Sleeping on the Job
covering burma and southeast asia
Friday, May 24, 2019


Sleeping on the Job

By Clive Parker JUNE, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.6


The junta’s inaction leaves Rangoon open to further attacks


Absorbing the siege mentality that forms part of everyday life in Burma’s capital does not usually take a long time. Rangoon epitomizes military dictatorship: Barbed wire stretches along the walls of most residences, army jeeps and personnel carriers mingle with civilian traffic and guards cradle automatic weapons on street corners. Burma’s armed forces seem constantly on red alert.


But when Rangoon suffered its worst terrorist act since independence, with official figures claiming 23 fatalities and more than 160 wounded, many in Burma felt the Tatmadaw, the country’s military forces, was left wanting.


Sources in Rangoon say that instead of engaging with its own people, the private sector and the expatriate community to safeguard the country after May 7, the junta has resorted to haphazard security measures designed mainly to serve its own interests and thereby leaving the country open to further attack.


A leading international airline that flies to Burma was so concerned by the government’s lack of safety measures at Rangoon International Airport that it says it made its own recommendations on tightening security. The junta ignored the suggestions, failing even to reply, prompting the airline to raise the issue with its country’s embassy in Rangoon.


Disregarding a key recommendation to allow only people with valid tickets into the terminal building, the authorities instead only increased security personnel and the use of sniffer dogs—little more than a token gesture, according to the airline.


The foreign diplomatic community in Rangoon also complains of a lack of cooperation over security issues, while offers by Thailand and the United States to assist in investigating the bombings were rejected by Rangoon.


One European diplomat said their embassy had asked for a security briefing, but was referred to a press conference by the State Peace and Development Council in Rangoon on May 19—to which it wasn’t even invited.

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