[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

BurmaNet News May 8, 1996

Received: (from strider) by igc2.igc.apc.org (8.7.5/8.7.3) id KAA04228; Wed, 8 May 1996 10:06:32 -0700 (PDT)
Date: Wed, 8 May 1996 10:06:32 -0700 (PDT)

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

The BurmaNet News: May 8, 1996
Issue #402

Noted in Passing:	

		So there I was last week, calmly eating breakfast and 
		looking over my e-mail, when suddenly I found myself 
		under attack by Burmanet. - Stephen Brookes


BURMANET EDITOR'S NOTE: The following three articles are from the
Asia Times, a recently established newspaper which caters to businessmen
in Asia.  The first two articles attack BurmaNet readers for being naively 
pro-NLD and for not picking up weapons and joining the ethnic insurgencies.
We will be writing a letter to the editor of the Asia Times, which we hope will
be printed.  We will also post it on BurmaNet.  In the meantime, we would
like to ask BurmaNet readers to read the following pieces and judge for them-

May 6, 1996

SO there I was last week, calmly eating breakfast and looking over 
my e-mail, when suddenly I found myself under attack by Burmanet, 
an Internet discussion group that claims some 50,000 regular readers (sic)
of its pro-democracy information on Myanmar.

As I read on, I learned that Burmanet had reproduced one of my Asia 
Times articles "to show the type of propaganda and disinformation 
permitted an encouraged by Slorc-based journalists seeking favor with 
the Rangoon military regime at the cost of truth and verity discounting in 
vain as it attempts to discredit the rising popularity of Daw Aung San 
Suu Kyi and the her (sic) popular party, the NLD".

You can imagine my surprise: I had gone to bed the night before a mild-
mannered business journalist, and in the morning I had become a Slorc 

At the start of the Myanmar new year last month, I had written an overview 
of the political and economic scene here in which I apparently evoked the 
ire of some Burmanet contributors by noting, among other things, that Aung 
San Suu Kyi's popularity was waning with many of her former supporters in 
the NLD, that her current influence on the political and economic development 
of Myanmar was negligible, and that the Slorc seemed to be on a roll.

These views - which are widely, if privately, shared here in Yangon - seem to 
have set off a storm of righteous indignation on the Burmanet. First there was 
the characterization quoted above. And then there was this little note:

"Dear Readers, Does anyone have information on this Asia Times 
correspondent, and the Asia Times  organization now evidently seeking 
favor from Slorc as Asia Times expands its coverage of Burma, using 
pro-Slorc propaganda line to get access into Burma.

"Who is Stephen Brookes (Asia Times correspondent based in Yangon) 
and what's his story?

"Thank you. Dawn Star, Paris".

Enough dramatic cliches and silly accusations under fake names ("Dawn Star" 
is the translation of a Myanmar name often adopted by Burmese exile groups 
and individuals). I admit it: I am Stephen Brookes, and I am ready to confess 
all. Not that there is a lot to confess, really: I am just a reporter for a business-
oriented daily called Asia Times.

I come and go regularly to Yangon on a normal two-week journalist visa, like 
every other journalist. I have been doing this for about 10 months. Neither I 
nor Asia Times have any special status or access or privileges in Myanmar. 
We are not even allowed to have an official bureau here.

But I come as often as possible, I talk with everybody I can in every sector 
of society, and I try to do accurate, relevant and informed reporting, so that 
our readers can get a serious view of what is really going on. I have met 
members of Slorc and members of the NLD (including Daw Aung San Suu 
Kyi herself) and everybody in between.

And by being in Myanmar on a regular basis - rather than just parachuting 
in for the latest rewrite of the Slorc-Suu Kyi standoff - we are working to 
deepen our understanding of what is really happening here and to get that 
information out into the world.

And let me stress: We are not in the preaching business. We do not lecture 
our readers on political morality. I am not here to recite NLD dogma or Slorc 
dogma or anybody's dogma for that matter. We leave propagandizing to the 
New Light of Myanmar - and, of course, to Burmanet. But we are reasonably 
perceptive at Asia Times and everything that I have noted about the NLD's 
current stagnation, though it may be unpleasant for its supporters to hear, is 

And I would hope that sensible Burmanet readers (of which there are many) 
will think seriously about it, because this closed-minded, kill-the-messenger 
attitude some of its contributors have taken toward Asia Times- "It prints 
things we don't like, therefore it is a Slorc propaganda mouthpiece" - is exactly 
what is destroying the NLD.

At this point, Aung San Suu Kyi has surrounded herself with a court of acolytes 
who only tell her what they think she wants to hear. People who dare to suggest 
that some economic and social conditions are actually improving, or that the 
NLD is losing support, or that she needs to get more pragmatic, are vilified 
as minions of Slorc.

And the result. The NLD has no practical plan for developing the country - 
it has become an aimless, splintered talking shop, increasingly out of touch 
with the new realities of Myanmar, producing nothing but platitudes and the 
occasional political prisoner.

I do not mean to sound unduly harsh, but this is why Aung San Suu Kyi and 
the NLD are losing support here in Myanmar.  Many of Burmanet's better-
informed readers know this already. And her fingers-in-the-ears approach is 
only exacerbating the NLD's isolation.

Aung San Suu Kyi is admired around the world, but she is sidelined in the 
only place it really counts. Sure, you can argue that it is all Slorc's fault for 
refusing to play by Western democratic rules - they play by their own rules - 
but Slorc is there. They are real.

And like it or not, that is not likely to change any time soon. Washington may 
bark, but it is not going to send troops to Yangon. US students may boycott 
Pepsi, but there will not be an international embargo. A massive popular 
revolution here is unlikely, to say the least. And Slorc is not going to wake up 
one morning, slap its forehead and say: "Gosh we forgot to allow Suu Kyi to 
take power. Let's all resign right away."

So it is reasonable to ask - as many people here are asking 
- how Aung San Suu Kyi plans to deal with that reality.

Does she really want to take part in Myanmar's development?  If so, does 
she have a pragmatic plan? And is she prepared to make the difficult 
political and personal compromises with reality that would be necessary?

I do not know the answers to these questions. But stay turned: I am putting 
in a request today meet her. I will let you know what she says. (AT)

Stephen Brookes is an Asia Times correspondent based in Yangon. 


May 6, 1996

IN the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Vietnam War catalyzed 
radical student movements not only in the West but also in 
numerous countries throughout Asia.

And as is likely the case at most newspapers and magazines 
worldwide, many of our senior editorial staff not only 
sympathized with but were active participants in the 
widespread political dissent of that period. It is at least 
in part on the basis of experiences then that we formulate 
our editorial opinion and judge elements of news coverage.

To provide background to our coverage of events in Myanmar, 
we single out developments in Thailand since the early 
1970s, though we could just as readily draw on events in the 
Philippines, Korea or elsewhere.

By 1973, the Thanom/Prapas military and police dictatorship had run 
its course. The government was widely discredited and was just awaiting 
its demise. In mid-October, mass protests drawing hundreds of thousands 
in central locations in Bangkok forced the dictators to resign and 
ignominiously leave the country.

A brief interlude of wild, woolly and ineffectual democratic experiments 
ensued, only to give way to another military takeover. And this time, in 
October 1976, the new rulers deployed massive military force and gunned 
down hundreds of students encamped at one of Thailand's two leading 

IN response, and no longer prepared to believe in peaceful 
struggle for a more liberal political system, thousands of students 
joined the Communist Party  of Thailand in armed struggle in the 
jungles of the north, the northeast and the south of the country. At 
the same time, significant numbers of their former high school and 
university classmates joined the military.

The two groups killed each other without mercy for a period 
of four years, and in some places a lot longer. Only when 
outside support ceased, in part because of falling out 
between Vietnamese and Chinese communists over Hanoi's 
invasion of Cambodia, did the fighting begin to subside.

Then prime minister Kriangsak Chomanan took initial steps to 
effect reconciliation, making deals with all sides. But 
those who had died did not return and many others never 
realized or fully understood what had happened to them.

