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The BurmaNet News, October 11, 1997
- Subject: The BurmaNet News, October 11, 1997
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 11 Oct 1997 02:50:00
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The BurmaNet News: October 11, 1997
NLD: 1997 NLD CONGRESS RESOLUTIONS
SCMP: JAILED DEMOCRAT IN HOSPITAL AFTER HEART SCARE
IRRAWADDY: INSEIN PRISON: COULD MANDELA SURVIVE HERE?
IPS: MIDDLE CLASS LEADS CHANGE IN SEXUAL MORES
DPS: JUNTA DENIES BURMESE WOMEN INVOLVED IN FLESH TRADE
BURMANET: OPPOSITION PROGRAMS IN HEALTH AND EDUCATION
RRM: RANGOON, NAIROBI ESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS
NLD: 1997 NLD CONGRESS RESOLUTIONS
September 29, 1997
[BurmaNet Note: The following is an unofficial translation by ABSDF of the
resolutions of the NLD Congress held on September 27-29, 1997]
NATIONAL LEAGUE FOR DEMOCRACY
97-B, West Shwegondine Road, Bahan Township
The following are the resolutions from the NLD Congress held on September
27-29, 1997, the 9th Anniversary of its founding.
RESOLUTION REGARDING THE REPORTS
1) The reports on the current political and economic situation and the
reports submitted by the NLD Youth Central Working Group and Central Women's
Working Group were approved with necessary amendments.
a) ...'the call on the SLORC for an actual implementation of the UN
Convention on the Rights of Child which Burma has ratified' in accordance
with the procedures of the Convention regarding child labor is to be
included in the NLD Youth Central Working Group report.
b) ...'that SLORC is responsible for failing to prevent both under-aged
women and women who have reached the age of consent in Burma from working as
prostitutes in neighboring countries which is against Burmese social and
cultural norms' is to be included in the Central Women's Working Group
RESOLUTIONS REGARDING SPEECHES
2) Speeches delivered by the Congress president, Chairman and General
Secretary are to be put into the records.
3) We proudly noted the fact that the NLD has awarded its first Peace and
Democracy Award to Mr. Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, as
mentioned in the speech of the General Secretary.
4) We recorded that a 'spirit of cooperation without holding grudges and
without any personality cults' is to be used as the NLD's guidelines in
organizing. This was mentioned in part of the response by General Secretary
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to questions posed by delegates.
RESOLUTIONS REGARDING ELECTIONS AND THE PYITHU HLUTTAW
5) In accordance with Article 2 (f) of the Election Law the winners of the
1990 election were put into the state records. The term of office for
elected representatives cannot be determined by the Election Law. The term
can only be determined by the Pyithu Hluttaw.
6) In accordance with Article 2 (a) of the Election Law, the elections held
(in 1990) is for the Pyithu Hluttaw (National Assembly) and not for a
7) We demand the Pyithu Hluttaw be convened by the organizations authorized
to do so. This is in accordance with Article 3 of the Pyithu Hluttaw Law
which states that the Pyithu Hluttaw must be convened by elected
8) We object to the authorities forcing the resignations of elected
representatives from the Pyithu Hluttaw through various means.
9) We demand that the Election Commission immediately submit its reports (on
the elections) for it has failed to do so despite the fact that the
elections were held more than seven years ago.
10) We ratify that all NLD elected representatives, state and divisional
Organizing Committees and various Working Committees of the party have given
their consent with their signatures, responsibilities and duties to the
Chairman and the General Secretary.
11) We conclude that the only way to solve the social, political and
economic crisis that has plagued the country is through a meaningful
dialogue which the people of Burma genuinely desire.
12) We decided to hold a convention similar to the Panglong Conference to
discuss the social, political and economic problems of Burma, bearing in
mind the importance of national unity.
RESOLUTIONS REGARDING PARTY MATTERS
13) We ratified and reinstated the positions of U Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung as
vice-chairmen and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as General Secretary, which is also
in accordance with the Election Commission Statement No. 245 issued on March
3, 1989, that states 'intra-party matters are to be officially tackled and
carried out by the party itself'.
