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BurmaNet News: November 9, 2000
- Subject: BurmaNet News: November 9, 2000
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 09 Nov 2000 06:52:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
________November 9, 2000 Issue # 1658__________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*DVB: Army officers to receive half of salary in foreign exchange
*BBC: Burma makes progress against forced Labour
*Shan Herald Agency for News: Ceasefire Group Leader: Forced Labor is
*Shan Herald Agency for News: Positive Officers Have Negative Future
*Myanmar Times : Australian human rights team completes training for 25
*FEER: China Recognizes Burmese Party
*Mizzima: Dissidents plan global protest against forced labour in Burma
*Myanmar Times : Seoul Company Provides Power
*Wall Street Journal: Myanmar's Last Chance to Avoid More Sanctions
The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
DVB: Army officers to receive half of salary in foreign exchange
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts
November 09, 2000, Thursday
SOUTHEAST ASIA; BURMA; FE/D3993/S1
Army officers to receive half of salary in foreign exchange certificates
Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 6th November
DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned from a reliable source that
beginning January 2001 all officers from sub-lieutenant upwards of the
Burmese military will receive half their salary in FEC [Foreign Exchange
Certificate; 1 FEC unit equals 1 US dollars].
Since last April, all government employees and Defence Services
personnel have enjoyed only a five-fold raise in their salaries. As the
discrepancy in privileges still exists between the junior military
officers and the top brass, the scheme to pay half the salary in FEC
came into consideration. The main factor the junior officers point out
is that some commodities at the big department stores in the big cities
can be bought only with USD [US dollars] or FEC. The people in the
military who can afford to carry FECs are the generals and the top
brass. That is why the Controller of Military Accounts of the Defence
Services has decided to give half the salary of military officers in
Burmese currency, kyat, and the remainder in FEC from January 2001 to
solve this discontentment. This report was filed by DVB correspondent
Nay Myo Aung.
Furthermore, Capt Sai Win Kyaw, who is at the Thai-Burma border, told
DVB that the scheme to give half the salary of the military officers in
FECs goes to show that the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council]
itself does not believe in the Burmese kyat.
[Capt Sai Win Kyaw] As for me, this shows the present SPDC military
government's lack of trust in their paper currency, the kyat. Due to
high inflation and the drop in value of the kyat, the SPDC itself does
not have faith in their own currency. I believe that the scheme to give
half the salary in FECs is a move to lure all the military officers to
[DVB correspondent Khin Hnin Htet] Do you think this is the correct way
to organize the military officers?
[A] I don't think so. It will be all right if they can give the FECs to
all the government employees in the administrative machinery. But now
that they have only chosen military officers, it is like discriminating
the military officers from the other ranks and secondly, it also seems
like differentiating the military officers from other civil officials.
I do not see this as a very good prospect.
[Q] Capt Sai Win Kyaw was jailed for over 10 years for
participating in the 1988 mass democracy protests. After his release
from jail he came to the Thai-Burma border. Capt Sai Win Kyaw also said
this scheme of enticing the military officials with the FEC bait also
increases the peoples' dissatisfaction.
[A] This could really lead to some discontentment. I mean, if the lower
ranks in the military, state employees, and officials from the civil
administration feel that they are being discriminated I do not think
the SPDC military junta's administrative structure will last too long.
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1245 gmt 6 Nov 00
BBC: Burma makes progress against forced Labour
BBC,Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 15:39 GMT
A report by the United Nations Labour Agency has concluded that Burma
has made some progress towards changing its laws to end the use of
forced labour.But it says it is unclear what the country's authorities
are doing to ensure the practice is stopped.
The report follows a visit to Burma last month by members of the
Geneva-based International Labour Organisation, the ILO.
Its publication comes ahead of discussions by the ILO's governing body
on how far Burma has complied with ILO recommendations.
The Burmese military government said it had issued a directive banning
the practice. Refugees claim the military raid villages forcing the
inhabitants to work for them for long hours and no pay, in the worst
cases, they claim, those unable to keep up are beaten or killed.
