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The BurmaNet News: November 4-5, 19

Subject: The BurmaNet News: November 4-5, 1998

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

The BurmaNet News: November 4-5, 1998
Issue #1132


4 November, 1998 by William Barnes 

Burma's shadow cabinet has "cheekily" issued a stream of recommendations to
establish its claim to be government--in--waiting, observers said yesterday.

The newly created Committee to Represent a People's Parliament may have no
legal power, but it has, for example, advised Parliament to revoke certain
repressive laws and reduce the power of rural officials.

"It's very interesting. Very significant. The opposition are upping the
ante -- showing what a democratic government can do," said Debbie Stothard,
coordinator of the Alternative Asean Network on Burma.

The committee was set up in September when the ruling junta stymied moves
by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to
reconvene Parliament by arresting a swathe of MPs from a 1990 election.

The league -- which won that election by a landslide -- claims the
representative committee is legitimate because it has been approved by 250
MPs; more than half the original 459--member House.

In its first statement it declared that laws and orders made without the
consent of Parliament -- or since September 18, 1988 -- have no legal

It later recommended scrapping the 1950 Emergency Provisions law which was
"excessively cited and illegally used to persecute".

The new body has inevitably met only scathing criticism from the
authorities, but by issuing such proclamations it may answer the criticism
-- voiced even by some critics of the junta -- that the opposition has no
concrete policies.

"The league's policies have been little more than wish lists in the past.
The statements address very particular issues and could ultimately be honed
into a manifesto of real merit," said one political analyst.

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi recently repeated her call for the military to enter
into a dialogue with the opposition. 


4 November, 1998 

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- A member of Myanmar's chief opposition party has
resigned as a member of the parliament elected in 1990 but never allowed by
the military government to meet, a state newspaper said Tuesday.

Min Thu Wun, an 89-year-old scholar and poet, cited age as his reason for
stepping down, the newspaper New Light of Myanmar said.

The resignation adds to the dozens of members of the parliament who have
quit in recent years. Some have accused the government of pressuring them
to resign.

Min Thu Wun is the second member of parliament for the National League for
Democracy, headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, to have
quit since Suu Kyi stepped up a campaign against the military government in

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been ruled by the military since 1962.
Suu Kyi rose to prominence in anti-government uprisings in 1988 that were
bloodily suppressed. The military allowed elections in 1990 but never
honored the results after the opposition won in a landslide. 


2 November, 1998 by Thomas Crampton 

It Seeks Foreign Help to Try to Expand Exports

Phuket, Thailand - Burma, once the rice bowl of Asia, is renewing efforts
to revive its languishing agricultural industry by developing large
production zones for rice for export and enlisting foreign investment.

Among the projects is a 38,000 hectare (94,000-acre) island in the fertile
Irrawaddy river delta that has been set aside for long-term leasing to grow
rice for export. After selling half the crop to the govt. at near market
prices, investors can export the remainder.

Domestic and foreign investors have expressed an interest in growing rice
and other crops in Burma for export, but participants at an International
rice conference here last week said aging infrastructure and unclear govt.
policy could doom the plans.

The world's largest rice exporter in the years after World War II, Burma
has seen its agricultural production wither under decades of socialism and
isolation from the rest of the world. In recent years, rumors of increased
rice exports have caused hoarding.

This year, Burma expects to export nearly 100,00 metric tons (110,000 short
tons) of rice valued at about $23 million. While that is a sharp increase
from 14,000 metric tons last year, it is still millions of tons below what
is regarded as the country's potential.

While global demand for rice is easing now, it is expected to pick up again
in years to come. Growing population and shrinking amounts of land under
cultivation are expected to Asia's demand for rice imports over the next
decade or so. Burma is the only nation in the region positioned to meet the
shortfall, according to the International Rice Research Institute.

Confusing export-policy changes have doom several recent attempts to
encourage rice cultivation and could undermine the current initiative. But
a desperate need for hard currency is forcing the govt. to make greater
concession in return for foreign involvement, one source said, citing an
agreement with a foreign rice-trading company to select several thousand
tons of high-quality rice for export this year.

Malaysia, which ahs an industrialization policy that calls for development
of outside rice sources, is considering investment in the Burmese
production zone, said Larry Wong, senior consultant to Malaysia's monopoly
rice importer, Padiberas National Bhd., or Bernas.

The difficulty with projects such as Nyaungdon island in the Irrawaddy -
which already has several domestic investors - is that it involves large
tracts of land that require firming techniques never before employed in Asia.

While rice farmers in the United States and Australia seed 200-acre tracts
by aircraft and harvest by tractor, most Asian farmers plant and reap rice
by hand on small plots.

Large-scale cultivation requires a complex infrastructure, including
fertilization systems, irrigation pumps and modern drying facilities, that
is often unavailable for Burma's old fashioned rice industry.

"The greatest difficulty will be getting the full supply chain working," Mr
Wong said. "You may plant great rice in the world's best soil. But if you
can't mill, polish and export efficiently, the project will fail."


3 November, 1998 


RANGOON - The Burmese people hate opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi
because she is trying to destroy peace and stability, the state media said

The Nobel Peace laureate wants to tear down progress in social and
infrastructure development, the state-run New Light of Myanmar said in an

"Such appreciable progress achieved in peace and stability is too valuable
to be permitted to be destroyed by alien's wife Suu Kyi and NLD [National
League for Democracy] traitorous, destructive elements," the article said.

"They are bound to suffer the wrath of the people, whose well-being is
threatened by them."

The junta repeatedly raises Aung San Suu Kyi's marriage to a Briton as
evidence of "treachery" against her race and nation.

While under house arrest she led the NLD to a landslide victory in 1990
elections but has never been allowed to form a government. She was released
from detention after six years in 1995, but her freedom of movement, speech
and association is strictly controlled.

Hundreds of NLD members have been detained since May in what opposition
groups have called a major new offensive against the democracy movement.

A junta "information sheet" released yesterday said eight NLD members had
been released on Thursday, bringing the total freed in recent weeks to 118.

It said there were 544 NLD "invitees" still detained in government
"guesthouses", including  144 MPs elected in 1990.

The detainees were believed to have been freed on condition they renounced
their NLD ties and pledged support for military rule. The junta calls it an
"exchange of views."


4 November, 1998 by Moe Aye 


The spokesman of the ruling Burmese junta said: "We didn't arrest any
members of Parliament and members of the NLD [National League for
Democracy]. We just invited them to discuss the situation of Burma. We are
taking good care of them, they are just in our guesthouse." He continued,
"Whether they are sent back to their homes depends on the activities of the

It really looks like a dirty political kidnap and a, big lie to the
international community. Many NLD members and MPs are now in custody and
military interrogation centres. Members of the NLD from Botahtaung,
Pazundaung, Tamwe, Seikkan and Dawbon townships have been kept in military
interrogation centre 14 since the first week of September. Those from
Bahem, Kemmendine, Sanchaung, Latha, Lanmadaw and Kamaryut townships have
been kept in military interrogation centre 7. Many NLD youth wing members
who are considered hardcore are being kept in Insein prison.

Some MP's have now been put in Insein special jail and some are in military
interrogation centre 6. Just a handful of MPs who have already resigned
from their posts are in the junta's guesthouse and a few were sent back
home. Some are now facing charges under section 5 (j) of the Emergency
Provision Act. Some have already been sentenced to seven years
imprisonment. Some are in the custody of their respective township police.
All MPs have had to choose one of two ways; either to go to prison or to
sign testimonies and documents which state that they do not support the
NLD's activities and the Committee Representing People's Parliament.

It may be that those under detention will at the very  least be pressured
by unlawful methods and be forced to resign from their representative
positions and from the NLD. At the same time many student activists are in
police custody at "Aung-thapyay", the special police branch's headquarters,
as well as in military intelligence interrogation centre 12.

It is now clear that all custody interrogation centres in Burma are not for
criminals but for political activists. Meanwhile, there are many political
prisoners who have already completed their unfair punishment, but have not
yet been released.

A woman, whose husband is an M P and still in prison despite having
completed his years of sentence, said, "I don't think that my husband will
be released from prison under this situation. When I asked the authorities
why my husband was not released, they told me that it depends on the
activities of NLD. I understand that my husband and others who have
finished their unfair punishments are being used as 'political hostages' by
the junta. All people who hunger for democracy are being used as scapegoats."

In reality, there are many political prisoners who had already completed
what should have been their prison terms before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's trip
out of Rangoon, the NLD's demand to convene the people's Parliament and the
students' hit and-run demonstration.

All the people of Burma under the junta have to live with the term "by
force". Forced labour, forced relocations, forced examinations, forced
rallies, and arbitrary sentences are now familiar not only to the people of
Burma but to the international community.

When asked by a reporter which prison he had had to live in, Ye Tay Za, a
prominent student activist and former political prisoner replied, "Which
prison do you mean? There are only two prisons in Burma - the prison with
walls and the prison without walls".

His answer clearly states the situation of Burma. All activists have to go
to the prison with walls and the rest have to live in the prison without
walls. During the junta's forced rallies, the junta's hired men accuse Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD of destroying the country's future, but they
never acknowledge that the NLD was the winning party in the May 1990
election. Although the NLD constantly demands a genuine dialogue, not power
transfer, the junta refuses not only dialogue but also every reasonable

The problem is that the junta has no intention of accepting the NLD as a
winning party in the May 1990 election. The junta ignores the fact that as
long as they don't recognise the result of the May 190 election, the
country's situation will be getting worse and worse. However, they still
claim that they are the only ones who really love the country.

When the daughter of State Peace and Development Council secretary (23
General Tin Oo died in a bomb explosion at their house on April 6, 1997,
the state-run newspaper accused Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as a Peace Nobel
Laureate, of not being compassionate because she had not sent a condolence
letter to General Tin Oo. They forgot to explain why U Tin Maung Win, U Hla
Than, U Saw Win, (all are MPs from the NLD), U Maung Ko (a member of
Central Committee of the NLD) and Mr Leo Nichols, honorary consul for
Norway, Demnark, Finland, and Switzerland, died in custody. The junta never
sent condolence letters to their families. Worse, their families did not
have not the right to see their loved ones' funerals.

There are many political prisoners who died in prison because of poor
medical treatment and harassment. The junta never thinks to sympathise with
those whose relatives died in prison and interrogation centres and to send
condolence letters to them. Although there were many innocent students shot
dead during the 1988 popular uprising, far from sympathising, the junta
never allows anybody to hold the memory of them. Anyone who tried to hold
the memory was accused of trying to destroy the country's stability and was
sent to prison, charged under section 5 (j) of the Emergency Provision Act.

The junta accuses 'the lady' (what the Burmese military calls Suu Kyi) of
trying to persuade western countries to impose economic sanctions on Burma.
However, it still neglects to explain to its own people why the Golden Land
turned into the least developed country and the IMF declared that it would
not grant loans or have financial dealings with Burma any more. Although
the junta has a huge budget for the extension of the military, the secret
police, interrogation centres and prisons, there is a small budget for
social welfare, medical care and education. But they are still crying that
they are paving a path to democracy.

A tourist who recently visited Burma said that he met with many ordinary
people and asked many questions about what he wanted to know. When he asked
one civil servant about the junta, he was told, "We don't like the junta
completely. At the same time, we don't want to see an uprising like 1988.
The junta and the people have different reasons for not wanting another
uprising. The junta fear to face an uprising because of losing their power.
We fear because of losing innocent people. The junta is now taking
advantage of our fear. But I believe there is a limit to how long the
people can go on without taking action. Much of our people's patience has
now nearly run out".

When he asked another civil servant why he attended a mass rally to
denounce Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, he was told, "Before the mass
rally, we all had to sign an agreement that we would attend whatever it was.

We also had to sign that if we were absent, we would be fired from our
jobs. We felt so sad hearing the denouncing of e our lady and the NLD. We
voted for the NLD because we believe in the lady. During that pretend mass
rally, we felt ourselves to be scapegoats and robots. However, when the
high-ranking officers at the rally called out slogans denouncing the NLD,
we did not shout these slogans as we were expected to do. I do hope we all
will be united in not attending such a forced mass rally again". According
to sources, all businessmen have to donate to the junta. They are
threatened that if they refuse to donate, their work permits and licences
will be withdrawn. The term "forced donation" has also become familiar to
all Burmese businessmen.

The source said, "Many ordinary people are watching what the 10 member
committee [the Committee Representing People's Parliament] will do and are
waiting for their guidance. At the same time, they wonder why the committee
delays doing what they should do". For the civil servants and workers, the
junta is using job dismissal as a weapon. For the students, bans from
continuing their studies and closure of the schools at any time. For the
political prisoners, their prison terms  no longer depend on their original
sentences, but depend on the activities of  the

For the NLD members and members of parliament who are in the-so-called
guest house, the way back to their homes seems to depend on the 10 member
committee representing the elected members of parliament, according to the

Strongly holding onto power, constantly telling lies, and being unwilling
to accept the results of the May 1990 election, the junta has been
oppressing its own people as hostages, scapegoats and robots for over ten
years. However, whether they end up in a life of being scapegoats and
robots depends not only on the NLD, but also on the people of Burma who
voted for the NLD in the May 1990 election.

MOE AYE is a pseudonym.


4 November, 1998 from Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe 

Letter to the Editor

Once again, intellectual laziness or woolly thinking strikes again as
indicated by the headlining of an Oct 1 news report on Radio Australia:
"Burma increases pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi".

This doesn't make much sense. Why is "Burma", whose people voted
overwhelmingly for Aung San Suu Kyi in the 1990 elections, increasing
pressure on her?

Has she done something wrong against Burma or its people and their interest?

What is "Burma"? Is it the ruling junta? Can a bunch of men in military
uniforms, who have been holding the whole country hostage at gun-point be
referred to as "Burma"?

Why not say: "The military junta increases pressure on Burma and Aung San
Suu Kyi", instead of distorting a simple and plain fact?

The equating of an unlawful and twice-rejected junta with Burma amounts to
doing the people of Burma, who have suffered grievously from the cancer of
military misrule since 1962, a great injustice.

I hope the shakers of the media world and opinion-makers everywhere will in
future be careful not to resort to shorthand- no matter how tempting or
convenient - when doing so violates both the truth of the matter and the
people of Burma.

Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe