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BurmaNet News: June 25, 2001

______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
        An on-line newspaper covering Burma 
         June 25, 2001   Issue # 1831
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________

*NY Times: Burmese Editor's Code-- Winks and Little Hints
*The Nation: Burmese overwhelm border checkpoint
*VOA News: Burma, Thailand Border Crossing Reopens
*Xinhua: Myanmar Reclaims 10,493 Hectares of Vacant Land

MONEY _______
*Asia Times: Myanmar feels sting over farm labor 
*AFP: Burma Said Revoking Money-Dealing Licenses in Bid to Stabilise 
*AFP: Six countries [including Burma] added to money laundering 
*The Nation: Account trade to go ahead

*Shan Herald Agency for News: Shan army leaders deny newspaper reports

*South China Morning Post: A war with no front

*Bankok Post: Army powerless to stop material for lignite plant-Chief 
urges talks on factory's relocation
*BurmaNet News: Thai Police Crack Down on Burma exile groups

*Bangkok Post: Editorial - A harder bargain with Burma needed
*The Japan Times: More than words are needed in Myanmar 
*The New light of Myanmar (SPDC): It's time people should counter 
avaricious persons 

*Prospect (UK): Portrait--Aung San Suu Kyi 

__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________

NY Times: Burmese Editor's Code-- Winks and Little Hints

June 24, 2001 


BANGKOK, June 22   The trick is in the presentation, said U Tin Maung 
Than, a Burmese writer and editor who played the game hard, bobbing and 
weaving, winking and nudging, honing his metaphors, comparisons and 
historical references until it all became too much and he fled here from 
Myanmar for safety.

Writing under censorship is an intricate and multilayered exercise that 
consumed Mr. Tin Maung Than. Sometimes you aim too low and the readers 
miss your point entirely, he said. Sometimes too high and the censors 
catch you.

It is a game played by all independent-minded writers in the military 
dictatorship of Myanmar, the former Burma: the writer versus the censor. 
The stakes are high; at the worst, the penalty box is prison.

Daily newspapers in Myanmar are government-run outlets for turgid 
official propaganda. But there are also scores of independent magazines 
and newsletters, large and small, most of which confine themselves to 
gossip, sports and lifestyle features. Only a few try to push the 
boundaries of what is acceptable.

Mr. Tin Maung Than, 47, was the editor of Thint Bawa (Your Life), a 
monthly general interest journal that grew progressively sharper and 
more challenging as he himself became bolder and more self-critical of 
what he saw as his own passivity.

Late last year, he sensed from growing hints that the authorities saw 
him as a political problem and that he was in danger. "Two or three 
years in prison is O.K.," he said in an interview here. "But more than 
10 years, the cost is too high." With his wife, who is a doctor, and 
their two young children, he fled across the lightly patrolled border 
into Thailand, where he is waiting for paperwork to enter the United 

Though it finally became too much for him, it seemed clear in the 
interview that the duel with the censors fascinated Mr. Tin Maung Than. 
He became an expert at it.

In Burma, as in other repressive states, writing under censorship is an 
art form in itself, for both the writer and the clever reader. Many of 
its rules are universal.

"You cannot criticize," Mr. Tin Maung Than said. "You have to give hints 
that you are being critical, that you are talking about the current 
system. The hints are in your choice of words and your tones and your 
composition. You use words with double meanings."

He wrote a simple story about a little boy who confronted the mayor of 
his town, demanding that he build a bicycle path. The hint was in the 
title: "About a 10-year-old Boy and About You and Me."

He wrote about repression in the education system under British colonial 
rule. Readers were nudged to draw their own conclusions about the 
education system of today.

He wrote about flag burning in the United States, ostensibly to 
criticize it but, between the lines, to give a glimpse of freedom.

"If we want to talk about fear, we cannot talk about fear in the 
political context," he said. "So we talk about children's fear and its 
impact on society. The key is that you have to give little hints that 
you are not really talking about children."

The enterprise can be as demanding on the readers as on the writers.

"It is a sort of work of art, and when you read a work of art you can 
interpret it in many ways," he said. "Only the keen readers who are 
interested in social issues   activists and intellectuals   will 
understand the meaning. But if you are a layman who is only interested 
in romantic novels, you will not understand."

The challenge is to get through to those keen readers without tipping 
off the censors, who work for the government's Press Scrutiny Board. 
"The censors are neither smart nor fools," he said. "They are regular 
guys. Sometimes they are not interested in their work. They get bored. 
Sometimes we intentionally make an article long so it will be boring for 
them to censor. But we have to strike a balance because we do not want 
to make it boring for the readers, too.

"Sometimes as an editor you have to select a very aggressive, very 
critical article. You know it will be censored. But you want to get 
another article passed. It's just like playing chess. Sometimes you move 
a pawn   O.K., you lose it   so that you can move another piece another 

Like chess, this can be an intimate sport. "I have personal relations 
with some censors," Mr. Tin Maung Than said. "I go to the cafe with 
them, like with other friends. Sometimes we appeal their decision, so we 
try to explain why it is acceptable."

Sometimes, he said, a censor will ask for the reasons in writing so that 
he will have something to show his superiors.

Poetry can be especially trying for an editor, and so can poets. "For 
some poems," he said, "the censors demand a written explanation. So 
that's one of the editor's jobs. You cannot ask the poet to explain it   
`Oh, I am a poet, that's not my job'   so it is up to the editor to 
explain it in an acceptable way."

One of the difficulties is that an editor can never be sure what the 
censors will pounce on. A report on mosquitoes in the capital, Yangon, 
was censored. References to drought or poor crop yield are forbidden 
because they could arouse fears of price rises.

Gibes about preferential treatment for officials   a room at a guest 
house, a seat on a train   are unacceptable.

So are discouraging reports about the fate of national sports teams.

Once, when the soccer team lost badly in the regional Tiger Cup, 
sportswriters were ordered to write only upbeat articles. So they wrote 
nothing. After another humiliating loss, all mention of the team was 
banned for several weeks from magazines and journals.

For Mr. Tin Maung Than, political journalism was an exploration of 
limits. A medical doctor and journalist, he became the editor of Thint 
Bawa in 1992 with the hope of examining the forbidden subject of 
democracy. His work evolved from carefully selected translations of 
foreign articles to increasingly daring writing that pushed against the 

For writers who are seen to have crossed the line into opposition, the 
punishment can be prison. Far more common, though, for the independent 
magazines, are more subtle penalties that have created an effective 
culture of self-censorship.

The brilliance of the system is that it puts the onus on the publisher. 
The material is not submitted to the censors until the magazine has been 

If an article is deemed unacceptable, it must not only be removed but 
replaced in a new press run by material of an equivalent length so that 
readers do not see the traces of censorship.

If this happens   or if an entire publication is barred   the cost to 
the publisher can be enormous. And if these rules are not followed, 
publication can be suspended for six months.

"I have had an experience of 72 pages that I had to rip out," Mr. Tin 
Maung Than said, nearly one-third of an issue. Sometimes the reprinted 
publication must be submitted more than once.

Formally, a Western expert on the Burmese press said, writers and 
editors are not usually imprisoned for their journalistic work. But 
prison is still a very real threat.

"They try to find other reasons for arresting you," the expert said. 
"They suggest that you have been having contacts with the underground 

One victim was Tin Moe, a prominent poet and opposition figure, who was 
imprisoned for three years when his work was circulated underground. He 
later fled the country.

It is also easy for the authorities to use a blacklist to bar a writer 
from publication or even from any mention in print.

Mr. Tin Maung Than told the story of an innocuous recent article in 
which a writer described a dinner party he had attended. The article 
included the names of the guests, all nonpolitical laymen.

One of the names was Ko Yu, coincidentally the same name as that of a 
writer and former opposition member who had died. "Even though he was 
dead and even though he was a different man," Mr. Thin Maung Than said, 
"the censor ordered that the name Ko Yu be deleted from the article."

The Nation: Burmese overwhelm border checkpoint

June 25, 2001 

Thousands of Burmese crowded local markets after a major border 
checkpoint was reopened yesterday, allowing the trade in consumer and 
agricultural products, worth an expected Bt10 million daily, to continue 
after more than four months of closure.

The sudden influx of Burmese traders and customers also caused 
bottlenecks at immigration booths and traffic jams all over Mae Sai 

Thai and foreign visitors also waited in long queues to go through 
immigration formalities to cross to Tachilek.

Most of the Burmese returned with rice, vegetables, pork, soft drinks 
and cooking oil in their carrier bags or vehicles.

