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BurmaNet News January 21, 1997

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"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"

The BurmaNet News: January 21, 1997
Issue #617


January 18, 1997

IN THE past couple of years, a stream of western companies have stopped
doing business in Myanmar. But the demurrings of companies like Heineken, a
Dutch brewer, and Macy's, a New York department store, are mere pinpricks.
Arguably, there is only one project that really matters to the military
junta that runs the county. That is the pipeline being built by two oil
companies, Unocal of California and Total of France. Their $1 billion  joint
venture with state owned companies from both Myanmar and Thailand, to pipe
gas from the Andaman Sea to Thailand, accounts for about a third of all
foreign investment committed in Myanmar. The gas sold to Thailand will, on
conservative estimates, earn Myanmar $200m a year -- equivalent to a quarter
of the country's total 1996 export earnings. Gas used domestically would
increase Myanmar's generating capacity by 30%. Small wonder the pipeline is
known as Yadana, "treasure". 

The pipeline may be a treasure to the junta but it is an increasing worry to
the western companies involved. Late last year, Bill Clinton signed
legislation giving him the power to ban all new American investment in
Myanmar. Unocal, whose investment is already under way; may not be directly
affected. But it could still get fed up with the hassle associated with its
involvement. The company says it would have no trouble finding a buyer,
probably in Asia, for its 28.26% stake in the project. 

Unocal and Total (the pipeline's operator) see themselves as victims of a
concerted disinformation campaign. At first they were attacked for the
environmental consequences of the project; then attention turned to alleged
mistreatment of the locals. They are fighting back, taking journalists and
American congressmen on tours of the pipeline area. 

Work is proceeding steadily, on schedule for production to start in July
1998.  Thousands of lengths of pipe have already been shipped in. Many lie
ready for welding and burying.  In the next few months, the dry season, the
way will be cleared through hilly jungle to the Thai border. The pipeline
will have to be heavily protected because it has become a target for the
junta's enemies,. including a rebel ethnic group the Karen National Union.
In March 1995, a Total survey team, guarded by soldiers, was ambushed by
guerrillas from this group. Five of Total's local employees were killed.

Total denies reports of  three further attacks, the most recent last
October. But its workers and subcontractors now move by bullet-proof jeep
and helicopter within a "security corridor" along the proposed route.  In
theory, they stay inside
the corridor, and the government's soldiers stay out. 

Reality is messier than that. The government of Myanmar is contractually
obliged to provide access to Total's corridor and to protect it. Two
lawsuits brought by human rights activists in America allege that, in
securing access to the pipeline, the army has indulged in a range of brutal
behaviour. One suit includes evidence from local inhabitants. If its backers
can establish jurisdiction in America, they say they will have to prove only
"proximate cause" -- that the project's sponsors should have foreseen that
there would be brutality.  Refugees who have fled the area for the Thai
border say some villagers have been forcibly uprooted, and that conscript
labour is widely used for building roads and for a north-south railway line
that will cross the pipeline. 

Total says that, to win local support, it gives generous compensation for
land acquired for the route, and pays, by Myanmar's standards, high wages to
its workers, whom it hires directly.  It also pays for a $2m a-year
"socio-economic programme". It has brought generators to villages that had
no electricity, and provided schools, doctors, hospitals and even a church
roof.  It also gives seed money for shrimp, pig, cattle, poultry and goat

Because of all this, says Total, the 35,000 people in the 13 villages in its
corridor welcome the project. And indeed, when confronted by a delegation of
oil-company managers and journalists, local residents confirm this. But in
one tea-shop the jolly music blaring from a cassette player is a Karen
National Union campaign song. 

The social budget has another use:  paying local inhabitants conscripted by
the army for forced labour. Total officials reason that, since the practice
cannot be stopped altogether even in "their" area, its effects should at
least be mitigated. In one six week period last dry season, 463 villagers
were paid for conscripted labour, even though Total says the tasks they
performed had nothing to do with their project. 

