Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What is Happening in Burma: And Why are Companies Profiting from it?

The Military dictatorship in Burma (Myanmar) is one of the most brutal in the world and committing outrageous human rights abuses. This present round of demonstrations began on August 18, when the government raised the price of diesel oil by 500% in order to cover a budget deficit that resulted from a salary hike for civil servants. The junta’s move of the Burmese capital to Pyinmana, now called Naypyidaw (King’s Royal City), must have also contributed to the budget deficit. The military government covers these deficits by its old methods of printing new money or by declaring some denominations void. Its privatizations since 1988 have enriched a new class of well-connected business people or oligarchs at the expense of the impoverished majority.

The August 2007 demonstrations were led by well-known dissidents such as Min Ko Naing (with the nom de guerre Conqueror of Kings), Su Su Nway (now in hiding), and others. The military quickly cracked down and still has not allowed the International Red Cross to visit Min Ko Naing and others who are reportedly in Insein Prison after being severely tortured.

It was at this point that the monks of Burma, coordinated by an underground organization, stepped into the foreground and added new life to the movement. Under Suu Kyi’s leadership, passive resistance, with Suu herself worshiping with leading monks, has been the norm since 1988.

The protests were led by the monks in Burma peacefully, but violent crackdowns occurred quickly. With protests quashed and many monasteries empty, fears are growing for those who have disappeared into Myanmar’s grim prisons in recent days as rights groups say more than 1,000 are missing. Some reports are as high as 4,000 missing. Amid the pervasive climate of fear in military-ruled Myanmar—where troops patrol streets, news has been stifled, and Internet links cut—observers are struggling to assess just how many have been rounded up.

Security forces have launched overnight raids to pick up more monks and members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, herself under house arrest for most of the past 18 years.

What we can do

There are many firms (large multinational corporations) contributing to the human rights abuses. Chinese, Indian and other firms operating in Myanmar, which has mounted a violent crackdown on protests, must ensure they do not contribute to or benefit from rights abuses.

Additionally, London-based Amnesty said Monday that China has been the main source of arms for the Myanmar security forces, followed by India, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine and other countries, and called on them in particular to stop weapons supplies.

Despite international condemnation of the regime's brutal tactics during its 45 years in power, multinational firms are vying for the country's rich natural resources, throwing an economic lifeline to the ruling generals. These companies include: US energy giant Chevron, France's Total, China National Petroleum Corporation and Thai exploration firm PTTEP. These corporations are among companies giving much-needed income to Myanmar, defying activists' calls to pull out.

Leave it to Capitalism. Sounds like what Naomi Klein talks about in the Shock Doctrine.
To find out more and donate to the cause go to burma issues.

you can also sign the petition and spread the word to others.

No comments: