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Subject: [theburmanetnews] BurmaNet News: June 4, 2000

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

June 4, 2000

Issue # 1545


(1) "...the Burmese have implemented policies that have aborted the 
process of development... These wrong policies have risen out of a 
fear of losing political control."

Lee Kuan Yew, authoritarian former ruler of Singapore (See ASIAWEEK: 

(2) "Though I'm all for boycotting Lonely Planet, the real 
significance of the argument is cultural. Discerning liberal 
consumers are now so self-confident and self-pitying that they pose, 
without irony, as the victims of Stalin and Hitler when anyone 
suggests they might make the tiniest moral choice."

Nick Cohen, a British columnist, on boycotting Lonely Planet for 
promoting tourism to Burma. (See THE GUARDIAN (UK):  WITHOUT 


*Inside Burma


















__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________



May 2000 Issue

Two delegations of engineers from China's armed forces recently met 
with Burmese military officers at a navy base in Tenasserim Division 
from May 2 to 5, according to a report from Radio Free Asia. The 
meetings focused on the construction of two bases in the area with 
assistance from the Chinese Navy and Air Forces

Maj Gen Sit Maung, Coastal Region Military Command, Gen Kyi Min, 
Chief of Staff (Navy), Gen. Min Swe, Chief of Staff (Air), and other 
high level officials including the commander of Military Intelligence 
Unit 19, Colonel Thet Lwin, were present at the meetings.

At the meeting, officials decided that Navy base #58 would increase 
its fighting capacity and be moved to Bya Date Kyee Island, where a 
new airport and maintenance service center will be built by Chinese 
Air Force engineers cooperating with their Burmese counterpart. The 
cost will be US$ 5 million. 

Also, a site on Shwe Kyun Aur Bay, northeast of Bya Date Kyee Island, 
was chosen for an army repair and maintenance base. The cost is 
US$2.2 million. Construction on both projects will begin in June



 No: (97/B), West Shwegonedine Road
 Bahan Township, Rangoon
 Statement 76(5/00) (translation)

 1. Impositions of unjust fees causing hardship to students and 
parents has been  reported to us by a letter from a parent.
 2.  The facts stated in the letter are:-
 * At No 6, Basic Education Middle School, in No 10 Ward, Hlaing 
township,  entrance fees for primary students is Kyats 10,000 because 
of a deficit of  funds  allotted by government for a new school 
building.  Government's contribution was  only Kyats 35 lakhs and the 
estimated cost is Kyats 90 lakhs.  

* This exorbitant demand at a time when the cost of living has 
inflated is making  the people angry and disgruntled..

 * For people who make money by dishonest means, this is not a 
problem, but for  honest to goodness hard working people, this is 
beyond their means.  

* So much publicity has been given on TV and the media about the 
country's riches  and natural resources and the modern advances and 
developments.  But nothing is  being done for the education, health 
and social welfare of the people. Education  of children has become 
the total responsibility of parents which means that  education is 
for the rich and not the poor. "Fry the nga-gyin fish in its own  
fat" is the appropriate Burmese saying.

 * In addition to this, collections are taken up for several causes, 
some of which  are for the headmaster who will be transferred, school 
mugs, brooms, water pots,  students festival (three tickets per 
festival and two festivals compulsory).  Parents are often called 
upon to perform social welfare odd jobs.  The system of  class 
teachers has given rise to private tuition with exorbitant fees, 
which is  not affordable by many parents resulting in poor results 
for their children.  Thus "money for education" system has been 
* In a nut shell, the author of that letter asks "what is happening 
to all the  country's above ground, under ground, above water and 
under water wealth?"  The masses have no share in the benefits.  
Parents have to educate their children  at great expense.

 3.  At the present time, ordinary citizens are experiencing great 
hardship  because education is associated with money.  Those in 
authority and their cohorts  who have access to lots of money are not 
experiencing these hardships.  For them  everything seems to be 
working well.
 4.  This inequality and wealth associated education foreshadows a 
dark future for  the youth and the generation to come.  Lip service 
only is being paid to  nurturing the youth while havoc and 
destruction for the future is being  practiced.
 5.  Genuine education cannot be achieved while avarice and greed 
pervades the  system.  It is all talk and superficial.  "Quickly 
brought to the boil to swell  the rice" describes the kind of 
education that exists today.  

