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BurmaNet News: October 3, 2000
- Subject: BurmaNet News: October 3, 2000
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2000 08:55:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
_________October 3, 2000 Issue # 1631__________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AsiaWeek: Truth and Lies in Burma
*SHRF: Forced Labour and Looting of Temples and Monasteries
*Shan Herald Agency for News: Junta Continues To flaunt ILO
*AFP: Myanmar says tougher Swiss sanctions will hinder democracy
*AFP: Britain accuses Myanmar junta of lying over beating of jailed
*AFP: Myanmar dismisses Britain's fury over jailed pro-democracy
*Czech Press: One Year After the Burmese Embassy Siege
*ILWU: Workers of the world stand up for Burmese rights
*Myanmar Times (SPDC): USDA looks to create wealth through vast "Human
*Asahi Evening News: POV?It?s time for Tokyo to tighten the screws on
The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AsiaWeek: Truth and Lies in Burma
[From the Asiaweek website?s ?From Our Correspondent? column. Web
The junta lives in a world of self-delusion
By DOMINIC FAULDER
Asia Week, October 2, 2000
Web posted at 7:30 p.m. Hong Kong time, 7:30 a.m. EDT
I first met Aung San Suu Kyi a few days after the bloody coup of
September 18, 1988, that ensconced the State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC). Looking tired and drawn after six weeks that had pulled
her from total obscurity to global prominence, she was sitting stiffly
in the somber study at 54, University Avenue, the home of her ailing
mother, who lay upstairs in terminal decline.
I apologized for asking a "sensitive question", but wanted to know if
she felt her future lay in Burma or England, the country where she had
resided with her family for much of her adult life. Suu Kyi bristled
visibly, and told me in no uncertain terms that she had always made it
perfectly clear she would return home to Burma when her country needed
her. It was my first glimpse of her steely resolve, powerful sense of
destiny and capacity for elegant bluntness. The truth, as we have since
discovered, was that she was back in Burma for the duration -- to pursue
at whatever cost a vision tightly bound to the dream her father,
pre-independence hero General Aung San, had not lived to realize. "And
why is that such a sensitive question?" she shot back at me.
I shifted uncomfortably since one of the more obvious reasons was
sitting alongside -- her husband, Michael Aris, an Oxford academic. He
was quite impassive as the interview progressed, but the truth must have
pained him greatly. The prospect of a normal married life had evaporated
for the foreseeable future, possibly forever. Not then or at any point
after in our encounter did Suu Kyi defer to Aris. Nobody then could have
predicted the long years of cruelly enforced separation the couple and
their two sons would endure as Suu Kyi doggedly clung to her vision of
what was true and best for her homeland. When Aris died prematurely last
year, he had wickedly been denied the chance of a last visit with his
wife. This was purportedly on compassionate grounds. The junta argued,
totally disingenuously, that he was too sick to travel and that medical
facilities in Rangoon were inadequate.
Even some members of Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy,
have faulted her for being too unyielding and stubborn in her dealings
with the junta. In response, she has frequently pointed out that the
generals are themselves far from reasonable. And in cynically rebuffing
the wishes of a dying man, they proved she was telling the truth.
Reasonable people with any sense of decency would never resort to such
In recent weeks, Suu Kyi has been back doing what she does best:
attracting international attention by highlighting simple truths. Though
released from house arrest in 1995, she is many ways still a prisoner.
Once again, she attempted to exercise some freedom of movement and
travel beyond the confines of the capital. The first standoff on the
outskirts of Rangoon was timed perfectly to embarrass the junta at the
time of the United Nations' Millennium Summit. It worked.
After almost a week Suu Kyi and her supporters were roughly bundled back
to town. Her security was at risk if she proceeded, contended the same
junta that renamed itself the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)
in 1997 because "Law and Order" had been pretty much "restored". Later
in September, Suu Kyi was again prevented from traveling, this time by
train to Mandalay. No tickets were available. She'll know to book next
time. On an earlier occasion, her carriage was simply uncoupled and she
was left on the platform.
The junta claims that Suu Kyi gives them no credit for their many
achievements and that she consistently sours the outside world's opinion
of a nation shamelessly ravaged by British colonialists. The truth is
that the British departed more than 50 years ago -- well before they
left a number of other countries in the region that have gone from
strength to strength. For most of the time since independence, Burma has
willfully isolated itself from any normal foreign relations, never mind
"interference". This is the country that even saw fit to resign from the
If, as the junta claims, it has pacified and stabilized most of the
country, how is it that an allegedly free citizen cannot make a trip to
Mandalay and other areas not particularly noted for ethnic unrest?
Arguably, of all the population centers in Burma, Mandalay has seen the
most dramatic changes in the past decade. It now even boasts an airport
with one of the largest runways in the world. If this and other
developments are genuinely achievements, wouldn't it make more sense for
the generals to let Suu Kyi actually see them? What "truths" need they
hide from her when they can showcase successes?
