Saturday, January 29, 2005

Change in Burma and the Emerging Game of Great Powers

Change in Burma and the Emerging Game of Great Powers

Zarni, Free Burma Coalition

This FBC Posting contains:

1). Bush signals a revolution in foreign policy , from Jan. 29 International Herald Tribune

2). Regional Reverberations from Regime Shake-up in Rangoon, from Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Jan. 2005

Change in Burma and the Emerging Game of Great Power, Compiler's Remark:

Included in this posting are two essays - one specifically on the shake-up within the SPDC (i.e., the ouster of PM Khin Nyunt and his intelligence network) from a geo-political and -economic perspective and the other a critical overview of the new Bush doctrine of spreading liberty and "smashing outposts of tyrany". No one on this my email list would be fooled by the talk of freedom-driven foreign policy rooted in the deeply cynical neo-conservativism of the Bush team. We are witnessing a new period in the world's history which is marked by progressively fierce competitions, in terms of strategic resources such as gas and oil, maritime and overland transport and trading routes, markets, and spheres of influence, among great powers, existing or up-and-coming, - Russia, the United States, China, Japan and India the European Union (particularly Germany and France - as Great Britain's Tony Blair who shares the same brand of tooth paste with Mr. Bush does not appear to have an independent foreign policy for his nation which rides on the coat tail of Washington).

Although the mightiest nation on earth, at this point in history, the United States has squandered much of what Joseph Nye famously termed "soft-power" (of the United States). This squandering of a key element of American power coincides with the rise of China and Beijing's strategic build-up of its soft-power in the world.

For the Burmese who wish to see change in our country, for better, neither crying human rights and ethnic equality alone nor the existence of domestic, popular disgust and hatred toward the regime constitutes sufficient conditions for societal or political transformation. At our own national cost, we ignore these geo-political and geo-economic realities that have greater and direct ramifications for Burma's domestic developments.

International Herald Tribune - Saturday, January 29, 2005

Bush signals a revolution in foreign policy
Ian Bremmer

The axis of tyranny

Taken together, George W. Bush's Inaugural Address and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's confirmation testimony form the most important - and revealing - _expression of U.S. foreign policy since the president's post-9/11 State of the Union speech. Many believed the president would use the address to bring attention to a domestic agenda and to formulate a chastened foreign policy, reflecting the U.S. experience in Iraq. But Bush outlined the broad objectives, with Rice offering important details, of an even more assertive, internationalist and, in many ways, revolutionary U.S. role in world affairs.

The administration has now broadened the focus of the war on terror, moving beyond the "axis of evil" to what would most appropriately be called an "axis of tyranny." While the axis of evil was less the basis of a new foreign policy than an improvised gut reaction to the horror of 9/11, the president's new formulation represents a carefully considered strategy. .The new policy asserts that there are a handful of regimes whose very existence threatens the national security of the United States and, by extension, Western-style democracies generally. Rice listed a group of six such states - North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Belarus, Myanmar and Zimbabwe. The list surprised most analysts, in part because some of those states have never before been singled out by the Bush administration for sustained criticism.

International critics of the notion of the axis of tyranny are quick to point to its cynical inconsistency. Iran is one of the most pluralist and (relatively) democratic regimes in the Middle East. The same cannot be said of America's critical ally Saudi Arabia or new partner of convenience Libya. Other despotic U.S. allies in the war on terror, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, are excluded. Syria and Sudan are nowhere to be seen.

But far more revealing than which states made the list is the reasoning that produced it. The Bush team is less interested that its message is received in Belarus, Burma or Zimbabwe than that it finds its target in Russia, China and Britain. As a broadside to two of the world's major powers and as reassurance to a key U.S. ally, the axis of tyranny will have lasting implications for the shape of international relations for the remainder of Bush's presidency.

The inclusion of Belarus is aimed squarely at President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who has recently taken strong exception to U.S. "interference" in the domestic affairs of a number of Russian neighbors, particularly Georgia and Ukraine. Turkmenistan may be a more flagrant abuser of human rights than Belarus, but it is politically isolated, and its inclusion would not drive home the president's point: Washington will now press for democratization in areas that other powers consider within their sphere of influence.

No former Soviet republic remains closer to Russia than Belarus. The Kremlin's reaction will be sharp. The policy is likely to undermine whatever is left of the U.S.-Russian "strategic partnership" and to chill the air at next month's Bush-Putin summit in Bratislava.

The singling out of Myanmar is aimed squarely at China, which aids and abets Myanmar's domestic repression in exchange for a free hand in the country's economy. Lest Bush's point be missed, the State Department quickly followed the president's speech with sharp criticism of Chinese human rights abuses and its lack of domestic political reform - a new direction for the administration, which had previously treated internal Chinese politics as less relevant to U.S. interests.

It should be noted that Rice and Bush both referred to a "town square test" as a measuring stick of international legitimacy. If an individual cannot stand up in the middle of a town square and make a politically charged speech without fear of arrest or attack, the new policy suggests, the regime in question is unworthy of membership in good standing in the community of nations. Russia and China would each fail this test today. But the direct inclusion of either government in a list of regimes deemed unacceptable is farther than the Bush administration is prepared to travel. The more immediate U.S. focus is, therefore, on proxies.

Zimbabwe is the most unexpected inductee. The Bush administration has up to now said very little about Robert Mugabe's government. Here, the policy message is intended for Britain. Prime Minister Tony Blair's stated concern for human rights protection has led him to particularly incendiary criticism of Mugabe. On several occasions, Blair has spoken of a strong preference - though not the inclination - to see Mugabe removed from power. Blair is under considerable domestic pressure to distance himself from the Bush administration, a problem that only grows as U.S.-Iran relations deteriorate. Maintenance of the U.S.-British "special relationship" remains critical in the eyes of U.S. policy makers, and the administration hopes that pressure on Mugabe, together with a public commitment to re-engage on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, will help keep Blair's government closely aligned with Bush policy.

Cuba's inclusion is much less unexpected. It made recent headlines with a new oil find, which Castro hopes will make his regime less subject to international pressure and offer him the opportunity to further isolate his people from outside influence. Cuba also remains the only listed country with an important U.S. domestic constituency. Its inclusion is natural in a speech intended primarily for an American audience. .And then there are the holdovers from the Axis of Evil. North Korea's continued membership should surprise no one. Nor should it be grounds for undue concern - the administration remains committed to a take-it-slow multilateral approach. It is policy on Iran that deserves immediate attention.

Threats of a pre-emptive U.S. (or more likely, Israeli) strike on its suspected nuclear facilities, have been rising for months. Last week, for the first time, Bush explicitly refused to rule out military action. Vice President Dick Cheney publicly added the possibility that Israel might act to address Iranian threats to its security..The administration is likely to continue to ratchet up this pressure. Iran seems increasingly secure in its oil wealth and its international trade partnerships, and will, as a result, resist any attempt to cap its nuclear program. Washington continues to talk about a zero-tolerance policy on nuclear proliferation. But the administration recognizes that Iran's ongoing negotiations with Germany, Britain and France over international inspection of Iran's suspected nuclear sites preclude much hope for coordinated multilateral threats. In the meantime, U.S. policy will include active - and sometimes covert - support for opposition groups. Surgical strikes on suspected nuclear sites, whether by the United States or Israel, look increasingly likely, possibly even as soon as mid-2005.

Those expecting that Bush would open his second term with a more circumspect U.S. foreign policy have now been put on notice that they should revise their expectations. Once again, the Bush foreign policy team is defying expectations. And once again, the implications for global security should not be underestimated.

(Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group and senior fellow at the World Policy Institute.)


Regional Reverberations from Regime Shake-up in Rangoon

by Dr. Mohan Malik
Asia-PAsia-Pacific Center for Security Studies

Volume 4 - Number 1, Janolume 4 - Number 1, January 2005uary 2005

Key Findings

The reverberations from the recent regime shake-up in Rangoon continue to be felt in regional capitals. Since prime minister Khin Nyunt was the chief architect of closer China-Burma strategic ties, his sudden removal has been interpreted as a major setback for China's strategic goals in Burma.

