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BurmaNet News: December 3, 1996
- Subject: BurmaNet News: December 3, 1996
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 02 Dec 1996 23:48:00
------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: December 3, 1996
Issue # 583
Noted in Passing:
Drug money is irrigating every economic activity in
Burma, and big foreign partners are also seen by the
SLORC as big shields for money laundering. - Francois Casanier,
research analyst with Geopolitical Drugwatch
in Paris. (see: THE NATION (US): PEOPLE OF THE OPIATE)
DASSK: LETTER FROM BURMA #51
AP: 1,000 BURMESE STUDENTS STAGE PROTEST
REUTERS: BURMESE STUDENTS PROTEST LATE INTO NIGHT
THE NATION (US): PEOPLE OF THE OPIATE
BKK POST: EDITORIAL - JAKARTA SUMMIT A WASTE OF TIME
BKK POST: SUU KYI HAS NO IMPACT AT ALL, SAYS FM
THE NATION: SLORC CALLS FOR INVESTMENT, KNOW-HOW
ASIAN AGE: 10,000 VILLAGERS SIGN IN TO SERVE BURMA JUNTA
DASSK: LETTER FROM BURMA #51
December 2, 1996 (Mainichi Daily News)
MAINTAINING HUMAN DIGNITY IN THE DARKNESS:
"A Normal Life"
Letter from Burma (No. 51) By Aung San Suu Kyi
Recently, when a friend asked me how things were with me since the
authorities had taken to barricading off my house periodically, I replied
that things were fine, I was simply carrying on with my normal life. At
this she burst out laughing. "Yours in not a normal life, in fact it's the
most abnormal life!" And I could not help but laugh too.
I suppose the kind of life I lead must seem very strange to some but it is
a life to which I have become accustomed and it is really no stranger than a
lot of things that go on in Burma today. Sometimes as we walk around the
garden while the road outside lies quiet, shut off from the rest of the
city, my colleagues and I agree that were we to write about our experiences
in the form if a novel it would be criticized as too far-fetched a story, a
botched Orwellian tale.
No doubt there are other countries in the world where you would find the
equivalent of the huge billboards brazenly entitled "People's Desire,"
advertising the following sentiments:
* Oppose those relying on external elements, acting as stooges, holding
* Oppose those trying to jeopardize stability of the State and progress of
* Oppose foreign nations interfering in internal affairs of the State
* Crush all internal and external destructive elements as the common enemy.
But I doubt that in other countries you would find just around the corner
from such an unwelcoming, xenophobic proclamations, a gigantic,
double-faced, particularly unattractive version of a traditional boy doll
with puffy white face, staring eyes, a stiff smile and an attache case (that
bit is not traditional) welcoming tourists to Visit Myanmar Year. Bizarre
is the word that springs to mind. "Fascist Disneyland," one frequent
visitor to Burma commented.
There is so much that is beautiful and so much that is wrong in my country.
In the evenings when I look out to the lake from my garden, I can see the
tattered beauty of the casuarinas, the tropical lushness of the coconut
palms, the untidily exotic banana plants and the lushness of the barbed wire
fence along the edge of the shore. And across the still waters festooned
with dumps of water hyacinth is the mass of a new hotel built with profit
rather than elegance in mind. As the sun begins to go down the sky lights
up in orange hues. The Burmese refer to this hour as the time of blazing
clouds and also the time when the ugly turn beautiful because the golden
light casts a flattering glow on most complexions.
How simple it would be if a mere turn of light could make everything that
was ugly beautiful. How wonderful it would be if twilight were a time when
we could all lay down the cares of the day and look forward to a tranquil
night of well earned rest. But in Fascist Disneyland the velvety night is
too often night in the worst sense of the word, a time deprived of light in
more ways than one. Even in the capital city Rangoon, electricity cuts are
not infrequent and we are suddenly plunged into darkness. The inability of
the government to supply adequate electric power makes it necessary for many
households to contrive arrangements of their own, linking up a wire to a
neighboring source that they might enjoy a bit of light at night. The local
authorities turn a blind eye to such arrangements, accepting due
compensation for their discretion. However, if you happen to be a member of
the NLD, trying to bring light into your household can easily result in a
two-year prison sentence. The other, and more real, darkness of night in
Fascist Disneyland is that so many political arrests are made during the
hours when all decent people should be resting and allowing others to rest.
Visitors to my country often speak of the friendliness, the hospitality and
the acme of humor of the Burmese. Then they ask how it is possible that a
brutal, humorless authoritarian regime could have emerged from such a
people. A comprehensive answer to that question would involve a whole
thesis but a short answer might be, as one writer has put it, that Burma is
indeed one of those lands of charm and cruelty. I have found more warmth,
more wholehearted love and more caring concern among my people, as we hope
together, suffer together and struggle together, than anywhere else in the
world. But those who exude hate and vindictiveness and rave about
annihilating and crushing us are also Burmese, our own people.
