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BurmaNet News: May 10, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
May 10, 2001 Issue # 1804
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Far Eastern Economic Review: Tourism - Wish You Were Here?
*Daily Star (Bangladesh): AB Bank CEO meets Myanmar central bank
*Bangkok Post: Thai firm loses millions in Burma bushfire
*International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General
Workers' Unions: Burma Pull-out Urged
*Bangkok Post: Incursions not worth a war, says Chavalit
*The Nation: Air strikes possible as Wa troops hold ground
*AP: Wa fighters retreat from hilltop after heavy Thai assault
*AFP: European Union expected to give rare visa to Myanmar minister
*Govt of Japan: Reply to Questions about Burma on ODA, Forced Labor and
*ICFTU: Labor groups opposed to the entry in Belgium of Burmese Junta
*Radio Pakistan: Chief executive reports to cabinet meeting on Burma,
*Mizzima: Burmese hunger-strikers face imminent arrest
*The New light of Myanmar (SPDC): The wicked scheme
*Myanmar Information Committee (SPDC): Thai Troops Shells Ethnic Militia
Position On The Border
*Freedom News (Shan State Army): Interview Confirms Junta's Involvement
In Narcotics Trade & Committing Extrajudicial Killings
*Xinhua (PRC): Myanmar to Turn Northern Division into Rice Bowl
*PD Burma: Burma Calendar
*Free Burma Coalition: Burma Action Conference 2001
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Far Eastern Economic Review: Tourism - Wish You Were Here?
Issue cover-dated May 17, 2001
In the second of two articles looking at tourism issues in the region,
we examine the fierce debate over the rights and wrongs of visiting
Burma By Katherine Tanko/LONDON and Bertil Lintner/BANGKOK
FEW PUBLICATIONS have the power of the Lonely Planet series, the
phenomenally popular guidebooks that are so influential they can
make--or break--a hotel, restaurant or even a destination.
So when Lonely Planet Publications released its latest Burma guide last
year, concluding in the forward that it was better to visit the country
despite a four-year-old tourism boycott, Burma activists in the West
were enraged. The London-based Tourism Concern and Burma Campaign UK
launched a campaign to boycott Lonely Planet's publications in an
attempt to force the publisher to withdraw the book.
Twelve months on, Lonely Planet remains defiant--its Burma guidebook is
still on the shelves and tourists continue to visit Burma. The question,
though, of whether or not to visit Burma remains. Hardliners on both
sides of the debate often paint the issue in stark terms, but most other
participants concede that there are no simple answers. "Tourism to Burma
is an issue with only grey areas," says Oliver Hargreave, a guidebook
writer based in Thailand.
Lonely Planet defends its Burma guide--the 7th edition of a book it has
been publishing since 1979--as one of the few readily available sources
of accurate information on the country. The company claims the
guide--which includes a two-page section titled "Should You Visit
Myanmar?"--allows travellers to make up their own minds whether to visit
and gives tips on how to minimize supporting the military government and
maximize the positive benefits for ordinary Burmese. Furthermore, it
accuses British activists of practising censorship and playing into the
hands of Burma's junta.
"There is anger at the pretence of objectivity," says Yvette Mahon, a
director of the Burma Campaign UK. "The section 'Should You Go?' would
be more appropriately headed 'You Should Go'." That's rejected by Tony
Wheeler, publisher of Lonely Planet: "I'm not interested in encouraging
people to go to Burma," he says.
The book's editorial stance reflects a growing sentiment among tourists
that boycotting Burma is not the answer to that nation's political woes.
With the ruling State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC, firmly
entrenched and the National League for Democracy, elected in a landslide
victory in 1990, unlikely to assume power any time soon, some argue that
isolating the country only makes matters worse.
"I think tourism certainly benefits the average people in the street,"
says Wheeler. "I think it is possible that visitors can serve a valuable
purpose as observers. Would anybody have known about Tiananmen Square if
a similar event had taken place in the years when China was totally
Indeed, say opponents of the boycott, if you're going to blacklist
Burma, shouldn't you also boycott other countries with poor human-rights
records? No, says Mahon. "The argument is that Burma is a special case
for a number of important reasons: Because of the scale of human-rights
abuses directly connected to tourism, because tourism dollars are
helping prolong the life of an illegitimate regime, and because the
country has an elected government which has specifically asked all
tourists to stay away."
That's a reference to Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League
for Democracy, who has said that tourists should not visit Burma. Suu
Kyi has dismissed as "patronizing" suggestions that Burma's people can
only benefit from contacts with outsiders--and that Western tourists can
help promote democracy by spreading new ideas. "Burmese people know
their own problems better than anyone else," she wrote in Tourism
Concern's In Focus magazine. "To suggest that there's anything new that
tourists can teach the people of Burma about their own situation is not
just patronizing--it's also racist." Such views are echoed by other
veterans of the Burmese opposition. "For the government, tourism is a
great PR exercise," says Aung Zaw, a Burmese journalist in exile in
Thailand. "It demonstrates to the world and its foes that the country is
safe and secure because tourists are coming."
Tourists, indeed, are coming. In 1995, Burma received 117,000 tourists,
the World Tourism Organization, which defines tourists as overnight
visitors. By 1999, the most recent year for which figures are available,
that figure had risen to just over 198,000. Most of those came from Asia
(see chart)--with almost 33,000 from Taiwan. (That figure, however, may
be inflated by business people taking advantage of cheap tourist
packages). So it's perhaps ironic that the debate over the rights and
wrongs of visiting Burma is seldom raised by Taiwanese visitors.
According to Rolland Yang of Taipei's Hong Yi Travel Agency, most
visitors from Taiwan know little about human-right issues in Burma.
Visiting the country does little to change their perceptions, he adds,
as tourists tend to find Burma--at least on the surface--relatively calm
and peaceful. Susan Su, of Toshin Travel Services, agrees, and adds that
visitors from Taiwan are usually more concerned with whether Burma is
safe and with what they can bring in and out.
Such views, of course, are music to the ears of Burma's generals, who
are keen to promote the country's tourism business as a means of
bringing in hard currency. While economic data from Burma is notoriously
unreliable, it's still possible to get some sense of the value of
tourism. According to the World Tourism Organization, tourism receipts
were worth $35 million in 1999. Exports, by contrast, were worth 7.03
billion kyat--that's $1.2 billion based on the official exchange rate
for the kyat, but just $19.5 million based on the then-prevailing
blackmarket exchange rate. The hopes pinned on the tourist business have
led to over-expansion: Between 1995 and 1998, the number of hotel rooms
almost doubled to just under 14,000, the World Tourism Organization
says, and there's now a glut of space.
For many people, money is at the core of the Burma debate. According to
journalist Aung Zaw, "tourism revenue only lines the pockets of the
generals." He points to the existence of a range of state fees and
charges levied on tourists that make their way to the ruling SPDC.
