Women’s Report Card on Burma, 2001

Special Briefing
June 2001

Published June 2001





        3    The Democracy Movement

        3    ‘Dialogue’

        4    Women’s Organisations

        4    Inside Burma

        5    Outside Burma



        6    Living in Poverty

        7    SPDC and Poverty



        8    Access to Basic Education

        10  Education and Politics

        10  ‘Relevant History’

        10  The Re-Opening of Universities



        12  Access to basic health standards and facilities

        13  Demographics


        14  HIV/AIDS

        14  Women, Children & HIV

        16  HIV/AIDS Prevention

        19  Family Planning

        20  Refugees & Migrant Workers



        22  Rape

        24  Women outside Burma

        25  Commercial Sex Workers (CSW)









        33  Women of Burma Groups

        34  Groups Working with Women of Burma

        34  Burma on the Internet




Dedicated to the Women of Burma
who continue to struggle despite all odds,
with grace, perseverance and a sense of humour.


Printed in Bangkok, June 2001                             ISBN: 974-88412-4-3



A panel concerning ‘Governance, Peace and Social Stability’ at the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in May 2001, stressed the importance of ‘good governance’ to development. The key to ‘good governance’ was seeking policies that reflected the national will. Non-accountable and non-responsive governance leads to, “among other things, poverty, corruption, erosion of norms, and the culmination of socio-political conflicts.” Countries were therefore strongly encouraged to develop democratic systems of government and respect all human rights.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been ruled by successive military regimes since 1962. The regime currently known as the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) has continued the trend of eroding women's status in a society that previously boasted a broad range of women's social and economic rights.

The SPDC’s governance is a far cry from democracy.Widespread human rights violations continue to be committed by the autocratic regime aided by the lack of a strong and consistent strategy amongst governments in the international community. State-sanctioned violence and other discrimination against women is rampant and varied, affecting all aspects of women’s lives. The severe detrimental affects of these abuses upon women are often ignored or omitted. This women’s report card attempts to highlight the situation of women in and from Burma, exposing the injustices they, their families and communities suffer.

By all accounts, women’s rights, status and general well-being stand the best chance of improvement within a democratic environment. When women have the freedom to choose and partake in their governance, they may raise their status, seek redress for crimes committed against them and better support each other.

This year, the Women's Report Card on Burma presents a brief overview of the situation of women of Burma, with reference to developments that were reported in 2000 and early 2001. The term "Burmese" is used to describe women of all ethnic nationalities that come from the lands within the internationally recognised boundaries of Burma or Myanmar. It does not seek to undermine the status of non-Burman ethnic nationalities, nor their claims for self determination.

Women and Politics

The democracy movement

It has been obvious that since the military dictatorship took power of the country, it not only brutally oppresses but also incites disunity among ethnic groups. It also tries to induce distrust among political parties and complicate the political situation”                                    
                                   - Ying Cherry, Towards National Reconciliation

Harassment and vilification by the SPDC and in the state owned press of Aung San Suu Kyi continued until January 2001, with some highly reported incidents. Aung San Suu Kyi’s right to mobility was violated and there have been numerous reports of arrests, imprisonment and beatings of NLD members, some of whom have erratically been placed under house arrest. The NLD, or National League for Democracy is the party that won Burma's last elections last held in 1990; 16 women MPs were elected but none have served their terms because the regime has refused to convene Parliament.

Women continue to be at the forefront of the pro-democracy movement, risking human rights violations for their political activity. Women run the same risk of surveillance, harassment and arrest as their male counterparts and as of May 2000, Amnesty International had details of at least 61 women political prisoners.[1] Fear of such abuse of human rights is undoubtedly a hindrance to women’s political participation.


Reports in January 2001 of secret talks between Lt. General Khin Nyunt and Aung San Suu Kyi raised false hopes that an improvement in Burma's situation, and hence the situation of women, was nigh. At this stage it is questionable that ‘dialogue’ really exists while Aung San Suu Kyi and other leading NLD members remain under house arrest.

Although Non-Burman Ethnic representatives have stated their confidence in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s integrity and commitment to democracy and national reconciliation,[2] the exclusion of this third body of the demanded tripartite talks will be a continued source of conflict if the ‘dialogue’ brings about some ‘resolution’ between the SPDC and the NLD.[3]

Silence continues to surround the talks with the only public statements being that a ‘disciplined’ democracy is more suitable than ‘the Western version’, and elections will not be permitted for at least a few years.[4] While NLD notice boards have been reinstalled and several political prisoners have been released, many, including senior democracy leaders, remain arbitrarily incarcerated with arrests and detentions continuing, albeit in smaller numbers than before. The international community has been warned that pressure could undermine the dialogue process but as there as there has currently been no public ‘progress’, suspicion is mounting that the military is merely wooing the international community to reduce sanctions.

Women’s Organisations

Clearly, the main obstacle to the political advancement of Burmese women in politics is not cultural constraint - it is the very severe political constraints imposed by a government in the hands of dictators. - Kalaya Nee, Cultural Constraint or Political Restriction

Inside Burma

Official women’s organisations are closely linked to and directed by the regime, indicating that they are complicit in maintaining the status quo of a regime that has proven to have little understanding of women’s issues.[5] At the 2nd Myanmar’s Women’s Conference, (26-27 January 2001), Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt spoke of women’s ‘equality’ with men, despite the fact that there are no women in the military regime and that the MNCWA (Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs) has no official allocated budget. Women are promoted as mothers of families and the nation, “upholding and safeguarding the lineage, traditions and culture” of Myanmar.[6]

The SPDC prohibits local, independent non-governmental organisations that may attempt to subvert the prevailing agenda. Despite the dangers they face, many women work clandestinely, to prevent abuses and win greater empowerment and equality for women. One group inside Burma that works openly to promote women's socio-economic and political status is the NLD women's wing. The members run weekly child health clinics, run fortnightly discussions, and have hosted forums on gender issues that have featured speakers from overseas solidarity groups.

Outside Burma

There are many organisations fighting to improve Burmese women’s rights in countries where there are migrant and refugee communities. Recent years have seen the increasing participation of women of Burma in international advocacy activities.

A key organisation is the Women's League of Burma (WLB), an umbrella organisation of 12 women's groups, founded in December 1999. The WLB has produced and submitted a number of detailed reports on the situation of women to UN agencies and other international organisations. Its work has included a strong focus on the rights of a range of non-Burman ethnic women, in particular addressing issues surrounding basic needs, family planning and violence against women. The WLB also engages in training and other capacity-building programmes to empower women.

The growing cooperation between varied (mostly ethnically-based) women's groups is a reflection of the growing realisation that capacity-building and coordination is essential to the empowerment of women in their individual communities.

Women, Poverty and the Economy

Living in Poverty

Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of [her/]himself and of [her/]his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in event of unemployment, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood, in circumstances beyond [her/]his control.”

A large number of peoples in Burma both in rural and urban areas, live in poverty as they are unable to access basic needs, such as food, clean water and sanitation. Low standards of education and health, crime, corruption and environmental degradation are all social symptoms and perpetuators of insufficient access to basic needs.

The diversion of resources away from the civilian population towards the army compounds the economic distress caused by forced labour (deprivation of opportunities for income-generating activities) and forced relocation (deprivation of access to land for growing food).

