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Human Rights Watch Director Stateme

Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
Hearing on

Thursday, September 7, 1995 - 9.30 AM
Room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building


Statement by
Holly Burkhalter
Washington Director
Human Rights Watch On Human Rights in Burma

September 7, 1995

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for taking the leadership to hold this important
hearing on Burma at a most critical time. I also want to thank you for 
inviting us to testify. My name is Holly Burkhalter and I am the Washington 
Director of Human Rights Watch. I appear here today on behalf of Human Rights 
Watch/Asia(formerly Asia Watch). Since 1985, our organization has carried out 
independent monitoring of human rights in Asia, conducting investigations, 
publishing repoits, engaging in dialogue with governments, and wherever 
possible collaborating with and supporting the work of local human rights 
monitors. Human Rights Watch has consultative status at the United Nations.

In my testimony this morning, I would like to give a brief overview of the
current human rights conditions in Burma, then outline our recommendations to 
the international community and the U.S. government.

Human Rights Developments

The release of Aung San Suu Kyi on July 10, 1995, one day before the end
of her legal period of detention, was a welcome move on the part of the State 
Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Her release comes after years of
international pressure on SLORC, including five unanimous resolutions by the 
U.N. General Assembly and numerous appeals from individual governments, 
including the United States, Japan, and members of the European Union.

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The decision to release Aung San Suu Kyi was also a measure of the SLORC's 
confidence in its ability to hold down the lid on dissent. Indeed, it is 
difficult to know whether her release will lead to an improvement in the human 
rights situation in Burma, or whether it may only lead to a further 
entrenchment of the current military government. This could occur if SLORC 
succeeds in attracting increased international investment and economic 
assistance and, as a result, finds less need to respond to calls from the 
international community for fundamental change.

We believe it is certainly far too early to reward the SLORC with further 
investment and bilateral or multilateral assistance. Just two days after her 
release, Aung San Suu Kyi said. "In the long run, I think we would need 
international investment, but I don't think we should rush into this.. .1 want 
to study the situation very carefully before I can say whether 1 truly believe 
this is the right time for investment." {1}

In late July, Human Rights Watch/Asia published a major report documenting 
current human rights conditions in Burma. Even while Burma's most prominent 
democracy leader has been freed, the overall human rights situation in the 
country is worsening. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 
recently closed its office in Rangoon after the failure of'negotiations with the Burmese government to allow the organization access to Burma's detention
centers. Offensives have been renewed against ethnic minority groups, 
including the Karenni Nationalities People's Party, which signed a cease-fire agreement with the SLORC in March 1995.   In areas where fighting has resumed, tens of thousands of villagers have been forcibly taken from their homes and 
fields to work for the army. Many have died from beatings and exhaustion.

After the fall ofthe Karen National Union headquarters in January 1995, a 
breakaway group of ethnic Karen Buddhists, which has formed an alliance with 
the Burmese army, attacked refugee camps in Thailand, killing several refugees 
and Thai villagers and abducting scores of others.

Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities across Burma has 
increased in 1995.  Many of these communities have been forcibly relocated 
into government-controlled villages, while religious buildings and land have 
been confiscated. In Arakan State, from which 270,000 Muslims fled during 
1991-92, reports of forced labor and forced relocations of Muslims have
continued. As the SLORC has moved to attract international investment and tourism, at least two 
million Burmese citizens since 1992 have been forced to 
work for no pay under brutal conditions to rebuild the country's 

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Human Rights Watch/Asia estimates that at least 1,000 political prisoners 
remain in Burmese jails, including sixteen members of parliament elected in 
May 1990. The names of the detained M.P.'s are attached to my testimony, Mr. 
Chairman. We learned just recently that three veteran politicians were 
arrested and sentenced during July 1995. They are U Tun Shwe, former diplomat 
and politician; U Thu Wai, a close associate of U Nu who worked with him to
form the Democratic Party; and U Htwe Myint, also a political activist. All of 
them are in their late sixties or early seventies. While we do not have all of 
the details from their trials, we do know that U Tun Shwe was sentenced to 
seven years under Section 5J of the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, which 
allows for imprisonment of up to seven years of any one who "infringes
upon the health, conduct and respect of state or military organizations... or 
spreads false news about the government."

It is also worth noting that while Daw Aung San Sun Kyi has been permitted to 
meet with foreign diplomats, in early August, ASEAN ambassadors were warned 
that a lunch meeting planned with Suu Kyi would be considered as violating the 
principles of non-interference.  And a Thai non-governmental organization had 
planned to tape a speech from Aung San Suu Kyi to be broadcast at the NGO 
forum in Beijing, but the Burmese Government denied the group a visa to
travel to Rangoon for that purpose. However, a tape of her speech was smuggled 
out of Burma and was played at the Beijing conference. In it, she stated that 
"It is fear of persecution for their political beliefs that has made so many 
of our people feel that even in their own homes they cannot live in dignity 
and security."

We believe that the SLORC must take significant action to improve the human 
rights situation in Burma, as spelled out in detailed recommendations by the 
U.N. Human Rights Commission.


We urge the international community to respond to the release of Aung San Suu 
Kyi by engaging in dialogue with the SLORC about what specific steps it will 
take to implement United Nation's resolutions on Burma, while at the same time 
initiating direct, ongoing contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi in order to discuss 
the human rights situation. Unfortunately, the visit to Burma by the
Assistant Secretary General, Alvaro DeSoto, in mid-August was not particularly 
successful, as he was unable to meet with the SLORC Secretary, Khin Nyunt. He 

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did have several meetings with the Army Chiefof Staff and with Aung San Suu 
Kyi. But there have been no indications that the UN team might be able to 
broker direct negotiations between Aung San Suu Kyi, the SLORC, and the ethnic 
minorities. It is crucial that Mr. DeSoto's mandate be extended when the 
bilateral Assembly convenes this fall.

Diplomatic contacts with the SLORC must be accompanied by internationally 
coordinated measures to continue and increase pressure on the SLORC to 
undertake fundamental human rights reforms.

Among the measures we would recommend to the international community for 
exerting pressure on the SLORC:

-- a freeze on all further private investment unless and until all forced 
labor in Burma has ended and this can be verified by independent human rights 

-- continued suspension of bilateral assistance;

-- a clear statement from the donor countries at the World Bank that 
multilateral assistance cannot be resumed until basic human rights and 
political reforms are undertaken, a decision by the International Labor 
Organization to conduct a Commission of Inquiry into forced labor;

-- a concerted effort to stigmatize China for its role as the SLORC's major 
arms provider {2}

U . S.   P O L I C Y

The United States was a leader in drafting and supporting the passage of the 
March resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and should work 
vigorously at the upcoming General Assembly session to assure passage of a 
strong resolution which will be considered in December. Secretary Christopher 
was very outspoken about human rights in Burma at the post-Ministerial ASEAN 
meeting on August 3, when he urged the ASEAN nations to demand greater 
progress before admitting Burma to the association. He noted that "...problems 
continue, including grave human rights violations, massive forced labor and 
drug trafficking. We believe that the true significance of Aung San Suu Kyi's 

Page 5

release depends on whether it leads to real movement toward restoration of a 
government accountable to its people. We welcome this strong diplomatic 
support by the United States in international fora, which has played an 
important role in isolating SLORC and pressing the regime for change.

President Clinton ordered a high-level review of Burma policy in mid-1993  
The review was completed in October 1994, at which time Thomas Hubbard, 
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, 
went to Rangoon to present the new policy directly to Gen. Khin Nyunt. He 
offered the SLORC "two visions of a future relationship with the U.S., either 
increased cooperation based on positive movement on human rights, 
democratization and counter-narcotics issues, or increased isolation." 
No immediate progress was announced as a result of the visit, and Mr. Hubbard 
was denied access to Aung San Suu Kyi (then under house arrest).  Burmese 
officials told him that they would continue talks with her (as of today, no 
further talks have yet taken place), and that they would allow prison visits 
by the lCRC. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) also asked to undertake 
a joint opium survey in Burma.

Since Mr. Hubbard's visit, the United States has enhanced relations with Burma 
considerably in the area of anti-narcotics assistance On June 21, 1995, at a 
hearing in the House of Representatives, the administration announced that it 
would reward the SLORC for all allowing the DEA to conduct an opium yield 
survey in December 1994 by stepping up some forms of anti-narcotics program
narcotics assistance to Burma. This decision seemed to contradict the
administration's earlier statements that without progress on all three fronts 
-- human rights, democratization, and narcotics control -- an upgrading of 
U.S. cooperation could not take place. in its March 1995 presentation
to the Congress, the administration denied counter-narcotics certification to 
Burma, as the U.S. has done every year since 1989. According to State 
Department figures, heroin production has nearly tripled since the SLORC took 
power in 1988. {3}

On June 21, 1995, the administration announced a "compromise" between those 
who wanted to hold the line and those who had argued for substantially 
increased anti-narcotics assistance. It said the U.S. would hold discussions 
with SLORC officials on drug policies, provide in-country training to SLORC 
anti-drug enforcement units, exchange intelligence information, and increase 
funding for the U.N. Drug Control Program's activities in ethnically-
controlled areas of Burma.

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Meanwhile, the Administration has taken no action to impose further economic 
sanctions beyond those already in place, and it has been reluctant to in any 
way restrict or discourage private investment in Burma. The U.S. is now the 
fourth largest investor in Burma, according to Burmese government figures.{4}

The SLORC has said it expects foreign investment to reach billion by the end 
of the current fiscal year. {5}

Mr. Chairman, we believe there should be no increased anti-narcotics 
assistance or cooperation extended to the SLORC until there is a genuine 
improvement in the overall human rights situation, and an end to abuses 
committed against ethnic minorities. (We note with pleasure that the House of 
Representatives in a 359-38 vote in June passed an amendment to the
foreign aid appropriations bill prohibiting all foreign aid (including anti-
drug assistance) to Burma.

We understand that U.S. policy options are still under review, in light of the 
release of Aung San Suu Kyi. The administration's initial reaction to word of 
Sun Kyis release was positive, but appropriately cautious. President Clinton 
welcomed the news but expressed "concerned about a number of serious and 
unresolved human rights problems in Burma..."

We believe the Administration deserves credit for playing a leading role in 
maintaining the international consensus on Burma, and hope it will continue to 
do so.

As essential first steps to follow on Suu Kyi's release the ASEAN governments 
and dialogue partners should call on the SLORC to unconditionally release all 
political prisoners, and to begin by immediately freeing all detained Members 
of Parliament; to resume negotiations with the ICRC and promptly allow the 
ICRC prison access; to repeal or reform repressive laws which prohibit freedom
 of association, expression, and the right of citizens to participate freely 
in the political life of the country.{6}  The U.S. and other governments 
should also support the renewed effort by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on 
Burma, Prof Yozo Yokota, who will attempt to visit Burma this fall, and urge 
the authorities to permit him to travel without interference, and establish

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an ongoing human rights monitoring presence in Rangoon. {7}

The Burmese government's continued violations of international law and refusal 
to fulfill the U.N.'s resolutions should not be tolerated by the international 
community. Unless firm steps are taken to back up the numerous diplomatic 
appeals, massive human rights violations in Burma are likely to continue.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



{1) British Broadcasting Corporation, July 12, 1995.

{2} Since 1988, China has supplied at least $1.4 billion worth of arms to 
Burma, including two deals in November 1994 worth $440 million. Beijing has 
never revealed the precise details of its arms transfer to Burma.

{3} State Department estimates: Opium production (in metric tons): 68 tons
in 1988; 190 tons in 1993.

{4} On March 9, 1995 the Burmese government published the following figures 
showing all investment in Burma since 1989: France ($1.05 billion), Singapore 
($293.4 million), Thailand ($265 million), the U.S. $203 million): Japan
($101 million.) Total SA accounted for almost all French investment it is an 
oil company in which the French Government and state-owned enterprises own 25 
percent of the voting rights

{5} Investment Target is $4 Billion,"Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly, July 10 
1995: "Despite criticism of Burma;s human rights record, foreign investors led 
by France, Singapore, the U.S. and Thailand have moved in to the resource-rich 
nation, taking advantage of recent economic liberalization."

{6} This includes SLORC Orders 2/88, 4/9l, 10/91, the 1950 Emergency 
Provisions Act, 1957 Unlawful Associations Act, 1962 Printers' and publishers' 
Registration Act, 1975 State Protection Law, and the 1908 Villages and Towns 
Act which permits village councils to order citizens to work as forced 

{7} Prof. Yokota last visited Burma in November 1994.His mandate was continued 
by the U.N. Human Rights Commission at its March 1995 meeting.


Detained Members of Parliament in Burma (as of July 1995)

U Ohn Kyaing, M.P.-elect for Mandalay Southeast-2
U Tin Htut, M.P.-elect for Einme-l
U Win Hlaing, M.P.-elect for Tatkon-2
Saw Naing Naing, M.P.-elect for Pazundaung
U Tin Aung Aung, M.P.-elect for Manalay Northwest-l
Dr. Zaw Myint Aung, M.P.-elect for Amarapura-1
Dr. Myint Aung, M.P.-elect for Kanbalu-2
U Kyi Myint, M.P.-elect for Latha
Dr. Zaw Myint, M.P.-elect for Henzada-2
U Mya Win, M.P.-elect for Ingapu-1
U Hla Than, M.P.-elect for Coco Islands
U Tin Soe, M.P.-elect for Kyauktada
U Saw Win, M.P.-elect for Htilin
U Hla Tun, M.P.-elect for Kyimyindine
U Khin Maung Swe (released May 1, 1992; re-arrested August 1994)
U Sein Hla Oo (released May 1, 1992; re-arrested August 1994)