Burma’s blaming of the ‘usual suspects’ for the latest bombs is highly questionable; it’s time Thailand stops backing the junta.
It was hard for outsiders to follow what was really happening inside Burma in relatively quieter times. So, when three bombs went off in Rangoon on Saturday, killing at least 11 people and injuring 160 more, it was extremely difficult to get a grip on the real situation in our neighbouring country. Immediately after the violent incidents, the military junta imposed a news blackout. As usual, the international community was scrambling to find out more about what had happened and why in this secretive, military-ruled country. Junta leaders claimed that the attacks on a trade centre and two upscale supermarkets were the handiwork of ethnic-minority guerrillas acting in collusion with pro-democracy activists. However, the views of this ruthless regime must be taken with a large measure of salt.
This is not the first time the regime has blamed the “usual suspects”. It’s inconceivable to think that these so-called enemies of the state, who have always been closely monitored by government spies, would have had the ability to plant powerful bombs inside the capital, which for years has been put under tight security.
To do that, one has to assume that these people are not only very knowledgeable in bomb making, but also that they possess top-notch organisational skills and were able to acquire the chemicals and ingredients required to build the explosive devices.
On the other hand, such highly specialised skills are common among members of the armed forces and the intelligence community. It is absurd to suggest that pro-democracy activists have the bomb-making capability, let alone that they possess the total disregard for innocent lives required to carry out such violent acts.
One doesn’t have to stretch the imagination too far to be more than a little sceptical of the regime’s claims: their assertions are simply far-fetched and self-serving.
By putting the blame on the opposition, Rangoon could be trying to mislead the regional and international communities about the political situation inside Burma. Rangoon may yet get what it wants from other countries by portraying the capital city as besieged by terrorists bent on setting off bombs in public places.
It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to suspect that the military junta may have a hidden agenda.
First, it is possible that Burma is trying to tell Asean that the political situation inside its borders remains unstable and dangerous. This would provide justification in the future for Burma to postpone the annual Asean meeting, which it is supposed to host next year. Citing political turmoil in the country would be a way to for both Burma and Asean to save face.
Second, there are deep rivalries within Burma’s military and intelligence community. The influence of former intelligence chief Khint Nyunt, for example, can still be felt and it is possible that some of those disaffected elements might still be seeking revenge.
Finally, it is interesting to note that Thais were the only foreign group affected by the bombings. Although the bombs were not specifically aimed at killing and maiming Thais who were participating in a trade fair at the trade centre, it should serve to remind the Thai government that supporting and abetting this rogue state does not help ensure the well-being of Thais who are living and working in that country, or advance Thailand’s national interest.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra should know the situation in Burma best because he has always been the first to comment about situations inside Burma, and he has done so with unnerving accuracy. This time, however, his insightful comments were conspicuous by their absence. He said only that the government was ready to evacuate the estimated 200 Thais living in the capital to safety if need be at any time.
Better still, instead of pondering the consequence of these attacks, Thaksin should withdraw his support for Burma and review his shameful policy to allow the authoritarian regime in Rangoon to destroy democracy, commit flagrant human rights violations and other atrocities.
Thailand and indeed Asean must dissociate themselves from such an evil regime. That will be an important first step toward a democratic Burma that is responsive to the aspirations of its people and committed to a form of national unity that embraces all ethnic groups. Failure by Thailand and Asean to address the Burma issue, will perpetuate the suffering of people in Burma, undermine Asean hopes to become a regional group to be taken seriously by the international community and keep alive a festering source of political instability in the region.