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BurmaNet News November 19, 1996

"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies" 

The BurmaNet News: November 19, 1996
Issue #572


November 18, 1996

Try to imagine what it would be like if the great manorial estate
located at the end of your street was inhabited by a crypto-military
gang. And every time you drove by, someone was beating up the help
out in the driveway. Meanwhile, on the back 30 acres, you know
they've got a mammoth drug dealing operation; in fact, one of the city's
biggest drug dealers lives in a cottage back there. You wouldn't
call the police; you'd call in the army. Problem is, the army's already
employed inside the manor. Welcome to Burma.

The encouraging news for people still interested in minimal standards
of international civility is that Burma is becoming too much even for
its Asian neighbors. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or
Asean, which prides itself on its hands-off approach to the domestic
politics of its neighbors, has begun distancing itself from the
regime in Rangoon. Some member countries had hoped to grant Burma
Asean membership in 1997, arguing for "constructive engagement." But
the human rights record of Burma's ruling junta, comically titled
State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), has only worsened
since Burma joined Asean as an observer this summer. Just last
weekend a 200-strong mob that was apparently working for the junta
threw rocks and swung crowbars at a car carrying Aung San Suu Kyi,
leader of the opposition National League for Democracy. Today, the
Asean neighbors are less eager to soil the organization's reputation
by embracing an international pariah.

The Burmese generals who seized power after the NLD won 80% of the
vote in democratic elections in 1988 have long been the focus of
international outrage and disgust due to events like last weekend's.
The United States now has a law that will allow President Clinton to
ban investment in Burma if political freedoms there are further
restricted, and the European Union is considering imposing sanctions.

If Asean is uncomfortable condemning Burma's "internal affairs,"
neither neighbors nor anyone else can afford to ignore Slorc's record
on drugs, an issue that affects the region and the world as a whole.
Opium production in Burma has doubled since Slorc took power,
according to the State Department's annual opium survey. That report,
and others, notes that Golden Triangle drug lords have been free to
go about their business so long as Slorc could count on them to quash
ethnic uprisings in remote areas. But far from disappearing after the
areas they controlled came under Slorc's domain, some big-time
traffickers have been welcomed in Rangoon as prospective investors.
As the Far Eastern Economic Review's Bertil Lintner pointed out
recently, drug lord Khun Sa, who surrendered his Shan United Army
early this year, now lives in Rangoon and has a government contract
to provide bus services.

Drugs produced in Burma don't just get smuggled to America and
throughout the West. Beijing officials put the number of heroin
addicts in China at 500,000, most of them along the drug trafficking
route in Yunnan province. Vietnam is believed to have 200,000
addicts and Thailand another 500,000. Inside Burma, nearly 70% of
the estimated 300,000 addicts are said to be HIV positive.

Slorc's sorry record on drugs can't be written off as mere domestic
politics. Like its human rights record, these are the products of
unaccountability. That in turn should set off alarm bells in anyone who
thinks large powerful governments can club public sentiment into
silence and remain benign members of the world community. Asean
will do the world a great service if it uses its special influence to
steer Burma from its current destructive course.


