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Cultural ties sought with Burma
- Subject: Cultural ties sought with Burma
- From: ausgeo@xxxxxxx
- Date: Wed, 02 Jul 1997 05:47:00
02 Jul 1997
Cultural ties sought with Burma
BY YINDEE LERTCHAROENCHOK
THAILAND and Burma should strengthen cultural relations and support grassroots
engagements to promote a better understanding between the countries and help
reduce border tension, conflict and suffering, the Foreign Ministry spokesman
Surapong Jayanama, who visited Burma from June 21 to 26, said that during his
trip he told U Aye Lwin, director general of the Burmese Foreign Ministry's
consular, treaties and legal affairs department, that his country would soon
become a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), so its
relationship with Thailand should be broadened to cover cultural cooperation.
He told the senior official that Thai-Burmese relations have always been
confined to, or seen in the context of, border trade, border conflicts and
disputes and problems with ethnic minorities and narcotics.
Surapong said he wanted to see both countries broaden their engagements to
cover other activities, particularly those of a cultural nature.
He said he suggested that local people from both sides of the border hold
regular cultural exchange programmes and joint activities, such as Songkran
festivities, to establish and promote strong relationships.
''If we don't do this [support local grassroots contact], Thai-Burmese
relations will still be seen in the context of suffering and misunderstanding.
We should use cultural cooperation as a vehicle to promote better
understanding and reduce conflict and tension," Surapong said.
He said Aye Lwin had assured him during a meeting on June 26 that Burma would
be able to finalise and sign an agreement on cultural cooperation with
Thailand later this year as earlier agreed by top leaders from the two
The Burmese official was quoted as saying that the country's Foreign Ministry
had studied and approved a draft agreement and had already forwarded it to the
Ministry of Culture for study and final approval.
Last year, the Thai Foreign Ministry proposed that the two countries sign an
agreement to promote and strengthen cultural relations and exchange officials,
academics and local people. Last August, it was submitted to Burma for study
and was similar to one signed on August 8, 1996, with Vietnam.
Surapong said Aye Lwin had reassured him that the Burmese junta remained
committed to the joint communique, which was released after the official visit
to Burma on May 26 to 27 by Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.
In the joint communique, both sides expressed hope that the agreement would be
signed ''by the end of the year" to mark the 50th anniversary of Thai-Burmese
diplomatic relations in August next year.
Burma had initially showed reluctance to enter into the cultural agreement and
asked for more time to study the initiative and the draft document. It has so
far only signed cultural agreements with China and Cambodia, while Thailand
has such agreements with 18 Asian and European countries.
Surapong said he had proposed four activities to Aye Lwin that the two
countries could participate in to commemorate the 50th anniversary the
exchange of cultural troupes; a broadcast of felicitous speeches by both prime
ministers; showing promotional documentaries about the two countries and an
academic seminar on Thai-Burmese relations.
Last year, Thailand held similar activities when it celebrated the 20th
anniversary of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. This year, it has organised
a series of similar programmes to mark its 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties