Daily News-May 01- 2001- Tuesday

  • ASEAN BURMA RETREAT : Drugs on agenda
  • India worried of a new encirclement
  • NCGUB: Japanese 'Reward' for Generals Premature
  • Burmese Exiles Calls Japan Aid "More Harm Than Good"
  • Thai army says ready for more Burmese shelling
  • Myanmar Troops Fighting Shan Drug Bandits Being Fired Upon By Thai Troops
  • Burmese Navy Targeting Thai Crewmembers
  • Jagmohan, Yangon mayor discuss city development

  • ASEAN BURMA RETREAT : Drugs on agenda

    source : The Nation
    Don Pathan

    RANGOON - Asean foreign ministers have agreed to put narcotics high on their agenda for the group's upcoming annual meeting and look for ways in which all member countries can work together to eradicate drugs, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said yesterday.

    Speaking to reporters at the end of a retreat here, at which the 10 Asean ministers met informally, Surakiart said the region as a whole lacked a concerted effort to fight the growing drug trade.Asean has vowed to make the region a drug-free zone by the year 2015, while Burma, one of the world's leading producers of opium, has set 2014 as its target.

    "We have the political will and the methods to do it," Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung told reporters yesterday, adding that counter-narcotic efforts should not overlook traditional opium-growers, who would have to find alternative means of making a living. The issue of illicit drugs has been a sour point between the two countries, which have accused one another of supporting major drug traffickers.

    In the latest verbal assault, Rangoon issued a statement yesterday accusing the Thai army of joining Shan rebels, whom it called major "drug bandits", in an attack on Burma's military outpost at Ban Pachee, over the border from Thailand's Fang district.Thailand reportedly fired 30 artillery and mortar "warning shots" across its Northern border in Chiang Mai province into Burma on Sunday after receiving a few stray shells from the Burmese army last Thursday.

    "Genuine warnings need not come in hundreds of artillery rounds daily including air-burst shells over the [Burmese] troop positions," the junta's statement said.It added: "Most observers tend to believe that the Thai Army is again coming up with an excuse to be able to give the Shan artillery-fire support from across the border."

    Thailand's Third Army commander Lt-General Wattanachai Chaimuanwong defended the artillery fire, saying it had been in response to Burmese shells that had overshot the Pachee outpost, taken by the Shan State Army (SSA) nine days ago. Burmese troops are intensifying their effort to recapture the base, about 300 metres from the Thai border.

    The statement also blasted the Thai government's "insincere" efforts to stem the flow of hundreds of millions of methamphetamine tablets reportedly flooding into the country each year from Burma's Wa-controlled areas.Rangoon-based diplomats and military attaches were briefed last week by Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win and Colonel Thein Swe, head of a Defence Ministry think-tank called the Office of Strategic Studies, about the attack. Rangoon accused the Thai army of taking part in the offensive along with the Shan rebels.

    Burma also dismissed reports that nearly 200,000 methamphetamine tablets had been found there, claiming the Thai army had twisted the truth to cover up its troops' involvement in the drug trade. Among other issues, high on the agenda at the upcoming Asean ministerial meeting in Hanoi will be how to incorporate the private sector in the grouping's efforts to bridge the gap between its more developed and less developed members. Past efforts have mainly concentrated on the role of the government sector, Surakiart said.

    The foreign minister also briefed his Asean colleagues on his recent visit to Washington, in regard to the mid-air collision between a US spy plane and a Chinese jet.
    India worried of a new encirclement

    Insider note from United Press International for April 30

    That unexpected White House chat with President George Bush came just in time for India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.

    Suddenly Indian diplomats and military men are buzzing with worried talk of a new encirclement against them of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar (formerly Burma), all manipulated by China.

    The latest fuss started with the visit to Pakistan last month by China's Chief of Staff Gen. Fu Quanyou, pledging to fulfill "all our defense commitments," which sounds to New Delhi like a resumption of missile shipments.

    Then Fu and Pakistan's military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf will both be in Myanmar this week, along with a Pakistani fleet of four warships, a tanker and a submarine, the first ever foreign fleet visit to Myanmar waters.

    On the way, the Pakistani fleet held a joint naval exercise with the Bangladesh navy in the Bay of Bengal, just off India's coast.

    This alarmed India for two reasons.First, they had not been informed of it. Second, it coincided with the sudden incursion into Indian territory by troops of the Bangladesh Rifles.

    Indian military sources now say they expect Fu to push for naval basing rights on Myanmar's islands in the Andaman Sea, where China is already building the region's biggest electronic surveillance base.
    NCGUB: Japanese 'Reward' for Generals Premature

    From BurmaNet News: 28 April 2001

    Japan is once again showing too much enthusiasm in wanting to reward the generals in Burma. The recently approved aid package of 3.5 billion yen for the reconstruction of turbines in the Lawpita hydropower dam in Kayah State was said to be "a gesture of support" for the secret talks between the generals in the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and democracy movement leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

    But Dr. Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government, said, "Any form of aid and relaxation of international pressure at this time can only do more harm than good to the fragile state of the talks in Burma." Japan assistance to the generals at this time is both premature and wrong.

    "The SPDC has had ample opportunity to inform the people of Burma about the talks that have been underway since October last year. It has failed to date to do so," said Dr Thaung Htun, NCGUB representative to the United Nations.

    Aid at this time could reinforce the generals' belief that they can ease international pressure by pretending to talk without making a real commitment. "If the SPDC is committed to the dialogue process, Senior General Than Shwe could have mentioned the secret talks in his message to the nation on Union Day (12 February) and on Armed Forces Day (27 March). But with the exception of some good words for democracy and harmonizing efforts, no mention of the talks was made to the Burmese public."

    The SPDC delegate to the recently concluded session of the UN Commission of Human Rights (UNCHR) in Geneva also cited a number of activities that the SPDC has undertaken to improve the human rights situation in Burma. But strangely, the talks with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were not mentioned.

    The SPDC is also playing down the role of UN Special Envoy Mr Razali, assigned by the UN Secretary General in accord with the mandate of the UN General Assembly to help facilitate the talks. His visit to Burma has been postponed time and again since January. This does not bode well for the future of the talks.

    Indications are that the generals are trying to avoid making any official commitment to the Burmese public about the talks. The United States, the European Union, the UNCHR, the International Labor Organization, the Amnesty International, and all other governments and international institutions have judged the situation correctly and have taken the right positions.

    Japan should not go it alone regardless of the so-called consultations" with other nations it is supposed to have had. The generals should make an official commitment to the Burmese people about the dialogue process before they are rewarded. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy should also be rewarded.Both sides should benefit from the dialogue, not only one party in the dialogue.

    The NCGUB therefore calls on Japan and others to refrain from taking action that may cause the talks to break down. It also calls on the SPDC to make a public commitment to the dialogue process to the Burmese people and to allow Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to have free access to her supporters and colleagues.
    Burmese Exiles Calls Japan Aid "More Harm Than Good"

    BANGKOK (AP)--Japan's plan to renovate a hydropower plant in Myanmar to reward the ruling military for opening talks with Aung San Suu Kyi is premature, exiled representatives of her democracy party said in a statement received Sunday.

    "Any form of aid and relaxation of international pressure at this time can only do more harm than good to the fragile state of the talks in Burma," Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, was quoted as saying.The organization is a self-declared government-in-exile.

    Earlier this month, Japan announced it was considering a $24 million aid package to renovate the Baluchaung power station, the biggest electricity generator in Myanmar, also known as Burma, to encourage the regime to continue talks with Suu Kyi that began in secret in October and remain shrouded in mystery.The Japanese aid would represent the most significant foreign grant to Myanmar since the regime took power in 1988 after a bloody crackdown against a democracy uprising. Since then, donors have only allowed a trickle of humanitarian assistance.

    A final decision on the aid is expected by the end of the year, after a team of Japanese experts have evaluated the extent of repairs needed at the 40-year old plant that supplies the capital Yangon and the second-largest city Mandalay.

    The Washington-based coalition - formed in 1990 by exiles of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy - said in a statement received in Bangkok that the regime should make an official commitment to the Myanmar people about the dialogue process before they are rewarded with aid.

    "The SPDC has had ample opportunity to inform the people of Burma about the talks that have been underway since October last year. It has failed to date to do so," said Thaung Htun, the coalition's representative at the U.N.

    "Aid at this time could reinforce the generals' belief that they can ease international pressure by pretending to talk without making a real commitment."

    The talks are seen as the most significant dialogue in a decade of political deadlock since Suu Kyi's party swept general elections and was barred from taking power. Since then, many of its elected representatives have been jailed or gone into exile

    Suu Kyi and her two top lieutenants have been under house detention since Sept. 23 for defying travel restrictions. A handful of top diplomats who have seen the democracy leader since then say that, like the government, she has declined to comment on the talks.

    Last week, ethnic Karenni opponents who fight a resistance war against the regime also urged Japan to withhold the aid. They said that indigenous Karenni people have never received electricity from the power plant in northeastern Myanmar and that villagers were forcibly relocated from its land mine-strewn environs in the early 1990s.
    Thai army says ready for more Burmese shelling

    By Dominic Whiting

    BANGKOK, April 30 (Reuters) - The Thai army said on Monday it expected neighbouring Myanmar to step up bombarding rebel ethnic army positions this week in an area close to the Thai border.

    A senior Thai army source told Reuters that Myanmar government troops were intensifying their efforts to retake three bases -- just 100 metres from the Thai border -- that were captured by the rebel Shan State Army earlier this month. The source, who asked not to be identified, confirmed reports in the Thai media that the Thai army had fired warning mortar shots into Myanmar on Sunday after stray fire from Myanmar soldiers landed on Thai territory.

    He said the Thai army was ready to respond further to any stray fire or troop incursions from Myanmar, also known as Burma.

    "Since the SSA took over the three bases, the Burmese army has sent around 1,000 men from Muang Sap to retake the bases," the source said."They are now sending reconnaissance teams to attack the SSA bases. I think the fighting will continue and the Burmese will try to defeat the SSA soon."

    He added that Thai troops were ready for any overspill of heavier fighting, expected in the coming days when 500 Shan reinforcements move into the mountainous area.

    "If they shoot mortar over the border we will warn them and prevent their soldiers from entering Thai territory," he said. He said Thai soldiers had fired "a lot of rounds" over the border on Sunday after mortar and howitzer fire landed on Thai territory over a one-hour period.


    "Thai soldiers tried to warn them by shooting smoke bombs over the border, but when the Burmese didn't stop, we shot mortar fire and then they stopped," he said.

    No injuries were reported on the Thai side of the border, according to the source.More than 600 residents of the area were evacuated when fighting flared in mid-April.

    A Shan State Army spokesman said on Monday that Thai troops had "forced the Burmese army to retreat" by firing around 100 mortar rounds on Sunday. He added the Shan had killed more than 100 Myanmar soldiers since April 22.The Myanmar Embassy was unavailable for comment.

    Fighting between the Myanmar army and the Shan State Army has simmered along the Thai-Myanmar border for weeks, often spilling over to Thai territory. In mid-February the Thai army fired mortar rounds across the border, after it said Myanmar soldiers had entered Thai territory and seized an outpost while attacking Shan positions in Myanmar.The fighting has been linked to control over drug production in the area.

    Thailand has accused the Yangon-backed United Wa State Army (UWSA) of producing hundreds of millions of methamphetamine tablets that have flooded Thailand. Myanmar says the Shan rebels are the main culprits, and has repeatedly accused the Thai army of supporting the drugs trade.

    The border friction and drugs issue is likely to overshadow an informal meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Yangon on Monday, where Thailand's new foreign minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, was due to meet his Myanmar counterpart Win Aung for the first time.
    Myanmar Troops Fighting Shan Drug Bandits Being Fired Upon By Thai Troops

    Information Sheet No.B-1800 (I/L) 30th April, 2001

    Myanmar border security and defence units are in the process of trying to retake a Government Monitoring Camp located at Pachee, Mongton Township in Shan State (East) on the Myanmar side of the border, from the Shan United Revolutionary Army (SURA) drug bandits.

    This Monitoring Unit which is positioned to monitor and prevent the armed bandits and drug traffickers from crossing into the Myanmar territory and unscrupulous elements from smuggling out restricted export items to Thailand, was attacked and overrun by an overwhelming number of the combined SURA drug bandits and Thai troops on 21 April 2001.

    Since then the Myanmar border security and defence units have been conducting an operation in that area with much restraint to prevent unnecessary spill-over to the Thai side. Ironically, this Pachee Monitoring Camp used to be a drug refinery outpost run by the Wa National Army (WNA) up until 1988 when the Government managed to take the position in a military operation in its fight against the drug bandits.

    Since then the WNA has shifted its camps which are being relocated inside Thailand along the common border with Myanmar. The WNA has been deeply involved in the drug trafficking business together with Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army (MTA) until the time the drug baron Khun Sa surrendered unconditionally to the Myanmar Government in 1997. Later on when a splintered group from MTA headed by Ywet Sit (SURA) has come into existence, the (WNA) managed to continue their drug trade together with SURA along the border areas.

    The U.S. Government's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report has also clearly stated Ywet Sit's (SURA) as an ethnic group being involved in the heroin and amphetamine trade, thereby directly contradicting Thailand's claim that SURA has not been involved in drugs but merely freedom fighters.

    Recently, Thai newspapers have reported that Thai Army has fired just about 30 artillery and mortar warning shots on 29 April towards Myanmar to halt spill-over. Ostensibly warning shots but not genuine warning need not come in hundreds of artillery rounds daily including air-burst shells over the Myanmar troop positions. Most observers including some Yangon-based diplomats tend to believe that the Thai Army is again coming up with an excuse to be able to give SURA an artillery fire support from across the border creating military escalation and causing unnecessary aggravation and tension where trade, friendship and peace prevailed before.

    The people of Myanmar are quite confused that the Red Wa or the United Wa State Army (UWSA) which has made peace with the Government of Myanmar since 1989 and has not only pledged to make Wa region drug free but actually implemented a number of crop-substitutions and income generating programs whole-heartedly in the achievement of its goal by the designated time-frame, has been targeted as a drug army. Besides, various drug bandits with no intention and programs for narcotic drug elimination are being heralded as drug-busters cum freedom fighters by the Thai authorities.

    It is indeed bizarre by any known standard to learn that Thailand is moving to form a 400 strong anti-drug task force to be trained by foreign trainers when the country itself is, according to Bangkok Post of 27 April 2001, producing and distributing " Speed-pill pressing machines". Thailand has not yet been taking any serious steps in preventing essential chemicals for the production of heroin and methamphetamine to fall into the hands of crime syndicates while enabling these crime syndicates and individual big dealers not only to survive but thrive under protection and the internal drug distribution system still being untouched.

    Regretfully, observers view Thailand's anti-narcotic policy to be going off the mark while the Thai public and the media are being taken for a ride with its anti-Wa rhetoric and its scapegoating thy neighbour policy while harbouring its drug criminals and armed outlaws.
    Burmese Navy Targeting Thai Crewmembers

    By Maung Maung Oo
    The irrawaddy News Magazine

    April 30, 2001—The Burmese navy, which has had numerous and occasionally deadly run-ins with Thai fishing boats in the past, has begun singling out Thai crewmembers in its latest crackdown on ships illegally entering Burma's territorial waters, according to sources in the southern Thai port city of Ranong.

    In a recent series of confrontations between the Burmese navy and Thai fishing boats, Thai crewmembers were arrested while their Burmese counterparts were allowed to swim to freedom, said a Burmese businessman involved in Ranong's fishing industry. Burmese typically make up the majority of the crews working aboard Thai fishing vessels in the area.

    On April 21, Burmese Naval Vessel No. 473 fired on and detained two Thai fishing boats off the southern shore of Pathein, Irrawaddy Division. Ten Thai fishermen aboard the ship were arrested and sent to the Hainggyi Naval Base, while the rest of the crew was immediately released.

    On the same day, a similar incident occurred when Burmese Naval Vessel No. 443 fired on and seized a Thai fishing boat off the coast of Tenasserim Division. Three Thai crewmembers were arrested. Burmese crewmembers were given life preservers and ordered to swim to shore.

    "This discriminatory treatment by Burmese naval officers is very significant, because in the past, both Thais and Burmese were arrested," said one of the released Burmese fishermen.

    In a separate incident that did not involve the navy, the No. 4 border security force seized seven small Thai fishing boats and arrested 13 Thai fishermen on the Pachan River, eastern Kawthaung, also on April 21. The boat owners had reportedly been given permission to fish along the river by local authorities. "The arrested Thais were detained at the military camp instead of being transferred to the police station according to the law," said a fishing boat owner in the Burmese port city of Kawthaung, opposite Ranong.

    Observers interpreted this latest crackdown on Thai fishermen as retaliation for Thailand's refusal to allow a large shipment of Chinese-made generators to cross the border at Mae Sai, site of a serious clash between Thai and Burmese forces in February. Protestors in the northern Thai city blocked the shipment on 20th April, saying they feared plans to build a new coal-fired power plant in neighboring Tachilek would damage the local environment.

    The Thai Army, which believes the power plant is being built by the United Wa State Army, later turned the forty-truck convoy back to Bangkok. Thai military officials blame the UWSA for flooding Thailand with cheap methamphetamines. Informed sources also say that Thai Army officials suspect the shipment may have included weapons.

    Rangoon has suspended fishing concessions to Thailand since October 1999, when armed opponents of the ruling junta stormed the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok.
    Jagmohan, Yangon mayor discuss city development

    The Times of India News Service

    NEW DELHI: Union urban development minister Jagmohan and the mayor of the Myanmarese capital, Yangon, U Ko Lay met Friday to discuss the development plans they have for their respective cities. The Yangon mayor called on Jagmohan and both exchanged views on the patterns of urban development in the two countries, particularly Delhi and Yangon.

    Jagmohan said the mayor's visit would open up new opportunities for mutually beneficial co-operation between the two countries, particularly in the areas of urban development and city management.Welcoming the mayor, Jagmohan said: ``Our relations with Myanmar are rooted in history, religion and culture and large number of people of Indian origin live in Myanmar. Buddhism provides a very strong link between the two countries.''

    Jagmohan informed U Ko Lay about how Delhi is being planned and developed and how it is linked to the National Capital Region. U Ko Lay, in turn, informed Jagmohan about the efforts being made to make Yangon beautiful and in providing basic amenities to the urban poor.