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2/3) ICJ'94 THAI/BURMESE RELATIONS
* Posted Mon 20 Oct 1997 by drunoo@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.burma */
/* --------------" 2/3)ICJ Report on Thai/Burma 1994 "---------------- */
THAILAND'S POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITH BURMA:
MATTERS FOR CONCERN
Prepared by Burma Sub-Committee on behalf of the International
Commission of Jurists Australian Section - WA Branch
25 March 1994.
2.2 BURMA'S NATURAL RESOURCES
In considering the change in relations between Thailand and
Burma it is important also to keep in mind the reliance placed
by Thailand on Burma as a source of energy and export wealth.
2.2.1 Logging Concessions
In 1988 when the military came to power in Burma, the country
was on the brink of financial bankruptcy. It still however
possessed rich reserves of natural resources such as
timber(teak), minerals and gems. At the same time, across the
border in Thailand, the environment had been stripped of what
value it did possess. Thailand was already beginning to feel
the ill effects of deforestation, with rainfall levels
dropping in its denuded northern regions. The SLORC sold the
rights to the timber on the Thai-Burma border quickly in order
to promote foreign investment and raise capital. All those
concessions were purchased by Thai business and the military
with the encouragement of the Ministry of the Interior.
As discussed above, SLORC announced in July 1993, that all
Thai logging concessions in Burma would be canceled by the
end of 1993, at a time when SLORC was becoming impatient with
the Thai government in its support for ethnic minorities on the
Thai-Burma border. Many of these minorities have used Thailand
as a 'bridge' by which to advertise their plight to the
outside world. Indeed, not long after the cancellation of the
concessions, the SLORC announced that it wished to exploit its
valuable reserves of timber in the processing market and would
operate the concessions itself. Japan has expressed interest
in buying Burma's processed timber.
The loss of concessions is of major concern to Thai timber
businesses and the military. It has prompted Thailand to
radically alter its policies with regard to SLORC and Burmese
Burma's rate of deforestation through Chinese, Burmese and
continued 'illegal' Thai logging is ranked as the third
highest in the world at around 8,000 square kilometers at year
2.2.2 Salween/Moei River Dams
The excessive logging of Thai forests in the northern regions
of the country has caused extreme changes in rainfall
patterns. River levels in Thailand have suffered perennial low
levels causing serious problems for Thai agriculture and
Thailand's own hydro-electric projects. Facing strong
opposition to the development of more hydro-electric projects
in its own country, the Thai National Energy Administration
(NEA) has reportedly carried out feasibility studies on the
construction of similar projects in either Burma or Laos.
Thai and Burmese businesses have also been interested in the
development of the north-west of Thailand for tourism. Again,
however the development of the area requires water.
SLORC has also been supportive in plans to build a dam on the
Salween and divert the river into northern Thailand. While
supplying Thailand with water, it would effectively cut off the
water supply to ethnic minorities further downstream and
deprive them of their only supply of freshwater.
The largest of the dams is to be on the upper Salween River.
The upper Salween dam is also to be used to divert the water
into Thailand. The total cost of the project was to be some
US$5.12 billion. Part of the funds were to come from a joint
Thai-Burmese company and the remainder was to come from
international banks. According to an adviser to SLORC on the
dealings, "eight of the largest banks in the world", amongst
them the Asian Development Bank, have agreed to provide loans.
There has reportedly been agreement between the countries to
commence with construction of the upper Salween dam.
The result will be disastrous for ethnic minorities and also
the environment. The Karen, Mon and Karenni who live on the
lower reaches of the MOei stand to lose their greatest sources
of water and transport. Without water supplies, ethnic and
pro-democracy forces will be forced to negotiate with SLORC.
More importantly, non-combatants in refugee villages on the
border will also be deprived of fresh water supplies.
The diversion of water will have an obvious and immediate
effect on fauna and flora on the lower reaches of the river.
UPstream from the largest of the dams, the Upper Salween, most
of the proposed flood zone is to be in Burma, splitting the
Karen and Karenni States. It is estimated that the zone will
be over one thousand square kilometers submerging large areas
of native forest and the Salawin Wildlife Sanctuary.
2.2.3 Natural Gas to Thailand
In the last ten years there have been tow major discoveries of
offshore natural gas in Burmese waters:
The Yetagun gasfields are currently being established by
Taxaco (USA), Premier Consolidated Oilfields (UK) and Nippon
Oil. The SLORC owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE)
also holds an option in an operating stake in the gasfields.