How many can be said to be leading normal lives in a country where there
are such deep divisions of heart and mind, where there is neither freedom
nor security? When we ask for democracy, all we are asking is that our
people should be allowed to live in tranquillity under the rule of law,
protected by institutions which will guarantee our rights, the rights that
will enable us to maintain our human dignity, to heal long festering wounds
and to allow love and courage to flourish. Is that such a very unreasonable
AP: 1,000 BURMESE STUDENTS STAGE PROTEST
December 2, 1996
RANGOON, Burma (AP) _ About 1,000 students demonstrated Monday
in front of Rangoon University in the largest such protest in
years, demanding that Burma's military government grant more
student independence and probe police brutality.
Security forces were not immediately deployed to observe or
break up the peaceful demonstration, a possible sign that the
government hoped to avoid a potentially explosive confrontation.
No link between the protest and the democracy movement led by
Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was apparent. But it came
a day before the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council's
monthly news conference, usually a time opponents step up
activities to coincide with the arrival of foreign journalists.
``We are the students, we are united,'' chanted the protesters,
mostly from the Rangoon Institute of Technology.
After marching three kilometers (two miles) to the university,
they staged a sit-in that half-closed University Avenue, the street
where Suu Kyi lives. Traffic was very disorderly.
``We will go back only when our demands are met,'' said Myo
Aung, 24, an engineering student.
The crowd was twice the size of a peaceful student protest Oct.
21 _ the first major one in years _ against brutality by police who
allegedly beat three students following a dispute with a restaurant
The demonstrators Monday demanded that the authorities announce
what, if any, action has been taken against the police involved and
that students expelled after the October protest be reinstated.
That protest had been called off only when authorities promised
to take action against the police.
The demonstrators demanded the formation of a student committee
to handle student affairs, which could be viewed by the authorities
as dangerously independent.
They also wanted authorities to investigate recent leaflets
mailed to students calling the October protesters troublemakers.
The leaflets were signed by a hitherto unknown group _ almost
certainly fronted by the government _ called ``Students Who Desire
to Pursue Their Education Peacefully.''
The regime detained one of Suu Kyi's top deputies, Kyi Maung,
for more than a week after the October demonstration on suspicion
of colluding with the protesters. Kyi Maung denied the accusations.
Burma's military rulers keep a close eye on students, who have
been quiet in recent years but are traditionally at the vanguard of
A quarrel between students at the Rangoon Institute of
Technology and local villagers led to the pro-democracy uprising of
Troops killed thousands of people to put down the uprising. The
protests propelled Suu Kyi, daughter of independence hero Aung San,
to the leadership of Burma's pro-democracy movement.
The regime has stepped up repression of her movement in recent
months. A mob allegedly controlled by the government attacked Suu
Kyi's car Nov. 9 with iron bars. She was unhurt.
Roadblocks erected by the government since late September have
stopped the once-customary weekend political rallies by thousands
of supporters outside her home.
REUTERS: BURMESE STUDENTS PROTEST LATE INTO NIGHT
December 2, 1996
RANGOON (Reuter) - Burmese students angry over an incident involving the
police took their "non-political" protest to the streets on Monday and
demonstrated late into the night at a busy road junction.
At least 1,500 students marched three miles (five km) in the afternoon from
the Yangon (Rangoon) Institute of Technology (YIT) to the front gates of
After sunset more than 1,000 of them marched to a nearby intersection
singing the Burmese national anthem and carrying banners saying "We don't
want unfair government" and continued the demonstration there, disrupting
"This is not political. We simply want to make known our demand for justice
and human rights," a young student told Reuters.
Another student leader said earlier that the protesters were not linked to
any political party and they had no intention of politicising the protest.
The demonstrators are angered over police handling of a brawl in October
between YIT students and restaurant owners. The students accuse police of
unfair treatment after three students were temporarily arrested and two
ordered not to attend classes.
The students are also annoyed by leaflets distributed on their campuses by
people claiming to be students urging their classmates to improve their
behaviour and not to get involved in activities that could disrupt their
Student leaders earlier turned down government offers to negotiate with
senior education ministry officials.
"We demanded to talk to someone with real authority like Secretary One," one
said, referring to Khin Nyunt of the ruling State Law and Order Restoration
The United States and other Western countries have accused the SLORC of
widespread human rights abuses and criticised its crackdown on the
pro-democracy movement led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Student leaders said at the height of the protest on Monday, nearly 2,000 of
the YIT's estimated 4,500 students took part in the demonstration, the
biggest since the brawl in October.
The protesters demanded that two students who had been barred from classes
after the October brawl be allowed to return to their studies.
The students also sought a government promise that YIT would not be closed
because of the latest protest, YIT sources said.
The students demanded that authorities clarify within 24 hours whether any
action had been taken against police responsible for the arrests of their
colleagues in October.
Although the school was not closed after the October demonstration, it was
shut for about two years following nationwide pro-democracy uprisings in 1988.
In that year, student-led demonstrations, which the SLORC eventually
crushed, were sparked by a teashop brawl that incited nationwide outrage
against the military government.
THE NATION (US): PEOPLE OF THE OPIATE
December 16, 1996
by Dennis Bernstein and Leslie Kean
Burma's dictatorship of Drugs
Burma - or Myanmar, more formally - makes the Western news pages
mostly for its repression of the struggling democracy movement led by
Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is continually harassed and
was recently physically attacked while trying to address her followers. But
those who dare to take a serious approach to drug eradication are likely to end
up in deadlier trouble with the ruling dictatorship, known as the State
Law and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC, which has incorporated the
booming heroin trade into the permanent economy of the country.
Consider the case of U Saw Lu, a revered leader in the
mountainous poppy- growing region of the Wa territory, one of many
ethnic regions in Burma. Lu, a Wa prince and chairman of the United Wa
State Anti-Narcotics and Development Organization, has waged a risky opium
eradication campaign on behalf of his people since the SLORC seized power in
a 1988 coup.
In January 1992, after U Saw Lu informed the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration about the drug trafficking activities of a
regional SLORC intelligence chief and a local drug warlord, he found
himself face to face with a torture squad. According to D.E.A. "Sensitive"
e-mail, "he was held upside down for 56 days with 220 current attached to
one of his favorite appendages." A doctor who remained present through the
torture sessions revived Lu when he passed out. Urine was poured on his face
and he was beaten with chains as he lay near death next to a freshly dug grave.
His life was spared after Wa leaders threatened military action during
a meeting with SLORC's head of military intelligence, Lieut. Gen. Khin Nyunt.
"There were terrible scars all over his body after the torture,"
said Benjamin Min, a former SLORC official from Rangoon, who quit the
dictatorship and joined Lu in his war against drugs. "He had internal
injuries and he needed medical attention."
Maj. Than Aye, the intelligence officer Lu had told the D.E.A.
about, supervised the torture sessions. The drug shipment Aye had been
overseeing was on its way to one of the world's most notorious drug
kingpins, Lo Hsing Han, destined to become a key business partner of Burma's
emerging narco-dictatorship. Major Aye has since been promoted to a high-level
government position by the ruling council.
According to Benjamin Min, Lu continued to work on opium
eradication even though he was warned during his torture to terminate
any relationship with the D.E.A. In 1993, Lu gave D.E.A. special agent
Richard Horn a document titled "The Bondage of Opium: The Agony of the Wa
People, a Proposal and Plea."
In his plea, Lu outlined specific steps that were needed to
promote opium eradication among the Wa farmers, who provide 80 percent
of Burma's opium crop. The Wa, an ethnic minority of 1 million, live in
a remote area of Burma's Shan State where there are no roads, no educational
system, no medical clinics and electricity for less than 10 percent of
Even though the Wa farmers grow one of the globe's most sought- after
crops, they remain among the world's poorest peoples. Lu knew that any hope of
change had to include a serious plan for crop substitution. "Like the
heroin addicts that result from the opium, we too are in bondage. We
are searching for help to break that bondage," he wrote in his proposal to the
Communications between the D.E.A.'s Rangoon office and the higher
officials in Washington reveal that agent Horn had every intention of
working with the Wa people to implement Lu's proposal. But for reasons
that remain unclear, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State
Department had other ideas. D.E.A. Sensitive e-mails state that former
C.I.A. Chief of
Station Arthur Brown "destroyed this project in one swift move."
According to the e-mails, Brown delivered an early version of the Wa proposal -
signed by Lu - to SLORC military intelligence officer Col. Kyaw Thein.
When Thein threatened to pick up Lu once more and teach him a lesson in
respect, Horn was able to intervene temporarily. In Horn's view, the C.I.A.
destroyed a unique opportunity for a dramatic drug eradication program
in the poppy fields of the world's biggest heroin producer. (Horn, now
a D.E.A. group supervisor in New Orleans, is suing the C.I.A., claiming it
illegally surveyed his residence in Rangoon to gain information about his
plans, which the CIA went on to foil.)
In September 1993, Horn was forced out of the country by the
State Department under pressure from the C.I.A. The plans of the Wa
Prince and his chief deputy, Benjamin Min, were crushed. A year later,
Min risked his life to take the Wa Proposal and Plea to policy-makers in
Washington. Before he left, the SLORC hatched a series of unsuccessful
assassination plots. In his sworn testimony to the Immigration and
Naturalization Service, which won him asylum in the United States, Min
states, "Their aim was to assassinate the Wa leaders, specifically U Saw Lu
and myself as his chief deputy."
