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BurmaNet News: November 13, 2000
- Subject: BurmaNet News: November 13, 2000
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 05:32:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
________November 13, 2000 Issue # 1660__________
NOTED IN PASSING: ?This is Myanmar's Gulag: NLD party members disappear
and their families are not told where they are for days or weeks, and
then they have only very limited access to them. But every
right-thinking person must hope that the day will come soon when these
four just men of Pathein will be able to take up their positions as
elected members of parliament....Unfortunately, right now, they do not
live in a civilized country?
Roger Mitton of Asiaweek. See Asiaweek.com: Four Just Men of
Pathein--Swallowed up by Myanmar's Gulag
INSIDE BURMA _______
*AFP: Myanmar Muslim rebels claim to have killed 11 Yangon troops
*Mizzima: Prawn breeding business effects environment in Rekhine State
*Bangkok Post: BORDER: Burma exiles would rather stay at home; DKBA
leaders urge more Karen to return
*Asiaweek.com: Four Just Men of Pathein--Swallowed up by Myanmar's Gulag
*AP: Australian in small plane crash lands in Myanmar
*AFP: Thais plan evacuations if Myanmar border fighting worsens
*AP: Boulder may suspend anti-Myanmar law; leave it as symbolic gesture
*The Boston Globe: a Guardian of Hope in Burma
*The Hindu: Editorial--The Burma Road
*PD Burma: Burma Calendar of events
The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AFP: Myanmar Muslim rebels claim to have killed 11 Yangon troops
CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh, Nov 13 (AFP) - Myanmar's separatist Rohingya
Muslim rebels claim to have killed 11 government troops in a gunbattle
last week in Arakan province, bordering Bangladesh, according to a faxed
statement received here Monday.
The gunbattle began Friday when Myanmar troops opened fire on the
militants trying to lay land mines along Arakan's border with
Bangladesh, the statement by the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO)
No confirmation from Bangladeshi frontier officials was available.
But a senior official of the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles Monday said
their frontier troops had reported hearing exchanges of gunfire from
Myanmar, close to Bangladesh's southeastern Cox's Bazar district.
The militants from Myanmar's mostly poor Muslim Rohingya community have
been fighting a long bush war for Arakan's independence.
Nearly 250,000 Rohingyas fled into Bangladesh in 1991, alleging
persecution by Myanmar troops. Most of them were later repatriated.
But some 20,000 Rohingya refugees were left in two of the refugee camps
in Cox's Bazar waiting clearance from Myanmar authorities for
Mizzima: Prawn breeding business effects environment in Rekhine State of
Dhaka, November 10, 2000
Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)
In Taungkok town of Rekhine State of Burma, people are facing with
drinking water shortage problem as the brine-prawn breeding ponds in the
township make the water salty. The salty water from the prawn
breeding-ponds instill into the wells, gardens and farms, especially in
the area of ôPatin Kyunö Island and therefore plants cannot be grown any
longer on the island.
A few months ago, Taungkok-based 544 and 346 infantry regiments of
Burmese military forced the villagers of ôNat Mawö and ôKalain Pyinö to
dig up for the military-owned prawn breeding business in ôZeepinyinö
village and ôKalain Taungö village without giving any wages. Moreover,
the rich people from nine villages of ôPatin Kyunö are also widely
working with this profitable brine-prawn breeding business.
Although the suffering villagers had been repeatedly reporting these
problems to the concerned township authorities, there was no concrete
action taken on their complaints. Recently, the authorities came and
inspected the prawn breeding sites in the area and directed to reduce
the briny water through water canals. But as the prawn owners bribed the
authorities, nothing has come to the better condition yet. The villagers
from ôKan Pyinö village in ôPatin Kyunö are therefore planning to
migrate to other villages.
Moreover, ôNgamun Daingö-based Burmese military units in ôPatin Kyunö
recently forced the villagers from nine villages to dig up the ponds
without providing wages for over two months and forced them to sign the
paper which says that their work was voluntary.
Rekhine State is estimated to have over seventy thousand acres of prawn
breeding areas and said to be the largest prawn breeding state in the
Bangkok Post: BORDER: Burma exiles would rather stay at home; DKBA
leaders urge more Karen to return
November 13, 2000
More than 5,000 displaced Burmese would rather stay in a DKBA-held area
of Burma, opposite Tak, than return to Thailand.