Boonma Techachaorenvikul, president of the Mae Sai Businessmen's Club, 
said that the reopening of the border would promote tourism and 
bilateral trade. "It is good that everything has returned to normal," he 
said. Before the border closures trade amounted to Bt300 million with 
most products being exported from Thailand. Eighty per cent of all trade 
between Tachilek and Muang La, just across the border with China's 
Yunnan province, is in Thai products.

The border crossing was closed in February after fighting among rival 
ethnic militias set off a volley of cross-border shelling. The opening 
of the checkpoint comes after a meeting of the high-level Township 
Border Committee (TBC) and a conciliatory visit to Rangoon by Prime 
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last week.

Mae Sai district prepared 1,000 roses to present to TBC members and 
citizens of both Thailand and Burma. "It has been lively since early 
this morning, with mostly Burmese crossing to Thailand to buy consumer 
products," said Decha Sattaphol, a district chief in Mae Sai.

"Trade at the crossing will be brisker now, but it will take some time 
before it gets back to its original level."

Burma has increased border-crossing procedures a little by asking 
citizens to register at an office, where they are charged Bt10 each to 
enter Thailand. Thailand charges a Bt40 entry fee.

Colonel Wannatip Wongwai, Commander of the 3rd Region Special Task 
Force, as Chairman of the TBC, joined Burmese Lt-Colonel Ae So in a 
ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Officials attributed the border opening to improved Thai-Burmese 
relations following Thaksin's visit, during which he met the country's 
military leader, Senior General Than Shwe.

The two agreed to work together to combat drug trafficking along their 
border and also reached a common stance on the touchy issues of border 
security, dispute resolution and the refugee crisis.

Thaksin said one sign of real progress was the decision to reopen border 

The TBC resumed contacts on Saturday, after first embarking on talks in 
April, and paved the way for the checkpoints to be opened and border 
trade to resume, he said.

"Relations between the two countries will be back at their previous good 
level within the next two months," the premier told reporters. "I am 
confident the problems will now decrease."

February's border clashes sparked off months of wrangling between the 
two sides and a series of slurs and insults that provoked exchanges of 
official protests and dragged relations down to alarming lows.

But Thaksin said after returning from Rangoon last week that bilateral 
ties were back on track following his meetings with the ruling generals 
and Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung's visit to Thailand last Friday.

A number of Mae Sai residents, although delighted at the border 
reopening, continued to worry about the building of a lignite power 
station about two kilometres from the Thai border. Prapan Srivichai, 
Secretary General of the Rak Mae Sai Group, urged that the station be 
moved at least 80 kilometres away.

"We're not against the reopening of borders, but we'd like negotiations 
on the power station to proceed for the safety of Mae Sai residents," he 
said. An advisor to the group also asked the government to continue 
improving relationships with Burma and to make long-term plans to 
prevent future border disputes.

The Nation



VOA News: Burma, Thailand Border Crossing Reopens

24 Jun 2001 08:00 UTC

Burma and Thailand have reopened a key border crossing closed in 
February after a military clash between the two sides. 

The bridge linking the Burmese town of Tachilek and the northern Thai 
town of Mae Sai was opened early Sunday, with traders on both sides 
resuming business after four months. 

The opening of the checkpoint came after a meeting of the high-level 
Township Border Committee and a visit last week to Rangoon by Thai Prime 
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. 

Burma and Thailand closed three border checkpoints in February after 
clashes between Burmese forces and Shan rebels spilled over into 
Thailand, sparking artillery exchanges between the Thai and Burmese 

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and DPA


Xinhua: Myanmar Reclaims 10,493 Hectares of Vacant Land

2001.06.24 11:02:56  

YANGON, June 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar has reclaimed 10,493  hectares of 
vacant and virgin lands in the country's nine  divisions and states in 
nearly two and a half years, according to  the Myanmar Ministry of 
Agriculture and Irrigation Sunday. 

There are over 4.21 million hectares of vacant and virgin lands in these 
nine divisions and states, namely Ayeyawaddy, Yangon,  Bago, Magway, 
Tanintharyi, Mandalay, Shan, Kachin and Kayin. 
These lands had been reclaimed up to March this year by local  private 
entrepreneurs since they were permitted to do so in  November 1998. 

The government's move to allow them to reclaim these lands was  aimed at 
supplying sufficient food for the growing population in  future and 
promoting the agricultural sector. 

Myanmar's population, with an estimated annual growth of 2  percent, 
reached 50.12 million as of 2000. 

Meanwhile, the government is rendering assistance to the  private 
entrepreneurs to get access to technical know-how in the  undertakings, 
according to the ministry. 

Myanmar's cultivable land stretches 18.220 million hectares in  the 
whole country, of which 10.125 million have been put under  crops, while 
8.1 million remain to be utilized. 

The country's agriculture accounts for 37 percent of the gross  domestic 
product and 25 percent of the export value


Asia Times: Myanmar feels sting over farm labor 

 June 23, 2001.

Southeast Asia 

By Gustavo Capdevila 

GENEVA - The International Labor Conference concluded on Thursday with 
the approval of the "Convention Concerning Safety and Health in 
Agriculture" and imposed sanctions against Myanmar, as well as five 
other nations for labor rights violations.  

The other five were Belarus, Colombia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Venezuela.  
The new accord on farm laborers, the result of an understanding reached 
by workers, employers and governments, covers half of the world's 
workers, estimates Juan Somavia, director-general of the International 
Labor Organization (ILO).  

The agreement will require the ratifying countries to establish 
"adequate systems of inspection of agricultural workplaces". Currently, 
just 5 percent of the 1.3 billion farm workers are subject to monitoring 
and have access to legal protections. In addition, "the employer shall 
have a duty to ensure the safety and health of workers in every aspect 
related to their work".  

Alongside mining and construction, farming is one of the three most 
dangerous work activities in developing and industrialized countries 
alike. Nearly half the 1.2 million work-related accidents reported each 
year occur in the agricultural sector.  
The ILO Committee on the Application of Standards studied the situation 
of the six countries and dictated special sanctions reserved for serious 
violations of labor rights.  
With respect to Myanmar, the ILO committee expressed "profound regret 
for the persistence of serious discrepancies between national 
legislation and practice and the provisions of the convention on freedom 
of association and protection of workers' rights to organize".  

The military regime in Myanmar has been the target in the past few years 
of sharp accusations that it engages in practices of forced labor. The 
17-day International Labour Conference, which ended Thursday, voted to 
send a high-level observers mission to assess the situation of this 
Asian country.
At the conclusion of the conference, Somavia underscored the spirit of 
consensus that predominated throughout the event and had allowed 
delegates to reach agreement on "matters that years ago would have 
seemed impossible, such as the case of Myanmar". In general, Asian 
countries had previously blocked any attempt to sanction Myanmar.  
In the case of Belarus, the ILO expressed its deep concern about the 
instructions given by the chief of the presidential administration to 
"interfere in the labor union elections".  
The climate of impunity in Colombia represents a serious threat to the 
exercise of union freedoms, said the standards committee after 
evaluating the situation of the South American country. Julio Roberto 
Gomez, of the Colombia's General Confederation of Democratic Workers 
(CGTD), denounced the continued violence against labor leaders. In just 
the last five and a half months, he stated, 45 unionists have been 
assassinated, he said.  

The sanction against Ethiopia is based on accusations of government 
interference in labor union activities. The president of the Ethiopian 
Teachers' Association was "convicted, after three years of preventive 
detention, on charges of conspiracy against the state and sentenced to 
15 years in prison". The committee on standards also penalized Sudan due 
to its verification of "the extreme gravity" of cases of forced labor.  

For Venezuela, the committee urged the government "to amend its 
legislation to ensure that workers and employers can form organizations 
and freely elect their representatives".  

The conference participants also debated the problem of social security, 
which Somavia considers one of today's most complicated issues. The 
outcome of the discussion was a "very balanced" document that insists 
"we must not forget that social security is a key element for the 
stability of any society", said the ILO chief.  
Willy Thys, secretary-general of the World Confederation of Labor (WCL), 
commented that the resolution on social security was vague and that 
"employers and certain labor sectors are opposed to a binding text in 
this area". An estimated 1 billion workers around the world lack social 
security, observed the leader of the WCL, one of the two leading 
international union organizations. But the approved document is also 
insufficient because it fails to choose between capitalist and 
distributive systems, maintained Thys, who said his organization is 
inclined to the latter option because capitalization "maintains and 
increases" social inequalities.  

The conference, said the ILO's Somavia, consolidated the "decent work 
agenda", an initiative the organization launched with strategic goals in 
the areas of employment, social security, safety, employee rights and 
social dialogue. With the backing of the conference, the Decent Work 
program passes from mere aspiration to action, and from vision to 
policy, stated the ILO director-general. 

AFP: Burma Said Revoking Money-Dealing Licenses in Bid to Stabilise 

 June 24 (AFP) -- Myanmar is trying to shore up its dollar-denominated 
special currency by revoking the licenses of all but a few dealers 
allowed to sell it, a Yangon source said Sunday. Myanmar's military 
government cancelled all Foreign Exchange Certificate (FEC) licenses 
over the past week before reissuing new licenses to a handful of select 
dealers, including the junta-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings and 
Myawaddy Bank. 

The freshly certified money handlers have taken over 10 counter spaces 
at the FEC trading center in downtown Yangon, where they are expected to 
buy and sell the notes using the local currency, the kyat, at a fixed 
rate. A source told AFP the government-approved dealers would buy FECs 
for 490 kyats and sell them for 500 kyats each. The move appears to be a 
push by the government to stablise Myanmar's wildly fluctuating currency 
values, which have plummetted to new lows in recent months, and hem in 
Yangon's thriving black market. While the FEC rate currently hovers 
around 560 kyats, US dollars trade at roughly 575 kyats, up from an 
all-time low of 800 kyats to the dollar. Myanmar's military government 
put the FEC into circulation in 1995 as a substitute for the US dollar 
to be used inside the country where it was illegal for nationals to 
handle foreign currency. 

While the unit value of the FEC was originally equivalent to one dollar, 
since late last year it has declined in value to the point where by 
mid-February it sold at a 25 percent discount to the greenback. The 
growing price disparity has been attributed to over-printing of the 
special currency, which has meant that the amount in circulation exceeds 
the number of dollars collected by the government. The shortfall was 
quickly accounted for in the local economy and some restaurants in 
Yangon began charging 15 percent more for meals paid for in FECs instead 
of dollars. With the city awash in FECs and demand shrinking, people 
eager to hedge their bets offloaded the currency and bought up dollars 
or gold, sending the price of gold shooting up.

AFP: Six countries [including Burma] added to money laundering blacklist


Friday June 22, 10:22 PM

PARIS, June 22 (AFP) - Industrialised nations, in a fresh onslaught 
against money laundering, added six countries Friday to a blacklist and 
said they would punish Russia and others for failing to improve. 

The inter-government Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said its list of 
money laundering havens would now include six new members: Egypt, 
Guatamala, Hungary, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nigeria. 

Three countries already on the list, Russia, the Philippines and the 
tiny Pacific island of Nauru, had also taken insufficient steps to fight 
the recycling of illicit gains, said an annual FATF report. 

That judgement will likely come as a shock to Russia, which with the two 
others now faces the threat of sanctions that would make it an outcast 
in the business world. 
Russia held an anti-money laundering conference this month, after which 
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov voiced hope it would be removed from the 
blacklist altogether during the FATF meeting. 

Four others countries -- the Bahamas, Caymans, Liechtenstein and Panama 
-- were judged to have taken sufficient action to close money laundering 
loopholes and were taken off the list.
The blacklist, drawn up during a meeting of FATF members in Paris, now 
has 19 countries. 

The new members of the list of non-cooperative countries and territories 
were cited for various failings, including lack of proper legislation or 

Myanmar "lacks a basic set of anti-money laundering provisions," the 
task force report said. In Indonesia, "money laundering is not presently 
a criminal offence". 
The task force, which has 28 goverment members, called for surveillance 
to be stepped up against Russia, the Philippines and Nauru, deemed to 
have made "inadequate progress" to fight money laundering. 

The Nation: Account trade to go ahead 

une 24, 2001.

Vorapun Srivoranart

The central bank governors of Thailand and Burma will meet soon to put 
in place an account trade between the two neighbours, thus increasing 
Thai banking investment in Burma's economy as envisaged in the recent 
summit meeting in Rangoon, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai says. 

Surakiart said after meeting his Burmese counterpart Win Aung on Friday 
that the State Peace and Development Council chairman Senior General 
Than Shwe was "very interested" in the account trade with Thailand. 

He said the Burmese authorities should submit a list of products to be 
considered by the Commerce Ministry for a special generalised system of 

The issue was first discussed during a meeting between Prime Minister 
Thaksin Shinawatra and Than Shwe last week in Rangoon. 

Its objective is to enhance economic transaction without being subjected 
to foreign-exchange fluctuation. The net settlement could be conducted 
every three or six months. 

Thaksin believes that economic and investment cooperation with an 
impoverished neighbour like Burma will in the long term bring about 
mutual peace and stability. The approach also fits well with the present 
government's emphasis on economic diplomacy. 

Thailand is the third largest investor in Burma, accounting for about 17 
per cent of total foreign direct investment. Border trade last year 
registered around Bt18 billion, with Thailand importing over Bt7 billion 
worth of goods from Burma while exporting over Bt11 billion worth. 
Surakiart said Burma had complained about the scale of investment by 
Thai banks in Burma despite the fact that licences had already been 
granted. As a result, he said, the Thai premier has instructed the 
central-bank governor to look into ways of finding scope for expansion. 

Road links will also be expedited to facilitate the flow of goods and 
Priority will be given to three routes: Mae Sai-Tachilek-Keng 
Tung-Jinghong, Mae Sot-Myawaddy and the route between Kanchanaburi and 
Tavoy, where a deep-sea port is being built. 

Surakiart believes border de-marcation will not impede economic 
cooperation, citing Thak-sin's desire to turn conflict into cooperation.


Shan Herald Agency for News: Shan army leaders deny newspaper reports

June 24, 2001

Col. Yawdserk and his deputy flatly rejected Thai newspaper reports of 
his  involvement in the recent disappearance of Thai loggers and drug 
"We had nothing to do with their disappearance," he said on 17 June, 
when  he was inquired by S.H.A.N. about the report that appeared in 
Bangkok Post,  12 June, about two Thai workers from a logging firm being 
allegedly  captured by the Shan State Army.

One of his staff officers agreed, saying a Thai villager from the nearby 
 village of Hualarng by the name of Singh (surname unidentified), who 
was  also dealing in cross-border timber business, disappeared in a 
neighboring  area frequented by the besieging Wa units. "If the report 
of their  disappearance were true, they must have met the same fate," he 

Col. Khurh-ngern, Chief of Staff, Shan State Army, also dismissed a 
report  by the Nation, 7 May, about "a heroin lab in the Mae Kun area 
adjacent to  Mae Hong Son's Pai district receives protection from a unit 
of the Shan  State Army", when he was questioned on 22 June. (Both 
interviews took place  at Loi Taileng, the SSA base, across Maehongson's 
Pang Mapha District.) 

"That was totally untrue," he said. "We are not doing this (anti-drug  
campaign) just to please the world. On the contrary, we are doing it  
because we mean it."

The one-armed fighter (he lost his right arm in 1983) succeeded Yawdserk 
as  Chief of Staff when the latter became president of the Restoration 
Council  of Shan State that was formed in May last year.


South China Morning Post: A war with no front 

Sunday, June 24, 2001


Beneath the Burmese junta's boasts of stability and ceasefires with its  
warring ethnic guerillas, the deadly narcotics trade still flourishes.  

Photo: Watchful: Children in Shan State watch a Wa soldier near Burma's  
border with Thailand. Reuters photo 
Burma's military government has repeatedly claimed recently that 
Thailand is  running a "dirty campaign" of defamation against its fight 
on drugs.  Lieutenant-Colonel San Pwint even accused Thai soldiers of 
raiding a Burmese  border post and planting 170,000 amphetamine pills 
there, across the border  from Thailand's Fang district. 

"This is yet another example of a Thai scheme to twist the truth," the 
senior  member of the intelligence establishment in Rangoon reportedly 
told local  journalists. Rangoon has accused Thailand of bashing its 
neighbour in a panic  because they are unable to curb the activities of 
their own traffickers.  "Thais are behaving like a monkey whose tail is 
catching fire," claimed the  New Light of Myanmar in March. 

But nothing like this was said during a visit last week to Rangoon by 
Thai  prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who boldly declared that "not a 
shot will  be fired" between the two countries along their common 
2,400-kilometre border  as long as he was premier. 

Future friendly relations will turn, however, on the military regime's  
willingness to tackle drug traffickers who brought historically tricky  
relations with Thailand to a new low in February when the two countries  
fought a brief border war. According to anti-drug fighters from several  
countries, the ruling generals who claim to be doughty drug opponents 
want to  both attack the narcotics industry and profit from it. 

