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Subject: [theburmanetnews] Burmanet News: July 11, 2000

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

July 11, 2000

Issue # 1574

The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:


 "When topics to do with sex are considered taboo, people do not wish 
to discuss them, people do not think it in good taste to discuss such 
matters. But we cannot avoid discussions if we are to help those who 
are already suffering from HIV, and to prevent the further spread of 
the disease."


"In Myanmar, a developing country, parents are honored and respected 
by their children...domestic violence and child abuse, and 
pornography and sexual abuse are non-existent."

Dr. Sein Tu, Contributing Editor to the Myanmar Times (See MYANMAR 

"You've got to be careful since the girls don't care whether or not 
you use a condom... Many times with many different women I had to 
stop them and tell them to wait until I had a shield on."

Anonymous, assessing prostitution at Rangoon's Equitorial Hotel and 

*Inside Burma













__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________


DURBAN, South Africa, July 10 (AFP) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung 
San Kyi called Monday in a video message to the 13th International 
Conference on AIDS in Durban, South Africa, for greater openness in 
discussing the causes of the killer disease. 

 Myanmar last year denied warnings from the United Nations that it 
was ignoring a rising AIDS epidemic in the country. 

 UNAIDS estimates that 440,000 people are afflicted with HIV and AIDS 
in Myanmar out of population of about 48 million. 

 The junta, which seldom releases figures on AIDS infections, says it 
has taken great steps to control the epidemic since 1985 and denies 
claims that it is spreading AIDS to neighbours like Thailand and 

 Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under constant harassment by the 
junta since her National League for Democracy won an overwhelming 
victory in 1990 elections, but which the junta refused to recognise, 
linked AIDS and human rights. 

 "Rights without compassion, for me, is empty, is nothing," she 
said.   "So I would like to use this opportunity, not so much to urge 
more research on AIDS ... but mainly for more compassion." 

 She added: "Openness will help us to control the spread of AIDS. 
Compassion will help those who are already suffering from HIV. 

 "When topics to do with sex are considered taboo, people do not wish 
to discuss them, people do not think it in good taste to discuss such 
matters. But we cannot avoid discussions if we are to help those who 
are already suffering from HIV, and to prevent the further spread of 
the disease."

 "The tendency to discriminate against those who have HIV is the 
worst killer: it is not HIV itself but lack of compassion and lack of 
information that is making people die from AIDS." 



July 10-16, 2000

[BurmaNet--About the source--The Myanmar Times is ostensibly a 
private sector publication but appears to be sponsored or closely 
affiliated with the Office of Strategic Studies which is part of the 
military intelligence agency.]

By Dr. Sein Tu

THE World Health Organization dropped the equivalent of a bombshell 
on Yangon on 21 June with its publication of The World Health Report 
2000, relegating Myanmar to a ranking of 190 out of a total of 191 
member states. The Government, international health experts and 
general public reacted with anger and outrage branding the report as 
incredibly subjective and lacking in substance. It refuted its 

Using 5 parameters or performance indicators in its report "Health 
Systems: Improving Performance" it assessed and ranked the health 
care systems of its member countries in order of their effectiveness, 
pushing Myanmar to the second bottom of its list as having the second 
worst health system in the entire world.

This news predictably led to an outburst of fury and indignation. One 
international entrepreneur termed the WHO ranking "outrageous." Some 
analysts were quick to discern the Machiavellian hand of political 
pressure groups and the presence of subjective pique in the 
preparation of the Report. Lending credence to such allegations is 
the fact that the only country ranked lower than Myanmar is Sierra 
Leone, where they have been taking UN troops hostage and shooting up 
UN convoys.

The UN report was categorically rejected by the Government of the 
Union of Myanmar in its communiqué of 28 June. In its press release 
the Ministry of Health stated: "The Ministry of Health has learnt 
with deep regret that the WHO in The World Health Report 2000 issued 
in Geneva, ranks Myanmar near the bottom of the list, notwithstanding 
the significant gains made by the Myanmar health system in recent 

"The Ministry finds it highly objectionable that unreliable methods 
have been employed to arrive at the assessment. Myanmar is aggrieved 
that its unrelenting efforts to improve health system performance 
have not been given the recognition it deserves but instead 
discredited. "The report is an egregious misrepresentation of the 
overall health system performance of Myanmar. In the circumstance, 
the Ministry of Health finds the report totally unacceptable." 

The Ministry also criticised WHO for not consulting pertinent data 
published by the government, and its reliance instead on questionable 
material provided by prejudiced informants. It further declared 
unequivocally the report constituted an insult to the entire 
patriotic health personnel who are providing dedicated health care to 
the people.

The communiqué reiterated its total rejection of the World Health 
Report 2000 and reaffirmed that the Ministry would proceed on its 
chosen path to implement all aspects of modern health services for 
the benefit of every Myanmar citizen.

Dr Mya Oo, Deputy Minister for Health, responded with a letter of 
protest to Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO in 
Geneva on 26 June and expressed dismay. In his letter Dr Mya Oo 
recalled the long and fruitful association which Myanmar has had with 
WHO, UN Agencies and international NGOs in markedly reducing maternal 
mortality, infant mortality, and under 5 years mortality.

The Deputy Minister then totally rejected the WHO assessment and 
ranking on overall health system performance of Myanmar. The WHO used 
5 performance indicators to assess the health care of member states. 
These were (1) Overall Level of Population Health, (2) Health 
Inequalities, (3) Overall Level of Health System Responsiveness, i.e. 
patient satisfaction and how well the system is working, (4) 
Distribution of Responsiveness, or how well people of varying 
economic strata find their needs are being served, and (5) Fair 
Financing or the distribution of the cost of health systems among the 

Taking up each of the five parameters used by the WHO in turn, Dr Mya 
Oo pointed out that the WHO calculations of Average Level of Health 
was based on erroneous data on life expectation which did not reflect 
the true situation. Similarly on Health Inequalities the WHO 
calculations ignored the data published in 1999 by the Central 
Statistical Organisation and "are thus based on wrong data and cannot 
be regarded as correct."

"Regarding Responsiveness, WHO estimates of Respect for Persons and 
Client Orientation are, at the best of times, extremely subjective 
measures that should be based on direct observations, especially the 
interaction between health care providers and recipients; these 
cannot be measured from afar by relying on "key informants" who are 
probably biased in the first place. The findings on this measure 
therefore inspire no credulity whatsoever," said Dr Mya Oo.

With regard to Fairness in Financing of Health Care the "WHO Report 
claimed that 87.4 per cent of the cost of health care in Myanmar are 
borne by the patients and it is accordingly ranked 190th in this 
category. The correct figure is 69.9pc according to published 
figures, which the WHO has totally ignored."

He also revealed that trust funds have for a long time been set up in 
most public hospitals to relieve the financial burden of health care 
for poor patients. Cost sharing has also been in force to charge 
people unable to pay for drugs and diagnostic procedures. A sizeable 
portion of these funds is set side for those who cannot afford to pay.

The Deputy Minister also pointed out that the Health Budget does not 
include the expenditures on health services provided by various other 
ministries including Railways, Energy and Mines. The Ministries of 
Health and Labour already have in place social security schemes to 
enable pre-payment by workers to ensure future health security. 
Special efforts are also being made to raise the quality of health 
services for rural people and close the gap between rural and urban 
areas. Nationwide projects for water and sanitation, immunisation, 
nutrition and disease prevention have been successfully implemented 
with the help of international agencies. A health insurance scheme is 
also being planned.

Regarding the Overall Ranking on Health Systems Performance, Dr Mya 
Oo stated the views of the Government candidly. He declared: "It is 
questionable how Myanmar is ranked 190 out of 191 in overall health 
sector performance. It is totally incomprehensible that those 
countries suffering from famine or ravages of war with total 
breakdown of all functions of government, including health systems, 
are ranked much higher than Myanmar. Therefore, WHO's assessment of 
Myanmar's health sector performance is totally unacceptable."

U Mya Oo concluded by stating the government anticipated amendments 
to the report after consultation with member countries. Inevitably, 
the WHO Report evoked a storm of protest in medical circles. The 
Director-General of the Myanmar Medical Research Directorate Dr Paing 
Soe, in an interview with the BBC on 27 June, roundly condemned WHO's 
decision to rank Myanmar below nations where internecine warfare have 
produced a total breakdown of governmental functions including 
delivery of health care systems, making the ranking ludicrous even to 
the man in the street. 

He also pointed out that in its Report the WHO had appointed itself 
judge and jury to downgrade Myanmar's health care status and that 
this ran counter to the spirit of mutual cooperation which had 
characterised relations between WHO and Myanmar in the past.

