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BurmaNet News: Feb. 20-21, 1996 #34

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Subject: BurmaNet News: Feb. 20-21, 1996 #347

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The BurmaNet News: February 20-21, 1996
Issue #347



February 20,1996

Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa has agreed in principle 
to pick a date between March 18 and 22 to visit Rangoon as 
proposed by the Burmese government, an informed government 
source said yesterday.

While an exact date is yet to be finalised, the source 
expected Mr Banharn to arrive in Rangoon on March 18 and 
stay at least two days. Mr Banharn is due back in Bangkok to 
welcome Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz who is 
paying an official visit during March 20-21. Mr Banharn is 
also scheduled to visit China during March 24-29, the source 

The visit to Rangoon is widely seen as an attempt by the 
Thai government to restore bilateral relations to the same 
level as during the prime ministership of Gen Prem 
Tinsulanonda, who visited Burma in 1980.

Rangoon ordered closed two checkpoints at Myawaddy-Mae Sot 
in Tak province and Tachilek-Mae Sai in Chiang Rai province 
last March, after accusing Thailand of supporting ethnic 
Shan and Karen rebels fighting the State Law and Order 
Restoration Council (Slorc).

A third checkpoint at Kawthaung-Ranong was closed last 
August following the killing of three Burmese crewmen on 
board of a Thai fishing vessel. When in Rangoon Mr Banharn 
is expected to witness the signing of a border trade 
agreement between the two countries.

But it is still uncertain whether Rangoon will open the 
three border checkpoints. The source said the Mr Banharn is 
expected to decide on the date for his official visit after 
the Asia-Europe Meeting on March 1-2. He is also expected to 
take into account the results of the two-day talks between 
the Thai-Burmese Regional Border Committee in Moulmein 
ending today.

Following the killing of the three Burmese fishermen, the 
Burmese government has reportedly demanded 2.5 billion baht 
for losses of opportunity in conducting fishing business, 
and 25 million baht more for each victim.

The court in Ranong province that sentenced two Thai 
suspects to life imprisonment has commuted it to 25 years in 
jail. Regarding the visit to China, Mr Banharn is scheduled 
to visit China?s capital of Beijing, an old city Xi-An and 
Shan Tou. Speculation is rife that Shan Tou is included in 
the visit because it is the hometown of the premier?s 
ancestors _ Ma Dexiang. (BP)


February 20, 1996

Twelve Italian tourists found out that Visit Myanmar Year 
doesn?t mean the whole country. The army trucked them out of 
a northern hilltribe village and sent them back to the 
capital, Italian Embassy officials said yesterday.

?They were very angry about it,? a spokesman for the embassy 
in Rangoon, who requested anonymity, told The Associated 
Press by telephone. It was the second reported incident in a 
month of troops harassing tourists in northern Burma. The 
military government has renamed the country Myanmar.

Burma?s military government, which has been denied aid and 
loans from international financial institutions because of 
its brutal human rights record, has been busy promoting 
Visit Myanmar Year 1996. It hopes an influex of tourists 
will provide it with badly needed foreign currency.

In a letter to the embassy, they told of being awakened at 1 
a.m. on January 3 in a Kachin village named Nam Khan by 
soldiers who said they did not have permission to be there. 
The travellers believed permission had been obtained by 
their tour operator.

They said they were loaded on to an old, open-backed 
military truck in temperatures of 0 C (34F) and driven to 
the city of Putao. During the journey, the truck nearly fell 
off a bridge, they said. In Putao, they were forced on to a 
plane for Rangoon, the capital, they added.

The embassy spokesman said he thought the problem was lack 
of communication between the central Burmese authorities and 
those in Kachin state, which opened up for tourism only in 
late 1995. Burma, he said, is not prepared for the wave of 
tourists it wants to attract. He said he sent a protest 
letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry 
of Hotels and Tourism, but has yet to receive a reply. 

