[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
The BurmaNet News, October 1, 1997
- Subject: The BurmaNet News, October 1, 1997
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Wed, 01 Oct 1997 02:11:00
------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: October 1, 1997
Noted in Passing:
If ASEAN member states were truly concerned with "opening up" the country,
they would be building hospitals and schools rather than hotels and shopping
--ALTSEAN spokesperson, Debbie Stothard
[see IMAGES ASIA REPORT: THE INVISIBLE SHAN REFUGEES]
BKK POST: EXILED GOVERNMENT HAILS 'POSITIVE' STEP
ABSDF-WB: DRUG SEIZURE AT INDO-BURMA BORDER
DFB: STATEMENT - INFILTRATION OF DRUGS, SPREAD OF HIV
JOURNAL OF COMMERCE: HOUSE FAVORS US LAWS IN DISPUTE
THE NATION: SLORC UNDER PRESSURE TO REPAY ASEAN'S FAITH
IMAGES ASIA REPORT: THE INVISIBLE SHAN REFUGEES
BERNAMA: INDOCHINA GOLDFIELDS TO CONSTRUCT COPPER MINE
WOODROW WILSON CENTER: OCTOBER 8 PANEL DISCUSSION
BKK POST: EXILED GOVERNMENT HAILS 'POSITIVE' STEP
September 30, 1997 [abridged]
But cabinet vows not to let down its guard
Burma's exiled government yesterday hailed the Rangoon junta's decision not
to crack down on a key opposition meeting at the weekend.
The move was lauded as a "positive" step, but the Bangkok-based cabinet
vowed the struggle against dictatorship would continue.
The cabinet's comments came in a statement after opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) held what it dubbed its most
successful meeting in years at the weekend.
The congress, to mark the party's ninth anniversary, went ahead as scheduled
after the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), the military
junta's official name, gave its surprise consent for the meeting.
"We regard as a positive development the permission by SLORC, unlike in
previous years, for the NLD anniversary conference to take place on some
conditions and without intimidation, blockade or arrest," the cabinet said.
The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) was set up
after the Slorc violently seized control in Burma in 1988 and imposed a
hardline military regime.
In an unexpected show of flexibility, Rangoon allowed the two-day NLD
meeting to go ahead. It ended with a renewed call for the ruling junta to
enter a political dialogue with NLD leaders.
But, despite the apparent shift in stance over the latest congress, the
NCGUB - made up in part of NLD members who fled Burma after the 1988
crackdown - said the struggle for democracy in Burma would continue.
"We believe that the League, keeping General Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi as
its main pillar, will unitedly and resolutely face up to the Slorc military
dictatorship," the exiled government said.
"We will also continue to struggle, with all our might, for the realisation
of democracy and freedom," said the government, which also has bases in
India and in the United States.
The junta - which was accorded new recognition in July when Burma was
admitted to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - showed new
flexibility at the weekend.
In a radical shift from past practice, it gave the green light for the party
meeting on condition that only 300 people attended.
However, 700 of the 1,300 people who turned up were allowed to enter Mrs Suu
Kyi's lakeside compound. Previous NLD congresses have been blocked by the
authorities and hundreds detained.
ABSDF-WB: DRUG SEIZURE AT INDO-BURMA BORDER
September 30, 1997
Initial information about Drug seizing at Indo-Burma border
On 27.9.97, 15 kilograms of heroin and 900,000 Kyats (Burmese currency) were
seized by intelligence agents from four ethnic Wa males who were residing at
Ward No (7), Zay Dan quarter of Tamu, a border town of Burma adjacent to
Moreh, a border town of India.
Two of them speak Burmese fluently, while the other two do not even speak a
single word, the former are married to local women.
The intelligence agents who arrested the culprits are not from Tamu. They
came from Mandalay, and followed the smugglers along the way.
According to intelligence sources, the smugglers were able to carry the
purified standard of seized heroin from the Sino-Burma border to the
Indo-Burma border, safely crossing several check points along the way,
because the smugglers were holding passes signed by Khin Nyunt, secretary
(1) of Slorc, the notorious Burmese military junta.
According to a reliable immigration source in Burma, the smugglers are
members of the Wa ethnic armed group, which has already agreed to a
cease-fire with Slorc. But the officer refused to mention the name of
Detail report is coming soon.
DEMOCRATIC FORCES OF BURMA: STATEMENT - INFILTRATION OF DRUGS, SPREAD OF HIV
October 1, 1997
Statement of Democratic Forces of the Burma regarding Moreh Satyagraha
against cross border infiltration of drug and AIDS.
First of all we would like to mention that we delightfully welcome the
Moreh Satyagraha action against the entry of heroin and HIV into India,
which is commencing on 2nd October 1997 and sponsored by respected MP Mr.
We absolutely believe that this is not as a political stunt and this is a
humanitarian struggle to terminate two global enemies, heroin and AIDS. We
honour the politicians, workers, intellectuals, human rights activists,
social workers, youths, students and representatives from mass and classes
who are actively participating in this demonstration.
On behalf of the Burmese people we would like to say words of special thanks
to all participants because as Mr. Gorge Fernandes' press statement dated
13.9.97 mentions "this is also a struggle for human rights, particularly the
human rights of Burmese people."
The entry of drugs and HIV is directly related to border trade. We feel that
Indo- Burma border trade is improperly regulated and both sides are
implementing it for namesake only. Perhaps the real intention of India
concerning border trade is to persuade the Slorc to become a good neighbour
and to loosen the relationship between China and Burma because India is too
anxious about the increasing influence of China upon Burma. Slorc's
intention is that they want to engage in international relations to show
that they are not being isolated or forsaken by international community due
to their human rights violations.
In fact it is obvious that Indo-Burma border trade is practically fruitless
at the grass roots level for people of both countries. Authorities from both
sides are not paying sufficient attention to controlling the border area
Border trade is essential for establishing friendship between neighbouring
countries. People can gain mutual understanding and co-operation through
border trade. We strongly believe that the existence of border trade in the
future will be necessary.
But the border trade dealing between two countries with different political
systems can not be stable. It will be very difficult to achieve
unconditional understanding and co-operation between the democratic government
of India, which is always considerate to it's own people and the Slorc,
which is selfish, and always neglecting the will of the Burmese people.
Although the Burmese people want to control heroin and AIDS not only as
national enemies but also as global enemies, the Slorc is involved in drug
trafficking directly or indirectly and enjoying drug money instead of
controlling it. The Slorc, which used almost fifty percent of the national
budget for military affairs, is neglecting health care services for the
people, including HIV control.
Although the people and government of India are actively attempting to
control drugs and AIDS, it will not meet expectations due to the lack of
co-operation and the egotistic policy of the military junta of Burma. India
will have to face drugs and AIDS as an uncontrollable problem until and
unless the military dictatorship is ended in Burma.
Emergence of a democratic government in Burma is absolutely necessary for
India to keep regional integrity and peace, to control drugs and HIV and to
setup a fraternal relationship with Burma.
So we respectfully request that the people of India demand and put pressure on
your government to practically and decisively provide help for the restoration
of democracy in Burma.
We also urge the people of Burma to join hand-in-hand with the people of
India in activity against drug and AIDS.
" A rotten dead body of an animal producing a foul smell in my house
compound can be injurious to you as a neighbour and you have the
responsibility to remove it also."
We wish this Satyagraha to be successful.
Democratic forces of Burma Indo-Burma border. Dated. 1st October 1997.
JOURNAL OF COMMERCE: HOUSE FAVORS US LAWS IN WTO DISPUTES
September 29, 1997
By Tim Shorrock, Journal Of Commerce Staff
WASHINGTON -- Opponents of President Clinton's free trade policies won a
victory last week when the House voted to shield U.S. federal and local
laws from being threatened by the World Trade Organization.
The 356-64 vote occurred late Thursday on a spending bill amendment
sponsored by Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and supported by an unusual
left-right coalition of Democrats and Republicans.
"If I was a proponent of fast track, I would not be happy with the vote I saw
yesterday," Mr. Sanders said at a press briefing Friday. He said the support
for his amendment shows there is strong opposition to President Clinton's
for new trade negotiating authority, which will be considered by Congress on
a fast track without amendments.
The Sanders amendment will provide $1 million to the U.S. Trade
Representative's office to report to Congress and local and state
governments every time a foreign government initiates an action in the WTO
that could force the repeal or modification of U.S. laws.
It reflects congressional and public anger at recent attempts by foreign
governments to challenge local laws, such as a Massachusetts ordinance
denying state contracts to companies that invest in the military
dictatorship of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
In addition, under the WTO, Venezuela has challenged provisions in the
Clean Air Act, Mexico has objected to U.S. laws protecting dolphins and
Malaysia and Indonesia have complained about U.S. environmental
restrictions on shrimp imports.
"This amendment is a right to know for the American people," said Rep. Bob
Ney, R-Ohio. "It is good public policy that has overwhelming support."
"People voting on this are saying there is no compelling reason to give
away our national sovereignty in the name of global trade," said Rep.
Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio. "Last night, the WTO got a vote of no-confidence."
Mr. Sanders said state and local laws were a key factor in influencing U.S.
corporations to pull out of South Africa during the period of apartheid.
"To lose that right would be absolutely unacceptable," he said.
The amendment also requires the USTR to inform Congress and appropriate
local governments when it enters new negotiations that could force changes
in U.S. laws.
THE NATION: SLORC UNDER PRESSURE TO REPAY ASEAN'S FAITH
September 30, 1997
Regional Perspective, Kavi Chongkittavorn
It is a rare occasion when opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has something.
nice to say about the Burmese military junta.
Last weekend, she thanked the junta for allowing her 700 supporters to
attend a party congress to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the founding
of the National League for Democracy (NLD).
She said that misunderstandings between the NLD and the government,
popularly known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc),
could be solved through negotiations. That was an encouraging overture from
The congress, which proceeded without any hitches, was the first sign of
goodwill from Slorc amid mounting pressure from Asean and the international
community. The United Nations General Assembly in New York has also played a
role in pushing the regime to be more flexible.
Since Burma was admitted into Asean in July, there has been a growing sense
of exasperation within the grouping on what to do with the country. Previous
attempts by Asean to discreetly pressure Slorc to adopt a more flexible
approach have failed, including the call for dialogue with the NLD.
Although Asean members have tried hard to hide their differences over Burma
within the confinement of conference rooms, public disagreements involving
Asean leaders have occasionally flared up. This has been the case for the
past two years since Burma first expressed interest in acceding to the
Treaty of Amity and joining Asean.
However, Asean's attitude has undergone a change. At their New York meeting
last week, it was clear that the Asean foreign ministers have reached an
understanding that they would no longer speak out for Burma as they had done
before it joined the grouping.
A strong feeling is also prevalent among the Asean ministers that they have
done enough to challenge the Western conventional wisdom on Burma. In
addition, they have done their utmost by awarding Asean membership to Burma
in the face of an outcry. Now, Slorc's leaders are on their own to prove
their worthiness, if they have any.
The main bone of contention is still the status of Burma in overall Asean-EU
relations. The European Union has imposed a visa ban on Burmese officials
travelling to its member countries because of Rangoon's record of political
suppression and human rights violations.
Bangkok is hosting the upcoming Joint Asean-EU Co-operation Committee
meeting from Nov 16 to 19. As host, Thailand has suggested letting the
Burmese representatives sit in the meeting as observers. The EU has agreed
to the suggestion and urged the Thais to discreetly stitch the deal.
Burma, however, is not happy with the arrangement on the grounds that it is
a full member of Asean and should be treated as such without discrimination
from the grouping's dialogue partners. Burmese Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw
insisted that his country be allowed to attend the Bangkok as a full member
or not at all.
At the moment, it is not known whether Burma will participate in the joint
committee meeting. At the recent meeting of Asean ministers of environment,
the Burmese delegation was conspicuously absent. It was the first time Burma
had failed to attend a major Asean meeting since being admitted as a member.
Asean ministers are apparently not willing to risk their ties with the EU -
Asean's oldest dialogue partner - by blindly supporting Burma as they
understand that the issue is inextricably linked to a broader co-operation
framework within the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem).
For instance, the just concluded meeting in Japan of Asian and European
economic ministers demonstrated the growing importance of more trade and
investment between the two regions. A series of joint activities were agreed
upon to promote the knowledge of business executives from both sides and
action plans on trade facilitation in customs procedures. The meeting also
agreed on intellectual property rights and health standards on food stuffs.
Asean would like to ensure this future cooperation goes well, especially as
the regional economy is not so healthy. Without a drastically improved
political condition, it is difficult to envisage the day Burma will be able
to join Asem. On the other hand, Laos will soon be eligible to the protocol
that will allow it to benefit from the ongoing Asean-EU economic cooperation.
This represents a new shift given the position Asean adopted in July at its
annual ministerial meeting in Kuala Lumpur that dialogue partners must not
treat individual Asean members with prejudice. Coupled with this
development, key partners such as Australia and Japan are also pressing
Slorc to open a dialogue with the opposition.
Recent efforts include last month's visit of John Dauth, the Australian
first assistant secretary for foreign affairs, as a special envoy to
Rangoon. Australia has been urging Slorc to respond to the international
appeal for a dialogue with the NLD. Australia would reward any positive
moves by Rangoon by assisting in economic projects such as the development
of a dry zone in northern Burma.
Burma has invited Australia to help develop its international airport in
Rangoon, but the country has turned down the request pending further
developments in Burma. Australia is using a balanced approach toward Slorc,
and the NLD.
A similar strategy is being used by Japan - which is keeping close contact
with Australia - in encouraging Slorc and the NLD to start a dialogue as
soon as possible. Japan has maintained its diplomatic channels at the
highest level with Slorc. Before the G7 meeting in Denver in July, Japanese
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto wrote to Slorc leader Than Shwe urging him
to take some positive steps in exchange for more economic support from Japan.
However, Slorc's conciliatory move could be taken as a self-serving exercise
aimed at weakening the NLD's leadership. The proposed meeting with NLD
president Aung Shwe by Gen Khin Nyunt is a case in point. He ignored Suu
Kyi and NLD vice-chairmen Tin Oo and Kyi Maung.
It is hard to see how Slorc could ignore Suu Kyi in any future negotiations
for long. After all, she has widespread international and local support that
could help Slorc's effort to solve the country's problems.
IMAGES ASIA REPORT: THE INVISIBLE SHAN REFUGEES
Jensine Larsen & Grace Baek
[An edited version of this article was published in The Nation -- Friday,
"They burned our village and ordered us to move north." As he speaks,
"Sai Pit," shifts his weight on a cardboard box and looks out into Chiang Mai
province's encroaching twilight. His wife and four children crowd in the
background of the construction site where they live and work, listening
intently to his narrative. "But we could take nothing with us and at the new
site the soldiers did not give us enough food to survive, so we had to come to
Thailand. There was nothing for us there, we were treated worse than
"Sai Pit" and his family left central Shan state in late May after the
Burmese army, or Tatmadaw, came to his village and threatened to kill any
one who did not relocate. But his village was not the only one in the
region to receive such a command. After opium warlord Khun Sa and his
Mong Tai Army (MTA) surrendered to Burma's ruling regime (SLORC) in
January 1996, a massive forced relocation program was launched by the
dictatorship, determined to quash remnant resistance fighters in Shan State.
This program of systematic village evacuation and strategic relocation (called
the Four Cuts Strategy or Hpyat Lay Hpyat in Burmese), designed to erode
support for armed resistance groups, is one of the largest ever initiated by
SLORC, and is presently in full force. Reported killings by the Tatmadaw in
Shan State have reached an unprecedented level.
According to the Shan Human Rights Foundation in Chiang Mai, well
over 200,000 people from more than 600 villages in Central Shan State have
been relocated at gunpoint by the SLORC into over fifty main relocation sites.
Testimonies from others who have been forced to relocate or witnessed the
exoduses have been documented by independent human rights groups and are
startlingly similar to the experience of "Sai Pit" and his family.
"As soon as they said, 'Get out', we started to move. . . We were given
no chance to go back or look again on our place. If we did, they would kill
us," recounted an elderly Shan woman from Lang Ker township to the Karen
Human Rights Group.
In another interview, a Buddhist monk living in Thailand went back to
visit his family in Kunhing township last year and was astonished by what he
saw. "While I was there I saw people moving, carrying their children, carrying
their things. I saw them walking along the roads, and living along the
roadsides. It makes you cry, they've lost everything, and their houses have
been burned . . . In some places the people beg along the sides of the road.
They hold monk's bowls and just stand there by the roadside, all day long."
The words of those who have escaped Shan State combine to paint a
consistent and shocking picture of life there. Although journalists,
foreigners, and diplomats are barred by the dictatorship from travelling
beyond designated tourist areas in Shan State, it is the experiences of the
people from Shan State that must be relied upon to unravel the truth of
military behavior in this isolated area of Burma.
According to testimonies, usually SLORC troops come to a village
and issue an order that it must be abandoned within a certain number of days,
after which anyone remaining will be shot on sight. Those who object to
leaving their homes or crops may be beaten or have their houses burned. Some
have had their houses set on fire while they were still inside; some elderly
people have been burned alive in this way. Villagers are routinely shot
trying to return to their villages for food or belongings.
In almost all cases the relocation sites consist of nothing but barren
land where the dislocated villagers must build their own shelter and provide
their own food and water. When rice rations are provided by the military,
the relocated villagers generally receive about 1-2 milk tins of rice per
person per day, just barely enough to survive. Any rice that villagers
bring to the relocation sites is confiscated by SLORC troops. This high
quality rice is typically eaten by the soldiers, who then ration out their
low-grade military rice to the villagers. Villagers are even forced at
times to buy back their own confiscated rice.
Frequently the sites are strategically located next to planned roads or
railways and the only chance for work is forced labor on SLORC's
infrastructure schemes. These transportation links expedite resource
exploitation from foreign logging and mining companies, which is
accelerating at a frenzied pace. Many of the companies involved are from
Thailand. Already some residents of the area have noticed climactic
changes, " They have been cutting so many trees that the climate was
noticeably drier, and every year the rice harvest was worse," said a Shan
woman who lived in Hsipaw.
In the past few months, independent human rights groups have
collected extensive information about a string of alleged massacres committed
by the Tatmadaw.
A representative of the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF)
reported, "In Kunhing township at least 400 villagers have been killed by the
SLORC between mid-June and mid-July. These people who were killed are
mostly from relocated villages where food is scarce. They try to get back to
their old villages to collect food and they are caught. Sometimes 20 or 30
people are shot at a time" He went on to recount a recent report the SHRF
received concerning the discovery of the decapitated corpses of 27 men,
women, and children lined up in plain view of a road in Shan State as a
warning to those in the vicinity to obey SLORC soldiers. Subsequent to this on
July 12th 1997, 17 headless corpses were found on the main road south of
Thailand's daily newspapers have also reported the alleged killing of
26 villagers accused of violating orders to relocate in Chianglom village in
June, and similar killings which accounted for 32 deaths in two Kunhing
district villages that same month.
The headlines of the SHRF's monthly updates are a gruesome litany of
atrocities: "Monks tortured and killed by SLORC", "Mass Killing and Rape of
Relocated Villagers", "Gang Rape of Relocated Villagers", "Village
Burned", " Headman Beaten", "Over 1,000 Children Begging Near Parng
Phone", and "Multiple Killings at Kho Lam Relocation Site."
Some villagers have been relocated several times, as the SLORC has
consolidated relocation sites in an attempt to further control local
populations. The SLORC makes no secret of the overarching military aims
inherent in its systematic forced relocation and accompanying brutality.
In its October 1996 issue, The Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
published a revealing statement made by no. 542 LIB commander in a speech
to a group of forcibly relocated villagers in Nam Zarg township, "One of our
objectives of imposing the 4-cuts policy upon you and forcing you around is to
make you become poor, or to make you flee, disappear or die. Because when
you people in the country become poor, flee, disappear or die, there will
any rebels who can depend on you for their food, information and guidance."
Co-coordinator of the Shan State Organization, Sao Seng Suk, speaks
confidently about the SLORC's objectives based on his years of experience in
practising both armed and non-violent resistance against the SLORC. "We
suspect the aim of the SLORC is to destroy and subjugate, by practising
genocide so the whole country will be under monolithic rule. "
For the ordinary Shan and other minorities in the region, the recent
relocations are only another chapter in a long historical saga of endeavours
to render them voiceless and powerless. Semi-autonomous under the British
rule, since shortly after Burma achieved independence, Shan State has been
ruled by a variety of resistance groups fighting for territorial
independence and by opium warlords. Today, enduring central government
offensives and economic mismanagement have reduced Shan State to a
humanitarian emergency. When conditions become unbearable many internally
displaced or impoverished residents of Shan state choose to leave Burma.
Thailand, a traditional magnet for regional refugees and migrant
labor, has become the natural destination for those migrating and/or fleeing
Shan State. Though the Thai government does not have an official figure on
the number of Shans residing in Thailand who have fled the recent relocations,
the most conservative estimates by human rights groups place the number at
over 30,000 in the last year. According to the Shan Youth Network Group in
Mae Hong Son and the SHRF in Chiang Mai, the number of refugees crossing
the border daily peaked in May at 260 people, dropping to 130 people at the
end of July due to difficulties in travelling during the rainy season.
A member of one of the few NGO's assisting those migrating from
Shan State avers that the decision to flee across the Burma border is often the
last resort, particularly since most Shan have ancestral ties to their land as
farmers and leaving means losing everything they have.
"The pattern of national displacement often occurs in two stages," he
says. "First, internal displacement occurs. Then when persecution or its
on food supply become unbearable, the displaced decide to flee."
In an attempt to stem the unceasing flow of Shan into Northern
Thailand, some Thai officials have resorted to forcibly repatriating whole
groups of refugees. These repatriations garnered little international outcry
compared to the forced repatriations, or refoulement, of Karen refugees in
March of this year. Last October about 200 Akha and Lahu refugees were
forced to cross back over the border into Burma by Thai authorities. On
May 31, 1997, it was reported that earlier in the week 430 Shan were pushed
back across the border, most were elderly women and children. According to
the Thailand Times, officials dismissed the refugees' pleas that their
been killed by the Burmese army and were being sent back to their deaths.
Thai officials claimed that the Shan were only looking for better jobs in
Thailand and could not be considered refugees because "there was no fighting
in Shan State."
Both the Thai government and other organisations geared to provide
refugee assistance are at a loss how to categorise those who arrive in Thailand
from Shan State. A newsletter of an international NGO working with Burmese
refugees noted in July 1997, "Refugees along the border (referring to those
already registered in refugee camps) are now being labelled 'Displaced
Persons Fleeing Fighting' (DPFF) rather than the previous term of 'Displaced
Persons.' . . Refugees, by definition, are people who flee their country
because of a 'well-founded fear of persecution' and threats to life and
liberty. Denying asylum is therefore violating international norms and
standards upheld by the UNHCR Executive Committee (EXCOM) of which
Thailand is a member."
As far as current Thai policy is concerned all persons from Shan state
are classified as illegal immigrants. One Thai official maintained that
approximately 50,000 to 60,000 such migrants from Shan State had arrived
between January and May of this year. Clearly residents of Shan State who
have not been forced to relocate, but are suffering under intolerable
economic consequences of SLORC rule, are also crossing the border, hoping
for a means of survival. The Shan Human Rights foundation points out that the
Shan do not fit the typical illegal migrant profile of individuals remitting
earnings back to families. Most of the Shan fleeing forced relocations in
Burma have brought their entire families with them. Additionally, the SHRF
representative says, "Most don't identify themselves as refugees or not. They
have been oppressed and could not make a decent living. They just want to
work to support their family." Nonetheless, Sao Seng Suk insists, "Their land
is confiscated, their villages burned down, they have to leave the country,
are not economic migrants, they are true refugees."
After completing the difficult journey to Thailand, displaced Shan
discover that there are no established refugee camps to seek refuge in,
unlike existing camps (since early 1997 labelled by Thai government as
"temporary shelters") for other Burmese ethnic groups such as Karen, Mon,
and Karenni on Thailand's Western border. The Shan refugees find that they
have no choice but to disperse into Thailand's vast illegal labor market.
Many Shan try to find low wage jobs where ever they can; usually at
construction sites, sweatshops, as agricultural laborers, or sex workers.
Spreading and migrating throughout Thailand in search of work
means that many Shan are isolated and lonely. With communities dispersed,
social support systems are no longer in place. Moreover, care for the young
and old, is extremely difficult on their low or non-existent salaries.
Terrified of discovery by Thai officials, oftentimes Shan won't seek help
for their health problems. Their children do not have access to any education.
It is for precisely this reason, say some, that the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the international community has yet
to sit up and take notice of the great number of Shan refugees in Northern
Thailand. "They do not know about us," tells a member of the Shan Youth
Network Group in Mae Hong Son, "because if we have a stomach ache we do
not tell anyone, we are too afraid."
As of yet the UNHCR has not made any public statement regarding a
concern for the well-being of displaced Shan in Thailand. Although the
UNHCR is restricted in its mandate due to the nature of its agreement with the
Thai government, its public response has been minimal. The task to find and
interview Shan is daunting due to their scattered population and fear.
Ruven Menikdiwela, a UNHCR protection officer recently replied to an inquiry
about Shan refugees stating, "This office has noted the presence of a
certain number of persons who appear to have left Shan State for
refugee-related reasons. However, it is difficult to ascertain the exact
number of persons who have fled . . . in view of the dispersed nature of
Despite a number of UNHCR fact-finding trips to north-western
Thailand to assess the situation for the Shan, and the Thai government's
knowledge of the situation frequent requests by Shan organisations, journalists
and NGO's have brought little in terms of durable solutions to the problems
facing these refugees. A representative of one international NGO, speaking on
the condition of anonymity, has stated, "UNHCR is the primary refugee
advocate and public statements or silence will have an impact on the treatment
of refugees. Silence from the UNHCR is like complicity."
Thailand, however, is acutely aware of the effects of its illegal labor
population. In a statement to the 53rd UN commission on human rights, a
Thai representative stated, "There remain almost a million people from
Myanmar (Burma) living in Thailand as illegal migrants and displaced
persons, posing enormous, social, economic, and security burden on Thailand."
Local Thai NGO's speculate that there are variety of reasons why
Thailand has not conceded to the establishment of refugee camps for the Shan.
These reasons vary between a desire to not inflame tensions in a budding
economic relationship between Rangoon and Bangkok, and a belief that a camp
would create a "pull factor" drawing more Shan across the national boundary.
Sao Seng Suk believes that if Thailand does not find a viable solution
for the Shan refugees soon, the social effects of neglected refugees will worsen
dramatically. "The children have no opportunity to learn, they will soon
become unproductive to [Thai] society, a burden for the population."
One thing is certain, without change in Burma, refugees will find ways
to cross the border. The Shan will not disappear. They cannot return home.
Thailand stands at a cross-roads, with the option of shaping two very
different futures. Many believe that if Thailand persists in its practice
of categorising Shan refugees as illegal immigrants, in the end, the people
of Thailand themselves will also suffer. The country will find itself
picking up the tab for advanced health problems, poverty, social unrest,
deportations, and the unchecked spread of AIDS.
In an attempt to control immigrant workers, the Thai Cabinet passed a
resolution on August 6, 1996 which allowed employers to register illegal
workers from Laos, Burma, and Cambodia for up to two years while awaiting
deportation. Shan refugees with regular work could obtain permission to
work legally, but non-working members of their families did not receive any
protection. Registered migrant workers are covered by Thai labor laws but
are forbidden to join or form unions and are bound to their employers for
their semi-legal status, thus effectively diminishing any possibility of
their taking action against exploitative working conditions. Apart from an
initial basic health screening and treatment of contagious diseases, no
other provisions were made for these workers. The corruption involved in
the process of applying for registration made this option available to those
who could afford it, excluding much of the migrant population. The Thai
government stopped registering migrant laborers at the end of November 1996.
In northern Thailand, a network of small NGO's provides health
education and primary health care, as well as legal advice and translation
services to migrant workers, a large proportion of whom are Shan refugees.
However, the network's resources are severely limited and they are only able to
reach a small sector of the migrant population. One spokesperson from the
NGO network stated: "In order for there to be substantial improvements in the
situation of migrants, recognition of their particular circumstances is
essential and co-operation between all sectors is needed. Temporary work
permits for people from Shan State only address part of the problem; other
members of the families whom we meet, children, older people, pregnant
women, nursing mothers, continue to live in fear and extreme hardship. With
this in mind, the network aims to inform all sectors about the realities of
migrant life, encourage the development of appropriate services, and promote
the rights of migrants."
Some say that Thailand has the opportunity to engage with local
NGO's, the UNHCR, and local Shan to seek creative and mutually beneficial
solutions. Local NGO's claim that by offering status determination procedures
and creating a safe camp, the Shan refugees who could not support themselves
would be in a better position to receive food and preventative health
assistance. Benefiting from community support, schools and self-sufficient
agriculture and craft projects could be created.
Migrant assistance-oriented NGOs and others could help to erode the
negative stereotypes that keep migrant workers disempowered and allow their
continued exploitation. Promoting understanding of the situation of these
migrants could encourage those in Thailand to appreciate the work of
migrants and treat them with dignity. If Thailand is serious about avoiding a
drain on its resources, a dialogue with involved parties could result in
thoughtful programs which might establish Shan refugee communities as
playing a more visibly positive role within the Thai economy.
ALTSEAN Burma is a network of over 40 Southeast Asian groups set
up to raise awareness in ASEAN countries about the situation in Burma. They
believe that in order for Thailand to find a long term solution to its
rapidly increasing refugee problem, the country must push further and
re-evaluate the nature of its economic engagements with Burma's military
regime. In a statement to the United Nation's 53rd session ALTSEAN
spokesperson, Debbie Stothard declares, " Constructive engagement' has only
helped the SLORC indiscriminately exploit the country's resources in the
same way it has attacked the peoples of Burma. It has helped in the
creation of jobs which pay wages in the way of displacement, misery, death,
Stothard continues, "If ASEAN member states were truly concerned
with "opening up" the country, they would be building hospitals and schools
rather than hotels and shopping malls. They would not be involved in
projects which result in forced relocations and the use of slave labor" She
also refutes ASEAN's claims that Burma's admittance will improve regional
security by citing SLORC's violations of its neighbors' borders, and
attacks on security forces, murder, abduction, robberies, assault and
property damage in neighboring countries.
The future for the Shan in Thailand and Burma will undoubtedly be a
precarious one. Perhaps much of their fate hinges on the actions of the
international community and local acknowledgment and empowerment in
Thailand. Yet, the key ingredient for an authentic resolution to the
monumental outpouring of refugees and complications stemming from their
marginalization appears to be political change in Burma. The international
community must support the Burmese people's desire for their chosen form of
government, already expressed in the democratic elections of 1990. The
National League for Democracy, the winning party in that election, has
frequently declared its wish for tri-partite negotiations with ethnic groups
and the SLORC to solve the political and economic problems facing Burma
To the United Nations, ALTSEAN pointed out, "The hope for
harmony [for Burma] lies in a government committed to justice, human rights
and democracy. This is why ethnic groups are increasingly making their
support of the democracy movement led by Aung Sang Suu Kyi known."
In Sao Seng Suk's words, "International recognition of the elected
government is very important, if it is disregarded then the dictator lives
And the refugees will keep coming, striving to elude the prescribed
death sentence decreed to them by the SLORC. "Phra Ain Da Ya", a Shan
Buddhist monk, and an eyewitness to forced relocations in Shan State, says in a
human rights interview, "They'll come through whenever they can one by one.
