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Suu Kyi calls for talks on eve of 1
- Subject: Suu Kyi calls for talks on eve of 1
- From: kzy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 11:14:00
Suu Kyi calls for talks on eve of 1990 victory
14 Burmese deported
One dictator down, others will follow
Suharto's fall raises tensions in Rangoon
Junta urged to heed Indonesia
Corrupt officials ignore plight of poor migrants
The Straits Time (MAY 27 1998)
Suu Kyi calls for talks on eve of 1990 victory
BANGKOK -- The Myanmar opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi called for talks
with the ruling military on the eve of their 1990 electoral victory's
eighth anniversary, a statement said yesterday. The National League for
Democracy called for dialogue and ruled out revenge against the military,
which came to power in 1988 and cancelled the opposition's landslide
victory at the polls two years later on May 27, 1990.
"We think that to accept dialogue would be to display strength by the
government, to show that they have strength and courage to do what is best
for the country," the Nobel Peace Prize winner said in the statement.
She said the junta, known as the State Peace and Development Council,
should accept that it had made a mess of the economy and that democracy
was the only way to fix economic, social and political woes. AFP
The Nation (May 27, 1998)
14 Burmese deported
THAILAND on Sunday deported 14 Burmese dissidents, including a minister of
a government in exile, to their country but to areas where their safety
was guaranteed, a senior security official said Tuesday.
The source declined to reveal the whereabouts of the Burmese, including
Thein Oo, a justice minister in the National Coalition Government of the
Union of Burma, who had been deported.
He said the deportation was in line with Thai immigration laws.
''They were arrested last week in Nonthaburi province on charges of
illegal entry. According to the laws, an illegal alien is to be deported
to the country of origin,'' he said.
Meanwhile Foreign Ministry spokesman Kobsak Chutikul said the arrested
Burmese group had not applied to be under the care of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
''I was informed that as a group the Burmese did not want to be granted
person-of-concern status with the UNHCR. They chose not to apply for the
status. There are certain Western countries that offer them asylum,''
Kobsak said. He declined to name the countries.
Shortly after the arrest, UNHCR officials were allowed to interview the
group to learn whether they wanted the status or not. It was reported that
eight of them had sought the status.
Under the care of the UNHCR they will be allowed to stay in Thailand, but
their anti-Burmese government activities will be prohibited.
Editorial & Opinion
EDITORIAL: One dictator down, others will follow
Suharto is known as ''Bapak Pembangunan'' (Father of Development).
Indonesia's new leader Jusuf Habibie, apparently, covets the title ''Bapak
Reformasi'' (Father of Reform). Critics, however, are not so sure he
deserves it. After all, he belongs to Suharto's old-order regime. And at
best he is simply a caretaker president until the military finds somebody
to replace him.
Indeed, it is going to be hard for Habibie to confound the skeptics. In a
country where the leader is traditionally from the majority Javanese
community, Habibie is from far-flung Sulawesi. Furthermore, as a
technocrat, he has never been a military man. In addtion, when he was
minister for research and technology Habibie bought dozens of destroyers
from the defunct East German Navy, a decision which infuriated the
military -- most of the ships were in such poor condition that they had to
be towed from Europe.
To compound his problems, the swift move by military chief Wiranto to
sideline his rivals in the wake of Suharto's resignation did not bode well
for the new president. Wiranto is now unquestionably the real power behind
With the military snapping at his heels, unemployment topping 10 million
and food shortages looming, Habibie is not likely to last long. But
whatever the future, Indonesia will never go back to the dark days of a
Suharto dictatorship -- the democracy genie has crawled out of the bottle.
Last week's downfall of Suharto has clearly changed the political
landscape of not just Indonesia but the rest of Southeast Asia.
The end of one of Asean's founding fathers now leaves Malaysian Prime
Minister Mahathir Mohamad as the longest-ruling leader in the region.
Mahathir, a staunch supporter of Suharto, had just two weeks ago blamed
foreigners for trying to oust both himself and Suharto. Now he is forced
to eat his words and acknowledge that there is indeed a genuine
pro-democracy movement in Indonesia.
With key Asean countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and now
Indonesia, having new leaders, Mahathir will be a very lonely man. As
Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister -- 17 years in all -- Mahathir
will come under growing pressure to step down. Already some are comparing
his rule to the cronyism, nepotism and corruption that has characterised
Indonesia. Only recently, his son's ailing business empire was bailed out
by a state-owned corporation.
