Daily News- June 06- 2002- Thursday

  • Gen Prem Tinsulanonda `not happy with Thaksin'
  • Burmese, Wa allies suffer heavy losses
  • Ne Win's relatives revealed Myanmar coup plot
  • Legal (and illegal) lotteries flourish in destitute Myanmar
  • Dozens killed in Burma fighting near Thai border

  • Gen Prem Tinsulanonda `not happy with Thaksin'

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, former army chief and former prime minister, has vented his displeasure at Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for being too quick to appease Burma and hurting soldiers' feelings with his ``overreaction'' remark, sources said.

    Mr Thaksin called on Gen Prem yesterday at his Si Sao Theves residence for a private meeting with him.The prime minister sought to clear the air after learning of Gen Prem's dissatisfaction with his handling of the Burma issue, a source close to Gen Prem said.Mr Thaksin emerged looking ``far less than cheerful'' from the meeting that lasted almost an hour.

    Gen Prem, now chief privy councillor, is highly respected as an elder statesman whose views have had much bearing on the running of national affairs.The source said Gen Prem had confided to his close aides expressing concern and displeasure at Mr Thaksin for being too soft towards Burma despite Rangoon's constant pillory of Thailand over the escalating border tension.

    The worst insult was Mr Thaksin's cautioning the military not to ``overreact'' to the border situation, the source said.Gen Prem felt that remark of Mr Thaksin trampled on the sensitivity of border soldiers fighting to safeguard Thai territorial integrity, the source said.

    ``The prime minister came to see Gen Prem for the sole purpose of discussing the Burma issue. He was aware that Pa [Gen Prem] wasn't too happy with him and was afraid Pa might have misunderstood him,'' the source said.

    Gen Prem knew full well that the army had never sent troops into Burma to attack pro-Rangoon Wa forces as alleged by the Burmese junta, he said.Gen Prem was kept updated of the border situation by army chief Gen Surayud Chulanont.

    The source added Gen Prem had reacted critically to recent statements from Maj-Gen Kyaw Win, Burma's deputy military intelligence chief, who accused Thailand of harbouring anti-Rangoon elements and branded the Thai leadership ``bare-faced liars'' for denying that claim.

    Gen Prem deplored the diplomatic aggression and the one-sided accusations, and the fact no government representative came out to rebut Rangoon's statements, the source said.The statesman advocated a non-violent initiative and agreed Mr Thaksin should work to defuse the growing conflict through dialogue with Burmese leaders.But he inisted that in doing so Mr Thaksin must not scoff at the feelings of Thai people and soldiers.``The prime minister has often ill-treated the soldiers with remarks that made them feel bad. The soldiers are not happy but they can't do anything about it,'' the source said.

    Burmese, Wa allies suffer heavy losses


    Burmese forces and their Wa allies have suffered heavily in their drive against Shan rebels defending Kaw Muang camp, a Thai army intelligence officer said yesterday.Burmese government troops and their allies from the United Wa State Army had suffered heavy casualties from assaults on Kaw Muang in the last two days, the officer said.Kaw Muang is opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang district.

    ``It must have been a fierce fight since the Shan State Army has put up a tough resistance and the Burmese forces have been trying their best to capture Kaw Muang,'' he said.The attackers might open new military fronts at Kaw Hom and Kaw Wan if Kaw Muang fell, said the officer.Capturing Kaw Muang would be an uphill struggle since the SSA outpost was in rugged terrain, he added.

    ``They (Burmese forces) have still not recovered the bodies of some of their comrades killed in the assaults,'' said another source, a cavalry officer.He added that rain would pose a big obstacle for the ongoing Burmese offensive. Rangoon has warned Thailand not to help the rebels.

    Rangoon has sent in four infantry battalions and another battalion equipped with heavy machinery to attack Kaw Muang, considered the weakest of the three Shan outposts located opposite Mae Fah Luang.It was reported that the UWSA's 44th battalion under drug warlord Wei Hsueh-kang was also taking part in the offensive.

    Kaw Wan is regarded as the strongest. It is 1.5 kilometres east of the most forward Thai outpost at Pang Noon, which saw fierce fighting between Thai and Burmese forces early last year after the Burmese seized the outpost to launch an attack on Kaw Wan.

    Kaw Hom, east of Kaw Wan, is reported to house an SSA training camp and a field hospital. A veteran border watcher said unless the Burmese forces could do what they did last year staging a rear attack from Thai territory it was unlikely they would be able to capture the three SSA outposts.

    ``What worries us most is the possibility that they (Burmese forces) may cross the border to attack our bases from Thailand,'' said an SSA fighter.

    Around 2,000 people from several Thai villages opposite Kaw Muang were moved to safer areas last night after stray shells landed on Thai soil.There were also reports of heavy fighting between Burmese troops and Shan rebels in a border area, opposite Chiang Mai's Wieng Haeng district, where two Burmese outposts, Pang Mai Sueng and Pang Kam Kor, were captured by the SSA last month.

    Third Army commander Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasingh said Rangoon had told his army about its ongoing offensive against the SSA.``Our border forces would stick to the rules of engagement. We have to respond if stray shells cause damage to our side,'' he said.Lt-Gen Udomchai believed the three SSA outposts would be captured in the near future.

    ``Rangoon has deployed massive forces and heavy weapons to the border area. They will soon move to attack the SSA headquarters at Doi Tai Lang after seizing these bases,'' he said.The Third Army chief said he had ordered his troops to be patient and not to retaliate too fiercely should any shells land on Thai soil unintentionally.Lt-Gen Udomchai, who was in Wieng Haeng for an inspection yesterday, said the border situation remained tense with reported build-ups of Burmese and Wa forces.

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    Ne Win's relatives revealed Myanmar coup plot

    YANGON, June 5 (AFP) - The key prosecution witness in the treason case against former dictator Ne Win's relatives said Wednesday the accused revealed their plot to overthrow Myanmar's military regime directly to him.

    In his first appearance during the trial, Colonel Than Htay, commander of the 77th Light Infantry Division, testified that he was first contacted via telephone by Ne Win's eldest grandson Aye Ne Win, on a pretext of "renewing old acquaintances".

    During subsequent meetings, the group's coup plan was revealed to him."The moment it became clear to me that they were planning to take over power with my help, I immmediately reported the matter to the authorities," Than Htay told the tribunal.

    Ne Win's son-in-law Aye Zaw Win and three grandsons, Aye Ne Win, Kyaw Ne Win and Zwe Ne Win, are accused of plotting to overthrow the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), with the help of elements within the nation's military.

    Colonel Than Htay's information led directly to their arrests during a dinner meeting at the Oriental House on March 6.The arrests stunned Myanmar observers, who had seen the rich and powerful family as untouchable thanks to Ne Win's influence, which persisted long after he stepped down in 1988 after 26 years in power.The accused have been detained in Yangon's Insein jail, while Ne Win and his daughter Sandar Win remain under virtual house arrest.

    Colonel Than Htay identified the four handcuffed prisoners, who appeared unconcerned with the proceedings in court and whispered to each other throughout the session.The prosecution alleged during an earlier hearing that the accused decided to launch the coup when their repeated attempts to meet with Myanmar's top generals failed.Treason is punishable by death, but observers say the four defendants are not likely to face the gallows if found guilty.The hearings are continuing.

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    Legal (and illegal) lotteries flourish in destitute Myanmar

    By AYA KIMURA, The Asahi Shimbun

    YANGON-Holding out the hope of striking it rich with a lucky ticket, the lottery is one of the most popular pastimes in Myanmar (Burma), a nation under military rule where many live in dire circumstances.

