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The BurmaNet news, December 8, 1997

------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------     
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"     
The BurmaNet News: December 8, 1997        
Issue #885

BKK POST: Chuan seeks talks with leader of VN, Burma


December 5, 1997


The Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) has insisted it will meet the
deadline next July for beginning the purchase of natural gas from Burma even
though the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has announced
a delay in the completion of the power plant in Ratchaburi which will use
the gas. 

Songkiat Tansamrit, the PTT's Public Relations Department director, said
that demand for electricity continued despite the near-collapse of the
industrial sector caused by the economic crisis. 

Egat governor Weerawat Chalayon announced earlier this week that the
Ratchaburi power plant would start operations next year. But completion of
the whole project would be delayed from 2002 to 2005. The completed
Ratchabud power plant will be the biggest power plant in the country, with a
4,600-megawatt capacity and costing Btl2O.7 billion, he added.

Songkiat said the amount of gas imported from Burma would be just enough to
feed the first phase of the power plant next year.

Weerawat dismissed concern surrounding the gas purchase deal between the PTT
and a consortium of developers. He said if the gas deal fell through, Egat
had alternative fuel which could be used instead. "We are sure there will be
no problem about the type of fuel because the Ratchaburi power plant can use
either natural gas or other fuels like tanker oil, " he said.

The purchase of the gas from Burma is controversial because a section, of
the pipeline is being constructed through a protected forest. Thai and
international human rights groups have protested about the deal as
non-transparent and in support of dictatorship in Burma.

Conservationists and human rights activists submitted a letter to Prime
minister Chuan Leekpai earlier this week demanding that the government order
PTT to stop work on the pipeline in the forest area within five days.

They asked that the government then review the project and decide whether to
continue with it or give it up. The group insisted that the project is not
viable, in any way. " If the government does not respond to our demand, we
will lay down the forest to block construction," said Pipob Thongehai,
leader of the activist group. 

Phensri Mtinrnungydn, 51, a villager from Ban Charakaepeuk, said she wanted
the government to change the route. If the government insisted on going
ahead with the project, the prime minister should order the PTT to buy all
of the land owned by the villagers, she said. They would then move out of
the area, she added.


BKK POST: Chuan seeks talks with leader of VN, Burma
December 5, 1997

Ohn Gyaw to meet Surin on Tuesday

Nussara Sawatsawang

Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai has asked for separate talks with Vietnamese
and Burmese leaders during the forthcoming informal summit of the
Association of Southeast Asean Nations in Kuala Lumpur.

A foreign ministry official said Mr Chuan put forward the request, early
this week after deciding to forego the traditional tour of Asean member states.

Mr Chuan, introduced himself to most Asean member states shortly after
beginning his first term as prime minister in 1992, and decided against
repeating the procedure this time, partly to save costs.

Mr Chuan did not visit Burma in 1992 in protest at the ruling regime's
failure to respect democracy and human rights. In 1993, he allowed Nobel
Peace Prize laureates to hold talks in Bangkok.

Mr Chuan asked for bilateral talks with , 1'reneral Than Shwe, Burma's
preii,ier and defence minister, and Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai
during the second Asean informal summit Malaysia is hosting on December 15
and 16.
Burmese Foreign Minister Ohn Gyaw is expected to convey Gen Than Shwe's
response when he calls on Prime Minister Chuan here next week. Ohn Gyaw will
be in Bangkok to co-chair with Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan the
Thai-Burmese Joint Commission on Tuesday.

Thailand is expected to concentrate on technical and economic. assistance,
worth 40 million baht for 1998 fiscal year. But construction of the
controversial pipeline for transporting natural gas from Burma's Gulf of
Martaban is also expected to be raised. Bangkok wants to make sure Rangoon
will complete construction of the gas pipeline on the Thai side in time.


6 December 1997



Thai products worth more than 20 million baht were seized by Burmese
officials in Myawaddy on Thursday after most of it were allegedly found to
be smuggled products.

A Burmese merchant who claimed anonymity said Thai goods including
construction materials, tyres, auto parts and consumer goods in 38 trucks
were confiscated by Burmese police officers and soldiers outside a warehouse
in a suburban area of Myawaddy on Thursday.

The source said that Myawaddy police found after investigation that most of
the seized goods were smuggled from Mae Sot district to Burma after Burma
suspended imports from Thailand last week.

Construction materials and consumer goods are now in great demand in Burma
as many construction firms are trying to complete projects and the Burmese
have more purchasing power after the harvest seasons.

Thai exports worth millions of baht were left stranded at many ports and in
Mae Sot warehouses after Burma suspended imports pending the improvement of
its tariff collection system.

