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BurmaNet News December 24, 1997

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------     
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"     
The BurmaNet News: December 24, 1997        
Issue #899


December 23, 1997

The cabinet reshuffle in-Burma will not lead to a change in the
policy  previously made by the military government, which has close 
ties with its neighbouring countries, a Burmese minister said yesterday.

'There's no policy change in our government. The portfolios have
been changed in line with our development programme which
requires dynamism and action," said Deputy Foreign Minister Nyunt Swe.

Mr Nyunt Swe, who attended the Bimst-ec in Bangkok yesterday,
gave the assurance following the shake-up of the cabinet's eight
ministerial portfolios last weekend.

The first and major reshuffle took place in mid-November, which
resulted in the establishment of a new ruling body-State Peace
and Development Council.

The new line-up also saw the removal of Energy Minister Khin
Maung Thein, whose responsibilities included overseeing the
Yadana natural gas project.

Mr. Nyunt Swe stressed the ruling regime's commitment to its
development plans. 


December 23, 1997
by Rita Pattyasevi

BURMA'S admission into the Bay of Bengal economic grouping
yesterday will enable member countries to develop infrastructure
links and other forms of cooperation for eventual regional peace
and prosperity, Deputy Foreign Minister Sukhumbhand Paribatra
said yesterday.

Sukhumbhand said Bistec (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand -
Economic Cooperation) renamed Bimstec with Burma's admission,
"has the potential to be a key building block in the architecture
of peace, stability and economic  well-being in Asia". 
There will be, he said, "opportunities to expand the ties that
truly bind, namely people-to-people contacts and exchanges, so
there will be a sense of completeness to our 'reunion'."
Thailand, which successfully pushed at the Asean informal summit
last month for increased contacts between people, has pledged to
take an active part in the process.

Burmese Deputy Foreign Minister U Nyunt Swe said that there will
be a regular exchange of people at various levels among Bimstec

Burma provides an important missing link between Thailand and
Burma's western neighbours, Nyunt Swe said, adding that his
country is committed to the pledge of living together in peace
and harmony and working together in the interest of the region.

"We strongly share the view that in this increasingly
interdependent world, our shared ideals for peace, freedom and
economic well-being can be best attained by fostering greater
understanding, good  neighbourliness and  meaningful cooperation
among the countries of the subregion," he said.

He said as nations focus on economic integration  to keep abreast
of world events and improve the welfare of their own people,
Burma has also taken a series of foreign policy initiatives to
establish closer ties with other countries.

As a member of Asean with great economic potential, Burma will
also  provide a crucial link between Asean and Saarc (South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation) in trade and investment

The one-day special meeting yesterday agreed to strengthen
various infrastructural linkages, particularly in transport and
communication, and to expedite projects.

Participants agreed to: 

**Establish an economic forum with the participation of public
and private sectors to promote economic cooperation in trade,
investment and infrastructure; 

**Promote trade and investment with the private sector in
textiles and clothing, drugs and pharmaceuticals, gems and
jewellery, horticultural products, and information technology
products,  services;

**Promote in meetings of senior economic officials intra-regional
cooperation to eliminate non-tariff barriers, resolve market
access issues;

**Cooperate on technology transfer and boosting local capability;

**Reinforce transport and communication linkages;

**Develop action plans for the development and utilisation of
natural gas, wind, solar and water/tidal wave energy resources;

**Establish a working_ group on tourism, which will meet next
year in India to develop an action plan;

**Develop fishery cooperation. 


December 23, 1997

Four months ago, U Htun Wai, a former Health Minister during the
Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP) era, died in Rangoon
General Hospital (RGH) after he was denied treatment. He was hit
by a car in the early morning on August 11, 1997, while he was
strolling on a street near his home at Ngwe Kyar Yan Avenue of
South Okalapa township in Rangoon.  The driver drove away,
leaving U Htun Wai lying unconscious by the road.  Another driver
arrived at the scene and took him to the hospital. 

U Htun Wai was not given any treatment as there were no family
members accompanying him to pay the hospital bills.  Also nobody
at the hospital recognized him, despite the fact that he was a
former BSPP Health Minister who regularly inspected many
hospitals in the country before 1989. His family members only
found out where he was after he had already died at the hospital.

Before the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, U Htun Wai frequently
visited Daw Khin Kyi, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's mother, while she
was staying in JICA hospital in Rangoon.  He was a staunch
supporter of the BSPP, and during the 1988 pro-democracy
protests, he ordered the hospitals in Rangoon to shackle the legs
of a number of student activists who had been arrested and were
in critical condition at the hospitals. One student activist,
Soe Naing, died in Rangoon General Hospital, after he was put in
shackles and not given any treatment. People were so incensed at
this inhumane treatment that many more took to the streets to
protest against the military regime.

Perhaps it is just retribution that U Htun Wai who ordered
students to be left shackled and uncared for himself died
in a hospital after not being given any treatment.  But what is
more important is that in Burma today, health care is only
available for known VIPs and those who can pay. 

Under the BSPP, although the health care system was not good,
people in critical condition were at least treated.  But since
1989, treatment is only provided to those who can pay on the
spot. Ordinary people, most of whom have little or no money for
health care, particularly under the current economic situation,
are left to die. 

This is largely because the military allocates such a small
percentage of the national budget to health care and treats the
civilian population as expendable.  There are no medical supplies
or medicines in the hospitals, and doctors and nurses receive
extremely low salaries which don't cover their basic expenses. 
Many of the medicines contributed by foreign relief organisations
are taken by the military hospitals.  The donations which do
reach civilian hospitals are not provided free to patients but
sold to outside shops by underpaid hospital staff.  The families
of patients must not only go out and buy all the medicines and
hospital supplies in the market, but also provide bribes to the
staff in order to ensure good care for the patient.

With a military regime that allocates half of the state budget to
the military and thinks only of maintaining its own power, it is
not surprising that the health situation in the country has
deteriorated.  If the military regime really cared about the
people, it would make sure that at least basic health care was
available for all.


December 20, 1997

    With change in Burma looming closer, it is time we scrutinize what 
our goals are in a critical way. We all know what we want -- or think we 
do. We say we want democracy, peace, and prosperity, ....some even say 
that we have to economically catch up with and surpass at least our 
neighbors, and insist that we can do it because of our rich natural 
    We have to stop and rethink our situation and goals at this juncture 
in history -- a time when the whole world is changing rapidly, and when 
we are, like all countries and peoples, about to be swept along by events 
and changes seemingly beyond our control.  
    First, democracy. Did we have democracy before 1962? In the sense 
that we had many parties, a more or less free press, a more or less 
autonomous parliament and legislatures (in the constituent states), we 
can say that we enjoyed some degrees of democracy. 
    However, we, or rather, our elite segments, were not fully committed 
to democracy. Governmental elites were colonial-minded, and politicians 
in power (in the AFPFL) aspired to monopolize executive, legislative, and 
administrative power. They often resorted to coercive methods against 
those opposing them. In the constituent states, the AFPFL even undermined 
the governments of these states, in the alleged interest of 
building and maintaining national unity and foiling "secessionist plots", 
    Further, Bama leaders were suspicious of the non-Bama, and feared the 
latter's assertion of their cultural and political rights. They did not 
see non-Bama leaders as colleagues, but as potential troublemakers and 
"secessionists". This stems from the equation by Bama leaders and elites 
of Bama-Buddhist culture and identity with Union culture and identity. 
    Bama leaders and elites rejected multiculturalism as a basis for 
national unity and Union identity. They hence viewed non-Bama cultural 
identities as damaging to national unity. Such an attitude made Bama 
leaders and elites more willing to use force, or at least to turn a blind 
eye to military atrocities in the non-Bama states and areas.   
    Opposition leaders were also not blameless. The use of violence was 
never far from their mind.  It was fashionable then to speak of attaining 
one's goals thru "revolutionary means" or "armed struggle". Moreover, 
opposition leaders often resorted to the politics of pressure, i.e., 
opposing the government via mass rallies and fiery speeches, threatening 
revolution and violence. 
    In short, the opposition did not act responsibly or was not fully 
committed to peaceful democratic politics. They misused the democratic 
process to further undemocratic ends, such as to replace liberal 
democracy with "people's democracy", or a "one-party" system.  
    In other words, they did not view democracy, or liberal democracy, as 
an end in itself. They were not mindful of what democracy means, that is, 
that democracy is a system based on non-violence and civility; that it is 
about bringing about incremental change, and most importantly, that 
democracy is about giving people power, i.e., that democracy is not about 
empowering the elites and entrenching power-holders in position of power 
(or maintaining power).   
    It is not surprising that the irresponsibility of both governmental 
and opposition elites, their ambigious committment to democratic means, 
their misunderstanding and misuse of democracy, and as well the ongoing 
civil war, opened "windows of opportunity" for anti-democratic forces -- 
Bo Ne Win, the military, and his personal "army" (the MIS)-- to destroy 
democracy in Burma. 
    In Burma, even if democracy is restored, our sad history can, or is 
likely to be repeated. 
    To avoid the repetition of our dismal history, we must understand 
democracy and fully commit ourselves to it -- that is, we must abandon 
all thoughts of gaining any goals thru violence;  we must not see 
democracy as a means, but as an end in itself; we must avoid misusing 
and abusing the democratic process, such as using the democratic forum to 
play pressure politics via the emotional mobilization of the masses, or 
manipulating mass emotion, and so on. 
    In short, we must eschew emotional politics, the kind of politics 
based on arousing negative emotions, such as hate, envy, anger, contempt 
for fellow human beings, and other irrationalities which we, as frail 
human beings, are fatally vulnerable to. Emotions and democracy do not 
mix. Emotions are dangerous, and their use in politics will "kill" 
democracy as surely as any military coups. 
    Most importantly, we must be clear about what democracy is ultimately 
about. Democracy is not about leadership. It is not about leaders leading 
the country or nation to greatness and glory, or even to prosperity and 
rapid economic growth. Dictators and dictatorships are, in many cases 
(but not in Burma), better at achieving these goals.  
    What democracy is about is empowering people, i.e., the common man, 
or members of society. The only goal of democracy is, it might be said, 
to provide members of society with the power and the means to protect 
themselves from those who hold political, economic, social, and cultural 
    Ultimately, democracy is about the rights of members of society to 
choose who will rule, and their right to hold their "elders and betters" 
accountable for their words, actions, and their use and exercise of 
    About prosperity. It is something which every human being desires. 
But there is, in essence, two meanings to the word -- as we all know. 
One, it concerns aggregate prosperity as expressed in economic data and 
statistics. In this case, a country may rate high on the prosperity 
scale, or be economically very powerful, but the living standard of the 
people might be low, very low -- except for a small portion of those at 
the top of the socioeconomic-political totem pole. 
    The above kind of prosperity is the rule in most part of the 
"developing" world. It is also the kind of prosperity that is riddled 
with corruption, gross social injustices, exploitative practices, the 
commodification of children and sex, and so on. It is also the kind of 
prosperity that is based on on top.  
    Type One prosperity, above, is the kind where the majority work very 
hard to enrich the wealthy and the politically powerful -- who think they 
work harder than everyone and therefore deserve their profits (and by the 
same token, assert that the poor deserves their poverty). 
    Type One prosperity is what economicists, economic planners and 
experts love dearly. The statistics that this kind of prosperity yields 
are like blood for these experts. Their world is the world of numbers, 
not human beings. 
    Type Two prosperity is the kind where the majority of people are 
happy, although they may not be rich, and do not own modern gadgets and 
do not live in glittering high-rises. 
    It is a type of prosperity that economists hold in deep contempt. 
This is because it does not yield high aggregate figures in terms of GNP, 
rate of growth, etc. Because of this, economists and national planners 
assume, even fiercely assert (and often with great anger too), that there 
is no prosperity, regardless of general contentment and harmony in the 
economic sphere. 
    Type Two prosperity is not a dramatic kind. There may be absent 
magnificent glass towers, streets clogged with BMWs, palatial hotels, 
gleaming mega-malls, six-laned free-ways, and other visible "indicators" 
of rapid growth. 
    However, Type Two prosperity is one that puts human beings at the 
center of economic concerns. It is the kind where economics is a means, 
not an end in itself, to which human well-being must be sacrificed. 
    Type Two prosperity is based on economics with a human face, and it 
as such does not yield rapid growth. A country with Type Two ecomomy may 
even be regarded as backward, according to conventional thinking in 
economic science. This kind of prosperity is incompatible with those who 
wants Burma to catch up with and surpass our neighbors, and ultimately 
gain equality with the rich nations of the world. 
    We have to decide what type of prosperity we desire. Slow growth 
which diffuses economic benefits across society, more or less equitably, 
is more compatible with democracy, than rapid growth. The more or less 
equitable diffusion of economic growth is more compatible with democracy 
because members of society then come to possess economic resources which, 
in turn, enpowers them politically. 
    We must often remind ourselves that it is beyond our power to have 
everything we want all at one go. No country or nation on earth can get 
all that they desire simultaneously. 
    It is important to bear in mind that if we want and aim all at once 
for democracy, rapid economic growth, greatness and glory -- we will end 
up having none of the above. Those who argue that we can have everything, 
that we do not have to choose, do not need to prioritize our goals are, 
as put by U Thant long ago, "infantile adults". 

