The Future of Myanmar Without Sanctions

The Future of Myanmar Without Sanctions

By Daniel Opacki

There is a lot of conjecture lately about the efficacy of lifting
Western imposed economic sanctions and engaging with the Burmese Junta.
Especially relevant in many conversations is whether or not Aung San Suu Kyi
should have any effect on the matter. The bigger question seems to be about the
direction of action she will take, along with the National League for Democracy
(NLD). At the heart of the problem is a military led government who has thumbed
its nose at the West for decades. Conventional wisdom indicates that it will
continue to do so no matter what Aung San Suu Kyi does.
The western media likes to play up the idea that Myanmar’s government
is more brutal and disgusting than any other on earth except for Iran. The
ironic truth with both Myanmar and Iran is that the people of both nations love
everything about the West but their governments have chosen not to fall under
the influence of economic colonization of the World Bank, IMF, and all of the
other Western economic schemes that renders poor nations in debt to the West,
thereby opening their lands for “development” and “civil society” as western
corporations plunder every available natural resources at bargain basement
prices. The governments of Myanmar and Iran do business their own way. It looks
like there will be few opportunities for Western influence in Myanmar and no
matter how much the Western powers try, they may never play an important role
in the economic viability of Myanmar.
Myanmar’s military led government doesn’t need the West and its
predatory habits of in-debting poor nations into submission as a way to access
and plunder its natural resources. In fact, the current rulers of Myanmar are
definitely brutal and disgusting. They have proven to be pretty good at
colonizing their own country and selfishly stealing all of the wealth gained
from selling Myanmar’s resources. While ideals like freedom and democracy,
which are both as flexible as a rubber band when it comes to the support from
the West (think of the West’s reactions to current events in Libya and Bahrain
as way to see the flexibility) are inspiring motivators to use in negotiations
with governments who care about such things, in Myanmar, they mean nothing to
the ruling elite. Unfortunately, the West has no other cards to play unless
they play the military card. However, it’s unlikely the West will dare venture
back into military intervention on China’s southern doorstep.
It’s been a foregone conclusion that The Western powers have nothing
to teach Suu Kyi as well. She has given all she has to her people in spite of
the West’s support, not because of it. She is their one example and role model
that teaches them what freedom and democracy are. The Burmese certainly don’t
need the West’s charade of supporting Suu Kyi on principle either because the
West has no principle to stand on. With confounding hypocrisy the West supports
dictators around the world for political and economic reasons when it suits
their economic interests. That’s it. If there were any real dedication by the
West at supporting freedom and democracy then they would have supported the
decision of the Palestinian people when they voted for the terrorist government
of Hamas as their chosen government in what was, by all accounts, a very clean
election.
The West knows that it is helpless when it comes to Myanmar and they
are losing, or have lost, Myanmar economically and strategically. The problem
facing the West is that Aung San Suu Kyi reminds them of what they are not –
principled. She is their sole access to a beleaguered nation under occupation
by its own flesh and blood. The West supports her in the name of supporting
freedom and democracy – but they also know that the worn out ruse is not
working economically. So then, it truly looks like the West will soon abandon
Suu Kyi incrementally in favor of gaining economic access to Myanmar’s
resources. Even so, with China, India, Thailand and Vietnam on the margins of
Myanmar, there’s no incentive in any way for the current rulers of Myanmar to
deal with Western powers. And everyone, especially the rulers of Myanmar, knows
it. Sadly, the West will put on a seriousness display of unwavering support for
Aung San Suu Kyi while they slyly stack the deck and deal the cards to lifting
sanctions. When that happens, both Suu Kyi and NLD will be more isolated. They
will be more economically and politically irrelevant than they already are in
this oppressed nation of 56 million.
In the end, if sanctions are lifted and the West gets into Myanmar
western companies and politicians will herald in a new era of cooperation and
development with Myanmar’s next elected government. NGO’s will run amok in
Burma under the guise of Civil Society (as they have been doing in Cambodia for
two decades) colonizing the Burmese people with low wage jobs and cobbling the
already impoverished people with dependence on all kinds of relief and aid. The
example to go by for this sits right on the border of Burma in Thailand near
the town of Mae Sot. Garment factories use Burmese refugees and migrant Burmese
workers to make ladies undergarments to be sold in major U.S. department stores
such as J.C. Penney. Some NGO workers in the area act as interlocutors (think
labor contractors) between the factories and the workers. The Burmese workers
are paid paltry sums and work under some of the most abusive sweatshop
conditions in the world. They are seen as people having no status. They can’t
legally move into Thailand and they can’t go home to Burma. The justification
of the NGO worker’s is that at least they have wages to live on. True. And J.C.
Penney makes a killing with selling bras and panties to unsuspecting women in
the United States.
Yes, if the West one day gets itself into Burma, hundreds if not
thousands of NGO workers will drive around in SUV’s saving the Burmese and they
will cash fat paychecks while they constantly raise money from donors and buy
up prime property in Rangoon, Nap Yi Daw and Pyin Oo Lwin and Ngapoli Beach.
Western corporations will set up shop and Coca Cola will eventually have a
bottling plant somewhere on the outskirts of Mandalay near the Trans Asian rail
lines and highways currently being built across South East Asia. Factories will
be built and Burmese people will work long hours under exploitative conditions
as CNN and BBC talking heads marvel at the rebirth of Myanmar and free market
policies in the new South East Asia. All of this is unlikely to happen though
because China, Thailand, Japan, now India, and other Asian corporations are
already in place in Burma. Of course, Chevron and Total have been in Burma for
years since they are exceptions to the sanctions mandate placed on Burma by the
West. Yes, the West’s hypocrisy is sometimes so vile one can drive a car with
it.
Ultimately,
a utopian outcome on the horizon for the people of Myanmar has all but
vanished. Poverty will persist for the majority of Myanmar’s people, as the
ruling elite will cater to transnational corporations with or without
sanctions. Dissent of any kind will be crushed and persist as it has for
decades past. The only real question is who, in the end, will be cashing in on
Myanmar’s bountiful natural resources? With or without freedom and democracy
the people of Myanmar should keep a stern eye on their western motives. They
are facing a lose-lose situation with the lifting of economic sanctions and
cooperation of any kind with the current so-called government. Any person with
a heart would call Myanmar’s rulers what they really are – tyrannical and
homicidal monsters. Yet since the West really hasn’t shown the world a
decidedly better face either, what, in the end, will change in Burma?

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