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BurmaNet News: August 21, 2001

______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
        An on-line newspaper covering Burma 
           August 21, 2001   Issue # 1869
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________

MONEY _______
*The Nation: Carving out a promising future 

*The Nation: Living under fire in Burma
*Bangkok Post :  Strike forces suggested to destroy bases 

*Shan Herald Agency for News: Wa told to move "factories" away from the 
*DVB: Poppy cultivation has been increasing
*DVB: Village abbot seeks Shan group help to tackle drug problem 

*AFP: Former governor general of Australia to held Myanmar forced labour 
*ILO News: ILO High Level Team to Visit Myanmar 
*Mizzima: Interview with Professor Paul van Zyl, Program Director of 
International Center for Transitional Justice and Professor of Law, 
Columbia University 

*Free Burma Committee, S. Africa: Myanmar Embassy, South Africa 
interviewed by Piers Pigou


The Nation: Carving out a promising future 

August 20, 2001

Park Kunkhongkaphan is just 21 years old and a third-year law student at 
 Assumption University. Yet despite his youth, he has already had an  
opportunity to experience the competitive world of business thanks to 
his  father opening up a shop dealing in jade artefacts and silk.  

"We have only the finest jade and the best silk from both Thailand and  
Burma," claims the young chap in his shop "Kanok" at the Silom Galleria, 
next  to the Holiday Inn Crowne Hotel. 

His father, a Shan, wanted an outlet in Bangkok to retail precious 
stones  manufactured at his factory in Mae Sai on the Thai-Burmese 
border. Letting  his son run the place and gain some experience of 
business seemed the perfect  solution. 

Park's father also has factories in Rangoon and Burma's ancient capital  

Park says that the best jade is found in Myitkyina in the far north of 
Burma  and that not all items sold as "jade" are the real thing.  

"Our artefacts are entirely produced from pure jade, and some of them 
are  carved out of one single block," explains Park in his highly polite 
and  gracious manner. 

His father's jade and silk factories were opened in Mae Sai some 10 
years  ago, while those in Rangoon and Mandalay were begun just five 
years ago, says  Park. 

The jade carvings to be found in Kanok, named after Park's mother, who 
is  Thai, are some of the best available in Thailand. "Even better than 
those  produced in Hong Kong," stresses Park, sweeping his hand around 
the shop,  where all kinds of carvings from jade and other precious 
stones are on  display. 

Although hidden away on the atrium level at the Silom Galleria, the shop 
is  worth seeking out for those looking for quality jade artefacts and 
silk.The  carvings are done in Mae Sai then brought down to Bangkok.  

They include a statue of the Chinese goddess Guanyin carved from a 
single  block of jade, which took one and a half months to finish and 
has the grand  price tag of Bt400,000. 

However, Park's shop also sells silk jackets, sarongs and scarves at 
prices  far lower than other places and with exquisite designs from both 
Thailand and  Burma. There are also handbags covered in embroidered 
silk.and Pa Neung, the  gentle lady and keeper of Kanok is there from 
9:30 am to 6 pm every day  except on Sundays. 

As well as these off-the-shelf items, Park says that items can be made 
to  order. 

"We can make any kind of design that the customer requires, be it from 
silk,  jade or any other precious stone." 

In Kanok, an intricately-carved cabbage made out of jade catches the 
eye.  "It's carved out of one solid piece," says Park, beaming with 
pride at the  flawless objet d'art. "It took two months to make and is 
priced at Bt300,000".  

It is quite unbelievable how the artisans carved those pieces inside. 
One  thing for certain: they could not have been placed inside after 
being carved  because the pieces are simply too big to be inserted 
through the  openings!Another object, a necklace carved out of a single 
piece of jade,  goes for Bt55,000. 

Kanok, which has now been open for seven months, will |surely give Park 
a  chance to acquire business acumen at a young age. 


Bangkok Post :  Strike forces suggested to destroy bases 

Proposal to go to defence minister 

Wassana Nanuam 

Special strike task forces should be set up to destroy drug bases along 
the  Thai-Burmese border, officers suggested at a military workshop.  

The suggestion was included in a proposal drawn up by some 30 senior 
military  officers at a defence workshop at Chulachomklao Royal Military 
Academy in  Nakhon Nayok. 

The proposal will go to Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh who  
presides over the seminar closing today. 

Gen Oraphan Watanawibul, a former armed forces chief-of-staff, said he 
backed  the proposed use of small-sized task forces to strike drug 

In 1981, the general played a leading role in the deployment of 600 
special  warfare troops to raid 14 drug factories owned by then drug 
warlord Khun Sa  in border areas of Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong 

Seven Thai soldiers were killed and 22 others sustained injuries in 
those  raids. The drug gangs were armed with hi-tech weapons and radar 

``Now, to destroy a factory, we have to be careful about boundaries 
because  we cannot operate in neighbouring countries. It will be good 
for us to solve  the problem at its root. 

``But our soldiers must be well-trained in terms of knowledge and 
strategies.  They must have ideologies and not vie for benefits. Unit 
commanders must take  good control,'' Gen Oraphan said. 

Lt-Gen Sajja Bunnag, former head of an intelligence unit operating along 
the  border with Burma, Laos and Cambodia, said the Thai military could 
do it  without entering neighbouring countries. 

Thailand should seek help from other nations in forming an anti-drug  
confederation with strike forces to destroy factories in any member 
country,  he said. 

Gen Prasert Sararit, a workshop delegate and adviser to the defence 
minister,  said there were limits on the use of soldiers to combat drugs 
since such  operations could be done by the military alone, without help 
from police or  anti-drug officers, in only 111 villages of 21 
The defence minister said laws were being drafted on specific issues 
such as  transnational crime under which the military would have the 
authority to  suppress drugs. 


The Nation: Living under fire in Burma

August 17, 2001

By Daniel Pedersen and Nelson Rand

For three days they were there, hanging like shadows and watching from 
ridges gilded by the mists and low clouds that mark the tropical wet 
season in lands that are neither Thailand's nor Burma's. 

The troops would suddenly appear, startling villagers who were searching 
for food around their makeshift camp. And then the soldiers were gone, 
as quickly as they came. But the Karen villagers knew what they had seen 
- and it terrified them. 

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) attacked the camp. They came 
from two directions in bursts of automatic machine-gunfire and rounds of 
rocket propelled grenades that scorched the earth. More than 2,000 
people fled for their lives to seek refuge in Thailand. 

The hour-long assault launched against Mae La Po Hta Thaw, an internally 
displaced persons' camp, sparked an exodus unprecedented in recent 

That was on July 17, just days before members of the Association of 
Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and their dialogue partners met in Hanoi 
to discuss regional security issues. 
The junta's attack on Mae La Po Hta Thaw, populated by Karens, the 
country's largest ethnic minority, was never discussed. In fact praise 
of Burma's ruling military junta was dispensed in a joint statement 
after talks were completed. 

Vietnamese foreign minister Nguyen Dy Nien told the Asean Regional Forum 
(ARF) that: "We appreciate the developments there [in Burma]". 

Vietnam, which currently has the revolving presidency of Asean, has long 
discouraged "meddling" in Burma's internal affairs. 

However the European Union's representative at the talks, Belgian 
foreign minister Louis Michel, viewed Burma's internal situation 
somewhat differently from his Vietnamese counterpart. 

"There must be respect to minorities," he said, describing the ARF 
statement as "rather weak". The ARF members, in a prepared statement, 
expressed "appreciation" of the developments that had occurred in Burma 
during the past 12 months since they had last met. 

