Daily News-June 09 - 2001- Saturday


  • Burma talks to resume
  • Burma allegedly to "persuade" Shan party members to resign "on their own accord"
  • THAI-BURMA AFFAIRS: 'Relations face lasting damage'
  • Enlist help with Burmese
  • Foreign media driving wedge, says Gen Chavalit
  • United States to grant Burmese asylum seekers citizenship
  • Burmese Naga refugees flee to India
  • Online Poll of 'yes' or 'no' Question on Burma Tourism
  • Burmese officials, Chinese envoy view film show on China's western development
  • Burma's Bilateral Trade With ASEAN Members Up
  • Burma announces veteran battleplan as row with Thailand simmers
  • Textbook is 'part of a big campaign'
  • Thai Locals hoist flag at disputed hill
  • Thailand to shut down camps for Burmese refugees
  • Thai PM set June 19 for Burma visit


  • Burma talks to resume

    source : BBC/Friday, 8 June, 2001,
    By regional analyst Larry Jagan

    The military needs to make a goodwill gesture

    The talks between Burma's military rulers and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi are in the process of resuming.US Assistant Deputy Secretary of State Ralph Boyce told journalists in Bangkok that the talks should yield concrete results soon.

    There had been growing speculation since the United Nations Burma envoy completed his mission to Rangoon earlier this week that the talks which he helped broker last year were about to restart. The UN remains optimistic that the dialogue process between Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese generals is about to enter a new phase.

    Political prisoners

    According to UN sources in New York, Aung San Suu Kyi has told the Burmese generals that they should start to release political prisoners, and remove the restrictions on her and the rest of the National League for Democracy.

    The UN believes this would be a concrete gesture which needs to happen before the end of June if the dialogue process is to move forward.

    The talks have been held in secret with no details of the discussions being made public. But diplomatic sources in Rangoon say the talks have not yet gone beyond what they described as the confidence-building stage.It is also clear now that the process has been stalled for several months.

    Prisoners

    The UN hopes that it can help the dialogue through the intervention of its envoy - Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail. He has just completed a visit to Rangoon where he acted as a facilitator and is expected to return again in July.

    The hope now is that the two sides will resume a meaningful dialogue.

    Diplomats in Rangoon say it is now up to the military to respond to the request to release the political prisoners. There are some 200 of them.

    Senior opposition sources told the BBC that the military have been urged to release them in stages, starting with those who are elderly (over 60 years) or ill, followed by those who have already completed their sentences.

    The military have also been asked to remove the restrictions on the movement of all senior NLD leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi and her deputy Tin Oo, and to allow the party's offices to reopen throughout the country.

    The talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese generals are currently at a very precarious stage and only a good-will gesture from the military can help keep them on track.
    Burma allegedly to "persuade" Shan party members to resign "on their own accord"

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 8, 2001

    Text of Shan Herald Agency for News report dated 7 June, in English, published by Burmese opposition electronic newspaper BurmaNet News on 7 June; heading as published

    Shan party members told to quit; Choose business benefit or else

    Another branch of the Shan party that won the most seats in the Shan State in 1990 elections is being pressured to dissolve itself, confirmed sources report from Shan State.

    In response to a report by Network Media Group [NMG] on Saturday (2 June), sources said executive members of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy [SNLD] (Mongkerng Branch) were given a choice between economic gains on resignation and persecution on refusal. "They were threatened with charges of collaboration with the armed resistance," said a source from the Chinese border.

    According to several sources, the SNLD branches in the southern Shan State are being targeted by the military authorities at present. "The northern branches will come later," said another.

    NMG reported that the 7 member EC committee in Mongkerng, 108 miles northeast of Taunggyi, were summoned by the township peace and development council on 28 May to its office where U Myo Thant, the TPDC [expansion unknown] chairman, delivered its "ultimatum" to which the branch EC replied that its decision would be made known within 20 days (17 June).

    A meeting held by the military authorities in Taunggyi on 26-27 May had taken the decision to "persuade" the SNLD members to resign "on their own accord", reported NMG.

    The SNLD is led by Khun Htoon Oo, who is regarded as the spokesperson for the non-Burman parties. Foreign dignitaries often called on him duringtheir visits to Burma.

    The first branch ordered by the authorities to dissolve was from Langkher, 114 miles southeast of Taunggyi, on 21 January.
    THAI-BURMA AFFAIRS: 'Relations face lasting damage'

    source : The Nation
    Vorapun Srivoranart

    Academics fear long-term effects from text painting Thais as enemy

    Introducing a new Burmese history textbook slighting Thai people and kings signified a bilateral relationship approaching crisis point, with long lasting permanent effects if left unattended, prominent Burmese experts warned yesterday.

    The scholars said the incident was a culmination of different problems with different sources, and a prudent and holistic approach was warranted.

    They strongly opposed a rush visit by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Burma, which they believed would not help address the root cause of conflicts. "A visit by the Prime Minister must mean something," said Burmese expert Sunait Chutintranon of Chulalongkorn University.

    He said that as a national leader, Thaksin' s trip to Rangoon should come only when the situation was ready, instead of going at all costs. "We have a very limited understanding of our neighbour...What would we do if there is another textbook after the PM's visit?" he said.

    The problems with Burma were too complicated to expect leaders to sit together and resolve everything, he said, adding that any move should not serve merely domestic political purposes.

    "Burma should be among the last countries the PM should visit or else it would send out a message that we are weak," said Charnvit Kasetsiri, from Thammasat University's Southeast Asian Studies department. He questioned the motive behind the desire for an early visit and whether it was based truly |on national or individual interests.

    Charnvit said publishing historical textbooks like the one concerning Thai-Burmese ties was not unprecedented in Southeast Asia.Education textbooks in the region always contained "a high degree of prejudice" toward neighbours to serve a "hidden agenda" of nationalism, he said."Every country needs a common enemy," he said, adding that this indoctrination often led to chauvinism and the perception of an enemy. "It is not about hatred but it is about looking down," Charnvit said in reference to the controversial Burmese history textbook.

    It was also possible the Burmese military junta was having problems managing domestic affairs, as evident from various measures "which reflected their weaknesses", and was attempting to divert attention overseas, he noted.

    Sunait expressed grave concern about the long-term effects of the Burmese history textbook on the perception of Burmese people in the future and relations with their Thai counterparts. "Before, the Burmese text did not depict Thailand as chief villain. The present incident is a crucial turning point," he noted, adding an attempt to forge common understanding must be pursued in earnest. "The incident also presents the country with a chance for self-reflection".However, he said a joint committee to review history would risk raising the matter to an international level which would entangle many actors.

    "It is very worrying, the systematic shaping of the image of Thailand as a main enemy. Indoctrinating the enemy perception at the people level will be hard to heal," he said.
    Enlist help with Burmese

    Bangkok Post - Thailand; Jun 8, 2001
    Editorial from Naew Na

    Rather than pay a visit to Burma, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra should ask the world community to put pressure on Rangoon to stamp out narcotics production along its border with Thailand.

    Mr Thaksin announced recently that he would visit Rangoon this month to discuss long-standing problems with the Burmese military junta. The announcement was greeted with discouraging news from Burma.

    The introduction of a supplementary 12-page textbook for Burmese fourth-grade pupils, which describes Thai people as lazy, has upset Thai academics, politicians and some members of the public.

    When Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai was in Rangoon last month to discuss border problems with Burmese leaders, official announcements were made attacking Thailand for supporting ethnic groups fighting against the Burmese government. Later in the month, an article appeared in the official New Light of Myanmar criticising a 19th century Thai king.

    Based on these incidents, we cannot see how Prime Minister Thaksin can expect to solve the long-standing dispute with Burma. Thailand's pride will be hurt by his presence in Rangoon.

    The Thai-Burmese dispute is complex. Apart from the problem of poor border demarcation, Thailand has had to bear the brunt of methamphetamine pills flooding across the border from Burma. These pills are produced by the United Wa State Army, which is backed by the Rangoon government.

    Also, Burma believes that Thailand is backing the Shan State Army, an ethnic minority group fighting against Rangoon. The Shans have used sophisticated weapons to attack and destroy the Wa's drug laboratories along the border.

    While the border remains so tense, it is useless for Prime Minister Thaksin to go to Rangoon. Instead, he should ask the world community to apply pressure on Burma to stamp out the drug production within its borders.
    Foreign media driving wedge, says Gen Chavalit

    Bangkok Post - Thailand; Jun 8, 2001
    BY WASSANA NANUAM

    Reporters urged to tone down reports

    Chavalit Yongchaiyudh yesterday accused the foreign media of driving a wedge between Thailand and Burma, as an advance team left for Rangoon to lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's visit on June17.

    The team included Gen Sommai Wichaworn, armed forces chief-of-staff, Gen Wichit Yathip, the defence minister's chief-of-staff, and the prime minister's staff.

    The defence minister, who will accompany Mr Thaksin, was asked to comment on reports by foreign news agencies about harsh Burmese criticism of Thailand. The foreign media had been "meddling" in issues they did not understand, said Gen Chavalit, also deputy prime minister.

    "On issues they don't really understand, they should adhere to journalistic ethics. Our media, although said to be backwards, is much better because at least it is aware of what would affect the majority," he said. Mr Thaksin, responding to the same question, said foreign media might not want Thailand to be on good terms with Burma. "We have to accept that many people are not happy with Burma," he said.

    Gen Sampao Chusri, the supreme commander, said the advance team would co-ordinate with Burmese leaders on topics for talks. Gen Sommai, a former Third Army commander, has close ties with Burmese military leaders. He will meet Gen Maung Aye, the Burmese army commander, and Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the ruling State Peace and Development Council. A memorandum of understanding on drug suppression is one task the advance team must finish.

    A source said the team would also propose that Burma and Thailand stop attacking each other. The Burmese government would be asked to tell its media, which is under state control, to refrain from publishing news or articles attacking Thailand, particularly the monarchy.At the same time, the Thai media would be asked to avoid making negative reports about Burma.High-level Thai authorities, including Third Army chief Lt-Gen Watanachai Chaimuanwong, would be more careful in giving interviews, the source said.
    United States to grant Burmese asylum seekers citizenship

    Australian Broadcasting Corporation

    A group of 46 Burmese nationals in Guam are on their way to becoming American citizens after being granted asylum.

    Ron Munia of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the U-S Department of Health say although some asylum seekers from Burma have been detected with HIV, this will not affect their individual asylum applications.He says a total of 978 nationals have been tested.

    The Director of the Public Health and Social Services Department, Dennis Rodriguez, says the discovery of the presence of H-I-V follows routine testing as a prelude to the Burmese nationals leaving for the U-S.

    While not confirming how many of the asylum seekers tested positive for HIV, he said the number reported to him was not high considering the region where they originated from.

    An estimated one-thousand Burmese nationals arrived in Guam seeking political asylum before the Guam Visa Waiver Program was suspended for Burma in January.
    Burmese Naga refugees flee to India

    From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

    Officials in India say more than 3,000 people from Burmese Naga tribes have fled to the north-eastern Indian state of Nagaland, after Burma launched a military offensive against Naga separatists.

    The Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights and the Naga Students Federation say many refugees left because Burmese troops burnt down three Naga villages Chen Hoyat, Troilho and Nyaching in western Burma last month.

    They say the Burmese army left behind land mines, making the villagers too scared to return.The groups say the refugees have no food and are suffering because of the monsoon.