Their decision was in line with the wishes of some Democratic Karen
Buddhist Army leaders who want Karen refugees in Thailand to return to
Most of these displaced Burmese are former Karen refugees who used to
live in refugee camps in border areas of Tak.
Of the 1,000 families living in an administrative zone of the
pro-Rangoon DKBA's 999th Division, 460 came from Huaykalok and Mawkier
refugee camps in Mae Sot and Phop Phra districts, and 183 from Mae La
camp in Tha Song Yang district.
The remainder are Burmese workers and Karen tribespeople.
The centre of this 50-km DKBA-held area is Kok Ko village, north of
Myawaddy and opposite Tak's Mae Sot and Mae Ramat districts.
"Newcomers are usually unable to provide for themselves. So we will help
them by providing them with shelter and food in the first six months and
then allow them to run corn and nut plantations and rice fields here,"
said Lt-Col Maung Chit Tu, head of the DKBA's 999th Division.
"Some of them run coffee shops or boutiques or become labourers."
He said some displaced Burmese served the administrative zone as
teachers, officials, sawmill labourers, furniture factory workers and
tailors making uniforms for DKBA troops.
The zone also has schools and a temple, from which abbot Luang Phor Yai
and other monks sit on the district's advisory committee for education.
Lt-Col Maung Chit Tu said the DKBA were forced to take care of the
refugees because Rangoon refused to help them or allow international
organisations or neighbouring countries to assist them.
However, Rangoon had no problem with their stay in DKBA-held areas.
"We want all refugees to come back to live in Burma to work and help
develop our Karen society.
"We do not want them to suffer the indignity of waiting in line for food
at refugee camps in Thailand," he said.
It would not be easy for the DKBA to welcome almost 100,000 Karen
refugees, he said, adding that they would have to return to the Thai
shelters if the DKBA were unable to cope.
"These refugees are not liked by many Thais even though the Thai
government has a policy of giving them humanitarian assistance.
"So we want them to come back to live in Burma," Lt-Col Maung Chit Tu
He promised to ensure the safety and peaceful livelihood of all refugees
With the exception of soldiers of the anti-Rangoon Karen National Union
and their relatives, most Karen refugees wanted to return.
The KNU rebels tried to force Karen refugees already living in Burma to
go back to Thailand and threatened to harm those who refused.
The KNU's 7th Division earlier attacked Ta Pong camp in Burma, opposite
Ban Wang Takhian, after unsuccessfully trying to force Karen villagers
there to return to Thailand.
San Kyi, 65, said her family and many neighbours returned to Kok Ko
village in Burma when they learned they would be moved from Huaykalok
camp in Mae Sot to Umpiommai camp, which they disliked.
Her family would never return to Thailand unless they were forced to by
fighting, she said, adding that it was better than living in a refugee
camp where they were not free to move around.
Ketti, 21, from Moulmein in Mon state, said strict regulations on alien
labour employment forced her to leave Thailand and stay with her sister
in Kok Ko village.
She will return if she fails to find a job in the village.
Although willing to welcome all displaced Burmese to his jurisdiction,
Lt-Col Maung Chit Tu refused to accept Muslims since they have long
caused unrest in Burmese society.
Maj Kyaw Kar, commander of the DKBA's 555th Division, reportedly ordered
more than 1,000 Muslims to leave Ta Kwet Poe village, southeast of
Hlaingbwe, within two months.
About 20 Muslim families moved to a border area opposite Tha Song Yang
late last month but the remainder asked the DKBA to allow them to stay
until the end of the harvest season.
Senate panel set to inspect refugee shelter
A senate panel sub-committee on foreign affairs is to inspect a refugee
camp in Tha Song Yang district in Tak today to investigate problems
posed by refugees.
The province is home to more than 61,700 refugees, most of whom are
Karen people fleeing fighting in Burma. Some of the refugees have
reportedly caused problems for local villagers and threatened natural
The 10-man panel, chaired by Sen Udorn Tantisunthorn for Tak, is
scheduled to visit Mae La Camp, which houses 36,941 refugees.
