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DAGAinfo

23 December 2000
No. 116


In this issue:
  1. FEATURE
    Globalism NO, Internationalism YES!
  2. NEWS in Brief
    East Timor - 'Up to 2,000 killed'
    Hong Kong - Migrant Workers Celebrate International Migrants' Day
    Tibet - Nepal returning Tibetan refugees
    Indonesia - Aid Workers Executed in Aceh
  3. Urgent APPEALS
    South Korea - Hunger Strike to Abolish the NSL
  4. ANNOUNCEMENT
    Internet Resource - Grave Diggers: A report on mining in Burma

 

1. FEATURE - top
 

Globalism No, Internationalism Yes!

By Apo Leong

This paper begins with how labour is aversely affected by globalisation, masterminded by the Multinational Corporations [MNC] and the superpowers, with special reference to the attack on labour under the recent Asian financial crisis. It further describes various forms and stories of resistance by labour and community groups. The last part addresses the current debate on social clause, core labour standards and codes of conduct.

Introduction

Before 1997, HK people were so complacent, thinking that they could enjoy the best of both worlds after unification with China, under the famous 'one country two systems' formula as promised by the PRC leaders. Globalisation was then not a threat to HK as it has always been under a virtually free economy and many people claim HK actually benefits a lot more from free trade and globalisation. However, the rolling financial crisis soon hit HK economy badly, and those who suffer most are the working class and the marginalised of the society. (Hong Kong Social Security Society) HK NGOs, labour unions began to grasp the real meaning of globalisation and to learn eagerly from people's movement of other countries how to confront the unjust onslaught by neo-liberalism that is the prevailing motto of the present globalisation drive.

For us, globalisation is never a new term, some even coin it as a new form of imperialism. In various degrees, most of the activists hold very negative opinions. On the other hand, history has shown that the international solidarity of the working class movement erupted hand in hand with globalised capital, dated back to the birth of the First International. The ideology and practice of internationalism is now being revigorised all over the world.

What Globalisation Means to Workers

Globalisation of product markets has promoted competitive pressure and division of labour on an unprecedented scale and speed.

For the winners, globalisation is often presented as both desirable and inevitable: It is desirable that a borderless world economy of free trade and the free movement of capital and people be created, and it is inevitable that this will happen. The dominant vision of globalisation promises that the transformation of the world economy into a single market and a single production site will lead to increasing wealth and prosperity, and dynamic growth that will deliver better wages and jobs. Even for those who see that only a small minority will benefit from the current stage of globaisation, it is believed that the majority of the working people will benefit from this in the long run. Those who fail to submit to globalisation will be punished with a 'straightjacket' such as the structural adjustment programme and other austerity measures imposed by the World Bank, IMF and others. (Asian Labour Update No.22, Friedman, Economist, Landsbury)

Those who oppose globalisation define it differently. Some call it an 'attack' on workers and their standard of living. Others call it a 'strategy' for capitalism to be able to survive. Some go further by calling it a new form of colonisation or even a 'world class war'.

To summarise, we believe that globalisation:

  • is increasing world poverty and lowering living standards of workers
  • is increasing the gaps between the rich and poor countries
  • is increasing the gaps between the rich and poor within countries/workers.

For example, the assets of the 200 richest people are greater than the combined income of the more than 2 billion people. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are MNCs. Eighty countries have lower GDP incomes today than they did a decade ago.

As a result, the vast majority of workers in the world fall outside the formal labour market and associated regularly mechanism, and their number is growing steadily under the rapid expansion of the IT or new economy. (International Labour and Research Information Group)

Labour Pains Under Globalisation

It is not difficult to name the dark side of globalisation from the workers' own experiences.

At the macro level, we witness wider gap of rich and poor, or greater inequality, mainly due to the weakening of the state or through privatisation. The state was deprived of the economic leverage as an employer, as a regulator and machinery of redistributing the social product under globalisation, and therefore is weakened to influence economic and labour, social welfare policy. China, HK are a notable examples. (South China Morning Post cartoon, Oxfam) For example, the average monthly income for the poorest 10% of the HK people was only 1,400HKD, a drop of 20% compared with 1990 level whereas the 10% of the richest has a monthly income of 26,000HKD which is 45% growth compared with 1990 level. (Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Union) In some of the Asian countries, the biggest losers are farmers who cannot compete with the dumping of agricultural products from the west. Thus, more and more farmers are forced to become migrant workers looking for jobs in the urban setting, and even in the overseas labour market. For example, it was estimated that 10 million Chinese farmers would be displaced when China joins WTO, and the income of the rural population would suffer from minus 2%. (Research Report on China's Entry into WTO)

At the plant or industrial level, flexibility, informalisation have become the favorite terms used over and over again to suppress the labour movement, wages and the welfare of the rank and file workers. Under flexibility, the following observations are made -

  • Reducing the core of permanent workers, while increasing the proportion of temporary, homebased and casual employees.
  • Increasing the use of women, apprentices, and migrants.
  • Subcontracting the production of components previously manufactured within the factory.
  • Subcontracting services like transport, packaging, maintenance and security, which are carried out on factory premises.
  • Increasing the number of shifts per day or the use of overtime.
  • Replacing pay systems based on working time and length of service based piece rates and bonuses or individual appraisals.
  • Introducing influences from external trade union organisations by either eliminating unions or establishing a controllable union.
  • Introducing internal training systems, which facilitate redeployment of workers within the factory or entreprise.

Furthermore, labour intensification is widely adopted through developing a 'lean-mean' core of workers which basically means the reduction in the number of workers in a workplace thereby increasing the workload of the remaining or core staff. It is charcterised by long working hours, heavy workload or more quota, setting higher qualification level on age and educational attainment and assigning additional tasks (so called multi-skilled) to a person. Under this structured system, workers are trained and given the impression that they are the 'company's strategic partners' towards global competitiveness - for the company in the international market and for the workers in the labour market. For example, workers in the Walmart supermarket chains are called 'associates'. They work under greater stress and close surveillance, without much privacy. As more advanced information technology is being deployed in office, production and distribution, workers are also pressurised to increase their productivity and to make more sacrifices.

Other visible but long term impacts include loss of job (mass layoffs), wage and welfare cuts, as well as higher incidence of occupational health and safety accidents or related problems.

According to the latest International Confederation of Free Trade Union annual survey (2000), no country in Asia is spared from accusations of trade union rights violations including assassination of unionists in Nepal, disappearance or imprisonment in China, Burma, Bangladesh, use of strikebreakers in the Philippines and Indonesia. From Thailand to Singapore, Malaysia to Cambodia, it is still as difficult as ever to gain recognition for a trade union: administrative barriers, excessive costs, slow proceedings. Many employers, including certain MNCs, will stop nothing to prevent the approval of a trade union and avoid collective bargaining, sometimes in blatant contradictions to government directives. In addition to this, bans on strikes and on forming unions in the civil service are widespread, as is the lack of protection against discrimination for union members or the obstacles to organise legal strikes. The fiercest opponents to a social dimension to globalisation are also to be found in Asia. Yet the economic crisis which struck at the heart of this continent proved the need for the safeguarding the trade unions have long been arguing for, particularly where there is no or weak social security system. (Challenging Globalisation, Asian Food Workers, ALU, Labouring in the Millenium, Occupational Safety and Health Rights, Trade Union World - Multinational Monitor, Nov.2000)

People Strikes Back

Here I would like to cite a few cases, proving that we are not impotent, nor hopeless, nor helpless in fighting back.

