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“Kiss Of Death” for Aung San Suu Kyi and Her Myanmar Democracy

By: Brett Redmayne-Titley

 

 

    -The curse of globalization smells the blood of capitalism.

 

On Dec 2, 2011 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought a face of American democracy to Myanmar. In reality Mrs. Clinton was offering the ” kiss of death” for Aung San Suu Kyi’s attempts at  democracy; Globalization. Democracy as branded by current American interests is simply and purely, capitalism, now, being presented to an impoverished Myanmar as globalization, privatization, and corporatization. This flawed, tragic ideology will surely bring to Myanmar the same inherent negative consequences shown in the current American “democratic” condition at home.

 

It’s been 50 years since America had a presence in Burma, which became Myanmar in 1989.Despite Mrs. Clinton’s visit, and her trumpeting of small democratic successes in Myanmar, this democracy will never become what Aung San Suu Kyi would like to see from a democracy built in her homeland. Like all modern U.S. foreign policy, claims of democracy have an ulterior motive. As the world watched this first U.S. State Department meeting with Burma’s most famous dissident the contrast of pure democratic intentions and the cunning ones of American bred capitalism seemed ominous. American capitalism and globaliztion, in the guise of democracy, have arrived. As Aung San Suu Kyi embraced Mrs. Clinton did she see in those eyes this devil on her door step?

 

U.S. domestic national politics, like Myanmar, have been reduced to American democracy paying homage to exclusively capitalist interests while ignoring the will of the voter and their legitimate social concerns. Democracy, as long ago defined by America, now only exists, barely, at the local and state levels. Thanks to the Supreme Court and their specious wisdom in their Citizens United[15] decision these local bodies of government will also soon be under control of corporate interests.

 

At the national level U.S. corporate interests rule the national agenda. Now, in a desperate economy, American worker’s wages and benefit compensation are steadily being reduced, the theory being that American workers are not competitive on a world production level, i.e.; globalization. U.S. national resources are the property of corporations not the public and environmental standards are being reduced as immunity from liability is legislated in favor of these same corporations.

 

A dominant government ruled by elite interests. A submissive population muted by that same government.  American democracy. Welcome Myanmar.

 

Myanmar already has these American democratic conditions in extremes. This makes this dictatorship perfect for capitalist exploitation. With the sudden death of Kim Jong-Il in North Korea, this week, similar parallels to Burma may soon be coming.

 

In interviews with Reuters[13], many visiting executives said Clinton’s visit  had radically altered the investment mindset even if companies had yet to say so publicly.

The Myanmar government is authoritarian, dictatorial, and historically unyielding. Ruled by a collaboration of like-minded generals who, like Egypt, are almost anonymous to worldview, these rulers have been immune to the world’s condemnation of their many years of brutal oppression. In Myanmar delusions of local democracy proceed in the palm of a very iron fist.

Recent elections in March brought to power the first “democratically elected” president of Myanmar. This is really just a transfer of power in favor of globalization..

President, Gen. Thein Sein, is no closet liberal. A former major general, he served as chief of the army’s Golden Triangle command from 1997-2001. As prime minister he visited North Korea in August last year, heaping praise on Kim Jong Il and saying that Burma would “strive to strengthen and develop friendly relations” with the Pyongyang regime.[3]

Secretary of State Clinton’s visit was spawned, we are told, by rising democratic allowances by the Myanmar generals. This is only a part of the State Department’s rationale. The truth belies any claim to true democracy.

For instance, the new constitution gives the commander in chief of the armed forces the power to directly select one-fourth of all parliamentary seats, and allows the president to hand over power to the army in the event of a “national crisis”-a term so vaguely defined it could mean a popular pro-democracy uprising. There is no indication Gen. Thein Sein has any intention to change this.[3]

Recently the Myanmar government announced that cyber-café customers will no longer be allowed to use external drives in computers. An additional ban on CDs, USB sticks and floppy drives comes two months after the government prohibited the use of services like Skype and VZOchat. [1]

Myanmar previously consumed the capitalist Kool-Aid of its most powerful ally, China. China, with a similar set of perfect democratic symptoms as America and Myanmar, had the same epiphany way back in 1997. By bringing Hong Kong under its formerly communist wing China effectively “bought in” to all things capitalist. A well trained,pliable and fully indoctrinated population of 1.3 billion has been the exploited engine of capitalism that has driven China’s staggering success over a mere 14 years.

 

But, in order for China to enter the global trade market and access the needed demand for its anticipated new production of consumer goods, China’s new authoritarian capitalism had to first legitimize itself as a quasi-democracy. China has never developed into a true democracy as the litany of Human Rights abuses attests to. As in America any illusion of democracy operates only at the local level, yet any decision in favor of local reform is routinely stopped by the ruling national central government. Similarly, in order to reap the huge profits that come from its anticipated descent into capitalism, Myanmar, like China, must offer the world, and its markets, the façade of democracy. The recent democratic developments in Burma are just that.

Using the working example of China Myanmar knows that a little bit of local democracy will go a long way with the global markets.

Recently acquired democratic freedoms of the press are already arbitrary and fleeting. A first ban on media since the new government was sworn in on March 30 was announced by Burma’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) on May 16.[5] It  suspended the Rangoon-based journal True News for two weeks after the Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs (MCPT) complained about a front-page report concerning a deal on mobile phones.

These, and other, small tastes of capricious democracy were enough to get Secretary of State Clinton to rush to Yangon. As it turns out she, and her democracy, where about sixth in line.

