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The BurmaNet News: May 18, 1998
- Subject: The BurmaNet News: May 18, 1998
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sun, 17 May 1998 15:38:00
------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: May 18, 1998
Noted In Passing: We don't want to scare big businesses, we don't want to
turn them into human rights activists, but we are saying that they have to
act responsibly ... . So we will engage in a dialogue with them but that
dialogue will be more or less similar to the dialogue we have with
governments. On the one hand we sit down and talk but if need be we go to
the streets and we shout" - Amnesty International Secretary-General, Pierre
Sane (See Reuters: AI To Target Oil Companies)
IA, KHRG, OSI: SITUATION IN CHIN STATE AND SAGAING DIVISION
BKK POST: ETHNIC CHINESE RETURN IN MORE PROMISING TIMES
ASIAN AGE: BRITON JAILED FOR 5 YEARS, FINED $8,000
THE NATION: YOUTH CRUSADERS
TV MYANMAR: SPDC, UN ANTI-NARCOTICS CHIEF HOLD TALKS
THE PIONEER: CHINESE SAID WORKING AT NINE BURMESE BASES
BKK POST: UN BACKS THAI APPROACH TO BURMESE REFUGEES
VOA: INDONESIA AND THE BURMA IMPACT
MNOC: FALL OF MON KINGDOM ANNIVERSARY STATEMENT
REUTERS: AI TO TARGET OIL COMPANIES
ANNOUNEMENT: WOMEN PEACEMAKERS CONFERENCES
IMAGES ASIA, KAREN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP, THE OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE'S BURMA
PROJECT: ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (EXCERPT)
The Chindwin River flows along almost the entire western side of the
Sagaing Division, while the Irrawaddy River runs down through the
south-eastern part of the division. The SLORC has been developing
irrigation projects to boost rice and crop production particularly in the
southern region. Several dams and irrigation canals have been built over
the past four years, all with forced labour. However, according to local
people, most of these projects have failed, due to engineering
miscalculations and lack of technical expertise.
In 1994, SLORC started a large irrigation development project approximately
10 miles north-east of Monywa, extending from Thei Gyi Gon village to Thazi
village, implemented primarily with forced labour. To make way for the dam
site, ancient pagodas in the area were destroyed. Thereafter, the project
included the building of the dam wall, the digging of a network of
irrigation canals, and the repair of the Monywa-Thazi road. The project
was supervised by captain Soe Win, commander of the #20 Artillery battalion
based on Monywa. The opening ceremony took place in October 1995. After
completion, villagers were still called to plant trees, clear weeds on the
canal network and build a new pagoda near the dam wall.
In the twelve months preceding the opening ceremony, it is estimated that
between 3,000 to 5,000 villagers were forced to contribute their labour on
the project. At least one person per family had to work there for several
consecutive days from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and in some cases up to 11 p.m. If
a family member could not come to work, he or she had to pay 100 Kyats per
day to the army.
Although no relocation took place for this project, a number of ancient
pagodas were standing in the dam area, and 23 of them had to be demolished.
Villagers were forced to provide labour to pull them down as well as to
build one new pagoda at the dam site. It is widely reported that the
battalion took this opportunity to steal previous sacramental objects
including relics and gems enshrined in the pagodas when they were
constructed. Villagers were greatly upset not only by the desecration of
their ancestral sites, but also by their fears that their involvement will
negatively affect their karma. (ABSDF-WB, May 1997 and FTUB, October 1997)
Myo Myint, a Burman from Kan Phya village, Monywa township, explained:
"There was a group of more than 20 pagodas near the Thazi dam. They were
built hundreds of years ago by the ancient villagers of Thazi. Thazi used
to be a rich village in the old times. According to the villagers, they
took the 'htabanah' (treasures and relics enshrined in the pagoda).
Artillery Battalion # 20 ordered the villagers to pull them down with some
tools. My sister worked there. Two villagers had to guard the pagodas at
night. When they reached the 'htabanah', nobody could touch or see it.
They put the jewels into one pagoda and prevented the villagers from coming
near. Then the soldiers took them away.
"We, villagers, we feel so sad about all this. They shouldn't destroy
these ancient pagodas. We are all Buddhists. Even the government (is
Buddhist). Our religion has been insulted." (Interview, May, 1997)
Zaw Htun, a Burman from Bu Bin village near the dam, also knew about the
destruction of the pagodas: "At the beginning of the dam project, they
destroyed the pagodas, took the treasures and then the army carried these
jewels away by helicopter."
He and his brother worked in turns on the dam site and he described the
"The people were working there for 4 or 5 months, in the winter of 1995.
