Daily News-May 25 - 2001- Friday

  • Protest lodged over insult to monarchy
  • Thai PM: Relations With Burma In Danger Of Collapsing
  • Burmese leader says country will not tolerate any loss of territory
  • Landmine find
  • Let's end this problem now
  • Singapore top trade partner, investor in Burma
  • Human Rights Group Calls For Release Of Detained Burmese Lawmakers

  • Protest lodged over insult to monarchy

    source : The Nation

    Relations with Burma have deteriorated further in the wake of a Burmese newspaper publishing articles insulting the monarchy.The articles have caused uproar among the people and government lawmakers, and an official apology has been demanded from the Burmese government.

    The outrage has prompted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to review his administrationís policy towards Burma.Thailandís stance to its western neighbour will be reassessed over the next two days.

    "There are two parts of the policy security along the border and international relations, Thaksin said.They should be tuned so that they move in the same direction.

    The Foreign Ministry lodged a sternlyworded memo to the Burmese ambassador to Thailand, Lt Colonel Myo Myint, in response to allegations in the staterun newspaper. Myo Myint was summoned to the ministry yesterday to receive the protest. The memo said the articles, published in the New Light Of Myanmar a few days ago, had gone beyond the accepted bounds and norms of behaviour by thoughtlessly affronting the most revered institution of the Thai nation and people.

    Authorities were incensed by one particular article entitled
    Never been enslaved, but real slave, written by Dr Ma Tin Win, which appeared on Monday.

    In a telephone interview from Beijing yesterday, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said even though an individual wrote the article, he wanted the Burmese government to take appropriate action. He quoted the Burmese ambassador as having already said the article did not reflect the governmentís views.Thailand would not downgrade its diplomatic ties with Burma, Surakiart said.ďOn the contrary, additional channels should be sought to resolve the problems,he said. If all channels are closed down, there will be an impasse,he added.The minister is in Beijing to attend a foreign ministersí gathering as part of the Asia Europe Meeting framework.

    Democrat MP Kobsak Sapavasu yesterday introduced an urgent motion to debate the issue in a closeddoor session of Parliament. The Opposition, led by Democrat MPs, grilled the government for its failure to assert national pride and dignity.

    Deputy Prime Minister Pongpol Adireksarn said the government had followed diplomatic procedures to register its protest with Burma.Democrat MP MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra stressed that Tin Winís article was a distortion of history and considered lese majeste. He called on the government to protest to Rangoon Ďat the highest levelí.

    We demand an official and unconditional apology to protect the most revered institution of Thailand and the dignity of the Thai people,said Sukhumbhand, who served as deputy foreign minister in the previous government. He pointed out that so far Thailand had made only a lowlevel protest to the Burmese junta, and had not asked for an apology.

    The Thai government has only asked the Burmese to refrain from doing that again in the future,he said. But we are interested in seeing the Burmese take responsibility, he said.

    Protest lodged with Burmese envoy

    Thailand also issued a stronglyworded protest condemning a Burmese staterun publication, which ran a series of articles insulting the monarchy.

    The Foreign Ministryís director general Krit GarnjanaGoonchorn summoned the Burmese ambassador Myo Myint, to receive the protest note.

    Flawed by ingrained prejudice and total disregard for historical accuracy, the articles have gone beyond the accepted bounds and norms of behaviour by thoughtlessly affronting the most revered institution of the Thai nation and people, the note saidtold Rangoon.

    The protest was prompted after the juntaís mouthpiece newspaper New Light of Myanmar ran an article on Monday titled Never been enslaved, but real slave.Earlier articles in the series critical of Thailand had not explicitly named members of the Thai monarchy.

    Mondayís article referred to Siamís trade negotiations with Britain in 1855 under King Rama IVís reign, claiming, among other things, that the subsequent treaty had subjugated the Kingdom to the former colonialist superpower. Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai described it as inaccurate.

    The aide memoir said the article has provoked deep resentment among the Thai public, which will inevitably cause severe damage to ThaiMyanmar relations and the momentum of rapport hitherto established by our two governments.

    Surakiart said in a long distance call from Beijing: Diplomatically, this is considered the strongest action to protest the Burmese government... it is unacceptable. We consider the monarchy the institution of highest regard.

    The article was at the centre of debate in a closeddoor session in the House of Representatives yesterday., during which Kobsak Sapavasu of Democrat Party asked Deputy Prime Minister Pongpol Adireksarn about the governmentís plan to deal with the issue.After the session, Democrat MP Sukhumbhand Paribatra said the party had pressed the government to make an official protest at the highest level, to ask leaders of the Burmese junta to make an unconditional apology to Thailand.

    The aide memoir was not enough, he said, because it was made at the directorgeneral level. Besides, the letter asked junta leaders to refrain from acting but did not ask for an apology.

    Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of senateís foreignaffairs committee, said: I have sympathy for them [the Burmese] in that they donít have a monarchy. But why do they have to destroy each other like this? Burma should not let this kind of article to come out because itís historically inaccurate.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra admitted yesterday that ThaiBurmese ties had deteriorated very fast, but he hoped to fix things up by next week. All the problems have contributed to increased misunderstanding. We have to talk if not, there is no way to resolve the growing distrust,he said.

    Thaksin who plans to visit Burma said the situation warranted an early settlement but he did not say how he could do that. Rangoon has yet to propose when it is ready to receive Thaksin. The PM said he would call for a meeting of agencies concerned within the next two days to review policy toward Burma so those responsible for the conduct of foreign policy and enforcing border security dance the same tune.He admitted there had been lapses of information and coordination between the two groups.

    Meanwhile, about 5,000 villagers from Fang district gathered in front of the District Office to protest against the Burmese shelling on Tuesday of the Doi Angkang royal project. Shells narrowly missed a royal pavilion. Waving national flags and chanting antiRangoon slogans through loudspeakers, they demanded Rangoon take responsibility for the incident. The protesters also handed a protest letter to District Chief Krisana Bunyarat.

    The Interior Ministryís deputy permanent secreatary Palakorn Suwannarat, who visited the area, said the shelling had infuriated the villagers as Doi Angkang was a tourist site and housed a royal-initiated agricultural project.

    The army chief General Surayud Chulanont has also lodged a protest with Rangoon against the shelling, which has been deemed a deliberate act of provocation. as there was no fighting on the opposite side of the border that might have Ďspilt overí.At least five mortar shells landed on Doi Angkang, which is located near Hua Lone Hill, scene of recent clashes between the Thai troops and Rangoonallied Wa rebels.
    Thai PM: Relations With Burma In Danger Of Collapsing

    BANGKOK (AP)--Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra warned Friday that Thailand's relations with Myanmar could be destroyed because of growing mistrust following weeks of border skirmishes and angry words.

    "Mistrust is a key reason of Thai-Myanmar problems. Mistrust started at the border level, which aroused hate between people of the two nations," Thaksin said. "The mistrust is going to destroy government-to-government relationship if we are not careful," he told reporters.

    On Thursday, Thailand's Foreign Ministry summoned Myanmar's ambassador, Myo Myint, to formally protest articles in a state-run Myanmar newspaper that allegedly insulted the Thai monarchy. The protest came as long-standing tension between the two nations reached a new peak following Myanmar artillery shells landing Tuesday on Thai soil, narrowly missing a royal villa near the border. The two sides have been firing at each other since February.

    Thaksin said the defense and foreign ministers are trying to solve the problems together. "It will take sometime to mend the conflict," Thaksin said. He appealed to the Thai people to "understand the situation" and not "rise up to protest against Myanmar because of mistrust."

    Separately, Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said Thailand was not an enemy of Myanmar. "We want to sit down and talk before everything gets out of hand," he said. But, he added, Myanmar's Foreign Minister has not made a decision whether to come to Thailand. "So we cannot proceed in solving the conflict," he said.

    The tensions between the two countries stem from a series of problems, but principally over drug smuggling. The Thai press and officials accuse Myanmar's military government of ignoring the large scale production of the illegal drug methamphetamine by ethnic minority groups, mainly the United Wa State Army, based along the border for sale in Thailand.

    Wa has been named by the U.S. State Department as a major drug producer in the area. But Myanmar's junta defends the Wa, saying the group has stopped producing drugs since the 1989 cease-fire and is now sincerely developing its homeland, just as other former rebel groups are doing in other border areas after giving up their armed struggles.

    Myanmar's state-controlled press has retaliated with sometimes crude articles and cartoons attacking Thailand for alleged hypocrisy and historical misdeeds. The articles in The New Light of Myanmar daily which Thailand said insulted its monarchy referred to matters that took place in the 19th century.Myanmar also accuses Thailand of providing sanctuary and support to anti-government rebel groups.
    Burmese leader says country will not tolerate any loss of territory

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 23, 2001

    Gen Maung Aye, vice-chairman of the State Peace and Development Council [SPDC], deputy commander-in-chief of the Defence Services, and commander in chief of army, SPDC Office, and departmental officials, left Yangon [Rangoon] in a military plane in the morning on 21 May and arrived in Sittwe, Rakhine State, at 1000.

    Gen Maung Aye and party then held a meeting in the Sittwe Station Hall with chairmen and members of RSPDC, Sittwe District and Township Peace and Development Councils, and divisional authorities.

    Speaking at the meeting Gen Maung Aye said he and the ministers had come to Rakhine State to coordinate necessary measures to implement the third five-year short-term economic plan beyond the set targets and to report on the prevailing national economic situation.

    He said it can be seen that the policy of hegemonism is continuing in the world today with major powers attempting to dominate smaller countries through various means under the pretext of human rights, democracy, and narcotics. Under this prevailing situation, our country is striving for political, economic, and social progress in order to stand firmly and correctly. Furthermore, he added, science and technology is developing at a fast pace today and our country is having to make the utmost effort to catch up with other countries. Because of these efforts, the four-year short-term economic plan and second five-year short-term economic plan have been successfully implemented and that the third five-year short-term economic plan is now being implemented. He called for concerted efforts to surpass the targets set for the first year of the plan in 2001-02.

