Contact: Roland Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org, please see www.dictatorwatch.org/phmain for photography of the incident described below.
THE NEW DRY SEASON OFFENSIVE IN BURMA, AND THAILAND: IT MUST BE STOPPED!
The Burmese dictatorship, the SPDC, has launched a dry season offensive against the Karen people, in villages on Burma’s side of the border south of the Thai town of Mae Sot. In the first assault, approximately four hundred villagers from Ler Kaw and Oo Po Hta had to run for their lives. They had so little time they were forced to leave their belongings behind.
The Burmese army attacked in the early hours of January 8th, with a battalion of some three hundred troops. The soldiers stole or destroyed the villagers’ possessions. In the process they killed one man and injured two other people. Normally in these cases, after the soldiers loot the villages they burn them to the ground.
The SPDC’s intention was to capture villagers and force them to work as porters. The Karen believe the Burmese want to stockpile food at the border so they can control it for a year.
As of January 20th, the number of new refugees had increased to over nine hundred.
This is what Thai appeasement of Burma yields. The generals of the SPDC take this appeasement as a sign that they can increase military action against hill groups such as the Karen. The result is that villagers flee across the border (along with stray ordnance), thereby creating new problems for the Thais. The stated goal of Prime Minister Thaksin’s foreign policy, his policy of subservience towards Rangoon, is to reduce problems for Thailand. This policy has backfired.
There is another possibility, though, that the Thai leader does not care about the consequences of his policy, indeed, that they are premeditated. Just as North Korea likely followed China’s prompting to instigate the current nuclear crisis, so it can be supposed that the Thai government is fulfilling the SPDC’s demands, thus precipitating a new refugee crisis. What we are witnessing is a stage-managed assault, and not only on the Karen in Burma. On the Thai side, the government is repressing human rights groups, and threatening large-scale deportation of refugees.
The mutual goal of Thaksin and the SPDC seems clear: to sanitize the border. All human rights groups must be shut down. All refugees must be deported. All ethnic groups that continue to struggle for their freedom must be defeated.
If the offensive is successful, the last remaining armed resistance to the Burmese dictatorship will end. This cannot help but reduce the SPDC’s willingness (or lack thereof) to negotiate with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. As for Thaksin, he and other Thai businessmen will be free to ink new deals with Rangoon.
Thailand is supposed to be a democracy. Thaksin’s actions, though, demonstrate that his view is: where there is money to be made, the principles of democracy, beginning with our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, can be ignored.