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/* Written 28 Oct 6:00am 1996 by drunoo@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.burma */
/* --------------" Towards Political Solution .. (1/2) "---------------- */

1 October 1996 by Dr U Ne Oo, Adelaide Australia.

        "[A]mong  the greatest lessons of this period is the importance of
        political initiatives in resolving the causes of refugee problems
        and the link between refugees and international peace and
        stability. While humanitarian assistance can make an important
        contribution to reducing tensions and promoting reconciliation, it
        cannot be a substitute for political solutions. Furthermore, it has
        become even more apparent that humanitarian aid must be linked more
        effectively to longer-term development in a way that addresses the
        root causes of recurrent emergencies."
        (Para 2. Report of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, A/48/12, 1994)}

A longstanding refugee problem, along with the protracted political crisis,
has been developing in Burma (Myanmar) from the time ruling military junta,
the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), came into power in 1988.
A total of 95,000 Karen refugees are living in camps at Thai-Burmese
border, where the refugees face constant attack by renegade Karen armed
faction backed by government troops. As the economic desperation and
political repression inside Burma  increased, new influx of displaced
people flow into neighbouring Thailand, Bangladesh and India. An estimated
600,000 displaced people, mainly from Burma's rural and ethnic minority
areas, entering Thailand searching for work.

In  areas where the ethnic minority rebels are active, the Burmese army
continue to use {\em four-cuts strategy} as effective counter-insurgency
measures. As a result, the forcible relocation of local population have
occurred. These large scale relocations of population in many part
of Burma have threatened to generate further outflows of refugees and
displaced persons.

As Burma's central administration continue to lose its grip on power,
patterns of lawlessness and corruption have emerged at the different
level of military authorities. The regional military administrations as
well as the individual members of armed forces are reported to be engaged
in lawless activities. Regional administrations are reportedly engaging in
{\em arbitrary taxation}, as a form of extortion, in a wide scale.
In remote rural areas, the government troops continue to commit looting and
pillage, and abuse the ethnic minorities. The government's use of
forced labour and  forcible procurement of rice on many part of Burma has
deepen poverty and economic insecurity of the rural population.

In Burma's remote eastern Shan State, where the military completed
ceasefire agreements with rebels in earlier years, opium production has
dramatically increased and bring Burma to become the largest opium poppy
producer on the world. Burmese army rank-and-file reportedly involved in
opium production; where top military brass engaged in drug
money-laundering. Disturbing report of  the spread of Drug and Aids within
and across Burma's border were also received.

Burma's  political situation has sharply deteriorated in last 12 months.
The military junta continue to apply the State Emergency Laws to suppress
the opposition. The members of opposition movement are subjected to threat
and intimidation; many already have been sentenced to  long terms
imprisonments. As has been in the past eight years in the power, the military
authorities arbitrarily interpret and randomly apply the laws in order to
suppress opposition.

Large-scale and protracted refugee problem in neighbouring countries;
continuing political instability and human rights abuse against Burmese
citizens, and increasing production and distribution to the world of opium
poppy indicate that the situation in Burma is a threat to  regional and
international peace and security. Concrete steps must be taken by the
international community as a measure to remove the threat.

An integrated approach which links humanitarian action with protection of
human rights is needed to tackle the Burma's refugee and displaced people
problem. The international humanitarian action should be formulated within
the framework of Peacemaking and peace-keeping; and linked with longer term
institution-building. Political and human rights problems must be addressed
in a comprehensive manner and tackled in integrated faction by all actors
concerned ( national political forces, the United Nations and international
community ). Following is the outline of strategy to approach Burma's
problem from all fronts.

1.  Political Developments
1.1  Dialogue with the National League for Democracy
Initially, there had been some optimism within the international community
when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the General Secretary of the National League for
Democracy, was released on 10 July 1995. Analysts, nevertheless, are puzzled
at what had been the SLORC's real intention in releasing her [1,2]. At that
time, in addition to growing international pressure and persuasions to
release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, there  appears to be SLORC  mis-calculation
about the Burmese people's aspiration to establish democracy. SLORC seems
to think the National League for Democracy is weak enough and that it may
be able to marginalize Daw Aung San Suu Kyi effectively.

Since her release, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi continues to call for dialogue with
military authorities. At the same time party building works has been carry
out to revive the National League for Democracy (NLD). Within few months
after her release, the NLD appears to have been reconsolidated.

