Culture: Political Science:


Chapter 2: Misunderstood Myanmar

By Koh Kim Seng, Ph.D.

International Business Executive, Political Scientist



Editor's Note: This paper is the third of series of chapters excerpted from Dr. Koh's book, 'Misunderstood Myanmar: An Introspective Study of a Southeast Asian State in Transition'. With years of experience operating a business in Myanmar (Burma), Dr. Koh has first-hand knowledge and a deeply practical understanding of the economic and administrative opportunities and challenges currently existing in the country. This second segment explains Myanmar's stance on international relations. -JP


Spin the globe.  Which way does the world turn on Myanmar1?


Zenith and Nadir

Myanmar is the largest state on the contiguous land mass of Mainland Southeast Asia and the second largest in South East Asia and the Greater Mekong Sub-regional (GMS) grouping2, having a land area of 262,000 square miles. Once the rice basket of Asia, it was under the British regime and immediately afterwards, it was one of the wealthiest in terms of natural resources and the most prosperous and developed country in the Region, after achieving independence from Britain3. Indeed, its standards of living (were) higher than in most other parts of Asia even up to the late first half 1940s4. Pairing it with the Philippines in the mid-1950s, the World Bank (WB) gave Myanmar a good prognostication of its development and trajectory for the future. But it seems that none of these hold true today as the application of perhaps "inappropriate" econo-political systems post-independence caused by its "traumatic" past colonial history led Myanmar to rank among the list of the United Nation's (UN) 50 poorest countries5 in the world - an unmatched or unparalleled dramatic irony notwithstanding the vast renewable and non-renewable resources that Myanmar is endowed with and takes pride in.


Having been around in Myanmar for the better part of 20 years and having visited and done business with Nepal and the Maldives among others, I have seen the differences between the standard of living in these so called Poor/Third World/Least Developed Countries (LDC) or even Lowest of Least Developed Countries (LLDC) and Myanmar. I thus posed the question to my key respondents of what they felt about Myanmar having been classified as one of the 50 poorest countries by the UN and whether this was an assessment which ought to be taken cum grano salis. Cousin6 as with Brother responded with a small grin stating, "you know after World War II, international organizations such as the World Bank, UNDP and others set up certain indices to grade development: e.g., high income / highly developed; middle income / middle developed; less income / least developed. The indices include economic, social and political measures such as GNP, GDP, social inequality (percentage rich and poor,) life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy rate, human development index, Human Rights index (number of political prisoners,) etc. Needless to say, there are other measures of 'poverty'.


"Now as you know," continued Cousin, "what is 'universally' known is that simple or comparative data on and from Myanmar is dismally absent and difficult to obtain (hence research in and on Myanmar is extremely difficult) and if at all, available data are at best 'estimates.' In spite of this many such Bodies / Institutions are able, in their discursive writings, to make definitive judgments about Myanmar's position in the world ranking, to conclude that we are among the 50 poorest countries being able to qualify as an LDC or even LLDC, though it was a fact that it was we who voluntarily applied for LDC status".


Cousin said, "let me quote you some examples because as you can see I have taken the trouble to make notes on these since you had pre-empted me about this. This is anyway down my street. You may check the references I will indicate."


Cousin continued with, "The World Bank in its annual World Development Reports does not provide a figure for our GDP, yet it states that the long term gross average annual growth figure of our GDP is 0.6% for 1980 - 1990 and an impressive 6.3% for 1990 - 1998. Again in the publication "Myanmar at a Glance" the World Bank without any data for the GDP gave a slightly different figure of minus 1.8% average annual growth per capita from 1983 - 1993 and an even more inspiring turnaround figure of plus 6.4% per capita from 1993 - 20037."


"The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook claims Myanmar's GDP (at purchasing power parity) is USD74.3 billion (USD1,700 per capita (20048). This low figure sets us at number 185 out of 232 nations worldwide and on par with North Korea but just below Bangladesh, Cambodia and Laos."


"If these figures are to be believed we started the decade of growth at a very low baseline. Simply, when we shifted from [the] agricultural into [the] industrial sector, there was a percentage growth of GDP from 47 in 1980 to 59 in 1998. On the other hand, industry declined from 13 to 10 and manufacturing from 10 to 7 with value added in services declining from 41 to 319. This beats all notions and logic of their own (Western) development model. It is possible however that presumably, economists can explain this by the growth of our export sector . . . funnily over the period when the US and EU were trying to screw us down for political reasons. Or could the growth in value added in agriculture be perhaps because of a substantial improvement in food production?"


"You will find that our food production index from 1995 - 1997 stood at 133.5 - that is practically one-third up from the base line of 100 in 1989-9110. Now this is much higher than that recorded for many of the other LDC countries. So from these very few examples which I have cited, I hope you and all the others who read can draw their own conclusion." Cousin concluded: "I realize you are not a trained economist but with your years of exposure and experience, I can see that you comprehend what I am saying. On the statistics which I had compiled for you since you requested for them earlier, I can see that you have made notes on the numbers which I have cited. However if you still have problems with figures I provided just contact me and I will be happy to provide you the figures again."


Brother added, "this 'distortion' to create a misunderstanding of Myanmar is not new. If you were to read Woodman, you will see that someone no less than Dr. G.T. Bayfield wrote that the then British Resident in Rangoon (1796-1798), Captain Hiram Cox labeled the Burmese Court an assembly of clowns and their followers (as being) ungrateful, rapacious, cruel, treacherous and lazy till it was subsequently debunked by Dr. D.G.E.Hall11. Likewise, how one Captain Michael Symes in Rangoon, on 31st May 1802 thought King Bodawpaya a "half mad bigot" who had little regard for the Laws of the nation in spite of the fact, in his own words that he "enjoyed unlimited freedom", with the Burmese Government having "paid (attention) to my representation on every subject12. Herein comes confusion and misunderstanding.


The fact is that Myanmar used to supply oil through the Burmah Oil Company13, one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world at that time. Now, it continues to be a principal source of jade, rubies, pearls and sapphires, and it is also the world's largest exporter of teak. Called the "king of wood", teak resists extreme conditions of the most severe kind. It is utilized in the construction of many items such as the teak yachts of western elites to the homes of the oil-rich country-tycoons with their oil fields with which "Myanmar pairs off with considerable oil and gas reserves and production potential14."


"Yet, the 1991 Burma Petro/Gas Report for reasons best known to itself appears to have attempted to downplay the economic significance of Myanmar's natural resources to that part of the World, which might still be interested in investing in Myanmar," according to Brother who added that, "you can see how the Report is slanted; our gas reserves are phenomenal." Brother who is au fait with the subject assures me that Myanmar's gas reserves are phenomenal not by their own reckoning but by that of foreign consultants. Considering this, one must perforce conclude by any objective reckoning, that stating that "Burmese hydrocarbon output is one of the world's lowest;" that its oil production "outlook is bleak," and that it offers the World "only modest gas finds," these by any objective reckoning must be a case of hearing imparedness of the unusual kind when it seems unable to hear itself talking because on the other hand the Report rightly states that the "production downfall" was caused by the "lack of modern techniques and outdated equipment." Objectively the Report ought to have been more explicit that the problem is not one of low/modest gas reserves, per se.


