Runaway rogue

November 17, 2005

The junta that stole the Burmese state now has absconded with its capital. Surprising just about everyone who watches Myanmar - as its military regime renamed the nation - a convoy of trucks began moving government ministries last week 200 miles north from the longtime capital of Yangon to an undeveloped rural outpost. Left behind, astonished foreign diplomats were told that if they had to reach the government, they could send a fax.

It's hard to imagine that Myanmar's generals - having overturned a free election in 1990, having detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for most of the time since then, having contributed heavily to the spread of drugs and AIDS in Southeast Asia, and having been credibly accused of forced labor and military rapes - could do themselves more damage. But this move gives new meaning to "outposts of tyranny," the Bush administration's label for Myanmar, North Korea, Iran and their ilk.

Speculation has it that the move stemmed from rising U.S. pressure on the junta, a growing world movement to take Myanmar's case to the United Nations and the generals' unfounded fears that America might invade. In any case, it's further sign of this regime's inward direction - one that's dangerous for the Burmese and for U.S. interests and that's apt to make Myanmar even more of a Chinese client state. In Asia yesterday, President Bush spoke up for liberty in Myanmar, but unfortunately, such right-minded statements are tempered by the vexing reality that, like North Korea, this military state's primary goal is its generals' survival in power.

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