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BurmaNet News May 15, 1996

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The BurmaNet News: May 15, 1996
Issue #408


May 13, 1996
by Aung San Suu Kyi

"Water Festival (2)"
This year thingyan, the water festival that takes place at the
end of the Burmese lunar year, began on April 12. On that day, in
the middle of a flurry of activities connected with the
ceremonies the NLD (National League for Democracy) was planning
for April 14, we arranged an ata pot.

This is an earthenware vessel filled with symbolic leaves and
flowers for the purpose, some hold, of welcoming Sakya when he
comes down for the water festival. Others see it as an insurance
against ill luck, particularly for those who were born on the day
of the week in which the last day of thingyan -falls, as such
people are held to be highly vulnerable to misfortune during the
year to come. Whatever the original purpose may have been,
placing the aa at an auspicious part of the house is generally
seen as an indispensable part of the preparations for the thingyan.

The flower especially associated with the water festival is the
padauk (the Indian or Malabar Kino), bright yellow with a very
sweet but light fragrance. It usually blooms at this time of year
after a shower of rain but as the second week of April was quite
dry we had resigned ourselves to a thingyan without the
enchanting sight of frothy golden blossoms adorning all and
sundry. However, on the day of our NLD water festival somebody
brought some padauk which had been found in bloom on some
eccentric tree and I was able to tuck a happy spray into my hair.

In Arakan on the western coast of Burma, thingyan is celebrated
in a particularly refined and charming way. Therefore, we
arranged our water throwing somewhat along the lines in which it
is conducted by the Arakanese, although we could not observe all
their usual thingyan traditions. Three long wooden boats were
filled with water and young women stood behind the boats armed
with bowls in which they scooped up water to throw at the young
men who queued up to stand opposite them behind a barrier of bamboo=20

To throw back water in their turn, the young men had to try to
catch, in small cups provided for them, the water thrown by the
young women. Of course, the whole arrangement was blatantly in
favour of the. young women who were able to keep up a relentless
deluge. Whoever ducked his head or turned away his face or wiped
it or shielded it in any way, was held to have surrendered. It
must be admitted there were very few surrenders although the
young men were barely able to collect enough water in their cups
to enable them to return fire. Each water battle lasted for one minute. A=
whistle would be blown to indicate that time was up and one dripping=20
and bedraggled batch of water warriors would make way for another.=20
Those who were not content with a single bout of water-throwing would=20
go straight out to stand in the queue for another round.

There were many indefatigable spirits who spent most of the day
by the water boats taking a rest only at the hottest time of the
afternoon when play was stopped for a short period.

At the same time as the water throwing was going on, there was an
almost continuous programme of songs and dances for the
entertainment of those who wanted to sit and dry out. Most of the
dances had been hastily rehearsed by amateurs and could not have
been described as examples of choreographic perfection. But
imbued with the generous spirit of the season, the audience was
quite determined to be pleased and even the most fastidious of
them willingly overlooked all flaws.

The main purpose of our thingyan celebrations was to collect
funds for political prisoners. There was a stall where NLD
souvenirs were sold, a hot drinks stall, a stall selling pickled
tea and ginger preparations and a stall where a substantial
Burmese meal could be bought at a very reasonable price.

A Burmese meal basically consists of what the Japanese would
describe as kareraisu although our curries are considerably
different from the kare that is served in Japan. During the days
of thingyan, many Burmese eat vegetarian food as an act
of merit, so a variety of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian
curries were provided . at our food stall. The exercise involved
in wielding bowls, buckets and syringes and t the sheer
exhilaration of a good drenching when the temperature is in the
fourties give a sharp edge to one's appetite. It was a little
wonder our food stalls made brisk S trade and sold out early.

There is a lovely Burmese custom known; as satuditha. This is a
Pali expression, meaning the four directions and satuditha i is
the charitable act of offering free food or drink to those who
come from the four points of the compass, that is to say, to all comers.

For our thingyan celebrations, NLD members from various townships
in Rangoon division had provided seasonal sweets and cool drinks as=20

It was a pleasure to watch the faces of  those at the satuditha
stall, their expressions  were such a striking illustration of
mutual joy and satisfaction.

We believe satuditha results in spiritual benefits not only for
those who offer it but also for those who accept the offering
because by accepting they help the others to acquire merit.
Moreover, it is held that partaking of satuditha offerings during
thingyan brings good health in the new year.


