[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

The BurmaNet News: May 13, 1999

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

The BurmaNet News: May 13, 1999
Issue #1270


12 May, 1999

QUESTION AND ANSWER (Part 1 of this address appeared in yesterday's
BurmaNet News.]

[Note: Some of the questions are not clear as the interviewer did not want
to be miked.]

Q.  ...What changes have to be made?

R.  I think that we have to change the way people think.  It is only by
changing the way that people think can we progress towards peace.  I think
that the change is coming.  I think that many people are beginning to
realise now that material development is not everything.  The last century
has been one of material development, great material development, but I
think that people are now starting to realise that material development did
not bring with it more happiness as it were.  In some fields such as
medicine of course there has been progress and in the developed countries
people are better off than they have been, people are not suffering from
poverty, people are not suffering from a lack of medical care, a lack of
education, but they are still suffering from a lack of happiness and a lack
of internal peace.  So it must come from within. Education is one of the
most important things and I notice that the Hague Peace Conference is also
interested in promoting peace education, of teaching children about peace
the way that they are taught to read and write and to do sums.

Q.  Do you have any other ideas about ways of thinking that people must
change in order to have peace?

R.  I don't think that you can say that people must change because people
don't change just like that.  They have to be taught to change and its not
going to be a very fast process.  I think that would be a bit of wishful
thinking.  I don't think that we can change people over night.  It will
take time and it will take a lot of perseverance.  I think we have to be
very patient.  Educating children means starting from the very very basic
level and not just in the schools but in the homes as well.  So educating
children means educating the parents as well.  And some of the parents
unfortunately are beyond the stage where they can be educated.  I always
like to say that there are only two kinds of people in the world:  those
who can learn, and those who are not capable of learning. And I don't think
that they are good or bad people as such.  There are those who are always
capable of learning and those who are never capable of learning.  You can
try to explain to them why basic human rights are necessary, you can try to
explain to them why peace is necessary, but they will never grasp it. There
are those who are like that.  But there are those who are quick to learn.
But I think that every human being has the capacity to learn and change
even though the speed at which they can learn and change is not always the

Q.  What do you think of this being a civil society conference, as opposed
to governments sponsoring this conference?

R.   I like the idea because after all democracy basically means a
pluralistic society, and I think that we have to encourage this pluralism.
The more the better.

Q.  They mention that the plan of the Hague Peace Conference is to launch a
number of actions for the new century, such as the Land Mine Treaty and
those ideas.  Do you have any other suggestions?

R.  Well I think that we have to also think about educating adults, not
just educating children, because as I said earlier, unless you educate the
parents you can not really educate fully.  You can not expect children who
come from a family where there is no respect for peace and human rights to
learn respect for peace and human rights at school easily. So I think we
need education in general not just in schools.  I think we need more people
and more organisations more interested in the idea of promoting peaceful
societies.  You know when you talk about abolishing the trade in small arms
or nuclear disarmament, these are not... arms and weapons do not just fall
down from the sky.  They are made by human beings, and unless human beings
are taught that there are many many ways of progressing, of getting what
you need without using arms, I think the manufacture of arms will continue.

Q.  For instance, it is so difficult because in Cambodia even the farmer at
the basic level knows that he has rights, just the basic command of 'do to
others as you would have done unto yourself'... but when they are faced
with the government...

R.  But the members of the bureaucracy and the government they also have
sprung from the same society. You say that even this small farmer knows
that he has basic rights, how is it that members of the government does not
know that he has basic rights if they all come from the same society?  This
is what I mean by the need for general education.  Of course those who
suffer from a lack of rights are more aware of the fact that they need
those rights, and those who are in a position where they can deprive people
of those rights where they enjoy all the privileges that they could wan
This is normal in authoritarian societies and dictatorships. But what we
need is the kind of education that will prevent authoritarian governments
from coming up again.  This is one of the aims of the National League for
Democracy.  We've always said that what we want to do is not only to
establish democracy, but to establish the kind of society where there can
not be any dictatorships of the future.

