Daily News- June 14- 2002- Friday

  • Request for talks on drugs war welcomed
  • Investment body could mediate talks
  • Myanmar holds firm in offensive against Shan rebels: SSA
  • Aung San Suu Kyi travels outside of Yangon
  • Thai-Myanmar talks delayed by border flghting

  • Request for talks on drugs war welcomed

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    Rangoon's request for talks on drug suppression co-operation with Bangkok next month is a good sign for Thai-Burmese relations, PM's Office Minister Thammarak Issarangkura na Ayuthaya said yesterday.

    Gen Thammarak said the fact the junta initiated an approach through its Bangkok embassy for a timetable for next month's anti-drugs meeting in Rangoon showed Burma's determination to fight drugs. The meeting was likely to be set for the middle of next month. The government would be busy defending the 2003 Budget Bill before then, he said.

    Deputy Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa said a delegation led by Gen Thammarak would be the first to make an official visit to Rangoon since tensions flared along the Thai-Burmese border last month.

    Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was trying to contact Burmese military leaders for talks, and had suggested they be held on the border, somewhere between Chiang Rai's Mae Sai town and Burma's Tachilek township, which was opposite.

    Third Army commander Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkhasing said there were indications Burmese forces would continue their attacks on the Shan State Army. It appeared they planned to capture all the Shan strongholds along the border.Thai troops would stick to the policy that no foreign forces would be allowed to launch attacks on their enemies from Thai territory, he said.

    Investment body could mediate talks

    Wassana Nanuam Achara Ashayagachat
    The Bangkokpost

    A private trade and investment body would act as mediator in the Thai- Burmese conflict if diplomatic efforts failed, said a close aide to the defence minister.Gen Pat Akhanibutr, chief adviser to Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, said the Thai-Burmese Economic and Friendship Association would be called upon as a last resort.The association, which promotes bilateral co-operation on investment, marks its first anniversary next month.

    Lt Gen Khin Nyunt, of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, has been invited to attend the birthday celebrations in Kanchanaburi.``The association would be our last resort. Its work has never been interrupted despite the border tensions,'' Gen Pat said.

    Gen Chavalit said the latest round of border tensions with Burma should be the final round. He was confident the two sides would reach an understanding.``There has been some misunderstandings between us. That has now passed,'' he said.

    Ammarisa Tansathit, the association's spokeswoman, is close to Lt Gen Khint Nyunt. She said relations between Thai businessmen and the Burmese strongman were good.However, she was worried that border tensions could rob Thai investors of opportunities to do business in Burma.

    ``Burma has abundant resources, but doesn't know how to manage them. We should take care of them,'' she said.She said the defence minister was well-liked and respected by Burmese military leaders.``Gen Muang Aye visited Thailand in April for the first time in 10 years because of Gen Chavalit,'' she said.

    Not everyone is so optimistic. A member of the Human Rights Commission said yesterday that confidence-building would elude Thailand and Burma so long as a military regime remained in power in Rangoon.

    Jaran Ditapichai told a seminar that verbal spats and border clashes would continue on and off until the countries learned to trust one another.``We have to accept the reality that Thai-Burmese relations are sensitive and complicated since we have historic animosity, a long-disputed border, presence of the adversarial ethnic groups and international obligations to account for,'' Mr Jaran said.

    The Thaksin government might be in a difficult position as it had to defuse tensions with the military government as well as heed criticism from civil society.But no state could deny freedom of movement or speech, and Thai people or civil organisations were entitled to lend peaceful support to ethnic groups.When a conflict erupted at the border, the government should allow independent fact-finding missions to visit hotspots, Mr Jaran said.The government's use of personal contacts to forge ties with Burma had not helped defuse the standoff, he said.

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    Myanmar holds firm in offensive against Shan rebels: SSA

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand, June 13 (AFP) - Myanmar's troops continued shelling camps controlled by the rebel Shan State Army (SSA) along the Thai border Thursday, but attacks were less intense than in recent days, SSA sources said. "We can see clearly that the attacks from government forces have slowed since late Wednesday," spokeswoman Nang Khur Hsen told AFP by telephone from the border.

    Myanmar's troops and their allies, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), are attempting to recapture border bases Yangon says were overrun by the rebels last month. Yangon declared last week its intention to stage an all-out offensive against the SSA.The SSA is one of the major armed insurgent groups in Myanmar yet to sign a ceasefire agreement with the ruling junta, which deems the group a terrorist outfit.

    A border source confirmed battles were less intense Thursday. "It's true, but we can still hear the firing of heavy weapons sometimes from Pan Kan Kaw and Kaw Muang," a villager residing in Thailand's Mae Hong Son district told AFP.

    There were rumours that conflict had occurred between the Myanmar soldiers and the Wa at the front line Wednesday, villagers said.Another villager said Myanmar soldiers were in doubt over their unsuccessful mission and were suspicious that some Wa fighters were informing for the SSA."That could be the base of their conflict," he said.Myanmar's reinforcement troops were dependent on Wa guidance because they are familiar with the terrain of the battle areas, he added.

    On Tuesday the SSA called for peace talks with the junta. But Yangon turned down the proposal and vowed to continue its offensive.

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    Aung San Suu Kyi travels outside of Yangon

    YANGON, June 14 (AFP) - Myanmar pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday traveled outside the capital for the first time since being freed last month from 19 months of house arrest, family sources and the junta said.

