Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Burma & Darfur Update: Hypocrisy of Great Nations is Toxic, Complicity of Major Banks & Corporations is Shameless

Image: UNICEF Child Alert

Burma & Darfur Update: Hypocrisy of Great Nations is Toxic, Complicity of Major Banks & Corporations is Shameless

By Richard Power

Darfur and Burma reveal a hideous truth.

As we near the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, the hypocrisy of the great nations, always rank, has become toxic, and the complicity of major banks and corporations, always significant, has become shameless.

The horror in Burma is probably as close to you as your vehicle's gas tank; the horror of Dafur is probably as close to you as your 401K.

Despite projecting themselves as champions of human rights in Burma and Darfur, the political leaders of France, USA and the UK contribute directly to the abuse of human rights in both countries, by refusing to take meaningful action that is well within their grasp, e.g., publicly leaning on their powerful corporate sponsors, like the executives of Chevron and Total, who shamelessly continue to keep the Burmese thugocracy flush with cash, or the executives of investment funds like JP Morgan, Franklin Templeton, Fidelity Investments, Capital Group and Vanguard, or multinational corporations like Pepsi and Coca Cola, all of whom are complicit in some way in the Darfur genocide.

Image: UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari with Aung San Suu Kyi Rangoon

Yes, the Sudan Accountability and Investment Act is moving on bended knee through the halls of the US Congress, but what good does that do for the hundreds of refugees who were just forcibly relocated from the Otash camp into the hands of the Janjaweed?

An un-named UN official on Sunday saw the forced relocation of refugees at gunpoint from Otash camp to Amakassara.
The UN says this "dangerous precedent" could jeopardise Darfur peace talks.
Some 200,000 people are estimated to have died and more than two million displaced during the four-year war.
UN emergency relief coordinator Sir John Holmes said a UN official witnessed Sudanese security forces with sticks and rubber hoses coercing hundreds of refugees, including women and children, to leave Otash refugee camp on the outskirts of Nyala.
Other witnesses told the BBC they saw 10 vehicles with heavy machine guns surrounding people, while eight trucks were loaded with their belongings.
The refugees have been moved into an area where the UN says it is known that the Janjaweed militia operate.
BBC, 10-30-07

India and China are exhibiting the ruthlessness required to moved from the status of developing economic power to developed economic power. That is bad enough. Their amorality is deplorable.

... more than 100 British lawmakers, in a letter addressed to Chinese President Hu Jintao and delivered to the Chinese Embassy in London, called on China to review what was described as a policy of providing arms to the Sudanese government.
"It is not responsible at all," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference. "They have disregarded the Chinese efforts."
The letter said China was in a position to persuade Sudan's government to withdraw its support for attacks on civilians, give aid operations the freedom to work unhindered, abide by existing cease-fire arrangements, disarm militias and cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court.
Associated Press, 10-30-07

But what is perhaps worse is that despite symbolic acts such as the well-intentioned letter from those 100 British MPs, the leaders of France, the USA and the UK -- nations which achieved great economic power long ago -- are simply unwilling to walk away from a few bloody but profitable deals for the sake of establishing a planetary precedent on human rights.

In the West, the people should demand more of their governments.

Burma and Darfur are not pieces of the map that one of the great nations wants to hold on to, like Chechnya or Tibet, or that one of them has seized directly by its own force of arms, like Iraq.

The economic engines of France, the USA, the UK, China, Russia and even India could do without the resources that the thugocracies in Sudan and Burma provide them with.

The sanctions being discussed by the great nations are irrelevant -- because they do not impact the business interests of those who dine at the same table with Bush, Sarkozy and Brown. The leaders of France and the USA are protecting the business interests of Chevron and Total at the expense of Aung San Suu Kyi and the long-suffering people of Burma.

Chevron, one of the largest U.S. energy companies, will keep its stake in a natural gas project in Myanmar, defying calls to leave after a crackdown on protesters by the country's ruling junta.
The people around the Yadana natural gas project and pipeline have benefited from jobs and investments in health care and education, Chevron's chief executive, David O'Reilly, said during an interview in Bangkok.
Bloomberg, 10-29-07

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner defended the much-criticised presence of oil group Total in Myanmar, claiming that if it left the country it would cause suffering to the people of Myanmar and Thailand.
Speaking at a press conference in Bangkok, he said French groups leaving Myanmar would simply be replaced by other foreign corporations.
Thompson Financial, 10-30-07

The vital work of confrontation is left to others, who lacking the power of the state, resort to what the Buddha called "expedient means" -- comedians who defy the junta with their humor and are imprisoned, and women all over the world who hurl their panties at Burmese embassies, or snail mail them, in a powerful act of psycho-sexual magic.

