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Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Splinter group risks backlash

Thai police seal off the Burmese embassy

By South-East Asia analyst Larry Jagan

The group which stormed the Burmese embassy - the self-styled Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors - is a new organisation about which little is known.

They have been disowned by the main existing student groups who have been in the forefront of Burma's fight for democracy for more than a decade.

[ image: Aung San Suu Kyi: Democracy through peaceful means]
Aung San Suu Kyi: Democracy through peaceful means
It was the students who led the pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988 that ended when Burma's generals seized power in a bloody coup.

In the two years that followed, more than 10,000 students and pro-democracy activists fled across the border into Thailand.

But the exiled students have always been riven with factions - and this latest incident seems to be the work of one such a splinter group.

They are certainly well armed. The Thai-Burma border is awash with guns and grenades after more than four decades of fighting between the Burmese army and numerous ethnic rebel armies like the Karen.

Growing frustration

But the group has no connection with the pro-democracy movement inside Burma led by Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy.

The NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi have always insisted that they want to achieve democracy through peaceful means.

Yet there's growing frustration both inside Burma and among the exile community abroad that after 11 years there is still political deadlock, with the military generals refusing even to talk to the NLD.

It is this frustration which has led to desperate actions like the storming of the embassy.

But it is likely to be counter-productive with the Burmese authorities stepping up their campaign against the NLD. It could also trigger a crackdown on the Burmese community in Thailand.

An estimated one million Burmese live in Thailand, and many of them fear that the authorities will now tighten controls on illegal immigrants and even start deporting them in large numbers.

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