Daily News- August 26- 2002- Monday

  • Thailand to rewrite History for neighbours
  • Thai FM is confident of reopening
  • Treason trial of Ne Win's kin set to wrap up
  • Myanmar to ask for international flood relief
  • Myanmar Muslim group denies links with al-Qaida
  • Myanmar FM to visit Thailand on border reopening

  • Thailand to rewrite History for neighbours

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Thai Education Ministry has finished rewriting history and is ready to launch a new school textbook that features toned-down accounts of conflicts with neighbouring countries in a bid to improve bilateral relations.

    The textbook for junior and high schools will be launched next month, after a review by historians and teachers, under an initiative aimed at building regional unity proposed by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation.

    It would later be translated into English for use in other Asean member states.

    According to project supervisor Vuthichai Moonsilpa, current history textbooks had been the cause of many conflicts with neighbouring countries and should be considered ``obsolete''.

    Some books in use had been written with a deliberate emphasis on nationalism in a bid to counter communist insurgencies during the Cold War, he said.

    The book to be launched next month would not completely ignore periods of history deemed controversial, but accounts of specific events would be presented in a more diplomatic manner, said Mr Vuthichai, a former history professor at Srinakharinwirot University.

    ``The book will still cover major historical events that brought about significant changes,'' he said.

    ``It will also allow students to thoroughly analyse these events and gain a better understanding of past conflicts.''

    Ministry official Prapatpong Senarith said the book was aimed at ensuring students did not develop negative attitudes towards neighbouring countries.

    The Education Ministry would launch a campaign aimed at promoting the book among teachers from 2,000 schools who will be allowed more freedom in choosing their materials under a pilot project later this year.

    If successful, the project would later be expanded to cover 46,500 schools nationwide.

    Accounts of historical conflicts have often become the source of strife with governments of bordering countries.

    In May, relations with Rangoon sank to a new low after the state-run New Light of Myanmar published an article critical of King Naresuan the Great, who in 1767 repelled Burmese invaders from the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.

    Last year, Vientiane lodged a stern protest over the portrayal of Chao Anu, or King Anuwong in Laos, in a locally-made film.

    The new textbook will mostly cover political, economic and social issues, but will also touch on the preservation of national identity and relations with other countries.

    ``It will offer students a new perspective on history,'' said Mr Prapatpong.

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    Thai FM is confident of reopening

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Thailand Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai says he is confident border trade with Burma will resume after next month's ministerial-level talks.

    The Burmese government now understood Thailand's policy of non-interference in its neighbours' domestic affairs and bilateral relations were back to normal, he said yesterday.

    Checkpoints between the countries would be reopened, and Rangoon had indicated they would not need to be shut again, he said.

    Mr Surakiart and Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung are due to meet on Sept 6 for discussions on measures to keep the border open.

    It will be their second recent meeting. The Burmese minister will also meet Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

    Mr Surakiart said the visit would be an opportunity for his counterpart to convey messages from Rangoon directly.

    Mr Surakiart visited Rangoon three weeks ago in a bid to defuse tensions.

    Burma sealed its frontier with Thailand in late May after tensions rose following fighting along the border between ethnic minority forces and Burmese troops, and a subsequent war of words between the countries.

    Mr Surakiart insisted Thailand had not made concessions to Burma in exchange for the border reopening.

    He denied the deportation of Burmese dissidents and villagers from Sangkhla Buri district, Kanchanaburi, was a trade-off with the junta government.

    Fourteen Burmese activists were among 31 people pushed back to Burma on Thursday, amid criticism from human rights groups who accused the government of trying to appease the military regime. The government said Burma had not asked for their return, it was just following routine procedure.

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    Treason trial of Ne Win's kin set to wrap up

    Source : The Straits Times / AFP

    Rangoon- - The treason trial against family members of former Burmese leader Ne Win is expected to wrap up in the coming week, concluding unprecedented legal proceedings against a once-untouchable dynasty.

    A verdict is expected next month in the case against Ne Win's son-in-law Aye Zaw Win, 54, and three grandsons Aye Ne Win, Kyaw Ne Win and Zwe Ne Win, whom the junta accuse of trying to take power in a military coup.

    losing arguments are due to be heard on Wednesday.

    'Once the final arguments by both the defence and prosecution counsels are completed by next week, the day for the final verdict will be set,' one legal expert said.

    All four defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include plotting against the state, enticing members of the military to stage a coup on their behalf and various economic crimes.

    They face the death penalty if found guilty, although observers say that is not likely as capital punishment has not been meted out here in more than a decade.

    The shock arrests in March - and the placing of Ne Win and his favourite daughter Sandar Win under house arrest - caused a sensation.

    Many observers believe that the ruling generals' action against the family was aimed at severing the puppet strings said to still be controlled by the ageing former leader.

