Sri Lanka: The Siege


November 23, 2007: The government has banned one of the major suppliers of foreign relief, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO). This organization was founded 22 years ago to assist Tamils fleeing the fighting in Sri Lanka. The TRO raises much of its cash from Sri Lankan Tamils who have settled in the West, but also receives aid money from Western countries and aid organizations. Recently, however, evidence has piled up that the TRO has passed on cash and goods to the LTTE. As a result, the U.S. has banned TRO fund raising, and other Western countries are following suit. This means less cash and goodies for the LTTE to distribute, which leads to fewer Tamils feeling beholden to the LTTE.

In the north, the last LTTE controlled area on the island, is under regular attack by army commandos. Thousands of Tamils are fleeing LTTE controlled areas to get away from expected violence (when the army arrives). At sea, navy patrols are finding fewer LTTE boats operating. The LTTE fleet still exists, but in much smaller numbers than a year ago.

The renewed fighting has left about 5,000 dead in the past two years, and nearly 20,000 casualties overall. The government has basically laid siege to the LTTE controlled territory in the north. There, the LTTE have a formidable force of several thousand experienced fighters, and many more Tamils conscripted into a militia force. The core LTTE fighters are dangerous, but they cannot cover the entire front. This makes it possible for the army to successfully attack LTTE bunkers held by less resolute fighters, and win. But if the LTTE first team shows up, the fighting is more intense. The LTTE has not been able to carry out a lot of commando and terrorist attacks outside their own territory, but they keep trying.

The LTTE is still controlled by diehards who will not make peace for anything less than partition of the island. That has been rejected by the majority Sinhalese. At the same time, the Sinhalese population is growing tired of the years of violence, and the expense. The defense budget keeps going up, and every time the LTTE violence increases (like in the last two years) fewer tourists arrive, and there's a decline in foreign investment. The Sinhalese population may demand a major offensive to crush the LTTE. That could get very bloody.


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