Daily News- December 27 - 2001- Thursday

  • Dwellers in Thailand's Largest Myanmar Refugee Camp Agree to Move Out
  • Governor gets power to close Maneeloy
  • WA KINGPIN: Drug lord's assets seized
  • Myanmar's Irrigated Area Increases by 722,426 Hectares
  • Thailand forcibly closes Myanmar refugee camp
  • US welcomes Thai drug crackdown
  • 200 refugees flee fighting at Thai-Myanmar border
  • Manau Festival Held in Myitkyina, Kachin State

  • Dwellers in Thailand's Largest Myanmar Refugee Camp Agree to Move Out

    BANGKOK, Dec 26, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- After negotiations with the Thai government, dwellers in Thailand's largest Myanmar refugee camp have finally agreed to move out and be relocated to a new shelter, the state-owned radio reported Wednesday.

    Earlier, these refugees had staged hunger strikes to oppose the Thai government's decision to permenantly close their camp, the Maneeloy Holding Center, located in the Ratchaburi Province, 280 kilometers west of Bangkok. Thai officials said there is no need for maintaining the camp, since majority of the refugees there had already been transfered to third countries and only over 200 people now live in the camp.

    The new shelter, provided by the Thai government and the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is situated in the same province but will be further westward and near the Thai-Myanmar border. The Thai government has also pledged to help facilitate the transfer of the remaining refugees to any third country.

    Analysts said security concerns are the major reasons behind the closure. Refugees in the camp had been involved in two famous hostage crises in the Myanmar Embassy to Thailand and a local hospital earlier last year, which jittered Thai citizens and officials.

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    Governor gets power to close Maneeloy

    The Nation

    The governor of Ratchaburi province would have full power from today to carry out necessary measures to close down the Maneeloy Holding Centre where hundreds of Burmese refugees are based, National Security Council chief Kachadpai Burusapatana said yesterday.

    The closure of the Maneeloy centre was in line with the government's policy of closing down all Burmese shelters, including about a dozen refugee camps along the border where well over 100,000 Burmese, mostly ethnic Karen, reside, Kachadpai said.

    Kachadpai said 197 Burmese people had been confirmed as "asylum seekers" and would be relocated to third countries. Another 170 individuals who had been granted the status of "people of concern" by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees would be relocated to the Tham Hin refugee camp about 10 kilometres from the Burmese border until their screening was completed.

    The third group of Burmese students - a total of 130 people - had been classified as "illegal aliens" and would be handed over to the Immigration Police, Kachadpai said.The decision to treat the 130 as illegal immigrants has drawn a major protests from human-rights organisations and muted objections from various foreign embassies in Bangkok.

    Fellow detainees maintain that the 130 are legitimate political-asylum seekers and that they will be persecuted by the military government once repatriated.Kachadpai said repatriation would be high on the agenda at the upcoming Thai-Burma Joint Commission in Phuket when foreign ministers from the two countries are due to meet.

    Meanwhile, two Burmese villagers were killed and another two injured yesterday when Burmese troops and allied soldiers attacked a rebel base near the border, Agence France-Presse quoted a Thai military source as saying. Some 400 Burmese villagers fled the early morning clash and crossed the border into Thailand, the source added.

    About 100 Burmese troops and members of the Rangoon-allied Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) opened fire with mortars and machine guns on a base belonging to the rebel Karen National Union (KNU).The siege at the base, located in Burma some 500 metres from the Thai border opposite western Ta Song Yang district, lasted about an hour.The KNU has fought a 51-year battle for greater autonomy against the central government in Rangoon and is one of the last major insurgent groups fighting the junta.

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    WA KINGPIN: Drug lord's assets seized

    The Nation

    Authorities yesterday raided homes and businesses thought to be linked to drug warlord Wei Xieu-kang and seized more than Bt100 million worth of assets.The raids occurred simultaneously in Bangkok and the northern provinces of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, nestled against the Burmese border.No one was arrested.

    Wei himself is wanted by the United States and has a US$2 million (Bt88 million) bounty on his head. He is reportedly based in Burma, and is a senior commander of the pro-Rangoon United Wa State Army, the group thought responsible for producing most of the methamphetamine, or ya ba, that plagues Thailand.

    The shady ethnic-Chinese drug kingpin was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Thai court in 1987, but jumped bail while appealing his conviction. The Interior Ministry revoked his Thai citizenship this year. Wei is also known by his Thai name, Prasit Cheewinnitipanya.He is thought to have amassed a fortune from large-scale drug trafficking, allegedly with the complicity of Burma's ruling military junta.

