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

BurmaNet News January 17, 1996

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

The BurmaNet News: January 17, 1997
Issue #613


January 14, 1997

US FINANCIER George Soros yesterday called for a tourist boycott of Myanmar
and an end to investments there by oil companies.

Mr Soros appealed to French company Total and US company Unocal to suspend
their investments in the Yadana natural gas field.

He said in a communique that "nothing would hurt more" the Myanmar regime
"than the oil companies suspending their operation on the Yadana pipeline
under the pressure of public opinion from Europe and the USA".

The two companies are building a pipeline from Myanmar off-shore deposits to
the Thai border. When the pipeline is complete in 1998, it will be capable
of supplying 15.75 million cubic metres of natural gas daily to Thailand.

Mr Soros heads a foundation for an "open society" which aims to promote
democracy and which provides financial aid for several countries, notably in
central and eastern Europe. -- AFP


January 16, 1997 

(16 Jan 97) -- In Burma: Children's Rights and the Rule of Law, Human Rights
Watch/Asia charges that the military government in Burma, the State Law and
Order Restoration Council (SLORC) continues to violate children's rights,
despite the fact that it has been a party to the Convention on the Rights of
the Child since 1991. The report is being released to coincide with a formal
U.N. review in Geneva of Burma has complied with its treaty obligations. 

According to the report, children in ethnic minority areas continue to be
used as porters to carry supplies for the army, often resulting in
exhaustion, illness and sometimes death, not only from inadequate medical
care, but also from beatings. 

Thousands of children and their families have been forced to leave their
homes and villages in relocation programs which have affected over 200,000
people in 1996 alone.  In the towns and cities, children are arbitrarily
arrested and detained, often without charge or trial, for as little as
shouting out slogans or giving out leaflets. Throughout the country children
are routinely used as unpaid laborers on govnerment construction projects
and adoption of children is often used as a means of securing unpaid child
labor in domestic service or other businesses. Many Burmese girls are
trafficked into Thailand, through border check points administered by the
SLORC, where they become bonded laborers often working in slave-like

Underlying all of these abuses is the total lack of the rule of law and
accountability of the government, as well as draconian restrictions on
freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly which prevent local
reporting and monitoring of the human rights situation of children. 

Over three hundred students and youths were arrested during the December
demonstrations, at least fifty of whom remain unaccounted for.  Universities
in Rangoon, Mandalay, Moulmein and Sittwe have been closed since
mid-December, and all graduations indefinitely postponed. 

The report underscores the fact that Burma remains a closed country, where
monitoring and reporting of children's rights is extremely difficult.  The
situation has worsened during 1996, when the govnerment refused to allow the
Special Rapporteur appointed by the U.N. Commission for Human Rights
permission to visit the country.   The report concludes that the government
has shown little political will to implement the terms of the Convention on
the Rights of the Child, suggesting that its accession was not so much an
indication of its desire to protect the rights of children but rather was an
empty gesture designed to improve the government's image abroad. 

Human Rights Watch recommends, among other measures, that the govnerment
immediately takes steps to ensure independence of the judiciary and
strengthen the rule of law.  Laws which are incompatible with international
norms, especially those established by the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, should be repealed or revised.  The govnerment must also encourage
the formation of local independent non-governmental organizations and enable
them to work freely to assist children. International monitoring agencies,
including the Special Rapporteur, the International Committee of the Red
Cross, and the International Labour Organization should be permitted free
access to the country and to monitor and assist children in detention and
children whose rights under the Convention are being violated. 

Copies of this report are available from the Publications Department, Human
Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104 for $6.00 (domestic
shipping) and $7.50 (international shipping).  

Human Rights Watch/Asia

Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to
monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human
rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the
signatories of the Helsinki accords. Kenneth Roth is the executive director;
Cynthia Brown is the program director.  Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of
the board and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair.  Its Asia division was
established in 1985 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally
recognized human rights in Asia.  Sidney Jones is the executive director;
Mike Jendrzejczyk is the Washington director;  Andrew J. Nathan is chair of
the advisory committee and Orville Schell is vice chair. 


