Daily News- August 13- 2002- Tuesday

  • KNU hopes for fresh talks
  • Swedish tourist in KNU ranks
  • Burma is our friend, not our master : Chavalit
  • Junta Pressured KIO to Free Zau Mai
  • Doctors in Burma separate twin girls born joined at the hip
  • CHAVALIT BREAKS RANKS: PM 'giving in' to Rangoon
  • Junta calls off border exercises


  • KNU hopes for fresh talks

    Supamart Kasem
    The Bangkokpost

    The Karen National Union hopes Rangoon will restart reconciliation talks with it very soon. KNU vice-president Gen Bo Mya said whether the conditions set by Rangoon and the KNU for peace would be eased would depend on the results of further talks between the two sides.

    The four rounds of talks back in 1996, when he led the KNU, ended without an agreement as both sides insisted on their terms so the fifth meeting never took place, he said.

    The KNU had proposed that both sides adhere to a ceasefire before engaging in negotiations while Rangoon wanted the KNU to lay down its arms and abide by Burmese laws first ahead of peace talks.

    Gen Bo Mya said the KNU had no choice but to defend themselves against Burmese onslaughts as the minority people faced attacks from Rangoon forces every year. Gen Bo Mya said the KNU and pro-democracy groups were following up on the progress of talks between Rangoon and Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Burma's opposition National League for Democracy party, as proposed by United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail.

    Reconciliation in Burma was unlikely if Rangoon and the NLD agreed to share political power without taking the welfare of Burma's ethnic minority groups into account, said the KNU vice-president.

    Swedish tourist in KNU ranks

    Supamart Kasem
    The Bangkokpost

    Just three months ago, Vanja, 19, was an ordinary Swedish tourist in Thailand. Now, she is a sergeant in the Karen National Union rebel army.It all happened when Vanja saw a seriously wounded KNU soldier after a clash with Burmese forces, while she was touring border areas in Tak's Mae Sot district. When she learned what the Christian-led minority rebel group was fighting for, she wanted to help.

    ``I am moved by these people's yearning for independence and democracy,'' she said.She refused to give her real name or the names of family members and her hometown in Sweden. She only said she had an elder brother and sister and a younger sister.

    Vanja told her parents in Sweden she wanted to be a KNU fighter. Unsurprisingly, they asked her not to but she went ahead and joined the KNU force anyway.

    She was assigned to the Supreme Command's 201 battalion where she received weapon and other military training. Vanja was a quick learner. After two and a half months, she was given the rank of sergeant.Back home, she was a volunteer firefighter. That explained why she had plenty of guts.She is still undergoing military training during daytime. At night, she teaches English to Karen children and other KNU soldiers.

    Vanja, donning the KNU uniform, was seen taking part in a parade march at the KNU headquarters opposite Tak to mark the minority rebel group's 52nd anniversary.

    Vanja said she has never been to the frontline. She wanted to, but senior KNU officers did not want foreigners, particularly women, to risk their lives.Her parents would come to visit her next month, Vanja said.

    Col Saksin Klansanoh, commander of the 13th Infantry Regiment task force based in Mae Sot, said Thai authorities never allowed foreigners who had nothing to do with border affairs, such as taking care of refugees, to go into Burma's border areas.Col Saksin believed Vanja had illegally crossed the border into KNU-controlled areas. Authorities could take no legal action against her now because she was still inside Burma, he said.

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    Burma is our friend, not our master : Chavalit

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    Gen Somdhat Attanand was named new army chief instead of Gen Watanachai Chaimuanwong because he would serve government policies better, and not because Thailand was subservient to Burma, Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said yesterday.

    The ``aftershocks'' were still rocking the military in the wake of the Aug 2 appointment of Gen Somdhat, army chief-of-staff, as successor to army chief Surayud Chulanont, and Gen Chavalit now needed to calm the situation down.

    Gen Watanachai, an assistant army chief, was the favourite as the new army chief. After Aug 2, his future has become increasingly uncertain and he has said he would resign if given an inactive post in the forthcoming military reshuffle.Critics said his tough stand against Burma while he was the Third Army commander cost him the top army post.

    Gen Chavalit said Gen Somdhat and Gen Watanachai were both good soldiers and equal in their knowledge and ability.The only thing that made them different was Gen Somdhat could conform better to government policies concerning national security protection, he said, adding this did not mean Gen Watanachai was incompetent.

    ``It is not because one is better than the other. But because one can do certain things that the other cannot,'' Gen Chavalit said. The defence minister did not want to see Gen Watanachai quit the army and he did not believe the assistant army chief would leave.

    ``He has fought on several battlefields. I don't think he will resign over the matter of a reshuffle,'' Gen Chavalit said, while denying the government wanted to please Burma by not promoting Gen Watanachai.

    ``We have our honour and dignity, so why do we have to yield to Burma? Why think our military cannot do anything by itself but has to listen to Burma? ``Is Burma that great? That country has no right to interfere in our internal affairs,'' Gen Chavalit said.

    He said Thai people must not think unrealistically highly of Burma. He denied the Thaksin cabinet planned to convene with the Burmese cabinet in a mobile meeting after it appeared bilateral relations were improving, and after it became known that Gen Watanachai would not become the army chief, and that Gen Surayud was being transferred to become the supreme commander.

    ``We are a friend of Burma but they are not our master,'' he said.

    The defence minister said that, in fact, he wanted Gen Surayud to concurrently hold the posts of army chief and supreme commander but that would contravene the rules.He denied politics had interfered with the military reshuffle and that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was behind the transfer of Gen Surayud.``The prime minister has nothing to do with this. I am solely responsible.''

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    Junta Pressured KIO to Free Zau Mai

    By Naw Seng
    The Irrawaddy

    August 12, 2002 - Kachin leaders say they are outraged that a former leader of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), who was imprisoned after losing power during a coup last February, was released from prison last month, according to Kachin sources in Laiza, near the KIO's headquarters.

    Sources told The Irrawaddy that Gen Zau Mai, who helped found the KIO, was released after the KIO's new leadership was pressured by Sec-1 Lt Gen Khin Nyunt to release the aging general. Gen Zau Mai, who is known to be close to Khin Nyunt, was ousted from power last year by a KIO reformist faction, who felt his ties to the regime were not beneficial to the Kachin people.

    The KIO announced the decision to release Zau Mai on July 19 during their annual party meeting at the KIO's headquarters in Pajau, which ended last month. The order not only frees Zau Mai from detention but also exonerates him from all charges levied against him after last year's coup. Kachin analysts say the ruling is significant because it keeps Zau Mai from having to stand trial.

    "His release is insulting to the Kachin people," says one Kachin leader from Laiza, near the China border. "If the Kachin people do not speak out against his release, the situation will again return to the way it was before [last yearís] coup."

    The pressure to release Zau Mai is believed to have begun earlier this year after a group of older KIO officers began calling for his release, according to Kachin sources familiar with the KIO. Sources say elder KIO leaders, who remain sympathetic to Zau Mai, further increased calls for his release during a regional tour of Asean countries in March. The leaders also met with Khin Nyunt during the tour, who reportedly told the leaders that he hoped to have dinner with Zau Mai before the yearís end.

    Kachin leaders are fearful that the recent development will only springboard Zau Mai back into power."This is the first step for Zau Mai to rebuild his power," says a Kachin student leader in exile. "This event is likely to have a negative impact on the Kachinís future."

    The Kachin leader from Laiza exhibited similar sentiment: "This is the building of power for their group. We know that they made a special agreement with the junta for his release." The exact arrangement with the regime regarding Zau Maiís release remains unclear.

    Distrust for Gen Zau Mai dates back to the mid-1980s, when the KIO lost their headquarters in Pajua to Burmese troops. Sources say Zau Mai aided the governmentís troops during the 1986 raid.

    "He made lots of mistakes," continues the Laiza-based Kachin leader. He added that Zau Mai is also accused of locking an arms depository shortly before the cease-fire agreement was implemented, which ultimately led to the death of KIO leader Maran Brang Seng.

    Despite the denouncement by most Kachins regarding Zau Maiís release, the KIOís representative in Thailand praised the event. "This is good for the Kachin," says Col Zau Seng.

    Zau Mai was also seen as the regimeís point man during ceasefire negotiations between the government and the KIO. The KIO entered into a ceasefire agreement in 1994.

    Gen Zau Mai also reportedly had numerous and occasionally violent run-ins with his own officers over grievances against Burmese troops for violations of the ceasefire pact. He was also involved in numerous deals with Chinese businessmen. Many Kachins continue to feel that last yearís power shake-up was good for the Kachin people.

