Daily News- June 15- 2002- Saturday

  • Shan calls for UN to heal Rangoon rift
  • Myanmar Holds Mass Rallies to Denounce Thailand
  • Karen rebels deny reports of involvement in Thai schoolbus attack

  • Shan calls for UN to heal Rangoon rift

    Wiwatchai Somkum
    The Nation

    CHIANG MAI - Shan State Army (SSA) leader Colonel Yawd Serk yesterday urged the international community and the United Nations to help mediate talks between the Burmese military junta and the country's ethnic minority groups.His statement came just days after the SSA's call for peace talks with the junta was turned down.

    Yawd Serk pointed to the UN's role in East Timor and other world trouble spots and said the organisation had a track record of being fair to the needs of indigenous people and was aware of the plight of Burmese ethnic minorities.The entire international community was well aware of the human rights violations in Burma but little has been done to address the plight of the people in the war-torn country, he said.

    In an interview with The Nation from his border outpost, Yawd Serk said that the pro-Rangoon Wa army (USWA) has stashed at least 300 million methamphetamine pills, and will ship them into Thailand once border tensions ease.

    The SSA has been reluctant to go head-to-head against the 20,000-strong UWSA.The SSA, once a faction within the opium warlord Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army, has refused to surrender to Rangoon.However, it maintains it is no longer involved in the drug trade and has vowed to work with Thailand or members of the international community to fight drug trafficking in Burma.

    The Shan State Army is allied with other anti-Rangoon groups, including the Karenni National Progressive Party, the Karen National Union and a number of other small groups fighting for autonomy.

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    Myanmar Holds Mass Rallies to Denounce Thailand

    YANGON, June 14 (Xinhuanet) -- Myanmar has held a series of mass rallies in seven areas since the beginning of this month to denounce Thailand's backing of the anti-government ethnic group Shan United Revolutionary Army (SURA).

    The mass rallies, organized by the government and attended by over 10,000 people in each event, started on June 1 and the areas where such gatherings took place until Thursday covered Kengtung, Taunggyi, Mandalay, Yangon, Monywa, Bago and Mawlamyine.

    Myanmar has accused Thailand of providing the SURA with shelter, food, military training, and arms and ammunition in its activities against the government. Speakers in these mass rallies described Thailand as a "bad" neighbor, charging that country with abetting a handful of SURA in "encroaching" on some of Myanmar's territory in the border area.

    "Yodaya (Thailand)'s show of total disregard for the principles of the ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the duties of a neighbor amounts to revealing its hostile attitude," the speakers said.

    The Myanmar-Thai border clashes were sparked on May 20 when the SURA attacked the four Myanmar government military outposts --Panmongsun, Nyaungbingon, Pangantgaw and Yanpaingsun. The Myanmar side charged that the attacks were launched under the cover of Thai army artillery barrage. Myanmar claimed that during the fight, 48 government soldiers died, 16 injured, 21 captured and 42 arms and ammunition lost. But the Thai side denied its involvement, saying that Thai troops fired warning shots after strong shells in fighting between SURA and the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which was supported by the Myanmar government troops, fell on the Thai soil. Shortly after the incident, the two countries exchanged protest notes.

    After the four government military outposts fell to the SURA, the Myanmar military declared on June 4 launching attacks on the SURA, aimed at recapturing the four lost outposts and the fighting has been going on since then. For this, Myanmar has warned Thailand not to intervene, informing the country to understand that accidental shells from fighting fall on Thai soil were unintentional.

    Meanwhile, Myanmar has unilaterally closed all its three major border points -- Tachilek, Myawaddy and Kawthoung, expelled at least 500 Thai workers, banned official entry visa to the Thai side and prohibited all Myanmar private journals to carry Thai articles and advertisement. In addition, Myanmar has also stopped buying electricity from Thailand for supplying its two border towns of Tachilek and Myawaddy.

    To solve the border conflicts, Thailand is trying to contact the Myanmar side to bring about a high-level negotiation, but so far, there is no response yet from the Myanmar side.

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    Karen rebels deny reports of involvement in Thai schoolbus attack

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand, June 14 (AFP) - Ethnic Karen rebels along the Thai-Myanmar border on Friday denied reports that its forces were involved in last week's fatal attack on a school bus in Thailand's Ratchaburi province.

    Thai newspapers have recently cited a senior investigator as saying he believes those responsible for the brutal attack which left three children dead were underlings of senior officials of the Karen National Union (KNU).Senior army intelligence officer General Pallop Pinmanee said in the Nation daily that the attackers were under the command of KNU Captain Luk Kapaw.

    "The reports which appeared in Thai newspapers are completely baseless and fabricated," the KNU's secretary- general Pado Mahn Sha told AFP by telephone from the border."The KNU has never done anything like this and we strongly denounce the attack," he said.The KNU has been fighting for independence from Myanmar for decades.Mahn Sha confirmed that Thai investigators called on Luk Kapaw, but he rejected the reports that the captain said his subordinates tried to collect debts from the driver of the school bus.

    Thai authorities have steadily moved away from theories that ethnic rebels conducted a politically-motivated attack on the bus and said they were focusing on the driver and his business relations in the region.Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Friday that authorities continued to hunt the suspects.

    General Pallop has come under fire in Thailand for overstepping his authority related to the case by questioning Karen officials about the attack and giving interviews to the press about the investigation, the Nation newspaper said.

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