Back to the past for Myanmar’s military rulers

Updated On: Jul 01, 2005

Bangkok - Amid talk of an unresolved power struggle at the top, there are signs that Myanmar’s military rulers are returning to the isolationism of the past. For example, UN special envoys to Myanmar have been shut out of the country while international agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to operate there. 

    According to a report in the Bangkok Post, ousted intelligence chief and former prime minister Khin Nyunt had been more predisposed towards opening up to the outside world. 
    But the current regime, led by Senior General Than Shwe, "does not favour talking with anyone: The United Nations, the ethnic groups or the pro-democracy political parties", said writer Larry Jagan.  
    Senior General Than Shwe and his No 2, Vice Senior General Maung Aye, are now caught in a "struggle for supremacy", said a senior Asian diplomat with strong ties to the Myanmar junta.  
    "Maung Aye does not want Than Shwe to feel openly threatened, he does not want to confront him outright, but he does want to clip his powerbase," the diplomat said.
    But  both men "have no interest in dealing with difficult foreigners or the international community".   
     All the UN agencies and international aid organisations in Yangon are finding it hard to operate in Myanmar. Their staff have difficulties getting permission to travel to their projects, especially in areas where there are ceasefire groups. 
     A planned trip last month by the UN drugs chief in Yangon and several top Myanmar  police chiefs to Shan state was cancelled at the last moment. Requests to the various ministries are lost in the bureaucracy.  
    ''The situation is bad and can only get worse,'' a Western aid expert said.
     According to Mr Lagan, some of Myanmar's top military leaders are seriously considering throwing out the International Labour Organisation (ILO) out of the country after it calls on members to impose sanctions against Yangon for its failure to deal with forced labour.  
    The  ILO call "has hardened the top generals' resolve to ignore international pressure", he said. "It may convince the regime to break links with the international community all together."

* Back to chauvinism, xenophobia (Bangkok Post, June 29)