The effects of poverty are extremely harmful to communities, and are disproportionately borne by women whose role is traditionally to look after an entire family’s needs while she increasingly works alongside male relatives on family farms and small businesses. More and more families are headed by single women as men continue to flee in order to escape persecution and/or forced labour, are incarcerated, or become drug addicts, or die of AIDS-related illness. Women must then singularly struggle to feed and educate her children in an environment of high inflation and low wages. Poverty makes families highly vulnerable to abuse and many teenage boys are forced into conscription, fragmenting families further and removing another potential earner and/or worker from the families pool of resources[7].

SPDC and Poverty

A Karenni woman explains leaving her village

“[b]ecause we couldn’t work to produce food. […] if we didn’t have to do forced labour we could have worked and produced enough food for us to live. We also had to give them 50 kyats per week to work on their farms (plots of land allocated by the army) where we could stay with our families. If the Burmese needed us while we were farming […] we had to come back. The money for the farm was already paid and we didn’t get it back.”[8]

Multiple reports indicate that the military regime is complicit in keeping populations in poverty, with people who have recently fled Burma speaking of famine in some remote areas. The regime directly perpetuates poverty by arbitrarily imposing taxes - often in the form of rice harvest[9], randomly destroying, appropriating or stealing land and food, commanding forced relocation and forced labour, and instigating fear without being subject to any real checks. Restrictions on mobility, such as placed upon the Rohingya people who traditionally travel to find labouring work, intensifies an already fragile existence so that a day without work often means a day without food for the whole family.

This environment of chaos which privileges those with guns and disenfranchises those without, exacerbates an ineptly managed economy where inflation appears to be spiraling out of control. Perpetuation of these trends will only make it more difficult for ordinary people to purchase basic goods and will hence deepen the effects of poverty on the Burmese populations.

Women and education

We have had to put up with a frequently changing education system. Even the basic level of education has deteriorated because we have not got enough qualified teachers… Creative and critical thinking, the tools we need for our country’s future, is not at all encouraged. These are our national problems.                    - Lin Lin, A Lost Dream

Access to basic education

According to the WHO and UN, the SPDC spends only 1.2% of GDP on education, one of only 11 countries in the world to spend under 2%[10]. To quote Rajsoomer Lallah in his 2000 report, “Although nominally available to all, public education is costly in terms of school fees, books and class-room facilities. Parents are often required to build or maintain school buildings. Moreover, widespread reports allege that bribery is frequently required to be paid to school authorities. Fees for the annual attendance of ordinary schools are said to range from three to five months' salary." [11]

While the SPDC boasts of increasing spending on education by allocating an alleged US$4.5 million to the first year of its four year plan for educa-tional development,[12] the focus of this policy seems to be misdirected. Much of this money is directed at technologies which few have access to while thousands of children, a disproportionate number of whom are from non-Burman ethnic groups, do not have access to basic schooling. Rohingya peoples are particularly discriminated against as they are not permitted to be in government education beyond the primary level.

In late 2000, an elementary school at Naa Kham village, built and supported by the villagers in Kaeng Phawng tract, Kaaeng-Tung township, was confiscated by the SPDC military authorities of the Gol-den Triangle Special Regional Command, to make space for residential buildings for college teachers of a new college. This elementary school, to which they sent their children, had been collectively built and supported by all villagers in Khaeng Phawng tract since 10 years ago. […] For the children of the Khaeng Phawng tract, the military authorities had ordered villagers to help themselves and build a new elementary school in the middle of a rice field, about 2 furlongs from the main road, and the children would have to cross the wet rice during the rains.[13]

Until radical alterations are made to the overall budget and policy of education, any claims of improving the education system can only regarded with scepticism. Widespread poverty, discrimination, an auto-cratic regime, civil war, fear and instability, compound upon the poor status of education in Burma. The high financial and opportunity costs of schooling has seen ver low school retention rates. Most poor children drop out of school before completing the compulsory 5-year cycle.[14]

Gender equity is in no way safeguarded and consequently less than a third of all girls who enroll in school finish primary education.[15] The current absence of data regarding female education is indicative of the SPDC’s indifference in this matter.

Inequity in education is of particular concern to women for two key reasons. Firstly, numerous women leave their positions as teachers due to the low pay and poorly managed system and migrate to find higher wages. As well as weakening the education system further, migration brings many problems of its own. Secondly, education has been identified as a catalyst to women’s empowerment enabling her to better protect her and her family’s rights and standard of living. Thus women are integral to breaking cycles of poverty and oppression.

Gender specific analysis shows that educated girls and women are less vulnerable to exploitation and are able to exercise some choice in their social and economic activities. In this way, violations of women’s rights may be reduced, women will have increased access to knowledge regarding their health and human rights. Education of women therefore has a multiplier effect

Education and Politics

‘Relevant history’

A review of the SPDC’s new educational initiative, SEAMEA (the Regional Centre for History and Tradition), reveals the political imperative directing it. One of the objectives of the centre is “to develop educational curricula, programmes and personnel for making history and tradition relevant to meeting the challenges of the contemporary situation ……. It is believed that to commence on a sound footing, a review of the State of Southeast Asian Historical Studies in secondary education will help to elucidate the current situation.”[16] This reeks of history revisionism; whereby the SPDC will impose its “unity formula” or version of events and truths upon less powerful groups. For the SPDC to re-word/work the events of history and peoples’ role in it, is therefore to seriously undermine individual rights and hinder empowerment of disadvantaged groups through processes of increased delegitimisation and marginalisation. An education initiative that attempts to revise history in this way will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on all women, particularly those of non-Burman ethnicities who suffer from an already powerful disenfranchising network of severe discrimination.

The Re-Opening of Universities

The partial re-opening of universities in June and July 2000 was so badly enacted and limited that there are concerns regarding the quality and availability of education. Only a third of previous students have been allowed to re-enroll and this is on the condition that they swear an oath of allegiance to the military regime guaranteeing they will not be involved in political activity. Many students have refused to adhere to the military’s demands as the right to education should not be contingent upon political opinion or activity.

SPDC paranoia resulted in an education forum held at NLD headquarters (21 August 2000) being labeled a terrorist assembly and the closure of some universities upon discovery of anti-SPDC posters on campus. Multiple changes to the under-funded and politically regulated education system have already resulted in the education structure being irreparably damaged as an institution. Education should be apolitical in its availability and deliverance, and should provide a basis from which critical thought can grow. Democracy is therefore necessary to ensure women and men their right to education.

Women and Health

Health reform, like reform of virtually every other sector in this tragic country, will not move forward as long as the political process remains deadlocked.                                     - Dr. Chris Beyrer

Access to basic health standards & facilities

It is estimated that 50 percent of those in rural areas, and 22 percent in urban areas, do not have access to clean water. Water sources are often shared by large populations, including livestock, hence increasing the potential for pollution. A polluted water supply has severe implications for sanitation levels which are often already sub-standard, with rural and conflict areas suffering the most. Lack of health education means that people are unaware of the risks associated with poor sanitation, and therefore suffer from diseases and deaths that could be avoided or cured.[17]

While healthcare is supposedly free, patients are often required to purchase medicines and medical supplies from the blackmarket, and pay bribes in order to receive treatment. Barriers, including low rates of government expenditure (under 2 percent of GDP), meant that in 1999 approximately 35 percent of the population had no access to any form of health care.[18] Large communities of internally displaced persons (IDPs), estimated at up to 2 million persons, suffer disproportionately due to their remote location and poor infrastructure. Inefficient and discriminatory management of health services have resulted in it being labeled the second most inefficient system globally by the World Health Report 2000.

Deprivation of health care services is most severe in rural, relocation sites and conflict areas mutually reinforcing the effects of insufficient access to basic needs. It renders unsurprising the epidemic of malaria, anthrax and typhoid that broke out in July 2000. Most women do not have access to technology that can screen for breast and cervical cancer, endometriosis or other gender specific illnesses, and even less are able to afford the cost of treatment.

The cumulative effects of inadequate health care and standards are disproportionately borne by women. As traditional care-givers, women carry the responsibility of nursing sick family members, hence increasing her workload. This role remains even when the woman herself is ill as a result of malnutrition and mental and physical stress.


Inadequate access to basic healthcare interplays with other social factors such as low education, poor nutrition, poverty and insecurity to produce extremely worrying demographic statistics.[19]

According to WHO, an estimated 4 out of 10 children are malnourished while more suffer from other preventable diseases. World Bank social indicators put infant mortality as high as 79 (per 1,000 live births), and the under 5 mortality rate at 131[20].

Women’s health is given low priority in Burma. Many women have little or no pre-natal care resulting in a maternal mortality rate (per 100,000 live births) at 580[21]. Most fatalities are caused by repeated pregnancies and long-term malnutrition[22] and would be easily preventable if good health care was accessible. Fertility rates are thought to be particularly high in rural conflict areas, placing a strain on women’s health and the alleviation of poverty. The large numbers of women who decide to terminate a pregnancy[23] take huge risks. Abortion is considered the single biggest cause of maternal deaths nationwide[24] due to illegality (Penal Codes S312 and S315). The fact that women are prepared to take such a risk highlights the urgent demand and need for contraception. (For a further discussion see subsection on family planning)

With life expectancy currently in the late 50s, public health officials fear that with all things remaining equal, it will fall over the next twenty years or so, possibly as low as 45.


There is a catastrophe in Burma. It is what happens with an epidemic when you do nothing.                                 - Dr. Chris Beyrer

Prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS infection in Burma (often referred to as the Na Wa Ta disease[25]) vary tremendously with the SPDC estimating 25,000 infections, while a more realistic figure of 700,000[26] is given by the World Bank. HIV spreads fastest where educational levels, especially among women, are low, public health systems are inadequate and the political will to face the epidemic is lacking. Up until recently, the regime had long denied that HIV was a problem in Burma, and the country and the region have paid a high price for such negligence.

Women, Children and HIV/AIDS

Beyrer has identified young women as the most vulnerable group to HIV infection. The primary mode of transmission for women is heterosexual intercourse, not only in the form of rape but also a result of having sex with her husband. Men with increasing labour mobility have carried HIV/AIDS beyond the burgeoning population of women sex workers (estimated sero-positivity rate of 47 percent - three times that of Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) in Thailand[27]), and increasing numbers of injecting drug users (at least 600,000 of whom are positive[28]), to their wives through heterosexual sex. An unscreened and hence unclean blood supply threatens women as many need blood transfusions during childbirth. Others are at risk from depo-provera injections as needles are re-used on multiple women[29].

An emerging concern is the growing addiction rates among women. Estimated by Beyrer to be up to 12 percent of all addicts, [30] female addicts will increase in number while there is easy availability of drugs. Escalating rates of addiction mean a deterioration in women’s (and their children’s) health standards, while dramatically increasing their risk of contracting HIV[31].

Using IUDs (intra-uterine devices) as contraceptives may increase risk of HIV infection by irritating the uterus, thus increasing the risk of both cervicitis and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Symptomatic abrasions increase the ability of HIV to penetrate the lining of the genitals.

As women become increasingly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection, so do their babies as transmission can occur before, during and after birth. According to SPDC figures HIV prevalence among pregnant women has increased over the last decade with an average of 2.65 percent of pregnant women positive in March 1999, and 1.92 percent in September, although Muse town had a rate of 6.5 percent[32]. Beyrer subsequently estimates that anywhere from 42,000 to 58,000 HIV positive babies were born in Burma between 1988 and 1998[33].

According to a UNAIDS 1998 report, between a third and a half of all HIV infections in young children are through breast-feeding.

So far, 430,000 children have been made orphans by the epidemic, with the number of orphans alive in 1999 estimated at 35,458[34]. As extended families and friends support each other, the responsibility of caring for orphans will most heavily be upon women, stretching her resources even further. However as urbanisation and migration increase, family structures will undergo some level of deterioration. This is immensely worrying as a generation of children are therefore at a risk of having no family or support. Such high HIV infection rates clearly have important implications for women, their families and their communities, as increasing numbers of people continue to die of AIDS-related illnesses.

Due to the appalling state of the public health care system, an acute shortage of antibiotics, and the absence of drug treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS, infected people tend to fall ill and die faster than their counterparts in other countries. Women are the caregivers of their husbands, often with the knowledge that they will experience the same fate shortly. The anguish this experience causes a woman and her family is unquantifiable.

HIV/AIDS Prevention

AIDS does not discriminate. HIV spreads fastest where social life is chaotic, where poverty is endemic, where women are uneducated, and where the rights of vulnerable groups and individuals are violated
.                                                                                     - Dr. Chris Beyrer

The national budget for HIV prevention in 1998 was estimated to be US$50,000 for a population of 48 million.[35] An AIDS Prevention Control Programme has been established by the Ministry of Health, however there is no mention of it on the regime’s website. Current efforts however have been far from effective in preventing the spread of HIV or in providing education. Limited posters carry the message “AIDS kills, no cure, no hope”, [36] an approach which has proved in other countries to be ineffective.

Free AIDS testing is rare, and the usual $10 fee is prohibitive for most people, so most people’s HIV status remains unknown. There are apparently plans to implement monitoring and treatment,[37] but the result remains to be seen. Condoms are also prohibitively expensive, with a pack of 10 or 12 costing between 750 to 1,200 kyat while the average government worker earns 1,000 kyat a month.[38] The situation is more critical in newly infected remote areas as only a few people have heard of condoms, let alone seen or used them. Few women have access to family planning, with many women having never seen a condom and being confused over HIV transmission and prevention methods. A recent UNICEF survey shows that over 70 percent of young people in Burma do not know what a condom is.[39] To quote the Director, Mehr Khan, “The results of this survey should serve as a wake up call […] on how much more needs to be done to educate young people, especially about HIV and AIDS.”[40]

Condom usage has only been legal since 1993, and requires much heavier promotion as a means of protection against HIV/AIDS and other STDs. Although the SPDC’s ‘AIDS Prevention and Control, National Health Plan (1996-2001)’ states, “The use of condoms [is] to be promoted by means of educational pamphlets and mass media,”[41] Khin Nyunt has recently said that condoms cannot be advocated due to the religious and conservative nature of the Burmese people.[42] However, increased condom use among heterosexuals in Thailand has significantly reduced new infection rates,[43] and Burmese communities often seem more open to condoms than officials have suggested.[44]

Khin Nyunt’s prevention methods are:

a)    Ensuring young girls between do not cross national borders to enter the sex trade.          Women under 30 cannot get a passport that will allow them to work abroad, and any women aged 16-25 travelling within Burma must be accompanied by a guardian. The required travel permits are often expensive and expire after a short time.

b)   Increasing “control [of] drug addicts.”

c)    Establishing centres for AIDS patients.[45]

Firstly, restricting women’s mobility infringes upon her rights and asserts - incorrectly - that there is no sex industry in Myanmar.[46] SPDC needs to acknowledge that there is a large, and rapidly growing, underground commercial sex industry in Burma[47] and urge men to take responsibility. An HIV/AIDS prevention strategy implemented in Thailand, thought to have had a significant impact, focused on men to discourage them from visiting CSWs.[48] Also effective would be punitive action against military personnel found to be engaged in trafficking women for sexual exploitation, as anecdoctal evidence suggests significant involvement in such activities. In the current political climate however, penal codes which outlaw prostitution may well be implemented on a large scale to target the political opposition.

