The Burmese junta has arrested a poet for an insult to General Than Shwe. The phrase “General Than Shwe is crazy with power” was hidden in the first word of every line the way Lewis Carroll hid the names of his young female friends in his poems. There’s a word for this but it escapes me. “The junta is sensitive,” says the article. You think?

The authorities closely monitor the media and dissidents have resorted to increasingly elaborate methods to get their messages across. Last year an advertisement was placed in one of Burma’s main newspapers in the name of a Swedish travel company which contained the hidden message “Killer Than Shwe”. The company did not really exist.

Plus more on Burma’s tragically high infant mortality rate. This is of course closely tied to poverty, and poverty is not always due to tyranny and corrupt government, but these things certainly don’t help. A link is forming between the refugee situation and the bomb-blasts in Bhutan in advance of the nation’s elections. The old absolute monarchy is in the process of transforming into a constitutional one, but the refugee problem is starting to shadow the process:

A team of Indian parliamentarians, on its way to visit Bhutanese refugees in eastern Nepal, was barred from entering Bhutan by border security on January 19. The team, led by Debrata Biswas, general secretary of the Forward Bloc Party, was en route to Jhapa district where the joint Indo-Bhutan Solidarity team was scheduled to address a gathering at Beldangi and hold talks with refugee leaders. “Bhutan cannot be called a democratic nation even after the March 24, 2008, elections unless it allows Bhutanese refugees to participate in the elections. We will pressure the Indian government in all sorts [of ways] to resolve the refugee situation without the intervention of countries like the US,” Biswas told Asia Times Online.

There is certainly more to come on this. Bangkok’s The Nation asks, Are there lessons here from the case of Sikkim? Another teacher shot dead in southern Thailand. No surprise that she was Buddhist:

The victim became the first teacher slain this year in Thailand’s restive south, where more than 80 Buddhist teachers are among the more than 2,800 people killed since a Muslim insurgency in January 2004. . . . Public school teachers, viewed by insurgents as government collaborators, are targeted along with civil servants and local officials in almost daily attacks in Thailand’s southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. The three provinces are the only Muslim-dominated areas in the Buddhist country.

Thailand has been headed by a military junta since 2006 but democracy of some sort returned Monday when Parliament re-opened. This prompted ousted Prime Minister and international playboy Thaksin Shinawatra‘s wife to predict his imminent return:

Thaksin, the owner of Manchester City football club, who lives mostly in London, has given several different dates for his return home. Most recently he said he was “considering” returning in April. Speculation is rife that he has been trying to forge secret deals with the military and the royalist establishment through his wife to pave the way for his return.

More on this: Democracy Returns to Thailand, and Way Looks Clear for Thaksin’s Return. China defends its policies (including the reincarnation laws created to allow Beijing to choose the next DL) in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times points the finger at China for its role in Darfur. Why? Oil, of course:

The central problem is that in exchange for access to Sudanese oil, Beijing is financing, diplomatically protecting and supplying the arms for the first genocide of the 21st century. China is the largest arms supplier to Sudan, officially selling $83 million in weapons, aircraft and spare parts to Sudan in 2005, according to Amnesty International USA. That is the latest year for which figures are available. China provided Sudan with A-5 Fantan bomber aircraft, helicopter gunships, K-8 military training/attack aircraft and light weapons used in Sudan’s proxy invasion of Chad last year. China also uses the threat of its veto on the Security Council to block U.N. action against Sudan so that there is a growing risk of a catastrophic humiliation for the U.N. itself. Sudan feels confident enough with Chinese backing that on Jan. 7, the Sudanese military ambushed a clearly marked U.N. convoy of peacekeepers in Darfur. Sudan claimed the attack was a mistake, but diplomats and U.N. professionals are confident that this was a deliberate attack ordered by the Sudanese leaders to put the U.N. in its place.

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