Written by U Ne Oo on 1999-01-25

#Update on UNGA Resolution: The 53rd Session of the UN General Assembly has passed its consensus resolution on Burma on 9th December 1998, apparently without any modification made on the text. Unfortunately, such insensitivity of UNGA preclude any political progress, particularly the task of legitimi-sing NLD, by the democracy movement in this year. In addition, we are compelled to helplessly watch the unlawful detention of NLD-Mntion of NLD-MPs in Burma since no mechanism is known for intervening such situation. It is an early sign of what appears to be rather grim situation for the year 1999.

The SPDC/SLORC since October'98 had relocated the detained NLD-MPs to various military bases throughout the country. We received frequent reports of inhuman treatment by military authorities to these elected represen-tatives from inside sources. The SPDC/SLORC media also claimed of the massive resignation of NLD members, of which opposition reportedition reported as coerced resignations. Although intensive repression on NLD was reported, ironically, there have not been any sign of SPDC/SLORC disqualifying NLD party or arresting the Central Executive Committee members.

Despite a lack of international help, the CEC of NLD appears to be moving things inside the country as much as they could. Of particular values to humanitarian consideration is the NLD successfully organising centres for rice donation and distribution to the most needy people in Rangoon (see encloseoon (see enclosed ALTSEAN Report). The fact these centres are so successful that local authorities have sought to prevent NLD freely distributing rice to the people. Instead, the local SPDC/SLORC demanded the rice to be distributed at 20 kyats/pyi (market price is about 120-160 kyats/pyi). It would appears that SPDC/SLORC is making sure the NLD does not make any political mileage out of such operations.

#US initiative for humanitarian assistance: Despite the Year-1999 will be an unproductive year in political frontolitical front, the international community has given us a glimmer of hope for practically helping the people of Burma. Early this month, the US Congressman Tony Hall visited Rangoon and met with both military leaders and DASSK (AAP report,17/1). Congressman Hall is known for his strong advocacy for humanitarian causes and was nominated for last years' Nobel Peace Prize. He is reportedly recommending to provide humanitarian aid independent of the regime and to be undertaken in consultation with the National League for Democracy(NCr Democracy(NCGUBPressrelease,19/1).

There is no doubt about the basic humanitarian need to the Burmese population from the time current regime took over power in 1988. As long as such humanitarian aid is provided independent of the regime, full supports groups are to be expected. There has also been a possible model, of which I have suggested in 1994 and appeared being abandoned, to provide humanitarian assistance independent of the regime. Obstacles regarding hes regarding humanitarian assistance to Burma are not the objection from pro-democracy groups or not having an acceptable model.

The main problem regarding humanitarian aid to Burma continues to be the intransigence of the military regime not accepting the international help (Asiaweek, 25/12/98). Given the record of the regime, the international community will unlikely to have an easier passage for the humanitarian aid, despite being made with a noble intention. It needs to note that any plan for humanitarian assistanctarian assistance to Burma, just like at any attempt to improve human rights situation, will require a substantive political commitment from the international community. The humanitarian initiative will unlikely to get a breakthrough in Burma, unless intervention being made by international body such as UN Security Council.

#Our marginalised ethnic groups: In late 1998, there have been appearance on electronic media of two politically marginalised minority groups: the Rohingyas in western Burma and the Shan secessie Shan secessionist groups. In an interview conducted by [***] an independent human rights advocate based in USA, the Rohingya resistance leaders have expressed the view that they wish to join formal political movement, such as NCGUB. However, the Rohingya is considered by most Burmese as non-indigenous ethnic minority group, although they have been in Burma for almost two centuries. Therefore, we must ruled out the possibility of Rohingyas joining in equal political status with other indigenous minority groups. For Rohingyas, it ohingyas, it may be more practical to consider solving their citizenship issue and, whenever possible, improvement to their socio-economic status.

There has also been a Shan exile group, [****], advocating a policy for an independent Shan State. On the other hand, there have been Shan State Army --recent merger of Shan United Revolutionary Army, Shan State National Army and Shan State Army--which appears to be sympathetic to secessionist cause (To note, however, I get no clear details of connection of [****] with SSA. F] with SSA. Further, it is not uncommon for any Burmese exiled groups to make the false claims of connection with ethnic guerrillas on the ground).

The dynamic of rebellion in Shan State, including that of claims for secession from the Union, are quite complex historically. Nevertheless, any secessionist movement in Burma will receive no support from the main stream pro-democracy groups and will also be faced with resistance by the Burmese regime. The secessionist causes, on the one hand, are to be regarded as the mairded as the main distraction to our ethnic federal movement. The Federal Solution to Burma, in fact, is politically acceptable middle-way between the Unitary groups, such as Burmese Army, and those of secessionist groups. Therefore, the pro-democracy groups, including the NLD, strengthening their stance towards a genuine Federal Union can help reduce the potential for those secessionist groups.

#About the Chilton Park initiatives: International media in October reported of a meeting of 40 diplomats around the woraround the world, including five Ambassadors to Burma, that was held in Chilton Park, Kent, in Britain. These diplomats reportedly elaborated the "new approach" to the situation in Burma, with the involvement of United Nations and World Bank including an offer for large scale aid package to Burma. Those media reports apparently carried some truth, since US Congressman Tony Hall has visited Burma. However, our pro-democracy groups should be aware about the manipulation by certain media establishments, exploiting this Chilton Phis Chilton Park initiatives. Following is my obeservation.

The report of UN/World Bank 1 billion dollar deal to Burma was first broke on 26 Nov 98 by International Herald Tribune(that article was included in my communication last December). In that article, reporter Thomas Crampton wrote,"In exchange, the NLD would agree to rescind its calls to convene Parliament, and international funding would be opened to Burma for the first time", including few other measures (see also Professor Josef Silverstein's discussion on s discussion on 5/1/99). Surely, no one at the Chilton Park meeting, especially the UN officials, are in a position to make such suggestion. (Although it is not unusual, to our knowledge, for some reporters to write a pro-military line just to get permission to visit Burma. In addition, any media report is to be taken with a pinch of salt.)

Then again, the suggestion on rescinding NLD calls to convene parliament is repeated in this month Asiaweek Editorial (report enclosed). It appears that some media establishments have bshments have been pushing along a certain pro-military line.

To the international community, especially to those Chilton Park delegates, the NLD calls to convene a parliament is not an unreasonable one. Any attempt to soften such NLD's demand will amount to unduly thwarting Burma's pro-democracy movement. At this point in time, what is needed to solve the crisis in Burma is not necessarily of a "new plan", but a greater commitment from the international community. The humanitarian approach has worth its try, but will have no success unless it being backed-up by substantive political power, such as UN Security Council.

#On evaluating last years' progress: There are significant achievements by the movement last year, although the non-progress in UNGA resolution remains to be a disappontment. One positive result would be our refugees in Thailand receiving some measure of UN protection (for this, we -- the Burmese -- are very grateful to the Amnesty International for their worldwide campaign for refugees in 1997). Thaign for refugees in 1997). The tightening of sanction from EU, including visa ban on Burmese government officials, can also be considered as a good outcome.

Our call to cancel the Japanese Government's debt relief grant to Burma bring no results. The initiative made in early 1998 to divert the flow of revenue from the Yadana project by PTT-EP/Unocal/Total groups has not materialised. Media (again!) reported the SPDC/SLORC had already used up the projected revenue until 2000-01. Nevertheless, it may be about time to mobilise a campaigbilise a campaign to bring the concerned parties to the International Court of Justice.

The ILO report of Inquiry on Forced Labour in Burma this year may also be considered as a great achievement, especially for those who had participated in the inquiry. Further efforts to remedy the situation of forced labour in Burma, including the SPDC/SLORC delegate to be expelled from ILO, should be considered in this year.

Most important task this year would be the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur to get access to Burma access to Burma. Our efforts in this regards in mid-1998 still need to continue in the coming months.

#New channel of communication to you--the NetIPR: As a commemoration of 50th Anniversary of UDHR, I have organised a South Australian based grassroots network to protect the rights of refugees in Asia-Pacific region (brochure enclosed). In future, you may be communicated through NetIPR for the Burmese refugee matters. The NetIPR will also seek tol also seek to address other refugee situations within Asia-Pacific region. Those who particularly wish to receive various communications from NetIPR, please inform me (For Burmese refugee matters, you will be communicated by the NetIPR anyway).

The NetIPR, in many ways, will help streamlined my scarce resources to communicate to our pro-democracy friends. Also I am concerned about things much closer to home, of which I will be able make some contribution through NetIPR. On the other hand, the situation of refugees in Thefugees in Thailand, though now being under the supervision of UNHCR, will require continued vigilance from our part. As records show, when the host governments get tough on refugees, the UNHCR become buckled. For this, our friends continuing attention will be most valuable.

With best regards, U Ne Oo.

Current situation in Burma