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The BurmaNet News, December 16, 199

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------     
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"     
The BurmaNet News: December 16, 1997        
Issue #892



December 14, 1997

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
met the leader of Burma's military government on Sunday and conveyed concern
over the situation in that country, Malaysia's foreign minister said. 

Mahathir met Senior General Than Shwe, chairman of the State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC) and Burma's prime minister, ahead of a summit of
Asian nations in the Malaysian capital. 

Malaysian Foreign Minister Abdullah Badawi told reporters the Burmese
general informed Mahathir of recent changes affecting the government in

"These changes are intended to give the government greater capacity for
development, increase the pace of development in Myanmar (Burma)," Abdullah

Last month the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), which had
ruled the country with an iron fist since seizing power in 1988, was
dissolved as part of a surprise government change that led to the creation
of the SPDC. 

Abdullah said Mahathir expressed his views on the situation in Burma to Than

"It has always been our principle not to interfere in the internal affairs
of other countries, but he (Mahathir) did express the view,...this
expression of concern about the Myanmar situation (expressed) by other
leaders with whom we have met," Abdullah said. 

"I think that's the part that I would describe as constructive engagement,"
the foreign minister said without elaborating. 

Than Shwe said in a statement after arriving in the Malaysian capital on
Saturday that his presence at the three-day summit starting later on Sunday
showed Burma's commitment to work with ASEAN in all activities. 

Burma was admitted to ASEAN last July along with Laos. 

"It also demonstrates Myanmar's commitment to the common pledge to live
together in peace and harmony in the family of nations in Southeast Asia and
in Asia in which the countries in the region commit themselves to work
together in the interest of the whole region," he said. 

The Asian leaders were expected to discuss a planned summit with the
European Union set for next April in London, delegates said. 

A meeting set for last month between the EU and ASEAN member states was
postponed because of disagreement over Burma, which has been criticised by
the West for human rights abuses and for curbing political activities of the
opposition led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. 

ASEAN insisted that Burma be represented at the meeting, but the EU, which
has suspended all high-level contacts with Burma, refused. 

Abdullah said there was no "automatic membership" for the Asia-Europe
Meeting (ASEM), which includes not only some countries from ASEAN but also
China, Japan and South Korea. 

"But at the ASEAN-EU bilateral meeting, our concern is that all ASEAN
members be included," he said. 



December 14, 1997

Letter to the Editor

We are a group of people in England comprised of different ages, sexes and
professions who are working for the release of Dr Aung Khin Sint who is
serving a 20-year prison sentence in Burma for entirely peaceful political

Aung Khin Sint is a medical doctor, specialising in the treatment of
tuberculosis and an elected member of parliament for the National League for
Democracy. We believe that at the moment he is in hospital, although we have
received no replies from the authorities to our queries. However, we
continue to write letters and try to publicise what we consider is a great
injustice in every way we can.

As Burma celebrates its National Day on Jan 4 we believe there will be
people in your country who will be concerned that a respected doctor and an
elected member of parliament is imprisoned in an Asean country for peaceful
expression of his political views.

H Henderson (and 13 friends)


December 14, 1997



Burma's number two opposition figure yesterday denied a military junta claim
that he had resigned from J his post over a dispute with National League for
Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi. 
NLD vice chairman Kyi Maung, while denying Friday's reports that he had
quit, said he would make efforts to lighten his duties as he was growing old. 
"I have however decided to stay home and rest up a bit because
 I'm. getting easily tired nowadays," Kyi Maung, 79, said
"I shall be attending as few of the NLD functions as possible, including the
regular CEC (Central  Executive  Committee) meetings," he said. "I get out
of breath after walking for only a few minutes," he added.
Kyi Maung, known for his straight talking style, stressed he had no
intention to resign, but that he had  requested his responsibilities be reduced.
Burma's  military  government on Friday said that Kyi  Maung one of Aung San
Suu  Kyi's top aides, had resigned over the  Nobel Peace Prize laureate's
"confrontational" style.
The Burmese military junta's official information sheet reported he had
resigned due to a "conflict of attitudes" with Aung San Suu Kyi over her
"insistence on a deliberate and confrontational stance against the government".
The junta's  speculation on Kyi Maung's alleged resignation appeared to be
based on his recent absence from NLD central executive committee meetings at
the residence of Aung San Suu Kyi, observers said.