January 15, 1997

  GENEVA, Jan 15 (Reuter) - Burma's military regime was accused on Wednesday
of forcing children to work as soldiers and labourers, saying ``hundreds if
not thousands'' had died of maltreatment and exhaustion in recent years.

    In a new report issued in Geneva, the U S.-based Human Rights Watch Asia
said 200,000 Burmese, including thousands of children in ethnic minority
areas such as Karenni and Shan, were forcibly relocated from their homes in
late 1995 and 1996.

    It alleged that ``hundreds, if not thousands'' of children had died from
beatings, exhaustion and lack of care in recent years because of the
military regime's use of forced labour.

    The report is the latest in a flurry of Western criticism against the
impoverished country of 45 million people already facing European Union
sanctions over its human rights record.

    Burma's military-led State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)
seized power after crushing pro-democracy uprisings in 1988. It held
elections in 1990 but refused to recognise the victory of Aung San Suu Kyi's
National League for Democracy.

    Human Rights Watch said the government had forced thousands of children
as young as 12 to work as porters or day labourers without pay on the
construction of roads, railways and bridges.

    It said sexual trafficking of young girls into Thailand had also
increased with growing demand for younger girls at brothels, where Burmese
girls had as many as 50 clients a day and some were chained to their beds to
prevent their escape.

    The report said the strength of Burma's army had doubled to 400,000 men
since 1988 and evidence suggested the recruitment of boys aged 13-15 had
contributed to the rise.

    ``Often, this recruitment is by force, with whole villages or sections
of towns being ordered to give a number of boys to the army or face heavy
fines,'' it said.

    The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions has alleged that
800,000 Burmese are forced to work without pay or against their will,
contributing around a 10th of Burma's economic output


January 16, 1997

        NLD president U Kyin Swan Khan (A) U Par Khan from 
Tamu branch Saggaing division was seriously tortured by military 
intelligence during interrogation. Both eyes were injured and lost eye 
sight.  According to doctor's examination he should be treated in big 
city like Mandalay to get proper treatment.  But, the military authorities
of Tamu township did not allow him to go to Mandalay for further treatment.
        At present he is being kept in Tamu police station without 
medical care. If the situation remains unchanged his eye sight may 
be lost forever.
        Five NLD active members including U Kyin Swan Khan 
from Tamu branch were arrested on 18th December 1996. The 
SLORC's accusation was holding NLD meeting  on 18th December 
1996 without the knowledge of township Law and Order 
Restoration Council and holding of anti-government papers. 
        On 20th December 1996 they were sent to army camp in 
Kalay town and after they had been interrogated they were sent 
back to Tamu town. They are still being kept in Tamu police station.
News and Information Unit
ABSDF (Western-Burma) 


January 16, 1997

        Local authorities from college of Kalay town, Sagaing 
division already announced that the college would be reopened on 
20th January 1997. But in their announcement students who want to 
attend the college should obtain permit from Township Law and 
Order Restoration Council. 
        The students from Tamu town have no chance to attend the 
college because, they are not granted permit by Tamu township Law 
and Order Restoration Council chairman Capt. Kaung Zan Oo.
Regional Committee
Manipur (Indo-Burma)

January 16, 1997
        Since 9th January 1997 trucks carrying goods from 
Mandalay to Tamu border town of Indo-Burma border were 
blocked by custom of Monywa Saggaing division. As such the 
prices of basic commodities rise up in Tamu (Indo-Burma borderareas).
        Because though the border trade between Indian and Burma 
had been opened on 12th April 1995, the marchants and traders are 
transporting goods unofficially by bribing all the check points along  the way.
        The marchant who got import, export license  from Tamu 
said if they transport officially there are many formalities and take 
time. The taxes are very much high as well. So, they usually 
transport all kind of goods unofficially.
        In border trade if we compare two countries, goods export 
from India side are much greater than Burma. Border trade is only 
one side. That's why trade minister Gen. Tun Kyi is very much 
angry on this situation and threatened that he is going to closed 
border trade.
        Although the marchants are not transporting goods legally 
they have to pay taxes unnecessarily in order not to  close border trade.
News and Information Unit
ABSDF (Western-Burma)


January 17, 1997 

Bearing the same complaints as ethnic groups in other parts of the country,
Chin guerrillas are striking back at military targets, Aung Zaw reports. 

