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BurmaNet News December 27, 1996

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

The BurmaNet News:  December 27, 1996
Issue #600

December 27, 1996

 1) Military Intelligence Arrests Student Leader Ko Soe Tun And Friends

Military Intelligence Service (MIS) personnel arrested Ko Soe Tun, interim
chairman of the student union, and 8 other students on Christmas Day in
Rangoon.  It's understood the students were holding a meeting to plan
resuming student action on December 27 when the MIS detained them.  =20

2) Thakin Lwin Passes Away At His Home In Rangoon

Thakin Lwin, a leading member of the democratic opposition  (NLD CEC)=20
and former freedom fighter against British colonial rule, died at his
home in Rangoon on December 20.=20

He was a leading member of the Doh Bama Ahsee Ahyone (We-Burmese
Association) which was the main opposition group against the
British. He was a leading member of U Nu's Anti-Fascist People's
Freedom League (AFPFL) government and the general secretary of=20
the Trade Union Congress of Burma (TUCB). He later founded=20
Burma's Workers and Peasants Party (BWPP) after AFPFL split and
allied with Widura Thakin Chit Maung.
His funeral service was held on December 24 at Kyan Daw Cemetery.
Those that attended the funeral were family members, friends,
members of various political parties and representatives of
diplomatic missions in Rangoon.

His family members and supporters carried his coffin from Louis
Street to Maha Bandoola Street, before the coffin was placed in a
hearse and taken to the cemetery to be cremated.

Sources in Rangoon told the ABSDF that U Kyi Maung, vice chairman
of the NLD, attended the service. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was unable
to attend as she has not be allowed out of her house following
the recent student protests.=20

3) Rangoon Institute of Technology Is Transferred To The Ministry
Of Science And Technology

Sources in Rangoon told the ABSDF that the SLORC has transferred
the Rangoon Institute of Technology from the Ministry of Education to the
newly-created Ministry of Science and Technology.  Although there are rumor=
and speculations as to why the institute was handed over to the ministry,
the move is not clear.


December 27, 1996

RANGOON - Two bombs exploded at a Burmese Buddhist shrine
frequented by leaders of Burma's military r me on Christmas
night, the second killing five people and wounding 17, a
government spokesman said yesterday.=20
The blasts occurred on Wednesday at the KabaAye Pagoda and
man-made Maha Pasana Cave about 12 kilometres north of downtown
Rangoon as hordes of pilgrims were paying homage to the Sacred
Tooth Relic, which is on loan from China.=20
The government later  said a timebomb was responsible for the
deaths and accused student ex=FCes and Karen ethnic insurgents of
planting it.

State-run Radio Rangoon said that " time bombs had exploded at
the  Kaba Aye  pagoda complex, while a Burmese government
information sheet received in Bangkok spoke of a two-inch-square
timed mine."

The information sheet quoted intelligence reports as saying that
the All Burma Student Democratic Front and the Karen National
Union have concocted a plan to destabilise the peaceful situation=20
prevailing in the country by terrorist activities."        =20

Official media earlier said the bombs were planted by  "a group
of dastardly destructive elements" aimed at harming Sino-Burmese
ties, and  caused " terror and anxiety among the people".

The first, which exploded near the eastern gate of the cave at
about 8.20 pm and injured  no one, came just three hours after a
visit by Lt Gen Tin Oo, third in command of the ruling State Law
and Order Restoration Council (Slorc). Security officials were
checking the pagoda and grounds when the second bomb went off in=20
the Maha Pasana Cave shrine at 10.35 pm, killing one security
official, one Red Cross worker and two members of the
government-sponsored Union Solidarity Development Association,
the official newspaper  New Light of Myanamr reported. A fifth
person, a sub-inspector of the police special branch later
succumbed to his injuries.

The fatal bomb had been planted inside a  flower container where
pilgrims  place d offerings as they filed past the  relic to pay
their respects.

A monk and five pilgrims were among those injured and all the
victims were believed to be Burmese . No claim of responsibility
was mentioned. A doctor treating the injured said most were
struck by shrapnel, noting that more might have been hurt if the
first explosion had not scared many people from the area.

Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, the fourth highest- ranking government member,
visited the injured in hospital yesterday.=20

The Sacred Tooth Relic, believed to be a tooth of the Lord
Buddha, was brought to Burma on Dec 6 on loan for 90 days and was
taken to the Pagoda in a chariot drawn by an elephant replete
with regalia in the style of replete with  regalia in the style of Burma's=
ancient kingdom. The relic was not damaged, the media reported.

Thousands of people have visited the pagoda daily, including top
leaders of the ruling junta. State newspapers carried front -page pictures=
of the Slorc chairman Gen Than Shwe when he paid a visit.

Security was stepped up around the home of the Chinese ambassador
and other official Chinese offices yesterday and soldiers were
deployed to guard the temple compound.

The Chinese Embassy yesterday condemned what it called a "terrorist action"=

We are shocked at the bomb explosion in the Maha Pasana Cave on
December 25 and strongly condemn this terrorist action, " the embassy said.

"The bomb attacks on the sacred shrine killing and injuring
innocent people blaspheme the Buddha and go against the will of
the people," the embassy statement said.

December 27, 1996
                ABSDF Saddened By Bomb Blasts In Rangoon

1) The ABSDF is deeply saddened by the news of two bomb blasts at Kaba Aye
Pagoda and Maha Pasana Cave on Christmas night, in which  five people were
killed and 17 wounded.

2) The ABSDF wishes to make it known that despite SLORC's claim, we played
no role whatsoever in this despicable act. As an organization which is
struggling to achieve peace, human rights and democracy we deplore the loss
of innocent civilian lives. While we still maintain forces for defence
purposes along the Thai-Burma border, the ABSDF considers the use of
terrorism to be inimical to our aims, and has therefore adopted non-violent
political defiance strategies in order to achieve our goal.

3) Furthermore, the ABSDF and other democratic forces are actively seeking
to develop a relationship with China, and we therefore would not conduct an=
activities which would be detrimental to this aim.=20

4) The SLORC has a history of bombing its own embassies in Bangkok and Toky=
and a number of other sites in Rangoon for the purposes of discrediting
opposition groups. Given this history and its bloody crackdown on Buddhists
monks in 1990,  the ABSDF believes that only the junta itself would be
capable of sinking so low as to bomb a Buddhist temple.  We therefore
suspect that the Kaba Aye bombing to be the result of a plot of the SLORC t=
implicate democratic opposition groups in such acts of terrorism in order t=
justification for another crackdown.=20
Central Committee
All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF)
Date: December 27, 1996


December 26, 1996

Bangkok, Dec.26: Burma's military authorities announced on=20
Thursday that they were cancelling plans to run the seventh annual=20
International Marathon on December 30. Sate-run radio Rangoon,=20
monitored in Bangkok, gave no reason for the cancellation.  The=20
announcement was made less than 24 hours after a double bomb blast=20
at the Kaba Aye pagoda complex which killed five
people and injured 18. The marathon, initially planned for December 14,
had been rescheduled to December 30 after hundreds of students took to the
streets of Rangoon to demand the right to form the union and the release
of detained students.  The newspapers in Burma said the blasts were
intended to "cause terror and anxiety among the people," the paper said.
The newly-built pagoda is on the northern edge of Rangoon, between Inya
Lake and the airport. (AFP)


December 27, 1996
Yindee Lertcharoenchok

For Burma, the year 1997 is likely to be full of political
excitement. The country's domestic affairs and its relations with
the international community have continued to capture global
attention and front page prominence.=20
The simmering resentment over the Burmese junta's heavy-handed
rule and its harsh suppression of political dissent emerged in a
series of confrontations and street protests by university
students, who staged the country's biggest demonstration since
the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.=20

The military regime known as the State Law and Order Restoration
Council (Slorc) remained intolerant of any sign of political
defiance or civil disobedience and despite domestic and  external
pressure, still refused to open a dialogue with the National
League for Democracy (NLD) headed by the 1991 Nobel Prize
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The year began with the surprising news from Shan State where
Golden Triangle warlord Khun Sa announced he was ending his armed
revolt and the so called surrender of his powerful Mong Tai Army
as well as an enormous stockpile of weaponry to the Slorc.