Secondly, although the number and sero-positivity of IDUs is extremely high, HIV is now prevalent throughout the Burmese community. Everybody is at risk, most notably women having heterosexual intercourse.

Thirdly, although AIDS centres are spoken of under the auspice of providing care, they are more importantly a method for containing the disease. There have already been some reports of people living with AIDS being put into leper colonies, while camps have been established for HIV positive women returning from Thailand.[49] To group sero-positive people together, away from the rest of the community, denies them of their right of mobility, right to association with family and other individuals and groups, exposes their status and labels them as outcasts.

All three of the above prevention strategies have the effect of labeling specific bodies as bad. Implementing penal codes against ‘bad’ bodies will not solve Burma’s AIDS crisis, it will only deepen by ignoring the fact that everyone is at risk.

Humanitarian organisations inside Burma, such as Population Services International (PSI), have described the regime as posing significant barriers to HIV/AIDS education.[50] Corrupt and autocratic power is yielded over populations resulting in direct and indirect abuses to women’s human rights. Burma's narcotics based economy, which encourages IDUs, and trafficking of women and girls are the major risk for HIV among non-Burmese ethnic communities.[51] Due to high levels of displacement and migration it is hard for communities to establish reactions and responses to epidemics, particularly when the healthcare system is unable to respond to even basic needs.

The country is suffering from years of inexcusable negligence in this area, and what it urgently requires is a well funded, politically independent, health education and care service that is relevant and accessible, particularly to women. Independent initiatives such as PSI’s peer education programme, and a similar project run by Lahu sex workers[52], promise to be the most effective. Meanwhile UNICEF have just announced plans to triple its annual spending on HIV/AIDS prevention between 2001 and 2005 to US$1.5million, focusing on the prevention of mother to child transmission.[53]

Family planning

Officially, SPDC supports spacing initiatives introduced by UN agencies. However, contraceptives were only legally introduced into Myanmar in 1991 and birth spacing programmes had only visited half of all townships by 1998, with no evidence that conflict areas were included.[54] Overall, family planning education is lacking, especially in remote and relocation areas although there does appear to be a demand.[55] Government affiliated workers deliver information in Burmese language which many non-Burman women cannot understand and are sceptical of , as a result of their experience of conflict and persecution by SPDC troops.

The most readily available form of contraception is sterilisation, a particularly intrusive procedure for women with a long recovery period. (Vasectomies for men are illegal.) If women can get their husband’s permission to be sterilised, they must then pay an often prohibitive price.

To be sterilised, we still need to apply and wait a year or so before we can get a permit to be sterilised at the hospital. During that period, women get pregnant again. Even with the permit, the cost sterilisation exceeds ten thousand kyats. Therefore, it is impossible for women in my village to get sterilisation.[56]

Where alternative contraceptives are available, instructions are often in foreign languages meaning women get incomplete and and/or incorrect information. Illness or pregnancy often results leading to distrust of modern contraceptives.

Refugees & Migrant workers

Conditions vary for refugees in Thai camps. Some are overcrowded with an inadequate supply of food, water, sanitation and education,[57] while others have better facilities including access to health education and facilities such as family planning education and contraceptives. Access to condoms is particularly important as HIV/AIDS has been identified as one of the major health problems (the other being drug addiction).[58] Despite the length of family planning projects however, providers have noted contraceptive use is still not prevalent. Although it is often suggested that the reasons are ‘cultural’, more in-depth analysis is needed concerning the camps as institutions and the condition and structure of sexual health education. Continued reports talking of the imperative to reduce the fertility rates of Burmese in refugee camps are disturbing.[59]

Undocumented migrant workers, of whom 67% are women and children,[60] often live in squalid accommodation, and are comparatively worse off in terms of accessing health care and family planning services. They are often reluctant to approach any form of health care provider as they fear deportation. Even legal migrant workers often do not receive necessary treatment as they cannot afford public health facilities. As a result, migrant workers suffer from numerous health complaints.

Women migrants generally have little sex education, intensified by the fact that instructions on contraception packs are often not in their language. While sex workers generally have more knowledge, their risk of infection is much higher resulting in an estimated 70 percent of Burmese CSWs in Thailand being sero-positive.[61] Women frequently suffer from botched abortions, a trend that is set to increase following a recent Thai regulation (29 August 2000) that women migrant workers will be deported if they become pregnant.

There are numerous NGOs working to increase migrant women’s access to health care and education. Some, such as Mae Tao, in Mae Sot provide safe abortions,[62] while others such as Care aim to train peer groups as health providers and educators[63] on issues relating to HIV/AIDS, sexual and general health. EMPOWER has recently launched a magazine called ‘Bad Girls’ to better educate and support commercial sex workers.[64]

Violence Against Women

The United Nations General Assembly: deplores the continuing violations of the human rights of women, especially women who are refugees, are internally displaced or belong to ethnic minorities or the political opposition, in particular forced labour, trafficking, sexual violence and exploitation, including rape.[65]

Article 6(d) of the resolution adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights at its 56th session on 12 April 2000, deplored continued violations of Burmese women’s human rights. Women in and from Burma experience violence for overlapping and interplaying reasons, but are targeted specifically for being women. There are numerous reports of violence against women, the majority coming from non-Burman ethnic groups which are targets of SPDC counter-insurgency operations.[66] The group which probably suffer the worst human rights abuses are the Rohingya.[67]

Women in situations of intense poverty with inadequate health and education are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and abuse. Reports of domestic and community violence continue, increasing in situations where tensions are highest.[68] The majority of public statements of violence against women are however concerning SPDC beatings, murders and forced labour, including shortly after birth or during pregnancy, putting health and safety at risk.[69]

Women also suffer from gender specific violence, a form of discrimination which “legitimises the violent appropriation of women's bodies for individual gratification or political ends.”[70] It takes many forms and is perpetrated by peoples in all positions. Whatever the abuse, and whoever the perpetrator, women often experience long-term detrimental effects to their physical and mental health.


Rape is commonly committed by members of the military upon women and pre-pubescent girls from non-Burman ethnic groups. Many women sustain injuries leading to reproductive health problems and/or become pregnant. There is no protection, women may be raped at any time and in any number.

Two women were threshing rice alone in their farm when a patrol of about 45 SPDC troops from Company No.5 of LIB513 led by commander Hla Thung, with 6 civilian porters came into the farm. The troops seized the women and raped them until they became so weak and hurt that they were not able even to stand up. All the 45 troops or so raped the women.[71]

Rape is often a prelude to a gender specific mutilation and death. There are several reports of women’s bodies being found with gunshot wounds at the vagina, with another telling of women being raped and killed with their nipples sliced off.[72]

Violence against women, rape in particular, is used to create fear and shame among the community at large. For this reason, women are often raped in the presence of others, or the knowledge of sexual violence is easily found. Amnesty International investigations in 1999 and 2000 found that rape was reported in all armed conflicts. Such systematic use indicates that rape is used as an act of subjugation, terror and revenge against entire communities. Such violence reinstates women as the most vulnerable and powerless target in a community; their status being one of property. [73] Shame is felt by men as it highlights their inability to protect ‘their’ women,[74] and reports indicate that significant numbers flee areas as a result of fear.

