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    Default Burma: catch all thread

    USIP Working Paper, Jul 07: Building Democracy in Burma
    There is no easy answer to the question of whether and to what degree external actors should intervene to trigger or force transition in extreme cases of autocratic or failed governance. Often in the zeal to hasten the demise of bad regimes inadequate consideration is given ahead of time to how the international community can best prepare a backward country for effective democratic governance. Burma – a prime case of arrested development brought about by decades of stubborn, isolationist military rule – provides ample illustration of this dilemma. The great hope for instant transition to democracy that was raised by the 1990 parliamentary elections in Burma was dashed almost immediately by the failure of the military regime to seat the elected parliament. Motivated by despair, many governments adopted policies making regime change a sine qua non for engagement with Burma, hoping this would force the military to follow through on its original promise to return to elected government. Seventeen years later, however, the military remains firmly entrenched in power and the country’s political, economic, and human resources have seriously deteriorated. Even if an elected government could be seated tomorrow, it would find itself bereft of the institutions necessary to deliver stable democratic rule.

    Starting from the assumption that some degree of transition is inevitable in the not-toodistant future, this study explores the depth of Burma’s deprivations under military rule, focusing on questions of how to make the country’s political, social, and economic institutions adequate to the task of managing democratic governance. It identifies the international mechanisms available to assist in this task, as well as innate strengths that can still be found in Burma, and it discusses what the limitations on assistance might be under various scenarios for political transition. Concluding that some degree of political transition will have to be underway before it will be possible to deliver effective assistance, the study suggests that the most productive policy approaches will require greater coordination and collaboration with Burma’s Asian neighbors.
    Full 77 page paper at the link.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Monks seize troops in Burma town - BBC News, 6 Sep.

    Buddhist monks have taken about 20 members of the security forces hostage in central Burma, a day after clashes at a protest rally.


    On Wednesday the security forces fired shots into the air to disperse some 400 monks demonstrating in Pakokku town.

    When officials came to the monastery on Thursday, the monks locked them inside and set their vehicles on fire.

    A series of anti-government protests have been held since the military junta doubled fuel prices last month.

    'Tyrannical behaviour'
    The officials had reportedly come to apologise for the clashes at Wednesday's demonstration.
    But the monks burned four of the vehicles they came in and locked them inside the monastery.

    Hundreds of people gathered outside the gates to applaud the monks.
    "The security forces outside the monastery are too afraid to go near the crowd," one resident told the French news agency AFP. "They won't even show their walkie-talkies ..."

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    BBC, 24 Sep 07: Monks Lead Largest Burma Protest
    Tens of thousands of people have marched through Burma's main city of Rangoon in the biggest of a mounting wave of anti-government protests. Eyewitnesses said the number of monks and civilians demonstrating was more than 30,000, with some activists saying 100,000 were involved....

    ...But there are fears of a repeat of 1988, when the last democracy uprising was crushed by the military and some 3,000 people were killed, correspondents say.

    Five columns of monks, one reportedly stretching for more than 1km (0.6 miles), entered the city centre to cheers and applause from thousands of bystanders....

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    May Siddhartha be with them.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    There is small community of Burmese exiles in my apartment building and surrounding area. From conversations with them in the past few days, I have little faith that this will end well. Hopefully they are wrong.

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    Default Burma Snapshots

    Video advocates BURMA ISSUES travel deep into the jungles of eastern Burma to document one of the world's most urgent and most forgotten emergencies. The Burmese military has embarked on one of the worst offensives in its 30 year campaign to destabilize the lives of rural ethnic minorities. Half a million live driven from their homes. (Co produced with WITNESS) INTERNATIONAL ACTION IS NEEDED! To learn more and ACT NOW: www.witness.org/shootonsight
    Shoot on Sight part I

    Shoot on Sight part II

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    Default Miltary Situation in Myanmar

    Does anyone know of the current military situation in Myanmar?

    From the info I have, the Myanmar gov. has been engaged in many insurgencies since its independence from fighting KMT armies which retreated from China in the 50s(who's descendants have become drug armies in the golden triangle(Khun Sa) to ethnic tribal insurgencies(Karen etc.).

    It seems the Myanmar gov. has mostly won over teh local insurgencies(the last one was Khun Sa's narco armies which have been coopted into the gov.) but the Karen and other tribes in the east(Thai border) seems to be holding out.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    At one point, circa the mid-80's, I believe it was a 6-cornered civil war closer to the break-p of Yugoslavia than an "insurgency". I can remember reading some articles on how the "government" used an alternating hold and smash series of tactics: hold on 4 fronts and smash the 5th, then move on. To me, the Karen were the most interesting and used some moderately innovative tactics (the bicycle RPG anti-armour groups were intriguing).
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Default Burma and The Great Game

    While we maintain a myoptic focus on the war against terrorism, we risk losing ground in the great game where we compete for access to resources and strategic alliances. This may put our country at serious disadvantage strategically in the very near future. This excellent article is just one of many examples of the U.S.'s waning influence around the globe, and some insights on how we may be able to regain our influence.

