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BurmaNet News: February 21, 2000

=========== THE BURMANET NEWS ===========

Monday, February 21, 2000
Issue # 1467



"Most Congress members (originally) were not interested (in 
federal-government level sanctions against Myanmar). They came about 
because calls from a minority of Congress members who had ties with 
grassroots activists were strong." 

David Steinberg, director of the Asian Studies Program at Georgetown 







February 21, 2000, Monday 

Toshiyuki Ito Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer ; Yomiuri 

 Several hours' drive in a Russian-made jeep from Ulan Bator brings one 
to a vast, frozen, grass-covered plain where no roads are visible. 

Mongolia is due to hold a general election this summer, so members of 
the International Republican Institute (IRI), a nonprofit organization 
affiliated with the U.S. Republican Party, traveled the country to 
support effective election campaigning, which opened late last year. 

"My driver's jeep broke down in a remote location with no telephone or 
road. Poor road and telecommunications infrastructure hinder the 
promotion of policies. Election conditions are different from those of 
the United States," Paul Grove, IRI's regional program director in Asia 
and the Middle East, said of the difficulties his organization faces in 
the land of steppes. 

IRI, which is chaired by U.S. Sen. John McCain, has "exported" election 
tactics, which range from a basic knowledge of election management to 
campaigning know-how, to democratic developing countries mainly in Asia 
and Eastern Europe. In Chinese farming villages where direct elections 
are becoming established IRI helped manage balloting. In Indonesia, 
after President Suharto was forced to step down, the organization 
participated in the creation of a new election law. 

Mongolia is just one location for IRI activities. During the country's 
1996 general election, IRI gave free advice to Mongolians on election 
campaigning, from fund-raising to setting up local organizations of 
political parties. IRI was the force behind the scenes when a political 
drama unfolded in which a noncommunist cabinet was formed for the first 
time since the country was founded. The political evolution resulted 
from advances made by the Union of Democratic Parties. 

"Contract with Mongolia," which the Union of Democratic Parties 
established as the country's first policy platform was the Mongolian 
version of "Contract with America," which the Republican Party put 
forward during the United States' mid-presidential term election of 

An interesting point is that IRI provided the same expertise to the then 
ruling People's Revolutionary Party, the successor to the Communist 

Tim Johnson, IRI's assistant program officer in charge of Asia, 
explained, "We thought that if we instructed all parties in the basic 
necessary techniques, Mongolian people would (later) be able to select 
their own parliament without our help." 

Johnson, who made frequent trips between Washington and Ulan Bator, felt 
assured of democratic progress in Mongolia. "This year's election will 
be more sophisticated," he said. 

"Our activities are different from those of many U.S. election 
consultants who go to foreign countries to make money," IRI President 
Lorne Craner said, emphasizing that the organization's purpose is not to 
make profit. However, companies that donate to IRI and support its 
activities are hoping to benefit from expanded markets in new 
democracies in the future. 

On IRI's list of donors for 1996, Philip Morris, Texaco Oil and two 
other companies donated 50,000 dollars each and about 150 companies, 
including AT&T, United Airlines and Ford Motor Corp., gave up to 25,000 

In fact, Mongolia abolished all tariffs on imported goods in 1996 and is 
currently opening its markets. The United States' share of the country's 
market rose steadily from 2.5 percent in 1996 to 6.9 percent in 1998. 

Craner identified one unusual export sold to the country as U.S.-style 
election tactics. 

Also, fresh in the memory is the hiring of election consultants who 
formerly worked for U.S. President Bill Clinton as logistics staff in 
the Israeli general election of May and in Argentina's presidential 
election in October. They sometimes worked on opposite sides. 

But inside the United States, there was strong criticism that they 
adopted a negative aspect of U.S.-style elections through attacks on the 
characters of rival candidates. 

Prof. Doris Graber of the University of Illinois in Chicago said 
"Slandering opponent candidates also detracts from positive factors of 
their policies. It sets a bad example for democracy.
But, good or bad, proliferation of U.S.-style democracy will continue 
through the export of election techniques. 

So-called human rights diplomacy is also part of the push for U.S.-style 
democracy, but the policy is complicated. 

The Clinton administration has imposed economic sanctions on Myanmar 
(also known as Burma) as a protest against the country's military 
government for its refusal to accept the results of a 1990 general 
election and hand over power to a civilian government. 

The Burma Law, enacted by the Massachusetts state government in 1996, is 
said to have influenced the federal government's decision to introduce 
the sanctions. The law bans companies with trade ties to Myanmar from 
participating in contracts with the state government. More than 50 
Japanese companies are blacklisted under the law. 

