Moslem nations are using their economic and diplomatic clout to get the UN to increase criticism of Buddhist violence against Moslems in Burma. Foreign aid groups on the west coast (Arakan and Rakhine states), where most of the anti-Moslem violence occurs, complain that local Buddhists interfere with efforts to get aid to displaced Moslems. Last month five Moslems died in the continuing violence. In the last year some 250 people have died and over 150,000 driven from their homes. Most of the victims have been Moslem, and that is where more and more of the foreign aid is going. Before that most of the foreign relief aid went north to the tribal areas where the army has been fighting rebels for decades and since 2011, over 100,000 people have been driven from their homes. That is still going on but has been eclipsed in the last year by the anti-Moslem violence.
Last year some 227 million doses of methamphetamine, worth about $1.3 billion, were seized in the region. That’s a seven fold increase from 2008. Methamphetamine is the most popular drug in Southeast Asia. Most of the seized pills were taken in China (45 percent) and Thailand (42 percent), and most of it is 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.
A coalition of 18 tribal rebel groups in the north recently completed a public peace conference. This was organized by the KIO (Kachin Independence Organization) and 17 other armed groups. These included most of the majors, like the UNFC (United Nationalities Federal Council, KNU (Kayin National Union), RCSS (Restoration Council of the Shan State Army), DKBA (Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army), and NMSP (New Mon State Party). Some of the larger rebel groups did not attend. Especially missed was the UWSA (United Wa State Army) and NDAA-ESS (National Democratic Alliance Army, Eastern Shan State).
All these groups are trying to persuade the government to adopt a more federal form of government that would provide the tribes with more autonomy and less corruption and abuse from southerners. There is growing support for that in the south but official government policy is still opposed to any autonomy. The main, unspoken, reason for that is the corruption opportunities up north. China wants to invest more in the north, to build dams for electrical power China needs and mines to supply China with raw material. As long as the Burmese government will supply legal cover and troops to deal with any tribal people who are in the way, the Chinese will pay, and pay well, for those services. All this just makes the tribes angrier.
November 20, 2013: In Rangoon police arrested three Buddhist men and accused them of planning to bomb mosques.
November 18, 2013: In the northeast the last mosque in Arakan state was destroyed by a Buddhist mob.
November 15, 2013: In the north protests against a Chinese copper mine continue, leaving nine police and eight civilians wounded.
November 13, 2013: Three Russian Navy ships visited, stopping at Yangon.
November 2, 2013: In Arakan State a Buddhist woman was killed and another seriously injured by Moslems. This was apparently retaliation for the death of a Moslem man earlier in the day.
November 1, 2013: India continues to offer Burma very cheap, or free, military aid. This is an ongoing effort to offset growing Chinese economic and military influence there. But what really makes China popular with Burmese officials is the Chinese willingness to pay bribes and sell anything to Burma, despite any international criticism and bad press.
October 30, 2013: In the north, Karen tribal rebels continued to clash with soldiers. Nearly a thousand Karen civilians have been forced to flee their homes because of the new round of fighting.
October 28, 2013: In the north fighting between the army and Kachin tribal rebels has forced 2,000 civilians to flee.