Daily News- April 29- 2002- Monday

  • Rangoon stymies bilateral talks
  • Rangoon pledges to stop Wa drug gangs Bangkok will keep tight rein on Shan
  • Five refugees killed as hailstorm hits Thai-Myanmar border camp
  • Iris To Aid In Burma E-Visa Project

  • Rangoon stymies bilateral talks

    Bangkok Post - Thailand; Apr 29, 2002

    Thailand's most troublesome neighbour is Burma, to the point that armed confrontations have almost got out of control on several occasions. It seems to many that Rangoon is the problem child of the region. On the presumption that _ as Winston Churchill put it _ it is ``better to jaw-jaw than to war-war'', Gen Maung Aye received Thai hospitality last week. There was a long if informal agenda for discussion with the second ranking member of the Burmese dictatorship. It was a major disappointment, then, that so little was achieved.

    While Gen Maung Aye was here in Thailand, many of the most serious problems between this country and Burma actually appeared to worsen. These included the three most dangerous security threats to Thailand. Drug traffickers from Burma killed a Thai border policeman and wounded others. The patient United Nations special envoy came away from his seventh visit to Rangoon with no tangible gains on democracy. And the festering, continuing problem of Burmese refugees and migrant workers took a nasty new turn.

    To be fair, this lack of progress in securing Thailand is not entirely the fault of the Burmese dictators. The Thai government has bent over so far backwards in accommodating the Rangoon generals that it has actually contributed to a lack of progress. Before Gen Maung Aye arrived here, government spokesmen listed the topics to be discussed with the Burmese autocrat. At the top of the list: drugs, border trade, repatriation of Burmese refugees, fishing.

    At the end of his visit, there was nothing concrete to announce. Gen Maung Aye called for better relations. Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said ``foreign countries'' should not criticise the lack of progress on democracy. Not a word was said about the contracts of Thai fishermen unjustly broken by Rangoon. Rangoon agreed to take a few hundred of hundreds of thousands of abused refugees in a bizarre, token test programme.

    While Gen Maung Aye was in Bangkok, the Rangoon-supported United Wa State Army invaded Thailand on two drugs trafficking missions. The Wa fought with a Thai military force in Chiang Mai, and killed a Thai soldier. The UWSA murdered five hilltribesmen in Chiang Rai when the Thais refused to co-operate with the traffickers. Gen Maung Aye made no comment and the government made no public attempt to discuss these murderous events. The promise to close a company owned by drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang is a farce and an insult. Gen Maung Aye's regime encourages Wa drug traffickers including Wei, and welcomes drug profits as investment money.

    While Gen Maung Aye was enjoying his stay and golf game in Phuket, the United Nations envoy Razali Ismail was in Burma for another round in his patient, 18-month quest to help Burma join the world community of nations which behave in a civilised manner to their citizens. On this visit, even the implausibly unflappable Mr Razali appeared impatient. He is secretive to a fault, but it seemed the Malaysian statesman told Rangoon it was time to show serious progress in talks with the democratic faction. For one thing, it is past time to release the democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi from 18 months of house arrest on no legal charges.

    To his credit, Gen Maung Aye cut short his Phuket stay by a few hours to attend the luncheon with Mr Razali. Burma cannot wipe out its social evils overnight. But Burma can literally change its policies overnight. It can switch to a system of government which responds to the needs of its citizens, opposes the drug-dealing criminals in its midst, and stops direct support for the groups and policies which make it a security threat to its immediate neighbours.

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    Rangoon pledges to stop Wa drug gangs Bangkok will keep tight rein on Shan

    Bangkok Post - Thailand; Apr 29, 2002

    Burma has promised drastic action against drug trafficking gangs under the control of the United Wa State Army, while Thailand has agreed Shan rebels will not be allowed to launch raids on Burmese troops from this side of the border.

    A source at the Defence Ministry said the deal was made during talks between Burmese army chief Gen Maung Aye and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.Drug trafficking topped the agenda. Gen Maung Aye, also deputy chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, was here last week.

    Gen Maung Aye was unhappy about allegations that Burma supported the UWSA in making drugs, the source said.The allegations painted a negative image of Burma.

    ''The Burmese government has promised to crack down on drug gangs run by the UWSA. In turn, Thailand pledged that it would neither support Shan State Army rebels nor allow them to use its territory to attack Burmese troops,'' the ministry source said.

    Third Army commander Udomchai Ongkhasingh said Rangoon had said it would issue an order prohibiting the UWSA from making drugs, particularly at its base in Mong Yawn town.However, the UWSA was unlikely to comply, Lt-Gen Udomchai said.

    There were reports the UWSA was preparing to move its drug production base to Ban Hong and Pang Sang towns, about 30km from Mong Yawn and deeper inside Burma.

    He expected Rangoon would this time take drastic action against the UWSA, after giving it time to stop drug trafficking.Thailand was keeping a close watch on the SSA to see if it was involved in drug trafficking. Thailand would not support the Shan rebels.

    ''I believe co-operation and ties between Thailand and Burma will improve, particularly after Gen Maung Aye's visit.''He has decision-making power over several issues,'' said Lt-Gen Udomchai.Further details would be discussed during a Regional Border Committee meeting in June.The meeting would be held in Moulmein, Burma.

    Army chief Surayud Chulanont said Burma had banned the UWSA from making drugs and declared that it would not support Wa traffickers.However, whether Rangoon would take serious steps to suppress drugs was still uncertain.

    The Pha Muang task force has been told it can retaliate against the Wa, following clashes on Saturday between Thai troops and drug traffickers in Chiang Rai. Two Wa fighters were captured.Sources said Wa troops yesterday shelled the 241st Cavalry Battalion in Chiang Rai for the second day.No injuries were reported. The military retaliated with 20 mortar shells.

    Five refugees killed as hailstorm hits Thai-Myanmar border camp

    MAE SOT, Thailand, April 29 (AFP) - Five people were killed and 10 others injured when a hailstorm hit a refugee camp on the Myanmar border, Thai authorities said Monday.

    Tha Song Yang district deputy chief Prasong La-on said hail stones pelted the camp on Sunday, destroying simple dwellings and leaving some 350 families homeless."Five people are dead and 10 are injured, most of them are ethnic Karen," he said.

    The hundreds of homeless were evacuated to temporary shelter at a nearby school and Thai authorities were coordinating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, he said.

    Thailand is home to tens of thousands of refugees from Myanmar, many of whom live in camps on the Thai side of the border.Their numbers typically swell during the dry season, as skirmishes between rebel armies and Myanmar government troops force them to flee across the border to safety in Thailand.

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    Iris To Aid In Burma E-Visa Project

    MALAYSIA (Dow Jones)--Soon-to-be-listed Iris Corp. expected to participate in Burma's electronic visa project according to weekly Myanmar Times. Project discussed between Burma's e-national task force and Malaysia's Multimedia Development Corp. according to report. Report quotes Iris Corp. Assistant General Manager Lee Wai Sum as saying Malaysia and Burma would begin working on technical specifications in May for the 5,000 e-passports to be issued in Burma. Sources say Iris, which specializes in smart card technology, due for listing in June '02.

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