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The BurmaNet News: May 15, 1998
- Subject: The BurmaNet News: May 15, 1998
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 02:47:00
------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: May 15, 1998
THE SUNDAY TIMES: JUNTA FORCES FARMERS TO GROW OPIUM
BKK POST: KARENNI NEGOTIATING CEASE-FIRE
BKK POST: ASEAN - US DIALOGUE WILL SHIFT TO MANILA
VOA: ROHRABACHER INTERVIEW
VOA: ROHRABACHER FOLLOW UP
THE NATION: ARF EMBRACES NORTH KOREA, MONGOLIA
FBC: SUPPORT FOR INDONESIA'S ASPIRATION FOR DEMOCRACY
BKK POST (ANLYSIS): NATION (INDONESIA) VERGES ON REVOLT
ANNOUNCEMENT: BORDERLINE NEWS HOMEPAGE
THE SUNDAY TIMES: JUNTA FORCES FARMERS TO GROW OPIUM (LONDON)
10 May, 1998
By Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
Burma's military junta is evicting thousands of villagers from previously
drug-free areas for refusing to transform their rice fields into poppy
plantations as part of a United Nations-backed "drug control" programme.
The regime has told its UN sponsors that it is moving villagers away from
regions where drugs are being produced and uprooting the poppy fields left
However, an investigation by The Sunday Times and two independent human
rights organisations, has found that the junta is secretly expanding the
number of opium farms in these designated drug control areas. Video footage
of burning poppy fields presented to the UN in support of funding
applications for schemes worth millions of pounds has been faked.
In interviews with dozens of farmers, soldiers and retired civil servants,
in areas where the UN has been told there is no poppy cultivation, it
emerged that the Burmese regime now controls vast networks of opium
producing villages. In areas where the UN is funding eradication
programmes, officials of the military government are running trafficking
syndicates, which target addicts in Europe and Asia.
Burma has now overtaken Afghanistan, which for many years supplied the
majority of the world's heroin. While the Afghanis last year produced 123
tonnes of the drug, the military junta in Burma manufactured more than 250
metric tonnes, according to the US State Department's International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report (published last month).
Robin Cook, the foreign secretary, quoted in a forthcoming report on
Burma's narco-economy by the South Asian Information Network (SAIN), said:
"The failure of the regime to address this issue [the production of heroin]
- indeed their apparent willingness to abet and profit from the drugs trade
- deserves the strongest condemnation."
The military government's abuse of its UN-aided drug control programme to
expand rather than reduce heroin production first emerged in January. In
the remote Arakan Yoma mountain range, in central Burma, 330 miles west of
Rangoon, the army issued written orders to 5,000 villagers from Ngape
People were told to leave the area immediately, with the government
publicly claiming that they were opium farmers who refused to destroy their
crops. Many were sent to Burma's border with India. They told how they had
been forced from their homes for refusing orders to grow opium after poppy
farmers from other parts of Burma had been brought to their communities by
the army. "We had never grown opium before but the soldiers said we had to
plant poppies or lose our land," one said.
A 34-year-old woman, who had left her home and possessions behind, said
that only the opium farmers were left alone. "This was not a drug clearing
scheme; the army hi-jacked our land to grow drugs."
Many told how the army issued orders for villagers to grow a second,
smaller crop. "We were told by the soldiers that they would film the
burning of this area to show the foreigners that poppies were being
destroyed," a 52-year-old man said. The main crop would be left untouched.
The Arakan relocation was not an isolated incident. Refugees from Shan
State, in the north east of Burma, where the UN has spent several million
pounds on drug control programmes over the last three years, told how they
were ordered back to areas previously cleared of poppies. "The army told us
we had to cultivate opium again. If we refused, we were told we would have
to pay compensation to the government which would also confiscate the
land," a 45-year-old man told The Sunday Times. The orders were later
publicised in the government's newspaper, which claimed that the opium was
needed for "compounding indigenous medicine". However, villagers said that
the use of opium for herbal compounds was insignificant and that all the
opium was taken by soldiers.
In Chin State, on the north west border with India, Burma's ruling State
Peace and Development Council advised the UN that there was no opium
production. But, according to retired police officers in the state's
northern Tiddim Township, interviewed by Images Asia, a human rights
organisation based in Thailand, video footage of villagers destroying the
poppy fields had been faked. Officials from Burma's Central Drug Control
Bureau, a UN-funded government department, had filmed the fields being
weeded but claimed the footage showed farmers uprooting the plants.
While the film was being shown to the UN in Rangoon, the army in Tiddim
Township supervised poppy cultivation schemes. More than 15 acres of land
in every village was set aside for the crop and each grower paid an annual
licence of 10,000 kyat (£25) to the Drug Control Bureau and 5,000 kyat
(£13) to the police. Each acre of land yielded six kilograms of opium paste
sold for 90,000 kyat (£220).
It takes the yield of 10 villages to produce more than 80 kilograms of pure
heroin in hi-tech refineries, which would fetch £15 million on Britain's
streets. It is alleged that Burmese army battalions now guard many of these
Farmers and former couriers told Images Asia that six new refineries had
recently opened on the banks of the Chindwin River, which runs parallel to
Burma's border with India, in the neighbouring Sagaing Division. The
British Chindits, an elite force of soldiers and Gurkhas, who forged it to
fight the Japanese in World War Two, made the river famous. Today army
bases, including the headquarters of the 52nd, 89th, 222nd, 228th, 235th
regiments, have been established next to large heroin refineries.
After refining, pure heroin is packaged under one of four brand names,
Tigerhead, 555, Two Lions and Double UO Globe and transported by police
officers and soldiers. One former army officer, living near the Indo-Burma
border, told Images Asia that his superior had recently taken 35 kilograms
of heroin in his car, which he sold for £500,000, at the Burmese border
town of Tamu, near Manipur in north east India. Myo Min, a border trader,
said he had seen many military officials transporting drugs. "Army officers
and soldiers willingly participate in the drug trade and I saw high ranking
military personnel buying and carrying opium and heroin. I have never seen
The South Asian Information Network, which has monitored the army's
involvement in drug trafficking, also carried out interviews with traders
and drivers on the Indo-Burma border, for a report to be published later
this year. Many said they had been issued with military passes, signed by
Khin Nyunt, one of the most powerful men in the junta. The authorisations
were stuck to the windscreens of the vehicles used to transport drugs.
The same stories emerged on the Thai-Burma border where a checkpoint guard,
in eastern Shan State, told The Sunday Times how he stopped a trailer
loaded with heroin and was shown a pass signed by Khin Nyunt. He phoned the
general's office in Rangoon and was told to let the trailer pass as the
drugs were allegedly being transported to a destruction centre. The load
was never seen again.
In Rangoon, the regime has created legislation to help launder the proceeds
of drugs and introduced an investment scheme where Rangoon banks, in
exchange for a 25 per cent fee called a "whitening tax", wash dubious
money. According to the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development, in 1996 there was £250 million of
unexplained investment attracted by the scheme. The US State Department
narcotics strategy report concluded that Burma's economy was now heavily
reliant on drug profits: "There is reason to believe that the laundering of
drug profits is having a substantial impact on the Burmese economy."
The victims of the burgeoning narco-economy can be seen in the bamboo huts
of villages in Chin, Shan, Kachin and Arakan States where opiate addiction
is endemic and killing hundreds of thousands. Some addicts are so young
they can barely lift their opium pipes. Aung Than was only seven, but spent
much of the day intoxicated. In the house next door, the women of the Nhkum
family were quietly mourning their three sons. The boys, aged 13, 17 and
21, friends of Aung Than, had all died of heroin overdoses. Death now came
so frequently to Pang Sak village, sometimes twice a day, that it passed
almost without note.
The community, in northern Burma's Kachin State, had become known as the
Village of Widows. In the last three years, all the male adults, including
Aung Than's father, had died of drug addiction after families were ordered
by the military to cultivate opium poppies instead of rice. Now the sons
were following their fathers.
The decimation of the community was recorded in a secret health report
smuggled to Thailand: "There are drug addicts in every house here, all of
the village boys from seven to 25-years old, and the older ones are already
In Pang Sak village, Aung Than was sick again. "I want to stop using the
pipe but our fields are full of poppies, not rice, and the smoke makes my
hunger go away," he said.
BANGKOK POST: KARENNI NEGOTIATING CEASE-FIRE
15 May, 1998
The Karenni National Progressive Party and people from Kayah State have to
negotiate a cease-fire between Karenni rebels and Burmese troops a Thai
border official said.
Until now, fighting between Burmese troops and Karenni rebels has prompted
more than 20,000 people from Kayah state to seek refuge in Thailand.
BANGKOK POST: ASEAN - US DIALOGUE WILL SHIFT TO MANILA
15 May, 1998
Burmese denied visas for Washington talks
Talks between Asean and the US will be held in Manila next week instead of
Washington because of American reluctance to issue visas to Burmese
officials, foreign ministry official said yesterday.
The scheduled meeting of permanent secretaries of the nine Asean countries
and the US will be held on may 23 and 24, alongside a special Asean-SOM
gathering next Thursday and an Asean Regional Forum (ARF) session May 20 to
Source said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) agrees to
the US request that they're meeting is moved to Philippines on condition
that it not set a precedent for future sessions.
US refusal to grant visas to Burmese delegates disturbed Asean, which
admitted Burma as a partner last July, the ministry sources said.
The Asean-US dialogue will consider such issues as economic outlook,
economic and investment, drug trafficking and other international crime and
Burma will likely be quizzed on the issue of narcotics control.
Thailand recently signed a deal with Burma to curb the illicit drug trade,
and through this channel, Rangoon could receive assistance from abroad,
including from the US.
At the ARF meeting, with an Indian delegation on hand, Asean senior
officials and 11 dialogue partners will discuss India's underground nuclear
tests this week.
Foreign ministry spokesman Kobsak Chutikul said Australia, New Zealand and
Canada would raise the matter in the context of the Southeast Asian Nuclear
Thailand agreed to the talks and Asean senior officials will informally
discuss the matter at their special meeting reviewing the political and
security situation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Foreign ministry permanent secretary Sajro Chavanavirach will head the Thai
ARF members include Asean's Thailand, Brunie, Burma, Indonesia, Laos,
Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, along with Australia,
China, Canada, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New
Guinea, Russia, South Korea and the US.
VOICE OF AMERICA: ROHRABACHER INTERVIEW
24 April, 1998
Byline: Dan Robinson
Intro: A U.S. congressman who has just completed a visit to Burma says that
country's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, remains ready to talk to the
military government about democratic reform. VOA's Dan Robinson reports,
California congressman Dana Rohrabacher says the United States should
maintain sanctions against Burma -- despite moves by corporate groups to
oppose the use of sanctions as a foreign policy tool:
Text: Congressman Rohrabacher takes a keen interest in human rights and
democracy issues in southeast Asia -- especially concerning Burma and
This was the first time he was able to enter Burma legally. During previous
trips to the region, he entered Burma from areas along the border with
Thailand. This time, Rangoon issued him a visa.
Amid intense public pressure last year, president Clinton signed a law
imposing a ban on any new U.S. investment in Burma. This was on top of
sanctions Washington imposed against Burma¹s military government after
hundreds of democracy protesters were shot in 1988.
During what he calls a long lunch with Aung San Suu Kyi and other top
leaders of her National League for Democracy party, Mr. Rohrabacher says he
delivered this message:
/// Rohrabacher act ///
I don't see any weakening of America's resolve in this area. Sanctions are
a fact of life. Our business community has had to face them as such. There
has been an attempt to try to affect the members of congress, [their]
opinion on this, and it has failed. Sanctions will stay on and they will
stay on until there has been some movement toward democratic reform in that
/// end act ///
However, the congressman says that once there is a sign Burma's military
will commit itself to democratic reform, sanctions can be quickly modified
// rest opt //
There have been reports over the past year that splits have developed in
Aung San Suu Kyi's political party. The NLD won an overwhelming victory in
an election permitted by the military in 1990.
Burma's military has taken advantage of this, using public relations firms
to raise questions about sanctions and Aung San Suu Kyi herself. Recently,
an article by a former close aide to Aung San Suu Kyi, appearing in two
international publications, criticized her motivations in general, and
opposition to foreign investment in Burma in particular.
