Myanmar: China Protects Its Interests

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August 15, 2011: The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has written to the Chinese government, pointing out that continued Chinese work on building dams in Kachin State will lead to more fighting between Kachin rebels and the Burmese army and threatening Chinese investments in the area. The Chinese appear unconcerned. Located near the Chinese border, the KIA can quickly move their operation across the border. But once in China, the KIA have to avoid appearing to be using China as a base for operations in Burma. Otherwise, the Chinese will be obliged to come after the KIA, despite the rugged terrain along the border.

China tolerates all sorts of odd characters along the border, as long as there is no violence or interferences with the government. So far, over 20,000 Kachins have fled into China to avoid attacks by Burmese troops. Hundreds of Kachin women and children have been killed or injured by army operations. This includes frequent cases of rape by Burmese soldiers. This sort of thing is not uncommon, as the ethnic Burmese from down south have always looked down on the northern tribes. Dam construction has been underway for two years now, and the Kachin threaten to keep attacking the dam, the hydroelectric power plants and the electrical transmission lines to China. The Burmese government has promised to protect all these facilities, and so far has been able to do so. The KIA doesn’t have the numbers, as the population of Kachin State is only 900,000, and most of them are not Kachin.

South of Kachin State is Shan State, which is also in rebellion. There, over 30,000 civilians have fled the fighting. Last month, some 4,000 troops moved in to find and destroy small groups of tribal rebels who have been disrupting local government operations. The government is fighting back in a new way, by distributing food to refugees. The government has negotiated peace deals with tribal leaders in the past, and is hoping that overwhelming military force, and some free rice, will make it happen again.

The government is becoming closer to China, in terms of economic deals and military cooperation. Burma is believed to have allowed China to use Burma as a relay point for Cyber War attacks (making it appear that the attacks came from Burma). The government is also suspected of allowing Internet based criminals to operate in Burma, in return for cash and attacking government opponents on the web.

The newly elected government is facing an economic crisis. The local currency has appreciated 20 percent in the last 12 months and inflation is on the rise. All this makes it very hard on exporters. Food prices are much higher, and that is causing widespread unrest.

August 8, 2011: The inspector general of the army, Kyaw Phyo, was removed from his job and charged with corruption. He is the fourth army general to be so charged this year. At least four more are known to be under investigation. These dismissals are not about cleaning up corruption, but rather a method of getting rid of generals who disagree with the majority of senior officers. These reformers want better treatment for the troops and more democracy. This does not work for those who have been running the Burmese military dictatorship.

August 5, 2011: In northern Shan State, seven people (dam workers, and their police escort), were ambushed and killed. Tribal rebels were blamed.

July 29, 2011:  In Shan state, three civilians were killed and three wounded near a border checkpoint. One of the dead was a retired soldier. This attack was believed related to fighting elsewhere in the area, between tribal rebels and soldiers.

July 26, 2011: The government has bluntly told Thailand that cross-border trade will only be increased if Thailand shuts down Burmese rebel groups operating in Thailand.

July 25, 2011: The army has sent several thousand troops into Shan State, in an attempt to cripple the power of tribal rebels.

 

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