November 15, 1996
by Tim Shorrock

Clinton Administration is Cautious

Washington-- A briefing by US Labor Secretary Robert Reich on labor rights
in the Asian dictatorship of Myanmar was canceled at the last minute
Thursday, raising questions about the Clinton administration's policies
toward that country.
Mr. Reich, a key advisor to President Clinton, was set Thursday
to announce a new initiative urging US clothing importers not to buy
products made in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
A Labor Department press release said Mr. Reich - who is resigning
in January - was going to make the request based on the country's "record
of forced labor and child exploitation."  Mr. Reich also was planning to
highlight US companies that have stopped doing business in Myanmar.
But hours before his announcement, aides announced that a
telephone interview with Mr. Reich was postponed indefinitely.  A
spokeswoman cited logistical problems for the delay, saying Mr. Reich was
in Boston.  The interview was not rescheduled.
Some observers suggested the Clinton administration did not want
Mr. Reich to answer questions at a time when the political situation in
Myanmar is worsening.
During the past week, a car carrying opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi was attacked by a mob, and a top general made a speech suggesting
that Myanmar citizens should "crush" the dissident movement.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group in Congress and human rights groups
are pushing for a tougher US response to the repression.
"Burma is a human rights disaster that demands a further response," said
Mike Jendrzejczk, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch/Asia.  "The
situation has dramatically deteriorated in recent weeks."
US interest in Myanmar has been growing since 1990, when the
military government canceled the results of a popular election that
brought an overwhelming victory for Ms. Suu Kyi.  The dissident leader,
who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, was released from
house arrest in July 1995.
But serious human rights and labor problems have worsened Myanmar's
reputation as a police state.  Many US and European companies
have either pulled out of the country or refused to do business there.
Still, Japanese corporations and several US oil companies have
major interests in the country. This year, lawmakers sought legislation that
would have cut off all US investments in Myanmar.
At the suggestion of the Clinton administration, however, the bill
was softened.  The final language said US investment should be prohibited
if the president determines that the government of Myanmar has harmed or
re-arrested Ms. Suu Kyi or "committed large-scale repression of or
violence against the democratic opposition."
With those conditions now present, putting Mr. Reich in a position
where he would have to answer questions may have been awkward, one
observer suggested.  The Labor Department said political considerations
did not play a role in the cancellation.


November 18, 1996

KANBAUK, Burma (AP) _ Along a red clay road in southern Burma,
workers have begun laying the heavy, white steel pipes for one of the most
politically controversial infrastructure projects in the world.
The dlrs 1 billion pipeline _ a joint venture of France's Total, UNOCAL of
the United States, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand and Burma's military
government _ will carry natural gas from an offshore field in the Gulf of
Martaban to a power plant in Thailand in 1998.
But it's already delivered a stain as black as an oil spill on the
reputations of the companies involved. Earlier this year, protesters
converged on both Total's and UNOCAL's shareholders' meetings demanding they
pull out of Burma.
The few outsiders who have been able to venture unescorted to Burma's
forbidding Tenasserim Division _ and the thousands of refugees who have fled
from the region _ tell tales of beatings, rapes and arbitrary executions by
Burmese soldiers, and of forced labor imposed on the local population.
The Burmese army is trying to wrest control of the area from ethnic
insurgents, who, in turn, have vowed to attack the pipeline. In March 1995,
rockets killed five Burmese employees of Total.
But ethnic rebels are not the pipeline's only opponents.

Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, exile opposition groups and a
slew of human rights organizations have criticized the project for
purportedly destroying the lives of local people and filling the coffers of
a military regime engaged in massive arms purchases to repress the population.
UNOCAL President John Imle, however, insists the local people want his
company in the area. A one-day, whirlwind press tour of the pipeline route
conducted by Total and UNOCAL officials offered some evidence for his claim.
As a convoy of oil company executives and journalists drove along a dusty
road leading to Total's barbed wire-rimmed base camp at Kanbauk, three young
Buddhist monks walking by broke into smiles and gave the thumbs up sign.
Some here apparently welcome big oil.
That's probably because of a dlrs 2 million-a-year aid program launched by
Total to bring development to the desperately poor villages along the
pipeline route. The oil companies expect to share dlrs 200 million a year in
profits from the pipeline.
Total, with financial contributions from UNOCAL, has built or is building 30
new schools, health clinics and malaria research centers, plus providing 12
doctors in an area which normally has none.
``We want to create self-sustainable development,'' said Herve Madeo,
Total's general manager in Burma. So the company has also helped villagers
set up farming and breeding projects for shrimp, pigs, poultry and cattle.
Madeo says Total has initiated such programs in other countries, but never
on such a massive scale. ``We didn't have to do this,'' Madeo said. ``It was
not an obligation.''
However, Total's vice president for public affairs, Joseph Daniel, said it was.
``We had to do it for the survival of the pipeline project,'' Daniel said.
``The villagers had to receive some immediate benefit from our being here.
They can't wait for the pipeline to become profitable in 2001 or 2002.''
Daniel says that timetable means the regime isn't making any money yet, and
there is no guarantee they will be in power when the profits roll in. Total
admits, however, to paying the government a dlrs 15 million contract signing
What draws a more angry response from Total executives is the issue of
forced labor, which critics link to the pipeline project.
There is no reliable information suggesting the line itself is being built
with slave labor. What critics allege is that the Burmese army is using
forced labor to build infrastructure necessary to construct the pipeline.
Refugees have reported being forced to work on what they call ``pipeline
Total's Daniel and Madeo don't deny there are army abuses in Burma.
But they insist the roads and railways being built with forced labor have
nothing to do with their pipeline. Nearly all supplies arrive by sea, they said.
Total admits, however, that pipeline security is provided by the Burmese
army. United Nations human rights investigators have said that the presence
of the Burmese army and human rights violations against civilians go hand in
The military's widespread use of civilian porters _ sometimes given a choice
to buy their way out of work, sometimes not _ is well-documented by such
organizations as Amnesty International.
It was clear from the beginning that the project would bring in export
earnings for the military government, since it would not be economical for
the relatively low demands of the domestic market.
Critics say a partnership with Burma's military government makes Total,
UNOCAL and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand complicit in the army's
campaign to control the area.
``But if we weren't there, what would be the advantage?'' Daniel fires back.
``Do you really think there would be more development, more human rights,
more democracy?''
Some of the project's opponents already have an answer to that _``yes.''
They say that without the financial support of foreign investors such as the
oil companies, the cash-starved regime might have collapsed, and democracy
might have come to Burma long ago.


