Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Washington’s love affair with Myanmar: It’s the resources, stupid!

The ramshackle streets of Myanmar’s capital Yangon, with its ancient Buddhist pagodas and dilapidated colonial-era buildings, are one of the last places in the world where you’d expect to find Colonel Sanders. If the democratic reforms recently undertaken by Myanmar, a once dysfunctional and paranoid socialist state turned hardcore military pariah, could be attributed to a smell, it would probably resemble a bucket of KFC chicken. Since the dramatic thawing of US-Myanmar relations following the political ascent of President Thein Sein and his quasi-civilian regime in 2010, diplomatic figures such as Hillary Clinton, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, and even President Obama have dropped by – and corporate America came along for the ride too. Multinational players from Ford and Hilton, to Coca-Cola and Google are now trying to find their place in what the IMF calls the "next economic frontier in Asia".

Many have questioned Washington’s fast embrace of this long-isolated Southeast Asian state, which is still accused of overseeing vast human rights violations and employing discriminatory policies toward ethnic minorities. Are we to believe that after decades of crippling US-EU sanctions and trade embargoes, which nearly collapsed Myanmar’s manufacturing base and made anti-retroviral drugs and other medicines unaffordable, the West is now enthusiastically emboldened to extend a hand in genuine support for peace and the rights of the population and minorities?

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Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at