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The BurmaNet News: May 14, 1998

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"

The BurmaNet News: May 14, 1998
Issue #1005

Noted In Passing:  "(A)re corporations functioning as closet human rights
agitators? Or are they mainly interested in political stability? A staffer
on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee points out that, on a recent
visit to Suharto's Indonesia, she challenged an American company to explain
what it does to protect its workers when they are harassed by the
government. The response? Nothing."  (See The New Republic: The Sanctions


13 May, 1998

The All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF) condemns the killing
yesterday of six Indonesian students in Jakarta who were demonstrating
peacefully against the Indonesian government.

The six students were killed after Indonesian police opened fire on some
5,000 demonstrators at Trisakti University in central Jakarta. Many more
people were reported injured, some with gunshot wounds.

The ABSDF condemns the killings and the action of the authorities, and
fully supports the right of the students and other citizens to stage
peaceful protests.

The ABSDF also calls on the Indonesian government to allow peaceful
demonstrations to take place; and to prevent any further violations carried
out by the police and security forces. The organisation also calls on ASEAN
member states to raise these concerns with the Indonesian government.

The All Burma Students' Democratic Front was formed following the August
1988 uprising in Burma in which thousands of people were killed by the army
in response to nationwide anti-government demonstrations. Tens of thousands
of people joined in the student-led demonstrations in which people called
for democracy and human rights in Burma.

For Further Information Please Call 01 654 4984.


13 May, 1998

Jakarta -- Riot police fired into a crowd of protesters, killing five
students in the capital Tuesday as anti-government demonstrations
intensified around the country, witnesses said.

Officials at a Jakarta morgue confirmed the deaths, while doctors said
"many others had been wounded. They declined-to give further details.

The killings, outside Trisakti University in central Jakarta, follow more
than a week of intense anti-government protests.

The deaths are likely to increase pressure on President Suharto to yield to
demands that he reform Indonesia's beleaguered economy and political system
as the country of 200 million battles its worst financial crisis in three

Witnesses said police had chased protesters through the streets, firing
shots into the air and at least 10 rounds into the crowd of several thousand.

Others said police had fired continuously for several minutes after
students beat up an undercover intelligence agent sent to spy on them.

Police later clubbed students and journalists as they fled the scene,
clogging rush-hour traffic. Bystanders joined the student protesters who
hurled rocks at the police.

It was unclear whether police had fired live ammunition or plastic-coated
bullets. Many students were also overcome by tear-gas.

Hundreds of police surrounded the campus after nightfall as weeping
relatives identified the dead at the morgue at Sumber Waras Hospital.

"I know he did not take part in any demonstration. Why did it happen to
him?" the mother of one of the dead screamed as others tried to console her.

Senior security personnel said there were no official reports of casualties
and declined to comment further.

Warning shots were also fired into the air in Bandung, 120 kilometres east
of the capital.

Earlier in the day police fired into the air and then clubbed protesters
during a face-off between 600 demonstrators and about 500 anti-riot personnel.

One student at Bandung University of Technology yelled in protest as a
soldier twisted his arm and whacked him repeatedly over the head. Five
protesters, including a female student and a taxi driver, both bleeding
from the head, were rushed to a nearby hospital.

Police in Kupang, 1,875 km east of the capital, fired tear-gas and
plastic-coated bullets at a crowd of 300 students, injuring at least two.

The students, from two universities hurled stones at a local-government
building as they yelled: "Democracy is dead!"

Months of protests intensified last week after the government announced a
new round of austerity measures to help overcome Indonesia's worst economic
crisis in three decades.

With the size and frequency of demonstrations gaining momentum, Amien Rais,
leader of Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organisation, urged the
military to exercise restraint.

Students rallied on at least six Jakarta campuses, demanding an end to
President Suharto's 32-year rule.

Suharto, who is attending a conference of leaders from developing nations
in Egypt, warned last week that security forces would use force to quell
violent protests against the government.


13 May, 1998

Several Thai political activists yesterday protested briefly outside the
Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok, demanding an end to violence against
anti-government protesters in Indonesia.

About a dozen activists from several rights organisations demonstrated
peacefully for about 30 minutes. They charged people were being arrested,
abducted, tortured and killed in Indonesia, where the economic crisis is

A joint statement issued by six groups, including the Asian Forum for Human
Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), demanded Asean governments start a
dialogue with Indonesia on the issue.

"Stop the killings in Indonesia. The mass killings suffered by Indonesian
peoples in 1965 must not be replicated in the 1990s," the statement said.

"We also demand that Asean governments meet and discuss recommendations put
forth in an effort to resolve the current political and economic problems
in Indonesia," it said.

"We will continue to pressure the Indonesian government until president
Suharto resigns," Chalida Tajharoensuk, programme co-ordinator of Forum
Asia, said

Indonesia and Thailand are both members of the Association of South East
Asian Nations along with Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the
Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. 


13 May, 1998

Singapore -- A Singaporean Cabinet minister was quoted yesterday as saying
his government rejects Western criticism of Burma, whose military rulers
are shunned by the United States and the European Union because of human
rights abuses.

"It is easier to criticise than to build," George Yeo, minister of
information and the arts, said during a visit to Burma.

"We refuse to accept the Western view that all roads lead to Rome, their
Rome," he said. 


25 May, 1998
By Jacob Heilbrunn

The corporate takeover of foreign policy. 

As President Clinton prepares for the upcoming June Sino-American summit,
he and national security adviser Samuel R. Berger are working overtime to
neutralize the domestic human rights lobby. First, the administration
declared that China would soon sign a new United Nations covenant on human
rights. Then, it touted the release of dissident Wang Dan as a victory for
its policy of constructive engagement. Most recently, Clinton met with 60
Christian evangelical leaders at the White House to attack the Freedom from
Religious Persecution Act, which would cut off subsidized loans and
"non-humanitarian" aid to countries that systematically harass religious
believers. Clinton, unaware that Elaine Sciolino of The New York Times was
present, pointed to sanctions laws against Russia, Cuba, and Iran as
examples of the dire consequences a China bill might have: "What always
happens if you have automatic sanctions legislation is it puts enormous
pressure on whoever is in the executive branch to fudge an evaluation of
the facts," said the president. 

Ever since the passage of the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, which Clinton had
resisted but hastily signed after Havana shot down two unarmed planes
piloted by anti-Castro Cuban-Americans in international waters, the
administration has been caught between two policies of appeasement. The
first policy is to use economic ties to transform dictators into democrats;
the second is to placate the domestic constituencies that advocate
unilateral sanctions against those same dictators. So far, the
administration has acceded on paper to measures such as Helms-Burton or the
Iran-Libya Sanctions Act and then employed national security waivers to
prevent them from actually taking effect. Are Canada and the European Union
doing business with Cuba or Iran? Then fudge. Is China illegally buying
advanced missile technology from American companies? Fudge again. 

But, with the proliferation of sanctions legislation, the administration is
becoming apprehensive. The persecution bill, for instance, would establish
an independent White House monitor who would simply declare that, yes,
blatant religious persecution is taking place in a particular country or,
no, tolerance prevails. There is no room for fudging. 

The stakes are anything but minor. The thrust of foreign policy itself is
at issue. President Clinton and Berger have always viewed trade as a means
of creating a peaceful and democratic global order. Trade, so it is
supposed, can bind nations such as China, or even North Korea, into
international structures that will encourage them to observe liberal norms
of behaviour. On Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's recent trip to
Beijing, the most important member of her delegation was Trade
Representative Charlene Barshefsky--who tried, unsuccessfully, to secure
Chinese commitments to human rights that would smooth the path for
membership in the World Trade Organization. 

The belief that interdependence brings peace dates back to Montesquieu. It
may work among democracies. But "constructive engagement" of dictatorships?
During the cold war, proponents of engagement with the Kremlin argued that
trade would lead to freedom inside the Iron Curtain. But, if anything, the
denial of high technology to the Soviet Union and its East European
satellites, which sought to evade restrictions on supercomputers and other
goodies, helped bring them down. Sanctions also had a devastating effect on
apartheid in South Africa. Now, as states like China, Cuba, and Burma seek
to attract foreign investment and the moral approbation that comes with it,
the lessons of the cold war may well have acquired a fresh relevance. 

The Clinton administration, however, has drawn a different lesson. During
the cold war, Sandy Berger and company maintained that economic engagement
was crucial. Now they seek to apply that approach to all repressive
countries. To do this, the Clinton administration has fought sanctions in
Congress, and it has fudged when the time came to enforce them. More
recently, it has gone a step further and encouraged the creation of a new
and potent business lobby -- whose aim is to portray unilateral sanctions
as undesirable, unworkable, and, above all, un-American. 

"Unilateral Sanctions--They Hurt U.S.," reads the red-white-and-blue
boomerang distributed by the leading lobbying group against sanctions,
USA*Engage. The organization was first organized by a powerful Democratic
insider: Anne L. Wexler, the lobbyist and former aide to President Jimmy
Carter. Since its founding in April 1997, USA*Engage has amassed over 600
members--including multinationals such as IBM, Unocal, Boeing, and Mobil.
Its chairman is William C. Lane, a business executive at Caterpillar and a
member of the Executive Committee of Americans for Humanitarian Trade with
Cuba. Frank Kittredge, the vice chairman, is president of the National
Foreign Trade Council. Its legal team includes Sandy Berger's old firm,
Hogan Hartson. 

To defend American business involvement in dictatorial countries abroad,
USA*Engage promotes an upbeat message. USA*Engage, as the name suggests,
seeks to equate trade with internationalism, unilateral sanctions with
isolationism. It doesn't oppose multilateral sanctions; it simply doesn't
want the U.S. to go it alone, to find itself isolated, losing business,
antagonizing its allies. Its officials go on to argue that, far from being
avaricious supporters of dictatorships, corporations are the last
internationalists -- nothing less than a new advance guard for democracy. 

The idea is simple: Economic ties can lead to freedom. In a full-page ad in
the January 16 Wall Street Journal, for example, USA*Engage used the
occasion of Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba to urge an end to the
island's economic isolation. "The United States," the advertisement said,
"has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership through engagement....
Engagement can be a powerful force when pursued at all levels -- political,
diplomatic, economic, charitable, religious, educational, and cultural."
One official at USA*Engage says, "We try to be as careful as possible to
talk about engagement. Business has developed an argument that goes beyond
pure self-interest, that represents the national interest." The flurry of
sanctions passed by a Republican Congress alarmed business. "We decided to
create a business coalition to try to change the climate in the summer of
1996, a year and a half after the Republican Congress took over, to go on
the offensive," says the official. 

In the beginning, there was oil. A former congressional trade staffer says
that USA*Engage really began as a front group for Unocal, which has been
the target of protest because of its alleged use of forced labor in Burma,
where the company runs a natural-gas pipeline in tandem with the country's
government. "When I look at Unocal in Burma or Shell in Nigeria or
Occidental Petroleum, which got a waiver from sanctions against Sudan, this
raises the question whether they are really complaining about sanctions,"
the former staffer says. "Really, it's oil barons who want to operate
without regard to human rights or labor practices." 

But USA*Engage has worked hard to project a less self-serving image,
stressing the toll unilateral sanctions might take on the U.S. economy. In
March, for example, William C. Lane testified before the Senate that
sanctions have hurt Caterpillar--and, by extension, American workers. In
the 1980s, he said, sanctions against the Soviets cost Caterpillar access
to the Soviet tractor market, and Japanese competitors quickly moved in.
Not only did this effectively move 12,000 man-years of work from Illinois
to Japan, he said, but Caterpillar came to be seen as an unreliable
supplier, giving Komatsu of Japan a leg up elsewhere in the world. Today,
the U.S. government discourages firms from exporting products for the
construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China because the massive project
will uproot tens of millions, destroy precious historic sites, and ravage
the environment. This stance prompted Lane to ask why Congress was, in
effect, preventing U.S. firms from getting a piece of the world's biggest
construction job. The U.S. has sanctions against the Sudan and Cuba; the
Sudan, Lane said, would make for a lucrative export market and thus create
more jobs and better pay at home. (In March, Caterpillar executives met
with Fidel Castro to discuss bulldozers; Mobil and Texaco, not to mention
USA*Engage members, were official guests of Castro as well.) 