Such payments sum up the debate about foreign investment in Myanmar. Do they
show how foreign money can help improve life? Or do they, rather show how it
helps prop up a repellent system? Myanmar's opposition leader, Aung San Suu
Kyi has no doubt. She has repeatedly asked foreigners, to wait before
investing. In 1990, her party easily won a free election so she is more than
just a carping dissident.  Foreign businesses naturally resist taking sides
in domestic political disputes. Miss Suu Kyi, however has left them no choice.

January 20, 1997

BRUSSELS -- The European Union's drive to deepen ties with Asia is in danger
of coming apart at the seams over the divisive issue of how to handle
Myanmar's military government, senior sources in Brussels fear. 

EU foreign ministers meet here today to lay the ground for a meeting with
their Asian counterparts in Singapore next month. The Singapore talks are
due to discuss the follow-up to last year's landmark Europe-Asia summit in

But with the days ticking away to the Feb 14-15 encounter, officials here
admit that the EU has little idea of how it will be able to avoid divisions
over Myanmar, wrecking plans for Britain to host a second summit of European
and Asian leaders next year. 

With Myanmar set to join Asean some time this year, the EU will hardly be
able to exclude it from the broader Asia-Europe Meeting forum established in
Bangkok, which includes China, Japan and South Korea as well as the Asean
states. But with the Yangon leaders currently banned from visiting Europe
under EU visa restrictions imposed as part of a package of sanctions
introduced last year, it is difficult to see how the current Myanmar
government could be represented at the London summit. 

>From the EU's point of view, the ideal solution would be for Myanmar's entry
to Asean to be delayed. But attempts last year to apply behind-the-scenes
pressure on this point backfired. Proposals from the European Commission to
upgrade EU-Asean ties are also being blocked by Portugal, which is
attempting to squeeze concessions from Indonesia over East Timor. A senior
British official said discussions in Singapore would focus largely on trade
and other economic issues, with the sensitive political points left to
contacts on the sidelines. 

"It is a question of inching forward rather than taking big steps," he

The EU could choose to adopt a more aggressive stance on Myanmar and other
human-rights issues, he said. "But if by doing that, the relationship breaks
down, then we will achieve nothing." 

The EU is particularly concerned that a breakdown in its political
relationship with Asean could have a detrimental impact on its trade with
the most dynamic economies in the world. 

The total value of exchanges more than doubled between 1994 and 1995 to 130
billion ECUs (S$220.2 billion).(ST)


January 20, 1997

Re: An article printed in the 10th of January, Asia Times by Stephen
Brookes titled, "Myanmar opposition banishes dissenters",
"The Lines Between Has Been Read" by Wunna Thi Ha, Bangkok,
Thailand and " SLORC has Sowed Dissension in the NLD" by Zarni.

First of all I appreciate all authors interest on this issue. AFP's
report is read as one-sided at glance view of what is going on in Burma.
Zarni's explanation is read the observation of a student activist who, if
I am correct, was not been a member of the NLD party. The argument of
Wunna Thi Ha, I do not know who he represents was just an anti-NLD and
anti-Daw Aung San Suu Kyi sentiment.  My concern is on your discussion of
the NLD leadership. As a member and who contested with NLD ticket in 1990
election, I am obliged to add my point of view. I admire of Zarni's
knowledge of the NLD while I was sorry to read Wunna Thi Ha's blind
allegation. Among three of us I might be the guy who knows NLD better than
others. Anyhow as I have been physically away from it for almost six years
mine is not an official response. The NLD itself is not in a position to
express freely either.

You know the NLD was formed on 27th September 1988
led by 33-member Central committee. Practically is not a single political
party but a league which simulates the AFPFL formed at the wake of
Independence.  Remember this is a struggle for second independence.  Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi, in 1989 told that a political party needed 2 to 5 years
to constitute to become a well-organised democratic party. Many disagreed
with her comment at that time because the majority of people were dying to
replace the military regime as quickly as possible. But she was not wrong.
NLD welcomed the people of all walks of life. Ex-military personals,
former BSPP members, veterans, freshers and those who once have read

The NLD contested the election before it could convene a
country-wide conference. Party elections were able to carry out in some
districts at the level of village- tracts and townships. It is not
deniable that, till today the party has no elected leadership from the
grass-root. But it is the party which has mandate of the people.  It was
to be proud that the entire population, not the NLD steered to win the
election 1I May 1990. NLD leadership and individual elected MPs thank to
the people saying that the people deserved credit. Moreover, other
political parties like DPNS, Thakin Soe's party, PPP, and all parties of
young generation helped NLD wining against the SLORC-backed NUP. Many NLD
candidates understood that they won not because they could woo the voters.

