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Letters, The Flint Journal

Letters to the Editors
The Flint Journal, December 26, 1996

Flint Michigan

(This was in response to the article, recently posted on the net from =
The Los Angeles Times, which appeared in The Flint Journal December 15, =

Dear Sirs,

As a former Flint resident back home for the holidays, I was pleased to =
read your excellent don't-travel article "Hard choices" (Flint Journal =
December 15). =20

The human rights issues in Burma are painfully obvious.  A government =
tour guide may glibly say that the people are "quite content," but that =
is a lie.  Over the past few weeks Burmese students again bravely =
demonstrated against police brutality, risking their very lives.  =
Hundreds have been arrested.  Newly-appointed Secretary of State =
Madeline Albright once commented in Rangoon that from her experience =
with totalitarian regimes she realized that people often smile from =
fear.  The people of Burma are not content at all. =20

Burma is called the South Africa of the '90s, and like South Africa =
under the horror of apartheid, tourism and business as usual in Burma =
amounts to complicity and support for an outrageously brutal regime.

Isn't it obscene for a person to spend 1500 dollars for a three-night =
pleasure cruise in one of the world's  poorest countries?  Once the rice =
bowl of Asia, Burma's people, and especially their children, face =
malnutrition and even starvation.  An egg costs more than a civil =
servant's daily wage!. =20

In Burma the military routinely forces citizens not only to labor =
without pay but also demands that they provide rice rations for =
themselves and for their military masters as well.  Thousands have died =
from disease and accidents in tourism-related slave labor projects. The =
"road to Mandalay" was widened to a highway by slave labor and has been =
dubbed, "the road of no return."  Civilians have been shot as they =
attempted to flee horrendous conditions at their work sites.=20

In 1988 the Burmese demonstrated peacefully all over the country and at =
least ten thousand unarmed people gave their lives for democracy.  In =
1990 the people of Burma overwhelmingly voted against the military and =
for Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. =20

Today Burma is ripe for another uprising.  To travel there is not a =
light matter. =20

Yours truly,
Visakha Decker Kawasaki