[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

The BurmaNet News: December 12, 199

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------     
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"     
The BurmaNet News: December 12, 1997        
Issue #890


December 12, 1997

Letter to the Editor

The Singapore government?s letter to the editor (Dec 8) again confirms the
fact that the government, through the GIC and the Myanmar Fund, was doing
business with legendary drug trafficker Lo Hsing Han of Burma.

Indeed, the rush in August to shut down the Myanmar Fund - only one aspect
of a complicated web of investments with Lo and Burma?s narco-dictatorship -
is a clear indication that something was very wrong. (As we noted in
"Singapore?s Blood Money" in the US magazine The Nation, 1.oo and his
company Asia World are under investigation by narcotics officials in several

First Secretary Laura Lee notes the charges against the GIC were first
raised in October of 1996 in SBS Australia?s television documentary
"Singapore Sling." Yet the government?s response to both the documentary and
to "Singapore?s Blood Money" a year later have failed to address the
substance of the issue.

Lee?s statement on the SDP?s refusal to set up a commission is misleading.
The leader of the opposition, Dr Chee Soon Juan - the only official in
Singapore who publicly addressed the drug issue following the release of
?Singapore Sling? - was not a member of Parliament and thus would have been
excluded from the commission. His colleagues in Parliament were afraid of
lawsuits and other repercussions. Chee had already been the target of a
government defamation suit and was forced to sell his house and borrow
heavily to avoid bankruptcy.

Chee still had the courage to speak out, but -his questions (in a letter to
prime minister and The Straits Times) remain unanswered by the ruling elite
Is Lo Hsing Han allowed to move free in and out of Singapore, for example? 

Has the government investigated the background of Ws son, Steven Law, who
has been denied a US visa on suspicion of drug trafficking Will the
government state clearly that Burma?s junta is not helping or turning a
blind eye to drug trafficking?

Furthermore, Lee?s assertion that the GIC was merely a "passive investor" is
belied by the fund?s own documents) one of which says that the GIC is a
"core shareholder" and as such has a representative on the investment
committee of the fund. "The committee Will determine whether investment
Proposals are viable and whether they should be approved for investment by
the Fund" says the 1994 document. (AS manager of the GIC since 1991, Eddie
Taw Cheng Kong was the GIC representative on the fund investment committee
until very recently. Taw was sentenced in May to nine yea" in jail and a
US$2.4 million fine for accepting bribes from companies whose shares were
purchased by the GIC.)

Nowhere did we say that the GIC?s use of Morgan Guaranty Trust Co as a
custodian was "sinister or secret". The point is that a major US institution
had business ties to a known heroin dealer. Although the Myanmar Fund is now
undergoing liquidation, these investments represented only a small part of
Singapore?s total investment in Burma. The US government has reported that
more than half Singapore?s $1 billion plus investment in Burma is tied to Lo
Hsing Han and his family.

Dennis Bernstein and Leslie Kean



December 12, 1997


BANGKOK - Relations between the European Union and Asean will be a key issue
at the informal Asean summit in Malaysia, Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan
said yesterday.

Surin said relations between the two group would be one of the main issues
on the agenda, with Asean nations keen to promote greater trade and
investment to Europe.
"We will discuss overall relations between the EU and Asean and aim at
increasing goods and investment," Surin said.

He made the comment after meeting with Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai
yesterday to prepare for the three-day summit marking the 30th anniversary
of Asean, to be held in KualaLumpur beginning on Sunday.

	Burma?s entry into Asean earlier this year risked souring ties with the
EU, which opposed Rangoon?s admittance because of the ruling junta?s human
rights record.

Asean wants Burma to be of all joint cooperation plans, but in November an
Asean-EU meeting of senior officials in Bangkok was called off because of a
dispute over Rangoon?s participation.

Surin said in Kuala Lumpur, Asean would evaluate the results of the last
Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) held in Bangkok in 1996, and prepare issues to be
discussed for the next summit to be held in London next year.

Malaysia has threatened an Asean boycott of the London summit, after Britain
said it would not grant visas to Burmese delegates.

Surin noted that another issue to be tabled at the Kuala Lumpur summit was
the development of the Mekong river basin. This encompasses Thailand and,
poorer Asean states Burma, Laos, Vietnam and also Cambodia, which has
observer status in Asean.



December 12, 1997

Marisa Chimprabha - The Nation

THAILAND and Burma have agreed to demarcate their common boundary by
dividing it into 10 sectors, according to For. 6ign Minister Surin Pitsuwan.

The work is to be carried out by a joint survey team, he said. If the team
is unable to determine where to locate boundary pillars in an area of a
sector, they will move to the next area in the sector so as not to delay the
demarcation process, Surin said on Tuesday.

Surin said the agreed solution to the demarcation of the 2,400 kilometre
Thai-Burmese border was a positive sign for bilateral relations and resulted
from excel lent cooperation.

Thailand and Burma have used different maps in negotiations on a border
agreement which has resulted in a stalemate for years.

Both countries will begin the demarcation process, which win encompass the
entire stretch of boundary from the north to the south of the two countries,
Surin said, without saying when he expected the work to be finished.

The agreement, which was the outcome of a Thai-Burmese boundary meeting in
August, came after Burma was granted full membership in the Asean grouping
in July.

Asenior Foreign Ministry source said yesterday that Burma has shown
increasingly positive signs in negotiations with Thailand since the country
become a member of Asean.

Apart from Burma, Asean comprises Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia,
Singapore, Philippines, Thailand Vietnam.

Thailand has also been negotiating unsuccessfully for years with Lao
officials on the demarcation of the Thai-Lao border The talks have achieved
nothing also due to differences in maps.

Thailand plans to provide scholarships directly to Burmese students to study
in Thailand without involving the Burmese government, Deputy Foreign
Minister Sukhumbhand Paribatra said yesterday.

Sukhumbhand said the scholarships would enable Burmese students to have the
opportunity to witness political and economic development in Thailand.

The students may enroll in the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok
which uses English as the medium of instruction In the past, Thailand
awarded scholarships on a humanitarian basis to students m Burma but through
the government, which selected the students for the programme.

Sukhumbhand said the ministry would discuss the plan in detail later but
expected it would begin soon.



December 12, 1997

But Burma might have other ideas

Thailand will press ahead for an "open society" of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations during the informal summit in Malaysia next week.

The idea is to build a social environment in which the under-privileged can
develop themselves and enjoy the full protection of the law, government
spokesman Akapol Sorasuchart said yesterday.

Thailand?s proposal was reaffirmed at yesterday?s preparatory meeting at
Government House chaired by Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai. Mr Chuan will join
other Asean leaders at the Dee 14-16 gathering.

Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi, Foreign
Minister Surin Pitsuwan, PM?s Office ministers Savit Bhotivihok and Abhisit
Vejjajiva will accompany the premier.

Foreign Ministry officials said Asean members still differ over how to
define the term "open" which will be reflected in the summit?s statement of
Asean vision toward the year 2020.

So far, Burma, Indonesia, Laos, and Vietnam were reported to be cool towards
the idea for fear of its sensitiveness and the linkage with human rights

Otherwise, relations between the European Union and Asean will be another
key issue at the meeting, according to Mr Surin.

"We will discuss how the relationship between the EU and Asean would be
developed in terms of greater trade and investment," he said.

Asean?s ties with the EU turned sour after Burma?s entry into the grouping
in July. An Asean-EU joint cooperation meeting in November in Bangkok was
called off after the EU opposed Burma?s participation due to the ruling
junta?s poor human rights record.

Asean leaders will also evaluate the result of the 25-nation Asia-Europe
Summit in 1996 before the second meeting is held next April in London.

Mr Chuan will emphasise economic and technical cooperation between the two
regions and promote developing small and medium enterprises when he
discusses the matter with other Asean leaders, Mr Akapol said.

During the gathering, which also sees the participation of China, Japan and
South Korea, Thailand will retain Asean?s plan to ask for financial support
of the three nations in developing rail links between Asean and the Mekong
sub-region, he said.



December 12, 1997

Disputed boundary again to be discussed

Bhanravee Tansubhapol

Deputy Foreign Minister Sukhumbhand Paribatra will today inspect
Thai-Burmese border trade and look into the borderline dispute in Tak?s Mae
Sot district.

M.R. Sukhumbhand, accompanied by the House Committee on foreign affairs,
military officials and the Democrat MP and legal expert Preecha Suwannathat,
will discuss trade with local businessmen and visit Myawaddy in Burma,
opposite Mae Sot district.

Burmese authorities recently suspended imports of Thai goods in a bid to
improve their tariff collection system and prevent smuggling. The move came
after Burma reshuffled its cabinet last month as part of an attempt to
tackle corruption. 	

Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan said on Tuesday that his Burmese
counterpart, Ohn Gyaw, would try and resolve the issue through new Burmese
Trade Minister Maj Gen Kyaw Than.

"The Burmese still support border trade and want to try and bring it under
control," Ohn Gyaw was quoted as saying at a Joint Commission meeting in

M.R. Sukhumbhand said he would inspect a disputed, islet known as Wat
Phrathat Khok Chang Phuak in the Moei River ahead of negotiations with the

Thai and Burmese troops almost clashed in May over the -site,? where Rangoon
claimed it lost considerable territory following-heavy flooding in 1994.

The two countries disagree about which map should be used for border




December 12, 1997

RANGOON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Burma?s military government has sentenced seven
members of Aung San Suu Kyi?s National League for Democracy (NLD) to long
prison terms, a government statement said on Wednesday. 

The statement said seven NLD members, including two who were elected as
members of parliament for the NLD in an annulled 1990 election, were
sentenced on Tuesday. 

It said they were charged under section 5 (J) of the Emergency Act of 1950.
The statement said the section deals with any act seen as disturbing the
public or law and order. 

"The court found the accused six persons guilty of Section 5 (J) of the
Emergency Act of 1950 and U Khin Maung Myint of both Section 5 (J)...and
Section 16 (A) of the 1986 Gambling Act,?? it said, without giving further

A second statement said the six were sentenced to six-year terms, and King
Maung Myint to eight years. 

The seven charged men and women and one other woman _ Daw San San ? were
detained last month in connection with organisational trips planned by Suu
Kyi to NLD offices in townships on the outskirts of Rangoon. 

The statement did not say what happened to San San. 

One of the meetings was allowed to take place, but the former ruling State
Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) stopped several others.
Club-wielding officers pushed away supporters, set up barricades and trucked
away dozens of NLD members and supporters to prevent the meetings from
taking place. 

The NLD has issued statements accusing the State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC), which replaced SLORC after a sudden reshuffle last month, of
preventing the detained NLD members of being represented by lawyers.  

"Authorities brazenly violated the law by continuing the hearings without
allowing the lawyers to plead and family members to meet the detainees,??
said an NLD statement issued on Tuesday, which was thought to be the third
and final day of hearings of the accused. 

One of the elected NLD officials charged to six years was Dr Than Nyein, who
is also Deputy Chairman of the Rangoon Division NLD Organising Committee. He
is the brother-in-law of the powerful Secretary One of the SPDC, Lieutenant-
General Khin Nyunt. 

NLD officials were not immediately available to comment. 

The NLD won more than 80 percent of the seats in the 1990 election but the
SLORC, which seized power in 1988 to quell pro-democracy protests, refused
to recognise the results. 



December 12  1997


Authorities have dissolved the 14-member Advisory Group to the ruling junta,
one month after it was formed in a major shake-up of the regime, a senior
official says.

It comprised generals and Cabinet ministers who were ousted from the top
echelons of the Government when a new junta, the State Peace and Development
Council, was formed last month.

"The Advisory Group has been dissolved because it is no longer required,"
the official said, without further explanation.

It was unclear what would happen to the members of the group, some of whom
are believed to be under investigation for alleged corruption.

Analysts said it was clear that the group was formed as top generals moved
to sideline senior figures in the former junta, the State Law and Order
Restoration Council.

However, they were surprised the group was dissolved so soon after its
formation on November 15, and that the latest move had not been formally

The establishment of the new junta was viewed in Burma as a bid to improve
the tainted image of the old one, streamline the chain of command and crack
down on graft.

Officials confirmed that investigations into corruption in several
ministries were under way.


December 18,1997

Bertil Lintner

This is Johnny Htoo," Sa Kai Klo, a middle-aged Karen refugee, says
Tsolemnly as he displays a picture of a nine-year-old boy. With a
mischievous smile and a bag of candy in his hands, Johnny looks like any
other child his age. Only his camouflage fatigues hint at his real identity:
Together with his twin brother, Rocky, he is the commander of Burma?s newest
insurgent army, the Kersay Doh, or Soldiers of God?s Holy Mountain.

Led by the Htoo twins, the force has grown rapidly since it was founded in
the beginning of the year to become the hardest-hitting rebel movement among
the Karen ethnic minority in Burma?s eastern mountains, which run along the
border with Thailand. Among the thousands of Karen civilians, who have fled
decades of civil war and now live in camps in Kanchanaburi and other Thai
border provinces, Johnny has already become a legend. "All the villagers in
the Kersay Doh area believe in Johnny. His soldiers are fearless," says
Robert Htwe, a Karen pastor.

Few have seen Johnny-or Rocky-although the twins are said to come to the
border occasionally to visit their mother, who lives in a camp. Mostly,
Johnny travels in the jungles of south-eastern Burma, protected by his
men-and the supernatural powers many Karen believe he wields. "His real
strength lies in his ability to make himself invisible," says Sa Kai Klo.
"The enemy is afraid of him."

This seemingly bizarre tale is on almost everybody?s lips in the refugee
camps strung along the Thai side of the border. It underlines the tragedy of
modern Karen history, the desperate desire of a small people to survive
against increasingly dire odds. "In times of crises, the Karen have often
produced Messianic fig. Johnny Htoo-and his 500-man army equipped with
automatic assault rifles-is only a modern version of the old myth of the
saviour with magic powers," says a Western missionary who has spent years
working among the Karen of the Thai-Burma border.

Many of the Karen are Christians, and thus familiar with the concept of a
messiah. But animist Karen folklore is also full of such characters. The
Johnny Htoo cult melds old myths with elements of Christianity, and the
resulting mix seems to make him a compelling icon for both Christian and
animist alike.

"This is actually not a new thing," says Wright Dee, a Karen church worker,
96especially in the Kersay Doh area." Theodore Stern, a professor of
anthropology at the University of Oregon, noted in a study in 1968 that many
Karen believe in a "divinely sent deliverer" whenever times seem hard and cruel.

Johnny?s transformation into a messiah started 10 months ago when he began
to have visions. An inner voice told him to tell the Karen that they had to
repent; stop lying, drinking, stealing and womanizing. Johnny expressed
himself so directly and with such assurance that his words seemed to come
from someone much older and wiser than a nine-year-old with a weakness for

It didn?t hurt that the boy?s visions also came at a time when the Karen
rebels who for decades had controlled a large section of the Thai-Burmese
frontier were in disarray. The fighters of the Karen National Union, the
main guerrilla group, were reeling under attacks from Burmese government
forces. The KNU?s allies from other ethnic groups were deserting them,
morale was at rock bottom and defections were rising.

Then, Johnny told KNU fighters in his home village across the border from
Kanchanaburi that they should attack a government outpost on a certain day.
"They won?t be expecting any attack at this time," Johnny said, according to
refugees along the border. The guerrillas attacked successfully, overrunning
the outpost. Immediately, KNU soldiers began to defect to Johnny. Encouraged
by the mystique surrounding the child-prophet and his twin, Johnny?s
soldiers began to rack up victories.

Johnny?s growing circle of followers are forbidden from eating pork and
eggs; no women are allowed in their midst when they go on the offensive; and
their discipline is said to be remarkable. They apparently feel confident
when they go into battle: Johnny has promised that he can call on aid from
spirit warriors, who will come down from the holy mountain if defeat is

The KNU is careful to refer to Johnny?s men as "allies" so as not to offend
local sentiment. But privately its leaders view the defection of their
soldiers with apprehension. Not all Karen have faith in visions and magic
powers, either. "This is nonsense," says a Karen guerrilla veteran, now a
refugee in Thailand. "It only reflects the desperate state of our movement

How long Johnny Htoo?s revivalist movement will survive is an open question.
Western missionaries say the Karen accept this kind of prophet as easily as
they turn away from them when their "powers" have waned. But for the moment,
as Karen rebel forces are brought to their knees and the Burmese army
forcibly relocates hundreds of villagers, many Karen evidently believe that
supernatural intervention may be their only hope.