[Marxism] China's growing economic power--follow-up
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Aug 28 07:19:52 MDT 2004
>Closer to the border, the trade is in smuggled teak, a wood prized for its
>beauty and durability by China's surging furniture manufacturers. The teak
>trade is as illustrative as any of the symbiotic relationship between the
>Chinese and Burmese authorities.
>"China needs Burma's natural resources to fuel development on the border
>and in Yunnan Province as a whole," Simon Phillips, the author of a report
>on the trade published last year for Global Witness, a British
>nongovernmental organization, said in an interview.
>After China banned logging on its side of the border in 1998, Chinese
>companies moved their workers - tens of thousands of them - into Myanmar,
>he said. With the backing of political patrons in the Myanmar military, and
>in separatist militias, the loggers carried on their work with impunity.
Draft Authors: Kevin T. Kunkel and Teri Emmons
I. CASE BACKGROUND
1. The Issue
This case analysis examines the growing timber (specifically the hardwood
teak) trade along the Thai-Burmese border from 1988 to present. Dramatic
events in these two respective countries in late 1987 and 1988 led to a
monumental shift in the scope and amount of trade among these two partners
and their trade relations abroad. The trade has brought about untold
suffering to the peoples of the region both through state sanctioned human
rights abuses and the loss of a once vital and abundant ecosystem that
provided for tribal agricultural practices. Many unilateral policies have
been pursued by the Thai government but the recalcitrant authoritarian
SLORC (Burma's ruling party) has profited from the trade and utilized the
proceeds for its long standing dispute with Thailand over border
territories. More recently, ASEAN has taken interest but so far to no avail.
The changes in Teak trade have led to substantial deforestation with
accompanying soil erosion and flooding that has not only, possibly
irreparably, damaged the land but resulted in the death of hundreds of
citizens. The trade has had additional repercussions ranging from
government sponsored military interventions to the birth of a fledgling,
though rapidly growing, green movement. Tertiary repercussions range from
the routine human rights violations of tribal hill populations, to animal
rights abuses in the use of elephants to haul timber.
The history of deforestation is long but in nearing the end of the
twentieth century the problem has become a virtual epidemic. Burma is one
of the most recent culprits of deforestation. In the brief eight years of
increased teak export in the southern region of Burma (Myanmar), bordering
Thailand, the sheer destructiveness of the trade has gone largely without
bounds or restrictions. In 1992, Burma was listed the third in rainforest
Due to the closed nature of the regimes in Burma and Thailand clear
assessment of the extent of the damage has been difficult. The Association
of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) has made numerous attempts to evaluate
the scale and depth of the problem. This culminated in the ASEAN Plan of
Action for the Environment.
The established international community through Greenpeace and the World
Wildlife Fund (WWF) have also sought to monitor the issue. The UN has
attempted to address the problem, with varying degrees of success.
With the student led revolt against the authoritarian and autarkic regime
of the Burmese People's Republic in August 1988, there was a tentative
opening and a brief facade of the pursuit of democracy in Burma, despite
the reigning despotic military junta. In 1990, elections in Burma favored
the National League of Democracy by 80%, but were declared null and void by
the militarily coordinated State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).(2)
Within two years, Thailand also became briefly engulfed in a student
inspired bloodless coup. Prior to the coup, the "puppet democracy" in
Thailand for decades had been controlled by the military generals. After
the coup, democratic institutions and principles became more entrenched and
sovereign. This freed the popularly elected civilian administration from
military intervention. Concurrently, a fledgling green movement began to
take root when it became publicly apparent that nearly two-thirds of
Thailand's teak forests had been cleared, and that the state could no
longer rely on timber as a means toward their successful economic
development (3). In the past, the unaccountable generals' have personally
profited from kickbacks associated with the teak trade.
By the end of 1988 a pattern of trade was beginning to take root between
these Thailand and Burma. This was compounded when, in January 1989,
Thailand banned the harvesting timber in the country following the worst
flooding there in nearly a century.
The environmental disruption caused by deforestation (evident by the
flooding) and Thailand's move to democracy through industrializing its
economy, resulted in the reduction of its domestically unpopular and
environmentally destructive raw material exports. Burma, on the other hand,
one of the poorest nations and desperate for economic capital, was ready to
depart from nearly forty years of a closed economy. The easiest way to
accomplish this: filling vacuum left by Thailand's decreased timber
exports; the source: Burma's mature and relatively unspoiled teak forests.
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