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The BurmaNet News: November 11, 199

Subject: The BurmaNet News: November 11, 1998

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

The BurmaNet News: November 11, 1998
Issue #1136

Noted in Passing: "Asean has provided no shield for Burma, no protection,
not even a fig leaf" - Josef Silverstein (see FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW:


1 November, 1998 by Bruce Hawke 

[BurmaNet Editor's Note: As this is a rather lengthy article, it will
appear in BurmaNet in installments.  Today's issue carries part 1 of the

**Bruce Hawke visits Shan State, Burma, where the Burmese Army is stifling
all opposition with a campaign of ethnic cleansing.**

The precarious ceasefire agreements between the military government and
ethnic minority armies in Shan State, Burma (Myanmar) look increasingly
vulnerable, and are in danger of falling apart altogether. Mutual distrust
between Rangoon and the numerous quiescent insurgent groups has reached
unprecedented levels. The junta accuses the ceasefire groups of arming and
providing support to rebels, while the ethnic leaders are suspicious of
Rangoon's divide-and-rule tactics and accuse it of racially-motivated
genocide and a score of other abuses in Shan State. Both arguments are
supported by substantial bodies of evidence and both sides are tooling up
and digging in for a resumption of hostilities.

In 1989, following the breakup of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB),
Rangoon negotiated a series of peace agreements with the ethnic armies
which emerged in the CPB's wake, and went on to conclude agreements with
other non-communist groups in the years that followed. The details of the
verbal deals were never made public and vary from groups to group depending
on their military (and hence bargaining) power.

The agreements allowed the insurgents to operate in liberated zones, have
free trade access to the people's Republic of China (PRC) and/or Thailand,
and freedom to engage in the heroin trade, unhindered by the government. In
return, Rangoon had peace on the border, allowing it to concentrate on
consolidating its position in lowland Burma and other areas.

The architect of these deals was Brigadier General (now Lieutenant General)
Khin Nyunt, the chief of intelligence and until recently, the most powerful
individual in the junta. The deals were, however, far from universally
popular with the insurgent groups, many of whose leaders wanted to keep
fighting, or even within the Burmese Army, as many commanders saw
compromise with these  ethnic leaders as unnecessary and undignified. In
all, 15 ceasefire agreements and three 'surrender in exchange for immunity
from prosecution'-type deals were officially made across the country, and
an unofficial deal was struck with mutineers from the Karen National Union
(KNU), which effectively marginalised it.

The man credited with negotiating the deal and engineering the split,
Colonel (now Brigadier-General) Sein Win, the military commander of Pa-an,
Karen State, was rewarded by being recalled to Rangoon and appointed
Minister of Sport.

Although there were reports of occasional shoot-outs between ceasefire
groups and government troops, particularly the Kachin Independence Army
(KIA), the Shan State Army (SSA) and Karenni Nationalities Progressive
Party (KNPP), the agreements held together fairly well until 1996.

In January of that year, following the defection of part of his Mong Tai
Army (MTA) in 1994 and an ongoing battle for control over key areas of the
Burma-Thai border against the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and regular
Burmese Army troops, Khun Sa signed a surrender deal with Rangoon. One of
his ethnic Shan commanders, Major Yord Serk, refused to accept the
surrender deal and resurrected the long-defunct Shan United Revolutionary
Army (SURA) taking 1,500-2,000 troops with him to fight the government.

Later in the year, the KNPP ceasefire fell apart altogether. Arguments over
profit-sharing of logging deals on the Thai border with local Burmese
government military commanders spilled over into full-scale fighting
between the 1,000-1,500 strong Karenni  force, and the vastly numerically
superior Burmese Army based at Loikaw. SSA leaders became furious at a
brutal, if low intensity war of attrition being waged by the Burmese Army
in southern Shan State. In this war, rural families have been subjected to
forced relocation, forced labour and to being conscripted as porters on the
battlefield. Regular incidents of extortion, rape, torture and
extra-judicial killings on the part of government troops were rarely if
ever punished. Since March 1996, well over 1,000 civilians have died as a
result of Burmese Army massacres.