Burma was expected to allow suspended imports to resume yesterday but it
later announced that the import suspension period would be extended another
15 days.

Under the new cross-border trade measures, all importers must register with
the Burmese government as companies and transfer money for trade through
Burmese commercial banks.

Meanwhile, Burma has urged Thailand to strictly abide by a Thai-Burmese
agreement on cross-border trade.

Deputy chairman of Tak's Chamber of Commerce Panithi Tangphati said Myawaddy
authorities wanted Thai businessmen to strictly follow the 1996 Thai-Burmese
Border Trade Agreement, which aims to bring about a trade balance through a
barter system.

Thai merchants have also been asked to open letters of credit with Thai or
Burmese commercial banks and pay tariffs to Burma in US dollars for Rangoon
to check with ease the payment of tariffs, he added.

Burma claimed previous inefficiency had cost it severe trade deficits, Mr
Panithi said.

Trade problems between the two countries, he said, remains unsettled partly
because while it prohibits Thais from importing some Burmese goods including
logs and gems, Thailand bars imports of many agricultural products like
onions, garlic and soy bean.

Mr Panithi also urged the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Foreign Trade and .
Customs' departments, and the Chamber of Commerce of Thailand to consider
reviewing agreements on cross-border trade between Thailand and its
neighbours to boost exports.

Thai exports worth millions of baht, including consumer goods, construction
materials, and auto parts, were left stranded at many ports and in Mae Sot
warehouses following the Myawaddy imports suspension.

According to a Thai customs official, Burma suspended its imports from
Thailand pending the improvement of its tariff collection system.


December 6, 1997



Shan ethnic group leaders in Burma are seeking support from overseas Shans
to intensify their campaign against Rangoon for an independent Shan state.

A leading member of a Shan ethnic group who preferred to remain anonymous
told the Bangkok Post that it was very likely that Shan people in Burma and
other countries would join forces as a big nationalist movement to seek
independence. from Rangoon.

Shan community leaders in Thailand, Australia, Canada and the United States
had held serious discussions on forming such a movement in recent years, the
source added.

"The move followed the surrender of notorious drug warlord Khun Sa to the
now-defunct State Law and Order Restoration Council. This made us (Shan
ethnic groups) agree for the first time to unite Shan people worldwide. All
of us were upset when Khun Sa abandoned us and we agreed that what he did
was a betrayal," the source said.

According to the source, the son of a Shan prince, Chao Sua Hom,who is now
residing in Australia recently set up a Shan nationalist movement called the
Shan Democratic Union.

On the news that Khun Sa, former leader of the now defunct Mong Tai Army,
has urged Shan people in a radio broadcast last month to disarm and
surrender to Rangoon, the source said he did not believe Khun Sa was really
behind the broadcast as this would make the Shan people more angry at him.

At present, the Shan State Army, Shan State National Army and Shan United
Revolutionary Army forces totalling 6,000 men, mostly former MTA troops, are
operating separately in northern Shan State in their freedom fight against
the Rangoon junta.

Meanwhile, 56 Karen refugees infected with tuberculosis were sent to a field
hospital for medical treatment.

The patients, 13 of whom are in critical condition, were taken by bus from
Sho Klo camp in Tha Song Yang district to Mae La camp hospital in Mae Ramat

About 100 doctors and nurses led by Philippe Jean Guering of Medicines Sans
Frontieres and Tha Song Yang district chief Veera Potisuk accompanied them.

Mr Veera said the refugees had been suffering from the contagious disease
for several years before they took refuge on Thai soil.

To prevent other refugees from infection the authorities decided to transfer
the patients to the field hospital where there are TB experts, he added.

He quoted Dr Guering as saying that treatment would take about six to eight
months before the patients are allowed to return to Sho Klo camp. 

Thailand plans to transfer 6,832 Karen refugees from 1,040 families living
in Sho Klo to Mae La by next February for security and better control of the
refugees, said a military officer, adding the transfer will be financially
supported by non-governmental organisations and the government.

According to the officer, Sho Klo camp is located near the Mae Moei River
and is vulnerable to attacks from Burmese ethnic
minority forces. 


December 6, 1997

As a Burmese it was very heartening to read "Civilian Chuan could have clout
to forge policy breakthrough" by Anuraj Manibhandu (Dec 2). We sincerely
hope the Chuan administration will heed this advice.

In fact, Chuan Leekpai is no stranger to the Burmese pro-democracy forces
and we fondly remember when he allowed the eight Peace Nobel laureates to
come to Thailand and air their frustrations with the Burmese junta.

