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SUNDAY HERALD-TIME: HR Activists Ho
- Subject: SUNDAY HERALD-TIME: HR Activists Ho
- From: dhorne@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sun, 26 Nov 1995 19:58:00
Subject: SUNDAY HERALD-TIME: HR Activists Hope to Stop IU Alumini Trip
This article appeared in the local Bloomington, Indiana paper. It
features the campaign organizer, Tun Myint of the Indiana Campaign for a
Free Burma. His color photo also appeared on the front of the Region
section with a caption. The caption reads "Tun Myint, and Indiana
University student from Burma, is leading and appeal to the IU Alumni
Association to withdraw support for an alumni tourist trip to Burma early
next year. The appeal was launched because Myint and others do not
beleive the military dictatorship acts in a humanitarian way to many of
the Burmese people."
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS HOPE TO STOP IU ALUMNI TRIP TO BURMA NEXT YEAR
By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Nov. 26, 1995
Local human rights activists are hoping to talk Indiana University out of
sponsoring an alumni tourist trip to Burma early next year.
Tun Myint, an IU student from Burma driven from his country during a
bloody military crackdown seven years ago, is leading appeal to the IU
Alumni Association to withdraw support for the trip on humanitarian grounds.
By sponsoring the trip, IU is lending "institutional support" to Burma's
repressive military government, Myint said. "It empowers the status of
the government, which took power by gun not by public consent."
Long a military dictatorship, Burma - or Myanmar, as the military has
renamed it - launched a brutal crackdown on dissidents in 1988. It is
estimated that more than 3000 people died in those attacks in Rangoon,
The military government has declared 1996 "Visit Myanmar Year" and is
courting international tourists to visit the country.
The IU Alumni Association is sponsoring a January trip to several
southeast Asian countries, including Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and
Singapore. Booked through Intrav travel company of St. Louis, the trip
costs between $6,000 and $8,000 per person.
The U.S State Department's 1994 report on human rights practices in Burma
said that despite "an appearance of greater normalcy fostered by increased
economic activity, in fact the government's unacceptable record on human
rights changed little in 1994."
The report found that Burmese citizens "continued to live subject at
any time and without appeal to the arbitrary and sometimes brutal dictates
of the military. There continue to be credible reports, particularly from
ethnic minority-dominated areas, that soldiers committed serious human
rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and rape."
The report also found evidence that the Burmese army forced hundreds of
thousands of men, women and children to "contribute" their labor under
harsh working conditions to construction projects throughout the country.
Activists such as Myint are concerned about a number of forced labor
Under pressure from California-based groups, UCLA's alumni association
has withdrawn sponsorship of the same tour.
"Burmese citizens themselves came to us and asked us not to go there,"
said Susan Lewis, director of the UCLA alumni travel program. "We had
never had that happen with any other tour before."
Lewis emphasized that universities must make decision on sponsoring such
trips based on their own constituencies.
"We have in L.A. the largest community of Burmese citizens outside of
Burma, so therefore it stands to reason that that would come up of
concern for them," she said. "We also have foremost expert in the world
on Burma, a UCLA alum who's a professor emeritus at Rutgers."
Burmese students who fled the military crackdown in 1988 began arriving
in the United States in 1991. In that year, Congress authorized the U.S
Information Agency to release money for the students to finish their
degree in this country.
A dozen students came to IU in 1993 and several dozen more settled in
Myint, 25, had just finished high school in 1988 when the crackdown
occurred and he became a student leader in the pro-democracy movement.
Now a political refugee in the United States, he's finishing his college
degree at IU. He has not communicated directly with his family since 1988.
The last time he mailed a letter to his family, "my brother was
interrogated by the military," he said.
Myint met with alumni association director Jerry Tardy on Nov. 14. He
hopes to persuade IU to drop its official sponsorship of the February
trip, then cancel any future alumni trips to Burma.
Tardy said he had a "very healthy dialogue" with Myint and other activists
and will air their concerns at association's board of managers meeting
Nov. 30. He would have more information after that meeting, he said.
Myint encourages individuals to travel to Burma themselves. Alone, he
said, people have a better chance of seeing the reality of the country
"This is not just a political issue, it's a humanitarian issue," Myint
said. "It's about abusing and killing people, about forcing them to work
on tourist projects and railway with no pay."
[the following short note appeared in a side column]
PROJECTS BEING PROTESTED
Human rights activists are protesting the use of forced labor on several
projects or proposed projects in Burma. They include
*The construction of the Ye-Tavoy railway in southern Myanmar. Some
reports say more than 60,000 villagers were conscripted to work on the
*The rebuilding of the 19th century Gold Palace in the City of Mandalay.
Here, the military announced that each family in the city of 500,000
would have to contribute at least three days a month of free labor.
*The proposed construction of natural gas pipeline across the Burma panhandle.