Burma: the gold rush has begun

THE push for democracy in Burma by the West has been going on for just one reason: resources.

Burma has gold, copper, tungsten, timber and oil in abundant quantities. All these years, the political situation and tight economic sanctions have not permitted exploration by Western companies. But now oil companies in the US are straining at the leash and waiting anxiously for the change to fly into Rangoon.

The Americans have already lifted some sanctions on Rangoon even though the only move towards a less rigid form of government has been an election in which the National League for Democracy was allowed to contest 45 of 664 seats.

But what little has happened will be enough of an excuse for the Western carpetbaggers to start pouring the gates of the airport in Rangoon, the first real gold-rush since military rule was clamped on the country in 1962.

The Europeans are due to review sanctions on the country later this month and companies like BP and Shell are likely to be among the first companies to head for Burma once sanctions are, as expected, eased.

Nevertheless it looks like the generals who ran the country this long are now ready to put their hands out for American and other currencies. Like Suharto was encouraged to take over and divide the spoils in Indonesia in 1965, there will be a big auction in Burma too.

The American involvement in Afghanistan has turned out to be a total loss in terms of mining concessions and this makes the clinching of deals in Burma even more urgent. China and India have been the two big winners in Afghanistan and Canada picked up a solitary concession.

The Americans apparently believed they were entitled to get something, despite the mess they created in the country; Pentagon officials have even been heard complaining about it, claiming that they had done a lot for the country and got nothing in return! Which gives one a good idea about American naivety.

The Burmese people are dirt-poor and probably willing to work for less than the Chinese; China has already got a headstart in Burma and will be looking to consolidate. Thailand is another country which is looking to make some moolah in Burma. And one can’t discount India poking its nose in too.


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