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Subject: [theburmanetnews] BurmaNet News: April 17, 2000 

______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
        An on-line newspaper covering Burma 
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
April 14, 2000

Issue # 1510

This edition of The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:



*Inside Burma













___________________ INSIDE BURMA ______________________ 


   YANGON, April 17 (AFP) - Myanmar military intelligence arrested 
three "saboteurs" planning to bomb Yangon and instigate riots 
throughout the country over the weekend, state-controlled media 
reported Monday.

   Military intelligence nabbed three "saboteurs" whose mission 
was "to  disrupt Myanmar New Year by exploding a mine in downtown 
Yangon and, failing  this, to cause another explosion in the capital 
city ... in May," the  regime-controlled New Light of Myanmar said. 

   The three also planned to "instigate riots in various parts of the 
country," the paper said.				

   According to the paper, authorities detained Soc Thi Ha, Aung Thi 
Ha and  Maing Lin Aung, who allegedly belong to the opposition group 
People's Power  21, entering the country from Thailand with nearly 
two pounds of explosives  and two electric detonators. 

   The report could not be independently confirmed and there was no 
comment  from either the PP-21 or the NLD.

   The New Light of Myanmar frequently reports that opposition 
parties are  threatening Myanmar's stability and brands these groups 
traitors to the  country. 					

   The People's Power 21 (PP-21) is believed to be primarily made up 
of men  and women who broke away from the main opposition group, Aung 
San Suu Kyi's 
National League for Democracy (NLD).

   Myanmar's junta has resisted all attempts to force it to hand 
power to the 
NLD, which won an huge election victory in 1990.

   The junta is accused of a catalogue of human rights abuses and of 
carrying  out a campaign of intimidation and detentions against the 

   "The administration of justice continues to operate under the 
effective  control of a military regime where the exercise of the 
basic freedoms of  expression, association, assembly and movement are 
criminalised under the law  itself," a recent report by the United 
Nations Commission on Human Rights said.			

   According to the state press, authorities had explosed an earlier 
plot to  bomb Yangon on January 4, Myanmar Independence Day, shortly 
before the  explosive device was due to be detonated.



April 15, 2000. 

THA SONG YANG, Tak - It is 8 o'clock one summer morning, and the sun 
slowly emerges from behind the dry mountain range that straddles the 
Thai-Burmese border, signalling that life in this conflict-plagued 
land must go on for another unpredictable day. 
But for Cha Lo Chai, 20, it does not matter whether it is night or 

Cha Lo Chai is one of the thousands of displaced Karens who fled the 
latest round of fighting between Burmese troops and the Karen 
National Union (KNU) into Thailand early this month. The KNU is the 
biggest thorn in the side of the Rangoon military government as it is 
the largest ethnic minority force that still refuses to lay down its 

The burning heat of the far-flung province of Tak does not seem to 
bother this young man dressed in tattered clothes who keeps looking 
aimlessly at the mountains on the another side of the Moei River, a 
natural boundary between Thailand and Burma, his eyes brimming with 

Less than a kilometre away from where he is standing lie the 
innumerable charred stakes and ashes which once formed the crowded 
town of Mae La Po Hta, his birthplace and his life. 

The picture of the raging fire that engulfed his house is still fresh 
in his mind. The whole town, he recalls, was torched to the ground 
when the Burmese Army, accompanied by its ally the Democratic Karen 
Buddhist Army(DKBA), descended from the hills which in the past 
served as a natural fortress for this Karen community. Rangoon had 
branded this town a KNU military outpost that needed to be crushed. 

There were no casualties, however. The place was deserted when 
Rangoon's men arrived. Cha Lo Chai said the villagers had received a 
warning to take everything they could and cross into Thailand or risk 
being persecuted. 

The escape began before the break of dawn in chill weather. Cha Lo 
Chai, slinging a large rattan basket from his forehead, waded the 
shallow waters of the Moei along with his parents and two little 
sisters to Ban Nong Bua on Thai soil. 

It was nothing new for this young man and the other residents of Mae 
La Po Hta. Two months ago they had to flee into Thailand after they 
heard that the Burmese army was coming. But that time luck was still 
on their side since the enemy did not show up and the whole town 
could resume its normal life. 			