Q.  ...How do you feel about the abolition of war for peace as a human right?

R.  I don't think that you can just ask for the abolition of war.  I think
as I said earlier that you have to teach people that there are ways of
getting what you want without of going to war, and you must think of what
others want and not only what you want all the time and say that 'If I
don't get it, I'll just take a gun and shoot your way to get what you want.

Q.  ...Our final product will be the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice in
the 21st century which will be reported to intergovernmental agencies as
well as a text that people can follow and monitor.  Do you feel that that
is a good idea, and if so in what way?

R.  I do think that it is a good idea to make ideas on peace and justice
available to a wide range of people.  We just have to wait to find out how
to implement this in practical terms.

Q...How would it...?

R.  This is what I mean because in practical terms it will take some doing.
Because after all think about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we
are now celebrating its 50th anniversary and there are many many people in
the world who have no idea of its existence.  So to make people aware of
the existence of a 'bible' on peace and justice, and to make such a 'bible
(in quotation marks) available to everybody, would not be easy in practical
terms, which is not to say that we shouldn't try.

Q.  Do you have any other suggestions for a way to make it more practical...?

R.  I think the more people accept this idea, the quicker it will spread.
It all comes back to education.  It all comes back to winning people's minds.

Q.  Do you think that for instance if this kind of agenda did come into the
hands of the government, would this help the people of Burma - would there
be a way of disseminating this type of information?

R.  I suppose that it is the National League for Democracy who would have
to do this kind of work, as things are.  I do not think that the current
government would go about distributing tracts on peace and justice...

Q.  A few other things...  What is the lesson of Burma for the rest of the

R.  I think its not just the lesson of Burma for the rest of the world.
Burma is not really unique.  We are not the only country where people are
suffering from a lack of basic human rights and we feel for others in the
same situation.  If there is any lesson to be learned from Burma is that it
helps when people care.  I think the case of Burma has become widely known
because people outside Burma have cared enough.  So the most important
thing is to have caring friends all over the world to help us achieve our
goal of basic human rights and democracy.


11 May, 1999

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Eight renegade members of Myanmar opposition leader
Aung San Suu Kyi's political party denied Tuesday that they are working for
military intelligence in an attempt to split the group.

Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy have branded
them as traitors for producing a petition calling on party leaders to
reconsider policies which the renegades said have led to a standoff with
the military government.

The controversy is a rare sign of dissent within the beleaguered opposition
in Myanmar, also known as Burma, which has been ruled by the military in
various guises since 1962.

While the military regularly vilifies Suu Kyi in its state-run press and
public statements, challenges to the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner from
within her party are rare.

"We submitted the proposal to perpetuate the existence of the party, and
not to destroy its unity," Tin Tun Maung, one of three party members who
drafted the petition, said at a news conference at the Yangon home of a
fellow party member.

"We did it in the best interest of the party, with our own free will and
under the influence of nobody," he said.

They cited in particular Suu Kyi's attempt to convene the parliament that
was elected in 1990 in a poll that the NLD won by a landslide. The three
petition drafters were elected then.

The military government refused to honor the election. After attempts to
persuade the military to open a dialogue with her and other NLD leaders
failed, Suu Kyi said the party would convene the parliament in September of
last year.

The military responded by detaining nearly 1,000 party members at what it
called government guesthouses. It also shut down NLD offices around the
country and said that thousands of party members had voluntarily resigned.
NLD leaders said the resignations were coerced.

Either way, Tin Tun Maung said, the resignations "don't bode well for the
future of the party."

Of Suu Kyi, Tin Tun Maung said: "I think she wanted compromise, but those
around her were against it."

The renegade petition was signed by 25 party members, most of whom
diplomats in Yangon said were under detention in government guest houses at
the time. The renegades said the main goals of their petition is to break
the deadlock between the party and the military.

Hla Soe, another NLD lawmaker, said dialogue between the party and the
military could have taken place long ago if Suu Kyi and Vice Chairman Tin
Oo were content to let other NLD leaders carry it out while obeying their
instructions from the sidelines.

"Tin Oo and Aung San Suu Kyi were expelled from the party when they were
under detention and the government does not recognize them as legal party
leaders," he said.

Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest and Tin Oo sent to Insein Prison from
1989-95 for their roles in attempting to restore democracy in Myanmar.
Since their release, party members have voted to restore them as general
secretary and vice chairman and empowered them to negotiate with the

The military passed a law while the pair were under detention forbidding
political parties from enlisting new members or changing their officers.
Therefore it does not recognize Suu Kyi and Tin Oo as legally representing
the NLD.

Neither Suu Kyi nor Tin Oo could be reached for comment. The military
government places some restrictions on their movements and discourages
journalists from contacting them.


12 May, 1999

YANGON, May 13 (Reuters) - Amnesty International on Thursday slammed the
choice of Myanmar as a venue for a regional labour meeting which it said
should focus on the military government's widespread use of forced labour
and jailing of trade unionists.

The London-based human rights group said thousands of members of ethnic
minority groups were used as forced labour in Myanmar and trade union
rights were ``non-existent.''

Despite this, Amnesty said, the 10 members of the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations had deemed Yangon a suitable venue for its May 10-15
conference of senior labour officials and ministers.

``ASEAN government ministers are meeting to discuss labour issues in a
country where thousands of people are routinely seized and forced to work
against their will and trade unionists are jailed,'' it said.

``The time has come for ASEAN to live up to the promise it made when
admitting Myanmar in 1997 to lead efforts for change in that country.

``ASEAN members nations must use this opportunity to put pressure on the
Burmese authorities by raising the issue of forced labour and the rights of
trade unionists.''

Amnesty said several trade union activists are serving long prison terms
for political and labour activities in Myanmar.

It said Than Naing, a labour leader and possible prisoner of conscience,
had been imprisoned for more than 10 years.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989 after taking a leading role
in forming strike committees during a 1988 uprising for democracy which was
bloodily crushed by the military.

``The case of Than Naing highlights the plight of all trade unionists in
Myanmar, who are prevented from operating freely for fear of persecution,''
Amnesty said.

It said the scale of forced labour in Myanmar, encompassing dangerous and
brutal military porterage, had increased dramatically in the past seven
years, to involve hundreds of thousands of civilians, including political

The government's claim that citizens contributed such work ``voluntarily''
was contradicted by hundreds of testimonies received by Amnesty.

Many of those working of the government's ``development projects'' had to
spend so much time working for the military they could not support
themselves and their families, it said.

Myanmar ratified the Forced Labour Convention in 1955 ``but has continually
flouted its provisions,'' Amnesty said.

Last year, a commission of inquiry established by the U.N.'s International
Labour Organisation found the government ``guilty of an international crime
that is also, if committed in a widespread or systematic manner, a crime
against humanity.''

It is not the first time recently Yangon has been declared an inappropriate
venue for an international conference.

In February, INTERPOL came under heavy fire from Europe and the United
States for staging a heroin conference in a country that is one of the
world's leading producers of the drug.


12 May, 1999 

Some 300 Karen refugees have fled into Suan Pueng district of Ratchaburi
following a clash between the Karen rebels and Burmese troops.

The refugees, mostly women, elders and children, crossed over via Pong
Haeng border pass and Ban Purakam. They were now under the care of
Suranaree Task Force.

It was reported a rapid deployment unit of Rangoon troops which has been on
the offensive against the Karen National Union guerrillas, clashed some
five kilometres from the border opposite Tambon Tanaosri, sending local
Burmese fleeing for their lives.

An army intelligence source said more violence was expected as Burma wanted
to suppress the minority rebels ahead of the planned Asean meeting in Rangoon.

Meanwhile, Burma has cancelled a border trade seminar which was to be
hosted by Tak authorities today.

A source said Burma withdrew at the last minute because of the continued
border conflict and Thailand's refusal to endorse a trade agreement
brokered in March 1996 by M.R. Kasemsamosorn Kasemsri, the former foreign
affairs deputy minister, and Lt-Gen Tun Kyi, Burma's former commerce minister.


