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The BurmaNet News: May 28, 1998

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

The BurmaNet News: May 28, 1998
Issue #1014

Noted in Passing: "They [Burmese generals] followed the Indonesia model; we
will follow the Indonesian students." -Student in Rangoon (see THE NATION:


Reuters: Myanmar Opposition Members Gather At Suu Kyi's House 
16 May, 1998 

Yangon -- Some 200 opposition National League for Democracy members began
gathering on Wednesday at the home of their leader Aung San Suu Kyi's in
Yangon to mark the eighth anniversary of the NLD's unrecognised 1990
election victory.

Witnesses said delegates were steadily pouring into Suu Kyi's lakeside
University Avenue residence compound in small groups of two or three as the
military posted checkpoints along the street to monitor the gathering.

There were no complications as the military allowed delegates to enter the

``By now about 200 of them have already gathered in the compound of her
house,'' a witness told Reuters.

This is the first time the ruling military, which seized power in a bloody
coup in 1988, has allowed the opposition to mark its landslide May 1990
election victory.

Last May, the military thwarted a similar gathering, detaining hundreds of
NLD members despite international criticism.

The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) issued a statement
late on Tuesday saying the gathering could go ahead provided certain rules
and regulations were observed. It did not spell out the rules.

On Sunday, the SPDC had warned the NLD not to gather and disturb the peace.

The NLD and the military have been at political loggerheads since the
fateful 1990 election. The opposition has accused the military of abusing
human rights and curbing its political activities.

One witness, who is familiar with the political movements in Myanmar, said
although the military increased its presence in the area, he did not
anticipate any violence.

``It seems that both sides have made some compromises and that is why the
gathering is going ahead. The soldiers also look unusually relaxed,'' he

Suu Kyi on Tuesday extended an olive branch to the SPDC by saying that her
NLD did not seek revenge on the military.

``We want dialogue because we want to find a solution that is best for
everybody, that is to say particularly for the people of Burma (Myanmar)
and for the government,'' Suu Kyi said in a statement released in Bangkok
through the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, a non-governmental

``We do not seek revenge, we do not think there is anything particularly
honourable or admirable in seeking revenge. We want to find a peaceful
settlement,'' she said in assurance that the opposition would not engage in
violence to achieve its goals.

But the military has refused to hold direct talks with Suu Kyi, while the
NLD insist she must represent the party in any future dialogue with the
military. This has resulted in a political stalemate between the two sides.


Bangkok Post: Junta Allows Opposition Ceremony
27 May, 1998 

Must be 'in line with security regulations'

Burma's military government announced it would allow the democratic
opposition to hold a ceremony marking the anniversary of the country's last
national election in 1990.

In an announcement faxed last night to news agencies in Bangkok, approved
the request of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) to
hold gathering today and tomorrow.

Earlier, exile dissident groups had said the league intended to hold the
meeting to celebrate its thwarted victory despite arrests made by the
regime, which they described as an effort to prevent it.

Earlier yesterday, the ruling State Peace and Development Council had urged
the party not to hold the congress in the interests of national unity, but
denied reports 16 members had been detained to stop them from attending.

"They have been requested and informed by the relevant local authorities of
the need and importance of maintaining the prevailing peace, stability and
national unity in the country," a government official said. "They have not
been detained as alleged."

Attempts by Mrs Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, to hold a
congress of supporters of her party at her home for the past three years
have been frustrated by the detention of party activists expected to attend.

The announcement of permission granted for the meeting was qualified with
the statement that authorities informed the league "to conduct the ceremony
in accordance with the existing rules and regulations".

"It's difficult to say how many will attend the party congress," Aung Naing
Oo, a leader of the All Burma Students Democratic Front, said in Bangkok.
"Military have arrested some members from outer provinces with various


BBC: Aung San Suu Kyi Says the Meeting Alone Is Not Enough
27 May, 1998 

Opposition allowed to meet in Rangoon.

Several hundred members of the Burmese opposition party have gathered at
the home of their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, in Rangoon to commemorate their
party's short-lived election victory eight years ago. This is the first
time the ruling military, which seized power in 1988, has allowed the
opposition to mark its victory, which was immediately overturned. Leader of
the National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi, thanked the
military regime for allowing her to hold the meeting, but said it was not
enough. "It is necessary to honour the results of the 1990 elections and
hold the Parliament session as soon as possible. Let us meet the next time
in Parliament," said the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. She again
urged the military regime to open a dialogue with the opposition, a move
which she said was unavoidable since the people of Burma willed it and
because, otherwise, the country would never solve its deepening political
and economic problems. Extra riot police have been posted around Aung San
Suu Kyi's home, where she is under house arrest following her return from

Inspired by Indonesia?
Attempts to hold commemorations in the past have been thwarted by the
military, who detained hundreds of NLD members last May despite
international criticism. However, commentators say the pro-democracy
movement in Burma has taken heart from the overthrow of President Suharto
in Indonesia. A leader of the NLD who is now in exile, Sein Win, says that
the opposition movement in Burma has been "very much encouraged" by what
happened in Indonesia. But the head of the BBC Burma section warns that not
everybody will know about the events in Indonesia, as censorship is still

Urged not to hold meeting
Earlier this week the government urged the NLD not to hold the meeting in
the interest of national unity, but it approved the meeting late on
Tuesday, provided certain rules and regulations were observed, which it did
not spell out.

