Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Burma Challenges Thailand with its Border Offensive

The Irrawaddy News

The news that nearly 4,000 Karen refugees have abandoned their temporary villages in eastern Burma to seek refuge in Thailand comes amid increasing international pressure on the Burmese regime to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since last week, the Burma Army and its militia, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), have been shelling the main base of Brigade 7 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Ler Per Her camp for internally displaced people, which is located two miles from the nearest KNLA base.

The camp was evacuated and its residents crossed the border Moei river on Friday to look for refuge in Thailand. But, according to Karen sources, the Thai government is reluctant to allow them to enter established refugee camps, forcing them to seek shelter at Buddhist monasteries in Tha Song Yan province, about 62 miles (100 km) north of the Thai-Burmese border town of Mae Sot.

The unusual military operation—generally the Burma army mounts its offensives in the dry season—could be a response to pronouncements on Burma by the Thai government.

A public statement on Suu Kyi’s trial issued on May 19 by Thailand, as current Asean chair, evoked an anger response from the Burmese junta. The Burmese regime's rebuttal, carried by The New Light of Myanmar and other state-run newspapers, blasted Thailand, saying the statement was "tantamount to interfering in the internal affairs" of Burma.

Burmese high-ranking officials then launched a diplomatic offensive against mounting international pressure. Foreign Minister Nyan Win, his deputy Maung Myint and Deputy Defense Minister Maj-Gen Aye Myint, attending separate meetings in the region, urged governments not to interfere in their "internal affair."

However, knowing that the international and regional pressure was not letting up, the junta needed to give a warning sign to Thailand’s Democrat-led government by attacking Karen rebels.

Knowing that Thailand’s last Democrat-led coalition supported democracy in Burma, the ruling generals were not comfortable when Thailand's new coalition government, headed by the Democrat Party, unveiled a Burma policy. Kasit Piromya, the new foreign minister, last year declared: ''No personal business deals will shape our foreign policy. Our government will not mix business and politics.''

Napyidaw always wanted to enjoy the kind of relationship it had with Thai politicians like former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire premier who revealed his affinity for business opportunities in Burma at the expense of pushing for democratic reforms and strengthening human rights.

However, many other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have backed the current Thai position on Burma. At a meeting of Asean Foreign Ministers in Phnom Penh last month, Singapore and a number of other members of the grouping, fully associated itself with the Thai statement on Suu Kyi.

Singapore, one of Burma's biggest foreign investors, has close relations with the Burmese junta, and several generals have sought medical treatment in the wealthy island republic.

That is why—instead of Asean's current secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, who is a Thai democrat—Singaporean Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong is currently visiting Burma and is scheduled to meet Snr-Gen Than Shwe. They are expected to discuss Asean’s perspective on the Burmese political situation.

Not only the issue of releasing Suu Kyi and political prisoners, but also the recent flight of the Karen refugees—following the hundreds of Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers who died at sea trying to reach Thailand and Indonesia—should harden Asean’s stand on Burma.

The continuing serious violations of human rights in Burma reflect in part the region's failure. Unless a concrete plan is drawn up to tackle the Burmese generals, Burma will continue to pose a "hot potato" issue, leading to disunity among Asean’s member states and threatening the core values of the Asean Charter.

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too