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    Myanmar to ask for international flood relief

    YANGON, Aug 25 (AFP) - Myanmar will indirectly ask for foreign aid in the coming week as the impoverished nation battles its worst flooding in more than 30 years, according to media reports.

    Floodwaters brought on by monsoon rains have affected up to a million acres (404,700 hectares) of land throughout the country, leaving thousands of people homeless and causing widespread damage to crops and property, the Myanmar Times reported in its edition to be published Monday.

    The military government will not ask for the relief directly but through aid agencies, a spokeswoman for the Myanmar Red Cross told the state-controlled weekly."We will make a more concrete report on Tuesday which will be sent to the International Federation of Red Cross regional office in Bangkok. They will then ask the international community for aid to deal with the situation," the spokeswoman was quoted as saying.There were no reports of any casualties.

    A government spokesman told the English-language newspaper that Myanmar was struggling to cope with the intense weather patterns affecting much of Asia that have left more than 1,000 people dead, millions homeless, and untold damage across the continent in recent weeks.

    "Naturally, we would appreciate assistance," said the spokesman, who like the Red Cross official was not named. "We have limited resources and we know that the Myanmar Red Cross is also doing its best to help the people."He said medical care was a growing concern as health problems such as diarrhoea, waterborne diseases and influenza could spread as floodwaters recede.

    A Western ambassador was quoted as saying he "would be prepared to urgently communicate with our governments to offer Myanmar assistance.""We would take most seriously any request for aid under purely humanitarian circumstances," a European diplomat said.

    Flooding around Monwya, a town 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of the northern city of Mandalay, was particularly severe, with at least 5,000 people stranded in rescue camps as the Chindwin River burst its banks.Several other rivers, including the Ayeyawaddy, the country's largest river, have overflowed or reached well beyond danger levels.

    Meteorological officials Sunday were calling for isolated rains or thundershowers inland and moderate monsoon conditions at sea.

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    Myanmar Muslim group denies links with al-Qaida

    BANGKOK, (AP) Thailand - A Muslim separatist group in western Myanmar has denied it is allied to the al-Qaida terror network, and accused the country's military junta of fabricating the link to gain the support of the United States.

    "The junta is employing all possible ways and means to gain the support of the United States by trying to link the Rohingya (Muslim) freedom fighters with al-Qaida and Taliban," the Arakan Rohingya National Organization said in a statement dated Sunday.

    Rohingya rebels in Arakan, a Muslim-majority region of Myanmar that borders predominantly Islamic Bangladesh, have been fighting for decades for a separate state, accusing Myanmar's mostly Buddhist military of persecution, rape and forced labor.

    Rohingya is derived from Rohang, the ancient name of Arakan, a province of 4 million people.

    CNN reported last week that al-Qaida had been operating in western Myanmar, bringing attention to the Rohingyas.

    The Myanmar government said it would investigate the allegations and share information with the United States. It also said it had independent information that "Islamic terrorists" with connection to al-Qaida and Taliban are operating along Myanmar's western border.

    "This is a sinister design of the junta to annihilate the Muslim communities of the country, particularly that of the Rohingyas in Arakan (state)," the Rohingya group's statement said.It said the Rohingyas "are not terrorists but freedom fighters against tyranny and ruthless persecution of the military regime."

    Myanmar's military government, shunned by many Western nations for its poor human rights and anti-democracy record, has tried to mend fences with Washington by stressing its willingness to combat the drug trade and take part in the war against terrorism.The government claimed earlier this month that it has crushed an armed Muslim separatist group trained by the Taliban and in Middle Eastern terrorist camps.

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    Myanmar FM to visit Thailand on border reopening

    BANGKOK, Aug. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung will visit Thailand early next month to hold talks with his Thai counterpart and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on the reopeningof border checkpoints.

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said his Myanmar counterpart was scheduled to visit Thailand on Sept. 6, according to a report of the Thai News Agency Monday.

    During the trip, the Myanmar foreign minister will pay a courtesy call on Premier Thaksin, with the issue of reopening of Myanmar checkpoints expected to be included in the agenda, Surakiart added.

    It is the first time that Myanmar seeks for discussions with Thailand on the issue since it closed its border checkpoints in May. Myanmar said in a written message to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs that it should be no closure of border checkpointsin the future, indicating that it was ready to reopen its border checkpoints at any time.

    Myanmar, however, proposed that a joint mechanism be established to address any problem incurring after the reopening of the checkpoints within a day, which will help prevent new tensions and closure of the checkpoints in the future, he disclosed.

    Clashes along the border in May have led to souring relations between the two neighboring countries. Myanmar accused Thailand ofsupporting its armed ethnic groups, but Thailand totally denied the accusation, saying the warning fire from Thai troops was only to protect the country's sovereignty.

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