Whilst somehow it does not seem right to describe reputedly sophisticated journalists as simple-minded, no other non-defamatory or non-conspiratorial expression is appropriate when observing their orgasmic moaning over the recent “democratic” developments in Burma*. Those people simply never learn. I know that short memories are part of their job description, but human rights disasters in Egypt, Libya and in assorted dysfunctional Arabic countries are ongoing; a memory of a fruit fly ought to suffice.
So the rejoicing over the decision of the just-out-of-uniform Burmese government to suspend construction of Myitsone dam on Irrawaddy River seems to be, to say at least, a bit premature. Firstly, it is not cancellation, but suspension. Secondly, six other mega-dams on Irrawaddy are to go ahead as planned. Over 90% of hydroelectricity from the dams is to flow to China. Thirdly, Burma depends on Communist China on everything but poverty (GDP per capita US$1,400).
China Power Investment Corporation, a company leading the Chinese consortium behind the US$3.6 billion dam feigned surprise over the decision, but the Chinese politburo, infamous for its readiness to viciously attack sovereign governments for real or perceived failures to act in accordance with Communist China’s interests (our Julia does not have to worry) had this time muted the comment and instead of threatening economic or military consequences asked for compensation. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: “The Myitsone hydro-power plant is a China-Myanmar jointly invested project, which has gone through scientific feasibility studies and strict examinations by both sides. Relevant matters that have emerged during the implementation of the project should be properly settled through friendly consultations between the two sides. The Chinese Government always supports its enterprises to cooperate with foreign companies on a basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefits, and orders Chinese enterprises to strictly perform their duties and commitments according to laws and regulations of the countries where they work.” The Myitsone project was to produce 3,600 megawatts and displace only about 10,000 Katchin people.
By and large the media depict the Burmese ex-generals’ decision as a victory of peoples’ power, though some socialist organisations, masquerading as Western environmental groups, see behind it the sinister hand of the CIA, which channelled money through the US Embassy in Rangoon to various protest groups, such as Katchin Independence Organisation and Burma Rivers Network in order to damage the Chinese economy. (Read all about it on wikileaks! But apparently only if you are able to read between the lines a la Bromberg) Personally, I doubt it. Hussain Obama would not allow that.
So what could be behind it? Did they run out of money? The Chinese economy today is not what it pretends to be. Nobody knows what their renminbi is really worth and whether the Chinese quantitative easing is saner than that of the United States. And as the world is entering the painful phase of the economic perestroika, there is reduced demand for Chinese toys, and thus less demand for Burmese electricity to make them. The postponement of the construction of the hydro-power dam may be more than welcome.
Alternatively, or perhaps additionally, the Chinese politburo might hope for a Green subsidy from the West in the future. It would be easy to blackmail the Gore-befuddled governments by pretending that lacking money to build a dam, China is forced to burn that nasty brown coal. It is an inconvenient truth that our politicians are mostly the opinion-poll-ridden, spineless and venal creatures, ever generous with taxpayer’s money.
The other benefit for China could be that allowing Burmese rulers to display some faux independence, the attention was taken away from the Mekong River and the Burmese acquiescence in the People’s Liberation Army Navy planned take-over thereof. The Chinese electronic intelligence gathering base on Burmese Coco Islands in Bay of Bengal is likewise forgotten.
The benefit of this dam gesture for Burma is obvious. Struggling under the economic sanctions by the European Union, United States of America, Canada and perhaps others**, with its economy relying mostly on smuggling of timber and opium, the rulers decided upon ‘virtual’ democratisation under the western eyes. Some of them even become civilians for that purpose, still on the army pension, naturally. They relaxed censorship, allowed some tame journalists in, and unblocked some web sites – though I still do not know about Fog of Chaos. They even released poor Aung San Suu Kyi from her detention but so far this wise woman does not want to play the game if other political prisoners are not freed.
Some are taken in by a “momentous policy decision”, momentous at least according to Steve Marshall, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) apparatchik, allowing the establishment of trade unions. Looks good at the first glance, until we realise that ILO’s roots go all the way back to the Second International and is now a fully financed subsidiary of the United Nations. Among its 183 members*** are such bastions of trade unionism and workers’ rights as Cuba, Iran, Vietnam, Communist China and Zimbabwe. (I confess to my ignorance of labour relations in another member state, Saint Kitts and Nevis)
The Burmese government is looking forward to the end of sanctions and perhaps looking even further forward (to use the word so misused by socialists, national or international in their backward march for generations everywhere), to the Western taxpayers’ aid, which, given the usual left journalistic beat up, is sure to follow. And all we can look forward is more refugees.
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*/ formerly Socialist Republic of Union of Burma. Myanmar, a name promoted by Burmese military clique, and so bellowed by our leftist-dictators-leaning media, is unacceptable to me, and, I am pleased and surprised, also not to the USA Government.
**/ though I would not hold my breath in case of Australia, for she is safely under the dark red Whitlam shadow.
***/ each member state has four votes – two by government appointees, and one each by a representative of employees and a representative of employers respectively. What could be fairer?