Congressman Rohrabacher says it would be surprising if the National League
for Democracy -- as a democratic organization -- did not have disagreements:
/// Rohrabacher act ///
Whenever you have a group of people who are organized on the basis of
freedom and democracy, you're going to have disagreement. You're going to
have one person wanting to go one way and another wanting to go another
way. That does not signal weakness in an organization. What it signals is
that the organization has broad support and in fact, is symbolic of
strength and not weakness.
/// end act ///
The congressman says he was not able to meet any members of Burma's ruling
military council, which last year changed its name from the State Law and
Order Restoration Council (Slorc) to the State Peace and Development Council.
But he says he sees no reason why Burma's army leaders should not make
moves to try to end the political deadlock. He says Aung San Suu Kyi is
ready to "forgive and forget, and let bygones be bygones." She wants to
talk, says congressman Rohrabacher, "and move that country forward."
VOICE OF AMERICA: ROHRABACHER FOLLOW UP
A U.S. congressman says he is disappointed with criticism of him by Burma's
military government. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a republican from the
western state of California, spoke with VOA's Burmese service a day after
an editorial in Burma's military-controlled press accused him of
"exploiting" his recent visit to Rangoon, during which he met with Aung San
The editorial which appeared in Burma's state-run press used harsh words
to describe congressman Rohrabacher who, for the first time, was given a
visa by the military government.
The congressman met with Aung San Suu Kyi. However, he says he was not able
to meet any members of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPCD).
In an interview after his return from Asia, he told VOA he delivered a
message to Aung San Suu Kyi that U.S. economic sanctions against Burma's
military government will stay until, in his words - "there has been some
movement toward democratic reform."
The editorial appearing in Burma¹s state-run press said the congressman
had, in its words: "exploited and abused the hospitality of the
government." In a telephone interview with VOA,M. Rohrabacher expressed
disappointment with Rangoon's response.
"It is unfortunate that Slorc cannot get together with Aung San Suu Kyi
now, and reach out and try to find an understanding where they can walk
together toward the future in order to uplift the well-being of the Burmese
people and their reaction to me was unfortunate because I was trying to
reach out my hand to try to find some common ground after my meeting with
Aung San Suu Kyi."
The commentary contained derogatory remarks, and was particularly critical
of the congressman's meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi -- implying that he
cared more about meeting the democracy figure than -- what the editorial
called - "ordinary people."
Mr. Rohrabacher says he met Aung San Suu Kyi because she is the "elected
leader of Burma," but that he also spent several hours in Rangoon and met
hundreds of Burmese:
"I also spent several hours in downtown Rangoon at a festival and met
hundreds of Burmese people who I found to be very nice and wonderful
people. Unfortunately, they all looked under-fed and there was very little
food around, and they were living in very harsh conditions compared to the
other people in Asia, who are relatively prosperous at this time."
In his interview with VOA last month, Mr. Rohrabacher said he could see no
reason why Burma's military should not move to end the political deadlock
with the National League for Democracy. In his words: "forgive and forget,
and let bygones be bygones." He said Aung San Suu Kyi remains ready to talk
to the military government.
Now, after the response in the state-run press, Mr. Rohrabacher says it
appears the military government has missed an opportunity:
"From the reaction, the Slorc calling me a monkey and a barking dog, they
obviously are not taking advantage of my offer to reach out and try to find
a common ground between the democratic movement and Slorc. I have no
desire, and I don't believe Aung San Suu Kyi and the democratic alliance in
Burma has any desire, to punish people who were on the other side or for
retribution. Everybody just wants to get on with the job of uplifting the
well-being and creating a more peaceful and prosperous Burma and a more
The congressman says in the United States people believe in a peaceful
resolution of problems. As for the language of the Burmese military's
condemnation of him he says:
"You know in a democracy, we are used to people who disagree with one
another and we respect one another and sometimes people who disagree with
me even think of me as a barking dog. But here in a democratic society we
look at that as being a sense of pride because it is someone who is
watching out for the things they really believe in. And I would hope that
Slorc, instead of calling people names, can take advantage right now of the
opportunity to end the conflict and work with the democratic alliance and
bring about a more democratic Burma in which they personally would be
forgiven of any sins they committed in the past, as well as sins committed
on the other side, and everybody could walk forward together."