Recently, local residents and officials submitted a petition with the
Senate asking it to look into their problems.
It alleged some refugees encroached on forest reserves, stole produce
from farms and worked without official permission.
"A lot of them are paid to cut trees and burn forests to make way for
farming in forest reserve areas. Some of them have encroached on forests
to occupy the lands," said the senator.
He voiced concern about the birth rate in refugee camps, saying it would
be a burden for Thailand in the future.
Supamart Kasem Tak
Asiaweek.com: Four Just Men of Pathein--Swallowed up by Myanmar's Gulag
>From Our Correspondent
By ROGER MITTON
October 16, 2000
[BurmaNet adds: Asiaweed.com Web posted articles in the From Our
Correspondent section are not necessarily published in the print version
of the magazine. While some FOC articles do see print publication, it
is in abbreviated format. This is the full text web posted article.]
Last week, I was in Pathein. It is the administrative center for
Myanmar's Ayeyarwady Division, and with a population of 150,000, the
nation's fourth-largest city. I wanted to go there partly because I have
been to Myanmar's three other major cities ? Yangon, Mandalay and
Mawlamyine ? and partly because it receives relatively few visitors from
the outside world and so I thought it would provide me with an
unblemished glimpse of what provincial Myanmar life is really like. As
the crow flies, Pathein is only 150 km east of Yangon, but the road is
narrow and pot-holed, and at this time of year, its woeful condition is
exacerbated by the monsoon rains. The drive took a bone-jarring five and
a half hours.
After I had checked into the Pathein Hotel ($25, single air-con room
with breakfast) and freshened up, I strolled over to the club house of
the adjacent Ayeyarwady Golf Club. A couple of tables were occupied in
the main room where some members were having a snack and drinking beer.
High up on the wooden walls were honors boards marking the names of
competition winners and club captains and other office holders. I was
intrigued at the preponderance of military names. In 1984, for instance,
the Captain's Cup was won by Brig.-Gen. Than Shwe, then the southwest
regional commander based in Pathein, and now ? as Senior General ? the
nation's supreme leader. The winner in 1998 was Brig.-Gen. Shwe Mann,
the current regional commander, who is widely tipped to follow the Than
Shwe trajectory. Other names included Than Shwe's predecessor as head of
the junta, Gen. Saw Maung, and the current deputy prime minister,
Maj.-Gen. Tin Hla.
Absent from the honors boards were the names of Nyunt Hlaing, Hla Kyi,
Tin Chaw and Kyaw Min. Ten years ago, on May 27, 1990, these four
Pathein citizens, all members of the National League for Democracy, were
elected by the people of their city to represent them in parliament.
But, like the other 388 victorious NLD members, they were not allowed to
take their seats. As I sat in the Pathein golf club, I read over my
notes about this quartet. Of Nyunt Hlaing, now 55, I had little
information. He had won a scholarship to study in the old Soviet Union,
and after returning to Myanmar, he had obtained a Master's degree in
"Fishery" ? understandable, perhaps, coming from this river town. He had
worked at Mandalay University before becoming involved in politics via
his trade union activities (which had led to his arrest in 1988 and his
subsequent forced retirement a year later). I think it fair to say
without fear of contradiction that Nyunt Hlaing's name will never go up
on one of the honors boards at the Pathein golf club.
Ten days before I ventured into the Ayeyarwady, I had paid a one-day
visit to Mandalay ? ostensibly to witness the opening of that northern
city's new international airport. The regime's No. 2, Gen. Maung Aye,
who is regarded as Than Shwe's heir apparent, was to officiate at the
ceremony and I had hoped I might meet him and arrange an interview.
Unfortunately, our chartered flight arrived more than an hour after the
opening ceremony had ended and Gen. Maung Aye and his retinue had long
since left. We were greeted by a deserted terminal and a sea of empty
plastic chairs. But at least I got to see the spiffy new building with
its airbridges and trendy lounges and well-stocked shops; all that was
lacking were passengers. A couple of jumbo jets flew in for the
occasion, one each from Thai Airways and All Nippon Airways; but neither
of these airlines, nor any other international carrier, has plans to use
the new facility.
