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Myanmar’s generals lash out at the meddlesome West and its local proxies

Updated On: Sep 11, 2007

In the eyes of the Myanmarese junta, those Western nations are a real pain in the neck, especially the US and EU.

For a long while Myanmar has remained relatively reticent regarding strong criticisms from the international community over its rampant human rights abuses of political persecution, the continued house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, and forced displacement and killings of ethnic minorities. However, fed up with weeks of anti-junta protests after the raising of fuel prices three weeks ago, especially in the light of the monks’ destructive rampage and holding government officials hostage last week, Myanmarhas now finally lost patience and lashed out wildly at domestic dissenters and external “bullies”.

The panic came probably after monks in northern Myanmarbecame involved in the latest protest. Angry at the military for beating up protesters demonstrating against economic conditions, the monks took some military personnel hostage for quite some hours. The latter were released after they apologized.  The violence involving the monks has prompted the authorities to post plain-clothes police and junta supporters at monasteries in Pakokku. Mandalayand Yangonto prevent further protests.  The moves by the junta were expected as historically, monks in Myanmar have been at the forefront of protests and the role they played at the 1988 pro-democracy rebellion that sought to end military rule must have the junta worried as they became involved in the latest round of demonstrations.

The junta has sworn to tackle culprits of civil disobedience with tough measures. On Saturday (8 September) the junta heaped more accusations on the 13 dissidents detained earlier for holding a labour rights seminar on May Day, calling them “terrorists” and saying that long jail sentences are likely to be passed to punish their “seditious” acts.

Furthermore on Sunday, the junta condemned Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) for masterminding the wave of anti-junta protests. They also accused the NLD of “organizing the monks to demonstrate and of maliciously blaming junta supporters for attacking the monks…”. The television announcement declared that “The NLD took advantage of the increase of fuel prices by the state and tried to exploit the situation to mount a political attack”. The junta is also employing national newspapers to encourage the public to cooperate with the government and army and keep a lookout for “saboteurs” so that such movements may be “crushed”.

In addition, the junta has pointedly motioned that the USUKand other foreign states to stop meddling. The New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that “internal and external destructive elements are inciting a period of civil unrest like the one in 1988 and it has been found that foreign broadcasting stations are launching political propaganda and exaggerated news reports on the demonstrations with the intent of misleading the public.” Last week, leaflets calling for American and British diplomats to desist from their “blatant support of pro-democracy movements were left in front of the USand British embassies”. On Sunday, the junta also alleged that the UShad given sanctuary to Htay Kywe, a prominent pro-democracy activist, in its embassy.

All this has renewed efforts to encourage Indiaand Chinato help Myanmarchange. U.S. President George W. Bush and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have agreed “at a bilateral meeting inSydneyto urge Indiaand Chinato lean on Myanmar” as ASEAN states have no leverage on their recalcitrant neighbour, even after years of engagement.

However, China is not too keen to be involved. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in Sydney, “Chinaall along has advocated non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. This is a very important principle.” However, Chinawould like an improvement of the status quo through “mutual respect and equal dialogue”.

Whatever it is, efforts should be made before Myanmarunravels completely. With the tensions so palpable and rumours that the junta may be losing their grip –hence the move to Pyinmana, perhaps a widespread revolt like in 1988 may be a real possibility. (11 September 2007)

Sources:

Myanmarjunta keeping watch on monasteries (Straits Times, 11 September 2007)

MyanmarJunta Links West to Protesters (AP, 10 September 2007)

Chinaand Indiaurged to get Myanmarto improve record (Straits Times, 9 September 2007)

Myanmar generals threaten Suu Kyi's NLD party (Straits Times, 9 September 2007)

Myanmar: Back on the brink? (Straits Times, 8 September 2007)

Resource-rich nation 'a pawn in big-power rivalry' (Straits Times, 9 September 2007)

Isolated leadership, worsening economy and persistent protests bring new sense of anxiety (Straits Times, 9 September 2007)

Noose tightens in Burma(Bangkok Post, 9 September 2007)

Myanmar junta links US to pro-democracy activists, says they have terror links (AP, 9 September 2007)

Myanmarjunta accuses top activists of terrorism (Reuters, 9 September 2007)

ChinaIndiakey to prodding Myanmar(Reuters, 8 September 2007)

Myanmarjunta blames Suu Kyi supporters for inciting unrest over fuel price hikes (AP, 7 September 2007)