Media Go Overboard on Buffer State Issues: Thaksin

Source: Bangkok Post

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra denies having mentioned the existence of buffer state policy along the border with Burma.

Mr Thaksin said he had merely reiterated the government’s policy of non-interference in the affairs on neighbouring countries.

He accused reporters of firing leading questions at him and then expanding his responses in a way that caused confusion.

“They jumped to a conclusion and made a big fuss out of it,” the prime minister said.

Opposition leader Chuan Leekpai refused to accept the prime minister’s denial. He said it was hard to believe the prime minister had come up with a statement so damaging for Thailand.

“The prime ministers statement has seriously damaged the country as it causes the world community to think that we still use minority groups as a buffer,” the Democrat leader said.

Mr Thaksin said he had not said buffer state nor referred to the existence of one. He had just emphasised to the media the government’s policy not to meddle with other countries’ internal affairs and its steadfast refusal to shelter any elements hostile to its neighbours.

Mr Thaksin raised eyebrows when he was reported as saying he was abandoning the buffer state policy.

Critics said his comment was equivocal and could be interpreted to mean the government had previously held to the policy but had decided to drop it now.

Mr Thaksin said the media had gone overboard in reporting the buffer state issue. “I appeal to you to talk less and let the government get on with its work.”

Confusion was often the product of lop-sided interviews with people who knew only half the truth, he said.

Defence Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said Thailand dropped the buffer state policy about 20 years ago.

“We have shifted from the buffer state policy to intelligence operations outside Thai boundaries, or defence diplomacy as it is called by this government.

“The prime minister understands it well. Do not hit out at him,” he said.

We have no buffer state policy and do not even think about it.”

The Karen National Union said it never made any deal to act as Thailand’s buffer state.

Gen Bo Mya, KNU vice-president and defence minister, said Thailand had never negotiated with the KNU or any other minority groups on the buffer state proposition.

Rangoon, on the other hand, did sponsor a buffer state. It was made up of the forces of KNU renegades and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

Gen Bo Mya said Rangoon hammered out a deal with the DKBA in Karen state’s Hlaingbwe district about five years ago entrusting the rebels to function as buffer troops. In return, the DKBA was promised a share of the benefits from border trade activities.