But of all the dictators nervously watching for fallout from the
Indonesian crisis, Burma's military junta should be feeling a shiver run
down its spine. It hopes to guarantee itself a permanent role in the
country's political future with a constitution based on the Indonesian
model, which gives the military responsibilities for both defence and
development. But of more significance, however, is the likelihood of
Burmese students taking the lead from their Indonesian colleagues and once
again challenging the junta. All Burmese universities have been closed
since 1996, but the junta realises that it cannot continue to deny
education to a whole generation of citizens.
Perhaps, too, Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei, one of the richest men in the
world, may be thinking twice about absolute monarchy since his father
killed democracy in 1962 when he suspended the constitution. Bolkiah has
been at the centre of a slew of sex scandals. In March, former Miss USA
Shannon Marketic, who claims she was held against her will at Bolkiah's
palace, filed another lawsuit against the sultan to follow an earlier suit
which was thrown out of a US court after Bolkiah successfully argued for
sovereign immunity. A separate suit by a disgruntled business partner in
London against Bolkiah's brother Prince Jefri, which claimed that he used
the sultanate-owned Dorchester Hotel to keep a ''harem'' of prostitutes,
was eventually settled out of court. Such salacious scandals are not taken
lightly in Islamic Brunei.
So last week's ouster of Suharto, while not quite a real change of
government in Indonesia, nevertheless represents the beginning of a new
era. It proves also the unceasing yearning of the people in Southeast
Asia, and elsewhere, for democracy. But political democracy alone can
never guarantee prosperity for all. For that, leaders will have to ensure
that the poor majority be given their fair share of the nation's wealth.
This is especially true in a region where wide disparity remains despite
breathtaking growth over the past decade and where the destitute are
bearing the brunt of the current economic meltdown.
Now that Southeast Asia has made great strides in political democracy,
perhaps the same must be done with economic democracy.
Editorial & Opinion
Suharto's fall raises tensions in Rangoon
''Suharto's gone,'' a Burmese resident of Bangkok shouted down the phone.
''You mean Indonesia's president?'' asked his friend in Rangoon, who had
been completely unaware of what had been going on in Indonesia.
The government-controlled media in Burma has reported none of the
tumultuous events in Indonesia of the last month.
Those who want to follow news of Indonesia must listen to foreign
broadcasting radio stations such as the BBC, RFA and VOA.
Are the generals in Rangoon nervous? Some analysts in Rangoon say yes. As
tension heightened in Indonesia troops rolled into Rangoon and took up
position in buildings, houses and hospitals.
''They [the military] are scared,'' said a trader in Rangoon. Since
students and activists took to the streets in Indonesia to demand the
resignation of Suharto and his Cabinet a new business in Rangoon has
flourished, the selling videotapes of of CNN and BBC coverage of
Indonesia. In Burma only rich and high-ranking officials can afford to
install satellite dishes.
Burmese are keen to know what is going on in Indonesia, said Rangoon
residents. Not surprisingly, politically active students are more excited.
''If schools open now we will do the same thing as our fellow students in
Indonesia'', said Soe Myaing (not his real name).
But the students are not alone in looking for connections with Indonesia.
Burma's generals also admired the Asean giant's political system. It has
been a well-known fact that the generals wanted to borrow Jakarta's New
Order system in three areas: the 1945 constitution, the dual function of
the military and the state ideology.
In the past Burmese leaders have told their Indonesian counterparts they
are interested in dwinfunsi or dual function. Subsequently the military
asked for its leading role in national politics to be enshrined at the
National Convention. But now the generals in Burma may change their minds.
''Now that Suharto is gone who will be the next in the region?'' a Burmese
activist based in Thailand asked. Indeed things in Burma are not going
very well. Analysts and dissidents warn that social unrest could erupt at
any time. Foreign businessmen who were optimistic and hoping to do
business in the country have now come to the realisation that the
authorities have little idea of how to run the economy.
''The government has no understanding [about the local and international
market], and we find very few skilled workers. In addition it is hard to
train them'', a foreign businessman said recently.
This year local and foreign businessmen have not hidden their frustration
''I have been sitting in my office for months doing nothing,'' said a
local businessman. ''We have had no electricity in this town for months,''
said a foreign businessman who opened an antique shop in Mandalay. He has
also been waiting to get a telephone line for a year.
''It is hopeless: we are leaving,'' he said. Many other businessmen, both
local and foreign, who one praised the regime's ''open-market economy''
are now complaining.
About 10 businessmen were briefly detained recently. Foreign-exchange
reserves are quite low. The authorities are banning exports and imports.
