by Satya Sagar
October 01, 2007
As the Burmese military brutally cracks down on a popular uprising of its citizens demanding democracy the question on many minds is – so what is the world going to do about it?
From the trend visible so far the answer is simple- nothing at all.
Nothing, that is, beyond the usual condemnations and pious appeals for ‘peaceful dialogue’ and the posturing at international forums in support of the Burmese people.
Nothing more than sending a lameduck UN envoy to negotiate with the paranoid Burmese generals. Negotiate what? Funeral services for their innocent victims mowed down like rabbits on the streets of Rangoon?
It is not that nothing can be done at all – to begin with, how about kicking the illegitimate military regime out of the UN seat it continues to occupy and replacing it with the country’s elected government-in-exile? Why should Burma continue to be a member of ASEAN or for that matter, by default, also of the Asia-Europe Meeting or ASEM?
What about international sanctions on foreign companies doing business in Burma- including dozens and dozens of Western companies apart from those from Asia? Why should large oil companies like the US based Chevron, the Malaysian Petronas, South Korea’s Daewoo International Corp or the French Total continue to be involved in Burma without facing penalties for their support of one of the world’s most heinous dictatorships?
The answers to these elementary questions are quite elementary too- it is Burma’s abundant natural resources and investment opportunities that really matter. Which government really gives a damn for corralled Burmese citizens desperately battling a quasi-fascist regime that is open to foreign enterprises and shut to its own people.
Following the bloodshed in Burma the new French President Nicholas ‘Napoleon’ Sarkozy for instance grandly called on French companies to freeze all their operations in Burma. Close on his heels Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner clarified however that the French oil giant Total, the largest European company operating in Burma, will not pull out for fear they will be ‘replaced by the Chinese’.
Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister also expressed ‘outrage’ at the Burmese government’s despicable behaviour but was mum about UK companies merrily investing away in Burma. Between 1988 and 2004 companies based out of British territories invested over £1.2bn in Burma, making Britain the 2nd largest investor in this supposedly ostracised country. The sun it seems has not only set on the British Empire but–on its way out- also deep fried the conscience of its politicians.
The Japanese government, another monument to global hypocrisy, shed crocodile tears at the cold-blooded killing of Kenji Nagai, a Japanese journalist shot by a Burmese soldier after he had fallen to the ground while photographing a fleeing crowd of protestors. Mustering all the courage at its command Tokyo asked for an ‘explanation’ and got the response ‘ooops….very sorry” from the Burmese Foreign Minister who must have also muttered ‘that was easy – Moroni San’.
On the question of cutting off aid to the murderous Burmese regime of course the Japanese made their position quite clear- ‘ it is too early’ for such action. They are probably politely waiting for the regime to murder an entire posse of Japanese pressmen before doing anything – Burmese deaths being of no consequence anyway.
The most predictable rhetoric of course came from US President George Bush who while announcing a slew of sanctions on Burma’s military leaders incredibly said, “I urge the Burmese soldiers and police not to use force on their fellow citizens”.
Wait a minute, that is what the Burmese soldiers and police are trained and paid to do- shoot fellow citizens- so what was the point Bush was trying to make? As usual only he and his Maker- from whom he claims to take instructions directly- knows.
Bush could have maybe uttered better chosen words but none of it would have been credible coming from a man with a record of war mongering and mass killings in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush own regime’s systematic destruction of international human rights norms have robbed it of the right to lecture even something as low as the Burmese junta about anything. A sad situation indeed.
What about Burma’s old friends like Thailand, Singapore or Malaysia …read more