While Rangoon warmly welcomed the man whom it had earlier
condemned as a major narco-trafficker responsible for the
countless deaths of Burmese soldiers, the United States, on the
other hand, coped badly with the unfolding event.

Washington's persistent requests for the extradition of Khun Sa,
held accountable for some 60 per cent of the heroin smuggled into
the US, to stand trial on drug charges received a cool government response.

In May, the political temperature rose when the NLD decided to
push ahead with its agenda to break the virtual political
stalemate that had resulted from the regime's refusal to talk
with pro-democracy activists.

Its plan to hold a three-day party congress at Suu Kyi's lakeside
residence to mark the sixth anniversary of the NLD' landslide
victory in the May 27, 1990 general elections was met by a
massive crackdown across the country. More than 260 party members
and supporters were arrested and incarcerated ahead of the
conference, of which 11, including Suu Kyi's personal assistant
Win Htein, were later sentenced to long prison terms.

Undeterred by one of the worst blows ever inflicted on the party,
the defiant NLD went ahead with the meeting of its remaining
delegates who adopted a bold resolution to draft an alternative
constitution to the one being written by the Slorc-organised
National Convention since January 1993. The military rulers
retaliated by promulgating on June 7 a tough new law that allows
the authority to imprison for up to 20 years anyone opposing its
constitutional convention or drafting their own charter.

While the US stood out as an outspoken critic of the Slorc's
tough actions against the NLD, the sudden death in prison on June
22 of James Leander Nichols, a former honorary consul general for
several Nordic and European countries, sparked an unprecedented
backlash and condemnation from the European Union.

The EU's demand for an independent autopsy to the death of
Nichols, an Anglo-Burmese who was arrested in April on charges of
operating telephones and fax machines without permission,  went unheeded.

In late September, the Slorc prevented Suu Kyi from giving her
public weekend speech for the first time since her release from
house arrest in July last year.
It deployed heavily-armed Lon Htein - riot police - to block off
the NLD leader's University Avenue compound and began a new round
of arrests of NLD activists to prevent them from attending
another congress slated for Sept 27-29 to celebrate the eighth
anniversary of the party's founding.

While Suu Kyi told reporters that up to 800 NLD people were
arrested, the Slorc said 559 were detained ahead of the
conference to prevent anarchy.

Shortly after the nationwide clampdown, President Bill Clinton on
Oct 1 signed into a law a long-debated bill that will allow him
to ban new investment in Burma if the Slorc harms or re-arrests Suu Kyi.

Clinton intensified the US pressure on the regime by invoking a
visa ban on Burmese  government officials and their families, a
virtually symbolic move which drew a rec Burmese ban on American
officials travelling to Burma.

The Slorc removed the barricade on Oct 8 but re-erected it three
days later to prevent Suu Kyi from  holding her weekend rally.
She has since been unable to address her supporters who have
risked official reprisals to attend the gatherings.
Although the repression has  stained Burma's relations with the
West, the Slorc continued to enjoy close contact and cooperation
with Asian powers - China, Japan, and the seven-member
Association of  Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) which decline to
"interfere in Burma's domestic politics".=20
The regime has aptly exploited the Asia card to counter Western
criticism of its poor political and human rights records. Despite
strong opposition from Burmese activists, Asean in July welcomed
Slorc representatives as an observer for the first time to the
annual foreign ministerial meeting in Jakarta.=20
A month later, the junta leaders made an unexpected request for
Burma to join the regional grouping next year. The bid, while
taking Asean members by surprise, was generally welcomed by the
grouping which aspires to see the integration of the three
remaining Southeast Asian countries Cambodia, Laos and Burma - by
the turn of the century.

The September crackdown on the NLD ` caused a brief split among
Asean members with the Philippines and Thailand showing signs of
reluctance to associate with the uncompromising regime in Rangoon.

But the division was quickly patched up with the two Asean
opponents suddenly backing down on their stance during the
informal Asean summit on November 30.

