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The BurmaNet News: November 9, 1998

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

The BurmaNet News: November 9, 1998
Issue #1134

Noted in Passing: "If selective purchasing had been banned ten years ago,
Nelson Mandela might still be in prison today." - Rep. Byron Rushing -


13 November, 1998

corruption last November have been brought to trial. Most, though, have
been forced to bow so far out of public life that they are almost under
house arrest. In some cases, their assets have been sequestered. The
cleanup continues: Last month, deputy commerce minister Col. Kyaw Shwe was
abruptly sacked and other officials purged. Cabinet minister Brig.-Gen.
Maung Maung alleged to Asiaweek: "Yes, the deputy commerce minister took a
bribe. He was kicked out." It was all done very quietly, unlike last
November's sweep. A top commerce official is said to have been jailed for
life. Details are sketchy, but skim-offs on rice exports and kickbacks on
auto sales appear to be involved. "Kyaw Shwe was involved in many things
like rice and cars, especially the cars - Pajeros, Monteros, saloons. So
many," is the way Yangon Mayor Col. Ko Lay told it. 


8 November, 1998 by Aung Zaw 

Editorial & Opinion

>From 30 newspapers, Burma, under the military junta, has closed down all
and jailed most of the journalists branding them as 'enemies of the state'.
The tragic experience in Burma and elsewhere in the region calls for
solidarity among journalists, writes Aung Zaw.

KING Mindon who ruled Burma in 1880s had no chance of seeing Article 19 of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But as his kingdom began
circulating Burma's first newspaper, Yadanapon, the King declared firmly
that press freedom must prevail in his dynasty. Thus, newspapers published
in his kingdom practised press freedom.

Even under the British and then during the era of the late prime minister U
Nu, Burma enjoyed a flourishing free press.

More than 30 newspapers including English and Chinese language titles were
in circulation. But when Gen. Ne Win came to power in 1962 all private
magazines and newspapers were eventually shut down, and editors,
journalists and writers were thrown into jails as they were considered
enemies of the state.

Gen. Ne Win himself held only one press conference shortly after he staged
the coup.

At the press room, as journalists questioned him about his mission, the
general was furious. The veteran journalists did not give up but sat and
pressed for answers. Finally, the angry general, using obscene language,
jumped out of his chair and kicked it and left the press room in utter
stillness. That was the first and last of Ne Win's press conferences.

This meeting also signaled the end of a free press and the beginning of
repression of the press freedom in Burma.

While he ruled the country for 26 years, Ne Win's socialist regime decreed
freedom of expression was only permitted ''within the accepted limits of
the Burmese way to socialism.''

The Press Scrutiny Board (PSB) was set up to monitor and censor books,
magazines and journals as well as to control writers and journalists.
Newspapers were nationalised and well-respected editors and columnists were
forced to close down their papers.

Though Burma continued to publish more than one daily newspaper, the
coverage of news was bland and limited almost exclusively to the
government's activities, like generals' visit to schools and pagodas giving
necessary instructions.

Burma's press freedom made a comeback in 1988 but did not last long.

During the summer of 1988, when Burma's streets were filled with peaceful
demonstrators, almost 100 private newspapers, journals and bulletins were
in circulation. For a brief period, Burmese people were re-acquainted with
freedom of the press. But this would last only until the military staged a
bloody coup in September.

Now, with even more restrictions, newspapers, journals and magazines are
tightly controlled by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) which
has ruled the country with an iron fist for 10 years.

Burma's state-controlled newspapers do not cover the current events in the
region. Instead, news is heavily censored. Suharto's downfall and street
protests in Malaysia are rarely mentioned in the state organs.

The Britain-based anti-censorship group, Article 19, in a report released
in 1995, said Burma is one of the most heavily censored states in the world.

Burmese reporters working for foreign news agencies are heavily monitored.

''Negative sides of the country or the opposition movement is not allowed
to be reported in foreign press. We are permitted to report very few
events. We know we are being watched,'' said a veteran journalist in Rangoon.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released a
report this year saying that in Asia, Burma and Indonesia are the "enemies
of the press.''

''Owning a fax machine or photocopier is illegal in Burma. As there is no
independent press and popular foreign broadcasts are jammed, Burmese are
kept in the dark even about the nature of their own government,'' the CPJ

Having no alternative news source, the Burmese heavily rely on foreign

''They have little faith in newspapers. They read newspapers for
announcements,'' said an analyst in Rangoon.

