10 May, 2009

Armageddon Sri Lanka

I feel like I should follow events in Sri Lanka more closely, and would like to have a less superficial understanding of the conflict there. The island has had this big civil war for the last number of decades, with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (better known as the Tamil Tigers) seeking to separate a Tamil independent state from the rest of the island. I think there is a religious-ethnic aspect to the conflict, with the mainly Hindu Tamils having a certain sense of distinctness from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese (the majority Sri Lankan community).

After decades of laying into each other (with loads of civilians getting hammered in the process), some kind of peace process emerged in the 1990s, the Sri Lankan state and the Tamil Tigers entering into negotiations and stuff. This process eventually stalled, and the war started again. The Sri Lankan army recently launched an all-out offensive on the Tigers, apparently intending to bring the conflict to a final conclusion by military means. The impression I am picking up is that, like the Tigers, the Sri Lankan army is not really that bothered about incidental civilian casualties, but unlike the Tigers they have heavy artillery. The BBC reports today on claims that 257 people were killed by Sri Lankan army shelling last night (claims denied by the Sri Lankan army).

One thing I do not really understand is how the Sri Lankan army now seems to have the capability to wipe out the Tamil Tigers. They were never able to do this before - indeed, to a casual observer the ability of the Tigers to dish out serious pain to the Sri Lankan army was always rather striking. I am curious as to whether the apparently approaching end of the Tigers is a result of some kind of collapse on their part or a significant increase of capabilities by the Sri Lankan army. Can anyone advise?


Smartipants said...

I think its due to a number of reasons - the defection of Col Karuna from the LTTE to the GOSL, An attempt of the GOSL to co-opt LTTE guerrilla warfare, and in-fighting from within the LTTE that has weakened their military leadership. However, don't count them out. The GOSL is punishing the Tamil people and purposely herding them into concentration camps and that does not eradicate a popular based resistance much.

ian said...

GOSL = Sri Lankan army?

I can see the current offensive ending with the complete military defeat of the LTTE, though obviously that is not the same as a permanent defeat of Tamil nationalism.