But that is history, and all that Cha Lo Chai and the other villagers 
can do is look back from afar with sharp memories. After sleeping 
without shelter for a few nights, they are relocated by the Thai 
border officials to a safer area deeper inside Thai territory to 
avoid the risk of cross-border raids. 				

These people knew well when they first set foot on Thai soil that 
their chances of going back were close to nil. "Although last time we 
could go back, this time it seems we shall have to leave our homes 
for ever," laments Cha Lo Chai, forcing a smile.
"We have no homes any longer, and we will never again grow our rice," 
he whispers sadly. He explains that every single villager desires to 
go back, although they know deep in their hearts it is beyond their 
reach. "We are scared. Our fields are probably full of mines". 

He is not alone, and this incident is not the first of its kind. 
Ethnic minorities and political dissidents from Burma have flooded 
into the Kingdom for decades. It is estimated that there are about a 
hundred thousand of them sheltering in a string of temporary camps 
along the border.
Looking into the eyes of this young Karen, one sees reflected only 
the despair of millions of refugees scattered to almost every corner 
of the planet. The ordeal that each has gone through is like one of 
the many letters that together spell a never-ending tale of 

It is sad to have to admit that Homo sapiens, the most intelligent of 
all animals and blessed with the most sophisticated brain, has failed 
throughout its entire history to solve conflicts peacefully and 
wisely. Violence and war are often resorted to. Might as right has 
always been the name of the game. And whenever fighting breaks out 
for whatever cause or ideology, its real victim is neither the 
seemingly patriotic generals nor the charismatic politicians but 
innocent people who have to watch their livelihood crumble before 
their very eyes. 		

The future of Cha Lo Chai and the other people of Mae La Po Hta is 
anything but certain. The only thing they can do is live from day to 
day. It is uncertain whether the Thai authorities will classify them 
as "people fleeing fighting with well-found fear of persecution" and 
put them into one of the already crammed temporary shelters. 

True, they now have all the basic necessities: shelter, blankets, 
food and medicines provided by the Thai government, the United 
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and various non-governmental 
organisations, but for these people, unwanted by both Thailand and 
Burma, what is the point of living without a future? The only thing 
they pray for is peace. 

Peace, however, is easier invoked than made, and the prospect is 
still dim after the latest round of negotiations between Rangoon and 
the KNU collapsed in acrimony with each side accusing the other of 
insincerity and superficially advocating peace. 

At this rate they will continue locked in a game of internecine war, 
and the innocent men, women and children will be dispensable pawns 
for the rest of their lives. The onus of preventing that is on 
everyone who has a stake in Burma, whether at home or abroad. 

But first and foremost it is up to every Burmese - Karens, Burmans, 
Shans, Arakanese, Kachins, Chins, Mons etc, regardless of race and 
creed - to bring genuine peace to this land of war so that millions 
like Cha Lo Chai can for the first time sleep without fear and look 
to the future with hope. 
The Nation 



Asian Human Rights Commission

AHRC - Human Rights Solidarity - April 2000 Volume 10 No. 4

(Ed. Notes: Articles in the October and December 1999 editions of 
Human Rights Solidarity also highlighted the People's Tribunal on Food
Scarcity and Militarization in Burma. See also the Asian Legal 
Resource Centre's written submission to the UN Commission on Human 
Rights, based upon the Tribunal's report, in this edition.)

Last year, concerned by reports of growing hunger within Burma
(Myanmar), the Asian Human Rights Commission convened the People's
Tribunal on Food Scarcity and Militarization in Burma. Comprising 
three eminent leaders of Asia's human rights movement, the Tribunal's 
scope was to determine both whether or not food shortages exist in 
Burma and whether a causal nexus stands between this phenomenon and 
the policies and practices of the military government in that 
country. The Tribunal's report, Voice of the Hungry Nation, was 
released the following October.

The Tribunal found that 'food scarcity is indeed a nationwide
phenomenon' and furthermore 'while other factors such as natural
disaster or mere incompetence may contribute to or exacerbate
scarcity... none can override the state's role in denying the right to

Lack of Change

The period since has been characterized by a lack of change in Burma. 
As the military remains intractable and basic economic rights are 
further eroded, sadly the Tribunal's analysis remains pertinent. 
Contrary to statements by members of the ruling council that 'the 
nation is gaining success in implementing the economic plan, hoping 
to achieve more progress than the estimated economic development 
rate,' independent assessments suggest otherwise. In its annual human 
rights report, the US State Department explicitly linked Burma's 
economic decline to military governance:

'Economic growth [in Burma] has slowed since the mid-1990's... in
response to a worsening foreign exchange shortage, extensive overt and
covert state involvement in economic activity, state monopolization of
leading exports, a bloated bureaucracy, arbitrary and opaque 
governance, institutionalized corruption, poor human and physical 
infrastructure, and disproportionately large military spending at the 
expense of social development spending and stable prices.'

