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(1) Chetha to meet key Burmese army officer at Tachilek
By WASANA NANUM
DEPUTY Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Chetha Thanajaro will tomorrow
meet a key Burmese officer at Tachilek boosting hopes the first
Thai-Burma border checkpoint could soon be reopened.
An army source said Gen Chetha would ask Burma to open the
border which has been closed since early last year.
Gen Chetha will meet Burma's regional army commander Lt-Gen
Tin Oo at Tachilek, opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Sai.
The source said the general is hopeful Burma will open the
checkpoint. "Gen Chetha will inspect the Thai side before
crossing the border to meet Burma's senior army officer. There is
a strong possibility Burma will agree to open the border," the
He said Gen Chetha hoped the meeting would lead to more
border cooperation in the area. He added first secretary of
Burma's State Law and Order Restoration Council Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt
apparently supports moves to reopen the checkpoint at Mae Sai.
The officer said the recent 12th regional border committee
at Moulmein in lower Burma showed relations with Thailand had
improved since Burma said it would sign an agreement to accept
responsibility for cross-border attacks by its Karen allies.
During the meeting Burma also pledged to prevent further
incursions by the renegade Democratic Karen Buddhist Army which
killed three Thais in last month's assault on the Karen refugee
camp in Tak's Tha Song Yang District.
Burma has also asked Thailand to open checkpoints in
Kawthaung, Ranong, Mae Sot, Tak and Mae Hong Song.
(2) Star talks about controversy surrounding visit to Burma
By RALPH BACHOE
MULTI-TALENTED Sir Peter Ustinov shrugged off calls from human
rights groups not to make a trip to Burma recently, determined to
take a look for himself.
In the Perspective section of today's Bangkok Post (Page 17)
the 74-year old actor, director, writer and UNICEF Friendship
Ambassador reveals his findings about his six-day visit to film
a documentary about the country's historical background.
Before his departure for Rangoon on February. 8 he talked
to the Post about the controversy surrounding his trip to a
country under fire for its human rights record.
Rights groups and Burmese dissidents worldwide bombarded him
with faxes and other information on alleged abuses in Burma and
urged him not to make the trip - his first to the country.
Sir Peter said: "I am not sure any individual should be
influenced by such things, especially if he's eager to see for
himself ... I think that's only reasonable. I don't like any
influence exerted before I have gone."
He added: "Whether I receive faxes or not, I am going
because I make it my business to find these things out."
He said he took the same view when he visited Russia to do a
six-part television series on the country at the time when the
Soviet Government was in power.
"We were heavily criticized. And I must say I got even more
faxes then from Ukraine and minorities in Canada and all sorts of
people who presupposed. And others who were convinced we were
fellow travellers assisting a barbaric regime."
Sir Peter, whose father was of Russian descent, added: "It
was then, of course, for more directly emotional reasons than I
could have for Burma because I don't know the country very well.
I just knew U Thant (a former Burmese UN Secretary General who
served for two consecutive terms)."
He said he came under attack from various sections of the
press because he was defending the Russians as human beings-it
had nothing to do with the political institution. And he
described the press as having very much the same prejudices when
it came to his visit to Burma.
"You can understand a sort of vested interest I had in
Russia. I was impervious to all criticism there because I was
absolutely bull-headed about it. I said this is ridiculous."
Sir Peter was born in London to a journalist-father and an
artist-mother of French descent.
Having trained for the stage in the British capital, he made
his acting debut at 17.
He soon emerged as one of the most versatile talents of the
British and American stage and screen. He won academy awards for
roles in the films Spartacus (1960) and Topkapi (1964).
He is also an accomplished actor, Sir Peter made the trip to
Burma at the invitation of the Orient Express Company which
offers a riverboat cruise on the Irrawaddy River between Rangoon
and Mandalay, the former Burmese capital in central Burma.
The company also operates a luxury train service between
Singapore and Bangkok. He returned from Rangoon on February 14.
He said he believed his trip to Burma would not have an
impact on the situation there. "I don't think I am important to
He added: "I know what your fear is. You fear that the
idea Orient Express begins a tourist trade there will aid them
[SLORC], but I think so superficially. I don't think it would
make an enormous amount of difference."
He said many people who had made their first trip to Burma
had already told him they think it is a type of regime that
cannot work in the long run because it has no ability to be
attractive to people who see it from the outside.
"As somebody who spent nearly four-and-a-half years as a
private in the army (he served in the African Theater during
World War II), without the ability to get promotion or to
descend into civilian life, I am the last person who can have any
trust in a military regime on any level.
"I think their sort of regimes are condemned in themselves.
And I think eventually if they do see the advantage of not
continuing the way they are, it may very well be to everybody's
Commenting on the alleged use of child labour for the
construction of the Ye-Tavoy railway and boys as young as eight
being conscripted into Khun Sa's army, he said:"I don't stop
being UNICEF ambassador just because I am in Burma.
"One of the great campaigns of UNICEF is to stop recruitment
of children into armies at that sort of age, it's absolutely
(3) Burmese trade: A Pandora's box
SIR: It used to be that Thailand among the Southeast Asian
countries, enjoyed a special reputation as the exception to the
rule, a country where government officials and the business
community did not have to look for anyone for advice or for help
regarding their activities and influence in Burma. Only a year
ago, Thailand was still very much in. Today it is a different
story. But why the sudden deterioration in relations? The answer
is trade, especially trade conducted in an unsavory manner.
Much of the friction that exists between the two countries
stems from the irresponsible behaviour of corrupt businessmen and
officials bent on making a fast buck based on illegal schemes and
activities. Their activities have created distrust between the
Recent revelations of scandalous affairs that shook the Thai
community is an indication that such unsavory schemes are on the
For instance, along with some MPs of a coalition party, a
mysterious businesswoman from Burma was allegedly involved in
shady deals. Ma Khine Zaw, daughter of a wealthy Burmese family,
has been in the logging business since 1988 and she is well known
in Burma for her aggressive style of networking and according to
reliable Rangoon gossip mill, rumours abound regarding her
relationship with Thai officials.
Whether she is being used as a conduit for influence
peddling in Burma by the Thai MPs in an effort to open the closed
border trade is a question that someone within the Burmese
Government may able to answer. Most likely it will never
happen. But at least one thing that we do know is that Ma Khine
became quite a controversy, while she was accused of playing a
key part in the Group 1 6's takeover of companies in the stock
market using a multi-million-baht loan from the Bangkok Bank of
Commerce (BCC) .
We also know from the newspaper accounts that she could have
helped a deputy minister obtain logging deals in Burma. We also
read that there was a plan to revamp two cement plants in Burma
by a Ma Khine-affiliated company
These soap opera type revelations are a warning to those
unscrupulous businessmen - that it is about time to re-evaluate
their intentions regarding Burma, especially in the trade area.
Trade practices in general must be ethical and that there is a
need for straightforward business activities. All they need is to
learn from such mistakes and make some directional changes in
their business practice with Burma.
John Tyn Gyi
(4) Six Days In SLORC Country - How Ustinov Saw It
Peter Ustinov gives his views about Burma, its people and the
military rulers after a six-day visit to that country where he
acted as a master of ceremony in a documentary film describing
the country's historical background. He spoke with Bangkok Post
Assistant Editor Ralph Bachoe about it.
Sir Peter, before your departure for Burma, you had said that you
would allow neither faxes nor people to influence you to change
your mind and cancel the trip to Burma, and that you would have
to find out for yourself the true situation in that country.
So what did you find out sir, who did you meet, what did you see
and what did you hear? And what is your deduction of the visit?
I heard a great deal of things and I don't want to say who I saw
because all the things I have heard might get them into trouble.
It's ridiculous to form any conclusions after five or six days
... most of them on the water. But there are two indications
about what the situation is like. The first is their television
which is a big giveaway because they have news in Burmese on
every evening, followed by news in English.
