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Burma Issues weekly news summary (A

Subject: Burma Issues weekly news summary (April 11-18)

 Burma Issues, a Bangkok-based organization, maintains a documentation
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Burma Issues
PO Box 1076
Silom Post Office
Bangkok 10504

Recent News Items & Other BurmaDoc Entries: 
11April to 18 April 1997

Themes: issues concerning refugees at the  border;   reports from the 53rd
Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Geneva; regional  relations;
foreign investment and joint ventures;  drug update; women  and  children
and AIDS/HIV;  recent unrest and New Year celebrations;  national
reconciliation; international  relations;  literature. 

Issues concerning refugees at the Border

One Burmese prisoner died on Tuesday at Mae Sot hospital and two other
inmates are seriously ill with meningi tis.  The prison director said
inmate transfers have been suspended and Burmese illegal immigrants would
be detained outside the jail until the outbreak is contained.  BP970411

 The increasing influx of Burmese immigrants into Thailand's border
provinces due to continuous fighting has caused an increasing health
burden to the country, according to Health Minister Montri Pongpanich.  He
said the ministry has already spent 7.6 million of the 25 million baht
budget on treatment of Burmese refugees.  BP970412 OA/14C/007

 As  of March 30, the Thai military along the border have been very
helpful to Karen refugees, reversing earlier actions of forcible
repatriation.  At the same time, Slorc troops have been allowed to patrol
Thai soil and harass villagers in Thailand.
eubank@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/10GA/001
Testimony  provided by Soe Pyne on behalf of the NCGUB, to the
Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights chaired by
Congressman Christopher Smith, on the current situation of the Burmese
refugees in Thailand.  He stated that the "refugee issue in Burma is the
result of political problems.  Without the will to resolve the existing
political issues, there can never be a long-term solution to the refugee
problem."  He called for the US and international community to step up
their efforts aimed at pressuring the SLORC to enter into dialogue with
the democracy movement and the ethnic nationalities.  "That process will
resolve the refugee problem and ensure peace and harmony in Burma and the
region."  Soe Pyne <maung@xxxxxxxxxxx>970416 OL/10G/008

9th Division commander in Kanchanaburi, Maj Gen Thaweep Suwannasingh, has
given about 2,400 newly- arrived refugees at Tho Kah camp in Thong Pha
Phum district one week in which to either move to a new site further south
in the province or return to Burma.  The refugees - one-third of whom are
Tavoyans while the rest are Karen - said they did not want to go to Phu
Muang, as the place is far from their homes and is in an area intended for
the controversial Yadana gas pipeline project, which has come under heavy
international criticism for its effect on the local Burmese community.
The Army has imposed restrictions on access by outsiders to camps in
Kanchanaburi.  Camps in Ratchaburi remain accessible to those with
permission.  TN970418 OA/10GA/010

About 20 heavy Burmese shells fell on Thai soil during the weekend attacks
and shelling of KNU guerrillas near Tho Kah.  TN970418 OA/10GA/010

The EU has approved humanitarian aid worth 897,000 dollars for Karen
refugees from Burma on the Thai border.  The funds were assigned by the
European Community Humanitarian office (ECHO), and goes to the Paris-based
NGO International Medical Aid who has worked to help Karen refugees in
Thailand ever since they first started fleeing across the border to escape
persecution in the 1980s.  AMI operates in 3 camps assisting some 25,000
refugees.  The grant will partly be used for preventive programs,
including vaccinations against diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria
and assistance for midwives.

 Reports  from the 53rd Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights,

Judge Rajsoomer Lallah's interim report was submitted to the UN General
Assembly last October and the full document submitted to the UNHCR in
February.  It criticised the legal framework in Burma - various laws
violated international norms in the field of civil and political rights.
Judge Lallah has been unable to obtain SLORC's cooperation or to visit
Burma.  He remarked that 'A panoply of laws continues to be used to
criminalise and punish the very exercise of civil and political rights.
There are still frequent allegations of the very arbitrary killings of
civilians and insurgents by members of the armed forces'.  He concludes
that 'at this time, there has been no change in the situation of human
rights in Burma in the past year and that there is still no concrete sign
of improvement.'  TN970411 OA/11AC/005

Ms Stothard, on behalf of ALIRAN, a Malaysian NGO, in an oral
intervention, lodged their gravest concern at the deteriorating human
rights situation in Burma as documented by the special rapporteur and many
interna tional organisations. "We view the inference that the right to
development somehow justifies widespread human rights violations in Burma
as misleading and in direct contradiction to the Declaration on the Right
to Develop ment...Human rights is not an "optional extra", indeed respect
for human rights is a prerequisite to genuine development".
darnott@iprolink970413 OL/11R/001

The world's supreme body for human rights voiced concern about continuing
rights violations by the military rulers of Burma in a resolution passed
on  April  16, 1997.  The  resolution,  adopted by  consensus,  at the
53rd Session of the  UN Human Rights Commission listed a long list of
abuses.  BP970418 OA/9C/005  The five- page resolution, is the strongest
so far since the UN Commission began to debate the issue of Burma is 1992.
The resolution condemned the Burmese junta for its poor human rights
record, particularly its lack of respect for democratic governance.

