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Title:  Burma Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State 
Date:  March 1996 
 
 
 
 
                                  BURMA 
 
 
Burma continued to be ruled by a highly authoritarian military regime 
widely condemned for its serious human rights abuses.  The military 
Government, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), headed 
by the armed forces commander and composed of top military officers, 
seized power in September 1988 after harshly suppressing massive 
prodemocracy demonstrations.  Retired dictator General Ne Win, whose 
idiosyncratic policies had isolated Burma and driven the country into 
deep economic decline, is believed by many to continue to wield 
considerable influence. 
 
The SLORC permitted a relatively free election in 1990, but it failed to 
honor the results--which were an overwhelming rejection of military 
rule--or to cede power to the victorious prodemocracy forces.  Instead, 
the SLORC attacked the coalition of winning parties and their leaders 
through intimidation, detention, and house arrest.  In April 1992, the 
SLORC began taking some steps to lessen its harsh rule.  The regime 
reopened universities, released some political prisoners, and introduced 
modest economic reforms.  But in January 1993 the SLORC established the 
"National Convention," a body ostensibly tasked with working out a new 
constitution and primarily made up of delegates handpicked by the 
military.  The SLORC has carefully stage-managed the Convention's 
proceedings and ignored even limited opposition views.  Despite having 
no mandate from the people, the SLORC seems determined to draft a 
constitution that will guarantee a dominant role for the military in the 
country's future political structure.  
 
The Government reinforces its rule via a pervasive security apparatus 
led by the Directorate of Defense Services Intelligence (DDSI).  Control 
is buttressed by selective restrictions on contact with foreigners, 
surveillance of government employees and private citizens, harassment of 
political activists, intimidation, arrest, detention, and physical 
abuse.  The Government justifies its security measures as necessary to 
maintain order and national unity, although almost all major insurgent 
groups have reached accommodations with the SLORC in recent years, and 
the others pose little threat to major population centers.  Members of 
the security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses.  
 
Burma is a poor country, with an average per capita gross domestic 
product of about $200 to $300 a year.  Primarily an agricultural 
country, Burma also has substantial mineral, fishing, and timber 
resources.  Since 1988 the Government has slowly opened up the economy 
to permit expansion of the private sector and to attract foreign 
investment.  Some economic improvement has ensued, but major obstacles 
to economic reform persist.  These include restrictions on private 
commerce, constantly changing rules and regulations; overcentralized 
decisionmaking, a bloated bureaucracy, a greatly overvalued currency, 
poor infrastructure, and grossly disproportionate military spending. 
 
The Government's severe repression of human rights continued essentially 
unchanged during 1995, despite a few potentially significant moves on 
the political front and the appearance of greater normalcy fostered by 
increased economic activity.  Out of sight of most visitors, citizens 
continued to live subject at any time and without appeal to the 
arbitrary and sometimes brutal dictates of the military.  There 
continued to be credible reports, particularly from ethnic minority 
dominated areas, that soldiers committed serious human rights abuses, 
including extrajudicial killings and rape.  Disappearances continued, 
and members of the security forces beat and otherwise abused detainees.  
Prison conditions remained harsh, and the judiciary is not independent 
of the executive. 
 
The use of porters by the army--with attendant mistreatment, illness, 
and even death for those compelled to serve--remained a standard 
practice.  The military continued to force ordinary Burmese on a massive 
scale (including women and children) to "contribute" their labor, often 
under harsh working conditions, on construction projects throughout the 
country.  A midyear directive ordering a halt to certain kinds of forced 
labor appeared to have only a limited impact.  Although the Government 
continued to release some prisoners, it continued arbitrarily to arrest 
and detain citizens for the slightest expression of dissenting political 
views.  Several hundred, if not more, political prisoners remained in 
detention, including approximately 20 Members of Parliament elected in 
1990.  The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) closed its 
office in July as a result of the SLORC's refusal to accept the ICRC's 
standard modalities for conducting prison visits. 
 
The SLORC continued to restrict severely basic rights to free speech, 
press, assembly, association, and privacy.  Worker rights are also 
severely limited.  Political party activity remained severely 
restricted, and citizens do not have the right to change their 
government.  By year's end, the Government had still not taken up Aung 
San Suu Kyi's call for a genuine dialog on political reform.  The 
Government's rejection of the appeal of the opposition National League 
for Democracy (NLD) for a reform of the National Convention's working 
procedures led most of the Convention's elected representatives to 
withdraw in November.  Although more than 196,000 Rohingyas (Burmese 
Muslims from Arakan State) who fled to Bangladesh in 1992 had returned 
to Burma by year's end, about 50,000 remained in camps across the 
border.  A few thousand students and dissidents continued in exile in 
Thailand.  Roughly 90,000 Burmese were residing in ethnic minority camps 
in Thailand, among them many thousands of new arrivals driven out by 
Burmese army attacks on the Karen and Karenni ethnic minority controlled 
areas.  Discrimination against ethnic minorities and violence against 
women remained problems. 
 
Several positive developments occurred, most notably the release of 
Burma's foremost prodemocracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, her 2 top 
lieutenants, and 103 other political prisoners.  Resident 
representatives of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner 
for Refugees (UNHCR) were permitted to continue their work monitoring 
the return of the Rohingyas, and a limited number of international 
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) were allowed to set up operations 
or expand existing ones. 
 
Despite these positive moves, by year's end the SLORC had yet to make a 
fundamental break with its past behavior and demonstrate a willingness 
to cede its hold on absolute power.  Most importantly, the generals have 
failed thus far to begin negotiating with the country's prodemocracy 
forces and ethnic groups on a genuine political settlement to allow a 
return to the rule of law and respect for basic human rights. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There was no evidence of an explicit or systematic government policy 
encouraging summary killings.  However, there continued to be credible 
reports of instances of brutality and killings of civilians by the 
military, particularly in minority dominated areas and among those 
impressed as porters.  The Government's general disregard for human 
rights has created a climate clearly conducive to such abuses. 
 
  b.  Disappearance 
 
As in previous years, private citizens and political activists continued 
to "disappear" temporarily for several hours to several weeks.  DDSI 
officials usually picked up people for questioning without the knowledge 
of their family members and in many cases, though not all, released them 
soon afterward.  At the same time, large numbers of people continued to 
be taken away by the military for porterage or other duties, often 
without the knowledge of their family members.  The whereabouts of those 
conscripted, as well as of prisoners transferred for labor or porterage 
duties, remained difficult to trace (see Sections 1.g. and 6.c.). 
 
  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
Again in 1995, political detainees were held incommunicado for long 
periods.  Detainees were routinely subjected to harsh interrogation 
techniques designed to intimidate and disorient.  The most common forms 
of mistreatment were sleep and food deprivation coupled with round-the-
clock questioning, but some were also kicked and beaten.  In recent 
years, there have been credible reports of prisoners being forced to 
squat or assume unnatural positions for lengthy periods.  In the past, 
there have also been reports of practices such as electrical shocks to 
the genitals, suffocation, and cigarette burns, but there were no known 
instances of these techniques being employed in 1995. 
 
There continued to be credible reports that security forces subjected 
ordinary citizens to harassment and physical abuse.  In rural villages 
the military routinely entered villages to confiscate property and food 
and used abusive recruitment methods to procure porters.  Those forced 
into porterage or other duties faced extremely difficult conditions and 
mistreatment that sometimes resulted in death.  There was a steady 
pattern of reports that soldiers raped ethnic minority women (see 
Section 1.g.). 
 
The regimen at Insein prison near Rangoon remained extremely harsh, 
including widespread use of solitary confinement, little or no exercise, 
no mosquito nets or reading or writing materials for virtually all 
prisoners, poor nutrition, and inadequate medical care.  A handful of 
prominent political prisoners were housed in separate bungalow 
accommodations on the prison compound.  Most prisoners were permitted to 
receive medicine as well as supplemental food brought by their families 
during the 15-minute visits permitted every 2 weeks.  Conditions for 
political prisoners were reliably reported to be much worse at some 
upcountry locations, particularly Thayet and Thayawaddy prisons. 
 
Unlike in the past, in May the SLORC refused to allow visiting U.S. 
Congressman Bill Richardson to meet with political prisoners.  
Similarly, the SLORC refused a request by U.N. Special Rapporteur Yozo 
Yokota to visit several political prisoners during his October trip.  
Credible reports indicate a group of political prisoners at Insein 
prison was mistreated after smuggling information to Professor Yokota on 
conditions in that facility.  The Government continued to bar the ICRC 
from visiting detainees or convicted prisoners of any kind.  After the 
Government officially notified the ICRC that it was not prepared to 
accept the ICRC's standard procedures for conducting prison visits, the 
ICRC closed its Rangoon office in July, though not before indicating its 
willingness to renew discussions again should the SLORC change its mind. 
 
  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The SLORC routinely practiced arbitrary arrest and incommunicado 
detention.  Prior to being charged, detainees do not have access to 
legal counsel or their families.  There is no provision in the law for 
judicial determination of the legality of detention, and political 
detainees cannot obtain release on bail. 
 
Because of the high level of intimidation discouraging overt political 
activity, detentions for public antigovernment activities remained at a 
relatively low level.  Nonetheless, the authorities continued to detain 
scores of political activists for low-level political activity, such as 
handing out opposition flyers or shouting political slogans in public.  
For example, in February at least 20 young people were arrested in 
connection with a short demonstration at the funeral of former Prime 
Minister U Nu; 9 were later sentenced to 7 years in prison.  Other small 
groups of young people were detained in July for distributing flyers, 
and at year's end only a few were known to have been released. 
 
In June the authorities detained former National League for Democracy 
(NLD) acting chairman Kyi Maung, who had been released from prison only 
3 months earlier.  Kyi Maung and two of his four companions picked up at 
the same time were subsequently released.  The other two were held and 
later tried in a summary procedure without benefit of legal counsel and 
sentenced to 7 years in prison.  This included the former chairman of 
the Democracy Party, Thu Wai.  At the same time, another former 
Democracy Party activist, Htway Myint, was also arrested, tried, and 
given a 7-year sentence.  All three were convicted for allegedly 
violating the country's security laws when in fact they appear to have 
merely engaged in political discussions. 
 
In November three supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi were arrested and 
within days sentenced to 2 years in prison for objecting to the 
placement of traffic-control barriers by police in front of the NLD 
leader's residence. 
 
Forced exile is not used as a method of political control. 
 
  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The judiciary is not independent of the executive.  The SLORC names 
justices to the Supreme Court, who, in turn, appoint lower court judges 
(with the approval of the SLORC). 
 
The court system, as inherited from the British and subsequently 
restructured, is comprised of courts at the township, district, state, 
and national levels. 
 
Throughout 1995 the Government continued to rule by decree and was not 
bound by any constitutional provisions providing for fair public trials 
or any other rights.  Although remnants of the British-era legal system 
were formally in place, the court system and its operation remained 
seriously flawed.  Many observers believe there has been an improvement 
over the last few years in judicial procedures, at least in the handling 
of nonpolitical cases.  But ongoing unprofessional behavior by some 
court officials, pervasive bribe-taking, the misuse of overly broad 
laws, and the manipulation of the courts for political ends continued to 
deprive citizens of the right to a fair trial and the rule of law. 
 
Some basic due process rights, including the right to a public trial and 
the right to be represented by a defense attorney, were generally 
respected except in sensitive political cases.  Defense attorneys are 
permitted to call and cross-examine witnesses, but their primary purpose 
is to bargain with the judge to obtain the shortest possible sentence 
for their clients.  Most court proceedings are open to the public.  
However, in political cases, almost all trials are held in courtrooms on 
prison compounds and are not open to the public.  In these instances, 
defense counsel appears to serve no purpose other than to provide moral 
support, since reliable reports indicate verdicts are dictated by higher 
authorities. 
 
During the first 3 months of the year, 105 persons believed to be 
political prisoners were released, including former NLD Member of 
Parliament-elect and one-time National Convention delegate Dr. Aung Khin 
Sint.  This group also included former NLD chairman Tin Oo and former 
acting NLD chairman Kyi Maung.  On July 10, Aung San Suu Kyi was freed 
unconditionally after serving 6 years under house arrest.  During the 
remainder of the year, 49 other persons believed to have been political 
prisoners were released.  By year's end, at least several hundred--if 
not many more--political prisoners remained incarcerated.  
 
  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, and 
Correspondence 
 
The military ruled unchecked by any outside authority, and the State 
continued to interfere extensively and arbitrarily in the lives of 
private citizens.  Through its extensive intelligence network, the 
Government closely monitored the travel, whereabouts, and activities of 
many citizens, particularly those known to be politically active.  
Security personnel selectively screened private correspondence and 
telephone calls and conducted warrantless searches of private premises.  
On occasion the Government attempted to jam foreign radio broadcasts 
(see Section 2.a.).  Government employees were required to obtain 
advance permission before meeting with foreigners. 
 
The SLORC continued to move people out of cities to peripheral new town 
settlements, though not on the same scale as in the early 1990's.  While 
facilities in some of these areas have improved over time, residents 
targeted for displacement continued to be given no option but to move, 
usually on short notice.  The military also continued to relocate 
forcibly some rural villages, especially in ethnic minority areas. 
 
Those able to remain in established cities and towns were subject to 
arbitrary seizure of their property.  In a number of urban areas, 
residents were compelled to cede land for road-widening projects decided 
upon without any public consultation or endorsement.  Other long-term 
city residents were required to cede land for commercial redevelopment 
and were compensated at only a fraction of the value of their lost 
homes.  Automobiles and other movable property remained vulnerable to 
arbitrary seizure.  In rural areas, military personnel at times 
confiscated livestock and food supplies. 
 
  g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in 
Internal Conflicts 
 
For more than four decades the Burmese Army has battled diverse ethnic 
insurgencies.  These ethnic minority insurgent groups have sought to 
gain greater autonomy from the dominant ethnic Burman majority.  In 1989 
the SLORC began a policy of seeking cease-fire agreements with most 
ethnic insurgent groups.  In late 1994, however, the army moved 
militarily against the largest remaining ethnic insurgent group, the 
Karen National Union (KNU).  In late 1994, the KNU broke into two 
factions, in part because of government efforts to stir up religious 
tension between the Karen Christian and Buddhist communities.  The 
Buddhist faction, known as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization 
(DKBO) subsequently allied itself with the Government. 
 
