Myanmar Threatens Thailand Rift
Oct. 06, 1999
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Myanmar warned on Wednesday that relations with Thailand could be harmed if Bangkok does not tighten security at its refugee camps.
The warning came after dissidents took 38 hostages at the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok.
``It is time for Thailand to shoulder the responsibility, to stop and think that this could very well lead to some adverse effects on bilateral relations between Thailand and Myanmar,'' said an editorial in the state-run New Light of Myanmar daily.
The Thai government, which let the embassy captors go free on grounds that they were ``student activists struggling for democracy,'' resolved Wednesday to tighten embassy security and impose stricter controls on Myanmar exiles.
Five rebels stormed the embassy on Friday with AK-47s concealed in a guitar case and took the hostages. They were released 26 hours later, when Thai authorities agreed to give the rebels safe passage by helicopter back to the border with Myanmar, also known as Burma.
At least two former student dissidents at the Maneeloy holding center for asylum-seekers from Myanmar, near the border with Myanmar in the Thai province of Ratchaburi, are believed by Thai authorities to have been among the five at the embassy.
The identity of the others was unclear. Thai media have reported that they include at least one dissident involved in the hijacking of an airplane on a domestic flight in Myanmar in 1989 and who has served jail time in Thailand.
The New Light editorial claimed that most of the 24 camps inside the Thai border were sheltering armed insurgents and anti-Yangon terrorists fighting ``under the mask of democracy.''
A meeting of Thailand's anti-terrorism committee concluded that poor intelligence on the activities of dissidents from Myanmar and weak security at the Yangon mission in Bangkok were to blame for the hostage-taking.
``There will be improvement in the system controlling the students. In every refugee camp around the country the rules will be stricter,'' Interior Minister Sanan Kachornprasart said after the meeting.
An estimated 3,000 students from Myanmar have sought refuge in Thailand. They were at the forefront of the democracy movement in their homeland.
A popular uprising for civilian government in Myanmar was crushed in 1988 at the cost of more than 3,000 lives.