My brother and I went there in turns. Soldiers were guarding us. They
scolded the people and even beat them. On the worksite, the soldiers were
always drunk. They always tried to fool around with the girls. The people
were so angry with the soldiers but they couldn't do anything.
"The workers had to bring along their tools and their food. They received
no salary. Those who own a car or a scooter were also requested to provide
them for the construction work. They were guarded by soldiers during the
work, and some villagers were beaten. There were also several work
accidents on the construction site, but no compensation was paid."
(Interview, May 1997)
Myo Myint also described how his family members were ordered to go and work
everyday on the irrigation canals. "Four members of my family had to
participate, one in each group for each day. It took more than three
months to complete. We had to make a new branch canal, 7 feet deep and 13
feet wide. There were three villages involved, each with 75 people. Each
village had to complete a length of 30 feet. This was for the irrigation
of paddy fields. But these fields are not ours. They belong to other
villages. There is no benefit at all for our village."
It has been reported that seven people died in work accidents, including
two women, during the construction.
When Myo Myint was asked why he thought the SLORC had ordered the building
of the irrigation canals, he replied, "Because our region is dry and there
is not enough rain. They couldn't collect enough produce from the
villagers. I think they want us to produce more crops for their rations."
However, soon after the inauguration of the Thazi dam, engineering flaws
became apparent. The water flow could not be controlled properly, and the
Thazi villagers, who are living at the foot of the dam and are growing
cotton, beans and corn, got even less water than previously to irrigate
their fields. Moreover, the dam was build solely with mud, ground and
stones, and a leak was observed in the dam wall. (FTUB, July 1997) The
Thazi villagers now live in fear that the dam could burst at any time.
Following the massive floods of the 1997 rainy season and unconfirmed
reports that many dams in the country burst there are grave fears held for
the safety of these villagers.
BANGKOK POST: ETHNIC CHINESE RETURN IN MORE PROMISING TIMES
17 May, 1998
Developing businesses in tourism, clothing and footwear
Halpin Ho's family was driven out of Burma' in 1964 with little more than
The Hos were forced to leave behind a thriving business in mining, gold
trading and timber that had just been nationalised. Thousands of ethnic
Chinese like the Hos, a far-flung clan with Cantonese origins, shared a
The military dictatorship that took their businesses let what had been one
of Asia's most promising economies rot in socialism and isolation. But the
more capitalist-minded generals now in power are inviting the Chinese back
to do business and rebuild the country.
Halpin was nine when dictator Ne Win whipped up popular resentment against
Chinese and Indians who traditionally dominated commerce.
"My father didn't even have a watch when he left," Halpin recalls.
But in the past few years, business clans like the Hos who rebuilt their
wealth in more welcoming places have again stretched their interests into
Some also hope that they can quietly influence some kind of settlement to
the deadlock between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the
democracy movement - if only because it is good for business.
The promise of a better economy may be the only one that the government -
which has shrugged off condemnation and sanctions for human rights abuses
but sees development as vital to stability - will listen to.
"Unless it's profitable, no one will come here," Mr Ho said. "We want this
country to progress, but the approach has to be different. It has to look
good and save face for both sides."
"The only way things are going to get better in Burma is for so much money
to come in via overseas Chinese and other investors is that the Burmese
army just becomes greedy and less psychotic," said Sterling Seagrave,
author of Lords of The Rim, a study of ethnic Chinese business empires in
Southeast Asia. "Plain greed can be dealt with; we can understand
corruption," Mr Seagrave said.
Separately from business barons like the Hos, small and mid-level traders
have poured from China into northern Burma.
Halpin Ho is in charge of the Ho Group's Burma interests, centred around
hotels and property.
Business-wise, times were better in the early 1990s, when there were nearly
no hotels and a clean room in a guest house - no phone, no satellite -
fetched $100 (4,000 baht) a night.
Since, the Ho Group has sunk $20 million (800 million baht) into the
teak-trimmed Kandawggyi Hotel, which has all the modern comforts but, like
several other top-line hotels built in the past few years, only a 20
percent to 40 percent occupancy rate.
This is largely because a forecast tourism and business boom failed to
One Chinese family with a story of persecution similar to the Hos scouted
out Burma two years ago for a garment factory. In the end, they walked
away. They make clothes for US labels and did not want to lose clients to
Still, Chinese-owned garment firms, the building blocks of industrialising
Asia, are moving in around Rangoon, where shantytowns of peasant migrants
supply cheap workers.