Burma has more than doubled its illicit drug exports since the
SLORC takeover in 1988. The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon reports that the
area used for poppy cultivation in Burma increased by two-thirds
between 1987 and 1990. At a United Nations Drug Control Program (U.N.D.C.P.)
regional conference in November of 1993, French and American satellite
surveys were presented showing an explosion of poppy growing in areas
directly under SLORC control.
The U.N.D.C.P. also reported at the U.N.-sponsored Heads of
Narcotics Law Enforcement Agencies international meeting this November
that the Asian heroin trade reaps $63 billion in profits annually.
Burma is by far the largest exporter in the region, providing over 50
percent of the world's supply.
This booming heroin trade has sent a flood of narco-dollars into
Rangoon. "All normal economic activities, if you can call anything in
Burma normal, are instruments of drug money laundering," says Francois
Casanier, research analyst with Geopolitical Drugwatch in Paris. "And no drug
operation in Burma can be run without the SLORC." A March 1996
narcotics report on Burma by the US State Department points out that
the country's "underdeveloped banking system and lack of enforcement against
money laundering have created a business and investment environment
conducive to the use of drug-related proceeds in legitimate commerce." A
study by the International Monetary Fund cites large expenditures
unaccounted for by
the Burmese government: Despite the fact that Burma's foreign exchange
reserves for 1991 through 1993 were only approximately $300 million, the
SLORC purchased arms valued at $1.2 billion during the period.
According to a 1995 report on Burma's drug trade, the Australian
Parliament Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade heard
testimony that Burma's "narcotics trade was protected at the highest
level of the Government" and that the SLORC's involvement occurs "on an
individual basis for personal profit, covering areas of responsibility for
protection and patronage; and as a matter of policy, either explicit or
covert, in order to raise government revenue."
The integration of narco dollars into the national economy is
further highlighted by a new economic report from the U.S. Embassy in
Rangoon. Released in July, the "Country Commercial Guide" states that
at least 50 percent of Burma's economy is unaccounted for and extralegal.
"Exports of opiates alone appear to be worth about as much as all legal
the report says. The eighty-eight-page document is based on the SLORC's
own economic data. It goes on to say that investments in infrastructure and
hotels are coming from major opiate growing and opiate exporting
organizations and from those with close ties to these organizations.
"Barriers between the opiates sector and the legal economy appear to have
weakened in recent years, a trend that may have accelerated in the last few
months," it explains.
A four-year investigation conducted by intelligence analyst
Casanier and a team of researchers found that Burma's national company
Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) was "the main channel for
laundering the revenues of heroin produced and exported under the control of
the Burmese army." In a business deal signed with the French oil giant
Total in 1992, and later joined by Unocal, MOGE received a payment of $15
million. "Despite the fact that MOGE has no assets besides the limited
installments of its
foreign partners and makes no profit, and that the Burmese state never
had the capacity to allocate any currency credit to MOGE, the Singapore
bank accounts of this company have seen the transfer of hundreds of millions
of U.S. dollars," reports Casanier. According to a confidential MOGE file
reviewed by the investigators, funds exceeding $60 million and originating
from Burma's most renowned drug lord, Khun Sa, were channeled through the
company. "Drug money is irrigating every economic activity in Burma,"
Casanier says, "and big foreign partners are also seen by the SLORC as big
shields for money laundering."
Astonishingly, drug money is actually solicited by Burma's state-controlled
banks. The national bank in Rangoon openly provides money-laundering
services, turning drug money into clean money for a 40 percent cut.
Occasionally official announcements run in the state-controlled press
promoting specials at a reduced charge of 25 percent, no questions asked.
Bertil Lintner, a noted authority on Burma's drug trade, says there is a
private banking boom in Rangoon based on the influx of narco-dollars.
Father and Son: A Drug Legacy
The SLORC's close relationship with Burma's most powerful drug traffickers
was revealed to the world at this past spring's wedding celebration of
entrepreneur Steven Law, son of legendary druglord Lo Hsing Han, who as of
1994 controlled the most heavily armed drug-trafficking organization in
Southeast Asia. It is doubtful that anyone attending this lavish affair was
thinking about the torture suffered by U Saw Lu for trying to impede Han's
drug trade back in 1992. The family's guest of honor was Hotels and Tourism
Minister Lieut. Gen. Kyaw Ba, whose presence, along with three other SLORC
ministers and four Cabinet ministers, lent strong political overt
ones to the celebration. Other well known traffickers were also in
attendance. The event received significant exposure in the New Light of
Myanmar, the state-controlled paper.
