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BurmaNet News: May 15, 2001
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
May 11, 2001 Issue # 1805
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
NOTED IN PASSING: (1) ?...This could mean war.?
Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong on Burma?s threat to force Thailand to
vacate posts along their disputed border.
See Bangkok Post: Burma warns Thai troops off Doi Lang
(2) "This is a place for masochists."
A foreign investor on doing business in Burma. See *Asia Times:
Whispers of Change (1-3 of a three part series)
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Asia Times: Whispers of Change (1-3 of a three part series)
*AFP: Myanmar court sets date for ruling on Suu Kyi eviction suit
*Burma Courier: Development Bank Pressed to Resume Lending to Junta
*Courier News Service: Ivanhoe Pushes Ahead with Gold Exploration
*Bangkok Post: Burma warns Thai troops off Doi Lang
*Burma Courier: Shan State Army Blamed for Explosion in Mandalay
*AP: Fresh border dispute puts Thai prime minister's Myanmar trip on
*AFP: Thailand and Myanmar exchange protest notes
*Thai Rath: Let's talk about Burma
*The 5th Annual Asian Human Rights Training and Study Session
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
AFP: Myanmar court sets date for ruling on Suu Kyi eviction suit
YANGON, May 15 (AFP) - A Myanmar court said Monday it would announce its
ruling at the end of May on a suit filed by democracy leader Aung San
Suu Kyi's brother to evict her from her home in Yangon.
Aung San Oo is making his second bid to evict his Nobel peace prize
laureate sister from her lakeside residence, where she has been confined
by the ruling generals since September, after a first attempt was
dismissed on a technicality in January.
Judge Soe Thein set a date of May 30 for his verdict at a hearing
Monday in which lawyers for Aung San Suu Kyi's brother presented their
Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers last month argued Aung San Oo had no right
to apply for his sister to be evicted because, as a foreigner living in
the US, he has no right to own property in Myanmar.
They also said his application for partition was filed after the
statute of limitations expired in the case, coming more than 12 years
after the death of their mother who formerly owned the house.
If he wins the case, Aung San Oo is expected to turn his share of the
house over to the government, a result which would put Aung San Suu Kyi
in an extremely precarious position.
Ironically, the legal action has been lodged at a time when relations
between Myanmar's junta and the opposition leader are believed to be at
their highest point in years.
The two sides have engaged in a series of high-level contacts that may
be preparing the ground for the launch of a landmark official dialogue
-- their first since 1994.
Aung San Oo has never played a political role in Myanmar but makes
regular low-key personal and business trips here. While not overtly
political, he is far less critical of the junta than his sister and the
two are not close.
The legal action is believed to be driven by Aung San Oo's wife,
motivated more by a family rift than by political concerns.
Nevertheless, there are fears that if the suit is successful it could
derail the tentative dialogue which has entered an extremely delicate
Asia Times: Whispers of Change (1-3 of a three part series)
- May 10. 2001.
Part 1: Yangon rumor mill turns quietly
By Lucy Murray
YANGON - Something may be stirring in Yangon, Myanmar's crumbling
capital. Since last October, the ruling military junta has been meeting
in secret with Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the beleaguered National
League for Democracy (NLD). Myanmar watchers were taken by surprise when
Razali Ismail, UN special envoy to Myanmar, announced news of the talks
earlier this year. Frustratingly, since Ismail's announcement, there has
been no further news.
For years there had been little contact between the junta, known as the
State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), and the NLD. The NLD won the
last election, held in 1990, but the generals refused to implement the
result, instead stepping up efforts to wipe out the party.
Ismail stressed that neither side planned to comment on the talks,
describing them only as a confidence-building measure. The generals -
who rarely talk to the press - are keeping quiet. As for Suu Kyi, she
was placed under house arrest once again last year and even senior
diplomats and party members are unable to visit. As a result, no one
really knows what she and the junta's representative, the powerful
General Khin Nyunt, are discussing behind closed doors. A visiting EU
delegation able to meet Suu Kyi in January confirmed that talks had
taken place, but could not shed any light on their content.
Yet despite the news blackout, many in Yangon are optimistic. There have
been some small signs of improvement - the state press has stopped its
vilification of Aung San Suu Kyi, and some 85 NLD members were released
from detention earlier in the year. Talk in Yangon is that further
changes are imminent. One businessman who meets regularly with both
sides believes the junta could announce a change in government as early
as this month. Others expect to hear something by the end of the year.
No one is expecting miracles. The most common scenario being discussed
is that the junta will announce a new government lineup, but will leave
extreme hardliner General Maung Aye, currently vice chairman of the
SPDC, in control of the army. The junta has tried this move before. It
attempted to rebrand itself in late 1997, changing its name to SPDC from
the more sinister-sounding State Law and Order Restoration Council, and
reshuffling some government posts. Critics dismissed those changes as
meaningless, since power remained firmly in the hands of the same top
generals. This time there is talk that the NLD may be allotted some
junior posts in the new lineup, perhaps to be followed by ministerial
posts within a year or so.
Allowing the NLD even a small role in government would be a radical
departure. However, in itself it would do little to weaken the junta's
grip. Pessimists fear that the talks with Suu Kyi are simply a sideshow
designed to reduce international pressure without bringing meaningful
change. General Khin Nyunt has already stated that the country will not
follow a Western democratic model. Rather, the junta has hinted that it
plans to move slowly toward a fresh election, one designed to ensure
continued military control. A junta-appointed committee is working on a
new constitution that will reserve around one-third of all parliamentary
seats for the armed forces.
The junta is also building up a variety of pro-military parties. Its
mass membership organization, the Union Solidarity Development
Association (USDA), now has some 12 million members, or about 35 percent
of the adult population. Sources also confirm that the junta is trying
to rejuvenate the National Unity Party, the pro-military vehicle that
lost so badly in 1990.
NLD members fear they would be at a real disadvantage in any future
poll. Many members have been detained and most party offices forced to
close. Yet even critics believe that support for the NLD - and
especially for its charismatic leader - remains strong, perhaps strong
enough to deliver another election win. According to one foreign
resident, "people in the countryside don't know the NLD's policies - but
they will vote for Aung San Suu Kyi". Win Gyaw, an urbane Burmese
businessman, agrees: "Support for the USDA is a mirage - it will
evaporate at the polls."
Given that risk, skeptics query why the junta - which has resisted
international pressure for years - should have had a change of heart.
Some suggest that deepening economic problems may have helped push them
to the negotiating table. The currency is plunging and a power crisis
has left much of the country without electricity. Diplomats also suggest
that the threat of intensified sanctions by members of the International
Labor Organization, which censured Myanmar for labor abuses in late
2000, may have shocked the junta into action.
Some also think that the elderly and ailing General Than Shwe, prime
minister and chairman of the SPDC, wants the talks to succeed - if only
because he hopes to secure a peaceful retirement, free from the threat
of mass uprisings and war crimes tribunals. His shrewd ally, General
Khin Nyunt, may hope that by leading the talks, he can secure a place
for himself in any new political order that eventually emerges.
Yet many among the military remain strongly opposed to even modest
political change. General Maung Aye, according to one contact who knows
him well, "still believes we can withstand sanctions by closing the door
to imports and growing our own rice. He does not understand that times
have changed." The powerful regional military commanders, also members
of the SPDC, may also oppose reform, fearing that any change would
weaken their control over lucrative regional fiefdoms.
Diplomats believe General Khin Nyunt would not have risked starting
talks with Suu Kyi without General Maung Aye's consent. Yet the
divisions within the junta remain real and deep. Indeed, the two sides
cannot even agree on a successor to Secretary-2, General Tin Oo, who was
killed in a helicopter crash in mid-February. Rather than add to the
tensions, the post may simply be left empty.
The talks could also divide the NLD. Critically, party leaders will have
to decide whether to give up their demand for the 1990 election result
to be implemented. NLD members in exile are asking whether Aung San Suu
Kyi may be preparing to relax her stance on this issue. If she does, she
risks alienating some within the party. If she does not, the talks are
likely to stall.
For now, friends in Yangon remain cautious. Discussing politics by
candlelight - the electricity off again - one says: "We've gone down
this road before - never so far, but the talks could still stop at any
moment." Most hope that no news is good news. But with both sides
determined to keep quiet, Yangon remains in the dark.
Some names have been changed or withheld.
