[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

BurmaNet News April 4, 1997

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------  
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"  
The BurmaNet News: April 4, 1997  
Issue #685


April 4, 1997

Dr Than Nyein, who is a member of the NLD and the brother in law of 
General Khin Nyunt, was released from prison on April 1, 1997.  Dr. Than 
Nyein, the deputy-chairman of the Rangoon Division NLD Organisational 
Committee, was in the process of opening a private clinic in Thaketa township, 
Rangoon in early February 1997. He was arrested a week later for seeing
patients in the clinic without having filed a photograph of the consultation 
room (although he had already paid the fee and taken care of the other 
requirements).  In a letter he wrote to the Chairman of the NLD, he said 
that he believed he was arrested as part of a SLORC campaign to crush 
the NLD.  

At the time of his arrest, residents of Rangoon suspected that General 
Khin Nyunt must be losing power.  Even though it was known that 
General Khin Nyunt did not get along with his brother-in-law, it was 
considered a loss of face for Khin Nyunt to have a relative be arrested.
The fact that Dr. Than Nyein was quickly released and only had to pay
a 1000 kyat fine, while other NLD members are facing long sentences 
for similar minor infractions, suggests that Khin Nyunt was able to 
intercede on his brother-in-law?s behalf.


April 3, 1997

		Continuing SLORC Human rights abuses against Karen 
      		 villagers in the offensive against KNLA Brigade 6 

								Date: March 3, 1997

(1) We have learned that the SLORC's Tactical Command 223 of Division 22,
ordered all headmen from different villages such as Kyaik Don, Wi Tan, Kyar
Ma Naing, Ywar Thit, Yo Thu, Phaw Naw Khee, Par Kho Law Kel, Whee Thaw Thu,
Htee No Kho, Pu All Kalow and  Mi  Nar Aut, to come to Kyaik Don. SLORC Maj.
Mya Thaung reportedly told the headmen that every day each village must
provide 15 villagers for constructing the Kyaik Don- Pu Ri- Mu La Ei road
and Cho Ka Li- Mu La Ei road, 30 villagers for digging trenches and
constructing bunkers, and  5 bullock-carts for transportation. The roads
will primarily be used for access to the Kha Yan Yaung (Violet colour) mine
which will be opened soon. The profits will be shared between the SLORC and
former KNLA Battalion 16 Commander Maj. Tha Mu Hae who surrendered to the
SLORC in February. Villagers have no time to prepare their upland rice
fields and to repair their houses because they are forced to work for the
SLORC with no compensation.

(2) On March 23, 1997, a sergeant and one soldier from Capt. Kan Nyunt's
section of  Light Infantry Battalion 1 (LIB 1) of the SLORC's Tactical
Command 223, Division 22, arrived at Pu All Khee village which is near Kyaik
Don in Dupalaya District. They forcibly abducted two Karen women, namely Naw
Law Ael (18 year old) and Mya Wit Sanda (21 years old). The SLORC soldiers
raped them and later killed them, leaving their naked bodies in the jungle.
After the villagers sent a report about the death of the two Karen girls to
the SLORC LIB 1, Maj. Mya Thaung from SLORC's LIB 1 ordered the troops to
arrest a Karen villager named Saw Char Lar Hee (35 years old, the son of U
Saw Kyaw and Naw Mar Day) and used serious torture to force him to admit to
committing this crime. We have been informed that Saw Char Lar Hee was later
released on March 26, 1997 after repeated requests by two eyewitness to the

(3) On March 23, 1997, troops from LIB 1 of SLORC Division 22 arrived at Dai
Ka Lauk village near Kyaik Don village and forcibly took 2 million betel
nuts, weighing 800 kgs. The SLORC gathered all the villagers at gunpoint and
blinded them with heavy spotlights in their faces so that they were unable
to see what was happening. When one witness, namely, Saw Ba Lat Kyaw, asked
the SLORC LIB 1 to take action against the soldiers responsible for the
events, all the military men who were involved in the case were hidden.  The
SLORC then organised a line-up with soldiers who were not related to the
event in order to deny the accusation by saying that no one here committed
that crime.

