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DAWN Bulletin

It is not the time to rush
        The unexpected release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi  from her six-year 
house arrest 
on 10th July was a welcome move on the part of the State Law and Order 
Council (Slorc). While western countries were quick to send messages 
applauding the 
release in a sprit of cautious optimism- as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself 
put it- and 
Asian governments including Japan welcomed the move as substantive 
Apparently some in Japan are very anxious significant indication that 
Burma is moving 
towards democracy. To date, unfortunately, all evidence points to the 
conclusion. Slorcs behavior since the release of Aung San Suu Kyi 
indicates it has no 
intention of moving towards democracy, and in fact, the evidence 
indicates that Slorc 
intends to use the release of Aung San Suu Kyi as part of its on-going 
campaign to 
maintain indefinite military rule in Burma.
        After the Second World War, the diplomatic relationship between 
Japan and 
Burma can be characterized as that of the donor of the Official  
Development Aid(ODA), 
including war compensation, and the recipient of that aid. Burma was the 
first one to 
receive the Japan war compensation in1955 among the Asian nations.  From 
through 1965, the Japanese government paid 72 billion yen ( 200 million 
US$) in goods 
and services. A major portion of these funds were used for the 
construction of Baluchaung 
Dam in karenni State and four major industrialization projects; light 
vehicle production, 
heavy vehicle production, farming machinery production, and electrical 
production. These cmpensation ended in 1977 and Japan began promoting 
Development Aid (ODA) from 1975.
        The total amount of Japanese ODA to Burma that includes loan aid, 
grant aid and 
technical co-operation from the time Japan began funding until 1988 
amounted to 511.7 
billion yen.  Burma was the number one recipient of Japanese aid. For 
example, Burma 
received 332.71 million dollar in bilateral aid in 1988, of which 78 per 
cent of this amount 
was from Japan.
        Japan suspended all new ODA to Burma following the 1988 brutal 
suppression on 
the democracy uprising. It was later resumed but limited to parts of 
on-going projects, 
technical co-operation, and emergency humanitarian assistance. A freeze 
was put on new 
aid and even for those projects that were resumed, they were based on the 
principles of 
starting with problem-free projects, gradually, destructively and cautiously.
        Japan has been behaving itself as a good friend, persuading Slorc 
to open up 
Burmas economy as well as to move towards democracy and stop human rights 
The Japanese government expects the Burmese military regime to change on 
its own, even 
though sometimes it has been irritated by Slorcs stubbornness. 
        But pressure from the Japanese business community has been 
growing to resume 
ODA and now that Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, that pressure is 
likely to 
increase. Chinas increasing influence in Burma not only economically but 
also militarily 
since 1989 has made Japan nervous. The Japanese government began to urge Burma more 
strongly to enter the international community and to decisively adopt the 
economic policy. This position is basically shared by the members of 
ASEAN and India; 
the countries that must fear Chinas penetration into Southeast Asia and 
the India Ocean. 
        The powerful Japanese business organization Keidanren (Federation 
of Economic 
Organization) set up a study group in January 1995 to examine aid 
policies and assess 
the prospects for economic cooperation with Burma, following a trade 
mission it sent to 
Burma in June 1994. A number of Japanese trading and construction 
companies have sent 
their own mission to Burma. In February 1995, Marubeni became the first 
trading company to sign a broad agreement with Slorc to promote joint 
ventures, act as a 
coordinator for various Burmese infrastructure projects, and assist with 
development of 
the oil, steel and gas industries. 
        Japan announced an agreement to give Burma an US$ 11 million 
grant for 
agricultural development. Japanese justified the decision on the grounds 
that the funds 
were to be used for humanitarian purposes to increase food production; 
also that was 
intended as a positive signal to help promote the countrys pro-democracy 
movement and 
human rights improvement efforts. At the same time, Japan also granted 
Burma debt 
relief worth $ 4 million. US government officials denounced the move, 
calling it a 
        The release of  Aung San Suu Kyi was immediately welcomed by 
Japanese Prime 
Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who added,  I hope democratization with 
proceed further. 
Foreign Minister Yohei Kono announced the Tokyo was eager to begin 
discussions with 
Slorc regarding resumption of ODA once they (Burma) are ready to do so, 
and later 
said he would visit Burma soon -- the highest ranking Japanese official 
to go to Rangoon 
since 1988. Foreign Ministry officials indicated that high priority ODA 
projects being 
considered include a $287 million expansion of the Rangoon airport and 
aid to Burmas 
telecommunications system.  It is also considering giving grants of 1.5-2 
billion yen to 
repair nursing schools in Rangoon, a foreign ministry official said in 
September. The final 
decision on the grant is expected in October, following the visit to 
Rangoon by foreign 
ministry study missions in June and in late August-early September.  
Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt 
also announced Japan will donate US$ 400,000 t Burma to build schools in 
border areas.
        For the Burmese people and democratic forces, the resuming of 
Japanese ODA in 
not an appropriate time for Burma.  Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi 
said her release 
from house arrest is no indication of change in Burma and that it should 
not result in an 
torrent of foreign investment and aid for the current military regime. 
She urged foreign 
countries as soon as she was released, not to rush to improve relations 
with Burma 
following her release because nothing else has changed under military rule.
        The guide line for the ODA require that those funds be used only 
if the recipient 
country, is moving towards democracy. But the is no points saying that 
Burma and 
Slorc is moving towards democracy. Evidence of this fact can clearly be 
seen by 
contrasting the release from prison of Nelson mandela in South Africa and 
the release of 
Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. In South Africa, soon after Nelson Mandela was 
the white apartheid government entered into a serious dialogue with him 
as head of the 
African National Congress to discuss and negotiate the conditions for the 
transition to 
democracy in that country. It was not the release of Nelson Mandela that 
showed the 
sincerity of the apartheid government, it was the beginning of the 
dialogue after the release 
that indicated the apartheid government wanted to move in the direction 
of democracy. In 
contract, In Burma, the Slorc military dictatorship reportedly said it 
would not discuss 
political reforms with Aung San Suu Kyi, according to U Tin Win, Rangoons 
to Thailand.        Slorc, therefore, has given every indication tha it 
intends to contain and silence 
Aung San Suu Kyi, not enter into any type of dialogue with her, and  in 
this regard the 
release of Nelson Mandela and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi could not 
be more 
different from each other. The South African government released Mandela 
as a signal 
that it was now ready to begin the dialogue over the transition to 
democracy. The Slorc 
military dictatorship released Aung San Suu Kyi to lower the level of 
pressure, with no sign of  any intention of opening a dialogue or taking 
any steps to 
transition towards democracy.
        Further evidence of Slorcs true attitude towards moving towards 
can be seen by the fact that since the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, 
Burmese opposition 
activists U Thu Wai, U Tun Shwe and Htwe Myint were all rearrested and 
sentenced to 
seven years in Rangoons dreaded Insein prison with no reason for their 
rearrest being 
given. More recently, Ye Htut, a Burmese student was arrested on 
September 27, 1995 
for sending incriminating documents to opposition news groups in 
Thailand. The arrest 
was soly for having sent information to friends and contacts abroad. 
Under international 
law, this cannot be characterized as criminal behavior.
        Slorc continues its military offensives against minority ethnic 
groups like Karen 
and Karenni forcing thousands of refugees over the border into Thailand. 
the barbaric 
system of using forced human labor on Slorc infrastructure construction 
projects and 
forced human porters on Slorc military campaigns continues unabated, also 
the other 
serious categories of human rights abuses such as torture, rape and 
killing documented by 
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch/ Asia as well as United 
Nations. None of 
these human rights abuses have abated in the least since the release of 
Aung San Suu Kyi.  
Japanese government should answer this question: what evidence can be 
pointed to that 
the Slorc military dictatorship is moving towards democracy? Releasing 
the leader of 
opposition from illegal arrest and then refusing to talk to her about 
democracy is certainly 
no an indication of a government moving towards democracy. On the 
contrary, it is an 
indication of an international public relations ploy devoid of any 
political substance 
        The full extent of Slorcs strategy to avoid democratization and 
to institutionalize 
long term military rule in Burma can only be understood by understanding 
the role of 
Slorcs so-called National Convention plays in the strategy. In May 1990, 
Aung San Suu 
Kyis political party, National League for Democracy won 80 per cent of 
the seats at stake 
in the election. Even though Slorc refused to hand over power, the 
military dictatorship 
was faced with a long term problem because by refusing to honor the will 
of the people 
clearly expressed in a free election. The military dictatorship was 
illegal under the new 
emerging standards of internatioal law. Slorcs attempted  solution to 
this problem was 
to call a so-called National Convention to write a new constitution for 
Burma. Actually 
the term National Convention is a complete misnomer. It is really not a 
Convention at all; it is a Military Convention. It was called by the 
military; all of the 
delegates were hand-picked by the military; its day-to-day deliberations 
are supervised by 
the military; and even more outrageously, the military has given a 
written order to the 
convention instructing it turn out a constitution that guarantee the 
military the leading role 
in the national politics in the future of Burma. This so-called National 
Convention is 
nothing more than a transparent farce designed to permanently 
institutionalize military rule 
in Burma. UN Special Rapporteur on Burma, Mr. Yozo Yokota said in last 
year It is 
difficult to assume that, in the National Convention, open and free 
exchange of views and 
opinions are taking place in order to produce a truly democratic 
constitution. Despite 
repeated calls in UN resolutions for the Slorc to give a timetable for 
the convention, there 
is still no sign of the convention coming to an end two and half years 
after the process 
began. The last  session on April 8, 1995 was adjourned until October 24. 
But again it was 
adjourned another month.
        Japan has a very special responsibility when it comes to helping 
prevent this planed 
institutionalization of military rule from suffering in Burma. Japan 
knows full well the 
evils, the horror and the death that can befall a nation politically 
controlled by its own 
armed forces. The period of military domination of Japanese political 
life in the 1930s and 
1940s brought death, destruction and defeat upon the Japanese nation. 
Additionally, a 
conquering Japanese soldiers, under the control of these military 
dictators, brought killing, 
rape, torture and destruction to many conquered lands including Burma, 
which suffered 
greatly in World War II. For Japan, a country that has suffered 
grievously at the hands of 
its previous military rulers, it would be unconscionable to now help and 
assist Burma 
military rulers to solidify their control over Burma. Japan should 
remember that Burma is 
completely unique in Southeast Asia. Burma is the only country in the 
entire region that is 
still a military dictatorship. Japan, therefore has a special 
responsibility to move cautiously 
in Burma. To assist Slorc to institutionalize long term military control 
in Burma by giving 
ODA to Slorc would be a complete betrayal of Japans own history. The 
Burmese people 
appreciate the recent apology of the Japanese Prime Minister concerning 
certain measures 
taken by Japans military rulers in the Second World War. Now the Burmese 
people ask 
that the Japanese government does not assist Burmas military rulers to 
solidify their long 
term control of Burma by giving those military rulers direct development 
        In trying to decide what course of action to take in regards the 
release of Aung 
San Suu Kyi, Japanese government must turn to the words of Aung San Suu 
Kyi herself, 
given during a recent taped interview:
        ..... During this wait-and-see period, where we want to see in 
which way the 
(Slorc)authorities wish to move and where we want to give th every 
opportunity to be 
able to come to the negotition table with a clear conscience, and with 
the best will 
possible. I think this is something we wait and see. I have said that 
this is not the time to 
rush in with investment, please wait and see, that I said from the very 
first week, please 
wait and see before rushing in with new investment...
        If during this wait and see period Slorc were unexpectedly to 
begin a dialogue with 
Aung San Suu Kyi; if Slorc were to release all political prisoners; if 
Slorc were to 
announce a policy of discontinuing human rights abuses, particularly in 
areas inhabited by 
ethnic minorities; if  Slorc were to dissolve bogus National Convention, 
then it would be 
time for the Japanese government to reexamine the situation and see if 
one or more of 
these Slorc actionssatisfied the moving towards democracy requirement 
contained in 
the ODA guidelines. But until the Slorc military dictatorship make such 
genuine and 
sincere moves, Japanese government should heed the urgent words of Aung 
San Suu Kyi: 
Please wait.