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

July 24, 2000

Issue # 1582

The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:

*Inside Burma



























__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________


July 23, 2000
Doug Bandow
>From a distance the jungle looks peaceful. Dense, green plant growth 
covers hills that march endlessly onward. Primitive villages emerge 
in simple clearings: wood and bamboo buildings, covered by thatched 
roofs, sitting on stilts, and open to rain, animals and mosquitoes. 

War is everywhere. Two million ethnic minorities have been displaced 
by 50 years of conflict: 243 of them lived in Law Thi Hta, located 
just across the Moi River from Mae Sot, Thailand.

Underrepresented in ethnic Karen villages are young males. Many of 
them are serving in the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).

War consumes their lives. One 22-year-old told me he had been 
fighting "for many years," perhaps 10. But Gen. Bo Mya, who also 
serves as vice president of the Karen National Union (KNU), joined 
the Karen revolution when it started in 1949. Gen. Saw Htey Maung, 
the 70-year-old commander of the 7th Brigade, described how he 
started with the Karen Rifles, then part of the British Army, in 1946.

Gen. Ne Win seized power in Burma, now officially Myanmar, in 1962. 
Mass democracy protests in 1988 were crushed with martial law backed 
by bullets. The ruling junta foolishly called elections two years 
later, which were won by the National League for Democracy, headed by 
Aung San Suu Kyi. The self-styled State Peace and Development Council 
(SPDC) annulled the election, put Suu Kyi under house arrest, and 
arrested many of her followers.

Although international attention has focused on Suu Kyi, the more 
serious threat to the ruling junta comes from the Karen and other 
ethnic groups, which have been fighting for autonomy since Burma won 
independence. During the last decade several of them have come to 
terms with Rangoon. In areas like that populated by the Shan, the 
government seems to have traded acquiescence in a booming narcotics 
trade for a cease-fire. But the Karen, who are resolutely anti-drug, 
and several other ethnic groups fight on.

 In response, the SPDC has expanded its military to some 400,000. 
Conscripts are simply dragged off the streets. Two years ago 13-year-
old Yei Shweh took a bus to Rangoon to see the big city: He was 
arrested by the army when he arrived. Pay is irregular, training 
sparse and morale low. Yei Schweh, who has defected to the KNLA, says 
the military "never told us why we were fighting." In fact, he says, 
most Burmese soldiers favor the democracy movement, but brutality and 
fear keep them in the ranks.
 Rangoon maintains numerous bases in eastern Burma and periodically 
strikes at villages suspected of harboring rebels. SPDC forces 
impress civilians, women as well as men, as porters for months at a 
time. Hungry soldiers take villagers' crops and livestock. Refugees 
also report frequent beatings, rapes, and murder, stories confirmed 
by Yei Shweh and other defectors.

 As a result, the Karen fight desperately. One 38-year-old guerrilla, 
whose long brown hair made him look more like a Bohemian resident of 
Greenwich Village than a dedicated defender of Burmese villages, 
figures he has killed some 200 SPDC soldiers.

 The battle remains sadly uneven, however. The KNLA fields 4,000 to 
5,000 ill-equipped guerrillas. The troops I met tended to run from 
teens to 30s. They mix fatigues and boots with ethnic Karen 
wraparound skirts, flip-flops, and American-language shorts, T-shirts 
and baseball caps. Soldiers carry a motley assemblage of arms, 
ranging from antiquated M1 carbines to captured Ma rifles to AK-47s 
to home-made teak landmines.

 The KNLA usually inflict far more casualties than they suffer ?they 
claim a 20-to-1 kill ratio. But they can rarely stop a determined 
SPDC offensive. The Karen lost their capital of Manerplaw ("victory 
field") four years ago and are increasingly pressed against the Thai 

 The dry season is known as the "killing season" because steep jungle 
trails dry out and rushing streams run low. Military action typically 
ends midyear, but SPDC troops arrived at Law Thi Hta before the rain. 
Just six weeks after my visit earlier this year, Burmese forces 
advanced, burning the village, including a small hospital constructed 
by Christian Freedom International (CFI), a relief group based in 
Front Royal, Va. A second clinic to the north, along with an entire 
refugee camp housing 4,000 people, also was destroyed. "This happens 
every year," observes CFI head Jim Jacobson, but this is one of the 
worst years."

 Gen. Htey offers a positive spin: Since the Karen rely on "guerrilla 
tactics, hit-and-run," it looks "to the outside world that we are 
losing. But every month we can see that the casualties of the SPDC 
are more than before."

 In fact, the Burmese government's victories are usually costly and 
often temporary. The SPDC cannot garrison the rugged and isolated 
jungles. But it doesn't have to. All it has to do is terrorize and 
displace the Karen. As Gen. Htey acknowledges, "the SPDC try to fight 
the grass roots, our backbone, the villages," so the people "don't 
have the morale to support us with food or anything else."

 The plight of the Karen is only likely to worsen. Thailand recently 
announced that with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner 
for Refugees it hopes to move 100,000 refugees back into Burma within 
three years. Khachadpai Burusapatana, secretary general of the Thai 
National Security Council, claims "the current situation in Myanmar 
is favorable for repatriation."

 Yet fighting continues to rage. Karen National Union (KNU) President 
Saw Ba Thin says "only a political settlement can make peace last." 
Karen representatives have met with the central government several 
times, most recently in 1996. But "on all of these occasions it told 
the KNU to lay down its arms instead of trying to reach an 
understanding through political discussion."

 Earlier this year Rangoon rejected an offer from the KNU to 
negotiate at neutral location outside of Burma transmitted by Jim 
Jacobson to Tin Winn, Burma's ambassador to the U.S. Mr. Winn 
suggested instead the KNU send representatives to Rangoon. But there 
is no evidence the SPDC is prepared to end its murderous 
depredations, let alone offer the autonomy for which the Karen have 
been fighting for a half-century.

 Which leaves Suu Kyi and the Karen alike hoping for outside support. 
In a video smuggled out of Burma earlier this year, Suu Kyi called 
for greater international. Gen. Htey says "If we had a chance we 
would request that the American people help us to get our freedom 

 But what can be done about a repressive and isolated regime like the 
SPDC? It is supported by China, which covets naval access to Burma's 
long coastline and began arming and financing Rangoon in 1990. U.S. 
and European Union sanctions inconvenience the SPDC, but have not 
shaken its hold on power. Unfortunately, though, warns Robert Manning 
of the Council on Foreign Relations, as a result of sanctions 
Rangoon "has drifted toward Beijing." Economic restrictions also 
impoverish those who languish under SPDC jackboots.

 KNU President Saw Ba Thin says "we'd like to see the U.S. government 
increase pressure like trade sanctions and diplomatic sanctions, and 
other pressures." But most countries believe sanctions have failed 
and are moving in the opposite direction. At meetings in Seoul 
earlier this year Asian, European and U.S. officials met to consider 
new approaches to Burma.

 Some Karen pine for Western military intervention. Last year a top 
KNU official told Rich Miniter, a journalist colleague of mine: "Do 
like you did in Kosovo." Saw Ba Thin concurs: "If the American 
government could do it, it would be helpful." Similarly, Gen. Htey 
says "You are from the U.S. You can come and help us." However, 
America's interest in the Karen's struggle is humanitarian, not 
strategic, and does not justify risking U.S. lives.

 A better alternative to current policy is probably a mix of 
diplomatic pressure, which can most effectively be applied by Japan, 
India and the ASEAN states, and economic engagement, primarily by 
private individuals and organizations. Over time, broader contact 
with the West might strengthen internal democratic forces. But this 
will be an uncertain and long-term process at best.

 The West's most important role may be to help the Karen and other 
ethnic peoples cope with the SPDC's brutality. That largely means 
private assistance, such as that provided by CFI, since neither the 
U.N. nor Western governments will work in Burma against Rangoon's 
express wishes.

