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BurmaNet News: December 2, 1996

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"

The BurmaNet News:  December 2, 1996
Issue # 582


December 6,1996
By Dominic Faulder

Slorc's setback is Aung San Suu Kyi's gain

Myanmar's State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) received a setback
of sorts last week. The foreign ministers of Asean, gathered in Manila for
the APEC meeting, decided not to give Myanmar early admission to the
grouping next year, as the junta had requested in August. And while visiting
Thailand Nov. 26, U.S. President Bill Clinton praised democracy activist
Aung San Suu Kyi as a "brave reformer."

The general's timing, as usual, was bad. Two weeks earlier, a crowd of 200
attacked a five-car convoy carrying Suu Kyi and members of her National
League for Democracy (NLD). 

Since the incident, authorities erected barricades outside Suu Kyi's
University Avenue home, preventing her usual weekend talks to supporters.

She did talk at length recently with Asiaweek Correspondent Dominic Faulder,
however, about the intimidation, Asean membership and the possibility of
arbitration. Excerpts:

Have you worked out who was behind the attack against you on Nov.?

It was obviously organized by the authorities. The mob that attacked us was
not there when we turned into U Kyi Maung's house 15 minutes previous to the

They were marched out from another place, obviously brought over by the
authorities  who knew we had arrived and would be going out again. There
were uniform personnel around who did nothing to stop them. 

After they had attacked us and we had driven away, those people sat down
calmly and stayed  there for hours under the benevolent eyes (of the
authorities), then they were bussed home. Some of our NLD people knew some
of the USDA people brought in.

What exactly is the USDA?

It's the Union Solidarity Development Association. It's supposed to be a
social welfare organization. Lately the authorities have taken to referring
to it as the civilian arm of the army.

It's very closely associated with Slorc, and it interferes a lot in
political matters. Lately it has become obvious that the authorities will
use it as a gang of thugs to get at the NLD. Of course the patron of the
USDA is [Slorc's chairman] senior General Than Shwe, and many on its
executive committee are closely associated with the Govenrment.

Would you be open to arbitration from wise people in the region, say from Asean?

The key word of course is mutually acceptable. Why not, if they are mutually

Has such a thing ever been discussed?

No, I do not think it's ever been considered a possibility by Slorc. It has
always said that it does not believe in interference in its internal affairs.

That is the Asean credo.

I always make the point that if they are going to be involved economically
in the country it doesn't make sense to talk about non-interference  in
internal affairs. They are already interfering, because they are involved

Would it be better to have arbitrators from Asean, who have long experience
with this kind of problem?

I still think that the U.N. would be the best organization through which to
do such things, but including members of Asean.

I really think that one should take a more international than regional
approach. And sometimes I question whether the Asean understand the
situation in Burma any better than non-Asean countries.

In think there is too much of a tendency to equate Burma with Indonesia or
with Thailand or whichever country. We are quite different, you know, and we
have had a tradition of democracy. The Burmese people are far more
politicized than many other Southeast Asian peoples because of our political
history, because of the struggle for independence, and because of the fact
that we were colonized by the British, who internationally our
unintentionally encouraged political dissidence in the sense that they
tolerated it.

So our Burmese political development is not the same as that of other
Southeast Asian countries, and I would much prefer a broader international
approach to a narrow one.

Do you oppose joining Asean?

No, we have no inherent opposition to the idea that Burma should join. In
fact, it's in our NLD constitution. We talked about it far before Slorc did,
that Burma should become a member of regional organizations and take an
active part in the life of the region. That was our idea.

If you were at the Asean leader's meeting in Jakarta next week, what would
you say?

Well I would like to repeat what I have said to you two or three times, that
what we are suffering from is not lack of investment, it's not lack of
capital, it's not lack of energy, it's lack of good government. If they
really want to help Burma to develop, this is what they've got to look to.

You are very tough, as we all know, but are you also flexible?

