Daily News- January 09 - 2002- wednesday

  • Wei follower threatens to take revenge
  • Rise in opium crops expected in GOLDEN TRIANGLE
  • Thai- Burma ties exceed expectations
  • Thai Forestry chief rejects importers' rally
  • Friedland boosts stake in Ivanhoe Mines to 59%
  • Thailand and Burma agree on task force to tackle illegal workers
  • Junta to allow UN inspection of Wa drug region
  • Burma frees Suu Kyi's cousin

  • Wei follower threatens to take revenge

    The Bangkokpost
    By Manop Thip-osod Sunthorn Pongpao

    An unidentified man claiming to work for drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang has threatened to blow up Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's residence, the United States embassy and the National Police Office.

    The threat came as police expanded their search in Samut Prakan to uproot Wei Hsueh-kang's drug empire and his connections yesterday.The man, speaking with a Chinese accent, called the city police's Pan Fah radio centre and threatened to hurl grenades at the premier's residence, the US embassy and the police headquarters.

    The caller said he would avenge the crackdown on Wei and the recent confiscation of millions of baht in assets believed owned by the drug warlord.The man told police he and other plotters were at a house in Soi Charoensuk on Rama IV road.

    Police immediately beefed up security at the targeted venues, but the attacks failed to transpire.Pol Col Panu Kerdlarppol, deputy chief of city police division 7, said police were tracing the telephone number of the caller and searched the house said to be the hideout, but found nothing connected to the claimed plot.Yesterday, police widened their searches to two tanneries in Samut Prakan but found nothing.

    A police source said intelligence revealed Sa-nguan Tanning Factory and Auto Mofin Lester Co, located in the same compound on Sukhumvit road, were allegedly running businesses with Wei's drug money.Wei, one of the world's biggest drug traffickers, escaped bail years ago and fled to Burma. He was believed to have stayed in Mong Yawn, a major methamphetamine production base.

    Late last month, authorities impounded Wei's houses, vehicles, jewellery and assets worth more than 100 million baht in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, believed to have been acquired with money from illegal drug activities.

    Yesterday's raid panicked the workers, most of whom were legally-registered aliens.Wichian Srisa-nguansat, the factory owner, denied knowing Wei.Investigators say they have some clues regarding the identity of people who carried out a bomb hoax at the Irrigation Department on Monday.

    Pol Maj-Gen Theerasak Nguan-banjong, commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau's division 1, said investigators obtained useful information which could lead to arrests.

    It was reported the bomb threat was made by disgruntled department officials who were unhappy with slow investigation into alleged corruption involving officials at the department's workshop division.On Monday, a police bomb squad found a suspicious-looking cardboard box on the fourth floor of the department's administration building.

    To The Top

    Rise in opium crops expected in GOLDEN TRIANGLE

    The Bangkokpost
    By Wassana Nanuam

    Opium poppy growing in the Golden Triangle was expected to increase to fill the void created by Afghanistan being forced to give up almost all of its production, the army said.The war in Afghanistan and the downfall of the ruling Taliban militia had resulted in a drastic decline in opium supply from what was the world's largest opium-producing country.

    Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongakasing, commander of the Third Army, said the army was on the offensive to wipe out cultivation of opium poppies, which were used to make heroin.He said Golden Triangle drug lords had ordered highlanders to grow more poppies to fill the gap in global demand created by the Taliban's downfall.

    The drop in supply had pushed up the opium price and the Golden Triangle was seen as the major production base to take over from Afghanistan.Areas opposite Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son were expected to be cleared for poppy plantations.

    Lt-Gen Udomchai said the army had discovered 6,897 rai of opium fields last year and destroyed 5,199 rai.

    Drug dealers were investing more in poppy growing to cash in on rising opium prices. The army had found highlanders were growing poppies out-of-season with the aid of water sprinklers to boost production.

    Lt-Gen Udomchai said it was possible that producers of methamphetamine pills would switch to opium cultivation.However, he said the increased focus on opium was not expected to reduce the production of speed pills.

    Gen Pallop Pinmanee, deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command, said methamphetamine production remained high with an estimated 700 million pills expected to hit the Thai market this year.Last year, only 8.4 million pills were seized nationally while the supply of heroin increased.Gen Pallop said it was believed a total of 61 speed pill factories had been set up across the border with 39 in Burma, 19 in Laos and three in Cambodia.A powdered form of methamphetamine was also available to buyers who pressed it into tablets themselves.