                                       Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe


December 23, 1997

Regarding the story in  your paper (Dec 6) concerning solid
overseas Shan support for the armed struggle for independence, I
wish to clarify several points:

**We support patriotic armed groups fighting the Burmese military
junta because we view them as defending the people against
military predators and in response to the junta's
ethnic-cleansing actions.

**Although most of us do not advocate the use of violence in
politics, we strongly believe in the right of members of society,
any society, to resist  actions by the state, any state, that are
aimed at the right to life, property, and livelihood, which are
essential and very basic rights which all human beings hold dearly.

**Most of us-do not advocate independence per se. Our main
concern is freedom and self-determination which is not
incompatible with federalism within a democratic framework.

**There are some overseas Shans who advocate complete 
independence, and some who do not. We are not a monolithic body.
But we are united in one aim: to rid our land of predatory
soldiers, and restore the rule of law.



December 22, 1997

The WTO, designed to decide disputes between nations, may take on a feud
over Myanmar that involves state governments.

BOSTON -- The World Trade Organization, formed to sort out trade conflicts
between the world's nations, apparently will soon weigh rules controlling
bidding on state contracts in Massachusetts.

Legislation enacted by the state and other local governments penalize
companies doing business with Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma,
which is ruled by a repressive military junta.

European Union officials share a distaste for the Myanmar government. EU
members ended preferential trade treatment for the country, withdrew
ambassadors and enacted an arms embargo.

But they also are angry at extra-territoriality of American efforts to
force its trade policies on other countries, dealing not only with Myanmar,
but also Cuba, Libya and Iran. So they appear ready to take the dispute on
the various local Myanmar sanctions to formal dispute resolution by the WTO.

A third round of talks in Geneva last week between U.S. and EU trade
negotiators failed to resolve differences. Consultations have already gone
beyond the normal time limits laid down by WTO rules, making it likely that
the EU will seek a dispute resolution panel.

"They could ask for it at any time," a U.S. official said.

A major problem for all U.S.-EU negotiations is that the two sides come to
the table with unequal powers. While the EU binds its members to honor its
agreements, the federal government can only enforce its authority over
trade policy through the courts.

There is little that Washington can do to keep state legislatures in line
and almost nothing to stop municipalities from getting into the act.
Massachusetts state Rep. Byron Rushing, a Dorchester Democrat who helped
kick off the Myanmar sanction movement with a state law there, said a
state's power to purchase selectively is not the same thing as trade.

But if the EU has to consider all those U.S. entities every time it
negotiates a treaty, it might find it impossible to reach any
trans-Atlantic pacts. The EU and Japan see the subfederal sanctions as
violating the 1994 General Procurement Agreement to keep government
purchasing open to all bidders on both sides of the Atlantic.

Massachusetts initially said it would honor the procurement pact but then
enacted a 10% penalty against bidders on state contracts for companies
doing business with Myanmar. Seventeen cities, including New York and San
Francisco, followed suit.

Some members of the European Parliament are considering a move to give the
United States "a dose of its own medicine" by barring investments in U.S.
states that impose the death penalty, Reuters reported.

Mr. Rushing said in an interview that he hopes the issue will not proceed
to WTO dispute resolution and urged that U.S., EU and Massachusetts
officials meet in some informal setting to resolve the dispute.

Mr. Rushing, who sponsored similar South Africa curbs in 1988, wants the EU
to adopt the U.S. ban on future investment in Myanmar. There are
suggestions that Massachusetts could repeal its selective purchasing law if
the EU agrees.

The initial reaction from EU officials is that member nations are unlikely
to agree to any measure in response to pressure, even one with which they
may happen to agree. Sitting down with a subfederal U.S. entity could also
set a troubling precedent.

As in other sanctions cases, the impasse in U.S.-EU relations has long
since obscured the real problem of what to do about Myanmar, and officials
on both sides just want the problem to go away.

As for possible European retaliation over the death penalty, it is unlikely
to touch Massachusetts, which recently defeated a capital punishment
measure by one vote. Mr. Rushing opposed the bill. 