During the past 10 months there have allegedly been ongoing talks 
between the junta and main opposition leader, Nobel Peace laureate Aung 
San Suu Kyi. 

What has been discussed in these talks, which have been hailed by 
foreign governments and the media alike as "watershed" remains a 
mystery. In fact when the talks occurred, or with what frequency, has 
not been revealed. 

And they have not involved Burma's myriad ethnic minorities, which make 
up almost 40 per cent of the country's population. 

During a clandestine meeting on the Thai-Burma border Mahn Sha, a leader 
of the Karen National Union, the political arm of the Karens' resistance 
group, dismissed the much-lauded talks as "insignificant". "They mean 
nothing to us," he said.

He suggested they were merely the latest ploy by the junta in its quest 
for international legitimacy. 

He said things were worse than ever for the Karen. Fierce Burmese 
government offensives had occurred throughout this year's wet season - 
in the past decisive military thrusts have been left for the dry season. 

But, with the rice crops that nourish Burma's rebels now ready for 
harvest, the Burmese military is attacking Karen areas and forcing them 
off their lands. The SPDC wants to stop the harvest. 
"They [Burmese troops] have been ordered to destroy everything, even the 
plants, so there is nothing left to sustain human life," said Mahn Sha. 

Karens displaced inside Burma work against the odds to feed themselves. 
Following Burmese offensives that force Karen villagers from their homes 
and into the jungle, the necessities of life take over. A secluded area 
deemed safe must be found where a makeshift camp can be set up and 
nearby land cleared to grow rice. 
Mae La Po Hta Waw was one such camp.

>From a population that had swelled to almost 4,000 before the attack, 
840 Karens have now returned to their rudimentary dwellings, after 
seeking temporary refuge in Thailand or in the nearby jungle. Their 
church has been burned down, and the 52-year-old pastor Hwe Htoo stands 
outside it, cursing the Burmese soldiers who razed it to the ground. The 
camp's predominantly Christian population used to gather here each 
Sunday. They have not yet begun to rebuild it, for now there will only 
be open-air gatherings - weather permitting, as the rainy season is at 
its peak. 
At the camp's school, 28-year-old principal Hsa Hklo Htoo presides over 
his classes. The usual chatter of schoolchildren emanates, but there is 
far less noise than there used to be. Only half of the kids have 
returned, and their attendance depends on the "situation". 

The school has been attacked repeatedly by SPDC soldiers since it was 
established in May of last year, and once completely destroyed. 

Despite the danger, the kids here continue to turn out for morning roll 
call. They are taught four languages - Karen, Thai, Burmese and English 
- as well as mathematics, but perhaps the most important skill they 
learn is the sixth sense required to survive in a war zone. 

Pe Kayt is 11 years old and has lived in this camp for one-and-a half 
years. She came to the camp after her home village was burned to the 
ground by Burmese troops. She was among the first of 1,479 arrivals that 
founded this settlement. 

"I hope I can keep coming to school, but each day I must check the 
situation," she says. 
Principal Htoo explains: "The Karen people just want to stay on their 
own land, in the future we would like [the opportunity to be asked] a 
quiet question, to quietly decide our own fate, we don't want enemies." 
He says the people in the camp just want the fighting to stop. 

The factional split of the Karen leadership in 1995 resulted in two 
armies of the same people fighting each other - the pro-Rangoon 
Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the Christian-dominated Karen 
National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Karen National Union. 

This split has had dire consequences for the people. No longer is there 
simply a united Karen resistance force - communities have been split as 
their men take to the mountains with either side. 

"We are not KNU or DKBA," says the school principal, "but there are 
families of both in this camp, we don't want to be controlled by either 

The principal's comments suggest that, at age 11, one must forsake 
childlike pursuits in Karen State, but then what does she like doing? "I 
like to sing very much," she says. 

And so while Pe Kayt sings traditional Karen songs about her homeland, 
war continues to engulf it. As Asean praises Burma for its commitment to 
a transition to democracy, the struggle of the ethnic minorities 
continues with no end in sight. The plight of the minorities, like the 
Karen, highlights the fact that all is not well in Burma. 

But there are those in the international community who condemn Asean's 
diplomacy and do not accept the junta's pledges that it is working 
towards peace. 

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions secretary-general Bill 
Jordan, at an international conference in Bangkok on July 24, described 
Burma as the world's "biggest labour camp". 

"Any serious investigation would show that the pronounced initiatives 
are cosmetic measures for international consumption and have not touched 
the people of Burma," he said. 

The KNU's Mahn Sha also dismissed any pretence of progress in Burma. 

"We do not see any significant development ... they [the junta's talks 
with Suu Kyi] are for publicity's sake, to convince foreign countries 
that things are going okay." 

EU external affairs commissioner Chris Patten said the use of forced 
labour should worry all countries.  "What is important to us is that 
there be a dialogue with National League for Democracy (Suu Kyi's party) 
and ethnic minorities," he said. 

Mahn Sha said the talks have not touched any of the ethnic minorities; 
the Karen haven't officially talked to Burmese government 
representatives since November 1996. 
The Burmese junta has made clear it will not talk with the Karen unless 
they enter the "legal fold". 

But Mahn Sha interprets the "legal fold" very differently from the 
junta, which he considers an illegal force anyway. 

"If the SPDC respects the law, they would have accepted the 1990 
election results," he said. Aung San Su Kyi's National League for 
Democracy Party won the elections by a landslide, but the military never 
allowed parliament to convene.  "The constitution has been demolished, 
they are ruling by martial law - how can you submit to a military 
dictatorship? We feel responsible for our people", said Mahn Sha. 

Forced labour remains a widespread practice in Burma and is used by the 
Burmese army to help fight its war against the ethnic minorities. Mahn 
Sha said that on July 12, fifteen porters carrying ammunition and 
supplies for SPDC troops in Northern Karen State escaped to KNLA 
controlled territory. Among them was a monk, who told of beatings and 
summary executions of porters by SPDC troops if they were too exhausted 
to walk on. He saw one man bayoneted to death. 

Such use of forced labour in Burma has been described as "pervasive" by 
the International Labour Organisation (ILO). 

Both the ILO and the European Union have placed sanctions on Burma and 
urged all countries to do the same. The KNU's Mahn Sha stresses that 
these sanctions work, and that any foreign investment into Burma puts 
money directly in the hands of the military. And with that money the 
military buys weapons to wage war against the minorities. 

"We ask that countries at least be neutral", he said.

Mahn Sha criticised Asean and Australia's policy of "constructive 
engagement", saying that any engagement with the SPDC does nothing to 
help the people of Burma. 
Australia annually sponsors human rights workshops in Burma aimed at 
middle-ranking bureaucrats. At the recent Asean regional forum in Hanoi, 
Australia maintained that any engagement with the SPDC was better than 
none at all - a stance not supported by EU external affairs commissioner 
Chris Patten. "I don't think we have always seen entirely eye to eye 
(win Australia) on Burma in general", he said.

As the international community continues to bicker about the best way to 
handle Burma, the people of the country go about their everyday lives. 
Several hundred thousand of them, according to the IDFTU, are subjected 
to forced labour every day. Mahn Sha estimates that 300,000 Karens are 
currently internally displaced. At Mae La Po Hta Thaw, children continue 
their schooling despite the ever-present threat of government attacks. 