We don't think that inflexibility is strength. We keep trying to make Slorc
understand this, that flexibility is not weakness. I've used the analogy of
a steel wire.

A steel wire is flexible but it's strong. I think that Slorc often thinks
that flexibility is weakness. In fact flexibility is strength. (AW)


November 30, 1996

     YANGON, Nov. 30 Kyodo - Myanmar's junta Saturday blocked roads
leading to the home of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the
10th straight week to prevent her from making her customary weekend
address to supporters in front of her house.
     Suu Kyi, the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and the head
of Myanmar's National League for Democracy, had on previous occasions
left the blockaded area to meet supporters at a nearby road junction.


November 30, 1996

    RANGOON, Nov 30 (Reuter) - Burma's state-run newspapers on
Saturday said U.S. President Bill Clinton was a destructive
element who has slandered and insulted the country.
    A commentary in all three official newspapers reacted to a
speech made on Tuesday by Clinton at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn
University at the end of a 12-day Asia-Pacific visit.
    "Let me just tell Clinton that he is of his own volition
standing before the signboard 'external destructive element'
 ...as he has insulted and slandered Myanmar (Burma) to break up
tranquility, security and development of the Asian and Southeast
Asia region and incite enmity between Myanmar and her
neighbours," the commentary said.
    The identity of the author, who goes by the penname Sein
Lun, is not known but he is seen to be a military official
acting as a spokesman for the government.
    Burma's military government has launched a "People's Desire"
campaign that involves erecting signboards across the country
with slogans like "crush all external destructive elements as
the common enemy" and "oppose foreign nations interfering in
internal affairs of the state".
    "Clinton's Chulalongkorn University speech has driven a
wedge to jeopardise solidarity, peace and security of Asia and
stability, peace and goodwill relations among Southeast Asian
countries," the commentary said.
    In his speech which praised most Asia-Pacific nations for
their efforts to bring democracy to the region, Clinton singled
out Burma for its failure to recognise a democratically-elected
government, saying it showed Rangoon had no rule of law.
    Clinton also criticised Burma for being the world's number
one opium and heroin producer.
    The commentary lashed out at Clinton for his remarks, and
for suggesting to Burma's military rulers that they enter into
dialogue with National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader
and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
    "Clinton needs to understand that today's 45 million
Myanmars are making great political changes by building a
peaceful, modern and developed nation which practises genuine
democracy," it said.
    "Suu Kyi has already been branded as an axe handle (traitor)
as she is destroying her fathers nation with the assistance of
alien nations," it said.
    Suu Kyi's father was the revered General Aung San, who
helped Burma become independent from Britain before being
assassinated on the eve of independence.


November 30, 1996
By Christine T. Tjandraningsih

     JAKARTA, Nov. 30 Kyodo - The leaders of Cambodia, Laos and
Myanmar visited the Jakarta secretariat of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday to prepare their
countries to join the regional grouping as full members.
     Cambodian co-prime ministers, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun
Sen, Laotian Prime Minister Khamtay Siphandone, and Myanmar's junta
leader Gen. Than Shwe were briefed by ASEAN Secretary General Ajit
Singh on the work of the secretariat.
     The leaders were in Jakarta to attend the first informal ASEAN
summit.  Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar have observer status in the grouping.
     ''I think they are all enjoyed the briefing because this was
probably the first time they have been given a comprehensive overview
of ASEAN,'' Singh told reporters.
     ''From the comments they made, it seems they are all very
interested and they are looking forward to joining ASEAN very much,'' he said.
     ASEAN comprises Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
     At their meeting last July, ASEAN foreign ministers agreed to
admit Cambodia and Laos as full members of the grouping in 1997.
     But ASEAN leaders have aired different views on the issue of
granting Myanmar membership in the regional body, since its military
government's renewed crackdown on followers of pro-democracy leader
Aung San Suu Kyi this year.


November 30, 1996 

   JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Under pressure to isolate Burma's
military rulers, Southeast Asian nations affirmed Saturday that
they want the country to join their alliance but didn't say when.
   It wasn't immediately clear whether the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations took the step to avoid a clash with Western allies.
President Clinton singled out the Burmese generals for criticism
during a visit to the region this week.
   Burma overshadowed trade and other issues during an informal,
one-day meeting of ASEAN leaders, who say they eventually want the
group to include every country in Southeast Asia.
   In what may have been a face-saving gesture, diplomats said the
leaders agreed Burma won't be admitted until Cambodia and Laos _
the only other countries that aren't members _ are ready to join.
All three governments have observer status in the group.
   ``They said that as a matter of principle, all 10 nations (in
Southeast Asia) should join,'' said Kobsak Chutikul,
director-general of the Thai Foreign Ministry's economic
   ``But they did not go so far as to say when,'' Kobsak said,
quoting Thai Deputy Prime Minister Amnuay Viravon. ``It could go
either way. Next year, maybe they all join, or something else
happens and they have to wait.''
   Diplomats said isolated, impoverished Burma still has to show it
can take part in a regional free-trade area and other ASEAN
cooperative ventures.
   ASEAN members Thailand and the Philippines have argued for a
delay on those technical grounds. But as the two most democratic
governments in the region, they also are believed to be uneasy
about Burma's suppression of a pro-democracy movement led by Nobel
Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
   The other ASEAN members are Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei
and Indonesia, which hosted the meeting.
   Burmese leaders, who have turned one of Asia's richest countries
into one of its poorest, are trying to break out of the pariah
status they have endured since their troops gunned down
pro-democracy protesters in 1988.
   The head of the ruling military council met Friday with
President Suharto of Indonesia and was to meet later Saturday with
other ASEAN leaders.
   Clinton, during a one-day visit to Thailand on Tuesday, called
Burma's drug trafficking and political repression evidence of the
``absence of the rule of law.''
   Suu Kyi, who spent six years under house arrest until her
release last year, blamed the government for an attack on her car
Nov. 9 by a mob armed with rocks and iron bars. Roadblocks have
prevented her for two months from holding her customary rallies
outside her home.
   But Foreign Minister Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia insisted
Saturday that repression in Burma, also known as Myanmar, shouldn't
be a factor in deciding on its membership in ASEAN.
   ``Many are harping on the subject of Myanmar's politics. But you
will know that the subject of the political situation in any
particular country is never a qualification for such a country to
become a member of international organizations,'' Abdullah said.

November 30, 1996 
By Tim Johnson
JAKARTA, Nov. 30 Kyodo - Leaders from the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed Saturday to admit Myanmar as a
full member to its fold at the same time it admits Cambodia and Laos,
but was unclear as to whether that means next year.
     A statement issued by host country Indonesia after a one-day
informal summit meeting said the leaders from Brunei, Indonesia,
Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam ''agreed
that Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar be admitted as ASEAN members
     ''As to the actual timing of the admission of the three
countries, this will be announced in due time,'' the statement said.
     ASEAN foreign ministers at their annual meeting in Jakarta last
July accepted the formal applications of Cambodia and Laos, which are
ASEAN observers along with Myanmar, to become members of ASEAN in
     Asked if the statement's wording means that Myanmar would also
be admitted in 1997, Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said,
''I've never heard about any decision on the actual timing on that matter.''
     ''The only decision that the heads of state and government have
taken is that they will be admitted together,'' he said, adding that
reporters could draw their own conclusions.
     The timing of Myanmar's entry into the ASEAN fold was the focus
of attention at the summit, the latter portion of which saw ASEAN
leaders joined by the leaders of the three prospective members.


December 1, 1996
Rosamund McKernan

The possibility of a sniper attack on Burma's pro-democracy
leader Aung San Suu Kyi was the last thing her right-hand an 
wanted to consider.

