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- From: brelief@xxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 16:07:00
Some perspective. The Nippon Keizai interview of Win Naing treated him more
than generously. Too bad they didn't ask him any hard questions about his
source of livelihood, his fear of returning to Burma, his continued "refugee
status" which makes a mockery of Japanese refugee policy when he's doing the
Myanmar Embassy's business for them, and a host of others! We also wish
they would have questioned him about his early ties to Daw Suu. We
understand he had no connection with her or the NLD at all.
Nippon Keizai didn't see fit to mention it, but the work of the Burmese
democracy movement in Japan is now being carried on by several groups,
including the Burma Youth Volunteer Association, the NLD-LA-Japan, and the
People's Forum on Burma, all in Tokyo.
This article from early 1992 gives some interesting background on the
Burmese Democracy movement in Japan and early problems with the Burmese
Association In Japan. BAIJ now actively supports the military junta's
policies although FORMER activists Win Naing and Mya Mya Win retain their
refugee status and prosper doing investment and import-export related
business with Burma here in Japan.
It should be added that Dr. Kyaw Tint was finally granted asylum in Japan
after a couple of years of immigration struggle, although his family's
status was not entirely clear. He and his family have sought and received
refugee status in the US where they they continue to support Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi and the NLD.
- - - - -
Complication in Burmese Democracy Activists in Japan
By Asabe Shinichi
The Southeast Asia Correspondence ----Special Burma edition----, Vol.
16, Spring 1992.
(Translated into English by Asabe Shinichi)
Although Japan ratified the UN Convention on Refugees ten years ago,
with the exception of Indochinese cases, extremely few asylum seekers
have been recognized as refugees. On April 20, however, three Burmese
were recognized as refugees by Nagoya Immigration bureau. Right after
the announcement of refugee status, a news came out of Burma on April
23 that General Saw Maung has resigned as chairman of SLORC and a
promise by the regime that a national convention will be convening
during the year. Another announcement was added that family of Aung San
Suu Kyi would be allowed to visit her. Some political prisoners were
also released. A bunch of news indicating democratic changes was
transmitted from Burma.
"Only Ne Win can make decisions like these," said Kyaw Tint, Ph.D. in
engineering, who works as researcher for a company in Nagoya. "Look at
his order to remove his portraits from government offices, and you can
see how he is still pulling the strings. That's proof that he is still
in charge". He doubts the sincerity of military government in moving
toward democracy. "We'd be fool", he continued with a laugh,'"if we
didn't know what they really intended to do".
Some people interpret the changes in Burma owe to Japan's actions and
influence, but his reply is, "Even if Japan threatened to completely cut
off their ODA to the junta, the military generals would not even realize
that they would be in trouble". He does not believe in Japanese
negotiations or engagement.
First refugee status was granted to the president of Burmese Association
in Japan (BAIJ), Win Naing (33), his aunt and her son. Japan's this
significant step should have received wide western attention and
approval; but this good news did not even become a talk of Burmese
community in Japan. Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugee was never
formally reported, anyway.
"Immigration officials warned me I'd better keep my mouth shut," Win
Naing said, "because my family in Burma could be persecuted". Of course
all the people mentioned in this report have already been marked by the
Burmese Embassy in Tokyo as anti-government activists, so their families
already face such danger. Nevertheless, these people seems to have
determined to fight for democracy in their homeland.
The question is why did Japanese government wanted to hide the news of
the grant for these refugees. Only two days later, NHK reported this
story in their morning news. Win Naing himself announced about the
notification to the reporters in the afternoon of that day.
"I wonder," Kyaw Tint said , "why Japanese government has failed to
recognize Ko Min Nyo, the first president of BAIJ, who applied for
refugee status at the same time as those three." Kyaw Tint explained
that before coming to Japan, Min Nyo had been imprisoned for one and a
half years. Since then he had been on the blacklist of the military
government. "If he return to Burma now, he would certainly be arrested,"
Kyaw Tint continued. "I do not understand the criteria of Japan for
refugee recognition." Kyaw Tint himself was not recognized as refugee
Win Naing was also confused by the announcement, "I have no idea why
they granted refugee status only to us", he said. "In Japan there are
lots of people, such as Chinese and Koreans, who are qualified to be
Min Nyo and Win Naing are second cousins. They lived next-door to each
other in Mandalay. "Though Win Naing's father asked me not to let his
son involve in politics". He was also confused by the decision of Japan.
The BAIJ was originated from a group of six students led by Kyaw Tint in
Nagoya University campus. On September 12, these students and Mr. M.
Yamada, president of Japan-Burma Cultural Association-Shizuoka Branch,
arranged a public meeting for Burmese at Kanzanji near Hamamatsu city.
It was Kanzanji area where General Aung San , father of Aung San Suu
Kyi, had hidden during his stay in Japan before World War II. About 200
Burmese attended the Kanzanji activity organized by the students of
Nagoya University and Min Nyo became first president of Burmese
Association in Japan.
Min Nyo explained why he resigned as president of BAIJ after only one
year of service and why he is now estranged from the association:
(1) The rules of the Association had been secretly written
before it was formed.
(2) Although the rules require formal majority vote to conduct
any policy matter, most decisions are made by a few elite members,
usually with a given excuse that "due to lack of time."
(3) Executive committee members are supposed to be elected every
year, with a maximum two years; but there has been no real election, and
the president is currently in his third year in office.