    They've appealed to the Indian government to set up camps and provide relief.
    Online Poll of 'yes' or 'no' Question on Burma Tourism

    By Tin Maung Htoo
    Burma Media Association
    June 8, 2001

    While the tourists arrival in Burma is reportedly declining early this year with 32.6 percent, an Australia travel agency, Intrepid, which started business in Burma in 1995 and withdrew in 1999, is in the process of reassessing its position by opening an online poll, alarmed by Burma Campaign UK.

    "Intrepid travel in Australia is now reviewing their decision and have organized an online poll," said Yvette Mahon, coordinator of the group, which is opposing travelling and investment until and after Democracy and Human Rights are restored in Burma.

    Regarding the poll, Director Darrell Wade of Asia travelling agency Intrepid, said even though their business was both successful and profitable trips for the company, they decided to withdraw after extensive evaluation of the pros and cons of tourism in Burma.

    He said, "It was the hardest decision we have ever made as a company. We knew this would hurt our local friends and operators and do more harm than good to the country and it's people," adding, "many of the arguments presented against travel to Burma were largely political and emotional ones - rather than arguments based in fact." He said therefore decided to review this controversial issue with online poll.

    However, the view of online survey showed that the majority of people are in favor of not to resuming the traveling business in Burma - as of today 196 votes for resuming trips to Burma and 955 votes for retaining the current boycott.

    Jane Crouch, Responsible Travel Coordinator of intrepid, said, "At Intrepid we are committed to a type of tourism that allows every traveler to make a positive contribution to the people and places we visit."

    Note: Online survey on the web address -
    http://www.intrepidtravel.com/burmavote.html
    Burmese officials, Chinese envoy view film show on China's western development

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 8, 2001

    Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

    Yangon [Rangoon], 8 June: A photo and film show, aimed at introducing to the Myanmar [Burma] people the exploitation potential and development of China's western part and the development and change of Tibet over the past 50 years since its peaceful liberation, opened at the National Museum here Friday [8 June].

    The week-long Chinese photo and film show on West China and Tibet is jointly sponsored by the Chinese embassy in Yangon and the Myanmar Ministry of Culture. Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Li Jinjun and Myanmar Deputy Minister of Culture U Soe Nyunt inaugurated the show by cutting the ribbon.

    Speaking at the ceremony, Ambassador Li Jinjun said this show is bound to further enhance Myanmar people's understanding towards China and deepen the "paukphaw" (fraternal) friendship already existing between the peoples of the two countries.

    At the ceremony, U Soe Nyunt said Myanmar and China are close neighbours. The peoples of the two countries are paukphaw and relatives, having firm and traditional friendship between the peoples of the two countries

    Chinese culture has both extensive knowledge and profound scholarship, deserving study by each country, he noted, adding that the cultural exchange and cooperation between two countries will further consolidate the Myanmar-China friendship.

    The photos on display in the show total 217 sheets and are made up of three parts. They are "West China - A Land Of Hope", "Tibet's Yesterday and Today" and "A Day in Lhasa" (introducing a life scene of the autonomous region capital of Lhasa on the day February 27, 2001).

    During the length of the show, seven Chinese feature films will also be screened which include "The Emperor of Tibet", "The Chinese King Flower" and "The Artillery of Qing dynasty" as well as seven other Chinese documentary films which include "The Wonder Of The Yellow River", "Get To Know Tibet" and "The Potala".
    Burma's Bilateral Trade With ASEAN Members Up

    YANGON, June 6 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar's bilateral trade with five other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines -- totaled 313.6 million U.S. dollars in the first two months of this year, up 22.9 percent from the same period of 2000. According to the latest figures published by the country's Central Statistical Organization, these trade accounted for 40.7 percent of Myanmar's total foreign trade during the two-month period with its import from these ASEAN members amounting to 181. 47 million dollars, while its export to them valued at 132.13 million dollars. The trade deficit stood at 49.34 million dollars.

    Of these five ASEAN members, Myanmar's trade with Thailand accounted for the highest volume with 125.48 million dollars or 16. 3 percent of the country's 769.15 million dollars' total foreign trade.

