Myanmar: Endless Fighting


February 9, 2011:  The newly elected government still controls the government bureaucracy, including the courts and military. In fact, the new government is behaving much like the old one (the decades old military dictatorship), with recently retired generals still making all the decisions. Opposition parties, who are still restricted inside Burma, are calling for foreign governments to maintain sanctions, but to modify them to minimize harmful effects on most of the population. The opposition parties are also calling for war crimes investigations of the generals, for their atrocious conduct in the tribal areas. The recent elections have not changed much, and are seen as an attempt by the dictatorship to get free of the international sanctions, without giving up much, if any, power.

Along the Thai border, troops continue shooting at Karen villages or, when the villages are destroyed, the villagers. The idea appears to be, as it has been for decades, to force the Karen into Thailand, and let the Thai's deal with them. This has never been popular in Thailand, but no amount to diplomatic protests or negotiations have been able to change the situation. There are about 150,000 Burmese refugees in Thailand, about a third of them illegally.

The Burmese army is also seeking to find and destroy armed rebel groups. The rebels depend on the Karen villagers for support, which is why the army so often attacks the villages (whether the villagers are aiding the rebels or not.) That kind of indiscriminate violence provides the various Karen rebel groups with a steady supply of new recruits. The Karen rebels support themselves via smuggling (including drugs) and extortions ("revolutionary taxes"). There are Christian and Buddhist factions, but all Karen will unite to fight army incursions. The army has never been able to drive the Karen from the thinly populated and mountainous border area, and the villages keep getting rebuilt. It long ago turned into an endless war.

February 3, 2011: In the north, there has been fighting between two Mon tribal factions for the past few days. There have been several casualties, including at least one dead. Government troops are seeking both factions, who are united only in their hostility towards the government.



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