 6.  We believe and remind the authorities that education makes a 
person. His  future, and his worth are dependent on his education. A 
policy with equal  opportunities for all at minimum cost to them must 
be created and genuinely and  honestly adhered to.
 Central Executive Committee
 National League for Democracy
 30 May 2000


Rohingya Solidarity Organization

News Sheet No.2/May
May 24, 2000

On April 10, the ruling SPDC authorities in northern Arakan State of 
Burma confiscated approximately 65 acres of farmland in order to 
setup another two Burman model villages according to a local farmer.
The district chairman of Maungdaw Peace and Development Council had 
ordered the village chairman of Qazirbil on 10th April that the 30 
acres of farmland in the south east of Qazirbil village would be 
needed for construction of a Burman model village with 50 houses and 
asked the owners to surrender it to the authorities at the earliest. 

Similarly a 35 acres farmland belonging to Muslim farmers located in 
between Kaindapara and Hitalia village has been under orders of 
confiscation to set up yet another Burman model village with 70 
Besides, the authorities have been raising fund from local traders 
and shopkeepers for purchase of construction materials for the model 
In order to start construction work at the two locations the district 
authorities has conscripted about 200 forced labours from nearby 
Muslim villages.
The houses of model villages if completed would be distributed to 
retired Burman military officers and veterans according to a 
knowledgeable person who requested anonymity. 	

The Burmese ruling junta has been setting up several model villages 
in Muslim populated area since last 3-4 years. In all the cases, the 
Muslim settlements have been evicted or farmland confiscated to 
provide them to the occupants of new model villages. Side by side, it 
has been making infrastructure development of military importance in 
northern Arakan and for which supply of materials as well as work 
force have to be made by the Muslims of the area. 

The Burmese junta issued an order No.1/99 dated 14th May 1999, which 
forbids the use of forced labour in the country.



No. 234         May 28 - Jun 3, 2000

 SANGKHLABURI, June 1 (MUL) -- The Mon Unity League is demanding that 
the  Rangoon military regime compensate farmers in Ye township whose 
lands have  been taken over by army battalions newly stationed in the 

 The MUL says that over 900 acres of land in the northern part of 
the  township were appropriated by LIB 343 last year, while 200 acres 
were  seized in southern Ye township by LIB 299 in the same period.  
The land,  sown with various varieties of tropical fruits, vegetables 
and rubber  trees, by local farmers is estimated to have a value of 
at least 90 million kyat ($US 260,000), but requests for compensation 
have been ignored. 

 The MUL says the land seizures are in clear violation of the cease-
fire  agreement signed by the New Mon State Party with the military 
in 1996 and  it is demanding that the appropriations of land in areas 
covered by the  agreement cease forthwith and that arrangement for 
compensation be set up  immediately.  The League, which brings 
together Mons from around the world, has denounced the expansion of 
central army control in Ye township.

__________________ INTERNATIONAL __________________


June 9, 2000

[Bernard Krisher for Asiaweek]: Burma's economy suffers severely as 
the U.S., the E.U. and other parties impose sanctions for the 
military regime's failure to loosen its tight grip. How can the 
Burmese people attain a level of economic and political development?

[Lee Kuan Yew]: The European Union boycott and American prohibitions 
are not seriously handicapping Burma. The ASEAN countries have 
invested in tourism, hotels, etc., but the Burmese have implemented 
policies that have aborted the process of development. They changed 
their policies after the fall of Suharto in Indonesia. They fear that 
opening up might lead to the same sort of problems. These wrong 
policies have risen out of a fear of losing political control. How to 
put it right? Only when they realize that cutting off the flow of 
trade, investment and tourism will make it worse, that non-
development with an increasing population will mean increasing 
discontent due to little development with few job opportunities and a 
poorer life compared with their neighbors. That will force them to 
open up again. 

For full text of interview (no other Burma content), see:




YANGON, June 4 (AFP) - General Maung Aye, vice-chairman of the 
Myanmar junta, will visit China from June 5-12, where he will 
commemorate diplomatic relations between the two states, official 
sources said. 

 Official sources in Yangon told AFP the visit will celebrate the 
fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations 
between China and Myanmar. 
 During Maung Aye's visit, China and Myanmar are expected to sign 
a "broad framework on bilateral cooperation in the twenty-first 
century," officials in Yangon said. 

