Saturday, December 08, 2007


Walter’s website has photos and diaries from his trip to visit with refugees from the rapes, repression, disease, destruction and chaos of Burma. He describes how under the current military regime “a country with some of the greatest natural resources in the world began a steady downward spiral: economically, educationally, politically, humanistically…Over the last four decades the military budget has grown to between thirty and fifty per cent of all spending–and this in a country that has no external enemies. Health care services are currently about three per cent of the budget, and only eight per cent is allotted to education. The major exports from Burma now are heroin and HIV/AIDS. The government, in the effort to suppress dissension, has engaged in systematic destruction of the infrastructure of the ethnic states within its borders.” That repression includes rapes, and spreading land mines at its borders.

Here he describes how Burma made the news, and what has happened since his visit to the region, before a hint about his immediate future.

Q. Have you been following Burma situation since you were there?

WK. Yes, to some degree. I know that after the initial broadening of the world’s consciousness seems to have receded again, and that’s the problem, particularly in this country. If it isn’t about Paris Hilton, it really isn’t news that the media feels is worthwhile covering.

The regime there shot themselves in the foot when they raised gasoline prices 500%-- that’s what provoked the demonstrations, and brought the monks and the students out to protest. When that happened, and they began to fire on these demonstrators, and kill people and incarcerate them. And then they were doing again what they had done in the past-- oppressing the population in a very severe way. It took these demonstrations and the reaction of the government to make the world at least momentarily more aware of what was happening.

My objective in going there was not only to make the world more aware but to bring some pressure through the UN security council to pass a resolution condemning the behavior of the military government as a threat to the peace. In order to do that, they had to have the five standing members vote unanimously. That includes China, but until then China had resisted. They had vested interests in Burma the way it is—minerals, gas, natural resources, and an overland route to the sea among other things. But China is also trying to put on a good face because of the Olympics coming to Beijing and it took their support to pass that resolution. So to that extent, some progress has been made. The Security Resolution has been passed, but the pressure has to be continued to be applied. Hopefully it will receive the awareness that Darfur has received.

There’s more that has to be done. The United States no longer participates in investments in Burma, and no longer will import Burmese goods, which is great. Unfortunately, Chevron, an American company, owns a 25 or 26% share in the French oil business, so through Chevron is still making money on exports of oil from Burma. So there’s lots still to be done. In fact the Burmese government has a very depressing disinterest in what other countries feel. It has to be hit financially before it will have any effect on how they proceed.

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