14) We agreed to expand the membership of the Central Executive Committee
(CEC) in order to execute the work of the party in a broader and more
15) We demand that the NLD be given freedom to organize, hold meetings and
print and distribute literature because it is a legal political party.
RESOLUTIONS REGARDING RESTRICTIONS AND REPRESSION
16) We demand the unconditional and immediate release of all political
17) We demand the authorities to put a stop to all restrictive and
repressive actions and abolish all legislation that is against the
principles of democracy and human rights.
RESOLUTIONS REGARDING SOCIAL MATTERS
18) We urge the authorities to effectively implement Burma's compulsory
education system for primary schools.
19) We urge the authorities to work towards supplying sufficient medicines
and medical equipment to hospitals and village clinics to improve the health
of the people.
RESOLUTION REGARDING GENERAL ISSUES
(20) We fully support NLD Statement No. 9/97 issued on September 17, 1997.
SCMP: JAILED DEMOCRAT IN HOSPITAL AFTER HEART SCARE
October 10, 1997
AP --A close ally of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, imprisoned
by the military Government for the past eight years, has been sent to Rangoon
General Hospital with serious heart problems.
Win Tin, a member of the central executive committee of Ms Aung San Suu
Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy, was transferred to
the hospital from Myingyan Prison near Mandalay last week, Human Rights
Members of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's party in Rangoon confirmed Win Tin had been
admitted to the hospital and was in the cardiac ward.
He had been responding to medication and his condition was improving.
An aide of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's said Win Tin's prison sentence had not been
commuted. "It's not true. His condition is also not as hopeless as some have
said," the aide said.
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's cousin, Aye Win, who has been in Insein Prison in
Rangoon since May 1996 without trial, was also in the hospital's cardiac
ward, league members said.
Party members said the Government would be asked to give permission for Ms
Aung San Suu Kyi and other league leaders to visit Win Tin in hospital.
The former newspaper editor, viewed by the military as a troublesome adviser
to Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, suffers from a heart condition that requires
constant medication. He also developed spinal problems while in prison.
The Burmese military has denied the Red Cross access to political prisoners.
Human rights groups have documented systematic abuses in the Burmese prison
system, considered one of the worst in the world.
Rights groups reported last year that Win Tin had been beaten and was being
kept in a tiny cell meant to house military dogs.
He was arrested in June 1989 for allegedly having telephone conversations
with the father of a fugitive and was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
In June 1992, he was given another 11 years in prison in what Ms Aung San
Suu Kyi called "another farcical trial". He was given five more years in
1995 for writing a letter to the United Nations.
Philippines President Fidel Ramos said yesterday he would not meet Ms Aung
San Suu Kyi when he visits Rangoon next week, a signal that backdoor
arrangements for the meeting were not accepted by the military Government.
THE IRRAWADDY: INSEIN PRISON: COULD MANDELA SURVIVE
Irrawaddy Vol.5 NO.6
?Whoever you are, leave it at the prison gate. There are no politicians,
doctors, teachers, monks, nuns or students. You are all prisoners. You are
all the same." Those are the greeting words for every new political prisoner in
The jail authorities subscribe to the junta?s official line that there are
no political prisoners in the jails.
In 1991, I was detained in cell block No.1 of Insein Special Jail (formerly
called the Attached Jail). Although it is a special jail, the only special
privilege provided was "special solitary confinement".
The chief prison doctor was Dr. Soe Kyi, and his assistants were Dr. Tun Tun
and Dr. Aung Than Myint. During those days, Dr. Soe Kyi was the most
powerful man in the prison because of his relationship with former Home
Minister Lt-Gen Phone Myint.
Almost every Wednesday, the chief warden made his rounds and checks to see
if the prisoners in I.S.J. had any complaints or requests. All officials in
the prison, including prison medical officers, had to accompany him on his
rounds. It was the only time we had a right to see a prison doctor.
