April 28: Talks between Thailand and Burma have found they both have complaints against the other, and both see the other’s complaints as unfair:
Burma called on the Thai military last week to withdraw from Doi Lang, a 32sqkm area straddling the border and claimed by both countries. The demand presented at the Thai-Burma Township Border Meeting in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district came just one week after Burmese troops crossed the border and killed a Border Patrol Police officer on patrol near Pang Saen Kruea village, a few kilometres from Doi Lang. Villagers said the shooting came as five or six Burmese troops crossed the border to seek food.
Ownership of Doi Lang, the former military stronghold of druglord Khun Sa, has been disputed by Thailand and Burma since the mid-1990s, after Khun Sa surrendered to Rangoon and withdrew his forces from the rugged terrain in Chiang Mai’s Mae Ai district.
Several hundred troops from both sides are based in the area at 20 outposts, some just a few metres apart.
The area is regarded as the most sensitive along the Burma border and the forces from the two sides are required to adhere to the strictest guidelines to prevent any hostilities.
Lt-Col Maung Ni, Burma’s leading representative at last week’s township border meeting and commander of the 338th Battalion, handed a letter of protest to Col Somsak Nilbanjerdkul, his Thai counterpart and commander of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
“He [Lt-Col Maung Ni] wants us to withdraw our BPP and paramilitary forces from Doi Lang and insists it is deep inside Burmese territory,” said Col Somsak.
The cavalry officer said the site was disputed and the two governments had to find measures to settle the dispute.
Lt-Col Maung Ni also used the meeting to accuse Thai border troops of allowing Shan State Army forces to use Thai territory in Chiang Rai’s Mae Fa Luang district to attack Burmese troops near the SSA military base at Kor One. Col Somsak said the charge was unfounded.
Burma, in turn, denied a claim by Col Somsak that Burmese border troops were responsible for the killing of the Thai border patrol officer at Pang Saen Kruea.
Villagers of Pang Saen Kruea said the armed intruders were dressed in Burmese government uniforms and were unlikely to have been insurgents in disguise as there were no ethnic minority forces operating in the area.
The Rangoon government has launched a military drive against the SSA stronghold at Doi Tai Laeng opposite Mae Hong Son’s Pang Ma Pha district, raising fears of further tensions along the border and the possibility of Burmese forces using Thai soil to lay siege to the camp.