December 1997

BURMA-LINKED FIRMS (December 3, 1997 by Susan Byrnes)  (abridged)

          Seattle City Council President Jan Drago has backed away from
          legislation she proposed to restrict city contracts with
          companies doing business in Burma, saying the implications are
          broader than she realized.
          Drago said she introduced the ordinance in August to send a
          message to the military regime in Burma. The legislation would
          have directed the city not to do business with companies that
          have direct investments there.
          But in the weeks that followed, members of business and trade
          organizations peppered Drago's office with letters and calls,
          warning her that the measure was not as simple as it appeared.
          Larry Dohrs, chairman of the Seattle Burma Roundtable, said he
          was confused by Drago's apparent flip-flop and vowed to keep
          lobbying for the ordinance with other members of the council.
          Supporters say Seattle can make a difference to those suffering
          in Burma with little cost. No companies would be directly
          affected by a Seattle ordinance, they say, and the legislation
          would cost the city almost nothing. The ordinance would show
          support for the democratically elected leader of the country,
          Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for her
          resistance to the military regime.
          But the issue has sparked fierce debate about the role of city
          government in foreign-policy matters.
          Dohrs said the city already has been involved in international
          issues, such as divesting itself of companies that did business
          in South Africa, and by maintaining sister-city relationships
          around the world.
          In 1995, the city passed a resolution supporting the
          establishment of democracy in Burma and supporting appropriate
          U.S. action to achieve it. Dohrs argues the ordinance is a local
          issue because Seattle residents don't want their tax money
          spent on companies that do business with Burma.
          Two immigrants from Burma also spoke to council members Drago,
          Margaret Pageler and Peter Steinbrueck at the meeting, urging
          them to support the ordinance.
          Opponents of the ordinance will speak to the same committee on
          Dec. 12. After that, Drago says, she hopes both sides will be
          willing to sit down and discuss another solution.
          "I got involved in this because I care, not because I'm an
          expert," she said.

(bfla@xxxxxxxxxxxxx  [Kevin Rudiger] December 19, 1997)

After many months of work and support from hundreds of organizations and
individuals throughout the City, Los Angeles City Councilmember Richard
Alarcón (7th District) introduced a motion to ask the City's Chief
Legislative Analyst's (CLA's) Office to draft an ordinance which would
limit City Contracts with Companies Doing Business in Burma.  The motion
was seconded by Councilmember Goldberg (13th District) and Councilmember
Alatorre (14th District).   The issue has now been studied by the CLA and
we expect it to come up to committee in mid-January. Over 85 groups 
and community leaders have endorsed the  LA Burma ordinance.

The campaign against nARCO is also continuing, with weekly protests in 
front of ARCO offices in Los Angeles.  nARCO workers are showing a growing 
interest in the demonstrators? concerns.


December 23, 1997  (New Light of Myanmar)  (abridged)

YANGON, 22 Dec-A coordination meeting on teaching of simple written English
for radio and television was held at the Ministry of Information on Bo Aung
Kyaw Street at noon today, with an address by Minister for Information Maj-Gen
Kyi Aung.

Present were Deputy Ministers for Education Dr Than Nyunt and Brig-Gen Soe Win
Maung, Deputy Minister for Information Brig-Gen Aung Thein, rectors of
University of Distance Education, Institute of Computer Science and
Technology, Yangon University and Institute of Education, chairman of Myanma
Educational Research Bureau, directors general of Myanma Radio and Television,
Printing and Publishing Enterprise and Basic Education Department and
officials of the ministry.

Minister Maj-Gen Kyi Aung said the meeting is to coordinate teaching of simple
written English effectively in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and
efforts are to be made to start 1 January 1998.

The minister said the Ministry of Information serves to inform, educate and
entertain and the programme's emphasis is to educate. The aim of the meeting
is to improve English proficiency of the students, he added.

He spoke of the need to cooperate for improvement of students' English, to
arrange easy-to-learn lessons for all levels and also on how to take

U Sein Lin of UDE, Rector Dr Kyaw Thein of ICST, Director-General U Bo 
Win of BED, Chairman U Tin Nyo of MERB, Professor Daw Khin Lay Myint 
of YU, Rector U Han Tin of Institute of Education and DirectorGeneral U Kyi 
Lwin of MRTV also reported on the contributions they will be working.


December 10, 1997

(like the Free Burma movement!)

