Myanmar: China Is Your Special Friend


March 3, 2011: The new democracy in Myanmar is very much the same old military dictatorship. The recent elections were rigged and the parliament is full of supporters of the generals. Thus the military has gotten 23 percent of the government budget for the next year. The generals expect to get more for their money, mainly because North Korea just lost a lot of its weapons customers with the overthrow of several Arab dictatorships. As a result, Myanmar can demand more for less from a desperate North Korea. The trade has been going on since 2007, when diplomatic relations were resumed with North Korea, and a barter trade (rice from Myanmar for weapons and other goods from North Korea) established. This avoided problems with international embargos on North Korean arms exports. Cargo ships coming from North Korea had cargos described as "cement" and "general cargo." These ships were unloaded in heavily guarded, military controlled, port areas.

The extra cash for the military is going to pay for new weapons from China and Russia. Later this month, Russia is expected to begin delivering 20 MiG-29 fighters that were ordered two years ago. Indian firms will provide maintenance and technical support. India has long used MiG-29s and has built an infrastructure to support this aircraft. While most Indians do not approve of the generals running Myanmar, they do appreciate the cooperation of the generals in defeating tribal separatists and communist rebels in India's northeast. India is also building a road to connect with Myanmar in the northeast, to encourage trade and help build the economy in the thinly populated area that borders China and Myanmar.

China has replaced Thailand as the largest foreign investor in Myanmar. The Myanmar generals see China as their economic savior, and China is eager to have an ally so close to India. Increased maritime trade with Myanmar is but the beginning of a process that will lead to Chinese warships eventually operating out of Myanmar ports. This is a nightmare for India, which is trying to make nice with the Myanmar generals, in an attempt to halt the growth of Chinese influence, and presence, in the area.

February 27, 2011: A bomb exploded in the capital, wounding four people. No one took credit for it.

February 19, 2011:  Tribal rebels in the east killed four civilians, during an encounter with troops.



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