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The BurmaNet News, October 6, 1997

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------          
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"          
The BurmaNet News: October 6, 1997             
Issue #837

KNU: PRESS RELEASE NO. 59 & 60 /97

October 4, 1997 [slightly abridged]
By Ramthan Hussain 

SINGAPORE, Oct 4 (Reuter) - Singapore on Saturday called for adequate
transparency and protection for investments in Burma and cited the shortage
of hard currency and tight exchange controls as difficulties faced by
investors there. 

``As Myanmar (Burma) has recently opened its economy to the outside world, it
is inevitable that there are difficulties along the way to economic growth
and stability,'' said Lee Yock Suan, Singapore's Trade and Industry Minister.

``At this early stage of Myanmar's development it is vital to get the basics
right. It is not easy to open up to the outside world and compete on the
global marketplace.'' 

Lee was speaking at the second Singapore-Burma joint ministerial working
committee meeting, which will explore new areas such as transport,
telecommunications and trade, and review cooperation in tourism,
agro-business and training. 

At the meeting, the two sides signed a maritime transport agreement and their
chambers of commerce sealed a memorandum of understanding to allow the
private sector to enhance their investments. 

``This is the first bilateral Maritime Transport agreement for Myanmar. It
will usher in a new era of co-operation between Singapore and Myanmar in
bilateral shipping and maritime relations,'' the two countries said in a
joint statement. 

The agreement would also help related activities such as trucking,
warehousing and container freight stations, it said. 

Singapore is Burma's largest trading partner. Last year trade more than
doubled to Singapore $1.31 billion (US$850.64 million) from S$615.9 million
in 1991, according to Singapore's Trade Development Board (TDB). 

Total trade between the two countries during the first eight months of this
year grew to S$854 million. 

Singapore is the second biggest investor in Burma after Britain, with
investments totaling US$1.3 billion in 55 projects from about $600 million in
1995, the TDB said. 

``Not surprisingly the shortage of hard currency and the tight foreign
exchange controls have caused some difficulties among investors who are more
used to a mature and open economic environment,'' Lee said. 

``Nevertheless, Myanmar has much to offer and businessmen are prepared to
adapt to the local environment if there is adequate transparency and
protection for their investment.'' 

He said it is in Burma's interest to create as attractive and stable an
environment as possible for economic development as competition for foreign
investments is very intense. 


October 6, 1997 [slightly abridged]
By Douglas Wong 

SINGAPORE and Myanmar agreed yesterday to broaden their economic links from
an initial focus on tourism and agro-business into the areas of
telecommunications and education. 

"With both countries now belonging to the Asean family, there will be even
more opportunities for interaction and cooperation," Trade and Industry
Minister Lee Yock Suan said at the second meeting of a joint ministerial
committee on trade and investment ties. 

The committee agreed to extend Singapore's training of Myanmar officials to
the telecommunications field, and also to look into a Myanmar proposal for
the Yangon Institute of Technology to collaborate with the Nanyang
Technological University. 

Mr Lee added that Singapore Telecom is keen to invest in Myanmar if and when
it opens its telecommunications sector. 

Singapore is Myanmar's largest trading partner -- two-way trade hit $1.3
billion last year -- and is also the second largest foreign investor in
Myanmar after Britain, with 55 projects worth US$1.2 billion. The minister
and his committee co-chairman, Myanmar's Lieutenant-Gen Khin Nyunt, also
witnessed the signing of a maritime transport agreement and a cooperation
agreement between the business chambers. 

Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, First Secretary of Myanmar's ruling State Law and
Restoration Council (Slorc), said in his comments that his country
considered itself fortunate to have good and supportive friends like
Singapore now, when it is on the verge of economic take-off. 

He also said that Myanmar's new market-oriented policies along with 
unprecedented peace and stability, have allowed the country to focus on 
developing its economy. 

Myanmar, he said, lagged behind because too many resources had been 
diverted to fighting armed rebellions. 

But apart from one armed group, all other insurgent groups have returned to
the legal fold, he said. 

The general had called on Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Deputy 
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, and said he was "deeply heartened 
by their kind words of support and encouragement". 

