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The BurmaNet News: November 29, 199

Subject: The BurmaNet News: November 29, 1996 

"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies" 

The BurmaNet News: November 29, 1996
Issue #580

Noted in Passing: 

	Burma is like an iced-over lake to observers but, I assure you, 
	there is a lot of activity going on in the water underneath.	


November 28, 1996

New splits have developed in Mon and Karenni areas, reflecting continued 
instability and tension in Burma.   Although the SLORC has not been able
to win legitimacy with the people, it has been extremely effective in creating
splits between groups and starting splinter groups.  While new armed groups 
opposing the SLORC continue to emerge, they do not have the manpower or
the weapons to compete with the SLORC.

In the Mon area south of Rangoon, a group of Mon soldiers stationed 
in Mergui split from the New Mon State Party on November 8, 1996.  Refusing
to turn their base over to the SLORC as the NMSP had agreed to do in the 
ceasefire agreement signed last year, this group formed a new army called 
the Mon National Army (Mergui Province).  

Nai Shwe Kyin, the leader of the New Mon State Party, had just returned 
to the NMSP headquarters near the Thai border on November 6th.  He has
spent most of the past 8 months in Moulmein where he has attempted to 
work with the SLORC in developing business opportunities for the NMSP.

The SLORC suspected that Nai Shwe Kyin encouraged the split, but this 
appears to be unlikely.  Nevertheless, many soldiers and low-ranking officers
in the NMSP sympathize with the Mon National Army.  A number of soldiers 
originally supported the ceasefire, because they wanted to be able to go 
home and live with their families again.  However, conditions in Mon State
have not improved in the year and a half since the ceasefire was signed, 
and the SLORC officials still consider the NMSP and its army (the Mon 
National Liberation Front - MNLA) to be the enemy.  Villagers do not 
dare to associate with NMSP and MNLA members, and the NMSP has 
not been able to fulfill its promises to the villagers to bring development and
relief from SLORC harassment.  

The Mon villagers are no longer taken as porters, but they continue to 
have to pay porter fees (for whom, they don't know) as well as a host of  other
development taxes and fees.  This year, rice taxes have been raised from 20 to 
24 baskets of rice per acre in SLORC-controlled areas.  Most farmers harvest 
about 100 baskets per acre.  With diesel prices having risen dramatically and 
fares on buses and trains increasing 30% in the past few months, they 
are having difficulties making ends meet.  More Mon civilians have come
to Thailand to try to make money to support their families.

In areas where the SLORC has control, Mon civil servants, teachers, and 
students are forced to join the Union Solidarity and Development Association.  
According to Mon sources, the USDA has done nothing for the villagers but 
collects fees for development projects.  Most villagers do not want to join,
are threatened if they refuse.  Those who join receive uniforms and various
perks, and higher level USDA leaders are given a salary.

For the past four years, Mon monks have been running a Mon language, culture, 
and history education program for Mon students during summer holidays.  This
past year there were over 10,000 students and over 200 volunteer teachers.
Many of the teachers are monks; others are university graduates and farmers.
Students are taught five hours a day for 2 months.  Although the teachers
would like to  use SLORC school buildings, the SLORC will not allow them to.
Instead they must teach in temples, open air pavillions, and sheds that they
have built.  Before the ceasefire, they had no problems teaching in
Mon-controlled areas.  Now they are closely wateched and must report
regularly to the SLORC authorities.

At the time of the ceasefire, the NMSP was promised many economic projects,
few of which have materialized.  For instance, they were told they would be
given the rights to a road project from Three Pagoda's Pass at the Thai border 
to Theinbyuzya in Mon State.  This project has now been turned over to a Thai 
construction company based in Bangkok.  The production of gravel and other 
materials for the road was to be done by local Mons, but the contract for
materials  has also been given to the Thai company.

The fact that the NMSP has not been able to deliver on its promises of 
development, prosperity, and lower taxes to the villagers has made many
villagers disillusioned with the NMSP.  The villagers do not want the
fighting to resume, but they are not happy with the ceasefire either.  They
have no organization to turn to.

Since the ceasefire, the SLORC has been building up the strength of its army in 
Mon State and posted a new regiment in Ye township.  However, the ceasefire
agreement stipulated that the Mon could not recruit or train new soldiers.

On November 17 and November 20, 1996, the Mon National Army and the 
SLORC engaged in battles near the Thai-Burma border.  According to Mon
sources, a total of 21 SLORC soldiers were killed and one Mon soldier was
injured.  The Mon National Army has between 100 and 200 soldiers.