Notwithstanding the foregoing, it still remains that the oil and gas reserves of Myanmar are rich, vast and plentiful. David Fullbrook stated the figure of 2.5 trillion cubic metres as the ascertained gas reserves of Myanmar and to illustrate the enormity of this reserve, the Chinese state firm, Petrochina, entered into contract with Myanmar for the supply of 185 billion cubic metres of natural gas and this would stretch over a period of 30 years15! The Petro/Gas Report is obviously a little difficult to comprehend but when viewed in the light of energy guru Robert Haefner III's assertion and assessment that "energy is going to determine the security of society" and that energy is "so essential to daily life that countries go to war over it16, it is not too onerous a task to draw certain conclusions about how Myanmar can be "misunderstood" or can be "made to be misunderstood." When this factor is seen in the nexus of China's developmental trajectory - being energy dependent - the "misunderstanding" becomes obvious according to Brother, when the issue was raised with him. This in part is responsible for Myanmar's vicissitudes, it seems. In fact, more recently, China edged out India in the bid for the Myanmar sale of 3.5 million tons of Liquefied Natural Gas17.


Yet, Myanmar underwent the seemingly intractable problem of being caught in what some scholars call a "time warp18" and others a "hermit country19" and therefore stunted in its econo-political and socio-political development while a number of Insular Asean states have gained the distinction of becoming newly-industrialised countries or economies ("NICs/NIEs") - or even "Asian Tigers" - leaving Myanmar, as Brother noted, "the way foreign elements - scholars, analysts etc put it - "spluttering" and endeavoring to get its developmental act together!"


"But is this justifiable?" I asked. Brother responded: "They do not seem to know or understand the impact of the trauma of historical development we have been through with respect to our past colonialists. It is this which led our past leaders to indulge in autocracy and autarky which was the proper and appropriate way forward in the context of the time. However the trauma was not so easily gotten rid off although we did not keep up with changes and developments occurring outside. If you look at the successful Asean states − development or lack of it is, to put it simply, a matter of governance. This is what we have been trying to do post 1988. It is not a matter of the clock having stopped on us! Even with the best of governance / government, extraneous factors affect development as in the case of the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, on already successful states; our problem happens to be our historical past - and the "misled Myanmar Diaspora." Cousin, also commented that because of some of the above reasons Myanmar has been caught with intractable problems leading to its "stunted econo-political and socio-political development compared to some of the other Asean states which have become NICs / NIEs or even "Asian Tigers."


Social Lens

Myanmar or Burma has been under the scrutiny of the international community spanning the two most recent decades or even earlier. The repeated mention in the literature of the naming alternatives Myanmar "or" Burma[1] alone resonates with the need for international enlightenment of greater depth for the Country's recognition or acceptance as a nation-state.


"What's in the name, "Myanmar" which particularly the old British colonialists seem to refuse to accept?" I asked Brother. His response was, "I suppose it is because they equate the use of "Myanmar" to, historically, the Nazis' solitary insistence on Deutsche-land instead of Germany. This is silly and is truly unfounded." This seems odd because the fact is that primarily, the UN has accepted the country's official name, Myanmar, and pacta sund servanda[2] all UN rule-bound states like the United States the United Kingdom must thereby abide by it[3].


Myanmar officials then in the State Law and Order Restoration Council ("SLORC") government painstakingly explained that this change of name was: "First, to provide [the Myanmas] a release from the British colonial past[4]" as history conveys to us the British gaffe of inability or difficulty to pronounce "Myanmar," and, they continued, "second, to give the country a sense of national unity[5]." Political underpinning aside, archaeology has time and again proven that as early as the 12th century, and clearly by the 13th, inhabitants of the country referred to themselves as "People of Myanmar[6]." Leading foreign press columnists, however, show signs of use-ambivalence while others like many an international NGO and civil society organization (CSO) choose to use Burma with sheer obstinacy as a form of protest. Yet in fairness there are one or two lone "voices" (in the wilderness it seems) who in their more lucid moments have cautioned correctly that the SLORC/SPDC does not desire to have foreigners 'play the role of financers of the production' especially if it is not allowed to direct the drama according to their own 'artistic political preferences[7]' Brother quoted. This Brother says is in keeping with General Aung San's fear of borrowing etc leading to the Country becoming a 'prostitute country'. The clarion call, it seems, is one of "either you are one of us, or against us," added Brother.


In the same light, Myanmar's political structure, especially its government, did not escape strict and funneled down politico-structural analyses. A litany of name calling of succeeding political regimes was arrived threat, reflecting the US - led conviction situating Myanmar as an outpost of tyranny[8] in the somewhat grand schema of its foreign policy. According to Myanmar scholars, Kyaw Yin Hlaing, Robert H. Taylor and Tin Maung Maung Than, there had been three successive eras of government after its independence in 1948: parliamentary democracy (1948-62), military socialism (1962-88), and a "Stratocratic rule[9]" (1988 to present). From this "Stratocratic rule" period or, to Burmese journalist, Martin Smith[10], a "transitional military rule," though, there is yet to surface one glaring manifestation of a shift in the regime's political perceptions of the way forward and hence the seeming "isolation" or in the more neutral words of Shalmali Guttal, a no-clear-ism[11] as described in his analysis of the political economy of Myanmar.


The members of the Military Junta make a clear distinction between isolation from international relations, in terms of state recognition, and that which emanates from regimes of self-determination[12], that is, autonomy/sovereignty. The latter, as Cousin, a former Minister asserts, is an "intrastate imposition," that is within their grasp and by their own choice, whereas the former is an imposition by the "inter-state collectivity" of nations - something beyond their control. Simply put, to the Military Junta, Myanmar has perforce had to maintain global "political isolation" because of the past "unhappy colonial experience," according to Brother, a retired government minister.


For some scholars, this isolation has been in place since its independence from British rule, also [13] a point Brother disagrees with because Myanmar has been deeply involved in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which is a much more recent development. Some of the [SLORC/SPDC] Generals, Brother added, feel that to be more "objective," international observers conducting what they consider to be thorough analyses about Myanmar should know that it has been in a state of transition, undergoing a political shift from authoritarian rule to a constitutionally based electoral democracy[14] or yet a "double transition[15]", that is, "from subsistence agriculture to more diversified economies, and from centrally planned to market-based economies."


I sought the view of Brother as someone used to being involved in drumming up policy options and his response was the following: "To this long end, the dilemma for the Myanmar Government, is whether there needs to be an (overly rapid) democratic transition; how this transition will be best managed, and when the appropriate time is, for it to take place. Should we move along the democratic wave[16], as we tried to opt for in the past decades, to modify the world perception (including that of some scholars) of our being a 'repressive regime,' a 'pariah' or a 'hermit state and not stand accused of our not employing neo-classical liberal economic thought just to please them and get into trouble?"


Whereupon I interrupted Brother and remarked, "and, I might add, of not indulging in the international economy when you have a comparative advantage from your natural factor endowments?" "Tempting thoughts," he continued, "but in our current circumstances, we have to factor in our disadvantage of the trade sanctions imposed on us. Also, of our inadequate capital base as well as advanced technology deficiency as some so called 'Modernizing' economic theorists advocate. From my reading of the 'Dependency Economy' theorists and my own experience, it is clear that because of the non-homogeneity of international labour, our own internal social structure will get distorted and will probably breakdown. So, do we break from the international system (economic and political) or progress step by step on the basis of "self reliance? Do we not have any discretion; or indeed do we", Brother mused. The elucidation from Brother was pretty clear and as he ran out of time, the chat stopped.


We shall have occasion to delve deeper into Brother's comments in a later chapter. We can add to what he said of another glaring fact - that Myanmar post-independence was in a state of war, fighting insurgents, communists, drug armies and secessionists. Likewise it had been in a state of economic turmoil; an economic dilapidation brought about by the nationalization of the populaces' assets including land and businesses, inter alia, demonetization. Such drastic moves brought about food shortages arising from low output, a decrepit transportation and distribution system, high inflation, the ensuing black market economy, the premature autarkic practice, strong political authoritarianism, from all of which the people became restive.


International Brickbats

The international media, scholars, analysts, and other commentators wittingly or unwittingly, do not seem to run out of negative superlatives levelled at Myanmar. Myanmar garnered enough low-points to finish second in Transparency International's Most Corrupt Countries[17] in 1996, though subsequently the title went to Haiti. It even fell short of winning the "World Cup that no country wants to win[18]," i.e., Amnesty International's Worst Abuser of Human Rights, being a notch lower than the top-seed, Algeria. Detailed accounts were recorded such as those made by the Human Rights Watch and international media easily got on to the bandwagon - some into what some affectionately term "churnalism," that is the business of reporting as press releases do. In that context, the Myanmar Junta stands accused for its persecution and jailing of political opponents and dissidents, which became a primary human rights violation theme often championed by European nations and Western powers. On this matter alone, whilst these "powers" claim categorically that Myanmar does not give out statistics on such political persecution, curiosity shoves us to ask how such "powers" had arrived at a very definitive conclusion.


The most common of these reports points to what the US State Department Report on Burma in 1996 referred to as "human rights violations of the state pertaining to the integrity of the person," that is, political and extra-judicial killing, disappearance, torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrests or exile, denial of fair public trial[19], and so forth. The rage over these reports has forced Rotroff to cite one Myanmar pro-democracy activist, Ma Thangei who was a former political prisoner and who now lives in Yangon and whose "gripe" was that, for years, outsiders portrayed the troubles of my country Myanmar as a morality play: good against evil, with no shades of grey in between - a simplistic picture, but one the world believes. The response of the West has been equally simplistic: it wages a moral crusade against evil, using such magic wands as sanctions and boycotts. Westerners have suggested that if sanctions and boycotts undermine the economy, people would have less to lose and be willing to start a revolution. A revolution they could watch from the safety of their own country. This naive romanticism angers many of us here in Myanmar. They would deliberately make us poor to force us to fight a revolution[20]


In relation to this, Brig. Gen. D. O. Abel intimated to me the story of how a Senior Member of the British High Commission in Yangon at that time alleged that the son of his chauffeur was "conscripted" by the military and made into a "porter" and a "mine detector[21]". Abel was aghast over the allegation and being confident that the Government did not indulge in such practices, he requested details of the official's chauffeur and called for an investigation on the matter. The investigation revealed that the chauffeur, in the first place, had no son and was not even married!


Underscoring human rights violations, some quarters are pleased to brand the "violations" as "brutal and vicious suppression of the 'Opposition' and political dissidents," and obviously as an attempt to stifle any chance at democratic reforms by its post 1988 SLORC/SPDC Governments, which are in terms of policy steadfastly unwilling to dance to their tune, i.e., to be one of their "satellite states" - a theme that would be elaborated in a subsequent chapter. It is even more interesting to note that there are also many from the same quarters who cite repressions and horrors of thousands of political prisoners in several jails around the Country, yet conduct business transactions with, and heap praises on the political practices of, regional neighbours like China and other states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ("ASEAN"), such as Singapore and Malaysia, which became successful and developed nations, "through a rather similar form of authoritarian-democratic style of governance, unapologetically," Brother said in frustration.


There have also been claims about ethnic-cleansing being practised by the Junta, but these accusations have never been independently substantiated and investigated by reliable organizations. This is despite the fact that these events supposedly occurred at the border areas between Myanmar and Thailand and it would have been relatively easy to authenticate this, by any one of the accusers.


In the eyes of former government officials, whenever I have spoken to them in confidence, some like Brother intimated to me that, "this is purely 'loose talk' and simple ignorance of field conditions. It is possible that insurgents, drug armies and similar forces acting against the Government are killed and these happen to be some of the Minorities peoples. No Government forces would ever go out to deliberately pick on any specific ethnic group to fight against and logically, Myanmar has no good reason to do so unless such forces are out to cause disruption and chaos to the integrity of the State and Country." On this as at all times, all respondents hold the same view. Brother even recalled that, "the Government had requested from the accusers specific instances but it had never been obliged, leading to the conclusion of these accusations being mere 'loose talk.' The fact is that the campaigns against the insurgents, drug armies, etc., conducted by the Tatmadaw are for the enforcement of governmental policies, to ensure the integrity of the State and Country and not to eliminate any specific ethnic types but in the process inevitably both some Minorities/National Races as well as government forces may have been killed."


On Press Freedom

When referring to the most notorious curtailers of press freedom, Reporters Without Borders, ranks Myanmar third from the pit bottom[22]; definitely not an improvement from its media handling and press freedom issues in 1998 when the Committee to Protect Journalists ("CPJ") gave Myanmar, among a list of 10 nations, the dubious distinction of being named as one of "Asia's worst Enemies of the Press[23]". Upon taking this issue up with my respondents, Brother commented, "we are aware. William Orme Jr., executive director of CPJ, has alleged that as of these 10 [nations] we are intent upon suppressing any independent media voice, through whatever means necessary; that we are collectively responsible for unabated press freedom abuse that has penalized hundreds of journalists through physical attack, imprisonment, censorship, harassment, and even murder. Do you think this is valid? It is their imagination. Sure for a time we had to stop journalists entering. Look at 1988: who caused it? It was the media people!"