WHISPERS OF CHANGE
Part 2: Juggling the numbers
By Lucy Murray
YANGON - A stroll round Myanmar's capital reveals stalls piled high with
everything from fancy sunglasses to new TVs, the streets jammed with
imported Japanese cars. Yet despite this veneer of prosperity, all is
not well. Yangon is ringed by half-built condos, the detritus of a
property boom that went sour in the late 1990s, leaving the banks
burdened with nonperforming loans. Even basic social services have
broken down after years of stagnant investment. Venture out of the city,
and most people are struggling to survive on the equivalent of US$170 a
year. That makes Myanmar one of the lowest-income countries in the
It is hard to tell just how deep the economic problems run. As much as
half of all economic activity - including the huge narcotics trade - is
not captured in the figures. To make matters worse, the ruling junta,
known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), stopped
publishing key economic data two years ago. The SPDC claims Myanmar's
GDP rose by 10.9 percent in real terms in 1999-2000 (the financial year
ending in April), predicting a similar growth rate for 2000-01. Few
believe those figures. Private sector economists in Yangon estimate the
economy may be growing at perhaps half the rate claimed by the junta -
Slumping rice prices have hit farmers hard. Good rains and a modest
increase in the area of cultivated land saw a two-year streak of good
harvests. But the resulting large surplus - combined with weak world
rice prices - brought down domestic prices. In 2000 the local market
price of rice dropped, for the first time, below the price paid by the
junta, which forces farmers to sell a portion of their harvest to the
According to one agricultural specialist, this year's harvests could be
disappointing, as many farmers cannot afford to buy key inputs such
fertilizer and the diesel needed to run irrigation pumps. The generals
will be watching closely. A jump in rice prices means a sharp rise in
inflation - and that could spell unrest in the cities. Inflation is
already painfully high. The junta claims inflation eased to around 4
percent year on year in 2000, down from 51.5 percent in 1998 and 18.4
percent in 1999. Yet private sector economists estimate inflation is
still running at 20-30 percent year on year.
The shortage of foreign exchange is another big problem. Officials
estimate the country has around $270 million in foreign exchange
reserves. However, one former central bank official states "the real
figure could be half that - there's enough to pay for only a few weeks
One reason is Myanmar's reliance on expensive imported oil products.
Four of the six turbines at the Lawpita power plant, the country's main
source of electricity, are reported to have failed. Unable to afford
repairs, the junta is now importing diesel at a rate of $30 million-$50
million a month in order to keep the nation's generators running. Japan
has offered to fund repairs at Lawpita - in exchange for political
reforms. Skeptics suggest the SPDC's surprising decision to begin secret
talks last year with Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National
League for Democracy (NLD), is merely a cynical attempt to get the aid
dollars flowing once again.
There is little scope to boost foreign exchange reserves. Myanmar's main
donors imposed an aid freeze in the late 1980s in protest at the
military takeover. The expected export bonanza from the massive Yetagun
and Yadana gas fields has not yet materialized. Tourist arrivals have
sagged. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows - another potential
source of foreign exchange - are drying up. According to the Central
Statistical Organization, FDI approvals, an indicator of future foreign
investment inflows, totalled a mere $56 million in 1999-2000, down from
a peak of $2.8 billion in 1996-97.
Foreign investors are put off by the threat of consumer boycotts,
sanctions, and the difficult business climate in Myanmar. One foreign
investor who has been in Myanmar for several years sighs, "This is a
place for masochists." Winning approval for a project can be painful -
and that is just the start. Imports are rationed, and restrictions on
access to foreign exchange mean that firms without hard currency
revenues must turn their kyat profits into dollars by finding domestic
products to export. It's a tedious process, and not one likely to
encourage more investors to set up shop.
The resulting foreign exchange shortage has kept Myanmar's currency
under pressure. The kyat dipped as low as Kt577:US$1 in mid-April - down
from around Kt360:US$1 for the same period a year ago. Alarmed, the
junta reportedly set a target exchange rate of Kt250:US$1, but its
efforts to stem the fall backfired badly. In a bid to drive up the
exchange rate, the junta began buying up Foreign Exchange Certificates
(FECs), a unit introduced at parity with the dollar in 1993 and now
widely held by locals who are restricted from opening dollar accounts.
That buying spree simply caused fears that the FEC would be removed from
circulation, causing people to switch their savings into gold, adding to
the pressure on the kyat.
