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BurmaNet News November 18, 1996

"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies" 

The BurmaNet News: November 18, 1996
Issue #571

Noted in Passng: 
		The longer the transition to the rule of law drags on,
 		the more harm will be done to ordinary people in the US, 			Thailand,
Malaysia and elsewhere - Robert S. Gelbard, 
		US Assistant Secretary of State for Intl Narcotics and Law-			enforcement
Affairs. (see: FEER: SLORC'S DRUG LINKS)


November 17, 1996

A UPI report late last week indicated that all journalists had been forced
to leave the country by Wednesday.  What actually happened was that a number
of journalists who had been invited in by Total and Unocal to visit the
pipeline area had applied for 2 week visas but were only allowed to stay
five days.  One journalist had his passport stamped with only a five day
visa when he arrived at the airport in Rangoon.  In the case of other
journalists, immigration officials came to their hotels and changed their
visa dates there.  However, other journalists were able to enter Burma for a
second Total-sponsored pipeline visit for journalists and also for the
opening ceremony of Visit Myanmar Year.  

According to one journalist, the Total representatives were far more
straightforward about what they were doing than the Unocal representatives.
Total did not apologize for the SLORC and made it clear that the reason they
were putting money into development projects in the pipeline area was to
ensure the support of the local people.  The Unocal representative, on the
other hand, unabashedly defended the SLORC.  The tour was tightly
controlled, but some journalists did manage to slip away to visit Aung San
Suu Kyi and other senior NLD members.  

It appears that there are two factions within the SLORC, one of which
supports the mob attacks on Aung San Suu Kyi and another of which feels that
such attacks are not appropriate because they tarnish the SLORC's image
abroad.  Some analysts believe that Khin Nyunt, Kyaw Ba (Minister of
Tourism), and Kyaw Thein (senior military intelligence officer) are
concerned about how Burma is perceived internationally and probably do not
approve of the attacks.  Who is behind the attacks (Maung Aye? Than Shwe?)
and which faction will ultimately dominate is not clear.


(Fifth Column) By Robert S. Gelbard
November 21, 1996

For the past eight years, the world's attention has been focused on the
struggle of Burma's people to gain a say in their future. A more fundamental
problem is the collapse of the rule of law. The lawlessness of authoritarian
rule not only harms dissidents; it results in the corrupting and
criminalization of the state and the entrenchment of the drug trade in
Burma's political and economic life. It has had tragic consequences for the
United States and for every Asian nation facing crisis in drug abuse.

Consider these facts: Rangoon's New Light of Myanmar reported on August 3
the purchase of part of a new Rangoon office tower by Pao Yu-Chiang, head of
the United Wa State Army, East Asian's largest heroin-trafficking
organisation. A photograph showed him shaking hands with Rangoon's mayor U
Ko Lay, a member of the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc).

Eight Slorc cabinet ministers and numerous subordinates rubbed elbows with
the who's who of Burma's drug trade at the lavish wedding last March of
narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han's son, who has taken over management of his
father's business. Slorc is protecting the drug trade and flaunting its
defiance of international concern, including that of its neighbours.

Before Burma's military took power in 1962, Burma played a relative minor
role in the global drug trade. But by the 1980s, it had emerged as the
world's largest producer of opium and heroin. Burma's leading drug
traffickers than were warlords based in the hills of Shan State. The
military used these traffickers as a counterweight to anti-government ethnic
insurgents. At one point or another, it offered nearly every important
trafficking militia a simple deal: Help us maintain stability, and we'll let
you do business as you like.

Since the formation of Slorc in 1988, opium production in Burma has doubled.
And the nature of the drug trade has changed in an unmistakable way: Burma's
most important narco-traffickers are no longer holed up in jungle hideaways.
They are buying real estate in Rangoon and Mandalay, investing in Burma's
economy, and open courting military officials.

These days, Khun Sa, the most notorious of the old opium warlords, is living
comfortably in Rangoon, having "surrendered" his Shan United Army. Slorc has
refused to bring him to justice or to render him to the US to face charges.
He has evidently been granted immunity, encouraged to invest his drug
fortune in infrastructure projects, and accorded the status of an honored
elder - U Khun Sa.

Slorc has brazenly exploited drug trafficking money to finance projects that
do little to improve the lot of the Burmese. Drug traffickers ad their
families are among the leading backers of high-profile infrastructure
projects in Burma. They launder their money with impunity in banks
controlled by the military. Burma has few legal exports and its trade
imbalance last year was 15% of GDP, yet its cities have been flooded by
luxury imports - paid for in hard currency that could only be generated by
the drug trade. Meanwhile, in the opium-producing areas of Shan state,
trafficking continues largely unhindered. Several groups are branching out
into other drug activity, including production of methamphetamines that find
a ready market in the region.

Burma's citizens and neighbours pay the greatest price for Slorc's defiance
of international concern. The number of Burmese heroin addicts is estimated
at over 300,000, some 70% of whom have HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus
that leads to Aids. There are at least 500,000 heroin addicts in Thailand;
drug abuse and Aids are on the rise in Yunnan, China, and 14% of Malaysian
teenagers are now using hard drugs. Burmese heron traffic is threatening
Cambodian stability. Burmese methamphetamines are becoming the drug of
choice in Taiwan.

Though Slorc professes a commitment to international cooperation, it is
systematically destroying the potential effectiveness of its only
international anti-drug donor, the United Nations' Drug Control Programme.
Slorc has repeatedly attacked the programme's director in the state press
and used racist terms for foreign visitors who have dared suggest Burma's
drug-control performance is inadequate.

As the secretary of state's top adviser on law enforcement, my job is to
fight drugs and crime. I always prefer to do so in  partnership with
government and law enforcement officials in other nations. But US anti-drug
assistance to the Burmese has failed in the past, and in the last four years
Burmese authorities have made no discernible efforts to improve their
performance. From a hardheaded, drug-control point of view, I have to
conclude that Slorc has been part of the problem, not the solution.

The longer the political impasse in Burma continues, the more embedded the
drug trade will become in the economy - and the harder it will be for any
government in Burma, democratic or otherwise, to root out the problem. The
longer the transition to the rule of law drags on, the more harm will be
done to ordinary people in the US, Thailand, Malaysia and elsewhere,
especially as Burma's economy becomes more integrated with Asean's.

Every nation has an interest in pressing the Burmese authorities to fight
drugs. More fundamentally, every nation has an interest in encouraging a
swift resolution to Burma's political crisis, one that can make its military
more accountable to civilian and judicial authority, one that denies
legitimacy to narco-traffickers, one that leads to a real fight against
corruption and crime. That is the only way to protect the rights of Burma's
people and the safety of our citizens. 

Robert S. Gelbard is the United States' assistant secretary of state for
international narcotics and law-enforcement affairs.  (FEER)


November 15, 1996

October 24,1996

  In  the  early morning  of October  24,   a bomb  was said  to have
exploded  in the front of the door of Daewoo  electronic service centre
and sales room,   which is  located between  81 street  and 25/26
street in Mandalay.

  Simultaneously,  another  bomb  was  exploded  near  the  TV  and
  Telecommunication  office located in the  corner of 80 street and
  26  street-B.  No one was injured in this explosion,  according to  the

  The  region controlled  media did  not cover  this news  nor made
  confirmation.  It coincided with the RIT students protest against
  the ruling military region better known as SLORC.

Oct 24, 1996.

  One  person from  every household of  Tamu district  to guard the
  town daily from 9 P.M.  to 6 A.M.  Any person who failed to serve his
  assignment had to pay 100 Kyats as a fine.  "Previously,  we have
  to  pay fine  for the  absence of  force labour  contribution and
  again  we have to pay for  this burden",  one civilian said.  The
  district  LORC reportedly said that civilians were ordered to guard
  the   localities  in  order  to  catch  pro-  democracy  students
  operating on the Indo-Burma border.

Oct 21, 1996

  Intelligence  personal  led  by  Hla  Moe  (MI-17)  and  Myint Oo
  (narcotics) set a trap to arrest an arms dealer in Tamu.  On Oct 21,
  Thein  Lwin,  an information  made a business  appointment with U
  Aung Kyaw, an arms smuggler,  in the house of U Kyin,  near the
  church.   Intelligence personnel had paid  45,000 Rupees to Thein
  Lwin  as decoy money in order  to gain trust of U Aung Kyaw. But
  when  intelligence personnel reached  the destination,  U Aung
  Kyaw had already disappeared together with 45,000 Rupees.  Only U
  Kyin   and  Thein   Lwin  (informer)   remained  in   the  house.

  *100 Rupees Kyats (Current Exchange rate on India-Burma border)

  Information Department
  ABSL (Manipur Regional Office)


November 13, 1996
Geoff Meade

    A furious Glenys Kinnock this afternoon stepped up her campaign for
sanctions against  Burma,  after the military regime dismissed EU
inquiries into allegations of forced child labour as "futile".  The Labour
Euro MP released copies of a letter from  Burma's  EU office to the Brussels
Commission, flatly denying any forced labour practices in the country.  It
says the Burmese authorities have "amply explained" that such a thing does
not exist, and says of the Brussels inquiry: "It is futile and will not be
necessary to send a
Commission mission to investigate the non-existing practices." Mrs Kinnock,
who has just returned from a visit to  Burma  during which she secretly
filmed an interview with Opposition leader and democracy campaigner Aung San
Suu Kyi, insists the regime is smothering free speech and blatantly using
enforced child labour.  But the French Government is refusing to agree to EU
action against Burma,  including the withdrawal of special market access to
EU member states for Burmese textiles and industrial goods.  Mrs Kinnock
again called on the French Government to lift the block - and urged EU
citizens to boycott the French oil company Total because of its involvement
with the regime in the construction of a major gas pipeline in  Burma.   The
interview recorded
by Mrs Kinnock was shown to Euro MPs in Strasbourg. In it, Aung San Suu Kyi
makes a plea for worldwide economic sanctions against  Burma.   Mrs Kinnock

"Forced labour has certainly been used in the infrastructure associated
with the pipeline. As the pipeline is being built, thousands of people are being
displaced from their homes." She said that Total is about to become the largest
source of foreign currency for  Burma,  with a vast investment which will
produce 400 million dollars for the coffers of the SLORC military regime.

"I would urge the citizens of Europe to boycott Total until they withdraw
from Burma.  They can return when the party that Aung San Suu Kyi leads,
which won 80% of the vote in elections, becomes the legitimate Government of
that country."

   Mrs Kinnock told the European Parliament this afternoon that she had
received word today from Rangoon of a major demonstration in the next few
days against the Opposition leader.  She appealed to Irish Foreign Minister
Dick Spring - in the EU Presidency - to warn the Burmese regime that any
action against Aung San Suu Kyi would not be tolerated in Europe.  Mrs
Kinnock said the regime had plans to send in up to 2,000 of its supporters
to storm the compound in Rangoon where the Opposition leader lives.  She
said that the planned attack would be carried out by many of the same people
who launched an attack on the Opposition leader's car last weekend.


