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The BurmaNet News: June 17, 1999

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

The BurmaNet News: June 17, 1999
Issue #1295


16 June, 1999 from bakatha@xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Information Release

Secret Transfer of Political Prisoners by Military Junta
Between April and May of 1999, the military junta secretly transferred an
estimated three hundred to five hundred political prisoners from Insein
Prison to ten other remote prisons all over the country. The junta
neglected to inform the families or issue an official news release
regarding this matter. The various penitentiaries to which the prisoners
have been transferred are Myitkyinar, Kathar, Shwe Bo, Myingyan, Mandalay,
Thayet, Monywa, Kalay, Besein, Myaung Mya, Moulmein and Myeik (Mergui).
Most of the transferred political prisoners comprise students who
participated in the August and September student movements in 1998. Over
200 students were subsequently sentenced to 14 to 52 year long-term
imprisonment, and nearly 60 NLD members were given 7 year jail-terms.
Presently, there are approximately 3000 political prisoners in Burma. This
recent move presents the largest number of political prison transfers since
1989. The junta had previously transferred political prisoners in 1989,
1990, 1991, 1992, 1994,1996 and 1998.
Prison authorities regularly move only criminals. However, in previous
instances, the junta had transferred political prisoners during mass
arrests of pro-democracy activists given a certain the political situation,
protests by political prisoners against jail authorities for injustice
treatment, and pressure from the international communities (such as the UN,
the ICRC and etc.) to improve prison conditions.
Due to the mass prison transfers, it has become extremely difficult and
time- consuming for the families - especially the poor - to meet with the
prisoners. Travelling costs are considerably high, and only the family
members are allowed to meet the prisoners only with authorized permission
from the junta officials. Political prisoners have been systematically
transferred between prisons partly in order to hamper communication between
prisoners and their families.

Moreover, the prisoners lack adequate food and particularly medicine. Most
of the prison hospitals and clinics suffer a dearth of medicine, and
prisoners have to pay for medical treatment in case of illnesses. Those
unable to afford treatment are faced with endangerment to their lives or
long-term health. Many political prisoners suffer from diseases such as
dysentery, liver and lungs diseases, skin infection, tuberculosis and even

The recent transfers coincided with the attempt by the ICRC to investigate
prison conditions inside Burma. The authorities completed the transfers
within a month prior to the ICRC inspection. Thus it could be concluded
that, despite granting token permission to the ICRC to inspect Burmese
prisons, the junta intended to forestall any meeting between ICRC officials
and the political prisoners. Several political prisoners were repeatedly
transferred among prisons.

The ICRC has yet to release any information regarding its prison
inspection. However, it should be noted that the ICRC was allowed to meet
and examine only a limited number of prisoners, prison guards, wards,
work-sites and other parts of the prison system that have been pre-arranged
by the authorities in preparation for the inspection. Thus the ICRC was
barred from witnessing de facto prison-life and daily violation of rights
suffered by Burmese prisoners. To date, there has been no visible
improvement in prison conditions across the country.

Following is a partial list of political prisoners transferred to new
locations. The complete list is kept confidentially by the junta.
No. / Name / Age / Imprisonment term / Original jail / Transferred jail
1.   Ko Thet Win Aung      28                      52 years
Insein                         Myit Kyi Nar
2.   Ko Myo Min Zaw         23                      38years
Insein                         Basein 
3.   Oo Kyaw Min                52                      28years
   Insein                         Mandalay
4    Ko Htun Myint Aung   32                      21years         Insein
5          Ye Kyaw Swar          27                      19years
    Insein                          Basein
6          Ye Maw Htoo           27                      19years
    Insen                           Thayet
7          Kyaw Zaw                28                       14years
          Insein                          Myit Kyi Nar
8          Thar Lin Tin             26                       14years
            Insein                          Basein
9          Ye Min Kyaw          28                        14years
      Insein                          Basein
10        Phone Thet Pyne    26                        14years
Insein                          Basein
11        Aye Myint Than     30                        14years
Insein                          Basein
12         Aye Naing               32                        14years
            Insein                          Basein
13        Yan Aung Soe         28                         14years
     Insein                          MyinGyan
14        Kyi Thar Htun         21                         14years
       Insein                          Kalay
15        Kyaw Htwe(Markie)35                        14years
Insein                          Myt Gyi Nar
16       Khun Syne                46                         7years
           Insein                          Shwe Bo
17 Ma Lay Lay Mon           23                        10years
Insein                          Basein

18        Zin Mar Aung         24                         10years
      Insein                          Mandalay
19        Laith Laith                28                         10years
                Insein                          Shwe Bo 
20 Ma Khin Cho Myint      28                         10years
Insein                          Moulmein
21        Mya Sabai Moe      24                          7years
  Insein                          Mandalay
22        Kyi Kyi Win            36                          7years
          Insein                          Mandalay
23 Ko Than Naing              -                             _
       Insein                          Myeik      
According to the Education and Documentation unit of (FAC)-
Foreign Affairs' Committee 
All Burma Federation of Student Unions 


16 June, 1999 by William Barnes

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has warned that international aid could
backfire if it props up a "despotic" regime.

The alert comes as the United Nations is poised to send its political
secretary Alvaro de Soto back to Rangoon in August to use the carrot of
financial aid and technical assistance to try to win political concessions
from the military government.

Other agencies, such as Britain's Oxfam, are also edging towards entering a
country that only the junta denies has huge social problems.

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, in a paper to a recent Johns Hopkins University
conference on Burma, said anyone offering even humanitarian aid should
liaise with her National League for Democracy (NLD) to ensure it did not
give succour to the military.

This is a tough requirement for anyone hoping to work in a police state.

In January, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi clashed with US congressman Tony Hall over
her right to veto aid.

The All Burma Students Democratic Front, a group of exiled students, said
in Bangkok yesterday that the Burmese military abducted two of their
leaders from China. 


16 June, 1999 by Frances Williams

The International Labour Organisation is being urged by trade unions and
employers' groups to boycott almost all dealings with Burma for failing to
end its practice of forced labour, which they describe as "nothing but a
contemporary form of slavery".

In a rare example of joint action, the two sides have submitted a draft
resolution to the ILO's annual conference in Geneva which ends tomorrow.
The resolution calls on the ILO to refuse Burma, which joined the
convention in 1955, all technical assistance except help in eliminating
forced labour, and to bar it from all meetings other than the conference
itself and meetings of the governing body. These are the most severe
penalties the ILO can inflict as it has no power to expel members.

The ILO conference is scheduled to vote on the resolution tomorrow and it
stands a good chance of success. In addition to the trade union and
employers' representatives, who together have 50 per cent of the votes, a
number of western governments including the US and UK are expected to
support the resolution.

Juan Somavia, ILO director-general, told ILO members last month that,
despite its statements to the contrary, the government of Burma had not
implemented any of the recommendations of an ILO committee of inquiry
report issued in August 1998.

That report, based on eyewitness as well as documentary evidence, concluded
that Burma's ILO obligation to eliminate forced labour was being violated
by the military junta "in a widespread and systematic manner, with total
disregard for the human dignity, safety and health and basic needs of the

The Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions said
yesterday that more than 800,000 people were subject to forced labour in
Burma. It described the practice as a "crime against humanity".

According to the ILO, thousands of villagers are conscripted, often by the
military, to work for little or no pay as porters, messengers or labourers
on roads, railways, bridges and farms. Many are ill-treated. Many are
children, sent by their families to prevent the loss of adult income earners.

Pointing to Burma's "flagrant and persistent failure to comply" with the
ILO's forced labour convention, the committee of inquiry called on the
government to amend its laws to outlaw forced labour, fulfilling a
30-year-old pledge; to eliminate forced labour in practice; and to punish
those exacting it. 


13 June, 1999 

South Korea's Daewoo Motor will set up an auto assembly plant in a joint
venture with Myanmar's state-run automaker as early as August. 

Daewoo said it expects the Myanmar government to soon issue a permit for
the project, which will involve a partnership with Myanmar Automobile and
Diesel Engine Industries (MADI) to manufacture cars through the
semi-knocked down (SKD) basis. 

The joint venture will assemble cars with 10 parts to be shipped from South

Daewoo will own 60 percent of the joint venture and MADI the remaining 40
percent. Operations will start in January next year after approval from the
local government. 

The joint venture will have an annual production capacity of 800 units next
year, 2,000 units in 2005 and 6,500 units in 2010.


17 June, 1999 by John Brandon 

Jakarta: Recent elections in Indonesia appear to have ended almost half a
century of military-backed rule. Since President Suharto's resignation in
May 1998, the day-to-day role of the armed forces in politics has declined.
Their neutrality in the recent election campaign was a significant
departure from the past.

The military retains clout. It could have a decisive say in choosing the
next President, given that no party will emerge from the elections with a
majority. Building a political coalition will be essential for the
country's next leader. The military is likely to be an important factor in
such a coalition.

But the future role of the armed forces in politics will have to be worked
out in an increasingly pluralistic, democratic Indonesia. The result could
have a significant impact on military regimes or military-backed
governments elsewhere- especially in Burma where the ruling junta looked to
the Suharto government as a model.

While Indonesia seeks to become the world's third largest democracy, Burma
has moved in the opposite direction. In 1990 it held its first free
elections in 30 years. But the military refused to honour the result ? an
overwhelming victory for the National League for Democracy, headed by Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi. Winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, she was kept under
house arrest for six years. Her movements remain strictly confined, and her
party members have been repressed through intimidation, imprisonment and

Indonesia's military realises that it does not have the expertise to manage
affairs of state in a sophisticated and modern world. Witness how little
the generals have offered in trying to solve Indonesia'a worst economic
crisis in more than 30 years.

The situation in Burma is different. When the regime that called itself the
State Law and Order Restoration Council was dissolved in November 1997, it
recast itself as the State Peace and Development Council. The Burmese
military was signaling that it had no intention of relinquishing power. Yet
military rule is ultimately untenable in Burma, just as it has proved to be
in Indonesia.

Given the historical role of the army in both countries, the military will
have to play some role in development. The Indonesian generals see the need
to evolve a role for themselves in a political system that they no longer
dominate. They realise that if their country is to succeed in an era of
globalisation, the military will have to work with a more open, democratic,
civilian government.

Burma's generals are not prepared to put this lesson into practice. In the
turbulent days leading to Mr. Suharto's resignation, not a word was
mentioned about Indonesia in Burma's official media. The state-run
newspapers carried only a small article about the resignation, which made
it appear as if he was stepping down in an orderly transfer of power. There
was no mention of students taking over the parliament building in Jarkata,
people rioting in the streets, and how Indonesia's economic crisis has
helped participate President's downfall.

This head-in-the-sand approach was no surprise. Burma's military government
declared in 1993 that Mr. Suharto's "New Order" government was a model
worth emulating.

Burma is not as exposed as Indonesia is to foreign investments and
influence. So it is not as susceptible to international opinion, trends and
pressure. The Burmese military regime pays no attention to IMF
recommendations. Rangoon has defaulted on repayments of past loans from the
World Bank.

In the view of Burma's generals, Mr. Suharto's mistake was not crushing
demonstrations before they began. They will probably continue their
isolationist and repressive policies. But they need to understand that
threats instill obedience only temporarily, and that lasting authority can
come only from respect.

Indonesia's elections are an attempt to bring legitimacy, and thus
long-term stability, to government. Indonesia's generals are beginning to
learn this lesson, albeit slowly and reluctantly. If Burma's generals want
their nation to realise its potential, they need to learn this lesson as well.

John J. Brandon is the assistant director of The Asia Foundation, a
private aid group in Washington. By arrangement with International Herald