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July 16, 2023





As you might suspect the “Saint of Myanmar” is Aung San Suu Kyi, shown below in the poster to the left, and the “Sinner Military” is encapsulated in the image of General Min Aung to the right.  I first went to Burma fifty-five years ago as it was just coming out of its cocoon and one could only stay 72 hours on a shore pass.  It was way too soon to visit as there was no transportation from the airport into town.  Anyone who went there had a private vehicle pick them up.  I finally woke up and browbeat a Union of Burma airline employee to drive me into town in an antique Russian bus.   Moreover, the famous Strand Hotel was in terrible shape with rodents everywhere and a 1949 Chevrolet coup sporting a wooden bench seat served as transportation to return to the airport and exit this time-warped country.  Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San, led the formation of the Union of Burma out of a myriad of indigenous tribes following the Japanese defeat in World War II.  He was assassinated shortly thereafter which began the years of turmoil that his daughter faces today from her prison cell.

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Joey and I went there in the early nineties to get the “lay of the land” as I had always been told Burma had significant oil potential.  Over ensuing years, I determined the only significant hydrocarbon potential was natural gas offshore which became the domain of the Thai National Oil company.  Nonetheless, I had excellent credentials with an accompanying former Thai energy minister and another foreign party with good connections to the Burmese military SLORC folks.  Shortly before that time, Aung San Suu Kyi had won an election to form the first non-military government for which she was rewarded with being arrested and ultimately confined to house arrest.  When that happened, Joey and I hired a car and went to witness the vigil outside her residence shown below on a rainy evening.  Periodically, she would come out and speak to the crowds from a ladder on the other side of her fence.

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Fast forward to current times, nothing much has changed other than the scale of resistance and bloodletting by the military, namely, Min Aung Hlaing. However, at this juncture, Aung San Suu Kyi at age 78, is in prison facing a total of 33 years in jail following absurd charges.  By the way, many years ago our heroine returned to what is now Myanmar from her happy home in the UK to step into her father’s shoes and destroy her home life.  Myanmar seems to be in a continuous cycle of having elections which the military lose.  The military then preclude the elected government from assuming power by a never-ending string of coups with future promises of “free elections.” The next election for Myanmar is programmed for 2023 which now comes in the middle of a raging civil war.

Yun Sun, a non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Institute, which I happened to attend forty years ago, recently published an article on Myanmar entitled No End in Sight for the Civil War.  The newest development in the many years of military suppression of the people is the loosely connected People’s Defense Force (PDF) which falls under the equally lose control of the National Unity Government.  There are some 250 PDF units with more than 65,000 troops throughout Myanmar which are generally distinct ethnic groups that control substantial territory from which they attack military barracks, police stations and government administrative offices.  The power gap between the Burmese military and the PDF is significant as the military can collect taxes and purchase Russian and Chinese armaments.  Nonetheless, the resistance forces control 40 to 50% of the country’s territory and are clearly determined to overthrow the military. 

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The Bangkok Post has been an excellent source for Myanmar news and has reported the influence of the Russians in military arms supply as illustrated below in the image of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shaking hands with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.  Russia has shipped some $400 million in arms to Myanmar and China has provided another $260 million since the coup occurred.  Sadly, Russia seems to have found a way to ship their weapons through Singapore which is particularly disturbing.  In April this year, the military attacked one village killing 170 people, 40 of which were children.  In total, over 6,000 people have been killed in the past two-year period.  Sanctions on the military government are difficult to enforce given the resource wealth of Myanmar which is a major supplier of natural gas to Thailand.  Moreover, China maintains a watchful eye on other resources there.

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Accordingly, it was surprising that a Bangkok Post headline in the past several days stated Myanmar Generals Held Talks with Aung San Suu Kyi. The news article indicated several military generals met with the freely elected leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, in prison to determine whether some accommodation structure could be made to result in peace talks.  The meetings were denied as being unrealistic until those incarcerated parties were released following their two years in prison.  In the past, Aung San Suu Kyi did suffer criticism during her defense of the military’s bloody crackdown on the Rohingya Muslims when she led the civilian government though few recognized how precarious her position was.

Richard Paddock published an article in The New York Times that adds further clarity to the

peace feelers on the part of the Military Junta beginning with the headline In Myanmar, Birthday Wishes for Aung San Suu Kyi Lead to a Wave of Arrests.  The latest crime in Myanmar was to wear flowers in your hair on June 19 in celebration of the birthday of the “Saint’s” birthday.  Pro-democracy activists say more than 130 people, most of them women, have been arrested for participating in a “flower strike” marking the birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi.  Apart from arresting women wearing flowers, perhaps reality has settled in with some of the junta generals that they are playing a losing hand and it is time to play nice.  On the other hand, talk is cheap but the reality in the streets appears to be different. 

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The military may well be reaching the conclusion that they are beginning to lose their fight against the people which ultimately could become hazardous to their health.  It is very difficult to imagine that Russian winters would be very comfortable to spoiled generals who have spent their lives in the tropics. 

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