But NLD leaders said that even this year 320 delegates have been detained
in various parts of the country to keep them from attending, and urged
their immediate release. The government has denied this.

Although the NLD won elections in May 1990, the result was overturned by
the military, and many opposition MPs at the time were imprisoned.

Burmese exile groups say the NLD has been decimated since it captured 392
of the 485 seats in the 1990 polls. They say a quarter of the victors have
been imprisoned or exiled, and two have died in prison.

According to the human rights group, Amnesty International, scores of
political activists have been arrested since the beginning of the year,
joining hundreds of others in prison.

Aung San Suu Kyi herself has been under house arrest or close confinement
for most of the last nine years. Her activities are tightly curbed by the


The Nation: Suharto's Fall Raises Tensions In Rangoon
27 May, 1998 By Aung Zaw 

The Generals wanted to adopt an Indonesian-style constitution, but
Suharto's downfall is a lesson to be learned from.

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 demand the resignation of
Suharto and his Cabinet a new business in Rangoon has flourished, the
selling videotapes 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.

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

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
in the black market, although the official rate remains six to the dollar.

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 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 Suharto.

"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 fleeings 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 connection 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 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 a tea shops agreed, saying:
"What we are doing everyday is looking for a spark or someone who will come
into 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 many times since it first meet in 1993. Sources thought the
junta might resume the convention in the near future. Widely considered a
sham convention, it was boycotted in 1995 by the NLD.

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.


The Nation: 14 Burmese Deported 
27 May, 1998 

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 yesterday.

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.


Amnesty International: Urgent Action on Myanmar 
26 May, 1998 

Torture or Ill-treatment / Fear for safety / Medical concern / Prisoners of

MYANMAR   Ko Aung Tun U Myo Htun

Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Ko Aung Tun and U Myo
Htun, who are in a precarious state of health after being tortured and
ill-treated in detention.  Both prisoners are being held incommunicado in
solitary confinement.

Ko Aung Tun and U Myo Htun have been tortured inside Insein Jail, Myanmar's
largest prison.  During late February and March 1998, Aung Tun was severely
beaten with rifle butts and sticks.  He is reported to be suffering from
severe asthma and tuberculosis.  In addition he is vomiting blood, believed
to be a result of his beatings. U Myo Htun has also been beaten and
subjected to threats while a gun was placed in his mouth, and is in very
poor health as a result of his treatment.

Ko Aung Tun was arrested in February 1998 and, according to an official
statement, was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for breaking the 1962
Printers and Publishers Registration Act; seven years under the provisions
of the Unlawful Association Act, and another seven years under the
Emergency Provisions Act for a total of seventeen years in prison.

At a 1 March 1998 press conference, the State Peace and Development Council
(SPDC, Myanmar's military government) claimed that Ko Aung Tun was
collaborating with terrorist groups. Opposition sources state, however,
that the real reason for his arrest was because he had written a history of
the student movement in Myanmar. Ko Aung Tun was active in the student-led
1988 pro-democracy movement and was imprisoned from 1990 to 1994.

U Myo Htun assisted Aung Tun in writing the book, which the authorities
claim was distributed  illegally. He was reportedly sentenced to 10 years'

BACKGROUND INFORMATION Since the beginning of the year scores of political
activists have been arrested in Myanmar, joining hundreds of others in
prisons throughout the country. In the last few days, an unknown number of
National League for Democracy (NLD, Myanmar's main opposition party led by
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) members are believed to have been arrested in the
run-up to the party's celebration of its 1990 general election victory on
27 May. Amnesty International is also concerned about the safety of these
detainees, as torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners is common in
Myanmar, particularly during the initial stages of detention and

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in English or your own language:
-expressing grave concern that U Myo Htun and Ko Aung Tun are in very poor
health due to severe torture by the authorities;
-urging the authorities to grant the two prisoners immediate access to
proper medical care, their families, and their lawyers;
-calling on the authorities to initiate an independent and prompt
investigation of these reports of torture.

Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, Secretary 1 State Peace and Development
Council c/o Director of Defence Services Intelligence (DDSI) Ministry of
Defence, Signal Pagoda Road Dagon Post Office Yangon Union of Myanmar 

General Khin Nyunt, Yangon, Myanmar
Telexes:  21316
Faxes:    + 95 1 229 50 
Salutation:    Dear General

Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman State Peace and Development Council c/o
Director of Defence Services Intelligence (DDSI) Ministry of Defence,
Signal Pagoda Road Dagon Post Office Yangon Union of Myanmar

General Than Shwe, Yangon, Myanmar
Telexes:  21316
Salutation:    Dear General

COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of MYANMAR accredited to your country.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 7 July 1998.