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/* Posted Sun 19 Oct 1997 by drunoo@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.burma */
/* --------------" 1/3)ICJ Report on Thai/Burma 1994 "---------------- */

Part 1/3.

Prepared by Burma Sub-Committee on behalf of the International
Commission of Jurists Australian Section - WA Branch
25 March 1994.

1. Introduction

The last twelve months has seen a change in the relations
between Thailand and Burma. There have been increased efforts by
Thailand to forge stronger economic and political ties with the
Burmese State Law and Order Restoration Council ("SLORC"). At
the same time Thailand has also initiated efforts to bring Burma
into ASEAN and has negotiated with other ASEAN members for their

The change comes as Burma called an end to the lucrative Thai
logging concessions on the Burma border. The most likely reason
is SLORC's growing impatience with the Thai policy of supporting
anti-SLORC ethnic minorities and pro-democracy forces in the
continuing civil war. The cancellations have caused instability
in the civilian government and have allowed the military and
internal security forces to embark on a policy of co-operation
with SLORC in order to preserve their economic interests.

Ethnic resistance has been the major casualty in Thailand's
change. Thailand has effectively commenced a program of
assisting SLORC in eliminating opposition through cutting
assistance and forcing 'negotiations'.

At the same time, closer economic ties with Thailand have put
great pressure on the regional environment. There has been major
concern over the future of potential flood zones that will be
created as a result of number of hydro-electric projects and a
number of wildlife sanctuaries in the path of a new gas pipeline
that will extend across Burma from the Martaban gulf to

In part two of this submission the change in Thai-Burmese
relations and the effects for pro-democracy forces will be
examined. Part three will deal with Thailand's international
legal obligations to Burma, Burmese refugees and the environment
will be discussed and the potential for breach assessed. Lastly
a number of recommendations will made on the best way for
Australia, the Asian region and the international community can
deal with the problems that have been caused, and will be
caused, by Thailand's change in approach to Burma.


2.1 Influence in Thai Foreign Policy

Whilst the last twenty years has seen a gradual outward change
in the influence of the Thai military in the control of Thai
affairs, in present Thai-Burmese relations, the military has had
an enormous effect in the current change in direction of Thai
foreign policy.

Traditionally, Thailand had pursued a "two track" policy in
dealing with Burma: While actively denouncing the Burma regime
to the West, Thailand had sought to maintain its trading links
with its neighbor. The marked contrast in the way in which
Thailand dealt with Burma may be explained by considering the
different influences on foreign policy: Five different
Departments have been influential in this area. The Prime
Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry have traditionally
been sympathetic towards the Burmese pro-democracy forces and
have clandestinely supported their efforts. The Ministry of
Interior, the National Security Council ("NSC") and the military
have been somewhat less sympathetic. For example, during the
term of office of Thai Prime Minister Chatichai, General
Chaovalit, Minister for the Interior, actively fostered the
extensive involvement of the military in logging in Burma as
well as gas and fishing concessions and developing closer
trading links with the government of Burma, the State Law and
Order Restoration Council ("SLORC").

The "Two-track" policy was actively pursued until last year. In
February 1993, Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai invited the
Nobel Peace Laureates to Bangkok to call for the release of Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi. Prime Minister Chuan emphasized the
development of an 'open' approach for Asian nation in dealing
with human rights. That development, however, was to be
short-lived. SLORC's growing dissatisfaction with Thai foreign
policy led to the cancellation of the lucrative logging
concessions on the Thai-Burma border that had been granted to
Thai businesses and the military. Inside Thailand itself, the
foreign Ministry was blamed for allowing Thailand to be used as
a base for Burmese pro-democracy forces. The Foreign Minister
Prosong Soonsiri visited in September in an attempt to improve
diplomatic relations. His visit however was unsuccessful.

On the other hand, subsequent Thai military visits to Rangoon
have achieved greater levels of success. A visit by some 30 Thai
military officials to Rangoon in September was organised and
Thai minister for DEfence General Vinjit confirmed that the
supply of arms to the ethnic minorities would be suppressed by
Thai authorities. The declining influence of the Prime Minister
and the Foreign Minister in relations with Rangoon has left open
the way for the Thai NSC and the military to push forward their
policy with regards to Thai-Burmese relations. At present the
most important facet of that policy is support for SLORC efforts
at national reconciliation with the ethnic minorities and
pro-democracy forces. The NSC is largely concerned with the
threat to Thai security posed by the continuing conflict on its
borders. A continuation in the conflict would see a further
influx of Burmese refugees into Thailand. It is estimated that
at present there are at least 70,000 Burmese refugees in the
Border Areas [1]. The NSC is also concerned with strengthening
SLORC's position as the official administration in Burma in
order to create stability in the region. This would also
indirectly assist Thai economic interests in Burma.