    September 2008 Atlantic

    Lifting the Bamboo Curtain, by Robert Kaplan

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200809/burma

    As China and India vie for power and influence, Burma has become a strategic battleground. Four Americans with deep ties to this fractured, resource-rich country illuminate its current troubles, and what the U.S. should do to shape its future.
    Burma is a prize to be contested, and China and India are not-so-subtly vying for it. But in a world shaped by ethnic struggles, higher fuel prices, new energy pathways, and climate-change-driven natural disasters like the recent cyclone, Burma also represents a microcosm of the strategic challenges that the United States will face.
    Burma is also a potential North Korea, he says, as well as a perfect psychological operations target. He and others explained that the Russians are helping the Burmese government to mine uranium in the Kachin and Chin regions in the north and west, with the North Koreans waiting in the wings to supply nuclear technology. The Burmese junta craves some sort of weapons-of-mass-destruction capability to provide it with international leverage. “But the regime is paranoid,” Heine*mann points out. “It’s superstitious. They’re rolling chicken bones on the ground to see what to do next.

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    Council Member sullygoarmy's Avatar
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    "Ahh Elaine. You may know it as Myanmar. But it will always be Burma to me"

    J. Peterman from Seinfeld


    I thought Kaplan's article was a great reminder about a completely dark and dangerous country. It seems Burma quickly faded out of the media spotlight after the devestating Tsunami since no one could gain access to the country. Talk about a dark hole of information and potential breeding ground for international terrorists. Insurgents fighting the Indian government already used the western part of Burma as a staging ground. IMHO, it is only a matter of time until you see Burma as a safe haven for larger, more global terrorist groups.

    Thanks for the post!
    "But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet withstanding, go out to meet it."

    -Thucydides

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question Although I don't disagree with either of you

    Is it possible that although Burma is not on the super priority list for us due to current circumstances, The chinese on the other hand probably pay a whole lot more attention to it considering that they have seen what that " breeding ground" problem can end up being for the bigger players. They probably don't want anything adding more fuel to the fire with some of their current areas of trouble and any free ranging in Burma of such groups would seem destined to cause them just as much pain if not more than most.
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    Is it possible that although Burma is not on the super priority list for us due to current circumstances, The chinese on the other hand probably pay a whole lot more attention to it considering that they have seen what that " breeding ground" problem can end up being for the bigger players. They probably don't want anything adding more fuel to the fire with some of their current areas of trouble and any free ranging in Burma of such groups would seem destined to cause them just as much pain if not more than most.
    If China pays more attention to Burma than the US does I suspect it is for the foillowing reasons:
    1. Competition with India for commercial goods export to Burma;
    2. Competition with Russia and India for weapons export to Burma; (I believe Burma has one of the 20 biggest armed forces in the world.)
    3. Access to Burma's natural gas reserves (only 21.1 TCF according to EIA, but still worth exploiting due to proximity--by way of comparison Venezuela has 181 TCF of known NG reserves and the US has 211 TCF according to EIA)

    I don't think a "basing for terrorism problem," a la Pakistan-Afghanistan, is a significant concern for the Chinese vis-a-vis Burma. The military junta seems to have a pretty firm handle on dissidence (and what it doesn't control, the opium drug lords in the Golden Triangle do I suspect). I'd be more worried about the Burmese getting sucked into a Chinese sphere of influence, thereby making the Indians worried. This could produce new tensions on the eastern side of the sub-continent to go along with those that are already in place on the western side.
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. — Sydney J. Harris

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    Default Burma: some news from a largely ignored conflict.

    http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=20650

    There's an ongoing violent conflict in Burma. While the west tends to want to focus on the peaceful efforts of Suu Kai & the NLD, not everyone is willing to ignore the junta's crimes against humanity.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Look away, stay away

    There has always been a reluctance to report consistently on the Burmese insurgencies, which date back to independence in 1947. Burmese nationalism was and is a factor with impact - for the nation, not just the military junta.

    Nor have her neighbours encouraged long-term reporting, most notably by Thailand.

    I know there have been refugees since 1947 encamped close to the border and few have left for the wider world. Somehow I doubt there is a Burmese diaspora that has any effect, unlike the Tamils for example.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I know there have been refugees since 1947 encamped close to the border and few have left for the wider world. Somehow I doubt there is a Burmese diaspora that has any effect, unlike the Tamils for example.
    Thailand has had a lot of nasty going on. This is one of the things I found out they've been doing recently:
    http://democracyforburma.wordpress.c...wed-to-travel/

    Thailand has also engaged in the forced repatriation of refugees during active conflict, meaning they do force people back into places where shooting is still going on.