A. Toy campaign

Sparked off by two related but horrific fires in Bangkok and Shenzhen seven years ago, 60 labour organisations and NGOs groups formed a united front to demand reasonable compensation to the victims, and better health and safety, working conditions for the toy workers in the region. Through repeated direct actions, exchange, lobbying and education, we are able to push some MNCs to pay additional compensation to the victims, to be aware of the plight of the toy workers. One evaluator found that, 'The strength of the toy campaign lies in its persistent capacity to lobby and do groundwork in its thrust to promote the safety and welfare of workers, especially those who are disempowered and those who have no venue to articulate their issues in the context of the oppressive system of subcontracting and unethical work practice of MNCs. The campaign also provided direction on the current advocacy on workers' issues linked to macro-issues of globaisation and call for workers' empowerment.' (EZE assessment report)

B. Korean Confederation of Trade Unions general strike

The nationwide general strike in 1997 by South Korean workers in protest against the passage of anti-worker labour laws has captured the imagination of workers throughout the world. It has done so because for workers everywhere, the amendment to the labour laws by the South Korean government constituted an attack on workers' rights and trade union rights that has become a global trend. International solidarity was particularly strong in mass assemblies inside and outside Korea. It is an act of defiance from below which has revived the possibility mass collective action, directly challenging the logic of global capitalism's search for ever-increasing flexibility. According to the organisers, this general strike was the first major one in 50 years and it lasted for a full twenty days. They learnt that trade union is not existing for its own members, but to support members of the general society as well. They also wanted to make groups in other countries aware of these issues, which may be common in their countries as well. As a result, the position of the new and independent trade union center, KCTU has become consolidated. (ALU)

C. MAI, N30, A16, S11, S26, Chiangmai, Seoul, etc.

In 1998, the pro-globalisation side suffered a setback. In the face of widespread international opposition, the OECD suspended negotiations for a Multilateral Agreement on Investment. The MAI would reduce the power of OECD countries to place restrictions on foreign investment. The struggle against globalisation took a climax when twenty thousand people stormed the WTO meeting in Seattle in Nov 1999, highligting the people's agenda over the corporate greed - fair trade over free trade. Close alliance was made among labour, environmental, women, human rights groups throughout the world. Mass gatherings and direct action took place again and again in the following meetings of World Economic Forum, ADB, G8, WB/IMF, ASEM in the year. The Economist magazine, the flagship of neo-liberalism, acknowledged that, 'They (the protestors) are right that the most pressing moral, political, and economic issue of our time is third-world poverty. And they are right that the tide of "globalisation", powerful as the engines driving it may be, can be turned back.' The struggle of the people against neo-liberal globalisation is continuing without interruption.

Alternatives to Globalisation

Broadly speaking, there are several major counter measures formulated by the labour movement.

For the mainstream trade union movement (ICFTU), they prefer having 'social dialogue', giving a 'human face' to globalisation by linking trade agreements with social clauses or more recently, core labour standards including the right of workers to organise and bargain collectively, no forced labour or child labour, and equal remuneration and equal opportunities for all. Their argument is, without it, trade liberalism and globalisation undermine workers' rights. However, the World Bank, many governments of developing or third world countries, and some unions, labour groups especially those from the south have objected. They say that their only competitive advantage to developed countries is cheap labour, and the social clause will stop their products from being imported into developed countries. It is a disguised form of protectionism and an invasion of their right to self-determination. The irony is, they get the support from many other right wing or conservative groups for various reasons.

Instead, some labour movement bodies have the strong opinion that the basic problem is globalisation itself, and the WTO or similar multilateral bodies are not democratic, transparent or accountable to the people, should be abolished. The second area of concern is who will become the police with the adoption of social clause, some would prefer the ILO to play the role. But if the ILO remains as a toothless tiger, its effectiveness cast much doubt. And if sanction is to be applied, who has the right to decide, and who has the right to do so?

The similar set up can be seen from the code of conduct movement. More and more MNCs adopt various codes of conduct, some at international level, some at regional or country level, or even at industry level. Various models of verification and monitoring are being promoted such as SAI8000, GRI, and others. For us, this is a smokescreen and a good public relations show by the MNCs, where genuine workers' participation or consultation is very minimal, if at all. This leads to the privatisation of labour rights. The police work is mainly taken over by the professionals such as the auditing firms or pseudo NGOs, which earns a fortune and create their employment opportunities, whereas workers would become more dependent on external saviors rather than arming themselves (Labour Rights in China [LARIC]). Here we observe many big NGOs or trade unions are too eager to occupy the musical chair of this engagement game, manipulated by the MNCs and the super states such as WB, with thorough discussion with their members or their partners, especially those from the south. So, more and more initiatives are dumped to us, and we are treated as their guinea pigs to justify how wonderful these initiatives work for the poor.