Shan Herald Agency for News: Ceasefire Group Leader: Forced Labor is
9 November 2000
A high ranking officer from a ceasefire group in northern Shan State
wrote to S.H.A.N. forced labor had not stopped despite ILO's visit last
"Nothing has changed as far as the Shan State is concerned, when it
comes to forced labor, "he said. in his faxed letter in reply to
S.H.A.N.'s inquiry. (His name is withheld here for fear it might
endanger him). "Those who are imposing forced labor on the people have
always been the army and its units and the civilian authorities are
helpless against them."
He added that now that harvest time had come, the local military
authorities were demanding that the farmers sell 5 baskets of rice for
each acre at K. 350 per basket. (The market price is at least twice as
much, said another source.)
"Apart from that, they are busy collecting tax from the poppy farmers,"
Rangoon said its ordnance on banning forced labor went into effect on 27
October, the day after the ILO fact-finding team left Burma.
Shan Herald Agency for News: Positive Officers Have Negative Future
6 November 2000
Reporter: Saeng Khao Haeng
According to a high ranking Burmese military officer along the Thai
border, Rangoon is launching a purge campaign against its HIV -
positive officers whose number is on the rise.
During the past few years, he said, commissioned officers graduating
from Maymyo's Defense Service Academy (Burma's West point), and
Officers Training Schools (OTS) from Ba Htoo, Kalaw, Mingladon and
other training institutes have been undergoing blood-tests, and those
found with HIV or AIDS were discharged from the army without
compensation or benefits for their past services.
"One of my subordinate officers was sent to Kalaw (southern Shan State)
for staff training early last year, and when he was discovered infected
with HIV, he was not only rejected entry to the training course, but
both his rank and commission were removed," said the officer who spoke
on condition of anonymity. "For those who had committed other offenses,
even murderers and rapers, they were given a chance to serve in other
capacities such as USDA (Union Solidarity and Development Association)
functionaries or as heads of fire brigades, but for who were
unfortunate enough to catch AIDS, there is no more future for them as
far as the army is concerned".
According to him, at least 15-20% of the officer class is ridden with
Myanmar Times : Australian human rights team completes training for 25
October 30 - November 5 ,2000
WHEN Australian Chris Sidoti arrived in Yangon three weeks ago he left
behind a domestic media braying about "misguided policy" and a bristling
opposition that had tried to stall his mission via an emergency debate
in the country's national parliament.But Sidoti, Australia's former
Human Rights Commissioner, is a veteran of an industry which is
inevitably as much bedded in conflict and controversy as it is aimed at
protection and justice.
He came to Myanmar to head a two-week human rights workshop for 25
hand-picked officers and public servants, funded by the Australian
Government through its AusAid agency, and put together by Monash
University. And he did so with a clear perspective on why. "We can't
criticise people who don't meet human rights standards if they don't
know what those standards are," Sidoti told Myanmar Times. "There is, in
international law, a right to education about human rights and an
obligation to provide that education to people in positions that can
affect the human rights of others.
"Certainly I am quite sure that there is, in the general community, some
innate knowledge about what human rights are, what human beings are."
But human rights law is a legal system, it's not just a good feeling and
it's not just an ethical or a moral system. It's a legal system and it's
written down. There are laws and obligations and requirements. We can't
criticise people for breaching those agreements if we don't tell them
what they are."And when people know what they are, when they understand
this not as an ideological tool but as a properly structured legal
system they take a different approach to human rights. They know more
what is expected of them and they know why it's expected of them and
they know what the positive consequences of observing human rights
are."That's not to say that one little training program, or even 100
little training programs are suddenly going to change any single nation
or the entire international community, it doesn't work like that.
"But these kinds of programs, human rights education generally, in my
experience, is an essential ingredient of better protection and
promotion of human rights."The genesis of Australia's involvement in
human rights training here came via the country's former ambassador to
Myanmar, Lyndall McLean, and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander
Downer, who met with his Myanmar counterpart U Win Aung to discuss the
idea in 1998/99.In August last year, Sidoti visited the country to meet
with senior members of the State Peace and Development Council on the
proposal and, in April, Monash University's Kate Eastman arrived to
develop the course, working with a local contact group.The training
proper got underway in August when two groups of 25 people undertook a
short course on human rights and responsibilities which introduced the
seven international human rights treaties developed since the end of
World War II.