The Burmese government was upset by a meeting held at Mae Tha Raw Hla, one
of the few remaining KNU bases in Karen State, attended by the eight groups
currently fighting against the Burmese Army. Also in attendance at the
meeting were several representatives of groups with current ceasefire
agreements. Sai Pao (aka Ai Pao-sin), the UWSA's northern command pointman
in Thailand, and a close associate of UWSA chief Ta Pang, was there. Also
in attendance was the KIA representative in Thailand, Zaw Seng, and New Mon
State Party (NMSP) delegate Nai Hunter. They all signed an agreement on 15
January, pledging to fight the Burmese government. The UWSA leadership in
Pangsangh told outraged Burmese authorities that Sai Pao did not have their
authorisation to attend or sign on behalf of the UWSA. The same excuse was
made by the KIA of Zaw Seng's participation, but Rangoon was probably
correct in being skeptical of the denials. Nai hunter was officially
expelled from the NMSP under pressure from the Burmese government.

At the same January meeting, an agreement to form the United Nationalities
Shan State Army (UNSSA) was signed. It comprises the SURA with its
3,000-4,000 armed troops and four small rebel groups also operating in the
state, the Wa National Army (WNA - not to be confused with Wei Xue-gang's
former army with the same name), the Pao People's Liberation Army, the Lahu
Guerrilla Force (LGF) and the Palaung State Liberation Front. While it is a
small start, it must be of deep concern to Rangoon that the groups are
starting to talk and co-ordinate, rather than fighting among themselves, as
has been the normal practice in the past.

Also of some concern to the junta was the fact that in September last year,
the three ethnic-Shan groups, the SSA, Shan National Army (SSNA) and SURA
signed an agreement to merge at a meeting held in Seng Kaeo. The main
motivation for the merger may have been to facilitate a ceasefire for the
SURA faction. This despite the fact that the SURA is fighting the
government and the other two groups have ceasefire agreements. The Burmese
junta refused to recognise the merger, but SURA troops regularly visit SSA-
controlled areas near Hsipaw in between fighting engagements against
government troops.

[Upcoming installments of this article include: "The United Wa State Army"
and "The Campaign Against the Shan"]


10 November, 1998 

[The source of this information wishes to remain anonymous.]

Mass rallies and public sentiment:

In every major town in the state and divisions all over Burma, mass rallies
are being held to denounce the NLD and to demand that ASSK be deported from
Burma. However, there is no popular support for these rallies. Every
evening, there is broadcasting of the rallies on Myanmar TV. Most people
just switch off their TV sets and watch a video film or switch to Myawaddy
TV which airs a series of Chinese soap operas.

All the government workers are forced to attend the rallies. They are
threatened that they will be fired from their jobs if they don't. Also
business people are forced to attend the rallies, and at the same time to
donate necessary funds for the rally or their working licenses will be

The people in the towns are ordered to send one person per household to
attend the rallies. Local Peace and Development Councils (PDCs) are
responsible for gathering the people. In rich circles/quarters, the rich
normally send their workers or they ask the headman to hire someone for
their household. The rates range from 50-150 Kyats. Labourers are keen to
attend the rallies as they earn money just sitting in the open and clapping

Also present at all the rallies are members of the USDA, wearing white and
green, the Myanmar Maternal and Childcare Welfare Association in yellow,
and the Myanmar National Women's Committee in blue uniforms.

Most of the speakers at the rallies are government servants who are forced
to read their speeches, which have been prepared for them. There are also
rumours that the speakers are offered from 500,000 to 1,500,000 kyats to
give the speech, or they are promised to be sent abroad (Japan) for study
tours. A few are willing to talk as it is a good chance for them to get
that much money, and to go abroad, especially while facing economic
difficulties, as their salaries are way below what is needed for daily
survival for one person let alone for the whole family. (The financial
incentive is also a major factor in causing people to join the USDA, as
this entitles them to special privileges, such as getting permits to buy
all household supplies at government-run stores at much cheaper prices than
at local markets, or getting a free piece of land from the government, or
getting permits for building materials, etc.)

