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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 _______________
*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,
*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
"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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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?
1.. Machinery 2. Transport equipment 3. Construction material 4. Food
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
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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