Daily News- December 28 - 2001- Friday

  • 390 refugees flee fighting in Myanmar border region, head to Thailand
  • Ministry shuts Maneeloy
  • Maneeloy camp shuts its gates
  • Drug lord ordered to leave town
  • Gang could lose citizenship
  • Thailand's drug project in Shan State in Wei Hsiaokang's beat
  • Mergui fire burns down 1400 Houses
  • Fire broke out at Lashio Market

  • 390 refugees flee fighting in Myanmar border region, head to Thailand

    THA SONG YANG, Thailand (AP) -- About 390 villagers fled to Thailand after fighting Thursday between ethnic Karen rebels and pro-Myanmar troops in a Myanmar region bordering Thailand, a Thai official said. The Thai army reinforced its side of the frontier with artillery as the two-day-old fighting threatened to spill into Thailand.

    Four shells fired by combatants landed on the Myanmar side of the Moei river, a narrow strip of water that forms the border between the two countries. Residents in Tha Song Yang, on the Thai side, scrambled for cover. A Thai official said on condition of anonymity that guerrillas of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, backed by Myanmar government forces, had launched an attack on fighters from the rebel Karen National Union, or KNU, on Wednesday.

    The fighting forced 480 residents to flee the nearby Myanmar village of Labohe. About 390 were given shelter in the Thai Tha Song Yang district of Tak province, 370 kilometres northwest of Bangkok. Another 90 were thought to have sought cover in forest on the Myanmar side of the border. Their fate was unknown.

    Officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were given access to the villagers. Some were suffering fever and diarrhea and were being cared for by Thai health staff.Soe Yu, 40, one of the refugees, said he wanted to return with his family to their home in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, once the fighting stopped.

    Armed clashes between ethnic insurgents and Myanmar forces are commonplace on this war-torn section of the more than 2,000-kilometre Thai-Myanmar border. 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. There were no reports of KNU 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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    Ministry shuts Maneeloy

    The Nation

    RATCHABURI - The Interior Ministry yesterday officially closed down the Maneeloy Centre, the holding camp for Burmese dissidents, and moved the residents to a new location.Hundreds of police and defence volunteers watched as the Burmese, many of them university and college students who fled the bloody crackdown on democracy demonstrators by the military junta in 1988, were loaded into five trucks.

    Many of the Burmese wept and chanted pro-democracy songs as they left for Tham Hin camp in Ratchaburi's Suan Phung district. One of their leaders said that they did not want to be moved to a new location but agreed to it because they were afraid of being arrested.

    Initially, the Burmese inmates did not agree to being moved to the new camp and staged noisy demonstrations and hunger strikes against the government's decision. They said that they were vulnerable to attack from Burmese agents in the new camp, which is closer to the Thai-Burma border.

    Leaders of the Burmese Students Association (BSA), the main group representing camp residents, said about 100 people had fled during the night to avoid transfer and possible repatriation. The authorities said three people had been detained.

    At the request of the Burmese dissidents, deputy permanent secretary to Interior Ministry Pairote Promsarn gave a written guarantee of safety at the new camp and said that they would still have postal access.

    "The closure of the camp and the transfer of the Burmese residents to the new location was peacefully conducted, contrary to my initial thoughts that it would turn out to be chaos," Pairote said.He added that the new camp, which has ten dormitories, met the standards of the UN High Commission for Refugees.

    The government said most of the 197 recognised "refugee" students at Maneeloy were in the process of resettlement, but it added "there are 300 illegal migrants from Burma at Maneeloy" of whom only 170 are recognised by the UNHCR as "persons of concern".

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    Maneeloy camp shuts its gates

    By Sunan Ochakachorn
    The Bangkokpost

    The Maneeloy holding centre was officially closed yesterday with hundreds of Burmese exiles moved to a refugee camp in Suan Phung district.About 300 Burmese exiles were taken by truck to the Ban Tham Hin camp yesterday morning.

    Some 1,500 officials were involved in the transfer. Among them were deputy interior permanent secretary Pairoj Promsarn, immigration police chief Pol Lt-Gen Hemmarat Thareethai and Ratchaburi governor Komet Daeng-thongdee.Four teams of sniffer dogs from an army unit in Nakhon Pathom province were sent to Maneeloy to search for drugs and explosives.

    Many of the exiles sold their electronic and electrical appliances such as television sets and rice cookers to local villagers at bargain prices before leaving for their new camp, which was said to be without electricity.

    At 8am, the Burmese dissidents and their families were told to gather in groups with their belongings for checking and loading.Many said they did not want to leave Maneeloy. Some cried while others sang pro-democracy songs.

    About 20 Burmese refused to leave demanding the government ensure safety and welfare at Ban Tham Hin be similar to what they had received at Maneeloy.The group agreed to leave only after the officials promised good safety measures for the exiles and a mail box in front of their new shelter. The last batch left Maneeloy around noon after singing Burmese songs and lowering their fighting peacock flag.