I am sure every Burmese will remember with gratitude the highlighting of
their plight in the world media in as much as we remember with distaste that
Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was the first dignitary to shake the bloody hands of
the Burmese generals and call them "A Ko Gyi" (big brother) after they'd
just shot students in 1988. Even now he is howling at Chuan for making
democracy and human rights part of the Thai policy towards Burma.

Hopefully the Thai people should see that he does not return to power.

Such a change in policy will be very beneficial not only to the people of
both countries but also to the region. It is tantamount to demonstrating
that the two neighbours can live amicably despite historic animosities and
the untold suffering of Burmese refugees who have endeavoured to seek a
sanctuary in Thailand over all these years.

May I take the liberty of adding to Anuraj's article that the UNHCR and
UNBRO should be allowed to inaugurate offices in Thai-Burma border areas and
that local commanders should be stopped from forcing ethnic refugees to
return home where they face persecution.

We know that in as much as there is a great difference between the people of
Burma and the Burmese army there is also a big difference between the Thai
people and the Thai army, as demonstrated at Sanam Luang in 1992.

Kanbawza Win 
Manitoba, Canada


December 6, 1997

Thirteen Burmese lieutenant-generals and one major-general were retired
recently. Other than Tun Kyi and Kyaw Ba, all were retired due to old age.

Trade Minister Tun Kyi and Tourism Minister Kyaw Ba were basically fired. In
September 1997 we received an official briefing by a high administration
source that a highlevel criminal investigation was being conducted against
Tun Kyi and Kyaw Ba for alleged extensive corruption.

The demise of Tun Kyi and Kyaw Ba has crippled the hardline Slorc faction
and increased the chances of a political settlement in Burma. Tun Kyi was
the "brains" of the hardline faction and Kyaw Ba was the head cheerleader.
Tun Kyi is extremely bright, arrogant and corrupt. Kyaw Ba is arrogant and
corrupt. Kyaw Ba is the only Christian in the Slorc cabinet, speaks adequate
English and often served as the spokesman for the hardline faction.

Another sign of the setback for the hardline faction is that Army Commander
Maung Aye was given neither the position of defence minister or appointed to
the newly created position of minister for military affairs. Than Shwe
remained defence minister and a Khin Nyunt protege, Lt-Gen Tin Hla, was
appointed minister for military affairs. When Gen Saw Maung was Slorc
chairman, Army Commander Than Shwe was defence minister.

It should also be noted that another Khin Nyunt protege, Maj-Gen -Kyaw Than
replaced Tun Kyi as trade minister. Kyaw Than and Khin Nyunt were graduates
of the OTS-25 class. Maj-Gen Saw Lwin who replaced Lt-Gen Kyaw Ba was the
roommate of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) chairman at the
Officer Candidate School.

The door may be opening slowly for a negotiated political settlement in
Burma. But it is like pulling teeth. Unless you inflict sufficient pain on
Slorc(2), they will not go to the dentist. The carrot and stick approach
does not work if you only use the carrot.

Myint Thein 
Senior adviser to Burmese Resistance




December 7, 1997

Letter to the Editor

We, Burmese dissident students in the Special Detention Centre congratulate
and warmly welcome the new prime minister and his Democrat Party. Chuan
Leekpai is the right man in the right place for the Thai people.

The Burmese are looking for an end to repressive military rule in their
country. Since 1988, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (recently
renamed the State Peace and Development Council) has not fulfilled the
Burmese people's desires.

This year the generals won Asean's blind support. But the new SPDC's rights
record has not improved. The change from Slorc to SPDC is no different from
when the Burmese Socialist Programme Party became Slorc. Painting fences and
renaming cities is a favourite hobby of Burmese generals. But their attitude
towards democracy and the ethnic minorities has not changed.

We would like to urge the international community to take action against the
generals' human rights abuse in Burma.

Especially, we urge the Thai government and UNHCR to protect minority ethnic
groups who fled from Burma because of forced labour and forced relocation
programmes and attacks by the Burmese army.

Shwe Hla, Bangkok



December 7, 1997


Investor confidence, a new role in Southeast Asia and a cosmetic change in
leadership still do not give Rangoon the right to trample democracy in an
insanely desperate bid for acceptance.

Even as Burma's ruling military junta continues to dull global criticism of
its repressive behaviour, reliable evidence piles up that nothing has
improved for that country's pro-democracy movement and ethnic minorities.

In a move scorned by Canada and several northern European states, the United
Nations by consensus this week watered down its perennial resolution
castigating Rangoon for abusing human rights and suppressing democracy.

The resolution, which seems likely to be endorsed by the Security Council
later this month, for the first time in seven outings fails to cite specific
objectionable instances and in fact applauds the junta's preliminary talks
with the National League for Democracy (NLD) and some ethnic groups.

To its credit, the resolution does acknowledge that those talks should
involve the one person who could give them real meaning to Burmese citizens
and the outside world, NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and perhaps comes too
late to mention the reduced jail terms granted this week to long-term
prisoners in observance of the 19th anniversary of the junta's seizure of power.

This latter omission is fortunate indeed. No political prisoner is affected
by the birthday "amnesty", only criminals who still have many years to
serve. In today's Perspective section Page 3, you can read about life, and
its brutal denigration, in Rangoon's notorious Insein prison.

Also this week, the All Burma Students' Democratic Front once again accused
the Burmese military of massive human rights abuses in the pursuit of major
economic ventures. Tens of thousands of villagers continue to be relocated
or used as forced labour on state infrastructure projects, the Front charged.

Clearly, money invested in developing one of Asean's newest partners amounts
to pearls cast before swine, yet a French, company, Total, and an American
firm, Unocal, with the tacit support of their governments, are willing to
overlook such documented abuses in order to, in their case, draw natural gas
from Burma to export to Thailand.

The Yadana pipeline, the Ye-Tavoy railway, eco-tourism ventures and the
Tavoy deep sea port are all listed by the Front as being sustained by
shanghaied labour_including children, pregnant women and the elderly_and the
disintegration of more than 140 communities.

Ethnic minorities "have suffered the brunt of forced labour, forced
relocation of villages, extra-judicial killings, rape and torture," it said,
noting than many have fled into Thailand to escape the pogroms.

"Thousands of refugees have become the victims of the economic interests of
Thailand and Burma's military junta," the federation said.

Ironically, disturbingly, Thailand today plays host to some of the leaders
of the State Peace and Development Council, the new-look junta, here on a
friendship-building visit. Constructive engagement with the long-time foes
has metamorphosed into full partnership, ostensibly for the financial
benefit and security of Southeast Asia as a whole.

With the Karen National Union contained, democrats in prison, under house
arrest or in exile, Khun Sa in protective custody, insurrection in Burma is
a thing o f the past and security has been achieved. Economic development is
the remaining target; it appears it too shall be achieved_by the blood and
toil of slave labourers.


December 7, 1997



Wrist-sized trees scattered along the foot of Pi Teu mountain are being
uprooted from their habitat, which is classified as first and second class
watershed forests, to make way for a gas pipeline. 

The removed trees will be transplanted elsewhere. But for trees with a
circumference larger than 60 centimetres, they will be axed and hauled away
for sale.

Then bulldozers will clear remaining shrubs and bamboo clumps to make way
for the 20-metre width corridor. At the middle of the passage, a three-metre
ditch will be dug to allow the gas pipeline to be laid.

The Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) is to lay the gas pipeline through
forests from the border of Thailand and Burma at Ban I-tong village to Pi
Teu mountain at Kui Yae village, Thong Pha Phum district.

The PTT which signed contracts to buy natural gas from the Yadana and
Yetagun fields in Burma's Andaman sea is responsible for laying the 260km
long pipeline in Thailand.

It starts from I-tong village, which is the connection point with the
Burmese portion, and ends at a gas power plant of the Electricity Generating
Authority of Thailand in Ratchaburi.

The pipe-laying operation began early this year after the National
Environment Board approved the project's environmental impact-study (EIA).

Most of the work has been done except for the first 50-kilometre route which
passes through forests. The areas are home to rare species of animals such
as wild elephants, hog-nose bat and queen crab. The latter two species are
found only in the forests along the designated gas pipeline route.

The project's EIA study requires the PTT to lay the pipeline through the
forests in one dry season so as to avoid harming wildlife.

Songkiet Tansamrit, PTT's director of public relations, said that about' 600
rai of forests will be cleared to lay the pipeline in the forest section.

The pipeline will pass through watershed forests, Sai Yok national park,
forest reserved areas, forest plantations, communities and mines.

He said only a six-kilometre stretch between 20th to 26th kilometres of the
forest section is lush forest, while the remaining areas are degraded.

Despite cabinet approval that the PTT cut all the trees in the 20-metre
corridor along the 50-kilometre forest section, Mr Songkiat said for the
sake of nature, the PTT would remove and transplant valuable trees such as
hardwood to other areas that are appropriate for them.

Lert Chanthanaphap, a forestry lecturer at Kasetsart University who is hired
by the PTT to oversee the transplant work, said trees with circumferences
less than 60 centimetres would be removed and transplanted immediately.

