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The BurmaNet News: May 19, 1999

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

The BurmaNet News: May 19, 1999
Issue #1274


April, 1999 

On 9.4.99, 15 villagers who had been forcibly relocated to Kun-Hing town
2-3 years ago were arrested, tortured and killed by SPDC troops from LIB524
in Kun-Hing township.

The villagers were originally from Ho Yaan village on the bank of Nam Paang
river and one of their means of livelihood had been fishing in the river.
Since virtually everything was scarce at the relocation site, these
villagers, led by a man named Loong Kya, aged 41, had gone together to fish
in the river for some days.

On the day of the incident, they were about to return after distributing
their catch among themselves on the bank of the river when they were
surrounded by about 80 SPDC troops of LIB524 led by Commander Aung Than.
The troops arrested the villagers and tied them up, beat, tortured and
interrogated them. They accused the villagers of either coming to provide
food for the Shan soldiers or to attend meetings organized by the Shan
resistance. When they could not force the villagers to confess to either of
the accusations, the troops continued to torture and beat them until they
all died and dumped their lifeless bodies into the river.

After the troops got back to their base in Kun-Hing, they ordered the
villagers who had been relocated from the villages along Nam Paang river to
gather and said that since the villagers had been relocated, there had been
virtually no source of income for them, therefore the military would buy
fish and would issue a permit or a pass to anyone who used to and would

like to fish in the river so that the villagers could earn some money.
Those who wanted to apply for the pass were to register their names on
10.4.99, at 8:00 a.m., at the military base.

On the morning of 10.4.99, 23 able bodied young men turned up and gathered
at the military base at around 11:00 a.m. They were all detained in the
military base and had not yet been released at the time this report was
received. Most likely, they would be interrogated, used as porters for
military patrols and as guides in searching the areas of relocation.


18 May, 1999 by Mike Elliott

LONDON, May 18 (Reuters) - British explorer Premier Oil Plc, already under
fire from rebel shareholders seeking to overthrow its chief executive, on
Tuesday faced fresh criticism about its natural gas project in Myanmar.

Demonstrators outside the building where the group's annual general meeting
was being held called on shareholders to try to end Premier's involvement
with Myanmar's ``repressive regime.''

Rebel shareholders led by city lawyer Peter Felter have also called on it
get out of Myanmar (formerly Burma) because of the political risk.

``We are apolitical,'' Chief Executive Charles Jamieson told the annual
meeting. ``We do believe that constructive economic engagement in the
country is more likely to lead to development to the benefit of all the
people in that country.''

In March, Premier announced completion of the $158 million financing of its
key Yetagun gas project in Myanmar, one of the group's core areas along
with Britain, Pakistan and Indonesia.

In a statement, the demonstrators said that Premier's gas pipeline runs
through an area where 25,000 people have been forced from their homes and
where human rights abuses, such as forced labour, have been carried out by
the Myanmar military.

``We are certainly not aware of any abuses in our pipeline area,'' Jamieson
told the packed meeting, adding Premier was in control of all its
contractors in the area.

However, the veteran campaigning journalist John Pilger told Reuters before
attending the meeting: ``I have seen and filmed the forced and slave labour
in the area that Premier is building the pipeline and all the excuses it
makes amount to nothing.''

Pilger said that Premier was ``underwriting'' an illegitimate regime
through its investment in the country.

``I want it do what Aung San Suu Kyi has told me she wants it to do, and
that is get out and stop supporting this regime.''

Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi won a general
election in 1990 by a landslide, but the military subsequently ignored the

Demonstrators representing both the Burma Campaign UK and the World
Development Movement called on the British government to force Premier to
withdraw from Myanmar.

Graham Burgess, another rebel shareholder and a former Premier drilling
manager, asked whether any money would be left from having to finance debt
on the Yetagun project.

Recently installed Finance Director John van der Welle said that in the

early stages of the project, some two-thirds of net cash flow would be used
to repay debt involved in the project.

The rebels led by lawyer Felter -- who shook hands with all board members
before the AGM began -- want to replace Jamieson, who they blame for the
company's recent poor performance, with Felter. They are trying to get the
10 percent of shareholders needed to force an extraordinary general meeting.

Between them they hold just 150 shares in Premier, which compares with the
biggest shareholder Amerada Hess Corp (NYSE:AHC - news) -- which supports
the current management -- with 25 percent.

