Life is retuning to “normalcy” in Myanmar, after the series of demonstrations in September.
That is to say, misery and oppression continue.
This is not to say that there are no weak signs of economic activity. Myanmar’s national carrier, Myanmar Airways International will resume its services to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. It suspended services to both capitals after its London insurer withdrew insurance coverage. Air Bagan which is owned by the Myanmar tycoon Tay Za, will start services between Yangon and Seoul.
Xinhua reported that the Myanmar government’s Privatization Commission would be privatising another 17 enterprises. These enterprises were formerly owned by the Ministry of Livestock Breeding and Fisheries and the Ministry of Commerce. Myanmar’s largest state-run gold mine would also be privatised. The privatisation of these enterprises is in line with 1995 plan to turn state-run enterprises into privately owned ones to improve efficiency.
The government is also likely to gain some economic breathing space with a 25 year interest-free loan from Saudi Arabia. These loans could be used for social development in areas such as schooling, healthcare and electricity generation. Earlier in May this year, the Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister U Kyaw Thu visited Saudi Arabia and discussed the possibility of sending Myanmar workers to Saudi Arabia.
Notwithstanding some of these economic activities, life in Myanmar remains by and large challenging. Many have fled from Myanmar, seeking better lives elsewhere. Some of these escapes, however, end in tragedy. 22 Myanmar bodies were recovered from the Andaman Sea. The Thai marine police believed that they had been trying to look for jobs in Thailand.
While some try to flee Myanmar for a better life overseas, others stay on to fight. Most of these insurgencies tend to be organised along ethnic lines. The fight between the Myanmar military junta and these armed military groups has, over the past decades, resulted in further miseries for the Myanmar people. This week, the government accused the largest ethnic insurgent group, the Kayin National Union (KNU) of detonating a mine and firing small arms at a passenger coach in a border area in Northeast Kayin state with Thailand, killing eight people and wounding six others. The government also accused the group of other ‘destructive acts’ particularly planting mines and urged people to exercise ‘constant vigilance.’
Myanmar’s actions have not only caused distress for its own people but also for ASEAN. ASEAN’s summit with the United States is likely to be cancelled. US President George Bush suggested hosting a summit at his Texan ranch with the ASEAN leaders at the sidelines of the APEC summit in Sydney in September. However, after the Myanmar government carried out a brutal crackdown on Buddhist protestors a few weeks later, US officials said that holding a summit especially with the presence of Myanmar leaders would be politically sensitive in an US election year. (27 December 2007)
Burma’s National Airline Resumes Suspended Services (Irrawaddy, 26 December 2007)
Myanmar warns against more mine attacks by anti-gov't armed group (Xinhua, 24 December 2007)
Myanmar to get interest-free loan from Saudi: report (Xinhua, 24 December 2007)
Roundup: Myanmar privatizing more state-owned enterprises (Xinhua, 22 December 2007)
Thai police retrieve 22 bodies of Myanmar migrants in Andaman Sea (Associated Press, 22 December 2007)
Bush Likely to Cancel US ASEAN Summit Over Myanmar: Diplomats (Agence France Presse, 16 December 2007)