The junta is unlikely to risk scrapping the FEC - the removal from
circulation of a series of kyat notes in 1987, wiping out people's
savings overnight, was a catalyst for the 1988-89 pro-democracy
uprising. Sources estimate that the junta has printed some $400
million-$480 million in FECs - perhaps twice the size of the country's
entire foreign exchange reserves. With the FEC no longer fully backed by
dollars, any attempt to remove it from circulation would mean heavy
losses for those holding FEC accounts.
The junta is neither willing nor able to set things right. Among the
business community - both Myanmese and foreign - there is agreement that
economic policy-making has become increasingly ad hoc over the last two
years, under the influence of General Maung Aye, the most hardline of
the generals. Restrictions on imports and foreign exchange have been
tightened, private banks have lost the right to handle foreign exchange
business, the private sector has been banned from exporting many key
commodities - the list goes on. Says one foreign consultant, "this place
used to be better than Vietnam - laws were published, you knew where you
were. That's all changed." Another local businessman snorts derisively
when asked about the junta's economic management: "What economic
Commentators suggest that some members of the junta, particularly
Secretary-1 General Khin Nyunt, are starting to realize that a sustained
upturn in the economy will not be possible unless international
sanctions on aid and investment are relaxed. Yet even a flood of
international assistance would not be enough to make up for years of
economic mismanagement. The NLD - along with the World Bank and IMF -
have long argued that what the country needs is a large dose of economic
reform. Without it, the outlook it not good. An unpublished IMF report
predicts that unless economic reforms are started soon, Myanmar's GDP
growth will slow to around 4 percent over the next few years. Just don't
expect the junta to publish these figures.
(Some names have been withheld.)
Asia Times - May 12, 2001.
WHISPERS OF CHANGE
Part 3: Life on the borderline
By Lucy Murray
MYANMAR and THAILAND - The outside world is holding its breath, hoping
for some positive news from the current talks between Myanmar's ruling
military junta and Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for
Democracy (NLD). But there is little optimism among members of Myanmar's
many ethnic minorities that the secret talks happening in far away
Yangon will deliver change for the better.
It is not hard to see why. Members of Myanmar's ethnic minorities -
including the Karen, Karenni and Shan - have been engaged in a more or
less constant struggle for greater autonomy since Myanmar's independence
from the British in 1948. Myanmar's ruling junta, known as the State
Peace and Development Council (SPDC), has been brutal in its opposition
and atrocities are commonplace.
During a visit to some Karen friends in Yangon, Saw Mathew, a father,
checks that no one is looking and then pulls out a packet of photos.
Expecting to see some family snaps, I turn them over. Facing me is the
bloated and bloodied face of a dead man - two bullet holes clearly
visible in his neck. "My wife's nephew," Saw Mathew informs me. "He was
a farmer in [village name withheld] Tenassarim Division. He was out
looking for a lost calf when he came across some SPDC soldiers. As he
walked past them, they shot him." Why? "They said he was a Karen
guerrilla - he wasn't. You can see he is not in uniform. But the
soldiers are too afraid to go into the jungle to look for the real
guerrillas. He left a wife and two small children." Saw Mathew sighs.
"We are like game for them to hunt in the jungle."
In a bid to reduce support from ethnic villagers for the guerrilla
armies, the junta has a policy of forcing entire settlements to move to
"relocation camps", leaving their crops and possessions behind them.
Poorly paid and ill-disciplined SPDC soldiers simply steal what they
need from already impoverished villagers. There are frequent allegations
of rape and torture used against people suspected of having any contact
with ethnic troops.
The results of this brutality can be seen in Thailand, where some
120,000 refugees and an unknown number of illegal migrants have taken
shelter. Sitting in a small bamboo house in one of the three Karenni
refugee camps - home to more than 19,000 people - Saw Wah, a solemn boy
of 10 years old, tells me his story. "The SPDC troops came to our house.
They said my father was a Karenni guerrilla, and shot him. Then they
killed my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, and my two baby
brothers." Altogether nine people - four generations from one family -
were killed. When the attack happened, Saw Wah was four years old. These
brutal policies have only served to deepen mistrust and resentment,
ensuring that the cycle of violence continues.