12 May, 1999 by Marisa Chimprabha

THE investigation into an assault on a police station in Mae Hong Son
province early this month has concluded that it was the work of Burmese
government soldiers and not a pro-Rangoon Karen group as earlier believed,
a senior  security source  said yesterday.

The assault on Nam Phieng Din police station stemmed from conflicts between
the Burmese soldiers manning the border opposite the province and the Thai
border-patrol police, the source said.

The Burmese soldiers, he said, planned the attack well with the intention
of throwing suspicion on the Karen, a former dissident group now allied
with the Burmese military junta.

"The Burmese soldiers who took part in the cross-border attack on the
police station and took hostage two Thai villagers wore Karen uniforms and
left documents with Karen-group logos at the scene. This was intended to
give the impression that the assault was the work of the Karen," the source

At first the Thai side blamed the Karen, based partly on the abducted
villagers' accounts. "They claimed that they were kidnapped by the Karen
soldier because the kidnappers wore Karen uniform," the source said.

New information has proved, the source said, that Burmese soldiers were
involved in the cross-border assault, in which no one was injured but the
police station was riddled with bullets.

The source said, that the attack had been caused by illegal logging
conflicts between the Burmese and the Thai police.

"The personal conflicts over illegal activities along the border should not
have escalated to the national level. However, the Burmese government
should take responsibility by investigating their officers involved in the
incident," he said. Shortly after the assault the Thai Foreign Ministry
summoned a Bangkok-based Burmese envoy, asking for an explanation and
investigation of the incident. The ministry said it had demanded the
investigation on the grounds that the armed group had come from Burmese soil.

Early this week two mortar rounds landed near the same police station
during a visit by police director general Pol Gen Pracha Promnok. Burma
said the firing had been accidental. The Thai government has vowed to
retaliate against any future intrusion by armed Burmese groups.

Burmese junta secretary-general Gen Khin Nyunt has denied that the assault
was the work of Burmese soldiers.


6 May, 1999

[Translated from Thai, appended]

It is utterly true, in the words of the Senate speaker, that henceforth
Thailand should build up our own strength and influence in the world arena
to protect our interests and integrity. The lesson gained from our
experience in the selection process of the director general of the World
Trade Organization [WTO] shows that we are still very weak in the
international arena. For one to build up influence, it does not necessarily
mean that one has to resort to accumulating weapons and war materiel. It
means that one must build up diplomatic strength and influence so that we
will not become an underdog to any country in dealing with the world affairs.

It is worthy of note that lately even some neighboring countries sharing
common borders with us do not seem to pay high regard to our country as
they should do. We can see that our sovereignty and territorial integrity
are constantly encroached upon by the armed forces from certain neighboring
countries. Our territory bordering Burma has been constantly intruded by
foreign forces. Such incidents took place recently when an armed unit from
the Burmese side of the border attacked a local provincial police station
at Ban Nam Phiang Din village, Muang District, Mae Hong Son Province,
inflicting heavy losses on the lives and property of the Thai people in the

Every time an armed unit launches an attack on Thai soil along the
Thai-Burmese border, the Burmese authorities always claim that such an
incursion is the work of a certain armed ethnic minority group. Of course,
we do not know whether such this claim by the Burmese Government may at
times be true or not. However, to avoid taking responsibility, the Burmese
authorities always claim that all attacks on Thai territory are conducted
by the ethnic minority forces. Every time we lodge a protest and demand
that the Burmese authorities take responsibility for the loss of lives and
property of the Thai people in such incidents, they simply pay no heed to
our request or even ignore it. There is clear-cut evidence showing that the
latest attack on the Thai village was actually carried out by a Burmese
military unit.

It is now time that for Thailand to review and strengthen our diplomatic
and military roles with a view to defending our sovereignty and integrity
from any deliberate border encroachment by any other countries. At present,
it is obvious that Thailand is too lenient and weak in dealing with the
perpetrators of such aggression. Therefore, instead of quarreling over
trivial issues as we are doing at the moment, we should unite with one
another to build up our cohesive strength to safeguard our national
integrity and sovereignty from any violations by other countries.