In the raw charisma department, Burma's opposition has something of an advantage over a military regime so nondescript its leaders are often referred to simply as "the generals." There's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who boasts a Nobel Prize and a place on Esquire magazine's 2002 "The Hottest Women We Absolutely Cannot Think of in That Way" list.
Not far behind is former movie star Par Par Lay, the lead comic of the Moustache Brothers, the most famous comedy troupe in Burma (also known as Myanmar). His wit often targets the government, and landed him in prison twice in the 1990s.
At midnight on Sept. 25, Mr. Par Par Lay was jailed a third time. The 60-year-old comic had been cooking curry for monks when he was taken from a community hall near his Mandalay home, says his brother and troupe mate, Lu Maw.
. Christian Science Monitor, 10-30-07

Burma’s most famous comedian, Zarganar, was arrested for the second time this month in his home yesterday evening. Anonymous sources close to the artist reported the news to The Irrawaddy. According to the sources so far no formal charges have been laid against him; authorities only said that they wanted to interrogate him but did not specify how long he will be held in custody.
It’s suspected that Zarganar is again in trouble with the authorities for visiting monasteries following his release from his last stay in Insein prison on October 17. He had been arrested on September 25 for giving food and water to protesting monks during the September demonstrations.
Asia News, 10-30-07

Women workers in Philippines today "attacked" the Burmese embassy in Makati by hurling panties in a demonstration against the junta's brutal crackdown on Burmese protesters in September. ... Burmese junta officials, are known to be highly superstitious and panties were deliberately thrown to condemn their actions, Jomar Bolo, spokesperson of the FBC, said. ... The protest called "Panty Power" joins activists' in several countries, including UK, Thailand, Australia and Singapore in sending panties to Burmese embassies.
The Lanna Action for Burma, which launched the "panties for peace" campaign, in its website encourages women to send their panties to the Burmese embassy saying ... "You can post, deliver or fling your panties at the closest Burmese Embassy any day from today. Send early, send often!" added the group.
Mizzima, 10-26-07

Here are four more news stories on Burma and Darfur, which highlight the hypocrisy of government leaders and the complicity of business leaders in the USA, the UK, Switzerland, Israel and Australia:

NGOs have accused several Swiss banks of helping to finance atrocities in Sudan with oil investments that allegedly grease the government's military machine. A deal by Switzerland's biggest bank, UBS, to underwrite the Shanghai listing of Chinese oil firm PetroChina has come under particular scrutiny. The banks deny their deals help fund the violence.
Some non-governmental organisations believe that the Sudanese government uses up to 70 per cent of its oil revenues to finance continued violence in conflict-ridden Sudan, particularly in the western province of Darfur. They have called on banks to stop investing in companies that do business in this sector.
The Swiss-based Berne Declaration, the Genocide Intervention Network and the Society for Threatened Peoples on Monday named several Swiss banks with alleged combined investments of SFr7 billion ($6 billion) in such firms.
Swiss Info, 10-29-07

As for Burma, the essence of Britain's compliance and collusion has not changed. British tour firms - such as Orient Express and Asean Explorer - are able to make a handsome profit on the suffering of the Burmese people. Aquatic, a sort of mini-Halliburton, has its snout in the same trough, together with those that use Burmese teak.
When did Brown or Blair ever use their platforms at the CBI and in the City of London to name and shame those British companies that make money on the back of the Burmese people? When did a British prime minister call for the EU to plug the loopholes of arms supply to Burma. The reason ought to be obvious. The British government is itself one of the world's leading arms suppliers. ... And when did a British prime minister call on its ally and client, Israel, to end its long and sinister relationship with the Burmese junta? Or does Israel's immunity and impunity also cover its supply of weapons technology to Burma and its reported training of the junta's most feared internal security thugs? Of course, that is not unusual. The Australian government - so vocal lately in its condemnation of the junta - has not stopped the Australian Federal Police training Burma's internal security forces.
John Pilger, Guardian, 10-27-07

