Call for economic boycott of Burmese junta

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Call for economic boycott of Burmese junta

Call for economic boycott of Burmese junta

On September 18, Burmese democracy activists around the world will observe the seventh anniversary of "8888", a student-led nationwide uprising in 1988 that ended in a crackdown of the popular revolt. MAUNG MAUNG THAN is a member of All Burma Student Democratic Organisation — Australia (ABSDO), an international organisation of students who were forced to flee Burma. Most of them are now residing in the US, Thailand, India, Japan, Canada, Europe and Australia. He was interviewed for Green Left Weekly by MICHAEL GARAY. Question: Why did the military regime release Aung San Suu Kyi, and what are the implications of this?
The Burmese people are encouraged by the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. The international community highlighted her detention, calling for democracy and human rights. The SLORC [State Law and Order Restoration Council] military regime was convinced that they have to release her; otherwise, they have to face tougher actions.
Question: Does this mean that the military junta is turning to democracy?
No. Over 3000 students and political dissidents still remain in detention and torture camps, including student leader Ming Ko Naing. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and torture.
Question: Is ASEAN among the groups that put international pressure on SLORC to release Aung San Suu Kyi?
The ASEAN policy of "constructive engagement" doesn't mean international pressure. ASEAN still gives political and economic support to the military dictatorship. This can be seen through recent trips to Indonesia and Singapore by the SLORC. Investment from ASEAN countries is still growing, especially in natural gas extraction, logging and dams.
Huge volumes of natural gas from Burma will be sold to Thailand, to sustain Thailand's need to maintain its NIC status. In return, Thailand gives $400 million to the military regime. The money goes to the military regime, not the people. Thailand is part of ASEAN's constructive engagement policy. Only 20% of Burmese people have access to electricity, yet SLORC sold gas to Thailand to produce electricity for Thailand.
Dams gives access to rivers for electricity and water for Thailand. Again, revenue from this will go to the military regime. Near these dam projects, people suffer. They have to move or are forcibly mobilised. The projects also cause destruction of wildlife, deforestation, change of climate, flooding and reduction of water flow in downstream areas. Millions of peasants don't get enough water for irrigation. It's a terrible project.
Burma has a deforestation rate of 776,00 hectares per year. Most of the firms involved here are owned by Thailand, Japan and Singapore, and they're benefiting from it, not the Burmese people.
ASEAN's "constructive engagement" policy means support.
Question: What about Australian investment in Burma?
Australia has a $28 million investment in Burma. Among them are BHP, Ericsson and Multiplex. Former PM Bob Hawke shakes hands with the SLORC and talks about business. He cannot see the death of the students and the people in the streets, prisons and jungles, or the large scale human rights violations. He cannot hear the cry of the people for democracy and freedom from military dictatorship.
We want the Australian government policy to change into a more assertive line instead of its current "benchmark" policy, which encourages, not discourages, investment with SLORC.
The Australian government should condemn the sham national convention that draws up a constitution similar to Indonesia's, which only strengthens the military's role in shaping the political future of Burma.
The Australian government's benchmark policy only asks the SLORC to put a timetable on its existence, but it is not concrete and does not contain definite measures if the SLORC does not follow it.
Fifty students are still in special detention centres in Bangkok after 20 months without any trial for protesting against the Burmese military regime. They are not criminals; they are political prisoners and should be released immediately.
Our ultimate demand is to transfer power to the people, respect the results of the 1990 national elections. Unless the regime followed this demand, the international community would have to stop dealing with the regime, stop dealing arms and stop providing economic support to the regime. Individual countries and the UN should impose economic sanctions and an arms embargo on the SLORC.
Development projects and tourism-oriented projects are forcing the Burmese people into enslavement. You can see people are starving around these development projects and renovation projects for tourists.
The international community should avoid travelling to Burma. The SLORC highlights 1996 as tourism Myanmar year. Australian people should support the struggle for democracy by avoiding any deals and travelling to Burma.
Question: What are your plans?
On September 18, the seventh anniversary of the military's crackdown on the people and the students, we are organising a march to Parliament House in Canberra to demand the Australian government impose economic sanctions, an arms embargo and a tourism boycott against the regime. WA Greens Senator Dee Margetts will be joining us in the march.