(4) Too many meetings are closed to most members.
(5) Without the consent of the EC members, the association had
continued to send donation indirectly to a student leader fighting for
democracy in Thai-Burma border, even after the leader was asked to
resign by his organization.
Despite their prominent role in the formation of BAIJ, Kyaw Tint, Min
Nyo and their group were unable to meet with a delegation of NCGUB
headed by Prime Minister Dr. Sein Win during their recent visit to
Japan. This visit was arranged by Mr. Yamazaki of Naigai Psychological
Tactics Research Center and also hosted by BAIJ. Therefore BAIJ
prevented the delegation from making any outside contact.
In responding the questions, Win Naing commented only about the
international conference held on May 23. "We have to hold closed
meetings", he said, "because there are so many spies among the Burmese
here. Also, it would be very difficult to get good opinions if there are
too many people attending a meeting. Of course, we will announce the
results at the end". He added that the eleven members who would be
attending the closed-door meeting had been elected by an open voting at
a (closed) meeting three months ago. In fact, Dr. Min Nyo boycotted the
international conference citing it was undemocratic, and Kyaw Tint was
never informed about this conference.
Though unity would work better for the democracy struggle, these groups
do not match each other from their interpretation of a 'democratic
association'. The gap between them was widened by the unclear criterion
on asylum applicants adopted by the government of Japan, and also by
Japan's media which tends to report much about Win Naing's claims
without minimal research.
In March 1988 when Burmese army started killing students of Rangoon
Institute of Technology, Kyaw Tint was shocked to see how the media
reported events of Burma with headlines like "Disturbances in Burma's
University". Since then he believed in the duty that Burmese abroad
should inform the world what is actually going on inside their country
and to counter the official news which is usually slanted or covered up
by the military regime.
In explaining why he had asked Dr. Min Nyo to lead Nagoya University
group, Kyaw Tint stated, "Had I been elected as the association's
president, I could not have accomplished what I considered my most
important responsibility here". In fact, at that time he was already
relaying daily news sent from prodemocracy groups inside Burma to
Japanese and western media such as the BBC. His article "Putting Burma
Beyond the Pale," had appeared in August 29, 1988 issue of The Times
newspaper of London.
The junta became annoyed with his appeal to the world, and thus
the Burmese embassy in Tokyo sent four letters to him between March and
May 1989 ordering him to immediately return to Burma. At that time he
was pursuing for his doctoral degree at the university by scholarship
support of Japanese government. At one point, Tun Ngwe, consular
representative of Burmese embassy made a threatening phone call:
"Don't you have your mother in Burma? he asked Kyaw Tint.
"Yes, I do ..."
"Then you'd better ...."
Kyaw Tint knew that if he was repatriated, he would join the struggle
for democracy inside Burma. On June 19, he filed for the refugee status
at Nagoya immigration office. With his application he also submitted a
copy of tape transcription of his phone conversation with the embassy
On November 14, 1989, Tun Ngwe, the consular representative who made
harassing calls to Kyaw Tint, found a time bomb near residence of the
Ambassador situated on the left side of the main gate of Embassy
compound. As hew knew that was a bomb, he picked it up and threw it over
the wall. The bomb dismantled into pieces in the bushes without hurting
anything. The newspaper coverage of this incident contained several
strange points. The bomb was described as made of military use plastic
explosive and attached with a clock without hands." The area where the
bomb was found was a off limit zone except for Burmese diplomats. The
only witness who saw the bomb in place was a high ranking diplomat.
Tun Ngwe might have told Shinagawa Police that Kyaw Tint was a top
suspect for this terrorist act. Police inspectors came to Nagoya to
interrogate him. "Japanese police were far wiser than our embassy
officials," Kyaw Tint said, "because one investigator told me that they
are not easily deceived by such a fabricated story". "The embassy wants
us to arrest you, he said with a laugh, but that is not an easy task
here in Japan".
After all, the envoy indecorously returned to Burma just as it seems the
truth would be exposed soon.
After Kyaw Tint completed his studies, he began working for a Japanese
company and filed for visa status adjustment. Immigration office called
him and tried to make a deal that "if you do not withdraw your filing
for refugee status, we cannot issue you a work visa". However, following
the appearance of his letter criticizing Japanese aid to Burmese
military junta in December 18, 1991 issue of Mainichi Daily News, the
immigration suddenly relented and granted him a work visa.
In Kyaw Tint's apartment I saw a copy of Working People's Daily, the
only official paper of Burma, with a story about the release of
political prisoners. There also was a photo of former Prime Minister U
Nu who had just been released from house arrest. In the photo he was not
smiling. My interview with Kyaw Tint continued till midnight. We tuned
the BBC broadcast. It announced that U Chit Khine, who worked with Aung
San Suu Kyi as Chairman of NLD had released. "That is merely a
performance to try cool down international criticism," he said calmly.
"When Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, international
criticism against the junta was paramounted, but they keep on oppressing
the people harder. It seems that things cannot get worse than they are
now in Burma. Remember that Japan objected in the UN for imposing
sanctions on Burma in line with their policy of keep opening channels
with the junta. I can't help but think that the Japnese government has
chosen this point of time to recognize three Burmese refugees so that
Japan can claim credit for any improvement that they expect to come".
Kyaw Tint, a victim of both governments can only feel bewildered and
dissatisfied at many sudden changes that have taken place.