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The following is the paper presented by David Taw, National Democratic
Front, at the Briefing on Human Rights in Burma, at the UN Human Rights
Commission in Geneva.

SLORC Militarism Threatens the Survival of Non-Burman Ethnic Nationalities
in Burma

By David Taw
National Democratic Front
April 8, 1997

This is my first time participating in the meeting of the UN Commission on
Human Rights.  I am very pleased to have this opportunity to discuss the
plight of the non-Burman ethnic nationalities whose survival and ethnic and
cultural identities are dangerously threatened by the military regime of
Burma.  Burma is a multiethnic state, and I am a member of the Karen people,
one of the ethnic nationalities of Burma.  I am a representative of the
National Democratic Front (the NDF), a coalition of ethnic nationalities.

I would like to make four main points today, all of which indicate how human
rights abuses in Burma are inhibiting the long term stability and peace in
my country.

First, the ethnic nationalities of Burma are seeking a political dialogue to
find a lasting political solution in Burma, but our political freedoms and
rights are nonexistent under the current regime.

Second, the civilian populations in ethnic areas are being persecuted by the
SLORC army, which has resulted in thousands of human rights abuses against
innocent villagers throughout the country which is destabilizing our
traditional societies.

Third, the cease-fires between SLORC and the ethnic nationalities have
failed to achieve lasting political solutions--again because political
freedoms and rights have been eliminated by the SLORC troops in the
cease-fire areas.

Finally, the recent offensive against the Karen people and the refugee
crisis on the Thai/Burmese border once again exemplifies SLORC's oppressive
nature and the widespread human rights abuses resulting from its policy of

All of these abuses stem from the Burmese regime's militarization of the
country, and its refusal to seek lasting solutions through dialogue instead
of force.


It is a significant fact that almost all of the major ethnic groups have
resistance movements.  Some resistance movements started a few years after
the country's independence from Britain in 1948, and many others joined the
struggle after the 1962 military coup.  These resistance movements are a
greatly significant phenomenon because they indicate that there is something
totally wrong with the state of affairs of Burma.

SLORC often claims that their task is to prevent the disintegration of the
Union, and they usually try to justify their illegal grip on state power by
citing the ethnic resistance movements as a threat to national integrity.
Asserting that instability will result if they are not in power, SLORC has
even tried to legitimize the domination of the military in the future
political life of Burma through its national convention.  

SLORC has often said that Burma will become the next Bosnia unless there is
a leading role for the Tatmataw (SLORC's Army).  The logic of this is very
elusive.  Here, I want to make it very clear that no ethnic organization is
seeking independence or secession from the Union. We have been striving for
our rights which are reflected in Article 27 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights and elaborated in the UN Declaration on Rights
of Persons Belonging to National and Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic
Minorities.  We have been striving together with our ethnic brothers and
sisters, including Burmans, to end militarism and build a new society based
on democracy, human rights and federalism. 

In 1990, the ethnic nationalities and the democratic opposition started the
process of constitution drafting with the aim of building a consensus about
how to construct a new union.  International constitutional experts were
invited to our seminars, and many consultations were made.  Free and open
debate characterize these proceedings which is very different from the
undemocratic SLORC-orchestrated national convention.  The constitution is
now in its fifth draft.  The extent of consensus we have already built up is
promising and strong proof that the threat of a Bosnia-like-situation is
minimal.  The specter of another Bosnia is SLORC's propaganda and an attempt
to frighten the international community. We agree with the policy statement
of the National League for Democracy (the NLD) which has said that a
Panlong-like Convention has to be convened to lay down the principles for a
future constitution.  Our drafting efforts are in preparation for this
opportunity.  It is our strong belief that no constitution can be imposed or
dictated by any one organization or institution or any one group of people.
Only when the constitution reflects the true aspirations of the people will
there be a long-lasting constitution and practical resolution to the current
political crises.  In order to bring this about, we must guarantee an
atmosphere in which all the peoples of Burma, regardless of their ethnicity,
sex and religion are allowed to participate in the constitution-making process. 


During the past eight years, the ethnic resistance movements have suffered a
lot from SLORC's terrorizing campaign against the ethnic civilian
populations and changes in the geopolitical climate.  SLORC has usually
practiced a low intensity conflict strategy in the course of its military
operations against the ethnic resistance movements.  This strategy is known
in Burma as the "Four Cuts" program (cutting information, food supplies,
financial support and recruitment for the resistance movements).  A large
part of the Four Cuts program has been to isolate the resistance movements
from the surrounding ethnic civilian populations.  To isolate the resistance
groups, the main target of the SLORC's army has been the civilian
population, not the resistance groups themselves.  SLORC's army threatens
communities in order to make them give up their support for the resistance
movement and has committed thousands of human rights abuses, including
arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and summary executions of civilians under
the Four Cuts program.

