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The BurmaNet News, October 28, 1997

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------          
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"          
The BurmaNet News: October 28, 1997             
Issue #854


October 24-25, 1997
By Barry Wain

The tatmadaw, as the Burmese military is known, arrived in the village
unannounced, shattering the morning calm with barked orders. The message:
Everyone had to leave-permanently.

Over the next few weeks, the troops swooped on about 100 other settlements
between the Pon and Salween rivers in Kayah state, scattering as many as
30,000 mostly ethnic Karenni and Shan farmers. They lost everything-homes,
land and belongings.

The wave of forced relocations, begun in April last year, was an attempt to
deny support to an armed Karenni resistance group. Most of the villagers
ended up in two designated camps, though about 7,000 trekked through forest
and over mountains for a week with little food to seek shelter in Thailand.

Other sections of the country's population periodically flee acts of
repression, ranging from the practice of compelling civilians to be porters
for the army, to drafting unpaid laborers to work on construction projects.
And Burma isn't alone in victimizing its own residents, often minorities.

"Through no fault of their own, millions of people have been driven from
their homes in Asian countries by conflicts and persecution," says a special
report by Amnesty International. "Many have been targeted simply because of
their ethnic origin."

Since the end of the Cold War, Asia has found comfort in the belief that the
region has escaped the vicious tribalism that has resurfaced in the former
Soviet Union. Yugoslavia and elsewhere. But a closer look shows that much of
the complacency is misplaced.

Disputes simmering for decades in some cases have uprooted communities and
left them vulnerable. Among them: Tibet's refugee diaspora, generated by
relentless Chinese pressure, stretches from India to Europe; Irian Jayans
escape to Papua New Guinea to avoid fighting between the Indonesian army 
and an independence movement; and about 90,000 ethnic Nepalese are 
pressured to leave their Bhutan homeland for Nepal.

According to Amnesty International, loosely-defined Asia currently shelters
about 1.8 million refugees, meaning they have left their countries and are
unable or unwilling to return. A further 1.7 million are internally displaced.

Don't confuse either category with economic migrants, who flock_legally and
illegally_to the once-booming economies that constitute the so-called East
Asian Miracle. In fact, Amnesty International research confirms that Asians
usually take the difficult decision to abandon their homes only under the
most extreme circumstances.

Moreover, ethnic and national divisions are behind the flight of many, and
the issues of ethnicity and identity can affect their treatment down the line.

The report, one of five regional assessments produced by London-based
Amnesty International as part of a world-wide campaign for the human rights
of refugees shows Asia with limited humanitarian instincts. While large
chunks of the region are rapidly becoming wealthy, they have yet to
translate their material gains into more tolerant and compassionate societies.

To be fair, borders drawn arbitrarily by colonial authorities, without
regard to racial realities, are an enduring nightmare for many independent
governments. The role of outside powers in local wars and revolutions, in
which boundaries were redrawn, has also contributed to the headache.

Just the same, the record is dismal. The report says "an 'arc' of refugee
crises has emerged across the heart of Asia," stretching from northeast
India, through the Chittagong hill tracts in Bangladesh, and across into
Burma and Thailand.

Nation states are seeking to assert their authority and control over ethnic
and tribal groups, many of which refuse to recognize lines on maps. As a
result, frontiers have become battlegrounds, governments have engaged in
long wars of attrition against ethnically-based insurgents, and interethnic
tensions have flared into bloody warfare.

"Desperate people flee to and fro across the border, trying to find at least
temporary sanctuary," says the report.

"Border areas are dotted with sprawling camps, filled with ethnic refugee
communities from one generation to the next living in poverty and fear,
uncertain if they will ever have a secure future."

It is difficult to argue with the report's observation that the vast numbers
seeking haven from harassment and violence starkly expose the widespread
lack of respect for human rights in Asia. The hordes of dislocated and
dispossessed are also testing to the full the system for protecting refugees
in the region.

Once they have taken the agonizing decision to run, most refugees head for
the nearest shelter, which is often a poor neighboring country that lacks
the resources to look after them. For their part, the wealthier states,
notably Australia and Japan, are making it harder to win asylum for those
lucky enough to reach their shores.

