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N e w s ,

B U R M A ISSUES
A n a l y s i s & P e o p l e s '

S ' t o r i e s

Jufy1999

Volume 9 Number 7

"We do not accept the notion that democracy is a W#St*rn Value. To the contrary, democracy simply means good government rooted in responsibility, transparency, and accountability. No authoritarian system can assure good government because there is no accountability. The government can get away with whatever it does." Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urging ASEAN to rethink its "non-interference " policy

"A Karen Woman and Two Children " by Taw Nay Htoo, age 13

Burma issues, the monthly newsletter of Burma Issues, highlights current information related to the struggle for peace and justice in Burma. It is distributed internationally on a freesubscription basis to individuals and groups concerned about the state of affairs Burma. in

INSIDE
O PEOPLE'S STORIES - O N G O I N G HARSHIP IN IRRAWADDY DIVISION POLITICS - B U R M A - C H I N A RELATIONS: IN " B I G B R O T H E R ' S " SHADOW H U M A N RIGHTS - F O O D SCARCITY: HUNGER IN A LAND OF PLENTY EVENTS - JULY NEWS THE FINAL W O R D - W H A T OTHERS HAVE TO SAY A B O U T BURMA

P.O. Box 1076 Silom Post Office Bangkok 10504,ThaiIand durham@mozart.inet.co.th

INFORMATION

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ACTION

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FOR PEACE

GRASSROOTS

EDUCATION

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ORGANIZING

PEOPLE'S

STORIES

HARDSHIP IN IRRAWADDY DIVISION

he January 1999 edition of Burma Is sues contained "The Current Situation in Irrawaddy Division" based on information from a Burma Issues information collector. Irrawaddy Division is the fertile delta region west of Rangoon. The following article consists of excerpts from the latest material forwarded by that person. It suggests that conditions of hardship and food scarcity, indicative of Burma's military controlled agrarian economy, are set to continue into the coming year. For a discussion of issues touched on below, infarming cluding costs, fertilizer use, government quotas and loans, see E. Zeamer, "Farming in the Red: Rural Conditions in Burma," BI December 1998.

as subsistence laborers earn their food from day to day, some didn't have ten days of food available to take with them. Some were heard to wonder how their families would survive in their absences. At the site, the Village Tract Chairman called the people together and drew up work timetables and outlined processes for repairing the dyke. Work times were 6-1 lam and 3-5 pm. All workers had to be at their sleeping

Agriculture, not theirs. "Although the dyke benefits the people, the government should treat us like human beings," one person remarked.

Paddy quotas
Farmers must meet a 12 basket rice quota per acre for the rainy season crop, but in some villages the rate is up to 16 or 18 baskets per acre for those with over 5 acres of land. Before the start of the rainy season, the government gives a compulsory advance of 300 kyat per basket of quota paddy due.

Irrigation
During March and April 1998, irrigation canals around my town dried up. This caused serious losses for farmers growing dry season crops, as most had no water pumps, and those who did had to pay high diesel prices. (Farmers in the Irrawaddy Division are under instruction to grow at least two crops annually, one in the rainy season and one in the dry season, the latter being highly dependent on the irrigation system.) Last February, government machines were brought in to repair the canal, and villagers were ordered to support them. Eight villages in the immediate vicinity had to give 130 kyat per acre. (The current exchange rate is about 340 kyat to US$1) The villagers closest to the work site also had to provide food and alcohol for the government employed machine operators. In 1998, floods damaged the Aukwe Dyke in Wakema Township, causing serious problems for regional farmers and making travel in the area difficult. In April, one person from each household in twelve nearby villages was instructed to go to the site. Women were to go if no men were available. Villagers had to take their own tools and food for ten days. For some households this posed a problem,
JULY 1999

