Monday, September 24, 2012

Zar Ni: The Traitor on Islamists’ Payroll? (Part 1)

Dr. Maung Zarni.

Zarni or Dr. Zarni as he prefers to be addressed used to be a prominent Burmese activist who’d done enormous damage to the struggling Burmese economy by forcing Pepsi out of Burma in 1997 and thus triggering the horrible exodus of most Western investment from Burma the following years.

Details are in following excerpts from my earlier post “Aung Moe and Amy: Sanctions’ Collateral Damage” the truly sad story of a Karen-Burmese boy and a pretty Anglo-Burmese girl whose young lives were tragically cut short  by the US-led West’s economic and financial sanctions against Burma.

Burma Boycott & Shocking Pressure on Pepsi-Cola

It would be hard to explain the beginning of the economic sanctions against Burma without mentioning the particularly shocking case of Pepsi-Cola’s withdrawal from Burma in 1997. This edited extracts from Burma Boycott Quarterly; Summer 1997 by Reid Cooper is self explanatory about the enormous pressure being applied on the Pepsi back then to abandon its much profitable operation in Burma.

 “On November 22, 1991, a Pepsi bottling plant in Rangoon formally opened. The plant was joint venture between Pepsi Co. and Thein Htun’s Pepsi-Cola Products Myanmar. Thein Htun had built his business carrier on being a representative for foreign firms in Burma, developing a reputation as a SLORC (military junta) businessman.  

In the West, however, Burma activists were concentrating their efforts on oil companies like Texaco, Amoco, and Petro-Canada. Their attention elsewhere, these activists outside Asia left the PepsiCo issue on the backburner if they were aware at all. But Petrol-Canada pulled out of Burma in late 1992, Burma activists in Canada, working in consultation with handful of US based activists, turns their attention to PepsiCo.

Meanwhile, socially responsible investors at such organizations as Franklin Research Development were pressuring PepsiCo to leave Burma. Dialogue between shareholders and management started in 1992, with PepsiCo producing its first report on its Burma operation in 1993. Political pressure on companies like PepsiCo to leave Burma grew with Burma Boycott.

But the real explosion in PepsiCo/Burma Boycott came with the creation in 1995 of the Free Burma Coalition (FBC)founded by the University of Wisconsin based Zar Ni. Making more effective use of the Internet as an organizing tool, the FBC began to coordinate national and international actions to raise awareness of various Burma Boycotts.

In particular, FBC groups across USA and Canada began a concerted effort to stop PepsiCo from getting exclusive marketing deals on their campuses. One key victory for FBC was Harvard. On April 8, 1996, students there succeeded in blocking a $1 million contract when they raised ethical concerns about PepsiCo’s dealings in Burma.

(Of course there were no representation for the poor people of Burma and their hopes on the economic reforms while the exile industry led by the likes of Zar Ni had twisted the actual facts and dishonestly presented to the North American Universities.)

The students’ campaign generated headlines in such places as the Washington Post, which increased PepsiCo shareholders’ concerns. Shaken, the PepsiCo responded with a paper-shuffle by announcing on April 24, 1996, that it was selling its interest in its Burmese operations to its partner, turning them into a franchise.

Aung San Su Kyi, Burma’s opposition leader, responded by saying ‘As far as we are concerned, Pepsi has not divested from Burma.’

Nearly 100,000 Garment Workers lost their jobs.
In late 1996, the PepsiCo/Burma Boycott picked up momentum in the UK when Third World First, an organization with chapters at 40% of British universities, made the Pepsi Boycott a major campaign. Now PepsiCo would soon be facing in Europe a repeat of its disasters at North American campuses.

PepsiCo then made the decision to cut all ties to Burma by May 31, 1997. It is a significant achievement for Burma’s democracy movement. A major Western corporation has promised, after much resistance, to leave Burma.

The PepsiCo cited ‘the spirit of current US Government policy’ for its departure, rather than follow the example of Levi Strauss and Liz Claiborne and admit that it had erred in entering Burma in the first place.” 

Once Pepsi has left Burma for good in late 1997 the exit door for Direct Foreign Investors’ was wide opened and the textile industry in Rangoon was basically shut down within a year as all the South Korean and Taiwanese investors slowly went back home.

Licking Wrong General’s Balls, MIS Khin Nyunt’s
MIS General Khin Nyunt.
After making his notorious name by causing West’s business and investment exodus from Burma that goat-testicles (Seit-La-zeed) Dr. Zarni had  sort of about-turn in 2,004. After his March 2004 secret trip to Rangoon where he met MIS General Khin Nyunt and his gang of MIS thugs he suddenly declared that his policy now was “Strategic Engagement” with the Burma military Junta.
He then renounced his 14 years long political asylum in the United States and returned to Burma with a great hope that his handler Khin Nyunt would eventually become the top dog in Burma. Instead Khin Nyunt and the whole MIS gang were purged by Senior General Than Shwe in October 2004 and Zarni became the tree monkey without a branch to hang on.
Leaving Burma again he did another about-turn becoming a sanctions-proponent again. But almost all of his followers led by Aung Din and the funding donors had already abandoned him and formed rival Burma Campaign. Since then Zarni has been a bitter Burmese exile without followers and genuine funders like NED.