LETS BE CLEAR ON A FEW POINTS
I was having a chat with a good friend in Japan when he said he was going to miss The Elephant Story blogs given our plans to close the store at the end of the year. He added that the disclosures about personal involvement in the troubles around the world have become more graphic with talk of mercenaries, opium smuggling, spooks, insurance contracts to counter death threats, criticism of the CIA, and such as that. I redirected the conversation back to the need for sumo tickets for the four Tokyo sumo tournaments next year. He will apply for each tournament six weeks in advance of the date so we will hopefully have a reasonable chance to join our friends there.
The next day I was reading ‘Operation 1027’: A Turning-Point for Myanmar’s Resistance Struggle in The Diplomat. The article by Kyaw Hsan Hlaing and Naing Lin outlined the first step toward an alliance of the multiple independent standing armies in Myanmar. A coordinated offensive among the different ethnic armies against the military junta in Myanmar is critical to end their flagging efforts to exert military control over the country following their coup. The military junta has killed over 4,500 civilians and imprisoned some 25,000 others.
A friend of mine recently contacted me to express her concern about another friend who was planning to visit Myanmar. Our immediate reaction was that it was not safe and it should be avoided at all costs. Nonetheless, the visit did happen without incident which caused me to recall the number of times I had quietly slipped into the countries surrounding Thailand in the past. It is not that difficult in the dark of night, though the urgency of our friend’s trip seemed to mirror the efforts underway to unite the various ethnic tribes in opposition to the Tatmadaw army of the ruling junta. U.S. relationships with some of these tribal groups go back many years as evidenced below with President Jimmy Carter meeting Pado Ba Thin, wearing the white suit, as the leader of the Karen National Union on a peace mission.
As highlighted in The Diplomat article, the attention of the world relative to death and destruction over the past two years has been diverted from Myanmar to other global events. In the past two years, the Taliban reclaimed Afghanistan, Russia invaded Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict have overshadowed most everything else. Interestingly, two of these three conflicts can be traced back to British colonial days as well as mishandling by the U.S. If the Myanmar military admits to lacking control of some 30% of the townships in Myanmar, we would only guess that it is far worse than what they say. Moreover, recent events indicate that “loss of control” percentage is growing significantly.
“Operation 1027” was launched on October 27, 2023, by the Three Brotherhood Alliance (3BTA) of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA) to fight the junta forces in the northern Shan State adjacent to the Myanmar-China border. The captured junta tank shown below is evidence that “the game is afoot” with some 20,000 fighters being employed in this effort.
The Irawaddy published this image of the Brotherhood forces as it began its October 27 assault on junta positions.
The other interesting aspect of this conflict in remote areas of the world is that social media is closely at hand to report to the rest of the world as quickly as one day later following the initiation of the conflict. Shown below is the outcome of an early encounter with the good guys facial images blocked out with the evidence of their success shown in captured weapons and the military uniforms of the junta officers.
The Karen National Union Army is shown below in route to capture another junta outpost to the south. You can always recognize Karen people by their hand-woven V-neck shirts as worn by one of their fighters. The Karen people are very special to me as I spent considerable time in their jungle camps on the then Burma border during the troubles of the late sixties. Burma was a major supplier of opium to the war effort as it provided the currency to compensate Vang Pao’s Hmong army in Laos. Like all wars there were no clean hands in that most unnecessary loss of lives.
If you have an interest in following this conflict seeking freedom from an unscrupulous military regime, you can readily subscribe to the Irrawaddy News as shown below. I doubt the bad guys are keeping track of political persuasions this far away from the action.
Another concern is the ever-present role of the 800-pound gorilla, China, as rockets and the war in northern Myanmar are perilously close to the Chinese border as shown in the image below published by Frontier Myanmar. China is a top ally and major supplier of weapons to the junta while at the same time has a foot in the other camp by providing weapons, Chinese SIM cards and currency to several of the armed groups across the border in Myanmar. The overwhelming Chinese objective is to extend their infamous Belt and Road campaign through Myanmar to gain another element of international control and ultimately build a high-speed train to the south.
In the meantime, if anyone needs some advice on quiet border crossings into Myanmar for a first-hand view of the action, just drop us a line and maybe we can be of some assistance. Quiet, illegal border crossings into Myanmar have had their ups and downs but were never easier than the time when Joey and I merely waved goodbye to the Thai side to pay a quick visit next door. It is clearly not worth the risk today as there is plenty of daily news coverage of equally strange death and destruction in most every corner of the world so no need to leave the comfort of your living room.
Nonetheless, we will soon be in Phu Chaisai, a mountain top in northern Thailand with a complete view of the “Golden Triangle” where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar join. We will leave a light on if you would like to join us there to recite a few Buddhist mantras to send spiritual support across the mountains to Myanmar. Joey, our daughter Sara, and I were there some years back for a special Thai monk blessing and are looking forward to seeing our old friends there.
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