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Burma Related News From Publication
Subject: Burma Related News From Publications
(1) Aung Shwe's Letters
(2) Conflict of Interests
Asean's stance on Cambodia sparks debate on Burma
(3) Kyat Keels
Power Plan with Burma
(From Far Eastern Economic Review)
Aung Shwe's Letters
Exiled Burmese dissidents based in Thailand released a book of letters
on July 15 written by opposition National League for Democracy Chairman
Aung Shwe to the ruling military junta between December 1995 and March
1997. The 33 letters collected in Letters to a Dictator urge reform and
criticize human-rights abuses. They were smuggled out of Burma by the
All Burma Students Democratic Front.
Conflict of Interests
Asean's stance on Cambodia sparks debate on Burma
By Murray Hiebert in Kuala Lumpur and Michael Vatikiotis in Bangkok
July 24, 1997
F or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the decision to
postpone the induction of Cambodia into the regional grouping in late
July was a tough call. Now it faces an even more daunting challenge:
pressing for a negotiated settlement to the conflict brought on by the
ouster of Prince Norodom Ranariddh by his rival, Hun Sen.
What is more, the Cambodia fracas has reopened the debate within
foreign-policy circles about the wisdom of admitting Burma into Asean.
Human-rights groups wasted no time accusing Asean of applying double
standards. "When it is convenient, as in the case of Cambodia, Asean is
prepared to interfere in the affairs of another country," the Burma
Solidarity Group Malaysia declared in a statement. "When it is not
convenient, as in the case of Burma . . . Asean does nothing to
embarrass or jeopardize the illegal and illegitimate regime there."
The paradox can't have been lost on Asean foreign ministers, who debated
for six hours at a special meeting in Kuala Lumpur on July 10, before
drafting a five-sentence statement on Cambodia. The foreign ministers
decided to signal their disapproval towards Hun Sen, despite the group's
declared policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of other
countries. Malaysian Foreign Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Asean
justified its action "in light of the unfortunate circumstances which
have resulted from the use of force."
But the violent turn of events in Cambodia could not have come at a more
awkward time for Asean. At the end of May, Asean foreign ministers
resolved to admit Cambodia, along with Burma and Laos, as full-fledged
members. Now, instead of welcoming a new era of harmony in Southeast
Asia on the association's 30th anniversary, foreign ministers meeting in
Kuala Lumpur on July 23 will be treating an old wound that has suddenly
Diplomats say Cambodia will dominate the agenda during the foreign
ministers' meeting and will be a major item in the 21-member Asean
Regional Forum talks which follow. Already, two members of the forum,
Japan and the United States, have suspended aid to Cambodia, and a
third, Australia, has said it is considering such a move. These
countries are likely to use the instability in Cambodia to bolster their
argument that the grouping is expanding too fast.
Meanwhile, Asean's credibility as a security body is also on the line.
Caught between a desire to expand its security function and a deep
aversion to interfering in members' domestic affairs, the grouping runs
the risk of exposing itself to more ridicule as a toothless talk shop.
Still, Southeast Asian strategic experts who support Asean's decision on
Cambodia argue that unique circumstances require unique responses. M.
Rajaratnam of the Institute of Policy Studies in Kuala Lumpur says that
it's too late for diplomatic niceties. "Cambodia is a clear case of a
state so weak that if left alone it could collapse. We can no longer
sweep the problem under the carpet," Rajaratnam says.
"If Asean had supported Hun Sen that would have been interference,"
argues Abdul Razak Baginda, head of the Malaysian Strategic Research
Centre. "If it had supported Ranariddh that would have been
interference. But playing a mediating role isn't interference. That's
different than taking sides."
How does the grouping justify admitting Burma while excluding Cambodia,
when the leaders of both regimes seized power at the barrel of a gun?
"In Cambodia, Asean was party to the elections. It was seen as a
guarantor, so it had no choice but to take a stand," says Razak.
Others say Asean should have taken the chance to delay Burma's
membership as well. "It was an opportunity to review the whole issue of
expansion of Asean," says Carolina Hernandez at the Institute of
Strategic and Development Studies in Manila.
