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The BurmaNet News: May 26, 1998

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

The BurmaNet News: May 26, 1998
Issue #1012

Noted in Passing: "The situation in Indonesia has taught Asean leaders the
lesson that real economic development cannot be achieved without
simultaneously practicising democracy, and now, with the backing of
Indonesia, the Asean political system is ready to undergo a facelift." -
Kavi Chongkittavorn (see The Nation: Asean, Minus Suharto, Will Change) 


Bangkok Post: Party Told Not To Celebrate 1990 Victory
25 May, 1998 

Burma's military rulers have warned the pro-democracy party of Aung San Suu
Kyi not to celebrate the anniversary of its landslide victory in the 1990
general elections, Burmese government sources said yesterday.

In a message received in Bangkok, the sources said the government had
learned the National League for Democracy planned a ceremony May 27-29 to
mark the election victory.

The league captured 396 out of 485 parliamentary seats eight years ago, but
the shocked military power brokers reacted by arresting many of the
victorious candidates and refusing to allow the new parliament to convene.

At the time of the election, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mrs Suu Kyi was under
a house arrest that lasted a total of six years.

The sources said the league had been asked "to refrain from creating
conditions that will unnecessarily cause a setback in the ongoing
nation-rebuilding process".

League representatives throughout the country had also reportedly been
urged to "maintain stability and peace" by not marking the occasion. 
Karen National Union: SPDC False Propaganda and Traitor Pado Aung San
25 May, 1998 by Department of News, Information, and Research 
On 27-4-98, the SPDC military junta, once more, devised a false propaganda.
In this false propaganda brochure, the name and designation, "Pado Aung
San, Head of the Economic Bureau, KNU Central Headquarters" were used.
Concerning this matter, the KNU Department of News, Information and
Research would like to clarify as follows:

1. The SPDC propaganda, a thorough-going fraud, dated 27-4-98, was written
by no other than the SPDC, and Pado Aung San was made to sign it. Since
6-4-98, Pado Aung San has nothing to do with the KNU as he has been
expelled, for good, by the KNU from its organization and all its agencies,
effective from that date.

2. The KNU and the Karen people have to continue the resistance, because
the SPDC continues to wage its barbarous war, committing endless
destruction and atrocities against the Karen people. The SPDC is also
responsible for unilaterally breaking off the dialogue for cease-fire and
peace between it and the KNU, and resuming a major offensive against the
KNU and the Karen people.

3. The entire Karen people have become destitute, and many have to seek
refuge in Thailand because of the brutal war and heinous crimes perpetrated
by the SPDC military junta. Similarly, the whole country of Burma has been
impoverished, reduced to the status of  "Least of the Least Developed
Country (LLDC)," and the entire population has been turned into virtual
prisoners and refugees by the military junta. The cause of these ravages
are the dictatorial rule of the SPDC military junta and its monopolistic
and selfish hold on the economy. No one but the SPDC must be held
responsible entirely, for these disasters. Those who must go down in
history as the real culprits for all the tragedies, afflictions and
depravities, going on in the country of Burma, are no other than the SPDC
military dictatorship and traitors against the nation. No other
organization or individual must or can be held responsible for them.. 


The Nation: Asean Asked to Push Burma on Drugs
25 May, 1998 

Manila -- A senior US government official yesterday, called on the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to urge Burma to curb drugs
production while encouraging the junta there to have dialogue with
opposition groups.

US deputy assistant secretary for East Asia and the Pacific Aurelia Brazeal
said at the US-Asean dialogue of senior officials that Burma is the largest
single producer of opium in the world and its government has been
"unwilling or unable to implement elective counter-narcotics policies".

"We look to Asean to assist counter-narcotics efforts of member states,
such as Burma who faces a particularly difficult problem in combating drug
production and trafficking," Brazeal said.

Burma was admitted into Asean last July despite strong opposition from US
and European countries which criticised Rangoon's human rights record.

"We remain concerned that Burma represents a potentially destabilising
factor for the Asean itself, including neighbouring Asean member states in
particular," she said.

Brazeal said the US believes it crucial for the Burmese government to begin
direct dialogue with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other
democratic and ethnic leaders.


The Nation: Asean Urges U.S. to End Trade Discrimination 
25 May, 1998 

Manila -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Saturday
asked the United States to scrap "discriminatory policies" which it says
stifle bilateral trade and investment.

Asean's appeal did not specifically name Burma, but Asean diplomats said
they meant to bring up Washington's long-standing trade embargo against
Rangoon during a two-day meeting between senior officials from the US and
the nine-nation regional group, which opened on Saturday.

"Asean wishes to note that some Asean member countries are still subject to
discriminatory policies of the US," said Malaysian Foreign Ministry
Secretary-General Abdul Kadir Mohamad, who acts as chairman of the Asean-US

Asean groups Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Asean admitted Burma into the regional group in July last year despite
strong opposition from the US and Europe, citing the dismal human rights
records of Burma's military junta.

US officials declined to comment, saying they plan to issue a statement today.