At one shoe-factory, the $40 million (1.6 billion baht) start-up costs came
from an Indonesian company funneling funds from Taiwan. The owners are
ethnic Chinese from Burma. Shoes are exported to Japan, Germany and Italy-
THE ASIAN AGE: BRITON JAILED IN BURMA FOR 5 YEARS, FINED $8,000
16 May, 1998
Rangoon -- A British-Australia national, convicted of illegal entry and
suspected of "terrorist" activities, was sentenced to five years in prison
by a Burma court on Friday.
In addition to the five-year term, the maximum penalty for the offence,
James Rupert Russel Mawdsley, 25, was fined $7,812 by the divisional court
at Rangoon's Insein prison.
The court said Mawdsley had 90 days to lodge an appeal on compassionate
grounds, and that if he fails to pay the fine a further 15 months would be
added to his sentence. A legal advisor to the Australian and British
embassies in Rangoon said Mawdsley could appeal to the high court, where
legal council could be provided.
Mawdsley, who is also suspected by Burmese authorities of "terrorist"
activities, pleaded guilty at a trial inside the Insein prison compound on
Wednesday to charges of illegal entry. The dual British-Australian citizen
entered the guilty plea after being charged with violating Burma's
Emergency Provisions Immigrations Act, sources and witnesses at the trial
said. A British embassy spokesperson said it was not clear why Mawdsley had
been handed out the stiffest possible penalty for a case of illegal entry,
but said the judge had raised earlier accusations of terrorism during the
sentencing. "The judge did not make any specific comment on why he had
given him the most severe sentences," the spokesman said. (AFP)
THE NATION: YOUTH CRUSADERS
17 May, 1998
By Thierry Falise
A camp for displaced Karen in southeastern Burma is the base for a
Christian militia led by twin nine year-old brothers
K'Maw Plaw looks no different from any of the other temporary, makeshift
camps scattered around Tenasserim division in Southeast Burma. Babies,
pregnant women and the elderly swelter under the blue plastic that is
stretched over hastily built bamboo structures.
Like thousands of other internally displaced Karen, the residents of K'Maw
Plaw are resigned to living on a small piece of cleared land in the jungle
and to the muddy stream that serves as their sole source of water.
Then you notice the children. Dirty, malnourished, most with runny noses,
they are surprisingly cheerful, aiming their catapults at the trees or
running around clutching broken plastic machine guns to kill off any ghosts
that may be lurking in the vicinity.
Standing in the shade, watching the youngsters play is Per Ler. Dressed in
full camouflage uniform, his head wrapped in a green-bordered black scarf
and a tinplate crucifix hanging round his neck the 13 year-old proudly
clutches his M16.
Per Ler is just one of the many child soldiers in K'Maw Plaw. If the enemy-
an SDPC soldier- strays into the area, he will open fire without a moment's
hesitation. He has already proved himself as a worthy recruit of this
Christian Karen militia which calls itself "God's Army".
He stands to attention as an older soldier walks past him. He is
accompanying two younger boys towards the makeshift barracks in the camp.
The nine-year-old twin brothers, Luther and Johnny Htoo, are the recognised
commanders of God's Army. A child-like man, known to all as "Mister David"
follows discreetly. The dwarf acts as an intermediary for the twins.
Luther's large dark eyes stare solemnly at a spot in the distance. His long
untidy black hair tumbles down the back of his over-sized olive shirt.
Johnny is laughing; the epitome of a typical mischievous nine-year old.
Once inside the barracks, Luther and Johnny are ceremoniously placed on the
laps of two soldiers. A half circle of silent adults and children seem to
be protecting the twins from the outside world. The spoiled princes in this
kingdom of emptiness receive a tin of sardines from a visitor who has just
arrived from a refugee camp inside Thailand.
Sitting in front of Luther and Johnny is Swe Pya, a former senior officer
in Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)'s 4th brigade, the resistance
movement that operates in this desolate region. Now, as the deputy
commander of God's Army, he takes his orders from Luther and Johnny Htoo.
The legend of the twins dates back to March 1997, a period during which the
Burmese army took advantage of the construction of the Total and Unocal
pipeline to clear the jungle of troublesome Karen and Mon minority
populations. The offensive in Tenasserim division also aimed to wipe out
the KNLA once and for all. Morale was at its lowest point; murder, rape,
beatings and looting were commonplace and the villagers were scared for
their lives. Yet the two boys showed no fear. According to Swe Pya, the
twins never once screamed. "They behaved strangely," he explains quietly."
They spoke to us as if they were adults."