Of course, some international services will eventually include historic
Mandalay, possibly even with 747s; but Tin Chaw, 65, is as likely to
travel on one of those jumbo jets as he is to take up his seat as the
duly elected member for the constituency of West Pathein 1. He is a
former school principal, and until he joined the NLD and entered
politics 12 years ago, was head of the West Pathein Education
Department. Still, he may take some comfort from the fact that the
University of Pathein has finally reopened and is thronged with
students, who, on the Saturday evening I was there, crowded the teashops
along the road leading to the campus gates, chatting, reading, flirting
and listening to noisy music as students do the world over.
I, too, had been listening to some special music on the Friday evening
before I went to Mandalay. At the Thailand Cultural Center in Bangkok,
the visiting Novosibirsk Theater of Opera and Ballet had put on a
stunning performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, one of my all-time
favorite compositions. Unaware of exactly what it was, I had first seen
this cantata-cum-ballet in 1970 at the National Arts Center in Ottawa
and been awestruck by the music, the dancing, and the monastic chanting
of the earthy love poems. I had feared the performance by the
Novosibirsk company would not make the same impact upon me. I was wrong.
It was magic.
After the finale, the audience ? and remember, Thais are not renowned
for their fondness of Western classical music ? rose and gave the
company a standing ovation. Indeed, if the theater staff working the
curtains had not called a halt, I think the encores and curtain calls
would have continued long into the night. Sadly, Kyaw Min, 66, will
never see such a concert. Soon after his election victory in the West
Pathein 2 constituency, the U.S.-trained architect and former lecturer
at Yangon's Institute of Technology was detained by the military
authorities. Released a year later, he was arrested once again in 1996
and placed in Yangon's notorious Insein Jail, along with several other
NLD colleagues. For him, unheard melodies must, we hope, remain sweeter.
Ironically, at the time I attended the Novosibirsk company's Carmina
Burana, I was mid-way through reading a fabulous new book called In
Siberia by Colin Thubron. It is an account of his 24,000-km journey, by
plane, train, boat, truck and foot, across Siberia from Yekaterinburg to
Magadan. I recommend it to anyone thinking that there are no new
frontiers. In it, there is a section on Novosibirsk ? a city, says
Thubron, most notable for being so spread out and spacious. He recalls
going downtown and finding himself "in the void of Lenin Square, where
the largest opera house in Russia, bigger even than the Bolshoi,
crouches like a square-headed tortoise under a dome of silver scales."
His rather jaundiced description somewhat turned me off the place, but
then when I saw a picture of the theater in the Carmina Burana program,
it did not look so bad. And it made me think that perhaps I should
temper my enthusiasm for this particular section of Thubron's account ?
though I would still unhesitatingly recommend the book to everyone.
Of course, it is not something that Hla Kyi, 55, is ever likely to get a
chance to read. Winner of the East Pathein 2 seat, he remains the NLD's
treasurer and chief organizer for the Ayeyarwady Division. Regrettably,
one of his colleagues, Maung Maung Gyi (a 78-year-old MP-elect from Mon
state, who was himself only recently released from 18 months'
detention), told me at the NLD headquarters last week that Hla Kyi had
been taken away by the military authorities on Sept. 27 and his
whereabouts remain unknown.
This is Myanmar's Gulag: NLD party members disappear and their families
are not told where they are for days or weeks, and then they have only
very limited access to them. But every right-thinking person must hope
that the day will come soon when these four just men of Pathein will be
able to take up their positions as elected members of parliament. And
that they will be able to read and travel and listen to music like other
civilized people. Unfortunately, right now, they do not live in a
AFP: Thais plan evacuations if Myanmar border fighting worsens
MAE SOT, Thailand, Nov 13 (AFP) - Thai authorities are planning to
evacuate 3,000 villagers living on the Myanmar border if fighting
between the government and rebel troops escalates, officials said
District chief in Tak province, Satawat Sanmuk, said Myanmar had sent
2,000 fresh troops to the area over the weekend, after losing a base to
the rebel Karen National Union (KNU).
Thai authorities were meeting to discuss an evacuation plan if the
fighting between the KNU and government soldiers worsened, Satawat said.
