Former U.S. Official Encourages Human Rights Abuses to Continue
Despite opposition from the U.S. Campaign for Burma (USCB), Kurt Campbell, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, strongly influenced the Obama administration to lift sanctions on Burma in 2012 that were originally imposed more than two decades ago. The economic sanctions were enacted in September 1988 after the military regime committed human rights violations when they killed thousands during a series of peaceful protests.
While the Burmese Army, blamed for the systematic murder and displacement of innocent men, women, and children, continues to carry out crimes against humanity in the Kachin State, Kurt Campbell, in conjunction with his new consulting firm, the Asia Group, will lead the ACO Investment Group (ACO) in order to secure a contract to upgrade and modernize the Yangon International Airport in Burma. The ACO will work closely with Tin Naing Tun, a retired Brigadier General of the Myanmar Army and head of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA).
Instead of reinstating sanctions on Burma, Campbell would rather encourage U.S. investment with human rights abusers in order to profit. He states, “This is a thrilling opportunity to help advance the progress Burma has made over the past couple years by enhancing prospects for economic investments, and ensuring connectivity for Burma with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the world.”
U.S. Companies Support Campbell
Other consortium members of ACO include Boeing Professional Services, Burns & McDonnell Engineering, Fentress Architects, MITRE Corporation, and Union Consulting. Campbell plans on leading a trip to Burma early next month to pitch the ACO bid. According to the DCA, seven pre-qualified international firms are competing for the tendering of airport construction as well.
The Director General of DCA claims that the new airport, Hanthawaddy International Airport, is necessary because the Yangon International Airport cannot accommodate for the rising number of travelers to the country. Arrivals to Burma are expected to surge around 3 million in 2012—a 22% increase on last year that places it above its 2.7 million threshold. Potential plans state that the Hanthawaddy International airport, located in the central Bago region, will occupy a site nine times larger than its original and will have the capacity to hold 5.5 million passengers.
Revolving Door Politics Corrupt Burma
As one of the key architects of the Obama administration’s Asia “pivot,” Campbell doesn’t waste time transitioning from a legislator to a consultant. After finishing his tenure in public office in February 2013, he announced a few days later that his former deputy assistant secretary, Nirav Patel, would be the chief operating officer of his newly established advisory and investment network, the Asia Group. The Asia Group focuses on bringing U.S. markets into Asian markets and vice versa.
Revolving door politics refer to the movement of high-level employees from public to private sector jobs. Therefore, there is a “revolving door” between the two sectors as many legislators become consultants for the industries they once regulated. Consequently, conflicts of interest cloud the reasoning of such leaders to practice unbiased decision making. Because Burma has an extended and complicated history of human rights abuses implemented by a brutal military regime, any error of judgment could have irreversible effects on the already unstable country.