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BurmaNet News: November 21, 2000
- Subject: BurmaNet News: November 21, 2000
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2000 10:49:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
________November 21, 2000 Issue # 1662__________
NOTED IN PASSING:
1. ?Having thrown off the egalitarian shackles of what they once
called "the Burmese way to socialism," the generals and their families
are getting rich and flaunting it.?
See The New York Times: The New Burmese Leisure Class: Army Capitalists
2. "It would be a Burma-free, free-Burma law"
Simon Billenness on a revised Burma selective purchasing law for
Massachusetts. See AP: New effort announced to put economic pressure on
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Agence France Presse : Aung San Suu Kyi fails to answer brother's
*The New York Times: The New Burmese Leisure Class: Army Capitalists
*Shan Herald Agency for News: Shan State Army Holds Graduation Ceremony
Amid Looming Offensive
*The Asian Age (India): Burmese Say Junta Neglects Tomb of Last Emperor
*The Times of India (New Delhi): UK irked at contact with Myanmar
*The Hindustan Times (New-Delhi): Yangon offers India role in deep sea
*Myanmar Information Committee (SPDC): Senior General Than Shwe to
*Boston Phoenix: Burma Law backers try again
*AP: New effort announced to put economic pressure on Burma
*Burma Forum: L.A. City Council Votes Unanimously to Sell Burma-Related
The BurmaNet News is viewable online at:
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Agence France Presse : Aung San Suu Kyi fails to answer brother's
November 21, 2000, Tuesday 11:21 AM, Eastern Time
YANGON, Nov 21
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi failed to appear in court Tuesday to
answer a suit filed by her US-based brother Aung San Oo who is claiming
half ownership of her Yangon home.
The Nobel laureate has been confined to the house for nearly two months
under restrictions laid down by the military regime, but the junta said
it would allow her to attend the hearing if she chose to do so.
Once it was established neither Aung San Suu Kyi nor her legal
representative were present Tuesday, the hearing began on an ex parte
Sources close to the opposition leader said she was planning to meet her
lawyer later in the day, indicating she has chosen to ignore the entire
legal saga and instead try to work out some kind of private settlement.
Another close family friend told AFP that Aung San Oo's decision to file
suit over the property which belonged to their mother Khin Kyi before
her death 12 years ago was regrettable and unnecessary.
"Aung San Suu Kyi has always been ready to hand over her brother's share
anytime he asked for it and if only he had brought the subject up last
July, when they last met each other, the matter would have been arranged
easily," he said.
The friend said Aung San Suu Kyi had planned to start an education
foundation in the name of her late father, national founder General Aung
San, and to use the house as its headquarters.
"This has been a pet dream and I was near her when she brought the
matter up with her mother as far back as 1984 and her mother was quite
for it," he said.
While not overtly political, Aung San Oo is much less critical of the
regime than his sister, and the two are not close.
It is believed that before her death Khin Kyi expressed the wish that
the house be equally shared between the two children, and that if it
were sold the proceeds should be donated to charity.
Aung San Oo's legal representative in Myanmar U Han Toe has said his
client wanted to stake his claim over the property so he could donate
his half-share in line with his mother's wishes.
The timing of the lawsuit is a double blow for the opposition leader,
coming just weeks after the owner of the National League for Democracy
(NLD) Yangon headquarters gave notice to the high-profile tenants.
The order was temporarily withdrawn in late October because party
officials were unable to pass the eviction letter on to their leaders
due to the house arrest restrictions.
The New York Times: The New Burmese Leisure Class: Army Capitalists
November 21, 2000, Tuesday,
By BLAINE HARDEN
Every morning and every evening in this city with the sweet-sounding
name, thousands of poor people take a long, sullen look at how the other
Commuting by foot, on bicycles and packed into pickup taxis, the poor
travel along a road that runs beside what they call "generals' village,"
a cluster of new mansions of a size and gaudy splendor that would not
look out of place in the Hamptons.
