And KNU foreign minister David Taw believes China will not block efforts to make Burma a United Nations Security Council issue.

“China will not be prepared to lose face over a country as small as Burma, they have enough problems of their own” he said.

Mr Taw said as a trickle of assistance finds its way past the country’s ruling generals, the name of aid organisations on relief packages were being removed and replaced with generals’ individual names.

It is a cynical bid to gain favour among a people traumatised

On May 24 new polling stations will open in cyclone-affected regions and Mr Taw said there would be protests.

“Reconciliation is now impossible,” he said.

“People are turning to faith-based organisations rather than the State Peace and Development Council,” for some sense of sanity in a country ruined by mismanagement.

When Burma was part of the British empire it was the world’s largest exporter of rice, now it can’t feed itself.

This is not the Burmese people’s fault.

Neighbouring Thailand is a rapidly-developing nation and as it jostles for greater access to Burma’s formidable natural gas reserves the Burmese people must be left wondering just what happened?

How could things have gone so wrong?

Sean Turnell, an associate professor of economics at Sydney’s Macquarie University is currently touring the United States to inform lawmakers and academics of the sorry state of Burma’s economy.

Mr Turnell explained to the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee in 2006 that any foreign aid entering the country was being ruthlessly exploited by the ruling junta.

Aid organisations must deal with the realities of Burma’s fixed exchange rate of seven kyat to the US dollar if they are to get along with the generals.

But the going rate on the black market is 1,300 kyat to the greenback.

And so the generals generate huge profits for themselves whenever they get their hands on aid money simply by exchanging it on the black market.

For the KNU’s Mr Taw, whose organisation represents more than seven million people, this exploitation of aid organisations is just another example of the junta’s blatant disregard for its people.

But he believes the time has become ripe for change.

It is no secret that along the Thai-Burma border there are more than 150,000 people in seven refugee camps.

There are also refugees in every other country surrounding Burma.

With the US government fully informed of Burma’s economic disaster and China probably not inclined to stand in the way at a UN level, it is now simply a question of the international community finding the will to eliminate a brutal military regime that has been exploiting Burma’s natural resources since 1962.



Dan Pedersen Mae Rim, Thailand

International military intervention is critical to solve Burma’s humanitarian crisis, a senior Karen National Union (KNU) figure said yesterday.