Myanmar rebels carry out unprecedented attack on military academy

Ethnic armed rebel groups have for decades fought against the Myanmar military, above, for land and resources in the country’s east. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2019

Myanmar rebels carry out unprecedented attack on military academy

  • Ethnic armed rebel groups have for decades fought against the military for land and resources in Myanmar’s east
  • Assault targeted Pyin Oo Lwin, that is also home to barracks teeming with soldiers receiving training

YANGON: Myanmar’s military was Thursday fighting rebels who mounted an unprecedented strike at an army academy killing at least one, apparently in retaliation for massive drug seizures.
Ethnic armed rebel groups have for decades fought against the military — and often between themselves — for land and resources in Myanmar’s east.
Experts say the area is now the world’s largest meth-producing region, funding the complex web of conflicts.
Thursday’s brazen assault targeted Pyin Oo Lwin, a tourist town near Mandalay, that is also home to barracks teeming with soldiers receiving training.
Images from local media showed burned out cars riddled with bullet holes and damaged buildings showered in debris.
The Taaung National Liberation Army (TNLA) said the group launched attacks in retaliation for military offensives.
“Fighting took place at five places this morning,” TNLA spokesman Major Mai Aik Kyaw said, but clashes were ongoing.
One strike targeted the Defense Service Technology Academy (DSTA) where military engineers are trained, while another hit a police station near the region’s landmark Gokteik bridge, a rail route popular with sightseers.
Mai Aik Kyaw said the group mounted the attacks in coordination with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Arakan Army (AA).
The AA is currently fighting the military, or Tatmadaw, in the conflict-scarred western Rakhine state, but is in a tight alliance with the other rebel groups.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun confirmed all five attacks, saying one civilian had so far been killed in the crossfire and two members of the security forces had been injured.
“We assume they carried out the attacks because the Tatmadaw seized tons of drugs a few weeks ago,” he said.
In July, narcotics police were met with heavy artillery fire when they launched a major drugs crackdown in Kutkai township in neighboring Shan state.
Huge stockpiles of chemicals as well as millions of dollars’ worth of ice, the highly addictive crystalized form of meth, were seized in a single raid.
The “Golden Triangle” — a lawless wedge of land intersecting China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos — has long served as a base for opium and heroin production.
A cease-fire in Shan state declared by the military in December is officially due to finish in two weeks even though clashes with armed groups have continued.
China’s plans to invest in major infrastructure projects have added another dimension to the conflict with groups vying for control of increasingly valuable territory.


Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

Updated 9 min 9 sec ago

Trump: I am Israel’s best pal in the White House

  • Unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump says ‘I kept my promises’
  • The president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough

HOLLYWOOD, Florida: President Donald Trump said Saturday that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than him because, unlike his predecessors, “I kept my promises.”
Trump energized an audience that numbered in the hundreds at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida by recounting his record on issues of importance to Jews, including an extensive riff on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Trump said his predecessors only paid lip service to the issue.
“They never had any intention of doing it, in my opinion,” Trump said. “But unlike other presidents, I kept my promises.”
Trump also highlighted his decision to reverse more than a half-century of US policy in the Middle East by recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war but its sovereignty over the territory had not been recognized by the international community.
In his speech, the president also claimed there are some Jewish people in America who don’t love Israel enough.
“We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more, I have to tell you that. We have to do it. We have to get them to love Israel more,” Trump said, to some applause. “Because you have Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.”
Aaron Keyak, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, denounced Trump’s remarks as anti-Semitic.
“Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community — even Jewish Republicans,” Keyak said.
Trump has been accused of trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes before, including in August, when he said American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A number of Jewish groups noted at the time that accusations of disloyalty have long been made against Jews.
The Israeli American Council is financially backed by one of Trump’s top supporters, the husband-and-wife duo of Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate.
Both Adelsons appeared on stage to introduce Trump, with Miriam Adelson asserting that Trump “has already gone down in the annals of Jewish history, and that is before he’s even completed his first term in office.”
The Adelsons donated $30 million to Trump’s campaign in the final months of the 2016 race. They followed up by donating $100 million to the Republican Party for the 2018 congressional elections.
Trump’s entourage at the event included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, along with Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Michael Waltz, whom he described as “two warriors” defending him against “oppression” in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump criticized Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran, saying he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers because Tehran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon
But Trump voiced support for Iranian citizens who have been protesting a decision by their government to withdraw fuel subsidies, which sent prices skyrocketing.
Trump said he believes thousands of Iranians have been killed in the protests and that thousands more have been arrested.
“America will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom,” he said.