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The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Thailand's prime minister wants the fighting to stop"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Thailand and Burma 'back on track'
Thaksin (left) toasts with Burma's General Than Shwe (right) and General Maung Aye (centre)
Thaksin (left) says his toasts with Burma's General Than Shwe (right)
By Jonathan Head in Rangoon

The Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has hailed his two-day visit to Burma as a success, saying relations between the two countries are now back on track.

Earlier this year, Burmese and Thai troops were involved in clashes on their common border - both countries accuse the other of supporting drug-producing militias in the area.

Mr Thaksin brought all his considerable public relations skills to bear on Burma - the country which is the Thai prime minister's biggest foreign policy challenge.

Thaksin at the Shwedagon Pagoda temple
Thaksin surprised locals when he visited the Shwedagon Pagoda
On Wednesday morning, local worshippers at Rangoon's magnificent Shwedagon temple were clearly astonished to watch the Thai leader praying and sightseeing alongside them.

It was a populist touch, unfamiliar to most people in military-ruled Burma.

Little of substance

But while his charm has undoubtedly helped to warm the atmosphere, Mr Thaksin was unable to walk away with any solid agreements on the issues which still divide the two countries.

The memorandum of understanding they signed referred only in the most general terms to the problems of drugs, which Thailand says are produced in large quantities inside Burma and then shipped over the border.

There was no mention even of the joint border patrols the Thai side had been seeking.

Big differences

Thailand is awash with narcotics, and Mr Thaksin has made controlling the supply of drugs a top priority. But his Burmese counterparts still insist they are not responsible for Thailand's drugs crisis.

These are still two very different Asian states. One is a free market democracy; the other, one of the world's most isolated and oppressive regimes.

However much they need to get along with each other, Thailand and Burma still find it hard to end their historic mistrust and rivalry.

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See also:

19 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thaksin builds bridges with Burma
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
03 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Thailand
03 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Thailand
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