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

BurmaNet News: November 4, 1996

"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies" 

The BurmaNet News: November 4, 1996
Issue #560

Noted in Passing:
		It is not an exaggeration that democracy has become the  
		absolute and indispensable condition for Asia's survival - 
		South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae-jung 


November  2, 1996

RANGOON - Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday that she
doubts Burma's military authorities are ready dialogue, despite suggestions
of a possible thaw in relations.

"We are always prepared to be reasonable and make compromises so long as it
is done in the right spirit, "she told a news conference in her compound
just hours after a government media briefing.

Kyaw Thein's of the Office of Strategic Studies said  the government was "
always trying to improve the situation" and that the opposition "might be
trying to do the same".

Kyaw Thein's comments at the government briefing , which was also attended
by Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw, were taken by observers as an indication  of a
possible thawing of relations between the authorities and opposition.

But Suu Kyi said that she understood senior members of the ruling State Law
and Order Restoration Council are insisting that any dialogue can only take
place in the National Convention.

"We are always ready to consider new situations as they arise, but someone
told me Ohn Gyaw is still insisting that the National Convention is the
proper place for dialogue, " she said. "It's a bit difficult for me to
understand what the change is."


November 1, 1996

RANGOON, Nov. 1 (Reuters) - Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw said on Friday he was
confident Burma would be accepted as a full member of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) despite talk of some hesitancy among some of
the member nations. 

    Burma was granted observer status to the seven-nation regional grouping
and hopes to become a full member at the next formal meeting in July. 

    ``By virtue of the fact that you have observer status it is just a matter
of time, sooner or later you will be integrated into ASEAN,'' Ohn Gyaw told a
monthly press conference in Rangoon given by the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC). 

    ``We are quite confident,'' he said. ``I am very much convinced that our
integration into the ASEAN fold is only a matter of time.'' 

    He dismissed talk that some member nations were hesitating over how fast
Burma should be allowed into the grouping. 

    ``I don't think there is any shift (in feeling),'' he said. ``There is no
change of heart. It is not political.'' 

    Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said on Thursday that Burma was
not yet ready for membership in ASEAN. 

    ``I don't think Myanmar (Burma) is quite ready in the near future to
adopt all the obligations of being a member of ASEAN,'' Goh said in an
interview for television made available to Reuters by MTV3 Finland. 

    Also, Philippine President Fidel Ramos said last month ASEAN leaders
might review its policy of ``constructive engagement'' with Burma. The policy
is aimed at keeping Burma from being isolated and trying to spark reform from

    His comments came after a renewed SLORC crackdown on the democracy
movement in Burma. The Rangoon government arrested 573 members or supporters
of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to prevent a party
meeting in late September. 

    The SLORC also detained Kyi Maung, a top NLD official and senior advisor
to Suu Kyi. He was released after a week of questioning but his detention
sparked global condemnation. 

    Thailand has also said it thinks Burma needs some time to prepare for
admission as a full ASEAN member. 

    ASEAN groups Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore,
Thailand and Vietnam. 

    Goh said the answer to whether Burma was ready to join ASEAN depended on
its ability to assume certain obligations such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area. 

    Although Burma is under fire from some Western nations and
non-governmental organizations over human rights issues, Goh said Singapore
does not interfere in the internal affairs of its neighbors. 


November 2, 1996
AFP/Kuala Lumpur,

Malaysia's opposition party has called on ASEAN governments to support
Thailand's call for Burma to complete its draft constitution and restore
democracy before becoming a full ASEAN member.

Lim Kit Siang, secretary general of Malaysia's opposition Democratic Action
Party, said in a statement ASEAN members should adopt Thailand's position as
its own.

Only then would ASEAN "have full justification, honor and pride to admit
Burma to ASEAN as it would mean the success of its constructive engagement
policy to improve the situation in Burma,' Mr. Lim said.

Although the Slorc claimed the draft was 75 percent completed, Mr. Lim said
ASEAN should press for its completion as there were fears that the junta had
no intention to produce any draft until the next century.