The Mon National Army has told the NMSP that it will only rejoin the 
NMSP if the NMSP declares the ceasefire with the SLORC null and void.
Any NMSP soldiers who want to join them can do so if they first resign
from the NMSP.

Another independent Mon regiment has also sprung up in the Yebyu area.
This group is led by Nai Soe Aung and has no name.  It is not connected to
the NMSP.  According to Mon sources, the leader is a tough former soldier 
who now has about 200 soldiers under him.

SLORC soldiers stationed in Mon State are also finding it difficult to make
ends meet.  Officers and soldiers stationed at border posts and toll gates are 
able to make extra money, but those who are stationed at distant posts in 
rural areas or in the mountains have no other sources of income.  Many
stationed near the Thai-Burma border have taken to working as day laborers
in Mon farmers' fields.  Their officers allow them to go as long as they
don't take their guns.  They are paid in baht rather than kyat and receive 
up to 50 baht a day (equivalent to almost a week's salary).  SLORC soldiers 
are now also working on the Ye-Tavoy railway and being paid.

In Karenni State, a new group opposed to the KNPP (Karenni National 
People's Party) has recently formed.  The KNPP signed a ceasefire with
the SLORC last year but resumed fighting after the SLORC broke the 
ceasefire terms.  The new group, called the Karenni National Defense 
Party (KNDP) and its army (KNDA), has sent letters to numerous villages 
in Karenni State.  The letters, written in Burmese, say that the KNPP has 
no vision for the Karenni people's future.  The KNDP will fight with the 
SLORC against the KNPP.  The KNPP believes that the SLORC is behind 
this new group, whose leaders and troop strength are not yet known.

U Thuzana, the monk who founded the DKBA in Karen State, has also 
been active in Karenni state for the past few months.  U Thuzana and some
of his followers have been travelling in the area west of De Maw Soe 
(south of Loikaw), which is almost all Christian Karenni.  According to the 
KNPP, three or four months ago, he gave a speech on a hill which is topped 
by a large Christian cross and said that all Christians in the area must
to Buddhism within one year.  He has been building pagodas near Christian 
churches in Karenni villages.  Although the villagers are not happy with U 
Thuzana, they are afraid to protest, because he is supported by the SLORC.
Whether U Thuzana is connected to the KNDP is not yet known.

There is another political group in Karenni State, the KNPLF (Karenni 
National People's Liberation Front), which has logging concessions in 
Karenni State.  This group signed a ceasefire with the SLORC before the 
KNPP did, and their ceasefire is still in effect. 

The inability of the armed ethnic groups to maintain a united front has 
prevented them from being able to effectively resist the SLORC.  Although
conditions for most civilians in Burma are not improving, they do not see
any alternative organizations as having the power to protect them.  The 
SLORC's greatest strength has been its ability to maintain unity in the army.


November 28, 1996
Agence France-Presse

NEW YORK - Embattled Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi
called on the United Nations to mediate with the military junta to achieve
democratisation, suggesting the personal involvement of the UN chief.

In a videotaped interview broadcast at a church centre, Aung San Suu Kyi
said that UN member states must ensure the implementation of UN General
Assembly resolutions which annually demand the effective establishment of
democracy and political freedoms in Burma.
The interview was organised by the UN Association of Denmark and
the World Federation of UN Associations on the eve of a vote by
the UN human rights committee which is expected to issue a fresh
condemnation of the junta.
The committee vote heralds the General Assembly vote on the
resolution, which is not legally binding.

The opposition leader's appeal also came as US President Bill
Clinton, speaking in Thailand, criticised Burma's rulers for
failing to stop drug production and refusing to honour their
promises of multiparty democracy.

Suu Kyi said that in the last six months, "I've seen repression in Burma 
reaching new heights," notably aimed at her National League for 
Democracy which she said is the target of torture and harassment.

She called for a constant monitoring of the human rights
situation in Burma, saying that "human rights violations do not
just take place at a set time of the year."
Noting that a UN human rights special rapporteur for Burma had
been unable to visit the country because of lack of cooperation
from the junta, she said that "it will be a great help if the
secretary general takes a more active  interest in what  is going
on in Burma."

The combined efforts of UN Secretary General Boutros
Boutros-Ghali and his rapporteur, Judge Rajsoomer Lallah, along
with pressure from the international community, could be an
effective way to bring about democratisation in Burma, she said.

"If the UN acts effectively as a mediator, we will welcome it very much."

