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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)

*Asia Times: Whispers of Change (1-3 of a three part series)
*AFP: Myanmar court sets date for ruling on Suu Kyi eviction suit

MONEY _______
*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. 


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 - 
at best.  

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.
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.

___________________ REGIONAL/INTERNATIONAL___________________

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 
its soil. 

 ``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 
(1,460-mile) frontier. 
 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 
national armies. 

 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:     
Ms.Sunsanee  Sutthisunsanee 
Training Coordinator 

109 Suthisarnwinichai Road, Samsennok 
 Huaykang, Bangkok  10320  Thailand 
Tel.    (66 2) 276-9846 Ext. 7 
 Fax.    (66 2) 693-4939 
E-mail: training@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
Web site: www.forumasia.org 


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