 The sources also said the high-level Myanmar delegation, which 
includes Foreign Minister Win Aung and Military Affairs Minister Lt 
Gen Tin Hla, will attempt to strengthen military ties between the two 

 China, the first country to recognise Myanmar's military regime 
after it seized power in a bloody coup in September 1988, is the 
junta's main arms supplier. 

 According to official sources in Yangon, the junta'a army chief of 
staff Lt Gen Tin Oo made an unpublicized trip to China on May 23 
allegedly to make new arms purchases. 

 Since 1988, senior Myanmar generals have made frequent visits to 
China and several high-ranking Chinese officials have travelled to 

Chinese State Councillor Ismail Amat met the leader of Myanmar's 
military junta, Senior General Than Shwe on Friday, state television 

 Neither Than Shwe nor Ismail Amat released any details of the 
meeting saying only the talks had been "friendly and amicable."   
This visit will be Maung Aye's third trip to China since 1991.  The 
military has been in control of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in 
various guises since 1962. 

_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________


CALGARY, June 1 (BN-BC) -- The head office of Transcanada Pipelines 
(TCPL) in Calgary is distinctly displeased with unwanted publicity 
that links the company with forced labour and forced relocation of 
villagers along the Yadana pipeline in Burma.

Under the title of 'Financing Slavery', an article in the May edition 
of the Regina-based alternative monthly magazine, Brierpatch, put 
TCPL at the head of a list of twelve Canadian companies "doing 
business with Burma". The article, written by freelance journalist 
Asad Ismi, said that "Canada's largest pipeline firm, is assisting in 
the construction is of the Thai portion of the Yadana gas pipeline" 
which carries gas from offshore wells in Burmese waters in the 
Andaman Sea to a generating station in Ratchaburi in southern 

But Glenn Herchuk, a Transcanada spokesperson, told the Burma Courier 
this week that TCPL has never had and has no intentions of investing 
in Burma. He said that when TCPL took over Nova Gas of Calgary in 
July 1998, it inherited a contract from Nova to provide technical 
assistance in the construction of the Thai portion of the Yadana 
pipeline. When the contract expired in December of 1998, it was not 
renewed, Herchuk said. 

An editorial writer at Brierpatch said all the information 
in 'Financing Slavery' had been checked and was valid "when the 
article was written". He said that another reference in the article 
to garment purchases from Burma by Sears Canada was no longer current 
and would be corrected in the July edition of the magazine.

Corinne Baumgarten of the Canadian Friends of Burma in Ottawa said 
that the organization had been made aware that TCPL was not invested 
in Burma, but was waiting for "written confirmation". 


4 June 2000

Overdue bill could affect relationship

Nattaya Chetchotiros and Ampa Santimetaneedol

The former head of an arm of the state oil company has called on the 
government to open talks about an overdue payment of US$280 million 
owed to Rangoon for gas from the Yadana field.

Surakiat Sathirathai, who was executive chairman of PTT Exploration 
and Production Plc, said instead of keeping silent the government 
should negotiate for terms of payment, or explain the delay.

Its silence is a cause of discomfort for Thai officials in Burma, he 
said. Burmese Industry Minister Lun Thi and Finance Minister Khin 
Maung Thein had asked him to pass the message on to the government.

Mr Surakiat also suggested Thailand pay US$22 million interest it 
owes Japan. "I think the government should make it clear when PTT 
will be able to make the payment," said Mr Surakiat, who resigned 
from PTT in March to accept a post as deputy leader of Thai Rak Thai 

PTT paid the Yadana group $50 million in the first year of the 
contract. It was due to pay $280 million for the second year's supply 
contract in February. The payment represents the full contractual 
volume of gas PTT was obliged to accept under a take-or-pay deal, 
even though the company was to take delivery of only a fraction of 
the committed supply.

PTT failed to take delivery because of delays in the construction of 
the Ratchaburi power plant, which began operation only in December 
and is still not up to full capacity. The Electricity Generating 
Authority of Thailand (Egat) has not signed a gas purchase contract 
with PTT, leaving the state oil company solely responsible. Next 
year's scheduled payment is almost $300 million.Industry Minister 
Suwat Liptapallop, who oversees PTT, expressed frustration over 
Egat's failure to sign a purchase contract, and the cabinet's 
silence. He said he had raised the matter on several occasions but no 
action had been taken.

