Written by U Ne Oo on 1996-02-26
Since the formation of soc.culture.burma and, later the BurmaNet-l, I have been able to send to net of communications with our colleagues who normally do not have acces do not have access to the Internet. These communications are time and again reposted to the net for two reasons:(1) the members of the net seems to be growing all the time, so the new comers has to be informed of what I/we have been doing; (2) the Burma's pro-democracy groups to have clear picture of current repatriation movement. Furthermore, these communications are always nice to repost because they show how those who concerned about Burma have discuss the issues and policies.
No chain of commands
When we look at the Burma Action Directory compiled by Mr Arnott (firstname.lastname@example.org), we see how many of such a diversity of groups and individuals engaging in the cause for democracy in Burma. Burma democracy movement to date has been purely voluntary movement; those who engaged in the movement, groups and individual of all size and kind, including governments, are not bound by a command structure. It then is a point of publicizing the underlying policy in an attempt to seek professional cooperation from groups and individual concerned. Reposting of these communications are exactly to serve that purpose.
Present repatriation movement, from my part, had started in 1992 with Rohingyas refugees. At that time, myself had been going through a painful process of becoming a refugee in Australia and starting to think about how it can be difficult for those refugees in Bangladesh. There were reports about egregious humanitarian condition in the camps in Bangladesh. A change of government in Burma, so far as I could see, seems remote at that time in 92. A humane solution for Rohingya is clearly not the one letting them to live in those camps indefinitely.
At that time the international incidents known to us was the humanitarian intervention on Somalia. It clearly justify to consider this for Rohingyas since, unlike other refugees in Thailand etc, the root cause of Rohingya refugee problem is purely human rights/humanitarian problem. Rohingya exodus was caused mainly by SLORC's attempt to divert the Burmese population attention from SLORC's ownORC's own political crisis.
By the end of 1993, it became clear to me that the refugees in Thailand and elsewhere are in equally desperate situation. All refugees are desperate, as a matter of fact. Burmese refugee problem in Thailand is much more complicated in nature because of underlying economic, political and ethnic conflicts. It then is a point of calling for an end to these repressions inside Burma as a solution to the refugee problem.
It's helping ourselves
A compassionate and realistic policy is needed when dealing with refugees. Ill-defined policy can give rise to a great deal of human miseries. In present climate, the asylum policy is not healthy to be built-upon the third country resettlements: you could end up putting your country men/women in the situation like Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong. There then is virtually of no choice: safe passage to home is the only option for majority of our refugees.
There is a universally accepted notion of refugees being passive and dependent. Because of this notion, many concerned NGOs sought prevention of refugees from being manipulated by the Governments and political groups. That exactly have been our own experience regarding with the Rohingya repatriation. However, those who have doubts about my(our) intention regarding repatriation of refugees, please be assured that there are no elements of manipulating the refugees politically or otherwise. It is as a matter of helping ourselves - Refugees want to go home and live in peace.
Because of refugee problem is essentially human rights problem, the repatriation movement can also be seen as a human rights movement. Although the repatriation movement may help, to certain extent, democracy/political movements, the primary objective as well as the premise that it working on are purely non-political and humanitarian.
With best regards, U Ne Oo.
Letter from Human Rights for Burma & Reply
Human Rights for Burma(Inc.),
Cannington, Western Australia 6107
14 August, 1994
Dear U Ne Oo
We acknowledge receipt of your letters of August 3, 1994 with many thanks. We read your letter with mixed feelings and was not too sure of your intentions.
We were puzzled as to why you wanted DAB to ceasefire with SLORC. From the Human Rights point of view, we are obliged to advise you that SLORC does not have the mandate to rule the country. This regime has refused ime has refused to honour the 1990 general election. They promised the people democratic rights but up until now there is no freedom of speech, press, assembly and information. This authoritarian junta has deceived the people too many times and cannot be trusted. Therefore for any one to enter into ceasefire agreement with SLORC is a very risky proposition. We believe the ethnic minorities at the border do know what they are doing and we believe they will do the right thing for the country. We, therefore, stro, strongly advise that you do not persuade the ethnic minorities to comply with SLORC.
We were further very disappointed with your letter of April 6, 1994 to Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai of Thailand. Why are you asking the Thai government to force the ethnic rebels to enter into cease fre agreements with SLORC. Why are you suggesting that the Thai Government repatriate the Burmese nationals back to Burma. The SLORC is not of the people, is not by the people and is not for the people, therefore it is very wrovery wrong to ask the Thai Government to help repatriate the Burmese nationals. You further advised the Thai Prime Minister that it was a wise move to invite Burma to the ASEAN meeting. We strongly disagree with your statement and we request you not to write such letters in future as it tends to legitimise the military junta. All these matters are complex issues and if we do not understand the whole issue, we should not write negative things particularly to the Thai government who themselves are not re not well regarded by the world communities and democratic countries.
