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/* Written 3 Dec 11:00am 1997 by drunoo@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.burma */
/* -------------" Letter from DFAT/Sen. Schacht "------------- */

Following is the communication from Australian Department of
Foreign Affairs in regards to the Australian Government's
activities on Burma. It has been the case that current
Australian Government(Conservative Coalition), generally, is not
praised well for the lack of enthusiasm in regional diplomacy.
Notwithstanding such Government's pre-occupations with domestic
agendas, the Department of Foreign Affairs being able to do
whatever it can to help Burma democracy movement. This in no
doubt is as a result of lobbying efforts by our pro-democracy
groups and supporters in Australia. My special thanks goes to
the people of Stirling (Adelaide, South Australia) who in the
past year have made every effort to raise Burma concerns with
their Member of Parliament-Elect: The Hon. Alexander Downer.

The letter mention something about the further study for
Burmese refugees in Thailand. I certainly have made enquiries
about the program at the local AusAID office. Nothing concrete
was told, but it said a small program (English Language ?)
currently running in Thailand. The program seems likely to be
an extension of the existing program. Wouldn't that be nice if
a few more activist-students joining BurmaNet in the future?

With best regards, U Ne Oo.

22 October 1997

Dr U Ne Oo
18 Shannon Place

Dear Dr U Ne Oo

Thank you for your letter of 14 October 1997 to the Minister for
Foreign Affairs expressing concern about the political and human
rights situation in Burma. Mr Downer has asked me to reply on
his behalf.

Mr Downer fully shares your concern about the abysmal human
rights situation in Burma and the failure of the SLORC to make
progress towards the restoration of democratic government. The
Government has in place many restrictions on our dealings with
the SLORC, including the suspension of government-to-government
development assistance and a ban on defence exports. We have a
policy of neither encouraging nor discouraging  trade and
investment with Burma. We have made our concerns on these issues
clear to the SLORC on a number of occasions and we will continue
to do so. Mr Downer has repeatedly called on the Government of
Burma to open a genuine process leading to political reform
involving all the main players - the SLORC, leaders of political
parties represented in the election and representatives of the
ethnic minorities. Most recently, at the UN General Assembly in
early October and at the ASEAN meeting in Kuala Lumpur in late
July, Mr Downer raised human rights issues with Burmese Foreign
Minister Ohn Gyaw and urged the SLORC to build on its tentative
contact with the National League for Democracy (NLD) over recent

The Government has also devoted much effort to Burma in our
regional and multilateral diplomacy. In particular, we have
urged ASEAN countries to use their new relationship with
Burmese leaders to encourage change in Burma and an improvement
in the human rights situation there. Mr Downer has taken every
possible opportunity to raise the Australian Government's
concerns about the situation in Burma in international fora,
most recently at the United Nations General Assembly, the ASEAN
PMC, the ASEAN Regional Forum and in his meetings with ASEAN and
other Foreign Ministers in the margins of these meetings. While
we will work with Burma within ASEAN, we will continue to make
known bilaterally to the Burmese Government our concerns about
developments in Burma. Similarly, in multilateral fora, such as
the United Nations General Assembly and the Commission on Human
Rights, we have worked, and will continue to work, with other
like-minded countries to produce tough consensus resolutions on
Burma. Be assured, Australia will once again be working towards
a credible and strong resolution on Burma wihicn we can
co-sponsor at this year's General Assembly.

The Government also shares your particular concern about the
safety of ethnic minorities living astride the Thai-Burma
border. In mid-February this year Mr Downer deplored attacks on
the refugee camps on the Thai side and called on the Burmese
Government to ensure that no further attacks occurred. Our
Embassies in Bangkok and Rangoon also made representations on
this issue at the time. We understand that some Karen refugees
were repatriated from Thai areas near Kanchnaburi in February
but returned to areas in Burma well south of the fighting zone.
During the subsequent visit to Australia in late February, Thai
Foreign Minister Prachuab, gave reassurances that no one would
be repatriated involuntarily and these have recently been
reiterated to us by Thai officials. Along with other members of
the international community, the Australian Government will
continue to seek assurances from the Thai government that
temporary sanctuary will continue to be extended to civilian
Karen and other refugees as long as it is unsafe for then to
return to Burma.