Apart from Wednesdays, we could only see a "medical worker" between 10
a.m. to 4 p.m.. At I.S.J., our "medical worker" was Corporal Khin Maung Nwe
who had little clinical knowledge or experience. If one wanted to see him, first
one needed to inform the head of the cell-block.
However, to see a doctor on Wednesday, a patient was humbly made to stand
head down and with hands crossed over the groin area in his cell. Passing
officials would peer into the cells, asking the sick what they had to say.
The doctor never gave actual examinations, but only asked us what was wrong.
Then the doctor would tell Khin Maung Nwe what type of pills to give the
patient. But we were never told what type of medicine was prescribed to us.
Our blood pressure and heartbeat were never tested and we never saw a doctor
with a stethoscope. Regardless of the affliction, all patients were treated
with the same medicines, usually a weak pain-killer like Burspro or an
antacid called Antacin. All the prisoners began calling Khin Maung Nwe "Mr.
It?s strange ? isn?t it? We were given the same treatment even though we
suffered from different ailments.
Not surprisingly, U Tin Maung Win (NLD-MP) and U Sein Win died in Insein
prison in January 1991.
U Tin Maung Win was suffering amoebic dysentery but he never received any
proper medication. Only when he fell unconscious did the jail authorities
finally send him to the prison hospital. He died shortly after. The
authorities claimed he had died of leukemia.
After hearing of U Tin Maung Win?s premature death, we requested that Dr.
Soe Kyi provide proper medicine for us. He replied, "You?re lucky that we
are even kind enough to prescribe Burspro and Sodomite. If M.I.S (Military
Intelligence Service) knew about that, we [doctors and medics] would be
fired. We were told not to give any treatment to those who are awaiting
trial or currently being tried."
Occasionally, when we were very fortunate, we were given Tetracycline,
Ampicillin and Paracetamol.
Although prisoners are not doctors we are familiar with antibiotics. One
cycle of antibiotics is 16 capsules for 4 days but we never received enough
capsules. At most, we received 4 capsules. If we complained, the doctors and
medics would say, "Why do you think you?re special? There are many other
patients here. If you received 16 capsules, how can we provide for the others?"
Finally, we realized that assuming the humiliating official posture in our
cells to request treatment was not worth it?we never received treatment
except for Buspro and Sodomite.
In February 1991, a Rangoon Institute of Technology [R.I.T] student
suffering from a bad toothache, met Dr. Soe Kyi.
The doctor asked him, "Where does it hurt?" The student replied, "My lower
left jaw." Dr. Soe Kyi smiled and said, "Okay, use your right side [to eat
The student became angry and screamed, "You are not a doctor!"
"No. I?m not a dentist," Dr. Soe Kyi said coyly and went away. Until the
beginning of 1995 there was no dentist in the prison hospital.
In late February 1991, Toe Toe Tun from the Democratic Party for a New
Society, suffered from dysentery and asked Dr. Soe Kyi to authorize special
meals of porridge and boiled water for the inmate. Not unexpectedly, Dr. Soe
Kyi said, "It is impossible to provide boiled water. We don?t even have
boiled water to clean the needles at our hospital."
In March 1991, Moe Zaw Oo (NLD- Youth) developed a large boil on his hip.
Khin Maung Nwe said a doctor wouldn?t give him any treatment, even if he
were allowed to see one. Khin Maung Nwe offered to remove the boil himself.
Moe Zaw Oo already had a high temperature due to the infection and there was
an insufficient amount of post-treatment antibiotics available so he refused
the offer, insisting to see a doctor.
Finally, Dr. Soe Kyi came and said, "Your boil needs to be operated on."
"But if you continue to complain, I?ll send you to the hospital," the doctor
threatened. "So you better not be concerned about HIV. There is no operating
room or sterile medical equipment and you know there are many HIV positive
Thai patients there."
Moe Zaw Oo familiar with the risks of the hospital treatment asked the
doctor: "What should I do? You are a doctor, can you help me?"
"Never forget the fact that this is a prison", was Dr. Soe Kyi?s only reply.
Then he left, telling Khin Maung Nwe to treat Moe Zaw Oo as he saw fit.
Khin Maung Nwe told us prisoners that the prison would not provide new
blades, bandages, alcohol or Ampicillin.
We asked him to buy medical supplies for the operation from outside, but he
said he could not afford to buy supplies, and asked the prisoners for money.
In addition, he could be thrown in jail if he were caught providing medical
supplies as it is a violation of the Jail Manual rules and M.I.S.
We replied, "How can we pay since we are not allowed to hold money?"
We were upset and angry. "You are not a real medical worker! You are not
even a human-being!"
Khin Maung Nwe disagreed. He explained if he weren?t a human-being and
didn?t understand medical ethics, he would leave Moe Zaw Oo?s operation to
the hospital, with assistance from his co-workers who don?t care whether
they use unhygienic needles and equipment.
Indeed, there would be a high risk of contracting HIV disease if we let Moe
Zaw Oo be operated on at the prison hospital.
The medical workers, who also treat the Thai Aids patients, have little idea
about the deadly virus and neglect cleaning needles and syringes. We later
found out that some "medical workers" are drug addicts and are infected by
Finally, we cut a deal with Khin Maung Nwe. A political prisoner gave him
his fancy T-shirt, worth 800 kyats, in exchange for Moe Zaw Oo?s treatment.
I admire Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in a South Africa prison, but I
wonder whether Mandela could have survived in Insein prison.
Contributed by former political prisoner Moe Aye. This article is the
second in a series of his personal prison stories.
INTER PRESS SERVICE: MIDDLE CLASS LEADS CHANGE IN SEXUAL MORES
September 30, 1997
At the Galaxy, downtown Rangoon's most popular nightclub, the video of
choice among the children of Burma's nouveau riche is American pop star
The sight of the young boys and girls jumping up and down on the dance
floor to ear-shattering music is a surreal scene, set as it is in a
country with one of the most conservative social attitudes and among the
most rigid governments in the world.
That the phenomenon is largely an upper class one is clear the moment one
steps out of the nightclub onto the street, where hordes of hungry-looking
trishaw and taxi drivers wait to take the dancers home.
Like other nightclubs on the same street, Galaxy charges up to eight U.S.
dollars for admission, roughly a month's salary for a government official
or university lecturer in Rangoon.
Initially aimed at attracting tourists, Rangoon's nightclubs have fast
become the staging ground for urban Burmese youths and their indigenous
version of a "sexual revolution." This has led to the loosening up of
sexual morals among the upwardly mobile middle classes, which social
experts warn could lead to very distorted attitudes and serious health
problems due to unsafe sex.
Even more troubling in this deeply religious country, Galaxy and several
other clubs like it are located on a road named after Burma's holiest
Buddhist shrine, the Shwedagon Pagoda.
"I don't mind the nightclubs, but they should not be on Shwedagon Pagoda
Road," says Tin Oo, a young Burmese businessman and a frequent visitor to
both the nightclubs and the pagoda.
But numerous other Burmese do mind that so many nightclubs have sprung up
in their capital city, all in the past two or three years. "There are
places in Rangoon that look straight out of the commercial sex districts
of Bangkok -- and all these days we prided ourselves on being different,"
says a senior Rangoon university lecturer.
He says the nightclubs are a clear indicator that the Burmese military
regime does not believe its own highly moralistic rhetoric on such themes,
and are merely exploiting these views to hang on to power.
Ever since taking power through a coup in 1989, the ruling junta called
the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) has accused
pro-democracy opponents of being influenced by "decadent Western ideals."
Claiming to be the true upholders of "traditional Burmese culture and
values," SLORC officials have cast aspersions on the moral character of
dissident leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, for
marrying an Englishman.
And in 1995, the Burmese junta, in a classic display of medieval
attitudes, sent an official delegation to the 1995 Fourth World Conference
on Women that consisted only of men. The explanation given was that
Burmese women did not believe in Western-style feminism, and had no
problems with having men representing them.
