An eerie calm has settled over Myanmar (Burma), the recent scene of massive demonstrations against its military junta, led by saffron-robed Buddhists who were squashed brutally by the army and armed goons. It is the calm before more storms ahead because Myanmar is a bone of contention in the intensifying inter-imperialist rivalry.
Two things have put it in the imperialists’ cross-hairs: its rich natural resources — abundant timber, minerals, hydropower, oil and gas — and its strategic location. Energy security and total control of the sea lanes across which this energy is transported is an imperative for the major imperialist powers bent on world domination.
As this struggle heats up, the capitalist/imperialists are mercilessly attacking the international working class. Myanmar is a vivid example: 90% of its 50 million members of working-class families earn under $300 a year, spending 70-80% of that on food alone. A 500% increase in oil prices triggered the latest unrest, hiking inflation 35%. Nothing short of communist revolution can eliminate this crushing poverty and capitalism’s oppressive rule.
U.S. rulers’ main strategy is control of Myanmar, to militarize the Strait of Malacca, thereby controlling the sea lanes from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea, over which 15 million barrels of oil travel daily. Through this narrow passage, between Malaysia and Indonesia, must pass 80% of China’s imported oil. With possible war with China looming on the horizon, U.S. rulers must militarize the strait in order to control China’s energy supplies.
Therefore, since 1989 their main political agenda in Myanmar has been “non-violent” regime change. Working through its humanitarian-sounding fronts, the U.S. State Department has been recruiting and training Myanmar’s opposition leaders. Its latest attempt, the “Saffron Revolution,” has failed thus far. According to Asian Times on-line (“The geopolitical stakes of ‘Saffron Revolution’,” 10/24/07), this effort was being directed from the U.S. Consulate General in bordering Thailand.
Russian and Chinese imperialists are fighting the U.S. over Myanmar, working together to maintain the current rulers, although for different reasons. Russia wants to control the gas and oil resources to further its goal of becoming the European Union’s (EU) main provider and distributor of energy, expanding its political and economic interest into the East. U.S. rulers are trying desperately to break Russia’s energy chokehold on the EU, to get the Europeans on board for present and future wars.
ARMS FOR OIL
In 2001, Russia sold Myanmar — reeling under U.S. sanctions — 15 Mig-29 Fulcrum aircraft. It has recently agreed to build Myanmar a nuclear research center and install an advanced air defense system. In exchange, Russia gets to bid on future oil and gas exploration and production concessions. Presently, Russian and Chinese oil companies are producing Myanmar’s off-shore oil deposits. Nevertheless, Russian military bases here will be aimed at countering both U.S. influence and eventually China’s growing power.
Aware of U.S. strategy, China is actively seeking to build oil and gas pipelines in Myanmar, one to transport gas from Myanmar and the other to carry Middle Eastern and African oil across Myanmar into China, by-passing the Straits of Malacca. China is also building other ports and bases in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan to project its naval power far into the strategic Indian Ocean.
China is using its clout as the junta’s biggest commercial partner and main arms provider to access Myanmar’s resources. Myanmar has signed on to supply China 6.5 trillion cubic feet of gas over the next 30 years. Big hydropower projects are also planned.
With other capitalists/imperialists — Australia, France, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, U. S. and Thailand — having their hands on Myanmar’s energy resources, the situation is bound to explode. Regional wars will give way to global war.
This scourge can only be eradicated by eliminating the profit system with communist revolution. Myanmar workers once opted for communism. The Communist Party of Burma, until it self-destructed in 1989, had tens of thousands under arms and millions of followers. Several times it nearly captured power. Its internal weaknesses, the same ones afflicting the old communist movement, caused its demise. But the working class of Myanmar and the world will opt for communist revolution again, this time for good.