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

BurmaNet News: October 22, 1996

"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"

The BurmaNet News: October 22, 1996
Issue #548


October 21, 1996

The decision to delay Burma's membership to the regional grouping is a
political one dressed up as a technical issue.


True to the Asean way, the regional grouping decided last week to hold out
against Burma's admission for now. It was a show of brinkmanship from the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations amid growing pressure from the
international community.

An Asean delegate aptly characterised it as a political decision based on
technical considerations. For the first time, the technical aspects of
membership were invoked by Asean senior officials to prevent Burma from
becoming an Asean member so soon.

Technically speaking, Burma is more ready than Laos and Cambodia to join
Asean. Burmese officials speak English, and trade and law-related materials
are published in English, Its economic system would conform with Asean
trading arrangements as it is also a member of the World Trade Organisation.

When Vietnam was admitted as a member to Asean, Hanoi had about six months
to work out the modalities to participate in the various economic framework,
including the Afta (Asean Free Trade Area) process. Even after Vietnam
joined Asean, this process continued. Technical aspects were never raised to
delay Vietnam's membership.

Therefore, the decision in Kuala Lumpur was a face-saving exercise to calm
down dissension within Asean and the growing international disquiet. In
addition, it was designed to allow the Burmese regime time to respond to
concern over the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement inside Burma.

Rule of men

That explains why both the Philippines and Thailand quickly reiterated their
positions again. Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minster Amnuay
Viravan, in a change of heart, said in an interview recently that Burma must
complete its constitution and achieve some political openness before it
could join Asean. As a senior Thai Foreign Ministry official put it, Burma
is still ruled by men not ;law.

At a deeper level, the issue of admission reflects Asean's dilemma in
applying the membership criteria, which was agreed upon in 1983. At that
time, none would have imagined that Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma would
apply for membership in the next 13 years.

The conditions for membership in Asean are quiet straightforward, apolitical
and technical in nature. Apart from acceding to basic agreements and
declarations of Asean, including the Afta process, prospective members must
meet financial obligations and other agreements requiring resource
committees as well as have an embassy in every Asean capital, organise an
Afta unit, set up the Asean National Secretariat and attend Asean meetings
as an observer.

It is interesting to note that while Asean leaders rely on their political
instincts to decide many sensitive issues, including Burma's accession, they
have refused to work out the political criteria for accession.

When Vietnam applied officially to join Asean in October 1994, the Asean
foreign ministers welcomed Vietnam, without even looking at the economic
implications, not to mention its different political systems.

It was a political decision, pure and simple. Fortunately, the Vietnamese
Communist Party was not a pariah, even though it was not as democratic as
the Asean countries would have liked.

Different ball game

But for Burma, it is a different ball game.

More than Asean would like to admit, the valuable lesson learned from the
controversy surrounding Burma's submission for admission is obvious: Asean,
as a reputable grouping, just cannot take in a country, which is considered
a pariah by the international community.

Although there are different shades of political openness and freedom
practiced within Asean countries, none matches the level of repression in
present day Burma. All Asean countries have achieved an institutional
stability that guarantees fundamental rights and the  rule of law. Burma is
still far from it. Since the mid-1980s, Asean's economic success and
political solidarity have made the grouping very confident - a bit arrogant
, some would say - in standing up to Western criticism. Asean had been given
the benefit of the doubt over the past three years by the world community
that its approach would result in a better Burma that "complied with civil
norms in governance".

But the political crackdown and intimidation of Aung San Suu Kyi have
dampened the prospects for democracy there.

For the time being, Asean has chosen to engage merely the Burmese military
leaders, ignoring Suu Kyi's role and her appeals for a political dialogue.
The time has come for Asean to be less apologetic and adopt a pro-active
profile to balance given to the opposition parties - to counter the
allegation that she is too - Westernised.

What is needed now is for Asean initiated benchmarks, which could be worked
out between Asean and the Burmese sides including a select number of members
of the United Nations. The Asean approach would include dialogue between the
Burmese military leaders and the opposition on drafting a future constitution.

Last week's decision demonstrated Asean's decency in that it would not
condone such a political climate in Burma by awarding the country with

Now, Asean has to build on that momentum to ensure that it has a
constructive role to play in Burma's political emancipation. (TN)


October 21, 1996 (slightly abridged)
by Carroll Bogert

The chances of getting a fair hearing in court, if you're a Burmese peasant
wronged by your government, are just about zero.  Human rights groups say
the regime in Myanmar, as the military dictatorship renamed the country, is
one of the world's most abusive.  But now, thanks to a startling twist on a 
long-forgotten 18th century American law, Burmese peasants may get some 
retribution - in U.S. courts, of all places.

A suit filed in a Los Angeles federal court earlier this month charges that the 
Burmese authorities and two foreign energy companies are responsible for
rape, forced labor and other abuses of peasants who got in the way of their
plans to build a natural gas pipeline through the forest.  The 15 anonymous 
plaintiffs could collect millions of dollars if they win the case - as well
as a 
court  injunction against any further pipeline construction in their homeland.

Being a human-rights lawyer has always meant writing petitions, lobbying 
the United Nations and begging congressmen to vote for trade boycotts.  
Now that the 1792 Alien Tort Claims Act has been dredged out of the law 
library and dusted off, human rights lawyers actually get to litigate.  
Originally meant to keep pirates from using the fledgling United States as 
a safe haven, the law allows one foreigner to sue another in an American
federal court.  The only connection to the United States is that the defendant
has to touch down on American soil long enough to be served with a court

While only a couple of dozen cases have actually gone to court so far, and
plaintiffs have yet to pocket a single dime in damages, human rights lawyers
say they're winning their clients something more important: justice. 

Lawsuits brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act are known to lawyers as
Filartiga cases, after the first victorious plaintiffs.  In 1979, a
policeman who 
had tortured and murdered a 17 year-old Paraguayan boy - and then fled to 
New York - was sued by the boy's father and sister, Joel and Dolly Filartiga,
in a Brooklyn court.  They won.

In another instance, a Guatemalan general was served with a summons at his
graduatio ceremony from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in 
June 1991.  The general, Hector Gramajo, was accused of massive human rights
abuses in the Guatemalan highlands as well as responsibility for the kidnapping,
rape and other torture of an American nun.  Gramajo quickly skipped the United
States.  He is barred from returning, and his rise to power in Guatemala has 
been sharply checked.

Not all Filartiga cases are financially hopeless.  A group of cases against the 
estate of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos is nearing completion
and will probably win millions of dollars for thousands of human rights victims.
But in most instances, people bring these suits to win a public acknowledgement 
of their tormentors' guilt.

Sometimes human rights activists hope that the very threat of a lawsuit will 
act as a deterrent to trading with the bad guys.  In the Burma case, two 
energy companies - California's Unoal and France's Total - are being sued 
together with the Burmese military regime.  Maureen Aung-Thwin, a Burma 
expert at the Open Society Institute, hopes that even if the plaintiffs lose, 
other companies might think twice about investing in Burma.  "At least 
they'll have to factor in money for damage control and lawyers," she says.

If so, the court case could accomplish more than American foreign policy
has so far.  Although the U.S. Congress passed a lukewarm trade-sanctions 
bill against Burma last year, President Clinton hasn't chosen to "trigger" the
sanctions, or put them into effect.  "Congress and the executive branch 
always have to worry about trade or something; they bend on human rights,"
says attorney Michael Ratner, who has prosecuted several Filartiga cases.  
"But the courts go straight.  [They offer] a way to do something more pure."

Each successful case embeds the Filartiga principles deeper into the practice
of American law.  Meanwhile, attorneys have also managed to widen the scope
of litigation.

The torturers and the rapists and the murderers can run, but they can't hide
- at least not in the United States.


October 19, 1996

Big gain in gas supplies to PTT


FRANCE-based Total Exploration and Production said its US$1 billion project
to develop and transport natural gas from Burma to Thailand is on schedule
and will eventually earn up to $200 million per year for the Burmese government.

Alian Lepage, the Yadana gas project director for Total, said all major
contracts have been sign with contractors including the US firm McDermott
ETPM Far East for the offshore platforms, Italy-based Saipem Asia Sdn Bdh
for offshore pipeline laying, France's SPIE CAPAG for the onshore pipeline ,
Mitsubishi/NYK of Japan for  offshore pipeline materials and Italy based
Ilva for onshore pipeline materials.