Rape and the threat of it is often the trigger for a mass exodus from the village, since fear quickly spreads to all women left unprotected, and because no family members are able to remain in safety any longer. The villagers are reluctant to leave their homes unattended because they know that soldiers will raid them, but many women would rather lose everything than face aggressive soldiers.[75]

There is no redress for women who have been raped. The military claim that their soldiers are uncontrollable and that rape is an unavoidable social problem. As such, it is not unusual for people reporting rape to be punished or threatened into silence.[76] This intimidation effectively grants impunity to rapists, perpetuating violence against women.

women outside Burma

An oppressive regime and a crumbling economy have driven women of all ethnic backgrounds to cross national borders to find a better life. For this reason many take refuge in camps in neighbouring countries. Women in these camps are highly vulnerable and the authorities often abuse their position through physical and sexual violence. It has been highlighted that Rohingya women in refugee camps in Bangladesh are easily targeted by traffickers running the route to Pakistan.[77]

The Thai Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare estimates 850,000 illegal migrant workers in Thailand, most of whom are from Burma.[78] A large proportion are Shan (an estimated 300,000[79]) as they are not permitted to stay in camps and hence become illegal workers to survive. Only 100,000 are registered and eligible to protection under Thai labour laws,[80] with most others suffering violations of rights and very low pay. Many women are taken out of Burma by traffickers with grand promises and alluring cash sums. As a result, many illegal women immigrants are sold into debt-bonded commercial sex, domestic or factory with some forced to leave their children.[81] Most do not have language skills and may not be permitted to leave the site of work, the location of which is often unknown to them, and so cannot leave the situation if they wish to.

Women risk sexual violence from all quarters, their perpetrators fearless of punishment as illegal workers are not protected by the second country, but are instead treated as criminals. A rare case that did make the courts was the rape of a woman by an officer responsible for her deportation; the discipline he faced was extremely minor.[82]

The Thai Labour Ministry has recently launched a permit plan to increase the number of immigrant workers. While those with a permit will be protected by Thai labour laws, illegal immigrants will become more strictly policed, and deportation rates will continue to rise.[83] This is despite the fact that the human rights situation has not improved and there are reports that many do forced labour upon return as a punishment.[84]

Commercial Sex Workers (CSW)

High numbers of Burmese women abroad work as commercial sex workers, many of them trafficked. 350,000 of the sex-workers in Thailand are thought to be Burmese and are often debt-bonded,[85] owing amounts up to 30,000 baht (US$666).[86] There is a growing demand for Burmese women in Thai brothels as more Thai women choose to work for themselves.[87]

The large number of girls taken from Burma and sold as ‘virgins’ is most worrying. They get sold for a high price as virgins several times over, forced to have sex without a condom each time. (Men pay high prices for virgins, one of the reasons being that they will not have to wear a condom as the ‘virgin’ girl is presumed not to be infected with HIV.)[88] The girls are clearly at a heightened risk of contracting HIV if they have not already been infected through previous sexual activity, including rape. Once a women tests positive she is seen as a poor investment and is often without a job.

Women working in brothels are often beaten and raped upon arrival and threatened with more abuse if they try to escape. A recent police raid in Bangkok discovered 30 women, some of whom were Burmese, being held as debt-bonded sex slaves. A 20-year-old Burmese woman was chained to a staircase by her ankle as she had tried to escape previously. The women now face forcible repatriation.[89]

The measly earnings women generally receive often make it impossible for them to clear the debt. If debts are cleared, employers often call the police for a raid, paying their bail and demanding she repay this debt and hence the cycle continues. Refusal by the women will result in deportation where women are vulnerable to further abuse by police, border guards and traffickers lying in wait.[90]

Shame and silence of women who are, or have been CSWs helps to perpetuate the trafficking of women. Very few feel able to share their experience, especially if they go back to Burma, for fear of being shunned.[91] A report of migrant CSWs in China stated that some had committed suicide as they believed their lives had been ruined by the stigma of their work and the degradation of the abuse that have suffered.[92] Inspiring here are initiatives of groups like EMPOWER and the Lahu sex workers who are providing support services and information.

Responsibility of the SPDC

It is the duty of the State party to afford everyone protection through legislative and other measures as may be necessary against the acts prohibited by article 7 [torture and ill-treatment], whether inflicted by people acting in their official capacity, outside their official capacity or in a private capacity.                               - UNHRC

As a member state of the UN, the regime should ensure freedom from torture/ill-treatment for all of its citizens, regardless of who the perpetrator is. The SPDC as a body is directly responsible for inflicting abuses against Burmese women and men through planting landmines, demanding forced labour, violent abuse including sexual violence, forced relocation and managing an economy that encourages drug use - to name but a few. However, according to the UNHRC it is also responsible for allowing violence to be perpetrated by any other body. Whether engaging in acquiescence, or by turning a blind eye, the SPDC is complicit in exercising violence by failing to exercise ‘due diligence’,[93] and hence failing to provide equal protection, redress and punishment for women.

An Amnesty International report has argued that the state’s failure in ensuring a peaceful society is crucial in analysing responsibility for a wide range of abuses of women, direct and indirect. According to the UNHCR, armed conflict and ensuing displacement leads to an increase of all forms of violence, particularly against women.[94] Women in Burma are not ensured equality in education, shelter, food, employment or access to formal state power. The current instability instead exacerbates the inequality of all women from all social and economic groups, ages, cultures, areas and religions.

Therefore, the SPDC has caused women to disproportionately suffer from poverty, low standards of education andhealth care, a breakdown of family and community structures; women are exceedingly vulnerable to diseases including HIV infection, drug addiction, trafficking, violence and sexual violence. Networks of discrimination overlap meaning the greatest majority of those affected are women from rural and remote villages in non-Burman ethnic areas.[95]

For true gender equality in Burma democracy must be introduced whereby women can be involved in all levels of decision making. The current ‘dialogue’ should have a time frame, become tripartite and joint statements concerning the progress of these talks should be issued. The NLD and all political parties must be allowed to function freely. All hostilities and human rights abuses by the military must stop, and women must be given appropriate means of redress and ensured access to them. Although human rights training of military personnel has started it is dubious that such a programme will have any effect until there is a significant change of will by SPDC. Adherence to UN resolutions and ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women are important steps for the Burma to take in order for women’s rights to be taken seriously.

The longer women’s rights are abused, the graver the long-term problems will become for all of Burma.


