More Burma Disagreement

Tony Wall’s Voice taking issue with your story on Burma asserts his own subjective opinions over fact. He seems to think that economic investment will drive improvement for all people in Burma/Myanmar. While that is a nice dream, it is also the sort of simplification that Mr. Wall says he deplores. Usually those who are being marginalized are left behind, and given the long history of persecution that the Rohingya have faced, it is almost guaranteed that they will be left behind in the ghettos and camps they have been forced into by state restrictions, mob attacks, massive land thefts, and anti-Muslim hysteria and bigotry.

If we should want further evidence, we should take note of the National Census that has just started in Burma. This census excludes the Rohingya, further clarifying their status as nonpersons. They have already been living as a “stateless” population for over 30 years.

Will investors dare to hire Rohingya, assuming some have had access to education? When Doctors without Borders hired some Rohingya, and provided health care to this severely underserved community, they were expelled from the Rakhine State where most Rohingya live. It is unlikely that businesses will use their leverage to put an end to this Jim Crow situation.

It was unfortunate that Mr. Wall quotes from Robert Kaplan’s book; the effect is simply to muddy the waters. The local Muslim population is no more prone to crime than other groups in Burma, certainly less so than the army itself. The Kaplan quote concerned Rohingya refugees, forced out of Burma and struggling to survive.

However, if readers own stock, they can insist that certain human rights standards are upheld if the company — like Pepsi Co. — has begun to produce in emerging nations like Burma/Myanmar. And as a citizen we can demand that our member of Congress cosponsor Resolution 418 addressing these issues. Though further sanctions may or may not be appropriate, economic development should be conditional on human rights protections and a “rule of law” that protects all people.

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