But after hearing that armed men were seen last week entering a
building  overlooking the place where she holds open-air public
talks, U Kyi Maung, the vice-chairman of the National League for
Democracy, believes he can't afford to discount the possibility.

The information was the latest in what has recently become an
escalating series of worrying reports, and rumours, that are
making everyday life for the pro-democracy leader and her
supporters more tense than at any time in the past.

In Rangoon, the physical safety of Aung San Suu Kyi has become a
regular topic of conversation not just at her party's
headquarters but in tea shops, hotels and within the diplomatic
community. Some analysts believe that  Suu Kyi is now in serious
physical danger, while others are convinced that Burma's ruling
junta knows it would have "too much to lose" by any attempt on her life.

There used to be a general consensus that the junta would go no
further against their opponent than re-arresting her. But on Nov
9, cars carrying Suu Kyi and other NLD members, including U Kyi
Maung, were attacked by supporters of the military junta.

That attack, plus increasingly vitriolic comments in the state
media, the junta's growing use of the Union Solidarity
Development Association (USDA), a civilian organisation members
of which carried out the car attack, and a marked increase on the
threats reaching the NLD leader's compound, has made many
concerned for Suu Kyi's very life.

The marked change in the atmosphere around Rangoon is sharpest on
weekends, when the streets near Suu Kyi's house on University
Avenue become a stage for a sort of unscripted dance of wills.

As 4 pm approaches, clusters of NLD supporters quietly arrive at
the Good live intersection where Suu Kyi regularly makes brief
appearances. Slowly, they form groups, squatting against the
wooden doors of teashops that are now routinely shut at that hour
for fear of violence.

There is little conversation. The nuance of unspoken
communication is a vital art in Burma. A knowing nod, a lifted
brow, a fleeting smile are the sole signals of recognition
between NLD people. The area is heavily infiltrated with
plainclothes military intelligence or "MI". who take snapshots
and footage of NLD supporters and foreigners. As soon as any chat
with a foreigner is struck up, the nearest MI men press in closer.

As people wait for Suu Kyi's car, they glance at wristwatches and
time seems artificially elongated. The tension is palpable, as
the audience wonders if she will come safely.

Suu Kyi has appeared less often since Nov 9 when the NLD leaders'
cars pulled up to the intersection with shattered windshields and
passenger windows framed by jagged shards of what glass remained.
The shocked crowd was unclear about what had happened, about
whether the attackers were still in pursuit and whether Suu Kyi
was hurt. U Kyi Maung and U Tin Oo got out of their car first, a
thin trickle of blood running from Tin Oo's temple. Moments
later, Suu Kyi emerged to shouts of "long life". Her bodyguards raced
into position. A human barricade of locked arms separated her from
the crowd. As she raised an arm calling for calm, the crowd sat down.          

U Kyi Maung's wife, Gyi Gyi, who had to wait hours that day
before hearing confirmation that her husband was unharmed,
believes that good luck and perhaps the spirits may have been
with the NLD team. As the caravan of NLD cars was about to leave
Kyi Maung's house to drive towards supporters that day, Suu Kyi
decided, apparently on impulse, to alter the order of the cars.
The switch meant that an NLD car carrying nine elected members of
parliament was in the lead, a change from the normal practice in
which an MI open-truck car of the same colour would be in front.

As it turned out, the first car, now carrying the MPs, was
untouched, ,while the others, carrying U Ky Maung, Aung San Suu
Kyi and even the truck carrying the MI men were attacked.

