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The BurmaNet News January 4, 1998

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------     
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"     
The BurmaNet News: January 4, 1998        
Issue #903


December 30, 1997

           Letter of Felicitations on Occasion of Karen New Year

The occasion of passing from Old Karen year to the New is a time when
there is a regeneration of shoots and buds of  hope. For the blooming of
these buds and shoots, it is necessary for us to leave the soiled and
decaying thoughts and attitudes in the past and face the future. Only when
we aim for a review not only in words but also in deeds that will we be
able to step into a really auspicious New Year. 

The National League for Democracy wishes all the Karen people, young 
and old,  to be able to leave behind all the miseries they have to face in 
the past and  walk to the future with peace and security! 

It is the duty of all citizens, with the genuine spirit of  federalism, to
create conditions for the peace and security of life of our ethnic brothers
and sisters. Accordingly, the National League for Democracy, which is
striving for establishment of  a democratic federation, maintain the
development of culture and traditions, together with livelihood, of the
ethnic nationalities, as one of its principal objectives. 

In the year of 2737, Karen Era, the National League for Democracy shall
increase many fold its effort to realize the objectives of democracy and
human rights of the Karen brothers and sisters, together with all the
ethnic nationalities of  the Union.

National League for Democracy
December 29, 1997


December 31, 1997
>From ftubbkk@xxxxxxxxxxx>

December 29, 1997

On 15-11-97, the SLORC announced the change of its name to the State 
Peace and Development Council(SPDC). Our position on the matter is as follows:-

1. Conceived in 1958 and born in 1962, the military dictatorship led Gen. 
Ne Win has assumed various names such as the "Revolutionary Council", 
"BSPP", "SLORC" and now "SPDC". However, the essence, being rule of 
military dictatorship, has not changed. Now a period of 44 days has passed, 
but we have not seen any indication of change in the essential characters of 
the SPDC, because the regime under the new name continues in wage the war 
of terror against the ethnic nationalities, repress severely the NLD elected by 
the people and other democratic forces, and oppress the population by various 

2. The ethnic nationalities, the people and the Buddhist monks as well as the 
democratic forces of Burma have sacrificed their blood, sweat and lives and 
continue to struggle for a great change in the political and economic systems. 
The change by the military dictatorship of its name from SLORC to SPDC 
cannot be a substitute for the change being struggled for. The SPDC, which 
has descended from SLORC should be deeply award of this fact.

3. As the present constitution with three aspects namely, the SPDC Council, 
Government and Advisory Board, based on 4 top officials of SLORC as the 
main pillars, as a renovation by the military dictators to adjust their
and to make their organization relevant with them, we do not see any 
indications that there will be a change in ideological principles and policies, 
currently expected by the people made up of various ethnic nationalities. On 
the other hand, there are sings suggesting that we have to wait and see whether 
the present reorganization will bring about a reconciliation among the military 
dictators because, a new days after the reorganization, action was taken
5 of the Advisory Board members and there were changes in membership of the 
	In conclusion, we, the KNU, have to say that the military dictatorship 
needs to make drastic changes, as demanded by the people, in matters of
principles, policies and programs, in conformity with its new name of the
Peace and Development Council". 

	Only then, the form and essence of the SPDC would coincide and the 
country would move towards peace and prosperity. The KNU would like to see
the SPDC in this way.

However, we, the KNU would like to urge the oppressed ethnic nationalities, 
people of all walks of life and democratic forces not be swayed to illusion
by the 
new name, the so-called SPDC, and new organizational structure of the military 
dictatorship, but to continue as well as raise the struggle for genuine
political and 
economic changes, and the resolution of the political problem, justly, by

Received from KIC, and posted by Information Department (FTUB)


January 1, 1998


( 1 January 1998 )

        We have received disturbing news about the resumption in Shan State
of the forced relocation of the populace after a brief respite during the
monsoons. They are taking place in two townships, namely, Mongkung and Kesi.
Twenty battalions are involved in this horrendous operation affecting
approximately 100,000 people.

The forced exodus began in early 1996 when Khun Sa surrendered to the
Rangoon government and peace was declared as restored in Shan State. A part
of Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army, formerly the Shan United Revolutionary Army
(SURA), refused to surrender but instead offered to sign a cease-fire
agreement like other armed groups. However, the offer was spurned the
Burmese military.  It vowed to destroy the SURA and all the people in its
area of operations, mainly in the central Shan States. 

Since then hundreds of thousands of households from villages have been
moved to relocation centers.  Many women have been raped, many men forced to
"contribute" free labor, and many, including Buddhist monks, have been
killed by soldiers. SURA then joined the SSA and SSNA (Shan cease-fire
groups) on 13 September 1996 to form the Shan State National Organization
(SSNO) and the Shan State Army (SSA) in the hope that SURA's desire for
peace might be recognized. Together they appealed to the SLORC to accept the
SSNO/SSA as non-hostile forces. The SLORC's clear answer was to wage an
all-out military offensive against SURA and the people in its operating
areas. The above indicates that the military is not serious about restoring
peace, and that its real intention is to empty the central region of Shan
State of its inhabitants.

Many of the people who survived the killings, and unable to make a living
in towns fled to Thailand, the land of their ethnic cousins. In Thailand
they were not recognized as refugees, which is just as well, for they do not
wish to be so either. They wanted to stand on their feet and 
work in order to survive. 

The overnight downturn of the Thai economy have changed everything.
Forcibly displaced are now faced with a terrible choice: To go back to Shan
State where prosecutions, neglect and starvation await them, or to remain in
Thailand and risk the danger of arrest and forced repatriation. 

We therefore appeal to His Majesty King Bhumibhol and the Royal
family, the government of Thailand, the opposition parties, and individuals,
and other governments and international community to seek humanitarian and
practical ways to help thousands upon thousands of families driven off at
gunpoint from their villages and fields.  

We will be most honoured to cooperate with all individuals, organizations,
and governments in their efforts to resolve the problem of forced
dislocation . We further take this opportunity on New Year day to thank all
those who have done their best to help us so far.

Shan Herald Agency for News


January 4, 1997

For most of Southeast Asia's decade of helium-fuelled growth
Burma sat on the sidelines, at first unwilling to open up its
society and economy to the outside world and then unable to
attract much in the way of foreign investor interest when it did
finally lower its guard.

Now, with most of the neighbourhood mired in financial crises,
the immediate future of Burma looks as bleak as its past. 
Western countries want nothing to do with the country and its
political problems and regional companies are scaling back investments 
because of their own financial woes.  Talk of Burma becoming the next 
boom economy has become little more than empty hype.

With the clinically-clear vision allowed by hindsight, it is
difficult to understand how Burma could have been lumped together
with other pretenders to tigerdom.  The country possesses the
resources. potential market size and cheap labour to one day be
an economic power.  But no company, country or concession-holder
has ever been successful while operating under the kleptocrat
management model, no matter how great its latent wealth.

If there is one statistic that bears out the insincerity of the
ruling military government's 'nation building propaganda", it is
access to education.  For much of the last 10 years there has
been none.  Universities have been closed for all but a couple of
years.  High schools for all but five.

No government can claim to have its country's future at heart
when it denies its young entry to classrooms out of fear of
political dissent.  This feature of life in military-ruled Burma
is all the more tragic because the country once had some of the
best schools in the region. its academic wealth has since been
scattered to the wind as the best teachers left for foreign shores.

A passion for education was supposed one of the fundamental
factors behind the Asian economic success story.  The ruling
generals decided, however, to stand behind another - "stable
government".  They found ideological hope and moral sanctuary in
the Indonesian model of military-guarded politics, but Southeast
Asia's economic woes have since exposed this as the cover         
it was for nepotism and corruption.

Burma is today what is has been for most of the.50 years since
independence: a backwater ruled by tin-pot dictators.  The
massive changes that have been witnessed in the rest of the
region have few parallels in Burma.

The generals have renamed the country and the capital, from Burma
to Myanmar and from Rangoon to Yangon, respectively.  They have
changed the name of their own government from the Burma Socialist
Programme Party to the State Law and Order Restoration Council
(Slorc) and in November again to the State Peace and Development

The most recent moves from Rangoon the firing of some ministers
and the dissolution of the Slorc - were rightly dismissed by most
observers as shallow PR moves.