Complex constitutional issues are also at stake. Myanmar's constitution
has been suspended since 1988 - a secretive committee appointed by the
junta is working on a new one, but progress is glacial. No one knows
what provisions it contains for the ethnic states, whose demands range
from greater autonomy to full independence.
To take just one example, one of the less well-known groups, the
Karenni, claim that their small, mountainous state in eastern Myanmar
was illegally absorbed into the Union of Myanmar. Documents prove that
the major part of Karenni territory was recognized as independent by
both the Myanmese and the British colonial government in 1875. However,
in 1947, Karenni State was incorporated into the newly formed Union of
Myanmar. Karenni leaders resisted, and Myanmese troops marched in the
following year. They have never left.
The Karenni Army (KA) is grimly determined to go on resisting what they
describe as the Myanmese occupation. It is an almost impossible task.
After a brief ceasefire with the SPDC broke down in 1995, SPDC troops
poured in in even greater numbers. There are now an estimated 30 SPDC
battalions active in Karenni State, each with 150-300 soldiers - between
4,500 and 9,000 troops in total. By contrast, the KA numbers some 1,500
troops, according to Oo Reh, the Joint Secretary of the Karenni National
Progressive Party (KNPP), in exile in Thailand.
The KA has suffered heavy losses in recent years, and now controls only
around 25 percent of the state, leaving most large settlements -
including Loikaw, the capital - in the hands of the SPDC. Although
poorly paid, the SPDC troops have access to weapons, ammunition and
training. Unrecognized by the international community, the KNPP must
raise what money it can for its modest army by taxing the border trade
that flows through its territory.
There is little confidence that the talks in Yangon will improve
anything. Says Oo Reh, "I've heard about the talks, but we haven't seen
any change in policy. We don't even know what they are talking about -
it could be the future of Myanmar, it could just be a
confidence-building measure. Or it could just be the SPDC's attempt to
reduce international pressure."
Even if the talks result in the NLD assuming a greater role in
government, opponents claim the party would be no more successful than
the SPDC in dealing with the ethnic groups. That is probably not true.
For one thing, ethnic parties could expect to perform reasonably well in
any future democratic election, improving their representation within
the Union of Myanmar government. The Shan, for example, won 23 of 485
seats at the last election, held in 1990, although the junta never
implemented the results.
However, it is not clear what stance the NLD would take on ethnic
demands for greater autonomy or even secession. That worries Oo Reh of
the KNPP: "I believe Aung San Suu Kyi would be sympathetic - but if she
isn't around to lead negotiations, them I'm not so confident. Several of
the senior members of the NLD have military backgrounds. They might not
be prepared to let ethnic states go."
Back inside Myanmar, Saw Mathew echoes those fears. "The fight between
Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta is a fight between brother and sister -
at the end of the day, they are both Myanmese." Until relations with
ethnic states improve, the outlook for peace in Myanmar remains bleak.
(Some names have been changed.)
Burma Courier: Development Bank Pressed to Resume Lending to Junta
Based on Dow Jones and AFP reports: May 11, 2001
HONOLULU -- Myanmar has urged the Asian Development Bank to resume
financial assistance to the impoverished Southeast Asian nation, which
has had its ADB borrowing rights suspended since the mid 1980s.
Myanmar has been struggling with limited resources to develop its
economy and needs ADB loans to take care of "basic human needs," Finance
and Revenue Minister Khin Maung Thein told the bank's board of governors
at its annual meeting here.
Khin Maung Thein said the Myanmar government "has been striving for
all-around development in political, economic and social fields to pave
the way for the emergence of a peaceful, tranquil and a new modern
developed nation." Myanmar had a right to receive financial assistance
like other members, he said. He called on the ADB to have "an
optimistic view on the country's development" and "to provide necessary
financial assistance for environmental and basic human needs supported
projects, without political influence".
But an ADB spokesman commented that the bank's board of directors were
of the view that "conditions are not yet appropriate" to resume lending
to Myanmar. He said the bank continues to monitor developments in the
country. The bank warned in a recent report that unless Myanmar
undertakes comprehensive and consistent structural reforms, and
mobilizes additional domestic and external resources, economic growth
there will remain sluggish.
The country's foreign exchange market also remains highly distorted, the
bank said, with a parallel market rate of 460 kyat to the dollar
compared to an official rate of MMK6 to the dollar.
The 59-nation ADB concluded its annual meeting Friday with many of the
members acknowledging that the painful, free-market reforms they imposed
during a 1997-98 financial crisis have spurred a recovery that now makes
Asia the world's fastest growing region. "Asia is coming under renewed
stress,'' said Singapore's minister, Lim Hng Kiang, but it is better
positioned than in the past to absorb and ride out the shocks.''The
Manila-based bank, Asia's premiere multilateral lending institution,
lent 5.85 billion dollars to 22 member-countries last year. The United
States, Canada and 14 European nations have a combined 36.3 percent
stake in the bank.
Courier News Service: Ivanhoe Pushes Ahead with Gold Exploration Project
Courier News Service: May 10, 2001
SINGAPORE - Ivanhoe Mines says that "very high grade gold assays" have
been recorded in samples taken on its Moditaung project southeast of
Mandalay in central Burma.
Since the gold discovery was first made on the south end of its Block 10
concession late last year, the company has explored the project area
with trenches and adits to determine the size and quality of the
deposit. According to a company release posted on its website on May 10,
"very high grade gold samples . have been recorded in the trenches, as
well as multi-ounce gold values in the adits."
The project area is approximately three kilometres long and 1.5
kilometres wide with the main quartz veins in which the gold has been
discovered being "remarkably and unusually consistent", the release
says. Ivanhoe says it will continue with underground development work
on the project from late-May through mid-September and will commence
diamond drilling for further samples when the monsoon season ends.
The company has avoided pinpointing the exact location of its gold find,
but it is believed to be in the eastern sector of Pyawbwe township
southeast of the regional centre of Meiktila.
The Moditaung exploration program is a joint-venture project between the
Ministry of Mines of Burma's military government and Ivanhoe Myanmar
Exploration, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ivanhoe Mines. Ivanhoe Mines
has an 83% stake in the project.
The company's major investment in Burma is a joint venture copper mine
in which it is also in partnership with the military government near
Monywa in Upper Burma. The partners are currently seeking international
financing for a US$ 400 million dollar expansion of the copper mine.
Bangkok Post: Burma warns Thai troops off Doi Lang
April 15 2001
Third Army chief: This could mean war
Subin Khuenkaew, Wassana Nanuam and Cheewin Sattha
The Rangoon military junta has demanded in a protest note that Thai
troops be withdrawn from the rugged terrain of Doi Lang in Chiang Rai's
Mae Ai district, or they would be forced out by Burmese forces.
The protest, sent to the army, insisted Doi Lang was "deep inside
Army chief Gen Surayud Chulanont immediately dismissed the Burmese
He insisted the area was Thai territory and said the army would defend
it if provoked.
Burma made the threat in a letter sent on Sunday by Burmese Township
Border Committee chairman Lt-Col Aye Soe, to his border counterpart Col
Akaradet Songworawit, the Third Cavalry Regiment commander in charge of
security at several border towns in Chiang Rai.
The Burmese protest note surprised leading army officers, including
Third Army commander Lt-Gen Wattanachai Chaimuenwong.
He warned yesterday that the border situation could become explosive if
Burma was adamant about using force to dislodge Thai troops deployed in
the disputed terrain.
"If Burma insists that Doi Lang belongs to them and uses force to push
our troops back, then this could mean war," he said.
"How can they make such a claim?"
He insisted the disputed terrain was Thai territory.
Lt-Gen Wattanachai said the Third Army would not withdraw its forces
from the area unless a clear borderline was settled by the Joint Border
Committee, which will soon meet to discuss the the boundary problems
between the two countries.
The Third Army chief said it was quite unusual for Burma to make such a
claim to the 32sqkm terrain straddling the border. It was as if Burma
wanted to pick a quarrel with Thailand.
"There should not be any doubt that we will strongly fight back if
provoked. We will have to defend Doi Lang unless the two countries reach
a settlement over the disputed area," he stressed.
During the last Regional Border Committee meeting in Keng Tung, Lt-Gen
Wattanachai, who headed the Thai delegation, suggested the disputed
territory be demilitarised to lessen tension.
However, Burmese Triangle Regional Border commander Maj-Gen Thein Sein
did not agree, and said the issue should be left to a higher level
border committee for further discussion.
