I Want My MRTV

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The list of things the Burmese government has bungled over the past two weeks includes its own propaganda campaign:

AS HUNDREDS of thousands of refugees waited for emergency relief yesterday and for their leaders to act, the Burmese junta went ahead with a national referendum aimed at keeping its members in power.

The Burmese generals were visible all right. State television showed them handing out boxes of the small amount of aid allowed in from neighbouring Thailand. Unwittingly, it also showed that the Burmese leadership had plastered their own names over the true origins of the food aid to fool their own people into believing that the emergency relief supplies had come from them.

I'd rather consider this the work of a disgruntled MRTV employee. Endless MRTV-3 segments featuring officials shaking hands in celebration of their bang-up job on cyclone relief are here and here.

Meanwhile, the government is holding a vote on its 194-page constitution, available only in languages 40 percent of the population cannot read. According to the New York Times, officials have pushed cyclone refugees out of schoolhouses in order to use them as polling places. In this, too, the regime has managed to gum up its message machine. The country's "roadmap to democracy" is widely regarded as Than Shwe's attempt to soften criticism of his government, and the constitutional referendum is probably a ploy for international legitimacy in response to pressure from the region. It…doesn't seem to be working at the moment.

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  1. Heckuva job, Brownie.

  2. Heckuva job, Brownie.

    I was just wondering how to translate that to Burmese.

  3. what are we waiting for? just like in New Orleans we need to send in Blackwater and round up all the weapons and stick everyone in a refugee camp…how could anyone oppose the US after the great job we did after Katrina?

  4. yeah, Katrina is just like this, complete with 100,000 deaths and counting. That is just one hell of a reasonable comparison.

  5. “Meanwhile, the government is holding a vote on its 194-page constitution, available only in languages 40 percent of the population cannot read.”

    Clever, but not as brilliant as the US Constitution–which looks like it’s written in English, but it’s actually written in a secret language that only 9 people can read.

  6. You’re doing a heckuva job, Than Shwe-ie.

    Dammit you beat me mediageek.

  7. Kerry,

    What is your opinion regarding escalating foreign pressure via air drops? Do you think it may in the long run be worse for anyone who is caught with “unauthorized” aid?

  8. A million people with nothing left to lose can be a powerful force for change. I think this time the regime may be on the verge of getting their asses handed to them.

  9. Burma’s dictatorship has been weird from the start. Any of you ever hear the protest song “Burmese Bear”? Irwin Chusid used to have it as the theme song of his Incorrect Music hour on WFMU. A weird song to protest a weird, atypical dictatorship. They’re like the Woody Allen parody with his order to change underwear every 20 mins., and to wear underwear on the outside so that compliance can be verified. From the start the usual commentors thought it was a strange combination for a military junta to impose leftist rule, but that was from commenters’ lack of imagination & understanding. The results, however, have been even stranger. They’re not much of a kleptocracy, they’re not a rxn to a red scare, they’re not Marxist utopians — they’re just a bunch who have no idea what to do and are giving it to the people good & hard.

  10. John, not sure I get your point. The situation in Myanmar IS WORSE than after Katrina that is why I know we will do a even better job of fixing the country if they will just let us help them.

    I was looking on the state department website:

    http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35910.htm

    and I was horrified to see they stopped taking any loans from the IMF or World Bank since 1998. I was equally horrified to see that they have increased food production greatly since they have done this and were actually exporting quite a bit by 2007.

    Even more importantly the CIA states that Burma is the 2nd leading producer of “illicit” opium production in the world….this illicit production has got to be stopped!

    The humanitarian Bush is doing his part to fight these people:

    President Bush announced on September 25, 2007 that the United States would tighten existing economic sanctions on the regime leaders and their supporters. On October 19, 2007, President Bush expanded sanctions to include individuals responsible for human rights abuses and public corruption, as well as individuals and entities who provided material or financial support to designated individuals or the Burmese military government. Australia, Canada, and the EU also have imposed additional economic sanctions on the Burmese regime in response to the crackdown.

    Burma became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in 1952, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in 1956, the International Development Association (IDA) in 1962, and the ADB in 1973. Since July 1987, the World Bank has not made any loans to Burma. Since 1998 Burma has been in non-accrual status with the Bank. The IMF performs its mandated annual Article IV consultations, but there are no IMF assistance programs. The ADB has not extended loans to Burma since 1986. Bilateral technical assistance ended in 1988. Burma has not serviced its ADB loans since January 1998. Burma’s total foreign debt now stands at over $7 billion.

  11. On the one hand I am worried about the people of this country starving to death do do the military junta, however I also know that trade sanctions are the BEST way to eliminate dictatorships and help keep the masses well fed, educated and non-radicalized…for this I am thankful that all democrats and republicans seem to agree that escalated trade sanctions are teh way to go. Thank god the isolationists aren’t in control of foreign policy!