The dominant drug producers in the country - members of the ethnic Wa 
hill  tribe - have been called "the world's biggest gang of armed drug  

The United Wa State Army now controls a string of high-profile business  
interests including one of Burma's biggest banks, an airline, lucrative  
gem-mining concessions, and have a one-third stake in a mobile-phone 

"Drug traffickers have taken over more and more of the legitimate 
economy and  are getting more brazen about it over the past couple of 
years," said Bruce  Hawke, an analyst who contributes to Jane's Defence 

This is the deepening of a process that started in the mid-1990s and has 
long  passed the point where the Wa and rival traffickers such as the 
Kokang gangs  and two prominent "retired" drug warlords are accorded 
privileges in Burma.  

When the Wa tired of being cannon fodder for the Communist Party of 
Burma,  and kicked their ideological masters into China in 1989, the 
regime's  powerful intelligence chief, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, 
moved quickly to  tie them down with a series of ceasefire deals. As 
long as they steer clear  of politics they have virtually a free hand in 
business. In Shan State, the  only big business is drugs. 

When the economy was opened up in the 1990s, groups that had "entered 
the  legal fold" started to invest in the legitimate economy. The United 
States  State Department now says that "drug profits formed the seed 
capital for many  otherwise legitimate enterprises", especially in 
transport, banking, hotels,  real estate and airlines. 

Two former drug warlords, Lo Hsing-han and Khun Sa, have so far 
"retired" to  do business in Rangoon. 

Burma sells offshore gas to Thailand and exports pulses, rice and 
garments to  the West. Not much for a country of more than 40 million 
people that only a  couple of generations ago was seen as the jewel of 
Southeast Asia.  
Following the Taleban's banning of opium production in Afghanistan, 
Burma has  again become the world's premier source of the sickly gum 
that can be turned  into heroin in simple home-made laboratories. It 
also remains the source of  amphetamine tablets pouring into Thailand 
and the rest of Asia in increasing  numbers. Thai officials talk of up 
to 800 million tablets of "crazy drug"  being pumped into the country 
this year. 

Diplomats and businessman in Rangoon sometimes argue that the regime  
genuinely appears to be anti-drug and that if it allows ethnic gangsters 
to  launder drug profits it only does so temporarily and out of dire 

Yet to many critics of the regime, it hardly matters whether the 
generals  personally pocket drug profits or not. "They are very close to 
these people,  they are very friendly. This seems quite wrong to us," 
said General  Wattanachai Chaimuangwong, the commander of Thailand's 
northern Third Army.  

The Burmese military claims that alone it does not have the strength to  
suppress major traffickers such as the United Wa State Army and its more 
than  10,000 tough fighters who will "voluntarily" stop within a few 
years anyway.  

Military analysts concede that a frontal attack by the "badly paid and  
undermotivated" Burmese infantry on the Wa might endanger the 16 or so 
often  fragile ceasefires with ethnic groups that gives Rangoon the run 
of nearly  all the country for the first time. 

But the reality is that along the northern Thai border there are pockets 
of  drug traffickers interlaced with Burmese army outposts, said a 
Western  narcotics expert. "Burmese soldiers frequently act as security 
escorts for  the traffickers. They will guard the factories and 
encourage the local  population to co-operate with the traders," said 
the expert.  

The Government's claims that its hands are tied militarily contrasts  
strangely with its ability, since the mid-1990s, to clear more than 
300,000  villagers off a great swathe of land in the middle of the state 
to try to  suppress a rebellion by an "unapproved" ethnic rebel group, 
the Shan State  Army. These "independence fighters" once fought with the 
notorious Khun Sa  but have now - with the backing of the Thais - 
switched to fighting the drug  trade. 

Thai narcotics officials point to how in the past two years, members of 
the  Karen minority near Thailand's Western border have started to trade 
 amphetamines - but only after allying with the Burmese army  

 A human-rights worker at the border said: "The Karen rebels and their  
Christian leaders have been fighting for more than 50 years and they 
have  never been linked to drugs. A couple of years after some Karen 
broke away to  join Rangoon, we start busting them for millions of 
yaa-baa [crazy drug]  tablets - what does that tell you?" 

Burma's state-controlled media has bitterly claimed that Thailand is  
overacting the innocent victim yet still hosts much of the drug trade's  
supply routes. Responding to that suggestion, a senior Thai intelligence 
 official simply displayed a document listing drug factories in Burma.  
Emblazoned on the cover is a photo of the giant poster that stands in 
the Wa  headquarters of Pangsang showing General Khin Nyunt holding 
hands with Wa  chief Pao Yu Chang. 

The Thai Government might once have been mindful to refuse a potentially 
 provocative US offer for its special forces to help train a special,  
battalion-sized anti-drug force this year. That reluctance evaporated 
once  the Wa and their Chinese gangster friends started forcing 
thousands of  villagers to move down from the traditional Wa heartland 
on the Chinese  border after late 1999 to a new and expanding "southern" 
base next to the  Thai border. The Wa claim the relocations were made to 
make it easier for the  villagers to grow non-opium crops such as 
lychees and lamyai.  
"That is just a joke. The move is designed to crush the Shan rebels and  
perhaps appease China - and it makes it easier for the Wa to produce 
drugs,"  said the Western narcotics expert. 

William Barnes is the Post's Bangkok correspondent.


___________________ REGIONAL/INTERNATIONAL___________________

Bankok Post: Army powerless to stop material for lignite plant-Chief 
urges talks on factory's relocation

June 25, 2001

By Wassana Nanuam

The army does not have the power to prevent delivery of equipment and 
materials for construction of a lignite power plant in Tachilek, the 
army commander said yesterday.

Gen Surayud Chulanont said neither the Third Army nor the army could 
refuse if Burma wants to use the Mae Sai-Tachilek checkpoint, which 
reopened early yesterday morning.

The army chief voiced concern about possible conflicts in the area, as 
residents of Mae Sai are strongly opposed to the project. In April, they 
forced a convoy of 44 trucks carrying generator parts for the power 
plant to return to Bangkok.

Gen Surayud called on the government to open talks with Rangoon on the 
possibility of relocating the plant.

"It is very close to the border. The government should discuss with 
Burma to find out if it is possible to have the site relocated," he 

Meanwhile, Third Army commander Lt-Gen Wattanchai Chaimuenwong expressed 
uncertainty about the border situation because "drug traffickers and 
anti-Rangoon rebel groups are still active in the area".

The commander insisted that Thailand did not support any rebel groups, 
including the Shan State Army, which has launched extensive anti-drug 
crackdowns on the Burmese side of the border.

Lt-Gen Wattanachai said following the reopening of Mae Sai-Tachilek 
checkpoint the Third Army would keep a low profile and focus on fighting 
drug trafficking.

An army source said the army plans to modify about 500 Unimoq trucks and 
turn them into armoured troop carriers at the Lop Buri arms building 

The vehicles would be used in anti-drugs and combat operations, the 
source said.


BurmaNet News: Thai Police Crack Down on Burma exile groups

June 25, 2001

A police crackdown in Chiang Mai has caused most exile groups there to 
close their offices for the duration.  The crackdown is the first since 
a similar one which happened when the Asia Development Bank held its 
annual meeting there last year.  The number of exiles arrested is 
unknown but growing.


Bangkok Post: Editorial - A harder bargain with Burma needed

 June 23, 2001.

The offer of trade privileges to Burma showed amazing lack of 
perspective and disregard for political strategy. Prime Minister Thaksin 
Shinawatra seemed so blinkered in his bid to restore relations that he 
deliberately avoided looking back to sores in recent history, sideways 
to repercussions, or forward to the country's future. As Foreign 
Minister Surakiart Sathirathai put it, the prime minister offered Burma 
breaks in import tariffs because he believed the two countries should 
maximise trade.  

The prime minister also offered to exchange Thai semi-industrial 
products with Burmese farm goods, and to let Burma pay the difference in 
kyat or US dollars. Burma could not but welcome such generosity. The 
country's economy is in shreds, with the kyat dropping by 50% in value 
since April, energy costs rising, and supply irregular. Gen Than Shwe, 
the prime minister and chairman of the ruling State Peace and 
Development Council, plainly asked for help to develop the economy and 
battle poverty. But what has Burma done to deserve any help, let alone 
generous trade terms?  

While our offer will help Burma treat its worst injury in the state of 
the economy, is Burma doing the same to help solve our worst plight in 
the drug problem that is wasting our youth and threatens national 
security? The memorandum of understanding signed on Wednesday provides a 
structure for drug-busting.  