"You know in Burma, we all learn from a young age that we must
never travel in a group of nine," said Gyi Gyi Maung. The belief
is based on an ancient mandate given by the Nat (spirit) Ko Myo
Yin, who governed-the nine Shan states. "If you are nine in the
car, you must invite along Maung Kyauk Kere - a little pebble
that you invite to come along as the 10th. Perhaps one of those
MPs remembered to take Ko Myo Yin with them."
Whether the NLD will be as lucky if there is another similar
attack, is less clear. These days, party members sound noticeably
more fearful for the safety of Aung San Suu Kyi, in particular.
Unlike a few months back, when Suu Kyi's weekend public
appearances were becoming a regular, almost inevitable event,
each one now has to be discussed and decided on before it
happens. While some of her advisers, including party
vice-chairmen Tin Oo and Kyi  Maung, would rather the public
talks were halted altogether until the current atmosphere
improves, Suu Kyi herself insists on continuing with the
gatherings. Says Gyi Gyi Maung: "Some people are saying 'We don't
want dead heroes." 
In such jittery times, any change can seem ominous and to some
NLD members the recent sighting of USDA members doing training
exercises on a small peninsula off Inya Lake, in direct view of
Suu Kyi's house, feels like yet another provocation from the junta.
One Rangoon-based senior diplomat believes the strength of the
generals' hatred of Aung San Suu Kyi's such that expecting them
to behave logically, and with restraint, may be mistaken. "Slorc
has already decided not to give power to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi",
he said. "The attack on Nov 9 may be a final warning. The next
step they take may be to kill her." Others believe that such a
drastic step by the junta is unlikely. What is certain is that
any let up in the rising atmosphere of fear in Rangoon looks
unlikely any times soon.


November 28, 1996

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Burma will push ahead with financial and
legal reforms in a bid to encourage foreign investment, a senior Burmese
official said Thursday.

The reforms will include adopting new laws, abolishing or replacing
redundant laws, and reforming financial, banking and taxation systems, said
Kyaw Zaw, deputy director of the National Planning and Economic Development

He did not say when the reforms would begin.

Motorola, Philips Electronics and other businesses have tried to isolate
Burma -- where a military junta has crushed dissent -- by halting their
business dealings with the southeast Asian nation. In addition, some state
and local goverments in the United States have started to penalize companies
that continue doing business in Burma.

Addressing a two-day conference on business in Burma, Kyaw Zaw said 21
domestic private banks have been given licenses to operate since the
government adopted a market-oriented economy in 1998.

He said five of the banks have been allowed to deal in foreign exchange
transactions. In addition, 44 foreign banks have been issued licenses to
open representative offices, he said.

Between 1988 and October this year, a total of 218 projects have been
approved, bringing in foreign investment worth $5.04 billion from 21 countries.

Companies that have left Burma include Carlsberg, Heineken, London Fog,
Eddie Bauer, Levi Strauss, Petro-Canada, Amoco, Liz Claiborne and Columbia
Sportswear. Those remaining include the oil companies Unocal Corp. and Total
SA of France.


November 29, 1996
Chiang Rai

Burma is to ask Thailand for a 300-million-baht loan to help build its
Tachilek-Kengtung road.

Chiang Rai Governor Wicharn Chaiyanant said the director-general of the
Burmese Public Works Department was scheduled to meet Thai officials in
Burma on Tuesday to make the request.

The two parties are expected to sign an agreement once Burmese
representatives accept Thailand's loan conditions and a 1.5 percent interest

Thai authorities will also suggest that Burma have the Tachilek-Kengtung
road link with a new highway in Mae Sai district to improve transport links.


