Daily News- January 08 - 2002- Tuesday

  • Thai-Mynamar ministers to hammer out fate of army of illegal workers
  • Junta agrees to take back illegal workers
  • Thai govt's claim challenged
  • Thailand seeks Japanese help to create drug-free villages
  • Wa leader dismisses drug charge
  • Drug lord's safes yield gold

  • Thai-Mynamar ministers to hammer out fate of army of illegal workers

    BANGKOK, Jan 7 (AFP) - The Thai and Myanmar foreign ministers will meet from Tuesday in a new attempt to hammer out the fate of hundreds of thousands of illegal workers in Thailand, officials said.Senior officials from the two countries started talks Monday at the southern Thailand resort of Phuket ahead of the arrival of Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung late Tuesday.

    Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Win Aung will discuss illegal immigration, joint efforts against drugs, trade, fishing, telecommunications, energy, the environment and tourism, Thai officials said.Much attention in Thailand is being focused on more than 600,000 Mynamar exiles and illegal workers in the country.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has sought to improve ties with Thailand's neighbour after a series of disputes last year.But the Thai government has also said it wants to put the priority on repatriating illegal workers, 568,000 of whom have registered with the authorities since last September.And sources quoted by the Bangkok Post predicted there would be problems at the ministerial meeting agreeing the fate of more than 100,000 ethnic Karen and Karenni people in camps along the Thai-Myanmar border.

    Thai authorities forcibly closed a major camp for Myanmar dissidents in late December, the biggest step yet in its campaign to shut shelters for people who have fled Myanmar's military government.But Myanmar, which is still fighting a rebellion by Karen guerrillas, has said it will only take back those with a genuine interest in leading a peaceful life in the country.

    The Phuket meeting of the joint cooperation commission will be the latest in a series of top level exchanges since tensions flared in March 2001.The two national armies clashed after becoming embroiled in fighting between rival ethnic militias accused of involvement in drug trafficking.

    The Thai prime minister travelled to Myanmar last June while the Myanmar junta's head of military intelligence, Khin Nyunt, came to Thailand in September.Myanmar's military regime said in December that relations with Thailand had strengthened through the "rapport between the leaders of the two nations".

    In 2000, Thailand's exports to Myanmar totalled 20.24 billion bahtmillion dollars) while imports were worth 10.46 billion baht (238 million dollars). Thailand's top exports to Myanmar were plastic, steel, chemicals, cement and rubber while the kingdom imported timber, ore, coal, crude oil and frozen shrimps from Myanmar.

    To The Top

    Junta agrees to take back illegal workers

    By Achara Ashayagachat
    The Bangkokpost

    Rangoon has agreed in principle to set up a holding centre in Myawaddy for illegal workers repatriated from Thailand, the permanent secretary for foreign affairs said yesterday.Details and procedures would be discussed in a month or two so the centre could be set up in the Burmese border town opposite Mae Sot in Tak, Tej Bunnag said.

    Mr Tej led an inter-agency delegation to talk with Burmese officials headed by Thaung Tun, director-general of the Political Affairs Department, at the sixth joint co-operation commission meeting.Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai will co-chair a ministerial meeting with his counterpart Win Aung tomorrow.

    The repatriation of more than half a million illegal Burmese workers seemed to be the only issue making progress, with little advance in talks on the return to Burma of an estimated 108,000 displaced people.

    Mr Tej said it was not easy to conclude arrangements for the repatriation of displaced people. But he noted that increasingly positive attitudes on both sides were building up mutual understanding, with Thailand expecting an eventual solution to the issue as had been the case with the problem of illegal migrants.

    The joint commission meeting, he said, took place because of improvements in bilateral ties following Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's visit to Burma in June, and the September visit to Thailand by Khin Nyunt, secretary one of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Yesterday's meeting also discussed preparations for HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's visit to Burma, on behalf of His Majesty the King, later this year, and the upcoming visit of SPDC vice-chairman Maung Aye, Mr Tej said.Other issues raised at the meeting included co-operation in drug control, account trade, Thailand's import of Burma's farm produce, joint fishery ventures, road networks, tourism, environment and energy.

    The two countries tried their best to move forward co-operation in drug control, Mr Tej said.``After the signing of the memorandum of understanding on co-operation in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals control during the premier's visit to Burma, both sides have stepped up exchanges of information and intelligence. Therefore there has been more news on sweeps against these drugs,'' he said.

    Thailand soon would send a technical-level delegation to survey Burma's opium-riddled region opposite Chiang Rai for possible crop substitution programmes or other infrastructure projects. This would be financed by a 20-million-baht budget from the Thai government, he said.``We have a limited budget, so we will see what kind of activities we can conduct with Burma. But the methamphetamine problem is a matter of demand and supply, so we have to work on other fronts as well,'' he said.

    On the fishery issue, concerned agencies had to further discuss terms and conditions, he said.Songsang Patavanich, president of the Thai Overseas Fisheries Association, said that most sticking points of the joint-venture deal had been resolved, with the issue of where to unload the catch being the main remaining snag.

    To The Top

    Thai govt's claim challenged

    The Bangkokpost

    Former deputy foreign minister Sukhumbhand Paribatra yesterday challenged the government's claim of success in building warm ties with Burma.MR Sukhumbhand demanded more proof and urged the government to develop more ``constructive relations'' in its engagement with the Rangoon regime. Personal interests should not be allowed to play a part in the policy.

    Despite the government's claim that the two countries had become good neighbours, methamphetamine pills were still flowing into Thailand across the border from Burma, he told a seminar on global situations and their impacts on Thailand.

    MR Sukhumbhand, a Democrat MP, was also concerned about possible political transitions in Burma due to constant outside pressure on the military regime for political changes, and the deteriorating health of Gen Ne Win, who is believed to have influence on the ruling junta.

    The Thaksin government's policy on Burma, which put aside human rights and democratic elements, differed sharply from that of the previous Democrat-led administration.

    Prapat Thepchatree, head of Thammasat University's Centre for International Policy Studies, which organised the seminar, believed that was a mistake. The current government had abandoned Thailand's strongest point which distinguished it from other Southeast Asian countries, he said.

    MR Sukhumbhand also called for more clarity, saying the government had sent confusing signals to other countries last year on its anti-terrorism stance and Thailand's economic policy.

    To The Top

    Thailand seeks Japanese help to create drug-free villages

    BANGKOK, Jan 7 (AFP) - Thailand will ask Japan to help finance drug-free villages in neighbouring Myanmar when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visits this week, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Monday.

    Thailand, which has been flooded with amphetamines and other narcotics which it says have come across the border from Myanmar, wants to set up a project under which villages are paid to grow alternative crops and destroy drug making facilities.

    Surakiart said that during the visit by Koizumi on Friday and Saturday, Thailand will asked Japan to play a role in its drug-free campaign.The initial cost of setting it up will be around 500,000 dollars. "It is not much," said the foreign minister, "we want to know how Japan will play a role in the project."Thailand will also seek to raise Japan's offer to help repatriate more than 100,000 Myanmar refugees and cooperation on a Japan-Southeast Asia free trade zone.

    Koizumi is visiting at the invitation of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Koizumi will also call on King Bhumibol Adulyadej.He will also visit Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore on the Southeast Asia tour from January 9-15.

    To The Top

    Wa leader dismisses drug charge

    Shan Herald Agency for News :7 January 2002 :No: 01 - 03:

    The leader of the non-ceasefire Wa group disclaimed accusation by the Thai army troops that one of its units was guarding a drug caravan when it was stormed on Thursday (3 December).

    Ta Mahasang, commander of the Wa National Army that headquarters opposite Amphur Muang, Maehongson province, told S.H.A.N. today (7 December) that his group was not dealing in drugs. "Obviously there must have been some misunderstandings," he said, "because I had notified the Thai authorities concerned of our troops' positions along the border earlier. Had I been involved in the drug trade, why would I do that?"

    According to Bangkok Post, 5 December issue, the Wa forces retreated after a 30-minute gun battle with the 712th Infantry Battalion on Hill 1355 (Pang Oong according to Ta Mahasang). The Thai army also held that the Wa opened fire on the Thai troops when they demanded to search the hill.

    "On the contrary, it was the Thais who opened fire and killed Lt Ai Zing, deputy commander of the column, who came out to receive them. Our troops did not return fire but chose to retreat instead, led by Capt Nyi Hseng, the column commander," he said. The Thai side claimed capturing 7 Wa guerrillas dead together with an AK 47 rifle. No drugs were reported found on the premises.

    The Wa column, according to Ta Mahasang, had on New Year's Day assigned 4 men to forage for supplies. "They never returned, so on the 3rd, Nyi Hseng, sent another three to look for them. They were taken into custody by a Thai patrol that launched the attack on the Wa position later in the day," he added.

    The WNA is the armed wing of the Wa National Organization, also led by Mahasang. It is a member organization in several umbrella organizations: National Democratic Alliance of Burma and National Council of the Union of Burma in addition to being an ally to the Shan State Army of Col Yawdserk. Mahasang is the half-brother of Mahaja of Homong, opposite Maehongson, who is reported to be heavily involved in drugs under the protection of Rangoon forces in the area.

    To The Top

    Drug lord's safes yield gold

    The Nation

    Authorities yesterday found 1.5 kilograms of gold, jewellery and other valuables believed to be the ill-gotten gains of fugitive convicted drug warlord Wei Xieu-kang in eight safes at his mistress' house.

    Pirapan Premputi, secretary-general of the Anti-Money Laundering Commission (AMLC), said three independent appraisers were in the process of valuing all assets seized from|Wei and his suspected accomplices.

    The gold alone has a market value of more than Bt2 million, Pirapan said, adding that the AMLC had earlier frozen about Bt100 million of Wei's assets pending legal proceedings to confiscate them.The valuables found yesterday, along with other assets seized in earlier raids on various homes and businesses, belonged to Wei's mistress, his son and other suspected accomplices in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.Pirapan set Februay 2 as the deadline for owners of the seized assets to submit proof of acquisition and ownership of the items.

    Wei, a drug warlord of the pro-Rangoon United Wa State Army, jumped bail while appealing a drug conviction in 1987. He is believed to be taking refuge at a jungle base near the Burmese border.

    To The Top