Myanmar: Not As Tricky As It Looks


December 8, 2011: Although China is Burma's largest trading partner ($4.4 billion a year) and largest foreign investor; the recent elections have made it politically correct for India and the United States to get more involved. What irritates China the most is the Burmese order for Chinese firms to halt construction of nearly $4 billion worth of hydroelectric dams in northern Burma. In the last half century, China has become the most active dam builder on the planet, and now has over half the large dams on the planet. These dams have become a major source of electricity for China. The northern Burma dams are unpopular in the West because they disrupt the lives of so many Burmese and send all the electricity to China (while Burma has major power shortages). There's a quiet shoving contest between China and the West, and the Burmese government, over the fate of the dam project. The Burmese apparently seek to get more aid from India, China and the West because of all this strife, and play the major powers off against each other.

China and India are more interested in bringing law and order to the largely tribal northern Burma. Warlords, drug gangs and smugglers dominate the region. The Burmese Army can move in, but really only controls that small area where its troops actually stand. Pacifying this region has been a fool's errand for centuries.

The government is now negotiating peace deals with the Karen National Union and the New Mon State Party (NMSP), in an effort to bring peace to the tribal north. In the last year, there has been a lot more fighting up there because the tribes see the new government as a trick by the previous military dictatorship. The new government is trying to convince the tribes that the new situation isn't nearly as tricky as it looks.

December 5, 2011:  Over the weekend, three bombs went off in the tribal north, killing one policeman and wounding six others.

December 4, 2011: The government signed a ceasefire agreement with the Shan State Army and agreed to undertake peace talks.

December 1, 2011:  Burmese leaders again denied, this time to visiting American officials, that Burma ever had a nuclear weapons program. But it has become known that, in the last two decades, over 1,100 Burmese officials have undergone training in North Korea universities and technical schools.

November 13, 2011: In the north (Kachin State) a bomb went off, killing ten people. This explosion was apparently an accident, occurring as the tribal terrorists were working with a bomb.

November 12, 2011: Two bombs went off in the north (Kachin State), causing no injuries.



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