Officials said he had a candid discussion with Mr Goh during their half-hour
meeting. No details of the meeting were given. 

In his speech, Mr Lee Yock Suan urged Myanmar to create an attractive and
stable environment for investment, noting that its tight foreign exchange
controls and shortage of hard currency had caused problems for foreign

He said 1994 was a turning point in terms of enhanced cooperation between
the two countries. 

"Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong visited Myanmar in March 1994 and agreed with
Senior Gen Than Shwe to foster even closer bilateral co-operation," he said. 

"The Agreement on Bilateral Economic Cooperation was signed in June 1995 and
the inaugural joint ministerial working committee meeting was held in
Myanmar in January 1996." 

"That first meeting decided on several initiatives in agro-business,
tourism, human resource training and other areas." 

Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and his 20-strong delegation, including the Minister of
Hotels and Tourism, Lt-Gen Kyaw Ba, and the Minister of National Planning 
and Economic Development, Brig-Gen David Abel, met about 60 Singapore 
businessmen at a lunch following the meeting. 

Singapore has already trained more than 300 Myanmar officials in areas like
tourism, agro-business, port and airport management. 

Next month will see the opening of a joint test centre in Yangon to improve
poultry breeds as well as the marketing of joint Singapore-Myanmar tour
packages through a German travel wholesaler. 


October 3, 1997
Thomas S. Mulliigan

NEW YORK- Though the Myanmar economy is widely reported to be a shambles top
officials of the country's military junta came here Thursday with 
Washington publicists in tow and declared there is no problem.
U.5. economic sanctions against Myanmar, fomerly Burma, have not hurt the 
country's growth prospects and ultimately will backfire. Foreign Minister U
Ohn Gyaw said in a rare meeting with Western reporters.
In fact, Gyaw said, Myannmar continues to develop its domestic economy and
boost Trade, especially with its Southeast Asian neighbors.
"As you know," he said, "the Asian mentality is such that if there is a 
challenge, we work more, we have more sacrifice. Then [the sanctions) will
be a blessing in disguised".
The minister's upbeat assessment contrasted sharply with other accounts,
such as a recent report in the Far Eastern Economic Review that Myanmar
currency, the kyat, has collapsed and its economy is in tatters.
Instead, Myanmar officials asserted that foreign investment totals S6.39
from 22 couniries, and that through Aug 31 there has been ~ fourfold increase 
over the same period last year.
But dozens of U.S. and other foreign firms have pulsed out of the country, and 
Texaco Inc. announced last week that it was selling its stake in a controversial
offshore natural gas project there, although it denied any connection with the 
U.S. sanctions.
Unoal Corp. and Atalantic Richfield Co. are the major U.S. firms that remain 
active in Myanmar. Unocal has been widely criticized for its partnership with 
the government's state oil and gas company in a $ 2 billion pipeline project.
Another Unocal partner on the pipeline is Total, the French oil giant that this 
week defied a U.S. embargo against Iran by signing a $ 2-bililon natural gas 
deal there.
Although the official reason for Gyaw's U.S. trip was to address the, UN
General Assembly last week reversing negative perceptions about the regime
he represents is an evident part of his mission.
Indeed, the UN meeting presented a rare opportunity to plead Myanma's case, 
since top government officials end their families have been banned from the US 
as part of the economic sanctions. They were allowed in temporarily.
But in image-building, they face an uphill fight. The ruling State Law and
Order Restoration Council has become an International pariah since it
rejected the outcome of free elections in 1990 and refused to hand over
power to the 
victorious pollilcal party headed by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The government also has been implicated in international drug trade and in 
widespread human rights violations, leading to the Clinton administration's ban 
on new investment there and to sanctions by Massachusetts and more than a
dozen cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Monica and Berkeley.
While Gyaw and fellow ministers-assisted by the public relations firm of Bain 
&Associates sat down with the media in a middtown Manhattan hotel, a crowd
of several dozen protesters stood on the sidewalk outside screaming: "Gyaw
lies!" and Killers!"
The protesters, members of the Burma Action Committee New York repeated a
charge by Sun Kyi that the junta has imprisoned more than 1,000 people for
political reasons.

