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NEWS IN BURMA
WHAT'S NEW, WHAT'S NEWS IN BURMA
December 5, 1997
ECONOMY DECLINES RAPIDLY
There are signs that the failing economy is rapidly nose-diving to new lows
in Burma. The leaders of the SPDC are too busy coping with the fall-out
from the latest purge of the SLORC and it seems like no one is control of
the situation or knows how to stop the decline.
The US dollar note is now valued at 310 kyat whereas Foreign Exchange
Certificates (FEC) printed by the SPDC/SLORC fetch around 295 kyat per
dollar. Because it is legal for the people to possess FEC's and illegal to
hold US currency notes, the FEC's have always been rated higher. The
latest decline in the value of the FEC's, which are being mass-produced by
the authorities, indicates that the people are losing faith in its worth.
BOYCOTT PLANNED BY BUS OPERATORS
Bus operators in Rangoon proper have declared December 8 a day of protest.
Unless the authorities intervened, no buses will run on Rangoon streets on
The protest is the result of rising prices of gasoline and diesel oil - 250
kyat and 300 kyat per gallon, respectively -- and the SPDC has refused to
let the bus operators raise the fare.
Previously gasoline prices had been soaring because each car owner was
given an insufficient daily quota at a controlled price and the rationing
paved way for a thriving blackmarket. To cope with it, the generals did
away with the quota system, raised their price to 180 kyat and flooded the
market with gasoline. This stabilized the price and brought an end to the
blackmarket. Now that the generals can no longer provide enough gasoline
to meet the needs, the price has soared again.
The four top generals in the SLORC, who controlled the Army and the
Intelligence units, blame the other SLORC members for all the socioeconomic
problems in the country. They have rightfully charged the others of
corruption. At last report, Tun Kyi, Myint Aung, Kyaw Ba, Thein Win, Chit
Swe, Sein Aung and Maung Hla are all in prison and under investigation.
The personal aide of Tun Kyi, Captain Aung Min Naing, is said to have died
in prison. The official version of the death is suicide.
All personal aides and senior staff members of the now imprisoned generals
are being questioned. This include the directors general of the
departments that the former ministers were in charge of.
Colonel Kyaw Win, secretary of the Rangoon City Municipal, was arrested on
December 3. Many arrests are expected to follow.
In the meantime, many political detainees from the Insein Prison annex,
including 50 women detainees, were moved to Tharrawaddy, Myingyan and
Toungoo jails. The prison, observers say, are being cleared for the
disgraced generals and associates.
It has always been the practice of the stronger generals to use corruption
as an excuse to dismiss their weaker rivals. The fact remains that no one
is free from corruption. After all, no general can survive on the official
salary he gets.
OF EQUAL POWER
There can be no doubts about who the winner is in this round of power
struggle, and Khin Nyunt is making it known to everyone.
Whenever foreign dignitaries are received, Maung Aye, the second man in the
hierarchy, sits in the center at the head of the two rows of tables - with
one side reserved for the guests and the other for the other generals.
News photos carried by the military-run Press these days show Maung Aye and
Khin Nyunt sharing a sofa at the center stage with the generals and the
guests lining each side.