"Those governments which have good relations with the Slorc [the
ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council] have a very
important role to play in persuading the military regime to be
more open to the idea of the UN playing an active role," she said.


November 28, 1996

     NEW YORK, Nov. 28 Kyodo - A U.N. panel on human rights passed a
resolution Wednesday calling for greater freedom of political
activity for Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
     The resolution is expected to be presented at a U.N. General
Assembly session in December, diplomatic sources said.
     The resolution expresses deep concern about the condition of
human rights in Myanmar.
     The junta, known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council,
has placed blockades along the road leading to Suu Kyi's house for
nine straight weeks, preventing pro-democracy weekend meetings in
front of her residence.
     Suu Kyi is the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.


November 28, 1996

    RANGOON, Nov. 28 (Reuters) - Burma's official media accused the United
States on Thursday of using Rangoon's bid to join the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as an "evil and dirty plot" to divide the
regional grouping.
    The commentary was carried in all three state-run papers as prime
minister and the chairman of the ruling State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC) General Than Shwe left to attend the meeting of ASEAN heads
of government in Jakarta.
    Using the word "Ngapwagyi" -- loosely translated as "trouble maker" --
for the United States, the dialogue referred in part to a speech made
earlier this week by U.S. President Bill Clinton during a visit to Thailand.
    "Whether Myanmar (Burma) is accepted as an ASEAN member or
not is not a matter for Ngapwagyi...
    "It is an evil and dirty plot of Ngapwagyi, hitting the vulnerable spot
to hinder Myanmar's wish to enter ASEAN and to make ASEAN nations become
disunited. Ngapwagyi is implementing this scheme with all-out efforts," the
commentary said.
    Burma has observer status in the seven member grouping -- which gathers
the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and
Vietnam -- and is seeking to become a full member by next year. Laos and
Cambodia are also observers.
    The question of Burma's entry into ASEAN is expected to take
centre-stage at a summit of ASEAN leaders on Saturday.
    Diplomats say the question is not if but when Burma -- at the centre of
international concern over its human rights record and its supression of
democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi -- will be accepted as a full
member of the association.
    The Burma issue has dominated ASEAN since the State Law and Order
Council, which has ruled since 1988, launched a fresh crackdown on Nobel
laureate Suu Kyi earlier this year.
    In a speech praising most Asia-Pacific nations for their efforts to
bring democracy to the region, Clinton singled out Burma on Tuesday for
failing to recognise a democratically elected government, saying it showed
Rangoon lacked rule of law.
    Thursday's commentary, written in the style of a dialogue between two
men, said the United States had no right to interfere in Burma's internal
affairs or those of the region.
    "Ngapwagyi has no place to interfere in or give directions to the
seven-member ASEAN...
    "Thus he has to intensify his wily schemes to disgrace and to speak ill
of Myanmar, (saying) that she is not observing democracy practices and is
violating human rights," the commentary said.
    Political analysts in Rangoon were not sure if Than Shwe, attending his
second ASEAN summit, would receive as warm a welcome in Jakarta as he had
when he attended his first in Bangkok last year.
    "From what we have heard, the Philippines is expected to cold-shoulder
him, pointing out human rights issues," said one analyst.
    Last month Philippine president Fidel Ramos said ASEAN could review its
constructive engagement policy with Burma. ASEAN follows a strict policy of
not interfering in Burma's internal matters, saying it is the best way to
ensure reform there.
    Indonesian foreign minister Ali Alatas said on Wednesday no ASEAN member
opposed Burma's membership. Other ASEAN leaders have suggested Burma may not
be ready on economic grounds.
    Burmese statistics show more than half of Burma's total foreign
investment of $5.04 billion is from ASEAN members, with Singapore topping
the list.


November 21, 1996 (excerpts)

President Bill Clinton urged Australia to put pressure on the SLORC military  
regime for political reforms. Below is the excerpt from the President's speech 
to the joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, on the 20 November 1996.

" We can take the fight to the terrorists and the drug traffickers. We can
extend the reach of free and fair trade. We can advance democracy around the

"As we deal with these challenges to our security we must recognize the new 
ones which are emerging and the new approaches they require. Terrorism, 
international crime and drug trafficking are forces of destruction that have
no tolerance for national borders. Together we must show zero tolerance for
them. That means putting pressure on rogue States, not doing business with

"The third part of our work for stability is support for the democracy. Our 
two nations know that democracy comes in many forms. Neither of us seeks to 
impose our own vision on others, but we also share the conviction that some 
basic rights are universal."