    It was followed by that with Singapore which took up 123.26 million dollars or 16 percent. Myanmar's trade with Malaysia and Indonesia stood at 39.25 million dollars and 24 million dollars, respectively.

    In 2000, Myanmar's total foreign trade, including the border trade, totaled 4.086 billion dollars, of which its bilateral trade with the five other ASEAN members amounted to 1.651 billion dollars, accounting for 40.4 percent of the country's total foreign trade during the year.
    Burma announces veteran battleplan as row with Thailand simmers

    Rangoon, (AFP)

    Burma's military this week announced a contingency plan to call up some 99,000 battle-hardened war veterans in the event of an attack on its territory by "hostile" neighbours.

    The resolution, passed at a war veterans' conference which ended Thursday, was linked with a simmering row with Thailand which erupted after a half-day border skirmish between the two national armies in March.

    Home Minister Colonel Tin Hlaing said Burma occupied a strategic position in the region, surrounded by big nations with "nuclear capability", as well as those with hostile foreign polices "under the influence of a major power".

    In a clear dig at Thailand, he said certain neighbouring countries were "building up their military power, carrying out military manoeuvres and promoting their military capabilities."

    Tin Hlaing also accused them of making "preposterous accusations" and "attempting to create battles at the border areas."

    In response, he said in comments reported in the official media, Burma had formulated a national defence and security plan designed to counter the actions of neighbours who were "stoking a fire" in order to foment unrest.

    Under the new "militia strategy" the war vererans would be deployed to use their fighting and logistics experience to give support to the regular army and the police force, which would also take up front-line duties if called upon.

    "NGOs (non-government organisations) formed with women are required to crush the enemies from the rear line," he said.

    The conference also emphasized the importance of "national reconsolidation", especially in the light of tensions along the Thai-Burmese border.

    Veterans' Association vice-chairman and Labor Minister Major General Asaw Tun said it was vital to open "political, economic, social, organisational and military fronts" in order to gain the upper hand against the enemy.

    The comments are the latest entry in the increasingly bitter tit-for-tat exchange between the two neighbours which has prompted a flurry of official protests from both sides.

    In the latest outburst, Thailand took umbrage at reports that a new Burmese history textbook portrayed Thais as lazy and servile.

    Despite the ill-will, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has repeatedly said he is optimistic that the wrangle will be resolved when he makes his first visit to Burma.

    "There is no better way (to solve problems) than to have the leaders talk to each other ... I am ready to go," he said recently.
    Textbook is 'part of a big campaign'

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Burma's new textbook was part of a well-organised campaign by Rangoon in response to what it sees as a multi-pronged attack by Thailand, historians said yesterday.

    Addressing a seminar at Chulalongkorn University, Sunait Chutintranon, a history professor, said the Burmese elite had lost patience with "unacceptable events" that had accumulated over a long period of time and come to a head since the Thaksin Shinawatra government came to power. These included direct confrontation between Thai and Burmese soldiers, the Chiang Rai workshop fingerpointing Burma's Wa-controlled area as a drug production base, and Bangrajan , a patriotic film, getting an airing in schools and military camps along the border.

    The Burmese government was reviving a spirit of courage against western powers promoted by King Alaungphaya in the 18th century by having historians take up themes of Burmese unity, western imperialism and Burma's struggle for independence, he said.

    A supplement to the fourth grade history book compared their self-reliant king to Thai kings whom they accused of yielding to western powers.

    The textbook marked a turning point as Thais previously had not been villains in the eyes of Burmese people but had been regarded with a positive attitude.

    Now Thailand would be seen as the "real arch-rival" as the textbook was used among young people where prejudice was easily implanted, he said. Charnvit Kasetsiri, history professor at Thammasat University, said a description of Thai people as servile and lazy showed Burmese contempt for Thais.

    "It is not strange that schoolbooks in the region are very lopsided, full of praise for their leaders' good deeds or justification for their indecent actions in history, and portraying neighbours as enemies," he said. "Thai textbooks do the same. So it's time to revise our region's textbooks," he said.

