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The BurmaNet News: November 25-26,

Subject: The BurmaNet News: November 25-26, 1998

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

The BurmaNet News: November 24-25, 1998
Issue #1145


25 November, 1998

A CHINESE -language newspaper published in Thailand has received
official Burmese permission for nationwide circulation, being the
first foreign newspaper to be sold in Burma in three decades.

Shijie Ribao, or Universal Daily, which was established here on
July 26, 1955, by the late Chin Sophonpanich, the Bangkok Bank
founder, began- its circulation in Burma on Nov 16. It received
official  pension from the Ministry of Trade on Nov 6.

The daily, the largest of the six existing Chinese-language
newspapers in Thailand with a daily circulation of 50,000, is
flown to its subscribers and the Burmese market everyday from

The newspaper ran a full-page advertisement of its circulation in
Burma in yesterday's edition. The paper has so far got 80
subscriptions from mainly Chinese businessmen from Taiwan.
Monthly subscription fee is 690 kyat (US$115 at the official rate
or US$2.3 at the black market rate). A senior staff member of
Shijie Ribao said the paper plans to open a Burma page if the
number of subscriptions and market sales increase.

Shijie Ribao was taken over in 1986 by Taiwan's Lian He Bao or
United Daily, which is the world's largest private Chinese
newspaper. Lian He Bao has a global circulation and network and
is also published in North America- and Europe. 
Burma used to have a number of Chinese  publications, but all
were closed down by the previous government led by Gen Ne Win on
Jan 1, 1966.

Early this month, the Burmese junta allowed the publication of
the first local Chinese-language newspaper, Mian Dien Huo Bao or
The Burmese Morning Post, which targets readers both in Burma and
other countries in the region.

The weekly paper, with an initial circulation of 5,000,
concentrates on trade and investment, tourism, culture, social
and health issues, and activities of the Chinese community in
Burma and overseas.


25 November, 1998


A FURTHER 21 members of the Burmese opposition National League
for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, have quit the
party, state newspaper reports said yesterday.

The resignations, announced in the state's New Light of Myanmar
daily, took place on Nov 15 and are the latest in dozens as the
junta steps up pressure on the opposition.

The NLD members in Pantanaw township in Ayeyawady division west
of the capital Rangoon reportedly gave up politics of their own

"[They] no longer wished to take part in the political activities
of NLD," the newspaper said.

The NLD won a sweeping victory in the  country's 1990 elections
but the ruling military council ignored the result and has since
refused to hand over power.
Hundreds of NLD party members have been detained in recent months
and although many have been released, the opposition has said
they were given their freedom on condition they quit the party.

The Burmese military government f on Sunday denied forcing
members of the party to resign after its countrywide sweep
against the movement.

"No pre-conditions have been set  on the release," said leading
junta spokesman Lt Col Hla Min in a briefing to journalists and

"After the discussions they came to the understanding that
national security is more important than  politics." 


25 November, 1998


It was good to hear straight from the horse's mouth. Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi has not given up. In fact, she has given an upbeat
assessment of her party, the National League for Democracy,
despite the military junta's efforts to subjugate her party and
coerce its members to resign en masse.

The junta's tactics in the end will not work. In due course,
former NLD members will return to NLD - no matter how hard the
junta tries. In a direct challenge to the State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC), the junta's official name, the Nobel
peace laureate set up a committee recently to act in the absence
of parliament. Her party won by a landslide the 1990 elections
but the junta did not respect the election results,

In the past 10 years, Rangoon's military rulers have used a
variety of measures to discredit NLD. Continued harassment of 851
NLD members through detention and intimidation has not weakened
the party. The junta leaders have propagated that NLD is near its
end because of mass resignations and closing down of local

The international community, including Asean, has urged both
sides to hold a dialogue of national reconciliation. So far, it
has not happened. Meanwhile, Asean is in disarray because of the
ongoing economic crisis.  Differences in perceptions have
surfaced and could further mar their cooperation.

The junta has refused to hold talks directly with Suu Kyi. It
chose instead to talk to her subordinates, but her party insisted
that there would be no talks without her participation.

The junta leaders are now playing for time. They hope that NLD
and its followers would die if they continue to tighten the
screw. They hope that the resumption of the meeting between Asean
and the European Union, over the joint commission would further
end their isolation. (Burma would be allowed to attend the
meeting passively.)

Burma's bad reputation continues to be widespread. Both the
reports by the United Nations and the Geneva-based International
Labour Organisation were harsh. ILO, as in the previous year, has
strongly criticised Burma for the use of forced labour, which is
considered by the international community to be human rights

ILO has urged the junta to comply with the international labour
and human right standards. But as usual, the pariah refuses to
listen. ILO's 500page investigative report, one of the most
authoritative reports on atrocities in Burma, stated that there
was systematic and massive abuse of workers. The forced labourers
were not given food and sometimes were prevented from drinking

During the past few weeks, there have been efforts to broker a
dialogue be-tween Suu Kyi and the junta through the so-called
"treasure hunting" road map. Some EU countries want to encourage
the leaders in Rangoon to take  initiatives that would break the
impasse. But that would not work, if it means more measures to
weaken Suu Kyi.

The international community must not lose faith and give up on
Suu Kyi and NLD. What she stands for will triumph as it responds
to the people's aspirations. The junta leaders will continue to
use their power to destroy her. The West must resist the
temptation of investment opportunities in Burma. 


24 November, 1998 Eastern 

GENEVA, Nov 24 (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights investigator for
Myanmar has again been denied permission to visit by the military
government, but will meet displaced Myanmar minorities in Thailand this
week, a U.N. spokesman said on Tuesday. 

Rajsoomer Lallah, a former chief justice of Mauritius, has been blocked
from visiting Myanmar, the former Burma, since being appointed by the U.N.
Commission on Human Rights to the independent post in 1996. 

During his November 25-December 5 trip to Thailand, he will visit camps at
Mae Sot, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong, which hold displaced ethnic Karen, Shan and
Kareni, respectively, U.N. rights spokesman Jose Diaz told a news briefing
in Geneva. 

Asked about the Rangoon government's response to Lallah, which was relayed
through Myanmar's diplomatic mission in Geneva, Diaz said: "The
justification was that there was no need to investigate the situation."

Lallah's latest report to the U.N. General Assembly earlier this month
cited allegations of extrajudicial and arbitrary executions, rape, torture,
inhuman treatment, mass arrests, forced labour and other rights violations.
He said that opposition parties continued to be subject to constant
monitoring by the government. 

The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Aung San Suu Kyi, won Myanmar's last election in 1990 but was never allowed
to take office. 

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson last month called on
the Myanmar leadership to begin a dialogue with the opposition on national
reconciliation and to allow Lallah to make a fact-finding visit. 

In a statement, the former Irish president said she had raised issues
including forced labour and the forced displacement of ethnic minorities
with Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw in New York during the General Assembly on
September 23. 

She had received "no satisfactory response," she said. 


25 November, 1998 

MAE HONG SON, Thailand, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Myanmar troops have arrested an
American, a Canadian and a German for entering the country illegally via a
jungle route from northwestern Thailand, Thai intelligence sources said on

The trio were indentified as Michael John, 40, from the United States,
Joseph Frank, 34, from Canada and now residing in Hong Kong and a German
whose name was given as Hdirk Rommes Wikel. 

The sources located at the border with Myanmar said no further details on
the trio were available and that they had been held since last Friday. 

"Informants in Ho Mong (in Shan state) said Myanmar soldiers will send the
trio to Yangon today,"one Thai intelligence source told Reuters. 

The three westerners rode on motorcyles from Mae Hong Son in northwestern
Thailand and had entered Myanmar's northern Shan state on Thursday, the
source said. 

Thai paratroopers based at the border check point with Myanmar at Baan
Maikhai in the Phang Mapha district of Mae Hong Son province had reported
that they had spotted the westerners on motorcycles entering Myanmar
territory via the jungle route. 

Ho Mong in Shan state, about 25 km (16 miles) from the border with
Thailand, was the former headquarters of drug warlord Khun Sa who
surrendered to Myanmar troops about two years ago. 

Samreung Boonyoprakorn, the governor of Mae Hong Son province, confirmed
the reported arrests to Reuters. 

"Reliable sources have confirmed that those westerners intruded into
Myanmar. Informants said they were loaded into a lorry and taken to an
undisclosed location,"he said when contacted by telephone.