"In this century we have sacrificed many of our sons and daughters, your 
nations and ours, for the cause of  freedom.  And so we must continue to speak 
for the cause of freedom in this new age of commerce and trade and technology. 
We must push repressive regimes in places like Burma to pursue
reconciliation and genuine dialogue."


November 26, 1996

Myanmar Draft Would Urge End to Rights Violations, Release of Political
Prisoners, Free Participation in Political Process 

Draft resolutions on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Cuba,           
Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) were among the texts introduced to the
Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning. <P>
The draft resolution on Myanmar asks the Government to permit           
unrestricted access to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and
engage her, other political leaders and representatives of ethnic groups in a
substantive dialogue to promote national reconciliation and restore democracy.

The text, which was introduced by Sweden, strongly urges the Government
to immediately and unconditionally release political prisoners, and allow
citizens to participate freely in the political process.  It also strongly
urges the Government to put an end to violations of the right to life,
torture, abuse of women, forced labour and relocations, enforced           
disappearances and summary executions.              

The representative of Sweden introduced a draft resolution on the           
human rights situation in Myanmar (document A/C.3/51/L.69), by which the 
Assembly would deplore the continued violations of human rights there and ask
the Government to permit unrestricted communication with and physical access
to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders by
members and supporters of the National League for Democracy and to protect
their physical well-being; it would strongly urge the Government to release,
immediately and unconditionally, detained political prisoners; and urge it to
engage, at the earliest possible date, a substantive dialogue with           
Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders, including representatives of
ethnic groups, as the best way to promote national reconciliation and full
restoration of democracy.               

The Assembly would strongly urge the Government to allow citizens to           
participate freely in the political process and accelerate the transition to
democracy, particularly through the transfer of power to democratically-
elected representatives.  The Government would also be strongly urged to put
an end to violations of the right to life, integrity of the human being,
torture, abuse of women, forced labour, forced relocations and enforced
disappearances and summary executions.            

The Assembly would call on the Government and other parties to           
hostilities in the country to respect international humanitarian law, to halt
the use of weapons against the civilian population and protect all civilians,
including women, children and persons belonging to ethnic or religious 
minorities, from violations of humanitarian law, and to avail itself of the
services offered by impartial humanitarian bodies.  It would ask the           
Secretary-General to continue his discussions with the Government of Myanmar
in order to help implement the current resolution.               

The Secretary of the Committee read out the following changes to           
operative paragraph 17, the line "its efforts for national reconciliation and
in the implementation of the present resolution" should be replaced with "in 
the implementation of the present resolution and in its efforts for national

By the terms of a draft resolution on the comprehensive implementation 
of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action           
(document A/C.3/51/L.67), introduced by Austria, the Assembly would call on
all States to take further action to fully realize all human rights in light
of the recommendations of the World Conference on Human Rights.  It would
also request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to
coordinate human rights promotion and protection activities throughout the
United Nations
system and to report on the measures taken and progress achieved in the
comprehensive implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of
Action, particularly concerning the preparation of the 1998 five-year review.

The High Commissioner, and other United Nations organs and bodies would also
be requested to take further action to fully implement all the
recommendations of the Conference.           


Germany gives go-ahead to Burmese opposition radio
By Hugh Williamson in Bonn
December 5,1996

First no, now yes. The Foreign Ministry in Bonn has gone back on its
decision to prevent a radio station backed by democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi from broadcasting from Germany.

The volte-face is embarrassing for Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, but gives
a major credibility boost to the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma, or
DVB. Bobb's OK allows the station to resume talks with telecoms giant
Deutsche Telekom to improve the reception of its short-wave transmissions to

It's not just the radio that will send a clear signal- the go-ahead to DVB
also shows that Bonn has grown frustrated with Burma's military rulers.
"Germany has had traditionally close ties with Burma and backs dialogue over
sanctions to bring change in Rangoon," says Martin Smith, a London-based
writer on Burmese affairs. "But now it may be losing patience."

Negotiations on the $100,000-a-year contract between DVB and Deutsche
Telekom- a state-owned company now being privatized-were well advanced in
July when the German Foreign Ministry expressed "misgivings" about the
provision of frequencies to opposition radio stations. Telekom subsequently
withdrew from the deal.

When Bonn's stance was first revealed in October by Deutsche Welle,
Germany's international broadcasting organization, the ensuing publicity put
Kinkel on the defensive.

He is already known in Germany for flip-flopping on sensitive issues such as
human rights in China and Tibet. Now opposition politicians attacked him for
preaching concern for democracy in Burma but acting otherwise.