But the "truth" in Burma doesn't seem to resemble the truth in most
other parts of the world. Would it be untrue to say that letting in Aris
for a last compassionate visit could have done the junta's stock nothing
but good? Would it be untrue to say that Suu Kyi touring the countryside
during the U.N. summit would have been interpreted as a sign of
normalization and mellowing? Would not the same hold true for an overdue
fact-finding visit to Mandalay?
Burma may be ready for the truth, but apparently not yet the generals.
Recently, the junta has been trying to convince the world that James
Mawdsley, a young British-Australian held in solitary confinement in
jail at Kengtung near the Thai border, blackened both his eyes and broke
his own nose with his handcuffs during a scuffle with prison guards.
Nobody believed similarly nonsensical explanations in the beating of
Malaysia's former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Indeed, there is
very real cause for concern about Mawdsley, given what he now knows
firsthand of the true conditions inside Burmese prisons.
The last comparable case was that of James Leander 'Leo' Nicols in 1996.
Nicols was a de facto honorary consul to various Scandinavian countries
and a supporter of Suu Kyi. A diabetic, he was imprisoned for owning an
unregistered fax machine. After relentless interrogation, he died having
been denied appropriate food and medicine. A senior government spokesman
claimed he was a victim of too many "fatty foods" -- not normally a
complaint made about the cuisine at Rangoon's infamous Insein Jail. In
fact, a brazen lie.
Surprisingly, the biggest recent casualty in the SPDC's battle with the
truth has been one of its own brighter rising stars. At a business
seminar in July, the deputy minister of national planning and
development, Brigadier General Zaw Tun, spoke with a candor possibly
unprecedented in a serving officer since General Ne Win staged his coup
in 1962. Among many topics covered during a three-hour talk, he spoke of
his superiors' fixation with a possible currency crisis (that already
exists), inflated growth figures, failure to develop a free-market
economy, and the counter-productive propaganda on state television.
"Some who are holding responsibilities in the country lack proper
awareness," he tactfully confided to his audience.
Zaw Tun was promptly dismissed for having the temerity to suggest the
generals might be deluding themselves. His frankness, however unwelcome
among the top brass, is actually a breath of fresh air. It proves that
there are members of the widely reviled Burmese military establishment
who at least recognize the truth -- even if they dare not speak it.
For Suu Kyi, who has never been afraid of speaking the truth as she sees
it, there may be some cause for hope here. Even if they do not agree
with much of what she has to say, it's actually quite easy for senior
figures in the military to halt the flow of lies. The real challenge is
for the two feuding parties to start discovering which truths they may
actually be able to agree upon. Only then can they get beyond emotions
and start trading facts instead of vitriole. Fact No. 1: it's never too
late to start dealing with the truth.
SHRF: Forced Labour and Looting of Temples and Monasteries
SHRF MONTHLY REPORT -- SEPTEMBER 2000?Excerpt
Shan Human Rights Foundation
On 27.7.00, SPDC troops from IB246 dismantled several temples
and monasteries in the forced relocation areas in Kun-Hing township and
took away the tin roofs and the lumber.
On the day of the incident, about 80 SPDC troops from IB246 led
by Capt. Min Oo forcibly recruited 54 young men, aged between 20-35,
and 14 trucks in Kun-Hing town and drove them to Wan Lao tract where
there were many deserted villages that had been forcibly relocated to
other places in 1996-97.
The troops then forced the 54 men to dismantle deserted temples
and monasteries in 6 deserted villages in Wan Lao tract and trucked the
lumber and tin sheets roofing back to IB246 military base. The 54
workers and the 14 trucks received no pay whatsoever.
Later, on 4.8.00, the same troops again forcibly took some
workers and trucks in Kun-Hing town and went to deserted villages in Ho
Yaan tract that had also been forcibly relocated a few years ago.
The troops disassembled deserted temples and monasteries in the
following 6 relocated villages and trucked away the lumber and the tin
sheet roofing to the IB246 military base.
On 10.8.00, the same troops again conscripted 87 workers from
Kun-Hing town and forced them to build a big tent-like building to house
the lumber and tin sheets roofing from the dismantled monasteries in
the base of IB246.
FORCED PORTERING IN MURNG-PAENG
On 22.7.00, Akha villagers of Phaa Khaao village in Murng-Paeng
township were forcibly taken by SPDC troops to serve the military
On that day, a column of about 60 SPDC troops from IB245 surrounded
Phaa Khaao village in Si Paw tract, Murng-Paeng township, and forcibly
took 13 Akha villagers to serve as porters for the military. On
the same day, the villagers were forced to carry heavy baggages, the
contents of which they did not know, and set off towards Murng Sen and
Murng In tracts in Kaeng-Tung township.
The troops went through several villages and tracts for 3 days
until they reached Murng-Kok village in Murng-Sart township where they
released the porters without paying them anything.
During those 3 days, the troops forced the villagers of the
villages they were passing through to cook meals for them to eat
immediately as well as put into packages for them to take away to eat on
The porters, however, only received a very small amount of food
per day and were scolded, kicked and beaten along the way when they
slowed down due to hunger and weakness.
On 23-24.8.00, SPDC troops from LIB360 conscripted 21 villagers
in Pet Kaang tract, Murng-Paeng township, to serve as forced and unpaid
porters for the military.
A column of about 60 SPDC troops from LIB360 came through Pet
Kaang village tract and seized 6 villagers from Kung Sa village, 9
villagers from Wan Tong village and 6 villagers from Nawng Kaa village.
The villagers, 21 in all, were taken to Tong Ta village where
they were forced to carry heavy loads and headed towards Murng Sen and
Murng In tracts.
Most of the things the porters had to carry were dried food,
ammunition and clothes of the soldiers. Though they had dried food with
them, the troops did not eat it, but forced the villagers of the
villages where they stopped for meals to cook and provide food for them
and the porters. The troops went through several villages and
tracts and, after 4 days of strenuous journeying, they released the 21
porters at Wan Mawn village in Nam In tract without giving them
All the porters were suffering from severe shoulder wounds at
the time of their release and they did not know the purpose of the
troops and where they were going to.
VILLAGERS FORCED TO BUILD A DRIVEWAY FOR A MILITARY BASE IN KAENG-TUNG
On 19.8.00, SPDC troops of IB244 forced the villagers of Wan Lawng
village in Murng Zaem tract, Kaeng-Tung township, to fix and renovate
the 2-furlong-long driveway between the main road and their base.
According to the local people, the SPDC troops had already forced
people from several villages in Murng Zaem tract many times to take
turns and build the driveway but it did not seem to be finished.
One person from each of the 27-28 houses in Wan Lawng village had to
get up early, prepare some food for midday meal and go to work from
07:00 hrs in the morning until 17:00 hrs in the evening, stopping only a
short while around mid-day to eat the day meal.
While the villagers were working, about 25 fully armed SPDC
troops from IB244 were always present, overseeing the work site and
guarding the villagers as if they were prisoners.
VILLAGERS FORCED TO GROW CROPS FOR THE MILITARY IN MURNG-KHARK
Since June 2000, SPDC troops of LIB327 have been forcing the villagers
of Kaeng Pin village in Murng-Khark township to grow an acre of chilli
The villagers have to use a part of their cultivating land for
it and have to do the work from the beginning until the end of the
cultivation -- fencing, tilling, sowing, planting, weeding and up to
harvesting of the crop.
In other areas such as Murng Nung tract and Nam Wok tract,
villagers are also being forced to cultivate chilli, vegetables and
cucumber farms for the military.
FORCED LABOUR FOR FIXING ROADS IN CENTRAL SHAN STATE
Starting from 24.7.00, SPDC troops from LIB520 led by Capt.
Kyaw Win have conscripted 6 civilian trucks and 108 forced labourers in
Murng-Pan township and forced them to fix and clear the sides of the
Murng-Pan - Larng-Khur main road.
The labourers had to fill up cracks and potholes in the road
with stones, rocks and earth gathered by the civilian trucks, and clear
the bushes on both sides of the road, from Murng-Pan all the way up to
Starting from 27.7.00, SPDC troops from Company No.3 of IB99
led by Capt. Aung Phe had conscripted 5 civilian trucks and 163 forced
labourers in Larng-Khur township and forced them to fix the main road
and clear the bushes on both sides of the road, from Larng-Khur up to
Starting from 5.8.00, SPDC troops from Co. No.5 of IB248 led by
Capt. Saw Hpyu had conscripted 3 civilian trucks and 87 forced
labourers in Murng-Nai township and forced them to fix and clear the
bushes on the sides of the main road, from Murng-Nai all the way up to
Starting from 19.8.00, SPDC troops from Co. No.4 of IB225
conscripted 8 civilian trucks and 120 forced labourers in Murng-Pan
township and forced them to fix the road starting from the base of IB225
at Wan Naa village in Murng-Pan township. A new shift of trucks and
labourers would replace the old one every 15 days.
All the forced labourers had to bring and use their own tools
such as hoes and spades in road fixing and their own knives to clear
the roadsides. They had to provide their own food and received no pay,
no matter how long they had to go for the forced labour.
Shan Herald Agency for News: Junta Continues To flaunt ILO
3 October 2000
Despite the International Labor Organization's warning on 14 June,
Rangoon has not let up their forced labor practices, reported S.H.A.N.
correspondent from eastern Shan State on 26 September.
During August and September, local people in Mongton (opposite
Chiangmai) were summoned to set them in several tasks, such as
construction of chicken coops pigstys and Chinlong (Takraw) courts,
digging latrine holes, mending and constructing latrines, and pulling
weeds in army's bean fields and corn fields.
The reason people had to build chicken coops and pigstys for the army
was, as explained by the sources, because "they have no chickens and
pigs to feed the soldiers, and cannot afford money to buy them for the
army's consumption anymore." One viss (1.6 kilogram) of chicken costs
K.600 (B.60) and the same weight of pork K. 1,000 (B.100).
In addition, each household has been given the following long-standing
fixed monthly duties:
1. Guarding roads 2 days and nights
2. Guarding army posts 2 days and nights
3. Portering 7 days and nights
4. Working in the army's fields 2 days
5. Building fences, mending 1 days
6. Sanitation of army posts 1 days
Altogether 15 days per month.