From the Junta's side, during the period from 1975 to 2000, it implemented several measures which were reported to have caused the CPJ and other champions of "freedom of expression" to charge it as "press freedom killers." For example, Myanmar's State Protection Law provides control to seditious writing by ostentatious journalists and writers claiming "their pen being mightier than the sword." The Myanmar Government's response and attitude from what I could gather are that these are required for the "observance of peace and national stability." I found this "fascinating" because I reckon that Myanmar might paradoxically find itself at least a little "hamstrung" having the international media community as well as the vanguards of press freedom and democracy focusing their attention on any ostensible "deviations" from their norms. This would moreover not create any win-win position for it, being bogged down by its own Media rules.


I queried Brother and Sir, (another of my key respondents) on the need for the strict laws pertaining to this matter and the spontaneous answer from Sir was that, "we indeed need to control the Country's media as there are still many 'subversive forces' at work." Sir made the point that there are similar legislations found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore after these countries gained independence from their colonial masters, "but we hardly read of them being written about pejoratively, in the world media ever so often." "Given the opportunity," he continued, "the Government tries to explain to media personnel that there are still many subversive forces which need to be kept in control. We are anyway used to their biased writing and mendacious pieces and while we note the flak that arises, we do not lose any sleep over it."


In fact, as I discovered later, many of the provisions contained in the relevant enactments were already in existence well before 1962 and were reportedly a hand-over by the British colonial masters. "The same measures at that time were hardly exposed - or internationally criticized," commented Brother on this issue. There was actually a similar outcry from the opposition camp in Singapore and Malaysia when Lee Kuan Yew, then Singapore Prime Minister, and his counterpart, Tunku Abdul Rahman, then Malaysian Prime Minister, used several similar emergency provisions empowering the government of the day to "detain without trial," those elements who posed a security threat to the State by mendacious reports and/or other means under the Internal Security Act ("ISA") which is, as a matter of fact, rather similar to the aged old French Lettre de Cache.


This is in no way to downplay press freedom attacks mounted by foreign media which have over decades proven to have worsened, but just to stress the point that the media brickbats are not proportionate to the actual Myanmar human rights abuse situation, if indeed this is so. At least in principle, there is humongous valuation on the part of the Government for maintaining peace, order and symmetry. From my empirical observation during over 20 years of dealings with the Myanmar Government ministers/bureaucrats, I can categorically confirm Michael Aung Thwin's observation that Myanmas cannot take anarchy[24] to use his term, and so such a state of affairs especially at the national level must be prevented, for reasons which will be discussed further in subsequent chapters.


To take one example for now, during the "1988 Conflagration," a Martial Law Order was passed to make it an offence to publish any document without prior registration. As a preamble to this order, it must also be understood that the "1988 Conflagration" as one international media puts it, resulted from publication of reports relating to oppressive acts by the police and the military officers who were trying to control unrest so as to forestall anarchy occurring.


The Law Protecting the Peaceful and Systematic Transfer of State Responsibility and the Successful Performance of the Functions of the National Convention against Disturbances and Oppositions (1996) should also be appreciated in the following sense: that during the 1990 General Elections, attempts were being made to soothe raw nerves which had already been created. There was a need to lay the groundwork for a better and smoother transition from the hysteria that existed, to normality. Arguably, the populace was still reeling from the unsavoury effects of the past upheavals so that difficulties plagued the progressive and positive changes in its political march/history. The Junta required a measure to ensure that the National Convention to draft the new Constitution - first and foremost to provide the legal framework for a legitimate General Election - be convened.


Brother, in a communication to me concerning the abovementioned Law, explained that, "Taking a leaf from past lessons learned, there was also a need to stay in control." The law prohibits "... inciting, demonstrating, delivering speeches, making oral or written statements and disseminating information in order to undermine the stability of the State, community peace and tranquility and prevalence of law and order." It also makes acts committed in order to "undermine, belittle and make people misunderstand the functions being carried out by the National Convention," liable to prosecution. Those found guilty of committing an offence may be punished with a minimum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum jail sentence of 20 years and they may also be liable to pay a fine. Supposedly after the ("9/11") September attacks in the US, the foregoing legislation demonstrates the case of prevention being better than cure, although in spite of this, the occasional bombing does occur. This illustrates the very wisdom of the legislation or as the common saying goes, "the spirit of the law giveth life." I could not help concluding that Brother's message was that there would be no overly "laissez faireness" in legislations of this nature.


The Television and Video Act and the Motion Picture Law (1996) have been viewed by foreign media as an obligation for owners of televisions, videocassette recorders and satellite television sets to obtain a license from the Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs[25] It also requires that permission be obtained, even by international organizations like the UN agencies, for public airing of imported videos.


The Video Censorship Board is charged with the responsibility of scrutinizing all imported and Myanma-made videos for material that may be considered offensive or detrimental to the well being of the State and the Board retains the right to ban, censor or restrict showings. Under the Act, all private video users and video businesses must obtain a license from the Video Business Supervisory Committee, which also has the authority to carry out on-site inspections.


Licenses to make films must first be obtained from the Myanmar Motion Picture Enterprise. All films are subject to censorship by the Motion Picture Censors Board. If the terms and conditions of the license are broken then it is subject to be revoked and the violator may be charged and fined. It is very interesting to note that the claims of suppression of press freedom were levelled even from this angle. Reportedly, up to the time of this writing, cable television shows are available via direct satellite transmission from overseas broadcasters and subscribers in Myanmar are not prevented from viewing western made shows that even contain harsh criticisms of the Junta on channels such as British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) News, CNN, CNBC, National Geographic Channels and other shows and programmes that do take snipes at the SLORC/SPDC government.


The Computer Science Development Law, which prohibits the import, possession or utilization of communications equipment such as, for example, computer equipment, networking or communication facilities, unless prior approval is obtained from the Ministry of Communications. Posts and Telegraphs is again interpreted by local opposition groups as well as foreigners as being designed to curb media freedom. Ironically, this is nothing new in that it is practised in most ASEAN member states, and to add further squirm to this outcry, foreign correspondents, observers or local elements writing for foreign newspapers up to around mid - 2003 were able to file very detailed reports via fax despite unfounded rumors that the government intelligence services were able to detect "subversive materials" being transmitted and to eavesdrop on all transmissions by telecommunication equipments.