The draft should also ensure that the various defects in the constitution-
drawing process, which led to the boycott of Aung San Suu Kyi's National
League for Democracy be rectified, he added.

Mr. Lim urged ASEAN secretary- general Ajit Singh, who will visit Burma next
week, to ask Slorc if it was prepared to invite Mrs. Suu Kyi and her party
to participate in the drafting of the constitution.

During his trip, Mr. Singh is scheduled to meet Slorc leaders to discuss
preparations for Burma to join ASEAN.


November 2, 1996
Saritdet Marukatat Nussara Sawatsawant

The Austrian deputy foreign minister yesterday called for close consultation
between the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in
their summit to evaluate progress in Burma.

Benita Ferrero-Walden said the two regional groups could use the Asia-Europe
Summit to exchange views and progress on their different approach toward Burma.

"For the future, especially in the framework of ASEAN, we should maybe have
a parallel approach between ASEAN and European Union countries toward
Myanmar (Burma) to see whether there will be enhanced democracy there and
get the country out of isolation, " 

she said in an interview.

Ms Ferrero-Walden proposed the plan to Deputy Foreign Minister Thep Devakula
during talks yesterday dominated by the Burmese issue.

Affirming that the two blocs respected each other's approaches, she said
close exchange of views would be beneficial because they had the same goal
of democracy.

The deputy minister, whose three day visit to boost bilateral ties ends
tomorrow, was briefed by MR Thep on Thailand's stance on Burma.

She said the EU did not stop contacts with Burma but it had imposed
restrictions to put more pressure on the government - the State Law and
Order Restoration Council - to improve democracy and human rights.

The limits, announced on Monday with endorsement by the EU's foreign
ministers, includes a ban on visas for members and families of the Slorc and
senior military and security officials. EU foreign ministers and senior
officials are barred from visits to Burma.

The Burmese ambassador also reaffirmed his government's position on no
resumption of dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.


November 1, 1996

VIENTIANE - China and Burma will be admitted as full dialogue partners of
the Mekong River Commission (MRC) ministerial council next year, moving them
a step closer to full membership  of the sub-regional body.

Prathes Sutabutr, director general of the Department of Energy Development
and Promotion, said the commission's senior -officials will meet in Bangkok
in March to discuss the admission of the two countries.

China and Burma attended this week's MRC council meeting in Vientiane as
observers. They began the dialogue process at the joint committee level in
July, discussing cooperation. The MRC comprises Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and

Prathes said that the joint committee would also discuss the restructuring
of the MRC secretariat to ensure that the activities of the commission's
five divisions were implemented.

The third meeting of the MRC council ended yesterday with a commitment from
the international donor community to financially support the development of
the Mekong basin, Nay Htun, director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the
Pacific at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), said.

Donors, however, urged the commission to encourage greater public
participation in development projects and to pay more attention to
environmental concerns.

Nay said that the first meeting of the Donor Consultative Group (DCG) was
not intended as a pledging ceremony, but many countries indicated that they
would make a significant contribution.

"I think it is because of the strong signal of the riparian countries to
over-come operational differences," he said. "A year ago we didn't hear
words like environment, public participation and women's roles in the work

Speaking on behalf of the European Community, Ambassador Ulrich Dreesen said
the challenges of sustainable development must be addressed urgently in the
area of hydro-electric power, fisheries and forest management.

"This is an area where political commitment, a wide-ranging integrated
approach, and regional concentration, cooperation mechanism are
indispensable." Dressen said. "Present political authorities owe it to their
countries to take a very hard look at what is actually happening to the
forest cover and what the documented or actual consequences are." 

He said that public participation in the MRC planning process must be seen
in a positive and constructive light, rather than treated with suspicion.

Japanese Ambassador to Laos Hiroomi Sakai, said that it was important to pay
due consideration to environmental protection in order to win broad support
and understanding of the Mekong River basin. He added that it is also
necessary that the MRC work program narrows the gap between urban and rural

Hiroomi said that flood-prevention policies, based on middle and long-term
perspectives must also be considered as flooding is both a humanitarian and
an economic problem.

Current MRC activities focus mainly on feasibility studies, he said, and
urged that  future projects be expanded.

Priorities should be assigned to basin-wide projects and bilateral aid
projects for individual member countries.

Denmark, whose contribution to the MRC is expected to top US$100 million
(Bt2.5 billion) by the year 2000, requested that the commission provide a
specific report on public participation in its activities and in the
drafting of the basin development process, the integration of environmental
issues, socio-economic assessments and poverty alleviation and the level of
cooperation and coordination with other development initiatives, such as the
ASEAN-sponsored greater Mekong sub-region program.


November 8, 1996

New sanctions aim to deter the ruling junta

By Matthew Fletcher and Dominic Faulder, Bangkok

FOR a while last week, it looked as if Myanmar might be about to add one
more chapter to a series of violent episodes in its recent history. The
trouble began, as it has in the past, with a trivial incident. A student row
at a food stall led to three arrests. That was followed by a sit-in protest
over police brutality by more than 500 students. It was Yangon's largest
overtly anti-government gathering since 1988. In that year, a teashop brawl
was the spark that, within months, fired nationwide pro-democracy
demonstrations against the government. In the ensuing crackdowns, the
military killed more than 3,000 protesters.

There were other ominous signs last week that had people in the capital
Yangon on edge. The ruling Slorc had detained Kyi Maung, the vice chairman
of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD. Suu Kyi herself was virtually
a prisoner in her own home, her telephone tampered with since September.

This time, however, Slorc was more restrained. No guns were fired, and the
students demonstrators disbanded quietly. The 78-year-old Kyi Maung, who had
been jailed from 1990 to 1995 in Yangon's Insein prison, was released after
five days. Suu Kyi was able to attend a birthday party for the grandson of
NLD co-founder Tin Oo, to give alms to honor her mother's memory, and
receive at her home Lt Col Than Tun, SLORC's former liaison officer with her.

The relatively quick release of Kyi Maung, the most senior NLD official to
be detained since the junta started the latest phase of its crackdown
against the opposition in May, allayed fears that he would meet the same
fate as James Leander Nichols. A close friend of Suu Kyi and the de facto
consul in Yangon for several European countries, Nichols was jailed earlier
this year for possessing an unregistered fax machine and died in Insein
prison. The cause of death, according to one Slorc official, was a heart
attack brought on by eating too much fatty food - not a complaint commonly
made of Insein's cuisine.

Still, if Slorc was showing restraint, it was only relative. In September,
the junta detained at least 500 democracy activists and barricaded the home
of Suu Kyi. Some are still in detention. It also doubled the sentence of
another of Suu Kyi's aides, Win Htin, to 14 years, say NLD sources. Last
week, officials removed the blockades from outside Suu Kyi's house, where
crowds of up to 10,000 people used to listen to her weekend talks; but there
has been no indication of when the gatherings will again be permitted.

Meanwhile, the junta has continued its efforts to defame the country's
leading dissident. The state media has resumed accusing Suu Kyi of being a
CIA stooge plotting to bring down the government, calling her by British
husband's name - an improvement, at least on the lewd cartoons of her with
foreigners that the military intelligence once circulated.

The international community has not been silent. Last week, European Union
foreign ministers in Luxembourg followed Washington's lead and adopted
sanctions, including a ban on high-level diplomatic contacts and on European
visits by Slorc officials. The minister, while acknowledging the sanctions
were largely symbolic, expressed concern at the lack of progress on
democratization and Myanmar's continuing violating of human rights. Tokyo
also announced it was considering making a direct request to Yangon to clean
up it human-rights record.

The junta's reluctance to tolerate dissident has even unsettled ASEAN, which
has partly justified its "constructive engagement" strategy with Yangon by
arguing that economic growth should foster political change. The
seven-nation Southeast Asian grouping accepted Myanmar as an observer in
July, and had planned to grant it full membership next year.

