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BurmaNet News January 13, 1997

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"

The BurmaNet News: January 13, 1997
Issue #610


January 10, 1997 by Barry Wood in Prague

intro:   Burmese human rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner
Aung  San Suu Kyi friday received an honorary degree at Prague's
Charles  University. VOA's Barry Wood reports there is a
special bond  between Ms. Suu Kyi and Czech president Vaclav
Havel since he nominated her to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

text:   The award ceremony coincided with the 20th anniversary of
the signing of Charter 77, the plea for human rights signed by
hundreds  of Czech and Slovak dissidents during the late 1970s
and early 80s.  Since Ms. Suu Kyi is not permitted to travel, the
award was received by her husband, Michael Aris.  In a message
read by her husband the Burmese dissident said she and her
compatriots were inspired by Charter 77 and Mr. Havel's
courageous stand against totalitarianism.  She said the Burmese
struggle for democracy will continue.  She said  an idea whose
time has come can not be crushed. Ms. Suu Kyi's  National League
for Democracy was victorious in 1990 elections in Burma, but the
ruling military government rejected the results.

At a related conference on human rights in Burma, speakers called
for tougher international action against the Burmese authorities.
Emma Bonino, the European Union Human Rights Commissioner, said
the world community must do more than issue statements. Ms.
Bonino outlined specific measures that she hopes the 15 European
Union nations will implement next month.

                         //bonino act//
         In the next month the first political step can be taken,
         this time  from the European Union. The commissioners
         made the proposal to  withdraw preferential trade
         treatment (for Burma), which is not a  major amount of
         money but in any case it is 30 million dollars
         (annually). But apart from that it is the first
         political step from  a political body. This proposal
         goes to the 15 ministers (from EU countries) February
         17th, and to adopt it the approval must be  unanimous.
         Are we in a position, in one month's time, to lobby in
         european capitals, for instance?

                           //end act//

Another speaker, conference sponsor George Soros, called for
foreign companies to withdraw from Burma and to avoid
participation in large infrastructure projects favored by the authorities.

Other speakers likened the situation in Burma to other repressive
societies.  Nigeria, Belarus, North Korea, Cuba And Serbia were
mentioned specifically.

Czech president Havel, recovering from cancer surgery, was unable
to attend the ceremony. But in a message to the conference Mr. Havel 
promised solidarity and stepped up support for human rights in Burma.

REUTER (Burma's Suu Kyi feted in Czech show of solidarity) on Jan 10th,
added - excerpts: 

In a speech read by Aris, Suu Kyi said that the fight of her National 
League for Democracy (NLD) was ``a struggle that knows little respite.'' 

She said that Prague's 1989 bloodless ``gentle revolution'' over 
communism, which was in large part inspired by the Charter, formed a 
special bond with Burma's democracy campaigners and ``provided hope and 
practical lessons.'' 

In the speech read by Aris, Suu Kyi said that like the Czech democrats, 
who were ignored by the top communist rulers until the revolution, Burma's
democracy campaign was mired in ``a one-sided dialogue with police 
and security forces.'' 

Aris said that Suu Kyi's speech was delivered to him from Burma with 
great difficulty. 


January 12, 1997

RANGOON ; Burmese riot police prevented supporters of Aung San
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) from gathering
yesterday amid tight security  linked  to the opening of a
national sports festival, witnesses said.

Three truckloads of riot police were stationed on  the street
where NLD leader have addressed supporters occasionally in the
month since authorities halted weekly public gatherings outside Aung
San Suu Kyi's residence.

NLD co-vice chairmen Tin Oo and Kyi Maung arrived separately
between 4.30 and 5.00 pm (0800 and 0830 GMT), but only briefly
stepped  out of their cars to advise people to disperse, as lines
of riot police approached.

The weekend gatherings outside the residence have been halted
since the end of September, when party attempted to hold a
national congress, but several hundred NLD members, diplomats and
foreign journalists were allowed last weekend to at tend an
independence day celebration inside the compound.

Roadblocks remained on the approaches to the residence.

Armed riot police  played cat-and-mouse with supporters at the
alternative gathering site, marching down the road in lines to
clear crowds whenever a few dozen people assembled.