Van der Welle said the group had hedged some 26 percent of its estimated
1999 oil and gas production at a price of around $12 a barrel. This was
done earlier this year when the outlook for oil prices was bleaker -- North
Sea Brent now stands above $15.

When questioned over speculation that it had talks with British oil minnow
Paladin Resources Plc (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: PLR.L) over a
possible merger, Chairman David John said: ``We did not receive any
proposal from Paladin which we agreed to be in shareholders' interests.''


April - May, 1999 Newsletter Number 15

Unofficial Translation (INFO BIRMANIE committed the translation)
Interview of Mrs. Marie Helene AUBERT President of the Parliamentary
Mission of information on the oil companies

The French Mission relates to the oil companies role in the international
politics field and on their impact on social and environmental issues. It
is composed of three MPs: Mrs. Marie Helene AUBERT (Green party), Pierre
BRANA (Socialist Party) and Roland BLUM (Liberal Democracy, pro-European
right-wing party).

What is the importance of Burma in your investigation? 

The Burmese projects of a few companies Total, Unocal and Premier Oil are
of particular interest to us. It is important to understand that the
parliamentary Mission is not a court which would judge the companies Total,
Unocal and Premier oil; the purpose of this mission is to collect as much
information as possible, concerning the projects of these companies in
Burma, and to assess their credibility so as to inform the Parliament and
the French government.  The French Constitution does not enable us either
to conduct foreign policy, nor to define the marketing strategy of the oil
companies. We will make proposals which will try to bring solutions to the
problems raised by the presence of Western oil companies on the territories
controlled by dictators. I also want to underline the fact that we have to
''cope'' with a strong polemic concerning the Total and Unocal Yadana
Project in Burma, but one too often forgets that Premier Oil, a British
company, has built another gas pipeline in this country. There is quite no
British governmental critics targeting this project, although strong
campaigning has been carried on this matter in Great Britain.

What could you tell us about your stay in Burma? 

We went to Burma within the framework of our mission. We went to Rangoon
and on the site of the pipeline; we also stayed in Thailand. We had a
meeting with Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and two of the highest leaders of the
National League for Democracy in the French embassy. We also held
discussions with the SPDC Foreign Minister, U Win Aung, and with the
representatives of several French NGOs working with a lot of courage in
Burma. I would like to stress the importance of the meeting we had with
Aung San Suu Kyi: no French MP had been to Burma for the last fifteen
years. As we are trying ''to democratize'' the French foreign politics
process, it was also very significant to meet other members of Parliament,
elected in 1990, who are fighting for the restoration of Democracy in a
country where repression is absolute.

What did Daw Aung San Suu Kyi tell you? 

I can just summarize here the conversation which we had with her. First, I
must say she is grateful to the European Union for its diplomatic stand,
and for the actions taken during the last several years, to try to bring
the junta to dialogue with the opposition so as to bring about political
opening. She asked us, precisely, " to show firmness, and not to remain
static"; therefore to try and find new diplomatic solutions.

Does she think that the present political crisis will last a very long time? 

She told us she thought the junta could collapse quickly because of its
contradictions, of its incompetence, and of the economic crisis. She
appeared relatively confident on this topic. In France, we are not so
convinced about that. But, after all, who had foreseen the fall of the
Berlin Wall?

What broad lines of actions can the international community take?

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, the representatives of the government in exile
-NCGUB- and of the ethnic minorities we met in Thailand, are always
vigorously opposed to foreign investment in Burma: as long as the democracy
is not restored, their message is that these investors are playing into the
hands of the junta. The Burmese democrats are also still very hostile to
the development of the tourist industry.

What about the accusations of forced labour carried out against Total? 

It is established today that the Burmese army resorted to forced labour for
various preliminary works on the building site of the gas pipeline, built
thereafter by Total. Some clearings of undergrowth and portering was
accomplished with forced labour before the Total personel began the
construction of the gas pipeline. Total representatives revealed that when
they were informed of these facts, they told the Burmese army that it
should cease and so it would have ceased. The tatmadaw, however seems to
have continued to resort to forced labour for the construction of a railway
which is in the area. But the amalgam between these two building sites
can't be made.

Do the executions committed by the Burmese army battalions in charge of the
security of the gas pipeline continue? 

We still need time to analyze all the documents and testimony which we
collected. Several hearings had been devoted to Burma, in Paris, in the
weeks which preceded our journey and others hearings on Burma could take

place before we submit our final report, at the end of the month of June.
All the same, I want to take the opportunity which is given to me refute
the information given by the Bangkok Post, according to which I stated that
it was not credible to say that Total and Unocal supported financially the
Burmese army to ensure the safety of the gas pipeline. We collected various
testimonies.  But, once again, we need time to be able to say more: we will
be positive only on topics which we have been able to check with converging

According to you, how is the SPDC going to use the money of the gas, once
the Thais start in buying it? 

