FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Burma by the Numbers

by TOM CLIFFORD

Since in Burma the number 9 is a fraught digit astrologers predicted 9/27/2007 would be a day of turbulence and the government was presumably expecting this, since it regularly consults astrologers on policy, just as President Reagan did. Perhaps the US State Department or the White House’s stargazers had the same anticipation, since earlier in the week, Bush had fingered Burma/Myanmar as his pick this year for his Arc of Evil club.

The Burmese currency was changed, on the advice of an astrologer, because nine was considered a luckier number than 10. A former head of state U Ne Win, thought certain number combinations would be more fortuitous, so 15, 45 and 90-kyat notes still circulate alongside the more straightforward fives and multiples of 10.

Then in November 2005, the junta began moving its government from Rangoon to a town called Naypidaw, little more than a jungle clearing. The operation began at 6.37am – a time recommended by an astrologer employed by the senior general Than Shwe.

The current military regime, the State Peace and Development Council, has ruled Burma since 1988, when it crushed a widespread democracy movement, killing thousands of people.

Currently Burma is governed, if that is the right phrase, by General Than Shwe, 73. A former postal clerk, he has been chairman of the SPDC and acted as head of state since 1992. He despises democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and arrested his prime minister Khin Nyunt, who recommended a dialogue with Suu Kyi. Her father established the Burmese army before his assassination just prior to independence in 1947.

Suu Kyi, the spirit of the nation, lives under house arrest in a run-down villa on the shore of Lake Inya and is referred to simply as The Lady. In 1990, the military junta called a general election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won decisively. Being the NLD’s candidate, Suu Kyi should have assumed the office of prime minister. Instead, the results were nullified, and the military refused to hand over power.

In northern Burma the roads and highways are clogged with the presence of Chinese construction lorries. Beijing has supplied the Burmese military with a wish-list of equipment. Fighter aircraft, tanks, patrol boats, armored personnel carriers, field artillery pieces ,small arms and ammunition, worth more than $2bn have been dispatched. The Burmese generals are consistent; in any choice between arms and butter it is always arms. Chinese banks have financed new roads, railways, ports and dams. In return Beijing gets ample supplies of crude oil, natural gas and access to the Indian Ocean. In diplomatic terms Burma has air cover against any flak from the West whose influence in matters of regime change has itself been severely curtailed. Iraq has diluted the virtuous pronouncements of the three B’s, Bush Blair and Brown. Opposition parties that before would have publicized their links to the West are far more circumspect. Besides, Western firms have dealt with the junta with the full, complicit knowledge of Washington and London.

Even the country’s name is a source of confusion. In 1989, the military junta officially changed the English version of the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar, along with changes to the English versions of many place names in the country, such as its former capital city from Rangoon to Yangon. Suu Kyi continues to use the name Burma since she does not recognize the legitimacy of the ruling military government to rename the country. Some western governments, namely those of the United States, Australia, Ireland, and Britain, continue to use “Burma”, while the European Union uses “Burma/Myanmar” as an alternative. But even if Burma was under a democratic government tomorrow with an agreed name its troubles would not be over. It is a deeply divided nation and Burman dominance over Karen, Shan, Rakhine, Mon, Chin, Kachin and other minorities has been the source of considerable ethnic tension. Its strategic location would make it a playground for international intrigue. But that does not give an ounce of legitimacy to the junta who have gutted the country for their own pockets.

TOM CLIFFORD can be reached ar tclifford@gulfnews.com

 

Tom Clifford is a freelance journalist and can be reached at: cliffordtomsan@hotmail.com.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail