Daily News- June 17- 2002- Monday

  • Myanmar says Thailand dishonest on border fighting
  • Thai FM Confirms Myanmar's Participation in ACD Meeting
  • Myanmar refugees protest at UN office in Malaysia

  • Myanmar says Thailand dishonest on border fighting

    MYANGON, (Reuters)June 16 - Myanmar's state-owned newspapers on Sunday renewed attacks on Thailand, accusing its neighbour of abusing a goodwill visit to Thailand by a Myanmar military leader in April. Myanmar language newspapers accused the Thai military of spreading ''fabricated news'' that General Maung Aye, Myanmar's second most powerful leader, did not object to its plan to fight against an ethnic Shan minority group in Myanmar.

    They also criticised Thai Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchayudh, saying he had distorted recent incidents that sparked Thai-Myanmar border tensions.

    Myanmar troops, backed by their allies in the United Wa State Army (UWSA), launched an offensive last week to recapture bases near the border seized by the Shan State Army (SSA), an ethnic army which the junta says is tacitly supported by Thai troops. The Thai army has denied supporting the SSA, and says the Wa is the main producer of heroin and methamphetamines in the notorious Golden Triangle region. The border skirmishes have strained Thai-Myanmar relations.

    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 bilateral talks.

    ''It was reported...that General Maung Aye did not protest when he was informed of the Yodaya's plan to fight against the Wa...that news is utterly wrong,'' the papers said. Yodaya is the Myanmar version of Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam, the former name for Thailand. Maung Aye is vice chairman of Myanmar's ruling State Peace and Development Council.

    Tensions at the frontier have been heightened by the exploits of the Wa army, which Thailand says produces most of the methamphetamine pills that have been flooding across the border. Thousands of Thai troops massed at the border last month. They were ostensibly there 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    After protests from Myanmar, the troops were withdrawn.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 SSA, one of two main ethnic armies 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 Wa, but says it returned fire when stray shells landed on Thai soil.

    The Myanmar newspapers described Defence Minister Chavalit's denial of Thai shelling of Myanmar territory as a lie and dishonest statement. ''The Yodaya military investigation commission made a wrong report. And the Defence Minister, despite knowing the truth, dishonestly made the wrong statement. ''This incident amounted to infringing sovereignty. It is not an ordinary problem that can easily be forgotten after just saying sorry,'' the papers said.

    Thai FM Confirms Myanmar's Participation in ACD Meeting

    BANGKOK, June 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Despite current tensions on the Thai-Myanmar border, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai on Sunday confirmed that Myanmar will definitely attend the first Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) meeting in Thailand, the state-owned radio reported.

    However, he did not mention whether the two countries will holdtalks on border issues on the sidelines of the regional meeting, which is initiated by Thailand to promote Asia's collective bargaining power in the world economic arena.

    Surakiart said that for the time being Thailand and Myanmar will have more mutual understanding on the problems along their common border and he hopes a bilateral meeting for solving the border issue will be held soon.

    The ACD meeting, to be held in the Cha Am resort 150 kilometerssouth of Bangkok between June 18 and 19, will gather foreign or economic ministers from the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as from China, Japan, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bahrain and Qatar. Thailand and Myanmar are both member countries of the ASEAN, which also groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, thePhilippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

    Surakiart also said the Myanmar government has trusted in the sincerity of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in settling tensions between the two countries and in creating good bilateral relations. Since last month, the military of the two countries have been accusing each other of shooting gunfire across the border. Myanmarhas closed all border crossings with Thailand and expelled at least 500 Thai workers.

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    Myanmar refugees protest at UN office in Malaysia

    KUALA LUMPUR(Reuters) June 17 - Nine Muslims from Myanmar scaled a perimeter fence at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in the Malaysian capital on Monday to press their demand for refugee status. Six men, two boys and a woman, all ethnic minority Rohingya people from Myanmar, got inside the compound during the early hours of the day and put up posters appealing for U.N. help in being classified as refugees.

    A fellow Rohingya, speaking outside the compound, said he and the nine inside faced persecution back home and should be regarded as refugees. ''We have tried everything. I have been outside this gate for the last 10 years but I still don't know what my future is,'' said Sanaullah Ahmad Zahir, 34, who said he was born Arakan state in western Myanmar, also known as Burma.''We are Rohingya Muslims. We are persecuted back in Burma. We just want a better life,'' he told Reuters outside the entrance to the UNHCR offices.

    Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people fled from Arakan state into neighbouring Bangladesh in the early 1990s citing persecution by the military in mostly Buddhist Myanmar. Nearly 230,000 of them went home under UNHCR supervision in the mid 1990s but some 21,000 remain in Bangladesh.

    Sanaullah, who held a copy of a UNHCR letter dated 1998 and registering him as a Rohingya Muslim, said he was awaiting the outcome of an application for refugee status. He disappeared before police arrived. Both the police and the UNHCR, which human rights group Amnesty International accused in January of being cavalier in handing several Rohingya families on its grounds to the authorities, declined to comment.

    It is estimated that there are up to 3,000 Rohingya in Malaysia.Their plight has worsened as authorities have cracked down on illegal immigrants in a country whose population of 23 million is swelled by more than a million illegal immigrants.

    Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said at the weekend an amnesty period in place for illegal immigrants to return home voluntarily would expire soon, and he warned them to leave the country immediately or ''face the consequences.''

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