But while ASEAN maintains its consensus that Myanmar will still join, the
exact timing is now in doubt. Thailand's acting deputy prime minister Kasem
Kasemsri last week ruled out next year as a possibly - a position that could
be reviewed by the new government installed after elections Nov 17. Manila
has also expressed reservations about early membership.

The diplomat isolation, however, is not complete. Kuala Lumpur would like
Yangon to join ASEAN sooner rather than later. "We believe we can help
expedite reform by engaging Myanmar," said Malaysian Foreign Minister
Abdullah Badawi in Yangon Oct. 20 at the start of a two-day visit. Malaysian
airline MAS has announced it will launch twice-weekly flight to Yangon on
Nov. 12.

Amid the toing and froing over what to do with Myanmar, the generals
appeared characteristically unconcerned. "We cut ourselves off from the
world for 26 years," said SLORC's economic planning and development minister
Brig-Gen David Abel recently. "Myanmar can survive on its own." To SLORC's
critics, that was a reminder to how much pressure needs to be exerted to
wring out even the smallest concession to progress. (AW)


November 3, 1996
	 MANILA, Nov. 3 (Reuters) - Leading Asian democrats on Sunday  
urged Burma to hasten the return of freedom, warning the ``fumes 
of discontent'' in that country could explode into violence 
affecting the whole of Asia. 
	 Former Philippine president Corazon Aquino, who once  
inspired unarmed civilians to stand firm against the army, and 
pro-democracy activists from South Korea, Taiwan and Burma 
issued the call at the start of a two-day meeting in Manila. 
	 The aim of the meeting, attended by about 100 delegates from  
15 nations, is to find ways to persuade Burma's military rulers 
to relax their grip. 
	 It coincides with a renewed crackdown by Burma's ruling  
State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) on weekend 
gatherings of supporters of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. 
	 ``The stubborn refusal of SLORC to unblock avenues for  
peaceful self-expression is bottling up fumes of discontent that 
may soon turn noxious and burst violently across the land,'' 
Aquino said in a speech. 
	 Aquino, who helped lead the so-called ``People Power''  
revolt that overthrew President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, said 
the Philippine example of restoring democracy peacefully sent a 
message to all dictators. 
	 ``But it is apparently taking time for some of the region's  
governments to heed it and to learn the lesson that it is better 
to yield to peaceful, massive appeals of the population than to 
wait for that population to explode in violent revolution.'' 
	 Sein Win, prime minister of a U.S.-based Burmese government  
in exile, said violence in his country would affect the entire 
region. He said the political temperature in Burma was rising 
and ``more clashes are likely.'' 
	 ``If left to the generals alone, the situation in Burma  
could explode and affect the stability of the Asia-Pacific 
region,'' he said, urging the Association of Southeast Asian 
Nations (ASEAN) to persuade SLORC to open talks with Suu Kyi. 
	 Burma has applied for membership in ASEAN but three members  
of the regional grouping -- the Philippines, Thailand and 
Singapore -- have expressed reservations. 
	 South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae-jung said Indonesia  
and Burma were examples of countries ``which continue to suffer 
from oppressive military dictators and authoritarian systems.'' 
	 ``I believe it is high time for us to be concerned also  
about the issues of democratization in Indonesia'' where ``the 
democratic forces led by Mrs Megawati are severely repressed,'' 
he said. 
	 Indonesia, embarrassed by the recent awarding of the Nobel  
peace prize to two opponents of its rule in East Timor, has also 
cracked down on supporters of Megawati Sukarnoputri. 
	 Kim said the world was undergoing an information revolution  
and this could not thrive where individuality and creativity 
were suppressed. 
	 ``It is not an exaggeration that democracy has become the  
absolute and indispensable condition for Asia's survival,'' he 
	 The meeting was organized by the Forum of Democratic Leaders  
in the Asia-Pacific, a non-government group formed two years ago. 


November 1, 1996

THE Burmese junta sent a high level delegation to meet Karen guerrilla
leaders on Tuesday which resulted in a pledge from both sides to pursue
efforts towards negotiated peace.

