Tuesday, April 01, 2003

April Fool Story of the Day, 2003

This is my favorite spoof story of this year's April Fool's Day. It's taken from The Irrawaddy, perhaps the best independent Burmese source of news and opinion.

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Rangoon Sends Troops

By Irrawaddy reporters/Rangoon and Baghdad

April 01, 2003—Rangoon startled the international community today by announcing Burma would commit 50,000 troops to the US-led conflict in Iraq.

International diplomats, human rights activists and the domestic opposition were caught off-guard by the announcement which was delivered at an official press conference to an assembly of reporters from The New Light of Myanmar, The Myanmar Times, CNN and several other American media outlets.

"Such egregious abuse of power cannot be tolerated any longer," snarled Burma’s government spokesperson Col Hla Min, pounding his fist on the table. "The people of Iraq must be liberated from the hideous shackles of dictatorship. Regime change begins now."

While American and British diplomats welcomed Rangoon's decision to deploy troops to the Middle East, Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) leaders were "shocked and awed" by the unexpected decision. So far, the regional grouping has been divided in its opinions of the invasion of Iraq.

"Six years ago we gave the military regime the opportunity to score a diplomatic coup by admitting Myanmar [Burma] into our extremely powerful and prestigious grouping," said Asean Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong from Singapore. "And this is how they repay us? If this doesn't contradict the spirit of Asean cooperation and consensus-building, I don’t know what does."

Analysts in Rangoon also initially expressed suspicion over the motives for sending troops to Iraq to assist in the ground assault, wondering why the Tatmadaw (armed forces) would risk good, young soldiers that could be better used to browbeat people within its own borders. After soaking in the penetrating analysis and balanced coverage of the war on CNN and Myanmar TV, pundits in the Burmese capital say they now understand the junta's mercurial ways.

"It didn’t really make sense at first," explained the analyst. "But joining the coalition of the willing should score some points with Washington and London. When this short, well-planned war concludes in a couple of weeks economic sanctions could be lifted, tourists could return and the Tatmadaw will return home to join with the people in amity in order to protect the nation's independence and annihilate all enemies of the state."

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz were delighted to learn of the offer from Rangoon. "It’s just marvelous," an elated Rumsfeld told reporters from Washington. Added Rumsfeld: "Where the hell is Rangoon, anyway?"

Ethnic insurgent groups, who are widely believed to be anticipating US military assistance to remove the regime in Rangoon, reacted quickly upon learning of the government's plan, pledging to also commit troops to the war effort. Bo Mya, the long-time Karen military leader, was reportedly planning to match the junta’s commitment and send 50,000 Karen army and ethnic alliance troops to support the US.

A regional observer who has been monitoring the rapid political changes in Burma summed up: "I don't know how this deployment of troops will impact Burma's national reconciliation process. I just hope that the ethnic groups and Tatmadaw soldiers don't turn their guns on each other once they get to the Iraqi desert."


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