Also in January, a group of British and American cyclists 
who had planned to travel from the northern city of Mandalay 
to the ancient capital of Pagan, and received approval from 
the Myanmar Cycling Federation, was stopped at the beginning 
of its journey by army troops and military intelligence and 
forced back to Rangoon.

The cyclists claimed their bicycles were damaged and that 
they were followed and harassed, and one said soldiers 
robbed him of $1,500 in cash and gems. Burmese authorities 
never responded to their questions about why they were 
treated in such a manner, they said. (BP)


Union Day speeches highlight Burma?s deep political 
February 20, 1996
Report: Nussara Sawatsawang and Nusara Thaitawat, Rangoon.

Burma?s celebrations marking the 49th anniversary of Union 
Day vividly illustrated the clash in ideology and approach 
between the ruling junta and pro-democracy leader Aung San 
Suu Kyi.

Burmese Prime Minister Gen Than Shwe, who also chairs the 
State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) and Mrs Suu 
Kyi took the opportunity in separate gatherings to call for 
unity among all ethnic groups.
The government?s were more solemn, with senior leaders 
reviewing a line-up of members of ethnic groups.

About 3,000 supporters of Mrs Suu Kyi?s National League for 
Democracy filled her lakeside compound to hear speeches by 
her and ethnic leaders. Both events featured cultural 

?The historic milestone that clearly indicated the Union 
spirit, patriotic spirit and nationalism of the national 
races in Myanmar in their struggles is the signing of the 
Panglong Agreement,? said Gen Than Shwe in his official 
message in the state-run New Light of Myanmar to commemorate 
Union Day.

Gen Than Shwe urged ethnic groups to stand behind the 
military to safeguard ?the already favourable conditions of 
unity?. He was referring to the cease-fires with 15 ethnic 
groups. He defined their rights as part of the Slorc-
sponsored national convention which is drafting Burma?s new 
constitution, a process rejected by all democratic forces.

?The national convention in session has formulated 
constitutional fundamental principles which will guarantee 
to serve the political, economic and social rights of the 
respective national races in building a new nation,? Gen 
Than Shwe said.

Mrs Suu Kyi said in her speech and in writing that the first 
and most important issue to be tackled was the Panglong 
Agreement. She called for a national convention to be held, 
rekindling the Panglong spirit. ?Unity is something that 
cannot be gained through the use of force or by arbitrary 
power,? she said.

She told Inside Indochina during an interview that: ?The 
spirit of the agreement is still much alive within the NLD 
and a lot of people in Burma. It is basically an acceptance 
of the fact that we are all equal within the union and it is 
on the basis of equality that we will seek unity.?

The agreement of February 12, 1947 draws its name from a 
small market town north of Loilem in the Shan State, where 
leaders of the Shans, Kachins, Chins and Burmese 
nationalists represented by Gen Aung San, agreed to unite in 
diversity to rebuild their devastated country following 
British rule, Japanese occupation and World War II.

It is recognised as one of the most significant achievements 
in nation-building in Burma, and has since been celebrated 
as Union Day. Mrs Suu Kyi continues to stand by her position 
that only a political settlement through talks will resolve 
Burma?s political problems.

She said Burma?s returning to a federal system would not 
automatically guarantee the rights of the ethnic groups to 
secede but would clearly demarcate the powers of the central 
and state governments.

?The world federal acquired a rather strange meaning in 
Burma because a lot of people in Burma seem to think that 
federal means the right to secede, which is not what the 
word federal means,? she said.

Mrs Suu Kyi stressed enough autonomy was needed for ethnic 
groups to maintain their culture and pride and, more 
importantly, to keep their faith in the union. ?They should 
see the union as an institution that protects them, helps 
them, not as something which discriminates against them,? 
she said.

Mrs Suu Kyi rejects the Slorc?s ceasefire agreements with 
ethnic groups as only temporary. She also accuses the Slorc 
of going back on its word not to deal with drug warlord Khun 
Sa, who it seems to treat as an equal, judging from 
television and newspaper coverage.