As a face-saving solution, Asean heads of government declared
that the three observer nations will join the  regional
association simultaneously and deliberately failed to specify the
exact timing of their entry.

But as Cambodia and Laos have been promised Asean membership by
July next year when Asean foreign ministers hold their annual
meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Burma is likely to become an Asean
member at the same time.

With the overwhelming regional support, the Slorc took a tougher
position against the United Nations which, in its annual
resolution on Burma, urged the Slorc to hold talks with the
opposition and to respect human rights principles.

Rangoon refused to recognise the non-binding resolutions and
declined to let UN special human rights envoy Rajsoomer Lallal
and UN  Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali's special
representatives visit Burma unless the UN officials agreed not to
meet Suu Kyi and other political activists.

Shortly after the official launching of the long-delayed Visit
Burma year on November 18 - a campaign which the Slorc expects to
draw some 230,000 foreign visitors the regime faced renewed
student protests which broke out in late October after the police
arrested three students from the Rangoon Institute of Technology
after a brawl with a foodstall owner.

While the rare demonstration, the biggest since 1988, seemed
apolitical as the students focused their demands on an
investigation into police brutality and the right to form student
unions, the protest itself was symbolically political in nature.

Restricted to her home after the protests. resumed on Dec 2, Suu
Kyi, while denying any NLD link to the rallies, said her part
shared the grievances of the  university students. She also
protested against  her unlawful detention saying that she would
not be confined by the order.

Although the Slorc succeeded in preventing the escalation of the
student unrest through the deployment of heavily-armed troops and
army tanks and the closure of schools and universities in Rangoon
and other cities, the political activists and students was merely
suppressed but not appeased.

With the Slorc continuing to address the country's political
turmoil with the use of force and threats instead of dialogue,
more political confrontation and showdown will certainly recur in
the coming year.=20


December 27, 1996

The story Another Boycott of Burma" l that you ran on Dec 21
omitted some details that might be of interest to your readers.
The Boulder City Council did indeed vote to stop buying products
from Burma on Dec 17. The ordinance also called on all companies
doing business in Burma to end their operations there.
The ordinance was passed in view of the worsening situation in
Burma and the perceived danger to Aung San Suu Kyi. Boulder
becomes the ninth US city to adopt such a measure.
Howard Sargent


December 27, 1996

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is expected to revive
Ottawa's proposal to establish a United Nations (UN) contact
group on Burma when he visits Thailand next month.

Mr Chretien, who will head a 250 strong delegation on an official
visit from January 16-20, is due to hold talks with Prime
Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh on January 17.

Canada originally raised the idea of setting up a contact group
on Burma during an annual dialogue with the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations in July.

But the foreign ministers of the Asean countries - Brunei,
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and
Vietnam - rejected the proposal on the grounds that they had not
been informed of it in advance.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Surapong Jayanaman said on Wednesday
that Thailand would prefer a solution on Burma to be worked out
through UN channels, including the UN General Assembly, so the
Burmese government does not feel it is being pressured by any group.

Alvaro De Soto, a Special Representative for the UN secretary
general, recently convened a meeting of officials from Thailand,
Malaysia, Japan, some European Union countries and the United
states to look for ways to initiate a dialogue between Burma's
military junta and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the
spokesman noted.


December 26, 1996
Patrick Mcdowell
Rangoon, AP

Sightseers at one of Rangoon's gilded temples during the December
high tourism season are training their cameras on something else
tanks deployed to quell the biggest street unrest in years.=20
Foreign visitors have become unwitting actors in Burma's
political conflicts. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi wants
them to stay away and deny legitimacy to the military regime she
says used forced labour to beautify tourist attractions.

The government, meanwhile, has launched a multi-million-dollar
campaign inviting foreigners to spend hard currency and see just
how much  Burma, also known as Myanmar, has  changed since
thousands were gunned down in pro-democracy street  protests in 1988.

What they have seen, however, isn't the kind of publicity officials had=20
in' mind November 18 when the official Visit Myanmar Year opened to $300,00=
(7.5 million baht) of fanfare and ceremonies.=20
Just two weeks later, hundreds of university students staged a
series of protests demanding an independent student union and
more civil liberties.