"The prime minister only said that he sympathised with PTT. The 
cabinet and the council of economic ministers have not taken any 
action. "Should we continue to pay for the gas while Egat has no idea 
when the plant will operate to its full capacity? It is not fair," he 
said. The minister said the fault lay with Egat, which failed to 
complete the construction of Ratchaburi power plant on time.

"It is not PTT's fault. It is Egat's fault and Egat still insists it 
won't sign a gas purchase contract," he said.

Earlier, the cabinet approved the sale of government bonds to raise 
money to pay for the natural gas.

Mr Suwat said PTT's failure to honour the contract could threaten the 
relationship between Thailand and Burma. He denied any conflict with 
PM's Office Minister Savit Bhodivihok, who oversees Egat. 



May 29-June 4 issue   
THE mid-year Myanma Gems Emporium will be held in October 2000 and 
gems and jewelry belonging to local gem entrepreneurs will be made 
available at foreign exchange prices.The Myanmar Gems Enterprise will 
extend advance loans to Myanmar citizen entrepreneurs according to 
the rules and regulations to ensure smooth circulation of money to 
them. The 37th Myanmar Gems Emporium held in March was attended by 
437 foreign and 183 local gem merchants. Entrepreneurs wishing to 
sell gems and jewelry at the mid-year gems emporium should contact 
MGE between 5 June and 31 August.



Campaigns to stop us visiting Burma play right into the hands of the 

Dea Birkett

Thursday June 1, 2000

Tourism Concern is sending off its holiday postcards early this year. 
They show a pretty picture, a paradisal scene, with white sand and 
whispering palm trees, but the message is less than idyllic. It 
reads: "The cost of a holiday in Burma could be someone's life."

Last Friday, Tourism Concern joined forces with the Burma Campaign 
UK. Their unlikely target was Lonely Planet, publishers of 
backpackers' bibles, including among its 480 guides one to Burma 
(Myanmar). Most of the postcards will be sent to the publisher's 
London offices, bombarding its postal system. The campaign is calling 
for a complete boycott of all Lonely Planet publications until its 
Burma guide is withdrawn.  

But Lonely Planet doesn't present this far-flung destination as all 
Buddhist art and beach parties. Its guidebook opens with a two-page 
section entitled "Should You Visit Myanmar?" Dissent of any sort is 
suppressed, it says. "Political prisoners are jailed for expressing 
their opinions publicly. Crimes have ranged from telling jokes to 
owning unregistered fax machines." Ironically, Lonely Planet is 
publicising the very atrocities Tourism Concern accuse it of 
colluding in.  

The guide asks travellers to make up their own minds about the rights 
and wrongs of travelling to a country controlled by a brutal military 
junta. But that is the last thing Tourism Concern trusts us to do. It 
appears to hold a deeply patronising attitude towards ordinary 
travellers, as if they will surely fail to see cruelty and injustice 
even if it stares them in the face. Cultural contact is fine as long 
as it's a certain kind of person who indulges in it. Members of the 
Burma Campaign went out to Myanmar last year on a "research trip". 
But God forbid that Joe Bloggs, with no preconceived ideas about the 
world beyond, dares tread in distant lands. 

Our views are considered so dispensable, that if, after listening 
carefully to the debate, we still dare to differ we will be forcibly 
overruled. The Burma Campaign has publicly admitted that if it fails 
to convince us through argument, it will lobby government to 
introduce laws to prevent British passport holders travelling to 
Burma. To restrict freedom of movement is the hallmark of a 
totalitarian regime, the very same sort of system the Burma Campaign 
purports to be against.  
In truth, repressive regimes discourage cultural contact, the very 
essence of travel. Any sensible dictator knows the last thing he 
wants is a load of foreigners arriving with their different ideas, 
uncensored books and awkward questions. Even Burmese opposition 
leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in her many statements critical of tourism, 
admits: "Tourists can open up the world to the people of Burma just 
as the people of Burma can open up the eyes of tourists, if they're 
interested in looking." It's through such contact that we learn there 
are other ways of living than our own. That is why Tourism Concern 
isn't the only organisation who would prefer to see the Lonely Planet 
publication pulped.  

According to Tony Wheeler, founder of Lonely Planet, the Burmese 
military junta "would be overjoyed if one of their most long-standing 
and most widely-available critics were to be silenced". 