>From those two groups, 25 participants were selected on the basis of
interest, language skills ("unfortunately", said Sidoti, "we only speak
English"), relevant area of operation and capacity to absorb and use the
information provided ? for the intensive two-week course run this
month.They were men, and five women, from each of four ministries within
the State Peace and Development Council: Foreign Affairs, Attorney
General's office, Social Welfare and Home Affairs. The latter group
included police and prison officers plus civil servants and, across the
board, it was "what we would describe as middle to upper middle
management level", Sidoti said.The two-week intensive course presented a
more strictly legal approach to teach participants what the
international legal human rights system was, how it worked, where it
derived from and how the United Nations operated within that framework.
The course looked specifically at the international conventions on the
rights of women, children, race discrimination and torture and then
considered models, within South East Asia, of how human rights law had
been implemented."The institutions in this region now number eight that
fully comply with the global standards," Sidoti said."Within ASEAN,
Indonesia and Phillipines have had institutions for some years that are
operating effectively.Thailand has passed its law and has either just,
or is just about to establish its commission by appointing members. "So
there are actually quite practical models and examples from other
countries of ways that governments approach the task of meeting their
human rights obligations."And this is where the notion, not only of
human rights training but, more fundamentally, of an effective,
meaningful, international human rights system cannot but invite
scepticism. The idea, for example, of an Indonesian system that is
But Sidoti insisted that, in the case of that country to continue the
example, the establishment of a Human Rights Commission had ügmade an
enormous contribution to the development of human rights over the last
six years. "Allegations of human rights abuses are consistently, and
loudly, levied against the Myanmar Government by a host of foreign
countries including the United States and European Union. Despite the
Government's statements that those allegations are unfounded, one would
be hard pressed to find a more controversial subject on which to
undertake training in this country.But Sidoti said he felt "extremely
positive about the program" and reiterated that "first and foremost,
what the program is about is providing information to people who have
not had access to it in the past". And he agreed that such a program
must, in the final analysis, seek change.
"It's setting out to change mindsets, simply because information does
change mindsets and the Government of Myanmar itself has wanted, and
said it wants, a change of mindset," he said."From 1960 until well into
the 1980s this was a society whose government cut it off from the rest
of the world. "With the last 10 years there has been an enormous change
in the Government of Myanmar's attitude to the rest of the world. "Now
that indicates, very clearly, a change of mindset on the part of the
Government. I certainly think the Myanmar Government sees the program as
being a way of helping its civil servants to obtain the information they
need and to get new ideas, new outlooks and perspectives." Much of the
course was conducted using case studies based on global experience -
race relations in Australia and armed conflict in African states were
among the thorny scenarios used to construct "hypothetical" problems.
Participants were broken into groups and, given a scenario and role
within it, asked to present their respective cases within a human rights
legal framework."It was a very enjoyable learning experience for all of
us and each of the groups threw themselves completely into their
position," Sidoti said."It was a very productive exchange because they
looked through the arguments and they looked at the law and they were
able to fire questions backwards and forwards and respond to each
other." "And they came up with fantastic ideas." We found the
participants really involving themselves in this workshop. The questions
and the comments were intelligent and insightful, the participation was
at a very high level ? we had no hangers on. All participated, all were
interested, and all contributed to the discussions.
"The evaluations that they completed without exception talked about how
much they'd learned, the exposure to new ideas."Sidoti said the program
had given the participants ? including a few lawyers among them ? a
unique opportunity to study, in-depth, the highly specialised area of
international human rights law. It was "new information, and they
responded very positively".The critical next step, for the program's
organisers, for the Australian Government that pays for it, and for the
Myanmar Government which allows it all to happen, is evaluation.If that
process gives this project the green light, then more human rights
training with more Australian backing will be headed this way.
Sidoti said his discussions with local authorities had revealed a strong
desire not only for the program to continue, but for it to expand.ügSo I
feel quite optimistic about the assessment of it from the end of the
Myanmar Government.ühSidoti said he could not speak for the Australian
Government, but that he believed Minister Downer would ügmaintain his
view that this kind of program is very helpful..and so should
continueüh.ügIf anyone says to me that üeIüfm interested in human rights
trainingüf, I am more than happy to do what I can to see that he or she
receives it,üh Sidoti said.
