Daily News- June 08- 2002- Saturday

  • EU could admit Burma to forum
  • SSA launches attack on Burmese outpost
  • Myanmar authorities burn 290 tons of opium poppy seeds
  • Pro-Rangoon Karen storm forest workers
  • Malaysian company starts design for Myanmar’s EDI system
  • Burma outposts seized by Shan army-Thai military

  • EU could admit Burma to forum

    Anuraj Manibhandu
    The Bangkokpost

    The European Union yesterday implied readiness to consider admitting Burma into an Asia-Europe forum at a later date, in what was seen as a significant compromise.A chairman's statement at the same time made clear the door would also be open to Cambodia and Laos, other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations not yet integrated into the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem).

    The 10 Asian and 15 European ministers ``welcomed the interest in joining, expressed by various European and Asian states, in particular the Asean members Cambodia, Laos and Burma,'' the draft statement said. The ministers ``agreed to recommend to leaders to take up the issue of enlargement, in accordance with the Asia-Europe Co-operation Framework, at the fifth summit in Hanoi in 2004, to allow for consolidation of the Asem process.''

    Asem leaders are due to meet in Copenhagen, late this year, and the deliberate delay in considering Burma's admission could be seen as linked to current clashes on the Thai-Burmese border, observers noted.Senior Asean officials had raised the issue during preparatory meetings in Madrid earlier this week, Singapore Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar told the Bangkok Post in an interview on June 6. Asean leaders at their last summit had agreed to push the issue of Burma's admission into Asem, he added.

    The draft statement recognised the May 6 release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest as a positive step However, it also urged more such developments. The ministers ``welcomed the recent positive developments in Burma, in particular the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and looked forward to further positive and concrete steps towards national reconciliation.'' European hardliners earlier had dismissed Mrs Suu Kyi's release as too little too late.

    The EU's Scandinavian member states are among its harshest critics of the military junta in Rangoon.Mrs Suu Kyi had noted that Norway, a non-EU Scandinavian, would be her first trip if she left the country.

    Burma in December 2000 agreed to let a European troika conduct a fact-finding mission into the country, after EU ministers agreed to sit with Rangoon's representative at an Asean-EU ministerial meeting in Rangoon.The junta's release of Mrs Suu Kyi was widely seen as an admission of the dire straits of Burma's economy, and a bid for aid from Western donors, including Europeans.

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    SSA launches attack on Burmese outpost

    Post reporters
    The Bangkokpost

    An attack by the Shan State Army on a Burmese military outpost opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang district has significantly increased tension along the northern border.As the SSA began its mortar bombardment, border troops were ordered to prevent Burma from staging attacks against a nearby Shan stronghold.

    ``Our mission here is to push out all foreign forces intentionally intruding into our territory,'' said an officer from the Pha Mueng Task Force.``This is a life or death situation for the SSA,'' he said. ``If they manage to eject Burmese and Wa forces from Si Kieu, it will deny Burmese troops a base from which to attack the SSA base in Kaw Muang.``The assault could deliver a serious blow to Rangoon's military operations,'' he said.

    Rangoon recently reinforced its troops at the Si Kieu outpost, which was previously manned by a 300-strong joint force of Burmese and United Wa State Army soldiers.The SSA moved troops to Doi Dam, from where mortar attacks were launched against Si Kieu.

    Lt-Col Korn Juen, officer in charge of SSA military operations in the area, said he was confident his men would eventually take control of Si Kieu.However, another officer said the outpost would be difficult to take as its surrounding area had been heavily mined.A Third Army officer predicted heavy losses for the SSA in its bid to seize Si Kieu.

    The SSA reportedly greeted with enthusiasm reports the government had rejected a request from Rangoon to use Thai soil to attack Kaw Muang from the rear.``Not only Kaw Muang, but also the SSA's biggest base at Kaw Wan would be wiped out if Burmese troops were able to use our territory,'' said a cavalry officer.``To attack Kaw Muang from inside Burmese territory would be a suicide mission because it is located at the top of a steep hill,'' he said.

    Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasingh, the Third Army commander, has placed his troops on full alert to prevent cross-border operations opposite Kaw Muang by Burmese forces.Rangoon has deployed four infantry battalions and heavy artillery to attack Kaw Muang.It earlier warned the government to stay out of the battle and refrain from providing support for the Shan rebels.The Thai army has repeatedly denied helping the SSA in its battle against Burma.

    A UWSA battalion under drug warlord Wei Hsueh-kang was reportedly also taking part in the offensive, the largest staged against the SSA in the area.Burmese forces suffered heavily during a failed military offensive against the SSA last year.

    Thai PM denies rifts with military, wants fair go

    Yuwadee Tunyasiri Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has denied rifts between his government and the military and urged the media to stop criticising him, for the sake of the country.He again denied news reports that statesman Prem Tinsulanonda ticked him off for telling the military not to overreact to the border dispute with Burma.

    The Thai Rak Thai leader was speaking yesterday at a meeting on policies towards neighbouring countries.Mr Thaksin said his government wanted to boost friendly ties with neighbours without interfering in their affairs.Pushing for the reconciliation of Rangoon and minority groups in Burma could help ease problems between Thailand and Burma, he added.

