Daily News- March 27- 2002- Wednesday

  • Thai troops poised to attack Wa army
  • Shan leader denies alliance with Red Wa
  • Myanmar Leader Meets Chinese Tourism Official
  • Myanmar military hints at political change
  • Myanmar junta fetes Armed Forces Day under tight security
  • Burmese leader dodges key issues
  • Thailand seals Burma border, sends in reinforcements after clashes

  • Thai troops poised to attack Wa army

    The Bangkokpost

    About 1,000 army troops, backed by artillery and two air force light attack planes, have been moved closer to the Burmese border in preparation for assaults on the pro-Rangoon United Wa State Army.

    The military deployment in Chiang Mai's Wiang Haeng district follows Monday's clash on Thai soil between a Thai army patrol team and UWSA guerrillas, which left one Thai soldier dead. An army source said it took more than four hours of fierce fighting before Thai reinforcements could retrieve the body of Mst-Sgt Suban Onla from the scene. ``The Wa took away Suban's M-16 assault rifle, ammunition and other possessions,'' the source said.

    The patrol team was part of security arrangements ahead of a planned visit to a border village in Wiang Haeng by Her Majesty the Queen. The border skirmish resulted in the cancellation of the royal visit.

    A Third Army source said more than 1,000 army soldiers from the Pha Muang Force's 1st and 2nd cavalry divisions and four 105mm howitzers were being deployed to Wiang Haeng in preparation for strikes on four UWSA outposts near the border. Two air force OV-10 light attack planes from Chiang Mai's 41st air wing had been sent to support them.

    Col Somsak Nilbanjerdkul, chief-of-staff of the Pha Muang Force, said there had never before been such an untoward incident ahead of a planned visit by any member of the royal family.Burmese border forces were always informed in advance to help ensure security.

    ``I insist that the Wa had intruded on Thai soil because Thai soldiers have never gone beyond the border. We stand guard there to provide security for the royal visit every year,'' he said. Col Somsak said the fight occurred only 200 metres from four UWSA outposts. The Wa guerrillas were believed to be part of a drug caravan.

    Third Army commander Lt-Gen Udomchai Ongkasing said the army would take serious action to suppress the UWSA and the Shan State Army (SSA), which was now also strongly suspected of involvement in drug trafficking.

    The Third Army would keep a closer watch on border areas where Shan guerrillas were operating, he said. ``Right now we are looking for evidence. It will take time to prove the SSA's involvement in drugs. But there was an indication in another clash in Wiang Haeng on Saturday because Shan soldiers were among the 13 people killed there,'' Lt-Gen Udomchai said.

    The Third Army yesterday protested to Burma over the border clash in Wiang Haeng on Monday. Lt-Gen Udomchai said the protest letter was lodged with a local-level Thai-Burmese township border committee.``The Third Army had contacted the Burmese soldiers at Doi Laktaeng, informing them that Her Majesty would visit the villagers [at Ban Plaek Saem].

    ``It is not clear why the United Wa State Army soldiers crossed over the border, but they might be angry over the clash last Friday in which 13 members of a drug caravan were killed,'' he said. The Third Army chief said the clash took place around 11.25am near Ban Plaek Saem, where the Queen was due to visit at 2pm.There would now be no visit to the village by Her Majesty until next year.

    Lt-Gen Udomchai did not think Burmese government soldiers knew in advance about the Wa intrusion.Nevertheless, the Third Army had to make a formal protest because Burmese government soldiers in the area should have kept a tighter rein on their Wa allies, he said.The matter, however, would not be raised at the Regional Border Committee meeting next month, to be co-chaired by Lt-Gen Udomchai, at Moulmein in Burma.

    Rangoon yesterday denied it had anything to do with the latest armed flare-up along the border.

    The Third Army chief said the Queen on Saturday granted an audience to the widow of Pvt Panya Sriput, who was killed in the border clash on Friday night, to consider assistance to the bereaved family.Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra flew to Chiang Mai yesterday evening for an audience with the Queen at Phuping Ratchanives palace.

    The premier said he had ordered Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to inform Burma of the matter and to take drastic measures to remove all intruders from Thai soil. He also promised stepped-up security for Her Majesty.

    To The Top

    Shan leader denies alliance with Red Wa

    The Bangkokpost

    Military collaboration between the Shan State Army and the United Wa State Army is possible if the UWSA disavows drugs, says Col Yawd Serk, the SSA military commander. ``We could join hands in our common fight but one thing must be clear first: they have to cease involvement in drug trafficking,'' Col Yawd Serk said.

    UWSA pushes more drugs than anyone else in the Golden Triangle. Mong Yawn, a town it controls, was built with drug money. Security sources say a new alliance may already be in the making between the SSA and Wei Sai-tang, deputy commander of UWSA southern command.

    The sources are sceptical about the SSA's claims that it is not involved in drugs and believe an alliance could worsen rather than alleviate the drug trade. SSA bases straddle the Thai-Burma border opposite Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son while the UWSA, with support from Burmese soldiers, controls drug plants deep inside Burma.

    ``We are fighting for Shan state and SSA is not a drug-related movement. If they could not accept our policy then collaboration would seem unlikely,'' said Col Yawd Serk, also chairman of Shan State Restoration Council.

    UWSA leaders Wei Sai-tang and Wei Hsueh-kang distrusted Shan top brass, he said. Wei Hsueh-kang has been moved from Mong Yawn to Ban Hong, 25 kilometres north of the drug city, opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Fa Luang district.

    Col Yawd Serk said Burma also wanted Wei Sai-tang to move from Mong Yawn. Burma would probably find ways to remove UWSA from southern Shan state, he said.

    Years ago, Wei Sai-tang secured a pledge from Burma to allow him to stay in Mong Yawn and Doi Lang if he was able to defeat former drug warlord Khun Sa in Doi Lang, which he did, in the mid-1980s. With some 2,000 armed men, Wei Sai-tang is still operating in Mong Yawn, opposite Chiang Mai's Mae Aei district. Col Yawd Serk said Burma wanted the UWSA to fight SSA. Wei Sai-tang disagreed with that.

    ``We should not fall into Burma's trap where we end up fighting each other. We should join hands in a common fight against them [Burma],'' he said. He denied assertions by Thai army commander Surayud Chulanont that SSA soldiers were working with the UWSA to peddle drugs. Two SSA soldiers were among 13 drug traffickers killed in an army ambush last Friday in Vieng Haeng.

    Col Yawd Serk said the pair were SSA deserters. He denied the drug caravan, carrying some 4-5 million speed pills for delivery in Thailand, was protected by SSA soldiers. Some 1.6 million methamphetamine tablets were seized in the clash, in which a Thai soldier was killed. Wei Hsueh-kang's men were protecting the caravan, he said, while the drugs were owned by Ja Ror Poh, a trusted aide.

    To The Top

    Myanmar Leader Meets Chinese Tourism Official

    YANGON, March 26 (Xinhuanet) -- First Secretary of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council Khin Nyunt met with visiting Chairman of the National Tourism Administration of China He Guangwei and his entourage here Tuesday afternoon.

    Khin Nyunt said at the meeting that Myanmar and China are friendly neighbors with a long-standing fraternal friendship. The Myanmar government will always abide by the "One-China" policy.

    Speaking on his country's tourism industry, Khin Nyunt noted that Myanmar, like China, is a country with many famous heritage and beautiful scenery, however, it is regretful that Myanmar's development of its tourism sector is still inadequate.

    He said that Myanmar, which is an agricultural country, is under-developed in industry. The Myanmar government hopes that through development of tourism, it will push the development of its economy and strengthen the two countries' cooperation in the field of tourism.

    At the meeting, He Guangwei said the Sino-Myanmar traditional friendship was forged and nurtured personally by leaders of elder generations of the two countries, and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, jointly advocated by the two sides, are the foundation of the two countries' friendship.

    With regard to the development of China's tourism industry, he noted that China earned 17.8 billion U.S. dollars of foreign exchange through the industry in 2001, 69 times of that obtained in 1978. He attributed China's achievement made in the sector to the adoption of the country's open-door policy.

    He said that in 1992, the governments of China and Myanmar signed an agreement on cooperation in tourism, and in 2001, the two sides endorsed a memorandum of understanding on the implementation plan for outbound travel to Myanmar by Chinese citizens at own expense, bringing about smooth progress in the two countries' tourism cooperation.

    After the meeting, He, U Win Aung and Saw Lwin held discussions on ways to enhance the two countries' tourism cooperation.He Guangwei arrived here Tuesday on a four-day visit to Myanmar at the invitation of Myanmar Foreign Minister U Win Aung.

    To The Top

    Myanmar military hints at political change

    YANGON,(Reuters) March 27 - Myanmar's military government hinted on Wednesday that this month's crushing of a planned coup by relatives of former dictator Ne Win could eventually lead to political change. In a speech marking national Armed Forces Day, junta leader General Than Shwe for the first time blamed Ne Win's regime for plunging the country into turmoil in 1988.

    He said the ruling military was in the process of changing the political and economic system it inherited from Ne Win.

    ''In 1988, due to an atmosphere of general dissatisfaction based on low levels of economic performance, the situation went out of control,'' Than Shwe told a military parade of more than 7,000 armed forces personnel, or Tatmadaw. ''The responsibility to undertake a transition from one age and one system to a new age and a new system that was in line with the political, economic and social desires of the people fell on the Tatmadaw,'' he said.