"This is wrong," said Gyaw. "We do not have political prisoner, that much." He 
explained that when the current leaders seized power in 1988, there was 
widespread "anarhy" in the land and lawbreakers were jailed in due course.
"If that particular person who transgressed the law happens to be from the 
[opposition ] political party, we can't help it." Gyaw said.
Gyaw was asked to explain the government's refusal to grant a visa to a 
representative of the International Committee for the Red Cross to inspect 
Myanmar's prisons for suspected Human rights violations.
He replied that some of the Red Cross' proposed inspection procedures violate 
Myanrnar's existing penal code namely an 1890 prison manual dating to
British colonial rule. The law must be revised before the inspection can
proceed, Gyaw said.
The minister said he and his delegation have had no contact with U.S officials.

October 4, 1997
Brussels, AFP

Respect for Asean ties prevents tougher line

European Union sanctions on Burma will be extended for six months from the
end of this month, but not reinforced for fear of alienating other southeast
Asian countries, diplomats said yesterday.

The sanctions, under which members of Burma's ruling junta, their families
and senior military officials are banned from travelling to Europe, were
imposed last year in a bid to pressure the regime into moving towards
democracy and respect for human rights.

The lack of significant progress in Burma since then has led some EU
governments like Denmark to call for them to be extended to include measures
that would restrict trade and tourism. 

EU foreign ministers will discuss the situation at talks in Luxembourg on
Monday but a senior diplomat with the bloc's Luxembourg presidency said any
strengthening of the sanctions was "highly unlikely."

A majority of EU countries felt such a move was likely to exacerbate
tensions with the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), said
Jean-Jacques Kasel, Luxembourg's ambassador to the European Union. 
Asean, which has a long-standing policy of "constructive engagement" with
Burma, admitted the country to membership of the bloc in July, rebuffing
intense behind-the-scenes pressure from the European Union and the United

The move led to a major row last month when British Foreign Secretary Robin
Cook said Burma would not be welcome at next year's Asia- Europe Meeting in

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reacted by warning that Asean
might boycott the meeting.

While  maintaining its stance that Burma cannot join the meeting without
significant reform, the EU is anxious to avoid a full-scale clash that could
scupper its strategy of forging closer political and trade ties with the
world's most dynamic economies. 

"We do not want to arrive in a situation where relations become blocked,"
said Mr Kasel.

As well as the visa-ban on members of the junta, the package of sanctions
adopted by the EU last October froze contacts at ministerial or senior
official level.

The measures strengthened an existing package which includes an embargo on
the sale of arms, munitions and military equipment to Burma, a ban on
military cooperation and the suspension of non-humanitarian aid or
development projects.

The EU's executive arm, the European Commission, has also stripped  Burma of
its preferential access to EU markets because of evidence that up to 800,000
people were being used as forced labour in government or military projects.


October 5, 1997

Imphal, Oct. 4. --Myanmar has sealed off its border with India as a
retaliation for the agitation launched by the Samata Party president, Mr.
George Fernandes, and others at the border town of Moreh in Manipur,
official reports

Mr Fernandes has plans to make human chains along the border to check drug
trafficking. However, from the very beginning he had been facing rough
weather. Some political parties had criticised him saying that such actions
were not an answer to the problem.

Beside, the residents of Moreh town objected to the agitation plan, pointing
out that while they had no objection to the campaign against drugs, it
should not affect the legitimate trade between India and Myanmar.

Since a violent confrontation was very much in the offing between the
workers of the Samata Party and the residents of the Moreh town, senior
civil and police officials had rushed to Moreh. An agreement had been
reached between Mr Fernades and the public leaders of Moreh with the result
that the SP would be launching a simple agitation but would desist from
making human chains.

As the Myanmar government does not want to take any risk, it had sealed off
the border disallowing the movement of people.

Mr. Fernades plans to stay at Moreh for a week during which several members
of his party will be coming to Manipur. Top ranking officials said that the
Tamu-Moreh-Imphal route was not the only one used by the drug traffickers.
The Tiddim-Churachandpur-Imphal route was more frequently used. It is also
said that the route touching Mizoram is the most important one.

Since some officials and politicians are suspected to be involved in his
thriving multi-million business, the seizure of the drugs has been
negligible. One police sub-inspector and five constables, who form the
anti-narcotics cell, are expected to patrol the entire State and smoke out
drug traffickers. On late, the insurgents have started beating up and
shooting the drug addicts in the legs while the drug traffickers are shot in
the head. Manipur which had become the conduit of drug
trafficking has the highest number of AIDS patients. The Central Government
had announced that based on reports furnished by the NGOs, 500,000 persons
will die in Manipur due to AIDS by the end of 2000. This is out of a
population of less than 20 lakhs.


October 5, 1997

About 3,000 Indian political party members and Burmese democracy activists
staged Satyagraha from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Moreh on 4-10-97. Local
associations such as KSO, MADWA, HTC etc. also joined the event. KSO
proposed to replace barbwire fences along the borderline with brick walls,
so as to prevent the flow of illicit narcotics into India from Burma. HTC
proposed Indian government to check illegal timber trade that has been going
on, and to make necessary arrangements for the legal timber trade that would
be more profitable for India. It also urged the Indian government to take
necessary steps for the revival of Morning Bazaar, which has gone defunct
since SLORC started opening a market on Burma side. (SLORC ordered Burmese
traders to suspend their business in Moreh and to sell their goods at the
newly opened market). MPs and MLAs of Manipur State Governments also joined
in the inspection tour to the market place and outlying villages. This is
the first warning shot to the SLORC, said the president of KSO. All the
Satyagrahies marched to No.1 border gate and shouted slogans denouncing the
Burmese military junta for its illicit drug trafficking activities. After
that, they marched towards No.2 gate where they again staged another
demonstration for 15 minutes. At about 3 p.m., they assembled in front of
the Moreh police station and demanded the authorities to curb the drug trade
effectively. The demonstration was over for the day at about 4 p.m.

For further information please contact burma info.<sayagyi@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>


October 1, 1997

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
International *

The current refugee crisis on Thailand's borders with Cambodia and Myanmar
is just the latest manifestation of a worsening human situation across the
Asia-Pacific region, Amnesty International said today, as it accused
governments in the region and elsewhere of failing to provide proper
protection to refugees and asylum seekers.

     "An arc of refugee crises has emerged across the heart of Asia --
stretching from eastern Nepal, through northeast India, the Chittagong hill
tracts in Bangladesh, and across into Myanmar and Thailand," Amnesty
International said. "The vast majority of these people are women and
children fleeing torture, "disappearances", political killings and arbitrary

     "Longstanding problems elsewhere in the region -- such as the conflicts
in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bougainville, and repression in East Timor --
have also created large outflows of people seeking refuge."

     "Governments in the region and elsewhere have reacted to this crisis by
putting up barriers to make it difficult for refugees to gain asylum and by
sending asylum seekers back to face danger. They should instead be tackling
the underlying causes -- human rights abuses  -- as a means of promoting
people's security and regional stability. "

     In a report issued today as part of its worldwide campaign on refugees,
Amnesty International highlights four countries where people have  faced
human rights abuses because of their ethnicity or questions over their
national identity: Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and East Timor. These
countries form just one dimension of serious human rights abuses in almost
every country in the Asia-Pacific region, leading to at least 1.8 million
refugees and 1.7 million internally displaced people in the region.

     In Myanmar, many ethnic minorities have been persistently targeted by
the military for gross human rights violations as the government tries to
assert its political control and open up rural areas for economic
development throughout the country. As a result hundreds of thousands of
Burmese people have been forced to flee abroad. Many of them have been
illegally returned home to face danger, in violation of international law.

[passage with details on Sri Lanka, Bhutan, East Timor, Tibet ommitted]

     The vast majority of refugees have sought safety in other Asian
countries. Those that have sought refuge further afield are increasingly
being denied asylum. However, Asian countries are also sending back refugees
forcibly or reducing their food supplies to such an extent that the refugees
are forced to leave their camps.

     In its report, Amnesty International calls on regional governments to
immediately ratify the United Nations (UN) Convention relating to the status
of Refugees and to respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement so
that no refugee is sent back to their country to face danger. The
organization also called on governments to allow the UNHCR and other aid and
medical organizations access to refugee camps around the region.