However, an objective assessment of China's strategic and eco-nomic needs and Burma's predicament shows that Beijing is unlikely to easily give up what it has already gained in and through Burma. From China's perspective, Burma should be satisfied to gain a powerful friend, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and an economic superpower that comes bearing gifts of much needed military hardware, economic aid, infrastructure projects and diplomatic support.

The fact remains that ASEAN, India and Japan cannot compete with China either in providing military assistance, diplomatic support or in offering trade and investment benefits. With the UN-brokered talks on political reconciliation having reached a dead end, it might be worthwhile to start afresh with a dia-logue framework of ASEAN+3 (ASEAN plus China, India and Japan) on Burma. This would also put to test China's oft-stated commitment to multi-lateralism and Beijing's penchant for "Asian solutions to Asian problems".


The regional reverberations from the recent regime shake-up in Rangoon continue to be felt in Beijing, New Delhi and in most ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) capitals. After barely 15 months in office, Prime Minister and the long-powerful intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt was sacked in mid-October 2004, and put under house arrest on corruption charges following seizure of large quantities of gold, jade and currency from his agents at Muse checkpoint on the China-Burma border. Since Khin Nyunt was the chief architect of closer China-Burma strategic ties during the 1990s, his sudden removal has been interpreted as a major setback for China's strategic goals in Burma. The Chinese had been trying to bolster his position through generous mega business deals and soft loan packages. Since becoming prime minister in August 2003, he had also outlined a "road map to democracy" in UN-brokered contacts between the government and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) that favored limited role for civilian politicians. The NLD had won more than 80 percent of parliamentary seats in 1990 elections that were voided by the military.

Khin Nyunt's replacement with Lt. Gen. Soe Win, a hardliner known for his opposition to transferring power to Suu Kyi's NLD, is seen as another setback to the long-awaited political reconciliation process within the country. Furthermore, the regime shake-up has the potential to endanger ceasefires with ethnic minority rebel groups, and further sour Rangoon's relations with the West. The military junta's decision to extend the house arrest of Suu Kyi, announced during the annual ASEAN summit held in the Laotian capital on November 29, 2004, further embarrassed ASEAN leaders. Nonetheless, Rangoon escaped any public criticism at the recent ASEAN summit because of the need to maintain the façade of unity within the regional grouping and also due to Thailand's concern that discussion of domestic issues in member-states would open the door for public criticism of Bangkok's mishandling of the Muslim unrest in southern provinces. The United States, however, responded by tightening economic sanctions against the impoverished nation and warned that it might boycott ASEAN meetings when Burma takes over the chairmanship of the regional grouping in 2006, unless the military junta improves its human rights record and releases democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. Earlier, a U.S. State Department report had expressed concern over North Korea's supply of small arms, ammunition, artillery, and missiles to Burma. Apparently, growing international pressure for political reform and Burma's isolation has created fissures inside the military junta, forcing it to consolidate its control over power and neutralize perceived domestic and external threats. Despite repeated assurances, the junta has excluded the political parties from the constitutional drafting process and kept Suu Kyi under detention. It also continues to defy UN resolutions, international pressure and sanctions, thanks to the economic and military support from neighboring countries.

Winners and Losers

While General Than Shwe, Chairman of the military junta, also known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), is the key figure in the power structure, a new triumvirate of traditional Burmese nationalists comprising General Maung Aye, General Thura Shwe Mann and Lt. Gen. Soe Win is emerging to run the country. In fact, the military junta continues to exploit internal divisions within ASEAN and regional fears of the country's pro-China tilt to take the heat off its human rights violations and to further consolidate its rule. By offering some economic inducements (e.g., oil and gas concessions) to neighboring countries, the regime has entrenched itself in power, with the military cornering all the benefits of the investment flow emanating from the ASEAN countries, India and Japan. Over the last decade, Rangoon's fellow ASEAN states have at least $4.2 billion invested in manufacturing joint ventures and see Burma as the last big Asian frontier for consumer exports. After China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and India are the top four investors in Burma and provide the bulk of the foreign exchange and trade infrastructure that keeps the Burmese economy afloat. Regional trade gives the military government just enough income to maintain its current hold on power. Burma exports close to a billion dollars a year in natural gas-well over twice the potential windfall from trade with the U.S. or the European Union (EU). The "constructive engagement" pursued by ASEAN, India and Australia has imparted the regime greater confidence and legitimacy and also won it membership of the coveted Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM) while giving little or nothing in return. It has neither produced national reconciliation nor succeeded in the restoration of the democratic process nor in securing the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Perhaps like Pakistani military rulers' dangerous dalliances with terrorism and proliferation that endanger international security, Burmese generals apparently believe that their impoverished but strategicallylocated country is also of such great geopolitical importance that it can earn significant "geo-strategic rents" and make the international community turn a blind eye to their appalling behavior.

Although regime shake-up was in large part a result of internal power struggle and a bid to curtail Khin Nyunt's growing clout by factions that had long accused his National Intelligence Bureau (now dismantled) of running "a state within the state," its impact on regional power equations deserves careful scrutiny. Much like ASEAN, India and China closely monitor each other's moves vis-à-vis Burma because of concerns over the foreign policy implications of domestic political developments. Alarmed that its eastern neighbor was sliding into China's strategic orbit, India since 1993 has abandoned its fervent support for Suu Kyi, resisted Western pressure for sanctions, and supported ASEAN's policy of "constructive engagement" to develop commercial and political contacts with the military junta. New Delhi's coddling of the military junta is thus motivated by geo-strategic concerns of combating northeastern insurgents, drug-trafficking and weaning Burma away from China and geo-economic imperatives of exploiting trade and investment opportunities. For India, Burma is the land bridge to Indo-China and Southeast Asia, over which goods, people and ideas have traveled for centuries. Just as China has stepped up its efforts to gain access to the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea through Burma and Bangladesh, India is pitching to gain an entry into the South China Sea. While China is developing a North-South transport corridor along the Irrawaddy River in Burma that will provide Beijing access to the Indian Ocean, rival India is pitching to gain an entry into Indo-China by building an East-West corridor cutting horizontally through Burma toward Thailand and Vietnam. With China and India agreeing to conclude free trade agreements with ASEAN, competition between Asia's giants has intensified as both view the Southeast Asian region as a vital source of natural resources and a market for their goods. The two fastest growing economies are also eyeing Burma's gas wealth. Both face growing demand for energy and are locked in fierce competition for stakes in overseas oil and gas fields not only in Burma and Russia but also in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Neutralizing Chinese presence and influence in Burma has therefore been the key factor that has determined India's policy toward its eastern neighbor for almost a decade. It also dovetails well with India's "Look East" policy of establishing closer ties with Southeast Asia to prevent the region from becoming an exclusive Chinese sphere of influence-an objective shared by the U.S. and Japan. For their part, the Chinese have made their displeasure over Southeast Asian countries' recent attempts to draw India into the region by establishing closer military ties known to ASEAN capitals.

Great Expectations

Not surprisingly then, the Indian government rolled out the red carpet when SDPC Chairman General Than Shwe paid his first-ever head of state visit in late October 2004, less than a week after the dramatic ouster of pro-China Khin Nyunt. Amongst other declarations, the two sides signed a memorandum on non-traditional security cooperation, which was soon followed by coordinated joint military operations against Manipuri and Naga rebels operating on the India-Burma frontier. With the ouster of Khin Nyunt, known to back China in the Sino-Indian contest for influence in Burma, the Indian media and strategic analysts concluded that "the balance had tilted in India's favor" and that "New Delhi just might be able to breathe easier." Such euphoria is understandable in light of the fact that Khin Nyunt had also developed close political and business links with China's ally and India's nemesis, Pakistan. For their part, Burmese nationalist leaders like Than Shwe and Maung Aye are reportedly concerned over the Chinese domination of Burmese economy and military, the plunder of the country's natural resources and raw materials, and large-scale illegal Chinese immigration. A massive influx of ethnic Chinese into northern Burma, who have taken over houses, hotels, and businesses and forced the local inhabitants to move to the outlying areas, has generated concerns that if unchecked, the changing demographic balance may spark communal violence similar to the anti-Chinese riots of 1967. It is in this context that Than's India visit is interpreted as an attempt by the SPDC to intensify looking toward India as a bargaining chip in its dealings with China. In short, Khin's dismissal has been welcomed in New Delhi and Bangkok as signaling a shift in Burma's foreign policy toward a more balanced approach to Burma's relations not just with India but also with Japan and other Asian neighbors. However, jubilation in some quarters over Khin Nyunt's fall from power notwithstanding, long-time China-watchers maintain that predictions and expectations of a major strategic shift in Burma's foreign policy may well be pre-mature and unwarranted for several reasons. While it is true that the dismissal of Beijing's man in Rangoon took the Chinese Foreign Ministry by surprise, the fact remains that General Than Shwe took care to keep Beijing (and Bangkok) informed of the unfolding developments in mid-October. It is also noteworthy that within days of Than Shwe's visit to India, the military junta scheduled official visits to Beijing by the new prime minister Lt. Gen. Soe Win and the chief of general staff General Thura Shwe Mann in November apparently to reassure China that its interests would be well-protected under the new political dispensation. It is argued that Burma cannot afford to antagonize the only country in the world that can seriously threaten its vital national interests.

Chinese Checkers

Since the early 1990s, Rangoon has relied on China-which controls more than 60 percent of the Burmese economy-for diplomatic, military, and economic support. (In 2004 alone, China concluded 33 trade and aid agreements with Burma.) For China, the payoff went beyond geo-eco-nomics to geopolitics, gaining access through Burma to the Indian Ocean. While the Burmese military regime's pro-China tilt in the early 1990s was certainly not the result of some "grand plan" in Rangoon but because it had nowhere else to go, Beijing's forays into Burma were definitely a part of China's grand strategy and based on a careful assessment of China's strategic interests and economic needs in the 21st century. India and ASEAN's "constructive engagement" policy notwithstanding, China still remains Burma's main trading partner, arms supplier, and a steadfast supporter in international forums such as the UN Security Council (UNSC) where Beijing has a veto. Neither India nor ASEAN can compete with China either in providing military assistance or in offering trade and investment benefits. Its intent to steer a more balanced foreign policy notwithstanding, the SPDC may not find much room for maneuver. As one Burma-watcher has argued: "China is developing such a hold on Burma's economy and armed forces that it will constrain the Rangoon regime's ability to act independently in the future." Given Burma's dependence on China for military hardware, training, spare parts, financial assistance, industrial equipment and diplomatic support, Beijing can apply considerable pressure on the regime, be it military or civilian, to prevent its defection from China's camp.
More importantly, resource scarcity in the 21st century would see nations engaged in intense competition, confrontation, and even conflict, and China's future naval operations would be undertaken with a view to securing the country's oil supply routes. Chinese forays into Burma are thus a reflection of China's transformation from a continental power into a global maritime power increasingly dependent upon external trade, on ever-growing volumes of imports and exports through oceanic routes, and on overseas markets for capital and investments. Nearly 75 percent of China's trade is carried by sea through the Strait of Malacca, the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal, and the predominance of the Indian and U.S. navies along these sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) is viewed as a major threat to Chinese security. China's future naval plans include permanent deployments into the Indian Ocean as soon as the Taiwan issue is resolved to Beijing's satisfaction. China's insatiable demand for energy is also prompting fears of economic and diplomatic collisions around the globe as it seeks reliable supplies of oil from as far away as Brazil and Sudan.

In fact, competition for resources has already provoked elbow-bashing in the region-witness, for example, the rush to extend claims and counterclaims to the oil and gas that lie under the South China Sea, Sea of Japan, East China Sea, and Central Asia. The fact that barely two months after the dismissal of Beijing's man in Rangoon, China's National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and its partners were awarded two large coveted blocks A-4 and M-10 blocks off Burma-after a tough fight with an Indian bidder, ONGC Videsh Ltd, is a case in point. The November 2004 intrusion into Japanese territorial waters by a Chinese nuclear submarine and the seizure in the same week of two Chinese spying ships that were doing magnetic resonance imaging of the seabed in the vicinity of the Andaman islands on which India plans to station a part of its strategic forces once again illuminates growing maritime competition in the Pacific and Indian oceans and nearby seas. Growing demand for imported petroleum and the security of shipping routes through the Indian Ocean to the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea explains Beijing's naval interests in Burma. As a major trading nation and a future world power, China is now laying the groundwork for a naval presence along maritime chokepoints in the South China Sea, the Malacca Straits, the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf through acquisition of naval bases in Cambodia, Burma, Bangladesh and Pakistan to protect its long-term economic security interests.

The strategic context in which China views its relationship with Burma is as a close ally both for southward expansion and to counteract the moves of its rival powers (India, Japan and the United States). China sees itself as being engaged in a long and protracted competition with other major powers and counts Burma, along with Pakistan and North Korea, as its military allies in Asia. Since influence over Burma is the key to China's future strategy for South and Southeast Asia, Beijing will use all means available to keep Burma under its thumb. Clearly, Beijing did not provide diplomatic protection, arms, aid, and finance-all on very generous termsto Rangoon in its hour of need for nothing.

Proximity and complementarity also work in China's favor. In confirmation of the classic "dependency theory" school of international economic relations, Burma plays the role of exporter of raw materials, timber, minerals and energy resources while China exports finished manufactured goods, from tennis shoes and rice cookers to electronics, heavy trucks and railway equipment that conform to Burma's level of development and spending power. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese are moving into northern Burma every year. If Burma's attempts to steer an even-handed course undermine China's economic and security interests in the region, Beijing could resume assistance to ethnic insurgents fighting for inde3
Regional Reverberations from Regime Shake-up in Rangoonpendence or help engineer a coup by the down-but-not-out pro-China faction within the Burmese military. China, after all, has a reputation for using threats and bluff to force other states (friends and foes alike) to accede to its will.

Last but not least, Beijing would not like to see any political change in Burma that might lead to the installation of a less friendly regime to China. The Chinese leadership is aware of the traditional ties that exist between Suu Kyi and Beijing's longtime rival India. The SPDC's fall from power would constitute a sizeable defeat for Chinese foreign policy. Political change in Rangoon in the future, for example the coming to power of an Aung San Suu Kyi-led democratic government, could also lead to a situation where Chinese military is denied access to the infrastructural facilities it is now building in Burma. For example, Suu Kyi's NLD blames Beijing's military and diplomatic support to the junta for the current political impasse and sees the provision of access to the Chinese navy into the Andaman Sea as an infringement of Burmese sovereignty. Nor is it in China's interests to see Burma becoming a liberal-democratic state. At the most, Beijing would prefer another Pakistan-like quasi-dem-ocratic state where civilians hold power so long as the military tolerates them, and that military is paranoid of its neighbors, and therefore, remains heavily dependent on China for weapons, training, and support. A realistic assessment of China's strategic and economic needs and Burma's predicament shows that Beijing is unlikely to easily give up what it has already gained in and through Burma. The increasing Chinese domination of northern Burma's economy has demographic, cultural, economic, security, diplomatic, and political repercussions. Burma's rulers know too well that China is the only Asian power has the will and capability to protect its allies and safeguard its interests. Than Shwe and Co. would have noticed that in the same week the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman was singing paeans on "China's peaceful rise" while accusing others of displaying "Cold war mentality," Beijing stalled UNSC action against Sudan over the atrocities in Darfur, opposed any moves to refer Iran's nuclear program to the UNSC (ostensibly to protect hard-won Chinese oil concessions in the two pariah states), and sent its naval vessels on spying missions to Japanese and Indian territorial waters. No matter how much the rest of the world agitates against Rangoon, the military junta feels at ease under China's protective umbrella and no need to change its ways. Nothing works like oil and geopolitics blended with trade and commerce in inter-state relations.