The Burmese team led by Lt Col San Pwint, a senior intelligence officer who
earlier coordinated the "surrender" of opium warlord Khun Sa, met Gen Bo
Mya, president of the Karen National Union (KNU), Gen Tamalabaw, KNU defense
minister, and other Karen leaders in the Mae Sot district of Tak, several
well-informed sources said.

One source said the five-member Burmese team informed the Karen leaders of
the junta's intention to continue cease-fire talks with the KNU, despite the
fact that the fourth round of discussions, which was tentatively scheduled
for the end of October, will not take place.

He quoted Burmese visitors as saying that the governing State Law and Order
Restoration Council (Slorc) is currently "busy" and thus had to postpone the

"They (the Burmese team) came to say that they are busy until the end of
this month and had to postpone the meeting," he said.

Several sources said they did not know when the talks would resume, but that
the KNU had already  appointed a five member delegation, to be led by
Tamalabaw, for the next round of meetings. Other negotiators included Pado
Man Sha Lar Pan, Bo Mya's secretary, and Gen Maung Maung, a senior KNU member.

"They (the Burmese team) said they would contact us to say when the next
meeting will take place,: a source said. 

The KNU is the last remaining armed ethnic group to yet finalize a
cease-fire with Slorc.

There has been widespread concern that the talks between the Karen and Slorc
would collapse as the Burmese regime has persistently asked during the last
two meetings that the KNU "return to the legal fold" - a term which the
ethnic group equates to a demand for their surrender.

The Burmese army's recent deployment of more troops and heavy weapons to
areas near the KNU headquarters, which is opposite Tak's Umphang district,
along with intensified Burmese troop maneuvers also led to the belief that
Slorc wanted to use force to wipe out the armed group instead of pursuing
the lengthy negotiations.

The source said that San Pwint had indicated during the 90 minute meeting
that Slorc would not launch a military offensive against the Karen.

" The Karen told them (Slorc) that they were ready to resume talks, he added.

Meanwhile, Burmese armed ethnic  groups under the National Democratic Front
(NDF), which is an umbrella organization of some 10 ethnic Burmese guerrilla
movements, plan to hold a meeting in November to reunite and consolidate
themselves, a KNU leader said

KNU general secretary Pado Ba Thin said invitations had been sent out to
both NDF and non-NDF members to attend the conference which, according to
one source, would take place on Nov. 21.

Ba Thin said  he expected most of the ethnic groups that have struck a
cease-fire deal with Rangoon to attend the meeting because many were unhappy
with SLORC's broken promises after the truce.

Several armed ethnic groups, including the Karenni, the Wa and the Mon, were
upset that Slorc had twisted their separate cease-fire deals into an
agreement to surrender.

Three months after the "gentleman's truce agreement" , the Burmese army
launched a major military offensive against Karenni guerrilla outposts and
its headquarters which are opposite Thailand's Mae Hong Son  province,
leading to the loss of virtually all the border territory they controlled.


November 2, 1996
Mae Sot, Tak

One of two activists campaigning against violence has died in a Burmese
prison from unknown causes.

Aung Kyaw, 36, was arrested last week by the Burmese government a source said.

Wardens in this Thai - border district prison have yet to inform relatives
of his death.

The jail has also banned fellow activist, Mya Lwin, 40, from receiving visitors.

Aung Kyaw and Mya Lwin are members of the Non-Violence Movement. It was set
up in Rangoon last year to promote the return of democracy using peaceful means.


November 1, 1996

TAK : Four armed Burmese troops were yesterday captured by Thai authorities
after entering Thai soil to search for their missing colleagues, according
to a Thai border patrol police.

The officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said the four Burmese
soldiers were seized with arms at Mae Aok Hu village in Pob Phra district in

The intruder reportedly told the BPP they had no intention to trespass  Thai
soil, but were searching for two Burmese government soldiers of the 61 st
Battalion and the 62nd Battalion respectively who had disappeared four days

The source said the tow missing Burmese soldiers were killed by Karen
National Union (KNU) inside Burma on the Thai -Burmese border opposite Pob
Phra district after entering the KNU control area to collect protection fees
from Thai logging traders.