    It was reported that fewer than 20 out of the 81 illegal Burmese immigrants staying at the Maneeloy centre showed up for the evacuation. The rest were believed to have fled.

    Maung Maung Oo, secretary-general of the Burmese Students Association, said everyone was ready to leave the centre though some feared for their safety after hearing that Ban Tham Hin was close to the Thai-Burmese border and was rife with some epidemic diseases.He said Bangkok would have to take responsibility should any of the exiles be harmed in an armed attack on Ban Tham Hin.Also, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees must be responsible for the future of Burmese students, he said.He also thanked the Thai people for their hospitality.

    Meanwhile, Mr Pairoj, the deputy interior permanent secretary, assured that Ban Tham Hin, some 10km from the border, was safe and protected by Thai security forces.According to him, 156 of the 197 Burmese students housed at Maneeloy have been allowed to go to third countries.Another 26 were awaiting replies while the rest were seeking permission.

    Governor Komet said the safety concern raised by some Burmese exiles was groundless since Ban Tham Hin already proved to be safe enough for more than 8,000 war refugees already there.It was reported that 398 Burmese dissidents were admitted to Ban Tham Hin yesterday.Twenty-eight of them were not on the relocation list. Some Suan Phung residents have threatened to force the Burmese refugees out of their hometown should they cause any trouble.

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    Drug lord ordered to leave town

    The Bangkokpost

    Wa rebels have demanded drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang and his forces leave Mong Yawn in Burma by February, a source said yesterday.

    Wei has just lost assets worth about 100 million baht in Bangkok, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Thai authorities seized them on suspicion they were acquired with laundered drug money.Security has been stepped up in several northern areas bordering Burma, particularly Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai, amid fears Wei could try to take revenge on Thai people during the New Year holiday.

    Chiang Rai police chief Wut Wuthitanond said at least two intelligence units reported Wei was thirsting for revenge.He had warned local officials against crossing into Burma's Tachilek town, opposite Mae Sai, for the time being.

    A military source said Wei and his drug ring had planned to spend 50 million baht to help drug convicts escape from certain prisons in the North.``Wei needs to show he cannot be discredited and that he remains a real threat,'' the source said.But the drug warlord may already be down on his luck.

    A Thai source based in Mong Yawn, a major methamphetamine producer controlled by the United Wa State Army, said Pao You-chang, a UWSA leader, had ordered Wei and his under-lings out of the town by February, or pay the rebel group 100 million baht.

    The source said the UWSA accused Wei of leading more than 1,000 Wa troops to their death during a prolonged battle with the Shan United Revolutionary Army of Khun Sa, another drug warlord, for Mong Yawn between 1989 and 1995.

    Khun Sa pulled out of Mong Yawn, opposite Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district, in late 1995 and set up a new stronghold in Hua Mong, across the border from Mae Hong Son. He surrendered to the Burmese government in 1996.

    The source said Wei was very dissatisfied with the UWSA, particularly because he was the one who helped capture Mong Yawn for the Wa.The source said there was every possibility of violence in Mong Yawn before the February deadline.

    A few days ago, a Buddhist temple in Mong Piang, a town also under Wei's influence south of Mong Yawn, was torched, he said.The source said Wei and his forces reportedly had already moved out of Mong Yawn to Ban Pa Laew in Chiang Rab, opposite Laos.About 2,000 people loyal to Wei had also resettled in Mong Toom and Mong Sad, the source said.However, there still were many of his followers left in Mong Yawn, the source said.

    Army chief Surayud Chulanont confirmed that Wei was having problems with the UWSA.``The group is hunting him down. The Wa do not feel good about him,'' Gen Surayud said.

    Third Army commander Udomchai Ongkhasingh said it was difficult to pinpoint Wei's whereabouts.There were reports he had undergone facial surgery to change his appearance.Poor intelligence was another factor, he said. ``The intelligence people still cannot say where he is and what he is doing.''

    Interior Minister Purachai Piumsombun said authorities would begin digging deeper to determine how some suspected drug traffickers had acquired their wealth.He refused to go into detail.Wei's assets seized in raids on eight premises by police and officers of the Money Laundering Commission on Wednesday were in the names of his relatives and mistresses. Mr Purachai said help was being sought from Burma for Wei's arrest.

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    Gang could lose citizenship

    By Anucha Charoenpo
    The Bangkokpost

    The citizenship of relatives and business partners of Wei Hsueh-kang could be revoked if they were found to have helped the drug warlord launder money, a top official said yesterday.

    Pol Col Peeraphan Premputi, head of the Money Laundering Commission, said investigations revealed as many as 40 people, mainly relatives and business partners, were involved with Wei.Authorities would check how many of them were naturalised Thai citizens so the commission could ask the Interior Ministry to consider revoking their citizenship. Wei's citizenship was revoked in July.

    On Wednesday, commission officers backed by armed police seized assets and cash to the value of 100 million baht, believed to belong to Wei, in eight raids in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The assets and money were in the names of Wei's relatives and business partners.

