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People's Forum on Burma Inaugural M

Subject: People's Forum on Burma Inaugural Meeting


	TOKYO, Dec. 21 - A group of Japanese supporting the restoration of 
democracy in Myanmar formed a multinational group here Saturday, called the
People's Forum on Burma, forum officials said.
	The forum, with some 100 members, received a letter of felicitation from
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the officials said.
	Made up mostly of Japanese and Myanmarese dissidents with some Americans
and Filipinos, the forum will enhance Japanese public awareness of what is
happening in Myanmar, said Shogo Watanabe, one of the founding members.  It
invites individual participation of any nationality resident in Japan.
	Watanabe, a lawyer helping Myanmarese seeking refugee status in Japan, said
the civic group will make public statements on various Japan-Myanmar issues
from time to time.
	He said such a group is needed as the Japanese government has done little
to help Myanmarese who have fled military persecution in their country and
are seeking refuge in Japan.
	A 15-member interim steering committee was appointed at Saturday's meeting
which will lead the group until elections are held in March.  The committee
will be headed by Hiroshi Nagai, a professor of international studies at
Shizuoka Eiwa College and a former senior editor at the Mainichi Newspapers
who was responsible for translating into Japanese Aung San Suu Kyi's "Letter
from Burma" series.  The remaining 14 member includes lawyers, journalists,
teachers, students and four Burmese activists.
	U Win Khet, of the NLD(LA), thanked all involved in the formation of the
PFB on behalf of the Burmese residents in Japan.
	Yasuko Takemura, a Member of Parliament, said a multinational group of
parliamentarians were refused entry into Burma in January and a forum
scheduled in Rangoon was held in Bangkok.  She said that on the contrary,
MPs on good terms with SLORC find it easy to get visas.  She pointed out
that under such a discriminative regime, democracy could not flourish.  They
can refuse us entry visas, but we will continue to work from outside till
democracy returns to Burma, she said.
	Aung Thu of the Burma Youth Volunteer Association called for more Japanese
involvement including active participation in rallies against the SLORC
embassy in Tokyo.
	Yayoi Matsui of Women's Information Center of the Pacific, who was in Burma
from Dec. 11-17, said people are poorer now:  the HIV situation is serious
and those who are confirmed or even suspected of being HIV postive are kept
at a distance even by family members.  Everywhere she went she kept hearing
the word "forced":  forced labor, forced relocation, forced participation,
forced religious conversion.  She said people should do more to make SLORC's
visit Myanmar Year a complete failure.  SLORC at first expected 1 million
visitors, then 500 thousand, and now 250 thousand.

-- Compiled from Kyodo News and other sources