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/* posted 13 Apr 6:00am 1997 by drunoo@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.burma */
/* -------------" 1992: The AHRC Campaign on Burma "--------------- */

[ Following material is extract from CAMPAIGN ON BURMA prepared by Asian
Human Rights Commission in 1991/92. We received this informative document
in early 1992. This document give us a clear and precise meaning of such
terminologies as Campaign, Service and Struggle etc. in a movement.
The document is invaluable, in a historical sense, that it reflect the
situation of Burma movement in 1992, i.e. the Campaign Focus and
Directions, The Unity within the movement etcetera, etcetera.

In the years around 1991/92, there were two notable pressure campaigns
within the movement: the NCGUB which exert diplomatic pressure at the UN;
and the other NGOs which advocate trade and economic sanctions on Burma. It
may be found, over the years, that our movement on the humanitarian front
has also added another form of pressure on Burma's military regime. This
document can perhaps be used to compare the status of our movement now with
that of 1992; and to evaluate the achievements and also the shortcomings
over this period. -- U Ne Oo.]

        Several meetings are being sponsored by international groups
        supporting the struggle for democracy and peace in Burma. This is a
        positive development. Coordination among support groups is
        important if sufficient pressure is to be mobilised against the
        military junta in Burma in order to force them to accept the
        demands of the people. The Asian Human Rights Commission is also
        joining in with these efforts in support of the struggle of the
        Burmese people.

        For a campaign to be effective, each support group must clearly
        identify a specific target which is crucial to help bring an end to
        the civil war and human rights violations in the country. That
        target must be one for which the support group has responsibility
        and the right to speak against. The target must also be specific as
        opposed to a general target such as "all international investors",
        "negative government policies" etc. A specific target would be one
        or two companies investing in Burma which play an important role in
        propping up the military regime. Another example would be one
        specific policy of the support group's government which requires

        An effective campaign can be built with specific goals as well as
        target dates. The target dates are important because they push us
        to work towards deadlines thus procrastination is less likely.

        A. CAMPAIGN
        A campaign is a series of actions designed to bring about the
        desired change in the target. One letter, or one protest march does
        not make a campaign. Campaign targets are usually power groups, and
        they can easily fend off a few protests without trouble. A
        campaign, therefore, must be a consistent set of actions, perhaps
        taken daily or weekly, aimed at wearing the target down, and
        forcing it to change it's position because of pressure.

        Support group members involved in the campaign must be willing to
        personally commit themselves to taking these daily or weekly
        actions until the desired results are achieved. They must commit
        themselves to writing a weekly letter, or making a daily phone call
        to the target, calling for change. They should do this until the
        change takes place. It is through persistence that the powerful
        will be worn down and see the need to reconsider their positions.

        B. SERVICE
        Service is assistance to people in struggle to help them survive.
        It is not struggle. It means providing of food, medical assistance,
        education, etc. for those involved in the struggle. Care must be
        taken with service activities for they can become a focus of our
        efforts and resources that the important support we need to give to
        the struggle is lost.

        C. STRUGGLE
        Struggle involves actions carefully chosen which move a conflict
        towards resolution. It is different from service in that it does
        not simply help in survival, but is aimed at bringing about a
        positive change. Struggle is active, creative, courageous and
        tenacious. Service is part of struggle only if it helps to get
        information and ideas for the struggle and if it helps to focus the
        struggle more clearly on important targets. If service does not do
        this, it become an obstacle to struggle as it distracts from the
        real issues.

        Struggle is effective and creative action by those directly
        involved in confronting the structures of oppression. It is aimed
        at a specific target, in coordination with other groups carrying
        out support actions in their respective areas of responsibility.
        Solidarity support is crucial to sustain the struggle. Support
        groups do not win conflicts but help to pave the way for the
        oppressed to sustain their struggle.

        A full analysis of the issues affecting the civil war in Burma
        requires many volumes of writing. Some important points summarized
        below will help to understand the Burma situation.

        A. The hold of the Burmese military over the people is due to the
        economic factor. The army, which numbers about 280,000 (some report
        indicate that the SLORC wants to increase it to at least 500,000
        fighting men), is not sympathetic to the military rulers or their
        policies. Most members of the armed forces are poor people with
        little education. They have few other avenues to earn money to
        sustain their families and therefore, continue to serve in the army
        for economic reasons and also, because of fear of reprisals against
        their families in case of desertion.

        Another reason the soldiers remain "faithful" to the leaders in the
        very effective anti-ethnic minority education imparted to the
        people. The soldiers are constantly indoctrinated with propaganda
        that the minority groups are attempting to tear the Union apart.
        Consequently, many sincerely believe this and continue the fight to
        "save the Union".

