Burma Burns

The Buddhist led attacks on Myanmar Muslims has expanded beyond the initial targets of Royhinga, coastal people with imputed and real connections to Bangladesh.  Last week, mobs went after Chinese Muslims in the 2nd largest city, Mandalay.

Two men died.  Died ugly.

 The body of the Muslim man was identifiable by his wife only by a distinctive blemish on one of his toes.

More deaths were prevented by the intervention of a Buddhist monk, urging the club-wielding young men to go home.

A Buddhist monk, Galonni Sayadaw, approached the roving bands of young Buddhist men and urged them to return to their homes. The monk also publicly exhorted the chief of police, who as in previous bouts of religious unrest did not immediately intervene, to disperse the crowds.

In an interesting insight, a few are claiming, this is not simply spontaneous violence, or even something directed by the hate mongering  monk, Wirathu and his 969 movement.

Tin Tin Kyaw (centre) cries near the body of her husband Soe Min, a 51-year-old man who was killed in the riot, at a mosque in Mandalay. Photo: Reuters

Tin Tin Kyaw (centre) cries near the body of her husband Soe Min, a 51-year-old man who was killed in the riot, at a mosque in Mandalay. Photo: Reuters

David Scott Mathieson, an analyst with Human Rights Watch in Myanmar, wrote after the Mandalay riots that it appeared that the “violence was not just an organic eruption of communal resentment” and noted that it may have been linked to a planned visit to Mandalay on Sunday by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader. Burmese analysts have speculated that the violence might be associated with efforts to slow her ascension in politics and ultimately derail her attempts to become president.

NY Times: Fuller

Istanbul in Civil Strife on May Day

Water cannon and tear gas at Taksim Square in Istanbul, May Day, 2014

Water cannon and tear gas at Taksim Square in Istanbul, May Day, 2014

“Riot police in Turkey have used tear gas and water cannon to prevent demonstrators defying a ban on protests on Istanbul’s central Taksim Square.

The Anatolia news agency said several demonstrators were injured and at least five detained.

Intensive security measures were in place, and roads and streets near Taksim Square closed to traffic from the early morning.

Turkish media said some 40,000 police would be deployed in the city on 1 May.”


More at BBC

Thailand Elections Annulled

Whew!  The turmoil in Thailand just got turned up a notch, and no sign of things cooling down…

Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Friday annulled last month’s general election, leaving the country in political limbo without a full government and further undermining a prime minister faced with impeachment over a failed rice subsidy scheme.

Weakened by five months of unrest, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is expected to defend herself before an anti-corruption commission by March 31, and a decision to seek her impeachment could come soon after that, with the Senate expected to take up the matter quickly.

As the crisis deepens, there is a growing risk that the “red shirt” supporters of Yingluk and her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra could confront their opponents in the streets, plunging Thailand into a fresh round of political violence.

NY Times: Sawitta Lefevre

Ultra Nationalism Up From the Underground

It’s hard not to notice the growth and reappearance on the world stage of long submerged human emotions, foundational in nature.  It’s as if the world economic crisis, the long running catastrophes of war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria — to name just the big ones– have created a drought,  The reservoirs of energy and hope have drawn down revealing the old emotions of belligerence, admiration for strong men, resentment of others for ones own conditions, raising cries of betrayal, weakness and treason.  We see it in the American right, in the resurgence of Nazi parties in Greece, Austria and France (for example) and in the rise of Russian hyper nationalism — turning Putin into a matinee idol of admiration, not only for many Russians longing for a new cold war, but for Americans such as Rudy Giuliani and most of the Fox comentariat.  Manly in-your-face power is the measure of righteous national behavior. Unless your tanks are rumbling, you are a ‘sissy.’

Ellen Barry in the New York Times this week-end had two very interesting articles on the rise of the Russian super nationalists.

As Russia and the United States drift toward a rupture over Crimea, the Stalinist writer Aleksandr A. Prokhanov feels that his moment has finally arrived.

“I am afraid that I am interested in a cold war with the West,” said Mr. Prokhanov, 76, in a lull between interviews on state-controlled television and radio. “I was very patient. I waited for 20 years. I did everything I could so that this war would begin. I worked day and night.”

Mr. Prokhanov is an attack dog whose career has risen, fallen and risen again with the fortunes of hard-liners in the Kremlin. And it is a measure of the conservative pivot that has taken place in Moscow in Vladimir V. Putin’s third presidential term that Mr. Prokhanov and a cadre of like-minded thinkers — a kind of “who’s who of conspiratorial anti-Americanism,” as one scholar put it — have found themselves thrust into the mainstream.

