Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Home Alone in Burma/Myanmar: Trade as a Lever for Change

Quotes of the Day:

"If you are Home Alone, even kids get creative, although we prefer being inla-la land to dealing with realities."

- From Home Alone in Burma/Myanmar

"Notwithstanding the condemnation by the UN Human Rights Commission, there is little chance of China allowing change to emerge through the United Nations. The quickest way to restore democracy in Myanmar would be for the United States and the EU to impose sanctions on China."

- Daryl Martyris, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, International Herald Tribune

This FBC Posting contains:

1). Published IHT Letters in Response to Jody Williams' well-meaning, but naiveand misguided "It's the Burmese who are asking for sanctions"
3). Dhaka to Formulate Strategy on Gas Pipeline on May 164). Unocal’s Historic Burma Settlement

Compiler's Remark:
Home Alone in Burma/Myanmar
Zarni, Free Burma Coalition

As an activist, I supported the sanctions and isolation of Burma, having drawnmy own personal inspiration from the victorious African National Congress'strategy of combining trade and consumer boycott with serious political and military and/ or underground strategy toward dismantling the apartheid regime in Pretoia.

For 17 years, I had waited for the proverbial tipping point, which never came. The anticipated scenario was a clean transfer of power, a model transitionwhich we could hold up to the world as a model of change because we the Burmese willed it. We Burmese would be able to stand tall. We may be poor, but we would - and could - export our model of social change, fashioned in the fine tradition of spiritual revolutions of the by-gone eras, or so we all fancied.

Well, that was not to be.

The course of historical events in our country over the past 17-years has turned out to be radically different from that which unfolded in South Africa or Gandhi's India or U Aung San's nationalist era.

A cursory look at Burma and South Africa will suffice.

Neighboring Namibia was allowing the ANC brothers led by its military leaderMandela to set up training camps on its territories or slipping arms into ANC areas. In sharp contrast, all of my country's neighbors, specifically Thailand, want to either push the flow of refugees back onto Burmese soil or round them up in unhealthy border camps where the refugees and opposition members wait to get shipped to third countries for resettlement where their physical labor will be most needed.

And then there was Pan-African solidarity, in both words and deeds. The fight against apartheid in South Africa was about as clear-cut an issue as you couldget. It was the UN certified case of 'crimes against humanity', a white minority keeping the black majority in economic, culturaland political bondage, so to speak.

Of course, there is Pan-Asian solidarity of sort for Myanmar. But the problem is the solidarity is among the governments of Asia, uniting against what theyconsider the characteristic, Kiplingnisque hypocrisy and double-standards ofthe West, invoking such "laughable" matters as universal values of human rightsand democracy, which the West itself would - and does - undermine, if doing so serves its interests.

Additionally, such strategically important countries - Read countries that matter most to Burma's survival - as China, India, Thailand, Bangladesh and the entire bloc of ASEAN share a similar strategic outlook: Asians have their own national and regional interests which must not be tempered with, simply because the Burmese, both the regime and the opposition, couldn't get their act together.

Who can blame these Asian solidarity governments for taking this 'pro-who-ever-is-in-power' approach to our own internal nightmare, as the former pursue their own national interests or act on their own internal foreign policy logic-s?

We are in 'real world'. And you may consider dropping it, if you were expecting to find Human Rights and Democracy 101 here.

It appears that we Burmese know what we want categorically and which leader wewant to crown. The tragedy is we don't seem to know how to get there.

As a matter of fact, our culture doesn't teach us to admit that we are stuck and that we don't know how to proceed. This social psychological burden which compels us not to admit we don't know or we are stuck increases proportionately as one's political and social rank goes up. That's why, most Burmese teachers- or bosses - typically act wise or deep when they are actually lost.

Try applying this cultural trait to our country's stalemate. You get my drift here.

Of course, saving face - apparently not necessarily the country and itsinhabitants - is the most important thing. Few free themselves from this cultural bondage, apparently.

Absent creative or reasonable ways to save face, we prefer to live in a la-la land where the forces of Good in the world,in a story book fashion, unite in solidarity with us, the Burmese, to fight and defeat the forces of Evil.

Well, that's as good a bed-time story as the one I heard from my now deceased grandma. I remember getting excited and thrilled when the Burmese Buddhistequivalent of Saturn called 'Mar-nat' was defeated by our knight in shining armours, the guy named Gotama, or Lord, if you are reverential, pious type.

The moral lesson of the story is the Good Guys always win and all the good guys in the world will gang up on the Bay Guys, or 'Evil-Doers' in President Bush' new phraseology.

But that's as far as the story goes.

The real world is a different matter.

It does not necessarilyfollow childhood fantacy scripts which have long been embedded in our mental templates.

Some of us have gotten over this Bushian Good-Guy-Bad-Guy infantileness.

I must admit I am a bit slow when it comes to matters of thinking andstrategizing. So it took me about 14 years to realize that neither the Good-versus-the-Bad scenario nor the prefered models of social change in otherpeople's lands - such as the Philippine's 'People Power' or Havel's VelvetyRevolution or the ANC's 'Mandela' model - really apply when it comes to pushing for social change in Burma.

On the other hand, we can't simply will social change in our country because everyone there including some members of the ruling junta wants it, not tomention the *economically* struggling masses or those in Burma's minority areas. It would be unfair of us to put the burden of delivering our collective freedoms on the National League for Democracy squarely. It obviously can't do the job alone. It can't even freeits own party leaders. It is being allowed by the ruling SPDC to exist only in name. What is left of this revolutionary party is led by leaders who are either incapacitated categorically or the octagenarians whose time has long gone, and yet who stick around in the party's only functiong office in Rangoon, forHeaven-knows-what-reasons.

So, we are all really Home Alone.

This got 'me and my friends' - really kids who are homesick and miss our mamasand papas back home, compared to our octagenarian (sp?) leaders in Yangon - to think of finding other means of helping our leaders in jail or under housearrest.

Don't be silly. Who doesn't want to please their leaders?

Even in hislast days in his bunker in the Chancellery between Friedrichstrasse andPotsdamer Platz (Friedrich Street and Potsdam Place, really), "Yes, My Fuher"was the most often heard phrase uttered by the grown-ups, terrified of speaking truth to 'charming and polite' Uncle Hitler.

There, in our search for some levers of change, we have stumbled on the potential power of trade.

During a lunch in Berlin last year, a German friend who follows events inBurma/Myanmar closely looked straight into my eyes and said, "You know I am a stupid Marxist. I think the pro-sanctions policies are grossly underestimating or writing off the power of trade and commerce to bring about change."

A few days ago I re-read "The Fashioning of Leviathan: The Beginnings ofBritish Rule in Burma" by John S. Furnivall, the man who did so much to enlivenBurma's intellectual life, albeit in a paternalistic fashion reflective of his time in his adopted country. The little book is about how a new, impersonal form of administration was institutionalized following the British acquisition of the Tenasserim Coastal region as the result of Britain's military conquest over the Court of Ava in 1826. This change in Tenassarim came about because the logic and nature of trading demanded that some kind of regularities and predictability be in place. For better or for worse - for the Burmese - the rule of law replaced the rule of traditions and whimsical ways ofconducting affairs of a community,a territory or trade and commerce with foreigners. (That's not to say, we Burmese didn't have any rule at all - but to say that the ones we had were not conducive to trade or establishment of impersonal bureaucracy).

I can imagine the late Mr. Furnivall whom I never had the honor of meeting chiming in on our Berlin conversation, with a slight modification of that endearing act of self-mockery. "Speaking as a stupid Fabian socialist, I must concur with our German friend here."

I am sure Mr. Furnivall who knew more about Burma's institutional development than would anyone of us, Burmese kids, simply shake his head, if only he could know that Western investors would be replaced by those from China, India,Malaysia, Thailand, etc., countries not known for rule of law, transparency or accountability, emblematic of democratic governance. It is hard to imagine Petrinas of Malaysia or Chinese state-owned oil companies being sued in their own countries, let alone bother to settle claims by lawyers who claim to represent the natives.

Surely, trade alone won't do the job of building up a democratic system ofgovernment. It is not its job, or stated, or even implicit, mission. But rule of law set up to facilitate big businesses or even big oil companies will be a significant, if only by-default, step in the right direction, and incomparably superior to the rule of man or woman and their whims.

Well, if you are Home Alone, even kids get creative, although we prefer being in la-la land to dealing with realities.

Jody Williams's commentary "It's the Burmese who are asking for sanctions" (Views, April 26) neglected to mention the critical role that China's government plays in propping up the military junta in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. U.S. and European Union sanctions are largely ineffective, since Myanmar's trade with China dwarfs its trade with the West.

Notwithstanding the condemnation by the UN Human Rights Commission, there is little chance of China allowing change to emerge through the United Nations. The quickest way to restore democracy in Myanmar would be for the United States and the EU to impose sanctions on China.

Daryl Martyris, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland

It is a mistake to imagine that the present military regime of Myanmar, which is very strongly entrenched and can count on substantial moral and material support from China, as well as a varying degree of tacit support from its neighbors, can be dislodged by economic or political sanctions.

The model here is Cuba: Would Fidel Castro have survived this long if it were not for the persistent sanctions applied on Havana by successive U.S. administrations?

Change in Myanmar is most likely to be brought about not by the efforts of the admirable Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters, but by dissension among the generals. This can best be achieved by a cautious increase in trade and tourism, which will encourage the more wily among them to opt for some semblance of democratic governance.

If it is true that this would attract massive popular support, as we hope would be the case, that would in due course pave the way for the liberation of the beautiful country and its wonderfully unspoiled and generous-hearted people.

William Harding, Pezuls, France



Surajit Khaund Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)May 2, 2005

In a bid to give a boost to the growing Indo-Burma trade, the ManipurGovernment in the North East India has inaugurated a trade centre atPorompot, near the state capital of Imphal.

The nine - million dollar trade centre was inaugurated by Manipur chiefMinister, Okram Ibobi Singh, at a special function on Saturday last. The centre will have an information centre besides a wide range of items for exportto Burma and other South - East Asain countries.

While inugurating the centre, Mr.Singh said the new trade centre was aimed atboosting the Indo-Burma trade, which had been gaining momentum over the years.

"We should explore trade in Burmese market by way of involving the localtraders", he said. In this context, he informed that his government had beenencouraging the local traders to explore the Burmese market. " But there shouldnot be one sided trade, Myanmar should also reciprocate in this regard", headded.

The chief minister said he would soon request the Indian Commerce Ministry toestablish an international trade centre at Moreh, bordering Burma, to gear uptrade between the countries. " The Indian Government should also remove allrestrictions so that Burmese traders can visit our areas without any fear", headded.

Manipur Commerce Minister, Mangi Singh, who was present at the function,emphasised on incresing trade volume between India and Myanmar.

"The Indo-Burma trade has solved unemployment problem to some extent, and so,we must encourage it ", he said. Mangi Singh also appealed to the IndianCommerce Ministry to review the Indo-Myanmar trade pact, which was signed in1994.


Dhaka to Formulate Strategy on Gas Pipeline on May 16

By Siddique IslamMizzima News (www.mizzima.com) May 3, 2005

Dhaka: Dhaka will hold an inter-ministerial meeting on May 16 for a strategy toget implemented its conditions on the proposed tri-nation gas pipeline fromBurma to India through Bangladesh.

The Commerce Minister, the State Minister for Energy Power and MineralResources the Foreign Secretary and other high government officials will takepart in the meeting, already okayed by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia,official sources said.

State Minister for Energy, Power and Mineral Resources, AKM Mosharraf Hossain,is hopeful about a successful outcome of the meeting.

After finalising the strategy, Bangladesh is expected to invite Indian Oil andPetroleum Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, for a discussion on the tri-nation gaspipeline project.

At a meeting of Energy Ministers of the three countries in Yangon on January12-13, Bangladesh agreed in principle to allow its territory for laying of thepipeline, provided Delhi took steps to reduce the trade gap between India andBangladesh and allowed Dhaka trade corridors and supply of electricity from Bhutan and Nepal.

A technical committee, comprising experts from the three countries, prepared adraft MOU on February 24-25 in Yangon where Bangladesh again made its positionclear to India and Burma. India responded by asking Bangladesh to preparespecific proposals.

Burma had earlier proposed Bangladesh to sit for the MOU signing meeting onApril 20-21, but Dhaka deferred the date awaiting the issues to be settled withNew Delhi.

The proposed gas pipeline will start from Arakan to enter the North-East Indianstates of Mizoram and Tripura. It will penetrate Bangladesh throughBrahmanbaria area and run to the Rajshahi border to reach Kolkata in India.

The 181-mile pipeline will cost one billion dollars and the Bangladesh part ofthe construction will involve 350 million dollars. Bangladesh is expected toearn 125 million dollars a year as transit fee from both the countries, sourcesestimated.


Unocal’s Historic Burma Settlement

Also in The Nation this week, a startling connection between the ChevronTexacobuyout of Unocal and a Burma human rights lawsuit that turned out to be morethan a mere nuisance to the targeted corporation. Just two weeks before theUnocal Corporation was bought out, “Unocal had agreed to pay to settle along-running lawsuit charging the oil company with assisting and encouragingthe torture, murder and rape of Burmese villagers by government soldiers sothat Unocal could build a gas pipeline.” The Burmese villagers won “significantmonetary compensation” and money for social development programs benefitingpeople who live in parts of Burma impacted by the Unocal pipeline. The scope ofthe confidential settlement must have been well over $60 million, judging bythe company’s revealing insurance-suit scramble to cover its costs. The crystalclear precedent set in this case is of revolutionary importance – as one of thecase’s human rights lawyers told Daphne Eviatar, “The standard disclaimers thatthey’ve used: that it wasn’t our president physically torturing the villagerswho worked on the pipeline, it was the government, our joint venture partner,doing this—the Unocal case established that they can’t say that anymore.”

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Milk Powder Revolutionaries and Burma's Pro-democracy Struggle

Quote of the Day:

"Our trade with Myanmar is overwhelmingly exports of dairy products. At a timewhen New Zealand is working with other countries to alleviate malnutrition in Myanmar, withholding products needed by families for basic nutrition makes absolutely no sense."

- Foreign Minister Phil Goff, New Zealand

This FBC Posting contains:

1). Compiler's remark, Milk Powder Revolutionaries in Burma's Pro-Democracy Struggle
2). Goff sets out NZ's position on Myanmar
3). New Zealand trade unions urge govt. for sanction on Burma - Mungpi

Compiler's Remark:
Milk Powder Revolutionaries and Burma's Pro-Democracy Struggle
Zarni, Free Burma Coalition

Since George Orwell published his masterpieces - Nineteen Eighty Four and Animal Farm - following his Burma career in the British Imperial Police Service, we have been living in the world that is becoming progressivelyabsurd.

The man who coined the memorable statement 'slavery is freedom' would indeed be turning in his grave.

A preemptive war for oil, strategic advantage, and the right wing elite's collective therapy (of bruised ego suffered during the Vietnam war) has been framed as 'Operation Iraqi Freedom'.

Killing of innocent civilians is refered to as 'collateral damage'. A former Nazi officer of Austrian origin was annointed Secretary General of the world's highest political body (the UN), symbolically speaking.

War criminals and terrorists won Nobel Peace Prizes:Henry Kissenger and the late Arafat spring to mind. A former member of Nazi youth who has hailed from Bavaria, the origin of Hitler's rise to power, andwho attacked the spread of liberation theory, that justice-minded, constructively - as opposed to destructively - engaged school of Christianity, is now freshly minted Pope Benedict.

Burma, our country, has its own share of absurd moments, episodes, and men andwomen.

Men with dictatorial tendencies are claiming to build 'discipline flourishing democracy' as they lock up anyone who disagrees with them. Blinded by their hatred toward the men on horseback many opposition exiles and their colleagues butcher truths and distort facts while ostensibly pursuing noble concepts of truth and reconciliation. The senile remants of Shan feudalists living thousands of miles away from the conflict zones of Burma declare 'independence' and warn foreigners they enter Shan states at the latter's own risk.

Many well-meaning, but pathetically ignorant western pro-Aung San Suu Kyi campaigners attempt to deprive, in effect, the ordinary Burmese any livelihood by campaigning against international travellers going to our country and doing business with even small business owners - taxi drivers, restaurant owners, tour guides, arts and crafts sellers and artisans.

The call for cutting even milk power export to Burma constitutes the opposition's most absurd, and latest push for isolating the reviled rulers, without any potentials for affecting the regime's policies or behaviors, for the better.

The Members of the Parliament-Elect in exile who nourish themselves off hand-outs from Western governments have perfected this bizzare - and mindless - push for isolating the regime by now. They now want New Zealand to stop exporting milk powder to Burma!

There is no such thing as 'hungry or malnourished generals'. Elite, especially power elite, always land on their feet. The most stringent sanctions measures against Saddam's regime led to the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi children and elderly. And when Saddam was captured, he did not look malnourished, only exhausted and frightened.

And even opposition elite such as the exiles including myself, fare better vis-a-vis our ordinary citizens.

Sadly, the call for cutting Burma of milk-powder supplies appears to be a result of intellectual malnournishment on the part of the boycotteers.

This is a great formula for democracy. The movement that started out as 'a revolutionary of the spirit' mobilized on the slogan 'Use your liberty to promote ours' is indeeding degenerating into something depraved.

A new and emerging motto should read:

Support Burmese democracy by not feeding the (Burmese) babies, our future generation of democrats!

While the senile feudalists scream mono-ethnic independence and while the political welfarists masquerading themselves as 'freedom fighters' call for cutting our country off her milk power supplies, our future generation of democrats, that is, Burma's babies may have no choice but to suck their thumbs. For many a young mothers have been forced out of textile work and into prostitutions where they have to make their nipples available not to their babies and toddlers, but the highest bidders of the day.

Welcome to the Land of the Tyrannical, the Ethnies, the Malnourished, and the Evangelical Political Lunies!



Goff sets out NZ's position on Myanmar 20 April 2005

New Zealand will not impose economic sanctions on Myanmar but
will continue to be a strong critic of the military regime's human rights abuses and suppression of democracy, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

"New Zealand will continue to work with others to apply pressure for change in Myanmar, although so far neither direct punitive action through sanctions nor positive inducements to change have had any effect on the behaviour of the military rulers," he said in a statement after meeting exiled political leaders who are visiting Auckland.

"New Zealand, in common with most other countries including the European Union and the United Nations itself, has not agreed to impose economic sanctions on Myanmar."

Mr Goff said he had listened to the exiles' views and had outlined the actions New Zealand had taken.

These actions included direct statements opposing abuses of human rights and the democratic process, including the detention of pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr Goff said when he expressed these views at last year's Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations) Forum, Myanmar's foreign minister walked out in protest.

"Our trade with Myanmar is overwhelmingly exports of dairy products," he said.

"At a time when New Zealand is working with other countries to alleviate malnutrition in Myanmar, withholding products needed by families for basic nutrition makes absolutely no sense."


April 19, Mizzima News

New Zealand trade unions urge govt. for sanction on Burma - Mungpi

Trade Unions of New Zealand have urged the government and the people to support the international sanction on Burma's military dictatorship for alleged atrocities on the country's people.

The call was given after a meeting between the visiting delegation of Burmese democracy campaigners and the Council of Trade Unions in Wellington yesterday.

President Ross Wilson of Council of Trade Unions called upon the New Zealand government to stop dealing with the Burmese junta and join an international campaign against the regime.

"Burma is the forgotten country and the atrocities committed there daily by the military dictatorship are often ignored internationally," said Ross Wilson in a press statement.

The Burmese advocacy team, which includes two MPs, elected in the 1990 election, will directly appeal to the New Zealand government to stop exports to Burma and support the international sanction on the Burmese Junta. The team is led by U Hla Oo, President of the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB) and an elected Member of Parliament.

New Zealand started export to Burma in June 2004. Milk powder, worth 4.5 million dollars, constitutes the major share of the total export, valued at 5.9 Million dollars.
The visiting Burmese team also urged New Zealand to support the swelling international pressure against Burma taking the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) next year, unless changes take place in the country in favour of democracy.
Burma, which was granted Asean membership in 1997, is set to take over from Malaysia as the Chairman country next year on the basis of an alphabetical rotation.

Earlier this month, the exiled Burmese democracy campaigners, while visiting the Philippines capital of Manila for a conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), sought a blockade on Burma's prospective chairmanship.

The United States and the European Union, both imposing sanctions on the Burmese military junta, have threatened to boycott the Asean meetings to be hosted by Burma, for its appalling human rights records and lack of democracy.

Burma, with a population of 50 million people, is being ruled by the Military since 1962. In 1990, the junta held an election but nullified the results when the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, had a landslide victory.

Burma's democracy icon, Suu Kyi, has been under her third house arrest since 1990. She has spent most of her days in Burma under detention or house arrest.

Confronting Burma's Ghosts: The Minority/Secession Question

Quotes of the Day:

“(A)lthough it is true that sovereignty stands in the way of nationalself-determination, such self-determination is not the unequivocal moral goodit first appears. In a world where there are some two hundred states but manythousands of often overlapping entities that might eventually make a claim to nationhood, blind promotion of self-determination would have highly problematic consequences.”

- Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Redefining the National Interest, Foreign Affairs, 78: 4,(Jul-Aug, 1999), p. 31.

“(T)he various demands of democracy, including self-determination, are not absolute, but are a small part of the general democratic world movement. Possibly in individual concrete cases, the part may contradict the whole; if soit must be rejected.”

- Aung San, AFPFL Preliminary Preparations Conference, 19 May 1947, from "Speeches by General Aung San (1945-47)", Sarpei Beikman Press, Rangoon, p. 307.

Compiler's Remark:

Confronting Burma's Ghosts: Minority/Secession Question
Zarni, Free Burma Coalition

It appears that the ghosts of our country's past continue to haunt us all evenwhen the new issues have popped up. For instance, entirely new is the WaQuestion - the best armed and most ethnocentric - meaning here they have absolutely no internalized conception, feeling or allegance whatsoever to what has become a highly contested notion of 'federated union of Burma or Myanmar.'

At least, most of you seem to care enough about our country as a whole and thusfeel emotional about the sorry state of Burma as a multi-ethnic state. But the Wa care about no one else or no country other than their own ethnic or tribalissues. This is in spite of whatever the pronouncements they may have made publicly about their relations with the then SLORC and now SPDC.

1996 National Convention stalled not because the NLD was deciding to boycott(and in the process, the SPDC preempted the NLD by kicking it out and claimingthe latter to have walked out permanently), but because the Wa drug-lordsopenly pressed for a separate Wa autonomous State backed by 20,000-strong mono-ethnic army, fluent in Chinese, being able to operate across Sino-Burmese borders, and sitting on one of the largest narco-economies in the world.

The Burmese nationalists in uniform were incensed by this demand for a newmono-ethnic state, and they shut the Convention down. Having acted on the"advise" of the then 'retired' boss (General) Ne Win to pursue separate ceasefire deals, DDSI chief Major General Khin Nyunt and all of his strategic advisors/deputies had opted for a more flexible approach toward the Wa problem.

It remains to be seen how the Wa question will be resolved by the die-hardnationalists in Rangoon, backed by 350,000-strong army, especially since the Wa no longer served the support role in General Khin Nyunt's power equations vis-a-vis his rivals and the civilian opposition. In other words,the SPDC new management doesn't need the Wa for the regime survival. Not now.Not in the future. The United Wa State Army and its mono-ethnic aspirationsand demands - not the Shan State Army or Shan secession claims - appear to be the biggest headache for the Tatmadaw or Burma's Armed Forces.

Meanwhile, if my compatriots wish to continue with this important discussionre:mono-ethnnic secession/independence vs multi-ethnic modern political state, it might be helpful to confront the ghosts of our collective past.

Given the complexities of issues - primodial ethno-centrisms, Burmesenationalism, tortued and distorted histories, broken promises, apparentnon-Burman hatred toward the dominant Burman and Burmese or those who identifywith the political state - , it would be fruitful to do our home work so thatwe can have some intelligent and grounded, if impassioned, conversations.

There are also non-Bama ethnic histories constructed by proselytizing Christianmissionaries and British colonial administrators of the by-gone era. Mostnon-Bama histories are intertwined, it should be reminded, with the rise ofevangelical Christianity in Burma, most specifically in certain parts of Kawthoolei or Karen, the Chin and the Kachin States.

(In spite of the distorted portrayal of the Karens as predominantly Christianby Western Christian missionary groups, less than 25% of the Karens areChristians, and overwhelming numbers of Karens are Buddhists, with a tiny percetage of animists. It is not that Christians should be treated as second class citizens; but it is important to get the facts right or the errors getrecycled.)

As such, these constructions of mono-ethnic histories can be found in thedepartment archives at theological seminaries and divinity schools largely inthe West.

A disproportionate number of these works, including in the field of missiologyleave much room for scholarly improvement. Because their attempt appears to beto justify apriori the case for mono-ethnic independence, many of these constructions have chosen to draw on sources that confirm their ethnic mythsand convictions.

It would also be helpful to examine not just the past but the current ideological climate and political economic relations which have given rise to the current world order, the only really existing - not utopian -international system of independent political STATES (not nations).

The late Ernest Gellner of Cambridge University wrote there are 8,000 (EIGHTTHOUSANDS) identifiably separate cultures - or nations, if you prefer - in today's world, and only less than 200 independent STATES.

Something to sleep over, isn't it?

But again faith is always hostile to analysis.

What would the late Aung San do today? To Deal or Not To Deal With Burma's Realities

Quotes of the Day:

Quotes of the Day:

"Elections are the roof of a democracy - not its foundation."