The NLD supporters would disperse, then board public buses to
return while the riot police came back in their trucks.

A torch bearer for the week-long national sports festival,
promoted with political overtones by the authorities as a great
patriotic event, ran down the street shortly before 4.00 pm (0730
GMT), when the gatherings usually begin.

Riot police had arrived early to keep the road open for the
procession, but the crowds and the police had all withdrawn by
5.00 pm, the witnesses said.
The country's third sports festival was billed as "biggest
national event ever" in the state-nun press, as about 10,000
athletes from all ethnic groups in the country were participating in 29 events.

January 11, 1997

RANGOON - Security will be tight for Burma's third national
sports festival due to start this weekend following the recent
bombing of a pagoda in Rangoon, witnesses said yesterday.
All athletes entering the Thuwunna stadium east Rangoon have
been subject to stringent checks, even during practice sessions.

Some 10,000 competitors will take part in the games, which are
being promoted with political overtones by the authorities as a
great patriotic event. An official newspaper commentary has
dubbed it as the "biggest national movement ever" encompassing
all the ethnic groups of the union. -  Agence France Presse.


(translated from Burmese)
January 8, 1997

The Loikaw Township Court has passed sentence on U Saw Oo Reh, son of U Po
Reh and former National League for Democracy elected representative
[MP] for Phru-so Township--for having contacts with the Karenni insurgents,
for writing materials undermining national unity, and for publishing without

U Saw Oo Reh was charged by authorities with making contacts with, and
providing financial assistance to, the Karenni insurgents, as well as for
illegally writing, printing, and publishing books undermining national unity. 

U Saw Oo Reh was sentenced to three years' imprisonment under Section 17/1
of the Illegal Associations Act and seven years' imprisonment under Section
2/B of the 1962 Law Amending the Printers and Publishers Registration Law by the
Loikaw Township Court on 29 November 1996 and 18 December 1996 respectively.


January 10, 1997 by Mie Kawashima

JAKARTA, Jan. 10 (Kyodo) --  Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto urged
the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Friday not to allow
Myanmar to use its entry into the regional grouping as early as this year to
hide political oppression there, Japanese officials said.

Hashimoto, who is on the third leg of a Southeast Asian swing, filed the
plea in a 90-minute meeting with President Suharto of Indonesia, a key
member of the seven-nation forum.

''We hope the admission (of Myanmar to ASEAN) will be dealt with in a way
which does not become a cover for oppression but which helps improve the
situation,'' Hashimoto was quoted as telling Suharto at the Merdeka
presidential palace in Jakarta.

However, Hashimoto told Suharto he supports Myanmar's joining ASEAN, adding
ASEAN membership will help prevent Myanmar, now under military rule, from
becoming isolated and give it an incentive to act as a member of the
international community.

At their informal summit in November 1996, ASEAN leaders decided to admit
simultaneously the three observer countries of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar
into the grouping, but they did not specify the timing of their entry.

Suharto told Hashimoto that Indonesia is ready to give Myanmar advice if
asked to do so, adding he is eager to promote such dialogue so as to
reinforce stability in all of Southeast Asia, according to the Japanese

Meanwhile, a Thai newspaper reported Friday that Suharto will visit Myanmar
in the third week of next month as a guest of the country's ruling junta,
the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).

The English-language daily Nation said Suharto's visit ''heightens
speculation that Burma (Myanmar), along with Cambodia and Laos, will join
ASEAN as a full member in July when the grouping holds its annual foreign
ministerial meeting in Malaysia.''

In Myanmar, most colleges and universities remain closed. Late last year
many students staged antigovernment demonstrations in many towns.

Since the student demonstrations and a bombing in Yangon last month that
left five people dead, the military junta has virtually forced pro-democracy
leader Aung San Suu Kyi to stay at home.

Touching on East Timor's independence movement, Suharto told Hashimoto it
has already been solved but Indonesia plans to continue dialogue, the
Japanese officials said.

He expressed gratitude for the Japanese government's stance regarding the
current weeklong visit to Japan by exiled Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose
Ramos-Horta, a spokesman for the East Timor independence movement.

On Monday in Tokyo, Ramos-Horta said he wanted Hashimoto to raise human
rights violations in Indonesian-held East Timor at the summit with Suharto.

Hashimoto told Suharto that Japan is ''fully aware of Indonesia's position''
on the issue and reiterated that the Japanese government has had no contact
with Ramos-Horta, the officials said.

However, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official traveling with the premier
said Hashimoto's remarks do not mean Tokyo endorses Jakarta's annexation of
East Timor.

On Monday in Tokyo, a top Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Japan will
''deal with the East Timor issue bearing in mind the reality that East Timor
is currently under the administrative control of Indonesia.''

Hashimoto is on a three-day stay in Indonesia as part of an eight-day,
five-nation Southeast Asian tour, which has already taken him to Brunei and


January 8, 1997
Kuala Lumpur, Jan. 8 (Jiji Press)-Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto
Wednesday called for Malaysia's leadership in resolving problems involving
the planned entry by three new countries into the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations.

ASEAN will face new problems when Myanmar and two others join the
seven-member group, Hashimoto said in his two-hour afternoon meeting in
Kuala Lumpur with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad.

Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos are scheduled to join ASEAN this year, the 30th
anniversary of the regional group's establishment. Hashimoto's comments
apparently reflected his hopes for improvement in Myanmar's human rights
record and Cambodia's political situation.


January 10, 1997
Analysis/ Thai- Burmese Relations

Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh is under growing  pressure to set the
direction of his government's Burma policy as the country prepares to
receive Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien next week.

Though Mr Chretien is unlikely to probe the intricacies of Thai- Burmese
relations on a visit whose main objective is to promote Thai-Canadian
commerce, the discussions are expected to touch on Burma, and Gen Chavalit
will have to present Thailand's position clearly.

With his well-known experience of Burma and claim to personal contacts with
the military leadership there, Gen Chavalit should also be prepared to give
an assessment of the situation, as Mr Chretien is likely to ask for it.

Mr Chretien, for his part, is expected to revive, albeit without pressing
for an immediate response, the proposal for the setting up of a contact
group on Burma which found a cool reception when his Foreign Minister Lloyd
Axworthy first put it to foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations in July.

Gen Chavalit is remembered for being the first foreign dignitary to
effectively confer recognition on the Burmese military leadership after the
violent suppression of the pro democracy uprising in the country in August 1988.

On December 14, 1988, the then army commander-in-chief paid a day-long visit
to Rangoon, during which he met the ruling Burmese military leader Gen Saw
Maung. Gen Chavalit told reporters at the time he had urged Rangoon to make
peace with ethnic minority groups on the border, but the repatriation of the
Burmese refugee students from Thailand nine days later made him subject to
fierce criticism.

In contrast to this record, Gen Chavalit, as prime minister, has shown an
appreciation of international calls for human rights and democracy in Burma
shortly after being appointed in November. And, in a press conference
convened after informal talks with visiting US President Bill Clinton in
early November, the general said he would urge Burma's military leaders to
heed these calls.

But Gen Chavalit is yet to make good on his promise, and signals from
Foreign Minister Prachuab Chaiyasarn and senior officials continue to be mixed.

Apparently taking the cue from Gen Chavalit's remarks, Mr Prachuab on
December 27 received a delegation of non-governmental organisations working
for human rights and democracy. He agreed in principle to the NGOs' request
for occasional consultations on Burma, but emphasised to them the right of
sovereign states to pursue their own cultural traditions.

Just before the New Year, the Foreign Ministry issued "guidelines" for use
by Thai embassies overseas that defined Thailand's constructive engagement
with Burma as a "multidimensional engagement with all sectors of Burmese
not an endeavour limited to government-to government relations.

The same 51-page booklet however affirms that "geo-political factors are
important to Thailand's foreign policy calculations, but not without adding
that the same goes for Western countries.

"In the case of Myanmar (Burma) Western countries have emphasised
justice (i.e. human rights and democracy) while emphasising order and
stability over justice in Bosnia," says the booklet.

"Truth compels recognition of a country's limits. In the case of Myanmar,
Thailand will need to consider to what extent she is able to affect the
internal policies of other governments and to what extent it is desirable."

