Potential Hot Spots: May 21, 2005


On May 7th there was a spate of bomb attacks in Rangoon, Burma (now called Myanmar), which left about 60 people dead and some 200 wounded. The government, a narrowly-based military junta that has been in power since the 1960s, was quick to blame various ethnic nationalist and separatist groups, advocates of liberal reform, exiled dissidents, and agents of several other foreign nations, including, naturally, the U.S. Substantial rewards have been offered for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the attacks, but so far no one has come forward to claim them. 

The junta has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Government troops have regularly committed mass rape in restive areas and there are reports of the use of chemical weapons. So it's not surprising that some opposition leaders believe the leaders of the junta may actually have arranged for the bombings, in order to institute yet another crackdown on dissidents. 

Despite this, the bombings seem likely to be the result of rifts in the military leadership. A recent shake-up of the military leadership, particularly of the intelligence and security forces, resulted in the ouster of many officers not only from senior positions, but in many cases from any role at all in the government or armed forces, thereby cutting them off from highly profitable graft. In short, the bombings may signal a power struggle in the ruling junta.


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