Friday, March 11, 2005

Jose Ramos Horta and Xanana Gusmao on Burma

Quotes of the Day:

“The best way for Myanmar is to drop the sanctions, open up the country. Let tourists flock to Myanmar. Let foreign investments pour into Myanmar."

- Jose Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and East Timorese Foreign Minister

"The United States does not have any strategy to democratize Burma. It's Burma policy is based merely - and simplistically - on the regime's rights abuses."

- Min Zaw Oo, Free Burma Coalition

"In Burma's case, the United States has imposed economic sanctions, whichimpinge on the regime. But their effectiveness is undermined by the Japanese and Europeans, who cluck disapprovingly but are reluctant to jeopardize commercial ties to a resource-rich Asian nation. China and India want Burma inside their spheres of influence. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, whose envoy hasn't even managed to get a visa into Burma for more than a year, expresses concern from time to time."

- Victims of a Stalled Revolution, by Fred Hiatt, Editor, The Washington Post

This FBC Posting contains:

1). Timor leaders express support for Daw Suu but differ on way forward
2). Nation-states and the pursuit of their own interests
3). Victims of a Stalled Revolution


Timor leaders express support for Daw Suu but differ on way forward

Mar 4, 2005 (DVB) -

The president of East Timor Xanana Gusmao and foreign minister Dr. Jose RamosHorta demanded the immediate release of Burma’s democracy leader Daw Aung SanSuu Kyi.
During their meeting with DVB reporter Khin Maung Soe Min, both leaders senttheir greetings to her and expressed their respect and admiration for herdetermination to leader the people of Burma to freedom and devotion todemocracy . “I known that it is a difficult time for you,” the president said during an interview with DVB and he expressed his full support for herstruggles and decisions.

“The imprisonment of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and not, only Daw Aung San Suu Kyibut of many other Burmese, is going on for far too long. They imprison her forabsolutely for no reason,” said Ramos Horta. He went on to say he understands why the country’s military junta, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC),is afraid of this physically tiny, but great leader.
But he made clear that he is against the sanctions imposed on Burma by western countries. “The best way for Myanmar is to drop the sanctions, open up thecountry. Let tourists flock to Myanmar. Let foreign investments pour intoMyanmar,” he said.

Horta acknowledged that his idea might not be popular among his Burmese friendsand Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. He also hinted that the junta is not keen that EastTimor becomes a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN),but he expressed his willingness to have diplomatic ties with the junta to helpsolve political problems of Burma.
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Nation-states and the pursuit of their own interests

by Min Zaw Oo, Free Burma Coalition

Principally, all states, including the current neo-conled US, pursue their state interests. In thisprinciple, both SPDC and other international countrieswill pursue their own interests in their relationship.

For the SPDC, the generals do not want to rely on anyparticular countries, either India or China. For thegenerals, it absolutely makes senses to seek multipleallies. Those rumors that Khin Nyunt was close toChina and Than Shwe was close to India are quitebaseless. There is no such thing as personal preference in pursuing a state's interests ininternational relations. There are only strategiesaiming to maximize its advantages.

Whoever rules Burma, Than Shwe, Maung Ayeor the opposition, the reality of geo-politics willcompel them to seek amicable relations with Thailand as the most important neighbor in the east, China as that of thenorth and India as that of the west.

For Thailand, Burma’s stability is its interest. This applies to both China and India as well. That is one of the majorreasons, these countries support many ceasefire efforts behind the curtain. Thailand and ASEAN do notwant to see a major split in the Burmese military and mob scenes in Rangoon. These neighboring countries will try hard to maintain Burma’s stability.

They don’t care much about political prisoners and DawSuu as long as the regime can maintain order. But they don't want to see people with guns shooting one another in major cities or brual, televised crackdown of popular dissent. The result will likely be a statefailure that will put burden on the region.

In terms of the US-ASEAN dynamics, the relationship between the ASEANand US will be quite independent of what goes on in Burma. After the Bush’s first term and Iraq War, the US has learned well that the era of unchallenged American leadership post-the fall of Berlin Wall, in international politics is over. The history has not ended. Quite the contrary, it is taking a different course, which crystal-ball gazers have not anticipated. The United States alone can not change the path of internationa lpolitics. There are some unprecedented events afterthe Iraq War. France and China held a joint military exercise in March 2004. EU decided to lift diplomatic freeze on Cuba. Major EU leaders—UK, France andGermany—signed a deal with Iran’s nuclear effort amidst US’s opposition. Very recently Russia signed anuclear pack backed by EU despite of the opposition from the US.

All these important events force the US to realize that the American style of unilateral leadership in internationalpolitics is over. Therefore, Bush and Condoleezza Rice are traveling around the world for a charm offensive as they are forced to change their tactics.Under the US’scurrent strategy, the US will pursue good relations with ASEAN even if Burma obtains its chairmanship. The US will not sacrifice itsrelationship with ASEAN in the expenses of Burma.
More importantly, the US does not have any strategy todemocratize Burma. It's Burma policy is based merely - and simplistically -the regime’s rights abuses.