The recent cross-border attack on a Karenni refugee camp in Mae
Hong Son province by a Rangoon-backed, breakaway group of the
Karenni National Progressive Party in which three people died was
a reminder of Thailand's difficult position.

Thai Ambassador to Canada Virasakdi Footrakul, who served as
ambassador to Rangoon from 1991 -1994 and is deeply respected
among Western colleagues for his understanding of Burma,
emphasises that prudence is the best course for Thailand.

"As citizens of a democratic country, the Thai people may share
and should share the democratic aspirations of people everywhere," the
ambassador said in response to questions submitted by Bangkok Post. 
"As neighbours of a country with whom we share the longest border
most of which is still not demarcated we should act prudently,"
he said, stressing that he was expressing a personal view based
on his own experience in Burma.

"We must remember that we have fought 44 wars with this neighbour
during the past 400 years. We should always bear in mind that the
safety and the welfare of one quarter of the Thai  people who
along  the 10 provinces along the Thai-Myanmar border depend on
the peaceful relations with  the powers-that-be in that country. 
"Only by being perceived by the leaders of the neighbouring 
country as a good neighbour who treats them with respect will
Thailand's words be listened to with respect," he said.

The ambassador at the same time emphasised growing
interdependence between Thailand and Burma, and cautioned against
the country joining the international "chorus of condemnation" of
the Burmese leadership without due consideration national interests.

"It is easy to score a public relations point to enhance our
popularity in the Western media by criticising Burma. 
It is more difficult to try to make a positive impact in a neighbouring
country with whom we are becoming more and more interdependent."

Historian Sunait Chutintaranond agreed that industrialising
Thailand has to take into consideration its need for Burma's
natural resources such as timber and oil.

"We are the ones under constraint [not the Burmese]," said the
specialist in Burmese history.

Thailand should also consider Burma's fundamental problem of
unity, he said.

Previous exploitation of this problem "for our own ends", by
allowing minority groups seeking autonomy from Rangoon to set up
bases along the border, is a source of deep mistrust of this
country among the Burmese.

Unfair business practices, such as cheating on concessions, are
another source, he said.

Whether Gen Chavalit can dispel this mistrust and replace it with
respect remains to be seen. For starters, the prime minister should set the
direction, match his words with deeds, and see to it that others follow suit.


January 10, 1997

United States  Ambassador William Itoh says he hopes Thailand
will persuade Burmese leaders to settle their differences through
peaceful compromise, a senior official said yesterday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Surapong Jayanama said Mr Itoh's comments came
during a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Prachuab Chaiyasarn.

The spokesman quoted Mr Itoh as pointing out that Thailand, as a
neighbour, was well placed to encourage reconciliation among Burmese.

But Mr Prachuab argued that each country has a different level of
political development, and that it was for the Burmese to find a
way to solve their internal problems.

The minister stressed that "outsiders" should not "take the lead"
for change in Burma, the spokesman said. 
In separate remarks to reporters the US ambassador said it was up 
to  the seven members of the  Association of Southeast Asian
Nations to decide on their plan to admit Burma, Cambodia and Laos. 
But the ambassador said Burma should give its citizens the opportunity to
take part in making political decisions in the international community in

Mr Surapong said that both Thailand and the US would like to see economic
progress and  dialogue in Burma, although the two countries differed in


January 9, 1997

Two Chinese women arrested  by the Slorc troops 

On December 4, 1996, over 30 soldiers from the Slorc Light Infantry
Battalion (LIB) No. 319 which is under the command of Banmaw Strategic
Command (Slorc), arrested two Chinese women on Sino-Burma border.  This
incident was reported by timber workers from the border area.

The workers from China are working on logging concession in the Palumbum
range near Nalone village, Momauk township, Kachin state which is under the
control of Kachin Independent Organization (KIO).  Soldiers from LIB No. 319
outpost located close to the  logging area came and arrested the two women
who were collecting the traditional herb for medicine  in that area.  No one
knows that where they have been taken and they have still not been released
yet.  Similarly, on November 21, 9 Slorc troops from Dawphoneyang outpost in
Momauk township who passed over the KIO Khalayan outpost and also arrested
five Chinese logging workers. These logging workers were released after
40,000 Yuan (Approximately $ 5,000 US) bribe paid to the Slorc officers, a
Chinese logging businessman said.

In the last year dry season,  the KIO was selling logging tender of hardwood
to the Chinese private businessmen in KIO controlled area along Sino-Burma
border.  However, the Slorc Northern Military Command has also made a secret
agreement with Chinese logging companies from Paotian district, Yunan
province since last October.  Therefore, observers interpret the situation
as a deliberate interference in the KIO's business activities. 

KIO started selling logging tenders to China after their  cease-fire with
Slorc in 1994.  Despite this, Slorc's military columns often come and seize
goods  or money and beat the people who are working in that logging
concession area.  At the end of 1995, LIB No. 437 of Painne Slorc military
outpost which is situated near Nalone village, Momauk township, led by Maj.
Sein Pu arrested 17 men, 2 women, 3 logging trucks, 24 mules and seized
jewelry and one walkie-talkie.  In addition, they raped two 22-year-old
Chinese women.  One woman died from the gang-rape by  the Slorc soldiers and
the other one managed to escape.  The logging company also had to give a
bribe of  2 million Kyat (Approximately $ 13,793 US) to Capt. Ko Myo and
also had to pay bribes of  10,000 Kyat (Approximately $ 69 US) for each
logging truck.

In this dry season, if the Slorc's military columns interfere the logging
concessions of the  KIO, with whom it has a cease-fire agreement, it would
be military tension between the KIO and the Slorc, said the observers.

All Burma Students' Democratic Front


January 6, 1997

India and Myanmar [Burma] have negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding
[MOU] to develop the old Burma Road from Tamu to Kaleniya [phonetic] to
facilitate movement of people and commodities across the border. According
to Surface Transport Ministry officials, the total length of the road is
over 160 kms and the construction cost is estimated at about 92 crore [920m]
rupees. The plan awaits the final approval of the government. The Burma Road
was originally constructed during the Second World War. Officials said that
the two countries hold border liaison meetings regularly to strengthen
cooperation in curbing insurgency and illegal trade.


January 6, 1997

Trade Unions Submit their Complaint calling for the elimination of customs
advantages granted to agricultural products from Burma.
Brussels, 06/01/1997 (Agence Europe) - Continuing their pressure against
forced labour in Burma, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
(ICFTU) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) have called on the
European Commission for it to end trade preferences on Burmese agricultural
products in the framework of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

Using the so-called Human Rights clause of the GSP, the Commission already
proposed, on 18 December, to the Council ending GSP benefits for Burma for
industrial products, following an enquiry on the use of forced labour by the
Burmese authorities (see EUROPE of 19 December, p.13). Strengthened by this
success, ICFTU and ETUC announced that they would be beginning a similar
action for agricultural produce as soon as the agricultural GSP came into
effect, on 1 January 1997. According to sources close to the case, this
second complaint should not require a further enquiry as the hearings
undertaken to suspend the industrial GSP clearly demonstrated that forced
labour is systematically used in Burma. The process should thus be a fast
one; but a formal Commission proposal to the Council is required.

As in the case of the industrial GSP, a suspension of customs advantages
granted to Burma would above all be symbolic. The agricultural produce that
Burma can export to Europe without having to pay customs duty thanks to GSP
represented Ecu 15 million in 1994, of which around 12 million really
exported. It is essentially a question of fisheries products, especially shrimp.
According to a report by the (clandestine) Federation of Trade Unions -
Burma and taken up by ICFTU, the government's multi-annual agricultural
programme is "entirely based on forced labour, extortion and systematic
theft".  Since 1993, farmers have, for example, been forced to build
fishponds on their own lands, which have then been confiscated and sold by
the army. They have had to supply rice to the army free of charge, oxen and
elephants for transport, etc., says ICFTU.


January 4, 1997

DUBLIN - To mark the 49th anniversary of Burma's independence, Burma Action
Ireland has called on the Tanaiste, Mr Spring, to "take up the challenge of
ensuring that the people of Burma will be able to celebrate next year's 50th
anniversary as a free, peaceful and democratic nation". 


