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

Political Thoughts (1) from The Burma Monitor

This FBC Posting contains:

1). Political Thoughts (1), from The Burma Monitor

Compiler's Disclaimer:

Posting an item doesn't necessarily mean the compiler endorses or otherwisesupport the views expressed in it. This essay has some critically reflectiveobservations. Not sure who the author is. Regardless it is worthreading.

From: "Min Min" <burmamonitor@gmail.com>
To: lakeyalekid@cs.com
Subject: Political Thoughts (1) from The Burma Monitor

THE BURMA MONITORPolitical Thoughts (1)

The rebirth of New Burma

A country is a territory limited by its boundary and solely ruled by aking or government. Three characteristics define a country. Theyare:(1) Geographical characteristic, including boundary area, physicalmaterials, worldly possessions, natural resources, etc.(2) People and their social characteristic, including customs,behavior, beliefs, religion, habitual actions, etc.(3) Political characteristic, based on the sociology and economy of a nation.These three factors are interdisciplinary and mutually related.

(1)GEOGRAPHICAL CHARACTERISTIC:

As the history of a country changes over time, the geographicalcharacteristic (boundary area) may change in size, either increasingor decreasing its boundary area. Over thousands of years, sizes ofsome countries will become smaller or larger than their original size. With reference to the history of Burma, the Pagan Dynasty originatedwith 19 villages and developed into different states at different timelines, such as: Eva Dynasty, Taung-Ngu Dynasty, Nyaung-Yan Dynasty,and Kone-Boung Dynasty. Comparatively speaking, the boundary of Burmastill remained constant for many years. It did not change very muchcompared to the boundary of the Alaung-Pha-Ya, founder of theKone-Boung Dynasty.

Two additional factors – the ability of the King or rulers, and theunity of the people – could also influence change in the boundary of acountry. It will be interesting to observe whether or not Burma'sboundary/shape will change in the future, depending on the governmentand its people.

(2)PEOPLE AND SOCIAL CHARACTERISTIC:

The people living together within a nation or country are the mostimportant factor among the three characteristics. Referring to itsintellectual resources, there are about 135 ethnic groups anddiversities in Burma. The conflicts and problems between the majority(Bama) and minorities began many years ago and escalated to thehighest intensity. Under the military dictatorship's tyranny,anti-Bama feeling by minorities has increased in volume and has becomebitterness and hatred. Minorities now distrust whatever the Bamaleaders (majority) say.
An uneasy unity can be found on the surface, but hatred and hostilityare fixed inside the minds of minorities in Burma. Even those wholeft Burma and migrated all over the world also hate the Bama asbitterly as the minorities within Burma do. It is a very dangerousproblem for the future of Burma.

All states in Burma are named for the minority groups, such as: ShanState, Karen State, Chin State, Rakhine State, Mon State, and KayahState. The current nomenclature leads one to assume that a regionnamed for a particular minority group is populated primarily by thatgroup. In fact, this is far from reality. Therefore, it would makegood sense to eliminate all minority and majority names and replacethem with geographical names.

The use of minority names for states only enforces disunity andcreates more problems in such places. Rather than naming the statesfor minorities, these states could be named after their capitol orother popular city. For example, Shan State could be Taunggyi State;Kachin State could be Myitkyina State.

Geographically speaking, freedom and rights to exercise each state'slanguage, literature, culture and traditional ceremonies must beimplemented all over the country. The Shan National Day should not belimited to Shan State; it should be held for Shans who live in RangoonState or any other state. Likewise, the Bama traditional ceremonycould be held for Bama who live in Tachileik or elsewhere.

Suppose a qualified leader from any state is from an ethnic minority. For example, a Rakhine ethnic person whose native place in TaunggyiState (previously called Shan State) should be able to assumeleadership of the Taunggyi State if he/she is qualified. Under thefair and square treatment of law and generalized interpretation oflaw, all persons must have equal rights as human beings and need notbe distinguished by their minority or majority status.