?A ceasefire, by its nature can be only temporary because it 
just means you don?t fire for the time being. Unless there 
is a political settlement, unless there is a social and 
political climate that can convince people that it is no 
longer necessary to bear arms to defend their lives, we 
shall never have permanent peace in this country,? she said.

Since her release from six years of house arrest, Mrs Suu 
Kyi and the Slorc are still to open talks. Some Rangoon-
based diplomats and Burma observers doubt the Slorc will 
negotiate with her, even though it believes Mrs Suu Kyi, as 
an academic and daughter of a national hero, has a lot to 
contribute to Burma in the fields of education, culture and 

?The Slorc is like those who have ridden a tiger, they will 
never think of getting off,? One Asian diplomat said. An 
observer noted the Slorc had recently changed the word 
?reconciliation? to ?reconsolidation? in its political 
objectives published in the state-owned newspaper since Khun 
Sa surrendered last month, meaning it believed in its 
strength and did not care much about friendly relations with 
other groups.

But Mrs Suu Kyi remains unmoved by the various analyses of 
her future political role, which she insists will be decided 
by the Burmese people. ?We firmly believe it cannot be long 
before we get democracy. The chief reason is the desire of 
the people of Burma for democracy is very strong. We think 
we will get to democracy sooner rather than later,? she 

While maintaining her call for dialogue, she has kept 
herself busy meeting supporters, diplomats and international 
organisations, and through her now famous weekend speeches 
from the gate of her house. Last week, her compound hosted 
Union Day and Children?s Day celebrations to lend moral 
support to her followers. She also hopes to travel more 
around the country.

The NLD has recently started to hold meetings of its 
representatives from all over the country. A party source 
said that every fortnight a lecture would be given to 
educate party members about democracy. The topics would 
include Burma?s history, literature and laws such as 
prisoners? rights.

?The NLD is strong. It was dormant for six years, so we are 
having to wake it up a bit, but everybody was surprised at 
how quickly we started operating again after my release from 
house arrest. Operating under difficult circumstances, but 
operating,? Mrs Suu Kyi said. (BP)


February 20, 1996

Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet has pledged his 
government?s support for Burma?s bid join the Association of 
Southeast Asian Nations. Mr Kiet told visiting  Burmese 
Interior Minister Mya Thin that Vietnam always supported 
Burma?s wish to strengthen ties with Asean, the English-
language Vietnam News reported.

Burma acceded to Asean?s Treaty of Amity and Coopertion and 
applied for observer status at the annual meeting of Asean 
foreign ministers in Brunei last July. Asean allowed Rangoon 
to accede to its main treaty, but declined observer status.

Mr Mya Thin led a delegation of Burmese Interior Ministry 
officials for his first working visit to Vietnam which ended 
February 12. Burmese minister, who is a member of the ruling 
State Law and Order Restoration Council, also was the first 
Burmese minister to visit Vietnam this year.

Mr Kiet said more efforts should be made to boost ties 
between the two countries, adding Vietnam was ready to share 
experiences with Burma in agriculture.

Burmese Prime Minister and Slorc chairman Gen Than Shwe has 
invited Vietnamese Communist Party chief Do Muoi and 
President Le Duc Anh to visit Rangoon this year, according 
to the Vietnamese press.

The two countries have gradually established closer 
relations with an exchange of visits at various levels. The 
visits were highlighted last March with the visit to Vietnam 
by a 40-member delegation led by Gen Than Shwe and the visit 
to Burma by Mr Kiet in May 1994. The two countries 
established ties in 1975. (BP)


February 21, 1996

Two job brokers and 37 Burmese were charged with immigration 
offences yesterday. Acting on a tip, police stopped Term 
Chaisitha and his wife Malai, of Thong Pha Phum, in their 

The couple led police to a hill behind the Mitaphand Hotel, 
where the Burmese were waiting to be taken to factories in 
Samut Songkhram Province. (BP)


February 21, 1996

Human rights and democracy, the arms race and the sexual 
exploitation of women and children will be among the topics 
discussed by more than 100 non-government organisations from 
Asia, Europe and Thailand in a parallel meeting to the 
upcoming Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) later this month.

The organisers yesterday announced the meeting on the theme 
of ?A People?s Agenda Towards a New Relationship Between 
and Europe? to take place between Feb 27-29 at the Asia 

Like the official summit meeting, it will focus on major 
issues arising from bilateral relations between the two 
continents but from the perspective of NGOs and people?s 

Dr Walden Bello of the University of the Philippines, one of 
the organisers, said the NGO meeting will complement the 
official focus on selected issues. ?NGOs will bring diverse 
perspectives to the forum,? Mr Bello said.

Some of the issues of concern to NGOs are the regional arms 
race, especially the role of European countries as arms 
suppliers to Asian nations, the development model, and the 
role of European countries in the sex trade.

One of the more controversial issues, human rights, will 
feature in the NGO forum. While the official summit meeting 
will have the issue in the agenda, Thai officials have made 
clear that attempts will be made to avoid debate in detail 
avoid conflicts that may arise.

But the NGO discussions will possibly have more substance, 
involving issues such as Burma and East Timor, labour 
immigration and prejudices faced by foreign labourers in 
European countries, and the link between human rights and 

Somchai Homla-or of Forum Asia said: ?We don?t agree with 
attempt to exploit the human rights issue to gain trade 
advantages as some western countries do. But human rights 
trade cannot be separated _ for example, the exploitation of 
child labour in export industries. Products made from child 
labour should by boycotted.?

Mr Somchai, a prominent lawyer, is also concerned with the 
western countries? attempt to impose their concept of 
intellectual property rights on other nations by ignoring 
indigenous knowledge which he said western firms have 
exploited for their benefit.

Leading organiser Dr Gothom Arya of Chulalongkorn University 
said he is more concerned with the exploitation of 
disadvantaged groups such as women, children and labourers, 
as well as the exploitation of natural resources and the 
proliferation and dumping of toxic waste.

As a prominent human rights advocate, Dr Gothom said he will 
continue to call for an arms embargo against the Burmese 
Government. ?Human rights is a fundamental social issue,? he 
said. ?Man?s dignity and freedom are noble ideals to be 
upheld. We should not exclusively work for economic growth 
while overlooking human growth.?

Even in Thailand, which has reached a certain level of 
economic prosperity, human rights abuses are evident 
everywhere, he said. ?Look at the conditions of our 
and children or the exploitation of natural resources, even 
the recent shutdown of Dr Chermsak?s television and radio 
programmes,? he said.

On press reports that Thai officials have blacklisted  
several foreign activists from participating in the meeting, 
Dr Gothom said the organisers have received confirmation 
the National Security Council that none of the foreign 
speakers and participants is blacklisted.

He said the meeting aims to offer national leaders and the 
common people alike alternative ideas and perspectives on 
major issues to be discussed. He expected the meeting to 
produce a document containing these ideas as a historic 
record and a joint statement by all participants. (BP)


Indochinese countries and Burma offer business no clear best 
February 20, 1996
Report: Special Correspondent

>From the financial perspective, investment in Indochina 
offers no clear winners, according to speakers at a recent 
Economist Conferences session organised by Dataconsult Ltd 

For instance, although the financial markets in Vietnam are 
the most sophisticated in relative terms, nearly all local 
money is concentrated in the hands of the state sector.

By contrast in Burma finance is in a rudimentary stage, but 
there are pockets of considerable wealth in private hands. 
Then again, while for some countries a stock exchange may be 
round the corner, for others it is only a faint possibility.

In Vietnam, large limited-recourse finance deals, such as 
$190 million package arranged between the Exim bank of Japan 
and the International Finance Corp for Morning Star Cement, 
have become less exceptional.