In one case, a woman doctor who is very close to Dr. Tin Lay Myint, wife of
the Chairman of the Mandalay Division PDC & the Commander of the Central
Military Division General Ye Myint was forced to talk at the rally in
Mandalay. Even though she was scolded by the commander for not talking
harshly enough, she has now become a scapegoat of the public's hatred
towards the authorities. Every night after dark, boys/men passing by her
house on push-bikes/motorbikes call her names. It is said that she has
become very depressed.

Corruption & embezzlement & abuse of power within SPDC

Every 4 months, all the military commanders are called for a meeting in
Rangoon. This also means the regional officers must pay respect to their
superiors. They pay respect in terms of gifts -- gems and jewelry. The
respective commander orders his men to collect funds from their territory
for the gifts. Local businesspeople always have to contribute. For the last
meeting, it was reported that a diamond ring worth 7 million kyat was taken
by the central military commander to the meeting. People are wondering who
the receiver is.

This central commander is also known for collecting appointment money.
According to an insider, the commander accepts 10 appointments per day on
weekdays. His personal assistant officer arranges the appointment and
collects the money. Anyone in the business community who wants to see the
commander has to pay 50,000 Kyats to get an appointment. All civil servants
have to pay without exception. In one incident, a director from a civil
department wanted to see him to ask for a permit for a piece of land in the
suburbs of Mandalay. He himself had to give a blanket worth 15,000 kyats
from China to the front desk just to book the appointment with the
commander. People are wondering how much money has been extorted from
businesspeople for their business deals/licenses, and how much has been put
into his pocket.

Embezzlement of state property and abuse of husband's power:

One example of this is Khin Than Nwe, wife of Secretary II of SPDC, who
demanded a permit for buying 400 tons of hardwood (Pyingado) and 100 tons
of teak from the Mandalay Timber corporation at the government rate. Her
reason was to build a house. The officials didn't have any choice but to
issue a permit because she is the wife of S II, but she sold it to a timber
agent/dealer on the black market. On the black market, a ton of pyingado
and teak costs 4 times as much. People are wondering how much she has also
made from permits to buy other building materials like zinc sheets,
electrical appliance, cement, paint, nails etc.

In fact, almost all the wives and family members of SPDC from the top to
the bottom are abusing their power to make personal profit. While the
ordinary people are starving, these people are embezzling the state's money
and property. Sons and daughters are also allowed to get a piece of land
free in every major city. After a few months of paperwork, they sell it out
at a high price to the dealers. Most buyers are Chinese (who have bribed
the relevant immigration officers and have become Myanmar nationals) who
can pay the highest price.


4 November, 1998 from <darnott@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> 


Mr. Chairman,

I first addressed your Committee as Special Rapporteur on the situation of
human rights in Myanmar in November 1996. At that time I offered an interim
report based on a historical analysis of the politico-legal structure of a
military regime which had assumed power in circumstances which constituted
a break with constitutionality and legal continuity (Doc. A/51/466
paragraphs 17 to 34). I also concluded that the continuance of this
structure was at variance with the international norms of democratic
governance as proclaimed in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. I further analyzed material parts of Declaration No. 1/90,
issued by the regime on 27 July 1990, shortly after the general elections
of May 1990. This declaration clearly proclaimed the commitment of the
regime to take measures for summoning the House of Assembly and to confer
on the representatives elected by the people the responsibility to draw up
the constitution of the future democratic state.  I also analyzed how the
regime went back on its commitment and created a number of obstacles to
thwart the freely expressed will of the people.  Among these obstacles was
the creation in 1993 of a national convention constituted by hand-picked
delegates, leading to the marginalization and eventual expulsion of the
political party which had won the elections.  The work of this convention
seems interminable and is shrouded in secrecy and not open to public debate.

Mr. Chairman,

Given the composition, procedures and the mandate of this convention which
sought to confer a leading political role on the Army in the constitutional
system, the clear conclusion that suggested itself was that the national
convention did not constitute genuine steps towards democratic governance
or the implementation of the will of the people as expressed in the general
elections of 1990.  Consequently, the General Assembly and the Commission
on Human Rights have repeatedly called upon the regime to engage in a
genuine dialogue with the party which had won the election and the
representatives of ethnic minorities in order to find a solution which
would respect the will of the people.  This dialogue has yet to be
genuinely engaged.