On November 13 an annoyed Kinkel changed his tune, blaming low-level
officials for the original decision. He said he could find "no reason in
international law" to block the deal. But there was a proviso: DVB must not
promote violence or revolution from German soil.

DVB's director, Harn Yawnghwe, a prominent Canada-based Burmese exile and
son of Burma's first president, Sao Shwe Thaike, said the reversal of Bonn's
policy was "more consistent with Germany's usual stance on human rights and

The station has reassured Bonn that it aims to provide accurate information
to the Burmese public, not promote violence. Its task is "straight news and
information, not propaganda," says news editor Aye Chan Naing.

DVB was established in Oslo in 1992 on the back of a wave of Norwegian
support following the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize award to Suu Kyi. It is the
mouthpiece of the self-styled Burmese government-in-exile, the National
Coalition Govenrment of the Union of Burma.

The $270,000-a-year broadcasting operation- the money has come from
non-governmental organizations funded by the Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and
U.S. governments as well as the philanthropic Soros Foundation-broadcasts
news, entertainment and extracts from Suu Kyi's speeches for an hour a day.
Shows are in Burmese and four ethnic languages.

DVB hopes that, if signed, the deal with Deutsche telekom will improve
programme reception via new frequencies and more air-time. It admits that,
under present arrangements with Norway some transmissions "cannot be heard
at all."

Bonn's change of mind on the radio station "reflects recognition of the need
for information in Burma, where the media is totally controlled," says Peter
Traub, Bangkok-based Burma expert with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation,
which is close to Foreign Minister Kinkel's Free Democratic Party. Traub
helped lobby for the change, and adds that it fits with a recent toughening
of Germany's stance towards the junta in Rangoon.

Dietrich Mahol, a former junior diplomat in Rangoon, agrees. Now a member of
parliament in Germany and spokesman of Southeast Asia for Chancellor Helmut
Kohl's Christian Democrats, he says "relations with Burma reached a new low
in February, when Rangoon refused a visit by our development minister." In
Mahol's view-one widely shared in the Foreign Ministry-Burma wasted a chance
to improve ties because it refused to allow the minister to meet Suu Kyi.

Until military's suppression of pro-democracy protests in 1988, Germany was
proud of being Burma's second-largest source of development aid (behind
Japan) and of having close links to leaders in Rangoon. But when Burma was
internationally isolated and aid cut off, Germany moved quickly to distance

"Nowadays, Foreign Minister Kinkel has no illusions about the character" of
Burma's ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council, says Traub. Yet
despite this, and the setback of the cancelled ministerial visit this year,
Germany still uses its weight within the European Union to preach the need
for dialogue, not trade sanctions, in fostering change in Rangoon.

Several EU member states, led by Denmark, plus some members of the European
parliament, are demanding trade sanctions after the recent crackdown on Suu
Kyi's National League for Democracy. And preferential trade tariffs could be
suspended when an ongoing EU inquiry into forced labour in Burma is concluded.

Former diplomat Mahol, however, says Germany shouldn't limit itself to human
rights issues. "We need wider, longer-term dialogue: We believe in
evolutionary change in Rangoon," he says.

Still, he recognizes that it is Burma's nearer neighbours in the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations who have the most  influence over Rangoon. Traub
agrees: "Whatever the EU says, nothing will change if Asean's support for
the junta remains." (FEER)


November 28, 1996

1. The Karen National Union (KNU) sent a delegation led by General Tamla Baw
to Moulmein on November 20, 1996, for the fourth round of talks with the
State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). The delegation arrived back
at the KNU Supreme Headquarters on November 26, 1996.

2. Meetings were held on November 21st, 22nd and 23rd. Discussions at the
meeting were headed by Deputy Director of the Military Intelligence Service,
Colonel Kyaw Win, on the SLORC side and Chief of Staff of the Karen National
Liberation Army, General Tamla Baw, on the KNU side.

3. Discussions for cease-fire were resumed, however, due to differences in
view, there was still no progress whatsoever. The KNU is determined to
continue it's endeavour, in accordance with its stand of resolving political
problems through political means and dialogue, without resorting to arms.


November 28, 1996  Tak

Peace talks between the Burmese government and the KNU ended with no
progress on Sunday, according to a Thai military source.

The source said both sides failed to reach any agreement during a three day
meeting in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State.

