Daily News-June 20 - 2001- Wednesday

  • Thai PM attempts to end months of turmoil on mission to Burma
  • King and Queen to be invited to Burma
  • NGOs blast Burma trip
  • Junta caught dealing drugs
  • DVB reports junta's plan to build naval base
  • Daw Kyi Kyi Passes Away
  • Thai PM's meeting with Burmese leadership "warm and friendly"

  • Thai PM attempts to end months of turmoil on mission to Burma

    YANGON, June 19 (AFP) - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived in Myanmar Tuesday to a warm welcome that belied the months of rancour the premier has promised to end during his inaugural official visit.

    In the biggest foreign policy test of his four-month-old administration, Thaksin aims to arrest the alarming deterioration in ties between the neighbours and historical rivals.But the bitter row -- centred on responsibility for the drugs trade that flourishes along their common border -- was put aside when Thaksin flew into Yangon to a red-carpet reception and gushing editorials in the official press.

    Thaksin was greeted at Yangon airport by Myanmar's leader Senior General Than Shwe, who will host an official dinner in Thaksin's honour Tuesday evening.After a 19-gun salute, the Thai leader drove into the city through a gauntlet of hundreds of school children who despite a heavy downpour waved national flags of both nations and cheered the premier's good health.

    As he wrapped up a brief trip to Cambodia and departed on the next leg of his mini-tour earlier Tuesday, Thaksin said he expected to have an open exchange with Myanmar's ruling generals during his two days here."I can guarantee we will speak frankly this time," he said. "Countries who share borders should build close relations at all levels."

    Thaksin, whose government is battling an epidemic of methamphetamine addiction fed by druglords who operate narcotics factories along the Myanmar border, promised to grapple with the touchy drugs issue."Drugs are a priority because right now there is a war on drugs in Thailand and Myanmar understands that," he said.

    The perennially troubled bilateral relationship has sunk to new lows since February, when fighting among ethnic militias on the drug-infested border sparked a six-hour battle between the national armies.Since then the row has degenerated into a slanging match that saw Myanmar's official press hurl insults at Thailand's revered monarchy, while Thailand was accused of trying to smear the military-run nation's reputation.

    However, Myanmar's official press halted its daily stream of attacks on Thailand to extend a glowing welcome to the premier Tuesday."May all auspiciousness attend on you," the New Light of Myanmar said in a traditional greeting, adding that Thaksin's "prestige and stature attends beyond the boundary of the Kingdom of Thailand."The commentary said the visit should strengthen "already strong" ties between Thailand and Myanmar and that efforts to fight the drug menace would continue "in an atmosphere of friendly cooperation."

    Thaksin's rise to power in the January general elections had been expected to improve the notoriously testy bilateral relationship.But neither his administration's pro-business stance nor the selection of former army chief Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh -- who enjoys a close working relationship with the junta -- has warmed relations.

    Political commentators remain pessimistic that the prime minister's visit will provide a speedy solution to the centuries-old animosity between the neighbours."The long-term problems with Myanmar will not be solved just because the two leaders talk to each other," said Saksit Sriwattananukulkij from Chiang Mai University.

    But Saksit said the visit would go some way to easing other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members' fears that the spat is getting out of control."ASEAN will be relieved because the problems between the two countries make the grouping feel uncomfortable," he said.
    King and Queen to be invited to Burma

    Bangkok Post - June 19, 2001
    Wassana Nanuam

    Rangoon plans to invite Their Majesties the King and Queen to visit Burma, a military source said yesterday. The source said Burmese Prime Minister Gen Than Shwe would inform Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of the plan during his two-day visit to Rangoon, beginning today.

    Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Gen Sommai Wichavorn, who made final plans for Mr Thaksin's visit, was advised of the plan by Burmese Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win, the source said. Burma's Foreign Affairs Ministry would draft and submit the invitation. They hoped to clear any misunderstanding caused by an article in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper hitting out at a late Thai king, although another one praised Their Majesties, who visited Burma decades ago.

    The source said Burmese military leaders planned to raise several issues with Mr Thaksin, including Burmese minority groups, the Shan State Army and the role of the Thai media. Rangoon felt uncomfortable about the making of a Thai movie Suriyothai depicting a war between the ancient Thai kingdom of Ayudhya and Burma. Thai representatives explained the film would focus on the roles of Thai characters and visual effects, rather than details about Burma's role. Earlier, Burma voiced discontent about a Thai historical movie Bang Rachan and the TV series Atita.