The Burmese ambassador to the UN, U Aye, made an equally strong statement,
accusing the resolution of allo cating greatest importance to "the narrow
interests of a single political party and a personality".   TN970418
OA/9C/006  The  conclusion of the statement says that the delegation shall
view the resolution "as a blatant attempt to divide the unity of our
nation, tantamount to no more than fruitless efforts to transgress upon
the sovereignty of the country.  One can hardly expect my Government to
take a serious view of such mischievous exercises."
darnott@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/9A/001

The NCGUB  welcomed  the resolution adopted by the UN Commission on Human
Rights  and   thanked  the Netherlands and the EU for sponsoring the
strong language which reflects the deteriorating situation of human rights
in Burma.  The NCGUB calls for the implementation of the terms of the
resolution and for all member states to cooperate fully with the UN
Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur on Burma to work towards a
lasting and genuine peace in Burma.  Soe Pyne <maung@xxxxxxxxxxx>970417
Regional  Relations

 The  Police Department has sought approval to arrest illegal workers and
wants a budget to detain and repatriate them.  Apart from illegal workers
pushed out of Malaysia, there is also a large number of illegal Burmese,
Cambodian and Laotian workers in Thailand who have failed to register with
the Labour and Social Welfare Ministry to be able to work temporarily in
43 provinces for 2 years before being repatriated.  Of the estimated
700,000 illegal Burmese Cambodian and Lao immigrants, only about 300,000
have registered with the authori ties.  BP970414 OA/10GA/009

Vitit Muntarbhorn questions whether the Asian region is committed to the
protection of human rights; is there an inter-governmental system or
machinery for such protection; and if not, what are some of the
possibilities for the future; and; how are the members of the civil
society, including NGOs, reacting and acting in the face of massive human
rights violations.  He says in part  that many  view human rights
violations as merely the internal affairs of a particular  state - this
view is inconsistent with the international advocacy of human rights,
which takes the position that violations are an international concern and
cannot be classified as the internal affairs of a state.  TN970416

A UN report states China, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam will maintain
economic growth rates of up to 10% into the new millennium.  The "least
developed" Asian countries - Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos and Burma - would
average six to seven percent GDP growth from 1996 to 2000.  TN970417

Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and China are moving towards
closer economic cooperation with the onset of peace and their embrace of
free market policies being the most important catalyst.  BP970418

Foreign investment and Joint Ventures

China, Laos, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand met yesterday to
discuss ways of attracting private in vestment for projects supported by
the Asian Development Bank to develop their region.  Environmental groups
criticised the bank for its push to construct dams along the still untamed
river and its tributaries.  A dozen dams are planned on the 4,200 km
Mekong, and some 200 are being considered on the river's tributaries.  The
bank maintains that hydroelectric power must be generated to keep up with
rapid economic growth in the region.  BP970411 OA/4EC/023

Industry Minister Korn Dabbaransi has thrown his support behind a
landbridge that would link the Gulf of Thailand and Burma's deep seaports
and has ordered the PTT to conduct a feasibility study.
The landbridge is seen as consistent with a Thai government plan to
develop the so-called Western Seaboard.  BP970412 OA/4AF/004

Khin Nyunt insists the country is on the path to prosperity pointing to
his government's successful efforts to lure foreign investment and that
its admission into Asean would lead to lower import tariffs.
Unocal, Texaco and ARCO Chemical Co were mentioned as the 3 key US firms
operating in Myanmar.  Foreign capital has steadily poured into Myanmar.
According to government statistics that ran from 1988 through the end of
Feb 1997, the country had approved a total of $6.03 billion worth of
direct foreign investment, some $2 billion of which has been invested over
the last year.  Much of the money is coming from manufacturing, real-
estate, hotel and tourism sectors based in Singapore, Thailand and
Malaysia and other neighbouring countries.  But energy investment from the
UK, France and the US is also strong.  Political analysts cautioned that
contin ued government instability could limit the foreign investment
needed to sustain economic growth but SLORC has yet to come up with a
policy that might lead to national reconciliation and has remained firm in
its stance against the efforts of ASSK and her followers.
soewin@xxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/4EC/007

