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Burmese Days, Revisited
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Photo: REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Photo: REUTERS/Jorge Silva

It will be fascinating to watch how the (Dis)United States will deal with post-coup Myanmar as part of their 24/7 “containment of China” frenzy.

The (jade) elephant in the elaborate room housing the military coup in Myanmar had to be – what else – China. And the Tatmadaw – the Myanmar Armed Forces – knows it better than anyone.

There’s no smoking gun, of course, but it’s virtually impossible that Beijing had not been at least informed, or “consulted”, by the Tatmadaw on the new dispensation.

China, Myanmar’s top trade partner, is guided by three crucial strategic imperatives in the relationship with its southern neighbor: trade/connectivity via a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) corridor; full access to energy and minerals; and the necessity of cultivating a key ally within the 10-member ASEAN.

The BRI corridor between Kunming, in China’s Yunnan province, via Mandalay, to the port of Kyaukphyu in the Gulf of Bengal is the jewel in the New Silk Road crown, because it combines China’s strategic access to the Indian Ocean, bypassing the Strait of Malacca, with secured energy flows via a combined oil and gas pipeline. This corridor clearly shows the centrality of Pipelineistan in the evolution of the New Silk Roads.

None of that will change, whoever runs the politico-economic show in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Aung San Suu Kyi, locally known as Amay Suu (“Mother Suu”) were discussing the China-Myanmar economic corridor only three weeks before the coup. Beijing and Naypyidaw have clinched no less than 33 economic deals only in 2020.

We just want “eternal peace”

Something quite extraordinary happened earlier this week in Bangkok. A cross-section of the vast Myanmar diaspora in Thailand – which had been ballooning since the 1990s – met in front of the UN’s Asia-Pacific office.

They were asking for the international reaction to the coup to ignore the inevitable, incoming U.S. sanctions. Their argument: sanctions paralyze the work of citizen entrepreneurs, while keeping in place a patronage system that favors the Tatmadaw and deepens the influence of Beijing at the highest levels.

Yet this is not all about China. The Tatmadaw coup is an eminently domestic affair – which involved resorting to the same old school, CIA-style method that installed them as a harsh military dictatorship way back in 1962.

Elections this past November reconfirmed Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the NLD, in power by 83% of the votes. The pro-army party, the USDP, cried foul, blaming massive electoral fraud and insisting on a recount, which was refused by Parliament.

So the Tatmadaw invoked article 147 of the constitution, which authorizes a military takeover in case of a confirmed threat to sovereignty and national solidarity, or capable of “disintegrating the Union”.

The 2008 constitution was drawn by – who else – the Tatmadaw. They control the crucial Interior, Defense and Border ministries, as well as 25% of the seats in Parliament, which allows them veto power on any constitutional changes.

The military takeover involves the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. A year long state of emergency is in effect. New elections will happen when order and “eternal peace” will be restored.

The man in charge is Army chief Min Aung Hlaing, quite flush after years overseeing juicy deals conducted by Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (MEHL). He also oversaw the hardcore response to the 2007 Saffron revolution – which did express legitimate grievances but was also largely co-opted as a by-the-book U.S. color revolution.

More worryingly, Min Aung Hlaing also deployed wasteland tactics against the Karen and Rohingya ethnic groups. He notoriously described the Rohingya operation as “the unfinished work of the Bengali problem”. Muslims in Myanmar are routinely debased by members of the Bamar ethnic majority as “Bengali”.

No raised ASEAN eyebrows

Life for the overwhelming majority of the Myanmar diaspora in Thailand can be very harsh. Roughly half dwell in the construction business, the textile industry and tourism. The other half does not hold a valid work permit – and lives in perpetual fear.

To complicate matters, late last year the de facto military government in Thailand went on a culpability overdrive, blaming them for crossing borders without undertaking quarantine and thus causing a second wave of Covid-19.

Thai unions, correctly, pointed to the real culprits: smuggling networks protected by the Thai military, which bypass the extremely complicated process of legalizing migrant workers while shielding employers who infringe labor laws.

In parallel, part of the – legalized – Myanmar diaspora is being enticed to join the so-called MilkTeaAlliance – which congregates Thais, Taiwanese and Hong Kongers, and lately Laotians and Filipinos as well – against, who else, China, and to a lesser extent, the Thai military government.

ASEAN won’t raise eyebrows against the Tatmadaw. ASEAN’s official policy remains non-interference in the domestic affairs of its 10 members. Bangkok – where, incidentally, the military junta took power in 2014 – has shown Olympic detachment.

In 2021, Myanmar happens to be coordinating nothing less than the China-ASEAN dialogue mechanism, as well as presiding over the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation – which discusses all crucial Mekong matters.

The mighty river, from the Tibetan plateau to the South China Sea, could not be more geo-economically strategic. China is severely criticized for the building of dozens of dams, which reduce direct water flows and cause serious imbalances to regional economies.

Myanmar is also coordinating a supremely sensitive geopolitical issue: the interminable negotiations to establish the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which pit China against Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei and non-ASEAN Taiwan.

The Tatmadaw does not seem to be losing sleep over post-coup business problems. Erik Prince, former Blackwater honcho and now the head of Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group (FSG) – financed, among others, by powerful Chinese conglomerate Citic – is about to hit Naypyidaw to “securitize” local companies.


A juicier dossier involves what’s going to happen with the drug trade: arguably Tatmadaw getting a bigger piece of the pie. Cartels in Kachin state, in the north, export opium to China’s Yunnan province to the east, and India to the west. Shan state cartels are even more sophisticated: they export via Yunnan to Laos and Vietnam to the east, and also to India to the northwest.

And then there’s a gray area where no one really knows what’s going on: the weapons highway between China and India that runs through Kachin state – where we also find Lisu and Lahu ethnic groups.

The dizzying ethnic tapestry

The Myanmar electoral commission is a very tricky business, to say the least. They are designated by the Executive, and had to face a lot of criticism – internal, not international – for their censorship of opposition parties in the November elections.

The end result privileged the NLD, whose support is negligible in all border regions. Myanmar’s majority ethnic group – and the NLD’s electoral base – is the Bamar, Buddhist and concentrated in the central part of the country.

The NLD frankly does not care about the 135 ethnic minorities – which represent at least one third of the general population. It’s been a long way down since Suu Kyi came to power, when the NLD actually enjoyed a lot of support. Suu Kyi’s international high profile is essentially due to the power of the Clinton machine.

If you talk to a Mon or a Karen, he or she will tell you they had to learn the hard way how much of an intolerant autocrat is the real Suu Kyi. She promised there would be peace in the border regions – eternally mired in a fight between the Tatmadaw and autonomous movements. She could not possibly deliver because she had no power whatsoever over the military.

Without any consultation, the electoral commission decided to cancel voting, totally or partially, in 56 cantons of Arakan state, Shan state, Karen state, Mon state and Kachin state, all of them ethnic minorities. Nearly 1.5 million people were deprived of voting.

There were no elections, for instance, in the majority of Arakan state; the electoral commission invoked “security reasons”. The reality is the Tatmadaw is in a bitter fight against the Arakan Army, which want self-determination.

Needless to add, the Rohingyas – which live in Arakan – were not allowed to vote. Nearly 600,000 of them still barely survive in camps and closed villages in Arakan.

In the 1990s, I visited Shan state, which borders China’s strategic Yunnan province to the east. Nothing much changed over two decades: the guerrilla has to fight the Tatmadaw because they clearly see how the army and their business cronies are obsessed to capture the region’s lavish natural resources.

I traveled extensively in Myanmar in the second part of the 1990s – before being blacklisted by the military junta, like virtually every journalist and analyst working in Southeast Asia. Ten years ago, photojournalist Jason Florio, with whom I’ve been everywhere from Afghanistan to Cambodia, managed to be sneaked into Karen rebel territory, where he shot some outstanding pictures.

In Kachin state, rival parties in the 2015 elections this time tried to pool their efforts. But in the end they were badly bruised: the electoral mechanism – one round only – favored the winning party, Suu Kyi’s NLD.

Beijing does not interfere in the dizzyingly complex Myanmar ethnic maze. But questions remain over the murky support for Chinese who live in Kachin state in northern Myanmar: it’s possible they may be used as leverage in negotiations with the Tatmadaw.

The basic fact is the guerrillas won’t go away. The top two are the Kachin Independence Army and the United Wa State Army (Shan). But then there’s the Arakan Liberation Army, the China National Army, the Karenni Army (Kayah), the Karen National Defense Organization and the Karen National Liberation, and the Mon National Liberation Army.