It is the principal problem. The question of the distribution of the oil
revenue is a general difficulty which arises for all Western investments in
countries ruled by dictatorships. What can be done to be sure that the
incomes of oil and gas really benefit the populations, rather than to buy
always more weapons and to increase the private bank accounts of the
dictators? In this respect, We are following with the greatest interest, a
scheme which the World Bank tries to set up in Africa on another pipe
project, in Chad and Cameroon.

Can a solution be found to the problems arising from the engagement of
Total in Burma in an obligation of compliance with rules of good conduct?

All the oil companies claim to respect codes of good conduct, but these
codes are not legally binding. In any case, to pronounce ourselves on the
effective respect by Total, of its code of good conduct, we would need to
know the exact nature of the information produced in the lawsuit in
progress against the company Unocal. One says to us that Unocal defends
itself by accusing Total, but with which arguments exactly? For the moment,
we simply don't know.

Finally, were you able to talk about the Interpol meeting held in Rangoon
at the end of February with your various interlocutors? 

The ambassador of France in Rangoon told us that the junta was beginning to
use this congress to brush up its image. That is precisely why France
decided not to send its delegation.


17 May, 1999 by Supamart Kasem 



Cross-border trade with Burma through a border pass in Phop Phra district
has been suspended since last week's gun battle between Thai troops and
guerrillas of the pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

A source said Maj-Gen Chalor Thongsala, the Naresuan Task Force commander,
has ordered the demolition of two wooden bridges across the Waleh creek.

The bridges in Phop Phra district were used for border trade, especially
imports of furniture from Burma.

According to the source, millions of baht worth of furniture from Burma was
previously imported to Thailand each month through Ban Waleh Pass.

The pass has long been unofficially open for trade of necessary commodities
between the two countries.

Fourth Infantry Regiment Task Force Col Chayuti Boonparn said the bridges
had been built by some people without permission to allow delivery by

vehicle of furniture from Burma to Thailand.

"The villagers told us the DKBA had built the bridges.

"We had tried to stop the construction several times but there were still

"Some people benefited from export and import through these bridges.

"But this sometimes led to conflicts and gunfights between both sides,
threatening the safety of villagers and relations between Thailand and Burma.

"So, the officials demolished the bridges and placed barb-wire to block the
borderline and solve the problem once and for all," Col Chayuti said.

However, sick Burmese villagers would be allowed to enter Thailand via the
border pass to seek medical treatment from Thai health care units for
humanitarian reasons, Col Chayuti added.


17 May, 1999 from: <cgormley@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> 

Call for Applications 1999-2000

INCORE (Initiative on Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity) is now seeking
applications for the fourth annual award of the fellowship for the academic
year of October 1999 - September 2000.

All applicants should be graduates with proven research records. The
holder of the Fellowship will be expected to spend six months at INCORE's
headquarters, Aberfoyle House in Northern Ireland during the appointed
year. He or she will be expected to complete an agreed research project
during that period and to participate in activities agreed with INCORE's
Research Director. The stipend will be 13,000 pounds for the six months
plus a travel allowance (to a maximum of 3,000 pounds).

There is no formal application form and applicants are invited to send
their CV's, a brief (500 word) letter outlining the research they propose
to undertake during the Fellowship, and the names of two people familiar
with your work who are prepared to provide references. The research theme
would obviously depend on the background and expertise of the individual
applicant but should broadly adhere to INCORE's research interests -
conflict prevention, management and resolution, particularly in the field
of ethnic conflict.

The closing date for applications is Friday 18th June 1999, and the
successful applicant should start his/her term in October 1999 or as close
to that date as possible.

If you wish to be considered for the Fellowship, please write to; Gillian
Robinson, Research Director, INCORE, Aberfoyle House, Northland Road,
Derry/Londonderry, BT48 7JA, Northern Ireland.

Please enclose:
1. A short CV. 
2. A brief (approx 500 words) description of the work to be undertaken and
completed during the fellowship, including aims, methodology, and
relevance. Please also include the policy relevance of the work. Proposals
that include a comparative dimension are of particular interest to INCORE. 
3.  The names of two people familiar with your work who are prepared to
provide references.