        There is virtually, no support of the masses for the military
        leadership. The May 1990 elections proved this. People are however,
        unable to stage another major uprising because the military is now
        better equipped. Moreover, the majority of the people are now
        mostly concerned with their survival.

        Foreign exchange which is essential for the needs of the people is
        used by the military to buy weapons, that have to be replaced and
        upgraded regularly, to keep the people under subjugation.

        B. Some countries, especially Thailand and China invest heavily in
        Burma, because they can make quick profits. The two countries lead
        the way for foreign investments in Burma.

        C. Other countries, such as the USA, Germany, England, Australia,
        etc., have imposed certain sanctions against Burma but at the same
        time private companies from these countries invest heavily in
        Burma, especially in the field of oil exploration and production.
        The governments of these countries have taken a critical stance
        against the Burmese military junta which is a positive move.
        However, it is naive to believe that they, do not have ulterior
        motives in adopting such double standards.

        D. Money flowing into Burma from the foreign investments finds its
        way into the hands of the military leadership. With this money they
        purchase modern weapons. The people have therefore benefited little
        from the foreign investments.

        E. Some UN agencies such as the UNDP plan on carrying out large
        "development" projects inside Burma. These projects will mainly
        benefit the SLORC who will use the UN support to legitimize its
        power in the eyes of the people. UN money for drug eradication is
        also being sought by SLORC. This indeed ironical as SLORC is not
        sincere about eradicating opium cultivation.

        F. ASEAN countries from a protective barrier around Burma. They
        attempted to deflect criticism saying that change in Burma is not
        easy because the SLORC intransigence attitude and therefore a
        "constructive engagement" is the most useful way to encourage the
        Burmese military junta to democratize. They ignore the voice of the
        Burmese people expressed through the 1990 elections. ASEAN
        defensive posture is based on economic interests and considerations
        as well as the fear of facing similar criticisms from the
        international community with regard to their own countries.
        "Western intervention" is therefore, used as a cliche to justify
        their position. There is little campaigning in ASEAN countries by
        NGOs to protest against the so called "constructive engagement"
        policy which contributes to the suppression of the Burmese people.

        G. SLORC is clever. Through careful planning and scheming it keeps
        on the offensive. Every move, and action is cunningly planned and
        designed to give maximum benefits.

        H. SLORC has control over the economy, and through its manipulates
        the country and maintains its hold over power.

        I. SLORC has no intention of handing over power to the elected
        representatives of the people unless they are able to control them.
        Thus they continue to arrest, and harass opposition party workers
        and groups who dare to speak out. Through arrests, torture,
        killings and fear, the SLORC continues to hold on to power in the

        J. The tensions between the Ethnic Minorities and the Ethnic
        Burmans will not vanish. Suspicions and misunderstandings have been
        ingrained amongst the people for far too long. The Ethnic Burmans
        believe the minorities want to break up the Union, and therefore
        often harbour a deep prejudices against the minorities. On the
        other hand the Ethnic Minorities are suspicious that the Burmans
        want to destroy them, their way of life and their culture. Ethnic
        problems are not likely to be resolved by simply setting up a
        Federal State structure. The prejudices and misunderstandings built
        over a period of time have to be identified, and dealt with one at
        a time.

        K. The struggle against SLORC has, for the most part, remained a
        defensive one. Reaction against oppression from both Burmese groups
        and international support groups has been  more of a watch word
        than actions for prevention. This is best illustrated by reactions
        against forced repatriation of Burmese students in Thailand, a few
        protests against foreign investments etc. Almost all of these are
        reactions to events that have taken place. Few offensive campaigns
        in the ASEAN region have been launched which could help put the
        initiative in the hands of the oppressed.

        L. Thailand and other ASEAN members continue to deflect
        international criticism of their stance on Burma claiming that the
        criticism amounts to "Western Intervention". This situation will
        continue as long as there is no loud and persistent voice coming
        from people/groups within ASEAN challenging the ASEAN position and
        forcing it to change.

        M. International support for the Burma movement has been in the
        form of service rather than in the form of struggle and campaign.

        Although there are more and more international groups showing
        interest in supporting the struggle for justice and peace in Burma,
        there is little focus of their energies and resources. Thus, a lot
        of "good deeds" are done, though not necessarily resulting in
        support for the struggle. At the same time, perhaps there are too
        many groups who want to coordinate the international struggle,
        rather than take their cues from the Burmese movement itself.

        A common voice of the various Burma groups is difficult to hear.
        This is due to the historical process under Ne Win's "divide and
        rule law" and because of the divisions among the groups accentuated
        by international involvement which often selectively choose certain
        groups to work with and ignores some others.

