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Will Ayeyarwady Flow Forever?

By Saneitha Nagani As the campaign for Save the Irrawaddy was reported to have gained momentum I was reminded of Professor U Khin Maung Kyis article on Burma in the journal of the Southeast Asia Affairs 1994. In his article he mentioned in particular that: We have to bear in mind that things are not what they seem in Myanmar. The most elaborate social edifice ever introduced in Myanmar under the socialist regime fell through when the peoples long-term interests were not served. Myanmar is prone to alternating between cycles of docile acquiescence and social eruptions. Myanmars polity is unlike that of the Thais or the Indonesians in the 1960s. The same formula may not work. It should be realized that when the peripheral regions are gone and forests denuded ruthlessly, the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) may literally dry up, with what remain of Myanmar degenerating to a sub-Sahara stasis. It has been the overwhelming desire of Myanmar citizens for decency, dignity, and self-expression in the matter of national policy. We hope that the scenario painted earlier about Myanmars road to disaster is never actualized. There is an urgent need for a national leader who is able to comprehend all these implications and has taken Myanmars interest to heart: one who commands overwhelming respect and admiration of the whole military as well as the society at large. Only such a leader can bring all parties together to establish a common national destiny and an inspiring mission acceptable to all. Will Myanmar ever reclaim its rightful place in the community of nations, burying all narrow sectional interests? Most emphatically, will the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) flow forever? How appropriate for the professor to ask that question since as things are at the moment in Burma his fear for Burma going down the road to disaster may take only a few more years. One of the prophecies that sprang to my mind is that, The Shans are busted under the pressure of the Chinese; the only Burmese left will be in the West(tayoke-ka-phi Shan-ka-ei; shi-thi Myanmar ah-naukhmar). The longer the reign of the military regime, the more the plundering and pillaging of our country natural resources by the local Chinese drug lords and Yunnanese Chinese from China with the acquiescence of the military government there will not be much left for us to call Burma a sovereign nation. As the saying goes, We can choose our friends but we cannot choose our neighbours thereby Burma being a neighbouring country with country like China has been shortchanged throughout the sixty years and more. Whether Burma was under the Parliamentary government of U Nu or under the successive military government of Bogyoke Ne Win or Bogyoke Than Shwe, China took all the advantages in the demarcation of the boundary between the two countries, cross-border trade to name just a few. China have been taking advantage over Burma in its Paukphaw relationship even when the country was poor and its people had to live on porridge, why on earth they would be more sympathetic towards us when they are rich enough to have banquet everyday? Professor Dr Than Tun was right when he said that without the knowledge of history we would be ignorant and groping in the dark. When it comes to bilateral relations between Burma and China it

was neither fair nor balanced. One does not have to look too far. Just look at the Talking Points prepared for the then Prime Minister Thein Sein by the Foreign Office in March 2008 for his meeting with his Chinese counterpart at Vientiane. One of the points raised among others was, Many hydropower projects are being implemented in cooperation with our neighbours like China and India. There are many more potentials for tapping hydro-power in our country, 2000MW in Chindwin River and 13000 MW along the Ayeyarwady River. We would there fore like to invite China to look for more opportunities to cooperate in new hydro-power projects in our country. The only thing the Foreign Office did not provided the then Prime Minister Thein Sein was a tube of KY Jelly. Now that not only that Senior General Than Shwe was reported to have bought real estate in China but also appointed his son-in-law as Myanmars ambassador to China if there is a situation like what Colonel Muammar al Gaddafi and his family are facing in Libya right now they could easily grab the rest of the loot they have stolen from the country and just moved next door. Why should they care whether River Irrawaddy becomes a silted river or the delta the sub-Sahara stasis? As long as the military is blinded with fear to obey his orders and keep on protecting a handful of thieves then the lifeline on which millions and millions of people in our country relied on for their livelihood will meet a tragic end soon like those rivers in China itself. The hurt and pain that I have to bear when reading about dams being built in the river Ayeyarwady it reminded me of how the Chinaman who own the noodle shop felt when he was robbed. It goes like this; one day the robbers raided a Chinese noodle shop, first they tied the shop owner, then they emptied the till, then they ate the noodles and lastly they raped the shop owners wife. After the ordeal the Chinaman was crying so much that no one was able to console his woes. He said the reason why it hurt him so much was not because he was robbed and all his hard earned savings gone, his noodles consumed and his wife raped under his eyes but because of the ecstasy that he saw in his wifes eyes. Like the noodle shop owner our hurt and pain was not because our country has been pillaged and plundered by local Chinese drug lords and Yunnanese Chinese but the military that is suppose to protect the country from such destruction was standing by doing nothing while a handful of their leaders with the collusion of the Chinese are taking our country down the road where the River Ayeyarwady will never ever again. END