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BurmaNet News: December 10, 1996


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

The BurmaNet News:  December 10, 1996
Issue # 588

Noted in Passing:=20

=09=09Students could easily tack political issues to their demands if
=09=09they do not get a response from the government ... the more
=09=09protests staged, the more violent they will be. I don't see a =09=09=
=09quick end
to this," one Asian diplomat said (see: THE =09=09=09NATION: MORE PROTESTS =


December 9, 1996 (Mainichi Daily News)


Letter from Burma (No. 52) By Aung San Suu Kyi

=09This is the last of the weekly Letter from Burma series that began in
November 1995 and I would like to start it on a note of gratitude.  The
intervening 12 months since my first letter have been most eventful.  There
were weeks when so much was happening I could not complete my letter by the
agreed deadline.  But the Mainichi Shimbun did not once reproach me for my
failure to deliver on time; instead, Mr. Hiroshi Nagai and other members of
the staff demonstrated a fine understanding of the difficulties with which =
had to contend.  For this understanding, and for the opportunity afforded m=
to bring the Burmese situation to the attention of the world outside Burma,
I would like to express my sincere thanks to the newspaper.
As one deeply involved in the movement for democracy in Burma, it was
always my intention to concentrate on the political aspect of life in the
country.  However, politics is about people and I have sought to bring out
the human face of our political struggle.  I have written of the effect on
ordinary people of such official requirements as the compulsory reporting o=
overnight visitors to the authorities concerned.  I have discussed what
inflation means at the common, everyday level of an ordinary breakfast.  I
have written about friends and colleagues, about the activities of my party=
the National League for Democracy, and about the trials, in more than one
sense of the word, of political prisoners.  I have described traditional
festivals and Buddhist ceremonies which are an integral part of life in
Burma.  I have tried to present politics as multifaceted and indissolubly
linked to social and economic issues.
In recent months, I have had to focus increasingly on the challenges the
NLD had to face as persecution of its members and supporters reached new
heights.  The political climate has been very volatile since the end of May
when the government took hundreds of NLD members of Parliament, elected in
1990 but never allowed to exercise their function as representatives of the
people, into temporary detention.  (There were some whose "temporary
detention for questioning," as the authorities put it, were converted into
long prison sentences.)  One does not quite know what is going to happen
from one day to the next but one can predict that every time the NLD plans =
major party activity the government is bound to overreact.
It is not just the activities of our own party that bring down the heavy
attention of the authorities upon us.  The activities of others also provid=
them with an excuse for hampering our work.  Toward the end of October,
students of the Rangoon Institute of Technology staged demonstrations
against the way in which some of their numbers had been handled by the
municipal police during an incident in a restaurant.  As a result, the road
to my house was blocked off for the third time within a month (the first tw=
blockades were related to NLD activities) and U Kyi Maung, one of our deput=
chairmen, was taken in for questioning by the military intelligence.  A
number of young men who were known to be our staunch supporters were also
taken into detention for some days and subjected to severe interrogation.
We have now come to expect that the road to my house would be blocked off
late on Friday evening or early on Saturday morning to prevent our weekend
public rallies from taking place.  The blockade is lifted either on Sunday
night or Monday morning or Tuesday, as the spirit moves the authorities.  O=
the evening of Sunday, Dec. 1, the road was unblocked and it seemed as
though the scene was set for a normal week.  But as I observed in one of my
letters, "normal" is not a very appropriate world for describing what goes
on in Burma today.  When Tuesday morning dawned all seemed as usual, but
before 7 a.m. the road had been blocked off once again.  And I was prevente=
from leaving my house.  What was it all about?  There had been another
demonstration led by the students of the Rangoon Institute of Technology.
We heard that they were later joined by students from the Rangoon Arts and
Science University.  Immediately the authorities seemed bent on finding som=
way of linking this development to the NLD.
The students of Rangoon University established a tradition of social
awareness and political activism during the colonial days when they were
prominent in the independence movement.  The years of authoritarian rule
blunted the political awareness of our young people but did not kill the
instincts that lead them to seek justice and freedom.  If there is student
discontent, the authorities should seek to redress the ills that lie at the
root of this discontent: the protests of the young often reflect the genera=
malaise of their society.
The end of the year is a time for assessing past events and preparing for
the future.  It is a time for us to decide that we should resolve the
problems of our country through political rather than military means.

("Letter from Burma," which has been carried by the Mainichi Daily News in
English and the Mainichi Shimbun in Japanese, will be compiled and publishe=
as books in the near future)

The original English-language version is scheduled to be published by
Penguin Books next spring.  The Japanese translation will be published by
the Mainichi Shimbun on Dec. 24.

As some Burmanet subscribers already know, Daw Suu's "Letter from Burma"
series has been translated into Burmese by Kyaw Kyaw Soe, an activist in
Tokyo, and published in Voice of Burma, a weekly digest of Burmese news in
the Burmese language.  Kyaw Kyaw Soe's translations will also be compiled i=
a book to be published by Voice of Burma Group later this month.  Stay tune=
for details.


December 7, 1996
Aung Zaw

Many remain surprised by the junta's refusal to use its heavy-handed ways i=
dispersing demonstrators.

THEY were on the streets again. On Monday afternoon, hundreds of Burmese
students from the Rangoon Institute of Technology [RIT] marched to Rangoon
University and staged a peaceful sit-in protest. The protest was a second
largest in six weeks.=20

The extraordinary gathering was directly related to the military junta's
mishandling of a brawl in October between the RIT students and a restaurant
owner. Additionally, the RIT students were outraged by leaflets distributed
in their compound, urging them to stay out of political activities.

In October incident, three students were arrested and subsequently beaten u=
while in police custody. One of the students received a wound that requirin=
12 stitches to close. It was also alleged that the police stole the
students' belongings. Shortly afterwards, the university expelled the
students, thus literally adding insult to injury.

Because of this, students again took to the streets later that months and
asked for the release of accurate news on the incident and punishment for
the police involved in the brutal beating.=20

The junta's spokesman recently said two policemen were fired because of the
incident and were also sentenced to two years' hard labor.

But the recent protest had a political tone. Students requested the
establishment of an  independent student council where they could demand fo=
their rights. They also asked for the  release of students arrest after the
October protests and an investigation into who was responsible for
distributing the unsigned leaflets.

Reliable sources said the protest were organised by the "Commission to
Protect Students' Rights" that set up only a few months ago. It is
apparently an underground organisation that the military regime, officially
known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council [Slorc], is not aware =

On Monday, after a brief protest at their compound, the RIT students
blockaded a key intersection near Rangoon University where they were joined
by students.

Spectators said many residents either joined the students or offered food
and water. Minister for Education Pan Aung and several professors, includin=
government officials, met with the students although their effort to
persuade the students to return to their classrooms were in vain.=20

Witnesses reported that students however, were divided. One group called
for students' rights, while another demanded freedom and democracy. Analyst=
said the situation was very much like the one before the 1988 uprising when
students were the first who took to the streets.

Witnesses said most students dispersed after midnight when the officials se=
up loudspeakers and asked them to leave. But hundreds of students vowed to
continue the protest until their demands were met.

As the night wore on, it seem the protest grew into a pro-democracy
demonstration. Some students hoisted a portrait of Gen. Aung San, oppositio=
leader Aung San Suu Kyi's father, while others carried banners saying, "We
want justice", "We Want Freedom" and "Give Us Human Rights".=20

Others yelled out: "We have to fight for democracy,".
A crowd of more than a thousand and shortly after midnight, some students
marched from the Sule Pagoda intersection to the center of Rangoon.=20

Along the way, they chanted slogans and made their way to the front of the
US embassy, where some students delivered political speeches.

Around 4:00a.m, the students saw a phalanx of riot police near the Shwedago=
pagoda. More than 300 students were taken away when they refused to dispers=

Officials claimed that they had sent the students back to their home or
hostel after the riot police checked identity cards.
Unconfirmed reports said dozens of students were beaten as they tried to
flee. Sources said Myo Thant, 39, a local correspondent for Yomiuri Shumbun
newspaper was beaten up and detained for four hours.