 Scores of wars dot the globe. Occasionally one captures newspaper 
headlines ?EKosovo last year, for instance. Most languish in 
obscurity, like Burma.

 "Remember the Karen people. Don't abandon us like the British did," 
Saw Ba Thin pleads. But most of the world doesn't know enough about 
the Karen to abandon them. The Karen's only hope seems to lie in 
groups like CFI, which are helping oppressed peoples survive until 
the so far illusive political solution is found.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former 
special assistant to President Reagan. This column was adapted from a 
recent article in the American Spectator..



July 23, 2000
BANGKOK (Kyodo)- Burma will not press to be allowed to join a 
cooperation agreement between the European Union (EU) and the 
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the time being, 
Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung said Sunday. 

Due to accusations of human rights violations against Burmese 
military junta, Rangoon will be the sole member of ASEAN left out of 
the 1980 EU-ASEAN agreement -- which mainly aims to boost economic 
activities -- after Laos and Cambodia join July 26, coinciding with a 
series of meetings among ASEAN ministers in Bangkok this week.



July 23, 2000 

BANGKOK - Myanmar's foreign minister admitted Sunday that 
amphetamines production within its borders had risen this year, and 
said the international community must do more to help it combat the 
deadly trade. 

 Speaking to reporters on his arrival in Bangkok for the Association 
of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers' meeting which 
opens here Monday, Myanmar's Win Aung said the amphetamine scourge 
was worsening. 

 "The production of amphetamine tablets has increased. More than 17 
million tablets have been seized so far this year," he said after a 
meeting with his Thai counterpart Surin Pitsuwan. 

 "We need to tackle this cooperatively. Nobody should put the 
responsibility on only one government, on only one country. It is the 
responsibility of many, many countries too." 

 The Thai army estimates that 600 million amphetamine tablets -- 
known as "ya baa" or "crazy drug" here due to their catastrophic 
effects -- flooded over the porous border with Thailand last year. 

 Heroin trafficking is now yesterday's problem, and amphetamines have 
been named Thailand's number one national security threat. The United 
States has also said it is extremely concerned about the spread of 
the new drug. 

 Surin said that cooperation with Myanmar on dealing with the 
trafficking problem would be substantially stepped up. 

 "There are mechanisms already existing between the two countries. We 
have agreed that we will accelerate the meetings, exchanges and 
cooperation," he said. 

 Myanmar is widely accused of turning a blind eye to the ethnic 
armies who churn out heroin, amphetamines and ecstasy from refineries 
inside the border with Thailand. 

 In return, critics of the junta say, the the rebel armies have 
agreed to fragile ceasefires with the military government. 

 The United States and many other Western states have imposed 
economic and political sanctions on Myanmar because of its military 
rule and alleged human rights violations and tolerance of the drug 

 The head of the US drugs control office Barry McCaffrey said here 
last month that his country was determined not to give Myanmar money 
to fight drugs. 

 "There are goals of democracy, rule of law and human rights that 
constrain us in what we can do to work with the current military 
regime," he said. 

 But Win Aung put the blame back in his neighbours' court Sunday, 
saying that the Myanmar drug trade did not exist in isolation. 

 "For instance, chemicals. Without chemicals how can you produce 
amphetamine tablets," he said, adding that without the flow of raw 
materials into its territory the trade would dry up. 

 "These are complex questions," he said. "Most important is the will 
to tackle this problem, and we have the will." 




July 23, 2000

YANGON - A well-known Myanmar brothel run by a man who gave sizeable 
donations to the government has been shut down and its owner 
sentenced to 20 years, state media said. 
 Police raided "a well-known brothel, the 'Nine Angel Inn'" in a 
suburb of Yangon and arrested its owner, the state-owned New Light of 
Myanmar said. 
Owner Tin Nwe and five of his accomplices were charged under the 
prostitution suppression act and sentenced to twenty years in prison, 
it said. 

 Sources told AFP that the brothel was tacitly condoned by a number 
of police and local councillors, who were then fired in the wake of 
the raid, which took place in June. 

 The sources also said that Tin Nwe had donated sizable sums of money 
to the government's religious affairs department. 

 A huge photograph of Tin Nwe and Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, 
first secretary of the ruling junta, took pride of place there they 

 In recent months, there have been several reports by the foreign 
media that Myanmar is developing into one of Southeast Asia's major 
centers for prostitution. 

 In the Nine Angel Inn raid police found foreign currencies 
suggesting that the brothel serviced both local and foreign clients. 



July 17, 2000

On 25th June, Burmese security forces in north Arakan killed a young 
Rohingya while rounding up 50 men to be used as slave labour.

According to a witness at the scene, the Burmese Na Sa Ka (border 
security forces) posted at Maungdaw township of Arakan state has 
bayoneted one Rohingya slave labourer. The victim was one of the 50 
labourers conscripted by the No. 10 unit of Command Area No. 4 of Na 
Sa Ka from Dumbai village at north Maungdaw of
Arakan State.

It was reported that 3 Burmese soldiers of Kying Chaung village out-
post, while taking away 50 Rohingya slave labourers by boat, were 
mercilessly beating and abusing the labourers on the way and at one 
stage bayoneted one Rashid Alam son of Abdul Mubin, 23years of Dumbai 
village. The victim fell into the creek but the SPDC forces prevented 
the others from rescuing him and the victim later succumbed to 

In another incident, 4 slave labourers were killed at a work site at 
Buthidaung Township on 20th June according to a relative of a victim.

It is reported that the Burmese army had engaged about 120 Rohingya 
Muslims from surrounding villages of Buthidaung township to construct 
barracks for newly established LIB-566 Regiment.

On the fateful day, 4 Rohingya forced labourers namely Ezhar Meah son 
of Sayed Ahmad 52 years, Kalu son of Basa Meah 48 years, Mahbub Karim 
son of Mohammed
Akbar, 50 years and Mohammad Nasim son of Sayed Omar 47, fell down 
from the mountain top while they were carrying timber under the heavy 

The commander supervising the construction did not allow to rescue 
the victims and instead shouted at the labourers to continue their 
work. Due to on rush of flash flood, the people could not trace the 
body and the victims died.

The ILO Convention in the last month condemned the Burmese regime for 
practising slave labour throughout Burma. The Burmese junta promptly 
denied the accusations.

___________________________ REGIONAL ___________________________


July 22, 2000

BANGKOK, Thailand.   Myanmar's pro-democracy movement agrees with 
Southeast Asian leaders who believe that the problems of one country 
can hurt others and should be tackled together, opposition leader 
Aung San Suu Kyi said. 

 In a videotaped message prepared for members of the Association of 
Southeast Asian Nations, she calls for a return to stability and the 
rule of law in Myanmar, ``Not only that our country may progress and 
our people may be happy, but that that we may be able to contribute 
towards stability and progress in our region.'' 

 ASEAN members will hold a series of meetings this week in Bangkok 
among themselves and with major dialogue partners such as the United 
States and Japan. 

 Copies of Suu Kyi's message were to be distributed by her 
sympathizers Monday, when ASEAN foreign ministers begin formal talks. 

 ASEAN is Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, also known as 
Burma, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
 ASEAN members have traditionally sought to avoid criticism of, or 
involvement in, each others' domestic affairs. 

 But Myanmar has become increasingly ostracized by much of the world, 
especially Western nations taking its military government to task for 
human rights abuses and failure to turn over power to a 
democratically elected government 

 Fellow ASEAN member and neighbor Thailand has become increasingly 
wary of the junta, in large part for its failure to curb the flow of 
illegal drugs into Thailand. 

 Thai officials are pushing for a new ASEAN attitude that would allow 
more involvement in each others' affairs. 

 Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, says her National 
League for Democracy and other forces working for democracy in Burma 
have always understood that the struggle is mainly their own. 

 ``It is our duty to do what we can to bring about necessary changes 
in our country,'' she says in a text of her statement distributed to 
the media ahead of the meeting. 

