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The BurmaNet News: May 28, 1999

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

The BurmaNet News: May 28, 1999
Issue #1281


28 May, 1999 by Aung Hla Tun

YANGON,  (Reuters) - On the ninth anniversary of its landslide election
ignored by the ruling military, Myanmar's opposition called on its members on
Thursday to remain loyal to the cause of democracy.

"Be loyal to the objectives set for democracy, be loyal to the multiparty
democracy general elections held in 1990, be loyal to the resolution we have
made," Nobel Peace laureate Aung san Suu Kyi told members of her National
League for Democracy.

"We are sure to succeed, but I can't say when for sure. When there will be
political changes depends on many factors, but the greater the unity and the
loyalty, the faster it will come." Suu Kyi spoke to about 350 party supporters
who gathered at the NLD headquarters in Yangon to commemorate its victory
in an
election on May 27, 1990, which the generals have never honoured.

In calling for loyalty, Suu Kyi criticised a group of renegade NLD MPs who
earlier this month accused the party leadership of being too confrontational
towards the military.

In particular they opposed a resolution adopted last year in which the NLD
established a committee to represent the parliament that had never been
to convene. The military responded to the call for parliament by detaineding
hundreds of NLD members. Suu Kyi said NLD MPs owed their election to what the
party stood for and had a duty to remain loyal.

Party vice-chairman Tin Oo read a statement criticising the military for
failing to convene parliament and for resisting dialogue with the opposition.

He stressed the need for a tripartite dialogue involving the government, the
NLD and representatives of ethnic minorities.

The government has opposed such three-party talks and has long refused to
talks with Suu Kyi, who has been the biggest thorn in its side for more than a

Earlier on Thursday, Tin Oo appeared to wave an olive branch by saying the
party was willing to enter a dialogue with the military at any time and
whatever level.

"I think they (the military) are trying to find a way to come up with
dialogue," he told Reuters. "We are quite optimistic...If they are genuine and
sincere about democracy, it can be dialogue at any time."

However, the powerful intelligence chief, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, said
on Thursday the government believed it was on the right political track.

The general, considered the most powerful figure in the government, said this
chosen path would guarantee peace, stability and prosperity.

Khin Nyunt said the government was laying foundations for a democratic system
"in keeping with the conditions of the country as well as the aspirations of
the entire people."

Drafting of a new constitution began in the early 1990s and has stalled for
some years now. Khin Nyunt gave no indication when the process might be


27 May, 1999 

BANGKOK, May 27 (Reuters) - About 200 Myanmar dissidents protested in front of
their country's embassy in Bangkok on Thursday to demand democracy and human
rights on the ninth anniversary of an election ignored by the military

Three of the protesters slashed their arms to drip blood on to a Myanmar flag
before setting it alight.

The demonstrators demanded that the military government in Yangon recognise
result of Myanmar's last election on May 27, 1990, and allow the creation of a
civilian administration.

The opposition National League for Democracy, which is led by Nobel peace
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, won the election by a landslide but the generals
ignored the result and have attempted to silence the party through arrests and

A statement from protesters called for the release of all political prisoners.
Diplomats in Yangon say the government is holding as many as 2,000 political

The protesters in Bangkok were among thousands of dissidents who fled their
homeland to escape the bloody military suppression of a nationwide
pro-democracy uprising in 1988.

Many of them wore red headbands emblazoned with a fighting peacock, a
symbol of
the democracy struggle.



26 May, 1999

WASHINGTON, May 26 (AFP) - On the eve of the ninth anniversary of Myanmar's
last democratic election, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright slammed the
military junta there and called on it to allow democratic reforms.
In a statement to Radio Free Asia, Albright called on the military rulers of
the country formerly known as Burma to establish a "meaningful dialogue with
the democratic opposition."

"Instead of yielding power, the military has abused it, denying the people of
Burma not only democracy, but also virtually any free expression of political
and other basic human rights," she said in the statement which was to be
broadcast in Myanmar on Thursday.

"Our message to the Burmese military is to reverse course and begin to move in
a democratic direction."

In 1990, two years after the military killed thousands of protesters during a
pro-democracy uprising, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD)
won a landslide victory in Myanmar's first democratic election in almost 30

But the junta has refused to give up power, and for years confined her to

Myanmar's military rulers say that before they can release Aung San Suu Kyi
they must draft a constitution through a convention of handpicked supporters,
though no timetable has been given.

Last month the UN Human Rights Commission condemned Myanmar for sweeping human
rights violations, including increasing numbers of arbitrary and politically
motivated arrests and detentions without trials.

"The United Nations General Assembly, the European Union, the United States
many others have urged the junta to change its policies," Albright said.

"Our message to the NLD and other democratic forces in Burma is to have
the secretary said. "The world is aware of your struggle and deeply
to your cause."


27, May, 1999 by Moe Aye


The Burmese junta's ambassador to Japan, U Khin Maung Thein, on May 20 in
Tokyo, said: "The military doesn't want to do this job [running the country]
but we cannot give it to somebody who does not know about the background
history of our country and the ethnic groups." In saying this, the question
arises of who does know enough about Burma? Is it only the junta? Another
question is - if the junta doesn't want the job of running the country, why is
it doing it?

Although the world loudly complains about the junta's human rights abuses, the
junta is deaf to these complaints. The people of Burma gave the National
for Democracy (NLD) and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi a mandate in the election of May
27, 1990. Yet the junta has confirmed that it will never relinquish power. Why
was the May 1990 election held and what was the meaning of the election

If the junta had respected the results of the May 1990 election, and the
parliamentary term was limited to five years, the Parliament of Burma would
be at the end of its second term and political parties would be busy
for the next election. But this is only a dream at the moment.

Instead, a number of elected MPs have died since 1990, some are in prison and
others are outside the country. Many are still in what the junta
euphemistically calls guesthouses".

Far from recognising the May 1990 election results, the military regime is now
talking about another election. Since the last election, Burma has plunged
deeper into the abyss. Prisons have become the peoples' Parliament. There are
many ethnic refugees in neighbouring countries. While the junta claims that
Burma is one of the most peaceful and tranquil countries m the world, Suu Kyi
describes it as a battlefield.

The junta's ambassador, U Khin Maung Thein, said Burma's rulers must not show
animosity to the country's neighbours or ethnic groups. Burma must have a very
firm Constitution to ensure that ethnic groups will not fight each other
he added.

What a funny thing to say! When will the Constitution the junta talks about be
finished? One NLD division organiser who declined to be named said: "It is
time the junta stopped telling lies to the world and its own people. A very
firm Constitution should not be a weapon to protect the ruling power. Before
the election, the military said that as soon as the election result was known,
it would go back to the barracks. After the NLD won the election, the military
said that the election was held just to draw up a Constitution. Now it claims
that the Constitution will lead to another election."

Although it has been nine years since the election was held, the junta still
isn't willing to talk with the winning party. Although Suu Kyi has said that
all difficulties must be resolved by talks at the table with sincerity on all
sides, there has not yet been any official meeting between the junta and the
NLD. Sometimes the junta invites some NLD leaders in not for dialogue but for
scolding and threats.

The problem is that although the junta has its mouthpieces - the newspaper,
television and radio - to denounce the NLD and activists, to make propaganda
and so on, the winning party is not allowed to distribute even its party
newsletter. After the NLD won the election, its newsletter was banned in July
1990. The printing house that helped the NLD was also closed. While the Union
Solidarity Development Association (Usda), an arm of the junta, is allowed
rallies to denounce the NLD, the winning party is still banned from holding
annual party conference. Suu Kyi and other party leaders are not allowed to go
anywhere in the country, even to meet with grassroots party members.

It is interesting that in this country with such severe media and press
restrictions, three renegade NLD MPs had the right to hold a press conference
to criticise the NLD leadership. Some diplomats in Rangoon have also said that
the NLD is running out of options. Some say that Aung San Suu Kyi is stubborn
about possibilities for dialogue with the junta.

