Daily News- August 24- 2002- Saturday

  • Burma vows to investigate al-Qaida links
  • Reopening of Thai-Burmese border to be discussed
  • Dissidents deported to 'safe areas' from Thailand
  • Thai eyes Burmese goal in the Asean Youth Championship

  • Burma vows to investigate al-Qaida links

    Source : MSNBC / AP

    BANGKOK, Thailand, Aug. 23Burma said Friday it will investigate activities by the al-Qaida terrorist network on its soil in response to videotapes allegedly made by the group linking it to the Southeast Asian nation.

    The videotapes are part of a cache that were obtained in Afghanistan by CNN and are being aired this week on the cable network.

    A statement by Burma's military government said media reports indicated some of the tapes include ''material from militant Islamic groups in other countries such as Somalia, Myanmar and Bosnia.''

    While cautioning that it had not yet seen the relevant portions, the government said it would ''investigate this allegation with the utmost urgency'' and share the information with the United States.

    The statement added that Burma, was already actively cooperating with the international community in the battle against terrorism.

    ''Islamic terrorists'' with connections to al-Qaida and Taliban are operating along Myanmar's western border, spokesman Lt. Col. Hla Min was quoted as saying. Some of those terrorists are being detained and questioned in Rangoon, Burma's capital, he said.

    Earlier this month, the junta claimed to have crushed an armed Muslim separatist group it said was trained by Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers and in Middle Eastern terrorist camps. It gave no details on the crackdown.

    Burma's military government is shunned by many Western nations for its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government. It has tried to mend fences with Washington by stressing its willingness to combat the drug trade and take part in the war against terrorism.

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    Reopening of Thai-Burmese border to be discussed

    Source : The Bangkok post

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai will meet his Burmese counterpart Win Aung here on Sept 6 to discuss the reopening of the Thai-Burmese border, a government source said yesterday.

    The two ministers will have just come back from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, and the Thai embassy in Rangoon was informed of the schedule yesterday, the source noted.

    Burma closed the border with Thailand on May 20 after cross-border shelling soured relations between the two countries.

    Burma has proposed discussion on reopening the border, and ways to prevent any closure in future, the source said.

    The delay in reopening the border was due to an ``internal process'' in Burma that took into account security concerns, the source pointed out. Rangoon also had difficulties reaching local authorities.

    Both sides were confident that the upcoming talks would renew co-operation against drugs, on border demarcation and on the repatriation of illegal immigrants as agreed earlier this year. Oum Maolanond, the Thai ambassador to Burma, said Mr Surakiart's recent visit to Rangoon had certainly helped improve relations between the two neighbours.

    ``There are no more protest marches against Thai goods and the Burmese government last week again allowed Burmese nationals seeking to stay in Thailand more than 30 days to apply for exit permits from the Thai embassy in Rangoon,'' he said. The Burmese leadership expressed confidence in Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The continued strains might be due to a misunderstanding, or Thailand's lack of clear stand over ethnic minorities.

    The government must give Burma assurances that Bangkok does not support ethnic minorities, the envoy said. He also suggested more exchanges of visits, and the setting up of more local mechanisms.

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    Dissidents deported to 'safe areas' from Thailand

    Source : The Nation

    All 31 Burmese dissidents deported from Thailand earlier this week were placed in safe areas and were not handed over to the junta, the Foreign Ministry insisted yesterday.

    The ministry rejected allegations by lawmakers and human-rights advocates that the deportations were to appease Rangoon so it would reopen border checkpoints closed since border skirmishes in May.

    Police said the dissidents were arrested on Tuesday in Kanchanaburi's Sangkhla Buri district for illegal entry.

    "The arrests have nothing to do with attempts to reopen border checkpoints and restore relations with Burma," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    "The National Security Council issued a guideline to clean out all illegal migrants in Thailand, not only Burmese . . . The Immigration Department in Sangkhla Buri deported the dissidents on Wednesday and Thursday in accordance with normal practice for illegal migrants. The authority never considered them political figures.''

    The dissidents are members of several organisations, including the Democratic Party for a New Society, the National League for Democracy (liberated area), the All Burmese Students' Democratic Front and the Karen National Union.

    It is believed some dissidents were arrested while learning the Bible and taking English lessons in a church.

    Human-rights groups in Thailand were worried the dissidents had been handed over to the junta and would be subjected to severe punishment.

    But border sources have backed up the government's claim, saying they were deported to safe areas and the junta had yet to capture them.

    Relations between Thailand and Burma have soured since border skirmishes on May 20.

    The ministry said in yesterday's statement that Burmese foreign minister Win Aung had accepted an invitation to visit Thailand early next month to discuss the reopening of border checkpoints.

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai visited Rangoon on August 6 to try and mend relations, but he did not discuss the border, saying the junta would reopen it when relations were back to normal.

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    Thai eyes Burmese goal in the Asean Youth Championship

    Source : The Nation

    Panai Kongpraphan will be chasing his sixth goal in five games when he leads Thailand's under-20 squad in the Asean Youth Championship semi-final against arch-rivals Burma today at the Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium in Brunei.

    Panai, who is without star team-mates Ekaphan Inthasen and Theerathep Winothai in the 11-day-tournament due to club commitments, has already scored five goals in four matches in the preliminary rounds.

    Although playing with an injury to his left knee, he has been in good form. He scored the winning goal in Thailand's 1-0 victory over Vietnam.

    The Thai squad spent yesterday practising penalties as the match will go to a penalty shoot-out if the scores are tied.

    Thailand have a better record against the Burmese this year. The two sides played a 1-1 tie in the first round of the Asean Youth Championship in Bangkok in April before Thailand defeated Burma 4-0 in the final.

    According to team manager Sunthorn Meesuwan, the players have pooled their prize money to buy 100 tickets at Bt120 each for Thai workers in Brunei.

    "They [the players] are guaranteed to receive Bt100,000 in prize money after reaching the semi-finals, so I think it is not much money to contribute only Bt10,000 to the Thai workers, who will come to cheer us on," Sunthorn said.

    In the other semi-final Indonesia will take on Malaysia. The losers will share third place and receive Bt100,000, while the champions will collect Bt400,000 and the runners-up will be awarded Bt200,000.

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