"If the fighting becomes more serious and shells start crossing into
Thailand, we will evacuate our people to an area deeper inside the
country," he said.
Nearly 3,000 Thais live in two villages directly opposite the area
where conflict has raged for nearly two weeks during the annual dry
The KNU's Major Neda (eds: one name) said six Myanmar soldiers were
killed and 10 injured in clashes Sunday night and Monday morning.
Neda said two of his men were also injured, but the casualty figures
could not be independently confirmed.
AP: Australian in small plane crash lands in Myanmar
Nov. 13, 2000
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ An Australian businessman flew out of Myanmar
Monday, two days after his small plane crash-landed on a southeastern
island, the Australian Embassy said.
Kim Parker, 53, was rescued by a Myanmar navy patrol boat on the Mali
island after his New Zealand-made, single-engined Fu-24 made an
emergency landing on the beach, the New Light of Myanmar said.
Parker, 53, was flying from Phuket in Thailand to Calcutta, India, when
his plane developed engine trouble, the newspaper said. It came down in
shallow water and hit a mound of sand.
Parker, who was the sole occupant of the plane, was not injured.
Mali, which has a naval base, is 460 kilometers (285 miles) southeast
of the capital, Yangon, near the Tanintharyi coast.
Parker was taken to the nearest town of Myeik and transported by air to
the capital, Yangon, where he was transferred to the Australian Embassy
On Monday, he left for Bangkok, Thailand, an Australian Embassy staffer
said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Parker's immediate plans were
not known. It wasn't clear what he would do with the wreckage of his
The New Light of Myanmar said Parker was rescued ``safe and sound'' but
the landing gear of the aircraft was broken, the propeller twisted and
the cowling burned.
The embassy said Parker was flying to India on company business. The
New Light of Myanmar said Parker worked for an Australian company,
Universal Tracking System Ltd. No details of the company were available.
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
AP: Boulder may suspend anti-Myanmar law; leave it as symbolic gesture
Nov. 13, 2000
The city attorney is recommending Boulder suspend a law banning business
with companies in Myanmar, but keep it on the books as a protest of the
country's human-rights record.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned a Massachusetts state law
that boycotted purchases from companies doing business in Myanmar, the
south Asian country also known as Burma.
The city attorney's office says the ruling invalidates a 1996 Boulder
ordinance similar to the Massachusetts law.
A coalition of corporations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the
National Association of Manufacturers successfully challenged the
Massachusetts law on grounds the U.S. Constitution gives only the
federal government the power to make foreign policy.
A military regime rules Myanmar despite a victory in 1990 by the
National League for Democracy party. The party's leaders, including
Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, have been put under house
arrest and their movements restricted.
Deputy City Attorney Jerry Gordon said his office consulted a law
professor about options regarding the ordinance, and decided there was
little choice but to leave it on the books as a symbolic gesture.
The city boycott was partly inspired by Boulder resident Inge Sargent.
The Austrian-born Sargent married Sao Kya Seng, a Burmese prince, in
1953. In 1962, the Burmese army imprisoned the prince and Sargent later
with their two daughters.
In retirement, she and her husband Howard Sargent have raised money for
Burmese refugee assistance.
The Sargents support suspending the ordinance but leaving it in place.
"We don't want to walk away from this situation and act like it doesn't
matter any more. The generals in Rangoon will notice that and will act
if they think the world doesn't care," Howard Sargent said. "At least on
the other side of the world, people know Boulder is watching."
The Boston Globe: a Guardian of Hope in Burma
November 13, 2000,
OP-ED; Pg. A15
H.D.S. GREENWAY; H.D.S. Greenway's column appears regularly in the
AUNG SAN SUU KYI, "THE LADY," AS HER SUPPORTERS CALL HER, IS A STUBBORN
WOMAN. MORE THAN 10 YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE BURMA'S BRUTAL MILITARY
JUNTA REFUSED TO ACCEPT HER PARTY'S STUNNING VICTORY IN THE FIRST FREE
ELECTION BURMA HAD SEEN IN 30 YEARS. THE JUNTA PUT HER UNDER HOUSE
ARREST AND IMPRISONED HER LIEUTENANTS. HUNDREDS FLED THE COUNTRY.