Local Thai - Burmese border committee will deal with the arrest via
diplomatic channel, said the officer.

In another development, rebel KNU yesterday sent its representatives to
Myawaddy to meet Brig Gen Sein Win, commander of the 101 Division whose base
is located at Thingan Nyi Naung village, about 10 miles west of Myawaddy,
for new cease -fire proposals.


November 7, 1996
Bertil Lintner

Political tension, an unsettled economy and the threat of European Union and
American trade sanctions. The investment picture for Burma couldn't get much
worse, could it? Well, yes it could. A damning report, issued by the United
States embassy in Rangoon, says Burmese exports of narcotics "appear to be
worth as much as al legal exports," which amounted to $922 million for the
year to March 1996 at the official exchange rate. Privately, diplomats worry
that Burma could become a hostage to drug barons have some Latin American

One might think investors would be circumspect, but many Asians and
Europeans are averting their gaze from the problems and placing their bets
on the survival of the present regime. Quite simply, it's business as usual.

Ironically, given Singapore's tough stance against drugs, companies there
have emerged as the leading source of foreign investment, with 45 approved
projects worth $895 million. Thai companies have committed around $420
million; Malaysian firms about the same. And despite rumblings in the West,
British companies come second, with $800 million (although some investment
may come from companies registered in tax havens), and France third, with
$465 million (almost exclusively invested by petrochemical giant Total). In
all, foreign commitments now total nearly $3.8 billion, of which around $1/4
billion, or 30% of all investment, is in oil and gas. That is followed by
$678 million in hotels and tourism, $500 million in real estate and $337
million in mining.

Skeptics argue about how much has actually been invested. But even the Asian
Development Bank concedes that following years of virtual stagnation, Burma
has turned its economy around. GDP grew by 7.8% in 1995-96, up from 6.8% the
year before and a contraction in 1991-92. Reform policies initiated in 1988
remain in effect. These are meant to deregulate agriculture, free up trade
and encourage foreign investment.

Burma's human rights and narcotics record remains largely a Western concern,
and ASEAN nations in particular are keen to engage the country. Asian
businesses have profited from the West's political sensitivity: Following
pressures in Europe, Denmark's Carlsberg and the Netherland's Heineken have
left Burma's beer market to Singapore's Fraser & Neave and Tiger. Companies
operating in the US have also faced punitive action from city and state
authorities if they do not disengage from Burma.

Investment confidence in Burma may be short-lived, though. In August, the
ADB warned that "economic reforms were lagging behind those elsewhere in
Southeast Asia, and this could hinder access to ADB loans." The World Bank
also warned that Burma is not meeting such key criteria as low inflation,
manageable public debt, and a sustainable current-account deficit.

Imports far exceed exports, defence eats up 45% of the budget, and spending
on health and education has actually declined. Inflation is rampant:
diplomats in Rangoon quote unofficial figures of 30%-40%. Perhaps even more
disturbing is the kyat's unrealistic exchange rate. It remains officially
pegged at 5.9 to the US dollar, while the free-market rate has shot up to
160 from 113 a year ago. Burma's foreign debt totals $5.5 billion, or about
112% of formal GDP.

July's US embassy report stated quite bluntly that "the long-term
sustainability of Burma's economic growth is still questionable, due to the
persistence of both macroeconomic instability and the potential for
political instability as well as grossly inadequate human infrastructure
development, especially in the filed of basic education."

While the generals may rule the people with an iron first, controlling the
economy may be beyond them. (FEER)


November 3, 1996
Mae Hong Son

The Government plans to close down some camps for Karenni so as to control
the refugees more effectively, according to a provincial source.

Governor Pak Chompuming visited some of the camps yesterday to decide which
are to be shut down.

The source said the five camps in Muang  district would be reduced to just
one, and three out of four in Mae Sariang would be phased out.