Dr Kyi Soe, Secretary of the National Health Committee and Director-
General of the Dept. of Health Planning, when interviewed, also 
stated the criteria used by WHO to assess health performance were 
inapplicable to developing countries. 

With regard to the issue of Fair Financing, Dr Kyi Soe pointed out 
Myanmar had a built-in system for ensuring health care for the 
indigent. Free medical care and treatment is provided in public 
hospitals for those who cannot afford them. Help is also available 
for the indigent from trust funds donated by the community in almost 
every hospital. At last report these funds totalled Kyat135 million. 

He criticised the WHO for totally ignoring the role of Traditional 
Medicine in Myanmar and many other eastern countries. "These 
medicines are effective, cheap, popular and readily available 
throughout the country," he said. Dr Kyi Soe also issued an 
invitation for visitors to come to Myanmar and see for themselves the 
progress that has been made in the economic, social and health 

U Kyi Soe also queried the definition of the term "poor". While 
conceding that in terms of economic income Myanmar might be poor, he 
pointed out that if "poor" referred to a poor quality of life, then a 
Buddhist country like Myanmar was rich indeed.

"America, for example, is an economically rich and powerful country 
but the crime rate is one of the highest in the world, millions of 
old people die of loneliness in old people's homes, and domestic 
violence and child abuse are major problems. One in three marriages 
ends in divorce, and pornography is widespread.

"In Myanmar, a developing country, parents are honored and respected 
by their children, the crime rate is very low, divorce and suicide 
are almost unheard of, as are domestic violence and child abuse, and 
pornography and sexual abuse are non-existent," he said.

He stated that economically backward though it may be, Myanmar 
definitely possesses an infinitely richer quality of life. Dr Sein 
Tu, Contributing Editor to Myanmar Times, is a former Professor in 
Clinical Psychology and has an MA from Columbia and a PhD from 



Yangon (Rangoon) Other Dated Added: 2000-06-11 Submitted by: Anon

new- Had an amazing time in Myanmar. There are basically only 2 
places to meet working girls. Both are bars. One is called the 
Equitorial and the other is called Asia Plaza. Both places reminded 
me of Bangkok. The Equitorial has incredibly beautiful women, and is 
where most of the foreigners hang out.

As soon as you walk in the door you are ambushed by the young vixens. 
Prices range from US $30 - $50 for all night and into the morning. I 
settled on $45 for the first women, and her friend for an additional 
$30. A nice BBBJ. I came in both their mouths. Such a rare occurrence 
in my experience. 

You've got to be careful since the girls don't care whether or not 
you use a condom for f/s. Many times with many different women I had 
to stop them and tell them to wait until I had a shield on. Although 
I enjoy a condomless BJ. 

Asia plaza is where the locals go. I prefer it much better because I 
was always the only white dude in there...so I had the pick of the 
place. The girls seem to enjoy US currency over the worthless Kyat. 
Girls are beautiful and prices are from 20-40 dollars. 40 dollars 
being charged for a goddess for 24 hours. There is a small cover 
charge at both places...when you sit down a girl will always come 
over and sit with you. They are aggressive. If you don't care for 
that approach, just keep sending them away and after 20mins or so 
they'll stop coming by. If the girl sits with you awhile and you 
decide not to keep her, you are expected to tip her 1000 kyats ( 1-2 
dollars). It is no problem to take any of the girls back to any 
hotel. I have stayed at all 5 of the 4-5 star hotels the many times I 
was there and it was never a problem. Trust me, you will find working 
girls no where else in Yangon. Ming-ga-la-ba.



By Aung Hla Tun 

 YANGON, July 11 (Reuters) - Around 60,000 Myanmar college students 
are set to restart classes on July 24, officials said, as the 
military government gradually reopens campuses shut down more than 
three years ago after pro-democracy rallies. 

 ``Classes for second-year, third-year and first-year students, those 
who matriculated in 1996, will be opened on July 24. Total student 
numbers in these classes will be 60,000 in the whole country,'' a 
senior Ministry of Education official told Reuters. 

 Yangon's ruling generals ordered the closure of more than 30 
universities and colleges a few days before final examinations in 
December 1996, after student demonstrations at campuses and on the 
streets of the capital. 

 More than 100,000 students were affected, and hundreds of thousands 
more who finished school since 1996 are still awaiting the chance to 
start university studies. 

 The education ministry official said fourth year classes for arts 
and science subjects reopened at universities and colleges throughout 
the country on June 27. 

