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The BurmaNet News, April 29, 1997
- Subject: The BurmaNet News, April 29, 1997
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 29 Apr 1997 08:09:00
------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: April 29, 1997
INSIDE REPORT: 17 STUDENT LEADERS EXECUTED BY SLORC
MLOB: LETTER TO BRUNEI, INDONESIA, MALAYSIA
IMAGES ASIA AND BURMANET: SLORC ANTI MUSLIM
ABSDF: SLORC'S ATTACK ON THE ABSDF CAMP/MON BROKE
THE NATION: TAK MILITIA MEN KILL KAREN INTRUDER
THE ECONOMIST: "SANCTIONED, BUT NOT CHASTENED"
THE NATION: THAILAND, RP AGREE TO SET UP TRADE PANEL
AFP: MALAYSIA SAYS BURMA'S ENTRY INTO ASEAN VITAL
THE NATION: SLORC STRIKES BACK OVER CRITICISM OF DRUG
INSIDE REPORT: 17 STUDENT LEADERS OF DECEMBER
DEMONSTRATION EXECUTED BY SLORC
Released by ISBDA, April 27, 1997
BurmaNet Note: We have not had confirmation of this report yet, but hope
that other BurmaNet readers will look into it.
Reliable sources inside Burma reported that 17 university students who
led peaceful and disciplined demonstrations in December 1996 were tortured
and killed inside a military compound at Ye Mon town near Pegu. Most of
these victims are from Rangoon Institute of Technology and some are from the
University of Rangoon. The military officer who administered these
executions reportedly said that the authorities have executed the
students without using firearms because Western countries do not want
Myanmar to use bullets in order to quell student demonstrations.
MLOB: LETTER TO BRUNEI, INDONESIA, MALAYSIA
April 28, 1997
MUSLIM LIBERATION ORGANIZATION OF BURMA
SECOND LETTER TO THE SUPREME AUTHORITIES OF BRUNEI, INDONESIA, AND MALAYSIA
CONCERNING THE CURRENT SITUATION FOR MUSLIMS IN BURMA
Questions of concern:
(1) Why didn?t the SLORC protect mosques, houses and other Muslim property
all over Burma from destruction during March and April 1997?
(2) Who will provide protection for Burmese Muslims in the future, in case
of anti-Muslim riots after SLORC becomes a member of ASEAN?
(3) Why did the SLORC army dynamite mosques, rip up and destroy copies of
the holy Quoran, and order Muslims to eat pork and convert to Buddhism in
Karen State during February and March 1997?
(4) Why didn?t Muslims celebrate Idd Al Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice), one
of the five pillars of Islam, in Burma on 18 April 1997?
As members of an organization that has been fighting for Muslim rights in
Burma since the early eighties, we are writing on behalf of the oppressed
minority Muslims of Burma to express our concern and draw your attention to
the issues mentioned above. We welcome the imposition by the United States
of economic sanctions against the SLORC. As three member countries of ASEAN
with significant Muslim populations, we ask you also to take action. We
urge you again to kindly and immediately halt your efforts, enacted at the
expense of lives and properties of minority Muslims, to welcome SLORC as a
member of ASEAN.
The Burmese peoples as a whole fear that the SLORC admission to the ASEAN
grouping will legitimize this brutal junta, which inherited power from the
socialist dictatorship of General Ne Win, who seized power in 1962. The
people are convinced that Burma?s admission to ASEAN will only strengthen
SLORC and prolong its brutal treatment of those who do not want to continue
their lives as slaves under the regime. For the Burmese people, 36 long
years lived under dictatorship is already more than enough.
You may be aware that soon after Ne Win?s army seized power, it nationalized
all public properties, demonetized Burmese currencies repeatedly, and
intensified the now 50-year old civil war all over Burma that has resulted
in the deaths of thousands of people. Under the Burma Socialist Programme
Party, Ne Win?s regime adopted a Burmese socialist policy that declared
Muslims foreigners. The BSPP?s disastrous mismanagement of the economy led
many of the Burmese people to starvation and changed Burma from one of
Southeast Asia?s richest countries to one of the poorest nations in the world.