One farmer I spoke with has three acres to work on. Last year his yield was 150 baskets, enough to meet the quota, cover his expenses and support his family of six. But in April this year, unusually early rains damaged to his crops, resulting in poor yields and more expense than usual. He also faced the difficulties of a lot of insect damage and the continued lack of fertilizers. He ended up with only 65 baskets for that season's crop. He went to the local government paddy purchasing agent to suggest that he pay back Map of townships in Irrawaddy Division the advance he had relocations by 6 pm. The army warned that ceived from the government in cash. The drinking alcohol and brawling were punish- agent told him that he would have to repay able by detention in holes dug into the the loan at the rate of 620 kyat per basket ground. There would be no exemption for (the market value). The farmer, for want of people who did not have enough food for spare paddy, was forced into this deal. He the ten days, or those late to work at the returned home and sold his pig to cover the expenses. Any time a cost is incurred, it is start of the day. borne by poor farmers, never the governThe workers cleared the area and dug holes ment. for the new dyke foundation. Sometimes there were conflicts with officials, so much Another farmer I met explained how after givtime was wasted awaiting instructions. One ing the quota on the rainy season crop and person complained to me, "those guys are repaying debts, she has nothing left over strolling along the top of the dyke with um- for her family. They have to rely entirely on brellas, giving orders, while we're down here the dry season crop for their own needs. with blistered backs and palms." Some suf- They have six acres, but if the dry season fered dehydration. Sick villagers had to pay crop is to be successful, two acres must be for their own medical treatment. According used for irrigation. For the remaining four to one villager, eight workers died at the site acres she must borrow about 100,000 kyat to during the project. buy seeds, fertilizer and diesel oil. This loan must be repaid at 20% interest per month. The villagers realize that this work is the re- She estimates that after expenses they would sponsibility of the Ministry of Irrigation and have only around 70 baskets of paddy for
2

PEOPLE'S

STORIES

household consumption, which is insufficient for the year. Therefore, family members must overcome these difficulties by finding other income.

Alternative crops

rice, especially various deductions by the authorities. Although three of her family are working, their combined salaries are not enough to survive on. Therefore, she trades small goods to buy salt, cooking oil and other necessities.

ents cannot meet the expense of going to Rangoon, so he remains untreated. In this little village of about 50 households almost everyone is a subsistence laborer. Few can afford modern medicine. Although transportation and communication in and out of the village is quite good, the people remain poverty stricken. To build a clinic for themselves and hire staff through their own collective efforts seems like an impossibility to them. At the township hospital, there are only beds and staff, and the patients must buy razor blades, cotton, bandages, syringes and every other essential from outside. Only when these items are available in the markets can those who can afford to buy them get medical help. To get decent treatment, everycannot even one from the doctors to like my own/7 the doormen has to be bribed. Patients complain that it is easier to die than to pay the bills. Some religious institutions also have small clinics attached which work out of charity and charge only the cost of the treatment. Other private medical clinics are strictly for the wealthy.

Regional conditions are conducive to the cultivation of green beans, which can earn a Teachers in cities and towns have more opfarmer 30,000 kyat per acre (10 basket yield) portunities to earn extra income by tutoring at the market. The expenses are only about in their spare time. They charge at least 100 3,000 kyat per acre, giving a net profit of kyat per subject per month. As the primary 27,000 kyat. Paddy is far more expensive to school level consists of four subjects, it produce. With input costs and wages, the costs each student 400 kyat. However, teachexpense per acre of paddy is around 25,000 ers working in a rural area where the people kyat. If a farmer can produce 80 baskets per are in deep poverty, don't have those opacre, the gross income is around 48,000 kyat, portunities. Poor laborers and farmhands which leaves only 23,000 kyat net profit. cannot afford to pay money for tuition. Such Farmers in Irrawaddy Division, are instructed to grow paddy. Near the She told me, "I was a teacher, but I end of this year's rainy season paddy crops, our Township Chairafford to give my children an education man observed that some farmers had grown green beans. The beans were not teachers have compassion for the children yet ripe, but he ordered the farmers to rip and parents. They offer a good example for them up immediately and plant paddy in their us to emulate and take pride in. place. The farmers were forced to comply and lost more that one million kyat. A retired teacher told me she receives a pension of 500 kyat per month. Yet this is not Military land sufficient to even buy half a basket of rice. In Shwe Laung Township, the military Among her two sons and three daughters, controlls tracts of land. This land was all the four eldest are all working as farm laborconfiscated from local farmers. The army is ers. She told me, "I was a teacher, but I cannow involved in cultivation because military not even afford to give my children an edupersonnel are no longer receiving enough cation like my own. I am very sad that they rations and wages to support their families. live as farm laborers. Our economic situaOne infantryman informed me that his wife tion is back to square one. There was no is a civil servant with a 1,200 kyat per month benefit from my thirty years as a civil sersalary. With his 800 kyat, their combined sal- vant." ary of 2,000 kyat is not enough even for daily meals. So they are support by his wife's rela- Health tives working in Yangoon. I know of one rural family that had three children, two sons and one daughter who The military cultivates paddy, jute, chilli and had all suffered from ill health for some time. beans, using unpaid convict labor. The pris- Their parents are landless laborers. The faoners get no health care of any description. ther works as a hired hand, and the mother They are very poorly fed and must rely on collects firewood. Often the father has no visits from their relatives to supplement the work and if they are unable to borrow rice meager prison diet. One released convict said from their neighbors, they go hungry. The that they must do hard labor in all seasons. children were frequently left alone at home In the rainy season they have to harvest jute, while the parents were out trying to earn an under great strain and in mud and water. income. The youngest child, three years old, Some convicts literally fall over and die in died in September 1998. The parents had no the fields from the year-round exertion in all way to get health care for the child. In May of this year, the oldest daughter suddenly weather conditions. became ill and also died. Even before her illness, she was listless and had to be spoonTeachers9 lives In February I met with a teacher who de- fed. As she did not receive regular meals and scribed her school. It is off the beaten track was poorley cared for, she grew ill, and for where few government officials go, and has want of any medicines also died. The remaintotal of four staff. They have arranged among ing child, a ten year old boy, is in need of themselves to rotate between teaching and surgical treatment for a lesion protruding taking time off to work outside. She told me from his belly. The parents took him to the that if they did not do this, they would not township hospital, but were informed that be able to survive. Their 1,200 kyat salaries he could only get treatment for his condiare not enough to live on, not even to buy tion at Rangoon General Hospital. The par3

