Bush & Brown move in to exploit protests in Myanmar

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UNITED States President George Bush declared at the end of last week: ‘I call on all nations that have influence with the (Myanmar) regime to join us in supporting the aspirations of the Burmese people and to tell the Burmese junta to cease using force on its own people.’

The US President unveiled new sanctions against the government of Myanmar (Burma), including banning travel to America and freezing the financial assets of 14 members of General Than Shwe’s military regime.

Bush’s close ally in international interventions, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said: ‘I want to see all the pressures of the world put on this regime now – sanctions, the pressure of the UN (United Nations), pressure from China and all the countries in the region, India, pressure from the whole of the world.’

The Japanese and Chinese governments, Myanmar’s Asian neighbours, were less strident in targeting the regime and there has been no talk of economic sanctions. The ASEAN group opposes ‘interference in the internal affairs’ of sovereign states.

However, with the major imperialist powers demanding action against General Than Shwe’s regime, they dispatched United Nations General Secretary Ibrahim Gambari to Myanmar for talks. He met ministers yesterday and said he ‘looks forward to a meeting’ with the head of the regime.

Since last Wednesday, hundreds of Buddhist monks and other protesters have been rounded up and troops used baton charges, beatings, rubber bullets and even live ammunition against crowds. According to the regime, 10 people have been killed, but diplomats and opposition groups claim the figure is much higher.

At the height of the protests, more than 20,000 people joined a march in Rangoon in the middle of last week and thousands joined demonstrations in Mandalay and other cities. With the protests becoming bigger each day, the military junta ordered a crackdown against them.

It is acknowledged that what sparked the present build-up of demonstrations against the regime, which began on August 19, was the imposition of huge price increases on oil, gas and compressed gas for public transport.

The price of gas and diesel was doubled and that of compressed gas went up by 500 per cent on August 5. This led to a leap in the prices of public transport, rice and cooking oil, imposed on a population that was already suffering dire poverty.

Bush, Brown and Gambari say they are concerned about the repression of protests in Rangoon, Mandalay and other cities over the past few days. Most people will regard this as an exhibition of ‘crocodile tears’ and they will be looking for the hidden agenda.

Everyone knows that the US and British governments, which are condemning repression in Myanmar, are the same regimes that have invaded and set up military occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As a result of this, an estimated 600,000 people have died in Iraq and nearly every day US warplanes and British troops are killing people in Afghanistan.

Recently Washington and London did not make even the most timid protest when their favourite military dictator, Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf ordered the army to shoot opposition forces occupying the Red Mosque in Islamabad, resulting in the killing of between 150 and 500, mainly young people.

Their hidden agenda is also clear. The US and British imperialists would like ‘a regime change’ in Myanmar because their Japanese and French imperialist rivals, and China and India, have the major role in exploiting that country’s natural gas, wood, textile industry and gems.

It is clear that the masses of people in Myanmar are involved in an ongoing struggle to push up living standards to end their poverty and to secure their democratic rights.

The British working class and its trade unions must give support to workers and their trade unions in Myanmar, and their fight for democratic rights against the military junta. This fight can only succeed as an uncompromising anti-imperialist struggle.

British workers must have nothing to do with Bush’s and Brown’s Burma bandwagon, which is geared to ‘a regime change’ that will serve their interests and will not help the masses in Myanmar, as they have shown clearly by their barbarism in Iraq.