Myanmar: Hooray For Heroin

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March 18, 2011: In the far north, the army is having problems finding, much less fighting, tribal rebels. But the armed tribesmen have little trouble finding and blocking food and other supplies headed for government forces. This is becoming a major problem that has been getting worse in the last few months. As a result of last November's elections, six tribal armies from among the Karenni, Chin, Kachin, Mon and Shan people in the north have formed a defensive union. The tribes believe they would be attacked once the voting was over, and they were sort of correct. The tribesmen know the new "democracy" is a sham, and just the same old military dictatorship in new clothes. The new anti-government alliance has gone further and attacked the heroin operations of pro-government tribes. The growing (or returning) heroin trade is also a source of income for the government, and the government is unhappy with these losses. Meanwhile, the government destroys poppy fields belonging to hostile tribes. Overall, since 1996, opium and heroin production has declined nearly 90 percent in Myanmar, but has been making a comeback the last few years. The government has encouraged some tribes to switch sides, and oppose the rebel tribes, by giving them permission to grow poppies (which produces opium and, with a chemical transformation, heroin).

The government has banned the use of VOIP (telephone calls via the Internet, using software like Skype). The official reason for this is to increase revenue for the state telephone company. Other nations take care of this by increasing costs of VOIP calls that use the local phone network (as many, but not all, of them do). In Burma, VOIP is banned because it is impossible for the secret police to monitor these encrypted calls.

Fighting continues on the Thai border, as troops hunt rebel Karen tribesmen. Thailand is unhappy with the 10,000 (at least) refugees who have fled the violence, and has tried to seal the border. This has stopped some of the refugees, but left thousands sneaking just across into Thailand, but unable to reach a refugee camp. The Myanmar government has been fighting the Karen for over half a century, and has done a lot of damage, but the Karen won't quit. A government amnesty program, for example, has only resulted in about fifty surrenders in the past year.

India has responded to the new government by refusing to sell it weapons. India sees the recent elections as a sham and refuses to play along.

March 13, 2011: Anti-government web sites are again under attack by hackers (apparently hired by the Myanmar government.)

March 4, 2011: The new parliament has provided a secret fund for the military, where the money can be used, in secret, for whatever purpose the commander of the armed forces sees fit. There have been many complaints about the secret fund, but at least the government acknowledges that it exists.

 

 

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