Politically nothing has changed and, sadly, little will until the
ruling junta eases its grip on the oppressed population and opens
talks with the opposition National League for Democracy.
Peace and development will continue to pass Burma by.


January 3, 1997

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Sun Kyi confided to her aides
early last year that 1997 would be a year of triumph for the
country's democracy movement.  "There will be a change," she
said, meaning that the military, who have ruled the country for
almost 10 years, would be gone.

To some extent, she was right.  The ruling junta was dissolved in
November, when the self-appointed military government, the State
Law and Order Restoration Council, was replaced by the State
Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

Many former Slorc ministers were given inactive positions,.
forced to retire or join the newly-established Advisory Board. 
But the Board was dissolved, and at least six former ministers
were placed under investigation for, corruption.

In another reshuffle, which took place recently, eight SPDC
ministers were moved, including Brig Gen David Abel, who as
minister for National Planning and Economic Development had been
playing a key role in attracting foreign investment to Burma since 1989.

The second shake-up was aimed at cleaning up the junta's image
and also at attracting more foreign investment. say some analysts
in Rangoon and in Bangkok.  Than Aung, former minister for
co-operatives and Win Sein, former minister for rail
transportation, were kicked upstairs.  After former trade
minister Tun Kyi and former tourism minister Kyaw Ba, the two
were named most corrupt ministers.

Tun Kyi's assets are believed frozen, but so far, no drastic
action has been taken against the former ministers.  Burma
watchers felt the recent reshuffle was simply cosmetic, just to
resolve the junta's internal conflicts.

Many local businessmen in Rangoon and Mandalay expressed
frustration over the recent reshuffle.  "We are very confused. 
Our previous deals [with ministers] are gone.  We have to start again."

According to a Rangoon-based analyst, another reshuffle is
possible.  'At least two more big fish need to be caught.'One
could be Mayor U Ko Lay," he said.


In any case, no one can save Burma's economy.  Social unrest,
lack of confidence and internal conflict have eroded the foreign
investment climate, which has also been seriously damaged by the
US ban on new investment and by consumer-led boycotts in the West.

The Burmese currency, the kyat, has dropped in value rapidly,
with one US dollar now equivalent to over 300 kyat (it went down
to 400, kyat recently), although the official rate remains to the dollar.

Analysts said the regime's unlimited note printing, money
laundering from the drug trade and the uncontrollable circulation
of counterfeit money have led to the serious instability of the kyat.

Moreover, the country is experiencing a second consecutive year
of heavy damage to its rice crop from the current flooding in Mon
State, Irrawaddy, division, Arakan State, Karen State and Pegu
regions.  Although the shortage is not yet acute, local rice
prices are rising, and exports will be limited to amounts far
below the military government's ambitious targets.
Although the junta's new name is more pleasant than the former
one, political opposition in Burma remains suppressed.  The SPDC
continues to tighten its screws on the democracy movement.

At the same time, the National 'League for Democracy party
continues to be marginalised.  Party meetings have -been banned
or harassed with threats, arrests and persecution of party
members and supporters.

Over 1,000 political prisoners remain incarcerated in jails. 
Some senior NLD members were given lengthy sentences in November. 
Recently, NLD members in the countryside were forced to resign
from the party.  The junta also apprehended a landlord who agreed
to rent an office, to Suu Kyi's political party.  The party
leaders are not allowed to see foreign press, and phone lines
have been cut off for years.


Shortly after the SPDC delegation led by Senior Gen Than Shwe
attended the Asean informal summit in Malaysia, some senior NLD
members were invited to meet officials in Rangoon.  At the
meeting, the junta warned the NLD to stop holding mass gatherings
or risk losing meaningful dialogue.

They were told to refrain from accusations and protests against
the government's security measures.  "If they keep doing this,
the chances of dialogue and national reconciliation, which the
NLD has been talking about, would go further away," the official
newspaper said.

But NLD vice chairman Tin Oo has a different version.  "I
consider it merely a scolding.  They accused us of disrupting
peace by issuing announcements - but why can't we say that our
men are being arrested and sentenced without defence?' he said.

Indeed, with or without official approval, Suu Kyi and NLD are
determined to celebrate Burma's 50th anniversary of independence
on Jan 4,,when many expect "the Lady" to hold a public gathering.

We regained our independence [from the British], but Burma isn't
freed from the military dictatorship," said student activist Win
Min.  Like Win Min, many activists in and out of Burma warned
that if the SPDC cannot resolve the current political and economic 
crisis, the people may take to the streets again as they did in 1988.

However, no one can guarantee that any popular uprising will
solve Burma's decades-old problems.  But if they have no
alternative, the Burmese will be forced to take to the streets to
challenge the junta.

There is a climate of fear in the country with the new junta
having no qualms about putting down dissent.  Indeed, political
deadlock and instability won't help to attract more foreign
investment or overseas development aid.

"Political dialogue is possible if the opposition party gets
weaker and weaker," a local veteran journalist said, adding that,
genuine political dialogue can turn Burma into a peaceful and
developed nation.

But for the generals, the truth is bitter, and they refuse to
swallow it.  Power has made them blind and deaf.


December 29, 1997  (excerpts)

BANGKOK, (Dec. 29) IPS - As one more year passes by, military-ruled 
Burma looks no closer to democracy than before, but there are signs that the
generals who rule this country are under increasing domestic and foreign
pressure to change their ways. 

On the economic front too, the situation in this resource-rich yet
impoverished country deteriorated during the year. 

While inflation has ranged between 30 to 40 percent annually for the past
several years, in 1997 prices of imported goods shot up phenomenally due to
the dramatic fall in the value of the Burmese currency from around 160 kyat
to the U.S. dollar at the beginning of the year to more than 300 kyat by

Again while in previous years foreign investment -- attracted by its rich
natural resources and cheap labor -- poured into Burma, the currency
turmoil in South-east Asian economies has led to the cancellation of
several projects. 

Thai business groups, which form the bulk of the foreign investors in terms
of volume in Burma, have stopped funding their projects in the country due
to liquidity problems at home. 

The biggest blow to the SLORC regime's hopes of putting the Burmese economy
on the fast track however has been the failure of its "Visit Myanmar year,"
launched in late 1996. The number of actual arrivals during the year has
been less than half the official target of 500,000 tourists set by the

This has led to the collapse of numerous tourism-related businesses, as
well as widespread layoffs in large foreign-owned hotels that had been set
up in anticipation of a tourism boom. 

"The biggest challenge ahead of the Burmese government in the coming year
will be to prevent the economy from collapsing completely due to the
adverse economic situation throughout the South-east Asia region," says an
ASEAN diplomat in Rangoon. 

The diplomat says Burma's political situation has always been closely
linked to the fate of its economy. If the downturn in its economic fortunes
continues, then 1998 -- which also marks a decade of the country's
pro-democracy movement could well prove to be a year of social and
political surprises too.


December 31, 1997  (abridged)


The new year, 1998, will begin with a shattered myth.  The so
called engine of economic growth in Asia the 'economic miracle"
for the past 30 years that dazzled the developed world - is
grinding to a halt.

The harsh truths of the explosive growths of Asean countries and
East Asia are now out in the open.  Unbridled borrowing by firms
controlled by cronies of ruling elites as economies boomed in
Asia is the main reason behind the region's financial turmoil.

Much of the vast amounts of borrowed money were spent on
speculative property developments, prestige projects and unneeded
factories.  Thailand, Indonesia, and now South Korea, the world's
11th largest economy, have had to ask the Inter national Monetary
Fund (IMF) for emergency loans.  Malaysia's economy looks
increasingly shaky. Even Japan the world's largest economy after
the United States, seems vulnerable.

In order to qualify for IMF bailouts: the countries affected will
have to implement very strict financial reforms.  To sustain
these reforms, there has to be a social consensus behind them. 
This is unlikely if those seen as the culprits are bailed out,
while tough fiscal and monetary policies plunge many innocent
people in Asean and East Asia into hardship and unemployment.

In Indonesia, the process of economic collapse that is under way
strikes at the core of the Suharto regime's legitimacy.  For many
years, Indonesian elites and their foreign backers have argued
that lack of freedom and authoritarianism were necessary prices
to pay for economic development.

The prices paid by Indonesians during political addition, natural
resources have been depleted and the environment seriously. Wealth
has been distributed in an extremely unequal manner and
traditional social structures destroyed.

