Doctor and activist


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Category: Asia Pacific

Myanmar’s Army is murdering its people.

4 April 2021

One of the impressions that I had visiting Myanmar was that the army was a society unto itself. It seemed to have no contact with and no respect for ordinary people, and they felt no warmth for it. It was like an occupying force. The artificial capital, Naypyidaw is 4 hours from the biggest city and former capital, Yangon and is in the mountains. It has had a fortune spent on it, presumably Chinese money, with 8 lane tree-lined streets with almost no cars or people and large multi-storied international hotels with almost no lights in the rooms at night, and almost no one at breakfast. The military junta seems totally divorced from the people, which is presumably how they could be surprised that they lost the elections so dramatically.But they will shoot the people to retain power and if people without guns are going to take over from a government with guns, it is going to be horrific. I am reminded of East Timor trying to get independence- was it 28% of the population killed?

https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/asia-news/2021/03/29/myanmar-military-protesters/?fbclid=IwAR2efTa0rQ84c9EiP4r2-NBWG5d3UyDwYZOXtCMkgnVyEoZqwxxFYJ3IgSk

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Myanmar-A Coup. What next?

5 February 2021

The history of Burma was that it was colonised by the British, who had colonial wars with increasing control from 1824 to 1885.  It was occupied by the Japanese in WW2, which helped its independence movement and it achieved independence from Britain with some struggle by General Aung San in 1948. 

It had not been a united country, having a lot of tribal and ethnic wars and tensions. General  Aung San negotiated a ‘Union of Burma’, but he was assassinated by conservative forces before the new country came into being.   

It had relatively unstable governments until a military coup in 1962 under General Ne Win and has been under military junta control since.   An uprising of the people in 1988 was brutally suppressed and n 1989 the junta changed the country’s name to Myanmar.  They held elections under a new Constitution in 1990.  Aung San Suu Kyi, who was the daughter of General Aung San, who had defeated the British and who had been educated in Britain and who had returned in 1988 won a landslide victory with her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).  The junta seemed completely surprised by this, but did not allow her party to take control.  She was placed under house arrest.  The world was highly critical of this and she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1991 “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.”

In 2003 the junta claimed it had a ‘roadmap to democracy’ but nothing much changed, with Aung San Suu Kyi still in house arrest.  In  2005 the national capital was moved out of Yangon (which had been called Rangoon) to get it further from the population centres to a hilly area 370km away in Naypyidaw. 

There were major protests in 2007.  In 2010, the junta, recognising that they were unpopular, but also that the world’s sanctions were biting, released Aung San Suu Kyi and held some elections, but the NLD boycotted these as a farce. In new election in 2012 the NLD won in a landslide with 41 of the 44 contested seats, but the junta had stopped Aung San Suu Kyi from being President and kept a number of seats and key Cabinet posts for themselves.

Now the military has had a coup. The people are not happy, but are aware that the military will deal with any uprising brutally and ruthlessly. Aung San Suu Kyi herself has been arrested for the trivial crime of having 6 unauthorised walkie talkies.  Presumably she wanted to be able to talk to her immediate staff without the junta hearing every word.  In a sense that is a symbol of her situation and the power of the junta.

I have taken an interests in Burma/Myanmar because when I was in Parliament the elected NLD members who should have been the legitimate leaders of Myanmar came to Parliaments around the world and were photographed with groups of MPs to show that their legitimacy was universally recognised outside Myanmar.  I kept in touch with NLD contacts and visited Myanmar in late 2017. It is a third world country which was trying to use rapid growth in tourism to bring itself up. There were quite new tourist buses, but a shortage of accommodation, and this was expensive for a third world country and for its standard.  Aung San Suu Kyi was nominally in charge as ‘State Counsellor’, with the NLD supposedly doing her bidding.  In reality, she was something of a powerless figurehead with the SLORC junta keeping real power.  She was doing what she could and it was hoped that democracy would gradually win and the junta would gradually fade, but this was certainly not happening quickly.  The local people were not well educated, and most had poor English, but as my contacts pointed out, they were not game to talk about politics anyway- they supported ‘the Lady’ as Aung San Suu Kyi is known, but the military were very much in control and it seemed that there was no love lost between them and the people. 

I travelled to Mandalay, the second city, in a modern tourist bus of Chinese origin.  The Chinese had been helping the junta in exchange for economic concessions.  In a way this bus was reassuring.  Most of the cars in Myanmar are right hand drive, either old British or relatively new Japanese, but in 1989 the junta had decided that the country, which had driven one the left, should drive on the right as most other countries did.  So it was safer in one of the buses where at least the driver could see when overtaking on the fairly basic roads.

Mandalay has a large fortified palace in its centre, complete with moat.  It has been taken over as a military base.  Tourists are allowed in through a military checkpoint, but can only walk up the central path to the royal building and temples, and the greetings are not warm.