ügWithout doubt, one of the big advantages of globalisation is that
there is increasing recognition that we all belong to a common, world
community ? that we are not just nation states, or even sometimes
sub-national groupings.ügThere is increasing awareness of world human
commonality and international law is one of the means by which thatüfs
FEER: China Recognizes Burmese Party
Far Eastern Economic Review, 16 November 2000
Burma's generals don't get to travel much in an unfriendly world. But
they're welcome in China and what's more they are being recognized there
as leaders of a mass organization they created to rival the opposition
National League for Democracy. When Lt.-Gen. Win Myint flew into Beijing
on October 25, he was greeted not by his title as a senior member of the
military's State Peace and Development Council but as vice-president of
the Union Solidarity and Development Association. China is the only
country to have recognized and forged party-to-party ties with the USDA,
a military-backed mass organization modelled after Golkar, Indonesia's
former ruling party under Suharto. Rangoon's junta has been trying to
raise its profile as the true representative of the Burmese people and
membership of the USDA is virtually compulsory for civil servants and
anyone seeking the favour of the generals. A grateful Win Myint, in a
meeting with politburo member Li Ruihuan, said Burma "as always, will
stick to its policy of developing friendship with China."
Mizzima: Dissidents plan global protest against forced labour in Burma
New Delhi, November 9, 2000
Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)
Burmese dissidents around the world are planning for a global action at
the end of this month to highlight the on-going practice of forced
labour in Burma by the military regime. The exiled activists in
Australia, Japan, Thailand and India plan to hold protests and rallies
in front of Burmese embassies in their respective countries on November
30. They have urged their counterparts in other countries to join in on
this action day to step up pressure on the Burmese government.
ôWe will organize pickets in front of Burmese embassy in Australia on
November 30 onwards. It will be an indefinite protest, joined by
Australian trade unions and activistsö, said Maung Maung Than, a member
of Free Burma Action Committee, which initiates the action call.
The activists have urged the International Labour Organization (ILO) and
international community to take swift punitive actions against the
Burmese junta for failing to curb forced labour in Burma.
The ILO gave an ultimatum to the regime in June this year to comply with
its recommendations to eliminate forced labour in the country by
November 30. The ILOÆs governing body is at present meeting in Geneva to
decide how far Burmese regime has done in complying with the
On Tuesday, Burmese Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win told AFP that
his government had issued a directive on November 1 banning forced
labour in the country. ôThe order has been posted in every police
station in the country,ö said Khin Maung Win.
Burmese activists, however, said that the governmentÆs directive lacks
the necessary specifics and it will not have any immediate effect on the
widespread forced labour, which is being carried out by the military
officers in the village and township levels, particularly in the border
areas of the country.
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
Myanmar Times : Seoul Company Provides Power
Seoul company provides power
THE Seoul-based LG Industrial Systems Co says it has signed a deal with
the state-owned Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise to supply high-voltage
equipment and switchboards to the country. The value of the equipment,
according to LG Industrial sources, would be US$3.5 million. The
products will be used for the construction of substations in central
Myanmar in May next year.
Wall Street Journal: Myanmar's Last Chance to Avoid More Sanctions
It's simple to comply with international standards that ban forced
BY BARRY WAIN
When the International Labor Organization set up a commission of inquiry
in 1997 to investigate forced labor in Myanmar, the military government
shunned it. Although denied permission to enter the country formerly
known as Burma, the commission delivered a devastating report the
following year. It said the presumed prohibition on compulsory labor is
violated in national law as well as in actual practice in a widespread
and systematic manner, with total disregard for the human dignity,
safety, health and basic needs of the people.
For the past two years, the ILO has been methodically working toward the
goal of bringing Myanmar into line-by persuasion if possible, through
coercion if necessary. In an effort to avert censure, the ruling State
Peace and Development Council invited a technical mission to Yangon in
May. The change of heart bought a bit more time, but didn't save the
SPDC. The ILO decided in June to take unprecedented action to penalize
Myanmar if it doesn't comply by November.
