Counter-Terrorism: Bombs for Peace


April 29, 2006: Burma (officially called Myanmar) has been run by a military dictatorship since the 1960s, and this has pissed off a lot of Burmese. But no revolutionary movement has been successful. The generals have managed to create a very effective police state, developing some unique counter-terrorism techniques along the way. One of the more curious tactics is to use terrorist attacks to mobilize support for the dictatorship. Last year, there were several terrorist bombings, which left about 60 people dead and some 200 wounded. The government was quick to blame various ethnic nationalist and separatist groups, advocates of liberal reform, exiled dissidents, and agents of several other foreign nations, including, naturally, the U.S. Substantial rewards were offered for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the attacks, but so far no one has come forward to claim them.

The junta has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Government troops have regularly committed mass rape in restive areas and there are reports of the use of chemical weapons. So it's not surprising that some opposition leaders believe the leaders of the junta may actually have arranged for the bombings, in order to institute yet another crackdown on dissidents, and create more fear among the general population.

Despite this, the bombings may well be the result of rifts in the military leadership. A recent shake-up of the military leadership, particularly of the intelligence and security forces, resulted in the ouster of many officers not only from senior positions, but in many cases from any role at all in the government or armed forces, thereby cutting them off from highly profitable graft. In short, the bombings may signal a power struggle in the ruling junta.

But in April, 2006, five more bombs went off in the major city of Rangoon, causing no casualties. The bombs were apparently made of C-4 explosives. This is the kind of stuff the military has, and it is believed that this series of attacks was carried out by the secret police. Using such terror attacks to help keep a restive population in line is rather unique. But in Burma, it seems to work. The resulting counter-terrorism efforts, which are actually meant to put the pressure on anti-government groups, cause less unrest.


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