Asia

Burma: Rebellion and bloody repression

October 12, 2007

Repression by the military government against the massive mobilization
leaves a toll of casualties, plus a thousand people who disappeared
and thousands of people under arrest.

The military dictatorship (which seized power in 1962 after a coup
perpetrated by General Ne Win, following the example of Maoist China,
nationalizing land, industry and trade), reacted with a bloody
repression to the massive mobilizations that have developed since last
August 15, a result of the increases in fuel and the 500% rise in the
price of gas, that brought on a generalized increase in prices of
essential consumer goods. These mobilizations are the biggest since
1988, when the military regime also violently repressed the protest
movement that was confronting the dictatorship that refused to
recognize the victory of the opposition in the elections. These
protests went as far as getting a million students, workers, Buddhist
monks and poor people together. That big mobilization was massacred by
the army, with a toll of more than 3,000 casualties and thousands of
people imprisoned and tortured. At the same time that Ne Win again
returned to power, by expelling the earlier military faction from the
government, he changed the name of the Socialist Republic of Burma to
Myanmar. In a way similar to the process of opening up China, which
has a big impact and economic and political interests in the country
(Burma is one of the main suppliers of oil and fuels to China), the
army chiefs exerted pressure for the regime to open the economy, but
without losing economic control; they are not opposed to privatization
and dismantling the old planned economy of state property, but they
indeed want to control the economy and themselves become direct owners
of the means of production.

Big mobilizations against the regime and the increases

The first mobilizations, organized by the student movement, were
small, but in view of the violent repression and arrests, they
constantly became more massive, first in Rangoon (the former capital),
and then they spread to the entire country, led by students and
thousands of Buddhist monks, who took a leading position, given the
cowardice of the party opposing the dictatorship, the National League
for Democracy (NLD), supporters of International Monetary Fund (IMF)
policies and of US imperialism. This party, to which the Nobel Peace
Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (an opposition figure, who has
spent 12 of the last 18 years as a prisoner, now under house arrest)
belongs, tries to curb the protests and play a role of mediator with
the dictatorship. A leader of the NLD explained it this way, to the
Times of London newspaper, "There should not be agitation in the
protests to bring down the military dictatorship," since, according to
them, this would allegedly give arguments for a military response and
make it more difficult to add people to the movement. The high clergy
of the Buddhist monks, who are influential in the mobilizations, are
raising a series of limited demands, among them, an apology for the
abuses by the regime, reduction of the price increases in fuels,
releasing the political prisoners, and negotiation with the military
junta.

Both the leadership of the NLD and the high Buddhist clergy are trying
to pacify the courageous people of Burma, who, in the face of troops
patrolling the cities, continued with the mobilizations.

Military dictatorship and imperialist plunder

This former British colony, rich in reserves of gas and oil, has
become a point of geopolitical interest, since China is its main
partner. This Chinese influence constitutes a point of conflict with
the US, and partially explains the "democratic" and "pro human rights"
speech of Bush and other imperialist countries in the recent UN
General Assembly. This sudden "concern" for democracy on the part of
the US, is only real hypocrisy that, like the boost to the
"revolutions of colors" in countries like Ukraine ["Orange Revolution"
2004-2005] or Georgia ["Rose Revolution" 2003], only seeks to install
pro-US puppet governments. At the same time, the US does not say one
word about the dictatorships in Pakistan and Thailand. Far from
worrying about the terrible situation of the workers and people of
Burma, the US sees in that country an enormous source of resources and
cheap labor that it wishes to exploit. In Burma, which the press of
the imperialist countries wants to depict as supposedly isolated,
companies like the US petroleum firm UNOCAL and the French TOTAL, that
have carried out the Yadana project (building a gas pipeline) in
partnership with the state-owned "Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise,"
have been charged with forced labor, rape and torture, and have a
trial pending in California. The gas pipeline has been the biggest
investment made in Burma, employing 2,500 workers.

The ties between the dictatorship and the big imperialist enterprises
are so strong that to carry out this undertaking, the Tatmawdaw (the
Burmese army), began to build roads in the jungle, emptying the
villages along the gas pipeline, forcing their inhabitants to work for
the company, building places for soldiers, helicopters and a
railroad; in 1994, a trade unionist managed to escape, and was able to
report what was happening.

Even without taking the recent rise in prices into account, 90% of the
population has fallen beneath the poverty line, with an income lower
than $1 a day. There is a high rate of emigration, mainly to Thailand,
where, according to Mahidol University in Bangkok, 2 million people
have arrived, who have gone from the hell of the Burmese dictatorship
to "Thai" exploitation and humiliation. Workers, the unemployed, young
women and children, almost all of them undocumented, many fall into
the snares of prostitution and child prostitution in the streets and
brothels of Bangkok. According to a study by Mahidol University, there
are 100,000 female domestic workers from Burma, who are exploited as
cheap labor for the new "Thai" middle class. Many of these immigrants
are from ethnic minorities (Shan, Kachin, Karen, among others), who
live in outlying regions, where dozens of local guerrillas confront
the central government.

While the imperialist countries are rending their garments, talking
about democracy, they are guaranteeing the continuation of the regime
and seeking a way out of the present conflict that does not
burmacontemplate the immediate fall of the dictatorship hated by
millions of workers and the people. A sign of this is the current
presence of the UN delegate, Ibrahim Bambari, who met with General
Than Shwe, chief of the military junta, in Naypyitaw, the new capital
of the country.

It is not possible to trust the UN at all to end this bloody
dictatorship, since the UN itself guarantees most of the imperialist
interventions in the world, perpetrated by the countries that are
keeping the suffering of the people of Burma quiet.

Only the independent mobilization of the workers, students, peasants and the poor can take Burma out of the situation of hunger, poverty, and oppression imposed by the dictatorship and the big imperialist
transnational corporations, without leaving one stone on another, by
imposing a government of workers and the people.

- Keys

- Burma is located in southeastern Asia and borders on China, Thailand
and India.

- It was a British colony until 1948 and was also under Japanese
domination during the Second World War.

- The majority of the population is Buddhist (89%); however, there are
also Muslims and Christians.

- 90% of the people of Burma (more than 51 million) live under the
poverty line, with $1 a day.

- Natural resources: it has natural gas reserves calculated at 3 billion
cubic meters and oil reserves of 3 billion barrels.

Translation by Yosef M.