The SLORC massacred thousands of peaceful protesters when it assumed power
in 1988, then failed to honor its promise to transfer power to the NLD when
the party won a landslide victory in the SLORC-held general elections of
1990. The SLORC have consistently refused to solve Burma?s political
problems by political means. Its iron rule of the country has forced the
majority of its citizens into penury as forced labourers, with hundreds of
thousands fleeing across the borders as refugees, and tens of thousands of
women becoming prostitutes. It is because of the SLORC?s mistreatment of
ordinary civilians that the Burmese peoples oppose the dictatorship?s
We are ashamed to say that at this juncture that your Muslim nations are at
the forefront in strongly supporting SLORC?s admission to ASEAN. The
Burmese people regard this as simply another means to victimize them, after
they have been continuously deprived of all human rights by military rule
over almost four decades. The SLORC itself has admitted that the recent
destruction of mosques, houses, shops and other properties of Muslims is
nothing other than the price Muslims have to pay for Burma?s entry into
ASEAN; that is, for your unnecessary support of this most heinous of
dictatorships. The Burmese peoples would like to live peacefully as human
beings, enjoying all the human rights guaranteed by the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights under a humane government. Almighty God knows,
and you may soon come to realize, what will happen to the minority Muslims
when the junta becomes an ASEAN member with the backing you have initially
proposed. At that point, who will protect them?
We would like to remind you that the recent anti-Muslim actions are only the
latest chapter in a long history of Muslim persecution under the SLORC and
the BSPP. In fact, the Muslim community have frequently served as a
convenient scapegoat for the military regimes in times of political unrest.
1. In 1977 alone, three Arakanese armed movements formed in opposition to
the BSPP regime. The first, the Arakan Independence Organization (AIO) led
by Ko San Kyaw Tun, was based in the Kachin area in the north. The second,
the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) in Karen area in the south, fought
vigorously against the military dictatorship, inflicting heavy casualties.
The third group, led by Mahn Ngwe Aung, Kyaw Hla and others operated in the
heart of Rangoon to topple the dictatorship. The combined efforts of these
three groups shook the junta tremendously and brought the entire Arakanese
population to the brink of rising up against the regime. The junta
responded by fomenting anti-Muslim riots in 1978 that forced 200,000
Rohingyas to flee into Bangladesh.
2. In 1980-82, two Muslim armed organizations, the Muslim Liberation
Organization of Burma and the All Burma Muslim Union emerged in the Karen
liberated area. When the Muslims, along with the Karen liberation forces,
started to fight against the junta, agents of the BSPP again generated
anti-Muslim riots in a bid to crush the Muslims in Karen and Mon states and
Tenasserim division. Several hundred Bashu Muslims were forced to flee into
Malaysia where they are still living now.
3. In 1988, just before nationwide mass demonstrations, the junta, in order
to divert the public attention from political problems, instigated
anti-Muslim riots in central Burma, Taunggyi, Prome, Tekkong, and Pegu.
4. You may also be aware that in 1991, SLORC created anti-Muslim riots in
Arakan forcing 300,000 Rohingyas to flee into Bangladesh, in order to divert
the people?s attention from dissatisfaction over the refusal by the junta to
hand over power to the NLD following the elections.
5. In early 1996, the monks in central Burma planned to demonstrate against
the junta as the junta had arrested several hundred monks. When the junta
learned of the plan, it attempted to instigate anti-Muslim riots in
Kyaukpadaung and other areas of central Burma. However, the people,
familiar with the dirty tactics of the junta, refused to participate in the
demonstrations. Only then the junta began to place false monks who started
anti-Muslim riots in Mandalay in March 1997.
6. Buddhist monks in Burma are politically active and have often led
anti-government demonstrations. The theft of gold and precious stones from
one of Burma?s most-revered Buddha statues in Mandalay by SLORC officials
and the killing of about 20 monks in the jails were the gounds from which
the monks mounted the March demonstrations against the junta. However, the
junta came to know of the plan before the demonstrations took place, and to
avoid confrontation with the monks, immediately dredged up a case that had
already been settled involving a Muslim youth. At the same time, the SLORC
planted ?false monks? in the monasteries to instigate the monks to
demonstrate against the Muslim community. Thus the planned demonstrations
by the monks against the SLORC were once again turned into anti-Muslim ones.