However, there are two options for bigger trees: axe them or reroute the gas
pipeline away from those trees. He said: "We should praise the PTT for
trying to transplant trees. We have to accept that the mission will not be
one hundred percent successful but this shows that the PTT listens to the
public and is committed to do the best for social good and the environment."

Mr Lert said that about 80 teak trees were removed from the plantations and
more than 2,000 trees have been marked for further removal. He declined to
reveal the number of big trees to be axed.

The transplant operation started on December 5 to celebrate the King's
birthday. Initially, the PTT hired villagers from tambon Lin Thin and Huey
Kha Yeng to dig the trees in the 20 metre corridor between pipeline
kilometre 43rd to 47th which is the first and second class watershed forests.



December 7, 1997


Three months after an army helicopter went missing on the Thai-Burmese
border, relatives remain distressed about the unknown fate of four Thai
military officers on board. 

Although the Thai army promises to continue the search until the wreckage of
the plane or other conclusive evidence is found, the relatives feel
authorities have not tried hard enough to bring back their beloved, dead or

Saiyood Phanjaeng, 39, may not have given up all hope of seeing her husband
again but she has had the best picture of him framed, as if he was already dead.

The hand-writing below the picture of the man in military uniform reads: Sgt
Maj Anake Phanjaeng, missing on the afternoon of August 28, 1997.

The picture will remind the three children of what happened to their father,
she told the Bangkok Post in a recent interview.

"It's too long... how can he survive that long?" she said of the three
months' silence on the matter. "But it would be wonderful if he does come
On August 28, the surveillance Jet Ranger helicopter carrying First Pilot
Lieutenant Charhvej Kiddee, Co-Pilot Lieutenant Adisak Pongpate, Sergeant
Major Anake Phanjaeng, the team's camera man, and Sergeant Jessada
Thammasorn went missing while flying between Phob Phra and the Umphang
district of Tak province.

According to a military report, the last contact between the pilot and his
colleagues was made at 1:06 p.m. when a storm caused poor visibility and the
helicopter had to raise its flying level to 7,000 feet.

The 4th Infantry Regiment Task Force based in Mae Sot ordered air and land
searches soon after the helicopter lost contact. 

The following morning, an ad hoc search centre was set up in Phob - Phra
district and five helicopters were dispatched for an air search and hundreds
of Border Patrol Police, local police and volunteers sent out on a ground

On September 2, rescue teams obtained Burmese permission to look in the area
under the control of Burma's Light Infantry Division 32 known as Kanale
Camp, and conducted another search on Thai soil in mid-November, but without

Kanale Camp, the former major base of the Karen National Union seized by
Rangoon's troops earlier this year, covers an area of not less than ten
square kilometres, and is located at about one kilometre from the border at
Phob Phra district.

According to Col Chatchapat Yaemngamriab, the task force commander, the
aircraft might have avoided the rainstorm and crashed either in the
mountainous Thai-Burmese border area or in the dense forest of Khao Yai in
Umphang district.

"The operation will continue because the army considers its search mission
unaccomplished," he said recently, adding that search teams had not yet
penetrated a number of valleys and mountain ridges.

Col Pradit Bounkeud, from the office of the army secretary in Bangkok,
stressed that the four are classified as "missing in action," not dead.

But Suchitra Thammasorn did not wait for the official search, and began her
own search soon after it became clear that her brother Sgt Jessada was among
the missing.

Unlike Saiyood who has to make ends meet and look after children at home,
Suchitra and her elder brother left work and spent weeks, and many weekends,
in Tak to obtain first-hand information and make all possible contacts that
might lead to the rescue of 34-year-old Sgt Jessada.

To feel better, Suchitra, 37, also went to see monks and oracles, and most
of them told her that Sgt Jessada had survived the accident and needed
immediate help.

But two weeks ago, on November 22, she came round to believing that 0 he was

She said many villagers at Nam Dun village in Phob Phra district heard, or
said their neighbours had heard gun sounds at the time when the helicopter
lost contact. During the night of the incident they also heard what they
believed was the explosion that destroyed the aircraft.

Suchitra believed the helicopter was shot down while it was trying to land
at a Burmese military base after losing balance during the rainstorm and
straying over the Thai-Burmese. border.

She believed the pilot and co-pilot were killed at the scene while her
younger brother and Sgt Maj Anake might have been rescued and forced to
reveal military information before they were beaten to death.

According to a field report, an amateur short-wave radio operator came up
with information that supported Suchitra's thinking. The radio operator
informed Col Chatchapat one day after the helicopter got lost that he saw a
helicopter flying four to five kilometres towards the west of the
Thai-Burmese border and later heard gun shots and the explosion of an aircraft.

A military officer, who declined to be named, said an intercepted radio
conversation revealed a high-ranking Burmese officer congratulating someone
for downing the Thai craft.