Because the law applies to private companies even of foreign countries, 
it is similar in nature to the federal Helms-Burton Act, which imposes 
sanctions on companies with economic ties to Cuba regardless of where 
they are based. The only real difference is that one local government 
imposed its will on companies. 

At Japan's request, The World Trade Organization set up a mediation 
panel to rule on a dispute that arose from the state law. 

Similar laws have been introduced at city level in New York, Los 
Angeles, Berkeley, Calif., and other cities. One case emerged in which 
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.'s construction contract at San 
Francisco's airport was canceled because of a city law targeting firms 
with economic links to Myanmar. 

The U.S. National Foreign Trade Council filed a lawsuit against 
Massachusetts alleging that the Burma Law was unconstitutional. The 
lawsuit has drawn attention worldwide. 

John Tinpe Zarni, 35, moved to the United States from Myanmar to escape 
the oppression of the military regime. He has continued to support the 
country's democracy movement while running a restaurant in Washington's 
Chinatown. He frequently ends up in arguments about the law with members 
of the council, who are regular customers. 

Irritated council members contend that if sanctions against Myanmar 
continue U.S. firms will be at a disadvantage in business with the 
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member. 

But, Tinpe counters, "Even if U.S. companies profit in the short term 
from the lifting of the sanctions, the lack of democracy will not bring 
long-term benefits." 

Such disagreements in the restaurant always end in impasse.
In the first and second stages of the case brought by the council the 
courts judged that Massachusetts had encroached on the exclusive right 
of diplomacy of the federal government. Those rulings led to the Burma 
Law being frozen. The U.S. Supreme Court will make a final judgment this 
summer and has begun hearing the arguments of both sides in the case. 
The WTO mediation panel set up at Japan's request was dissolved Feb. 10 
to wait for the decision of the court. 

Thomas Barnico, assistant attorney general of the state government's 
Administrative Law Division, was confident of winning the case. "In the 
summer, there will be a favorable result for us," he said. But members 
of the council were also predicting victory. 

Byron Rushing, D-Mass., who masterminded the Burma Law, told a local 
newspaper the Supreme Court ruling "will make it clear whether it is 
appropriate for American citizens who worry about human rights abuses to 
join hands with local congresses." 

It is true that, backed by development of telecommunication and 
information technologies, grassroots activists like Tinpe have increased 
their influence over local lawmakers. 

"Most Congress members (originally) were not interested (in 
federal-government level sanctions against Myanmar). They came about 
because calls from a minority of Congress members who had ties with 
grassroots activists were strong," David Steinberg, director of the 
Asian Studies Program at Georgetown University, said. 

"The United States' diplomatic policies are too much affected by 
introversive ways of thinking," he added. 

If local congresses hammer out their own foreign policies, it could 
snowball until the agendas of minorities have an undue influence on 
national policy. 

Concerning policies for Myanmar, the U.S. government often relays its 
opinions to Japan, which places emphasis on dialogue. 

In June last year, Koichi Kato, former secretary general of the Liberal 
Democratic Party, met a high-ranking official of the U.S. government in 
Tokyo. Kato was involved in a project to aid Myanmar rural farmers to 
switch crops from hemp to buckwheat. He therefore has some influence 
with the country's government. 

The U.S. official insisted that Japan should stop investment in Myanmar, 
but Kato responded that "When human rights issues are involved, the 
United States uses a double standard. Looking at its association with 
China and Russia, the United States strategically takes different 
approaches on human rights issues." 

The U.S. official conceded that Myanmar has little importance to U.S. 
national interest, while Kato said the opposite is true for Japan. 

Kato said that after the discussion he had gained a deep understanding 
of the United States tendency to act on national interest, not on 
ideals. It appeared to be a more weighty factor than the two countries' 
differences on technical measures to promote democracy. 

It follows that such an attitude will be reflected all over the world 
where U.S.-style democracy is being promoted.  

Related link:  On Burma Restaurant (review)  Washington DC





February 21, 2000

Burmese troops fired shots across the border at an army helicopter 
flying over Mae Hong Son's Muang district yesterday.

No casualties were reported.

A source in the 7th Infantry Regiment said the army helicopter was 
passing over Na Plaek village in tambon Mokchampae on a routine patrol.

At least 10 rounds were fired, originating from Shan State, in Burma, 
opposite Rak Thai village in Mae Hong Son.

The source said the attack was carried out by Burmese soldiers of the 
99th battalion.



