September 3, 2013


What Myanmar Must Do To Free Itself Of China (Stanley Weiss, 9/03/13, Forbes)

"China is corrupt and rotten to the core," one Myanmar businessman told me earlier this year. The Chinese have taken Myanmar's resources on terms approaching theft. By 2010, Myanmar's rulers were convinced that they needed an offsetting great-power relationship. So beginning with Aung San Suu Kyi in November that year, they began freeing political prisoners. A new constitution followed, as did multi-party elections early last year. But few in the West noticed that the constitution left the military free of civilian control and did not mention ethnic group rights. Instead, the U.S. government ignored the non-Burman ethnic groups.

For example, the Pentagon established military to military exchanges with the Burman-dominated army. Yet unless and until the military includes all ethnic groups, Myanmar can never be a viable nation.  Similarly, when President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar in the past two years, neither met with members of the non-Burman leadership, a major lost opportunity.

Meanwhile, U.S. corporations doing business in Myanmar have not been encouraged to engage with non-Burman ethnic leaders. They should be pressed to respect the property rights of local people, not hide behind Burman claims of eminent domain. In particular, they should make sure that just compensation is given when land is taken.

In the past month, a conference among many of the country's ethnic groups convened in what organizers called "the liberated area."  The conference's closing statement called for replacing the current constitution with one that a broad cross section of national groups would draft.  The non-Burmans' goals included establishing the long promised federated state and a national government that incorporated federal principals, a defense force made up of all ethnicities and a peace negotiation among "the ethnic forces, the democratic forces and the government" to be held in a neutral place in the presence of international observers.

Posted by at September 3, 2013 7:16 AM

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