Daily News- June 28- 2002- Friday

  • Burmese, Wa intruders die in night clash
  • Apology demanded from Burma
  • Thai-Bashing Scholar Shunned in Rangoon
  • Verbal jousting no good, says Surin
  • Junta Demolished Homes
  • Aung San Suu Kyi to meet with Mandalay military commander
  • Thailand-Myanmar ties hit rock bottom: Thai PM

  • Burmese, Wa intruders die in night clash

    The Bangkokpost

    About a dozen armed intruders from Burma were killed in a clash with Thai troops near Hua-lone forest in Mae Fa Luang, Chiang Rai, early yesterday morning.The intruders were believed to be Burmese and Wa troops.The fight occurred about 1am.

    ``They sneaked across the border with the aim of attacking the Shan State Army base at Kaw Fah from our territory,'' a border security source said.Reinforcements from the Pha Muang Task Force were sent to reinforce the area around Mae Fa Luang following the clash.

    The Shan army has four military bases "Kaw Wan, Kaw Hom, Kaw Fah and Kaw Muang" in rugged terrain alongside the Thai-Burmese border opposite Mae Fa Luang.

    Rangoon has deployed thousands of troops, including militias from several ethnic minority groups which have made peace with Rangoon, in its dry season offensive against the bases.

    ``Fighting can be expected to intensify in this area because Rangoon is determined to seize the SSA strongholds at any cost,'' the source said.

    Burma's intelligence deputy chief Maj-Gen Kyaw Win last week cautioned the Thai military not to support the SSA during the offensive.He warned that Rangoon would retaliate strongly.

    Army chief Gen Surayud Chulanont yesterday again denied the Thai military had supported ethnic minority forces opposing the junta's rule.The army was ready for any inquiry the government might launch, he said. There was nothing to hide.

    ``The army has not interfered in Burma's internal affairs and is ready for a full examination in all cases,'' he said.

    Gen Surayud was responding to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's reported comment that the military ``should not interfere in the internal affairs [of Burma] by helping the minorities fight against the government''.The prime minister's remark surprised many military officers.The army chief stressed that it was the army's duty to protect the country's sovereignty. It would not allow foreign forces to use Thai soil for any military operation.

    Soldiers of the Third Army had fired several warning shots when combined Burmese and Wa forces intruded recently near Ban Puna in Chiang Rai's Mae Fa Luang district.They had eventually been forced to use grenades to expel the intruders from Thai soil, Gen Surayud said.

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    Apology demanded from Burma

    Wassana Nanuam
    The Bangkokpost

    The military has demanded that Rangoon apologise to Thai people over the publishing of articles deemed insulting to the Thai monarchy in its New Light of Myanmar official newspaper.The demand was made in one of three protest letters filed to the Burmese military leadership through Burma's military attache yesterday.

    A Defence Ministry source said the military attache, Col Ko Ko Maung, turned up at the Supreme Command headquarters yesterday to receive the protest letters from Maj-Gen Wisarn Chanthasunthorn, information chief of the joint intelligence directorate.Col Ko Ko Maung left without talking to reporters, the source added.

    He said the first letter was a protest over the incidents in which shells fired by Burmese troops landed on Thai soil in Chiang Mai's Wiang Haeng district and in Chiang Rai's Mae Fa Luang district, and over Burma's shelling of a Thai military outpost in Wiang Haeng which left two soldiers wounded.

    The second protest letter was about an incursion by a group of Burmese soldiers and their Wa allies at Ban Puna in Mae Fa Luang.

    In the third letter, a protest was made over New Light of Myanmar articles considered insulting to the Thai monarchy.The letter also demanded that the Burmese government show responsibility by apologising to the Thai people and banning further publishing of similar articles.

    Earlier, Thai protest letters filed to Rangoon through the Thai-Burmese township border committee had been rejected, as Burma insisted such letters must be sent through the Foreign Ministry only.

    Meanwhile, the Thai military attache to Rangoon, Col Kasem Nakpan, was summoned to receive Burma's protest letter against Thailand over recent border skirmishes.

