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Bangkok post and The Nation (17/5/9
- Subject: Bangkok post and The Nation (17/5/9
- From: mandalay@xxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 16 May 1998 19:27:00
1:) UN backs THai approach to dealing with Burmese refugees
2:) THai forces in skirmish with Burmese bandits in Mae Sot
3:) Efforts to curb opium win backing from UN
UN backs Thai approach to dealing with Burmese refugees
Officials look for new campsites for 16,000
The UNHCR has agreed with Thai authorities' views on reopening the
Thai-Burmese border, relocation of refugee camps and efforts to ensure
their safe return to their homeland in the future, according to Surapong
posayanond, director- general of the International Organization Department.
Thai officials from the Interior and foreign Ministries, the National
Security Council and the army had their first formal consultation with
representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Friday
after the Thai government endorsed the UNHCR's involvement in refugee
affairs and reordering of the border last month, said Mr. Surapong.
Thailand has sheltered refugees from Burma since the 1980s. The number of
refugees and displaced people from its western neighbor now stands between
While the governor of the border province of Tak and the Interior Ministry
were looking for alternative sites for about 16,000 refugees at Huay Kalok
and Mawker, the UNHCR and other Thai authorities concerned would work to
determine if they were genuine refugees or economic immigrants, said Mr.
Those who are not classified displaced persons and those who do not want
to move to the new sites will have to return to their homeland once the
relocation programmed starts, according to a Foreign Ministry official.
"We are providing them temporary but safe shelter, so if they do not
cooperate, it's their own choice to cross back," said the official.
But the official added it was not easy finding a new site for the refugees
since local people's reactions and the forestry conservation status of the
areas eyed for the purpose had to be taken into consideration.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR is preparing an action plan, which will include its
theme of assistance to the Thai government in giving asylum to the refugees
and displaced people and in implementing such matters as voluntary
repatriation, according to UNHCR regional representative Amelia bonifacio.
She was confident the international community would respond positively the
Thai government's request for funding for the action plan since at least
two foreign governments had already done so.
The UNHCR, said Ms. Bonifacio, had the responsibility to check various
inputs for the safe return and reintegration of the refugees since most of
them had left their homeland for five t 10 years.
Talks between the UNHCR officer in Rangoon and Burmese officials on the
matters had been quite positive, she said. " We'll get there (all the
necessary conditions) one day, as it is the durable solution to the
problem," said Ms. Bonifacio, who is also director of the UN Border Relief
Thai forces in skirmish with Burmese bandits in Mae Sot
The military and border patrol police clashed with a group of Burmese
bandits Friday in Mae Sot district but no injuries were reported.
The bandits armed with AK-47 rifles crossed the border from Maywaddy and
tried to rob SunaniWongkam, 36, and his friends at a pier on the Moei River.
Mr. Sunan told police he had persuaded the bandit's t release him by lying
to them that he would return home to get them his valuables.
He then reported the crime to the authorities that upon a confrontation
with bandits briefly exchanged gunfire prompting the latter to retreat.
Mr. Sunan said he suspected the bandits were Myawaddy border
security-protection volunteers who are allowed to carry firearms.
They resorted to robbing because they cannot collect freight fees on which
they live due to the temporary suspension of border trade.
Ethnic Chinese return in more promising times
Developing business in tourism, clothes and footwear
Halpin Ho's family was driven out of Burma in 1964 with little more than
The Hos were forced to leave behind a thriving business in mining, gold
trading and timber that had just been nationalized. Thousands of ethnic
Chinese like the Hos, a far-flung clan with Cantonese origins, shared a
The military dictatorship that took their business let what had been one
of Asia's most promising economy rots in socialism and isolation. But the
more capitalist-mined generals now in power are inviting the Chinese back
to do business and rebuild the country.
Halpin was nine when dictator Ne Win whipped up popular resentment against
Chinese and Indians who traditionally dominated commerce.
My father didn't even have a watch when he left," Halpin recalls.
But in the past few years, business clans like the Hos who rebuilt their
wealth in more welcoming places have again stretched their interests into
Some also hope that they can quietly influence some kind of settlement to
the deadlock between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the
democracy movement _ if only because it is good for business.
The promise of a better economy may be the only one that the government_,
which has shrugged off condemnation and sanctions for human rights abuses
development as vital to stability_, will listen to.
"Unless it's profitable no one will come here," Mr. Ho said. "We want this
country to progress, but the approach has to be different It has to look
good and save face for both sides".
"The only way things are going to get better in Burma is for so much money
to come in via overseas Chinese and other investors is that the Burmese
army just becomes greedy and less psychotic," said Sterling Seagrave,
author of lords of The Rim, a study of ethnic Chinese business empires in
Southeast Asia. " Plain greed can be dealt with; we can understand
corruption," Mr. Seagrave said.
Separately from business barons like the Hos, small and mid-level traders
have poured from China into northern Burma.
Halpin Ho is in charge of the Ho Group's Burma interests, centered on
hotels and property.
Business-wise, times were better in the early 1990s, when there were
nearly no hotels and a clean room in a guest house_ no phone, no satellite
_ fetched $100 (4,000 baht) a night.
Since, the Ho Group has sunk $20 million (800 million baht) into the
teak-trimmed kandawggyi Hotel, which has all the modern comforts but, like
several other top-line hotels built in the past few years, only a 20
percent to 40 percent occupancy rate.
This is largely because a forecast tourism and business boom failed to
One Chinese family with a story of persecution similar to the Hos scouted
out Burma two years ago for a garment factory. In the end, they walked
away. They make clothes for US labels and did not want to lose clients to
Still, Chinese-owned garment firms, the building blocks of industrializing
Asia, are moving in around Rangoon, where shantytowns of peasant migrants
supply cheap workers.
At one shoe factory, the $40 million (1.6 billion baht) start-up costs
came from an Indonesian company funneling funds from Taiwan. The owners are
ethnic Chinese from Burma. Shoes are exported to Japan, Germany and Italy_
Efforts to curb opium win backing from UN
Rangoon- The chief of the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) has
urged support for Burma's efforts to stop opium cultivation.
Pino Arlacchi, the UNDCP's executive director, told a brief news
conference on Friday concluding a five-day visit to Burma that the military
government's opium-eradication porgrammes held out the hope of success.
In particular Arlacchi singled out crop substitution and alternative
development in remote region inhabited by the Wa, one of the country's many
ethnic groups and a top producer of opium and its derivative heroin.
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