    Pro-democracy protests swept the country in 1988 after 26 years of harsh military rule under Ne Win. He officially stepped down from power in the midst of the protests which the army eventually suppressed after thousands of people were killed.

    Three weeks ago, Myanmar's ruling generals said they had thwarted a plot by Ne Win's relatives and military associates to take power on Armed Forces Day, the anniversary of the launch of nationwide resistance against occupying Japanese in 1945. The junta arrested Ne Win's son-in-law, three grandsons and three high-ranking officers, interrogated more than 100 people and confined Ne Win and his daughter Sandar Win to their home.

    Many diplomats are sceptical a coup was planned, saying the allegations and arrests may stem from disagreements in the government over how to deal with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy.

    Some observers say the regime wants to sideline Ne Win and his clan, so that it can move ahead with some kind of power-sharing deal with Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to bring democracy to the impoverished country.


    The military, engaged in U.N.-brokered talks with Suu Kyi since late 2000, has released more than 200 political prisoners but has shown little sign of loosening its grip on power. Suu Kyi is under house arrest and an estimated 1,500 political prisoners still languish in Myanmar's jails.

    But Than Shwe hinted of an end to the political impasse. ''Untiring efforts are being made...to ensure that when the time comes to hand over the responsibilities of the state, succeeding governments will be able to provide leadership with rectitude and with continuity to a nation where favourable conditions of stability and peace prevail,'' he said.

    ''Our genuine goodwill and efforts have been proved and are being proved with deeds, not words.'' Myanmar analysts said the regime was trying to draw a line under the Ne Win era so it could blame him for its economic woes.

    ''It's a bit of a departure to blame Ne Win,'' said Aung Zaw, editor of the independent Bangkok-based magazine Irrawaddy. ''But the economy at the moment is worse than before 1988 and it's still just open to the elite and cronies.''

    Ne Win, now in his nineties, ruled Myanmar with an iron fist from 1962 to 1988. After crushing the 1988 protests, the military, confident of victory, agreed to democratic elections in 1990 but were handed a shock defeat by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD). The ruling generals barred the NLD from power, saying a strong hand was needed to keep the country from falling apart.

    Previously they blamed the 1988 unrest on ''unruly mobs.'' Irrawaddy's Aung Zaw said if the Myanmar government was serious about change, it would use a visit by U.N. envoy Razali Ismail, probably in April, to make a gesture to the opposition. Last week, Myanmar stopped Razali from visiting the country at the last minute, saying they were too busy dealing with the coup plot. This week, it said Razali can visit from April 22.

    To The Top

    Myanmar junta fetes Armed Forces Day under tight security

    YANGON, March 27 (AFP) - Both sides on Myanmar's political divide Wednesday adopted a conciliatory tone in speeches to mark Armed Forces Day, the ruling's junta's headline event held under tight security shortly after a coup attempt.More than 7,000 representatives from the army, navy and air force in combat fatigues filed into Yangon Resistance Park for an early-morning parade that formed the centrepiece of the celebrations.

    Under the golden spires of the city's Shwedagon pagoda, the national symbol of peace, junta leader Senior General Than Shwe urged the assembled military ranks to "guard against internal and external dangers".But for a second straight year he eschewed the angry rhetoric usually employed in Armed Forces Day addresses, saying the military should "strive together with the people for emergence of a peaceful and modern nation."

    In a ceremony at its Yangon headquarters, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) also took a soft tone, dropping its usual demands for the release of its leader Aung San Suu Kyi who is under house arrest.

    The NLD marked the event under its original name, Resistance Day, when Myanmar's independence hero General Aung San -- Aung San Suu Kyi's father -- called on resistance fighters to throw out the occupying Japanese forces.

    In a statement read out by party vice-chairman Tin Oo, the NLD urged Myanmar's military to create an environment where peaceful dialogue could flourish successfully."March 27, 1945, marked the closing chapter of Myanmar's armed struggle for independence. After that it was only through peaceful means that we gained our freedom," Tin Oo said.

    "Bearing this in mind, various organisations and individuals concerned should seek rapprochement only through peaceful dialogue."

    Analysts in Yangon said the unusually calm atmosphere surrounding Armed Forces Day, despite unprecedently tight security in the run-up to the event, was a positive sign for ongoing talks between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi.

    "It was very mild and the subject matter was much more mundane. This is not the usual speech that is delivered for Armed Forces Day," one observer said of Than Shwe's address. "In effect he was saying that they are trying to do the most they can in the short time they have. Which may or may not signify change is in the offing."