But for 10 years Suu Kyi has refused to accept the verdict of the junta.
By so doing she won the Nobel Peace prize in 1991 and remains to this
day the constant if flickering flame of resistance to tyranny in this
She has paid a heavy price: For 10 years she has been either under house
arrest or unable to leave the capital. She has been separated from her
children, and when her British husband was dying of cancer in England he
was refused a visa to see her one more time. She refused to leave the
country to see him knowing that the generals would never let her return.
Her two sons remain in Britain.
In August she attempted to drive out of Rangoon to attend a political
meeting. She was stopped but for nine days refused to leave her car in
silent protest. She was then escorted back to the capital.
In September she tried to board a train north to another political event
but was told there were no more tickets. She was confined to her house
near the Inya Lake. The road to her house is sealed off, and only those
with government permission may approach. People attempting to see her
The generals have bottled her up, all but destroyed her political party,
and show no sign of losing their hold on power. But such is Suu Kyi's
prestige that they dare not kill her, as they have others who have
The West, led by the United States and Britain, have imposed sanctions
and urged isolation. But the West has little influence here, and the
regional powers that matter and share a border, India and China, have
Three years ago Burma was accepted for membership in the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations, but ASEAN is an organization famous for not
interfering in the domestic politics of its members.
Burma is accustomed to isolation. From the early '60s to 1989 Burma
adopted a xenophobic "Burmese Road to socialism" that cut the country
off from the rest of world almost as completely as North Korea. It also
brought what had been a rich country with more than half the world's
rice exports to ruin. Today socialism has been replaced by crony
capitalism, and although the country is more prosperous, Rangoon is
still the most down-at-the-heel capital in Southeast Asia. The
government ministries and many businesses are stocked with military men
whose incompetence is exceeded only by their greed.
The kind of people power that toppled corruption and dictatorship in the
Philippines and Indonesia was met by bullets here in 1988. Hundreds of
pro-democracy student demonstrators were killed - nine months before a
similar event took place in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Enter Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the man who led Burma to
independence from Great Britain in 1948 only to be felled by assassins.
She had arrived only recently from England, but as has happened to other
dutiful daughters of Asian politicians, people ralled to her.
Some will tell you that her refusal to compromise with the military has
achieved nothing. The generals have marginal ized her. They say people
will soon forget her.
Others will say that her stand against foreign investment and tourism is
hurting the Burmese people without achieving any political gain. But,
like a military commander who has been overrun by an enemy, Suu Kyi will
call down artillery on her own position if it will hurt the junta.
People are afraid to discuss politics, but an acquaintance whom I met in
a public place opened her purse to retrieve her glasses and left it open
long enough for me to see Aung San Suu Kyi's photograph within. The
glance that passed between us seemed to say: Despite what you may hear,
and whatever the generals may do, we have not forgotten her.
The Hindu: Editorial--The Burma Road
NEW DELHI, NOV. 12. In rolling out the red carpet to a top gun from the
military Government of Myanmar, India is signalling a new phase in its
relations with a very special neighbour and a readiness to pursue its
interests in Asia with some vigour.
Gen. Maung Aye, who ranks number two in the military and political
establishment of Myanmar, is arriving here on Tuesday on an extended
visit to India.
This is the first exchange at the higher political level between the two
neighbours since the late Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, had travelled to
Yangon in 1987. It marks a culmination of the quiet but productive
engagement between the two nations in recent years.
Since Rajiv Gandhi's trip to Myanmar, the relations between the two
neighbours have gone through a roller coaster. Following the military
crackdown in 1988 against the struggle for the restoration of democracy
in Myanmar, India went out of the way to support the dissidents. There
was an outpouring of Indian sentiment in favour of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi
leading the democratic movement.
But by the early 1990s, India had to reconsider the wisdom of working
against the Government of an important neighbouring country and began a
cautious engagement with the military rulers of Myanmar. There were far
too many stakes for New Delhi in a cooperative relationship with Yangon
to persist with a hostile policy. In warmly welcoming Gen. Maung Aye
this week, India is doing much more than picking up pieces from the
Rajiv Gandhi visit of 1987. It is trying to rebuild a relationship that
got sundered four decades ago, when Myanmar turned insular and the large
Indian community had to leave that country.