November 29, 1996
by Theo Emery

        Responding to a Massachusetts law that bars state agencies from
contracting with companies that conduct business in Burma, Motorola and
Hewlett-Packard have decided to suspend business transactions in the
military-ruled country rather than lose contracts with the Bay State.
        Both companies cited the state's selective purchasing law as the
reason for ending business ties to the southeast Asian nation, also known
as Myanmar. California-based Hewlett-Packard, which supplies the state with
computers and other equipment, is severing links to its Singapore-based
distributor that sells equipment to Burma. Motorola, which furnishes
two-way radios to state emergency personnel, will recall its two full-time
employees from the country by year's end.
        Jim Whittaker, Hewlett-Packard's international public policy
manager, said that the cost of ending business with Massachusetts did not
justify a continued presence in Burmese markets. "We had to evaluate the
situation and make a decision. And we made a decision to sever relationship
with our Myanmar distributor and proceed from there."
        Motorola's vice president of issues management, Larry Barton, said
that similar reasons were behind Motorola's decision. "If we had stayed in
Burma it would have a big impact on us," said Barton, noting that weak
semiconductor sales made the company unusually vulnerable to economic
        The companies' actions come on the heels of Apple Computer's
decision last month to withdraw from the troubled nation. Apple, which
sells computers to Massachusetts agencies as well as to school in Burma,
was the first company to respond to pressure from the law.
        The state's unilateral sanctions against the Burmese military
government, ruled by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC),
were signed into law in June, and went into effect at the end of September.
The Massachusetts law is the world's largest such selective purchasing law
leveled against Burma. Several cities, including San Francisco, have
already passed similar legislation, and New York City has a selective
purchasing law pending.
        Selective purchasing advocates point to the Bay State legislation
as a model for other laws around the country. Julia Carpenter, issues
director of CPPAX, a group active in pressing for the sanctions, says that
the law sends an important message to corporations that choose to invest in
Burma. "We consider such investment as contributing to the repression
committed against the Burmese people," said Carpenter.
        Not all investors in Burma are bowing to the law. United Parcel
Service spokesman Mark Dickens says that UPS has sent a letter of protest
to the state complaining of being unfairly targeted by the sanctions. The
company has no equity, assets or investments in the country, but because of
weekly deliveries through a third-party carrier is in danger of losing
contracts with Massachusetts agencies.
        Mobile Corporation, which sells petroleum products to
Massachusetts, is one of the most vocal opponents of such action, taking
out ads in major newspapers condemning unilateral sanctions as futile.
        "Our position is that people think very carefully about the
implications of unilateral action," said Mobile spokesman Chris Springham.
"It is very important to us that the US maintain an open relationship with
the world's trading countries."
        Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the popular National League for
Democracy and a Nobel Prize recipient, called for sanctions against her
country's government in June, likening support for the Burmese
pro-democracy movement to anti-apartheid efforts against South Africa in
the 1980s.
        The United Nations, the European Union, and many other
international observers have corroborated charges that the Burmese
government is responsible for massive human rights violations of, including
forced labor, summary executions, torture, and complicity in the heroin
trade. SLORC smothered a nationwide pro-democracy movement in 1988, and
following a 1990 landslide victory for the National League for Democracy,
jailed Suu Kyi and other party leaders.
        Although Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in July of 1995,
SLORC has continued the clampdown on the National League for Democracy.
This summer, 238 League members were jailed, and SLORC closely monitors the
Nobel Laureate's movements, routinely accusing her on national radio of
being mentally ill.
        Corporate withdrawal have accelerated in the last two years. Levi
Strauss was one of the earliest U.S. corporations to pull in their sails,
but Amoco, Liz Claiborne, Eddie Bauer, Heineken, and LaBatt's have since
followed suit.
        As the impact of selective purchasing takes hold, more companies
will follow suit, according to Simon Billenness, senior analyst at Franklin
Research and Development Corporation, a Boston investment firm. "The steady
trickle of corporate withdrawals from Burma is poised to become a flood,"
said Billenness.


November 29, 1996

President Clinton repeated an obvious point during his visit to Thailand.
There can be no effective war against international drugs trafficking
without major changes in Burma. Criminals exploit the Rangoon regime to
produce and smuggle drugs, and to launder their immense profits.

Two recent American visitors have hammered home an unpleasant truth about
the international drugs trade. Both President Clinton and drug czar Barry
McCaffrey stated what now is obvious to experts in the filed. The struggle
against organised drug smuggling and associated crime is handcuffed by
inaction, or worse, by the Burmese regime. Burma is the largest producer of
illicit narcotics in the region, by far the greatest transit point for
organised drugs smuggling, and an important place for laundering the drug
profits of organised crime.

United nations experts agree with this assessment. At a meeting in Shanghai,
UN Drug Control Programme officials painted a bleak picture of a losing
battle against drug abuse. From the streets of Bangkok to the schools of
Beijing, the UNDCP found abuse of narcotics on the rise, particularly by
young people. Burma continues to feed ever-increasing amounts of both heroin
and amphetamines to street dealers through Asia.

Much lip service is given to the idea that only international cooperation
can beat back the assault on youth by drug dealers. Most countries back this
assertion with action. For example, President Clinton said of the US-Thai
anti-drug programmes: "We will stand with you all the way." At the Shanghai
conference, Chinese and Mexican officials admitted their nations were
involved in making methamphetamines. They agreed to cooperate in fighting
the trade. There are many such examples of actual support, both in bilateral
and multilateral action.

Burma's Slorc stands apart. It is a regime heavy on rhetoric and light on
concrete action. In less than a generation, its two Golden Triangle
neighbours, Thailand and Laos, have reduced poppy farming to an insignificant
level. But Burmese fields continue to produce record opium crops. While
Thailand and Laos have virtually wiped out heroin laboratories, chemists in
Burma's part of the Triangle continue to bag ton after ton of the white powder.

President Clinton - and others - believe the crime in Burma goes
hand-in-glove with the dictatorship in Rangoon. Without the public oversight
provided by democracy, the Burmese regime too often looks the other way. The
laundering of drug-trafficking profits in Burma through investment projects
is well documented.

McCaffrey, a retired US army general, is a realist. Burma is the major opium
producer in the region, accounting for 84 percent of the region's
production, he noted. Without active and dedicated cooperation from Rangoon,
the drugs problems will continue: addiction by our own youths, organised
crime, and huge profits used to influence, corrupt and even control governments.

The chain of international cooperation, like all chains, is as strong as its
weakest link. In this case, that link is Burma. What to do about that is a
true dilemma. The policy of so-called "constructive engagement" is a
failure, at least so far as narcotics are concerned. Isolating Burma through
massive embargoes would arguably be as bad, with Slorc simply continuing to
provide covert support for opium growing, heroin and amphetamines
manufacturing, smuggling and money laundering.

All nations involved in the problem, then, must appeal to Burma to cooperate
with the international community on the problem. Slorc has a long way to go
to convince the world it will help fight the organised criminals now
exploiting Burma and other countries. If it continues its refusal to give
such a commitment, then other steps must be considered. (BP)


November 28, 1996

FORMER Australian prime minister Paul Keating yesterday advocated greater
economic cooperation with Myanmar in a bid to change the South-east Asian
state's political situation.

"Policies of isolation do not work and have not worked," Mr Keating told the
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in an interview from Thailand.

Opponents of the ruling military junta in Myanmar have called for the
country to be isolated in a bid to bring about social and political change
and an improvement in human rights.

The ABC reported that Mr Keating backed the bid for Myanmar to gain Asean
membership, of which it currently has observer status, and advocated that it
"joins the world economy".

"After all, we are seeing in the general phenomena of South-east Asia a
tremendous decline in the level of poverty," Mr Keating said.

Urging greater economic cooperation with Myanmar, Mr Keating maintained it
was "very worthwhile to encourage countries like Myanmar to be part of this
process and to pick up not simply the economic benefits of the growth, but
some of the norms that have come with it."

Mr Keating was in Thailand on a speaking engagement. 


By Michael Chang
December 5, 1996

Not long ago, National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said
tourism in Burma benefited only a privileged few. With all due respect to
her courage and the strength for her beliefs, I cannot agree with her statement.

The tourism industry supports businesses ranging from restaurants and tour
operators and airlines to ground transportation and retail stores. When a
tourists spends money, it spreads through these businesses and reaches
related industries as well.

Money isn't the only benefit that is spread around-tourism brings jobs for
locals as well. As a businessman in Burma, I've witnessed how these jobs
reach beyond the privileged few. Foreign investment really does make a
difference, and the chance that visitors who come as tourists may return one
day to Burma as investors is yet another reason to draw them in.

Suu Kyi has also opposed Visit Myanmar Year, which officially began last
month. "Myanmar will always be there," she says. Although Myanmar, or Burma,
may always be there, the tourism industry may not, should the world respond
to her appeal.

Politics should have no bearing on tourism, nor should tourism be used as
leverage in politics. There is no crime in showing the world the natural
beauty that a country is blessed with. People should come and see this
controversial land to decide for themselves if the situation in Burma is
truly as the media have depicted it. I am certain that when they do come,
most will agree that the facts have been misconstrued.

Granted, I have a vested interest in this issue-I've been doing business in
Burma since 1994. In October of that year, I set up an airline called Air
Mandalay. I invested in the company and was its managing director. The
airline made history because the govenrment for the first time ever dropped
its monopoly on domestic air travel and shared business with a foreign
company. In the joint venture, the foreign partner controls management and
has 60% of the airline. The government has the other 40%.

More investors interested in Burma would help to pry open the
monopoly-dominated business sectors still further. With patience and
negotiation, businesses can persuade Burmese officials to see the advantages
of capitalism and competition.

There's nothing like wading into a market as an investor if one wants to
really connect with the locals and give them opportunities they wouldn't
have otherwise. As my colleagues and I prepared the airline's plan in
Singapore, we decided we'd employ expatriates for key positions, as we
assumed that it would be difficult to find the right local people to fill them.

But I was surprised to find that many of the people in Burma are
well-educated, speak English, and could be trained quickly to take over
several of the positions. In addition, they were honest, hardworking and
disciplined. Most of all, they took great pride in their jobs and had good
attitudes towards work.

Some of those characteristics make up the airline's public image. When out
first flight got ready to take off, the ground staff, including mechanics
and cleaners, decided to stand in a row to wave the passengers off. 

The airline has made this a tradition and it made such an impression on one
of the well-travelled passengers that he wrote to us saying he had never
seen staff who took such great pride in being part of the team. In our first
few months, we received more than 400 letters from our passengers, mostly
commending our employees.

At the beginning of my stay in Rangoon, job prospects in the country were
limited or even nonexistent, and economic growth was slow.

As we prepared to pick our second team of five stewardesses, more than 500
women turned up to apply. It was a two-day interview session and I never
imagined so many applicants would turn up. 

I felt I should have created more jobs. As I interviewed them, I could see
the joy bursting out of their souls when they were selected. The jobs did
not just mean money in their pockets but also a sense of belonging and
pride, something the world outside as I know it has lost.

My Burmese friends and colleagues tell me their wish is to see the country
grow and to make a decent living for themselves and their children. Today,
they are experiencing some progress in the country. 

If this trend can continue uninterrupted, there will be hope for their
children to enjoy a better life. Perhaps one day, Burma can even return to
its former glory.

Bringing wealth and progress through tourism will get them part of the way
there. The country can rise up more quickly through tourism than through
other industries that take a longer time  to develop and that do not spread
wealth as widely.

Some 300,000 tourists are expected to visit in 1996-97, compared to the mere
27,000 who visited us in 1993-94. Yet already, there are more than 1,000
privately owned companies in the tourism sector. 

If Suu Kyi's call is taken seriously, many of these companies may have to
close down at the expense of hundred of thousands of jobs.

Has she considered what will happen to all these people who, through no
fault of their own, lose  their livelihood? What would the National League
for Democracy propose to counter the consequences should a boycott of the
country occur? 

Nobody wants to see Burma suffer again, particularly not the leaders of the
government or the opposition. But only if optimistic thoughts persist can
the people look towards a more promising future. (FEER)