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BurmaNet News: September 9, 1995

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

The BurmaNet News: September 9, 1995
Issue# 220

Noted in Passing:
While the employed middle-class indulge in corruption to met their 
basic needs, those in power do so out of sheer greed. - a Burmese observer
(see Under-the Table Economics)

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September 8, 1995
Bribes and a black market grease Burma's rusty economy, Staya
Sivaraman of Inter Press Service reports.

Perched atop a wooden bar, facing the docks on Rangoon's lazy
Hline River, Thein Pe is a ferry driver with a difference: he
actually makes more money just sitting here than plying his ferry
up and down the waterway.

"We get a fixed quota of fuel every day at the official rate of
25 kyat per gallon and sell it at 180 kyat par gallon in the
black market," he explains casually, drawing on his ceroot. (One
dollar is 5.5 kyat at the official rate.)

In the bizarre world of the Burmese economy, doing the impossible
has become the only means of survival for millions of ordinary
citizens like Thein Pe.

With its runaway inflation, stagnant income levels and chronic
shortage of goods, corruption and cheating are rapidly becoming a
national scourge.

"It is utterly debasing," says one Burmese writer, "but for most
Burmese, the bribe and the blackmarket are becoming as acceptable
a part of day-to-day life as Buddhism."

With even salaries of senior civil servants not exceeding US$30 a
month, corruption of one from or another has become essential for
many employees with fixed incomes. The blame for all this, says
the writer, lies squarely on Rangoon's military rulers who have
mismanaged the economy beyond belief.

Since the State Law and Order restoration Council (Slorc) as the
military regime calls itself took over power in 1988, prices of
most basic commodities have gone up by at least 100 per cent. In
some cases, prices have even increased eightfold.

Out of an average monthly income of around 3,000 kyat, middle
class families have to contend with the price of rice at 80 kyat
per pyi (approximately 1.5 kg), edible oil at 240 kyat per viss
(2.2 kg) and chicken at 450 kyat per viss.

Parents also lament over the high cost of sending their children
to school. While the official fee at government schools is low,
the hidden costs involved are high. Apart from the textbooks and
clothing to be bought at open market rates, parents have to shell
out large sums as private tuition fees to individual teachers in
order to "see their children through the exams."

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

Again, though government hospitals are no supposed to charge any
fee from patients, it is difficult to convince doctors of one's
ailment without paying bribes. Most hospitals also rarely have
stocks of essential medicines and purchasing them in the open
market can be quite costly.

But as one Burmese observer points out, while the employed
middle-class indulge in corruption to met their basic needs,
those in power do so out of sheer greed. With all decision-making
power solely in the hands of military officials and in the
absence of open competition of any kind, most foreign businessmen
have to bribe their way to contracts and deals in the country.
"There is a Burmese tradition of taking gifts while visiting
anybody and businessmen use this excuse to bribe government
officials," says a Rangoon-based diplomat. Gifts range from
imported cars, gold Rolex watches to actual gold bars, all
willingly accepted by officials.

Tales abound here of how the close relatives of senior Slorc
officials have been the first to benefit from the ongoing
economic liberalization. Most foreign investors seek out such
their ventures to "politically insure" their investments.

Two of the most notorious of such  cases are those involving the
daughter of Gen Ne Win, who rule Burma for 26 years until 1988,
and for present trade and industry minister Tun Kyi.

Ne Win's daughter San der Win and her husband Khin Zaw Win are
major shareholder in several foreign-owned luxury hotels in
Rangoon, while Tun Kyi's daughter runs a chain of seven caf?s in
the city.

But even these are minor cases compared to the alleged corruption
involved in the awarding of large oil, natural gas and mining
contracts to multinationals around the world.

The lack of transparency in these deals has Rangoon citizens
talking of commissions being paid to Slorc officials directly
into their Swiss bank account.

Amid all this corruption, the only section in society left out
are the ruran poor and the farming community in the villages.
Though farmers' incomes have risen  in recently years due to
higher procurement prices for their crops, much of it has been
offset by the increase in costs of agricultural inputs.

Pro-democracy  activists fear that without the "privilege" of
being corrupt, poor families in Burma may be forced to send their
daughters to the sex industry in neighbouring Thailand.

Though more conservative, the flesh trade also exists within
Burma and is expected to flourish with the arrival of dollar-rich

"Corruption is eating away the basic core of our society and
turning normal, straightforward people into moral delinquents, "
says a senior leader of proponent dissident Aung San Suu Kyi's
National League for Democracy.

He says while the coming of democracy to Burma would be no
guarantee against corruption, it would certainly go a long way in
preventing the deep economic and physical insecurity that is
robbing the nation of its basic values. (TN)


September 8, 1995

The government should coordinate with all relevant agencies to
work out a common stance on their approach to Burma, Defence
Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said yesterday.

Chavalit, who paid a two-day visit to Burma last week in an
attempt to improved strained Thai-Burmese relations, also urged
the agencies to help resolve the conflicts which have prompted
the Burmese junta to take several retaliatory measures against

The minister told the House committee on foreign affairs
yesterday that the Burmese junta, known as the State Law and
Order Restoration Council (Slorc), was not happy with many
bilateral issues, including border trade, encroachment on the
Moei River by some Thai businessmen, Thai fishing in Burmese
waters and the policy towards Burmese ethnic groups, especially
opium warlord Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army (MTA).

He said Slorc was "suspicious" of the Thai stance towards
border-based armed ethnic groups which have been fighting Rangoon
for greater autonomy. Slorc suspects Thailand of abetting the

Suwat Liptapanlop, chairman of the House committee, told
reporters after the hearing that Chavalit had proposed a united
approach to handle Burmese affairs.

The former Army chief told committee members that the Foreign
Ministry was responsible for such affairs and thus should act as
the core party in the approach. He said he had already consulted
the ministry.

He said his trip to Burma was not independently decided by
himself or by the Defence Ministry, but he had closely discussed
the matter with the Foreign Ministry before he left. He said that
he had to clarify his trip, otherwise the committee might think
the government was not united and each ministry was working

Chavalit, also deputy prime minister, said he had already called
a meeting involving all the agencies concerned to reorganize Thai
economic activities in Burma, which included border trade and the
fishery industry.

He said he had urged the Commerce Ministry to speed up the
signing of a Thai-Burmese border trade agreement so problems
relating to border crossings between the two countries would

The Fishery Department was urged to reorganize its fishing
activities in Burma and concerned agencies should remove all the
structures on the Moei River set up on reclaimed land.

The armed forces and the Defence Ministry were told to coordinate
among themselves and reorganize their methodology in resolving
border problems.

Suwat said he was confident Chavalit's brief visit would help
improve bilateral Thai-Burmese relations, but Burma would
certainly take more time before reopening border crossings and
allowing Thai fisherman back into Burmese waters.

Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa's planned visit to Burma could
also help resolve present conflicts and improve the overall
situation, Suwat said. Foreign Minister MR Kasem S Kasemsri
yesterday tried to play down criticism that Chavalit's trip was
not fruitful by saying that the restoration of bilateral ties
needed more time and would be a gradual process. (TN)


September 8, 1995
Aung Zaw  profiles Ma Thida, the Burmese dissident who was the
focus of a petition released in Beijing last week.

The symbolism was lost on few people, except perhaps Burma's
ruling junta which sent an all-male delegation to attend this
week's fourth UN World Conference on Women.

Aung San Suu Kyi was in many ways the perfect choice to open the
global women's forum in Beijing last Friday. Her struggle for
freedom and democracy in Burma, the six years she was imprisoned
after leading her party to electoral victory, the denial of her
rights by men in uniform_it all neatly reflected the cry for
political power that was the core message of the women's
gatherings in China.

But while Suu Kyi is probably the most prominent of Burmese
dissident women politicians she is not the only one. She is also
now free, from house arrest at least. Among the others is Ma
Thida, who was the focus of a petition organized in Beijing
demanding her release from Rangoon's Insein jail.

Ma Thida, like many of Burma's prominent artists and writers
supported and joined Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in
1988 after the ruling junta allowed the establishment of
political parties to compete in general elections.

Ma Thida, 30 is a thin, quiet lady whose writings have a keen
following in Burma. Her first stories appeared in Burmese
magazines in the early 80s when she was studying in Rangoon
Medical Institute.

Her work is different from that of her contempary
writers depicting the lives of ordinary Burmese people, her poor
patients and the priviliged medical students whose parents are
invariably top government officials.

As well she has sketched the irony of Burma under one-party
rule with regard to how poorly and haphazardly they are run.
After coming into the NLD party, Ma Thida became a close friend of  
Suu Kyi. She joined the charimatic leader on her national campaign
trips before Suu Kyi's arrest.

