Al Jazeera: Myanmar’s Future (videos)

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AlJazeeraEnglish

30 Sept 07
People & Power examines the clash of people power with military might in Myanmar. What should the international community do? What can it do?

Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis – 02-October-07

Activists have long called for action on Myanmar, where years of repression have created huge social and economic problems.

Al Jazeera’s special correspondent reports on the country’s deteriorating humanitatian situation.

09.28.07 Uncensored News Reports From Across The Middle East (video; over 18 only)

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Warning
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This video contains images depicting the reality and horror of war and should only be viewed by a mature audience.

Selected Episode

Sept. 28, 2007

linktv

“Military Tightens Grip over Myanmar,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“7th Anniversary of Al Aqsa Intifada,” Dubai TV, UAE
“Israeli National Sneeks into Lebanon,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Russia Opposes New Sanctions on Iran,” Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
“Palestinian Women in Israeli Jails,” Syria TV, Syria
“Anbar Tribes Expel Terrorists,” Baghdad TV, Iraq
“MIR: Ahmadinejad: Villain or Hero,” Link TV, USA
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani

Madness in Myanmar By Eric Margolis

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By Eric Margolis
Toronto Sun
September 30, 2007

Increasingly serious situation could turn into another Iraq or Yugoslavia

Growing unrest and mass street demonstrations across Myanmar could herald an extremely dangerous period for the nation formerly known as Burma.

Military-ruled Myanmar is extremely difficult to enter and bans foreign journalists. This writer has managed to get into Myanmar three times. On the last, I was told the secret police were actually conducting bed checks in people’s homes in the capital to ensure no trouble-makers from the rebellious northern states were in town.

On a second visit, I eluded the secret police and got to see the nation’s Nobel prize-winning democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi in her home in Yangon, formerly Rangoon, where she has been under house arrest for 17 years.

The crisis in Myanmar seems a simple morality drama. The saintly Suu Kyi is held like a bird in a cage by a junta of brutal, wicked generals, who until recently called themselves the State Law and Order Council, or SLORC. In 1988, the junta’s soldiers crushed student demonstrations, killing 3,000. After Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in 1990 elections, the generals annulled the vote and declared martial law.

This week President George W. Bush and other western nations called for even tighter sanctions against Myanmar’s junta and urged its replacement with democratic government.

Myanmar, in-deed, is a nasty police state. Its generals have plundered resources and kept this magnificent nation in direst poverty. Myanmar is often called a “jewel” and “unspoiled Asia of 1940s.” True enough. But that’s because the junta and its predecessor, mad dictator, Gen. Ne Win, turned Burma into a weird, hermit kingdom.

But extreme caution is advised in dealing with Myanmar. If things go wrong there, it could turn into an Asian version of Iraq, Yugoslavia or Afghanistan.

50 YEARS

Myanmar has been at war for 50 years with 17 ethnic rebel groups seeking secession from the former 14-state Union of Burma created by Imperial Britain, godfather of many of the world’s worst current problems.

Burmans, of Tibetan origin, form 68% of the population of 57 million. But there are other important, well-defined, independence-minded ethnic groups: Shan, the largely Christian Karen, Kachin, Chin, Mon, Wa, Rakhine, Anglo-Burmese, and Chinese.

The largest, Shan, with its Shan State Army, are ethnically close to neighbouring Thailand, and in cahoots with the Thai military. Each major ethnic group has its own army and finances itself through smuggling timber, jewels, arms, and drugs.

The military juntas in Rangoon, and their 500,000-member armed forces, known as Tatmadaw, battled these secessionists for decades until the current junta managed to establish uneasy ceasefires with the major rebel groups.

If the junta were to be replaced by a democratic civilian government led by the gentle Suu Kyi, and military repression ended, it is highly likely Myanmar’s ethnic rebellions would quickly re-ignite. The only force holding Myanmar together is the military and secret police.

Shan, Karen, Kachin, and Mon still demand their own independent nations. Myanmar’s powerful neighbours — India, China and Thailand — have their eye on this potentially resource-rich nation.

China exercises strong influence over Myanmar and is building a naval base near Rangoon to give direct access for the first time to the Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean.

India sees rival China threatening its rebellion-plagued eastern hill states along the Burmese border, and is increasingly alarmed by Chinese naval ambitions in the Indian Ocean.

NEIGHBOURING INTERESTS

A new democratic government in Yangon-Rangoon that is not tough enough to deal with secessionist regions around its troubled periphery could see Burma fall into internal turmoil and also invite intervention by covetous neighbours.

At worst, India and China could even clash head-on over control of strategic Burma, a threat identified in my book on Asian geopolitics and Indian-Chinese rivalry, War at the Top of the World.

So the West should tread with great caution in Myanmar. The West and Asia must exercise great care they do not exchange military dictatorship for ethnic strife and regional conflict.

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