For those who have motor-transports, it is required for them to stay in
army posts 7 days each month in anticipation of emergencies. Each car
owner is also expected to provide a driver and fuel.
"It is the same in other townships," said a shopowner in Mongton. "ILO's
warning hasn't fazed the army one little bit."
AFP: Myanmar says tougher Swiss sanctions will hinder democracy
YANGON, Oct 3 (AFP) - Myanmar's military junta Tuesday scoffed at the
toughened sanctions announced by Switzerland, saying they would hinder
rather than hasten the cause of human rights and democracy.
"Myanmar regrets that Switzerland has decided to impose certain
measures against (the country) like those adopted by the European
Union," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"At a time when an increasing number of international observers have
come to acknowledge that the policy of sanctions is not working, this
action by Switzerland will obstruct rather than hasten the process of
promoting human rights and democracy in the nation."
The junta was reacting to the Swiss government's announcement on Monday
that it would begin freezing funds held in the country by members of
Myanmar's junta as well as banning the supply of materials which could
be used for internal repression or terrorism.
Myanmar's junta has long been accused by human rights organizations of
severe repression of those who show any signs of dissent.
The beefed-up sanctions bring Switzerland into line with measures taken
by the European Union and the UN Security Council.
"The action will not have any great impact since there are no funds
held by members of the Myanmar government in Switzerland and Myanmar has
not brought items prohibited under the said decision in recent year,"
"Myanmar is not a recipient of any large-scale assistance from
Switzerland," it said.
The tougher sanctions being adopted by Bern, which has already had a
restrictive policy in place towards Myanmar since 1996, were implemented
by the 15-member European bloc in April.
The Swiss government's decision to step-up sanctions comes against the
backdrop of an apparent renewed campaign by the junta to crack down on
the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).
Two weeks ago, Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders were escorted
from Yangon's railway station by police after being barred from
travelling to the northern city of Mandalay to investigate reported
crackdowns on the party. At least 100 party supporters were rounded up
NLD deputy chairman Tin Oo is still being held at a military base 50
kilometres (30 miles) north of Yangon while Aung San Suu Kyi and other
NLD central executive committee members remain under de facto house
The NLD won a landslide general election victory in 1990, but the junta
has never recognised the result.
AFP: Britain accuses Myanmar junta of lying over beating of jailed
LONDON, Oct 3 (AFP) - Britain has rejected as a "tissue of lies" a
denial by Myanmar's junta that a British pro-democracy campaigner was
badly beaten while in prison.
Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal, junior minister in the Foreign
Office, said the Myanmar ambassador to Britain was summoned on September
27 to hear a protest over the alleged beating of James Mawdsley.
"I was met, I regret to tell you, by barefaced denial," she told the
House of Lords on Monday.
"I was told that there had been no assault, that James Mawdsley had,
while handcuffed, caused the injury himself. You will not be surprised
to hear that I was not willing to accept that tissue of lies," she said.
Britain would continue to seek a "proper response," she said, adding
that the treatment of Mawdsley was "a grave abuse of human rights and we
will not tolerate it."
"Burma today is in a worse condition than ever before," she said. "Its
people are abused. Its economy is on the ropes. Its international
standing is at an all-time low. Time is running out for the regime.
"World opinion will not give up on Burma. For the generals to continue
down the present blind alley is as risky as it is irresponsible."
Mawdsley, 28, has said he was badly beaten by guards at Keng Tung
prison in northern Burma, where he has been held in solitary confinement
since September 2, 1999.
A British vice-consul visited him last week and reported that he had
suffered "two black eyes and a suspected broken nose."
Myanmar's junta last week denied that Mawdsley has been beaten and
accused Britain of "making irresponsible remarks and groundless
accusations merely to discredit the government of Myanmar."
Mawdsley, who has British and Australian nationality, is serving a
17-year jail sentence after being arrested near the border with Thailand
last year in possession of pamphlets denouncing Myanmar's military
The Yangon junta has resisted all attempts to force it to relinquish
power to the National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi, which
won 1990 elections.
AFP: Myanmar dismisses Britain's fury over jailed pro-democracy activist
YANGON, Oct 3 (AFP) - Myanmar's ruling military junta Tuesday dismissed
Britain's accusations that a jailed British pro-democracy campaigner was
badly beaten while in prison.
"The British government's recent negative remarks and irresponsible
criticism on James Mawdsley's and Ms (Aung San) Suu Kyi's issues are
quite self explanatory," Myanmar's foreign ministry said in a statement.
They could be put down to Britain's "lost colony syndrome attitude
towards one of her former colonies which refuses to serve (its)
interests," the ministry said.
Myanmar, or Burma as it used to be known, gained independence from
Britain in 1948.
The junta was responding to furious criticism by Britain's junior
foreign minister, Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal, who rejected as
a "tissue of lies" a denial by the Myanmar authorities that Briton James
Mawdsley had been badly beaten by guards at Keng Tung prison in the
north of the country.