Total, together with Unocal Corp and PTT Exploration and Production Plc
(PTTEP), which is developing the Yadana gas field in Burma's Gulf of
Martaban, Signed a 30-years contract with PTTEP's parent company the
Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) in 1995, to supply 525 million cubic
feet per day (MMCFD) of natural gas to Thailand beginning o July 1, 1998.

Speaking at a dinner on Thursday sponsored by the Society of Petroleum
Engineers, Herve Chagnoux, Total Business development and Burma, said under
the production sharing contract signed in 1992 between the gas developers
and the Burmese government, the Burmese government's take when the gas
production reaches full stream will; be roughly $200 million per year before
the costs of the gas developers.

This estimate, he said, does not include profit sharing from the possible
equity participation of Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), Burma's state
oil company. MOGE has an option to take a 15 per cent share in the project
and might take up the rights after the exploration and development process.

Chagnoux noted that the project gas been granted a three-year corporate
income tax exemption and gas production is projected to reach its full
committed capacity of 525 MMCFD within 15 months of start-up. For the first
12 months, Total expects to produce 2,000 MMCFD of gas.

Total will announce by the end of this year the upward revision of the gas
reserves in Martaban's M-5 and M-6 blocks, which include the Yadana and
Badamyer field, and the progress of negotiations on additional gas supply
for PTT. At present, the gas reserve is confirmed at 5-6 trillion cubic
feet, sufficient for production of 650-750 MMCFD.

The Yadana gas project has been the subject of heavy international scrutiny
by human rights and environmental activists critical of Burma's military-led

"We are not a political entity. We are neutral. We're investing in this
30-year project which will benefit the country," Chagnoux  said when asked
about the criticism.

 For gas production, Total will establish two wellhead platforms capable of
digging 14 holes and pumping up to 525 MMCFD of gas for delivery through a
403-kilometer pipeline to PTT at the Thai-Burmese border.

"The fact only two platforms are required for production confirms the
potential of the Yadana field," said a Bangkok-based oil company executive.

The Martaban sea is only 45 meters deep at Total's Yadana platforms and the
company will only have to drill 3120 meters below the seabed to reach the gas.

Total said the $1 billion investment comprises $300 million for the
construction of offshore platforms and $700 million for the pipeline system
and other onshore costs.

Until now, financing for the project has been entirely funded by
share-holders' money, he said, although negotiations are underway with
several export credit agencies.

The Total executive did not rule out other funding possibilities.

Next month, SPIE will begin installation of the 63-kilometer onshore
pipeline system, a task oil executives said will be technically challenging
since it runs through a mountainous and remote area of Burma. The pipeline
will cross two major rivers before climbing from a height of 80 meters to
900 meters over the last 10-kilometer section o Ban-I-Tong on the
Thai-Burmese border.

The installation of the 346-kilometer offshore gas pipeline will commence in
Jan 1998 at a target rate of four kilometers per day.
According to Chagnoux, the onshore pipeline route was selected over tow
other alternatives after the consortium considered it the best ecological
alternative despite being six kilometers longer.

A socio-economic study undertaken by the consortium found that the pipeline
route will pass 13 villages whose populations comprise 68 per cent ethnic
Burmese, 24 per cent Mon and 8 per cent Karen. The route passes just south
of Mon state.

Total, Unocal and PTTEP, which hold 36.75, 33.25 and 30 per cent steaks in
the Yadana gas projects, will reduce their shares to 31.2375, 28.2625 and
25.5 per cent, respectively, when the Burmese national oil company exercises
its 15 per cent share option.

To prepare for installation of the pipeline, the consortium has had to
construct several new facilities including a harbour, an airport, bridges
and roads.

These infrastructure projects, completed in July, were built to facilitate
the transport of thousands of tonnes of pipeline 2,000 kilometers from the
consortium's pipeline coating base in Malaysia.

Total is also participating in a consortium with Unocal, Mitsui of Japan and
Myanmar Enterprises, for a project to utilise gas from the Yadana field for
domestic use in Burma.

The projects include fertiliser, power and gas separation plants and the
construction of a pipeline to Rangoon.

The details of the so-called three-in-one project, estimated to cost
$600-750 million, are still being negotiated, he said. (TN)


October 21, 1996

Slorc 'wasting money on spies and sieges', harassing NLD staff

Her home barricaded by Burma's military regime for the fourth weekend,
pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called authorities "vulgar" and
said they wasted badly needed money watching her.

In her weekly syndicated newspaper column "Letters From Burma", the Nobel
Peace laureate recounted the harassment she and her supporters have endured
since the government blocked streets to her home on the eve of a planned
opposition party congress on September 27.

The barricades remained in place for 11 days and at least 537 supporters of
Mrs Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy were detained and questioned.
After being lifted for a few days, the barricades were put back in place
October 11 and remain there.

The barricades have prevented customary weekend rallies by thousands of
supporters outside Mrs Suu Kyi's home. However, she said in the column that
she has been able to come and go to meet party leaders and discuss business
planned for the congress.

"Everywhere we went, the authorities exhibited the most intense, not to say
vulgar, curiosity, surrounding the place with military intelligence and
security personnel, wasting a lot of video and camera film recording all the
comings and goings," she wrote.

"We estimated that the government intelligence organisations must spend
between 80 to 90 per cent of their time, energy and money on matters related
to NLD activities.

"How much more sensible it would be to come to a civilised settlement that
would remove the need for spies and sieges."

The ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) has refused all
of Mrs Suu Kyi's appeals for a dialogue despite freeing her from six years
of house arrest in 1995.

Scores of her followers have been sentenced to long prison terms over the
past year, and no planned large-scale meeting of her party has been allowed.

Mrs Suu Kyi's column does not appear in Burma's state-controlled press,
which frequently calls her a traitor. The weekend meetings had been
virtually the only open dissent allowed in the country.

In Rangoon, meanwhile, a top Slorc general denounced the awarding of Nobel
Peace Prizes to dissidents he branded as the "puppets" of Western countries.

General Tin Oo gave a speech on Friday marking Armed Forces Day that accused
the West of trying to dominate smaller countries.

"The Nobel Peace Prize has been given to those who are opposing the
government," official media quoted Tin Oo as saying. "It has been used as a
political instrument for incitement and also to popularise their puppets in
the international arena." 


October 21, 1996

Malaysia believes Burma's military junta will speed up democratic 
reforms if other countries help boost its economy and living standards, 
the Malaysian Foreign Minister, Mr Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said in remarks 
published yesterday.

	Democracy cound be difficult for a country when there was 
widespread poverty and unemployment, he said on his arrival in Rangoon 
late on Sunday on his first visit to Burma.

	"We believe that through ASEAN, we will be able to work with 
Myanmar (Burma) and expedite its economic growth," Mr Badawi was quoted 
as saying in The Star English-language daily newspaper.

	"We beleive in the 'propser the neighbour' policy, which helps 
the region as a whole," said Mr Badawi, who travelled to Burma after 
attending the Hanoi meeting of the Malaysia-Vieetnam Joint Commission.


October 20, 1996

When international organisations recently cut off financial aid
to a Mon refugee camp in Payaw, Burma, the indigenous minority
group  were left to face an uncertain future with mounting hardships.

Payaw is situated about 30 kilometres north of Tanaosi, Thailand's
mountainous terrain in Kanchanaburi, in the Burmese state of Murayit Taung.

In the confined camp live more than 1,000 refugees, who are
looked after by troops from the New Mon State Party.

Since the aid was stopped several months ago, basic necessitities
have been scarce, especially as more and more refugees arrive.
Previously, the Mon received two cups of rice a day, donated then
by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

But now, finding enough food to eat has become harder and harder.

"We struggle to get two meals per day. We catch fish and frogs,
and pick wild vegetables," said Nai Shwe Kyin, an 82 year old
leader of the New Mon State Party.

But it is not just the problems of living a displaced life, other
than struggling to find enough to eat, drugs and other medicine
are almost non-existant. 

There is also the worry over the future of the children in the
camp. Although those Mon who have escaped the country have
financially supported the children's education by hiring a few
Burmese teachers, the makeshift school is almost bare of the
educational equipment needed.

Most of the Mon in the camp claim that they left their homes
because they were afraid of being press ganged by the Burmese
authorities into forced labour and building an ambitious pipeline
from the country's gas fields to Thailand.