To give its crusade some intellectual heft, USA*Engage has also reached out
to think tanks such as the Institute for International Economics, which
issued a report on sanctions at USA*Engage's April 1997 press conference.
The report said that sanctions cost the American economy between $15
billion and $20 billion and resulted in 250,000 jobs lost in 1995 alone.
Writing in Mother Jones, Ken Silverstein reported that the National
Association of Manufacturers, a USA*Engage member, funded a study by
Georgetown University law professor Barry Carter that described, in the
association's words, the "steep price tag for U.S. commercial interests."
The Heritage Foundation has weighed in against sanctions as well. And, in
June, the Cato Institute will hold a conference titled "Collateral Damage:
the Economic Cost of U.S. Foreign Policy." One of the main speakers will be
William C. Lane. USA*Engage has also wooed religious organizations, such as
the National Council of Churches, which opposes Arlen Specter and Frank
Wolf's bill on religious persecution. 

Are these efforts paying off? In 1996, one USA*Engage official points out,
23 sanctions were put in place; in 1997, only two countries, Sudan and
Colombia, were sanctioned. "This year," the official says, "there were
reverses. Sanctions were lifted against Colombia and Vietnam, and there is
a recognition that there is a bias toward engagement toward Cuba.... You
could see some China sanctions lifted in June" when Clinton visits Beijing. 

One of the instruments that USA*Engage hopes to use to blunt unilateral
sanctions is a bill sponsored by Lee Hamilton and Richard Lugar. The bill
would not prevent a president from imposing sanctions, but it would
require, among other things, that the economic costs for American industry
and agriculture be calculated. It also contains a "sunset provision" that
would require the president to renew sanctions every two years, or they
would lapse automatically. Andrew Semol, a senior adviser to Lugar, says,
"What I particularly find attractive about the exercise is that it's a
pro-engagement policy. We can impose sanctions on really egregious
countries, but there is an implicit philosophy that through engagement
we're likely to have as much influence as disengagement." 

The bill is unlikely to pass anytime soon, since enactment would mean
ceding congressional foreign policy prerogatives to the president. But
USA*Engage and its business members have been quite successful at lobbying
the Clinton administration to kill sanctions in other ways--thanks in no
small part to the influence of Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat.
(According to several leading human rights advocates, Eizenstat was
involved in the creation of USA*Engage. Eizenstat's office denies this.) 

One Eizenstat initiative came in September 1997 in the form of a newly
created "sanctions working group" of the State Department's Advisory
Committee on International Economic Policy. The group issued a report
asserting that sanctions "often are imposed rapidly and reactively, without
adequate deliberation and understanding of either the potential impact on
the target's behavior or the domestic, foreign, and economic costs of
sanctions." The document came with the standard disclaimer that it did not
represent the official views of the State Department. Who were the advisers
on the committee? Boeing, DuPont, General Electric, United Technologies,
and a number of other companies. The afl-cio, also a member, issued a
lonely dissent. The advisory called for a sanctions review committee,
within the National Economic Council and the National Security Council,
which has since been established and is reviewing every sanctions law
passed by Congress. 

Testifying before Congress in October 1997, Eizenstat invoked the advisory
committee's report. According to Eizenstat, the "illustrative matrix of
foreign policy tools" devised by his advisory committee offered a valuable
road map to sanctions. Eizenstat said that sanctions "should be used only
when carefully considered by both the executive and legislative branches as
to their effectiveness, after all benefits, costs, and consequences are
analyzed...." The State Department has attempted to put this approach into
action when it comes to various sanctions, whether it is the Sudan or Cuba.
Eizenstat's deputy, Bill Ramsay, says Washington lobbyist Christine Bolton
was key in negotiating with the Europeans to stave off a confrontation over
Helms-Burton. Bolton puts it this way: Ramsay "understands the complexities
better than anyone in the administration." 

Currently, the main preoccupation of sanction opponents is the Religious
Persecution Act. The administration wants the Senate to back a substitute
bill by Don Nickles that would allow the White House much more discretion
in making determinations about persecution. But, of course, the Clinton
administration must tread carefully. Religious persecution is a sensitive
issue. That's why USA*Engage is so helpful -- it has more freedom to tackle
the arguments of human rights advocates. 

And, indeed, USA*Engage has taken a more public stand against sanctions. It
is, in a very real sense, the administration's bad cop. USA*Engage has
worked closely with religious groups and leaders that oppose the bill like
the National Council of Churches and Billy Graham. (The council's associate
general secretary, Albert M. Pennybacker, declared in 1996 that acts which
might be seen as "persecution" could really be an attempt to "preserve
authentic religious and cultural traditions.") And USA*Engage has
campaigned directly against the Religious Persecution Act; a September 9,
1997, letter to Frank Wolf signed by Frank Kittredge and other business
leaders spelled out the logic behind USA*Engage: "Just as missionaries
cannot accomplish their goals by withdrawing from the mission field,
America cannot expect to be an influence for religious freedom and human
rights by removing itself from a country.... Our stepping out of this
increasingly interconnected world and erecting sanctions will have little
or no impact on those who wish to persecute others. It will, however, have
a significantly negative impact on the United States." 

To be sure, unilateral sanctions can multiply crazily. Many cities and
states, for example, now have their own sanctions. Chicago and New York are
considering divesting their pension funds from Switzerland because of the
Swiss banks' treatment of Holocaust accounts. Takoma Park, Maryland,
boycotts Burmese goods because of human rights violations. Heavily
Cuban-American Dade County, Florida, has a selective purchasing and
investment law against Cuba. 

USA*Engage is planning to sue Massachusetts over its anti-Burma law -- and
it may have a case. The constitutionality of these measures is dubious. "If
we are to be one nation in any respect," wrote James Madison in Federalist
42, "it clearly ought to be in respect to other nations." Indeed, under the
supremacy clause and the doctrine of preemption, nonfederal organizations
cannot pursue measures contrary to federal policy. The Supreme Court has
upheld vast powers for the federal government in the foreign sphere, most
notably in 1968, in Zschernig v. Miller, a case that struck down an Oregon
probate law on inheritances in the East Bloc. 

But what about the larger argument against unilateral sanctions? Are they
invariably costly and self-defeating? The answer is: It depends. No doubt
sanctions carry economic costs; they pose an impediment to the global
system of free trade that the U.S. has championed since World War II. On
the other hand, sanctions clearly have an effect on target nations. One
thing that sanctions against Iran and Libya and Cuba have accomplished, for
example, is to create a more uncertain business climate. The sanctions may
not bring these malignant regimes down single-handedly, but they can create
higher costs for them. Otherwise, why would they fight against sanctions?
America remains the prime purveyor of high technology, and many countries
remain desperate for access to it. The mere threat of sanctions may also be
enough to induce a country to reconsider its course; Clinton could have
considered using them against the Serbs when they stirred up trouble in
Kosovo. So, when the Institute for International Economics declares that
the U.S. has lost up to $20 billion in trade, it is not taking into account
the costs to the regimes that are the targets of sanctions or the benefits
of bringing disruptive countries to heel. 

The flip side of this argument is the theory, propagated by USA*Engage and
its supporters, that business is an avatar of democracy. This is a far cry
from the bad old days, when the Eisenhower administration staged a coup in
Guatemala on behalf of United Fruit, ITT helped topple the freely elected,
but Marxist, Allende government in Chile, and American businesses were
active in countries such as South Africa. Now, in Foreign Affairs, Harvard
Business School professor Deborah L. Spar argues that U.S. multinationals
are actually on the side of the angels: "They bring jobs, capital,
technology, know-how, management techniques, labor relations, and
administrative structures that are unlikely to depart too dramatically from
U.S. standards." Writing in the December 1996 Cardozo Law Review, Peter
Spiro observes that pressure exerted by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty
International, and other organizations has been beneficial: "Whatever the
motivation, the corporate response is plainly transcending mere public

But are corporations functioning as closet human rights agitators? Or are
they mainly interested in political stability? A staffer on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee points out that, on a recent visit to Suharto's
Indonesia, she challenged an American company to explain what it does to
protect its workers when they are harassed by the government. The response?
Nothing. Similarly, in 1994, Chrysler Corporation threatened to fire one of
its workers for absences; it turned out he had missed work while detained
by the Chinese government on political charges. (When human rights groups
intervened, Chrysler decided to take no action against the worker.) If
anything, repressive regimes have the upper hand on American companies
since they can always threaten to confiscate their assets. It's an inherent
conflict of interest and a logical tension as well. 