 ``Classes for those matriculated in 1997, 1998 and 1999 will begin 
about three, six and nine months later, respectively... After that 
the academic year for all classes will be normalised,'' he said. 

 An official at the Ministry of Science and Education said classes 
for fifth and sixth-year students at the technological universities 
in Yangon, Pyi and Mandalay had also re-opened in June, while first 
and second-year classes had been going on in these institutions since 

 ``They are all now pursuing their studies peacefully,'' he said. 

 Myanmar's university's and colleges have long been hotbeds of anti-
government dissent. Universities and colleges were closed for years 
after the military crushed a student-led, pro-democracy uprising in 


 More than 400,000 students have passed matriculation exams since the 
closure of universities and colleges in 1996. 

 Some are still waiting to start university, but many have joined the 
University Distance Education (UDE) correspondence course scheme to 
pursue their studies, officials say. 

 ``UDE programmes are becoming more and more popular among the 
students. They can work while studying,'' one UDE official said. 

 Official statistics show there were 105 universities and colleges in 
Myanmar in November 1999. 

 The Bangkok-based All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF) 
opposition group said this week education in the country was in 
crisis despite the reopening of classes. 

 ``Only 40 percent of qualified students have so far enrolled because 
of the junta's economic and educational mismanagement,'' it said in a 

 ``Intending students and their parents are being forced to sign 
official guarantees that they will not be involved in any political 
activities,'' the ABSDF said. 

 ``The students face transportation difficulties because the new 
sites of some colleges and universities have been relocated...far 
away from urban centres, purposely located close to military and riot-
police bases.'' 

 It said reopened institutions lacked sufficient accommodation, 
equipment and trained teachers, and added many young people had left 
the country in search of work. 

 ``Most of those who remain in the country can barely afford to feed 
themselves and their families, let alone pay for education fees,'' 
the ABSDF said. 



July 9, 2000

Michael Sheridan, Myawadi, Burma 

Burmese oppression: a brief history

THEIR eyes still have a vacant, traumatised stare. Their words are 
full of pain and fear. The tale told by these two shattered young men 
is a horrible one of murder, beatings and virtual slavery as forced 
labour for the Burmese army in a brutal, hidden war.  

Myo Myo Knynt, 27, and his friend Aung Htan Oo, 18, were able to tell 
their story because they escaped into the jungle after soldiers 
killed three of their workmates. They ended up in a refugee camp in 
Thailand, where they were interviewed last week.  

Their testimony, together with that of other fugitives, is further 
evidence that the Burmese junta and its foreign apologists are lying 
about the regime's use of forced labour in breach of international 

Burma is facing new political and diplomatic pressure as a result of 
an unprecedented vote by the Geneva-based International Labour 
Organisation (ILO) last month to compel the regime to end forced 
labour. Rangoon has until November 30 to comply or ILO member states, 
employers' groups and unions worldwide will be asked to review 
dealings with Burma and to take measures against any company or 
individual implicated in forced labour.  

The regime, which calls itself the State Peace and Development 
Council, sees it as a critical setback. It denies using forced 
labour. China, Japan, Singapore and others that either support the 
junta or advocate quiet engagement with it, failed to block the ILO 

As Burmese diplomats and their allies were arguing in Geneva that 
forced labour was either an ancient tradition or a myth, the two 
young men were living through its awful reality.  

Myo Myo Knynt was made to carry packs of landmines. His shoulders 
still bear livid scars where the straps bit into his flesh. Aung Htan 
Oo has bruises and scars from beatings.  

The two were taken from jail in Mandalay in late May. One was there 
for brawling, the other accused of stealing a bicycle. They were told 
if they worked as porters for the army, they would be set free after 
a month or two. They reached the town of Pa'an by truck, where they 
found 450 fellow prisoners all waiting to be taken on operations by 
the 203rd and 204th battalions against rebels from the Karen minority 
group in the misty Dawna mountains.  

Both men said they got only a handful of rice to eat and there was no 
medicine. Porters fought over food and some died of malaria or 

On June 4 they saw three prisoners, accused of trying to escape, 
being dragged by soldiers up a slope above the jungle path. "We heard 
six or seven shots," said Aung Htan Oo, "and they told us the 
prisoners had been killed."  