The twins approached one of the villagers,- Tha Htain, and told him that a
voice had spoken to them. The voice, they said, had asked them pass a
message to the Karen. The freedom fighters should stop behaving badly as it
was the root cause of their current despair. They asked Tha Htain to find
seven men, seven uniforms and seven weapons and launch an attack on a
There was something strangely convincing about the intensity of Luther's
words. Tha Htain decided to abide by their instructions. The seven-man
offensive was a success. The Burmese were overrun, their ammunition and
The legend was born and so was the Kaser Doh (literally, Holy Mountain)
The story spread quickly through the refugee camps in Thailand, displaced
Karen villages and the last KNLA bases in Burma. Swe Pya believes that God
gave the twins the power to help the Karen fight the enemy and boost morale.
The twins allegedly selected chapter 16, verse 12 of the New Testament -
Paul's second letter to Timothy- as their motto. Strict yet unexplained
rules were laid down. Pork, eggs and alcohol were forbidden, as were such
human traits as lying, using bad language and sexual misconduct. The edict
also read that, no matter the circumstances, a certain prayer must be
repeated three times a day.
Today, the guerilla force claims to have about 500 men. Military strategy
is still defined by the twins. According to Swe Pya, over the past year
around 70 operations against the Burmese have been organised, "most of them
Officials from the KNLA 4th Brigade recognise these members of "God's Army"
as fierce fighters, courageous and disciplined. "In a way, they have
boosted the morale of our own soldiers", says one officer. They have also
given new hope to civilians forced to live in appalling conditions.
A 54-year-old Karen woman who left her village and walked for seven days
with her eight-member strong family to reach K'Maw Plaw says that she
"cannot explain the [twins'] visions, but believes in the 'Kaser Doh'
guerrillas because they follow God's way".
The Kaser Doh people live in groups of 20 to 30. They move regularly
between IDP camps. Daily life is tough. They eat poor quality rice and
whatever vegetables they can find in the forest. A spoonful of raw sugar is
regarded as a luxury. Malaria, malnutrition and dysentery are rampant;
medications are non-existent.
K'Maw Plaw is under constant threat of attack from SDPC forces. The nearest
Burmese army camp is within easy shelling distance. The only "guests" are a
couple of elephants who used to work in a logging camp. Today they are
occasionally used as "porters" for ammunition, weapons and tired troops.
Per Ler says that Luther and Johnny accompany the soldiers to the front line.
"They encourage us, give us instructions and have promised that, in case of
danger, they will get the help of spirit soldiers from the Holy Mountain"
Occasionally, the boys are sent to visit their parents who live in a
refugee camp inside Thailand. When asked about the twins' "crusade,"
Luther stares sullenly at the ground, hiding behind his flowing locks. He
doesn't allow a smile or even a candy to break his silence. Then someone
poses a question about the Burmese.
Luther looks up, his face aglow with anger. "I hate the Burmese, they
oppress my-people", he shouts. Then, more quietly, "Nobody asked me to
fight the Burmese". Johnny smiles in agreement, reaching up to catch the
small stone he has thrown heavenwards. It's tempting to write off these
"soldiers of God" as nothing more than a bunch of courageous
cult-followers. But to do so would be unfair. Says one Western missionary
working on the Thai border, "Luther and Johnny are just a modern version of
the 'saviour'. The Karen have historically created messianic figures during
But both the KNLA and the leaders of the Kaser Doh guerillas are only too
well aware that the "Luther and Johnny cult" could damage Karen unity and
try to tone down tales of their activities. Yet there is no ill-feeling
towards, them. Says one senior KNLA official, "We are fighting the same
enemy but, as a Christian, I have difficulty in believing that God's Army
can continue their fight through faith. I am not sure they have the
military skills." Swe Pya disagrees: "My men are not renegades."
The main threat to "God's Army" comes from the Burmese. Will they
eventually go after the twins and destroy the Karen's sacred symbols? Swe
Pya shakes his head slowly. "That's inconceivable: Luther and Johnny make
RANGOON TV MYANMAR NETWORK: SPDC, UN ANTI-NARCOTICS CHIEF HOLD TALKS
12 May, 1998
(Translated from Burmese)
Mr. Pino Arlacchi, Director General of United Nations Office at Vienna,
Executive Director of United Nations International Drug Control Program
[UNDCP], Executive Director of United Nations Office for Drug Control and
Crime Prevention, and Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations;
and delegation, arrived in Yangon [Rangoon] by air at 0930 this morning to
study Myanmar's anti-narcotics activities. The delegation was welcomed at
Yangon International Airport by Col. Soe Win, Secretary of Central
Committee for Drug Abuse Control [CCDAC] and Director General of Myanmar
Police Force; Police Col. Ngwe Soe Tun, Joint Secretary of CCDAC and head
of Drug Eradication Department; Mr. Richard Dickens, UNDCP resident
representative; Mr. Sibar Kumar Dass, UNDP resident representative; and
(... The delegation), currently in Yangon to study Myanmar's anti-narcotics
activities, called on U Ohn Gyaw, Minister of Foreign Affairs and CCDAC
vice chairman, at the latter's office at 1400 today. Mr. Pino Arlacchi-led
UNDCP delegation and CCDAC Secretary Col. Soe Win-led Myanmar delegation
held talks at the Police Director General's Office at the Home Ministry at
1100 this morning. They held discussions on drug eradication in Myanmar.
