Ann on BBC TV
Her comment occurs at 1.33 in the piece.
This is the blog of Simon Billenness where I write about politics, culture, and life on Capitol Hill (Washington, DC) in purely my personal capacity. Email me at: simon.billenness[at][gmail][dot][com]
"So either it’s sitting offshore or it’s sitting in the accounts of the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank or the Central Bank. But it looks like it’s only accessible by Than Shwe and perhaps one or two others; it’s not being used for the benefit of the Burmese people, which of course is critical at the moment. This sort of money can do an enormous amount with regard to the cyclone disaster, but it seems to be deliberately withheld."
"Well I think we can expect the money to be used in the way they’ve always used foreign exchange—for things like the new capital at Naypyidaw, for the nuclear reactor, if that goes ahead. I’m sure people will remember the 1,000 percent pay increases for senior military personnel and various other wasteful capital projects like that. They are, in a sense, glorifying the regime rather than relieving the suffering, which is certainly the most important way the money could be used at the moment."In the interview, entitled "A Shattered Rice Bowl," Turnell describes the long-term damage to Burma's principal rice-growing region by the cyclone.
"This relatively small-scale theft of food is fortifying the junta for its much larger heist--the one taking place via the constitutional referendum the generals have insisted on holding, come hell and high water. Enticed by high commodity prices, Burma's generals have been gorging off the country's natural abundance, stripping it of gems, timber, rice and oil. As profitable as this arrangement is, junta leader Gen. Than Shwe knows he cannot resist the calls for democracy indefinitely."
"Taking a page out of the playbook of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, the generals have drafted a Constitution that allows for elections but guarantees that no future government will ever have the power to prosecute them for their crimes or take back their ill-gotten wealth. As Farmaner puts it, after elections the junta leaders "are going to be wearing suits instead of boots." The cyclone, meanwhile, has presented them with one last, vast business opportunity: by blocking aid from reaching the highly fertile Irrawaddy delta, hundreds of thousands of mostly ethnic Karen rice farmers are being sentenced to death. According to Farmaner, "that land can be handed over to the generals' business cronies" (shades of the beachfront land grabs in Sri Lanka and Thailand after the Asian tsunami). This isn't incompetence, or even madness. It's laissez-faire ethnic cleansing."The regime has crossed another crucial line. The first was killing Burma's respected Buddhist monks. The second is mismanaging, diverting, and stealing aid for the cyclone victims. While it may not yet be apparent, the generals' power is gradually slipping from its grasp. There is now a new opportunity for the Burmese people - supported by us in the international community - to curb or do away with its callous regime.
Ask Amnesty: SHARE POWER: Using Grassroots Shareholder Activism to Hold Corporations Accountable for Human Rights
All companies have a responsibility to respect human rights in their operations, but all too often they are contributing to human rights abuses – either directly or indirectly. You can hold corporations accountable - morally and legally - for violations within and connected to their operations. SHARE POWER is a new Amnesty campaign based on the idea that no matter who you are, where you work, where you study, or where you live, you can find your connection to multinational corporations, and use that connection to influence them to change.
Join Simon Billenness and Larry Dohrs, two longtime Amnesty volunteers and experts in shareholder activism, on Wednesday, March 1st to discuss SHARE POWER and learn how you can get involved in this campaign.
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