The Lust for Personal Power without Popular Support Is Not a Winning Strategy Forever

Amersfoort, Netherlands     In these days, perhaps in all days, when autocracy, as a strategy and set of tactics, seems so attractive to so many politicians and wannabe royals in their lust for power under any terms, there’s some small comfort in seeing such techniques come to wreck and ruin, even if the damage in the meantime is inestimable.

Poor Carrie Lam, the mayor of Hong Kong, is a fair example.  After almost thirteen weeks of escalating protests by pro-democracy adherents both in the streets and behind doors against her Beijing-concocted policy to extradite people to mainland China and its questionable judicial system, she was once again forced to withdraw the extradition proposal.  Of course, having refused to negotiate for weeks while protests went unabated, she has no credibility now, since even conceding seems unilateral, rather than part of a corrective process.  Protests are likely to continue.  Here is the irony.  Reportedly, Lam has been trying to resign in the face of her own impotence before the protests, but has said to associates that Beijing will not allow it.  They have not reported that Beijing told her, you make your bed, you sleep in it, but it’s possible.

Then there’s the tragic case of Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar or Burma, as some still know it, who has gone from the Noble prize-winning ranks to Mandela, King and others to become the stone faced and silent apologist for genocide among the Rohingya people of her country who practice Islam, rather than Buddhism.  Once jailed and quarantined by the country’s military rulers, she has now become their face, rather than their critic, in the midst of unspeakable horrors and the displacement of almost a half-million people.  Is this the price of power?

Globally, British television is more known for its dark crime procedurals than the humor of its comedic farces, which seem tailored more to a local taste, but now we all can witness in real time that the British origin of “House of Cards” is also more likely farcical, than fictional, as we watch the ruthlessness of Boris Johnson’s handling of Brexit, once seen as clown, now made the fool.  First, in pure Kevin Spacey fashion, he undermines Theresa May, not that any would really care, but he does so, as she did, heedless to the peril of Great Britain.  Then once he has the Prime Minister’s position, he suspends Parliament creating a constitutional crisis so he can try to ram through Brexit, the withdrawal from the European Union, without debate by running out the clock.  The opposition and some renegades from his own party, vote him down easily, since in his antics he seems to have forgotten that he had only had a one-seat majority.  He then ruthlessly throws twenty-eight nay voters out of his party to try and force an election.  But, like Mayor Lam, having no credibility, there’s no agreement to a snap election without forcing a vote to extend the Brexit deadline.

I flipped channels before collapsing in the Netherlands and got to watch one commentator after another excoriate Johnson in English, French, German, Spanish, and Dutch.  The message was unmistakable in all languages.

How is bypassing the people in your lust for power working out for any politicians today?  Maybe possible in the short run, but perhaps not for long, giving all of us hope still.

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Is FDI and Foreign Tourism Already Passing Myanmar?

jlyangon21eYangon  The Organizers’ Forum delegation started making its way, bleary eyed but bushy tailed across the world from the US and Canada via Taipei, Doha, Tokyo, and Hong Kong to visit with people and groups getting a sense of the transition of Myanmar (Burma) from a closed country towards more open elections and an opening of its borders.   Some are still on the way from various points and ports and one has run afoul of immigration because of visa problems, but comparing notes this evening with random sources and tidbits of information, made us wonder if Myanmar’s economic transition is caught in a bit of a lull.

            The cab driver told us on the way that tourism had slacked off after the first rush of guests.   Part of the problem is that Westerns and way too many Easterners have become too accustomed to first world pampering, but many according to the cabbie and some others are not impressed with the hospitality offerings.   Our hotel, the Eastern, has very good wi-fi and is clean with hot water and working air conditioning so we’re happy as clams, but I’ll grant you that the standards of a bunch of organizers are more on the side of casual than businessmen might embrace.   Despite our one problem, it was also easier and more accommodating to get our visas here than a half dozen countries I might name including Vietnam and Russia.

            The talk around the bar at the 50 Pub, popular with expats, included a lot of stories of business frustrations.   A Norwegian office building is so caught in red tape that it sits locked and empty.   Others say they are giving up after 9 to 18 month periods trying to navigate the bureaucracy and finally deciding just to move somewhere else in the world since there is a long line of other countries begging.  Vietnamese cellphone concessionaires can’t build towers because the national government tells them to work it out with the local villages, and the villages want to access free power generation.   FDI is looking for corporatism and they are not finding the red carpet, just an open door.

            Speaking of power generation, it is interesting every block almost in this area of central Yangon to see large wired off generators standing at the ready for the next power shutdown.  So far this sight is more ubiquitous than pagodas.

            Mike Orders from BCGEU in Vancouver and I had both read the same story somewhere in the last week about office rents being higher in Yangon now than in Manhattan, which also speaks to the cost of being path breakers in a newly opened country.

            It will be interesting to sort out fact from fiction and see if this is just a blip on the screen of new development or something more systemic and fundamental in this beautiful newly emerged country and economy.

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