The two friends agreed they had to try to escape. "We knew that if we 
stayed we would die," said Myo Myo Knynt. A few days later, they ran 

Barely educated, they had little concept of the Burmese military's 50-
year struggle against Karen insurgents. Eventually, they reached the 
Mae river, which divides Burma from Thailand.  
"We got into the water up to our chests and got across. Then we saw 
the Karen soldiers," said Myo Myo Knynt. They were welcomed and given 
food, medical treatment and shelter. It was June 7, one week before 
the ILO vote.  

In a village along the river, seven more porters, also convicts from 
Mandalay, were still hiding last week in fear of Burmese troops, 
whose positions could be seen in the distance. All told similar 
stories of beatings, torture and malnutrition.  

Some of the worst suffering is inflicted upon Karen villagers in the 
area, caught between the army and Karen guerrillas. Two mothers, Mu 
Tu, 30, and Maw Se Thaw, 20, said they were forced to flee with their 
babies in the night of June 22 from their village of Tamawpakki after 
soldiers came to pressgang men to work on a road near the border.  

"They shot and killed two people who tried to run away," said Maw Se 
Thaw. "They stole our animals and took six to 10 men away with them. 
We were so frightened we had to leave."  

Accounts of rape, sexual abuse and looting by soldiers are manifold. 
Many local people have given detailed statements to the Karen Human 
Rights Group, testifying that some forced labourers are used as human 
minesweepers to walk in front of Burmese troops. "One porter stepped 
on a landmine and they shot him," said Naw Lay Wah, a villager, in a 

Others told of conscripted villagers being beaten and stabbed to 
death after they collapsed from exhaustion. Many have described how 
the porters are fed methamphetamines to curb their appetites and keep 
them working - a neat combination of the regime's criminal narcotics 
business and its institutionalised brutality.  

The Karen guerrillas boobytrap paths with a few landmines, but the 
army is known to seed rural land with thousands of the devices. Myo 
Myo Knynt was carrying packs of MM1 or MM2 antipersonnel mines, which 
are made in Burma in factories supplied by China, the regime's key 
foreign backer.  

China has exploited the West's policy of using sanctions to isolate 
the regime. It has turned Burma into a military ally and a commercial 
market for its merchants.  

In Myawadi, a shabby border town, soldiers drive around in new olive-
green trucks from the Lijiang factory in China, and carry Chinese-
made weapons and ammunition.  

Forced labour is now clearly intrinsic to the regime's control of the 
country. It keeps the army in the field. It is used to build 
infrastructure. Thai businesses buy logs felled by forced labourers 
and any company dealing with Rangoon is likely to be involved, even 
indirectly, in a system contaminated by this modern form of slavery.  

Britain and America remain the strongest proponents of sanctions. 
While China makes no secret of its policy, Singapore has quietly 
supplied arms and continues to invest there.  
Japan tries to balance its commercial interests with efforts to 
persuade the military to reform. France is suspected by human rights 
campaigners of profound ambiguity over projects run by the 

Total energy company.  

For the poor, ill-educated folk of rural Burma, such geopolitics are 
as remote as the Moon, but their own nightmare is a daily reality.  

"If I have to look back on my life, this was the very worst time," 
said Naw Ther Paw, a Karen villager pressed into labour. "My heart 
was gone."  
Burmese oppression: a brief history 

 1947 National hero Aung San, father of Aung San Suu Kyi, 
1948 Independence from Britain. Country beset by wars of secession by 
Karen and Shan minorities.  
1962 Military coup led by General Ne Win. Burma closed to outside 
1987 Students demonstrate. 

1988 Protesters massacred, generals seize power. 

1990 Aung San Suu Kyi wins election landslide. Army refuses to cede 
1999 Michael Aris, British husband of Aung San Suu Kyi, dies of 
cancer, denied a visa to see his wife for the last time.  
2000 Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. Ne Win, 90, still 
dominates political life.   

___________________________ REGIONAL ___________________________


Islamic Republic News Agency

Kuala Lumpur, July 10, IRNA -- The World Health Organization would 
invest one million US dollars to tackle HIV/AIDS, malaria and 
tuberculosis along the Thai border with 
The Thai's daily, the Bangkok Post quoted Thailand's Public Health 
Minister Korn Dabbaransi as saying the problem would never be solved 
without the co-operation of neighbouring countries and international 

''Thailand has been bearing a cost of over 200 million baht (5.25 
million dollars) every year in taking care of the health of 
immigrants from neighboring countries,'' he said at the end of the 
first meeting of Health administrators on bilateral cooperation in 
disease control between Thailand and 

