CHIANGRAI TIMES – Thai Army Chief Gen Prayut Chan O Cha held talks with the commander-in-chief of Burma’s armed forces, Gen Min Aung Hlaing, in Naypyidaw on Wednesday, during which they discussed border stability and anti-drug trafficking efforts.
“They cordially discussed matters of promotion of friendship between the two armed forces, peace and stability at the border and coordination between the two armed forces,” Burma’s state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, reported on Thursday.
Prayut Chan O Cha also met with other top Burmese military commanders, including Lt-Gen Soe Win, the deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the commander-in-chief of the Burmese army, Lt-Gen Hla Htay Win, the joint-chief of staff (army, navy, air force), and Lt-Gen Myat Hein, the air force chief. He was accompanied by a Thai military attaché to Thailand’s embassy in Burma.
Before leaving for Burma, Prayut Chan O Cha told reporters that his visit also included the promotion of an exchange program for Thai and Burmese language studies. The Thai army border guard has reportedly learned Burmese already.
The Thai Royal Army chief was also given a tour of Naypyidaw, during which he visited the Uppatasanti Pagoda, White Elephant Shed and Myanmar Gems Emporium.
Leaders of Burma’s ethnic armed groups said that they have to wait to see what comes of the border stability discussion between the Thai and Burmese commanders because the issue directly affects their militias.
There are several ethnic armed groups along the Thai-Burma border, including militias such as the Karen National Union (KNU) and Shan State Army, which have been fighting against the Burmese government for decades. These groups formed an alliance early this year under the name of United Nationalities Federal Council.
The leaders of the ethnic armed groups also worry about Thailand’s shifting policy with respect to Burmese dissidents and ethnic armed groups.
On Monday, Thailand’s assistant national police chief, Lt-Gen Rapipat Palawong, warned that Thailand would take serious action against those who provide support to ethnic armed groups based along its border with Burma.
“Our government does not have a policy of providing arms to ethnic armed groups on Burma’s side of the border, and we will take drastic actions against anyone supporting or trafficking arms to those groups,” he told reporters in the border town of Mae Sot, where many exiled Burmese dissidents stay.
Sources in Mae Sot said that Rapipat’s warning had sent shock waves through the KNU and other border-based ethnic armed groups that depend on contacts on the Thai side of the border for supplies of food and arms.
A Thai journalist in Mae Sot said that the police warning came in response to a recent increase in the number of arms trafficking cases in the town. Last Friday, Thai authorities arrested two people in the town on suspicion of trafficking arms and ammunition to the KNU.