    A total of 45 million baht in 100 bank accounts was also frozen, along with shares valued at two million baht being sold by Wei's relatives.About 200 financial institutes were yesterday asked to report on suspicious share transactions by members of Wei's gang.

    Authorities will have to prove that the frozen money had been transferred from overseas and confirm the gang's links with foreign drug rackets, Pol Col Peeraphan said.The US Drug Enforcement Agency has also been asked to provide information on Wei's drug trafficking activities both inside and outside Thailand.

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    Thailand's drug project in Shan State in Wei Hsiaokang's beat, says Lahu source

    Shan Herald Agency for News 27 December 2001 No: 12 - 20:

    Following police raids of drug-lord Wei Hsiaokang's suspected possessions in Bangkok, Chiangmai and Chiangrai yesterday, a border-based Lahu news source has questioned the validity of the planned crop substitution project in Wei's alleged domain in Shan State this morning.

    Jakwee, secretary of the Lahu National Development Organization, said, "The proposed project appears to be out of place with the action taken yesterday." Jakwee, who is also known as Yaphet, claimed that the project site in Mongtoom in Monghsat township, across Chiangrai province, was under Wei's direct control.

    "Wei was ordered to move out of Mongyawn by Wei Hsaitang (not a relative), the UWSA's commander south of Panghsang, (the Wa capital near the Chinese border)by February 2002," he said.

    Thailand , during the September visit of Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, the ruling junta's No-3 man, had proposed to assist in the development of Mongyawn, opposite Chiangmai province and reputed to be the center of drugs that has for years been overwhelming Thailand. Rangoon later counter-proposed that the project site be Mongtoom, northeast of Mongyawn. The exact location chosen by the Wa was Nayao, roughly 7 miles south of Mongtoom and 7 miles north of Pangnoon in Mae Fa Luang District, Chiangrai Province, according to another source.

    "Mongtoom, Mongkarn and Htalang in Monghsat Township and Monghpong, Paliao and Kenglarp in Tachilek Township all are within Wei's sphere of influence," he maintained.

    Wei, according to Jakwee, was born of a Chinese father and Wa mother. His family left China when he was still young and settled in Nammusay, Tangyan township, Lashio District, northern Shan State, where he went to school. He later joined former drug-lord Khun Sa's Shanland United Army but fell out with him in 1985. Together with Ai Hsiao Hseu, another Wa chieftain, he set up the Wa National Council that merged with the United Wa State Army in 1989.

    "It was because of Khun Sa's threat that he joined the UWSA," said Jakwee. "But he was a very difficult subordinate, the fact that culminated in his expulsion from Mongyawn. Only his close relations with Gen Khin Nyunt made him nearly untouchable." Wei has 7 brothers, he added, but only two are well-known: Wei Hsiaolong and Wei Hsiaoying.

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    Mergui fire burns down 1400 Houses

    Network Media Group

    Mae Hong Son, December 25, 2001- A fire broke out in Mergui, a southern coastal town of Burma, and destroyed more than 1400 houses and left 9000 people homeless at 11:00 AM on December 23.

    The fire was started on number 1 "Kyaung Nge Thit Sat" road and spread to Southern and Western quarters of Mergui. The fire was subsided around 5 PM in the evening, a resident from Mergui said.

    Fourteen hundred houses were burnt down and 9000 people from 2000 families lost their homes. The fire also destroyed 3 monasteries, 14 bridges, 2 primary schools, 3 icing storage rooms, 4 timber factories, one rice store, 2 fishing boats, one fire brigade station and some civil servant quarters.

    "No life was lost in the fire, but the destruction is big and it is difficult to estimate the value lost", a resident in Mergui said. The homeless people from the fire took refuge at 10 monasteries and 4 schools.

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    Fire broke out at Lashio Market

    Network Media Group

    Mae Hong Son, December 27, 2001 - A fire was broke out at Myoma market of Lashio in northern Shan State around 10 PM on Christmas, December 25 night and hundreds of million kyats worth properties were destroyed in the fire, a source on Sino-Burma border reported.

    Fire started from a shop at Ganggaw market building, where the groceries and food was sold. The fire spread after the explosion of the eating oil barrels in the shops and was subsided only at 6 AM next morning on December 26.

    About 350 shops at Ganggaw building both down stairs and up stairs were burnt down in the fire. Ganggaw market building is two stories building and there are altogether 680 shops.

    "Even only for more than 300 shops are worth about 100 million kyats, the value of the groceries and money in the shops may worth more than 200 million kyats", said a merchant from Lashio said on telephone interview. Shan Herald Agency for News also confirmed about the fire in Lashio when NMG contacted to SHAN.

    Two fire brigades from Lashio central fire brigade station arrived after the fire alert from the market since the fire started. The fire brigades from Hsipaw and Kyaukmae also came and help to control the fire.

    No one was hurt or killed in the fire as the fire broke out in the nighttime and the marketers were not in the market. Myoma market of Lashio is composed of four main building namely Ganggaw, Cherry, Aungthapyay and Padauk.

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