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June 9, 2000 VOL. 29 NO. 22 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Newsmakers

Men On A Mission
When President Jiang Zemin opened the May 29 official session with India's visiting President Kocheril Narayanan, he recalled an earlier meeting in the 1950s of Jawaharlal Nehru and Zhou Enlai, the two men who led the non-aligned movement. A generous sentiment perhaps, but the first item on the agenda once Jiang and Narayanan got down to business was to agree to "seek common ground" in their Himalayan border dispute that dates back 38 years. As India's president, Narayanan is more of a figurehead than Jiang, but he carries tremendous clout in China where he served a lengthy stint as ambassador following the 1962 border clash. As the world's two most populous nations and Asia's increasingly competitive military and economic powers, it's important that these countries keep their relations as smooth as possible -- the potential for future disaster is simply too great. Want an example? New Delhi used the "threat from China" as a justification for carrying out its 1998 nuclear test that rattled the global balance of nuclear forces.

PASSAGE
DIED: Santi Chaiviratana, 55, a Thai deputy interior minister in the late 1980s, was shot and killed in front of his consultancy firm in Chiang Rai by a lone gunman. Fellow members of the Chart Pattana Party are calling for a swift investigation into his death, though police doubt a political motive. Instead, they are looking into a business dispute surrounding a 380-million-baht ($9.7-million) waste-water treatment contract in Chiang Rai.

DIED: Agansing Rai, 81, one of five surviving Gurkhas to have won Britain's highest award for valor -- the Victoria Cross -- died in a hospital in Kathmandu, his family announced on May 28. Rai was awarded the VC for attacking a Japanese machine-gun post in Burma in 1944. Eleven Gurkhas have been given the Cross since it was created in 1856.

Busy Man
You would think that confining a former president to house arrest would be enough work to fill your appointment calendar. But in addition to putting Suharto, 79, on ice in the face of mounting public anger, Indonesia's Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman is tackling inquiries into human-rights violations in Timor and, until recently, the Texmaco credit scandal, which was dropped because of a lack of evidence. And for more than three weeks, Suharto crony Mohammad "Bob" Hasan has been in detention, on fears that he might flee the country -- most of his family is already abroad. On top of that, former military chief Wiranto -- widely held responsible for the mid-1998 unrest that surrounded Suharto's departure, has been undergoing hours-long interrogation by Darusman's deputies. Even though the nearly immobile Suharto's confinement to his spacious home is more a symbolic gesture than a punishment, it should go a long way toward placating the vocal, and at times violent, critics seeking justice -- or retribution -- for the abuses of his 32-year rule.

Black May Whitewash?
Apparently, the Thai military was successful at getting the government to say nothing of substance while filling 605 pages of text. That's how long the report is on the "Black May" incidents of 1992, when Thai security forces opened fire on demonstrators on the streets of Bangkok. They were protesting the overthrow of PM Chatichai Choonhavan by the military, led by Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon. The official onslaught of words hasn't silenced critics, though. Adul Khiewboriboon, chairman of the Black May Heroes' Relatives Committee, says he is very disappointed by the cover-up, blaming PM Chuan Leekpai (who is also defense minister) for being half-hearted in his release of the document, which was ordered under the Official Information Act. The Bangkok Post, in a front-page editorial headlined "An Offense to the Spirit of the Charter," criticized the report as a mockery of the constitution. And on May 17, anticipating the paper's release while marking the 8th anniversary of the onset of the demonstrations, Amnesty International warned that Thailand's army is still not being held accountable for human rights violations, in part because the government had never produced a full account of the 1992 events. "No one in the security forces has been brought to justice," for the May 1992 events, and the killings "haunt both the government and the people of Thailand," Amnesty said.

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