Deteriorating conditions
I would like to offer some observations on the changing conditions in one large village in my township. In 1970, it had about 380 households. Now it has about 600. People there traditionally grew fruit and vegetables, and the land produced bountifully until the 1980s. The village elders worked hard for their community. Gambling and sales of alcohol were prohibited. Through their own efforts, the villagers constructed a school, which now teaches to high school level. Community relationships were good. The expanding population has brought environmental degradation and unemployment. Students who finish high school can't continue their education, and end up taking whatever jobs they can get. About 90% of the villagers are now living from day to day. People on gather firewood to survive. Large stands of timber and bamboo are scarce. The cost of living is on the rise. Youths spend their time drinking and taking drugs. Gambling dens are set up during festivals, as the new village heads can collect 10,000 kyat in tax on one night's taking. They also embezzle funds earmarked for the community. Social ills are resulting in theft and burglary. Elders lament that the village life is being destroyed.

JULY 1 9 9 9 3

POIITICS

BURMA-CHINA RELATIONS: IN "BIG BROTHER'S" SHADOW


urma occupies a strategic position be Xiaoping returning the favor on several octween China, India and the South East casions. Following a 1978 visit by Deng Asian nations. When Burma opened its Xiaoping, relations improved and China fidoors to foreign investment in 1988, China nally ended its official support for the CPB. was quick to establish good relations, to the concern of Burma's neighbors to both the A decade later the relationship between East and West. This "big-brother" relation- China and Burma blossomed. The new govship has been one factor in determining other ernment under the State Law and Order Rescountries' relations with Burma, influencing toration Council (SLORC) had been widely how both Asia and the West react to the condemned for violently suppressing the military junta. While China's strategic and 1988 uprising. Much of the international comeconomic interests have long been appar- munity, including the World Bank, severed ent, the relationship diplomatic ties and can also be read in withdrew most interms of the military ternational aid to government's intenBurma. China capiIndia, the ASEAN na- talized by being the tions towards its northern neighbor. first to tions and Japan are all recognizeofficially Burma's Relations between concerned a b o u t military government. While Ne Burma and China have China's increasing in- Win's regime had been mixed. The southbeen both isolaern silk road brought fluence, and Burma tionist and socialist, Chinese traders into Burma for thousands has leveraged this the new government opened up the of years, and there has concern. borders and started long been a Chinese moving towards a population in northern free market Burma. Independent Burma's relationship economy. Formal with China began on a positive note, despite trade began in 1988, and China quickly bea contested border and anti-communist Kuo came one of Burma's primary trading partMin Tang (KMT) army presence in Burma. ners. Ties further strengthened after the In 1948, China was one of the first sponsors Tienanmen Square incident a year later when of Burma's application for membership in the China also suffered isolation from the interUnited Nations. A little over a year later, in national community. Chinese enterprises December 1949, Burma returned the favor by were given preference in providing goods establishing diplomatic presence in China, and services to Burma. Encouraged by the the first country to recognize the communist new government, Chinese entrepreneurs, government. A border agreement was finally including some of the those who had been signed in 1960, and the KMT seemed to be forced out of the country in the 1960s, recontained to China's satisfaction. turned to do business. This positive relationship soured under General Ne Win's rule, following his 1962 military coup. Together with Indian traders, the Chinese controlled much of Burma's economy before and after independence. However, central to the isolationist system under the "Burmese Way to Socialism" was fervent nationalism and extreme suspicion of outside intervention. Foreign businesses were nationalized and large populations of Chinese and Indians were driven from the country. As the purge of Chinese nationals continued, the Chinese government significantly increased its assistance for the insurgent Communist Party of Burma (CPB) following anti-Chinese riots in 1967.1 However, the two countries continued formal diplomatic relations despite continued tensions, with General Ne Win making twelve official trips to China, and with Zhou Enlai and Deng
4 JULY 1 9 9 9