The voters realised that solid majority was necessary to cut roots of Ne
Win's regime.  The NLD leadership proved qualified and eligible. Don't
forget the Gandhi conference. When Aung San Suu Kyi was released from
house-arrest she asked the people, not only her party but all other
parties and the people to offer 100% support. She appealed for full
backing and to put difference on the ice for the time being. On behalf of
the NLD she sought such help because it was a crucial cross-road. NLD is
staging a war against a brutal tyranny. She was not wrong, wasn't she?
The present NLD has seven top leaders after her release. You can recall
how the party was reinforced. In her and U Kyi Maung's absence, many sad
things happened in the party circle. It was natural but not normal. Who
can guess accurately how SLORC ventured to sabotage the NLD? The then
leadership had a thin line to walk: survival of the party and
implementation of the party policies under constant pressure by SLORC and
its members.  The decisions to participate and to walk out of the National
convention were also reasonable. Everyone recognised how delicate the
interim (U Aung Shwe) leadership of NLD was. But he proved he had led the
party intact for last six years. It is not a joke.

When the jailed leaders resumed their work they were right to review the
policies. The party thought 1996 was the year to double the effort. The
strategy was not just to wait and see and follow after the SLORC's
direction. The NLD did everything its best as a legal election wining
political party. It was not only courageous but also wise. The reason why
NLD walked out the NC was clear and rational. It might not be of 100%.
Give a safe margin of 80.

Investment and visit year sanction calls are also the upright claims if
you learn the experiences of struggles against the unjust regimes. These
are not the policies mentioned in the manifesto but the tolls of pressure
the junta to succumb the drives and demands. Here also it can't be cent
percent agreed. The leadership had received the mandate given by majority
of township level representatives. The leadership constantly tried to
consult with remote party branches. Like Wunna Thi Ha, SLORC did not fail
to accuse NLD of centralised decision makings. What happened to the
country-wide party congress in the last May?

Do you expect 100% agreement among 2 million members and 392 elected
MPs?  In a healthy democratic atmosphere, minority views will not be
ignored and be protected. The situation in Burma is not normal. I am
absolutely sure the NLD leadership is doing its best to fulfil the will
of (82% of) the people. My colleagues and I give 100% support to them.

Tint Swe
Elected Peoples' Hluttaw Representative
Pale constituency (2), NLD


January 20, 1997
Agence France-Presse

BURMA'S military junta claimed yesterday that supporters of Nobel 
Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi were being blocked from 
gathering to hear pro-democracy speeches because of public complaints.

The statement followed an earlier one on Saturday in which
Burmese military intelligence disclosed that 20 people, including
six members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy
(NLD), were sentenced to seven years in prison for their roles in
student demonstrations last month.

The statement received yesterday said weekend  public addresses
by NLD leaders were blocked by neighbourhood leaders who were
acting on complaints from the  community.

"Local people living in these wards have objected and prevented
the NLD members from using the road junction as a political 
stage," as they were "very much disturbed by the weekend
gatherings," the statement said.

In recent weeks, local men organised by ward leaders, to maintain
order at large public festivals, have been employed to block
gatherings - a task previously undertaken by armed riot police -
at a site about a kilometre (half mile) from Aung San Suu Kyi's

After being pushed out of the area on Saturday afternoon by men
in civilian clothes wearing yellow armbands marked "on duty for
the people," the crowd dispersed and regrouped at Rangoon's famed
Shwedagon Pagoda, witnesses said.

NLD co-vice chairman Tin Oo attempted to enter the pagoda's upper
platform, but was turned away by the temple trustees, and the
crowd dispersed once again without incident.

"Since his real intention was quite obvious, the responsible
pagoda trustees urged U Tin Oo not to use this sacred religious
grounds for staging party politics," the military statement said.