If you are interested in advancing democracy in Burma, we suggest that you write to the military regime and request that they accede to the wishes of the people and hand over power to the people where it really belongs. SLORC should serve the people and not force the people to serve them.
Sd. P deRosario
President, Human Rights for Burma(Inc.)
REPLY TO MR DEROSARIO, HUMAN RIGHTS FOR BURMA INC. (22/8/94)
Dr U Ne Oo
48/2 Ayliffes Road
St Marys SA 5042
August 22, 1994.
Mr P deRosario
The President of Human Rights for Burma Inc.
P.O.Box 775, Cannington WA 6107.
Dear Mr deRosario,
Thank you for your letter dated 14 August 1994. I am very glad to receive such a critical letter from the compatriots and I respect your views. Although you may have doubts about my ways & means, I am sure that we share the same aspiration for freedom and democracy for all people of all people of Burma. Followings are why I have invoked the Royal Thai Government on the issue of Burmese refugees. I think the difference between me and you is not of the final objective, but is, rather, the means of achieving it.
Firstly, my proposal is not of 'persuading the ethnic minorities to comply with SLORC'. You may well know that General Bo Mya have stated in his speech last April that the DAB wish to talk with SLORC with presence of outside observers. I can't think of any better observer than United United Nations. General Bo Mya has also urged to the ministers of ASEAN countries to mediate the peace-talks in July. I believe this is what DAB want: to make the political settlement, i.e. to form Federal Union, with Burmese military through international mediations. Therefore, the suggestions in my August 3 letter is essentially reflections of these ethnic freedom fighters' views. Of course, when we make political moves, this kind of coordinated display of supports are quite necessary.
Senator Evans Evans have tried to mediate between SLORC and DAB/NCGUB in 1992, which SLORC did not accept. SLORC is not going to transfer power to NLD on a straight away whatever the people outside may say. So what can we do ?
When you try to mediate internal conflicts like this, there is in the UN Charter that 'no country or group of countries interfere the internal political affairs of the member state'. That is why all Burmese actually got into problem and have to suffer for so long: the UN can only pass the resolutions, there is no legal framework for UN to make intervention on Burma's internal political affairs (only recently UN changed its position, such as on Haiti). The SLORC do not honour the 1990 election results, and that is the violation of Human Rights (worse still, Burma is not a party to the ICCPR), and that is internal political affairs. The fighting between minorities and SLORC is also an internal political affairs. That is why the UN was unable to do anything positively in the last 4 years.
Therefore, the , the only legitimate way for the UN to be involved in this internal affairs is through refugees. /* ---------- */ Thanks to the Australian Senators, that they have to talk a lot with RTG and ASEAN, especially last July. Hopefully, the UN become involved in this matter soon and make improvements to humanitarian situation, influence on the writing of the constitution and also mediate between ethnic rebels and Burmese army.
I think the refugee problem is more justified to solve if we look at things in humanitarian perspective. The Burmese nationals have been begging on the streets of Bangkok - which nobody should overlook about this. The Burmese boat people are already arriving Malaysia, looking for jobs. The humanitarian situation within the country hasn't been any better; people from Sagaing area are reportedly queued along railways line begging for food - which reflect the extent of poverty in the country side. Nobody like to see Burma's situation developed into Somalia or Rwanda; if we do not tackle the problems now, there is possibility a complete social breakdown occurring in Burma. The country's political problem should be left to solve by political parties. But no administration, legitimate of illegitimate, must violate human rights of normal citizens and forcing them to flee from the country. By the way, I am also a refugee in Australia, and I myself do not like to live in other country. That why I am doing these things that much as I have so much empathy about their plights.
Well, I now hope that you have enough information on this initiative. If we succeed, this will be the end of civil war and a new federal union to be formed - which is what the ethnic minorities want. The democratic forces at the border are not quite well informed as we are here, simply because of they had to operate in a clandestine settings. There is nothing wrong to give suggestions to them. I would even more worried, if no one informed them of how to participate in the movement, there is a true danger of democratic forces being disappeared politically.
The invitation of Burma to ASEAN is a controversial one: the Americans don't like it. But I think the outcome would be positive in longer run - we have the danger of being overrun, economically, by big brother at the north. And SLORC is not getting the membership tomorrow.
Well, SLORC is truly hard headed one. They are not quite likely to listen a person like me ( which they consider an absconder) and writing to them would not have much effect. They have for 4 years ignored all serious diplomatic representations, UN resolutions and the protests by international community. Anyway, if we want something to get done in Burma, it is not simply enough just asking SLORC to do. We must find ways to give pressure upon SLORC. That thing, after all, have become politics.
Thanks for exchanging views and very open letter. I like this very much. Even if the means might still be unclear, I hope you are having no doubt of my honesty and good intention on this issue.
Sd. U Ne Oo.