(4) On March 25, 1997, the SLORC found five KNLA guns hidden at Win Lone
village near Kyaik Don village in KNLA Brigade 6 area. The SLORC arrested a
village school teacher, namely, Saw Tar Bludo (34 years old), who has had
conflicts with a SLORC informer in the same village.  The SLORC forced him
to admit that he was responsible for the hidden  weapons. Saw Ta Bludo was
tortured terribly in different ways such as rolling pieces of bamboo on his
legs, blindfolding him and pouring water over his head, and beating him
severely, until he confessed. On March 28, 1997 he was released after the
headman made a guarantee for him.

(5) On March 25, 1997 Capt. Kan Nyunt of LIB 1 arrived in Pu Yay village and
summoned Phal Eal and two of his friends and asked them if there were KNLA
troops moving around near the village. While the villagers were explaining
to them that there weren't any KNLA troops in the village, gunfire started
in the back of the village. The SLORC soldiers executed three of them on the
spot, accusing them of being liars. In reality, the gunfire came from the
outskirts of the village where the SLORC soldiers followed and shot at five
families of forced labourers who attempted to run away from a porter camp
and go to the Thai-Burma border.  These people have not yet arrived at the
Thai-Burma border camps but seem to have disappeared or may be hiding
somewhere in the jungle. 

(6) Many Karen people live in small villages comprised of only 10-15
families, staying on the plain or at the base of the mountains. These
villagers support the KNU. So, in order to cut the contact between the
villagers and the KNLA, the SLORC forced the villagers to abandon their
villages and move to two concentration camps named Sho Hta and Pu All Ka Lo.
(Phaw Naw Wee, War Paw Law and Whee villagers have been moved to Sho Hta,
and Htee No Kho village has been moved to Pu All Ka Lo village).

(7) At 11:00 AM, on March 28, 1997, SLORC troops came into Kyaut Phyar
village near Dai Ka Lauk village, because they were informed by a SLORC
informer that there were six KNLA soldiers staying in the village. Villagers
were forced to walk in front of the troops in order to clear land mines.
But the SLORC military intelligence later found that the information was
wrong as they could not find any KNLA soldiers in the village. 

(8)On March 23, 1997, SLORC's Company 1 of LIB 209 under Tactical Command
221 of Division 22, which was deployed in Htat Tha Naw village near Mal Ka
Thi Hta village in Duplaya District,  arrested Saw Pha Lal Doe (29 years
old), Saw Than Oo (33 year s old), Saw Phar Tar Ba Lal (19 years old) and
Saw Phar Thwel (30 years old) from Tha Naw Khee village.  The SLORC soldiers
accused them of being KNLA sympathisers. Saw Htoo Say Par (30 years old) and
Saw Htae Chaw Oo from Htee Yo Khee village were also detained for the same

Capt. Soe Lwin from Company 1, LIB 209 under Tactical Command 221 of
Division 22 interrogated and tortured six villagers from Htat Tha Naw
village to find out where the KNLA had hidden weapons and ammunition. Saw
Pha Lal Doe (29 years old, son of Saw Phar

 Mee Say and Naw Ma Kyar) managed to escape by fleeing to the Thai-Burma
border. He could not tolerate the brutal torturing which including kicking
with military boots, punching him in the cheek, and pounding him with a gun
butt. "The remaining villagers are still being severely tortured," said Saw
Pha Lal Doe who arrived in No Pho refugee camp on  March 27, 1997.  

Information Committee
National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB) 


April 11, 1997

A Low volume approach may be the best help for Karen refugees

IT seems like an obvious job for the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refuges (UNHCR), the international community's official helping hand to the
stateless. Fleeing a dry-season offensive by the Myanmar Army, thousands of
Karens have crossed into Thailand seeking food, water and a safe place to
sleep. The recent influx, mostly women, children and the elderly, brings to
about 115,000 the number of refugees on the border - perhaps the largest
sinlge such assemblage in Asia.

Among those who have publicly called for the UNHCR to become involved is the
Karen Refuge Committee, which provides humanitarian relief to those
displaced by the Karen National Union's long-running war with successive
governments in Yangon. A communique from the group outlined what it wants
the Thai govenrment to do: "Permit the UNHCR perform its mandated role in
protection of refugee rights and security."

Other groups are more circumspect in seeking UN involvement. "For sure,
refugees need the protection of the United Nations," says an international
aid worker on the scene, who asks that neither his name not that of his
organisation be revealed for fear of angering Thai authorities, upon whose
good graces virtually all private aid groups rely. "UNHCR protection is
crucial. No one else will do it."

