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BurmaNet News January 25, 1997

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

The BurmaNet News: January 25, 1997
Issue #620

Noted in Passing:

		This is why foreign companies are interested in investing in
		Myanmar. They can see that there will be a supply of cheap, 			unorganised
labour for decades to come.
		- a Rangoon office worker (see NATION: TOUGH YEARS)


January 24, 1997

Poverty is rampant in the rice rich delta region because the govnerment
leaves so little of its produce for local consumption, Simrin Singh writes.

The Irrawaddy River flows from the Kachin hills country in the north on a
languid journey south to a delta area, for centuries the rice bowl of Burma.

The 2,000-kilometre long span, near the Bay of Bengal, has provided
sustenance to many Burmese kingdoms and empires in the past. In modern day
Burma, the Irrawaddy delta area, however, has become synonymous with poverty
and deprivation.

"What is happening to the people in the delta is heart-rending," says a
Burmese govnerment official, who has studied the area's problems in detail.
He says this is especially so because it is a case of misguided govnerment
policies turning a resource rich region into pauperdom.

While the lush and green delta, consisting of the Irrawaddy, Bago and
Rangoon divisions, is today still the largest producer of rice in the
country, this in itself, he says, has ironically been one of the reasons for
its more than 3.3 million people remaining the poorest in Burma.

The Irrawaddy division contributes as much as 60 per cent of the total rice
produced in Burma, with the Bago and Rangoon divisions, contributing an
additional 30 percent.

Because of its high production of rice, the military regime in Burma has
singled it out for a forced levy of larger and larger quantities of the
commodity every year for export to earn badly required foreign exchange.

The fragmented nature of land holdings in the delta area combined with low
govnerment prices for rice have converted what should be the strength of the
Irrawaddy into its greatest weakness.

In contrast to the delta's persistence with rice cultivation, upper Burma has
moved from cultivating rice to more profitable crops such as groundnut and
sesame, and the deep south of the country, bordering Thailand, profits from
rubber, durain and cashew nut plantations, and tungsten mines in addition to
significant incomes from smuggling along the border.

A typical example of the Irrawaddy delta's current miseries is the township
of Bogole, which covers over 200 villages and is representative of most
southern delta townships.

Although nearly half of the township's population is landless, they work
seasonally on the rice fields of middle farmers whose land holdings vary
between one and five hectares. Many are now finding it increasingly
difficult  to make ends meet. Of the average 50 baskets (one basket weighs
approximately 21 kilogrammes) of rice produced per acre during the monsoon
paddy, harvested in October/November, a quarter is compulsorily taken by the
military regime. At around US$2 (Bt50) per basket, after the levy, this
leaves an average annual income of about $100 per monsoon harvest for a poor
farmer with about one hectare of land.

A family of four in the delta region needs about $13 a month to subsist,
assuming they do not need to buy either rice or fish. For most therefore
working as agricultural labourers or finding some other source of income is
essential for survival.

Rich farmers, with holdings of nine hectares and more however, can earn up
to $1,500 on this harvest. These farmers are also in a position to cultivate
an additional summer crop requiring irrigation networks and high fertiliser
and pesticide inputs. The summer crop is harvested in March/April.

But while 5.5 million hectares in Burma are presently under monsoon paddy,
only about 1.4 million hectares are under summer paddy.

Again only 2.3 per cent of all farmers in Burma are rich with holdings over
nine hectares, while most-more than 60 per cent-have tiny holdings of less
than 2.2 hectares. In Bogole township there are only two rich farmers.

Given this situation it is hardly surprising that primary school drop out
rates in Irrawaddy division are the highest in the country.

"For most in the delta, insufficient incomes from rice compounds other
problems," says U Khin Maung Win from the United Nations Development
Programme working on a project in Bogole township. "There is no safe
drinking water, because of which dysentery and malaria are a major problem.
In turn, medical facilities are grossly inadequate."

There is only one doctor serving entire Bogole township, and a total of six
or seven health workers including midwives and health assistants. In theory,
there should also be doctors at the sub-township level, but poor pay and a
lack of facilities drive many away.

"If you cannot afford private doctors and clinics then you must die," says a
doctor in Rangoon about the medical situation in the delta.

Private clinics are exorbitantly expensive by Burmese standards, and beyond
the reach of most.

Consequently, the high incidence of goitre in Irrawaddy, and of malnutrition
goes untreated resulting in various abnormalities, and early morbidity.