Officials of both sides will man co-ordinating posts to be set up at 
three border checkpoints, drug liaison officers will be stationed at 
embassies in Bangkok and Rangoon, and respective drug agencies will take 
turns to host annual meetings. But the structure deals with the symptoms 
of the problem rather than the root cause, which is the production of 
lethal drugs by the United Wa State Army inside Burma. Gen Than Shwe 
reiterated to Mr Thaksin Rangoon's line that no support was being 
extended to the UWSA in the illicit activity, adding that the ethnic 
army had been warned against it on several occasions. 

But he stopped short of saying he would root out the activity, which 
would not be an impossible mission, in view of the leverage some 
generals enjoy over the UWSA. Instead, he invited the prime minister to 
allay any doubts by sending representatives to check out the situation 
at Mong Yawn. To most people, this is more of a challenge than an 
invitation, given the mobility of laboratories on the border. 

The prime minister cannot now back out of the offer but he can turn it 
into an opportunity for making Burma more compliant on questions of drug 
co-operation as well as boundary demarcation, both of which resulted in 
the military clashes in February and March. For example, Thailand could 
extend trade privileges to a minimum number of products, set tough 
conditions for eligibility to them, and dangle the promise of broader 
inclusion if Burma co-operated on these two key questions. By no means 
should Thailand be as generous to Burma as it is to Cambodia and Laos, 
who enjoy tariff reductions on 23 and 40 products, respectively. 
Comparatively, Cambodia and Laos have been much more friendly although 
there have been rough patches. 

Burma could also be brought to yield on drugs and boundary issues 
through further postponement of the sixth meeting of the Joint 
Commission, which deals with economic and other bilateral co-operation. 
Thailand has set Phuket as the venue but the time-frame remains loose, 
at within the next two to three months. Thailand should push for the 
Joint Boundary Committee, which deals specifically with the demarcation 
issue, to meet first. Also due to host the boundary meeting, Thailand 
long ago proposed terms of reference for demarcation but Burma has 
simply stonewalled. 

Mr Thaksin made much of the fact that he was the first prime minister to 
visit Burma since Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh did in May 1997, but he 
quietly indicated some disappointment with the results by also noting 
that this lapse had caused Burmese leaders to be less attentive to Thai 
concerns. The way forward is to drive a harder bargain. 

The Japan Times: More than words are needed in Myanmar 

June 24, 2001


Special to The Japan Times 

Myanmar is no longer a closed-door country and people who have an 
interest in it and its people now enjoy much greater access than in the 
past. Information that would have remained secret in the past quickly 
becomes public knowledge in today's global village. The old adage 
"Honesty is the best policy" is more important than ever for those who 
would like to maintain their dignity. There are exceptions, however. 
Myanmar's generals and prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi have been 
engaged in secret talks since August but the content of the talks have 
yet to be revealed to the general public. 
Some critics have voiced their disapproval of the secrecy, saying 
Myanmar's people deserve to know the substance of the talks. Others 
regret that representatives of Myanmar's ethnic minorities were not 
included in the discussions. Though most dissidents around the world 
have enthusiastically expressed their hopes and expectations, dissidents 
who currently reside in Japan say they cannot trust the military junta. 

I believe it is neither important nor necessary to make public the 
content of the talks or to include the participation of ethic 
minorities. The negotiation process is delicate, and the prodemocracy 
forces must place their faith in Suu Kyi and allow her to pursue the 
talks in a manner she feels most appropriate.  

Suu Kyi would rather risk her life than sacrifice the interest of the 
people. Every one of us knows of her sincerity, honesty and integrity 
and, most importantly, her legacy that stems from being the daughter of 
the late Gen. Aung San.  

The talks may be taking longer than some would like, but to tame an 
angry and unreasonable bull we have no choice but to display patience, 
constant goodwill and love. If the prodemocracy forces persist with the 
time-honored teachings of Buddhist conduct, the generals will one day 

For their benefit, I only wish the generals would see the sense of this 
wisdom sooner rather than later, otherwise they will have to suffer 
longer with their subjects.  
Rumors and speculation cannot be avoided as the talks continue. One 
rumor has it that Suu Kyi has made an agreement with the generals to not 
participate in any future governments and to leave the country for good 
once reconciliation is reached. 
The government has long demanded such an agreement. If this rumor is 
true, it would signify a truly admirable decision on Suu Kyi's part, but 
the generals would be going too far in making such a demand. 

To no longer be involved in politics would be enough of a concession for 
Suu Kyi. She should be allowed to decide where she would like to stay 
and what she would like to do with her private life. She should be 
encouraged to pursue her dream of improving the education of Myanmar's 
youths. Her energy and strength should be fully utilized for the benefit 
of the country.  

If the generals were truly astute, however, they would welcome Suu Kyi's 
participation in the reconciliation government, as is the will of the 
people. The generals should keep in mind what former dictator U Ne Win, 
their godfather, once said: We must forget and forgive what is bitter, 
remember what is sweet, and work and strive for the future together.  

The generals have been in power since 1988. Allowing Suu Kyi to 
participate in the next government would be a good chance for them to 
prove they genuinely love the country and its citizens. 

The outcome of their 13-year rule has been deep suffering for Myanmar's 
people. Inflation has risen by 12-fold, and is expected to continue to 
increase in relation to the dollar. Prices of commodities are about 50 
times higher than they were during the worst period of the previous 

The most unfortunate citizens are government officers, workers, 
teachers, soldiers, police personnel and other citizens who neither have 
land nor their own business. Young men are increasingly abusing drugs, 
and more young women are engaging in questionable behavior. 

The incidence of HIV infection is rapidly rising as well. Under the 
former socialist regime, only half a dozen AIDS cases were reported in 
1986. Now it is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of cases 
in Myanmar. 

Unfortunately, the government's policy is to ignore drug traffickers 
(drug abuse is one of the primary factors behind the spread of AIDS) but 
to imprison those who attempt to involve themselves in politics. They 
should realize that their practice of driving a majority of Myanmar 
citizens into abysmal poverty and suffering utterly contradicts the 
teachings of Buddha. 

There will only be love and praise for the generals if they truly strive 
for reconciliation and begin to rebuild the country from scratch. Japan 
and other international friends are waiting for the appropriate time to 
offer substantial assistance. That timing, however, depends on the 
sincerity and honesty of the current regime. 

Nyunt Shwe was formerly a township leader of Aung San Suu Kyi's party, 
the National League for Democracy. He has resided in Tokyo since 1991.

The New light of Myanmar (SPDC): It's time people should counter 
avaricious persons 

Thursday, 21 June, 2001 

(Continued from 20-6-2001)   Myanmar merchants who trade goods at the 
border  fall victim to the merchants of the other side who fix the 
exchange rates in  their favour. But the Myanmar merchants never take 
this into account. If they  have to purchase goods at higher prices in 
the other country due to the  unfair exchange rates, they just hike the 
prices of their goods in selling  them back in the nation. It is sure 
that these merchants will gain profits.  But such practices will lead to 
runaway inflation as people have to spend a  large chunk of their 
earnings on consumer goods alone. 

But the rise in exchange rates in other's favour never stops, but is 
still  going on. The prices of consumer goods in the nation are being 
hiked again  and again. Such a practice is like badly reducing the value 
of our own  currency. Those who have no consideration for the nation is 
monopolizing the  market in order to hike commodity prices for their own 

They are the real present-day Cujakas (avaricious persons). They are 
trying  to cause currency turmoil and ruin the national economy. In the 
Jataka story,  the Brahmin Cujaka had no wish to give any consideration 
for others, other  than for his own benefit. Similarly, today's Cujakas 
are exploiting the  people for their own interests. 

The destructive elements in the nation were spreading and exaggerating 
the  rumours, saying as if a war has broken out between the two nations. 
The  Cujakas, who are awaiting an opportune time, hiked the dollar 
prices to an  exorbitant degree at the black markets. The gold merchants 
also raised gold  prices in the nation followed by an increase in the 
prices of rice, cooking  oil, fish, meat and vegetable. The greedy 
merchants were hiking the prices  taking advantage of the incidents 
which happened in Tachilek.  

 They then hoarded all their goods, saying that they were afraid that 
there  might be a halt in the flow of goods into the nation. In reality, 
they were  planning to increase the prices of their goods next day. Many 
of the  department stores also hiked the prices of their goods. The 
rising of the  prices was so abrupt. For example, a pack of milk powder 
jumped to K 560 from  K 300. The prices of other consumer goods also 
rose. And it was like a  deliberate action. The people were desirous of 
exposing the culprits of this  big conspiracy. 