In January the Burmese army offensive led to the fall of Manerplaw, the 
longtime headquarters of the KNU and of semiexiled prodemocracy forces.  
Less than a month later, the KNU's last major defensive encampment along 
the Thai border also fell to army troops.  These two incidents unleashed 
a flood of as many as 10,000 refugees into Thailand.  Throughout the 
rest of the year, the DKBO staged cross-border raids resulting in injury 
and death, destruction of refugee camps, and the forced repatriation of 
some refugees.  In June several thousand more fled to Thailand after 
troops attempted to move into Karenni-held areas of Kayah State, which 
led to the breakdown of the SLORC's cease-fire agreement with the 
Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP). 
 
In connection with the military's campaign against the Karen, Karenni, 
and drug trafficker Khun Sa and his Shan United Army, as many as several 
thousand civilians were believed to have been coerced into working as 
porters in jungle areas in or near combat zones.  According to reliable 
reports, military sweeps for porters or demands for porter "taxes" 
(i.e., cash payment instead of porter duties) reached as far as Rangoon 
and other urban areas in central Burma.  It was also credibly reported 
that some members of the military used sham threats of impressment to 
extort money. 
 
Antigoverment insurgent groups were also responsible for violence; mines 
laid by insurgents caused both civilian and military deaths.  At least 
one former insurgent group that concluded a cease-fire agreement with 
the SLORC is known to have used forced labor.  In addition, the 
narcotics-trafficking Shan United Army brutalized and murdered 
villagers, conducted forced recruitment of boys, and impressed porters 
while fighting against the army and ensuring continued cultivation of 
opium by peasant farmers. 
 
Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
Severe restrictions on freedom of speech and the press persisted 
throughout 1995.  The security services continued to clamp down on those 
attempting to express opposition political views, such as by handing out 
flyers or chanting slogans (see Section 1.d.).  Many more refrained from 
speaking out for fear of arrest and interrogation.  Major exceptions 
were Aung San Suu Kyi, and NLD Vice Chairmen Tin Do and Kyi Maung, who 
following Aung San Suu Kyi's release in July regularly gave short 
speeches in front of her residence to those willing to run the risk of 
being seen by military intelligence. 
 
All forms of domestic public media were officially controlled or 
censored.  This strict control in turn encouraged self-censorship on the 
part of writers and publishers.  Private citizens were generally unable 
to subscribe directly to foreign publications.  A limited supply of 
secondhand copies of international newsmagazines and a sizable number of 
private publications on nonpolitical issues were available to the public 
at large, but censors occasionally banned issues or deleted articles 
deemed unwelcome by the Government. 
 
The government-monopoly television, radio, and newspaper media remained 
propaganda instruments.  With the exception of coverage of some limited 
aspects of the National Convention, these official media did not report 
opposing views but rather attacked those in the democratic opposition 
who dared to take issue with government policies.  Editors remained 
answerable to military authorities.  While the English-language daily 
New Light of Myanmar continued to include many international wire 
service reports on foreign news, domestic news hewed strictly to and 
reinforced government policy. 
 
Many foreign journalists, including television crews, were able to visit 
and report on developments in the country, although their movements were 
sometimes restricted and monitored.  However, other journalists were 
denied visas or issuance was so delayed as to render a planned visit 
impossible. 
 
Foreign radio broadcasts, such as those of the British Broadcasting 
Corporation (BBC), Voice of America (VOA), and Norway-based Democratic 
Voice of Burma, remained prime sources of uncensored information.  The 
authorities at times attempted to jam or otherwise interfere with the 
reception of these broadcasts.  However, the head of the BBC's Burmese 
service was officially received in May, and two reporters for VOA's 
Burmese service were each allowed to remain in the country for several 
months.  The Government also allowed some foreign government-sponsored 
information programs. 
 
The authorities took new steps to restrict the use of satellite 
television.  After imposing a September 1993 deadline for registering 
satellite dishes, they failed to approve additional licenses or clarify 
who in the future would be allowed to have access to foreign television.  
In June the Government issued an official warning threatening up to 3 
years' imprisonment for operation of an unlicensed satellite television 
receiver. 
 
