Monday, October 01, 2007

New Villages, Strategic Hamlets & Myanmar...

In recent days, satellite pictures exposing the forced relocation of villagers & villages in Myanmar have been released to the mass media; these pictures were then used as potential evidence of human rights abuses in Myanmar by its military government.

Hmm... If I am not wrong, it has been said (though I can't remember where exactly I heard this from) that Myanmar's military government has forcibly relocated these villages and re-situated them in areas controlled by the military as a means of cutting off supplies & support to the rebels who are engaging in guerilla warfare in the border regions of Myanmar.

Well, don't get me wrong, I am in no way trying to defend the actions of the Myanmar military government but, being a student of History, I can't help but be reminded of the New Villages that the British set up in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency and the Strategic Hamlets of South Vietnam which were put in place by U.S. & South Vietnamese governments during the Vietnam War when I read about this discussion about how the Myanmar military government has committed human rights abuses when it forcibly relocated villages to military controlled areas.

Though they may differ in details, it would seem to me that the principle behind the New Villages, Strategic Hamlets and the forced relocation of villages in Myanmar may perhaps not differ that greatly i.e. they were all measures implemented to cut off supplies & support for rebels (of course, these people will be "rebels" in the eyes of those whom they are fighting against; those who support their cause will see them more positively as "freedom fighters". There is truth, I suppose, in the statement: "One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter").

Thus, if the Myanmar military government has committed human rights abuses through its forced relocation of villages, wouldn't it be perhaps the same with the New Villages & Strategic Hamlets? Perhaps the British & the U.S. were fortunate in that satellite imagery was not yet that advanced when they implemented the New Villages and Strategic Hamlets.

And, as a slight aside, I think I will just briefly mention about the forced relocation of Native American tribes by the U.S. government in the 19th century (which I have recently learnt about in the American History module I am taking this semester). This was done so, to put it in the most simple words, to satisfy the expanionist ambitions of the U.S. and its increasing population. Such forced relocations eventually resulted in the decline of the Native American culture and, in the infamous case of the "Trail of Tears", an estimated 4000 Cherokee Indians died on the forced journey from their ancestral lands in Georgia to areas west of the Mississippi River.

Again, allow me to reiterate that I am not trying to defend the actions of the Myanmar military government. I suppose I am just trying to compare & contrast the actions, with specific reference to the forced relocation of people, of the Myanmar military government and those taken in the past by the U.S. & British governments, which are both now condemning the actions of the Myanmar military government.

Okay, that's all I have to say for now. Hopefully, what I have said above make some sense to you all. Apologise if it doesn't; I was typing this out off the top of my mind, most of it is perhaps just me musing aloud.

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