A Rangoon-based observer who is close to the thinking of the Burmese
military junta said it was highly possible that the shooting took place, in
revenge for what Rangoon saw as Thai support and sheltering of rebel ethnic

Burma raised this long-standing concern during the visit of Thai army chief
General Chetha Thanajaro to Rangoon early last month. Intelligence chief
Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt then called on Thailand to prevent minority
groups, especially the KNU, from using Thai soil as a base for its activities.

The Thai army as well as the Foreign Ministry dismissed the suggestion that
the helicopter had been shot down, on the argument that Burmese authorities
had shown goodwill twice by joining searches by air and land inside Burma.

And Rangoon has made clear that a new search, lasting no more than three
days at a time, could be conducted as soon as there is new evidence, Col
Chatehapat added. Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt also assured Gen Chetha of Rangoon's
commitment to help.

At the same time, Col Chatehapat denied that the helicopter was on a secret
mission that might have angered Rangoon, saying it was on a routine
surveillance, and was to-take slides for use in border briefings.

But Suchitra wondered how close and scrupulous the search could be in the
suspected areas in Burma as she has been told that Burmese authorities had
planted landmines and deployed troops around the area where the craft was
"If the helicopter had got lost in Thailand, the army would have found its
wreckage. But now that three months have passed I don't believe how the
whole aircraft could have disappeared without any accurate information," she

Col Pradit Boonkeud from the Office of the Army Secretary reiterated on
November 26 that the army had not given up hope, but was still collating
intelligence information for continuing the search. He pointed out that the
rapid growth of vegetation in the tropical forest in that area compounded
their difficulties. 

To boost the incentive for help from local villagers, authorities have
increased the reward for evidence leading to the rescue from 50,000 baht to
150,000 baht.

For relatives, the army has allocated a six-digit sum of money for temporary
relief before the officers' pension can be disbursed in accordance with
civil services regulations.

But the hardest thing for the relatives is to adjust to living without the
head of the family, brothers and sons.

Saiyood, who has received little formal education, lives by making and
selling Thai sweets which keep her busy from dawn to dark. Glancing at the
video equipment Sgt Maj Anake was fond of, Saiyood said she was determined
to ensure the highest possible education for her three children, aged 12, 6
and 5 respectively.

Sgt Jessada, a single man, left no financial burden for the members of his
family. But Suchitra said it was her duty to hold a cremation ceremony for
him to say a last good-bye.


December 7, 1997


Arrangements are being made for Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai's visit to
Burma, army chief Gen Chettha Thanajaro said yesterday. 
Gen Chettha said he has liaised with Burmese leaders to arrange for Mr
Chuan's visit which may take place soon.

The visit by the premier, who is concurrently defence minister, will help
strengthen relations with the neighbouring country, he said.

Meanwhile, the army is to send in troops to protect all border forests from
illegal loggers.

The move comes because Gen Chettha has been stung by criticisms that the
military has not done enough to stop illegal logging.

The attack followed the discovery of around 2,000 logs in the
Salween National Park in Mae Hong Son, bordering Burma.

Gen Chettha said the attacks were unjustified because the national park was
overseen by the Forestry Department, which had not asked for military help.

Soldiers later moved in and successfully drove the loggers away.

Gen Chettha said the army would from now on take control of all areas within
three kilometres of the borders, no matter which agencies were overseeing them.

He said the army did not want to interfere with any agencies but
safeguarding national security came first. The army was willing to cooperate
with the Forestry Department.


December 7, 1997



Of all the jails in neighbouring countries in which Thai fishermen have been
held, they say Insein Prison in Burma is the worst. In Vietnam they are
allowed to raise fish in ponds to sustain themselves but in Insein, they
say, the food is so bad even village dogs will not look at it.

Fishermen jailed for trespassing charges usually stay a relatively short
time, often being freed early as gestures to politicians from neighbouring
countries. Burmese prisoners are not so lucky.

In a recent interview, a Burmese political prisoner describes his six years
in Insein and relations between Burmese prisoners and Thai fishermen, some
of whom had been jailed as early as 1989. Most of them have been released as
of today.

Moe Aye, not his real name, served from 1991 to 1996 as a political
prisoner. He was a student at Rangoon Institute of Technology, the hotbed of
student activists.

Thai fishermen arrested in 1990-91 were jailed for between 12 and 18 months,
but after 1992 they were handed terms of 15-20 years when the former State
Law and Order Restoration Council realised they could rake in hefty fines
from Thailand in return for early release.

