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BurmaNet News: May 3, 1996 [#398]

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The BurmaNet News: May 3,1996
Issue #398

Noted in Passing:

    I know you guys joined the army not because you love=20
    your country but because you have your personal problems=20
    and conflicts with your families. - SLORC drill sargeant to
    new recruits.


NO.4, VOLUME.6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

Tay Za and four others were locked up in an 8' by 10' cell for=20
thirty days and were given only two mats. While in Insein prison,=20
he saw Aung Kyaw Oo and Aung Aung from NLD. They were Aung San=20
Suu Kyi's bodyguards and were released in 1994.

In September 1989, political prisoners including Tay Za organised=20
a small ceremony for the one year anniversary of the bloody coup=20
in their cell. Prison officials entered and all 48 political=20
prisoners, were clubbed and beaten.

Then U Maung Maung Tin, U Myo Aung [PDP], U Shwe Aye, U Thein=20
Win, Tin Than Oo, U Hla Htwe, Kyaw Han Htwe, Moe Gyo [a] Tin=20
Htut and Soe Aung were accused of being organisers of the ceremony.=20
They were sent to 'dog cells,' previously used as a kennel for=20
army-trained dogs. The cell was infested by fleas.

"Food was so bad, and we refused to work," said Tay Za, we had=20
rights, we asked them to feed us properly, demanded access to=20
health care, we were not even allowed to take a bath, nor were=20
our family members allowed to visit us." Later there was a new=20
torture as protest by political prisoners went on.

About 225 political prisoners were chained and seated=97their heads=20
keep down from 12pm to 4am.

Tay Za said U Bo Kyi, head of Insein prison, is brutal and hates=20
political prisoners.=20

Tay Za was sent to Thayawaddy prison. Conditions in prison were=20
appalling. There was not enough medicines. The food was bad and=20
in short supply. Many political prisoners became sick. As a=20
result, on January 1, 1991 Than Win [NLD] died in prison.=20

"If prisoners took a bath, they had to walk out of their cell=20
with their heads down. If not, they were clubbed." Tay Za recalled.

After spending years in Thayawaddy, he was sent to Myin Chan=20
prison. He witnessed the most dreadful incident that occurred in=20
prison. Hundreds of Karen were sent there after a fierce battle=20
broke out between them and government troops in Bokalay, in the=20
Irrawaddy delta. All the Karen villagers, former members of the=20
insurgent group and other suspected rebels were subjected to=20
severe torture and beaten up savagely.=20

As a result, 93 Karens died in prison.

On June 21, 1994, 12 political prisoners from Insein prison=20
arrived in Myin Chan. They were bound, blindfolded and clubbed=20
before being thrown to a tiny cell. Prison officials destroyed=20
all their possessions.=20

He saw seven political prisoners who are mentally ill. "If you=20
are criminals they treat you nicely but not to us [political=20
prisoners] =97 ironically, we were considered real criminals," he said.


NO.4, VOLUME.6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

In March, five Slorc soldiers defected to KNPP controlled area.=20
The main reason was personal conflict with their superior=20
officers. As soon as the group arrived at the camp they received=20
a pleasant welcome and 3,000 Baht each.=20

"We got drunk and fought," said Cpl Maung Win. Seemingly, the=20
five cited Tatmadaw's strict regulations as a main reason that=20
forced them to defect to the Karenni. Myo Min Aung said most=20
people joined the army because they fail exams, don't want to=20
study anymore, quarrelled with parents or girl friends, find it=20
difficult to find a job, or have committed crimes.=20

Cpl Maung Win said life in the KNPP camp is easier and better,=20
"There are fewer restrictions, no shortage of food. When we were=20
in the army, we were afraid of anyone who had a higher rank. We=20
had to salute everyone we saw."

Myo Min Aung estimated that during training 120 of the 260=20
recruits were under the age of 16. "I know you guys joined the=20
army not because you love your country but because you have your=20
personal problems and conflicts with your families," he recalled=20
the drill sergeant as saying to them.  [BIG]


NO.4 VOLUME.6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

IT was the second time Thintbawa was heavily censored by the=20
Press Scrutiny Board. The February issue's cover story was about=20
journalism in Burma.=20

"This was about whether journalism in Burma is still alive or=20
not. It was a good debate," said one well-informed source. The=20
source continued: "But they [authorities] did not want it. Nor=20
did they want the public to read it."=20

Journalism in Burma is virtually dead. Only the Slorc way of=20
journalism still exists: one-sided reporting and writing.

Whatever the case, approximately 78 pages were ordered torn out.=20
Thint-bawa's current senior writer Ludu U Sein Win has been=20
contributing a series of articles about journalism. He is a well-
known journalist, who works for Ludu newspaper and journal.=20

Prior to this incident, 58 pages were torn out of the January=20
issue of Thint-bawa by PSB officials. =20

Sarpay journal was also warned not to print full cover=20
photographs of well-known writers on its cover.  The journal=20
recently published an autobiographical series about Dagon Tayar,=20
Mya Than Tint, and Ludu Daw Ah Ma and Burma's well-known writers=20
and artists. They are well-experienced, well-respected writers.=20
Ludu Daw Ah Ma, for instance, is a friend of Gen Aung San.

Dagon Tayar and Mya Than Tint, were accused of being communists=20
and were sent to jail at least three times. Mya Than Tint was=20
sent to Co Co island in 1960s. In the 1980s and 1992 he won=20
national literature awards. (Inside Sources)


NO.4, VOLUME.6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

THE civil war in Burma is still going on.  As it is, many people=20
have suffering and many killed during the battles. Soldiers from=20
government and ethnic armies have committed serious human rights=20
violations. They have killed and tortured many villagers without=20
reason and forced many people including children, and women to=20
work as porters. The tatmadaw, especially, has been using=20
children as porters on the front-line when they attack ethnic groups.=20

Many child porters have been killed in the fighting. Some died in=20
the jungle because of malnutrition and lack of sanitation. Some=20
were used as mine sweepers.=20

There are many reasons for Slorc using the child porters: some=20
child porters who have fled to the Thai-Burmese border said,=20
"When they (tatmadaw soldiers) arrived in the village, they=20
usually take villagers for porters."=20

Villagers usually knew the troop movements beforehand so that=20
they could hide in the jungle. But women and children remained in=20
the village. Troops arrived and found no men but arrested the=20
children and women."

There are many sad stories about child porters. Ken May Lo is 14=20
years old. His parents are U Pan Lan and Daw Mi Ton , of  Padaung=20
nationality. He was arrested by soldiers from LIB.250. Coy: (4),=20
when he went back home from town he was sent to a military column=20
as a porter. He saw some children, elderly men and women working=20
as porters as well.

He was often beaten, punched, and kicked by soldiers because he=20
could not carry heavy loads. He wasn't given enough food. [Only=20
one can of boiled rice per male two times a day.]=20

On the way to the battlefield, he recalled he could not walk and=20
was crying every day as he had to carry heavy loads. He saw a=20
porter shot dead for trying to escape.=20

Another porter was sick and could not walk any longer. An army=20
officer, about 45, came in and  beat him. Other soldiers joined=20
in and beat him to death.=20

Ken May Lo and some remaining porters buried him.

Finally, he persuaded other porters to escape. When he and two=20
porters did  he stepped on a land mine. He suffered splinter=20
injuries to the knee, lower leg, upper right and left leg and=20
right upper hand and some splinters were still inside the body.=20
Now he is in Karenni refugee camp No 1.

It is not only Slorc but also some ethnic armed groups which use=20
children as porters. [Reported by Zaw Htun]


NO.4, VOLUME.6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

IN February Aung San Suu Kyi said that since her release, the=20
junta has become more repressive. In February, UNDCP Executive=20
Director Georgio Giacamelli was villified in the New Light of=20
Myanmar just because he had visited her, even though he notified=20
Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw. Ohn Gyaw informed the UNDCP that they=20
should have no dealings with Suu Kyi. =20

In February, Nakajima, the head of WHO, made arrangements to see=20
'the lady' on his way back from Mandalay. However, according to=20
sources, his plane was inexplicably delayed for 2 hours so that=20
he missed his appointment with her and had to continue on abroad=20
without even being allowed access to make a phone to call her.=20

Several prominent foreign dignitaries have also been denied visas=20
because of plans to see her. Dr Michael Aris was also denied a=20
visa to see his wife.

One observer said: "Suu Kyi believes the Slorc has become nervous=20
about contacts with her, because their legitimacy is precarious."=20
Sources said monthly meetings of NGOs in Rangoon, came to a=20
decision not to visit Suu Kyi's house or meet with the NLD. The=20
reason is their visits would jeopardize the ability of NGOs to=20
work in Burma.=20

"The junta is in a very ugly mood right now.  They are mad at all=20
the high- level people who want to see Suu Kyi and mad that=20
interest in her has not died down," commented a source. [Inside Sources]


NO.4, VOLUME. 6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

IN Suu Kyi's opinion, 1996 is a critical year for the stability=20
of the Slorc, and curtailing investments would be a major setback=20
for the junta. The Slorc cannot maintain the current level of=20
economic development because the system is not truly open. Only a=20
few in the society benefit.=20

Those trying to establish new enterprises often find themselves=20
denied necessary permits=97and their project ideas are then taken=20
over by those better connected.=20

Politicians and activists in Burma asked the international community=20
and campaingners to pressure the Japanese not to invest. =20

Some in Burma believe the Japanese government is actually=20
providing far more aid than appears on paper, and that Japanese=20
aid and investment is helping the Slorc considerably.=20

They  think that the Japanese government and businesses have been=20
encouraging the Slorc to hang on and perhaps giving them a false=20
sense of hope about economic successes in the future. (Inside Sources)


NO.4 VOLUME. 6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

A UNDP report said an estimated 80 per cent of students enrolled=20
in primary school drop-out before completion. Some 35 per cent of=20
children never enroll in primary school and only 25 per cent=20
complete the five year cycle. Ethnic border regions are severely=20
deficient. Worse still, in remote areas, ethnic minorities have=20
virtually no public services because of armed conflicts.

Slorc leaders know education is the only way to achieve democracy=20
and human rights. They themselves are not well-educated,=20
therefore the junta is deliberately stifling education because=20
they are afraid of educated students.

Since 1988 schools have been repeatedly shut and opened again due=20
to the unrest.=20

All professors and tutors are forced to become 'security=20
officers' or 'informers' to watch students activities.=20

The order from Khin Nyunt is that professors must do security=20
work=97make sure students do not write posters, manifestos, or do=20
political organizing.=20

Some professors even miss classes to do their security duty.

At the same time, as one professor put it "my salary is 2000=20
kyat, if you don't want to be corrupt, you can't stay in the system".

Professors, doctors and intellectuals have been leaving Burma=20
since 1962. More have followed since 1988. Some went to work in=20
Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Japan, and Africa. One Burmese well-
known writer, also a doctor, is also washing dishes in Japan. (Inside Sourc=


NO.4, VOLUME.6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw has conferred with a senior UN=20
official as part of an ongoing dialogue about the human rights=20
situation in his country.

The meeting, with Alvaro de Soto, an assistant secretary-general=20
for political affairs, was seen as the continuation of the=20
efforts which Secretary-General Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali had=20
been making under a General Assembly resolution adopted last=20
December dealing with the human rights situation in Burma.

The assembly resolution strongly urged Burma to release all=20
political prisoners and take steps toward a restoration of democracy.

Under the assembly resolution, Boutros-Ghali is to submit a=20
report to the current session in Geneva of the UN Human Rights=20
Commission and to the Assembly session opening in September.

Ohn Gyaw said any dialogue with Suu Kyi would put her on "an=20
equal footing with the government". According to the Slorc, the=20
National Convention was the forum in which political leaders,=20
including Suu Kyi, could engage in dialogue.=20

At home, politicians and activists criticise UN agencies.=20

Many UN employees are not really dedicated to their work. They do=20
not want to close their offices even if they are not helping,=20
because they will lose their jobs or their positions of prestige.=20

So what are UN agencies really up to? There was a report that the=20
World Health Organistion [WHO] recently gave three scholarship=20
awards for study in England, and one went to a colonel in the=20
Military Intelligence Service.=20

Moreover, local officials declared that those involved in=20
politics, especially those associated with the NLD, were not=20
allowed to participate in a UN- sponsored project teaching=20
mushroom cultivation.

Some said such things should not happen.

Suu Kyi and Burmese intellectuals said the UN agencies in Burma=20
should abide by measures passed by the UNGA, which insists that=20
UN projects must be in accordance with the will of the people.

Since the NLD won more than 80% of the vote, the NLD represents=20
the will of the people and should be involved in both the=20
decision-making and monitoring processes. "The NLD and the Slorc=20
should have equal voices in these processes," said a politician.

Unlike other UN agencies, the UNDP has gone to see Suu Kyi many=20
times and is now in trouble with the Slorc. Some suggested that=20
the Slorc might throw UNDP out of the country.=20

UNICEF and WHO are much worse, as they work closely with the=20
Slorc. (TN&BIG&Inside sources)


NO.4, VOLUME.6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

"Don't think that public and civil servants support Slorc," said=20
a man in Rangoon. He explained many in government service at all=20
levels do not support the Slorc. For one thing, the inflation is=20
hurting almost everyone. Also, people know the Slorc has no=20
principles. One source was particularly concerned to have=20
outsiders realize that university professors should be worked=20
with because very few actually support the Slorc. (Inside Sources)


NO.4, VOLUME.6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

"The movement isn't over=97it is still happening," said a student=20
activist in Rangoon.=20

On March 13, students planned to march from Rangoon University=20
to Suu Kyi's house, but troops blocked University Avenue and=20
nobody was allowed to pass through the area.=20

Sources said students might not like the current political=20
climate. Thus they might start taking political moves, but the=20
problem is how and when to start, said one observer.=20

"They [students] will follow Suu Kyi. They were ready to do=20
something at the Rangoon Diamond Jubilee, but  nothing happened=20
because Suu Kyi said 'no' to them. "They may be looking for a=20
spark to make them move," said one source.

People will take to the streets if Suu Kyi calls them to, said=20
the same source. But when will she call? (Inside sources)


NO.4, VOLUME.6-7, APRIL 15, 1996

"Do you know who this year's Thingyan star is?" asks Maung Win=20
Hlaing [not his real name] in Rangoon over the phone. Ye Aung,=20
Yan Aung, Soe Thu,  Sai Htee Hseng, May Than Nu Burma's famous=20
movie stars and singers who participated in the Slorc-organised=20
Thingyan tour in Rangoon.  "No, it is none of them," says Win Hlaing.=20

The star was none other than Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, military=20
intelligence chief and Secretary One of Slorc. =20

Lt Gen Khin Nyunt's recommendation to the Burmese people just=20
before the Thingyan was: "Don't commit treason" =97 "participate in=20
a gentle and polite way" during this week's water festival, or Thingyan.

"For all to take part merrily, revellers should stay clear of=20
making disturbances and agitations that may lead to=20
disintegration of national unity and a state of unrest," the=20
powerful general said. Water should refresh people's minds so=20
they can "energetically discharge national duties".=20

Special courts were set up to try wrongdoers during the=20
traditional New Year celebrations. He also warned against the=20
wearing of unsuitable clothes, drunkenness and "acts, speech and=20
behaviour injurious to the state, individual persons and organisations".

When Thingyan began no senior military officers but Khin Nyunt=20
wearing colourful Batik and a sport shirt visited performances at=20
government ministries, played the water with staff members and=20
government servants.=20

Imitating neighbouring Thai politicians Lt Gen Khin Nyunt was=20
singing a famous Myananda song with other singers and throwing=20
water at girls.=20

One said the general almost danced.  Another Thingyan spectator=20
said Khin Nyunt was accompanied by many intelligence officers and=20
some ministers who are believed to be his followers. But some=20
senior Slorc officers including Senior Gen Than Shwe did not show=20
up. Than Shwe, said a source, went to meditate at a quiet place.

"He [Khin Nyunt] is totally different from all senior leaders,"=20
said a source. He is just a shrewd politician, very polite and=20
charming," the source added. Khin Nyunt's Thingyan activities=20
were shown on Myanmar TV for hours.=20

He and Than Shwe's wife, Daw Kyaing Kyaing also visited some=20
departments at Rangoon University to play water. "Because of them=20
[Khin Nyunt and senior leaders] we were told to make necessary=20
arrangements and preparations," complained one professor. "We=20
didn't invite any of them," he said.

During the Thingyan, Khin Nyunt and his men visited all of their=20
strongholds to consolidate their power, sources said. But when he=20
paid a visit to see entertainment at the Defence Ministry stage=20
he was accompanied by deputy chairman of Slorc, Gen Maung Aye.=20

Analysts suggested Khin Nyunt lacks broad support within the=20
army. But Khin Nyunt's recent appearances at Thingyan festival=20
indicated that he is  Burma's pretender. (Inside Sources)


April 29, 1996

BURMA'S Asia World Co Ltd has signed a deal to build a new wharf
in Rangoon to handle sea-going vessels to meet the demands of the
country's growing economy a report said yesterday.

The contract for the new wharf, scheduled for completion in two
years, was awarded by the Myanma Port Authority the New Light of
Myanmar reported, without giving figures for the value of the project.

Minister for Transport Thein Win said it was the first time a
local firm had been charged with such a major project, adding
that all the country's imports and 90% of exports were handled at
the Rangoon port.

He said economic growth in Burma resulted in increased traffic at
the ps with the handling of conventional goods jumping 20-40% and
container services, jumping 60-80% in the past five years.