    Malizup Zau Mai was born in the Kachin State capital of Myitkina, and later moved to Rangoon where he attended and eventually graduated in 1959 from Rangoon University. While there he served as secretary-general of the Rangoon University Kachin Student Organization during 1957-1958. He also founded the underground Sanit Majan, which eventually became the KIO.

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    Doctors in Burma separate twin girls born joined at the hip

    Source : MSNBC / AP

    Rangoon, Aug. 13 --Surgeons in northern Burma have separated a pair of 1-year-old twins born joined at the hip, and the girls are recovering well, the medical team leader said Tuesday.

    The twins, born prematurely and underweight in July 2001 at the Mandalay Women's hospital, were separated Sunday in a 14-hour operation, said Dr. Aung Kyi.

    ''Their condition is stable and they are recovering. The operation went very well,'' Aung Kyi told The Associated Press.

    He said the girls were joined at the bladder and pelvic bones, and shared a colon.

    One of the girls, Moe Pa Pa Aung, has had three previous surgeries to remove fluid from her head, while the other, Moe Ma Ma Aung, has a congenital heart problem.

    A pair of Guatemalan twins who were joined at the head were separated in a 22-hour operation in Los Angeles on Sunday. Such cases occur in fewer than one in 2.5 million live births.

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    CHAVALIT BREAKS RANKS: PM 'giving in' to Rangoon

    The Nation

    Defence Minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh yesterday took a swipe at Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's handling of relations with Burma, saying the government had "given in" to the military government in Rangoon.

    Chavalit, who often boasts of his close relations with Burma's ruling generals, criticised a planned lunch meeting in Chiang Rai to be attended by Cabinet members from the two countries.The function is intended to show that bilateral relations between the two countries are back on track, but Chavalit suggests the event will make Thailand appear inferior to the Burmese.

    Chavalit said he was "dazed and confused" by reports of the planned function. "If this is really going to take place, it would mean that Burma is extremely powerful.

    "I accept the fact that we are friends and that we have been sincere with the Burmese, but this doesn't mean that we have to take orders from them. If this is the case it's unacceptable," Chavalit said.

    The idea of bringing the two Cabinets together was proposed by the premier. Government House insiders said Chavalit's comments might have been motivated because Thaksin had sidelined him throughout the reconciliation process with Rangoon.

    Meanwhile, Chavalit yesterday defended the government's decision to select General Somdhat Attanand over General Wattanachai Chiamuanwong as the next Army chief, saying the goal of the selection process was to pick the candidate who would best adhere to government policy.His statement came amid growing unease among the armed forces over what it perceives to be heavy interference in military affairs by politicians during the annual reshuffle.

    Analysts said that Wattanachai was undesirable because of his tough stance on Burma following a spate of cross-border shelling last February, just as the Thai Rak Thai party was forming its government.A flier was distributed at the Defence Ministry recently with the message: "The Royal Thai Army is not the Thai Rak Thai Army," reflecting the mood of a growing number of military men who believe the government's interference in military affairs is driven by political ambition rather than national interest.

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    Junta calls off border exercises

    The Nation

    Burmese military exercises that were set to begin today have been called off, apparently in response to improving relations between Thailand and Rangoon's junta, said a Thai military intelligence officer stationed at the border.

    About 200 Burmese troops who were to have participated in the exercises remained at their base camp in Hua Muang, a former stronghold of opium warlord Khun Sa.Khun Sa surrendered to the military government of Burma in 1995 in return for amnesty.

    The exercise was reportedly planned weeks ago during a war of words between Thailand and the junta, following weeks of border clashes between Thai and Burmese troops. Anti- Rangoon Shan soldiers and militia from the United Wa State Army, a pro-Rangoon outfit, were also fighting.

    Thai Army officers stationed along the border said the decision to cancel the military exercises was a sign that relations were improving between the two countries following a fence-mending trip to Rangoon by Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.However, the officers warned that the problems along the border - drugs, insurgencies, human trafficking and refugee movements - remained unresolved.

    Hua Muang is adjacent to Mae Hong Son province's Ban Huay Phung and about two hours away from the provincial capital.Although closely monitored by Burmese intelligence officials, Thai merchants are permitted to transport goods to the Hua Muang market. The cost of fuel and other household goods skyrocketed in Burmese border towns after the border was closed because of rising tensions there.

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