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Burma News Update No. 83

Burma Project
Open Society Institute

Burma News Update No. 83
04 May 1999

UN Hits Junta Abuses

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights denounced an "escalation 
in the persecution of the democratic opposition," by Burma's army 
junta in a consensus resolution adopted by the commission's 53 
member countries. The resolution's text deplores violations 
including "extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions," "arbitrary 
seizures of land and property," "systematic programmes of forced 
relocation" and the "widespread use of forced labour, including for 
work on infrastructure projects and as porters for the army." Regime 
representatives dismissed the resolution as "a litany of unproven 
false allegations." [The Bangkok Nation adds that a junta 
spokesman said the junta's "sincere efforts" had made Burma 
"one of the most peaceful and stable countries in the world today."]

Geneva, "Reuters," 23 April

NLD Offers Amnesty

Burmese democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that the 
National League for Democracy would be willing to offer a blanket 
amnesty to army officers involved in mass killings of pro-democracy 
marchers 1988, as part of negotiations to return the country to 
democracy. In an interview in Rangoon, the head of the opposition 
National League for Democracy (NLD) and 1991 Nobel Peace 
Laureate declared the NLD is holding "the door open for dialogue" 
with the country's army junta, but said negotiations must include a 
genuine "give and take." The military regime has refused to enter talks 
that include Daw Suu Kyi.

Rangoon, "Reuters," 29 April

Opposition Argues Tactics

After being released from detention by military intelligence, a group 
of elected members of parliament of the opposition National League 
for Democracy (NLD) has urged the party to change its approach to 
negotiations with the country's army junta. The MPs won office in an 
overwhelming 1990 election victory never honored by the military 
regime. The NLD harshly denounced the three MPs who wrote the 
letter, charging that they are now colluding with the junta. One of the 
letter's authors, however, said his initiative is meant to return both side 
to early dialogue.

Rangoon, "Agence France Presse," 02 May

Junta Rejects EU Sanctions

The Burmese military regime will not "deviate from our chosen path" 
despite the renewal of European Union sanctions imposed to protest 
severe human rights abuses in the country, the junta's foreign minister said. 

The sanctions, first imposed in October 1996, were extended for a further 
six months on 26 April. They include a ban on senior junta officials from 
visiting any EU country, which has blocked official meetings between the 
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the EU. Foreign 
Minister Win Aung said the EU action "does not reflect any reality in our 
country's situation," while diplomats estimate that over 2,000 people are 
still political prisoners in the junta's jails.

Mongla, Burma, "Reuters," 29 April

Burma's Economy Slides

Severe inflation is hitting Burma's population, rice exports have 
dropped dramatically, and foreign investment in the country has 
reduced to a trickle. A serious power shortage is forcing lengthy 
electricity cuts in the capital, Rangoon, and elsewhere, and power 
price hikes have displeased foreign investors. Inflation is officially 
pegged at 37 percent, but sharp rises in basic commodity costs 
include a 1800 percent increase in the cost of rice since 1988, and 
an 8000 percent jump in the price of salt. The junta has pressed 
30,000  prisoners into rice production and introduced other incentives, 
hoping to remedy disarray in the nation's distribution system.

Bangkok, "Nikkei Weekly" (Tokyo), 26 April

Burma Demands Aid

Burma's military regime has demanded a resumption of lending 
and technical assistance by the Manila-based Asian Development 
Bank (ADB). Junta Finance and Revenue Minister Khin Maung Thein 
said that the regime is "striving to develop" the economy. ADB lending 
was suspended in 1986 due to the country's dual foreign exchange 
system, [the open market value of over 300 kyat to the dollar is nearly 
fifty times the official exchange rate], which remains in effect today.

Manila, "Reuters," 01 May 

BURMA NEWS UPDATE is a publication of the Burma Project 
of the Open Society Institute. 
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Website: http:www.soros.org/burma.html