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Burma news: August 16

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Subject: Thai papers on 17/8/95
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Move to head off row with Burma
Bkk Post/17.8.95

PRIME Minister Banharn Silpa-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. Baharn 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 representatives 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
conflicting 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
carried out the killing.

According to the ministry the Thai fishermen became infuriated
after learning that Burmese crewmen had in formed 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 by taking
in the kind of marine animals which they were not allowed to
catch. Burmese crewmen reported this to Burmese authorities which
demanded an inspections of 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 overboard.

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

The Thai Government and the 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 hand.

Mr Banharn said he has instructed local authorities in Ranong to
impose stricter measures 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
agencies 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
hostility and improve the border situation.

Mr. Suchart yesterday arrived in Ranong to listen 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
Suchart said he has instructed provincial police to step up
efforts towards 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 in the
heated border conflict.

Gen Chavalit stress 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 to Burma "with ease," said the Defence
Minister, adding it was the Government's obligation to correct

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 measures to deal with companies which only look for
opportunities to take advantage by exhausting the  natural
resources of neighbouring countries. "Trouble makers must be wipe
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 rising the problems with
Burmese Government because he acquainted with many high-ranking
Burmese officials.

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

Assistant Army Commander-in-chief Chetha Thanacharo said the case
was not likely to effect Thai-Burma relations because Thailand
has tried to quicken the place 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
uncertainty in the murder incident.

"It is impossible that a personal confllict between a handful of
people would have negative effects on Thai-Burma relations," said
Gen Chetha.

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

Meanwhile, Thai tourists and business have been barred from
crossing into Victory point, halting the normally bustling border
Dept blame Thais for murder of Burmese fishermen
The Nation/17.8.95

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

According to the latest report released by the Fishery
Department, six bodies of the Burmese fishermen 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 Narrong Company, an affiliate of Narong
Canning Company. Narrong Canning co-invested with Burma's Fishery
Department to form Myanmar Narong.

Burmese authorities took away 10 Burmese nationals for
interrogation 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 surawadi, 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 in formed the department it had employed
foreign fishermen on its vessels.

Thai companies under the fishing agreement are barred from
selling 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 director,
dismissed reports his company was involved in the brutal killing,
saying it was the result of a personal conflict between Thai and
Burmese seamen.

Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Monthon
Kraiwatnusorn, who said companies wanting to fish overseas 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 4,000 or so Thai
crewmen fishing overseas, according to Mr Surachet, who oversees
the Fishery Department.

He and a 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.

Agriculture Minister 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
Burmese Government. Instead of improving relations with the
Government, we seem to be seeking connection with its opponents,"
he said.

Chavalit readies for Burma visit with border trip 
The Nation/ 17.8.95

The Nation

DEFENCE Minister Gen 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 Chetha Thanajaro, and together they will
attend a briefing given by the Army's Task Force 34 in Mae Sot.

The Army plans to televise Chavalit's trip via satellite to Army
headquarters in Bangkok, where reporters could ask the 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
military 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 strong -holds 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
organization, 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
meeting last Friday and would begin a Congress meeting either
yesterday of 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 wanted their were still arguing they wanted
to maintain their positions.

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

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

Typed by the Research Department of the ABSDF(MTZ)   17/8/95