A new technique of the Burmese military: How it will affect rebels

by admin — last modified 2009-01-23 08:55
This January, the Burmese Army began using a new system of extremely accurate mapping called Universal Transverse Mercator or UTM, which allows easy and quick navigation calculations, possibly expediting the movement of Junta troops.
By Hseng Khio Fah/Elizabeth Chiaravalli
23 January 2009

In 2007 SHAN reported that Burmese generals were receiving training in the UTM system. On 15 December 2008 the order was issued for generals to begin using this new system starting New Year’s Day.

This mapping system is a new way of plotting the earth’s surface. UTM is very accurate, because it does not have the distortion that the traditional latitude and longitude system has. From the top of Greenland to the coast of Antarctica is broken up into 60 vertical UTM zones and 20 horizontal UTM zones. Because each UTM area is an undistorted rectangle simple calculations can be used, therefore making calculations of distance and area much faster.

By switching to UTM, the Burma Army will not gain any new knowledge about the location of rebel groups. However the information that they already have can be accessed much easier, and calculations about relative distances will be much faster.

Whether or not this new system with put the rebel groups at a disadvantage will greatly depend on who in the Burma Army has access to these new maps. From the report in 2007 it seems only the ruling generals will have received training on how to use the UTM system, but all generals will be familiar with UTM. If this is the case then the orders the lower generals receive concerning locations of rebel groups and troop movements will be very accurate, resulting in quicker Junta troop movement. Though, how accurate troop movement becomes will depend on how much contact officers have with those using UTM.

The UTM system will most likely have the greatest impact on the highest level of the army, quickening how information about location is communicated. For instance, because UTM can accurately cite locations to the nearest meter, this will increase the accuracy of planes dropping missiles. However, UTM could have less of an effect on the ground movement of troops, because this movement is affected by other factors like topography and forest cover. http://www.shanland.org/

Ethnic Minorities Hold the Key to Burma’s Future

3 Pages

Ceasefires that cannot be transformed into political settlements and a lasting peace are typical examples of protracted deadlocks. When neither party seems willing or able to resolve this situation, the deadlocks have the potential to trigger an escalation strategy in conflict. This is the point that the Burmese military and ceasefire ethnic groups have now reached. The question is what strategy options are available for both parties.

The Burmese military has initiated ceasefire agreements with no less than 17 ethnic rebel groups since 1989 and has allowed the groups to retain their arms and control somewhat extensive blocks of territory over the past twenty years. This shows uncharacteristic tolerance on the part of the military, which, like the whole Burman population to some extent, has a chauvinistic and patronizing attitude toward ethnic minorities.

The Burmese junta has accepted this situation for at least three reasons. First, the ceasefire accords have allowed the military to avoid multiple enemy fronts in the aftermath of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and to focus mainly on suppressing political opposition in central Burma.

Secondly, the ceasefire condition that prevails in the border areas has enabled the Burmese military to make unprecedented advances in its relations with neighboring countries¬ especially China and Thailand ¬in both security and economic terms. The neighbors that once supported Burma’s ethnic rebels along their borders as a key part of their buffer policy or because of an ideological affinity have now shifted to the policy of full economic cooperation with the Burmese junta through massive investment and border trade.

Lastly, the ceasefire accords give the military regime the much-needed political legitimacy that they have lost since the bloody crackdown on the 1988 pro-democracy uprising. The regime constantly points to the ethnic ceasefire groups as the most defining feature of its “national reconsolidation” policy and as evidence of its claims to legitimacy.

However, the success of the military’s strategic tolerance is now about to be put to the test, as the regime must do two things before the 2010 elections to ensure that the progress it has made toward establishing a so-called “disciplined democracy” is meaningful.

First of all, the military needs to redraw the map of Burma under its new constitution. The basic state structure, consisting of seven centrally located regions surrounded by seven ethnic states, will remain the same. This favors the continuing dominance of the Burman majority, who live mostly in the seven regions. Some states, however, will see their maps being redrawn, with five Self-Administered Zones (for Naga, Danu, Pa-O, Pa Laung and Kokang ethnic groups) and one Self-Administered Division (for Wa ethnic group) designated by the military. The seventeen “special regions” established in the ethnic ceasefire areas are due to expire when the military redraws the map in accordance with the new constitution. Re-mapping must also be done soon so that the junta can establish new electoral constituencies in the country, especially in the ethnic areas. However, there is still no consensus among all parties concerned with regard to the drawing up of a new map, and this issue remains contentious.

