Myanmar: Bombing The Foreign Investors

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October 27, 2013: The tribal rebels in the north are more successful at keeping Burmese soldiers out than they are in preventing southern goods and businessmen away. The tribal people never got on well with southern politicians and soldiers. But Burmese businessmen coming in with goods for sale or to build things people want, like service stations to fix vehicles and sell fuel and spare parts, or cell phone networks, or anything that is useful and popular, are another story. The Burmese traders and builders come to do business, not tell the tribal people what to do. That makes all the difference, and year by year it’s the Burmese businessmen who are making the tribes comfortable with ethnic Burmese while the Burmese soldiers and government officials continue to have the opposite effect. Also unwelcome are the Chinese, who come to build dams and mines. These Chinese are assisted by Burmese officials and soldiers and are very unwelcome. Chinese businessmen are a different story, and this is made easier by the fact that some of the Burmese tribes in the north are ethnically Chinese. These tribes came to be in northern Burma because not all Chinese want to be part of a Chinese empire or state. So for centuries Chinese individually and in groups have fled the Chinese state. Some ended up in northern Burma (or northeast India, or Vietnam, or any number of countries that border China as well as more distant areas, like the United States and Europe). While the tribes want to be left alone, they don’t want to cut themselves off from the rest of the world. The ethnic Burmese down south always want to come north and meddle and tell the tribes what to do. That never works and the resulting violence continues.

One part of the north, Kachin state, has suffered 4 months of fighting between tribal rebels and Burmese soldiers. At this point it is all about low-intensity skirmishing and ambushes, and hundreds of tribal families are having a hard time getting food and other supplies because of the trigger-happy soldiers and rebels. The tribal gunmen don’t trust the government at all, so arranging even a temporary ceasefire is difficult.

October 25, 2013: In neighboring Thailand police announced the seizure of 5 million doses of methamphetamine, worth about $30 million and coming from meth labs in northern Burma. It’s believed that Burmese meth labs produce about 1.4 billion doses (in pill form) of methamphetamines each year, which have a street value of over $8 billion. At least a quarter of that stays in the Burmese tribal territories where that kind of money has become a key component of the local economy.

October 20, 2013: The 2,500 kilometers of natural gas pipeline from Burmese gas fields into China has been completed and begun operation. About a third of the pipeline is in Burma, the rest is in China. This pipeline will deliver 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year. This is equivalent (in terms of energy) to 15 million barrels of oil. The Burmese gas will replace the more expensive liquefied natural gas in 3 provinces of southwest China, as well as eliminate the need for 30 million tons of coal a year (a major source of air pollution).

October 18, 2013: Police announced they had identified who was behind the use of 10 bombs placed (and most detonated) in Burmese towns and cities in the last week. The bombs were all of similar design, did not use a lot of explosives, and were intended to damage property and scare people, not kill them. There were 2 deaths and several wounded. Not all the bombs went off (and all used a timer). The government blamed tribal rebels who were intent on discouraging foreign investment, especially projects for the tribal territories. The tribal people are angry at the way the ethnic Burmese from the south use soldiers to drive tribal people off land the foreign investors want to use. Although the government offers to pay the displaced tribal families, local Burmese officials or soldiers often steal the compensation money and use force to get the tribal people to flee. Similar land theft is being used in the south against poor ethnic Burmese farmers.

October 15, 2013: For the first time the Burmese Army is accepting woman recruits for support jobs other than nursing.

October 10, 2013: The government and Kachin tribal rebels have reached a tentative peace deal. That means there would be a ceasefire if the 2 sides can work out some remaining details. In the past such peace deals have fallen apart because of inability to clear up disagreements over the details.

October 8, 2013: The government released another 56 political prisoners. This comes after 68 were released in July. Nearly 30,000 prisoners, many of them political, have been released since the new civilian government took over in March 2011.  

October 6, 2013: The government arrested 44 people (most of them Buddhists) for instigating and participating in anti-Moslem riots that began on the 1st and lasted several days. The violence left 5 Moslems dead and nearly 500 homeless.

 

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