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The BurmaNet News: November 27, 199

Subject: The BurmaNet News: November 27, 1998

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

The BurmaNet News: November 27, 1998
Issue #1146


26 November, 1998

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - The World Bank and the United Nations have offered
$1 billion in aid to Myanmar if the military regime opens a dialogue with
the opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi, a newspaper reported today.

U.N. envoy Alvaro de Soto presented the plan several weeks ago and it may
represent the best chance yet to overcome the government's reluctance to
hold talks with the opposition, the International Herald-Tribune reported,
citing unidentified sources involved in the negotiations.

World Bank officials in Bangkok would not comment on the matter.

The initiative comes amid a deepening deadlock between Suu Kyi's National
League for Democracy and the military. If it succeeds, the United States
would withdraw its long-standing veto of any World Bank or International
Monetary Fund assistance to Myanmar, the newspaper said.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been ruled by the military since 1962.
One of the world's poorest countries, it is under economic and political
sanctions by the United States and other countries opposed to the
government's poor human-rights record.

Both sides reportedly responded well to the overture, but it would require
significant government and opposition compromises. Progress would be
rewarded by increasing amounts of financial assistance and humanitarian
aid, the International Herald-Tribune reported.

The first steps would be for the government to free political prisoners,
allow Suu Kyi freedom of movement - the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner is
largely confined to her house - and permit her party to function.

Those would amount to huge concessions from the government, which released
some prisoners two months ago but since has taken hundreds more opposition
members into custody to persuade them to quit the party.

In exchange, the National League for Democracy party would agree to rescind
calls to convene the opposition-dominated parliament that was elected in
1990. The military has never allowed the parliament to meet.

Suu Kyi said earlier this week that she has no intention of withdrawing her
call to convene parliament. 


21 November, 1998 

MYANMAR'S junta yesterday accused Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition of blocking
dialogue with the government, effectively warning that detained activists
were hostages to her demands for a meeting of parliament.

The fate of hundreds of National League for Democracy (NLD) members
confined to government "guest houses" lay with NLD leaders, said top
government spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Hla Min.

"The sooner the NLD decides to retract their intentions to holding this
parliament, the sooner the rest of the people would be returned home," he
said at a briefing attended by more than 30 foreign diplomats here. NLD
leaders called earlier this year for the convening of the parliament which
arose out of its landslide victory in 1990 polls which the military
government has not recognised.

The NLD is due to hold its own briefing today. Its demand for a parliament
prompted the junta's nationwide campaign against the being set free.

According to government figures yesterday, 384 NLD members had been set
free and 467 "still remain as guests of the government".

The NLD says 182 MPs are detained along with 701 other activists.


26 November, 1998 by Moe Aye 

BANGKOK- On November 10, 1998, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, head of the
Burmese military intelligence unit, was speaking at the opening of the
Burma-Japan Bilateral Conference on Information Technology Co-operation in
Rangoon. "We shall never forget the important role played by Japan in our
struggle for independence," said Khin Nyunt, the State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC) first secretary, and the most powerful general
in the SPDC. "In the same vein, we will remember that our tatmadaw
[military] was born in Japan".

Many Burmese were confused about the general's words. They didn't
understand what the general wanted to mean directly, especially by using
the words "the important role played by Japan". The word "important" is now
controversial for Burmese people.

The term "fascist" and mention of the cruelty of Japanese troops were
missing from the general's words. While Korean women have the right to
claim compensation from the Japan government, Burmese women who were used
as concubines for the Japanese troops, and men who were used as forced
labourers to construct the 'Death Railway' during the war, have no right to
compensation for their sufferings. It is not because of the Japanese
government but because of the junta and the Burma Socialist Programme Party
(BSPP). Although the Japanese government paid reparations after the war,
none of this money went to Burmese victims of Japanese atrocities. Instead,
Burmese authorities pocketed the money.

