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LETTER TO IU ALUMNI TRAVELERS
- Subject: LETTER TO IU ALUMNI TRAVELERS
- From: tmyint@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 05 Feb 1996 13:38:00
To All IU Alumni Travelers Who Will Visit Burma
Indiana University Alumni Association
January 29, 1996
Dear Alumni Travelers:
I am writing this letter to express my concern about the IU Alumni
Association's sponsorship of its trip to Burma, in which you are going to
participate as travelers.
I had initially hoped that I would have an opportunity to talk to you
about Burma in person before your departure. Mr. Jerry Tardy and Ms. Joan
Curts during our meeting last November agreed with us that IUAA would
arrange a pre-departure presentation about Burma. Since there is now no
hope for me to meet you and talk to you about what is happening in Burma,
I am now writing you this letter.
As you may know, Burma is ruled by a brutal and oppressive regime called
SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council). SLORC is one the most
serious violators of human rights in Asia, something that has been
documented by the United States State Depart ment, the United Nations,
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (Asia) and other human rights
monitoring organizations. Among human rights violations routinely
practiced by the government are forced labor, torture, rape and the
complete denial of civil rights and liberties to the citizens of Burma.
Please read the enclosed New York Times article.
As a Burmese political refugee who was forced to leave my country in order
to avoid arrest, torture, and likely death, but also as a future IU
Alumnus, I am greatly troubled by IU's participation in SLORC's "1996
Visit Myanmar Year" project. I understand that the trip is intended as an
educational field trip. But I think it would be a great mistake to
participate in this "educational trip".
First, you are not going to see the true situation in Burma; you will only
see SLORC's distorted version of Burma. You will visit approved sites and
will talk only to officially approved people. The Stanford University and
University of Michigan Alumni travelers were barred from entering Burma
by SLORC because the travelers planned a meeting with Nobel Peace Laureate
Aung San Suu Kyi as a part of their educational trip to Burma. (This
total cancellation of the Stanford trip is reported in "San Francisco
Chronicle", Jan. 16, 1996.)
Second, by participating in SLORC's tourist project, the IU Alumni
Association will be furnishing SLORC with hard cash with which to continue
persecuting the Burmese people. By my calculation the 25 tourists will be
providing SLORC with US $7,500 (25 x $3 00). With this money SLORC can
purchase 62,500 assault rifle bullets from mainland China, bullets which
can and will be used to shoot, and kill, those ethnic villagers on whom
the SLORC government has made war for the past seven years. This may seen
far fetched, but SLORC is a military dictatorship, it is starved for hard
currency, and it does spend most of this currency on military weapons and
Third, by participating in SLORC's Tourist Project, IU Alumni Association
will be giving institutional support, and lending legitimacy, to an
illegitimate government, a government that has lost the support of its own
people and the support of the international community. SLORC has
consistently refused to recognize the legitimacy of democratic politics,
and it has invalidated an election, in 1990, in which democratic forces
were supported by the vast majority of the citizens of Burma. SLORC holds
political power in Burma for one reason--because it brutally wields
military power. On December 1, 1995, the White House issued a statement
deploring the current situation in Burma and calling on SLORC to transfer
power to the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the winner of
the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. SLORC has consistently ignored such calls. By
participating in the Tourist Project, IU Alumni Association, with your
participation, will be lending SLORC's position credibility.
Fourth, it has been well-documented that SLORC has been using forced labor
at the tourist sites and railway stations through which you will pass on
your trip through Burma. Hundreds of men, women, and children have been
forcibly conscripted into SLORC's effort to improve its international
image. It is your conscience that has to decide whether it is appropriate
to walk on roads built by child labor, to enjoy hotel accommodations built
by forced labor, to pass railway stations constructed by the military
government's absolute threats to local citizens of Burma. I had also
hoped that I would have an opportunity to show you a BBC documentary video
showing how SLORC forces people in Burma to prepare tourist sites.
Following the request from Mr. Jerry Tardy's office, I provided you with
information about how tourist sites are built in Burma under SLORC. I am
sure you have received this information.
There is a strong opposition to the trip among the general IU students as
well. The Indiana Daily Student carried major front-page articles on the
student protest against the trip on Jan. 29 and Jan. 30. IDS also
published a long editorial entitled "Alumni should cancel trip" on Jan.
29, whose concluding paragraph reads as follows: "The IU Alumni
Association should cancel its trip to Burma. If alumni want to see Burma,
let them do so on their own conscience, not under the banner of our
University." On Feb. 1, the IU Student Association unanimously voted to
pass the resolution to oppose the IU Alumni's trip to Burma.
I hope you will keep our concerns in mind as you participate in this trip.
I wish all of you a safe and pleasant trip.
Burmese Student Association
CC: President Myles Brand
Mr. Jerry F. Tardy, Executive Director, IU Alumni
Dean Kenneth Rogers, Director, International Services
Joan Curts, Director, Travel Plans.
Enclosure: "Burmese Using Forced Labor on Tourist Projects", The New York
Times, July 17, 1994.