Myanmar: Crimes Against Whose Humanity

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May 4, 2014: The UN and the United States are pressuring Burma to make the Moslem Rohingya citizens. This, it is believed, would halt the violence between Moslems and Buddhists in Burma. That’s unlikely and the problem of countries refusing to grant citizenship to a minority is an old one that is not easily solved. The most notorious example of this is found in Arab nations where it is quite common. The most notorious example is the Palestinians, who are refused citizenship in most Arab countries. This is less of a problem in Western nations and a few Middle Eastern ones (like Israel and Jordan) but is not really an anti-Palestinian effort as much as it is the continuation of an ancient practice.

Meanwhile the violence between the Moslem Rohingya and police continues along the west coast. Buddhist clerics continue to call for the expulsion of all Moslems, describing Moslems as a persistent threat to all Burmese. But there was never a problem with Islamic radicalism in Burma, thanks largely to the decades of army rule that kept Saudi missionaries and money for Wahhabi (the flavor of Islam al Qaeda likes) mosques and religious schools out. The military rule also relied on large doses of nationalistic propaganda, which extolled the importance of being Burmese. This meant the ethnic Burmese majority in the south who are largely Buddhist. The tribal peoples of the north (who are largely Christian) and the Moslem and Christian minorities in the south were barely tolerated guests who had to keep their heads down. The Rohingya Moslems living near the Bangladesh border were long regarded as illegal migrants. The years of dictatorship suppressed all sorts of disruptive attitudes, but with the military rule gone people are allowed to express themselves and the Buddhist radicals went after the Moslem minority first. Now there are a growing number of Burmese Moslems who see Islamic radicalism as a viable defensive tactic. It isn’t, but it makes sense to the young, determined and stubborn.

The UN, pressed by its Islamic members, is now talking of prosecuting Burmese leaders for “crimes against humanity” because of the continued poor treatment of Burmese Moslems and especially the Rohingya. This does not go down well with most Burmese and is making it difficult to fulfill recent promises to allow foreign aid workers back into northwestern areas where many Rohingya live. Angered by the UN threats the Buddhist radicals continue to demonstrate, sometimes violently, against foreign aid efforts for the Rohingya.

April 29, 2014: Katchin tribal rebels have asked for peace talks on May 10th. This is in response to over a dozen recent clashes in the north (Kachin and Shan states). In the last few weeks over 5,000 civilians have fled their homes to avoid the fighting and there have been nearly a hundred casualties. The Kachins have been the main holdout in an effort to get all the tribal rebels in the north to make peace. The recent fighting was the result of another government effort to clear rebels from portions of the Chinese border used for a natural gas pipeline and moving trees taken in illegal logging operations as well as other contraband (like opium and meth). Kachin rebels also operate near a Chinese hydroelectric power plant. The government offensive seized one major rebel camp and several smaller ones. The army used artillery and air power which forced the rebels to remain dispersed and unable to put up a determined resistance. The government is willing to tolerate tribes that are active in smuggling and producing drugs, but not interference with Chinese and Burmese economic development efforts up there. Many of the tribes are hostile to these development efforts because it brings in more Chinese and ethnic Burmese from the south. These outsiders tend to displace tribal villages and marginalize the tribes.

April 23, 2014: In the north (Shan state) a rebel militia (TNLA or Taang National Liberation Army) made two attacks on army positions and killed ten soldiers. The TNLA are allies of the Kachin rebels.

April 20, 2014: Over the last two weeks clashes between Karch rebels and the army have left at least 22 dead (14 soldiers and eight rebels).

April 11, 2014: In the north across the border from Thailand’s Chiang Rai province Thai police intercepted ten Burmese drug smugglers and ordered them to stop. The ten Burmese tribesmen refused and a gun battle broke out. The shooting went on for hours and seven drug smugglers died. Police recovered several hundred thousand methamphetamine pills. Thailand continues having problems with the drug trade in neighboring Burma. The largest state in the north (Shan state) has illegal drugs as the mainstay of the economy. The Burmese methamphetamine is a regional problem and in each of the last few years over a billion dollars in meth (usually in pill form) was seized in neighboring countries.  From 2008 to 2012 seizures grew seven fold (to 227 million doses of methamphetamine, worth about $1.3 billion). Methamphetamine is the most popular drug in Southeast Asia and there are believed to be at least 600,000 meth addicts in Thailand, plus many tourists who indulge.  Most (nearly half) of the seized pills are taken in China, followed by Thailand and most of it is coming from meth labs in northern Burma. The Burmese meth has become hugely popular in China, which is pressuring the Burmese government to do more about the problem and that has resulted in more police activity up there, but not enough to put a dent in the drug business.

April 9, 2014: Responding to international criticism the government has agreed to protect aid workers in the northwest. Earlier this year 140,000 Rohingya Moslems living in refugee camps up there were put in danger of starvation because local Buddhists accused the aid workers of supporting Moslem violence against Buddhists and drove most of the foreign aid workers out of the area. The government was believed to be involved because police did little to protect the aid workers. The UN demanded that the government do something about this mess as the refugees were running out of food and other supplies because local Buddhists blocked the shipments. The government did not want to go to war with the local Buddhists but could not sit by and let the Moslem refugees starve. The attacks by Buddhists destroyed or damaged 15 warehouses, much warehouse and office equipment as well as some 40 vehicles.

April 7, 2014: In the north (Shan state) SSA-S (Shan State Army–South) and UWSA (United Wa State Army) militias clashed over who would control lucrative illegal gold mining operations.

 

 

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