ALTSEAN-Burma, Report Card: Burma Consequences of Violence, May 2000

ALTSEAN-Burma, Burma:Tentative Steps, Report Card: Sept.00-Jan.01, March 2001

Amnesty International, Unsung Heroines: The Women of Myanmar, May 2000, AI Index ASA 16/04/00, Distr:SC/CO

Amnesty International Publications, Broken bodies, shattered minds: Torture and ill-treatment of women, The Alden Press, Oxford UK, 2001

Aung M. M., ‘Cycle of Suffering’; Human rights documentation Unit and Burmese Women's Union, Bangkok, January 2000

Beyrer C., War in the Blood: Sex, Politics and AIDS in Southeast Asia, Zed Books Ltd., Thailand, 1998

Brown K., AIDS, Shame and Silence: The Public Health Consequences of Trafficking Tribal Women in Thailand, unpublished paper, Masters Paper to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2000

DVB, Fines And Forced Labour On Repatriation, 25 November 2000

Human Rights Documentation Unit (NCGUB), Human Rights Yearbook 1999-2000:Burma, August 2000

Human Rights Watch, Burma/Bangladesh – Burmese Refugees in Bangladesh: Still no Durable Solution, 2000 /13

Images Asia, Alternative Perspectives, Other Voices: Assessing Gender Equality in Burma, Submission on the 23rd session of the Committee of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, December 1999

International Strategy Meeting On Burma, Statement: 17-19 March 2001; in Burma:Tentative Steps, Report Card: Sept.00-Jan.01, ALTSEAN-Burma, March 2001, Appendix 2: pp64-65

The Irrawaddy, The Irrawaddy Publishing Group, July 1999 Vol. 7 No. 6

The Irrawaddy, The Irrawaddy Publishing Group, February 2001, Vol. 9 No.2

Karen Human Rights Group, Beyond All Endurance, December 1999

Lallah, R., Human Development Report, UNDP 2000

The Leadership of the Non-Burman Ethnic and Democracy Forces Opposing Military-Rule in Burma, ‘Leadership Calls for National Reconciliation’; in Burma: Tentative Steps, Report Card: Sept.00-Jan.01, ALTSEAN-Burma, March 2001, Appendix 1: pp.61-63

Lewa, C., Images Asia, Rohingya Women from Burma Trafficked and Smuggled to Pakistan, unpublished paper; submitted to the Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU) - Dhaka University, Bangladesh, 25 October 2000

Lewa, C., Images Asia, The Rohingya: Forced Migration and Statelessness, unpublished paper; submitted to the Centre of Refugee Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, 28 February 2001

Lin Lin, ‘A Lost Dream’; in Thanakha Team eds., Burma ~ More Women’s Voices, ALTSEAN-Burma, 2000, pp13-16

Ministry of Health, AIDS Prevention and Control, National Health Plan (1996-2001), Union of Myanmar

Ministry of Health, National AIDS Program, Rangoon; in Burma: Tentative Steps, Report Card: Sept.00-Jan.01, ALTSEAN-Burma, March 2001, Appendix 2, pp38-40

Ministry of Health, National Health Plan (1996-2001), Union of Myanmar

Mya Khwa Nyo, ‘Shared Feelings’, published in Thanakha Team ed. Burma ~ More Women’s Voices, ALTSEAN-Burma, June 2000, pp74-80

Nee, K., ‘Cultural Constraint or Political Restriction’; in Thanakha Team eds., Burma ~ More Women’s Voices, ALTSEAN-Burma, 2000, pp66-70

Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), Monthly Report, January 2001

Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), Monthly Report, February 2001

Stothard, D., ‘Atrocities Against Indigenous Women in Burma’, in Indigenous Affairs, No.3/2000, pp28-33

U Win Nya, Presentation by His Excellency U Win permanent Representative of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations and leader of the Myanmar Delegation to the Twenty Second Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), New York, 21 November 2001

UN Working Group, ‘Human Development in Myanmar’, 1998

UNAIDS & WHO, Report on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, June 1998

UNAIDS & WHO, Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, Myanmar 2000 Update

UNDCP, World Drug Report 2000, January 2001

UNGA, United Nations General Assembly Resolution - 2000, 53rd Sessions, 3rd Committee, 8 November 2000 Agenda Item 114(c)

UNHCR, Sexual violence against refugees, Guidelines on prevention and response, Geneva report, 1995

The Union of Myanmar, Submission on the Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, March 1999

The Washington Quarterly, The Regional Impact of HIV and AIDS - Accelerating and Disseminating across Asia, The Centre for Strategic and International Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001 Winter, Vol 24, No 1

Women's League of Burma, Women in and from Conflict Areas in Burma: Basic Needs, Family Planning, Violence Against Women, April 2000

Women’s Organisations of Burma Shadow Report Writing Committee, Shadow CEDAW Report for Burma, January 2000

World Bank, Myanmar: An Economic and Social Assessment, East Asia Region, 2000

Yawnghwe, C. T., ‘The Politics of Identity and the Problem of Reconciliation’; in Burma: Tentative Steps, Report Card: Sept.00-Jan.01, ALTSEAN-Burma, March 2001, Appendix 4:pp70-76

Ying Cherry, ‘Towards National Reconciliation’; in Thanakha Team eds., Burma ~ More Women’s Voices, ALTSEAN-Burma, June 2000.

What you can do

R  READ about it – there are many publications and internet websites that can keep you informed on the situation in Burma. The range is varied – from news articles to personal columns, short stories and reports.

R  DISCUSS the situation of women of Burma with people in your community to keep them informed.

R  WRITE to your government, to the SPDC, and international organ-isations to express your concern about the human rights abuses being perpetrated against women of Burma. Write articles for your local paper or newsletter to highlight the Burmese situation.

R  SUPPORT activities of other groups working for democracy and human rights in Burma. Ongoing letter-writing campaigns, protests and boycotts are being conducted by many groups. Just as important are capacity-building programmes for women of Burma.

R  CELEBRATE Women of Burma Day on June 19 – hold a public event or a solidarity tea party at home. Or simply wear a flower in your hair to honour the women of Burma, and encourage your friends (men and women!) to do the same.

There are many things you can do to support the women of Burma, no matter where or who you are. It can be something spiritual, intellectual, material or action-oriented – it all makes a difference.



Women of Burma membership Groups

Akha Women's Group
P O Box 48, Chiang Mai University P O, Chiang Mai
Tel/fax: (66 53) 811-202

Burmese Women's Union
P O Box 42, Mae Hong Son

Displaced Women's Welfare Association
P O Box 792, Phrakhanong Post Office, Bangkok 10110,Thailand
Tel: (66 2) 381-4892

Kachin Women's Group
P O Box 183, Chiang Mai
Tel: (66 53) 247-624

Karen Women's Organization
12/3 Asia High Way, Mae Tao, Mae Sod, Tak 63110,Thailand
Tel: (66 55) 532-677
Fax: (66 55) 544-748

Karenni National Women's Organization
P O Box 19, Mae Hong Son
Tel: (66 53) 611-691

Karenni Refugee Committee
P O Box 74, Amphur Muang, Mae Hong Son 58000,Thailand
Tel: (66 53) 611-691

Lahu Women Organisation
P O Box 149, Mae Ping PO, Chiangmai 50301,Thailand
Tel: 66 53 244 549
Fax: 66 53 244 549

Mon Women's Organization
P O Box 1, Sangklaburi, Kanchanaburi 71240,Thailand
Tel: (66 34) 595-295

Safehouse & Weaving for Women
C/O KRCH, Sangkhlaburi, Kanchanaburi 71240,Thailand
Tel: (66 34) 595-408

Shan Women Action Network
P O Box 48, Chiang Mai University P O, Chiang Mai
Tel: (053) 252-450

Weaving for Women
17 Moo 1, Tong Boon Nong Loo, Sangkhlaburi, Kanchanaburi
Tel: (66 34) 595-418
Fax: (66 34) 595-418

Women's League of Burma
P O Box 413, Chiang Mai
Tel: (66 53) 245-388
Fax: (66 53) 582 021

Women's Welfare & Rights Association of Burma
P O Box 6651, Tilak Nagar Post Office, New Delhi ,India
Tel/fax: (91 11) 514-5548

Groups working directly with women of Burma

P O Box 296, Lardprao Post Office, Bangkok, 10310 Thailand
Tel: (66 1) 850 9008
Fax: (66 2) 939 0286

BRC - Burma Relief Centre
P O Box 48, Chiang Mai University P O, Chiang Mai
Tel: (66 53) 278 226

Karen Refugee Camp Women's Development Group
P O Box 60, Mae Sod, Tak

Karen Refugee Committee
P O Box 5, Mae Sod, Tak
Tel: (055) 532-947
Fax: (055) 546-869

Mae Tao Clinic
P O Box 67, Mae Sot, Tak
Tel: (66 55) 533-644

Migrant Assistance Program
P O Box 223, Chiang Mai University Post Office, Chiang Mai
Tel/fax: (66 53) 811 202

P O Box 58, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai
Tel: (66 53) 278-945
Fax: (66 53) 810-500

Burma on the Internet

The BurmaNet News is an Internet newspaper providing comprehensive coverage of news and opinion on Burma (Myanmar) from around the world. If you see something on Burma, you can bring it to other subscribers’ attention by emailing it to strider@igc.org

To automatically subscribe to Burma’s only free daily newspaper in English, send an email to burmanet-subscribe@igc.topica.com.

To subscribe to The BurmaNet News in Burmese, send an email to: burmanetburmese-subscribe@igc.topica.com. Burma News Summaries are available by email or the web. There are three Burma news digest services available via either email or the web:

Burma News Update
Frequency: Biweekly. Available by fax or the web. Viewable online at http://www.soros.org/burma/burmanewsupdate/index.html
Cost: Free. Published by: Open Society Institute, Burma Project

Burma Today
Frequency: Weekly. Availability: E-mail. Viewable online at http://www.worldviewrights.org/pdburma/today.html
To subscribe, write to pdburma@online.no
Cost: Free. Published by: PD Burma (The International Network of Political Leaders Promoting Democracy in Burma)

The Burma Courier
Frequency: Weekly. Availability: E-mail, fax or post.
To subscribe or unsubscribe by email celsus@axionet.com
Viewable on line at: http://www.egroups.com/group/BurmaCourier
Cost: Free. (News sources are cited at the beginning of articles. Interpretative comments & background details are often added.


BurmaNet (For current and archived news about Burma)

Various FreeBurma websites with extensive links:

Open Society Institute Burma Project (FACT filled)

Burmese junta’s public relations website

Resources from Altsean-Burma

1998 MAR  SPECIAL BRIEFING: The Human Rights Situation for Women in Burma. 16pp. US$2 each. [Sorry, photocopies only].

1998 MAR  VIDEO: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Address to the UN Human Rights Commission. 18 mins. PAL/NTSC. US$15.

1998 APR  REPORT CARD: Slorc’s Performance as the State Peace and Development Council. 45pp. US$5. [Sorry, photocopies only].

1998 JUN   BOOK: Burma ~ Voices of Women in the Struggle. 116pp. US$10 each.

1998 JUL   REPORT CARD: Burma’s Regime on the Edge. A5, 40pp. Price $5 each. [Sorry, photocopies only].

1998 SEP   YELLOW FLOWER POSTCARD & BADGE CAMPAIGN PACK: 20 postcards and 5 badges to support women in the movement. With the BWU. US$7 each.

1999 JAN   REPORT CARD:The Burma Junta Grits its Teeth. A5, 68pp. Price $5 each. [Sorry, photocopies only].

1999 APR  REPORT CARD:The Stakes are Raised in Burma. A5, 60pp. Price $5 each. [Sorry, photocopies only - original out of print].

1999 APR  REPORT CARD:The Situation of Women in Burma. A5, 20pp. Price $5 each. [Sorry, photocopies only].

1999 AUG  T-SHIRT (Multilingual): “COURAGE”. US$15 ea.[US$400 for 40].

1999 AUG  BADGE (Bilingual): “COURAGE”. US$10 for 10.

1999 SEP   BURMA SPECIAL REPORT:The Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP). A5, 32pp. Gratis.

1999 SEP   REPORT CARD:Looming Crackdown. A5, 56pp. Gratis.

2000 JAN   REPORT CARD:New Hope, Old Reality. A5, 56pp.


2000 APR  SPECIAL BRIEFING: Women’s Report Card on Burma 2000. A5, 36pp. Price $5 each.

2000 MAY  REPORT CARD:Consequences of Violence. A5, 40pp. Gratis.

2000 SEP   REPORT CARD:Stand Off!. A5, 40pp.

2000 OCT  T-SHIRT: “Safety is Everybody’s Right - Refugees too”. US$15 ea.[US$400 for 40].


2001 MAR  REPORT CARD:Tentative Steps A5, 80pp. Price $5 each.

2001 JUN   SPECIAL BRIEFING: Women’s Report Card on Burma 2001. A5, 36pp. Price $5 each.

2001 JUN   POSTER: What Women of Burma Want! A2. Price $5 for 5.

Please contact us by fax (662 939 0286) or email <altsean@ksc.th.com>
to order or to obtain more information about our publications

[1] Amnesty International, May 2000

[2] see The Leadership of the Non-Burman Ethnic and Democracy Forces Opposing Military-Rule in Burma, meeting on 06-07 March 2001 in Burma, and International Strategy Meeting On Burma 17-19 March 2001, Thailand; both published in ALTSEAN-Burma, March 2001

[3] For a discussion of identity politics refer to Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe, The Politics of Identity and the Problem of Reconciliation, published in ALTSEAN-Burma, March 2001, pp70-76

[4] Statement by Mahathir, Malaysian Prime Minister, in New Straits Times, 29 January 2001

[5] For an example of the SPDC’s limited understanding of women’s issues see the responses to The Union of Myanmar Submission on the Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, March 1999

[6] U Win Nya, Presentation by His Excellency U Win permanent Representative of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations and leader of the Myanmar Delegation to the Twenty Second Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; cited in Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p22

[7] Freedom News (Shan State Army), Interview Confirms Junta’s Involvement in Narcotics Trade and Committing Extrajudicial Killings, 10 May 2001

[8] Quote in Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) Monthly Report, June 2000; cited in Stothard, 2000, p30

[9] Note that this tax is often extorted from villagers by other armed groups also, compounding poverty.

[10] Lallah, UNDP, 2000

[11] Lallah, UNDP, 2000

[12] Myanmar Times, Think Tank, May 7-13 2001

[13] SHRF, ‘Confiscation of self-help village school in Kaeng Tung, SHRF Monthly Report February 2001

[14] Lallah, UNDP, 2000

[15] UN Working Group, ‘Human Development in Myanmar’, 1998; cited in Human Rights Documentation Unit (NCGUB), p261

[16] New Light of Myanmar, 14 December 2000 (emphasis mine)

[17] Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p11-12

[18] Ministry of Health, Union of Myanmar; quoted in Images Asia, December 1999, p41

[19] It is important to note that demographic figures concerning Burma are highly contested. The SPDC’s figures are politically adapted and censored, and as many foreign health specialists are not allowed to pursue independent studies in Burma there can be no ‘true’ figures, only estimations.