Developed countries are also reluctant to provide support for those
countries in Asia that happen to be in the flight path of refugees. The
result is that some Asian governments are turning their backs on refugees or
forcibly sending them home before it is safe to do so.

The trouble is only a small minority of Asian governments have adopted the
United Nations 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its
1967 Protocol. Between them, they establish the right to international
protection for persons at risk in their country of origin because of their
race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion.

"Of all regions in the world," notes Amnesty International, "Asia has the
worst record of ratifying the convention."

That doesn't mean all Asian governments are heartless. Indeed, some
places-such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the
Philippines-saved countless lives in the aftermath of the Indochina wars by
giving initial refuge to Vietnamese boat people, as well as to Cambodians
and Laotians moving overland.

Nevertheless, it is disappointing that Asian regional or sub-regional
organizations have done almost nothing to address the serious and evolving
challenges posed by the region's numerous refugees. By contrast, the
Organization of African Unity, the Organization of American States and the
Arab League have drawn up instruments designed to improve protection for
refugees in their areas.

True, regionalism is in its infancy. But the nine-member Association of
Southeast Asian Nations, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, might
have been expected to investigate the possibilities, if only in its own

With Burma admitted to Asean this year, it still isn't too late. After all,
an estimated one million members of Burma's ethnic minorities have been
displaced, "by a government that believes it can kill, maim and arbitrarily
imprison people with impunity," as Amnesty International puts it.

Fellow Asean members should worry about the potentially destabilizing
effects of future refugees pouring out of Burma, especially as experience
suggests the movements are likely to be sudden and on a large scale. In
addition. Asean governments increasingly are going to face protests from
their own nongovernmental organizations, which will hold Rangoon to higher
standards of behavior.


October 27, 1997                     
Mark Baker

Nobel Peace laureate and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is effectively a
prisoner once more. But, writes MARK BAKER, there are signs that her patient
defiance is finally tilting the balance of power in Burma.

ON THE CORNER of a busy intersection a huge billboard proclaims "The
People's Desire" in the livid red shades of old Maoist propaganda. "Crush
all internal and external destructive elements as the common enemy," it
screams, exhorting the masses to oppose the "stooges holding negative views".

A hundred metres away, down the once gracious sweep of Rangoon's University
Avenue, the people's real desire stays hidden from the world, behind the
gates from where she once addressed thousands of supporters who flocked to
her regular weekend rallies. Steel barriers now block the street to traffic.
Soldiers in camouflage fatigues and flak jackets stand guard, while military
intelligence agents question anyone who approaches.

Two years after being released from six years under house arrest, Aung San
Suu Kyi is effectively a prisoner once more. Her old house beside Inya Lake
is under constant surveillance. Her telephone is tapped and often cut.
Visitors must be screened and approved by the authorities. And on the rare
occasions that she dares venture out Suu Kyi is tailed by squads of security

"We never see her now and we can't go to hear her speak any more, but we
know she is there and we know she is still fighting for us," says a young
student activist who has been unable to study since universities and
colleges were shut down after a wave of protests last November. "If people
try to contact her there will be a knock on the door in the night. There are
spies everywhere."

In the schizophrenic demonology of the generals who rule Burma with a hard
hand and a humourless heart, Suu Kyi is at once a dangerous stooge of the
nation's foreign enemies and a naive political irrelevance: "The
inexperienced lady." The truth is that the Nobel Peace laureate is neither.

A decade after the daughter of General Aung San, the hero of Burma's
independence struggle, came home to nurse her dying mother and stayed to
head a peaceful revolution that ended in a bloodbath, she remains the great
hope of Burmese democracy and the greatest obstacle to the ambitions of a
corrupt and brutal regime. It is a fact eloquently demonstrated by the
obsessive measures with which the military has sought to isolate and silence

Now, more than seven years after the army usurped the landslide election
victory of her National League for Democracy (NLD) and a year after she was
barred from any public political activity, Aung San Suu Kyi's stoic
resistance is still a potent force for change. And tentative signs are
emerging that her patient defiance is beginning to tilt the power balance in

At the end of last month, the NLD was allowed to hold its first national
convention in seven years. An estimated 1,300 party delegates gathered from
around the country and close to 800 were permitted to attend the two-day
meeting in the grounds of Aung San Suu Kyi's home. In previous years,
hundreds of NLD MPs and party workers have been rounded up on the eve of the
scheduled congress, detained without charge and aggressively interrogated.
Some of them still languish in Rangoon's notorious Insein Prison.