The Burmese side proposed at the meeting that KNU rebels lay down arms
conform to its law, while the KNU wanted Rangoon to announce a cease-fire,
withdraw  its forces from KNU-based areas, and negotiate with the NLD led by
Aung San Suu Kyi.

Though the talks ended in failure and the KNU's 11 representatives decided to
cancel planned visits to Rangoon and several other towns, both sides
insisted they would continue to push for peace in Burma.

Earlier, KNU President Gen Bo Mya, in his capacity as chairman of the
National Council of the Union of Burma, sent a letter to President Bill
Clinton asking the United States to cooperate with ASEAN and the EU in
pushing for freedom and human rights in Burma. (BP)


November 28, 1996
by The Observer's Sue Arnold

It was more a mercy dash than a fact finding mission. We had had a spate of
letters from Daw Mya--that's my Auntie May -- in Myanmar (formerly Burma ).
They were desperate, sick, starving. The money my mother had been sending
every month had mysteriously stopped. Taung-gyi, in the Shan States close to
the Golden Triangle --  which is where this side of the family lives -- was
heading for the cold season and they needed socks. 

My mother read her sister's letters and wept. Hold on, she wrote back, Sue
is coming. She will bring socks, sweaters, Yardley's apple blossom talcum
powder, Roses chocolates. What else did she need? Cash, just cash, replied
Auntie May. 

Nov. 13 saw the official launch of Visit Myanmar Year, with carnivals in
Mandalay, festivals at Inya Lake and fireworks in Pagan. Much has been
written about the ethics of visiting Myanmar as a tourist, but my conscience
was clear. I was not a tourist. I was doing my Red Riding Hood bit with a
basket full of good things, not just for Auntie May in Taunggyi but for my
wretchedly hard-up cousins in Sanchaung, a ramshackle suburb of Rangoon. My
itinerary consisted chiefly of visits to friends and relatives. It would be
interesting to see how the place had changed since my last visit six years
ago, but I had no plans for a John Pilger-style followup expose. 

Then, as these things always do, I met a young man on the flight out who
just happened to have Aung San Suu Kyi's telephone number. "Give her a
call," he said. "I'm one of the businessmen she disapproves of and I don't
agree with everything she says, but that doesn't make her any less
wonderful. I guarantee if you meet her, you'll come away inspired." Ring up
Aung San Suu Kyi? It sounded as unlikely as getting through to Joan of Arc.
Strangely, it wasn't. 

Turn the clock back 10 years, close your eyes and listen. We could be two
housewives chatting over tea in Suu's Oxfordshire home for, in true British
tradition, our conversation began with the weather. A monsoon downpour has
soaked my hair on the dash from the gate and it is now hanging in rats'
tails. Suu is sympathetic. She asks solicitously if I'm all right, adding
that I'm unlucky -- the rainy season is almost over. I give her my present
-- in Myanmar you never visit without taking a present. Had I known I was
coming, I would have brought something more suitable. This, after all, is
the woman whose principles, patience and courage won her a landslide victory
in 1990 in the first democratic elections in Myanmar for 30 years, six
years' house arrest, the Nobel Peace Prize and the respect of millions
around the world. But she thanks me for the box of Roses chocolates as
warmly as my Auntie Pyu and my cousin, Shweh Ohn Gyi, did for theirs the
previous day. "The boys will like them," she smiled, and returned to her
seat by the window. 

Ten years ago in Oxford, she would have been referring to her sons, Alex and
Kim, but it is eight years since she lived with her husband and children.
The boys she's referring to are the dozen young men wearing National League
for Democracy T-shirts and who risk summary detention by helping her promote
her cause. Their numbers fluctuate. If  -- when  -- one is arrested or
detained, a new one takes his place. 

There are other boys, too: the ones behind the desk at the gate who asked us
to sign in. They are from Military Intelligence. Like their uniformed
colleagues the other side of University Avenue who record the registration
of every car that stops or even pauses outside No. 52, they monitor every
visitor. Like the NLD boys, they wear T-shirts and longys, but their
T-shirts don't have the party logo --  a chicken [fighting peacock] running
toward the rising sun and the motto My People Want Democracy Now. 

Suu doesn't discriminate between the boys. When well-wishers bring cakes to
the house, and there are few days they don't, they are shared between NLD
and MI. "Why not?" asks Suu. "They aren't the people who hate me." 