And 11-year-old adults sing traditional Karen songs about their 


Shan Herald Agency for News: Wa told to move "factories" away from the 

August 19, 2001

Wa told to move "factories" away from the border
Several drug refineries along the Thai border had been ordered by 
Burmese  authorities to relocate far from the borderline, said sources 
who visited  the weekly market at BP-1, between Mongton and Chiangmai 

One of them, owned by Takab, deputy commander of the Independent Brigade 
in  Mongyawn (its commander is Wei Hsaitang, no relative to Wei 
Hsiaokang), was  transferred from Piangkham in Mongyawn to 1½ km south 
of Hopang, Maeken  Tract, 8 km east of Mongton. Mongton is 80 km north 
of BP-1. 

The 5 building refinery produces both heroin and speed pills and is 
guarded  by 150-strong security force, they said.


DVB: Poppy cultivation has been increasing

Text of report by DVB on 17 August

DVB has learned that although Col Tin Hlaing, chairman of Burma's 
Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control, claimed that the country is 
making all out efforts to eradicate narcotic drugs at the recent drug 
control meeting of Burma, Thailand, Laos, and China held in Rangoon, in 
practice poppy cultivation has been increasing.  

This was disclosed in a report sent from Lashio-based Northeast Military 
Command to Rangoon military headquarters. The report noted that there 
are over 76,000 acres of poppy plantations in northern Shan State alone. 

According to that report which DVB has received a copy, the poppy 
cultivation and destruction acreage was explained by charts. It showed 
less than 20,000 acres of poppy fields were destroyed. One table showed 
the list of regions where poppy fields were unable to be destroyed. They 
included over 50,000 acres in Wa special region, about 15,000 acres in 
KIA [Kachin Independence Army] special region, about 7,000 acres in 
Laukkai region, and nearly 2,000 acres in Mong Ko region. Furthermore, 
there are also thousands of acres of poppy fields in SPDC controlled 
regions such as Hsenwi,  Tangyan, Kutkai, Namhkam, Mu-se, Kunlong, and 

According to the United Nations Drug Control Programme UNDCP, US based 
DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], and Thailand based ONCB [Office 
of the Narcotics Control Board], Burma ranks second to Afghanistan as 
the world's greatest producer of drugs. But international magazines have 
been widely speculating that top SPDC generals themselves are involved 
in the production and trafficking of narcotic drugs.  


DVB: Village abbot seeks Shan group help to tackle drug problem 

Text of report by DVB on 13 August

DVB has learned that a dispute broke out between the regional SPDC 
battalion and border supervisory company, and the Shan State National 
Army [SSNA] because the abbot of Maw Win Village in Northern Shan State 
sought assistance from the SSNA for elimination of narcotic drugs in the 

The youths in Maw Win Village have become addicted to opium and other 
narcotic drugs and the abbot has sought help from the regional battalion 
and the township authorities but to no avail. So he finally wrote to the 
SSNA in July seeking their assistance to eliminate the drug problem.  

Over 10 SSNA members came to Maw Win Village during the second week of 
July and held talks with the abbot on anti-drug measures. At that time U 
San Phaw, chairman of the Village Peace and Development Council, 
together with members of LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] 312 came to the 
abbot and told him that the government is engaging in anti-narcotic drug 
activities while the regional authorities are implementing anti-drug 
measures. They blamed the abbot for contacting the SSNA, told him that 
there was no need to do so, and confiscated the weapons from the SSNA 
members and left.  

The SSNA is one of the groups that signed a cease-fire agreement with 
the SPDC. The SSNA troops were also warned that they would be arrested 
and action taken if they intrude other regions like this in future. The 
SSNA broke away from the ranks of former drug kingpin Khun Sa and signed 
a cease-fire agreement with the SPDC in 1995. DVB has learned that the 
SSNA broke away from Khun Sa because of his involvement in narcotic 

___________________ REGIONAL/INTERNATIONAL___________________

AFP: Former governor general of Australia to held Myanmar forced labour 

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 (AFP) - Ninian Stephen, a former governor general 
of Australia, will lead a four-member mission from the International 
Labour Organisation (ILO) next month to Myanmar to assess actions by the 
military junta to end forced labour, the UN said Tuesday. 

 The mission is expected to visit Myanmar in mid-September and to spend 
up to three weeks in the country, the Geneva-based ILO said in a 
 It noted that "in carrying out its mandate, the team will have full 
discretion to establish a programme of such contacts and visits as it 
considers appropriate across the country." 

 Other members of the team are Nieves Roldan-Confesor, former secretary 
of labour and employment of the Philippines, Kulatilaka Ranasinghe, 
former chief justice of Sri Lanka, and Jerzy Makarczyk, a former deputy 
foreign minister of Poland and currently a judge on the European Court 
of Human Rights. 
 The Myanmar government agreed to the visit in June and said team 
members would be free to travel and arrange meetings unless there were 
"valid security considerations." 

 At the time, the ILO noted that "certain legislative changes that have 
been introduced since October last year ... were relevant but an 
insufficient basis for improving legislation." 

 Last November, the ILO recommended that its members review their 
relations with Yangon, an unprecedented step paving the way for possible 
 Myanmar has been under fire in the ILO since 1998, when an inquiry 
commission said it had significant direct testimony of the systematic 
and general use of forced labour, particularly involving ethnic 



ILO News: ILO High Level Team to Visit Myanmar 

Mission to Assess Government Actions on Eliminating Forced Labour

August 20, 2001

	GENEVA (ILO News) ?The composition of a High Level Team due to visit 
Myanmar for a three-week period next month to assess Government actions 
on forced labour was announced today by the ILO Director-General Juan 

	The team is composed of: The Right Honourable Sir Ninian STEPHEN of 
Australia (Chair); Ms. Nieves ROLDAN-CONFESOR of the Philippines 
(Vice-Chair), and Mr. Kulatilaka Arthanayake Parinda RANASINGHE of Sri 
Lanka and Mr. Jerzy MAKARCZYK of Poland, as members.

	The establishment of the Team, which was agreed in May and considered 
by the International Labour Conference at its June 2001 session, is a 
new and significant development which follows a series of steps taken by 
the ILO's competent bodies to secure compliance by Myanmar with its 
obligations under ILO Convention No. 29 (1930) concerning forced labour. 

	The mandate of the Team is to make an objective assessment of the 
practical implementation and actual impact of various legislative, 
executive and administrative measures announced by the Government in 
response to previous ILO action, with a view to determining whether 
these measures have been effective in eliminating the practice of forced 
labour. In making its assessment, the Team will take into account in 
particular the views expressed recently on this matter by the ILO 
Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and 

	In carrying out its mandate, the Team will have full discretion to 
establish a programme of such contacts and visits as it considers 
appropriate across the country. It is anticipated that it will visit 
Myanmar in mid-September and spend up to three weeks in the country. It 
is due to report to the Governing Body at its November 2001 session.

Biographical information of the team is as follows:

	Chair: The Right Honourable Sir Ninian STEPHEN, KG, AK, GCMG, GCVO, 
KBE, PC (Australia), former Governor-General of Australia; former 
Justice of the High Court of Australia; former Chairman, Strand Two of 
the Talks on Northern Ireland; former Judge of the United Nations 
International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; 
former Commonwealth of Nations Special Envoy to Bangladesh; former 
Chairman, United Nations Expert Group on Cambodia; former Australian 
Special Ambassador for the Environment; former Chairman, Constitutional 
Centenary Foundation; former Chairman, Antarctic Foundation;  former 
Chairman, National Library of Australia; former Chairman, Australian 
Banking Industry Ombudsman Council; Chair, Australian Citizenship 
Council; Chair, Australian Blood and Blood Products Review; member of 
the Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee.