"They think that our lady holds the policy that she must participate in any
dialogue. I think they are also trapped in the propaganda of the junta," an
Youth Wing member who asked not to be named said. "Our lady did not say that;
she said that both sides must have the right to choose their own
delegations to
take part in a dialogue. No side should order the other over who should or
should not participate in any talks.

"The EU refused to sit at the same table with the junta and Asean loudly
claimed that the junta must be allowed to take part in the EU-Asean meeting
because Burma is a member of Asean. If so, shouldn't our lady sit at the table
in any talks because she is our general secretary?"

His comments should be kept m mind not only by the  junta but also by those
support it. Suu Kyi and the NLD leaders founded the 10-member Committee
Representing the Peoples' Parliament (CRPP) in an effort to persuade the junta
to enter into dialogue. The junta responded by arresting the elected MPs and
forcibly closing NLD offices.

With no intention of honouring the May 1990 election results, the junta
says it
is planning a new election. It is not certain whether this means the so-called
National Convention will be finished or cancelled soon. However, it is certain
that if the junta is not happy with the results, the newly-elected MPs will be
arrested, there will be forced resignations and party offices will be closed

Then the junta will change its name once more, or select a new chairman.
Whatever happens, the junta should realise that as the Burmese people bide
their time, waiting for real change, they will continue to believe that the
winners of the May 1990 election are the real government of their country. At
the same time the NLD should understand that founding the CRPP will not be
enough to bring about real change for Burma.

MOE AYE is a correspondent for the Democratic Voice of Burma, a radio station
based in Oslo, Norway.


May, 1999 Vol 7 No 4 by Win Htein

Win Htein writes on efforts by Burmese in exile to find ways to educate a
neglected generation.

Some young people in a thatch hut in a camp on the Thai-Burma border are
debating the educational problems facing young people in Burma today. "We must
improve our education level and then change the curriculum in all schools in
the liberated area," declared one student with emotion.

This subject was being discussed during a brief one-off seminar on the current
education situation in Burma organized by the All Burma Students Democratic
Front (ABSDF). Most ABSDF members never graduated from university because they
were deprived of their right to continue their education for participating in
the 8-8-88 demonstrations.

In Rangoon, the army closed all universities after the 8-8-88 uprising. In the
past decade, universities have been open for a total of only about two years.
They were re-opened briefly following elections in 1990, but then shut down
again after students demonstrated to show their support for Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi when she won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. The universities have been closed
most of the time since December 1996, when protests were held at the Rangoon
Institute of Technology. Protests by RIT students during the brief
reopening of
universities for examinations in August 1998 probably mean that they will not
be opened again soon.

"While students in open societies are debating whether education should be for
business or knowledge, students in Burma don't even have the right to go to
university. It's a very sad situation for the generation of Burmese who
will be
leading the country in the future," lamented a Burmese lecturer at Assumption
Business Administration College in Bangkok.

More than 500 Burmese professors and lecturers teach at universities in
Thailand, while thousands more teach in the US, Europe, Japan and other
countries. Most left their native country because there were no jobs for them
at Burmese universities, or because they could not stand working under
supervisors with no understanding of educational matters. Extremely poor
salaries are another reason many leave Burma.

"My monthly salary at Rangoon University was 1750 kyat (about six dollars),
while a meal in the market cost nearly 100 kyat. How could I live on just my
own income? I still had to get money from my parents," said a lecturer in an
interview with the Democratic Voice of Burma. She now earns nearly 20,000 baht
(about US$500) a month at a Thai university, where she also has her own
computer with an Internet connection. Now, she says, she can even afford to
send some money to her parents.


Instead of helping lecturers to become better educators, the emphasis of
"teacher training" under the military regime is learning how to control
students in order to prevent them from participating in demonstrations.

"They warned us that if one of our students joins a protest, we will be
sent to
jail for six months," said a lecturer who is now working in Thailand. "In the
generals' minds, the students are their enemies."

A dramatic example of this mindset at work was General Ne Win's destruction of
the Students Union Building at Rangoon University on July 7, 1962. The
evidently wanted to make his attitude towards the students abundantly clear.

"Ne Win and his Tamadaw (military) men have never had a good view of students.
They are psychopaths who are afraid of educated people. They only want
uneducated people who will obey their commands in Burma," commented Dr Mya
Maung from Boston College, who worked for many years as a teacher at the
Defense Services Academy in Maymyo.

Soon after the State Law and Order Council (Slorc) took power in 1988, Lt-Gen
Khin Nyunt, the powerful first secretary of the ruling junta, became the
chairman of the National Education Committee. He is also the chief of the
Military Intelligence Service (MIS), which orders teachers to spy on their
students. These facts alone do a great deal to explain why the education
in Burma is in such bad shape.

Another serious problem that derives from the military's attitude towards
students is underfunding. While 4% of the national budget is spent on
education, over 40% goes to the military. There are nearly half a million
soldiers in Burma, and roughly the same number of students who are waiting for
the universities to re-open.

Before the student demonstrations in December 1996, the junta planned to
shorten the university curriculum from four years to two years in an effort to
deal with the large number of high school graduates who spent years waiting
just to get into university. Now it looks as if they will not even get a
two-year education.

"Most young students in Rangoon are sitting in teashops waiting for the
universities to re-open. They want to do something but there's nothing they
do," said a Thai NGO worker who recently attended an education seminar in

The sight of jobless young people sitting in teashops is a common one in
Rangoon. Not as visible are the many would-be students who have turned to
to deal with the hopelessness of their situation. Nor can you see the many
others who have moved to Thailand in search of work, or those sent to prison
for engaging in political activities.

"The world community and NGOs should hurry to Burma to promote education, even
if the universities are closed. There is no one else here who can help the
younger generation. So we should not wait until the government changes," said
the Thai NGO worker.

The state of education in Burma is often ridiculed in Burmese popular culture.
In a well-known censored song, the singer laments that after he graduates, he
will have to ask his friend, who didn't pass high school, to give him a job.
While university graduates in many countries complain about the difficulty of
finding a decent job, in Burma it is no exaggeration to say that many educated
people are lucky to find jobs as taxi or trishaw drivers.

When a famous comedian interviewing a recent high school graduate on state-run
TV jokingly congratulated her on completing her education, he obviously struck
a little too close to home. He was arrested the next day and sentenced to a
six-month jail term for making the remark.

Another weak point in Burma's education system is corruption. Money or even
force is often used to ensure that the children of influential people
always do
well in examinations and get into the best universities. "If you can give
100,000 kyat, you are sure to win distinction in the high school examination,"
said one student. For teachers earning negligible salaries, accepting
bribes is
undoubtedly an irresistible temptation.

The problem of closed universities exists only for ordinary people. "This
problem is just for us because we are not VIPs," said one student in Rangoon
who has been waiting to enter university since 1995. "VIP" refers to
members of
families with military connections, who can attend such institutions as the
Defense Studies Academy, the Military Institute of Medicine, the Military
Institute of Technology, the Military Institute of Economics, or the Military
Institute of Computer Science.


Finding a solution to these problems will not be easy, but activists in the
liberated area are determined to make a start. At the ABSDF education seminar
held on the Thai-Burma border, it was decided that a plan should be drawn
up to
promote education in the liberated area while universities in the rest of the
country remain closed.

According to figures compiled by the National Educational Council, established
in Manerplaw in 1993 by the National Council for the Union of Burma (NCUB),
liberated area has 19 high schools, 95 middle schools and 1209 primary
with a total of almost 150,000 students. This includes schools in areas under
the control of ethnic cease-fire groups.

"We have a plan to do a seminar to develop a curriculum for the whole
area. But now we have no stable area, and another problem is the various
languages," said an officer of the NEC, adding that their main task right now
is to find supporting groups. At present, the Norway Burma Council is their
main donor.

A student at the ABSDF Headquarters School said, "Now I study in the 6th
standard, but I don't know when we will have to move again." Burmese army
offensives have forced his school to move five times in the past seven years.
Burmese soldiers killed both his parents in his village when he was five years

"They (the ABSDF and the Karen National Union) are pushing    for better
education but their camps are not stable," said an Australian volunteer
at the ABSDF Headquarters School. "I believe that the Burmese are much more
interested in education than people in my country," he added. When he visited
Rangoon, he said people asked him how the education system in other countries
differed from that in Burma. They also asked him about relations between
students and soldiers.