    In another positive sign, Foreign Minister Win Aung said Tuesday that UN envoy Razali Ismail, who helped broker the talks with Aung San Suu Kyi that began in October 2000, would be allowed to visit next month.A trip originally scheduled for last week was abruptly postponed in the aftermath of what the military government said was a coup plot orchestrated by relative of former dictator Ne Win.The junta announced on March 9 that the son-in-law and three grandsons of the 92-year-old autocrat had been arrested, and that Ne Win and his daughter Sandar Win were under virtual house arrest.

    As a result of the coup revelations, security surrounding Armed Forces Day has been much tighter than usual this year, and Resistance Park has been crawling with security forces for several weeks.Squads of army personnel have swept for mines in and around the park every morning for weeks, walking along five-abreast and poking steel rods into the ground while others shook down trees looking for explosives.The roads approaching the park were also blocked to traffic as the security forces went through their paces each morning in elaborate rehearsals.

    To The Top

    Burmese leader dodges key issues

    By Larry Jagan -BBC Burma analyst in Bangkok
    Source : BBC

    Burma's military leaders have celebrated a key occasion in the military's calendar, Armed Forces Day. The parade took place amid tight security arrangements, coming only three weeks after the military authorities said they had crushed a planned coup attempt by relatives of the former military dictator, Ne Win.

    Since then, there have been rumours of a power struggle within the army between liberals and hardliners, who oppose the secret talks with the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, which started nearly 18 months ago.

    So conscious of security were the generals, that a decoy convoy arrived before the main guests.

    In the keynote speech, the Burmese leader senior General Than Shwe stressed the need for national unity and said the army was a reluctant ruler. He said it had been forced to seize power in 1988 because of the economic crisis and social unrest that had engulfed the country at the time, more or less blaming General Ne Win for the mess. But General Than Shwe made no mention of the recent coup attempt or the secret talks with Aung San Suu Kyi.


    For the past week, the military government has taken great pains to dispel rumours of a power struggle within the military, releasing pictures of the top generals inspecting troops and visiting the National Museum together. There is little doubt that General Than Shwe is in complete control.

    The key issue is whether the coup attempt by Ne Win family members will stall the dialogue process. Negotiations are continuing between the United Nations and the Burmese government to decide when the UN special envoy, Razali Ismail, can make his next visit to Rangoon. The Burmese foreign ministry said the envoy would be welcome in a month's time - 22 April. But the UN is insisting that Mr Razali should be allowed into the country sooner. A planned visit was postponed by the military authorities in Rangoon last week, after the alleged coup plot was revealed.

    The international community has made it clear to Rangoon that they expect the military government to make some significant gesture towards national reconciliation soon. Now that Army Day is over, General Than Shwe will have to turn his attention to this, or Burma could face increased international isolation and possible economic sanctions.

    To The Top

    Thailand seals Burma border, sends in reinforcements after clashes

    BANGKOK, March 27 (AFP)--- Thailand has sealed off part of its northern border with Burma and sent in several hundred troop reinforcements after a series of clashes with ethnic fighters, military sources said Wednesday.

    The Third Army, which patrols Thailand's troubled far north region, closed the border Tuesday in Wieng Heang district in a bid to wipe out rebel forces that sparked two bloody firefights over the past week, they said.

    "It was a temporary closure, but there is no schedule to reopen it yet," the military source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

    Thai army spokesman Colonel Somkuan Saengpattaranter said an extra battalion of 700 troops was being rotated in to Wiang Haeng to ensure tight levels of security.

    "However, the region is calm today, there's nothing happening," he said.

    The "strategic" closure of Baan Pieng Luang border gate, north of Thailand's second largest city Chiang Mai, followed a gunbattle Monday that left left one Thai soldier dead and another injured.

    The clash, which the Thai army said involved up to 30 members of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), forced the cancellation of a scheduled visit by Queen Sirikit to a royal-sponsored demonstration farm along the border.

    And on Friday, a fierce firefight between a Thai border patrol and a drug caravan also linked with the UWSA left 12 alleged drug runners and a Thai soldier dead.

    The UWSA, a group also known as the Red Wa which has signed a ceasefire with the military regime in Rangoon, is widely accused of controlling the drugs trade in the region.

    Third Army sources told the Bangkok Post Wednesday that soldiers were being deployed to Wiang Haeng in preparation for strikes on four UWSA outposts in the area.

    Thailand lodged an official protest with Burma Tuesday over the previous day's clash, but the army said Myanmar denied it had a hand in the attacks.

    Heroin and amphetamine trafficking is rife along the Thai-Burmese border, and clashes between narcotics-financed ethnic armies are common during the dry season.

    Burma's junta insists the UWSA is trying to stamp out narcotics, but western governments accuse Rangoon of turning a blind eye to the group's activities in return for the ceasefire agreement.

    To The Top