November 15, 1996 (South East Asia's Business Times - Malaysia)

DEPUTY Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim
yesterday assured Myanmar that Malaysia will streamline its efforts to
encourage more Malaysians to invest in that country. He gave this assurance
to Myanmar's Finance Minister Brig-Jen Win Tin at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur

Anwar, speaking to reporters later, described it as "a good meeting".
Both parties discussed economic cooperation and bilateral ties, he added.
Myanmar's Central Bank chairman Ukyi Aye was also present at the meeting.
The Myanmar delegation, which arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, is on a
four-day visit of the country. They visited the Royal Customs and Excise
Department and Bank Negara and are scheduled to visit the KL International
Airport project site in Sepang and the Perodua car plant in Rawang.
Win Tin, according to Anwar, invited more Malaysian investors to Myanmar.
Several agreements on avoidance of double taxation and investment guarantee
would be signed between the two countries when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr
Mahathir Mohamad visits Myanmar in January next year. Several agreements on
Malaysian credit facilities for Myanmar have been finalised and were signed


November 13, 1996 (Australian Financial Review)
By Jennifer Sexton.

Burma warns against "despicable traitors" as the SLORC regime prepares to
launch Visit Myanmar Year. Jennifer Sexton reports from Mandalay.
It's a glorious sunny day sailing the Irrawaddy River - and relaxing until
the subject turns to human rights and the dilemma this presents for tourists
to Burma.

"I think we're doing the right thing. They need us to come. They've worked
hard and they need tourists," says Mrs Coombs, a well-to-do British visitor.
"They benefit from the little things that we buy," offers an American woman.

But even on the Rolls Royce of tours in Burma - the US$25 million Road to
Mandalay cruise ship - politics has a pesky way of interfering with a
tourist's wish to indulge the senses.

As political tensions escalate between the State Law and Order Restoration
Council and the democracy movement, human rights groups worldwide are
promoting tourist boycotts, with a view to making Visit Myanmar Year a flop,
ahead of its launch next week. (Myanmar is the SLORC's name for Burma.)
"I think the SLORC's Visit Myanmar Year Campaign will fail due to their own
ineptitude in promotions as much as to increased awareness of human rights
abuses underlying tourism," one Australian human rights activist said.
Travel agents in Rangoon say cancellations have increased as SLORC's
crackdown worsens. Even staff at SLORC's official tourism office admit
numbers are disappointing, "because many countries tell people not to come".
One private travel agent says: "Anybody dealing with the English-speaking
world has seen their business hammered."

Eastern and Oriental Express, which owns the Road to Mandalay ship says it
is apolitical but Rangoon management admits politics has contributed to thin
bookings since the ship was launched late last year.

"Orient-Express accepts that the country still has some problems as it goes
through its transition but does not believe these problems are atypical of
any developing country," its vice-president in London, Nick Varian, said.
A four-day cruise from Bagan, site of thousands of ancient pagodas, to
Mandalay costs around $A3,480. Most of the 40 on board this cruise of the
120-berth ship were well travelled, retired or near retired Americans who
say they wanted to see Burma for themselves.

Viewed from air conditioned buses and the top deck of the Road to Mandalay
during two days of river cruising, the smiling Burmese people can impart a
positive impression.

But they smile out of fear, according to US Ambassador to the United
Nations, Ms Madeline Albright. "During a lifetime of studying repressive
regimes I had found the smiling quotient in many of them to have been quite
high. Authoritarian leaders often delude themselves that they are loved, but
the smiles they see are usually prompted not by affection, but fear," she
told the SLORC's intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, in
Rangoon last year.

Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi says tourism legitimises a regime which
holds power despite the 1990 election in which her party won a landslide 82
per cent of the vote. "We think it is too early for either tourist or
investment or aid to come pouring into Burma," Suu Kyi said. "As long a new
money comes in, the SLORC is under less and less incentive to change."
But with 33 per cent of direct foreign money invested in the tourism and
hotels sector and the SLORC badly in need of an economic kick-start,
detractors are denounced as "despicable traitors".

Tourism Minister Kyaw Ba expects 230,000 visitors, including business
travellers, in the next 12 months, up from 170,000 tourist last fiscal year
and 90,500 in 1993-94, when independent travellers were not allowed and
visits were restricted to two weeks. In March 1994 visas for 28 days
independent travel were introduced. Last fiscal year 1,300 Australian
tourists visited.

There is a chronic oversupply of international-standard hotel rooms in
Rangoon and rumours are that the hotel industry provides a way of laundering
money. Despite the competition, top room rates are only around US$150 a night.
There are now 409 hotels with 9,276 rooms across the country, compared to 20
state-owned hotels in 1988, the year the SLORC crushed a democracy uprising,
killing an estimated 10,000 people. 


November 13, 1996  (abridged)
By Kamarul Yunus in Yangon.

YANGON, Tues: Malaysia Airlines launched today its new service to Yangon,
its 115th destination in its global network, with promises to bring closer
the cooperation and integration between Myanmar and Malaysia.
The Myanmar is also receptive to the service although there is already a
twice-weekly flight linking Yangon and Kuala Lumpur on Myanmar Airways

Myanmar Department of Civil Aviation director-general U Tin Aye said the
service provided by Malaysia Airlines will open up more trade and investment
as well as boost tourism in the two countries.

"It also augues well with Myanmar's move to launch its `Visit Myanmar Year
1996' on November 18," he said in his welcoming speech to the Malaysian
delegation led by Malaysia Airlines board member Yong Ming Sang.
He said the service provides additional access to businessmen to invest in

Meanwhile, Yong said the service will provide greater opportunities and
foster integration between the people of Myanmar and Malaysians, as well as
creating global linkages, particularly with Asean countries.

Yong also said the airline has projected a 70% passenger load factor for the
Yangon sector in its first year of operations.

"Once we hit the 75% load factor, we may have to plan additional frequencies
to Yangon."

"We do not want to be too late to tap the opportunities when Myanmar opens
up its market, particularly to Asean countries. Thus, the service to Yangon
can be described as timely," he added.


November 14, 1996

RANGOON, Nov 14 (Reuter) - Singapore-based Kuok and Shangri-La group on
Thursday opened a 500-room hotel in the Burmese capital of Rangoon.
The $88 million Traders Hotel was developed by Traders Yangon Co Ltd of Kuok
and Shangri-La group.

The total investment of Kuok Group in Burma's tourism sector has now reached
$650 million, said Lieutenant General Kyaw Ba, Burma's minister for hotels
and tourism.

"Indeed, the large amount of investment by Kuok Group not only helps the
development of Myanmar economy but gives impetus to the others to invest in
Myanmar as an emerging business center in Southeast Asia," he said.
"Out of the $1.55 billion in tourism sector, $864 million is solely from
Singapore... This proves the strong friendly ties between our two
countries,' he added.

According to the latest available official statistics, Singapore tops the
list of foreign investors as its investment has reached $1.15 billion out of
$5.04 billion of total foreign investment.

Other major investors were the United Kingdom with $1.01 billion of approved
investments and Thailand with $946 million.

The main investment was in the oil and gas sector with $1.5 billion
invested, followed by the manufacturing sector with $862 million, the real
estate sector with $839 million and hotel and tourism with $731, the
statistics said.  


November 15, 1996

   CANBERRA, Australia (AP) _ Burmese democracy activist Aung San
Suu Kyi has attacked the Australian government's stand on her country's
military rulers and called for stronger action.
   Canberra should not rule out sanctions against the military regime, Suu
Kyi said Thursday night on Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.
   ``I think that sitting on the fence must be an extremely uncomfortable
position,'' she said.
   ``I think the Australian government should have a far more clear cut
policy,'' said the Nobel Prize winner, whose car was attacked by government
supporters with rocks and sticks last weekend.
   ``I do not think that any government can say that sanctions don't work,
just like that.
   ``Sanctions do work under certain circumstances and even, I would say,
that under most circumstances sanctions do work to a certain extent.''
   But Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer ruled out sanctions, saying
trade levels between the two countries were so low that Burma would hardly
   Only United Nations sanctions would work and there was no prospect of the
U.N. Security Council agreeing to such a move, Downer said.
   ``Sanctions by us would simply be a press release and not much else,'' he
   He said he regretted the Burmese leadership was not responding
to requests for a more liberal rule.
   ``I deeply regret that and I would be the first to admit that
international pressure so far has not delivered the liberalization of Burma
or even the open dialogue,'' Downer said.
   The new conservative coalition government has adopted the same stand on
Burma as the former Labor government, neither encouraging nor discouraging
trade with the regime.


November 15, 1996

THE Burmese junta has failed to recognise the decision of the UN Human
Rights Commission made in early 1992 and considers the recent appointment of
a new US special human rights rapporteur on Burma as "intrusive" and
"unwarranted interference" in the internal affairs of the country.

Slorc's position was conveyed in a letter from the Burmese permanent
representative to the UN in Geneva to the commission, dated July 4, 1996.

The ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) stressed that the
appointment of Judge Rajsoomer Lallah "is unacceptable", as was the case
with his predecessor, Professor Yozo Yokota.

The commission appointed Lallah, an Oxford-educated judge from Mauritius, to
replace Yokota who resigned from the post on May 12, 1996 to protest against
his constant battle funds to carry out his work.

In his interim report to the current UN General Assembly in New York, Lallah
said that Burma "had disassociated itself form the decision" the UN
commission made at its 48th session in early 1992.

It therefore refused to accept Lallah's appointment, stating in the letter
that such an exercise is "intrusive and constituted unwarranted interference
in our (Burmese) affairs".

Lallah informed the UN members that since his appointment he had tried
unsuccessfully to obtain Slorc's cooperation to implement his mandate
including visits to Burma to investigate its human rights situation.

Slorc had not replied to his request, which was made in two letters sent on
July 9 and 26, he said.

The judge expressed regret over Slorc's refusal to cooperate with him and
said the absence of a response was "in the circumstances, not understandable."

However, he said any procedures resulting from UN resolutions did not
require the express consent of the states concerned - in this case Burma -
to be implemented.

Lallah said Slorc's refusal to recognise his appointment did not conform to
the obligation it undertook when agreeing to Article 56 of the UN charter.

This article requires that the signatory extend all cooperation with the UN
and its various organs.

A refusal "cannot relieve the relevant organs of the United nations from the
duty of performing their functions," he said.

Slorc's "attitude of non-cooperation" had made the task of the special
rapporteur much more difficult in determining the situation as it has
evolved since the last visit.

The rapporteur had last visited Burma in October 1995.

Lallah said the absence of a response form Slorc meant that the UN could not
engage in a constructive dialogue with Rangoon during the investigation and
the writing of the report.

The report traced the latest history of the political and human rights
situation in Burma.

It touched on the various forms of alleged human rights violations in the
country, which included extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions;
torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; arbitrary arrest
and detention; prison conditions; freedom of opinion, assembly, association
and movement; forced relocation; and forced labour.

In his conclusion, Lallah noted that the absence of respect for democratic
rights is the root cause of all major human rights violations in Burma and
it s absence "implies a structure of power which is autocratic and
accountable only to itself".

He said Slorc had not yet implemented its commitment to take all the
necessary steps towards the establishment of a democratic environment in Burma.

Detailed reports and photographs helped him to conclude that human rights
abuses "remain extremely serious" in Burma. (TN)


November 15, 1996

KUALA LUMPUR - Regional officials plan to meet on December 2 to decide on
the route for  a Southeast Asian train line linking countries form Singapore
to China, a newspaper reported yesterday.

"The meeting will determine the economic viability of the routes and decide
which one will be given priority for development," The Star quoted Malaysian
Transport Minister Lee Liong Sik as saying.

Lee said the route from Singapore through Malaysia to Bangkok is clear, but
there are three options for the rest of the line - through Cambodia and
Vietnam, through Laos or through Burma.

The meeting is to include specialists from the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations, as well China, Vietnam, Laos Burma and Cambodia.
Malaysia has been picked to prepare preliminary studies for the train line.

The governments plan to form an international consortium to finance the
project," Lee said.

"If the consortium has unlimited finances, then all the routes can be
developed' he said. (TN)


November 15, 1996

AMERICAN oil company Unocal has sold Burma's military government US$7
million (Bt175 million) worth of badly needed fertiliser on credit, to be
repaid from the junta's profits from a controversial gas pipeline now being

Unocal representative Carol Scott confirmed the agreement on a press tour of
the pipeline area in remote and isolated southern Burma earlier this week.

The deal deepens Unocal's involvement with a government that has been
frequently criticised by the United Nations and international human rights
groups for suppressing Burma's democracy movement and committing rampant
human rights violations.

Unocal is part of a consortium, including Total of France, the Burmese
government and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand, that is building a $1.2
billion pipeline to carry gas from Burma to Thailand.

Herve Madeo, a Total official, said earlier this week the Burmese government
won't reap any profits form the pipeline until some time after 2001.
Opponents of the junta have criticised the pipeline deal as providing
profits for a cash-starved regime that uses most of its money to buy weapons
and repress its citizens.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and other opponents of
the military government have called for a halt to foreign investment in
Burma until there is  clear progress toward democracy.

Local analysts said the 40,000 tons of urea fertiliser from a Unocal plant
in Alaska cleared Rangoon's port in September and October. The amount is
approximately half of what the government needs to ensure the success of the
rice harvest. A decrease in rice and timber exports, coupled with extremely
high military spending, has left the junta with a severe cash-flow problem
according to Rangoon-based economists.

IN August, the government couldn't meet a $31 million payment to Japan's
Mitsui Corp for oil and the resulting shortage caused gas prices to
skyrocket and led some people in Rangoon to hoard food and other essentials.

The government has denied there was an oil shortage or that it is having
financial difficulties. But recent World Bank reports show the regime is
$6.6 billion in debt, with nearly $2 billion in arrears. The same reports,
using the regime's own figures, show the government spends at least 46 per
cent of its budget on defence.

Gen David Abel, minister of economic planning, said in September that the
World Bank doesn't understand how to use his government's numbers and that
defence spending is in fact eight per cent to 12 per cent of the budget.

Although the government has made significant strides in increasing the
country's rice yields, it has fallen short of its own production targets
after forcing farmers to grow a second rice crop during the year. Local
economies said the attempt, while well-intentioned, was misguided and failure.

The rice crop became a political issue earlier this year when the regime
handed out 14-year prison sentences to Win Htein, a key aide to Suu Kyi, and
two other democracy activists because, it said, they shot a videotape
showing the failure of the second crop. (TN)


November 15, 1996

KANBAUK, Burma - Total's controversial natural gas pipeline route across
southeastern Burma traces a red gash through the otherwise green
countryside, and is changing forever the lives of local residents.

Critics link the billion-dollar project to human rights abuses and
environmental damage and say it is financing the ruling junta's efforts top
tighten its grip on power.

Total says there are no human rights abuses on the project, that
environmental damage is insignificant as the pipeline traverses already
degraded forests and that it is not a political actor on the Burma stage.

Intent on seeing through the lucrative 30-year contract and signing more
based on new gas finds in the Andaman Sea, Total executives have mounted a
campaign to win the hearts and minds of local residents.

And while they say it is not the primary goal of the program, they
acknowledge campaign will probably help ease security concerns in a volatile

"We plan to be here for 30 years," Herve Madeo, general manager of Total
Myanmar Exploration and Production, told foreign correspondents flown in
this week for a whirlwind tour of construction sites and neighbouring villages.

"The most important point is to integrate the project into this area.
Obviously a consequence of that is the security of the pipeline," he

The only incident to date, Madeo said, was on March 8, 1995, when
unidentified, heavily-armed attackers ambushed a survey team near the
Kanbauk base camp, killing five Burmese nations.

To integrate the project into the area, Total has given jobs to people who
previously had few sources of income aside from subsistence agriculture and

Wages for unskilled labor start at 200 kyats, or about 1.35 dollars, a day
at the prevailing market rate. An entry-level civil servant earns, in
comparison, a basic salary of 17.50 kyats a day.

Total has also built classrooms and clinics, and started pig-, poultry- and
goat-farming projects in order to give villagers new economic options.

Projects will, it is hoped, become self-sustaining in short order. "We don't
want to create a situation of eternal dependency," said Joseph Daniel,
Total's Paris-based vice-president for public affairs.

Already they point to the small independent food stalls and tea shops that
have sprung up around construction sites, and to the thriving business one
Kanbuak merchant has established in importing shiny new bicycles.

Critics of the project, from pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi to
political exiles abroad, object that such things, and the fat that gas
revenues are likely to become a major source of funds for the government,
serve only to prolong junta rule.

The Paris-based International Human Rights Federation last month alleged
"massive and systematic human rights violations" in connection with the
pipeline project which, it said, constitutes "moral and economic support for
the ruling junta.

The allegations are, in fact, aimed mostly at the government and the army,
inextricably linked in the State law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc),
as the junta is officially known.

But critics say that Total and its foreign partners - US-based Unocal and
Thailand's PTT - are at the very least guilty by association.

In a report entitled "Total Denial" and issued in July, Earth Rights
International and Southeast Asian Information Network warned it might not be
possible to determine in time "whether the sale of Burma's natural gas under
Slorc has helped the country develop or simply enriched the generals."

Daniel said Total had no political agenda - "in the oil business, you can
begin working with one regime and finish with another" - but was convinced
he 30-year project would benefit the country as a whole.

Total executives have shrugged off calls to halt foreign investment in
Burma, saying economic sanctions are the purview of countries, not
companies. (TN) 


November 15, 1996

Amnesty International group Alkmaar an the International Fellowship of
Reconciliation, the Netherlands is very pleased with the recent initiative of
City Council member H. Eggermont, in order to express the concern of the City
Council of Alkmaar about the human rights situation in Burma, to the
authorities of Burma, State Law and Order Restoration Council. Herewith we
forward the letter of the City Council of Alkmaar, with the names of it's
members subscribing it.

We are very interested in initiatives of any Burma interested groups or human
rights organizations on the same level and on the issue of purchasing local
selective legislation.

Please contact: Anja_Sloot@xxxxxxx (Amnesty Int. Group Alkmaar)
or:  ifor@xxxxxxxxxx (International Fellowship of Reconciliation)

General Than Shwe, Chairman
State Law and Order restoration Council
c/o Ministry of Defense
Signal Pagoda Road
Yangon, Union of Myanmar

Friday 13 November 1996

Dear General Than Shwe,

Greetings from the Dutch city of Alkmaar, a city of some 95,000 people in the
northern part of the Netherlands. This letter is written on behalf of the
citizens of Alkmaar, by members of the Alkmaar City Council, which governs
the city.

We are writing to express our concern about the human rights situation inside
the Union of Myanmar. Well documented reports from bodies such as the United
Nations and from internationally respected human rights organizations point to
the existence of serious violations of international law within your country.
The reports of forced labor, forced relocation, government military operations
against ethnic minorities, religious discrimination, and the denial of the
rights to freedom of speech, press and political participation so essential to
democracy, are very disturbing.

As governing officials we are convinced of the benefits of democracy. The
corner stone of democracy is respect for human rights. We welcomed your
government's release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi last year, as did the entire
international community. This release was an important first step in
establishing democracy in the Union of Myanmar.

Yet we are aware that there are hundreds of political prisoners who remain
unjustly imprisoned within Myanmar, and that international norms of human
rights are violated daily within your country. We respectfully request that
your government continue its steps towards democracy and respect for human
rights by releasing such prisoners, whose only "crime" has been the nonviolent
exercise of their basic human rights.

Respectfully yours,

H.  Eggermont
member City Council Alkmaar.

(list of all the co-signers has been deleted)