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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Shame-New Zealand Aids Burmese Junta

While much of the Burmese "pro-democracy" movement is communist or leftist, it does New Zealand no credit to be trading with the repressive socialist rulers of Burma.

From Indymedia

New Zealand State-Owned communications company Kordia has announced a contract to build cellphone towers for Burma’s ruling military junta.

Use of cellphones in Burma is restricted to members of the ruling elite. To buy a cellphone, a Burmese citizen must obtain a recommendation from a military official and pay a fee of NZ$1500, in a country where average incomes are less than NZ$2 a day. In announcing plans to extend the cellphone network, the Junta has said that licenses will be granted to members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association, a pro-Junta militia that was used to crush pro-democracy protests in 2007.

Trevor Mallard is quite simply wrong to say that Burma’s cellphone network is not a tool of repression. Even more cynical was Helen Clark’s claim that building Burma’s cellphone network would contribute to democracy. Burma’s military rulers are not about to allow democracy activists to use cellphones. As part of last year’s brutal crackdown on democracy protests many activists had their home telephone lines disconnected.

Internet cafes in Rangoon have recently been shut down. The junta is showing no signs of relaxing its grip on communications in Burma. Pro-democracy groups that work on Burma’s borders and inside the country tend to communicate face-to-face, or sometimes by satellite phones, which are expensive and illegal to possess in Burma.

When Clark says that the United Nations has not imposed sanctions on Burma she ignores the fact that the International Labour Organisation has recommended sanctions in response to the regime’s use of forced labour. Other governments, including the United States and European Union, have also imposed sanctions on the regime. Burma’s democracy movement, including the country’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, have repeatedly called for sanctions and a halt to all business with the regime.

If the New Zealand government were serious about assisting the Burmese democracy movement there are many groups who need support for their humanitarian and political work in the country. Building cellphone towers for the Junta is not helpful.


Anonymous nick henry said...

I wrote the piece that's copied here from indymedia. I find it interesting that the movement for democracy in Burma attracts support from all over the political spectrum and I think that's a good thing. This is quite possibly the only thing in the world that Trevor and I will agree on.

Oh, and the Burmese Junta haven't even pretended to be socialist since 1988, when one military regime was replaced with another and the Burmese Socialist Programme Party was dissolved. The only ideology of the regime nowadays is nationalism and they are certainly authoritarian. You could also make a case that Burma is a very inefficient example of state capitalism, as the regime is quite happy to enter into joint ventures with global corporations while maintaining a tight monopoly on most areas of the economy.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Steve Nice Guy Northland said...

This has to be a first.....I agree with you Trev.....loudly, wholeheartedly !

In startling contrast to a couple of months ago when (by default I admit) you were rooting for the junta.....loudly, wholeheartedly !

All because of the "distinct possibility of the likelihood" that the wonderful woman's dad was once.....ummm, let's say.....sort of Left !

You're a bit of a fairweather friend there Trev.

Anyway mate, what's going on ? Nobody much posting anymore. Even the perennial Mah Mah ain't around.....

I guess he's busy building a bunker in anticipation of Bolshevik Barack or Comintern Clinton getting the nod.....

Mah Mah.....gimme a call on my Juntafone

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Steve Nice Guy Northland said...

Oh, you haven't got my number I hear you cry Mah Mah.....well here it is.....

Juntafone 385 968. Nah, true man.....I mean it.

Get your thinking caps on boys.....I do, I really mean it !

7:17 PM  
Anonymous STF said...

Hey trev

why not give Burmese student and union leader Naing Ko Ko a phone and offer your support?

9:09 PM  

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