|October 1, 2007
BURMA: WHEN DEMORACY KNOCKS AT THE DOOR
By Uli Schmetzer
Once upon a time, not too many years ago, the Burmese generals were a tolerated evil, part of Washington’s ‘containment policy’ of China. But since then the generals have decided their bread is buttered more thickly on the Chinese side then among Western hypocrites who may hoist the banner of liberty, justice and democracy any time it suits them. Right now that banner is fluttering so prominently we must deduce Bush &Associates have just this minute discovered that Burma has lived under one of the most brutal military regimes for the last 45 years.
It is always prudent to find out why democracy knocks at the door.
No doubt millions of Burmese have been praying and dreaming of being rid of a corrupt totalitarian military regime that keeps the majority in abject poverty in a country of rich natural resources, a regime that cruelly eradicates any criticism and opposition and bombards its subject with twisted truths, slogans and brainless jingoism.
So it seems natural we tend to believe the masses rose up spontaneously in anger, led by the country’s venerated monks who do and always have played a leading role in Burma’s history.
But there are those of us who suspect few momentous events happen spontaneously. In fact the popular insurrection in Burma last month came amazingly close to an imminent Burmese-Chinese deal for a two thousand mile pipeline carrying Burmese gas to energy-starved China as well as negotiations granting China access to a Burmese sea port and with it an eye into the Indian Ocean and the movements of U.S. naval vessels.
If we play the devil’s advocate we can argue the monks were encouraged to take to the streets by those who wished to send a signal to the generals saying “we can make trouble for you if you go too far in your commercial honeymoon with Beijing.” Then there is an even more plausible scenario: The forces behind these justified protests hoped it would lead to a coup within the military, taking a more pro-western military clique to power, a clique that would make the right noises about bringing more democracy to the impoverished population but would then make deals for its lucrative gas, oil and natural resources with ‘we know who.’
Wars, conflicts and political manipulations are mostly over access to energy these days. Control over energy resources or its supply is the key to world dominance - and to wealth.
In Burma some of the generals must feel it is time to replace bullnecked Burmese strongman General Than Shwe, 74, not because of his shoot first ask questions later policies, endemic torture, rape and killing of opponents, not because of that but because the general has been harvesting most of the fabulous revenue from Burma’s natural riches, so much of it in fact he built a new city for himself, indicated he might restore the monarchy with himself on the throne, and bedecked his daughter with such an array of diamond necklaces on her wedding day the whole of Burma, especially the impoverished masses, was left gaping.
General Shwe, like all pragmatists, knew the protests had no hope of replacing the military regime and were basically intended to weaken his grip on the military junta. That, probably, is why he sent his family to safety in Bangkok.
A new junta would be like a new game of cards, with the deck reshuffled. The outside players would keep their existing stakes: Britain, India, France and even the U.S. have oil interests in Burma. (India especially imports vital natural gas from next door Burma.) The Chinese, who vetoed anti-Burmese sanctions proposed by the U.N. Security Council, may no longer have a ‘favorite partner’ status in this new arrangement and the U.S., Britain, France and Italy could directly sell the junta their military hardware instead of doing it more expensively through third party nations – like India. This would be possible if the new junta pledges, or at least pays lip service, to democratic changes in the near future “once the nation is stabilized.”
Everything has it formula.
And for those planning to fetter their own nests Burma is a fertile ground: The country is divided into twelve major ethnic entities, all of them not too friendly with each other, all of them formerly or still engaged in armed conflicts with the current junta. For those who want to apply pressure on the junta there is the diabolical option to supply, gratis, modern weapons to these ethnic minorities, militias like the fierce Karen, the Shan, the Kachin, the Karenni and the Mo.
Some of these minority militias already have Buddhist monks as their leaders and would be only too willing to step up the struggle against the hated junta. These civil wars would offer fresh opportunities for financial benefits to the global armament industry and profiteers in general.
Burma is like a Pandora’s Box: Once the lid is off, out will fly all the festering ethnic and religious grievances, just as they did in the Balkans and in Iraq.
But those pulling the strings behind the scene know this only too well. (ends)