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BurmaNet News, September 12, 1995

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The BurmaNet News: September 12, 1995

Noted in Passing:
That thing about courage is not that you don't feel fear,
but that you do the right thing in spite of your fear. Do it
with your knees shaking, but do it. That's what counts. 
- Aung San Suu Kyi (quoted in SUU KYI REJECTS IDEA

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September 12, 1995              By S. Satyanarayan, Rangoon

Although the military regime in Burma shows little sign of
talking about democracy to the freed political leader Aung
San Suu Kyi, she is optimistic of a break in the clouds. She
has just talked to Gemini News Service about how she sees
the future. Her main point: there is only one kind of democracy.

Burma's popular dissident Opposition leader, Aung San Suu
Kyi, dismisses the distinction some Asian leaders make
between "Asian" democracy and "Western" democracy.

"The fundamental issue is that of governance according to
the will of the people and there are no two different Asian
and Western ways about this concept," she says.

Her July release from six years of house arrest highlighted
a debate between proponents of the policy of constructive
engagement favoured by the Association of Southeast Asean
Nations (Asean)_whose members chose to carry out economic
and diplomatic overtures towards Burma's military regime_and
Western governments, which pulled investment and made strin
gent demands for improvements to the country's human rights
record. Both sides claimed credit for her release.

To those who would like to put economic development before
human and political rights, Suu Kyi points out that Burma
was a prospering Southeast Asian economy before a military
coup in 1962 set the clock back on both democracy and eco
nomic prosperity.

The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate referred to by some as
"the  Lady", brims with the tireless energy which sustained
her through the years of solitude and separation from her
family and pro-democracy colleagues.

An optmistic outlook fosters her belief that Burma's ruling
State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) will sit
down and talk, even if it diminishes its power.

She explains that a satisfactory dialogue for her party, the
National League for Democracy (NLD), which won the 1990
elections but was denied power by the military, is one which
aims at bringing about genuine national reconciliation and
setting the country on the path of true democracy.

"There is no time frame set for the dialogue we have asked
for with the military authorities," she says calmly. "It is
not a good idea to set one, as its raises all sorts of
impractical expectations."

She quickly adds that she is not prepared to wait indefin-
itely. She belives that if events in other countries in
similar situations are any indication, "in the end they will
all come to the negotiating table".

"As long as we understand that this dialogue is to work out
an answer which will be to the benefit of all, I think
anyone would be capable of positive dialogue," says Suu Kyi.

When questioned about the future of the Burmese army, whose
leaders have often claimed that they are political, Suu Kyi
betrays a slight anger in her voice: "My father, General
Aung San, when he built up the Burmese army, wanted it to be
an honourable army, to serve the people and not be involved
in politics."

She points out that in a country of 45 million people,
Burma's reported 286,000-member armed forces makes up less
that one per cent of the population and should be treated
the same as any other minority.

She has often talked about the need for "freedom from fear"
and claims a fear grips the regime. "It is a fear that if
democratic forces come to power they will wreak vengeance on
them. But this is because they do not understand the demo-
cratic principle that the rights of minorities are always
protected under majority rule."

She laughs at the possibility of being re-arrested. "Well, I
can always go back to the meditation I have been practising
all these years, and let's hope this time at a higher level."

When the comparison between her and Gandhi is drawn she is
forthright about their differences. "Except for adopting
non-violent means, I am very different from Gandhi. And as
for inspiration, apart from my father and the Indian Freedom
Movement leaders, Gandhi and Nehru, in recent years I have
been inspired a lot by Nelson Mandela."

She believes that if Burmese people embrace a positive
attitude they will be freed from their fear, but that you do
the right thing in spite of your fear, which is born out of
physical and economic insecurity.

"That thing about courage is not that you don't feel fear,
but that you do the right thing in spite of your fear. Do it
with your knees shaking, but do it. That's what counts," she
says, her eyes lighting up with laughter.

Suu Kyi repeats that foreign investors interested in Burma
must "ask themselves whether the economic prosperity they
hope to profit from can come without democracy, which is the
only guarantee for political stability in Burma."

She is non-committal about whether a future democratic
government would review contracts being signed now by the
military regime. Her main concern is not for revenge but to
benefit the people. (BP)

September 12, 1995                     Reuter

BURMA'S opium warlord Khun Sa is evacuating civilians from
his headquarters in northeastern Burma in anticipation of an
assault by Burmese government forces, a source in Khun Sa'a
army said yesterday.

A Thai narcotics official alleged that one of Khun Sa's close
aides had deposited a large amount of money in a bank in
Thailand's Mae Hong Son province in a further move linked to
the expected Burmese assault.

It's very strange when a close aide of Khun Sa deposits cash
in a commercial bank, they usually keep their cash reserves
at home, said the official, who asked not to be identified.

The cash was believed to be personal money and not to the
proceeds from the drugs business, which is dealt with in a
different way, said the official.

A source in Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army (MTA) guerrilla
organization said civilians were being evacuated from Khun
Sa's Ho Mong headquarters to a village near the Thai border
in preparation for the assault by a combined force of Burmese
troops and ethnic minority Wa fighters.

About 100 elderly civilians, mainly family of our party's
executive committee, have been evacuated to Mae Aw on the
Thai border, the MTA official said.

A Thai Army officer monitoring developments inside Burma said
fresh Burmese troops recently moved to positions on the
approaches to Khun Sa's headquarters and the offensive would
probably begin in coming weeks as the rainy season drew to a

The Burmese government condemns Khun Sa as a drug-trafficking
"terrorist" and has vowed to crush him and his well-equipped
guerrilla force.

Khun Sa says he is a Shan nationalist who only taxes opium
traders passing through his zone.

But earlier this year 3,000 of his troops broke away from him
because of what they said was his preoccupation with the
drugs business and neglect of Shan political objectives. (TN)


September 12, 1995

BIJOUX Holdings Plc, a jewellery-cum-property firm, announced
yesterday it will proceed with its second investment project
in Burma- a US$200 million real estate and infrastructure
development to handle creation of a new business district in

The company's board also approved the private placement of up
4.9 million additional shares for funding of the project.
A number of international core partners will join Bijoux
Holdings in launching the project.

President Halpin Ho said 10% of equity had been offered to
the Myanmar Fund, a direct investment institution launched in
October last year. And international investors are being sought to
finance 40% of the project.

Mr Ho said existing commercial laws and judicial procedures
in Burma guaranteed protection of the rights of investors as
well as commitments given in respect of foreign investment

The centre piece of the new development will be the Yangon
International Convention Centre. A telecommunication centre
will be set up to provide modern facilities, including
tele-video conference capabilities.

The first of the new project's three phases costing around
$50-60 million is projected to be completed within the next
three years.

Under the project, a 40 acre property in the capital will be
developed into a new integrated business and commercial
district, to be known as the "Thuwunna New Business

Phases II&III of the development are expected to come
on-stream quickly after the company is into the first stage.
The project is being described as a "fast-track total
infrastructure system".

With a fully comprehensive and rapid development of
infrastructure facilities on a sustained basis, the project
is considered valuable to the economic development of Burma.

The new business district will be a totally new concept under
which international standard infrastructure facilities will
be self-complementary with commercial office buildings and a
business club close to residential and retail centres,
recreationand entertainment areas, food and beverage outlets
and tourist shops.

Short-and long-term residential facilities will include
hotels, condominiums and luxury bungalows as well as a
fully-equipped professional medical centre.

Earlier, Bijoux Holdings launched its first reality project
in the Burmese capital when it took the largest share in the
ownership of Baiyoke Kandawgyi Hotel, the construction of
which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Bijoux Holdings has a long and abiding relationship with
Burma, with the Ho family originally coming from Burma. The
family will hold the major share of the new company's
ownership through a shareholding being held by Bijoux
Holdings Public Co Ltd, a jewellery manufacturing company
listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand. (BP)


September 12, 1995

Twilight over Burma: My life as a Shan Princess
Inge Sargent. Chiangmai, Silkworm
Books, 1994. 216 pp. 250baht.
Available at all leading bookstores.

This is the story of an Austrian student who married her
classmate without knowing that she would become a royal
consort in a remote country, surrounded by devoted retainers.

This fascinating book is apparently a co-production with the
University of Hawaii Press. It comes with an authoritative
introduction by the veteran Burma-watcher, Bertil Lintner,
and a dedication to Sao Kya Seng, the Prince of Hsipaw, the
first husband of the authoress.

As Inge Eberhard, an Austrian, she had met another student
studying mining engineering at the Colorado School of Mines
in Denver. He came from the Shan States in Burma. They fell
in love, he proposed, and they got married.

It was only as their ship pulled into the docks at Rangoon in
January 1954 that she learnt her husband was a hereditary
prince of a state the size of Connecticut, who had not wished
to reveal his true identity for fear of someone marrying him
for the wrong reasons.

For the next eight years, she lived an idyllic existence in
the Shan hills as royal consort now with the name of Thusandi
and the title of Mahadevi, learning to be accepted by a crowd
of relations and a legion of subjects while the Prince of
Hsipaw distributed his lands, started agricultural projects,
and took part in the political reformation of the Shan states
under the Burmese constitution.

No idyll lasts forever though. General Ne Win's coup in 1962
put paid to that.

The prince was arrested and never heard of again, presumably
murdered in politics. His wife and two daughters were placed
under house (or rather palace) arrest in Hsipaw for two
years. They moved to Rangoon, from which, seeing that things
were going from bad to worse, they finally managed to escape
with a doctored Austrian passport.

The Mahadevi went to Vienna, apparently obtained a post in
the Thai embassy, continued to try to discover what happened
to her husband, and in the end became Mrs Sargent, settling
in the United States where she taught and recently retired.

That, badly put, is the story of the book as it were, which
describes the life of a privileged person in a remote
outpost, surrounded by an adoring husband and devoted

The Mahadevi had to learn to live up to expectations, acquire
a good knowledge of Shan and Burmese, travel widely in her
state, and raise her two daughters. She appears to have
succeeded in doing all that was expected of her very well.

The collapse of this dream world was all the more devastating
as it was accompanied by brutality and a total lack of regard
for constitutional niceties or basic human rights.

The presentation of the sequence of events is done with
almost cinematographic technique.

The first chapter starts with the end of the idyll: house
arrest for the Mahadevi, imprisonment without charge of the
Sao. The next chapter goes back to their arrival in Rangoon,
their earlier meeting in Denver.

Other chapters contain this see-saw between the present of
the moment and the past, the flashback and the reality.

But here arises a problem: This is not a novel but a
recollection of real events, and yet the episodes concerning
the Sao's imprisonment, his interrogations, his encounters
with Karen go-betweens are all imagined, for the Mahadevi
presents herself as totally distracted, not knowing what to do
to try to contact her spouse, whose death she is unwilling to
admit to even after she left Burma some four years later.

A further structural problem occurs in the form of the
narration: It is not in the first but the third person.
No harm in that, you might think. But when the Mahadevi has
to talk about her self, the result is embarrassing.

She says, of herself and her prince when they were students:
>From the day they had met at a foreign students' Party, this
attractive and unusual girl had constantly been on his mind.
Her warmth, her cheerfulness, and her poise made him long for
her company.

All that many be true, but it should hardly be said of

There is inevitably, much more. "Her tight-fitting pink,
yellow and white court dress, heavily embroidered with a
golden peacock emblem, hugged her slim, tall figure... Her
long brown hair, tamed in the traditional court hair style,
resembled a natural crown... The glitter of her diamond
earrings, bracelets, and rings completed the impression of a
fairy-tale princess. Thusandi was stunned..." And so on.

If these words were about someone else, one would not worry;
but this not the case.

The oppressive nature of everything after the military
takeover comes over very well, especially the fear with which
the army ruled, abrogating all civilised norms.

Even telephone calls were interrupted by the secret police,
enjoining her callers in Rangoon to speak only in Burmese or
English, which they could understand, and not in Shan or

The final departure has its touch of excitement; the reader's
tension, like the authoress's does not drop until the Pan Am
pilot announces "Ladies and gentlemen airspace", a statement
followed by a spontaneous outburst of clapping in the

It is a good read, with perhaps overmuch attention to
clothing (the further Mahadevi is appalled to think she is
appalled to think she is appearing in cotton frock on arrival
in Rangoon after she has learned of her husband's rank, and
when she is given only a few hours to flee Rangoon forever,
she worries about having dress dated in style and length),
but it might have if it had been written as a straightforward
personal narrative. (BP)


September 12, 1995

Premier Banharn Silpa-archa will go ahead with a tour of
Asean at the end of this month, despite political problems
at home and a lack of full preparation for regional talks.

It had never crossed his mind such visits would take place
this soon, he told the Bangkok Post in an exclusive inter-
view at the weekend.

The Foreign Ministry says it is necessary for him to consol-
idate ties with counterparts in the Association of Southeast
Asian nations before summits of the United Nations in October,
the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group in November
and Asean in December.

His trip will lead to successful negotiations at these
meetings, the ministry says. "I planned not to go during
this time. But the ministry says that will make it difficult
when we meet at the UN summit.

"For this visit, talks on economics and politics are not
necessary, but a meal together will bring us closer," he

The premier is scheduled to go to Singapore and Indonesia on
September 23-24 and to the Philippines and Vietnam on Sep
tember 30 and October 1.

Mr Banharn, asked why he would go abroad when his Government
is seen as unstable, said: "That's why I choose to travel
during the weekends."

After attending the UN, APEC, Asean and Asia-Europe summits,
he will visit Thailand's other neighbours, especially Burma.

The Asia-Europe summit will be held in Thailand in early
March. An appropriate time to visit Burma had to be set, Mr
Banharn said. Border conflicts and sanctions by the world
community against Burma have distanced Thailand.

Gen Prem Tinsulanonda was the last Thai prime minister to
visit the country in July 1980. During the recent visit to
Burma by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen
Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the State Law and Order Restoration
Council demanded that Thailand urgently solve three problems.

These are the suppression of drug warlord Khun Sa's forces
along their border, alleged encroachment by Thai traders
onto the Moei River and the fisheries-related problems.

Mr Banharn denied Burma's accusation that Thailand supported
Khun Sa's men fighting Rangoon. On the contrary, it arrested
and disarmed all of those found to have entered Thailand.

It was necessary to make this clear to the Slorc, he said.
As for the allegation of encroachment on the Moei River, Mr
Banharn said he hoped the misunderstanding would be cleared
up soon since a committee had been set up to find facts on
the issue.

To avoid a recurrence of the situation in which Burmese
fishermen were killed on a Thai trawler, the premier said
private companies wanting to invest in Burma would have to
report to the Foreign Ministry to ensure they would not
break their business agreements.

The premier declined to comment, when asked, on the political 
situation in Burma after the release of Opposition leader Aung San 
Suu Kyi from house arrest, saying the Burmese government is not 
happy with news about its domestic politics. (BP)


September 12, 1995

French oil firm Total Co Ltd plans to boost natural gas
production from the Bangkok gas field in the Gulf of Thai
land to 500 million cubic feetr per day in the next two

Industry Minister Chiwat Sinsuwong said yesterday Jean Marie
Beuque, Total's chief executive officer for Far East Area,
had told him of progress in development of the field.

The company plans to increase its gas production capacity to
350MMcfd next year. The volume will reach 500 MMcfd in 1997. 

The company is also taking part in developing the Yadana gas
field in Burma's Gulf of Matarban. The Yadana gas will be
piped to Thailand to fuel the Ratchaburi power plant being
constructed by the Electricity Generating Authority of
Thailand. (BP)


September 12, 1995         Report by Teeravat Khamchita (Chiang Rai)

Laos is emerging as a strong partner in border trade with
Chiang Rai province following the closure of the Thai-Bur-
mese border in March.

Trade with Laos has been rising sharply while that with
Burma_mostly unofficial_is increasing slightly, according to
deputy chief of the Chiang Rai Commercial Office Anant

Since March, two-way trade with Laos has reached 154 million
baht, a 39 per cent increase from that in the same period
last year. Trade with Burma was up only 10 per cent in value
at 1.3 billion baht, according to the Commerce Office.

Trade with Laos this year will break last year's record of
200 million baht if the trend continues until the end of
this year.

Chiang Rai traders also deal with China. Trade with China
accounted for 13 million baht between january and July, up
two per cent from the first six months last year.

Anant blamed the closure of the Mae Sai-Tachilek border for
the slow progress in trade with Burma. Vivat
Sirijangkhawattana, president of the Chiang Rai Chamber of
Commerce, said Burma's political situation and lack of
standard regulations were the main reasons traders turned to

Rangoon closed its border in retaliation for Thailand's
decision to allow Mong Tai Army soldiers to cross the border
for medical treatment in the privince during the Burmese
government's offensive against the MTA.

Tourists are not allowed to visit Tachilek town opposite Mae
Sai district. Chiang Rai borders Shan State in Burma and
Bokeo province in Laos. Trade with Laos conducted through
the checkpoint between Chiang Khong district and Huayxay,
the capital of Bokeo.

Trade with China uses the Mekong River to Chiang Saeng
district where Chinese traders go downstream to sell their
products and buy goods.

Traders sell petrol, monosodium gultamate, tractors, excava
tors, dried longan, cement and consumer goods to Laos and
buy processed wood, power generators, products from the
forest and machine tools.

Traders, spearheaded by the chamber, are eager to promote
ties with Laos. The chamber urged Laos to set up a consulate
in Chiang Rai and to lower or scrap the entry fee, open
duty-free shops to promote tourism and to clarify all regu
lations on trade and investment.

Representatives of chambers in nine provinces bordering Laos
made the call during talks with Laotian counterparts in
Vientiane on September 2.

The meeting was organised by the Thai embassy in Laos. Vivat
said his chamber would push for the building of a bridge
across the makong River in Chiang Khong. Representatives of
the Australian government had surveyed the area.

The chamber would hold a meeting in November to expand
economic cooperation. Representatives from Laos and China
would take part, he said. (BP)


September 12, 1995    
Report: Nussara Sawatsawang anf Thanom Pipityakorn

Burma is pressing ahead with plans for a national stock
exchange as the first step toward a wider capital market.

However, foreign brokers are cautious about making a commit
ment to establish their operations in Burma, citing unclear
regulations and the country's uncertain political situation.

National Planning and Economic Development Minister Brig-Gen
David Abel aims for the stock exchange to be established
within two years.

"We hope so," Hisao Katsuta of the Daiwa Institute of Re
search told Inside Indochina in Bangkok. "But we wish it to
grow gradually into a formal exchange like Thailand's.

Daiwa Securities Co, Japan's second-largest brokerage house,
last December signed a memorandum with Rangoon to set up a
stock exchange, privatise state enterprises and develop a
capital market in Burma.

By the end of December, Daiwa plans to set up a joint repre-
sentative house for brokers to prepare for the establishment
of a stock market.

The company has helped the government draft a securities
exchange law that is likely to take effect in a few months.

The draft was 50 per cent completed, using the Japanese law
as a model, a Burmese official said. Last Aprial, six gov
ernment officials from the Central Bank, the Finance and
Revenue Ministry and the National Planning and Economic
Development Ministry attended a training course in Japan in
preparation for the establishment of the exchange.

Since_January, the government has offered to privatise a
total of 51 state enterprises under the Trade, Light Indus
try, heavy Industry, Information, and Live stock Breeding
and Fisheries ministries.

However, Douglas Clayton, chief representative of Credit
Lyonnais Securities (Asia) in Bangkok, said the government
had to create a systematic foreign exchange system and clear
regulations governing the exchange. Therefore, it would take
at least three to five years to set up the market.

The official foreign exchange rate is six kyats for one
dollar against 100-120 kyats on the unofficial market.
Graham Cattlewell, chief representative of British broker
Crosby Research Ltd in Bangkok, said: "We don't see any
business (opportunities) at this point."

Owing to the unstable political situation in Burma, it would
take his group "years" before it decided whether to estab
lish a representative office in Rangoon.

For Katsuta, the foreign exchange rate is not a problem,
because the initial stage of the capital market is aimed
only at local investors who are supposed to use Burmese

"We believe in the potential of the domestic capital market.
It has nothing to do with foreign investors and it's too
early to think about it," Katsuta said.

Burmese were concerned about economic growth rather than
politics, he said. However, these was uncertainty whether
most were familiar with the new approach. The capital market
created by British companies in the colonial days has long
since gone.

MBA student Myint San, who runs his family's business, said
share-buying was for civil servants who did not know what to
do with money. He preferred to invest capital in his own

Diawa's job is to persuade good quality companies to be
listed on the exchange. The Myanmar Security Exchange
Centre_the joint brokerage house_will initially encourage
people to invest in the capital market.

It will then become a primary market through which Daiwa
will underwrite bonds and shares. According to Katsuta,
Burma's economy has potential but has been idle because
people do not know how to invest.

Most people invested in real estate, gold and jewellery, he
said. Many Burmese bitterly remember losing heavily when the
government demonetised 25, 35 and 75 kyat banknotes without
compensation. The kyat is of questionable value anyway.

Yi Yi Myint, professor of management studies at Rangoon
University's Institute of Economics, said there was a need
to build public confidence in the finance sector and one way
to achieve this was to ensure the market was transparent.

Despite uncertainly about the number of securities with
trading potential, some companies, especially those in the
financial business, have started offering their shares to
the public.

Burma's stock exchange would take shape faster than that in
Vietnam, Katsuta predicted. Burma had a good, strong capital
market established during the colonial period. Laws, such as
the Special Company Act for registering listed public compa
nies, were in place as a result, he said. (BP)