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BurmaNet News: July 24, 2001
- Subject: BurmaNet News: July 24, 2001
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2001 12:49:00
______________ THE BURMANET NEWS ______________
An on-line newspaper covering Burma
July 24, 2001 Issue # 1850
______________ www.burmanet.org _______________
NOTED IN PASSING:
INSIDE BURMA _______
*Bangkok Post: Khin Nyunt in surprise visit to hold talksDemarcating
border, fishing on agenda
*Nation: Chavalit seeks end to junta's import ban
*Reuters: Labour union slams Russia-Myanmar nuclear deal
*AP: Australia to urge Myanmar to continue dialogue with Suu Kyi
*AFP: Australian FM detects signs of movement from Myanmar
*Xinhua: Thai-Myanmar Relations Back to Normal: Deputy PM
*Economic Times (India): Ties with Myanmar improve
*AP: Ministerial talks reopen between New Zealand, Myanmar
*AFP: Myanmar's military leader congratulates Megawati
*Bangkok Post: Flash floods hit Karen detention site
*Bangkok Post: Woman arrested for murdering procurer
*Bangkok Post: Burma and the learner
__________________ INSIDE BURMA ____________________
Bangkok Post: Khin Nyunt in surprise visit to hold talksDemarcating
border, fishing on agenda
Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, first secretary of Burma's State Peace and
Development Council, plans to visit Bangkok soon to help clear the air
between the two nations.
Burmese Prime Minister Than Shwe broke the news yesterday during Defence
Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's two-day visit to Rangoon.
Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt would raise border disputes, long-delayed border
demarcation and fishing concessions during his visit to Bangkok, which
is yet to be scheduled.
Gen Than Shwe blamed delays in the border demarcation on Thai-Burmese
border skirmishes. He said Rangoon was ready to open talks on the issue.
Only 50km of the 1,900km-long common border has been demarcated so far.
Col Pansak Chongsak Panichkul, the defence spokesman, said yesterday a
disputed area would be picked for demarcation to set a precedent.
Gen Chavalit expected the talks with Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt would prove most
fruitful in attempts to resolve Thai-Burmese conflicts, the spokesman
Gen Than Shwe denied that the Burmese government supported the United Wa
State Army's methamphetamine trade, and pledged to give full
co-operation in drug suppression.
However, he stopped short of saying whether or not Rangoon would help
stamp out illicit drug factories located in the Wa-controlled area.
Thai authorities blame the drug plants across the border for the influx
of methamphetamines into Thailand.
Gen Than Shwe, also defence minister, accused the Thai and foreign media
of stirring up tension between the two countries.
Referring to reports of Burma's plan to purchase MiG-29 fighters from
Russia, he said his government could not afford the aircraft no matter
He stressed that the Burmese government, like any other government, was
working towards the people's well-being, except that its approach to the
goal might be different.
Gen Chavalit assured his counterpart that Thailand's procurement of
advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (Amraams) from the US was not
aimed at putting pressure on Burma.
Gen Chavalit also sought the lifting of a ban on 17 products imposed
after border skirmishes between the two armed forces in the North.
After his meeting with key Burmese leaders, Gen Chavalit visited
Shwedagon pagoda and the Drugs Elimination Museum, which was opened on
June 21 with exhibitions showing Burma's determination to stamp out
drugs through destruction of opium fields.
A source said Burma also showed aerial photographs of the Wa's Mong Yawn
town, which Thai authorities believe is a major drug-producing centre.
Burma claimed large structures shown in the photos were reservoirs and
power plants, the source said.
Gen Chavalit's visit to Burma follows a trip to Rangoon by Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in June, which resulted in the reopening of
the Mae Sai-Tachilek border checkpoint.
Nation: Chavalit seeks end to junta's import ban
July 24, 2001
Burma says it is prepared to resume the fishing concession for Thailand
that was abruptly cancelled in 1999 following the Burmese Embassy
hostage crisis, Defence Minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said.
Chavalit arrived in Rangoon yesterday for a two-day visit aimed at
strengthening bilateral ties and securing a promise that Rangoon would
lift its ban on Thai imports.