Doi Lang was once a military base of former drug warlord Khun Sa, whose
Mong Tai Army was defeated by Red Wa soldiers from the United Wa State
Army. They seized Doi Lang from Khun Sa in 1981. Khun Sa, who
surrendered to the Burmese miltiary junta in 1996, later shifted his
military headquarters to Ho Mong, opposite Mae Hong Son's Muang
Burma consequently reinforced its troops stationed at Doi Lang, drawing
a strong protest from the Thai army, which had also deployed its troops
there. Several Thai military outposts there are located just a few
metres from Burmese military positions.
In Sunday's protest letter, Burma claimed that 26 Thai positions on Doi
Lang were encroaching on Burmese territory.
Burma Courier: Shan State Army Blamed for Explosion in Mandalay
Based on news received from AP, NLM and DVB: Updated to May 10, 2001
RANGOON -- Myanmar's military regime Wednesday accused ethnic Shan
resistance forces of carrying out a bombing last week that injured eight
people at the main market in Mandalay.
San Pwint, a senior military intelligence officer, said the Shan State
Army led by Col Yord Serk had planted the bomb in retaliation for
government attacks against Shan camps on the Thai-Myanmar border.
San Pwint's remarks were the first comments by Myanmar authorities about
last Friday's explosion at the market in the centre of Mandalay.
Initially, the explosion was not reported in state-controlled media
which usually play down negative news.
San Pwint, a member of the Office of Strategic Studies, a military
intelligence think tank, told a news conference that the government has
information about possible "terrorist acts" in the country by the Shan
guerrilla army. "Whenever, the Myanmar army launches offensives against
the SURA, the rebels often carried out such terrorist attacks within the
country as a diversion." SURA is the term used by Burma's military to
identify the Yord Serk's Shan State Army.
The OSS functionary cited a bomb explosion at a cinema in Mandalay two
years ago when Myanmar army launched an offensive against the Shans, as
a case in point. Press reports made no mention of the presentation of
evidence or witnesses at the media conference that would corroborate the
accusation that the Shan guerrillas were involved in the bomb
In his description of the blast, San Pwint said a suspicious package had
been found in the west wing of the four-story Zegyo market. People were
told to clear the premises but it detonated before the military arrived.
Falling glass caused the injuries, he said.
In Bangkok, a spokesperson for the Restoration Council of Shan State
(RCSS), the political wing of the Shan State Army, denied any connection
to the incident. Tern Serng, RCSS secretary-general, said the SSA had no
role in the bombing and had a policy against committing terrorist
In related news, DVB radio reported this week that it had learned that a
package containing bombs and fuses used by the Burma Army had been
confiscated at Shwetaungdan passenger vehicle terminus in Kalemyo, about
250 km northwest of Mandalay, on April 8.
The report said the explosive devices had been deposited at the terminal
the day before by an unidentified passenger. When no one came to redeem
the shipment before the vehicle departed, supervisor U Kyi Maung and
clerk U Than Tun notified a departmental investigation team. The
military investigators discovered that the parcel contained over one
hundred BA-91 training bombs, plus other assorted anti-tank and assault
bombs, plastic explosives, and almost 50 fuses.
Kalemyo residents remarked that there have been frequent seizures of
such goods, apparently belonging to armed services personnel attempting
to sell the stolen goods to supplement their low wages. The radio news
report said that cease-fire groups that have agreements with the
government also engage in the weapons black-market.
AP: Fresh border dispute puts Thai prime minister's Myanmar trip on
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ A fresh conflict along the disputed
Thailand-Myanmar border has put on hold a planned fence-mending visit by
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Myanmar, officials said Tuesday.
Relations between the two countries, already strained by eruptions of
border fighting, have reached a new low point with Myanmar demanding
Thai troops withdraw from 35 outposts which it claims are positioned on
``The army has reaffirmed that those 35 points are clearly on Thai
soil,'' Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai told reporters.
He suggested that the two countries should single out the problems and
have various border committees resolve them.
A special border committee, set up more than 10 years ago, has yet to
make progress on conflicting claims along the 2,400-kilometer
Thaksin earlier planned to visit Yangon, the Myanmar capital, in late
May or early June to improve strained relations but decided to postpone
the trip after the latest flare-up.
``The prime minister has a very tight program at home and will not be
able to travel to Myanmar this month,'' Surakiart said, declining to say
when he would visit Yangon.