A majority of them came from their homes in other parts of
Murayit Taung, where a section  of the pipeline will pass through.

Baya-ong, a 35 year old member of the New Mon State Party, said
that more than 600 Mon living in an area close to the pipeline
would be uprooted and moved elsewhere. 

"The Burmese government said they would find a new home for these
people.  However, they have never specified anywhere," he said.

Because of the uncertainty of their future, and the fear of becoming forced
labourers, Baya-ong and hundreds of his neighbours fled to Payaw.

"We had to escape before the pipeline came to our area. We are sure that the
State Law and Order Restoration Council [SLORC] would exploit us," he said.

Baya-ong added that many local people who refused to work on the project
were physically abused.

Kwa-sen, a 40 year old Mon, was among the forced labourers working on the
pipeline. He decided to escape from the slave like conditions almost a year ago.

"I also brought my daughter to the camp. I did n't want her to
live a life with potential danger just round every corner," he said.

His 18 year old daughter, Mon Chai, said if she had not fled with
her father, she would have been raped by Slorc soldiers.

"Many girls have been raped and sexually abused.

I was afraid that I would become one of the victims if I stayed," she said.

Because of the financial strain, the Mon in the camp have been trying to eke
out a living with most of the women being taught how to make cloths.

Sadly, though, a number of the women have been lured to Thailand
to work as prostitutes on the promise of making money, only to
return with a death sentence hanging over them -Aids.


October 19-20, 1996
by Victor Mallet

by Norman Lewis et al, Abbeville Press 227 pages

This is a remarkable feat: more than 450 colour photographs of Burma and
not a single picture of a soldier or a field of opium poppies, let alone a Pepsi
bottle, an oil rig, or a hotel building site.

In the real Burma, it is hard to miss the troops or the roadside billboards 
extolling the tatmadaw, the army which runs the country through the junta
known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council.  Nor is it easy - 
in the capital Rangoon, at least - to escape the first signs of the industrial
revolution that has already swept through the rest of south-east Asia.  
But such brutal realism is not the purpose of this book.

Quoting Kipling and Orwell (Burmese Days, not the equally appropriate 
Nineteen Eighty Four), the authors and photographers waft us through
a quaint and delightful land of Buddhist temples, trained elephants, and 
colorful hill-tribe festivals.

The photographs are good and the book is not an outright lie.  Burma, like
Laos, is unpolluted.  It has indeed guarded much of its innocent charm 
and religious faith, if only because the generals have until recently stifled 
economic development and kept much of the country's territory closed to
outsiders.  One of the best essays is an account by Dr. Kyi Kyi Tin-Myint,
a child psychiatrist and author, of the gentle but disciplined family life of 
Burma and her horror at the "aggressive, surly and demanding" children 
she encountered when she first visited the US.

But like other contributors, she is not allowed to say much about the present,
presumably because it would have displeased the book's supporters and 
sponsors, including the Burmese government and Singaporean and 
Japanese investors.  One of the few concessions to modernity is the use
of the supposedly nationalistic place names insisted on by the authorities: 
Myanmar instead of Burma and the Ayeyarwaddy River instead of the 
Irrawaddy, for example.

To ordinary Burmese, such linguistic niceties are of little consequence.  
Myanmar has always been the Burmese word in any case, and demanding 
its use in English is equivalent to the British government condemning 
the French for calling England Angleterre.

This book is not, as the dust-jacket claims, "comprehensive".  Nor is Burma
"one of the wealthies countries in Asia"; it was, of course, in the past, but
later three decades of military rule its people are now among the continent's 
poorest.  It is true that Burma has some of Asia's most beautiful and unspoilt
beaches, forests, hills and Buddhist temples.  But all this comes at a heavy 
cost to the Burmese people that is not recorded here.


October 19, 1996 

RANGOON, Burma  -- A top general of Burma's military regime says the Nobel
committee has tried to give credibility to political dissidents by awarding
the peace prize to the ``puppets'' of Western nations.

Gen. Tin Oo, a senior member of the regime, did not mention any particular
peace laureate, but his remarks Friday in a speech marking Armed Forces Day
clearly included Burma's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 while she was under house arrest.
Her party won national elections in 1990 but the regime never allowed
parliament to convene.

Suu Kyi was released from house arrest last year, but the government
recently has tightened its control of her activities. On Saturday, troops
continued to block roads to her home, preventing her from holding regular
party meeting for the fourth straight weekend.

The 1996 Nobel Peace Prize went to two critics of Indonesia's rule in East
Timor, Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo and exiled resistance leader Jose
Ramos-Horta. Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

``The Nobel Peace Prize has been given to those who are opposing the
government,'' official media quoted Tin Oo as saying. ``It has been used as
a political instrument for incitement and also to popularize their puppets
in the international arena.''

The prize was simply part of ` multi-dimensional war to dominate smaller
countries using political, economic diplomatic and psychological means,'' he


October 19, 1996

The destructive works of the SLORC supported DKBA

1.The Baw Ta Raw christian church which is located in Hlaing Bwe township,
Pa-an district was pulled down by the SLORC supported DKBA and all the
church materials were reused in the building of their monestary  at Myaing
Gyi Ngu, the head quarters of the DKBA.
    All the christian believers were forced to become Buddhists and were
forced to bow down and worship the Buddhist monks. The pastor's house was
also burnt.

2. The Own Daw christian church and the mission school which is located in Bu
Tho township, Papun district was taken by the SLORC supported  DKBA and four
teacher's houses were pulled down and reused  in the building of their
monestary at Myaing Gyi Ngu, the head quarters of the  DKBA.

3.  The Yaw Po Hta Muslim mosque which is located in Hlaing Bwe township,
Pa-an district was pulled down by the SLORC supported DKBA   all the mosque
moterials were reused in the building of their monestary at Myaing Gyi Ngu,
the head quarters of the DKBA.
        All the muslem believers were also forced to leave  the village.

4.  The Mee Zaing muslim mosque which is located in Bilin township, Thaton
district was completely pulled down by the SLORC supported DKBA and a pagoda
was built in the place of the former muslim mosque.


from FDL Quarterly, vol 2 No 1
October 21, 1996
By Harn Yawnghwe

The mandate of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is to provide
protection for refugees, and theoretically, the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights provides the minimum standard by which governments should treat
their citizens. Yet in conflict areas around the world, there seems to be an
increasing number of reports of extreme human rights violations against
refugees and a corresponding inability on the part of the international
community to either stop the violations or protect the victims. The problems
laced by those concerned with the protection of refugees, can be illustrated
by the case of Burmese refugees. 

According to the ruling military junta in Rangoon known as the State Law and
Order Restoration Council (SLORC), Burma does not have a refugee problem. As
stated by SLORC, "Myanmar has neither problems of war refugees nor problems
of separation of families caused by war." The key word here is 'war'.
According to SLORC's definition, Burma is not at war with any nation.
Therefore, it has no refugees or problems caused by 'war'. The tact that at
least a
million Burmese citizen have been uprooted from their homes, and forcibly
moved by a civil war to become refugees in their own country, does not
count. They are not 'war refugees'. 

Burmese refugees who fled to neighboring countries like Thailand are no
better off. They are technically not considered to be refugees for several
reasons. One is the absence of 'war'. Another is the fact that Thailand is
not a signatory to the international convention on refugees, which means
that the UNHCR does not have the right to operate in Thailand. It can be
said that the UNHCR has a presence in Thailand only because the Thai
government, for humanitarian reasons, has invited the UNHCR to be there.
Therefore, the UNHCR in Thailand cannot legally protect Burmese refugees. In
extreme cases, the UNHCR has issued papers designating certain Burmese as
'Persons of Concern' to the UNHCR which gives the person in question some
measure of protection. 

To complicate matters, the more than half a million Burmese in Thailand are
classified as 'ethnic refugees' and 'economic refugees'. Those classified as
'ethnic refugees' currently number about 95,000 and are confined to refugee
camps on the Thai-Burmese border. Most belong to the Mon, Karen, Karenni and
Shan ethnic groups who live on Thailand's border and are victims of the
civil war. For humanitarian reasons, Thailand allows international
non-government organizations (NGO) to clothe and feed the 'ethnic refugees'.
But it is understood that they will be repatriated to Burma when there is
'peace'. The key word here is 'peace'. According to SLORC and some Thai
officials, the fact that most ethnic groups have signed cease-fire agreement
means that there is "peace," however, the cease fire agreement are only a
temporary truce, and fighting could break out again at any time since no
attempts have been made to reach a political settlement. In addition, it has
been documented that since the cease-fire, human rights abuses by SLORC
troops have increased rather than diminished. This is reflected in the
number of 'ethnic refugees' in Thailand. Two years ago, there were only
70,000 refugees. 

To protect themselves against SLORC abuses, the refugees have requested
international monitoring inside Burma should a repatriation take place.
SLORC agreed to the UNHCR monitoring in the case of the 250,000 Burmese
Muslim refugees who fled to Bangladesh and were repatriated. But to date,
SLORC has resisted having an international presence in Burma on the Thai

The other 500,000 Burmese 'economic refugees' try to blend into Thai
society. They have no protection whatsoever and are exploited as cheap labor
under appalling conditions. Those in sex industry for example, are confined
in tiny cell-like rooms and do not have the freedom to leave the
establishment. All are under the constant threat of being reported to Thai
authorities. Those arrested are usually confined for an indeterminate period
in the overcrowded cells of the notorious Immigration Detention Center where
physical abuse is routine. Those with enough financial means can buy their
freedom. They are then transported to the border and released to make their
own way back into Thai society and continue the cycle. 

How can the problems of refugees be addressed? The root problem of course is
a political one. Unless the international community can find a way to
implement the principle that "the will of the people shall be the basis of
government," there will always be refugees. In the case of Burma the people
showed clearly in the 1988 pro-democracy demonstrations and the 1990 general
elections that they do not want a military-dominated government. The
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has chosen to ignore the
will of the Burmese. Such an attitude will not help resolve the refugee
problem in Burma and in the Asia-Pacific region at large. 

If the political will to resolve the refugee problem cannot be found, at
least, efforts to protect refugees should be strengthened. Governments and
humanitarian organizations should not hide behind technicalities as an
excuse to do nothing. Although technically, Burma may not have a 'war
refugee' problem, almost 2 million Burmese have been displaced since SLORC
came to power in 1988. The Thai Government has allowed the Burma Border
Consortium to assist the 'ethnic refugees' on the Thai Burmese border. Other
similar cross-border efforts to monitor and assist displaced persons inside
Burma independent of SLORC-control should be explored. Thailand and Burma's
other neighbors should also be encouraged to improve official treatment of
foreign nationals. The fact that they are illegally in the country should
not be interpreted as a license to exploit and abuse them. Legal or illegal,
all human beings should be afforded a modicum of dignity. 

Harn Yawnghwe has worked in Canada, Thailand and Hong Kong in various
consulting positions since leaving Burma. He has founded the "Associates to
Develop Democratic Burma" and is editor of the "Burma Alert." He is on the
FDL-AP Board of Directors 


October 21, 1996

Burmese troops have clashed with rebel forces of the Karen National Union
(KNU) near the Thai border, Thai police and rebel source said yesterday.

The fighting took place within 15 km of the KNU base at Htee Kha Pale on
Saturday, opposite Thailand's Um phang district in Tak province.

There was no immediate information about the number of casualties in the
cash, which follows a build-up of Burmese government forces in the region in
the past week.

Thai military officials said Saturday's fighting had lasted 30 minutes and
there had been no further clashes since.

Four new battalions comprising 2,000 Burmese troops have been deployed in
the area in the past week, bringing their total forces to more than 4,000,
said a spokesman of the All Burma Student's Democratic Front. 

A Karen spokesman said that a KNU delegation is due to meet Burma's ruling
Slorc at the end of the month in their fourth round of talks this year.

"If the fighting continues and Slorc embarks on a general offensive against
the KNU, the talks will be off and the KNU forces will counter attack," he


October 19, 1996

Rangoon, AFP

Millions of dollars worth of Burmese jade and other precious stones will go
under the hammer at a state-sponsored fair beginning this weekend, drawing
about 400 gem merchants from 14 countries, organisers said yesterday.

More than $11 million worth of precious stones and minerals will be open for
competitive bidding, while jewellery and jade figurines will be offered at
fixed prices.

More than half the dealers at the six-day fair have come from Hong Kong to
bid for 616 lots of jade, floor-priced at a total of more than $5 million,
they said.

