Myanmar and its protests

Some articles found today:

Myanmar on Schoot on Sight.

Security Council urges Myanmar to allow UN envoy’s visit.

Human Rights in Myanmar.

Burma/Myanmar seen by Human Rights Watch.

U.N. rights chief warns Myanmar leaders on violence.

Myanmar protests will end in bloodshed or a new optimism.

Economic Brief: The Economic Factors Behind the Myanmar Protests – Published on PINR, 7 September 2007.

2 excerpts: … Once again, similar to the event in February, people took to the street in a rare display of public anger. The current demonstrations have drawn a significant number of Buddhist monks into the streets and have led to national curfews. Violence finally broke out on September 26 as security forces and protesters clashed.

The end of fuel subsidies were likely part of a larger package of reforms that the junta has been planning in order to, among other things, reduce the pressure of global fuel prices in a country that is dependent on diesel imports for its entire economy. Myanmar has an insignificant domestic refinery capacity and a chronic need for foreign currency. The latest Indian proposal intended to regain access to the Shwe gas fields has reportedly included diesel fuel exports, while a deal with Petronas of Malaysia is seeking similar arrangements. (See: “Pipeline Politics: India and Myanmar“).

The International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) and World Bank made recommendations along the lines of the subsidy cut as part of a larger package of reforms as recently as last year; critically citing the trend toward extraordinarily high deficit budget deficits carried by the junta. The construction of a new capital, Naypyidaw, and the proposed construction of an information technology capital, Yadanabon, along with significant pay raises for civil servants and the military have placed serious pressure on government reserves. The government typically addresses such deficits by printing more money, producing the significant inflationary pressures seen today …

… The military has made a supreme effort to remove itself from contact with the population: barracks and bases are situated away from towns, and the new capital is a study in strategic withdrawal to the hinterland. It is the populace who has the most to lose from rampant inflation and evaporating savings, but faces an incredibly resilient and increasingly isolated military that has kept a stranglehold on power since 1962.

The last major uprising in Myanmar occurred in 1988. The underlying cause of the revolt was economic and resulted in violent repression by the military. The outcome of the current protest could be similar. Regardless, due to the decades of military involvement in the economy, dependency on resource exports and a high rate of corruption that pervades the country, the necessary economic improvements will not come easily. Even with peaceful political change, without significant international oversight, the overwhelming precedence of military intervention and control in the country will likely return Myanmar to state-sponsored economic mismanagement. (full text).

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