Reflecting the Government's on-going strong interest in this
issue, in September Mr Downer instructed senior officials from
our Embassy in Bangkok to once again travel to a widely
representative group of border camps to observe first-hand the
current situation facing Karen and other ethnic minority peoples
living there. There they spoke to representatives of the
Karenni, Karen and Shan, to Thai officials and to NGOs involved
in looking after these camps. their conclusions were that while
some anecdotal evidence of forced repatriation continues,
international attention and visits to the camps by foreign
observers have had a salutary effect on local officials and
policy. As a result, the displaced people involved now feel less
likely to be forcibly repatriated than before. At the same time,
although conditions in many of the camps are comparatively good
by international standards, there is scope for improvement,
particularly in those camps in the South.

With this in mind, we will continue to do what we can to improve
the material conditions of refugees living in these camps. In
March this year Mr Downer announced the grant of an additional
$1.3 million in humanitarian relief for the welfare of the Karen
refugees. Further to this, you will be pleased to hear that
AusAID is currently working with an Australian Non-Government
Organisation to develop a distance education program for
refugees from Burma still living in camps on the Thai/Burma
border. This program, which is expected to commence in 1998,
will provide up to 200 Burmese refugees access to higher
education in Australia.

Because Mr Downer shares your frustration with the lack of
progress in Burma, he continues to look for practical and
creative ways to bring about democracy and greater respect for
human rights there. In this context, he recently sent a senior
official of his department (Mr John Dauth) as his Special Envoy
to Rangoon from 10-14 September to follow up on his discussions
with Burmese foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw at the ASEAN meeting.
Specifically, he asked Mr Dauth to find out directly from the
SLORC at as high a level as possible what it proposes to do
about taking forward the process of political reform in two key
areas: a roadmap for constitutional reform and serious intent to
engage with the NLD. Mr Downer also asked Mr Dauth to tell the
Burmese Government that we looked to them to make tangible
progress towards democratic institutions and the better
observance on human rights so that they might in future have
more normal relations with Australian and other countries.

In Rangoon, Mr Dauth was able to deliver Mr Downer's message to
a range of senior members of the Government, notably, one of the
top four leaders of the regime, Secretary-1 of the State Law and
Order Restoration Council (SLORC), Lt-Khin Nyunt, but also five
other key ministers, including those responsible for Home
Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Border Areas/National Races and
Development Affairs, Forestry and national Planning and Economic
Development. Mr Dauth also met the Attorney General, Chief
Justice and a range of very senior officials. the visit allowed
him to raise the Australian Government's concerns about the
human rights situation in Burma directly with the key players
responsible for these policies. It was therefore the best
opportunity Australia has ever had to register our concerns
directly with the SLORC. Mr Dauth came away with no doubt that
the Burmese understand the direction in which we want them to
move. Throughout this process, we have stayed in close touch
with the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy
(NLD), Daw Aung San Suu KYi and we will continue to inform and
consult her about our Burma policy.

Since Mr Dauth's visit, Mr Downer has publicly welcomed the
decision of the SLORC to allow the NLD to hold a Congress on
27-28 September, the ninth anniversary of the formation of the
NLD in 1988. He has acknowledged it as a definite step forward
since three provious attempts by the NLD to meet since May last
year were prevented or hindered. At the same time, he noted that
we should not forget that this concession takes place against a
background of continuing restrictions on the party's activity
over the past year and a half. In this context he called on the
SLORC to build on this setp to bring about national

While it is still too early to say one way or the other what
will come to this contact, Mr Downer believes we owe it to the
Burmese people to remain alive to creative ways to encourage
reform and reconciliation in that country.

Yours sincerely
Sd. Jon Philp
Acting Assistant Secretary
Mainland South East Asia Branch



Dr U Ne Oo
18 Shannon Place

Dear Dr U Ne Oo

Thank you for your letter of 14 October 1997, enclosing the
report "BURMA: On the road to peace" and a letter to HE Mr
Nennadiy Udovenko. I read both of them with interest.

Thank you keeping me informed on this important issue.

YOurs sincerely
Sd. Chris Schacht
Labor Senator for South Australia

/* Endreport */