February 21, 2000

Burmese shelling forces Karens to flee

More than 1,000 Karen civilians seeking refuge in Suan Phung district of 
Ratchaburi will be evacuated to a safer site in Kanchanaburi today.

The refugees, mostly children, women and elderly people, fled to Thai 
soil following heavy shelling by Burmese troops on the God's Army jungle 
base at Kamaplaw.

The Karen civilians were temporarily housed at a monastery centre at Ban 
Boh Wee in Tambon Tanaowsri, Suan Phung district where they were kept 
under the surveillance of police from the 13th Border patrol Police Unit 
and volunteers.

A military source said the refugees will be evacuated to a new holding 
centre in Ban Tonyang, in Sangkhla Buri district of Kanchanaburi, adding 
the evacuation will be carried out early today.

Burma's drastic crackdown on armed ethnic minority groups along its 
border opposite Sun Phung district in recent weeks has forced hundreds 
of civilians to flee to Thai soil.

The unmber of refugees escaping the fighting has increased after Burmese 
soldiers heavily shelled the God's Army's jungle base. The attack was 
launched after a group of ten rebels who seized Ratchaburi general 
hospital were killed by Thai commandos.

Meanwhile, Col Samphan Yanpakul, commander of the 29th special task 
force unit, said the border situation in Suan Phung has now returned to 
normal after Burmese troops overran the God's Army base at Kamaplaw.

He maintained the evacuation of more than 1,000 Karen refugees was 
needed for safety reasons.

Sources said about 100 refugees have been suffering from malaria and 
other diseases. Some of them were admitted to Suan Phung hospital for 

Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Korn Dabbaransi said the influx of 
refugees had posed a heavy burden on Suan Phung hospital, near the 



February 21, 2000

Two of six Burmese soldiers caught sneaking into Thailand last month 
were freed by the authorities yesterday.

Pvt Pho Kyi, 30, and Pvt Myint Oo, 14, of Burma's 221st rapid deployment 
unit were handed over to Maj Saw Win, the Burmese chairman of the local 
Thai-Burmese border committee.

The handover took place at Mae Sai district police station in Chiang 

The two were caught along with four other Burmese soldiers at Nam Piang 
Din pass in Pa Mapha district, Mae Hong Son on Jan 14.

The others were being detained at the 7th Regiment in Mae Sariang 
district pending investigation into their alleged intrusion.

They claimed they were hungry and looking for food in the jungle this 
side of the border.

A military source said the remaining four Burmese soldiers would be 
freed after the investigation is completed.



February 19, 2000

Jeremy Woodrum

The strangest thing happened.  As you know, we have been boycotting 
Suzuki for its involvement in supporting the Burmese regime.  Well, at a 
protest planned by the DC-Burma Activist Network and the Free Burma 
Coalition today
(Saturday) there were only four of us in front of the Suzuki dealership 
in Wheaton, Maryland.  We had been there for about an hour explaining to 
passerbys and persons in cars (through a bullhorn from Toys 'R Us) why
Suzuki should be boycotted.  One of our crowd decided to leave so then 
there were only three of us left.  After a few more verbal rounds of 
"boycott suzuki!!!" we decided to leave.  Then, just as we were 
gathering our things,
the management of the Suzuki dealer came outside and started chanting 
"we support human rights".


They had professionally printed signs that read "Fitzgerald Auto 
Supports Human Rights" and they started putting them on top of their 
Suzuki cars for all the passing traffic to see.  We couldn't believe 
it--they were actually DEFENDING the Burmese regime's record.  

This really made us very very angry, so we walked up to the management 
and said, "Look, we know you think we are crazy protestors, but we are 
not.  We are not making up this stuff about women being raped and people 
killed.  We're not pulling it out of thin air--it happens everyday, and 
it's probably happening right now."  He responded "of course I know that 
what you are saying is true--the problem is, we are not supporting 
that==we are an independent dealer and the company doesn't that produces 
in Burma doesn't sell here!"

We said "We know, but you are producing profits for the company that is 
doing it!"  So you are deeply involved whether you like it or not.  If 
you like, we will provide you with documentation from the United States 
Department of State telling you that I am right.  Then, you can answer 
to them.  Or we can give you United Nations data--would you like that 
better?" So he walked away.

Then we yelled at him as he walked away "you wouldn't think it was such 
a big joke if it was your sister or your daughter who was raped, would 
you?" We could see him flinch and then he went inside.  So we yelled it 
into the
bullhorn--"not so funny if it was your daughter would it be?"  He came 
steaming back out the door:

"Look, if you say anything else about my daughter I'm calling the cops".

Me: "Fine, call the cops.  Give us a phone, we'll call them for you."