    The Crime Suppression Division police, cooperating with the Anti Money Laundering Commission, yesterday dispatched nine teams to raid nine locations where Wei is believed to have been channelling funds to legitimise his wealth.At a house belonging to one of Wei's Thai mistresses in Lat Phrao, police found passbooks to 90 bank accounts containing Bt14 million and valuable information stored in seven safety boxes and on two computer hard drives.The authorities also cleaned out a jewellery store in the World Trade Centre.

    In Chiang Mai, police seized computers and business documents of computer vendor Waranyu Jirasaptrakul, Wei's son, who police claim used his business as a front to launder money. Waranyu was said to be in Rangoon yesterday.In Chiang Rai police seized houses, land, jewellery and vehicles thought to belong to Wei, but held in associates' names.

    Interior Minister Purachai Piumsombun said authorities would now begin legal proceedings to confiscate Bt100 million in cash and property that police claim Wei accumulated while presiding over the world's largest drug army.Wei was sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the 1987 discovery of 615kg of heroin hidden in a trawler in Thai waters.Before he jumped bail, US authorities had made it clear they wanted him to face court in the US. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said authorities were trying to crack down on Wei's network of accomplices - those who allegedly helped him launder his drug money.The government is also desperate to suppress the flood of illicit drugs from Burma.

    Under Thailand's money-laundering law, the defendants must now prove that the assets seized yesterday were acquired legitimately.

    Separately yesterday, PM's Office Minister Thamarak Isarangkura na Ayuthaya yesterday reviewed the achievements of the government's antidrug effort, saying it had been unable to eradicate the social and economic scourge of drugs from the country.The drugfree school programme, launched in October, has as yet to achieve what it set out to do, he said.Thamarak attributed the lack of progress to those at the operational level either lacking enthusiasm or simply being deprived of the necessary support needed to do their job effectively.

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    Myanmar's Irrigated Area Increases by 722,426 Hectares

    YANGON, Dec 26 (Oana-Xinhua) -- The irrigated area of Myanmar has increased by 722,426.4 hectares to 1.92 million hectares after 128 dams were built in the country since 1988 when the present government took office, the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation disclosed Wednesday.

    The addition of the 128 dams in 13 years, which cost a total of 49,706.41 million kyats (about 142 million U.S. dollars), has brought the total number of dams in the country to 266. Myanmar's cultivable land stretches 18.225 million hectares, of which 10.125 million hectares, or 55.5 percent, have been cultivated while 8.1 million hectares, or 44.5 percent, remain to be utilised. Of the 10.125-million-hectare cultivated land, 1.92 million hectares, or 19 percent, are cultivated through irrigation.

    As agriculture is the mainstay of Myanmar's economy, the government is giving priority to the development of the sector in order to produce enough food to feed the nation's present 52- million population. Agriculture accounts for 42 percent of the country's gross domestic product and 25 percent of its export value.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar has targeted to cultivate 6.8 million hectares of paddy to produce 28.21 million tons of the crop this year and rice export for the year is expected to reach 1 million tons.

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    Thailand forcibly closes Myanmar refugee camp

    source : AFP

    Thai authorities forcibly closed a major camp for Myanmar dissidents, the biggest step yet in its campaign to shut shelters housing more than 120,000 people who have fled Yangon's military government.

    Troops and police watched as several hundred students and others were taken in trucks from the Maneeloy HoldingCentre, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Bangkok, an AFP reporter said.

    Residents sang pro-democracy songs as they left Maneeloy for the Tham Hin refugee camp, about 10 kilometres (six miles) from the Myanmar border.

    Officials said there was no resistance from the estimated 500 people in Maneeloy, which opened in 1992 and has been closely linked to radical groups opposing the Myanmar junta.

    Leaders of the Burmese Students Association (BSA), the main group for camp residents, said though that about 100 people had fled during the night to avoid the transfer and possible repatriation. The authorities said three people were detained. BSA leaders told AFP that dozens of those who stayed behind now face forced repatriation to Myanmar. The BSA released a statement saying that if "students are killed or destroyed in any way in the future at the border, that is the responsibility of the Royal Thai government."

    Many of the Myanmar students who took hostages at the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok in November 1999 and at a Thai hospital in January 2000 were one-time residents of the camp. The embassy siege ended with no casualties, but Thai commandos stormed the hospital in Ratchaburi province killing about 12 students who had taken about 1,000 patients and medical staff hostage. Maneeloy is in Ratchaburi province.

    It was after the sieges that the Thai government decided to close all camps for Myanmar refugees and illegal immigrants, mainly grouped along the border with Myanmar. "After the embassy incident, the Thai government had to tighten its security measures to prevent terrorism," said an interior ministry statement released for the closure of Maneeloy.

    Maneeloy is the first Myanmar camp in Thailand to officially close, although others on the border have been merged. Thai officials said the screening of asylum seekers would be finished at Tham Hin.Although all are meant to be students, many Maneeloy residents are middle-aged and have children.

