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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 20, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Burma’s political prisoner

Don’t miss the big picture

The Seattle Times editorial board correctly points out that a mentally ill American has provided Burma’s ruling thugs with an opportunity to extend the years of arrest of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi [“The Nobel Laureate and the fool,” Opinion, May 18]. The man, who mysteriously eluded the 250-man security detail that enforces Suu Kyi’s house arrest, has indeed made a mess of things, though the junta likely would have found another equally ridiculous excuse to hold “The Lady” if this situation had not conveniently arisen.

Much more insidious is the ongoing meddling in Burma by the U.S. oil giant Chevron. Chevron is a partner with Burma’s generals in a project to sell Burmese natural gas to Thailand. Last week the Financial Times quoted an International Monetary Fund study that found that, using simple accounting trickery, the generals book less than 1 percent of the nation’s natural gas revenues into the national budget. The money simply disappears into the private accounts of some of the world’s most notorious thugs.

As a result, vast amounts of Burmese gas is sold abroad, with the revenue divided between Chevron, Total of France, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand and a small clique of Burmese military men. The Burmese people see none of it, except when it is used to buy more weapons to repress them.

The very men who are putting Aung San Suu Kyi on trial, who have shot monks in the streets, used widespread rape as a weapon of war against ethnic minority women and girls, and jailed Burmese volunteers who aided cyclone victims when the junta refused to do so — these men are kept in power largely through their partnership with Chevron.

When we’re criticizing those who are to blame for the preposterous and shameful situation faced by Burma’s 50 million people, let’s not miss the big picture.

— Larry Dohrs, founder, Seattle Burma Roundtable

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