 

Subsequent to Myanmar’s new democracy laws introduced in March, Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malasia, and China had previously sent delegations to establish improved “relations” with  Myanmar.[3][4][7][9][12] They also have their ulterior motives.

 

Myanmar is loaded with natural resources is a perfect location for Pac-rim trade and has the biggest bonus of all; cheap labor.

 

As big as France and Britain combined, Myanmar sits strategically between India and China with ports on the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea, all of which have made it a vital energy security asset for Beijing’s landlocked western provinces. Thanks to decades of sanctions Myanmar’s resources have been lightly exported. Myanmar’s resources include natural gas, timber and precious gems all virtually untapped. Labor is the lowest in the world at less than $100 US per month.[14]This is capitalist plunder too large to go unnoticed by globalization. In an regional Asian world of high demand for these resources the task is to get these resources to port.

 

Problem solved.

 

Five years ago The Italian-Thai  Development Company committed  $14.6 billion to this new democracy’s capitalist efforts. Now under construction the Dawei deep-sea port is 10 times larger than Laem Chabang, Thailand’s largest port. This 270 square mile harbor and supporting infrastructure has alreay begun the first of three stages. This first stage is scheduled for for completion in 2014. [11]

This is the reason for the renewed interest in this re-branded dictatorship. If China’s previous example rings true in Myanmar the generals’ return on their very modest experiment in democracy will pay off handsomely. The quasi- democracies of India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, and America have personal experience with the sad social conditions previously needed for the success of this global business model in their own countries. Now, they want in.

 

Real democracy, per Aung San Suu Kyi will not, in the short term, trump this authoritarian rule. Since the construction and excavation have started on the harbor, democracy has routinely been bulldozed out of the way. In Chiang Mai residents of 19 villages who are being forced to relocate because of Burma’s massive Dawei (Tavoy) deep-sea port development project are protesting their eviction notices and unfair compensation.[12]

Spokesmen said that Mayingyi and Kaloathta villages had been bulldozed for the project. This does not bode well for future citizen’s rights. According to figures compiled by the Dawei Development Group, 32,279 people, 21 schools and 23 religious buildings from a total of 19 villages must be relocated because of the project,[12]

Global business likes the progress so far. In the three weeks since Clinton’s visit there has been a rash of U.S. business interests arriving Yangon. Prospects, apparently, look good. As reported in the International Business times on Dec 7, U.S. sanctions are a hot topic. But,” the conversation has changed. It is no longer a matter of whether they will be lifted, but when. Many of these executives expect sanctions to be gone by next year or by 2013 at the latest, opening up one of Asia’s final frontiers — a country of 55 million people that was among the region’s richest just half a century ago.”

The formal appearance of the IMF and World Bank have further deepen the plot. If there is one thing that the Third World’s loan shark can smell from afar, it’s resources, cheap labor, and rivers.

 

Sanctions on Myanmar did not keep the IMF at bay for the past five decades, since they have had a team in Burma every year to analyze their prospects. With merely a whiff of democracy in the air, and Sec. of State. Clinton’s blessing[6], they have increased their presence in anticipation of the spoils to come.

 

The I.M.F.is a capitalist virus that would never grow in a pure democracy that is, indeed, interested in the real well-being of its population. But in a country where the government  has a proven track record of not caring at all Myanmar is the new perfect target for this infection.

 

The business model of the IMF is to gut a financially desperate country, or greedy government, of its natural resources through high-interest, exorbitantly collateralized loans. This loan money is then required to be spent on IMF construction projects using IMF affiliated contractors who reap these profits and who are subject to little if no regulation. This capitalist double dipping has, all over South America,  Southeast Asia, Africa ,and others, displaced populations, taken their resources, devalued its currency , destabilized its governments, created massive unrepaired environmental damage, and encouraged brutal attacks on its citizens. All in the name of capitalism. Just like a virus the IMF leaves its victim country depleted and in far worse condition. When Hugo Chavez, infamously, reneged on Venezuela’s IMF obligations, he had good reason to do so.

 

 

Like the IMF the global business world is lining up for their piece of one of the last remaining bounties. Their attempt will be to take advantage of Myanmar and its people. They will present this as an improvement to their current condition which may, in the short term, be true. In the long term Myanmar will have the same rights as before democracy shined an inquisitive light in their door. This light, however, is the ray of hope that may spawn a true Myanmar democracy.

 

The 99% is also Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi has had more than a decade of house arrest in order to contemplate the simple mathematics that true democracy cannot deny. 55 million people is a very large number. These people well remember 50 years of suppression and the new taste of freedom. Will the people of Myanmar become a tool of globalization? Or will their 99% rise up and join with the world community.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi has a daunting task ahead. The forces of Globalization are formidable .For a life- long activist these must be exciting times indeed. Take great care with the perils ahead, Ms. Suu Kyi, for what is offered is not what you seek. But, take heart in knowing that history, and the 99%, are firmly on your side.

 

[1] May 16, 2011 , SHWE AUNG and FRANCISE WADE

[2] Monday May 16, 2011 , WAI MOE

[3] The Junta’s New Generation; Bertil Lintner

[4] May 16, 2011,FRANCISE WADE

[5] May 16, 2011 , KO HTWE

[6] Dec 2, 2011 , JOSEPH ALLCHIN

[9] Dec 11, 2011 , The Asian times

[11] Dec 7, 2011 , The Morning Sentinel.

[12] Dec 16, 2011 , by MIN THET and PHANIDA

[13] July 12, 2011, The Daily Star.

[14]Dec 7, 2011, THe International Business times.

[15] Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm. January 21, 2010]

 

 

 

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