In a perhaps equally remarkable development, 10 days before the congress,
the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) invited the NLD
chairman, Aung Shwe, and two other party officials to a formal meeting with
one of the regime's most important figures, the so-called "Secretary One",
Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt. The invitation was preceded by exploratory
talks in July.

In the end, the NLD pulled out of the proposed meeting at the last moment,
arguing that the regime's refusal to include Suu Kyi was an attempt to
divide the party. But the proposal of even a qualified dialogue has been
seen by Rangoon-based diplomats and some Burmese political analysts as a
significant move by a regime that has offered only hostility and harassment
to their popular adversaries over the past two years -- and particularly
since Suu Kyi pulled her delegates out of the sham convention drafting a new
constitution early last year.

In a further modest hint of progress, the SLORC on Friday approved another
gathering of about 200 NLD luminaries and supporters at Suu Kyi's house for
a "social event" to mark the end of the Buddhist Lent, albeit after
surrounding the place with almost as many troops and turning away several
hundred other guests.

A senior diplomat said: "Things are definitely moving. It's a more positive
environment than we've seen for a long time, although people remain cautious
about predicting how far and how fast it will go."

Tin Oo, the former Burmese army commander who is now one of Suu Kyi's most
trusted deputies, agrees. "I am more optimistic now about the future," he
says. "Some of the senior military officers now see the need for a political
settlement with the NLD and are trying to move forward." 

No-one, however, believes that the SLORC, if indeed it is edging towards a
deal, is doing so for reasons other than sheer necessity. Two powerful
factors are now weighing heavily on the once intractable regime: a mounting
international clamour for reform that is becoming impossible  to ignore and
the rapid disintegration of the Burmese economy.

As the United States and the European Union strengthen trade and investment
sanctions against Burma, the nine-member Association of South-East Asian
Nations (ASEAN) -- the neighbours whose approval the regime craves -- are
quietly stepping up the pressure for change. Having ignored Western protests
and admitted Burma to the regional grouping three months ago, ASEAN is now
prodding the SLORC to give credibility to its approach of "constructive
engagement" by opening a dialogue with Suu Kyi.

The present ASEAN chairman is the Philippines and its President, Fidel
Ramos, a former martial law general turned champion of democracy who pressed
the case for change during a visit to Rangoon late last week. The tougher
stance ASEAN has taken against Cambodia in the wake of the July coup in
Phnom Penh also appears to have emboldened its approach to the SLORC, as
well as indications that the regime's recalcitrance could derail an
important new dialogue with the Europeans.

A senior diplomat said: "The SLORC is definitely feeling the pressure now.
They are starting to get a lot of stick from ASEAN and there is a growing
recognition that somewhere along the line they are going to have to
compromise. Everyone is telling them that they have to improve their image
and they have to more forward."

Another pressing incentive is the country's deepening economic malaise.
Burma continues to teeter on the verge of bankruptcy. Comparisons are now
being drawn with the economic crisis that helped spark the big pro-democracy
uprising in 1988 which catapulted Aung San Suu Kyi to political prominence
and which was brutally suppressed with the loss of at least 3000 lives.

Inflation is soaring, with the local currency, the kyat, worth barely half
its black market value a year ago. The trade deficit is widening and foreign
investment is drying up while military spending continues to swallow half
the national budget. There are now also fears of widespread famine after
recent severe floods destroyed the rice crop across large areas of the country.

"The situation is disastrous," a Rangoon-based analyst said. "The economy is
in dire straits, their foreign exchange holdings are virtually nil and they
clearly are unable to manage the situation."