We need not see such a tragic spectacle repeated. Thus, we 
have some pointed comments and caustic advice for the 
Internet armchair intellectuals of Burmanet.

If they truly believe in the need for an uncompromising and 
unnegotiated end to the political system in Myanmar, it 
would be far better for them actually to stand behind their 
words and join one of the various ethnic insurgent groups in 
armed struggle against Yangon than to prompt naive and 
idealistic young people in that country to take up arms 
against each other in a largely fruitless endeavor.

This Hemingwayesque romanticism, turning the struggle in 
Myanmar into a sort of 1990s Spanish Civil War, may not 
actually help Myanmar, but it might benefit the world in 
general by producing a similar quantity of great art and literature.

But for those Burmanet contributors seriously concerned to bring 
meaningful political and economic change to Myanmar, we suggest 
that a gradual and evolutionary approach is the only one likely to succeed.

We do not for a moment mean to suggest that economic 
development will in and of itself engender more liberal 
political structures. But again drawing on the example of 
Thailand, there is no question that the economic takeoff and 
rapid progress after 1985 quickly swelled the ranks of the Thai middle 
class, with its own distinctive political and economic interests.

The same thing undoubtedly will happen in Myanmar. Such a 
new middle class will negotiate its economic and political 
concerns with the powers that be and, as occurred in 
Thailand in 1992, this process may ultimately lead to violence.

But  it will not be a case of largely uninformed and 
innocent groups being thrown into battle as cannon fodder 
without a full understanding of where their fight will take them.

And a final word of caution to the Burmanet democrats: 
Myanmar is a union of distinctive linguistic and cultural 
groups with  different historical experiences. Attempts to 
use their differences with Yangon to dislodge the government 
there will only endanger the very unity of the country.

This is turn could lead to chaotic circumstances that would 
threaten peace not only in Myanmar but also with its 
neighbouring countries. (AT)


May 1, 1996
By Stephen Brookes

WITH all the brouhaha recently over Jacques Chirac's 
discovery of Asia (politicians, as usual, stumbling along a 
few steps behind the business community), the entire French 
fashion world has been consumed with frenzied talk of Myanmar.

Well, maybe not consumed, exactly. And frenzied is a strong 
word. Because, while Myanmar is a country of extraordinary 
beauty, it's not exactly a place that springs to mind when 
the subject of baute couture  comes up.

The national dress for both men and women is a sort of long 
skirt called a longyi, worn with a shirt and obligatory 
sandals. Colors tend toward the drab (brown is a popular 
choice) and most women wear a yellowish makeup called 
thanaka that has yet to take the Riviera by storm.

In fact, three decades of isolation and a disastrous 
"Burmese Path to Socialism" not only seriously damaged the 
country - it also didn't do much for the country's fashion sense.

But the Slorc has been opening the country to more foreign 
investment and trade, and encouraging contacts with the 
outside world. And to that laudable end, they invited French 
fashion designer Pierre Cardin to the country last year for 
a couple of days to show off some clothes, shake a few 
important hands and - who knows? Maybe cut a deal.

So one clear morning in Yangon, two of Cardin's assistants, 
Edouard Saint Blice (dapper in a cream linen suit) and Maryse 
Gaspard (scary in pointed dark glasses and 6-inch black heels) 
found themselves in the dining room of the city's elegant Nawarat Hotel.

Armed with cell phones and video cameras, they were there to 
scout models for Cardin's official show two days later, and to review 
the latest Myanmar fashions in a show arranged by the Ministry of Trade.

It was, more or less, what you'd expect a fashion show in a 
military regime to be like. One by one, the models would 
march out, squint into the lights and frown, while an 
expressionless announcer blared things like: "This is Model Number 
Seven, and she is looking very fashionable in a two-layered jacket, 
which is very fashionable at this time." And the poor girl would 
come charging down the catwalk, make sort of a where-do-I-go-now 
turn, frown some more and march back again.

Cardin's assistants took in the event with Gallic aplomb, 
even when the announcer noted that one of the models was 
sporting "off-the-well casual wear".

