Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Should Burmese democrats stop struggling now?? by Kyi May Kaung (Ph.D.)

No response from place I submitted it--so posting here--

So is there democracy in Burma now and should we stop struggling?
Beginning in about 2009, the powerful NGOs working in the Burma field, the United States and the Friends of Burma as they were then called, started what I consider to be a twin-pronged approach to Burma.
I went to the informal launch of this policy at SAIS (School of Advanced International Studies) in Washington DC.
In this policy, sanctions regarding weapons purchases were kept on, and the United States upgraded the Charge D'Affaires post in Rangoon to Ambassador again, with trips to Rangoon by Mrs Clinton and in 2011 by President Obama.
Even the then President of the Burmese government Thein Sein was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, an amazing and misguided gesture.
Official announcements by the State Department seem to have taken the view that a good dose of praise will keep the battle seasoned Burmese junta on the democracy track.  What a hope!
But what most people do not know is the junta is smarter than you or me, or most people, and is expert at buying people off.
I do not really believe a woman I will call Conspiracy Theorist who called me on the phone about 18 months ago, and maintained that everyone around Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy leader, has been bought off already.  ("Daw" is an honorific for a mature woman, roughly translated as "Aunty.")
Not only that, this woman maintained that all the officials in the US Embassy, Rangoon, were millionaires as they had been bought off already by the Burmese regime, and that in Florida there are "4 star hotel grade" so-called monasteries, with junta plants already in place, who have come in on religious visas.  She said there was a Florida-based Burmese businessman donor who had donated tens of thousands to this retreat set up in advance for the junta, something like Brazil for ex-Nazis and the Odessa File.  She told me after all the money had been used, the presiding monk or abbot then declined to eat food donated by this businessman, in other words, rejected him completely.
I asked to speak to these aggrieved donors, but this woman declined to give me phone numbers, and shortly after I unfriended her on Facebook as she would come onto my page and insult Rohingya and Burmese-Muslim advocate Wai Wai Nu, for no reason at all, implying she was just a pretty face. 
I do think youth and beauty can take you part of the way, as I know for a fact the major donors are partial to the young, but not all the way, I don't think.
For those of you who do not know, the Burmese junta is really Military Government Inc. or incorporated.
It has stayed in power since Ne Win's second coup of 1962 (the first coup was when he set up the so-called Caretaker Government) and since 1988, when it suppressed the nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations with a reported 3000 killed, more than Tiananmen in 1989, journalists always write, it has had UMEH--Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, which is in effect, the economic holdings of the junta, kept in the names of wives and children of top army brass.
There are always rumors of bank accounts and apartments and other real estate in Dubai and Shanghai.
IN 2005, using forced labor it built its new capital city Naypyidaw "Kings's Royal City" in the middle of Burma near Pyinmana.
Rangoon wags called it Naypoodaw "Infernally Hot Royal Place."
In 2007 the Saffron Revolution, triggered by the monks marching in the rain chanting the Metta Sutra, in response to the increased price of petrol (suggested by IMF),took place, and the monk U Gambira who led that, has just been rearrested again under the so-called "new administration" since the end of March.  He was sentenced to 20 years of hard labor.
In 2008 the junta did not allow a US aircraft carrier USS Essex to deliver aid after Cyclone Nargis for about a week.  Activists have called this criminal neglect.  The commander of the Essex himself said that after the supplies were delivered, Burmese army trucks drove off with the packages and nothing was ever heard about that again.
(In Ne Win's time, Ne Win separated from his then wife {NNM, wife #3 and 5} in a token divorce, as it was reported her sister took all the cyclone USAID aid.)
A few days after Nargis, the junta allowed the referendum to go on, and of course it came out in favor
In 2010 Aung San Suu Kyi was released.
Against the wishes of her former principal strategist U Win Tin, she decided to go along with the junta in the charade of "democracy."
I do not blame her for this.  She was out of options and needed to negotiate for her better treatment by the junta.  The only way she could do this, was to promise to help remove sanctions.
She was then allowed to travel widely, a beautiful and cultivated opening act, before the general comes and signs the trade and other agreements.
Now that phase has come to its culmination.
Their "Nargis Constitution" is specifically jiggered so she can never be president, and so a make believe post as "advisor" has been created for her, and her close associate U Htin Kyaw has been sworn in as President.
But is this NLD National League for Democracy "new administration" any more than a lame duck facade?  For one thing, it is unclear who is paying the salaries and giving them all these perks like Mercedes.
He who pays the piper will always control the tune and the dance.
It remains to be seen, as everyone else, the entire governmental bureaucracy, remains in place, and they are likely to block the NLD the whole way.
Bureaucrats such as they like rules.  The more rules the better, as then there is more leeway for sarr pauk or "hole for bribes."
Nazis did not disappear from postwar Germany overnight.  The same with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
The foreign-based Burmese language media has largely been bought off too in exchange for access, and their programming has gone soft.
I do not think the United States and other Western governments should be so naive in their dealings with the Burmese government.
The Burmese situation remains wooly and opaque. 
In the meantime the junta, cronies, cronies of cronies and owners of rental property are making it rich, just like NGO workers.
But what of the farmers whose land was grabbed?
What of the Rohingya pushed into internal concentration camps and out to sea?
What of the on-going civil wars in the north and the southeast?

I leave this to you to make up your mind, but in the meantime you should stop going to Burma and staying in government or crony-owned luxury hotels.
Submitted to -- online submission

of the military.

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