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The BurmaNet News: December 11, 199

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------     
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"     
The BurmaNet News: December 11, 1997        
Issue #889


December 11, 1997


JAPANESE Prime Minister Ryutato Hashimoto plans to unveil programmes to
assist economic reforms in Asean countries at a summit next week, a report
from Tokyo said yesterday.

Hashimoto will unveil a plan to provide low-interest yen loans to help the
member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)
reform their financial systems, Jiji Press said without specifying the sum.

The Japanese premier also plans to invite a total of 20,000 people from
Asean countries to Japan over the coming five years by integrating ongoing
separate training projects, Jiji said.

The cove is aimed at nurturing managerial personnel as well as training
young people as Japan believes human resource development is an important
macroeconomics policy, the news agency said.

Japan is expected to include the new programmes in a joint statement with
Asean to be issued after the three-day summit starting on Sunday.

The report coincided with another report from Kuala Lumpur that Malaysian
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad plans to revive his controversial proposal
for an East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC) at an Asean summit with China,
Japan and South Korea next week.

A government source, who asked not to be named, said Mahathir would argue
that the economic and financial turmoil sweeping across Asian had made such
a caucus all the more timely.

"The prime minister is expected to stress the importance of the EAEC to ward
off future crises," he said.

"It is also Asean's 30th anniversary and the first time that Asean leaders
are meeting their counterparts from the three countries, so it will be a
good forum to discuss the prospects of the EAEC."

The source said Japan and South Korea were both opposed to calling the
12,nation gathering an "EAEC summit" because of opposition from the United
States. The meeting will be known as the "Asean plus three" summit. 

The source added that the EAEC abbreviation could take on a different
meaning given recent developments.

"You can say it will be a meeting on the East Asian Economic Crisis," he

Proposed by Mahathir in 1992 when the Uruguay Round of global trade talks
broke down, the EAEC is meant to be a loose consultative forum linking Asean
countries with China, Japan and South Korea.

Asean consists of Brunei, Burma, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Critics, notably the US and Australia, see it as a budding trade bloc which
could undermine the broader Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec),
prompting the joke that EAEC stood for East Asia Excluding Caucasians

Asean has nevertheless given lukewarm support to the idea while Japan has
failed to commit itself.

Malaysia has argued. that the caucus could coexist with Apec in the same way
that other sub-regional groups of Apec countries do, such ,as the North
American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico or the
Closer Economic Relations agreement between Australia and New Zealand.

Asean leaders will hold talks with Hashimoto, Chinese President Jiang Zemin
and South Korean Prime Minister Koh Kun at an informal summit in Kuala
Lumpur starting on Sunday where the financial crisis will dominate the

Weak and undeveloped financial systems in the region are blamed for
triggering the currency and economic woes of the past year.

The informal gathering at the site of an old tin mine near the Malaysian
capital comes less than two weeks after South Korea joined Indonesia and
Thailand who have been made victims of plunging currencies and equity values.

The three countries have sought tens of billions of dollars in emergency
assistance from the International Monetary Fund in exchange for painful and
stringent reforms which include closing down insolvent financial institutions.



December 11, 1997

Abuses on record in Burma, Vietnam, HK


International Human Rights Day gave Vent to a widespread outpouring of rage
yesterday against continued abuses in Asian countries. 

In new Asean member Burma, a representative of the government-in exile said
the ruling military junta may have changed its name, but its repressive
methods continue unabated.

"Nothing has changed," Bo Hla Tint, shadow minister for South and North
American affairs, said in Bangkok.

"Violations of human rights remain extremely serious," he said. "They
include summary or arbitrary execution, killing of civilians, arbitrary
arrest and detention [and] torture."

In Hanoi, Human Rights Watch/Asia urged international donors to Vietnam -
also a member of Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, also
comprising Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, the Philippines and
Indonesia) to press for "democratic rights" during their annual consultative
meeting in Tokyo this week.

The group urged "donors to convey to Hanoi that economic development
depended on accountable government and the easing of controls on freedom of
expression and association."

It called donors' attention to recent rural unrest in northern Thai Binh
province and "violent unrest in the largely Catholic district of Thong Nhat
in, Dong Nai province" in the south.

In Hong Kong, pro-democracy activists marked. the occasion by waving a black
flag during a silent protest over the territory's human rights situation.

The action was one of several staged to mark the first annual rights day
since Britain handed the colony back to Chinese control on July 1.

Since the handover, the China-installed government has heavily reduced
democracy and watered down civil liberties.

Burma's State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), as the junta was
formerly known, was reorganised last month with new generals and renamed the
State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

Exiled dissidents had expressed scepticism, but said the move represented an
opportunity to restore democracy.

Bo Hla-Tint was joined by U Maung Maung, secretary-general of the Federation
of Trade Unions of Burma, in calling for continued international pressure on
the Rangoon regime.

They said they were encouraged by recent actions such as the launching of an
inquiry into Burmese labour practices by the International Labor
Organisation and the November resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly
condemning Rangoon for human rights abuses.

"We have achieved significant results this year in, getting support from the
international community," said a statement from Sein Win, prime minister of
the exiled government, known as the National Coalition Government of the
Union of Burma.

"But still, Slorc is in power and is brutalizing the people of Burma ... We
must keep up the pressure."

Burma activists said they were also encouraged by a US court ruling in
October allowing a lawsuit to proceed against oil giant Unocal for its
partnership with the Burmese government.

The suit seeks damages for the Burmese labour group and four workers on the
project - which critics say uses villagers forced to work at gun-point - and
said such actions could deny the junta important financial backing.

Terry Collingsworth of the International Labour Rights Fund and a lawyer in
the case, said the suit was based on a fundamental principle of law that
bars people or companies from profiting from criminal behaviour of their

"I'm confident that Unocal is going to pay for what they've done," he said.

Critics, of Burma's human rights record have pointed to the Yadana pipeline
- operated by Total of France and US-based Unocal - which is due to supply
natural gas to Thailand, as an example of the regime's use of force labour
and other abuses.



December 11, 1997

Rangoon, Reuters

Burma's military government has dissolved a 14-member Advisory Group made up
of members of the former ruling military body, a government official said

The official sail the Advisory Group - formed less than a month ago in a
government shake-up - had been dissolved last week.

He did not say what happened to the members of the group nor give the reason
for the dissolution.

But he said the 14 members of the group, 13 of whom are over the age of 60
and many of whom held senior military ranks no longer hold any military

The Advisory Group was formed last month in a surprise government change
which created the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and dissolved
the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) which had ruled the
country with an iron fist since seizing power in 1988.

At the time of the government change, diplomats and analysts said the
Advisory Group had been made up of former ministers and Slorc members who
were seen as corrupt, and whom the government wanted to get out of the
public eye.

Four of the country's more -prominent ministers dealing with financial
issues were removed from the Slorc and put on the Advisory Group.



December 11, 1997
Cheewin Satha-Mae Hong Son

Allegations that 'the rights of Long-neck Karens are being violated for the
tourist trade were denied by the provincial governor yesterday.

The Karens were among 30,000 Burmese who fled fighting in their country and
were not being used to draw tourists. said Phakdi Chomphooming.

His remarks followed an article headlined Prisoners in a Human Zoo in The
Time of London, which said the Karens, of the Padaung tribe, were being
exploited by Thai opportunists.

The Karens in question are living in the Ban Nam Phiangdin, Ban Huay Seuthao
and Ban Nai Soy refugee camps in Mae Hong Son.

Tourists pay 250-300 baht each to view the Long-neck Karens.

Mr Phakdi said the province would not use Padaung Karens to promote the
1998-99 Amazing Thailand campaign. "We will not use, them as our selling
point," he said.



December 10, 1997

By a Staff Reporter

EL SEGUNDO, California Unocal Corp. said it proposed a $2 billion system of
natural-gas pipelines and plants in South Asia that would link markets in
India with natural-gas supplies in which it has an interest from as far east
as Burma.

Its Project Energy Renaissance will be part of a trans-Asia network of
natural-gas pipelines. connecting resources to markets throughout the
region. the energy company said. It already has an interest in a pipeline
linking Burma's Yadana field to Thailand and is pursuing plans with other
companies to build a new pipeline linking natural-gas fields in the Gulf of
Thailand with industrial customers in northeast Thailand.



December 11  1997


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has restarted talks with
the military regime in Rangoon aimed at heading off an explosive refugee
problem in Thailand.

The commission recognises that as fighting, forced labour and poverty in
Burma continue to drive people across the border, pressures are building up
in Thailand to eject the estimated one million Burmese who "steal" Thai jobs.

Previous attempts by the UNHCR to talk to the generals in Rangoon have got
nowhere. But its regional representative, Amelia Bonafacio, said that after
last month's reshuffle the junta appeared more receptive.

Commission officials say the Burmese Government urgently needs to recognise
the refugees' fears because it is increasingly clear the Thais are
determined to reduce their numbers.

Burma's Foreign Minister, Ohn Gyaw, promised his Thai counterpart, Surin
Pitsuwan, on Tuesday that Burma would accept returnees. The regime has
previously denied the people in question are Burmese.

Mr Surin said there had been "some positive developments; a better
atmosphere" in Burma.

But human rights workers say many of the Burmese in Thailand still have
justified fears for not wanting to return.

In the past decade, many thousands of villagers crossed into Thailand
dreading the increasingly powerful Army that now rules most of the border
territory for the first time in Burmese history.

About 120,000 Burmese in official refugee camps are classified as "displaced
persons". Many more slip into the underground economy, where entrepreneurs
value their cheap labour and vulnerability.

When Thailand was enjoying an economic boom, few people worried that Burmese
were doing the dirty work in sweat shops, on building sites or in brothels.

But with the boom's collapse, even the relatively sympathetic new Government
of Chuan Leekpai feels obliged to act.

Thai police and soldiers have recently arrested opponents of the Rangoon
junta and forced terrified new arrivals back across the border.

"The regime's policy is to crush its opponents - anyone it suspects of being
a rebel is potentially under threat," one veteran aid worker said.

Ms Bonafacio said the solution ultimately depended on talks between the
junta and its opposition "easing tension in the country".



December 11  1997

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE and REUTERS in Washington and Bangkok 

The ruling military junta has changed its name but its repressive methods
continue unabated, a member of the government-in-exile said.

"Nothing has changed, only the name," said Bo Hla-Tint, the minister for
South and North American affairs at a news conference a day ahead of
International Human Rights Day.

"Violations of human rights include summary or arbitrary execution, killing
of civilians, arbitrary arrest and detention and torture."

The State Law and Order Restoration Council, as the junta was formerly
known, was reorganised last month and renamed the State Peace and
Development Council.

Exiled dissidents had expressed scepticism at the time, but said the move
was an opportunity to restore democracy to the nation.

Mr Bo Hla-Tint was joined by U Maung Maung, secretary-general of the
Federation of Trade Unions of Burma, in calling for continued international
pressure on the junta.

A group of Burmese student exiles and Buddhist monks held a peaceful protest
in front of the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok yesterday and demanded the junta
respect human rights.

The protest marked the 49th anniversary of International Human Rights Day
adopted by the UN General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948.