In this time of crisis in Indonesia, I, one of the Suharto
regime's most hated persons, have urged the US administration to
provide strategic leadership and vision to help rescue the
economies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea.  Of
all leaders in the region, the one that deserves most support
today is South Korea's President-elect Kim Dae-jung, as he and
his people are the embodiment of the struggle for freedom and
democracy in the Asia-Pacific.

As austerity measures taken by governments bite, there is greater
potential for social and political unrest in several countries,
as frustration builds not only against foreigners and the IMF but
their own governments as well.  And instability in Indonesia is
not in anyone's interest in the region.


The financial debacle in the region, also, debunks the so-called
'Asian values" touted by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohamad and other regional leaders like Suharto, Lee Kuan Yew,
Goh Chok Tong and Jiang Zemin.  They claim that in the Asian
paradigm, values such as consensus and stability trump individual
rights and freedom, and they argue that the US and the European
Union have no fight to judge the humanitarian affairs of other nations.

These Asian leaders claim that in order to further development, a
strong state is needed to guide, organise and protect business
the way the Japanese government did in the 1950s and 60s, and the
way the governments of Taiwan and South Korea aided development
in the 1970s and '80s.  These nations, claim leaders like
Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew, once they reached a point at which
they were considered 'developed", were able to further democracy
by holding free and open presidential elections (as in Taiwan and
South Korea), or by relaxing some bureaucratic regulations, as
Japan did in the early 1980s.

But, I must ask, to what end is development in view of the
financial turmoil in the region that is testing the mettle of
long-time leaders like, Suharto and Mahathir?  Asian values are
not a code for'"development" but a short-handed way of saying
'get your nose out of our government, but keep it in our
business'.  Unfortunately that business, now, has been shown to
be, thriving on corruption, nepotism and a lack of accountability.

Now is the time for the international community to push for a
strategic vision in Asean which incorporates political reforms
such as democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law,
transparency and accountability.  These have been lacking for
decades and are some of the causes of collapse of the "Tiger economies".

Asians do take freedoms, whenever given the opportunity, like
suffrage and speech, very seriously.  Events in the Philippines
in 1986, South Korea in 1987.  Burma in 1990 - where Aung San Sun
Kyi's National League for Democracy won the majority of seats in
the junta-controlled election - and Cambodia in 1993 point to that fact.

The international community now more -than ever must give full
support to Sun Kyi in her struggle for political change in the
country. The people of Asean are sympathetic to Sun Kyi, and they
do want to see a government in Burma that is accountable and has
the support of the Burmese people.  On the contrary, however,
Asean governments have chosen to ignore their people's wishes
and, are, sadly, together with China undermining peace and stability 
within the region by promoting ties with the Burmese military regime.

I support the US ban on new investment by American companies in
Burma.  In imposing trade sanctions against Burma, the US has
made clear that it regards any association with the military
regime as fundamentaly and morally wrong.  The brutal suppression
of the Burmese people must not be sustained through trade, and I, also, 
am for a consumer boycott against all foreign companies trading in Burma.


Examining other decidedly Asian nations further erodes the myth
of Asian values.  Japan is a democracy, and South Korea and
Taiwan are slowly but surely making  the transition to democracy,
undermining the. idea that Asian values are perpetually Asian.

Recent events in South Korea seem to augur well for democracy in
Asia.  For the first time in half a century, a veteran dissident
and former political prisoner, Kim Dae Jung, won the presidential
election. Kim's win ends an era of machine politics and marks the
first peaceful transfer of power in South Korea to the opposition.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for my country, East
Timor - which in Asean is a test of will between the forces of
democracy and dictatorship, and between the forces of right and
wrong.  Xanana Gusmao, of whom 1 am a personal representative, is
serving a 20-year prison sentence in Indonesia - a foreign land.

Torture is still systematic and widespread.  Hundreds of East
Timorese have been arrested by Indonesian authorities in the last
12 months and hundreds, too, have fled the country.  There is a
war in East Timor.  Innocent victims suffer every day, and the
Suharto regime and Indonesian military seem immune to criticism.