"They were neither detained nor did they face any charges. They were simply
held briefly to sort out whether they were real students or infiltrators,"
the junta's spokesman said. Analyst noted that the authorities felt the
demonstration was a threat to stability.=20

While Slorc did not make  any report on the protests, Col. Kyaw Win, deputy
director of the Directorate for Defense Services Intelligence, said  "There
are elements opposed to the government...and we believe that some political
infiltration has come in and there may be a disturbance to political

"The government would like to see the students pursue their education
peacefully so it is handling this in a very gentle manner,"  he added.

In October, the junta detained Kyi Maung, 78, vice chairman of the National
League for Democracy shortly after the students protest. The Slorc alleged
that Kyi Maung met with two students from the RIT  and was arrested for tha=
reason. Government officials said the students and the politicians were
trying to turn the quarrel into a bigger political issue. It accused the
students of colluding with the NLD. But Suu Kyi said she and her party had
no connection with the recent and previous protest.=20

In spite of that, and like before, the authorities immediately set up a roa=
near Suu Kyi's home to prevent her supporters from meeting her. Suu Kyi
called the situation "unlawful confinement".

Indeed, the protest in Rangoon underscored the volatile relationship that
exists between students and Slorc, which has run the country for eight year=
Rangoon-based observers said the protests, in wake of growing political
tensions in Burma, had shaken the regime. Slorc watchers said the second
round of student protests had evidently surprised the military leaders.=20

The nature of the protest simply went beyond the mistreatment of the
students who were arrested in October. In truth, the protests were
anti-Slorc and pro-democracy. It also called for the release of student
political prisoners and the re-establishment of the students'  union. The
historic students' union building was demolished in 1962 shortly after Gen
Ne Win came into power.

"It is too obvious that they (students) don't like the regime," commented a
Rangoon-based diplomat. He also said he was surprised to see the junta's
low-profile and middle-of-the-road approach.

"If it was 1988, they would have been shot on the streets or imprisoned," h=
said. "The authorities seemed to act with considerable restraint," he stres=

Another Western diplomat said: "It is a clever move on the part of the
students. We are not aware of any planned action taken by Slorc, although I
think it is coming."

One analyst who closely monitored the recent event summed it up: "The
military leaders are always sensitive to students' opinions. There are also
foreign media representatives in Rangoon who attend the Slorc's monthly
press conference. This is probably why they did not resort to violence to
crush the protests."

Last month, Slorc launched its ambitious "Visit Myanmar Year" campaign. "It
is a different ball game for the junta," a Bangkok-based Slorc watcher said=
"If there is any group that has the potential to initiate instability in
Rangoon, it is the students."

That is evident as the recent treatment given to the students differed from
the one Suu Kyi has been receiving.

The junta put to use carefully-worded statements and explanations, and
avoided the direct confrontation with the students who have traditionally
been at the forefront of Burmese  politics since the 1920s.

There was no mention about the protest or the attacks on the students in
state-owned newspapers where authorities continuously slam Suu Kyi and the =

Aung Naing Oo, spokesman for the All Burma Students' Democratic Front, said=
"Resorting to clumsy and heavy-handed tactics could worsen the situation."

The last and largest demonstration staged in Burma was in 1991 shortly afte=
Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace prize. The military responded by
arresting 900 students and giving them lengthy prison sentences. Since then=
no large-scale demonstrations have taken place, although there have been th=
occasional protests.

Students have not been excluded from the ongoing political crackdown. In
August alone, the junta arrested nine youths, including one female student,
for distributing anti-Slorc leaflets. Two students from Rangoon University,
a student from the Institute of Medicine and some students from RIT were
also apprehended. Many students, including some still in high school, are
still in prison.

Not surprisingly, this has resulted in former students and activists
resurfacing. The groups have held several clandestine meetings.

On Oct 27, the underground students' committee issued a statement, saying
that: "The Commission for the Protection of Students' Rights aims to work
for the benefits of students in accordance with fundamental human rights,
basic political and civil rights, freedom, equality, peace and the
development of a civilised society."