Lo Hsing Han's drug links to top levels of the SLORC are well documented. A
memo from the Thai Government's Office of Narcotics Control Board names the
SLORC's military intelligence chief, Lieut. Gen. Khin Nyunt, as one
"supporter." It goes on to say that in February 1993, Lo Hsing Han was
granted the "privilege from Brig. Gen. Khin Nyunt to smuggle heroin from the
Kokang group to Tachilek [on the Thai border] without interception."
Steven Law is the managing director of Asia World Company Limited, a
trading and development firm in Rangoon whose chairman is his father, Lo
Hsing Han. Founded in 1992, Asia World reports it's "authorized capital" to
have been $40 million, and it has since invested an estimated $200 million
in construction projects around Rangoon. In a joint venture with the SLORC,
Law's company was given a twenty-five-year contract in April for a new wharf
at Yangon Port, which handles over 90 percent of Burma's exports. With the
SLORC's blessings, one of the world's biggest heroin traffickers will thus
own and operate a port sending ships loaded with cargo to the United States
and countries around the world. (While Steven Law is being honored in Burma,
he has been forbidden entrance into the United States due to "suspicion of
involvement in narcotics trafficking," according to a US State Department
official who asked not to be named.)
'Our Own Blood Brethren'
The SLORC's budding relationship with the recently "surrendered" Khun Sa,
the world's most wanted heroin smuggler, was by all accounts a leap forward
in the junta's solidification of the narco-dictatorship. In January of
this year, the SLORC ceremoniously welcomed Khun Sa and his associates into
Rangoon as "our own blood brethren." Intelligence chief Khin Nyunt said in a
speech that "we will look after them well on humanitarian grounds and for
the sake of national spirit." Drug expert Bertil Lintner sums up the reality
of the situation: "Khun Sa's 'surrender' has brought the last warlord out of
the jungles and into Rangoon - where he, like everybody else these days, can
continue his business. Millions of dollars have been transferred from bank
accounts abroad to Rangoon since Khun Sa settled there."
The deal for Khun Sa's new alliance with the SLORC was negotiated by
SLORC's Defense Commander Gen. Maung Aye and Khun Sa's uncle in Rangoon in
December 1995. It was highly fitting that the powerful hard-liner Maung Aye
should serve as negotiator. In his previous post as head of the Eastern
Command, the area in which Khun Sa maintained his drug operations, numerous
sources report that Maung Aye was on Khun Sa's payroll for allowing drug
operations to continue unimpeded. He has since been promoted to
Vice-Chairman, the second most powerful position in the SLORC, and is
expected to succeed the Chairman, Gen. Than Shwe, when he retires.
This past spring, Khun Sa was given a commercial bus concession from
Rangoon into Shan State, the location of his drug empire along the China
border. His third son, Sam Seun, is investing $20 million in the development
of a forty-four-acre plot that was presented as a gift to Khun Sa by the
SLORC at the time of their deal. As reported by the Bangkok Post, the
tourist facility, situated along the Thai border, will include a gambling
casino, large hotel and "other forms of entertainment." Thai officials are
worried about the increase in drug trafficking and money laundering that
will result from Khun Sa's family enterprise.
In previous years, the SLORC had claimed it could not crack down on drugs
due to Khun Sa's control of Shan State and that his surrender would result
in a substantial reduction in drug exports. "On the contrary, there will be
more opium," Khun Sa mused a few months before securing his deal, knowing
that it would give the SLORC access to his refineries in Shan State.
Banpot Piamdee, head of the Northern Narcotics Prevention and Suppression
Centre in Thailand, and international narcotics agents confirmed that Khun
Sa's surrender has done absolutely nothing to stem the flow of heroin out of
Burma. In fact, the US State Department's annual opium survey shows that
this year's harvest was 9% larger than last year's. Winston Lord, Assistant
Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, called the SLORC's new
partnership with Khun Sa a "defeat for the control of drugs in all our
The Shan Herald Agency for News reported on August 2 that the heroin
refineries in the jungles of Khun Sa's territory, owned by two of the
druglord's followers, had stopped functioning for two months when the
Burmese occupied the area at the time of Khun Sa's departure for Rangoon.
However, refinery operators were given the green light by SLORC troops in
mid-March and are back in full swing, "enjoying more freedom than before."
The Bangkok Post reported on August 21 that "Rangoon has officially allowed
former Mong Tai Army soldiers [Khun Sa's army] and Shan People at Ho Mong
[Khun Sa's former headquarters] to grow opium poppies to ease poverty in the
Along with Lo Hsing Han and Khun Sa, other ethnic drug traffickers have
also benefited from good relationships with the Rangoon junta, according to
this spring's State Department Narcotics Report. Following a list of the
names of eight top traffickers from the Shan, Kachin and Wa areas, the
report points out that the SLORC has given these individuals "significant
political legitimacy" by referring to them as "leaders of national races."
Several of them have even been handpicked to help write the nation's new
Constitution. It is hardly surprising that the SLORC refused a U.S. offer
of $2 million to extradite Khun Sa to stand trial here. (Khun Sa was
indicted in a US federal court in December 1989 on charges of smuggling more
than $350 million worth of heroin into the U.S. between 1986 and 1989.)
Heroin, Vegetables and Cigarettes
Outside of Rangoon, SLORC local commanders and their brigades carry out
policies that actively promote the expansion of poppy growing. Payoffs,
kickbacks and extortion by the military in connection with opium growing and
drug transport are factors of daily life for most villagers. Due to
cease-fire agreements signed with fifteen ethnic minorities since 1989, the
SLORC army now has full access to every border in Burma and control of
border check points for the first time.
Geopolitical Drugwatch researcher Casanier says that SLORC army officials
extort "taxes" from impoverished opium growers to supplement their meager
salaries. This monthly, per-acre extortion forces villagers to continue
farming opium simply to be able to meet the tax quota, thereby keeping them
dependent on the cash crop. If villagers do not deliver, their livestock is
confiscated, family members are held for ransom, or they are taken
away and used as forced labor on infrastructure projects. The less lucky
ones, usually the village headmen, are arrested and tortured.
SLORC Minister for Hotels and Tourism Lieut. Gen. Kyaw Ba, the guest of
honor at Steven Law's wedding, became rich from drug payoffs, according to
several sources, when he served as Northern Commander in Kachin State prior
to his promotion to the SLORC. Like many military commanders, he was the
beneficiary of a portion of the opium taxes and bribes that filter up from
battalions and the payoffs that come down from the drug lords. "Khun Sa
[has] paid 500,000 kyat ($5,000) a month since 1992 to one general who was
commanding this region," one officer of his army in Shan State told Reuters.
Loong Kyong, a 45 year old Shan farmer who fled to Thailand, told human
rights investigators this past May that Burmese soldiers actually encourage
rice farmers to substitute opium for their rice crop. "The reason the
Burmese say not to grow rice is that if you grow rice you have to give some
to the rebel groups, and to others, and you have to get your rice milled,"
he said. "So they say just grow opium and you can easily get money and buy
your rice. The military will buy the opium."
All over Burma, rural communities are succumbing to the supplies of cheap
heroin distributed unchecked in their villages. "Drug users and retail drug
dealers can increasingly by found everywhere," reports the Shan Herald
Agency for News. "Amphetamines and heroin are being bought and sold like
vegetables from roadside peddlers." Rangoon and Mandalay, Burma's second
largest city, are also facing heroin epidemics.
"Only since the 1988 SLORC takeover have chemicals needed to refine the
purest grades of heroin become available in Burma's most remote areas,"
states a drug eradication proposal presented by the people of Wa State to
the International Conference on Drugs in Portugal in March. "Local militia
groups, formerly opposed to the government and long-linked to the heroin
trade, now do business freely through SLORC-controlled frontier areas." The
Australian Parliament Committee of Foreign Affairs was told last year that
"opium is warehoused at Burmese military bases, while trucks transporting
narcotics are sometimes escorted by military vehicles to avoid inspection en
In Burma's northernmost Kachin state, things have also taken a turn for the
worse. Three years before the Kachin signed a cease fire agreement with the
SLORC in 1994, Kachin leaders had mounted an "Opium Free State" campaign
that brought a drastic reduction in poppy cultivation to parts of their
territory. The 1996 report "Current Status of Drug Eradication in Kachin
State" by the Kachin Independence Organization claims a
"dramatic...resurgence of poppy cultivation and opium production in areas
that were previously considered to be 90 per cent contained."
Benjamin Min, formerly with the SLORC Ministry of Mines, and independent
human rights investigators describe the devastating impact of drugs in the
jade mines of the remote Kachin State. Managers of the SLORC-owned mines,
some in joint ventures with Chinese business men, are giving their workers
the option of receiving compensation in hard drugs rather than cash. Up to
200,000 miners, who travel from their villages out of desperation for work,
can be found in one mine where drugs are cheap and shooting galleries
service hundreds with one needle. Min reports that two thirds of the
100,000 workers at Hpakant Jade Mine, owned entirely by SLORC, have chosen
to be paid by drugs in lieu of cash. And the only way large shipments of
illegal substances can find their way into Kachin State is through
SLORC-controlled gates. More than 90 percent of the addicts in the region
are H.I.V. positive, according to a U.N. report.
