Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Truth from Burma

From Andrew Bolt
Japanese television is running this ghastly footage (caution: it’s disturbing) of the murder in Burma of journalist Kenji Nagai.

I say “murder” because what you see is the shooting of Nagai by a soldier from very close range, flatly contradicting the claims of the Burmese junta that he was killed by a “stray bullet” as soldiers tried to crush peaceful protests.

Japan is Burma’s biggest aid donor. This will have consequence, although cutting off all aid to a populace that needs it won’t be an attractive option to foreign governments who care more for Burma’s poor than do Burma’s military rulers.

Some readers of the Left seem woefully unaware of the ideology that inspired this brutal dictatorship. So here’s some basic background on the ”Burmese way to socialism”, including the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma, as drafted by the Burma Socialist Program Party set up by the junta’s founders (but since renamed). Perhaps this explains the relative silence of the Left on these latest atrocities.


Anonymous said...

The Burma road to ruin
Mark Tallentire recalls a country mired in political and economic injustice.
Friday September 28, 2007
Guardian Unlimited
The last time the Burmese people rose in protest, in 1988, some 3,000 people were killed. Many of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy who survived remain incarcerated at Katha prison in the north, the setting for George Orwell's anti-imperialist novel Burmese Days, where the writer served in the Indian police force.
Burma has enough natural resources to be one of the richest countries in south-east Asia but its people are among the region's poorest. Oil, gas, hardwoods and precious metals abound but the average income per head is less than £200 a year; General Than Shwe and the junta siphon off the rest.
The military took over in 1962 after toppling the shaky parliamentary government of U Nu, quickly sealing off the borders and imprisoning some 8,000 intellectuals. Charity workers who provided overseas aid were expelled.
General Ne Win imposed his rigid blueprint, The Burmese Way to Socialism, in an effort to create a self-sufficient state free of capitalist and communist influence. But within a decade the economy had all but collapsed, with rice exports dwindling from 1.7m tonnes a year to 170,000 tonnes. Although the flawed experiment has yet to be abandoned, the general was replaced in the 1988 crackdown.

The Burmese people turned to the black market, trading art, antiques and wood for food, clothing, medicine and soap. Forty-odd years later little has changed although the 1988 protests opened the doors to restricted tourism and conscription and forced labour have become the norm.

These days Burmese can feed themselves and battered old Japanese cars trundle the streets of Rangoon but most roads are still laid by hand, with small teams of children and conscripted labourers earning less than 50 pence for a 14-hour day breaking rocks, raking gravel, heating lumps of bitumen in oil drums and pouring the hot tar from watering cans. The only concession to mechanisation is the steamroller used to finish off each 50-metre stretch. They then start on the next 50 metres.

The national grid covers only parts of the central and eastern lowland regions and the one Chinese-built hydro-electric power plant in operation, at Lawpita in Kayah state, in the south-east, sends its cables fizzing across the fields all the way to Rangoon bypassing rural residents and those in outlying towns who still make do with paraffin lamps, fires and candles. The lucky ones have their own generators.

In Rangoon, a city fading in elegance, the usual tourist sights involve the stunning pagodas of Sule Paya and Shwedagon, Buddhist shrines which represent the focus of the monks' protest marches. Both temples are intertwined with Burma's tragic history, although a much more revealing outing involves the nearby military museum.

Here one of the few references to life before the junta can be found: black-and-white pictures of supporters of Aung San, the revered nationalist leader who steered Burma through the aftermath of the brutal Japanese wartime occupation and towards independence. Aung San was assassinated with six of his cabinet colleagues just six months before Burma's won independence from Britain in 1948.

He is also the father of Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the landslide winner of the 1990 general election, the 1991 Nobel laureate, and a force for change who has spent 12 of the past 17 years under house arrest in her Rangoon home.

In addition to the usual array of military hardware, much of it supplied by Russia and India, the military museum also houses montages of the huge engineering projects completed by the junta. There are also ghastly graphics outlining the effects of various types of landmines used by the army.

Although Burma is primarily armed by Russia and India, China is the real force propping up the junta, even more so since US trade sanctions. To increase trade with China, the junta has relocated whole towns and villages to make way for the wider roads needed to carry the larger lorries hauling the tropical teak and mahogany hardwoods over the mountains from Pyin U Lwin to Mandalay and on to China.

Trade goes the other way, too - the improved roads allowing China to exploit Burma's western seaboard on the Bay of Bengal to export its own goods to the world. Despite such improved communication with the wider world ordinary Burmese are still denied an outlet for their grievances.

Anonymous said...

Constitution of Burma,M1