UNDCP Resident Representative Mr. Richard Dickens was also present at the
discussions. Police Director General Col. Soe Win hosted a luncheon in
honor of Mr. Arlacchi and delegation at the Yadana Garden Restaurant in the
morning while Deputy Home Affairs Minister Brig. Gen. Thura Myint Maung
hosted a dinner at the Royal Garden Restaurant in the evening.
THE PIONEER: CHINESE SAID WORKING AT NINE BURMESE BASES (INDIA)
11 May, 1998
By John Wilson
India has gathered crucial evidence of Chinese naval officials working on
at least nine Myanmar naval bases and Chinese vessels visiting certain
islands close to the Indian coastline to monitor signal communications.
Senior Government officials said they have the specific number of PLA naval
engineers and operation officers posted at the Myanmarese naval bases.
The discovery of this substantial Chinese military presence close to the
Indian shore has come at a time when both the Chinese and Myanmar
governments have flatly denied setting up a signal monitoring station at
Coco Islands near the Andamans. The new evidence of increased Chinese
activity in Myanmar naval bases only strengthens India's suspicions about
Beijing's intentions. Naval experts have cautioned that China might pose a
long-term threat to India's maritime security.
Senior officials said the Chinese have been quietly building the pressure
by sending vessels to intercept Indian signal communications. Two such
vessels had visited Munaung, Yan Ria and other islands in October and
December last and January this year Munaung island falls within the
Danyawaddy naval regional command. The latest sighting of Chinese vessels
was in the north-west of Munaung in March this year.
Intelligence reports reveal the following new developments at some of the
Myanmarese naval bases:
a) Coco Islands: There are six naval engineers and operation officers from
the PLA Navy.
b) Halnggyi Islands: Four naval engineers and operation officers.
c) Kyakkame naval base: Five PLA Navy officers.
d) Margul Kyunsu naval base: Four PLA officers.
e) Tannlntharyi naval HQ: Seven naval officers.
d) Sittute naval base: Seven officers.
e) Zadet Gyi naval base: Two PLA officers.
f) Ayeyarvady Naval HQs: Seven PLA navy officers and engineers.
BANGKOK POST: UN BACKS THAI APPROACH TO DEALING WITH BURMESE REFUGEES
17 May, 1998
By Achara Ashayagachat
Officials look for new camp sites for 16,000
The UNHCR has agreed with Thai authorities' views on reopening the
Thai-Burmese border, relocation of refugee camps and efforts to ensure
their safe return to their homeland in the future, according to Surapong
Posayanond, director-general of the International Organisation Department.
Thai officials from the Interior and Foreign ministries, the National
Security Council and the army had their first formal consultation with
representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Friday
after the Thai government endorsed the UNHCR's involvement in refugee
affairs and reordering of the border last month, said Mr Surapong.
Thailand has sheltered refugees from Burma since the 1980s. The number of
refugees and displaced people from its western neighbour now stands between
While the governor of the border province of Tak and the Interior Ministry
were looking for alternative sites for about 16,000 refugees at Huay Kalok
and Mawker, the UNHCR and other Thai authorities concerned would work to
determine if they were genuine refugees or economic immigrants, said Mr
Those who are not classified as displaced persons and those who do not want
to move to the new sites will have to return to their homeland once the
relocation programme starts, according to a Foreign Ministry official.
"We are providing them temporary but safe shelter, so if they do not
cooperate it's their own choice to cross back," said the official.
But the official added it was not easy finding a new site for the refugees
since local people's reactions and the forestry conservation status of the
areas eyed for the purpose had to be taken into consideration.
Meanwhile the UNHCR is preparing an action plan, which will include its
theme of assistance to the Thai government in giving asylum to the refugees
and displaced people and in implementing such matters as voluntary
repatriation, according to UNHCR regional representative Amelia Bonifacio.
