Please America, Be Gentle: It’s My First Time

From the China Post on May 21st, 2012, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the suspension of sanctions at a news briefing on Thursday with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, on his long-isolated nation’s first official visit to Washington in decades.

“Today we say to American business: invest in Burma and do it responsibly,” Clinton said.

As inglorious as it sounds, Myanmar is open for plunder to American corporations. All of which, will, ahem, plunder responsibly.

Several months ago at a posh hotel lounge three Norwegian officials with their Burmese guide sat near me. A part of their indiscreet conversation was about “what model of development to use” when considering “opening up” Burma “for investments and civil society.” To me it sounded like they were planning a rape. (Although I didn’t see Dominique Strauss Kahn with them, that doesn’t mean they weren’t rapists.) They were, of course, well-educated elitists and their intentions were purely in the self-interest of western capital.

Anyway, over drinks they agreed to settle on the Cambodia model. Stupid people they seemed to me. They never considered with each other that Cambodia had suffered a complete collapse of its society and human sanity – genocide – after being destroyed by the United States during the USA’s 1960’s & 1970’s defense industries weapons technology development era, including chemical warfare, in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Damn, history has a way with spoiling the propaganda for the USA. Uncle Sam, you’re a dick.

Myanmar, isolated, in need of infrastructures updated, controlled by military mobsters for decades, has not had a complete and total collapse. Inside Myanmar the nuclear family is extremely strong. Myanmar is not missing any link to advanced social values, its people are not absent any sense of industry, education, or commitment to community. Quite the opposite. in fact. It is a place of remarkably intelligent and advanced, forward thinking people, who care about their children’s future. Myanmar is not an underdeveloped country in a traditional way. It’s been abused by the British Empire, invaded by Imperial Japan and used as a boxing ring by global military powers.

Myanmar society exists here. Undeveloped in the neo-western imperial sense, but people have long survived here without the western models of civil society and the plunder and infinite debt that goes with it.

So, I doubt the Cambodia model will work. Never mind that in the news about Cambodia lately is the sickening story that some orphanages mistreat its orphans and some orphanage operators actually let orphan tourists borrow the children for hours at a time. This was the horror found out by a dutiful NGO worker who was questioning why an orphanage would mistreat children that way. Escaping the CNN reporter delivering the story was the fact that organized tours offer orphanage visits to tourists. The CNN hack even showed a busload of white westerners waving goodbye to twenty or so children who were on the roadside waving gleefully and smiling, as only children can, to the departing orphan viewers.

What a sick world the NGOs have created in Cambodia. Children are no more than zoo animals used by orphanage owners, excuse me, NGOs, who schedule tourism visits with busloads of people who come to pet the children and donate lots of cash. Still, it’s for the children you see.

Nope. The Cambodia model is not a model that will work in Myanmar. Not for a second. So what then is going on in Myanmar? The United States has lifted sanctions to its American businesses and they have been asked by Mrs. Clinton to act responsibly. I suppose the first thing they will do is go for the oil, gas, secure uranium mining, other mined resources, push GM rice seed, develop agribusiness, and all the while they will take care not to displace people from their land, not poison water and land, not deforest or use harmful chemicals, and they will be sure to jiggle the handle when they flush and then wash their hands.

Now that The Lady is securely out of the way as a Member of Parliament – to be clear, it was her only option; otherwise, there would have been more uprisings and bloodshed and she did not want that to happen again in her lifetime – but let’s face it, she’s out of the way of the United States now and its open season for American businesses and the American defense industry. It’s really just a matter of time before American military advisors are on the ground to help the Myanmar Government with those pesky insurgents (terrorists) in Kachin State, and elsewhere, who can’t accept that they live in the path of the trans-Asian highways, railroads and massive dam projects that will reap billions of dollars overnight for corporations who build such things. The United States is intent on making itself a major player in Myanmar to counter China’s inevitable growth and ascent in the world.

Oh, by the way, there are still 300 to 600 political prisoners in Myanmar prisons. Not that it matters to Hillary Clinton or the United States government. Hell, there are over 2,000,000 prisoners in the United States. And, based on the lobbying and legal and lawmaking manipulations of the privatized prison industrial complex, a damn good argument can be made that a majority of the people in America’s prisons are political prisoners.

The United States prefers alliances with totalitarian governments as long as they are corrupt and suffer the inevitable personal wealth the elites will gain as friends of Uncle Sam. Screw ideology. Look at Hugo Chavez. He just doesn’t get it, does he? If only he’d turn around and bend over, the United States would be his friend and it would let him export more oil to them.

It remains to be seen, but South East Asia in thirty years – absent another world war – will be transformed and will be a key link between Arabia, India and China. Oil and gas will flow, baby, flow. Industries will bring jobs and uplift regional wealth. Poverty exists here in great amounts so there’s no worry that will change. But people will migrate; cities will blossom out of nowhere. Within several years there will be a high-speed rail from Kunming to Bangkok. So the die is cast. South East Asia is on the rise. And America is so, so far away. Except for those drones.

A coming nightmarish depression in the United States will not bring America’s military might to its knees. The needs of America’s military might and corporate and political corruption has brought American society to its knees first. Socially, politically, American is almost a failed state. Since Obama has pledged to stay in Afghanistan until 2024 and keeps fighting the New Crusade against Islamic countries whose totalitarian governments don’t suck America’s toes, there will be great limits to America’s domestic recovery. But, the military will remain strong, and as long as Americans can bomb the shit out of everything on the planet from a bunker in Texas, then it can safely flex it’s American business muscles in Myanmar. It’s so sad about that Democracy thing too. What the hell was that anyway?

Well, anyway, at least Hillary has nicely asked American businesses to do what is abhorrent and unnatural to them. What she asked was like asking a serial killer to be careful about your hairline as he scalps you while alive. What more can the Secretary of State actually do? Well, while American business can penetrate Myanmar at will, it’s still a crime for American tourists to buy any goods, rubies, and jewels and jade there. Yup. The little guy is still getting screwed again. As if a tourist on a one-week trek in Myanmar buying a ruby would make a difference in the decisions of the Myanmar government. Actually, meeting U.S. embassy personnel living in Myanmar will dispel any questions on whether those sanctions were ever observed. Ha.

Anyway, Myanmar, you can rest assured that American businesses will be responsible. Just lay back and relax. This may take a while.

Ko Tha Dja is an educator and writer who lived in Burma for five years. His collection of stories about his time in Burma is forthcoming. Now residing in Vientiane, Lao PDR, he can be reached via his personal blog at Read other articles by Ko Tha Dja.