Daily News-June 11 - 2001- Monday

  • Surakiart Says Thailand Eager To Mend Burma Ties
  • No instant solution - Surakiart
  • Rangoon on warpath, top general warns
  • DVB reports more anti-Thai articles in new textbooks
  • DVB : Officials seize Thai-bound stimulant tablets
  • Protests may delay plan to shift Karen
  • Myanma Five Star Line Gets MV Chindwin
  • Burma Calls for Prevention Against Malaria
  • DON ERICKSON :Loss of a Veteran Free Burma Activist

  • Surakiart Says Thailand Eager To Mend Burma Ties

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand (AP)--Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Sunday that Thailand was eager to mend ties with Myanmar, but warned that it wouldn't tolerate insults on its sovereignty and its royal family.

    In a speech at a one-day conference on Thai-Myanmar ties held in this northern town, Surakiart said the government would "fight with all efforts" if their dispute boiled down to these two issues.

    "What the Thai government cannot tolerate is our sovereignty (being violated) ... and the insult to our royal dynasty, which we strongly protest," he said.

    Surakiart's comments came two days after Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced that he would travel to Myanmar June 19-20 to hold talks with that country's military junta to end bickering between the two countries. The visit would significantly lessen the tension as "there are things that needed to be discussed in private between the two leaders to settle the problem," Surakiart said without elaborating.

    Thai-Myanmar relations have reached nadir over a range of disputes including Thai allegations that Myanmar supports drug trafficking. The armies of the two countries have fought sporadic battles at the border and some a Myanmar artillery narrowly missed a royal building near the border.

    Nationalist newspapers in both countries have also waged a war of words, trading insults with some Myanmar newspapers writing articles critical of the Thai royalty.

    Surakiart said he believed the ties could be easily mended once the distrust and misunderstanding between the two nations was eliminated.

    The conference was organized by Chulalongkorn University and Asia Forum, a local think tank. It was attended by about 500 participants including army and police officers, officials from the interior and defense ministries, academics, nongovernment organization workers and businessmen.

    Meanwhile, the Myanmar government issued a statement Sunday, urging Thailand and Thai newspapers to stop "demonizing and scapegoating" Myanmar.It said the Thai media have made several "irresponsible allegations" recently, and cited an article Sunday in the Bangkok Post titled "Burmese spies are everywhere." The article accuses the Myanmar Military Intelligence Services of piracy, drug trade, auto and arms smuggling.

    "Of course, this kind of `blame it all on Myanmar' is not something new but should be avoided while and when the governments of the two counties are trying to enhance better understanding, friendship and sincere cooperation," the statement said. Myanmar hopes that "both nations can join hands to resolve the challenges and common problems they are encountering," it said.
    No instant solution - Surakiart

    source : The Nation

    CHIANG MAI - The Foreign Minister affirmed here yesterday that every possible effort was being made to improve cooperation between Thailand and the Burmese government but that no-one should expect improvements overnight.

    In the opening speech to an academic seminar held by Chulalongkorn and Chiangmai Universities, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said that dialogue with the Burmese had been put off for too long. The Regional Border Committee, for example, had not convened for two years before a meeting was called in April.

    Pointing to cooperation as the ultimate solution to the diplomatic impasse with Thailand's most problematic neighbour, Surakiart said such was the complexity of some misunderstandings between the two governments that "only the top level" could find a solution.The Foreign Minister cited the fact that the leaders of China, Burma and Laos had already agreed to a meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Kunming, China, to discuss border problems as an example of the present government's willingness to cooperate.

    He pointed out that Burmese leaders had also agreed in principle to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the cross-border drug problem."With this MOU we have guidelines and principles to which we can strictly adhere," Surakiart said.

    The minister attributed what he called "the constant misunderstanding" between Thailand and Burma to a number of factors beyond the Foreign Ministry's control. "We have a free press, and the Burmese have very sensitive ears. Several cross-border acts are also not controlled by the Foreign Ministry," he said, adding that proper dialogue was the only way forward.

    Subsequent speakers supported the Foreign Minister's views and agreed that cooperation was essential for a peaceful relationship. Doctor Sunet Chutinatharanon, a history professor from Chulalongkorn University (CU), said that the Foreign Ministry's initiative to encourage cooperation would improve relationships.Associate Professor Chaichoke Chulasiriwong of CU's Political Science Faculty commented later: "After years of following events, I can say now that the previous government was insincere, causing Burma to be wary of the Thai government.
    Rangoon on warpath, top general warns

    source : the Nation
    Natee Vichitsorasatra

    CHIANG MAI - When General Charnchai Sun-thornket, deputy chief of staff of the 3rd Army Region, spoke, it was as if nobody else at the academic seminar on Thai-Burmese relations had said a word.

    "The [Burmese] army build-up is approaching 500,000 [men]. Two-thirds of Burma's forces are posted on the Thai border. Two per cent of Burma's GDP is spent on building up the military," Charnchai warned. His comments were in sharp contrast to the views expressed by academics and businessmen at the seminar, who said the problems were solvable and perceptions played a large part in the deteriorating relationship between Thailand and Burma.

    "Burma's economy went downhill along with ours. Where does the money come from?" Charnchai asked.Charnchai argued that the Burmese government was often insincere, which meant that dialogue did not help.

    "Local problems, no matter how good the relationship among the people is, cannot be solved if the solution is not initiated from the top," he said.Interestingly, relations on the local level are surprisingly good. Represen-tatives of the Tak and Chiang Rai chambers of commerce gave examples of how people from the two countries regularly crossed borders and did business with each other.

    "Locals don't care about nationalism. It's all started by those in the capital. All we care about is when business can resume as usual," said Sermchai Kittirattanapaiboon, president of the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce. He said the amount of money changing hands in the area had dropped from Bt50 million to Bt4 million since the border was closed four months ago.

    Charnchai replied that "militarism can't be wrong if it is a means to making Thais patriotic."He then went into a long narration of how drugs were causing problems in Thailand and said that there had been no effort to solve the problem at the top.

    "Lower level soldiers will harass us and cause problems to keep their power and maintain their interests at the border," he said. The Burmese town of Mong Yawn, the general said, was developing fast, and military sources said drugs were being produced there. "Of course, they won't let you see it. Nobody's that stupid," he added.

    Other speakers at the session focused on the reasons the relationship had deteriorated so sharply during the last four months. It was pointed out that border clashes, nationalistic movies and the media had contributed to the problem.

    Scores of examples were cited. Movies such as "Bangrajan", or television series such as Adeeta consistently portrayed the Burmese as the enemy. "A traffic radio station lobbied for F16s to bomb Burma for two whole days before they were stopped," said Surachat Bamrungsuk of Chulalongkorn. A newspaper column suggesting money be raised to "kill the Burmese" was also mentioned.
    DVB reports more anti-Thai articles in new textbooks

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 10, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 9 June

    As Thailand and Burma have been strongly arguing over the inclusion of 12 pages of anti-Thai articles in the Burmese fourth grade history textbook, the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] has introduced more anti-Thai articles in the text for the new social studies subject for other grades - fifth to eight which is the entire middle school.

    With the aim of promoting patriotism among all the middle school students, the textbook of the SPDC's newly-introduced social studies subject mainly covers articles about Thailand and the Thai people.The social studies subject for the fifth grade include the behaviour of the Thai people while the subject matter for the sixth and seventh grades include the battles fought and won by the Burmese kings. The prevailing situation at the Thai-Burma border is included in the social studies text for the eight grade.

    The text gives details of smuggling of Burmese timber by the Thais, especially Thailand providing refuge to armed national race insurgents with photograph of Gen Saw Bo Mya, vice- chairman of the KNU, Karen National Union. The eight grade text also explained that the siege of the Burmese embassy in Bangkok by the Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors could not have occurred without the assistance of the Thai Government. Furthermore, the story of Luther and Johnny Htoo, the two 13-year-old leaders of God's Army, is also included in the text. But the main message the text convey is Thailand's attempt to sow discord and destroy the unity of Burma's national races.

    The eight grade social studies textbook also includes a photograph of former drug kingpin Khun Sa. It explains how the Thais befriended Khun Sa, how he has changed, and how he became a reformed person after joining hands with the Burmese military government. These are all explained together with photographs in the SPDC's new social studies subject which will be introduced this school academic year.
    DVB : Officials seize Thai-bound stimulant tablets

    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 8 Jun 01

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that a huge amount of stimulant tablets from Mandalay bound for Thailand was seized near Pa-An. Although a large amount of stimulant tablets were seized the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] has so far reported nothing about the seizure. According to drug traffickers, border authorities are involved in the drug trafficking trade. DVB correspondent Maung Tu filed this report.

    [Maung Tu] Seven million stimulant tablets transported from Mandalay by a van was seized at Kyanigon bus station in Pa-an, Karen State on 2 June. If the van was not seized in Pa-an the drugs would have been trafficked all the way to Mae Sot [in Thailand] via Myawadi.

    Although there were frequent seizures of narcotic drugs in Pa-An, Myawadi and Kawkareik Townships, the SPDC never reported anything and the 2 June arrest is also not mentioned after almost a week. Furthermore, some of the seized drugs were resold to the Thai side by MI [Military Intelligence] Unit 25. Thai authorities claimed many small factories producing stimulant tablets have emerged at the Myawadi border area and they have been selling the drugs to the Mae Sot side. Moreover, Thai authorities claimed they have proof that the drugs are being trafficked via Mae Sot to Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Malaysia and Singapore.
    Protests may delay plan to shift Karen

    Exiles accused of destroying forests

    Cheewin Sattha in Mae Hong Son
    Source : Bangkokpost

    Opposition from villagers could delay plans to move 10,000 Karen refugees from Salween national park.Provincial officials will ask the Interior Ministry to suspend the plans after local protests.

    The Thai-Burmese border centre of Mae Hong Son on May 22 last year decided to move the refugees from Mae Kongta-Tha Sala camp in tambon Mae Yuam of Mae Sariang district.The camp is in the middle of the national park, a source of several streams.The refugees were said to have destroyed forests and natural resources.

    In January this year cabinet decided the refugees should move to four areas-Mae Ho village in Mae Sariang district, and Huay Chaiyong, Thiyaphoe and Mae Lama Luang villages in Sop Moei districts.However, villagers oppose the plan, arguing the refugees will encroach on their land and cause environmental problems.

    Kachadpai Burusapatana, secretary-general of the National Security Council, said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees could speed up repatriation of the refugees back across the border to Burma.

    Mae Hong Son houses four Karen refugee camps, including 15,676 at Nai Soi-Pang Khwai-Pang Tractor in tambon Pang Mu, Muang district; 2,879 at Mae Surin in tambon Khun Yuam, Khun Yuam district; and 7,556 at Mae Lama Luang in tambon Sop Moei, Sop Moei district.
    Myanma Five Star Line Gets MV Chindwin

    source : MIC

    Minister for Transport and party inspected arrival of MV Chindwin for Myanma Five Star Line(MFSL) from the People`s Republic of China. Under the agreement between MFSL and Yunan Machinery Import and Export Corporation (YMC), the vessel was built for MFSL at Wu Song Shipyard in Shanghai, China. The vessel with the capacity of 440 passengers will ply soon.
    Burma Calls for Prevention Against Malaria

    YANGON, June 10 (Xinhuanet) -- A high-ranking Myanmar health official has called on the country's health departments and non- governmental organizations to cooperate in prevention against and treatment of malaria, one of the most common diseases posing a major health problem to Myanmar.

    Major-General Ket Sein, Myanmar minister of health, told a roll back malaria advocacy meeting here on Saturday that there are about 600,000 people suffering from Malaria every year in the country, of whom about 4,000 people died of the disease annually, official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday.

    He disclosed at the meeting that the rate of outbreak of the disease and the death toll are higher in Myanmar's border areas than in others. He called for efforts in reducing the number of outbreak of the disease and the death toll.

    Meanwhile, a national malaria control week campaign, which is the second national movement of its kind since May 2000, was launched in Myanmar beginning Saturday, aimed at promoting public awareness in control and prevention of malaria. Besides, the Central Committee for Prevention and Control of Malaria has been formed in the country.

    Malaria is one of the three communicable diseases designated as national concern by the Myanmar health authorities. The other two are HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
    DON ERICKSON :Loss of a Veteran Free Burma Activist

    Chicago Tribune- June 9, 2001 Saturday,

    Teacher led U.S. crusade for Burma

    BYLINE: By Kevin Lynch, Tribune staff reporter.

    For more than 20 years Don Erickson taught geography, history and social studies at Calumet High School in Chicago during the day. At night, on weekends and whenever he could find a free minute, he was helping to change history half a world away.

    Mr. Erickson, 75, of Chicago, who worked to curb human rights violations in Burma by stopping the flow of U.S. corporate dollars into the country, died of cancer Sunday, June 3, in Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

    Born in Chicago, Mr. Erickson grew up in St. Paul, Minn., and was an army veteran of World War II. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in the early 1950s and began a teaching career that took him to schools in New York, Puerto Rico and Chicago. In the early 1970s, he began teaching at Calumet High School on the South Side. He retired in 1993.

    "He really liked working with kids--especially the ones who didn't grow up with all the goodies in life," said his brother, Robert. "He got a tremendous amount of satisfaction out of that." In 1988, Mr. Erickson began working for Synapse--a Chicago activist group devoted to ending human rights violations in Third World countries.

    In 1990, the massacre of pro-democracy student demonstrators by the military regime that ruled Burma struck a chord with Mr. Erickson, and he became the head of Synapse Project Burma. Using small teams of volunteers, he tried to persuade U.S. companies doing business in Burma to withdraw.

    "Every cent those corporations paid was going into the coffers of this military government that was in turn spending 60 percent of that money on arms to repress its own people," said Kryss Chupp, former director of Synapse. "That really bothered Don." Mr. Erickson focused first on Chicago-based Amoco.

    After years of distributing leaflets, organizing protests and lobbying shareholders, word came in 1994 that Amoco was pulling out of Burma. "When he got the call, he kind of sat there with this half-smile on his face, and said, 'Well, I guess I'm out of a job,' " Chupp said. "He didn't show a lot of emotion, but that smile said it all." Despite his joking remark, Mr. Erickson continued to work on Synapse Project Burma, pressuring other companies to pull out of the country until the time of his death. Other survivors include another brother, Willard. Funeral services will be private, and arrangements for a memorial service are pending.