	Vice-Chair: Ms. Nieves ROLDAN-CONFESOR (Philippines), former 
Philippines Secretary of Labour and Employment; former Presidential 
Adviser on International Labour Affairs; former Chair, ILO Governing 
Body; former board member of the Landbank of the Philippines, the Social 
Security Commission, the National Wages and Productivity Commission, the 
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the Philippine 
Agrarian Reform Council, and the National Economic Planning Council; 
former head of the Panel of Experts to the Congressional Commission on 
Labour; former Chair, ASEAN Labour Ministers' Meeting; expert-adviser to 
the ILO Governing Body on the follow up to the Declaration on 
Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work; member of the Operating 
Council of the Global Alliance for Workers and Their Communities; 
faculty member, Asian Institute of Management.

	Member: Mr. Kulatilaka Arthanayake Parinda RANASINGHE (Sri Lanka), 
former Chief Justice of Sri Lanka; former member of Judicial Tribunal to 
inquire into allegations made against the then Head of the Judiciary of 
Malaysia; former Visiting Expert, United Nations Asia and Far East 
Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders, Tokyo; 
member of several Arbitral Tribunals dealing with Commercial 
Arbitration; President, Sri Lanka Chapter of the Asia Crime Prevention 

	Member: Mr. Jerzy MAKARCZYK, LL.D (Poland), Judge, European Court of 
Human Rights; Professor of Public International Law, Institute of Legal 
Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences; former Deputy Minister of Foreign 
Affairs; former Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; in 
charge of negotiations with USSR and then Russia on withdrawal of troops 
from Polish territory; in charge of negotiations for the admission of 
Poland to the Council of Europe; former President, International Law 
Association; associate member, Institute of International Law; has given 
lectures, seminars and acted as a consultant at various universities in 
Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Philippines.



Mizzima: Interview with Professor Paul van Zyl, Program Director of 
International Center for Transitional Justice and Professor of Law, 
Columbia University 
August 15, 2001, New Delhi


Prof. Paul van Zyl who was also an executive secretary of South Africa's 
Truth and Reconciliation Commission was recently in New Delhi along with 
his colleague Prof. Nicholas Haysan for a two-day workshop on 
"Transitional Justice and Constitutional Negotiation" for the Burma 
pro-democracy activists and ethnic nationalities groups based in India. 

The two-day workshop participated by about 60 activists of Burma ended 
on August 15. Prof. Nicholas Haysan was legal advisor to the President 
Mandela for his fourth Presidency and also a central member of 
Negotiating Team, which facilitated the establishment of a peaceful and 
democratic South Africa. 

The following is the interview with Prof. Paul van Zyl on some of the 
critical questions Burma is facing today. 

About the workshops being organized for the Burma activists in exile 

The International Centre for Transitional Justice is a newly established 
and non-governmental organization based in New York, which does training 
and capacity building in societies where there is a desire for people to 
move forward to deal with conflicts in a constructive and peaceful way 
and to consider and analyze the best practices of societies trying to 
deal with the past around the world.  

So, for example, the workshops that we are currently undertaking are 
aimed to provide participants with the comparative analysis of how 
societies like Indonesia, East Timor, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, 
Guatemala, Al Salvador, how all these societies are trying to grapple 
with the legacy of human rights abuse and deal with the human rights 
abuse in a way that is constructive which builds a peaceful and unified 
What are the main problems you see in Burma?

As I understand the particular issue in Burma right now is that there is 
a process of discussion and negotiation and dialogue occurring between 
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on one hand and the SPDC on the other hand. And it 
seems to be very important that those talks and discussions proceed, 
that they intensify and that they continue to try and find acceptable 
solutions to the current conflicts in Burma. And it is my conviction 
that there are no conflicts in the world that are incapable of 
resolutions through discussions and dialogue. But in order for them to 
be solved and addressed, there has to be a frank and open and on-going 
discussions. I think the challenge in Burma now is to find a way to 
allow those discussions not only to continue but to intensify and to 
start putting pro-active constructive proposals on the table which will 
allow there to be some forward movements and allow there to be more 
thorough-going for restoration of democratic rule in Burma. 
About the transitional justice, about the generals who committed crimes  

Well, I think there is certainly an argument to be heard that you need 
to address the past. And particularly when there have been victims of 
human rights abuses, peoples whose lives have been very badly affected 
by conflict and by human rights abuse. You need to find the ways of 
dealing with the interest of victims and you can do a wide range of 
strategies. And may be possible to try and provide victims with some 
measures of compensation, it may be possible to try and provide them 
with the truth about what happened to them or their relatives, some 
measures of official formal acknowledgement which recognizes their pains 
and their suffering and I think it is very important that in these 
discussions to listen to the voices of victim, to let their voices be 
heard because they are the people whose lives have been affected and 
being ruined in many instances and so those are the people who we should 
listen to trying to fashion the strategy to deal with the past. 

About the level of understanding between democracy activists and ethnic 
groups in exile 

It is important to look at the questions of building a united Burma in 
broad possible terms. I think that applies as much as it does for the 
people in the Burmese opposition movement as it does to the people in 
the SPDC that in any movement there are differences of views, difference 
of perspectives, and there are certainly differences of views within the 
SPDC on how these issues should be addressed and there are obviously 
differences within the Burmese community. And the question is not so 
much about trying to eradicate those differences. Differences are/can be 
healthy. In fact most democracies are predicate on differences that is 
about creating a system, which allows people to differ in a way that is 
constructive rather than in a way that leads to conflict. So our 
conviction is that we need to increase dialogue not only between the 
Burmese opposition movement and SPDC but also within those particular 
groups and to encourage people to really discuss the differences rather 
than allowing those differences to lead to violence or to division or 
suspicion or hostility. It is our strong conviction that is achieved 
through on-going discussions and dialogue. 
About writing of State Constitutions by some ethnic nationalities in 
exile and drafted Federal Constitution 

There can be open and far-going debates about what form of 
constitutional dispensation is most desirable, and that is very 
important to happen and there should be, I think, real attention paid to 
how we go about facilitating that discussion. The second point that I 
think is as we have become more sophisticated in the way we draft 
Constitutions, I think we used to believe that there was an inherent 
conflict between people on the one hand who says that we need to have a 
strong united centralized state and people on the other hand on the far 
extreme who says we want to have separatist movements and many State 
Constitutions which are virtually little countries until themselves. And 
there is a very interesting middle ground between those two positions, 
which I think is possible to look at the Burmese context. I think it is 
a solution that can potentially accommodate the views of ethnic 
minorities in Burma. It can accommodate the views of pro-democracy 
forces who are more inclined to move towards more united or unitary 
model that can even include the views of SPDC who is much more inclined 
to keep a centralized Burma. I think you can find solutions which deal 
with questions of minority rights, the power of state constitutions, in 
a way that will accommodate everybody's concerns and provided that you 
create a forum where people can discuss these issues openly and frankly 
and that you can draw the practices around the world. I think what is 
exciting about Burma is that we have had since WWII more than fifty 
years of experiences how we create and fashion new constitutions and 
Burma is ironically in a position to be able to draw from the enormous 
experiences which has happened all over the world. And can hopefully 
steer away through these divisive polarity which say that you need a 
central strong government or very decentralized government. I think we 
can find aspects of government which can find both of those features 
which will be reassuring to all groups involved in these discussions. 

So, you think Burma needs a National Convention?.?