… If Mr. Putin himself decided to make an ideological change, Mr. Prokhanov said, it was in December 2011, when tens of thousands of urban liberals, angry over ballot-stuffing and falsification in parliamentary elections, massed on a city square, Bolotnaya, chanting, “Putin is a thief!” and “Russia Without Putin.”

“During the time of Bolotnaya, he experienced fear,” Mr. Prokhanov said. “He felt that the whole class which he had created had betrayed him, cheated him, and he had a desire to replace one class with another. From the moment you got back from that march, we started a change of the Russian elite.”

NY Times: Barry

The heartening news is that there is opposition within Russia to Putin’s plunge into assertive policies and actions.  In the face of one rally celebrating the recent army actions in the Crimea and cheering Putin’s ‘defense of the motherland”  another brought thousands calling for peace. In a country where people have been jailed, radio and news sites closed down, this is pretty brave behavior.  Nevertheless, Putin’s personality echoes strongly in the population.

Last week, in the midst of the Crimean crisis and on the heels of the Sochi Olympics, Mr. Putin’s approval rating had increased to 71.6 percent, the highest point since he returned to the presidency in 2012, according to a poll released by the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion last week.

NY Times: Barry

Russia in the Crimea — What Are Others to Do?

We in America, in our normally self-obsessed way, turn almost every event in the world to the classic Joan River’s observation — enough about you, let’s get back to me!  So the punditocracy on American TV has leapt into the ranks of macho-posturing uber-males blaming Obama for what is happening. [Few have mentioned W’s hands off posture when Russian invaded Georgia in 2008 as the signal that gave the green light through which Putin is now driving his tanks.]

While sharing with everyone the worry for the lives of those up against the Russian tanks it is worth remembering that many other countries and peoples have an interest in the strategy, tactics and outcomes of the next weeks.

Georgia   [Who’s former President is in Kiev –who predicted this invasion of the Crimea– sharing his 2008 experience with the Russians.]




Moldova and especially Transnistria


Financial Markets – and especially Russian stocks

Russia Rushin’ To Crimea

Let’s see, if I remember correctly, it was US President Ronald Reagan who invaded the island of Grenada under the pretext of immediate danger to US students studying there.  Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia under the flag of protecting Germans there.  Vladimir Putin’s saddling up his armored columns to protect the Russians in the Crimea, “endangered” by the civil unrest in the Ukraine, should come as small surprise, therefore.  Perhaps surprise is not the right word: opportunity to burnish the tarnished display of force and violence is surely appropriate.

In all places and times the movement of the armed might of the powerful against those with small means of defense offends our sense of justice and proportionality.  Today, in the Crimea and Ukraine fear of disaster is high because so many people are involved, with thousands locked into opposing beliefs and loyalties.  The several months long standoff in Kiev has created a very combustible citizenry, as we have all seen. The Russian speakers in the Crimea — home of an enormous Russian naval base– who were given Russian passports not so long ago have loyalties which can hardly be called divided.  How events may ricochet if Russia imposes martial law in this uneasy province of the Ukraine is anyone’s guess.  What isn’t a guess is that blood will flow.

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — As Russian armed forces effectively seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula on Saturday, the Russian Parliament granted President Vladimir V. Putin the authority he sought to use military force in response to the deepening instability in Ukraine.

The authorization cited a threat to the lives of Russian citizens and soldiers stationed in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine, and provided a blunt answer to President Obama, who on Friday pointedly warned Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.

Even before Mr. Putin’s statement in Moscow, scores of heavily armed soldiers had tightened their grip on the Crimean capital, Simferopol, surrounding government buildings, shuttering the airport, and blocking streets, where they deployed early Friday. NY Times

A Ukrainian soldier tries to persuade Russian troops to move away from a Ukrainian military base in Balaklava, Crimea on Saturday. Photograph: Anton Pedko/EPA

A Ukrainian soldier tries to persuade Russian troops to move away from a Ukrainian military base in Balaklava, Crimea on Saturday. Photograph: Anton Pedko/EPA

The rumors on Saturday that the previous Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, recently released from prison, may be going to Moscow to talk to Putin is a) unverified, b) might be helpful in coming to a less violent backing down, and c) might sell out her now radicalized former supporters in the Ukraine.

The US Congress is almost surely going to bollocks up whatever hopes of calming down remain [and here.]  If only the right wingers of both countries could square off somewhere removed from the rest of us — say Siberia or the high plains of North Dakota– and have at it….

For a good overview of some of the possibles, see Talking Points Memo.

