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NATION: Thailand backs US$1 bn qual

Subject: NATION: Thailand backs US$1 bn qualified offer to Burma 


      Thailand backs US$1 bn
      qualified offer to Burma

      DEPUTY Foreign Minister Sukhumbhand
      Paribatra on Monday commended the
      United Nations and World Bank for their
      offer of US$1 billion in humanitarian and
      technical assistance to Burma and urged
      that the initiative get global support. 

      Although Sukhumbhand said the junta and
      the opposition National League for
      Democracy (NLD) had been positive, UN
      sources said the former has cast doubts
      about the motives. A UN-World Bank team
      is expected to visit Burma soon. 

      The UN and the World Bank will provide $1
      billion to the ruling State Peace and
      Development Council (SPDC) provided it
      opens dialogue with NLD. The idea
      emerged from a small meeting held in
      October hosted by the British government. 

      Sukhumbhand was one of the participants,
      which included five Rangoon-based
      ambassadors from Australia, Japan, the
      Philippines, the United Kingdom and the
      United States. The ambassadors and the
      UN special envoy Alvaro de Soto conveyed
      the proposal to NLD leader Aung San Suu
      Kyi who voiced her support in exchange for
      the release of political prisoners, the
      freedom for her party to operate and for her
      to carry on as the party's secretary-general. 

      De Soto informed SPDC leader Gen Khin
      Nyunt of the initiative. ''Khin Nyunt was not
      keen. In return, he said the NLD was
      creating problems,'' said one source. The
      general did not comment, saying he had to
      consult with other leaders, the source

      Participating countries are aware of how
      sensitive the offer is and have agreed not to
      make the issue public, but it was disclosed
      last week on the front page of International
      Herald Tribune. 

      ''Non-governmental organisations and the
      private sector in different nations can
      contribute to the foundations of a modern
      Burma by helping to develop human
      resources in the country,'' he said. 

      Speaking at a press conference on
      Monday, Sukhumbhand said he had shared
      his views on the initiative with Asean
      think-tanks at a seminar on ''Engaging
      Burma in Asean'' in Manila on Sunday. ''The
      initiative will not bring about apocalyptic
      changes in Burma, nor will it break the
      political deadlock overnight,'' he said. 


      The Nation