 
Various pamphlets about individual, cultural, social and 
political abuses committed by the U Nu-led central 
government led were conferences were held to discuss the 
matter and to evaluate what action could be taken for the 
future of an autonomous Shan state.

In 1956, a conference of the Chao Fas and the leaders of 
Shan state was held in Mong Yai to discuss the political 
future of the people. Just after the  conference, U Nu came 
to Lashio and threatened that he would use military force if 
the Shans chose to exercise their rights of secession as 
stated in Chapter 10 of the Union constitution.

Since that time Shan leaders have wrestled with the problem 
of central government abuse of power, Burmese chauvinism and 
the encroachment on the rights of other states.

Two divergent strategies were adopted by two main political 
players in Shan state. Chao Fas and leaders of the political 
parties adopted the idea of changing the existing quasi-
federal constitution of the Union of Burma into a genuine 
federal system and forming a state for the Burmans 
themselves. The university students, youth and young monks 
opted for armed struggle. 

The armed resistance was started by Saw Yanda, who named the 
movement established at the Thai-Shan border "Noom Suk 
Harn". In 1959, a Wa military police officer Bo Maung joined 
the resistance by attacking and occupying a Burma Army 
garrison in Tangyan for 3-4 days. His success spread the 
arms resistance like wild fire through out Shan state.

In 1960, students who joined Noom Suk Harn were unable to 
persuade Saw Yanda, later known as Sao Noi, to adopt a 
constitution for the  organisation. Frustrated, they broke 
away and formed the Shan State Independence Organisation 
(SSIO) and its military wing, the Shan State Independence 
Army (SSIA).

Bo Maung, the hero of Tangyan became the commander of the 
SSIA. One of the students was appointed second in command. 
By 1961, the SSIA had more than 1,000 men under arms. The 
people of Shan state donated ammunition obtained from 
American air drops during World War II to fight against the 
Japanese. There were also Japanese and Chinese rifles. And 
Shan youth form almost every village joined the resistance.

At the end of 1961, in a bid to unite the Shan movement, the 
SSIA and Noom Suk Harn's 415 column formed the Shan National 
United Front (SNUF). The SSIA by now had four battalions of 
fully armed men. The SNUF boasted 450 men by the beginning 
of 1962.

On March 2 the same year, Ne Win staged his military coup 
and the Burmese Army took over the administration of the 
Union of Burma, and arrested all the political administrative leaders 
of all the member states of the Union.

The move triggered more ethnic dissent throughout the Union 
and the respective armed resistance groups came into 
existence. It was at this time that the Kengtung armed 
resistance group called the Shan State National Army (SSNA) 
came into being.

The Kachin Independence organisation and Army was also 
started in Shan state with some help from the SSIO/SSIA and 
the Shan people. In 1963, Mahadevi of Yawnghwe state, the 
wife of the first independence president of the Union of 
Burma fled to Thailand and with the backing of the SSIO/SSIA 
and SNUF tried again to forge a united Shan front.

In 1964, the SSIO and SNUF merged to form the Shan State 
Army (SSA) under the leadership of Sao Nang Mahadevi and Sao 
Nang Hern Kham. Mahadevi left Thailand in 1970 leaving her 
son Sao Tzang Yawnghwe with the SSA. In 1971, the Shan State 
Progress Party, the political wing of the SSA, was formed.

In 1973, Hso Hten led a study delegation to Panghsang in the 
Wa state on the Sino-Burmese border where the headquarters 
of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) was located.

In 1975, disregarding a SSPP congress resolution, SSA 
leaders embraced communist ideology and the leadership of 
the CPB. The result was confusion within the rank-and-file, 
causing an SSPP/SSA split between the group adhering to 
national democracy and the group wanting to adopt communist 
ideology with the sole aim of obtaining military and 
financial aid from China through the CPB.

When the CPB finally crumbled in the late 1980s, a major 
faction of the SSPP/SSA led by Hso Hten broke away from the 
main group and forged a ceasefire agreement with the Slorc in 1988.