25 November, 1998 

TEKNAF, Bangladesh, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Forty-six Moslem refugees were sent
back to Myanmar from Bangladesh on Wednesday in the first wave of
repatriations since they were halted last year, government officials said. 

The Myanmar Moslem refugees fled to Bangladesh six years ago to escape
military persecution. 

A group of 46 Rohingya Moslems were seen off by officials of the Bangladesh
government and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at Teknaf, a
Bangladeshi official told reporters. 

"The refugees are going back willingly,"said Mohammad Borhanuddin,
Bangladesh's relief and repatriation commissioner. 

Fifty more Rohingya were expected to return on December 2 and another 50 in
the middle of December, he added. 

The repatriation process stalled in July last year when Yangon refused to
accept more than 21,000 refugees. Myanmar authorities said they were mostly
"economic refugees"hoping for a better life in Bangladesh camps. 

They were among the 250,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar
district in early 1992 from west Myanmar's Moslem-majority Arakan province,
saying they had been persistently persecuted by the military junta. 

Myanmar agreed to resume the repatriation after a recent visit to Yangon by
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdus Samad Azad, officials said. 

Bangladesh said it would not force anyone to return but that it wanted
refugees repatriated as soon as possible. 

"Unless it had hit an unexpected snag, the repatriation would have been
completed before end of 1997. Now we hope it will end soon,"one official in
Cox's Bazar said. 

After the return of refugees on Wednesday, 21,365 were still in two camps
in Bangladesh, he said. 


24 November,  1998 

GENEVA, Nov 24 (Reuters) - The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said
on Tuesday that despite recent progress in Indonesia, the right of workers
or employers to associate freely was elusive in much of East and Southeast
The regional analysis follows the ILO governing body's stern criticism last
Friday of Myanmar for what it termed widespread use of forced labour and
other "grave human rights violations."

Only four of 12 countries in East and Southeast Asia have ratified ILO
convention 87 on freedom of association which protects the right to
organise, the United Nations agency said. 

"Freedom to associate with those of one's own choosing is a fundamental
human right, nowhere more valued than where it is denied," ILO
director-general Michel Hansenne said. 

In June, Indonesia ratified the 1948 text after "years of systematic
repression," joining Japan, Myanmar and the Philippines as a party to the

But China, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand are among regional countries
to have stayed away, the ILO said in its analysis issued in Geneva and in

"The severe economic and social crisis still unfolding in Asia has focused
attention on the need for a genuine social dialogue and led the authorities
in several countries to reconsider past positions,"ILO said. 

"Ratification alone means little however where democracy and the rule of
law are denied, as in Myanmar today," it added. 

Last week, ILO's governing body heard from an ILO commission of inquiry on
forced labour in Myanmar and called on the government to bring its
legislation into line with the ILO convention on forced labour by May 1,

"It noted the impunity with which government officials, in particular the
military, treat the civilian population of the country as an unlimited pool
of labourers and servants to build and maintain a whole variety of
projects, ranging from roads and railways to construction of military
camps, logging camps, hotels and other infrastructure," the ILO said. 

Some delegates called into question the wisdom of the ILO's governing body
continuing to deal with the military government in Myanmar, a statement said. 


25 November, 1998


 DONMUANG, Thailand Aumporn Thongbeang, 24, and her baby girl, Nondern, sit
on a mat outside their room and wait for death to catch up with them. 

Both are part of a growing group that neither chose to join. 

They are young, they live in a developing country and they are dying of AIDS. 

A new report by UNAIDS, the United Nations agency set up to combat the
spread of the deadly virus, says that more than 95 percent of all
HIV-infected people live in 

the developing world, in countries like Thailand. 

"The epidemic has not been overcome anywhere. Virtually every country in
the world has seen new infections in 1998, and the epidemic is frankly out
of control in many places," UNAIDS said in its annual update of the epidemic. 

Carol Bellamy, the executive director of the United Nations Children's
Fund, likened the epidemic to a plague that is systematically devastating
entire societies. 

"Those numbers are framed by one terrible, inescapable fact--that it is
young people up to the age of 24 who are bearing the brunt of the
casualties," she said Tuesday. 

Nearly 6 million new AIDS cases were reported this year, with the
developing world the epicenter of the epidemic. More than 22 million people
in sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to have the virus, 6.7 million people
in South and Southeast Asia and 1.4 million people in Latin America. 

Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said the 6 million new cases
and 2.5 million deaths this year represent a collective failure because
more is known about prevention and protection than ever before. 

War, famine, political turmoil, lack of medical facilities, shame and
secrecy have fueled the epidemic in many poor countries, where the disease
is invisible and many people do not even realize they are infected. 

That was the case with Aumporn, who says she did not know she was infected
until a routine pregnancy test. 

"Once the baby was born, people in our area found out I was sick and
everyone asked me to leave," she said. "They said they were afraid their
own children would catch it." 

The young mother looks down at her gurgling baby. "I was lucky," she said.
"I was taken in by this place where people understand and are not afraid." 

She was seated on her mat at a wing of the shelter for battered women near
this airport town. The shelter is run by Buddhist nun Kanittha
Vichieancharoen, 74, one of Thailand's best-known social workers. 

She attributes the AIDS epidemic in Thailand to the country's thriving sex
industry, a growing problem with drug abuse and the Thai government's
unwillingness to confront the problem, for fear of damaging the tourism

Her shelter cares for 19 HIV-positive patients at any time. It is nearly
always full. 

Kanittha, who had three sons and eight grandchildren before she became a
nun a few years ago, said she believes the AIDS scare has lost its
deterrent effect over the years in a country where, health officials
estimate, 8 million Thai men visit a prostitute every week. 

"We've become used to AIDS because someone is dying here every day. Every
hospital now accepts AIDS patients. They didn't before," Kanittha said. "In
the first five years everybody was afraid. Today no one is afraid, and Thai
men keep going to prostitutes as before. 

"In the beginning the government counted the dead, then it stopped
counting. I have stopped counting too. All I know is that about 10 of our
people have passed away in the last two years." 

Fledgling government prevention programs and facilities such as Kanittha's
care for victims and try to educate those not yet infected. 

But it is an uphill struggle, because even admitting that one is infected
runs counter to cultural norms. Victims are shunned, sometimes driven out
of their homes and generally treated as outcasts. 

Even after their deaths, Aumporn and Nondern will, in all probability, not
be counted as AIDS statistics. A bicycle hearse will take their bodies to
Wat Paiktheo temple, where, for just 50 cents, both will be cremated in the
Buddhist monastery's furnace. 

No autopsies are performed. The relatives or friends who pay for the
cremations do not want to be stigmatized or shunned. The monks may know the
cause of death but are sworn to silence by their vows. 

After Aumporn's family asked her and her daughter to leave, they, like
thousands of other abandoned women and children, wandered the streets to
find a refuge, a hospice or a monastery willing to take them. Aumporn is a
sturdy young woman with dark, sad eyes who shows no sign of her affliction.
The baby is strong and lively. 

No one knows how many more like her are moving through Thai society. AIDS
records are kept in a haphazard manner, and health statistics are unreliable. 

A study financed by the European Union found that 222,000 people have died
of AIDS in Thailand since 1985--nine times more than the Thai government
had recorded. 

The same study estimated that 270,000 people carry the AIDS virus, three
times the figure provided by Thai health authorities. Some speculate that
officials may be doctoring the statistics, afraid that more AIDS cases will
mean fewer tourists. 

In northern Chiang Rai province, which provides the bulk of Thailand's sex
workers, AIDS was responsible for 80 percent of fatalities in the 25-29 age
group, the study found. 

Nearly half the deaths nationwide in the same age group can be attributed
to AIDS. One in four young people between 20 and 24 has died of AIDS. 

Alessio Panza, co-author of the study at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn
University, says the increased use of intravenous drugs, as much as the sex
trade, accounts for the spread of AIDS. The drug problem is rampant in the
Chiang Rai-Chiang Mai area, part of the infamous Golden Triangle at the
intersection of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, where hill tribes and feudal
lords with private armies grow the poppies from which heroin is refined. 

"Very often the drug barons hook the young people on heroin so they can use
them as drug traders, middlemen and couriers. In return, the youngsters get
their drugs free. Entire villages are involved in this dirty business,"
Panza said. 

In Thai villages, Kanittha said, people are looking after the sick young
ones, many of them grandchildren sent to urban centers to make money. They
came back infected with the virus. 

"But they still keep pushing their daughters into the sex industry in the
city," Kanittha said. "They want the money."