Pubdate: Wed, 25 Sep 2002
Source: United Press International (Wire)
Copyright: 2002 United Press International
Author: John Hail


BANGKOK, Thailand -- Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung praised Thailand's 
leaders and pledged to wage a relentless war on drugs Wednesday, in a sign 
of improving relations between the two countries.

Win Aung, who arrived in Thailand Tuesday for a two-day visit, described 
his talks with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Foreign Minister 
Surakiart Sathirathai as "very fruitful and very successful."

His praise for his hosts marked a sharp turn from the past four months, 
during which the Myanmar government has rebuffed Thai attempts to patch 
ties and the Myanmar media have vilified the Thai people as treacherous and 
morally bankrupt.

The military junta that rules the country formally known as Burma closed 
the border with Thailand, two days after a May 20 border skirmish in which 
the junta accused the Thai army of providing military support for a Shan 
rebel attack on Myanmar army positions.

The Thai army denied the charge and the government made several overtures 
to improve relations, but the junta took a hard line, banning Thai workers 
from the country and boycotting Thai consumer goods.

Myanmar's state-controlled media began referring to Thailand as "Yodaya", a 
corruption of the old Thai capital of Ayutthaya, which was sacked by an 
invading Burmese army in 1767.

But Wednesday, the Myanmar foreign minister referred to his Thai 
counterpart as his "brother" and lavished praise on the Thai premier and 
his initiatives to improve ties.

"In our country we have great respect to your prime minister because of his 
wide wisdom and also for the initiatives he has taken," Win Aung told 
reporters waiting at the Thai Foreign Ministry for his extended four-hour 
meeting with Surakiart.

Win Aung also tried to defuse one of the main points of contention between 
the two countries, the massive flow of opium, heroin and methamphetamines 
entering Thailand from Myanmar. The Thai military has accused the Myanmar 
junta of allowing and even participating in the drugs trade and the Myanmar 
media have accused corrupt Thai officials of organizing it.

"We all share the same responsibilities to humankind to guard

against this scourge of narcotic drugs," Win Aung said. "We don't want to 
see our people or the Thai people suffer from this drug trafficking. We 
would like to see our youth and your youth to be free of drugs and to be 

"We are taking very, very seriously the fight against the menace of 
addictive drugs," he added. "We're optimistic that by this year's end we'll 
see the results of our efforts in eradicating the poppy plantations from 
our country, and also other methamphetamine type of stimulants."

Win Aung was cautious, however, in committing his government to a specific 
date to allow the reopening of the 1,492-mile border. The closure has 
caused economic problems on both sides of the border.

"We are discussing it," he said. "The dates can be announced later. I hope 
it will be soon," he said .

When pressed on the issue, he said the border checkpoints could be reopened 
"in several weeks."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth