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Bangkok Post News (3-2-99)

European Union appears to soften stance on Burma Ways of relaxing travel
ban sought

The EU has acknowledged Burma's readiness to discuss all issues and is
actively preparing for a ministerial meeting with Asean in Germany,
Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan said yesterday.

As part of the preparations, the EU is seeking ways of relaxing a travel
ban on Burmese government ministers, he added.

The minister's disclosure indicated a change in the position of the EU in
response to Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung's stated readiness to
discuss "any matter" with the European side. Only a few days ago, the EU
stood by its travel ban against Burmese leaders that has been in effect
since 1996. 

Mr Win Aung's letter arrived in Bangkok after Germany let it be known
that Burma might be admitted to the meeting if it were willing to discuss
human rights.

Indicating some confidence in the turn of events, Mr Surin said the
Asean-EU ministerial meeting "might be" the first between the two
groupings since Asean admitted Burma and Laos in July 1997.

Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Kitti Wasinondh said Mr Win Aung's
letter showed Burma's good faith towards cooperation with Asean, and its
wish for progress in Asean-EU cooperation.

Mr Kitti emphasised that Burma was not yielding to pressure from Europe,
and expressed regret over an interpretation to this effect.



Water could be diverted from Salween, Moei rivers Plan condemned by
grassroots bodies 


The cabinet yesterday approved a request by the Science, Technology and
Environment Ministry to study the feasibility of diverting water from the
Salween and Moei rivers along the Thai-Burmese border to Bhumibhol Dam.

Suvit Khunkitti, the minister, said yesterday that the Energy Development
and Promotion Department has conducted a preliminary study of the
project, the result of which would be used in the feasibility study.
Afterwards, an environmental impact assessment study would be carried out
and a public hearing organised.

The entire process is expected to take 36 months.

The cabinet's action immediately drew condemnation from some 30
environmental and grassroots organisations.

In a communique, the groups blamed the mismanagement of water resource in
the Chao Phraya river basin, particularly the management of Bhumibhol and

Sirikit dams by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand 

They accused the government of never attempting to study the root cause
of water shortage or to find alternatives in solving the problem besides
building large dams and initiating water diversion projects.

The project, if realised, would destroy the Salween river basin, one of
the most fertile and biologically diverse basins in the world. It would
also lead to violations of human rights and various social problems, they
said, claiming that more than 10 million people of 13 tribes depend on
natural resources along the basin to sustain their livelihood and

The groups accused "Japanese investor groups" of pushing the project,
which would require an investment as high as 1,000 billion baht.

The cabinet yesterday also acknowledged a report from a House ad hoc
committee endorsing the construction of the controversial Kaeng Sua Ten
Dam in Phrae.

It ordered Egat, and the ministries of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the
Interior, Science, Technology and Environment to study the report and
consider further action.