December 14, 1997


Agriculture Minister Pongpol  Adireksarn proposed yesterday that to prevent
further destruction of Thailand's forests along the Thai-Burma border,
Burmese refugees in the area should be repatriated.
The agriculture minister made the remark while making an inspection trip to
get a first-hand account and find measures to stem illegal logging along the
common border with Burma and in the Salween Natinnal Park.
Mr Pongpol, the Saraburi MP, said around 20,000 people from Burma have taken
refuge along the border area and all should be repatriated because they are
involved in illegal logging.
He added that he had also asked the Third Army to coordinate with Burmese
authorities in a joint effort along the Salween River to suppress illegal
The agriculture minister said the ministry had- cooperated with all
government agencies, especially the army, to suppress illegal logging.
The Third Army in September sent in troops into the Salween National Park to
catch illegal loggers and they seized over 2,000 logs and a large quantity
of processed wood, worth millions of baht.
Pol Gen Salang Bunnag, who heads a task force suppressing illegal logging
countrywide, proposed the idea that all border checkpoints in the province
be closed to curb illegal logging in the province.
The police officer said most logging seized in the area were all cut on Thai
soil and not in Burma as widely believed. Attempts were made to open the
border so that the logs cut in Thailand could be legally "imported" in to
the country as Burmese logs.
"If we don't allow the border to open it could stem illegal logging," added
Pol Gen Salang.



December 14, 1997 

Human Rights Day has come and gone with little fanfare. In these worrying
economic times, it may be hard to give human rights the attention they
deserve, but compassion and sympathy are commodities that happen to be free.
Who has the right to defend people with no rights?
Who has the right to determine who deserves rights?
Who has the right to criticise a government that claims it is merely doing
its best to salvage the economy for the good of all citizens, even if in the
short run,. some of those citizens must be denied their rights?
The answer that each and every one of us have all these rights is
unfortunately not obvious to all people and all governments.
International Human Rights Day was commemorated across Asia this week with
the customary smattering of press releases and demonstrations.
At the same time, the baht floated on jobs were lost, investors worried,
accountants speculated, environmentalists and politicians haggled over
greenhouse gas emissions, Islamic states debated just how different they
want to be from the Christian West, and the members of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) watched one another's currency to see what
might happen next.
Asean: politically and culturally diverse, yet a financial powerhouse, its
nine members plus Cambodia-in-waiting the focus of so much greed and envy
around the world, a team to be reckoned with by all accounts;
Malaysia and the Philippines: soon to change leadership yet strongly
resistant to real change; Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei, virtual political
monopolies; Vietnam and Laos, genuine Marxist monopolies; Thailand, yet
another precarious coalition despite rare and real progress.
And Burma? "Nothing has changed," said the government in-exile's Bo Hla-Tint
this week. Only the ruling military junta's name.

"Summary or arbitrary execution, the killing of civilians, arbitrary arrest
and detention and torture." House arrest for a Nobel Peace Prize laureate,
imprisonment for her followers, the clear victors in their country's last
In Vietnam on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch/Asia cited w violent
anti-government rural unrest in the north and south in asking foreign
investors to be wary of what they are financing.
In the Philippines, President Fidel Ramos was personally assailed by the
organisers of a march that drew thousands of people fed up with rights abuses.
In Indonesia, nearly 300 formal complaints of human rights atrocities were
filed with a special international commission looking into East Timor's woes.
Outside of Asean, Hong Kong's beleaguered Democrats bemoaned their
post-colonial fate, deliberately blackening the territory's flag, but for
the white-paint  teardrops.
In Cambodia, Hun Sen warmly greeted an "advance party" of exiled political
foes even as United Nations investigators were exhuming the corpses of their
former comrades, slain in the wake of the unelected prime minister's July coup.
Asian solidarity is extremely important if the economy is to not just
rebound but forge ahead, but again, everyone must ask themselves, at what
cost? At a cost of being economic with the truth? Stingy with civil
liberties? Tight-fisted with human dignity?
These are hard times for everyone in the Asian partnership, harder still for
those downtrodden by their governments, hardest of all for those. who cannot
enjoy fundamental human rights, nor even the compassion and assistance of
their neighbours.


