Daily News- July 14- 2002- Sunday

  • Thai Journalists Association deplore blacklist
  • Karen refugees Refused to relocate
  • Burma beefs up troops at Thai frontier

  • Thai Journalists Association deplore blacklist

    Source : Bangkok Post / AP

    The Thai Journalists Association says Burma's blacklist of 15 Thai journalists will compound ongoing conflicts between the countries.

    The TJA, which represents most Thai reporters, defended Thai media coverage of Burma, saying the press had been even-handed in criticising the junta and also the Thai government's foreign policy towards Burma.

    ``The blacklist will preclude us from reporting on the Thai-Burma situation comprehensively,'' the association said.

    The TJA opposed press restrictions and said the blacklist was a normal response by countries ruled by dictators. ``It is difficult to tell dictatorial regimes to stop,'' it said.

    Burma's ruling military junta on Friday barred 15 Thai journalists working for the Bangkok Post, Nation and six Thai-language newspapers from entering the country. The junta accused them of belittling the government and writing anti-Burmese articles.

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he was dismayed by Burma's decision, saying it was an inappropriate move in the ongoing war of words.

    ``I believe it's the kind of reaction that shouldn't have been made,'' the prime minister told reporters.

    Mr Thaksin dismissed Burma's claim that its move was in retaliation for Thailand banning Ma Tin Win, a Burmese columnist for the state-owned New Light of Myanmar, who in recent weeks has written scathing articles about Thailand and its monarchy.

    Mr Thaksin said Ma Tin Win was banned because she attacked the monarchy, which Thais regarded as above criticism.

    ``We have a different culture and see things differently,'' he said, adding that Burma cannot understand Thai sentiment toward the king because it doesn't have a monarchy.

    ``Our media has freedom of expression while the media in Burma can suffer from government meddling,'' he said.

    Contact between the foreign ministers of each country at a conference this month would not be enough to restore ties, he said.

    Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai will meet his Burmese counterpart Win Aung on the sidelines of an Asean meeting in Brunei on July 29.

    Mr Thaksin said the diplomatic move would not be enough to persuade Burma to enter talks at the local level to solve border conflicts. Burma had to be sure that officials there spoke with the authority of policy-makers before they would come to the negotiating table, he said.

    Thai-Burmese relations have reached their lowest point in decades following clashes along their border on May 20, during which ethnic Shan rebels overran Burmese military bases. Burma accuses Thailand of helping the rebels, a charge Thailand denies.

    In protest, Burma shut border checkpoints with Thailand and banned visits by Thai delegations. It also ordered its press to refer to Thailand as ``Yodaya,'' a condescending term referring to Ayutthaya, sacked in 1767 by a Burmese army.

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    Karen refugees Refused to relocate

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Mae Hong Son--About 4,000 Karen refugees sheltering at Ban Mai Nai Soi holding centre have refused to move to a new site selected for them by the provincial authorities.

    The refugees rejected the order to relocate, questioning why some 200 families of long-necked Karen at Huay Sua Thao, Nam Phiang Din and Nai Soi villages had not been asked to move.

    The long-necked Karen reportedly attracted around 500 tourists to the villages every day.

    Authorities decided to relocate the Ban Mai Nai Soi refugees after complaints of theft and environmental damage were received from villagers.

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    Burma beefs up troops at Thai frontier

    Source : Bangkok Post

    Burma is reinforcing troops and heavy weapons at its border areas opposite Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son for a military exercise, an army source says.

    The source said the drill, expected late this month or early next month, would precede a major crackdown on the Shan State Army.

    The exercise would also be in retaliation for Thailand's ``Surasi 143'' military exercise near the Burmese border in May, he said.

    The source said Burma had already brought in 13 battalions of soldiers, an unknown number of Chinese-built T69 tanks, armoured cars and patrol vehicles to areas opposite Chiang Mai's Wiang Haeng district and Chiang Rai's Mae Fa Luang district.

    Those troops would train together with some 400 Wa rebels and SSA guerrillas who had already negotiated a ceasefire with the Burmese government.

    Burma lost many soldiers in fighting with Shan minority rebels at Doi Ko Muang, Doi Ko Wan and Doi Tai Laeng a few months ago.

    The source said the ruling State Peace and Development Council informed the Burmese public the exercises were aimed at increasing faith in the junta.

    Burma had incited national sentiment against Shan and Karen forces as well as Thailand, which it said had sheltered minority rebels.

    The source said army chief Surayud Chulanont had ordered the Third Army to keep a close watch on Burma's military exercise and prepare to help villagers who may be affected by the training.

    The source said the army was waiting to see if the Foreign Ministry would take any action in the wake of reports on the exercise.

    The government ordered the army to prematurely end its Surasi 143 exercise after Burma showed it was ``uncomfortable'' with the exercise.

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