The much-touted -- and delayed -- Visit Burma Year has been a monumental
flop. Despite predictions of as many as 500,000 visitors, fewer than 50,000
are estimated to have turned up. Dozens of new luxury hotels, some built to
launder drug-trade profits, are mostly deserted, with occupancy rates said
to be averaging about 20 per cent. New domestic and international air
services have been slashed and two foreign carriers recently quit their
Burma routes.

Despite the SLORC's continued boasts about rising foreign investment,
independent sources say there has been a marked slowdown over the past year
as international trade sanctions have begun to bite. Washington has banned
all new investment in Burma by US companies and the EU last month extended
its sanctions, which include the suspension of trade preferences and bans on
non-humanitarian aid and defence assistance. Consumer campaign in the West,
including targeting of Foster's and Ericsson in Australia, have persuaded
more than a dozen transnational companies to quit the Burmese market.

The SLORC, despite hints of political compromise, is maintaining a public
posture of total opposition to any contact with Suu Kyi, who holds the post
of NLD secretary-general.

The state-run [Pauk Sa] newspaper declared in an editorial early this month:
"The dialogue they are demanding, thinking it to be ambrosia, cannot be
cooked up in a pot shared by the general-secretary,"

While moderates within the regime appear to be in the ascendancy, hardliners
implacably opposed to dealing with Suu Kyi could still block progress
towards a dialogue.

There is a growing belief among some of the NLD's staunchest supporters that
Suu Kyi herself now needs to adopt a more conciliatory stance to encourage
the generals from their bunker. "She is also going to have to start showing
some flexibility," a Western diplomat said.

"She keeps pushing without giving anything and they'll stop being pushed in
the end if they don't feel she is giving something as well."

Tin Oo insists the NLD is ready to compromise and that it can allay the
fears of many within the SLORC that a deal allowing the party back to power
would open the way to reprisals against senior members of the regime. "We
are ready to talk. Aung San Suu Kyi has always insisted that there can be
real compromise. We can give and take, but the most important thing is that
we talk and that those talks include Suu Kyi," he said.

The 72-year-old former general, himself imprisoned for several years for his
defence of democracy, remains quietly confident that the dictatorship can be
ended without further bloodshed. "We have struggled for 50 years by force of
arms to try to solve the problems of our country and that approach has
failed," he said. "Now is the time for peace and reconciliation. The people
are fed up and determined to have their rights and freedoms restored."


October 27, 1997
By Jonathan Thatcher

MANILA, Oct 27 (Reuters) - HIV infections, already threatening to hit Asia
on a massive scale, are growing fastest in some of its least accessible
regions around the notorious Golden Triangle, a study released on Monday showed.

``Mobile populations in areas such as the Golden Triangle...are highly
vulnerable to HIV infection,'' the Monitoring of AIDS Pandemic (MAP) network
said, referring to the region infamous as the world's chief source of opium.

MAP, which groups more than 100 HIV and AIDS experts from 40 countries,
issued its findings during a conference in Manila on the human
immunodeficiency virus, which can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

The Golden Triangle comprises parts of Burma, Thailand and Laos but the
report said also affected were nearby border regions of India and China as
well as the Mekong delta in Cambodia and Vietnam.

It pointed to three factors behind the rise -- unsafe sex with prostitutes,
injected drugs and increased mobility of the population.

``Most distinctive are the HIV epidemics exhibiting high and increased
prevalence...and high and increasing incidence...in Cambodia...and
in Myanmar (Burma),'' it said.

While in Cambodia it was mostly from unprotected sex with prostitutes, in
Burma the spread of the disease has been boosted by users of injected drugs.

The use of shared needles by drug users is a common source of HIV.

In India, which has more HIV infections than any other country in the world,
the problem is limited to specific areas.

Almost 50 percent of known AIDS cases are in the state of Maharashtra, the
capital of which is Bombay. Another 22 percent are in Tamil Nadu in southern
India, the report added.

The report follows warnings at the Manila conference that Asia could
overtake Africa as the region worst-hit by the HIV virus.

The seven million Asians thought to carry HIV could double by the end of the
century, a United Nations official said.

MAP Network co-chairman Daniel Tarantola said it was crucial to collect more
information to assess the potential for large-scale epidemics.

But while there was a danger of underestimating the problem, overestimating
it could prove counter-productive.

