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Burma News Update No. 56

Thanks for the info.

David Aung

> From: ccraig@xxxxxxxxxxx
> To: Recipients of burmanet-l <burmanet-l@xxxxxxxxxxx>
> Subject: OSI: Burma News Update No. 56
> Date: Wednesday, May 06, 1998 4:08 AM
>      Burma Project, Open Society Institute
>      Burma News Update No. 56
>      5 May 1998
>      More Arrests, Death Sentences
>      Six pro-democracy activists were sentenced to death, and 33 others
>      long prison sentences in an intensified crackdown on opposition
>      in Burma. A junta spokesman claimed that the six men given death 
>      sentences were caught with explosives and that others were jailed
>      "activities to cause instigation and agitation in the country." 
>      Several people have recently been jailed for their writings or for 
>      disseminating materials to diplomats and international media.
>      (Bangkok, Agence France-Presse, 30 April)
>      Heroin Causes Burma AIDS Crisis
>      The New York Times reports that an AIDS crisis spurred by heroin 
>      addicts sharing contaminated needles is at crisis levels in Burma,
>      that the country's army junta claims an AIDS/HIV rate less than five

>      per cent of the actual figure, in part not to scare away potential 
>      tourists. Excerpts: "[The junta] has reported registering only
>      addicts, with as few as 17,000 infected with AIDS. Foreign medical 
>      researchers put the total number of addicts closer to 500,000 and 
>      estimate that several hundred thousand heroin injectors have become 
>      HIV-positive. . . . [Burma] offers a harrowing example of 
>      drug-producing or transit countries that find their own people
>      addicted. . . . [The regime's] own AIDS statistics have been suspect

>      since 1996, when it wooed foreign tourists with a `Visit Myanmar' 
>      campaign that portrayed the country as a vacation paradise." 
>      (New York Times, 3 May)
>      Japan Urges Talks
>      Japan's decision in March to fund repairs to Rangoon's airport was a

>      one-time exception to its freeze on aid to Burma's army junta, a 
>      Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Bangkok on 30 April, 
>      adding that his government remains concerned over continuing human 
>      rights abuses in Burma and has again urged the junta to open talks 
>      with democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
>      (Bangkok, Associated Press, 1 May)
>      EU Extends Ban
>      European Union Foreign Ministers extended the ban on senior-level 
>      official contacts with Burma's army junta for six more months on 27 
>      April. Officials said restrictions on contacts and visas for junta 
>      members were extended because of the military regime's ongoing human

>      rights violations. (Luxembourg, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 27 April)
>      Chinese Presence Worries India
>      India's defense minister, George Fernandes, said on 3 May that India

>      is deeply concerned over a sophisticated electronic surveillance
>      China has built on Burma's Coco Islands, which he says can monitor 
>      defense activity along India's east coast. Fernandes said Chinese 
>      activities in Burma and the growth of Burma's army from 160,000 to 
>      over 450,000 over the past six years are potential threats to
>      security. (New Delhi, Reuters, 3 May)
>      Oil and Heroin Mix
>      A French newsweekly reports that France's soft policy towards Burma
>      driven by the French TOTAL oil company's  investment in a billion 
>      dollar natural gas pipeline project being built across southern
>      The article reviews Francis Christophe's new book, Burma, the Poppy 
>      Dictatorship, which notes that since the current military junta
>      power in 1988, Burma's opium production has leapt from 800 to almost

>      3000 tons annually, and describes the army's involvement in every 
>      stage of the drug trade. France is the only Western country which
>      not condemn the junta, the article says, adding that this "human 
>      rights contempt" may be joined by "financial waste" if the current 
>      Asian financial crisis hurts TOTAL's pipeline investment.
>      (Paris, L'?v?nement du Jeudi, 16 April)
>      UNOCAL Outlook Negative
>      Standard & Poor's revised its outlook for the UNOCAL Corp. from
>      to negative, noting that two-thirds of UNOCAL's reserves are in 
>      countries of high political risk, including Southeast Asian nations 
>      now experiencing economic turmoil. [UNOCAL, a partner with Burma's 
>      military junta in a one billion dollar natural gas pipeline, also 
>      faces suit in federal court in California over its alleged
>      in human rights abuses by its military partner in the pipeline 
>      area_Ed.]
>      (New York, Business Wire, 30 April)
>      BURMA NEWS UPDATE is a publication of the Burma Project of the Open 
>      Society Institute.
>      400 West 59th Street, New York, N.Y. 10019 tel: (212) 548-0632 
>      Website:www.soros.org/burma.html