 I don't want to prescribe a specific solution. I think the principle 
that you refer to is very important. The principle is that we need to 
ensure the vast and overwhelming majority of Burmese people are 
consulted about the future nature of the state in constitutional term. 
And whether we call that a National Convention or that we call that a 
Constituent Assembly or whether we call that a Process of Multi-Party 
Negotiations. The name we give is less important than the fact that we 
need to find the process where everybody is genuinely included in the 
settlement of what is obviously a very painful part of this country's 
Are you hopeful on the talks?

I think it is very difficult to predict what results talks will produce. 
What we have seen in Northern Ireland, for example, recently is that you 
can make enormous progress one day and next day, you have enormous set 
backs. And again enormous progress and enormous set back. So, often the 
time which you feel most despairing, you feel that there is no 
reasonable progress has been made, sometimes, the time when the most 
surprisingly break-through occur. So, again, I think that rather than 
trying to read the future and see what will happen, I think our 
organization is playing an active role in seeking to encourage real 
discussion between ASSK and SPDC and to encourage them to be brave and 
to make difficult decisions and to think of the country as a whole as 
they proceed through those discussions. And obviously I think that the 
SPDC because it controls state power and government needs to be 
encouraged to respond appropriately and to take initiatives which will 
try and encourage discussions and encourage situation with Burmese 
people feel that they can participate in the future of their country. 
And as long as that happens, I think we should support this dialogue 
process because ultimately you have to talk, you have to resolve the 
question through talking. 
About giving similar workshops for SPDC

I certainly think that it is an important priority and something we 
continue to believe that it takes two parties to negotiate. And 
therefore you need to ensure that both parties have information and 
analysis and often governments need to be able to understand where 
opposition forces are coming from and to have an inside and their 
perspectives. For that reason, we are continuing to play an active role 
in facilitating a discussion and in encouraging the discussion between 
Aung San Suu Kyi and the SPDC and continue to believe that is one of the 
most important ways of achieving an important breakthrough in Burmese 
Do you foresee a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Burma? 

I think the decision about whether to establish a truth commission is 
again the decision that particularly Burmese people will have to make. 
And most fundamentally the Burmese victims have to make. We should be 
guided by their views and perspectives and if that is something that 
they find important and attractive, it is certainly something that ought 
to be very seriously considered. Because I think that the historical 
evidence suggest that the truth and reconciliation commission can play 
important and constructive role in dealing with the legacy of human 
rights abuse and helping victims deal with the trauma associated with 
the human rights abuse. 

But there is no use in outside experts coming in and trying to tell the 
Burmese people what to do. The decision has to be owned by the Burmese 
people that they have to make the decision that this is something useful 
and constructive for them. It is their future and it is their country. 
All we can do is provide them comparative information that is to say 
these were the successes and failure of South Africa. These were the 
successes and failures of Chile and Argentina. These were the successes 
and failures of Bosnia, these were the successes and failures of East 
Timor, and allow the Burmese people to choose the successful pieces of 
the pile and to avoid the failure so that they deal with the past with 
more sophisticated way than perhaps we were able to do. 


Free Burma Committee, S. Africa: Myanmar Embassy, South Africa 
interviewed by Piers Pigou

This is the answers of SPDC embassy (South Africa) to the questions of 
Piers Pigou, journalist from South Africa. Piers wrote an article in 
Mail and Guardian, 10th August issue in South Africa. Before his 
interview, the SPDC asked him to send questions what he wants to ask and 
couple of days later, the regime's embassy answered it and accepted for 
interview. Piers end up his article "how the SPDC's rhetoric to move 
forward its 13-year "transition" will be translated into meaningful 
change". We are preparing the booklet/newsletter their Q/A and response 
the regime's answers by all dissidents all around the world. later, we 
will distribute. We, FBCSA request to all dissidents please response 
their answers and send it to me and also mention whether you want to put 
your name or not.when we distribute the newsletter. We would like to 
request to all, rather than the emotional feeling please point out "hard 
points" and mention the facts and undeniable evidences. If possible give 
your references and logic. You may response to all answers or only your 
preferable one. (The one you can show strong evidence) Depend on the 
page limitation, please allow us to make short if it is necessary. Once 
again, we would like to request to all, please do not response the 
emotional feeling because of the space.It will so valuable, if you point 
out facts/figures and previous documents. Please send to me in +/- one 
week time.

In struggle
Thein Win
Fax +27 11 8821421 (Res)

Myanmar Embassy, South Africa interviewed by Piers Pigou

Myanmar embassy, South Africa asked Piers Pigou to send questions what 
he wants to ask to them. After couple of days they gave the following 
answers and accept interview on 6th August 2001. 
Piers Pigou?s article ?Hopes rest on dialogue in Rangoon? appeared in 
South Africa, Mail & Guardian on 10th August 2001. 
Note: There are few typing/spelling errors in a copy of Myanmar embassy. 
I do not correct the errors. I try to make their transcript unchanged 
except using italic font for questions to read easier. 

  1.. Is there any significance to be attached to the non-attendance of 
Aung San Suu Kyi at the recent ceremony at the Shwedagon Pagoda? No, 
there is no significance to that. Every year on the 19th of July, 
Martyr?s day as we call it, tributes with full state honours were paid 
to General Aung San (the late father of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) and other 
leaders who were assassinated. For the last few years, Daw Aung San Suu 
Kyi has attended the Martyr?s Day ceremony, but this year for some 
unknown reason, although she was officially invited and an escorting 
officer and transportation was specially provided, she decided not to 
attend. It was a national ceremony of her own father and so what else 
can the Government do but to respect her decision on this matter. You 
may not know this but General Aung San has a son also-Mr. Aung San Oo 
who is living in the United States. Mr. Aung San Oo has been attending 
the Martyr?s Day ceremony in previous years but he also failed to attend 
this year. I?m sure he must have his own reasons, but does that create 
any speculations? Those concerned have made inquires with their 
respective Missions in Yangon and the confirmation is that there has 
been on restrictions from the Government?s side and the non-attendance 
of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was solely her own decision. 

  2.. What is the current political situation, in terms of negotiations 
with opposition groupings, both inside and outside of the country? Does 
this include the ethnic minority grouping? The Government of Myanmar is 
transitional in nature and is committed to the establishment of a 
democratic political system. Myanmar has had two constitutions since 
independence from Great Britain, the (first) 1947 Constitution was 
abolished for a one-party socialist constitution in 1974 and that 
(second) 1974 was also abolished in 1988 for a multiparty democratic 
system. For Myanmar to became a peaceful, prosperous, modern and 
developed nation, exercising multi-party democracy-a strong and enduring 
state Constitution is a necessity. After patient negotiation, 17 armed 
insurgent groups (all ethnic minorities) have returned to the legal fold 
and working hand-in-hand with the Government, not only are they engaged 
in developing their own regions but also they are actively 
participating, along with other political parties and representatives in 
the National Convention which is a forum for political dialogue with the 
aim of laying down fundamental principles for the New State 
Constitution. Once the New State Constitution has been adopted, a 
parliament will be convened and State power will be transferred to the 
democratically elected Government. Some critise that the National 
Convention is taking such a long time and they wish to see progressment 
quickly. To that I must respond that a constitutional process is quite 
delicate and sensitive, one that must not be rushed and put under 
unnecessary pressure for it would only hinder the pace of 
democratization. Today?s world is so full of examples where a hasty 
transition from one political system to another has resulted in chaos 
and disruptions including armed violence, and we cannot let that happen 
to our country. 