Lonely Plant has been publishing information about Burma for over 25 
years. So why has the campaign against it just been launched? Because 
holidaymakers are now travelling in a new climate. The simple, 
delightful notion that we go on holiday to have fun has been 
hijacked. Today, taking a break - the very same thing that was once 
seen as an antidote to the overwork and stress of our everyday lives -
 is ridden with trouble and torment. Tour operators Discover the 
World's recent press release extols, not the joy of discovering the 
world, but the agony. Travel, they say, can be "tainted with unease", 
promising that they will deliver a package that can be "enjoyed with 
a clear conscience". Perhaps most startling is the slogan of BTCV 
Conversation Holidays: "Go on Holiday - and Help Save the World!" 

But aren't holidays supposed to be carefree times, for suntans and 
self-indulgence? Is it really such a crime to seek out somewhere 
where you can simply enjoy yourself? Is spreading on factor 10, 
rather than reading up on the local medieval history and contemporary 
political systems, the sign of a lesser moral soul? Does every annual 
leave have to be an educational experience or a payback for the harm 
we westerners have done? 

Tourism Concern and the Burma Campaign's moral outrage is designed to 
make us feel bad about being good to ourselves. Lonely Planet's 
attitude is otherwise. It sees travel as a big adventure, to be 
embraced rather than agonised over. The guide book publisher should 
be congratulated for encouraging us all to wander into the world with 
our eyes, as well as our minds, wide open. 

Dea Birkett's latest travel book, Serpent in Paradise, is published 
by Picador.



Saturday June 3, 2000

Dea Birkett's article (Trouble in the paradise industry, June 1) is a 
travesty. It fails to mention any of the real arguments surrounding 
tourism in Burma, and the boycott of Lonely Planet publications.  

For those who are interested in the arguments, as opposed to an 
emotional response about the sanctity of travel, here they are: the 
development of tourism in Burma is directly linked to mass human 
rights abuses. Income generated through tourism is helping sustain 
one of the most brutal military regimes in the world. 

For these reasons, Burma's elected representative, led by Nobel Peace 
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, are asking people not to visit. Lonely 
Planet's promotion of tourism to Burma and the inaccuracies in the 
current guide concerning problems in Burma, have left pro-democracy 
activists with no choice but to boycott their publications. Rather 
than allow tourists to make up their minds, Lonely Planet's guide 
misinforms them and then makes it clear that it believes the 
positives outweigh the negatives.  

Birkett and Lonely Planet are doing the junta's work by absurdly 
describing as totalitarian a campaign that informs people of the 
issues and then gives them the choice to buy or not to buy Lonely 
Planet publications. The last word should be left to Aung San Suu 
Kyi, leader of the party elected by Burma's people: "Burma will be 
here for many years, so tell your friends to visit us later. Visiting 
now is tantamount to condoning the regime."  

Dr Sein Win, 
Prime minister, Burmese government in exile 
John Pilger 
Glenys Kinnock MEP



The fat-cat lawyers are licking their lips 

Nick Cohen 
Sunday June 4, 2000 

The burden of being a groovy Observer reader is hard to bear. Our 
food, clothes, restaurants and haircuts, our very soft furnishings 
and kitchen utensils may come to life at any moment and denounce us. 
They 'say so much about you', as our crack team of style 
correspondents warn weekly. If we make a mistake on our choice of 
lemon squeezer, for instance, will we be able to get away with 
passing off vulgarity as irony and turn the tables on our mockers? Or 
will we merely rebrand ourselves as jerks in the eyes of right-
thinking people? Treason festers in every scatter cushion. The 
pressure is constant. 

Holidays bring no respite. Stress begins with the task of telling 
everyone we know that we do not fly out as 'tourists', thank you very 
much. Tourists are plebs. They are fat, smelly and thick. We 
are 'travellers' and, by definition, none of the above. Once the 
nuances of this important distinction have been explained, we must 
agonise about where to travel to and calculate what our decision 
might 'say' in evidence against us. Last year Cuba and New England 
looked pretty good. But nothing is as dated as yesterday's fashion. 
Syria, then? Or perhaps Paraguay? A friend on Life magazine was 
informed the other day that 'Scotland is the new Ireland'. Can this 
be true? If so, what on earth does it mean? 