    The Foreign Ministry yesterday formally asked immigration authorities to list as persona non grata the Burmese writer of the articles deemed insulting to the Thai monarchy, and her editor.A ministry source said the two were writer Ma Tin Win and New Light of Myanmar editor Maung Maung.

    The disclosure came after ministry spokesman Rathakit Manathat affirmed that ``appropriate action'' had been taken with Burma regarding the perceived insults to the monarchy.Mr Rathakit, however, noted that the nature of some diplomatic efforts could not be revealed.The ministry had followed and analysed articles in the Burmese media consistently, and held consultations with government members and officials concerned, he said.

    Negotiations with Burma were made on the principle of non-interference in the affairs of neighbouring countries, but at the same time Thailand would not let any other country or group violate its sovereignty, the spokesman said.The ministry had coordinated with and gathered information from military and security agencies all along, he said.

    Thai-Bashing Scholar Shunned in Rangoon

    By Aung Zaw
    The Irrawaddy

    June 27, 2002 - Dr Ma Tin Win is infamous among Thai officials as her Thai-bashing articles enraged the Kingdom of Thailand.But Thais are not alone.

    "She [Ma Tin Win] is shunned by us. We don’t want to associate with her," a Rangoon-based prominent writer who requested anonymity told The Irrawaddy.True. Not only in Thailand, but also in Burma, Dr Ma Tin Win is unpopular.

    Burmese are not paying serious attention to articles written by Ma Tin Win, which are published daily in the military government’s papers. A business editor in Rangoon said many Burmese do not hate Thais. As Thai-Burma relations went into a tailspin, many Burmese who are not happy with the regime are saying our enemy’s enemy is our friend.

    "But we are patriotic," said a woman writer who also writes for several prominent magazines in Burma. She said she has been to Thailand and has many Thai friends who are no different than Burmese. She again stressed that no one is paying attention to the regime’s anti-Thai propaganda.

    The Burmese, who have been living under repressive military rule for decades, routinely dismiss news, articles and commentaries in the state-run press as lacking in credibility.

    Ma Tin Win is also under pressure from her readers and editors.A senior staff member at the Rangoon-based Klaya magazine said that readers and regular contributors, including famous writers, phoned his office to tell him to stop publishing Ma Tin Win’s articles. One well-known writer threatened to quit writing regular features for the magazine unless it considered this request.

    Respected historian Dr Than Htun, who has established close ties with Thai scholars and historians, reportedly asked Klaya magazine to stop publishing Ma Tin Win’s articles, though they are not related to Thai-Burma relations.

    Ma Tin Win, who is in her 60s, received her doctorate in historical pedagogy in Russia in the early 1970s. She began to write articles related to European and Asian history for Burmese magazines in 1984. Her work is considered "average" among Burmese writers and editors. She recently published a book about Burma’s Konbaung Dynasty.

    Since last year, many professional writers in Burma quietly protested Ma Tin Win after she began writing for the junta’s mouthpiece publications. Last year, during the Thai-Burma border conflicts, Ma Tin Win wrote several critical articles that offended Thai officials and Thai people.

    "We never write for government papers, but she broke our principles and integrity," said a writer in Rangoon. He continued that since last year, when Ma Tin Win joined the government propaganda papers with her attacks on Thailand, she has lost many of her friends and readers. "People stay away from her," he said.

    According to sources close to the controversial writer, her anti-Thai attacks in the state-run press last year provoked a slew of abusive phone calls from Burmese readers, forcing her to change her telephone number.Many writers said that Ma Tin Win’s articles and opinions do not represent Burma and its people. "She has been shunned," one writer said.

    Last week, noted Burmese director Maung Wunna held a wedding ceremony, to which he invited Ma Tin Win. A Burmese writer who attended the ceremony said that Ma Tin Win’s face was red, as many guests at the wedding kept their distance from the controversial writer.

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    Verbal jousting no good, says Surin

    The Bangkokpost

    Verbal retaliation by the military against Burma would only aggravate diplomatic rows, said former foreign affairs minister Surin Pitsuwan.A strongly-worded attack on Rangoon in a military-radio broadcast on Wednesday would raise more problems than it solved, he said.