vantages to engagement with China. Breaking from the policy of isolation, the new regime was under pressure to regain control over the country. The military was too weak to effectively contain insurgents and the economy was in shambles. Currency devaluation contributed to a mass uprising that had eventually led to Burma's governmental transition. China was in an ideal position to immediately assist on all counts. It remains unclear how eager Burma was initially to embrace Chinese assistance. However, only China had both the necessary resources and the willingness to provide the money and weapons Burma's military needed. Furthermore, China had the political clout to legitimize the newly formed SLORC in the international arena and offer a level of political protection only available through the veto power of a United Nations security council member. For Burma, which had been a supporter and member of the non-aligned movement, the shift towards China was significant. Although Burma is the country where East, South and South East Asia meet, when Ne Win closed the borders Burma was out of the geopolitical equation. By embracing China, Burma has been able to climb back onto the international stage. India, the ASEAN nations and Japan are all concerned about China's increasing influence, and Burma has leveraged this concern to its own advantage. While details of military agreements between the China and Burma have been kept quiet, rumors of China building and manning naval bases in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal have worried India and South East Asia. Policy analysts cited China's influence as key to ASEAN's controversial 1997 decision to admit Burma into the regional grouping. In an attempt to balance the scales of influence more comfortably, India has also improved both trade and diplomatic relations with Rangoon. Former Indian general and policy analyst, Dipankar Banerjee, noted the reasons for this in a 1996 journal: "Burma is opening up in Asia and perhaps the world. SLORC provides a stable, if not democratic, regime to the country and will be there for some time to come. There are enormous possibilities in this environment. India stands ready to engage Burma in a positive and cooperative way to strengthen mutual resilience and regional stability. "2 In many ways Burma has benefited greatly from its relationship to China, however, questions remain about what the costs of that relationship will be.

The change in relationship also allowed Burma to update and expand its armed forces. Under the BSPP's closed-border policy, there was little economic incentive to control the minority areas immediately adjacent to India, Bangladesh, China and Thailand. After 1988, suppression of the insurgents was necessary to secure trade routes to neighboring countries. Burma and China brokered an estimated US$1.4 billion arms deal which included fighter aircraft, tanks, patrol boats, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns. This initial deal and subsequent arms trading helped Burma's military to expand from an estimated 50,000 soldiers at the beginning of the decade to approximately 400,000 today - contributing significantly to its suppression of insurgent activity. Immediately after 1988, there were clear ad-

POLITICS

While Sino-Burma relations in the past have been relatively clear, in recent years the military government has sent mixed messages China's rapid economic growth has been about its current policy towards Beijing and complimented by the official policy of Chinese immigrants. China has gained so Burma's cash starved government. Deng much influence that one Asian diplomat in Xiaoping's "open door" policy of the early Bangkok said that Burma "is close to being 1980s laid the foundation for the current mi- a Chinese satellite."6 Burma's current leadgration and, eager to welers, some of come foreign investment, who were prothe junta has encouraged teges of Ne the influx of Chinese busiWin, are un...in recent years the nessmen. However, most willing to let of the influx is far beyond that happen. military government the government's conThe military is trol. Most immigrants by nature sushas sent mixed mescross into autonomous picious of outsages aout its policy areas controlled by reside influence gional drug-producing and Chinese towards Beijing and armies. Furthermore, imassistance has migration into SPDC decreased. In Chinese immigrants. controlled territory prelate 1997 the sents local authorities government rewith opportunities for acted strongly both legitimate and unagainst the der-the-table income, making it hard for the trend of raw materials and currency pouring central government to enforce exisiting mi- out in exchange for higher priced manufacgration laws. Policy, economy and a porous tured goods from China by closing Burma's border have led to immigration on a scale borders to the most trade. The Chinese borlarge enough to change northern Burma's der town of Ruili became a ghost town until demography. the government reopened the border under pressure last June. However, with new borResentment in northern Burma towards the der trade controls in place, trade dropped new ethnic Chinese arrivals has gradually considerably. In August 1997 when Chinese increased. The Chinese settle in insular com- Foreign Trade Minister Wu Yi called for munities, where they can preserve their lan- stronger economic ties, mid year bilateral guage, culture and national identity. The trade with Burma stood at US$700 million. cultural and linguistic gaps, as well as the Total trade for this past year only amounted 7 economic disparity between these commu- to US$413 million. But SPDC canceled talks nities and their neighbors, only heighten the on a planned route from Yunnan to the Bay animosity. Resentment for the problems of of Bengal via the Irrawaddy river, one of the increasing drug addiction in northern China's highest economic priorities. HighBurma also falls on recent immigrants. The level diplomatic exchanges between the two Communist Party of Burma was a major force countries came to a virtual standstill and arms in the drug trade and many of the groups trade tapered off amid rumors the SPDC is currently involved in drug trafficking trace not pleased with the quality of the weapons.
5

Today, Chinese are once again a considerable presence in Burma. Hundreds of trucks pour across the border pass connecting Ruili in Yunnan with Muse in northern Shan State. Chinese residents are estimated to make up as much as 30% of the population of Mandalay in northern Burma.3 Farmers who were displaced by flooding in Southern Yunnan have crossed the border into autonomous regions in north-east Shan State en masse, using flood relief money to buy residency papers and the good graces of local officials. Local drug warlord Lin Mingxiang, who signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1989, has reportedly been resettling Chinese immigrants in Burma for 5,000 renminbi (US$600) a person.4 Entrepreneurs, capitalizing on the relative strength of the Chinese yuan to the kyat are moving into Burma, buying prime realestate and setting up shop.

their roots to the Chinese-linked communist insurgents. On March 12 of this year, these frustrations turned violent in the town of Kutkai where ethnic Kachin people fought with local Chinese youths resulting in several injuries.5 Until now fear of the military government has kept most of the considerable resentment against Chinese immigrants under wraps. However, if the people continue to experience economic hardship, nationalists hoping to purge Chinese could exploit the income gap between indigenous ethnic groups and their Chinese neighbors. The government looking for a convenient scapegoat could also target the Chinese for economic woes.

The SPDC's attitude towards Chinese people has been more accommodating. Attmepts to stir up ill-feeling towards Chinese immigration have been quickly supressed. In 1990 well-known writer Nyi Pu Lay was sentenced to 10 years for stirring up anti-Chinese sentiment with a satire entitled "The Python" which depicted Chinese pushing Burmese out of Mandalay.8 More recently, in last November the military government allowed a weekly Chinese newspaper to be printed for the first time since Ne Win closed the country's independent newspapers in the 1960s. Soon after that, Thailand-based Chinese-language Shije Ribao became the first foreign newspaper to circulate inside Burma since the crackdown. At the same time, there seems to very little acknowledgement of growing tensions towards the new immigrants. Despite Rangoons fears of over-dependence, Beijing will continue to influence Burma. Ironically, while the military government has used China's increasing role to lever investment and better relations in the region, it may come at too high a price. Much of the material assistance from China came as loans, and the military government is heavily indebted to Beijing. Since the Asian economic crisis, neither ASEAN membership nor more open trade with India have filled the junta's coffers enough to break free from the China's pull. In the first week of June, LtGen. Khin Nyunt became the first member of the SPDC to visit Beijing since October 1996. Upon his return to Rangoon, state-run media announced that he had secured a 50 million yuan (US$6 million) interest-free loan, only increasing Burma's indebtedness.9 It remains to be seen how the Burmese military will succeed in balancing the interests of China, the rest of Asia and the sentiments of its own people. E. Miller

Endnotes "Burma-China tions..."

Rela-

1 "Burma and China," The Nation, 30 December 1999. 2 "Shifting ties: China, India and Burma," Dipankar
Banerjee, Bangkok Past, 10 November 1996.

3 "China's Shadow," Asiaweek, 28 May 1999.


4 "Moving Costs," Far Eastern Economic Review, 11

March 1999. 5 "The Third Wave," Bertil Lintner, Far Eastern


Economic Review, 1 8 J u n e 1 9 9 9 .

6 "China's Shadow" 7 "Myanmar-China trade up during 1998-1999,"


Xinhua, 3 August 1999.

8 "The Third Wave". 9 "Burma is given loan," Bangkok Port, 14 June 1999.

JULY

1999

HUMAN

RIGHTS

THE CRISIS OF FOOD SCARCITY: HUNGER IN A LAND OF PLENTY


hroughout Burma, people of all races, religions and walks of life face a basic humanitarian crisis: inadequate access to sufficient food. Complex and varied, food scarcity in Burma is a man-made crisis created by the pervasive militarisation of national political, economic and social structures. While the relationship between militarisation and hunger has its roots in a century of political unrest, it is no mere historical legacy; it is a contemporary process upheld and extended by Burma's current military government. These conditions are widespread and pervasive, although they very from one region to the next. So too does the link between militarisation and food scarcity take several forms, each explicit and demonstrable. These various manifestations are determined regionally by prevailing political and economic conditions, including civil war, the impact of economic development projects, taxation, paddy procurement quotas, and inflation. The most obvious connections between hunger and militarisation relate to Burma's ongoing civil war, a longstanding and widespread conflict consuming enormous economic, political and human resources. Through identifiable military strategy, the Burma army is a direct agent of hunger by destroying and confiscating food, destroying crops, levying arbitrary taxes, appropriating agricultural land and resources, relocating rural villages, causing population displacement, disrupting agricultural cycles, depleting the agrarian work force, and cutting off vital trade and transportation routes. Political ramifications of civil war also contribute to hunger. In its efforts to consolidate and maintain control over the country, the military government severely restricts civil liberties. Such measures include arbitrary arrest, detention and imprisonment, often in poor conditions conducive to hunger. Another serious factor is the fracturing and
JULY 1999

separation of households, especially in the arbitrary arrest, conscription and execution of men and women who are primary breadwinners, accelerating the family's decline into chronic hunger. Many also choose to flee from their homes to join insurgent forces, leaving behind a gap in the household economy. The use of forced, unpaid civilian labor to support military operations also contributes to food scarcity. Portering for the military, strategic road construction and serving the military infrastructure through menial labor, such as building and maintaining barracks, all draw uncompensated labor away from basic agricultural production, resulting in food scarcity. Additionally, restrictions on

such as dam-building, road and railway construction which adversely affect rural populations. The Border Areas Development Program is a significant link between efforts to pacify minority populations and hunger. Economic mismanagement, including systemic corruption and low government paddy purchase rates, have created a home-grown economic crisis marked by rising inflation and falling currency values. Periodic demonetizations have greatly exacerbated currency instability and have fuelled an enormous black market. Basic food prices have soared while incomes have fallen, creating general conditions of hunger throughout the country, but particularly in the rice-producing heartland. Competition for natural resources, increasingly monopolized by military interests, has heightened people's reliance on cash for supplemental foods.