    WASHINGTON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Three weeks after his release from a Chinese
jail, dissident Wei Jingsheng said on Wednesday that the Internet presented many
opportunities for him to continue his fight to bring democracy to China.
     Wei, who met with President Bill Clinton at the White House on Monday, said
he believed most Chinese people supported democracy, although many were afraid
to openly discuss their position for fear of Communist reprisals.
     Because China's leaders kept a tight lid on any protests or emerging
resistance, Wei, speaking through an interpreter, predicted any change would
come suddenly since one could not see a movement building gradually.
     "The resistance and pressure have been formed gradually, but the eruption
at the last moment will be sudden," Wei told public television's "NewsHour with
Jim Lehrer."
     "Like a balloon, the air goes in gradually -- we know it will burst soon;
we do not know exactly when," Wei said.
     Wei, a political prisoner for all but six months of the past 18 years, was
released by China on Nov. 16 due to his medical condition. His release came two
weeks after a state visit to the United States by Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
     Wei, a one-time electrician at the Beijing zoo who is now a visiting
scholar at Columbia University in New York, said he hoped to avail himself of
the Internet and the telephone to do his work, noting he had many more
possibilities now than in 1979 when he was first jailed for advocating
democratic reform.
     Although in an interview with Wednesday's Washington Post, Wei confessed he
had never learned to use a computer.
     He predicted in the television interview that the Chinese economy was
"riddled with problems -- like a ship that will sink very soon."
     The state of Chinese economic development had reached a "very dangerous and
critical stage" and the majority of the benefits of the country's increased
trade with and opening to the West were going to a "handful" of bureaucrats.
     This factor and others combined to fuel the reemerging democracy movement
in China, he said.
     "The majority of the Chinese people want some kind of democracy and their
demand is stronger and their understanding is clearer, and this is the best
foundation for the future of China," Wei said.
     Asked whether his release signaled a shift in China's stance on human
rights, Wei said he viewed China's ban on his return as a further violation of
his human rights and stressed he would return home one day.
     "Definitely, I will see my homeland again. There should be no question of
that," he said.
     "If the Chinese people need me to go back, I will go back. Even if I were
to be imprisoned again, I would go back," Wei said.
     Beijing on Tuesday criticized Clinton's meeting with Wei, expressing its
"strong indignation and firm opposition to the meeting."
     After Wei met a visiting U.S. State Department official in Beijing in 1994,
he was arrested again and in 1995 was sentenced to another 14 years in prison.


A world away, young lawyer uses US legal system to battle human-rights abuses
December 3, 1997
By Theo Emery, Globe Correspondent

WELLESLEY - It is a long way from Wellesley to the jungle border of Burma
and Thailand, but the thousands of miles shrink to nothing when Katharine
Redford speaks of Baby Doe, a 2-month-old infant she said was kicked into a
cooking fire by a Burmese soldier forcibly evicting villagers from their

As her own child sleeps in a nearby bedroom, Redford quietly describes how
the Burmese army has been clearing a jungle route for a billion-dollar
natural gas pipeline across Burma, also known as Myanmar. The army forces
villagers to work as porters and human mine-sweepers, and sows the carnage
that includes Baby Doe's death. 

When she arrived as a volunteer on the border, villagers asked her the
question that now consumes her life: In a nation universally condemned for
rights abuses, how can the law be wielded in the service of the Burmese

"Everywhere we went, people were asking us legal questions and saying,
'What can we do with the law,'" said Redford, 29, sitting in her parents'
Wellesley home. "That gave us the idea that there are no lawyers [in
Burma], and there's a use for them. You can use international law, which
these people don't have access to."

That realization was the genesis of EarthRights International, a fledgling
legal team that includes Redford and her husband, Ka Hsaw Wa; a fellow
graduate of the University of Virginia law school; and a handful of lawyers
in Thailand. With funding from Boston's John Merck Fund and financier
George Soros' Open Society Institute, the group incorporated in 1995 in

Along with several other legal groups, ERI is representing Baby Doe and 13
other plaintiffs in a suit filed a year ago against California-based Unocal
Corp., a gas and oil firm that is part of the consortium building the
Yadana gas pipeline in Burma. 

Only two years out of law school, the Wellesley native is making legal
history on behalf of the anonymous Burmese villagers. In March, a US
District Court - the California district where Unocal is located - ruled
that a US company can be held liable for human-rights abuses committed by
an overseas partner, in this case, agencies of Burma's government. 