 Noting, however, that Myanmar's problems have spilled over its 
borders in the form of refugees in Bangladesh and Thailand, she says, 
``The days have passed when we can say that the troubles of one 
country can be isolated and that the internal affairs of one country 
are no concern of its neighbors.'' 



July 22, 2000

Thailand is suddenly awakening to a nightmare - a real nightmare. Its 
much acclaimed success in the war against opium and heroin pales when 
compared with the fight against the new drug threat of ya baa, or met 

When the first ya baa laboratory was discovered and raided in 1986 in 
the Nakhon Pathom-Ratchaburi area, anti-narcotics agencies were 
alerted to a potential explosion of a new cheap drug in the country. 

They were taken aback when the problem became aggravated over the 
decade as drug pushers began to target non-traditional users and 
innocent victims. Until then, ya baa pills were traditionally 
consumed by truck drivers and agricultural and factory workers to 
help enhance their performance during long hours of work. 

The discovery that the pills were being consumed by youths and school 
children as young as kindergarten kids startled not only the 
authorities and politicians but also parents who for the first time 
were alarmed by a potential threat that could hit their families. 
They also learned another sad reality: that many of those young 
consumers were out there selling the pills themselves. 

The government's serious campaign to close down urban laboratories 
drove producers to move their bases in 1992-1993 to provinces along 
the Burmese border. 
As Burma's Wa rebel group in the Shan State began to experiment in 
met amphetamine production in 1995, many of the Thai producers and 
traffickers found a new powerful ally across the porous frontier, 
which is inaccessible not only to Thai authorities but also to 
Burmese officials. 

As part of its 1989 cease-fire deal with the Burmese junta, the 
United Wa State Army (UWSA) was allowed to continue its drug trade to 
finance over 20,000 combat soldiers under its aegis. 

Last November when the UWSA started to resettle its highland 
population - Wa, Akha, Lahu as well as Chinese - from the Sino-
Burmese border down to the southern Shan State next to Thailand, Thai 
security and drug officers were still very much in the dark about the 
move and its motives. The international community was alarmed only 
when foreign journalists were taken to visit resettlement sites which 
Rangoon claimed were part of a campaign to wipe out opium cultivation 
in the Wa State by 2005. 

As the situation prevails, the impact of the Wa relocation is now 
beyond Thailand's initial imagination. While the UWSA has introduced 
cash crop cultivation and engaged in other economic activities such 
as bus transportation, trading and banking, it has not totally 
abandoned the drug industry. 

On the contrary, the Wa insurgency has intensified met amphetamine 
production and exploited its other economic networks to support the 
drug business. In partnership with Thai collaborators, the armed 
group has been successful in penetrating Thailand, which serves as a 
source of equipment and chemicals, a consumption base and a transit 
point to the world market. 

Privately, senior policy and drugs officials have admitted that 
Thailand is losing in its unilateral war against met amphetamine 
production, trade and abuse. The problems affronting the country are 
so grave that even US Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey "was shocked" when 
given a drug briefing while visiting Thailand late last month. 

Although met amphetamines, along with other cocktail drugs, abound in 
the US, they are still less popular when compared with cocaine and 
heroin. But the new pattern of consumption in Thailand through smoke 
inhalation has quickened the drug's effect to less than 10 seconds 
when compared with about half an hour through pill intake. An 
undisclosed scientific study discovered that met amphetamines destroy 
brain cells several times faster than other drugs including heroin. 

Thai drug agencies are at a dead end on how to combat the inflow of 
ya baa and how to prevent its abuse among the youth. The frustration 
and desperation were evident when top Thai army officers came out to 
openly attack the UWSA and particularly its mentor, the Burmese 
junta, for overlooking this serious threat to Thai national security. 

In recent months, it has become increasingly evident that Rangoon has 
no desire whatsoever to discourage or stop the Wa leaders from 
relying on the drug business. Burmese generals' visits to the Wa 
resettlement area, permission for Wa territorial expansion along the 
Thai border and new business concessions to Wa ringleaders only 
confirmed the fear Thailand has had all along that the two are 
partners in this crime against humanity. 

The Wa allegiance has allowed the Burmese regime to exploit its 
military strength and presence near Thailand as a proxy against other 
anti-Rangoon ethnic rebel groups and against Thailand in case of 
border conflicts. 

"The Burmese regime has actually exported its own problems [how to 
handle the Wa force] to Thailand which now has to face a totally new 
and powerful enemy," noted one frustrated senior official. 

For its part, what Thailand can do best for the moment is to 
intensify the control of production equipment and major chemicals 
such as caffeine which are crucial ingredients for the met 
amphetamine pills. But control itself has also proven futile as the 
measure only drives the trafficking of those substances underground. 

Although some Thai agencies support continued dialogue with Rangoon 
as a measure to help combat ya baa from inside Burma, others are 
talking of tough measures including such outdated Cold War methods as 
training and arming border villagers as Thailand's proxy. 

"We haven't ruled out any options but they are to be 
implemented in an incremental manner accordingly to the seriousness 
of the problems," said one official. "Even hot-pursuit or military 
strike on those Wa groups has come under consideration. We did it 
before with [opium warlord] Khun Sa, and we might do it again." 



July 22, 2000
MOREH, Manipur: A high-powered central team on Friday said there 
should be a few "composite check posts" along the Moreh-Imphal 
national highway number 39 to prevent smuggling through this border 
town in Chandel district. 

Expressing concern over the inflow of contraband goods from Burma, 
team chairman Madhav Godbole said at a meeting with district 
officials that there were many check posts along the highway now. 

Instead of having so many check posts manned by various agencies, 
there should be a few composite check posts of various departments 
along the highway to prevent smuggling from across the border, a 
senior official who attended the meeting said. 

The team will submit a detailed report to the Centre on problems at 
border areas in the north eastern region.



July 23, 2000

BANGKOK.  Myanmar Sunday shrugged off its exclusion from a 
cooperation agreement with the European Union (EU) which its 
neighbours will sign this week, and which would clear the way for 
more aid funding. 
The EU is to sign cooperation agreements with Cambodia and Laos here 
next week but has ruled out extending the same ties with Myanmar in 
the immediate future. 

 The three are the newest members of the Association of Southeast 
Asian Nations (ASEAN), which holds its annual meeting of foreign 
ministers here from Monday. The other members are already signatories 
to the agreement. 

 "We don't think we are being left out," Myanmar's Foreign Minister 
Win Aung told reporters on his arrival into the Thai capital. 

 "If this is not the time to join yet, maybe this is not the time. 
For us, there's no complaint," he said after meeting with his Thai 
counterpart, Surin Pitsuwan, in one of a flurry of bilateral talks 
held Sunday. 

 The agreements with Laos and Cambodia will be signed next week 
during a post-ministerial conference between ASEAN and its so-called 
dialogue partners who include the United States, Japan, China and the 

 ASEAN also groups Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, 
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

 On Friday, EU official Thierry Rommel said the bloc was working out 
how, outside the cooperation agreement, it could boost humanitarian 
aid to Myanmar without compromising its strong stand against the 
country's military regime. 

 "The Commission has been invited by the member states to see what 
the EU can do in terms of increasing humanitarian assistance," said 

 "So it is a package where we are aiming at focussing on the positive 
measures of the regime but at the same time we really take note of 
the terrible conditions in all respects of the Burmese population." 

 An EU delegation is to arrive here for a meeting of the ASEAN 
Regional Forum (ARF), an annual dialogue between ASEAN and its major 
security allies, which starts Thursday. 

 EU representatives will hold meetings with all ASEAN ministers 
including Myanmar's. 

 Ties between Yangon and the EU have been frosty for several years 
since ASEAN admitted Myanmar as a member despite loud protests from 
European nations who accuse the Yangon regime of extensive human 
rights abuses. 

 French ambassador Christian Prettre, representing the EU presidency, 
said last week that steps were being taken to re-open the dialogue in 
the hope it would encourage the junta to make progress towards 

 "We were very eager not to allow the Myanmar issue to be a blocking 
factor in the ASEAN-EU relationship," he said. 

 "Keeping Myanmar in a ghetto is probably not a solution, but at the 
same time we cannot close our eyes to the situation there." 



July 23, 2000

BANGKOK, Thailand.   North Korea's attendance at a regional security 
forum here this week, a major step toward breaking decades of 
isolation, will likely grab the headlines, but its hosts will also be 
grappling with their own issues of cooperation and openness. 

 The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be holding 
its annual round of ministerial meetings, including the ASEAN 
Regional Forum on security issues in the Asia-Pacific region 
beginning Monday. 

 For the first time, North Korea will participate in the forum, which 
is already attended by representatives of global powers such as the 
United States, European Union and Japan. 

 But while the focus may be on Pyongyang's high-level bilateral 
contacts at the meeting and its sidelines, ASEAN will be considering 
measures which could for the first time open up the problems of each 
member-state to the scrutiny of the others. 

 The prospect is not appreciated by ASEAN's more closed societies, 
who look upon it as interference in domestic affairs. 

 Thailand, the outgoing chair of ASEAN, has for the past two years 
been advocating revamping the grouping toward further openness after 
it failed to effectively respond to its biggest test in a decade, 
Asia's 1997 economic crisis and the social upheaval that followed. 

 It is seeking to allow member states to poke their noses into each 
other's problems, when those problems spill across borders. 

 At Thailand's bidding, ASEAN ministers will consider the idea of 
establishing a ministerial ``troika,'' a three-country diplomatic 
squad to deal with regional crises, such as forest fires that spread 
haze across frontiers and last year's violence in East Timor after it 
voted for independence from Indonesia. 

 At the same time, transnational crime, including trafficking in 
drugs, arms and human beings, will for the first time be discussed at 
the ASEAN Regional Forum. 

 Both measures begin to breach a founding principle of ASEAN, set up 
with five members 33 years ago as a Cold War bulwark against 
communism: that a country's internal affairs, particularly its 
politics, are its own affair. 

 ASEAN now comprises liberal democracies like Thailand and the 
Philippines, and one-party regimes such as Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. 
Other members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and 

 ``The time has come for us to enhance our interaction to make ASEAN 
relevant for the new globalized world,'' Thai Foreign Minister Surin 
Pitsuwan said at a press conference last week. 

 Yet efforts to broaden cooperation beyond traditional areas like 
trade and investment _ for example, into cross-border concerns like 
drugs and terrorism _ could run into opposition. 

 Raising the issue of drugs is unlikely to be welcomed by military-
run Myanmar, admitted to ASEAN in 1997 despite the opposition of 
Western nations who abhor its poor human rights record. 

 Thailand, furious over the millions of methamphetamine tablets made 
in Myanmar and smuggled in over their long common border, has vowed 
to take up the matter, which has been roiling Thai-Myanmar relations. 

 Myanmar, which is also the world's second largest producer of heroin 
after Afghanistan, says it is doing all it can to combat the drug 

 Meanwhile, the Thai proposal to institute a troika system _ modeled 
on the European Union's practice of having a three-nation ad hoc 
group consult on urgent issues _ could be shot down. 

 ``Personally, I think that the troika is a good idea but don't think 
it will go through easily,'' said Eric Teo, honorary secretary of the 
Singapore Institute of International Affairs Council, an independent 
think-tank. ``Unlike the EU, ASEAN may not be quite ready for it.'' 

 The difficulties in expanding ASEAN's role underscore the political 
differences among its members, which in some cases have widened in 
the wake of the economic crisis. 

 Democracy has come to what had been ASEAN's biggest dictatorship, 
Indonesia. But in countries like Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, unelected 
regimes responded to the perceived threat to their political hegemony 
by only tightening their grip on power. 

 The ideological gulf was plain when Thailand's Surin declared that 
this is an age of ``globalization and democratization.'' 

 It is not a question of outside interference, he said in an address 
to an academic audience on the eve of the ASEAN meeting. 

 ``It's whether you want to prepare for the tsunami of globalization 
or you want to fall back into the cocoons of comfort that we used to 
be in 20 or 30 years ago.'' 




July 23, 2000

AN Asean human rights commission is likely to be created, but it will 
take time, the Foreign Ministry's permanent secretary said yesterday. 

Nitya Pibulsonggram said he does not "envisage the establishment [of 
a human rights commission] at any time in the near future", even 
though some Asean members have already made progress toward the goal 
by setting up national human rights bodies. 

Nitya had earlier chaired a meeting with senior Asean officials and 
representatives of a regional working group on human rights. At the 
meeting, the working group submitted a draft agreement on the 
establishment of an Asean human rights commission. 

Several Asean officials said the proposed agreement will not be 
discussed at the ministerial meeting, adding that Asean countries 
need time to study it in detail and hold more talks with the 
proponents of the draft. 

The draft document came as a surprise to several Asean members, 
especially those tending to view human rights concerns as an excuse 
for the West to interfere in their domestic affairs. 

Asean countries had earlier stated that the establishment of a 
national human rights commission in each Asean country would be a 
prerequisite to the creation of a regional one. 

Nitya said the Asean grouping has since 1993 expressed its political 
will to form a regional human rights commission. But the creation of 
national human rights bodies, he said, is "an internal matter" of the 
member countries that depends on their "level of comfort" 
and "readiness". 

So far only Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia have national 
human rights bodies in place, while Thailand is in the process of 
creating one. The remaining countries in the 10-member grouping are 
either opposed to the idea or have not made it a priority. 

There is some concern that Asean will not be able to reach a 
consensus on the draft agreement, as some Asean members may 
ultimately oppose the idea of creating a regional human rights 

"There is the potential for delay" if countries like Burma, which has 
been the target of intense international criticism for widespread 
human rights abuses, are opposed to the document, said Wigberto 
Tanada, a member of the working group. 

But Somchai Homla-or, secretary-general of Forum Asia and also a 
working group member, said his group has suggested that Asean's 'x 
minus y' formula be applied to the draft document. Under the formula, 
signing and ratification by only three Asean members would enable the 
agreement to go into effect. Other countries could sign on to the 
agreement at a later date. 

Asean has applied the formula with several of its documents, 
including the Asean Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and the Treaty on 
the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. Somchai said the working 
group will raise the issue when they meet this afternoon with Thai 
Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan, the host of the Asean Ministerial 

During the talks yesterday, the human rights advocates urged Asean 
foreign ministers to mention the draft agreement in the Asean joint 
communiqu?Ewhich will be issued after the ministerial meeting. 




July 23, 2000

Three Burmese were arrested yesterday morning on board an 
unidentified vessel off the Ranong coast, following an exchange of 
gunfire with Thai authorities.

Border patrol police said the suspects surrendered after a brief 
exchange of gunfire while the occupants of another vessel fled into 
Burmese waters.

Thai officers encountered the two vessels during a morning patrol 
close to Koh Sinhai. When they asked for a search, the crew members 
resisted and opened fire, officers said.

The police returned fire and shooting ensued for 20 minutes. Two of 
the suspects were wounded.

The trio, two of whom were soldiers, are being held at 415th Border 
Patrol Police division for questioning. A number of firearms were 
also seized.

The suspects denied police charges of extorting money from Thai 
fishing trawlers, and claimed they had entered Thai waters to pick up 
a passenger.

Police earlier received complaints that suspected pirates were 
preying on Thai fishing trawlers northwest of Koh Sinhai and west of 
Koh Lam.



July 23, 2000

Saritdet Marukatat
Drug problems in Burma should be discussed at the Asean Regional 
Forum which is trying to set a new direction by focusing on security 
issues affecting citizens, a Singaporean analyst said yesterday.

Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International 
Affairs, said Asean's non-interference principle impeded the 23-
member forum from addressing sensitive and controversial issues, such 
as violations of human rights and democracy in Burma.

He said the illicit narcotics trade from Burma was having an 
increasingly adverse impact on regional states.

Like the illegal cross border movements of people, it was neither an 
internal problem nor a conflict between states but a trans-boundary 

The ARF should take up all three issues as it looks for a new 
direction, he told a regional conference organised by the Asean-ISIS 
and the Institute of Security and International Studies in Thailand.

Talks on drug trafficking issues "might be brought between Burma and 
the affected border states, with China and Asean as interested and 
potentially helpful countries," he said.

Twenty-three ministers of the ARF will meet on Thursday to discuss 
human-related aspects of security.

Analysts showed frustration at the slow evolution of the forum, which 
was set up six years ago, but was still talking about building 
confidence among participants. Several analysts blamed it on the non-
interference policy of the Asean.

Tha Ngoc Ha, an analyst at the Institute of International Relations 
in Vietnam, cautioned against a quicker pace for the forum, saying it 
remained at an early stage of confidence and trust-building among 



July 23, 2000

THAILAND and Burma have agreed to step up cooperation on the 
suppression of illicit drug production along their common border, 
following months of strained relations caused by a hostage incident 
at the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok last October. 

Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan, speaking to reporters after a 
meeting with his Burmese counterpart U Win Aung, said existing 
mechanisms between the two countries to deal with drug trafficking 
would be bolstered so that all forms of co-operation could be 

"You will see from now on that there will be movements (that are) 
quicker," said Surin, adding that it was in the interest of both 
countries to make their 2,400-plus-kilometre common border area a 
peaceful and prosperous one. 

The meeting between the two countries' top envoys was an attempt to 
revive the promises their leaders had made at talks in Chiang Rai in 
March last year, a Thai source said. 

At that meeting, Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai and his Burmese 
counterpart, General Than Shwe, agreed to work closely to eliminate 
drug trafficking and production along their border. 

Impressed with Thailand's crop-substitution programmes for the 
country's hilltribe ethnic groups, Burma requested assistance from 
the Royal Project to help it implement a similar initiative. 

But the cooperation, as well as overall bilateral ties between the 
two countries, nose dived when a group of armed dissidents stormed 
the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok last October, holding diplomats and 
civilians at gunpoint and demanding the junta release all political 

Rangoon was upset at the Thai authorities' handling of the incident, 
accusing them of using "kid gloves" to deal with the dissidents, whom 
they called "terrorists". 

The Thai source said that as a result of yesterday's meeting, the 
Regional Border Committees, one of the bilateral mechanisms chaired 
by the area's Army commander, would meet more often. 

In recent years, millions of metamphetamines produced along the Thai-
Burmese border by drug armies and warlords have flooded into 

Thai narcotics officials have said privately that Rangoon is not 
serious about the problem, pointing to its lack of action against the 
20,000-strong United Wa State Army (UWSA) and its illegal operations 
along the border. 

Win Aung said Burma should not be singled out over the problem, 
adding that neighbouring countries, including Thailand, need to do 
more to curb the flow of pre-cursor chemicals needed to make these 
illicit drugs. More than 70 million metamphetamine pills were seized 
by the Rangoon government in this past year, he said. 

"We have already agreed that nobody should put this thing (drug 
production) as the responsibility of one government," Win Aung 
said. "For example, chemicals, how can you produce amphetamines 
without them?" 

In a separate meeting with representatives from the regional working 
group on human rights, Surin said he is positive about the "x-minus-
y" formula as a good alternative approach. Under the 'x-minus-y' 
formula, member countries will be allowed to join the proposed Asean 
human rights commission at their own pace and the ratification of the 
agreement to establish the commission by three countries will put the 
body into effect. 

He was also quoted by Prapan Hutasingh, who heads the working group, 
as saying that he would try his best to include the setting up of the 
commission in the foreign ministers' joint communique. 

"We hope the word 'commission' appears in the joint communique not 
just 'mechanism'," said Chulalongkorn University law professor Vitit 
Muntarbhorn. Such mention would be groundbreaking and represent a 
concrete step towards its establishment. 

According to Vitit, the body once set up must be independent and play 
a supplementary role when national remedy did not function. The 
commission will consist of seven members elected from signatory 
states who "shall" consult with other non-state parties prior to 



July 24, 2000

Saritdet Marukatat and hanravee Tansubhapol 

Thailand and Burma pledged to step up co-operation against drug 
trafficking yesterday as Asean foreign ministers braced to review 
regional efforts at their annual meeting opening today.

The issue was prominent in talks between Foreign Minister Surin 
Pitsuwan and his Burmese counterpart Win Aung on the eve of the 33rd 
Asean Ministerial Meeting.

Mr Surin said the two sides agreed to activate all existing 
mechanisms to end drug trafficking and other cross-border problems, 
and to accelerate exchanges.

"From now on there will be quicker movement to resolve existing 
common problems between our countries," he said after the 40-minute 

Thai-Burmese relations have been strained since Burmese dissidents 
stormed the Burmese embassy in Bangkok in October, and raided a 
hospital in Ratchaburi in January. 

Mr Win Aung stressed that Burma alone should not be blamed for the 
drug problems and emphasised the need to tackle them "co-
operatively". He noted that chemicals, equipment and know-how came 
from an unnamed "other country" but quickly added that this included 
all countries bordering Burma.

He also claimed that his government seized 17 million methamphetamine 
pills this year.

Mr Surin referred to the pledge made in April last year by the two 
prime ministers, Chuan Leekpai and Than Shwe, for closer co-operation 
against drugs along their 2,400km border.

Besides drugs, Mr Surin and his Burmese counterpart also discussed 
illegal Burmese workers, refugees, and the suspension of Thai fishery 
concessions in Burma, sources added.

Mr Surin said drug problems would be discussed at the ministerial 
meeting today and tomorrow as well as at the Asean Regional Forum on 

The Asean ministers are due to review progress on the ground since 
their agreement in Manila in 1998 to establish the region as a drug-
free zone by the year 2020, sources said.

Mr Surin is also under urging from a regional human rights working 
group, which he received yesterday, to raise at the ministerial 
meeting discussion of their draft for the establishment of an Asean 
Human Rights Commission.

Somchai Homla-or, a Thai member of the working group, said the 
minister agreed to do so. But Mr Surin said the ministers would have 
to be briefed by their senior officials first.

Thailand, he stressed, had supported the idea of setting up a 
regional human rights mechanism since the Asean Ministerial Meeting 
in Singapore in 1993 gave the greenlight for it.

The working group has asked Asean to set up a "study group" and to 
organise a region-wide forum of discussion on the question.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations groups Brunei, Burma, 
Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, 
Thailand and Vietnam.

High on the agenda of their ministerial meeting is Thailand's 
proposal for a troika system of timely troubleshooting that was 
spurred by Asean's failure to react effectively to the financial 
crisis and East Timor.

The member states have so far agreed on the composition of past, 
present and future Asean chairmen. But some, including Cambodia, have 
questioned the troika's mandate out of concern that it might go 
against the grouping's non-interference principle.

The Burmese foreign minister said his country supported the idea but 
he stressed the need for ministers to work out details. The troika 
would not be a decision-making body, he added.



July 24, 2000

BANGKOK - Human rights has finally made it onto the agenda of 
Southeast Asia's leading political and security forum, in another 
strike against the long-held taboo on commenting on members' internal 

 Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations 
(ASEAN) held discussions Sunday evening on a draft agreement 
presented by a coalition of rights groups for the creation of an 
ASEAN human rights mechanism. 

 The function, format and status of the mechanism -- which might take 
the form of a tribunal or a commission -- are still under discussion. 

 Proponents said it could include a declaration of principles and is 
likely to cover not only issues like torture but also embrace the 
treatment of women, children and other vulnerable groups. 