    ``Some people think I am weak. No. Not at all. But I am a man who adheres to principles which must be made clear,'' he said, while praising Burma for helping suppress drugs. Misunderstandings between the countries could be settled if Thais put the country's interests first.Mr Thaksin said people continued to spread rumours, including one that Gen Surayud Chulanont, the army chief, had resigned. That story was also untrue.

    ``I ask you to love your country. You do not have to love me. You can scold me as long as it does not affect the country; otherwise, you should think twice. ``I am not untouchable but I care for my country. As prime minister, I must meet world leaders to win their trust. If my face is scratched and tainted, how can I do this? Do not pay attention to misleading news or rumours,'' he said.

    Defence Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh rejected reports that the government had pressured Gen Surayud to resign. People behind the rumours wanted to undermine the government.

    Burma's State Peace and Development Council first secretary Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt had written saying he thought the Thai military attache to Burma did a good job. However, he did not mention Rangoon's crackdown on Shan rebels.

    Row with Karen seen as motive


    The gun attack on a school bus on Tuesday may have stemmed from a conflict between the bus driver and Karen troops, according to the Internal Security Operations Command.Gen Pallop Pinmanee, the Isoc deputy commander, yesterday said a personal conflict between the driver, Thongmon Thongkham, and members of the Karen National Union was a likely motive for the attack that left three students dead and a dozen others injured in Ratchaburi's Ban Kha sub-district .

    The three attackers were apparently Karen guerrillas judging from the fact they wore military-style green uniforms and red scarves, were armed with M16 assault rifles and covered their faces to hide their identity, said Gen Pallop.Also, only about 20km from the attack scene was an area across the border which was under the control of a KNU force led by Maj-Gen Oliver, he said.

    The gunmen appeared to have the bus driver as their target judging from the fact they had tried to stop the bus first when they could have started shooting right away, Gen Pallop said.``They planned to stop the driver. But when the driver did not stop they opened fire with their rifles. They also aimed at the driver because the bullets were fired one by one, not automatically.''It was also suspicious that the driver refused to stop. Usually, local drivers would stop when hailed by men dressed like a soldier because the area was deep inside Thailand, Gen Pallop said.

    ``The driver seemed to have advance knowledge that he was in danger, so he didn't stop when he saw the men. He drove away because he was aware of danger. He seems to have personal problems,'' Gen Pallop said.

    Mr Thongmon was also unusually rich. He owned a motor vehicle, a restaurant and a bar were Karen girls were employed as waitresses. He was also known to be a loan shark who could afford to lend as much as 100,000-200,000 baht to a borrower, Gen Pallop said.

    ``The driver may know the KNU well. He may have supplied weapons, necessities or medicines to the KNU and may also be involved in drugs.``He may have received stuffs from them but failed to pay them, or he may have broken some promises.``The prime minister has even commented that the driver might be a murderer-cum-hero,'' said Gen Pallop.

    Without a personal conflict, the KNU would not have launched such an attack because they depended on Thai people for consumer goods, he said.Gen Pallop ruled out the possibility the attack could have been the work of some Burmese soldiers.They would not have bothered shooting at students to create a situation because they could have fired on a military outpost right away, Gen Pallop said.

    He did not think the gunmen could be captured easily, saying it was most likely they knew the terrain very well.The three gunmen probably crossed the border into Ratchaburi days before the attack judging from the fact they were carrying backpacks. Local ambushers would not burden themselves with backpacks, said Gen Pallop.

    Mr Thongmon was, for the fourth time, questioned all day long yesterday by police including senior officers from the Central Investigation Bureau.One interrogator said police were checking bullet paths to determine if the gunmen aimed their fire at the driver.

    The driver's father-in-law, Ang Rungwilaikan, said Mr Thongmon had been given a suspended six-month jail term and fined for 10,000 baht for possessing two speed pills about a decade ago.He denied Mr Thongmon had traded in fragrant wood with the Karen.Neighbours said Mr Thongmon was well-trusted in the area and they did not want him to be made a scapegoat.

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    Myanmar authorities burn 290 tons of opium poppy seeds

    BANGKOK(AP) Thailand, June 7 - Myanmar authorities on Friday burned 290 tons of opium poppy seeds in a demonstration of their determination to stamp out the drug trade, a government public relations firm reported.

    Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was the world's top opium producer in 2001, even though its production has fallen sharply since 1996, according to U.S. State Department figures. Much of Myanmar's opium is processed into heroin, which is exported to neighboring countries and onward to the West.

    The burning took place in Shan state, an eastern border area that is the nation's main narcotics production area, Sally Anderson of the Washington D.C.-based public relations company DCI Group told The Associated Press in Bangkok. Myanmar is a client of the DCI group. She said the mass of poppy seeds took several hours to burn and was witnessed by 350 people, including government officials and their guests as well as villagers.

    Among those who watched the destruction were Priscilla Clapp, charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar, a representative of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from the embassy, and Japanese Ambassador Shigeru Tsumori, said Anderson.

    A government news release earlier this week said the seeds, if planted and harvested, would yield enough opium to make 55 tons of pure heroin with an estimated U.S. street value of $2.2 billion, according to Justice Department calculations. Last year's estimated opium production in Myanmar totaled approximately 865 tons, which could be used to make about 86.5 tons of heroin.

    Under a program called ''Project Hell-Flower,'' the seeds were collected from farmers in northern, eastern and southern Shan State in exchange for rice, wheat, maize and corn seeds. The United States has provided little assistance to Myanmar since 1988, when the military government crushed a pro-democracy movement. U.S. officials have said relations will not improve until Myanmar allows democratic reforms and does more to fight drugs. Myanmar is one of three countries that the State Department says has ''failed demonstrably'' to cooperate in fighting drugs. The designation makes it ineligible for most types of U.S. assistance.

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    Pro-Rangoon Karen storm forest workers

    Supamart Kasem
    The Bangkokpost

    A group of heavily armed pro-Rangoon Karen militia stormed a forest protection unit in a border area of Umphang district on Thursday night, stealing a four-wheel drive vehicle before making their escape.

    The group comprised at least 10 Democratic Karen Buddhist Army fighters, who held five officials at gunpoint while they commandeered the vehicle, a source said.The insurgents reportedly said they needed the vehicle to transport injured colleagues to a hospital.

    A number of DKBA soldiers have been wounded and are suffering from fatigue after fighting in heavy rain with the anti-Rangoon Karen National Union.KNU guerrillas stationed at bases opposite Tak have been put on alert as Burmese troops plan an offensive against them with heavy artillery. Border patrol policemen inspected the scene of the crime yesterday.

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    Malaysian company starts design for Myanmar’s EDI system

    The Star

    KUALA LUMPUR: Dagang Net Technologies Sdn Bhd (DNT) said it has begun a blueprinting exercise for Myanmar in the first step towards implementing a trade electronic data interchange (TEDI) system for the country.

    The three-month exercise, covering three aspects scope, functionality and technical specifications is scheduled to be completed by August, DNT (www.dagangnet.com) said in a press statement.

    DNT was formally appointed to the task at a seminar on cooperation organised and jointly sponsored by Myanmar’s e-National Task Force (e-NTF) and the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) of Malaysia, held in Yangon in April. The seminar was a follow-up to a memorandum of understanding signed between the e-NTF and MDC in January, DNT said. The objective was to lay down a pilot project to jumpstart Myanmar’s information and communications technology (ICT) development. MDC manages Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project.

    According to DNT chief executive officer Hazree Mohd Turee, the company was pleased to answer the Malaysian Government’s call for closer cooperation among Asean members. By sharing our experience and expertise, we can help shorten the learning curve of our less ICT progressive neighbours. The MDC has been aggressively promoting Malaysia’s ICT expertise abroad, and we are happy to support its initiatives,he said.

    MDC senior vice-president Dr Muhammad Ghazie Ismail said that many countries have expressed interest in learning from Malaysia’s experience in ICT implementation. “Malaysia is well advanced in many aspects as we have successfully implemented an electronic trade documentation system since 1994, and various MSC flagship applications are now being realised. “We are encouraged that Malaysian ICT companies such as Dagang Net have stepped forward to offer their services,” he said.

    Established in 1989, DNT owns and operates Malaysia’s most established e-transactions exchange that handles some 48 million transactions and some RM4.7billion in Customs duty payments annually.

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    Burma outposts seized by Shan army-Thai military

    Source : MSNBC / Reuters

    MAE HONG SON, Thailand, June 8 --- Burma rebels fighting near the Thai border have seized two more government outposts after days of fierce fighting that has fuelled tension between Rangoon and Bangkok, military sources said on Saturday.

    The Burmese army has poured 1,500 reinforcements into the area and is expected to launch a fresh offensive in coming days at the rebel Shan State Army's headquarters, opposite Thailand's northern Mae Hong Son province, said Thai army officers stationed on the border.

    The Shan army seized on Friday the Si Kieu and Doi Kom Kiew outposts, previously manned by a joint force of Burma troops and their allies the ethnic United Wa State Army soldiers, the officers told Reuters.

    ''The Myanmar army is expected to launch an attack at Doi Tai Lang, which is the Shan State Army's headquarters, in coming days,'' said one senior Thai officer.

    Burma troops and the Wa, an ethnic army blamed by Thailand for producing much of the Golden Triangle's output of heroin and methamphetamines, launched an offensive earlier this week to try to capture four border outposts taken earlier by the Shan army.

    Burma accuses Thailand of supporting Shan rebels backed up against the border -- a charge Bangkok denies -- and has warned of retaliation if Thai troops get involved in the fighting.

    Tensions between the two countries flared last month after Thailand moved thousands of troops to its northern border.

    The troops were ostensibly there for a training exercise, but military sources said they were preparing 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 relations between the two countries have hardly improved.

    Burma sealed major border crossings last month and its state-run media have bitterly criticised Thailand. The junta has so far rebuffed Thai requests for talks.

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