Saturday, October 6, 2007

Globe and Mail: Is the Thai Army Working for the Burmese Junta?

The Junta's Enablers: Thailand, India, China

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

MAE SOT, THAILAND — The small band of protesters had just begun to pray for peace when the soldiers attacked.

Charging into the crowd, the soldiers grabbed a stack of protest leaflets and flung them to the ground. Then the undercover agents swung into action, arresting the protest leaders and bundling them into a prison van, under the menacing presence of an armoured jeep with a machine-gun mounted on top.

This heavy-handed assault on Myanmar activists was launched not in Myanmar itself, but just across the border, in Thailand.

While the world was mesmerized by televised images of soldiers attacking peaceful protesters in Rangoon, the military regime in neighbouring Thailand was in the midst of its own crackdown on protesters from Myanmar, without any attention from the outside world.

The harsh reaction in Thailand is one of the keys to understanding why Myanmar's military junta was able to crush the protests by the red-robed monks who were marching for democracy last month.

Exiles from Myanmar, also known as Burma, have made three attempts to hold protests in support of the monks in Mae Sot, a Thai border town, over the past 10 days. Each attempt was tightly controlled or suppressed by Thai security and military forces. Dozens of protesters were detained and deported to Myanmar, facing an even worse fate if caught.

By cracking down on its own Myanmar protesters, Thailand is seeking to ensure a smooth relationship with the neighbouring junta. That smooth relationship is worth billions of dollars in trade and investment opportunities for Thai businesses and the Thai government.

Thailand's economic relationship with Myanmar has been vital in propping up the military junta.

Where is Kavi and the rest of the Thai media? When are they going to start doing investigative stories about the "real" Thai-Burma relationship?

Thai soldiers are attacking Burmese activists in Thailand; Burmese soldiers are attacking Burmese activists in Burma. All we get are crocodile tears from the Thai media. And General Sonthi, coup maker and an apologist for the Burmese junta, becomes Deputy PM. Buddha wept.

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