(The Darkness Visible series)
($200 Million For Genocidal Regime)
"American firms are heading in. GE, Coke, Pepsi, Visa, MasterCard and many more are eager to get in on a key piece of Asian real estate." ~ Reported on Marketplace.org
In the spring of 1940 the German SS began to establish the most notorious death camp ever constructed in Nazi Occupied Europe. Oswiecim (or Auschwitz), Poland would serve as the site for one of the most deadly camps the SS built. But it didn't begin as a death camp. Auschwitz was in fact a camp first designed for Polish dissidents who the Nazi's found dangerous. It was Rudolf Höss who adopted the motto (borrowed from Dachau) "Work Makes You Free" (Arbeit Macht Frei). Thus establishing the camp's fatal theme.
From the start Auschwitz had another purpose. As the Nazi's killed off prisoners in the camp the companies operating in Nazi Europe utilized the slave labor to pump out the cheapest materials and products of the war. The only cost for production was tallied up in the blood of Poles, Jews, Roma, Communists, and other undesirables. Yet when the war was over, only the Nazi leaders would fit the bill for the abuses at camps like Auschwitz.
While companies like Siemens and Bayer grew out of Nazi war crimes the world ignored the perversion of capitalism. Instead of admitting that Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company, and Chase Bank were all profiting off of genocide, the world looked the other way. For over 70 years we have widely ignored the role these companies played in supporting Nazism and Hitler's genocide.
Today we watch as several of these same companies start to push their way into Myanmar now that the country has "opened up" to the West. Just this week Coca-Cola has promised $200 million dollars in investment into Burma as it opens operations in a country it hasn't operated in for 60 plus years. It is a $200 million dollar investment that we are supposed to ignore. As we are also supposed to overlook the continued ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in the Rakhine State of Burma.
The main difference in the modern day genocide and that of the Nazi's genocide is that Coca-Cola doesn't appear to be willing to use slave labor this time around. However the parallel that remains is that of a company that is once again willing to pump money into a government that supports genocide within its borders. It also remains obvious to those paying attention that Coca-Cola will be manufacturing a product and selling it to a regime that is carrying out genocide. So just as the Nazi's had Fanta to drink after closing the gas chamber doors, the Burmese will have a cold coke to drink after the last Rohingya dies of thirst.
There may not be factories being built right on the other side of the barbed wire that keeps Rohingya families trapped in "unofficial IDP camps". There might not be Coca-Cola suits and ties patrolling the Rohingya camps looking for able bodied workers to exploit. But there will be Coca-Cola dollars funding the soldiers and police that build rape camps right outside of Rohingya villages. There will be Coca-Cola dollars backing Nasaka officers who wander the Rohingya camps looking for Rohingya victims to exploit and/or kill.
If Coca-Cola were ethical in its investment it would realize that whatever money it hands over the regime in Myanmar will help fund massacres. Innocent women who are gunned down by Burmese police will be killed with the cash that Coca-Cola brings to the table. Rohingya mass graves that will one day be unearthed will have been hidden with funds produced by the soda company. And even if the crimes would happen whether Coca-Cola invested it's $200 million or not, the fact that they have only contributes to the possibility that these crimes will happen again and again.
As consumers we must ask ourselves if our next coke is worth our complicity to the savage murdering of innocent Rohingya men, women, and children. We must take a moment before purchasing that next Sprite or Coca-Cola and question just how dedicated we are to ending this horrific atrocity. And in that moment we must decide if we will stand behind a company that is willing to make money off innocent blood or go without.
It all comes down to us now.
As citizens and free thinking individuals we must realize that we cannot control the actions of a faceless corporation like Coca-Cola. But we do control our own actions. And therefore we are left with the simple decision: complicity or dissension. It is just that simple.
Other companies will invest in Myanmar as the West continues to loosen their restrictions upon Burma. Again and again we will be faced with this decision as more an more of our favorite companies rush off to the last frontier of cheap labor. There will constantly be excuses for our own actions. We can tell ourselves that our own purchases can't really make a difference. But in the end we will have to live with whichever we choose. If we support these companies then we will support the genocides in Burma. If we choose to withhold our small investments in these companies we will send a small message of our own and uphold our own personal ethic code.
The choice is yours and yours alone.
(Not All Sources Listed)
US Embassy To Myanmar
The New York Times