Business is also unwilling to acknowledge that, in countries ruled by
dictatorships, no distinction between regime and economy exists. They are
one and the same. Doing business in Indonesia usually means doing business
with the Suharto family. Put otherwise, Suharto is really running a
business empire. Or take Cuba. Fidel Castro is Cuba. He controls the
government, and the government controls any economic activity on the
island. Canadian, Spanish, and Italian firms that engage in tourism or
mining activity there are funneling large percentages of their payroll
directly to Castro's government; in return, they receive a docile,
state-selected labor force. If these firms refused to play along, they
would instantly lose their privileges or be kicked out. How on earth does
this kind of "engagement" benefit ordinary Cubans? Contemplating access to
this corrupt "market," American businessmen offer self-serving platitudes.
Frank Kittredge told Congress that "last week over fifty U.S. businessmen
travelled to Cuba to meet with top Cuban officials. The American delegation
saw firsthand the harmful effects of a society isolated from American
influence. It's time to completely overhaul America's policy toward Cuba."
What Kittredge saw "firsthand" were the disastrous results of 40 years of a
Soviet-style command economy. 

Then there is Burma. The Burmese State Law and Order Restoration
Council--which operates that billion dollar pipeline with Unocal -- is not
just a government but a business operation. When USA*Engage decries
unilateral sanctions against Burma, it is not just seeking business. It is
actually pushing for Washington to adopt a friendly policy toward the junta
itself because, without such a relationship, access to Burma's remote
mineral, oil, and timber resources would be denied. Since Burma is not
exactly a mecca of free enterprise, U.S. firms supply technological
know-how and cash to the Slorc, keeping it, so to speak, in business. 

Ultimately, these regimes crave the moral imprimatur that only Washington
can confer. Maureen Ang-Thwin of the Open Society Institute's Burma Project
observes that sanctions and disapprobation are a useful club. The Burmese,
she emphasizes, devote enormous time and resources to attempting to polish
their reputation in the U.S. and at the United Nations. "Why do they do
this?" she asks. "The Burmese need our approval. They can't crawl back into
their shell." 

Certainly one reason the Clinton administration opposes new sanctions laws
is that -- just like previous administrations -- it is wary of
congressional encroachment into foreign policy-making. But the Clinton team
has gone further than its predecessors. Like USA*Engage, it says that
corporate interests are the national interest. This has resulted in a new
human rights coalition, particularly on the issue of China. 

Something similar occurred during the 1970s with the Jackson-Vanik
amendment. Congress passed the law to deny the Soviet Union Most Favored
Nation trade status until Soviet Jews were free to emigrate. Richard Nixon
and Henry Kissinger opposed it in favor of a detente that focused on
economic ties as a way of effecting change in the Soviet Union. But detente
went nowhere; the important thing was the system's loss of political
legitimacy, which was accomplished both through the denial of normal
relations with the West and through the dissidents who rejected the system.
China, Burma, Libya, and Cuba don't represent the same global threat to the
U.S. as did Moscow, but their contempt for human rights is no different,
and denying them undeserved international legitimacy is just as urgent. 

Consider the results of the religious delegation Berger and Clinton sent to
China in February. The members--Donald Argue, president of the National
Association of Evangelicals, Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick, and Rabbi
Arthur Schneier--met with President Jiang Zemin, visited a model prison in
Tibet, and issued a report that lauded the "dialogue" with Beijing.
According to Nina Shea of Freedom House: "We've seen more arrests since the
trip. They were actually detaining believers during the trip so they
couldn't meet with them." 

As part of the Clinton administration's all-out battle against the
Religious Persecution Act, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivered
a speech in October at Catholic University. "If we are to be effective in
defending the values we cherish," she said, "we must also take into account
the perspectives and values of others. We must recognize that our relations
with the world are not fully encompassed by any single issue or set of
issues." But if America, as Albright has declared, is the "indispensable
nation," then religious rights cannot be buried in a heap of relativistic

Sanctions are a tool that can help America keep faith with people
struggling against tyrants. They may cost America business. They may fail
to change fundamentally a regime's behavior. But they do deny the moral
approbation that the world's thugs crave. Until the Clinton administration
stops trying to propitiate these regimes, it will keep selling democracy


14 May, 1998
By Supamart Kasem and Wassana Nanuam

Eleven Thais taken hostage by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army were freed
yesterday after a ransom was paid.

An army source said Army Commander-in-Chief Chettha Thanajaro had
personally contacted Burma's State Peace and Development Council First
Secretary Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt who had reportedly told the DKBA to free the

However, a border source in Mae Sot claimed that before the DKBA agreed to
free them, a Thai negotiator was ordered to pay a 10,000-baht ransom and
deliver a four-wheeled pick-up truck to the DKBA.

The hostages were freed after local Border Patrol Police company commander
Pol Lt-Col Anurak Sutsom held five hours of talks with the area's DKBA
commander Lt Aung Paing.

Jamnong Khammuen, owner of an illegal sawmill in a DKBA-controlled area
opposite Ban Mae La in Tha Song Yang, and 10 workers were apprehended by
DKBA troops after they were suspected of being spies for the DKBA's main
rival, the Karen National Union.

The Burma-backed DKBA had initially demanded 500,000 baht ransom and 30
sacks of rice for their return.

Army secretary Pongthep Thespratheep said yesterday that Gen Chettha had
coordinated with leading Burmese military figures who were asked to help
coordinate with the DKBA to free the hostages.

However, Maj-Gen Pongthep said the army is to take legal action against the
freed hostages for illegally crossing the border into Burma to prevent
further illegal border incursions.

An army source said Gen Chettha has been coordinating with leading Burmese
military figures for reopening of the Mae Sot border checkpoint, which was
closed earlier following the KNU cross border attack from the border town.

"The army commander is concerned with the situation and will try his utmost
to reopen the border checkpoint," said the source. 


14 May, 1998

Sentencing due today

A British-Australian national suspected by Burmese authorities of
"terrorist" activities and charged with illegal entry pleaded guilty
yesterday, court sources said.

Dual-citizen James Rupert Russell Mawdsley, 25, entered the guilty plea
after being charged with violating the Emergency Provisions Immigrations
Act, the sources and witnesses at the trail said.

Despite public accusations that Mawdsley was "terrorist" in cahoots with
anti-government elements, authorities appeared anxious to let him off lightly.

"Despite the fact that we could have made more serious charges against him,
we chose the lightest one," a court spokesman said after the trial.

"We are happy that this will end just like another simple illegal entry
case," the spokesman said, adding that illegal entry was very common along
Burma's borders, with hundreds caught daily.

Sessions judge Than Htwe, presiding at a court in Rangoon's Insein prison
compound, said the final sentencing would tale place tomorrow. The charges
vary between six months and five years in jail under the act.

Mawdsley, who was brought into court flanked by security personnel,
appeared somewhat subdued and simply replied "yes" when asked if the would
plead guilty to charges of illegal entry. 

The trial, in its second day after being adjourned on Monday, was attended
by a throng of Australian and British embassy officials and foreign

Mawdsley was arrested on April 30 near the Thai border shortly after
crossing into Burma without a visa or passport.

Mawdsley was also arrested by Burmese military authorities last September
after chaining himself to fence in central Rangoon and shouting
anti-government slogans. He was subsequently deported.


13 May, 1998

Social critic Sulak Sivaraksa will stand as a defendant at the first
hearing of his trial against the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) at
the Kanchanaburi provincial court today.

However, his lawyer Somchai Homla-or, chairman of the Civil Liberty
Association of Thailand, said he has sent a request to the Supreme Court to
move the trial from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok for convenience.

Sulak was arrested by police in Thongpaphum district in March while he
staged a sit-in protest in Huay Kha Khaeng forest in an attempt to block
PTT workers from felling trees to pave way for the construction of the
Yadana gas pipeline from Burma.