While we do not rule out some positive side of these initiatives or instruments, where they claim can provide a space for organising and lead to certain improvement of working conditions. Their success is rest to be seen, because we are not yet convinced of any sustainable breakthrough model that can really work. We are particularly concerned that more attention and resources should be made to generate, re-invent, substantiate the growing independent, bottom up labour movement. Workers' education and grassroots organising is indispensable.

As a matter of fact, much more cross border solidarity are taking place, with the help of advanced IT and a new generation of committed labour activists who have less historical burdens. Innovative ideas, tactics and materials are used for better understanding of globalisation to pave ways for strategic alliance with other social forces in defending workers' rights.

To conclude, I would like to quote the closing sentence of the Seoul Declaration by the "ASEM 2000 Seoul Action Day Against Neoliberalsim" (Oct 20, 2000) - We are confident! Another world is before us! Let us change the world.

Major References

  1. Rowley and Benson, Globalisation and Labour in the Asia and Pacific Region, 2000
  2. AMRC, Asia Pacific Labour Law Review, 2000
  3. Anderson and Cavanagh, Field Guide to the Global Economy, 2000
  4. Manipon and Perez, Challenge Globalisation: Solidarity and Search for Alternatives, 1999
  5. Against the Currect, 86/87/88, 2000
  6. ILRIG, An Alternative View of Globalisation, 1998
  7. Burkett and Hart-Landsberg, Development, Crisis and Class Struggle, 2000
  8. The Economist, Sept. 23-29, 2000
  9. Asia-Pacific Journal, Dec 1999
  10. Greenfield, The World Bank's 'Effective State' in East Asia, 2000
  11. Mazur, Labour's New Internationalism, Jan/Feb 2000
  12. After Seattle: A New Internationalism, Monthly Review, July/Aug 2000
  13. Wrokers' Education, July 2000
  14. Landsbury, Exploring New Trends in Employment Relations and New Approaches to Work in the 21st Century, 2000
  15. Trade Union World, Sept. 2000
  16. Wong, Is Our Resistance as Trans-national as Capital, Nov 2000
  17. Globalisation Monitor, various issues, 2000
  18. Asian Labour Update, various issues
  19. Labour Magazine by World Confederation of Labour, 2000/3
  20. Waterman and Munck, Labour Worldwide in the Era of Globalisation, 1999
  21. Waterman, Globalisation, Social Movements and the New Internationalism, 1998
  22. Public Service International, The Missing Link, 2000
  23. Bhattacherjee, Globalising Economy, Localising Labour, 2000
  24. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, 1999
  25. Toussaint, Your Money or Your Life, 1999

**[Apo Leung is the Executive Director of Asia Monitor Resource Center. The above paper was presented at the consultation on Ideology, Faith and People's Movement in the New Millenium organised by CCA-Faith, Mission and Unity, Chiangmai, 8-11 Nov 2000.]

 

2. NEWS in Brief - top
 

BURMA

JAUNTA CITED FOR LONG LIST OF RIGHTS ABUSES

Tuesday, December 5, 2000
REUTERS

The UN General Assembly accused Burma's military government of condoning rape, torture, mass arrests, forced labour and summary executions, among other abuses, to suppress dissent.

In a four-page resolution adopted without a vote overnight (HK time), the 189-member body praised the southeastern Asian nation only for allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit detainees earlier this year.

As in past years, the resolution urged the ruling military junta, which has refused to give up or share power, to release political prisoners from jail and allow the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader to operate freely.

NLD members have been subject to intimidation and sentenced under an arsenal of laws in what the resolution called a legal system "effectively used as an instrument of oppression".

The League, headed by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, won elections in 1990 by a landslide but has never been allowed to govern. She has been under house arrest off and on for years.

The assembly expressed "grave concern at the increasingly systematic policy of the Government of [Burma] to persecute the democratic opposition, National League for Democracy members, sympathisers and their families".

The junta, the resolution said, indulged in "arbitrary arrests and detention and abuse of the legal system, including harsh long-term prison sentences".

It deplored such abuses as "extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, enforced disappearances, rape, torture, inhuman treatment, mass arrests, forced labour, including the use of children, forced relocation, and denial of freedom of assembly, association, expression and movement".

The resolution was based on a report by Rajsoomer Lallah, a former Mauritius chief justice, who described the suffocating grip on all parts of society of Burma's military junta.

Some of the worst violence was committed against civilians belonging to minorities, particularly the Shan, Karen, Karenni and Rohingya groups, he said. Arrests can be for such "violations" as tuning a radio to a Voice of America programme or hanging up a poster calling for a political dialogue. Many prisoners lack medical attention, have inadequate diets and are kept "in tiny cells meant for dogs".

While numerous jailed dissidents are students, the entire country suffers from a lack of education, with the government spending only 1.2 per cent of its gross domestic product on education, one of only 11 countries to do so, Mr Lallah said.

Health and welfare fared no better, according to the resolution. It expressed grave concern at high rates of malnutrition among youngsters. The government also failed to address the growing spread of HIV-Aids infection.

 

EAST TIMOR

"UP TO 2,000 KILLED" IN EAST TIMOR

[BBC & SCMP]

Up to 2,000 people may have been slaughtered during the violence surrounding East Timor's vote for independence, according to a United Nations team investigating the killings.

One of the investigators, James Dunn, told Australian radio that bodies were still being recovered, and the initial estimate of 1,000 deaths may be half the actual figure.

Pro-Jakarta militias, backed by the military, went on the rampage after the territory voted to end Indonesian rule in the August 1999 referendum.

Mr Dunn said some victims may never be found as there was evidence that bodies had been dumped at sea and others had been buried in secret.

"My investigation suggests quite a few people were killed in the mountains and their bodies were probably taken away by relatives and buried privately and they've said nothing about them because they didn't want them disturbed.

"I also have a very strong feeling and some evidence ... that some bodies were dumped out at sea," he added. Mr Dunn, a former Australian diplomat who served in the East Timorese capital Dili, said more evidence would emerge when refugees returned from camps in West Timor.

Meanwhile, legal efforts to bring those responsible for the violence to book are floundering, as Jakarta stonewalls efforts to prosecute the well-connected senior officers and militia leaders blamed for inciting the killing.

The UN administration in East Timor has indicted an Indonesian army officer and 10 other suspects for war crimes so far. But the slow pace of progress has been criticised by rights groups.

Despite a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Jakarta and the UN which provides for legal co-operation, Jakarta has refused to allow the UN to question senior suspects on the grounds that Jakarta is pursuing its own investigations of the men.

But Jakarta has yet to bring anyone to trial, and has made negligible progress on certain high-profile cases such as a massacre of priests, women and children in a church in Suai and the murder of the Dutch journalist Sander Thoenes.

"No military officers will be probed or asked for information by the UN. The Government's stance is clear. We reject foreign intervention in the legal process," said armed forces chief Admiral Widodo.

His predecessor, General Wiranto, has been named "morally responsible" for the carnage, but is freely promoting an album of love songs across the country.

 

HONG KONG

MIGRANT WORKERS CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS' DAY

On 17 December, 2000, Asian migrants, migrant support groups and local Hong Kong workers and artists jointly staged the 2nd Migrants Cultural Festival. The event served as a grand finale to a "Migrant Campaign Month", held by migrants and migrant support groups in Hong Kong and Asia-wide, to commemorate International Migrants’ Day. The month also celebrated migrants’ culture and highlights the issues and struggles they face as marginalised workers in a foreign country.

Migrant domestic workers play a crucial role in holding up the Hong Kong economy, and yet, there is little real understanding among local people of the broader problems that migrants face in addition to their daily struggles to support their families back home. Migrant workers, not only in Hong Kong but all over the world, are subjected every day to deception, extortion, violence and abuse, poor working and living conditions, and exclusion from social, economic, cultural and political life. Public campaigns have grown increasingly important in bringing migrants’ issues to the Asian public.

