Written by U Ne Oo on 2001-12-03

Recently, there have been a series of reshuffle in ministerial posts in the ruling military junta. The majority of Burma observers view some -what positively about the reshuffle. Conservatively, the SPDC carried out the reshuffle whenever it needs diversion. The reshuffle is also timed with the current session of United Nations General Assembly. Never the less, current reshuffle seems to be a lot more than creating confusion to outside observers. The present reshuffle indicates that the SPDC recognised its waning influence over the regional commands, therefore re-asserting its leading position within rank-and-file by performing the rituals of "fire and hire". The regional commanders still have to be "kicked-upstairs", if the usual ritual is to come.


The level of influence on lower military rank and file by top SPDC officials, especially Gen. Khin Nyunt, have always been a question amongst observers. It is well known that General Khin Nyunt maintain his position amongst the top ranking officers with the influence of retired General Ne Win, whose health now is in a rather fragile state. Lt Gen Khin Nyunt appeared to be alarmed by a particular quote by the ILO High Level Team, in which army commanders in the front line as saying "...59. There seems to be little doubt whatever that non-application of the Orders by the army can hardly be attributed to ignorance. As previously noted, the Orders seem to have indeed been the object of wide � if uneven � dissemination at all levels of the military hierarchy. The disturbing evidence seems to be that these Orders are not observed by the military at the local level and that .......... Thus, when a village head came to complain to the local battalion commander, the answer he received was that the Order came from Secretary-1, Lt.-Gen. Khin Nyunt, that Khin Nyunt did not have responsibility for fighting and that therefore this order did not concern them and that if they wanted to complain they could go to him. Others provided similar accounts. ...."(ILO GB 282/4)


The SPDC/SLORC's initiative to stop forced labour was actually started during 1996 which Gen Khin Nyunt issued "secret directives" to the rank and file to cease forced labour. One must question why the SPDC/SLORC used 'secret directive" instead of an open public order to cease forced labour. The answer lie with the insecurity of Gen Khin Nyunt's position amongst the army rank and file. The fact, no doubt realised by SPDC/SLORC, that it is very difficult for Burmese army to stop using forced labour. As such, a public order issued to army to cease exaction forced labour could become at best a "joke" on Gen Khin Nyunt himself. At the worst scenario, it could become the so-called "domino effect" for the army not following SPDC/SLORC orders.

Despite apparent difficulty to rectify forced labour problem, a voluntary cooperation by SPDC/SLORC doesn't seems to be on the menu.


As regards political dialogue, it doesn't appears to be moving in any reasonable measure (see FEER note on 29-Nov-2001). Although the UN Secretary-General's office seems to be running the show, we must be aware about a possible assault from SPDC/SLORC side. For example, the junta might announce a transitional government with token involvement of elected NLD representatives. The elected parliament of 1990 can be thwarted with a new "UN Monitored Election". With Chinese President coming over Rangoon this month -- perhaps to conceal the powder-keg -- we must stay alert on the next move by the SPDC/SLORC.

Regards, U Ne Oo.

UN Dreams For Burma

Far Eastern Economic Review:

Issue cover-dated November 29, 2001

While talks between Burma's ruling generals and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi seem stalled, the United Nations' proposed solution for national reconciliation is becoming clearer. The world body is backing a transition to democracy that would result in UN-monitored elections five years after any agreement is signed, according to a Rangoon-based source close to the UN special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail. The proposed deal has the military receiving an allotted number of seats in an elected parliament which would also be contested by a political party formed by the junta, most probably led by the regime's first secretary, Lt.-Gen. Khin Nyunt. Whether or not the process ever gets that far is increasingly uncertain--Khin Nyunt seems to be losing out in a power struggle with army chief Gen. Maung Aye. (See article on page 29). Under the UN plan, regime members would also be granted amnesty from lawsuits aimed at past human rights abuses. Suu Kyi wants a better deal, says the source, adding that progress on the talks has come to a halt and the two sides have not met formally since May. Even so, the junta remains upbeat about the process, apparently in an effort to attract more foreign aid to Burma. The UN is obliging, dangling more carrots for a deal as donors iron out the details of a $16 million HIV/Aids prevention programme for Burma.

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