Friday, September 28, 2007

Is the Burmese Army splitting?

Singabloodypore is quoting Burmese blog sources suggesting that the Army is starting to split. There have been reports of troop movements and air force sorties which might be interpreted as military units facing off against each other. More reports of the same nature, some of it from the same source, at Yangon Thu. It's too early to tell; most pundits think the Burmese military will not cave. This article suggests the Burmese officers are "tough fighters" who may be far savvier than the opposition and "human rights" activists who are ranged against them.

Jotman reports General Sonthi, head of Thailand's National Security Council is uttering what may be the line the Burmese governments wants to spread. Nothing to see here, just move on. If so it indicates that Rangoon is sensitive to how their actions are perceived. They are trying to avoid the appearance of repression. That is also the context in which to understand their shutdown of Internet access: the need to control the perception of their actions.

Burma's shutdown of the Internet may consist of closing down the country's only ISPs. However, as old timers on this site may remember, data can still be sent in a number of ways. One of them is peer to peer over modems. Remember them? The other method, one I think is actually be used, is simply to slowly dictate messages over the phone. I am not sure whether text messaging has been completely shut down.

Regarding the dispersal of demonstrations, the Burmese government did not use military force. Police were deployed. That was the right approach. It has been used by every country— the military must step back to let police take charge. But the actual tactics may vary from country to country. However, I think there is no violence in the current situation. Everything is under control. The Burmese government is still in control of the situation. On the reports that Buddhist monks were assaulted, that cannot be concluded just from looking at the photos. . . As it happened in Thailand, sometimes people used violence against officials. So officials may have to defend themselves. There has been no political suppression. Burmese authorities should understand that it—getting Buddhist monks involved in the demonstrations — is a tactic used by demonstrators. . . If we get involved, that will undermine our relationship.



Update

How easy is it for the Burmese government to shut down communications? Let's begin with what the infrastructure looked like in 2006.

'

Burma's outdated communications systems are a serious impediment to modernization. Regime authorities regularly monitor all communications. The switching systems for Burma's land lines are improving but are still inadequate, particularly outside Rangoon and Mandalay. GSM and CDMA cell phone service, although very unreliable, is available in Rangoon, Mandalay, Bagan, and surrounding areas. Text messaging is available, but closely monitored. The government allows Internet access, but censors, monitors use, and routinely blocks “Freemail” sites like Yahoo! and Hotmail.

Myanmar Teleport and Myanmar Post and Telecom are the primary Internet Service Providers in Burma. The companies offer email and dial-up and broadband Internet services, but speed is still very slow. These censored and monitored services are available to all, but are prohibitively expensive for most Burmese. In 2003, the government licensed several private companies to run Internet cafés. However, the government censors all websites available at these cafes and Internet surfing fees of about $1/hour are beyond the range of ordinary people. Wireless internet connections are not available.

CDMA phones were made available in limited supplies in 1996. The government began to sell a limited number of GSM phones in March 2001 and has sold additional GSM phones since then, with the objective of 1 million phones sold by the end of 2006. The state-owned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications is selling 30,000 GSM phones for a price of 1.5 million kyat each (about $1,500) to well-connected people. The secondary market price of the phones can be as high as 3 million kyat ($3,000) each. Effective February 1, 2003, domestic telephone call charges for all foreigners were set at 15 kyat ($0.15) per minute, with cellphone calls 25 kyat ($0.25) per minute for local calls and 35 kyat ($0.35) per minute for domestic long-distance calls. International phone calls are considerably more expensive.

In some border towns, moreover, Internet service is provided through China. For example, in the border town of Meng La:

Electric power comes from China, and is stable. Internet access is also via China, and at ¥2 (25 cents) an hour, is reasonably cheap. The usual Chinese restrictions apply: Don’t plan on conducting any extensive research on Falungong from a Meng La Internet terminal. A postcard from the Meng La post office mailed to Beijing is charged as Chinese domestic mail. The currency in Meng La, the Myanmar khat, is more useful as comic relief than anything else. Everything is paid for with Chinese people’s currency, the renminbi (RMB).

Burma's land borders with India and China will mean that a complete shutdown on information will be impossible. However, it can be throttled to the point where international attention dwindles to a trickle.

14 Comments:

Blogger Doug said...

The Tragic Disbanding of another Army.
The Effect of Disbanding, and putting out of work a highly integrated, patriotic force of 500,000 Iraqis.
Mostly OT, but that is the most astoundingly effective video produced about the war.

Against all advice, a small group of people, including the President, made a decision for which we have paid dearly ever since.
No way all these individual non-actors could have contributed in the authentic way they do in this video if they were not describing a reality.

To hear the Col. describe the actual composition of the Army, in comparison with Bremmer's oversimplification in support of his rationalization, is to realize that this was the largest single contributor to the incitement of Sunni/Shia Violence.

It will be recalled that Shia troops fought valiantly against Iran, seeing it at that time as more of a war of Iraqi Arabs against Iranian Persians, rather than Shia vs Shia.
The Col makes plain that many officers were Shia, putting the lie to decriptions of a Sunni dominated force.

9/28/2007 06:00:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Myanmar PM in long stay at S'pore hospital
StraitTimes

WHILE his country is convulsed by protests and bloodshed, Myanmar's ailing prime minister remains under treatment at a Singapore hospital, an embassy staffer said on Friday. Soe Win, the suspected mastermind of a deadly attack on opposition forces in Myanmar four years ago, has been at the Singapore General Hospital for three to four months, said the staffer.

Asked about the prime minister's condition, the staffer said, 'According to the doctors, we cannot meet with him.'"
---
An interesting Detail!

9/28/2007 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Burmese Crackdown Generates Condemnation
Violence subsides in Rangoon as troops seal off streets in an attempt to halt rioting. (Reuters)

Gerson: Burma's Revolt of the Spirit

Protests Continue in Burma

Protesters Defiant Despite Threats

Interactive Graphic: Recent Events in Burma

9/28/2007 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Jimbromski said...

"Watch the video of the Japanese cameraman being shot or knocked down after Read More!"

I don't mean to pick nits, but I'm not sure the exclamation point at the end of the sentence above really conveys the meaning you were looking for.

9/28/2007 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Merely a Gold Plated 1,500 to 2,500 year old pagoda!

9/28/2007 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Brock said...

Little Brother is watching you ...

9/28/2007 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

jimbromski

You're right. This post is a stylistic mess, but I'm just trying to get information upon on the board as quickly as possible. But I'll fix.

9/28/2007 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Caution by Junta's Asian Neighbors Reflects Their Self-Interest

The discretion by China and Thailand in particular reflects sensitivity over their own political systems. China has been a one-party dictatorship for more than half a century, and its Communist rulers have given no sign they are willing to change anytime soon. In Thailand, a military coup d'etat gave power a year ago to a uniformed junta with different policies but the same origin -- the barracks -- as the one putting down marchers in Rangoon.

As a result, neither government can afford to be seen applauding as the Burmese monks cry out for an end to dictatorship. Were they to join the United States and Europe in clearly urging Burma's generals to step aside for democratic elections, the question in Beijing and Bangkok would be obvious:
Why is democracy not also the right path for China and Thailand?

9/28/2007 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

The military junta has kept popularly-elected Suu Kyi under virtual house arrest and prevented her party from taking power despite its victory in elections in 1990.

9/28/2007 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Myanmar Monks’ Protest Contained by Junta’s Forces
Myanmar’s forces appeared to have succeeded today in sealing the monks inside their monasteries.
The death toll was higher than the number the junta reported, diplomats said.
The Lede: Myanmar Clamps Down on Internet

9/28/2007 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Back to calling it Myanmar, gang:
To the Victorius Socialists we must Bow!

9/28/2007 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"“Wednesday night numerous monasteries were raided, and we have reports that many monks were beaten and arrested, and we have pictures where whole monasteries have been trashed, and blood and broken glass,” Ms. Villarosa said.

With the monks contained, another diplomat said, the demonstrations seemed to have lost their focus, and soldiers were quick to pounce on any groups that emerged onto the streets.

“Troops are chasing protesters and beating them and taking them away in trucks,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of embassy policy. “There are pockets of protesters left. They are unorganized, and it’s all very small scale.”

Even if the junta succeeds in clearing the streets of the largest protests since 1988, it seems also to have turned most of the outside world against it. "

9/28/2007 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Now the Good News!
Heavy pressure at the United Nations General Assembly has forced the military to break a long period of exclusion and allow a visit from a special United Nations envoy, Ibrahim Gambari. He was expected to arrive Saturday in Myanmar from Singapore.

9/28/2007 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Could be worse:
Muslim's would have trashed this!

9/28/2007 03:00:00 PM  

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