Daily News-April 17- 2001- Tuesday

  • Burma urged to exchange drug officials with Thailand
  • American presence in Thailand likely to anger junta
  • ABSDF to carry on armed struggle
  • Talks including ethnic minorities "not far off"
  • Burma's Defence Industries to Produce High-tech Weapons
  • Burmese Seamen Feared Drowned off Japanese Coast
  • BBC U Aung Myint Tun dies
  • Thai Government suspends treasure hunt

  • Burma urged to exchange drug officials with Thailand

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Burma will be urged to exchange its drug officials with Thailand's in a move to strengthen co-operation on drug suppression along the common border, Gen Thammarak Issarangkura na Ayuthaya said.

    The PM's Office minister, who supervises the government's drug suppression campaign, said the proposal was aimed at boosting co-operation against drugs, as agreed at the Regional Border Committee meeting in Kengtung, Burma, early this month.

    Gen Thammarak, who oversees the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, said he would raise the issue for informal discussion in Burma early next month with a senior Burmese official in charge of drug suppression.

    Gen Thammarak, a former armed forces security chief, was hopeful the Burmese side would respond positively to the idea.

    China had already agreed in principle to post drug officials in Thailand to strengthen co-operation against drugs, he said.

    Gen Thammarak said it was unlikely for Thailand to root out drug trafficking problems unless "we got help from our neighbour since the flow of illicit drugs came from that direction."

    The minister said he was much confident his idea would help strengthen understanding and co-operation on the narcotics issue, especially at a time of Thai-Burmese border tension which had stalled collaboration between the two sides.

    "This channel will always be kept open so that both sides can keep working on border drug problems even when there is a border dispute."
    American presence in Thailand likely to anger junta

    Source : South China Morning Post

    The introduction of a score of US special forces soldiers into the northern Thai border is likely to rile Burma's military regime, diplomats in Rangoon said.

    The highly trained team is expected to be in place by the middle of the year, after the annual Thai-US Cobra Gold exercise.

    They will become part of a special anti-drug taskforce of Thai soldiers and policemen designed to provide Bangkok with a sharper punch against the traffickers who bring hundreds of millions of amphetamine tablets across the border from Burma.

    Although Thailand has long had close military relations with the United States, previous Bangkok governments might have hesitated in making such a provocative move.

    Thai irritation over the activities of traffickers operating out of Burma's Shan state has reached such a point that it is no longer shy about taking such bold steps.

    There is little doubt that the move will be seen by the ruling generals in Rangoon as yet another scheme by the "perfidious" Thais to load the drug blame on to Burma.

    One diplomat said: "This will certainly play to their habitual paranoia. It's a mistake to think they don't believe their own propaganda that they are surrounded by a lot of bad people plotting against them."

    Burma habitually claims Thailand should take much of the blame for buying drugs and supplying traffickers with raw materials.

    The deployment of military personnel might even be counter-productive if it irritates the Burmese so much that they are less inclined to take action against ethnic trafficking gangs like the United Wa State Army, said one military analyst. "You can't say that the Thais don't have their own highly trained special forces," he said.

    Yet Bangkok-based analysts believe such fears miss the point. "The Burmese have had their chance," one observer said. "From the Thai point of view things are getting worse, not better, in the Shan state - and the Burmese are hardly doing a thing about it."

    Privately, Thai drug officials expect little from a regime that has higher priorities than smashing a drug trade that - directly or indirectly - helps prop up a shattered economy.
    ABSDF to carry on armed struggle

    Source : Ko Thet, Irrawaddy Magazine

    April 17, 2001 -- Burma's student army, officially known as the All Burma Students' Democratic Front [ABSDF], held its sixth conference at the Thai-Burma border from 23rd March to 10th April. ABSDF leaders who attended the two-week long meeting said they had discussed the future of ABSDF and Burma's political development.Than Ke, a senior member of ABSDF, was elected as chairman of the Front. He was a final year medical student at the Mandalay Medical Institute during the 1988 uprising. He joined the demonstration and subsequently fled to the border to join the Front. Than Ke told the Irrawady that the ABSDF is going to keep up its armed struggle aimed at restoring democracy in Burma.

    "We believe that armed struggle is essential for our revolution. However, we also plan to bring about a political solution to the crisis in Burma according to ABSDF objectives." Than Ke explained that the ABSDF was born out of the 8-8-88 uprising, and is not a subgroup of any political party, nor affiliated to any organization.

    Unfortunately, the Front has been plagued by internal fighting and lack of funding, and many of its leaders have left the organization. Notably, Dr. Naing Aung and Moe Thee Zune, both served as chairman of the Front, have resigned along with other top leaders.

    Than Ke's comment on former leaders was: "We assume that they broke away from the ABSDF because they no longer believe in our methods of achieving our goals."

    He admitted that the Front has had problems in the past but he added, "We have learned from the past and I believe we won't face the same problems as before."

    Founded in late 1988, the Front has been one of the strongest armed groups along the border with Thailand. However, due to internal fighting and shortage of funding and resources, many members, most of whom were student activists, have now left to other countries or gone back to Burma. According to Than Ke, membership of the Front now stands at about 800.

    The Front also received a serious blow when Dr. Naing Aung and Moe Thee Zun split away into separate factions. Dr. Naing Aung recently set up a new organization known as the Network for Democracy and Development.
    Talks including ethnic minorities "not far off"

    Source : Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo

    DVB Democratic Voice of Burma has reported that the SPDC State Peace and Development Council has summoned the representatives of the six ethnic minority groups, which have signed cease-fire agreements with them, to Rangoon regarding the letter asking for holding tripartite talks.

    In order to handle the call for tripartite talks better, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, SPDC secretary-1 and chairman of the Work Committee for the Development of Border Areas and Ethnic Minorities, went to the Kachin region near the Burma-China border from 8-10 April and attended the 10th anniversary peace ceremonies. This was carried in the SPDC news of 12 April.

    Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and party went to Panwa and Waingmaw regions in Kachin State and held talks on regional development matters with ethnic race leaders including U Lamong Tu Ja, the new chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization, KIO. Although it has been only seven years since the KIO signed the cease-fire with the SPDC, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt said in general terms that it has been 10 years since the military government made peace with the ethnic minority groups that broke away from the communists. He also noted it is evident that Kachin State has developed since the Kachin, Kokang, Wa, Shan, Ahka as received , and Pa-O ethnic minorities freed themselves from the domination of the communists and joined hands with the SPDC. But the SPDC news failed to report the fundamental objective of his visit on how to solve the political proposition of the cease-fire groups.

    Although Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt did not publicly and officially reveal the political outcome of his talks there were reportedly some private conversations. DVB correspondent Myint Maung Maung filed this report on what the private conversations of SPDC Intelligence Chief Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt were like.

    Begin Myint Maung Maung recording At a private meeting Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt said the call to include some ethnic minority groups, which have already signed cease-fire agreements, in the ongoing talks between SPDC and NLD National League for Democracy is premature. He said the outcome of the meeting will be announced together with the SPDC's changing approach and lifting of some restrictions. The views of the ethnic minorities on these matters are warmly welcomed and they should be presented to the Office of Strategic Studies. These reports will then be analysed and the SPDC will use them to consider their participation for transformation to democracy in the future Burma.

    The SPDC has implemented one fundamental matter after another for the emergence of a long-lasting democracy system suitable for Burma and in accordance with the law. At present, the talks between the SPDC and the NLD are at a stage which would lay a good groundwork for meeting with the NLD Party. Reliable sources said, citing SPDC's Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, that the talks involving the ethnic minorities is not far off.
    Burma's Defence Industries to Produce High-tech Weapons

    Source : Burma Courier

    MayMyo- - Burma's secretive defence industries are to turn their attention to producing high-tech weapons for use in electronic warfare, the country's leading general says.

