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Southeast Asia, explained

Myanmar: how the regime sees its widely condemned war

State-aligned press depicts guerrilla forces as brutal, duplicitous
Myanmar kachin air strikes 20120102Enlarge
A soldier from the All Burma Students Democratic Front - Northern Burma, an ally of the Kachin Independence Army, holding his weapon in September, 2012, as he looks out from an outpost near Laiza. (AFP PHOTO/ Soe Than WIN) (SOE THAN WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

The ongoing air strikes lobbed by Myanmar's military at resistance forces along the Chinese border is drawing predictable condemnation.

The U.S. State Department calls the attacks on the largely Christian guerrilla fighters -- the Kachin Independence Army -- "extremely troubling," the New York Times reports. Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations head honcho, has also urged the military to cease the conflict, according to Reuters.

But how is the conflict playing out in the government-aligned press?

Look no further than the New Light of Myanmar, an often-mocked source of government propaganda that, in recent years, blasted Western media for its "killer broadcasts" and "sowing hatred."

From yesterday's edition, we learn that the Kachin guerrillas "sabotaged railroads and motor roads" all while "extorting money" from a local ethnic group and "planting land mines near villages ... to generate misunderstanding" between villagers and the government.

On January 6, New Light readers were told the guerrillas "blasted trucks, abducted local women, sabotaged railroad and bridges and planted mines in urban area."

And in the New Year's Day issue, the government alleges that the Kachin soldiers "committed 101 mine attacks in Kachin State" since late May, 2011.

Is any of it remotely true?

We first must consider that totally independent, on-the-ground reporting out of Myanmar's conflict zones is notoriously hard to come by. Typically, the only witnesses to these conflicts are the combatants themselves and nearby villagers. Among Western media outlets, writing negative copy about guerrilla resistance factions -- which often defend villagers from army abuses and land grabs -- is uncommon and taboo.

But given the government's long track record of abuse -- and the New Light of Myanmar's penchant for pro-state hyperbole -- these stories of sabotage and abduction can't be afforded the benefit of the doubt.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/myanmar-how-the-regime-sees-its-widely-condemned-war