But the problem with the regime's duplicity toward issues like sex and
women's role in society is that it is breeding a hypocritical attitude
among people too, says a health worker with a Rangoon-based
non-governmental organization. For instance, Burmese women who marry
foreigners are often harassed on the streets of Rangoon by youth, and even
But the best example of how attitudes have been distorted is the stigma
attached in Burma today to buying, selling, or using condoms.
Condoms are not openly available to the public because of government
restrictions. In all of Rangoon, there are only a few pharmacies that
stock and sell condoms. Illegal retail outlets often have poor quality
products that are of no use in either prevention of pregnancy or
protection from transmission of HIV/AIDS.
Since recording the first HIV-positive case in 1988, the number of
affected persons detected through official surveys has increased to more
than 14,500 by the end of 1996. By that time, the number of full-blown
AIDS cases had reached 1,783. The total number of HIV-positive cases in
Burma is estimated to have reached 460,000 last year.
"There is no doubt that Burmese youth are having sex at an earlier age
than generations before them, but they remain as ignorant about safe sex
practices," says an official with an international organization in
Last year after a brief period of relaxation, condom advertisements
shown on state-run television were pulled by officials afraid of criticism
from conservative circles that insist such advertisements promote
Official surveys put condom usage among the country's sexually active
population at less than 50 percent. In some remote areas, the figure falls
to under just 10 percent.
But despite the government's officially prudish attitude, prostitution
has been on the rise throughout Burma, especially along the more
prosperous border towns and in the gold and jade mining centers in the
northern part of the country.
Social critics attribute this increase to the policies of economic
liberalization implemented since 1991, which has made a handful of
well-connected Burmese wealthy. At the same time, this has lured numerous
women -- some due to destitution and others in search of a richer
lifestyle -- into the commercial sex industry.
Apart from the nightclubs which serve as pick-up joints for commercial
sex workers here in the capital, Rangoon itself has numerous "sex motels,"
several of them within a few kilometers of the residence of the Burmese
president. Most of these places are widely believed to operate under the
protection of powerful members of the ruling military regime.
"Like everything else in this country, sex too is linked to the central
problem of Burma -- the military dictatorship," says a political analyst
In another of the social and political contradictions that abound in
Burma, the junta prevents the proper education of the population on
sex-related issues, but at the same time turns a blind eye to prostitution
growing right in its midst.
DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR: MILITARY JUNTA DENIES BURMESE WOMEN INVOLVED IN
October 3, 1997
Burma's military intelligence chief has denied accusations that Burmese
women are engaged in prostitution abroad and are contributing to the spread
of AIDS within the country, news reports said Friday.
"Groundless accusations of some Western bloc countries that Myanmar
(Burmese) girls are engaged in the flesh trade are floated at present," said
Burmese military intelligence chief Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt in an
address to the fifth Burma Traditional Arts Competitions in Rangoon.
"This is an extremely shameful accusation which the accusers have made
with the intention of demeaning the dignity of Myanmar women," said Khin
Nyunt, who is also first secretary of the State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC) - the military junta that has ruled Burma since 1988.
Last weekend leading Burmese opposition politician Aung Shwe, chairman
of the National League for Democracy (NLD), accused SLORC of failing to stop
Burmese women from going abroad to engage in prostitution, a trend which
has contributed to the spread of the fatal disease AIDS (acquired
immuno-deficiency syndrome) in Burma.
The increase in Burmese women working as prostitutes in neighbouring
Thailand has been well documented. Khin Nyunt used his address to also
criticize the new phenomenon of Burmese pop concerts.
"It can be seen that youths wearing wanton dress are performing on
certain stage shows which give priority mainly to making money," he said.
"Wearing of dresses which may harm national culture and are not in accord
with Myanmar way of life should be avoided," he warned.
