Daily News- April 01- 2002- Monday

  • Security bolstered as Rangoon targets SSA
  • Joint missions in pipeline
  • Myanmar Leader Stresses Importance of Strong Economy
  • 500 Myanmar, Thai prisoners in Bangladesh hold hunger strike
  • Myanmar Seizes Large Amount of Stimulant Drugs

  • Security bolstered as Rangoon targets SSA

    Sermsuk Kasitipradit Subin Khuenkaew
    the Bangkokpost

    The Third Army has reinforced security around Pang Noon outpost as a fresh round of fighting between Burmese troops and Shan rebels appeared imminent.

    Maj Orachai Boonsukchitseri, 241st battalion deputy commander, said the recent deployment of three battalions comprising about 1,500 Burmese troops signalled preparations were under way for a dry season offensive against hundreds of Shan State Army fighters whose bases straddle the rugged terrain.

    There are five SSA military bases located near Pang Noon, including Kaw Muang, regarded as the strongest, and Kaw Hom, which houses a training camp and a field hospital.The SSA's Kaw Wan base is located just 1.5 kilometres east of the outpost, while Burma's foremost military outpost is about 2 kilometres west.

    ``It would be difficult [for Burmese troops] to overrun SSA bases in this area,'' Maj Orachai said. ``The attacking forces would suffer heavy casualties if they launch a frontal assault as the SSA bases are on high ground.''

    In anticipation of the Burmese offensive, the Third Army has replaced the paramilitary personnel who previously manned Pang Noon with cavalry troops.``We need highly trained military forces in the area in case there is a border conflict,'' said the deputy commander.

    Tensions have been high around Pang Noon since last February, when Burmese troops launched an unexpected cross-border raid and temporarily occupied the outpost, which they planned to use as a springboard for strikes against SSA bases.``Pang Noon is strategically located on high terrain, so it is critical for SSA's survival that Burmese forces do not capture the outpost,'' Maj Orachai said.

    The Burmese were swiftly repulsed when Assistant Army Commander-in-chief Gen Watanachai Chaimuanwong, then Third Army commander, ordered a counter attack after demands for an immediate withdrawal were ignored.Between 50-80 Burmese troops were reportedly killed as border forces launched hundreds of mortar rounds and artillery shells.The incident drew strong protests from Rangoon, which claimed the incursion was unintentional and that border forces had overreacted.

    ``Our stated mission is clear: to safeguard and protect our territory,'' said Lt Natha Nualsisai, platoon commander at Pang Noon. ``Any attempt to attack this outpost will be strongly countered.''The outpost is located 500 metres inside Thai territory.

    The Pha Muang Task Force, which is responsible for border security in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces, has all Burmese border outposts and military bases belonging to the United Wa State Army within its artillery range, according to an officer from the unit.UWSA soldiers, under the leadership of notorious druglord Wei Hsueh-kang, have also tried and failed on several occasions to dislodge SSA fighters from their bases.The UWSA's bases are clearly visible a few kilometres north of Pang Noon.

    ``If they [Burmese troops] make the same mistake as they did last year, they will have a lot to answer for,'' the officer said. ``We hope this time they will not misjudge the situation.''

    Despite the heightened military activity in the area, Jao Gorn Juen, SSA military commander, said he was not over-concerned about the impending Burmese offensive.``Unless Pang Noon is taken by the Burmese, it is unlikely to have a major effect,'' said Jao Gorn Juen, whose camps have been heavily fortified ahead of the expected onslaught.

    Several SSA fighters expressed concern that improving relations between Bangkok and Rangoon would pave the way for Burmese forces to use the outpost in attacks against them.However, Gen Surayud Chulanont, the army commander, has given assurances that he would never allow this to happen.Senior officers from the Pha Muang Task Force remarked on the relatively relaxed atmosphere around the border outpost.``The Burmese troops are fully prepared this time,'' said one.

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    Joint missions in pipeline

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Nation

    Burma and Thailand will talk about a joint crackdown on the United Wa State Army and the Shan State Army to tackle the drugs threat.

    Third Army commander Udomchai Ongkhasing and Myint Aung, Burma's Southwestern Force commander, will co-chair a Regional Border Committee meeting in Burma's Malamaeng town this month.

    The source said the army believed the SSA was involved in trafficking. Six of the 13 suspected traffickers killed in a recent clash with Thai soldiers in Chiang Mai's Waeng Haeng district were SSA soldiers.

    The source said Maj-Gen Jaw Win, deputy commander of Burma's Defence Service Intelligence Bureau, had told Thailand's deputy military attache in Rangoon, Kasem Nakphan, that the Shan army had wrongly accused Burmese soldiers of pushing drugs.

    Maj-Gen Jaw Win said SSA had made up a story about a raid on a Burmese military base in which the rebels claimed they seized 100,000 speed pills.In fact, the drugs belonged to the SSA, Maj-Gen Jaw had said.

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    Myanmar Leader Stresses Importance of Strong Economy

    YANGON, March 31 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar leader Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt has called for efforts to withstand the international economic effect and economic domination and promote the national economy, official newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday.

    Meeting with businessmen of the Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry here Saturday, Khin Nyunt, First Secretary of the State Peace and Development Council, warned that the difference of economy and wealth among the nations of the world in the international facade further widens the gap of development and technology between poor and rich.

    He charged that some wealthy developed nations with strong economy are attempting to wield their influence on developing nations and dominate them economically. He pointed out that now is the time for Myanmar to promote economic cooperation with friendly and neighboring nations.

    He also warned that the businesses in Myanmar should not be satisfied with the present status in the domestic market, emphasizing the need to strive to reach the regional and international standards to be able to withstand the pressure of penetration of foreign goods when the programs for the regional free trade area are implemented.

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    500 Myanmar, Thai prisoners in Bangladesh hold hunger strike

    CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh, March 31 (AFP) - Some 500 nationals of Myanmar and Thailand ended a 30-hour hunger strike after authorities promised they would be repatriated, local officials said Sunday.

    The inmates were serving terms in the southeastern Banderban hill district, mostly for illegal border crossing and fishing in Bangladeshi waters.

    The prisoners who had completed their jail terms started a hunger strike Friday demanding their immediate repatriation.They ended the action late Saturday after senior police officials went to the area and assured them their demands would be met within 15 days.

    Most of the Myanmar nationals are Muslim Rohingyas, at least 250,000 of whom had fled to Bangladesh after alleged persecution. Yangon denies the charges.Most of the Rohingyas have been repatriated with the help of the United Nations, but the fate of the 21,500 remaining refugees remains uncertain.

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    Myanmar Seizes Large Amount of Stimulant Drugs

    YANGON, March 31 (Xinhuanet) -- The Myanmar authorities seized altogether 72,000 tablets of stimulant drugs in Tachilek township,the country's eastern Shan state, earlier this month, the Myanmar Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control said on Sunday.

    The seizure was made by a combined team comprising local intelligence unit and special anti-drug squad when they raided a house in Wanton village of the township on March 15. Along with the seizure, one illegal gun and four rounds of ammunition were also confiscated. A villager was arrested in connection with the case, it said, adding that he was punished under the country's Narcotic Drugs andPsychotropic Substances Law.

    According to official statistics, in 2001, Myanmar seized 32.438 million tablets of stimulant drugs, registering the highest amount confiscated since 1996 when the country started launching acrack-down on such narcotic drugs.

    The statistics also show that during the 2001-02 poppy cultivation season, which lasted until the end of January, the authorities destroyed 408.22 hectares of illegally-grown poppy fields in the country's Shan, Kachin and Magway states and divisions.

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