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Burma's exiled ethnic nationalities seminar held in North America

Commentary 
 
Burma and US, the Discordant Partners: 
 
(By Kanbawza Win)
 
Globalization will be hilarious to witness the two discordant partners, Burma and US in bed, as each is very uncomfortable with the other. This is exactly what is happening as far as ASEM is concerned. With globalization people did not think in terms of geographical proximity as OAS (Organization of American States) or East Asia Co prosperity Sphere but in terms of wealth and influence and the classic example is APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) where the two economic giants US from an American continent combined with Japan from an Asian continent, together with the like minded countries, to be a formidable economic entity to dominate the world. This explicitly leave out Europe and most of the Asian countries including ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) so to counter it the left out countries formed the Asia Europe Meeting better known as ASEM. Obviously, ASEM if grown could be a threat to the American led APEC and obviously the US will try to discourage it. Burma , which has become insignificant porn in this international chess game, is forced to participate for its survival participated and found it on the same side as Uncle Sam. Well, like it or not the two are partners at least in this game called ASEM.
 
When we were young the teachers often said Myan Mar Ko Kaba Thi Say Ya Mae meaning the world must know about Burma and now the world has known Burma as a pugnacious, pariah country committing gross human rights couple with a big lie. The Generals adopts devious measures to remain in power. The latest ploy they adopted was the roadmap for peace, and the National Convention for a new constitution. These measures put forward by the generals are a big flop as the people of Burma continued to suffer under the jackboots of the Burmese Army dictatorship. Unfortunately, in the year of 2006 Burma will hold the chairmanship of (ASEAN), how is that possible, which Mats Henriksson describe it as tantamount to Adolf Hitler becoming chairman of the European Union. Will the UN, EU and the rest of the world community would take actions against the ongoing atrocities in Burma ? Compared Burma to the Balkan states of Bosnia , Serbia , Croatia and Kosovo, which are all in the backyard of Europe , immediate action was taken. But Burma is a far away country, out of sight out of mind and so far nothing has happened and no action has even been contemplated against any Burma ’s top generals.
 
In the meantime the Junta has perfected its evil form of diplomatic chess with both the regional and international communities. At the regional level, Burma was able to take advantage of ASEAN’s deep-rooted fear of China and became a member. It deliberately played up the extent of China ’s expansive military and commercial influences in the mid 1990s. As a result, ASEAN come up with its infamous Constructive Engagement policy by unconditionally taking in Burma as a new member. Of course ASEAN never give a thought to the views of pro-democracy forces that saw the writings on the wall. Since then, Rangoon has refused to cooperate in the way that it should. In fact, the Junta has on occasion lied to its supposed friends and the ASEAN countries pretend not to notice. But admittedly ASEAN had failed to convince the world, that it is capable of pressuring its pariah colleague into being a bit less oppressive. Now their hands are being tied have no choice but to support Burma in both regional and internal forums for solidarity sake. Besides ASEAN is not a rule-based organization like the European Union, it is just an economic entity.
 
The cunning and crafty Generals continue to outfox ASEAN leaders. With the Thai and Burmese leaders working together, the first Bangkok Process was born last year. Its aim was to increase the legitimacy of the Rangoon regime, via Bangkok . However, the process, which attracted an assortment of Western countries and ASEAN members, did not produce the kind of support Burma was looking for. So a second Bangkok Process was called for, and subsequently cancelled to make way for the ongoing national convention in Burma . Rangoon is hoping that with a new constitution, which it expects to complete next year, the West will yield and recognize this pariah state. Perhaps, some of them will continue to reject Burma , but some may soften their stances. It is this kind of divide-and-rule tactic that has saved the Junta on numerous other occasions. Now the regime is seeking an end to the sanctions that have been imposed upon it through the assistance of lobbyists in centres of power both in Europe and the United States .
 
It is no secret that the Junta is eager to use any kind of international aid to its advantage. In other words, the military regime would gain some amount of legitimacy through these humanitarian aids, HIV or otherwise. The hypothesis here is: if the Junta could allot so much money to build up its army, why should the international donors pick up the tab on health care and educational sectors. We should be aware that Burma is like an under-siege house, infested with dead, wounded and sick people. The perpetrators are in the vicinity with smoky guns and bloodstained knives in their hands; with their pennies erect to rape the ethnic women are still threatening their victims. The logical thinking is that such a situation, it would be more sensible and appropriate to remove the perpetrators first and attend to the sick and wounded later. First the pus must be removed with a surgical knife before we apply a medical therapy. While the desire to help the downtrodden and sick people is a noble task, the inability to disarm or contain the murderers from harming the already devastated victims is clearly frustrating. Insisting to cure and look after the victims without removing the perpetrators could be like putting the cart in front of the horse.
 
So the question is what has America done for the Burmese people? We are thankful for the trickle down help via the NGOs and some humanitarian aid but America knows that freedom from hunger and freedom from repression go hand in hand even though some people only care about one. The fundamental problem in Burma is political -- a government that denies its people the right to shape their destiny, the right to interact with the world, the right to live in a society where public authorities are concerned with their basic needs.  We want America to do more. No Burmese in the right sense would wish the America G Is landing in Burma and liberate the country as in Iraq or Afghanistan against the UN consensus but still it can do a lot other than half hearted sanctions (allowing the American Oil Companies to work in Burma). A surgical knife is to organize the ethnic groups both ceasefire and un-ceasefire groups combined together with the pro democratic forces, give them the much needed resources and let them take on the marauding Burmese army. Let the Burmese fight the Burmese and let the world see to which side the people of Burma supported. Compelled America 's staunch allies like Thailand (money can easily move the current administration or threatened with sanctions) to be tough on their traditional enemy for every source of peaceful negotiations has been exhausted. The moral authority of the only super power will be judge whether their rhetoric match their needs. But to be frank we did not expect this to happen soon not before the US elections where a new administration may have a new look.
 
The U.S. must develop a proactive policy to deal comprehensively with the humanitarian needs of internally displaced persons in Burma and refugees in Thailand numbering some two million. Instead of giving asylum in US, they should be given enough training and resources to go back to their homeland and if possible to fight the Junta troops. In this aspect given asylum is tantamount to sapping the blood of Burmese resistance.  The U.S. needs to expand efforts to de-legitimize the Burmese Junta internationally and must work with allies to apply economic and political pressure on the junta. The U.S. should support stronger action at the United Nations as expelling them from the UN or taking the problem to the Security Council. It should toughened multilateral sanctions, in concert with the ILO and call for governments to critically review their relationships with Rangoon .
 
One of the first steps the US should take is to increase resources for cross-border humanitarian assistance (food and medicine) to the internally displaced population while marshalling greater international attention to the plight of the ethnic peoples of Burma . Washington should also proactively work with the Royal Thai government to broaden its definition of a refugee, allow Shan camps to be established, and ensure that no involuntary repatriations occur. US policy correctly urges a tripartite dialogue between equals—the Junta the NLD, and ethnic leaders. As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wrote that dialogue should be aimed at achieving a “negotiated settlement acceptable to major political forces in our country.” The problem is that this call, echoed by the international community, has been met by the Junta's shrill rhetoric, the jailing of NLD representatives, and further repression. The main issue for U.S. foreign policy is how to use political and economic leverage to accomplish a sustained dialogue leading to a just settlement. What we need is the political will. We are looking forward for the new administration lest the American forget that the 1988 epic struggle for democracy was stage in front of the American embassy in Rangoon which explicitly means that the people or Burma look on America as a big brother to save them from the clutches of the Burmese army.
 
With economic and military backing from China as well as diplomatic support from ASEAN, the General believes it can bide its time and selectively dismantle the NLD as even now they are obstructing the campaign for signature of the release of political prisoners. The U.S. must intensify political and economic pressure to deny resources to the regime. Given the flood of heroin entering the US from Burma , the administration should invoke a national security exemption (citing the Government Procurement Agreement) with regard to the World Trade Organization to fend off future attempts to overturn selective purchasing laws. Grassroots activists will certainly continue a concerted campaign of trade-related tactics to target US, European, and Asian companies invested in Burma , and the US government should not put obstacles in their way, based on misguided appeals to free trade.
 
At the United Nations, the General Assembly’s annual resolutions on Burma are increasingly ignored by specialized UN agencies. In the first half of 2000, both the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UNESCO held major conferences with the Junta, lending international legitimacy to the Junta. Although there is merit in the efforts of some activists in lobbying for suspension of the Junta as the legitimate representative of Burma at the UN, China’s veto in the UN Security Council will revealed that this big country is actively supporting the rogue regime. The U.S. and its allies should undertake an effort to forbid all UN agencies from conducting regional meetings in Burma and should urge the UN secretary-general to critically review all UN programs in Burma in light of the General Assembly’s policy decision to promote human rights and the restoration of democratic rule. The U.S. should also call a session of the UN Security Council to pass a resolution condemning Burma ’s continued failure to transfer power to the winners of the 1990 election, forcing China to protect its client on the international stage, and further undermining Rangoon 's independence in the eyes of its own people.
 
The U.S. should continue its policy of blocking loans and assistance to Burma from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and should do likewise at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that is gearing for more than 30 projects inside Burma . An ADB project, the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) program, is being used to foster transportation, trade, and investment links between Burma and its neighbours. Initiatives like a GMS Business Forum, which would help foster closer links between the Burmese companies and corporations in neighbouring countries, are wholly inappropriate at this time. The U.S should work with its European counterparts on the ADB board to insist on excluding Burma from all GMS projects or, failing that, should de-fund the program in its entirety. In short The U.S. should hold the line as a consistent supporter of the restoration of democratic rule, based on the 1990 election. Without U.S. influence in the international community, promoting a comprehensive policy of economic pressure and political persuasion to push for final political status negotiations, the Junta may continue its record of grave human rights abuse and repression for many more years.
 
It is everybody's knowledge that the Generals would like the international community to believe that the Burmese have lost interest in democracy, and. secondly, the military painted the picture that the NLD, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in particular, are intransigent, stubborn and confrontational. If the America continues to implement things in a half heated manner or rather if their business over rules their conscience and continue to prosper at the cost of the third World countries particularly Burma then they might as well chose to go to bed with a sweet Burmese lady called SPDC.
 
Prof. Win, former Prime Minister's Secretary for Foreign Affairs is formerly Senior Research Fellow at the European Institute for Asian Studies

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