    To The Top

    Thai- Burma ties exceed expectations

    The Bangkokpost
    By Achara Ashayagachat

    Thailand and Burma have restored relations beyond the ``state of normalcy'' the Thaksin government sought from the start, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said yesterday.

    But neither side could be complacent as they still needed to build ``resilient, strong and enduring relations'' that would enable them to ``withstand frictions and pressures that may arise naturally between neighbours,'' he added.

    Mr Surakiart and his Burmese counterpart Win Aung presided over the formal opening yesterday of the Thai-Burma Joint Commission on bilateral co-operation .Mr Win Aung said bilateral ties had improved over the past year as some serious misunderstandings and obstacles had been removed.He cited co-operation in narcotics suppression as an example, saying ``exchanges of information and intelligence between law enforcers of the two countries led to the arrests of some leading drug traffickers in Rangoon last October.''

    Mr Surakiart said closer cross-border co-ordination since the signing of an agreement on co-operation in narcotics control had resulted in more arrests. The pact was signed during the visit to Rangoon in June of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.But more energy, resources and determination was still needed to ``eliminate or to see a clear reduction in the volume of narcotic drugs that are threatening our societies,'' he said.

    The two sides welcomed the progress that senior officials had achieved over the past two days on matters of trade, fisheries and illegal workers.Mr Win Aung said he hoped an MoU on account trade would soon be signed to boost bilateral trade, particularly across the border, as this would reduce dependency on hard currencies.The Burmese minister expressed confidence that arrangements for joint ventures in fisheries could be concluded soon.

    On illegal immigration, Mr Win Aung said Burma had mutual interest in clearing the issue. Mr Surakiart looked forward to a ``new systematic employment of workers'' under a legal framework that would be mutually beneficial to all sides, including the workers themselves.

    In what was seen as a bid to keep the lid on controversy, senior officials stopped short of raising the environmental concerns sparked by a plan to build a coal-fired generator in Tachilek, just 5km from the Thai border.But sources said the joint commission on bilateral co-operation was the ideal body to raise the issue, at least to ask Burma to move the site of the plant some 20km inside their border.

    ``They are in dire need of Thailand's transportation network for the shipment of the equipment as roads connecting the China-Burma border were in bad shape,'' one source said.

    To The Top

    Thai Forestry chief rejects importers' rally

    The Bangkokpost
    By Supamart Kasem

    The forestry chief has shrugged off a threat from local enterpreneurs to stage a huge protest against a ban on furniture imports from Burma.They would only waste their time if they went ahead with their protest plan, said Plodprasop Suraswadi.

    A group of local furniture importers has threatened to mobilise 1,000 people to protest against the ban after the Forestry Department refused to consider lifting it.

    Mr Plodprasop said there was evidence that most of furniture items that local traders claimed to be Burmese imports were actually made of illegal wood from Thai forests.Mr Plodprasop on Monday led 100 forest rangers and soldiers to raid an illegal furniture factory in Tha Song Yang district.

    Teak wood, furniture parts and more than 200 items of equipment were found in the underground factory hidden beneath a closed restaurant.The restaurant premises, located near Mae Sot-Mae Saring highway in tambon Mae Tan, was reportedly owned by Somchai Kulkittiket, 38.

    Mr Plodprasop said checks showed most of the wood and furniture parts found at the factory were made of illegal Thai wood.Their makers were Burmese who had escaped from refugee camps, he said.``In my four years as the forestry chief, I have never seen such a large illegal sawmill. It is worth at least 5-6 million baht. Its biggest chainsaw can be used to process logs of at least 200cm in diameter,'' he said.

    To The Top

    Friedland boosts stake in Ivanhoe Mines to 59%

    source :Globe Technology

    Robert Friedland has increased his holding in Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. to 59 per cent from 50 per cent, converting loans owed by the company's Australian iron-ore producer, ABM Mining Ltd., into Ivanhoe common shares.

    Vancouver-based Ivanhoe also owns a half-interest in a Myanmar copper mine in a venture with the Myanmar government. It also has a gold mine in Kazakhstan, and last month bought four copper-gold exploration projects in Mongolia, adding to an existing Mongolian project, and it has a gold and silver development in South Korea.

    In a release, Mr. Friedland said he converted his Ivanhoe debt to equity at $1.20 a share, and now holds just more than 100 million of Ivanhoe's 171 million shares outstanding. They closed yesterday at $2.03 each, down 5 cents on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

    To The Top

    Thailand and Burma agree on task force to tackle illegal workers

    BANGKOK, Jan 9 (AFP)

    Thailand and Burma will establish a task force aimed at repatriating illegal workers back to Burma, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Wednesday.

    He said the task force would meet by the end of February or in early March to decide on about 100,000 workers who have not registered with Thai authorities. Another 560,000 illegal workers have registered.

    In the meantime, some of the workers will be held in a holding centre on Burma's side of the border in Myawadi, across the border from Thailand's Tak province.

    Both countries would be responsible for its operations.

    The agreement came at the end of two days of talks headed by Surakiart and Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung at the southern Thailand resort of Phuket.

    "We can be proud to have achieved remarkable progress on a wide range of issues in our bilateral relations," Surakiart said.

    He said this included drug control, trade, cooperation in cultural and environment issues and in the development of transport networks.

    While negotiations were dominated by the army of illegal workers who have fled across the border from Burma no agreement was reached on the fate of some 110,000 ethnic Karen and Karenni people.

    The ethnic minorities, who are held in 11 camps along the Thai-Burma border, have a staged long-running rebellion against Burma's military junta and Thailand also wants the camps closed.

    Surakiart added their fate was a separate issue to the illegal workers and would be discussed at a later meeting between the two countries.

    The Phuket meeting of the joint cooperation commission was the latest in a series of top-level exchanges since tensions flared in March 2001 when problems associated with the Karen insurgency spilled across the border into Thailand.

    Thai authorities forcibly closed a major camp for Burmese dissidents in late December and most obstacles between the two countries have focussed on the rebels.

    The closure raised objections from Thai and international human rights organisations who claim forced repatriation could lead to possible persecution of those who return.

    Burma has said it will only take back those with a genuine interest in leading a peaceful life in the country.

    Surakiart said Thailand had also agreed to inform Burma about future projects involving drug control programs through the Mae Fah Laung Foundation, a local group which introduces substitute crops for farmers who normally cultivate drugs.

    "Rehabilitation or drug-free villages will be established opposite Thailand's Chiang Rai province," Surakiart said.

    Chiang Rai sits on Thailand's northern border opposite Burma.

    A fisheries agreement was also close to completion and would be finalised by the two sides shortly, he said.

    To The Top

    Junta to allow UN inspection of Wa drug region

    BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Jan 8, 2002
    Text of report by Burmese opposition radio on 7 January

    DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] has learned that United Nations Drug Control Programme [UNDCP] officials will be allowed to inspect the most narcotic drugs producing region, the Wa region in northeastern Shan State.

    This was agreed at a meeting held in Pangsan on 28 December 2001 between Brig-Gen Kyaw Han from the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] Military Intelligence and U Pauk Yu Chan, leader of the United Wa State Army [UWSA].

    According to the agreement, UNDCP officials will be allowed to study and inspect narcotic drugs eradication activities being carried out in Wa Special Region-2 and endeavours of the local populace to reduce poppy cultivation from February to April. The UN officials will be allowed to inspect anti-drugs activities in Mong Mit, Mong Mao, Mong Kan, and Pangsan regions.

    DVB has also learned that the urging of Chinese President Jiang Zemin during his December visit to Burma and the recent report citing Burma as the world's most drug producing nation compelled the SPDC Military Intelligence to go to the Wa region controlled by the UWSA which signed a cease-fire agreement with the junta to hold such talks.

    To The Top

    Burma frees Suu Kyi's cousin

    From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

    The military government in Burma has freed a relative of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and four members of her National League for Democracy (NLD).

    The release of Cho Aung Than, the cousin and liaison officer of Aung San Suu Kyi, is seen as a significant conciliatory gesture by the military authorities. He was arrested in June 1997 and given a seven-year sentence under an emergency law and a three-year sentence under a law banning unlawful association.

    More than 200 political prisoners have been released since Aung San Suu Kyi began secret reconciliation talks with the military government in October 2000. But last week, the NLD demanded the start of a meaningful political dialogue, signalling increasing frustration with the slow pace of progress.

    To The Top