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News: AUgust 16

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The BurmaNet News: AUGUST 16, 1995


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===== item =====

16 AUGUST 1995, The Nation

The Foreign Ministry is expected to send "a letter of condolence"
to Rangoon in the weak of last week's alleged murder of Burmese
fishermen abroad a Thai vessel, an incident which has seriously
strained bilateral ties, a government source said yesterday.

The Bangkok-based Burmese ambassador will be informed of Thai
land's sincere desire to resolve the incident when the envoy pays
a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Kasem S Kasemsri in the near
future, the source said.

"The letter could be signed by the foreign minister or Prime
Minister Banharn Silapa-archa himself," he said.

According to the Supreme Command's Information Division, two
Thais identified as Kamsai Kaenkaew and Porn, whose surname was
not given, were arrested in connection with the murders.

Yesterday the bodies of two more Burmese fishermen were swept
ashore on Son island near Kawthaung, bringing the total number of
dead to four. Their wrists and ankles were tied with rope and
their bodies were covered with bruises and cuts.

A Burmese survivor of the incident, speaking to Thai authorities
in Ranong yesterday, recounted that on August 6  he was abroad
one of three fishing vessels owned by the Myanmar-Narong Canning
Company when they were informed that the Burmese government had
revoked the firm's fishing licence.

The MNC is a joint venture between the Narong Canning Company and
the Burmese Fisheries Department.

"There were at that time 28 Burmese on the vessel I boarded,
including those who were simply Burmese villagers who asked for a
ride. Thais using knives and iron bars circled us and forced us
to lie down," the Burmese man, whose name was not revealed, said.

After the Thais tied the wrists and ankles of the Burmese, they
were beaten with the iron bars around the knees and some of them
were stabbed, the Burmese man said, adding that they were then
thrown into the sea.

The Burmese survivor alerted the authorities in Kawthaung of the
murder after managing to swim back to the shore, also known as
Victoria Point. As of yesterday, 13 Burmese fishermen who had
escaped after the incident and 11 others remained missing.

Earlier, the bodies of two Burmese crewmen were swept ashore near
Tathay Island south of Rangoon in Kawthaung. Initial reports had
it that a group of Thais killed the Burmese because they had
alerted the Burmese authorities to illegal activities being
carried out by the Thai fishing company.

Rangoon consequently scrapped a joint venture deal with the MNC
after the allegations were proven. Other Thai-Burmese fishing
firms have also been affected the incident as Burma ordered them
to report immediately to the authorities.

Yesterday more than 600 fishing vessels and ferry boats were seen
anchored in Ranong port. Meanwhile, an official in Ranong claimed
5,000 armed Burmese troops have been deployed in the area to
prevent Thai vessels from entering Burmese waters.

A team set up to probe the murders will visit Ranong province
today and, if approved by Rangoon, will travel  to Kawthaung in
Burma to gather information on the case, an Interior Ministry
official said. Deputy Interior Minister Suchart Tancharoen will
also accompany the team. 

Rangoon's order to bar Thai vessels from entering its waters and
close the Kawthaung-Ranong temporary checkpoint has completely
sealed the Thai-Burmese border after the earlier closure of
checkpoints in Tak and Chiang Rai provinces.

The source said to ensure the Burmese government of the degree of
seriousness and sincerity Thailand has attached to the case,
Banharn is expected to handle the matter personally.

Meanwhile, Narong Piboonthanapatna, president of Narong Canning,
yesterday said the vessels involved in the murders off Kawthaung
have been fishing under his company's licence but it was not
involved in the incident.

"We were in operation for only about a month before the murders
took place. The company submitted a letter to the Fisheries
Department of Burma, detailing what happened. It seemed to us
that the Burmese have a greater understanding of the issue,"
Narong said.

Although Narong Canning was not involved in the murders, it has
informed the Burmese government it is ready to assist the rela
tives of the victims, he said.