Mawdsley, 28, who has British and Australian nationality, is serving a
17-year jail sentence after being arrested near the border with Thailand
last year in possession of pamphlets denouncing Myanmar's military
He had previously told Britain's vice-consul to Myanmar that he had
sustained several days of beatings at the hands of his guards because he
had protested about being held in solitary confinement.
The junta has resisted all calls to hand power to opposition leader
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy which won a landslide
victory in 1990 parliamentary elections which were subsequently annulled
by the military.
Czech Press: One Year After the Burmese Embassy Siege
2 October 2000
One Year After the Burmese Embassy Siege
Reporter: Maxmilian Wechsler Bangkok, Czech Press
On October 1, 1999 the Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors (VBSW) seized
the Burmese embassy in Bangkok and took hostages. The drama ended the
next day. All hostages were freed and the VBSW gunmen flown by a
helicopter to the God's Army base.
Exactly one year later the vast majority of the Burmese dissident
leaders agree that the embassy siege was a major setback for the whole
opposition movement as the sentiment of the Thai government and the
population turned against it.
The US State Department issued strongly worded statement deploring the
Only one foreign mission in Bangkok benefited from the siege as piles of
secret documents were delivered to them directly from the Burmese
embassy. How this was arranged is still a mystery.
The biggest losers is the God's Army, a group led by two young Karens
Johnny Htoo and Luther. The God's Army was exploited and tricked by the
VBSW. They promised new uniforms, food, medicine, weapons and ammunition
to them in return for their support.. None of their promises
Kyaw Ni a.k.a Johnny who led the VBSW gunmen in to the Burmese embassy
was able to establish a close friendship with Johnny Htoo by supplying
him with the cigarettes. Johnny Htoo is a chain smoker despite his
In a letter dated October 12,1999 and addressed to the Thai Prime
Minister Chuan Leekpai, the VBSW apologized for their action and
explained their motives behind the embassy takeover.
As a sign of reconciliation with the Thai government, the VBSW returned
a pistol seized from the special branch policeman inside the embassy.
The handing of the pistol to the Thai official was done on behalf of the
VBSW by the God's Army military commander Shwe Bya at Takolan.
This gesture by the VBSW encouraged the Thai government. A team of Thai
negotiators was dispatched on November 4, 1999 to meet with the
representatives of the VBSW and persuade them to surrender.
The Thai officials met with Kyaw Ni and Pida urging both to give up.
Several VBSW members who arrived form the Maneeloy camp appealed to
their comrades to give up and negotiate the terms of the surrender.
Kyaw Ni and Pida refused and demanded to negotiate directly with the
Thai Prime Minister. The Thai officials couldn't accept his condition.
Making the situation even worse, the unarmed Thai negotiators were
humiliated during the surrender talks by about 30 God's Army soldiers
who encircled them inside the Thai territory brandishing loaded
After the talks broke down the Thais didn't retaliate against the God's
Army, thuogh having the capabilily to do so. the V:BSW gunmen and God's
Army soldiers were allowed to walk back several kilometers to their camp
After the Ratchaburi hospital incident on January 24, 1999 the God's
Army soldiers became even more disillusioned with the VBSW and started
to question the promises made by Kyaw Ni of better life and plenty of
everything. In fact, the living conditions of the God's army
deteriorated since then.
Johnny Htoo and Luther finally realized that their association with the
VBSW is leading them to a disaster and withdrew their support. Johnny
Htoo who always accompanied Kyaw Ni, abandoned him.
This move initiated a split within God's Army and 10 of their soldiers,
including Shwe Bya, formed the Democratic God's Army (DGA) in March.
Kyaw Ni planned to strike against the Thai government facilities at any
cost to revenge the death of his close friend Pida and other comrades at
the Ratchaburi hospital. He targeted an oil refinery somewhere in
Thailand. Fortunately the DGA didn't possess the capability to strike
Kyaw Ni decided to kidnap four Thai workers employed by the Thai mining
company contracted by the SPDC inside Burma in May. The DGA demanded
Baht 5 million ransom from the company but settled for Baht 2 million.
After they were paid the hostages were released unharmed. This incident
was never reported even though the Thai authorities knew about the
The Karen National Union (KNU) made a lot of efforts starting from
October 1 to convince their Karen brothers in the God's Army that had
chosen the wrong path by joining with the VBSW in their struggle to
free the Karen people from the SPDC terror.
Unfortunately, the God's Army started listening to the KNU too when the
damage was done already.
The God's Army managed to make headlines from several interviews which
didn't help their cause. They were presented to the public like a
fanatical religious group.
As for the DGA, they are facing a grim future. Without any support they
will vanish sooner of later. The group is suffering from shortage of
food, medicine, ammunition and Kyaw Ni himself is reported to be
suffering from a serious skin disease. Obviously, the ransom money
don't benefit them. There were some questions concerning his mental
state during his stay at the Maneeloy camp.
The events which started on October 1 of last year proved that it is
also the political leadership not just the barrel of gun that the
Burmese opposition must employ in order to achieve their objectives.
There is no place for extremists.
ILWU: Workers of the world stand up for Burmese rights
International Longshore and Warehouse Union Dispatch
By Tom Price
In the race to the bottom that is the finish line for corporate
globalization, one country has a clear lead. With textile workers making
four cents an hour, Burma has the distinction of having the world's
lowest wages for people who actually get paid. With as many as 800,000
people forced into labor by the military regime, Burma, renamed Myanmar
by its military rulers, may have the worst human rights records in the
world. Around the globe labor and human rights groups are joining
together to pressure the international community to restore democracy in
Burma. Cities and states in the U.S. passed no-trade laws, unions
demanded government sanctions, and a large-scale consumer boycott of
Burmese products is underway. But the military regime has yet to budge,
and persecution of elected leaders and unionists is getting worse.
Burmese workers in exile founded the Federation of Trade Unions, Burma,
in 1991 after the military refused to turn over power to the elected
Burma's long borders with India and China, both rival nuclear powers,
puts it right in the middle of any regional conflict. China's proposed
construction of a naval base on Burma's Bay of Bengal shores will not be
seen as a friendly act in India, a country that faces 500,000 Chinese
troops on their northern border in Tibet. Texas-sized Burma also shares
a short border with Tibet, and its sensitive geo-political position
should qualify its 45 million people for the same serious international
attention as Iraq, Bosnia or Kosovo. From colony to democracy to
Burma achieved a relatively smooth transition to independence from Great
Britain in 1947. Independence leader Aung San's party won 248 of 255
seats in parliamentary elections in April of that year, and workers
formed legal labor unions. In July the military assassinated Aung San
and five of his advisors, but the country recovered from WWII to become
the most prosperous in the region. It remained a troubled democracy
until 1962 when General Ne Win staged a military coup. He stepped down
in 1981, though he continues to exercise serious influence in the
government to this day. Ne Win banned unions after his coup, but workers
continue organizing in secret and in exile.
Military repression continued through the last four decades as the
country's economy sank to one of the poorest in the region. In March
1988 workers and students held mass demonstrations against the
government, and the movement grew until Aug. 8 when the military began a
crackdown, killing between 6,000 and 10,000 people. General Saw Maung
took over a month later, and promised real elections. Ne Win handpicked
the military government that held the elections, apparently thinking his
side would win.
To the surprise of international election observers, the military held
relatively fair elections in May 1990 and the National League for
Democracy won by a four-to-one margin. Aung San Suu Kyi, the party's
leader and daughter of Aung San, was promptly arrested and she remains
under house arrest today.
Life under the military regime is nightmarishly repressive. Possession
of an "unauthorized" cell phone can land a person in jail. Communicating
with the outside world on human rights abuses can get the offender life
plus 17 years in some of the worst prisons in the world. This happened
to petro-chemical union head U Myo Aung Thant, who was arrested in 1997
along with U Khin Kyaw, an official in the ITF-affiliated Seafarers'
Union of Burma. Khin Kyaw disappeared into the labyrinth of the Burmese
prison system without benefit of trial.
International labor organizes
The International Labor Organization effectively kicked Burma out in
June 1999 over the regime's use of forced labor. The ILO, a United
Nations agency founded in 1919 under the League of Nations, had never
before taken such a drastic measure. Burma has until Nov. 30 this year
to prove to the ILO it has eliminated forced labor. If it can't, the ILO
will ask its 174 member states to review their relationship with Burma
and take measures to ensure that its rulers "cannot take advantage of
such relations to perpetuate or extend the system of forced or
compulsory labor," according to an ILO March, 29 2000 press release.
The ILWU and other labor organizations have joined an international
movement to pressure the regime. The union's International Executive
Board passed a Statement of Policy Aug. 25 condemning the regime and
demanding a withdrawal of all U.S. investments until democracy is
restored (see page 12).
Longshore Local 10 members showed their support for Burmese seafarers
back in 1997 when they refused to cross a human rights picket line in
Oakland. The Mare Caspium was held up for 25 hours on a health and
safety beef while union members respected the line, which included a
"We picketed the ship in order to convince the captain to let an ITF
inspector on board," Jane Jordan of the Free Burma Coalition told The
Dispatcher. The arbitrator eventually ordered the dockers back to work,
but not before ITF Inspector Barry Binsky determined the crew were badly
paid, and had been forced to sign an agreement to refund any pay the ITF
might win for them. The crew of the ITF demonstration ship Global
Mariner picketed the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand in August
1999, demanding the release of Khin Kyaw. As a piece of political
theater to dramatize their point, the crew made a bamboo prison cell and
a seaman volunteer got inside and was carried to the embassy gates. An
ITF April 2000 resolution calls on affiliates to organize whatever
protest action possible against the military government. ITF ship
inspections in India, Burma's largest export customer, turned up
The MV Pagan incurred the wrath of dockers and the ITF when it sailed
into Calcutta Aug. 20, 2000 with a load of logs and a badly underfed
Burmese crew, according to the Mizzima News Group, an organization of
exiled Burmese journalists. "The wages they get are far below the (ITF)
standard," said Parbati Das of the Calcutta Port Shramik Union, an ITF
dockers' affiliate. Longshore workers refused to discharge cargo until
the ship's master and agent agreed to correct the situation. Burmese
crews are employed through a government-run agency called the Seamen's
Employment Control Division.