Holiday-makers bound for Burma stared at airport television
screens and fretted over news of sit-ins and marches being broken
up with water cannon and charging riot police.

Hotels reported cancellations and embassies fielded phone calls
from worried travellers.

In the end, however, few visitors said they had much reason to
write home worried postcards.

"We saw the tanks, and that takes you back a bit," said New
Zealand law student Tim It, 24, as he watched twilight flicker
off the gold-leafed spire of the Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon's
holiest shrine, with a friend.

"But I was in the Middle East a few years ago, and there were a
lot more soldiers and tension in Jerusalem than here, he said.
"If there is a problem, we're out on the first plane."

The ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council, or Slorc,
quelled the unrest in a week. Campuses were shut down, students
from the provinces sent home and alleged agitators hunted.

In a show of force, tanks took position downtown outside the Sule
Pagoda, the Shwedagon's smaller cousin.  Tourists strained to
snap a frame including the armoured vehicles and a nearby statue
of a pig-tailed page boy the Visit Myanmar Year mascot.

But most visitors are unlikely to find trouble. The regime
maintains a tight lid on discontent, and visitors aren't welcome
everywhere. More than half the country ethnic conflict and opium
cultivation zones, for example are closed to travel. Those
sojourning in the wrong place can be deported.

For Mrs Suu Kyi, whose supporters won elections in 1990 but were
never allowed to take power, the tensions add urgency to her
calls for foreigners to boycott Visit Myanmar Year.

"My reaction is to say to the tourists, 'I told you  so," said
the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has less freedom of movement in
her country than any foreign visitor.

Visit Myanmar Year reflects a larger dispute over whether the
world should accommodate the government and try to effect change
via investment, or impose economic sanctions to push the generals
towards democracy.

If numbers are a gauge, the campaign looks like a flop. The
government has revised the target goal of visitors downward
several times from about 700,000 to 300,000 for  the combined
years of 1996 and 1997.

But some see the campaign as a success simply because it was
launched. Burma has proven to the tourism industry that it now
has the hotels and infrastructure to handle large numbers of visitors.

Part of the regime's goal is to show off progress from a more
open economy. Slorc took over in 1988 from a bizarre socialist
military regime, inspired more by numerology than economics, that
isolated and bankrupted Burma over 26 years.

Foreigners who haven't seen Burma for a few years are struck by
the changes. Rangoon's international airport, which once
resembled a grimy bus station, sparkles with a new arrivals hall.

Streets formerly barren of cars are now choked with traffic jams,
evidence of a growing middle class. Signs advertise goods from
Singapore, Korea and Japan that Burmese were barely aware existed
a few years ago.

Upcountry, the magnificent ruins of Pagan hundreds of Buddhist
temples scattered across an arid plain swarms with  tourist
buses. Three -years ago, sightseers went by horse cart.

For all the changes, no tourist can question that Burma remains a
police state.

A huge sign at the airport and the free government guidebook
lists the so-called People's Desire exhorting Burmese to "crush
all internal and external destructive elements as the common enemy".

Critics claim that Visit Myanmar Year will benefit only the
generals and say that ordinary Burmese have been used as forced
labour to build roads and restore the historic sites.

Boosters say that thousands of Burmese are for the first time
learning job skills at an international standard computers, hotel
and restaurant management, better English or have set up their
own companies, such as car-hire firms.

Armin Schoch, a Swiss who set up the first foreign-run tourism
agency here two years ago and now has 50 employees, says a
boycott would hurt the development of a middle class.=20

"The future grows out of these people and the education they are
receiving now," said Mr Schoch.

Visitors usually say they're aware of Mrs Suu Kyi's appeals but
decided to come anyway. Most say that due to  their budget or
schedule, it's visit Burma this year or perhaps never.

"The army's been running this  place for 30 years," said Derek
Guest,  25, of Seattle, Washington. "You can't  just waste your
whole life waiting for  things to change."=20


December 26, 1996

Mae Hong Son -The  anti-Rangoon Karenni National Progressive
Party has elected deputy party leader Pae Bu Pae as its new prime
minister, according to a KNPP source.

The election took place last week  at the party's base across the
border from Ban Surin, Tambon Mae Ngao, Khun Yuam district.

Deputy prime minister and deputy party leader Pae Bu Pae, 60,
will also  assume the post of KNPP leader, replacing Aung Than
Lay, 65, who is reportedly in poor health.


Elyria, Ohio, by by Pat Leimbach
December 22, 1996

Sitting around the kitchen the other night I broke out a bag of Fritos to
assuage the pre-dinner hunger of my house guests, Ken and Visakha Kawasaki,
home from Japan for the holidays.

"Nope," said Ken, "We can't eat those.  Frito-Lay is owned by PepsiCo and
we're boycotting Pepsi for doing business in Burma."

My subliminal response was probably annoyance.  Distant human rights issues
are more easily ignored than honored by us smug Americans.  Spend a few
hours with the Kawasakis, however, with their personal experience of the
repressive dictatorship in Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar), and you may be more
inclined to pay attention to the companies held in your stock portfolio and
the gas you pump into your tank.

Ken and Visakha (of whom I have written before -- Ken grew up in Brownhelm)
teach English in Japan for a living but devote all the rest of their lives
to the welfare of Burmese living in camps on the borders of neighboring
Thailand.  In summer travels long ago they fell in love with Burma and its
gentle people who have been fighting for a free society for over 30 years.
They happened to be in Burma on the 8th of August, 1988 ("8/8/88") when the
Burmese people rose up by the thousands in a pro- democracy movement agains=
dictator Ne Win and his hated regime.  Just as the Chinese communists would
later do in Tiannamen Square, the Burmese military fired on the crowd and
thousands of students, monks, and civilians were killed, their bodies (even
some still alive) hauled off and burned or buried in mass graves.

In the months and years following the massacre the Kawasakis formed and
chartered their Burmese Relief Center raising funds and collecting supplies
for the villagers driven from their country by the regime's determination t=
enslave and annihilate them.

"Everybody in Burma is expendable," said Visakha, "everybody and everything=
If the military want your chickens, your ox, your daughter, your son, your
whole village-- they take it.  Every soldier is supported by 2 or 3 civilia=
bearers, usually young boys who are virtually 'used up', until starved and
ill, then killed or beaten and left to die.  Rape is a deliberate weapon of
control.  Young girls are enslaved into brothels widely advertised in Europ=
-- a depraved part of the tourist trade.  Do you wonder that the people hav=
fled to the borders."

The refugee camps to which the Kawasakis minister are mainly composed of an
ethnic minority called the Karen people.  The camps are self-organized with
schools, but lack virtually all amenities and supplies.  Food is very
scarce-- mainly rice and fish paste.  Medical facilities are woeful.  Ken
and Visakha themselves provide near-total support for a lone surgeon, a
dedicated survivor of the 8/8/88 massacre.

Their photos of his crude hospital, a former noodle factory, and the
appalling atocities he must repair, beaten bodies, gaping gunshot wounds,
legs shattered by land mines-- make one want to cringe.  In one of the
surgeries photographed I noted a dinner fork being used as a retractor.  Ke=
and Visakha had pictures of happy people for whom they have supplied
good-looking artificial legs.  They pull strings to get them at 1/3 the
normal charge.

The Burmese people do have a leader whom they chose in a free election in
1990, pretty, Nobel Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced "Sue Chee"
for short), but she has been under house arrest by the dictatorship for mos=
of these 6 years.  United Nations negotiators did secure her partial releas=
in 1994, but she's back under house arrest, the Kawasakis tell me.  The
schools have also been closed recently to keep the students from gathering.

The feeling among the Burmese people yearning to be free is that as long as
international corporations do business with SLORC (who supply slave labor,
much of it child labor, at 6 cents an hour, 60 hours a week) and pour the
profits into private pockets or the military to be used against the people,
human rights don't stand a chance.

Some companies have been persuaded -- Eddie Bauer and Disney (at year's end=
among them;--but PepsiCo, Unocal, and Mitsubishi are still targets of the
democratic movement.  Serious food for thought when you reach for a cola or
a cheap garment...