Daily News- August 14- 2002- Wednesday

  • Thailand rejects claim on Myanmar dissidents crackdown
  • PLEASING THE JUNTA: Thailand- based dissidents 'face crackdown'
  • Tachilek to host border talks on Sunday
  • Scotsman runs clinic for Karen
  • Japan to help launch project in Burma
  • Burma To issue Electronic Passport to diplomats and Businesspersons first

  • Thailand rejects claim on Myanmar dissidents crackdown

    The Times Of India

    BANGKOK: Thailand on Tuesday dismissed claims by a London- based rights group that it planned to launch a crackdown on pro- democracy Myanmar exiles in the kingdom.

    "There is no need for the Thai government to have such a policy,"government spokesman Yongyuth Tiyapairath told AFP in response to allegations by the Burma Campaign UK."If they come and make trouble for Thai people, Thai authorities have the right to respond. But if they come into Thailand legally, we cannot do anything."

    Burma Campaign UK, quoting sources in Thailand, warned of a "massive crackdown" on exiled Myanmar dissidents and ethnic leaders based in the kingdom.It said the government action could include raids on pro-democracy and human rights offices and the arrest of dissidents.

    Thousands of exiles and migrant workers from Myanmar, the former Burma, reside in Thailand, and there is an extensive dissident community here, some of whom advocate military force against Myanmar's ruling military junta.

    The Burma Campaign UK said in its statement that Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had recently bowed to pressure from Yangon and that it was "rumoured" that Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, known to be close with some Myanmar generals, had argued for suppression of Myanmar activists."Rumour is rumour," Yongyuth replied.

    Sources in Northern Thailand close to both the military and dissident groups said they had no information of any impending crackdown.

    Last month Thailand's National Security Council vowed to clamp down on dissident groups, including refugee Myanmar students who oppose the military junta in Yangon.

    Thai-Myanmar relations soured badly in May due to deadly border clashes that led to a closure of the border, which remains in effect, a halt to bilateral trade, and a vitriolic anti-Thai press campaign in Yangon.Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai traveled to Yangon last week and said upon his return that ties had been "normalised".

    PLEASING THE JUNTA: Thailand- based dissidents 'face crackdown'

    The Nation

    Activists said yesterday that they had learned of a planned crackdown on Burmese dissidents and ethnic leaders based in Thailand to appease the military junta in Rangoon.The move is thought to include raids on pro-democracy groups and offices of human rights organisations, the arrest of dissidents and confiscation of sensitive documents, they said.

    "Such a crackdown would deal a massive blow to Burma's pro-democracy and ethnic movements. People who have already fled oppression in Burma, now face arrest and detention in Thailand," John Jackson, director of the London- based Burma Campaign UK, said in a statement.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra recently reaffirmed to Rangoon that his government had no policy to provide shelter or support to Burmese rebels.

    An official at the Internal Security Operation Command said authorities were monitoring the movement of dissident groups and armed ethnic minorities in case they create friction with Burma.

    "We need to enforce government policy outlawing anti- government movements from using Thailand as their base to attack neighbouring countries," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.It remains unclear when the crackdown is to commence, and how strictly it will be enforced.

    Northern-based activists have said they are prepared to risk arrest and the seizure of their assets rather than go into hiding.Burmese women of Shan and Akha origin in the North have been prevented from carrying out human rights activities by Thai police and are under investigation.Others Burmese groups have closed their offices in Chiang Mai and destroyed sensitive documents.

    To The Top

    Tachilek to host border talks on Sunday

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    A meeting of the Thai-Burmese Township Border Committee will be held in Burma's Tachilek opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district on Sunday.An army source said the Burmese TBC had informed its Thai counterpart that Burma would host a TBC meeting in Tachilek province on Aug 18.The Thai TBC is chaired by Col Surasak Boonsiri, commander of the 4th Infantry Regiment.

    There were also reports Rangoon had ordered that another TBC meeting be held on the same day in Myawaddy opposite Tak's Mae Sot district. The source said it was still uncertain whether the TBC meetings would lead to the reopening of Tachilek-Mae Sai and Myawaddy-Mae Sot checkpoints, which have been unilaterally closed by Burma since May.

    Burma has suspended all border committee meetings since its relations with Thailand soured over alleged Thai military assistance to Shan rebels.The scheduled talks follow a visit to Rangoon by the foreign minister, and the recent transfer of army chief Gen Surayud Chulanont, who is seen to have adopted a hardline stance on Burma.Next month, a Regional Border Committee meeting is expected to be held in Moulmein. The Thai delegation will be led by Lt-Gen Udomchai Onkhasing, chairman of the Thai RBC.

    Meanwhile, an anti-Rangoon Burmese group yesterday alleged in a press release that Thai authorities were planning to crack down on Burmese exiles in a bid to appease Rangoon.The Burma Campaign UK claimed to have received the information from ``reliable sources'' in Thailand.Bangkok was planning a massive crackdown on Burmese dissidents and ethnic leaders based in Thailand, it said.