Chin soldiers, once loyal recruits for the Rangoon government , are stepping
up their war of resistance against the govenrment in Chin state on the
western border of Burma, say residents and aid workers in or near the area. 
Since last year insurgents from the Chin National Front [CNF] have carried
out a series of urban guerrilla attacks against Burmese soldiers.

Some analysts in India have referred to the CNF as "Burma's IRA." 

That would be an overstatement. But a number of terror-like incidents in
Chin state last year have created a state of siege for Burmese soldiers
stationed in the area. 

In February 1996 a bomb planted by CNF rebels exploded at a military
intelligence officer's house in Haka, the capital of Chin state. The target,
Col Tint Lwin escaped with injures.

In June a Thantalang-based military intelligence officer was shot dead by
CNF rebels. On Oct 8 Falang military intelligence officer's car was wrecked
by another CNF-planted bomb.

Four days later a group of soldiers including a battalion commander from
Falang regiment 266 and his family were attacked when traveling by car in
the district. It was believed that some of them were wounded. According to
Chin rebels, the battalion commander was hit by a bullet.

Dr Sui Khar, 35 foreign secretary of the CNF said since the group launched
its attacks in Haka and Falang cities the Burmese soldiers are afraid to
leave the townships.

But the Burmese army is not taking the attacks passively. 

The ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council [Slorc] introduced new
strict regulations controlling movement of people in Chin state.

And local Slorc commanders have been pressuring influential Chin pastors to
persuade the CNF rebels to return to the "legal fold." 

Last year the pastors established a peace negotiating committee led by Rev
Sang Awi. But according to Sui Khar, a Rev David Van Bile was arrested
because on charges of having contacts with the CNF. 

Villagers accused of being 'supporters' of the CNF and have also been taken
into prison.

The latest arrests add to a long line of grievances held by the Chin.

One particularly annoying rule imposed on Chin farmers requires them to
inform the authorities if they want to stay at their farms during harvest time 

and pay 25 kyat per night to sleep at their own farms.

Another rule prohibits them from starting fire. In August, a villager from
Zaung Ze village was killed after Burmese soldiers saw as firelight and
fired randomly into the village. At the same village, Sa Tin Tho, 29 was
also arrested as the Slorc soldiers found battery and electric wire in his
home. He never come back, said Sui Khar.

Though Chin rebels are asking for self-determination and equality in Chin
state Sui Khar said, "We want genuine peace and political settlement. We
fully support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy movement."

The CNF was established shortly after the military regime staged its bloody
coup in 1988.

Until 1992 it was led by president John No Than Kap. Later he fled to India
where he was arrested. It was believed that he was sent back to Burma and
surrendered to Burma's authorities.

In 1989, Chin rebels received their first arms training at the headquarters
of the Kachin Independence Organisation [KIO]. About 70 rebels were sent to
Pa Jau in 1989 and came back to Chin State in 1991. The overland trip took a

"We were empty-handed in 1988," says Shui Khar. 

"From 1988 to 1995 it was a preparation period," says Sui Khar who graduated
from Yezin university in Pyinmana. "We have no weapons and no money. Only
moral support." 

In one case, Sui Khar and his fellow Chin rebels robbed weapons from Slorc

"We were disguised as traders and were asked to meet six Slorc soldiers who 
wanted money from us. We asked them to come to a village where we had a
little chit-chat and we robbed their weapons and ran."

The CNF held its first party congress in 1993 . Roger was elected president
things have changed.

The CNF began preparations for its urban guerrilla campaign and began
looking for more weapons. But in 1994 Roger resigned for health reasons and
the following year Thomas Tang No became president and the Chin rebels
launched guerrilla warfare in Chin state last year.

Sui Khar and his fellow Chin rebels didn't reveal their plans for 1997. But
apparently, they are preparing to launch more attacks on urban areas in Chin

Sui Khar said that ultimately the only answer to their differences with  the
central govenrment will be found through talks.

"If we want to see a genuine peace in Burma we need a political dialogue."

Aid agencies based in India say that thousands of Chin refugees poured into
India's Mizoran state and Bangladesh recently. With stories of forced labour
and religious persecution.

According to the accounts, the Chins have suffered from same kinds of human
rights abuses, food shortages and poor health as other ethnic groups in
Karen, Mon and Shan states.

A spokesman of the Burmese Relief Centre [BRC] said: "This situation has
obviously frustrated many Chins and may explain the recent  increase in the
number of Chins taking up arms against the regime."

This is significant as the Chins have traditionally provided a reliable
source of recruits to the Burma's army and been active in anti-guerrilla
warfare. The previous Ne Win regime regularly deployed Chin soldiers to
suppress street-demonstrations in Rangoon.

"Due to the endemic corruption, incompetence and abuses of Slorc officials,
many local Chins say the health and, living conditions in Chin sate are
worse today than 50 years ago," the BRC statement said.

Sui Khar said Chin refugees who have arrived recently complained vigorously
about the Slorc's religious persecution. They charge Slorc has been
demolishing and destroying Christian monuments and buildings and replacing
them with Buddhist structures. In Chin State, about 90% Chins are Christians.

The cited one instance in 1995 when Slorc soldiers knocked down the Johnson
Memorial Cross on the Rung Tlang hill near Haka, and replaced with a pagoda.
And after demolishing a church in Konkailon village, they forced villagers
to build a Buddhist temple on the same site.

Since 1995 there have been more than 10 battalions based in Chin state. Sui
Khar said Slorc soldiers have been used to accompany many Chins to
construction sites. "The authorities have been preparing for a
Slorc-sponsored students festival which will be held in Chin state," the BRC
spokesman said. 

"Numerous projects in Chin state are carried out by villagers but they
receive no pay, but must provide their own food, medicine and tools and even

"Many Chins flee to India since they don't want to work for Slorc", Sui Khar

An estimated 3,000 Chins currently are also in Bangladesh. But according to
the BRC, the reception provided by the Mizoran authorities in India are less
than welcoming. 

The New Delhi-based South Asia Human Rights Documentation reported that in
1994 at least 1,000 refugees, with estimates up to 10,000 were expelled from

"These repatriated refugees were received by military personnel, whereupon
the deportees were jailed pending hearings before military tribunals... the
government of India temporarily discontinued this repatriation program only
to re-initiate the deportation of Chin refugees as of 15 June 1995." 

The India government also denies the UNHCR access to Mizoran. The BRC
spokesman said until recently little attention has been paid to the
situation in Chin state. Persecuted in their own land, the Chins, he said,
like many of Burma's other ethnic minorities are faced with the same choice
of accepting Slorc's hard rule or taking up arms and resisting it. (TN)


January 17, 1997
Ministers focus on ways to cooperate
Achara Ashyagachat, Hanoi

Vietnam's Foreign Minister Nguyen Manh Cam yesterday praised Burma's
readiness to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Burma was better placed than Vietnam was when it joined Asean two years ago,
Mr Cam said after meeting Burmese counterpart Ohn Gyaw.

Mr Ohn Gyaw is on an official visit to Vietnam, the first by a Burmese
foreign minister for 21 years.

"Burma has more English-speaking people than we do and its economy has been
developed to some extent. So, the country is in a better position than we
were when we joined ASEAN in 1995," Mr Cam said.

The ministers exchanged views on regional and bilateral cooperation as
Vietnam is the newest member of Asean, which Burma also plans to join.

Mr Cam said Vietnam supported Burma's admission to Asean, but added he did
not discuss the timetable for entry with Mr Ohn Gyaw because the issue has
not yet been decided by the grouping.

Vietnam and Burma share certain similarities and are working out how to
improve cooperation in a complimentary, rather than a competitive manner.
Burma may transfer know-how in forestry management, while Vietnam would
offer its experience in agriculture, including certain grains, Mr Cam said.

