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The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Mr Thaksin's popularity is undiminished"
 real 56k

The BBC's Oranuch Anusaksalthien
"It is widely expected to take a month or two for the judges to consider all the evidence"
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Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Thaksin builds bridges with Burma
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrives in Rangoon
Thaksin (centre) hopes to charm Burma's generals
By Jonathan Head in Rangoon

The Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has arrived in the Burmese capital, Rangoon, for a visit intended to help repair relations between the two neighbours.

Thai and Burmese troops have clashed several times along their common border this year after accusations from the Thai side that Burma tolerates large-scale drugs production.

After weeks of sometimes open hostility towards their Thai neighbours, the Burmese military government showed a very different face on Tuesday.

The Thai prime minister was greeted with a 19-gun salute, a guard of honour and thousands of schoolgirls cheering and waving flags through the monsoon rain as he drove into Rangoon.

Drugs accusations

Both sides clearly want this visit to draw a line under the dramatic deterioration in relations between the two countries.

But the sight of Mr Thaksin, flanked by the uniformed generals of Burma's ruling military council, was a reminder that these are two very different types of government with very different views of the problems which divide them.

The Thai side wants Burma to put a stop to the narcotics production in the northern Shan state which has resulted in a huge increase in drug addiction.

The Burmese government accuses Thailand of backing ethnic rebels in the Shan state, and says it is corrupt Thai officials who allow drugs into the country.

Balancing act

Mr Thaksin hopes his personal charisma will help the Burmese generals to see things his way.

He has made tackling drugs a top priority of his administration.

But he also faces pressure from Thai businesses, eager to invest in Burma, to improve links between the two countries.

Given those conflicting demands, perhaps the best this visit can achieve is to persuade these two historic rivals that talking is a better way to resolve their differences.

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See also:

08 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand to battle Burma drugs trade
11 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand presses Burma on drug city
18 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai PM declares innocence
09 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thaksin's rocky road to power
04 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai PM hits back at probe
14 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand monks in pro-Prime Minister rally
03 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Thailand
03 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Thailand
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