Recently, local reporters, writers and publishers from state-owned and
joint venture publications were summoned by officials to publish an article
attacking opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

A reporter based in Rangoon told Radio Free Asia (RFA) recently that
authorities ordered publishers of weekly journals to include articles
attacking Suu Kyi. ''We have to go and get a copy of an article every week.
They [officials] give us an article. We have to publish it. We cannot say

Weekly journals now carry articles attacking Suu Kyi. Each journal has to
include at least one such article.

Journalists in Burma work in an atmosphere of uncertainty and apprehension
as the country is ruled by one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Recently, veteran journalists belonging to the Foreign Correspondents Club
of Myanmar were invited for a dinner by senior intelligence officers. When
called, some journalists jokingly asked, ''Do you want us to bring blankets
and mosquito nets?'' inquiring whether they (journalists) were ''invited''
for interrogation in prison.

FCCM members are elderly journalists whose activities are heavily
monitored. ''We have an informer in our group,'' said one reporter in Rangoon.

Definitely, there is a reason to be afraid.

Some reporters were simply arrested because they had distributed
publications that ''make people lose respect for the government.'' The jail
term is between five and seven years with hard labour.

''We should know our limits. If we step out of the line we are looking at
Insein,'' a writer in Rangoon said. Insein is an infamous prison where
political prisoners including journalists are being detained.

One Burmese writer said, ''Every writer, every poet, every journalist and
every cartoonist is always ruled by fear that what he has written will not
get past the censor. Almost every freely created work of art is subjected
to censorship.''

Even though there is no official figure on how many journalists are
currently being detained in Burma's gulag, analysts in Rangoon guess that
approximately 20 journalists including women reporters are languishing in
Insein prison.

One of them is Burma's most prominent journalist Win Tin, who has been
detained for 9 years.

Win Tin is well-respected as he has written many articles on painting,
world literature, politics and journalism. In the 1970s, he was chief
editor of the Mandalay-based Hanthawaddy newspaper, which was eventually
shut down by the government.

1989, Win Tin became a leading member of the Nation League for Democracy
[NLD] and chief adviser of Suu Kyi.

Now in his 60s Win Tin has been suffering from heart disease and requires
constant medication. He was visited by UN former special human rights
investigator Yozo Yokota and US congressmen. His sentence was extended as
he was convicted of smuggling letters describing conditions at Insein prison.

Friends, relatives and admirers express their grave concern over Win Tin's
health as journalists have died in Burma's prisons because of lack of

Last year, Burma's well-known journalist and writer U Tin Shwe died in
prison as a result of torture and maltreatment.

With regard to press freedom and safety of media persons, Burma might be
the worst case but it is not alone.

At a recent seminar on investigative journalism in Asia, held in Subic Bay
in the Philippines, journalists from around the region expressed their
concern about harassment and some governments' tight control over
newspapers and journalists.

Journalism trainer Moeun Chhean Nariddh from Cambodia said it is very
difficult for journalists to work in Cambodia because of harassment and

Reporters from Indonesia and Malaysia shared the same feelings. But
Indonesian journalists feel that they now enjoy more freedom and access to
information than before.

Howie Severino of the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism,
Manila, faces a slightly different enigma. The Philippine journalist said:
''We are being harassed by local Mafia.''

He summed up: ''If we are going to expose their drug business and illegal
operations we are certain to face harassment, death threats. In some cases
our fellow journalists were gunned down because of what they wrote.''

Indeed, as journalists in the region are gathering in Bangkok to promote
and monitor freedom of the press in Southeast Asia, it is high time for
journalists in the region to build up their solidarity and strengthen their

Aung Zaw is a correspondent of Radio Free Asia and regularly writes for The

[BurmaNet Editor's note: This article was slightly edited for The BurmaNet


5 November, 1998 

YANGON, May 5 (Reuters) - Myanmar's opposition National League For
Democracy on Thursday condemned the sentencing of one of its members to a
14-year jail term.

NLD youth committee worker Tun Tint Wai, also known as Tun Zaw Zaw, was
sentenced on November 2 under penal code sections 420 and 460, the party
said in a statement.

The NLD did not say what his offence had been, but the penal code sections
cover ``cheating'' and ``forgery for the purpose of cheating.'' Officials
with the military government were not immediately available for comment.

The NLD statement said Tun Tint Wai had been given seven years for each
offence, ``the maximum punishments prescribed.''

``It can be assumed that the punishments were very severe and that there
lie hatreds and grudges in exercising jurisdiction,'' the statement said.
``The NLD strongly condemns this action of the authorities.''