On 28 November 1995, the NLD withdrew its participation from the National
Convention. SLORC press continue to attack Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the
National League for Democracy since early 1996. The political situation
sharply deteriorated in May when SLORC detained 238 members of NLD and
parliament elected to prevent the NLD conference held on 26-29 May. In
addition to mass arrests, SLORC issued order No. 5/96, threatening to
imprison anyone who engaged in opposition activities and to ban the
opposition parties [3]. It was clear that the SLORC feel threatened by the
growing strength of NLD and therefore making such a drastic move. These
arrest and recent sentencing of NLD workers clearly indicate that the SLORC
has no intention to negotiate with National League for Democracy.

The international community's efforts to persuade the military to enter
negotiation with NLD has not been successful. The Australia's offer to
mediate the conflict in Burma in December 1995 has not been accepted by
the SLORC [4]. Serious diplomatic representation was made to SLORC foreign
minister by U.S. Secretary of State at the July-1996 Asean Regional Forum
in Jakarta [5]. Recent ASEAN initiatives to use quiet diplomacy also
doesn't seem to produce the result [6]. Therefore, alternative measures to
improve the political situation are necessary.

1.2  Cease-fire: Reconciliation with ethnic nationalities
Todate, SLORC has successfully negotiated cease-fire agreements with
15-armed ethnic rebels. These cease-fire pacts are agreed on individual
basis with SLORC's promise for developments [7,8]. The SLORC's primary
objective in securing cease-fire agreements with various armed rebel
groups, as with its intention for convening National Convention, can be
seen as the attempt to maintain  current military's status quo. Regional
development assistance were promised to the rebels; however no arrangements
has been made to settle the political problems that generate armed conflict
in the first place.

SLORC signed its first cease-fire pact with Wa ethnic rebels in 1989. In
April 1989, the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) rank and file mutinies
against the Burman Moist leaders, forming four splintered armed factions
along the ethnic line [9]. SLORC has capitalized the situation in eastern
Shan State and made ceasefire deals with the Wa ethnic rebels.

The ceasefire with Wa ethnic rebels in 1989 proven to be a timely move
for SLORC. At that time, the political opposition within the country and
abroad was growing; the National Democratic Front (NDF), umbrella
organization of the ethnic minorities rebels, and Burman student and
political opposition were beginning to consolidate. By signing these
cease-fire pacts in Shan State, SLORC had effectively neutralized the
possible threat of the splinter ethnic Wa factions may have joined the
opposition groups [10].

The ethnic minorities, primarily the members of NDF, have been fighting
for a greater autonomy - or some independence - from central Rangoon
governments since the time Burma gained  her independence in 1948. The
ethnic armed resistance movement reached to a new phase when the members
of parliament who were elected in May 1990 election had fled to
liberated area of Thai-Burmese border. The exile opposition group had
declared a parallel government, known as National Coalition Government of
Union of Burma (NCGUB), with the support of the rebel umbrella group,
Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB) [11]. The NCGUB/DAB promised to work
towards a future federal union for Burma.

To establish Burma as a federation of states has been a sensitive political
issue even since the time that General Ne Win took over power in 1962.
There is a perception among older Burmese leaders that the establishment of
a federal union may leads to a secession. The Burmese military always
claimed itself as the saviour of Burma from disintegration and portray ethnic
rebels as separatists. Today, such issue of the non-disintegration of
union, in fact, is the only issue that is left to justify the military's
role in Burmese politics. Burmese army, therefore, suppress any movement
towards establishment of a federal union. The emergence of NCGUB/DAB as a
political alliance, therefore, becomes a concern to SLORC.

After the leadership changes in April 1992, the SLORC begin to change its
tactics in dealing with opposition. In order to marginalize NCGUB and to
weaken the DAB, the rebel groups within DAB are coerced to sign separate
cease-fire agreements with SLORC. In February 1994, the Kachin Independence
Army, a prominent member of DAB, signed cease-fire agreement with SLORC. On
June 1995, the New Mon State Party had signed cease-fire, ending a nearly
40 years of armed conflict. The Karen National Union, only remaining member
of the DAB, is refusing to sign SLORC's military cease-fire pact, and
continue to demand political settlement with the government.

It need to be noted that, despite most of the ethnic rebel groups has
signed SLORC's ceasefire agreement under pressures, these ethnic
nationalities are not likely to forget their demand for political
settlement. The former members of Democratic Alliance of Burma, especially
Kachin Independence Organization, continues to call for participation in
writing Constitution [12]. The recent information received from inside Burma
indicate that the Kachin Independence Organization and New Mon State Party
have written to the SLORC demanding their participation in dialogue and
writing the constitution [13].

On early January 1996, the drug warlord Khun Sa and some members of Mong
Tai Army (MTA)in Shan State has "surrendered" to the government. However,
the most rank-and-file of MTA have splintered into different factions and
continue to be active in Shan State [14].

1.3 Drug trade in Shan State: Emerging security threat
After the cease-fire in 1989, the area under the control of former CPB
rebels in eastern Shan State quickly transformed into major opium-poppy
producing areas. Consequently, a dramatic increase in opium production in
Burma has been reported [15]. After China reduced aid for the Burma
Communist Party in 1970s, the communist rebel rank-and-file resorted
to opium production/trade as alternative support. In 1989, the area under
control of the splinter groups has already been opium producing area. Where
the development assistance promised by SLORC was not forthcoming, the
existing drug warlords capitalized the situation and the Wa rebels were
further dragged into drug trade [16].

The SLORC's inaction to the drug problem in Shan State can seen in the
following context. Firstly, since the time of concluding the ceasefire with
Wa rebels, SLORC has promoted itself to the international community as a
peace-maker. Therefore, taking measures against Wa rebels may damage its
reputation. Secondly, the SLORC is already preoccupied by  political
confrontations with democratic opposition and therefore apprehensive about
engaging with rebels on military front. Thirdly, there may have been some
hope within SLORC that the drug issues may be used as an avenue to
legitimize itself internationally [17].

The SLORC's policy inconsistency - and willingness to exploit - on drug
issues is seen by observing its operation on Khun Sa. In spite of high
profile campaigns were launched in 1994 and 1995 against Khun Sa [18],
the SLORC finally made ceasefire deals with Mong Tai Army in January 1996.
The SLORC's policy priority was, thus, to consolidate its political
position, rather than to reduce opium poppy cultivations [19].

>From this author's point of view, these existing ceasefires in Shan State,
no matter how fragile and flawed, are to be welcomed as a first step to
reduce opium poppy production. There is at least a possibility of achieving
a lasting peace. However, a strategy to realize peace in Shan State is
still need to be formulated. The demobilization/disarmament in exchange for
settlements and developments may be the ideal solution; but this formula
may not work for drug warlords [20]. Probably because of the former
Communist connections as well as the shadows of drug issues, the ethnic
rebels in Shan State are not in contact with pro-democracy forces.
Therefore, their political orientation to current situation are still

A major threat with regards to drug trade in Shan State is the possibility
of Burmese army become engaged in an institutionalized corruption. There
are already reports of drug money-laundering by Burmese army officers [21].
At the current stage, the regional military commanders are quite likely to be
involved in corruption [22]. The Wa rebels (United Wa State Army) on the
one hand control its own territory and appears to build-up arms. While the
political solution should certainly be offer to the Wa rebels, it is
important that the neighbouring countries should make greater effort to
contain arms flows and to put tight control on logistic supports to these
rebels. The closer scrutiny should be made to the cases of Burmese army
officials drug money-laundering in neighbouring countries.

1.4 National Convention and Process of Democratization
SLORC made initiative to draw up a new constitution in 1992 amid the
request to transfer power to elected representatives by the United Nations
General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights. The objective of National
Convention appears to be to assert its legitimacy and to prolong its stay
on power [23]. The composition of delegates does not truly represent
elected members (only 61 out of 702 are elected members) and the guideline
set out by the National Convention Convening Committee are not leading
towards democracy. From the beginning of the National Convention
in January 1993, it is clear that the elected representatives do not
agree with one of the guidelines set out by the National Convention
Convening Committee - as has been noted in his report in February 1993
by UN Special Rapporteur [24]:

        Para.216."[T]he Special Rapporteur was further informed that point
        number 6 of objectives on the agenda of the National Convention,
        i.e., the "leading role" of the military (Tatmadaw) in the future
        government was not an objective agreed to by the elected
        representatives. The Special Rapporteur was told that it is not
        clear what role or influence the Tatmadaw is to carry out in the
        Drafting Committee and how its role in the future, democratic
        government as defined in the constitution to be drafted was another
        point of great concern to the elected representatives."

As a result, the process of SLORC-sponsored National Convention throughout
1993 to 1996 is marked by numerous stoppages. Although SLORC made an
attempt to copy the Indonesian style constitution which accommodate a
dual-function role for the army, there are questions that such system will
not work for Burma [25]. On 7 April 1995, the SLORC's National Convention
Convening Committee, amid protests by the elected representatives [26],
declared six Self Administered Zones within Shan State. As has been pointed
out by the analysts [27], this move is political manipulation by SLORC
leaders in an attempt to subdue the emerging unity between ethnic
minorities and civilian opposition parties.

More important question about SLORC-sponsored National Convention has been
the possibility of not being approved by majority of population once it is
completed. In this context, the current process of writing constitution can
be considered as a mere waste of time and energy.

On November 1995, the National League for Democracy  withdrew its support
about SLORC-sponsored Convention; stating the Convention (and the working
procedures) is undemocratic and unacceptable for the people of Burma. The
National League for Democracy also made the call for discussion and
dialogue with authoroties to achieve national reconciliation [28].

The United Nations General Assembly in its fiftieth session also express
its concerns with regards to National Convention [29]:

        Para.9."[E]xpresses its concern that most of the representatives
        duly elected in 1990 are still excluded from participating in the
        meetings of the National Convention, created to prepare basic
        elements for the drafting of a new constitution, and that one of
        its objectives is to maintain the participation of the armed forces
        in a leading role in the future political life of the State, and
        notes with concern that the working procedures of the National
        Convention do not permit the elected representatives of the people
        freely to express their views;"

The resolution further urges Government of Myanmar to engage in a
substantive political dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other
political leaders, including representatives from ethnic group, to promote
national reconciliation and restoration of democracy.

The emergence of a Constitution which accommodate the democratic aspiration
of all people of Burma, especially the ethnic minorities, is central to the
question of democratization in Burma. The Constitution is also central to
ending of longstanding civil war in Burma. The international community must
scrutinize the process of writing Constitution. It also need to set a time
frame to finalize and adopt the Constitution.

1.5 Relation with United Nations
In last 12 months, the relation between the United Nations and Myanmar
military authorities has significantly deteriorated. Professor Yozo Yokota,
the former U.N. Special Rapporteur, in his February-1996 report,
E/CN.4/1996/65, has noted several instances of SLORC not cooperating with
the United Nations. The Special Rapporteur was not allowed to see the
prisoners at the Myitkyina and Insein prisons during his visit to Burma in
October 1995. In order to investigate the allegation of forced labour, the
Special Rapporteur requested to visit (1) Mong Kwan electric power plant in
Shan State, (2) Myitkyina-Sumprabom Road and (3) Myitkyina-Shibwe Kawkhanugng
Road in Kachin State. The military authorities had instead taken the
Special Rapporteur to the (1) Nan Wop electric power plant in Shan State
(2) the construction site of ``Ayayarwady Bridge" in Kachin State.

In March-1996, the UN assistant secretary-general, Mr Alvaro de Soto, was
refused of visit to Burma. At that time the assistant secretary-general had
been preparing reports to UN General Assembly and UN Commission on Human
Rights. The SLORC official explanation of refusing Mr de Soto's visit was
that the SLORC leaders always tour in March the country to prepare Burmese
New Year. This is the evidence of SLORC has no position to discuss
political situation of the country.

The SLORC cooperation in implementing UNDCP projects is also in
decline [30]. The UNDCP was not allowed the access to areas under ethnic
rebels and limit the assignment of UN personnel. NGOs are also not allowed
to operate in Shan State [31].

The SLORC has particularly made measures to restrict the activity of UNHCR
in Arakan State [32]. The UNHCR is currently involved in repatriation and
reintegration of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. These restrictive
measures are impeding the progress of the UNHCR operation (See more detail
in \Section 2.3).

On 2 September 1996, at the SLORC information committee forum, the SLORC
Foreign Minister rejected the Commission on Human Rights appointment of the
new U.N. Special Rapporteur and refusing to allow the Special Rapporteur's
visit to Burma [33].

