August 13, 2002

The Burma Campaign UK has received information from reliable sources in Thailand, that theThai government is planning a massive crackdown on Burmese dissidents and ethnic leaders based in Thailand. The crackdown is thought to include planned raids on pro-democracy and human rights offices, the arrest of dissidents and the confiscation of sensitive documents.

It is thought that this move is an attempt by Thailand to appease Burma’s military rulers – to end the diplomatic war of words that began following cross border fighting between the two countries in May this year. John Jackson, Director of the Burma Campaign UK says: “Such a crackdown would be a massive blow to Burma’s pro-democracy and ethnic movements. People who have already fled oppression in Burma, now face arrest and detention in Thailand”.

Until now Thailand has allowed Burmese dissidents to operate peacefully on Thai soil. However, it now appears Thai Prime Minister Thaksin seems to be bowing to pressure from Burma’s military rulers in Rangoon. It is rumoured that the Defense Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, a friend of Burma’s leading military Generals, may have argued for the suppression of Burmese activists in Thailand.

Some activists have said they are prepared to risk arrest and the confiscation of their assets rather than go into hiding. Reports suggest that Burmese women of Shan and Akha ethnicity doing human rights work in the North of Thailand have already had their activities investigated and stopped by Thai police. Other Burmese groups have closed their offices and disposed of important documents. Thailand is the most important conduit of information from inside Burma: much of the information gathered on human rights, refugees and humanitarian issues comes from Burmese working peacefully in Thailand.

One Bangkok based observer suggested: “The authoritarian rule of Rangoon’s military seems to be contagious. If the Thai authorities crackdown on Burmese dissidents here, they will create a stronger, more confident and more aggressive dictatorship across their border. That won’t be good for Thailand or Burma.”
Notes to Editors

– Heavy fighting broke out between Thai, Burmese and Shan forces in May of this year. Thai Burma relations plummeted. Rangoon closed the border between Burma and Thailand, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars worth of cross border trade for Thailand.

– Since June this year, many Burmese NGO offices and dissidents’ offices in Mae Sot, Mae Hong Son and Chiangmai have been shut down for security reasons.

– In July, Thai police raided some offices in Chiangmai.

– In early August, the Thai government reshuffled its top army leaders by removing Gen Surayud Chulanot, who had taken a tough stance toward Burma’s Wa rebels and the Burmese Army. Wa rebels have been producing much of the illegal narcotics entering Thailand.

– Thai defense minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who is close to Rangoon’s Generals, has said that his country will not tolerate rebel or dissident groups who are carrying out anti-Rangoon activities.

– Thai Foreign Minister Surakiat Sathirathai visited Rangoon shortly after the reshuffle in the Royal Thai Army.

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