For now, however, Asean's focus is on Cambodia. The grouping has tried
to avoid alienating Hun Sen or taking steps that could push Cambodia
back into civil war. It has sought to keep communication channels open
to the coup leader by refraining from declaring his government illegal
and refusing to support Ranariddh's appeal for the suspension of foreign
aid to Phnom Penh.
As a condition for membership, Asean is demanding that Cambodia maintain
the power-sharing arrangement reached following United
Nations-supervised elections in 1993. But it doesn't insist that
Ranariddh resume his role as co-prime minister and head of the royalist
Funcinpec party. "We want to see the coalition government in place, the
National Assembly not dissolved and the constitution upheld in
accordance with the Paris Peace Accord on Cambodia," Badawi told
Asean seems to recognize that it would be difficult for Ranariddh, the
son of Cambodia's head of state, King Sihanouk, to return to his
position in Phnom Penh. "For the time being, we regard Ranariddh as
co-premier of Cambodia," Badawi said, but he left open the possibility
that Ranariddh's party could elect a new leader. "The important thing is
that Funcinpec should be in a position to decide who is best to
represent them as first prime minister," the Malaysian foreign minister
For his part, Hun Sen advised Asean to stay out of Cambodia's affairs.
"If Cambodia sees Asean interfering in its internal affairs, we will
decide not to join," he told journalists in Phnom Penh. "We survived a
long time without membership" in Asean.
Observers doubt that Asean's policy will reduce Hun Sen's resolve to
maintain his grip on power. The decision to postpone Cambodia's Asean
membership "creates a real disappointment for Hun Sen," says Raoul
Jennar, a historian of Cambodian affairs living in Phnom Penh. "But it's
not enough for him to change his policy."
"Asean can huff and puff but it lacks the power and will not do much
other than to legitimize Hun Sen's rule once it is stabilized," adds
Michael Leifer, a Southeast Asia specialist at the London School of
Economics and Political Science.
But some analysts believe that international isolation, maintained over
an extended period, could put pressure on Hun Sen to reconsider. "In the
short run, no, Asean won't have much influence on Hun Sen," says Sorpong
Peou of Singapore's Institute for Southeast Asian Studies. "But in the
medium term there will be frustration within his own party," Sorpong,
who grew up in Cambodia, says of the Cambodian People's Party. "Many in
the CPP advocate moderation. They don't want extremism. If Hun Sen fails
and executes more [opponents], it will divide his party."
For the moment, many analysts believe Asean's options are limited. "It's
a difficult situation; the political balance has shifted in favour of
the republicans," says Juwono Sudharsono, deputy governor of Jakarta's
National Defence Institute. Asean's position, Juwono believes, "depends
on how Hun Sen plays it. If he can consolidate his position, all the
sympathy for Ranariddh will fade away."
The blackmarket value of the Burmese currency plummeted in the first
half of July to 215 kyats to the U.S. dollar from 185 kyats. It may fall
to as low as 250 kyats by year-end, analysts said. Rangoon countered the
drop by printing more banknotes-a move widely expected to raise
inflation, which is running at 20%-30%, according to conservative
estimates. The currency's official rate still stands at six kyats to the
Power Plan with Burma
Burmese Energy Minister Khin Maung Thein signed an agreement to sell up
to 1,500 megawatts of electricity to Thailand by 2010. Under the $2.5
billion deal, Rangoon will choose the developers for the projects to
generate hydropower and natural gas-fuelled power.
"THERE WILL BE NO REAL DEMOCRACY IF WE CAN'T GURANTEE THE RIGHTS OF THE
MINORITY ETHNIC PEOPLE. ONLY UNDERSTANDING THEIR SUFFERING AND HELPING
THEM TO EXERCISE THEIR RIGHTS WILL ASSIST PREVENTING FROM THE
DISINTEGRATION AND THE SESESSION." "WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THEIR
STRENGTH, WE CAN'T TOPPLE THE SLORC AND BURMA WILL NEVER BE IN PEACE."
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