November 1, 1996

With  Visit Burma Year looming, Slorc is cracking the whip on restoration
work at the glorious archeological site. The effect has been disastrous,
writes BJ Lee.

GOVERNMENT orders to accelerate work on Pagan's majestic ruins is
threatening to do irreparable damage to the 800-year-old historical site,
viewed by many as one of Asia's great architectural wonders, says Burmese
involved in projects at the site.

Sources say untrained local workers under military command are brushing off
or pasting over ancient paintings on temple walls and pagoda stones on order
to "beatify" Pagan for an expected onrush of tourists. They are also
planting trees and grasses that threaten to change the arid area into a
green monster that will eat the stones.

"We are in danger of losing our heritage," said the source. "This has become
an urgent problem in the last 10 months. When 800-year-old ruins are
destroyed, they won't come back again tomorrow.

The big push Pagan stems from the government announced "Visit Burma 1996"
year, and Pagan, located 507 kilometers northwest of Rangoon, is one of
Burma's top attractions.

Set amid field of cotton, sesame and maise, Pagan features massive, towering
temple like Ananda and Dhammayangyi stretching to the horizon and flanked by
the mighty Irrawaddy River. Many of the edifices have already been reduced
to shapeless mounds by vegetation, weather and man's depredations.

All are reflections of Burma's golden age, when Buddhism and culture
flourished and 11 kings indulged in a veritable orgy of construction.

It all came to a stop in the late 13th century when the royal capital was
abandoned still unknown reason.

But like tourist attraction such as Niagara Falls and the Himalayan
mountains, Pagan's charm is causing it harm.

Shortly after it took power in 1988, the current military government ordered
the restoration of all Pagan's 2,230 monuments, and work is proceeding at
dozens of sites.

Foreign expects under the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (Unesco) had drawn up a draft master plan aimed at regulating
development in the face of the expected tourism influx.

The draft plan freeze development in some areas, controls the height of
building on others and sets up a special zone to the south where high-rise,
international-style tourist facilities can be built.

But those associated with the restoration work say a major problem is that
visiting generals or ministers "can suddenly give any crazy order, which has
to be implemented straight away without anybody daring to check if it is
consistent with the plans or the discussed policy."

It is clear that the president increased interest in Pagan by the regime is
more  concerned with tourism, foreign exchange and joint ventures for new
hotels than with the protection of monuments, sites and landscapes, they say.

Several visitors to Pagan have noted how the area looks disappointingly
greener than in old pictures of the site. Says the archaeological source:
"It was this dry desert environment that preserved the ruins in the first
place. Now we are creating a jungle that might overtake the ancient stones
in the future as in the case of Angkor Wat in Cambodia."

"The temples are full of holes, which may have helped to preserve the
structures, but now the work teams are filing them in," he added. "It's like
a make-up job. 

The government wants it to took more beautiful on the outside, but maybe
it's ruining the beauty underneath."

The source explains that while on the job site in Pagan, he can only stand
on the sidelines and watch helplessly while soldiers order hundreds of
unskilled workers to pull out old stones and fit in new ones, and paint
white over faded ancient murals. The laborers, often jobless men from
remote areas, receive about 150 kyats per day (about $US1 or Bt 25) and stay
in camps near the site.

"Archaeological work cannot be done in a hurry. It must be done very slowly
and very methodically with proper preparation and according to the records,"
said the source, who has extensive experience in the field.

With limited local means and a modicum of international aid, a piecemeal
restoration of Pagan had been going on for  several decades. It took 13
years to repair damage from a major earthquake in 1975.

After the earthquake, the government invited UN teams led by Yugoslavian and
Italian archaeologists to restore some of the damaged and decaying pagodas
over the next 20 years. "The foreign technicians were very slow, very
systematic," said the source. "They did one pagoda at a time, using high

But the highly-skilled UN teams no longer work on the site, fueling
unconfirmed rumors of a dispute between UN and military officials.

"We would like the foreign technicians to come back," said the source. "We
have very little training in this country. Most people in Burma think
restoration means building  a new one, painting it white and covering it
with gold. But this is not restoration, this is destruction."