    In addition to the legal lottery, with its 5 million kyat (750,000 yen) jackpot, illegal lotteries that use the winning numbers of Thai lotteries are also popular.Legal or otherwise, the lotteries sell out several days before the winners are announced each month. On those days, phone lines are jammed with people calling up to find out the winners.Stores that sell lottery tickets can make a killing, so rival businesses have started offering the tickets as well to win over customers.

    Some even offer prizes of their own to those who purchase winning tickets in their shop. Because of this, winners can end up not only with the cash prize, but also a brand-new car or a gold necklace. The walls of such shops are lined with the photos of happy winners accepting their prizes.``But,'' said one lottery fan, ``the prize they call a brand-new car might turn out to be an old car in need of costly repairs.''

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    Dozens killed in Burma fighting near Thai border

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    BANGKOK, June 6 ---Intense fighting in eastern Burma between government troops and ethnic guerrillas has killed dozens and threatens to spill over into neighbouring Thailand, military sources said on Thursday.

    The Burmese army and its allies in the United Wa State Army have been attacking positions held by a rival ethnic group, the Shan State Army (SSA), opposite Thailand's Chiang Mai province, in a battle for territory and for control of the drugs trade.

    Thai officials said more than a dozen shells fired by one or both sides had landed inside Thailand since Tuesday and many Shan army troops had retreated across the border for medical treatment.

    They said dozens of Burmese and Wa fighters died in the assaults on Shan positions. Burma had sought without success Thai permission to cross the border to hit the Shan from behind.

    ''We are on full alert for any incursion into Thailand and we are reinforcing positions along the border that may be at risk,'' Thai defence ministry spokesman Surapan Poomkaew told Reuters.

    An Shan source told Reuters his forces had killed about 150 Burmese and Wa soldiers and wounded many others in heavy fighting along the border since May 20. He declined to give an estimate for the Shan's casualties.

    Burmese officials were unavailable for immediate comment.

    Tensions have flared between Thailand and Burma, with Burma accusing Thailand of backing the Shan and another ethnic army, the Karen National Union (KNU), a charge Bangkok denies.

    Burma has sealed major border crossings and this week warned Thailand not to get involved in its assault on the Shan.

    Thailand's government has tried to defuse the mounting tension and has said Burma troops are not a threat as they are fighting rebel groups and not launching a strike into Thai soil.


    Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he did not think the situation on the border was a serious problem for Thailand, saying Burma's action against the Shan army was an internal affair.

    ''Myanmar has informed us about the crackdown and that it will try very hard to prevent shells from landing inside Thailand,'' he told reporters. ''We must not interfere.''

    ''We will do our best to restore the good relationship.''

    Tensions rose this week between the two historical enemies with newspapers on both sides fanning the flames.

    Emotions boiled in Thailand on Tuesday when masked gunmen, dressed like rebels from the Karen National Union, opened fire with M-16s on a Thai school bus near the Burmese border, an attack which resulted in the death of three school children.

    Thai media speculated that Burma troops could have been behind the attack ,but Thaksin said he did not think Burma soldiers or Karen rebels were to blame.

    Thailand has said it wants high-level talks with Burma to calm tensions, but so far has received no reply.

    Thailand and Burma have been at odds in recent years over the flow of illegal narcotics from factories inside Burma.

    Thailand accuses the Wa army of being the biggest trafficker in the region and says it is responsible for most of the millions of methamphetamine stimulant pills that enter Thailand. Burma denies the charge and accuses the SSA of being drugs runners.

    Thai troops massed on the Burmese border last month in what was billed as a training exercise, but which military sources said was preparation for a strike on Wei Hsueh-Kang, a notorious drug baron who commands a faction of the Wa army.

    Thailand withdrew the troops after protests from Burma but Shan rebels seized the chance to attack Burma troops and their Wa allies in the area, capturing four army camps.

    Burma says Thai soldiers helped the Shan assault. Thailand denies this but says it returned fire across the border when stray artillery shells from Burma landed on Thai soil.

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