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ASEAN ANALYSIS  18  August 2010

The junta isn’t worried

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   18 August 2010

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Things seem rosy for the ruling military junta in Myanmar.

Until this point in time, next door neighbor, Thailand, had been the top investor, primarily in the energy sector in offshore oil ventures. However, Chinese investment is due to invest US$8 billion in the energy and mineral sectors of the economy and become Myanmar’s top investor.

Although the United States has closed off the junta to banking and investment sectors outside the country with sanctions, it can be assumed that the foreign investment flowing in contains substantial amounts for the generals and their deep pockets.

The upcoming election is unlikely to change matters drastically.

The junta is inching slowly to adopt a façade of a democratic country through the artificiality of an election and is making some token economic moves.

This summer it allowed some private export licenses to be issued and also permitted a private rice industry association to be formed. Myanmar rice production trails other Asean member countries such as Thailand and Vietnam and could alleviate the global rice shortage.

However, a similar government move in 2003 was withdrawn shortly after being announced. A major difficulty in increasing rice yield is the lack of sufficient credit for farmers to buy seed and equipment.

Although the junta can in no way be considered transparent in its entire governing process, the sham election it will hold November 7 is entirely transparent to one and all. Asian newspapers, such as the Bangkok Post, have editorialized scathing criticism of the process.

One-fourth of the seats in the new parliament are reserved for the military and that alone discredits any notion that Myanmar is willing to let freedom ring throughout the land.

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