Agriculturally rich and economically diverse, Burma has the capacity to achieve food security for all its people. The conditions of food scarcity are not caused by any environmental limitations or inadequate communal skills and resources. Nor are Burmese Villagers harvesting rice in Papun District ,1997 (BI) people hungry because of economic people's freedom of movement limit their abil- policy missteps by a sincere but inexperiity to cope with changing economic condi- enced government. Nor has food scarcity resulted from the recent South East Asian tions. currency crisis or economic downturn. The The extension of army control into the plan- root cause of hunger in Burma can be found ning and management of the national much closer to home. Hunger in Burma is economy also contributes significantly to the direct result of the intentional and sysfood scarcity. Run by the military, govern- tematic actions of a military government for ment agencies overseeing agriculture and which the well-being of the population economic development channel national re- particularly access to sufficient food is at sourcesparticularly food into the expan- best not a priority and at worst a threat to its sion and maintenance of the military. Unreal- political survival. In Burma, military dictaistically high paddy quotas, high taxation, torship and food security are incompatible, and threats of severe punishment including and it remains to be seen which will prevail. forfeiture of farm lands force the rural economy to supply this need. Furthermore, BI Staff despite food scarcity, the government treats rice as an export commodity to gain foreign exchange for military purposes, including arms procurement. Foreign exchange also pays for economic development projects
6

EVENTS

JULY NEWS
Refugee repatriation
Repatriation of the remaining 21,000 refugees living along the Bangladesh-Burma border topped the agenda when Burma's Foreign Minister U Win Aung met with his counterpart in Dhaka in a three day long "familiarization tour." Approximately 250,000 Rohingyas crossed into Bangladesh fleeing persecution by the military junta, but the majority of these refugees were repatriated under UNHCR supervision by the middle of 1997. Following the visit, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdus Samad Azad, said Win Aung had assured him that Burma "would take back all their nationals quickly." However, the Burmese foreign minister refused to set a time limit on the repatriation process and indicated that he would need to talk with the appropriate ministries at home before the issue could be resolved. Of the remaining refugees, authorities in Burma have already cleared approximately 7,000 persons for return. Another 9,000 Rohingyas were rejected as they could not provide proof of residence in Burma and 5,000 persons were accused of connections with the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, an armed insurgent group. However, Azad said that the entire group needed to be repatriated and he reiterated that the "improvement of relations depends to a large extent on how swiftly the refugee problem is solved." Under the 1982 citizenship law, any Burmese national who cannot trace their family's residence in the country to before 1823 cannot claim any level of citizenship. Because the majority of this minority ethnic group are not officially citizens (their residency papers lististing their nationality as "Muslim") they don't have access to even the basic social services of health care and education. On Burma's other border, the head of the Thai National Security Council, Kachadpai Burussapattana, said that the UNHCR will be asked to help with the repatriation of all refugees in Thailand in the next three years. According to Kachadpai, the request will be made at the UNHCR general assembly in Geneva in October. He stated that the situation in Burma had returned to normal and that Rangoon had welcomed the refugees to return home.

Drug trafficking
In an interview on Radio Thailand, Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai said that during recent talks with Senior-General Than Shwe of Burma's ruling SPDC the General had admitted that his government could not control the drug situation in minority areas along the borders. During that meeting the Thai prime minster had pushed for greater cooperation from Burma on the drug problem. Deputy Foreign Minister Sukhumbhand Paribatra said that as Thai people had become comsumers of narcotics produced in Burma, Thailand had the right to raise the issue of drugs. He called for sincerity on the part of the Burmese and stressed that the "selective proactive action" necessary to deal with the drug problem did not run counter to Thailand's long standing "noninterference" policy. Despite concerns raised by these high ranking Thai officials, Rangoon re-confirmed the United Wa State Army (USWA) controlled town of Mong Yawn adjacent to Thailand as a special administrative zone for the next five years. For many Thai narcotics authorities this move proves that the military junta is deeply involved with the USWA, widely recognized for its drug production. The USWA was originally given free reign over Mong Yawn in 1995 and since then town has undergone a major construction to enable an estimated 100,000 people to settle there over the next several years.
"Junta admits it can't halt the flow of drugs," Bangkok Post, 17 July 1999 "Minister urges sincerity in Burma's drug battle," Rita Patiyasevi, The Nation, 27 July 1999 "Snuggling up to the Wa," Bangkok Post, 29 July 1999

in Rangoon stood at more than 40 per cent but said that Burma had been able to sustain itself without foreign assistance due to it's food surplus and abundance of natural resources.
"Burma seeking IMF, World Bank aid," The Nation, 12 July 1999

Yadana gas
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has postponed taking deliveries of natural gas from the Yadana field off of the coast of Burma due to delays in completing a power plant in Ratchaburi. Delivery of the gas via the controversial Yadana pipeline has already been delayed one year as contractors for the power plant failed to provide machinery on schedule. Concerned by EGAT's large debt burden, General Electric and Matsui have delayed in delivery of key parts for the 5,000 megawatt plant. Gas from the Yadana field is 75% more expensive than gas from the Gulf of Thailand and EGAT is hesitant to raise electrical costs. Thailand's state-run petroleum corporation PTT is pushing to use the Yadana gas. Under its contract, PTT is obligated to pay the Yadana consortiumon on schedule for the gas , whether it is recieving it or not. PTT has yet to pay fees of US$62 million as it is still attempting to revise the purchase contract, but does not want to incur any further costs associated with ongoing delays. The first gas turbine is scheduled to start working in October but the EGAT would like to hold off receiving gas at the Ratchaburi plant until a more efficient 700 megawatt-thermal unit is completed in early 2000. During construction the Yadana pipeline faced considerable opposition for the forced relocation and portering the occurred inside Burma. Thai activists also fought the pipeline project for the environmental and social problems created in their country.
"Egat plans to delay in taking Yadaia gas," Watdurapong Thongrung, The Nadon, 15 July 1999 "Yadana is ready, but Egat is not willing," Pipob Udomittipong, The Nation, 28 July 1999

Burma seeks aid

According to Burma's central bank head, U Kyaw Kyaw Maung, his country is seeking financial and technical aid from the World Bank and the IMF. These comments followed a recent visit by teams from the two international financial bodies to the nation. The World Bank suspended aid to Burma in 1988, after the violent suppression of the mass uprising in Rangoon, but visited the country this year to assess it's economic and humanitarian needs. Kyaw Kyaw Maung stated, contrary to earlier reports, that Burma "Myanmar will take Back refugees quickly: Bangladesh had been effected by the Asian economic FM/'Xinhua, 19 July 1999 "Bangladesh fails to force Rohingya as year-end return," crisis. He added that the country had only enough foreign currency in financial reInterpress, 30 July 1999 serves for two months' worth of imports, and "Aliens Reprieved," Bankok Post, 31 July 1999 "Bid to Repatriate 90,000," Bangkok Post, 17 July that this was crippling efforts towards eco1999 nomic reform. He also admitted that inflation
7

JULY

1999

The Last Word


What Others Have to Say About Burma
" M y a n m a r is keeping in the f o r e f r o n t of child rights, women's affairs and social development matters." SPDC Secretary 1 Khin Nyunt who cited the country's 670 day care centers for children, 131 "youth rehabilitation centers" and 127 orphanages as proof of his claims.

"It is time for a new initiative on the part of the Asean members to impress on the junta the need to open a dialogue with the NLD. Asean members must recognise that it is the military regime that is being inflexible and not the NLD, as the government's p r o p a g a n d a asserts. We have bent over b a c k w a r d s to make dialogue possible. But the military regime does not want dialogue because they think that dialogue would be the beginning of the end for them. That would not be the case, because real dialogue should be acceptable and beneficial to everybody, including the military regime." Aung San Suu Kyi arguing that ASEAN should play a greater role in promoting political change in Burma. The NLD leader wrote an article entitled "Nudge Burma towards democracy; " on the 13 th of July 1999.

"As a close neighbor, we will not hesitate to express our concerns and to make constructive suggestions, if and when questions arise which affect the region's and Thailand's security and well-being. As a democratically elected government, we will have to allow, listen to, acknowledge, and accept a wide rage of opinions concerning Burma and our policy t o w a r d s her. H o w e v e r , w h e r e t h e question of democratisation in the region is concerned, in the words of Dr Surin, as a democratically elected government, we will continue to be well-wishers of democracy-loving people everywhere, but we can be active champions of only our own democracy. Thailand is a democracy and proud of it. But this is t h e r e a l i t y . " Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Sukhumbhand Paribatra, in a published response to Aung San Suu Kyi s call for ASEAN countries to play a greater role in bringing about democracy in Burma.

" J u s t as democracy fosters prosperity, so repression in B u r m a has generated economic disaster." U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright at a Asia-Pacific regional security conference on July 28th.

BURMA ISSUES PO BOX 1076 SILOM POST OFFICE B A N G K O K 10504 THAILAND

ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED

AIR MAIL