And there are even many Thais who might consider asking the UN to help the
Karens. The safety of the refugees is a social as well as a security issue
for the kingdom; Protecting borders means assuming responsibility for the
vulnerable individuals who have crossed them seeking refuge. The Karens have
been terrorized in Myanmar by soldiers of the Slorc. And the refugees have
also been attacked inside Thailand by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, a
faction that broke with the Karen guerrillas in 1995 and now works in
concert with Slorc's troops. While they are resisting forced repatriation,
the refugees are also fighting disease like cholera in their camps.

For all that, it would be better not to involve the UN. While it is
irrefutable that the Karens have suffered from the military battering by
Slorc and its allies, it is much less certain that UN involvement would
improve the situation. Indeed, the government in Yangon sees the UNHCR as a
tool of the US, which has been highly critical of the excesses of the Slorc
regime. What would Yangon do if perceived that a foreign force was
intervening in what is considers an internal matter? Hard to say. But it is
unlikely that the Myanmar govenrment would recognize the UN group as an
honest broker in mediating between itself and the Karen refugees.

One lower profile organisation that has a better handle on the Karen
situation is the Burmese Border Consortium (BBC). Since the early 1980s, the
church-based group has done a remarkable job of feeding, sheltering and
educating the Karens along the Myanmar border in the Thai provinces of Tak
and Kanchanaburi. Certainly, the BBC could use international help with
funding. But is doesn't need to have its role usurped by the likes of the UNHCR.

Almost as important as what the BBC has accomplished is what it has not
done, institutionalize the refugee camps. That is, after all, what the UNHCR
seems to be especially good at. To be sure, the UNHCR has led necessary
humanitarian efforts in Bosnia and Zaire, often in the face of extreme
danger. But in Thailand, the government authorities were never happy with
the refugee industry that entrenched itself along the Cambodia border with
the UNHCR's help.

Bangkok has to play a tricky balancing act. It has commercial reason for
seeing its relationship with Yangon continue. Thailand and Myanmar are
working with private interests to build natural gas pipelines across the
narrow strip of southern Myanmar to the Gulf of Thailand. At the same time
it probably does not want to provoke a negative reaction from the strong
Burmese-resistance lobby in the US.

So, the best solution for the Karen problem is for the refugees to go back
home voluntarily -  not because a military officer on either side of the
border forces them to. A concerted push for meaningful dialogue, compelling
both sides to review more conciliatory strategies, could bring a quiet
return of one of Asia's largest refugee groups to their homeland.
Unfortunately UN intervention would do little more than raise the noise
level and encourage a centuries-old ethnic feud to continue in its bitter,
pointless way. (AW)


April 3, 1997

Since recently two months ago, there has been news about Burmese or Bama (ethnic
Burman who are not  Shan or other different ethnic groups ), who have come to
settle down in Central Shan State, have to move to more secure places because of
the danger of some Shan armed rebels.

On 18.01.97, about 80 Shan armed rebels had entered the village of Nam Maw Khao
Saen,5 miles east of Namzarng where 3-40 houses of Burmese ex-soldiers  and
their families were living and shot dead 14 villagers, wounded 17 and burnt down
5 houses. After that there have been several incidents of raiding and bombing in
towns, and the distribution of leaflets containing a message which said that if
the Burmese army keep on persecuting the Shan people, causing them to flee, and
bringing in their fellow Burman to settle down instead, the retribution would
have to continue.

We, as a liason office of the SURA in a neighbouring country, firmly deny any
responsibility for these acts. SURA is fighting for its political aims and to
restore Shan State; it is not in its interest to create communal strife or
racial war. It will be investigated who is really behind this. However, so far
as the Burmese troops still forcibly occupy Shan State and brutally oppress the
Shan people it will be difficult to prevent it from happening again. What the
Burmese army is doing clearly shows its policy of ethnic cleansing with the
intention to turn Shan State into a Burman State; it is clearly a plan to create
racial conflict betweenShan and Burmese.

Before, a Burmese commander had once said to the relocated villagers at Kho Lam
that there were only 3 options for the Shan - (1) Destruction, ( 2 )
Assimilation, and ( 3 ) Death.