BURMANET: OPPOSITION PROGRAMS IN HEALTH AND EDUCATION
>From a BurmaNet Correspondent
Provision of education and health care in SLORC-controlled areas is severely
inhibited by inadequate funding and political problems. The frequent and
prolonged closures of government schools are a rough barometer of political
tension in Burma. The health system fluctuates less, remaining at an
appallingly low level. In rural areas with political strife
health care and education are often unavailable, while in urban centers health
care and education are often prohibitively expensive. In hospitals lacking
equipment it is difficult to receive adequate attention from underpaid hospital
staff, and patients must supply their own medicine. In government schools,
students must spend quite a bit of money on school fees and materials, and may
feel that they are a burden on their families as they cannot contribute to the
Government doctors have privately admitted that effective health care is
only available in a third of the country. In 1995, health officials
reported that 500 government health posts were vacant. The situation was
especially acute in ethnic minority areas. In Rakhine State, for example, a
third of the 150 state positions for doctors were unfilled. Medical workers
maintain that simple public health education is the cheapest but most
neglected health reform in Burma today.
Furthermore, civil servants like doctors are expected to undergo political
training courses run by the Military Intelligence Service. 3,000 doctors --a
quarter of all doctors in Burma --were drawn away from their work to attend
six courses during 1992-1993. The indoctrination is aimed at providing
?doctors with nationalism?, ?acceptance of the military?s leading role?, and
?observance of discipline?.
Most of the resistance groups, both ceasefire and non-ceasefire, have sought to
address the health and education needs of the citizens in their areas of
operation. A BurmaNet correspondent interviewed education department
members from two opposition organizations: the Karen National Union (KNU)
and the All Burma Students? Democratic Front (ABSDF). The representatives
discussed the programs administered in KNU territory and ABSDF camps and
their participation in the National Health and Education Committee (NHEC).
They also spoke candidly about the political and socioeconomic constraints
placed on their health and education systems.
The opposition groups have formed health care and education departments due
to the failure of successive Burmese governments to provide adequately for the
needs of citizens. The National Health Committee (NHC) and the National
Education Committee (NEC) merged in 1995 to form the National Health and
Education Committee (NHEC). The NHEC is an umbrella group, including
representatives from the health and education departments of twenty-seven
opposition groups. The participants represent the majority of ethnic and
Burman opposition groups. NHEC has branches along the eastern and western
borders of Burma, but there is no NHEC branch in the north at this time.
With regard to health, the primary aim of the NHEC is to improve the health of
people that live along the border, who are often internally displaced. The
NHEC assists in providing basic medicine and equipment to hospitals and
The education sector is concerned with increasing literacy, raising education
standards, providing education in local languages, and promoting
understanding and cooperation between the different ethnic groups of Burma.
There are many constraints working against the NHEC. Many of the schools
are in locations affected by fighting and the loss of territory. The lack
of financial resources makes it difficult to provide sufficient medicine for
hospitals and teaching materials for schools.
BURMANET: Is the NHEC involved in setting policy for the organizations?
NHEC REPRESENTATIVE: We are a coordinating body. Our role is to seek
assistance and conduct medical and educational training. We don?t advise on
policy, but NHEC does present a forum for sharing information and effective
All of the groups agree on a federal union, in which every state is responsible
for their own health and education. When a real federal union under a
democratic government is established, health and education will need to be
discussed at the national level. We will need to have national standards,
education standards will be equal in different states. NHEC may be able to
assist in playing that role at a national level in the future.
BURMANET: What level of learning can people attain in your education
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: Our students can read and write to a post-
primary level. We have primary, middle, and high school level education.
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: We have primary schools, middle schools and high
schools. The statistics are as follows:
School level #Schools before # Schools # Teachers #Student
fall of Manerplaw 1997 1997 1997
Primary school 658 586 1,512 36,766
Middle school 46 35 226 6,814
High school 16 11 153 632
Total 720 632 1,891 44,958
BURMANET: What about the level of education for members of your
organization, such as ABSDF or KNU soldiers?
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: Almost 100% of our members can read and
write. Some are peasants from the countryside. About 25% have an
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: Many KNU soldiers are not educated. So we use
the military training period to also conduct our literacy campaign, to teach
people how to read and write.
BURMANET: Who are the children ABSDF teaches?
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: Many of them are Karen. They come to our
schools because it is closer than the Karen schools. We can?t offer Karen
language classes because there are no Karen teachers. The non-Karen students
are the children or relatives of ABSDF members.
BURMANET: What do you think of the standard or quality of education
offered by your department?
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: Well, it?s not yet high quality. In fact, it is low
quality because of two reasons. One, we don?t have proper teaching aids.
difficult to reach the camps. We don?t have electricity in the camps so
no photocopier. We have to make our own materials, like clocks to teach time.
If we want to make copies we have to use a handmade duplicator [pointing to
an instrument which looks like a silk-screen]. These are very useful on the
frontline, all groups use them. The other problem is that we don?t have enough
teachers, and not all are properly qualified. 80% of our teachers were
university students, but others were only high school students. We try to
the standards by including foreign native speakers of English. We welcome
volunteers. The primary duty of the native speakers is to upgrade the
level, then to teach children.
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: Out of all our schools we probably have electricity
in one or two. The teachers have a low level of education. Most of them have
only been through the Karen education system. It would be too great of a
security risk to recruit teachers from the Burmese universities. There are so
BURMANET: When were your education and health departments formed?
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: In 1989 education and health care were branches under
the Organizing Department. We started an information, foreign affairs,
financial, judicial, and organizing department. In 1993 we formed separate
health and education departments.
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: The KNU has had health and education
departments since June, 1949.
BURMANET: How would you like to improve or change your education
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: What ABSDF needs to do is to start vocational
training. Right now we only offer tailoring. We need more teachers. But
is a lot of diversity in ABSDF which we could use. We have tricycle drivers,
bakers, hawkers, teachers, people of different educational and religious
BURMANET: Given current economic conditions and employment
opportunities in Burma, how do you convince people that an education is
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: In my opinion, if there is democracy the
children will have a real future. It is better for them to learn than not. Some
parents have a problem, not the children. They want to go to school. When
students are 16 or 17, their parents think since there is no future for the
children they should go to the forest to look for mushrooms or bamboo shoots.
So in ABSDF we hold a discussion in the villages about once a month, to
explain that at this age children should get a broad education, before becoming
active community members. We send teachers, education department
members, or headmasters to talk to the parents and students.
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: It is very difficult. After primary school many
students drop out due to (1) economic pressure; and (2) pressure from their
parents. The parents are often illiterate themselves, so they don?t understand
the value of an education. It took our education department a very long
reach this point. Twenty years ago there was only one high school, so now a
more people believe in getting an education. But even now 80 - 85% of Karen
people, and there are 7 million in Burma, are illiterate. Our department
difficulties with organizing schools and teachers, financial problems, and the
political situation. According to SLORC data, there is an 85 % literacy rate.
That is hard to believe.
BURMANET: Are KNU classes held only in Karen?
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: At the primary and middle school levels we teach
mainly in Karen. But English and Burmese language are part of the
curriculum from the beginning. For Karen classes we need our own materials
in Karen. Some of them we develop ourselves, while others are translations.
BURMANET: Are there any special incentives to encourage children to go to
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: The appearance of many of our students is very
bad, they look so thin and malnourished. We would like to make a nutrition
program available to all children. Three years ago we tested it in one
primary school. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the children get
supplemental food, some kind of lunch. Sometimes it is sagu, which is
boiled coconut and sugar. What goes in the lunch depends on our funds at
the time. Sometimes we can add rice or milk or vitamins. The results of the
program were (1) improved children?s health, (2) improved children?s rate of
class attendance, and (3) consequently helped their education.
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: The KNU education department administers a
much larger territory, with a larger number of students. So we can?t
concentrate our resources like the ABSDF since our population is so dispersed.
We can?t afford to offer food to all, so we shouldn?t do it for one school
only. It would be good to improve attendance. Many students are absent
because of malaria. There is no student who has never suffered from malaria.