Meanwhile the value of the kyat is dropping, with US$1 now worth 290 kyat
on the parallel market, although the official rate remains six to the
Not surprisingly many businessmen are suffering, and they are becoming
more outspoken and critical of the ruling junta's economic policies.
''They need to reform,'' one said.
The junta, however, continues playing cat and mouse with its opponents.
Recently outspoken politicians and activists have been given heavy
sentences. Daw San San, a senior member of the National League for
Democracy [NLD], was sentenced by the State Peace and Development Council
(SPDC), as the junta is known, to 20 years in prison. She is now in her
60s. The reason: Daw San San spoke on the telephone to a reporter from the
In recent months six former student activists have been sentenced to death
for allegedly conspiring to commit acts of terrorism. A total of 38
activists have been accused by the junta of being terrorists. Aung San Suu
Kyi, who remains a virtual prisoner of her own home even after her release
from house arrest a couple of years ago, recently remarked: ''As far as I
can see there has been no improvement at all. In fact I could say that I
am inclined to think that things have even got worse.''
Universities and colleges have been closed since 1996.
''The Indonesia crisis has alerted everyone in the region to the
possibility of new student-led unrest. I don't think they are going to
re-open schools,'' one student remarked.
Despite the fresh crackdown, harsh treatment and heavy sentences on
students, former activists and politicians are excited by the news of
''They [Burmese generals] followed the Indonesia model; we will follow the
Indonesian students'', Aye Aye in Rangoon said.
In the past strong anti-Indonesia and anti-Malaysia feelings were held by
Burmese dissidents as the leaders of the two countries became staunch
supporters of the Burmese junta.
In particular many pro-democracy and pro-NLD Burmese were upset with
Indonesia's support of the regime and strong business connections between
the Suharto family and the generals. Suharto paid a special private visit
to Ne Win's residence during his official visit to Burma two years ago. In
return the aging former dictator Ne Win visited Jakarta last year and met
Student leader Moe Thee Zun says: ''We feel we are very close. We support
the movement in Indonesia.''
''Burma now is like a volcano which can go off at any time,'' claimed a
dissident turned businessman in Rangoon. ''We are frustrated with the
current political situation because it is going nowhere.''
Some dissidents who idle their time away in tea shops agreed, saying:
''What we are doing everyday is looking for a spark or someone who will
come to the streets and say: 'Let's start.' ''
The student-led people-power movement in 1988 toppled the 26-year-old Ne
Win regime. Though Ne Win left in disgrace in 1988, his cronies hung on to
power. In the past the generals, also known as ''Ne Win's sons'', declared
that democracy and its supporters were common enemies.
But recently, senior leaders, including the head of the SPDC, have made
more accommodating speeches. ''There will be civilian rule,'' Foreign
Minister Ohn Gyaw told his Bangladesh counterpart during a visit there.
''We don't want to hold on to power for long,'' senior Gen Than Shwe
promised a public meeting. PM's Office Minister David Abel recently asked
the people to be patient.
Analysts suggested the junta would make its response to demands for change
through the national convention, an on-again, off-again process which has
been postponed numerous times since it first convened in 1993. Sources
thought the junta might resume the national convention in the near future.
It was boycotted in 1995 by the NLD. It is widely considered a sham
convention. The generals wanted to adopt an Indonesian-style constitution,
but for the generals in Burma, Indonesia's current events and crisis are
lessons to be learned from.
''Things in Burma are never predictable: anything can happen,'' a trader
warned. Rangoon was quiet, but the air was pregnant with expectation that
something might happen soon as dissidents were encouraged by the events in
Indonesia. This no doubt explains the blackout of news about Indonesia and
the increased presence of troops in central Rangoon.
Some analysts feel the junta may soon be faced with a choice: real reform
or another outburst of violence that will return the country to the days
before the 1990 election. The stubborn generals in Rangoon are unlikely to
bow to pressure, but this year the Rangoon Club is facing tough
challenges. Growing dissent and social unrest are simmering. Sooner or
later the generals may find it hard to control.
BY AUNG ZAW
South China Morning Post
Wednesday May 27 1998
The Mekong Region
Junta urged to heed Indonesia
BURMA by William Barnes in Bangkok
Opposition leaders, who today mark the eighth anniversary of their 1990
election victory, have urged the junta to learn from the transfer of power
in Indonesia and negotiate a peaceful political settlement.
Aung San Suu Kyi, in a statement smuggled out of Burma, said that her
National League for Democracy (NLD) did not want revenge. "We remain
committed to dialogue . . . and we're absolutely confident we shall get
there," the statement said.
