Follow Us:
Saturday, May 28, 2022

On the run

Government troops advance. Terrorised villagers flee. Rebels fight back. For six decades this ...

Written by The Economist |
July 1, 2009 4:04:59 am

Government troops advance. Terrorised villagers flee. Rebels fight back. For six decades this has been the rhythm of warfare in eastern Myanmar,where ethnic-Karen insurgents fight the ruling junta. The latest offensive by Myanmar’s army began in June and is unusual not in its ferocity but in its timing,in the wet season. The army,backed by a breakaway Karen militia,has managed to overrun several bases of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). Since June 2nd some 4,000 civilians have fled the fighting and crossed the border into Thailand. There is talk of the rebels’ Alamo moment.

The reasons for the junta’s sudden haste are typically murky. It is preparing for parliamentary elections next year,the first since an annulled 1990 poll,and wants around 17 ethnic rebel groups that have signed ceasefires to take part. The Karen National Union (KNU),the movement’s political wing,is a holdout. The generals,who want to consolidate power and neutralise armed threats,have proposed turning ethnic insurgents into border guards,under their command. They may reckon that the KNU can be similarly corralled. But a crushing military defeat would do just fine.

The offensive also appears timed to divert attention from the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi,the detained opposition leader. Thailand’s foreign minister,Kasit Piromya,has been more strident than most in publicly dressing down the junta about this farce,which is due to resume on June 26th. Thai diplomats suspect that its prickly neighbour is stirring trouble on the border as a poke in the eye.

The KNLA serves as a useful buffer for Thailand’s army. But Thai support for the Karens’ lonely struggle may be waning. So far,villagers fleeing Myanmar’s marauding troops have not been turned back. However,a wider collapse of the KNLA might well trigger a larger exodus into Thailand. Some 140,000 refugees,mostly Karens and Karennis,another ethnic group,are already confined to Thai camps built in the 1980s which have a depressing air of permanence. Some activists are critical of the faction-ridden KNU and its pandering to Christian aid groups. Certainly,bibles and workshops have not freed the Karen from Myanmar’s yoke. It is hard to see what could.

Best of Express Premium

Weekly Horoscope, May 29, 2022 – June 4, 2022: Libra, Aries, Pisces and o...Premium
‘Monetisation’ axed, MeitY’s fresh draft to ‘encourage’ cos to share non-...Premium
Supreme Court directions on sex workers: history of the case, and where i...Premium
Cruise drug raid case: One officer went rogue, agency looked other wayPremium

© The Economist Newspaper Limited 2009

For all the latest News Archive News, download Indian Express App.

  • Newsguard
  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
  • Newsguard