Sunday, April 24, 2011

Is Myanmar At A Crossroads?

By Brian McAfee (about the author)

   So far 2011 is proving to be an eventful year for Myanmar, formerly known as and still generally called Burma.  With the slight easing of restraints put on Aung San Suu Kyi, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Shan State in northeast Burma on March 24, which the junta controlled media says killed 75 people but aid agencies believe killed over 150, and now the U.S. is sending a new envoy to Myanmar, Derek Mitchell, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific affairs. It is an open question, what will be his role in Burma?

     The generally under reported fact is that over the past 20+ years of military dictatorship in Burma, now called Myanmar has had a close relationship with U.S. and European oil, gasoline and gem corporations.  These capitalist enterprises reap billions in profits from Burma, prop up the military junta, and leave most of the country underdeveloped, with few freedoms and in a state of poverty with a third of Burmese children malnourished according to the World Food Program.

   The primary western companies benefiting from a relationship from the junta ruling Burma are the U.S.'s Chevron and France's Total as well as Norway state investment gas and oil ventures in a pipeline running from Burma into China that has been marked by numerous allegations of human rights abuses. Coupled with these capitalist ventures is heavy western trade in the lucrative gems market. Burma is said to have 90% of the Worlds rubies and large deposits of jade and blue sapphire. These resources which also are worth in the billions of dollars like the gas deposits go to prop up the junta and enrich private interests rather then do anything to lift the nation, one of the poorest in the World, out of poverty.  It would seem that the revenue from these resources would be better spent building schools, roads & hospitals for the benefit of all Burmese people, which now number over 54 million. 

  What direction will the new envoy from the U.S., Derek Mitcell, encourage Myanmar/Burma to take?