Lonely Planet's Wheeler, though, rejects the "disinformation spread by
some of the boycott movement" that tourists must pay an entry charge
into Burma, though he acknowledges that tourists are still hit by a
compulsory exchange that forces them to buy $200 worth of
"That money from tourism helps finance the SPDC is without doubt," says
Hargreave, "but it also helps many Burmese make a living." While
Hargreave has his own reservations about the ethics of visiting Burma,
he fears that a dramatic decline of revenues would hit ordinary Burmese
and force the state to pursue other--possibly less acceptable--ways of
Both Wheeler and Hargreave agree that if visitors are concerned about
contributing revenues to the Burmese state, the best solution is simply
to spend as little as possible and try to avoid state-owned
establishments. "It is ironic that by spending less, a tourist is likely
to benefit the general Burmese more," says Hargreave. "Whether the
average Burmese would benefit more politically if tourists were to spend
nothing at all, however, is a question that is likely to remain
David Lu in Taipei contributed to this article
Daily Star (Bangladesh): AB Bank CEO meets Myanmar central bank governor
C M Koyes Sami, President and CEO of Arab Bangladesh Bank Limited, along
with Arif Quadri, Vice President, recently visited Myanmar to oversee
the operation of the bank's representative office in Myanmar, says a
They also called on Kyaw Kyaw Maung, Governor of the central bank of
Myanmar, to discuss business development between the two countries. Sami
apprised the governor that LCs generally opened in Bangladesh to import
commodities from Myanmar are usually advised by the banks in Singapore,
resulting in high cost of merchandise and loss of valuable time for the
Bangladeshi importers and as well as the exporters of Myanmar.
To overcome the situation, he emphasised allowing the bank's
representative office to handle LC advising and bill discounting
facilities with approval of the central banks of both countries.
U Than Lwin, Deputy Governor and Chief of Foreign Exchange of the
central bank, Myanmar, assisted the governor Mahmudur Rahman,
Representative of ABBL in Myanmar, was also present during this
Later in the evening, Sami attended a dinner party at a local hotel
arranged in honour of bankers and leading businessmen and elites of
Myanmar. Sami also placed some suggestions before Myanmar exporters
regarding the difficulties being faced by the importers of Bangladesh.
Bangkok Post: Thai firm loses millions in Burma bushfire
A bushfire in Burma destroyed a thousand logs worth millions of baht
owned by a Thai firm, border sources said.
The fire spread across the forest opposite Ban Mae Ngao in Khun Yuam
district and burned down timber owned by Polpana Co.
The commander of the 337th battalion, told to guard the timber, is under
investigation. The logs were among those left stranded in Burma after
the Salween logging scandal.
Polpana Co, FA Pharmaceutical, B&F Goodrich and Thai-Korean Veterans'
Welfare Co have been trying to haul back the timber since 1996.
The fire is another financial blow to log importers who have already
lost more than one million baht from the delays.
International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General
Workers' Unions: Burma Pull-out Urged
10 May 2001
Burma Disinvestment Campaign:
Unocal Shareholder Lobby as Unions Step up World Action
Pressure to end forced labour in Burma and restore democracy has been
stepped up by the 20-million-strong International Federation of
Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM).
In the USA, the ICEM today urged shareholders of energy multinational
Unocal to support two Burma-related resolutions on human rights and
ethical conduct, to be voted on at the company's upcoming May 21
Meanwhile, ICEM Asia-Pacific has launched a poster, leaflet and
Internet campaign to rally support for the Burmese workers. It says
that unions in the region should ask companies to pull out of Burma,
and should, if necessary, prepare to organise consumer boycotts of any
firms that refuse to do so.
"The ICEM has consistently pressed multinational companies in its
industries to withdraw from Burma until full democracy and human
rights, including trade union rights, are restored there," commented
ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs in Brussels today. "Through the US
shareholder lobby, the Asia-Pacific action and other means, we are now
intensifying that campaign."
Investigations by the UN's International Labour Organisation had
"shown beyond any shadow of a doubt that the use of forced labour in
Burma is as systematic as it is brutal," Higgs said. "The ILO has
advised companies, states and international organisations to review
their relations with Burma, so as to ensure that they do not in any
way support or condone forced labour.
"We once again call upon all companies in our sectors to disinvest
from Burma," he said. "This applies not least to those oil and gas
corporations whose continued presence there is helping to prop up one
of the world's most repressive regimes.
"Any company that continues to do business with the Burmese junta will
do itself great discredit," Higgs pointed out. "So will any company
that continues to do business with the Burmese state oil company MOGE,
which has helped to launder the money generated by the junta's
worldwide trafficking of illegal narcotics."
AMERICAN SHAREHOLDER LOBBY
In the US, the first of the ICEM-backed resolutions for the Unocal
annual meeting is sponsored by the LongView Collective Investment Fund
of the Amalgamated Bank of New York, which is a shareholder. It urges
the Unocal board of directors to adopt, implement and enforce a code
of conduct based on the ILO's trade union rights conventions.
The second resolution, sponsored by shareholders Maryknoll Fathers and
Brothers, the Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility, As You
Sow Foundation and Walden Asset Management, urges the Unocal board of
directors to appoint a special committee of the board to review ways
to link executive compensation with the company's ethical and social
In a letter sent today to Unocal's top 100 institutional investors,
Kenneth Zinn, ICEM North American Regional Coordinator, said that "by
adopting exemplary standards of corporate governance and best global
practices in human rights in the workplace, the company will be taking
significant measures to enhance shareholder value."
Zinn pointed out that over the past two years, Unocal shares have
fallen more than five percent compared with a 69 percent gain for its
industry peer group, and that the company's uneven exploration record
has raised concerns for its financial future.
Unocal has received significant criticism over its investments in
Burma. It is a participant in a 1.2 billion US dollar joint venture
with the Burmese government in the Yadana gas pipeline, a project on
which forced labour is alleged to have been used.
A law suit against Unocal by Burmese plaintiffs in a US district court
in California was dismissed last August but is currently under appeal.
Judge Ronald Lew stated in his opinion: "The evidence does suggest
that Unocal knew that forced labour was being utilised and the Joint
Venturers (including Unocal) benefited from the practice."
"If Unocal truly implemented a workplace code of conduct that fully
complied with the ILO conventions, it would have to pull out of
Burma," said the ICEM's Kenneth Zinn today. "The outlawed trade unions
and the democratic movement in Burma have called for foreign companies
to withdraw, and Unocal should follow the example of the many other
companies that have pulled out of that country."
The full text of the ICEM's letter to Unocal shareholders is online
"There can be no human rights without trade union rights in Burma,"
the ICEM Asia-Pacific campaign insists.
The campaign is online on the ICEM Asia-Pacific website at:
ICEM Asia-Pacific is also distributing posters and leaflets on rights
abuses in Burma. Unions in each country should decide the most
appropriate forms of action, it says. Four basic action points are
- Seek wider support: "Ask the trade union movement in your country to
participate fully in this campaign. Ask your government to publicly
condemn the military regime of Burma and to pledge support to the
trade union movement in the fight for change in Burma. Ask employer
organisations and employers that your union works with to do the
- Target companies that trade with Burma: "Check if any of the
companies that your union has members at trades with Burma. If they
do, ask that they stop doing so until real change is achieved in
Burma. Be prepared to expose them publicly if they refuse and run a
campaign to boycott their goods."
- Protest: "Write letters of protest to the Burmese authorities in
your country. Press the trade union movement to organise rallies and
demonstrations outside their Embassy. Use the media in your campaign."
- Education: "Make sure that union members are aware and involved in
the campaign. Get their support for the restoration of union rights
and the end of forced labour in Burma. Raise the issue at union
meetings. Ask the membership to pass resolutions supporting the trade
GLOBAL UNION CAMPAIGN
The ICEM action is part of a wider Burma campaign by the world trade
union movement as a whole. At a special conference in Tokyo this
March, union internationals agreed to step up the pressure.
More details are available online from the International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions at:
Bangkok Post: Incursions not worth a war, says Chavalit
May 10, 2001.
Military determined to push them back
Wassana Nanuam and Subin Khuenkaew
The defence minister confused and frustrated front line troops
yesterday, saying repeated incursions by Burmese and Red Wa soldiers on
Thai soil were a very small matter and should not be taken seriously.
Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said insurgents who occupied Hua Lone hill saw
it as a vantage point in the defence of Takhi outpost in Burma against
the Shan State Army, and should be allowed time to withdraw.
Soldiers along the border said they did not understand how the defence
minister could even suggest Thai soil was not worth fighting for.
Army chief Gen Surayud Chulanont insisted the military would force the
intruders off Hua Lone hill and back across the border.
"The hill belongs to Thailand and we have to push them out regardless of
whatever reasons they might have [for the intrusion]," he said.
"We have a duty to fight, while our superiors have a duty to negotiate
and take diplomatic action. "Fighting can take place while negotiations
go on," he said.
Gen Chavalit said if the intruders did not retreat, the township border
committee in Burma would be notified. If they remained on Thai soil
after a given period, then Thai soldiers could open fire and drive them
out-after notifying the nearest Burmese military unit.
Gen Surayud said a protest had already been passed to Burma's township
border committee and to the Burmese military attache in Bangkok.
Burmese and United Wa State Army soldiers have occupied Hua Lone hill
near Ban Norlae in Fang district of Chiang Mai, remaining put despite an
Following Gen Chavalit's remarks, an all-out attack to drive them out,
planned for yesterday, was put on hold and the shelling of the hill came
to a halt.
Gen Chavalit said there was no doubt the army was ready for combat. But
the intrusion by 20-30 soldiers a couple of hundred metres into Thailand
was of little significance because relations between Thailand and Burma
had considerably improved.
"People became excited after reading the news and seeing pictures. In
fact, it was nothing," he said.
Asked if the repeated intrusions by ethnic minority soldiers, allies of
Rangoon, was with permission from Burma, Gen Chavalit said: "With such
permission or not, no matter what, we have to try to prevent such
occurrences. We have to resort to negotiations."A settlement could be
reached in just a few days, and the tensions that had arisen since Feb 7
might just go away as if nothing had ever happened.
On Feb 8, Burmese soldiers moving against Shan State Army rebels seized
a Thai ranger outpost near Ban Pang Noon in Chiang Rai's Mae Fa Luang
The military responded by shelling the outpost and dislodged the
Burmese, inflicting heavy casualties.
The Burmese retaliated by shelling Mae Sai border town with mortars,
killing three Thai civilians. Following the incident, border checkpoints
in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and Tak provinces were closed.
Gen Chavalit recalled a Thai-Burmese dispute over Hill 419 in Chumphon
district many years back. The two sides exchanged artillery fire for
nearly seven days for nothing, he said-implying it was not worth it for
both sides to resort to violent action.
Third Army soldiers yesterday expressed frustration at Gen Chavalit's
One officer said he was disappointed with Gen Chavalit. He was surprised
that the defence minister, who was once the army commander, could make
such remarks. It would certainly demoralise soldiers on the front line.
"We've not fired a single shot today because we are professional
soldiers and are taught to obey the orders of our commanders," said the
Pha Muang task force officer.
The Third Army's planned offensive against the intruding forces at Hua
Lone hill was called off yesterday pending further instructions from
The Pha Muang task force, which is in charge of security along the
border area opposite Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, had planned to launch a
full scale offensive to dislodge the Burmese forces from the hill.
Another junior officer said it was his duty to protect the country. He
said he and his men were disheartened by Gen Chavalit's comments.
"We were taught we must sacrifice our lives for the country if need be,
and not to give an inch of our land to the enemy," he said.
"But our defence minister is trying to convince us that the seized
territory was not worth fighting for. "As a defence minister how could
he make such a remark?"
Col Chucheep Srisomboon, the Third Army spokesman, said the intruding
forces were still occupying Thai territory.
It was the army's duty to dislodge them.
He declined to comment directly on Gen Chavalit's statement.
"What I can say is that Red Wa soldiers who are supported by the Burmese
military are still occupying our land and we have to push them back,"
Col Chucheep said.
The Nation: Air strikes possible as Wa troops hold ground
May 10, 2001
AIR FORCE ON ALERT: Air strikes possible as Wa troops hold ground
The Army yesterday continued its cat-and-mouse strategy in an effort to
dislodge some 50 Wa rebels from Hua Lone hill, but could change tactics
if the latter refuse a total withdrawal.
Army chief Surayudh Chulanont said ground troops backed by artillery and
mortar fire were able to retake some ground where the rebels had
retreated, but were still a long way from driving them off the hill,
some 400 metres inside the border of Fang district.
Surayudh said he was confident his troops would eventually retake the
Col Chucheep Srisomboon, chief of the Pha Muang Task Force civil
division, said the army had to switch from using infantry to retake the
hill as the insurgents held the higher ground.
The Air Force, meanwhile, has put jet fighters on standby in case an air
strike is needed.
"At this stage we believe that the ground troops can handle the
situation," said Royal Air Force commander ACM Pong Maneesilp.
Pong said that, if necessary, jet fighters from Chiang Mai-based Wing 41
will be used, supported by F-16s from Wing 4 from Nakhon Sawan, and Wing
One from Nakhon Ratchasima and F-5s from Ubon Ratchathani, Surathani and
The Army has lodged a protest over the incident with the Burmese
Township Border Committee and the Burmese military attache in Bangkok
but has not received a reply.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Norachit Singhaseni yesterday urged Burma to
take responsibility for the insurgency at Hua Lone Hill.
Norachit cited the agreement, reached with Rangoon during Foreign
Minister Surakiart Sathirathai's trip last week, that the two sides
would abide by the facts in resolving any border flare-up.
He said Thailand had a legitimate right to use force to repel any
The Pha Muang Task Force started to shell the rebels, who have held the
hill since Monday.
In a joint operation with Burmese troops last week, they successfully
retook nearby Hua Nok hill and other two bases from the Shan State Army
No casualties have been reported in the area, which is about 780
kilometres north of Bangkok. The Army has accused Burmese troops of
using artillery to support the Wa fighters on Thai soil.
In Rangoon, Lt Col San Pwint, a senior military intelligence officer,
said Burmese troops had only fired warning shots. He claimed that the
"ethnic militia" occupying the hill had retreated on Tuesday night. He
did not identify the militia.
The Burmese side also said the location of the hill was disputable as
the two countries use different maps of the border.
"The incident has clearly shown that Burmese troops are supporting the
Wa, because the Wa rebels do not have such heavy artillery," said Col
Somkuan Saengpattaranetr, an Army spokesman.
In a related move, another group of Rangoon-backed ethnic rebels clashed
for a second time with Thai troops at Molithai village. An initial clash
last week resulted in the deaths of three civilians on the Thai side.
Border authorities said eight fighters from the Democratic Karen
Buddhist Army had entered the village in the Phop Phra district of Tak
and headed toward the military outpost. The firefight lasted 10
minutes before the rebels retreated into Burma. No casualties were
AP: Wa fighters retreat from hilltop after heavy Thai assault
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ In a show of strength, a Thai F-16 fighter jet
flew along the Thai-Myanmar border after the army said Thursday it had
driven out a group of ethnic guerrillas allied to the Myanmar regime
from a disputed hill.
Thai army spokesman Col. Somkuan Saengpattaranetr told The Associated
Press that a single jet flew two sorties at the border. He said the
fighters of the United Wa State Army withdrew from Hua Lone hill late
Wednesday after coming under heavy bombardment from the Thai army.
Thailand claimed that between 30 and 60 men had encroached on its
territory. Myanmar said the location of the hill was disputed as the two
countries use different maps. The incident has deepened the rift
between Thailand and Myanmar, whose relations are at the lowest point in
years after their armed forces clashed at the mountainous border in
The United Wa State Army reached a cease-fire with the Myanmar military
junta in 1989. It has virtual autonomy in a swathe of the country's
eastern Shan State and is widely believed to be a major producer of
A senior Myanmar government official, speaking on customary condition
of anonymity, said Thursday the ``ethnic militia did not retreat but
withdrew to a more strategic position further inside Myanmar
territory.'' He did not identify the militia.
Yet in a sign of continuing tensions, state-owned Thai News Agency said
that the air force had staged an airstrike at another hill along the
The air force and the army denied this, describing loud noises and
shaking felt by local people twice Thursday morning as sonic booms of
the F-16 on a routine mission.
Thailand said it fired dozens of artillery and mortar rounds to
dislodge the Wa fighters on the hill, located about 780 kilometers (475
miles) north of Bangkok.
Lt. Col. Peeranet Kethem, of Pha Muang border task force, cited
unconfirmed Thai intelligence and field reports that 20 Wa guerrillas
were killed and 22 others injured.
But Somkuan, the army spokesman, said soldiers have to make sure the
area does not have land mines before they reach the hill, ``so I cannot
confirm the casualty report.''
Bilateral disputes over demarcation of the frontier are common, but
relations have become severely strained, principally because of the
trafficking of methamphetamines and heroin from border regions of
Myanmar to Thailand.
According to Thai and U.S. narcotics experts, the Wa army is the
leading producer of illegal drugs in Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle.
Myanmar denies Thailand's contention that it uses the Wa army as its
proxy and does little to stop the drugs trade.
Myanmar accuses Thailand of helping ethnic rebels fighting military
AFP: European Union expected to give rare visa to Myanmar minister
BANGKOK, May 10 (AFP) - The European Union is expected to
allow a Myanmar minister to attend a UN meeting in Brussels this month,
in a rare exception to its ban on visits by
leaders from the military-run country, officials said
The German embassy in Yangon, which represents Belgium in
the military-run country, confirmed that Minister of
National Planning and Economic Development
U Soe Tha planned to attend a conference on the Least
"Yes he has applied (for a visa)," a spokeswoman told AFP. European
Union officials here said the bloc's five-year-old ban on giving visas
to senior figures in the Myanmar junta was likely to be waived in this
"As it's a UN conference there's a certain access guarantee for whoever
is participating and so it would therefore circumvent the restrictions
in place for senior Burmese ministers going to the EU," a spokesman
"In this case this should be applied, as it has been several times in
UN sources here said nations which agree to host UN conferences are
compelled to accept all members of the global body regardless of their
These "host country agreements" are usually negotiated months or years
in advance and also apply to meetings at UN headquarters in New York.
However, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU),
which has campaigned against the widespread practice of forced labour in
Myanmar, has appealed to Brussels to ban U Soe Tha from entering the
"It is unacceptable that the junta member, who is blacklisted on the
European Union list against Burmese officials, be given a visa to enter
Belgium," it said in a statement.
"Belgium's access obligations as the host of a UN conference (should
not) overrule the ethnical principles included in the European Union
The ICFTU said it had sent a letter to Belgian Foreign affairs Minister
Louis Michel calling on him to ensure that the German authorities
refused U Soe Tha's visa application. "Burma could still send a
delegation to the UN conference
that did not include blacklisted junta officials," it said, using
Myanmar's former name.
The controversy over U Soe Tha's visit comes as the international
community is maintaining a close watch on secret talks between Myanmar's
democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta which began in October.
The generals in Yangon have made a series of modest concessions since
the dialogue started, including ordering the official media to cease its
vicious routine attacks on the Nobel peace laureate.
Nations usually highly critical of the regime, particularly the United
States and the EU member nations, have held back from heaping further
pressure on its leaders as they wait to see the outcome of the process.
However, in recent weeks observers in Yangon have said that the talks
appear to have run into trouble, as dissenting factions within the
military baulk at the prospect of far-reaching reforms.
Govt of Japan: Reply to Questions about Burma on ODA, Forced Labor and
[BurmaNet adds: Under the Japanese Parliamentary system, Mps can submit
written questions to the government which the government has to answer.
Yasuku Takemura, a Member of the Japanese Parliament and of PD Burma
submitted questions on Japanese development aid to Burma, forced labor
and Suzuki?s activities in Burma. This is the response to those
questions as translated by PD Burma-Japan. PD Burma is a league of
parliamentarians from around the world who support the movement to
restore democracy in Burma.]
Reply to the questionnaire submitted by Ms. Yasuko Takemura, PD Burma
member Translated by PD Burma-Japan
To: Mr. Yutaka Inoue
Chairperson of the House of Councillors,
Prime Minister of Japan
April 20th, 2001
Re: Questionnaire by Yasuko Takemura, a member of the House of
Councillors, regarding the policy of Japanese government on Myanmar
1, We think highly of the direct dialogue between the Government Myanmar
and Aung San Suu Kyi which started from December of Heisei 12th, as an
important step toward democracy in Myanmar. To bring this dialogue,
there has been preserved effort by the international society including
Japan, especially by Mr. Razali Ismail, Special Envoy of UN Secretary
General. We will continue to encourage Myanmar to put effort towards
democracy through various channels by co-operating with Mr. Razali
The article in the New York Times indicates that the Government of Japan
is going to resume its total Aid, which has been ceased since Showa
63rd. The dialogue is the main reason. However, regarding development
Aid to Myanmar, we had been practising under the scheme of case-by-case
bases such as continuous programs and basic human needs programs, which
directly benefit the people, by having the democratisation and human
right situation in our mind. There have been no plans to change this
policy, nor to resume the total Aid.
2, The Government of Japan replied to the letter from Mr. Juan Somavia,
General Secretary of ILO as follows;
1) The relation between Japan and Myanmar does not include conducting
forced labour in Myanmar, directly or indirectly. There have been no
Japanese programs, which are involved in forced labour practices.
2) The Government of Japan hopes the forced labour problem in Myanmar
will be solved as soon as possible. For this purpose, we hope
constructive dialogue between Myanmar and ILO will be taken in its
3) It is not the fact that the office of ôMyanmar economical adjustment
task forceö is existing in the building of the Ministry of Economy
Planning in Myanmar. Regarding the symposium of ôPromotion of Investment
to new ASEAN entriesö, it was held for the purpose of promoting
co-operation between Japan and ASEAN. It aims to encourage investment
from Japan to the new ASEAN members: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and
Vietnam, to adjust the economical difference and to support the
integration process in ASEAN. It does not have any factors to conduct
forced labour in Myanmar.
Regarding the development Aid to Myanmar, we had been practised under
the scheme of case-by-case bases, such as continuous programs and basic
human needs programs, which directly benefit the people, by the
democratisation and human right situation in our mind. This scheme is
depend on the ODA charter (approved by the cabinet in June 30, Heisei
4th), to pay attention to promoting democratisation in developing
countries, ensuring the basic human rights and freedom. The ODA has been
enforced by considering every aspect of the requests by the
counterparts, economical and societal situation, and bilateral
relations. Japan does not suppress the direct investment on Myanmar by
Japanese private investors. The Government of Japan thinks it will
benefit the democratisation process in Myanmar to have various ties
between international societies.