January 12, 1997
by Rutchanee Uerpairojkit

Thailand donates kathin robes to Burma each year, in spite of the country's
political unrest. As a fellow Buddhist nation, Thailand co-operates with its
neighbor in religious affairs, although it does not get involved in Burma's
internal politics. Such cooperation promotes a cordial relationship between
the two nations, and is appreciated by both sides.        

During the rainy season in Buddhist countries, monks must stay in  their
temples for three months, and are forbidden from wandering around. As monks
usually make most of their journeys on foot, by staying put they avoid
ruining the crops being cultivated in the local fields. After this period of
seclusion, monks are permitted to receive new robes. 
Before the time of the Lord Buddha, when monks resumed their journey their
robes quickly became drenched with the mud created by the long period of
rain. The Lord Buddha, not wanting his disciple' s robes to be dirty,
allowed them to accept new robes each year at the end of the rains retreat. 
The season of receiving new robes is known in Thailand as
"Kathin"  The offering period usually falls in October and November.

In ]995, the Foreign Ministry began to offer royal in robes to
neighboring Buddhist countries. For the past  two years, Thailand
has sent the robes to Burma, Laos, Cambodia,  (South) China and
Sri Lanka. Next year, Nepal will be added to the list.

"Nepal is the place from which  Buddhism originates, and the majority of its
population are Buddhist, Foreign Spokesman Surapong Jayanarna said. "From
the religious point of view therefore, we considered it to bc an important
country with which to further ties."

Of all the countries offered robes, Burma is perhaps the most interesting to
Thais, given the shared history of the neighboring countries.

Burma is infamous for being one of the world's most brutal dictatorships, a
situation which is not accepted by the democratic world. In 1990, Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in
the country's general elections, but the vote was overturned by the military
regime. Pro-democracy groups and university students have continuously
voiced their opposition to the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council.
Although some European countries have tried to impose sanctions on Burma,
Thailand and other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) have  followed a policy of constructive engagement, reasoning that
isolating Burma would only worsen the situation, as the junta would come
under too much pressure.

Thailand has continued with this policy, believing it to be the best way in
which to let its neighbor gradually develop a democratic system of
government. The  offering of royal in robes is seen as one way in which to
promote cordial  ties between the two nations, without interfering  Burma's
internal affairs.

Last year, Thailand chose Insein Ywama Pariyatti Sarthintaik temple to offer
the robes to, as this remote temple was lacking in essentials. A foreign
affairs spokesman led the delegation from the Foreign Ministry and the
Bureau of the Royal Household to perform the handing over ceremony at the
temple Some 300 monks and Burmese lay people attended the ceremony.
These included senior  Burmese officials: Deputy Foreign Minister U Nyunt
Swe,  Deputy Religious Minister U Aung Khin; Director General of the
Consular, International Law and Treaties, and Research Department U Aye
Lwin; Director General of the Religious Affairs Department U Arnt Maung; and
Director- General of the Prisons Department U Kyaw Tun.
His Majesty the king and the Foreign Ministry donated 510,000 baht to the
Burmese  government at the kathin ceremony. The foreign ministry also handed
over 500,000 baht to the Burmese government for the purpose of nurturing its
temples and promoting Buddhism in the country. Khin Nyunt, the First
Secretary of the Slorc, received the money from Poksak Nilubol, the Thai
ambassador to Burma.


January 12, 1997
Chiang Mai

The army chief said Thai and Burmese security forces deployed in a disputed
area in Mae Ai district should be withdrawn to reduce border tension.

Gen Chettha Thanajaro made the remark while inspecting the disputed Doi
Larng area.

He said such military deployments not only wasted government budgets but
also contributed to border tension.

Gen Chettha accompanied by 3rd army commander Lt- Gen Thanom Watchrapuch and
Chiang Mai Governor Plakorn Suwannarath said he would raise the issue with
his Burmese counterpart, Gen Maung Aye during his visit to Rangoon at the
end of the month.

"I think both sides should withdraw their forces from the area even though
both governments have not officially discussed the issue. Such deployments
are unnecessary," he said. 
Because of poor demarcation, the disputed area covering 42 square kilometers 
is claimed by both Thailand and Burma which rely on different maps.