She was confident the international community would respond positively to
the Thai government's request for funding for the action plan since at
least two foreign governments had already done so.
The UNHCR, said Ms Bonifacio had the responsibility to check various inputs
for the safe return and reintegration of the refugees since most of them
had left their homeland for five to 10 years.
Talks between the UNHCR office in Rangoon and Burmese officials on the
matters had been quite positive, she said. "We'll get there (all the
necessary conditions) one day, as it is the durable solution to the
problem," said Ms Bonifacio, who is also director of the UN Border Relief
VOICE OF AMERICA: INDONESIAAND THE BURMA IMPACT
16 May, 1998
Byline: Dan Robinson
Intro: Upheaval in Indonesia has prompted speculation about the impact on
other countries in southeast Asia. In Burma, the Military government has
patterned its development of a future political system on Indonesia-- where
the military has a "dual" defense and governing role.
Burmese exile groups are drawing comparisons between the Situation in
Indonesia and Burma -- but activists and experts alike say it is too early
to tell what effect Indonesia's problems may have on Burma:
Text: Indonesia's worst political crisis in more than 30 years is taking
place, coincidentally, one decade after Burma's military launched its
violent crackdown on the Burmese democracy Movement.
Burmese exile groups have been quick to compare recent events in Indonesia
with the violence in Burma in 1988. The U.S.-based Free Burma Coalition
said the killings of students in Indonesia were, in its words: "reminiscent
of the slaughter of unarmed students and civilians in Burmese cities ten
Internet discussion groups are filled with debate about the similarities
and differences. For example, one exchange discussed whether a "people's
power" revolution -- such as occurred in the Philippines in the 1980's --
would now occur In Indonesia and then in Burma.
Zarni (eds: single name) is a Burmese living in the United States and a
founder of the Free Burma Coalition. He says Burma's military rulers have
copied key aspects of the Indonesian system, and thus also copied its
"Part of the reason Indonesia is in its current crisis is that the whole
[Indonesian] system has been built on the very shaky and extremely
questionable idea that political progress can be ignored or disregarded so
long as you can develop the economy."
Burma's military has guaranteed itself a permanent role in the country's
political future -- through a tightly-controlled constitutional drafting
process still underway. The army can take over power from any future
civilian government. Aung San Suu Kyi, whose political party won a 1990
election, has been effectively excluded from any leadership role.
Burma's military also started a mass organization called the Union
Solidarity Development Association. Rangoon-based diplomats and other
observers say it is essentially a political arm of the military that has
been used to counter-balance and sometimes intimidate the democracy movement.
In Indonesia, the army has a dual function. It takes part in government --
controlling about one third of the seats in the People's Assembly. It also
protects the nation from external and internal threats. Burma's military
has steadily strengthened ties with Indonesia's armed forces
James Guyot (pron: gee-yoh) is professor of political science at The School
of Public Affairs of Baruch College in New York. He says there are
parallels between Indonesia and Burma, but important differences:
"The parallel in terms of explicit borrowing by the Burmese junta from the
Indonesian experience, borrowing of the Golkar (Indonesia's ruling party)
-- sort of a quasi-party organization. In Burma they have the USDA. And the
explicit borrowing of the constitutional model. But military political
involvement in Indonesia is not as historically deep as it has been in
Burma. And certainly although those regimes came in 1962 in Burma, and 1965
in Indonesia, the military regime in Indonesia is less of a presence than
it is in Burma."
Professor Guyot describes Indonesia as, in his words -- "more of a
personalistic regime of president Suharto with some military
participation." Are Burma's military leaders worried by events in
indonesia? And what about the impact on Burma's historically politically
active students. Again -- Professor Guyot:
"Students anywhere in the world resonate as to what they see as student
movements or power elsewhere in the world. Certainly, students in Burma are
going to be aware of what is happening in Indonesia. Whether they will be
prepared to do anything, I don't know. The regime has been fairly effective
in [its] constraints on what students do. And students are not at the
universities in Burma now. Students are at the universities in Indonesia--
their protests were tolerated as long as they are inside the university
Burmese democracy activist, Zarni, also sees differences between the
political situation in Indonesia and Burma. He says Burma's Military is
much more determined to hold on to power, in his words, "by any means":
"There are a lot of pressure points to help prevent violence in Indonesia,
to help with a peaceful transition to democracy, if Suharto is willing to
make that happen. But in Burma we have the whole military institution, a
lot of hard-liners, a lot of them are extremely poorly educated. So we are
talking about two different types of leadership and institutional makeups."