The port handled seven million tons cargo in the year to March
31, 1996, up 9.6% over the previous year, while container traffic
soared 63% over last year 73,198 units handled, he said.

Thein Win said that traffic at the port was likely to grow
rapidly in the next f years under the government's recently
unveiled economic plan, which targets domestic product (GDP)
growth at about 6% annually.

He added that the government planned to upgrade freight
facilities in Rangoon and in the southern port of Thilawa, where
four new wharves were being considered.


May 2,1996
By Philip McClellan
Rangoon, AFP

Faced with rampant inflation and an unwieldy dual exchange=20
rate, Burma is lurching into its new five-year economic plan=20
with high hopes of expanding its rickety economy by 6% a year.

At the heart of Burma's efforts to propel its economy forward=20
is the agricultural sector, which the country's economic administrators=20
hope can be rapidly modernised with the aim of boosting output.

"Since we are moving gradually towards a stronger industrial=20
base, the main thrust will be to industrialise agricultural=20
production," David Abel, minister for economic planning and=20
state development, told AFP in an interview Saturday.

Abel said that while industries such as fisheries and mining=20
would be central to the five-year plan unveiled in mid-April,=20
the main goal was to double the yield of the agricultural sector.

"This is achievable because we have land and resources which=20
will be coming on stream to support the sector in harmony=20
with the plan," he said.

Almost half of Burma's gross domestic product can be traced=20
back to the agriculture sector, comprised mainly of rice,=20
wheat, beans and pulses. According to World Bank figures, the=20
agricultural sector, including livestock, fisheries and=20
forest products, grew an estimated 6.1% in the fiscal year=20
ending April 1995, to 28.6 billion kyat ($240 million at the=20
prevailing market rate).

Abel said that efforts at doubling agricultural production=20
would be geared towards improving seeds and fertilisers in a=20
bid to raise yields, and towards increasing the land under=20
cultivation through improved irrigation.

Economic analysts in Rangoon say that agriculture is one area=20
where Burma will be able to partly make up for its inability=20
to bring in development funds from abroad to keep the economy=20
on an upward path.

"Economic growth in the past has been largely due to boosting=20
agriculture, especially by improving irrigation to try to=20
expand 'green zones' during the dry season," one Rangoon-
based economic analyst said.

Growing is largely limited to the four-month rainy season in=20
Burma due to poor irrigation networks, even in the Irriwaddy=20
delta, where barren fields lie fallow during the dry season.

The government says it has been boosting efforts to develop=20
irrigation across the country, a drive for which human rights=20
groups have accused the junta of resorting to forced labour.

Backed by vast natural resources and a burgeoning=20
agricultural sector, many Rangoon-based economists believe=20
the Burmese economy is capable of growing by the targetted 6% a year.

However, the country remains saddled with a huge external=20
debt and is reeling under the effects of rampant inflation,=20
officially running at about 20%, but which economists say=20
could be as high as 30% a year.

Burma's battered infrastructure needs a complete overhaul, and=20
complicating matters further is a dual exchange rate which the=20
government is loathe to abolish for fear of sparking still more inflation.

At the official rate, one US dollar buys about six kyats, but the dollar is=
exchanged for around 120 kyats at the prevailing market rate.

"On the economic front, people in urban areas are getting the=20
feel of what can be achieved," one analyst said, citing the=20
growing number of consumer goods flooding into Rangoon's=20
shops as evidence of an expanding economy.

But endemic poverty in the countryside will likely result in=20
a flow into the cities as rural residents hope to find work=20
in the booming construction sector, he said.

Despite the doom-mongers, Abel said he was confident that the=20
economy could expand by almost 40% in the five years ending=20
in 2001. The government says the economy grew by about 8% in=20
the fiscal year ending April.

Analysts agree that growth is on an upward trend but see=20
official estimates as greatly exaggerated. Many say that=20
Burma's economic statistics are usually skewed by selective=20
use of the dual exchange rate and incomplete data. (BP)


May 2, 1996 AFP

Rangoon- Burma's military leader, Than Shwe, marked May Day=20
by urging workers to "exert their utmost efforts" to forge a modern=20
nation, building on what he described as government successes.

In a holiday message issued through state newspapers, he said=20
strict discipline and sustained effort were needed to make a modern=20
nation of Burma, which he said was enjoying unprecedented peace.

"The entire mass of the national people including workers and=20
peasants are urged to play their role in the task together=20
with the government," he said. (TN)


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