Daily News- July 02- 2002- Tuesday

  • 'Exhausted' Suu Kyi back to work after whirlwind northern tour
  • Thai PM says Myanmar border spat won't be repeated
  • Chavalit in tough stance against junta
  • Thailand blacklists two Myanmar journalists of state-owned daily
  • Burma seeks cross-border rights
  • Shan rebels urges U.N., ASEAN mediation with junta
  • Myanmar Seeks More Tourist Arrivals From U.S.

  • 'Exhausted' Suu Kyi back to work after whirlwind northern tour

    YANGON, July 1 (AFP) - An "exhausted" Aung San Suu Kyi returned to work Monday at her National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters after a landmark political tour of northern Myanmar, diplomats said.

    The Nobel peace laureate, who arrived in Yangon Sunday evening from a triumphant nine-day trip to Mandalay and other destinations, held meetings with Western diplomats in the opposition party's dilapidated Yangon offices.

    "She was exhausted from her trip," one diplomat told AFP. "It was quite a hectic schedule she had, and also the roads outside Rangoon (Yangon) are quite bad."

    The diminutive 57-year-old leader was given a medical checkup by her personal physician upon arrival in Yangon, according to witnesses who saw him enter her lakeside home.Sources close to Aung San Suu Kyi confirmed that she was very fatigued by the trip, but that she remained in good health.

    They said she suffers from neck pain which leads to tiredness and has had other minor ailments, but they rarely interfered with her work.

    Aung San Suu Kyi's first political venture outside the capital since her May 6 release from 19 months of house arrest was considered an unqualified success by both her own party and diplomats who saw it as the first true test of her freedom."It is quite significant," said the diplomat, noting that the opposition leader enjoyed unusual freedom of movement on her first visit to Mandalay since 1989.The trip held particular meaning as Mandalay, lying some 695 kilometres (430 miles) north of Yangon, was the city the ruling military junta blocked her from travelling to in September 2000.

    Aung San Suu Kyi, whose NLD won a landslide election victory in 1990 which was never recognized by the junta, visited a handful of government works projects on her trip and was given a one-hour tour of Mandalay's city palace, which is now the regional military headquarters."The Lady", as she is widely known, proved she could still draw large crowds, as thousands of supporters lined the roads along her route and clamored to hear her speak.

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    Thai PM says Myanmar border spat won't be repeated

    ISLAMABAD (Reuters) July 1 - Thai Prime Thaksin Shinawatra said on Monday the country's recent border conflict with Myanmar would not be repeated, because the two governments were in close contact and understood each other very well.

    ''The two governments, the Myanmar and Thai governments, are very close together,'' he told a news conference while on an official visit to Pakistan. ''We had a very close dialogue even during the conflict, which I consider to be an accident.''

    ''This had been there for many years and we are trying to solve all the issues, but I can tell you under my government this incident will be the last,'' he said.

    ''Even during the conflict the ministers of foreign affairs of the two countries still talked over the phone, so we understand each other very well and we will solve the issue as soon as possible, and things will normalise very soon.''

    The two countries have been at odds since May after Myanmar accused Thailand of aiding the Shan State Army, a former rebel group that is fighting the ruling Myanmar military and its allies in the United Wa State Army along the common border. Thailand has denied helping Shan and Karen guerrillas who are fighting the Myanmar junta, but Myanmar officials and media have retaliated by attacking the Thais and their monarchy -- a very grave insult in Thailand.

    Chavalit in tough stance against junta

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    Any verbal apologies by the Burmese leadership for the publication of articles insulting the Thai monarchy will not serve to patch up the diplomatic row, Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said yesterday.He insisted the expression of regret must be backed with action.

    ``We won't believe [what we hear] easily. What counts is Burma's willingness to go about redressing it. We won't stop protesting just because they start smooth-talking us,'' Gen Chavalit said.

    He added the government would need to ensure such detrimental remarks did not recur in future and if they did, then appropriate measures would be taken to counter them.

    On Sunday, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra quoted Gen Maung Aye, vice-chairman of Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council, as saying the junta had no intention of insulting the Thai monarchy, particularly Their Majesties the King and Queen.The junta leader also repeated Burma's ``ever firm'' commitment to all aspects of bilateral cooperation, and that all agreements would be honoured.

    Mr Thaksin said the Burmese leader expressed his regret and had ordered Burma's official newspaper New Light of Myanmar, which ran the offending articles, to cease further comment on the subject.The premier, however, shied away when asked if Rangoon would be pressed to apologise formally. He said Gen Maung Aye's reaction was a positive sign for bilateral relations.

    But Gen Chavalit was adamant any apology offered must be made publicly.``Rangoon must show it did not mean what it wrote and must admit it was wrong to have done so,'' he said.``So far there has been no formal response from Burma. We should give them more time before deciding our next move,'' he said.

    As a retaliatory measure, the military-run radio has continued to pillory the New Light of Myanmar and its writer Ma Tin Win.Gen Chavalit said the radio broadcast was aimed at communicating the government's displeasure to Rangoon, and it seemed to be working.

    Gen Chavalit also dismissed New Light of Myanmar's assertion that Thailand pandered to its hatred for the Burmese by choosing January 25 as Armed Forces Day to mark King Naresuan's victory over Burma in a battle that freed the former capital of Ayutthaya from being Burma's vassal state.He denied any historical link, saying it was pointless reviving what had happened hundreds of years ago.

    The Damrong Rachanuparb Library has issued a statement condemning the articles authored by Ma Tin Win. Her articles reflected the author's ``disarray'' in her attitude to Thai history, it said and also ridiculed her for being a self-professed expert on history.

    Thailand blacklists two Myanmar journalists of state-owned daily

    BANGKOK, Thailand - Demanding an apology from Myanmar's military regime, Thailand on Monday blacklisted two journalists of a state-owned Myanmar newspaper that published disparaging articles about the Thai monarchy.

    Ma Tin Win, a columnist at the New Light of Myanmar daily, and Mong Mong Aye, an editor at the newspaper, will be barred from entering Thailand for defaming the country's most revered institution, said police spokesman Maj. Gen. Pongsapat Pongcharoen."Their behavior is deemed to have an impact on the national security," he told reporters.

    The New Light of Myanmar has been at the forefront of a recent Myanmar media campaign against Thailand, publishing a series of insulting articles about the Thai monarchy, which is revered by Thais as semi-divine. Criticizing the king is a crime punishable by imprisonment.

    The verbal war started after an exchange of artillery fire across the two countries' border on May 20. Myanmar's military junta accused Thailand of firing the mortars to support ethnic minority rebels that operate in the area, a charge denied by Bangkok.

    At a separate news conference Monday, the supreme commander of Thailand's three armed forces, Adm. Narong Yuthavong, reiterated the government position that the Myanmar junta is responsible for the issue and must apologize.If not, the already frosty relations will worsen, Narong said."This demands cooperation from both sides. It takes two to tango," he said.

    In their vitriolic articles and commentaries, the state media in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, described a Thai king who liberated the country from Burmese occupiers centuries ago as brutal.Media reports have also referred to Thailand as "Yodaya," a derisive corruption of Ayutthaya, the name of a Thai kingdom that was later sacked by a Burmese army.Besides unleashing its media against Thailand, Myanmar has closed key border crossings, expelled Thai workers, banned Thai goods and advertisements, and banned visits by official Thai delegations.

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    Burma seeks cross-border rights

    The Nation

    Burma has asked Thailand to relax rules against Burmese troops crossing into Thailand in pursuit of anti-Rangoon ethnic-minority armies, Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha said yesterday.

    The Burmese junta is seeking permission for its troops to conduct "technical invasions" into Thailand during battles with ethnic-minority soldiers along the border. Yuthasak said that the junta made the request on Sunday during a meeting between the Thai Ambassador to Rangoon, Oum Maolanon, and Burmese Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Maung Win.

    "Burma said that its troops had no intention of invading Thai territory, but they wanted us to be flexible if its soldiers mistakenly entered Thai territory while on patrol," he said. Yuthasak declined to say whether the Thai military agreed with the proposal. Rangoon also asked for understanding if Burmese shells spilled over onto Thai territory during battles, Yuthasak said.

    The Thai military's rules call for retaliation for border crossings by Burmese troops and any artillery shells that land on Thai territory. These rules have led to several armed clashes because Burma considers retaliation a form of support for the ethnic armies.

    The junta has refused to call off its offensive against the Shan fighters until its troops retake several strategic areas currently held by the Shan State Army (SSA). No fighting was reported over the past few days after heavy losses were sustained by the pro-Rangoon United Wa State Army (UWSA) in recent clashes, a military source said. The Burmese military was planning to change tactics by using its regular troops to attack the SSA, rather than UWSA's fighters, the source said. He said that a fresh offensive would take place soon.

    Tensions between Thailand and Burma rose in the wake of several border skirmishes in May, which led to a border closure and angry verbal exchanges. The Defence Ministry last week launched a propaganda war in retaliation for a series of articles insulting the Thai monarchy that appeared in the Burmese press. The move accompanied an official protest demanding an apology from Rangoon as well as the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

    Yuthasak expected the Rangoon junta to take some responsibility for the insults to Thai monarchy. The paper had ended the series of controversial articles, he said. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Saturday he had received gestures from Burma seeking to mend sour relations. But Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who usually keeps smooth relations with Burma, said he wanted to see some "real" action from Rangoon.

    During a lecture at the Chulachomklao Academy, Chavalit said conflicts between Thailand and Burma were caused by several factors, including narcotics trafficking and ethnic groups along the border. He said that Thailand had been sincere with Burma by implementing a clear policy of not supporting ethnic fighters. He added that military intelligence was investigating the alleged presence of a Shan radio station in Thailand. The authorities would not allow ethnic armies to use Thailand as a base for operations against Rangoon, he said.

    Shan rebels urges U.N., ASEAN mediation with junta

    By SUTIN WANNABOVORN, Associated Press Writer

    DOI HSANJOO, Myanmar - The commander of the Shan State Army, one of a handful of ethnic guerrilla groups fighting Myanmar's military regime, on Monday urged the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian nations to mediate a political settlement.

    "Only the U.N. and ASEAN can help resolve the Shans' political problem with Myanmar's military, otherwise the civil war will continue," said Yawd Serk, the self-styled colonel leading the rebel group.

    For the last five decades, the Shan have been fighting for autonomy for their people in parts of eastern Myanmar. They are one of the country's biggest minorities, making up about 9 percent of its 42 million people.The Shan rebels have bases in areas along Myanmar's northern border with Thailand and become a source of friction between the two traditionally hostile neighbors.

    Myanmar military junta accuses the Thai army of giving sanctuary to the rebels and providing support for their struggle. While Thailand discourages armed attacks from its soil, it turns a blind eye to other activities such as political organizing among Shan refugees.

    Speaking to The Associated Press at a jungle camp, Yawd Serk tried to distance the rebels from that dispute."The sore relations between Thailand and Myanmar have nothing to do with the Shan people," he said.He said that the Thai government had rejected his proposal to mediate talks between the Shan and the junta but continues to hope for peace."Without hope, what do we have to fight for?"

    Dozens of guerrillas were seen patrolling and manning mortars. Although the intense fighting of the last month has died down, sporadic gunfire was audible.

    Yawd Serk, 42, has been fighting since 17 and leads one of the last continuing insurgencies by ethnic minorities against Myanmar's military government. The junta has signed cease-fire agreements with other groups in return for limited autonomy.He said he would prefer to negotiate with Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi if her National League for Democracy party ever takes power.

    "If Suu Kyi became the leader of Myanmar, I think it would be easier to talk with her than with military junta," he said.He added that his group has no plans to talk with Suu Kyi for the time being.

    Suu Kyi started closed-door negotiations with the junta in October 2000. The talks are aimed at ending the political deadlock that began when Suu Kyi's party won a general election in 1990 but the military refused to hand over power.Relations between Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and Thailand plunged to an all-time low after May 20 when the Thai army fired mortar shells that landed in Myanmar. Thailand said that it merely fired warning shots across the border after the fighting between the Shan and the military spilled onto Thai soil.

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    Myanmar Seeks More Tourist Arrivals From U.S.

    YANGON, July 2 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar is seeking more tourist arrivals from the United States by working out a tourism promotion program with U.S. tourism companies.

    In cooperation with the Washington-based Global Spectrum and the VIP Travels, Myanmar hopes to attract more visitors from the United States this year, according to a report of the Myanmar Tourism Ministry Tuesday.

    In 2001, a total of 7,167 American tourists visited Myanmar, accounting for six percent of the total 119,027 visitors to the country. The figures of tourist arrivals in Myanmar in 2001 dropped 49.32 percent from 2000's 234,900, attributing to the sharp fall of cross-border arrivals from neighboring countries during the year and the impact of the prolonged border clashes between Myanmar andThailand.

    Myanmar drew 182,400 foreign tourists annually in the past fiveyears, earning about 33.75 million U.S. dollars a year. Among the tourists, 70.6 percent were from Asia, 18.5 percent from Western Europe and 4.9 percent from other regions. Myanmar targets to draw 500,000 foreign tourists annually.

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