[20] World Bank, Myanmar: An Economic and Social Assessment, East Asia Region, forthcoming; cited in World Bank Report 2000, p5

[21] UNAIDS & WHO, 2000 Update, p2

[22] Human Rights Documentation Unit (NCGUB), August 2000, p261

[23] Major teaching hospitals estimate the abortion-delivery ratio at 1:3. (Union of Myanmar to the UN, March 1999, Article 12)

[24] Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p3

[25] Na Wa Ta is the Burmese of SLORC, the name of the regime before it changed to the SPDC. For a fuller discussion refer to ‘HIV/AIDS’ in ALTSEAN-Burma, March 2001, pp11-12 for a fuller discussion.

[26] cited in The Economist, Sickening, November 11 2000, US Edition. The UNAIDS and WHO estimate that 530,000 peoples at the end of 1999 were living with HIV sero-positivity and that 48,000 adults and children died in 1999 due to AIDS (UNAIDS & WHO, 2000 Update, p3) while a study at MIT estimates 1 to 1.2 million cumulative infections (all those affected, both alive and dead). (The Washington Quarterly, 2001, p211)

[27] Ministry of Health, National AIDS Program, Rangoon; published in ALTSEAN-Burma, March 2001, Appendix 2, pp38-40

[28] UNDCP, January 2001, p76

[29] Human Rights Documentation Unit (NCGUB), August 2000, p274

[30] Beyrer, 1998, p41-45

[31] There is a culture of sharing needles at tea shops, one of the reasons being because it is illegal to carry needles without a permit. A disposable needle factory has just opened in Rangoon (New Light of Myanmar, MEC Single-Use Syringe Sales Centre opened: High ranking members of the military opened a disposable syringe factory, 31 January 2001), but given the economics and power structures, it is doubtful that they will be used by drug users. For statistics on HIV prevalence of IDU’s refer to Ministry of Health, National AIDS Program, Rangoon; published in ALTSEAN-Burma, March 2001, Appendix 2, p38

[32] Ministry of Health, National AIDS Program, Rangoon; published in ALTSEAN-Burma, September 2000, Appendix 2, pp38-40

[33] Beyrer, 1998, pp46-47

[34] UNAIDS & WHO, 2000 Update, p9

[35] The Washington Quarterly, 2001, p.211

[36] Myanmar Times, Interview with the Secretary-1 of the SPDC, Council Lt-General Khin Nyunt, January 15-21, 2001

[37] Myanmar Times, Interview with the Secretary-1 of the SPDC, Council Lt-General Khin Nyunt, January 15-21, 2001

[38] Beyrer, 1998, p47. Please note that the prices and salary stated are 1998 figures. The average monthly salary increased in April 2000 to approximately 5,000 kyat.

[39] The Nation, UNICEF: Asian youths ignorant of HIV/Aids, 15 May 2001

[40] The Nation, UNICEF: Asian youths ignorant of HIV/Aids, 15 May 2001

[41] Ministry of Health, Union of Myanmar ,AIDS Prevention and Control, National Health Plan (1996-2001)

[42] Myanmar Times, Interview with the Secretary-1 of the SPDC, Council Lt-General Khin Nyunt, January 15-21, 2001

[43] UNAIDS & WHO, June 1998, pp13-14

[44] Beyrer, 1998, pp156-157

[45] Myanmar Times, Interview with the Secretary-1 of the SPDC, Council Lt-General Khin Nyunt, January 15-21, 2001

[46] The Irrawaddy, ‘No sex please - We’re Burmese, February 2001, Vol. 9 No. 2

[47] Beyrer, 1998, p52

[48] UNAIDS & WHO, June 1998, p14

[49] Beyrer, 1998, p52

[50] Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, AIDS in Myanmar, The National Magazine, 10:30 ET, 4 January 2001

[51] It is vital to note that the highest rates HIV sero-positivity in India, Thailand and China are all on their borders with Burma. (The Washington Quarterly, 2001, p.211)

[52] Beyrer, 1998, p156-157

[53] Myanmar Times, Spending to be tripled as UNICEF ups effort on AIDS, May 7-13, 2001

[54] U Win Nya, Presentation by His Excellency U Win permanent Representative of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations and leader of the Myanmar Delegation to the Twenty Second Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 21 November 2001, p9; cited Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p22

[55] Refer to the interviews in Women's League of Burma, April 2000

[56] Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p27, Interview #129

[57] Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p16

[58] Bangkok Post, Overcrowded camps worsen with baby boom, 1 November 2000

[59] Bangkok Post, Overcrowded Camps Worsen with Baby Boom, 1November 2000

[60] Amnesty International, May 2000, p10

[61] The Irrawaddy, Sex, drugs and denial, July 1999 Vol. 7 No. 6

[62] Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p26, Interview #149

[63] The Nation, Hidden from health care, 24 April 2001

[64] The Nation, ‘Bad Girls’ Taking it to the streets, 28 April 2001

[65] UNGA, 8 November 2000, Agenda Item 114(c) para 16

[66] Human Rights Watch, 2000 /13, p3

[67] For more information regarding the particularly extreme abuses directed against the Rohingya, refer to work by Chris Lewa.

[68] Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p18

[69] Amnesty International, May 2000, p11 and Mya Khwa Nyo, June 2000, pp74-80

[70] Amnesty International Publications, 2001 p2

[71] SHRF, ‘6 civilian porters killed and 2 women raped in Loi Lem’, SHRF Monthly Report, January 2001

[72] Amnesty International, May 2000, p15, and Women's League of Burma, April 2000,

[73] Amnesty International Publications, 2001, p46

[74] Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p30

[75] Karen Human Rights Group, Beyond All Endurance, December 1999, p32; cited in Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p14

[76] Women's League of Burma, April 2000, pp33-34

[77] The Daily Star, Dhaka, Large number of Rohingya women trafficked to Pakistan, 24 September 2000

[78] Aung Myo Min, January 2000, p3

[79] Kyodo, Shan woman seeks help for women forced into brothels, February 3, 2001

[80] Kingdom of Thailand Government Statistics as cited in The Nation, Government may extend immigrant workers employment deadline, 15 March 2001

[81] Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p19, Interview #216

[82] Women's League of Burma, April 2000, p33

[83] The Nation, Hidden from health care, 24 April 2001

[84] DVB, Fines And Forced Labour On Repatriation, 25 November 2000

[85] Brown, 2000, p34

[86] The Nation, Sex Slaves Freed: Girl 20, shackled for trying to escape, 18 May 2001

[87] Brown, 2000, p34

[88] The Irrawaddy, Victims or Players, February 2001, Vol. 9 No.2

[89] The Nation, Sex Slaves Freed: Girl 20, shackled for trying to escape, 18 May 2001

[90] Beyrer, 1998, pp129-131

[91] Brown, 2000, pp39-47

[92] Amnesty International Publications, 2001, p43

[93] A standard in the UN language meaning the effort that is necessary or effective to stop, punish and compensate crimes.

[94] UNHCR, Sexual violence against refugees, Guidelines on prevention and response, Geneva report, 1995; cited in Amnesty International Publications, 2001, p49

[95] It is important to note that the international community does not stand immune from criticism. The Special Rapporteur on Burma, Rajsoomer Lallah, resigned in November 2000 after four years, citing lack of support from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in dealing with the military regime and problems in Burma appropriately.