?There are alternatives to coming in with your own bank plus 
buckets of equity and collateral to get things moving,? said 
Gene Davis of venture capital firm Finansa Thai.

Investors in Vietnam can conduct all the standard banking 
transactions that make life easier, such as transferring 
money, paying employees, issuing cheques, buying all selling 
currency. By contrast in Burma very few regular bank 
transactions are possible and the 20-fold discrepancy  
between the official and black market exchange rates remains 
a major barrier despite the expansion of the foreign 
certificate scheme and opportunities to convert investments 
to hard currencies.

Even international trade is still conducted mainly through 
batter. ?Frankly, the best hope for Burma this year will be 
the continued engagement of Japanese private capital,? 
Michael Votikiotis of the Far Eastern Economic Review told 
the conference. ?Although it is a slow process at least it 
acts as an incentive to stabilise the fiscal regime.?

Self-funded private investors are already meeting the demand 
for finance in the substantial power and oil and gas sectors 
and, for every company which holds back for fear of public 
approbation, another, particularly those from Singapore, 
South Korea, Japan and Malaysia, is willing to do business 
with the uniforms.

Trade has also benefited from this trend. Wealthy 
corporations are distributing consumer goods and various 
commodities into a rapidly expanding domestic market, 
according to Mr Davis, while traditionally illicit exports, 
such as forestry, fisheries and jewellery, are becoming more 

In wider terms, the greater role of the International 
Monetary Fund is a positive trend, even if it has yet to 
fruit. In the meantime, private finance companies go some 
toward bridging the gap, such as Daiwa Securities mandate to 
advise the government on the establishment of a stock 

Surprisingly, Burma was tipped to get a bourse before 
Vietnam, and this could act as a further incentive for 
multinational investors to take the plunge. Burma has many 
more private companies than Vietnam plus a more 
legal frame-work on which to build the necessary 

Nevertheless, Vietnam is moving in the right direction with 
the expected establishment of a Securities and Exchange 
Commission this year, the first concrete step toward 
an organised securities exchange. Meanwhile, Laos has little 
hope of beating Burma or Vietnam in establishing a stock 

?With a population of only four million mainly engaged in 
farming, there simply isn?t the critical mass to support an 
exchange,? said Mr Davis, noting the attractivitiveness of 
many investments depends on being able to secure listing on 
stock exchange as the company develops.

At least there are no such barriers to developing 
generation in Laos. With the Electricity Generating 
of Thailand willing to enter long-term power purchase 
agreements and hold discussions on at least 15 different 
power projects, finance is not a problem.

Because the EGAT will buy the power, the projects will earn 
hard currency, making them viable  for international 
The situation is similar for exploitation of natural 

For those looking for joint ventures, Mr Davis told the 
conference: ?In Vietnam there?s hardly anyone in the private 
sector who has dime. You have to look hard to find a handful 
of private entities with $5-10 million in hand if you want 
make a deal, whereas in Burma and Cambodia there are scores 
of private individuals with tens of millions of dollars at 
their disposal.?

In Vietnam state enterprises bound up in bureaucracy are the 
only way to go for investors looking for a joint venture 
partner, whereas the field is more open in Burma or 


"Visitors must make up their minds before too late an hour 
if they intend to stay the night because their presence has 
to be reported to the local Law and Order Restoration 
Council (LORC) before nine o'clock in the evening."  Daw 
Aung San Suu Kyi


Letter from Burma (No. 13) by Aung San Suu Kyi

        The Burmese are reputed to be one of the most 
hospitable people in the world.  When I was a child I took 
it for granted that formal invitations to lunch or tea or 
dinner were issued only to foreigners.  Burmese friends 
simply dropped in and shared whatever you happened to be 
eating.  And there was always enough for visitors, however 
unexpected.  Often friends would suddenly appear in the 
evening, hot green tea, plum candy, fried beans and /laphet/ 
(preserved tea leaves) would be brought out and there would 
be an impromptu party.  Sometimes the conversation flowed so 
happily and the atmosphere was so congenial the guests would 
decide to stay for the night. 

That would be no problem at all: some smooth /thinbyu/ mats, 
pillows and mosquito nets and any room with a fresh breeze 
bowing through would be instantly transformed into a 
pleasant guest dormitory.  Night would descend on a 
household replete with food and the sense of hospitality 
well discharged.         There is no tradition of inns or 
hotels in Burma.  Visitors from out of town stay with 
friends or relatives for as long as it is necessary. 

Considerate guests come laden with food and other gifts and 
everybody enjoys the opportunity to exchange news of births, 
deaths, marriages, mild scandals and success stories.  
Sometimes guests stay on so long the hosts become a little 
restive.  But there are also guests so cherished their visit 
is extended day after day at the behest of the hosts.  
Having guests to stay is an informal and elastic process.
Hospitality is no longer so simple.  Apart from the high 
food prices that make most people hesitate to impose 
themselves on friends, staying overnight in a house other 
than your own involves more than friendship, good 
conversation an a cool mat.  Visitors must make up their 
minds before too late an hour if they intend to stay the 
night because their presence has to be reported to the local 
Law and Order Restoration Council (LORC) before nine o'clock 
in the evening.  Failure to "report the guest list" could 
result in a fine or a prison sentence for both the guest and 
the host. Nobody may go away for the night from his own home 
without informing the local LORC as well as the LORC of the 
place where he will be staying.  The authorities have the 
right to check at any time during the night to see if there 
are any unreported guests or if any of the members of the 
family are missing.  Households which shelter members of the 
National League for Democracy or their supporters tend to be 
subjected to frequent "guest checks" these days.
These periodic checks can be a mere formality conducted with 
courtesy or they can be a form of harassment.  There are no 
lack of cases where the authorities have marched in the dead 
of night and flung up mosquito nets to ascertain that the 
sleeping population tallied with the names and numbers on 
Form 10.  

Form 10 is the list of all members of a family.  In some 
households which comprise more than one nuclear family there 
may be more than one Form 10.  Domestic employees who sleep 
at their employers' homes also have to be registered on Form 
10 or they have to be reported as guests.

A person may be registered on only one Form 10 so if it is 
necessary for him to be entered as a member of another 
family fro some reason, his name has to be removed from the 
original family list. 

During the days of the Burmese Socialist Programme Party, 
Form 10 played a central role in the daily lives of the 
people of Burma.  It was in accordance with the household 
members listed on the form that it was decided how much a 
family was entitled to buy of such essentials as rice, oil, 
salt, chilies, onions, soap and milk powder from the 
government cooperatives. 

Today the cooperatives no longer supply consumer necessities 
so Form 10 has ceased to be important in the economic life 
of the average family.  However it still features large in 
the family's social life because it decides who may or may 
not spend the night in a house without reporting to the 

And what can happen if a family fails to let the local LORC 
know they have an overnight guest?  Both the guest and the 
host are liable to minimum fine of 50 kyats, or to a prison 
sentence ranging from two weeks to six months.  
Since 1988 the cases of prison sentences meted out to 
unreported guests have increased hugely.  Some of the cases 
are tragicomic.  A young man caught spending the night as an 
unreported guest was taken to court together with his host.  
The court handed down a prison sentence of six months to the 
guest and two weeks to the host.  The host, a hospitable man 
with a long experience of paying fines for his unexpected 
and unreported guests, involuntarily clicked his tongue 
against his teeth in astonished disgust. 

The acting magistrate heard the loud click and promptly 
changed the sentence on the host to one month's imprisonment 
for contempt of court.  The price of hospitality in Burma 
can be very high.
* * *
(This article is one of a yearlong series of letters, the 
Japanese translation of which appears in the Mainichi 
Shimbun the same day, or the previous day in some areas.)


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