I thus raised the issue with my key respondents as to "how is it ever possible, with such tight telecommunications control by the Government, that various reports - positive and negative - I see can be filed from Yangon?" Brother retorted, "You know people are very innovative - both locals and foreigners. Any reports (sic) filed from Myanmar and appearing overseas are obviously filed clandestinely. It may take us some time to find out conclusively because we do not want to act without full evidence but we do finally get there. You might have read from the newspaper of the case of a Dutchman, but Myanmar Citizen, Mr. Nichol[26] and at one time an Honorary Consul of a foreign country who, in spite of knowing the rules and regulations (and I might confess, to our "sensitivity" to illegal information or disinformation or misinformation flows to the outside world,) was running a 50-fax (of which 27 were operational) unauthorized message transmission business. He did not have a license to operate such a fax service facility and indeed he even ran a private club in his house, as a SOHO (Small Office, Home Office). We finally found out and a search at his premises uncovered "clandestine messages" transmitted. He was sent to the lock-up in the Insein Prison where after 48 hours custody while awaiting court hearing, he unfortunately, passed away. An autopsy conducted by a senior pathologist Dr. Maung Maung Taik, revealed a heart attack. So you see how reports of all sorts emanating from Myanmar do innovatively escape detection and get out. It is not a question of "eavesdropping;" every country has some control. Ever heard of Watergate? Even the US President, Nixon, fell!"


In fact, there were also reports of journalists having been found guilty of, and of being sentenced to, long term imprisonment for breaching Article 34 of the said Law. This legislation states that any acts which undermine state security, prevalence of law and order and community peace and tranquility, national unity, state economy or national culture, including the obtaining or sending and distributing any information, are punishable offences. As I gathered from Brig. Gen. Myo Thant, a former Minister of Information, "a local NGO senior official residing in Yangon, who was allowed to visit several prisons purported to hold prisoners charged under this Act, reportedly was not - to his dismay - able to find any journalist prisoner under this description!"


In the year 2000, the Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs issued strict regulations for Internet users. These include the prohibition of the posting of any writings on the Internet that may be detrimental to the interests of the Union of Myanmar, its policies or security affairs. These regulations, foreign correspondents claimed, made media access and the publication of information critical of the Junta, difficult. Yet, on the other hand, when raised at an informal discussion with some of my key respondents who were very much involved in this area, it was said that such claims by foreign correspondents are easily debunked. When I referred this matter to BG. Myo Thant (Retd.) he replied that "this is a problem foreign reporters have created for themselves." He then continued: "Reports written must be balanced, true and objective. While latitude may be given for critiques written and submitted, open mass media criticisms especially when not substantiated, are an entirely different kettle of fish, which no developing state can afford. It is well known that in some countries in the Region, the authors of such "mendacious reports" are sued by the Government or the relevant members of the Government, so accused. We have not made this very fair and equitable move, yet."


Again, interestingly, during the same year local media as well as those in Thailand and elsewhere, reported that several thousand e-mail accounts were signed up by the then-named Bagan Cybertech, a local internet services provider, which happens to be a tenant of Mandalay Swan Hotel - having its Mandalay headquarters annexed to its premises. Many, including my Hotel, were allowed to sign up for broadband services which, though of somewhat inferior quality, enabled subscribers to gain unfettered access to international websites. This must presumably erase the credibility of the claims that access to the Internet and foreign communication facilities were being prevented[27].


From the foregoing, it is difficult to reconcile the allegations of Myanmar being "enemies of press freedom" without any objective analysis. To add in summation, it is crucial that accusations and allegations cast from afar must obviously be scrutinized carefully; failing to do so may lead one to believe that there are shadows present in darkness, or in the words of one of my Hotel staff, it is a case of "myakan tasay kyauk (usually understood as the blind not being afraid of ghosts/the blind being afraid of darkness)" - an understandable but ludicrous thought!


As a final point on this matter of Human Rights violations and Press Freedom curtailment, to risk sounding like standing in defense of Myanmar, whereas in reality, I am somewhere between discovering and understanding it, the proper avenue for exposing these and somehow extracting responsibility would be the international courts, that is, the International Court of Justice ("ICJ") or the International Criminal Court ("ICC"), but curiously even up to as recently as the last few years, no international body has lodged the case/matter for Myanmar to address such issues "formally and properly." According to BG. Abel, a retired Government Minister: "Do we then question the intent and motivation of international bodies making such allegations about Myanmar to the world?" Here, the answer was deliberately left in mid-air but even at this juncture, it seems obvious that there is much about Myanmar that we need to understand beyond what is contained in the pages we view in the Internet and the information that is being disseminated by the "world media." By way of illustration, consider the case below of Myanmar on the crucial issue of the narcotics trade.


On Narcotics: Victim or Aggressor?

Myanmar is a nation often tagged as being one of the biggest narcotic-drugs and other synthetic psychotropic substance producers in the world. The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report of 1997 claimed that the Myanmar Government's "[o]verall efforts... paled in comparison with the narcotics problem" and, that it "... continued to suffer from a lack of ... political will." Also, the report states that "the regime's highest priority is to end insurrection and counter-narcotics interests . . . are a secondary consideration[28]." In addition, it was also alleged that Myanmar ostensibly indulges in the narco-economy, a very "seductive" conclusion considering the demand and consequent market size of the illegal narco-economy worldwide[29] is so incredibly big, not to mention the fact that the illegal drug cartels are bigger than that of the oil industry[30].


When all these elements are put together in a cauldron, heated and filtered, one cannot help seeing that the finger pointing in more recent years of Myanmar being the bete noir and the facile prinseps of the continuing large scale production of narcotics by the British and all those parties who unethically indulged in it and promoted it, to suit their own respective agenda and of becoming 'fat cats!' be justified! These include the United States and its "satellites" that desired inter alia to engender their political objectives."


On the subject, Brother remarked, "the Truman Doctrine (1947) of desiring the US to be the 'international policeman' to defend all in the free world (against communism) considering the "Cold War" world political climate of the time, along with the Bretton Woods Organizations' call for Pax Americana, brought us nothing but problems." He added, "in America's fear of communist export, their CIA support of the KMT (Kuomintang) forces in our border and their fear of the Domino Theory materializing, with its consequent impact on Southeast Asian states in line with their own geopolitical agenda, caused us havoc."


But, I interrupted, "did it not suit Myanmar to stop the communist threat and simultaneously stop the narco-trade?" Brother's rejoinder was, "here you are, at that time we had on our hands the combined forces of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as well as that of the Burmese Communist Party (BCP) to tackle. Our territory near the Thai border at Palio and Kyalatt had been occupied and we had to deal with this at the same time. We got involved in fighting 2 fronts - the KMT and the communists - simultaneously. You can imagine the loss of lives not to say money and other resources."


Brother added, "as Myanmar was considered by the US as the 'dyke against the communist export' it supported KMT forces at the Chinese border to ensure the dyke is not breached, as otherwise the combined CPC/BCP forces would have been catastrophic for US interests. On our part, we had to tackle both the KMT and the BCP the latter of which we finally successfully "dissipated" after a battle at the Pegu Yoma. In the process of all these, the cooperation of the Shan sawbwas and other intermediaries were sought, as was that of neighbouring States. It was indeed this same group, paradoxically, which was responsible for the proliferation of the narco-trade and activity, subsequently."" Added Brother, "and if we had failed to fortify the "dyke," probably the course of history in Southeast Asia might have taken a different course. And the Americans know this, but they forget!"


Based on my experience in Myanmar, from what I could gather both at the ground level as well as at those of government and foreign direct investors, it is difficult to reconcile the views and assertions of many international institutions as well as authors and scholars on the only too well known allegations that the Myanmar Government would deliberately indulge in the narco-economy. In point of fact, according to Brother, "even the Singapore Government / a Singapore Government organization, it was alleged, was into narcotics with our Government, per an Australian TV programme. If indeed this is the case, one should query why the Myanmar Government ought to expend great resources in terms of money, armed forces personnels' lives, not to mention make bonfires out of seized drugs, destroy poppy fields and drugs laboratories and to go through the pain we go through rehabilitating drug addicts. This is open and common knowledge which hardly any foreign media has made any great news about, it seems."


Indeed the world community and the main accusers or what the Government members feel are "detractors," are fully aware of the fact that as early as 1976, the Myanmar Government had, in concert with the UN Fund for Drug Abuse Control (UNFDAC) set up a three-stage Drug Control Programme as follows:-

1)                      First 5-Year Plan : to commence implementation in 1976 and be accomplished by 1981.

2)                      Second 5-Year Plan: for destruction of poppy plantation for implementation in 1981 and to be completed in 1986[31]

3)                      Third 5-Year Plan: for implementation, 1986-1991 by the enhancement of agriculture, livestock breeding, education, health, conflict rehabilitation and law enforcement measures in poppy cultivated areas[32].


In the above context, great emphasis is placed by the Government on the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts. From my visits to the Myanmar Drug Rehabilitation Centre in the Kachin State and the Lashio Drug Rehabilitation Centre in the Northern Shan State, in March/April 2002, out of "professional curiosity" to verify if severe measures like "cold turkey treatment" are applied and also, generally, to see how rehabilitation of such addicts is undertaken, from what I saw, I became convinced that the Government had been making genuine efforts to rehabilitate drug addicts in the most humane way. The "Cold Turkey" treatment was not utilized. Indeed after treatment, addicts were given vocational training in printing, photography, motor vehicle maintenance, and such other forms of technical skills enabling them to survive in society after rehabilitation.


At the Toegyaunggale Psychiatric Hospital, the specialists were particularly concerned that addicts be treated with "tender loving care." This was obvious because the medical and para-medical personnel were proficient and knowledgeable; accommodations were acceptable and proper medical and physical attention were accorded the inmates. This applied also to the facilities offered at the training centers e.g., motor workshops, photographic studios etc., where training materials are provided.


From this present reality, if we turn to historical evidence (which shall be discussed extensively in succeeding chapters), that is, locating the origin and development of narcotic drugs and the narco-economy in the Country up to the year 2000, it will be seen unequivocally that Myanmar was clearly the victim rather that the progenitor and perpetuator of the "narco-scourge." From the measures the Government employed to suppress narcotic drugs prior to the formation of the SLORC Government in 1988 and post-1988 to 2000, under the SLORC and the successor SPDC Government, it is clear that the aim is not to enhance the narco-economy. Otherwise, it would have been pointless for the Government to eliminate thousands of hectares of poppy fields, introduce various forms of alternative agricultural activities and generally introduce a full fledged "Border Areas Development Programme" under the charge of a new, dedicated Government Ministry. Has narcotics been an utopia or a dystopia for Myanmar, the alleged ostensible "nigger" for narcotics? Having an accusatory finger pointed at it can hardly solve the problem, nor presumably would it be fair.


That narcotics has been a dystopia for Myanmar, there is no question because in spite of World Drug Report 2000, released by the US State Department in March 2001, stating that there is "... no evidence that the Government (Myanmar) on an institutional level is involved in the drug trade[33] and the US conceding that there is "... no Government involvement, even if some official might be on the take in the border areas[34]", Myanmar curiously still stands accused.


The fact of the matter is that the narcotics problem is a legacy left behind by the old colonial master, the British who subsequently depended on it to the extent that the Duke of Wellington[35] at a parliamentary session in May 1838 "refused to frown upon the opium traffic but cherished it, extended it and promoted it[36]". In spite of this, Myanmar is accused of being the progenitor of narcotics in the Country.


In more recent times, Sandra Calvani from the UNDCP (United Nation Drugs Control Programme), at a Press Briefing on 23rd March 2001 has restated the problem as follows: "The Myanmar government has carried out the fight against narcotic drugs with all out effort, although newspapers are reporting and portraying as if Myanmar as a whole is producing drugs. This is not the case as drugs are produced only in some areas in the border areas." Despite this, the conclusion that Myanmar indulges in the narco-economy is a most tempting one since, first there is a history of poppy cultivation and opium production in Myanmar (since the British introduced it in the colonial days) and second by way of illustration, the narcotics trade through-put through Mena Airport, Arkansas, USA, alone is worth US$50 billion annually[37] not forgetting that opium trading gave profits of 3,000% over the Bengal prices[38]. In more recent times, while one kilo of heroin (a derivative of opium) is worth 100,000 kyats[39] (US$1,282) in Myanmar, the wholesale price in the USA is US$500,000 and that in Chiangmai is US$100,000[40]. The foregoing statistics amply demonstrate that the drug business must be too lucrative to forego or not to indulge in. Indeed it has been said that "the illegal drug cartels are bigger than the oil industry[41].


When told that there is the external perception that the Regime's highest priority is to end insurrection and that counter-narcotics interests are only a secondary consideration[42], Brother responded that this is understandable although it is not true because, after all, the "insurrectionists, secessionists and drug barons are all somehow or other intertwined, but like you said, this is only a 'perception'", from what I could gather!


The foregoing notwithstanding, what is sui generis about the military government's sincerity to eradicate the narcotic drug scourge is that with the market demand, they could have truly turned themselves into a narco-economy especially since trade sanctions are placed on them and money is badly needed for national development in all fronts. But instead they make bonfires out of confiscated drugs. For this, incinerations are usually undertaken with members of the diplomatic community's representatives witnessing. This should speak volumes for the Government's intents.