Him: "I'm serious, don't bring my daughter into this."

Me: "Now you understand what we're saying don't you?"

Him: "Now you're out of line."

Me:  "We're not the ones killing and raping people in Burma".

He walked away.  So we started chanting "Shame on you, shame on you."  
They all sat inside the window and looked at us.  We think they believe 
us about the abuses but feel trapped because of their jobs--serious 
dissonance if we ever saw any.



By Naw May Oo and Saw Kapi 

February 2000

Since Independence, not only have the concerns of
ethnic nationalities never been addressed, but
political, cultural and educational rights of ethnic
people have been systematically denied. It is true
that some ethnic individuals had achieved high
positions of government a few years since
independence. But ever since Gen. Ne Win took power in
1962 through a military coup, Burma had been ruled by
a centralized political system instituted by Burma
Socialist Programme Party (BSPP).

Top leadership positions in civil services, armed forces and the state 
administration held by minorities were
disproportionately replaced by majority Burman
nationals. After the 1947 constitution was dissolved,
in 1974, the BSPP adopted a new constitution in which
no specification was stated regarding ethnic
representation in the government. Instead of leaders
duly elected by their people, only a few ethnic
leaders were hand-picked by the Burman leadership to
symbolize ethnic representation in the BSPP
government. Hence, those handful of selected ethnic
leaders acted only at the desire of the central
government rather than as representatives of their own
ethnic nationalities."

"We would call such method as "select and rule," which
is still being used by current ruling military regime,
the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).
Except for annual folk dance and costume parades on
traditional holidays recognized by the government,
most ethnic cultures are being eliminated. In the
so-called "Union" of Burma, only Burmese language is
recognized as the medium of education; none of the
ethnic languages is allowed to be taught at schools or
allowed to be used at any level of administration.
Consequently, ethnic nationality schoolchildren and
the young generation are growing up without knowing
their own cultures or speaking their own languages. In
this way, social and cultural domination has been
effectively taking place in Burma today. After all,
the "Union" that the SLORC claims, means nothing or
makes no sense to the ethnic nationalities.
This is one of the most sensitive political issues
facing Burma and all her inhabitants, and not only
must we discuss openly about it, but all of us must
enthusiastically strive to resolve it."

"According to the SLORC, at least fifteen ethnic armed
organizations have entered cease-fire agreements with
them. SLORC thinks that those cease-fire agreements
will legitimize its holding onto power. However,
beneath the surface of cease-fire agreements between
SLORC and fifteen different ethnic nationalities lie a
deeper reality of human rights violations and of
ethnic annihilation campaign in Burma today. I would like to urge the 
international community to think about this:
who among us will be willing to fight against an army
with 500, 000 troops, if the so-called "peace" that is
being offered to us could be considered a genuine one?
When the SLORC launched massive offensives "against
the KNU" this year, villages were burned, many young
women were raped and many Karen villagers including
children, women and elders were arbitrarily tortured
and killed by the SLORC soldiers. 

As a result, hundreds and thousands of Karen villagers have fled their 
villages to the Thai-Burmese border where they hope to find a temporary 
safe place. While they are
afraid of SLORC brutality, those refugees choose to
stay in the border refugee camps with a possibility of being forced to 
return by the Thai authorities. 

The question is who would know the SLORC?s mentality and brutish 
character more than these refugees do? More than a hundred thousand 
Karen refugees remained suspicious of
SLORC and are fear to return to Burma. Politically
naive as they may be, their painful experience have
taught them severe lessons. How can someone whose
village was burned, whose father was brutally murdered
and whose sister was repeatedly raped by the SLORC
soldiers easily learn to "trust?" How can the Karen
leadership ignore the plight of these refugees when
they talk with the SLORC? If these people cannot have
peace, who will? In one case, a young Karen soldier
asked: who could solve the painful dilemma of a young
Karen girl who was allowed by SLORC soldiers to choose
whether she be raped passively and live or be killed
instantly at gun point? The SLORC must bear the
responsibility to answer all these questions.

Actually, in Burma, peace is not merely the absence of
battles; it is something that must be achieved by all the
people of Burma regardless of their ethnic backgrounds
and creeds. For the time being, SLORC seems to be
winning the battles, but not the peace. One thing we
have to keep in mind, so long as the ethnic
annihilation campaign continues, the spirit of
revolution will remain strong in the minds of millions
of Karen people."

Naw May Oo,President of Karen National League and
Coordinator for Women's Affairs at NCGUB's New York

Saw Kapi, Policy Affairs Division, Karen National


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