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The BurmaNet News: November 12, 199
- Subject: The BurmaNet News: November 12, 199
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 02:45:00
Subject: The BurmaNet News: November 12, 1998
------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: November 12, 1998
JANE'S: CEASEFIRE AGREEMENTS IN DANGER (PART 2)
XINHUA: MYANMAR URGES WESTERN COUNTRIES
SCMP: JAPAN PRAISED FOR MILITARY AID
MIC: MYANMAR-JAPAN BILATERAL CONFERENCE ON IT
REUTERS: MASS. APPEALS RULING ON MYANMAR TRADE LAW
WORLD RESOURCE INSTITUTE: REPORT ON BURMA'S FOREST
JANE'S INTELLIGENCE REVIEW: BURMA'S CEASEFIRE AGREEMENTS IN DANGER OF
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 2 of the
**Bruce Hawke visits Shan State, Burma, where the Burmese Army is stifling
all opposition with a campaign of ethnic cleansing.**
The United Wa State Army
Whether there will be wide-scale fighting or not in Shan State in the near
future depends largely on the United Wa State Army (UWSA), by far Burma's
largest, wealthiest and most powerful ethnic minority army. The UWSA was
described by the US State Department as "the world's biggest armed
narcotics trafficking organisation," and is profiting enormously from the
trade in heroin and amphetamines. From the available evidence, it is
plowing much of the proceeds back into arming and equipping itself.
The UWSA actually consists of two factions which live uneasily with each
other. The main force (the northern command) is based in the Wa hills of
northern Shan State between the Salween river and Chinese border. A second
faction (the southern command) is based in southern Shan State opposite the
town San Ton Du, in Chiangmai Province, Thailand.
The southern command (formerly the Wa National Army) is led by a China-born
heroin and amphetamines trafficker with close links to Taiwanese
Intelligence, Wei Xue-gang. He fields about 5,000 troops. The northern
command has grown significantly since the ceasefire agreement in 1989 and
now fields somewhere around 25,000 armed troops, up from the 15,000 it was
estimated to have nine years ago.
In 1994, the Burmese Government invited the UWSA to bring 2,000 troops down
from the Wa hills to the Thai border to bolster Wei's forces and to fight
MTA troops present in the Maung Yone Valley. The Burmese were happy to use
the Wa as proxy army, but the UWSA had its own agenda. The troops were
brought down, but under the command of Ta Tahng (aka Wei Sai-tang), a
senior northern command general. These troops, the '894', were hardened
fighters with an unparalleled record on the battlefield. They eventually
forced the MTA out of the area and claimed it for themselves.
There are now 8,000-10,000 northern command troops on the Thai border
controlled by Ta Tahng, now the effective second in command of the UWSA.
They have solidified their position by bringing down thousands of Wa
civilians to the border (In the process they have displaced thousands of
ethnic Shan civilians, a point which does not sit well with Shan leaders).
Breaking with longstanding tradition, polygamy has been encouraged in an
effort to quickly increase the population base on the border.
The headquarters of the 894 may be reached from Thailand by taking a road
which juts north from Highway 1089 to the west of the Thai town San Ton Du.
Before the frontier, vehicles must pass through two Thai Army checkpoints.
Officially, the border is closed. In practice, it is business as usual.
On the other side of the border is Wei Xue-gang's well- appointed base,
complete with a large parade ground, a shooting range, barracks. His
fortress-like (and fortress-sized) residence atop Hill 361 is surrounded by
ramparts and trenches. Training and technical support at the camp is
provided by Taiwanese advisors.
Roughly 25km further along the road is the southern end of the Maung Yone
Valley and the northern command troops of Ta Tahng. There is currently a
lot of construction in progress. Thai contractors are making all-weather
roads to link the valley with Mong Hsat, the next valley north where the
northern command also maintains a garrison. There were, at the time of
writing, six graders with Chiangrai and Phitsanulok licence plates, four
scoops, three rollers and at least 10 dump trucks at work. A Thai building
contractor has just completed a school and hospital and a new barracks was
under construction. There were at least 20 new Toyota four-wheel-drive
pickups and landcruisers in evidence.