        Sanctions imposed against the Burmese military junta by the USA,
        and EC countries are helpful, but need to be strengthened. These
        will not worry the Burmese leaders too much if similar action is
        not taken by local groups inside ASEAN nations as well.

        A. Demands
        *  The primary demand must be the release of all political
           prisoners. This should be done before power is turned over to
           the elected representatives since all outspoken and courageous
           opposition leaders are either imprisoned or in exile. SLORC may
           agree to hand over power if it is confident it can retain
           control over the remaining elected representatives. Therefore, it
           is essential that all political prisoners be immediately
           released so that power can truly be handed over to the elected
           representatives of the people.

        *  The second demand, which is equally important is a cease-fire
           and the withdrawal of Burmese troops from ethnic areas in order
           to end hostilities and pave the way for an end to the civil war.

        *  Once above two demands are realized, power should be immediately
           transferred to the elected representatives so that they can
           begin the task of national reconciliation.

        The campaigns suggested below should focus on the priority demands
        stated above.

        Action for a ban on economic investments is necessary to achieve
        the release of political prisoners and bring about a cease-fire.
        Such actions can be linked to human rights concerns, environmental
        concerns, nonviolent concerns etc. If SLORC can be challenged
        economically, they may be forced to drawback atleast a little, and
        this would give the Burmese movement more space in which to develop
        their campaign. Therefore:

        A. Every international support groups should analyze carefully what
        role their own country is playing politically and economically in

        *  The should identify a few companies investing in Burma which are
           crucial to the struggle.

        *  They can then develop an effective campaign against those
           companies setting goals for a change within a specific time
           frame. Campaigns should be aggressive in approach involving
           daily mailings of protest letters, continuous phone calls of
           protest, weekly picketing etc.

        *  Support groups should research the background material they can
           find on companies from their country that are investing in
           Burma. The information should be sent to groups like B.U.R.M.A.
           that have a documentation center and need the information for
           research and drawing up strategies.

        *  Research also needs to be done on three countries which have a
           special relationship with SLORC, namely Thailand, China and
           Singapore. Friends and supporters in academic communities around
           the world can do research on these countries to find out their
           weak points in order to plan effective campaigns. For example,
           Singapore trades in arms with SLORC. I there some Singapore law
           which prohibits this and can be used to challenge Singapore ?
           Also China is one of the major suppliers of military equipment
           to SLORC. It is difficult to obtain complete information on
           this. Help is needed to do research on China's relationship with

        B. Every international group should identify specific policies of
        their governments towards Burma which need to be changed.

        *  They should develop an effective and aggressive campaign to
           pressure the government to change those policies, setting
           specific goals and time periods.

        *  Special efforts should be made to collect up-to-date information
           on these government policies. This information should be shared
           to facilitate analysis and strategy formation.

        C. Each support group should carefully evaluate all "service"
        activities including education, training, financial support,
        scholarships, etc., to determine if these are "good deeds" which
        may be infact obstructing the process of liberation in some  ways.

        D. Check to see in what way the "service" activities might be
        better done to provide support to the struggle for liberation. For
        example: How is information gathered through the "service" activity
        used for the struggle ? Is it systematically distributed, or is it
        kept for the groups own personal use ?

        E. Each group could identify one issue inside Burma, i.e. one
        political prisoner, a community being resettled, a minority village
        being harassed, etc., and organize to carry out a persistent and
        effective campaign around that issue. They should be committed to
        continue the campaign until positive changes emerge.

        *  On the political front, sanctions already imposed by some
        countries should be encouraged and strengthened. This is especially
        important in case of sanctions against military shipments to Burma.
        Each country should organize a campaign to pressure their
        governments to set up economic sanctions until there are some basic
        changes in human rights situation.

        F. Groups should study ways in which they can help pressure ASEAN
        nations, especially Thailand to review ASEAN attitude towards
        Burma. ACtivities such as the proposed boycott of Thai
        International could be effective if very specific  goals are set.
        At the same time, such campaign could totally fail if there is no
        clear voice from within Thailand supporting the campaign and the

        G. The UN and its various agencies play an important role in
        helping to bring about change in Burma. The UNDP has plans for
        support of large "development" projects in Burma, UNICEF is also
        working there and the UN drug agency is also involved. All of these
        involvements should end until SLORC turns over power to the people.
        All member countries of the UN have the right to get information
        about these involvements, and to express their concern. Local
        campaign can be developed to call on the UN to withdraw support of
        any kind for the SLORC, and to remove SLORC from the UN seat as it
        does not legally represent the people.

        Campaign notes prepared in conjunction with Burma Rights Movement
        for Action (BURMA) & Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
/* Endreport */
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