    He stressed the need to step up production and to prevent wastage. He said only when our country is developed politically, economically, and socially, will it be able to stand as an independent and sovereign nation. There are countries which are independent but their sovereignty is not firm. He said we must strive to be a nation with firm sovereignty and avoid coming under the influence and domination of major powers.

    He said just as we will not tolerate the loss of even an inch of the territory of our motherland, so we have no desire to intrude into and annex the territory of other countries. He said in our conduct of international relations, our country shall conduct friendly and cordial relations with other countries based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence and the ten principles of the Bandung Conference.

    He said Rakhine State is rich in natural resources and if concerted efforts are made on all fronts in developing these resources, Rakhine State will certainly become a developed state and contribute towards the progress of the entire union...

    Source: TV Myanmar, Rangoon, in Burmese 1330 gmt 22 May 01
    Landmine find

    source : Bangkokpost

    Chiang Mai-Many landmines have been found along the border with Burma in Mae Hong Son province, said the deputy director of the Thailand Mine Action Centre.

    Maj-Gen Ronnachai Srisuworanan said the area was surveyed in March by the centre and Norwegian People's Aid.

    The landmines, planted by ethnic minority rebels, are scattered in a 103 sq km area in Pai, Pang Ma Pha and Muang districts. An action plan will be drawn up to clear them by 2009.
    Let's end this problem now

    source : Bangkokpost

    Cohesion in the government is needed if Thailand is to solve its border problems with Burma peacefully.

    Since the most recent border skirmishes began in February, sparked by Burmese military incursions on to Thai territory in pursuit of anti-Rangoon rebels, Thai government leaders and army regional commanders have been at loggerheads over how to respond.

    The Third Army, which has jurisdiction over the northern border area, has adopted a tough stance against the Burmese intruders, while Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has called for peaceful negotiations.

    Gen Chavalit blames unclear borders for the Burmese intrusions, while the Third Army insists the incursions were deliberate.

    Prime Minister Thaksin has stayed largely aloof from the matter and, in the meantime, his foreign minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, and Gen Chavalit have gone their separate ways.

    Needless to say, it is the Third Army that must bear the brunt of the problem. It has defended Thailand's sovereignty by dispelling all intruders through the use of force. But it will not augur well for Thailand if the violence escalates.

    Political and military leaders must act cohesively in solving the long border dispute with Burma. Prime Minister Thaksin must exhibit leadership and ensure that all civilian and military units act as one.

    Only through unity and close co-operation can Thailand solve this dispute peacefully.

    Editorial from Baan Muang
    Singapore top trade partner, investor in Burma

    SINGAPORE, May 25 (Reuters) - Singapore was Myanmar's top trading partner last year, though bilateral trade over the past three years remained below a peak reached in 1997 due to the regional crisis, a Singapore minister said on Friday.

    George Yeo, Minister for Trade and Industry, said bilateral trade stood at around $900 million ($499.4 million) a year over the past three years, compared with a peak of S$1.3 billion in 1997 when Myanmar joined the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN).

    In a speech delivered at the fourth Singapore-Myanmar joint ministerial working committee, Yeo also said Singapore remained the top foreign investor in Myanmar with total investment of US$1.5 billion in 70 projects.

    Singapore's main export items to Myanmar included refined petroleum products, tobacco and civil engineering equipment, while Myanmar's top export items were seafood, textile, vegetables, rough wood and processed wood, he said.

    Yeo said over the next five years Singapore would provide S$50 million in technical assistance to the new members of ASEAN which in addition to Myanmar also includes Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
    Human Rights Group Calls For Release Of Detained Burmese Lawmakers

    BANGKOK (AP)--The lobby group Human Rights Watch Friday called for the release from detention of 85 Myanmar members of parliament elected in 1990 who never took their seats after the military refused to recognize the election results.

    The New York-based group issued the call ahead of Sunday's anniversary of the election, which was won by the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The election were meant to put an end to 28 years of military rule.

    Instead the military refused to convene Parliament and said it would draft a new constitution, a process that has not made any notable progress since then. At the same time it has subjected members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to harassment and repression.

    Only in the past six months has the military begun to hold a dialogue with Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate, in an effort to ease the political deadlock. The military regime has been ostracized by the West for its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically-elected government.

    Some of the detained members of parliament have been held since 1990, said Human Rights Watch, but most were arrested in subsequent crackdowns on the political opposition. Human Rights Watch says it believes all are being held for the peaceful expression of their political views.

    Beside the 85 members of Parliament, at least 1,000 other political prisoners are in detention.

    Other lawmakers fled into exile or were pressured to resign from their political parties, while "at least four are believed to have died in detention," said Human Rights Watch.