Last week United Nations investigator Rajsoomer Lallah issued a strongly
worded human rights report accusing the military government of persistent
harassment of the political opposition.

He said he remained ``deeply concerned'' about the large number of
political prisoners.

The NLD has reported the detention of nearly 1,000 of its members since it
resolved in May to call a ``People's Parliament'' in recognition of its
landslide election win eight years ago that was ignored by the military.

The government said on Thursday that 308 NLD members who were ``invited for
exchanges of views'' with the government had been allowed to return home.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due to make a report on Myanmar to the
U.N. General Assembly this week. 


6 November, 1998 by Tun Myint 

Burma today under the military regime is a country of shame.  The State
Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has been very tactful about covering
up its wrongdoing, lying squarely about human rights violations to the
international community, and blatantly refusing to transfer power to the
elected government.  It is brutal and selfish in maintaining its grip on
power.  Corruption and nepotism among the political and business elites are
common and becoming a tradition in Burma under the military regime. All of
these daily realities in Burma undermine the chances for emergence of civic
institutions -- such as an independent judiciary system, good governance,
political accountability, and effective law enforcement -- that are
fundamental to cultured human (civil) society, and are crucial elements to
maintain the security of the nation.

According to AsiaWeek (10/9/98) news and recent Thai papers, SPDC is
inviting foreign casino businesses to operate on the land of Burma from
Tha-Htay Kyun in the south, and Tachileik City in the east, to the heart of
Burma - Mandalay City.  After selling off all of the natural resources in
Burma and extracting human labor by force, the military regime now is
pawning the country to the hands of casino giants for cash flows.

SPDC, formerly known as SLORC, State Law and Order Restoration Council, has
been claiming in every spectrum of domestic and international media that it
is striving to make Burma "a modern and developed country" while it
simultaneously makes it illegal for people of Burma to own private
computers and fax machines with access to internet which is an aspect of
modernized country nowadays (Chap IX, SPDC Computer Science Department Law).

Now I have sadly learned that the Burmese military council, the State Peace
and Development Council, is making Burma "a modern and developed country"
of gamblers in Asia.

Tun Myint, Indiana University


6 November, 1998 

YANGON, 5 NOV - Exhibition '98 - To Revitalize and Foster Patriotic Spirit
continued for the fifth day at the Tatmadaw Convention Hall on U Wisara
Road.  Booths of the Pre-Independence Period, the Post Independence Period,
the Contemporary Period, the ministries, computer room and centre showroom
are being shown at the exhibition.

Displayed are the locations of pagodas and stupas in Bagan Township, list
of Bagan emperors, military paintings related in Bagan period, Razakuma
stone inscriptions, lists of kings who reigned in Innwa, Pinya and Sagaing
periods in the PreIndependence Period.

A play featuring King Thibaw being taken away by the British colonialists
performed by members of Shwepyitha Township Thabin Asiayon and highlights
of films and video plays depicting patriotism and nationalist fervour are
shown on a 52inch TV screen.

Thirteen of the visitors won prizes in memory contests in the computer
rooms today.


6 November, 1998 

[BurmaNet Editor's Note: This article's title may cause some confusion.
Those mentioned in this article commenting on the recent move to strike
down Massachusetts' Burma Law would consider it an anti-Burma (and perhaps
pro-business or pro-SPDC) move.  For more comments on the need for
precision in referring to the country, as distinct from the military junta,
please see Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe's letter to the editor of The Nation in The
BurmaNet News Issue #1132, November 5, 1998.]

BOSTON - Legal  scholars and elected officials urged the state attorney
general yesterday to appeal against US district court judge Tauro's
decision to strike down Massachusetts' Burma Law.

They also warned that Wednesday's decision could have devastating
consequences for  local governments, US tax-payers and the Burmese people.

"If this ruling stands, tax-payers and local governments around the country
will lose the right to decide whether to do business that supports brutal
regimes like the one in Burma," said Rep Byron Rushing (Democrat, Boston),
who authored the law "If selective purchasing had been banned ten years
ago, Nelson Mandela might still be in prison today," he added.

Judge Tauro ruled in favour of the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) -
a corporate lobbying group - yesterday afternoon, finding that the 1996
Massachusetts Burma Law infringes on the federal government's power to
regulate foreign affairs.

Advocates for selective purchasing laws, however, argue that local
governments and tax-payers have the right to make procurement decisions
that ban contracts with companies that indirectly support brutal regimes.

"Boycotts based on human rights have been a cornerstone of our democracy
since the Boston Tea Party," said Simon Billeness, a senior analyst for
Franklin Research and Development Corporation in Boston. "We cannot allow a
few corporations to remove this democratic tool so that they can profit
from a murderous military junta."

Twenty-two cities and counties around the country have selective purchasing
laws that target Burma, and supporters of the laws say that they are
crucial because the Burmese regime profits from most business enterprises
in the country. In addition, pro-democracy leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi has
repeatedly called for sanctions, and says the Massachusetts Burma Law is a
critical way to pressure the military junta without hurting the Burmese

"The impact of this decision goes far beyond Massachusetts," said Professor
Robert Stumberg of Georgetown University Law Centre. "It would deny cities
and states the power to use moral standards for choosing their business
partners if foreign commerce is affected. It could also affect laws for
domestic, minority and environmental purchasing in 45 states."

**Reuters adds from Rangoon. The leader of the latest in a series of mass
rallies against Burma's pro-democracy opposition called on people to
"crush" Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the state
media reported yesterday.

State newspapers said more than 29,000 people rallied against Suu Kyi and
her National League for Democracy (NLD) on Wednesday in the town of Bhamo
in Kachin state, about 1,300 km northeast of Rangoon.

It was the 19th such rally since Suu Kyi and leaders of her NLD resolved in
September to act for a "People's Parliament" in recognition of the party's
election win eight years ago, which was ignored by the military government.


6 November, 1998 

India and Myanmar are likely to enter into joint ventures for exploitation
of nickel and coal deposits in the northeastern border areas. This is one
of the proposals being examined as a result of the recent visit of a
high-level delegation to Myanmar led by the Commerce secretary, Mr. P. P.

Official sources say the proposal for nickel mining is significant since it
would help to reduce the large imports of this non-ferrous metal. The coal
mines venture is also expected to be useful in adding to the country's
energy requirements. Technical teams will be exchanged shortly to expedite
follow-up of these discussions. In the other important area of exploiting
natural gas reserves, the delegation did not hold any formal talks, but
indications are that India would be interested in any gas supplies made
available by a pipeline network from Myanmar. Currently, Myanmar has
entered into a collaboration with Thailand for exploiting its offshore gas
reserves, which will involve setting up a pipeline network in the Southeast
Asian region.

The need to step up bilateral trade was also raised during the visit of the
delegation and the importance of border trade was recognized in this
context. Currently, such trade is being carried on through Moreh in Manipur
on the Indian side and Tamu on the Myanmar side. It was agreed that
traditional border trade for the benefit of the border area residents would
continue as in the past without any restrictions. The border point could
also be used for normal trade transactions between the two countries,
subject to the normal export-import rules. For this purpose, both the sides
agreed to shortly conclude inter-bank arrangements to facilitate border trade.

Interestingly, India has now become Myanmar's largest export market
accounting for 23 per cent of its total export. Several steps were
discussed by the two sides to achieve a higher volume of trade with more
balance on both the sides. The possibility of entering into counter trade
was also examined.

The delegation's visit took place at the invitation of Myanmar's Deputy
Commerce Minister, Commodore Myo, and included representatives of the
Ministries of commerce, External Affairs and Steel and Mines as well as
officials of the Reserve of Bank of India and United Bank of India. The
official team was accompanied by a ten-member business delegation
comprising representatives of the Federation of Indian Chambers of commerce
and Industry (FICCI) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). In
fact, the CII entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Myanmar
chamber of commerce and Industry (MCCI).

Efforts were also made to streamline banking ties between the two
countries. Talks were held by the RBI and UBI officials with the Myanmar
Finance Ministry, Central Bank and several public and private sector banks
in that country.

[Note added by Communication Center New Delhi (CCN):]

During that visit Indian TV channel, Discovery donated decoders to SPDC.

Decoders Donated to Hospital, Schools and OSS

"A ceremony to donate decoders for use in Office of Strategic Studies,
Ministry of Defence, Defence Services Orthopedic Hospital and Youth
Training Schools under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and
Resettlement by Regional Director Mr. Sangay Khanna of Discovery Channel,
Discovery Communication, India, was held at the Tatmadaw Guest House on
Innya Road in Kamayut Township, Yangon on 27 October. First, Mr. Sangay
Khanna explained to those present the purpose of the donation. He then
presented one decoder each to Col. Than Myint for DSOH, Principal U Win Zaw
for Youth Training School, Daw Hla Yi for Women's Home (Yangon) and Col.
Thein Swe for (OSS). Col. Than Myint thanked the donor for all."