Two years ago Burma unilaterally ended the fishing concession, and
Chavalit wants this decision rescinded, too.
Speaking after his meeting with General Than Schwe, chairman of the
ruling State Peace and Development Council, Chavalit said the matter had
been raised with Than and that Singapore could also now be included in
According to Chavalit, the Burmese leader defended Rangoon's recently
announced decision to purchase a squadron of 10 MiG29 jet fighters from
The Burmese leader said negotiations began two years ago and their
acquisition had nothing to do with the cross-border shelling in the
North earlier this year.
Before leaving for Rangoon, Chavalit dismissed suggestions that the
situation along the border was still tense despite the high number of
"They are just there to keep law and order," he said, in reference to
what appeared to be a standoff between Thai and Burmese troops in a
number of hot spots, including the de-militarised zone bordering Chiang
Thai-Burmese relations were severely strained earlier this year
following border clashes and a war of words. Trouble erupted after
fighting between Burmese government troops and Shan rebels spilled into
Thailand, drawing Thai troops into the picture.
Burma closed the border and posted a number of battalions on the front
line. The border crossing was opened earlier this month.
Reuters: Labour union slams Russia-Myanmar nuclear deal
BANGKOK, July 24 (Reuters) - An international labour union said on
Tuesday it was shocked by Russian plans to build a nuclear reactor for
Myanmar, possibly in return for produce it said was associated with
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) said it
had appealed to three affiliated unions in Russia, which represent some
35 million workers, to protest against the planned sale.
``We have been shocked to learn from the Russian ambassador in Rangoon
(Yangon), H.E. Gleb Ivashentsov, of the probable intention by Burma
(Myanmar) to pay for the nuclear reactor with a barter deal involving
timber, rice and fish,'' Bill Jordan, ICFTU general secretary said in a
``The production of these items has been repeatedly linked to forced
labour... Russia should immediately cancel the deal.''
The union said it had sent a written appeal to Russian President
Vladimir Putin on July 20 to scrap the deal.
The letter said the sale of the reactor, and a reported deal to sell 10
Mig 29 jet fighters to the military-run state, was a clear breach of an
International Labour Organisation resolution adopted last year.
The resolution adopted in June 2000 involved a pledge by member nations
to review their relations with Myanmar and cease any dealings which may
perpetuate the use of forced labour, the union said.
The Russian ambassador to Myanmar said last month that Yangon and
Moscow had reached an in-principle agreement to build a nuclear research
Ivashentsov said payment details had yet to be finalised, but that
Russia would be willing to accept produce such as fish, rice and timber.
Myanmar's military rulers have declined to comment.
AP: Australia to urge Myanmar to continue dialogue with Suu Kyi
July 24 2001
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) _ Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer,
said Tuesday he will urge the military government of Myanmar to continue
its talks with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
``We want to push, and continue to push, for that dialogue,'' Downer
told reporters when asked what he would say to Myanmar Foreign Minister
Win Aung when they meet this week.
Both are in Hanoi for annual meetings hosted by the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations.
While pushing for dialogue, Australia also welcomes the recent releases
of political prisoners in Myanmar, Downer said.
Suu Kyi did not appear at a public ceremony in Rangoon earlier this
month, further raising speculation that the talks with the government
were not going well.
Downer said his embassy in Rangoon reported that the speculation was
not correct. He did not elaborate.
Downer said that while he was not sure if Myanmar's government was
sincere in holding the talks, he has seen some movement on the issue in
the past year, whereas before he saw none.
AFP: Australian FM detects signs of movement from Myanmar
HANOI, July 24 (AFP) - Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said
Tuesday that he detected "signs of movement" from the military junta in
Yangon which did not exist 12 months ago.
He said he would use a meeting with Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung
here Friday following a regional security forum to press for further
"When I was at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
meeting last year in Bangkok and the previous year in Singapore, I
didn't have any sense of movement at all," Downer told a press
conference shortly after his arrival in Hanoi for the talks.
"This year I get a sense of movement. I don't want to overstate that
but there is a sign of some movement."
The Australian foreign minister cited the junta's release of a string
of political prisoners in recent months, although he acknowledged that
there were "still some left".
Downer said he would acknowledge the progress in his talks with the
Myanmar minister but would make clear that more was needed if Yangon was
to be reintegrated into the international community.
"We want to say something positive about the recent prisoner releases,
to say something about how our human rights dialogue is going with Burma
(Myanmar), but to say that there has to be constitutional reform, there
has to be political liberalisation."
Downer defended Australia's policy of engaging the military junta, in
contrast to the much tougher policies of Britain and the former US
administration of President Bill Clinton.
"We take the view that some sort of engagement with them is better than
none. We have been trying to explore ways we can engage without engaging
He said he would raise drugs control issues given that 80 percent of
the heroin on the streets of Australia was estimated to come from
Xinhua: Thai-Myanmar Relations Back to Normal: Deputy PM
BANGKOK, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Deputy Thai Prime Minister and Defense
Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said here Tuesday that bilateral
relations between Thailand and Myanmar have already returned to normal
after turbulent years. Speaking to Thai media after returning from his
visit to Myanmar between July 23 and 24, he declared that this trip had
" born good fruits, as bilateral ties have been enhanced and
strengthened to the normal level". Chavalit told state-owned MCOT radio
that he was warmly welcomed by Than Shwe, chairman of Myanmar's ruling
State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), who assured him that "the
Myanmar people and government are friends of the Thai people and
The Myanmar top leader also planned to send Khin Nyunt, the SPDC
Secretary One, to visit Thailand in September to discuss details of
bilateral issues, according to him. Thai-Myanmar relations had long been
deteriorated during recent years until Thai Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra visited Myanmar last month which marked a beginning of
turnaround in bilateral ties. Chavalit's trip was part of Thailand's
military diplomacy plan, which is aimed to strengthen ties and
cooperation with neighboring countries
Economic Times (India): Ties with Myanmar improve
CALL it successful ?Track ii diplomacy? or something else, the recent
Bengal Initiative delegation to Myanmar has managed to convince the
Myanmarese government to reopen its consulate in Kolkata after three
The Myanmarese government has also pledged to work out modalities for
re-introducing the steamer service between Kolkata and Yangon via
Chittagong, Amiya Gooptu, chairman of Bengal Initiative (BI) and leader
of the recent Good Will Mission to Myanmar, told ET here on Sunday.
The Junta government of Myanmar also assured that they would take up
with the Indian government the case of reopening of the road and rail
links between the two countries.
?The visit was an eye-opener to all of us. The main purpose of the
delegation, which comprised industrialists, lawyers, medical
practitioners, painters, academics, social activists, was to involve
itself in Track ii diplomacy to bring about improvements in the
understanding between the two countries and their people. And the visit
has been a great success.?
The 22-member BI delegation, first such in last 20 years, met Lt Gen
Khin Nyunt, secretary 1 of the State Peace and Development Council, U
Win Aung, foreign affairs minister, U Myo Nyunt, deputy minister of
education, U Soe Nyunt, deputy minister of health, Brigadier Gen D O
Abel, deputy minister of culture, president and members of Myanmar
Chamber of Commerce, chairman of Myanmar Film Association and members of
the Myanmar National Working Committee for Women?s Affairs.
The BI chairman said that the two sides had agreed that the scope for
improving bilateral trade in areas like petroleum, petrochemicals and
tourism was just enormous.
AP: Ministerial talks reopen between New Zealand, Myanmar
July 24, 2001
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ New Zealand will resume contacts with
Myanmar this week, ending a decade-long breach in relations fueled by
disapproval of the South Asian state's military regime, officials said
Foreign Minister Phil Goff will hold talks with his Myanmar counterpart
at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in
The talks follow what he called democratic progress in Myanmar.
``We have kept at arms length from Myanmar because of the overthrow of
the democratically elected government a decade or more ago,'' Goff said.
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won the 1990 elections
but the military refused to allow her to take power.