And they were kind to the girls, some of whom were clearly 
encountering high heels for the first time and were having a 
hard time making it down the catwalk without toppling over. 
To everyone's great relief, Saint Blice and Gaspard finally 
had the models kick off their heels and pad up and down in 
bare feet - smiling for the first time all morning.

So two days later all was in readiness, and Le tout Yangon 
turned out to see Cardin himself and his creations. The French 
ambassador was there with full entourage, as well as a few anxious-
looking European women, several dozen elderly male government 
officials (sharply dressed in while shirts and brown longyis) and a 
handful of Myanmar VIPs - including Daw Khin Sandar Win, the 
daughter of the general who ruled the country from 1962 to 1988.

But it was an odd event, not quite fashion show, not quite 
press conference, in which Cardin and an advisor to the Ministry of 
Trade sat on stage while local reporters asked troubling questions like: 
"Do you think Myanmar fashion accentuates the female figure?" and 
"Would you like to sell longyis in France?"

Cardin fended off the questions and tooted the Cardin horn a 
bit, noting that he was the first fashion designer to come 
to Myanmar, and was grateful to be invited by the Ministry 
of Trade, and had traveled widely in Asia since first coming 
here more than three decades before, and so on and so forth.

But no one was paying much attention, because on the stage 
behind him, a miracle was unfolding. The plodding, dour 
models from a couple of days before emerged suddenly and 
amazingly like spectacular butterflies, dressed in fantastic 
swirls of yellow silk, curving blue sweeps of organza, 
asymmetrical linen tunics worn with shocking-pink leather 
gloves, sharp little Parisian suits with multiple epaulets 
flying upward like wings, hooped wedding dresses trailing 
acres of lace, little hats titled at odd angles - it was an amazing 
display of female plumage, and the models were radiant, swooping 
delightedly around the stage as the flashbulbs popped.

At least, they looked delighted. Asked after the show asked she 
felt about the clothes, one model smiled demurely and said: 
"Thank you." When an interpreter was called in, he translated the 
questions, listened, and replied: "She says she doesn't know. Thank you."

"Fashion is a wonderful thing for improving communication 
between people," Cardin said in an interview after the 
conference. "You can have this free exchange of ideas, of 
creativity, between people without thinking about nationality 
or religion or any of those things. And this is so important, 
especially where there are such different views. So I hope that 
someday we may have  a shop here - why not?"

Perhaps. But this was merely a goodwill visit by the French 
designer, and officials from the government seemed a little 
skeptical that the streets of Yangon would be teeming with 
Cardin-clad women any time soon.

"Well," said a doubtful official with the Ministry of Trade, 
"We're very interested in promoting the fashion industry. 
But when our people see these clothes, I think they'll 
prefer traditional dress."

Perhaps that's because fashion, by definition, implies 
change and Myanmar has been isolated and unchanging for a 
very, very long time. Even something as simple as an unusual 
dress can arouse concern.

Toward the end of the press conference, one stern young 
reporter stood with his arms folded across his chest and 
asked Cardin: "Do you not agree that the mode of dress 
reflects the moral habits of a people?"

Cardin blinked and thought for a moment (this is not the sort of 
question they ask in Paris, after all), and said that perhaps it 
reflected something entirely different. "Fashion," he said quietly, 
"is about dreams. And what is life without dreaming?" (AT)


May 6, 1996

"Water Festival (1)"

BurmaNet Editor's Note: Readers should recognize that Daw Suu is writing
these pieces for a very specific audience - Japanese readers. In accordance
with Japanese sensibilities, she often refers to the seasons, the bittersweet 
and transient nature of cherished things, and nostalgic remembrances of
times past.  Daw Suu  lived in Kyoto for some time, and she is trying to 
reach Japanese audiences by demonstrating that she understands and to 
some extent shares their worldview.  In return, she appears to be attempting
to persuade the Japanese public to understand her perspective on the present 
situation in Burma and to support the NLD's stance rather than nonchalantly
allow the Japanese government and Japanese multinationals to work so closely
with the SLORC.

	Poets who have known the disturbing beauty of spring in temperate lands
write about the month of April with a quivering nostalgia, fascinated, and
perhaps a little frightened, by its uncertain glory.  April in tropical
Burma is of a totally different order from "... the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, stirring Dull roots with spring rain."
	The cruelty of April in Burma lies not in the pain of returning life but in
the searing heat and brassy glare of the sun that saps strength and energy,
leaving people as parched and exhausted as the cracked earth.  It is during
this hot and draining month that the Burmese New Year falls.  And fittingly
the New Year is celebrated with a water festival.
	The name of the festival is /Thingyan/.  Thingyan denotes a changeover and
the suffix /maha/, great, is often added to indicate the major change from
an old to a new year which the festival celebrates.  We also use the suffix
/ata/, ending, as the festival actually takes place during the last four
days of the old year and the ata water that we pour on each other as part of
the festivities symbolizes peace and prosperity and the washing away of
	The form of the Thingyan festival has changed perceptibly over the last 200
years.  An Englishman, Captain Symes, sent by the Viceroy of India on an
embassy to the Burmese court at Ava in 1795 left a description of the water
festival in which he took part:
	"To wash away the impurities of the past and begin the new year free from
stain, women on this day throw water on every man they meet, and the men are
allowed to throw water on them in return.  This permission to throw water on
one another gives rise to a great deal of harmless merriment, especially
amongst the young women, who, armed with large syringes or squirts and
vessels, try to wet every man that goes along the street, and in their turn
receive a wetting with the utmost good nature.
	"The slightest indecency is never shown in this or in any other of their
sports.  Dirty water is never thrown.  A man is not allowed to lay hold of a
woman, but may throw as much water over her as he pleases, provided she has
started first."
	The age of chivalry when only women were allowed to start throwing water
first have long gone by.  And these days water hoses fitted with nozzles
that spurt out strong jets of water have largely replaced syringes and
squirts and dainty vessels.  And many Burmese, especially those belonging to
the older generations, would sadly admit that it can no longer be claimed
that "the slightest indecency is never shown" during the festival,
especially since alcoholic excess has come to be associated with thingyan.
In modern times it has become the practice to set up temporary buildings for
the purpose of throwing water and provide entertainment in the form of songs
and dances on the sides of city streets.  Carloads of merrymakers go from
street to street getting wetter and wetter and in some cases getting more
and more intoxicated.
	But there is more to thingyan than throwing water and having fun.  It is a
time for taking stock of the past year and using the last few days before
the new year comes in to balance our "merit book."  Some people spend the
period of the water festival in meditating, worshiping at pagodas, observing
the eight precepts, releasing caged birds and fishes and performing other
meritorious deeds.  Children are told that /Sakya/ comes down from his
heavenly abode to wander in the human world during the days of thingyan,
carrying with him two large books, one bound in gold and the other bound in
dog leather.  The names of those who perform meritorious acts are entered in
the golden book while the names of those who do not behave properly are
noted down in the dog leather tome.  It is especially important not to get
angry during thingyan or to make others angry.  It is therefore considered
wrong to throw water at anybody who is unwilling to be doused.
	There are special foods associated with thingyan.  One of the most popular
of these are small boiled rice dumplings with a stuffing of palm sugar,
eaten with a sprinkling of shredded fresh coconut.  Often hot chilies are
put in place of the palm sugar in a few dumplings and there is much good
humored laughter when some unfortunate bites into one of these lethal
sweetmeats and vociferously expresses his chagrin.  Because it is such a hot
time of the year sweet, cooling drinks made from coconut milk, swirling with
bits of rice pasta tinted a pale green, saga, seaweed jelly and other
garnishes are served as part of the festivities.
	A traditional part of the water festival has disappeared in recent years:
the /thingyan thangyat/, rhyming choruses that provide pungently witty
commentaries on topical subjects, particularly on the government.  It was a
way of allowing people to let off steam healthily once a year and also a way
of allowing sensible governments to know how the people truly feel about
them.  But the SLORC is incapable of coping with criticism.  Members of the
NLD who sung such choruses in 1989 were imprisoned.