The "Migrant Campaign Month" is a region-wide initiative lead by the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), a network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), trade unions and migrants’ groups in Asia. The Campaign commemorates December 18 or International Migrants’ Day - the day when the UN adopted the 1990 Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrants and their Families -- and is part of an international movement to make the Convention binding. The latter is the most comprehensive international instrument to date that defines how governments should treat migrant workers and their families.

 

TIBET

NEPAL 'RETURNING' TIBETAN REFUGEES
[AFP]

Under pressure from China to tighten border security following the Karmapa Lama's escape, Nepal has begun repatriating Tibetans fleeing their homeland, a watchdog group said yesterday.

The London-based Tibet Information Network said it received unofficial reports at least 60 Tibetan refugees who reached the Nepali border after fleeing across the Himalayas were returned to police on the Chinese side.

The Nepali Government has also intensified security on the Nepal-India border, and has arrested several Tibetans trying to return to Tibet from northern India, where the Tibetan government-in-exile is located.

Nepal has been used for years as a transit for Tibetans travelling from China to India. But it has come under pressure from Beijing after the teenage Karmapa Lama, who was being groomed by Beijing, escaped to India, reportedly via Nepal, earlier this year. The incident was a major embarrassment for Beijing.

The arrests at borders are expected to complicate matters for many Tibetans, including children who study in Tibetan communities in India, rather than in Tibet where their education is controlled by the Chinese Government.

The Nepali Government has an agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) whereby newly arrived Tibetan refugees are escorted to immigration and are later allowed transit to India.

Nepal's ambassador to Beijing, Rajeshwar Acharya, denied any escaping Tibetans were handed back to the Chinese authorities.

"When Tibetans illegally cross the border, we send them to our immigration departments, which hand them over to the UNHCR," he said. "We don't hand them over to the Chinese."

He said 100 to 200 Tibetans cross the border illegally each month, although the Information Network claims the figures are 2,000 to 3,000.

The UNHCR had until recently made visits to border areas in Nepal to ensure officials were aware of the procedure, the network said. But since the escape of the Karmapa Lama, the Nepali Government had suspended the visits, making it difficult for the UNHCR to monitor the situation

 

INDONESIA

AID WORKERS EXECUTED IN ACEH

In a joint statement issued on December 8, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the execution-style killings by Indonesian police of three humanitarian aid volunteers and a torture victim in Aceh. The two leading global rights monitors called for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the security officers responsible for the killings.

"The Indonesian government is allowing its security forces to target humanitarian workers in Aceh, just as it allowed militias to target such workers in West Timor," the two human rights organizations said.

"The international community should be every bit as outraged over these executions as they were over the brutal killing of three United Nations High Commission for Refugees' (UNHCR) workers in September, and take equally firm action."

The organizations noted that the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid only began to take steps to curb militia violence in West Timor after the UNHCR killings prompted a strong UN Security Council resolution and veiled threats of economic sanctions. In Aceh, the systematic targeting of activists by security forces has been underway for months, but the international response thus far has been muted.

Four humanitarian who workers were travelling to pick up torture victims for rehabilitation treatment in the vicinity of Cot Mat Tahe village, North Aceh district on 6 December were stopped by plainclothes Indonesian security forces. They were transferred to other vehicles and tortured. One volunteer escaped but the other three were lined up on the road and shot in the head execution-style. According to the reports, a patient accompanying the volunteers was also killed in the incident. Initial reports indicate that the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) and the military (TNI) were involved.

The volunteers were all local staff members of an organization called Rehabilitation Action for Torture victims in Aceh (RATA), a group sponsored by the Danish government through its embassy in Jakarta. There are now serious concerns for the safety of RATA's other staff and volunteers, especially the witness to the incident who is now in hiding.

The two organizations call on the Indonesian government to immediately initiate an investigation into the incident and to bring those responsible to justice. In view of the apparent involvement of the security forces in the killings any investigation must be carried out by experts who are independent of both the police and the military if it is to be regarded as credible.

Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also demanded that the security forces, including Brimob, be under orders to comply with international human rights standards and that any of its members, including commanding officers, suspected of involvement in human rights violations be immediately suspended from duty. Brimob, although a police unit, is military in character and has been implicated in many recent violations in Aceh.

Acehnese human rights defenders, humanitarian workers and political activists have been the specific target of many of the violations in recent months. In a letter sent on 22 November 2000, experts of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights noted a "pattern of serious human rights violations" in Aceh including torture, extrajudicial executions of civilians, and death threats against human rights organizations personnel and called for investigation and prosecution of the crimes.

"These latest murders underline the urgency of the UN experts' call for action by Jakarta to end attacks against the Acehnese population and for immediate measures to be taken to protect humanitarian and other human rights defenders," the rights groups concluded.

Background

Active armed groups in Aceh have mounted numerous attacks on police and military personnel, leading government forces to step up counter-insurgency operations. Hundreds of unlawful killings and arbitrary arrests of civilians have taken place in the process. Recent violations in which Brimob involvement has been reported include:

  • On 19 September 2000, two student activists with SIRA, a group that advocates a referendum on Aceh's political status, were beaten with rifle butts, cable, and belts and threatened with knives by members of Brimob after being seized at gunpoint in Banda Aceh.

  • On 5 September 2000, Amrisaldin, a volunteer with a humanitarian organization, Save Emergency for Aceh (SEFA), was detained by members of Brimob in Meukek Sub-district. He was released the next day having been punched, kicked, slashed with a knife. He was also threatened with death and had his his pubic, chest and armpit hair burnt with matches.

  • On 27 August 2000, three staff of Oxfam working in South Aceh were hospitalised after being tortured by Brimob officers. All three were beaten. One had a fingernail pulled out and was burned with cigarettes.

 

3. RESOURCES Received - top
 

DAGA receives a lot of juournals, periodicals, newsletters and many other forms of printed resources from its network of Action Groups in Asia and around the world.  Please click on "Resources" in the left bar for an extended listing.

 

4. Urgent APPEAL - top
 

KOREA: HUNGER STRIKE TO ABOLISH NATIONAL SECURITY LAW

AHRC UA Index: 001221

"Fifty-two years is more than enough. It’s time to abolish the National Security Law."

More than 20 human rights and civic activists in South Korea went on a hunger strike to abolish the National Security Law (NSL) at Myungdong Catholic Church in Seoul on Dec. 18.

They are insisting that, despite the introduction of a bill in the National Assembly to abolish the NSL, none of the political parties have any intention of passing this bill. The hunger strikers are urging that President Kim Dae-jung must make a political decision to abolish the NSL by the end of this year.

Indeed, from the time when President Kim received the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10 in Oslo, Norway, there have been many protests involving a large number of lawyers, professors and human rights activists to abolish the NSL in South Korea.

To support the hunger strikers and the people of South Korea, we urge you to take prompt action on this issue in order to create international pressure to abolish the NSL in South Korea.

BACKGROUND

The NSL in South Korea has cast a dark shadow of oppression on countless people since its enactment in 1948. From the beginning, the NSL has played a critical and inhuman role in the maintenance of dictatorial regimes in South Korea by casting a pervasive net of fear and oppression, especially during the military regimes from the 1960s to the 1980s when more than 10,000 people were tried and given jail terms for violating the NSL. Over the years, it has been used to arrest thousands of innocent people unfairly and unjustly.

The NSL is widely criticized for its arbitrary components. For example, when it is broadly applied, Article 7 of the NSL can be used to suppress virtually any activities of South Korea’s citizens. Mere possession of a book or viewing a film can be considered a violation of Article 7 of the NSL. This surreal application of the law has occurred many times. Currently, the South Korean government is under heavy pressure from human rights organizations to repeal Article 7 of the NSL, which states:

"(1) Any person who has benefited the anti-state organization by way of praising, encouraging or siding with or through other means the activities of an anti-state organization, its member or a person who had been under instruction from such organization, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than seven years....

(5) Any person who has, for the purpose of committing the actions as stipulated in paragraphs 1 through 4 of this article, produced, imported, duplicated, possessed, transported, disseminated, sold or acquired documents, drawings or any other similar means of expression shall be punished by the same penalty as set forth in each paragraph."

During the Kim Dae-jung administration, despite the much talked about reforms and the government’s claim of a clean human rights record, the NSL continues its fearful presence by limiting and violating the very basic human rights of the Korean people. According to a report by Amnesty International (AI), 99 prisoners of conscience are still in jail; most of them are trade unionists and student activists for violation of the NSL.

SUGGESTED ACTION

Please write two letters. Please send the first protest letter, fax or e-mail to South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and the second as an e-mail to two party representatives in South Korea. The addresses and suggested points to be raised in these letters are given below.

1. Mr. Kim Dae-jung
President of Republic of Korea
The Chungwoadae
1 Sejong-ro, Chonro-gu
Seoul, 110-050
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
FAX: +822 770-0253
E-MAIL: webmaster@cwd.go.kr
SALUTATION: Your Excellency

Send copies to:

Mr. Kim Jeong-kil
Ministry of Justice
1 Jungang-dong, Kwachon-si
Kyonggi Province, 427-760
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
FAX: +822 504-3337
E-MAIL: jk.kim@moj.go.kr
SALUTATION: Dear

CONTENTS:

  • Strongly express your great concern and disappointment regarding the existence of the NSL even though President Kim Dae-jung has been known as a champion of human rights causes and repeatedly has mentioned that improving human rights conditions in South Korea is his utmost priority. In addition, during his regime for the last three years, there have been no changes made to the NSL.

  • Urge him to immediately make a political decision to abolish the NSL.

  • State that, without abolishing the infamous NSL in South Korea, the basic human rights situation in the country cannot improve significantly.

  • State that the international community will watch his action or inaction as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2000 to deal with this issue.

2. Mr. Kim Jung-kwon
Representative of the New Millenium Democratic Party
Kisan Building, 15 Yoido-dong, Youngdeungpo-gu
Seoul, 150-010
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
E-MAIL: webmaster@minjoo.or.kr
SALUTATION: Dear

Mr. Lee Hoi-chang
President of the Grand National Party
17-7 Yoido-dong, Youngdeungpo-gu
Seoul, 150-010
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
E-MAIL: webmaster@hannara.or.kr
SALUTATION: Dear

CONTENTS:

  • Request that they hold a meeting of the National Assembly to abolish the NSL as soon as possible.

  • Urge them to accept the U.N. Human Rights Committee’s view and take meaningful steps toward dismantling the NSL.

 

5. ANNOUNCEMENT - top
 

GRAVE DIGERS: A REPORT ON MINING IN BURMA
writen by renowned mining author Roger Moody, is now on-line.

"Grave Diggers", written by Roger Moody, gives an overall analysis of mining and mining companies in Burma. It examines in the roles of the companies involved and their relationship to the Burmese military dictatorship. Also presented are the social impacts, in particular the spread of HIV/AIDS through heroin use among miners, and the disintegration of communities with the discovery of rubies.

Moody reviews in detail the historical development of the industry and mining regulations in Burma, "the least developed or sound of any in the world", according the report's author. Examples are provided of the inadequacy of the regulations and the loopholes they offer. The author then examines companies active in the country (chiefly the Canadian and Australian mining industry), their role, and why they have been permitted to operate under militarized conditions. Canadian stock markets, where much of the investment is raised, Canadian law and the industry itself come under scrutiny.

The report concludes with accounts of the deplorable conditions of miners and affected communities in Burma. Moody examines the hazards of methods employed at Monywa and offers evidence of serious human rights violations, safety breaches, and serious ground water pollution. Finally, the conditions of mines elsewhere in Burma are presented, including the breakdown of village communities in Shan State, and an interview with a Burmese mining engineer who describes how primitive mining standards has jeopardized lives and the environment.

You can get to the report by visiting a portal on the Canada Asia Pacific Resource Network:
http://www.caprn.bc.ca/campaign/burmamines/

 


END

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