Soul Searching Options

There is no denying the fact that in the long term, Burma's strategic interests lie in counterbalancing China's influence and power through its ties with India, ASEAN, Japan and the West. Nor can the continuation of the political status quo within Burma be taken for granted. NLD supporters continue to focus international media attention toward the SPDC's lack of a popular mandate. Remote though it may seem, one cannot rule out the possibility of the SPDC being overthrown by a popular movement for a democratic regime. However, unless a vertical split emerges within the Burmese military into pro- and anti-democracy factions along the lines of the Philippines Armed Forces in the mid-1980s and until Beijing adopts a posture of strict neutrality in Burma's domestic politics, no popularly elected civilian government is likely to emerge in Rangoon. For the foreseeable future, the SPDC seems likely to maintain its iron-grip on power.

In the meantime, the current sorry state of affairs in Burma should make Rangoon's allies, friends and critics alike ponder the consequences of their policies and actions for regional security. China needs to realize that until it stops protecting tyrants in its neighborhood and around the world (North Korea, Burma, Pakistan, Sudan, Iran), China cannot win respect as a responsible and constructive global great power. India needs to ponder whether the bizarre spectacle of the world's largest democracy courting one of the world's most repressive regimes propped up by the world's largest authoritarian state is in the long-term interests of its national security. ASEAN needs to opt for mid-course correction because its policy of "constructive engagement" has clearly started yielding diminishing returns. And the U.S. and European Union need to rethink their policy of imposing sanctions that has clearly failed to deliver the desired outcome during the past 15 years. Unless the U.S. succeeds in persuading Burma's neighbors, especially China, Thailand and India to stop their economic and political patronage of the Burmese dictatorship, there can be no light at the end of the tunnel for the country's democratic forces. With the UN-brokered talks on political reconciliation having reached a dead end, it might be worthwhile to start afresh with a dialogue framework of ASEAN+3 (ASEAN plus China, India and Japan) on Burma. This would also put to test China's oft-stated commitment to multilateralism and Beijing's penchant for "Asian solutions to Asian problems".
//end text//

Dr. Mohan Malik is a Professor with the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. His work focuses mainly on Asian Geopolitics and Proliferation in Asia-Pacific region. His most recent APCSS publication is “India-China Relations: Giants Stir, Cooperate and Compete”
The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, U.S. Pacific Command, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
The Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) is a regional study, conference, and research center established in Honolulu on September 4, 1995. complementing PACOM's theater security cooperation strategy of maintaining positive security relationships with nations in the region. The APCSS mission is to enhance cooperation and build relationships through mutual understanding and study of comprehensive security issues among military and civilian representatives of the United States and other Asia-Pacific nations. The Asia-Pacific Security Studies series contributes to the APCSS mission to enhance the region's security discourse. The general editor of the series is Lt. Gen. (Ret.) H.C. Stackpole, President of the APCSS.
Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies 2058 Maluhia Road Honolulu, Hawaii 96815-1949 (808) 971-8900 fax: (808) 971-8999 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Freedom will be air-borne: Burmese and their Outpost of Tyranny

This FBC Posting contains:

1). Burma: Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way
2). Researchers Who Rushed Into Print a Study of Iraqi Civilian Deaths NowWonder Why It Was Ignored

Compiler's Remark:

The newly-minted Secretary of State Condi Rice's catchy polemics labellinganti-US, truly authoritarian states or left-leaning governments "outposts oftyranny," which preceded her boss's "Freedom Inaugural Speech," has instilledhope and excitement among some Burmese opposition quarters. Some Burmese andforeign activists have tried not to miss Mr. Bush's liberty train by soundingto have bought into the Grand Presidential Double-speak.

Thank Buddha, there are also sobering Burmese opposition voices. For instance,a Burmese Internet cartoon gently reminded us that after the irrational ,initial euphoria upon hearing the hyped-up word "freedom" from the hallowedchambers of power in Washington, the Burmese should do well to remember theyhave no one else to rely on - but themselves - for their own freedom.

Comparing this freedom speech with Woodrow Wilson's announcement of for self-determination at the time much of the non-European world(Asia, Latin America, and Africa) was in colonial bondage at the hands of theEuropean powers, a Western scholar remarked pointedly during our lunch thatsuch moralistic speech lacking seriousnes or credibilty of a policy or practiceis dangerous and immoral. It gave false hope and misled the down-trodden andthe oppressed.

I reminded the scholar that there have been more recent examples - than Dr.Wilson's magnificent polemic - of Senior Bush's Administration openlyencouraging the Kurds under Mr. Hussein to rise up against his brutal rule. The Kurds bought into Washington's polemic only to find themselves left unaidedby Washington, when Mr. Hussein decided to use his chemical weapons against theWashington-encouraged Kurds. The rest is history.

In this posting, I am sharing with you two pieces of writing: one is a letterto the Editors of the on-line Asian Tribune by one Texas-based Burmeseexpatriate who is "Senior Advisor to the Burmese Resistance" - whatever thatis. His letter promotes fantastically the speculation or hope that there willbe a swift military assistance should the people of Burma take to the streetsin a 8.8.88-style popular uprisings.

And the other is a news article on how the mainstream American media chose toignore the release, on the eve of the recent US presidential election, of asolidly scholarly article regarding violence-related Iraqi civilian death toll. The latter appears at today's Chronicle of Higher Education (in the UnitedStates).

The Burmese should pause for a moment and reflect before they take to thestreets. We may be seduced to think the following: if NLD is not inspiring themto rise up against the Lords in uniform, finally Washington is sending them aclear signal.

In 1988, there were rumors of the sightings of a small number of US NavalVessels from the 7th Fleet/Pacific Command near or in the Burmese waters. Butas a matter of policy or principles Pentagon's toys do not roam our blue watersto protect us from our home-grown tyrants. They were - and they will be -there to first and foremost evacuate the members of the American Outposts. Like any other national armed forces, Rumsfeld's Pentagon and its primarymission is to protect its own national interests , as it were.

We natives have to figure out ways to re-build, repair or dismantle thetyranical outpost on our own native soil.

If we have to cry wolf or jump with excitement each time a foreign powerpromised liberation or help with our unfinished, inter-generational job, then Iam not sure we are equipped to run our own country independently,democratically and self-reliantly?

Not that the prospects for US-liberation of Myanmarese are high or even there,but even hypothetically speaking, what if Washington says to uspost-dismantling of tyrany in our midst - that it would be there for quite sometime to come to raise our people's "capacity" so that we can govern ourselves -as it is now telling the Iraqis and the world?

This is all dejavu (spelling?): Kipling told us a century ago that our forefathers and mothers were half-children who needed to be processed , throughcolonial rule and Western education, the burden the White Men and Women took onas their noble mission.

But again the embryonic slaves among us might rush to embrace the New Mastersin GI Fatigue. After all, with all the nationalist pride and celebration, wewere a nation who addressed our despotic kings "my lord", the Britishcolonialists "Thakhin-gyi" or "Big Lords", the Japanese militarists "Masters"and crooked, power-mad civilian MPs of the post-independence parliamentary"democracy" era "Lord Representative".
After all, with this kind of collective psyche or mentality, perhaps "capacitybuilding" by "new liberators" might not be such a bad idea, in theory.

Sarcasm aside the Burmese, especially those who are looking for solutions forour inter-generational troubles beyond our own national boundaries should thinkbefore they clamour for the dismantling of the Yangon Outpost by foreignpowers. They should make sure they are not, in fact, preferring to live undera foreign tyranny to a home-grown one.

Asian TribuneDate : 2005-01-27

Burma: Lead, Follow or Get Out of The WayBy Myint Thein - Senior Advisor to the Burmese Resistance

Condoleezza Rice in her Senate confirmation hearings read from prepared textlisting the six "Outposts of Tyranny". It should be noted that these countrieswere not listed in alphabetical order. Burma is listed second after Cuba.

Countries ranging from Saudi Arabia to Russia are confused about PresidentBush's speech on Freedom. They do not seem to realize that his speech wasprimarily directed at these six "Outposts of Tyranny".

President Bush in his Inaugural Address for his second term as President said"When you stand for liberty, we will stand with you". I am confident that theBurmese will soon take a stand against the Burmese military government.
U Shwe Ohn, a 82 year old Shan ethnic leader, in the December 2004 issue of theIrrawaddy criticises the National League for Democracy (NLD) for lacking aviable political strategy. He said "Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is very intelligentand well-read.....but she is not capable of playing practical politics. Becauseshe does not play as a clever politician to make a change, we all suffer".
Tin Maung Than in the same issue of Irrawaddy stated " I think the NLD is verymuch like a party operating under democracy not under oppression. The NLD hasproduced a lot of statements of political demands but not actions or apractical transitional plan. Sadly I would express Burmese politics asoppression versus statements. Some NLD leaders are campaigning, but notorganizing or building a network to stage a mass movement".
President Bush sent a loud and clear message to the Burmese that if we haveanother 1988 type National Uprising, we can expect immediate and substantialmilitary assistance from the United States.
Another 1988 type National Uprising is expected, although the role of NLD isunclear. They can lead, follow or get out of the way.
Thursday, January 27, 2005