Secondly, and more importantly, the military needs to disarm the ceasefire groups, reclaim territory from them, and push them to transform themselves into political parties ready to contest the 2010 election. This will be a major test of the military’s “contained Balkanization” of the ethnic areas; failure to achieve these goals could trigger an outright conflict and, in the worst case scenario, initiate another era of regional instability.

The question is how ethnic ceasefire groups will respond to the regime’s plans for their future. The indications so far suggest that ethnic groups will not likely give in to the junta’s demands. The United Wa State Party (UWSP), for example, now refers to itself as the “Government of Wa State, Special Autonomous Region, Union of Myanmar” in official documents. The UWSP, which has long pressed the regime to designate the Wa territory as a “state” in the constitution, has refused to call the area under its control “Shan State Special Region 2” in accordance with the terms of their ceasefire agreement or “Shan State Self-Administered Division” in accordance with the military’s new constitution.

Two other strong ceasefire groups, ¬the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the New Mon State Party (NMSP), ¬have already officially stated that they will not contest the 2010 election. The NMSP even went so far as to say that it does not accept the military’s constitution.

There are two things the ceasefire groups can and should do. The first would be to resist the regime’s forced disarmament under the current conditions. continue
http://www.irrawaddy.org/opinion_story.php?art_id=14979

Weekly Business Roundup (January 23, 2009) IRRAWADDY

India’s Pursuit of Burmese Gas Continues

Another Indian company will begin exploratory drilling off the coast of Arakan in western Burma in a new bid for gas and oil ahead of a visit to Burma by India’s Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

The main focus of the visit, expected in early February, is to press the Burmese junta to sell India gas, according to Indian newspaper reports and industry analysts.

India lost out to China in an earlier attempt to buy a huge tranche of gas from the Shwe field off the coast of Arakan.

Indian state companies onGC and GAIL are involved with South Korea’s Daewoo in delivering gas from blocks A1 and A3 in the Shwe field.

However, another Indian firm, Essar E&P, will shortly carry out exploratory drilling in block A2 of the same field. continue
http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=14980

Letter from Delta-My impression is that the INGO staff cultivate smooth relationships with the Burmese military officers in the karaoke bars of nocturnal Labutta.

irrawaddy news
We passed two refugee camps on the road to Labutta. The first was called Kyar Kan (Lotus Lake) camp, is situated about 10 miles (16 km) before Labutta and shelters about 250 cyclone refugees. The other was called Pain Hnel Taw camp, is about 7 miles (11 km) before town and has about 300 people. The military authorities reportedly don’t allow just anyone to enter the camps. Even the international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) have to coordinate their donations through a military-operated center in Labutta and must have approval and permission to take supplies to the camps. continue http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=14982

must be a kind of genetical code on INGO staff….

Last visit- UN was “Disrespectful” In Approach to Aung San Suu Kyi, NLD Leader Says

UNITED NATIONS, December 8 — As political leaders east and west are calling for the UN to do more about the situation in Myanmar, Monday in New York leaders of that country’s National League for Democracy criticized the UN’s last trip to Yangoon. NLD leader Khun Mying Tun, speaking at New York University, was asked by Inner City Press to review the UN’s recent performance. He referred to UN staff shouting at Daw Aun San Suu Kyi through a bullhorn and pasting fliers on the gate of the house in which she is under house arrest.
“That is not a polite gesture in our culture,” he said. “We viewed it as the junta trying to embarrass our leader.”
http://www.innercitypress.com/un1nld120808.html

not a polite gesture in our culture

gate-1

UN envoy to test waters in Burma’s political quagmire

by Larry Jagan
Friday, 23 January 2009 14:58

Bangkok (Mizzima) – The United Nation’s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari will make another visit to Burma at the end of the month on what may be his final effort to broker talks between the military regime and the detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The trip to Burma will start on January 31 and is scheduled to end on the February 3, Mr. Gambari told Mizzma.

But he declined to give any further details. “We are still working on the modalities of the visit,” he said.

During this trip he expects to meet senior members of the military government, opposition leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi’s who is currently under house-arrest in Rangoon, and representatives of the country’s ethnic minorities, according to senior UN officials who declined to be identified.

“Although it’s only a four-day working trip, he will extend his stay if it seems progress can be made on his top priorities,” a UN official close to Mr. Gambari said.

“Meeting Aung San Suu Kyi and hearing her views is obviously a crucial part of this visit,” he added. On his last trip, the envoy made two unsuccessful attempts to see the pro-democracy leader.

The Nigerian envoy will tour the region after his talks with the Burmese military leaders, according to UN sources in New York. While all the stops have yet to be finalised, he is certainly expected to visit Bangkok, Beijing, Jakarta, Singapore and Tokyo for discussions on how best to proceed. But he is expected to return to New York to brief the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

This visit signals the UN’s renewed efforts to directly engage the hard-line Burmese military government after months of debate about how best to encourage the junta to introduce genuine democratic reforms and include all the country’s political players, especially detained Aung San Suu Kyi. A planned visit by the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon in late December was cancelled because the UN boss felt his visit would not produce any concrete results.

Some countries, notably the United Kingdom, pressed hard for the visit go ahead, even though it was not likely to achieve any real break-through in Burma’s political deadlock. The UN chief though has been very active behind the scenes since, holding a series of senior level meetings with the countries most concerned about Burma and the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Mr. Gambari’s latest visit – his first in five months, and his seventh since he took up the job in early 2006 – is something of a stock-taking mission, according to diplomats based in Rangoon. The regime has been sending mixed messages about their attitude to international mediation. Whereas they eventually welcomed international cooperation to tackle the aftermath of the devastating Cyclone Nargis, they persist on resisting international pressure in the political arena.

“Mr. Gambari will be testing the waters – seeing where the regime might be willing to, at least tolerate, international support and assistance, while at the same time reiterating the international community’s message: national reconciliation must be genuine and truly inclusive,” said a western Rangoon-based diplomat. But most analysts remain pessimistic that Mr. Gambari will be able to achieve much.

The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi is hopeful that the visit will at least break the ice, and may lead to renewed contact between them and the junta, and the possible start of tentative talks – at least at a lower level within the regime.

“I believe the special envoy’s visit this time will be beneficial as the envoy and the NLD share the same principles on achieving political reform in the country,” the NLD spokesman Nyan Win, told Mizzima.

But many analysts are cautious about raising expectations for this visit – as this has led to massive resentment inside Burma when Mr. Gambari’s efforts failed miserably to produce results. “Don’t expect anything,” a western diplomat who has been close to the international mediation efforts told Mizzima. “The visit has very low objectives and expectations,” he said.

The envoy is expected to meet the opposition leader on this trip, although she refused to see him last time even though she had on his previous visits.

The real test of whether the envoy’s forthcoming trip is going to be more successful than usual will be whether he is able to meet the junta supremo, Than Shwe. The Senior General had refused to meet him on his last few visits.

“He is likely only to be allowed to meet the largely ceremonial Prime Minister Thein Sein,” said Win Min, a Burmese academic, based at Chiang Mai in Thailand. “The top general obviously has no regard for him and believes it isn’t necessary to talk directly to him.”

The UN visit also comes in the wake of a massive crackdown on dissidents. In the past few months the government has handed down harsh prison sentences to more than a hundred pro-democracy activists.

The NLD told Mizzima they would be discussing the arrests and sentencing of more than 300 NLD members and other political prisoners with Mr. Gambari during his stay in Rangoon.

While the UN envoy will certainly repeat the international community’s main concern – the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi, there is very little likelihood that the regime will budge. The opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate has been under house arrest for more than 13 of the last 20 years. Her detention order runs out in late May. But it is expected to be renewed for a further year at that time.

The junta for its part is anxious to show that it is not them who are blocking the visit of the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon. Some diplomats believe that Mr. Gambari’s top objective, is to sound out the situation in readiness for a rescheduled visit by the UN boss.

Ban Ki-moon maybe planning visit Burma in the first part of this year, either after the ASEAN Summit next month, or more likely the ASEAN-UN summit scheduled to be held in Thailand in April. http://www.mizzima.com/