``Deceived by overstated predictions, governments may turn their back and
simply walk away from emerging epidemics when the predicted extensive spread
of HIV in the population does not become a reality,'' Tarantola said.


October 27, 1997

The world's second largest opium producer has decided to go straight. The
Taleban regime in Afghanistan has effectively produced opium and heroin for
the world market. Now the fundamentalist regime has decided to switch
tactics and work to eliminate the narcotics trade. It is asking for
help for the task. 

The decision by the men ruling Afghanistan to change their drugs policy was
as unexpected as it was welcome. Only last month, a spokesman for the Kabul
regime said the nation's opium crops were necessary because farmers needed
the cash and the regime needed the taxes. Now the Taleban has reversed
itself. With a single decree, the Taleban has forbidden both the cultivation
and the
sale of opium.

The Taleban deserves credit, however, for approaching the opium problem with
planning and logic. Reports from Kabul said the regime will not suddenly
embark on a crop destruction programme. Rather, the Taleban wants to work
both with the farmers who grow opium and with the UN officials who can help
them escape their dependence. It seems clear the Afghan rulers intend to
proceed judiciously against opium.

Afghanistan is the world's second largest producer of opium. Last February,
it harvested an estimated 2,800 tons -enough for 280 tons of
high-quality-heroin, for starters Central Asia is the main source of heroin
in Europe. Most of it comes from laboratories in Pakistan, using Afghan opium.

The battle against opium farming, as Thailand has long demonstrated, is not
particularly complicated nor expensive. That is mainly because opium itself
is a low-quality crop, worth little by itself. Opium farmers are among the
poorest farmers in the world. They are victims of drug gangs, which send buying
agents to each farm and offer those who work the land a pittance for their
crops, on a take it or leave it basis. 

The Taleban made the problem worse. Both international diplomacy and the
Islam religion which motivates the Taleban forbid drugs trafficking. But
Taleban finance and tax officials claimed they needed the opium tax imposed
on their poppy farmers to finance the Kabul regime. Now, spurred by talks
with the United Nations Drug Control Programme, the Taleban has changed its
collective mind.

Details are still unclear, but in general terms Afghanistan will embark
immediately upon a crop-substitution programme along the lines of the
successful Thai model. At the same time, the Taleban leaders have appealed
to the UN for aid. The UN official in charge, Pino Arlacchi, estimates it
will take five to six years to eliminate poppies as an important Afghan crop.

The world community needs to get behind this initiative. Afghan farmers must
be taught to grow alternative crops as quickly as possible. The regime and
aid donors must ensure the alternative crops get to markets. And UN aid
officials must begin planning immediately to make sure the small amount of
poppy tax lost is made up in other ways. The cost and simplicity of such a
plan ensure its success.

Then, the world of nations should press for the world's largest opium and
heroin producers to launch a similar campaign. The opium crops in Burma will
be larger again this year than last, as they have been for a decade. The
Burmese regime will continue its close cooperation with heroin traffickers,
who will in turn continue to suppress the innocent opium farmers who are
forced to
do the back-breaking, poverty-inducing work of growing poppies.

Burma is much more deeply involved with its major narcotics traffickers than
was the Taleban. But the upcoming Afghan programme can serve as a model for
Rangoon if that regime is willing to break its dependence on drug dealers.
The main difference appears to be that the Taleban is truly concerned by the
plight of its poor farmers. It is time the Burmese regime took the same
responsible step. 


October 25, 1997
Htun Aung Gyaw 

Social scientists view Burma as a strange country. And most decline to predict 
where its future lies.

Since her release from house  arrest in 1994, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi 
has called  consistently; for dialogue with the government, but the State Law 
and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) has rejected her requests. Recently, 
however, this impasse has shown signs being broken.

After Burma was admitted to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations 
(Asean) in July, Slorc held its first meeting with Ms Suu Kyi's National League 
for Democracy (NLD), and it offered a second meeting in September. But this 
second meeting never took place because the Slorc offer came at very short 
notice and took NLD chairman U Aung Shwe and central committee members 
by surprise.

More importantly, however, the NLD, which won a landslide victory in the 
1990 election, refused to attend the meeting because SLORC had not extended 
an invitation to Ms Suu Kyi and two vice chairmen. Even though the NLD 
boycotted the meeting, SLORC allowed Ms Suu Kyi's youngest son to visit his 
mother- the first visit she has had from any, family member since 1995.

On Sept 27-28 the NLD held its ninth anniversary meeting, which was a 
success despite several minor problems. The event was significant in light of 
the more serious difficulties the NLD has encountered in recent years. The 
party tried to hold meetings each of the previous three years, but each time 
Slorc detained NLD representatives temporarily and blocked the meeting.

This past September, however, Slorc allowed the meeting to go ahead, albeit 
with some restrictions such as a 300-person attendance limit. Even though 
police guarding the meeting entrance turned some representatives away, more 
than 700 representatives attended. That Slorc ignored this overcrowding
implies that the junta may be softening its grip. If so, the change is
likely due to 
Burma's membership of Asean.

Military generals have ruled Burma since 1962. Over this 35-year period, they 
have controlled Burma's social, political, economic and education affairs. 
Before the outbreak of the 1988 nationwide demonstrations, then ruler Ne Win 
realised that in order to survive, his socialist regime needed to change its 
political course. He called for an extraordinary party congress in 1988 and
admitted the failure of the long- and short-term economic plans. He suggested 
that the party hold a national referendum and find out if the Burmese people 
wanted a plural party system or a one party system.

People were thrilled at this suggestion because it came from the most
powerful man in Burma, someone known as "Number One". Unfortunately, the 
ruling Burmese Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) rejected his advice and 
allowed Ne Win to retire from government.

Following on the heels of Ne Win's suggestion, this rejection proved a crucial 
mistake. The original suggestion of multi-party rule had come from so highly 
placed a source that people regarded it as an important opportunity. Their 
hopes for freedom; for which many had hungered since 1962, swelled. The 
BSPP's decision to reject Ne Win's political advice but to liberalise the
anyway sparked a nationwide protest that ended 26 years of BSPP rule.

Two long months of demonstration produced many underground organisations 
consisting of students, ordinary people, former politicians and former military 
officers. Among them was the daughter of Burma's national hero and martyr 
Aung San. Ms  Suu Kyi joined the demonstration while visiting Burma from 
Britain to help her ailing mother. Still, the political figures of this
movement were not united.  Although there was a power vacuum left by an 
apparently paralysed BSPP, none of the squabbling opposition forces could fill 
the void. The only institution in a position to fill the vacuum was the

Hence, the strongest and best institutionalised group since Burma's 
independence, the army, took control for the second time since independence.

Slorc's main objective is to promote the country's economy and to establish a 
relationship with the opposition modelled on the Indonesian arrangement. 
Accordingly, the military must assume the lead in politics. Slorc leaders
that if they improve the country's economy, they will consolidate their hold on 
power. Yet a combination of the regime's gross human rights violations and
Ms Suu Kyi's calls for economic sanctions, (heeded by the US and 
Scandinavian countries) have proven difficult obstacles to this consolidation.
Recently Ne Win emerged once more onto the world stage. He visited Indonesia 
and met with President Suharto. The move took on particular significance 
because many believe that Ne Win urged Slorc leaders to adopt Indonesia's 
model. In fact, Indonesia and Burma have two striking similarities: both are 
controlled by the army, and both their armies emerged under Japanese 

In other respects, the two countries are completely different. Take, for
the role of US support in forming their regimes.
The US government spent billions of dollars and used its soldiers to protect 
states in the region from communist influence. Indonesia wiped out the 
communist influence with its own army and without US intervention. That's 
why it has received a lot of financial and technical support from the US and 

In Burma, on the other hand, the generals wiped out a democratically elected 
government by force and adopted socialism for its future course. They
Western countries as capitalist and neo-colonialist, and rejected Western aid.
Instead, they worked more closely with the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc 

Worse, under Ne Win the government nationalised big- and small scale 
industries, moves which shrank the country's production rate and size. 
Burmese-born native minorities such as Indian-Burmese and Chinese-Burmese 
were discriminated against and virtually wiped out.

