Senior general Than Shwe used his ‘peasant’s day’ statement, carried by all national newspapers, to warn farmers “to ward off potential dangers of those who will disrupt State stability and community peace with assistance of aliens in the background.”
‘Peasants day’ was placed on 2 March by the late former dictator, Ne Win. Ironically it is the day that he took power in a coup in 1962.
Than Shwe also used the address to claim huge strides in agricultural progress made in the country: “Now, the nation’s rice supply has far exceeded the demand of the growing population.”
In contrast the World Food Programme notes that: “Although Myanmar [Burma] is a food-surplus country with significant agricultural potential, unfavourable economic policies, vagaries of weather, impaired social cohesion and the marginalization of some sectors of the population adversely affect livelihood opportunities and adequate access to food requirements.
“Food insecurity is particularly pronounced in border areas, home to the majority of the country’s minorities, who face a variety of restrictions including impediments to trade and movement.”
Than Shwe made further reference to the coming election and applauded the peasantry for ‘voting’ for his controversial and much maligned constitution: “State Constitution of the Union of Myanmar, which has been approved with the massive support of the public. The role you the peasantry have played in the Myanmar politics is very important.”
The constitution meanwhile guarantees 25 percent of the seats to the military and gives immunity to the military from prosecution by a civilian court. The constitutional expert Yash Ghai went as far as to state that: “The cynicism with which the regime held the referendum and manipulated the results was on a par with the cynicism and coercion by which the draft was prepared”.
Perhaps in an oblique reference to the current privatisations, the senior general also noted that: “Many new plans are now ongoing for the State-owned and private owned industries to boosting production of farming machinery and tools. Therefore, I would like to urge you the peasantry to work harder than ever for your better socio-economic life.”