  3.. What are the major difficulties and obstacles in these negotiation 
processes? In my own personal opinion the major difficulties and 
obstacles in the negotiation process could well be the need for more 
mutual understanding, patience and to drop unrealistic demands in some 
cases. Taking negative views and confrontational attitude will surely 
hinder the advance to democracy in our country and pressure from outside 
can be counter-productive. 

  4.. What is the current economic situation in Myanmar? Is the economy 
thriving or experiencing problems? Concerns have been raised about 
limited economic know-how in the Myanmar Government and that certain 
decision-makers have only a very limited knowledge of economics and 
economic system. It is the case that there are only a limited pool of 
economic skills in the country? Due to financial crises in Asia, Myanmar 
was indirectly affected with a result of  

5.3% reduction of foreign investment, and since 1988 our country has 
been cut off from nearly all official aid flows and development 
assistance for political reasons, which creates a bit of slow-down in 
our economic growth. Concerning current economic situation, I would?nt 
want to use the term thriving but our economy grew by an average 7.2% 
and although there may be some minor hiccups I?m sure that we not 
experiencing major problems. 

The second part of this question about limited economic know-how-let me 
just answer by saying that given the situation of Myanmar, with no aid 
and assistance outside with rich nations imposing unilateral sanctions, 
it?s tough to survive. But the country is not only surviving but looking 
at the GDP growth it?s undeniable that we?re doing quite well, so the 
Government is to be given credit in fact. 

The commercial policies of rich countries are not always fair to the 
world?s poor countries like ours and I believe South Africa can 
understand it very well. So just imagine in the near future when new 
foreign investment and financial assistance is injected into Myanmar, I 
can vouch that in short period of time we can achieve greater progress 
and development. 

  5.. Who are Myanmar?s major trading partners?
As of April, 2000 (top 20 countries)

1.Singapore 2.UK 3.Thailand 4.Malaysia 5.United States 6.France 7.The 
Netherlands 8.Indonesia 9. Japan 10. China (including Hong Kong) 11. The 
12. Republic of Korea 13. Australia 14. Austria 15. Canada 16. Panama 
17. Germany 18. Denmark 19. Cyprus 20. India 

  6.. What are the main industries in Myanmar?
Myanmar is a country rich in natural and human resources because of the 
vast cultivable land, long coastline, navigable river systems, lust 
forests, abundant minerals, precious gemstones and the literate 
population. With a favourable ratio of population to land and abundant 
water resource the agriculture sector accounts for 36% of the country?s 
GDP, 35% of total exports and employs 63% of the total labour force. 
Myanmar?s main industries are- 
  1.. Agriculture 2. Livestock and fishery 3. Forestry 4.Energy 5.Mining 
6. Processing and Manufacturing 7. Electric Power 8. Construction 

  7.. What are Myanmar?s major imports and exports?
Major imports
  1.. Machinery 2. Transport equipment 3. Construction material 4. Food 

Major exports
1. Rice 2. Beans and pulses 3. Prawns 4. Fish 5. Timber 6. Gemstones 

  8.. What are the main areas of actual or potential trade between South 
Africa and Myanmar? Unfortunately, there isn?t much bilateral trade 
between South Africa and Myanmar for the time being. 

But, there is a growing interest on our side and in October 1999, a 
Myanmar Trade Delegation headed by the Deputy Minister of Trade and 
Commerce participated in the South African International Trade Expo 
(SAITEX?99) and they even won the Exhibition Stand Excellence (Bronze) 
Award. Based on our resources and  that of South Africa, I would say 
that potential trade between our two countries would benefit in areas 
such as Tourism, Agricultural products, Forestry, Mining, Energy, 
Construction and Food-stuff. 

  9.. In 2000, Amnesty International claimed that South African produced 
weapons and equipment used for the purpose of riot control (electric 
batons/riot shields) had ended up in Myanmar. Does Myanmar purchase 
weapons or logistical military equipment from South Africa? Is Myanmar 
interested in developing trade in this area? We have riot police in our 
Police Force, but they are issued with rubber batons and riot shields 
made of ratten (cane) from our own country. We do not have electric 
batons or stun guns or tear-gas canisters, so what Amnesty International 
had claimed could be just a bunch of distorting facts and fabricating 
stories that they gathered from some dissidents. 

Once again I would like to reiterate that our country has?nt bought 
weapons or logistical military equipment from South Africa. To my 
knowledge Myanmar has no interest at all in developing trade in arms and 

  10.. Recent reports have indicated the release of a number of 
political prisoners over the last few months. There are reports that at 
least a further 1500 remain in custody. What is the prognosis for the 
release of all political prisoners? Is this a precondition for 
meaningful negotiations with opposition grouping? The UN Special envoy 
Mr. Razali Ismail must be credited with acting as the catalyst for 
dialogue between the Myanmar Government and the National League for 
The release of political prisoners can definitely be seen as a positive 
evolution in the relations between the Government and the NLD and is 
truly a sign of progress in the national reconciliation talks between 
the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. 
Reports stating that at least a further 1500 political prisoners remain 
in custody are not true and even makes me wonder where they come up with 
those unreliable figures. 

  11.. What damage (loss of life/economic damage) has been made as a 
result of the insurgencies by several ethnic groupings in Myanmar? I 
would?nt want to give you a guesstimate of loss of life, of those maimed 
and crippled, but as you may very well understand armed in surrections 
took a heavy toll not only on the combatants but sadly on the innocent 
also. Not only was the country?s economy affected but the border areas 
have lagged behind in infrastructure and development. Here again the 
Government must be given credit for the negotiations and peacefully 
bringing in the 17 (out of 18) insurgent groups into the legal fold. 

  12.. What is the current situation regarding the eradication of drug 
production in and distribution from Myanmar? What efforts are the 
government making to address these concerns? Concerning your question, 
first of all I must deny to the accusation that Myanmar is producing and 
distributing drugs. After our country lost it?s independence to the 
British in 1886, opium cultivation was introduced in the least developed 
areas of the remote regions of the Shan State bordering Thailand. 
Because of the mountainous terrain and harsh climatic conditions the 
local populace resorted to opium cultivation as a mean of earning money. 
These local villages of the remote regions, even up to now, do not have 
the scientific know-how or the much needed finance to process the raw 
opium into narcotic drugs and stimulants. Also because our country is 
under developed and does not receive any form of aid from outside, we do 
not have the precursor chemicals necessary for heroin processing. 
Another thing, because our country is pushed to isolation and there is 
just one official port of entry (Yangon) you can clearly see that all 
these narcotic drugs and stimulants being distributed throughout the 
world does not come from Myanmar. It saddens me to note that in the 
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report of the United States of 
America they accuse the Myanmar Government of not giving priority in the 
field of counter-narcotics. Just for the sake of interest, I would like 
to inform you that just between the years 1988 to 1998, in carrying out 
the crusade against narcotic drugs, (801) members of the Armed Forces 
(including 27 officers) were killed in action, and (2,429) servicemen 
(including 90 officers) were wounded in the cause of narcotic drug 
eradication. Is that not proof enough. Even up to now our country, our 
people, had to bear the evil legacy of the British colonialists. If you 
look at the U.S and U.K you?ll find that those are two largest markets 
for heroin in the world, but astonishingly these country refuse to 
shoulder their responsibilities in the field of narcotic drug 

Whatever the situation may be, Myanmar regards the total eradication of 
drugs as a national task and top priority. Aiming of supply reduction, 
demand reduction and law enforcement, a Master Plan covering the period 
of 1999 to 2014 (a 15 years plan) was adopted to totally eradicate poppy 
cultivation. Heedless of outside criticism, with or without any 
assistance, Myanmar is determined to succeed in the struggle against the 
scourge of narcotic drugs. 