As the consumer prices are being hiked at every opportune moment, the 
State  has increased the salaries of the government staff to fivefold to 
enable them  to enjoy a comfortable life. At that time, the merchants 
were also trying to  increase the prices of all the essential consumer 
goods to fivefold. But  their greedy attempts failed thanks to the 
opening of the tax-free markets  and fixing standard prices for consumer 
Myanmar has abundant food supplies. Production and distribution of rice, 
 cooking oil, meat, fish and vegetables is increasing ever. The Ministry 
of  Industry-1, the Ministry of Industry-2, the Ministry of Agriculture 
and  Irrigation and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries are 
producing and  distributing more and more food products for the public. 
If the production  and distribution of the private sector is added, the 
amount of food supplies  in the nation will be exceeding the demand. 
Some of the nations and the  peoples of the world are admirable and 
praiseworthy. They never yield to the  economic sanctions imposed on 
them by the big countries. 

They rely only on locally-made goods, and yet they are happy and 
contended.  They dare to face power blackouts, and to go to their 
offices on foot if  there is no fuel for vehicles. They equally share 
the food supplies among  themselves. Their patriotism and the will to 
safeguard the race is admirable.  There are citizens who donate all 
their jewellery to the State, during the  time their nation is facing an 
economic hardship. Even the businessmen of  those countries never yield 
to the enemy, but bear in mind only the  requirements of the citizens. 

Throughout the successive periods, the Ministry of Health has been 
examining  all the imported foodstuff and medicines and repeatedly 
issuing warnings to  the public on the harmful items. The Ministry has 
already announced the ill  effects of consuming monosodium glutamate 
which can even cause cancer. All  the people love and want goods of 
higher quality. During the time of our  forefathers, we wore hand-woven 
clothing. When imported cotton fabrics were  introduced to the nation, 
they were in a high demand. Let it be. When Myanmar  was able to produce 
cotton fabrics, people began to buy the imported garments  of better 
quality such as poplin, polyester, tetoron and textures.  But when 
Myanmar also could produce such high quality fabrics, people began  to 
buy the foreign-made garments of the most popular brands at exorbitant  
prices. Cujakas, knowing the people's endless desire to patronize the 
popular  items, made various kinds of traps to boost the sale of their 
imported goods.  Every time the demand rises, they follow with a hike in 
the prices. As the  demand never stops, so also the increase in prices 
continues till the trend  affects the currency value which could lead to 
a predicamental situation. As  Myanmars are Buddhists, they should be 
able to exercise restraint and they  should rely on locally-made 
products. In this regard, I would like to urge  the people of Myanmar to 
counter the Cujakas (avaricious persons).  

Author : Maung Pwint Lin 


Prospect (UK): Portrait--Aung San Suu Kyi 

Sat Jun 23 15:16:36 UTC+0900 2001 
[BurmaNet adds--an abridged version of this article has just appeared in 
a Scottish newspaper as well.  The article has serious plausibility 
problems, not least of which is the claim made in passing that US 
intelligence officials have discovered that the helicopter carrying Tin 
Oo and others crashed because of a gunfight on-board.  Scott-Clark and 
Levy?s version of events is not inherently implausible but the authors 
cite no sources for what, if true, would be a major Burma news story.  
Aside from some similarly improbable allegations in Internet newsgroups 
that either Khin Nyunt or the US government (take your pick) sabotaged 
the helicopter, most press accounts have pointed to bad weather, poor 
piloting and possibly poor maintenance.--Strider]

      She is the west's favourite political prisoner, a seraphic woman 
destined to lead her country. But have her unwavering moral standards 
now become an obstacle to political progress in Burma, asks Cathy 
Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy   

      Everyone knows that Burma is in a mess. A nation once called the 
Golden Land in tribute to its giant gem pits has sold them off to the 
Chinese in return for guns and tanks. Thousands of miles of ancient 
hardwood forest have been torn down and replanted with opium fields. The 
once lush rice bowl of Asia can no longer feed itself. Millions of 
Burmese are addled by drugs and hundreds of thousands infected with HIV, 
while the general who serves as health minister assures them that "Aids 
is a foreign disease." The regime has launched dozens of military 
campaigns against its people and more than 1m of Burma's 46m-strong 
population are unaccounted for.  

      Most people also know that Burma is the setting for an 
extraordinary political morality tale--Asia's beauty and the beast. 
While the world's most famous political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi, has 
been forced to fight for democracy behind the locked gates of her home 
in University Avenue in Rangoon, the country has been slowly strangled 
by a secretive junta whose fiscal policies are drawn up by astrologers.  

      There was thus great excitement on 9th January this year when the 
UN special envoy, Razali Ismail, announced that the State Peace and 
Development Council which runs Burma had agreed to talks with Suu Kyi. 
Western newspapers debated whether the talks--the first in five 
years--meant that she would finally be permitted to play a role in 
Burma's future. Some reports even speculated that the junta had decided 
to recognise the results of the last election, held in May 1990, when 
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won 392 out of 485 seats.  

      Six weeks after the special envoy's announcement, another news 
item emerged from the news-shy country that appeared to bolster Suu 
Kyi's position. A helicopter carrying 29 of Burma's senior military men 
had plunged into the jungle north of Rangoon. Among the dead was one of 
Suu Kyi's harshest critics who had called for her to be "crushed without 
mercy"; Lt Gen Tin Oo was a leading member of a hard line faction that 
opposed weakening the military's grip.  

      What the state media did not reveal was that the crash on 19th 
February was no accident. According to US intelligence, there had been a 
gunfight inside the helicopter, one general firing upon another. Until 
then there had been only glimpses of a rumoured power struggle within 
the military elite--such as the letter bomb that killed Tin Oo's 
daughter in April 1997. In any case, Suu Kyi's supporters took heart. 
Tin Oo's death removed an obstacle to dialogue, leaving the junta's 
reformist faction in command. 
      But another more startling story that has gone barely reported in 
the west is now beginning to emerge because of these same talks. Within 
the NLD and without, in pro-democracy newspapers, in Rangoon diplomatic 
circles and in the offices of NGOs that were previously unflinchingly 
loyal to Suu Kyi, it is now being said that she has failed to give 
direction to the democracy movement and lacks policy ideas or strategic 
grasp. She is even accused by some of her own MPs of being too committed 
to pacifism and western-style democracy to cut a deal in what are bound 
to be murky negotiations. There is growing concern that her years in 
isolation have made her haughty, distant and unwilling to listen.  

      Some of those who have raised these concerns have been ostracised 
and expelled from the NLD. But this has only prompted others to express 
their doubts in public. One of Suu Kyi's former aides has accused her 
publicly of squandering the democracy movement's momentum and of missing 
critical opportunities. Another, the party's elder statesman and 
architect of the 1990 election victory, has followed suit. Moreover, 
Burma's myriad ethnic groups--the Shan, Karen, Karenni, Chin, Arakanese 
amongst others--who rallied to Suu Kyi's side in 1990, have also begun 
to turn their backs on the NLD, putting their case through their own 
jungle coalition.  

       The recent internal and external dissent follows years of 
persecution by a vindictive junta--known as the SLORC until advised to 
change its name by an American public relations consultancy. In Suu 
Kyi's own 12 years of formal or informal house arrest, hundreds of party 
workers have been killed and her own husband, Michael Aris, died of 
cancer in England in 1999 having been refused a last visa to see her. 
(If she had left Burma to see him, she would never have been let back 
into the country.) Since 1990, more than 65 per cent of the NLD's 
elected MPs and party members have resigned, been imprisoned or gone 
into exile. Tens of thousands of exhausted NLD supporters have just 
faded away. Now many in Rangoon privately fear that Suu Kyi will be 
unable to convince the generals that she still wields the kind of 
popular backing that has forced change so recently in Indonesia, Serbia 
and the Philippines.  

      When in July 1989 the Burmese junta first placed Aung San Suu Kyi 
under house arrest, they thrust her onto the international stage. 
Amnesty International declared her a prisoner of conscience and the 
following May, when the junta failed to honour the election result, 
international accolades rained down, including the Nobel peace prize. 
The democracy movement was bound together by global good will and by Suu 
Kyi's ability to endure.  

      Then on 10th July 1995 the junta relaxed the terms of her 
confinement and pictures of Suu Kyi surrounded by her jubilant 
supporters were beamed across the world. "The forces for democracy 
remain strong and dedicated," she told an impromptu rally. But now that 
Suu Kyi was freer to move around she would be judged on something more 
tangible than suffering: her leadership skills.  

      Divisions soon began to emerge. In November 1995, Suu Kyi 
announced that she was boycotting the junta's National Convention, a 
committee formed to devise a blueprint for democratic government and 
something of a sop to the international community. Her decision was 
influenced by clauses in the convention that guaranteed the generals a 
leading role in any future civilian government and barred from domestic 
politics anyone with foreign relatives. But what shocked some NLD MPs 
and party workers was the fact that their leader had severed their sole 
line of communication with the junta without consulting them.  