And to them, news seems to mean only things that happened inside
Burma, and it's introduced by a rather mournful, obviously Anglo-
phone character. Looking at the news summary I felt I might have
been in Moscow in 1935, or perhaps to bring it charitably into
more modern times [like] in Mao's China [where], just at the time
of the Cultural Revolution, there wasn't quite as much
excitement, but there were a great many optimistic ladies with
strained faces, dancing, calisthenics, flowers being thrown and
military music in the background, and a whole array of generals
obviously very pleased by what they saw and heard.
You mean something similar to it in Rangoon, in Burma ...
Yes, I saw it on their television. I don't think there are very
many symptoms of an actual situation. In any case it is a too
diverse a country to be able to talk with any authority if you
only visit main centres.
But another indication already in the country, which is
relatively unexploited, was the amount (sic) of pagodas in which
there were groups of children who should have been at school.
Already they're selling false rubies, or I don't know how
accurate Coca-Cola, because I am not an addict, but they were
selling everything ... torch batteries and asking for money, and
at the same time with considerable intelligence.
Very often one has to learn the particular in order to understand
the general. One little girl who was 10 spoke in very good
English ... and I asked her whether she was at school ... and she
said no longer. In fact, she had left school for good already and
was now using her natural intelligence in outsmarting other
children in picking the right foreigner to get something from.
This reveals. a certain waste of human quality because, as you
told me before, there is the usual effort to try to dissuade you
from going by saying: "The niceness of the people is a trap which
blinds you to what goes on behind." I don't think there is
anything of the sort. I don't think that's true at all. The
niceness of the people is something less formal than in Thailand.
It's less studied, less learned and, therefore, it gives the
impression of being more spontaneous. Also because they haven't
come into contact with foreigners to the extent that they have
What was your immediate reaction, your feeling when this girl of
10 told you ... related her story to you?
It just seemed to me a waste of human possibility. But that will
come with time. I am absolutely against the isolation of any
country. There seems to be a mistake commensurate with sanctions,
and sanctions are about the most stupid things that have ever
First of all, there are always ways around them. Secondly, they
never hurt the people they are aimed against. Saddam Hussein is
still there, so there is [Slobadan] Milosevic [Serb president].
Sanctions haven't moved them at all. All they have done is make
very many poor old and very young people miserable and unhappy
If you were in their place what would you do or what would you
recommend? The sanctions like you say will not work ... it's a
waste of time ...
It's a waste of time and very unfair ....
What would your actions be?
Sanctions are supposed to be less cruel than military action. In
fact, sanctions can be as cruel as anything, because it just does
the same and lasts longer.
I think the presence of Aung San Suu Kyi is already sufficient.
It's a permanent thorn in the side [of SLORC]. Everybody knows
what she stands for. She's attracted an enormous amount of
international interest. I think she's pursuing exactly the right
policy because she still has an influence by simply being there
as a splinter in the flesh.
They are always conscious of her because they are trying to make
jocular remarks saying it is not the moment at all [to work
toward democracy]. It's the moment to build the country and not
to talk to such a woman. All that is indicative of the fact they
wouldn't have to make such statements if she wasn't there. They
They have to bother, and that's quite right. But in fact, with
the erosion of time, Burma will also. The generals will not be
able to be the same. They still are in South America, slightly.
But even that's becoming different. It's the same lot. It's the
same people. It's strictly the same people, except the uniforms
are different, and things like that.
It's strictly the same people. But look what happened. Russia has
collapsed. China, which is much bigger than Burma, is eroding so
quickly. Even little outside symptoms which people regret they no
longer wear pyjamas and they now wear coats and ties in China.
Now this may seem insignificant to the West, but to the Chinese
it must have been an enormous concession to wear something
China has already, as I said, asked UNICEF to take over all of
its orphanages. That's very indicative. I have spent four weeks
in China (more than two years ago). It was very, very clear what
the Chinese are: first of all, they are much easier to talk
to than the Japanese who are full of a certain kind of culture
which is not open at the ends like the Chinese. The Japanese
really are very much, in some respects, like the English because
they are island people. They come from the East and the English
from the West, but they have the same insularity.