University teachers and professors remained subject to the same 
restrictions on freedom of speech, political activities, and 
publications as other government employees.  These included warnings 
against criticism of the Government; instructions not to discuss 
politics while at work; and strictures against joining or supporting 
political parties, engaging in political activity, or meeting foreign 
officials.  Teachers continued to be held responsible for propagating 
SLORC political goals among their students and for maintaining 
discipline and preventing students from engaging in any unauthorized 
political activity.  
 
  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Government does not respect these rights.  The government 
prohibition on unauthorized outdoor assemblies of more than five people 
remained in effect, although authorities enforced it unevenly.  For 
example, at times between 2,000 and 3,000 people were able to gather in 
front of Aung San Suu Kyi's residence to listen to her weekly talks.  
However, legal political parties remained formally required to request 
permission from the authorities to hold internal meetings of their own 
membership.  During one weekly gathering at the home of Aung San Suu 
Kyi, three people were arrested for confronting policemen about the 
placement of barriers to control the crowd (see Section 1.d.). 
 
Despite these restrictions, the NLD leadership held internal meetings, 
traveled upcountry to meet with its supporters, and hosted large public 
gatherings.  Citizens engaged in these activities, including those 
attending Aung San Suu Kyi's addresses, remained subject to arrest at 
any time for their activities.  Late in the year, the Government's own 
mass mobilization organization, the Union Solidarity and Development 
Association (USDA), orchestrated a series of rallies as a mass 
demonstration of support for the SLORC's political objectives.  With few 
exceptions, attendance was coerced, with explicit threats of penalities 
for those who contemplated staying away.  Religious groups, by contrast, 
sometimes encountered problems holding outdoor gatherings. 
 
In addition to the USDA, the right of association existed only for 
organizations, including trade associations and professional bodies, 
permitted by law and duly registered with the Government.  Only a 
handful continued to exist, and even those were subject to direct 
government intervention or took special care to act in line with 
government policy.  This included such benign groups as the Myanmar Red 
Cross and the Myanmar Medical Association.  Only 10 political parties 
(compared to 75 in 1992) remained legal at year's end 
 
  c.  Freedom of Religion 
 
Adherents of all religions duly registered with the authorities 
generally enjoyed freedom to worship as they chose, although Buddhists 
continued to enjoy a privileged position.  In recent years, the 
Government has made special efforts to link itself with Buddhism as a 
means of asserting its own popular legitimacy.  For example, during the 
year the military arranged the visit of a venerated Buddha tooth relic 
from China and after the visit organized construction of two massive new 
pagodas to commemorate the event.  Consistent reports indicate some 
overzealous local officials forced even non-Buddhists to contribute to 
Buddhist construction projects.  Credible reports continued to surface 
of Buddhist missionaries dispatched by the central Government and local 
military personnel actively working to expand Buddhism, sometimes 
through compulsion, in minority areas. 
 
The Government monitors the activities of members of all religions, in 
part because they have in the past been politically active.  Security 
services demanded that religious groups seek prior authorization to 
conduct services out of doors.  These regulations were also in effect in 
and around Buddhist monasteries and pagodas.  Religious publications 
remained subject to the same control and censorship imposed on secular 
ones.  Christian Bibles translated into indigenous languages could not 
be imported.  It remained extremely difficult for Christian and Muslim 
groups to obtain permission to build new churches and mosques. 
 
Religious groups were able to establish links with coreligionists in 
other countries, although these activities were reportedly monitored by 
the Government.  Foreign religious representatives were usually only 
allowed visas for short stays, but in some cases were permitted to 
preach to Burmese congregations.  In August Roman Catholic Cardinal 
Josef Tomko was able to visit Rangoon and upcountry locations.  
Permanent foreign missionary establishments have not been permitted 
since the 1960's, but seven Catholic nuns and four priests working in 
Burma since before independence continued to reside upcountry. 
 
Credible reports continued of isolated incidents in which the Government 
removed cemeteries in the course of infrastructure projects in urban 
areas.  These removals targeted adherents of many faiths, including 
Buddhists, but were a particularly serious problem for Muslims and 
Christians, who--unlike Buddhists--consider such "final resting places" 
to be sacred ground. 
 
  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
Although citizens have the legal right to live anywhere in the country, 
both urban and rural residents were subject to arbitrary relocation (see 
Section l.f.).  Except for limitations in areas of insurgent activity, 
citizens could travel freely within the country but had to notify local 
authorities of their whereabouts.  Those residents unable to meet the 
restrictive provisions of the citizenship law, (e.g., Chinese, Arakanese 
Muslims, etc.) had to obtain prior permission to travel (see Section 5).  
Rural farmers were also not free to leave the land at will. 
 
