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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 6-Mar-2021
6-Mar-21 World View -- Violence escalates dangerously in Myanmar / Burma

Web Log - March, 2021

6-Mar-21 World View -- Violence escalates dangerously in Myanmar / Burma

Consequences of a new Burma civil war

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Violence escalates dangerously in Myanmar / Burma

Protesters set up a street blockade in Mandalay, Myanmar (AP)
Protesters set up a street blockade in Mandalay, Myanmar (AP)

Last Sunday (February 28) was a major turning point in the violence in Myanmar / Burma, when the army security forces began using lethal force and adopted a shoot-to-kill policy, killing peaceful protesters for the first time. The protests were the largest that Myanmar has seen since 2007. They began when the iconic leader Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested on Jan 28, along with her government ministers. (See "2-Feb-21 World View -- Myanmar (Burma) military coup as army arrests Aung San Suu Kyi government officials")

Up till last Sunday, the army had been using non-lethal tactics, including tear gas and rubber bullets. But on Sunday they began using live ammunition, and the level of violence has been increasing every day since then. Dozens of protesters have been killed so far, and thousands have been arrested, including 29 journalists.

Several analysts have said that the army is purposely increasing the level of violence each day in order to break the back of the protests. This tactic worked in 2007. Hundreds of activists and citizens were shot dead or burned alive in government crematoriums. Thousands of Buddhist monks, who led the protests to begin with, were gathered up and detained. Some were found floating face down in rivers. The protests finally fizzled when the violence became lethal enough.

However, there's a big difference in public mood between now and 2007. Unlike then, the country today is in a generational Crisis era, and so, unlike then, the mood of both the army and the protesters is not to compromise. This means that it's unlikely the violence will fizzle, and more likely that it will continue to escalate. The next step for the army would be machine guns and assault rifles.

The fact that young, innocent people are being killed is infuriating the protesters. There have been complaints of cruelty, even sadism, by the security forces. There have been brutal attacks on innocent medics, and all hospitals are closed in many cities.

The increase in lethal violence so far has not deterred the protesters who remain defiant and, if anything, have been growing in numbers. The protesters are wearing whatever protective equipment they can find, like makeshift shields. Some are using satellite dishes as shields, or are wearing helmets. They've tasted freedom in the last few years, and they cannot tolerate a new dictatorship by military junta.

Protesters are heavily using their mobile phones to publicize the violence. Although it's dangerous to do so, they're filming the violence and then loading the video onto twitter or live streaming it onto facebook.

Probably the military junta has been most hurt by civil disobedience and the national strikes by the banks, and even in the civil service, by workers in health, education, labor, and immigration.

The army has used videos on Tiktok to threaten the protesters. A typical video shows a soldier pointing a big gun at the camera and saying that protesters will be shot dead. Tiktok claims that it has removed most of those videos.

International community calls for sanctions to end the violence

The UN Security Council met on Friday and, not surprisingly, accomplished nothing. Any condemnation of the violence in Myanmar will be vetoed by China and Russia, rather than risk having violence in their own countries be condemned.

The US and UK are planning their own sanctions. There are planned sanctions targeting the assets of the members of the military council and imposing travel restrictions, as well as an arms embargo.

There is no chance that these sanctions will stop the military junta.

Ethnic Burmans vs the other ethnic groups

Both BBC and al-Jazeera have been interviewing people in Myanmar, and they're describing a different situation than is portrayed by the so-called "international community," as represented by the UN and NGOs.

The international community has provided verbal condemnation that the violence is unacceptable and must stop immediately, that peaceful protests much be permitted, and that Aung San Suu Kyi must be released from jail and returned as leader of the government. And if the violence doesn't stop, the international community is threatening even worse verbal condemnations, and possibly even to hold more meetings.

However, some reports have pointed out that although the Burmese mobs support that solution, the ethnic minorities in Myanmar are opposed to it. This opposition point of view was discussed at length by Khin Zaw Win, a Burmese anti-government activist and journalist who was imprisoned by the army from 1994-2005 for "seditious writings," and who was interviewed on the BBC.

According to Khin, the ethnic minorities are opposed to Aung San Suu Kyi because she was part of the government that discriminated against minorities. Furthermore, she damaged herself deeply by becoming a useful idiot and siding with the army when the army was conducting genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingys in Rakhine State, even going so far as traveling to the Hague in December 2019 to defend the Burmese army against charges of war crimes. It is an irony that the army that she defended turned around and threw her under the bus, arresting her and her entire government when she was no longer useful to the army.

The Burmese majority and the ethnic minorities have been temporarily united by the military coup and the resulting violence against peaceful street protesters. However, they do not share a common objective. What the ethnic minorities want is a new constitution, with greater political autonomy and greater rights for ethnic minorities. And nobody believes that solution is even remotely possible.

Generational analysis of crisis in Myanmar / Burma

Burma's last two generational crisis wars (1886-91 and 1948-58) were extremely bloody and violent civil wars involving multiple ethnic groups. (See "Burma: Growing demonstrations by the '88 Generation' raise fears of new slaughter")

The October 2007 demonstrations occurred 49 years after the climax of the last crisis war, during a generational Unraveling era. At that time, there were many people in the army who had lived through the 1958 slaughter, and stopped short of trying to repeat it. Similarly, the young people who protested in 2007 had parents who had lived through the 1958 slaughter, and who held back their children from going too far in risking their lives.

But since 2016, Burma has been in a generational Crisis era. The people who had lived through the 1958 slaughter are gone or retired, and have lost their influence. The younger generation of protesters have no memory of the 1958 slaughter, and do not fear what's coming.

The current generation of people in the army also have no memory of the 1958 slaughter. What they remember is the 2007 protests, and they remember that those protests fizzled when the army began escalating the violence.

The current protesters also remember the 2007 protests, and they remember how the protesters at that time simply surrendered when they didn't have to.

This is how a generational Crisis era is different from a generational Unraveling era. Today, the army has no inhibitions against escalating its violence, and the protesters have no inhibitions against continuing to protest, even if some of them get killed. That makes it unlikely that the current situation will simply fizzle.

The situation is further complicated by the ethnic minorities. The 1948-1958 crisis war was a civil war involving all the ethnic groups, especially the Burmese, the Kachin and the Shan. The latter three groups are currently aligned in their opposition to the army, but what we are seeing are the first signs of a massive new ethnic civil war.

Consequences of a new Burma civil war

According to the Generational Dynamics analysis, the current clashes are fairly likely to escalate into a full scale civil war, although that is not a certainty. However, the current situation is so febrile that even if some temporary truce is worked out -- and this would have to include freeing Aung San Suu Kyi and her government -- then the violence will resume again before long.

Arguably, the civil war already began in 2012, when the army began its genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingyas. The army referred to the Rohingyas as "enemies of the state," but now the ordinary Burmese people have also become "enemies of the state."

If the violence escalates into a full-scale civil war, it could affect the entire region. There are now almost a million Rohingyas living in filthy refugee camps just across the border in Bangladesh, and they're looking for revenge. If there is a general breakdown in law and order in Myanmar, then those Rohingya refugees may well cross back into Myanmar and join the fighting. This could also bring Bangladesh itself into the fighting.

The separatist Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has joined together with the Shan ethnic group and other ethnic groups in northern Burma, along the border with China, to form a "northern alliance" against Burma's army. These groups have had occasional clashes with China's army along the border inside China, and those clashes would probably escalate if there is a civil war in Burma. In fact, China was heavily involved in the crisis war that climaxed in 1958, and history will certainly repeat itself, with China heavily involved in a new civil war in Burma.

As long-time readers are aware, Generational Dynamics predicts a new world war between the US and China, but does not predict the scenario that will lead to that war. We've speculated that it may begin with a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or Japan, or it may begin with a war between India and Pakistan, or it may begin in the Mideast and spread from there.

But here we see another possibility. If a massive civil war occurs in Burma, and it spreads to involve China and Bangladesh, then it may spread further to other countries in Central Asia, bringing in India and Russia.

And so, Dear Reader, keep your eye on Myanmar / Burma. Even if you're totally addicted to watching the political sewer in Washington, try to avert you eyes every once in a while, if only for a few moments, to see something that may affect the lives of you and your family more than the latest lockdown.

John Xenakis is author of: "World View: War Between China and Japan: Why America Must Be Prepared" (Generational Theory Book Series, Book 2), June 2019, Paperback: 331 pages, with over 200 source references, $13.99


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