The afore-mentioned attacks on the minority Muslims in Burma are only some
of the more major abuses Muslims have suffered under the military
dictatorship. The longer the junta exists, the more the Muslims will
suffer. Moreover, there will never be any guarantees of security for the
lives, religious institutions, and properties of the Muslims. As long as
the junta holds power, not only Muslims but the entire Burmese population
will live in misery, fear and starvation.
In the hope of protecting minority Muslims from further brutalities such as
these, we once again respectfully urge you to reconsider the situation that
exists in Burma and withdraw all your support for the military junta, in
favour of support for the security of the life and property of Burma?s
Central Executive Committee, MLOB
28 April 1997
(1) Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)
(2) World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), Malaysia
(3) ABIM, Malaysia
IMAGES ASIA AND BURMANET: SLORC ANTI MUSLIM CAMPAIGN IN KAREN STATE
EXCERPT FROM "NOWHERE TO GO: A REPORT ON THE 1997 SLORC OFFENSIVE AGAINST
DUPLAYA DISTRICT (KNU SIXTH BRIGADE) KAREN STATE BURMA"
by Images Asia and BurmaNet
The SLORC has been carrying out an anti-Muslim campaign during the 1997
offensive in Karen State. Several mosques have been destroyed, Korans have
been ripped up or burned, and Muslims have been driven out of Karen State.
Given the SLORC's anti-Muslim campaign in Karen State, and their history of
creating religious unrest as a distraction in times of economic and
political turmoil, it should be asked what role the SLORC has played in
inciting or even orchestrating anti-Muslim attacks in Central Burma in
March, 1997. Moreover, Muslim organizations from Burma want to know why
predominantly Muslim countries in ASEAN are continuing to support the SLORC
and even allowing the SLORC to join ASEAN given the SLORC's persecution of
Muslims in Burma.
In Burma today there are estimated to be approximately seven million
Muslims. Large numbers of Indians of both Muslim and Hindu faiths migrated
to Burma during the colonial period. Many were employed by the British in
the colonial administration, while others became traders, landowners, and
money lenders. Generally accorded higher status by the British, the Indians
were often resented by the Burman population and frequently became targets
of Burman anti-colonialist actions.
Muslims also began moving into Karen State at the time of Great Britain's
annexation of Upper Burma in the 1880s. The Muslim population in Karen
State numbers in the thousands, with Muslims engaging in a range of
professions from farming to shop-keeping. Many Muslims in Karen State refer
to themselves in Karen as Pwakanyaw Thu or Black Karen and consider Karen
State as their homeland. Although the Muslims tend to live in separate
areas within Karen villages, relations between Muslims and Buddhists and
Christians have generally been smooth.
There are two Muslim organizations which were established in the early
eighties and have worked with the KNU. The All Burma Muslim Union (ABMU)
maintains its own battalion of troops and has been fighting together with
the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the KNU's military wing, against
the SLORC since 1983. After an outbreak of anti-Muslim riots in Martaban,
Moulmein and other towns in lower Burma in the early eighties, a number of
internally displaced Muslims joined the ABMU. On March 6, 1997, the ABMU
issued a statement declaring that they would like the international
community, and especially Muslim countries in ASEAN, to be more aware of the
human rights abuses currently being perpetrated particularly against Muslims
by the Burmese military (see appendix).
The second organization, the Muslim Liberation Organization of Burma (MLOB),
is comprised of Muslims from different areas in Burma. In their letter to
the Muslim countries of ASEAN of March 25th, they declared that: ... the
people are afraid that a SLORC led Burma would become a member of the ASEAN
grouping, which would give legality and legitimacy to the SLORC to brutalise
the people for longer.
Both the ABMU and MLOB are active members of the DAB (Democratic Alliance of
Burma), an umbrella organisation formed in 1988 to unite Burmese ethnic
fronts and other pro-democracy opposition groups who are fighting against
the SLORC using military and political means. They are also both members of
the National Coalition of the Union of Burma (NCUB), an alliance formed
between DAB members and elected Members of Parliament who fled Burma due to
repression following the 1990 elections.