Kachin leaders and independent analysts believe that drugs are used as a
tacit tool of control by the military to pacify the Kachin population. "In
the Kachin people's minds, the heroin tragedy is a form of cultural genocide
for eliminating large portions of a volatile minority that has strong
sentiments against the government," stated a U.S. human rights investigator
who has managed to penetrate the restricted areas. Michael Jala Maran,
executive director of the Pan Kachin Development Society, returned to
Thailand in September from a distressful visit to Kachin State. "The AIDS
situation is a complete disaster," he said. "I'd call it the result of the
deliberate politics of heroin visited on the Kachin people since the
Needle sharing, a proliferation of brothels, a death of public education
and virtually no medical care have created an explosion in the number of
AIDS cases, with dangerous implications for the region. The U.N. reports
that 60-70 percent of IV drug users in Burma are H.I.V. positive. (Even the
SLORC acknowledges that there are more than 400,000 H.I.V. positive people
in Burma.) The World Health Organization figure for the overall number
of addicts is close to 500,000, or 1 percent of the population, but other
experts say that a more realistic figure is 2 - 4 percent. Millions of
migrants are pouring out of Burma into neighboring Thailand, China and
India, carrying H.I.V. with them. The Southeast Asian Information Network
points to the dramatic correlations between the heroin routes out of Burma
and the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the country's neighbors. The highest
rates of H.I.V. infection in both China and India lie right at their border
There is a direct correlation between the rise in heroin production in
Burma and a resurgence of heroin use in the last five years in the United
States. Government figures show that the volume of heroin imported into this
country, and likewise heroin consumption, has doubled since the
mid-eighties. The amount of Burmese heroin sold in New York City has
tripled since 1989, according to Jane's Intelligence Review. The March
State Department report and interviews with U.S. officials indicate that
more than 60 percent of heroin seized in the United States comes from Burma.
Madeleine Albright, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., recently described Burma
as closely resembling the Orwell novel 1984. "The authorities there are
among the most repressive and intrusive on earth," she said. "The rule of
law so ardently desired elsewhere has here been perverted for there is no
connection between justice and law." Yet this is a story that goes beyond
the usual realm of human rights: Burma's ruling junta appears willing to
addict an entire nation to drugs, both by setting up a long-term financial
dependency on the heroin trade and by fostering a massive upsurge in drug
usage. And the enormous financial payout from the SLORC's pro-drug policies
helps the narco-dictatorship secure its hold on power against the struggling
Meanwhile, the heroin pipeline from Burma to the United States
is opened up full blast, and mainlining has become trendy among U.S. youth.
San Francisco Police Sergeant John Murphy said in July that buying heroin in
his city is "as easy as buying a pack of cigarettes."
Dennis Bernstein, an associate editor with Pacific News Service, is
co-producer of Flashpoints at KPFA-FM in Berkeley, CA. Leslie Kean, a
writer based in Mill Valley, CA, is co-author of Burma's Revolution of
the Spirit: The Struggle for Democratic Freedom and Dignity (Aperture,
1994). This article was written with the support of the Fund for
Copyright (c) 1996, The Nation Company, L.P. All rights reserved.
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BKK POST: EDITORIAL - JAKARTA SUMMIT A WASTE OF TIME
December 2, 1996
ASEAN went into a defensive position at the informal summit in Jakarta.
Leaders were more interested in showing unity than debating issues. The
decision to paper over disagreements will get the group through short-term
difficulties, but the inability to confront serious problems may come back
to haunt ASEAN in coming months.
A wise man once said that when it is not necessary to do anything, it is
necessary not to do anything. it seemed obvious that the men who attended
the informal ASEAN summit at Jakarta at the weekend were taking this advice.
On Burma, the leaders remained coy and refused to say when Rangoon might
join the group. On East Timor, the old line of not upsetting Indonesia was
When the summit ended, one was left wondering why they bothered having it.
This was particularly true of Thailand, which was represented only by the
outgoing foreign minister. The other presidents and prime ministers had
gathered just five days earlier in the Philippines for the Apec summit.
ASEAN should show a united front, particularly to the West. Some ASEAN
countries in particular - Malaysia, Indonesia - are worried about attention
from the United States and the European Union on specific issues. Summit
participants were able to circle the wagons and present a united front on
some of those issues. Notably on East Timor, ASEAN gathered in defense of
Suharto and Indonesia against Portugal and its EU allies. Gen Suharto thinks
Portugal is an "irritant" in discussions about its former colony. Therefore,
ASEAN as a group thinks the same.
The main issue, whoever, was Burma. ASEAN saved some face and bought some
time. Leaders decided to think Burma, Laos and Cambodia. When all three are
judged ready for ASEAN membership, then they will be inducted together. This
is a questionable decision at best. It is a slap at Laos and Cambodia, small
countries which are serious about joining ASEAN and which have made great
efforts to prepare themselves.