Mr. Chairman,

I have thought it necessary to recall these previous conclusions in view of
the Memorandum (-------) which the Government of Myanmar has caused to be
circulated as an official document at this session of the Assembly.

Mr. Chairman,

The General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights have indicated that
the absence of the rights pertaining to democratic governance has been at
the root of all major violations of human rights in Myanmar.  Ever since my
appointment, I have had the unpleasant task of receiving, scrutinising and
recording a constant flow of complaints of violations of human rights in
that country. My attempted and unsuccessful exchanges with the Government,
the exchanges of my colleagues, the thematic Rapporteurs, as well as those
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have only served to confirm the
general veracity of the allegations. Indeed, this remains plain to see from
an analysis of the present military order in Myanmar. While the Government
is still refusing to cooperate with me, the allegations continue to be
received. My analysis, based on information from governmental,
inter-governmental and other sources, including testimony from persons
interviewed, remains the same.  Thus, six years after the establishment of
this mandate by the Commission on Human Rights, I can, as my predecessor,
only report that serious violations of human rights continue to take place
in Myanmar.

Mr. Chairman,

It would appear that, given the lack of meaningful measures by the
Government in the re-establishment of a democratic order, the political
opposition has sought this year to intensify its legitimate activities. I
have been following with increasing concern the consequent intensification
of repression against it over the last few months. Indeed, over 800 members
of the National League for Democracy (NLD) have been recently arrested or
detained, while NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been subjected to
continuous restrictions on her movement and repeated harassment. A great
number of members and supporters of the opposition still remain subject to
long terms of imprisonment imposed under repressive laws. Further,
conditions of detention in the country fall far short of international
standards and a number of prisoners have died while in custody.

Mr. Chairman,

The Government continues forcibly to displace persons belonging to
non-Burmese origins, in particular in the eastern part of the country.
Hundreds of thousands of persons have been forcibly relocated. They are
effectively faced with one of two choices: either to flee to neighboring
countries or to move to military relocation camps. They are not compensated
for the loss of their property nor are they able to appeal against the
displacement orders. Those who are unable to cross the frontier are
scattered in Shan, Karenni and Karen States, living in precarious sanitary
and economic conditions. This fundamentally discriminatory programme of
relocation violates a host of human rights obligations, including the right
to physical integrity, freedom of movement and the rights to privacy and

Mr. Chairman,

The practice of forced labour continues to be implemented by the
Government. I wish to observe that the conclusions and recommendations I
have made over the last three years in this regard are shared by the recent
Commission of Inquiry established by the ILO.  The Commission's mandate was
to consider whether, and to what extent, the alleged violations exist or
existed and to make any appropriate recommendations. Among other matters,
the Commission has observed that: "there is abundant evidence before the
Commission showing the pervasive use of forced labour imposed on the
civilian population throughout Myanmar by the authorities and the military
for portering, the construction, maintenance and servicing of military
camps, other work in support of the military, work on agriculture, logging
and other production projects undertaken by the authorities or the
military, sometimes for the profit of private individuals, the construction
and maintenance of roads, railways and bridges, other infrastructure work
and a range of other tasks."

The Commission has also stated that "In actual practice, the manifold
exactions of forced labour often give rise to the extortion of money in
exchange for a temporary alleviation of the burden, but also to threats to
the life and security and extrajudicial punishment of those unwilling, slow
or unable to comply with a demand for forced labour; such punishment or
reprisals range from money demands to physical abuse, beatings, torture,
rape and murder."

Mr. Chairman,

In the interventions before the Commission on Human Rights and the General
Assembly, the representatives of the Government of Myanmar have continued
to provide a number of explanations, including denials of what is in effect
reality, and have ended up by doing nothing significant to change the grave
situation of human rights in Myanmar. Representatives of the Government
have stated that my report contains false information from tainted sources
and that no violations of human rights have taken place. At the same time,
however, the Government has so far not responded to the repeated requests
of the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights to allow me to
visit the country. Lastly, the Government would appear to maintain that the
constitutional framework regulating governance and human rights is an
internal, domestic matter for the people of Myanmar and must suffer no
international interference. One would have thought that the people did make
their choice in 1990 and that, in any event, the position adopted by the
Government is incompatible with the obligations it has assumed under
Article 56 of the Charter and the universal norms governing civil and
political rights.

Thank you Mr. Chairman. 


9 November, 1998 from <moe@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> 

799 United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10017

Statement by Ambassador A. Peter Burleigh, Charge d'affaires, a.i., of the
United States Mission to the United Nations, on Agenda Items 110 (b) (c)
and (e) "Human Rights," in the Third Committee, November 9, 1998

[Editor's Note: This is the Burma-related part of Ambassador Burleigh's

The people of Burma also continue to suffer under one of the most
repressive authoritarian military regimes in the world. The human rights
record of the SPDC regime can only be described as dismal. In the last
weeks, we have learned of the death of U Aung Min in the custody of the
authorities. Aung Min was one of the many NLD deputies who were detained
arbitrarily as part of the military government's years-long effort to
suppress a parliament freely elected by the people of Burma. We call on the
SPDC to enter into a meaningful dialogue with the political opposition,
including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and we look to the good offices of the
Secretary General to ensure that such a dialogue begins swiftly.

If Burma fails to come to a national reconciliation, it will continue to
suffer its decades long plight of narcotics abuse and trafficking, lack of
education, and widespread poverty. Once Burma breaks its inertia and
embraces a meaningful national dialogue -- with the democratic opposition
government, the international community can do its part to support Burma's
transition to democracy.


11 November, 1998 

Burma has reacted angrily to last month's human rights report to the United
Nations by special rapporteur Rajsoomer Lallah, called it an "insult" and
highly biased. "To flippantly imply that the Myanmar (Burmese) armed forces
is committing human rights violations as a matter of policy is an affront
which will not be tolerated by the Myanmar people, for it constitutes an
insult to the whole nation," Burma's UN envoy Pe Thein Tin said.

Mr. Lallah's report spoke of routing and widespread human rights abuses
under Rangoon's military government, including the use of forced labour,
summary executions, rape and torture.


12 November, 1998 by Bertil Lintner 

As Burma draws fire, all of ASEAN gets burned 

When Europe turns up the voltage on human rights, Burma is usually the
first to get zapped. No one else was hurt when Rangoon was an isolated
pariah state, but now its newfound Asean partners are feeling the jolt.
That was evident in late October when the European Union voted to tighten
sanctions against Burma.

The junta in Rangoon is increasingly becoming a problem for the Association
of South East Asian Nations, whose members are split publicly over whether
or not they should criticize Burma's internal politics. Diplomats predict
that the nation's rights record is likely to cause friction between Asean
and the West at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Kuala
Lumpur in mid-November.

That's not what Rangoon -- or Asean -- expected when Burma was admitted to
the nine-nation group in July last year. "Burma thought that Asean would
serve as a shield to ward off foreign criticism," says Josef Silverstein,
professor emeritus of political science and a Burma scholar at Rutgers
University in New Jersey. The problem is that the rest of Asean feels it
has to pressure the generals in Rangoon into mending their ways, so as not
to jeopardize ties with the EU. "Asean has provided no shield for Burma, no
protection, not even a fig leaf," says Silverstein.

Burma has forced Asean to rethink its traditional policy of noninterference
in the internal affairs of its member states. Thailand and some other Asean
members are concerned that Burma's stigma is tainting the whole group at a
crucial time when sound relations with the EU are of utmost importance.
"Asean's international clout has diminished since Asia's financial crisis
began, and it can no longer ask the EU to deal with them solely on their
own terms," says a Rangoon-based Asian diplomat.

Thailand and the Philippines have been more vocal in their calls for a
dialogue between the ruling State Peace and Development Council and
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy.

