- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Thailand fights threats

Thailand’s prime minister held “frank” and “fruitful” talks with President Bush this week and told business executives that government and private industry must confront terrorism and epidemics that threaten national security.

Thaksin Shinawatra said his meeting with Mr. Bush on Tuesday morning was “frank, fruitful, warm and visionary.”

“Despite being a courtesy call, we managed to cover such a wide range of topics,” he said.

Mr. Thaksin told the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council that governments face “two prongs of threats to our security.” The council represents the American private sector in the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“Wars and armed conflicts have, for a long time, been the traditional form of threat to our security. But increasingly, problems such as terrorism, in all kinds of form, the trafficking of narcotic drugs or even the SARS epidemic have equally threatened our security, especially our national economic security,” Mr. Thaksin said.

In Thailand yesterday, authorities said they foiled a terrorist plot to attack foreign embassies and U.S. interests with the arrest of three suspects who possessed a tourist map with circled targets.

Mr. Thaksin said the “nontraditional” threats can destroy economic confidence in any nation that fails to take measures to protect itself.

“Confidence … once destroyed or even seriously impaired, could drive the whole economy to total collapse,” he said.

“It is the duty of both the government and the private sector to ensure that economic confidence will not be impaired or destroyed by an act of terrorism, for letting it be impaired is tantamount to a victory by the terrorist,” he said.

“And above all, it is also the duty of both the government and the private sector to ensure the safety and the security of their people and take serious steps to prevent terrorism and other forms of nontraditional threat.”

Syria not cooperating

A top U.S. diplomat yesterday accused Syria of failing to shut down terrorist operations, as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded on a visit to the capital, Damascus, last month.

“We don’t understand how Syria can say it supports the peace process while continuing to openly support terrorist organizations that try with every means to destroy it,” William Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said in an interview published in the Lebanese daily newspaper As-Safir.

“Mr. Powell had clearly explained the strategic situation and that Syria should take it into account. We don’t understand their attitude towards the offices of terrorist groups in Syria, nor the arms shipments to Hezbollah.”

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which conduct suicide bombings against Israelis, have offices in Damascus. Syria says it does not control the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, although Syria dominates Lebanese affairs and maintains troops in the country.

Mr. Powell on May 3 demanded that Syria shut Hamas and Islamic Jihad offices and cut support for Hezbollah.

Haiti’s police reforms

The U.S. ambassador to Haiti yesterday urged the government to do more to reform its police force, accused of corruption, human rights abuses and political repression.

Ambassador Brian Dean Curran told the Associated Press that the recent appointment of a new police chief does not go far enough to correct the abuses of the 4,000-member force.

Mr. Curran said the United States and other countries supporting Haiti have demanded “the professionalization of the police … not to change the head only, but the entire leadership of the police.”

Jean-Robert Faveur was sworn in as police chief Friday, replacing Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste, who resigned April 3 after serving two weeks in the post.

Mr. Curran said the reforms are needed to ensure the safety of legislative elections, which have yet to be scheduled.

The government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has defended its actions.

“We’ve been working at the problem of reforming the police, but it cannot be solved overnight,” Lilas Desquiron, minister of culture and communication, told the AP.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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