    In a speech at the annual intake assembly of the Defence Services Technological Academy here on Monday, Head of State Than Shwe said that Burma's military government was planning to expand the country's defence industries to include the manufacture of weapons with electronic capability. He told his audience, which included senior officials of the country's military establishment, as well as the military attaches of several foreign nations with diplomatic representation in Rangoon, that "the advantage of modern warfare is the use of electronic technology".

    "Electronic war is to be waged through electronic counter-intelligence and counter-sabotage," Than Shwe said. He urged engineer cadets to learn to "work in co-operation" at the academy, so that Burma could "produce modern military equipment without having to rely on others". "Tatmadaw engineers need to be able to produce whatever others invent," the general said. The DSTA is to upgrade its academic standards, General Than Shwe announced. The first intake of master's candidates are presently studying at the Academy and a doctoral program will be opened soon.

    Burma's defence industries are centred in the industrial region around Pye on the Irrawaddy, near the Airforce base at Meiktila and in Rangoon. Up till now, they have concentrated mainly on the production of weapons, ammunition, landmines and vehicles for small scale conventional and guerilla warfare. China, Russia and Singapore have supplied much of its more sophisticated military hardware.
    Burmese Seamen Feared Drowned off Japanese Coast

    Source : Reuters

    Rescue officials found a body during a search for a Korean ship missing off southwestern Japan, raising fears the cargo vessel foundered in heavy seas with 28 crew on board, Japan's coast guard said on Wednesday. "Given the facts, we have to conclude that the ship has probably sunk," a coast guard spokesman said.

    The 22,725-tonne Korean-registered Honghae Sanyo vanished with a cargo of gravel in heavy winds and high seas late on Tuesday after failing to pick up a navigator en route to a port in Hyogo, some 700 km southwest of Tokyo. No distress signal was received.

    A coast guard spokesman said that a body, believed to be that of a crew member, was discovered late on Wednesday near Cape Muroto on Japan's smallest main island of Shikoku during a search by planes and patrol boats. Six empty lifeboats and rubber rafts, one with the name of the ship on its side, have also been found, the spokesman said. "But we have yet to discover any other members of the crew," he added. Six were from Korea and 22 from Burma.

    While the reason for the accident has not been determined, a strong wind warning was in effect, indicating the vessel may have foundered in high seas, the spokesman added.
    BBC U Aung Myint Tun dies

    Source : BurmaNet

    U Aung Myint Tun, former BBC-Burmese Service Deputy Chief and an honorary member (Nayaka)of the Burma Media Association BMA, died peacefully on April 4, 2001. U Aung Myint Tun was also an adviser to the Open Society Institute's Burma Project.

    U Khin Maung Soe of Radio Free Asia wrote in an e-mail of Tun "His sudden departure is a great loss for his family, his audience and his beloved profession - journalism. He was not only a successful and outstanding radio journalist, but also a brilliant broadcaster and an affectionate teacher in journalism. His name and his devotion for a "free media in free Burma" will certainly be remained in our hearts for many years to come."

    U Aung Myint Tun was also an occasional contributor to BurmaNet. He closed a 1996 report carried by BurmaNet on pro-democracy demonstrations in Europe this way:

    "Some people would say that one drop of water does not make an ocean. But, some others would say that an ocean is made up of those drops of water! Things may seem hard to overcome. But in the end "the strength of purpose and the political will of the people" shall prevail."
    Thai Government suspends treasure hunt

    Source : The Nation

    BANGKOK, April 17--- The Cabinet on Tuesday ordered suspension of the excavation of the Lijia cave in Kanchanaburi in search for World War II treasure due to safety concerns.

    The Cabinet decided to halt the operation pending verfication from the US government of billions of dollars' worth of US treasury bonds, reportedly found in the cave.

    Senator Chaowarin Latthasaksiri found himself in the centre of public attention after he announced discovery of stashes of US treasury bonds, gold bullions and other valuables said to have been hidden in the cave since World War II.

    Several financial experts have dismissed the US treasury bonds reported found by Chaowarin and his team as bogus.