No one who meets Suu is immune to her charm or her formidable intelligence,
which is probably why military generals such as President Than Shwe, First
Secretary Khin Nyunt and my uncle, U Pe Kin, recently awarded the highest
civilian honor by SLORC -- the State Law and Order Restoration Committee --
refused to meet her. It is said Than Shwe and Khin Nyunt are scared to take
her on, one to one. They know she will outwit them.  She's a general's
daughter, after all. Her father, Gen. Aung San, was Myanmar's first
independent leader until his assassination in 1947.  He's the national hero
whose statue graces every town and village and whose picture adorns every
shop window and office wall.  The only decoration in the room where we're
having tea is the floor- to -ceiling photograph of Suu's father. You can see
where she gets her stunning looks. 

We talked politics. No, she is not discouraged by the fact that SLORC,
despite its appalling human rights record, appeared to be gaining a certain
respectability -- among Asian nations, at any rate. The major Western powers
were behind her, she said, and outsiders might not appreciate it but things
were happening. "Burma is like an iced-over lake to observers but, I assure
you, there is a lot of activity going on in the water underneath." 

My uncle Pe Kin doesn't think so. "Suu is out of touch," he had told me the
day before, when I took him his quota of Roses. In 1947, my uncle was Gen.
Aung San's aide-de-camp during the independence negotiations and went on to
be Burmese ambassador in Cairo, Moscow and the United Nations. Surely, if
anyone could mend fences between the hateful generals of SLORC and Aung
San's daughter it must be him. Alas, no. If you play golf with those
generals, you do not take tea with this general's daughter. 

But I hadn't come to Myanmar to talk politics. I hadn't come on a
journalist, tourist or business visa. Mine was the fourth and last visa
category available in the new open-door, come-in-and-see-that-
we've-nothing-to-hide Myanmar. My visa entitled me to see only friends and
relatives. Had I not run into Paul Strachan, the engaging young Scots
businessman on the flight out with Suu's telephone number in his pocket, I
wouldn't be having tea with her now. I would probably have joined the crowds
outside No. 52 University Avenue on weekend afternoons to hear her speak and
left it at that. But although Strachan had led me here, to Aung San Suu Kyi
he and his like were part of the problem. 

Strachan, you see, had just relaunched the famous Irrawaddy Flotilla Company
title for his new business venture -- tourist cruises from Prome to Mandalay
via Pagan. Aung San Suu Kyi wants to keep tourists out of Myanmar since she
believes they help to shore up a corrupt regime. I had asked Strachan on the
plane how he squared his admiration for Suu with his business venture. He
argued that tourists not only helped the economy, but acted as unwitting
peacekeepers. In 1988, when tourism was strictly controlled, the army didn't
hesitate to open fire on unarmed demonstrators. Last June, when Suu Kyi
defied the regime by holding a proscribed NLD rally, there were as many
tourists as demonstrators and SLORC deemed it an unwise PR move to stage
another massacre. 

Suu's answer to Strachan's argument was uncompromising. Revenue from tourism
was negligible, she said. Myanmar was a naturally wealthy country. There was
more than enough money to go round, but it was being mismanaged by a corrupt
regime. Of course, certain people were better off now, there were more cars,
more consumer goods, but what about those who were not involved with
tourism? Inflation was soaring, rice had quadrupled in price, the villagers
were starving. Like poor Auntie May, I thought. 

The next day I flew up to Taung-gyi with the socks stuffed with dollars.
Auntie May, 85, shriveled, arthritic and even  more baleful than I
remembered, met me at Heho airport with her granddaughter, Ay Ay Mo, the
family's sole breadwinner. Ay Ay Mo has a mathematics degree from Mandalay
University and used to work for the civil service. But a family cannot
survive on 1,000 kyats ($6) a month, even if it includes free electricity.
Now she runs a teashop in the Indian quarter of town, where you can get
samosa for five kyat and tea for nine. 

Friends in Mandalay spoke of poverty in the villages, too, and thanked God
they were doing all right. City folk appeared to be thriving in the newly
developed Myanmar. Six years ago, when I stood on the top of Mandalay Hill
looking over the city beyond the royal palace moat, all I could see were
pagoda spires rising above the tree tops, and all I could hear were
monastery gongs. This time, it was different. Standing beside the giant
golden statue of Prince Siddhartha, I could make out the shells of dozens of
half-built high-rise hotels, with the accompanying clamor of drills and
hammers. "The Dream Hotel on 28th Street offers a welcome haven of peace
from the bustle of downtown," says the guide book. Not any more, it doesn't.
Some 200 workmen (you can count their bicycles) are feverishly working on a
new 10-story luxury hotel beside it and an office block behind. 