     Most of the Asian states have not signed the UN Convention relating to
the status of Refugees which protects refugees. Elsewhere, regional bodies
such as the Organization of American States, the Arab League and the
Organization of African Unity have drawn up instruments designed to protect
refugees in their regions. However, in the Asia region there does not seem
to be any movement towards a similar agreement.

     "Refugees seeking asylum in the richer Asian countries face procedures
that can be bewilderingly complex and unsatisfactory, where they have no
access to independent advice or representation, and no real prospect of
exercising their right to appeal," Amnesty International said.

     In Australia, all asylum seekers face automatic detention while their
claim is assessed -- in clear violation of international standards. In April
1997, the UN-based Human Rights Committee stated that Australia's practice
of detention was arbitrary and violative of human rights.

     Asylum seekers in Japan are sometimes denied access to asylum
procedures altogether. Those who are allowed to submit claims are put
through a secretive, arbitrary and often obstructive process. Others have
been threatened with refoulement to face further danger. Despite the
continuing crackdown on dissidents in China, Japan has so far only
recognized one Chinese person as a refugee in more than 15 years.

     Elsewhere in the world, governments, particularly in Western Europe,
are also making it more difficult for refugees to seek asylum. "In
promulgating restrictive legislation such as visa requirements, these
governments conveniently ignore the fact that refugees fleeing for their
lives are not in a position to spend several days queuing at the embassy for
a visa or filling out the myriad of forms required to leave their country
legally," Amnesty International said.
For a copy of the report, Ethnicity and nationality: Refugees in Asia, or
to arrange an interview, please call:
Press Office, International Secretariat:           Tel: (+44) 171 413


KNU: PRESS RELEASE NO. 59 & 60 /97
October 5, 1997

PRESS RELEASE NO. 59 / 97 			OCTOBER 4,1997

	Regarding 1997 SLORC Offensive against KNU
Pa- pun District 

12-9-97: Troops from the SLORC LIB 709 arrested Saw Nor Day (72) of
Plo-mu-doe village in Pa-pun township,and took him away. The troops executed
him after a few days, without reason.

 18-9-97: The SLORC  IB 19 Commander.Thet Htoo forcibly relocated the Abbot
of Baw-tho-tain Pa-pun township.U Oattara, aged 80. He has been in the Order
for 60 years. He had to be carried in a cradle for relocation.  U Nanda
Marla, with 7 years practice in the Order, was relocated with him.

20-9-97: Troops from the SLORC LIB 341, commanded by Myint Hswe, and 
the  DKBA fired upon Thaw- Leh-Ta village in Mae Saring township, Thailand.
They demanded 3,000 Baht, 3 sacks of rice and 34-gallons of cooking oil. The
villagers had to comply with the demand. 

20-9-97: A military column led by  commander Aung Thein of the SLORC 
LIB 340 combined with SLORC IB 19 column forcibly drove down, like cattle,
all the villagers found in Nut-kut-ta village tract, The track consists of
Nut-Kut-Keem, Ka-wah-kee, Htee-saw-ta and Saw-dee-tavillages, to Ku-Zeit.
The troops forced most of the  villagers to work on the construction of the
Pa-pun Ka-ma-maung motor road, without providing either food rations or any
shelter. They destroyed the villagers rice fields by driving the cattle into
the rice fields.

Tha-ton District 

10-9-97: A sergeant from a unit led by Major Aung Than of the SLORC LIB 534
kidnapped Naw Khin Mya of  Lar-aw-Kor  village, Tha-ton township  and raped
her for two days.

13-9-97: Company Commander, Ye Tun Shwe, of the SLORC LIB 534 accused 
Shwe yaung-pya villagers in Tha-ton township of having contact with the
rebels and demanded 2 pigs as a fine. Women villagers, Naw Ta Bu (22), Naw
Yee ta (25) and  Naw Poe Neat (22) were stripped naked, made to lie down on
the ground and whipped 10 times each, without reason.

20-9-97: A military column, led by Major Aung Than of the SLORC LIB 534,
demanded, by force, 3 baskets  of rice from each village of the villages in
the Ta-maw and Toe-der-kee village tracts.

