Daily News-May 30 - 2001- Wednesday

  • Burmese minister to visit Thailand amid tension
  • Thai PM's Burma surprise
  • Scores of soldiers, civilians 'killed by Burmese troops'
  • What does Burma want?
  • Myanmar Protests Against Malicious Writings in Thai Media
  • Japan trade unions set up office to help promote democracy in Burma
  • Seminar on Myanmar-Japan Economic Cooperation Held in Yangon
  • Japanese business group to help Burma develop IT software industry
  • 30th Meeting of BOD of Asian Clearing Union Held
  • Thaksin to speed up visit to Rangoon
  • Junta to 'fix problem' of Thai-bashing news stories

  • Burmese minister to visit Thailand amid tension

    By Nopporn Wong-Anan

    BANGKOK, May 29 (Reuters) - Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung is due to pay an official visit to Thailand next month to try to iron out diplomatic strains, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said on Tuesday. The visit comes amid deteriorating relations between the two countries following a series of clashes on their 2,400 km (1,490 mile) border.

    Thailand's foreign ministry on Monday summoned Myanmar's ambassador to Bangkok, Myo Myint, to protest against an incident in which mortar shells fired from Myanmar struck a royal agricultural project in northern Thailand on May 22. It was the third protest lodged by Bangkok in two weeks. Thailand has also complained about articles in Myanmar newspapers which it says insulted the Thai monarchy.

    Myanmar has also accused the Thai media of fanning nationalistic flames. The New Light of Myanmar paper said on Tuesday that the Thai media "has been carrying out a vicious campaign to denigrate Myanmar".

    Surakiart told reporters his Myanmar counterpart had accepted an invitation to visit and would arrive in Bangkok some time during the third week of June.

    Relations between the neighbours -- enemies for centuries -- have deteriorated since the election in January of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who pledged to "wage war" against drugs which Thailand says are mainly coming from Myanmar. Thailand sent reinforcements to its northern border with Myanmar after recent fighting between Thai troops and a pro-Myanmar government ethnic militia group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which is accused by Bangkok of being a major producer and supplier of methamphetamine stimulants and heroin. Myanmar says Thailand is supporting ethnic minority Shan rebels, who it says are the region's main drugs producers.

    Surakiart said he would meet with the Myanmar ambassador later on Tuesday to explain the sensitivity of Thais to slights of the monarchy."I will tell the ambassador that ... the violation of our monarchy is unacceptable and we will not negotiate on this matter," he said."I would like to ask Myanmar to heal this wound."

    Surakiart said he would also encourage Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to visit Myanmar to improve military ties with the military-ruled government. Chavalit says he has close personal ties with many of Myanmar's ruling generals.
    Thai PM's Burma surprise

    source : The Nation

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will seek to visit Rangoon next month without waiting for diplomatic clearance, deputy premier and Defence Minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said yesterday.

    Chavalit's announcement of Thaksin's hastily scheduled visit to Burma caught Foreign Ministry officials off guard. They had anticipated a trip to Thailand by Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung, scheduled for the third week of June, would be the last hurdle to clear before the Thai leader's first visit to Burma.

    Thaksin had said on Monday that he would go to Burma only when the timing was right and protocol permitted.

    Border tensions with Burma escalated in February, owing partially to the Thai government's stepped-up anti-drugs campaign. They have not subsided despite separate visits to Rangoon last month by Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and PM's Office Minister Thamarak Isarangura.

    Chavalit said Thaksin's visit was meant as a goodwill gesture demonstrating that Thailand wanted to restore bilateral relations quickly. "The sooner the better for both countries," said the minister, who will travel with Thaksin.

    The minister, who favours a personal approach to relations with Burma, cited the damage caused to bilateral relations by a series of articles published in the Burmese state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar over the past week as one of several reasons that Thaksin's visit was urgently needed as the articles contained an affront to the Thai monarchy.

    Chavalit's aides told The Nation that permission for Thaksin's visit had been requested through personal channels in Rangoon. A Burmese response was expected within two weeks.

    In the latest of a series of articles, all by the same author, the New Light of Myanmar on Monday accused
    King Rama V of turning the country into a Royal "guest house" for "all and sundry" during the period of Western colonialism.

    Rangoon on the same day lodged a written protest against what it said was a vicious smear campaign on the part of the Thai media intended to denigrate Burma. "The malicious attacks have reached new heights with articles aimed at destroying national unity, tarnishing the image of the country and the government and inciting instability and unrest," the protest said.It was apparently prompted by reports in two Thai newspapers published on May 18 and 21.

    It also warned Thai authorities: "If such a campaign is allowed to continue unabated, it could adversely affect relations between [Burma] and Thailand." The apparent tit-for-tat diplomatic move comes after the Thai government escalated its diplomatic offensive against Burma over the past two weeks.

    Surakiart yesterday called on Burma to take quick and appropriate action to remedy serious damage caused by its official media's attack on the Thai monarchy."We reiterated that if this matter was not attended to it would damage relations between the two nations and peoples severely," Surakiart said after meeting Burmese Ambassador Myo Myint.It was Myo Myint's first visit to Surakiart since being summoned twice to the Foreign Ministry in the past two weeks to receive protest notes.
    Scores of soldiers, civilians 'killed by Burmese troops'

    Tuesday, May 29, 2001
    WILLIAM BARNES in Bangkok

    Burmese troops and their ethnic allies have killed scores of Thai civilians and soldiers over the past decade, a pro-democracy group claims.

    The regular losses, hardly noticed outside Thailand, have until recently provoked remarkably little protest from successive Bangkok governments, said Burma critic Edith Mirante, who runs Project Maje.

    Burma yesterday cancelled a scheduled meeting of the joint border committee, leaving bilateral relations still very tense after many months of Thai criticism that the military Government is turning a blind eye to blatant drug production in its northern Shan state.

    Thailand's Foreign Ministry last week summoned the Burmese ambassador to formally protest about articles in the state-controlled press that Bangkok claims insulted the Thai monarchy. Tension rose a few days ago when Burmese shells nearly hit a royal villa.

    Thai deaths had been a regular feature of border life even when relations were relatively good, said a statement issued by Project Maje.

    An analysis of news reports, covering the 2.5 years prior to Burma joining Thailand in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in mid-1997, showed that at least 30 Thais were killed by the Burmese military or their allies, an ethnic Karen breakaway group known as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

    Thirteen civilians, including three children, were killed in raids or by shelling. Four soldiers and two policemen also died.More than six fishermen were killed in clashes with the Burmese navy and the four-man crew of an air force helicopter was believed lost after coming under Burmese gunfire. The killings continue. So far this year at least six Thais have lost their lives.

    "Compensation is not paid to the victims' families, apologies are not issued and the arbitrary execution of these citizens of a neighbouring free nation is glossed over," the statement said.
    What does Burma want?

    source : Bangkokpost
    Editorial from Arthit Daily

    Several days have passed but Burma has yet to respond to Thailand's protest against the shelling of a royal project in Chiang Mai's Fang district. A mortar shell landed near a villa at Doi Angkhang royal agricultural project.

    The shelling coincided with the publication of an article in the Burmese government-owned New Light of Myanmar which was deemed insulting to the Thai monarchy.The article, written by Ma Tin Win, sharply criticised King Rama IV for the way he handled the colonial powers in the mid-1800s.

    The writer also extolled the heroism of a Burmese king who did a lot of good deeds for his country. Given the nationalist tone of the article, one can't help wonder whether some Burmese are trying to undermine relations between the two countries.

    Rama IV is recognised by Thai and foreign scholars for his diplomatic skills, which enabled Siam to survive the colonial period while its neighbours fell to European powers.In the article, Ma Tin Win also ridiculed the presence of prostitutes in Thailand, saying it helped to promote the country's image in foreign countries.

    Burmese Ambassador to Thailand Myo Myint was summoned last Thursday to receive a strong protest from the Foreign Ministry over the article, but so far there has been no official response from Burma.

    Meanwhile, Burma has been silent on Thailand's proposal for a local border committee meeting to discuss border problems.Thailand has tried its best to befriend Burma and solve the disputes peacefully. What can we do in the absence of positive signs from Burma?
    Myanmar Protests Against Malicious Writings in Thai Media

    MYANMAR INFORMATION COMMITTEE YANGON- Information Sheet No.B-1831 (I) 29th May, 2001

    The Thai media has been carrying out a vicious campaign to denigrate Myanmar and it has been found that lately the malicious attacks have reached new heights with articles aimed at destroying national unity, tarnishing the image of the country and the government, inciting instability and unrest and even making suggestions on matters that should not even be contemplated.

    Therefore, the Director-General of Political Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs delivered an Aide Memoire protesting in the strongest terms the malicious articles in the Thai press to the Thai Charge d? Affaires ai in Yangon Mr. Raden Suwannakorn at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 28 May.

    The Aide Memoire stated that the article, "Tactics to Counter Myanmar" by Tairat Suthorn Paraphart that appeared in the 18th May 2001 issue of the Thai language newspaper, "Daily News" and the article, "Dangerous Escalations" by Surathjinakul that appeared in the Bangkok Post on 20th May 2001 exceed the bounds of decency and are aimed at creating misconceptions about Myanmar in the mind of the Thai public.

    If such a campaign is allowed to continue unabated, it could adversely affect the relations between Myanmar and Thailand. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested to Thailand in the strongest terms the malicious attacks on the Government and the leaders of Myanmar, it is learnt.
    Japan trade unions set up office to help promote democracy in Burma

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 29, 2001

    Text of report in English by Japanese news agency Kyodo

    Tokyo, 29 May: The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) said Tuesday [29 May] it has set up an office in Tokyo to help promote democracy in Myanmar [Burma].

    The Burma Office (Japan) is jointly run with the Federation of Trade Unions-Burma, the League for Democracy in Burma and the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area), Japan branch - all outlawed in Myanmar - Rengo officials said.

    "Myanmar's junta cracks down on trade unions, too. We would like to help support democratization," a Rengo official said.

    Rengo will finance the running cost of the office, to which it will dispatch a senior official, the officials said. Rengo will ask the Foreign Ministry in the near future to suspend a government plan to resume official development assistance to Myanmar. It will also make similar appeals to political parties and economic groups.

    The office, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, will publish in-house magazines in Japanese and English, the officials said.

    The International Labour Organization in November adopted a resolution to impose sanctions on Myanmar, saying the ruling junta has failed to scrap its forced labour practices.

    Source: Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 0321 gmt 29 May 01
    Seminar on Myanmar-Japan Economic Cooperation Held in Yangon

    YANGON, May 29(Xinhua)- The fourth seminar on Myanmar-Japan economic cooperation is being held here to review the two countries' economic cooperation in the last few years.

    The two-day seminar, which began on Monday, is also aimed at exploring opportunities and prospects for wider economic cooperation between Myanmar and Japan, encouraging Japanese entrepreneurs to make more investment in Myanmar and conducting technical and training programs for development of human resources.

    Attending the seminar are officials of five Myanmar ministries and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCI) as well as Japanese entrepreneurs. In February 1998, Myanmar and Japanese federations of CCI established an economic cooperation committee to work for the enhancement of bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries.

    Japan, which was once Myanmar's biggest donor country, suspended its aid to Myanmar in 1988 on account of the country's domestic political reason, but resumed its humanitarian aid since 1995. Of the aid, that in 2000 amounted to 1.5 billion yens (12.78 million U.S. dollars), a 70.45 percent increase over 1999.

    In addition, the Japanese government also resumed in March this year its official development assistance (ODA) to Myanmar which had been suspended for 13 years by extending 849 million yens (6. 98 million dollars) of the ODA.

    Besides, Japan has also extended to Myanmar for 19 times a total debt relief of 386.45 million dollars.

    According to official statistics, since Myanmar opened to foreign investment in 1988, Japan's investment in the country has reached 232 million dollars in 22 projects, covering the sectors of oil and gas, manufacturing, real estate, mining and hotels and tourism.

    The Japanese investment ranked the ninth in the line-up of Myanmar's foreign investors coming from 25 countries and regions.

    Meanwhile, Japan has become Myanmar's fifth largest trading partner after Singapore, China, Thailand and the Republic of Korea. Its bilateral trade with Myanmar stood at 265.61 million dollars in 2000, accounting for 6.5 percent of Myanmar's foreign trade of 4.086 billion dollars during the year.
    Japanese business group to help Burma develop IT software industry

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; May 29, 2001

    Text of report in English by Japanese news agency Kyodo

    Yangon [Rangoon], 29 May: The Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren) agreed Tuesday [29 May] to help Myanmar [Burma] establish an information technology (IT) software industry, a joint communique said.

    In a joint communique issued at the close of a two-day Myanmar-Japan joint economic conference, Japan's most powerful business organization expressed its readiness "to offer any possible assistance to cooperate and establish the software industry in Myanmar".

    The communique said that both sides called for more cohesive economic and technical cooperation among the developed and developing countries of Asia to enable developing countries to benefit from globalization. It said the Myanmar side "reiterated the importance of IT development in the development process".

    The communique noted that Keidanren urged the junta to improve investment conditions.It said that the junta promised to take steps to build investor confidence "in every area of investment". Foreign direct investment to Myanmar has fallen sharply since the Asian economic crisis started in 1997.

    The communique said that the Japanese side agreed to a Myanmar request that the number of Myanmar students trained in Japan be increased.

    The conference was co-chaired by Iwao Toriumi, chairman of Keidanren's Myanmar-Japan joint economic committee and Brig-Gen David Abel, minister in the Office of the Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council.

    Source: Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1204 gmt 29 May 01
    30th Meeting of BOD of Asian Clearing Union Held

    MYANMAR INFORMATION COMMITTEE YANGON Information Sheet No.B-1831 (I) 29th May, 2001

    The opening ceremony of the 30th Meeting of Board of Directors of Asian Clearing Union (ACU) hosted by Myanmar was held at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon on 28 May.

    It was attended by the Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Ambassadors of member countries of ACU to Myanmar, officials of the Central Bank of Myanmar, chairmen and members of delegates of central banks of member countries--- Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and Iran, the Secretary General and members of ACU, the Director of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), observers, officials of ASEAN Secretariat and monetary authority of Maldives, directors-general and managing directors of Ministry of Finance and Revenue, chairmen of local private banks and guests.

    Asian Clearing Union was set up in 1974 and Myanmar became a member in 1977. Since then, Myanmar has been taking part in the ACU in cooperation with member countries in trade and monetary matters.

    Members of ACU are Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and Iran. The head office of ACU is opened at the Central Bank in Teheran, Iran where day-to-day work of ACU is performed.

    ACU was set up with the objectives of promoting cooperation among member nations in trade and monetary matters, saving foreign currency in trade and other payments among member countries and supporting matters related to ordinary payments.

    There are many advantages in trade as a result of cooperation among the member countries in monetary matters including payments and clearing of accounts. At the meeting, matters related to tasks among member countries are to be discussed in line with the objectives of the union.
    Thaksin to speed up visit to Rangoon

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will speed up an official visit to Burma amid rising tensions, sources say.

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh had urged a quicker meeting as bilateral relations worsened, a source said last night.

    Gen Chavalit was worried about fall-out from a series of articles in the state-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper, which criticised some past Thai kings for the way they handled the Western colonial powers in the mid-1800s.

    "The conflict could aggravate if nothing is done immediately to reduce tensions and misunderstanding," said the source, a close aide to Gen Chavalit. A special delegation from the Foreign Ministry would be sent immediately to Rangoon for talks with the junta to work out arrangements for the premier's visit.

    It was earlier agreed Mr Thaksin would travel to Rangoon only after a visit to Bangkok by Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung. This was not the case now, the source said.

    Gen Chavalit said he would accompany Mr Thaksin to Burma as soon as everything was ready.

    He did not elaborate but said Thailand and Burma were close neighbours.

    He said the trip would help resolve border problems sparked by an incursion of Burmese troops at Bang Pang Noon in Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang district in early February.

    Gen Chavalit said he saw no reason for Mr Thaksin to delay. Rangoon has already been told about the premier's wish to move up the visit.

    Gen Chavalit said cross-border shelling at a royal project in Chiang Mai's Fang district, and the critical articles published about past Thai monarchs, would be raised in talks with Gen Than Shwe, chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council.

    "It is my utmost concern to see our bilateral ties swiftly return to normal. I will do my best to achieve this goal," said Gen Chavalit, who is known to have friendly relations with Gen Than Shwe.

    Meanwhile, Third Army commander Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong said the Burmese articles could worsen border tensions.

    Rangoon should not involve the Thai monarchy in its criticism of Thailand, the Third Army chief said.

    "If they want to fight, then let's fight at the border. Don't bring our monarchy into the conflict," he said.
    Junta to 'fix problem' of Thai-bashing news stories

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Burma has acknowledged Thailand's concern about articles in the Burmese media criticising past Thai kings and has promised to fix the problem, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said yesterday.

    Burmese ambassador Myo Myint said Thai-Burmese relations remained "okay".

    "We will solve the problems amicably. We're neighbours," he said.

    The ambassador met Mr Surakiart and conveyed messages from Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the State Peace and Development Council, and Win Aung, the foreign minister.

    Mr Surakiart said they acknowledged a Thai government protest about an article published in a state-owned newspaper on May 21.

    The minister, who was receiving the envoy's first courtesy call, verbally protested against a second article published on May 28 criticising another Thai king.

    The envoy said the articles were written by an individual, and called for Thai understanding of Burma's concern about a May 18 article in the Thai media criticising Rangoon and its leadership.

    Raden Suwannasorn, an official at the Thai embassy in Rangoon, was summoned on Monday to receive Burma's protest over the commentary in a Thai-language newspaper.

    Mr Surakiart told the Burmese ambassador that Thai media enjoyed freedom of speech but that the government did not support irreverent actions.

    "I'd like to ask the Thai media to be more careful and thoughtful and to report only facts so that neighbouring countries will not be hurt," he said.

    The envoy said Burma wanted to normalise relations with Thailand, and confirmed that the Burmese foreign minister would pay a two-day visit during the third week of June.

    A meeting of the Township Border Committee was called off on Monday after "security concerns" from the Thai side, the envoy said. He would pass on Mr Surakiart's request for a meeting of the Joint Boundary Committee, and for the problem at Doi Lang to be shelved for the time being.

    Social critic Sulak Sivaraksa said Burma was denouncing Thailand to drum up patriotism at a time of division in its military ranks. He also criticised the Thaksin government for its human rights stance. The government "thinks only of commerce with Burma", he said.