"We have not had any official response from the Burmese authorities,"
Nishi Kapahi of the ITF's Delhi office told the Mizzima News Group. "But
our intention is to make them aware of our solidarity and our support
extended to the Burmese seafarers." The Burmese ship Chin Shwe Haw
faced delays in the Indian port of Vishaka Patnam in July, while letters
protesting the treatment of the Seafarers Union of Burma workers were
delivered to the captain.
"We have always supported the cause of the Burmese Seafarers' Union,
which is in exile since trade unionism is not permitted in Burma,"
Kapahi said. Back in the U.S. the United Food and Commercial Workers has
demanded that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, cease doing
business with companies that have ties to the Burmese junta. In a July
18 press statement the union, representing 1.4 million workers, claimed
Wal-Mart Canada shipped 70 tons of garments from Burma into Canada in
the first half of this year and condemned Wal-Mart for doing business
with Burmese garment manufacturers owned by drug lords.
"Wal-Mart should immediately sever all ties with Burma and companies
that trade with Burma," UFCW Vice President Mike Leonard said in the
press release. "Consumers should not be forced to subsidize drug thugs
through purchases at Wal-Mart." In response the company issued a press
statement July 19 saying it would no longer buy from Burma.
More help is on the way from the United Auto Workers. A joint UAW and
AFL-CIO effort called "Labor Rights Now!" started a major campaign
earlier this year put pressure on the
Burmese to free labor activists.
"We will continue to fight until brothers Khin Kyaw, Myo Aung Thant and
all other union detainees are freed, and labor and human rights are
respected in Burma," UAW President Steven Yokich said.
Keeping up the pressure
Response from the U.S. government has been erratic. While President
Clinton used an executive order to impose sanctions May 1997 that banned
additional investment in Burma, the U.S. came under pressure from the
WTO over Massachusetts statute boycotting of firms that do business in
Burma. That state lost a federal lawsuit and a Supreme Court appeal when
the high court ruled June 19 that only the federal government could
impose sanctions. The ruling, which makes illegal the kind of boycotts
that helped overthrow apartheid in South Africa, effectively tossed out
dozens of similar local ordinances. The boycott had been working--Pepsi,
Texaco and Kodak had already withdrawn assets from Burma before the
court ruling. Burmese trade with the U.S. has increased despite the 1997
sanctions, and will total more than $340 million this year unless real
sanctions are imposed. Profit off the extreme low wages goes in part to
the government, a joint partner in most businesses. It spends massive
amounts on the military to suppress various ethnic groups and maintain
the dictatorship. Adidas, Kohl's, Warner Bros., Bugle Boy, Jordache and
Nautica are among the companies still doing business in Burma, according
to the National Labor Committee. Criminal penalties for violation of the
Burma Sanctions Regulations of the U.S. government include fines of up
to $500,000 for corporations and $250,000 for individuals and ten years
"Under current circumstances, it is not possible to do business in
Myanmar without directly supporting the military government and its
pervasive violation of human rights," the Levi Strauss Company said in a
statement after it pulled out of Burma. The International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions estimates that nearly a million unionists, human
rights activists, students and other citizens in Burma have been forced
to work on a variety of projects from pipeline construction for Unocal
and Total oil companies, to human land-mine clearing, in which they are
forced to walk into suspected mine fields. According to reports from the
Executive Council of the AFL-CIO, Burma, under the Myanmar regime, has
become the world's largest supplier of opium, and 60 percent of heroin
seized in the U.S. originates there. Suu Kyi remains active during her
detention. She tried to leave her house Aug. 15 to attend a party
function and was held up by the military on the outskirts of Rangoon for
nine days. Nearly 200 heavily armed soldiers surrounded her car, ending
the standoff Aug. 24. She returned home to find her phone lines cut. The
military refused to allow the British ambassador to visit her, and she
remains under house arrest with extremely limited outside access.
Undaunted by the government's threats, Suu Kyi vowed Sept. 20 to attempt
to leave her house to organize her party. As we go to press she is again
defying the military rulers of Burma.
"Stop us if you dare," she said.
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
Myanmar Times (SPDC): USDA looks to create wealth through vast "Human
September 25-October 1,2000 Volume 2, No
Photo - SPDC Chairman Sen-Gen Than Shwe, SPDC Vice-Chairman Gen Maung
Aye and Secretary-1, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, greet USDA delegates at its
THE Union Solidarity and Development Association ? a nationwide
organisation with more than 14 million members - held its Annual General
Meeting in Hmawbi last week.More than 417 delegates from across the
country attended the five-day gathering to discuss organisational,
social and cultural issues and to hear an opening address from the
group's patron ? and Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council
? Senior General Than Shwe.