According to a United Nations Children's Fund report on Burma, more than 30
per cent of the population in Irrawaddy division suffers from severe iodine

The delta region's experience with shifting to new sources of livelihood in
recent years say some officials has also been disastrous due to the lack of
proper planning by authorities.  

This is particularly true of aqua culture, attempted here on a substantial
scale by profit-hunting local and overseas businessmen. In Bogole township,
alone there are an estimated 3,000 private freshwater fish and prawn farms
and, as a result, the mangrove rich forests of the delta and its marine life
have been extremely depleted.

Increasing salt water intrusion from the sea because of the cutting down of
the protective forests has also adversely affected paddy cultivation, and
during the dry season depleted the already scare drinking water supplies.

Migratory fisherfolk in particular are known to have been affected by
deforestation, because of the consequent diminishing estuarine fishing and
breeding grounds. Extreme poverty in the region in turn is also known to
have compelled local people to cut down the forests for their livelihood.

"The situation is extremely alarming", says an irrigation officer from
Bogole. "Over the last four to five years alone we can see how private prawn
farms have destroyed the environment and livelihood of local people".

The country's export of fresh and dried prawns alone has increased from
3,000 metric tonnes in 1991-92 to about 10,000 metric tonnes in 1994-95 and
according to official statistics, brought in earnings worth 352 million kyat
(Bt47.9 million at the unofficial exchange rate) for the same period.

But whether it is from rice or shrimps, few of these export revenues find
their way into the pockets of the delta's inhabitants. Instead, the returns
line the pockets of a handful of already rich army generals and businessmen.
- International Press Service. (TN)


January 24, 1997

The prospects for Rangoon's army of poorly-educated child labourers look
bleak despite economic changes in the country, BJ Lee writes.

Jo Jo Win is not sure how old he is. He looks about 10. But he works
everyday, all the time, serving tea and cakes at a neighbourhood tea shop in
Rangoon. His earnings are 450 kyats per month (about Bt75).

Along with an increasing number of children in Rangoon, Jo Jo Win has been
sent to work in the city by his family in a village two hours drive from
Rangoon. Residents say migrant labourers, many of them children of every
age, are flooding into Rangoon.

Children are working in almost every racket: from street begging to
prostitution to factories, many operated by foreigners in joint-ventures
with military businessmen. Even visitors accustomed to seeing child workers
in cities such as Jakarta or Bangkok are struck by the number of children
waiting on tea-shop tables or carrying cement bags on their backs in Rangoon.

Jo Jo Win has no formal education, not even kindergarten. Sitting on a
miniature stool in the same unwashed yellow t-shirt he has worn for weeks,
Jo Jo Win, thrilled to see a foreigner, plays with a black toy space soldier
familiar with children around the world.

"He was brought here by a broker who goes around to villages looking for
kids to work in Rangoon," explains an unemployed university graduate hanging
out at the tea shop. "He and some other kids working around here sleep on
the floor of the monastery," he says. He points to a one-room wooden
building on the street corner where monks chant Buddhist prayers in
competition with worshippers of Islamic, Christian and Hindu faiths.

Scenes of children and adult labourers sleeping inside temple grounds in
Rangoon are becoming more and more common in Rangoon, locals say.

A recent rain-threatening night saw more than a dozen migrant workers laid
out like casualties on the cold cement around Botataung Pagoda down the
street from tourists sleeping in the crystalline Strand Hotel.

"People in the countryside are really, really poor," says a local office
worker who hails from a village north of Rangoon. "They hear stories about
big cars in the city and they think the economy is booming. Villagers like
gambling, so they like to take a chance by sending their kids to Rangoon to

Jo Jo Win says he hasn't been home in "a long time" and doesn't know when
he'll go back. He's also not sure how many brothers and sisters he has.
Maybe four or five, he says. But around the tea shop, he is surrounded by
people who call him little brother. "I offered to buy him a new t-shirt to
replace that stinky one he keeps wearing," says the student. "But he doesn't
want one. He likes the greasy old one. Maybe it's the only thing he owns,
and he doesn't want to throw it away."

Jo Jo Win is not alone working at the shop. He shares duties with a friend
from a village made famous by the vegetarian, hilltop sitting monk U
Taminya [sic:  U Thammanya, in Karen State]. While Jo Jo Win, the bigger of
the two, does most of the work, his "little brother" likes to take his time
flipping through the newspaper every morning like a British aristocrat. The
boy can't read; he only looks at the pictures of Burmese generals, "the star
family" as the locals call them, building railroads and pagodas.

"None of these working kids can read," explains the student. "They've never
gone to school. Not even one day. They'll never be able to read. So what are
they going to do when they grow up?"

They'll probably keep on working for survival wages, agree many Rangoon
residents. They say that not even an immediate change of govnerment could
help children like Jo Jo Win make it out of their slavish working
conditions. Even if the military govnerment delivers on promises to boost
the economy, Jo Jo Win is not expected to win, they say.

"It's the children, not the star family, who are really building this
country," says a local office worker. "When they grow up, they'll still be
labourers. This is why foreign companies are interested in investing in
Myanmar. They can see that there will be a supply of cheap, unorganised
labour for decades to come."

Most people also say they don't expect conditions for children to improve.
"Even if these kids go to school, what will they learn?" Says the university
graduate at the tea shop. "They want to keep our eyes closed. Kids will go
to school for years, and then have no job when they get out. So parents in
the poor villages think school is a waste of time and money. Maybe they are
not so stupid."

Jo Jo Win's attention, meanwhile, is focussed on a man selling squeaky
balloons on the street. When a foreign visitor asks Jo Jo Win what he wants
to be when he grows up, Jo Jo Win says, "I want to be like you." (TN)


January 23, 1997
by Masayoshi Kanabayashi
 staff reporter of the Wall Street Journal

 JAPANESE and other foreign media often paint a stark picture of Burma in
its struggle for democracy, but Japanese business increasingly champions the
nation as a hospitable new ground  for expansion.

 In fact, the Keidanren, Japan's big-business federation, has begun to
suggest that Japanese journalists spend too much time covering the
pro-democracy movement and not enough time covering economic progress
brought by the
military junta. "Unless light is shed on the achievements [of the
government], you can't see the truth of that country," says Masashi Oshita,
who oversees Burmese matters at the federation.

 Indeed, corporate Japan appears to be voting with its yen. Keidanren created a
 bilateral-relations committee in November to promote business and trade
with Burma.  Construction firm Ohki, anticipating an influx of Japanese
businessmen, plans to build a seven-story condominium complex for them,
 complete with a supermarket and gym, on Rangoon's outskirts. All Nippon
Airways has begun direct flights from Osaka to Rangoon.   Asahi Bank in
November became the eighth Japanese bank to open an office in Burma.

 Marubeni is typical. The trading company plans to set up a joint venture to
produce hybrid rice in Burma. Now, says Akinori Seki, a senior Marubeni
official, Marubeni is considering investments in areas such as natural-gas
 development, cement production, forest-resources development and
fish-products processing.

 Even Japan's smaller companies are testing the waters. Japan Trans-Techno,
a Tokyo business consultancy, plans to establish this year a joint venture
in Burma between local interests and a group of Japanese auto-repair shops
to operate a repair shop in Rangoon.

 Marubeni's Mr. Seki predicts a considerable increase in Japanese investment
in the country this year. "There is a growing need among Japanese affiliates
[already in the region] to shift labor-intensive work" given the rise in
 wages in neighboring countries such as Thailand, he says.


January 24, 1997

Slorc's unstinting pressure is putting unprecedented strains on the Burmese
opposition, Aung Zaw writes.

In December, the National League for Democracy "Liberated Area" held its
annual meeting at a Karen-controlled area near the Thai-Burmese border.

The "LA" was established in 1991 by NLD member in exile. It is an
underground organisation that has no official contact with the Rangoon-based
NLD led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At the meeting, at least seven NLD members including Win Khet, one of the
founding members of the NLD in Burma walked out of the meeting and, it was
believed, resigned.

"We have serious conflicts in the LA because of some power-hungry people,"
admitted a young NLD member.

"I think the NLD [LA] is going to break up soon," he added with a sad smile.
Back in Rangoon, the NLD threw out two of its elected members to parliament
the same month for disagreeing with the party leadership. Than Tun and Thein
Kyi, elected representatives for Dedaye township and Taung Twin Gyi township
respectively, were expelled from the party by the NLD central executive

Tin Oo, vice chairman of Suu Kyi's party said that the two were thrown out
for trying to cause "disunity" inside the party. The move prompted one
analyst in Rangoon to note, "If Suu Kyi cannot tolerate any dissent within
the NLD she is no better than a dictator".

The cause of friction was a 10-page report submitted by the two members to
the NLD central committee. Their main argument was that the party leadership
needed to adopt more realistic policies. They said they disagreed with Suu
Kyi's call for sanctions against Burma and her decision to boycott the
Slorc-sponsored national convention, arguing the moves were made at the
wrong time.

Sources within the NLD said the two, joined by a handful of other elected
representatives, urged the leadership to compromise with the ruling junta.
The 10-page statement, said one source in Burma, has been distributed among
the public.

Than Tun and Thein Kyi were also said to have submitted the report to the
ruling junta, known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc).
NLD members in exile admitted that criticism about the decision to boycott
the convention began to surface among elected NLD representatives about six
months ago.

"The NLD should wait and see instead of boycotting the national convention,"
one commented. However, some NLD dissidents in exile also alleged that the
junta was behind the recent expulsions, saying it was not the first time
such things had happened.

After Suu Kyi was put under house arrest in 1989 the NLD youth was
approached by the military intelligence to submit a complaint paper about
the NLD leadership to the then chairman of Slorc, Senior Gen Saw Maung.

"At the time, they knew we had party conflicts and disunity between the NLD
youth and the leadership so the military junta took advantage of it", said
Kyi Win now in exile. "At the time, we refused to submit any report to Saw
Maung," he said.

Kyi Win believes that the Slorc has been waiting for an occasion to create
divisions within the NLD. "If we are weaker it will be easy for the enemy to
attack," he said.

In any case, NLD members in exile believe the majority of the NLD
representatives would remain loyal to the NLD leadership, including Suu Kyi,
despite a rumour that there could be more expulsions and infighting.

The NLD's new problems come as the military junta steps up its pressure on
the party. Since September last year the junta has blockaded the streets and
roads leading to Suu Kyi's house, effectively ending her weekly
meet-the-people gatherings.

Undaunted, Suu Kyi went out to meet her followers at nearby intersections.
But the "Lady's" on the street-gatherings did not last long.

In November, Suu Kyi's safety was threatened when her motorcade was attacked
by a mob. Many analysts later suggested that the attack was organised by the
army. But they insisted that it did not bear the hallmarks of Lt-Gen Khin
Nyunt's military intelligence service.

During the attack, the mob also smashed a military intelligence vehicle that
was following Suu Kyi's convoy, apparently thinking it was linked to the
opposition leader's caravan. In fact, says one source, "The military
intelligence were in the dark". "They had no idea what went on that day," he

Shortly after the mob attack military intelligence officers told Suu Kyi
they could no longer guarantee her safety.

"It's up to you if you want to leave the compound," one was quoted as saying.

Indeed, in December when the army tanks rolled into the city in the wake of
student unrest businessmen and analysts wondered who ordered the tanks out
as Khin Nyunt has no authority to order military vehicles to enter the city
as he holds no powerful position in the army.

"This is not Khin Nyunt's type of action," said one analyst.

Because of this, diplomats and Slorc watchers in Bangkok and Rangoon have
expressed concern over the recent peculiar incidents including the bomb
explosions at Kabaaye Cave.

They say Suu Kyi is facing an uncertain future because of the discordant ways
Slorc is dealing with her. According to a highly-reliable source, during the
attack the mob's real intention was not to scare Suu Kyi but to kill her.

A senior NLD member who is also a former army officer later said that it was
a military operation. "They intended to kill her," he confirmed.

The opposition seems to be taking the threats seriously and Suu Kyi has
rarely been seen in public since. She spoke to her  supporters at an
intersection on Nov 23. In December she was confined in her house as the
university students staged their street-protests.

Again, the junta accused her party of encouraging the unrest. Additionally,
at least 20 of her members were arrested and received lengthy jail terms.

On Jan 4 the NLD managed to celebrate Burma's independence day.  It was
largest gathering at her compound in recent months, and the last.

Diplomats and analysts said the were surprised to see the junta allow it to
go ahead.

Though Suu Kyi has been stopped from going out to meet her supporters she
has been sending her deputies, Kyi Maung and Tin Oo to see staunch followers
who have been trying to gather near her house.

But again, the rallies seem to have stretched the military's patience. Last
week, Tin Oo met hundreds of supporters at Saya San intersection where they
were confronted by "civilians" wearing armbands that read, "Our duty for the

When the "civilians" approached the supporters Tin Oo told the them to leave
the area. The face-off ended without violence. But despite the recent odd
events, the war between the Slorc and the NLD will definitely continue. (TN)


January 23, 1997  (abridged)

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 23 (Kyodo) -- Malaysian Foreign Minister Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi and visiting German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel agreed Wednesday to
expand the scope of their bilateral relations.

They also discussed the coming admission of Myanmar to the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The European Union, of which Germany is a member, has voiced concerns about
political suppression and human rights abuses in Myanmar and has misgivings
about ASEAN plans to admit the country as a new member along with Cambodia
and Laos for fear such a move might bolster the ruling junta's grip on power.

As an Islamic country, Malaysia supports the Muslim-led Bosnian government.


January 22, 1997


Yangon, 22 Jan --- Myanmar and Russian Federation today agreed to cooperate
in eradication of narcotic drug trafficking.  Secretary of the Central
Committee for Drug Abuse Control Director-General of Myanmar Police Force
Col Soe Win and Deputy Head of Federal Security Service of Russia Colonel
General Valentin A Sobolev signed the agreement at the former's office this
morning.  Officials of the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, the Attorney-General's Office and the Customs Office were also
present on the occasion. The Russian officials and Myanmar counterparts then
discussed exchange of information and cooperation in fighting drug trafficking.


Yangon, 22 Jan ---Minister for Commerce Lt-Gen Tun Kyi toured townships in
Mon State on 20 and 21 January. Accompanied by Commander of South-East
Command Maj-Gen Ket Sein, he visited the irrigated farm research centre of
Marine Biology Department at Mawlamyine University in Setse.

Officials reported to him on functions of the centre, progress in research
being carried out to assist the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and
research on production of artemiacysts for prawn farming, tilapia breeding,
agar-agar production, extraction of poison from jut (a kind of poisonous
sea-snake) and feeding of female prawns to increase their fertility rate.

Lt-Gen Tun Kyi gave suggestions on the work.  In the afternoon, they
inspected Yinnyein Paddy Purchase Depot in Paung Township. The Minister
urged farmers to sell quality paddy as the Government has doubled the price
in buying their produce.  He also urged personnel of Myanma Agricultural
Produce Trading to work systematically and ensure convenience of farmers.


Yangon, 22 Jan--- Member of the State Law and Order Restoration Council
Deputy Prime Minister Chairman of Myanmar Investment Commission Vice-Admiral
Maung Maung Khin received a delegation led by President of Detecon Co. Mr.
Treytl of Germany at his office at 3 pm today. They discussed matters
concerning cooperation in installation of telephone lines and investment


	Yangon, 22 Jan --- An information delegation of Indonesia led by Mr Juwarno
of RCTI TV called on Minister for Information Maj-Gen Aye Kyaw at his office
on Bo Aung Kyaw Street this afternoon.  Views on media services between the
two countries were exchanged and cooperation in news and information work
was discussed.

	Also present were Director-General of Myanma Television and Radio
Department U Kyi Lwin, Managing Director of Printing and Publishing
Enterprise U Than Maung, Managing Director of News and Periodicals
Enterprise U Tin Kha, Managing director of Motion Picture Enterprise U Tin
Pe, Chief Editor of The New Light of Myanmar U Kyaw Min and officials of the
Ministry of Information and the Embassy of Indonesia.


	Yangon, 22 Jan --- Minister at the Office of Deputy Prime Ministers
Secretary of Myanmar Investment Commission Brig-Gen Maung Maung received
Chairman Mr. Clive Carroll and party of Tennant Oriental Limited at the
Commission Office at 2 p.m. today. The Tennant Oriental Limited is doing
business here. It is related with Tenant Ltd, one of the companies under
Australia Public Corporation of Australia.  They discussed matters
concerning economic affairs including commodity financing and investment.
Present also were officials of the Directorate of Investment and companies.


Yangon, 22 Jan--- Myanmar Victradco Ltd opened its office at 255, University
Avenue, this morning. Present were Minister at the Office of the Prime
Minister CEC member of Union Solidarity and Development Association U Than
Shwe, Adviser at the Office of the State Law and Order Restoration Council U
Set Maung, Chairman of Myanmar Victradco Ltd Mr. Po Shin Chang, officials
and guests.  Chairman Mr Po Shin Chang formally opened the office.  He then
presented three air-conditioners worth over K.250,000 for USDA Headquarters
to Minister U Than Shwe. A reception to mark the opening of the office was
held at Sedona Hotel in the afternoon. Myanmar Victradco Ltd will sell golf
sets and golf  accessories and air-conditioners.--- MNA


Yangon, 22 Jan --- Member of the State Law and Order Restoration Council
Deputy Prime Minister Lt-Gen Tin Tun received Vice-President Mr Carmel Dahan
and party of Koortrade Ltd of Israel at his office at 8.30 am today.  They
discussed matters concerning cooperation between the two countries,
particularly in the fields agriculture and satellite communications. 


January 24, 1997
by Stephen Brookes 

Interpress Service, January 9, 1997 - Responding to heightened
international attention to human rights abuses in East Timor and Burma,
Massachusetts officials have pressed for sanctions against Indonesian and
Burmese rulers. 

This winter, lawmakers in the New England state will consider a bill
pressuring the Indonesian government to end the 20-year occupation of East
Timor which it invaded in 1975 and annexed the next year. If passed by the
legislature the bill will be the first in the world to impose unilateral
sanctions on the Indonesian government for human rights violations in the

"I felt that it was time for us to begin to seriously address this issue by
putting pressure on the Indonesian regime, and there's no better pressure
than economic pressure," said the bill's sponsor, State Legislator Antonio

Boston, January 9, 2001 - After a brief debate, Massachusetts legislators
imposed economic sanctions on its last remaining trading partner, the tiny
Caribbean island of Antigua. "We don't have any specific complaint against
Antigua," admitted one state legislator after the vote. "But we've imposed
sanctions on every other country in the world, so why should they be let off
the hook? This sends a clear message that they better stop what they're
doing - whatever it is." 

Observers called the vote largely symbolic, since Massachusetts declared
bankruptcy last year and has no trade with Antigua anyway. "Massa-who?" said
a spokesman for the Antigua government. "Those people can't afford to buy
anything from us. And what do they have to trade? Used snowplows?" 

The sanctions against Antigua marked the completion of Massachusetts' total
withdrawal from the world economy, a process that began in 1996 when the
state imposed a "selective purchasing law" on Myanmar to protest against the
military government's record on human rights. 

That bill made it illegal for the state to do business with companies
working in Myanmar, and several corporations, including Apple Computer and
Motorola, reluctantly withdrew from the Southeast Asian nation. Emboldened
by its success, the legislature imposed similar sanctions on Indonesia the
following year, and the campaign gathered momentum as more and more
countries were targeted. 

"There was an inevitable logic to it almost from the beginning," explained
Milton Freemarket, professor of international economics at the University of

"After imposing sanctions on Myanmar and Indonesia, it became necessary to
boycott China, because of human rights and Tibet. The legislators were
making economic policy on purely ethical grounds, so they couldn't say, 'We
stand up for human rights in some places but not in others'. So in 1998 they
cut off relations with Beijing." 

But unlike Myanmar, the sanctions against Indonesia and China began to
backfire as soon as they were passed. Forced to choose between the huge
Asian markets and Massachusetts, most international corporations chose Asia.
That left Massachusetts restricted to companies too small to have any
international business, which pushed up the costs of services. 

Companies based in Boston moved away, and local companies took advantage of
the narrowed competition to jack up prices. As costs rose, so did taxes, and
residents began to wonder if sanctions were such a good idea after all. But
the pro-sanctions lobby had only begun to fight. 

"Then another problem emerged," said Jeffrey Socks, head of the Institute
for Global Economics. "All these wealthy Anglo-Saxon liberals in Boston were
calling for sanctions against developing, non-Caucasian countries. They
began to worry they were looking like racists - so in 1999 they imposed
sanctions against France." 

These sanctions (for French discrimination against Algerian immigrants)
provoked a massive trade retaliation from the European Union. But
Massachusetts barely noticed, since it was busy passing new sanctions
against the oil-producing states of the Persian Gulf to force them to adopt
equal rights legislation for women. 

"The women of Massachusetts stand in solidarity with their Arab sisters,"
said legislator Borya Steinem. "We will freeze in the dark until women
everywhere are free of oppressive phallocentric hierarchical structures."
OPEC oil ministers laughed. 

As the lights dimmed all over Massachusetts, the state began frantically
looking for new energy sources, but was unable to buy from domestic oil
producers, since the legislature had passed sanctions against Alaska (Eskimo
rights) and Texas (migrant workers' rights). Mexico was already out, for
suppressing the Indian independence movement in Chiapas. 

"Things look a little difficult for us right now," said one legislator,
interviewed by candlelight in his unheated office. "But we know that right
is on our side. We've started an energy self-reliance program. People are
drilling for oil in their own backyards. Not only are we getting more
exercise, but we're really hitting the oppressors where it hurts - in the

By mid-1999, Massachusetts' economy had deteriorated so far even Liberia
offered emergency aid, but the legislature refused to back off. The records
of all 184 members of the United Nations were scrutinized, and no one
escaped censure. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the legislature found
abundant reasons to cut off relations. Even Japan came under the axe for
"wanton disregard for the rights of whales and other marine mammals". 

"So we ruined the economy," said legislator Jim Browbeater after the vote on
Antigua. "What a petty bourgeois thing to worry about. What matters is we
stood up for the oppressed of the world. Our consciences are poor - I mean,
pure." (AT)


January 23, 1997
By Max Vanzi, Times Staff Writer
E-mail for editor: letters@xxxxxxxxxxx

*Trade: On Asian trip, governor says state-imposed sanctions on firms 
doing business in that nation would be unconstitutional.

Sacramento--Indirectly stepping into a foreign affairs dispute over how 
best to deal with a brutal Third World regime, Gov. Pete Wilson has ruled 
out California's taking part in a growing movement to pressure U.S. firms 
to stop doing business in Myanmar.

At a news conference in Thailand this week, Wilson said that for the state 
of California to impose sanction on companies operating in Myanmar-- 
formerly known as Burma--would be unconstitutional.

Furthermore, said Wilson press secretary Sean Walsh, it is up to the 
federal government, not the governor, to bring pressure, if necessary, on 
a foreign power.

Or better yet, said Walsh, who is accompanying Wilson on a trade-promoting 
tour of Asia, Wilson believes that Myanmar's neighboring countries are 
logical sources for persuading the ruling generals to change.

Myanmar's current rulers took over in a 1988 coup amid mass military 
killings of about 3,000 protesting citizens, followed by a still ongoing  
stream of reports detailing torture, disappearances and jailing of 
dissidents, slave labor and a thriving, regime-connected trade in heroin, 
much of it sold on the streets of the United States.

The country's leading democracy advocate, Aung San Suu Kyi--awarded the 
1991 Nobel Peace Prize while under house arrest--is regularly harassed and 
prevented from speaking out.

As Wilson travels through Asia, Walsh said, "we've been very careful not 
to make foreign policy as the governor of California."

However, by just acting in a passive way on the disputed matter of trade 
with Myanmar, Wilson has placed the state government at odds with a wave 
of boycott actions by other, mostly local governments across the United States.

So far, citing gross human rights violations, Massachusetts and 12 cities 
or counties have applied pressure on companies to get out of Myanmar, with 
at least two dozen more local governments preparing to follow suit, 
according to Dan Orzech of the Bay Area Burma Roundtable, which encourages 
the boycott actions.

In California, the cities of Santa Monica, San Francisco, Oakland and 
Berkeley and Alameda County have passed ordinances denying government 
contracts to firms operating in Myanmar.

Responding to the pressure, companies such as Apple Computer, Levi Strauss 
& Co., Eddie Bauer and the European brewers Heineken and Carlsberg have 
shut down operations in Myanmar.

Ten years ago, California participated in a boycott of South Africa in 
protest of that country's policy of apartheid.

The boycott, approved by the Legislature and then-Gov. George Deukmejian, 
required state-related retirement funds and the University of California 
to divest themselves of interest in companies operating in South Africa.

The ban was lifted in 1994.

Wilson, said Walsh, "could not unilaterally pass a law, sign a law or do 
an executive order" bringing pressure on businesses to refrain from 
operating in Myanmar.  Dictating to businesses in that manner, he said, 
would be unconstitutional.

Rather, Walsh said, Wilson favors allowing "moral pressure" to build on 
companies and to let them take the heat from the public "if they operate 
in countries that are bad."

Wilson's remarks on Myanmar are "likely to resonate with the governments 
of Southeast Asia" that he is visiting as he touts trade with California 
firms, said Charles Morrison, an international relations specialist at the 
Honolulu-based East West Center.

Unlike the boycott actions in this country, several capitals on Wilson's 
itinerary want Myanmar to join them as a member of the Assn. of Southeast 
Asian Nations, a trading bloc aimed at competing economically with China, 
Morrison said.

"Generally, Asian governments don't seek sanctions on other countries" 
that treat their own citizens poorly, he said.  Rather, they prefer what 
they call "constructive engagement" to bring about improvements.

Also in agreement with Wilson on Myanmar is El Segundo-based Unocal, which 
has remained in Myanmar as a partner in the construction of a $1-billion 
natural gas pipeline.  Scheduled for completion next year, the line leads 
from offshore wells in the Andaman Sea, across southern Myanmar and into 

Barry Lane, a Unocal spokesman, said the company "absolutely" agrees with 

"Interfering" with Myanmar's government, he said, is "not a role that a 
company, or the state of California or the city of Berkeley, should play."

At his latest stop Wednesday, Wilson announced in Manila that a San Diego 
environmental technology company, ABCC, has landed a contract to build the 
Philippines' first zero-emissions, municipal solid waste conversion plant.

Besides Manila, stops on the gubernatorial trip include Taipei, Taiwan; 
Beijing; Shanghai; Hong Kong; Jakarta, Indonesia; Singapore; and Bangkok, 


January 24, 1997
by Stephen Brookes 

A consortium of four Singaporean companies is set to open Myanmar's first
international-standard medical clinic in Yangon. 

"We're serving a market that can afford to pay for a higher level of service
here," said Kenneth K Shein, managing director of The Myanmar Growth Fund,
one of the partners. "We're filling a segment of the market where we feel
that there's a void." 

With four consultation rooms, a dental clinic, an X-ray facility, a small
laboratory and a dispensary, the new Pacific Medical Centre, set to open
next week, is only equipped for out-patient care. But the group's strategy
is to start small with state-of-the-art facilities and expand later. 

"This is not an end in itself - this is definitely a stepping stone," said
Shein. "If we had felt it was economically viable to set up a hospital, we
would have done it. But the shareholders agree that we should take a
phase-by-phase approach." 

The consortium also includes HCS Hospital Management International, which
will be managing the facility; Medical Hall (a subsidiary of Singapore group
United Engineers), which has a 20 percent share; and Orchard Dental Centre,
with a 45 percent share. In a statement last summer, United Engineers said
the project would have authorized capital of S$2 million (US$1.4 million)
and an initial paid-up capital of S$1.4 million. 

Most of Myanmar's hospitals are poorly equipped and understaffed, say health
professionals in Yangon. The state-administered Karuna Foundation has been
setting up low-cost public clinics and dispensaries around the country, but
rising incomes and the growing international community have created a
high-end market. 

"Foreign companies need to be able to say to their staff: 'Here's a level of
medical service which you would have back in your home country'," said
Shein. "One of the reasons why we're in this sector is because it makes
commercial sense, and also because it's something we can feel good about,
contributing to the economic development of the country. This type of
infrastructure is needed to promote investment." 

Shein said he expected the market to expand, noting that other Singaporean
and Malaysian companies were contemplating setting up similar facilities.
One analyst in Yangon noted that the Myanmar government was encouraging
health care development by speeding up licensing procedures, and allowing
duty-free imports of equipment and supplies. (AT)


January 24,1997  (abridged)
Ketkaew Nareedet

ROJANA Industrial Park Plc (Rojana) has decided to join Burma's housing
authority to construct and industrial estate in Rangoon with the final
negotiation expected to be completed in the first quarter this year.

Jirapong Vinitbutr, Rojana's managing director, said the company's business
plan is to expand to the overseas market and Burma is the first target.
"We're now waiting for approval from the govnernment there and the results
of the agreement should be reached soon," he added.

Under the joint investment with a 50-year leasing contract, Jirapong said
the company will hold a 60 per cent stake. The first project, which will
cover 600 rai, accounts for Bt600 million of its initial investment.

"Permission for expansion of the investment will be sought after the first
project reaches achievement," noted Jirapong. "Sale of the project is
expected to begin in 1999."

Jirapong further said the company has decided to invest in Burma as it has
high potential for long-term investment while the investment environment
there is relatively favourable. Japanese and Singapore companies have
already pioneered similar investment in Burma, he said.