Abdul Kadir also expressed concern over a "drastic decline" of cooperation
between the US and Asean in the field of development. "It is indeed
unfortunate that Asean-US development cooperation is on a downward trend as
Asean expands and includes countries that would particularly benefit from
substantive cooperation in Asia," he said.

Abdul Kadir said Asean remains determined to speed up economic cooperation
within the region -- including liberalisation of tourist trade,
telecommunications, air transport and marine transport -- in order to
attain a free flow of services within Asean by 2000.

Abdul Kadir also vowed to speed up industrial cooperation within Asean and
increase cooperation in investment under a framework agreement on
investment due to be signed in October this year.

He also said Asean planned to explore "new and active" cooperation
activities in finance and banking, capital market development, customs
matters, insurance, taxation and public finance, and monetary policy

Asean plans to convene the second ministerial meeting on Asean Mekong Basin
development cooperation this year, he said.


The Nation: Asean, Minus Suharto, Will Change 
25 May, 1998 By Kavi Chongkittavorn 

The epochal change in Indonesia last week will alter the fundamental
perceptions and structures of future relations among countries in Southeast
Asia and consequently their ties with the rest of the world now that the
disgraced former president Suharto, one of Asean's main architects, has
stepped down.

Although it is too early to tell the scope and substance of the reforms
that the new Indonesian government under President Jusuf Habibie is willing
to commit itself to, it is suffice to take the view that Indonesia will be
more democratic with genuine political pluralism and be more tolerant to
the freedom of expression.

Back in 1989 the collapse of the former Soviet empire allowed Eastern
European countries, which were under the direct influence of Moscow, to
break free and demolished communism. Now most of the former Soviet allies
have become fully fledged democracies. These changes were more or less
peaceful despite the initial threat of violence and economic difficulties.

Some of them have even embarked of integrating with the broader European
economy, the European Union, as well as Europe's security structure,
particularly the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

In more ways than one, this welcome trend is finding new expression now in
Southeast Asia. For the past three decades Indonesia under the
authoritarian rule of Suharto has been used as a successful model for
developing countries, that of a strong leadership which enables business
and economy to prosper at the expense of democratisation.

In fact, given the impressive economic development, an average of eight per
cent per annum between 1990 and 1996, the international community,
especially Jakarta's friends, has been willing to turn a blind eye to
Indonesia's political suppression and uncertainty. In 1996 Indonesia ranked
seventh in the International Monetary Fund's top-ten emerging economies. It
was the envy of the world.

As such, Indonesia wields extraordinary influence among developing
countries in the world including members of the Nonaligned Movement and the
Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Closer to home, Indonesia is the
backbone of Asean. Created in 1967, Asean's main objective was to engage
and contain this powerful neighbour.

Within Southeast Asia, new Asean members have sought to emulate Indonesia.
Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are interested in its economic
development coupled with the assertive and assured roles of the military in
both the economic and political sphere. The Indonesian armed forces and
constitution have been used as a prototype for Burma's military leaders and
the drafting of a new constitution.

However, last week's sudden change in Indonesia has caught these countries
off guard. None would think that Suharto would step down this fast and that
his grip on power would crumble so rapidly. Worse, some of the reform
measures the new Indonesian government has chosen to take, such as the
planned release of political prisoners and to conduct dialogues with the
opposition, are considered taboo in these countries.

Previously, the world's fourth largest country has always represented the
lowest common denominator within the Asean cooperative framework, be it
economic or political. If Jakarta is not happy, the rest of Asean is not
supposed to go against Asean's big boss. It is often said in Asean that the
grouping can only move as slow as its largest member.

Throughout the modern history of Southeast Asia, Suharto's strong
leadership and the nation's principle of pancasila ("five pillars") have
represented the core values for many countries in the region. With a more
open and democratic Indonesia, Asean's future will definitely be brighter.
For one thing it will not be so inclined to support authoritarian regimes.

To many this may sound a bit optimistic at this juncture. However, given
the prospect of Indonesia's long-term reforms, its Suharto-era norms would
all have to be changed.

And as Indonesia changes, Burma and other less democratic countries expect
to face serious problems. For the first time, a new Indonesia will provide
the much needed impetus for democratisation within the Asean region. Thus
it will provide a positive influence in the overall Asean development.

Six months ago in Kuala Lumpur the Asean leaders agreed with the Thai
proposal that "open society" should be a common objective of Asean. It was
only through the last-minute support of Indonesia that the text was passed.
The quiet revolution in Indonesia will now also encourage Asean to take up
sensitive issues such as human rights, democracy and respect for the role
of non-governmental organisations. With Jakarta's support, Asean will be
able to pursue this new avenue.

Beyond that, the new Indonesia will also promote the realisation of the
Asean Free Trade Area in 2003. In the past the government had to protect
the Suharto family's business and monopolies and thus moved at a snail's
pace. With a more transparent economic system Indonesia can now play a role
in accelerating the full integration of the Asean free-trade area.

The situation in Indonesia has taught Asean leaders the lesson that real
economic development cannot be achieved without simultaneously practicising
democracy, and now, with the backing of Indonesia, the Asean political
system is ready to undergo a facelift.