    The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been working with the authorities and an agency official was at the centre early Thursday even though the UNCHR close its Maneeloy office in August.

    The Burmese Students Association had asked the authorities to keep the camp open for another six months, but interior ministry officials said the authorities had set a deadline to close Maneeloy by the end of the year. The Thai Interior Ministry's deputy secretary for security, Pairoj Promsarn, said the evacuation had gone smoothly despite the residents' reluctance. "It is going well," he said. "There's no problem, they just feel they will miss the place where they have stayed for a long time." "They asked to keep the camp open for another six months, but we explained that the decision is made by high ranking officials and we can't do that for them."

    With the assistance of the UNHCR, nearly 4,000 students from Maneeloy have been resettled in third countries since it opened, the Thai government said. Nearly 2,000 of those had been resettled in the United States, it added in a statement. The UNHCR said earlier this month the agency had resettled nearly all 2,200 refugees at the camp since October 1999 in 10 different countries.

    BSA general secretary Maung Maung Oo said about 30 students would be deported and added "there will be danger for sure" for those people.

    "I don't want to go to the border camp but that is the government's decision. It is the games of the Thai government. We obey Thai law, we will go to the new camp," he told AFP.

    The government said most of the 197 recognised students at Maneeloy were "in the process of resettlement." But it added "there are 300 illegal migrants from Myanmar at Maneeloy" of whom only 170 are recognised by the UNHCR as "persons of concern". "Thailand has no budget for those illegal residents in the center while the number of registered students is steadily decreasing," it said. "Resettlement to third countries of the the students is expected to be completed in early 2002 while resettlement of the persons of concern will be arranged on a case by case basis."

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    US welcomes Thai drug crackdown

    From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

    An American official in Thailand has welcomed the seizure by Thai police of half a million dollars worth of cash and other assets belonging to an outlawed drugs trafficker, Wei Xuekang.

    The official, from the Drug Enforcement Administration, told the BBC that under recent legislation enabling the Thai authorities to pursue the proceeds of crime they were now actively targetting people at the highest level.

    Wei Xuekang, also known as Prasit or Chanchai Chevinnitipanya is wanted for drug trafficking in the United States, where there is a $2m bounty for his capture.

    He was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Thai court in l987 for drug smuggling but jumped bail and now lives in Burma.

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    200 refugees flee fighting at Thai-Myanmar border

    MAE SOT, Thailand (AP) _ More than 200 Myanmar villagers have fled to Thailand after fighting broke out between ethnic Karen rebels and pro-Myanmar troops in a Myanmar border region, a Thail official said Thursday.

    Guerrillas of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, backed by Myanmar government forces, attacked fighters from the rebel Karen National Union, or KNU, on the Myanmar side of the border Wednesday, the Thai official said on condition of anonymity. The fighting forced 480 residents to flee the nearby village of Labohe.

    More than 200 were given shelter in the Thai province of Tak, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) northwest of Bangkok. Another 280 villagers were thought to have sought cover in a neighboring forest. Their fate was unknown. The villagers in Thailand would be sent back to Myanmar, also known as Burma, once fighting dies down, the official said.

    The attack near Labohe was believed to be in retaliation for a Dec. 14 raid by the KNU on a Democratic Karen Buddhist Army border base. Thai officials reported that one DKBA soldier was wounded and that the KNU withdrew without casualties. The KNU has been fighting for more autonomy in Myanmar's eastern Karen State for five decades. More than 120,000 refugees currently take shelter in Thai camps. The DKBA is a breakaway group from the Karen insurgency. It has helped the Myanmar military government erode the rebels strength in recent years.

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    Manau Festival Held in Myitkyina, Kachin State

    Information Sheet No. C-2064 ( I ) 27th December, 2001

    The Wunpawng Ninggawn Hkumra Manau Mali Nmai Zup-Myikyina Majoi Festival(Kachin Traditional Festival) was held at Sitapu Manau Grounds in Myikyina, Kachin State on 26 December.

    The festival is held to mark the reunion of family members who settled down at different places and meeting one another at a rendezvous one day is a duty and desire of the Kachin people. Delegates of the Kachin races and cultural associations from different regions arrived the Wunpawng Ninggawn Hjumra Manau festival starting from 26 December.

    On meeting together, cultural matters of the whole Kachin race will be discussed and future plans such as safeguarding, preservation and promoting of almost vanished cultural heritage and customs, construction of cultural buildings, and cooperation for the all-round development of culture will be laid down.

    The Festival will be held up to 2 January 2002 and will include the opening of Manau sports grounds, the prize presentation for outstanding winners in education, social and religious affairs, the cultural entertainment, the traditional cultural exhibition, the trade fair and the fun fair.

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