20-9-97: Troops from a military column of the SLORC LIB 534 beat up, without
reason, Ga-Law-ker villagers, Too Soe Po(70) and Too Kya Yin (40) who were
tilling the fields, causing serious injuries to the two. 


PRESS RELEASE NO. 60/97			October 6,1997

		Regarding 1997  SLORC Offensive against KNU
Kaw-ka-reik District 

22-9-97: Officers from the SLORC LIBs 546,547, 548, 549 and etc, together
with the  surrendered  KNLA 16th Battalion  commander, Thu Mu Heh, went
round to the villages in Kaw-ka-reik and Kya-in township.  They went to
(1)Thet-paw,  (2)Maw-keh-kee, (3)Klay-poe-kee, (4)Klay -po -ta ,
(5)Mch-glay, (6)Chaw-klo, (7)Chaw-ta, (8)Law-pa, (9) Law-pa-ta,
(10)Aw-twee-ta, (11)A-ga-ru, (12)Pa-nweh-bu, (13)Mer-pa-ret,
(14)Mer-pa-ret-kee, (15)Kawt-hsin-gon, (16)Lar-aye-naw, (17)Ka-lat-chaw,
(18)Da-nay-kwee, (19)Ler-law, (20)Thay-ko, (21)Ler-dweh, (22)Plaw-pa-doh,
(23)Da-po-kee, (24)Mer-da-lar, (25)Par-wah-klo, (26)Pa-wah-kee,
(27)Ler-haw-pla, (28)Ga-li-kee, (29)Nga-pyaw-daw, (30)Ya-klo, (31)Ya-tha-ta,
(32)Da-po-boe-ta, (33)Mo-ler-ta, (34)Da-ku-kee, (35)Chaw-gay-ko,
(36)Da-kart-klo, (37)Da-kart-kee, (38)Mer-ka-daw, (39)Be-da-dart,
(40)Mer-ga-daw-kee and ordered the villagers to move without fail, to the
designated assembly place. They were told to move within a specified period
beginning from 22-9-97 to 25-9-97.

Nyaung -le-bin-District.

11-9-97: A SLORC military column came to Saw-mu-sha-day village in Shwe-gin
township and shot to death, without reason, an old  woman Naw Deh Deh(61),
and took a half basket of rice, 2 baskets of paddy and 1000 Kyat found in
her possession.   More over, troops from the column looted cash and
valuables, worth about 400,000 Kyat, from villagers Saw Adoo, Saw Par Lay,
Saw Maung Htwe and Saw ko Dee.

Pa- pun District 

18-9-97:Troops from the SLORC LIB 547 came to Da-ber-doe village and 
Pa-pun township and fired upon  the village indiscriminately, wounding a
villager.  3 villagers were arrested and taken away. Before  they left, the
troops burnt down all the rice barns.

18-9-97: A SLORC military column burnt down Ner-kee and No-lay villages in
Pa-pun township and all the rice barns of the villages.

25-9-97: The troops from the SLORC military column mentioned above, burnt
down Mer-noy-ta village and its rice barns.  On 26-9-97, they burnt down
Daw-law-bu,Tee-dwer-kar-ta, Glo-lo-klo and U-thaw-ta villages and all the
rice barns of the villages.

Pa-an District.

20-9-97: Battalion 2nd commander Soe Kyl, of  SLORC LIB 534 shot to death,
without reason, Pa Tha Kyi of Pa-lor village in Pa-an township and took away
30,000 Kyat , found in his possession.

Abbreviation & words; KNU=Karen National Union (Political wing of the 
Karen resistance), KNLA =Karen National Liberation Army (Military 
wing of Karen resistance); SLORC=State Law and Order Restoration  
Council (Military dictatorship of Burma); LIB=Light Infantry 
Battalion. Kyat=Name of Burmese currency , One  basket of rice=33 Kg. 
 (Translated ,printed and disributed by the Karen Information Center)


October 4, 19997
Aung Zaw

Former Burma dictator Ne win, who came out of his cocoon to meet his old pal
president Suharto, has set tongues wagging in Rangoon, reports Aung Zaw.

He is still alive! That was how many Burmese reacted when they saw photos of
Gen Ne Win arriving in Indonesia on Sept 24.

