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The BurmaNet News: May 31, 1999

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

The BurmaNet News: May 31, 1999
Issue #1282

SHAN: Khun Sa Paralyzed 
CHRO: Slave Labour In Thantlang
WP: As Military Spends, Misery Deepens In Burma 
BBC: Junta Or Regional Crisis Responsible  
JOC: Better Strategy Needed On Myanmar 
KNS: Envoy Denies China Building Base Near India 
Mizzima: 14 Burmese Nabbed By Indian Navy 
Annc: New Publication 
Annc: Documentary Wins National Award 

29 May, 1999 

Latest eye-witness report confirms that Khun Sa has been paralyzed for some
months, as was reported earlier by S.H.A.N. and other agencies.

At the Armed Force Guesthouse at 08:40 - 10:00 on 13 May, ex-MTA officers who
were summoned there to meet a "state minister" suddenly found themselves faced
by their ex-boss, Khun Sa a.k.a. Chang Chifu, whose right arm and leg could
barely move. Two MI - officers had to assist him both in getting out and
getting in his Mitsubishi Pajero. He also had difficulty speaking.

After 3 years with the SPDC, he seemed to have regretted his fateful decision
in 1995 to surrender. He kept saying "I want to die, the quicker the
better" to
his speechless audience, among whom were Khwan Mong, his ex-Chief Political
Officer, Ltc. Mon (currently militia chief), Ltc. Ma Kuowen (currently militia
chief also), Ltc. Aung Htun and Ltc. Mahaja. Apart from Khwan Mong, scarcely
anybody spoke to him.

"I told Gen Khin Nyunt that as I was getting old and becoming a burden, he
should consider turning me over to the Americans. But he didn't agree. He said
it's a matter of national prestige and he couldn't do it if he wanted to.

Khun Sa surrendered to Rangoon forces on 7 January 1996, 6- months after the 6
June 1995 mutiny which broke the backbone of his once "mighty" Mong Tai Army.
The fighters who refused to go along with him regrouped as the Shan States
under the leadership of Yawdserk, who pledged to cooperate with the
international community to get rid of the drug scourge.

Shans had joined Burma in 1947 under the treaty called Panglong Agreement
guaranteed Full Autonomy, Human Rights and Democracy for them. They have been
fighting against successive Rangoon governments since the terms of agreement
were violated. Their main party is the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy
that won the General Elections in the Shan State in 1990 and their central
armed movement is the Shan States Army.


29 May, 1999 from <chinhro@xxxxxxxxxxx> 

The Burmese army in the Thangtlang area, Chin State, continuously forced the
villagers including men and women, the old and young, the pastors, the
and students without attending school, to build the car road (50 miles long)
between Vuangtu village and Thantlang town from dawn to 11:oo Pm without a
rest, except the times of lunch and dinner. The army officers ordered them "to
complete the road before the coming monsoon season that starts normally in the
end of May." Nothing is provided for the villagers.

A very tired man, Pa Za Kung, from Vomkua village, who took a rest in a
was beaten and killed on the spot by the army on 5/5/99, on account of taking
rest without permits from the army. Another man, aschool teacher of Salen
village, was beaten by the army and sent to the hospital for treatment who is
in a serious condition. On 11/5/99, the forced labors were ordered to explode
(dynamite) the rocky road. After that they were forced to pick up the
stones on
the road while the stones have been being rolling down on the road from
the high rock. Villagers explained the army to pick up then stones when the
stones are in normal condition but the army refused, beat and forced them
to pick up the stones.The rolling stones, therefore, hit and pressed one man
from Vomkua villages, and each two perosons from Ze Phai and Hriphi villages.
Their friends saw and went to rescue them but the army ordered not to rescue
them, rather they said, " Don't help them, if they are killed by the stones it
is for the country." The army beat and forbad not to rescue the persons those
who are under the pressure of the rocks. "All were seriously injured and sent
to the hospital who are now in serious conditions," said by our reporters.