Regarding Burma's proposal urging Thailand to act as mediator in settling
conflicts between Burma and its minorities, Gen Chettha said it was a
delicate matter.

The army commander was quite optimistic that such a meeting was
still possible on condition that both side softened their stance
and agreed to compromise on certain issue.


January 11, 1997
by Assawin Pinitwong 

TAK: About 100 Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) troops along
with 10 Buddhist monks yesterday crossed the border and robbed a
village, abducting eight of its inhabitants.

The operation by the foreign troops, according to police, managed
to take cash and goods worth up to 100,000 baht.

Six Karen-ethnic Thais have reportedly been released, while the
whereabouts of the remaining two is still unknown.

The DKBA crossed the Moei river to the Thai village of Huay Nam
Khun in Mae Sot district yesterday at about 1 am. The troops and
monks divided into two groups, one group besieged the village,
while another began searching for cash and valuables .

They took 9,000 baht in cash, radios,  TVs, earrings, seven gold
necklaces, and two motorcycles. Before retreating to their camp
at Pha Lu, they fired into the air in an attempt to frighten the
villagers and make them stay quiet.

The eight ethnic Karen Thai villagers abducted were Pha-O, 60, Sa
Thaw, 40, Panikae, 18, Phanaw, 25, Sa Paw, 40, Pha Lawa, 6, Pa Li
Kyaw, 25, and Kae, 32.

All but Pa Li Kyaw and. Kae were released on the same day at about 3 pm. Mae
Sot's 346th border patrol police provided security and then questioned the
released villagers.

Pha-O, who was physically injured, said six of them were released after the
troops managed to take the motorcycles across the river. He said he had no
idea why the DKBA captured the  villagers. 

"The 10 Buddhist monks were armed with AK-47 rifles. The monks were led by
Pa Kaw Wha, who supervised the operation," added Pha-O.

The villager quoted the DKBA as saying the two men who are still captive
will be released after they reached Rangoon.

The Thai border  patrol police said they were informed of the incident by
the village chief at 8 am, which was too late for a pursuit of the foreign

A number of protests from Thailand against foreign troops crossing from
Burma and attacking Thai villages seems not to have caught Rangoon's attention.


January 11, 1997 (slightly abridged)

ENVIRONMENTALISTS and residents of Kanchanaburi have called on
the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) to reveal more
information about the Yadana gas pipeline.

After attending an informal meeting yesterday of non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) concerned with the project, Boonsong Jansongrassamee, 
a representative of a Kanchanaburi Conservation group, said that none of the
NGOs have been informed of details of the project.

"We planned to share the information we had, but none of us has
any more data than the others," he said.
The pipeline will transport natural gas from Burma's Yadana field
to a power plant in Ratchaburi. The French oil firm Total is in
charge of building the Burmese section of the pipeline, while the
PTT will build the Thai section, starting from where it crosses
the border at Ban I-Tong in Kanchanaburi.

Concerns have been expressed about the project's environmental
impact as it will pass through the Huay Khayaeng forest reserve,
a 1A watershed zone, and SaiYoke National Park. Environmentalists
are especially worried about the project's impact on the Regal
Crab and Kitti's hog-nosed bat, two rare species found only in
Kanchanaburi. The PTT has offered to alter the route of the
pipeline slightly in order not to affect the crab's habitat,
while supporting a further study of the bat's habitat by the
Wildlife Fund of Thailand (WFT).

Boonsong said that PTT should give Kanchanaburi residents a
chance to study the project's details before the technical
hearing takes place. The hearing, due to be held this month in
the western province, has now been postponed until early February.

"It's not fair if the PTT only reveals information on the day of
the technical hearing as we won't have time to study and
understand  it," Boonsong explained. "The PTT always covers up
the project's information. We never get it direct from the PTT
but have to go through  WFT instead."
Surapol DuangKhae, deputy director general of the WFT, said the
PTT has been more forthcoming in revealing information than other
state agencies such as the Royal Irrigation Department and the
Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

"Though the PTT has given the WFT some information, it is not
quite enough," he said. "We need more data, especially on details
of the engineering design and the construction techniques."