Back in Rangoon, I went to see Uncle Tin Kyaw, who is building an
eight-story apartment block in his front garden. "You must be happy, Uncle,"
I said. "Not today," he replied. His neighbor, an elderly dentist, was
detained yesterday. A patient came to him for a filling --  it was Aung San
Suu Kyi. That evening the police arrested him. The dentist's wife said: "My
husband is old, take me instead," but they ignored her and took the old
dentist away. 

My last duty visit was to my niece, Shweh Ohn Gyi. Last time I saw her, she
had a shaved head and saffron robes. She had made a deal that if she
received her physics degree, she would spend a year as a nun. Meanwhile, she
wrote us letters begging for a ticket to England. This time she looked
different -- expensive silk shirt, high heels, white patent vanity case, the
sort Soho strippers carry between clubs. "Do you need to change money,
Auntie Sue?" she asked, flicking open the vanity case. It was like a scene
from The Lavender Hill Mob, wads of 100-kyat notes and dollar bills wedged
inside. My niece has swapped meditation for black market foreign-exchange
dealing, and does very nicely, thank you. 

I left Myanmar with mixed feelings. One Rangoon hotelier -- all set to
benefit from the Visit Myanmar tourist boom --  reckoned SLORC was by no
means the worst, as dictatorships go. No one suggests tourists boycott
China, he pointed out. He used to work in a Beijing hotel 
and could vouch for the savagery of the regime. A tourist once reported his
watch missing. The police were called, found the missing watch in a waiter's
room, took the waiter into the yard and shot him. "They don't do that here,"
he said. Maybe not, but in July last year, the 65-year-old tour operator in
Mandalay who works for Jim Sherwood's Road to Mandalay luxury cruise company
was sentenced to seven years for talking to two Western journalists. And the
latest Amnesty report on conditions in Myanmarese jails does not make cozy
bedtime reading. Myanmarese hospitals are recording increased cases of TB
among children. But, says a Mandalay doctor, it isn't TB, but
straightforward malnutrition. 

Confused images crowd my memory  -- soldiers with fixed bayonets blocking
the entrance to University Avenue one night, barefoot children pinning paper
butterflies on to American tourists' shirts in Pagan; Gen. Kyaw Ba, minister
for hotels and tourism, assuring a room full of journalists that the
activities of a certain Mrs. Michael Aris, alias Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, were
of no consequence to the government's five-year plan; my niece Ay Ay Mo, in
Taung-gyi, supporting the family with samosas; my niece Shweh Ohn Gyi, in
Sanchaung, supporting the family with black-market dollars. 

Only one image remains crystal clear -- that of a slender woman seated by a
window with fresh jasmine in her hair, asking: "Is it too much to ask people
to stay away just for this year to register their disapproval of an
oppressive regime and their support for a democratically elected assembly?
Burma, after all, will always be here." 

And so, please God, will the general's daughter. 


November 25, 1996

On 25 Nov, two active members of ABSL and one Canadian University student
(Canadian Friends of Burma) left for Buddhist Pilgrimage places in India to
launch Boycott Visit Myanmar Year 1996. The campaign is funded by CNAB
based in India. ABSL is a member organization of CNAB.

The prime purposes of the campaign are as follows:

1)   To clarify the reasons of why the international community should
boycott the Visit Myanmar Year 1996 sponsored by the ruling military regime of
Burma known as SLORC.
2)   To make international awareness on Burmese People's struggle for the
restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma.

The campaign activities include-distribution of literature on human rights
violation in Burma, sticker campaign and talks on the present political
in Burma.

It is one month long campaign.


Today 7 members group led by U Tin Hlaing, a deputy minister for Religious
affairs arrived Buddhagaya on the inspecting tour. They are welcome with
Boycott Visit Myanmar Year 1996 campaign posters, stickers and pamphlets
preoccupied on public places in Buddhagaya.  Vehicles, big or small, in
Buddhagaya are being beautified with stickers which read "Freedom is happiness."

In the afternoon, three men mission (Two ABSL C.C members and one from
Canadian Friends of Burma) joined the Tibetan protest demonstration against
the visit of Chinese President to India. The demonstration was ended at 2 p.m.

They distributed campaign literature among foreign tourists and also
organized informal meets in which they highlighted human rights violations
and repressions perpetrated by the SLORC on civilians and its consequences.
They specifically emphasised on the fact that civilians are being forced to
their labours by SLORC in the name of the promotion of visit Myanmar year 1996.

Information Dept.
All Burma Students League (HQ.)
New Delhi.