May 14, 1996

for those who don't already know- all back issues of Burmanet News and=20
Burma Alert can be found on the web.

Burmanet News is at http://sunsite.unc.edu/freeburma/bnn.html
Burma Alert is at http://sunsite.unc.edu/freeburma/ba.html

These files are ALSO available by FTP from:
The collection will be updated in a day or two. (note- the collection=20
via www IS CURRENTLY up to date.)

These are no longer available by gopher (from sunsite) because sunsite=20
has suspended gopher support due to lack of demand.  fortunately most=20
people able to access gopher sites are also able to FTP.  please let me=20
know if this is not the case for you, and we will work something out.



May 15,1996
Somchit Rungchamratrasmee

The Burmese junta and Karen guerrilla forces have yet to narrow=20
their differences in peace negotiations that began late last year.

Gen Bo Mya, president of the Karen National Union (KNU), said at=20
his 6th Division base that the Karen delegation had held several=20
rounds of talks with representatives of the ruling Burmese State=20
Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc).

But both sides have yet to make much progress during their=20
negotiations and still have to hold more meetings, he said. Bo Mya=20
said the KNU cannot accept several of Slorc's demands, including=20
the full surrender of the Karen armed forces.

At the same time the Burmese military rulers have not agreed to=20
several KNU proposals. The KNU, he said, has urged Slorc to=20
declare a nation-wide ceasefire, to release all political=20
prisoners and hold political dialogue with Burmese opposition and=20
ethnic groups. Slorc rejected the requests.

The Karen leader urged Slorc to prove its sincerity for peace by=20
stopping its military offensive against Karen civilians, and=20
looting and destroying Karen villages.

He said once peace prevailed in Burma, the Karen refugees taking=20
refuge in Thailand would voluntarily return home. Slorc does not=20
have to use force to persuade the refugees to return, he added.

The KNU had informed the meeting of the Democratic Alliance of=20
Burma, an umbrella organisation of about a dozen Burmese opposition=20
and ethnic groups, of the development of its peace talks with Slorc.

The alliance has been meeting since May 8 at the KNU base, which=20
is opposite Thailand's Umphang district in Tak province, to review=20
its policy and strategy, and will hold another round of talks on the=20
drafting of a constitution. The alliance also re-elected Bo Mya as its lead=


May 15, 1996   Reuter

Hundreds of ethnic Shan refugees have fled forced relocation by=20
Burmese armed forces acting to cut civilian support for anti-
Rangoon guerrillas, refugees and Shan politicians said yesterday.

The refugees, who slipped out from Burma's northeastern Shan state=20
to the Thai border town of Mae Hong Son, said they were forced to=20
relocate after heavy fighting broke out in March between remnants=20
of the now defunct Mong Tai Army (MTA) and Burmese forces.

The 20,000-strong MTA was formerly led by drug warlord Khun Sa, a=20
half-Shan, half-Chinese rebel leader who portrayed himself as a=20
Shan freedom fighter for more than two decades. Khun Sa=20
surrendered to Burmese troops on January 3 but some of his former=20
MTA followers held out.

The Shan rebels are fighting for independence from Burma. "There=20
was a lot of fighting there," said U Thein Aung 35, who trekked for=20
about a week through forests with five members of his family to Thailand.

Hundred of ethnic Shans who live in rural areas in the state had=20
either escaped to the jungles or to the Thai-Burma border after=20
Burmese soldiers forced them to move from their villages and=20
closely monitored their movements. (TN)


May 15,1996
Consumer product boycotts like the one being waged against Pepsi=20
will do little to resolve a complicated problem in Burma, Ethan Casey argue=

Burma has become a cause celebrate in North American universities.=20
USA Today one of the biggest selling papers in the country=20
splashed an in-depth article on the front page about the "cyber=20
revolution" that is sweeping college campuses.

"It's become a big cause, especially the Pepsi boycott," an=20
American friend tells me. "Oil company shareholder meetings are=20
soon, with huge demonstrations in the works."

I sympathise strongly with the intention to help make Burma a more=20
livable place for its people and to persuade or compel the Slorc=20
to honour the results of the 1990 election.

I am not impressed by what my friend calls Pepsi's "fancy footwork
" to make it look as if it is pulling out of Burma. On a personal=20
level, I respect my friend as someone who had put a great deal of=20
her own time and money where her mouth is.=20

So why do I find politically-motivated product boycotts distasteful?

