Sunday, May 18, 2008

Burma's Crony Capitalists Cash In

In her book "The Shock Doctrine," Naomi Klein describes how politically-connected corporations obtain lucrative government contracts in the aftermath of the disruption of wars and natural disasters. This is sadly already occurring in Burma.

Burma is ruled by an unaccountable and authoritarian military junta. In 1989, Burma's ruling generals shucked off their veneer of "socialism" and announced that they would supposedly move to a market economy. This "sham capitalism" has proved to no different in substance than the regime's earlier "sham socialism." Both are just a cover for the military's continued dominance of political and economic power.

The early 1990s saw the rise of Burma's crony capitalists. These politically-connected friends of the junta used their personal contacts and outright corruption to form symbiotic business relationships with key Burmese generals.

The military junta is now giving contracts to many of its favored companies for reconstruction in the disaster areas of Cyclone Nargis. The regime has awarded many contracts to crony businessmen under the current financial sanctions imposed by the
United States, European Union, and Australia
.

Informed sources say that the regime has awarded
contracts to rebuild buildings in cyclone-devastated Labutta Township. These contracts have been won by Ayar Shwe War Company, owned by General Thura Shwe Mann's son Aung Thet Mann, and Zaykabar, owned by Khin Shwe, who is targeted by US sanctions. Several years ago, Zaykabar was reported to be a front for the regime's contracts with American PR firms hired to put a smiling face on the junta's deserved reputation for repression.

Stories are also circulating that the Htoo Companies, owned by Tay Zar, who is also targeted by US sanctions, and Diamond Mercury Company were awarded contracts to rebuild in
Bogale Township, which will be monitored by Brigadier-General Thein Aung.

Asia World Group of Companies owned by Steven Law, who is also under the
US financial sanctions and is even reported to have business links to Burma's drug trade, has won a contract to rebuild schools and offices in Kungyangone Township.

Needless to say, these crony capitalists have obtained free access to the cyclone-affected regions of Burma while the military is actively restricting access to those areas to aid workers and journalists.

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