Friday, March 15, 2013

Aung San Suu Kyi: the new champion of neoliberalism

It only takes one betrayal to go from being heralded to being heckled--& Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize winner from Myanmar (Burma), found that out the hard way. Though she’s been chalking up betrayals one after another. When she held smooch-fests last year with H. Clinton, Obama, & IMF head, Christine Lagarde the shimmer on her halo began to shammy. It appeared she was siding with the US in the competition shaping up in Burma between Chinese, Indian & US business enterprises. But it turns out she’s even more venal than that. Her silence on the violent ethnic cleansing & forced migration of the Rohingya Muslims can only indicate agreement with that policy. It’s all downhill from there.

Last September, villagers & political activists began protests against the US $1 billion Latpadaung copper mine project--a joint venture between Wan Bao, a Chinese mining company & a holding company fronting for the Burmese military. The deal was struck by the former military junta in 2010. Protestors cited the examples of nearby mountains destroyed by copper mining & nearby farmlands polluted with waste products from the mines. They claimed the mining caused environmental, social & health problems & demanded it be shut down. They protested the land grabs involved of 8,000 acres (3,200 hectares) without consultation or compensation--& the destruction of schools, homes, monasteries.

In November, the Burmese government (which claims to be democratic) went after the protestors, including many Buddhist monks, attacking them with water cannons, tear gas, smoke grenades, & white phosphorous incendiary devices. Over 100 protestors were hospitalized with serious burns. An official government commission, headed by Suu Kyi, was set up to investigate the police brutality as well as the social & economic sustainability of the copper mine.

Suu Kyi argued that Burma should honor the deals with foreign companies because “If we unilaterally break off ongoing projects, we stand to lose international trust.” The commission report, released Monday, ruled in favor of the mining project & avoided criticizing the government or calling for punishment & censure for riot cops involved in the violent attacks on protestors. On Wednesday, Suu Kyi went to meet with villagers & protestors near the mining project to defend the commission findings. When she uttered, “I think we have to deprioritize our emotions & needs when it comes to the greater good,” she was met with heckling by hundreds of outraged & dispossessed farmers. She should have been arrested & prosecuted too--not just for the banality of her defense but for colluding with the military against the interests of the farmers & people of Burma.

It just goes to show us once again that the Nobel peace prize is a farce, an honorific given to elites by elites & lacking any socially relevant meaning. (So will people please stop trying to pin one on Bradley Manning--who truly is a man of conscience!)

Here Suu Kyi is getting an earful from villagers during her visit to deprioritize them from their livelihoods & property.

(Photo by AFP)

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