Editorial_May 2006
covering burma and southeast asia
Friday, July 21, 2017
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EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE

Editorial_May 2006


By The Irrawaddy MAY, 2006 - VOLUME 14 NO.5


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Money Speaks Louder than Words

 

Investment speaks louder than people. While the Burmese are struggling to loosen the stranglehold the military dictatorship has on Burma, recent foreign investment in the country has been massive, and it is these funds that keep the regime in power.

 

Asean, the EU and a host of other countries have used diplomatic channels to “voice” their “disapproval” of the regime. Their collective tone has been soft. Meaningless statements like “distance ourselves,” “meaningful engagement,” “demonstrated progress” and a “soft-approach” hardening to “firmer” have been nothing more than a smokescreen, while investment in Burma surged. Diplomatic posturing has achieved nothing in the 17 years since Aung San Suu Kyi was first arrested a year before winning the 1990 election. She is still under house arrest and tens of thousands of ethnic people are still being forced from their burning homes.

 

Most of the foreign investment is from corporations and countries eager to get their hands on Burma’s natural resources. China and India have signed deals and an energy alliance worth millions of dollars to siphon Burma’s oil and gas resources. Both countries share borders with Burma and therefore the host of problems the rogue nation exports. Illicit drugs, disease and displaced people are a constant flow, and present national security threats to neighbors. India—the world’s biggest democracy, and once an outspoken critic of the regime— has backflipped as its politicians, generals and corporations mouth “investment” and “national interest”.

 

Ethnic armed groups fighting the regime on the Indian-Burmese border have been caught in a hard place between an unsympathetic India and a vicious regime determined to snuff them out. India, concerned with Burma’s dependency on China, has started to sell military hardware, including fighter jets, to the regime. Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam confirmed his country’s ongoing commitment to Burma when he recently said it needed to increase its present level of bilateral trade from around US $500 million to $2 billion by 2008.

 

Burma is not an intrinsically poor country. It is resource-rich, but has been plundered by the regime at the expense of the Burmese people. The local currency, the kyat, is virtually worthless against other currencies. Inflation continues to skyrocket and essential foodstuffs are almost priced out of reach of workers. In Burma, development equals forced labor, land confiscation and extortion of money. Villagers supply everything. The law of the gun rules Burma and having political dialogue is meaningless while its legal processes and people’s rights are not respected.  The Burmese people had better get used to it—they are on their own.



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