Daily News- December 25 - 2001- Tuesday

  • Further talks sought with junta
  • Thai protestors call on government to kick out Myanmar students
  • Thailand to Close Largest Myanmar Refugee Camp Forever
  • Friday's closure confirmed
  • China-Myanmar anti-drugs cooperation reaps rewards
  • Myanmar's Copper Project Well Under Way

  • Further talks sought with junta


    Supalak Ganjanakhundee

    A significant rebel minority force, the Shan State Army (SSA), has made another attempt at peace negotiations with the Burmese military junta after a number of failures, SSA top commander Yawd Serk has said.

    "It would be better if this time Thailand mediated the peace talks, and we hope Thai officials can guarantee a smooth peace process," he said. The rebellious SSA separated from the notorious drug baron Khun Sa, who surrendered to Rangoon in January 1996, to fight for autonomy. The guerrilla group has contacted the junta for peace talks at least four times during the past few years.

    An unnamed Thai businessman conveyed a peace proposal from the SSA to the junta's intelligence chief Khin Nyunt last year, but peace talks have not been held because his rival Maung Aye, the army commander, has blocked them, Yawd Serk said.

    "Muang Aye underestimates the SSA and is still trying to destroy our troops, despite several failures," he said. "He assumes we have only 500 fighters, whereas we have 10 times that or more," he said.

    A big clash took place in February when Rangoon moved in thousands of troops to attack SSA strongholds near the Thai border. The series of attacks also affected Thailand as shells landed in Thai territory due to hot pursuit. The incident soured relations between the two countries.

    The SSA sent an offer to Rangoon again after the February battle, but there was no response from the junta, Yawd Serk said.

    "For us, offers of peace talks have never been closed, since military means cannot solve the problems of the Shan people," he said in an interview. "We fight for the well-being of our people and will try to do what is good for them," he said.

    It is unclear if the military junta wants peace talks with the SSA since Rangoon considers the rebellious minority to be narcotics dealers rather than fighters for the autonomy of Shan ethnic groups. The junta, known as the State Peace and Development Council, made its position clear earlier, that the SSA must unconditionally surrender to the Rangoon authorities.

    Yawd Serk said his troops were offering a cease-fire and wanted to settle differences with the junta by political means, aiming to have their own authorities run the Shan state rather than surrendering as his ex-boss Khun Sa and other Shan colleagues have done.

    Before beginning peace talks, all Burmese troops should withdraw from SSA areas, he said. "It simply means that the government troops would go back to the other bank of the Salween River." For safety reasons, the peace negotiations should be held in Thailand and be witnessed by a third party, he said and added that he himself and other representatives of the SSA would not go to talks in Rangoon. The SSA, formerly known as the Shan United Revolutionary Army, has some 4,000 fighters and is based in the Shan state along the Thai border.

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    Thai protestors call on government to kick out Myanmar students

    BANGKOK, Dec 24 (AFP) - Hundreds of Thais protested in western Ratchaburi province Monday to call on provincial authorities to quickly expel Myanmar dissidents living at a border camp due to be closed this week, reports said.

    Protestors carrying banners rallied in front of the Ratchaburi provincial hall, 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Bangkok, demanding officials shut the Maneeloy Holding Center, which they said had hurt the local economy.

    "They have damaged our province's economy enough," one banner shown in a televised report said, referring to robberies and anti-Myanmar attacks believed to have been launched from the center.Ratchaburi governor Komet Daengthongdee said the Maneeloy camp would be closed by Friday as scheduled by interior ministry officials.

    The Myanmar dissidents at Maneeloy earlier called on Thai officials to delay the closing of the camp to give them time to arrange resettlement plans in third countries.Some students began a hunger strike last week to protest the closure of the center, which Thai officials vowed to shut before year end.

    Since 1993, the Maneeloy center has been home to thousands of student dissidents from the Myanmar junta's 1988 crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Many of them have since been resettled overseas by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in June that Maneeloy and refugee camps along the Myanmar border would be gradually closed, and that he would tackle the problem of illegal immigrants, who number about a million.Thailand is home to more than 120,000 refugees who fled fighting between Myanmar troops and rebel ethnic armies. Many of them are from the Karen minority and live in camps on the Thai side of the border.

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    Thailand to Close Largest Myanmar Refugee Camp Forever

    BANGKOK, Dec 24, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The Thai government on Monday decided to definitely and permanently close the Maneeloy Holding Center, the country's largest camp for Myanmar refugees on Friday, the state-owned radio reported.

    Interior Minister Purachai Piemsomboon told reporters that the final decision was made at a joint meeting among the ministries of interior and foreign Affairs, the Office of the National Security Council (NSC), the U.N. Human Rights Commission and the local government of Ratchaburi province where the refugee camp is located.

    He said the closure of the camp, situated 220 kilometers west of Bangkok, will go smoothly as all parties concerned, including the office of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), had prepared for the move for eight months.Refugees in the camp, now totaled at less than 300, will be moved further westward to a new shelter along the Thai-Myanmar border in the same province.