In order to achieve these objectives the NSC has indicated that
it will use all the means at its command:

2.1.1. Pressure on Ethnic Refugees
    The Thai government has severed its previously strong links
    with the ethnic minorities. Whilst repressing the supply of
    arms to minorities Thai authorities have also actively
    participated in repatriation/relocation programs pushing
    large groups of Burmese refugees back across the border. As
    a case in point, Thai authorities negotiated the relocation
    of some 1,500 Mon refugees from their camp in Loh Loe,
    despite negotiation in February giving Mon refugees
    permission to remain in the camp. Reportedly, the NSC is
    trying to persuade the SLORC to grant an amnesty for
    returning refugees, but those attempts have been
    unsuccessful. Similarly, some promises by the Thai military
    to return refugees to 'safe area' on the border have been
    ignored and many Burmese have been relocated to within an
    hours walk of SLORC troops.

    There has also been an increase in pressure on Burmese
    refugees in Bangkok and other centres. In a border meeting
    between Burma and Thailand in November 1993, Thailand was
    asked to keep watch on 13 "dissidents" in Bangkok. Three
    weeks later 24 students were arrested in raids in the
    capital. The arrests were hailed by Rangoon as "manifesting
    the cordial relationship" between the two countries.

    In a further development, it was announced in December that
    there would be a crackdown on all Burmese refugees. Any
    meeting of Burmese refugees, whether public or private, will
    be considered political or subversive activity and those
    individuals are liable to arrest, detention and deportation.
    The purpose of the crackdown was announced so as to stop
    political activity that might be directed against SLORC.

    The Thai government has also sought to limit the
    availability of aid to Burmese refugees. The government has
    warned all NGO's in Thailand that they must not violate Thai
    law and cross the border into Burma to administer aid, or
    risk being prohibited from operating at all. In January of
    this year, the Thai government is also reported to have
    seized medical supplies destined for Karen villages on the
    Thai-Burma border. Karen authorities have reported that this
    is the first time in three years that the organised supplies
    have been have not arrived.

2.1.2 External Diplomatic Efforts

    In an effort to forge closer bonds with Burma, and also
    increase the acceptance of the SLORC, Thailand has actively
    lobbied other ASEAN members in support of Burma's admittance
    to the ASEAN forum. After initial reluctance, some members
    have begun to suggest that there should be renewed contact
    with Burma.

    In January of this year both Indonesia and malaysia had
    expressed dissatisfaction with Thailand's decision to invite
    Burma to the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in JUly. Later that
    same month however Jakarta hosted a visit by SLORC
    intelligence chief Khin Nyunt. Khin flattered the
    Indonesians by remarking that SLORC wanted to emulate
    Indonesia's military and civilian infrastructure. Indonesia
    has recently changed its mind and is now keen to see closer
    ties established with Rangoon.

    Malaysia initially condemned SLORC for its expulsion of some
    300,000 MUslims from the Rohingya region in the north-east
    of Burma. However, Malaysian businessmen, anxious to
    establish markets in Burma, and Malaysia, albeit informally,
    has permitted its industry to established links with

    Singapore also maintains that caution should be exercised in
    inviting Burma into ASEAN. HOwever, Singaporean businessmen
    have expressed an interest in doing business with Burma as
    they see it as a far more stable market than Cambodia.

    Although some ASEAN members have expressed interest in
    Thailand's efforts they still hold reservations about
    dealing with Burma, due to concern over what Western
    partners may say. Of added concern to countries wishing to
    re-establish links with Burma is the recent UN Resolution of
    6 December 1993 on human rights abuses in Burma. The General
    Assembly accepted by consensus, a Resolution that urged
    SLORC to release Daw Aung San Suu KYi and to accord basis
    human rights to the ethnic minorities in Burma.

    Indonesian and Malaysia have both expressed some concern
    about being involved in a controversy with the West over
    their Burmese connections. Singaporean Prime Minister Goh
    Chok Tong said in December that further consultations by
    Thailand with other ASEAN members would be appropriate
    before offering an invitation to Burma. A meeting of the
    Thai House Committee on Justice and HUman Rights in December
    openly opposed the invitation unless Burma met specific
    conditions regarding the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; an
    end to the civil war; and a guarantee of safety and peace
    from SLORC for all ethnic minorities in Burma.

    Despite concern amongst ASEAN members over what perspective
    the West will take in opening up Burma to trade, Thailand
    continues to push on with its initiative saying that even if
    there is no consensus from other ASEAN members about
    inviting Burma, Thailand will exercise its prerogative as
    host to invite Burma without their support.


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