Rojana Industrial Park Plc's board of directors yesterday approved the
company's plan to form a joint venture with a Burmese state agency to
operate an industrial estate in Rangoon.  Rajana Yangon will sign a
50-year contract with the Burmese government to lease a 630-rai lot for
the industrial park.  TN970418 OA/4EC/024

 Thailand  is looking seriously at Burma for additional gas supplies,
despite political controversy fuelled by the Yadana and Yetagun deals.
The PTT is focusing on gas-prospective blocks operated by the US company
Atlan tic Richfield (Arco) in Burma's Gulf of Martaban as an additional
source of foreign natural gas supplies. Thai land has been looking abroad
for natural gas as indigenous production falls short of  demand.
BP970418 OA/4GH/012

The Kanchanaburi Environmental Group began its march yesterday to protest
the controversial Thai-Burmese gas pipeline.  The group will warn people
living close to the pipeline's route about the possible risk of gas explo
sions and other negative impacts.  A number of other environmental and
conservation organisation were sched uled to join up with the Kanchanaburi
Environment Group at a meeting in Kanchanaburi on April 22 - Earth Day.
TN970414 OA/12A/005

Pichai Rattanapol, deputy National Security Council (NSC)
secretary-general,  dismissed activists' charges that he Yadana pipeline
project - which will transport natural gas from Burma's Gulf of Martaban
via an undersea and overland pipeline to Thailand - is causing serious
labour and human rights abuses in Burma, saying that the project's Western
contractors are responsible for labour.

Several Kanchanaburi villagers are exploring the possibility of filing
suit in a US federal court that last month accepted a complaint by a group
of Karen villagers who were forcibly evicted from their home villagers or
suffered abuses as a result of the Yadana project.

The PTT has signed a 30-year contract with the Burmese junta for the
purchase of the gas, a deal that will pro vide annual revenue of about
US$400 million.  TN970418 OA/4GH/013

Total, the French oil and gas group yesterday, formally backed the plan by
Ultramar Diamond of the US to acquire its 55% stake in its North American
downstream assets for $811m - Total would own 8% of the entity that will
emerge from the deal.  The deal will also help Total to avoid a possible
confrontation with the US government over the French group's involvement
in oil and gas developments in countries which are subject to unilateral
US sanctions.  Financial Times/ cd@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/4EC/008

The International Rivers Network, through its campaign "Free Burma: No
Petro-dollars for Slorc", has called on international human rights groups,
environmental organisations and indigenous peoples to express their disap
proval of the New York based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the
Washington-based Smithsonian Insti tute (Singapore) and the Worldwide Fund
for Nature-United Kingdom (WAF-UK) involvement in wildlife projects in
Burma.  TN970413 OA/13E/008

Rainforest Relief has called for an international boycott of teak from
Burma.  Since most of the teak exported from Thailand, Singapore and
Taiwan is Burmese in origin, this includes teak from those countries until
they can prove it is not from Burma.  relief@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/13B/001

Australia's Foster's Brewing Group Ltd has pulled out of Burma but the
company denied yesterday that it was pressured by calls for a global
business boycott of the junta: "Foster's has taken all factors into
account and made a business decision."  Foster's has been shelling beer in
Burma since 1980 through a Singapore-based distributor, although sales
were small and it has no investments in the country.  A coalition of
Sydney-based student and Burmese activist groups called last week for a
national consumer boycott of Foster's beer until it withdrew from Burma.
BP970418 OA/4ED/008
Drug Update

Burmese authorities seized 32.6 killogrammes of raw opium from 3 separate
catches during a raid in Shan state last month.  TN970412 OA/10J/040

Article accuses Burma of "swiftly becoming a full-fledged
narco-dictatorship, with all aspects of the central government either
heavily influenced by or directly incorporated into the burgeoning drug
trade". Evidence now shows that foreign corporations investing in Burma
not only prop up the military junta financially, but they allow for the
expansion of the drug trade by providing convenient conduits for money
laundering.  Narcotics officials estimate that this year's opium poppy
harvest from Burma is expected to increase by 10% over last year's.
TN970418 OA/10J/041 and burmausa@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/10J/002

Women  and  Children  and AIDS/HIV 

The Labour Ministry's Public Welfare Department yesterday called on police
to aim their prostitution crack downs at procurers, brothel operators and
customers instead of underage prostitutes alone.  TN970411 OA/5B/003

Police yesterday rescued two Burmese women who had been forced to work as
prostitutes at an unlicensed restaurant in Lad Bua Luang district in
Ayutthaya.  BP970412 OA/5B/002

In their quest for hard currency, Burma's military dictators are trying to
exploit another natural resource - the country's virgins by publicising
them and their virtues in a tourist magazine published by the Burmese
tourism office.  waterly@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/5BA/001

ASSK vowed yesterday to press on with the struggle for democracy and urged
supporters to summon the "cour age and strength" to achieve their aims.
She  expressed hope that the Burmese people will continue to support the
NLD, whose activities have been sharply curtailed following a crackdown by
the military authorities last Sep tember. TN970415 OA/9FA/020

A fact-finding mission by the Asian Women Human Rights Council (AWHRC)
found serious rights violations in Burma and in the refugee camps.  Their
report says that  women  live in constant fear of fresh attacks by the
Burmese military who raided the camps and took away refugees to use them
as forced labour in the offensive.  It is suspected the Thai government is
turning a blind eye to the raids as a natural gas pipeline has been
proposed through where the camps are located.  The report is also bitterly
critical of the "constructive engagement policy".

The team heard that at least 5 women have died of AIDS related
complications in Mae Sot district since the beginning of the year.  There
are many girls as young as 13 being held in brothels.  An Asiawatch report
claims the rate of HIV infection among the Burmese prostitutes was
approximately three times higher than among women prostitutes in general
in Thailand.  A major reason for this is their powerlessness to demand
safe sex.  gi30137@xxxxxxxxxxxx OL/5B/001

Child rights experts, at a conference of regional law officials, said
child trafficking is a growing problem in SEA and coordination is needed
to stem the flow of minors forced across borders to work - often as bonded
labourers or prostitutes.  Thailand is the major recipient of children who
are trafficked from nations in the Mekong River region.  There are more
than 100,000 children under the age of 18 from neighbouring countries who
are working in Thailand and is on the rise due to push factors from
neighbouring countries and growing demand in the re ceiving countries.
TN970418 OA/7BB/002
Jade mines owned by the government in northern Burma give their work force
the option of being paid in hard drugs rather than cash, according to a
former employee of the Ministry of Mines.  In that region, 90 percent of
addicts are HIV positive; in the rest of Burma, according to the World
Health Organisation, the 500,000-plus addicts suffer an HIV infection rate
of 60-70%.  Yet the government refuses to allocate money for health ser
vices, and downplays the incidence of AIDS.  burmausa@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Recent Unrest and New Year Celebrations
Aung  Zaw looks at the plethora of whodunit theories that have emerged in
the aftermath of last Sunday's attack on Tin Oo, army chief of staff and
secretary two of the SLORC.  No one has claimed responsibility and it is
hard to know who are the culprits.  ASSK condemned the act and dissidents
have denied involvement and have said publicly that they are opposed to
the use of terror tactics.  The theory that it might be a result of a
power struggle and business conflicts in the ruling junta has also been
dismissed as there are many of other ways Tin Oo could have been removed.
TN970411 OA/9H/017

Khin Nyunt was quoted as saying there was 'a strong reason' for believing
that the bombing was plotted by anti- government elements based in Japan.
He said Burmese junta leaders had received threatening calls from Japan
'many times' and that expatriate Burmese were receiving support from
foreign organisations and hinted that the parcel bomb was mailed through a
special route.  TN970413  OA/9H/018  The  Burmese Association in Japan
denied links to a  bomb. 

 Khin  Nyunt said: 'It is time to resolutely crush destructionists and
terrorists who are hindering development of the nation by designating them
as common enemy of the entire nation'.  TN970412 OA/9H/014  Rangoon re
mained under tight security ahead of Thingyan festival.  BP970412

Burmese military officers denied speculation that the mail bomb was
connected with a power struggle among Slorc leaders. 'Such speculation was
the 'wishful thinking' of all those who are opposed to the Burmese govern
ment'.  The junta merely described the bombing as an 'act of terrorism'.
TN970413  OA/9H/019

Tin Oo urged remaining armed groups in the country to abandon terrorism
and join hands with the government to help build a unified nation in his
address to officers at the Ministry of Defence.  He said the tatmadaw
would "extend a warm welcome to the brethren who will return from
underground after realising the truth".  Tin Oo said in his speech that
political organisation in Burma are colluding with "underground
destructionists" and foreign media to disrupt Burma's political, economic
and social development.  TN970414 OA/9H/020

 The New Year was celebrated quietly this year due to increased security
concerns and the obvious presence of more armed troops in the streets.
The statement issued by the committee advised: "Stay clear of making
distur bances and agitations that may lead to disintegration of national
unity and a state of unrest."  BP970414 OA/12A/006  was followed by
another warning threatening up to 5 years in prison for anyone caught
making or selling water balloons or packets of ice and up to 3 years for
anyone caught throwing them.  Authorities had feared a possible resurgence
of the unrest between Muslims and Buddhists which rocked Burma in March.
By yesterday afternoon, there were no reports of any festivity-related
accidents or arrests on state-run media.  TN970417 OA/9M/007

Rangoon's military commander has asked senior Buddhist clergy to take
action against monks who violated the law.  BP970411 OA/8B/006

National Reconciliation

The recent move by ethnic leaders to support the NLD will help to
undermine the Slorc's only remaining politi cal legitimacy - Burmese
military as the sole protector of secession of the Union.  Because of this
belief, SLORC is able to consolidate its power within the military
personnel.  uneoo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/12A/001

The KIO welcomed a series of recent statements by the SLORC, that it is
willing to involve all ethnic groups and parties in the task of
nation-building.  In the KIO's view, the agreement of just and equitable
cease-fires is the essential first step without which the equally urgent
tasks of political reform and development can never be realised.  The KIO
trusts that all parties will reflect on the tragic lessons of Burma's
recent history, confirm a new commitment to the establishment of trust and
national understanding, and find ways to support peace and dialogue as the
immediate bridges to heal the divisions of the past.  TN970417 OL/12A/002

International Relations

Amnesty International has said that nearly 2,000 people were arrested for
political reasons in central Burma last year  the rights group called 1996
the worst year ever for human rights.  BP970415 OA/9FA/019 

Mrs Albright, in a speech at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, said,
"Burmese leaders are on notice that, unless the clouds of repression are
lifted, they will face investment sanctions under US law."  A Burmese gov
ernment spokesman said the US was using the threat of economic sanctions
against Burma like a weapon aimed at destroying basic rights of the
Burmese people - the right to earn a living and support the family.
BP970417 OA/9C/003

Mrs Albright's comments that Burma's military rulers could face US
investment sanctions comes less than 2 weeks before the Asean foreign
ministers are scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur on May 31 to decide on the
admission of Laos, Canada and Burma into Asean.  The US believes "that
human rights are a legitimate subject for discussion among nations" said
Albright.  However, she also said that the "way to improve human rights
conditions..will be to [not] deny that country the trading status we
accord to most others."  TN970417 OA/9C/004

Reports from Asiaweek Limited and Indigo Publications Intelligence
Newsletter which alleges that mercenaries (from the South African military
and 10 French mercenaries) have been hired by the French and US firms to
protect the pipeline.  mbeer@CapAccess. org970411 OL/4EC/006

A top US trade official has scheduled a round of meetings in Boston today
to talk state officials out of their renegade foreign-policy initiatives.
At issue is Massachusetts' first-in-the-nation law that bans state
agencies or authorities from contracting with companies that do business
in Burma.  The Clinton administration has come under heavy pressure from
allies and US multinational corporations to bring Massachusetts into line.
The State Department is especially worried other states will follow the
example - three states are considering similar bills.

The EU and Japan, pushed by their MNCs, have protested the Massachusetts
sanctions on Burma, claiming they violate the World Trade Organization's
rules.  simon_billenness@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/9C/002

Resolution on Burma by General Assembly of European development NGOs,
meeting in Brussels on 11-12 April, 1997.  Calls on  the Council of
Ministers and the Governments of member states: to promote the immedi ate
initiation of dialogue between the SLORC, the NLD and the leaders of the
ethnic nationalists in order to end internal conflicts and lead to a new
constitution and democratic government; to call for the immediate release
of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience; and, to act on the
European Parliament resolution calling for the implementation of economic
sanctions against the SLORC by ending all links between the EU and Burma,
and to promote this policy within the UN Security Council.
bcn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/9C/005


Burma Behind the Mask is a book originally published in Dutch in August
1996.  It begins with personal ac counts of the authors travels in Burma
between 1991 and 1994.  The second chapter explains the roots of the
present political crisis; and subsequent chapters focus on the junta's
control and plans for tourism.  bcn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx OL/15A/001

Review of ASSK's biography by Whitney Stewart who interviewed ASSK in
November 1995 and received her blessing to write the book.  The book is
written for secondary school students but is serious in intention and
deserves acceptance s an intervention in the ongoing adult discussion.
Most interesting are the glimpses, too respectful to be intrusive, of Suu
Kyi's early life and of her daily routine under house arrest.  TN970413