Whither Burma?

In Burma the army rule is likely to stay for long despite massive resistance the military is facing because of financial backing they are getting from multinationals. In truth the military or what they call Tatmadaw is the dominant oligarchy in Myanmar, accumulating wealth from oil, gas and mineral resources. They own industry, they control the country’s export and import trade. Military bosses are in reality corporate tycoons. Chevron, the American giant has been paying the Burmese military since 1990, making the generals into billionaires. International sanctions remain symbolic unless the generals’ biggest cash cow, the Yadana gas field, is included. France’s Total and the US’s Chevron funnel nearly $600 million in hard currency to the Tatmadaw each year. In 2007 Chevron successfully lobbied to be excluded from a round of US sanctions on Mayanmar. Chevron is claiming that Mayanmar’s power needs depend on its continued production. It doesn’t matter whether people die in thousands for demanding democracy. Business is business and when it is big business the issue of human rights or for that matter democracy matters little.

International solidarity has included protests in the US against Chevron and in France against Total. Protests also took place all across Germany and Ireland, often led by Burmese émigrés including Rohingyas, the worst victims of the Burmese junta.

For one thing Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the coup, just as they had prevented UN diplomatic intervention in the first days of the Syrian Uprising when Basher al- Assad’s army fired on unarmed peaceful protesters. The role of the emerging super power China is anything but dubious. Despite international outcry against the Burmese Junta China has kept arms and ammunition flowing in, and oil flowing out. Perhaps they are teaching the Burmese people the essentials of’ socialism with Chinese characteristics’. There was reason for protesters in many cities to display placards condemning Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping and to burn Chinese and Russian flags.

Military leaders have been propped up by neighbouring governments as well for the same reason—business. The regional grouping ASEAN at its summit meeting in April overstepped its stated policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of member nations, while offering legitimacy to the Junta by inviting the coup leader Gen. Hlaing and allowing him to endorse empty platitudes on non-violent treatment of protesters and release of political prisoners.

The movement against the Junta has opened up an opportunity for uniting the aggrieved nationalities that have been fighting against the Centre for decades. A new Burma cannot be built without the active cooperation of the peoples like the Karen,Chin, Kachin and other ethnic and language groups who live in more than a third of the country. Burma’s ethnic problem in many ways resembles India’s north east—the permanent ethnic cauldron. The Burmese tragedy lies in recurring military rule. Ironically, the mainstream Burmese parties like San Suu Kyi’s party didn’t oppose army crackdown on the Rohingyas. In truth Suu Kyi actually supported the genocidal conduct of the army in international forums. The expulsion of 700,000 Rohingyas from Burma, rather ethnic cleansing of the century, has no parallel. And yet, Suu Kyi defended the indefensible—genocide of the Rohingyas and forced displacement.

The rage of demonstrators, the number of actions and shows of defiance have only deepened in the seven months since the coup. Not even the rising numbers of martyrs killed by soldiers, more than 800, have muted the unarmed demons-trators. They defy the bullets, they are ready to make sacrifice.The Burmese nation has been ruled by a series of military governments, followed by a civilian government that acted only under the thumb of the Junta. This time the General Hlaing might have expected a fatalistic acceptance from the population. No, that didn’t happen. People revolted and resisted the onslaught while trying to forge a broad united front of the oppressed, demanding civilian rule.

Military-industrial complex as it is the case in Pakistan, is so powerful in Burma that the Junta is unlikely to step down without a bloody revolution and solidarity movement across the world.

Surprisingly, in India even the left doesn’t react to the on-going mass upheaval in Burma. With every passing day the pro-democracy movement is growing in depth and more and more marginalised sections of the population are taking to the streets. One interesting feature of the democracy struggle is large scale participation of women. Women are literally the vanguard of mass marches. For all practical purposes UN is a paper tiger and their failure to stop blood-bath in Burma illustrates among other things that the prosecuted cannot expect anything from this white elephant.


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Vol. 54, No. 12, Sep 19 - 25, 2021