      Two NLD MPs, who had spent many years in prison while Suu Kyi was 
under house arrest, publicly accused their leader of acting 
unilaterally. One of them, Than Tun, recalled: "I objected openly, 
partly because we had no idea what to do after the walkout. Suu Kyi just 
shouted at me and Thein Kyi." While the NLD debated what would replace 
its involvement in the National Convention, Suu Kyi stuck to her belief 
that economic sanctions--which she had lobbied for since 1988--would 
break the regime. Her lobbying had met with some success. Although no 
large country had formal legal sanctions, the US and the EU had 
discouraged trade and since the early 1990s trade with the west has 
fallen sharply. Several big companies, including Land Rover and Coca 
Cola, have closed their operations in Burma.  

      In the summer of 1996 Than Tun and Thein Kyi challenged their 
leader again. They presented Suu Kyi with a ten-page report, signed by 
seven NLD MPs, that called on her to adopt "more realistic policies." 
Not only was the NLD refusing to negotiate with the junta but it was 
also advocating a strategy that cut the Burmese people off from the 
outside world. The economic embargo had failed to bring the junta to its 
knees but, the dissenters claimed, it had scared off progressive foreign 
investors who would have introduced tools for democratic dissent such as 
fax machines, e-mail and mobile phones and access to the ideas of the 
democratic world.  

      A meeting of the NLD executive was convened to address the report. 
"They weren't happy," Than Tun recalled. "They said they wouldn't expel 
us as long as we didn't try to organise other members. I told Suu Kyi 
'you must be more tolerant, we're only ten people--we're not a threat.'" 

      The NLD leadership closed ranks. A resolution was passed that gave 
Suu Kyi and her chairman, Aung Shwe, complete control over 
decision-making. They argued that this was made necessary by the junta's 
outlawing of NLD party congresses. "If there had been a secret vote, a 
lot of MPs would have voted against her. They know that if we go on like 
this the party will wither away. The NLD does not tolerate any dissent," 
Than Tun said.  

      On 6th January 1997, he and his colleague Thein Kyi were expelled 
from the NLD, accused of "disobeying policy" and "creating disunity." 
Suu Kyi broadened her sanctions call to include NGOs stationed in Burma, 
who she accused of prolonging the life of the junta. "No aid, trade or 
investment," went the new slogan. One aid worker told us how his Burmese 
staff, who had risked arrest to meet Suu Kyi, were reduced to tears 
after she accused them of being stooges. According to Suu Kyi all aid 
had to be funnelled through the NLD but, as the NLD now barely existed 
outside Rangoon, that policy prohibited all undercover condom giveaways, 
HIV education campaigns, malnutrition studies and rice distribution 
programmes. A second international NGO that was in the midst of delicate 
negotiations to set up an HIV project in the north, where there is an 
HIV problem of gigantic proportions, told us how they were ridiculed and 
lambasted by Suu Kyi at a diplomatic function. A minute from an aid 
conference the following year in Amsterdam records how one 
representative from a well-known organisation "ruefully conceded that it 
was easier for international NGOs when Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned." 

      In April 1997, Suu Kyi's campaign for sanctions scored a formal 
victory when the US imposed an official ban on new investment in Burma. 
But soon after the NLD was hit by an internal tremor. U Kyi Maung, a 
founder member of the NLD, and the man who drew Suu Kyi into politics in 
1988, withdrew from politics. Friends talked of his concerns about the 
party's inability to countenance dissent. Certainly, self-imposed exile 
was a radical move for a man who had written the NLD manifesto. While U 
Kyi Maung stayed silent, Suu Kyi publicly belittled his contribution, 
stating that the man she had once called her "guide, mentor and friend" 
had never been "my key adviser."  

      This storm had barely settled when another of Suu Kyi's close 
aides broke ranks. In February 1998, the Far Eastern Economic Review 
published an extraordinary article entitled "The Burmese Fairy Tale" 
written by Ma Thanegi, who had served three years in prison after 
joining the democracy movement. "My fellow former political prisoners 
and I are beginning to wonder if our sacrifices have been worthwhile," 
Ma Thanegi wrote. "Almost a decade after it all began we are concerned 
that the work we started has been squandered and the momentum wasted... 
Suu could have changed our lives dramatically. With her influence and 
prestige, she could have asked major aid donors, such as the US and 
Japan, for help. She could have encouraged responsible companies to 
invest here, creating jobs and helping to build a stable economy. She 
could have struck up a constructive dialogue with the government and 
laid the ground for a sustainable democracy...We had hoped that when she 
was released from house arrest that the country would move forward 
again," she wrote. "Suu's approach has been moral and uncompromising, 
catching the imagination of the world. Unfortunately, it has come at a 
real price for the rest of us."  

      Ma Thanegi said that in Burma "any public criticism of the NLD is 
met with accusations of treachery." In the months following her 
outburst, democracy campaigners laid siege to Burmese chat-rooms and 
websites, denouncing her as a traitor and suggesting that her article 
was written by the generals.  

      On 16th September 1998, the NLD finally announced a policy to fill 
the void created by its withdrawal from the National Convention three 
years earlier. Suu Kyi unveiled a ten-member Committee Representing the 
People's Parliament (CRPP) that "annulled" all laws enacted by the 
regime, a gesture which provoked a harsh response: 110 NLD MPs were 
jailed and 43 NLD offices closed.  

      The following spring 28 NLD MPs, including Tin Tun Maung, a 
central committee member, and Kyi Win, a former student leader, said the 
unsayable and called for the NLD to hold talks with the regime without 
Suu Kyi. In May 1999, Tin Tun Maung, Kyi Win and two others were berated 
by Suu Kyi as "lackeys," accused of "colluding with military 
intelligence" and suspended from the party.  

      It is inevitable that an opposition movement such as the NLD will 
have disagreements and even splits. Many of these schisms will be 
engineered by the regime itself, a sophisticated exponent of the 
politics of divide and rule. But even outside the closed world of NLD 
politics, support for Suu Kyi is beginning to fracture. Student 
campaigners who had triggered the mass democracy uprisings of August 
1988, in which thousands were shot by the junta, are frustrated at the 
lack of progress. For the past decade, many of them have taken up arms 
against the Burmese regime from malarial jungle bases or campaigned for 
her from squalid camps on the Thai border. Their families back in Burma 
have been persecuted, while they have forfeited the right to return 

      In October 1999 a breakaway student group called the Vigorous 
Burmese Student Warriors laid siege with automatic weapons to the 
Burmese Embassy in Bangkok. It was a desperate measure, the students 
claimed, to raise the democracy struggle from where it had slumped. 
Their action was dismissed by the NLD as inflammatory. But then a 
magazine published by exiled Burmese students in Chiang Mai, northern 
Thailand, warned Suu Kyi last year that she was running out of time. 
Unless her party consolidated its victory of 1990 very soon, she would 
be remembered as "a victim of history."  

       The breach that has opened up between Suu Kyi and Burma's ethnic 
groups matters even more. They make up 30 per cent of the population and 
until now have fought alongside the NLD. Yet last year, in Shan State in 
north-eastern Burma, a senior officer of the Shan State Army (a rebel 
force fighting to expel the Burmese regime from the region) said to us, 
"I have met Aung San Suu Kyi and all she ever talks about is democracy 
for the Burmese people. She never has anything to say about the needs of 
ethnic groups like the Shan. 'Democracy first,' she tells us 'and then 
I'll consider your demands.' We're sick of waiting." Now the Shan and 
others have broken away, dividing the front pitted against the junta 
into various micro-nationalist struggles which are probably hopeless.  

      What does Suu Kyi have to say about the ethnic groups? "I have not 
studied the culture of the other ethnic peoples of Burma deeply enough 
to comment," she told an interviewer in 1999, "apart from the fact that 
my mother always taught me to think of them as very close to us, 
emphasising how loyal they were." A patrician response that provides 
little encouragement to the Shan State Army and others like it.  

      Suu Kyi often says that free debate is the barometer of a healthy 
democratic movement but, questioned in 1999 by Asiaweek about internal 
dissent, she said this about her critics. "We have had a few people 
leave but they were working with the authorities... Not everyone has the 
staying power." To which her critics reply that not everyone has the 
patience of a saint or wants to see Burma's costly struggle for 
democracy descend into an endless battle of wills. Whenever questioned 
about her achievements, the NLD leader cites the numbers of her 
supporters who have been murdered or imprisoned by the regime, as if to 
say that suffering is an achievement in itself. Suu Kyi's international 
supporters stress her personal sacrifice: two sons growing up in Oxford 
without her, the tragic death of her husband, thousands of miles away. 
No one can deny that this is a brutal regime, but where is all this 
tremendous suffering leading?  

      Suu Kyi has stifled debate within her own party and appears to 
have no domestic strategy beyond her opposition to armed conflict, mass 
demonstrations or civil disobedience. Her belief is that personal 
freedom is curtailed inside Burma to such an extent that only a powerful 
external lobby will force the generals to change. "The opinion of the 
international community cannot be ignored. No country is an island unto 
itself," Suu Kyi has reassured her supporters. When she called for 
sanctions in 1990, she cited their success with South Africa, where 
Nelson Mandela had been released in February of that year.  

      But she is not a Mandela--her pacifism rules that out. Indeed, 
when it became clear that the Burmese regime was not going to honour the 
election results of May 1990, Suu Kyi instructed her hundreds of 
thousands of supporters to end their demonstrations. "I do not want to 
encourage this tradition of bringing about change through violence," she 

      Can a nation like Burma, forged by thousands of years of conquest, 
annexation and bloodshed, be reformed through peaceful means alone? How 
can a state that has had no independent judiciary since 1948 resolve 
issues of internal dissent unless it is forced to do so? The brief lull 
in 1990 created by Suu Kyi's retreat was all the generals needed to 
regroup and in the months that followed, one of the most significant 
eras in Burmese history, post-independence from the British, passed.  

      Having made what some claim was a critical error of judgement, Suu 
Kyi was now entirely reliant on her sanctions strategy. But Burma, 
unlike South Africa, does not participate in the global economy and it 
can endure years of western boycotts. And there are many Asian 
businesses and organisations, angered by what they see as 
neo-imperialist meddling, who will invest where Britain and the US will 
not. The Burmese economy is in shreds, the 41st poorest country in the 
world--despite being more industrialised than Malaysia in the 1950s. 
Western sanctions have simply pushed the generals into the arms of the 
drug barons and forged closer ties with the Association of South East 
Asian Nations (Asean).  

      After the last round of talks between Suu Kyi and the generals 
broke down in 1994 and she reiterated the need for sanctions, Asean 
invited the Burmese regime to join it as an observer. Three months after 
the US imposed a ban on new investment in Burma in April 1997, Asean 
responded by admitting the country as a full member. And when the talks 
were announced this year, it was Asean who brokered the meeting. Razali 
Ismail, the UN special envoy, is an adviser to the Malaysian Prime 
Minister Mohamad Mahathir, the Burmese regime's strongest supporter.  

      So what has Suu Kyi's alliance with the west brought to the 
struggle in Burma? It has made her into the world's most prominent 
spokesman for "freedom and democracy" after Nelson Mandela. One of Bill 
Clinton's last acts as president was to confer upon her the Presidential 
Medal for Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the US. And we in the 
west have adopted Burma as our pocket pariah, regarding its people as 
passive victims in need of salvation.  

      But surely the time has come for the west to face the limits of 
sanctions: they have achieved very little and have cost us little. This 
empty gesture is echoed in the actions of an army of international 
travellers, some of them with messianic aspirations. James Mawdsley, the 
British student who was released from prison last October, was one of 
those who "fell in love with the jungle, the people and their culture" 
and couldn't wait to lead the Burmese to freedom. In August 1999, 
Mawdsley stood in Tachilek market in Shan state for nearly half an hour, 
handing out cassettes and leaflets highlighting human rights abuses. He 
was then whisked off to jail, where he found "rapture" with the help of 
the spiritual exercises of the 15th-century monk Thomas a Kempis.  

      Mawdsley was released 14 months later and passed directly to 
Broadcasting House. He was saved by the colour of his skin (and 
passport) and his romanticism served only to salve his own conscience. 
"It is we Burmese who pay the price for these empty heroics," says Ma 
Thanegi, Suu Kyi's former aide.  

      Aung san suu kyi was the preordained leader of Burma's opposition 
even though she resisted the mantle for many years. When she returned to 
the country in March 1988, after almost 20 years of absence in Europe, 
it was to see her sick mother, Daw Khin Kyi, and not to join the 
demonstrators protesting at the collapse of the economy.  

      On 22nd July 1988, Michael Aris and their sons Alexander and Kim, 
flew to Rangoon to join the vigil at Daw Khin Kyi's house in University 
Avenue. A surprise news broadcast the next day drew Suu Kyi away. 
General Ne Win, Burma's dictator since his 1962 coup, announced that he 
was standing down and calling an election. Chillingly, he also warned 
"if the army shoots it hits--no firing in the air."  

      As thousands of protesters were shot, Suu Kyi sought out the old 
allies of her father General Aung San, the man who led Burma to 
independence in 1947. Among them was U Kyi Maung, a 69-year-old former 
colonel and the man who Suu Kyi would dismiss later as a minor 
influence. It was U Kyi Maung who advised Suu Kyi on her first tentative 
political steps. On 26th August, with her husband and sons by her side, 
Suu Kyi addressed a rally of 500,000 at Rangoon's Shwedagon Pagoda. "My 
family knows best how tricky Burmese politics can be and how much my 
father had to suffer on this account," she said.  

      She was referring to the assassination of her father, murdered 
along with six cabinet colleagues on 19th July 1947, six months after he 
had obtained Clement Attlee's signature on an independence charter. Many 
suspected that the man who ordered the killings was Ne Win, a 
hard-drinking, womanising former post-office clerk who had clashed with 
Aung San from the day he enlisted in the independence struggle in 1940.  

      This (presumed) act of vengeance ensured the beatification of 
Burma's untested warrior statesman Aung San. And it explains the 
excitement that rippled through Rangoon when his daughter took the 
platform more than 40 years later. One of Suu Kyi's aides wrote of that 
day: "The way she talked, her complexion, her features and gestures, 
were strikingly similar to those of her father. She resembled him in 
almost every way. I thought she was a female replica... She was the lady 
to carry on his work." Millions agreed but for Ne Win she must have been 
an apparition from his past.  

      It was the death of Daw Khin Kyi on 27th December 1988 that 
elevated Suu Kyi and U Kyi Maung's fledgling party, the NLD, to national 
consciousness. A state funeral that wound its way through the streets of 
Rangoon attracted thousands of protesters to University Avenue. The 
house with the blue gates became a shrine to a dynasty: the main meeting 
room dominated by a portrait of Aung San, its walls pasted with his 
writings. Burma's Camelot was emerging and the generals were appalled.  

      Outside the country, the romance of an Oxford mother taking on the 
barbarous generals in a little known Asian nation proved irresistible. 
Her life-story was embossed with a fable-like quality. The scion of a 
fated family, separated from her young sons who, back in Britain, waited 
for glimpses of their mother on television. Her childhood spent riding 
with Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi; university years at St Hugh's, Oxford; a 
marriage on New Year's Day 1972 to a brilliant young academic to whom 
she had been introduced by Lord Gore-Booth. An inscrutable, beautiful 
land stalked by Kipling. Vanity Fair put Suu Kyi on its cover; "Burma's 
Saint Joan," the magazine declared. The west transformed her into a 

      Suu Kyi has written of holding on to dharma and metta (loving 
kindness) in the face of the generals who demonstrate "the banality of 
evil," damning Ne Win as a man "who my father disapproved of and 
despised." The junta has talked of "annihilating the foreign whore 
married to a British Jew" and the army chief has said: "I will never 
deal with those who would have us hung."  

      What began as a miracle, the reincarnation of Aung San through his 
daughter, has degenerated into a kind of recurring nightmare; the 
Burmese waking up every morning to be reminded of the fear and guilt 
felt by Ne Win's heirs towards Aung San's daughter. Burmese politics are 
incestuous, with dissidents and ministers often coming from the same 
elite families. But it seems unlikely that anyone sitting around the 
table when talks begin will be able to clear the first hurdle--that of 
Burma's history. This is why many in the NLD and the democracy movement 
are calling for talks without Suu Kyi. Only political horse trading can 
enable progress, by ensuring that neither side loses face. With her 
unwavering moral standards and western sensibilities this seems to be 
something that Suu Kyi will never accept. It is possible that Burma 
could adopt a power-sharing agreement, a peculiarly Asian form of 
democracy not unlike that which thrives in Thailand, where army generals 
have abandoned their khakis for pin-striped suits. Would Aung San Suu 
Kyi be able to cope with this small shuffle towards the light?  

      Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark are writers based in Asia. Their 
book Stone of Heaven is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.       


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