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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Burma's intelligence chief in Thailand
Burma's intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt examines guard of honour
Khin Nyunt is being treated like a head of state
By Jonathan Head in Bangkok

One of the most senior members of the military council which rules Burma has arrived in Thailand for a visit which could significantly improve the often-troubled relationship between the two countries.

General Khin Nyunt, the influential head of intelligence, is expected to discuss ways of reducing the flow of narcotics into Thailand from Burma and of improving economic ties.

He will also meet King Bumiphol Adulyadej, an honour usually given only to heads of state.

He was welcomed with a full guard of honour, and provided with levels of security rarely seen in the Thai capital to prevent the general's entourage from being disrupted by protests.

Clearly, both countries are determined to put their relationship back on track after some angry exchanges of words and gunfire earlier this year.

Key talks

Khin Nyunt is being treated like a head of state, even though officially he is only the third-ranking general in the ruling council - recognition that he could be the key figure in bringing Burma out of its current international isolation.

Heroin
Burma produces opium, the base ingredient for heroin
For his part, Khin Nyunt needs Thailand's help, not just to improve his country's image, but also to revive Burma's economy, which he is responsible for managing and which this year has deteriorated to the point of collapse.

The Thai Government will want to hear convincing evidence from Khin Nyunt that he can curtail the rampant production of drugs in north-eastern Burma, and it will surely want to know how well the dialogue between Khin Nyunt and democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi is progressing.

It is still far from clear just how committed this taciturn general is to doing a deal with the opposition, and if he is, whether he can persuade his more conservative colleagues in the regime to support the process.

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The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Both countries are determined to put their relationship back on track"
See also:

20 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand and Burma 'back on track'
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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