To direct us through the social minefield are the Lonely Planet 
guides. Christ but they're cool. Every volume oozes concern for the 
environment and local cultures. Lonely Planet takes you 'past the 
tourist traps', the publishers assure readers, by 'building bridges' 
and 'breaking barriers.' The company is a beacon for those who 
don't 'buy into brochure blurbs' but crave the authenticity that can 
be found only when they 'are sent out with the right attitude about 
Our reliable friend has saved us from making a crass error by 
answering that ticklish where-to-go question decisively. Burma is the 
place to see and be seen this summer. 

Well, Burma's certainly different. Ten years ago almost to this day 
the Burmese armed forces refused to accept the overwhelming victory 
of the National League for Democracy in free elections and suppressed 
the population. If you wanted to be hyperbolic you might get away 
with describing the regime that resulted as the most wretched on 
Earth. There are tens of thousands of refugees from torture and 
attempted murder. The democrats who remain are persecuted. The 
economy has collapsed and the army makes its wealth by cutting deals 
with heroin suppliers. Last week the United Nations demanded that the 
junta end a 'saga of untold misery, suffering oppression and 
exploitation' brought by its use of 'forced labour', or slaves as we 
used to say. 

Lonely Planet is concerned, but it also wants to sell guidebooks. 
There's a niche market to corner as the editors of the Rough Guide 
series, its business rivals, refuse to cover Burma on a point of 
principle. Lonely Planet's new book on Burma begins by dismissing 
such concerns and the requests of the legitimate government not to 
fund the terror. The Burma Campaign UK and Tourism Concern responded 
by calling for a boycott of Lonely Planet's merchandise. They might 
have expected to at least have started a reasoned debate. Instead the 
suggestion that globe-trotting liberals should sacrifice any 
gratification has led to the opponents of tyranny being denounced as 
tyrants themselves.  

Lonely Planet supplied hacks with a letter of thanks from the Burma 
Relief Centre in Thailand, which tries its best to comfort refugees. 
The company had given it (British Pounds) 4,500 and seemed the model 
of the caring stakeholding corporation. No one reported the response 
of the aid workers to being manipulated in a PR offensive. Pippa 
Curwen, the director of the Relief Centre, said she was 'dismayed' to 
see in the Daily Telegraph that the present was used by Lonely Planet 
to justify visiting Burma. 'This has led us to question your 
organisation's motives in donating to us,' she wrote to the 
company. 'As you are aware... we believe that foreign tourism is one 
of the factors sustaining the regime, and prolonging the kind of 
misery we are witnessing daily. Thus we would prefer not to be 
complicit in any defence your organisation is making.' 

Curwen needs every penny she can get, yet decided that she could do 
without Lonely Planet's money and returned the cheque. She will 
probably be vilified as some sort of monster. For the Burma spat has 
been distinguished by the extremism of the invective of bohemian 
travellers. Dea Birkett, a travel writer, whined rhetorically in the 
Guardian of all places: 'Aren't holidays supposed to be carefree 
times for suntans and self-indulgence? Is it really such a crime to 
seek out somewhere where you can simply enjoy yourself? Tourism 
Concern and the Burma Campaign's moral outrage is designed to make us 
feel bad about being good to ourselves. To restrict freedom of 
movement is the hallmark of totalitarian regimes.' 

Forget her wheedling style for a second, and consider the 
implications of Birkett's words. The opponents of dictatorship, who 
fight without resources, international support or any military force 
which might defeat the junta on the field of battle, are 
totalitarians. Rich Western tourists, by contrast, are the true 
victims even when they stay in Rangoon hotels built on the site of 
the homes of the Burmese   poor - which were bulldozed without 
compensation - or travel on a moving staircase built by forced labour 
to catch the marvellous view at sunset from Mandalay Hill. Only a 
sadist would want to make them 'feel bad about being good to 

Birkett wasn't an isolated ranter. Sue Ockwell, spokeswoman for the 
Association of Independent Tour Operators, agreed that the Burma 
campaigners had 'adopted a totalitarian approach'. These people must 
lie awake every night waiting for the hammer of the secret police on 
the door. 

Neither Ockwell nor Birkett seemed to know that New Labour won't 
restrict anyone's freedom of movement. True, it promised sanctions in 
opposition and a moist-eyed Tony Blair virtually broke down when he 
stammered out his sincere compassion for Aung San Suu Kyi, the 
elected leader of Burma who has been harassed by the military for 
years. In government, Labour not only broke its word - which is to be 
expected - but successfully sued American states and cities which 
refused to use European Union firms that traded with the regime. 