A World Bank advisor put it briefly: 'Clearly a major issue is the
balance between military expenditures and social and infrastructure
expenditures. Published budget figures show that per capita spending 
on the military is 9 times that of health services and twice that of
education services, and the trend has been worsening.' The same 
advisor observed that according to World Bank data, 30% of children 
under ten years old suffer long-term malnourishment, a fact he 
referred to as Myanmar's 'silent emergency'.

Aggressive Policies

Apart from ongoing reductions of expenditure on social services, the
government pursuit of aggressive agricultural expansion policies and
compulsory paddy purchase programmes continues unabated. Speaking on
this point, the regime's Vice-Chairman noted, 'Arrangements are in
progress in extending cultivation of paddy which is the nation's main
crop... [to] ensure adequate food for the nation till the population
reaches 100 million mark and to export the surplus produce.' 
Ostensibly then, government policies are designed to ensure food 
security. In reality, they are focused on production targets aimed at 
building the economic base of a growing military infrastructure 
without regard for equitable collection and distribution of food 
stocks. Prevailing regional conditions are rarely taken into account 
when demands are placed on rural populations, mostly for paddy. 
Farmers unable to meet obligations to the government face the threat 
of land-confiscation.

Those desperate to fulfill obligations are forced to buy paddy at
prevailing market rates to give in lieu of their own poor harvests. 
All consumers feel the impact, because the overall rice price is 
inflated as a result. A confidential source pointed to another 
possible reason for steady inflation:

'Almost every giant businessman is... in debt, so to help them 
(because they are pro-government, searching their own interests) the 
government gives them loans and other facilities to plant paddy in 
deep water. Those paddy fields are situated in the delta area, maybe 
they are in saline water. When I asked about the results to one 
scholar, he said the paddy has grown up but the seeds are empty. So 
the giant businessmen collect and buy paddy from other areas to show 
they have succeeded. And our staple food, rice, is riding a rocket...'

Oppressive internal security measures effectively stifle most public
dissent, yet occasional unrest becomes known to independent agencies
such as the Democratic Voice of Burma (Norway):

'About 300 farmers held a peaceful demonstration on February 5 in 
front of the Kyaunggon Township Peace and Development Council Office. 
The farmers were reportedly demonstrating because their paddy had been
seized by township authorities for failure to sell the prescribed 
amount to the government procurement agency. They were among those 
whose fields were affected by heavy rains during the monsoon season 
last year.

'Anti-riot units composed of the police and members of the Fire 
Brigade and Red Cross arrived at the scene and the township 
authorities urged the farmers to disperse, saying that the staging of 
such a public gathering to present their problem could affect the 
township's law and order situation. Township officials promised to 
hold talks with representatives of the farmers.'

Rural Hardship

Inevitably, remote rural areas suffer greatest hardship. While prices 
of essential goods rise in urban areas, the inflation rate is three 
to four times that again in rural villages. Reports of forced labor 
practices from all across the country emanate largely from rural 
areas. A field worker writing for Burma Issues remarked that in 
general 'during the rains when the people should be concentrating on 
their farming work, they can't because they have to labour for the 
Burma army... Sometimes after good rains, when they are ready to hoe 
the ground and plant seed, they are called to go serve as porters [on 
army operations] and so their work doesn't progress.' For subsistence 
labourers especially, a few days lost income can mean the difference 
between survival and starvation.

Villagers in border areas where the army pursues counter-insurgency
operations experience extreme suffering. According to an interview by
the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, villagers there
'Always have to live on alert... When we were in our hut the [Burma
army] soldiers encircled us, aimed their guns at us and told us not to
move. We dared not run. Some soldiers came into the hut, took all of 
our belongings and dismantled our rice store... We had 30 baskets of 
paddy but [they] destroyed some and took the rest away. Now we have 
nothing left to eat.'