 "The commission could have monitoring, promotional and/or 
recommendatory functions, or receive complaints from states and/or 
individuals," they said. 

 While ASEAN made a commitment to set up such a commission in 1993, 
the pledge gathered dust until Sunday when the ministers discussed a 
draft agreement presented by the Working Group for an ASEAN Human 
Rights Mechanism. 

 "To me it's significant that the foreign ministers revisited the 
1993 commitment," a senior ASEAN diplomat who attended the 
discussions said. 

 He also noted that Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan and 
Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon publicly referred to the 
human rights agenda in their speeches at the opening of the two-day 
meeting Monday. 

 "It's the first time that the human rights agenda is mentioned 
publicly in the speeches," he added. 

 In his speech, Surin said he was "pleased to note that the 
consultation process between our senior officials and the working 
group for an ASEAN human rights mechanism has continued." 

 "This year, the working group has presented some valuable ideas on 
the establishment of the human rights mechanism for our 

 Siazon urged other ASEAN members "to study the various proposals" 
advanced by the working group. 

 Diplomats here admitted that the establishment of such a mechanism 
was still far off, but stressed that none of the ministers had voiced 
strong objections during the discussions. 

 The fact that it is being discussed openly also reflects how ASEAN 
has eased up on its cardinal principle of non-interference in 
members' internal affairs, especially on issues that impinge on the 
entire region, they said. 

 "We are the only region that has no human rights commission," said 
Philippine Congressman Wigberto Tanada, a member of the human rights 
working group. 

 In another development that may further chip away at the non-
intervention convention, ASEAN ministers are expected this week to 
hammer out the details of a "troika" system that will allow the group 
to mediate regional disputes. 

 There is expected to be strong support from the members who include 
Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, the 
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

 Thailand's Surin said earlier this week that issues such as the 
forest fires which have cast a haze over much of Southeast Asia, drug 
dealing, piracy and the trafficking of women and children were among 
the issues that the troika could deal with without being construed as 

 Human rights has been a thorny topic between some ASEAN countries 
such as Myanmar and Western nations who have tied development aid to 
respect for human rights and good government. 

 The Indonesian and Philippine military have been accused of rights 
abuses against separatist rebels. 

 Under the 1993 commitment, ASEAN members pledged to establish 
national human rights commissions in preparation for the setting up 
of a regional body. 

 The Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia have already formed rights 
commissions, while Thailand and Malaysia are in the process of 
establishing their own. 

 The ASEAN ministers are to meet later this week with the foreign 
ministers of key security and political allies like the United 
States, Japan, Australia, Canada, China and Russia. 



July 24, 2000
BANGKOK - Southeast Asian militaries and insurgent groups are using 
young boys and girls as cannon-fodder and the region should declare 
itself a "child soldier-free zone", a rights group said Monday. 

 "Tens of thousands of children have been recruited, sometimes 
forcibly, into governmental armed forces, paramilitaries and 
nongovernmental armed groups across the region," said the Coalition 
to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. 

 On the opening day of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations 
(ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting here, coordinator Rory Mungoven 
said the regional grouping had a shameful record on the issue. 

 "The worst affected countries in Southeast Asia have been Myanmar 
and Cambodia, but there are clear warning signs of escalating 
problems in Indonesia, the Philippines and Laos," he said. 

 Mungoven cited Myanmar as one of the world's single largest users of 
child soliders, noting that ethnic insurgent groups and the military 
regime together employed thousands of children as fighters, porters 
and sex slaves. 

 In Cambodia, the government is currently facing the difficult task 
of reintegrating young former Khmer Rouge guerillas into society. 

 In Indonesia, "there have been alarming signs of the recruitment of 
children by armed groups, both aligned and opposed to the government, 
in regions of conflict such as Aceh," Mungoven said. 

 In the Philippines, "children have been recruited as fighters by 
armed groups including the Moro Islamic Front and the Abu Sayyaf," he 

 Countries where child soldiers are employed face the possibility of 
creating a brutalized generation of killers, Mungoven previously 

 The coalition -- made up of several leading rights groups including 
Amnesty and the Save the Children Alliance -- defines child soldiers 
as those under the age of eighteen. 

 It estimates more than 300,000 are currently being used in conflicts 

 The coalition demanded ASEAN foreign ministers act on the issue. 

 "Preventing the use of child soldiers, ensuring their 
demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration into society must be 
an integral part of regional peacebuilding efforts," Mungoven said. 

 The coalition has frequently praised Thailand for taking the lead in 
cutting down the use of child warriors in Asia. 

 ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, 
the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

__________________ INTERNATIONAL __________________


July 22, 2000
LAOS and Cambodia's signing of the European Union-Asean Agreement 
should send a "clear signal" to Burma, the only Asean member that has 
still to sign the document, French ambassador to Thailand Christian 
Prettre said yesterday. 
The EU is hoping to see a positive sign from the Burmese regime in 
terms of promoting democracy, respect for human rights and the 
cessation of forced labour, Prettre said at a press briefing. 
"I do not think that keeping Myanmar [Burma] in a ghetto is the best 
solution," Prettre said. The ambassador was speaking to mark France's 
assumption of the EU presidency. Its term runs from July 1 to 
December 31. 
"At the same time it is obvious that we cannot close our eyes to the 
situation there, and we have to be very cautious to see how the 
Myanmar government reacts to the signal that has been sent," the 
envoy said. 
Laos and Cambodia will next week sign an agreement with the EU during 
the 33rd Asean Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, enabling the two 
countries to receive EU economic and humanitarian assistance. 
Burma, which has been criticised by the EU and Western countries of 
being a dictatorship and of violating human rights, will then be the 
only Asean member not to have signed the agreement. EU countries are 
strong opponents of the Burmese regime and have imposed a 
comprehensive visa ban on Burmese government officials. 
The ambassador said it was still too early to integrate Burma into 
the EU, and "consideration will begin only after Myanmar's military 
junta shows positive developments towards democracy". 
A Swedish representative at the briefing said that Laos, although a 
communist country, was not in the same category as Burma because it 
has never been accused of engaging in forced labour. 
Thierry Rommel, charge d'affairs of the European Commission, said the 
next move was up to Burma. 
"Now the ball is on Myanmar's side. We expect to see a sign of 
goodwill from the country on various issues such as respect for basic 
human rights," Rommel said. 
The EU's strong opposition to Burma delayed the holding of the Asean-
EU ministerial Meeting in 1997, as the EU refused to allow Burma to 
attend. Asean, however insisted that Burma, as an Asean member, had 
the right to participate in the forum. 
The French ambassador said the EU would take a new stance at the 
Asean Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok next week by agreeing to include 
Burma in discussions with Asean countries. 
Rommel said the EU would also have a chance to join Asean Regional 
Forum meetings in which regional and international security issues 
would be raised. 
He said the EU had also agreed to meet Burmese officials during the 
Asean-EU Ministerial Meeting at the end of the year in Laos. 
Rommel added that the EU was willing to extend humanitarian 
assistance to Burma to help reduce the suffering caused by its 
economic problems. 
The EU plans to send a mission to Burma to ascertain how the EU can 
assist ordinary Burmese people. A date has not yet been fixed for the 
"We will try to identify some scope of assistance ?Eto help the 
Burmese people out of their terrible economic and social condition," 
Rommel said. 



July 22, 2000

Post Reporters
The European Union is seeking ways to enhance humanitarian assistance 
to Burmese people outside a formal Asean-EU agreement that still 
excludes Burma, a senior European official said yesterday.

Thierry Rommel, charge d'affaires of the European Commission in 
Bangkok, refused to elaborate, saying only " the signal is clear".

But he affirmed this was part of a package sanctioned by EU foreign 
ministers in April that called for punitive measures against the 
Rangoon regime and more attention to the "terrible conditions" of 
Burmese people.

"So we are trying to identify how outside the scope of this co-
operation agreement we can enhance humanitarian assistance for the 
Burmese population directly, " Mr Rommel said.

French ambassador Christian Prettre, speaking for the French 
presidency of the EU, said: "Keeping Myanmar in a ghetto is probably 
not the best possible solution.

" But at the same time, it is obvious we cannot close our eyes to the 
situation.. we have to be very cautious in our demarches and see how 
the Myanmar authorities react," he said.

Current EU assistance to Burma is largely confined to support for the 
repatriation of Muslim Rohingyas from Bangladesh spearheaded by the 
UNHCR, sources said.

Laos and Cambodia are due to accede to the 1980 Asean-EU co-operation 
agreement on July 28, leaving Burma as the only Asean member state 
outside the framework.

The French ambassador said domestic developments in Burma would be 
important to any future consideration of its accession to the 

Asked to identify the differences between Burma and Laos, the 
ambassador said Burma used forced labour while Laos was not accused 
of such resort. But the EU also was "not indifferent to the evolution 
of the regime in Laos and has made it clear", he said.

For Swedish ambassador Jan Axel Nordlander, representing the future 
presidency of the EU, the main difference between the two countries 
was that Burma had an elected government which is "not allowed to 
exercise powers".

EU and Asean foreign ministers will hold their first ministerial 
level dialogue with Asean in three years in Vientiane in October. The 
dialogue was disrupted after Asean's controversial admittance of 
Burma in July 1997. But the EU troika have met Burmese and other 
Asean foreign ministers as part of Asean's Post-Ministerial 
Conference since then, and will do so again next week.




July 22, 2000

The European Union's Bangkok-based regional office has been told to 
find ways of boosting humanitarian assistance to the people of Burma, 
while maintaining sanctions against its ruling military regime, 
diplomats said yesterday.

By next week, Burma will become the only member of the Association of 
Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to be exclude from EU economic and 
humanitarian assistance to the region.

On July 28, both Laos and Cambodia will accede to the EU-Asean 
cooperation agreement at a signing ceremony in Bangkok.

EU commissioner for external affairs, Chris Patten, and commissioner 
for security affairs, Javier Solana, are scheduled to be in Bangkok 
next week to attend the 33rd Asean foreign ministers meeting and post-
ministerial meeting on July 24-28.

The accession of Laos and Cambodia to the EU-Asean agreement will 
allow the two nations to attend all EU-Asean ministerial meetings in 
the future and to benefit from EU development programmes.

Burma, however, is still excluded.

"It is not envisioned for the time being to allow Myanmar to accede 
to this agreement," said Thierry Rommel, charge d' affaires of the EU 
regional office in Bangkok. 

Burma, deemed a pariah aamong most Western democracies for its poor 
human rights record, widespread use of forced labour and failure to 
allow political transition to democracy, has proved a major hindrance 
to EU-Asean relations since Rangoon's junta was given the green light 
to join the Southeast Asian grouping in 1997.

Southeast Asians should be told the truth about the region's wobbly 
recovery from the 1997 financial crisis, which is often glossed over 
in official statistics, a leading social activist said yesterday.

Walden Bello, co-ordinator of the anti-globalisation movement Focus 
on the Global South, said the recovery remains fragile because it is 
being powered mainly by higher government spending.

"This is not really an investment-driven growth," he told a symposium 
in Bangkok ahead of a ministerial meeting of Asean.

In many Asean countries, financial systems are still unsound and non-
performing loans are high, he said. Heavier goverment spending, which 
has led to severe budget deficits, spurred the growth.

"Let me just say that this so-called Asian recovery should be put 
into perspective," Mr Bello said. "Unless you have banking systems 
that are healthy, any sort of recovery that you have will be fiagile 
and that is exactly what you have at this time," he said.

The US economy is being "deliberately slowed down," and Japan's 
economy remains sluggish, he said. "The external stimulus is going to 
be disappearing very soon ... but the problems remain."



July 22, 2000

Calvin Li (THAILAND) 

Relating to my article concerning God's Army (The Nation, 20 July), 
while I realise that a certain amount of diting is necessary, I 
believe that a few main points were deleted or not made clear enough: 
1) that the original God's Army is now being taken advantage of by 
those supposedly "helping" them. Furthermore, many are attempting to 
use God's Army for their own political or witch hunt (or commercial) 
purposes. 2) that villagers of the Tennaserim do not have any 
contention with Thailand and likely were not involved in the 
Ratchaburi Hospital incident. 3) that there is a current military 
effort to exterminate these communities of a unique Karen culture 
from a large, beautiful geographic area. 4) that the associated 
propaganda against and suspicion of the Karen in general is 
insulting. 5) since the Burma Army's objective is to steal from those 
fighting for their homes, it is a sad irony that it will likely take 
huge destruction to corner and defeat them. 



July 22, 2000

by Zakir Hussain 
For an accurate understanding of the problem of influx of Burmese 
refugees into its neighbouring countries, one must look at the root 
causes of the problem, namely, the status of the minorities in Burma, 
and the oppressive policies they suffer there.Since independence, 
Burma has been destabilised by civil wars involving various ethnic 
groups, a legacy, in part, of the divide-and-rule policies of the 
British colonial administration. This instability led to a military 
coup in 1962. Since then, the country has been ruled by a military 
junta which has implemented ruthless policies to quell any dissent. 
In the 1990 election, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by 
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won an overwhelming victory, but so far the 
military has refused to hand over power to the elected 
representatives. As a result of four decades of military rule, Burma 
has been ravaged by economic mismanagement; insurgency problems 
remain unsolved, and border areas are left underdeveloped. A wide 
range of human rights abuses, such as forced labour, arbitrary 
arrests and summary executions, are prevalent throughout the country. 
It is unnecessary to recall the appalling human rights record of the 
military regime. Since 1991 the UN General Assembly, most recently in 
November 1999, has adopted annual resolutions expressing concern over 
the deteriorating human rights situation in Burma. The UN Special 
Rapporteur on Myanmar, Rajsoomer Lallah, in his reports to the Human 
Rights Commission and the General Assembly has repeatedly issued 
strong conclusions and recommendations to the same effect. In June 
1999 the ILO decided to exclude Burma from its programmes and 
activities because of the pervasive use of forced labour.As a 
consequence of the disastrous economic situation, forced labour and 
harassment by the military, migration and human trafficking from 
Burma to neighbouring countries have flourished. In Thailand, in 
addition to over 120,000 refugees living in camps established along 
the border, up to one million Burmese migrants, most of them 
undocumented, are seeking a better means of livelihood. The Rohingyas 
are a minority group mostly living in the northern part of Arakan 
State in Burma, bordering Bangladesh. They have generally embraced a 
conservative form of Islam. Ethnically they are related to Bengalis 
sharing similar traditions, customs and religion. In Burma, they 
express a distinct identity, and have resisted assimilation into 
mainstream Burmese Buddhist culture. The majorities of Rohingya 
people live in abject poverty, and suffer from severe lack of 
education and health care. Arakan was an independent kingdom until 
1784, encompassing at times the southern part of today's Bangladesh. 
Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists have co-existed in the region 
for centuries. Until World War II, the two communities did not show 
any sign of strong animosity. But in 1942 the evacuation of the 
British created a political vacuum which gave room for accumulated 
ethnic tensions to explode. Communal riots broke out in Arakan 
between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. After independence, 
some Rohingya leaders formed a Mujahid movement and demanded 
autonomy. But the situation of the Rohingya people only started 
deteriorating seriously at the time of the military take-over in 
1962. Since then they have become targets for harsh treatments by the 
state authorities. The first wave of migration out of Burma to 
Pakistan started in the years following the military coup. In 1978, 
the Burmese government launched an operation called "Nagamin" 
("Dragon King") aimed at curtailing illegal infiltration into Burma. 
It degenerated into abusive attacks on Rohingyas both by the army and 
local Rakhines. This unleashed a mass exodus of Rohingya refugees to 
Bangladesh. In 1982, following the subsequent repatriation to Burma, 
the military junta amended the Citizenship Law. This amendment 
clearly targeted the Rohingyas, making it almost impossible for them 
to be recognised as citizens. Again in 1991-92, the Rohingya people 
became the scapegoats of the military regime. A ruthless campaign of 
gross human rights abuses, and excessive forced labour, forced once 
again 250,000 people to take shelter in refugee camps in Bangladesh. 
>From 1994 onwards, UNHCR became involved in the camps in Bangladesh 
and gained access to the Arakan side of the border. As a result, a 
repatriation programme was initiated by UNHCR, but its involuntary 
character was denounced by NGOs. The repatriation has not been 
completed yet, and is presently stalled. Since its implementation, 
new refugees and many returnees have continued to trickle back into 
Bangladesh, but these have not been allowed to settle in the camps 
and have to survive in extreme poverty in jungle areas or in the 
slums around Cox's Bazar, facing deportation by the Bangladesh 
authorities. Currently, an outflow -although less significant, of 
Rohingyas fleeing military harassment and economic oppression in 
Arakan is still ongoing, and trafficking to Pakistan continues 
unabated.UNHCR has identified some areas of major concerns that 
constitute a push-factor for the outflow of Rohingyas to Bangladesh. 
There is a direct correlation between the lack of citizenship and the 
root causes for displacement. Lt-Gen. Khin Nyunt, Secretary No. 1 of 
the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), stated that "Suffice 
it to say that the issue is essentially one of migration, of people 
seeking greener pastures. These people are not originally from 
Myanmar but have illegally migrated to Myanmar because of population 
pressures in their own country. They are racially, ethnically, 
culturally different from the other national races in our country." 
However, an historical analysis of the settlement pattern of the 
Rohingya people in Northern Arakan considers that nationality rights 
are for most of them a legitimate aspiration. Following amendments in 
the Citizenship Act in 1982, they found themselves deprived of the 
rights inherent to citizenship. The analysis concludes that their 
present legal status amounts, in international law, to de facto 



July 23, 2000

The time has come for Asean to accept input from non-governmental 
organizations, civil society advocates and think tanks. 

For the past 33 years, Asean officials have been mainly responsible 
for solving issues confronting the grouping. They formulated their 
ideas based on their national experiences. From time to time, outside 
help was sought to tackle such sensitive issues as the free trade 
area and the restructuring of Asean organizations. 

However, with the new political and economic landscape, Asean needs 
fresh ideas from people of all backgrounds because these people's 
lives, more than ever before, are at stake. 

It makes sense to seek their ideas on how to solve their problems if 
Asean is genuinely to adhere to its principle of building a caring 
society by putting people first. The Asean Vision 2020 has set forth 
the goal of creating a community of caring societies. But how can the 
Asean societies be caring - let alone understand the plight of the 
poor - if ordinary people are prevented from sharing their views and 

So far, Asean has put money first. In fact, money has become so 
important that it will become the major thrust of renewed Asean 
cooperation. One cannot deny the importance of fixing the financially 
related problems that brought about the economic crisis three years 
ago, but the citizens must come first. 

It is imperative that Asean takes up human security as its top 
priority and does away with all euphemisms because common folk do not 
understand "Asean-speak". They should be able to take part in broader 
discussions with Asean officials on issues of their concern. 

Within this context, Thailand should continue to push for its 
longstanding idea of establishing a people's council so that the 
Asean citizens, non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians and 
academics can contribute their thoughts. Asean affairs are too 
important to be left to the Asean elite. Five years ago, a similar 
proposal to the Thai one was shot down because it was deemed too 

However, in the wake of the region's economic crash and the calamity 
wreaked on ordinary people, the time is ripe to seek their 

Many Asean members might not be happy with this idea because their 
citizens do not have freedom of expression. Well, leave them alone. 
For the like-minded Asean countries, they can proceed with the 
council's idea and hold a meeting informally. Its recommendations 
could then be advanced to relevant senior Asean officials. In fact, 
there have been some useful recommendations coming from NGOs and 
civil society organizations on how to make Asean a better 
organization. But no Asean officials seem to care. 

Interestingly, Asean officials also fail to utilise the brain 
resources in their member countries. The Asean network of strategic 
think tanks, known as Asean-ISIS, can be a useful forum to tackle 
difficult and sensitive issues that the governments find difficult to 
deal with. Asean-ISIS has existed for 16 years and the organization 
has contributed greatly in providing answers to many Asean questions. 
But the problem is that Asean has not taken full advantage of the 
Asean think tanks. 

Over the past several years, as a token of their appreciation, the 
Asean senior officials would meet for one hour with the Asean-ISIS 
delegation on the sidelines of their annual gatherings. Both sides 
need more time to exchange views and think through important issues. 
They deserve a long hearing. Every time they meet, the officials are 
in a hurry because they must attend other meetings. 

A caring Asean can only be achieved through input from Asean 
citizens. Otherwise, where's the caring? 



The Brothel owner Tin Nwe is one of the victims of the corrupt 
society inBurma.  If his jail terms are fair enough, we need to 
consider the other gangs who are as guilty as charged as poor Tin 
Ngwe. Many Burmese, Karen,Shan, Tavoyans women, are forced to work as 
prostitutes in Thai-Burmaxborder towns because of forced relocation, 
forced labor, and the lack of law inside Burma.  These women are the 
victims under SLORC/SPDC rule.  If Tin Ngwe is guilty, SLORC/SPDC is 
the most responsible for poor Burmese women in foreign countries who 
have no chance to find a secure and healthy life.  Who is responsible 
for the Burmese prostitutes in foreign countries and inside Burma?  
The answer is SLORC/SPDC regime.   It is the most responsible on this 
matter.  Who own most of the nightclubs in Rangoon and border towns? 
SPDC and its relatives own it.  What is the outcome of the 
nightclubs?  Nightclubs encourage young women to become prostitutes.

        Under military rule the country economy declined sharply 
because of their mismanagement and corruption.  Young women could not 
find jobs for their survival and the only job available for them is 
prostitution.  Opening the nightclubs and attracting the tourists 
encourage the new business called "prostitution".

        The Burmese generals have limited knowledge about other 
countries because they are also the victims of BSPP rule.  Burmese 
people, including the recent generals (in the past they were regional 
commanders or deputies not promoted as generals) are locked in the so-
called socialist state country.

They have no experience with other countries not even neighboring 
countries. A chance to go to visit foreign countries such as 
Thailand,Singapore, or Malaysia was like a winning a lotto for every 
body inside Burma because when they come back they have chances to 
buy used cars, televisions, videos and etc, etc. Those items are very 
expensive in Burma and when they resold the items they bought from 
abroad, they collected the big amount of money that they could not 
save from their own salary for more than ten years.

        When SLORC/SPDC emerged, the generals are free to observe the 
outside world (mostly neighboring countries including Thailand, China 
and Singapore).  They looked at the Thai model for economic 
development and Indonesian model for controlling the political 
power.  Thailand tourist industry has tremendous success and gains 
billions of dollars every year.

The generals think that it is a promising business so they decided to 
promote tourism by building hotels and motels in Burma.  But tourism 
in Thailand is deeply connected with nightclubs and prostitution.  
The generals know the situation and outcome but because of their 
desire of wealth they do not look at prostitution as a threat for 
Burmese communities.  Even though, prostitution is illegal in Burma, 
it hassurvived and is growing year by year under SLORC/SPDC rule.

Who is to blame? Who is guilty? Who is the most responsible for this 

Owning a fax machine is still a crime in Burma.  When people in other 
countries enjoy with fax/phone and Internet, the Burmese have been 
blind folded by their so-called nationalist military generals because 
they are afraid that people will find out the truth through internet. 
Any commentand discussion on this matter is welcome.


Htun Aung Gyaw



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