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BurmaNet News 17th Aug 1995

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The BurmaNet News: August 17, 1995

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===== item =====

17 AUGUST 1995, The Nation

Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh will make a one-day trip
to northern Mae Sot tomorrow to study the problems along the
Thai-Burmese border which have strained relations between the two

The trip will be a fact-finding mission in preparation for
Chavalit's scheduled visit to Burma on Sept 1, during which he
will try to mend Thai-Burmese relations.

Chavalit, also deputy prime minister, will be accompanied by
Assistant Army Chief Gen Chettha Thanajaro, and together they
will attend a briefing given by the Army's Task Force 34 in Mae

The Army plans to televise Chavalit's trip via satellite to Army
headquarters in Bangkok, where reporters could ask the minister
on-the-spot questions. The one-hour press conference is scheduled
for 12 pm.

Chavalit, who has established close ties with the leaders of the
Burmese military junta, rescheduled the meeting of the Defence
Council from Friday to today, giving him time to study all of the
border problems before his trip.

In Mae Sot, meanwhile, Karen guerrilla leader Gen Bo Mya last
Sunday met a group of Karen mediators sent from Rangoon by the
junta to investigate the possibility of peace talks to end the
armed conflict between the two groups.

Thai military sources, who declined to reveal the content of the
one-hour meeting, quoted Bo Mya as urging the junta, known as the
State Law and Order Restoration Council, to first halt its mili
tary operation against the Karen National Union.

The guerrilla leader then asked Slorc to withdraw its forces from
KNU-controlled areas before both sides begin a peace dialogue.

Bo Mya, according to the sources, met the three mediators at a
KNU base opposite Thailand's Umphang district in Tak province.

The three mediators were identified as U Khun Myint, U Thun Aung
Sin, a former professor at Rangoon University, and Aye Soe Min, a
former Karen MP during the reign of the Burmese Socialist
Programme Party.

The sources said after losing their Manerplaw headquarters and
other strongholds to Rangoon, the KNU lost some of its bargaining
power and has been forced to drop conditions for entering into
peace talks with Slorc.

Dissident Burmese student leader Naing Aung said his organiza
tion, the All Burma Students' Democratic Front, understood the
KNU's need to enter into peace talks with Slorc.

But he warned that any talks which do not encompass a political
solution to the ethnic conflict would not bring about a lasting

The Thai sources said the KNU finished a central committee meet
ing last Friday and would begin a Congress meeting either yester
day or today.

The central committee meeting proceeded very slowly because of
the unsettled issue of a new KNU leadership, added the sources.
While younger Karen leaders wanted their seniors to step down,
the current leaders were still arguing they wanted to maintain
their positions.

The sources said Bo Mya had requested that he retain the para
mount leadership until he had successfully concluded peace nego
tiations with Slorc. Bo Mya would then voluntarily step down.

However, the Karen army chief, Gen Tamalabaw, has quit the posi
tion and been replaced by the KNU's Sixth Brigade commander Gen
Shwe Sai, who was earlier tipped to succeed Bo Mya. (TN)

===== item =====

17 AUGUST 1995, Bangkok Post

The Fishery Department has confirmed a report that Thai fishermen
were behind the brutal killing of at least six Burmese crewmen on
a Thai fishing vessel.

According to the least report released by the Fishery Department,
six bodies of the Burmese have been found while nine others are
still missing after Thai crewmen allegedly carried out the murder
on August 6.

The incident occurred after Burmese authorities boarded the JV 44
owned by the Myanmar-Narong Company, an affiliate of Narong
Canning Company. Narong Canning co-invested with Burma's Fishery
Department to form Myanmar Narong.

Burmese authorities took away 10 Burmese nationals for interroga
tion following complaints about alleged violations of the fishing
agreement between Thailand and Burma.

The report said Burmese fishermen informed their authorities that
Narong Canning Company had unloaded fish onto other Thai vessels
before arriving at port to distribute half the amount of fish
caught to Burmese officials.

After the authorities left the vessel, a group of Thai fishermen
allegedly began assaulting 18 Burmese seamen.

Plodprasop Suraswadi, the Fishery Department director general,
said he had received confirmation from various agencies including
the Army, the Thai Embassy in Burma, Ranong provincial officials
and his department's investigation team that a group of Thai
fishermen were responsible for killing the Burmese crewmen.

The murder took place on board the JV 44, he said. Although there
was no concrete evidence to identify the guilty parties, the
Narong Canning Company, owned by Narong Phibunpattana, must be
held accountable for the incident because the murder allegedly
happened on the company's fishing vessel.

"It is a matter that deals with human lives and the company
should show consideration for the families of the dead instead of
shirking its responsibility," said Mr Plodprasop.

The company, he claimed, was also reluctant to allow the Fishery
Department to check its fishing licence. Also the company never
informed the department it had employed foreign fishermen on its

Thai companies under the fishing agreement are barred from sell
ing or giving fish to other  companies. Burmese authorities
normally allow Burmese fishermen 25 days a month to work on Thai
vessels and for Thai companies to fish in Burmese waters.

The bilateral relationship between the two countries will be
damaged unless the Thai Government shows sincerity in solving the
problem based on fairness and justice.

Issuing a warrant for the arrest of the suspects is one way of
assuring Burma that Thailand has no intention of distorting the
facts behind the murder in order to help its own people.

Mr Narong earlier denied that his company owned the JV 44, saying
the trawler was among a fleet of 48 rented trawlers used by
Myanmar Narong Company.

Surachet Ungkasuphong, Narong Canning assistant derector, dis
missed reports his company was involved in the brutal killing,
saying it was the result of a personal conflict between Thai and
Burmese seamen.

Deputy Agricultural and Cooperatives Minister Monthon
Kraiwatnusorn, who said companies wanting ti fish over seas from
now on have to obtain Fishery Department permission and give
details of fishing agreements made with their partners.

There are many illegal fishermen among the 4000 or so Thai crew
men fishing oversea, according to Mr Surachet, who oversees the
Fishery Department.

He and group of Foreign Ministry officials will mediate in the
fishing row to clear up any misunderstanding between the Thai
private sector and the Burmese Government.

Agricultural Minster Montri Pongpanich said he would consult with
the Interior and Defence ministers on how to sort out growing
tension between the two countries.

"Violation of the fishing agreement will not develop into such a
big matter if we have maintained close friendship with the Bur
mese Government. Instead of improving relations with the Govern
ment, we seem to be seeking connection with its opponents," he
said. (BP)

===== item =====


17 AUGUST 1995, Bangkok Post

PRIME Minister Banhan Slipa-archa has prepared a message for his
Burmese counterpart to confirm Thailand's stance in clearing up
the murder of Burmese seamen in an effort to curb intensifying
border hostility.

Mr Banhan said the message will be delivered to the Burmese
Government by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Chavalit
Yongchaiyudh who is due for an official visit to that  country
early next month.

Foreign Ministry representative have gone to Burma to attend a
ministry-level meeting with Burma's Political Department
director-general to discuss the murder which is likely to develop
into a major international political row, possibly leading to a
confrontation between Thailand and Burma.

The Prime Minister's statement was made amid streams of conflict
ing accounts on the murder case released by various related
agencies including the Burmese Embassy. The stories quoted by
Interior Ministry sources and the Burmese Embassy were different
in terms of the number of crewmen killed and missing but both
concluded that Thai fishermen of Narong Canning Co had carry out
the killing.

According to the Ministry, the Thai fishermen become infuriated
after learning that Burmese crewmen had informed the Burmese
authorities they had illegal communications equipment which was
later seized. They later allegedly killed four Burmese crewmen.

Based on the embassy's account, the Thai fishermen had broken the
fishing agreement by taking in the kind of marine animals which
they were not allowed to catch. Burmese crewmen reported this to
Burmese crewmen reported this to Burmese authorities which de
manded an inspection of the Thai vessel.

Angry that the Burmese seamen had failed to keep a tight lip, the
Thai fishermen began assaulting 18 of them. At least five of them
were brutally beaten and thrown over broad.

The murder reportedly prompted the Burmese authorities to tempo
rarily close down the passage between Victoria Point and Ranong.
The travel ban is still effective.

The Thai government and Defence Ministry have set up fact-finding
committees to investigate the incident in the hope of quickly
"clearing the air" to prevent the matter from getting out of

Mr Banharn said he had instructed local authorities in Ranong to
impose stricter measure to force Thai fishermen to strictly
follow the fishing law. The problem, if left unabated, will
certainly hurt the relationship with Burma.

The Government has sent a team of delegates from the Foreign
Ministry to Burma in the hope of finding ways to ease tension
arising from the murder case, said the prime minister in response
to questions on how he planned to settle the growing conflict
between the two countries which is likely to deteriorate.

He maintained the Government has not been passive in pressing for
the capture of the suspects. So far, the police have arrested
many suspects and accomplices and they have all been questioned.

The Prime Minister gave his personal assurance the related agen
cies including the Foreign Ministry have done their best to
remedy the border problem. He expressed confidence Gen Chavalit's
official visit to Burma would help cool down the degree of hos
tility and improve the border situation.

Mr Banharn said he has assigned Deputy Interior Minister Surachet
to go to Ranong to look more closely into the problem.

Mr Surachet yesterday arrived in Ranong to listern to a summary
of the incident and progress made in the investigation. He later
visited Narong Canning Co to inspect the vessel JV 44 where the
murder was believed to have taken place. The fishing boat was
seized as evidence.

The case has destabilised relations between the two countries. Mr
Surachet said he has instructed provincial police to step up
efforts toward s arresting all 11 suspects.

It was reported the owner of Narong Canning Co was required to
pay compensation for damage resulting from the killing to Burmese
authorities. This is seen as one way of putting a cap on the
heated border conflict.

Gen Chavalit stressed the importance of resolving the murder
problem in a transparent manner to restore Burma's trust. The
murderers must face stern legal action.

The Government did not order a prompt investigation into the
murder just so he could travel to Burma "with ease," said the
defence minister.

The Army has, for a long time, maintained strong ties with its
Burmese counterpart. The Government is hoping to forge better
relations with Burma at the local level.

There must be measure to deal with companies which only look for
opportunities to take advantage by exhausting the natural re
sources of neighbouring countries. "Trouble-makers must be wiped
out," he said.

Gen Chavalit declined to comment on speculation that some senior
officials gaining huge benefits from the border trade have caused
the investigation into the case to be delayed. He opposed the
idea of permanently cutting ties between the two countries.

He refused to elaborate on details of his visit to Burma. It was
reported the murder incident was urgently added to the agenda of
his visit . He foresaw no problem in raising the problem with the
Burmese Government because he is acquainted with many high-rank
ing Burmese officials.

Gen Chavalit was confident  the talks would be "smooth" but said
people should not expect too much from his visit.

Assistance Army Commander-in-Chief Chetha Thanacharo said the
case was not likely to affect Thai-Burma elations because Thai
land ha tried to quicken the pace of the investigation.
He downplayed the border closure order, saying Burma reserved the
right to shut down the border pass if it felt there was still
uncertainly in the murder incident.

"It is impossible that a personal conflict between a handful of
people would have negative effect on Thai-Burma relations," said

He said minor incident happen all the time along the border and
in the water. Thailand has tried its best to solve the problem.

Meanwhile, Thai tourists and businessmen have been barred from
crossing into Victoria Point, halting the normally bustling
border trade. (BP)