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BurmaNet News November 23, 1997
- Subject: BurmaNet News November 23, 1997
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 24 Nov 1997 01:00:00
------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: November 23, 1997
Noted in Passing:
On the name change of the military junta in Burma...
"The resolution of law and order is a temporary task, but peace - meaning
defence - and development are permanent duties." - Asian diplomat
(see FEER: JUST AS UGLY)
NEWSDAY: A WHISPER FROM BURMA .....
BKK POST: EX-MINISTER UNDER HOUSE ARREST OVER CORRUPTION
FEER: JUST AS UGLY
FEER: COSMETIC CHANGES
BANGKOK POST: ANALYSIS / BURMA'S MILITARY POLITICS
BKK POST: BURMA CHANGES THE GUARD
THE NATION: THAI FIRM PLANS HUGE INVESTMENT IN BURMA
NLM: SECRETARY 3 LT GEN WIN MYINT HOSTS DINNER
INDEPENDENT SOURCE: INTERVIEW WITH U KYI MAUNG
NEWSDAY: A WHISPER FROM BURMA .....
November 19 (?), 1997
By Matthew McAllester, NEWSDAY
Democracy of Internet threatens some nations
In Burma, Net access can be a path to prison. But some take the risk.
RANGOON, Burma -- The man leaned across the table and spoke so quietly
that no one but the two of us could hear. His eyes moved from side to side,
scanning the restaurant and the street outside for possible informers or
intelligence agents. That's the way people communicate in Burma when they're
talking to a foreigner about something that could land them in prison for
"You know what?" the man said. "I got e-mail."
"You can't have," I said.
For several reasons I knew he had to be telling me a tall story. For a
illegal to access the Internet in Burma. It's illegal to own an unlicensed fax
machine or modem. A few years ago a supporter of the largest pro-democracy
party in Burma died in prison, where he'd been sent because he did not have
a license for his fax machine.
Besides, no one has e-mail or Internet access in Burma except for a select
few business owners who are friendly with the military regime that rules the
country. Diplomats at a few foreign embassies also acknowledge that they
have Net access and e-mail, despite the Burmese government's restrictions.
Even then, they say their e-mail is intercepted and read by the Burmese
This is a country where reporters have to visit in the guise of tourists, which
is how I traveled in September and October. Here, all international calls are
listened to by operators and, the Burmese people assume, by military
intelligence. When I wanted to make a call to America, the receptionist at
my hotel told me it would cost $35 for five minutes if I wanted to dial
opted for the storefront down the road, where I sat for 30 minutes waiting
for a connection. When I got through to my friend, I was less than chatty
about what I'd been up to.
So how could the man I was talking to across the table possibly have
navigated these political and technological barriers to get e-mail?
The man smiled. He's a fixer. A small business owner. People come to
him for help. He's thinking of offering people access to his Net account --
for a price. Most of all, he looks out for himself, keeping on the right
side of the military authorities but not showing them the fear they are so
used to seeing in the faces of the Burmese people.
"I dial out anywhere I can," he said. "My account is in Australia, but I'll
use a server from anywhere. Anywhere."
For the sake of communicating with the outside world, the man was prepared
to risk prison.
I've written before about how a good number of governments around the world
restrict or ban Internet access to their citizens. Free-speech advocates told me
about some governments that fear the spread of anti-government information
and opinions that dissent from the official line. The advocates told me how
democratizing the Internet is by its nature. But being told and seeing it with
one's own eyes are very different experiences.
After a couple weeks of seeing how the military government's system of
informers and its control of information contributed to its firm grip on power,
I could understand why it has banned the Net.
The Net's speed and resistance to control would be an unstoppable force
in organizing opposition to the military regime.
"What would happen if you had Net access?" I asked another Burmese
man, who spoke in a whisper even when he was alone at home.
"The government, it would be over," he said. "We could share information."
Information and open communication in an oppressive state such as Burma
are invaluable tools in fighting the status quo.
I spent some time one evening in Rangoon with U Tin Oo, a former general
in the Burmese army and now a senior leader of the National League for
Democracy, the largest pro-democracy party. All told, he has spent nine years
in prison for his political activities.
As we spoke, the phone often rang. Delegates to the party conference that
weekend were en route to Rangoon, and they called Tin Oo to discuss the
event. The conversations were superficial.
"They tap my phone always," Tin Oo explained.
When I left I had to take two taxis and walk among crowds to shake the
military intelligence officials that a pro-democracy contact had said would
I worried about my own information, my notes. I longed to be able to turn
them into ones and zeroes and e-mail them home. Instead, I hid them at the
bottom of my backpack.
A couple of weeks later I was in Thailand, interviewing Burmese dissidents
and refugees who have fled the Burmese government. Working with them
are several Westerners who work as human-rights campaigners, doctors and
advocates for the refugees.
E-mail is an important tool in their work, as it helps them coordinate with
people outside Thailand. One woman collects every story she can find about
Burma into the BurmaNet News e-mail newsletter. BurmaNet News is
delivered to the e-mail boxes of hundreds of journalists, activists and
officials around the world. It's precisely the kind of democratizing spread of
information that the Burmese people are denied.
But even in Thailand there are problems. The human-rights advocates and
health workers use encryption when communicating online. "They read all
our e-mail," said an Australian doctor, referring to the Thai authorities. The
Thai government maintains diplomatic relations with the Burmese government,
a pariah regime to many other democracies. "The other day I tried to get my
e-mail and my password had been changed."
BKK POST: EX-MINISTER UNDER HOUSE ARREST OVER CORRUPTION
November 23, 1997
Burma's junta has placed former trade and commerce minister Tun
Kyi and possibly two other former ministers under house arrest
over a corruption case, witnesses said yesterday.
Two of Tun Kyi's daughters have been arrested, but the former
minister has so far only been restricted to his residential
compound in a government-owned neighbourhood in Rangoon where
most ministers are provided housing, they said.
Senior aides in the ministry and those of former Hotels and
Tourism minister Kyaw Ba and former Agriculture Minister Myint
Aung have also been arrested in connection with the
investigations, they said.
"These kind of investigations happen regularly, but they never
get to the top" of the various ministries, an observer said.
"Now the heads have been chopped off and the top aides are
exposed. There is a house-cleaning going on in the suspect
ministries," he said.
The three lieutenant-generals were among veterans of the State
Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) kicked upstairs last
week to languish in the 14-member advisory council of a
newly-formulated junta, the State Peace and Development Council
"The aftermath of the big shake-up continues," the observer said.
Witnesses said all weapons held by the disgraced senior officer
have been removed from the area.
Observers here saw the reorganisation as a chance to clean up the
junta's image following Burma's admission in July as a member of
the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and to bring
fresh faces into the junta.
The move would reinforce the power base of the top Slorc
generals, junta chairman Than Shwe, army chief Maung Aye,
military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt and army chief of staff
Tin Oo, who retained their positions, they said.
**Exiled members of DPNS (Democratic Party for a New Society) have
also reported on November 22nd that 18 of Tun Kyi's cars were seized
on the night of November 16th, and the personal secretary of U Soe Thar,
the minister of minister of Communications, Posts & Telegraphs of SPDC
was arrested the same day.
FEER: JUST AS UGLY
November 27, 1997
THE GENERALS ACQUIRE A NEW LOOK-BUT WON'T HELP
By Bertil Lintner in Bangkok
Burma's generals have long looked enviously upon their counterparts in
Indonesia. That country's military has two things the Rangoon junta covets:
a permanent role in governing its country, and acceptance by the
international community. On November 15, Burma's military government made a
stab towards achieving both.
Taking a leaf from the Indonesian book, the State Law and Order Restoration
Council, known as Slorc, retitled itself as the slightly less intimidating
"State Peace and Development Council."
The new name is a Burmese allusion to the Indonesian military's dwifungsi,
or dual function, which is enshrined in Indonesia's constitution and gives
its armed forces a duty to both defend and develop the country. The makeover
was part of a government shake-up in Rangoon that appeared aimed at winning
international legitimacy for the military government, but which analysts say
fell far short of what's needed to end the junta's pariah status in the West.
One group that would like to see that happen is Asean. Since Burma was
accepted as a member of the regional grouping in July, it has been a
constant embarrassment. Most recently, the European Union cancelled a joint
meeting in Bangkok, planned for November 17-19, because Asean insisted that
Burma had to be represented. "Asean, and perhaps even the Burmese military
themselves realized that something had to change," says a Bangkok- based
analyst. What was needed was "a more acceptable Burma, but with out in any
way undermining the leading role of the military."
The primacy of the military is subtly encapsulated in Slorc's new name.
"The resolution of law and order is a temporary task," says an Asian
diplomat in Bangkok who follows events in Burma. "But peace- meaning
defence - and development are permanent duties."
The 21-member Slorc, which has ruled Burma since the crushing of a
pro-democracy uprising in 1988, is now officially dissolved. In its place is
a council consisting of 19 military men, many of them regional commanders
rather than the top generals who dominated Slorc. And unlike Slorc, whose
members often doubled as cabinet ministers, only the council's chairman,
Gen. Than Shwe, remains concurrently a minister.
The new cabinet comprises mostly military men as well, but among the deputy
ministers are quite a few civilians. They seem to have been drawn mainly
from the Union Solidarity and Development Association, a military-backed
organization that resembles Indonesia's ruling party, Golkar.
Besides pressure from Asean, the changes in Rangoon are also clearly the
outcome of a power struggle-with one obvious winner: Lt.-Gen. Khin Nyunt,
the intelligence chief and protege of military strongman Ne Win, who still
wields considerable power behind the scenes.
The power struggle may have been sharpened by a deepening economic crisis in
Burma that must have forced the military to make changes, sources in Rangoon
suggest. The value of the Burmese kyat has gone from 160 to the U.S. dollar
a year ago to 290 today. Foreign investors are leaving, and corruption is
rampant within most government institutions, including blatant demands for
bribes for ministers and their relatives, sources say.
The factors motivating the changes seem to have begun with Indonesian
President Suharto's visit to Rangoon in February. There was no-one senior
enough within Slorc to receive him, so Ne Win did the honours-and paid a
return visit to Indonesia in September. It was then that he discussed
Burma's political future at length with Suharto, according to intelligence
The sources assert that Ne Win had also begun to see Khin Nyunt more
regularly, with economic problems and corruption reportedly on the agenda.
This seems to have been a turn in the fortunes of Khin Nyunt. Less than a
year ago, he appeared to be on his way out as his arch-rival, army chief
Gen. Maung Aye, consolidated his grip on Power. But in a sign that Maung
Aye's grip is slipping, his close associates Trade Minister Lt.-Gen. Tun Kyi
and Tourism Minister Lt.-Gen. Kyaw Ba, have now been kicked upstairs. They
were among former ministers appointed to a 14-member "Advisory Group" that
sources in Burma suspect will never meet.
Intelligence sources also place importance on the fact that the new council
consists of regional commanders. "They were beginning to act as local
warlords in their respective areas," says an Asian diplomat. "By bringing
them into this new council, Khin Nyunt has consolidated his control even
over the army."
Will the Burmese Junta's facelift make it respectable as Suharto and the
Indonesian military have become despite their dubious human-rights record? A
Western military analyst with a long association with Burma is doubtful.
Firstly, he says, "the Burmese military must treat their people better."
Forced labour and the massive relocation of minorities must end. Secondly,
"the Burmese military must understand that criticism of the government in a
teashop is not a threat to national security, and no reason why such people
should be imprisoned and tortured."
Thirdly, the Burmese generals, like their Indonesian counterparts must
realize that they can't run the economy, the analyst says. "They must create
a political and economic environment in which exiled technocrats would want
to return." That was exactly what Indonesia did after its political turmoil
in the mid - 1960:American-educate specialists , the so- called Berkeley
mafia, were invited home to manage the economy.
However, the latest changes in Burma fall well short of what is needed to
bring back investor confidence. There is no Burmese equivalent of Jakarta's
technocrats, willing to come back from abroad. In numerous postings on the
Internet, the junta's detractors overseas have vowed to continue their
campaigns for an end to military rule, no matter what the generals choose to
FEER: COSMETIC CHANGES
November 27, 1997
Burma's revamped junta has several rising stars, but there is little to
indicate that they are reform-minded Young Turks or closet liberals.
Lt. Gen, Tin Hla, head of the newly created "Ministry for Military Affairs"
is a long-time Khin Nyunt loyalist. He's also the former commander of the
22nd Light Infantry Division, the unit that brutally put down the 1988
Since then, he has been in charge of defence procurement, defence industries
and "security printing," which includes the production of bank notes.
Says a foreign economist who recently visited Rangoon: "Burma is the only
country I am aware of where the mint is controlled by the Ministry of
Defence rather than the Treasury."
Tin Hla's former deputy, Maj. Gen, Tin Htut, head, heads the new Ministry of
Electric Power. The third powerful newcomer is Lt Gen Win Myint, the third
secretary of the new State Peace and Development Council. He was the first
commander of the 11th Light Infantry Division, which was set up after the
1988 uprising to maintain security in the capital.
BANGKOK POST: ANALYSIS / BURMA'S MILITARY POLITICS
November 22, 1997
Shifting from 'Law and Order' to 'Peace and Development'
The Burmese military has ruled the country since 1962, too long for there
not to be divisions, and now they appear to be open to the public.
Burma's ruling military junta caught everyone by surprise last Saturday
when the ruling generals declared the State Law and Order Restoration
Council dissolved and announced the formation of a new junta under the
name of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
The 19-member SPDC consists of four generals who held top positions in
Slorc and a host of new generals. They include the heads of the navy and
air force and, most crucially, the commanders of military zones (sit
taing). There was also a cabinet reshuffle and the formation of a "new"
39-member cabinet, and a 14-member Advisory Council.
As many Burmese observers pointed out, the number "9" figures quite
prominently in the council and the cabinet, the two decision-making
bodies. They therefore suggest that the change comes from the Duburn
Beach command (that is, where "retired" strongman Ne Win lives).
Similarly, many opposition groups, including the influential opposition
journal, "Burma Alert", view the change as "putting old wine in a new
bottle". This may very well be the case as the old hands - Ne Win and
Sein Lwin (the "Butcher of Rangoon"), among others - are believed to be
still pulling the strings behind the scene.
Among Burmese, it is believed that the generals currently ruling - Than
Shwe, Khin Nyunt, Maung Aye, Tin Oo - are all mindless, anxious puppets
(or "children") of the "Old Man", or Sein Lwin.
What is significant about the change is the elevation of zone commanders
(taing hmus) to the SPDC. This can be interpreted as the assertion by top
line-commanders of their clout, which may mean that power is more or less
devolved to the second echelon.
Intended or not, zone commanders have become king-makers in Burmese
Although it is not known to which of the top generals, the military
patrons, these zone commanders are affiliated, it is clear that top
generals have now become, and will increasingly become, dependent on
Which way the "new" junta will go in future may very much depend not so
much on the preferences of Than Shwe, Khin Nyunt, Maung Aye, etc, but on
the extent to which they can win over the zone commanders as
For the top military patrons, winning over the zone commanders will not
be easy since the latter are kings (or de facto warlords) in their own
fiefs, and have often ignored orders from above, or have only selectively
carried them out.
Moreover, the zone commanders are linked to business interests in their
areas of command. They have as such benefited personally from links,
especially with ethnic Chinese, commercial-entrepreneurial networks that
straddle borders. A zone command represents an opportunity for its head
to amass substantial fortunes, and an opportunity to build a patronage
network (and a power centre) within the tatmadaw (armed forces).
With the king-makers-cum-warlords gaining a foothold in the top ruling
body, it will be difficult to reshuffle these commands - as the "Old Man"
has always done previously. Ne Win's lifetime and quite successful effort
to prevent the emergence of autonomous (from him) power centres within
the military is, it seems, being reversed.
The implications of the emergence of entrenched rival power centres
within the tatmadaw are many. For one, intra-military politics will in
future be more complex and volatile.
Topmost leaders in the military hierarchy will no longer be able to
transfer top line-commanders at will. They will instead be forced
increasingly to negotiate with and accommodate the emergent centres of
power within the military itself.
The emergence of centres of military power may not, in the long run, be a
Top generals will have to learn how to deal with military pluralism and,
by extension, with societal pluralism. What Burma needs is not political
order by command, but by negotiation, accommodation and bargaining
between and among all segments, groups and sectors in society.
Regarding the short-term outcome of the change, it is likely that the
military will ignore as long as possible the need for dialogue with the
opposition, in particular with Aung San Suu Kyi (and her National League
for Democracy) and the ethnic organisations and leaders. Whether or not
some sort of a dialogue will take place depends on which of the military
factions is dominant.
Judging from the current alignment of power players, the fact that Gen
Than Shwe is the top dog - despite the "Old Man's" desire to have him
replaced with Maung Aye - indicates that there may be some moves in a
more positive direction in the near future.
Many new important players - Win Myint (Secretary 3), Tin Hla (Army
Affairs), Nyunt Tin (Agriculture and Irrigation), Saw Lwin (Hotel and
Tourism) - are, according to reliable sources, not in Gen Maung Aye's
hardline camp. This may be quite significant.
Also, the fact that many anti-dialogue hardliners - Gens Kyaw Ba, Myo
Nyunt, and Myint Aung - have been sidelined is something that deserves a
While it may be premature to expect a positive breakthrough in the
current stalemate in Burma, it is rigid thinking to dismiss the recent
changes as meaningless.
A ruling military is not a monolithic, far-sighted, clever creature. It
is like a ruling political party, albeit armed and uniformed.
As such, military players are, like politicians and political czars,
moved by power considerations. And as we all well know, power divides.
We can safely say that the struggle for dominance between military
factions has begun in earnest, and will continue until someone emerges as
the new military strongman.
BKK POST: BURMA CHANGES THE GUARD
November 21, 1997 (slightly abridged)
ANALYSIS/ IN WITH THE NEW
by Nussara Sawatsawang
The new face in the corridors of power in Rangoon
might be an entirely new vintage. Either way, they
have some challenges ahead of them.
Internal pressures rather than any outside influence were the deciding
factor in last weekend's massive. lent reshuffle which saw young bloods take
command of key roles in the Burmese government for the first time since the
junta consolidated power nine years ago.
What now remains to be seen is whether these young men, can tackle the
country's economic problems and whether they will open a regular dialogue
with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi after years of on again, off again
Of the 19 new members appointed to the SPDC, 15 are regional commanders with
six of them newly promoted. They are all aged between 50 and 55 years.
"They are well-qualified, active and open-minded," said one former Burmese
military officer, who came from the same batch. "This is good for the country..
Let's wait and see."
One of the most surprising newcomers is Win Myint, a former western
commander, who was appointed as the SPDC's secretary three. The posting
makes him the fifth-most powerful figure after the "Big Four": chairman Than
Shwe, vice chairman Maung Aye, intelligence chief and secretary one Khin
Nyunt and secretary two Tin Oo.
Fourteen new faces in the 40-member cabinet, the SPDC's administrative arm,
were appointed to key economic ministries, including trade, light industry,
livestock breeding and fisheries, and transport, and two newly established
ministries covering military affairs and electric power.
The old guard were removed from both the cabinet and the 21,-member Slorc.
The aging ministers have known for some time a shake-up was in the wind to
make way for younger officers, but there was some argument over who should
go first, according to a Rangoon-based source.
The internal political struggle gained momentum in early October at Slorc's
quarterly meeting when regional commanders gathered in Rangoon to press for
change, the source said.
The eventual shake-up is in part designed to deal with corruption with the
clearest example being former Trade Minister Tun Kyi. Lt-Gen Tun Kyi was
barred from authorising business contracts a few months ago after being
criticised for favouring friends and relatives.
Analysts differ over whether the new government will produce any substantial
changes in policy.
Burma's poor human rights record and its failure to honour democracy is
jeopardising the relationship between the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations and the European Union.
The Burmese people are suffering major hardship' resulting from the fall in
the value of the national currency,. the kyat, from about 160 kyats/$ in
July last year to 250-260 kyats/$ last month, and a 40 percent inflation
rate. The official exchange rate based on the salary of civil servants is
only 6 kyats/$.
The economic problems have become so serious that the regime recently had to
limit payments for imports, foreign remittances and over, seas loans to
$50,000 a month to preserve its dwindling foreign currency reserves.
The, move came in for heavy, criticism from a Rangoon-based businessmen who
said-it defied market economy policy as Burma needs imported raw materials
for supply to many industries which help create jobs. -
On Ms Suu Kyi, it is quite obvious that unless the regime engages her in
serious and regular dialogue, the country will continue to attract
Slorc was always at a loss at how to deal with the NLD. It recently allowed
Ms Suu Kyi to visit the party's youth wing in the outskirts of Rangoon
following the party's congress at her home in September, the first that had
been permitted for several years, but soon after refused to allow her to
meet with other party members.
If the new blood in the junta can arrive at a more consistent policy, one
which allows the NLD greater freedom, then it is sure to win over many of
the regime's most vocal critics. Otherwise they will be looked upon as they
already have been disparagingly described as "new wine in an old bottle'.
THE NATION:THAI FIRM PLANS HUGE INVESTMENT IN BURMA
November 20, 1997
KANCHANABURI-TAVOY Development Ltd plans to form joint ventures
with the KLN Group of Burma to invest billions of dollars in 12 projects in
Burma, company president Patana Sinkanchanamalai says.
KTD was formed by Krungthai Tractor Ltd and members of the Federation of
Thai Industries in Kanchanaburi province. However, it will be open to other
investors in the future, he said.
The first project involves a 110-kilometre, US$40 million tollway project to
connect Tavoy in Burma to the border of Thailand.
Patana said the company has already won preliminary approval from the
Burmese government and expects to commence construction on Dec 1 and
finish the first two-lane phase in 18 months. KTD will hold 60 percent of the
project with the balance taken by the Burmese firm.
Patana said the tollway will allow Thailand alternate access from the
Malacca peninsula for exporting goods to East Asian markets. The route will
save about seven days transport time compared to the existing route.
Other projects include a sugar mill and, sugar cane plantation, a deep-sea
port, an oil pipeline, industrial estate, railway, airport and hotel. All
projects will be situated along the toll' way.
Patana said in either January or February, the company will organise a trip
for 150 delegates, including officials from the National Economic and Social
Development Office, to the project sites.
NLM: SECRETARY 3 LT GEN WIN MYINT HOSTS DINNER IN
HONOUR OF CHINESE MEDICAL DELEGATION
November 21, 1997
YANGON, 20 Nov Secretary-3 of the State Peace and Development Council
Adjutant-General Lt-Gen Win Myint hosted dinner in honour of medical
delegation led by Maj-Gen Li Chaolin of the People's Liberation Army of the
People's Republic of China at Mya Yeik Nyo Royal Hotel at 7 pm today.
It was also attended by Chief of Armed Forces Training Maj-Gen Saw Lwin,
Director of Medical Services Brig-Gen Mya Thein Han and Chinese Ambassador
Mr Liang Dong and Military Attache Senior Colonel Yaokui.
INDEPENDENT SOURCE: INTERVIEW WITH U KYI MAUNG
(NLD VICE CHAIRMAN)
November 21, 1997
(BurmaNet Editor's Note: Teresa Kok is a member of the Southeast Asian
activist organization, Alt-ASEAN, and we are grateful to her for making
this interview available to readers of BurmaNet. We have corrected some
of the English mistakes, but not all, as we are not exactly sure of the meaning
in some cases. It should be noted that because this interview was done in
a language which was not the native language of either speaker and then
transcribed, some of the English has come out awkwardly here. In fact,
U Kyi Maung speaks beautiful English.)
I have done an interview with the Vice Chairman of NLD, U Kyi Maung, on 2
November 1997. Below is the trascription of the interview. Please bear with
us for some grammar mistakes.
Q: Why did SLORC want to have dialogue with NLD? Is the pressure come from
Japan or ASEAN?
A: Japan won't do this, it is ASEAN, because they are the one who have put
in money to invest here, after 2 years, they realised that nothing have been
materialised from their investment.
Japanese, bending over backwards to peace. Because they are businessmen,
they are very much worried that the Chinese get the initiative if they delay
in their investment because China has been close to us. There is no rule of
law here. I think the people who are concerned about Burma are the people
who have thrown money in this country.
You see so many hotels without guests, so many rooms empty because of all
the groups working against the Visit Myanmar Year. Many investors in ASEAN
invest in servicing sectors, not in manufacturing, services sectors have a
lot to do with tourists, they are making loss. When the Sedona Hotel first
invested here, originally they planned to employ 900 people with 2 shifts,
but if you go there you will find there are many rooms empty. It is the same
I think last time when they (SLORC) met people like Goh Chok Tong from
Singapore, who even talked about money have been dwindling away... ha ha...
Q:The SLORC has been trying portray Suu Kyi as stubborn and refusing to have
A: We are prepared to have dialogue. There is no problem for us in
opposition to have dialogue. By the nature of our organisation, we can't
take up arms. If we put together, there must be not less than 50,000 troops
all over the country, the Shan, Kachin,.. they are fully armed. We don't
need to arm ourselves. We have to struggle along the line of democracy, we
are a movement of democracy. Even then we tried to make sure we don't get
out to the street for demonstrations, because we are quite sure that they
will come out with fire arms and shoot us. If we do any demonstration we
will be suppressed like that. They have done it in 1988. So, we are a very
very democratic movement, we don't shout slogans! People outside Burma do
that because they are sure that they won't be shot and harmed.
We all agree with dialogue, there is legitimacy on our side, we won the
elections in 1990, but that victory was never given recognition. I was in
jail for two and a half years, Tin Oo was jailed more than 5 years, Daw Suu
was under house arrest for 6 years .... The issue of the elections in 1990
has not been solved, it is still pending, We consider ourselves as having the
right to govern, so we don't take up arms, we are for dialogue, only through
dialogue we can expect some understanding between them and us to develop,
they are Burmese, as much as we are. They said they envisaged democracy but
we will sake them what kind of democracy is this....... they are the
Q: What are the priorities of the agenda of dialogue?
A: There is no agenda, it will be unconditional. We have to build up mutual
understanding as we go along, like serious inflation....., we are not going
to put them on trial, no, no, we will find out how best we can build up
confidence. We will ask for the release of our political prisoners, civil
rights, publication rights and that we be given the political rights.
Q: How do you communicate with the outside world?
A: In this country, only the SLORC owns the publication rights. There are no
(NLD) bulletins, we can't use our machines to print, we don't own fax
machines, we don't own mobile phones, our telephones are continuously cut for
30 months, I can't make call to outside either.
Q: When do you think the SLORC will continue the dialogue?
A: If the SLORC is confident that they can continue the political and social
situation of the country, then they may carry on along all by themselves without
having dialogue with the NLD. But the moment that they realised they can't
carry on all by themselves.
The NLD sees the problems of dialogue is a kind of up and down, the dialogue
might be called again.
Q: Do you think that international pressure will force them to have dialogue
compared with internal pressure?
A: Internal problems did play a part. Prostitution, you know that many young
girls crossed the border to neighbouring countries to sell their bodies,
ethnic conflicts, like Shan, Karenni etc, drugs and the attitude of the
Americans towards this. The problem of without exports, all the exports are
very much below par.
Because this is not the regular type of government that pays attention to the
people. The economic life of the people is generally very poor.
Q: Have ASEAN officials had a dialogue with the NLD?
