11 November 2010

Junta to crush ethnic rebels

BANGKOK - Opposition hero Aung San Suu Kyi has long been seen as a threat to Myanmar's ruling generals, but after a widely condemned election they may now face a greater challenge from frustrated ethnic rebels.

While preparations are under way for the likely release of the junta's main rival, democracy icon Ms Suu Kyi, analysts believe the regime is gearing up to end a decades-old insurgency and stamp out ethnic foes with a large-scale assault.

Fighting erupted on Monday near the eastern border between Karen insurgents and state troops, sparking an exodus of 20,000 people into Thailand a day after a poll that was carefully choreographed by the regime.

Experts believe ethnic armies pose little threat to the junta outside the areas in which they operate, with government forces comprising up to 400,000 personnel, but the latest clash seemed timed by rebels for symbolic effect. 'They're sending a political message over the election: it's not just about democracy, it's about the ethnic issue,' said Tom Kramer of the Transnational Institute, a Netherlands-based thinktank.--Full story at The Straits Times

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