May 7,1996
Report: Nussara Sawatsawang, Rangoon

Golf is catching on fast in military-ruled Burma. As in many 
other countries, it is much more than a sport, it is 
essential for those who are or want to be important.

At the state-owned Yangon Golf Club, caddy Wai Wai Myint sees 
golf as a chance to earn a living. An occasional 500 kyat tip 
by a foreign businessman is much more than she can hope to 
earn in a day doing something else.

For an increasing number of Burmese generals, golf boosts 
their meagre official salary through deals clinched with foreign 
businessmen on the course and secures their political career.

"Golf paves the way for key men in many fields. Since  almost 
all Burmese leaders like to play golf and the regime seems to 
be holding on to power, playing golf is inevitable," said a 
Rangoon-based foreign businessman.

The businessman told Inside Indochina he took up the game 
only after being told by his boss that he was being stationed in Burma.

Business deals are smoothed by betting on the game with key 
generals. The businessmen put up a strong fight but 
eventually lose. As much as US$1,000-3,000 has been paid this 
way, according to an observer who declined to be named. No 
other source could confirm the figures.

Other pointed out that similar deals were struck in many countries 
world-wide and Burma should not be singled out. Golf clubs have 
joined Johnny Walker Blue Label whisky as the favourite gift for 
Burmese generals. The sport was introduced by the British in the early 
1900s, with the Yangon club being the oldest.

Gen Ne Win, Rangoon's most powerful leader, is widely known 
to be a great golfing enthusiast. But the way the game has 
evolved in Burma may not be what the government expected 
eight years ago when it began promoting the sport, initiating 
economic reforms and opening the country to the outside world.

Burma, which may join the Association of Southeast Asian 
Nations by 2000, has already developed "golf diplomacy" to 
strengthen ties with other countries, especially Asean members.

Last September, Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Deputy Prime 
Minister and Defence Minister, played golf in heavy rain with 
the chairman of Burma's ruling State Law and Order 
Restoration Council Gen Than Shwe, vice-chairman Gen Maung 
Aye and first secretary-general Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt.

Foreign Minister Kasem S. Kasemsri, during his official visit 
to Rangoon, in November, had a game with Burmese Deputy 
Foreign Minister Nyunt Swe, Minister of Social Welfare, 
Relief and Resettlement Maj-Gen Soe Myint and the Mayor of 
the Yangon City Development Committee U Ko Lay.

Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa had no time during his 
visit to Rangoon mid-March, but said he wished he make a one-
day unofficial trip to play golf with his counterpart.

Apart from the Yangon club, four others operate in the 
capital. The government has been able to take advantage of 
owning golf courses to promote Visit Myanmar Year. In 
January, Rangoon was included in Asian Professional Golfers' 
Association tournament offering US$150,000 in prize money.

Playing golf is not cheap. The Yangon club's annual 
membership fee for a foreigner is $1,000 plus $35 a month. 
Non-members have to pay a $25 green fee. The annual fee for 
Burmese is 300,000 kyats a year plus 300 kyats a month.

Observers expect fees to increase this year. The average 
monthly income of state officials is 1,500-2,500 kyats, 
compared with 5,000-10,000 kyats for private workers.

Wai Wai Myint said about 60 players used the Yangon club each 
day, mainly generals, foreign visitors, expatriates workers 
and local businessmen.

Unlike the millions of kyat that can be made through "on 
course" deal, Wai Wai Myint, 28, earns 90 kyats a round, as 
do 220 other caddies at the club. They pin their hopes on 
generous tips usually given by foreigners. Thai businessmen 
are reputedly the best tippers.

A tip of 500 kyats, or 100 baht at the black market rate, is 
more than her regular pay. "Golf clubs are heavy and I have 
to walk all day. But I appreciate it when I get a tip, particularly from 
Thai businessmen because they're not fussy," she said. (BP)


May 7,1996 (abridged)

A Thai military delegation was ignored by their Burmese hosts 
when they attended yesterday's inaugural ceremony to 
officially unveil a monument to honour a Burmese king in 
Tachilek, a source close to the delegation said.

The 10-member delegation, led by Maj-Gen Ithiphol 
Sirimonthol, commander of Chiang Rai province's military 
region, received little acknowledgement from Rangoon's 
powerful military leader Gen Khin Nyunt.

Khin Nyunt presided over the ceremony, said the source, who 
asked not to be named. The event was attended by over 20,000 
Burmese at the border town, opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Sai 
district. Crowds lined the streets of Tachilek to welcome 
Khin Nyunt and his delegation.

The monument was built as part of a campaign to promote 
Burmese tourism year by commemorating the glory of the 
Burmese kingdom, which under king Bourangnong won battles to 
control a large part of the region, including the Thai 
Kingdom which fell during the Autthaya period.

The construction was completed a year ago but the 
inauguration was postponed because of fighting between the 
Burmese army and drug warlord  Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army (MTA) 
operating in the area near Tachilek.


May 6, 1996

Aung San Suu Kyi and SLORC in the Australian TV
on Tuesday 7 May 1996, at 9:30 PM, on the ABC (Channel 2):
TV Program - 9:30 - Foreign Correspondent.

The Bay Area co-author of "Revolution of the Spirit" Leslie Kean
(Burma Project USA) and Dennis Bernstein (KPFA radio) did a phone 
interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi recently.  The interview
will be broadcast on KPFA (a public station in the Bay Area) on May 7, 1996.

Daw Suu "says that nothing has changed with Pepsi - they haven't divested - and 
are still selling products there...that this last move on their part meant nothing."


May 8,1996

A brother of Burmese businesswoman Ma Khine Zaw admitted for 
the first time his sister has business deals with Deputy 
Interior Minister Suchart Tancharoen.

However, Mr Zaw Oo, the eldest brother, insisted all the 
business involving the two parties was legal. He also denied 
the two had an intimate relationship as portrayed by the Press.

"They have for the last five years been working for timber 
concessions, all are legal and approved by the Burmese Government. 
If it was all illegal, Ma Khine would not now be in Rangoon. So we 
are doing business in good terms with the Government," said Mr Zaw Oo.

Mr Zaw Oo's explanation came on the eve of a censure debate 
today and tomorrow, during which Mr Suchart's business 
activities with Mrs Ma Khine would be raised by the Opposition.

In a telephone interview with the Bangkok Post, Mr Zaw Oo, 
who is currently on a business trip to Bangkok, said the 
families of both sides have known each other for more  than 
20 years since the time of their fathers. Thus he does not 
believe such personal connection as alleged by the Thai Press.

"We are from a good family. If they (the Press) came to 
Burma, and found out about our family background, they would 
see and understand Ma Khine. She has a very good family life 
with her husband and tow beautiful daughters," said Mr Zaw Oo.

Regarding the logging business, Mr Zaw Oo, 47, one of the 
founders of Silar International Co, denied having any 
knowledge of how the business was managed as he left the 
company several years ago to run his own business in Burma, 
and from that time his sister, whom he described as 
"successful businesswoman" joined Silar's management.

However, he said the timber concession has been executed 
"legally by the 44 companies granted premission by the 
Burmese Government."

Mrs Ma Khine, 41, has become entangled in a controversy during the 
past two months when it was alleged she played a key part in Group 
16's take-over of companies in the stock market using a multi-million 
baht loan from the Bangkok Bank of Commerce.

Asked why they had not come out with an explanation earlier, 
he said: "It's the Burmese nature. If they were accused, they would 
not make an effort to explain if they believe they were in the right.

"This is just politics, sometimes you become a victim of 
circumstances. So I think that my sister has become a victim 
of the circumstances created by Thai politicians," he said. 


May 8,1996

The Cabinet yesterday approved the construction of the first 
Thai-Burmese transborder gas pipeline, which will pass 
through a conservation area of Thailand.

The Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) has been entrusted 
with the project worth over Bt16.5 billion. Under the deal, 
PTT will buy gas from two Burmese gas fields at Yadana and 
Yetagun, beginning in July 1998.

PTT is still negotiating with two gas suppliers in the Yetagun field _ 
French-based Total and US-based Unocal over the price.

Construction is , however, still pending the approval of a 
study on its environmental impact by The National Board for 
the Environment. The 297-kilometre pipeline starts in Ban I-
Tong in Thong Phaphoum district and ends at a thermal power 
plant in Ratchaburi province, cutting through one of Thailand
's forestry conservation areas.

The Cabinet also agreed in principle that villagers in the 
conservation area who did not have land title documents would 
be relocated and compensated. They said there were reports 
that many villagers had encroached in the forest near the pipeline.

The project has met opposition from environmentalist and human 
rights groups. Environmentalists have strongly opposed the project 
over both its environmental impact and the problem of resettlement. (TN)


May 8, 1996
Karen Lowe, AFP

As activists demonstrated outside an Arco shareholder's 
meeting over human rights abuses in Burma, the company's 
chief said the oil company would continue doing business in Burma.

About 30 demonstrators from the Los Angeles Campaign for a 
Free Burma demonstrated outside the Sheraton Grande Hotel 
here where Atlantic Richfield Company (Arco) was holding its 
annual shareholder's meeting.

Asked whether Arco planned to change its business strategies 
with Burma, chief executive officer Mike Bowlin said a 
boycott by American companies would hurt US shareholders 
without affecting the regime in power.

"If US companies don't go into Burma, you can bet the French 
[and others] will," Bowlin said, adding only a multinational 
boycott would be effective. "We believe engagement is constructive."

Carol Richards, of Los Angeles Campaign for a Free Burma, 
expressed disappointment at Bowlin's remarks that dashed 
hopes that Arco would set the example for other US oil 
companies doing business in Burma.

"That is the line that every single oil company takes. That means 
that no one is willing to take the leadership and set the example," 
she said, adding her organisation had turned to Arco because "It 
has a reputation of being more responsive to ethical issues".

In July 1995, Arco entered a contract with Burma for oil and 
gas exploration. Arco gave the Burmese military-ruled government 
US$6 million (Bt150 million) for the exploration rights.

Arco, along with Unocal, Texaco and PepsiCo are being 
boycotted by the Free Burma Coalition, a network of 100 
college and high school campus groups and 50 independent 
organisations from 15 countries opposing investment in Burma.

The students have been successful at cancelling a $1 million 
Pepsi contract at Harvard University amid growing opposition 
to economic involvement by US companies in Burma.

Six US cities, including California's Santa Monica, Oakland, 
Berkley and San Francisco have passed laws that ban contracts 
with Burma involved companies, preventing city fleets from 
gassing up at Arco stations.

Federal sanctions legislation, which the White House opposes, 
has been introduced in both houses of Congress, with hearings 
tentatively scheduled for this month.

Bowlin echoed PepsiCo officials who have said that they 
believe their activities in Burma have raised standards of 
living and shown the benefits of democracy. (TN)


May 6, 1996
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, - More than 3,000 Burmese 
Muslims are estimated to have fled into Bangladesh over the past 
two months and 700 of them were sent back, Bangladeshi border 
guards said today. The new influx began in early March with a boatload 
of Rohingya Muslims sailing across the Naf river, the guards said.
Bangladeshi officials said they did not know what had prompted 
the new influx. Some 250,000 Rohingyas fled their homes in early 1992 
to escape alleged persecution in Burma's Muslim-majority state of Arakan, 
bordering Bangladesh.


May 2, 1996

Four state-owned saw mills in northeastern Burma are to be either sold off or
leased under the Burmese government's privatization scheme. The four timber 
mills located in Sagaing division are to be either sold off outright or leased to 
private entrepreneurs, with the facilities going to the highest bidders.  

Individual entrepreneurs as well as private enterprises wishing to acquire
the saw-mills should submit their applications before the end of May to a
privatization commission, it said.

The commission, headed by Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, the junta's first
secretary, has already listed and disposed of various other state-owned
factories and plants which had become ineffective under state management.

Included on the list are former state economic enterprises ranging from
biscuit and noodle factories to machine tool plants.

The report said starting prices for the four saw mills ranged from two to
four million kyats (17,000 to 34,000 dollars at the prevailing market rate).