Though I'm all for boycotting Lonely Planet, the real significance of 
the argument is cultural. Discerning liberal consumers are now so 
self-confident and self-pitying that they pose, without irony, as the 
victims of Stalin and Hitler when anyone suggests they might make the 
tiniest moral choice. It says so much about them. 

On Tuesday, the most radical measure of this government will come 
into force and be welcomed with an embarrassed silence from Downing 
Street.   Despite the opposition of Tony Blair, the Labour leader who 
boasted in the election campaign that under his administration 
Britain will still have the strictest anti-union laws in the Western 
world, workers will be able to vote for the right to represent 

It was a hell of a battle to push the legislation through. The 
magnificently old Labour Ian McCartney used all his duplicitous 
skills to out-manoeuvre Blair and Peter Mandelson. But he had to make 
concessions. The union votes will be the hardest ballots to win in 

It won't be enough to secure a majority of those who vote. The pro-
union camp must also include 40 per cent of all those eligible to 
vote. (If these conditions had applied at the general election, 
incidentally, there would scarcely be an MP in Westminster.) There 
will be arguments about who is entitled to vote. Victory will be 
followed by rows about what unions can talk to management about. A 
central arbitration committee, chaired by a judge who represented 
Rupert Murdoch in his campaign against the print workers, is meant to 
resolve disputes amicably. But the real action will be in the courts. 

'There are huge grey areas,' beamed Martin Warren from Eversheds, a 
City law firm whose rates are of the 'if you have to ask you can't 
afford them' order. 'There's loads and loads of potential for 

Eversheds has flown its lawyers across the Atlantic to study how US 
firms shut out unions. Last week, the traffic was in the opposite 
direction when it brought an American union-busting lawyer, one Alan 
Lips, to tell Gap and McDonald's executives how to keep the staff in 

Some tactics had a sweet touch to them. 'Companies should win the 
hearts and minds of employees by demonstrating care,' he cooed. The 
charm offensive will be limited, however. 'Unions and employers are 
natural enemies,' Lips told People Management magazine. They are 'an 
economic heart attack'. 

Corporations should 'threaten to exercise the employer's economic 
power to coerce rejection of unions. This can be useful'. 

What can he have meant? He couldn't have suggested that union 
organisers should be fired because that would be illegal. But he did 
hint that McDonald's and the rest should make it clear that promotion 
depended on obeying orders. 

Staff must be told that their 'loyalty should be to the company, not 
the union'. They should be encouraged to wear badges declaring that 
they found the thought of democratic representation vile. Those who 
refused would, presumably, be making a bad career move.

With opponents like this, unions will inevitably lose as many battles 
as they win. The rest of us will be able to enjoy the spectacle of 
all those firms which assert that their people are their greatest 
asset employing some of the most expensive lawyers in the country to 
ensure that their assets are seen but not heard.

_____________________ OTHER  ______________________



The latest edition of The Irrawaddy is now on-line. This issue 

Cover stories on efforts to implement the results of the 1990 
elections, including a chronology of key election-related events 
covering the past decade

Both sides in the struggle for power in Burma have relied too heavily 
on confrontation

An editorial on drugs, democracy, and the demands of the Thai 
government and the Burmese people for action on both

An interview with Shan resistance leader Col Yord Serk

An examination of the role of corruption in Burmese society

A look at the possible impact of globalization on Burma

A regional story examining Japan's efforts to become first among 
equals in Asia

The conclusion of a three-part series on the past thousand years of 
Burmese history, focusing on Burma's relations with its neighbors

A personal account of life inside the Burmese military


Special on-line features, including current news, photo galleries, 
and the research page, all in addition to regular features from the 
print edition, such as news in brief, intelligence, and business. 
Articles from previous issues are now available in our on-line 

The Irrawaddy is a publication of the Irrawaddy Publishing Group 
(formerly Burma Information Group). IPG is an independent news agency 
established by Burmese citizens living in exile and is not affiliated 
any political organization. The Irrawaddy seeks to promote press 
freedom and access to unbiased information. 


The BurmaNet News is an Internet newspaper providing comprehensive 
coverage of news and opinion on Burma  (Myanmar).  

For a subscription to Burma's only free daily newspaper, 
write to: strider@xxxxxxx

You can also contact BurmaNet by phone or fax:

Voice mail +1 (435) 304-9274 

Fax (US) +1(202) 318-1261

Fax (Japan) +81 (3) 4512-8143


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