Another western education worker involved in a teacher training program
commented that while the ABSDF and KNU were very interested in promoting
education, they were often too busy with their political activities to devote
much energy to it. He said that he was working on a six-month program, but
after three months, they still hadn't completed the translation of teaching
materials from English into Burmese and Karen. He added that there was also a
shortage of teachers, especially ones with a professional teaching background.
Most of the teachers receiving training were former soldiers, politicians,
doctors, or engineers.

The headmaster at the ABSDF Headquarters School is a mining engineer with no
previous teaching experience. One of the teachers working under him is a
battalion commander from the Students Army. The headmaster was appointed to
position, but the soldier-cum-teacher was more than willing to make a career
change. "I chose myself as a teacher because I believe that we should share
education with the new generation here."

While he seemed happy about his new line of work, not everybody shared his
enthusiasm for teaching. One leader who used to work as a professional teacher
in Burma remarked that "A commander is more important than a teacher in the
revolutionary area. We came here to do political work, not to teach."

For some, the education problem is merely an offshoot of the political
situation. "If we can change the whole political system to make a democratic
government, it (the education problem) will be solved automatically,"
one activist.

Meanwhile, Burmese opposition groups continue to seek ways to educate young
people. One effective approach to providing post-secondary education has been
through the Distance Education Program, a correspondence course using a
curriculum developed by an Australian university.

The DEP has proven very useful to former students who weren't able to complete
their university studies in Burma, and younger people who have graduated from
high schools in refugee camps in border areas of Thailand and India. To date,
the DEP has reached more than 300 students.

Another option available to some exceptional students is sponsorship to study
in foreign countries. Hundreds of students have received scholarships from the
Open Society Institute and some US and Australian universities, giving them a
chance to study at universities in Thailand, India or in third countries.

While such opportunities exist for a small minority of students, however, many
obstacles remain for the majority of Burmese who live in foreign countries
without official recognition. The Thai Action Committee for Democracy in
an NGO based in Thailand, established a primary school for the children of
immigrants living in Mahachai, Bangkok's "Little Burma", but the school was
later shut down for "security reasons".

Zaw Htoo, a 20-year-old history student from Tavoy College, has been waiting
since December 1996 for a chance to resume his studies. In the meantime, he
works at a fish-processing factory in Mahachai. "We are the victims of an
inadequate education system and political unrest," he says. "In my factory,
Thai graduates get high positions and good salaries, but all we can do is
manual labor."

But even if he had graduated, he would have been lucky to earn two thousand
kyat (roughly 200 baht) a month in Burma, compared to his present salary of
4,500 baht. Now he is not certain if he would return to Burma even if he had a
chance to continue his studies.

The junta in Rangoon recently ordered all high schools to hold separate
examinations, to prevent a large gathering of students in one place. The same
order informed teachers that they could give students extra marks for holding
"correct" political views.

About 300,000 students sat for high school examinations held in early
March, of
whom around 100,000 could be expected to pass. That means there will be a
significant increase in the backlog of students waiting to enter
university. If
universities are not opened in the near future, the total number could reach a
million within a few years. Until Burma's military regime realizes that this
figure represents a tremendous loss for the country's future, it is
unlikely to
risk re-opening the universities. But while the generals clearly wish to see
their hold on power last in perpetuity, they seem to regard the future as
somebody else's problem. 

Win Htein is a correspondent for the Democratic Voice of Burma.


27 May, 1999 by Marisa Chimprabha and Sa-Nguan Khumrungroj

BURMA's attempt to join an Asean-EU cooperation pact is facing further
delay as
the European Union still sees no positive development in the country's
human-rights record.

"The EU sees no positive political and human rights development and
in Burma. We still maintain our position that Burma has no development,"
Emiliano Fossati, director of the EU's South and Southeast Asian Affairs
Department, said yesterday.

Fossati, as the chief of EU delegates, was speaking at a press conference at
the end of the Asean-EU Joint-Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting held here.

The Burma issue has overshadowed the three-day forum, although it was not on
the official agenda of the forum.

The chief of Asean delegates, Anucha Osathanond at the same press conference
confirmed that Burma and Laos each have already sent a letter of intent,
stating their readiness to become the signatories of the Asean-EU pact, which
will give them access to EU technical and financial assistance.

Fossati said he was not aware of the letters. But the admission of new
signatories to the pact requires consensus from both groupings, he added.

Fossati said Burma might not be able to attend the next meeting of the
Asean-European technical meeting to be held in a European city because the EU
visa ban slapped on senior Burmese government officials continues.

He said Burma's participation in the just-concluded JCC meeting was based on a
case-by-case decision. Both groupings will discuss later the participation of
Burma in the next JCC meeting which is held every 18 months.

Asean and the EU have been at a deadlock for about two years on the
presence of
Burma before reaching a compromise which allowed it to attend this meeting
as a
passive member along with Laos and Cambodia which do not face the same problem
as Burma. The three Asean members were not allowed to speak during the

Anucha said that the JCC meeting agreed to set up two additional sub
on narcotics and the environment.

They also agreed that the first meetings of these sub committees would be held
as soon as possible with that on narcotics to be held in an Asean country and
the other in a European country.

Asked whether Burma could participate in the sub committee on narcotics,
Fossati said that the EU would be dealing only with the signatories to the JCC

"Non-signatory countries should not benefit from the Asean-EU cooperation, he
told reporters.

The controversy over the presence of Burma has also delayed the Asean-EU
ministerial-level meeting scheduled to be held in Germany early this year.
Asean insists that Rangoon, as a new member of the grouping, has to attend the
meeting while Burmese cannot travel to Germany because of the visa ban.

Asked whether the deadlock on Burma has kept Laos and Cambodia out of the JCC
cooperation, Fossati said that both countries have had bilateral discussions
with the EC through which they could enhance their cooperation with the EU.

The meeting yesterday countersigned the work programme on the 'hew dynamic" in
EU-Asean relations, in which both groupings agreed to enhance cooperation on
intellectual property, customs, trade facilitation, investment, trade in
services, environment and energy.

According to the joint press statement, both sides agree that they should hold
regular discussions by experts on market-access issues to create a climate of
full confidence in trade relations.

They underlined the importance of the Asean-EU trade and its contributions to
Asia's economic recovery, and that they would support balanced growth through
the implementation of the work programme.

In a separate interview, a senior Laotian official said Vientiane has sent a
written request to Singapore, the chairman of the Asean Standing Committee,
stating it wants to join the 1980 Asean-EU cooperation pact.

Sayakan Sisouvong, the deputy director of Asean Affairs, said Foreign Minister
Somsavath Lengsavad sent a letter dated May 21 to his Singaporean
counterpart S
Jayakumar, informing him of Vientiane's readiness to sign the pact.

"It is up to Asean and the EU to consider Laos' eligibility to join the pact,"
said Sayakan who led a five-member Lao delegation to the JCC meeting for the
first time.

The EU cited Burma's poor human-rights records and its repressive regime to
deny Asean's request for Burma to join the pact. This in turn complicated
Laos's attempt to sign the pact because both countries have close ties and
share an adherence to non-interference in domestic affairs.

But Sayakan said having been acquainted with the process of Asean-European
cooperation, Laos believed joining the pact would benefit its cash strapped

He said signing the Asean-EU cooperation pact will give the country a new
window of opportunity to get funds for much-needed development and enlarge its
export access to the EU.


27 May, 1999

RANGOON- Critical foreign investment in Burma by Southeast Asian neighbours
plunged 70 per cent last year as the country was ensnared by the regional
financial meltdown, a minister said yesterday.

An investment drought resulting from the crisis has cut off the flow of
desperately needed foreign funds, said Brig-Gen David Abel, economics minister
in the military government.