Alternative crops to replace poppy cultivation were discussed since the two
countries were mapping out ways to battle drug trafficking, he said. (BP)


January 1997

Burma's ruling military junta sees conspiracies everywhere - even in its own 
currency.  The dictatorship recently stopped circulating a one-kyat bill <worth 
less than a penny> featuring a portrait of Burmese independence hero Aung

Their objection: when held to the light, the note's watermark shows a feminine 
Aung who looks suspiciously like his daughter, opposition leader Aung San Suu 
Kyi.  Protesters have dubbed the bill "the democracy note" and have begun 
waving it at anti-government rallies.  Says one Western diplomat stationed in 
Rangoon, "The bill has little monetary value, but it's become a collector's 
item."  The one-kyat isn't funny money to the junta.  They've redesigned the 
currency and are rumored to have jailed the original note's engraver.


January 16, 1997

MAE SOT, TAK - The Army plans to resettle nearly 5,000 Karen refugees who
have taken refuge independently along the Thai-Burmese border to established
camps in this northern province. 

Col. Suvit Maemmeun, commander of the 4th Infantry's special task force in
Mae Sot, said a tour of the border revealed there were about 5,000 Karen
refugees from Burma living outside camps. 

The refugees, who make up 1,170 households, were scattered in about 40
different locations throughout Tha Song Yang, Mae Ramat, Phop Phra, Umphang
and Mae Sot districts, he said. 

Suvit said his task force and other government agencies decided to relocate
the refugees to existing camps. 

''Those who refuse to comply with the measure will be pushed back across the
border to Burma," he said. 

Reuter adds: Sixteen Burmese ethnic rebel groups yesterday urged the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to postpone acceptance of
Burma into the grouping until it changed its political system. 

A statement jointly issued by the groups, said they supported opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi. 

''We demand the postponement of the acceptance of Burma as a member of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations until there is positive political
change," it said. 

Burma is seeking to gain full Asean membership along with Laos and Cambodia
this year. Asean groups Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

The statement also urged Burma's ruling State Law and Order Restoration
Council to hold talks with the Nobel Peace laureate and the ethnic groups to
discuss how to bring democracy to Burma. (TN)


January 16, 1997

RANGOON, AP - Burma's military government chided democracy leader Aung San
Suu Kyi yesterday for holding a Christmas Eve party, saying she did it to
please Western countries.

An editorial that appeared in state-run newspaper questioned why Mrs. Suu
Kyi, who is Buddhist, chose to hold a Christian celebration while many other
Burmese were worshipping that night at a pagoda housing what is believed to
be a tooth of the Buddha.

Two bombs exploded in the pagoda that night, killing five people and
injuring 17. None has claimed responsibility.

Mrs. Suu Kyi has said she held the celebration because at least one of her
party members is a Christian. (BP)


January 12, 1997  (abridged)
By Rone Tempest, Times Staff Writer

[BurmaNet Editor's Note: Radio Free Asia plans to broadcast a Burmese
language program which will be transmitted into Burma.]

BEIJING--Moses Sun came to the tiny South Pacific island of Belau to spread
the word of Jesus to his native China. But last week, when his Voice of Hope
radio station on the island east of the Philippines began transmitting Radio
Free Asia broadcasts into China, Sun reluctantly found himself on the front
lines of America's controversial new shortwave radio service aimed at the
People's Republic.

    The Belau station illustrates just how far afield Radio Free Asia has
been forced to go to get its message on the air. Created last year after
bitter debate in Congress, where its main supporters included Senate Foreign
Relations Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), Radio Free Asia has had to scramble
to find suitable transmission sites and continues to face political static
at home and abroad.

    Because of its political content, Radio Free Asia has been attacked
often and vigorously by the governments and media of China, Vietnam,
Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and North Korea.

    "Although the Cold War has been over for years," the official China
Youth Daily  newspaper said in a November editorial, "the real goal of
setting up 'Radio Free Asia' is to use news media to interfere in the
internal affairs of China and other Asian nations, to create chaos and to
destroy the stability of these countries."

    Mandarin broadcasts began in September. Radio Free Asia launched a
Tibetan service in December. Vietnamese, Korean, Burmese, Laotian and
Cambodian programs are planned.

    Many U.S. diplomats also regard the fledgling radio service with open
disdain, describing it as unnecessary, expensive and overly provocative at a
time when the Clinton administration is pursuing a "policy of engagement" in
the region.

    Radio Free Asia also faces fierce opposition inside the U.S. information
bureaucracy, particularly from the more mainstream Voice of America and the
United States Information Agency. Their employees resent Radio Free Asia's
$10-million start-up cost and $9.3-million annual budget, which come at a
time when their agencies face severe budget cuts.

   But the new network's Washington-based directors insist that despite
start-up problems, Radio Free Asia is off to a good beginning, providing
what they call "surrogate" broadcasting of Chinese and Tibetan
news--including reports on dissidents and other sensitive subjects--inside

   Critics of the new radio service argue that the Voice of America already
devotes considerable coverage to dissidents and human rights abuses in
China. Radio Free Asia's preoccupation with these subjects, they contend, is
unnecessarily provocative and gives the impression of targeting China.

   But the biggest problem facing the radio service so far, Richter said,
has been finding nearby countries willing to allow transmissions into
Chinese territory. Thailand, which transmits VOA into China from a powerful
transmitter in Udorn, near the border with Laos, refused to carry the Radio
Free Asia signal and has joined in the chorus of Asian countries opposing
it. Under pressure from the Chinese government, transmission sites in the
former Soviet republics of  Kazakhstan and Armenia were closed by their
governments. But both Kazakhstan and Armenia have agreed to continue
broadcasts into other parts of Asia.


January 7, 1997

Rumors are currently circulating in Yangon that the whole Myanmar national
university system is in the process of being reorganized in the wake of last
month's student protests. 

The key move - confirmed by one official source in the capital - is the
transfer last week of the Yangon Institute of Technology  (YIT), where the
protests began on December 2, from the Ministry of Education to the
newly-formed Ministry of Science and Technology. 

No official reason for the move was given, and the government source denied
the two other rumors now making the rounds among YIT students - that future
applicants will be carefully screened, and that the school's Yangon campus
is to be moved to a new location near Pyay, about 150km north of Yangon. 

"There's not a lot up there," said one Yangon resident. "The students may be
busy for a long time just building housing for themselves. But maybe that's
what the government wants." 

Myanmar university students held a series of street demonstrations in Yangon
early last month. The government, which detained  more than 800 students,
blamed the demonstrations on outside agitators. 


January 17, 1997

There has been afloat in some sectors of the business-investment community
an allegation that Aung San Suu Kyi is against foreign investment, and she
is guilty in this regard of sabotaging Burma's economic advancement or the
development of a free-market economy in the country. 

The above impression is derived, from a quite strange ideological position
that counter-poises democratisation - espoused by Suu Kyi and aspired by the
people ­ against the free-market system. It is patently an attempt to
confuse the issue, or more specifically, to confuse the foreign investment

The fact of the matter is that the crucial concern of Suu Kyi and the people
of Burma is political: Namely, the democratisation of state-society
relations (ie the way in which rulers or power holders relate to and
interact with the ruled, or citizens, and vice versa). 

In Burma, the rulers-ruled relation and interaction has since 1962 (now over
thirty years) been one based on brute force, coercion, intimidation, the
arbitrary exercise of power, and the repression of the right of the ruled,
as citizens, to voice their concerns and aspiration, and their right to
participate in politics as enfranchised citizens. 

The aspiration for democratic state-society arrangements espoused by Suu Kyi
is in no way in contradiction with an economic system based on the free play
of market forces. As experience in the West and other democracies shows,
democracy and the free-market system are compatible. 

The Western experience of free-market growth shows that the real economic
development ­ where the economy uplifts not only the nation, but also the
quality of life, dignity, and prosperity or well-being of the people as
producers, consumers, citizens, and electorates ­ is postulated upon
democratic institutions and procedures (or democratic politics) that
facilitate a balance between the at times conflicting interests of the
state, money-holders or accumulators of wealth (big and small), various
interest groups (both the powerful and the less powerful) and as well the
interest of citizens (individual consumers and producers). 