November 17, 1996

THE United States and the European Union (EU) expressed grave concern on
possible further violence in Burma this weekend and said it would hold the
military junta responsible for any attack on its democratic opponents.

State Department spokesman Burns said in Washington on Friday (Saturday
Bangkok time) that Burma's military leaders were reportedly organizing more
demonstrations by the Union Solidarity Development Association, which he
described as "a front organization for the military dictators" and the group
responsible for the  attack on Nov. 9 on democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's
motorcade. Burns said Washington had "clear evidence" that the attack on the
motorcade was organized by the Union Solidarity group.

"The US is gravely concerned by reports about the potential for violence
this weekend in Rangoon in the wake of an extremely disturbing attack last
weekend by hired thugs on Aung San Suu Kyi," Burns said in a statement. "And
we understand that this demonstration may be held with the express purpose
of provoking further violence in Rangoon," he added.

Burn said Washington rejected attempts by the military junta, the State Law
and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), who blamed this attack on the
democracy activists. "We and the international community will hold the Slorc
responsible for any violent attack, or any harm that may come to Aung San
Suu Kyi, other senior supporters of the democratic opposition," he said.

Meanwhile, in Dublin, the EU had called for a full and thorough
investigation and explanation of what happened on Nov. 9. "The EU holds the
Slorc responsible for safeguarding the security of the NLD leaders and
considers that these incidents mark a clear deterioration in the political
situation," a statement from EU president, Ireland, said.

"The EU will monitor the situation very carefully to watch for any
repetition of such acts," it said.

The grouping called on the Burmese government to engage without delay in a
meaningful dialogue with members of the democratic movement. Washington
called on the Slorc to punish those responsible for the Nov. 9 attack,
prevent further violent incidents and engage in discussions with
pro-democracy groups. (TN)


November 18, 1996

   RANGOON, Burma (AP) _ Burma's democracy leader, Aung San Suu
Kyi, failed to meet supporters waiting beyond police roadblocks and
at the capital's main pagoda Sunday.
   Last weekend, a motorcade carrying Suu Kyi and the vice chairmen
of her political party, Tin Oo and Kyi Maung, was attacked by
government-organized mobs wielding sticks, pipes, rocks, chains and
   Although they escaped unharmed, aides to Suu Kyi expressed fears
that the government would bring in mobs for more violence this
weekend. They worried that mobs would attack either Suu Kyi's home
or party supporters who normally gather behind police lines to wait
for her to drive out to meet them.
   The government said the attack was carried out by saboteurs from
Suu Kyi's party.
   No mobs assembled this weekend as both the military government
and Suu Kyi appeared to be proceeding cautiously after widespread
international condemnation of last week's incident.
   About 200 of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner's supporters
gathered at Goodliffe Junction as riot police blocked the roads to
her home for the eight straight weekend. Before the roadblocks
began appearing, Suu Kyi regularly had addressed supporters outside
her home since her release from six years of house arrest in July 1995.
   More of her followers, along with diplomats and journalists,
waited at the Shwedagon Pagoda, a golden, bell-shaped Buddhist
shrine, after hearing rumors that Suu Kyi would appear there.
   She did not show up, however, and her supporters dispersed at around 5 p.m.


