Myanmar: too soon to cheer?

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    Myanmar: too soon to cheer?

    The Globe briefly displayed an article about restoring relations with Myanmar, following the recent visit by Sec. of State Clinton. The official U.S. story is that the event honors a so-called "cease-fire" agreement between the fledgling government of U Thein Sein and the Karen National Union (KNU). Too soon to cheer? [ Matthew Pennington, U.S. to restore diplomatic ties with Myanmar, January 13, 2012, at ]

    Those renditions are all most readers of U.S. news media are likely to see. They probably will not know that Karen tribes have long been in conflict with one another or see that KNU vice-chairman Saw David Thrac Kabaw denied that any agreement had been signed. [ KNU leader denies ceasefire agreement is signed, Karen News (Myanmar), January 12, 2012, at ]

    Besides the Karen tribes, numbering about 3.5 million, Myanmar has numerous other peoples speaking different languages, maintaining cultural identities and struggling for over 50 years to achieve autonomy or reassert the independence they once enjoyed. Largest are the Shan, Mon, Kachin, Karenni, Kayan, Rakhine, Chin, Danu, Akha, Lahu, Naga, Palaung, Pao, Rohyinga, Tavoyan, Wa and Kokang. There at least 100 groups, and together they make up about one-third of the population.

    Peoples of Myanmar may be trying to read tea leaves with the comment attributed to Sec. Clinton by the NY Times, "This is a momentous day for the diverse people of Burma." Speaking of "Burma" rather than "Myanmar," particularly when referring to "diverse people" of the country--that is to say, those who are not ethnic Burmese--is sure to leave observers there puzzled. [ Steven Lee Myers and Seth Mydans, U.S. restores Ties with Myanmar after reforms, New York Times, January 14, 2012, at ]

    Some Karen tribes clustered in the Irawaddy River delta are intermingled with ethnic Burmese. They are more visible to the Burmese populations and to foreign visitors than other tribes who live along the borders with India and China to the north. The Kachin living in the far north, numbering about 1.5 million, are not being favored with "cease-fire" agreements.

    Last summer, attacks on the Kachin population by units of Myanmar's military caused tens of thousands to flee into Tibet. Either the government of U Thein Sein is two-faced in its approach to minority peoples, or it does not have control of the military. [ Alan Raybould and Jonathan Thatcher, Humanitarian crisis brewing in Myanmar's Kachin group, Reuters (India), December 9, 2011, at ]

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    Re: Myanmar: too soon to cheer?

    App, I believe it is too early to make any judgements. If they let the "The Lady" run for President in the next election, she will clean their clocks and that would be true reform. Allowing McConnell to see her at her home and have a press conference after is a huge step. I am interested to see if they allow her husband and sons to go and visit.
    Aung San Suu Kyi, IMHO, is the future of that country. An incredible woman who is every bit the force as Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher. She went home to honor her father and bury him despite knowing she would be arrested and locked away without seeing her husband and kids.
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    Ersatz mythology

    Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would not have returned to Myanmar in 1988 to bury her father Aung San, who, along with the ministers of his fledgling government, was assassinated by U Saw, a political rival, in 1947. The British, still colonial rulers, tried, convicted and hanged U Saw in 1948.

    Instead she went to care for her ailing mother and opted to leave her husband, Michael Aris, behind in Britain with their two sons after the 1989 repression of democratic government by the army of Myanmar. The still ambiguous role of the army will be a key element in whether the new government succeeds in lifting decades of oppression.
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    Re: Myanmar: too soon to cheer?

    Got Mom and Dad mixed up. She made a heck of a sacrifice for the love of country. 20+ years later, it may all be worth it.
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    Conflict with Kachin may be easing

    Signs point to reduction in conflict between Kachin tribes in the far north of Myanmar, numbering about 1.5 million, and ethnic Burmese in the center and south of the country. [ Aye Aye Win, Associated Press, Myanmar holds new cease-fire talks with Kachin, Boston Globe, January 19, 2012, at ]

    This can be a more difficult situation than those involving Karen tribes. Before 1886, Kachinland was an independent, small country, and during the British occupation of Burma, before 1947, it was administered as a separate territory. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) seeks restoration of independence. Kachin tribes speak a tonal language known as Jingpho, which has been written in a Romanized script for about 120 years.

    The most recent conflicts broke out when Kachin towns and the KIA began protests against the Myitsone hydroelectric dam project, situated where the Mali Hka and Nmai Hka join to form the upper Irrawaddy River in Myanmar. It had been contracted to Chinese firms and threatened many Kachin towns and areas of farmland. [ Thomas Maung Shwe, Myanmar Myitsone, damming the Irrawaddy River, Chiang Rai Times (Thailand), September 3, 2011, at ]

    Early last fall, the fledgling civilian government of U Thein Sein announced that the Myitsone dam had been "suspended." It was not then and is not now clear whether or how Myanmar would compensate Chinese firms for the efforts expended and opportunities lost. [ Rachel Harvey, Work halted on divisive Myitsone project, BBC (UK), September 30, 2011, at ]

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    Peaceful development in a neighbor of Myanmar

    Chances for progress in Myanmar may be improved by recent developments to the west. AP reporter Wasbir Hussain claims that the largest and oldest insurgent groups in Assam, who are ethnically and politically linked with some of the insurgent groups in northwest Myanmar, have made settlements with the current government of India. [ Hundreds of rebels lay down weapons in Assam, Boston Globe, January 24, 2012, at ]

    Assam has been off-limits to most visitors since a Communist insurgency began in the 1970s. Like similar movements in tribal areas of Myanmar, groups in Assam have sought autonomy or independence they claim to have enjoyed before British occupation, but growth in the Muslim population is a complication not yet seen in most of Myanmar. [ United Liberation Front of Assam, Institute for Conflict Management, 2001, at ]