Protected by high fences and set back behind well-tended lawns, the
three-story houses have satellite dishes on the roofs, sport utility
vehicles in the driveways and servants in the kitchens.
The poor do not choose to torment themselves twice each day with this
vision of unattainable affluence. They have no choice. In the last
decade the military government has forced tens of thousands of them out
of their homes in downtown Mandalay. It sent them to a distant
shantytown in a former rice paddy and gave them just one road back to
town: past the generals' fine new houses.
The let-them-eat-cake quality of urban planning points to a new wrinkle
in the military dictatorship that for four decades has ruled what used
to be called Burma.
Having thrown off the egalitarian shackles of what they once called "the
Burmese way to socialism," the generals and their families are getting
rich and flaunting it.
Their conspicuous consumption, which many here describe as deeply
offensive to Burmese traditions, seems to celebrate the rapidly widening
gap between the very rich and the very poor.
Golf has become their game of choice. Wherever generals have gathered
for work or play in the last five years, construction of golf courses
has boomed, even as spending on schools and health care has fallen to
per capita levels that are among the lowest in the world.
Children of the generals have become highly visible players in real
estate, retailing, tourism and publishing. They typically do not invest
their own money and rarely do any work, but they have their names on the
businesses and collect their percentages, say local businessmen and
Western diplomats. The pre-eminent crony capitalist among the children
of the brass is believed to be Sandra Win, daughter of the government's
founding dictator, the now retired Gen. Ne Win. She is said to have
interests in scores of businesses and major real estate developments.
"In the past few years, the ruling generals have turned more toward
crony capitalism by rewarding personal friends and family members with
preferential treatment," according to a Country Commercial Guide
published here in September by the American Embassy. "The result of this
deliberate policy of corporate favoritism is to create a business
environment in which personal connections to the generals, rather than
business skills or technical merit, are the most important factors for
There is not much space at the top of the money-grabbing pyramid here,
Western diplomats say. Only a few hundred senior officers and their
families, out of a military that has doubled in the last decade to more
than 400,000 soldiers, are allowed to use their power to make themselves
rich, the diplomats say.
Several local businessmen and journalists who cover business here echoed
that assessment. None wanted their names published, because the
government has a history of harassing, jailing and sometimes torturing
The rise of crony capitalism in the ashes of failed socialism is hardly
unique to Myanmar. It is one of the most important -- and corrosive --
trends in economic development in the former Soviet Union, in the former
Yugoslavia and in formerly socialist African countries like Angola.
Yet what is especially crippling about it here, say businessmen and
Western diplomats, is the degree to which the generals insist on
sticking their fingers in every pie.
A visit to the Defense Service Museum, a vast marble showcase in the
capital, Yangon, formerly Rangoon, illustrates the point.
One exhibit there trumpets the generals' achievements in the field of
canned food. There is "baby corn in brine," "fried fish paste" and
"minced mutton ball."
These dubious delicacies, though, are merely the beginning.
The museum shows off senior officers supervising pig breeding, chicken
feeding, cattle ranching and rice growing. The museum even celebrates
the military's very own ball factory, which makes soccer balls, tennis
balls and basketballs. But, interestingly, not golf balls.
A number of private businessmen here said that in almost every case when
generals take an active role in managing private businesses, they do it
badly, often very badly.
An example is rice production. Shortly before the generals took over in
1962, Burma exported about a million tons of rice. Last year the country
exported less than 70,000 tons.
The long, grim fizzle in the country's most important food crop typifies
the long, grim fizzle in virtually everything, as the generals have led
Myanmar into the ranks of the world's poorest and most badly nourished
In the mid-1990's the government tried to halt the decline with an
infusion of private enterprise. It invited foreign investors in and
promised to leave them alone so they could run profitable businesses.
But as investments turned profitable, the generals moved in as
predators, say businessmen and diplomats.
Two military corporate holding companies have taken control of most
private manufacturing plants, and hundreds of foreign investors have
left the country. The exact degree to which this has sabotaged the
economy is not clear, largely because the government stopped publishing
annual economic figures two years ago.
For Burmese without connections, the coming of crony capitalism has
meant an endless struggle to cope with collapsed government services,
stagnant wages and inflation that averages about 30 percent a year.
They also have had to endure huge green billboards around the country
demanding absolute loyalty to the government and all its laws, even as
the generals' children tool around Mandalay, Yangon and other major
cities in new four-wheel-drive vehicles. One of the laws to which
loyalty is required forbids the importation of new cars.
Perhaps the largest of the signs stands outside the central market in
the city of Taunggyi. More than 100 feet wide, it warns the citizenry:
"Even if you say you do not know the laws, you will not be forgiven."
And what of forgiveness for the generals, in the unlikely event that a
democratic uprising should sweep them from power?
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who is under house arrest in
the capital, has said she would not seek vengeance, nor would she demand
that they give back the wealth their power has won.
But among the poor of Mandalay, those who walk or pedal twice a day past
the big homes of the generals, there seems to be less charity. Asked
what might happen, come the revolution, to the "generals' village,"
people here smile tightly, suggesting that the answer is obvious.
Shan Herald Agency for News: Shan State Army Holds Graduation Ceremony
Amid Looming Offensive
November 18, 2000
The Shan State Army yesterday held a graduation ceremony for cadets as
reports about imminent Burmese attacks continued.
An hour long ceremony that began at 09:00 was chaired by Sao Htun Aye,
one of the first university students that joined the resistance in 1959
and at present an adviser to the Restoration Council of Shan State that
was formed on 27 May. It was attended by approximately 1,000 people,
among whom were 214 "students" and guests from villages around the Shan
base, opposite Pang Mapha District, Maehongson Province.
"It was a top security affair," remarked a Thai newsman afterwards,
"because the group's top fighting commanders, Maj. Khamleng and Lt-Col.
Aung Kham together with their troops failed to appear at the ceremony".
Yawdserk, Chairman of the RCSS and Commander-in-Chief of the SSA, told
the graduates to become "pillars that the people can depend upon".
Subjects taught at the Leadership Institute, as it is known, were Early
Shan History, History of Shan Resistance, Leadership, Administration,
Management and Strategy and Tactics, among others.
The ceremony was witnessed also by Gen. Aung Than Lay and Col. Phone
Naing from Karenni National Progress Party, Khaing Soe Naing Aung from
Arakan Liberation Party and Mahn Nyein Maung from Karen National Union.
A Shan officer disclosed later that the SSA ambushed a 20 truck convoy
between Kharngpa (west of Homong) and Monghta on the previous day (14
"According to the reports, one of the passengers was none other than
Brig-Gen. Tin Htun, Chief of Logistics. The ambush destroyed 2 vehicles
but he was said to have got away unharmed."
The presence of a high ranking officer responsible for military supplies
have raised speculations that the expected drug season offensive is
indeed close at hand, he added.
The Asian Age (India): Burmese Say Junta Neglects Tomb of Last Emperor
By Our Correspondent
New Delhi, Nov. 18:
The pro-democracy activists of Burma have kept up their pressure by
criticising the visit by a prominent member of the ruling military
junta, General Maung Aye, to India.
Several Burmese students in India protested against the visit on Friday
when Gen. Aye was received by the Indian leadership with much warmth.
BurmaÆs pro-democracy activists on Saturday slammed the Burmese military
junta for the poor maintenance of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar?s
mausoleum in Rangoon.
Meanwhile, Union home minister L.K. Advani is also learnt to have talked
to the Burmese leadership about the care of Bahadur Shah Zafar?s
mausoleum. The student activists have criticised India for talking to
the military leadership of Burma, which was trying to gain legitimacy
from at least some countries in the world.
ôIf Indians can maintain Thibaw?s mausoleum, why can?t we do so in
Burma? This is a stigma on our claim of being secular,ö a spokesman of
the Doboma Asi Ayona said here. Burmese king Thibaw?s mausoleum is
located at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra.
