Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Burmese junta is bad for humans but good for business

The WaPo reports:

"BANGKOK, Sept. 26 -- After nine days of restraint, Burma's military rulers cracked down on protesting Buddhist monks Wednesday, with security forces firing warning shots, shooting tear gas canisters, swinging truncheons and making scores of arrests to suppress anti-government marchers. The violence, despite appeals for negotiations from around the world, suggested that the junta has decided to put an end to what has become Burma's most serious political uprising since 1988, even at the price of more opprobrium from abroad."

Yesterday at the UN White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said "The U.S. is very troubled that the regime would treat the Burmese people this way." [Opprobrium? What opprobrium?]

You don't say? How did the US feel when Unocal and Total contracted out the Burmese Army to protect their precious Yadana gas pipeline project?

Whereas, nowadays we have concerns over private security firms operating outside the box in Iraq, back in 1993 the two oil corporations Unocal and the French company Total contracted out the entire Burmese Army! The Burmese Army rounded up local Burmese and made them work for free to help build the pipeline and in 1996 15 of the Burmese, who were lucky enough to survive their little stint as unwilling Unocal/Total employees, brought a lawsuit against Unocal in Federal Court in California.

The Washington Law College website spells out the particulars:

"The plaintiffs in the Unocal lawsuit are seeking compensation for damages on 18 claims, arguing that SLORC military and intelligence personnel, as agents of Unocal and Total, used illegal force under international law to the direct benefit of the joint venture project. The claims against Unocal include crimes against humanity, forced labor, torture, loss of their homes and property, and rape. The plaintiffs also are seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under U.S. law, including a court order directing Unocal to cease payments to SLORC and to cease participating in the Yadana joint enterprise until the corporation can guarantee that no further human rights abuses will occur on the Yadana pipeline project."

In 2004 Unocal settled with the plaintiffs for an undisclosed amount and said they were sorry for anyone "who may have suffered hardships." It really gets you right there, doesn't it? The sincerity is underwhelming.

Now, as the US urges it's allies in the region that support the Burmese junta to "use whatever tools they think appropriate" to discourage another massacre, news comes of yet another very labor intensive pipeline the Burma Army will be helping out on.

Besides the help the Chinese give to the SLORC, the Indians supply the Army with weapons that they use against their civilians. We're not going to press them too hard, though, because there's a lot of nuclear energy company money riding on that big nuke deal W. signed with the India.

Ah, but but what about the South Koreans, you ask? According to Daewoo International Corporation along with our good friends the Indians are setting up to do another gas pipeline for SLORK called the Shwe Natural Gas Pipeline Project. This time the deal is worth some 3 billion dollars. What's the death of a few monks compared to that?

According to a activist group, The Shwe Gas Movement, trying to stop this pipeline:

"The Indo-South Korean Shwe Gas consortium is currently in a process of surveying the offshore A-1 and A-3 blocks for a final production phase. Unless the project can be stopped now, the construction of platforms, pipelines and a possible Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant near Kyauk Phyu is likely to start in 2008. Meanwhile, the President of Daewoo International, Lee Tae-Yong will in March face South Korean court for his involvement in selling US$133 worth of equipment for an arms factory in Pyay in Burma. The factory is nearing completion and will then start producing weapons to suppress its main enemy, its own people."

Well, alright! What's Condi doing about that?

And what of our good friends the Chinese, who are about to host the Olympics?

Reuters reports:

"Asia expert Derek Mitchell said it was unlikely that China would do anything publicly except perhaps to condemn violence in Myanmar and call for a peaceful resolution of differences.
'They will stick to their non-interference policy,' said Mitchell, a senior fellow for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank. 'This does not rise to any level of criticality for Chinese interests to violate what they see as an inviolable rule given the glass house they live in when it comes to internal disturbances and the ability of a government to put them down,' he added."

If mass slaughter in Darfur doesn't move them, I doubt they're about to do anything about a few monks getting killed.


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