The SLORC has often tried to stir up religious and racial tensions in Burma
in order to divide the population and divert attention from other political
and economic concerns. In 1988, the SLORC provoked anti-Muslim riots in
Taunggyi and Prome during the pro-democracy movement. In May 1996,
anti-Muslim literature widely believed to have been written by the SLORC was
distributed in four towns in Shan State, leading to violent incidents. In
September 1996, the SLORC razed a 600 year old mosque in Arakan State and
used the rubble to pave paths between new military base camps in the area.
And in March 1997, SLORC officials were accused of instigating attacks
against Muslims and of exacerbating existing tensions between the Muslim and
Buddhist communities in Central Burma.
In Karen State, the SLORC has also tried to stir up anti-Muslim feelings.
In August 1996, a letter came from Dammaya town to some people in Kyaikdon,
Karen State encouraging fighting between Muslims and Buddhists. According
to one informant (Wanasoo - see below) who saw the letter, it was written in
good Burmese, and was unsigned. The villagers believed that SLORC officials
had written it and that the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army (DKBA), which has
been working closely with the SLORC, had been distributing copies of the letter.
In the February 1997 SLORC offensive, the SLORC attacked the Muslim
community directly. SLORC soldiers razed mosques and destroyed copies of
the Koran, ordered conversions to Buddhism, and drove Muslims out of Karen
Below is a partial list of villages where mosques were destroyed:
VILLAGES WHERE MOSQUES WERE DESTROYED BY THE SLORC:
Kyaikdon The inside of the mosque and the Muslim school destroyed, Muslims
expelled unless they became Buddhist
Gaw Bay Mosque destroyed
Naw Bu Mosque destroyed and all the villagers were expelled
Day Nga Yin Mosque destroyed
Kyaung Don Mosque destroyed, villagers allowed to stay
Kaninbu Mosque and the Muslim school destroyed
Pa Glaw Ni All valuables inside the mosque looted and placed in the
village's Buddhist temple. The wooden mosque was then dismantled
Each mosque has a special coffin for carrying the dead. These were
destroyed in all of the above villages, and in most cases the mosque's copy
of the Koran was also either burned or shredded.
SLORC soldiers have made it known that they are targeting Muslims and have
threatened to kill any Muslims that they see. There have also been
confirmed reports of SLORC troops killing Muslims. In Kyo Ta village, SLORC
soldiers blindfolded 2 male Muslim villagers and cut their necks. In Ti Dah
Blu village, 2 Muslim villagers were also killed. The first, Shan Bok (35
years old), was a Muslim member of the All Burma Students Democratic Front
(ABSDF) militia. The second, Soe Win (approximately 30 years old), was a
Muslims from Karen State face a precarious future. They have been told that
they cannot become citizens of Burma unless they profess Buddhism as their
religion. Many have been ordered to leave Karen State and to return to
India, although they have no connections to that country today.
The interviews below relate the experiences of Muslims who fled to the
border to escape further persecution.
(Note: We have used the term "Black Karen" for the ethnicity of the Muslims
we interviewed as that is how they defined themselves)
(33 years old, male, wife and 2 children, Kyaikdon, shop owner, Black Karen,
Destruction of the Mosque
When we arrived at Kyaikdon we tied up the bullocks and went to the well in
the mosque compound to get water. The soldiers at the entrance warned us
that we could not enter the mosque itself, and that we should get the water
as quickly as possible. In the meantime, a SLORC column entered the
village. When they saw us, they hurled rude abuse at us like: 'You sons of
bitches!' and so on.
I was getting water at the well in front of the mosque when some soldiers
brought out the Koran and I saw them ripping it up. The soldiers said:
'Don't watch! Just get your water,' pointing their gun at me. I wanted to
cry but I couldn't.
They threw the pieces of Koran on the street. When the Muslim women on the
street saw this, they cried and felt such pain. The SLORC soldiers said,
'Don't cry! This is not a Muslim country! This is a Buddhist country! Go away!
Expulsion from the village
An officer from the 202 TOC (Tactical Operation Command), 22nd LID (Light
Infantry Division) told me: 'Muslims cannot stay. If you are Muslim you
must leave.' Another one said: 'Muslims cannot stay here, you must convert
to Buddhism and put an altar in your house.'
The next day, the village elders organised everything and told us that for
every cart, 500 kyat must be paid to the soldiers. We collected 15,000 kyat
and gave it to the officer of the troops. After that, they gave us each a
travelling document and warned us that we must travel back to our own
villages. From our group, the soldiers then demanded twelve of the women to
come and work at their campsite. The village elders refused to hand over
the women and negotiated to send two men to work for them instead. Their
names are Beila (23 or 24 years old) and Ah Pyi (28 years old).
[After several days travelling] .. We stayed in Moulmein for two nights and
then went back to Kawkareik. When we were in Kawkareik we did not dare to
go outside in the downtown area, as the soldiers were rounding up porters
and forced laborers there.
We have suffered so much grief at the hands of the military that I feel that
if we could get some guns now, all of the people suffering here would fight
back against this brutal regime. This feeling is felt deep in the hearts of
our Muslim community here. We can never forgive the SLORC soldiers who
destroyed our mosque and our Koran, which is the holy center of our community.
( 36 years old, male, wife and 2 children, Kyaikdon, wage laborer, Black
Destruction of the Mosque at Kyaikdon
My wife and some of the other villagers returned to the village from the
place where we were hiding in the jungle. They cried with grief when they
saw the ruins of our mosque. They met the SLORC soldiers near that mosque,
and the SLORC soldiers said to them, 'This is not India! Within two days
two bulldozers will arrive at this village to raze the mosque!' They
noticed that the doors on the left side of the mosque were burned down and
the marble floors made up of ceramic tiles had been pounded and destroyed by
the SLORC troops. The Koran had been torn into pieces and was scattered on
the public footpath in front of the mosque. The women in the group cried
when they saw this. At that time, the soldiers told the people: 'This is
not India! All of you Muslims must leave the mosque compound within half an
The SLORC troops have now destroyed the mosque at Kyaikdon village twice.
Once was in 1990 and the other time was this year. This time we tried to
hide the Koran in a safe place in the mosque, however the soldiers found the
Koran and tore it to pieces and scattered it across the road. The soldiers
then killed the pigs and cooked and ate port curry in the mosque compound [a
grave insult to Muslims].
The destruction of the mosque and the holy Koran hurts like a spear piercing
my heart. Even if the SLORC were to kill me along with my family, it would
not hurt as much as this. This feeling is deep in our hearts and we will
never forget this incident.
Fleeing and threats of execution
We sent one man back to our village from our hiding place to collect news
about the movements of, and conditions under, the SLORC troops. He went
back to the village and returned to our hiding place in the evening. He
told us that the SLORC troops had said that they would kill all Muslims. He
warned us to stay in a large group, and that we should not travel
separately. He advised us to run to Kawkareik.
(male, 54 years old, wife and 9 children, Kyaikdon, senior member of ABMU,
The SLORC took everything left in the village. They said all of it belonged
to Muslims, so they took it.
A plea to Asean
Even if we can't fight with guns, we'll fight with words. We will tell the
whole world what is happening to us.
The SLORC is only good at fighting. The countries who are supporting the
SLORC don't know what the SLORC is doing. I want Asean countries to know
what the SLORC is doing. If Burma enters ASEAN, we will have to fight. We
won't surrender. We hope ASEAN won't let them in.
We are so disappointed that Muslim countries are supporting the SLORC. Why
are they doing this? There are 7 million Muslims in Burma; why aren't they
looking at us? Please send this news to them. Today we are suffering
because of the actions of Indonesia and Malaysia.
ABSDF: SLORC'S ATTACK ON THE ABSDF CAMP/MON BROKE THE AGREEMENT WITH
DEMOCRATIC FORCES IN THE AREA
April 28, 1997
The SLORC columns which occupied the Muslim base camp were divided
into two columns and then advanced to the students' 88 camp.
The first column, composed of LIBs 262 and 432, including 480
troops and porters, advanced to the Karen Battalion no. (12), south of the
88' camp. According to information received from the border, another column
from the south was already prepared to launch an attack against KNU
The Second column was reinforced with the LIB (433) on 23/4/97 and was
composed of LIB 224/ 358/ 433, including 1300 troops and porters, to
intensify the attack against the 88 camps. The operation commander for
that column was Lt. Col. Khin Maung Kyi.
The area of the 88 camp was overun by the SLORC troops on April 22, after
heavy shelling. Then the SLORC troops advanced to the strategic hills in
At a meeting held on 20/4/97 the leaders of the Mon Army (the mutiny group
from the New Mon State Party) agreed to cooperate with and allow the
democratic forces under attack to retreat into their uncaptured area,
however, they later broke their promise. The Mon leaders were
confused by the SLORC's promise that they would not attack Mon area.
Therefore, the students, Karen and Muslim forces were framed by SLORC
troops in the mountains and Mon troops did not let the students and other
forces withdraw into their area.
Thai police raided the AASYC(Arakhan students) office in Thapsakae on
26/04/97 and the ABSDF office is similarly threatened. Many family members
with young babies are staying at the office. Thai army and intelligence
officals appear to be cooperating with Slorc.
THE NATION: TAK MILITIA MEN KILL KAREN INTRUDER
April 28, 1997
One man died in a clash between civilians militia and ethnic Karen fighters
at a Karen refugee camp in Tak province yesterday, a Thai military officer said.
A group of 15 to 20 armed men crossed from Burma and invaded the Ta Per Poo
camp, in Thailand's northern Tak province, and torched 19 shop stalls and
houses early yesterday, Col Suwit Maenmuen, commander of the Fourth Army
Regiment Task Force said.
Thai civilian militia fought with the armed group, killing one of the Karen
fighters who had invaded the camp, located about two kilometres inside Thailand.
The Karen, who were believed to be from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army
(DKBA), took eight refugees hostages but they were released later, Suwit said.
The DKBA is a Karen splinter group supported by the Burmese military. Most
of the refugees in Thai border camps are sympathetic to the Karen National
Union (KNU), which is still fighting Rangoon.
The Ta Per Poo camp houses some 2,200 ethnic Karen refugees who have fled
Karen enclaves in eastern Burma during military offensives by Burmese
government forces in recent years. Over 90,000 Karen stay in camps along the
The KNU has lost control of its remaining territories in Burma in a major
offensive by government forces which began in February, causing an exodus of
thousands of Karen. (TN)
THE ECONOMIST: "SANCTIONED, BUT NOT CHASTENED"
April 26, 1997
It can hardly have come as a surprise. Long before President Clinton did so
on April 22nd, the generals who run Myanmar must have known that, sooner or
later, he was likely to make good on his threat to ban new American
investment from their country. Last September he signed legislation
requiring him to impose the ban if there was "large-scale repression", or if
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's opposition leader, was harmed or detained. Since
then, a car she was riding in has been attacked by thugs, and her movements
and visitors have been severely curtailed. Many members of her party and
other dissenters have been locked up. Meanwhile, heroin from Myanmar has
continued to find its way in large quantities to the United States.
So presumably the generals cared less about American investment than about
enforcing order at home and keeping the drug money coming. In announcing the
ban, Mr. Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, described the
junta's policies - no doubt correctly - as "authoritarian" and
"ultimately doomed". But they also reflect a confidence that it can do
Conveniently for both the generals and the Americans, the ban is not likely
to affect existing investments. So, much the most important foreign
investment project in Myanmar - a gas pipeline costing $1.2 billion in
which an American company, Unocal, has a 28.3% share - is highly unlikely to
be scrapped. Unocal will not be able to commit itself to any further
investments. But both the company and the junta are confident that other
companies will be eager to take its place in exploiting Myanmar's
Other American investors in Myanmar, including retailers, clothing
manufacturers and a giant soft-drinks firm, Pepsi, had already pulled out
under pressure from Americans urging consumer boycotts. Myanmar has also
incurred the loss of some tariff privileges from the European Union because
of its use of forced labour. All this is doubtless irksome. But it will not
be allowed to deflect the junta from its apparent determination to crush
all domestic opposition. And it will not have much impact unless Myanmar's
Asian neighbours turn against it.
They will not. China, which provides the army with some of its guns, will
remain a loyal friend. Japan and South Korea will, most probably, keep
their heads down. Above all, the members of the regional club, the
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), are unlikely to be
deterred from their policy of "constructive engagement". Already, if the
pipeline is discounted, their businesses are the biggest investors in
Myanmar. And their governments are still talking of admitting Myanmar as a
full member in July, when ASEAN celebrates its 30th anniversary. American
sanctions may actually harden the resolve of some ASEAN countries to admit
Myanmar. Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam resent and fear American interest
in their "internal affairs". They will not want the treatment of Myanmar to
set a precedent.
THE NATION: THAILAND, RP AGREE TO SET UP TRADE PANEL
April 28, 1997 [abridged]
By Yindee Lertcharoenchok
PHUKET Thailand and the Philippines agreed yesterday to establish a
commission to promote their increasing bilateral trade and investments, as
well as joint ventures.
The joint trade commission, which was proposed by Thailand, will also serve
as a mechanism to resolve bilateral problems and eliminate any obstacles
that could affect or hinder economic activities and cooperation between the
Moreover, the panel will be entrusted to work out a comprehensive Joint
Action Plan for bilateral cooperation in the fields of investment and joint
ventures between Thailand and the Philippines.
In a meeting tomorrow, Prachuab and Siazon will make further deliberations
concerning all bilateral topics of discussions and give a final blessing to
the agreements reached by their senior officials.
As their meeting will take place just a week after US economic sanctions
against Burma were announced, the two ministers are expected to hold talks
on the sanctions' impact on Asean activities, particularly on the probable
admission of Burma, Cambodia and Laos into the regional grouping.
The two ministers will be joined by Singapore's Foreign Minister Shunmugum
Jayakumar for an unofficial working breakfast on Wednesday, during which
they will discuss and work out an Asean position on the membership of the
Jayakumar and his 15-member delegation will arrive in Phuket tomorrow for a
bilateral meeting and a round of golf with Prachuab.
Along with its ban on new American investment in Burma, the United States
has urged Asean its key political, economic and security ally not to
admit Burma into the Southeast Asian club citing its poor human rights record.
Asean countries, which support economic engagement with Burma, have deplored
the US sanctions, saying that the tough economic measures will only hurt the
They also argued that Asean's decision to admit the three countries is an
internal affair of the grouping and that they will not bow to US pressure.
At the informal Asean summit last December, the heads of government agreed
to accept the three countries simultaneously. Although they did not announce
a date, Burma, Cambodia and Laos expect to become members by July.
Asean foreign ministers will hold an informal meeting on May 31 in Kuala
Lumpur to decide the entry date for the three countries. (TN)
AFP: MALAYSIA SAYS BURMA'S ENTRY INTO ASEAN VITAL FOR REGIONAL STABILITY
April 27, 1997 [slightly abridged]
by M. Jegathesan
KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 (AFP) - Malaysia Sunday said the entry of Burma into
ASEAN was vital for regional stability and economic growth.
"We see the membership of Burma in ASEAN from various angles -- strategic
and growth of the region. It should be brought into the regional
organisation," Foreign Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told reporters here.
Abdullah said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has agreed
to accept Burma's entry. "It is ASEAN's standpoint. We understand the issue
better than the United States."
His comments followed an announcement by US State Department spokesman
Nicholas Burns on Friday that the United States was trying to persuade ASEAN
members to reject Burma's bid for full membership, on the grounds of its
"woeful human rights performance."
Abdullah said ASEAN nations policy of constructive engagement with Burma
served the region well, adding that Burma already attends the ASEAN Regional
Forum (ARF) and the Post Ministerial Conference (PMC).
The political system of a country is not made a condition for admittance
even into the United Nations, he said, adding that ASEAN maintains a strict
policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
"However, we hope through our relations with Burma, we can bring changes to
benefit its people. We will decide what is good for us," Abdullah said.
He also said there was no need for ASEAN to tell the United States not to
interfere in regional matters. "We do not have any desire to quarrel with
Abdullah said ASEAN only had a difference of opinion with the US, adding
that it was not confrontational in nature.
"It is the decision of ASEAN heads to admit Burma, Cambodia and Laos
simultaneously," he said, when asked if there was a possibility of only
Burma denied entry this year in the wake of the US appeal.
Admitting the three countries this year, ASEAN's 30th anniversary, would
fulfill the group's long-held ambition of incorporating the 10 nations of
[excerpts from related article -Vietnam and the Philippines comments]
THE NATION: US PRESSURE ON BURMA FORCES ASEAN INTO TOUGH DECISION
April 28, 1997
Philippines foreign secretary Domingo Siazon said it is "normal" for
governments to lobby others.
"We will review our position because we have a meeting anyway on May 31 in
Kuala Lumpur to determine and take a decision on the eventual membership of
Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar [Burma]."
A Burmese government official said on Saturday he did not know what Asean
would decide, but urged the grouping to "stick to its guns" and not give
into US pressure.
It has traditionally had good relations with the United States and the
European Union - both of which are members of the Asean regional Forum which
discusses security issues.
Recently the United States and the EU increased opposition to Asean
admitting Burma, saying that it would be tantamount to approval of the
military regime's rights abuses and its failure to recognise the 1990
electoral victory of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.
Some analysts and commentaries said that although Asean countries usually
make decisions by consensus and seldom allow disagreements to be seen by
outsiders, they will likely have tough-closed-door deliberations during
talks next month.
But others said that Asean will likely end up sticking to its policy of
"constructive engagement", which follows the idea that Burma is more likely
to change if it is included, not isolated.
The increase pressure on Asean could actually backfire, said some analysts. (TN)
BKK POST: RANGOON ADMISSION CALLED VITAL TO BLOC
April 28, 1997
Kuala Lumpur, AFP
Malaysia, Vietnam bristle at US effort to block membership
In Hanoi yesterday, the foreign ministry said in a statement that any
country which applies pressure to block Burma's entry into Asean can only
harm its own image.
Such a move "is not in keeping with international fundamental principle," it
And in Rangoon itself, the official English-language New Light of Myanmar
newspaper said the US is "in a pickle" over its decision to impose sanctions.
"Backfire it will. It's going to prove a fiasco," the newspaper said in an
THE NATION: SLORC STRIKES BACK OVER CRITICISM OF DRUG TRADE
April 28, 1997
Rangoon - Burma, the world's biggest opium producer, has reacted to
international criticism of its efforts to tackle a massive narcotics trade
with a propaganda offensive highlighting its efforts to deal with the problem.
Diplomats and foreign journalists were invited on a three-day tour last week
of eastern Shan State to see evidence of government efforts to stamp out the
As helicopters carrying the entourage descended on towns throughout the
province long controlled by drug barons, they were greeted by former
insurgents and villagers in traditional dress saluting the military
government's powerful Secretary One and intelligence chief, Khin Nyunt.
"The guys with the guns are our guys," said government spokesman Lt Col Hla
Min as a convoy carrying the official party entered Mongla township, on the
border with China's Yunnan province.
"But the insurgents have been allowed to keep their own uniforms," he said.
According to US estimates, Burma produced more than 2,500 tonnes of opium -
which is refined into heroin - last year, most in this hilly eastern region
which forms part of Asia's Golden Triangle region where Burma, Laos and
The region has long been controlled by ethnic rebels who financed
decades-old armed struggles for autonomy from Rangoon by producing opium.
Most of them have since made peace deals with the ruling State Law and Order
Restoration Council (Slorc).
A member of one, the United Wa State Army, told the visitors last week his
Hotong district - considered a major black spot - produced less than
one-tenth of the US estimate for the region.
In another town, former warlord U Sai Lin was presented a certificate and
silver plate to mark what officials said was the eradication of opium
production around Mongla.
"These armed groups upon clearly appreciating the sincerity and goodwill
extended by the state ... exchanged arms for peace," Khin Nyunt said. "As
community peace and tranquility prevails in the region ... the rays of hope
for the eradication of poppy cultivation have become brighter."
The Slorc officials say that Burma has been unfairly accused of not doing
enough to stamp out a complex problem that it says is linked to its efforts
to win peace deals with the ethnic groups.
But Thai and US anti-narcotics sources say the trade is flourishing and have
indicated it is the Wa who have taken over key drug-producing activities in
the region since the surrender of Burma's most notorious warlord, Khun Sa,
in early 1996. The US was outraged by a deal struck between Rangoon and Khun
Sa, who is wanted in a US court on heroin trafficking charges. (TN)