AFP: Thailand and Myanmar exchange protest notes
BANGKOK, May 15 (AFP) - A new war of words was brewing between Thailand
and Myanmar Tuesday after Yangon demanded the Thai army withdraw from 35
outposts along the disputed border or face the use of force.
Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Myanmar's ambassador would
be summoned to the foreign ministry to receive a letter protesting the
intrusion of a Yangon-allied ethnic army on Thai soil.
"Although the intrusion was by an ethnic minority force, Thailand has
to assert its standpoint. We will protest and ask Myanmar to handle the
matter," he told reporters.
Surakiart meanwhile rejected Myanmar's strident letter threatening
force as an "old issue" relating to unclear border demarcation which
should be solved by a joint border committee.
"But we are confident all of these disputed areas are in our
territory," the foreign minister said.
He said Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra would convene a meeting
of all agencies handling Myanmar affairs before a state visit likely to
take place in June.
The latest dispute comes just a day after Defence Minister Chavalit
Yongchaiyudh said relations between Thailand and Myanmar were back on
track after Bangkok and Yangon accused each other of involvement in the
international drugs trade.
Accusations over illicit drugs and skirmishing among ethnic militias
along the rugged border earlier this year touched off a bitter row
between the countries, which are historical enemies.
In February, fighting between an ethnic Wa force with close ties to
Yangon and the rival Shan State Army, which reputedly has the backing of
the Thai military, prompted the first clash in years between the two
Since then, the uneasy neighbors have traded barbs over who is
responsible for heroin and methamphetamine factories that flourish along
the ill-defined mountainous border.
In the latest dispute, Myanmar's junta and United Wa State Army (USWA)
officials say a Thai F-16 fighter jet fired two rockets near the Myanmar
town of Mong Yawn last week, wounding several of their troops.
Thailand says the jet was flying surveillance and triggered a sonic
Thai Rath: Let's talk about Burma
[Translated from Thai and reprinted in the Bangkok Post May 15, 2001]
It is high time Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra organised a workshop
on Thai-Burmese relations. The two have been locked in a risky situation
these past three months following clashes between Thai soldiers and
armed members of the United Wa State Army, who are allied with Rangoon.
Thai officials have been trying to reach an understanding with Rangoon,
but different signals have been sent. While one arm of the government
wants to take a softer stand on Burma, another takes a hard-line
Many government units deal with Thai-Burmese relations, most under the
foreign and defence ministries.
The Thaksin government has shown a keen interest in improving relations.
Upon taking office, Mr Thaksin said his first foreign trip would be to
Rangoon. However, border flare-ups since have forced him to postpone the
Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai has visited Rangoon and claimed
to have made good progress in mending fences with the military
government. However, the official media issued strong statements against
Thailand while he was still in Rangoon.
Thailand is determined to repair the damage, but Rangoon seems in no
hurry. In fact, Rangoon may relish the fact that Thai policy-makers are
divided over how to deal with problems.
Mr Thaksin must formulate a unified policy on this matter. No confusing
signals. No bickering among officials. He has held successful workshops
on economic problems. Why not hold another on relations with Burma?
Editorial from Thai Rath
The 5th Annual Asian Human Rights Training and Study Session
The 5th Annual Asian Human Rights Training and Study Session
organized by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development
(FORUM-ASIA) and the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS),
Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University will take place
from October 7-27, 2001 at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok,
Thailand. The purpose is to provide a comprehensive human rights course
for activists in the region.
The session is open to applicants from the countries in Asia.
Persons working in the field of human rights, social justice,
development and peace are encourage to apply. The program strives to
achieve gender balance in the selection of the participants.
Total cost of the study session for 3 weeks exclude travel expense
is US$2,000.00. FORUM-ASIA provides limited number of full
scholarships, which includes the cost of the study session and travel
expenses. The remaining are expected to raise their own funds for
attending the study session. However, to those who are unable to raise
the full cost of the study session, Forum-Asia may be able to waive part
of the cost.
To get an application form, contact:
109 Suthisarnwinichai Road, Samsennok
Huaykang, Bangkok 10320 Thailand
Tel. (66 2) 276-9846 Ext. 7
Fax. (66 2) 693-4939
Web site: www.forumasia.org
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