Unquestionably, we’ve got a dangerous and unpredictable situation unfolding in Ukraine – and a taste of the reinforcing mix of authoritarian tendencies and aggressive behavior that has persistently characterized Russia through the eras of autocracy to totalitarianism and on to the present one of pseudo-democracy. That said, we shouldn’t be blind to the downsides of the current situation for Russia.  read on…

What Josh Marshall doesn’t get into, as most commentators don’t, in his discussion of the strategic and power implications, is the people themselves and what they will suffer — from changed governments, police forces, propaganda outlets, access to resources to injury, imprisonment and death.

In The Ukraine

Two post compromise posts worth seeing

Agreement in Ukraine: 12 Things You Should Know

An agreement was brokered by EU leaders between Ukraine’s ruling party and the opposition. Here are twelve points you should know as the country goes forward.

  1. A transitional government will take over in the next ten days. Executive powers are due to be taken over by the new speaker of the parliment, Oleksandr Turchynov, a member of Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party.
  2. New presidential elections will take place on May 25, 2015. Yanukovych has been impeached, accused of human rights abuses, and declared “unable to carry out his duties” by the parliment. The vote was unanimous. Yanukovych has responded by saying that he is the “legitimately elected president” and that he will not resign.
  3. Ukraine will return to the 2004 constitution – which gave Ukraine a strong parliament and a weak president.
  4. Yulia Tymoshenko has been freed from prison. She and her party seem to be rapidly gaining in power as events unfold.
  5. Read On

Ukrainian Smears and Stereotypes — Anne Applebaum

…this is not a fight over which language to speak or which church to attend. It is a deep, fundamental disagreement about the nature of the state, the country’s international allegiances, its legal system, its economy, its future. Given how much Ukrainians have at stake, the least we outsiders can do is avoid foolish stereotypes when discussing their fate.

Boiling Against Ruling Blocs: Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela

KIEV, Ukraine — At least nine people were killed Tuesday in the deadliest day of the 3-month-old Ukrainian political crisis as security forces clashed with demonstrators and later stormed their encampment at Kiev’s Independence Square, local and international media reported.

… vowing to press on with their demands for Yanukovich’s resignation and parliamentary action to curb presidential powers, protesters marched toward parliament on Tuesday afternoon to press for restoration of the 2004 constitution that was amended after Yanukovich was elected in 2010. The demonstration turned angry when the Party of the Regions postponed debate on the legislative changes demanded by the opposition and police tried to block the estimated 20,000-strong procession from entering the parliament building.


BANGKOK — Four people, including a police officer, were killed and at least 64 were injured on Tuesday as antigovernment demonstrators resisted attempts by thousands of riot police officers to dislodge them from the streets surrounding the prime minister’s office.

Protesters, who for the past three months have sought to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and have hampered elections, remained defiant as thousands of officers cleared away barricades that protesters had erected on a bridge near key government offices.


CARACAS — Tens of thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Venezuela’s capital on Tuesday after troops arrested opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on charges of fomenting unrest against the government and violence that has killed at least four people.

White-clad demonstrators blocked traffic in the streets of Caracas as a security vehicle holding the 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist crawled at a snail’s pace after he surrendered to security forces during an opposition rally.

Lopez’s arrest could galvanize the opposition and spur more street demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro, though there is no immediate sign the protests will topple the socialist leader.


Thailand “Shallow News in Depth” Tries to Lance the Boil of Conflict

Nice article by Thomas Fuller in Bangkok, in the NY Times, about a new YouTube distributed show in the Jon Stewart Daily Show style, taking on the ironies and dangers of Thailand’s current problems.

“If you take seriously everything happening in Thai society, you will go mad,” said Winyu Wongsurawat, the co-host of the show.

Irony is in plentiful supply in Thailand today: A billionaire tycoon is praised as the champion of the poor. A scandal-tainted politician leads a mass movement against corruption. Protesters declare that they need to block elections to save democracy.

Good for them — and we all hope oppositional forces can find a way to answers that don’t involve the suffering of thousands.


State of Emergency Declared in Thailand

Thailand’s government on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas to cope with protests that have stirred up violent attacks.

Labor Minister Chalerm Yubumrung announced that the measure would take effect Wednesday and continue for 60 days.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, in a speech to followers, questioned whether the declaration was justified, saying the demonstrators had peaceful.

“Is it right for them to use the emergency decree to declare a state of emergency to come and deal with us? Come and get us,” he declared to an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds at a park in downtown Bangkok. Thousands more are encamped at other locations in the capital.

Thailand Police

The emergency decree greatly expands the power of security forces to issue orders and search, arrest and detain people, with limited judicial and parliamentary oversight. The areas covered had already been placed under tougher-than-normal security under the country’s Internal Security Act.