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Burma ties still good, assures PM

Date: 24 Apr 1997 

Publication: The Nation 

Section: Local 

Burma ties still good, assures PM 

The Nation 

THAI leaders yesterday joined several regional countries in playing down the 
impact of the US economic sanctions on Burma, saying Thailand and Asean would 
not deviate from their policy and relations with the Southeast Asian nation. 

Prime Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who plans to make an official visit 
to Burma early next month, strongly defended the Burmese junta, saying that 
the regime, which is widely criticised by the West for its poor human rights 
record, has no plan to stay in power forever. 

n Related reports: A8 

He urged the world community to be patient and said that as ''a good friend 
and well-wisher" of Burma he will try to convince Burmese junta leaders of the 
international concerns. 

He said he believed the generals in the ruling State Law and Order Restoration 
Council (Slorc) ''will listen to me because we are friends". 

The former Army chief said he is ''fully confident" that ''the Burmese [Slorc] 
are good people" and said his close contact with them had shown him that they 
are ''more devout Buddhists than us [Thai people]". 

''They [Slorc] also adhere strictly to good ethics and morals, so I don't 
think they think of staying in power forever. One day, when they bring peace 
to the country, the overall situation [in Burma] will then improve to the 
level that the international community wants to see. Please be patient," 
Chavalit said. 

''As a well-wisher and an old-time friend, I intend to talk [to the Slorc]. 
They will certainly listen to me because we're old friends. Everything should 
be fine," he added. 

The premier said the US sanctions will not affect foreign investments already 
in Burma. 

He added that Thai investment projects with its western neighbour will carry 
on unaffected because the two countries still maintain diplomatic relations. 

Chavalit said Asean's decision at the informal summit last December to welcome 
Burma, Cambodia and Laos simultaneously into the grouping remains unchanged, 
and that the regional club will meet and announce the timing of their entry at 
a later stage. 

The three prospective members are preparing themselves for integration into 
the group and the US understands Asean's independent stance on the new 
memberships, he said, adding that Thailand still adhered to the Asean policy 
of constructive engagement with Burma. 

Chavalit, who is also defence minister, said he is awaiting a response from 
Slorc as to his scheduled visit to Burma on May 3 and 4. Foreign Ministry 
Permanent Secretary Saroj Chavanaviraj will leave today for Rangoon to prepare 
for the premier's trip. 

Deputy Prime Minister Amnuay Viravan and Commerce Minister Narongchai 
Akrasanee yesterday echoed Chavalit's views, saying they believed the US 
sanctions will not have an impact on Thailand, Thai investment in Burma or 
Burma's membership in Asean. 

Amnuay said he did not know yet if the US ban on new American investments in 
Burma will affect some foreign joint ventures or multinational projects 
already in Burma such as the controversial Yadana natural gas project of which 
Unocal is one of the operators. 

He said the sanctions might make some US competitors such as Japan happy 
because they could now take over US economic interests in Burma. 

The deputy premier said it is possible that Thai investors also might replace 
their American counterparts because the economic prospects for foreign 
investors in Burma are good. 

According to Narongchai, trade and investment between Burma and Thailand are 
proceeding uninterrupted and the US has not applied any pressure on Thailand 
to cease its activities there. 

Industry Minister Korn Dabaransi said yesterday that he had yet to study the 
US sanctions to see who really said what and who will enact the tough 

He said he believed the Yadana project, which will supply natural gas to 
Thailand, will not be affected by the sanctions since the sale agreement was 
between the Thai government and Slorc.