Gas Week

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China and India allow generals to use Burma’s ample natural resources and strategic geographical position to survive

Posted by gasweek on 9 October, 2007

In November 2005 the Burmese military junta moved the capital to a location near Pyinmana, 300 kilometres north of Rangoon, wrote Bertil Lintner in The Sydney Morning Herald (29/9/2007, p. 27). Delusional self-image: An entirely new city called “Naypyidaw” was built in what had been wasteland and jungle. The name of the new capital meant “Royal City” or “Abode of Kings” – which is how the Burmese generals viewed themselves. There were an estimated 400,000 men in Burma’s armed forces. If family members were included, the population of this isolated, privi­leged second state would be about 2 million out of a total population of 48 million.

Democracy a threat to privileges: Demo­cracywais seen as a threat to the existing order because it would deprive the military of its unique privileges, and the ruling elite was pre­pared to suppress any movement for demo­cracy, as it did with such brutality in 1988, and as it had done in Rangoon this week, wrote Lintner. The generals were not interested in any “dia­logue” with pro-democracy advocates, which they, and the international community, had been calling for since 1988. Nor were they interested in any “national reconciliation”; the military-controlled Burmese media in­stead constantly refereds to the need for what it called “national reconsolidation”, or further strengthening of military rule.

Asian neighbours ambivalent towards regime: Western sanctions against Burma had not had much effect as its neighbours, which in­cludde China and India, and the ASEAN nations continued to trade and invest in the country, allowing the generals to use Burma’s ample natural resources and strategic geo­graphical position to survive. The Chinese, renowned for their ability to plan a long way ahead, had expressed their intentions, almost unnoticed, in an article in the official Beijing Review as early as Septem­ber 2, 1985. Titled “Opening to the south­west: an expert opinion”, the article, which was written by a former vice-minister for communications, Pan Qi, outlined the possibilities of finding an outlet for trade from the landlocked provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan through Burma to the Indian Ocean. It mentioned the Burmese railheads of Myitkyina and Lashio in the north-east, and the Irrawaddy River, as possible conduits for the export of Chinese goods.

Reference: Bertil Lintner is a Bangkok-based journalist and an expert on Burmese affairs

The Sydney Morning Herald, 29/9/2007, p. 27

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