Two reasons: First, because the too-quick tendency of all=20
partisans to identify their own political positions with what is=20
morally right is perilous to our shared humanity. Second because I=20
suspect they think that by marching on campus and not drinking=20
Pepsi, they are doing enough. First things first: to understand=20
the world is a more urgent task then to try to change.

Don't get me wrong: the Slorc is an illegitimate government,=20
responsible for immense suffering and injustice, clinging to power=20
through brute force. But _ with the greatest respect to the many=20
who have suffered and died _ I venture to suggest that Burma can=20
helpfully be seen as a museum exhibit of tyranny in its relatively=20
primitive form.

To suppose that the Slorc or, say, the old regime in South Africa=20
is or was uniquely brutal is to do an injustice to the universal=20
human capacity for self-justification and for subtlety in the=20
perpetration of violence.

I am sure to demonise (which it to say dehumanise) fellow humans=20
is always wrong, and I find it hard to forget the awkward fact=20
that even the Burmese generals are human. To be too sure of=20
oneself, even about something as seemingly self-evidently right as=20
boycotting Pepsi or Visit Myanmar Year, is to think in monolithic=20
categories in which the Slorc becomes evil incarnate (which simply=20
cannot be true) and Burma itself is reduced to a totem symbolising=20
one's own good intentions. Monoliths are the building blocks of=20
totalitarianism. If enforced orthodoxy is bad, is it not bad even when=20
self-enforced, and even among those united in opposition to a  genuine evil=

Among those who oppose the Slorc there must be tolerance for=20
dissent. "I haven't met a Westerner working on Burma who is=20
interested enough in Asian politics to consider what other solutions=20
there might be," a thoughtful Canadian woman in Bangkok,=20
herself an activist, once told me.

"It's the Asian companies. So why put all your energy into=20
boycotting Western companies? And I'm sorry, but boycotting Pepsi?=20
In America? Boycotts can have some effect and can raise awareness.=20
But ultimately they don't solve the problem on the ground."

Boycotters have a responsibility to themselves and to those they=20
ask to join them to address such a challenge.=20

As I have pondered Pepsi, I have found myself thinking about=20
economic boycotts lately led by the US government against dictatorial=20
governments in Iraq, Haiti and Cuba. Without much doubt Saddam=20
Hussein, Raoul Cedras and the venerable Fidel Castro are guilty of many=20
wrongful deeds; but all three boycotts demonstrably caused great human=20
suffering without doing much if anything to dislodge the dictators.

To the ideological embarrassment of many, it was the US government's
 (albeit belated and extremely reluctant) imposition of an=20
occupying army that eventually alleviated Haitian people's plight.=20
Just before the non-invasion, I was appalled to read an editorial=20
in an American magazine by Amy Wilentz, author of the excellent=20
and important book "The Rainy Season".

"A US intervention, and subsequent occupation, is dangerous for=20
Haiti's political progress into the next three generations," wrote=20
Wilentz. "Whereas much sooner than that, if the embargo continues=20
and is strengthened, this regime will inevitably be forced out for=20
economic reasons by the strangled Haitian business class."

In other words, the writer was willing to put her own preferred=20
political solution ahead of the very lives of the thousands more=20
who would have died had the embargo continued. What price are=20
Burma activists willing to pay for the Slorc's removal?

When language is used as a weapon it is called propaganda. As a=20
writer I am offended when language is abused in sloppy, cynical=20
and self-serving ways _ whatever the cause. If big questions had=20
easy answers, there would be no need for anyone to write anything,=20
and we could all go home.

Hence I object mightily when one Andrew Vachss, in a US=20
publication, calls Thailand "proudly corrupt and profoundly evil"=20
because some people have sex with children. Similarly, I am=20
bothered when a Chicago-based Burma group headlines its newsletter=20
"The Slorc is the problem."

Well, the Slorc is the problem; there's no denying it. But so are=20
you and I since we, like the five (sic) particular people who make up=20
the Slorc, are human. I used to think those Americans who opposed=20
the US war in Vietnam had been uncomplicatedly in the right, until=20
I got a letter from a friend with impeccable anti-war credentials.

The sixties, he wrote, "was not about how the Tet offensive=20
affected my life. It didn't affect it in the least. It was about=20
how the blood of the war got on everyone's hands, and we couldn't=20
wash it off. It's still all over the place."

During the Gulf War, the American religious activist Jim Wallis=20
fasted. Something compelled him, he writes in his book "The Soul=20
of Politics", "to go deeper than I had even gone, to find, through fasting=
and prayer, the places within me that still fuelled the momentum of war."

Wallis' is an odd approach to international politics, unless one=20
subscribes to a thoroughly antiquated understanding of the world=20
and its workings. But it intrigues me. At the very least, it seems=20
more admirable than the more usual practice of going too far in=20
the other direction. (TN)

Ethan Casey is a Bangkok-based freelance journalist. In April he=20
visited Burma, where he interviewed Aung San Suu Kyi. The views=20
expressed in this commentary are his own.


May 15,1996   (abridged)
Kulachada Chaipipat

Deputy Prime Minister Amnuay Viravan will lead a group of Thai=20
businessmen to Burma in July in an effort to strengthen economic=20
cooperation following an official visit By Prime Minister Banharn=20
Silpa-archa in April.

The trip is part of the government's new proactive policy to=20
establish good relations with neighbouring states at all levels.=20
During the visit, Amnuay will meet with senior government=20
officials while businessmen from the two countries will discuss=20
potential joint ventures.

Amnuay also revealed a plan to launch a Thai week in early August=20
at the Burma Trade Fair to promote Thai goods and culture.


May 15,1996
Washington, AFP

Burma, the world's leading producer of opium and heroin, is "a=20
narcotics disaster area," a senior State Department official said yesterday=

"Burma leads the world in illicit opium and heroin production. It's=20
responsible for an estimated 60 percent of the world's heroin=20
supply," said Douglas Rasmussen, the State Department's Asian=20
Bureau and Law Enforcement Affairs.

"Burma is a narcotics disaster area," Rasmussen told a panel=20
discussion, saying the southeast Asian country had produced 2,340=20
metric tonnes of opium last year out of global production of 4,000 tonnes.

With street prices of heroin dropping and purity levels rising in=20
the United States, American official fear a new epidemic of heroin=20
addiction both here and in Chinese areas bordering military-ruled Burma.

But US officials are torn between stepping up anti-drug=20
cooperation with the regime _ all but stopped after the State Law=20
and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) seized power in 1988 _ and=20
seeking to further isolate it. Human rights groups oppose any=20
cooperation with the junta. (BP)


May 14, 1996   AFP

RANGOON - Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has met a=20
leading member of international writer's group during which they=20
discussed imprisoned Burmese writers, a source said yesterday.

Mitsukazu Shiboh, from the Japanese chapter of the PEN=20
international writers' group, met Aung San Suu Kyi at her=20
residence on Sunday, the source from the main opposition National=20
League for Democracy (NLD) said.

One topic discussion at the meeting was journalist Win Tin, an=20
executive member of Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD who has been=20
languishing in Rangoon's Insein prison since 1989, the source said.

Win Tin has been made an honorary member of PEN, the source added.

Shiboh is in Burma on a fact-finding mission for a report on=20
Burmese writers in prison he is expected to submit to a PEN=20
conference in Denmark from May 16-19, the source said.

Shiboh, a sociology professor at Tokyo's Tokai University, is=20
vice-chairman of the Writers in prison Committee of Japan's PEN=20
chapter. Meanwhile, Suu Kyi, responding to a question in a letter=20
sent to her by a supporter, said on Sunday that she doubted that=20
the military junta would release political prisoners for Martyrs'=20
Day on July 19.

"I don't think so, although I personally feel Martyrs' Day which=20
symbolised the ultimate sacrifices made by political leaders=20
including my father, is a fitting occasion for all political=20
prisoners to be set free," she said.

Martyrs' Day commemorates the assassination of the opposition=20
leader's father, Aung San, and sox of his colleagues in 1947.=20


May 14, 1996  (abridged)
by Bamrung Amnatcharoenrit

RANGOON - Spa Advertising Co claims to have become the first Thai=20
advertising agency to make inroads into Burma through a joint=20
venture to provide a "full service" advertising programme for clients.

The plans were revealed last Saturday by Kitti Chambundabongse,=20
the company's chairman, after the official opening of Myanmar Spa=20
Today Advertising Ltd, a 6O:4O joint venture between Spa=20
Advertising and Burma-based Today Advertising Co with registered=20
capital of Bt 2.5 million and 15 employees.