THE NATION: ARF EMBRACES N KOREA, MONGOLIA
15 May, 1998
By Kavi Chongkittavorn
North Korea and Mongolia are poised to join the 20-member Asean Regional
Forum when the ARF ministers meet for the fifth time in Manila this July.
These two Northeast Asian countries have expressed interest in joining the
security forum since it was formed in 1994. But the general situation at
the time was not conducive to their applications due mainly to the tension
on the Korean Peninsula. The young forum also wanted to consolidate its
founding membership before expanding further.
Since then, there have been many positive developments on the Korean
peninsula that have warranted the ARF addressing the possibility of adding
new members from Northeast Asia.
At the inaugural meeting in July, 1994 in Bangkok, the Korean crisis
dominated the agenda. South Korea, Japan and the US led the discussion on
ways to reduce the tension in one of the most volatile regions of the world.
North Korea's desire, as stated in a Sept 5, 1994 letter to Thailand, that
it join the security forum, was not met with enthusiasm. Washington, Seoul
and Tokyo were opposed to North Korean's participation.
But after December 1994, when the US and North Korea struck a deal that
eventually led to the establishment of the Korean Peninsula Energy
Development Organisation, which seeks to replace North Korea's graphite
nuclear reactors with light-water reactors, their opposition to Pyongyang
The four-party peace talks between North and South Korea were initiated in
April 1996 and aimed at concluding a peace treaty to replace the current
1953 armistice. Without a permanent peace treaty, both Koreas remain
technically at war.
Progress has been made, albeit slowly, with the Kedo programmes and the
four-party peace talks, which also include China and the United States.
Both South Korea and Japan have lowered their guards. The prevailing
feeling is that it is about time North Korea should be taken into a broader
With the new leadership in Pyongyang and demonstrations of some on-and-off
flexibility, there have been increased engagements between the world's most
reclusive nation and the rest of the international community. ''We have to
keep that channel open and continue to engage the North Koreans no matter
how hard it will be. We must not isolate North Korea,'' said a senior Thai
official, who follows the ARF.
In general, most of the ARF members support North Korea's membership but
some have expressed doubts as to whether Pyongyang can fulfil its
commitments as an ARF member and abide by the code of conduct agreed by the
member countries. ''We wish North Korea will be more forthcoming in the
future,'' the same official said.
None of the ARF members have reservations about admitting Mongolia, which
has moved rapidly towards economic liberalisation and democratisation since
the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mongolia was among the first of the
former socialist bloc countries to move away from communism and towards
With a geographical footprint similar to North Korea's in the Asia-Pacific
region, Mongolia's membership, the ARF members believe, will contribute to
peace and stability in the region.
With the two Northeast Asian members joining the ARF, the 22-member
security forum will include all the countries, except for Taiwan, from the
Northeast Asian region. The ARF comprises all 10 Southeast Asian countries,
plus Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, China, Russia, India, the
European Community, the United States, Canada and Japan.
For the first time, ARF enlargement will bring in new members which have no
prior relations with Asean. Previously, additional ARF members came either
from Asean or its dialogue partners.
Britain and France, both members of the UN Security Council and the EU,
have applied to become ARF members along with Pakistan, Kazakhstan and
Uzbekistan. Hungary, former chairman of the European-based Organisation on
Security and Economic Cooperation, and the Czech Republic are also
In the case of democratic Mongolia, there should be no problems. Ulan Bator
has maintained good relations with all the members of the ARF since it
adopted a more independent foreign and security policy. Indeed, the
country's strategic location -- sandwiched between China and Russia, has
boosted its overall stature in the ARF.
The forthcoming expansion also demonstrates the confidence of ARF members
that the forum can now encompass wide-ranging regional issues and
accommodate new members, regardless of their political ideologies, as long
as they can contribute to peace and stability in the region and adhere to
the code of conduct and the Asean Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.