While the Government relaxed restrictions on passport issuance, it 
carefully scrutinized all prospective travel abroad.  Many applicants 
were also forced to pay bribes to obtain passports to which they were 
entitled.  The official board that reviews passport applications denied 
passports in some cases apparently on political grounds.  All college 
graduates obtaining a passport (except for certain government employees) 
were required to pay a special education clearance fee to reimburse the 
Government.  Citizens who emigrated legally were generally allowed to 
return to visit relatives, and even some who had lived abroad illegally 
and acquired foreign citizenship were able to return to visit.  In 
January the authorities extended until the end of the year special 
procedures allowing former citizens residing abroad to reacquire 
citizenship. 
 
In anticipation of the Government's planned "Visit Myanmar Year 1996," 
restrictions were further eased on foreign travelers.  As of September 
1, Burmese embassies began issuing tourist visas within 24 hours and 
lowered visa fees.  However, select categories of applicants, such as 
human rights advocates, certain journalists, and political figures, 
continued to be denied entry visas unless traveling under the aegis of a 
sponsor acceptable to the Government.  Although some areas of the 
country remained off-limits to foreigners for security reasons, the 
authorities officially opened up a substantial number of new domestic 
destinations. 
 
In 1995 over 60,000 of the Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh in 
1992 returned to Burma, bringing the total number of returnees to over 
196,000.  As the year progressed, however, the pace of repatriation 
slowed greatly, with over 50,000 still in camps across the border at 
year's end.  The UNHCR reported that authorities cooperated in 
investigating the isolated incidents of renewed abuse which surfaced.  
However, the Government continued to refuse some independent observers 
access to repatriation areas.  During the year, the Government appeared 
to have halted the practice of forcibly removing Muslims from elsewhere 
in Arakan State to the border townships. 
 
The Government was reportedly reluctant to allow the UNHCR to play a 
similar role along the Thai border in connection with the expected 
repatriation of large numbers of Mon returnees. 
 
The Government does not allow refugees or displaced persons from abroad 
to resettle or seek safe haven. 
 
Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Despite the overwhelming desire citizens demonstrated in the 1990 
elections for a return to democracy, they continued to be denied the 
right to change their government.  Since 1988 active duty military 
officers have occupied an increasing number of important positions 
throughout the bureaucracy, particularly at the policymaking level.  
Despite the appointment of several civilians to the Cabinet in 1992, the 
process of placing military or recently retired military officers in 
most key senior level positions once held by technocrats in the economic 
ministries continued. 
 
Following the NLD's victory in the 1990 elections, the SLORC set aside 
the election results and disqualified, detained, arrested, or drove into 
exile many successful candidates.  Since then 201 of the 485 Deputies 
elected have either been disqualified, resigned under pressure, gone 
into exile, been detained, or died.  Approximately 20 successful 
candidates from the election remain in prison. 
 
Rather than accept the will of the citizenry, the SLORC convened a 
National Convention in January 1993 to draw up principles for a new 
constitution.  The SLORC handpicked delegates, and proceedings have been 
carefully stage-managed; even limited opposition views have been 
ignored.  Despite having no mandate from the people, the SLORC tasked 
the Convention with drafting principles for a new constitution ensuring 
a dominant role for the military in the country's future political 
structure.  The SLORC leadership met with prodemocracy leader Aung San 
Suu Kyi on two occasions in late 1994, but throughout the following year 
they failed to heed her call for genuine dialog on the country's 
political future and instead proceeded with their own controlled 
"consultations" on a new constitution.  In late November, the NLD 
delegates withdrew from the Convention pending agreement by the 
authorities to discuss revising the convention working procedures.  Two 
days later they were formally expelled.  This left the Convention 
exercise almost solely in the hands of government appointees and 
definitively removed whatever semblance of claim it might once have had 
to represent the Burmese people. 
 
Minorities and women are underrepresented in the top ranks of government 
service and largely excluded from military leadership.  Members of 
certain minority groups continued to be denied full citizenship (see 
Section 5). 
 
Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The Government does not allow domestic human rights organizations to 
exist, and it remained generally hostile to outside scrutiny of its 
human rights record.  However, the authorities continued formally to 
receive the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative.  In 
February Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Alvaro de 
Soto held talks with government officials, and during a visit in August 
he was also able to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi.  Still, the SLORC 
remained unwilling to engage the U.N. in a substantive dialog about 
Burma's political future. 
 
After considering the January report of its Special Rapporteur for 
Burma, Professor Yozo Yokota, the U.N. Human Rights Commission adopted a 
resolution in March severely criticizing the authorities for their human 
rights abuses.  The Burmese representative at the Commission in turn 
rejected the criticism as "inaccurate, instrusive and politically 
motivated."  In keeping with the Special Rapporteur's mandate, in 
October the Government permitted Professor Yokota to undertake another 
survey trip to Burma, after which he delivered a highly critical review 
of Burma's human rights situation to the U.N. General Assembly's Third 
Committee.  In December the U.N. General Assembly adopted another 
consensus resolution deploring continued violation of human rights in 
Burma. 
 
