Marc Pilisuk
Who Benefits from Global Violence and War
Uncovering a Destructive System

"A change is needed from the values of the market to the values of participation and caring.... It will require us to persuade or to pressure those with great wealth and power that people along with all the other species that share our planet deserve a viable habitat and a voice in how it is to be used."

Lectures, Interviews, Articles
ZNet. December, 2007
Burma: The Government, the Protest, the Pipelines and Opium By Marc Pilisuk and Jennifer Achord Rountree

Neither the dissent in Burma nor its repression comes as surprises. They represent in microcosm the struggle between people who would prefer to live peaceful lives surviving on their traditional homelands and the global economy that has removed such options. Burma is a country rich in resources and fertile farmland. Yet, one third of its children under five are malnourished. The largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, Burma is one of the most needlessly miserable countries in the world. Its population estimated at 48 million consists of 65% ethnic Burmese with the remainder from various other ethnic groups. As a result of British rule, there has been bitter hatred between lowland Burmese and the highlanders, which has kept the country divided, isolated, and therefore prone to military takeovers.

Since 1988, Burma has been ruled by a brutal military regime, which came to power after killing thousands of pro-democracy activists, including university students, women and children. The new military government called itself the State Law and Order Restoration Committee (SLORC) and changed the country's name from Burma to Myanmar. Officially, the SLORC was euphemistically changed to State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The Burmese people voted to oust the military through free elections in 1990. The regime however refused to yield and continues to dominate by using forceful tactics, such as torture and slave labor, to suppress dissent. Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy movement leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner has been repeatedly placed under house arrest by the military regime.

Burma has been repeatedly condemned by the U.S. and the UN for its human rights violations. The country has the worst human rights record in the world. The SPCD does not recognize the concept of human rights and there is no freedom of assembly, press, or religion. The U.S. government forbids new investment by American corporations, and the International Labor Organization has found that "a modern form of slave labor" is practiced by the Myanmar (Burmese) military where from 1992 to 1996 two million people were forced to work without pay, some in leg shackles. The workers included women, children and the aged. The Burmese military systematically rapes ethnic minority women. It is a form of ethnic cleansing as it redistributes the ethnic balance as a result of the children born from the rapes. For the Burmese military, rape is viewed as a legitimate behavior and as a weapon of war. But the violent raping of ethnic women by the Burmese military fits the description of a war crime as outlined in the War Crimes Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia as well as the Geneva Conventions. To understand why Burmese military rule is tolerated by powerful nations like the U.S. it is important to mention that natural gas deposits were discovered in 1982 in an area later named the Yadana field. The Yadana pipeline was begun in 1994 and completed in 1998 by a consortium including Unocal, an American corporation, and the French oil company TotalFinaElf. During the time of the Bill Clinton presidency, companies already doing business with Burma were exempted from international sanctions that were placed upon Burma for its human rights atrocities. Unocal was purchased by Chevron, which benefited by the exemption and continued to do business with the military regime. Premier Oil, a British company, was also heavily invested in Burma, particularly in the Yetagun natural gas pipeline. The Yetagun pipeline runs parallel to the Yadana pipeline and is a joint venture with the Burmese military government.

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