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Breaking News 12/30/97

Breaking News

1) Burmese opposition opposes limits on independence celebration 
2) Thai Farmers Bank will close  Burma  and Vietnam offices
3)  'We Need Development' 
Deutsche Presse-Agentur 
                     December  30, 1997, Tuesday, BC Cycle  
                          11:53 Central European Time 
 HEADLINE: Burmese opposition opposes limits on independence celebration 
 Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) 
Tuesday criticized a Burmese government order limiting the size of the party's
planned celebration of  Burma's  Golden Jubilee Independence Day on January 4.
    An NLD press release said the Rangoon Division Peace and Development
had ordered that the opposition celebration of the event at Suu Kyi's Rangoon 
home be limited to no more than 300 people. 

    NLD Chairman U Aung Shwe sent a letter to the council on Tuesday stating 
that the limitation on the number of people celebrating "the Golden Jubilee is
absolutely inappropriate and out of tune with the time of joy and merriment". 
    The letter suggested the ruling council should cooperate with the NLD in 
organizing a festive celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of  Burma's  
independence from Great Britain. dpa aso me jh 
December  26, 1997; Friday 00:26 Eastern Time 
AP News Wire
HEADLINE: Thai Farmers Bank will close  Burma  and Vietnam offices 
Thai Farmers Bank will close its offices in  Burma  and Vietnam because of a
lack of business in both countries, bank officials said Friday. 
   Thai Farmers Bank is the third largest commercial bank in Thailand. Its 
branches in  Burma  and Vietnam are only representative offices, as neither 
country permits full operations by foreign banks. 
   The role of the representative offices is to advise Thais doing business in
those countries. But bank officers said that Thais were bailing out of both 
countries, leaving the bank with no function there. 
   ''Many Thai businessmen are leaving  Burma  and Vietnam because they aren't
making any money there,'' said an officer in the bank's public relations 
department, speaking on condition of anonymity. 
   Developing  Burma  and Vietnam are regarded as potentially lucrative 
investment frontiers by businessmen, particularly in Asia. 
   Vietnam is ruled by a communist government, and military-run  Burma
a policy of socialist isolationism for 26 years. In recent years, both have 
moved slowly toward capitalist market reforms. 
   Thailand promotes itself to foreign investors as a gateway to both
because of geographical proximity. 
   But too many government regulations, coupled with economic problems in
countries, have been cited by some businessmen as reasons for failed ventures
 Burma  and Vietnam. 

   Thai businessmen are also viewed with some suspicion in both countries 
because of their reputation for unscrupulous dealings. Historical animosities 
also play a role. 
   This week, Gen. Khin Nyunt, one of  Burma's  four most powerful generals, 
said his government would give priority to business and investment deals with 
Singapore, which is one of the top three foreign investors in  Burma  along
Japan and China. 
   Thai Farmers Bank said it would consider reopening in both countries when 
their governments decide to allow foreign banks to operate full branches with
complete banking services. 
                      December  26, 1997 / January 2, 1998 
SECTION: THE NATIONS; Summits; Pg. 20 
HEADLINE: 'We Need Development' 
 HIGHLIGHT: A talk with  Myanmar's  foreign minister 

   To the consternation of many Western governments, ASEAN admitted  Myanmar
a full member in July. Run by a bunch of generals, it ranks as one of the 
world's pariah nations. Chief among its sins is the refusal of the military 
junta to abide by the results of 1990 elections, and its repressive policies, 
especially regarding forced labor and the treatment of students and
including Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Despite the barbs, 
 Myanmar's  ASEAN participation has been relatively trouble-free so far. Its
presence at the association's meetings is taken for granted. What is Yangon 
getting out of membership, and how is its new-look government faring? Senior 
Correspondent Roger Mitton talked with Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw during the 
   What does ASEAN membership mean to  Myanmar?  
   What we need most is economic development. It's a need of the time, of the 
people, of the country, and of course it's good for ASEAN too since the vision
of the founding fathers was that all 10 Southeast Asian countries should be 
   Are the recent changes in your government structure partly to accelerate 
economic growth? 
   Yes. The previous structure was the State Law and Order Restoration
As the name says, it was to bring law and order, which we needed because the 
state was chaotic. That has been fulfilled. Now we are concentrating on peace 
and development. Under a new constitution, there will be elections and a 
civilian government will emerge. The military government has no intention of 
continuing to hold on to power. We are trying to build democracy. 

   The charter is taking very long to draft. 
   We have already decided on a presidential type of government, with a
of responsibility between legislature, executive and judiciary. At the center 
will be two houses of parliament, and in the states legislative assemblies
chief ministers. 
   Will the new constitution be ready next year? 
   Was the recent change of the chairman of the constitution drafting
because he was unsatisfactory? 
   No, it was because of our new image. The idea of law and order is over. So 
older personnel have been replaced and given other responsibilities. 
   They were not sacked? 
   Oh, no, because they contributed their share of responsibility. 

   They appeared to have been shunted to a so-called advisory council that
now to have been dissolved. 
   We don't humiliate our own people, particularly the military, which built 
stability in the country. 
   Isn't your "new image" just cosmetic? 
   No. You have a younger, more energetic generation coming in. 
   Was fighting corruption a factor? 
   Yes. Those guilty will be punished by law. 
   Was there ASEAN pressure? 
   No, no pressure. 
   Quiet persuasion? 
   Not that much. ASEAN leaders never say: look,  Myanmar,  you should do this
if you want to be a good member. This change is our effort, because we know 
very well that we could not go on as we were. While our neighbors were 
developing, we were not . . . The perception of the media, particularly
media, is that we are not putting much effort into democratization. But all of
Southeast Asia now says that whatever democracy is practiced in the West
be copied in toto here. 
   There are assertions your government deals in drugs and that you forcibly 
relocate villages. 
   There is no substantive proof. Whenever there is any larger interest, 
airports to be built, something to be done in the West, they do it, by
means or whatever. But when we want to develop our country, they say this is 
relocation, forced labor, child labor. But they are doing the same thing. 
   Yet  Myanmar  is full of restrictions. 
   We feel we are open. We are disciplined. Do not forget we are very
building a system that the people of our country are not accustomed to. We
discipline. Those people in our country who claim to uphold democratic ideals 
are not disciplined. We seek to provide food, clothing and shelter. These are 
the basic needs. 
Copyright 1997 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.   
                                The Plain Dealer 
                     December  26, 1997 Friday, FINAL / ALL 
 The signs are everywhere: From placid paddy fields to downtown Rangoon, red
billboards scream, "Oppose those external elements acting as stooges, holding
negative views." 
    Few in  Burma  are in need of an explanation. The target of the military
junta's wrath is Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and
opposition leader who in less than a decade has been transformed from
neophyte into international heroine, and perhaps the world's most famous
political shut-in. 
    From the shores of Rangoon's Inya Lake, where Suu Kyi, like  Burma's
ruling generals, has a home, she has tried to revive her National League for
Democracy, cowed and dispirited in the face of the junta's relentless
    "I hardly go out. I do all my work from the house," Suu Kyi said in a rare
interview held in a sparsely furnished room dominated by a portrait of her
father, the hero of  Burma's  struggle against British colonial rule, Gen.
San. "They make it impossible for me to leave Rangoon." 
    The grounds outside betray few signs that this is a home: the garden is
neglected and the tall fence embellished with political posters. 
    Although Suu Kyi was freed from six years under house arrest in July 1995,
her movements are restricted. Casual visits are rare; the police have been
known to turn away ambassadors, and journalists are never knowingly allowed
past the security cordon. 
    Suu Kyi's outings are largely confined to lunches with friendly diplomats
on an almost weekly basis. Although the military has refused to entertain a
dialogue, her NLD is in quiet contact with the generals. 
    She is eager for news of the changes in Rangoon: the business complexes,
nightclubs and hotels that have sprung up in the past year are unknown
territory. "I have never seen any of these shopping malls," she said. 
    Her present isolation is far removed from the privileges of her childhood
as daughter of the martyr of  Burma's  independence struggle. Portraits of
Gen. Aung San, young and serious in his military cap and greatcoat, are still
pride of place in  Burma,  although successive military regimes have sought to
rewrite his role. 
    "I suppose they want to play down the role of my father. But they have not
been able to do that entirely. They can do anything they like to me, but they
can't touch my father." 
    Unlike the other woman heirs to a political patrimony in Asia - India's
Indira Gandhi, Bangladesh's Sheik Hasina Wajed and Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto -
Suu Kyi has no memories of her father. She was 2 when he was assassinated in 
July 1947 at 32. 
   However, unlike Sheikh Hasina or Bhutto, that violent death doesn't appear
to haunt her. Lacking their imperiousness, she relies on a quiet charm to woo
Western visitors and reduce even senior members of the NLD to diffidence. 
    "I never think I have to live up to my father's stature," she said. "I am
very proud of him, but I never thought I could reach the heights that he did.
I accept that I won't be as good as him, so it is not a problem." 
    Her mother became Rangoon's ambassador to India when Suu Kyi was 15, and
much of her life since then has been abroad as the wife of an Oxford academic,
Michael Aris. 
    The junta has used this against her. "They keep accusing me of being
Western  and non-Burmese because my husband is British, and they say I depend
on  foreigners," she said. 
    She is proud of her fluency in Burmese, professing not to understand how
the elites of neighboring Asian countries have lost their languages to
    Her experience of political adversity is less than a decade old and
follows her return to Rangoon to nurse her ailing mother. 
    The student unrest of 1988 catapulted her to the head of the NLD. But
although she remains a heroine of a cowed populace, her exalted status means
she cannot share their misery. 
    The junta has repeatedly sought to isolate her within the NLD and has
quite effectively crushed the movement. Many of her followers have deserted
her and the NLD network in  Burma's  countryside is so crippled, the
opposition has 
become a one-woman show. 
    "In the minds of the people, Aung San Suu Kyi is herself the NLD, a potent
symbol," said a diplomat in Rangoon. 
    The constraints on public activity have reduced Suu Kyi to turning
national holidays into political occasions. Jan. 4 marks  Burma's  50th
anniversary of independence and Suu Kyi is planning to invite more than 1,000
to her home for a
day of speeches and celebration.
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