Work on the pagodas used to be more intermittent, depending on what funds
were available. But with the government doubling its budget for Pagan and
more foreign assistance coming in, there's now activity year-round.

Ten months ago, the government announced through the local press that it
would receive donations to rebuild Pagan. Since then, donations have
totaled an estimated 700 million kyats (about $US5 million), according to
archaeology department sources. Many complain that the money has fueled the
destruction of Pagan.  

Says a bureaucrat, "Some donors are buying their own pagodas. They believe
it  will make good Buddhist merit for their future rebirth. Leaving the
stones as they have been for 800 years won't make merit for them, they
believe. So they want new paint, new stones, and they want to put it
(special pagoda umbrellas) on top of the pagodas. They think "no one can
stop me. It's my pagoda."

"Pagan is our heritage," says a local visitor recently at Pagan. "Our
heritage and traditional cultures are one of the few things we have to be
proud of in Burma. So we don't want them destroying this just because
somebody in the government thinks old stones don't look neat. Who can stop
this? Maybe if the tourists complain, the government will listen." (TN)


November 1, 1996 (Australian Council for Overseas Aid)
ACFOA Human Rights Office <acfoahr@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Aid Agencies Call for  Boycott of Tourism to Burma

The peak body for Australian development agencies, the Australian Council
for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) is calling for Australians to boycott  a tourist
campaign  by Burma's ruling military junta.  The State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC) will launch a six month campaign "Visit
MyanmarYear"  in November 1996  to May 1997 in a bid to attract  250 000
foreign tourists.

A new brochure on human rights and tourism produced by the Burma
NGO/Community Meeting was released by ACFOA this week. Entitled Holidays in
Burma?  the brochure details tens of thousands of Burmese citizens who have
been forced to work for the army in preparing infrastructure such as roads,
railways, airports, markets and repairing historical sites for tourists. 

ACFOA Executive Director Janet Hunt called on Australians: " Don't support
this brutal regime or condone their abuses of Burmese people by traveling
to Burma during SLORC's tourism campaign. Tens of  thousands of  Burmese
people have been rounded up by the army to slave on  projects like the
dredging of the Mandalay palace moat or building runways for the new airport
at Bassein. Forced labor is endemic in Burma ."

"In the longer term we don't want to isolate the Burmese people, but during
Visit Myanmar Year, ACFOA is calling on all Australian travelers and
Australian travel companies to condemn this abuse of human rights in Burma
and to withhold their support for the SLORC's tourism campaign. We want it
to be a big flop for SLORC," Ms Hunt said.

Holidays in Burma? developed by the Burma NGO/Community Meeting focuses on
human rights abuses committed in the name of tourism and sets out  the case
for not supporting travel to Burma. Burma was renamed Myanmar by the SLORC
in 1989. The brochure notes extensive military holdings in the tourist
industry such as the family of  former dictator General Ne Win, who have a
half share in Burma's airline Myanmar Airways. Upon arrival, tourists are
compelled to exchange $US 300 at a artificial rate, the difference of which
acts as a direct cash contribution to SLORC.

Further information:
Executive Director,  Janet Hunt: (06) 285 1816  (w) (06) 281 0252 (h)
Burma Project Administrator, (03) 9417 7238 (w) (03) 9528 4508 (h)
Burma Benefit Night and Campaign launch:

Holidays in Burma? will be launched at a special Burma Benefit concert at :

9PM  Saturday 2 November 1996
at the Esplanade Hotel, The Esplanade, St Kilda, Melbourne. 
Bands playing include: 
All moneys will go to Burmese refugee camps in Thailand.

Australia Council for Overseas Aid, Human Rights Office
124 Napier St, Fitzroy, Melbourne VIC 3065, Australia
tel: +61 3 9417 7505, Burma Officer: 9417 7238
fax: +61 3 9416 2746
email: acfoahr@xxxxxxxxxxx     WWW: http://www.peg.apc.org/~acfoahr