Australia has already opened dialogue with Myanmar, with Foreign
Minister Alexander Downer actively encouraging liberalization by the
country's military rulers by pushing ahead with human rights training
projects, in spite of criticism of his actions.
Goff said New Zealand was encouraged by the fact that Suu Kyi was in
discussions with state authorities after years of isolation and lack of
contact, and some political prisoners had been released recently.
``We're wanting to promote the ongoing dialogue and change that we hope
will occur in Myanmar and the restoration of democratic and human rights
there,'' he said.
``It's far from clear what the timetable will be for that, but at least
there have been positive moves in recent months that we want to
encourage,'' Goff added.
He said he also would meet representatives from Canada, Thailand, East
Timor, the United States and China during the Hanoi meeting.
Topics for discussion included New Zealand's continued push to end
nuclear testing, reducing nuclear stockpiles and the ultimate
elimination of all nuclear weapons.
AFP: Myanmar's military leader congratulates Megawati
BANGKOK, July 24 (AFP) - Myanmar's military leader on Tuesday
congratulated Megawati Sukarnoputri on becoming the new Indonesian
president, state-run Myanmar media said.
Senior General Than Shwe, chairman of the State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC) -- the official name of the ruling military junta -- sent
a message of congratulation to the new president, TV Myanmar reported in
a dispatch monitored here.
Bangkok Post: Flash floods hit Karen detention site
Flash floods yesterday hit the Baan Mae Surin detention site, which
houses more than 10,000 displaced persons in Khun Yuam district,
sweeping away 18 houses in a violent tide.
The inundation also damaged 31 other houses in the area but no
casualties were reported, an informed source said.
The incessant rain over the past few days has left roads to the area
"Scores of Karen families in the area are suffering food shortages and
the damaged road prevents food-laden vehicles from reaching the area to
provide assistance to these people," said the source, adding that five
ill residents could not be taken to hospital.
Mae Hong Son governor Poj Uthana has instructed Khun Yuam district chief
Udom Kesorn to lead volunteers to help the affected people.
Poj also urged people in the province to brace themselves for fresh
floods, suggesting that they should move their livestock and belongings
to higher positions ahead of possible sudden inundation. The weather
bureau forecast that the rain would continue in the province for another
one or two days.
Every district chief must be on alert to provide assistance to affected
people in case of emergency, Poj said.
Meanwhile, landslides also spilled over highway 108, the Chiang Mai -
Mae Sariang - Mae Hong Son road, between kilometre marker 115 and 200.
Officials have ordered the the highway closed.
They expect the road to be open to traffic tomorrow evening once it is
cleared of debris.
Bangkok Post: Woman arrested for murdering procurer
July 24, 2001
A Burmese woman was arrested yesterday in Tak as she was about to flee
the country after allegedly colluding with a Nepalese woman to murder a
Sasa, 19, a Burmese, was apprehended at Mae Sot immigration checkpoint.
She told police she and a Nepalese woman named Ruma, 20, had used a
cleaver to slash the throat of Mariam, a Burmese, at SB Apartment in
Sathon on July 21.
Police said Sasa had been approached by Mariam to work as a prostitute
with a promise of payment on which the latter reneged.
The report gave no further details of the message.
Former vice president Megawati Sukarnoputri was sworn in Monday as
Indonesia's fifth president after her predecessor Abdurrahman Wahid was
ousted by an impeachment vote in parliament.
Bangkok Post: Burma and the learner
July 24, 2001
Dr Sunait Chutintaranond has a mission _ to challenge prejudices about
Burma by presenting balanced historical perspectives, and to encourage
Story By HEAMAKARN SRICHARATCHANYA
Every time a conflict between Thailand and Burma arises, the name of Dr
Sunait Chutintaranond springs up in the media for his expert opinion on
sensitive Thai-Burmese relations.
His is considered the voice of reason when most Thais harbour deep
mistrust of the Burmese. This grudge has been kept alive in Thai minds
by Thailand's nationalistic history textbooks which portray Burma as an
History, he argues, is not _ and should not _ be the tool to perpetuate
prejudice and hatred.
"And history is more than knowledge of the past. It offers valuable
lessons for the future. It teaches us not to judge people from our
biases, be they race, ethnicity or our historical past," said Dr Sunait,
45, a lecturer of history at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Arts
and deputy director for academic affairs, Institute of Asian Studies.
As Thailand's top specialist in Burmese history, Dr Sunait's knowledge
about "the other side of the story" based on Burmese and foreign
historical records of Thai-Burmese relations poses fresh questions on
standard Thai history.
Among them is the question over the second fall of the Ayutthaya empire
The Thai court and popular history attributed Burma's quick conquest to
the weak character of King Ekatat, Ayutthaya's last monarch. But Burma's
historical records suggested otherwise.
The Burmese records, he said, offered rich information which often did
not appear in Thai chronicles, such as the causes of the wars, itinerary
of the Burmese troops, topography of the battlefields and the roles of
ethnic minorities in warfare.
These records, however, described this war as the longest one in
Thai-Burmese history, depicting elaborate military strategies that took
14 months to penetrate Ayutthaya, he said.
"This implies that Ayutthaya was not as easily beaten and King Ekatat
not as weak as Thais have been led to believe," he explained.
According to Sunait's interpretation, the gap of information might stem
from Thai historians not wanting to recognise the enemy's military
prowess. Thus, they highlighted the Ayutthaya king's personal weaknesses
instead of focusing on Ayutthaya's failed military strategies.
Although strictly academic, new historical information has political
ramifications; it reminds the Thai public to question what they have
been taught as sacred historical truths, thus shaking the basis of Thai
nationalism. In the case of Thai-Burma relations, it nudges the Thais to
rise above historical resentment and look at the present situation with
Because of his expertise, Dr Sunait was asked to be a consultant to
Thailand's much-awaited epic movie Suriyothai, directed by MC
Chatrichalerm Yugala, which will be screened nationwide on August 17.
Dr Sunait sees his stint on the movie as a chance to share his knowledge
beyond the academic realm in order to disseminate more accurate
information about Burma through the medium of entertainment.
His interest in history was groomed in childhood by his aunt, Suda
Dhasanonda. She did not only read to him about history and turned him
into a bookworm, but also made an actor out of him.
"My aunt owned an elementary school and she encouraged all students to
join a historical play on TV Channel 4 (now Channel 9)," said Sunait.
The love for history blossomed when he became a child star for a
theatrical troupe, Natthasilp Samphan, run by then National Artist
Samphan Phanmanee. In his debutperformance, he played the lead role,
Kaew, in Luk Tas (Children of Slaves), a much-loved Thai classic novel
on the abolition of slavery in Thailand.
Young Sunait was also an avid reader of historical literature including
the classic Sam Kok (Romances of the Three Kingdoms), although it is
considered difficult reading for youngsters.
"I had fun learning about history in an entertaining manner, but what I
learned from literature did not help me much in the history classes," he
said with a smile.
Few who knew him as a child would expect him to turn out to be a
prominent academic, however.
"My mother always tutored us for the exams and I was the worst of my
siblings," Dr Sunait recalled with amusement. "The only thing I was good
at was writing compositions."
But that changed when he was in high school at St Gabriel. "I found out
I did well in Thai, literature and history. I realised that I was
interested in social sciences. That was a turning point for me.
"Finding one's calling normally takes time. I am lucky that I discovered
myself at an early age," he said.
He was enrolled as a student of history at the Faculty of Liberal Arts,
Thammasat University, two years after the 1973 Student Uprising which
ended the Thanom-Prapass dictatorship. Democracy was in the air. Banned
books were sold openly. Protests were part of university life. And
questioning minds were encouraged.
Being part of this landmark period in Thai history, he said, widened his
views on the world and reshaped his perception of historical pursuits.
"I've come to realise that the study of history is not about
memorisation of historical records. But it is about posing questions and
looking to history to find the answers.
"I've also learned that history is related to our present life. And that
classroom knowledge will be more meaningful if the students who study
the past can make it relevant to the world of the present."
The era of political progressiveness, however, ended abruptly in 1976
with the October 6 massacre when the government viewed the students'
movement as too radical. As a result, a large number of Sunait's friends
fled for the jungle while Sunait, not as politically active, stayed on
to finish his studies.
"Looking back, I'm glad that I was not at the core of the protest as
many of my friends were. It is true that many of them have become
heroes. But to attain their political idealism, they had to sacrifice so
much of themselves. And the loss incurred was too great."
After graduating with first class honours, he did his MA in Southeast
History at Cornell University and returned to teach at Chulalongkorn
University. It was not until 1988 when he went back to Cornell again to
do his doctorate that he focused his attention on Burma.
Thailand and Burma had just renewed relations during that period.
He chose to study Burma because Thailand still had very little knowledge
about its westerly neighbour.
Also, he only had to master one new language, Burmese, because the
country's historical records were already available in English. Had he
chosen to study Vietnam, Laos or Indonesia, he would not only have their
respective languages to learn, but also French or Dutch, their
colonisers, he explained.
But he found out soon enough that there was no easy route for him. The
grammatical structures of the Burmese language are totally different
from Thai. Its verbs, for instance, are put at the end of the sentences
_ which at first he found baffling.
Another surprise awaited him at his first class on Burmese Studies.
"There was only two persons in class, me and my professor!" Sunait said
with a laugh. That showed how little academic interest there was
regarding Burma back then, he explained.
The Burmese language later opened doors for him to understand the
country's history, arts and cultures, geography, economy and politics _
all of which contribute to a better understanding of Burma as it is now.
But what intrigued him most was Burma's ancient military strategies
which are unavoidably related to old Siam. Such interest led to his PhD
dissertation entitled "Chakravartin", meaning great kings.
"I wanted to understand the thinking behind both Thai and Burmese kings,
why they waged wars. Few Thai chronicles mentioned this dimension," he
The fact that Burma closed its borders at that time posed a big hurdle
for his studies because he could not travel to Burma for research. Also,
a lot of historical records and evidence within Burma itself were
destroyed during the British invasion. As a result, he had to work
primarily on Burma's historical documents at Cornell.
Attesting to his ingenuity, his book based on the dissertation about the
Thai-Burmese wars which resulted in the second fall of the Ayutthaya
empire in 1767 is now in its seventh edition since its first release in
It was not until 1993 that he had a chance to experience Burma
firsthand. He went there with a Foreign Ministry delegation on
Despite his academic knowledge on the country, seeing Burma with his own
eyes had a powerful effect on him. "I was overwhelmed by its cultural
richness," said Sunait. "Like us Thais, the Burmese people are friendly,
kind, sincere and religious." Such images are in stark contrast to what
the Thai general public think about the Burmese.
The eye-opening experience stirred in him a stronger desire to know and
understand Burma. He has since become an avid collector of rare Burmese
books. "I now have more than 1,000 of them."
He modestly adds, however, that he still considers himself green in the
Burmeselanguage and that he owes much to his Burmese friends and
English-language books in helping him to understand Burmesehistorical
Despite his modesty, Sunait's grasp on palace politics during the
Ayutthaya period, down to the details of how people spoke during that
time, is accredited with giving the 300-million-baht Suriyothai movie
much of its authenticity.
The father of two sons, the renowned historian said good-naturedly that
he did not expect his children to excel in history. Instead, he wishes
that his knowledge would contribute to a more open-minded society for
his children to grow up in.
Thailand's ability to see the Burmese people and their problems
objectively _ and compassionately _ would be a good indicator.
"We should not let the Ayutthaya ruins or any movies rule our views of
Burma as our neighbour.
"We should not allow the media portrayal of Burma as a country of
military dictators and drug dealers to dominate our views either.
"I don't want the Thai people to dehumanise Burma and its people when we
look at them. I don't want Thais to feel only hatred and revenge when
they think about Burma.
"I want Thais to uncover Burma the way it really is _ a culturally rich
country with a great history and wonderful people and with a myriad of
problems today _ just like us.
"And this can be done if Thai people choose to rise above prejudice."
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