Surat Osathanugrah, the chairman of Spa's parent company Osotspa,=20
was appointed chairman of the venture.

He also announced the granting of scholarships and financial aid=20
to a number of state-owned organisations in Burma.=20

Kitti said that Burma is the first market for the company's=20
expansion, instead of Vietnam, because the political direction is=20
clear and under control more than in other Indochinese countries.=20
The government has tried to adjust its negative image in the=20
international community in a bid to speed up its economy.

In addition, the total population is about 42 million, representing a=20
good potential for investment.  Many foreign brands have poured=20
into the country and they are big spenders on advertising.

The company's clients in Burma are mainly the products of Spa's=20
parent company Osotspa.

In addition to Osotspa's products, Spa will also promote consumer=20
goods of other companies, hoping to generate Bt30 million in=20
billing in the first year of operation.

"I will push the venture ahead by trying to learn the advertising=20
business from the solid experience of Spa Advertising," Dr Tha=20
Tun Oo, the 32-year-old managing director of the venture, said.=20

Currently there are eight advertising agencies in Burma, not=20
including Myanmar Spa. Three are Singapore-based Myanmar Media=20
International Co, Bates Myanmar Co, and Maccom Premier Co. Four=20
are domestically-based - New Generation Co, Crab Co, A Advertising=20
Group and Sale Advertising Co. The latest is Prakit & FCB (Myanmar).

Tha Tun Oo said the advertising market will grow step by step=20
according to the country's social changes.  He agreed that the=20
advertising business has been driven by the growth of the media=20
industry.  Advertisers in Burma however face some limitations due=20
to strict government controls.  Kitti expected that in the long=20
run, the problem will improve.

At present there are two local television channels controlled by=20
the government offering entertainment and news programmes for=20
about five hours per day during the week and eight hours on Saturdays=20
and Sundays.  Television is the most influential medium for advertisers.

For newspapers, only the English-language daily The New Light of=20
Myanmar, owned by the government, two local language and a=20
tabloid daily newspaper and a provincial paper in Mandalay are=20
available to media planners.

The only radio choice for advertisers is the sole AM station in Rangoon.=20


May 14, 1996

BURMA will sell 16 state-owned cinemas, spread throughout=20
Rangoon, Mandalay and other cities, by calling bids. The sale,=20
which the government hopes will net the equivalent of 10 million=20
baht, will include telephones and electricity meters in addition=20
to land, building and equipment. Priority will be given to bidders=20
who originally owned the cinemas. Successful bidders must=20
deposit 25 percent of the price immediately and pay the balance=20
within 60 days. (BP)


May 14, 1996

BURMA'S rulers have warned against foreign influences.=20
Intelligence chief Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, marking the 90th=20
anniversary of the Young Men's Buddhist Association last=20
Thursday, said certain parties, which he did not name, were=20
trying to obstruct the government's accomplishments and efforts=20
to restore traditional values.

Second secretary Lt-Gen Tin Oo warned local businessmen against=20
the loss of "national characteristics" through foreign influence=20
in the emerging economic sector.

Observers note the State Law and Order Restoration Council has=20
been trying to rekindle patriotism by highlighting past glories=20
as part of its social agenda. (BP)


May 14, 1996

THE news from the North remain depressing to those involved in=20
the difficult, vital struggle against proliferation of drugs in=20
our society. Producers of illicit narcotics have set up=20
laboratories inside and outside Thailand and have a particular=20
liking for the Thai-Burmese border. They also have branched out=20
from making heroin to manufacture of another profitable and=20
dangerous drug, methamphetamine. Anti-drug officers from several=20
agencies discovered two such refineries last month. They feel=20
there are more drug-producing factories in the deep forest along=20
our border with the Shan State of Burma.

These new illicit drug refineries along the Thai frontier with=20
Burma are particularly worrying. They particularly test the claim=20
of the Burmese army and government that their military campaign=20
against drugs warlord Khun Sa was aimed at illegal drugs. our on-
the-scene official, who were sceptical of this claim all long,=20
now openly question it. Banpot Piamdee, who is head of the=20
Northern Narcotics Prevention and Suppression Centre is disturbed=20
by discovery of the new refineries. He has told the Bangkok Post=20
the defection of Khun Sa has had no noticeable effect on drugs=20
production in Burma.