    In the URL I originally posted, you might notice that the Brigade 5 is a splinter group. One of the things that illustrates is that this is quite an active conflict.

    The Burmese armed forced under control of `the generals' have been engaging in quite an impressive array of war crimes, including organized forced rapes of women in entire villages, a variety of pressed labor activities including using civilians with sticks impressed to clear minefields & mined roads, use of pressed gangs to haul war material, and array of other more tediously evil murders & forced labor that can be expected by a thoroughly corrupt military regime. All that rather recently too, so these are current events I'm referring to, not historical abuses.

    Burma is one of what I think of as the `Chinese toilet ring', one of a set of border countries where they encourage despotic regimes in order to make themselves look better by comparison. It's in line with their other imperialistic ambitions, and a quite troubling pattern that has me concerned with their subversive sponsorship of Nepalese Maoists by way of related activity. This is why when you hear propaganda about China's "peaceful rise" you shouldn't believe it for a second. It's a well papered lie, but a lie no matter how they try to cover up for what they're really doing.

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    Default interview with a former slave

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc7qMyIu4G4

    This guy was used in a press gang as a porter and human shield for 4 years before his escape to the Karen state.

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    Here's some background on the tragedy playing out in Burma:

    While the work of French clandestine services in Indochina enabled the opium trade to survive a government repression campaign, some CIA activities in Burma helped transform the Shan States from a relatively minor poppy cultivating area into the largest opium-growing region in the world. The precipitous collapse of the Nationalist Chinese (Kuomintang, or KMT) government in 1949 convinced the Truman administration that it had to stem "the southward flow of communism" into Southeast Asia. In 1950 the Defense Department extended military aid to the French in Indochina. In that same year, the CIA began regrouping those remnants of the defeated Kuomintang army in the Burmese Shan States for a projected invasion of southern China. Although the KMT army was to fail in its military operations, it succeeded in monopolizing and expanding the Shan States' opium trade. (excerpt from The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity In The Global Drug Trade by Alfred W. McCoy)
    Secret War In Burma: The KMT

    The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia - Wikipedia

    The Politics of Heroin - Amazon

    Alfred W. McCoy - Wikipedia

    Some other players:

    ‘’Chevron and its consortium partners continue to rely on the Burmese army for pipeline security and those forces continue to conscript thousands of villagers for forced labour, and to commit torture, rape, murder and other serious abuses in the course of their operations,’’ revealed the 76-page report, ‘The Human Cost of Energy’.

    Chevron should act on ‘’its moral and legal obligations to human rights rather than profit from human rights abuses,’’ the report added of this project that earned the Burma’s junta about 1.1 billion US dollars in 2006, over half of its total earnings from the sale of gas to neighbouring Thailand, which was 2.16 billion dollars that year.

    ‘’Chevron can be sued by villagers from Burma if it does not stop the human rights violations,’’ Naing Htoo, EI’s Burma Project coordinator, said during a press conference at the launch of the report. ‘’The violations are happening every day.’’
    Burma: US Oil Major Complicit in Abuses - Rights Lobby - IPS News

    BANGKOK, Apr 29, 2010 (IPS) - When shareholders of the multinational company Chevron gather for their annual meeting in the U.S. city of Houston in late May, they will come face to face with Naing Htoo, whose community has suffered due to the exploits of the energy giant in military-ruled Burma.

    "I want to expose what has gone on as a result of Chevron’s investments in Burma," says the 30-year-old from the Karen ethnic minority. "The shareholders need to know where their money is going and the suffering it is causing."
    Pressure Mounts On Energy Giant Chevron To Disclose Revenue - IPS News

    I had planned tonight to read from my last interview with Aung San Suu Kyi, but I decided not to – because of something Suu Kyi said to me when I last spoke to her. "Be careful of media fashion," she said. "The media like this sentimental version of life that reduces everything down to personality. Too often this can be a distraction."
    The Hypocrites Who Say They Back Democracy In Burma - John Pilger - antiwar.com

    A sad state of affairs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anonamatic View Post
    what I think of as the `Chinese toilet ring'
    In any case, I sure didn't post any of this stuff to give you an opportunity to go off on some jackass poorly sourced leftist rant that has nothing more going for it than your disdain for the USA.
    My apologies then. Perhaps it is as Confucius say, "Man who stand on toilet ring high on pot."

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    Exclamation "Its about Tribes, Stupid"

    Have been working with some volunteer buddies helping various ethnic resistance movements and underground activists in this region at intervals now into our seventh year.

    After working with ethnics at political, military and grassroots levels, I am not sure of much of anything in this complex land, since I am not on the ground full time. There are, however, a few observations to share.

    The media, along with rants from the political Left and Right as well as American audiences, in general, all remain fixated on simplistic images of Burma ... with Aung San Suu Kyi as "the darling of democracy" imprisoned and now released, juxtaposed against the dictator General Maung Aye backed one way or another by profit-hungry nations and international corporations, to include Chevron and TRANSOCEAN.

    This misses the point.

    After all we have been through in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of "not getting it" early on in the matter "ethnic power brokers", it is well to consider that the real issue to be creatively faced in Burma is (1) "Ethnic Balance of Power", as well as (2) the role ethnic resistance armies could play in support of vital US National Security interests.

    With over 130 different groups and sub-groups, most of which occupy Burma's border areas, and on whose ancestral lands most of Burma's natural resource wealth lies, these ethnic minorities comprise roughly half of the country's populace and legally 7 of its 14 states. The truth is that "Democracy" per means discrimination again to these minorities at the hands of the Burman majority, as has historically been the case. Ethnics dispute the "Democracy First" affirmation of Aung San Suu Kyi, and instead assert that "Matter of National Reconciliation" among all ethnics is the #1 imperative for what ails Burma. Its all about balance, fairness and the righting of old wrongs.

    More importantly, ethnic resistance armies comprise the only internal military capacity able to thwart the Burmese dictator backed by China which is after unfettered access to the Indian Ocean. Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD dont have any such capacity. Ethnics, using simple unconventional warfare methods, can be an enduring thorn in the side of all those who seek to profit off of stolen ethnic lands. A target-rich environment.

    UW remains the superior form of war in these parts...something that gives ethnics negative leverage to become potential stakeholders in economic development coming like a freight train at them, rather than being mere speed bumps in the way of others' profit.

    The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) for example racked up 80:1 KIA and 120:1 WIA ratios against the Burmese Army in 2009. This is testament to the resolve and competency of freedom fighters who have had their families murdered for decades going up against the conscript and child soldiers in the Burmese Army, which has almost fatally bad morale. Ethnics are a force to be reckoned with no matter how materially impoverished they may be.

    Ethnics are also the only internal power base to be applied against the spread of radical Islamists coming through Bangladesh and India. (Bali bombers in 2002 admitted that the Islamic populace of Burma was a future target for radicalization).

    So also are ethnic potential "players" in the matter of containing the Burmese dictator's aim of developing nuclear power.

    America has a bad track record of not cultivating ethnic power bases well in advance of conflict come surely at us. Burma is now a case in point.

    Bottom line. Working now on US vital interests in the region to contain China, radical Islamists and nuclear proliferation, is a compelling reality for us. Yet we remain dangerously fixated on 5 meter targets elsewhere.

    Harnessing the Unconventional Warfare power potential of ethnic resistance movements should be part of our "condition setting" calculus. Part of that calculus should involve ethnics compelling needed evolution of the dictator's Dark Ages business model. This could be accomplished by experimenting with more enlightened entrepreneurship ventures that empower the masses as a viable tax base, instead of their being the object of rape, pillage and plunder, as is now the case.

    Vulnerability? Fear. The dictator and his stakeholders / supporters are fundamentally fearful of loss of profit, loss of image, loss of economic opportunity, fear of increased insurance costs, fear of media and fear of the truth of what is going on in the shadows. In China's case, it is particularly fearful of unstable access to the Indian Ocean.

    Getting wrapped up in Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD (an organization with internal effectiveness and corruption problems) is no different than once again putting all our money and hopes on single ponies like Karzai, Chalabi, and other dictators most recently in the spotlight.

    As author Robert D. Kaplan once said when talking about SWA, "Its about tribes, Stupid."

    Note: We coincentally smuggled him into the jungles of Burma in 2008 to do research for his present book "Monsoon".
    Last edited by Tim Heinemann; 02-07-2011 at 09:16 PM. Reason: Misspellings

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Heinemann View Post
    A target-rich environment.
    The dictator and his stakeholders / supporters are fundamentally fearful of loss of profit, loss of image, loss of economic opportunity, fear of increased insurance costs, fear of media and fear of the truth of what is going on in the shadows.
    I could be mistaken, but a significant source of the Junta's revenue seems to flow from the gas pipeline. How feasible would a dedicated effort to sabotage the pipeline be? How would you describe or imagine the effect cycle of such a course of action? What about the assassination of military and civilian leadership, to include outside enablers of the regime? Would such activities be helpful or unhelpful? Thanks.
    Last edited by Backwards Observer; 02-07-2011 at 11:41 PM. Reason: added question

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