Daily News- July 11- 2002- Thursday

  • Way out of disputes still lacking
  • India, Myanmar to discuss security issues
  • Myanmar imports edible oil to meet demand
  • Myanmar hits out at "smear" campaign

  • Way out of disputes still lacking

    Bhanravee Tansubhapol
    The Bangkokpost

    The continuing stand-off between Thailand and Burma has underlined the need to strengthen bilateral mechanisms for problem solving, a Chulalongkorn University lecturer said yesterday.

    Surachart Bamrungsuk, who specialises in security issues at the faculty of political science, said the Thai-Burmese Joint Commission, Joint Boundary Committee, and border committees at township and regional levels had shown they were unable to ``control a situation when conflict erupted''. Unless they could be strengthened to link with related agencies to contain a situation, there was no way the countries could get to the point where conflicts were prevented, he said.

    Addressing a seminar at Chulalongkorn University on the crisis in Thai- Burmese relations, Mr Surachart said Thailand should resist any influence from outside powers.The United States had held some influence over Thai foreign policy in the past while China had enjoyed some influence over Burma.

    Chayachoke Chulasiriwongs, who heads the university's international relations department, said a third country wanted to use Thailand as a proxy to push Burma to stop human rights violations. Mr Surachart said the stand-off had raised questions about the government's clout. It had once boasted of being able to discuss any issue with Burma.

    Mr Surachart believed Western countries, rather than Thailand, would be the first to enter Burma when it opens up. More transparency and contacts were needed between the military in each country.

    Mr Chayachoke said Thai-Burmese relations had become more critical in the past two years. Lack of co-ordination between the foreign and defence ministries, and between the prime minister and the military had worked against progress. The government had shown lack of unity in dealing with the problem.

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    India, Myanmar to discuss security issues

    South Nexus

    NEW DELHI, Jul 10: India and Myanmar will hold their eight meeting to discuss security and border trade issues on Wednesday. The visiting Myanmarese delegation led by Deputy Home Minister Brig Gen Thura Myint Maung would meet the Indian side led by Home Secretary Kamal Pande at the two-day talks, a Home Ministry spokesman said.

    The talks are being held under the mechanism the two countries have evolved for discussion on wide-ranging issues at the official and the national level. The seventh National Level Meeting (NLM) was held in Yangon in August last year.

    During his stay here, Brig Gen Maung will meet Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and Minister of State for External Affairs. He would also visit Buddhist caves at Karla and Ajanta-Ellora in Maharashtra, besides visiting the State Administrative Staff College in Pune. The visit by the Myanmarese leader would further strengthen cooperation between the two countries, ensure peace and tranquility on the borders and promote economic activity.

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    Myanmar imports edible oil to meet demand

    YANGON, July 10 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar has been importing 150 to 200 million US dollars worth of edible oil from Malaysia annually to meet its domestic consumption.

    Meanwhile, under an agricultural plan for this year, the cultivation area of three main oil crops of groundnut, sesame and sunflower in three arid divisions of Mandalay, Sagaing and Magway in central Myanmar are being extended.

    According to a latest report of the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, total cultivation area of the oil crops are being expanded to 2.6 million hectares this year with groundnut taking up 0.59 million hectares, sesame 1.41 million and sunflower 0.6 million. Under the plan, cultivation area of oil palm will also increaseto 43,301.8 hectares in the southern Tanintharyi division.

    Myanmar produced over 380,000 tons of oil annually in recent years, accounting for 76 percent of the country's total domestic demand which is about 500,000 tons. As domestic production is still falling short of demand, the country has also to import over 100,000 tons of palm oil annually from Malaysia

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    Myanmar hits out at "smear" campaign

    WASHINGTON, July 10 (AFP) - Myanmar's military government on Wednesday hit out at what it claimed was a vicious "smear" campaign to frustrate its goal of improving poisoned relations with the United States.

    In a statement issued through a US-based lobbying firm, the junta claimed that recent allegations that its troops systematically raped women and girls in Shan state were the product of "elements" keen to discredit its anti- heroin campaign.The government accused two rights groups, the Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan Women's action network which reported on the rape claims, of conspiring with the Shan United Revolutionary Army to scupper its rapprochement drive with Washington.The two groups were trying to "cast a cloud of doubt on the Myanmar government's fight against illegal narcotics," the statement said.

    "Regretfully, allies of these narco-terrorist organizations have continued to make horrific and false accusations against the government of Myanmar," the statement quoted junta spokesman Colonel Hla Min as saying."These allegations are completely false, and we refuse to be deterred by those who would stand in our way of seeking cooperation with the United States on drug eradication, terrorism and promotion of human rights."

    Myanmar insists it is making an honest effort to crack down on drug trafficking and production, and maintains the narcotics trade is being perpetrated by remaining ethnic rebel groups battling control from Yangon.

    Hla Min said in the statement, entitled 'Myanmar government denounces smear campaign' that rogue elements wanted to stop the turning of a "New Page" in Washington-Yangon ties.

    But the United States, Myanmar's chief overseas critic, seems in no hurry to turn over a "new page" after years of antipathy towards Yangon.It has warned the junta that a bevy of sanctions and investment restrictions against Yangon will only be lifted when substantial progress is made towards democratic reform.

    Washington is a staunch supporter of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who's National League for Democracy (NLD) won an overwhelming election victory in 1990 never recognised by the government.

    When asked about Wednesday's statement by Myanmar, a State Department official repeated US concerns over the reports of rape in Shan State."We are concerned by the reports that the Burmese military is using rape as a weapon of war against civilian populations and we do continue to urge the Burmese regime to fully investigate any and all allegations," the official said."The report in question presents all sorts of details including dates, and places and battalion numbers and names of individual perpetrators involved," the official added, casting doubt on the Myanmar's version of events.

    The US government, which has declined to staff its embassy in Yangon with an ambassador, also refuses to refer to "Myanmar" preferring the name "Burma" which was dispensed with by the military.

    The Shan rights report documented the sexual abuse of 625 girls and women in Shan state by Myanmar troops, mostly between 1996 and 2001."The Burmese military regime is allowing its troops systematically and on a widespread scale to commit rape with impunity in order to terrorize and subjugate the ethnic peoples of Shan state," it said.

    Myanmar has denied the content of the report vigorously several times and makes frequent efforts to prove its anti-drugs drive is genuine.Recently the government organised an event at which it burned one billion dollars worth of seized narcotics in Yangon.

    Some sectors of the US government admit that its performance in the area is improving, but others are adamant that some military officers are implicated in narcotics trafficking, and that while opium production may be falling, the government is turning a blind eye to the production of drugs like metamphetamines.

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