Researchers Who Rushed Into Print a Study of Iraqi Civilian Deaths Now WonderWhy It Was Ignored
By LILA GUTERMAN, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Researchers who rushed into print a study of Iraqi civilian deaths now wonderwhy it was ignored
When more than 200,000 people died in a tsunami caused by an Asian earthquakein December, the immediate reaction in the United States was an outpouring ofgrief and philanthropy, prompted by extensive coverage in the news media.
Two months earlier, the reaction in the United States to news of anotherlarge-scale human tragedy was much quieter. In late October, a study waspublished in The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, concluding thatabout 100,000 civilians had been killed in Iraq since it was invaded by aUnited States-led coalition in March 2003. On the eve of a contentiouspresidential election -- fought in part over U.S. policy on Iraq -- manyAmerican newspapers and television news programs ignored the study or buriedreports about it far from the top headlines.
The paper, written by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, ColumbiaUniversity, and Baghdad's Al-Mustansiriya University, was based on adoor-to-door survey in September of nearly 8,000 people in 33 randomly selectedlocations in Iraq. It was dangerous work, and the team of researchers was luckyto emerge from the survey unharmed.
The paper that they published carried some caveats. For instance, theresearchers admitted that many of the dead might have been combatants. Theyalso acknowledged that the true number of deaths could fall anywhere within arange of 8,000 to 194,000, a function of the researchers' having extrapolatedtheir survey to a country of 25 million.
But the statistics do point to a number in the middle of that range. And theraw numbers upon which the researchers' extrapolation was based are undeniable:Since the invasion, the No. 1 cause of death among households surveyed wasviolence. The risk of death due to violence had increased 58-fold since beforethe war. And more than half of the people who had died from violence and itsaftermath since the invasion began were women and children.
Neither the Defense Department nor the State Department responded to the paper,nor would they comment when contacted by The Chronicle. American news-mediaoutlets largely published only short articles, noting how much higher theLancet estimate was than previous estimates. Some pundits called the resultspoliticized and worthless.
Les F. Roberts, a research associate at Hopkins and the lead author of thepaper, was shocked by the muted or dismissive reception. He had expected thepublic response to his paper to be "moral outrage."
On its merits, the study should have received more prominent play.Public-health professionals have uniformly praised the paper for its correctmethods and notable results.
"Les has used, and consistently uses, the best possible methodology," saysBradley A. Woodruff, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention.
Indeed, the United Nations and the State Department have cited mortalitynumbers compiled by Mr. Roberts on previous conflicts as fact -- and have actedon those results.
What went wrong this time? Perhaps the rush by researchers and The Lancet toput the study in front of American voters before the election accomplishedprecisely the opposite result, drowning out a valuable study in the clamor ofthe presidential campaign.
A Risky Proposition
Mr. Roberts has studied mortality caused by war since 1992, having done surveysin locations including Bosnia, Congo, and Rwanda. His three surveys in Congofor the International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental humanitarianorganization, in which he used methods akin to those of his Iraq study,received a great deal of attention. "Tony Blair and Colin Powell have quotedthose results time and time again without any question as to the precision orvalidity," he says.
Mr. Roberts's first survey in Congo, in 2000, estimated that 1.7 million peoplehad died over 22 months of armed conflict. The response was dramatic. Within amonth, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that all foreign armiesmust leave Congo, and later that year, the United Nations called for$140-million in aid to that country, more than doubling its previous annualrequest. Later, citing the study, the State Department announced a pledge of anadditional $10-million for emergency programs in Congo.
About a year ago, Mr. Roberts decided to study mortality in Iraq. He connectedwith a colleague at Columbia, Richard Garfield, a professor of nursing who haddone research in Iraq since the mid-1990s. Mr. Garfield knew Riyadh Lafta, amortality researcher at Al-Mustansiriya University, who recruited interviewersto do the door-to-door survey.
"He had to ask many people before he could find five interviewers willing towork in a study that involved an American," Mr. Roberts says.
Mr. Roberts planned to travel to Iraq last spring. After an American hostagewas beheaded on video, however, Dr. Lafta told him that the danger was toogreat. "I was going to go in June, but in June it was even worse," Mr. Robertssays. Finally, in late August, with a fall teaching commitment looming, hedecided to go.
On September 1, Mr. Roberts sneaked into Iraq from Jordan, lying on the backseat of a sport-utility vehicle. He trained the interviewers, who tried outtheir questions in a relatively safe neighborhood of Baghdad before embarkingon the study.
The researchers visited 30 homes in each of 33 neighborhoods in Iraq. Theyselected the communities to be surveyed using a random process adjusted so thatmore-populous areas were more likely to be picked, giving each person in Iraqan equal chance of being interviewed. Within each community, a spot was chosenat random, and the interviewers visited the 30 households nearest to thatpoint.
At each house, the interviewers asked for the age and sex of everyone livingthere currently and on January 1, 2002. The interviewers asked about deathssince the first day of 2002 and recorded the day, cause, and circumstances, sothat they could compare the time just before the 2003 invasion with the periodsince then.
In each neighborhood, in at least the first two households where an adult'sdeath had occurred, the interviewers ended by asking for death certificates.They received confirmation of deaths in 63 of the 78 houses where they asked.
Mr. Garfield says the high proportion of death certificates assuaged hisconcern that lying might be widespread. In unstable countries, where records ofdeaths aren't always thorough, ascertaining lies or simply faulty memoriesbecomes difficult.
At first Mr. Roberts accompanied the Iraqi researchers. To mask his identity,he dyed his graying brown hair black, wore Iraqi clothing, and never spoke inpublic. But he was acutely aware of the danger his presence created for hiscolleagues; one interviewer refused to ride in a car with him.
On the eighth day, the interviewers ended up in Balad, a town north of Baghdadwhose main street was dominated by a huge portrait of the radical Islamiccleric Moktada al-Sadr. "As fate would have it," Mr. Roberts says, "one of thefirst doors we knocked on was the governor's. There I am, I'm sitting in thecar, and a police car rolls up, and my two interviewers get hauled away."
Mr. Roberts and his driver decided to wait. "I laid on my side and pretended tobe asleep so no one would see my blue eyes," he says. After the interviewershad been gone for about 40 minutes, he says, "two little kids walked up to thecar and in English said, 'Hello, Mister!'"
"It's just impossible for a Westerner to stay invisible in Iraq," he says.
After more than an hour, the two interviewers, who were physicians for theIraqi Ministry of Health, managed to talk their way out of the situation. Mr.Roberts retreated to a hotel in Baghdad for the duration of his stay, gettingdaily reports from Dr. Lafta.
Canvassing Fallujah
The researchers saved the most dangerous location for last. On September 20,Dr. Lafta went to violence-racked Fallujah with the only interviewer willing totravel there. The researchers had done a haunting bit of calculus before thejourney. Given that the chance was high of an interviewer's or researcher'sgetting killed there, the study would be better served by getting the otherdata first.
The Fallujah data were chilling: 53 deaths had taken place in the study's 30households there since the invasion commenced, on March 19, 2003. In the other32 neighborhoods combined, the researchers had counted 89 deaths. While 21 ofthe deaths elsewhere were attributable to violence, in Fallujah 52 of the 53deaths were due to violence.
The number of deaths in Fallujah was so much higher than in other locationsthat the researchers excluded the data from their overall estimate as astatistical outlier. Because of that, Mr. Roberts says, chances are good thatthe actual number of deaths caused by the invasion and occupation is higherthan 100,000.
Mr. Roberts took a few days in Baghdad in late September to compile and analyzethe data. He discovered that the risk of death was 2.5 times as high in the 18months after the invasion as it was in the 15 months before it; the risk wasstill 1.5 times as high if he ignored the Fallujah data. Because he had foundin many other wars that malnutrition and disease were the most frequent causesof civilian deaths, he was "shocked," he says, that violence had been theprimary cause of death since the invasion.
"On the 25th of September my focus was about how to get out of the country," herecalls. "My second focus was to get this information out before the U.S.election." In little more than 30 days, the paper was published in The Lancet.
Mr. Roberts and his colleagues now believe that the speedy publication of thatdata created much of the public skepticism toward the study. He sent themanuscript to the medical journal on October 1, requesting that it be publishedthat month. Mr. Roberts says the editors agreed to do so without asking himwhy.
Despite the sprint to publication, the paper did go through editing and peerreview. In an accompanying editorial, Richard Horton, editor of the The Lancet,wrote that the paper "has been extensively peer-reviewed, revised, edited, andfast-tracked to publication because of its importance to the evolving securitysituation in Iraq."
Dr. Horton declined repeated requests by The Chronicle for comment on the studyand the decision to publish it before the U.S. presidential election. But threeother major medical journals told The Chronicle that they, too, occasionallyput papers of immediate importance on a fast track, and that the time fromreceipt to publication can be days or a few weeks.
Mr. Roberts calls the peer-review process that his paper underwent "rigorous."One of the peer reviewers told The Chronicle that he had had about a week tocomment on the paper.
A Question of Timing
The timing of the paper's publication opened the study to charges of politicalpropaganda. So did Mr. Roberts's admission to an Associated Press reporter onthe day that the paper came out that he opposed the war. "That was the wronganswer," Mr. Roberts says now, "because some of the other study members hatedSaddam and were in favor of the initial invasion."
Mr. Garfield, one of the co-authors, says he did not feel the same urgencyabout publishing before the U.S. election. "I was afraid that the importance ofthe topic would get lost among many other electoral issues," he says.
Mr. Garfield appears to have been correct.
The Lancet released the paper on October 29, the Friday before the election,when many reporters were busy with political coverage. That day, the LosAngeles Times and the Chicago Tribune each dedicated only about 400 words tothe study and placed the articles inside their front sections, on Pages A4 andA11, respectively. (The news media in Europe gave the study much more play;many newspapers put articles about it on their front pages.)
In a short article about the study on Page A8, The New York Times noted thatthe Iraq Body Count, a project to tally civilian deaths reported in the newsmedia, had put the maximum death toll at around 17,000. The new study, thearticle said, "is certain to generate intense controversy." But the Times hasnot published any further news articles about the paper.
The Washington Post, perhaps most damagingly to the study's reputation, quotedMarc E. Garlasco, a senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, as saying,"These numbers seem to be inflated."
Mr. Garlasco says now that he had not read the paper at the time and calls hisquote in the Post "really unfortunate." He says he told the reporter, "Ihaven't read it. I haven't seen it. I don't know anything about it, so Ishouldn't comment on it." But, Mr. Garlasco continues, "like any goodjournalist, he got me to."
Mr. Garlasco says he misunderstood the reporter's description of the paper'sresults. He did not understand that the paper's estimate includes deaths causednot only directly by violence but also by its offshoots: chaos leading to lackof sanitation and medical care.
Online, the words flew. Some bloggers denounced the study. The online magazineSlate published an essay by its military columnist, Fred Kaplan, saying thatthe wide range of possible deaths, 8,000 to 194,000, is not an estimate. "It'sa dartboard," he wrote.
The U.S. government had no comment at the time and remains silent about Iraqicivilian deaths. "The only thing we keep track of is casualties for U.S. troopsand civilians," a Defense Department spokesman told The Chronicle.
Mr. Garfield now regrets the timing of the paper's release because he believesthat it allowed people to dismiss the research. "The argument is an idiotic oneof, 'You're playing politics, so then the data's not true,'" he says.
Such logic angers him. "Hey," he says. "This is valuable information. The factthat somebody wants to convince you of it -- how is that suddenly illegitimate?Why is that a reason to ignore it? If it's wrong, then ignore it. If it'sdealing with deaths of people that don't count in the world, then ignore it. Idon't think it's wrong, and I don't think Iraqi deaths don't count."
Mr. Roberts insists that his primary motive for rushing the paper to press wasnot political. He says he is glad the paper appeared before the electionbecause he was concerned for his Iraqi colleagues' safety. Had the paper comeout after the election, he argues, it would have looked like a cover-up. Dr.Lafta, he says, "would have been killed -- there is just no doubt."
Dr. Lafta, in an e-mail message to The Chronicle, disagrees: "My personalopinion is that this was an unjustified fear."
Mr. Roberts acknowledges that he also hoped to ignite a policy change or publicresponse. "This was going to do more good in terms of changing policy if itcame out in October than if it came out in November," he says. "But we neverhad any delusions that this might affect the U.S. election."
Reassessing the Evidence
The reception of the Iraqi mortality study by scientists has been farfriendlier than by the news media.
Scientists say the size of the survey was adequate for extrapolation to theentire country. "That's a classical sample size," says Michael J. Toole, headof the Center for International Health at the Burnet Institute, an Australianresearch organization. Researchers typically conduct surveys in 30neighborhoods, so the Iraq study's total of 33 strengthens its conclusions. "Ijust don't see any evidence of significant exaggeration," he says.
David R. Meddings, a medical officer with the Department of Injuries andViolence Prevention at the World Health Organization, says any such survey willhave uncertainty because of extrapolation based on small numbers, and becauseof the possibility that people gave incorrect information about deaths in theirhouseholds.
"I don't think the authors ignored that or understated" those factors, he says."Those cautions I don't believe should be applied any more or any lessstringently to a study that looks at a politically sensitive conflict than to astudy that looks at a pill for heart disease."
The uncertainty leads to the breadth of the so-called 95-percent confidenceinterval -- in other words, the 95-percent chance that the number of deaths inIraq resulting from military activities is between 8,000 and 194,000.
Critics like the Slate writer seized on that range, says Dr. Woodruff, thegovernment epidemiologist. "They thought, 'Well, it's just as likely to be18,000 as 100,000.' That's not true at all," he says. "The further you get awayfrom 100,000, the probability that the number is true gets much smaller."
The gap between the Lancet estimate and that of Iraq Body Count does nottrouble scientists contacted by The Chronicle. John Sloboda, a professor ofpsychology at the University of Keele, in England, and a co-founder of IraqBody Count, says his team's efforts will lead to a count smaller than the truenumber because not every death is reported in the news media.
Dr. Woodruff says, "Les [Roberts] has the most valid estimate."
Dr. Toole agrees: "If anything, the deaths may have been higher [than thestudy's estimate] because what they are unable to do is survey families whereeveryone has died."
Robin M. Coupland, a medical adviser on weapons and armed violence in the legaldivision of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has only one concern:Mr. Roberts's team did not document how many people were wounded.
"In every recorded context where conventional explosive weapons have been usedin armed contact," Dr. Coupland says, "there's usually two or more peoplewounded per person killed. The question that glares out from that article is,Where are all the 200,000 wounded?"
Mr. Roberts says his team did not ask about injuries because of the difficultyof defining both what constitutes an injury and whether the injury stemmeddirectly or indirectly from violence. "If someone is running from fighting andthey cut their foot, is that a war wound?" he asks.
Burden of Proof
Despite the muted public response, public-health professionals are glad thatthe study brought to light the human toll of the Iraq war and continuingoccupation. Both the study and the Iraq Body Count, says Mr. Sloboda, are"shoestring attempts by private citizens" to do work he says the governmentought to be doing.
Mr. Garlasco, of Human Rights Watch, is mystified that the Defense Departmentis not publicly interested in such studies. "Civilian casualties can be abellwether for the actual conduct of the war-fighting," says Mr. Garlasco, whowas an intelligence officer at the Pentagon until 2003. "They're using allthese precision weapons, so one would expect that if you're striving tominimize casualties, you'd have very low casualties. In Iraq we've seen theexact opposite, so one has to wonder why."
Besides, he says, counting civilian deaths could actually be useful for thePentagon's public image. "I truly believe when the U.S. military says we're notthere to kill civilians, it's absolutely true," he says. "The problem is,though, there are many people who don't accept their reasoning. The only waythey'll change their minds is if the U.S. military shows they take civiliancasualties seriously enough that they quantify them and attempt to minimizecasualties in the future."
In the Lancet article, Mr. Roberts and his colleagues write, "It seemsdifficult to understand how a military force could monitor the extent to whichcivilians are protected without systematically doing body counts or at leastlooking at the kinds of casualties they induce."
Dr. Coupland says, "The number of noncombatant deaths and injuries would speakto the legality of the nature of the hostilities."
That's why surveys like the Lancet one are important, says the World HealthOrganization's Dr. Meddings, even if the immediate response is hesitant: "Ifyou can put accurate information out, it shifts the burden of proof ontomilitaries to substantiate why what they're doing is worth this humanitariancost."
At the end of the day, Mr. Roberts worries that his study may play little partin that crucial debate. Although he blames the American news media for beingembedded not only with the military but also with the military point of view,he also partly blames himself for the lack of public response.
"Maybe we the scientists have mismanaged this information," he says. "We had amessage that was of interest to most Americans. We had a message that wasextremely robust scientifically. And we failed to get it out into society wherethey could use it."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

To Trade or Not To Trade with Burma or Myanmar

Compiler's remark:

To Trade or Not To Trade with Burma or Myanmar
by zarni

1). Burma and multinational companies: who profits and how it works
2). John Pilger denounces EU appeasement of Burma

Compiler's Remark:

I am posting two pieces on Burma - a press release by the InternationalConfederation of Trade Unions on the release of its 28-page report on why tradewith Burma - or Burmese dictators - makes no sense either morally or from thebottom-line perspective. Burma is the only country in the world which is thetarget of ICFTU's disinvestment campaign. The report is evidently meant toserve as a pro-sanctions, pro-isolation policy tool for Burma lobbyists,especially in the West.

The second piece and last piece by famed Australian documentary film maker and activist John Pilger appears in the most recent issue of the New Statesman. Pilger pieces is moralistic in tone and dramatic in its choice of words, butdated or inaccurate in its factual details. For instance, Pilger's piecemelodramatises the extent of isolation which aung san suu kyi has beensubjected to, on and off. Also it lacks any meaningful or useful geo-politicaland geo-economic context of the Burma problem.

Trade has never been fair and fairness and morality are not what primarilydrive the growth of commerce throughout history. That said, oppositionalvoices against trade - especially the exesses - are legitimate and ought to bemaintained against overzealous, greed-driven practices for profit.

But trade,in some contexts, can be liberalizing, especially in countries where theexisting economic and political practices are so underdeveloped, and soauthoritarian.But of course, the readers will reach their own conclusion as to the efficacyof isolation versus integration policies.

The politically correct and morallylaudible position on trade with Burma operates within the paradigm being that an open society can be builtin or through isolation. The call for isolating Burma's dictatorship (and by extension Burmese civilsociety) comes from well-meaning individuals.

But again we should bereminded that the road to hell is also paved with well-intentions. Communismwanted to march masses forcibly up the Loka-nirvana, or a heaven on earth (aclassless society) and ended up starving millions to death or leaving themfreeze in Siberian Gulags.

The Chinese proverb on strategy has it that sometimes it is necessary tosupport one's opponent. Who would have thought 30 years ago that thepolit-bureaus in Beijing and Hanoi would serve as primary engines of capitalistdevelopments?

In his "Burmese Days", George Orwell derided the British Empireas a system of theft or robbery. Some anti-capitalists have describedderisively global capitalism using a similar language. But rule of wealthy thieves who engage in "rent seeking" and self-aggrandizement may be preferableto no rule at all. And trade integration and growth of commerce are notprimary agents of democratization. But they may be more impactful on the society and people than direct political activism, as it were. This is a bitter pill to swallow for those of us who see ourselves as directand legitimate agents of change (in Burma), but whose vehement opposition togreater, regional and global trends that will inevitably leave their mark (forthe better) on civil society in Burma or Myanmar is becoming counter-productiveand self-defeating in our push for change.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ONLINE...

Burma and multinational companies: who profits and how it works 25/1/2005

BRUSSELS, 25 January 2005, ICFTU Online: The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) today released a new report on business with Burma. The 28-page document, entitled "Doing Business with Burma", concentrates on investment in and trade with Burma and shows how foreign business relationships with Burma - by large and small multinational companies - generate vast profits for the country's military dictators.

The ICFTU simultaneously released an updated version of its Burma company database, which now contains the names of some 440 multinational companies, adding over 40 new names.Burma is the only country in the world for which the international trade union movement calls for disinvestment.

The newest ICFTU report on investment and trade with Burma is essentially a research overview, based onfacts and details complied from over 40 different sources (news items, reports by governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations and individual researchers). It demonstrates conclusively that investing in Burma is not possible without the agreement of the junta. It also shows how the regime systematically steers business operations, especially the most profitable, towards joint ventures with state-owned companies.

The "secretive and corrupt" business environment in Burma lacks all forms of transparency, according to the report. Whether or not companies are directly owned by the military makes no real difference. Where the former are owned by the army, many of the latter are owned by high ranking military figures, in their "private capacity", or by their relatives and cronies.

Over the last 15 years the military dictatorship in Burma has moved itself into a position of virtual control over all aspects of the business sector.Figures quoted in the report indicate an overall reduction in investment in Burma over the last few years. More and more people, companies and countries are recognising that investing in or trading with Burma makes no sense - either in moral nor in business terms. Regrettably, a small number of neighbouring countries, in part because of regional power-plays, refuse to follow that trend. Business interests from China, India, Thailand and someof the other neighbouring ASEAN countries are stepping in where others are moving out.

The report provides numerous concrete examples of what the Burmese junta spends the income on, for example over 40% of its national budget goes to military expenditure. It also recalls the army's responsibility for a hostof human rights abuses, including the widespread and continuing use of forced labour. The report also highlights what the government does not do with the money, spending only 0.3% of GDP on health care.

Among the many different topics covered by the report, the ICFTU also addresses issues such as corruption, transparency, drug traffic and arbitrary taxation, as well as the junta's bogus claims that economic sanctions affect "18 million workers".