Even beforethe US invaded Iraq, the US gave 98 millions to Iraqi oppositions excluding the money channeling from theCIA on its Iraqi operation. Iraq received over 18billions in 2004 excluding the money for the US military and the security efforts. Even Sudan received171 millions last year. Compared to these countries,Burma is very insignificant for Washington’s politicalconsideration. Rice’s “outpost of tyranny” is merely a symbolic speech. The Burmese opposition should not be too optimistic of the US policy on Burma. Forget about the UNSC intervention and the US’s role on it.

US will not sacrifice its relationship with ASEAN for Burma's sake, and ASEAN, China and India will try hard to maintain stability in Burma regardless of Than Shwe or Maung Aye as a leader.
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Victims of a Stalled Revolution

By Fred Hiatt
Monday, March 7, 2005;

Page A19http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12639-2005Mar6.html

You can tell a lot about a government by the enemies it keeps.

The dictators of Burma, for example, have, since 1991, imprisoned agentleman by the name of U Saw Nay Don for the crime of supportingdemocracy. When his wife died last year, security agents visited his prisoncell and offered to free him if he would confess the error of his beliefs. USaw Nay Don refused. He is still in prison. Later this month he will turn85.

Charm Tong, now a poised young woman of 23, has been an enemy of the Burmesestate since she was 6. Her parents, members of the persecuted Shannationality, sent her across the border into Thailand at that age to escapethe pillaging Burmese army, notorious for raping girls as young as 4 andpress-ganging their parents into forced porterage.

She grew up essentially an orphan, watching friends forced out of school towork as farmhands on Thai plantations, or as domestic workers orprostitutes. By the time she was 17 she had become a human rights activist.

While Burma's paranoid generals may reveal only their own insecurity whenthey lock up 84-year-olds, you can't help thinking that they are absolutelyright to fear Charm Tong. As she talks about the suffering in her nativecountry, she radiates coiled fury, disciplined determination and empathy. Atan age when many Americans are still bringing laundry home to their parents,she has helped found a school for refugees, a network of women activists, acenter to counsel rape survivors and to train other counselors, a program toeducate women about writing a democratic constitution, and weaving andcooking enterprises to help fund all these ventures.

For Charm Tong, becoming an activist was in part a process of attaching names to horrors she had grown up with. "At first, we know what happened,"she says. "But we didn't know, Oh, this is 'forced labor.' This is'extrajudicial killing.' This is 'extortion.' "

Victims of the regime, she said, are desperate to attach those names andinform the world. In 2002 she helped research and write a groundbreakingreport, "License to Rape," that documented the military's use of rape,torture and sexual slavery as systematic weapons of war and tools of terror.The report triggered widespread condemnation of Burma's rulers. But CharmTong sounds almost puzzled by what has not happened since.

"Now many people know," she says. "And still there is no change."

The persistence of evil is worth pondering amid the exuberance sparked bypro-democracy movements in Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon and elsewhere. Burmahad its own democratic moment. In 1988 thousands of students bravelyprotested against the regime. Aung San Suu Kyi, the serene and until thenapolitical daughter of Burma's independence hero, emerged as reluctantleader of a democracy movement. In 1990, though she was under house arrest(as she remains today), her National League for Democracy won four out ofevery five seats in a parliamentary election.

Burma's corrupt generals, having utterly miscalculated their popularity,clamped down. The parliament never met. Many of its elected members sitinstead in prison. And, if you discount the occasional internal bloodlettingas one greedy general purges another, the regime has succeeded inmaintaining power.

So democracy movements can fail, or at least stall. This is so if a regimeis genuinely unconcerned with the misery of its population and ruthlessenough to threaten and torture not only activists but their relatives -- andif the rest of the world chooses to shrug its shoulders.

In Burma's case, the United States has imposed economic sanctions, whichimpinge on the regime. But their effectiveness is undermined by the Japaneseand Europeans, who cluck disapprovingly but are reluctant to jeopardizecommercial ties to a resource-rich Asian nation. China and India want Burmainside their spheres of influence. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, whoseenvoy hasn't even managed to get a visa into Burma for more than a year,expresses concern from time to time.

So Charm Tong continues to tell the stories of her Shan people. She sayssoldiers rape and murder girls and dump them on well-trod paths, threateningany relatives who would reclaim their bodies. Villages are destroyed, pigsand chickens slaughtered, and families forced into relocation camps. Fromthere they are prevented from returning to their fields, and they begin togo hungry. "People try their best to survive, until they can't," Charm Tongsays. And so the refugees keep coming.

fredhiatt@washpost.com