Stating that Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II had represented not only
India but the entire subcontinent against the ôcommonö colonial masters,
the British, the spokesman said, ôWhy don?t we hand over the memorial at
Rangoon to the government of India?ö
Appreciating the manner in which India has been maintaining the Burmese
kingÆs mausoleum at Ratnagiri, the Burmese leader said ôeven the
Muslims of Burma have never raised the issue and even the cultural
organisations never volunteered to renovate the historical monument at
ôIt is time that we reciprocated the Indian gesture and learnt to
respect the feelings of our brethren,ö he added.
Gen. Maung Aye, who was given a warm welcome on Friday, will meet Prime
Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and external affairs minister Jaswant
Singh on Monday. He is on a week-long visit to New Delhi along with a
delegation comprising the deputy prime minister and six other ministers.
The Burmese leadership has already ensured India that it will take
measures against militant groups operating from that country.
The Times of India (New Delhi): UK irked at contact with Myanmar
November 21, 2000
By Seema Guha
NEW DELHI: Indo-British ties are currently at an all time high, but
there are seeming contradictions on certain vital issues. This was
evident from remarks on Pakistan and Myanmar vis- a-vis India made by
visiting British minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs
Hain, who welcomed India's announcement of a unilateral ceasefire during
Ramzan, said that Britain wants India and Pakistan to take up their
disrupted dialogue because tension between the two newest nuclear states
is dangerous to the entire region.
While he appreciated Indian compulsions for engaging the military junta
in Myanmar, he said he could not help wondering ``how the world's
largest democracy,'' can `fraternise with a regime that viciously
Hain met minister of state for external affairs Ajit Panja, and held
talks with National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra. He is expected to
call on external affairs minister Jaswant Singh.
Britain, which has already ratified and signed the CTBT, wants India to
sign it. But Hain refused to speculate on the CTBT's future if George
Bush becomes the next US President. The Republicans while supporting
non- proliferation have refused to ratify the treaty in the US Senate.
He said he would take up the case of Peter Bleach, now languishing in a
Calcutta jail for the Purulia arms drop case, with the Indian
government. Five Russian co-accused in the case have been let off and
have returned home. The British are not asking for his release, but want
to know why Bleach was not treated on par with the Russians.
Despite these hiccups, the news on the bilateral front is good. India
and the UK are working closely on the new knowledge based technology.
Hain said Britain regards India as the biggest knowledge base for IT and
hopes for IT partnership between India and Britain.
The Hindustan Times (New-Delhi): Yangon offers India role in deep sea
Date: Tuesday, November 21, 2000
New-Delhi, November 20:YANGON TODAY offered New-Delhi
participation in the development of deep sea ports in
Myanmar as part of a growing multi-faceted bilateral
engagement, which focuses on infrastructure, energy,
power and security issues.
The visiting Vice Chairman of Myanmar's State Peace
and Development Council, General Maung Aye met
External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and asked for
New-Delhi's assistance in developing deep sea ports
and offered to supply natural gas to energy-hungry
It is believed that Myanmar wants India assistance for
the development of Kyauk Pru port on the Arakan coast.
Although a Singapore firm has put in a bid to develop
this port, Myanmar is keen that Indian firms also
compete for the project.
This development is of considerable strategic
significance as Myanmar in the past has relied on
China for developing its ports, roads and inland water
navigation projects. A surveillance radar of 250 CMS
range, which was installed by the Chinese in the
Coco-Islands, was upgraded in March-April this year.
China has assisted Myanmar in building the Hainggyi naval base.
Completed in 1996, the harbour has the
potential to accommodate corvette class patrol boats
and small ships. Beijing's hand is also evident in the
ongoing construction of Za Det Gyi naval and air base.
The total Chinese aid to Myanmar is said to be in
excess of 2.5 billion dollars, which includes 60
million US dollars worth of military aid.
While both India and Myanmar are in favour of
engaging their northern neighbour, New Delhi views any
Chinese presence in areas west of Chindwin river and
in the Bay of Bengal with serious concern. The Indian
appreciation in this regard has been conveyed to
Gen. Maung Aye also met Home Minister L.K. Advani
this morning and discussed issues such as cross border
terrorism and insurgency. India for the past two years
has been making a case for joint aerial patrolling of
the international borders and calling for greater
bilateral cooperation in tackling insurgency.