In agreeing with the plaintiffs that "human-rights abuses perpetuated by
military forces are the legal responsibility of all the consortium
partners," the ruling turned on its head the notion that only governments
can be liable for human-rights violations. The judge cited a 1789 law known
as the Alien Tort Statute, written to give Americans recourse against
pirate attacks in international waters. The law has been dormant for more
than 200 years, but has been dusted off by human-rights advocates such as
Redford seeking accountability for corporations in an increasingly global

"She understands keenly the role that lawsuits can play in a bigger
campaign," said Simon Billenness, senior analyst for Franklin Research and
Development Corporation, a Boston investment firm that advocates for
human-rights issues. Billenness was instrumental in getting the state in
1996 to pass a selective purchasing law that discourages companies doing
business with the state from operating in Burma. 

He said Redford's work "and the work of ERI have greatly increased the
pressure on oil companies to withdraw from Burma."

On Dec. 15, the judge will decide whether a preliminary injunction will be
leveled against Unocal, as well as whether the court will allow the
plaintiffs to be certified as a class. 

Though Redford spends the majority of her time shuttling between Bangkok
and the Burmese border, she is home to snatch precious moments with her
parents and speak in Boston about the organization's work. With a
fund-raiser planned in Cambridge for tomorrow, the group hopes that its
success will spark legal efforts in support of rights issues in other
Southeast Asian nations. 

"We never could have dreamed that we could come this far," said Redford. "I
can't think of anything better than working for freedom and democracy."


December 21, 1997
retyan@xxxxxxxxxxxxx (Rettie, David)

by  Aung San Suu Kyi
List: $13.95 -- Retail Price: $11.16
Publisher: Penguin USA (Paper)

This series of letters has been appearing regularly in the Mainichi Newspaper
and the Nation. The book is already available in Thailand and will be out
in the United States on January 1, 1998.

Dynamics of Continuity and Change
Brandon, John J. ed.

5.75 x 8.0", 243 pp., a few b/w illustrations, paper, Bangkok, 1997.
Price $18.00

This volume presents 8 papers selected from a 1995 seminar entitled 
"Myanmar towards the 21st century: Dynamic of Continuity and Change". 
It explores many issues facing Myanmar today, covering government, politics, 
economy, and international relations.  Contributors include Maureen Aung-Thwin, 
Tanet Charoenmuang, Medhi Krongkaew, Bertil Lintner, Ronald Renard, Andrew 
Selth, David I. Steinberg, and Mya Than.


Newly released book on the history of a family who ruled Kokang, a
little known remote but critically important area between China and
Burma for 250 years. With an introduction by Dr. Josef Silverstein of
Rutgers University,the book focussed on issues relating to Sino-Burmese
relationship and Kokang's place in Burmese history from the time of
British Burma to the present. As Dr. Silverstein says,"Students of
border politics and international relations will find this study useful
in providing new perspectives on this important but too often neglected

Price: Hard copy US$35 and Paperback US$25 postpaid in USA & Canada.

Copies can be obtained by mail from: 
24941 Mustang Drive, Laguna Hills CA 92653, USA

Or Email: uwin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx    or    gawsa@xxxxxxxx


December 15, 1997


The San Francisco Burmese Community will commemorate the 50th Year of Burma's
Independence from colonial rule with a Cultural Fair.

Place:          Fort Mason Conference Center, Landmark Building "A"
                    Meridian Blvd., at Buchannan

Date/Time:   Jan 4th 1998 10 AM to 4 PM

Free Admission

Food & Beverage Booths

Display of Burmese Art, Musical Instruments, Nationalities Costumes, etc.,,,


>From East Bay: Bay Bridge to Fremont Street Exit, left on Fremont, first right
on Howard, left on Embarcadero, go 2 miles, right on Buchannan,
Cross Marina Blvd., and sharp Right into Fort Mason Center.

>From North Bay: Golden Gate Bridge (US 101) to Marina Exit, Marina Blvd.,  1.5
miles to Buchannan, Left turn to Fort Mason Center.

Fr Peninsula: US101 North to 9th Street Exit, 9th Street across Market Street,
and left on Hayes, Right on Bay, Right on Buchannan, cross Marina Blvd., and 
sharp Right into Fort Mason Center.

Note: Attendees from Burma and Ethnic Nationalities are urged to wear national

For more information: Call Richard Aung Myint at 650-691-1168