She was active in the NLD, organizing and giving speeches. In
1989 and 1990 she was detained briefly and interrogated and then
finally arrested in 1993 for distributing leaflets outside the
Slorc-organized National Convention urging people and delegates
to boycott it. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Amnesty International has called her a "prisoner of conscience"
and demanded her release. At the time of her arrest, she was
working as a surgeon at the Muslim Free Hospital. She was
reported to have had gastric problems since her arrest.

One day in the future, when Ma Thida is free, perhaps she and her
readers may meet again in the pages of magazines. And she may
have the chance to publish her compilation of short stories which
Slorc has banned. (TN)


September 8, 1995
Aung Zaw talks to KNPP secretary general Raymond Htoo about the
chances for peace and Rangoon's national convention.

Raymond Htoo, secretary general of the Karenni National
Progressive Party (KNPP), has said that Burma's ruling junta, the
State Law and Order restoration Council (Slorc) will not be able
to succeed with its plans for a national convention and restore
peace unless it shows more  understanding of the problems facing
the country.

"If they [Slorc leaders] want to see genuine peace in Karenni
State they must be sincere and honest," said Htoo. He added that
Burma's military leaders need to understand the ethnic conflict

The secretary general also criticized the Slorc-sponsored
national convention, which had been delayed several times because
Rangoon's leaders wanted all armed ethnic minority groups to

During the past meetings with Slorc officials, Karenni leaders
were asked to attend or at least to observe the proceedings at
the national convention.

The convention, which was convened to draw up a new constitution
is a key to Slorc's long term strategy, will be resumed in
October this year. It has been dismissed by political opponents
as a sham and nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt by Slorc
to keep power indefinitely.

The KNPP secretary general disagreed with Slorc's main objectives
at the national convention, one of which is to let the Tatmadaw
(armed forces) have a leading role in politics.

Additionally, Htoo also expressed his disagreement with Slorc's
proposals at the convention. In Sept 1994, Slorc submitted a list
of proposals. One of them recommended that 25 per cent of the
members of the future parliament be appointed by the military.

The future parliament will be composed of two chambers_ a House
of Representatives (lower house) and a House of Nationalities. It
was also stipulated that 75 per cent of the members of both
houses will be elected, while the remainder representing the
military will be nominate by the commander in chief of the armed

The proposal also indicated that the House of Representatives
will have 330 elected members and 110 members representing
military personnel. The House of Nationalities will have 168
elected members in seven states and seven regions. Fifty six
members of the upper house will be nominated by the commander in
chief of the defence forces.

While some armed ethnic groups have signed ceasefire agreements
with Slorc, Htoo said not all were willing to attend the national
convention. "People have no faith in this national convention,"
said Htoo. Mistrust between Slorc and ethnic minority groups have
remained despite ceasefire agreements.

Htoo said he doesn't believe Mon and Kachin leaders want to
attend the national convention. Recently, a Mon delegation led by
Nai Shwe Kyin in Rangoon met with Slorc leaders, including Senior
Gen Than Shwe. The Mon rebels had reached a ceasefire agreement
with Slorc in June.

Htoo stressed that one ethnic minority group, which had reached a
ceasefire agreement with Slorc earlier, sent its men to "go and
see" the national convention, although none of them were seen in

Slorc leaders refused to discuss political issues (with ethnic
leaders), saying that only the "future government" should take up
the issues. But Htoo said "they [Slorc officials] asked us to
attend the national convention to draw up a new constitution."

Maung Maung Cho, who was a elected representative in the 1990
election in Kayah state, did not attend the national convention.
The reason, Htoo said, was because Maung Maung Cho was an
outspoken delegate. "Because of this he was not allowed to
attend," he noted.

To restore genuine peace and harmony in Burma, he believes that
political dialogue with Slorc should be started. After the
release of Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the KNPP
sent a letter to Slorc's powerful military intelligence chief and
Secretary One, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt. The letter urged Slorc leaders
to give political freedom to Suu Kyi and to begin a genuine
political dialogue.

Htoo said KNPP believes in a "tripartite" dialogue, with Suu Kyi
and ethnic leaders on one side. The KNPP reached a ceasefire
agreement with Slorc last March. However, its did not last very
long. Soon after the truce was signed, Slorc did not hesitate to
exploit the situation.

Reports appeared in the controlled-media that Karenni rebels had
already laid down their arms and surrendered to the government.
The media noted that the KNPP had "returned to the legal fold."

September 8, 1995

REPRESENTATIVES of 20 countries in Asia and the Pacific have
called on Asean to mediate between Slorc and democratic groups,
according to the chairman of the House Sub Committee on Justice
and Human Rights.

Sutin Noppaket said Asean should mediate in negotiations because
it enjoyed the trust of all Burmese factions and was likely to be
a good coordinator of the various groups now in conflict in

He was one of the participants at a seminar entitled "Trends to
Democratic Reform in Burma" staged by the Forum of the Democratic
Leadersin the Asia-Pacific during on September 4-3 in Seoul.

The seminar's objective was to seek cooperation from countries
interested in Burma's democratic problems in order to push for
politicians, academics and NGOs from the United States, Canada,
Australia, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Japan, Indonesia,
New Zealand, the UK, Germany, Norway and Singapore.

The seminar urged the international community, especially the
major powers, to stop selling or providing weapons to various
minority groups in Burma.

Sutin said the first seminar in Seoul was a good start for
democratic leaders from 20 countries in the region to bring about
an end to the conflicts in Burma through peaceful means.

He said the next meeting would continue to focus on Burma in
order to push for changes since the fighting in Burma had
affected every country in the Asia-Pacific region. (BP)


September 8, 1995     Tak

TAK MPs have sent a letter to Labour and Social Welfare Minister
Phisan Moolasartsathron calling for a halt in the arrest of
Burmese immigrants working in Mae Sot District.

The arrests have brought about a labour shortage and adversely
affected the operation of same 40 businesses in the town, reads
the letter consigned by Therdpoong Canaan, D Thavorn Kasomsan and
Rak Tantisoonthorn.

An informed sources said that officials from the Labour Ministry
had led Crime Suppression Division and Immigration Police Bureau
officers on a crackdown against Burmese workers in the district.

This occurred after local business owners failed to meet the
deadline to pay 5,000 baht refundable guarantee fee for each
Burmese worker to the provincial immigration office.

The Tak provincial administration announced on May 21 that Thai
employers must pay guarantee money for Burmese workers who are
registered with the Local Administration Department by Aug 21.

So far, however, only a small number of employers have put up the
guarantee for over 700 Burmese workers. Employment officials have
approved about 300 applications.

Mae Sot Mayor Therkiat Chinsoranan point out that among those
arrested were workers who have identity cards issued by the Local
Administration Department and who are waiting for their employers
to put up a guarantee for them. (BP)


September 8, 1995                       Reuter/ Bangkok Post

A REGIONAL commander of the United Wa State Army from Burma's
Golden Triangle China.

A Thai anti-narcotics official said Col Theng Kwang Ming
travelled to Kunming several months ago and disappeared soon

Thai anti-narcotics agent s discovered that Col Theng had gone
missing in the course of routine surveillance, and contacted the
Chinese authorities to enquire into his whereabouts.

The Chinese police said he might be dead, but gave no details,
the official said.

The United Wa State Army is a major producer of opium and heroin
in Shan state, northeastern Burma.

It is a long-time rival of the rebel army of Khun Sa, the opium

Col Theng, 48, commanded the Wa militia's southern  zone, with
4000 commander arms at Ban Doi Lang, in the area cross the border
from Chaing Rai and Chiang Mai provinces.

A member of the Wa-Kuomamting ethnic group, Col Theng studied in
Taiwan for a period before joining the liberal KMT army in Wa-
controlled areas.

Another sources confirmed the disappearance of Cool Theng. He
said he was a accompanied by a well-known Thai businessman and
his associates to the north of Thailand and to Kunming in late
April, reportedly to buy phosphorus and marble.

The businessman, who is known in the North to have traded in arms
and supplies with the Wa militia, returned after three days.
But Theng stayed on and lost contact with the group's HQ.
The sources said that Col Theng's wife had gone to Kunming but
had failed to find him. Traces of blood [missing] of his hotel room.

The sources said three are two possible causes of death: a row
within the Wa ethnic group, in which case it is likely that Col
Theng's enemies preferred not to kill him in Thailand or Burma;
or, given that his ancestry and educational background is
Taiwanese, it is possible that the Chinese authorities murdered

The source believes Col Theng was executed by members of a heroin
cartel in some sort of double-cross operation.

The Wa group used to be the rank-and-file of the Burma Communist
Party's military wing, but mutinied against the leadership.
In 1989 it agreed to a ceasefire with Burma's military gover-

Thai anti-narcotics officials say that since the ceasefire with
the Rangoon government the Wa have considerably expanded their
opium business. The output from their zones is thought to rival
that of Khun Sa. (BP)