On Friday, Burmese and Indonesian activist groups took part in a
demonstration outside the Indonesian embassy in Washington to protest the
recent killings in Indonesia.
MON NATIONAL ORGANIZAITON OF CANADA: STATEMENT ON THE 241ST ANNIVERSARYOF
THE FALL OF THE MON KINGDOM (HONGSAVATOI)
18 May, 1998
To the Mon people and all our friends in the struggle for freedom and
Today marks the 241st anniversary of the fall of the Mon kingdom,
Hongsavatoi. At the height of its greatness, the Mon kingdom flourished in
peace and prosperity for several centuries in the lower part of Burma. But
this glorious history turned into a nightmare when the Burmese king, U Aung
Zeya, annexed Hongsavatoi (Pegu) and destroyed its civilization. Over
three thousand learned Buddhist monks were massacred and the holy
scriptures and monasteries were burned when the last Mon kingdom was
brought to ruin in 1757 (CE). Tens of thousands of Mons, including
children and pregnant women, were killed in that holocaust and many Mons
had to flee to Thailand to escape further persecution, oppression and
More than a century later, the conquerors of the Mons lost their own
freedom and all of Burma became a British colony in 1886. After Burma
finally regained its independence in 1948, a protracted civil war between
Burman and other ethnic nationalities broke out, because the Burman
majority refused to honour the terms of the Federal Union agreement
granting rights of self-determination to the minority communities. Taking
advantage of the unstable situation, a military clique, led by Gen. Ne Win,
siezed power in 1962, and people of all nationalities and classes were
denied their basic rights to economic, social and political development.
A country, that had been the richest in the region, was reduced to being
among the least developed nations in the world. As a result there was a
student led, nation-wide uprising in 1988 which was brutally put down by
the army. Over 10,000 demonstrators against the regime were put to death
all across Burma and another military regime calling itself the State Law
and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) was installed in power and quickly
earned a reputation for being one of the most oppressive regimes the world
has ever seen.
In order to keep power for itself this military regime, now called the
State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), has systematically divided the
democratic forces and the ethnic nationalities in Burma. Separate
cease-fire agreements have been signed with the ethnic armed forces, but no
political solution to the nation's problems has been attempted. Instead
the military junta has expanded its control over the ethnic areas and
depleted the natural resources of the other national peoples of Burma. In
the last year alone hundreds of thousands of people have been forcibly
relocated in the Shan and Karen states, which are the homelands of two of
Burma's largest ethnic minorities. Moreover hundreds of others have been
killed or tortured in the same areas.
Burma still lacks peace and stability. Overspending of scarce resources on
the military, centralization and corruption have weakened the economy and
most social services have collapsed. Wide spread arrests, torture,
disappearances, forced labour and portering and the relocation of whole
districts and villages in urban and rural areas continue and there is no
end in sight. Freedom of expression and opinion do not exist. Hundreds of
thousands of Burmese of all nationalities have fled to the borders as well
as to neighbouring countries and are living there as displaced persons,
refugees or illegal immigrants. The refusal of Burma's military regime to
resolve the troubled issue of the rights of the ethnic nationalities and to
allow for the development of free and democratic institutions in the
country is causing the situation to worsen day by day.
In view of these circumstances and aware of the world-wide movement of
support for the right to self-determination, the Mon National Organization
of Canada urges the international community to join with us on this tragic
241st anniversary of the Fall of the Mon Kingdom (Hongsavatoi) in the
following program of action:
The immediate summoning of a tripartite dialogue comprised of the ethnic
nationalities, the democratic forces led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and
representatives of the military junta (SPDC);
An immediate withdrawal of the military regime from the homelands of the
ethnic nationalities and a stop to the practices of forced labour, forced
portering and forced relocation;
The immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners;
Access by the United Nations and international human rights observers to
all detention centres and ethnic areas in Burma;
A boycott of all companies doing business with Burma's military regime and
a stop to the building of the gas pipeline in Mon State;
The imposition of trade sanctions against Burma through a resolution of the
Thank you, one and all, for your consideration and invaluable support.
Mon National Organization of Canada
Box 142 - 6416 Fraser St.,
Vancouver, BC, Canada
REUTERS: AMNESTY RIGHTS GROUP TO TARGET OIL COMPANIES
13 May, 1998
By David Ljunggren
London -- Amnesty International said on Wednesday it planned to target oil
firms in a bid to improve human rights in Algeria, Nigeria, Myanmar and
Colombia -- all accused of committing widespread abuses.
Amnesty Secretary-General Pierre Sane said he wanted to cooperate with oil
companies working in the four countries but would not hesitate to campaign
against the firms if he thought that would be more effective.
"We feel those oil companies have certainly more influence than U.N.
bodies, or other governments, because they are really the lifeline in terms
of the resources that the regimes need," he told Reuters in an interview.
"And therefore we have to ensure that those companies will join in the
effort to improve the human rights situation in those countries...they
can't be silent in the front of all these injustices."
Sane said Algeria, Nigeria and Myanmar all had two things in common -- oil
and military rulers. Although Columbia is a parliamentary democracy, rebels
control 40 percent of the country and thee armed forces play a leading role.
"When you combine the two (oil and the military) you are faced with
countries that are very very difficult to move in the direction of bowing
to international pressure," he said.
Amnesty mounted a campaign against Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. in 1995 after
the execution of nine Nigerian minority rights activists, which prompted
the company to introduce a code of conduct incorporating human rights.
Amnesty was interested in working with British Petroleum Co in Colombia and
with Total SA and Unocal Corp in Myanmar, Sane said, but did not name
potential partners in Algeria.
"We don't want to scare big businesses, we don't want to turn them into
human rights activists, but we are saying that they have to act
responsibly," he said.
"So we will engage in a dialogue with them but that dialogue will be more
or less similar to the dialogue we have with governments. On the one hand
we sit down and talk but if need be we go to the streets and we shout."
Sane said Amnesty's first step would be to get the commitment of the oil
companies to develop codes of conduct and then ensure those codes were
implemented under independent supervision.
"I think companies are more and more aware that for their own image...it
is important to be seen to be friendly to human rights and not to be seen
to be pumping blood money out of countries run by military dictatorships,"
Sane expressed disquiet at how little international pressure had been put
on Algeria, where an estimated 65,000 people have died since 1992 when the
authorities cancelled a general election in which radical Islamists had a
"It's at times very difficult to understand. Maybe we have not been
successful enough in mobilising public opinion throughout Europe to force
Algeria onto an action agenda," Sane said.
"Somehow it is linked with oil, but that doesn't satisfy me. Algeria has
plenty of oil and gas but so does Iraq. So what is so special about
Algeria? I'll guess the day we find out we'll crack it."
Although most nations have signed the United Nations Declaration on Human
Rights, Sane said many powerful states were ignoring their obligations
because they were dominated by short-term economic and strategic interests.
"I think if they were to take human rights as seriously as they take the
workings of the markets and the need to deregulate and allow capital to
move freely around the world, I think we would have certainly made great
achievements," he said.
ANNOUNEMENT: WOMEN PEACEMAKERS CONFERENCES
Spoorstraat 38 NL-1815 BK Alkmaar, Netherlands
The International Fellowship of Reconciliation's Women Peacemakers Program
(WPP) is planning a series of regional consultations for women peace
activists from conflict areas. The Asia-Pacific consultation will be in
Cochin, India, in November 1998.
The consultation will involve about 24 participants. We hope to have
participants from Afghanistan, Bougainville, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia,
East Timor, Indonesia, India, Israel, Kashmir, Nagaland, Palestine and Sri
Lanka. The consultation will be in English, and the active involvement of
the participant is asked for.
The chief purpose of the consultation is to
a. provide a space where women peace activists can exchange their concrete
experiences and approaches to their work; and reflect on their work in such
a way as to deepen their understanding of their needs and potentials
b. gather, analyze and distribute to a wider audience women's peacemaking
approaches and initiatives
c. provide a space where skills can be shared
d. encourage dialogue between peace activists from opposing sides in a
conflict on ways to reduce the conflict.
Participants are the experts during these consultations and will be
encouraged to contribute to the group about their experiences and
knowledge. Given that the purpose of the consultations is the sharing of
such experiences, during the plenaries participants will have an
opportunity to share with the group:
a. the nature of their work
b. how the conflict specifically impacts on women
c. some of the obstacles to peace
d. some of the strategies participants have found to tackling these obstacles
e. what is needed to overcome these obstacles and to more effectively
mobilize women and girls in their communities to work for peace.
Participants will be encouraged to organize follow-up workshops, trainings
and consultations in the regions after the consultations.
The purpose of such follow-up is to widen the process; to help tackle an
obstacle as identified by participants at the consultation; to link and
support the development of trainers and resources in the region; and to
support the development of sustainable women's groups. IFOR may or may not
be involved in such follow-up, depending on the participants' wishes.
As the success of the consultations will depend upon the active involvement
of the participants, we are looking for women who can contribute to and
also benefit from the whole process. Participants will be expected to be
present during the entire consultation.
(For more information, contact via information above)