Also in evidence were small numbers of Chinese-nationals working as
advisors - there were 10 school teachers and medics in their 20s (the
Chinese equivalent of Peace Corps), and at least five older men who
appeared to be either military advisors or intelligence personnel. Ta
Tahng's troops were well outfitted with Type 56 and M16 assault rifles, RPK
and RPD light machine guns, PK machine guns, RPG-7 portable rocket
launchers, and there were also 81 and 120 mm mortars in view. A UWSA source
also claimed the camp had two 105 mm howitzers, though they were not in
Relations between Pangsangh and Rangoon soured noticeably towards the end
of 1997. In December, the Ministry of National Planning and Economic
Development announced that it had blacklisted a UWSA front company
operating in Rangoon, the Myanmar Kyone Yeom Company Ltd. Its chairman,
Michael Hu Hwa (aka Colonel Kyaw Myint), who claimed to be a deputy
minister of finance for the UWSA, openly and brazenly flouted Burmese
business laws and regulations.
A hastily arranged meeting the next day between Lieutenant-General Khin
Nyunt and senior UWSA leaders, including Ta Pang in Rangoon, led to the
blacklisting being revoked and the cabinet minister responsible, David
Abel, being moved to another ministry portfolio. However, in February,
following adverse international publicity regarding the company and the
fact that its chairman was openly distributing circulars defaming members
of the government, Myanmar Kyone Yeom was closed down for good.
Tensions between the northern and southern commands of the UWSA are
reaching a critical point. The northern Wa have long been suspicious of Wei
Xue-gang and his purely commercial operation. Also at issue was his
uncomfortably friendly relationship with leading figures in the Burmese
Government, especially Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt. Wei's previous
usefulness to Pangsangh, in that his operation provided the brains and the
international connections to produce and distribute heroin and repatriate
the profits, became redundant. The northern UWSA now have their own
chemists and distribution channels, according to western intelligence
sources, and they also have their own access to the Thai border.
During 1997, several Wei Xue-gang heroin shipments were seized by the Thai
authorities while none originating from the northern command were touched.
Wei believed that the northern command pointman in Chiangmai, Sai Pao, had
fingered his production to the police, according to Wa sources. In late
1997, it was rumoured that Sai Pao was going to attempt to have Wei
Wei pre-empted him. On 7 January of this year, Sai Pao was gunned down
outside the Princess Hotel in Chiangmai as he was leaving the wedding of a
friend's daughter. His assailant was riding a motorbike and wearing a
police uniform. According to intelligence sources, Wei had contacted
corrupt elements in the Chiangrai police, who hired an assassin from
In June, Wei Xue-gang was indicted on heroin-trafficking charges by a New
York federal court. The US Justice Department put a US$2 million price on
his head. He quickly travelled to Rangoon to negotiate an
immunity-from-extradition deal with the junta. Wei was especially
vulnerable: born in China he has no legal right to Burmese nationality,
though he has at various times held Taiwanese and Thai (his Thai documents
named him as Prasit Chivinnitipanya) passports.
According to one intelligence source, "Leaders in Pangsangh were concerned
that he might 'do a Khun Sa' and invite the State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC/SPDC) troops in to take over his patch". Ta Tahng, head of
the northern command Thai border area, wanted to attack Wei's camp
according to sources close to him. Wei was, at the time of writing, in
Pangsangh trying to negotiate a rapprochement with the UWSA but according
to Wa sources was not making much headway. He had been there since the
beginning of July. "I think he's looking for a dignified way out," said an
The Wa ethnic group have a long tradition of headhunting. Ta Lai, the
official leader of the UWSA, openly admits to having taken a few heads in
his youth. Though a debilitating stroke in 1995 has left him as little more
than a figurehead, he has regularly and vocally expressed a desire to take
a few Burmese heads again. These sentiments are also expressed in private
by other Wa leaders.
As the Burmese economy implodes, the possibility of widespread civil unrest
or communal rioting in urban areas becomes a more likely possibility. In
the advent of Chaos in the cities, minority armies plan to seize the
opportunity to attack government positions. If the much expanded and
better- equipped UWSA decides to join them, victory for the Burmese Army is
not, however, a foregone conclusion.
For its part Burma took delivery earlier this year of 20 130 mm towed field
artillery guns from North Korea. The gun, a Soviet design, was used with
devastating efficiency by Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops during the Vietnam
conflict and is easily manoeuvrable in difficult terrain and jungle tracks
and would be highly suitable for use in Shan State. However, the Burmese
Army is suffering from morale problems.
Burmese Army desertions in Shan State have been steadily increasing at the
intensity and brutality of the war against the SURA has increased. They are
now an almost daily occurrence. On 14 July this year, 78 soldiers deserted
from the Kengtung-based Golden Triangle Command and made their way to
Thailand, the largest mass-desertion to date. As disenchantment among the
rank and file increases, the possibility remains open that battalions,
given the opportunity, may turn and support rebels - or at least refuse to
[Tomorrow's issue will include the third and last part of this article,
"The Campaign Against the Shan"]
XINHUA: MYANMAR URGES WESTERN COUNTRIES TO STOP FINGER POINTING ON DRUG FIGHT
10 November, 1998
YANGON (Nov. 10) XINHUA - Myanmar has urged the western countries, which
are seriously affected and inflicted by narcotic drug menace, not only to
stop fingerpointing and scapegoating others, but also to seriously find
more realistic and practical methods to tackle the drug menace problem.
A latest official report on the political situation of Myanmar, issued by
the Office of Strategic Studies (OSS) of the Defense Ministry, points out
that "pressuring others to accept and carry out methods, which have
undeniably failed in the past, will definitely not help in our fight
against narcotic drugs".
The report cites Myanmar's method in dealing with former drug warlord Khun
Sa, saying that, in spite of all the natural obstacles and man-made
difficulties imposed by the Western nations, it managed single-handedly to
disband his army after his unconditional surrender in January 1996 and then
to have Khun Sa and his top aides under government custody and supervision.
"His troops were sent back to their respective villages to live and work
there as normal citizens, while the leaders were also given financial and
other assistance to start a new life doing legitimate business," the report
Myanmar government described the surrender of Khun Sa as one of its two
major wins since taking over of state power in late 1988.
In spite of the fact, the report says, the western world, especially the
United States and the United Kingdom, have continued in accusing Myanmar of
not being serious in the fight against narcotic drugs, not extraditing Khun
Sa to the U.S. and not prosecuting him and other ethnic leaders.
On survey of opium cultivation and production in Myanmar, the report
charges that the western nations have reported differently.
According to the figures released by the OSS at the end of 1997, there was
a wide gap existing in the forecasts made by Myanmar and the U.S. on the
cultivation and production of opium.
According to Myanmar's related data which were based on ground survey and
calculation, there were 9,751 hectares in poppy cultivation and 106 tons in
opium production in 1996, but according to the U.S. data which were based
on satellite images, there were respectively 162,496 hectares and 2,560
tons which were enough to produce at least 250 tons of refined heroin.
However, there is no comparison for 1997 in the report. Meanwhile, the
report claims that Myanmar has prevented 45 billion U.S. dollars worth of
heroin from reaching streets of the U.S. since 1988 up to date despite cut
in assistance by the U.S. since then.
According to official statistics, in the first six months of this year,
Myanmar seized a total of 4,927 kilograms of narcotics including 219 kg of
heroin and 4,471 kg of opium, destroying 15 heroin refineries and over
8,000 hectares of poppy plantations.
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST: JAPAN PRAISED FOR MILITARY AID
11 November, 1998
Deutsche Presse- Agentur in Rangoon
Burma's junta has lauded Japan's historically important role in helping the
country establish its own armed forces and achieve independence from
Britain, state press reports said yesterday.
"We shall never forget the important role played by Japan in our struggle
for independence," said State Peace and Development Council First Secretary
Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt.
"In the same vein, we will remember that our Tatmadaw [military] was born
General Khin Nyunt, head of the military intelligence unit, was speaking at
the opening of the Myanmar-Japan Bilateral Conference on Information
Technology Co-operation in Rangoon, the official New Light of Myanmar
Observers said the general's open praise for Japan represented the first
time the junta had so openly lauded the country's somewhat ambiguous role
in Burma or Myanmar's recent history.
Japan occupied Burma, then a British colony, during World War II and helped
to build up an indigenous army under Burmese leaders such as Aung San and
Ne Win, both of whom received military training in Japan.
Aung San, the father of Nobel laureate and current opposition leader Aung
San Suu Kyi, was assassinated soon before Burma was granted independence in
Ne Win went on to seize political power with a military coup in 1962,
launching the country on the economically disastrous "Burmese Way to
During the war years, the Japanese army lost support in Burma when it
committed many atrocities against local people.
When they began to lose, Burma's fledgling army became a resistance
movement against the Japanese and helped the allied forces to defeat them.
Japan was Burma's largest donor country before September 1988, when the
military crushed a pro-democracy movement. Like most democracies, Japan cut
off official assistance to the regime after the bloodbath.
MYANMAR INFORMATION COMMITTEE: INFORMATION SHEET NO. A-0687(I)
10 November, 1998
[Information Sheets issued under the email addresses MYANPERSP@xxxxxxx and
OKKAR66129@xxxxxxx match those issued by the Directorate of Defence
Services Intelligence (DDSI) in Rangoon, and can be assumed to reflect
official SPDC opinion.]
Secretary-1 Attends Opening of Myanmar-Japan Bilateral Conference on
Information Technology Cooperation
A ceremony to open Myanmar-Japan Bilateral Conference on Information
Technology Cooperation jointly organized by Myanmar Computer Federation and
Centre of the International Cooperation for Computerization (CICC) of Japan
was held at the International Business Centre on 9 November addressed by
Chairman of Myanmar Computer Science Development Council, Secretary-1 of
the State Peace and Development Council, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt.
He stated that, in working towards the national goal for the emergence of a
peaceful, prosperous, modern and developed Union of Myanmar, the State
Peace and Development Council is relying mainly on the country's internal
resources. A necessary prerequisite for adding momentum to the nation's
modernization and development efforts is a healthy and well educated
people. Myanmar has therefore designated the uplifting of health, fitness
and education standards of the entire nation as one of its social
objectives. Towards this end, the Government has placed special emphasis on
the development of knowledge and skills, correct national outlook as well
as the attainment of modern technology among students, youths and
intellectuals. In order to foster human resources, a new University of
Computer Studies for Upper Myanmar was opened to promote advanced
computer technology in addition to the existing University of Computer
Studies in Yangon. An unusually greater number of students was admitted to
undergraduate and post-graduate computer courses in 1997-98 academic year.
Such undergraduate diploma courses as Diploma in Computer Studies and
Diploma in Computer Maintenance courses, which were opened in October 1998,
have taken in a substantial number of students.
It is observed that private computer centres have also been conducting
international diploma courses as well as basic computer courses. These
indicate that human resource development, which is the prerequisite for
Information Technology, has been promoted quantitatively and qualitatively.
At the same time, with a view to systematic development of Information
Technology in Myanmar, the Government promulgated Myanmar Computer Science
Development Law on 30 September 1996 and founded the Myanmar Computer
Science Development Council. It has also formed the Myanmar Computer
Federation Organizing Committee for the establishment of subsidiary
associations at various levels. Due to the efforts of the Committee,
Myanmar Computer Scientists Association and Myanmar Computer Industries
Association were founded on 17 May 1998, and Myanmar Computer Enthusiasts
Association was founded on 24 July 1998. Based on these three associations,
Myanmar Computer Federation was established on 15 October, 1998. Myanmar
Computer Scientists Association and Myanmar Computer Industries Association
have been active in their attempts to disseminate computer technology. The
First Symposium on IT Initiative in Myanmar was held in Yangon on 29 June
1998, and the Second Symposium was held in Mandalay on 23 October.
These associations, in collaboration with XYBASE Technologies (Malaysia)
and Mastech Co Ltd (Myanmar), held an IT Forum at Yangon's Traders Hotel,
as recently as on October 13. In other words, these successful ventures
testify to the satisfactory and fruitful results of cooperation between the
computer associations, the Computer Federation and the Government in
endeavours to spread and advance computer technology in the country. It is
well known that, in promoting the dissemination of modern technology among
students, youths, intellectuals and the populace, Myanmar is encouraging
the transfer of technology and investment from friendly foreign countries,
which have a positive view on Myanmar .
The cooperation of Japan in today's Conference is a clear example of this
friendly outlook. Furthermore, the Conference will help Myanmar's current
endeavour to formulate the IT Master Plan. In order to develop the
country's Information Technology, Myanmar must work closely together with
friendly nations like Japan, which is well developed in IT, as well as with
members of ASEAN in preparation to carry out IT projects. Japan's IT plan
will serve as a reliable reference when Myanmar's IT Master Plan is drawn.
Centre of the International Cooperation for Computerization (CICC) of
Japan, which helped organize this conference, contacted the Myanmar
Computer Federation Organizing Committee even before the emergence of
Myanmar Computer Federation. It helped acquire CICC scholarships in
Information Technology for some members who are currently studying in
Japan. In addition, CICC is offering further scholarships for the coming
It is also learnt that CICC is going to donate 13 high-tech computers to
Myanmar Computer Federation for the Human Resources Development Centre.
Myanmar Computer Federation, which has been expanding contacts with
international organizations, will be admitted as a member to Asian Oceanian
Computing Industry Organization (ASOCIO) on the occasion of its annual
meeting which will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 25 and 26
November, 1998. President of CICC Mr Takuma Yamamoto also spoke on the
occasion. Then, Chairman of MCF Dr Tin Maung and Executive Director Mr
Yamazaki explained how information technology is important. The conference
will commence at the International Business Centre at 8.30 am on 10 November.
REUTERS: MASSACHUSETTS APPEALS RULING ON MYANMAR TRADE LAW
11 November, 1998 by Leslie Gevirtz
BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts will appeal a federal judge's ruling that
declared unconstitutional its law penalizing companies doing business with
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, officials said Tuesday.
"Massachusetts stands with -- not against -- the federal government in its
policy toward the current Burma regime," Massachusetts Attorney General
Scott Harshbarger said in announcing the appeal.
President Clinton slapped sanctions on Myanmar in May 1997, banning new
investments by U.S. companies while allowing existing business to continue.
Myanmar, ruled by the military, has had Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu
Kyi under house arrest.
"The (U.S.) Constitution allows the states to choose not to buy goods and
services from persons who do business with countries that violate human
rights," Harshbarger added.
The National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington-based group of companies
that do business overseas, challenged the 1996 Massachusetts law, which
adds 10 percent onto bids for state contracts from companies doing business
with Myanmar. The European Union filed a brief supporting the council's
The EU and Japan are protesting the law before the World Trade
Organization. The Clinton administration has pledged to defend the law
before the world trade body.
Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled on Nov. 4 that Massachusetts'
Burma Law "unconstitutionally infringes on the federal government's
exclusive authority to regulate foreign affairs... State interests, no
matter how noble, do not trump the federal government's exclusive foreign
His ruling, while binding only in Massachusetts, casts doubt over the
legality of similar "selective-purchasing statutes" elsewhere. Some 20
cities, including New York and San Francisco, have similar laws regarding
trade with Myanmar.
Frank Kittredge, president of the powerful Washington, D.C.-based trade
council, welcomed the appeal.
"We have always wanted to take this case as far as we could in the court
system," he said. A ruling by a federal appeals court would be binding in
the rest of New England and Puerto Rico.
More than 30 companies including Textron Inc. and Johnson & Johnson were
affected by the state's law, according to court papers.
U.S. cities enacted dozens of similar laws that helped dismantle the
apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1980s. Other U.S. courts have
rejected legal challenges to such laws.
"If selective purchasing had been banned 10 years ago, (South African
President) Nelson Mandela might be still in prison today," said
Massachusetts Rep. Byron Rushing, a Democrat from Boston who wrote the
state's Burma Law.
WORLD RESOURCE INSTITUTE: REPORT ON BURMA'S FOREST
10 November, 1998
Burma holds more than half of mainland Southeast Asia's closed forest, and
is often called "the last frontier of biodiversity in Asia." Having lost
virtually all of their original forest cover, Burma's neighbors -- China,
India, and Thailand -- rely increasingly on Burma as a source of timber.
Most of the regional timber trade is illegal and, increasingly, these
forests are being logged to support military action at the expense of human
development needs such as health and education.
This report focuses on the environmental implications of logging in these
areas and on the political and economic forces behind this logging. The
report does not argue against logging per se. History shows that countries
liquidate a portion of their natural capital to build the roads, schools,
hospitals, and other service s needed to develop their human resources
(World Bank, 1997). The World Bank estimates that human resources form the
dominant share of wealth, even in low-income countries, and that failure to
invest proceeds from wealth-generating activities (e.g., logging) in a
country's human resources leads inexorably to impoverishment. This is the
course that Burma appears to be following. According to the U.S. Embassy in
Rangoon, defense spending has increased, and health and education spending
have decreased, both in real terms and as shares of government
disbursements, since the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)
was formed in September 1988. In fact, the ratio of military to social
service expenditures is by far the highest in the region.
Instead of arguing against logging itself, the report makes the following
points. First, properly managed, Burma's forest resources can make a
substantial contribution to the country's development through timber
production, tourism, and watershed management. Second, in the past 30
years, Burma's forests have suffered from unsustainable logging -- much of
it illegal. Since 1988, the trend has accelerated, most sharply in the
border areas. Third, the long-term conservation of Burma's extraordinary
biodiversity will require a degree of local management to ensure the
implementation of policies that will be respected and supported by the
---- 1998, 54 pages, large-format paperback, ISBN Number 1-56973-266-3,
$20.00. Logging Burma's Frontier Forests is a contribution to WRI's Forests
Go to http://www.wri.org