After these incidents, many Burmese have moved from rural areas into towns where
Burmese troops keep tight security, or returned to Burmese proper. Travelling
has decreased. Many Shan travellers have been harassed, scrutinized and beaten,
often without any apparent reason. And many incidents of retaliation on the part
of the Shan have occurred.

Therefore, SURA calls on the international communities to help pressure the
Burmese soldiers to stop their forced relocation program and stop bringing
Burmese settlers into Shan State.

Liaison Department
Shan United Revolutionary Army.


April 4, 1997

Burma's ruling generals have always had mixed feelings about international
media management. Now its seems they have stopped trying again, Aung Zaw writes.

Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, Burma's military intelligence chief, knew his military
regime had an image problem. To overcome the problem, he called a number of
press conferences after the junta came to power in 1988. However, these
meetings were often called off. One reason was that the generals who run the
country are not particularly publicity savvy. In contrast, opposition leader
Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been holding several press meetings since she was
released in 1995 seems to enjoy never-ending honeymoon with the foreign press. 
This undoubtedly upset the leaders of the State Law and Order Restoration
Council [Slorc] and last year Khin Nyunt tried again, scheduling monthly
press conferences to counter Suu Kyi and her "false news."

In September 1996 Information Minister Maj Gen Aye Kyaw and intelligence
officers held the first of their monthly press conferences. Foreign
journalists were invited and allowed to question the country's leaders on
current matters and policies. 

The monthly media briefing have been organised by Col Kyaw Thein, head of
Department of the Office of the Strategic Studies of the Ministry of
Defence, and Col Thein Swe. They are both believed to be Khin Nyunt's men.
But after having conducted press meetings for seven months it seems the
junta's information committee has now lost interest in meeting with reporters. 

Three days ago, the Rangoon officials postponed a media briefing "due to
unforeseen circumstances". They did not say when it would be held. 
One reason cited for the postponement was the recent anti-Muslims riots
throughout Burma. Although Rangoon is quiet, unrest is simmering in other

Troops have been patrolling Rangoon and tight security remains around
mosques and Buddhist temples. The Muslim's Bakridd religious ceremony and
Buddhist New Year will be celebrated in the same week beginning April 10.
The authorities are bracing for potential problems.

The cancellation of the press briefings came as no big surprise to many
foreign journalists who regularly attended the meetings.

A Bangkok-based foreign journalist said: "I had the feeling that they wanted
to postpone or stop it since December as they have been feeling 
uncomfortable about holding the press conferences." He added: "To be 
honest I'm surprised that they have been doing this for so long."

Since September, there have been students demonstrations, bombings, farmers
protest, crackdowns on the opposition and religious riots.

"It seemed every time they hold a press conference there was a problem",
said a journalist.  "We suspect there is a power struggle going on," says Moe 
Thee Zun a student leader.

The army faction led by the vice-chairman of the Slorc is not in favour of the
meetings. "Gen Maung Aye doesn't consider Khin Nyunt's meet-the-press idea
as effective," said a critic of the regime.

With the exception of Khin Nyunt, Slorc's top generals never call press
conferences.  Since 1988 Lt Gen Khin Nyunt has held several private and
public meetings with the press.  In one case, he went as far as permitting a 
New York Times reporter to meet Suu Kyi in 1994 while she was under house 

Few Slorc generals are willing to speak openly to the foreign press. but not
Khin Nyunt and his contact with the media may not please his rivals.

Burma watchers and opponents believe there is a widening split between Khin
Nyunt and Maung Aye. For Khin Nyunt, analyst noted, the press conferences
gave him a great opportunity to flex his muscle and garner more support. 
But even if a bitter relationship does exist and internal conflicts
intensify between the two powerful generals they are not going to have a go
at each other. Not publicly at least.

Burma watcher Bertil Lintner agreed that the junta is no longer the monolith
it once was.  "In the past, Slorc was very cohesive there were no factions, not 
even different tendencies and opinions," he said in a recent interview. "Today 
is very clear that the various strongmen in the Slorc think that they can deal
with the opposition whether it is the NLD or the ethnic rebels along the
border in a different way."

He said the split became evident in December when students took to the
streets. Khin Nyunt's faction persuaded the students to go back to their
classrooms but Maung Aye ordered troops and tanks to Rangoon to crush the
protest. Khin Nyunt is more inclined towards manipulation and using the
Machiavellian "divide and rule tactic" rather "decimate and rule" which is
Maung Aye's line, Lintner commented.

He said: "Khin Nyunt favoured diplomatic means to infiltrate the groups and
break them up from within but Maung Aye preferred to use military force -
this doesn't mean that their aims are different. On the contrary, both Maung
Aye and Khin Nyunt want to crush the whatever opposition in the country."
Lintner added: "They are hard-liners. They want to maintain military rule
and they don't want to see any kind of transition to democracy or more open

That is bad news for the pro-democracy Burmese. (TN)


April 4, 1997

May Aung recalls the 16 months, seven of them pregnant, she spent in
Rangoon's most notorious jail after she was arrested for working for the
British Embassy.

When I look back now, it all seems very strange. I'm not sure how I came to
have such bad experiences. Whenever anyone asks me if I'm still suffering
from trauma, I say, "No way!" But sometimes it all comes back to me when I
least expect it. When there is a knock at the door late at night, or when the 
telephone rings at odd hours, I feel alarmed. I fear they are coming to get me 

In 1990 I was working as an information officer at the British Embassy in
Rangoon. It was a part of my job to keep contacts with the political
opposition in Burma including the National League for Democracy (NLD), the
party of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and the student groups.

The military intelligence officers came to my home around midnight. They
searched the house first. In a way I had been expecting something like this
to happen as my telephone had been tapped and I had been followed wherever I
went. My photograph was taken from every angle whenever I visited Suu Kyi's
house, or those of other members of the NLD. They even took pictures of me
and my friends when I went to the corner tea shop.

You can imagine how I felt, following those strangers into a car,
blindfolded, in the middle of the night.

The interrogation went on and on. I couldn't tell what time it was because
the room had no widows. They would bombard me with questions for two or
three hours then they would ask the same questions again.

It was a kind of intimidation. They wouldn't let me rest or sleep. They kept
asking me to cooperate, but I didn't have any idea what they wanted me to
do. I was only doing my job. I am apolitical.

I am not a member of any political party. I said that if they could offer me
some other work so that I could make a living I could easily leave my job.

They said that I liked to work with foreigners, that I was leaking news
about Burma and so on. Sometimes, I lost my temper. Once I said to them:
Okay, let's make a deal: I'll quit my job and you quit yours! Let's start
from the very beginning. How about that?

When I was finally sentenced in 1990 it was at the same time as Kyi Maung,
the acting head of the NLD was arrested. At that time Suu Kyi was under
house arrest.

It isn't my nature to feel angry. I felt it was so unjust when they took me
to Insein Prison, but what could I do? I had no choice. Of course, I felt
very frustrated, very unsafe. I knew what the jail was like - I had heard a
lot of the stories. But I thought, there's nothing else to do. I'll face it.
Then, perhaps, I can have some peace of mind.

At that time I was 45 years old and two months pregnant. I was sent to the
women's section, to a solitary cell. It was a room 180cm by 210 cm. It had a
cement floor with a dirty mat. There was a little daylight from a barred

I could see a wall through the window. Sometimes it would reach 100 degrees
in the cell, but it could get quite cold too, at night. Being pregnant if
felt hotter to me. I wasn't  allowed to wash very often. The water was cold
and dirty.

Sometimes I threw my food away because I couldn't eat it. The rice itself
was horrible. It was cooked at four in the morning and we ate it at around
mid-day. It had a dirty smell - it wasn't fresh any  more. We had a
vegetable soup with the rice.

Sometimes you could see some worms in the soup, moving. I had diarrhoea once
for 11 days, because I couldn't adapt to the food. We often thought that if
we died in the prison, they wouldn't mind at all.

My friends, mainly other political prisoners, were very helpful, though.
They consoled me. They said: "you must eat because you have a baby," so I
did eat. Otherwise I wouldn't have eaten anything.

We had to scrub the floors. They always found some work for us and we worked
for most of the day. Sometimes we had to fetch water for the vegetables that
were grown to feed the prisoners. We had to finish things by a certain time.
If you didn't do the work, you would not be allowed any remission on your

I was moved from my solitary cell after months to another building. There
were more than 500 women staying there and it was very overcrowded but at
least we could talk to each other.

About 200 of them were political prisoners. There were all sort of
prisoners: prostitutes, gamblers, murderers. I was frightened at first,
sleeping among some of these people, but I got used to being with them and I
got to know them.

We weren't allowed to write or read. If they every found a pencil it was
considered high treason. They thought that we might be sending some messages
to each other or to the outside. They didn't want outside people to know
what was happening inside the prison, and the didn't want us to know what
was happening outside.

It was around midnight when it started. I was having labour pains, but there
was no doctor around to help me. Two hours later he did appear and did some
final checks. Then they made me fill in 11 forms before they released me to
go to the hospital.

It was a very tiring and painful birth, considering my last baby had been
born 16 years before, I was lucky. Once I was in hospital among the civilian
doctors. I felt that I was with human beings again.

They knew who I was and treated me very well. I was able to check for this
or that. I asked them to check for HIV because I had been staying with
prostitutes and I told them I feared I might have received injections from
the same syringes used by them. I made up all sorts of stories, such a fuss,
so I could stay there for as long as I could.

I knew very well that I would be parted from my new-born baby and I had to
be prepared for it. I couldn't take him because I couldn't put him through
the danger of going back to the prison with me, to the diarrhoea and the
mosquitoes. Before, I went back to the prison, I was able to make a call to
my husband.

I said: Come and take the baby and don't come back. I arranged it very
quickly. It was one of the hardest times of my life. For a few days I had
felt so free.

When you are having a baby you are so full of love. What can I say?
Something is inside you and then it is gone, it was just gone.

When I went back I was put in the solitary cell again. I became so stiff
that could hardly turn myself over when I was lying on the floor, trying to
sleep. That's why when I was finally freed, I couldn't lift my legs.

I could sometimes hear other babies crying, and in order to comfort myself I
went to visit them. Sometimes I asked the mother: "May I hold your baby?"

I didn't know I would be freed on that day, nine months after my baby was
born. An intelligence official came to see me and he said: "I would like to
have a word with you". Then I was taken from my cell and he told me: "Okay,
pack up your things, we give you 20 minutes - you'll be free today."

I was choked. What could I say. I had an overwhelming feeling of joy because
I knew I would see my baby gain.

In the end I was freed because Saw Maung was removed from his post, and the
senior general in the government, Than Shwe replaced him. Some political
prisoners were freed as part of an amnesty, and I was one of them.

When I saw my baby he didn't recognise me as his mother. That was the
hardest time in my life, although I was free. Only when he was sleeping
could I take him into my bed, but when he woke up in the middle of the night
he was frightened and cried a lot. He didn't want to sleep with me.

In order to heal myself, I make sure I am always occupied. I don't allow my
mind or body to be free. Otherwise it comes back again.

Although I have a safe life now, living with my young son in London,
sometimes I feel very guilty because of the fact that I am free and many of
my friends are still political prisoners in Burma.

I'm not sure about the future in Burma. These days some people are saying
they expect things to change for the better, but I don't think it will
happen quickly. There may be some hopeful signs, perhaps, but I don't think
it will be that soon. (TN)


April 4, 1997  AFP

Rangoon - Rangoon was calm yesterday following communal unrest which saw
dozens of Muslim properties vandalised across Burma, but Buddhist monks here
appeared restless, witnesses said.

Security forces have been deployed around mosques and monasteries in the
capital since attacks on Muslim properties by monks, or men dressed as
monks, spread from the central Burmese city of Mandalay almost two weeks ago.

Monks showed their discontent with the authorities by moving in small groups
in and out of monasteries, keeping forces assigned to monitor their
movements busy, analysts said.

The attacks died down after the authorities called first degree security
alerts in five cities, imposing dusk to dawn curfews in some of them, and
setting up committees of religious elders to improve communal relations. (TN)


April 4, 1997
Yindee Lertcharoenchok, The Nation

DESPITE the government's recent green light to proceed with the Yadana
natural gas pipeline, Kanchanaburi residents and human rights and
environmental groups yesterday jointly declared a ''peaceful" war to oppose
the mammoth multi-billion-dollar project. 

Representatives of Kanchanaburi residents and NGOs at a round-table
discussion yesterday on the Yadana pipeline accused the Petroleum Authority
of Thailand (PTT) of deliberately keeping the public in the dark on the
long-negotiated project by withholding crucial information and misleading
the people with inaccurate information. 

They also expressed strong disappointment that the National Environmental
Board chaired by Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh hastily approved the
poorly-written environmental impact assessment (EIA) on March 24 despite
strong opposition from Kanchanaburi residents and a number of reservations
raised by environmental specialists. 

In addition to a plan to launch a global signature campaign directed at
Chavalit, other possible measures the participants have discussed include a
boycott of PTT products, a long march on the pipeline route, and suing the
state enterprise. 

The idea to pursue a lawsuit gained more ground from the success last week
of a group of Burmese victims of alleged human rights abuses from the Yadana
pipeline project in Burma. A US federal court in Los Angeles on March 25
accepted jurisdiction over a case brought by the Burmese plaintiffs against
oil giants Total and Unocal, the contractors for the controversial project,
and two Unocal executives. 

Social critic Sulak Sivaraksa said his newly created Kalayanamitra Group
decided to launch a global signature campaign to try to persuade Chavalit to
reconsider the project, which would draw natural gas from Burma's Gulf of
Martaban, transport it through the seabed and an overland pipeline across
southern Burma and Kanchanaburi for sale to Thailand's PTT. 

He said a number of Nobel Prize laureates and prominent figures around the
world had pledged their support for the campaign. His group has also planned
a walk along the pipeline route which will pass through the first-class Huay
Kayeng forest in Thong Pa Phum district which is awaiting state declaration
as a national park. 

Sulak strongly urged the Thai public, particularly people in Kanchanaburi,
not to overlook the fact that the pipeline project has not only adversely
affected Kanchanaburi residents but also brought deplorable suffering to the
Burmese people, particularly the ethnic Karen and Mon. 

He said human rights and environmental issues have no boundary and that Thai
people should not exploit the natural resources of the Burmese people who
are living in ''severe agony" under the suppression of the Burmese junta. 

''The current Burmese military regime does not have the legitimacy to rule.
It has treated its people brutally, like animals, and such maltreatment is
increasing day by day," he said. 

''To obtain cheap natural gas is a good thing, but if it has to be done in a
way that causes the suffering of other people, our own grandchildren will
suffer in the future. I challenge all state agencies to a peaceful war. We
are ready to talk with and convince them that the gas should be acquired
morally and ethically," Sulak said. 

He suggested that the Chavalit government renegotiate the gas sale with the
Burmese pro-democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Suraphol Duangkhae, deputy secretary-general of the Wildlife Fund Thailand,
said the Thai public was very upset with the Yadana pipeline scheme because
their right to information had been abused by the PTT which has refused to
disseminate the full account of the project all along. 

He said public distrust was total, and thus any attempts by the PTT now to
appease Kanchanaburi residents would be unsuccessful. 

''I'm afraid it's going to be difficult now to create mutual trust. What
remains is only confrontations, which may turn violent," he warned. 

Along with Kanchanaburi representatives, Suraphol has criticised the process
of producing the EIA which, he said, had ignored many crucial facts,
including the project's negative impacts on the area's ecology. 

Laddawan Tantivittayapitak of the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in
Burma suggested that the public launch a PTT product boycott ­ a measure
which would help reduce the need for Burmese natural gas and subsequently
ease the suffering of the Burmese people. 

Pinan Chotirosserani, the president of the Kanchanaburi Women's Conservation
Club, said that after the EIA was approved, PTT officials had approached her
and other leading provincial campaigners to try to persuade them not to
block or take other drastic action against the pipeline's construction. 

''We believe it's already beyond that point [that the PTT can win public
support] and we will not talk anymore [with the PTT]," she said. 

Along with her provincial colleagues Boonsong Jansongrasmee and Wisan
Phongvidhyapanu, Pinan said what Kanchanaburi people now want is to see the
rerouting of the 200-kilometre-plus pipeline or the total scrapping of the

She said Kanchanaburi activists had already launched a local campaign using
banners and posters to urge people to oppose the pipeline. She said local
environmental and human rights groups were also studying the possibility of
filing a lawsuit against the PTT, either in Thailand or the United States. 

Wisan claimed that PTT officials had recently admitted that their agency had
lied several times, and finally admitted that the gas would be flammable and
that the pipeline, which would cross two active faults, could leak and
explode after even a light earthquake. 

Srisuwan Kuankachorn, director of the Project for Ecological Recovery, said
the Burmese junta had used the granting of logging and fishing concessions
to Thai businessmen as a means to destroy ethnic minorities in Burma. The
destruction of the ethnic minorities also meant the destruction of a natural
security buffer zone. (TN)


April 3, 1997  (abridged)

REPRESENTATIVES from international and local non-government organisations
(NGOs) were invited to Government House on Tuesday by Prime Minister
Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. 

The activists, in Bangkok following a three-day conference on alternative
security systems in the Asia-Pacific region, took the opportunity to brief
the prime minister on the outcomes of their conference and to personally
deliver a letter of support for the Assembly of the Poor. 

The prime minister had no formal agenda for the meeting and representatives
used the opportunity to discuss a range of issues including Burma and East
Timor, the arms race in Asia, hydro-dam projects and sustainable
development, the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) and the Assembly of the Poor. 

Sympathising with concerns raised by Bello on the question of Burma's
potential membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean),
Chavalit commented  ''We agree democracy brings peace and prosperity ...
[but] we must stick to the Asean ten policy ... if we bring them in we make
them understand and make them change faster than if we push them out ... We
have to stay together, we cannot leave Myanmar [Burma] alone." 

He stressed that neither Thailand nor Asean have reached a decision on
Burma's membership in the regional group. 

Bello urged the premier to review the policy and delay Burma's membership
until there are reforms in human rights violations and democratic


April 2, 1997


Labor Council Building, Suite 6, 8th Floor, 377-383 Sussex Street, NSW
2000 Tel: (02) 9264 7694 Fax: (02) 9264 7693 Email: burma@xxxxxxxxxx

Media Release and Invitation to attend

2 April 1997

Peregrine Adventures 
Rebuff plea from the NLD led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Despite continued calls from Burma?s National League for Democracy (NLD)
led by Nobel Laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Peregrine Adventures
continues to arrange and sell tourist packages to Burma.

Winners of the 1990 general elections in Burma who have been denied the
right to govern Burma by the military of the country, State Law and
Order Restoration Council (SLORC), claims that promoting tourism in
Burma is giving legitimacy to the SLORC and is responsible for the
massive escalation of slavery in the country.

People of Burma residing in Australia joined by NGOs and unions have
asked that Peregrine stop marketing tourist packages to Burma in a bid
to support the NLD and the pro-democracy movement.  There has been no
response from the company.

In view of the failure of Peregrine to respond positively to this
representation a national campaign is under way to encourage the company
to change its mind and stop selling tourist packages to Burma.

Please join us in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth by protesting
outside Peregrine Offices in these cities between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00
noon on Saturday the 5th April 1997.

Sydney:		Level 5,38 York Street, Sydney, NSW 2000 Fax: (02) 929-02155
Canberra:	2/26 Bougainville St. Manuka ACT 2603 Fax: (06) 239 7242
Melbourne:	258 Lonsdale St. Melbourne 3000 Fax: (03) 9663 8618
Perth:		862 Hay St. Perth 6000 Fax: (09) 481 7375

Media Information:  	U Daniel Aung (or) Minn Aung Myint (02) 9264 7694
				Amanda Zappia (06) 297 7734
				Ken Khin Maung Gyi (03) 9562 4223
				Connie Allmark (09) 349 4073


April 3, 1997

1. April Burma Roundtable

The next Roundtable is at 7pm on Tuesday, April 8.  The meeting will take
place at the office of Franklin Research & Development at 711 Atlantic
Avenue in Boston, just across the street from South Station.

Our Roundtable speaker this month is Katharine Redford of Earthrights
International. Ms. Redford is one of several lawyers working on a lawsuit
against Unocal and Total, the oil companies building a gas pipeline through
lands in Burma inhabited by the Karen and the Mon, two indigenous ethnic
minorities. Earthrights International is based on the Thai-Burma border and
employs human rights investigators who have documented the shocking human
rights abuses connected to the pipeline project. 

The May 13 Roundtable will feature Shalini Nataraj, Asia Associate of the
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. She will talk about her recent
trip to the Thai-Burma border.  Reserve the date now!

2. Connecticut Burma Bill Reported Out of Committee

On March 27, the Government, Administration and Elections Committee of the
Connecticut legislature favorably reported out HB 6354, Rep. Jessie Stratton's 
Burma selective purchasing bill. The Stratton Burma bill is almost identical 
to the Massachusetts Burma law and would effectively bar Connecticut 
purchasing managers from buying goods or services from companies
doing business in Burma.  The bill will now go to the Connecticut House for
a floor vote.