The Chinese are landlocked but never [show] much respect for
borders. Lashio is full of Chinese. Even in Mandalay, I suddenly
passed a shop which is called "The Great Wall Tailors".
Singapore, goodness gracious me, is full of Chinese.
Now the film that you made in Burma, what is the nature, the
theme of the documentary, and what part did you play?
I just introduced it. I am the master of ceremonies, and I ended
it saying very much what I am telling you.
What did you tell, what did you have to say on that documentary,
if you could remember a few lines that l could quote?
It's difficult to remember ... I will before we finish. But I had
to improvise [what was said] all of it because it didn't apply
very much what I was given to say, and it seemed to me too stiff
... too much dealing with Burma's glorious past and things. That
was really not what interests me. It's the mixture of what the
past has done to arrive at the present. That's interesting. It's
application, what's going on, and what may happen in the future.
But I said, for instance, that after a time the amount of pagodas
begins to pall because ... on examining closely, very very few of
them are very beautiful. The rest are exactly the traditional
Burmese statues made for the tourist trade by the thousands.
What Is the name of the film company, the group that took you out
that did the film?
It's named after the producer, and I am a partner. It's called
the JMP (John McGreevey Production).
I believe you have worked with these people for quite some time.
Yes, we did a six-part history of Russia, we did two hours on
China, we did the history of the Vatican, and recently the
history of the Greek Gods.
Talking about the Vatican, I was told that a company like this or
any film company for that matter always does thorough research
before going into a country to make a documentary film about it.
But where Burma was concerned, none of this was done, I was told.
Is that correct? Do you know anything about this?
Well, I certainly had never been there before. But it was done
the same way as with China. Because, with China, we did not have
research beforehand. We based it very much on our first
impressions. I did this deliberately because I am now an
experienced traveller. In every place I go somebody like you,
very talented, turns up, eager to know my first impressions
because they have lost theirs irrevocably.
Because there is a certain value in first impressions. You are
always taken by surprise. If you'd think that Burma was so
mysterious, in he Vatican I offered lunch to an archbishop and a
bishop. The bishop was a Scottish bishop and, halfway through
lunch, he said to me, and this was two years ago: "I still think
that the Church as been far too indulgent in the matter of
How many were in your film crew? How was your party received, how
well were you treated by the Burmese? Did you get in touch with
Five, including me. I didn't see any officials while we were
there. Everything was handled by the Orient Express boat called
"The Road to Mandalay". Everything was facilitated by them, and
we could go anywhere we wished. I didn't see a single official,
I saw, of course, as soon as I arrived, that I was taken on the
way to the hotel past Aung San Suu Kyi's place deliberately. We
saw the place and the barbed wire precautions across the road
which are absolutely ridiculous and it looks like no effort [was
made] to hide it's sinister intent, and they take photographs of
You have done a film on Burma, especially Burma that is well
known for its human rights abuses. Now once that is shown my
question is: How would the film have an effect, or reflect on
the potential tourists, and the international community which
know the true picture of what's going on in Burma? What do you
think their reaction would be?
I think personally that nothing is never static in this world,
and I ended my commentary by saying that I would certainly --- if
I can be sure of doing so-I would love to come back here every
year to see in what way Burma is accommodating itself to the many
influences which are going to be pressing in from all sides.
You had said earlier that you won't stop being a UNICEF
ambassador "just because I am in Burma". What do you mean by
that? Also, as one UNICEF man to another, did you get to meet Mr
Stephen Umemoto who heads the UNICEF office in Rangoon? If so can
you tell me what was discussed between the two of you concerning
the functions of UNICEF in Burma? Say on matters like education
and exploitation of child labour in that country. I am told that
Mr Umemoto is disillusioned now as to how UNICEF could help the
people of Burma because he's not getting the full cooperation
expected. Did he mention this to you?
No. He gave me books of what they are doing in Burma, which I am
now reading and which are very enlightening. I had contacts with
two Aung San Suu Kyi's house] and the barbed wire road which are
absolutely ridiculous and its made] to hide it's sinister intent,
and they photographs of the wall ambassadors who are friends of
his, and a third, and talked to them at length, and I had talked
to two people, Burmese, who had been in prison for a long time.
And one who was very high up in the administration, not a
military man. i managed to talk quite a bit about U Thant [former
UN Secretary-General] to him because he had been one of his
There were perhaps bleak ways of looking at it, but they were all
extremely interesting. Nobody really wished to talk about the
present. Nobody wished to talk about it. They were obviously not
keen to go [into prison] again, which I understand very well.
One is inevitably reduced to what is supposed to be weakness as
seen from the outside. One is reduced to a rather defensive
position because one does not want to stir up dirty water.
Especially when one doesn't want the responsibility of doing
anything which might make conditions difficult for them.
At the same time I have no compunction in saying what I think of
such a regime. I think a sort of totalitarian regime is sometimes
necessary at the beginning in order to drag a country out of the
mire. I don't think these things can be done by democracy. I
don't think democracy is really viable until everybody
understands what they are voting for.
At the same time, one can't but be impressed with the election
which was won by the Lady.
I am sure you know about Burma where the education system is
concerned. We have young graduates who have matriculated, but
can't attend university for another three years because of the
backlog created after the 1988 uprising.
Not only that, but we were served in the Stafford Hotel in
perfect French by a Burmese student who is a graduate of the
Sorbonne. Now what's he doing serving in the Stafford Hotel? I
mean that's incredible. His French is better than mine. My wife
spoke to him all the time for the pleasure of speaking her own
You have also heard about child labour. What do you intend to do
about all these things?
I have written a piece in my paper [The European] which comes out
tomorrow and now I am going to write a fuller piece in the paper
where you will see exactly what I think [about Burma].
There is one thing I want to make absolutely clear. The morality
of the situation of Aung San Suu Kyi is absolutely beyond
dispute. At the same time, the Anglo-Saxon and, in general, the
Western concept of these things is sometimes at variance, I call
it perhaps rightly a Christian concept. That is basically the
base of it, of Christian morality. It is sometimes at variance
with the Buddhist equivalent. And there, I don't think it's right
to exert the kind of cold pressure of the North and, worse, it
doesn't always apply
to practical possibilities in a Buddhist country where we have a
lot to learn as well as to teach.
It has to be a give and take thing. And if it's always done from
the point of view of we are better than you, or we are more moral
than you, or we are technically ahead of you, it's an extremely
bad thing in the long run. That I believe implicitly. I think one
has to listen as well as talk. I don't think one has the right to
talk unless one has understood the obligation to listen.
That's why in the case of six days in Burma, I am forced to take
my opinions from their television, from a graduate of the
Sorbonne who is serving at a table without knowing I what to do
with his knowledge or being able to apply it. And with hundreds
of children who are running about who are obviously gifted in a
human way, but not going to school, . not learning anything
whereas they have already learned a little and left, or else
We had a young person with us whose parents who were both
teachers, and she had to work trying to help us to make up the
possibility of eating enough. Everything is improvised like mad
on that level when teachers get 20 dollars a month. It's
practically impossible to live. At the same time they keep
themselves scrupulously clean. They are absolutely instinctively,
by nature, gifted.
I who have been blessed in one or two respect by the gods, I hate
waste. I hate waste of anything that comes to you naturally. It
should all be exploited as much as possible.
It's that with the military regime you can't expect that kind of
thing from people who are trained to give orders and not to
listen. It's exactly everything I hate, that. They don't have to
... they don't have to listen.
And this minister of hotels ... [Lt Gen Kyaw Ba ... I don't know
who he is. But I have come across him several times making
statements, and I quote him at length in my article.
But I found another quote from him in which people with shackles
still on, prisoners with shackles on, were forced to help work in
the north to clean something up before foreign visitors got
And he said "They eat, they rest, and they are happy." Well then
surely a man of a great natural optimism who can say such
Kyaw Ba is not going to like this.
(2) White Paper to outline Thailand's strategic planning
Micool Brooke looks at the future possibility of a coordinated
armed forces in the Asia-Pacific. Thailand is soon to release its
own strategic plans.
A WARE that the pace of its arms procurement programme has
alarmed its neighbours, the Thai military will next month publish
a White Paper outlining the strategic planning of the armed
forces in an effort to prevent an arms race in Southeast Asia.
The White Paper will reveal to Asean members Thailand's strategic
planning for the next decade, perceived military threats and the
defence systems necessary to deter aggression and protect
national interests and resources.
The White Paper to be printed in both Thai and English is based
upon the findings of 1997-2006 strategic planning and 1996-2001
procurement planning drafted by the commanders of the Thai armed
forces in December 1995.
Defence Minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, a former army
chief-cum-successful politician, said the White Paper is part of
Thailand's new policy of transparency in arms procurement which
is specifically designed to build trust among the armed forces of
the region and prevent a costly arms race.
With Thailand allocating US$4 billion to defence spending in
fiscal 1996, about 12% of the total annual budget, the Defence
Ministry has seen the need to justify its procurement programme
to its anxious but friendly neighbours.
The White Paper will also serve as a launching pad for next
month's inaugural Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue involving the
defence ministers and military strategists of 18 countries
including the seven current members of Asean -- Laos, Cambodia,
China, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia, the United
States, England and France.
The conference will be held in Thailand's Nakhon Pathom province
March 19-22, soon after Asean leaders meet their European
counterparts at the first-ever Asia-Europe summit, Gen Chavalit's
aide Maj Gen Teerapong Srivatanakul said. Thailand plans to host
a top level security conference every six months to enhance
trust, understanding and cooperation in the region, he added.
Topping the agenda for the first security conference is General
Chavalit's ambitious plan announced in January this year for
Asean to form a military bloc like the North Atlantic Treaty
Organisation (Nato) to prevent conflicts in the Asia-Pacific,
Maj Gen Teerapong said.
Defence Minister Chavalit believes it would help boost stability
in the Asia-Pacific. Such an organisation would boost unity and
cooperation in the region while also tackling disputes before
they sparked armed conflict.
In proposing the military pact General Chavalit said: "Like
Europe which has Nato, the Asia-Pacific should discuss measures
form such a bloc to do the same task.?'
"We will discuss means and measures on how we should have the
mechanism to tackle conflicts that might emerge in the future,"
said Gen Chavalit, suggesting cooperation among countries in the
region was still loose.
The meeting is designed to follow up discussions at Asean
Regional Forum meetings Thailand and Brunei in the last two years
that dealt with regional security issues.
The 18 nations attending next month's Asia-Pacific Security
Dialogue here will consider setting up a regional United Nations
Major General Boonsrang Niumpradit, director of the army's
Strategic Research Institute, said: "Problems occur when there
are peacekeepers from many countries in the UN contingent, so the
delegations al the seminar will find common measures to handle
them" in setting up a regional UN office.
The Asia-Pacific region is expected to be one of four areas where
the UN will consider setting up a regional office, he said.
Although many UN agencies have offices in Bangkok, there is as
yet no peacekeeping unit.
The meeting is designed to follow up discussions at Asean
Regional Forum meetings Thailand and Brunei in the last two years
that dealt with regional security issues.
The Thai proposal that Asean form a military bloc like Nato
reflects the level of trust and under- standing reached by the
member countries at the 5th Asean leaders summit in Bangkok in
December 1995. It also suggests Thailand's regional leadership
Thailand will spend US$4 billion in fiscal 1996 in the belief a
strong military will give it a loud and influential voice in
Asean and regional affairs. Thailand also believes a strong and
unified Asean can also have a loud voice in world affairs.
Recent events suggest the Thai military is trying to chart a
course in world affairs not only for its own people but also
Asean which by the turn of the century will number all ten
countries of Southeast Asia, the world largest growing market
with 400 million people.
Defence analysts say Asean over the next two decades will rise to
the challenge to fill the power vacuum created in the region by
the departure of US forces.