The sincerity of the Myanmar government to rid the country of drugs is also evidenced by the fact that after the seizure of drugs, exhibitions of the seized drugs are made and these again are open to members of the diplomatic corps for viewing. Not only were drugs seized but also poppy fields, drug refineries, intermediate chemicals for narcotic drug manufacture etc., have been relentlessly destroyed. In total there were nine exhibitions of seized narcotic drugs held over a 5-year period. The first commenced on 13th February 1990 during which time, heroin, opium oil, liquid opium and phensedyl were destroyed. The last and 9th Exhibition undertaken by the Law Enforcement Agency over the period 1990-1995, saw the destruction of 1,454.59kgs heroin, 63,435 kgs morphine, 9,675.38 kgs opium, 69.90 kgs opium oil, 117.01 kgs liquid opium, 3,884.74 kgs marijuana, 32,252.35 litres (54.4 kgs) phensedyl, 41.78 kgs corex, 8.82 kgs glycodine and 22.10 litres taradyl. This process is, needless to say, an ongoing one.


The success of the anti-narcotics drive in the Frontier Region was so remarkable that the leader of the Kokang National, U Phon Kya Shin, apart from propagating the belief, had his group burn opium, heroin, including refineries and other chemicals duly witnessed by guests and officials from the UN, the USA Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and foreign embassies. The value of drugs incinerated at a single bonfire, for example, amounted to US$500 million.


The outcome of the anti-narcotics measures undertaken by the Government may be seen from the area of poppy fields destroyed over the period 1988 - 1994. This is as shown in Table I wherein the reduction in the supply of opium production involved, is included[43].


Table I: Indicating Destruction of Poppy Fields During 1988-1994
Year Destroyed Poppy Fields in Acres Supply Reduction in Tons
1988-1989 211.35 0.93
1989-1990 287.36 1.26
1990-1991 2157.74 9.49
1991-1992 10446.144 45.96
1992-1993 396.45 1.76
1993=1994 2571.92 11.31


Likewise, the amount of different types of narcotic/narcotic containing drugs seized and destroyed over the period 1990-1995 (in kg/litres) and witnessed by various parties including diplomats and other foreigners may be gathered from the following Table II. (See attached).


Table II:
Seized Narcotic Drugs and related substances destroyed by CCDAC in Yangon before
Military Attaches and Diplomats from 1990 to 1995 March.
1 15.03.90 209.066   14.832 2.319     54.40      
2 30.04.90 251.402       826.839   5292.50      
3 26.11.90 163.30   114.52 85.611 119.646   5600.00      
4 01.07.91 26.355   1.524 6.726 377.798 28.965 2266.75      
5 04.02.92 109.72   7.81 0.69 419.82   3085.25 89.78   8.05
6 12.11.92 115.35 5090.00 1.85 0.51 202.68 34.47 1449.12      
7 22.08.93 221.43 183.54 14.97 1.52 201.17   1367.71   91.99  
8 18.07.94 162.02 1190.20 5.35 1.93 263.79   742.26   35.79  
9 03.03.95 143.94 1455.02 1.66 0.86 312.22   3433.68 2.00 96.33  
Sources: The Working People Daily, 14th February 1990, p.6
Ibid, 13th March 1990, p.6
Ibid, 28th November 1990, p.11
Ibid, 2nd July 1991, p.6
IBid, 13th November 1992, p.6
The New Light of Myanmar, 19th July 1994
Ibid, 4th March 1995
Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control, Ministry of Home Affairs. The Seventh Destruction of Narcotic Drugs Seized by Law Enforcement Agencies, Yangon, Myanmar, 29th August 1993, p.16


It is evident, knowing the black market value of drugs, that the drugs destroyed by the Myanmar Government were of a horrendous value and given that there is a lack of sincerity in wanting to eradicate narcotics, presumably the Government could have, as accused, really indulged in the narco-economy instead of incinerating drugs every now and then, and/or could have used the proceeds for infrastructural and other developments. Or, had they wanted to be "naughty" they could have simply and quietly sold the drugs and kept the proceeds for themselves, presumably leaving youths and others throughout many parts of the world, addicted, causing parents and governments a big headache.


It perforce leads one to wonder, however, why the Government should make a clarion call for a "drug free" Myanmar within 15 years, commencing 1988, when there had already been three previous 5-year narcotics control plans implemented, commencing 1981, as noted already. I put this query to the group of key respondents and Sir's rejoinder was: "As you mentioned, there is plenty of money 'lost', but we must tackle this problem from a morality angle - not just for our own people which we can control but for the world community's sake. Money is not that important because we are used to leading a frugal life. The fact of the matter is that we inherited this problem from the colonialist. It is therefore on their shoulders that this problem ought to lie, factually and morally. However, in the name of humanity we try our best to remove this scourge. This has cost us plenty in terms of resources and soldiers' lives."



1 To be understood, would Myanmar need to have a "hit" like for a toto/lottery draw, to be understood, some Myanmar military generals wonder.

2 GMS comprises Cambodia, Yunnan Province (PRC), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

3 Priambudi Sulistiyanto, Thailand, Indonesia and Burma in Comparative Perspective, Ashgate Publishing Limited, England 2002

4 Donald M.Seekins, Burma and Japan since 1940, From Co-prosperity to Quiet Dialogue,Nias Press, Denmark 2007, p.5.

5 Some countries in the list include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gambia, Haiti, Kiribati, Laos, Maldives, Nepal, Samoa, East Timor, Tanzania, Vanuatu, Yemen, Zambia.

6 Cousin is another one of my 'key respondents' being a pukka professional having been schooled in England and being close to one of the members of the "Triumvirate" since before the "Triumvirate" was formed who like the others, is au fait with past events.

7 World Bank : World Development Report, various years: New York; and The World Bank Group, Myanmar at a Glance, June 2003 http.//

9 c/f World Bank, World Development Report, New York: 1999/2000, p.253.


10 c/f World Bank: World Development Report, 1999/2000, Table 8.

11 Dorothy Woodman, The Making of Burma, Burma Before Colonial Rule, p.44.

12 Dorothy Woodman, p.50.


13 Burma Oil Company was the sole oil company operating in Burma until 1963, when Gen. Ne Win nationalised

practically all industries/corporations down to retail level shops, in the Country.

14 United States Department of State, Burma Petro/Gas report (1991).

15 David Fullbrook, the Straits Times, Singapore, 2nd February 2006. Review, p.23.

16 Fiona Chan, The Sunday Times Singapore, 5th February 2006 p.26

17 "China edges out India out of Myanmar natural gas prospects," Malaysia Sun, 08 September 2007.

18 Mary P. Callahan, "On Time Warps and Warped Time: Lesson from Burma's 'Democratic Era,' in Burma,

Prospects for a Democratic Future, ed. Robert I. Rotberg (Harvard Institute for International Development,

Cambridge, Massachusetts: Brookings Institution Press, 1996), p.50-64.

19 Barbara Skinner, Myanmar Time Warp, National Geographic News Service, March 27, 1994



[1] The terms "Burma" and "Burmese" are anglicized forms used to identify the Country and its people, known from ancient period as "Myanmar" (per Hobson Jobson by Col. H. Yule and A.C. Burnell, p.131). 'Bamar' also spelled 'Bama' is the officially designated expression utilized for the largest ethnic group. The genitive 'Myanma' occurs occasionally along with national level linked organizations, e.g. "Myanma Airways," "Myanma Five Star Shipping Lines," etc. However, for expediency, the word "Myanmar" will be used to denote the Country and "Myanma" will refer generally to the citizens, unless specifically mentioned, otherwise e.g. "Karens" to denote specific Minority/National Races with respect to groups, refer to, acknowledgements, p. i.


[2] This is a general principle in international law which provides that in international agreements such as treaties,

all parties must comply with all the provisions in good faith.

[3] Roger Mitton, "Remember Where You Read It First," Asiaweek (August 31, 2001).

[4] Lt. Col. Hla Min, Political Situation of Myanmar and Its Role in the Region,(Office of Strategic Studies, Min

istry of Defence, Union Myanmar, 2004).

[5] Ibid p.7

[6] Ibid p.8. See Stone Inscription called North Gu-Ni of Queen Pwa Saw and written in 13th century, Pagan

Era, on which the word Myanmar appeared. (See also ANNEX "A").


[7] David Steinberg, The Road to Political Recovery, The Salience of Politics and Economics,p.272.

[8] "Outposts of tyranny" was a term used by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a 2005 written submis

sion to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to describe certain countries where, in her opinion, the

government is oppressive and shows contempt for democracy and human rights.

[9] Alex M.Mutebi, Myanmar: Beyond Politics to Societal Imperatives, (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian

Studies Publications, 2005) p.143.

[10] Martin Smith, "Burma (Myanmar): The Time for Change" Minority Rights Group International, (May 2002)


[11] Shalmali Guttal, "Marketing the Mekong: The ADB and the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Programme" Focus on the Global South 25 Oct. 2002

[12] ^1, Art. 1, Part I, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Entry into force 23 March 1976.

[13] Martin Smith, "Burma (Myanmar): The Time for Change," 2002

[14] Daniel Rothenberg, "Burma's Democratic Transition: The Internationalization of Justice, The Challenge of

Legitimacy, and The Necessity of Facing Past Political Violence." Human Rights Brief, (Winter 2002).

[15] Shalmali Guttal, "Marketing the Mekong: The ADB and the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation

Programme," 2002.

[16] Enlightening to read: Walden Bello, Emerging Trends in Asia and Possible Responses in Asia, who ap

pears to share this view.


[17] Founded in 1993, Transparency International is a global civil society organization. Its main object is to fight

corruption worldwide by advocating transparency in the public sector such as in general election, general gover

nance etc., as well as in the private sector.

[19] United States Department of State, Report on Human Rights Practices 1996 (Report online) available from rights/1966_hrp_report/burma.html; internet.

[20] Press and other reports in the 1990s alleged that the Tatmadaw "conscripted" youngsters to carry the army's

military hardware and other necessities whenever it went on campaigns against insurgents/secessionists, etc. and

these youngsters were "porters." Indeed it was alleged that more importantly, they were made to carry all the

provisions ahead of the soldiers so that if the area is mined, the soldiers would know ahead. They were then

known as "mine detectors."

[21] Press and other reports in the 1990s alleged that the Tatmadaw "conscripted" youngsters to carry the army's

military hardware and other necessities whenever it went on campaigns against insurgents/secessionists, etc. and

these youngsters were "porters." Indeed it was alleged that more importantly, they were made to carry all the

provisions ahead of the soldiers so that if the area is mined, the soldiers would know ahead. They

were then known as "mine detectors."

[22] Reporters without Borders (RWB): Member of International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a virtual network

of non-governmental organizations monitoring free expression violations worldwide and campaigns to defend

journalists, writers and others who are persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

[23] Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1981 and

headquartered in Washington DC. It promotes press freedom worldwide by defending the rights of journalists to

report news without fear of reprisal. The organization is run by staff of 23 and funded by contributions from any

party except government.



[24] Aung Thwin, Parochial Universalism, Pacific Affairs 74, p.497.

[25] See BBC Reports including the BBC profile of Myanmar as a country accessed through

[26] Mr Leonard John Nichol: upon his death a post mortem conducted by Chief Surgeon of the Police Department,

Dr. Maung Maung Taik ascertained death to be because of heart attack.



[27] Interestingly enough, it appears from some sources that the Bangkok Foreign Correspondents Club has the credo

that any "good" news on Myanmar emanating from Bangkok will not be reported, though this is not verifiable.

[28] An extract from International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1997, International Narcotics Control -

Southeast Asia and the pacific. Source: Documents/Docs/Doc69.html.

[29] Coke and heroin smuggled through Arkansas Airport alone is worth US $50 billion per year. See James Dale

Davidson, The Death of Politics, Strategic Investment Ltd. Partnership, Baltimore 1995, p.62.

[30] Ibid p.63


[31] Central Committee for Drugs Abuse Control, Ministry of Home Affairs, "The War on Drugs," Yangon,

Myanmar, First Edition, February 1999, p.13

[32] Ibld, p.13



[33] US Department of State - S.E.A. and World Drug Report 2000, March 2001

[34] Maung Aung Moe, Neither Friend nor Foe, Myanmar's Relations with Thailand since 1988, A view from

Yangon, Institute of Defence & Strategic Studies 2002, Nanyang Technological university, p.16

[35] Duke of Wellington was formerly Col. Arthur Wellesley and hence is familiar with the narcotics trade in


[36] Chang Hsin-pao, Commissioner Lin and the Opium War, Cambridge, Massachusets, 1964,p.48

[37] James Dale Davidson, "The Death of Politics", Turning the Information Age Into Profit, Strategic Investment

Limited Partnership, Baltimore USA, 1995. p.64-66.

[38] Anthony Reid, in Cambridge History of Southeast Asia, Cambridge University Press, 1992 vol. 1, p.125.

[39] At the time ca. 1989/1990, US$1 equaled 78 kyats at black market exchange rate.

[40] Union at Myanmar State Law and Order, restoration Council, Information Committee Press Conference Book 4,

Guardian Press and Kyemon Press, Myanmar, 1990, p.49.

[41] James Dale Davidson, p.63.

[42] International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1997, offers a similar explanation.

[43] Sources:

a)      Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control, Ministry of Home Affairs, Brief Statement on Drug Abuse Control in the Union of Myanmar, Yangon, Myanmar, 1992, p. 30

b)      Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control, Ministry of Home Affairs, Drug Abuse Control Endeavour during the Tenure of SLORC, Yangon, Myanmar, October 1995, p. 34

c) Ibid, p. 40


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