In 1968, a faction of the SSA led by Kwan Zerng established 
themselves as the Shan State revolutionary Army (SURA) after 
gaining a border pass across Ban Pieng Luong of Thailand.

In 1983, the SURA had been bolstered by the addition of an 
SSA faction led by Sam Mai and in 1984 they struck a deal 
with Khun Sa's Shan Union Army (SUA) to merge into one.

Since 1988, the events ending Khun Sa's "mission" have been 
closely followed by the Thailand-based media and correctly 
and vividly reported. The only point they missed is that 
Khun Sa's mission was given to him by the Burmese Army's War 
Office in Rangoon in 1960. (TN)


January 19, 1996    

Selective enforcement of immigration and prostitution laws 
is shoring up the trade in women from Burma and adding to 
the risk of HIV infection, Pan Simmons writes.

In 1994, the authors of a report from Asia Watch, an international human 
rights organisation, claimed that in Thailand, the rate of HIV infection 
among prostitutes from Burma was about three times higher than that 
among Thai prostitutes.

Part of the reason for the higher rate of infection lies in 
customers' refusal to use condoms and the powerlessness of 
the women to insist on their use. This report was the first 
public alert to the flourishing trade in young Burmese women 
and its attendant bonded labour, arbitrary detention, 
physical abuse and complicity of government officials.

The trafficking of Burmese women to Thailand for sex work 
was more recently brought to people's attention at a seminar 
late last year, organised by the Foundation for Women (FFW), 
a Bangkok-based women's organisation.

Siriporn Skrobanek, secretary general of FFW, explained in 
her opening address that "Thailand bears some considerable 
responsibility for the fate of Burmese sex workers because 
it is both a destination and departure point for women 
transported and traded for prostitution."

On the basis of 21 interviews with Burmese women and other 
interviews with governmental and non-governmental agencies, 
FFW's researchers, Praphakorn Wongratanawin and Ratchawan 
Singhanet found that the effectiveness of HIV/Aids education 
and assistance programmes was severely limited by language 
barriers and difficulties in reaching the women directly.

The researchers also found that the women's knowledge about 
protecting themselves against HIV infection was minimal. 
These findings are hardly surprising, given the illicit 
nature of the sex industry in Thailand, the illegal status 
of most Burmese migrants and the tense political situation 
in Burma.

Getting information about Aids to Burmese women on either 
side of the border is a challenge to the most inventive 
campaigner. The researchers pointed to the lack of suitable 
educational material for use among particular groups, such 
as the Shan and Mon ethnic groups and the overly detailed 
and sometimes gruesome portrayal of symptoms which serve 
more to frighten people than inform them.

Printed text is also not much use to people who cannot read. 
Most of the women interviewed had had little formal 
education. The researchers tested a range of printed 
material during the  interviews and only three of the 21 
women could read and understand the material.

Knowledge about Aids, though, has little benefit if the 
woman has no chance to negotiate working conditions such as 
the number of clients and safe sex practices. Most 
prostitutes in Thailand operate relatively independently and 
have considerable control over their working conditions. For 
others, though, control is firmly in the hands of the brothel owners.

Running a brothel is illegal in Thailand, as is 
prostitution. But apart from few highly publicised raids, 
brothel owners are mostly left to their business. The fact 
that their activity falls outside of the law seems more to 
cultivate corruption among public authorities and intensify 
control over the women employed than discourage the growth 
of the industry.

Researcher Praphakorn summed up the push and pull to migrate 
as, "the deteriorating economic and political situation in 
Burma, particularly  in rural areas, coupled with the higher 
wages and demand for labour in Thailand."

This is a familiar pattern world-wide in the history of 
labour migration. In this case, Burmese women are being 
pressed into sexual service to meet the demand from both 
Burmese labourers and Thai and foreign businessmen and tourists.

The growth in the sex industry in provinces bordering Burma 
is accompanying the rise in cross-border trade in goods and 
labour. The economic boom in Thailand and the robust tourist 
industry, shadowed by the threat of Aids, has resulted in 
greater demand for women from remote areas and younger women 
are prime targets for recruiters.

The women interviewed in Ranong province were mostly ethnic 
Burmans from lowland Burma or Mon women from southern border 
states. They crossed the river border by boat or, in the dry 
season, by foot.

In the northern province of Thailand, they were mostly Shan 
women. Burma's Shan state lies across the border fro Chiang 
Rai. They had travelled to Thailand by motorcycle or in a 
songthaew (pick up taxi). This route is policed well by 
Burmese soldiers of the ruling State Law and Order 
Restoration Council (Slorc).

The soldiers are instructed to turn back young and unmarried 
women. However, in effect, this instruction is only used to 
solicit bribes from the women. Bribing takes place on both 
sides of the border with some public tour bus drivers 
demanding payments of Bt3,500 to transport the women to 
other provinces.

As illegal immigrants they have little choice but to pay. 
The threat of arrest and deportation hangs over them all the 
way. As the authors of the Asia Watch reported, "The 
Immigration Act is often  used not to keep Burmese from 
entering Thailand, but to ensure compliance and obedience 
once they are there."

In 1992, when the Asia Watch investigation began, rights to 
privacy and confidentiality in HIV testing were routinely 
ignored. Immigration officials and brothel owners were more 
likely to be informed of a woman's HIV status than the woman 

Mandatory testing was also common-place, particularly 
following arrest by Thai authorities. The Thai National Aids 
Prevention and Control Plan (1992-1996) has injunctions 
against revealing HIV status without the full and explicit 
consent of the infected person.

The 1995 FFW's investigation showed little improvement in 
protection of such rights. Testing, physical examinations 
and counselling services at public hospitals were available 
to Burmese sex workers, but without the aid of translators 
many women did not understand what the examination was for 
nor the results of tests.

In these circumstances, counselling was out of the question. 
The regularity of health checks was most often decided by 
the brothel owners. They required the women to carry healths 
cards which indicated the dates and results of checks. Not 
surprisingly, there was no such requirement of customers.

 FFW's researchers heard reports of agency workers 
accompanying Burmese women to the hospital as translators 
but keeping the results of the tests to themselves. Some 
were too inexperienced to be of much assistance and others 
may have found the job of informing someone of their HIV 
status too trying.

In Thailand, prostitutes who test positive are supposed to 
be encouraged to leave sex work. But the government offers 
little by way of guaranteed health care or alternative employment. 
This is especially so for women repatriated to Burma.

The troublesome question of how to disseminate information 
remains. As Prachakorn Wongratanaw pointed out in her 
summary, "Information must get to women sex workers and to 
women in the regions of Burma where sex workers are being 
drawn from".

But with a government leery of non-governmental agencies and 
unwilling to do much themselves, as the Slorc is in Burma, 
it is hard for Aids campaigners to know where to start.

The researchers also floated the idea of forcing the owners 
of brothels to bear some of the costs of Aids patient care. 
This would be difficult to enforce while prostitution is still illegal.

Decriminalising prostitution is one of the broader issues 
brought to light by the research. The Burmese women are 
doubly vulnerable to harassment and detention as illegal 
immigrants and engaged in illegal work.

It leaves them with minimal negotiating power with employers 
or customers, and hence more susceptible to HIV infection. 
The power of brothel owners is immense when it comes to 
bonded labour.

In many cases it extends to controlling access by health 
workers to sex workers. Health workers find themselves in 
the unenviable position of trading silence about 
imprisonment, deceit and physical abuse for the continued 
opportunity of general health education.

In the selective enforcement and manipulation of immigration 
and prostitution laws, the authorities are, in effect, 
shoring up the trade in women from Burma and adding to the 
risk of HIV infection. (TN)