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Bangkok Post News (17-2-99)
<bold>Junta's Win Aung in bid to calm waters Boat trip to Koh Son with
Achara Ashayagachat, Bhanravee Tansubhapol Wassana Nanuam in Bangkok
Avisit by the Burmese foreign minister on Saturday will help build
confidence after clashes at sea that have claimed lives on both sides,
Foreign Ministry officials said yesterday.
Minister Win Aung is due to fly into Ranong from Bangkok after calling on
the prime minister as part of a two-day visit.
The Burmese foreign minister will be accompanied by Surin Pitsuwan, his
Thai counterpart, who will join him on a boat tour to Koh Son, off
Kawthaung in Burma, skirting disputed areas in the Andaman Sea that have
contributed to the friction.
Mr Win Aung is due to return to Bangkok for an audience with His Majesty
the King before leaving for Rangoon.
The visit would show goodwill between the two countries, said Saroj
Chavanaviraj, permanent secretary for foreign affairs.
Accompanied by ministry colleagues, Mr Saroj was in Ranong to prepare for
the visit, survey disputed areas and brief officials, including Governor
Songwut Ngarm-Meesri and Vice Admiral Sompop Puridej of the Third Fleet
Area Command, on efforts to settle land and marine boundary problems.
Mr Saroj surveyed an area from the mouth of the Kra river to the Surin
islands in Phang-nga, which lie south of the boundary agreed during the
last talks of this kind in 1980.
Wasin Teeravejayarn, director-general of the ministry's treaty and legal
affairs division, said talks on land and marine boundary problems were
expected to start within the first half of this year.
Last year, Thailand proposed a framework for talks and technical terms
and was awaiting counterproposals from Burma, he said.
Four clashes at sea in December last year, January and this month claimed
the lives of three Thai sailors and an unknown number of Burmese. The
clashes took place near overlapping claims around Koh Lam, Koh Kan and
Koh Khi Nok.
The ministry would try to speed up talks on disputed boundaries and seek
more confidence-building measures, Mr Saroj said. But Burma should avoid
violence in dealing with problems at sea, he added.
On Saturday, Mr Surin and Mr Win Aung were expected to declare support
for the launch of a joint patrol and to pledge restraint, he said.
Meanwhile the army chief, Gen Surayud Chulanont, plans to hold
discussions with Burmese military leaders on Thai-Burmese border disputes
during his three-day visit to Burma starting today, according to an army
Gen Surayud and his ten-member team are scheduled to meet Burmese Prime
Minister Gen Than Shwe, State Peace and Development Council
secretary-general Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, and army chief Gen Maung Aye in
Rangoon, and then visit Mandalay and Taunggyi during Feb 17-19.
Gen Surayud planned to discuss with the Burmese leaders the problems of
border disputes, Burmese minority groups as well as border demarcation,
the source said.
The army chief still wanted the Thai-Burmese border problems to be
tackled through official talks, the source added.