"Thais are very angry with the Burmese, mainly because of drugs."
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Interview

"Thais are very angry with the Burmese, mainly because of drugs."


By Kraisak Choonhavan, Thai Senator Tuesday, May 1, 2001


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I think that if Burma does not cease its excessive violence internally and stop causing trouble for neighboring countries with its export of drugs, it should be expelled from Asean. Q: Do you think Asean has the political will to do this? A: Obviously not, but this is my opinion. How can we function with a country like this as a member? When Burma was admitted to Asean, Malaysia and Singapore came out to defend Burma on the non-interference principle, as if it were some sort of religion. In my opinion this is quite hypocritical … When there is haze coming from the slash and burn cultivation in Sumatra and it hits Malaysia, they are quite critical of Indonesia. And is there any talk about interfering in the internal policy of Indonesia, when Indonesia has huge problems with ethnic and communal conflicts that lead to bloodshed and refugees flooding into Malaysia? Malaysia has mentioned this to Indonesia, but on the question of Burma, Malaysia takes a different position. This should be changed so that the problems between Thailand and Burma can be discussed in Asean with Asean approval. [Asean leaders need to] open their ears and eyes to the function of the organization as a whole. Q: What is the role of the Senate Committee for Foreign Affairs in policy formation towards Burma? A: I don’t think that we can in fact have much influence in terms of government policy towards Burma except when we are critical of them. The public can listen and we try to represent the people’s feelings and interests as much as possible on an issue by issue basis … But we are quite new at the job. I’m quite new at my job and still trying to define my own role. Q: What impact has the presence of US military advisors in the newly created drug suppression Task Force 399 had on Thai-Burma bilateral relations? A: I think Thailand needs the support, for one thing. We need to turn a military force that is basically trained for conventional warfare and counter-insurgency into a drug suppression force … But obviously the repercussions will be that the Burmese might use it as a diplomatic excuse to blast Thailand further. But they haven’t so far. Q: Insurgent armies that once provided buffer zones between Thailand and Burma have been severely weakened over the past ten years. What effect has this had on Thai national security and bilateral relations with Burma? A: That’s why we have gotten into a lot of clashes with the Burmese. I can’t remember when we were confronting Burmese on the border without factions of Karen, Kachin and even the Karenni. These groups have disintegrated, either escaping to Thailand as cheap labor or working as dirt farmers on the other side of the border. The Burmese are able to set up posts right in front of and opposite Thai positions. When clashes still occur sporadically along the border with these minorities, it’s inevitable that Thailand will come into confrontation with the Burmese. But Thais would never again … allow Burmese troops onto Thai soil. This has been strictly followed because of consistent reports on the linkages between Kokang drug-producing groups and the Burmese junta. The military in Burma will have second thoughts [before entering Thai territory again].


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