Myanmar: Dancing With Sleaze


April 30, 2012:  Aung San Suu Kyi has fought the government for decades and has now been elected to parliament without interference by the generals who have ruled the country for half a century. This is part of an army scheme to get themselves out from under growing international sanctions and persistent tribal rebellions in the thinly populated north. The generals were not willing to just surrender and submit to trial for war crimes (which a lot of their opponents want), so they came up with a plan to use their enormous economic and political power to establish a democratic form of government they could still control. By letting many (but not all) opposition politicians out of jail, rescinding many unpopular laws, and offering attractive peace deals to tribal rebels the generals have created enormous change. So far this has worked, and now China (long a business partner and ally of the generals) is demanding that the sanctions be lifted. The international community, eager to have one less dysfunctional tyranny to deal with, is inclined to go along. So are many Burmese, who are more concerned with the prospect of prosperity than the possibility of bringing the generals to justice. The unspoken deal involves amnesty for the generals, who are to be allowed to keep all they have taken for themselves over decades of misrule. That arrangement may not last, but the generals and their followers are willing to risk it. The generals believe not enough Burmese are willing to risk a civil war in order to obtain justice for all the crimes committed by the military.

April 29, 2012:  In the north (Kachin State) four police were killed in a rebel attack. Tribal rebels are still trying to permanently shut down Chinese hydroelectric dam projects. The resulting electricity goes to China, the profits go to the Burmese generals and local Kachin people pay for it all with their land and way-of-life. The government has halted, but not cancelled, the dam construction because of armed opposition by the Kachin. But the government (still largely controlled by the generals) waits for the media attention to die down so dam construction can resume. The government is trying to starve the Kachin into submission. This process began last June, when the army attacked. First, civilians in rebel areas were driven out of their villages. Then the troops blocked the roads going into rebel territory, preventing food and other air from getting in. The rebels attack the checkpoints and army patrols but not enough to break the blockade. The government recently allowed some UN sponsored aid through but can throttle or halt the aid at any time, especially in response to rebel attacks on troops.

April 27, 2012: In the far north government employees of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Border Affairs have returned to their jobs. Government workers fled two years ago as the Wa tribal rebels resumed fighting to protest rigged elections. Since then a peace deal of sorts has been worked out.

April 25, 2012: A bomb went off near a hospital in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, and wounded three civilians. That's the third bomb to go off in Myitkyina this month and the Kachin rebels have denied any involvement. The army has been known to stage attacks like this and blame it on tribal rebels.

April 20, 2012: In the north (Shan state) a time bomb went off near a checkpoint, killing a government official.

April 11, 2012:  The government agreed to allow some UN aid operations in Kachin rebel territory.

April 9, 2012:  In the last few days Karen rebel leaders met with government officials and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to work out a peace deal. The Karen don't trust the government, which has broken or seriously bent many earlier peace deals. The Karen want peace but only with someone they can trust.



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