    However, Rangoon had no problem with the Third Army's plan to erect a statue of King Naresuan the Great in Chiang Rai. King Bayinnaung of Burma had taken care of Prince Naresuan as his adopted child for seven years in Burma before the prince became king.
    NGOs blast Burma trip

    Bangkok Post - June 19, 2001.

    Three human rights NGOs yesterday issued a statement opposing Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's visit to Burma. The Committee Campaigning for Democracy in Burma, Forum Asia and Peace and Human Rights Resource Centre said Burma had never shown its sincerity in solving border and drug problems with Thailand.

    Also, Burma's human rights violations had led to influxes into Thailand of migrant workers and refugees which had caused a lot of social problems. Mr Thaksin leaves today for a two-day visit to Burma. The statement said Mr Thaksin's visit would be tantamount to supporting the Burmese military junta's human rights violations. It also suggested that should the prime minister insist on visiting Rangoon, he should also raise the issue of human rights violations.

    Thailand should offer to take a role in helping bring about national reconciliation in Burma, including mediating talks between the junta and the opposition National League for Democracy and minority groups. The NGOs also said Mr Thaksin should ask to meet Aung San Suu Kyi.
    Junta caught dealing drugs

    The Nation

    An Australian television current affairs programme which aired last night is certain to further complicate Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's fence-mending mission to Rangoon today.

    The programme, broadcast across Australia, claimed it had acquired irrefutable evidence to show the Burmese military government's involvement in the drugs trade.

    The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "Foreign Correspondent" also alleged that Thailand was training and supplying weapons to Shan guerrillas to help stop the flow of drugs across the border into the kingdom.

    The claims could not have been more untimely. They were backed up by a noted Australian defence strategist, and could prove embarrassing for both Thaksin and the Rangoon generals as they meet to try and ease the festering cross-border tension.

    The story featured film of a night military raid on a Burmese army post on the Thai border in March. The clash ignited the war-of-words between Thailand and Burma which eventuated in Thaksin's two-day visit to Rangoon, starting today.

    "Foreign Correspondent" reporter Evan Williams said the raid was carried out by the Shan State Army, fighting an independence war with the junta. During the raid, the programme alleged, the Shan captured a huge haul of methamphetamine pills headed for Thailand. It was claimed the drugs, along with weapons and ammunition, were stored at the post by the Burmese army.

    "So concerned are the Thai authorities becoming about the drugs trade into Thailand via remote mountain paths along the Burmese border, they're now rearming and retraining Shan guerrillas to help them in their war against the Rangoon government," a synopsis on the website of "Foreign Correspondent" said.

    "It's a striking change of heart for the Thais, who for years refused to help the Shan in their independence struggle. It's also ironic that it's the Shan who are now [at] the frontline in the West's war against drugs . . . since for years they financed their war largely through taxes on heroin from the Golden Triangle." Professor Des Ball, from the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, travelled with Williams to the Thai-Burma border.

    "In the case of the methamphetamine production labs, you've got Burmese troops actually guarding the plants, you've got military intelligence guys providing the escorts of the trafficking caravans and military people who allow it to actually cross the border into Thailand," Ball said. Ball has been a long-time critic of the Rangoon regime and has written papers denouncing its involvement in the international drugs trade. He has also criticised the Australian government for glossing over the drugs link in its relationship with Burma.

    In a 1999 paper entitled Burma and Drugs: The Regime's Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Ball described the Burma leadership as "drug-runners and criminals" and Asia's most brutal and corrupt government. "

    A major dimension of the corruption is the involvement of the regime - from the most senior members of the State Peace and Development Council, which rules the country, down to the infantry soldiers stationed in border areas - in drug trafficking," he wrote.
    DVB reports junta's plan to build naval base

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jun 19, 2001

    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 18 June

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] authorities have been planning to build another new naval station in Tenasserim Division. This naval station will include a deep-sea port capable of handling big battleships. DVB correspondent Myint Maung Maung filed this report.

    [Myint Maung Maung] The new naval station under the Coastal Region Military Command will be constructed near Thalachedi Village in Kawthaung District. The facility will accommodate the new Tenasserim Naval Command's Tactical Command Headquarters and will include a deep-sea port facility capable of handling big battleships.

    The construction of this naval facility was agreed at the first four-monthly coordination meeting of the SPDC War Council held on 10 June. This naval base will become the biggest naval base and military facility on the Tenasserim coast.

    At present, there is No 58 Naval Base on Zadetkyi Kyun and forward naval stations on Mali Kyun, Pale Island, Sakanthit Island, and Kadan Kyun while there are naval substations on other islands along the Tenasserim coast.
    Daw Kyi Kyi Passes Away

    By Min Zin
    source : the Irrawaddy news magazine

    June 19, 2001—Daw Kyi Kyi, 82, one of the most highly respected woman opposition figures in Burma, passed away on June 15 at Rangoon General Hospital, confirmed relatives inside Burma.

    "Her health had deteriorated since she was released from prison in July 1999 after serving ten years. Actually, she was frequently hospitalized during her prison term," said a relative. "Daw Kyi Kyi finally died of a heart attack," continued the relative.

    Daw Kyi Kyi, who was born on May 18, 1920, had served more time in jail than any female political prisoner in Burma. Actively involved in the Burmese independence struggle against British colonial rule, she later joined the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) in 1945. She married communist leader Thakin Zin in 1947.

    Daw Kyi Kyi was also a leading figure of the Burmese women’s movement, becoming an executive member of the Burmese Women’s Congress in 1946. Just after Independence in 1948, Daw Kyi Kyi went underground and joined the CPB’s armed struggle. She gave birth to four children in the jungle during her years underground. In 1959 she was arrested and spent two years in prison with her children. She later ran a successful Indian spice business, which enabled her to support the families of fellow political prisoners and underground activists.

    In 1967, she was arrested again and charged under section 5 J of the Emergency Security Act. She was released after five years. Several years later, she learned that her husband, CPB chairman Thakin Zin, had been killed by the Burmese military in 1975. Her annual commemorative ceremonies for her husband became occasions for the various anti-government forces to gather, prompting the socialist regime of former dictator Ne Win to put pressure her stop the services. She was detained in January 1987 for refusing to halt the ceremonies honoring her late husband, and remained in jail until the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.

    In 1989, the 70-year-old Daw Kyi Kyi was again taken into custody for allegedly engaging in clandestine activities for the CPB to topple the military government. She was arrested together with her daughter and her son-in-law. All three were sentenced to 20-year prison terms, and their spice business became a target of harassment by military intelligence agents. In 1993, the junta declared that all political prisoners serving 20-year sentences would have their prison terms reduced by ten years, but it was unclear if this would also apply to Daw Kyi Kyi. Despite domestic and international pressure on the junta to release her on humanitarian grounds, citing her advanced age and ill health, Daw Kyi Kyi remained behind bars until July 11, 1999.

    According to relatives, Ludu Daw Amar, a well-known Burmese writer and social critic, sent a message of condolence expressing sorrow at the loss of "a very strong and courageous woman of our times."
    Thai PM's meeting with Burmese leadership "warm and friendly"

    Rangoon, June 20 (AFP)

    Thailand signed a drug control agreement with Burma Wednesday following a "warm and friendly" meeting between Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Burma's Senior General Than Shwe.

    After visiting Rangoon's famed Shwedagon pagoda with several top-ranking Burmese officials, the Thai prime minister talked with Than Shwe for about half an hour before presenting the drugs pact.

    "The tone of the meeting was very warm and friendly," said Thailand's government spokesman Yongyuth Piyapairat, adding the Thai delegation had made it known they wanted to improve relations at all levels.

    Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Burma Home Affairs Minister Colonel Thin Hlaing signed the anti-narcotics memorandum of understanding in an official ceremony.

    The agreement provides for annual meetings to "discuss and exchange information" on illicit drug-related issues.

    Senior officials would also meet twice a year to further cooperation in stamping out the drugs trade.

    Three anti-drug trafficking border outposts would be set up at checkpoints in Tachilek-Mae Sai, Myawadi-Mae Sot and Victoria Point-Ranong.

    Burmese officials said they will meet within a week to discuss the reopening of the Tachilek border crossing, which was closed due to border skirmishing that has poisoned relations between the countries in recent months.

    The perennially troubled relationship has sunk to new lows since February, when fighting among ethnic militias on the drug-infested border sparked a six-hour battle between the national armies.

    Since then the row -- centred on responsibility for the drugs trade that flourishes along their common border -- has degenerated into a slanging match that saw Burma's official press hurl insults at Thailand's revered monarchy. Thailand was also accused of trying to smear the military-run nation's reputation.

    However, Burma's official press halted its daily stream of attacks on Thailand to extend a glowing welcome to the premier Tuesday.

    And Thaksin confirmed reports that Burma's junta had invited the Thai king and queen to visit, for what would be their first trip here in decades.

    Thaksin arrived in Burma Tuesday to a warm welcome that belied the months of rancour the premier aimed to defuse during his inaugural official visit.

    In the biggest foreign policy test of his four-month-old administration, Thaksin has promised to arrest the alarming deterioration in ties between the neighbours and historical rivals.