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The following is the paper presented by Dr. Sein Win, Prime Minister,
National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), at the Briefing
on Human Rights in Burma, at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.


By Dr. Sein Win
Prime Minister, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB)
April 8, 1997

First of all, I would like to say thank you for your interest in the
situation of human rights in Burma.  As Daw Aung San Suu and Saw David Taw
have already said, the situation in Burma is now moving from bad to worse.
In December of last year, there were renewed student and peasant
demonstrations against the ruling military regime, and recently there was
Muslim and Buddhist religious unrest.  As a result of the demonstrations,
universities and some high schools were closed, and many have yet to be
reopened.  In recent months, prices of basic commodities have shot up,
rumors abound, and a general air of discontent permeates the society.  Many
of the same conditions that formed the basis for protests in Burma in 1988
such as rampant inflation and perceived injustices still exist today and
are, in fact, worse.  The political temperature is rising and more clashes
are likely because SLORC seems to be intent on provoking the people by
imposing harsher and harsher restrictions.

Equally disturbing is the apparent inability of the Burma's generals to
respond to political developments in Burma in any way except by resorting to
force.  Instead of learning from the past, the military seems to be intent
on handling new situations in the same way as it did in 1988, except that
the oppressive actions are increasingly sophisticated.  Unfortunately,
SLORC's repressive measures which are supposedly being taken to defuse
tensions are in fact adding fuel to the already uneasy situation.  The
current crackdown against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for
Democracy is totally unnecessary.  This would seem to suggest that the
military is panicking.  The political tension could instead be defused very
rapidly by simply beginning a dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders
from the ethnic nationalities.

However, SLORC seems to be confident that they will be able to control the
situation by force, and that it is not necessary to have a dialogue with
opposition groups.  SLORC is concerned with its legitimacy and power, though
they say they are concerned with Burma's economy and national integrity.
Legitimacy, as far as we understand it, descends from the will of the
people.  But, in SLORC's way of thinking, legitimacy seems to be interpreted
as recognition at the UN and the achievement of observer status of ASEAN.
And as far as SLORC is concerned, a decent economy is having enough hard
currency to run the army and to support the military elites.

I have no doubt that a transition to democracy in Burma will take place
because of the democratic aspirations of the people.  The main question is
"what form will the transition take?"  The current situation in Burma is
very tense and very similar to the period before the 1988 democratic
uprising.  If the situation remains unchecked, it could lead to another
round of bloodshed and total devastation.

When we look at the international responses to the situation in Burma,
statements range from the US policy of "not encouraging or discouraging
trade and investment", to the European Union's policy of "critical
dialogue", to the "quiet diplomacy" of Japan, and the ASEAN policy of
"constructive engagement".  

In United States, President Clinton has already signed the Bill Section 570
of the Foreign Operations and Appropriation Act that calls for the
conditional sanctions.  A debate is still going on at the US State
Department on the question of whether it is more effective to keep the
sanctions legislation as a threat or to actually impose sanctions.  The
legislation asks the President to impose sanctions against SLORC if Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi is rearrested or forced into exile or if she faces physical harm
or if there is a large scale crackdown against the democracy movement.  We
are of the view that the conditions set out in the legislation have already
been met, and therefore sanctions should be imposed now.  Sanctions should
not be measured just by calculating their economic cost to SLORC.  We should
not overlook the psychological impact they will have.

We also welcome the resolution of the European Parliament that calls for
sanctions and acknowledge the initiative of Denmark to raise the issue of
economic sanctions at the EU. However, we are disappointed to know that some
EU members, such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany, have taken the
view that actions such as economic sanctions should not be taken by regional
blocks but should only be part of multilateral action taken by the UN
Security Council.  Despite such reluctance to impose sanctions, during the
last week of March, the European Union decided to suspend the General System
of Preference (GSP) for Burma based on SLORC's widespread practice of forced
labor.  Even though there might not be a significant economic impact on
SLORC, the suspension of the GSP sends a strong political message to the

Since the beginning of ASEAN's Constructive Engagement policy towards Burma,
we have stressed that there should be engagement, not only with the Burmese
generals, but also with the Burmese people or the representatives elected by
the people.  There should be a dynamic engagement with SLORC that raises
fundamental questions and actively attempts to improve the situation instead
of the current policy which passively engages the generals with the sole aim
of paving the way for business.   We are seriously concerned that ASEAN's is
considering the admission of Burma as full member to the regional bloc.
Premature admission would have a detrimental impact on the development of
democracy in Burma.  ASEAN should postpone Burma's full membership and try
to influence the military regime to take some positive incremental steps
toward democracy prior to entry into ASEAN.

Such steps could include 
(1) Cooperation with the UN (to accept the visit of the Special Rapporteur
and the Representative of the Secretary-General) 
(2) Full access for the International Committee for the Red Cross and other
international groups to political prisoners and ethnic nationality areas
where human rights abuses are routine and 
(3) Dialogue with the NLD and leaders of ethnic groups as mentioned in the
UN General Assembly resolution. 

While I am talking about the policy of governments, I should not leave out
the role of grassroots action in influencing policymakers.  Internet
technology has been very instrumental in promoting public awareness about
the human rights situation in Burma.  Burmanet and the Free Burma Coalition
are at the forefront of using this technology to launch boycott campaigns,
shareholder resolutions and selective purchasing laws at the city and state
levels.  The immediate result of these campaigns has been increased media
awareness and public education through the conventional media.  During the
last two years, Burma support groups have exerted effective pressure on the
corporate community.  As a result, some US companies (Pepsi Cola, Apple,
Motorola, Liz Clayborn, and Eddie Bauer for example) and some European
companies (Heinekin and Carlsberg for example) have pulled out of Burma.
Six cities in the US have passed selective purchasing laws penalizing
companies doing business in Burma, and the state of Mansachusette passed a
similiar sanctions bill.

In conclusion, we strongly believe that grassroots action and economic
sanctions combined with UN efforts seeking mediation and conflict resolution
will help bring change to Burma.  The international community's efforts do
make a difference in our struggle for democracy and lasting peace in Burma,
and we thank you for your support.  Thank you.
Internet ProLink PC User