''We are at the stage at which we can no longer bear the cost 
alone,'' Korn 
He said the financial aid would reduce malaria cases, increase condom 
use and cure tuberculosis. 
Korn said the health ministries of the two nations hope to reduce 
malaria by 5 a year, achieve 100 percent increase in condom use and 
enforce 'directly observed treatments' by 85 percent in all districts 
and towns along the Burmese 

Due to the incomplete intake of drugs among patients, malaria and 
tuberculosis was on the increase from 1000,000 to 120,000 between 
1996-1998, mostly among foreign migrants seeking treatment along the 

Korn said the health ministry was concerned about the increase of 
HIV/AIDS and report that 80 percent of female sex workers along Burma-
Thailand border towns of Tak, Chiang Rai and Ranong were 



YANGON, July 11 (Reuters) - A state-run Myanmar newspaper on Tuesday 
said Thailand was worsening its own drugs problem by harbouring 
insurgents and should work together with Myanmar to combat the 
problem rather than trading accusations. 

 A commentary in the Myanma Alin newspaper said Thailand was 
harbouring rebel groups which financed their activities by drug 
trafficking. Official papers in Myanmar are seen as official 
mouthpieces of the military government. 

 ``Don't accept the insurgents from other countries, who are 
pretending to be 'freedom fighters' or 'democracy activists','' the 
newspaper said. ``You will have to experience various troubles as 
long as you consider them refugees or friends.'' 

 The Thai army said last month that drug production and trafficking 
from Myanmar was increasing rapidly and posed a serious threat to 
Thailand and other countries in the region. 

 Speaking on a tour of Thailand's Golden Triangle region, on the 
borders of Myanmar and Laos, Thai military officials said the mass 
relocation of ethnic minorities within Myanmar over the last year had 
fuelled a massive increase in drugs production. 

 Myanmar is the world's second largest producer of opium and its 
derivative heroin, as well as a major source of amphetamines. It says 
it it is tackling the problem. 

 ``Narcotic drug problems have now become such a common issue that we 
need to solve them by co-operating in good faith,'' the paper said, 
telling Thailand not to ``echo the malicious accusations of the 

__________________ INTERNATIONAL __________________


July 10, 2000

BELGRADE - Yugoslav President Slobodan Mlosevic met Burma's Foreign 
Minister Win Aung on Thursday in Belgrade and said he was convinced 
their "successful cooperation would continue, Serbian state 
television RTS said. 

Milosevic said both countries were connected, because they "resist 
domination in the world" and were subject to attempts by the West to 
destabilize them. 

He called sanctions imposed on sovereign states a "criminal form of 
behavior . a massive violation of human rights". 

In deep international isolation since its campaign against ethnic 
minorities in Kosovo Milosevic's regime has turned to other countries 
also shunned by much of the world community, such as North Korea, 
Libya and Cuba. 

Military-ruled Burma is a pariah state because of the regime's 
undemocratic rule, widespread human rights abuses and failure to 
suppress large-scale heroin and amphetamine export Deutsche Presse-

_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________


July 11, 2000


Hong Kong factory owners have become the target of activists in the 
United States after helping to fuel a sharp rise in Burma's clothing 
exports to the world's most lucrative consumer market. 
Garment makers operating in the military-run country are able to pay 
perhaps the lowest rates for piece work - as little as four US cents 
an hour, claims the New York-based National Labour Committee (NLC). 

This is significantly lower than even the hourly take-home pay of so-
called "sweat shop" workers in Bangladesh, 13-20 US cents, Indonesia, 
20 US cents, or the mainland, 28 US cents, the NLC said. 

Moreover, the workers' rights group complained, profits from clothing 
factories in Burma go directly to help an unpopular, incompetent and 
widely criticised regime stay in power. 

"This is the worst sort of labour exploitation - it is the height of 
irresponsibility," said Phil Robertson, the Thailand country director 
of the Solidarity Centre, an American non-government organisation 
concerned with labour issues. 

"Hong Kong factory owners who go in there are the lowest of the low 
as far as the international garment industry is concerned," he said. 

This is vigorously disputed by Jerry Pang, of Victoria Garments in 

"As far as we are concerned we are helping the people out. Our type 
of labour-intensive industry helps people the most in a poor country 
such as Burma," he said. 

Burma's clothing exports to the US climbed by 85 per cent in the 
first quarter of this year, after rising by 45 per cent last year and 
49 per cent in 1998. 

According to a United States embassy commercial guide, in 1998 there 
were about 30 textile and garment factories in Burma, at least half 
of them wholly or partly foreign-owned "mostly by Hong Kong or South 
Korean firms". 

It said joint ventures were usually either with Burma Textile 
Industries, a state firm, or with the Union of Burma Economic 
Holdings, one of the military's commercial arms. 

There are other dangers. The NLC report noted that Wal-Mart Canada 
imported at least one shipload of garments this year from Every Green 
(Burma) Overseas - a factory controlled by former drug warlord Lo 
Hsing Han, whose son is banned from the US on suspicion of 
involvement in drug trafficking. 

The following factories have Hong Kong owners according to a recent 
official list of businesses: Burma Winner Garment Manufacturing, 
Burma Unimix International, Rangoon Knit Garment Manufacturing, Burma 
Euroworld International, Group Link (Burma), Rangoon Sportswear 
Manufacturing, Prime Industrial, Rangoon Garment Manufacturing, 
Yantzekiang Industries (Burma) and Eastern World. All, save the last 
two, are listed as joint ventures. 

The latest campaign against Burma-based garment makers points out the 
risks of doing business with a regime which has become a favourite 
target of Western activists. 

The NLC is sending stiff letters to the likes of Warner Bros, Bugle 
Boy, Jordache, Kohl's, Adidas and Nautica asking why they import from 

Whereas activists want other cheap labour centres to adhere to 
minimal labour standards they argue that factory owners should steer 
clear of Burma altogether. 

"Burma has the worst name in the US. I can assure manufacturers that 
the American labour movement will run down every movement out of 
Burma," said Mr Robertson. "You cannot do business in Burma without 
consorting with the military dictatorship." 

US jeans-maker Levi Strauss pulled out of Burma saying: "Under 
current circumstances it is not possible to do business in Burma 
without directly supporting the military government and its pervasive 
violations of human rights." 

The International Labour Organisation has suspended Burma, and asked 
its 174 member countries to review their relations with it, because 
of the regime's widespread use of forced labour. 

In a sign of the power of lobby groups, the sportswear-maker Adidas 
quickly denied that it sources bags from Burma any longer. A company 
representative said pictures of "Adidas - Made in Burma labels" on 
the NLC Web site must either be old or of counterfeits. 

But, Mr Pang argued, sanctions hurt the very people they were 
designed to help: "No country is more sanctioned against than North 
Korea or Cuba yet they are still run by die-hard dictators. Only the 
people are suffering." 

When Victoria Garments opened its joint-venture factory - with the 
Ministry of Industry's textiles division in 1989 - more than 2,000 
young Burmese queued in monsoon rain for 400 jobs. 

The group soon had four factories operating in the country. 

"They are proud people and proud people make good workers. They 
believe in what they are doing," Mr Pang said. 

"If you learn of the country from reading a newspaper you would not 
touch it with a 10-foot pole but in reality it is not so bad." 

Mr Pang cited high literacy and more than 50 per cent unemployment as 
creating a crying need for jobs. 

"And Burma is a very good production place for us. There are no 
hidden costs. 

"I can tell you the country is relatively uncorrupt. Against 
Indonesia or the Philippines there is no comparison." 

However garment makers may be the only Hong Kong investors in Burma 
doing well. Many hoteliers are doing poor business and bank 
representative officers are mostly idle. 


9 July 2000

No: 7-2

The international meeting in Thailand held late last month declared 
its  opposition to the dam project in the Shan State, reported a Shan 
participant. The declaration said it "oppose(s) the control of rivers 
and resources by  illegitimate and repressive governments, as in 

It also served notice that "No development projects should be built 
without  the voluntary, prior and informed consent of all affected 
people  Information regarding proposed project must be disclosed, in 
a timely and  transparent manner." It also demanded "democratic 

The meeting was held, 29 June - 1 July, Kong Jiam, Ubon Province, 
and  attended by representatives from 12 countries that included 
Burma,  Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, 
Malaysia, Philippines,  Taiwan, Thailand and and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, topographical survey and surface mapping is still going on 
at  the dam site in Tasarng, Shan State. "It shall continue for 
another 5  months," said an informed source.

The core drilling of rock formations on both banks of the Salween 
was  completed in May by EGAT (Electricity Generating Authority of 
Thailand)  which was contracted by the GMS Power, a subsidiary of the 
MDX firm in  Thailand.


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