Daily News- December 29 - 2001- Saturday

  • Myanmar Releases Four More Political Prisoners
  • We'll take Wei dead or alive - Thaksin
  • Wei loses another bundle in twin raids
  • No hopes for Burma's full co-operation against Wei
  • Wei threatens to get even with Thai officer
  • Thai police make major amphetamines seizure
  • Taking a tough line with refugees
  • Burma appoints three new army commanders
  • Troops march against Shan
  • More thai troops mobilised as battles rage

  • Myanmar Releases Four More Political Prisoners

    YANGON, December 28 (Xinhuanet) -- The Myanmar government released four more political prisoners Friday afternoon, who are all woman members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), said an official statement.

    The statement said the four NLD members were freed from "various correctional facilities," identifying their names as Daw Khin Kyi Kyi, Daw Tin Tin Aye, Daw Khin Aye Cho and Daw Khin Soe Win.

    The release has brought the total number of the NLD's political prisoners freed in the country to 202 since January this year, it added.

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    We'll take Wei dead or alive - Thaksin

    The Nation

    Thailand will capture drug warlord Wei Xieu-kang dead or alive, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra vowed yesterday. Thaksin, who has declared war on narcotics said Thai authorities would step up the hunt for 49-year-old Wei, who is now hiding in the Burmese town of Mong Yawn and is also wanted in the United States.

    "We will take him dead or alive," said the PM, adding that intelligence reports clearly showed he was now in Mong Yawn, a town adjacent to Chiang Rai province. He conceded it would not be an easy task as Burma would find it difficult to cooperate with the arrest, as Mong Yawn is not under the control of Rangoon's military junta.

    "Burma has its own problems with minority groups and gives priority to these issues. It can cooperate with Thailand on one level, but it has to also think about its own security too," he said.Moreover, Thailand could not seek the extradition of Wei because the countries do not have such a treaty.

    Thai police on Thursday seized property, bank accounts and jewellery worth more than Bt100 million from Wei's luxury homes on Ratchadapisek Road, Chatuchak district. Wei, leader of the United Wa State Army, jumped bail in Thailand in 1990. He is considered a major producer ofamphetamines that are sold locally and smuggled to Western countries.

    He was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia by a Thai court in 1994 for assisting in the trafficking of 615 kilograms of heroin from the Kingdom. He also faces drug-trafficking charges in the US, where there is a US$2-million (Bt90 million) reward for his arrest. Wei was born in China and given Thai nationality, which was revoked in July.

    Meanwhile, PM's Office Minister General Thamarak Isarangura said that Thailand could now prevent Wei and his network from using its territory to launder illegal money.He added that Thailand had coordinated with the US to locate Wei and eliminate his network.

    Police yesterday opened steel safes seized from Wei's houses and found large number of valuable items, including 1.5 kg of gold necklaces as well as diamond rings. Police said each shelf in the safes had the names of Wei's children attached.

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    Wei loses another bundle in twin raids

    The Bangkokpost
    By Teerawat Kumtita

    Another 100 million baht worth of assets have been seized from two houses with suspected connections to drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang.

    Local police and officials confiscated cash, jewellery, gold and cars worth around 40 million baht and title deeds worth more than 60 million baht in a house raid in Mae Sai district yesterday.House owner Thana Asawasukhon and his wife Rattana did not resist.

    Later, the same team raided a nearby house owned by Nauvarat Prueksaphanthawee and his wife Arunee and seized gold and jewellery worth about three million baht. Chiang Rai police chief Pol Maj-Gen Wut Withitanont said the owners of both houses were suspected members of a drug gang run by the fugitive Wei Hsueh-kang. The seized items would be examined in Bangkok by officials for signs of money laundering.

    A source said leaflets were distributed in Muang Chiang Mai Municipality on Feb 10 last year alleging that Mr Thana was a major dealer in methamphetamines. The man has two wives from the Prueksaphanthawee family. He owns many businesses including restaurants, petrol stations, housing estates, markets, fruit orchards and transport firms in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

    On Wednesday, Wei's assets, held in the names of relatives and mistresses, were seized in raids on eight premises in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The assets were worth about 100 million baht. Some 45 million baht in 100 bank accounts was also frozen.

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    No hopes for Burma's full co-operation against Wei

    The Bangkokpost
    By Yuwadee Tunyasiri

    Burma's efforts to make peace with minority rebels may prevent it from helping Thailand capture drug baron Wei Hsueh-kang, the prime minister said yesterday.

    Thaksin Shinawatra said Rangoon's full co-operation could not be expected despite improved ties between the two countries, because Burma would have to put national reconciliation above anything else.

    Wei, 55, an ethnic Wa-Haw and possibly the world's biggest drug trafficker, is wanted both in Thailand and the United States. Years ago, he was arrested in Thailand, convicted for drug trafficking and sentenced to death. However, he was granted bail during appeal and escaped to Burma.

    Wei joined the United Wa State Army, a minority rebel group, in Mong Yawn, a major methamphetamine producer located across the border opposite Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district. The UWSA and the Burmese government had developed ``good relations''.

    Mr Thaksin said Thailand could not get everything it wanted from a country striving to live together in peace with various minority forces.Burma had to be careful not to turn the minorities into its foes and had to try to forge an alliance with them all, Mr Thaksin said. ``Burma can help us only to a certain extent,'' he said.

    Bangkok, meanwhile, would have to continue improving its ties with Rangoon. ``If our friend makes a thief his friend, will we give him up?'' Mr Thaksin said.

    Thai authorities are hunting down Wei, whose assets worth 100 million baht in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai were seized on Wednesday as they were suspected to have been acquired through drug money.

    ``We want him, dead or alive,'' the prime minister said.Mr Thaksin claimed Thai authorities ``knew every move'' of Wei. The premier said Wei was still in Mong Yawn. However, the government could not ask Burma to send Wei to Thailand because there was no extradition agreement between them, he said.Mr Thaksin said drug prevention and suppression remained the government's top priority.

    He said Thailand had already increased its co-operation in anti-drug campaigns with China, Laos and Burma. The four nations would meet either in March or April to assess their progress, he said.The government, Mr Thaksin said, would be more softer on drug users but tougher against traffickers. It would stress cure, not punishment, for drug users who would be considered patients. Traffickers, on the other hand, would face the death penalty.``Some drug dealers even killed themselves to avoid being executed,'' Mr Thaksin said.

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    Wei threatens to get even with Thai officer

    Shan Herald Agency for News. 28 December 2001: No: 12 - 21:

    A source close to the Army told S.H.A.N. drug-lord Wei Hsiaokang had vowed to avenge the extrajudicial killing of his favorite lieutenant in June leading to the recent raids on his assets in Thailand.

    Thawatchai Saetiao a.k.a. Wangli, 25, was found dead in front of the district office of Fang, 160 km north of Chiangmai, on 20 June. He was shot 7 times and bags of drugs and a gun was placed beside his corpse to show he was a drug smuggler, which he was not, Wei was reported to have claimed. As the killing occurred while he was on his way to an appointment with the district officer, Krisda Boonraj, Wei had held the officer responsible, the fact that led to his abrupt transfer from Fang on 9 December.

    One of the 7 Thai officials abducted in Tachilek, opposite Chiangrai, on 27 July until 3 August, also spoke of the scathing remarks by their captors on Wangli's slaying. The fact was later reiterated by Maj Gen Kyaw Win, second-in-command to Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, on their release.

    "They (the Wa) said they wanted to convey their grievances with regard to the ill treatment they suffered at the hands of local Thai authorities and to show their displeasure at the foul play suffered by Wan(g) Li," according to AFP report.

    The Burmese have so far refused to acknowledge that Wei exist at all. During the April Regional Border Committee meeting in Kengtung, Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong, then Commander of the Third Army, was reported to have inquired about Wei's whereabouts. As his name was spelled differently by the Thais and Burmese, Bangkok officials were told later that the man "with such a name" could not be found anywhere in Burma. Wei's Thai citizenship was revoked by the Interior Ministry on 30 July, 3 days after the abduction of Thai military and drug officials.

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    Thai police make major amphetamines seizure

    BANGKOK, Dec 28 (AFP) - Thai police have seized nearly one million amphetamine tables and materials to make another 30 million, national police chief General Sant Sarutanond said Friday.He said the drugs were found on three suspects detained in the northern province of Chiang Rai, which borders Myanmar, a major source of illegal narcotics.

    One suspect was carrying 490,000 tablets, another 500,000 tablets and the third had three tonnes of materials, enough to make about 30 million amphetamine tablets, said Sant.

    The general said Thai anti-drug forces had seized "a huge amount of amphetamine this year, but we are still not happy." He told reporters, "we are only decreasing the number of dealers, not the number of users."

    In 2001, Thai narcotics police seized 16.66 million amphetamine tablets in 409 cases that led to the arrest of 763 people. Police did not give a comparison for last year.

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    Taking a tough line with refugees

    The Bangkokpost

    It was a disturbing year-end for the mostly youthful Burmese at Maneeloy who were put on army trucks and packed off to a camp they see as too close to the border for comfort.

    But the move had been on the cards since students at the centre in Pak Tho district of Ratchaburi were found to have taken part in the sieges at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok in October 1999, and a hospital in Ratchaburi three months later.

    The then Chuan Leekpai government drew Rangoon's ire by using velvet gloves to deal with the so-called ``student warriors'' who raided the embassy, allowing them free passage to the border in exchange for the safety of hostages. But the government reacted decisively to the attack on the hospital the following January, by allowing commandos to kill the perpetrators.

    The Chuan government also asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to expedite third-country resettlement for the ex-Burmese students and new homes indeed were found for 2,200 of them over the past two years, with the United States and Australia topping the list of 10 countries which agreed to play host.

    But the government, whose prime minister held out against visiting Rangoon, stopped short of closing Maneeloy. And it was no accident that the more Rangoon-friendly government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra accomplished the final act of closing the centre, thereby making clear its disapproval of Burmese dissidents.

    Mr Thaksin's visit to Rangoon in June, which struck a harmonious chord with the generals there, the longstanding friendliness of Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh with members of the ruling junta, and the hardline attitude of Interior Minister Purachai Piumsombun all helped towards this end.

    Maneeloy's demise was also brought forward by the complications it picked up over the years. Towards the end, the centre did not only hold 197 Burmese refugees awaiting resettlement in third countries, but also 170 ``persons of concern'' who enjoy UNHCR protection but are yet to be accepted for resettlement, and about 100 illegal aliens who face deportation.

    About 400 people took part in the transfer on Thursday to Ban Tham Hin in Suan Phung district, also in Ratchaburi. They were mainly refugees and ``people of concern''. Only 20 of the illegals turned up for the evacuation, the rest fleeing elsewhere for fear of deportation. The evacuees will join some 8,000 mainly Karen refugees already living at Ban Tham Hin.

    Maneeloy is due to become a vocational training centre for local villagers, who had blamed the centre's residents for crime in their neighbourhood. Set up in 1992, Maneeloy was meant for students who fled Rangoon's crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising in 1988.

    The UNHCR assisted the running of the centre, which provided English-language lessons, computer and other vocational training meant to equip the young refugees with skills for new lives in the West. Though political activities were banned, the ex-students found loopholes and Maneeloy soon became a magnet for Burmese dissidents.

    The closure of Maneeloy confirms this government's hardening position and wish to deter new arrivals. It repatriated 63 Karen refugees last month, and resisted a European Union call to admit nearly 800 refugees living on the edge of conflict inside Burma

    With 108,000 displaced Burmese on its hands, Thailand has some reason to discourage more to come.But Thailand 20 years ago sheltered three times as many Cambodians until their country found peace. It, therefore, must stand by its commitment to give refuge to Burmese people, whose lives are threatened by armed conflict.

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    Burma appoints three new army commanders

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Dec 28, 2001
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 26 December

    Although 10 new military commanders were appointed on 18 December, the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] has so far failed to officially announce the appointments. DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that it will officially be announced in the Burma Gazette on 4 January 2002, Independence Day.

    Of the 10 new commanders, DVB has reported on the appointed of five and has received the names of another three new commanders. They are Brig-Gen Soe Naing, commander of Military Operations Management Command [MOMC] No 10 based in Kalemyo, Sagaing Division, as northwest military command commander; Brig-Gen Khin Maung Myint, commander of MOMC No 3 based in Mogaung, Kachin State, as eastern commander; and Brig-Gen Maung Maung Swe, commander of No 77 Light Infantry Division [LID] based in Pegu Division, as northern commander.

    The five new commanders previously reported by DVB were: Brig-Gen Maung Oo of MOMC No 8 as western commander; Brig-Gen Chit Than of MOMC No 13 as triangle region commander; Brig-Gen Myint Swe of southeast military command as Rangoon command commander; Brig-Gen Ye Myint of LID No 101 as central command commander, and Brig-Gen Myint Hlaing of MOMC No 16 as northeast commander.

    DVB is still collecting information on the appointment of the remaining two commanders [southern and southwest] and the substitution of the southeast commander. The 10 former military commanders are still members of the SPDC and four of them have been appointed as Bureau of Special Operations commanders. The remaining six are attached to the Defence Ministry in Rangoon.

    Although optimistic news has been emerging that the SPDC's reshuffling of the military hierarchy could enhance political changes, that it could have positive effects on the ongoing dialogue [between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the SPDC], and the possibility of good news on 4 January, Independence Day, the SPDC has so far remained silent.

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    Troops march against Shan

    By Subin Khuenkaew
    The Bangkokpost

    Hundreds of Burmese troops were reportedly marching south in what appeared to be a drive against the Shan State Army's stronghold in Burma.A border source said about 1,000 heavily-armed Burmese soldiers were seen moving past the towns of Teuh and Tha.

    They were probably heading for two villages near Doi Tai Lang, where Col Chao Yodsuek, the SSA leader, had his base, the source said. Doi Tai Lang is opposite Mae Hong Son's Pang Ma Pha district.

    More than 400 Burmese men had been sent to repair a road linking Burma's Tachilek border town with Ban Pang Noon near Doi Khor Wan, another SSA stronghold, he said.

    Military trucks and at least six armoured tanks had left Ban Tha Dua, north of Tachilek, and might join a group of Burmese soldiers at Ban Na Yao to attack SSA troops at Doi Kor Wan.

    Two weeks earlier, Col Chao Yodsuek wrote to Burmese military leaders seeking ceasefire talks.However, the SSA leader said Rangoon had shown no interest in talks, despite his six requests for negotiations in the past two years.

    Col Chao Yodsuek said he was ready for a ceasefire or a prolonged fight, while Rangoon said it wanted the SSA to surrender without condition.Rangoon was reported to have told Bangkok that border and drug problems could be solved with the departure of drug warlord Wei Hsueh-kang and the SSA rebels from the Thai-Burmese border areas.

    The same source said there was a possibility of Col Chao Yodsuek stepping down as the SSA chief, although he would remain its military leader.

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    More thai troops mobilised as battles rage

    By Supamart Kasem
    The Bangkokpost

    Troop reinforcements have been sent to protect border villages in Tha Song Yang district as clashes between Burmese soldiers and Karen National Union (KNU) rebels continued. Heavy shelling in KNU-dominated areas have forced some 400 villagers to flee across the border into Thailand at Ban Nong Bua, in tambon Mae Song.

    Thai troop reinforcements and artillery have been mobilised by the 13th Infantry Regiment Task Force to guard the Moei border river to prevent incursions.

    Capt Thein Dan, a KNU officer, said Burma's 339th Light Infantry Regiment and the pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) attacked the KNU-controlled Leberher village on Wednesday.

    The surprise attack sent some 500 villagers fleeing for safety. More than half had gone into hiding in the forest, while the rest, mostly women, children and the elderly, crossed into Ban Nong Bua.

    The KNU mounted a defence and ambushed Rangoon soldiers. The ensuing firefight continued throughout Wednesday before the Burmese and DKBA forces retreated back to Hill 1248, their stronghold a few kilometres southwest of Leberher.

    A second wave of refugees streamed into Ban Nong Bua yesterday morning after the DKBA launched a fresh attack in a bid to gain access to Leberher.Two of the DKBA attackers were injured by a landmine, prompting a new round of artillery exchange between the two sides. A medical unit at Tha Son Yang was sent to treat the refugees, with more than half suffering from influenza and diarrhoea.

    The refugees were being sheltered at Ban Hua Plu school and cared for by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Burma Border Consortium, and the Thai Red Cross.

    Capt Thein Dan, of the KNU's 22nd Battalion, said the clash was triggered by a failed negotiation over a logging business between Rangoon and the KNU. One of the investors was a Thai, the Karen officer said.

    A Leberher village leader was reportedly captured by DKBA.troops. His fate remained unknown yesterday. Tha Song Yang district chief Anuchit Songkao said that if the fighting across the border dragged on, the refugees might be moved to the Mae La camp.

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