Is Burma Better or Worse?: Between the Visit of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry

By Kanbawza Win | 5 August 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry in attending the ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum)

will be arriving in the Burmese capital, Naypyidaw (the abode of the king) and is schedule to meet the smiling ex brass, now in skirts (longyi in Burmese) and headdress with a little flag on the right side (Gaung Baung in Burmese). This week’s meeting are a precursor to the ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit, high-level talks set to take place in Naypyidaw in November involving the US, China, India, Japan and Russia. US President Barack Obama is expected to attend the November meetings.[1]

But the crucial question is Burma getting better or worse since it chose another road to be exact to put it in Senator Mitch McConnell (Republican leader in the Senate of Kentucky)

“Burma in 2014 scarcely resembles the nation that existed in 2003 when the US first enacted the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act, which imposed a ban on all imports from the country”.[2]

Now the world has started to realise which path has the regime chosen: true democracy or window-dressing? Full elections are scheduled for next year (2015) but they will be meaningless unless the nation's 2008 Nargis Constitution, which is fraudulent and manipulated, changed. That is not only because the charter was written to exclude Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency, though barring the nation's most qualified, competent, sincere, dedicated and popular politician would in itself make any vote illegitimate. It's also because the existing constitution, preserves the military as untouchable, reserving for itself 25 percent of the seats in parliament, which is not compatible with democracy at all. But a critical question is whether the ex-generals will get their goal of installing a soft authoritarian rule (ေျပာ့ဆြဲ), a pseudo democracy instead of a hard core dictatorships (စစ္ဘီလူး) with the tactic support of the West including the US and join in the pretense? Or will the people of Burma be able to choose its own leaders freely? How will Uncle Sam decides depend very much on Kerry.

Today several foreign companies, have benefited immensely from the country’s perpetual unrest, and so have the handful of Burmese cronies. The problem is that the benefit, has not trickled down. Appealing business opportunities are hard to resist. To establish good relations with Burma’s former generals, essential for investment, the Western governments including Americans now focus on providing them with encouragement and support. They always put it in nice words like, “Our objective is to support and accompany Burma in the transition process. We believe that this can be done more effectively through engagement and support than continued sanctions,” Superficial reforms have been rewarded at the risk of reinforcing the old, authoritarian power structures.[3]

The quasi-military government has quietly returned to its old habit of arresting political dissidents, including journalists, while the West continues to hand out rewards. Conspicuously not included in the benchmarks for the human rights dialogue is the inhumane treatment inflicted on the Bangali, Kachin, the Shan, the Palaung and other ethnic nationalities.

After years of punitive measures against the Burmese’s generals the Western governments now favor the carrot over the stick. With a massive potential for investment in Asia’s “last frontier economy,” while it has toned down its advocacy for human rights in a competition to win over the country’s quasi-civilian rulers.

Did the world knows that no former Generals now in mufti, have never admitted their mistakes, nor asked for forgiveness, let alone punishing them, this explicitly means that they will repeat the same atrocities, as they had done for more than half a century, if things doesn’t go their way? Cronies still control the economy. While the army (Tatmadaw) continues to justify its repressive rule as essential to keeping the fissiparous country together.

This is because Burma’s reforms are often measured against the practices of dictatorial times and, compared with the relentless oppression of the past, the reformist generals come off well. On closer inspection, however, the reforms appear to lack the depth needed for the development of a democratic union, and power remains with the Tatmadaw. In this current structure the whole country is ruled by the military chief, not the president. Significant power is also vested in the bureaucracy, which consists mainly of former military officials in civilian clothes and civilians appointed under preferential treatment. These officials have acted with impunity under decades of military rule and often lack the willingness, as well as the knowledge, to act in accordance with new laws and regulations. The obvious conclusion is that as long as the foundations of military rule remain in place, the large Western funds flowing into Burma carry the heavy risk of supporting authoritarianism, instead of democracy. It also help to assist creating poverty through corruptions: while the fundamental principle of Business Ethics, Corporate Responsibity, and Sustainable Development – are not incorporated in the new concept of the 3 Ps, planet +people +profit.[4]

The Western countries including Americans are involved to do this peacebuilding, they’re talking about development, when in fact the ethnic nationalities are not fighting to establish a free-market, and they’re fighting to establish their own identities, to gain full recognition as political communities. Then the West comes in and says that economic development will help de-escalate the conflict, actually the total opposite is what is happening. Who can say in a decade or two any scholar studying the history of development in Burma will write about the war in Kachin as the world’s first war driven by developmental calculations. It’s a war for development. It’s a war about development. And this development is not about people, this development is about capital interest led by the West with US as a leader.

During the hard days of absolute dictatorships of 2003 we did not have
(1) A genocide
(2) We did not have a full out war involving, navy and air-force not mentioned chemical weapons (now we have the war against the elimination of the Kachin people who dares to ask questions)
(3) We did not have thousands of Burmese people displaced by mega-development projects (now we have the Kyaukpadaung Copper Mines Projects, Salween Mega dams, and several extractions projects effecting not only thousands of local people but also the environment and several extractive industries joint venture with the Western countries).
(4) There is no land grabbing from the working people working on the land. Now there is rampant land grabbing. Inadequate land laws have opened rural Burma to rampant land grabbing by unscrupulous, well-connected businessmen who anticipate a boom in agricultural and property investment. If unchecked, the gathering trend has the potential to undermine the country's broad reform process and impede long-term economic progress.[5]

The symbiotic relationship between serving and former Tatmadaw officers and influential private businessmen that flourished under the previous military regime remains largely unchanged under the current administration. Indeed, these alliances are in the forefront to land lucrative joint venture deals with foreign investors. But, farmers who happen to be in the way of military or business plans, land rights have improved little since a half-century era of military rule ended in 2011. The government has made it tougher in some cases for land to be seized from farmers, and has formed a commission to handle land confiscation issues. Though the new government has intervened at times, it often does not, and it has even passed laws that have been used against those attempting to resist.[6]

The root cause of all these is that the Tatmadaw did not want to give up power and is trying to marshal, the extremist Buddhist monks and religious groups, the ruling USDP (the Union Solidarity and Development Party and Mahar Myanmar (မဟာျမန္မာ) meaning chauvinist xenophobic Myanmar against the NLD, 8888 Generation groups and the ethnic nationalities and the government itself is instigating all these unrests and if I have to repeat the US lawmakers group to recalibrate US policy toward Burma,

“We also urge that, when you go to Burma in the midst of this deterioration, you unequivocally convey to the government that the country’s current trajectory will seriously damage relations between US and Burma, we request you to use the tools at your disposal to sanction those complicit in abuses and atrocities against innocent Burmese people, increase pressure for concrete changes, and suspend further US concessions contemplated for approval until core issues are addressed.” [7]

In light of sectarian violence in the country, continuing human rights abuses by the Tatmadaw, curbs on press freedom and the need to reform the military-drafted Constitution.

A Burmese proverb says that the snake sees the legs of another snake (ေျမႊေျမႊခ်င္း ေျချမင္တယ္) means we native Burmese exactly knew of what the Burmese quasi-military government is up to and the fact that all the Burmese ex brass meeting the Secretary of State John Kerry will be wearing their turban with the flag on the right side, indicates that they are Nya Cha (ညာခ်) directly translated right side can be also interpreted as what they say or promise and implemented will be all lies.

[1] John Kerry to Meet Burmese Officials This Week The Irrawaddy 4-8-2014
[2] Deboonme; Achara Washington toughens its stance on Myanmar ahead of crucial visits The Nation 4-8-2014
[3] Excerpts from the speech of Prof. B T Win, BC, Canada Charge to the People of Burma Residing in Canada
[4] Ibid
[5] McCartney; Brian, Land grabbing as big business in Burma Asia Times 8-3-2013
[6] Htusan:Ester, Burma’s Farmers Find Little Relief From Land Grabs, Irrawaddy 11-10-2103
[7] Deboonme; Achara Washington toughens its stance on Myanmar ahead of crucial visits The Nation 4-8-2014

No comments: