Let’s Just Watch a Massacre in Myanmar

27 Sep

Of the three most likely options – the protests gradually fading, a peaceful revolution to topple the regime and a harsh crackdown – so far the latter seems, sadly, the most likely.

The Economist‘s third option seems to be the verdict for Myanmar. As the Burma expert in the second Reuters video above puts it, it’s a test of wills between the military and monks. The monks have, according to one report, now lost one and several others injured.

As Seth Mydans argues, Myanmar’s junta has few options, as far as its “hunkered down, delusional, paranoid” mindset is concerned. But, what I think will really seal the fate of the monks, and Myanmar’s population as a whole, is the disagreement displayed by Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman. Without consistently unified pressure on Beijing and Yangon, Myanmar’s military is fully capable of suppressing a revolt, even if it spreads across the country, before the world loses interest in a few days. The LA Times article also points out, that this latest round of protests started with a petrol price hike. The junta’s final response could very well be to rescind that hike, to divide its opposition.

I’ve argued before, and I think this is the problem in Myanmar most fundamentally, that “geography is destiny”. There’s just a conspicuous lack of hard-headedness on this issue, and Jon Swift (via Captain’s Quarters) is probably right not to care. What can the US really do? Myanmar is situated between the Indian subcontinent and the troubled peninsula extending from China to Singapore. Myanmar is hardly a unified nation itself, full of restive minorities. India and Thailand on either isde of the troubled “statelet” are seemingly very quiet, possibly deferring to China. ASEAN’s foreign policy sounds like Japan’s Foreign Ministry. I don’t foresee much help for the Burmese arriving.

Lastly (as I’m looking for a silver lining) David Lague has probably the most optimistic argument to make: China plays the field in Myanmar, is concerned about a violent upheaval, would like to be rid of the junta, and plans for a future where Myanmar is ruled by the opposition. But, that’s a far cry from encouraging change. Therein lies the second problem, which I think, is most amenable here. The present is bad, but the future is unknown, and not necessarily bright for Myanmar.

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