Some pro-democracy leaders and activists are over-zealous andover-conscientious in their desire to topple the militarydictatorship. But to behave as leaders of a democratic countryrequires some restraint. As they will be responsible for drawing up aconstitution and creating federal laws, they will have to face thehard realities of Burma as well as respect the human rights of everyethnic group.

It is easy to demand human rights for Burma on paper. Among thepeople who are now trying to restore democracy and human rights inBurma, some leading political activists want to set up short-sightedprinciples for the minority issue, ignoring the necessary detailedpreparation for human rights related to minority concerns. Bydefinition, human rights for the future Burma will not be limited to asingle ethnicity because human rights are not the sole property ofBama only, or Shan only, or Chin alone. They are the rights of allcitizens in a united Burma.

If the leaders are to succeed, they must trust one another and believein human rights and democracy absolutely; they must determine to fightagainst the military dictators and create a "United States of Burma."

However, if one minority group wants to secede or separate its statefrom the united Burma, secession must be accepted and the state musthave the right to set up an independent country.
It is vital that governing powers be shared equally between state andfederal government, with a system of checks and balances firmly inplace. A detailed agenda is needed for democratic freedom and humanrights for future generations, as well as a plan for the developmentof the life of ordinary citizens of Burma.

(3) POLITICAL CHARACTERISTIC:

People in Burma have demanded their democratic rights since Burma wasunder British colonial rule. Today, Burma is under military rule. Military dictators were able to take advantage of the country'spolitical weaknesses and disunity in order to take control.

When democracy issues for Burma are discussed, the National League forDemocracy (NLD) and Aung San Suu Kyi must be taken into account. In1988, people invited Aung San Suu Kyi to the political arena, electedher as a leader, and voted her NLD party to win an election with alandslide victory. There is no doubt about her sincerity, strongdetermination, moral principles and efforts on behalf of Burma. Shestands at the level of world leaders. Without her, the NLD partymight not be strong enough to continue. However, it is essential thatdemocratic principles and practices be firmly established in the NLDparty so that other party leaders can stand on their own and not betoo dependent on her. It would be very unfortunate for Burma, and awaste of precious time and effort, if other NLD leaders could donothing without Aung San Suu Kyi. In addition, the military regimecould easily take control of the NLD if Aung San Suu Kyi were the onlyeffective leader of the party.

Many political analysts are skeptical of Aung San Suu Kyi because shewas brought up in democratically developed countries throughout herlife and is very knowledgeable about democratic principles, rules,regulations and rights. Some say she is not able to lead herfollowers to rise above mere survival status under the currentstringent military rule and oppression. Though she has gained greatpersonal popularity and fame, many wonder if hope for democracy inBurma is too far a stretch for the people of Burma.

Two questions to ask: Are the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi working for theprocess of democracy for the people, or are the people sacrificingtheir lives and their hopes for the fame and success of Aung San SuuKyi and NLD?

Before the military takeover in 1988 and after the election in 1990,Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD had several chances to build democracy inBurma. Rather than seize the moment, they neglected or opposed thesechances. One day the history may accuse them of rejecting therevolution for democracy and human rights.

From 1990 to the present 2005, has the NLD done anything important orsignificant to promote democracy in Burma? Without Aung San Suu Kyi'sdecision or permission, the other leaders of the NLD do not dare totake action. Some tried but were blocked. At the same time, theycannot guide the country to develop political thoughts. They do nothave a strategy to build democracy. They do not have the necessaryability, intellectual capacity and industriousness. But all of themhave high hopes of becoming powerful leaders of the future country. So what are they actually doing? Pointing to the 1990 electionresult, they talk about handing over the state's power to them. Sincethe power could not be transferred to them, they have done nothing butwait and see. For the past 14 years, they have not understood theirreal situation. But whether they accept it or not, the revolution isstill going on.

To restore democracy and human rights in Burma, not only Aung San SuuKyi or the NLD but also individual citizens must take responsibility. Democracy is not limited to certain groups, such as student, worker,peasant or monk. It applies to all people, including those who havesettled in Burma from elsewhere, either recently or for generations. Especially those who bear arms should understand the principles ofdemocracy; they themselves should participate in pro-democracymovements, knowing that democracy would benefit them, too. Armedpersonnel are also ordinary citizens who live together with othergroups. Therefore, verbal abuse and insulting behavior towards themis counter-productive and should be avoided.

It is questionable whether the NLD and some leading activists areinvolved in the democracy movements for the people or merely forpersonal gratification, ego, power, glory, selfishness, authority, andwealth. Those that follow the wrong path for selfish reasons onlyincrease the chances that military dictators will continue theirtyrannical rule of Burma.

Restoring democracy and human rights is not just a dream, so ourthoughts and theories should be applicable to all people in all walksof life. Narrow-minded ideas based on own party, own strata, ownreligion, own ethnicity should be avoided, and authentic unity shouldbe built for all persons. Strict avoidance of those who talk likebraggarts and seek only personal gain by oppressing weaker groups isessential.

We are living in the era of democracy; there are no other politicalpolicies comparable. In Burma, there are many parties andorganizations talking about democracy. However, though they may talkabout democracy, in reality they fight one another just like previousdictators did before them.

Whichever group or party (military or civilian) forms the government;it must implement a democratic system. A military-guided democraticgovernment would not be the same as that guided by civilianpoliticians. Rather, it would support laws and a constitution thatenable the military leaders to hold state power as long as they could. On the other hand, a civilian politicians' democracy would createconstitutional laws allowing civilians to hold state power andrepresent the people in the country.

Democracy and human rights are the only way to guarantee that peoplefrom all walks of life enjoy authentic freedom and that all politicalparties play a role in Burma's social and economic development.

Burma's revolutionary history, regrettably, has been full ofin-fighting and destruction, much to the detriment of the country. Weshould learn from our history and put a stop to wasted time, energyand efforts. While it is tragic that we've only moved backward formany years, the time is at hand to educate ourselves, unite and worktogether for the sake of Burma.
---------------------------------------------
Comments and Discussions are welcome.

Thanks,
Editors-------

Sunday, March 06, 2005

How likely is a popular uprising in Burma: A Hard Look

Quote of the Day:

``Burma is a social volcano about to erupt."

- Quoted in Larry Jagan's Military mass trials increase tension

This FBC Posting contains:

1). Military mass trials increase tension
2). How likely is a successful popular uprising in Burma?: Compiler's Remark


Bangkok Post: LARRY JAGAN :

Military mass trials increase tensionFOCUS / BURMA JUNTA TURNS ON ITSELF

http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/07Mar2005_news29.php


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How likely is a popular uprising in Burma: A Hard Look

By Zarni, Free Burma Coalition

The above BKK Post article depicts what is going on with the on-going trials offormer MIS officers in a way that is informative and descriptive.

The not-so subtle conclusion - that the country's situation resembles that of1988 and hence ripe for teh repeat of another popular uprisings - is less of aquote born out of an informed analysis than a cheer-leading line, however.

Here is why:

While no political analysis, intellectual or journalistic, can be expected tohave the power to predict future events - yes, even in a place believed to beas volatile as today's Burma - the possibilities of the repeat of the failed8.8.88 uprisings appear almost non-existent.

Although 8.8.88 was a dramatic and climatic event, there were geo-economic andinternal processes which precipated isolated events that finally led to the'social and political explosion' of 1988. Paradoxical as it may sound, theprevailing mood of the Burma Socialist Program Party government's leadershipitself - that is, General Ne Win himself - was a major contributing factor.

The top BSPP leadership itself was interested in liberalizing the economy and*limited political change* - perhaps along the lines of the Chinese model. Ina country that was shut off from the outside world through the self-imposed'Burmese Way to Socialism,' the ones who remained exposed to the outside worldwere the members of the party's top echelon, most specifically Chairman Ne Winhimself.

In addition to the built-in structural problems such as the country's failedcommand economy (and the Black Market) with the attendant economic problems,three events can be said to have played a role in the emergence of an appetitefor change at the top.

First, the visit of the late Deng Xioping, the man credited with China's highlysuccessful state-controlled capitalist economic reforms, to Rangoon andMandalay after he assumed the leadership of the Communist Party in early1980's. The popular joke among the urbanites in Burma, at the time, was abouta caricature depicting Deng on his return journey down from the top of(socialist/communist) mountain, and telling his Burmese counterpart, ChairmanNe Win, who was on his way up to the top that there was nothing at the top (andhence the futility of continuing to climb toward the top).

Second, with Deng Xioping's ascendency to power, Beijing became significantlyless ideological, but economically and strategically pragmatic. Having reaped no handsome returns in its investment in Communist uprisings throughout SouthEast Asia, Beijing began to cut its losses, pulled the rug out of all theCommies in the region who were on Beijing's welfare, including Burmesecommunists of all shapes, forms and colorations.

Beijing pursued unequivocallyits new strategy toward its Southern neighbor so as to pursue its own strategicand economic interests; its proxy army of the Burmese Communists in thejungless, lacked any prospects for victory while the ethnic armed groups suchas the (Christian) Kachin Independencen Army (of the golden days) were too God-drenched to join hands with the Burmese Communists against its common enemy(the Burma Army). (As a matter of fact, during his tenure as Chinese PM, PrimeCho Enlai (sp?) offered the KIA leadership of Breng Sai everything it needed tofight Rangoon, on the sole condition that it joined hands with the BurmeseCommunists. Land-locked and bordered on China, the KIA leadership was forcedto break ranks with its more revolutionary brothers in the tapestry of Burma'sethnic armies and chose the path of least (self-)destruction when Beijingdecided that it was going to do business direct with Rangoon.)

Third, in April 1986 General/later U San Yu who was known to be General NeWin's all-seasons yes-man went to Tokyo on a state visit and returned with 26Japanese government's scholarship awards for Burmese civil servants (includinguniversity instructors) and, more importantly, unequivocal message from the Japanese government, that Rangoon must reform economically or face the halt ineconomic aid by Tokyo, Burma's single largest 'donor' since the country'sindependence in 1948. (There were two countries which General Ne Win's Burmanever severed its ties even at the height of self-imposed isolationism, and onewas Japan and the other the then West Germany).

Within a year, in a short speech reprinted in all (state-controlled) papers in1987, Ne Win declared to the nation that change was the only thing that wasinevitable. And without admitting any wrong-doings on his part, he signalled that significant policy change was being considered (and perhaps under way). A Machiavellian pragmatist and nationalist of his own brand, Ne Win was never known for his convictions in either socialism or capitalism - nor was he ever a card-carrying member of any political party. Echoing the late General Aung San's sentiment, he once again warned 'the traders, speculators and merchantswith foreign roots' to consider Burma their real home and not to take advantages of the indigenous populations.
Between 1987 and 1988, one of the economic measures the Generals took was the demonetization of Burmese currency notes.

Something unexpected - or perhaps expected - happened. Immediately before thepublic announcement of demonetization in the state-controlled media, some ofhis deputies - including cabinet ministers - and their wives rushed to acquireland, properties, automobiles, consumer goods, gold, etc. For they had inadvance the privileged information that the demonetization measure was underway. Chairman Ne Win was said to have been angered seriously by the economicbehavior of his subordinates, and accordingly launched a subsequent wave ofdemonetization. The second time, the Chairman was said to have consulted withno one in in his inner circle, picked a Saturday morning, went straight to theBurma Broadcasting Station and handed his own hand-written seconddemonetization announcement to the TV/radio announcer who was ordered to readat 8 AM news hours, a few minutes after the Chairman's arrival at the station.

The second demonetization had severe economic impact on the general public, andthe dormitory-dwelling students in Rangoon who were from non-Rangoon areastried to start social unrest on campuses. The BSPP regime responded by closingdown all schools and 'shipping' all dorm students home - via air, rail andbuses - as a way of preempting contagious campus unrest in the capital city, aswell as in urban university towns. This was followed by an otherwiseinsignifcant town-gown tea-shop brawl the mis-handling of which caused a deathof the Rangoon Institute of Technology student Hpone Maw who died of bleedingfrom gun-shot wound.

Further, former Brigadier General Aung Gyi, who was General Ne Win's second incommand during the first year of his Revolutionary Council goverment(1962-74)whom Ne Win jailed twice circulated two open letters to his formerboss, believed to have been written with the general's prior knowledge andconsent. The letters faulted everyone except General Ne Win for all the woesBurma had come to face - economic underdevelopment, corruption, failinginstitutions, demoralized state of politics and civil service, etc. Theletters took the country by surprise and was the talk of the nation, havingmade waves in the discontent-filled popular psyche.

Needless to say, there was a series of significant developments which finallyresulted in a situation wherein a nation-wide massive protest against theone-party state was possible. Those factors included the somewhat indecisiveor confused mental state among the BSPP's top leadership, especially ChairmanNe Win, as to how to handle the fluidity of the series of events within thecountry; the unsatisfactory fact finding report re: the death of Hpone Maw, andthe growing campus protests, especially in Rangoon, the use of violence againstpeaceful student protestors in June 1988, and the old Communist undergroundcells that continued to operate in prisons and throughout select urban areaswhich used to be sympathetic to the Communists. Those who cooly remembered that fateful day 8.8.88 recall that the urbantresidents became emboldened to take to streets, only after having felt theregime's inaction - either by choice or circumstances - to not act preemptivelyon the BBC broadcast buzz that 8.8.88 was the day of the collective action.

Burma's internal situation/process today resembles little to the prevailingpolitical and economic climate in 1987/88.

For starters, the current military leadership is cut from a different cloth,unlike the generations which General Ne Win and his top deputies belonged to.In addition, if anything, the generals witnessed beheadings of all those whohad been accused of being government informers and spies during the heady daysof popular uprisings. If one puts oneself in their shoes, out of compassion orout of strategic calculations or both, it is not too difficult to imagine howthey will respond to any repeat of the 8.8.88.

Having succeeded in making opposition possible only at the symbolic andpsychological level, the current de facto government is confident in itsability to control any type of uprisings - or so it appears. The fact that SGThan Shwe kept his India travel plan in tact immediately after he ordered todismantle the entire institution of the Military Intelligence clearly indicatesthe level of confidence at the top SPDC leadership in terms of its ability tokeep the lid on domestically.

Under direct order from the 'retired' Chairman Ne Win, the MIS had done a greatjob of inducing and/forcing virtually all significant armed ethnic minorititygroups save the Karen National Union into entering into ceasefire arrangementswith Rangoon. Subsequently, it was also MIS that in effect has dismantled theopposition movement within the territories it controlled.

Insofar as the Burmese military intelligence (and by extension all successive governments in power) are concerned, the two most significant political forces with rootsand support systems within the Burmese society - university students andBuddhist order. As early as 1968, Burma's military leadership had openlyidentified these two mainstream institutions as the most potent threat to itsmonopoly over state power.

Accordingly, at the expense of the country'scivilian higher education (and thus future of civilian elite - as opposed tothe military elite), the SPDC has destroyed campus and monastery-baseddissident infrastructure over the past 16 years. The current generation ofstudents blames the older generation of politically active students for all their present troubles, institutional obstacles and otherattendent problems (such as excruciatingly long commutes to remote universitycampuses, openly meaningless extremely low quality education and so on).

A great majority of them have said to have checked out of Burma's politicalsituation, no matter how much it may impact their lives. In addition, many aresaid to mistake 8.8.88 student leaders with their illustrious names for up and coming romatic poets or hip hop stars!

It is therefore extremely implausible that social or political unrest willbegin at the traditional hotbeds of activisms - monasteries and universitycampuses.

Labor movement is practically non-existent in Burma, despite statements to thecontrary. The peasantry is also left out of the picture when the urban elitetalk about social change. (The peasants - who make up the majority of Burma'spopulation, are most impacted favorably by the regime's propaganda. Believers in the notion of Karma, which ever Buddist and Burmese general is in power, itis because of his past meritorious deeds and hence no need for revolt againsthim.)

Having completely ignored the progressively self-marginalized National Leaguefor Democracy, placed the ceasefire groups between rock and a hard place, anddeprived the Karen National Union and its Karen National Liberation Army of anygeo-economic and geo-political advantages, the SPDC is going full-steam aheadwith its National Convention. Further, absent B 52s and ICBMs flying towardRangoon or Pyinmana or Pyin Oo Lwin, the SPDC has written off the United Statesor United Kingdom as countries that are not needed for its regime survival.

It is said that while the SPDC is most certainly ramming its political agendathrough what most observers consider 'farce', it has allowed a fair amount oflatitude in terms of political proposals and discussions among its hand-pickeddelegates, as well as the ceasefire group representatives. While it iscertainly not fair, transparent or credible in the eyes both of theinternational community and the Burmese public, the SPDC doesn't appear readyor prepared, under the present circumstances, to reverse the course.

While economic hardships, the uncertain political climate, level of popularhatred toward the SPDC, the mounting pressure from the outside world (includingthe ASEAN), and the weakened state of the Tatmadaw leadership, one ought to resist the temptation to reach the conclusion that Burma is ripe for anotherround of the BBC-induced uprising.

Indeed the mainstream Burmese notions of power and politics are, in the finalanalysis, of very personal nature - in a self-destructive way. Parties, organizations, institutions, etc. become the extensions of the leaders. But in a deeply 'traditional society' - for lack of a better word - which has beencondemned by both Generals and the dissidents alike to isolation - the Tatmadawor the Armed Forces remains the only organization where orders, policies, andbehaviors are relatively less personal - and more bureaucratic and rational(except perhaps at the top leadership). The rank and file members of theTatmadaw, especially the officer corps, remain deeply loyal to the Institutionof the army. This is in spite of popular misreading of their seeminglypersonal loyalty to their respective big leaders. While the Air Force or Navy officers who self-perceive (and perhaps in actuality as well) asbetter educated and more intelligent than their brothers in the Army may bemore unhappy about the state of affairs within the Armed Forces, especially atthe top, it is the Army that is running the country - not a small contigent of air force and navy officers.

The ideological roots of the army officers aredeep, despite whatever sinister motives we may assign these men on horseback.They are fiercely loyal to the Armed Forces as their mother institution. ThePhillippines scenario of brothers ready to kill each other for freedom's sakeis for ever more distant. They may be devouring their own flesh, but certainlynot with the purpose of making the opposition's life easier; nor with the viewtoward ushering in a new civilian era of full-blown democracy.

Lastly, every conflict has its own unique characteristics - Burma is neitherthe Philippines nor Indonesia, much less the now romaniticized South Africa.

'People Power' sounds nice. But without any key segment of the establishedpower switching the course mis-stream, the repeat of '8888' will likely meet asimilar fate.

Having painted themselves into the corners, the SPDC appears determined to holdonto power - with or without its urban subjects taking to the streets. And anyjunior officers jumping ship at this late hour is inconceivable, having justwitnessed what could happen when one officer and his camp were perceived to get out of line.

No analyses of a society (and politics and econony) can be scientific in thesame way natural sciences are. But by Burma analyses should be informed by orbased on the empirical evidence, rather than pipedreams.

Social change is always possible, and it is possible through more than onescenario.
And no society remains stagnant - either societies are moving forward orregressing or both depending on which specific respects one examines.

While the society and politics are moving on, for better or for worse, itappears that the Burmese revolution has long been stuck in the revolutionarymode - at least among its international cheer-leaders and mainstream exiles.For we have not been able to conceive social change in Burma beyond massuprisings.

The Burmese public who lives under the boots on a daily basis does not appearto be in the mood for risking their lives or their children's - not forfreedom, not for democracy, and certainly not for the opposition.