BURMANET: Are members of your organization and community aware of
family planning choices, and are various options made available to them?
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: Yes, for example we had a two week Family
Planning Program. The training was led by the Burmese Women?s Union.
Both men and women attended and a nurse from Australia explained family
planning. Contraceptives are also available and free.
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: Karen people are shy in talking about sex. It is
easiest to discuss at an individual level. The Karen Women?s Organization has
a health section. Women leaders from the health section hold meetings and
talk to women about family planning. Then the wives teach the men about
family planning. Many Karen think that family planning involving the use of
contraceptives is ?against nature?.
BURMANET: Have you witnessed an increase in drugs or other urban-related
problems in your communities, associated with SLORC?s efforts to rapidly
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: Drugs are not a problem in the camps,
communities, or schools. In hospitals we have barely any drugs for the
patients, certainly not enough to abuse! As for the cities, people are aware of
the dangers. We discuss them, but in our current position we can?t solve
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: Drug problems are cropping up on a small scale.
In Karen state there is no significant problem yet, but there are occasional
reports of drugs. Really, most don?t have enough money. There is no
systematic drug education program yet, because many people in villages
wouldn?t know what you were talking about. But we do have informal
discussions during school visits.
BURMANET: Is HIV widespread in Karen State?
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: There is no testing yet for HIV/AIDS by our health
department. We don?t have the materials or technical support. HIV education
is being conducted, mostly by the health department. We conduct meetings,
give training, distribute materials like pamphlets and posters. Teachers are
trained about HIV, but aren?t expected to integrate it into their class.
BURMANET: What are some of the tasks of the KNU Health Department?
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: Our medical department trains health workers at
all levels -- basic, advanced, administrative -- for public health care. We
midwives and nurses, and we have 3-4 year courses for medical practitioners
who are able to perform operations. Before Manerplaw fell KNU led
training organized by the NHEC and the Burma Medical Association.
BURMANET: Are many Karen rural-dwellers now moving to urban areas?
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: No. Urban to rural migration is probably higher
because the military suppression and economic situation in urban areas is so
BURMANET: Has SLORC ever commented on the efforts of the KNU in the areas of
health care and education?
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: No. They never said anything. But when SLORC comes in
our territory they burn the schools. Sometimes they arrest the teachers
BURMANET: Do you work with those international aid organizations which
have SLORC approval for their health and education projects in Burma?
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: No, we don?t work together. We see them more
as a way of getting information. We ask ourselves ?why is the SLORC working
with that organization, in that location?? We can learn a lot from the
restrictions on foreigners.
BURMANET: Can you comment on the role of foreign radio broadcasts in
promoting health and education? Do you think that they should become more
directly involved by giving educational broadcasts on various issues, rather
only being an alternative source of information for Burmese people?
ABSDF REPRESENTATIVE: Well, in our camps we listen to DVB
[Democratic Voice of Burma], RFA [Radio Free Asia], VOA [Voice of
America] and BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation]. There are 3 or 4 radios
in each camp, in the offices, houses and schools. So those who are interested
go and listen, 10 or 12 people per radio usually. Right now the most
RFA because whoever wants to tell their story can send it in, and RFA may use
it. For example a woman in Bangkok can describe her daily life and struggles.
Before BBC was the most popular.
KNU REPRESENTATIVE: It would be good if the foreign radio stations
offered health and education programs too. But BBC and VOA do already
have two English broadcasts, so that you can listen to the same news in simpler
or more difficult English, depending on your ability. DVB is the only one that
has regular, but rather short, broadcasts in the Karen language as well as
English and Burmese.
RANGOON RADIO MYANMAR: RANGOON, NAIROBI ESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS
[translated from Burmese]
October 7, 1997
The Union of Myanmar and the Republic of Kenya -- based on the principles of
goodwill and obtaining equal bilateral cooperation, not interfering in
another country's internal affairs, and respecting each nation's
independence and territorial integrity -- have decided to establish
relations. Thus, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, Myanmar and
Kenya have established full ambassadorial level diplomatic relations as of