They'll look for work. . . There are so many. Thousands. . . I don't know
anywhere in the world where they do this kind of thing[large scale forced
relocations]. Just imagine if it was you, if it was your house, and you had
lost everything, you wouldn't know what to say. I myself, I've gone and
seen it and I can describe the events, but the people who've had to leave
their village, where they have children, grandchildren, rice, water,
everything. They don't understand any reason. They're totally confused. .
. I know these people, and they are good people. As a monk, I want there to
be peace, I want people to be able to survive each day, but it's impossible.
I don't know what to say. Please tell people of the world what is going on,
okay? I don't know who to tell about these things"
The representative from the Shan Human Rights Foundation cups his
hands in front of himself and then opens them in a quiet gesture entreating
support. The last thing he says is, "We are in a tight spot. What we need is
almost everything. We don't even know the way to get help. We need people
to help us find these ways."
For further information contact:
PO Box 2
Prasingha Post Office
Chiang Mai 50200 Thailand
BERNAMA: INDOCHINA GOLDFIELDS COMPLETES FINANCING TO
CONSTRUCT COPPER MINE
September 25, 1997
SINGAPORE, Sept. 25 /CNW-AsiaNet/ - R. Edward Flood, President, and
Robert M. Friedland, Chairman, announced today that Indochina Goldfields
Ltd. has completed formal arrangements for the development of the Monywa
copper mine complex in north-central Myanmar. Contracts for finance,
construction and copper marketing were signed yesterday by Indochina
Goldfields and its 50% joint venture partner, Mining Enterprise No. 1, at a
ceremony in Yangon, Myanmar. As parties to the transaction, Marubeni
Corporation and Nissho Iwal Corporation will provide a US$90 million loan
for the project's first phase. Chiyoda Corporation and Marubeni will design,
construct and commission the ore crushing, conveying and heap-leach
facilities, as well as the solvent extraction / electrowinning plant.
also committed to purchase the first seven years of copper production from the
"The project is on track to commence Phase I production in mid-1998, and to
reach full commercial production at an annual rate of 25,000 tonnes of LME
Grade A copper cathode by year-end 1998," Mr. Flood said.
The company has also initiated discussions to secure project financing for
construction of the Phase II expansion on the adjacent Letpadaung ore body.
Minproc Engineers of Perth, Australia, recently completed a bankable
feasibility study for the initial Phase II production of 63,500 tonnes of
copper cathode per year, with expansion capacity of up to 128,000 tonnes of
copper cathode per year. The study forecasts a cash operating cost of 43
cents a pound, with initial capital, development, commissioning and working
capital costs of approximately US$300 million. Minproc is completing an
optimization study based upon a recently upgraded reserve estimate that
will determine the most attractive annual production scenario for the
project. Indochina Goldfields expects to release the results of this study
within the next month.
The company's other assets include gold and copper properties and other
interests in Indonesia, Kazakstan, South Korea, Vietnam and Fiji. Indochina
Goldfields Ltd. shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange and on the
Australian Stock Exchange under the symbol ING.
Information about the company and its projects is available on its Web
CONTACT : R. EDWARD FLOOD, PRESIDENT NORTH
TEL : (604) 688-5755.
DATE OF RELEASE : SEPTEMBER 25, 1997
Copyright 1997 Bernama.
(c) 1997 Chamber World Network International Ltd.
ASIA INTELLIGENCE WIRE
WOODROW WILSON CENTER: OCTOBER 8 PANEL DISCUSSION
September 29, 1997
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8
4:00 - 6:00 PM
GETTING IT RIGHT WITH BURMA: ECONOMIC, STRATEGIC AND
HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS
A panel discussion with
RICHARD KESSLER, Democratic Professional Staff Member, Asia and the
Pacific Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee and
Foreign Affairs Staff Aide, Office of Representative Howard L. Berman (D-CA)
MARK MASON, Associate Professor, School of Management,
ZAW OO, Coordinator, Research Group for the Economic Development of
MARVIN C. OTT, Professor of National Security Policy, National War
College, National Defense University
Event will be held in the Woodrow Wilson Center Library
Third Floor, Smithsonian "Castle" Building
1000 Jefferson Drive SW, Washington, DC
"Smithsonian" Metro Stop, Mall Exit, Blue/Orange Line
Event is open to the public - No RSVP necessary
Media organizations, please contact 202-357-1937
Beth R. Brimner _______________________________Ph: 202-357-1937
WWICS - The Asia Program_______________________Fx: 202-357-4052
***** Visit us at http://wwics.si.edu *****