Where the United Nations Agencies, especially the UNHCR, usually operate
with the ``consent" of government, whether that government be legitimate or
illegitimate, the SLORC refusing to cooperate with United Nation is
clearly a contempt of the United Nations and U.N. Charter. It has been
clear that the ``humanitarian good will" is not enough to persuade the
Burmese military leaders to improve the country's human rights and
political situation. The international community must resort to other
forceful means to persuade the SLORC.

2. Situation of refugees and displaced people
2.1 Incursions into Thailand and armed attacks on refugees
In December 1994, a few hundred Buddhist members of the Karen National
Liberation Army broke away from KNU. SLORC has exploited the situation and
attacked the Karen National Union headquarters, Manerplaw, despite the
Burmese army's 1992 unilateral ceasefire announcement  on Karen rebels.
After the fall of Karen National Union's  headquarters in January 1995,
reports continued to be received of armed attacks on the refugees and
displaced people by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization (DKBO) - the
breakaway faction of Karen National Union (KNU). Various international
human rights organizations have reported the abduction and killing of
refugees; and attacks on displaced people and refugee camps on the Thai soil
by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization. The Amnesty International
noted the incidents of border incursions into refugee camps as [34,35]:

        "[A]fter wrestling control of Myanmar territory along the Thai
        border away from the KNU, the SLORC and particularly the DKBA have
        launched a series of increasingly large-scale armed incursions into
        the refugee camps which are generally situated within a few
        kilometers of the border. These incursions, which resulted in the
        abduction and death of a number of refugees and the burning of
        thousands of refugee homes, are explicitly designed to terrify the
        refugees into returning to Myanmar and thus to deprive the KNU of
        its supposed civilian base. In February and March 1995, these
        incursions normally involved 20-30 troops and generally had the aim
        of abducting and forcibly repatriating senior civilian KNU Buddhist
        officials and camp administrators. Since mid-April 1995, however,
        the incursions often involved hundreds of soldiers and the burning
        of entire refugee camps. The DKBA have also been responsible for
        several random acts of violence or crimes against Karen refugees
        and local Thai villagers."

The Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar, Professor Yozo Yokota,
have also reported above incidents to the U.N. General Assembly in his
report on 16 October 1995 [36]. According to the SLORC, The Burmese army
has provided logistics support for DKBO since the defection in December
1995. However, the SLORC denied the involvements of abducting refugees and
attacking refugee camps [37].

Although the DKBO is reportedly responsible for those attacks on Karen
refugees, at the closer investigations it has revealed that those border
incursions were actively supported by the Burmese army. The reports by
Amnesty International [38] and Far Eastern Economic Review [39] indicated
that Burmese regular army is responsible for attack on the refugee camps in
Thailand. Refugees from the camps said that the attackers were regular
Burmese groups wearing the uniforms and insignia of the Democratic Karen
Buddhist Army.

Continuing occurrence of violent conflicts by these disputing parties as
well as the attack on refugees attract attention from the Thai authorities.
Often it create tension between the Burmese army and Thai security forces.

In the beginning of this year, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army has stepped
up their campaign in terrorizing Karen refugees and displaced people
and attack on the camps along Thai border [40]. The foreign
non-governmental organizations workers are also threatened to stay away
from the refugee camps [41]. Fighting between DKBO and KNU have also been
reported [42]. The Amnesty International has reported the continuing
occurrences of raiding and looting of refugee camps [43]:

        "[I]n the last year DKBA troops have repeatedly crossed the border
        and killed and abducted dozens of Karen civilians in an apparent
        attempt to force over 70,000 Karen refugees to return to the areas
        of the Kayin State under its control. In the last six months there
        have been widespread reports that the SLORC has reduced its
        distribution of food and other supplies to the DKBA. As a possible
        consequence, in late 1995 and early 1996 the DKBA has concentrated
        its efforts on raiding and looting refugee camps and villages in
        Thailand for supplies. They have also reportedly stolen supplies
        from many Karen civilians who remained in villages in Myanmar."

It need to be note with concern  that the SLORC tendency to promote and
exploit weakness and division within KNU; indicating no genuine desire to
make compromise with ethnic nationalities. Such repeated occurrence of
incursions into refugee camps in Thai territory by DKBO and Burmese army,
and the continuing conflicts within the rebel forces call for urgent
attention for the peaceful solution to the problems between DKBO, KNU
and the Burmese army.

2.2 Internally Displaced People

/* END PART 1 OF 2 */