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A Letter to Nikkei Weekly's Editor

School of Education
The University of Wisconsin
225 North Mills Street
Madison, WI 53706
Tel:  (608)-827-7734
Fax: (608)-263-9992

May 8, 1998

Dear Editor:

RE: "Seeking dialogue, not confrontation: Former Activist Says Myanmar Must
Make Economy Top Priority" BY SATOSHI ISAKA (The Nikkei Weekly, March 30),
no responsible activist, Burmese or otherwise, argues that an empty stomach
is conducive to democracy or human decency.

Neither Daw Aung San Suu Kyi nor any pro-sanctions advocate juxtaposes human
rights and economic development as decidedly either-or issues, as Win Naing
wrongly claims.

We all agree that economic progress and political development go hand in
hand.  Historical examples abound. 

Despite Japan's economic development at the turn of the 20th century, the
failure, on the part of the ruling elites there, to recognize the
complementary role of politics and the economy, among other things, led to
the rise of Japanese imperialism and its concomitant barbarity.  The
tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should serve as an unmistakable reminder
of the consequences of that line of thinking.  A more recent example would
be the continuing crises in Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, and Malaysia
with their crony capitalist economies.

I doubt patriots-in-exile such as Win Naing would wish a similar fate for
his Burma.

In his hasty call for economic development, Win Naing has chosen to be
oblivious to the cries and sufferings of innocent villagers and urbanites
alike who are subject to an HIV epidemic, execution, imprisonment, torture,
forced relocation, forced labor, ethnic cleansing, rape, murder, and pillage
by the rogue regime in Rangoon.  This year the regime has turned Burma into
the largest refugee and displacement crisis in Southeast Asia.  There is an
estimated one million internally displaced persons in Burma and  thousands
more are fleeing into neighboring countries in search of refuge.  

How would these human beings  be able to put food on the table, let alone
contribute to economic prosperity--which Win Naing advocates--and democratic
development of Burma? 

Of late it is becoming disturbingly fashionable amongst former activists to
claim their legitimacy through their PAST association with Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi and the democracy movement under her leadership. It is reminiscent of an
old trick General Ne Win deployed.  Throughout Burma Socialist Program Party
rule (1962-88), the General and his cronies evoked their past association
with the slain national hero U Aung San and the independence struggle he led.  

After 36 years of military rule we know what has happened to Burma under
these self-certified patriots.  

Last not least, I was among the half dozen Burmese expatriates including Win
Naing and his aunt Mya Mya Win who met at 8 Nakaochiai, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
during the fall of 1988.  In the midst of massacres in Burma, we explored
collectively the idea of forming an association for the Burmese in Japan.
If I remember correctly, I was the one who suggested the name "Burmese
Association" so that it would sound inclusive of all Burmese--regardless of
their work, visa, or student status.  Not long ago the host of the
aforementioned meeting Peter Htun Aung, helped broker the sale of Burmese
embassy land in Tokyo between a local corporate buyer and Burma's junta.  I
did not realize Win Naing would be the next in line.
It pains me to hear the pathetic tales of former activists who have lost
their stamina in Burmese peoples'  struggle for a humane government.  Sadly
they are now volunteering as mouthpieces for multinational corporations and
as apologists for Burma's murderous regime.

May history remember them well.

U Zarni	
Ph.D. candidate