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NEWS - Burma Pledges to Help Thais

Burma Pledges to Help Thais Repatriate Illegals


               BANGKOK, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Burma's
               military government on Tuesday pledged
               to help Thailand repatriate more than one
               million illegal Burmese workers,
               government officials said. 

               Thailand, wracked by an economic crisis,
               wants to repatriate Burmese who are
               working illegally as cheap labour. Once
               they leave, they can be replaced with Thai
               workers, the officials said. 

               The issue was brought up in talks
               between Burmese foreign minister Ohn
               Gyaw and Thai Prime Minister Chuan

               Ohn Gyaw, foreign minister under
               Burma's newly created State Peace and
               Development Council (SPDC), also came
               to pay a courtesy call on Chuan, who
               became premier last month. The Burmese
               official is in Thailand for the third
               Thai-Burma Joint Commission meeting. 

               ``He (Ohn Gyaw) brought best wishes
               from SPDC to Prime Minister Chuan and
               pledged full cooperation with Thailand in
               sorting out problems between Thailand
               and Myanmar (Burma) on a number of
               issues -- drugs, displaced persons and
               illegal workers plus economic
               cooperation,'' Thai Foreign Minister Surin
               Pitsuwan told reporters after the meeting. 

               Nearly 100,000 people have sought refuge
               in Thailand since 1984, when they crossed
               the border to flee fighting inside Burma. 

               Surin said Chuan would have similar
               discussions with SPDC chairman Than
               Shwe on the fringes of a forthcoming
               Association of South East Asian Nations
               (ASEAN) meeting in Kuala Lumpur. 

               In addition to the bilateral talks in the
               Malaysian capital, Thailand would act as
               ASEAN representative and try to play a
               mediating role between Burma and the
               European Union, Surin said. 

               ``I personally feel that this could be a
               beginning of some other changes, positive
               changes that could follow,'' he said. ``At
               least that's the feeling that ASEAN
               countries have ... the change in Myanmar
               (Burma) is going to lead to some more
               positive developments,'' Surin said when
               asked if the recent change in name of the
               Burmese government had brought about a
               change in policy. 

               Last month, Burma made a sudden
               announcement that the State Law and
               Order Restoration Council (SLORC),
               which had ruled the country with an iron
               fist since seizing power in 1988, was
               abolished and would be replaced with the

               Although many cabinet ministers were
               changed and the ruling military body was
               reshuffled, the top leaders remained the

               Ohn Gyaw, who was also foreign minister
               under SLORC, said there was ``continuity
               in change'' in the new government. 

               ``It's a continuity in change. Meaning that
               we do not change the principles but
               activity and diversity will be more
               increased,'' he said. 

                     Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.All rights