On Jan 11, riot police had chased NLD supporters away from their
gathering site because they had assembled "with the intention to
disrupt" the passing of a ceremonial torch to the  national games
along the route, it said.

Roadblocks around Aung San Suu Kyi's residence, first set up at
the end of September to prevent the holding of a party congress,
have also kept away the crowds that gathered there every weekend
for 14 months to hear her speak, following her release from six
years of house arrest.

The NLD is Burma's largest political party, having won over 80
per cent of the seats in national elections organised by the
junta in 1990 but never ratified.

In the statement received on Saturday, Burma's military
intelligence said 20 people, including six NLD members, had been
sentenced to seven years in prison for "inciting students  and
non-students   during December 1996 student demonstrations."

Those demonstrations were the most defiant student actions seen
in the Burmese capital since the military took power after
brutally suppressing nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations in

Aung San Suu Kyi said over telephone from Rangoon on Saturday
that the junta conducted summary trials and denied access to

"The families were not given access to the people concerned and
neither were the lawyers we had arranged to defend them ... in
direct contradiction to the spirit and the letter of the law,"
she said.

The illegitimacy of the proceedings cast doubt on the verdict,
the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said.

Burma's military government has accused the NLD of being partly
responsible for instigating the demonstrations but Aung San Suu
Kyi has repeatedly denied any involvement.

Up to 1,000 students participated in the biggest of the protests,
which was ringed by non-student supporters before it was
violently broken up by armed riot police and troops on Dec 7.

The spate of demonstrations was triggered by the beating of three
students in police custody following a minor incident at a tea
shop, but the demands quickly expanded to encompass the right of
students to form a national union.


January 20, 1997


JANUARY 20, 1997--NEW YORK--J. Crew, a $750 million apparel manufacturer and
retailer with 80 stores in 25 states, is terminating its operations in the
Southeast Asian dictatorship of Burma (Myanmar).  The decision is due to
numerous requests from customers, according to Diane Chang, J. Crew's Vice
President of manufacturing. 

J. Crew had been working with Yangon Knit Garment Manufacturing Co., Ltd. 
which is substantially owned by the Burmese junta's Ministry of Industry. 
The Ministry is headed by Lt.-General Sein Aung, a member of the ruling
State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). 

"This is yet another sign that the SLORC is bad for business" says Zarni,
coordinator of the US-based Free Burma Coalition.  "As long as there is no
change in the deplorable political and human rights situation, and no
change in the corrupt practices of the generals, business conditions will
remain intolerable" he adds.  Even hard-nosed financial player Peregrine
Investment Holdings of Hong Kong has fled from Burma, saying that promised
privatization "has not materialized."

Other companies leaving Burma in the past six months include Kodak, Apple
Computer, Hewlett Packard, Heineken, Wente Vineyards, Carlsberg, Motorola
and Walt Disney. 

"We want Burma to be free and prosperous.  (But) until we have a system
that guarantees rule of law and basic democratic institutions, no amount
of aid or investment will benefit our people," says Burmese democracy
leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. 

A European Commission investigation concluded in December that the SLORC
is systematically using forced labor in Burma, and called for the
withholding of GSP privileges for products from Burma. 

The US blocks Burmese access to International Monetary Fund and World Bank
loans because of SLORC's noncooperation in counternarcotics efforts. 
Burma produces more opium and heroin than the rest of the world combined. 
US Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Affairs Robert
Gelbard wrote in the November 14 Far Eastern Economic Review "SLORC is
protecting the drug trade and flaunting its defiance of international

"This is not a place where even responsible companies can do clean
business" says Zarni, adding that the US Embassy in Burma concluded in a
July, 1996 report "It seems likely that a large share of the garments of
Burmese origin recently imported into the United States may have been
produced by factories owned at least in part by (SLORC) or by individuals
or firms whose wealth originally derived chiefly from the opiates sector."

Companies still in Burma include Ralph Lauren, Unocal, PepsiCo, Texaco,
ARCO, Mitsui and Mitsubishi.  

CONTACT:  Zarni, Free Burma Coalition, 608-233-2199 
Dr. Sein Win, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, 



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