I'm encouraged by the moves of the US administration and the UK,
but more is needed to push Indonesia to cut its losses in East
Timor.  While Asean leaders today may pretend that East Timor is.
a non-issue, international public opinion, however, has
dramatically changed around the world - one year after the award
of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Peace Prize has given a much needed boost for the East
Timorese fight for self-determination, and during the year that
is now ending, I have spoken to audiences of thousands in all
continents. 1 have met senior US administration officials,
various heads of state and government, almost every foreign
minister in the European Union, including the new UK Foreign
Secretary Robin Cook three times in the last six months.

I can clearly see there is a distinct change of perception
coupled with a new political will to address the East Timor
conflict.  Clear evidence of this comes from the dedicated
efforts throughout the year by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan,
and his special representative Jamsheed Marker, as well as the
attention given to the issue by South Africa's President Nelson

One cause for optimism in East Timor's struggle is the changing
situation within Indonesia itself. Pro Democracy and human rights
groups are speaking out more and more on the issue of East Timor,
linking the oppression there to that which exists under Suharto
in Indonesia.  I salute these brave Indonesian activists who are
willing to risk jail and persecution for being in solidarity with
the East Timorese people.

In the global changes that have followed the end of the cold war,
possibilities for peace in East Timor should now be seriously
explored.  If a movement towards a durable peace is to begin in
East Timor, the point must be the development of incentives for
parties in the conflict to stop the war.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama reminds us that no matter what part
of the world we come from, fundamentally we are all the same
human beings.  All of us human beings want freedom and the right
to determine our own destiny  individuals, says the Dalai Lama. 
I fully agree with His Holiness.  Freedom for East Timor is in sight.


January 4, 1997  (abridged)

***Fifty years of "independence' would appear to have given the
Burmese people precious little to be grateful for, and even less
reason for optimism.  Rather than any sense of growing
enlightenment, the anniversary brings only gloom.***

Bedevilled by internal dissent, scorned by the international
community, strapped for cash, Burma has little if anything to
celebrate today, the 50th anniversary of its independence.

Celebrate independence?  How does one celebrate freedom while in
chains?  Suu Kyi cannot move about without harassment; she is
truly in chains.  The Burmese people have vanish and foreign
reserves dry up; they are enslaved to the government's ideology of 
desperation.  The country will not be admitted to other international 
cooperative ventures anytime soon; it is enchained to old ways and 
diehard regimentalism.

"As I see it," one Burma-watcher told AFP this week, "things
have for better or worse sedimented into a situation reminiscent
of pre-1988 ... empty bellies, empty state coffers and- moral degradation."


January 3, 1997

DAWN GWIN CAMP - In a steamy jungle hut on the Thai-Burmese
border, a half-dozen young broadcasters tick off their routine
stories: Burmese troops torching an ethnic minority village,
women forced into slave labour, a student tortured for passing
out pro-democracy pamphlets.

Their target-audience is a few kilometres away, across the
Salween River in Burma, one of the world's most closed societies.

Their news reports, along with radio dramas and music programmes,
are produced in this isolated, guerrilla camp in northern
Thailand by one-time student activists.  Then they're sent by
foot, vehicle and plane to Oslo, Norway, to be broadcast back
by-short-wave on the Democratic Voice of Burma, or DVB.

Radio remains the prime news source in impoverished Burma, and
millions avidly tune in any of four foreign stations to hear what
is happening in their own, rigidly controlled country. ,

Besides the DVB, Burmese-language programming is carried by the
British Broadcasting Corp, the Voice of-America and the
Washington DC-based Radio Free Asia.  Although audience figures
aren't available, all four receive hundreds of letters from
listeners inside Burma.

A strong supporter of Burma's prodemocracy forces, Norway funds
the five year-old DVB, which Hopes to improve reception quality
inside Burma by setting up a relay station, perhaps somewhere in
the 'former Soviet Union.

Burmese get their official news from' the Burma Broadcasting
Service, run by a military regime that crushed a prodemocracy
revolt in 1988 and sent thousands fleeing to frontier areas.

The regime periodically accuses Western news organisations,
including the four stations, of trying to destabilise the
country.  But listening to foreign broadcasts is not illegal.

'We are not putting out a political line.  We just believe people
should have a different point of view," says Dan Souther land,
executive director of the US-government funded Radio Free Asia,
which also broadcasts to China, Tibet, Vietnam, North Korea, Laos
and Cambodia. 

'The long-term effect is hard to predict.  But it seems to be
good for morale.  It gives Burmese a connection to the outside
world,"-Souther land said.

All four stations focus heavily on the pro-democracy movement in
Burma, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and on
human rights violations by the military government.

VOA, BBC and RFA say they present objective news reports, while
the Democratic Voice of Burma is clearly a radio with a cause,
and often one on the run.

Aye Aye Khaing, a 27, year-old radio reporter, had to flee for
her life when Burmese troops attacked their clandestine base and
studio inside Burma last year.  She has moved camp seven times
since 1991, when she fled Rangoon after twice being jailed for
political activism.

At past locations, Aye Aye Khaing recalled, the "studio"
consisted of some recording equipment sheltered by blankets to
block out sounds of jungle wildlife.

Now, or at least until the next move, the studio at this
headquarters of the All Burma Students Democratic Front has a
concrete slab for flooring, some plastic insulation, a fan and a
portable electric generator powered when recordings are made.

The reporters say they try to be as factual as possible, often
trying to find-several sources to confirm an event.


December 30, 1997

In "Words fail UN in dealing with Burma" (Editorial, Dec 7) you
state that this year's UN General Assembly (GA) resolution on
Burma' is weaker than those of previous years.  On the contrary,
this year's text is the strongest ever.  You also say that the
resolution is likely to be endorsed by the Security Council. 
This would be highly unusual.  The normal procedure is for the
resolution, adopted by the Third Committee of the GA, to be
formally endorsed by the GA plenary towards the end of the annual

Since UN resolutions are peculiar and rather esoteric animals,
difficult to analyse, it may be helpful for your readers if I
list some of the factors to bear in mind:

*UN resolutions are couched in courtly language.  There are no
insults, no "socking it to" the government in the dock - in fact,
no overt acknowledgement that the country is in the dock, or,
indeed, that there is a dock at all.  It is a fine diplomatic art
to be able to interpret the function and relative strength of
such terms as "deplores', "condemns", "expresses deep concern
about' "strongly urges' etc.

*One must understand the precise context of each paragraph, and
what is being implied.  Take, for instance, Operative Paragraph
16 of this year's resolution, in which the General Assembly
"Strongly urges the Government of Myanmar to fulfil its
obligations with regard to the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, as set out in the concluding comments of the Committee on
the Rights of the Child".  This paragraph endorses the concluding
observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child last
January, in which Slorc was hauled, very forcefully (in UN terms)
over the Coals for the shortcomings of its Child Law, for its
signal failure to implement its obligations under the Convention,
or to repeal or amend Burmese legislation such as the 1982
Citizenship Act, which discriminates against certain groups of
people, including children' Slorc's rough ride at the Committee
on the Rights of the Child is especially significant if we
understand that this treaty is one which Slorc itself signed, and
promised to implement.

*Since 1991 all the UN Burma resolutions have been by consensus,
which means that there is no vote; the resolution is considered
to be the unanimous voice of the international community, and
thus morally more authoritative than a voted resolution.  To
achieve consensus, the views and proposed language from all
interested parties, including the Burmese government, have to be
taken into account, which is why the language of consensus
resolutions is generally milder than that of voted resolutions. 
One regular feature of drafting the Burma resolution is the
rather difficult search for something positive to balance the
criticisms, and out of the 36 paragraphs-in the 1997 resolution,
only four are in any way positive about the junta's actions,
whereas no less than 23 were critical (last year's count was 3 to 18).

*A device which has been used in recent years to strengthen the
thrust of the resolution while maintaining consensus is for those
countries with especially strong views on Burma to make the
gesture of 'not co-sponsoring the resolution, and delivering a
statement to the effect that the resolution should be stronger. 
This action retains consensus, and adds to the overall criticism
of Slorc, rather than the opposite, as you implied.

A last factor indicating that the UN is not watering down its
criticism of the Burmese junta is the welcome given to the text
by the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, which
every year mounts a lobby in Geneva and New York to press for
stronger language.

Of course, Burma activists would like to have seen even stronger
language, but given the political nature of the United Nations,
this resolution is stronger than I had expected.