"If such sorrowful incidents had occurred under the British rulers, the
junta would at the moment push and help the victims to claim compensation
from the British government", said an old politician who didn't want to be
named. "The junta targets the British because of Dr Michael Aris, husband
of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. If Dr Aris was Japanese, their target would be
changed and the junta would complain about Japanese fascism."

In Burma's history, there are two famous revolutions for her struggle for
independence the anti-fascist and the anti-colonialist revolutions. Just
before the 1988 military coup, Burmese students from primary to high school
classes had to learn about those two revolutions. Students who took history
as their major subject had to learn those two revolutions before they could
get their degree. However, under the BSPP, most of the historical movies
which could be seen by Burmese people were anti-fascist. In particular, the
movies showed the brutality and rudeness of the fascist Japanese during
their occupation. Although the movies showed the fascist Japanese troops
rape, torture and committed inhuman acts, there were no movies about such
actions by the British troops. Every actor and actress who starred in the
anti-fascist movies was awarded the Burmese Academy Prize for acting. But
everything has changed since the 1988 military coup.

Since the 1988 military coup the junta has ordered artists that historical
movies must show only the situation under the British government. The
state-run newspapers report about the British colonialists' oppression very
often. Worse, the junta has also slowly been changing the curriculum for
its own students. There may be only one famous revolution in the Burmese
students' curriculum - anti colonialism - and no longer an anti-fascist
revolution. Why? The answer is that western countries strongly support the
democracy movement and constantly criticise the junta over human rights

In the state-run newspaper published in 1990, the junta daily described a
massacre by the British troops, which occurred in Taung Tha Township,
Mandalay Division. These serial articles are now being published in the
state-run newspapers again. The so-called journalists who were recruited by
the junta had many interviews with those local people who were still alive
and eyewitnesses. The junta had many interviews with the villagers who were
living in Mandalay and Magwe Divisions, where the massacres by the British
troops occurred during the second war. This doesn't mean that the junta is
trying to explore the true history.

According to the local villagers, the massacres occurred not only under the
British rulers but also under the Japanese troops. At first, they just
wondered why the junta only tried to dig out history about crimes
perpetrated by the British rulers. It was only after the villagers were
forcibly sent to an infrastructure site as forced labourers that they
realised that the way the junta used was the same one the Japanese troops
used during the war.

If every elderly person who had lived under both the British rulers and
Japanese troops were asked, they would exactly explain the true story, that
they never saw or heard about rape cases committed by British troops, only
by Japanese troops.

"To be frank with you, there was nothing good about living under either
invader. However, the Japanese troops were more brutal and ruder than the
British. As far as I know, the British seemed to follow and respect the
laws and regulations," said one elderly man who had to live under both
rulers. The Japanese troops seemed to understand only killing, torture and
rape. I am not confused about why the junta tries to hide the history of
Japanese occupation. It is now holding the same attitude to its ethnic
minority people at the borderline. Mind you, just after Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi criticised the junta as fascist, the generals were so angry that they
finally put her under house arrest for six years."

Another one said, "It is right that our army was born in Japan. It's also
right that Saya San, a famous farmer revolution leader under the British
rulers, was hanged in Irrawaddy prison in central Burma. It's true that Bo
Aung Gyaw, a famous student leader, was killed during the 1938
demonstrations. We can try to understand those sorrowful happenings because
we had to live under invaders. But I don't understand why under our Burmese
rulers we are now treated even worse. If Bo Aung Gyaw was killed during the
1988 uprising, we could not even see his corpse. If Saya San was arrested
under this junta, he would be tortured before his death sentence. We are
now under our own neo-fascist rulers."

His explanation is very clear about the Burmese ruling junta. Although
there were many innocent people and students who were killed during the
1988 uprising, the junta claimed that just 15 were killed. So far, nobody
knows where other corpses were secretly buried. Many NLD members and
activists have been sent to prison without trial. Many political prisoners
died in custody because of harassment and the prison conditions. In the
military intelligence centre, all political detainees have been tortured,
not by the Japanese and British, but by the Burmese military intelligence

Although the junta claims that the civil war occurred because of the
'divide and rule policy of the British, it also uses this policy towards
the minority ethnic groups, the NLD, students and people.

"The junta complains about the worst things of colonialism on the surface.
However, I believe that in their minds they thank the British too much for
how to divide the opposition groups", said a retired history lecturer. "In
reality, the junta chose to practice even worse things than former fascist
Japan and the British colonialists. The junta has been using many laws and
rules which were adopted by the British to oppress our Burmese people,
especially the revolutionaries."

Under British colonial rule, the laws regulating prisons and courts were
created. The junta uses the same laws, but has 0 taken away the rights that
prisoners once had under the British. Now political prisoners have no right
to a lawyer for their trial. Once imprisoned, they are not allowed to read
or study.

Ye Teiza, a prominent student activist and former political prisoner, said,
"I have a chance to meet with many old politicians in prison who have lived
in prison under the British and the BSPP. When I ask which prison situation
is much convenient, they all answer that the situation under the junta is
the worst."

The junta always complains very loudly that General Aung San was
assassinated by a British government conspiracy. However, from the time of
the BSPP to the ruling military junta, no top military leader has paid
respect to Martyr's Day on July r 19, when Gen Aung San and other national
leaders were assassinated. They are never interested in attending the
Martyr's Day ceremony. In the past, Burmese people anxiously awaited the
sound of sirens, which would sound on Martyrs Day at the time that Gen Aung
San was assassinated. This allowed them to pay; their respects to their
national heroes,  and they would observe one minute's silence. Under the
junta there are no more sirens as the national sign of sorrow. This clearly
means that the junta has been trying to tarnish the image of Gen Aung San.

Why? The answer may be that Gen Aung San is the father of Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi who is supported by the majority of Burmese people. If Gen Aung San
had, been assassinated by Japanese troops, the junta would try to hide the
whole history of Martyr's Day, and not only tarnish the image of Gen Aung San.

As long as the British and western countries strongly criticise the junta's
human rights abuses and ignorance of the May 1990 election result, and Dr
Michael Aris is still British, the words that loudly come from the junta
will be "anti-colonialism". As long as the junta, which has been accused of
being neo-fascist by its own people, holds the power, and the Japanese
government healthily supports so-called humanitarian aid to the junta, the
antifascist revolution will no longer appear on the leaves of Burmese
history. However, it is the Burmese people who will need to ' prove that
"history is not in the hands of the junta".

MOE AYE is a former political prisoner and now working with the All Burma
Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF). 
The Bangkok Post: Chetta to Visit Burma Next Month
26 November, 1998 
Gen Chettha Thanajaro, adviser to deputy premier Maj Gen Sanan
Kachornprasart, will leave for Burma early next month to seek Burmese
cooperation to suppress illegal drug activities along the common border, a
security source said yesterday.

The source said the former army chief has a plan to raise border
cooperation especially on drug issues with Burmese military strongman Lt
Gen Khin Nyunt secretary-general of Burma's State Peace and Development
Council, during the unofficial trip.


20 November, 1998 

A US human rights group has warned that certain US apparel companies will
soon be hit with a boycott unless they pull out of Burma, where it says a
military dictatorship has imposed "a regime of terror".

The National Labor Committee, at a press conference in Washington this
week, also denounced what it described as gross violations of workers'
rights at plants in El Salvador doing contract work for US companies Nike
and Liz Claiborne.

"Once again, this time in Burma, we see US apparel companies and retailers
tragically on the wrong side of human rights and democracy, choosing
instead to side with and prop up the vicious Burmese military dictators,"
NLC director Charles Kernaghan charged.

He said US apparel imports from Burma, assembled by workers who earn US4c
an hour, increased 43 per cent in the first six months of 1998 compared
with the same period last year.

As a result, certain US apparel firms doing business in the country would
soon be targeted in a nationwide consumer boycott.