When the 86-year-old former dictator stepped out of the executive jet
provided by Indonesian President Suharto at Jakarta airport, many wondered
what "the old man" was up to. Indonesian officials said Ne Win was there to
visit the grave of Suharto's wife, Tien in Solo. Not all Burmese were convinced.

Ne Win has carefully avoided publicity since he officially stepped down as
chairman of the Burmese Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) in 1988 after
decades of self-imposed isolationist policies which drove the country into

He did make a public appearance in 1989, when generals of the State Law and
Order Restoration Council (Slorc) celebrated Armed Forces Day, a year after
the junta had staged a bloody crackdown.

Soon after, "the old man" returned to his secluded compound. Since then
speculating about Ne Win's death has become a popular pastime. There is also
talk about his love affairs, his penchant for numerology - his lucky number
is nine - and some odd stories about his absolute obedience to his chief


Burma became one of the world's poorest countries during Ne Win's 26 years
of iron-fisted rule. He and his cronies are to this day the richest men in
Burma. The general's life of luxury and of his annual trips to Western
countries prompted demonstrators in 1988 to liken him to former Filipino
dictator Ferdinand Marcos who died in exile after fleeing the country amid
charges of looting the national treasury.

Shu Maung (he later changed his name to Ne Win) was born in 1911. He worked
as a post office clerk in Rangoon before joining the "Thirty Comrades", the
elite group trained by the Japanese during World War II to liberate Burma
from the British. After independence in 1949, Ne Win became
commander-in-chief of the Burmese Army.

It is said that Slorc was established on Ne Win's orders. It is also
believed that in September 1988, Ne Win summoned all his commanders and most
trusted generals to his house and told them to stage a coup against their
own government.
Although he has been a recluse since then, it is reported that the ageing
dictator has held occasional meetings with his close friends and subordinates.

"Ne Win always meets intelligence officers,'' said a source in Rangoon. And
whenever Slorc makes major decisions it seeks the old man's advice, the
source  added.

Not unexpectedly, analysts and opponents believe that the former general
still pulls the strings even though not on day-to-day affairs. "Ne Win could
be calling the shots," the source said. "He is still influential."

Burma watchers and activists believe that Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under
house arrest in 1989, because she publicly criticised Ne Win in her
speeches. She accused him of being responsible for Burma's economic
disaster. Suu Kyi was under house arrest for six years. Shortly after her
release, Suu Kyi invited a number of special guests - including Ne Win - to
her house for a religious ceremony. He did not show up.


There are, however, some who doubt that Ne Win is still influential.
Opponents based on the Thai-Burma border said the trip to Indonesia might be
just a business trip.

Ne Win and Suharto have known each other for decades. In February, Suharto
paid a state official visit to Burma during which Rangoon and Jakarta signed
two memorandums of understanding: on Indonesian investment in industry and
on an airline services joint venture, as well as feasibility studies on
investment potential in several sectors ranging from agriculture to

It is believed that Jakarta has invested about US$200 million in Burma since
1988. At that time, Suharto held a "purely private" meeting with Ne Win. It
was reported that he invited Ne Win to visit Indonesia.

"The trip [to Indonesia] could be a friendship trip and nothing else," said
a Burmese who is close to officials in Rangoon. He also said Ne Win and
current Slorc leaders have no special connection. Some Slorc generals are
said to be distancing themselves from Ne Win: "He is too old to do
anything," he added.

Ironically, while Ne Win's photo appeared in Jakarta newspapers, many
Rangoon residents heard little news about "the old man." Ne Win's trip was
not mention in the Slorc-controlled press


However, Burma's former politicians and well-placed sources in Rangoon still
believe the old man is playing a role behind the scenes. Before his surprise
visits to Indonesia and Singapore, there was speculation in Rangoon that Ne
Win and his former BSPP remnants, including U Aye Ko, had expressed a wish
to see a dialogue between Slorc leaders and the opposition National League
for Democracy. 
There are three factions among senior active Burmese politicians. One is led
by Bohmu Aung, a member of "Thirty Comrades". The second is headed up by
Thakin Thein Pe. The third is Ne Win's group.

A well-informed source close to the inner circle of senior Burmese
politicians said, "In fact, over the past three years Ne Win has floated an
idea of opening a political dialogue with the NLD but only after weakening
the party."

"The old man" was counting on some of his former military officers - Tin Oo,
Kyi Maung and Aung Shwe who joined the NLD in 1988 to split the party. Tin
Oo and Kyi Maung are deputies of the NLD and Aung Shwe is party chairman.

The source added that Ne Win has calculated that Slorc could persuade the
NLD's ex-army faction to leave Suu Kyi. "It is a divide-and-conquer tactic.
But it looks like the NLD is  very much united and Suu Kyi is still highly

 The former generals now in the NLD have proven that they are staunch
supporters of Suu Kyi. Moreover, Aung Shwe boycotted the Slorc-organised
National Convention in 1996. 
With an economic crisis as well as a political deadlock, the Slorc leaders
felt that they  needed to find a way out if they were to save themselves,
said a veteran journalist in Rangoon.


"That was his unfinished business," quipped a Rangoon-based businessman who
was  politically active once. "Ne Win kicked out all the intellectuals and
business elite and is left with yes-men. Now there is no one left in the
Slorc who could really save the country. Besides, there have been continuous
conflicts and power struggles within the Slorc."

Analysts in Rangoon have even predicted that another people's uprising is
likely in the near future.

"People are very frustrated with the daily hardships. Like in 1988 any
incident could spark mob rule or street protests," said a student from the
All Burma Federation of Students Unions, an underground students' group
based in Rangoon.

He said Slorc is aware that it faces an economic crisis and the possibility
of political turmoil. Which say some, is perhaps the reason why Ne Win has
made a return to public life.

"What can you expect from the meeting of two authoritarian rulers?" asks Moe
Thee Zun, a former student leader. "Whatever it is, you can expect to hear
only bad news. Leopards never change their spots."

One reliable source said, "I know him very well. Ne Win won't leave Burma
without a good reason. I think he knows something could happen."



October 5, 1997

Veteran politicians also find themselves under fire

RANGOON - State-run Burmese newspapers attacked opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi yesterday following her party's demands that she be included in
political talks with the ruling military junta.

"The dialogue they are demanding, thinking it to be ambrosia, cannot be
cooked up in a pot shared by the secretary-general," the Pauk Sa newspaper
said in an editorial yesterday.

Suu Kyi is the secretary-general of the National League for Democracy (NLD)
party, some of whose top officials were invited for talks with a senior
leader of the government recently.

Lieutenant General Khin Nyint, secretary one of the ruling State Law and
Order Restoration Council (Slorc), invited NLD chairman Aung Shwe and some
other party officials for talks last  month but excluded Suu  Kyi from the
Aung Shwe told the government he could not attend the talks because of Suu
Kyi's exclusion and insisted that she be included in any dialogue with
Slorc. On Sept 28, the NLD declared that Suu Kyi as a senior party official
would have to be involved in any future talks.

The newspaper said: "At first she said she agreed to have an open dialogue
without preconditions. Now she is saying that the purpose of the meeting
must be stated beforehand and a programme relevant to both parties must be

Khin Nyunt, Aung Shwe and two other NLD executives met on July 17 this year,
marking the first meeting between top military leaders and the opposition
since Suu Kyi was released from six years of house arrest in July 1995.

The paper also attacked a group of 22 veteran politicians that recently
wrote to both sides requesting unconditional talks.

The group includes Bohmu Aung, a founder member of the modern Burmese army,
and many others who took part in the nation's independence struggle in the
1940s. "The sum of these ideas...utterly lacks essence. It was just
combinations of suggestions of the so-called doyen politicians who belonged to
split political organisations," the paper said.

Hopes have risen recently that tensions between the government and the NLD,
which won a landslide election victory in 1990 that was never recognised,
maybe easing. The NLD held an anniversary meeting at Suu Kyi's house in the
Burmese capital on Sept 27 and 28, which the Slorc allowed to pass without

At a similar gathering last year, hundreds of party members were arrested.

The Burmese government has repeatedly ignored requests from Western nations,
and its fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for it
to hold talks with Suu Kyi.