After the second coup in 1988, when they killed thousands of citizens, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) government decided to run an open door economic policy for the future of Burma. It was learnt that U Ne Win, the former Socialist President himself, attended that fateful meeting and recommended the new capitalistic economic policy for Burma.

A young colonel pointed out, "It's similar to the policy of U Nu’s government. We are afraid that the wealth of our nation will go to foreigners, Chinese and Indians. They are the only people who have capital for business. No Burmese have much money"

"My suggestion is that you, the army officers, run the business yourselves. We must not give the business opportunities to civilians anymore. Not only Indians and Chinese, do not allow the Burmese civilians too." U Ne Win explained.

"But we do not have money, especially foreign currency. Since our independence, we Burmese have not been permitted to own foreign money. How can we buy shares with foreign money?" Another colonel asked.

"You just find Burmese Kyats and buy the shares, and the Defense Service can provide foreign currency from the Government account. And in due time you will have dollars in your pockets." Suggested U Ne Win.

In accordance with the proposition, Holding Limited was formed with Burmese Kyats owned by the military officers and this was followed by the transfer of foreign currencies from the Government treasury. In this way, when foreign investment poured into Burma, the colonels, who were instantly promoted generals, and who had never owned a cent of foreign currencies before, became big shareholders and directors of the many companies run by Holding Limited.

A bank was created with a policy announcement saying, "We shall not ask the sources of your income if you deposit in our bank." This produced many rich customers who could buy more shares of Holding Limited. Eventually, Holding Limited, owned by the generals, controlled the entire economy of the nation. The growth of Holding Limited investment permitted under the foreign investment law is as follows:

Million Kyats
Million US$

Source: Statistical Yearbook 1997

Eventually, the Burmese Generals owned and ran Holding Limited businesses worth Kyat 3,531,949 million plus $586,332 million US dollars. Compared with the 1997-98 total expenditure of 1,036,386 million Kyats for the State budget, the volume of money owned by the generals is three times bigger. It's outrageous. The generals are rich, very rich. Very, very rich. Naturally, the thinking and actions of very rich people are different from ordinary people. The Burmese generals are filthy rich people, so they think and act differently.

The only track in their thinking is ways and means to keep their business prospering and to preserve the security of their wealth. While busy checking their secret foreign bank accounts, they used to feel a pang in their heads. If the rule of democracy emerges in Burma, anything could happen to their wealth, they feared, and because of that fear, they are resolutely trying to oppose democracy forces in every way.

The Burmese generals have no political theory of their own. They never believed in democracy or any other system, and they would never voluntarily change to a democratic rule. They are only trying to grow their wealth and keep it secure. For that sole reason, the one and only motive, the Burmese generals will never talk to the democratic forces, no matter who leads the crusade.

They are always busy counting their dollars and when they catch someone stealing from the business they kick them out. In 1997 out of the nineteen original members of the Council, fourteen generals had to be purged because of corruption (and one is dead). The fate of all the purged generals is kept secret. The public is not permitted to know whether they are in jail or enjoying fun on an island somewhere.

Again last month the number four ranking General, Secretary no. 3 of the SPDC, and six generals were purged. The sacked 14 plus 7 generals were CEOs of the companies of the conglomerate. Are they still shareholders? No one knows. Who are the owners now? It is kept secret. It is a mess that no one can clear up.

That is also one of the reasons the generals of the present Burmese Government can not afford to talk to the democracy leaders. There is no way they can step down, or think of power sharing. Thus Burma's difficulty will continue forever.

U Thaung