US retailers Bradlees, JC Penny, Sears and Marshalls sell clothes made in
Burma and apparel companies such as Fashion Knitwear Group, Arrow Shirt and
Karl Kani import clothing made there, according to the NLC.

"We will ask consumers to shop with their conscience during the holiday
season and help restore democracy and respect for human rights to the 49
million people in Burma who are suffering under a regime of terror," Mr
Kernaghan said. The NLC also pointed to reports of worker abuse at the
Formosa factory in San Bartolo, El Salvador, which makes apparel for Nike,
Adidas and other companies.

Nike spokeswoman Maria Eitel, responding to the charges, stressed that the
company had "zero tolerance for any sort of abuse of our workers" and in
the past had punished factories that violated its code of conduct.

At three plants in El Salvador operated by the South Korean-owned company
Do All, workers sew clothing under contract for Liz Claiborne for US60c an
hour, well below subsistence levels, according to the National Labor

Workers are forced to put in overtime, employees who become pregnant are
fired and "at least five (union) organising drives . . . have been crushed
with illegal firings", the committee charged.

A Liz Claiborne statement said "parts of the National Labor Committee's
report are either incorrect or exaggerated".


23 November, 1998 by Michael S. Lelyveld 

BOSTON -- A Massachusetts lawmaker said he may file new legislation to halt
public investment in companies doing business with Myanmar.

Rep. Byron Rushing, who authored the 1996 selective purchasing law set
aside by a federal judge, said activists are considering a measure
requiring commonwealth pension funds to pull their funds out of
corporations linked with military-ruled Myanmar.

The move would be a different tack for rights activists after U.S. District
Court Judge Joseph Tauro ordered an injunction Thursday against the law.

The judge halted enforcement of the curbs on state contracting with
companies that do business with Myanmar, after ruling on Nov. 4 that the
law is unconstitutional.

Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General Thomas Barnico said an appeal may
be filed as soon as today asking either Judge Tauro or the appeals court to
reinstate the law.

Frank Kittredge, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which
brought the landmark suit against the "subfederal" sanction in April, said
the corporate lobbying group is likely to fight any motion to keep the law
in effect.

"I think we would prefer to have it unenforceable," Mr. Kittredge said.

The suit by the 580-member association was intended to set a precedent for
challenging dozens of subfederal measures against companies that trade with
countries ranging from Myanmar to Nigeria.

Judge Tauro ruled that the Massachusetts law infringes on the federal power
to regulate foreign affairs. The state argues that it is only exercising
its right to choose its own suppliers. Mr. Kittredge said it has not been
decided whether to proceed against selective purchasing statutes enacted by
other states, counties and municipalities before the Massachusetts appeal
runs its course.

The trade council is hoping for an expedited process, however. Mr. Barnico
estimated that the appeal could be decided in two months. Legal scholars
say the issue may eventually go to the Supreme Court. The full extent of
Judge Tauro's injunction remains unclear. Neither side knows, for example,
whether Massachusetts will be forced to shut down its Web site, where
companies doing business with Myanmar are identified.

Mr. Rushing, a Boston Democrat, said he believes the state still has the
right to ask companies whether they trade with Myanmar. The new divestment
legislation would allow the state to keep its list active, he said.

Massachusetts had both a selective purchasing law and a divestment measure
against South Africa in the 1980s. Both were effective on bringing pressure
on the apartheid government, Neither was challenged. So far, no other
states have a divestment law aimed at Myanmar. The injunction could lead to
suspension of a World Trade Organization complaint brought by the European
Union and Japan. The complaint, which is due to go before a dispute
resolution panel, alleges that the Massachusetts law violates a 1994
Government Procurement Agreement on open bidding.

Since Judge Tauro's ruling, U.S. officials have been trying to convince the
EU and Japan to withdraw their action because the Massachusetts law is
technically no longer in effect.

"I'm sure this will be reported to Brussels and that it will be looked at
very seriously," said an EU official in Washington, referring to the
injunction. The EU filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the trade
council's stand.