The local anti-narcotics chief was understating the case. The=20
discovery of two new refineries on Thai soil is a sign of=20
increasing arrogance and confidence by the drugs peddlers.=20
According to police in the North, the number and size of such=20
refineries are increasing. Border Patrol Police (BPP) have=20
unearthed large stocks of precursor chemicals used to make heroin=20
and methamphetamines. This has occurred following the takeover of=20
former Khun Sa strongholds by the Burmese army.

Rangoon long has paid lip service to supporting an international=20
fight against illicit drugs. For many years, the Burmese=20
dictatorships have claimed it was difficult to crack down in the=20
Shan State because of Khun Sa's control of the area. In recent=20
years, the State Law and order Restoration Council (SLORC) has=20
alternately requested and demanded Thai help in policing its=20
border areas. It has accused Thailand and local officials in the=20
North of providing comfort and aid to Khun Sa.

It seems appropriate to ask for a new excuse from Rangoon. With=20
its army occupying the former Khun Sa areas, why is drug-making=20
and trafficking continuing and =97 apparently =97 increasing? SLORC's=20
refusal to take legal action against Khun Sa has aroused  great=20
suspicion of the regime's motives in the case. Some of the more=20
outspoken officers directly involved in the campaign against=20
drugs trafficking have criticised Rangoon. Old rumours that some=20
of the fantastic profits in the drugs trade have found their way=20
to Rangoon continue.

The discovery of the methamphetamine factory in forests of Mae=20
Hong Son is particularly chilling. This relatively new drug, also=20
known as speed, crystal and ice, has opened vast new markets to=20
the drug peddlers. Not satisfied with addicting hundreds of=20
thousands to heroin, they now are pursuing a new "market." This=20
drug is potentially even a greater threat to society than heroin.

Methamphetamine can, and does, cause a number of unattractive=20
side effects which go far beyond occasional death to the abuser.=20
These include violent behaviour, memory loss, paranoia, confusion=20
or fright. In short, speed abusers frequently attack and injure=20
innocent bystanders as well as themselves. There are precious few=20
studies or statistics on methamphetamine use in Thailand, but no=20
one disputes the growth of the drug among abusers. Police and=20
social workers have linked several wild attacks in entertainment=20
districts to methamphetamine use.

What is obvious is that big-time drugs traffickers who long have=20
operated in the Golden Triangle area believe they have found a=20
new source of profits. What is frightening is that the main=20
target of the emerging "market" for methamphetamines is Thailand.=20
Experts believe use of this drug is already an epidemic among=20
several Thai groups, especially youths in our large cities.

Thailand has no lack of dependable police and officials=20
attempting to stem the attack on our country by drugs peddlers.=20
Too often, however, these resolute men and women receive too=20
little support from both our authorities and our people. There=20
also is ample reason to question whether Thailand has the=20
cooperation of our western neighbour. Our government and=20
diplomats must encourage and persuade Burma to act forcefully and=20
firmly against the drugs trade. Such action must include action=20
against narcotics traffickers in the former Khun Sa areas. The=20
regime must also make a n example of the former heroin warlord=20
himself if it hopes to gain respect in the campaign against drugs. (BP)=20


Opportunities outweight issue of human rights
May 14, 1996
REPORT: Amy Shiratori, Asahi News Service, Tokyo

JAPANESE FIRMS, shrugging off criticism from human rights groups=20
that they are doing business with a singularly vicious and =20
oppressive military regime, continue to increase their business=20
in Burma, one of the last untapped markets in Southeast Asia.

The roll-call of companies preparing to begin or expand business=20
in Burma includes some prominent names: Nissan Motor Co,=20
Mitsubishi Motors Corp and Mitsui Engineering and Ship-building Co.

In a signal of even greater Japanese presence ahead, the=20
Institute of Developing Economies - the research arm of the=20
Ministry of International Trade and Industry - plants to begin a=20
joint study in Burma this summer to explore ways to develop=20
Burma's industrial and investment potential.

Even as Japanese firms move in, however, some other foreign=20
companies are backing away from Burma amid criticism of human=20
rights abuses by the military regime in Rangoon.

Last week, the US soft-drink giant PepsiCo announced plans to=20
sell its stake in Burmese joint venture to quell an outcry among=20
its shareholders and American human rights activists.

Several state and local governments across the US have passed=20
laws barring contracts with companies doing business in Burma.