Earlier, the Rangoon government ordered the closure of two tempo
rary checkpoints, one in Chiang Rai linked to Burma's Tachilek
and one in Tak's Mae Sot district linked to Myawaddy in Burma.

The closures stemmed from Rangoon's suspicions that Thailand
harboured Burmese ethnic minorities, including troops of drug
warlord Khun Sa.

The Burmese government failed to react to leaflets which have
been distributed in its border provinces urging the Burmese
people to boycott Thai products and buy exports from other coun

Meanwhile, Ranong Chamber of Commerce president Somchai Iamjit
said more Thais were expected to arrested in the case.

According to Somchai, Burma has demanded that the Thai fishing
company pay compensation for the incident and the Thai government
take the incident seriously. (TN)

===== item =====

16 AUGUST 1995, The Nation

United Nation deputy secretary-general Alvaro de Soto met Burma's
foreign minister and recently released opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi on Monday, official media and eyewitnesses said.

De Soto, on a week-long visit to Burma, was expected to raise
questions of restoration of democracy in the southeast Asian
nation, following Suu Kyi's release from house arrest last month.

Burma's state-run television, reporting De Soto's meeting with
foreign minister Ohn Gyaw, gave no details of the talks.

De Soto was seen entering the house of Nobel Peace prize winner
Suu Kyi. He stayed for more than two hours but made no comments
to reporters as he left the compound.

Suu Kyi was unexpectedly released from nearly six years of house
arrest by the military government last month. She says she aims
to restore democracy in Burma.

De Soto, who on a previous visit was refused permission to see
Suu Kyi, was expected to meet powerful military intelligence
chief Khin Nyunt later this week, government officials said.

Although Suu Kyi has appealed for talks with military leaders,
not date has yet been set for formal talks to begin.

She said at a recent news conference she had contact with the
ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), but would
give no further details.

Slorc officials have made no comment on Suu Kyi's release and
have given no indication when or if talks might begin.

Kodo adds: Alvero de Soto, who arrived in Rangoon on Sunday to
deliver a message from Boutros-Ghali, met Immigration and Popula
tion Minister Lt-Gen Maung Hla and Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw on

The visit is one of several such attempts by foreign authorities
to put pressure on the leaders of the ruling State Law and Order
Restoration Council (Slorc) to agree to talks with Aung San Suu
Kyi. (TN)

===== item =====

16 AUGUST 1995, The Nation

The Thai Chamber Commerce yesterday urged government to improve
its relationship with Burma before the situation deteriorates

The recent closing of the Ranong-Victoria Point border crossing
is likely to limit trade between the two countries and affect the
Thai fishery in Ranong, said Somkiart Sathajit, chairman of
Ranong Border Trade Group.

In the past, the value of Thai exports to Burma through Ranong
were valued at Bt5 billion, while imported fish from Burma was
worth Bt20 billion. "But this two way-trade vanished overnight,"
Somkiart said.

Speaking at a roundtable talk on the "Future of the Thai Fishery
Industry under the New Government," Photipong Lamsam, president
of Thai Chamber of Commerce said: "The essence of the problem is
unfriendly relations between the countries."

The border closing was prompted by this fundamental factor, which
is out of the hands of the private sector, Photipong said.

Photipong added that he will discuss the issue with the Foreign
Minister next week. Burma closed the Victoria Point crossing on
August 10, because of allegations that Burmese employees were
killed by NCC Asia Fishery Industries Co Ltd.

Photipong also expressed concerned about the morality of Thai
trawling companies which often breach contracts with host coun

"We, the Thai Chamber of Commerce, cannot impose a penalty on
anyone but we want all Thai investors to follow proper business
etiquette," he said.

Photipong led the Thai mission to Burma in February, in which he
assured the Burmese that the Thai Chamber of Commerce supported
only Thai operators which act in a fair business manner toward

The situation at Ranong has alarmed Thai investors. They fear
Burma may stop granting fishing licences to Thai trawlers.

Somkiart said there are 4-5 Thai trawlers hoping to receive
licences by next week. The Thai trawling companies have already
invested in a refrigerated storage facility and property in Marid
and Taway.

Ranong depends on the fishery and related industries and will
suffer the most from the border closing, he said.

Tourists, who used to spend about Bt1 million per day, also went
away, he added. Many Thai trawlers are engaging in joint fishing
ventures with Burma, Indonesia, India and Vietnam because of
depleted fish stocks in Thai waters.

Udon Choiterapunbul, president of the Thai Overseas Fisheries
Association has urged the government to create a fund to help the
trawling companies build a modern fishing feet.

He said that Thai ships are too small and constructed of wood,
which makes it very difficult to catch fish in foreign waters.

Trawling companies need larger, steel ships but cannot build them
without financial support from the government, said Udon. (TN)

===== item =====

16 AUGUST 1995, The Nation

The Public Health Ministry plans to hold talks with Burmese
officials on methods of curbing the spread of malaria along the
Thai-Burmese border.

Deputy Minister Sora-at Klinpratum said 60 per cent of people
suffering from malaria in Thailand were illegal immigrant work
ers, most of whom were Burmese and Cambodians living near Thai
land's western and eastern borders.

"It is very difficult to eliminate malaria from Thailand, espe
cially from those border provinces where there are a lot of
immigrant workers and political refugees," he said.

Sora-at named Tak, Kanchanaburi, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Trat,
Chantaburi, Prachuab Kiri Khan, Ratchaburi, Ranong and Ubon
Ratchathari as the provinces suffering from the most rapid spread
of malaria in the country.

"Therefore, we have to move in the same direction with our neigh
bours to solve the problem. Otherwise, we would still have to
bear the burden of the treatment costs of those workers," he

But the deputy minister did not set a time frame for the talks,
saying the date of the meeting was still unknown due to political
uncertainties in Burma.

He also did not mention any dates for talks with Cambodian offi
cials. The Department of Epidemics reported there were 51,606
malaria patients in the country last year.

Among them, 33,366, or 60 per cent, were immigrant workers. The
record showed that about 400,000 immigrants receive health treat
ment in Thailand annually. (TN)

===== item =====

16 AUGUST 1995, Bangkok Post

The Burmese Government has warned ethnic minority groups to abide
with its orders so as to maintain peace and stability along the
Thai-Burmese border, an informed source in Mae Hong Son said.

The target groups told to abide by the orders are the Red Wa,
Kachins, Kayahs and Paos. Released yesterday, the orders demanded
that they not deal with outlawed ethnic minority groups, not to
interfere in Burma's internal politics, not to keep arms and
military forces, and not to raid and collect tax from people
along the border.

They are also not allowed to mobilise their forces along with
other groups, expect in government-controlled areas. (BP)

===== item =====



17 August 1995, FEER

Asean officials see the release of Burmese dissident Aung San Suu
Kyi as a triumph for the organization's much-maligned policy of
constructive engagement. For their part, Western diplomats and
other analysts insist that constructive engagement would never
have worked if their own governments had not wielded a big stick.

Who's right? Possibly both sides. if world opinion did play a
significant role in Suu Kyi's release, it probably did so through
the combined effects of both approaches. The advantage of one
group of countries having a tougher line and the other staying
more in the middle is you have the chance of getting the two
things working together, notes one Jakarta based diplomat. If it
was only constructive engagement, then nothing much would have

Still, that hasn't stopped Asean from claiming a lion's share of
the credit. Burma is giving Asean live ammunition to show Western
countries that its policy is working, one Asean official said
soon after Rangoon's military rulers released Suu Kyi.

The Indonesians are especially pleased. As an Asean member and
current head of the 112 nation Non-Aligned Movement, Jakarta has
played a pivotal role in liaising between Rangoon and the rest of
the world. In turn Rangoon, with at least 11 accredited diplomats
in the Indonesian capital, has used its Jakarta embassy to chan
nel its views out to the region.

