Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why no condemnation of Myanmar from the US and others? Bad for business, of course!

Why does the US remain nearly silent in condemning Myanmar?  Take a guess, and if it doesn’t include a dollar sign, it’s wrong. 

In 2012 the Obama administration “authorized U.S. companies to invest in Myanmar for the first time since 1997.”  In late 2014 President Obama visited our pal, opposition leader Aung San “What Rohingya?  I don’t see any Rohingya here” Suu Kyi, at her home and “warned” her (over tea, I’m sure) that  “Myanmar’s steps toward democracy are far from complete.”   

But in the meantime, let’s do business! 

To be fair, there is still a prohibition on “ventures with businesses connected to the country’s former junta.”  But let’s face it, where there are billion-dollar contracts, there’s a way, and in November 2014 Bloomberg reported that  “U.S. companies registering in Singapore to skirt sanctions on Myanmar helped the city state trump China as the country’s number one investor this year, Myanmar’s deputy finance minister said.” Meaning that while US investors may not be dabbling in Myanmar on paper (and staying away from those nasty former junta members, also on paper), they are certainly there taking advantage of what Amnesty International calls “the perfect storm of a rich natural resource base, a weak legal system and an economy dominated by military and special interests. The government has forcibly evicted people, crushed all attempts at peaceful protest and displayed a complete unwillingness to hold companies to account.” (Meghna Abraham, Amnesty International’s Corporate Crimes Researcher.)

Businessmen from other powerful nations, it seems, are not as sneaky when it comes to hiding their slime trail, and so get exposed:

Myanmar: Foreign mining companies colluding in serious abuses and illegality

In a report released Tuesday, “Canadian and Chinese mining interests have profited from, and in some cases colluded with the Myanmar authorities in serious human rights abuses and illegal activity around the Monywa copper mine complex, which includes the notorious Letpadaung mine.”
Amnesty International’s report describes how Canadian and Chinese mining companies have benefited financially from large-scale, forced evictions and serious pollution linked to the Monywa mining complex, which have destroyed local people’s livelihoods and exposed thousands of people to health risks.
 “The Monywa project is a cautionary tale for the government of Myanmar and investors,” it said in the report titled “Open for Business? Corporate Crime and Abuses at Myanmar Copper Mine.”
 “Foreign investment cannot benefit Myanmar when such contexts prevail.”

So, um, now we might know why we in North America are keeping the lowest of profiles when it comes to holding Myanmar responsible for the genocide of thousands of its rightful citizens.

It’s just not profitable.

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