    Those targeted included offices of pro-democracy and human rights groups and Burmese dissidents. The move was thought to be an attempt by the Thai government to appease Burmese military leaders, the group said.

    John Jackson, the group's director, said in the press release: ``Such a crackdown would be a massive blow to Burma's pro-democracy and ethnic movements. People who have already fled oppression in Burma now face arrest and detention in Thailand''.The group also quoted some activists as saying they were prepared to risk arrest and confiscation of their assets rather than go into hiding.

    A Bangkok-based observer was quoted as saying: ``The authoritarian rule of Rangoon's military seems to be contagious. If the Thai authorities crack down on Burmese dissidents here, they will create a stronger, more confident and more aggressive dictatorship across their border. That won't be good for Thailand or Burma.''
    To The Top

    Scotsman runs clinic for Karen

    Supamart Kasem
    The Bangkokpost

    A Scottish man has claimed to have joined the anti-Rangoon Karen National Union by founding a clinic at the KNU headquarters opposite Tak.David Fisher, 47, clad in a military-style uniform with a rifle, said he was a public health officer who had set up a clinic at the KNU headquarters two years ago to help treat injured Karen troops and sick villagers.The clinic was being run with help in the form of medicines and medical kits from the KNU, he said.

    ``I just do my duty for humanitarian reasons. I do not want to get involved in the fighting between both sides. Soldiers and villagers here need first-aid service, medical treatment and supplementary health services.``Anyway, seriously injured and ill people will be transfered across the border for treatment in Thailand,'' the Scotsman said.

    ``As for being armed, KNU officers allow me to have [a gun] for self-defence and emergency case only,'' he added.

    Tak immigration chief Pol Col Ratchata Suebsai-onn said he needed to check with the immigration headquarters in Bangkok first whether the foreigners now staying with the KNU had entered Burma through Thailand.

    Yesterday, the Swedish embassy denied any knowledge about a 19-year-old Swedish girl who was serving as a sergeant in the KNU army.``We have no idea who this woman is. We have nothing to do with this,'' an embassy official said.

    The Swedish teenager, calling herself Vanja, said she joined the army of the Christian Karen group based opposite Tak after entering Thailand as a tourist three months ago.She refused to give her real name or the name of her hometown in Sweden.

    The embassy official said 200,000 Swedes visited here every year. Unless they wanted help because they had lost money or needed hospital treatment, the embassy did not hear from them.

    To The Top

    Japan to help launch project in Burma

    Bhanravee Tansubhapol
    The Bangkokpost

    Japan will join hands with Thailand to launch a crop substitution project in Burma, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said.Mr Surakiart said after talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, that Tokyo would send its new ambassador to Rangoon to discuss the plan with a senior Thai Foreign Ministry official in charge of East Asia.

    The Japanese envoy also would visit royal projects in Thailand, which could be used as a model for Burma, Mr Surakiart said. Thailand wanted Japan to purchase crops to be produced under the project to assist Burmese growers, he added.

    Thailand believed encouraging the Burmese and ethnic minorities in Burma to switch to cash crops from opium and other drug crops would help end the influx of narcotics into the kingdom.

    Mr Surakiart said Thailand and Japan shared the view that Burma's national reconciliation would be possible only if the military regime, known as the State Peace and Development Council, opened a dialogue with Noble Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, and other ethnic groups.

    To The Top

    Burma To issue Electronic Passport to diplomats and Businesspersons first

    Source : Dowjones

    Burma will soon launch an electronic passport system, the British Broadcasting Corp., or BBC, said on its Web site Wednesday. The system involves the embedding of a microchip in the passport which contains information about the holder, including photographs and fingerprints, BBC said. The passports are to be checked at automatic gates installed in the departure terminal at Rangoon international airport, it added.

    The electronic passports use technology developed by a Malaysian-based company, Iris Corp. (D.IRI), partly-owned by the U.N. envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, BBC said.

    It quoted Razali as saying that 5,000 e-passports would be issued this week to Burmese diplomats, officials and selected members of the business community as part of a pilot program.

    Ismail dismissed fears the information might be misused by the government, saying Burma's leaders had changed. "If you're talking about 10 years ago that may be valid," he told BBC. "Must you think of things in such sinister terms? Anyway, it's only for those people who want to travel outside. In most cases those will be government people."

    Razali also rejected suggestions that his position as U.N. envoy may have helped Iris seal its deal with the Burmese government, BBC said. "There is no conflict of interest," he told BBC. "I've never spoken about this to leaders in government."

    Iris Corp (0010) shares may resume uptrend on news Burma will soon launch electronic passport system; Shares now down 1.2% at 40 sen.

    To The Top