Tying these two countries to the very different case of Burma is a bad idea.
The three are unequal to each other in every way. They have different forms
of government. Cambodia is trying to establish democracy, Laos is trying to
build a one-party socialist system and Burma rules by fear and intimidation.
ASEAN not only has the right but the duty to chose its friends and
associates. The ideal of a 10-nation ASEAN is 30 years old. ASEAN has built
itself from five members to six, and now to seven. The other three countries
should be accepted, one by one, on the basis of their application. ASEAN
does itself no more favor by keeping Cambodia and Laos out of the group.
The timing of the summit was unfortunate for Thailand. New Prime Minster
Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has promised to urge democratic reform upon the Slorc
leaders. It was too bad he was unable to begin that task weekend in Jakarta.
President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines, whoever, let down ASEAN badly. By
refusing the opportunity to raise objections to Slorc membership, Gen Ramos
has come under severe criticism in his own country.
The summit was devoid of bold or imaginative actions or goals. The only
positive decision reached was, ironically, at the suggestion of Thailand's
Amnuay Viravan. That was a plan for each member to write an essay of its
national economic goals over the next 24 years, and to report back next
After this lackadaisical summit, it seems ASEAN could use a spinal
transplant. This is not the ASEAN which collectively defended Cambodia
against Vietnamese occupation. Nor is it the ASEAN that launched and
directed one of the world's most amazing economic development plans. The
ASEAN of last weekend was gathered in a circle to protect the status quo. It
needs to come up with some ideas of its own again, and merely react to the
ideas of others. (BP)
BKK POST: SUU KYI HAS NO IMPACT AT ALL, SAYS FM
December 2, 1996
Burmese Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw Saturday dismissed suggestions that
Rangoon's domestic political problems could have an impact on the stability
of the ASEAN grouping as a whole.
Asked whether the junta's handling of the opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi
might affect neighboring countries, Ohn Gyaw said: "There is no impact at
all. We don't think so."
The minister, addressing a news conference at the end of a one-day ASEAN
informal summit, insisted that Burmese membership in ASEAN could enhance
regional stability and security.
"We are convinced that by taking part in ASEAN, we might be able to
contribute stability to the region," he said.
He denied that Burma was disappointed at ASEAN's decision Saturday to
postpone setting a date for full membership of the grouping.
But he indicated that Rangoon still had hopes it could gain full membership
during next year's meeting in Kuala Lumpur. (BP)
THE NATION: SLORC CALLS FOR INVESTMENT, KNOW-HOW
December 2, 1996
RANGOON - A senior official of Burma's ruling military junta says the
country's economy is developing rapidly but needs an influx of capital
investment and technology, the official press reported Friday.
Since opening up to foreign investment in 1988, US$5.04 billion of
investments had been approved up to the end of October this year, Lieutenant
General Kyaw Ba, the minister of tourism told a round-table discussion on
the Burmese economy here last week.
"What I firmly believe is that for further development in the Myanmar
economy there is the urgent need for the influx of capital and technology,"
he was quoted as saying in the New Light of Myanmar daily.
He was speaking at the opening of the seminar attended by Japanese and local
Staged in one of Rangoon's recently opened international hotels, the event
has been jointly sponsored by the Burma Ministry of Hotels and Tourism and
the Asia-Pacific Forum of Japan.
Kyaw Ba said that resource-rich Burma complemented industrialised Japan and
that there was bound to be "positively fair and equitable" business
opportunities that could benefit both countries.
The round-table talks are to encompass Burma's economy and trade and
investment in the country from the Japanese perspective, the daily reported.
The minister, who is also one of the 21 members of the ruling State Law and
Order Restoration Council (Slorc), expressed his satisfaction at progress in
Burma's economic development and hoped that the discussions would yield
"fruitful results." (TN)
ASIAN AGE: 10,000 VILLAGERS SIGN IN TO SERVE BURMA JUNTA
December 2, 1996
Rangoon, : More than 10,000 Rangoon city workers and
two villages have applied to join the military government's mass
organisation, the Union Solidarity Development Association,
the state press reported on Sunday.
At a ceremony at City Hall on Friday, department heads of the
Rangoon City Development Committee submitted applications
on behalf of employees, according to the New Light of
On Thursday, applications by two whole villages, totalling
4,000 people, were formally given by a community
representative to the USDA chairman for Sagaing division in
northern Burma. According to the government, USDA has built
up a nation-wide membership of five million people, mostly
made up of youths and students, since it was established three
It has recently been under fire from Opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi, who believes that members of USDA carried out an
attack on a motorcade carrying her and senior aides last month.
Students, public workers and teachers are among those
encouraged by authorities to join USDA, to build up civilian
support base of the junta, the State Law and Order Restoration