For their part, Japanese companies say that Burma is simply too=20
vast a business opportunity to ignore.

Although the Japanese government's failure to set forth clearly=20
defined policies on Burma is frustrating businesses, major=20
Japanese corporations have steadily increased their stake in the=20
country, with its low-wage labour force and a market of nearly 44=20
million people, experts say.

Nissan, Japan's second largest automaker, will set up a dealer-
ship in Rangoon this summer to sell its Sunny and Cedric cars and=20
Datsun pickup truck.

"Although (Burma's) market has yet to mature, with annual sales=20
of new vehicles being only several hundred, it is widely considered,=20
along with Vietnam, to be the last remaining (untapped) market in=20
Southeast Asia," Nissan spokesman Koji Okuda said.

Nissan Diesel Motor Co, an affiliate that makes trucks and buses,=20
already has received orders for 147 trucks from the Burmese government.

Mitsubishi Motors also plans to set up a dealership jointly with=20
the trading firm Kinsho Mataichi and a Burmese distributor.

The Singapore subsidiary of Komatsu Ltd, a leading Japanese heavy=20
machinery maker, upgraded its local office in Rangoon in March by=20
installing a Japanese manager in charge of construction machinery sales.

Although these and other companies eyeing Burma say they have no=20
immediate plans to set up plants there, analysts say many are=20
studying the idea of establishing factories in Burma to supply=20
components for assembly lines in Thailand and Singapore.

But Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding Co, a leading Japanese=20
shipbuilder, has already decided to set up a shipyard in Burma as=20
early as this summer.

Akira Miyamura, general manager of the company's overseas project=20
department, has been in Rangoon to wrap up details of the=20
project, which is being undertaken jointly with partners=20
including the Burmese state-owned Myanmar Shipyard.

"The new company will make small and medium-size ships which are=20
labour-intensive products. We expect demand for ships of these=20
sizes to grow considerably in Southeast Asia. But we have to=20
offer the products at low prices to sell them in those countries=20
and, for that, we have to make them where wages are low," said=20
Masataka Gomi, a public relations official at Mitsui Engineering.

Last year, the Japanese government gave 2.5 billion yen ($23.8=20
million) in grants to Burma under its official development aid=20
programme, the first since 1988 when the military junta seized power.=20


May 14, 1996

THAILAND'S Export-Import Bank will on Friday sign a US$ 150=20
million loan to the Department of Civil Aviation of Burma to=20
build an international airport in Mandalay.

Ex-Im Bank president Preediyadhorn Devakula said yesterday the=20
loan was repayable in 13 years with a three year grace period. The=20
Ministry of Finance and Revenue Department of Burma will act=20
as guarantor. Italian-Thai Development Plc has been awarded the=20
construction contract. (BP)


May 14, 1996  (abridged)
by Errol de Silva

AN ACUTE shortage of polished rubies of large sizes and of higher=20
qualities combined with a continued slump in the main US consumer=20
market will continue hurting Thai manufactures of fine jewellery.

The Thai Gem and Jewellery Traders Association (TGJTA) has=20
launched a major initiative to gain access for such goods=20
directly from Burma and Vietnam, but trade insiders see little=20
hope for success in these efforts.

Traditionally, Mong Hsu and Mogok in Burma have been the main=20
sources of high quality rubies for the Thai gems and jewellery industry.

Recently, the ruby market in Mae Sai became active after Burmese=20
authorities agreed to reopen the Tachilek checkpoint.
It was the same time Thai Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa=20
visited Rangoon.

However, the bulk of goods available at this market comprises=20
commercial quality goods not suitable for the fabrication of=20
upper-middle to high-end jewellery items.


May 14, 1996

22 May, 1996 at 8:00 p.m. at the Foreign Correspondent's Club in=20
Bangkok (located in the Jewellery Trade Center on Silom Road)

Burma : Where to now ? Two films and a talk.

FCCT member Evan Williams of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation=20
will show a recently-aired short film on the latest political situation in =
The film includes a rare snatched interview with Secretary One Khin Nyunt,=
and footage of Daw Suu's walkabout in Scott's Market.  Also to be shown wil=
be John Pilger's latest film about British business, forced labour and poli=
tics in=20
Burma, a 50 min. documentary just aired in the UK and Australia.  In
addition to the films, there will be a panel discussion.

Hope to see you there.=20