Insein comprises two blocks, the main block for ordinary criminals, and
Insein Special Jail, formerly called the Attached Jail, for political
prisoners, including students and Thai fishermen. There are two two-storey
buildings in the ISJ which are shared by Thais and other foreign prisoners.

Thais are housed on the upper floors and the Burmese the ground floors.
About 200-250 prisoners share 23 cells per floor covering an area of about
100 square feet.

While the Burmese have the privilege of food and medicine being delivered
from home, there is no one to provide the Thais with such benefits. The only
times they enjoy such luxuries, and contact with the outside world, are on
important Thai holidays, such as His Majesty the King's birthday.

On occasions such as these about three times a year they are visited by
embassy officials with food parcels and medicine sent by their families with
the embassy chipping in with basic
commodities such as soap and other toiletries.

To make prison life bearable, the Thais strike up friendships with the
Burmese and get to enjoy homecooked meals and other luxuries such as coffee,
tea and milk powder. In return, the Thais help hide books on politics and
other banned literature for the Burmese prisoners. These items are wrapped
in plastic bags and buried in vegetable patches in the prison yard.

Contacts between the Burmese housed in the two buildings are strictly
prohibited. However, with help from Thais who act as couriers by smuggling
written messages to and from, Burmese inmates keep in touch with one another.

The Thais do this at the' risk of being thrown into solitaryb confinement
and beatings by the warders. When a Thai called Daeng was caught with a book
he was beaten and interrogated in the presence of the Burmese prisoners to
reveal the owner. His only reply was he found it in the vegetable patch.
When the Burmese could no longer stand by as Daeng was punished, one of them
admitted the book was his. Upset and disappointed, Daeng told the Burmese
prisoners: "You people have no honour, even I didn't say who it belonged to.
Why did you people do it?

"That's how much the Thais had been good to us," said Moe Aye.

Links with the outside world are strictly reserved for Thai fishermen of and
above the rank of captain. To enable them and the rest of the Thai prisoners
to keep in touch-with families and friends, Burmese prisoners befriend some
of the warders who help smuggle out mail and other messages for a price. The
Burmese prisoners paid for this service at the beginning.

When embassy officials visit them there is always a Burmese intelligence
official present who is fluent in Thai. Wire mesh divides the embassy
officials and the inmates when they meet. Before their arrival, the inmates
are warned by prison officials not to complain about the conditions in the

Moe Aye also described the difficulties of keeping clean in prison. He said
prisoners have to use tin plates to draw water from cement tanks and are
restricted to eight plates-full at a time. In addition, he said, there was a
scarcity of soap. The only time soap from Thailand is available is when they
arevisited by their embassy people on special holidays. The supply of
about-50 bars runs out after a few days. "This," Moe Aye said,"contributes
to all kinds of body rashes among the Thai prisoners."

The prison does supply mini-bars of soap, like those given away at hotels
but the quality is poor and prisoners are entitled to one a week: The Thais,
however, in the beginning received it once a month, not knowing what they
were entitled to. 

Moe Aye was imprisoned in 1991 for being involved in politics and released
in December last year. When he began his prison term, there were about 400
Thai fishermen in Insein some of whom had been there since 1989, He claims
to know quite a few of the Thai inmates among the 89 recently released after
the Thai military negotiated their freedom with their Burmese counterparts.

Describing the medical and health situation in prison, he said HIV and Aids
are rampant because of the unhygienic conditions in the prison hospital. He
said many have died of Aids, including Thais. They could have contracted the
disease either before their arrest or it could have been after they had
arrived in Insein.

Inmates requiring medical treatment involving injections stand a 90-'
percent chance of contracting HIV because of the repeated use of needles, he
said. While one needle is used on five Burmese, as many as 11 Thais are
subjected to one. The needles are then sterilised for future use.

Injections are administered by prison drug addicts according to Moe Aye.
These prisoners, serving terms for drug violations, keep the needles and
syringes for personal use and later trade them for cigarettes with other

New needles, however, can be obtained for 200-300 kyat or bartered for a
packet of Red Cow Brand milk from China worth 200 kyat and two packets of
Coffee Mate. A packet of Coffee Mate costs 40 kyat. "We also have to save
some of our food supplies for cases of emergency which is exchanged for
needles when we need them urgently," Moe Aye said.

Hardly any of them, have decent clothing, other than prison issue. On
admission, each inmate is provided with a pair of trousers and a shirt.
According to the prison manual, inmates are entitled to this every six
months. The Thais were at first unaware of this. However, later, the Burmese
inmates put them wise to it. The fishermen also complained that when they
are arrested at sea, the Burmese navy confiscated all their belongings,
including clothing and footwear.