    Despite the fact that refugees in the camp had staged a hunger strike against the closure, Thai officials said that it was the time to shut down the shelter forever, as nearly 4,000 refugees who used to be there had already been repatriated to third countries.

    Refugees in the camp had been involved in two serious hostage crises that happened early last year in the Myanmar Embassy to Thailand and a local hospital, which aroused growing security concerns from Thai citizens and government officials.

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    Friday's closure confirmed

    The Bangkokpost
    Temsak Traisophon

    The Maneeloy holding centre for exiled Burmese students in Ratchaburi will definitely be closed on Friday and people staying there illegally will be prosecuted, neighbourhood residents were told yesterday.

    The assurance was given after representatives from the Interior and the Foreign ministries, the National Security Council and human rights organisations met at the Interior Ministry.

    They confirmed the closure of Maneeloy and agreed that more than 100 Burmese people who had entered the centre without permission should be treated as illegal immigrants and prosecuted.

    About 10,000 local residents rallied in Ratchaburi yesterday to demand the early closure of the camp. Pairote Promsarn, deputy permanent secretary for interior, said the centre would certainly be closed by Friday. There was opposition to the closure, but only from a handful of people, he said.

    Kachadpai Burusapatana, secretary-general of the National Security Council, said the Maneeloy centre had served exiled Burmese students long enough. Third-party nations had admitted 3,900 of the exiles and 200 others had their trips endorsed.

    The current dwellers are Burmese who hold United Nations Commissioner for Refugees ``persons of concern'' status (POC) and illegal immigrants who would be prosecuted.Human rights representatives agreed with the closure, he said.

    Ratchaburi Governor Komet Daengthongdee said the POCs would be moved to another centre, Ban Tham Hin, about 10km from the Thai-Burmese border in Suan Phung district. The new centre was as good as Maneeloy, especially regarding water supply and residential units, so the POCs could not justifiably protest against their relocation.Protesting Burmese students claimed earlier that facilities at the new shelter would not be up to Maneeloy's standard.Mr Komet also confirmed the relocation would take place and completed on Friday.

    The POCs might be admitted to third-party nations on a case-by-case basis in the future, therefore they should behave, he said. A small group of Burmese people were protesting against the closure of Maneeloy, but thousands of Ratchaburi people were also rallying for the closure, he said. About 10,000 local residents rallied yesterday to demand the immediate closure of Maneeloy refugee camp, accusing Burmese asylum seekers of being behind crime and other troubles in the area. The protesters, armed with placards and loudspeakers, gathered outside the provincial town hall for three hours.

    In a petition handed to Thira Rojpornphan, the deputy provincial governor, the protesters demanded the provincial authorities come up with a definite date to close the camp. They said residents had had enough of the refugees, who refused to respect and obey the camp's rules and regulations.

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    China-Myanmar anti-drugs cooperation reaps rewards

    The Times of India

    Y ANGON: An anti-narcotics task force, aided by information from China, has seized thousands of liters (gallons) of chemicals used in the manufacture of metamphetamines and arrested 20 persons in the northeast over the past two months, an official newspaper said Tuesday.

    The latest seizure took place Dec. 13 when the force captured 7,500 liters of chemicals and arrested six suspected stimulant makers in the Kokang region which borders China, the New Light of Myanmar said. A haul of 50,000 liters was made Nov. 6 and other raids followed in the Kokang region.

    The newspaper said some of the seizures were the result of information exchanged between Myanmar, also known as Burma, and China under an official agreement to stamp out the frontier drugs trade.

    Myanmar is the world's largest producer of opium, from which heroin is refined, and also floods neighboring countries, especially Thailand, with millions of stimulant tablets.The 20 arrested are facing possible death sentences although the death penalty is rarely carried out in Myanmar.

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    Myanmar's Copper Project Well Under Way

    YANGON, December 25 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar's copper mining project of Lepadaung in Monywa, the country's northwestern Sagaing division, is well under way and endeavors are being made for the copper mined there to receive "A" grade quality certification fromthe London Metal Exchange, the local weekly journal The Myanmar Times reported in its latest issue.

    Quoting sources at the Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Company of Canada investing in the project, the journal said the Lepadaung deposit is one of the three being developed at Monywa as one of the nation's largest copper mining operations. The other two deposits, Sabetaung and Kyisintaung, have been inoperation since 1998, producing nearly 80,000 tons of "A"-grade copper which has been exported to Japan and Europe.

    "When the three deposits go into full production in 2004, Myanmar will become one of the world's largest copper producers," the company predicts.

    The Lepadaung is about five times bigger than the other two deposits, which involved a 150-million-U.S.-dollar investment by the Ivanhoe under a joint venture contract with the state-run Myanma Mining Enterprise.The Lepadaung totaled one billion tons of ore with a copper content of 0.4 percent, according to the company.

    Official statistics show that about a dozen foreign firms including those from Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States are engaged in prospecting and exploration of mineral resources as well as feasibility study in Myanmar since the country enacted the New Mining Law in 1994. The statistics also show that foreign investment in Myanmar's mining sector so far amounted to 522.5 million dollars since the country opened to foreign investment in late 1988, standing as the5th largest sectorally.

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