Sen-Gen Than Shwe spoke about issues including the peace settlements
struck by the Government with insurgent groups, infrastructural
development in the agricultural sector and efforts to protect
traditional culture while promoting economic reform. He said the country
wanted to build a modern and peaceful nation through two primary forces
? one with patriotism from Union spirit, the other with vast human
resource to exploit rich Myanmar natural assets.The association was
formed seven years ago, on 15 September 1993, and now has state and
division, district, township, and ward and village-tract branches.
Membership of the association is voluntary and members are required to
stay away from party politics.A spokesman from the USDA central office
said the purpose of the association was essentially social." It is a
non-partisan organisation," said U Thein Lwin, head of the USDA social
and cultural department."Members take part in social, public health or
humanitarian tasks."They will never get involved in the promotion of any
political party."We are financially independent from the government," he
ügWe have the Myan-Gon-Myint Group of Companies which has business
undertakings in the fields of export-import and general merchandise
trading, passenger transport, manufacturing and construction as well as
travels and tours to support ourselves," he added. "State or Division
USDAs also have their own businesses."The association is nurturing its
members to become leaders of tomorrow."In the course on international
relations, for example, trainees are given a topic to discuss among
themselves such as they would encounter during an international
U Thein Lwin said benefits accrued through membership to the USDA
included the right to attend vocational, language, management and other
courses.These courses, which to date had been attended by more than half
the association's 14 million members, sought to boost participants' work
skills, knowledge and national spirit, U Thein Lwin said."Members can
attend the basic or advanced courses on computer for which they pay
K1000 and K1500 respectively," he said.
Asahi Evening News: POV?It?s time for Tokyo to tighten the screws on
October 2, 2000
Point of View
Guest editorial. Special to Asahi Shimbun.
By Kavi Chongkittavorn, Executive Editor of The Nation, Bangok.
With the eyes of the interatnational sommunity still focusing on the
plight oof Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the hardening
instransigenge of the junta leaders in Yangoon, Japan?s Myanmar policy
has once again come under the world?s microscope.
Japan is by far the biggest and most eager donor of humanitarian aid to
Myanmar. Tokyo has indicated it is willing to grant additional
assistance of the regime move3s toward reform and further
More than other counrtries, both in the Westa and Asia, Tokyo is betting
that the junta leaders? goodwill and survival instincts will lead to
loosen up after further contacts and exchanges. Japan hopes its policy
will enventually lead to a political environment that encourages
dialogue and national reconciliation.
After a decade, it is still an unfulfilled wish.
Japan is not alone in entertaining this approach. In the past two
years, Australia has been trying to teach the regime it once strongly
condemned to respect human rights and adopt the principles of democracy.
Canberra has been spending a lot of money on experts and seminars,
hoping that the junta would follow the successful experience in
Indonesia and set up a national human rights commission. But
Australia?s soft approach is being criticized at home.
It was no coincidence when a cablegram written by the new Australian
envoy to Rangoon to his boss in Canberra was leaked to an Australian
daily newspaper recently. It said the prospect for improvement of human
rights inside Burma was slim.
Painting a gloomy picture, it noted that the much-heralded appointment
of Dato Ismail Razali, special representative for Myanmar, and his visit
in July has not yielded any positive result.
Razali is scheduled to visit Yangon again in early October to prepare a
report on the situation for Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United
Nations. It comes on the heels of the blockade of Suu Kyi?s travel, and
the report is expected to be harsh on the regime.
Since the crackdown on the prodemocracy movement in 1988, Japan has been
ambivalent in its Myanmar policy even though it showed toughness in
earlier years by halting official aid.
After Myanmar joined ASEAN in 1997, Tokyo became more accommodating with
the junta. Given its historical sentiment and business interests there,
Japan has already established footholds in Myanmar, arguing that it is
pivotal to keep the dialogue open while the West continues to isolate
Now, its Myanmar policy is at risk and could potentially clash with
ASEAN. At the moment, the organization still maintains solidarity on
Myanmar, but this blanket support is wearing thein. Thailand broke
ranks with ASEAN in July when it acted alone and abstained from a
crucial vote in the International Labor Organization (ILO) to sanctoin
With its labor situation up for review at ILO in mid-November, ASEAN
members and the European Union are in limbo with their wait-and-see
attitude toward Myanmar. They are keeping their fingers crossed that
Myanmar will comply with ILO recommendations to halt all forms of forced
labor. There has not been any progress.
If Yangon remains stubborn, ASEAN?s core countries are expected to
follow the Thai example and vote individually. Such a move can also
derail the long awaited ministerial between ASEAN and the European Union
in December. Finally, if Japan maintains its status quo, it would
jeopardize its overall ties with ASEAN as well as Japan-Thai relations.
Tokyo needs to take a more assertive role on Myanmar given its
substantial aid and leverage as well as close rapport with the regime?s
leaders. Japan?s policy can work better if it tightens the screws and
cooperates closely with the international community.
Without a broader and tougher policy, Myanmar will continue to
manipulate and drag its feet on the reconciliation process. Worse, the
regime will benefit form Tokyo?s generosity without resorting to
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