In October, Ko Ko Naing (not his real name), who participated in the
protest, said: "We realised that we have to do something since all of us
here are suffocating". "At the moment," he said, "the military leaders are
busy looking for some elements whom they can accused of being firebrands wh=
have rocked the boat. Indeed, how far will the Slorc let the students go
remains to be seen. The students, it seems, were apparently testing the wat=


December 9, 1996

Rangoon, : Burma's military authorities on Sunday kept =20
some roads closed around two universities in northern Rangoon =20
near where soldiers and police broke up a student protest the =20
day before, witnesses said.=20
The atmosphere around the University of Yangon and the =20
Yangon Institute of Technology was tense as armed troops and =20
police manned some sections of the main and side roads linking =20
the two institutions, they told Reuters.=20
"The atmosphere is visibly tense. I saw about 350 helmeted =20
soldiers near one intersection last night," a witness said. =20
Elsewhere, Rangoon was calm.=20
The road closures followed a night filled with rumours in =20
Rangoon that the ruling State Law and Order Restoration =20
Council might impose a night curfew after breaking up the =20
student protest at a road junction near Yangon University early =20
on Saturday.=20
There were also rumours the SLORC might close the two =20
institutions, whose students last week staged the two biggest =20
protests seen in Rangoon since pro-democracy uprisings in =20
1988 were crushed by the military, leaving thousands dead or in jail.=20
The SLORC has made no comment in response to the rumours. =20
The authorities also continued to bar access to the residence of =20
opposition leader Aung San Sun Kyi in an apparent attempt to =20
prevent her from holding public gatherings and a,, a preventive =20
measure to keep her away from the student protests.=20
Early on Saturday, troops and police used water cannons to =20
break up the student group protesting near Yangon University. =20
Protesters, who refused to disperse despite pleas by government =20
officials, were detained.=20
Among other things they be allowed to set up student unions in =20
campuses they claimed were detained in a separate incident.=20
Many witnesses said they heard anti-government chanting by =20
students near a campus compound close to Yangon University =20
on Saturday night.=20
But they could not give any details because the area was scaled =20
off from the purpose of the roads was a government attempt to =20
cut off links. (Reuter)


December 9, 1996 (abridged)
Rangoon, AFP, Reuters   =20

Burmese authorities beefed up security yesterday in Rangoon as
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi condemned the violence used to break up =
student protest and dismissed efforts to link her party to the demonstratio=
ns .

Only residents were allowed through checkpoints, with barbed-wire
lined barricades manned by contingents of police and troops on every
approach road to the secured area that covered several square kilometres
including all the universities in the capital, witnesses said.

Police with rattan shields and batons were posted near the centre of studen=
activism in Rangoon the Yangon Institute of Technology but traffic was
allowed to pass.

Some 200 students continued the protests yesterday morning,
singing the national anthem and chanting slogans outside the main
campus for about 30 minutes to press their demands for a national
student union, witnesses said.

More than 100 soldiers marched to the scene, and the apparently
isolated demonstration ended peacefully soon after.

Effectively confined to her residential compound for two days
since the most defiant student demonstration  since 1988 ended
early Saturday, Aung San Suu Kyi criticised the use of riot police.=20

"We at the NLD (National League for Democracy) are against any
kind of violence. It's no way to resolve the problems of the
country," the Nobel peace laureate told AFP by telephone.

Meanwhile hundreds of boarding students at the two troubled
universities left for home after protests by their colleagues,
campus sources said on Sunday.

About one third of 2,275 boarding students at the Yangon
Institute of Technology had left their sprawling campus for the
provinces since midweek, they told Reuters.

Two American tourists who were staying at a hotel about 500
metres south of that demonstration, said that on Saturday
evening, armed troops lined the road and were billeted at
locations including private houses.

Phone lines were cut and security was tight for both residents
and foreigners, they said.

Access was still blocked into the protest area yesterday, with
barbedwire barricades manned by small contingents of police and
troops on every approach road.

Meanwhile, authorities beefed up security on Sunday for more than
a square kilometre around all universities in Rangoon in the wake
of student protests, eyewitnesses said.

Only residents were allowed through checkpoints, with barbed
wire-lined barricades manned by contingents of police and troops.

A contingent 'of  police with rattan shields and batons were
posted near the centre of student activism in Rangoon the Yangon
Institute of Technology but traffic was allowed to pass.

On Saturday evening, some 150 students staged a demonstration
outside another campus for about one and half hours, before
returning to their hostels voluntarily, witnesses said.

Official Burmese radio reported on Saturday that military
authorities had met in Rangoon with senior pr=F3fessors from all of
the city's universities following the student protests.

About 1,000 people took part in the protest that ended on
Saturday morning.

The protesters' key demand is the formation of a union which has
been forbidden in Burma since the military took power in 1962.

Students have ambitions for it to be a nationwide organisation
with representatives from different ethnic groups in Burma.

A little political opening could ease the situation, but the
government fears it could be destabilising," Kyi Maung, co-vice
chairman of the main opposition National League for Democracy
(NLD), told AFP yesterday.

He said that although  the-NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, had no
direct connection with the student movement, it sympathised with
their aims.

Meanwhile, Slorc first secretary General Khin Nyunt was quoted in
the official press yesterday as telling the participants at the
Southeast Asian Open Body-Building competition that Burma was
enjoying an "unprecedented period of peace and tranquillity" .=20


December 9, 1996

In the past week the ruling State Law and Order Restoration
Council (Slorc) has faced its biggest challenge from students
since troops crushed student-led pro-democracy uprisings in 1988,
leaving thousands dead or in jail.

Last Monday and Tuesday, up to 2,000 students from the Yangon
(Rangoon) Institute of Technology (YIT) held street protests
demanding more freedom and rights. The protest ended when more
than 600 of the original number refused to disperse in central
Rangoon and were detained by police on Tuesday before being

On Saturday, soldiers and riot police used water cannons and
batons to break up a protest by University of Yangon students who
refused to disperse despite official pleas. More than 260
students were held briefly and most were later released.=20
Those students demanded among other things that they be allowed
to set up student unions in campuses and the release of; 80
colleagues they claimed were detained in a separate incident.

Although the students maintained their protests were
non-political, one Western diplomat said they had "more political
edges" than previous ones as protest banners also called for
freedom, justice, human rights and fair government.

"Basically, the issues remain unresolved. The situation could
deteriorate if it became politicised," the diplomat said.=20
The timing of the protests could not be worse for Slorc.

International criticism has mounted over its human rights record
and failure to recognise a landslide 1990 election victory by the
opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party led by Aung
San Suu Kyi.

Recent crackdowns on the NLD have also led to calls by Western
nations for the delay of Burma's entry into the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Protesters in the past week have carried pictures of independence
hero Aung San, father of Suu Kyi, reminding people of scenes
during the 1988 uprisings.

"Students could easily tack political issues to their demands if
they do not get a response from the government ... the more
protests staged, the more violent they will be. I don't see a quick end to
this," one Asian diplomat said. He said the government, for fear of being
embarrassed, had been reluctant to compromise and accept key student demand=

Other diplomats said S1orc would not allow the organisation of
independent student unions on campuses.
Suu Kyi and the NLD have not exploited the student protests and
the two sides  ray they are not linked. But political analysts
see similarities in their demands for  justice and freedom. The
students said they had no links with the Nobel peace laureate.

So far, Slorc has not said how it plans to deal with the issues
raised by the students, although last week official media said
students should primarily focus on their studies. A government
spokesman said some access roads to YIT and Yangon University had
been blocked yesterday to keep "political agitators" away from

On Saturday, a government official said "soft" measures had been
taken so far against the student protesters and the authorities
were looking into the problem. However, he gave no details of any
measures or solutions planned.

The disturbances have to some extent damaged tourist interest in
Burma's Visit Myanmar Year", which was  launched last month in
the hope of attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the
country,  diplomats said. Asean, which comprises Brunei,
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and
Vietnam, said on Nov 30 it would simultaneously admit Burma, Laos
and Cambodia as full members of the grouping, but did not say when.=20


December 9, 1996 (Thailand Times)
by Assawin Pinitwong

TAK: Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) yesterday asked for
assistance from Umphang Hospital in preparation for a possible
influx of refugees from Burma into Thailand following renewed
hostilities between Burmese government and the Karen National
Union (KNU) after the latest round of peace negotiations  proved

MSF or Doctors Without Borders, a charitable organization based
in France that provides  medical assistance to refugees, asked
the hospital to help provide medical equipment, medicine and
hospital facilities in case MSF is overwhelmed by the flood of
Burmese refugees.