  12. It is clear that we need to take over this country and teach them how to do things our way, it sounds like they are totally out of control.

    More from the State department website:

    “The limited moves to a market economy have been accompanied by a significant rise in crony capitalism. A handful of companies loyal to the regime has benefited from policies that promote monopoly and privilege. State-controlled activity predominates in energy, heavy industry, and the rice trade. Agriculture, light industry, trade, and transport dominate the private sector.”

  13. I’ve always heard that Than Shwe is obnoxiously superstitious. I wonder what kinda omen is having your country shat on by a cyclone that had to thread the needle to hit it.

  14. The Burmese dictators are nutjobs, for sure, but could their reluctance to let us in be due in some small part to the fact that we have absolutely no credibility on this planet? We say we want to go in simply to help the victims, but why would anyone with a brain stem take us at our word?

  15. Ethan,
    Come on, we never let the Kurds down when it really mattered, why should this be any different.

  16. Reason are skyful of liars!

  17. Any military dictator who refuses to borrow money from the IMF in order to purchase chemical weapons from US military contractors has got to be stopped!

  18. Jonathan,

    As I understand it, the worry about air drops is that they’re not particularly effective relative to on-the-ground assistance. According to Oxfam, dropped food generally goes to the strongest and healthiest, not to people at risk of starvation. If the US dumps a bunch of aid it risks provoking the regime, which may well ban any authorized assistance in response. I don’t know enough to say whether air drops are a bad idea, but this seems like a legitimate concern to me.

  19. What is your opinion regarding escalating foreign pressure via air drops?

    Depends on what we drop. If its AK-47s and RPGs, I’m all for it.

  20. Send in the WalMart semis full of food and water. Maybe it will help bring Democracy to the people and wrest control from the pethetic government. Didn’t work here, but who knows…

  21. “If the US dumps a bunch of aid it risks provoking the regime, which may well ban any authorized assistance in response. I don’t know enough to say whether air drops are a bad idea, but this seems like a legitimate concern to me.”

    Besides, if we airdrop in aid to people and it saves them then that would defeat the whole purpose. We don’t mind a few people starving to death. To the contrary, to quote myself, depopulation should be the central aim of US foreign policy. What we need to do is get troops and agents in there so we can start controlling this junta for our own purposes. We need them taking out more and bigger loans from international monetary authorities to fight the drug war and create contracts for military contractors. Then when they prove that they are a good junta we will think about lifting trade sanctions.

  22. Is Reason going to comment on the The Burma Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA)? This bipartisian act is a example of how all the pro-NAFTA WTO propaganda coming from Reason is not about “free trade”. This “freedom” act BANS all imports into America from Burma! Maybe eliminating this crap would be a good start when it comes to offering “aid” to Burma peasants. It wouldn’t cost the US government a penny and it wouldn’t take any approval from the junta

    You guys have the guts to smear anti-NAFTA folks as anti-free trade yet totally ignore totalitarian trade tactics when it comes to helping impoverish a bunch of peasants in Burma!

    After a 60 year history of the UN, IMF, World Bank and the US working together to keep 3rd world peasants under the tight grip of marxist, juntas and poverty inducing ignorance, you’d think that a professional journalist would view propaganda coming out of those institutions with a tiny grain of salt. Next we will be hearing Burma is part of the Axis of evil, I bet they harbor terrorist as well.

  23. Oops. Let me try again.

    Apparently, McCain’s advisers that do PR work for the Burmese junta on the side really dropped the ball. No wonder they stepped down, watching these guys is a full time job.

  24. Gabe, I’m sure it feels awfully good to be the only morally upright person on the Internet, but I’ve been blogging about the inanity and cruelty of Burmese sanctions ever since I returned from Rangoon three years ago. Please pick another reason to find us wanting.

  25. I wonder if the Chinese are paying the junta extra to act like such assholes, to deflect some of the international pressure before the Olympics.

    Then again, they never needed a reason before.

  26. I thought it was called Myanmar now?

    My kittens are Burmese. Fortunately, they’ve been given political asylum and receive regular aid in the form of treats and Science Diet.

  27. Well that is good Kerry. Now that we have established that Bush doesn’t give a rats ass about killing Burmese peasants can we stop pretending that the military junta should automatically trust everything he says? The unwritten assumption that Bush + UN + Aid = Good is nauseating. If we were all voting for Obama, the naivety would be expected and I’d be applauding like a housewife in the audience of a Oprah Winfrey show, but we aren’t.

  28. TallDave – do they want your affection? Laura Bush said they would.

  29. I thought it was called Myanmar now?

    Only if you want to give the current crop of killers running the place the satisfaction of dancing to their tune.

  30. BP,

    I was greeted as a liberator.

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