Is Myanmar having the upper hand?

Updated On: Feb 14, 2006

The Myanmarese junta government used the occasion of the 59th Anniversary Union Day over the weekend to release 84-year old, U Shwe Ohn, a prominent Shan leader from house arrest. 

But there was no such show of “magnanimity for Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The Chairman of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung Shwe has released a statement on occasion of the Union Day saying that “It is very regrettable to note that country's current situation of national unity is in jeopardy along with poor health, social, and economic situations." The NLD has urged the State Peace and Development Council to “seriously consider and implement the party’s requests for the sake of national reconciliation.” 

Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, however in his address during Union Day chose to remind the various ethnic groups within Myanmarto maintain national solidarity. He warned that “some powers wishing to dominate and manipulate the Union of Myanmar are “perpetrating racial dissension and conflicts and obstructing national development. They are also imposing economic sanctions on Myanmar and attempting to incite political instigations to hinder the momentum of national development. We must be vigilant against the steps and schemes of the neo-colonialists with national awareness.”

Yet, it does not seem that Myanmarneed to fear that it would be isolated. This year, at least two more new border trade zones will be opened with Myanmar’s neighbours Thailandand China.

Not to lose out to ChinaIndiahas tried to create goodwill in Myanmar, causing tension between India and Britain. Last month, the Indian Navy chief Arun Prakash visited Myanmarand proposed transferring 3 old Indian Navy Islander Aircraft to the Myanmarnavy. The British High Commission to India, Sir Michael Arthur has pointed out that Britainmight withhold the supply of spares for these aircrafts. British officials claim that this is in conformity with the military sanctions imposed by the EU against Myanmar.

In response, a senior Indian naval official has reacted by saying, “We see this as a threat and the British have no business threatening us.” The Indian navy has also said that it would go ahead with the aircraft transfer at “friendship prices.” This transfer should be seen as part of the on-going effort (for the past 8 years) by the Indian armed forces to draw Myanmar away from China. In the past year alone, all three of the service chiefs have visited MyanmarIndia also hopes to remove sanctuaries in Myanmarthat are used by the Northeast rebels.

Courted by India, supported by China, and trading with Thailand, it is little surprise that the economic sanctions by the EU and USA against Myanmarare not working. What they have done is to push Myanmar closer to India and China.


Statecraft SortieIndia Today 13 February 2006

Myanmarto Open Second Largest Border Trade Zone,  Xinhua General News Service 13 February 2006

It is important for all of us to nurture Union Spirit regardless of the place we are residing. Only Union Spirit is the true patriotism that will ever protect and safeguard all the national races,  New Light of Myanmar 12 February 2006

Prominent Shan Leader Released from House Arrest in Burma,  Burmese Democratic Voice of Burma website 10 February 2006

Myanmar’s NLD Calls on Junta to improve Political Atmosphere,  Japan Economic Newswire 12 February 2006

MyanmarPM’s Visit to Chinato Further Neighbourly Ties: Chinese Official,  Xinhua News Agency 12 February 2006