The result is, as history shows, the facilitation of the accumulation of
wealth and profit for those owning capital ­ giving birth to millionaires,
entrepreneurs, rigorous entrepreneurship - and as well, general prosperity
(instead of the prosperity of generals, their political clients and
patrimonial dependents), and importantly, a higher standard of living for
the people, both collectively and individually. 

However, it is argued in some quarters that rapid economic growth is best
facilitated by non-democratic politics, where authoritarian leaders and
despots are enable to focus on the imperatives of growth without being
vulnerable to demands of social forces, especially those of the lower strata
for equity and redistribution. The result of authoritarian control is, it is
argued, rapid economic growth as expressed by GNP figures and other
selective (and manipulative) statistical measurements, such as rate of
growth, investment, and so on. 

In theory, enlightened despotism (or progressive authoritarianism) is the
best form of governance for societies and economies that are backward and
need to catch up with the more advanced economies. However, in reality,
enlightened despots are usually overwhelmed by the fear of losing power (and
by pristine, bottomless greed), and as often, they lose the ability to
differentiate between personal and private interest and that of the nation
or society as a whole. 

They are soon deluded into thinking that they are both the state and nation,
and as such come to view anyone opposing them as opposing the nation, and
consequently begin to see ''enemies of the state" under every bed. Moreover,
such is the delusion of the holders of unrestrained power that in the sphere
of economics, the personal enrichment of despots and those of their clients,
cronies, family, etc is equated with that of the nation or society as a whole. 

In an economy that is distorted by unrestrained power, the business of
investment becomes an activity characterised by political clientalism, crony
capitalism, speculative accumulation of wealth, rent seeking activities
(where political power and control, or public office and positions, are
used, or misused for personal, private gains), etc. What democrats in Burma
including Suu Kyi are opposed to is precisely the kind of so-called
''free-market" economy which results in the perpetuation of despotism and
economic decay, or at the very least, an economy which benefits only those
connected to holders of political power or ''owners" of the means of
coercion (and is gravely detrimental to society and the nation). 

The aspiration therefore of democrats of Burma, as articulated by Suu Kyi,
for an economy that is democratically regulated and framed by the rule of
law, and which provides some social justice and more importantly, a ''level
playing field" for all investors, big or small (and domestic or foreign),
can in no way be viewed as being anti-free market. A free-market that is
free from political control is, in fact, the norm, and is, in essence, what
the free-market economy is all about. 

In Slorc's Burma, the economy is not free in that the political environment
which ''surrounds" the economic sphere is weighed in favour of those who
''owns" the means of coercion (Slorc generals) and their political clients,
cronies and family members. What we have in Burma is what can be termed the
militarisation and patrimonialisation of the lucrative (and ''modern")
economic sectors. In such an economy, investors, foreign and domestic, are
compelled, for the sake of doing business (and making profit) to link up
with military bosses and governmental ''warlords", and pay ''rent" or
''tribute" ­ as during medieval times. 

The end result, intended most likely, of Slorc's ''Burmese way to
capitalism" is the consolidation of the grip of the ''owners" of the means
of coercion on economic activities and the patrimonialisation of the
economy. Current Slorc economic policy cannot in any way be defined as

In this context, democratic forces and Suu Kyi are, it can be said, the true
champions of the free-market system, while Slorc generals, associates, and
clients are the ones who stand in opposition to free-market principles and
the economic development of Burma. 

Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe is a son of the late Sao Shwe Thaike, the first
president of independent Burma from 1948 to 1952. This article was
contributed to The Nation. 


January 15, 1997

     Some students have sent supplementary educational grant applications 
     for academic year 1997/98 via e-mail.  Unfortunately, we will not be 
     able to accept applications printed from e-mail. 
     "Electronic" applications will NOT be considered. Students must request 
     an application from us or make a copy of our original application and 
     send it in on paper.  
     - OSI Supplementary Grant Program