Dr Derek de Cunha, of the South-east Asian Institute of Research
and Technology in Singapore, told a seminar at the Defence Asia
Exhibition in Bangkok last September that a militarily-strong
Asean would co-operate closely in the next century to meet the
challenge posed by China.
Defence spending: The soon to be released White Paper is devoted
to justifying Thailand's massive defence budget.
The kingdom will spend 11.93% of its national budget on defence
in fiscal 1996, which will give the Defence Ministry US$4 billion
( 100 billion baht) to share among the armed forces. In fiscal
1995, it had 12.82%.
Although there are suggestions the increase in arms procurement
is fuelling an arms race, the defence budget has been gradually
reduced and could drop to 1.9'S/o of total national expenditure
over the next decade.
With a $4-billion defence budget for fiscal 1996, the Thai
military will seek to replace its aging stockpile of US-supplied
arms with equipment to serve its needs for 20 years. Gen Chavalit
said the aim is to make the military "small but powerful"
Thai arms purchases are a rather closed process since most deal
with sensitive strategic considerations, so purchases are not as
transparent as in Western countries, where taxpayers want to know
how their money is being spent. But the Defence Ministry has
taken steps recently to correct this.
Defence spending, however, has been under fire amid allegations a
core coalition party received political donations from Kockums of
Sweden to increase its chance of winning a US$680-million order
for two diesel-electric submarines.
Military commanders often deny kickbacks are attached to
purchases as the selection procedures are handled by
committees, but procurement is decided by no more than six senior
officers in each of the three armed forces.
Perceived threats: The Defence Ministry's White Paper also
attempts to explain perceived threats which continues to fuel
development of the Thai armed forces.
Strategists say Thailand, with an expected 8% growth rate for
1996, would be an inviting target if the military was not strong
enough to defend the country's wealth and resources.
The Thai armed forces strategic planning focuses on protecting
Thailand's land and marine resources which are seen as the keys
to continued national prosperity.
Under the Defence Ministry's 1996-2001 arms procurement planning
and 1997-2006 strategic planning, the Thai military will spend
billions to replace its Vietnam-era weapons and to acquire
hi-tech defence systems to answer specific threats to its
continued economic growth .
A senior Defence Ministry official said the term "enemy" was
still restricted to countries that used to pose threats, all of
which had strengthened their forces.
The military admits it is watching Vietnam, Burma and Malaysia,
whose arms programmes: are being fuelled by booming economies.
All future threats to Thailand are expected to come by sea.
Naval Operations Department director-general Rear Admiral
Thaveesak Somapha said competition to exploit undersea resources
will heighten the possibility of conflict.
The biggest threat to the Thai economy in the next decade would
be a conflict in the Spratlys which would strangle trade by
severing Thai shipping lanes in the Gulf of Thailand. Imports and
exports exceeding $2,500 billion baht annually pass through the
"Thailand cannot be sure of the future. If we do not prepare now
what will we do if something happens?" he said. "We can't deny
there is danger of aggression in this region."
The threat of aggression has justified Thailand's planned
procurement of submarines, attack helicopters, main battle tanks,
light tanks, armoured troop carriers, a spy satellite and a new
standard infantry rifle to replace the M-16.
A factor in Thailand's spending spree is Bangkok's deep-rooted
suspicion of neighbouring countries based on a long and complex
history of conquest and invasion.
Thailand is anxious not to lose territory to Burma now that its
forces are in direct confrontation along the border following the
surrender or military defeats of the rebel groups like the Karen
National Union or Khun Sa's Mong Thai Army.
Thailand is also concerned about losing marine resources to
Malaysia which has embarked on a massive spending spree to
develop its air, sea and land forces. Malaysia, which is locked
in a fishing dispute with Thailand, is now building a new "Berlin
Wall" to demarcate the two countries.
Gen Chavalit's forthcoming security seminar, while possibly
falling short of forming Asean into a Nato-style defence bloc,
will at least help alleviate some of the paranoia of certain
countries regarding perceived threats to their sovereignty.
(Typed by Research Department, ABSDF-MTZ).