Why the special relationship? Asean officials note the shared
traditions of the Indonesian and Burmese militaries. Both strug
gled to win independence from colonial masters, and both have had
to deal with rebellions threatening national unity.

More significantly, both wield strong political power in their
respective countries. Indeed, Burma's leaders are strongly drawn
to the Indonesian concept of Dwifungsi, or dual function, which
gives the armed forces an institutionalized role in political

The Burma-indonesia connection goes back many decades. Although
there was never any direct between the two countries' nationalist
movements during colonial days, Burma sent a "representative,"
Thakin Tha Kin, to Jakarta following its independence from Brit
ish rule in 1948. He noted the many similarities between the two
nations, especially in the roles of their independence armies.

Little wonder, then, that Indonesia served as the ideological
inspiration behind the Burmese military's demands for political
power in the 1950s. Indeed, a document entitled "The National
Ideology and the Role of the Defence Services" adopted by the
burmese military in 1958 strongly resembled Indonesia's

Where the Burmese military went wrong was in nationalizing most
businesses when it seized power in 1962, an act that was to run
the economy into the ground. The mistake was belatedly corrected
following the September 1988 coup. now Burma's leaders appear to
be looking to Indonesia once again as a model for a system in
which they would allow Suu Kyi only a marginal role at best.

In December 1993 Burmese Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw told his
Indonesian counterpart Ali Alatas that Burma was interested in
dwifungsi and wanted to learn more about Indonesia's constitu
tion. Subsequently, the guidelines the ruling State Law and Order
Restoration Council, or Slorc, imposed on the farmers of burma's
new constitution underlined the military's "leading role in
national politics." One requirement was that military appointees
occupy 25% of the seats  in the national and state assemblies.

Still, the Indonesians have not been reluctant to speak their
mind. In the early 1990s, Rangoon found itself in hot water with
Indonesia and its other Muslim neighbours when 250,000 Burmese
Muslims fled to Bangladesh to escape human-rights abuses by
Burmese troops.

More recently, Indonesia apparently gave Burma another quiet
nudge. Well-placed Indonesian sources say that during visits to
Jakarta by Burma's intelligence chief Khin Nyunt in December 1993
and by Slorc chairman Than Shwe in June, Defence minister Edi
Sudradjat privately urged the Burmese to allow officials of the
International Committee of the Red Cross to visit political
prisoners - something the ICRC is permitted to do in Indonesia.
His message tied in with that of Foreign Minister Alatas, who on
a February 1994 visit to Rangoon told Ohn Gyaw that Indonesia
wanted to help break Burma's political isolation.

Three months after the Alatas visit, an Indonesian delegation led
by Coordinating Minister for Industry and Trade Hartarto, Commu
nications Minister Haryanto Dhanutirto and Tourism and Post and
Telecommunications Minister Joop Ave went to Rangoon. Among a
group of businessmen accompanying the ministers was Hutomo
Mandala Putra, President Suharto's son and owner of the Humpuss
business group.

"Tommy" Suharto, as he is better known, has been trying to secure
a timber concession in Burma for a Sulawesi based company he
helped establish in 1986-87. Forestry is only one area of possi
ble agreed to look into cooperation in aviation, telecommunica
tions and natural gas exploration.

Yet, in private conversations with foreign diplomats, the Indone
sians have made it clear that they don't want to be too closely
associated with Rangoon's evolving system of governance. They say
they have stressed to their Burmese counterparts that the concept
of dwifungsi was born of Indonesia's unique history, and that it
is still being debated today-a reference to the way in which the
military's political profile has been lowered in the past two

"The Indonesians are not terribly comfortable about it all," says
one diplomat. "They don't really want to be seen to be promoting
dwifungsi outside the country." (FEER)