India and Myanmar have put behind the many negative elements of the past
and are ready to lay the foundation for a productive bilateral
partnership that is not predicated on the political colour of the
Government in Yangon.
Gen. Maung Aye's interaction with the top echelons of the Indian
establishment over the next few days will suggest that the limited
engagement of last decade is yielding place to a new warmth between New
Delhi and Yangon.
Critics of Indian foreign policy at home and abroad will surely point to
the apparent inconsistency of the Indian refusal to deal with the
military Government in Pakistan while laying it out for the Generals of
But the fact is that India's reluctance to engage Pakistan is not based
on the nature of the regime in Islamabad. It has to do with Pakistan's
support for cross-border terrorism in India.
There is a huge difference, as far as India is concerned, between the
Generals in Pakistan and those in Myanmar. While the military rulers in
Islamabad are relentless in their support to terrorism in this country,
the military Government of Myanmar has been very helpful in countering
the festering insurgencies in the North- East.
The benefits of cooperation between the Indian security establishment
and the military in Myanmar have indeed been immeasurable in the
management of the situation in the North- East. With terrorism looming
large over India's security agenda in the recent years, few of India's
neighbours have been as cooperative as Myanmar in dealing with this
But will India risk international opprobrium in engaging Myanmar, at a
time when Western nations are trying to isolate it? Unlikely. All major
powers understand the conflict between ideological principle and
national interest in the conduct of foreign policy.
Even the richest and most powerful nations cannot claim to have resolved
the inherent tension between the ideas of "power" and "principle". The
United States, for example, argues that trading with the Chinese
Communists will encourage their evolution into democrats.
At the same time Washington has suggested that trade embargoes against
Myanmar will force its Generals into restoring democracy. The difference
probably lies in the American assessment that there is more money to be
made in China than in Myanmar.
In any case, the attempts to isolate Myanmar have not really succeeded.
Myanmar is now part of the Association of South East Asian Nations. It
is also part of other regional groupings. Most Asian nations reject the
idea of barricading Myanmar out of the regional mainstream.
Unlike the West and the U.S., India needs to be modest about its
capacity to export democracy to other nations and ability to engineer
political change in other nations. While democracy is indeed a virtue,
it can only be established through an internal impetus rather than
A number of factors are at work in Indian diplomacy towards Myanmar.
Four sensitive States of the North-East lie along the volatile border of
nearly 1600 km between the two nations. Beyond the immediate common
interest in countering terrorism, New Delhi and Yangon will have to work
together in bringing peace and prosperity to the north eastern parts of
India and the remote western regions of Myanmar. Myanmar is the
bridge-state between India and South East Asia. When the new road link
between the North-East and Myanmar, built by the Indian Border Roads
Organisation, opens in a few weeks, the two countries would have taken
the first step in realising the huge potential for trans- regional
cooperation in the transportation and energy sectors.
India and Myanmar have a stake in transforming the Bay of Bengal
littoral into a community of States cooperating across a broad front.
New Delhi and Yangon also have a big responsibility in ensuring the
waters of the Bay of Bengal remain tranquil and do not come under
destabilising external influences.
India is beginning to understand that it cannot shape the future balance
of power in Asia without showing the political will to take difficult
decisions and the institutional energy to pursue its interests.
_____________________ OTHER ______________________
PD Burma: Burma Calendar of events
╖ November 10-11th : Meeting of the Council of the
Socialist International, Maputo
╖ November 2-17th : 279th Session of the Governing Body and
its committees, Geneva
╖ November 17th : Global Day of Action on Open Schools
╖ November 30th : ILO Review of Burma's practises
╖ December 11-12th : EU and ASEAN Ministerial-level
╖ December : Japan-Burma panel on reform of
Burma's economic structure, Tokyo
╖ January 2001 : Sweden takes over EU Presidency
╖ February : Meeting of Solidarity Groups,
╖ March/April : Teachers/ Students Union
╖ March/April : EU Common Position Review
╖ March/April : UN Human Rights Commission,
╖ May/June : Meeting of Solidarity Groups
╖ July : Belgium takes over EU Presidency
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