Potential Hot Spots: June 8, 2002

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For the past three days, fighting on the Myanmar (formerly called Burma)/Thailand border between Myanmar troops and rebels from the Shan tribes and caused 1500 Thai villagers to be evacuated. The Shan tribes have been in rebellion against the Myanmar government since World War II, when the government sided with occupying Japanese troops, while the Shan (and other tribes) sided with Britain (which had ruled Burma as a colony until driven out by the Japanese in 1942.) After World War II, Britain granted Burma independence, but the tribes in northern Burma refused to acknowledge the Burmese government. The ethnic animosity between the Burmese and the tribes goes back centuries. For most of the past fifty years, the fighting has been pretty low level, with the government either not able, or not convinced it was worthwhile, to subdue the tribes. Meanwhile, the tribal areas have become a major source of illegal drug production. This has brought international pressure on the Burmese to do something about the drug business in the tribal areas. In the last few years, the government has negotiated peace deals with some of the tribes, but not the Shan.


 

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