Myanmar is a state party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic 
Drugs, the 1988 UN Convention Against Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic 
Substances and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Our own 
new Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Rules were issued in 
1993. Myanmar became a signatory to a Six-Nation MoU, as part of the Sub 
Regional Action Plan on Drug Control, Bilateral Agreements on Drug 
Trafficking and Drug Abuse Control were signed with India, Bangladesh, 
Vietnam, Russia, Laos and the Philippines, and Myanmar also signed the 
Joint Declaration on a Drug Free Zone in the ASEAN by the year 2020. 

  13.. Please can you provide some information on the relationship 
between Myanmar and China and India? Myanmar practice an independent and 
active Foreign Policy, based on sincerity and genuine friendship towards 
all nations. Similar to China and India, we also adhere to the Five 
Principles of Peaceful Co-existance. Relations are civilizational in 
nature and rooted in a common cultural and religions heritage and 
geographical contiguity. Being close neighbours, there is growing 
co-operation in the fields of security, agriculture, science and 
technology, industry and economy. It may be noted that Myanmar is 
strategically located between the two most populous and powerful nations 
and could create effective trade links between China and India also. 

  14.. Which countries provide Myanmar with donor aid? What sort of aid 
is provided? As I have stated before, due to political reasons, Myanmar 
does not receive much aids and loans and assistance. Although I cannot 
give actual facts and figures on what sort of aid we received, in the 
list of donor countries you?ll find Japan, China, India and of course 
the ASEAN countries. 

  15.. What is the government?s preferred course of action regarding the 
demands of ethnic minorities in Myanmar? Is sort of autonomy/federalism 
being considered a possible option? The areas where most the ethnic 
minorities reside are backward and economically poor because of 
insurgency before the advent of the present military government. 
Development of these areas and a better living standard are therefore 
the main demands of ethnic minorities. The present government has been 
able to meet these demands mainly because (17) insurgent groups made up 
of ethnic minorities have returned to the legal fold and are 
co-operating with the government to develop their respective areas. 
Infrastructures such as roads, bridges, constructions are underway. A 
new Ministry for Progress of Border Areas and National races has been 
set up soon after the present government assume the powers of state, and 
billions of kyats as well as foreign currencies are being spent on the 
development of areas where ethnic minorities reside. 

There are (8) major national ethnic races in Myanmar under which there 
are altogether (135) different ethnic minorities. It has always been the 
belief of all that they are one and cannot be separated. Apart from a 
couple of ethnic minority insurgent groups, who are still against the 
government, representatives are all joining hands to draft a new 
constitution. Although a new constitution has yet to be completed there 
is a kind of consensus granting administrative autonomy to some minority 

  16.. How important is the establishment of a democratic form of 
governance in Myanmar? How would you explain to South Africans why it 
has been necessary for the military to play such a prominent political 
(role?) in Myanmar in recent years? Since assuming state 
responsibilities in September 1988 the military government had suspended 
the one/party socialist system and socialist economy to pursue a 
multi-party democratic system with a market oriented economy. The 
essence of democratic governance is to govern according to a 
constitution. Priority in the political sector was therefore given to 
emergence of a new constitution which will be compatible with the 
multi-party democratic system and which will also ensure peace and 
stability among the national races in the country. With this in mind 
elections were held in 1990 with the sole objective of electing the 
representatives to draft a new constitution. Although the drafting of a 
new constitution was initiated soon after elections it was hampered and 
disrupted by the withdrawal of representatives from a main political 
party, which suddenly changed its position and began demanding the 
immediate transfer of power. 
Myanmar has had two constitutions promulgated in the past based on a 
system of confirmation by a majority plebiscite. But in Myanmar where 
70% of the population is Bamar, the old balloting system was regarded by 
the military as not fair and democratic and has changed the system to 
that of a consensus. By this consensus method the military believes that 
although the ethnic races may be small in number they shall have a 
louder voice in the parliament, whereas the old system never gave the 
ethnic races any chance to get their voice heard and their desires 
Looking back into history it is evident that it is the old system that 
had created frustration and anger among the ethnic races that eventually 
led to armed insurgency. Armed insurrections throughout the country 
before the advent of the present military government are also found to 
have been created by previous political parties which concentrated their 
efforts only on party politics without giving any consideration to the 
stability of the entire nation. 

The military being an institution, which is a neutral body in the 
country, is not interested in politics but when it comes to national 
affairs has to fulfil her commitments. The military though it did not 
create any of the insurgencies have taken the responsibility and 
initiative of bringing them into the legal fold and making them gave up 
their armed insurrections. 

The country has gone through bad times because of the way political 
parties acted in the past and also because of the inherent weakness of 
the former constitutions. Today to keep the country perpetually stable 
and to have a functioning democracy Myanmar has to have a strong and 
everlasting constitution, which will keep the country on the proper 

Time and again in history it has been proven that that it is the 
military and not the political parties that have been able to keep the 
Union intact up to the present date. To preserve the present stability 
which have been achieved by the ability of the military to bring to 
legal fold the armed ethnic insurgencies the military has to continue 
playing a prominent role until a constitution which is compatible with a 
multi-party democratic system and which ensures peace and stability 
among the national races has been drawn up and adopted for 

  17.. What have been the major achievements of the present government? 
The most important and major political achievement for the present 
government is its ability to establish peace and accord with almost all 
the ethnics groups, which resisted all the successive governments since 
Myanmar regained her independence. The military government since 
assuming state power in 1988 concentrated itself in establishing 
national reconciliation to bring peace and stability to the nation. To 
achieve this goal the government instead of trying to win battles tried 
to win the hearts of the ethnic minorities and managed to break the 
vicious cycle of war. As a result these ethnic groups are now peacefully 
involved in the current drafting process of a new constitution. Before 
the new constitution comes into existence, these former insurgent armies 
in order to maintain their own security in the remote border areas are 
being allowed to hold on to their weapons within their designated areas. 
These armies will lay down their arms only when a new constitution comes 
into existence and in the meantime, confidence-building measures are 
taking place between the government and the ethnic groups. In the 
confidence building process the areas which were once under the ethnics 
armies and those areas which are regarded as no man?s land are being 
worked together by both sides for area development. In doing so, joint 
co-operation in building the much needed basic infrastructure, 
elimination of narcotic drugs (poppy), health education, 
telecommunications and all around development projects are being 
systematically implemented. 

Even though Myanmar is very rich in national resources, due to lack of 
peace and stability she has lagged behind in development compared to 
other ASEAN countries. Now that peace and stability has come the 
government is concentrating on infrastructure building throughout the 
nation to enhance its economic growth. Despite the absence of foreign 
assistance and aids the present government have from 1988 to date 
constructed 131 bridges 180 feet long and above with a cost of about 
K.50.5 billion and over US$ 129 millions. In 1988 there were only 13635 
miles of road in all. Now there are 17873.6 miles an increase of 4238.6 
miles. Altogether 43 roads stretching 1827 miles built after 1988 have 
cost K.8 billion. So also 1065.79 miles of new railroads have been 
built, and the country now has a total of 3859.65 miles of railroads up 
from 2973.86 in the past. Also in the past there were only two river 
raidroad bridges. Now seven new river bridges whose length are between 
500 ft and nearly 6000 ft have been built. Construction of the 11, 575 
foot Thanlwin (Mawlamyine) Bridge, which will become the longest bridge 
in Myanmar is underway. 