A: We met them in some functions and we have had some friendly chats. I think
and I hope the time will come for us to talk to ASEAN. I think ASEAN should
also know the view of the opposition on various issues, and we are not expecting
ASEAN to support us with money or fire arms.
Q: What is your advice for ASEAN investors who want to invest in Burma?
A: They know, we don't need to advise them.(laugh!)
You cannot do business in Burma unless you have passed money under the
counter. Malaysia (govt.) understands if you want to attract investors, you must
provide the rule of law which is really strong enough that the investors'
money won't be dwindled away. When an investor comes to read investors law
here, they will find that it is very funny to do business here.
The exchange rate of Kyat. Now 1 FEC = 280 kyats in the open market, but
officially 1 FEC = 6 Kyats. You can't take your money out, you can't
transfer your money out of the country more than USD 50,000 a month. Many
people find it very difficult to do business here. The government is running
short of money in its own bank.
For example, SONY has quite a number of employees in Rangoon and branches,
and this law makes it difficult for them to do business.
So, you don't need to advise them, they will compare.
Q: How do you view the political future of the country?
A: Nobody knew that Soviet Union would collapse in 1990. We have to try our
best, we don't do any funny things anyway.
Q: Have you tried to go out of Rangoon in the past?
A: We have tried to go to Mandalay in 1995, but they (SLORC) just tried to
We are not anti investment, on our own, we won't be able to catch up our
neighbours. For decades, we had to rely on our own, 26 years under U Ne
Win, 7 years under SLORC......They have printed so much money, you cannot
imagine you can live under such a system. We are so broke unless (foreign)
capital pours in. The majority of the people can't meet their end needs,
we need investment. The first thing is we get democracy first, to catch up
rest of the world.
Our education system is terrible. Under the Ne Win regime, universities were
closed for 7 years, under this regime, universities have been closed
until now, about one year. You don't know when will the universities be opened.
Without education, you cannot get into 21st century. So, to modernise, we
need investment, we cannot be anti-investment. There is no rule of law in this
country, look at how they treat us, we are the people who won the election
in this country, if they can do such a thing, they can do everything,
including your investment too. There is no legitimacy here. If you want to
do investment, wait until the right time, wait until you see the light, you
see people are freely under democratic system, we have an accountable
government, we have regular elections, we have open forum, we have free
press, you can say anything.
Because we don't have opportunity to show by practice, because we are denied
responsibility assigned to us. You might think that because we said all
sorts of things against the SLORC, we anti SLORC, anti investment.....(but we
are not). If you invest here, you are throwing money into the OCEAN, because
there are no guarantees.
Q: Do you think constructive engagement of ASEAN will help to improve the
situation in Burma?
A: I don't believe it. They are paying lip service, forget it. I see
positive signs in a few areas. As a member of the ASEAN, they (SLORC) have
to send representatives to some places in ASEAN which they don't have last
year. Now you will see 15-20 people (SLORC representatives) reading your
daily newspapers, your laws. These are people from the jungle, they can't
read English and they don't speak English, but for the first time, they are
exposed to this. They will learn the civilised way to address the world. I
think it is good education for them, they might even speak better English
in another 6 months. This first exposure that they gained will make them
try to compare the lives in Burma against lives in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur etc.
The second thing is ASEAN has the responsibility to amend their ways.
Because they (ASEAN) have set up some regulations, like what percent of the
value of the products that you have to pay duties. Certain products, luxury
cars for instance, have been charged 300%. The losses the investors have
encountered by investing in Burma will make them tell their government
leaders to try persuade the Burmese leaders to make improvement in
Rangoon, they have thrown in a lot of money in this country.
We (NLD) are very pro-investment, we knew we can't make savings for
sometime, because there is no middle class to throw (spend) money, we have
been thrown out of entrepreneurship, no private business in this country for
If a person wants to do business here, you must take the Union of Myanmar
Economy Holding, the SLORC's own monopoly into partnership. So,
it is very difficult.
So, I'm not worried about constructive engagement or whatever dialogue....