December 14, 1997

Expulsion depends on court's decision

Cheewin Sattha, Mae Hong Son

A 11 32 long-neck Karens in Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district will be sent back
to Mae Hong Son or repatriated to Burma if the court rules in favour of
provincial authorities.

Chiang Mai governor Phalakorn Suwannarat said provincial officials were
acting against all 32 Padaung Karens living at Thanabamrungkij Farm in
Tambon Tha Ton after discovering that farm manager Rakkiat Siriwilai had
been collecting 250 baht from tourists wanting to see them.

The Karens will be sent back to Mae Hong Son if the Fang Provincial Court
rules they left restricted areas in the province illegally or sent back to
Burma if they are found to be illegal immigrants.

Mr Phalakorn said the, province was not in favour of long-neck Karens being
used as a tourist attraction. 

Mae Hong Son governor Phakdi Chomphooming said provincial officials had
asked the Chiang Mai governor to take, action after receiving complaints
that the Karen refugees had been abducted from a shelter in Muang Mae Hong
Son district.

"I have no desire to use the long-neck Karens to boost tourism in the
province. I have already explained this issue to the consuls of nine
countries posted in Chiang Mai and invited them to visit the temporary
shelters for Burmese war refugees here," he said.

The use of long-neck Karens is said by some to have occurred thanks to the
support of some low and high-level provincial officials who thought the
Karens would attract tourists to Mae Hong Son, said Mr Phakdi.



December 15, 1997

Kavi Chongidttavom traces the 30-year history of Asean summits and important
decisions made during the high-level meetings.

The formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) was a
turning point in Southeast Asian history.

Founding members Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the
Philippines signed the Bangkok Declaration in 1967. Brunei joined the
grouping one week after it gained independence m January 1984 and Vietnam
joined in July 1995. Both Laos and, Burma were admitted to Asean in July of
this year.

In the 1967 declaration, Asean foreign ministers agreed to improve
intra-regional cooperation, work towards regional stability and promote
mutual understanding.
It took nine years after the birth of Asean for its leaders to meet for the
first time in Bali, Indonesia in February 1976, less than a year after the
fall of Saigon. Between 1967 and 1975 nothing much happened with the
grouping, the first decade of its existence serving as a period for members
to get acquainted with one another.

The first summit was a meeting of minds. Two important documents were signed
- the Declaration of Asean Concord and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation
in Southeast Asia. The first one laid down the framework for political,
economic and functional cooperation. It was at this time that the economic
ministerial meeting was introduced. This meeting has become one of the most
widely recognised regional forums for establishing codes of diplomatic conduct.
At Bali, former prime minister Kukrit Pramoj joined other Asean leaders in
adopting a neutrality policy and setting a common objective of establishing
the zone of peace, freedom and neutrality in Southeast Asia. It was also the
year that Asean leaders decided to set up the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta
to handle the increasing workload of grouping activities.	

A year later, a second summit was held in Kuala Lumpur. Leaders from
Australia, Japan and New Zealand were invited to attend the meeting and hold
dialogues with Asean leaders, s~ a precedent that would be followed some two
decades later. It was the first time Japan set forth its framework for how
it would like to conduct relations with Asean. Former Japanese prime
minister Fukuda gave Asean US$1 billion to help build large-scale industrial

Another decade elapsed before Asean leaders met for the third time in Manila
in 1987. This summit, more than anything, was a symbolic gesture of support
for then-Philippine president Corazon Aquino, who was striving to keep her
democratic government together. It also took courage for the leaders,
especially President Suharto, to go ahead with the summit amid threats to
disrupt the summit coming from the rebellious Philippine armed forces.
Thailand was represented by elder statesman Prem Tinsulanonda.

That year, increasing protectionist moves by the West prompted Asean members
to scrutinise their own economies and forge closer economic ties. The summit
gave great impetus to industrial cooperation among member countries.

By the time Asean leaders met in Singapore in 1992 for their fourth summit,
the grouping was ready to push for more radical economic cooperation. Prime
Minister Anand Panyarachun Proposed the idea of the Asean Free Trade Area
(Afta), Which received the unanimous support of other member countries.
Subsequently. the Afta time-frame has been pushed forward and member
countries have agreed- to completely implement it by 2003. New Asean members
Vietnam, Laos and Burma have a 10-year grace period to implement Afta measures.

With the Cold War over, the Singapore summit also-decided to engage in
political dialogues with major powers in an effort to create a new regional

The leaders of all 10 Southeast Asian countries attended the fifth summit in
Bangkok in 1995, marking the first time that the vision of the Asean
founding fathers to see all of Southeast Asia under One roof was nearly
fulfilled. Asean leaders signed the Treaty of the Southeast Asia Nuclear
weapons Free Zone. They also agreed to hold an informal summit every Year
and -a formal one every three years.

Mekong River basin development projects, long spearheaded by Thailand, were
discussed and included in the Asean cooperation framework.

Last November, Jakarta hosted the first informal summit. where it was
decided that Laos, Cambodia and, Burma - the last three Southeast Asian
countries not yet in Asean - would be admitted simultaneously- Leaders from
these three countries were invited to attended the summit. Deputy Prime
Minister Amnuay Veeravan represented Thailand Laos and Burma despite the
latter's poor standing with the West, were admitted as scheduled this year,
but Cambodia's internal problems led Asean leaders to delay its admission.

In Jakarta, Asean leaders agreed to write a comprehensive mission statement
to be known as Asean Vision 2020 and establish the Asean Foundation to
promote people-to-people networking and mutual understanding.

Tomorrow's summit will follow up on decisions made in Jakarta a year ago.
These decisions included boosting cooperation to prevent money laundering
and cross-border crime, among other things.

As they did at the 1977 summit, Asean leaders have invited three guests of
honour to attend this year's meeting. This time, however, they are all from
Asia - Chinese Prime Minister Jiang Zen-lin, Japanese Prime minister Ryutaro
Haslumoto and South Korean leader Kim Young-sam.

Although Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai has met other Asean leaders on three
occasions at Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meetings - in Seattle
(1993), Bogor (1994) and last month in Vancouver - the premier will be
attending his first Asean informal summit.



December 15, 1997

Kavi Chongkittavorn

KUALA LUMPUR - Burma has officially applied to join the Asia-Europe Meeting
(Asean), a move which could drive a deeper wedge between Asean and the
European Union (EU). 

The letter of application was sent last week to Thailand, as coordinator of
Asean-EU relations and of the Asem. Thailand informed senior officials of
the Association Of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), who will take up the
issue of membership early next year.

A senior Foreign Minis Laos is also planning apply for membership of Aseam
in the near future, but is waiting for Asean support first.

The second Asem win be held in London in early April next year. The Burmese
application posts a direct challenge to the current EU visa ban on Burmese

Asean and the EU indefinitely postponed a joint committee meeting last month
after they failed to agree on the presence of Burma. The two sides have yet
to discuss way to mend their relationship.

Laos and Burma's membership Of Asem must be approved by consensus, but it
had not been decided whether each side can reach a consensus on its makeup
separately, or if it must be a joint agreement.

Obviously, the first would permit the Asian side to increase its membership
currently 10, and the second would allow the 15 European members to block
Burmese membership.

At a recent meeting, Thai officials said the EU has made "cross border "
reference in supporting India's membership of Asem. Britain was the first
country to back India's bid. Also on the waiting list are Pakistan,
Australia, New Zealand, Russia and countries in eastern Europe.
With the official application by Burma, Asem members have to deliberate the
issue of expansion again next year. At the first Asem in March last year,
member countries agreed to deepen and consolidate the organisation before
taking m new members.

Since the situation in Burma was first raised in 1991 by the EU during a
meeting with Asean in Luxembourg, it has become an albatross in their
bilateral relations.

The Burmese government, now with the new name the State Peace and
Development Council, is moving fast to integrate with the region's economy
even though progress has not yet been made on the issues of human rights and

However, Agence France-Press reported, Malaysia yesterday backed down from
its earlier insistence that Burma be allowed to attend the London Asem.

 "It is not a region-to-region kind of meeting. It is not an Asean-Europe
meeting," Foreign Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said at a news conference.
0Ihere is therefore no automatic membership, especially for, Myanmar [Burma]." 

But for meetings between Asean and the EU, "our stand is very clear,' he
said. "In this matter, all Asean members are involved."

Asean admitted Burma in July, despite protests from several Western
countries and the EU pointing to the poor human rights record of the Burmese

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sparked a furore in September when
he said Asean may boycott next year's summit if Burma is barred.

Mahathir, who boycotted an Asia-Pacific summit in the United States in 1993,
said that any discrimination against Burma would amount to discrimination
against Asean.

But British officials ruled out Burmese attendance due to EU sanctions,
which deny visas to officials from Burma.
Other Asean members had maintained that Asean membership did not
automatically qualify a country to join the Asia-Europe summit because
countries take part on an individual basis, not as a regional grouping.



December 15, 1997


The United Nations and concerned countries have endorsed a serious new
effort to combat drug production. The UN Drug Control Programme will lead a
massive attempt which focuses on crop replacement and other help to farmers.
The goal is to end commercial opium and coca production in 10 years.

The fight against drugs has focused for the past 20 years on ringleaders and
warlords around the world. It has been a battle with little satisfaction and
probably fewer actual gains. In Burma, Lo Hsing-han was eliminated as the
opium warlord, but Khun Sa replaced him and widened the heroin markets
worldwide. In Colombia, police finally tracked down Pablo Escobar. Since his
death, Mexican drug peddlers have proved to be more vicious and more
efficient than Escobar.

The attention has been largely concentrated on the so-called Mr Bigs of the
trade, and on the drug addicts who are the victims or the accomplices of the
criminals depending on you r point of view. Except in a remarkably few
cases, the true victims of drug dealers have been largely ignored. They are
the farmers, who grow the opium and coca that is turned into billions of
dollars in profits by drug-gang leaders. They are true victims. Where drug
addicts have some, or total, free will over their habit, farmers have
virtually none.

Most men and women who grow opium or coca for drug gangs are the forgotten
victims of the worldwide campaign against narcotics trafficking. They are
almost always forced into their bitterly difficult jobs by nothing more than
accident of birth. By being residents of remote areas, they attract little
attention from their own governments - and are easy prey for the drug gangs.

Warlords take terrible advantage of the farmers. Where there are no roads to
markets, the drug agents visit the farmers to collect the crop. Where
bankers provide no credit to the farmers, the warlords do. Drug gangs pay in
cash for the farmers' crops. Over a period of time, the warlord also draws
the farmers into a subtle psychological dependence. National authorities are
"them the bad guys " and the drug gangs are "us the villagers".

This vicious cycle has been broken successfully in at least two countries,
Thailand and Pakistan. Now, Pino Arlacchi, head of the United Nations Drug
Control Programme, thinks he can make crop replacement work around the
world. He intends to start in Afghanistan, where he has convinced the
Taleban authorities to let him try. He then will move to other countries,
including Laos and Burma. He also has won cautious approval from the United

The US patronage came hard on the heels of an astounding report by
ex-general Barry McCaffrey, the top anti-drug director for President
Clinton. A recent study by Mr McCaffrey estimates sales of illegal drugs in
the United States at $57 billion annually. That is the Equivalent of one
million four-year university educations. It is the cost of 84 billion litres
of milk for malnourished babies. And it does not include the social cost of
drugs, or the horrendous cost of crime prevention and punishment that goes
alongside drugs.

The Thai experience could be of massive help in this new, serious attempt to
win farmers and labourers to the anti-drug programme. The facts are clear.
Most farmers would rather grow alternative props because they pay better.
Most farmers would rather take their legal crops to market and compete for
prices than have one criminal middleman pay them once a year. Most farmers
would rather help in building their nation and its economy than in tearing
it down.

The UN must treat the farmers with respect and convince them that switching
crops is an excellent choice for themselves and their children. Officials
would be remiss if they do not look at Thailand as a prime example of a
programme that worked. Our authorities should offer help for a scheme that
could end drug production near our borders.


December 15, 1997
Nineteen northern members forced out

The military authorities have forced 19 members of the main opposition
National League for Democracy (NLD) in the country's northern Kachin state
to resign from the party, a top party official said yesterday.

 "They give too much harassment to our members, particularly among the
ethnic groups, and they are forced to resign, " said the official, a close
associate of party leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

An official information sheet issued by the Burmese junta yesterday said the
19 from Myitkyina township of Kachin state had sent a letter of resignation
to NLD party chairman Aung Shwe in Rangoon on Friday.

The reason for their resignation was not clear, it said, quoting party
sources as saying copies of the resignation letter had also been sent by the
NLD Myitkyina organising committee to the local election commission office.

The NLD senior official said the party had yet to receive any such letter in
the Burmese capital.

He charged that party representatives from the Kachin state had been
prevented from attending an NLD congress at the Rangoon home of Suu Kyi in

The NLD members had faced persecution from the authorities, the official
said adding that their families had also suffered, being denied schooling
and health care because they were relatives of party members.

On Friday, Rangoon reported that NLD co-vice chairman Kyi Maung, 79, had
resigned from the party because of a disagreement with Suu Kyi.

On Saturday, Kyi Maung, who acted as party chairman when Suu Kyi was under
house arrest from 1989 to 1995, denied he was quitting, but planned to,
lighten his workload with the party because of old age.

The NLD won the last general elections held in Burma in 1990 by a landslide.
The junta ignored the result.



December 15, 1997

Kuala Lumpur

Leaders of Thailand and Burma met yesterday and drugs and illegal
immigration were top of the agenda.

Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai raised the issue of the production of
amphetamines in areas controlled by Burmese ethnic groups.

Mr Chuan asked the Burmese side to seriously and closely solve the problem.
Gen Than Shwe responded that his government has been trying to solve the
problem, and suggested joint efforts by various parties concerned to address
the problem. 

Illegal immigrants and refugees were also discussed and the Burmese leader
said that those holding identity cards can be checked - bust he acknowledged
the complicated legal process Thailand faces in monitoring these people.

Burma has publicly accepted the existence of the problem that caused
concerns in Thailand during last week's meeting in Bangkok of the
Thailand-Burma joint committee.

Prime minister Chuan proposed that closer contacts at the ministerial and
provincial-level should be encouraged so as to reduce any misunderstanding
between the two neighbours.

It's quite normal that countries sharing 2,400-kilometre border sometimes
have problems, Mr Chuan was quoted as telling the Burmese leader, but he
added that regular consultations will help minimise the differences.

Gen Than Shwe thanked Thailand for supporting Burma's membership in Asean
and invited Mr Chuan to visit Rangoon, said. government spokesman Akrapol

The Burmese general proposed that Thailand participate in a bydtopower
development project of Salween, which. he said would be beneficial to both

Next year will see the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Thai-Burma
relations and some positive developments, including the signing of an
agreement on the avoidance of double taxation.

 Cultural and tourism cooperation agreements will also take place, Foreign
Ministry sources said.



December 15, 1997

Mahathir speaks out,: 'Changes are in order'

Kuala Lumpur, Reuters

Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad met the-leader of Burma's military
government yesterday and conveyed concern over the situation in that
country, Malaysia's foreign minister said.

Mr Mahathir met Senior  General Than Shwe, chairman of the State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC) and Burma's prime minister, ahead of the Asean

Foreign Minister Abdullah Badawi told reporters the general informed Premier
Mahathir of recent changes; affecting the government in Rangoon.

"These changes are intended to give the government greater capacity for
development, increase the pace of development in Myanmar [Burma] ," Mr
Abdullah said.

Last month, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, which had ruled the
country with an iron fist since seizing power in 1988, was dissolved as part
of a surprise government change that led to the creation of the SPDC.

Mr Abdullah said Prime Minister Mahathir expressed his views on the
situation in Burma to Than Shwe.

"It has always been our principle not to interfere in the internal affairs
of other countries, but [Mr Mahathir] did express the  view ... This
expression of concern about the Myanmar situation [expressed] by other
leaders with whom we have met," Mr Abdullah said.

"I think that's the part that I would describe as  constructive engagement,"
the foreign minister said, without elaborating.

Than Shwe said in a statement after arriving in the Malaysian capital on
Saturday that his presence at the summit showed Burma's commitment to work
with Asean in all activities.

Burma was admitted to Asean last July along with Laos.

"It also demonstrates Myanmar's commitment to the common pledge to live
together in peace and harmony in the family of nations in Southeast Asia and
in Asia in  which the countries in the region commit themselves to work
together in the interest of  the whole region," he said.

The Asian leaders were expected to discuss a planned summit with the
European Union set for next April in London, delegates said.

A meeting set for last month between the EU and Asean member states was
postponed because of disagreement over Burma, which has been criticised by
the West for human rights abuses and for curbing political activities of the
opposition, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. 



December 15, 1997



A war against illegal alien workers, like anti-drugs campaigns, is hard to win.

A two-year "truce" declared last year may help bring temporary peace but the
fight is far from over.

There is a year to go before Thailand starts driving out more than one
million illegal foreign workers.

A cabinet resolution issued on June 25, 1996 allowed employers in 43
provinces to register illegal Burmese, Laotians and Cambodians already
living in Thailand, enabling them to work for a period of two years to help
solve the shortage of labour.

During the registration period from September 1 to November 29 last year,
323,123 illegal  immigrants reported to immigration authorities who granted
work permits to 293,652 of them.

A year later, 260,000 alien workers had their permits renewed meaning that
about 30,000 lost their jobs and according to law must be sent home.

But it seems these 30,000 workers disappeared long before.

An official of a centre dealing with foreign labour said employers often
claimed that their workers had escaped and. Gave no clues that would help
track them down. 
Without doubt employers have not complied by the June 25 cabinet resolution
which guaranteed labour protection for all illegal aliens holding work permits. 
The employers' failure to comply by the resolution resulted in lack of
information which could have been useful in controlling illegal ,labour
workers as well as ensuring them fair treatment. 
Officials could not tell whether the employers had registered the alien
workers for social security benefits or if businesses not allowed to hire
illegal immigrants had flouted the rules.

Poor treatment also forced the workers to change jobs very often making it
even more difficult to trace their whereabouts.

The  workers had no one to turn to if employers refused to pay them in full
the daily minimum wage of 150 baht.

Filing complaints with labour officials could have led to revocation of.
work permits, or worse, police arrest said a source who is a member of a
Burmese group overseeing Burmese workers in Thailand.

All the workers could do was find new employment and hope that they would
not be cheated again, the source said. 
Official corruption in which authorities are suspected to have conspired
with human-trafficking rackets could make Thailand's efforts to curb illegal
immigrants a complete failure.

The source said he saw no way Thailand could repatriate one million illegal
workers next year when the country could not even control the 300,000
registered workers.

Crackdown on alien workers would only give unscrupulous officials an
opportunity to extort money from alien workers who may or may not be
Trairong Suwannakhiri, the labour and social welfare minister, wants to make
Thailand free of illegal immigrants after the two-year truce ends on
September 1, 1998, so that Thai workers laid off by the economic slump could
find employment.

Mr Trairong said he would start by checking the number of illegal workers in
each of the 43 provinces before sending them home. But the source argued
that Mr Trairong would never get their exact head count.

"For every 20 people sent out, 50 new ones would come in," he said.

He said a Burmese worker belonging to an ethnic minority group once told him
of his "comfortable" trip from Burma to Thailand after paying 5,000 baht to
a team of Thai policemen.
"The man said he arrived safe and sound in a police car.

Human trafficking has always been a thriving business. Charging the
approximately one million illegal alien workers in Thailand a "fee" of 2 000
baht per head meant the smugglers had already collected about 2 billion baht.

"I wonder how the government would fight this multi-million baht racket,"
the source said.

The government has yet to come up with a clear-cut plan on repatriation of
alien workers.

The Foreign Ministry has begun negotiations with Burma, Laos and Cambodia to
jointly prepare for the return of their nationals.

While Laos and Cambodia have been giving good cooperation, Burma's response
has not been encouraging.

The largest number of illegal alien workers in Thailand are Burmese.

A Thai-Burmese Committee co-chaired by Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan and
his Burmese counterpart Ohn Gyaw took a step forward by agreeing at a
meeting early this month to set up a sub-committee to deal with legal
problems concerning Burmese labour.

But that was as far as they could go because Burma has insisted it would not
accept illegal workers from minority groups now employed in Thailand.

To compound the problem, Thai agencies dealing with the matter could not
agree on the head count.

The joint committee agreed that illegal Burmese workers in Thailand numbered
98,000, but Mahidol University put the figure at 75 percent of the total
number of illegal aliens in the country, or 750,000 out of the one million
workers, while the Labour and Social Welfare Ministry said 400,000 Burmese
were working  illegally in the country.

Attempts to solve the discrepancy have hit a dead end. Meanwhile, officials
at Thailand's National Security Council have insisted that their exact
number must be established and accepted by all sides before further action
is taken.

The House Committee on Labour and Social Welfare  earlier proposed that
Thailand tax all illegal Burmese workers, minorities included, and remit the
money to Burma. 

Once Burma took the money, it would mean that country  automatically
accepted the status of its minority workers in Thailand.

But the problem here is Rangoon - may not play along.

The House Labour Committee's idea of encamping illegal workers awaiting
repatriation in border areas was also rejected by concerned agencies.

An Interior Ministry official said  Thailand would risk being attacked for
violating human rights by setting up border camps for illegal workers and
could have a negative effect on Thailand's international trade. 

He said the ministry planned to build additional detention centres in
different parts of the country to hold the illegal workers before sending
them home.

Giving employers advance notification to dismiss the alien workers two to
three months before the end of the employment period next September 1, as
suggested by the House panel, was shot down by the NSC.

An NSC official said the plan would not be acceptable to the business sector.

Although the number of unemployed workers in the country is expected to
reach 2 million next year, certain businesses, such as fisheries, would
still need to hire foreign workers. 

The Employment Department would  soon launch a 100-day operational plan n
which all provinces would help survey jobs currently held by foreign workers
which Thai people would be willing to fill in once they became vacant. 

The department estimated that about 6,000 positions would be available.

Businesses where the great demand for foreign labour is high would also be
forced to import workers legally.

A Labour Ministry official said the fishing industry would be among the
first to be allowed to bring in foreign workers legally.

Some South Asian countries and Cambodia have already shown interest in
exporting labour to Thailand.

As for the repatriation of the illegal alien workers, the official said the
Labour Ministry would suggest that holding centres be set up in 13 border

A tri-patrite committee comprising representatives from the provincial
administration and the business and labour sectors would be formed in each
province to determine if there was need for foreign labour.

If such a demand existed, the panel would survey further the types of
businesses which wanted to hire foreign workers and how many were needed.

The official, however, said the ministry wanted foreign labour confined to
border provinces only as the workers would not be allowed to stay overnight
in Thailand.

Security agencies disagreed with establishing special border zones, saying
Thailand would be attacked for human rights violation by Western countries.

But the official said things would proceed as planned.

"We need to take good care of ourselves. We are suffering now. We can't let
others tell us what to do all the time," he said. 
Agencies concerned would submit their plans to deal with the repatriation of
illegal workers to the NSC which would screen and incorporate them into a
single plan which would be sent to the cabinet for approval.

It would be made based on the assumption that unemployed Thais would be
willing to take up jobs that would entail hard work but offer little in
terms of salary.

But the source disagreed, saying Thais have already gotten used to "a good
life" for too long and would never return to low-paying jobs.

Employers also would prefer to pay less. In hiring unskilled alien workers
some of them may have got away by paying only half the daily minimum wage
and without having to provide any welfare.
A survey last year estimated-that business outlets across the country needed
million unskilled workers.

The source believed Thailand would  fall in its attempt to deport illegal
workers because of widespread corruption and the business sector's
unwillingness to invest further.

"Politicians may want to help people who have lost their jobs by taking
tough action against illegal alien workers. But businesses would soon start
complaining and everybody will have to stop and listen," he said.

To best deal with foreign labour, the source said, the Thai government,
people and state authorities must find a common stand as to whether the
country really needed foreign workers.

Legal import of workers could be allowed if the country felt it had to rely
on foreign labour. It would shield Thailand from accusations of human rights


December 19, 1997

Myanmar's rulers _ the newly renamed State Peace and Development Council _
continue to try to clean up their image, or at least to quiet recalcitrant
colleagues. Former minister of commerce Lt.-Gen Tun Kyi, who was purged and
placed under house arrest in a major cabinet reshuffle three weeks ago, has
been moved out of Yangon to an undisclosed army barracks near the capital. 

Initially confined to his own home, he had been allowed to receive visitors
and had access to a telephone. But those freedoms came to an abrupt end
following angry phone conversations with friends and enemies in which he
reportedly threatened to name corrupt members of the ruling military junta
and publicize their alleged connections to the narcotics trade. 

His daughter's mobile telephone was confiscated soon after he was escorted
away from his home by armed soldiers, but apparently the irate general did
not get the message to lower his profile. Since losing his telephone
privileges, he has been completely isolated from family and associates.
Lt-Gen Myint Aung, former agriculture minister, and Lt-Gen Kyaw Ba, former
minister of hotels and tourism, are also understood to have been taken out
of Yangon.