4, We understand that Suzuki Corporation is producing daily- life- use
of two-wheeled vehicles (125cc) and four-wheeled vehicles (1000cc) by
establishing Myanmar Suzuki Corporation together with Myanmar Auto
Diesel Industry Corporation (MADI) and other two enterprises. The
Government of Japan thinks the direct investment on Myanmar will promote
the democratisation process in Myanmar to have various ties between
international society. We think this will be applied on the venture
businesses between Japanese private enterprises and the public sectors
ICFTU: Labor groups opposed to the entry in Belgium of Burmese Junta
ICFTU and FGTB opposed to the entry in Belgium of Burmese Junta official
Brussels May 09 2001 (ICFTU OnLine): The International Confederation of
Free Trade Unions has learn from reliable sources that a member of the
Burmese junta, U Soe Tha, Minister of National Planning and Economic
Development, has applied to German consular authorities for a Schengen
visa (Belgium does not have an embassy in Rangoon). His intention is to
attend the Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries
scheduled to take place from May 14-20 in Brussels.
For the ICFTU and its Belgian affiliate, the FGTB, it is unacceptable
that the Junta member, who is blacklisted on the European Union list
against Burmese official, be given a visa to enter Belgium.
For this reason, the FGTB addressed a letter to the Belgian Minister for
Foreign Affairs, Louis Michel to call on him to use all the resources of
the Schengen procedures available to him, to request the German
authorities to refuse the Junta member's entry. Mindful of Belgium's
access obligations as the host of a UN Conference, the ICFTU and FGTB
insist that these obligations must not overrule the ethical principles
included in the European Union Position of April 2000(1). The FGTB
pointed out to the Minister that Burma could still send a delegation to
the UN Conference that did not include blacklisted Junta officials.
Moreover, the ICFTU, in its edition of May of its monthly magazine,
"Trade Union World", provides details of the secret misinformation
campaign operated by the Burmese junta to attempt to avoid pressures
applied by the ILO, on its widespread and continuous use of forced
labour. The copy of an SPDC memorandum, exclusively in the hands of the
ICFTU, labels the ICFTU, along with several western countries, as
"enemies" of the junta for their continuous pressure on Rangoon to make
democratic changes and to end forced labour practices.
(1) Council Common Position Point 5
(b) amended 26 April 200
"in order to prevent the entry into, and transit through, the territory
of the Member States by senior members of the State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC), Burmese authorities in the tourism sector,
senior members of the military, the Government or the security forces
who formulate, implement or benefit from policies that impede
Burma/Myanmar's transition to democracy, no visas for entry or transit
shall be issued to any persons, whose names are listed in the Annex and
their families. (the name of U Soe Tha appears)
Radio Pakistan: Chief executive reports to cabinet meeting on Burma,
May 9, 2001 4:39pm
The chief executive briefed the cabinet on his recent visit to Myanmar
[Burma] and Vietnam. He said that he had explained the Kashmir issue to
both the leaders of Myanmar and Vietnam. Now they understand the issue
in its correct perspective. They believe that Kashmir problem needs to
be resolved through dialogue between India and Pakistan. The chief
executive said understanding of Myanmar and Vietnam on Afghan issue is
now realistic as a result of our meetings. Describing the visit
extremely successful, the chief executive directed the Ministry of
Commerce to identify areas of bilateral trade to enhance the economic
cooperation with both the countries.
Source: Radio Pakistan, Islamabad, in English 1600 gmt 9 May 01
Mizzima: Burmese hunger-strikers face imminent arrest
The 24 Burmese asylum-seekers who have been staging a hunger strike for
the third consecutive day today face the imminent arrest of the local
police as no agreement has reached yet between the UNHCR office and the
The UNHCR office in New Delhi has informed the protestors that it will
start interviewing some cases from Monday onwards and the results will
be out as soon as possible. However, UNHCR has not given any assurance
to the protestors that all of them will get the refugee status.
Speaking to Mizzima News Group, one of the hunger strikers said that
they would continue the strike until all of them are granted refugee
status and monthly subsistence allowance by the UNHCR.
The Burmese started their ôindefiniteö hunger strike on May 8, claiming
that UNHCR has neglected their plight for protection. They said that
they left Burma due to the repression of the military government in
Meanwhile, the local police officials (Lodhi Police) have warned the
protestors that they will have to take necessary action if the
protestors do not call off their hunger strike by this evening.
Entering into the third day of the hunger strike, the health of the
Burmese protestors, which include a six-month old baby have started
deteriorating. A Raja Sabha (Upper House) Member of Parliament and a
senior journalist Mr. Kuldip Nayar visited the place and met the Burmese
asylum-seekers this afternoon.
Myanmar Information Committee (SPDC): Thai Troops Shells Ethnic Militia
Position On The Border
May 10 2001
The Myanmar border security forces recaptured Pachee monitoring post on
3rd of May which was overrun on 22nd April by the Shan United
Revolutionary Army (SURA) drug bandits with the support and assistance
of the army of a neighbouring country.
Pachee monitoring post was established since 1988 when the Myanmar
border security forces managed to take the position from the Wa
National Army (WNA) in a military operation in its fight against drug
bandits. Since then, the WNA has shifted its camps and these camps are
being given sanctuary inside Thailand along the common border with
Myanmar. This is also an ethnic Wa group being together with Ywet Sit?s
(SURA), Bo MyaÆs-Kayin National Union (KNU) and Byar Yare?s breakaway
faction of Kayinni National Progressive Party which had in 1995 come to
a peace agreement with the Myanmar Government. Regretfully, all these
groups are now being given sanctuary and refuge inside Thailand
together with the remnants of the KMT which had also set up a number of
their own camps along the Thai side of the common border and have been
heavily involved in drug activities: smuggling restricted goods,
procurement of innocent
child-women and women for exploitation elsewhere and committing many
other criminal activities such as forcefully taking over of a foreign
embassy, a civilian hospital and jail-breaking as well in Thailand.
Even though Thailand is being unbelievably quick and active in defending
these groups as freedom fighters cum drug busters but the reality lies
in how and where these groups get funds to support their activities
including procurement of arms to fight the Myanmar Government and
terrorize the local people residing in those areas. It is quite obvious
that they are not involved in any legal businesses leaving them
resorting only to survive on the illegal and criminal activities along
the common border. Some observers claim that this can be possible only
if the Thai authorities do not support and fund these criminal
organizations to pursue its own hidden agenda.
During the fight to retake Pachee monitoring unit from SURA late last
month, this strategic hillock which the Thai side is now claiming to be
theirs, was an outpost from which the SURA was providing shelling
against those who were trying to recapture Pachee. After Pachee fell to
the Myanmar border and security units, the SURA from this hillock
together with those from Pachee simultaneously left their outpost and
retreated into the Thai territory. Since then, the Myanmar authorities
have re-established Pachee monitoring unit and are once again taking
the responsibility of monitoring and preventing armed bandits and drug
traffickers from carrying out nefarious acts while some local ethnic
militias have also taken this strategic hillock to prevent unscrupulous
elements from carrying out illegal activities and terrorizing the
locals in that area.
It is indeed difficult to understand why the Thai authorities are
shelling this hillock and claiming that it is suddenly theirs.
According to their own statement and much publicized policy, the Thai
authorities have clearly stated that it is their policy not to allow
any armed groups to exploit Thailand by utilizing its territory to
terrorize and attack any neighboring country. Their claim on this
hillock seems to contradict their own stated policy and the Myanmar
authorities are quite confused. It is our hope that the Thai
authorities avoid the "knee-jerk" policy and cooperate in resolving any
outstanding issue through quiet diplomacy and also stop providing
support and assistance to criminal organizations, utterly being the
main cause for all the unnecessary and unhappy conditions that both
nations are unavoidably encountering at present.
The New light of Myanmar (SPDC): The wicked scheme
Thursday, 10 May, 2001
Uncle Phyo: So early
Po Khwa. What do you want to know? Come, take your seat.
Po Khwa: How are you Uncle Phyo? Nothing very new. I have my friends
here as they want to accompany me. Many persons including my friends
are interested in the incident at Myanmar-Thai border. Everybody at the
cafs is talking about this matter.
Phyo: What do you want to know? Come, let's enjoy green tea while we
Khwa: My friends are asking me. In the recent Pachee incident, they are
the intruders, and yet they are making accusation against us concerning
the drug problem. They must be hypocritical.
Phyo: Yes, it is the case of the thief shouting " Stop thief!" During
the attack on the outpost in our territory, Ywet Sit's opium smuggling
group was placed in the forefront for show and followed by Thai troops
from the rear; searchlights were projected from the Thai military base
and heavy weapons and small arms supporting fire was launched from the
base in the other country. The Pachee outpost was seized by the
Tatmadaw from opium smuggling insurgents during the Moe Hein military
operation in about 1988 to control and stop the flow of drugs into
Myanmar. So, it is clear why they launched a desperate attack to
reoccupy the outpost. They want to relocate the opium trafficking
insurgents, who are being raised and supported by them, at the outpost.
Khwa: Oh! Uncle Phyo, the outpost is in our territory. They shouldn't
have done like this.
Phyo: What I mean is their way of doing things. The Ywet Sit group which
arrived at the outpost bringing along with them narcotic drugs to the
camp and then made allegations. Such slanderous acts are not new.
Khwa: Yes, their attitude towards Myanmar is not sincere.
Phyo: Besides, their TV channels and dailies reported on the Pachee
Khwa: Because its not their domestic affair.
Phyo: They placed their adopted sons in the forefront. Recently, a Thai
military camp fired with heavy weapons and small arms on our BP-1 camp
all day long.
Khwa: Concerning the Pachee outpost, didn't we launch a retaliatory
attack? It's in our territory.
Phyo: But they did. Our Tatmadaw never intrudes upon or insults any
country. And it never accepts any intrusions. It always counters all
aggressions and it is attacking the intruders.
Khwa: Not long ago, accusations were made as if Wa people were engaging
in opium business in Mongyun region.
Phyo: That's an example. Wa ethnic people are conducting farming in
Mongyun region. Wa people have been living in the region since many
many years ago. I do not want to say whether Wa people were engaged in
opium business or not in the past. But now, the Wa people are gaining
success in implementing regional development and opium eradication
tasks with correct objectives under the leadership of the government.
They are making loud accusations as they are jealous of seeing the Wa
Khwa: Are the Thai army troops still firing at our camps?
Phyo: Yes, they are firing with heavy weapons on BP-1 camp and on the
Tatmadaw columns trying to recapture the Pachee outpost.
Besides, about 60 men of Ywet Sit group and 200 Thai army troops made a
night attack on BP-1 camp on 25 April.
Khwa: Did the camp fall?
Phyo: No. There were only 20 to 30 Myanmar soldiers at the camp. The
attacking force was made up of over 200 men, which was ten times greater
than our manpower. Over 500 heavy weapons shells were fired at the camp
from the Thai side. There were no deaths or injuries on our side. The
Tatmadaw showed its military calibre in the battle. The Pachee outpost
fell as they stabbed from the back while showing their cordiality in
the front; in reality, they took advantage of Myanmar's amity and trust
in attacking the outpost. They could not easily get into our territory
if they have to face Myanmar soldiers in an equal situation.
Khwa: What are our plans for the Pachee outpost?
Phyo: As our territory is intruded, we are launching attacks and heavy
weapons covering fire to recapture the outpost. As the area is so close
to the border, we have to take great care to make sure that not any of
our heavy weapons or small arms rounds landed inside other country's
territory. They said they had to fire about 20 rounds as warning shots
on our territory as our shells had landed inside their territory. In
reality, the number of rounds fired by them were many.
Khwa: They intruded into our territory and fired heavy weapons whenever
rounds landed in their territory. They have gone too far.
Phyo: There is a plot. They are firing with heavy weapons and launching
attacks on Myanmar side to intentionally provoke us; they are also
floating fabrications in attacking our nation; and when our nation
cannot tolerate any more and strike back, they will say that an
internal problem has led to regional instability and that the crisis is
concerned with narcotic drugs. They are trying to create the problem in
accord with the wish of their masters.
Khwa: Anyhow, they should respect each other's sovereignty.
Phyo: Your knowledge is improving
Po Khwa. Concerning the narcotic drugs, our nation has laid down and is
implementing the 15-year drug elimination project. But they are ignoring
our drug seizures and destructions. From my point of view, these are
the plots of the countries which want to manipulate Myanmar by applying
neo-colonialism. They are making the problem by accusing us of being
engaged in drug business.
Khwa: The other day, my friend who came from Tachilek told me that the
Thais had halted the machines at Maesai. These machinese were imported
by national people for a power station to be installed in Tachilek
Phyo: As it is a coal-burn power station, there were persons in the
other country who tried to block the project and others who staged
demonstrations against it. At last, the machines were transported back
to Bangkok. They do not wish to see Myanmar developed. Because, if we
become developed, they will not get any raw materials and lose their
export market. They are afraid of losing raw materials and their export
Khwa: They are too bad and are opposited to the good-neighbourly
Phyo: Not only that. I have read on the Internet that an American team
would come to Thailand to give special anti-drug training; that a unit
was formed in northern Thailand last year; that about 30 instructors of
the American team were going to conduct the training; and that two
helicopters were bought for anti-drug purposes at the border.
Khwa: It seems that they are finding fault to give it as an excuse to
launch perpetrations against Myanmar.
Phyo: In the past they did such plots against Laos and Cambodia. But
beginning from early 2001, their attitude towards Myanmar has changed.
They have started to hatch plots to find faults and make insults on
Myanmar. But I would like to say that it is the duty of the entire
national people to maintain our reputation as good citizens and our
good-neighbourly practices. You too should not forget the duty and
should give suggestions to your friends and young men of your age to
view the Thai-Myanmar border problem with national outlook and should
discharge this duty.
Author :Po Khwa.
Freedom News (Shan State Army): Interview Confirms Junta's Involvement
In Narcotics Trade & Committing Extrajudicial Killings
10 May 2001
Interview With A Burmese Junta's Soldier
Confirmed Junta's Involvement In Narcotics Trade & Committing
An interview with a Burmese soldier from 385th Infantry Battalion who
had joined the SSA.
Q. May I know your name and your biography?
A. My name is Cho Lwin Oo, age 32, a Buddhist Burmese from the
delta region, in the town of Pa Thein Kone, district of Bassein ,
Irrawaddy (Ayeyawadi) division. My parents are U Kyaw and Daw Kyi Kyi
Win, and I am the elder of their two children. I left my younger sister
with my parents at Pa Thein Kone. As we are poor, I only managed to
complete primary school (4th standard).
Q. And what about your rank, post and your battalion?
A. I am an ordinary soldier and my private number is 177370. My
assigned battalion is 385th infantry battalion, based at Mo Ngyin (Mong
Yang) in the Kachin state. When I was posted there, the battalion was
160 strong in men including officers. Sergeant Maung Maung was my
platoon leader and Lieutenant Win Naing was my company leader. I had no
chance to learn the name of the battalion commander until I left the
Q. Where and when did you contact SSA?
A. In early 2001, I was sent to a front line, in central Shan
Sstate that covers Laikha, Murng Kerng, Pang Long and Kho Lam area. On
5th March 2001, when we were bivouacking near the camp of 515th infantry
battalion at Laikha, I deserted and on 11th March 2001 entered Wan Zing
tract. Later I managed to make contact and surrendered my arms to the
SSA's 758th Brigade.
Q. Why do you join the Burmese Army and again desert it?
A. Among the soldiers of the Burmese Army, 75 percent have been
forced as conscripts with less than 25 percent join on their own. I came
to know about this during my experience in the army. In about mid 2000,
I left home and went to Tavoy to find a job, where I got one in a
fishing boat. Near the end of August, our boat was hit by a storm and we
came to a port to repair. At Tavoy port, I was captured by the Burmese
soldiers as a porter. After I was locked up in their camp for one night,
I was sent to the Tavoy recruiting camp, with 16 other forced
conscripts. Some are jobless wanderers. Some poor peasants are promised
with good opportunity to join the army.
Q. >From there did they send you directly to the boot camp?
A. No, first we have to past the medical check up. The result came
out on 18th September 2000, with all of us passed. And on 19th September
we were enrolled into the army. From there we were sent to the No. 8
Military Training School (boot camp) at Shwe Bo, Sagaing division.
Q. Can you describe the life in the boot camp?
A. It's a strange and unexpected experience in my life. Although it
is a four and half month long course, we were made to break stones at
Ngar Twin Gyi village, Kant Balu township for one month. Each team
consists of 7-8 recruits for a quota of kyins per day (1 kyin = 100
cubic feet). Except 2 meals a day we had no other allowance. Breaking
stones in the quarry was very dangerous, there were accidents every day,
from minor injury to severe cases, such as broken limbs and fratured
skulls. If the victims became invalid, they are dismissed from the
Burmese Army and sent home. Therefore the actually training was only
three and a half month.
Q. And after that training?
A. After the training, we are sent to our assigned battalion. 10
men in our batch, including myself are sent to the 385th infantry
battalion, based at Nam Mar, Mo Ngyin district, Kachin state.
Q. Was there a definite term to serve the Burmese Army? A.
Before we were trained in the boot camp, we had to sign for 10 years
service, but by the end of the training the term became 30 years.
Q. Are there any under aged children in the training school or in
A. Not only in the training school, even in the army units, nearly
30 percent of the recruits are between age of 13 to 17. Any body who can
handle a rifle is considered good enough to be recognized as a soldier.
Age-limit is only written in the penal code.
Q. Was there a special assignment for you in your battalion?
A. At my base, my company leader assigned me to look after the
battalion's poppy fields. His reason was that I have had some experience
as a farmer in my home town.
Q. What do you mean, with the battalion's poppy fields?
A. Battalion's poppy fields means the opium poppy fields, which is
grown by members of the Tatmadaw (Burmese Army). According to the order
of the Northeastern Command, every battalion under this command must
grow opium, at least 50 acres per battalion. Preparing the soi and
planting seeds are done by forced labour, who are local people. Once it
is grown, members and families of the battalion take care of the poppies
until harvest time. The products of the battalions under the
Northeastern Command are gathered and sent to the markets in northern
Q. Are you saying that SPDC is now directly involved in illegal
A. Sure, every soldiers and local people in the areas are the
eye-witnesses of their involvement. Once, I was assigned to guard a
convoy bound for the Chinese border. There were six 4-wheels Toyota
trucks and 7 Mitsubishi Pajaro jeeps in the convoy carrying what my
superior said "important goods" that were "narcotic drugs and jade".
The officers receive in millions of kyats from each trip, but not a
penny for the common soldiers except kind meals served by the traders
along the journey. That was one of my first taste of discrimination in
the Burmese Army.
Q. Is there any drug sold or used by the men in your battalion?
A. When I was in the base, I did not see any soldier or NCOs using
or selling drugs. But for the officers, there were always drugs in every
ceremony or feasts after they had succeeded escorting a convoy. I have
seen some junior officers injecting heroin into their veins.
Q. What is the situation of discrimination in the Army?
A. We are totally discriminated from the officers. All ordinary
soldiers are taught only to obey orders, and to be satisfied with what
you are given. You must not complain about your surroundings. The pay
4,500 kyats is just enough for a uniform and after that, there is
nothing left for the whole month. So, we have to rely on home-shops,
sold by the wives of the officers. By the end of the month, your pay is
taken away by those debtors before it reaches your hands. It's like the
old Burmese saying, "Even though it is meant to be given but one has
never received it; Even if being fed, it is still not being
sufficiently done". That has been my life in the Burmese Army. Besides,
you have to work for the welfare and personal profits of the superiors.
Such dissatisfaction in the Army causes soldiers to abuse and rob the
defenseless people, once they reached the free-firing front lines.
Q. Have you ever been ordered to abuse the people as you like? Are
there such orders for other soldiers?
A. No, there are no such orders from my superiors. But they have
shown they way in oral and practice. For example, on reaching a village,
they show how to capture and have a victim, tortured and interrogated.
You can accuse the victim as you like and confiscate all his properties
before he is released or detained or executed. During these times, the
superiors turn blind-eye,if nothing was happening. In one incidence, I
ran into trouble with my column leader. It happened in February 2001,
when our column was patrolling around the town of Pang Long, we found a
family tethering their mules on the plain not far from Pang Long. This
family consistsof an elderly couple and their 10 year old daughter (or
probably grand daughter), who could not answer any of our question,
because they could not speak Burmese. These victims were bound and
dragged along. On reaching a village, the village headman beg for their
pardon to release them on bail. But the column leader refused to release
them. In that night, my company leader called me and said, a grave had
been dug and ordered me to kill these poor people. When I was
accompanying these people to their grave, a strang feeling filled my
mind, looking these old couple and the poor girl, they remind me of my
family in the delta region. I found that I could not kill them in cold
blood. So, I decided to release them on my own account. As there was no
much time, I could only manage to untied the old man and let them run
through the darkness. After they had disappeared in the darkness, I
fired a few rounds into the empty grave with my rifle and start to bury
with a shovel. Before I could finish my company found out what I had
done. He scolded and rebuked that he would kill me for not obeying the
order of the superiors. Since then our relationship became sour,
suspicion grows and we could not face each other. I believed, one day I
could be killed in action by bullets of our own men. This was one of my
cause for desertion.
Q. Would you tell us some of your battles?
A. I was in the Burmese Army only for five months, during this time
I had not fought a battle. As far as I know all these men of the Burmese
Army in the free-firing front line are spending most of their times by
bullying and looting the rural people.
Q. Is there discrimination between Burmese and non-Burmese groups
in the Burmese Army? What is your opinion on this? A. As an
ordinary Burmese I believe and accept that all non-Burmese people are
honest and equal with the Burmese. But in the Burmese Army, I have
learned well that non-Burmese people are regarded as inferior races. I
have seen some Arakans, Karens, Kachins and Chins in the Burmese Army,
but not a Shan. They may work hard but promotion and reward is not for
them. In the frontline we frequently receive orders saying that "a Shan
rebel or any person suspected of being a sympathizer must not be left
alive". These discriminations only create hatred among the races. It's
only the Burmese military junta themselves who are going against their
own stated vow of "not to allow the Union to disintegrate".
Q. Why do you desert the Burmese Army and on arrival in the SSA how
do you feel?
A. In truth, I deserte the Burmese Army, because I could not stand
the discrimination in the army and on other hand I do not wish to be a
cold blooded murderer or robber against innocent defenseless people. I
wish to be free from these tragedies, so I just left my post and
wandered deep to the jungle. When I reached Wan Zing tract, I was
exhausted due to lack of food and sleep. With fear in my heart, I had
managed to enter a small house and surrender my arms to the owner, whom
we could not understand each other due to language barrier. But he fed
me well with the meagre food he had and let me rest for the night. The
next day some men from SSA came to pick up me. The warm welcome of the
men and officers of the SSA made me feel the difference with the Burmese
Army. I knew at once SSA is not a bunch of non disciplined bandits. They
are fighting for their just rights representing their people.
Q. Have you any idea to call along some of your comrades, when you
A. You have no one to trust in the Burmese Army, because nobody
knows what is really in the mind of your close companion. Careless talks
could cause you trouble. But I dare say, all common soldiers share the
same dissatisfaction due to this discrimination and every body is
looking for a way out.
Q. What kind of a weapon did you carry at the time of desertion?
A. When I deserted, I brought with me what I was carrying, one MA1
rifle, 130 rounds of ammunition and 3 magazines.
Q. What do you wish to say to your comrades those are left behind?
A. Please stop your gang lying to the people. Don't lie any more
even with the order from your superiors. May you be blessed with a way
Q. What is your future plan?
A. In this time I need not to think twice. If I go back home, I may
be killed or spend the rest of my life in jail. I have devoted my life
to SSA and will do my best with my duty.
Q. Have you any hope of reunion with your family?
A. I hope, one day, if I am still alive I will join them. The lord
looks after the righteous one.
Q. Can you tell me the best and the worst thing SPDC has done? A.
Don't ask for the best, they have done nothing good. The worst is
their autocracies and discrimination committed against the non-Burmese
people. Narcotic drugs have become a large source of income for all
their units in the Burmese Army.
Q. And your opinion on SSA?
A. Tough I have not learnt about Shan history, I have found that
SSA is fighting to protect their people. The autocracies and
discrimination, committed by the Burmese Army alone is enough for Shans
to take up arms to protect their people. With a well recorded history,
the necessity of a well disciplined Shan Army is more than enough. I
hope Shan people will win the war against the evils and regain their
Q. Do you wish to say anything more? comment?
A. As long as discrimination is prevalent in the Burmese Army, there
will be no family spirit, in which we could live together in peace and
trust. Every Burmese loves his own nation, the same is with non-Burmese
people. What I hate and a am concerned most is the autocracy and
discrimination of the SPDC, which will cause inter-races hatred. Even
among our own Burmese there is such discrimination, it is many times
worse with non-Burmese people.
To all my comrades, we are all good Buddhist. We need not only care for
ourselves, we need to share the difficulty of others. Being born as a
human being, don't let your good deeds get lost by your inhuman deeds,
by the orders of the tyrants. There is a world with love and shining
hope, I pray for for you all that you find an escape from the world of
blood and tears.
Xinhua: Myanmar to Turn Northern Division into Rice Bowl
YANGON, May 10 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar is striving to turn the country's
northern Sagaing division into another rice bowl next to the Southern
Ayeyawaddy division by implementing more river pumped- water projects.
According to the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, river
pumped-water projects are now irrigating 392,850 hectares of crops at
present. At the time when all the projects in the division are
completed, they will irrigate up to 469,800 hectares of the crops.
Meanwhile, sown area in the division at present is 573,885 hectares, up
from 506,250 hectares in the past. According to official statistics,
irrigated area of Myanmar covers nearly 2 million hectares, accounting
for 21 percent of its cultivated land. The country's cultivable land
stretches 18.22 million hectares, of which 9.31 million hectares have
been utilized with 8.91 million hectares remaining to be reclaimed. The
statistics also show that Myanmar exported a total of 141, 600 tons of
rice in 2000, up 122 percent from 1999. The country's agriculture shares
37 percent of its gross domestic product and 25 percent of the export
value. To promote agricultural development, the Myanmar government has
exempted the import duties of agricultural implements including
fertilizer, pesticide, improved variety and machinery.
Free Burma Action Committee: Federal Police attack Burmese protest in
Canberra, linked to Burma visit
May 10, 2001
Federal Police last Friday, May 4, attacked a peaceful protest by 80
Burmese people and supporters outside the Burmese Military Embassy in
Yarralumla, on the pretext that the burning of the flag of the military
dictatorship was a threat to order.
At the same time, the AFP Director General, Michael Keelty and a police
delegation were in Rangoon (Yangon), where they visited the Criminal
Investigation Department and attended the opening of an Australian
Police Force Public Relations Office at the Australian Embassy. Keelty's
group flew home on May 5.
"The AFP became more aggressive to our protest to facilitate their
cooperation with the Burmese police and military regime," said Maung
Maung Than of the Free Burma Action Committee, who was among those
kicked and beaten by the police in Canberra.
"We call for a parliamentary inquiry into the attack by the AFP against
our protest on May 4, and for a parliamentary review of the AFP program
in Burma," said Maung Maung Than. "We appreciate the support of Wayne
Barry, Labor Leader in the ACT Legislative Assembly, and Jeremy Pyner of
the ACT Trades & Labor Council for an inquiry, and a formal police
apology to the Burmese community.
"The Australian government is making the same mistake in Burma that it
made in Indonesia and East Timor, by placing trust in a brutal military
dictatorship," said Maung Maung Than. "Instead of cooperating with and
legitimising these generals who have imposed forced labour on two
million Burmese people, the Australian government should join the global
movement to fully isolate and discredit the military dictatorship in
PD Burma: Burma Calendar
May 10, 2001
April 28-29th : Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai will visit
Burma to discuss bilateral issues including the drugs crisis ╖
April 30th : Informal meeting of ASEAN ministers, Rangoon
May 14th : Election in the Philippines
May 13-20th : UN LDC III, UN conference on the LDC-countries, Brussels
May 22th : Shareholder meeting for Total, Paris
May 27th : 11th Anniversary of the 1990 elected
May : ARF Senior Official Meeting, Hanoi
May 31th û June 1st :International Conference on Burma After The
Military Dictatorship, Berlin.
June : Meeting in the Governing Body of the ILO
June : Meeting of the Socialist International Council, Lisbon
June 8-10th : Burma Desk during the Italian Forum for Responsible
Tourism, Venice û Italy
More info., contact r.brusadin@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
June 19th : Aung San Suu Kyi birthday party and Burmese Women's Day
July : Belgium takes over EU Presidency
July : 8th RFA Ministerial Meeting, Hanoi
July : 34th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and Post-Ministerial Conference
July : ASEAN Summit
Aug. 31st- Sep.7th : World Conference against Racism and Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia and related
intolerance, South Africa
December 1st : Worlds Aids Day
December 10th : 10th Year Anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize for Aung
San Suu Kyi
February 2002 : The fourth Bangladesh, India, Burma, Sri Lanka and
Thailand-Economic Cooperation (BIMST-
EC) meeting, Colombo
Free Burma Coalition: Burma Action Conference 2001
Where: American University
Who to contact:
Free Burma Coalition
Or register online at www.freeburmacoalition.org
Conference Convenor: Pam Bertelson, AU-FBC
Come rock and plan for a free Burma! Join hundreds of students,
activists, academics, and friends of Burma's democracy movement from
around the world for the three day Burma Action Conference and concert
in Washington, DC. The conference will take place at American
University from September 21st-23rd, 2001.
We know that if you are interested in Burma, you are not the proverbial
historian who looks on as the train of history passes by! Burma presents
one of the most important and intriguing test cases to those who care
not only about individual liberties, indigenous communities, and
religious persecutions, as well as environmental concerns and labor and
women's rights--in short, social and economic justice for all.
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