What this weaponized tapestry boils down to, in the long run, is a tremendously (Dis)United Myanmar, bolstering the Tatmadaw’s claim that no other mechanism is capable of guaranteeing unity. It doesn’t hurt that “unity” comes with the extra perks of controlling crucial sectors such as minerals, finance and telecom.

It will be fascinating to watch how the (Dis)United Imperial States will deal with post-coup Myanmar as part of their 24/7 “containment of China” frenzy. The Tatmadaw are not exactly trembling in their boots.

(Republished from Strategic Culture Foundation by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Burma, China, Myanmar, New Silk Road, Rohingya, Thailand 
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  1. I have visited Myanmar several times in the last few years and was struck by its poverty, vulnerability, and the humility of its people.

    Whenever I applied for a visa–granted on the spot at any border crossing–immigration officers would ask how long I wished to stay. My visits were for brief business meetings and, when I answered, “Two or three days,” they invariably looked crestfallen. “Could you not stay a little longer? We receive so few visitors”.

    Only one country is seriously committed to helping Myanmar and half a dozen committed to hindering it.

  2. barr says:

    Looks like it will be another Congo .But instead of USA stealing the resources ,it will be Chinese who plan to use the geography and obviously extract more contracts for building infrastructures and for mining . Congo has lasted like the failed state for more than 50 yrs while serving the interest of USA. Myanmar can do same .

    America still has an ace .It can create ISIS among Rohingya refugees and turn them on China in the name of fighting the Burmese ISIS- military-religious complex .The place will become difficult for smooth business and safe connectivity . India might agree to this for two reasons . It can see the advantage of China being tied down , use the “Bengali-Rohingya -ISIS “as the bogeyman to drive the Assamese muslim out of the country to Bangladesh, and create a permanent mindset among North East Indians about continued threat of ISIS which then can be pulled out of a hat before the election to sway the election.

    • Replies: @vox4non
  3. Anything that gets a country further from American influence and closer to Chinese influence is a good thing. Less trannies, less jews, less capitalism.

  4. Oddly, the world knows so little about Myanmar. I just read your fine work and was surprised to find only two commenters.

    I agree with your line about the Tatmadaw not shaking in their boots, spot on. They’d just as soon kill every demonstrator in their sight than compromise protecting their interests. I predicted this coup back in 2012. I knew it was only a matter of time before the cronies convinced Suu to help get personal sanctions lifted. Once that happened, all of their black money was laundered and squeaky clean. Then they pushed out the Bengalis (Bengali the word is NOT a racial slur), and Suu took the heat for the Generals. Suu was very done a couple of years ago. The globalist community rejected her and, by doing so, weakened her.

    Suu Kyi is almost too old to maintain her bold stance without international support. Then, a close friend of Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Richardson, went on a misogynistic tirade about Suu Kyi not doing as she was told by the globalists, and that was the end of her. So, now, the coup. There is no one following her that can gather enough support. The people love her, though, and she loves them, and Burma. But sincerity is hard enough, it seems.

    Myanmar is a maze of folly, nightmares, and betrayal.

    One thing I know is true about Suu Kyi. She is not a racist. She has many Muslim advisors and the support of Muslims. I know from personal experience this is true. I knew Suu Kyi reasonably well from her release from house arrest until she was swept away like a goddess to be fawned over by everyone who loved to look important. They wanted her to be a part of the globalist elite. She wanted only to guide Myanmar and do what she believed was best for Myanmar, but the globalists wanted no part of it.

    Suu was an outsider, oddly similar to Trump. She loves her country, her people, and no, she’s not willing to compromise her integrity – so.

    By the way, Eric Prince has a small base in Lao near the Myanmar border, pretty much the heart of the Golden Triangle. His company is the security for Chinese leaders and business people when in Myanmar, and they also are security for the pipeline from the bay to China.

    The deepwater port in Sitwe is revealing because no one talks about it. There’s a highway planned from Sitwe to Assam state in India. Assam is uniquely one of the few remaining wild regions left in the world.

    • Replies: @Showmethereal
  5. neutral says:

    I don’t understand Burma/Myanmar, but the loud ZOG noises coming from the propaganda outlets tells me that the “democracy” movement is being run by the usual suspects.

    • Replies: @Showmethereal
  6. vox4non says:


    This is the sort of short-sighted thinking that led to much of the chaos in West and Central Asia. Will this be another CIA facilitated blowback on innocent civilians. If perchance you forgot about India’s domestic situation, it too hasn’t engendered much love among its muslim population with Modi’s policies and the RSS supporting him.

    Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see the CIA carry this out and harvest its bitter fruit. The law of unintended consequences have never failed to hoist American exceptionalism on its own petard. Only problem is that there is a possibility of it spilling over in Europe.

    • Agree: Showmethereal
  7. BlackFlag says:

    “Life for the overwhelming majority of the Myanmar diaspora in Thailand can be very harsh. Roughly half dwell in the construction business, the textile industry and tourism. The other half does not hold a valid work permit – and lives in perpetual fear.”

    Not harsh. Lots of work in Thailand. They can easily make 5k/year which is almost middle income except they send a lot home to their families.

    Not fearful. Thailand doesn’t enforce migration laws; the labor is needed due to the low Thai birthrate.

    Burmese Days is Orwell’s most underrated book.

  8. barr says:

    Military is reaching out to Bangladesh leadership and to Rohingya still left inside Mynamar with astiunding reversal of posture , that can only be called chutzpath . It has started blaming Sue exclusively for the expulsion and lack of progress to repatriation.

    India has put its foot in its mouth by knee jerk embrace of American call – democracy be restored.
    Russia ,wary of Quad strutting on the Bayof Bengal water ,has pivoted to a more positive approach like China.

    Whatever happens – military or civil rule- unless ethinc problems are resolved , Mynamar has no future prospect of prosperity .Violence will be its fate .
    Russian or Chinese support – or both – are simple self- serving valid calculations . Burma is just the theater of the rivarly. Great game on both sides of India and China. America is playing spoiler against Chinese attempt to free itself of future sea blockade .
    Mynamar gets crumbs for playing along with connectivity thst enriches China.
    Burma can start addressing the ethnic grievances if it wants to be something differnt from Afghanistan .

  9. Steven80 says:

    Getting rid of the bengali policy (rohingya term is used for political purposes) is not going to change, IMHO. The problem with islam is that if anyone marries in a muslim family, the children are muslim, and consequently the religion grows because of that intolerance toward other religions. Burmese know that. That is the reson India decided to take measures to stop this last year:

    Year Muslim population percentage in India
    1951 9.9%
    1961 10.7%
    1971 11.2%
    1981 11.4%
    1991 12.1%
    2001 13.4%
    2011 14.2%

    You can see the same process in Lebanon, Syria, Albania, etc – anywhere where there are musllims mixed with another religion or religions. The US will certainly try something, but they will not succeed – the majority bamar hate bengalis, and I don’t see how any western propaganda can change that in Burma, or how a leader pursuing different policy than the current one can stay in power.

    • Replies: @anon
    , @Malla
  10. anon[205] • Disclaimer says:

    Bamar needs to be put into its place . There is no other way . Muslims owned the land known as Arkan now called Rakhine . The ethnicity of it is also different . It is mixed now with migration of Buddhist and Bamar from central area of Burma. Bamar faces 30 other insurrections -major and minor- in south east north and west and in other pockets. Bamar can live like Haitian living under the dual mafia rules- western corporations and local poachers moonlighting s political leaders and African statesman . Bamar are much worse .It is completely taken over by the Buddhist monks who live off other Bamar They are parasite. Religion is their business and they will not allow any other business .Muslim doesn’t respect these parasites .Now days Christian Burmese do not.
    In addition Rakhine state (Arkan state of muslim) is also embroiled with another insurrection from the activities of Rakhine Army .Its Buddhist .They are fighting against central Bamar’s military dispensation . China and Russia do not want this new Haiti to be under USA control but under them .

    • Replies: @Malla
    , @Malla
  11. @at ko_dannu on tw

    So do you agree with the author as to the sources and motivations behind the coup?

  12. @neutral

    The funny thing is the west had already turned against her. But they have to stand up for the rhetoric about “democracy”

    • Replies: @Malla
  13. Malla says:

    Muslims are not a major problem in India, except the North East. Kashmir is different as they want independence from India as well as the people of the North East including Nagas. The Muslim birth rate in India is falling too though it is trailing the other religion birthrates. Soon all of us will reach just replacement levels. With a billion Hindu, Muslims will remain a minority.

    The Hindutva BJP is using Muslims and Christians as boogeymen to get the lower caste voters on their side. Normally we upper caste folk vote BJP (not me personally, I do not vote, as all are corrupt criminals) and the lower caste folk vote Congress. Not 100%, you get some Brahmins voting Congress and some lower caste folk and even Muslims and Christians voting BJP.
    But we upper caste do not make the majority, the lower caste poor were earlier weary of the Hindutva BJP as the BJP is seen as mercantile bnaiya party unlike the more socialist Congress. For example my caste (Kayastha) along with other upper caste (Brahmins, Rajputs, Thakur, Khatri etc…) make only about 15% in my native state of Utter Pradesh. By making the Muslims and Christians as boogeymen, the BJP got the lower castes on their side in the name of Hindu unity. That was the trick they played.

  14. Malla says:
    The Dark Side Of The Rohingya (Bengali Ilegals): Hla Oo’s Blog
    Genocide of native Burmese Buddhists in Myanmar ignored by the “international Community’
    Who Really Is Doing Ethnic Cleansing In Maungdaw?:Hla Oo’s Blog
    Massacre Of Maungdaw Hindus By ARSA Rohingyas:Hla Oo’s Blog
    Hindu refugees blame ‘Rohingya militants’ for attacking them in Myanmar.
    1942 Genocide of Buddhists in Maungdaw District
    (Translation of An Eyewitness Account of the 1942 Bengali Riots from the MEG.)

    Back in 1942!!!
    Dictator Zia of Bangladesh Created Rohingya Problem
    The late military ruler Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh created this Rohingya problem.

    Bangladesh (the ancestral home of the Rohingyas) are not treatin them Rohingya returnees well

    Bangladesh Bans Rohingya From Marrying Bangladeshis To prevent granting Rohingyas citizenship.

    Rapid-breeding Rohingyas Are Sterilized By Bangladesh

    Ov vey, darkie brown Bangladeshi “Nazis”? Do dey wanna spread blue eyed blond Aryan debils over the world? LOL.
    Islamic Canada Deporting Buddhists Back To Burma
    Since the Immigration departement of islamic State of Canada has been taken over Muslims, they are taking revenge by deporting Buddhist Burmese asylum seekers at record speed.
    “Somali-born Ahmed Hussen has recently declared his intention to rapidly deport Burmese-Buddhists (about 200) whose political asylum/refugee applications were summarily rejected by his now Muslim-controlled Immigration ministry just recently. ”

  15. Malla says:

    Syllet in Northern Bangladesh was Mongoloid-Australoid too but have been overwhelmed and absorbed now. Just north of that is Indian state of Assam and the expansion continues across the border. In the Bangladesh Chittagong hill tracts area, traditional home to Mongoloid-Australoid South East Asian like Buddhist peoples like the Chakma are too facing Caucasoid-Australoid race Bengali Muslim Demographic expansion supported by the Bangladeshi Government. They have been fighting for independence from Dhaka for a long time.
    If you want more info check out this Burmese guy Hla Oo’s Blog
    Long-running Buddhist Genocide In Bangladesh
    Islamic Genocide of Buddhists In Bangladesh – Part 1
    Buddhist Exodus From Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hills

    Looks like the Bangladeshis are either evicting the Mongoloid Buddhists across Myanmar and then following them to Myanmar itself to continue expansion. Or they are just absorbing them by forced conversion and intermarriage

    His website is a wealth of knowledge about what is really happening in Myanmar and that region of India/Bangladesh
    Riots between Bengali-Muslim Illegals & Natives in Assam (Indian state of Assam)
    George Soros “The Puppet Master” in Burma Again?
    Armed-Bengali Intrusion from Bangladesh
    Rioting Bengali Muslims Killing Buddhists in Maungdaw
    Bengali-Muslims Butchered Burmese-Buddhists in Medan!

  16. Malla says:

    The Zio-Western elites even got rid of Morsi who was voted by the majority of the Egyptian population because it did not “suit them”. Hypocrisy no doubt.

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