  18.. The ILO last year called for sanctions in relation to alleged 
violations relating to child labour. What efforts have been made to 
ensure that child labour practices are curtailed in Myanmar? The 
government of Myanmar has acceded to the Convention of the Rights of the 
Child since July 1991 and also shares the concern raised by the 
Convention to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. 
Unfortunately, certain quarters have recently stepped up its media 
campaign against Myanmar by distorting and fabricating stories to 
discredit the Government of Myanmar. But interestingly according to the 
1998 Amnesty International Report on the USA, there are only two 
countries namely USA and Somalia that have not ratified the Convention 
of the Rights of the Child. The USA has repeatedly blocked the adoption 
of an Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, 
which would prohibit the recruitment of people under the age of 18 into 
armed forces and their participation in hostilities. 

The Myanmar Armed forces is a voluntary army and the underage is not 
allowed to apply for recruitment. But sometimes in some backward rural 
areas the underage most of them illiterate and confused about their 
actual date of birth come up with unreliable documents to recruit 
stations making it difficult for responsible officials to verify. Apart 
from those rare instances the government prohibits the enlistment of 
Regretfully today we are witnessing armed terrorist groups around the 
world systematically conscripting children as soldiers for their 
respective organizations. In Myanmar, the last of the militant armed 
terrorist groups called Karen National Union (KNU) are now 
systematically concentrating on conscripting villagers including young 
children. The two Kayin boys like Johnny and Luther Htoo are one such 
example where children are being exploited by such groups. The 
Government of Myanmar is in co-operation with various NGOs and religious 
organizations to safeguard these vulnerable children and provide them 
with food, shelter, education, good health and a peaceful life while it 
prevents them from being exploited not only by armed terrorist groups 
but also other various unsavoury manipulators with vested interests. 

  19.. What role does/can South Africa play in addressing the problem in 
Myanmar? Does South Africa?s own transition provide any lessons for the 
process in Myanmar? Myanmar has always supported the South African 
people?s struggle against Apartheid. Myanmar did not have any relations 
with any of the Apartheid regimes and diplomatic relations with South 
Africa were established only after Nelson Mandela became the President 
of South Africa. A Myanmar Delegation headed by Admiral Maung Maung 
Khin, Vice Premier of the Union of Myanmar, attended the inaugural 
ceremony of President Mandela. When Mr. Thabo Mbeki succeeded Mandela as 
President, Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, Secretary (1) of the State Peace and 
Development Council also visited South Africa to attend the 
Both, Myanmar and South Africa, are members of the Non Aligned Movement. 
Myanmar is aware that South Africa as the current Chairman of NAM, is 
and will continue to play an important role in enhancing the interests 
of all NAM members. So also Myanmar is witnessing that South Africa has 
been playing an active role in promoting the causes of all developing 
nations. There is a need for both sides to concentrate on bilateral 
relations between the two countries. 

  20.. What is the current situation regarding the provision of 
University education in Myanmar? The government is deliberately keeping 
a number of institutions closed or transferring them out of the capital. 
What is happening in this area? I would like to reject the accusation 
that the government is deliberately keeping a number of Institutions 
closed or transferring them out of the capital as totally untrue. 
On the contrary separate universities and colleges were being extended 
in the respective fields such as industrial, agricultural, technological 
and cultural sectors in addition to Yangon where all the institutions of 
higher learning in all fields are located in the past, duties were being 
assigned to the respective ministries to give close supervision to the 
higher learning sector, regional requirements were being provided and 
universities and colleges were being extended and upgraded in all the 
states and divisions to enable students to pursue higher education in 
their own regions. At present there are 125 institutions of higher 
learning i.e. 55 universities, 40 degree colleges and colleges. In the 
health sector previously there were only 4 institutes. At present there 
are 13. Under the Ministry of Science and Technology there were only one 
technical institute and number of colleges in the past. Today there are 
3 Technological Universities, 2 Computer Science Universities and 
Government Computer Colleges have been opened in all the states and 
divisions. Hence, there are 14 Government Technical Colleges and 16 
Government Colleges in the nation. 
As there is an increase in the number of institutions they are also 
being provided with modern electronic facilities in order to effectively 
uplift the advance, teaching and research programmes with the 
introduction of labs, science labs and resource centers. Also doctorate 
courses have been extended in the universities of the nation. The Yangon 
University is conducting 16 ?doctorate course of different studies, the 
Mandalay University 11 courses of different subjects, and Yangon 
Institute of Economics 3 courses on different fields. 530 PhD candidates 
are attending the courses. A total of 208 students are attending the 16 
doctorates courses at the Yangon Technical University. 
The above are the actual happenings in the field of higher education. 
Therefore, there is no truth at all in the accusations. 

  21.. What is the current situation regarding HIV/AIDS in Myanmar? The 
first case of HIV/AIDS was detected in Myanmar in 1988. Due to its 
impact on social and economic developments and its threat to national 
security the prevention of HIV/AIDS is a national concern. According to 
the National AIDS Committee was restructure in 1988. An HIV/AIDS Control 
Work Plan was developed in 1990 and a Technical Committee to observe and 
study its potential hazard was formed in 1995. Concerning the threat of 
AIDS epidemic there have been finger pointings and HIV and AIDS are 
being used as tools for politically motivated attacks.  Only 40,000 
people in Myanmar are HIV positive. However, monitoring the infected is 
difficult. Myanmar has no means of getting the exact data on how many 
cases there are. To test each person would cost around US$ 2 and it 
cannot be afforded. Assistance has thus been sought from WHO, but 
nothing sufficient has yet been received. Monitoring systems, however, 
must be started and they are being done with our own limited resources. 
The expenditure for AIDS prevention annually is 13 million (K.1being 
equivalent to R.1). The Government is co-operating with WHO, UNDP, 
UNICEF and UNAIDS in combating AIDS. 

  22.. Myanmar is frequently criticized regarding issues of press 
censorship and what are described as unnecessary controls over internet 
access and use of fax machines. Are these fair criticisms and what are 
the purposes of such restrictions? Constructive criticisms are always 
welcome. However, most criticisms against Myanmar emanates from 
dissidents both inside the country and abroad who are facing 
difficulties in their efforts to discredit the government through the 
internet access and use of fax machines and other modern 
telecommunication facilities. Each and every government today is aware 
of the importance of Information Technology and essentiality of modern 
telecommunication facilities in the development of their economies. 
However, there are limitations especially for a country like Myanmar 
which is still engaged in rebuilding its infrastructures with limited 
resources to provide even a few with internet access. Therefore, 
priority of internet access are only given to potential entrepreneurs 
who are engaged in the development of the country?s main economies. Even 
among the few who have internet access there are complaints against 
shortage of electricity supply, which are essential for their computers. 
Since the sole aim of the dissidents to gain access to internet is to 
discredit the government it is logical that access to internet and the 
use of fax machines by some need to be put under control. 

  23.. Why do you think Myanmar has got such bad coverage? What efforts 
are\will be made to address this? It is regrettable that powerful 
western media are allowing Myanmar dissidents to use their facilities to 
discredit the military government. Since the coverage or these media 
emanates form dissidents they can be nothing but bad coverage. The 
Myanmar media of course are countering these coverage with actual 
truths. However, radio and TV networks as well as the press 
disseminating actual truths concerning situations in Myanmar are so much 
handicapped that they are receptive only to a few countries. 
Nevertheless, efforts are being made to bring to light the true 
political situation in Myanmar and to prevent her image from being 
tarnished by powerful western media, who are allowing their facilities 
to be used by unscrupulous elements that are trying to destroy the 


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