Previously, most of Burma's precious gems and minerals - including rubies,
sapphires, jade, pearls and diamonds - were smuggled out for sale in the gem
markets of neighbouring countries.

But, a new gem law carries stringent punishments for violaters including
life sentences for smugglers, officials said.

Mining of precious gems and jade, once a state preserve, has in the past two
years been opened to the private sector, and the gems law passed last year
authorised entrepreneurs to operate sales outlets as well. 

State-sponsored emporiums have also been opened up for legitimate local
gem-merchants to discourage illegal trading and smuggling, and to create a
flourishing legal market in the country, government sponsors said.

"To this end, we promulgated last year a gemstone law allowing private
entrepreneurs to form companies and engage in all aspects of the gem
industry," Deputy Mining Minister Hlaing Win said earlier this week.

The newly privatised sector has been dominated by Union of Myanmar Economic
Holdings Ltd (Umehl) since it began mining late last year.

Umehl, 40% owned by the Defense Ministry and 60% owned by current and
retired military personnel as individuals or organisations, is considered a
private company by the military's ruling State Law and Order Restoration
Council (Slorc).

Although the country's mines were a state preserve, most of them, especially
the jade mines in the far north of the country, were located in what was
until recently rebel-held territory.

A jade market is to set up in addition to the current gem market in Rangoon
to promote the legal trade in raw and polished jade, Hlaing Win said. 


October 20, 1996
Chewin Sattha
Mae Hong Son

The Burmese military junta has agreed to sell 5,000 tons of teak logs to a
Thai timber company in exchange for the construction of a 50 km road.

An informed timber trade source revealed yesterday that Boonsawasdi &
Friends Company, owned by tycoon Boonsom Duangjai-ek, was chosen by the
State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) to obtain the felled logs.

He has already sought permission from the provincial administration to haul;
in the logs through Ban Huey Pung border pass in Tambon Huay Pha, Muang
district. The pass has been open since July to allow cross border trade.

Several other border passes in Khum Yuam, Mae La Noi, Mae Sariang and Sob
Moei districts are also expected to open to allow more logs and processed
timber from Burma to be brought into Thailand.

The source added that about 3,000 teak logs were floating in the Salween
River ready to be towed across the border into Mae Sariang district once the
green light was given.

The source explained that log hauling was expected to start once the son of
Khun Sa has returned to Ho Mong from a business trip to Rangoon.

Khun Sa's son, said the source, has been negotiating with Slorc on behalf of
a group of Thai timber companies for about 25,000 tons of teak logs and
processed wood scattered along the border in Shan and Kayah states, opposite
this province.

The 5,000 tons of logs, according to the source, are part of a large
quantity of lumber Khun Sa had pledged to sell to a Thai firm, the Sahai
Ruamrob Korea Company.

However, before the logs could be delivered the former drug warlord
capitulated to the Burmese regime which refused to agree with the deal. 


October 20, 1996

To make it easy, we would like to recommend that readers just remember 
one website:


"This single page serves only as an easy to remember URL and departure
point to resources promoting the establishment of democracy in Burma.
Please write to FreeBurma@xxxxxxxxx to add a site or for further
information." - Glen, system administrator

>From this site, you can access all other Burma webpages.  If your page is
not listed here, please contact the above address to get it listed.

OTHER BURMA WEBSITES (most accessible through FreeBurma.org)

Open Society Institute's Burma Project website:

Free Burma Website: general info, boycott info, reports:

Free Burma Coalition - current campaigns, how to get involved:

Euro-BurmaNet - news stories on Burma, boycott campaigns:

Burma and the US Congress Information Network:

USIA - US government statements/laws regarding Burma:

Australian gov/politics and intl news on Burma: 

Mon language and Mon people:

Shan resources and information:

general info on burma/travel to Burma:

Ethics of trading with Burma, letters to corporations doing business in Burma:

Burmese Refugee Project, run by SloMSIC, IFMSA: 

SLORC homepage - tourist info, New Light of Myanmar:

artistic and multimedia materials promoting democracy in Burma: 

ordering videos about Burma: 

to post your own info on Burma: 		

BurmaNet News back issues: 

(Note: There are many other websites which promote travel to Burma.  
They are not listed here)