    The military was responding to articles published in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, Rangoon's official mouthpiece, attacking Thailand for harbouring anti-Rangoon elements and ridiculing former Thai kings.

    Mr Surin said the military's move was unprecedented.

    Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Senate committee on foreign affairs, said the conflict with Burma was still far from solved.The government should stop giving the Burmese money for road construction and drug suppression, he said.The government had tried to make friends with Burma but anti-Rangoon minority groups and the dictatorship continued to create problems.

    Former deputy foreign minister M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra said the government's Burma policy was far-fetched and over-optimistic.``This government's policy toward Burma is just a daydream in which international ties come to rely on personal relationships between the Thai leadership and the Burmese, on business links and soft stands adopted by the government.''

    Speaking during the budget debate yesterday, M.R. Sukhumbhand said Burma had become more aggressive in the last six months, violating Thai territorial sovereignty and attacking the monarchy on a daily basis, while Bangkok merely stood by.

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    Junta Demolished Homes

    By Naw Seng
    The Irrawaddy

    June 27, 2002 - Dozens of houses have been demolished and at least 13 people were arrested—including three children in Rangoon's Shwe Leikpyar quarter, also know as the Zay Kalay quarter, near Rangoon University's Kyee Myin Daing campus earlier this month. Residents of the neighborhood told The Irrawaddy that the demolition had been ordered by the government to make room for a new apartment complex.

    According to eyewitness accounts, an estimated 30 men from the military, local police and the junta's de facto political party the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) descended upon the quarter on June 10 and notified the residents that they had 24 hours to move all their belongings from their homes. The residents said no explanation was given but that those who did not cooperate would be arrested.

    "They did not want to go, but they were given no choice," said one resident whose home is just outside of the demolished area. He added that he thought the government might compensate the residents.

    At least 13 people were arrested after authorities raided the neighborhood, which is in Kyee Myin Daing Township, on June 11 and found them still in their homes, according to a member of the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area). Among those arrested were three members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) as well as three children.NLD (LA) secretary U Nay Win told the Washington, DC- based Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the residents and their children are being detained at Insein Prison and the Htaung Kyant interrogation center, both in Rangoon. He added that they have been charged under an obscure 1962 housing law.

    Shortly after the raid the NLD's headquarters in Rangoon released a strongly worded statement condemning the junta for carrying out such unwarranted and illegal acts.

    In April, thousands of riot police and local police raided the Waggi quarter in Rangoon's Kamayut Township and demolished 25 homes. Homeowners and their children who refused to vacate were also arrested.

    Under Burma's military regime, forced relocations in urban area have become commonplace. The relocations are often times ordered to eradicate what the government sees as subversive cells or because of business interests. Resident normally receive no compensation from the government.

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    Aung San Suu Kyi to meet with Mandalay military commander

    MANDALAY, Myanmar, June 28 (AFP) - Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi was due to meet with Mandalay's military commander Friday in what party members described as a "significant development" during her first political trip outside the capital since her release from house arrest.It is understood to be Aung San Suu Kyi's first meeting with a junta official since her May 6 release.

    "After lunch she is going to meet the military commander of the Mandalay central military command, who is also chairman of the regional State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Major General Ye Myint," a source from the National League for Democracy (NLD) told AFP.The SPDC is the official name of Myanmar's ruling military regime.

    "This is a significant development. It is one indication that there is more coordination and interaction between Aung San Suu Kyi and the authorities," the source said.

    Observers have expressed concern since the leader's release that her secret dialogue on national reconciliation with the ruling military regime had stalled as she had apparently not met with any SPDC officials. The talks began in October 2000.The hugely popular leader left Yangon on Saturday for her first political trip outside the capital since she was freed from 19 months' house arrest.The trip has particular significance because Mandalay, lying some 695 kilometres (430 miles) north of Yangon, was the city the ruling military regime barred her from travelling to in September 2000.Soon afterwards the generals confined her to her famed lakeside villa in the capital.

    A trip such as this was expected by observers to be a true test of the regime's undertaking to grant Aung San Suu Kyi freedom of movement, and so far NLD sources say this is what she has enjoyed.

    Earlier Friday, "the Lady", as she is known, met in a closed session with representatives of NLD offices from the 16 townships that make up Mandalay district.Other representatives waited outside the meeting room at the headquarters eager to talk with journalists.

    "I never would have dared speak to a journalist before. But now I can tell you what I think," Aung Pe, a member of the organising committee from Ngazun township, told AFP.He said his leader's visit had already improved freedoms for NLD members."Her visit has made life easier for us party members security-wise and we have recovered at least 50 percent of our freedom of movement. We are wearing our NLD badges without harassment," he said.

    Aung Pe said the new political freedoms were due to the massive support people had given Aung San Suu Kyi since her arrival in Mandalay.After the meeting, the charasmatic leader gave a 10-minute speech to some 2, 000 people waiting for her outside the NLD headquarters.

    "When I see you give me such a spontaneous welcome I am doubly filled with a desire to fulfill your expectations. But desire is not enough in itself. We need to turn desire into reality," she said."I am committed to this and there is no turning back," she said, before adding that the pursuit of wealth needed to be kept in balance.

    "I used to be worried that the people of Mandalay were too preoccupied with their economic situation. If you are totally engrossed with economic or material gains, and nothing else, I consider it a bad sign for the nation."I pray that we do not turn into a materialistic nation. If this be the case, our nation will never turn into a peaceful one."

    On Thursday Aung San Suu Kyi travelled to Monywa, 154 kilometres (96 miles) west of Mandalay division's capital, visiting United Nations projects and stopping at several NLD offices.Her scheduled return was delayed for six hours because thousands of people turned out to see her, an NLD security official told AFP.

    The jubilant mood in Mandalay contrasts to a more ambivalent one in Yangon, where observers remain concerned about the pace of the national reconciliation process.

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    Thailand-Myanmar ties hit rock bottom: Thai PM

    BANGKOK, June 28 (AFP) - The Thai-Myanmar border crisis and subsequent war of words has brought ties between the historic adversaries to a new low, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Friday.

    "I don't think the situation will get further out of hand because it can't get any worse than this," Thaksin told reporters at Government House.

    The latest verbal spat between the two neighbours followed the Myanmar junta's shunning of a Thai protest that Yangon had insulted Thailand's monarchy in a series of articles in official media there.

    Thaksin said Myanmar had yet to respond but that he was still keeping the door open for dialogue.On Thursday, in what appeared to be his strongest condemnation of Yangon since the crisis began, Thaksin came out in support of the defence ministry's retaliation to a series of insults and said relations between the two sides "could be at a crossroad."

    Meanwhile Thai Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh blasted one of the authors of the articles as a "national enemy"."I will give him a slap on the head if we ever meet," he told reporters. Thai press reports have identified the author as Ma Tin Win, a woman.

    Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai told reporters his ministry had blacklisted both the author and Maung Maung, editor of the New Light of Myanmar.

    Chavalit, who is known to have close ties with the junta, said the Thai military will continue its own propaganda war against Myanmar through military media channels after he repeatedly asked the junta not to attack Thailand's most revered institution, the monarchy.

    "They can scold me as much as they want, I will forgive, but insulting our monarchy we can not forgive," he said.

    Relations soured badly last month following clashes along the border during which ethnic Shan rebels overran Myanmar military bases.Myanmar accused Thailand of providing support to the rebels, a claim the Thai military has consistently denied.

    After both countries exchanged protests on May 20, Yangon slammed shut its border checkpoints with Thailand, banned official visiting delegations, and launched a patriotic tirade against Thailand in its press that is still going strong.

    Myanmar has issued a ban on mentioning Thailand in the press, with papers instead referring to "Yodaya", a centuries-old name for the Thai kingdom whose capital Ayutthaya was sacked by the Burmese in 1767.

    The Thai military has said Myanmar troops have made incursions into its territory as it mounted attacks against the rebels.About a dozen Myanmar troops and their ethnic Wa allies were killed in a pre-dawn clash Thursday after they sneaked across the border intending to attack the Shan State Army base from Thai territory, the Bangkok Post cited a Thai border security source as saying.

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