After a lapse of four years, a foundation has been laid on the confidence
and trust building among the members. The ARF process is now advancing
further to preventive diplomacy. Therefore, bringing in a key player such
as North Korea at this stage is imperative to firm up the various
preventive measures that are being talked over both in track one (official)
and track two (informal) discussions.
The same argument could equally be applied to Pakistan's membership, given
the severity of the tension in South Asia. Next week, senior officials from
ARF countries will be holding a special session to discuss the situation in
South Asia following India's successful nuclear tests early in the week.
It would not be surprising at all if some of the ARF members support the
admission of Pakistan now rather than later, a development which could
cause discord as much as, if not more, than the time the ARF admitted Burma.
With new and unfamiliar players, the ARF should take a longer time to
consolidate the preventive diplomacy stage before it moves, if ever, to the
final stage of conflict resolution.
As such, it poses new challenges for Asean, which wishes to maintain its
leading role in the ARF, to narrow down its security perceptions among
members and forge a more collective stand. Without it, it will be hard for
Asean to stay ahead and remain a driving force.
FREE BURMA COALITION: SUPPORT FOR INDONESIA'S ASPIRATION FOR DEMOCRACY
14 May, 1998
The Free Burma Coalition
225 North Mills Street
Madison, WI 53706
The Free Burma Coalition supports Indonesia's popular aspiration for democracy
Madison, Wisconsin: The Free Burma Coalition expresses solidarity with and
support for the Indonesian peoples who risk their lives in pursuit of their
popular aspiration for democracy, freedom, and social justice.
Tuesday's killings of 6 students at Trisakti University indicates clearly
that the Suharto dictatorship is prepared to hold on to power by any means.
The killings in Indonesia are reminiscent of the slaughter of unarmed
students and civilians in the streets of Burmese cities a decade ago. Like
their Burmese counterparts Indonesian students who became the first
casualties at the hands of the security forces in Burma belonged to a
prestigious institute of technology.
The very fact that even some of Indonesia's best and brightest students
with a relatively brighter future are willing to risk their lives for
democracy and social justice suggests a deep dissatisfaction and anger
toward the country's political leadership and collapsing economic order.
Like their brothers and sisters in Burma, Philippines, Thailand, China,
Tibet, Nepal, East Timor, South Korea, etc., these Indonesian students and
citizens have, time and again, shown that they are prepared to sacrifice
their careers, families, and lives for a more humane political leadership,
a just economic system, and an accountable government.
It is true that it was the security police officers who actually shot and
killed those 6 Indonesian students. However, it must not be forgotten that
there are political and corporate leaders from wealthy industrialized
nations who, over the years, helped prop up the Suharto dictatorship out of
the Cold War logic and purely for profit motive.
We therefore, call upon those corporate and political leaders to use their
good offices to help prevent further violence against the peaceful
We, in the Free Burma Coalition, condemn Tuesday's killings of our fellow
students in Indonesia. We consider these murderous acts to be an act of
policy on the part of the Suharto dictatorship and we urge the
international community to hold them accountable for their senseless murders.
Finally, we urge all fellow peace-loving citizens around the world to stand
by the Indonesian peoples in their hour of needs.
peace, love, and hope,
The Free Burma Coalition
BANGKOK POST (ANLYSIS): NATION VERGES ON REVOLT
14 May, 1998
By Nick Edwards
Parallels are being drawn with the People's Revolution that brought down
the Marcos government of the Phillipines in 1986.
Violent protests in Jakarta against the 32-year rule of Indonesia's
President Suharto reveal mounting pressure for a people's power revolt,
Asian political analysts said yesterday.
Student calls for 76-year-old Suharto to quit had a broadening populist
appeal to opposition and religious groups, the analysts said, and could
spark a revolution like that which toppled Philippine dictator Ferdinand
Marcos in 1986.
"We may be seeing the beginning of something similar to Marcos in the
1980s, with people's power and spontaneous combustion," Abdul Razak
Abdullah Baginda, executive director of the Malaysian Strategic Research
Centre, told Reuters.
What is happening in Indonesia has some resemblance to events ahead of the
revolution which swept Mr Marcos from power, agreed Miriam Ferrer,
professor of Third World Studies at the University of the Philippines.
"The X-factor we're waiting for is the military -- how they are going to
align themselves," she said.
Three months of Indonesian student protests erupted into fatal clashes in
the capital Jakarta on Tuesday which took six lives, threatening to ignite
broader anti-Suharto sentiment. Yesterday at least one person died when
security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas to break up violent
demonstrations in the capital.
"I think you have to see this in the context of some quite extraordinary
criticisms of the regime by individuals and organisations which were
formerly pillars of the establishment. I think what it's going to do is
further that trend," said Alan Dupont, strategic analyst with the
Australian National University in Sydney.
Yesterday leading opposition figure Megawati Sukarnoputri and Muslim leader
Amien Rais addressed thousands of students at Jakarta's Trisakti University
mourning dead colleagues.
Mr Rais, who heads the 28-million strong Muhammadiyah movement, told the
crowds: "The president must change his attitude, or the people will force
him to change.
"Continue with your demonstrations until there is true reform."
Ms Megawati, matronly daughter of Indonesia's late founding president
Sukarno, gave what was for her a fiery address to the students mourning at
the Trisakti campus in west Jakarta. The crowds cheered her and jeered Mr
"The actions that have been done by the security forces in shooting their
own people cannot be condoned... I call on the security forces not to hurt
their own people," she said.
While the calls showed groundswell support for the students, they were not
the fully-fledged solidarity pledges needed to mark a turning point in Mr
Suharto's fortunes, said Bruce Gale of the Political and Economic Risk
Consultancy (PERC) in Singapore. "That will be when the students clearly
have the support of some of the major power bases in Indonesia," he said.
Until then, it was difficult to see power being wrested from the grip of
aging President Suharto, or from his family and friends who have grown rich
and powerful under his regime.
Mr Rais said the armed forces had two choices: "The first is to defend
Suharto and his family. The second is to defend the Indonesian people."
Political and military meltdown in Indonesia though, the world's fourth
most populous nation and Southeast Asia's biggest power, would have
consequences far beyond its own shores.
"The Indonesian crisis is no longer just about currency and financial
matters. It's a security crisis threatening domestic and regional
stability," said Satoshi Morimoto, a former senior official at Japan's
Defence Agency and now a senior researcher at Nomura Research Institute.
Mr Morimoto said Mr Suharto's removal could seriously damage unity within
the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) which could deprive the
region of its drive to settle sensitive political issues in countries like
Cambodia and Burma.
Diplomats in the region said Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand would be
anxious to quietly persuade their neighbour of the urgent need to resolve
its troubles, while South Korea's Foreign Minister Park ChungSoo, speaking
to foreign correspondents in Seoul yesterday, expressed concern about
instability and regional security.
While toppling Mr Suharto might satisfy the immediate political agendas of
some in Indonesia, it could easily tear apart the $40 billion-plus (1,600
billion baht-plus) economic rescue package painstakingly stitched together
by the International Monetary Fund.
The United States, for example, would face increasing domestic pressure to
cut off funding for Indonesia if the government was replaced by a military
regime, said analysts.
However, the paradox is that the IMF package -- a key cause of the
anti-Suharto protests because of the sharp price rises in basic commodities
it required -- is increasingly seen as irrelevant by financial analysts,
with markets left reeling by a daily deteriorating economic and political
The region's financial markets reacted with uniform horror to the unfolding
violence. Stocks and currencies slumped in the face of increasing signs of
instability in Jakarta.
Although it was doubtful the combined effect of economic, political and
military manoeuvring would see Mr Suharto unseated in the immediate future,
the momentum for reform was now unstoppable, said Mr Gale.
"The students have, in a sense, already won the battle, the battle to reach
a consensus that reform is needed," he said.
ANNOUNCMENT: BORDERLINE NEWS & VIDEO CO-OPERATIVE HOMEPAGE
10 May, 1998
The Borderline News & Video Co-operative homepage can be seen at
The current focus of the homepage is an illustrated record of the 1997
Burmese military assaults on the Karen people, their response, and the
human consequences on both sides of the Thai-Burma border.
We will try to keep this page up-to-date with events, however, and are
currently preparing fresh material. We value comments at this stage.
Borderline Video is an independent, non-profit co-operative supporting the
empowerment of the Burmese people.