One of Burmese army's major schemes is the practice of forcibly relocating
villages.  Orders have been given to hundreds of thousands of villagers to
move to new areas under the tight control of the SLORC army.  Villagers are
often given less than a week's notice to relocate.  Later, these abandoned
villages are declared free-fire zones which means that SLORC's army will
shoot on sight anyone seen in the area of the village.  In this way, entire
ethnic populations are being uprooted from their native lands and
traditional ways of livelihood, and scattered in new satellite villages
(actually concentration camps of the military).  The new relocation sites
also become pools for military porterage or forced labor for SLORC's
militarily strategic roads.  People often flee the satellite villages by
hiding in the jungles of Burma as internally displaced persons or running
across the border to Thailand.  

Today, the horrors for the civilian population continue.  Forced relocations
have not stopped.  And human rights abuses against civilians by SLORC troops
continue to be routine throughout Burma.


The mounting pressures on their respective communities and other factors
resulting from changes in geopolitics forced 15 ethnic resistance groups to
sign cease-fire agreements according to SLORC terms. 

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in her video message, however, SLORC's
cease-fire agreements merely stop the shooting.  They do not result in
further political dialogue which will address the rights of the non-Burman
ethnic nationalities and their role in the future political process.
Promises of regional development in return for cease-fire agreements have
not materialized either, apart from a few show-case openings of schools and
hospitals that were heavily publicized in the SLORC-controlled media.
Foreign humanitarian NGOs have never been allowed to operate development
projects in cease-fire areas.  And the worst part of the cease-fires has
been the heavy deployment of SLORC troops to consolidate their territorial
control; they have acted like an occupation army and continue their human
rights violations including forced labor and forced relocation campaigns in
cease-fire areas. 

In the Kachin area, since SLORC troops took control of all check points on
the border, replacing the Kachin Independence Organization, heroin has
freely flowed into Kachin state and the Kachin people have begun to face a
serious problem with increasing numbers of drugs addicts and related
HIV/AIDS problems.  In the Mon area, after the cease-fire, thousands of
people have been conscripted for military porterage and forced labor for
roads and the construction of the Ye-Tavoy railway, a strategic transport
line for rapid deployment of armed forces to secure a gas pipeline route.
When a Mon leader asked the Commander of the South-Eastern military command
to stop the forced labor, he replied that the cease-fire agreement was made
just between SLORC's army and the Mon National Liberation Army, and it had
nothing to do with the administrative orders of various levels of SLORC that
were carrying out regional development projects.  The reply was nonsense
because SLORC is the army and the army is the SLORC.  The cease-fire
agreement between SLORC and the Karenni National Progressive Party (the
KNPP), lasted just three months and broke down after SLORC did not comply
with the Karenni's demand to stop forced labor.  Fighting has also recently
flared up again between SLORC and the United Wa State Army in southern part
of the Wa area. These continuing tensions and problems indicate that
cease-fires without accompanying dialogue on political and human rights
issues will not be able to bring long-lasting peace and stability to Burma.


The National Democratic Front (the NDF) believes that dialogue is the best
means to resolve the political problems in Burma, and we fully support the
UN General Assembly resolutions that urge SLORC to start a substantive
political dialogue, at the earliest possible time, with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
and other political leaders including leaders of ethnic groups.  This desire
for political dialogue was reaffirmed by all the ethnic groups--both
cease-fire and non-cease-fire groups--which attended the Mae Tha Raw Hta
meeting in February of this year.  Based on this political will, the Karen
National Union (the KNU) took part in four rounds of negotiations with
SLORC.  Despite ongoing negotiations, however, SLORC launched a massive
military campaign in Karen territory and intensified its campaign of terror
against the Karen civilian population.  Karen villagers were subjected to
porterage, torture, rape and summary executions, and the abuses continue.
People have had to flee from their villages to escape persecution by the
SLORC army.  To date, 20,000 Karen people have fled into Thai territory
because of the offensive. Thousands of others are internally displaced,
still in the jungle on the way to the border, unable to flee because SLORC's
military columns block their escape.  The refugee population on the
Thai-Burmese border has now risen to 120,000.  These people have fled
persecution by the SLORC army, and the KNU thanks the Royal Thai Government
for permitting these people to take refuge in the border areas of Thailand
and the international NGOs for assisting them with basic needs.

Most of the refugees had been staying in border areas for years without much
incident until 1995 when the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (the DKBA) and
in some cases combined forces of the DKBA and the SLORC army attacked
refugee camps inside Thailand.  In January of this year, two large refugee
camps close to the border were burnt down by the DKBA and SLORC troops
making more than 16,000 refugees homeless.  Threats continue to be made
against the refugees in Thailand by DKBA and SLORC troops.  All the refugee
camps along the border are now very vulnerable to the cross border attacks
from SLORC and DKBA troops.  Because of this insecure situation, it is
urgently needed to move the refugee camps to safer places and for UNHCR to
extend protection to the refugees.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the non-Burma ethnic
nationalities are seeking political solutions to the problems in Burma.  We
are deeply concerned at SLORC's denial of political freedoms and its
military campaign against the civilian populations throughout Burma.  We
call on the UN Commission on Human Rights to make the strongest possible
statements to the Burmese regime and work for a UN mediated substantive
political dialogue in Burma.  Finally, we call on the international
community--UNHCR, the diplomatic community and human rights NGOs--to
urgently respond to the need for protection of the refugees along the
Thai/Burmese border who face a humanitarian crisis and continuing threats
from the SLORC army.  Thank You.
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