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Burma News Update No. 77

Burma Project
Open Society Institute

Burma News Update No. 77
18 February 1999

MPs Face New Threats
Burma's army junta has threatened "dire consequences" against elected 
members of parliament unless they quit the democratic movement, according
to an opposition parliamentary representative committee. Hundreds of
elected MPs have been detained over the past year, and state-controlled
media said on 11 February that 166 elected members of the National
League for Democracy (NLD) have recently quit the party. The NLD won a
landslide victory in 1990 polls never honored by the country's military
regime. The parliamentary committee said that beyond detentions, the
junta is threatening the jobs and schooling of their families, and to
destroy their businesses. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) announced
on 05 February that Burma leads the world in repression of

Rangoon, Agence France Presse, 11 February; Geneva, Reuters, 05 February

Forced Labor Warning

A senior general of Burma's junta has suggested setting up "labour
villages" to exploit "fallow" and "reclaimed" lands and promised to
supply workers to farms, the state-run New Light of Myanmar reported.
Junta Secretary- 2 Lt-Gen Tin Oo told a 02 February meeting at the
Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation that "Workers and tractors will
be provided to farms as much as possible," the article said. [Analysts
have expressed alarm over Lt. General Tin Oo's promise to provide
workers for large-scale agriculture, citing reports by the International
Labour Organization and other groups detailing massive forced labor
imposed by military authorities for state projects in Burma-Ed].

New Light of Myanmar online version, 03 February

EU Says Junta Unwelcome

The release of a few political prisoners will not convince the
European Union to accept the presence of Burmese junta representatives
at any talks between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN), European officials said. The diplomats were reacting to
the release on 11 February of Ma Thida, a democracy activist and friend
of National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was
freed after serving over five years of a 20 year sentence for political
activities. EU-ASEAN talks set for Berlin in March may be canceled over
the EU's refusal to issue visas for junta leaders to travel to Europe.
Germany, which currently holds the EU presidency, has declared that

"substantial progress" on human rights issues must be realized before
the EU visa ban could be waived.

Rangoon, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 12 February

Boycott Hits Interpol Meeting

The United States announced that it is joining a boycott of a meeting
on heroin trafficking in Rangoon sponsored by Interpol for fears that
the Burmese junta might use the conference "to create the false
impression that it demonstrates international approval... for its
counter-narcotics and anti-crime efforts," a US embassy spokesman in
Bangkok said. A U.S. State Department statement said the U.S. would
prefer that the meeting would be held elsewhere and focus on issues of
drug production and trafficking and money laundering within Burma.
According to an unnamed State Department official, "It's like having a
counterterrorism conference in Libya." Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and
several other countries are also boycotting the meeting.

Bangkok, Business Day, 12 February; US News & World Report, 22 February

"Junta Protects Heroin Warlord"

The man described by American law enforcement as one of the world's
top heroin dealers has reportedly cut a deal for protection with Burma's
ruling junta. Wei Hsueh-kang, a leader of the United Wa State Army, is
under U.S. federal indictment for heroin trafficking with a $2 million
reward for his capture. Jane's Intelligence Review reported recently
that Wei negotiated a guarantee against arrest or extradition during a
meeting in Rangoon with junta intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Khin
Nyunt. What Wei offered in return is unclear, although Wa and other
armed ethnic militias engaged in heroin and amphetamine trafficking have
enjoyed a decade long ceasefire with the regime.

Bangkok, South China Morning Post(Hong Kong), 10 February

Arches Enemies

McDonald's is considering legal action to stop one of the world's most
blatant copyright infringements against the fast food chain by a copycat
restaurant in Burma's capital Rangoon. "To our knowledge, only Burma has
a phoney McDonald's," a company official said. The Rangoon restaurant
has a Ronald MacDonald outside its door, but its Singaporean part-owner
dismissed threats of a law suit.

Rangoon, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), 14 February