    The Nobel peace laureate left in a four-car convoy at 6:00 am (2330 GMT Thursday) for Mon State, 320 kilometres (200 miles) south of Yangon, to visit a Buddhist monk she called on in 1995 after her release from a previous period of house arrest.

    "She has left this morning for Mon state and she is going to be there overnight," a family member told AFP on condition of anonymity.Yangon authorities confirmed that Aung San Suu Kyi had left the capital.

    "Yes, this was the understanding we had, and we were informed," Brigadier General Than Tun, who heads the political department in the office of military intelligence, told AFP.

    She was accompanied by vice chairman of her National League for Democracy (NLD) Tin Oo, 10 NLD youth members and her personal doctor, and was to spend the night at the monastery of the venerable Buddhist monk Tha Ma Nya, said the family member.Tha Ma Nya is one of Myanmar's most revered religious figures and is venerated by Aung San Suu Kyi, who has written about him in her published diaries.

    She was not expected to visit local leaders or other figures on her trip, which was being seen as a religious occasion ahead of her 57th birthday on June 19."This is entirely private and personal," the source said of the trip.

    The diminutive but charismatic figure has made five trips to townships within the Yangon area since the military junta released her from house arrest on May 6.She has mainly visited the township offices of her NLD, making active efforts to reinvigorate the party which has suffered from years of repression since it won a landslide election victory in 1990 that the junta refused to recognise.

    During the brief excursions she has called for the release of all political prisoners in the country and for citizens to "persevere" in their fight for democracy.

    Observers have said a trip outside of the capital would be the true test of the regime's commitment to allow her freedom of movement.But Friday's trip did not appear to be particularly provocative as she was not expected to meet NLD leaders or supporters.

    Aung San Suu Kyi's second period of house arrest -- the first lasted from 1989 to 1995 -- was imposed in September 2000 after she made several attempts to leave Yangon on party business.Her attempt to travel to the township of Kawhmu, which defied an order confining her to Yangon, culminated in a nine-day standoff.When she again attempted to travel, this time to northern Mandalay on party business, the junta escorted her home before placing her under house arrest.

    Aung San Suu Kyi has said the military regime has not placed any conditions on her release this time and that she is free to travel wherever she wishes.Following her May release she told reporters she intended to travel around Myanmar -- and even abroad -- and hinted that as a matter of courtesy she would give the junta prior notice of her travel plans.

    Observers say the generals are wary of the capacity of this charismatic woman to draw huge crowds and of her personal safety."She made it very clear to us that they do not want any official security accompanying them or following them," said Than Tun, who liaises between the ruling State Peace and Development Council and Aung San Suu Kyi."So we have gone along with that and they are on their own," he said.But experts said that although Friday's trip was a religious excursion, military intelligence agents were expected to be monitoring the opposition leader's whereabouts.

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    Thai-Myanmar talks delayed by border flghting

    BANGKOK/YANGON(Reuters) June 14 - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Friday he would give Myanmar time to recapture border outposts seized by an ethnic minority rebel group before seeking talks to mend strained bilateral relations.

    Myanmar troops, backed by their allies in the United Wa State Army, launched an offensive last week to recapture bases near the border seized by the Shan State Army, a separatist rebel group which the junta says is tacitly supported by Thai troops. The Thai army has denied supporting the Shan fighters, and says the ethnic Wa force is the main producer of heroin and methamphetamines in the notorious Golden Triangle region. The border skirmishes have battered relations between the two countries. Myanmar has closed key border crossings and state-run media have bitterly criticised Thailand. The Thai government, anxious to mend relations, has been pushing for talks.

    ''Let them resolve their internal problems first,'' Thaksin told reporters. ''We must give them time and should not rush them. We should not interfere with their internal affairs.''

    At a news conference in Yangon, Myanmar's deputy intelligence chief reaffirmed that the junta would not enter talks until it had recaptured bases lost to the Shan last month. ''We received offers through their ambassador to normalise relations but we will not talk before we recapture all our lost camps,'' Major-General Kyaw Win told a news conference.


    Myanmar officials kept up their war of words against Thailand, saying the country was still smarting from defeats by armies from Myanmar centuries ago.

    ''It is very sad that they adopted extremism based on historical events centuries ago when they had wars with Myanmar kings,'' Colonel Min Lwin, a senior military intelligence official, told the news conference. ''It can be seen that they are very cunning and bear grudges against us, and always want to get the upper hand.''

    Thai newspapers say the Thai government and military are at odds on how to deal with Myanmar. The government is keen to play down tensions while the military favours a more belligerent approach, particularly against the Wa force, newspapers say. Thailand massed thousands of troops at the border last month ostensibly for a training exercise, but military sources said they were preparing for a strike against the Wa. After protests from Myanmar, the troops were withdrawn. But the Shan -- one of two main ethnic minority rebel groups still fighting the junta in Myanmar - - took advantage of the confusion to seize some bases from Myanmar troops. The Thai army rejects claims it helped the Shan, but says it returned fire when stray shells landed on Thai soil.

    Kyaw Win said the Myanmar army had recaptured outposts from the Shan and was gearing up to retake the main base lost in May. ''This camp is surrounded by minefields and there is bad weather and difficult terrain, so we do not want to rush to recapture this camp,'' he said. ''We are taking time systematically sweeping the mines while shelling the camp with heavy artillery.''

    Thaksin told reporters Thailand had been assured by Myanmar that its forces fighting the Shan would not intrude into Thailand. Thousands of Thai villagers have been evacuated from the border region because of the danger of stray shells.

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