Myanmar is understood to be still considering the
Indian proposal, as it does not have similar
agreements with its other four neighbors. However, it
has agreed, in principle, to launch aerial efforts to
spot insurgents operating from Myanmarese territory.
While the two sides discussed cooperation in
security matters, the focus was largely on the economic
development of Myanmar. During his meeting with Mr.
Jaswant Singh, General Aye sought Indian assistance
for the 750 MW Yeywa hydroelectric project. According
to Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mr. Singh assured the
visiting dignitary that the request would be
considered and a team would be sent to examine the
feasibility of the project.
India has already taken up, as a joint venture,
the development of Tamanthi hydel project, located north
of Tamu on the Chindwin river in Myanmar. On
completion, the project is expected to generate 110 MW
of electricity, of which 75 percent will be shared
As a sign of the warning bilateral ties, New Delhi
extended a credit of 15 million US dollars to Myanmar
for purchase of the industrial and electrical
equipment from India.
Myanmar Information Committee (SPDC): Senior General Than Shwe to Visit
N0. B-1614 (I) 20th November, 2000
At the invitation of His Excellency Mr. Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister of
the Republic of Singapore, His Excellency Senior General Than Shwe,
Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council and Prime Minister
of the Union of Myanmar will attend the Fourth ASEAN Informal Summit
and Meetings of the ASEAN Heads of State/Government and Heads of
State/Government of the People's Republic of China, Japan and Republic
of Korea scheduled to be held in Singapore on 23 November 2000.
_______________ ECONOMY AND BUSINESS _______________
Boston Phoenix: Burma Law backers try again
November 16 - 23, 2000
by Kristen Lombardi
If Webster's English Dictionary were to illustrate the word
"persistence," it might use a photo of Massachusetts Burma Law backers.
The Burma Law, which bars the state from buying goods from companies
doing business with Burma, passed in 1996. Since then, supporters have
watched the law get shot down not once, but three times in federal
courts -- including the US Supreme Court last June.
Despite all this, the Burma Law backers are at it again. Proponents plan
to introduce another version of the state legislation next month, and
are kicking off their campaign Monday at a forum sponsored by Citizens
for Participation in Political Action (CPPAX).
Human-rights activists have had their eye for years on the repressive
military junta ruling Burma. They say the government used forced labor
to build its infrastructure, and that it censored democratic leader
Aung San Suu Kyi. Explains Simon Billenness of the New England Burma
Roundtable, "Foreign investment [there] is simply bolstering the
In its June ruling, the US Supreme Court found that federal sanctions
barring new American investment in Burma pre-empt the Massachusetts law.
Yet the Court left room for future legislation.
The new legislation has yet to be finalized, but activists say they can
get around the decision in several ways. The selective-purchasing law
could be revised to avoid naming Burma. Or the state could sell off
pension-fund stocks in corporations investing in Burma.
Which option makes sense for Massachusetts will be discussed at the
Monday forum, where State Representative Byron Rushing (D-South End),
who sponsored the old law, is expected to speak.
The forum is sure to be a pep rally too, as activists gear up for yet
another battle with big business. "I'm sure companies doing business [in
Burma] will lobby against us," Billenness says, chuckling. But, he
adds, "If US companies help support a military junta suppressing its
people, we must hold them accountable."
AP: New effort announced to put economic pressure on Burma
November 20, 2000, Monday, BC cycle
By JOHN McELHENNY, Associated Press Writer
A lawmaker who sponsored Massachusetts' first-in-the-nation law levying
sanctions against Myanmar says he'll adopt another strategy to put
economic pressure on the southeast Asian country.
State Rep. Byron Rushing said Monday he plans to file legislation that
would penalize companies that do business with Myanmar, also known as
Rushing's announcement comes five months after the U.S. Supreme Court
overturned a 1996 Massachusetts law that made it harder for companies to
trade with Burma.
Simon Billenness, an investment analyst who helped Rushing draft the
1996 proposal, said the new proposal would be more able to withstand
legal challenges because it doesn't target Myanmar by name....
"It would be a Burma-free, free-Burma law," said Billenness.
The ILO sanctions are to go into effect Nov. 30.
Like the 1996 law, the new proposal would allow companies doing business
with Myanmar to sell goods and services to the state only if their bid
was 10 percent lower than any other bid, Rushing said.
Rushing, D-Boston, also plans to file legislation that would prohibit
the state from buying the stock of companies doing business in Myanmar.
Los Angeles and Minneapolis have both passed such laws, but
Massachusetts would be the first state to do so, Rushing said.
The state invests billions of dollars in stocks, most of it from the
pensions of state employees and public school teachers. On Monday, the
state's Pension Reserves Investment Trust had a market value of $30.4
billion, according to a spokesman for the state Treasurer's Office.
A spokesman for the state's largest business lobby said state lawmakers
should not be able to "stigmatize" companies that do business in a
particular country or sell a certain product.
"I think it's a bad idea at the state level," said Robert Ruddock, a
spokesman for the Associated Industries of Massachusetts. "The
appropriate location for concern about foreign policy is at the national
government level, not the state government level."
Ruddock said Rushing's proposal, if approved, would open the door for
lawmakers to target any number of other countries - and more to the
point, to penalize companies that do business there.
In fact, state lawmakers considered targeting Indonesia, the world's
fourth most populous country and one of Asia's fastest growing
economies, but the bill never passed after the initial Burma law was
Rushing said efforts to foster democracy and improve human rights in
Myanmar mirror previous efforts from the early 1980s when Massachusetts
used sanctions to target another country.
"It's the next South Africa," Rushing said.
Burma Forum: L.A. City Council Votes Unanimously to Sell Burma-Related
Nov. 18, 2000
In another victory for the democracy movement in Burma, and the growing
international "Free Burma" movement, the Los Angeles City Council voted
today to support the sale of all stock in City pension funds from
companies that invest in Burma.
The 10-0 vote is seen as a strong rebuke to the regime's continued
widespread violations of human rights as well as the decisions of
corporations like UNOCAL, Suzuki and Haliburton to continue investing
In late 1998, the Council voted unanimously to ban City contracts with
companies investing in Burma. However, this law was repealed recently
after the Supreme Court ruled that a similar law in the State of
Massachusetts was unconstitutional. Divestment laws, however, were not
prohibited by the Court.
"We believe that the City should have ethical investment and purchasing
policies. Investing in companies that support the brutal military
regime in Burma is simply not consistent with our principles supporting
democracy and human rights," said Dr. Carol Richards, co-founder of the
Burma Forum, Los Angeles one of the organizations that has worked with
The military regime in Burma has been widely condemned by bodies
including the US State Department, the United Nations, Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch for its wide spread use of murder,
torture, forced labor and forced relocation as tools of political
repression. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who heads the
nation's democracy party was overwhelmingly elected to lead in 1990, but
the election has never been recognized. Today, Suu Kyi remains
under virtual house arrest and the National League for Democracy has
been the target of increasingly severe repression.
"The Democracy movement in my country has repeatedly called on
corporations like UNOCAL and Suzuki to withdraw until democracy is
achieved. Unfortunately, they continue to put profits over basic
human rights. We are very happy that the L.A. City Council has
decided to stand with us," said Khin Maung Shwe, a Burmese-exile living
in Los Angeles who was forced to flee his homeland due to his
involvement with the democracy movement.
More than 25 Cities and states had passed Burma-related purchasing laws.
Now, many are turning to divestment. Last month, the City of
Minneapolis passed a "Free Burma" divestment ordinance and how L.A.
joins them as being on record against the owning of stock in companies
that do business with the regime.
Pension fund boards and managers from each of the City's pension funds
now have the significant political weight of a City Council vote upon
which to base their decision whether to divest.
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