Volume 20, Number 12
Winter Soldier Campaign
Iraq veterans against the war -- Ivaw
Eighty and Still Protesting
Nut House Econ
Behind Burma's Repression
Nukes Are Back
Eleanor J. Bader
2 Book Reviews
U.S. & Eygpt
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Behind the Repression in Burma
Neither the dissent in Burma nor its repression comes as a surprise. They represent 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 percent 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. 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, SLORC was euphemistically changed to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The Burmese people voted to oust the military through free elections in 1990. The regime refused to yield and continues to dominate by using 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 the worst human rights record in the world and has been repeatedly condemned. The SPCD does not recognize the concept of human rights and there is no freedom of assembly, press, or religion. The International Labor Organization (ILO) 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 Burmese military systematically rapes ethnic minority women as 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 legitimate behavior and a weapon of war—in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
To understand why Burmese military rule is tolerated by powerful nations like the U.S., it is important to look at the natural gas deposits 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, a U.S. corporation, and the French oil company Total- FinaElf. During Clinton’s presidency, companies already doing business with Burma were exempted from international sanctions that were placed on Burma for its human rights atrocities. Unocal was purchased by Chevron, which benefited from 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, which runs parallel to the Yadana pipeline and is a joint venture with the Burmese military gov- ernment.
Chevron and Total are refusing to pull out of Burma. Premier Oil pulled out in 2002 following intense world pressure; its assets are now in the hands of a company based in Malaysia. Other investors in Burma’s oil and gas industry include companies from Australia, the British Virgin Islands, China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Russia. Sales of natural gas account for the single largest source of revenue to the military government; gas exports accounted for fully half of the country’s exports in 2006. The funds from these foreign investments flow directly to the government and provide the military junta with a major source of funding.
Villagers in the pipeline region live a miserable, oppressed, precarious existence, in part due to the deals made between these foreign oil and natural gas companies. Entire villages have been relocated at gunpoint, women have been raped, and children killed by Burmese military units providing security for the gas pipelines. Whole families have been forced into slave labor to construct infrastructure used by foreign oil companies.
The pipelines cut directly through the Tenasserim rainforest, one of the largest intact rainforests in Southeast Asia and home to diverse peoples and numerous endangered species, including Asian elephants, tigers, and rhinoceroses. The pipelines have permanently destroyed the environment.
Analysts suspect the money paid by Thailand for gas from the Yadana pipeline will go directly into the pockets of the military which increases the inflation and poverty in Burma. The displacement of forests and farmlands by oil pipelines and military forces to protect them has become a frequently repeated pattern.
There are 45 million acres of potentially arable land in Burma. This is about 25 percent of the total land mass. Half of the arable land is cultivated by families who have small plots of land. It is estimated that 77 percent of the main source of income of rural households is agriculture. For subsistence living to occur, each farm must be approximately five acres. Of the 4.7 million farm households, over 60 percent have less than that. Of the rural households surveyed by the United Nations Land Development Program, 35 percent were landless, 40 percent owned no livestock, and 24 percent owned no land or livestock.
A government billboard in Yangon, Union of Myanmar— photo by Brent Lewin, GlobalAware
Legally, all land in Burma is state-owned. Use rights are given to farmers who must not leave the land idle for more than three years, otherwise the land reverts back to the state. Because farmers do not own the land, they are unable to obtain loans using the land as collateral. Instead they may only receive small loans at high interest rates. The farmer’s inability to own and mortgage land has had a severe impact on agricultural production. Land tenancy results in a reduced incentive for investment or improvement in the land.
Beyond lack of ownership of land, there is an inadequate incentive structure for farmers to produce. There is a tax on the use of the land to produce rice. Also, an export tax on rice is enforced by a legal monopoly, the Myanmar Agricultural Produce Trading (MAPT), a government-owned enterprise. A government monopoly also controls exports of cotton, jute, sugar, and rubber. Since 1995, a decline in the growth of agriculture has resulted in static yields of crops relative to other Southeast Asian coun- tries such as Thailand.
In 1998 the government began using forced labor to develop 22 million acres of wetlands and pristine untouched lands. In order to develop these lands, “labor villages” were established to assist private entrepreneurs and foreign investors. Eighty- two business groups own over a million acres of this reclaimed land, while local people are now denied access to these lands. The Free Burma Coalition (FBC) estimates that at present, one million Burmese are internally displaced by the government and are being used as forced laborers. Their whereabouts are unknown to their families and their length of service indefinite. General Khin Nyunt, the SPDC leader, has denied government involvement in forced labor and claims that these people have contributed their labor voluntarily so government projects can be com- pleted sooner.
Burma’s government-controlled agricultural economy presents a looming agrarian crisis where the only agricultural success is the illegal opium industry, much like Afghanistan and Colombia. Burma continues, with the collusion of the military, as the world’s largest source of illegal opium and heroin, about 60 percent of the world market. Not only is valuable farmland being used to grow the opium poppy but, because heroin is so easily available, it is now being used inside the country. In some townships, as many as 25 percent of the people are injecting heroin. Since it is a crime to carry needles in Burma without a medical license, needles are at a premium and are shared. As a result, HIV infection among drug users in Burma is the highest in the world.
Burma, once the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia, is now the poorest in the region with the highest infant mortality rate and the least expenditure on healthcare and education. Meanwhile, 40 percent of the national budget goes to the military, which views the independence movement as a constant threat. The enforced poverty, food shortages, and torture will hopefully become catalyst for the removal of the corrupt and illegal military regime that is nonetheless a tolerated trading partner among Western powers. In the meantime the horrible economic conditions have led to a migration to Thailand where global corporate expansion has created cheap labor jobs providing goods for export. Many have been lured by brokers and sold into slavery or bonded indebtedness. The migrants become an underclass of non-citizens.
In a country that exemplifies state terror it is remarkable that informal channels have been able to spread information about recent efforts by Buddhist monks to end the cruelty and the massive protests that followed. The response from wealthy countries like the U.S. to the Burmese military suppression has been tepid and has not included calls on the oil and gas corporations to divest. Once again the priorities of U.S. foreign policy are made clear. Corporate investors can continue indefinitely to sustain military dictatorships while their PR releases that they are a force for good continue. And the expressions of advocacy for democracy, human rights, and protection of the environment remain as slogans to be used when they happen to support corporate interests.
Mark Pilisuk is professor emeritus at the University of California's Saybrook graduate school and research center. Jennifer Rountree is a doctoral student at Saybrook. This article is an excerpt from Who Benefits from Global Violence and War: Uncovering a Des- tructive System by Pilisuk and Rountree (Greenwood/Praeger).
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.