I was advised not to bother to go to the capital, Naypyidaw as it was sterile and there was ‘nothing there’.  I went anyway. It was a complete contrast to Yangon, which is crowded and dirty, with little access to the banks of its polluted river.  Naypyidaw had an 8 lane highway through its centre with trees and gardens reminiscent of Canberra.  The Parliament was modern, though it could not be accessed and the National Library was modern also, and about the size of Wollongong’s.  There were no buses to get there- Naypyidaw needs taxis to go everywhere, so there was almost no one in the library. The librarian who spoke excellent English told us that this was the normal number of people.  There was a hotel precinct that had a number of very large hotels that were modern, extremely cheap and built by the Chinese.  We noted at night that there were only half dozen lights on in the hotel that had had hundreds of rooms and there were few people at breakfast.  There were no local people apart from hotel staff near the precinct, and they told us that the local people lived a suburb away and it was not really a walking distance.

Aung San Suu Kyi was much criticised for not acting on behalf of the Rohingya Muslims, but there is a lot of prejudice against this group historically, as they were felt to have no right to have come, which related to a border skirmish a long time ago.  Even with its ethnic divisions Myanmar is 88% Buddhist.  Had Suu Kyi spoken up for the Rohingyas, she would have had lost much local support and, as my contacts pointed out, she had enough trouble as it was. 

The situation looked untenable.  The NLD government was not allowed to govern. The military were obviously undemocratic, unpopular and unprogressive, but supported by Chinese money and trade deals. The loosening that was hoped for had not happened and did not look likely.  Here we are 3 years later.

The NLD had another landslide in the November 2020 elections.   More proof of the unpopularity of the junta, and still they do not want to move.  A re-run of the 1987 and 2007 brutally suppressed revolts does look likely.  Myanmar is unlikely to shift the junta without a lot of blood being spilled.

Here is Kevin Rudd’s opinion- and he was ex-Foreign Minister.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=esHnsZQ59ms

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Chinese Doublespeak as their World Influence Rises

4 February 2021

President Xi Jinping has installed himself as leader of China for the foreseeable future. Central to this is the domination of the Chinese Communist Party.  It does not really matter what a party calls itself if it has unchallenged power.  It objectives will set the policy of that nation totally.

The West has for years preached competition as the route to efficiency, but at the same time its governments have made trade deals that disfavour developing economies, and assume that their companies will be the ones getting access to markets. As they have done this, they have tended to turn a blind eye to the development of monopolies and oligopolies in the multinational companies and a blind eye to their tax avoidance; perhaps because the companies in tax havens buy US bonds as they have to store their money somewhere. Western governments have become weaker relative to multinational corporations.  The Chinese model has a government able to make the rules for the whole economy and focus on priorities in a way that the West has rendered itself usable to do.  This is effectively a new economic model, the implications of which do not seem to have had the attention that they deserve.

Now China is asserting itself.  It has taken over Hong Kong to quell any idea of democratic movements.  It is doing bad things to the Uighurs.  It has fortified islands in the South China Sea.  It is building its military and flying over Taiwan, which it claims is merely a wayward province, so dealing with it would be ‘an internal matter’.  Most of the West has conceded that there is only ‘One China’ is order to be able to trade with China, so they will have trouble with opposing the theory of a Chinese takeover, not to mention the practicalities. China is taking a hard-line with Australia on trade, perhaps just to demonstrate its strength to and on an uppity middle power like Australia who shot their mouth off over COVID in Wuhan and would not let Huawei put in their 5G network.

But China is also preaching equality between nations, which is presumably aimed at the Third World, so that it will seem their champion against the Colonial West. It has raised many of its own people out of poverty. This may be necessary to keep its people controlled, but that policy is good.  Its building of infrastructure in Africa is soft power, which looks a lot like a more modern style of colonialism; but time will tell.

The Belt and Road initiative from Beijing to Western Europe incorporating South Asia as well will take in 65% of the World’s population. It also uses local currencies and the Yuan, which effectively means it excludes the US and the US dollar, which will hugely weaken the US as its significance increases.

Here are two articles, one highly critical of China, the other overlooking its militancy.

www.smh.com.au/world/asia/two-track-xi-reveals-china-is-in-no-mood-for-reconciliation-20210126-p56wvm.html

www.informationclearinghouse.info/56266.htm

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China and the Taiwan Question. 1/1/21

As China increasingly decides to assert its status as a World Power, Australia has been given the message fairly clearly.

Morrison foolishly, and perhaps encouraged by Trump in his pre-election hubris, criticised China’s management of the Coronavirus.  If China was looking for a middle-sized power to humiliate using its Trade power, Australia had stepped conveniently stepped into the role. This is still playing out. If China squeezes hard, we are likely to have a recession and Morrison will lose the election.  If not, probably not.

China is asserting its dominance over the South China Sea by building bases on the Spratly Islands, and the US and Australia are sailing through them to show that they still can, but this does not prove that the balance of power is not shifting quite dramatically China’s way.

China has asserted that it is not a democracy and that the Communist party will be dominant for the foreseeable future.  It did not tolerate independence in Tibet, nor with the Uighurs, and most recently with Hong Kong, moving to crush local democracy, lest anyone else in China get ideas.  The democracy activists in Hong Kong who tried to escape to Taiwan by speedboat were caught, tried and imprisoned (ABC News 30/12/20).

Taiwan, which had an indigenous population as Formosa, became Taiwan, when Chiang Kai-shek, the pro-US, Nationalist loser of the Chinese Revolution fled there with 2 million Chinese in 1949.  Their safety at that time was guaranteed by the US Navy and their economy benefitted mightily from the Korean War (1950-53), where they industrialised to manufacture goods for the US war effort.  The US has effectively guaranteed their separateness from China.  China has never accepted that Taiwan is a separate country, regarding it as a renegade province that will eventually return to China by negotiation.  Taiwan agreed that there was One China, as it intended to overthrow the Communists and re-establish their Nationalist government.  This has become increasingly unlikely and is now at the point of absurdity, but political parties that are pro-reunification with the mainland have been doing quite badly in Taiwanese democratic elections.  The Taiwanese population enjoy both democracy and relatively high incomes.  They are naturally concerned with events in Hong Kong, as they are the next domino. 

If China wanted a military victory and to assert its new Great Power status moving across a short strait into its own backyard would seem the logical step, and it is doubtful that the US would have the capacity to prevent this, even if it had the will.

Frankly, Australia has to accept the reality that China has arrived at great power status.  We cannot get involved in a war over Taiwan.  We should take a more neutral position between the US and China, and think in terms of more intelligent trade bargaining and not selling out our assets to foreign powers of any colour.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/56111.htm

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The China Trade Reality

China is a rising power with 1.3 Billion people. Its government is totalitarian, and focussed on improving its place in the world. From a Chinese point of view the West exploited it when it could, and it is now taking its rightful place as the Middle Kingdom, in the centre with others coming to it. […]

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CoronaVirus COVID-19: Did China do a good job?

23 May 2020

I am not sure of the answer to this question. China obviously hid the facts initially as whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang revealed, later dying of COVID19 himself[1].  Dr Ai Fen of Wuhan Central Hospital also blew the whistle and has now disappeared[2].


China clearly suppressed information initially, and may not be telling the truth now, particularly on the numbers affected.


It used very authoritarian tactics and now claims that the infection of controlled. It seems hard to deny this, if we presume that millions of deaths cannot be hidden. The SARS virus was successfully suppressed with an unprecedented lockdown, and this would appear to be the same. Probably few other countries could have suppressed movement of people as effectively as China could, which is good and bad.


The initial cover up allowed movement to other countries which has allowed the epidemic to spread world wide.


Here is an Indian TV station calling out the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus for not standing up to China, and giving a pretty damning assessment of his actions, both in not getting the facts from China early and then ignoring their delays. The circumstances of his election to WHO seems to be a reliance on China’s lobbying at WHO, and also his debts to China from his role as Health Minister and then foreign minister of Ethiopia. He is contrasted with the previous head of WHO Health, a Norwegian, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, who called out China and embarrassed them over SARS, so China had an incentive to get a more malleable person in the job.


The TV station seems to have a good story and also claims to be daring and young, though it is owned Esselgroup, which is owned by Subhash Chandra, an Indian billionaire with links to the BJP.  Things are not always clear in politics , but it does seem that the Director-General is a Chinese patsy.


www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1NGzmDVWxA&feature=youtu.be


[1] www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51403795, 7/2/20

[2] https://nypost.com/2020/04/01/whistleblowing-coronavirus-doctor-mysteriously-vanishes/

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COVID-19: Origin of the Pandemic- 2nd Article

21 May 2020

Readers may recall that I posted on this subject on 19/4/20, and had Dr Li as the original whistleblower on social media. He was an ophthalmologist who died of COVID-19. The origin of the virus was via the markets, but possibly via a bat research project in a secondary Wuhan research laboratory.

The document I used was cited but was from the web and not from a standard journal and sounded very plausible.
Now this document that again seems very plausible casts doubt on the previous story.

Presumably there will be a WHO investigation which will come up with a conclusion. This probably would have happened without the ham-fisted and tactless intervention of Morrison. Whether the US or China is deceiving us all may or may not become apparent. Both have quite a lot of prestige riding on the inquiry, and Trump needs someone to blame if he is win the November election.

The more the United States struggles with the ravages of COVID-19, the more President Donald Trump and his Republican Party will blame China. The facts hardly matter, as their exploitation of the tragic case of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang shows: If Trump and the GOP think a conspiracy theory will win v…

 

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project-syndicate.org

The Fable of the Chinese Whistleblower | by Stephen S. Roach & Weijian Shan – Project Syndicate

The more the United States struggles with the ravages of COVID-19, the more President Donald Trump and his Republican Party will blame China. The facts hardly matter, as their exploitation of the tragic case of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang shows: If Trump and the GOP think a conspiracy theory will win v…

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COVID-19 Taiwan’s Successful Response 1/4/20

Taiwan’s Response to COVID-19- not perfect, but better than anyone else’s. An article in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) of 3/3/20 outlines the effective approach that Taiwan took to the COVID-19 crisis, which is why they have so few cases despite their close proximity to China. It is instructive to look at what […]

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