    At the Foreign Ministry, spokesman Norachit Sinhaseni said the textbook was not conducive to good relations with Thailand or efforts to develop bilateral relations.

    Oum Maolanon, the Thai ambassador to Burma, had found two textbooks, one for students in the ninth grade that did not contain much about Thailand, and a 12-page supplement to the regular history book for fourth graders, which was critical of Thai foreign policy and past kings.

    In use since June 1, and sold only in schools, the textbook said Thailand applied a policy that bent with the wind, and claimed Thai kings had yielded to the West in order to keep their kingdoms.

    Mr Norachit said Thailand would not lodge a protest with Burma as the Foreign Ministry had protested about the same thing in articles published in the state-owned New Light of Myanmar last month.

    In a sub-chapter on present-day Thai-Burmese relations, the text accused Thais of being engaged in illegal fishing, log poaching, and drug-related activities in Burma.

    Four sub-chapters move from the birth of the Ayutthaya kingdom after the fall of Sukhothai, up to the present.
    Thai Locals hoist flag at disputed hill

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Thai Residents will today plant trees and erect the Thai national flag on Hua Lone hill, Fang district, where Thai and Burmese soldiers crossed swords recently.

    Thai troops clashed with Burmese and Wa forces early last month when the intruders crossed the border to take the hill. Fang district chief Krisda Boonrat said residents would plant trees and erect the national flag on the hill in Doi Angkhang. Soldiers from the Pha Muang task force, led by Maj-Gen Nakhon Sriphetphan, would be sent to participate in the ceremony, he said.

    "The villagers will have a 3m wide and 4.5m long national flag hung on top of a mast on the hill.

    I think this will be an auspicious occasion as they want to honour His Majesty the King," he said. Four members of the Third Army's mine clearance team were reported to have sustained injuries after stepping on mines planted on the hill.

    Security was stepped up in the area, which was found to have long been used as a drug smuggling route.
    Thailand to shut down camps for Burmese refugees

    Source : Australian Broadcasting Corp.

    Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has renewed a government pledge to shut down camps for Burmese political dissidents and refugees.

    He says dissidents who fled Burma after the 1988 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators will be resettled in third countries.

    The Thai government estimates the number of illegal immigrants from Burma to be about one million, while there are some 120-thousand refugees.

    The Thai leader is scheduled to visit Burma later this month.
    Thai PM set June 19 for Burma visit

    Source : South Chuna Morning Post

    Thailand's prime minister has said he will visit Burma this month in a bid to patch up relations that have hit a nadir over several differences, mainly drug trafficking.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was reported on Saturday saying he plans to go to Rangoon on June 19-20 following his visits to Laos and Cambodia.

    Burma's ruling military junta has not publicly invited Mr Thaksin, who said he was confident that all issues would be resolved once he meets with the neighbouring country's top leaders. The Burma government did not immediately respond to Mr Thaksin's announcement.

    The already-sour relations between the two countries came under fresh pressure this week after the Burma government introduced a new school textbook that belittles Thai people, calling them lazy, servile and war mongers.

    Observers say the textbook is a retaliation against Thai textbooks, literature and popular culture that portray Burmese people negatively.

    Burma-Thai relations took a turn for the worst this January after their armies clashes at the border. The fighting has continued sporadically.

    Thailand accuses Burma's junta of turning a blind eye to a major drug ring, The United Wa State Army, operating along the border with Thailand. The group has been listed by the US State Department as the biggest drug trafficker in Asia, and Thailand says it is responsible for the growing number of addicts in the country - more than 2.8 million people, most of them youngsters hooked to illegal stimulant methamphetamines.

    Burma says it is doing its best to stop the drug trade and in turn accuses corrupt Thai officials of abetting the smuggling. It also accuses Thailand of aiding anti-government ethnic rebels, a charge Thailand denies.