In June 1975, before the outbreak of the June student demonstration, BSPP 
central executive committee member Hla Han explained to veterinary students 
that in the past the country's population was only 14 million, but by 1975 the 
number had risen to over 30 million. The number of consumers more than
doubled but rice production remained about the same. As a result, Burmese 
faced rice shortages.

But Hla Han failed to address an obvious counter-example: Thailand's 
population soared even more than Burma's, yet Thailand became a leading rice 
producer and exported much of this produce to the world. 
On the other hand, before- Mr Suharto's reign, Indonesia had to import rice, 
but under his rule Indonesia has imported no rice whatsoever. Mr Suharto's 
regime encouraged technocrats, economists and native Chinese businessmen to 
help rebuild the country and successfully overcome the double-digit inflation of
the late 1960s. Now Indonesia is one of the leading countries in Asean.

The final and crucial difference between these countries is their leadership 
patterns. Indonesia is ruled by one person, Mr Suharto. Nobody can challenge 
his authority. He became an institution in Indonesia with the support of both 
the military and technocrats. In contrast, Slorc is run by a group of military
generals who hold relatively equal rank and status. Slorc lacks a strong leader 
like Ne Win. The relative parity among Slorc's members creates trouble: as the 
Burmese saying goes: "Two lions cannot live together in a cave."

In short, Indonesia's political stability has a great deal to do with the
of a strong man, and the authority he exercises. But its stability depends
on that 
one person, and the question of succession raises the spectre of turmoil and
uncertainty. For both reasons, the Indonesian model is not a fit guide for 
Burma's democratisation process and future development.

Ne Win introduced military rule in Burma and was known as the second father 
of the modern Burmese army. He is the only single man who still has influence 
over the Burmese army. If he wants to solve the present situation by using his 
influence within SLORC to convince the regime to agree to roundtable 
negotiations with the NLD without restrictions, any problems will likely be 
solved smoothly.

But Ne Win is unlikely to do this even though it would win him the admiration 
of the Burmese people.

Htun Aung Gyaw was the first All Burma Students' Democratic Front 
chairman. He resettled in the US in 1992 where he completed his master's 
degree in Asian Studies at Cornell University in 1997. Htun Aung Gyaw is still 
active in politics. 


October 27, 1997.
By Bit Irom

Kotha (Indo-Burma border), Oct. 26: Indiscriminate hunting of birds and
animals along the Indo-Burmese border has put the existence of many a
rare species into jeopardy. Hunting in the border areas increases as the
harvest season draw closer. Many birds and animals from the Ango hill
range of Burma badly ravage standing crops in villages of Manipur
bordering Burma.

Ksherrimayum Yaima, 53, village authority secretary of Kotha, the last
Manipur village bordering Burma, told The Asian Age that wild animals
and birds cause havoc in cultivated lands during this time of the year.
Villagers have launched hunting expeditions at night to protect the
crops from rampaging animals. In the past few weeks, over 30 wild
animals, including boars, hog deers, hog badgers, bats and serows have
been killed. The last victim of these expeditions was a porcupine that
was killed on October 19 at Kotha village. Tigers are also hunted at
times, he added.

Tribals hunt animals and birds at Kangban, Leibi Maring, Lanlong Maring
Kotha, New Samthal and Molcham villages along the international border
using primitive as well as sophisticated weapons. The government has
issued licences for single and double-barrelled guns. Villagers also
used muzzle loaders for hunting. Hunting dogs are used during such
expeditions. Wild fox have recently posed a serious threat by killing
cattle and other domestic animals in the area.

However, wild elephants from Ango hills of Burma have stopped their
forays to bordering villages in Manipur as the density of population in
such places has gone up. He candidly confessed that around a decade ago,
villagers use to kill the elephants too.

He claimed that the population of birds and wild animals along the
border is on the rise as the tribals, who are now divided into Naga,
Kuki and Paite camps, hardly find the time to undertake hunting
expeditions. A couple of years ago, two pythons were trapped by the
Kotha villagers and handed over to the Manipur government.


