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Bumra News Update No. 70

Open Society Institute
Burma Project

Burma News Update No. 70
3 November 1998

UN Launches New Initiative

UN Assistant Secretary General Alvaro de Soto sought to jump-start a
dialogue between Burma's army junta and the democratic opposition in a
four day visit backed by key Southeast Asian countries, Japan, Britain
and the United States. The UN envoy reportedly offered concrete
proposals that would include a lessening of international isolation in
return for democratic reforms by the junta. Official media in Rangoon
described DeSoto's meetings with junta officials as "fruitful and
constructive." The UN envoy also met twice with National League for
Democracy Leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and consulted with diplomatic
missions in Rangoon.

Bangkok, "The Nation," 28 October; wire reports

Abuses: "Highest Level Responsibility"

A United Nations official has charged that human rights abuses in Burma
are so widespread that they are likely "the result of policy at the
highest level, entailing political and legal responsibility." The charge
of the junta's liability for gross abuses was included  in a special
report to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva by UN Special
Rapporteur for U.N. Human Rights in Burma Rajsoomer Lallah. The report
stated that violations are particularly severe in ethnic minority areas,
where they "include extrajudicial and arbitrary executions (not sparing
women and children), rape, torture, inhuman treatment, forced labor and
denial of freedom of movement." Restrictions on freedom of expression
and freedom of association remained extreme, Lallah reported, adding
that forced labor and "torture and ill-treatment, including beatings in
prisons and interrogation centers, continue to be a common practice."

United Nations, "Reuters," 28 October

Detainee Dies

Burma's junta has expressed "regrets" at the "sad and unexpected" death
in detention of 52-year old National League for Democracy (NLD) member U
Aung Min on 21 October. The NLD described the military regime's release
of 129 other political detainees as a diversionary action timed for the
visit to Burma of U.N. Assistant Secretary General Alvaro de Soto. More
than 1,000 NLD members have been arrested since mid-August after the
party announced it would convene a parliament based on its overwhelming
1990 election victory never honored by the army junta. [Approximately
2,000 political prisoners are now detained in Burma, often under
appalling conditions-Ed.]

Myanmar Information Committee, Rangoon, 28 October; 'Deutsche
Presse-Agentur," 29 October

Junta Rallies Continue

Declaring that Burmese people have "vowed to crush all traitorous
element", Burma's state media renewed vociferous attacks on the National
League for Democracy and its leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. While the
junta-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that thousands of
people rallied in the city of Bago to support the regime, many of the
people recently gathered in similar rallies were state employees.
Speakers again urged that Daw Suu Kyi be deported for "conniving" with
foreign powers. Last week, the New Light of Myanmar cited a gift of
chocolates to Daw Suu Kyi from her husband in Britain as an example of
foreign influence on the democracy leader.

Rangoon, "Agence France Presse," 31 October

EU Expands Sanctions

Declaring that tourism to Burma is not appropriate under current
conditions, the European Union expanded a visa ban against
representatives of Burma's military junta to include tourism officials.
Junta officials will also no longer be allowed to transit EU countries
en route to other destinations. Current restrictions against the regime
were renewed, including a bans on all but humanitarian assistance, an
arms embargo, and suspension of trade concessions.

Luxembourg, "Kyodo,"  27 October

Listening for Heroin

China and the United States are cooperating to monitor drug trafficking
from Burma. A recently-created listening post at the Chinese town of
Ruili near the Burmese frontier is jointly staffed by Chinese and
American intelligence experts. The US has also supplied all terrain
vehicles to help the Chinese capture drug smugglers. Heroin addiction is
a serious and quickly growing threat in China, especially in Yunnan
Province, which borders Burma. Chinese officials estimate that 90 per
cent of heroin reaching China is of Burmese origin.

"Washington Post," 31 October

BURMA NEWS UPDATE is a publication of the Burma Project of the Open Society
400 West 59th Street, New York, N.Y. 10019 tel: (212) 548-0632