The ICFTU has also updated its list of companies with business links to Burma. This list now contains the names of around 440 multinational enterprises. The addition of new companies is the result of continuousresearch, and not an actual indicator of increased corporate interest in Burma. Some of the better known new names are China PetroChemical Corp. (Sinopec), China Telecom, Lloyd's of London, Rolls Royce and the State Bank of India.Many large multinational companies have left the country over the last few years.

However, some companies, such as South-Korea's Daewoo International, Austrian Airlines, SWIFT (Belgium), Total (France), Unocal (USA), Suzuki (Japan) or Ivanhoe Mines (Canada) still maintain their links with Burma.As a country, Burma continues to be one of the worst human and workers' rights offenders in the world.

In spite of some minor positive steps in recent years, partly the result of international pressure, very little has fundamentally changed in the way the Burmese dictators treat their citizens.

Claims of progress made by the military have been merely cosmetic, and are followed by a new wave of brutal repression. This repression includesviolence against religious and ethnic minorities, forced relocation, beatings, child labour, rape and murder. All of them continue on a daily basis. A high number of political prisoners remain in prison. Forced labour,one of the largest problems, is still routinely resorted to by the military.The database on companies linked to Burma, including specific information for each company, as well as background information on this initiative

The report on multinationals companies and ICFTU represents 148 million workers in 231 affiliated organisations in 150 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions: more information, please contact the ICFTU Press Department on +32 2 2240232 or +32 476 621 018.###


John Pilger denounces EU appeasement of BurmaJohn Pilger
Monday 24th January 2005

With an eye to its vast Asian market, Europe promotes human rights when theprice is right. In Burma, crimes against humanity are allowed to continuewithout challenge.

By John Pilger

I tried to phone her the other day. I still have a number she gave me, which Icould call infrequently to exchange a few words. It was fruitless to try thistime; the hurried click at the other end was an echo of her Kafkaesqueoppression. The isolation of Aung San Suu Kyi is now complete, in the tenthyear of her detention. The last time I got through, I asked her what washappening outside her house. "Oh, the road is blocked and there are soldiersall over the street . . . for my own security, of course!"She thanked me for the books I had sent her, hand-carried through theunderground that now struggles to maintain contact. "It has been a joy to readwidely again," she said. I had sent her a collection of her favourite T SEliot, as well as Jonathan Coe's political novel What a Carve Up!, whose gentleirony must have seemed strange in jackbooted Rangoon. She told me she relishedbiographies of those who had also suffered through isolation: Mandela,Sakharov. Little has reached her since then, and it is not known if she stillhas her old Grundig shortwave radio. The regime has now removed her personalsecurity guards from her compound beside Inya Lake. Having tortured and killedher closest allies, they must believe that, if the world looks the other way,they can do the same to her."For the media, Burma is seldom fashionable," she told me. "But the importantthing to remember about a struggle like ours is that it endures, whether or notthe spotlight is on, and it can't be turned back." For one so alone, these aresalutary words; I recommend them to those who lose heart when theirparticipation in one demonstration fails to stop an invasion. Fortunately, AungSan Suu Kyi and the democracy movement she leads are supported by a tenacioussolidarity network throughout the world; and I am indebted to John Jackson andYvette Mahon of the Burma Campaign UK for never letting us forget that, if theoften debased cry of democracy means anything, its true test is Burma. In thecurrent issue of Metta, the campaign's journal, Desmond Tutu reminds us thatAung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, won 82 percent of the parliamentary seats in Burma's 1990 election, the signal for amilitary junta to hunt, imprison, torture and murder the victors, and enslavemuch of the nation. "Suu Kyi and the people of Burma," writes Tutu, "have notcalled for a military coalition to invade their country. They have simply askedfor the maximum diplomatic and economic pressure against Burma's brutaldictators."As the public's response to the tsunami and the invasion of Iraq has shown, thefastest-growing division in the world is between people and those in powerclaiming to act morally in their name. Burma exemplifies this. Take theEuropean Union's disgusting policy. Clearly with an eye to its vast Asianmarket, the EU, promoter of "human rights" when the price is right, hasshamelessly appeased the Burmese junta. Consider what happens in Burma today.Rape is used as a weapon of the state against indigenous women and children.Forced labour is widespread, described by the UN's International LabourOrganisation as a "crime against humanity". The junta holds more than 1,350political prisoners, many of whom are routinely tortured. Up to a millionpeople have been forced from their land. Half the national budget is spent on abrutal, peacock military whose only enemy is its own people, while next tonothing is spent on health; one in ten Burmese babies dies in infancy. And thetrue leader, elected in a landslide, is incarcerated, rising at four o'clockevery morning to meditate on such an epic injustice.Meanwhile, the EU shores up the regime by increasing imports, worth roughly$4bn between 1998 and 2002. Last October, the fifth summit of the 38-stateAsia-Europe Meeting (Asem) was held in Hanoi and attended by representatives ofthe junta for the first time. Instead of announcing a boycott, the Europeansturned up and said nothing. Rather, France's president, Jacques Chirac, said hehoped stronger sanctions would not be necessary because they "will hurt thepoorest people". For "poorest people" read Total Oil Company, part-owned by theFrench government, the largest foreign investor in Burma, where the oilcompanies' infrastructure of roads and railway access has long been the subjectof allegations of forced labour. Total's euros allow the junta to re-equip itsstate of fear. "None of the EU officials I have met," says John Jackson,"denies that foreign investment and military spending in Burma are closelylinked. In the week the regime received its first payment for gas due to bepiped to Thailand from a gas field operated by Total Oil, it made a $130m downpayment on ten MiG-29 jet fighters." Jackson points to the farce of present EUsanctions. After as many as 100 of Suu Kyi's supporters were publicly beaten todeath by soldiers in 2003, the EU extended its visa ban to the junta andGermany froze no less than E86 ($112) of German-based Burmese assets.In contrast, and through direct action, the international campaign has chalkedup major disinvestments, such as Premier Oil, Heineken, PepsiCo and Bhs. Thecurrent "dirty list" of investors includes the oil companies Total and Unocal,Rolls-Royce, Lloyd's of London and so-called prestige travel companies such asBales, Road to Mandalay and Orient Express. The bestselling Lonely Planetguidebook is a fixture on the list. Lonely Planet has long made a fool ofitself by claiming, in the words of one of its writers, that Burma is "betteroff" today, and that although the junta is "abominable", "politicalimprisonment, torture" and "involuntary civilian service to the state" are notnew and "have been around for centuries".Tell that to the people of Pagan, the ancient capital, which used to have apopulation of 4,000. They were given a few weeks to leave, their homes werebulldozed, and the people were marched at gunpoint to a waterless stubble thatis a dustbowl in the summer, and runs with mud in the winter. Theirdispossession was to make way for foreign tourists. "I shall welcome touristsand investors," said Aung San Suu Kyi, "when we are free." There is anabundance of evidence that foreign tourism has benefited the regime, not theBurmese people, and that much of the tourist infrastructure was built with"involuntary civilian service" - an idiotic euphemism for bonded or outrightslave labour.Filming secretly in Burma nine years ago, I came upon what might have been atableau from Dickensian England. Near the town of Tavoy, in the south, gangs ofpeople were building a railway viaduct, guarded by soldiers. These were slavelabourers, and many were children. I watched one small girl in a long bluedress struggle to wield a hoe taller than herself, falling back exhausted, inpain, holding her shoulder. "How old are you?" I asked her. "Eleven," came thereply.Just as we should not forget the people of Fallujah and Najaf and Baghdad, andRamallah and Gaza, so we should not forget this little girl, and her people,and their leader, who ask for the most basic rights and deserve our support.Burma Action Campaign: [] or phone 020 7324 4710"TARGET="_URL"> (e-mail:[] or phone 020 7324 4710]) This article first appeared in the New Statesman. For the latest in current andcultural affairs subscribe to the New Statesman print edition.