Only weeks before the extended deadline, another technical mission is
due in Yangon today. If the visitors get no joy again, the ILO's
Governing Body, meeting in Geneva from Nov. 2-17, will go ahead and
punish Myanmar. It would further isolate and stigmatize the country and
embarrass fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Although the issue happens to be forced labor, it is part of a general
dilemma faced by the SPDC, which is widely condemned for refusing to
allow Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to take over
after winning an election in 1990. Military leaders say they realize
Myanmar cannot remain isolated in an age of globalization, yet they
appear unwilling to concede the minimum degree of intervention and
compromise that comes with membership in the international community.
The SPDC doesn't seem to understand that the ILO isn't just another
irritating critic that can be brushed aside. A specialized agency of the
United Nations, it sets standards that cover child labor, disabled
workers, discrimination and freedom of association, among other things.
It is unique in the U.N. system in that workers and employers
participate as equal partners with governments.
The ILO works by means of conventions, which are subject to voluntary
ratification by member states. Myanmar ratified the Forced Labor
Convention in 1955. In trying to ensure that Yangon stops breaching the
convention, the Governing Body has invoked the ILO's Article 33 for the
first time in the organization's 81-year history.
It is obvious that the government did itself a disservice by boycotting
the commission of inquiry, missing the opportunity, to present its point
of view and answer any unjustified criticism. Consisting of the former
chief justices of India and Barbados and an Australian barrister, the
panel received 6,000 pages of documents. At hearings in Switzerland and
Asia, it also took testimony from several nongovernmental organizations
and about 250 eyewitnesses with experience of recent examples of forced
In its report, the commission said the impunity with which government
officials, especially the military, treat the civilian population as an
unlimited pool of unpaid laborers and servants is part of a political
system built on the use of force and intimidation to deny Myanmar
democracy and the rule of law. It uncovered "a saga of untold misery and
suffering, oppression and exploitation," from which people "find no
escape except fleeing the country."
The commission made the recommendations that the ILO has been trying in
vain to get the government to adopt ever since. In addition to calling
for the army and others to end the practice of forced labor, it urged
that legislation at odds with the convention be brought into line by May
1, 1999, "at the latest," and that penalties be prescribed and strictly
enforced for offenses.
Yangon's agreement to receive a technical mission on the eve of the
ILO's annual conference earlier this year suggested the SPDC was
becoming aware of the seriousness of its position. No doubt it was
nudged toward reality by Asean, which already has had to revise a human
resources and an industrial relations project because the ILO is
distancing itself from Myanmar. Just the same, senior officials
continued to insist that while instances of so-called forced labor might
have happened on infrastructure development sites in the past, they had
been discontinued before the commission of inquiry filed its report.
The government would be well advised to go further and positively
embrace the technical mission arriving today, as an opportunity to begin
restoring Myanmar's reputation.
Like the first mission, this one is taking place at the government's
invitation and specifically to secure the implementation of the
commission of inquiry's recommendations. If it doesn't find that
"concrete and detailed" steps have been taken, the ILO's Governing Body
can adopt a menu of punitive measures to take effect on Nov. 30. They
include recommending to constituents-governments, employers and trade
unions-that they review their relations with Myanmar to ensure they
aren't doing anything to perpetuate forced labor.
The consequences of just that one measure are unclear but potentially
crippling. For example, U.N. agencies working in Myanmar, one of the
world's poorest nations may leave. Unions might target Myanmar's
exports. There could be a serial effect, as diplomats in Yangon note.
Although the government dislikes being seen to succumb to external
pressure, Myanmar should nevertheless find it relatively simple to
comply 'with its ILO obligations. After all, the official stand is that
forced labor no longer exists. So, issuing a strong directive to that
effect, with appropriate penalties and enforcement, should present no
Beyond that, existing legislation that conflicts with the ban on forced
labor, notably the Village Act and the Towns Act, must be amended
without further delay. To satisfy the ILO's desire for a monitoring
mechanism, the authorities should also entertain the idea of allowing a
permanent ILO presence in Myanmar. The stakes are that high.
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