A limited number of nonpolitical international NGO's continued project 
work in Burma, while a few more established a provisional presence while 
undertaking the protracted negotiations necessary to set up permanent 
operations in the country. 
 
The ICRC closed its office after failing to gain access to Burmese 
prisons.  
 
Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Government continued to rule by decree and was not bound by any 
constitutional provisions concerning discrimination. 
 
  Women 
 
In part because of the strong role of religion, violence against women, 
including spousal abuse, is not considered socially acceptable and 
occurs relatively infrequently. 
 
The trafficking of women and girls to Thailand for the purposes of 
prostitution remained a serious problem.  In border areas, where the 
Government's control is limited, there were numerous reports of women 
being forced or lured into working as prostitutes in Thailand.  While 
the number of young women tricked or forced into prostitution is 
unknown, a common practice is to lure young women to Thailand with 
promises of employment as a waitress or domestic (see Thailand report).  
Also, the military continued to impress women for military porterage 
duties, and reports of soldiers raping ethnic minority women remained 
widespread (see Sections 1.c. and 1.g.). 
 
In general, women in Burma have traditionally enjoyed a high status, 
exercising most of the same basic rights as men and taking an active 
role in business.  Consistent with traditional culture, they keep their 
own names after marriage and often control family finances.  However, 
women remained underrepresented in most traditional male occupations, 
and a few professions continued to be entirely barred to women.  As 
elsewhere, the burden of poverty, which is particularly widespread in 
Burma's rural areas, fell disproportionately on women. 
 
Women did not consistently receive equal pay for equal work.  There were 
no independent women's rights organizations, and no government ministry 
specifically targeted the safeguarding of women's interests.  A 
government-controlled agency, the Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare 
Association (MMCWA), provided some assistance to mothers, and a new 
professional society for businesswomen, the Myanmar Women Entrepreneurs' 
Association, was formed in 1995. 
 
  Children 
 
Despite the establishment of various child welfare programs, the 
Government allocated few resources for programs relevant to children, 
and once again cut the share of the national budget for education (to 13 
percent), with a mere 0.5 percent allocated to social welfare services 
(versus an official 33 percent for the military).  
 
There is no pattern of societal abuse of children, although poverty and 
alcoholism sometimes lead to instances of abuse.  Many families allowed 
their young daughters to travel to Thailand to work as prostitutes.  The 
rising incidence of HIV infection has increased demand for younger 
prostitutes. 
 
  People with Disabilities 
 
Official assistance to persons with disabilities is extremely limited.  
There is no law mandating accessibility to government facilities.  While 
there are several small-scale organizations to assist the disabled, most 
disabled persons must rely on traditional family structures to provide 
for their welfare.  Funding from the South Korean Red Cross allowed a 
prosthesis program begun by the ICRC to continue.  Because of land mines 
and train accidents, Burma has one of the highest rates of amputee 
injuries in the world. 
 
  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
Burma's myriad ethnic minorities have long resented the dominance of the 
country's Burman majority.  Over the last few years and continuing in 
1995, the SLORC, in the name of national solidarity, has sought to 
pacify these ethnic groups by means of negotiated cease-fires, grants of 
limited autonomy, and promises of development assistance.  By year's 
end, the Government had negotiated cease-fire agreements with 15 of 16 
recognized ethnic insurgent groups, and talks with a final ethnic group, 
the Karen National Knion (KNU), were believed to be underway.  However, 
the Government's settlement with the Karenni National Progressive Party 
(KNPP) broke down after the Burmese army forcibly entered areas under 
KNPP control. 
 
The Government included a large number of ethnic minority 
representatives in the National Convention and permitted extended debate 
on the issue of minority autonomy.  However, the ethnic minority 
populations complain that their concerns have not been addressed 
adequately by the Government, and none is satisfied with the provisions 
on limited "self-administration" which the authorities plan to accord a 
few groups under the new constitution. 
 
Government investment in the border areas in road, hospital, and school 
construction has been modest at best, and economic development of ethnic 
minority areas continued to lag, leaving many living at barely 
subsistence levels.  Since the focus of the hostilities against armed 
insurgencies has been in the border areas where most minorities are 
concentrated, those populations have been disproportionately victimized 
by the general brutalization associated with the military's activities. 
 
Since only people who can prove long familial links to Burma are 
accorded full citizenship, ethnic populations, such as Muslims, Indians, 
and Chinese, continued to be denied full citizenship.  Those without 
full citizenship are not free to travel domestically and are barred from 
certain advanced university programs in medicine and technological 
fields.  Anti-Chinese sentiment remained pervasive. 
 
Section 6  Worker Rights 
 
  a.  The Right of Association 
 
There were no functioning trade unions; even former government-
controlled ones were dormant.  Workers continued to be unable to strike, 
and there were no reported instances of attempts to do so. 
 
In July 1989, the United States suspended Burma's eligibility for trade 
concessions under the Generalized System of Preferences Program, pending 
steps to afford its labor force internationally recognized worker 
rights. 
 
Because of Burma's longstanding violation of International Labor 
Organization (ILO ) Convention 87 on Freedom of Association, in June the 
ILO Conference Committee on the Application of Standards devoted a 
Special Paragraph to Burma in its general report.  Following February 
meetings between ILO officials and government representatives in 
Rangoon, the lack of a constructive government response prompted the ILO 
to cancel plans for a followup visit. 
 
  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Workers do not have the right to organize and bargain collectively to 
set wages and benefits.  The Government's Central Arbitration Board, 
which theoretically provides a means for settling major labor disputes, 
continued to exist on paper but in practice was dormant.  Township-level 
labor supervisory committees remained in place to address various low-
level labor concerns. 
 
The Government unilaterally sets wages in the public sector.  In the 
private sector, wages are set by market forces.  The Government 
pressures joint ventures not to pay salaries greater than those of 
ministers or other high-level employees.  Joint ventures circumvent this 
with supplemental pay, including remuneration paid in foreign exchange 
certificates, as well as through incentive and overtime pay and other 
fringe benefits.  Foreign firms generally set wages near those of the 
domestic private sector but follow the example of joint ventures in 
awarding supplemental wages and benefits. 
 
No special export processing zones exist. 
 
  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Despite government promises to alter the Village and Town Acts to 
withdraw the claimed statutory basis for forced labor in the country, at 
year's end the legislation was not changed.  As the military continued 
its program of road, rail, dam, and other infrastructure projects, its 
recourse to forced labor remained at a high level.  Hundreds of 
thousands--if not more--of ordinary citizens were compelled to 
contribute labor to these public works.  In preparation for the "Visit 
Myanmar Year- 1996," in 1995 the Mandalay Moat Project was completed by 
using a combination of prison, military, and paid labor, and the Ye-
Tavoy railroad in southern Burma continued to employ large-scale forced 
labor, including child labor, according to credible reports . 
 
In June the ILO Conference Committee on the Application of Standards 
cited Burma in a second Special Paragraph for its violation of ILO 
Convention 29 on forced labor. 
 
Although the Government refused to acknowledge its use of forced labor 
publicly, in June it issued an internal order instructing officials to 
use paid labor on large-scale infrastructure projects.  By year's end, 
many instances of forced labor (or forced monetary contributions in lieu 
of labor) nevertheless continued to be reported. 
 
  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
Although the law sets a minimum age for the employment of children, in 
practice the law is not enforced.  Working children are highly visible 
in cities, mostly working for small or family enterprises.  Children are 
hired at lower pay rates than adults for the same kind of work, and 
economic pressure forces them to work not only for their survival but 
also to support their families.  Arts and crafts is the only sector 
producing for the export market which employs a significant number of 
children.  Despite a compulsory education law, almost 40 percent of 
children never enroll in school, and only 27 percent complete the 5-year 
primary school course. 
 
  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
Surplus labor conditions and lack of protection by government 
authorities continue to dictate substandard conditions for workers, 
despite recent annual economic growth of at least 5 percent.  The Law on 
Fundamental Workers Rights of 1964 and the Factories Act of 1951 
regulate working conditions.  There is a legally prescribed 5-day, 35-
hour workweek for employees in the public sector and a 6-day, 44-hour 
workweek for private and public sector employees, with overtime paid for 
additional work.  The law also allows for a 24-hour rest period per week 
and workers have 21 paid holidays a year.  Such provisions actually 
affect only a small portion of the country's labor force. 
 
Only government employees and employees of a few traditional industries 
are covered by minimum wage provisions.  The minimum monthly wage for 
salaried public employees (based on the market exchange rate of 120 
kyats = $1.00) is $5.00 (600 kyats), but this sum is supplemented by 
various subsidies and allowances.  The minimum wage is insufficient to 
provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family.  In 
particular, the low level of remuneration of public employment fostered 
widespread corruption.  The government minimum wage for day labor is 
$0.16 daily (20 kyats).  Workers in the private sector are much better 
paid.  The actual average wage rate for casual laborers in Rangoon in 
1995 was almost four times the official minimum, but still well below 
subsistence levels.  Wage increases continued to lag far behind 
inflation. 
 
Numerous health and safety regulations exist on the books, but the 
Government has not made the necessary resources available to those 
charged with their enforcement.  Although workers may in principle 
remove themselves from hazardous conditions, in practice workers cannot 
expect to retain their jobs. 
 
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[end of document]

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