The Tribunal heard of many such cases in great depth last year. It 
also heard of 'relocation camps', where the military compels 
villagers to reside. However as most of these sites offer no 
opportunities for
residents to earn a living, many sneak back to their home areas in the
hope of being able to survive by secretly eking out a living. The Shan
Human Rights Foundation claims that some suffer death as a result:

'On 17.1.00, 4 displaced farmers who were returning from their farm 
were shot dead on the way... These farmers were originally located 
from Sa Haang village in Ho Yaan tract, which had been forcibly 
relocated to the outskirts of Kun-hing town in mid 1996... Because 
food was very scarce in the relocation site and there was no work 
available in town and no land to farm near the town, Loong Nya Mi had 
led some of his relatives to clear a plot of land about 2 miles from 
their former village...

'After about 10 days, they came back to the town. But before they
reached the town... they were stopped by a column of 55-60 [Burma 
army] troops who accused them of having returned from providing rice 
for [rebel] Shan soldiers... Commander Than Oo then ordered his 
troops to shoot dead the 4 villagers...'

To many observers, the cessation of civil war seems the obvious 
solution not only to atrocious human rights violations such as this, 
but also to conditions of hunger in these areas. While a necessary 
step, it will not in itself achieve this end. That conditions of 
hunger will continue in these areas subsequent to the end of 
hostilities is a truism for those who know, live and work there. 
Again, from a field worker writing for Burma Issues: 'Unfortunately, 
the problems of hunger will not end once the civil war is finished. 
The land has been depleted by double cropping programs and the use of 
chemical fertilizers. Furthermore, there is a whole generation that 
was born in, and will marry and have children in, the refugee camps. 
These people will spend much of their life dependent on the NGOs... 
and won't have the skills to grow their own food...' 


In these days after the annual harvest of the wet-season paddy crop,
rice is at its most plentiful in Burma. Yet people remain hungry. 
While government intransigence digs deeper, wounds fester. The long-
term deterioration of food security in Burma identified by the 
People's Tribunal in 1999 continues. The structural and militarist 
realities that have created food shortages remain firmly imbedded in 
Burmese society.

As the People's Tribunal prepares to present its findings to this 
year's UN Commission on Human Rights hearings, the international 
community is
obliged to heed the Tribunal's call that an international commission 
be appointed with a view to examining this issue. Denial of food on a 
large scale is a crime against humanity. In spite of lip service that 
the Burmese government pays to principles of food for all, its 
continued lack of cooperation with outside agencies and attempts to 
thwart independent assessments of conditions within the country beg 
to be challenged by third parties. The 'silent emergency' must be 

The full text of the Tribunal report is available on-line, at the
Tribunal web site: http://www.hrschool.org/tribunal. The title quote 
of this article is from a December 1999 statement by the National 
League for Democracy (Rangoon) on agricultural conditions in central 




YANGON, Myanmar (AP)  It's the closest thing to anarchy seen 
under Myanmar's strict military dictatorship _ the three days each 
year when people celebrate the run-up to the traditional New Year, 

Yangon, normally a somber city, lets its hair down as the young 
and not-so-young engage in the kind of merrymaking that at any 
other time would earn them a trip to the local police station. 
Counting down the days to New Year on Sunday, there is abundant 
public drunkenness and a wild frenzy of dancing to the kind of pop 
music that leads parents everywhere to predict the end of 

Water also plays a major role in the fun, in a variation _if 
not perversion  of tradition in Myanmar, also called Burma. 
Thingyan is also known as the Water Festival, and traditionally 
people celebrated by sprinkling scented water from a silver bowl or 
gently splashing each other. 

Underlining the sober side of the holiday, the elderly would 
usually spend their time at Buddhist monasteries, meditating and 
giving donations. 

But as times changed, so did the style of celebrating Thingyan. 
Sprinkling or splashing has been replaced by soaking and 

Instead of tossing water with silver bowls, revelers today use 
garden hoses or fire hoses, and some uncouth people even hurl ice 
packs or balloons filled with ice water. 

The rowdiest water-throwing takes place at Goodliffe Street and New 
University Avenue in northern Yangon, where police stand by 
helplessly as traffic snarls and stops. 

It is a center of celebration because it has the greatest number 
of stages erected by corporate sponsors to hold dancers and 

But revelers bring the party everywhere. 

In open trucks or cars with their doors and tops removed, rowdy 
youngsters drive around town, shouting taunts and throwing water at 
the people they pass. 

Many people believe the holiday spirit of goodwill has vanished 
as Thingyan has became the year's most rowdy festival. 
For their own reasons, the authorities also are unhappy with the 

Such wildness is anathema to a regime which constantly denounces 
anarchy, and is all the worse for its suggestions of foreign 

Several days before this year's festival, the government warned 
revelers to preserve ``national culture,'' avoid ``decadent'' 
culture and not to say things detrimental to national unity and 

Confiscated clothing regarded as ``un-Burmese,'' including 
colored wigs, foreign flags and masks, were set ablaze in a bonfire 
that authorities hoped would make the point. 
Predictably, it didn't stop celebrants. 
In a sight about as surprising as snowfall would be in downtown 
Yangon, girls in tight jeans, short skirts and blue-and-red-dyed 
hair and boys in earrings and strange haircuts, wrapped up in 
American flags or wearing masks, engage in water fights and dance 
to the blaring pop music from the stages in a manner most 
definitely ``un-Burmese.'' 

Even before the shock wears off, however, the wildness will be 
exposed as transitory and tradition will prevail. 
For on Sunday, New Year's Day, the streets will be quiet and the 
temples filled as people young and old earn religious merit with 
such actions as offering alms to Buddhist monks and releasing 
cattle, fish and caged birds to symbolic freedom. 

___________________ INTERNATIONAL _____________________



HAVANA (AP)  Myanmar's foreign minister defended his country's 
human rights record Friday and said sanctions and other efforts to 
isolate the Southeast Asian nation could jeopardize what he called 
its slow march towards democracy. 

``We want to be a democratic nation. I want my children and 
grandchildren to live peacefully and under democratic government,'' 
U Win Aung told reporters on the final day of the Group of 77 
summit of developing nations in Havana. 

The threat of unrest from still-armed factions has slowed a 
transition from Myanmar's military regime _ which has ruled since 
1962 _ to democratic rule, he said. 

``The military is the only institution left that is 
disciplined'' after years of instability, Win Aung said. As to 
reports of widespread human rights violations, he said, ``That's 
the one thing in which we have been poor in our public relations.'' 
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has faced repeated censure from 
the United Nations for rights abuses and for refusing to recognize 
the 1990 general election victory of the party headed by Aung San 
Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. 
Aung Win said that a newly appointed U.N. representative to 
Myanmar, Razali Ismael, would be welcome to visit opposition 
figures _ including Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest for six 
years before her release in 1995. 

``We will cooperate'' with Razali, Win Aung said. 
He denied reports that Suu Kyi's movements and political 
activities remain heavily restricted, saying she was free to go to 
her opposition party office. 

``Aung San Suu Kyi is a free woman in our country,'' he 

The U.N. General Assembly and Human Rights Commission have asked 
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to try to end Myanmar's isolation 
by opening a dialogue with government and opposition leaders. 
A General Assembly resolution adopted in December urges 
Myanmar's government to stop human rights violations, restore 
democracy, open a dialogue with Suu Kyi and other political leaders 
and release political prisoners. 

``We are in the transformation stage,'' insisted Win Aung, who 
said sanctions against Myanmar, such as a U.S. government ban on 
new investment by American companies, could upset promised change. 
``Trying to isolate us in a corner only makes it harder.'' 



April 15, 2000, Saturday 

Tim Reid 

JAMES MAWDSLEY was backpacking in New Zealand four years ago when he 
met a group of refugees from Burma. Their account of their 
experiences of rape and repression under its military junta began his 
involvement in the country's politics. 

A devout Roman Catholic, he had dropped out of Bristol University, 
bored with his mathematics and physics studies. He was arrested twice 
on early visits to Burma and at the second time, in 1998, was 
tortured for 15 hours. He had been caught handing out stickers and 
playing pro-democracy songs on a tape recorder. Sentenced to five 
years, he served 99 days in solitary confinement before being 
deported. His last family reunion was in July, when he was best man 
at the wedding of his brother, Jeremy, at Devizes, Wiltshire. He 
announced that he was returning to Burma and was driven to Heathrow 
by his father, David, who is divorced from his mother. 

"James is a very determined, honest, decent young man," Mr Mawdsley 
said. "Once I realised he wasn't going to be dissuaded, I went with 
him and supported him all along." 

On August 31, three days later, James was caught distributing pro-
democracy leaflets in the northeast Burma town of Tachilek. At his 
trial on September 1, he was convicted of illegal entry and sedition. 

Mr Mawdsley went on a week's hunger strike in December over the 
treatment of fellow prisoners and on a 20-day hunger strike last 
month over the regime's refusal to provide him with a transcript of 
his trial. 



April 15 2000 


THE fate of James Mawdsley, the British pro-democracy activist 
serving a 17-year jail sentence in Burma, has caused a diplomatic row 
Britain and America after the US State Department's unexpected
intervention to try to gain his release. 

The move came after dissatisfaction from Mr Mawdsley's parents over 
the response of the Foreign Office to their son's plight. He has been 
in solitary confinement in Kengtung prison, 400 miles northeast of the
capital, Rangoon, since September after being jailed for distributing

Mr Mawdsley's mother, Diana, was telephoned at home by Patrick Murphy,
of the US State Department's Burma desk, earlier this month. He wanted
permission for American intervention in the matter, which she was
delighted to give. Until that point, she said, she had felt anger at 
the confused approach by the Foreign Office in London. Mr Murphy told 
her that Washington intended to appeal directly to Rangoon for James's
deportation on "humanitarian grounds". The US State Department had 
been alerted by Frank Wolf, a Republican congressman and prominent 
human rights campaigner. 

When the Foreign Office was told of the development, however, there 
was a meeting between the US and British ambassadors in Rangoon, 
where the Americans were effectively warned off the case. A Foreign 
spokesman said last night: "It is not clear what role the United 
States can or intends to play in this matter. James Mawdsley is a 
joint British and Australian citizen. He is not American. 

"We have been visiting him on a regular basis. We have been looking
after him. We have been keeping the family informed." 

But David Mawdsley, James's father, said last night: "I think the
Foreign Office have ignored James because he is embarrassing for 

"Robin Cook talks about 'enlightened self interest' in Foreign Office
policy. But I'm afraid it is still all about making profit from the 
oil supplies in Burma. We're never told the whole truth." 

Mrs Mawdsley said: "The involvement of the US State Department brought
things to a head. It made the Foreign Office think. Until then, the
Americans had been getting some strange information from the Foreign
Office that James did not want to be released. 

"Of course that is not the case. He is happy to be released, as long 
as he does not compromise his position." 

She said that since the American involvement, she has had a meeting 
with Baroness Scotland, the Foreign Office minister, which "cleared 
the air". Mrs Mawdsley said: "It was obvious her briefings had not 
been accurate. She had not even realised that James had been 
requesting an appeal since January." 

She was keen to add, however, that Foreign Office officials "on the
ground" in Rangoon had worked enormously hard to improve her son's
conditions and supplies in jail. 

A spokesman for Jubilee, the human rights group which has been leading
support for Mr Mawdsley since he was jailed, said: "We met Baroness
Scotland a few weeks ago and it was clear not enough was being done 
for James. We welcome any offers of assistance to get James out now."



Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 0013 gmt 14 Apr 00

Text of report in English by Japanese news agency Kyodo

Tokyo, 14th April: Shigeru Tsumori, 60, was appointed as Japan's 
ambassador to Myanmar Burma on Friday 14th April , moving from his 
current post as ambassador to Kuwait, the Foreign Ministry said.

The cabinet endorsed the appointment, scheduled to become official 
Saturday, at a morning meeting.

Tsumori has served in various senior Foreign Ministry posts, 
including consul-
general in Berlin, deputy director general of the European and 
Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and director of the Regional Policy Division 
at the Asian Affairs Bureau.

He started his bureaucratic career by joining the Justice Ministry in 
1962 and moving to the Foreign Ministry in 1964.



Imphal, April 15, 2000
Mizzima News Group

The central government in New Delhi has sanctioned Rupees 95 lakhs 
(US $ 2.2 lakhs) for the development of Moreh to become a major 
trading centre in the Indo-Burma border trade. Mr. Bwi Jamani, an 
official from the Commerce and Industry Ministry of the Manipur 
Government, said that Moreh is currently lacking necessary 
infrastructure while its counterpart Tamu town in Burma is fully 
equipped for the border trade.

\"Ministry of Commerce of the central government has recently 
sanctioned Rs. 95 lakhs for the development of Moreh town", said Mr. 
Bwi Jamani in a telephone interview.

Moreh, the last border town of Manipur State, was once the centre of
thriving border business as even the contraband goods including
high-quality heroin were illegally brought across the border from 
Burma. People used to flock to the town for foreign-made goods. 
However, things were changed when Burmese authorities decided to open 
a marketing complex at Namphalong in Tamu town in 1997.

Now, Moreh is in a deserted look as the business has shifted to
Namphalong Market in the other side of the border. Traders and 
shoppers from other parts of India go to Namphalong market, a few 
meters away from Moreh, for the goods ranging from plastic bowls to 
China-made pocket radios.

Since the operationalisation of Indo-Burma border trade in 1995, it 
has been a consistent demand from the traders community that the 
development of Moreh is an urgent need for smooth functioning of the 
border trade. Tamu-Moreh is the main route of the Indo-Burma border 

The central government has now decided to establish "Trade Centres" at
Imphal and Moreh for providing necessary facilities to the traders and
entrepreneurs. The development of Moreh Town includes construction of
show room-cum-sales counters, opening of export/import information 
Cell and providing telecommunication facilities like telephone, 
STD/ISD, Telex, Fax, Computer Centers, etc. for the benefits of the 
traders. Although there are now more than 500 telephone subscribers,
telecommunication system in Moreh is a total failure.



Vol.8 No.3, March 2000

On March 5-6, diplomats and officials from 14 countries met with 
Burma experts and representatives of the United Nations and the World 
Bank in Seoul, South Korea to discuss the possibility of new 
initiatives to end Burma's political impasse. This  "brainstorming 
session" ended, predictably, with no fresh ideas and no indication 
that  Asian and Western nations had come any closer to a consensus on 
how to deal with  the situation inside Burma. But far from being yet 
another diplomatic non-event, 
"Chilston II", the follow-up to a similar meeting that took place in 
Chilston, England  nearly two years ago, may mark a significant shift 
in the direction of international 
efforts to resolve the Burmese stalemate.

While the debate over sanctions versus engagement apparently ended 
with both sides  agreeing to disagree on how to deal with the Burmese 
regime, the "Asian" camp,  which favors strengthening political and 
economic ties with the junta, has become 
markedly more assertive in the absence of any grand plan from 
the "Western" faction. 

At the first Chilston meeting, Western countries demanding political 
reform as a pre- condition to the normalization of ties proposed 
a "carrot and stick" plan which offered 
one billion dollars in aid to Burma in exchange for political 
dialogue between the  regime and the democratic opposition. The junta 
rejected the conditional offer as an  insult, however, and it soon 
became apparent that there was no plan B. 

In an effort to fill the vacuum left by the failed aid offer, Asian 
countries (including, in this context, Australia) have moved forward 
with smaller unilateral initiatives to 
cooperate more closely with the regime. Japan, once Burma's major aid 
donor, has  been supporting a host of "grassroots" projects, possibly 
with an eye to resuming full-scale assistance. As the de facto leader 
of the Asian camp, Japan may take bolder 
steps to extend its influence in Burma if it believes that the US 
will not strenuously object. Japan is said to be watching the US 
presidential election campaign closely for any signs that a new 
administration might change Washington's "hard-line" approach 
towards Rangoon. 

Perhaps an even greater vacuum at the Seoul meeting was that created 
by the absence of China, now the Burmese regime's major economic and 
political backer. While the generals in Rangoon berated fellow Asean 
members Thailand, Malaysia and the 
Philippines for their decision to attend the gathering in Seoul, they 
had no worries about Beijing, which does not regard the junta's 
handling of its political opponents as problematic. Concern about 
China's growing influence in Burma is believed to be one reason 
behind Tokyo's sense of urgency about the need to more actively 
engage the regime, and it may even persuade the US to reconsider its 
present stance, although there has been no suggestion of this to date.

In short, it seems likely that realpolitik will continue to eclipse 
more active support for the Burmese opposition, which has been 
conspicuously silent on the proceedings in Seoul. Meanwhile, Burma's 
mounting social and economic crises may increasingly 
lead to calls to put the country's political problems on the back 
burner. Already, even countries whose conception of "engagement" has 
thus far been largely confined to promoting the dubious (and self-
serving) virtues of expanded trade contacts have begun to speak 
regularly of the need to provide humanitarian assistance to the 
people of Burma. 

All of this begs the question of how the National League for 
Democracy, the overwhelming victor of elections held nearly ten years 
ago, would respond to a significant erosion of support for its call 
to isolate the ruling junta. While Britain and 
the United States are not likely to alter their democracy-first 
stance in the foreseeable future, other countries, notably Germany, 
France and Portugal, have been more conciliatory towards the regime. 
Portugal, which currently holds the European 
Union's presidency, has been pushing to allow Burmese officials to 
attend an upcoming EU-Asean meeting in Lisbon. Similarly, 
international bodies such as the International Committee of the Red 
Cross (ICRC) and the World Bank have gone ahead with projects inside 
Burma that have been criticized for legitimizing the 
generals' rule. 

It is also significant that South Korea and Indonesia, whose leaders 
have expressed strong personal sympathy for the democratic cause in 
Burma, have not taken a correspondingly strong stance against the 
ruling State Peace and Development 
Council. Jakarta did not even send a delegation to Seoul, apparently 
in response to the SPDC's demands that it stay away. 

It is intriguing to imagine what advice Indonesian President 
Abdurrahman Wahid, who during a recent state visit to Burma expressed 
a desire to meet with NLD leader 
Aung San Suu Kyi, might have offered to his sister in the struggle 
for Asian democracy if they had had a chance to speak. No doubt 
Wahid, who has plenty of experience dealing with overweening 
generals, and whose presidency to date has been 
characterized by a decidedly unpredictable style of leadership, would 
have offered some highly original counsel.

With support for sanctions in doubt, Wahid might have recommended 
that the NLD make a pre-emptive strike: withdraw the call for 
sanctions, and watch the regime scramble to think up excuses for 
refusing to speak with the opposition. If the SPDC failed to make a 
comparable concession, the result, ironically, could be a broader 
consensus in favor of tough action against the regime, as it becomes 
glaringly apparent that the generals are solely responsible for the 
country's political impasse. Far from being tantamount to throwing in 
the towel, Wahid might argue, such a move could be seen as throwing 
down a gauntlet that the regime could not refuse to pick up. 

While this scenario may seem preposterous, it could very well be the 
sort of drastic measure that some will call on the NLD to take as 
pressure on the democratic opposition increases in the coming months. 
How the NLD responds to this challenge will no doubt be influenced to 
a great extent by who it sees as its real friends in the 
international community. But with even Britain and the United States, 
the two most outspoken champions of the Burmese democracy cause, 
investing heavily in junta-controlled oil projects that are second 
only to the drug trade in propping up the SPDC, this isn't going to 
be easy.



Editorial, The Statesman Newspaper, New Delhi
April 13, 2000

Ahead of the session of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, the
Myanmarese military junta has received a rap on the knuckles for
widespread use of forced labour and for doing nothing to arrest the
nation's rapidly declining social indicators including spreading
malnutrition. Two damning studies on Myanmar, one done by the
International Labour Organization on flagrant violation of workers'
rights and the other by the World Bank on the junta's failed economic
policies, give a good insight into gross abuse of power to further
tighten the vice-like grip on the Myanmarese people. The ILO report
makes frightful reading; countless people have apparently been herded
into labour camps for building infrastructure. Most of them are
subjected to the worst kind of servitude with little or no pay or 
An undisclosed number have perished. Repeated appeals by the ILO to 
Yangoon junta to stop violating human rights have gone unheeded. The
ILO's governing body has called for action against the junta. Will it
work? The answer is no, if past experience is any guide. Self-interest
is all. The junta is thus able to keep sanctions at bay.

International paralysis has encouraged the junta. Recently on armed
forces day, the generals publicly threatened to eliminate Suu Kyi. 
1988 they have been trying to marginalise her and her National League
for Democracy. Only a few months ago the junta compelled more than 
of her party members to "resign" their membership. The goal is to
isolate Suu Kyi, because she is a powerful symbol both for the
Myanmarese people and the international community. But symbols do not
have a very long shelf-life. The generals make bold to strike at her,
something they have not dared to do so far. What will it take to 
the world from its slumber?


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