Prison officials began to get annoyed with Burmese prisoners for championing
the plight of the Thai fishermen by taking up their grievances with
officials. "Between 1993 and 1994 they began plotting a divide-and-rule
strategy to break the close relations between the two groups," Moe Aye said.

In 1994, Moe Aye said two Thais, who were caught delivering letters for
their Burmese counterparts, were beaten so severely that they passed out.
The beating was carried out by U Mya Lwin, a senior prison official.

This was done in the presence of Thai and Burmese inmates. The Thai captains
were then warned that this would be their fate if they continued to
associate with the Burmese.

The Thais were infuriated and staged a sit-in outside the building and
refused to return to their cells. It was a tense confrontation that ensued
with prison guards on watch towers, guns trained on the protesters. The
situation was finally settled after U Mya Lwin was ordered by the Home
(Interior) Ministry to apologise to the Thai prisoners with a promise. that
the incident would not be repeated.

"Incidents like these are common in Insein prison, where not only Thais but
Burmese prisoners as well are often beaten," said Moe Aye.

The main reason for this is the Burmese prisoners helping the Thais. The
prison officials' impression of the fishermen is that they are uneducated
villagers who do not know how and when to demand their rights. The end
result is most of the benefits due to them are pocketed by prison officials.

The Thais, according to Moe Aye, are not as stupid as they appear to be.
They had begun to accumulate money from their relatives with the help of the
Burmese inmates. Money was smuggled into prison through underground channels
with Burmese connections.

When this came to the attention of the officials, the Thais were told that
they could keep and spend their money freely on
condition they keep this information from the Burmese. "We will not conduct
a search, but if the Burmese prisoners inform us then will be forced to take
action." However a search was not seriously conducted and the Thais kept
their savings.

Then on July 7, 1996 the anniversary of the demolition of-the Student Union
Building in 1962, all hell broke lose. On anniversaries such as these,
according to prison rules, searches of prisoners or their cells are
discouraged. But on that morning,- all the money was confiscated from the
Thais who were told that action had to be taken because the Burmese
prisoners had reported the matter to the Home Ministry.

However, they were promised that if the hiding places and the periodicals
were revealed, their honey would be returned. The Thais were now divided,
with some suspecting the warders were lying, while others believed the
Burmese prisoners did report them to the ministry.

Moe Aye said books were dug up after some of the Thais who had witnessed
their colleagues led warders to the hiding places. Thee confiscated money
was never returned. This left the Thais

Trouble erupted later when the water pump was shut off at about 8 a.m. with
barely enough water in the concrete tanks for the prisoners to bathe.
Usually the Burmese prisoners and then the Thais were allowed to wash. But
on that day . the Thais and Burmese were released from the cells and herded
to the bathing area.

Pandemonium broke lose as the prisoners fought for what little
water was available. Soon fighting erupted in Building 2 between five Thais
and three Burmese inmates.

"The Thais from our cell block rushed over to the other building armed with
garden tools like spades and hoes thinking a fight had erupted between their
compatriots and warders," said Moe Aye. Then the issue of money surfaced
again which led to a free-for-all between the Thais and prison officials.
The warders, outnumbered, ran for safety and from the watch towers ordered
the Thais to disperse and return to the cells.

Reinforcement, including Lon Htein (riot police) were then called in and the
Thais were severely beaten before they retreated to their cells. Before
this, the Burmese prisoners were first locked in their cells. The fight
between the Thais and warders and riot police lasted for about three hours.

The Thais were later taken from their cells for further punishment before
being sent to the main block where hard-core criminals are held. There again
they were attacked by the prisoners who were told by warders that the Thais
had assaulted the Burmese prisoners at the other two buildings.

Moe Aye said the inmates were provided with stick and batons with which to
beat the Thais "to avenge" for what they had done to the Burmese prisoners
in the Special Jail.

In the meantime, the Burmese were undergoing similar punishment after being
accused of trying to instigate a prison riot on an "auspicious" day such as
July 7. This was carried out by warders who had been "recruited" from other
prisons and police stations since the "home" warders were reluctant to do so
because they had become acquainted with the prisoners after years of

Among the warders from outside were some students who had taken up the job
because they could not find other forms of employment elsewhere. "They were
unaware, until the following day, that they had been ordered to beat up
political prisoners. But by then it was too late," said Moe Aye. After that
day all privileges were revoked for one month for both the Burmese and Thai
inmates and the latter were never returned to the special prison.

Today, Moe Aye estimates, there are about 100 Thai prisoners in Insein with
many more languishing in Moulmein, Akyab and Mergui prisons. Who knows what
fate awaits these inmates before they can return to Thailand and once again
enjoy the comforts of home and family life.