In April 2006, a small group of Darfur activists -- including evangelical Christians, the representative of a Jewish group and a former Sudanese slave -- was ushered into the Roosevelt Room at the White House for a private meeting with President Bush. It was the eve of a major rally on the National Mall, and the president spent more than an hour holding forth, displaying a kind of passion that has led some in the White House to dub him the "Sudan desk officer."
Bush insisted there must be consequences for rape and murder, and he called for international troops on the ground to protect innocent Darfuris, according to contemporaneous notes by one of those present. He spoke of "bringing justice" to the Janjaweed, the Arab militias that have participated in atrocities that the president has repeatedly described as nothing less than "genocide." ... Yet a year and a half later, the situation on the ground in Darfur is little changed: More than 2 million displaced Darfuris, including hundreds of thousands in camps, have been unable to return to their homes. The perpetrators of the worst atrocities remain unpunished. Despite a renewed U.N. push, the international peacekeeping troops that Bush has long been seeking have yet to materialize.
Many of those who have tracked the conflict over the years, including some in his own administration, say Bush has not matched his words with action, allowing initiatives to drop because of inertia or failure to follow up, while proving unable to mobilize either his bureaucracy or the international community.
Washington Post, 10-29-07

It has been more than a month since the world witnessed tens of thousands of Buddhist monks in saffron robes marching in solidarity with the Burmese people, protesting the military junta in that country. And yet, with a brutal crackdown, nightly curfews and a series of late-night police raids, the junta has reclaimed control. An ominous, Orwellian calm has descended.
The crackdown triggered widespread condemnation in the international community, notably from the U.N. Security Council. Even the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said it was “appalled” at reports of violence against unarmed civilians, and the United States and European Union tightened sanctions on the military regime. But much more is needed, and the United States should lead the way.
Despite its recent pronouncements, the international community has been painfully slow to demand that Myanmar’s junta enter into an irreversible process of national reconciliation and democratization. Indeed, many have forgotten that Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and its allies won more than 80 percent of the seats in the country’s parliamentary elections. And the world has stood idly by as the military junta has burned 3,000 villages to the ground in eastern Myanmar, creating more than 1 million refugees and 600,000 internally displaced persons.
It is our obligation to stand in solidarity with the Burmese people, to stem the junta’s abuses and help restore democracy to their country.
Jared Genser and Meghan Barron, Freedom Now, 10-26-07

For a Words of Power Archive of posts on the Crisis in Darfur, click here.

If you want to help save Darfur, here are sites that will show you how:

Mia Farrow

Save Darfur!

Enough: The Project to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Genocide Intervention Network

Some Burma-Related Words of Power Posts

Burma Crisis Update: Two Weeks Into the Crackdown, China Has Not Tempered the Thugocracy's Hand; Chevron Has Not Even Slapped Its Wrist

Human Rights Update 10-6-07: Chevron, Condoleeza Rice & the Burmese Thugocracy

Human Rights Update: Blackwater, Burma, Darfur & You

Human Rights Watch to Business: "Keeping quiet while monks & other peaceful protesters are murdered & jailed is not ... constructive engagement."

Human Rights Update: Blackwater, Burma, Darfur & You

Hard Rain Journal 9-27-07: Aung San Suu Kyi was Elected in 1990, Al Gore was Elected in 2000 -- Consider What Has Befallen Both Countries Since

Hard Rain Journal 9-27-07: Bush, Ahmadinejad and the Monks of Burma -- Illuminating Contrasts

Human Rights Update 9-24-07: Don't Miss the Multiple Meanings of this Moment in Burma

Human Rights Update 9-23-07: Will You Step Outside & Join the Burmese in 15 Minutes of Prayer?

GS(3) Thunderbolt 9-14-07: In Pakistan, the Dharma Repels an Attack; In Burma, the Dharma Sparks an Uprising

Human Rights Update 6-12-07: Remember Aung San Suu Kyi, Honor Her Sacrifice, Reflect on Your Own Freedom & What You Choose to Do With It

Hard Rain Journal 1-8-07: Human Rights and Environmental Security Update from Burma, Cambodia and Mekong River

Words of Power #24: Lost Symbols, Part One – Aung San Suu Kyi, AQ Khan, & The World Tree

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