Thai military sources say Burmese troops are preparing to attack
a KNU base near the Thai-Burmese border opposite Umphang
district. Casualties are expected to be high.

The hospital officials said they will supply MSF with medicine as
long as the hospital's own patients have adequate medical supply.=20

A new flood of about 10,000 Karen refugees is likely to flow onto
Thai soil if Burma goes ahead with it's planned assault against
the KNU's Division 6 area which  includes Ah Sien and Chae Daw
villages. MSF has provided its services to some of the most
troubled spots in the world. Even under the most extreme and
prohibitive conditions, they traditionally will be the last
relief organization to withdraw from an area.

However, if the refugee crisis is as severe as anticipated, MSF
fears it will be unable to provide adequate care to such a vast
number of people.

The fifth round of peace negotiations between Burma's military
government and the KNU in Moulmein last month ended in a


December 9, 1996

JAKARTA - Burma's national airline, Myanmar Airways International (MAI), is
scheduled to start services between Rangoon and Jakarta tomorrow, a report
here said on Saturday.

"The planes will serve Yangon-Jakarta via Singapore and Jakarta-Yangon also
via Singapore," said Grace Lumowa, operations manager of PT Wabiru Adikarsa=
MAI's sales-agent here.

"We expect to see promising load factors for the Singapore-Jakarta route."

Yangon is the official name used by Burma's military rulers for Rangoon, as
is Myanmar for Burma.

MAI would operate Boeing 737-400 aircraft on the new route, Lumowa was
quoted as saying in the Jakarta Post.

Indonesia and Burma have increased trade and political relations in recent
years, with many ministers and business leaders from each country exchangin=

Burma is trying to increase links with member countries of the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations it prepares to join as a full member, along with
Cambodia and Laos. (TN)


December 7, 1996
Chakrit Ridmontri

Two years ago, the first maker for an overland gas pipeline from the Yadana
gas field was sunk at Hpaungdaw village off the Gulf of Martaban in
southeast Burma.

French oil firm Total discovered a huge has reserve there and the markers
were put down to show the route the pipeline would take to get to the Thai

Plans show it crossing into Thailand at E-tong village in Kanchanaburi's
Thong Pha Phum district and it is this subsequent route that has provoked a
rising tide of criticism.

At Hpaungdaw, 400 families were allegedly forced to clear their own land to
allow the pipeline to cut through rice fields and coconut groves. Today,
makers dot the route from E-tong village to a gas-powered electricity plant
in Ratchaburi province, 260 kilometres away.

In Thailand, no villagers along the pipeline route have yet been forced to
leave as in Burma and if they are at least they will compensated. However,
the pipe' route will cut through lush forests, a natural and priceless trea=

The Petroleum authority of Thailand (PTT) has signed a contract with Total
to import 525 million cubic feet of gas per day (MMcfd) from the Yadana
field. It will also import 200 MMcfd from US oil firm Texaco which operates
the Yetagun gas field south of Yadana.

To receive the gas two pipelines will merge at E-tong village. From here th=
PTT plans to lay a 42-inch wide pipe to the 4,600-megawatt power station ru=
by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat).

The Banharn Silpa-archa cabinet approved the PTT's 16.9-billion-baht plan i=
May. It also allowed the PTT to run the pipeline  through first-class
watershed land.

According to the PTT, 36 km of the line will run through these watershed
areas and national parks. But only six kilometres will pass through fertile
forests, between kilometre marker posts 18 and 24.

The Office of Environmental Policy and Planning's (OEPP) environmental
experts committee ordered the PTT to work with the Forestry Department to
make sure the pipeline's impact on the environment was kept to a minimum.

The department has carried out its study and concludes that the PTT's
planned route would have minimal impact on the forests.

Thaworn Larmsrichan, director of the Natural Resource Conservation Office,
said only 694 mature trees would have to axed if the six kilometre-stretch
passes through forests in Huay Kha Yeng national reserve forest in Thong Ph=
Phum district, Kanchanaburi.

"The route cannot  be changed so these trees will have to be felled," he
said. Changing the route would result in greater numbers of trees being
felled, he added. "Within one year grass and shrubs will cover the pipe and
nothing will show that the pipe has been laid there."

Earlier this week, the Kanchanaburi Conservation Group carried out its own
survey of the route through Huay Kha Yeng forest.  It found one foot metal
markers set in concrete and a large number of trees marked with red and
yellow paint indicating they are to be axed.

Boonsong Chansngrassamee, a leader of the group, said forests along the
route were not degraded as the PTT has claimed.

"Forests along the route from E-tong village to Sai Yok district are mostly
fertile. Some have been officially declared as first-class watershed and
national park which are firmly protected by law. Forests outside these
areas, such as in Huay Kha Yeng forest, are any less fertile," he said. Mr
Boonsong said the status of such forest land should be looked at again to
see if it should  be reclassified. =20

However, a Karen villager said forest land around the pipeline' route seeme=
thinner than other low-lying forests and he blamed it on elephants. "They
tramp and eat the shrubs, so the undergrowth is thinner," he explained.

Mr Boonsong said the group would ask the government and the PTT to halt the
project to allow it time to conduct its own impact study. He blamed the PTT
for a lack of openness, and criticised it for not informing villagers of it=
plans until after the pipe markers had been laid.

And he accused the PTT of bribing villagers  by arranging a luxury trips to
enable them to visit its pipeline in Chon Buri province. It had also
allegedly offered big donations to temples during various merit-making
ceremonies to pacify local resistance.

Fellow group member Thiwaporn Srivorakul said vast areas of forests in
Tambon Wang Krachoe, Sai Yok district, were being encroached on by town
people. They were collaborating with village chiefs to demand high
compensation payments from the PTT if the pipe passed by.

She also wondered why the two gas pipes had to merge at E-tong village and=
pass Kanchanaburi, splitting vast areas of fertile forest. "If the pipes
from both fields went straight to the power plant in Ratchaburi the route
would be shorter," she said.

She thought the western oil firms and the PTT wanted the pipe to go via
Kanchanaburi because it would provide energy to an industrial  complex in
Tavoy which had the support of the government and businessmen.

The PTT has insisted it will not change the route but it has agreed to hold
a technical hearing early next year to show what it is doing to limit the
environmental impact.

Local conservation groups and non-governmental orgnisations, including
environmental experts at OEPP, will be able to voice their opinions. Their
views will be included in the PTT final draft of its environmental impact

The draft will go before the National Environment Board which will consider
the impact mitigation measures suggested. According to a senior
environmental official,  the report does not need the board's approval sinc=
the project has already been approved by the cabinet. The project was
initiated before the 1992 Environmental Act was passed requiring n EIA for
projects of the size. (BP)


December 8, 1996

 A group of about ten activists from four countries (including Burma/Myanma=
and Japan) and a variety of groups, including the Burmese Relief
Center--Japan and Amnesty International (Kobe and Osaka members), held a
protest in the Hankyu Sannomiya Station area of Kobe in the early afternoon
of Sunday, December 8.  Their purpose was to celebrate International Human
Rights Day, which is coming up on December 10, and to highlight the ongoing
human rights abuses occurring in Burma/Myanmar.  It was hoped that public
awareness of the situation in that nation would be raised.  Some of the
activists have participated in a similar protest every year since 1990.

Though Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released from
house arrest last year she is not being allowed freedom of movement or
action and her physical safety is threatened. Many members of her National
League for Democracy have been arbitrarily arrested or seriously harassed.
The NLD was the overwhelming winner of elections held in 1990 but were
prevented from taking power by the State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC) of the military junta.  There are many prisoners of conscience in
Burma/Myanmar.  There is torture, extra-judicial executions and forced
labour.  Some of the forced labour is being used on projects related to the
tourist industry.  We are in what the junta describes as "Visit Myanmar Yea=

The Kobe activists called for a boycott of Visit Myanmar Year.  They
expressed concern for Aung San Suu Kyi's safety and passed out flyers
explaining the situation in both English and Japanese. They called for a
halt to commercial links until SLORC halts its human rights violations and
allows for the establishment of democracy.  Unless things change radically
the protesters will be back again next year calling for justice.