Initial testing of the reserves has shown that the field can
produce as much natural gas as Burmese reserves currently
The other major find has been the Martaban fields being
operated by Total(France) and Unocal (USA) with MOGE also
having an option to an interest. The Petroleum Authority of
Thailand (PTT) also has an interest in the Martaban fields.
Total has reported been quite open about its plans for the
sale of gas from the Martaban field to Thailand.
The Thai Petroleum authority has been anxious to purchase
natural gas from the fields as it faces an energy crisis in
its own country. The gas in intended for supply for power
plants on the Thai-Burma border to supply Thailand with
electricity. The concern for Thailand is that the pipelines
that will deliver the gas to the border must be built through
Burma. In June 1993, a delegation of officials from the PTT
visited Burma to discuss the sale of natural gas to Thailand.
There was an agreement signed as to the sale and construction
of pipelines, the majority of which is to be paid by Thailand.
Since that agreement SLORC troops have been actively engaged
in the clearing of 'buffer zones' around potential sites for
the pipelines. The point where the combined pipelines will
cross into Thailand still remains unconfirmed although many
experts suggest that it will cross in the vicinity of
Nat-en-Taung village in the Tavoy region of South-eastern
Burma. To reach this point the pipeline must cross areas that
the military has been unable to control for some 40 years
because of minority opposition. SLORC has commenced human
rights abuses against villagers in the area in an attempt to
According to a number of sources the Thai military have also
commenced forced repatriation of Burmese refugees who inhabit
villages in the path of the pipeline. In April 1993 Thai
troops repatriated Burmese refugees from the Nat-en-Taung and
Democracy Village. Approximately 500 of the refugees fled
across the border into Burma. Thai soldiers burn the villages.
Further reports claim that Pyi Thein, No. 9 Mine Camp, Ale
Store and Kanaung Se, all of which have been in existence for
2 years, and are now in the path of a potential pipeline
through Nat-en-Taung, and have also been destroyed by Thai
forces. Thai officers in command during these operations, when
asked why the villages were being destroyed, said that they
had been directed to drive all ethnic minorities back into
Burma away from the pipeline.
The proposed pipeline through Nat-en-Taung will pass through
virgin forest and areas inhabited by a number of endangered
species of Asian fuana. Access roads in order to maintain the
pipeline will also need to be built through these forests
increasing the rate of deforestation.
The pipeline will also be built through areas controlled by
ethnic minorities. The proposal to send natural gas through
areas where the pipeline is vulnerable to attack raises the
spectre of further environmental destruction.
2.3 SUMMARY OF THAI-BURMESE RELATIONS
The increased economic pressure SLORC has put on the Thai
government by canceling logging concessions and jeopardisiong
large capital works projects, has managed to destabilise
civilian rule in Thailand. As discussed above, Thailand has an
important economic and political interest in maintaining links
with Burma. The Thai military and internal security forces are
affiliated with Thai business interests. Threats to Thai
business interests are taken seriously by the military. As a
result of these threats the military and internal security
forces have acted to support those interest and have taken
advantage of the waning influence of the Prime Minister's
Office and the Foreign Ministry in foreign affairs to push
their own policy of dealing with SLORC.
To maintain the confidence of SLORC, Thailand has initiated
diplomatic efforts to increase the standing of SLORC amongst
other Asian nations. Whilst support for Thailand's efforts may
be forthcoming there is still serious concern for how Western
nations will react to Thailand's efforts and the repercussions
for other nations in the region who may also lend support.
Thailand has also commenced efforts at home to control the
large Burmese refugee population both on the Thai-Burma border
and in major centres such as Bangkok. In order to achieve this
end, Thailand has enacted laws to make any gathering of
Burmese refugees illegal and individuals liable to arrest,
detention and repatriation. In country areas, the Thai
military have commenced relocating refugee communities back
Other Thai interest are extensive. The plans for the supply of
natural gas and the building of hydro-electric dams currently
serve a number of purposes; firstly, to raise funds for SLORC
and ensure political survival for the Thai government;
secondly, as a step in Thailand's efforts to build stronger
ties with its resource rich neighbour; thirdly, to provide
greater legitimacy for the SLORC administration; and lastly,
the by-products of many of these plans will harm the ethnic
minorities' and pro-democracy forces' ability to continue
resistance. Already both SLORC and Thai forces have commenced
operations to clear 'sensitive areas' of potential sources of
interference. The effects of these energy plans and continued
logging will be to destroy large areas of the environment.
3. THAILAND'S POSITION AT INTERNATIONAL LAW
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