Even Malaysia leader Mahathir Mohamad told his hosts during an official
visit to Burma in March that "you have to understand the Europe is very
important to us." That Mahathir would say this was seen as especially
significant -- given that he had been instrumental in bringing Burma into
Asean at its 30th-anniversary summit in Kuala Lumpur last year.

But will the generals in the junta give in to unexpected pressure from
Burma's new Asean partners? That depends on who is calling the shots in
Rangoon. According to the Asian diplomat, not everyone in the Burmese
leadership favored joining Asean. Army chief Gen. Maung Aye was sceptical
while intelligence boss Lt.-Gen. Khin Nyunt argued that Burma needed more
allies in the region. Economic sanctions from the EU and Asean diplomatic
pressure is likely to accentuate the tension between the two generals.

Maneuvering is already evident. To strengthen his position, Khin Nyunt has
set up political-affairs committee attached to the SPDC. He is chairman of
the 16-member body, which also includes several officers from another
think-tank he heads, the Office of Strategic Studies.

In late October, the OSS initiated a regional symposium in Rangoon to
discuss development in the region. The Information and Resources Centre of
Singapore and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation of Japan co-sponsored the
event; delegates from Malaysia and Singapore presented papers. "It's
obvious that Khin Nyunt is doing everything he can to forward his vision of
Burma's future by using his regional contacts," adds the diplomat.

But the Maung Aye-Khin Nyunt rivalry begs another question: Is there really
any political difference between them? Would either of them be prepared to
reform Burma's political system in a way that would satisfy Asean and the
EU? No, says a Rangoon-based Western diplomat. "Both of them want the
military to remain in absolute control," he adds. "Khin Nyunt believes that
Asean membership, and close links with China, will strengthen the SPDC's
regional position and gain it some international credibility. Maung Aye is
a straightforward army man and has little or no regard for what the rest of
the world says."
Burma's foreign minister, Ohn Gyaw, underscored that position in his speech
before the United Nations General Assembly in March. He said the world,
including the UN, had "no right to interfere" in his country's "internal
affairs." The public expression of that attitude may have been a watershed
for the EU.

Both Asean and the EU are clearly running out of patience with the Burmese
generals. In mid-October, Rangoon-based diplomats from the EU, the United
States, Australia, Japan and the Philippines met in London to map out a
common strategy for dealing with the stand-of between the SPDC and Suu Kyi.
The tightening of sanctions, at an EU meeting in Luxembourg, followed on
October 27.

But will economic pressure and backroom diplomacy during the upcoming Apec
meeting have any impact? Says the Asian diplomat: "Nothing more than
cosmetic changes can be expected until and unless a reformer emerges from
within the ranks of the military." Neither Khin Nyunt nor Maung Aye fits
that description.


9 November, 1998 

US District Judge Joseph Tauro's ruling that the Commonwealth's "Burma Law"
was a usurpation of the federal government's power to conduct foreign
policy was not an endorsement of Burma's brutal regime.

The question was never whether Burma deserves punishment. It does. The
question was simply whether US trade policy can be set at the local level
by cities and states.

Tauro ruled that the state's 10 percent penalty on bids by companies doing
business in Burma is unconstitutional.

In its ruling the court made a distinction between private political action
-- boycotting a reprehensible regime -- and attempts to set foreign policy
at the state or local level.

International agreements on trade are made by national governments and are
not subject to local veto. It cannot be otherwise.

It was the European Union and the Japanese government that challenged the
Massachusetts measure on the grounds that it violated this principle.
American trade officials have long struggled with local trade inhibitions
in other countries, particularly in Japan, and were undercut by the
Massachusetts restrictions on state government purchases, no matter how
appropriate the spirit of the measure was in moral terms.

The Globe has supported steps against various repressive governments, most
prominently in opposing South Africa's apartheid. Citizens are free to
express moral outrage, including boycotts of commercial contracts with
rogue regimes. State and local governments may press the federal government
to organize national and international economic sanctions against these
regimes. But patchwork policy-making poses a threat to international
commerce, which is already difficult to keep flowing freely, and inhibits
the United States from conducting a rational trade policy.