"Asean investors accounted for almost 60 per cent of FDI (foreign direct
investment) prior to the crisis. Their investment fell by 70 per cent in the
calendar year 1998," he said.

Abel said Burma was spared the "initial crisis shock" in 1997 by virtue of
under developed capital markets, tight foreign exchange controls and
non-convertible, non-tradable local currency, the kyat.

"However, as the crisis deepened and turned into an economic turmoil, Burma
impacted by the contagion effect," he said at the start of the 56th Asean
Chambers of Commerce and Industry council meeting here.

Abel said Burma's gross domestic product growth rate fell from 6.4 per cent in
1996 to 5.7 per cent in 1997 to 5.6 per cent in 1998. He attributed most of
decline not to the crisis but the El Nino weather phenomenon which severely
affected Burma's agriculture-dominated economy.

The junta has set a 6.2 per cent growth target for 1999, despite the economic
turmoil in the region.

Foreign observers usually cast doubt on the military government's
of economic health.

Many believe the economy has been reduced to "crisis point" by the combination
of the investment drought and international sanctions imposed to punish human
rights abuses.

Others say that even if official figures are taken at face value, 5.6 per cent
growth in an economy as under-developed as Burma's is hardly impressive.

Critics point out that the kyat is effectively almost worthless, given its
official rate of around six to the dollar, compared to its street value of
around 330.
Burma joined the Asean in July 1997 and has been dismayed to see its hoped for
investment windfall stillborn.

26 May, 1999 by Uamdao Noikorn

Movement subject to strict controls

The Forestry Department is prepared to grant four Thai companies permission to
import 120,000 cubic metres of logs from Burma through Mae Hong Son.

Forestry chief Plodprasop Suraswadi said he has set tough conditions for the
four companies-Thai Korean Veterans' Welfare, B&F Goodrich, SA Pharmaceuticals
and Phol Phana, and that they have accepted the terms.

Under the agreement, the department and all other concerned agencies are
entitled to inspect the companies' operation sites, possibly including their
log yards in Burma, and their logs at any time. This was in addition to a
inspection jointly conducted by all concerned agencies.

Mr Plodprasop's readiness to grant the companies hauling permits follows Chart
Thai Party leader and former prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa's surprise
inspection trip to Salween national park in mid-March, after which he
his opposition to the companies' request.

The former prime minister is not a member of the cabinet although Agriculture
Minister Pongpol Adireksarn is his party's secretary-general. Mr Banharn's
inspection trip generated much speculation about his motives.

Mr Plodprasop said he has also proposed a bar-code system to identify the
origin of the logs to ensure they did not come from Thai forests. "I guess I
have to issue the permit since they've agreed to play by my rules," he said,
admitting his criteria had been intended to keep loggers at bay and he had not
expected any one to take up the offer.

The companies claimed the logs were left over from previous shipments which
were halted when the Salween log scandal broke out in February last year.

The scandal involved Thai logs from the national park and wildlife sanctuary
which were claimed as imports. So far only officials from the Forestry
Department have been punished, including the recent expulsion of six officers
found guilty of issuing fake receipts and border passes.

No one from other agencies, including the military, the National Security
Council, the police and the customs department, has been reprimanded or

The four companies had attempted to obtain permission to move their logs more
than a year ago through six border passes in Khun Yuam and Muang district of
Mae Hong Son.

They claimed to have suffered losses in billions of baht as the result of the
border closure.


27 May, 1999 


The Shan State Army has killed three soldiers in attacks on Rangoon units
Saturday, sources said yesterday.

Three attacks by SSA troops were reported in one day. One target was a police
station 2km north of Ho Mong and the junta responded by sending 300
soldiers to
the former Mong Tai Army base, they said.

However, they were slowed by heavy rain and muddy terrain.

It was believed the attacks were intended to put pressure on drug dealers
operating in Shan state, who pay protection fees to Burmese troops. Heavy
fighting between rebels and junta forces was unlikely in the rainy season,
however, the sources said.

Senior officers from the Third Army met Mae Hong Son Governor Samrueng
Punyopakorn to discuss progress on the investigation into the raid on Nam
Din police station.