Daily News- August 15- 2002- Thursday

  • Thai Police to check on activists joining ethinic rebels
  • Thai and Burmese Villagers sign peace agreement over Buddha Images
  • Scotsman says news report was fabricated
  • Burmese Games

  • Thai Police to check on activists joining ethinic rebels

    Source : Bangkok Post

    The Immigration Bureau is looking into the activities of activists who cross the border into Burma to join ethnic minority groups fighting the Rangoon junta.

    Pol Maj-Gen Manote Sattulee, chief of the 3rd Immigration Division, who oversees nationwide border checkpoints, said yesterday the National Security Council had recently asked the bureau to keep the border area adjoining Burma under surveillance.

    Pol Maj-Gen Manote said the NSC had expressed concern that there might be Thai and foreign activists making moves to cross the Thai border into Burma to join ethnic minority groups campaigning against the Burmese government on issues of freedom and human rights violations.

    He said the NSC did not name the non-governmental organisations under which the activists carried out their work. They just wanted the immigration police to report to them if they found suspected activists.

    ``It's very difficult to classify who are NGO activists but we'll try the best for the image of the country,'' Pol Maj-Gen Manote said.

    The NSC was afraid that relations between Thailand and Burma would turn sour if Thai and foreign activists were held captive in Burma.

    However, police had no authority to ban travellers suspected of being NGO activists from going to Burma or other countries, he said.

    They would impose such a ban only on those who had committed crimes in the country and were now wanted by the police.

    Pol Maj-Gen Manote said he did not know if a Swedish tourist, known only as Vanja, who joined the Karen National Union rebel army fighting the Burmese government, had crossed the Thai border into Burma legally or not. He is looking into the matter.

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    Thai and Burmese Villagers sign peace agreement over Buddha Images

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Residents of Thai and Burmese villages along the Moei river opposite Mae Sot district entered a peace agreement after the Thais gave Buddha images to a Burmese temple yesterday.

    The move was planned to ease the rift between the governments of the two countries.

    About 500 Thai and Burmese villagers, led by Kamnan Narong Huayphad and Min Lat Pan Union Solidarity and Development Association chairman Myint Oo, joined in a ceremony to present a temple in Burma's Min Lat Pan community with two Buddha images from Mae Sot's Ban Mae Konekane.

    The Buddha images were taken across the Moei river by boat to the Burmese temple, where around 1,000 Burmese people were waiting on the river bank opposite Ban Mae Konekane.

    The 13th Infantry Regiment task force had earlier mediated talks between the villagers and coordinated the presentation of the two Buddha images.

    Lt-Col Thanit Sanitchon said Thai and Burmese villages along the river bank agreed to maintain good ties, to respect both countries' sovereignty, help each other in case of natural disaster and to cooperate in combatting drugs.

    U Myint Oo said he was impressed by the atmosphere of friendship between the Thai and Burmese villagers living along the Moei river.

    He wanted Rangoon and Bangkok to have the same good feeling toward each other.

    Naresuan task force commander Maj-Gen Suthep Phothisuwan also witnessed the ceremony.

    He said it was the first time that Thai people had officially given Buddha images to Burmese people.

    The fact both sides agreed to live together peacefully could go a long way to ensuring border security in the area, Maj-Gen Suthep said.

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    Scotsman says news report was fabricated

    Source : The Nation

    A Scotsman who featured in an English-language daily newspaper report that said he had joined the Karen Nation Union, yesterday denied that he had spoken to the press, saying that he had only dressed up in a KNU uniform "for fun."

    "This is completely and utterly false," he said, referring to the report, which described him as a "public health officer" in the KNU.

    Fisher, 47, said he was invited to KNU Martyr's Day celebrations on Monday by Karen friends as he provides the Karen with donations for medical supplies and a clinic at the KNU base camp opposite Tak province where the celebrations took place. He said a KNU medic friend told him to dress up in a uniform and carry a rifle "for fun".

    "I felt sick when I read the story." he said.

    "I don't know where they [the Thai newspaper] got their information from."

    He said he had planned to use his picture in uniform for "English Week" at his school, when teachers were asked to pin their photographs on an exhibition board.

    "I was just playing around. It was a joke. I am not a soldier, I don't even know how to fire a gun," he said.

    He said he was furious that his picture had been taken and used in the newspaper, and astonished that he was quoted in the story when he had never been interviewed in the first place.

    "It is made up. Just lies," he said.

    Fisher said he is now worried that the false report would affect his career as an English teacher in a Bangkok school.

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    Burmese Games

    Source : Editorial, Far Eastern Economic Review

    It was good to hear Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi say that substantive talks with the country's military junta will start "within weeks." Nothing can be accomplished without the two sides talking. However, we'd caution against premature jubilation.

    Certainly, the junta realizes that it risks dissatisfaction boiling over if economic stagnation is unrelieved by increased aid and real overseas investment. This understanding has been the basis of its quid pro quo with Miss Suu Kyi: first releasing her from house arrest, and then allowing her some leeway to travel. In return, Miss Suu Kyi has softened her opposition to aid and, apparently, foreign business contacts, though still rightly holding out for the release of all political prisoners.

    But here, we're beginning to suspect the thugs in Rangoon to be unreformed. To be sure, they've released a few prisoners, notably before the United Nations envoy's recent trip to Rangoon and 14 more after Miss Suu Kyi's remarks on talks. But by only releasing political detainees in drips, the ones left behind are the junta's biggest bargaining chips. It doesn't take a cynic to see that in this is hardly an orderly plan for establishing democracy.

    In fact, can it be that this was never really on the cards? That the junta would always keep the prize just out of reach and a few politicians still locked up to wrangle more concessions? We hate being so suspicious, so we hope to be proved wrong and that the generals aren't after all playing a game of survival with the hopes of the Burmese people.

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