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BurmaNet News September 5, 1995

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

The BurmaNet News:  September 5, 1995
Issue #216

Noted in Passing:
  There are numerous instances of rightful owners forced by
government officials to sell off their property at much below
market rates only to resell them to foreign concerns at much
higher prices.  (quoted in The Power of Dollar in Burma)


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(Editor's Note: In an effort to shorten the length of BurmaNet issues, 
the editor will abridge articles which are similar to other articles posted
in the same issue.  Articles containing information not directly related
to Burma may also be abridged.)
September 3, 1995   By A-Hman-Ta-Ya

BROTHER, can you  show me what a dollar note looks like. I have
never seen one," says Daw Khin Myo Chit to the foreign visitor at
her ramshackle hut, the fascination on her face as distressing as
it is innocent.

 A conversation soon breaks out with her eldest son claiming
to have seen a one dollar note once, given to him by a Chinese
businessman at the office where he works as a peon.

  "It is about this long," he says as if it were some exotic
creature, measuring out a length on his soiled palm, "and fetches
more than 110 kyat in the black market."

     For many of Burma's poorest, unaware of the workings of
global finance, it remains a total mystery why this piece of
foreign paper should be worth much more than their own currency.

     But what they do understand, as the country lurches forward
into the market economy, is that the dollar is in some way
related to both the sudden prosperity visible in their cities
and also the rapid rise in prices of most essential commodities.

     A recent random survey at a Rangoon market showed rice was
selling at 80 kyat (official rate for a dollar is 6 kyat) to the
pyi (about 1.5 kg), edible oil at 240 kyat ($40) per viss (2.2
kg) and chicken-at 400 kyat ($58) per viss.

     Considering that the highest government salary does not
cross 3,000 kyat ($500) the prices are simply devastating for the
common citizen.

     Since 1988 the prices of most commodities have gone up at
times as much as ten-fold while incomes have increased only

     The explanations for the price rise vary but the commonly
accepted one is that it is due to influx of foreign money into
the local economy combined with the indiscriminate export of
various commodities traders.

     With trade along Burma's borders with China, Thailand and
India picking up in recent years, many businessmen are exporting,
apart from limber and gems, a variety of goods which are cheap
domestically as compared abroad.

Prices rise due to both the shortage of goods created by
exports as well as the higher purchasing power in the hands of a
few who earn foreign currency. Speculation in commodities by
unscrupulous traders and officials is another cause of inflation.

     The employed middle class in the  country has been coping
with price rises either by indulging in petty corruption of
various kinds or by forcing all family members to earn.

     It is a common sight to see women from middle class homes
setting up  shops vending goods on pavements, ever wary of
policemen who harass them and demand bribes. Many government
employees who are eligible for rations made available at
officially fixed prices are forced to sell them off in the open
market to raise cash.

     Many middle-class families complain that apart from
increasing open market prices, even the officially charged
monthly water tax has risen from 15 kyat last year to 90 kyat now
while electricity rates per unit has gone up from 0.50 kyat last
year to 2.50 kyat now.

     Three months ago Rangoon city authorities introduced a new
municipal tax of 45 kyat per month ostensibly to help "keep
the city clean".

     "When we object to the high rates, bill collectors
sarcastically ask us to send a letter to the military
government," says a housewife.

     The education of children is also an expensive proposition,
while the official fee paid in government-run educational
institutions is low. The hidden costs involved are high.
Apart from the textbooks and clothing to be purchased at
open market rates, a major burden is the large sums of private
tuition fees they have to shell out to individual teachers to
"see their children through the exams".

     "Most school and college teachers insist on students coming
to them for- private tuition so that they can make some extra
money," fumes one parent. But in an afterthought she admits that
given the compulsions she would do the same thing if she had been
a teacher.

     The section of society hit hardest by inflation has been of
course the poor and daily wage labour class. With neither the
"privilege" of indulging in corruption nor with capital to start
their own business, many such families have cut down on. the
consumption of various food items that had taken for granted in
the past.

We can no longer afford either  good quality rice or chicken",
laments Aung Shwe, a trishaw peddlar for whom even the pre-
1988 days of General Ne Win's regime suddenly look rosy
despite all its other problems. "At least the prices were much
 more affordable," he says, though he admits it is the same bunch
of people who rule even today.

But the if the poor and the middle class are often forced to
compromise their integrity for sheer survival there is also an
emerging section of Burmese  who do it  out of sheer greed.
The increasing number of cars seen on Rangoon roads belong to
this nouveau riche class which is made up of close relatives of
senior officials or " well connected " private businessmen.

     Another major area where some Burmese are making a lot of
money of course is real estate. The inflow of over $564 million
worth of foreign investment into the tourism sector has meant a
boom in land prices while the increase in the number of foreign
residents has boosted rentals  throughout Rangoon.

 Along the commercially active Sule Pagoda Road in downtown in
Rangoon, an ordinary shop measuring 36 by 60 feet now costs 35
million kyat (140 million baht), double the price a few years
ago. There are numerous instances of rightful owners forced by
government officials to sell off their property at much below
market rates only to resell them to foreign concerns at much
higher prices.

(A-HMAN-TA-YA is a journalist who was recently in Rangoon.)

September 3, 1995 by Krairat Dejmongkholwattanaa.

  The little province of Ranong has long since benefitted
             from its close proximity to Burma

     The province, which is 568 kilometres from Bangkok, is home
for about 140,000 people, and has a local per capita income of
between Bt50,000 to Bt60,000, according to a survey compiled at
the end of 1994.

     The tiny province generated a lot of income because it
allowed Thai investors and merchants access to the natural
resources and benefit from the economic opportunities in Burma,
including Koh Son and Kong Song.

     But recently the province has begun to suffer because of a
single incident which allegedly stemmed from the pure greed of a
fishing company.

     The company, Myanmar-Narong Canning Company, won concessions
to fish in the fertile Burmese waters, but it later tried to
cheat Rangoon by sending unlicensed ships, which the firm built
and painted to look similar to the legal ones, to fish there.

     The unlicensed ships tried to smuggle its catch, to be sold
in Ranong, without sharing the profits with Burma.  According to 
well-informed sources, the Burmese government
became furious after learning about the deceit. Rangoon, as a
result, ordered the cancellation of the concession.

     This, in turn, infuriated the concessionaire and led to the
source of the problem.

     On Aug 6, at least 10 Burmese fishermen on a Thai trawler,
whose concession was cancelled, were brutally murdered. They were
tied up and beaten, before being thrown overboard.

     Fishing, tourism and cross-border trade were the major
sources of income for the province, but Ranong does not only
serve as a gateway for economic prosperity, it also provides
channels for a variety of illegal activities.

     A lot of illegal Burmese  immigrants cross Ranong's border
to work as cheap labour on the west coast as well as other parts
of the country.  These illegal immigrants often cause conflicts with
 local labourers because they drive the wage rates down and often take
away jobs that once belonged to the local work force.

     But these same illegal immigrants are necessary for the
fishing industry, which is plagued by a labour shortage.

     The illegal immigrants are also known as major sources of
income for unscrupulous immigration of officials.

     The local people, who are sympathetic towards the
immigrants, say the Burmese are often robbed by Thai immigration
officials when they fail to produce the necessary border-crossing
documents.  The officials often strip them out of all the valuables if
they are caught without the relevant documents.

     Those, who cross the Thai border legally to work in the
country, have to pay a Bt30 fee.   The local people suspect that 
all the fees collected might not be sent to its official destination.

     Ranong is also known as a major transit point for smuggling
logs out of Burma.

     A border patrol policeman, who asked not to be named, said
the smugglers often floated rafts of logs down the river, which
borders the two countries, to sawmills downstream.  The BPP 
policeman said he and his team used to seize some of
rafts but were ordered by senior officials to let them go.

     " We have had to turn a blind eye to the smuggling," the
policeman said. "We have to accept that it's no use arresting

September 4, 1995                    Rangoon, AP

A FEMALE university student and a male goldsmith have emerged
winners of the first foreign-sponsored model search contest in
conservative Burma, organisers said yesterday. 

The "Traditional Carrie Asian Model Search 95, Myanmar" was
staged Saturday by the Singapore-based agency Carrie Models. The
winners go to Singapore in October to compete in finals with
models from 14 other countries. 

For several decades Burma renamed Myanmar by the current junta has 
sought to keep out foreign cultural influences. The military govern-
ment, while maintaining a total grip on political power, has opened 
up the country economically and allowed such things.

The model search winners were Ms Aye Thida, 22 and Kyaw Min Thu,

"The concept of holding the (search) is to promote Asian talents
and culture within our Asian region," said Brian Jeremiah,
creative director of Carrie Models.

     Unfortunately the "New Light of Myanmar" (sic) has
no letters to the editor column.  Perhaps the Burmanet will
serve the purpose, since SLORC regularly monitors the net.
     In the August 1 article "Let there be no jealousy or
envy," (kindly reprinted in The Irrawaddy, August 15) "U
Phyoe" seeks to make much of the fact that he, now a layman,
was once "a clergy," although that makes him no more than
the vast majority of males in Burma who have spent time as
monks in robes at some point in their lives.
     Mr Phyoe, layman, offers us a special "spiritual gift"
in the form of a little lesson in Dhamma.  Since Mr. Phyoe, in
remarkable contrast to the vast majority of men and women in
Burma, finds the SLORC the greatest government imaginable,
"really and so swiftly achieving so much progress in promoting
the people's living standards, in developing towns and
countryside, in providing airports and seaports, and in building
pagodas, monasteries, hospitals, dispensaries and parks," we
might expect to disagree with his Dhamma lesson as well.
     And so it is.  Mr. Phyoe skips right down the list of
defilements, past the heavy-duty kilesas of greed, hatred,
delusion, and wrong view to single out jealousy, envy (issa
macchariya) as the most abominable.   An interesting choice.
The target for his malice is, of course, Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi, whom he is unwilling or unable to mention by name.
Because she has cautioned foreign governments not to rush
into Burma, she is said to be jealous and envious.  Note well,
however, that there are two requisite conditions for
covetousness: 1) Another's property and 2) a strong desire for
it, thinking,  if this property were mine'.  Neither of those
conditions holds in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's case, however.
In cautioning foreign governments in their rush to give money
to the SLORC, which, after all, is only a council, not a
government, and certainly does not represent the people of
Burma, there is no "property" involved, least of all, SLORC's.
Actually the SLORC is taking, using, and selling what belongs
to the people, without their consent.  Furthermore, Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi is not  thinking "let this property be mine," and
has not wished for anything for herself,  Since neither condition
pertains, Mr. Phyoe's diatribe is quite undeserved and entirely
     Poor Mr. Phyoe.  Can he truly believe that "the State
Law and Order Restoration Council is striving to build up the
country in all sectors and all aspects: and that "it has
successfully organised all national groups to reunite"?  Burma
TV regularly broadcasts a song with various ethnic minorities
in their best "Visit Myanmar Year" costumes.   Conspicuous
by their absence are all the Karen.  Doesn't that speak volumes
about the reunion?  If it isn't clear enough, just consider the
over 100,000 refugees on the Thai/Burma border alone.
     If poor Mr. Phyoe really wanted to offer a lesson on the
kilesas, he might better look instead at the policies of the
SLORC itself.  What better examples do we have of greed--selling 
Burma's natural resources "like fast food" for their
own profit and controlling virtually all business ventures in the
country; hatred--systematically destroying entire ethnic
villages as well as eliminating all political opposition; and
delusion--thinking that their short-sighted policies can save the
country and hat their criminal acts and cynical exploitation of
Buddhism (This is a regime that imprisons and tortures
monks!), will really be for their own future happiness.  These
are truly "abominable" kilesas, defilements, which perpetuate
the cycle of samsara and prevent the attainment of perfect
peace.  And what of the defilements of issa macchariya,
jealousy and envy?  The article clearly indicates how much
Mr. Phyoe and SLORC envy and resent Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi's unfailing inner strength and her undimmed popularity.
     It is laughable to read Mr. Phyoe's praise of the brutal
SLORC and that his "heart goes out in pity to that person for a
deed so vile and so abominable."   His attempt, however, to
use the Dhamma to cast aspersions on one who herself
understands that Dhamma so well, whose speeches and
writings are well-illuminated with apt references from the Pali,
but who is unable to reply, is deplorable.  Burma has long been
regarded, and to a great extent still is regarded, as the country
where the level of the teaching of the Dhamma is the highest.
By allowing such an article as this to be published officially,
the SLORC shows once again how far removed it is from that
     As for Mr. Phyoe, he might well recollect Buddha's
words to Ananda before he essays to teach Dhamma to others.
Five things should be well established before one should teach
 I will speak Dhamma in a gradual way;
I will speak with the goal in mind;
I will speak with kindliness;
I will not speak as a means of gain;
I will speak not to harm anybody.'

Anguttara Nikaya III:183)


The following charming example of SLORC's articulateness
was waiting for us at the post office.  We have, out of
consideration for the readers, replaced the obscenities with
"***".  While some might question the need to expose this sort
of thing, we suppose that vermin fear and detest the light of
day for good reason.

>Burmese Relief Center

>Self-relief persons,

>You all are only out of some, who don"t want to see our
>Country (MYANMAR) to be flourished.

>You dare insult our Patriotic Army Personnels away from
>Japan because you might be an Alien or the Minions who ***
>up by and sucked up to the Japanese.

>Suckers!  You are crying out like a parrot being satisfied
>yourself the status of slavery sucking to the Japanese.  Be
>careful!  If you were identified one day, all 500 thousand
>Army personnels will ***  you exactly.

>You are not a Patriot, just only a parrot.

>Dont use the name of our Burmese people, Suckers!
>                                               Retired Army Veteran
>P.S. This letter has been sent out to all other parrots.  Your
>partners also know what you are doing in Japan, Dr, Aung
>Khin; Please kindly send out this letter to U Thaung
>(ZAWANA) and U Myint Thein from Texas, because I dont
>have their addresses.

(It was mailed from Washington, DC July 14, and of course,
was unsigned.)
September 4, 1995

(Committee for Publicity of People's Struggle in Monland)

Gross human rights abuses in the process of the Burmese
Army's recent military offensive in Tenasserim Division
against the Karen National Union and the Meik-Dowei United

The Burmese Army (the Tatmadaw) has conscripted hundreds
of innocent civilians from several ethnic Karen, Mon and
Tavoyan villages in Yebyu, Thayet Chaung, Launglon and
Tavoy townships in Tenasserim Division and has used them as
front-line portering labour in its recent offensive operation
against the Karen National Union's 4th brigade and the small
ethnic Tavoyan army (MDUF) respectively operating in the
region.  The conscripted civilian porters have reportedly
suffered various inhuman treatments and serious abuses by the
Burmese troops, including killing when they were unable to
carry the given heavy loads out of their exhaustion or serious
sickness.  Many of the Burmese troops - including some
commanding officers - have reportedly also committed a series
of rapes in the Karen and Tavoyan villages during the
offensive operation.

The majority of the forced portering labour was reportedly
conscripted from Taung Byauk, Winkapaw, Kywe Gyan,
Kyauk Aing, Me Ke, Alezu, Byatwithar, Winwa, Speration, the
Burmese troops reportedly also burned
down some Karen and Tavoyan villages which they suspected
of harbouring the KNU or the MDUF guerrillas.

The 500 Burmese troops, with the 1000 conscripted civilian
porters, arrived at Taung Byauk village in Thayet Chaung
township on 1st June 1995 and forced to stay on the respective
houses of the village without permission of their owners.
Taung Byauk - the village mostly composed of ethnic Karen
people - was a small community having a total of 60
households and a population of approximate 400.  During their
encamping in the village, the Burmese troops reportedly
forcibly took and ate up the livestock and food stuffs of the
villagers without agreement of the owners and without
payment given to the owners.

Some of the Burmese troops reportedly committed a series of
rapes in some of the Karen and Tavoyan villages they reached
during the operation.  During their stay in Taung Byauk
village, on 8 June 1995, the 404th light infantry battalion
commander Lt.  Colonel Zaw Weit, a company commander
Captain Thant Zin, and Corporal Naing Tun - as they were
drunk - beat and gang-raped a 42-year-old Karen woman Ma
Aye Mya, who is the wife of the village's chairman U Aung

 After and besides their gang-rape, the (rapist) Burmese
officers again forcibly took away the gang-rape victim's
husband U Aung Myaing (the chairman of the village) as
portering labour along with their troops.  On that same day (8
June 1995), a company commander of the 404th light infantry
battalion Captain Myint Maung Win also forced to rape the
wife of the village's secretary.  Fortunately, this Karen woman
successfully resisted the Burmese captain's rape attempt and
managed to escape.

The conscripted civilian porters were reportedly subjected to
all sorts of ruthless inhuman treatment during their captivity
and enslavement by the Burmese troops.  The civilian porters
were reportedly required to carry disproportionately heavy
loads for several hours each day regardless of weather and for
an indefinite long period of time until their escapes or deaths.
The civilian porters were not provided with sufficient food; nor
were they provided with minimum medical treatment when
they were sick or when they were injured in the cross-fire
between the Burmese troops and the Karen/Tavoyan guerrilla
forces.  The civilian porters were not allowed to have adequate
rest; they were bound in pairs or in groups and were as such
left to sleep without shelter regardless of rains.  The civilian
porters were also used as a human shield and human mine-
sweepers by being forced to go in the front of the Burmese
troops; as a result, many of these civilian porters were killed on
the spot or seriously injured as they stepped on the land mines
trapped by the guerrilla forces.

Gravest and most horrendous of all, some of these civilian
porters were reportedly shot, bayoneted or beaten to death by
the Burmese troops when they were unable to carry the given
loads out of their serious sickness or exhaustion.  Amongst the
executions of the civilian porters by the Burmese troops, the
six following ethnic Tavoyan men were included: Ko Win
Aung (from Thagyettaw village of Laungion township), Ko
Soe Hia, Ko Soe Than, U Hla Khin ( respectively from Thabye
Chaung village of Tavoy township), Ko Htay Oo (from Thayet
Chaung town) and Ko Hlaing Myint (from Auk Yebyu village
of Laungion township) respectively.  Ko Win Aung, Ko Soe
Hia, Ko Soe Than and U Hia Khin were beaten to death by the
Burmese troops as they were unable to carry the given loads
out of their serious sickness, whereas Ko Htay Oo and Ko
Hlaing Myint were respectively shot dead by the Burmese
troops in their unsuccessful escape attempts.

Tens of these civilian porters are estimated to have died of
serious sickness, out of landmine explosions, in the cross-fire
between the Burmese troops and the Karen guerrillas, or
because of ruthless cruel treatments by the Burmese troops,
includ [section lost here]  Nu put his experience this way:
'A total of about 2000 labourers from several local villages
were officially required to work for the railway construction at
the Gyar Naw worksite.  But not all these 2000 labourers were
actually having to work for the railway construction itself,
because many of them were in advance singled out by Major
Soe Nwe to work for his private businesses - namely
production of vegetables, firewood, thatch and so on - instead
of the railway construction.  Major Soe Nwe used some
labourers to make a large vegetable garden nearby that railway
construction worksite, while making other labourers to collect
firewood and thatch in the forests.  But, at last, Major Soe Nwe
made himself the single owner of the entire vegetable garden,
fire-wood and thatch so produced; he sold these products to the
thousands of labourers working on the railway construction
and thereby made money for himself and/or his battalion.
However, none of these labourers, who did the gardening, who
chopped the fire-wood and who collected the thatch, were paid
for their labour, but they had to provide their own food and
own tools for the works just like the labourers working on the
railway construction.  It was even worse that those labourers,
who had to do the gardening all by their own expenses and
without payment, had to buy and pay the same price for some
vegetables which they brought from the garden for their own
  (Photo, with the caption:  Major Soe Nwe, dressed in civilian
clothes and standing with his hands on his hips, with three
local Mon villagers well-connected to him, having a
photograph taken together in his vegetable garden made by the
unpaid forced civilian labour; the next person, out of the row,
is one of his soldiers from his 407th Light Infantry Battalion.)

Reported on 15 August 1995 by the Committee for Publicity
of People's Struggle in Monland,
G.P.O Box  227,  Bangkok 10501, Thailand.