October 27, 1997
R Young - Nonthaburi

I recently visited Thailand's Ratchaburi province to see firsthand the
situation at a Karen refugee camp called Tham Him. What I found was sadder
than anything I had ever imagined; heart-wrenching not only because of the
cramped conditions the 7,633 residents are forced to live under, but because
3,374 of them - almost half the entire camp population - were children under
12 years old. What is especially depressing is that much of this suffering
could easily be alleviated if the Thai authorities allowed more aid to reach
these people. With the cold months (November to February) almost upon us,
many of the refugees are unprepared for the weather and desperately need
warm clothing and blankets. Many children walk barefoot and need shoes.

Compressed sawdust logs for cooking and heating, donated by an NGO, the
Burmese Border Consortium, are strictly rationed to a mere nine kilogrammes
per household and Thai authorities have banned refugees from gathering more
firewood from the surrounding jungle altogether.

UN relief organisations are prohibited from contributing to relief efforts
because of fears that increased relief will only bring more refugees; and
NG0s are limited from bringing other essential supplies for the same reason.

In a time where Southeast Asian nations have come together to promote the
development of the region as a whole, the leaders should not forget the
people whose lives they seek to enhance. The children in Tham Him have no
knowledge of politics or constructive engagement; they only know what it is
to be hungry, to be cold, to be scared. To look in the eyes of a child who
is malnourished because a government arbitrarily blocked much-needed
supplies of food is beyond the a-cope of humanity. It is a blatant disregard
for what is right and it must not go unnoticed.

Donations of warm clothing, especially in children's sizes, can be made to:
Burmese Border Consortium, 12/5 Convent Road, Silom, Bangkok, 10500 


October 27, 1997

Dear friends,

SBS TV in Australia will be screening THE HEROIN WARS on the 
programme CUTTING EDGE at 8.30 P.M. on 4 November. 


8: 30 P.M.


30 years ago in the Shan State of Burma opium was a small-scale crop
cultivated by the local women. "How did this quaint bucolic business in
congealed sap become the narco-monster of today, flooding.. the world
with heroin? A questioned asked by Filmmaker Adrian Cowell and addressed
by him in this impeccably researched and searching series filmed from
1964 to 1996.

Three decades ago, Adrian Cowell and Chris Menges started filming two
s0-called Kings of Opium -- Law Sit Han and Khun Sa -- as they fought
for control of the opium trade in Shan State. At stake was a third of
the world's narcotic supply. At various time during the '70s, both drug
lords made proposals to the U.S. Government to negotiate and end to
opium growing.  But, after much debate the U.S. decided that it would be
more effective to declare an all-out "War on Drugs" by stopping Shan
opium convoys.

Shan guerrillas opposed to the Burmese military dictatorship ran the
convoys and charged a tax on the profits in order to finance their
purchase of armaments.

Today the drug lords are infinitely rich and more powerful.  The amount
of opium produced in Shan State has increased by 1000% and police have
captured less than 1%.

Episode 1 -- describes the origin of the Shan guerrilla movement and
their fight for independence: The campaign against the opium convoys and
the behind-the-scenes manoeuvres that destroyed the opium negotiations.

Tuesday 11 November

Episode 2 -- looks at Hong Kong, known as SMACK CITY -- drug capital of
South-east Asia, and examines its thirty years fight to control trade in

Tuesday 18
Episode 3 (Final) -- Returns to the guerrillas' continuing war for
independence, which is financially dependent on the drug trade. Also
features extraordinary footage or personal interview with Khun Sa. Is he
a patriotic revolutionary, as he claims, or just another corrupt drug
lord driven by addiction to power and wealth?


October 25, 1997

        Valparaiso International Students Association (VISA) Valparaiso 
University, is going to organize "Current Political Situation in Burma" under 
it's "Cultural Awareness Forum" on November 1, on Saturday at 1: pm.  This
is the first time that the forum is organizing for Burma. The forum had 
organized such program in previous years for other countries.
        The program will include introduction about current situation in Burma, 
30 minutes documentary show and panel discussion, by Burmese student. Free 
snacks and drinks will be provided by VISA.
        It is the first time in Valparaiso University's history to have Burma 
discussion or supporting movement for the Burmese people's struggle for the 
restoration of democracy in its country.

Zaw Zaw
Valparaiso University