November 16, 1996 (abridged)

The dictators in Rangoon are bringing Burma into a darker age in which they
are making open threats to Aung San Suu Kyi. Following the mob attack on her
motorcade last Saturday, the generals have said she is in danger. That
danger can only come from one source, and that source is the ruling junta.

If the State Law and Order Restoration Council thinks it can fool the
international community into believing that any attack on Aung San Suu Kyi
is a demonstration of popular opposition, it is again badly mistaken.

Only the simple-minded would see last Saturday's attack on the opposition
leader's motorcade as anything other than another demonstration of the
junta's paranoia and tendency to  loutishness in the face of what it does
not like.

As if to demonstrate that it has been gulled by its own simple brand of
propaganda, Slorc responded to the attack, which was carried out by its
hired goons, by predicting the further such ugly acts cannot be ruled out as
long as the leader of the National league for Democracy persists in the
cause of dialogue.

Slorc  has no need to consult an oracle about the next spasm of violence by
its goons with iron rods, slingshots, ball bearings, iron chains and
walkie-talkies. It knows when they will strike because they obey orders, and
those orders come from Slorc.

In the first response to Saturday's attack, Slorc, through its New Light of
Myanmar  mouthpiece, said: "Suu Kyi will get into trouble if she thinks that
every group she sees is her supporter." It continued: "Upon reaching the
stage of being hit by stones openly, she will have to exercise restraint."
The very next day, Slorc offered another vision of the future which has been
seen as both an incitement to violence and a further  threat to the  safety
of Aung San Suu Kyi. 

This time, it went further. Not only did it predict an attack, it also
identified the likely culprits as members of Suu Kyi's National League for

Again, the vehicle was a commentary the New Light of Myanmar: "It should be
borne in mind that those people would sacrifice her and  create their own
scenario if they consider it would be more profitable than keeping her
alive. No one can say with certainty that there is no schemer among those
closely surrounding Suu Kyi, and those she deems trustworthy, who in reality
plot to sacrifice  her as a dual stroke to clear up complication."

Having written a plot that is both cheap and sinister from start to finish,
the commentary concluded, in hysterical terms, with an incitement to
violence in which it accused Suu Kyi of striving to "destroy prospects of
stability with state with her fangs".

Threats and infantile insults against Suu Kyi are nothing new: Slorc
indulges itself by referring to her as Mrs Aris- the name of her English
husband _ in the manner of a Queensland fish and chip shop proprietor-turned MP.

But what is worrying this time is that the junta cut short the visas of
journalists who had been invited to the country in an effort to convince the
international community that human rights have been a priority in a gas
pipeline project. UNOCAL will no doubt be overjoyed with the SLORC's
behavior, which turned the trip into a public relations  disaster.

By marching into the journalists' hotel rooms and whiting out their visas,
Slorc obviously plans to deal with the inconvenience of witnesses before its
next brutal premonition can be realized. Again, the generals who have
brought such devastation to the people of Burma and its economy are wrong.

Even though the messengers were given their marching orders out of the
country by Wednesday, the diplomatic community in Rangoon is watching.

Slorc is also blind to the fact that the day will come when it  will be
judged by the Burmese people.  If it paused for thought, it may realize its
best option is dialogue with the National League for Democracy.
Ill-considered and brutal plots will ultimately present a greater danger to
the junta itself. (BP)


November 18, 1996  (abridged)

   BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ The Burmese government on Monday
launched ``Visit Myanmar Year 1996,'' a long-odds effort to promote
foreign tourism in the country despite its political turmoil and
reputation for repression.

When the government decided in 1994 to launch Visit Myanmar year, it
projected half a million tourist arrivals. The figure was later scaled down
to 230,000.
Much of the foreign investment in Burma in the past few years has been in
the tourism sector, particularly the construction of hotels.
Under the previous military administration, tourism was discouraged, and
foreigners were given visas limiting them to a week's stay.
The opening ceremony for Visit Myanmar Year was held at a youth training
center in eastern Rangoon, and marked by the singing of an official theme
song, the release of birds and balloons, and displays of traditional dances
and martial arts.
The event was attended by members of the ruling junta, including its
influential secretary, Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, as well as diplomats and other
foreign officials and invited guests.
The logo for Visit Myanmar Year features a mythical character called
``Thungedaw'' _ a boy in traditional Burmese sarong with shoulder bag. In
local legend, Thungedaw was a page who attended the king in the bygone days
of the Burmese monarchy.
Larger-than-life papier-mache representations of Thungedaw have been erected
at road junctions, joining banners hailing Visit Myanmar Year.


November 18, 1996  (abridged)
Nussara Sawatsawang

Successes claimed for Visit Myanmar Year

Tour operators are optimistic that Burma will be able to attract more
visitors, despite an international campaign to boycott Visit Myanmar Year
which kicks off today.

According to Werner Senft, general manager of Myanmar Diethelm Travel, the
campaign has had "a reverse effect" because it as helped more people become
familiar with the country's new name.

"Even bad news is good news," he said in a telephone interview from Rangoon.

Bangkok-based Diethelm Travel says it expects to organize tours to Burma for
about 4,500 tourists next year, up from 3,000 this year.

"Most people who go to that country do not care about politics. It's
tourists who decide," said general manager Matzig Luzi.

Most foreign tourists come from Germany, France and Switzerland. Malaysians,
Japanese, Singaporeans and Thais lead visitors from Asia.

Both offices of Diethelm admitted that the boycott campaign and
international pressure on Burma had had some negative impact o their business.

Fewer tourists from Britain and the Scandinavian nations have gone to Burma
because they were influenced by what Mr Luzi called "negative propaganda" in
their countries.

Mr Senft acknowledged that some American tour agents had canceled their
reservations due to the political situation in Burma.

Other firms seems to believe that American citizens cannot get visas due to
a ban by the US government. But the restriction covers only Slorc members,
he said.

And he praised Burma as being one of the safest place for tourists.

Luzi said tourists visit Burma mainly because of their desire to escape
their winter season and getaway to tropical weather and the culture of
Southeast Asia.

The government's campaign has had little impact in attracting foreigners due
to its limited budget, he added. 

A Thai tour operator said the number of Thai tourists to Burma has increased
due to their impression of the country from a Thai TV soap opera entitled
The True Love of Jenjira, which was shot in Rangoon.

The demonstration of Burmese students in late October did not affect tourist
attractions because it took place on the streets, she said.

The protest was one of the series of clampdowns on its opponents which
resulted in the detention of Kyi Maung, one of Aung San Suu Kyi's close aides.

The Rangoon government has concentrated on improving infrastructure to
accommodate tourists and prepare for its Visit Myanmar Year.

Hotel and Tourism Minister Kyaw Ba said last week that 40 new hotels with
8,330 rooms are being built with foreign investment worth more than 1.55
billion dollars.

The country already has 10,856 rooms of locally-operated small hotels and
guest houses.

More airlines have opened links to Rangoon in the second half of this year:
Japan's All Nippon Airways, Royal Brunei Airlines, Malaysia's MAS and Condor
Airlines of Germany. (BP)


November 15, 1996
from dohrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

November 15--Livermore, CA--Just a week after a boycott was called by an
international coalition of activist groups, Wente Vineyards of Livermore
has announced that it has suspended its business in Burma. 

	The company statement, released on November 11, said "Wente
Vineyards shares the concern of US government officials and human rights
organizations regarding allegations of human rights abuses by the
government of Myanmar (formerly Burma) and heroin exports from that
country to the US.  Due to its concern, Wente decided... to suspend any
further promotional activity in or shipments to Burma."

	"We will not consider resuming any business activities in Burma
until the situation clarifies and improves" said Wente VP John Schwartz. 

	Wente's distribution arrangement with Burma-based Asia World
Company had been the focus of the boycott.  Asia World is chaired by Lo
Hsing Han, called "one of Southeast Asia's leading heroin traffickers" by
the Washington Post.  Asia World's managing director is Steven Law, Lo
Hsing Han's son.  Law has been denied a visa to the United States under a
law which bars entry to people suspected of involvement in the drug trade,
according to press reports. 

	The Wente statement noted that Asia World also does business with
Singapore-based Tiger Breweries and Shangri-La Hotels, as well as the
United Distillers group. 

	In an article published in The Journal of Commerce in July, Wente
export manager Jeff Teckle had waxed enthusiastic about Burma "crawling
with foreign tourists and especially business people."

	"We're pleased that Wente has changed its tune" said Free Burma
Coalition spokesman Larry Dohrs.  "It's clear that responsible businesses
will not have anything to do with those involved in heroin trafficking." 
A demonstration planned for this weekend was called off, and the boycott
has ended, Dohrs added. 

	The close relationship between drug traffickers and Burma's ruling
military leaders has come under increased scrutiny by the State Department
and investigative journalists. 

	"This is just the tip of the iceberg" says Dohrs.

Contact:  Larry Dohrs, Free Burma Coalition, 206-784-5742.


November 15, 1996
by Peter Tirschwell

San Francisco -- Wente Vineyards, the export-driven winery hit with a
boycott last week over alleged ties to the Myanmarese drug trade, said its
business in that country was suspended several months ago.
A statement issued Wednesday by the private California winery confirming it
has "suspended" ties with Myanmarese businessman Steven Law is sufficient
for the boycott to be lifted, according to a spokesman for the Free Burma
Coalition.  Myanmar was formerly known as Burma.
That group and others are pressing several of U.S. companies, including
PepsiCo and UNOCAL, to sever ties with the military-dominated country.
Mr. Law is a principle of Asia World Co., which Wente named in February as
its local Myanmarese partner.
He has reportedly been denied a U.S. visa based on suspected ties to heroin
Wente said that because it shares the U.S. government's concerns about human
rights violations and heroin exports, it decided "this past spring to
suspend any further promotional activity in or shipments to Burma."
But the company was clearly agitated by what it said were "inappropriate,
misleading and fraudulent" allegations about Mr. Law and Asia World.
John Schwartz, international vice president, lashed out at rights groups for
failing to understand U.S. policy and using the media to pressure the
government to alter its policy.
"They're all just students on campus.  What do they know about business and
federal policy?  They're just trying to make this a hot issue at U.S.
business' expense," he said.
The 113-year-old Wente is the leading exporter of California wine, shipping
to more than 100 countries.  Last year, Wente exported about 45% of its
production, far exceeding the 10% of production exported by California
vineyards overall.
Rights groups welcomed Wente's suspension of ties.  "We're pleased
they've suspended (ties).  Obviously it is the right decision for the
company to make," said Larry Dohrs, a spokesman for the Free Burma
Coalition in Seattle, noting the statement would result in the lifting of
the 1 1/2-week-old boycott.
At the same time, Mr. Dohrs and other activists said Wente, a
fourth-generation family business based in Livermore, has been less than
forthcoming about the status of its partnership with Mr. Law.
In its statement, Wente said it suspended its relationship with Mr. Law in
April after its first shipment, and exported no more wine to Myanmar after
that time.
But Wente officials made no mention of the suspended ties in June
when interviewed for a story in the Weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian by
Leslie Kean, author of "Burma's Revolution of the Spirit," (Aperture,
1994) and a representative for The Burma Project USA.
To the contrary, officials said Wente had recently sent its first shipment
of wine to Myanmar and were optimistic about a market with a vibrant foreign
tourist trade.
"They misrepresented their decision to pull out by saying it happened
earlier than it actually did," Ms. Kean said in an interview. Mr. Schwartz
said the  company kept silent because it was reviewing U.S. commercial
policy about Myanmar.
"We felt it was not timely to make any further announcements about our
corporate business activities in that part of the world," he said. 'We
believed we established good relations with the company there, and it will
be long term, active or inactive."


November 16, 1996

Burma's ethnic Karen resistance, reduced to guerrilla warfare in a series of
military setbacks since  last  year, have little hope of success in upcoming
cease-fire talks, a Karen source said yesterday.

A Karen National Union (KNU) delegation should be leaving next week for a
fourth round of talks with the military government in the eastern Burmese
town of Moulmein, said David Tharckabaw, of the Karen Information Centre (KIC).

But the Thailand-based KIC director said that due to the hard-line
preconditions set by the junta: "We do not foresee reaching any agreement
soon, even a cease-fire."

Guerrilla fighting occurs daily in Karen areas, as the junta promised only
to abstain from major  offensives while the talks continue,  while the KNU
responded that it will refrain from attacks on towns ands cities, he said.

The military's ruling State Law  and Order restoration  Council  (Slorc) has
demanded that the KNU officially return to the "legal fold," forsaking their
"armed revolutionary line" and promising to eventually lay down arms, he said.

Slorc has signed cease-fire agreements with 15 armed ethnic groups since took
power from the previous military government in 1988 and often touts its
success in arranging the return of those groups to what it calls the legal fold.

But many of the parties to the cease-fires have objected to the junta's use
of the term and none  of their agreements make reference it-only the KNU was
being required to assent to this status officially, Tharckabaw said. "Laying
down arms is not relevant here because the Slorc is not a legitimate
government. Only when there is a democratic government and a genuine federal
union" will Karen  put their forces under the control of Rangoon, he said.

The KNU's official position is to push for a tripartite political dialogue
with democratic forces led by Aung  San Suu Kyi's National Leaguer for
Democracy, ethnic groups and the Slorc, he said. "We are very hopeful  of
that. Now the Slorc is weakening under international pressure and the
weakening economic situation," he added.

The ethnic groups envision the transfer of their forces to state militias on
the model of state national guard troops in the United States or the canton
militias of Switzerland, Tharckabaw said. (TN)


November 18, 1996

Nyaunglaybin district          
On October 14.1996, Slorc Company 3 commander of LIB 349, Saw E Sec, staged
a robbery at a place called "Payadaga" and took 10,700 Kyats (Burmese
currency) from Maung Tin Shwe, 7,800 Kyats from Myint Lwin, 14,800 Kyats
from Thein Tun, 10,000 kyats from Myo Thein, two tins of rice from U K'la
and two tins of rice from Po Thein. This Slorc commander always robbed and
confisticated money and goods from the villagers who trade in the area. On
October 15,1996, he forcibly took 4 buffaloes from Saw Win Bo, a villager in
the area.

Slorc soldiers at Kyauk Kyi area forcibly took 64 women  some of who have
breast feeding babies, to help clear the road from Kyauk Kyi town to the
village of Pwa Gaw where there is a military camp.

Papun district                        
On October 26,1996, Battalion commander Thein Htoo of LIB 19, entered Kyaw
Nyo Hta village and set fire to the villagers' barns and  destroyed about
500 baskets of rice. On October 27, 1996, he relocated 240 villages from two
villages to Kaw Pu Military Camp and the villagers had to take shelter under
the trees. On the same day, SLORC officer, Ye Lin Tun from LIB 434,
relocated 65 villagers of Kyaw Nyo Hta village to Paw Hta Military Camp. The
villagers were forced to go in front of the soldiers  to clear mines  and
one  woman, age 28, was reported killed by a land mine. The Slorc troops
destroyed all the villagers' food and livestock that remained in the
villages. The villagers are now facing starvation and disease. Six deaths
were reported so far. The Slorc troops in the area still have plans to
relocate all the remaining villages.

Thaton district                            
Battalion Commander Thein Tun of LIB 24, issued orders that villagers in the
area could not go outside their villages to cut wood or do their daily
activities. If they were seen outside the village, they would be shot and
killed. On October 26,1996, Company 3 commander Sein Aung of LIB 24,
arrested two villagers, Maung San age 65 and Ko Toe age 55 and accused them
of having contacts with the KNU in the area and thus were tortured seriously
until now. Thein Tin, Battalion Commander from LIB 24, ordered the villagers
of NO Ber Baw village to relocate to Ta Maw Daw village within 3 days. Three
Slorc battalions are now active in the area.