"They should learn the lesson of Indonesia, learn that they can't ignore
the critics forever when the people are unhappy," said Tin Maung Win of
the exiled National Council of the Union of Burma in Bangkok.
Last night the Government said it would allow the NLD to hold a ceremony
today at Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's lakeside house in Rangoon to mark the 1990
election, when it won 82 per cent of the seats.
The ruling junta - the State Peace and Development Committee - has
detained at least 16 activists in recent days to prevent them attending
such a meeting, which the authorities had warned over the weekend should
not go ahead. A similar meeting last year was disrupted by the military.
Half of the NLD's elected MPs have been intimidated by the military over
the past eight years to squeeze them out of politics, according to an
opposition report released yesterday.
"They did not dare to declare their own election null and void so they
forced MPs to resign, engineered their dismissal, pushed them into exile
and even jailed and tortured them," said Aung Naing Oo, a spokesman for
the All Burma Students Democratic Front, which compiled the report.
"This systematic pattern of repression is a blatant attempt by the
military to invalidate the 1990 election result."
The report found that out of the 485 MPs, 112 had been forced out of
office, 78 thrown in jail (where two died) and 20 forced by threats into
Teddy Buri, an elected NLD MP now in exile, said that the junta "should
look at Indonesia and wake up to reality - it can't go on like this".
Mr Aung Naing Oo said the demise of Indonesia's president Suharto must
have sent a wave of fear through the regime while cheering the general
"The Burmese people watched [former Philippine dictator Ferdinand] Marcos
get kicked out in 1986 and heard the emergence of [South African
President] Nelson Mandela on their radios," said Mr Aung Naing Oo.
"Now they have been glued to their radios again to hear with joy how the
Indonesians have triumphed over Suharto."
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi said that the greatest hurdle the generals had to
overcome was their own fear.
"There are those [in Government] who think that accepting dialogue is an
admission of defeat," she said.
"We do not think so. We think that to accept dialogue would be to display
strength by the Government, to show that they have strength and courage to
do what is the best for the country."
Corrupt officials ignore plight of poor migrants
CURRENTS by William Barnes
Ma Ma Lay sat stunned and red-eyed on the steps of a small shop in
Mahachai, about an hour's drive southeast of Bangkok.
The Burmese woman nervously knotted and unknotted the longyi around her
waist. Suddenly deprived of money and friends in a "strange country" she
had no idea what to do next.
Ma Ma Lay, or little sister, had just narrowly escaped arrest by throwing
herself under the shop's only bed. The police raiding party missed her but
seized the owner and his wife and pocketed 300,000 baht (HK$60,975) from
the cash box.
Welcome to Thailand's way of dealing with neighbours who overstay their
Similar scenes are played out every day in "Little Burma" where women
scream and beg police not to strip them of savings that may have taken two
years of cleaning fish to acquire. Much worse, of course, can happen to
the really unlucky ones.
On classy golf courses and at myriad meetings in plush hotels, leaders of
the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) squeak with delight at
the pleasure of each other's company.
But in the dark corners of the region corrupt police and bumptious
officials are deaf to the cries of workers without powerful friends.
Ma Ma Lay was undoubtedly an economic immigrant. Her principle fear about
being returned to Rangoon was unemployment and a miserable stepmother.
But she, and the million or more Burmese, Chinese, Laotians and Cambodians
in the underground economy who were once welcome to work for sub-legal
wages have now been declared job-snatchers.
It is debatable whether even in a time of economic crisis many Thais
really are prepared to tackle the dirty, underpaid and sometimes dangerous
work typically done by "guest" workers.
But why can Thailand, which is boosting its own plans to send workers
abroad, not treat people like Ma Ma Lay with dignity?.
Thailand is not unique. In Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, many
Indonesian construction workers who helped keep the country's growth rates
ticking over suddenly became a public menace and were ejected.
But Thais do claim to have a heart and a reforming government.
Perhaps they should remember that good countries treat other as they would
like to be treated themselves.
Kyaw Zay Ya
"If you give a man a fish, he will have a meal.
If you teach him to fish, he will have a living.
If you are thinking a year ahead, sow a seed.
If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree.
If you are thinking one hundred years ahead, educate the people.
By sowing a seed once, you will harvest once.
By planting a tree, you will harvest tenfold.
By educating the people, you will harvest one hundredfold." (ANONYMOUS
CHINESE POET, 420 B.C.)
("If it is not broken, don't fix it" leads to the worst situation.)