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

 

More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 22, 2017
Jason Hirthler
Invisible Empire Beneath the Radar, Above Suspicion
Ken Levy
Sorry, But It’s Entirely the Right’s Fault
John Laforge
Fukushima’s Radiation Will Poison Food “for Decades,” Study Finds
Ann Garrison
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party, and the UK’s Socialist Surge
Phillip Doe
Big Oil in the Rocky Mountain State: the Overwhelming Tawdriness of Government in Colorado
Howard Lisnoff
The Spiritual Death of Ongoing War
Stephen Cooper
Civilized, Constitution-Loving Californians Will Continue Capital Punishment Fight
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
Cuba Will Not Bow to Trump’s Threats
Ramzy Baroud
Israel vs. the United Nations: The Nikki Haley Doctrine
Tyler Wilch
The Political Theology of US Drone Warfare
Colin Todhunter
A Grain of Truth: RCEP and the Corporate Hijack of Indian Agriculture
Robert Koehler
When the Detainee is American…
Jeff Berg
Our No Trump Contract
Faiza Shaheen
London Fire Fuels Movement to Challenge Inequality in UK
Rob Seimetz
Sorry I Am Not Sorry: A Letter From Millennials to Baby Boomers
June 21, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
Resist This: the United States is at War With Syria
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9-11
Diana Johnstone
The Single Party French State … as the Majority of Voters Abstain
Ted Rall
Democrats Want to Lose the 2020 Election
Kathy Kelly
“Would You Like a Drink of Water?” Please Ask a Yemeni Child
Russell Mokhiber
Sen. Joe Manchin Says “No” to Single-Payer, While Lindsay Graham Floats Single-Payer for Sick People
Ralph Nader
Closing Democracy’s Doors Until the People Open Them
Binoy Kampmark
Barclays in Hot Water: The Qatar Connection
Jesse Jackson
Trump Ratchets Up the Use of Guns, Bombs, Troops, and Insults
N.D. Jayaprakash
No More Con Games: Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now! (Part Four)
David Busch
The Kingdom of Pence–and His League of Flaming Demons–is Upon Us
Stephen Cooper
How John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” Helps Us Navigate Social Discord
Madis Senner
The Roots of America’s Identity and Our Political Divide are Buried Deep in the Land
June 20, 2017
Ajamu Baraka
The Body Count Rises in the U.S. War Against Black People
Gary Leupp
Russia’s Calm, But Firm, Response to the US Shooting Down a Syrian Fighter Jet
Maxim Nikolenko
Beating Oliver Stone: the Media’s Spin on the Putin Interviews
Michael J. Sainato
Philando Castile and the Self Righteous Cloak of White Privilege
John W. Whitehead
The Militarized Police State Opens Fire
Peter Crowley
The Groundhog Days of Terrorism
Norman Solomon
Behind the Media Surge Against Bernie Sanders
Pauline Murphy
Friedrich Engels: a Tourist In Ireland
David Swanson
The Unifying Force of War Abolition
Louisa Willcox
Senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Tom Udall Back Tribes in Grizzly Fight
John Stanton
Mass Incarceration, Prison Labor in the United States
Robert Fisk
Did Trump Denounce Qatar Over Failed Business Deals?
Medea Benjamin
America Will Regret Helping Saudi Arabia Bomb Yemen
Brian Addison
Los Angeles County Data Shows Startling Surge in Youth, Latino Homelessness
Native News Online
Betraying Indian Country: How Grizzly Delisting Exposes Trump and Zinke’s Assault on Tribal Sovereignty and Treaty Rights
Stephen Martin
A Tragic Inferno in London Reflects the Terrorism of the Global Free Market
Debadityo Sinha
Think Like a River
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail