Sri Lanka: Done In By a Booming Economy


August 9, 2007: The LTTE is being seen as an empty threat. The collapse of LTTE forces in eastern Sri Lanka, and inability to carry out a promised terror campaign, has encouraged government forces, and made Tamil civilians more willing to resist LTTE pressure (to volunteer, or donate money.) The navy continues to destroy LTTE gunrunner boats off the northern coast, while the air force bombed an LTTE base on the northern coast. These bases are disguised as fishing villages, but better intelligence has led to the discovery of which "fishing villages" are simply masquerading as smugglers bases. Meanwhile, in the east, the government is trying to get the LTTE Karuna faction, which allied with the army to crush LTTE control in the area, to disarm. There are over a thousand armed Karuna gunmen, and they say they will give up their weapons when they are sure there are no LTTE loyalists in the area that can come after them. There are still believed to be several hundred armed LTTE loyalists in the east, who have gone underground, and may turn into a criminal gang to survive, and be difficult to eliminate. Most of the army units have now gone north, where skirmishing on the front line is increasing, with the LTTE getting ready to resist an army advance.

The LTTE vow to attack economic targets is not an empty threat. Sabotage and suicide bomber activity teams are being detected and caught. But last year, the economy grew 7.4 percent, and this year is doing even better, the best economic growth since the 1970s.

The death toll in this new phase of the war, going on for two years now, is about 5,000. A 2002 ceasefire ended 19 years of fighting that had killed about 65,000. But the ceasefire collapsed in 2005. Since then, the LTTE has tried to reposition itself as a hapless victim of government terror. Given the LTTE history of violence and terror, few Sri Lankans, or foreigners, have fallen for the new pitch.


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