- Timothy Garton Ash, Dir. of European Studies Centre and Prof. in Contemporary History, St. Anthony's College, Oxford, 28 April 2005

"It goes without saying that the "siege or bunker mentality" that characterizesall camps in Burma, specifically the NLD-led opposition and the de factogovernment of the SPDC,is going to neither help install the roof of ourenvisaged democracy nor build its foundation."

- Compiler's Remark, What would the late Aung San do today?: To Deal or Not to Deal with Burma's Realities

"For nonviolent sanctions to work, there must be a global consensus, not justthe current series of disconnected and uncoordinated national policies...Theinternational community must unite in applying effective pressure on theBurmese dictatorship - politically and economically - until it cedes power tothose who earned it legitimately at the ballot box.

- Jody Williams, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, International Herald Tribune

"China, scouring the world for raw materials to feed its fast-growing economy,aims to start building a $500 million nickel mine and smelter in Myanmar withinthe next two years."

- In 'China extends nickel search to Myanmar', Reuters

"The Shwe natural gas field was discovered by Daewoo International Corporationon the Western Arakan coast of the Bay of Bengal. It is the biggest find inthe ASEAN region in a decade. According to a report of 'New Light of Myanmar',a state-run newspaper, the profit coming from the proposed project, will bemore than the combined earnings from the sale of gas to Thailand from Yadanaand Raytagon fields."

- In 'Burma's Shwe Gas Project: Another Nightmare?', Mizzima News

"So how on earth are we to get a global consensus when Burma is safely cocoonedin the embrace of countries which represent almost half the world's populationand which have made it crystal clear that they have ruled out economic andfinancial sanctions against Burma...?"

- Derek Tonkins, Former British Ambassador to Thailand, Vietnam and Laos

"The late Aung San defended inconsistency categorically by privileging the need to tailor a means to an end or polittical views,in accord with the realities on the ground. He was neither imprisoned by his unparalleled popularity at home nor concerned about his image abroad. He was mission-focused, his mission being the country's independence."

- Compiler's Remark: What Would Aung San Do Today?: To Deal or Not to Deal with Burma's Realities

This FBC Posting contains:

1). An open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi
2). It's the Burmese who are asking for sanctions, Opinion Essay/Editorial,International Herald Tribune
3). Derek Tonkins' letter to the Editors, International Herlad Tribune

Compiler's Remark:

Free Burma Coalition

Nearly 15 years after General Aung San's assassination, one of the most popularAmerican presidents of all times, namely John Fitzgerald Kennedy, challengedhis fellow Americans by exhorting them to "(a)sk not what your country cando for you, but what you can do for her." This was nationalist polemic which thelate Aung San would have endorsed heartily.

Burma's independence hero Aung San remains my all-time favorite (Burmese) statesman and anationalist leader. And many of the boys (and girls) with whom I grew up in Mandalay admired him a great deal. And we still do.

Aung San's integrity, honesty, effective leadership, and so on are often citedas some of the reasons why we admire this visionary state-builder whodied at the young age of 32. Many of us have devoured any and all of his ownwritings, listen to intently first-person narratives, and read up on anythingthat has been written about him.

But, for me what I admire most about Aung San and his style of leadership is notjust the usual laundry list of his now mythologised and deified leadershipqualities which I briefly - and partially - listed above.

It is primarily his political courage to take decisions that were contradictoryand inconsistent or perhaps even unpopular. He offered no apologies for his grossly inconsistent decisions of national importance; nor was grief-stricken by them.

In one of his essays even before he made serious decisions with disastrous consequences for the entire populace, such as holding hand with Prime Minister Togyo's Fascist Militarist Regime in Tokyo, he touched on this subject of inconsistency in a man's (and woman's) political views and actions. And he defended inconsistency categorically by privileging the need to tailor a means to an end or polittical views, in accord with the realities on the ground. He was neither imprisoned by his unparalleled popularity at home nor concerned about his image abroad. He was mission-focused, his mission being the country's independence.

In his book "Defeat into Victory", the British General William Slim of theAllied Forces operating under Lord Mount Battan's Supreme Command of Allied Forces in Southeast Asia, recounted his first meeting with the young General Aung San, which took place in Meiktila. On the outset of that meeting, Slim told Aung San pointedly that the latter was switching sides because the Allies were emerging as the victors. (Aung San and a group of young Burmese nationalists had been trained by the Japanese Forces and instrumental in the expedition of the Japanese occupation of Burma during the early years of the World WarII. Subsequently, the Japanese 'liberators' proved more dishonest, more crass and more ruthless than the British Raj Aung San decided to come over to the Allies' side toward the close of the War.) With no hesitation or embarrassment, Aung San simply retorted by saying that there would be no pointin joining the Allies if they weren't winning the War.

To be sure, our country's history doesn't offer us, the current and nextgenerations of Burmese, with a blue print as to how to get out of the quagmirein Rangoon.

But one thing appears increasingly clear.

The indignant voices and statements emanating from various corridors of power-be they from largely symbolic parliaments across South East Asia, the famous chambers of power in the West, or the exclusive clubs of international luminaries - are not going to modify the seemingly intransigent behavior of thegenerals; nor are they going to carry much weight with the regional - andprogressively global - powers such as India and China as our country's giant neighbors pursue their own own geo-economic and -political interests defined by their security and economic needs for energy resources and curtailing the other's influence over Rangoon.

Most on-going conflicts in today's world involve control over resoures, inaddition to ethnicity-based animosities and hatred.

Economic and political policies and equations are linked with the needfor resources, often by both newly industrializing and post-industrialpolitical states and economies.

Regardless of the oft-touted 'values', when it comes to national strategicinterests, which have economic, political, and ideological dimensions,democracies have not behaved significantly different from authoritarian orautocratic regimes. Examples abound. France, Germany and Russia were deeply invested in Saddam's Iraq in the monthsleading up to the US-UK-led invasion of that country, with the second largestreserve of oil in the world.
Great Britain and the United States are among the world's top 5 arms exporting nations. The other merchants of death include France, Germany, and Russia. Washington continues to support Saudi Arabia, ally with Pakistan and, by andlarge, gloss over systemic rights abuses in countries which have been condemnedin the court of public opinions as 'human rights offenders' (for instance,Uzbekistan).

So the Burmese should listen to what is said by democracies, but more importantly, they must pay much closer attentionto what is done by them. For realities - and real actions - matter - not simply the tired, old official rhetoric of "freedom, democracy and civilization."

There are three 3 things that form the significant core of Burma's realities. They are: 1). the peoples' desire to live under a government that is less oppressive, not necessarily fully democratic, and that can offer a stable social and economic order at the least human cost; 2). the richness in natural resources in the country and attendant need to exploit them; 3). the power asymetry between the military as the most cohesive and dominant institution - not withstanding the recent purge of the intelligence faction - and the rest of the country.

To focus on one form of manifestation of the popular desire to have a sociallycontracted government, without proper considerations for the other equally important ingredients of Burma's reality core is not only naive but it willalso undermine the pro-democracy movement's ultimate goal of bringing about changein Burma.

As a noted 'historian of present' and a friend of Burma's democracy movement(and the late Michael Aris) perceptively remarked, "elections are the roof of ademocracy, not its foundation."
To cling on to the results of the 1990 elections - now matter how noble and principled such a public political stand may appear - is to pay attention only to the roof, not the rapidly deteriorting foundation (of an imaginarydemocratic nation under our prefered politicians).

It goes without saying that the "siege or bunker mentality" that characterizes all camps in Burma, specifically the NLD-led opposition and the de factogovernment of the SPDC is going to neither install the roof of our envisaged democracy nor help build its foundation.

For this bunker or siege situation to change, something has to give.

Some leadership has to flip-flop or make a radical shift of policy or stance orstrategy. In practical terms, either the SPDC has to unitalerally announce that it will release all political prisoners, enter into dialogue - or some might prefer - tripartite dialogue - with the Opposition and discuss a power sharing arrangement based on the 1990 elections results, or the NLD and itssupporters have to unilaterally wave the olive branch by offering to call forthe lifting of all forms of sanctions against Burma and ask for legitimate andmutually respectful cooperation with the military leadership.

Either way, this will require effective and visionary nationalist leaders who place common interests of the nation above their institutional and personalinterests, preferences, or their images.

While the potential power of the proverbial masses is to be recognized, national leadership is still needed to stop our country from further descending into the abyss.

The late Aung San, indisputably the founder of the unified and independent Burma, left the legacy of his effectively pragmative, if highly inconsistent,visionary leadership.

Since our country's independence, every single leader, every singleinstitution and every political vision has drawn its legitimacy, either explicitly or implicitly, by association with this genuinely inclusive nationalist martyr.

It's about time those of us who grew up viewing Aung San as our role model ask the question:
What would the late Aung San do if he found himself with hisback against the wall of current geo-political and geo-economic realities, trying to push for change under a set of highly asymetrical power relations?

Neither Uncle Sam nor Aunty EU will send their troops to chase the local 'tyrants' down the streets of Rangoon, help smuggle out and subsequently train the latter day Thirty "Special-Op Democrats", or pour millions of Euros and Dollars into our non-violence war chest - as they have done for Ukraine and Iraqi oppositions. We may be wise to wake up from our freedom dreams during which the Goddess of Liberty is being erected on the terrace of the Shwedagon pagoda.
The 17-years' stalemate which has resulted in the serious deteriotation of civil society in Burma - that foundation of democracy - should compel us the Burmese to think inconsistently, creatively and boldly.

Surely, we take whatever form of support and solidarity we receive from our international friends. And we appreciate the sentiment and the solidarity. But at the end of the day, Burma's problems are our problems. They are inter-generational. Any potential solutions lie with us - not the internationalcommunity.

Burma's problems require Burmese solutions. Solutions require informedempircism. Blind faiths in our suffering leaders or our own goodness ofthoughts and intention alone will not do.


Daily Times - Site Edition , April 30, 2005

An open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi

At the beginning of the third millennium our global society is, thanks to modern technologies, able to easily communicate with anyone anywhere in the world. We are all becoming part of a larger spiritual dialogue that is further evolving our civilisation.

Everyone has a right to become a meaningful and authentic part of this dialogue. Everyone has something to say and, in his or her own way, something to contribute. But you have been denied this basic right for a number of years. A great many believe you have been deprived of this basic right because your voice – gentle, gracious and inspirational – resonates with the undeniable and resoluteforce of truth; a truth that threatens those who deny your right tospeak. Internationally, your voice has become an inspiration for civil society and it is a light in the darkness along the way tospiritual freedom.

People from all over the world write you letters and hold you in great esteem because you are a symbol of hope, courage and dignity.

They write you even though they know their letters and words of hope may never reach you. History, however, has taught us that neither walls nor weapons can silence even the most isolated voice of courage and truth. Indeed, the efforts to silence such a voice only make it louder. Please know that we carry your voice in our hearts for all to hear.

Combating attempts, such as this one, to silence the truth is one of the reasons that we, the undersigned, along with others, have come together to form a collective effort known as Shared Concern Initiative. Shared Concern Initiative is an informal group of political, religious and intellectual leaders from around the world who, in the interest of good governance, tolerance and respect for human rights have dedicated themselves to address important challenges facing global society.

The first undertaking of Shared Concern Initiative is this open letter to you as a symbolic attempt to jointly break through the totalitarian barriers erected so unfairly around you.
With this letter also comes our humble invitation. We would be honoured if you joined us in the Shared Concern Initiative and in our effort to form a collective voice for truth, tolerance and transparency.
With deep respect,

Václav Havel, The Dalai Lama, FW de Klerk, Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Mary Robinson, Desmond Tutu, George Soros, Richard von Weiszäcker, Vartan Gregorian Andre Glücksman, Michael Novak, Karel Schwarzenberg, Hans Küng —DT-PS

It's the Burmese Who are Asking for Sanctions

by Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

This month the UN Commission on Human Rights issued its latest, now annual, condemnation of ongoing rights violations in Myanmar, highlighting in particular the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, general secretary ofthe National League for Democracy, and her deputy, Tin Oo, who have been held under house arrest since they were attacked in May 2003.

I was able to meet with Suu Kyi at her home in Yangon, the capital, just three months before that attack, while she was traveling in the north of Myanmar to promote democracy. During that visit, she said that although the authorities had tried to destroy the NLD after prohibiting its candidates, and those of other prodemocratic parties, from convening a Parliament after their decisive electoral victory in 1990, a combination of internal and external pressures had allowed the parties to survive. She said that the NLD was continuing to ask for international sanctions to isolate the military regime and help force peaceful change in the country.

Now the people of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, are again asking the international community to stand with them as they engage in the largest civil disobedience action the country has ever seen. The NLD, which has never legallybeen banned in Myanmar, initiated a public petition late last year calling onthe authorities to release Suu Kyi. A member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines visiting Myanmar recently was told that by late February, almost a half a million people hadadded their names to that call. The simple act of signing a petition is illegal under the military junta's draconian laws, and people who have previously circulated petitions requesting political change or challenging decisions of the junta now languish in jail. When the ICBL representative asked if people were afraid to sign the petition, members of the NLD's Central Committee responded, "Yes, they are afraid. But they sign."

The petition campaign continues to grow, virtually ignored or unknown outside Myanmar. Just as the 1990 election showed massive popular support for democratic governance, this petition shows popular condemnation of the seizure and detention of Myanmar's Nobel Peace laureate.

For every person who risks signing the petition, there are many more who are sympathetic but afraid to take action. Yet many Burmese people continue to be willing to take significant risks to try to bring about peaceful change.

It is now time for external pressure to be stepped up and consistently applied. Some argue that sanctions against the military junta should be dropped and replaced by "constructive engagement" with the regime. This is despite the call of the NLD itself for sanctions, and the clear example of the international isolation and economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa that helpedinternal forces bring democracy to that nation.

For nonviolent sanctions to work, there must be a global consensus, not just the current series of disconnected and uncoordinated national policies. Myanmar has never lost the support of key states, which help supply it with arms, for example, such as Singapore and Pakistan - neither a beacon of democracy. The military junta must not be allowed to continue to hold democracy hostage in Myanmar. External pressure must be applied in support of activists if we want nonviolent political change.

The international community must unite in applying effective pressure on the Burmese dictatorship - politically and economically - until it cedes power to those who earned it legitimately at the ballot box.

Jody Williams is founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

Sir, Jody Williams makes the point (IHT 26 April 2005) that for non-violentsanctions to work to bring about change in Burma, there must be a globalconsensus.

I agree entirely. But she surprisingly mentions only Pakistan andSingapore as examples of countries which support Burma.

The true size of theproblem would be more apparent if she had mentioned instead those two dynamic developing countries, totalitarian China and democratic India, or those two industrialised giants Russia and Japan, not to mention South Korea, Israel, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia - the list goes on and on, some autocratic societies, but many models of democracy, and two of them alreadyPermanent Members of the UN Security Council (China and Russia) and two soon tobecome (India and Japan).

So how on earth are we to get a global consensus when Burma is safely cocooned in the embrace of countries which represent almost half the world's populationand which have made it crystal clear that they have ruled out economic and financial sanctions against Burma, though some are at long last willing toapply increasingly strong political pressures? Even the EU has had enough of sanctions, and is now actively pursuing a policyof carefully targeted humanitarian and development aid, rather to the dismay ofthe United States which would seemingly still much prefer to see the Burmese people suffer to the point where they see no alternative but to sacrifice themselves in a massive bloodbath in the face of an utterly ruthless military machine. Is that what Jody Williams really wants?

Yours sincerely, Derek TonkinFormer British Ambassador to Thailand, Vietnam and Laos