Today, 28 families of Ze Phai village deserted their homes and villages, and
went to India where they are living as refugees due to forced labors, human
right violations and difficult living.


27 May, 1999 by Kevin Sullivan

RANGOON - Burma is the largest country in area in Southeast Asia. Its 50
million people are among the poorest in the world, largely because of chronic
government mismanagement. Generals with no training in agriculture visit farms
and tell farmers where, when and how to plant their crops, in a practice known
as ''leaving necessary instructions.'' Inflation is at least 70 percent; the
country has virtually no hard currency reserves. Most of Burma is without
for at least 12 hours a day, forcing many homes and businesses in Rangoon to
use generators. Gasoline is rationed at three gallons a day per person.

There are virtually no street lights and most traffic signals do not work.
Trucks and buses in the capital are relics; the fleet even includes some

The drinking water is largely unsafe. Most people survive on subsistence
farming, but droughts, floods and the appropriation of food by government
troops have led to an increase in hunger in rural areas.

Foreign products are rare; major companies such as Motorola Inc., PepsiCo
Heineken NV and others pulled out years ago. Wood pulp is the main ingredient
in the fat cigarettes almost everyone smokes.

At the same time, the government spent millions to restore the Shwedagon
Pagoda, the historic golden temple complex in the heart of Rangoon, described
by Rudyard Kipling as a ''beautiful, winking wonder.'' The renovation took
than a ton of new gold plating, and poor villagers were asked to donate gold
and jewels to adorn the gilded spires.

Much of the income of Burma is believed to derive from the most prolific
heroin-producing region in the world, the so-called Golden Triangle, where
Burma, China, Thailand and Laos come together. The Burmese government has long
been a willing participant in the trade and remains so, despite its insistence
that it is cracking down on drug lords, U.S. officials said. In protest, the
United States and most Western nations refused to attend an Interpol drug
conference held in February in Rangoon.

Despite the grim economic picture, the government of Burma spends roughly 40
percent of its budget on the military. Since the generals took over in 1988,
the military has doubled to 350,000 troops and is building toward 400,000.

A junta spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Hla Min, told reporters last week that
the arms purchases and force buildup of Burma in the past decade were
to combat ethnic rebel insurgents. ''We have been portrayed as a very
race of people, but before we purchased all this equipment we were one of the
most poorly equipped countries in the world,'' Lieutenant Colonel Hla Min

But as the military has grown, some hospitals have been closed to new patients
two days a week, and the national university has been closed more than half
time since the current rulers took over.


26 May, 1999 

Burma's Economics Minister, General David Abel, has announced that inward
investment from East Asia plunged seventy per cent last year, because of the
economic crisis. This is seriously bad news, as ASEAN investors account for
sixty per cent of Burma's foreign direct investment. But critics point out
investors are put off by corruption and the unrealistic price of the kyat -
at sixty times more than its street value. But what do these economic figures
mean for ordinary people? The BBC's Matt Frei was in Burma last month:

Matt Frei: When you talk to people you do get the impression that life is
getting a lot tougher. For instance, it is very difficult to get a job if you
haven't got one already. Then it's difficult to make money. Although you can
buy food, you can buy virtually nothing else. This great promise of foreign
investment, of a booming economy, simply hasn't come true. What you see all
over Rangoon - which struck me a lot - is so many new hotels and office
buildings being built, or having been completed, that are simply empty. Noone
is staying in these places, foreigns are not coming to Rangoon to invest
those jobs that were promised by the government have not been created.
Therefore, although Burma may not have felt the efffects of the Asian economic
crisis to the extent that Indonesia did because it's never had very far to
fall, the point is that it's been bypassed by any Asian prosperity of the last
decade, almost completely.

Christopher Gunness: Given that people can only really get hold of food, has
that given rise to a thriving black market?

Matt Frei: Absolutely right. You can feel it as an ordinary visitor to the
country that the black market rate being offered to you by almost everyone on
the streets for your US dollars is astronomically higher than the official
exchange rate. That is always a good indicator of how important the black
market is. There is an unofficial black economy in Burma obviously for things
like consumer durables, electronics goods, spare parts for cars and things
that which you see in various street markets around the city. So that's where
the economy has become a sort of scavanger economy - totally removed from the
vision that the Burmese military regime had for the kind of country that Burma
should be. Also totally removed from what Burma should be in terms of its
natural and human resources. Let's not forget that in 1948 Burma was
the most prosperous, the most educated and the most promising of all of South
East Asia's nations. That is now totally the reverse. Burma has become a
complete economic basket case.

Christopher Gunness: David Able is blaming the economic crisis for the lack of
foreign investment in Burma. But you've been talking to businessmen. To what
extent are businessmen in East Asia simply frustrated with the bureaucracy and
the lack of economic infrastructure and to what extent, therefore, is that the
reason why there isn't foreign investment in Burma?

Matt Frei: I think the reason why there isn't foreign investment in Burma has
nothing to do with the economic crisis in Asia whatsoever. I think the reason
why western businessmen are not going to Burma is that investing in Burma is a
risky business - politically because you might be branded as a poria
company if
you do that, sanctions are afterall imposed. Also the legal structure in Burma
- the whole culture of bribery and corruption is so complex and such a turn
to many businessmen that you really need to have a whole department that can
invest in trying to find its way through the thicket of Burmese bureaucracy in
order to make any money there. People simply aren't prepared to do that.


27 May, 1999 by John J. Brandon 

Today is the ninth anniversary of the historic election in Myanmar, formerly
Burma, in which the proponents of democracy won a landslide victory over the
military government, then known as the State Law and Order Restoration
but it chose to ignore the election results.

After years of urging Myanmar's government to open a dialogue with the
country's most formidable political opposition, the National League for
Democracy (NLD), and its leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi,
United States two years ago imposed economic sanctions on all new investment.

It was a public condemnation of the regime's refusal to acknowledge the
election results and its atrocious human rights record.

U.S. sanctions -- and lesser sanctions imposed by the European Union -- have
been useful in portraying Myanmar as a pariah state and, to a limited extent,
have negatively affected business since they were instituted two years ago.

Nonetheless, do unilateral sanctions really matter when the country's military
governments have made abominable economic policy decisions for 37 years? More
importantly, are they the most effective tool in trying to promote a better
future for the land's people?

According to a study by the Institute for International Economics, sanctions
tend to be most effective when the sender and target of sanctions have been
friendly toward one another and conducted substantial trade.

The United States has not sent an ambassador to Myanmar in nine years, and the
U.S. trade relationship with the country has always been minuscule.

Moreover, the purpose of the sanctions was to encourage, indeed force, the
ruling generals to improve the country's poor human-rights record and
engage in
serious political reform, including establishing a dialogue with the NLD and
Ms. Suu Kyi.

Since their imposition, U.S. sanctions have not had any success in fostering
greater democracy or improving the human rights situation in Myanmar. In fact,
conditions have worsened.

After spending six years under house arrest, Ms. Suu Kyi's movements continue
to be strictly confined and her party members have been muted through
intimidation, imprisonment and torture.

Given the continued unwillingness of the generals to share power with the
political opposition, the government, now known as the State Peace and
Development Council, may be of the mind that it has faced economic
before. The SPDC may feel it can go through an austerity period before gas
revenue from the Yadana pipeline begins to flow and Asian nations have battled
their way out of their economic depression and begin reinvesting in Myanmar.

However, what the regime fails to take into account is how the economic crisis
is irrevocably transforming these same Asian nations' political and economic
systems -- and that "business as usual" is no longer possible or acceptable.

Isolation, whether imposed domestically or by foreign sanctions, does not help
the regime to understand the forces of globalization.

Companies are divesting not because of economic sanctions and the stigma
on the regime because of egregious human rights abuses.

They are divesting because of Myanmar's political uncertainty and the
government's failure to develop laws and regulations that would allow any
foreign investor (perhaps save for oil and gas exploration companies) to be
profitable. The stigma of sanctions only makes the decision to divest all the
more easy.

Human Rights Watch, an organization not known for coddling dictators, has
the position that neither the West's policy of isolation nor Asia's policy of
"constructive engagement" has been successful in promoting human rights. Human
Rights Watch calls for a multilateral policy that would include a "road
map" in
which verifiable human-rights improvements would lead to normal economic and
diplomatic relations with the international community.

Such a policy, however vague in its current incarnation, has a better
chance of
producing long-term results than either of the more extreme options. It is
important, however, to note that only a multilateral policy with broad
consensus will work in bringing the SPDC to the negotiating table.

While the United States and other nations have been specific in what they want
the SPDC to do in order to improve Myanmar's standing in the international
community, these same countries have been rather opaque about what they are
prepared to offer the SPDC in return.

The generals will not go gently into that good night, and any strategy will
have to bear this in mind.

The generals' shortsightedness and poor performance at governing, combined
international sanctions, will work to prevent Myanmar from becoming a viable
political, economic, and social entity.

Without a coordinated strategy, the international community should expect to
remain at loggerheads with a regime whose policies continue to erode Myanmar's
potential and bankrupt its people's future.

John J. Brandon, a Southeast Asia specialist, is the Asia Foundation's
Assistant Director in Washington. The views expressed here are his own.


21 May, 1999 

Tokyo, 21st May: Myanmar [Burma] Ambassador to Japan Khin Maung Thein denied
Friday [21st May] that China is constructing or helping Myanmar construct
facilities on Myanmar territory facing India on the Bay of Bengal.

Khin Maung Thein, a former air force pilot before becoming a diplomat two
ago, accused neighbouring India of making such an allegation to further its
national interest.

He also suggested to reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan
nonaligned Myanmar was merely caught in a crossfire in the ongoing rivalry
between the regional superpowers.

"We always have to be neutral otherwise we will get into trouble," the
ambassador said, citing his country's delicate geopolitical situation in
Southeast Asia.

He said islands belonging to Myanmar that are described in reports to be where
the Chinese are building their bases are made up of sandy ground and have no
food sources needed to maintain a military presence.

The ambassador also said India should know that such a report is inaccurate by
checking with Indian intelligence officials with their satellite and
surveillance flights over the islands.

Indian officials - especially Defence Minister George Fernandes - have
repeatedly issued warnings, particularly last year, about what they call
China's attempts to encircle India through military cooperation with Myanmar
and facilities in Myanmar's Coco Islands.

The islands, Great and Little Coco, are close to India's Andaman and Nicobar

The ambassador, who assumed his Tokyo post in January, said Myanmar Foreign
Minister Win Aung is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo 2nd June for a three-day
visit to participate in a seminar on the future of Asia and to hold talks with
Japanese officials.

He also told Kyodo News that Agriculture Minister Nyunt Tin concluded a visit
to Japan on Friday after holding talks with Japanese business leaders
concerning rice production and the procurement of heavy machinery.

During the meeting with reporters, his first, Khin Maung Thein said the
military junta in Yangon [Rangoon] will "definitely" transfer power to a
civilian government once a new constitution now under draft has been

"Military members never oppose the transfer of power," he said. "It is not
appropriate for the military to rule the country. This is not our job."

The junta seized power in 1988 and refused to hand over power following a
general election in 1990 won overwhelmingly by the National League for
Democracy (NLD), led by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since then, the junta has jailed many of the NLD candidates elected to

The envoy said a national constitutional convention, which has convened
intermittently since January 1993, is now working on a " delicate portion"
involving power sharing between the legislative, executive and judicial
branches as well as revenue and territorial sharing.

More than 50 per cent of the draft has been completed, the ambassador said.

He accused Suu Kyi of delaying the process by not cooperating with the junta.


29 May, 1999 from: <mizzima@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> 

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry of India on 27th May
1999, fourteen Burmese were arrested during the course of an operation
jointly by Indian Navy and Coastal Guard ships off the North Andaman Islands.

Defence Ministry's statement said that a large wooden boat, carrying the
Burmese who are suspected to be poachers, were first intercepted by an Indian
Naval ship on patrol off the islands on 15th May. On being challenged by the
Indian Navy, the boat disappeared into one of the many shallow water creeks in
the area.

A joint operation of the Indian Navy and Coastal Guard ships was carried
out in
the area to apprehend the poachers. The exits were sealed around the Andaman
Islands and police personnel carried out combing operations of the island

Fourteen Burmese nationals were arrested during the course of operation.
Moreover, Indian Defence Ministry claimed that a large wooden boat of Thai
origin and two smaller dinghies of Burmese origin were seized and combing
operations are still in progress on and around the Andaman Islands to locate
and apprehend the remaining poachers.


26 May, 1999 

The Burmese edition of U Thaung's 1995 book, "A Journalist, A General, And An
Army in Burma", has just been issued. The distinguished Burmese journalist and
editor recounts with wry detachment the battles between the press and the
military in the decades following independence in 1948.  Both the English and
Burmese editions are available through the author, currently
editor-in-chief of
the New Era Journal, a pro-democracy Burmese-language monthly newspaper
published in Thailand.

Contact information: U Thaung, 1976 SW 67thTerrace, Pompano Beach, FL 33068,
USA. Tel/fax: (954) 973-3485.  E-mail:  thaung@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


23 May, 1999 from: neo200@xxxxxxxxxxx

Birth: Voices from the 1988 Uprising in Burma, a documentary recounting the
events of the nationwide demonstrations for democracy and human rights in
Burma, has just won the International Video award in the 1999 Hometown Video
Festival.  Birth, which made its television premiere in Central New York on
PEGASYS station Channel 13 in November 1998, traces the evolution of the 1988
Uprising from its early beginnings as a student movement to its development as
a popular struggle and finally to the Burmese military regime's brutal
crackdown of the demonstrations.

Birth was selected to enter the Hometown Video Festival after it won the Best
Documentary and Best Access Program Awards at PEGASYS in February of this
year.  The Hometown Video Festival is a national competition sponsored by the
Alliance for Community Media, a national, non-profit organization committed to
assuring everyone's access to electronic media.  This is cable programming's
largest video festival; this year, the festival had over 1600 entrants from
across the country.  PEGASYS submits entries to the Hometown Video Festival
every year, but Birth is the first video submitted to win this prestigious

Birth is also the first film on the 1988 Uprising produced by a Burmese
activist, Shwe Htee (8.8.88), who made the film in order to commemorate last
year's tenth anniversary of the uprising.  Shwe Htee was a student leader in
the uprising and is currently Secretary of the Democratic Burmese Students'
Organization (USA-East).  Shwe Htee will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend
the 1999 International Conference & Trade Show, the Alliance for Community
Media's national conference, from July 7-10,1999.  He will receive the
award on
July 8 at the Hometown Video Festival Awards Ceremony, which will be shown
to a
national audience of about 500 people and broadcast live on television.

Birth: Voices from the 1988 Uprising in Burma features interviews with
and activists who were involved in and eyewitnesses of the pro-democracy
struggle.  With live footage from the uprising and last year's ten-year
commemorations, Birth is a moving film about the struggle for justice and
freedom in Burma. Birth was produced in conjunction with the Nonviolence
Empowerment Organization, Inc. (NEO). For more information, please contact
neo200@xxxxxxxxxxx or write to NEO, P.O. Box 6596, Ithaca, NY 14851-6596.