Cyclone may bolster junta’s hold on power

AFTER 46 years of unbroken military rule, many people, both inside and outside Burma, think it will take an act of God to get rid of the junta.

Analysts say there are many reasons why generals are resisting pressure to open up to foreign aid and workers after this month’s cyclone, and are unlikely to face serious unrest, despite criticism over the handling of the disaster.

Those living in the heavily populated Irrawaddy delta, where millions had homes or crops destroyed, will be too busy rebuilding their lives to worry about rising up.

Those elsewhere remember what happened when serious demonstrations erupted before, such as the bloody suppression of monk-led protests last September. A Rangoon taxi driver put it succinctly. “There won’t be demonstrations. People don’t want to be shot.”

The cyclone might even end up bolstering junta chief Than Shwe’s status because of his 2005 decision to move the capital to Naypyidaw, 400kms north of Rangoon.

With Rangoon strewn with rubble and fallen trees, the junta’s escape from the destruction is likely to confirm in its leaders’ minds that they have a near supernatural mandate and can ignore any pressure.

“It is said that Than Shwe’s astrologer told him to move the capital because Rangoon would suffer a calamity,” Derek Tonkin, a former British ambassador to neighbouring Thailand, said.


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