Shall We Give Daw Suu, A Chance?
Scanning through the media, both electronic and printed points to the idea that those who have Cetena and interest in Burma seems to be quite impatient. The major driving force behind, is their own vested interest rather than the welfare of the country and people. Viewing internationally,
China which is not shy of openly supporting the Junta has succeeded in freezing the Security Council. She opposed issuing a presidential statement on Burma , though not legally binding, unlike a resolution—can only be issued with a consensus, even though the majority of the countries in the 15-member Security Council had favored issuing a presidential statement after closed door consultations and briefing by Ibrahim Gambari. “We were disappointed by China’s unwillingness to support a Presidential statement,” said Zalmay Khalizad, the US Ambassador to the UN. The first time that a top US official has come out openly to state that China was not cooperating. It was evident that China and Russia are against sanctions in Burma were counterproductive. Not only a dictatorial country will support another dictatorial country, as I often quote modern Hitler and Mussolini will support a modern Burmese Franco in their hegemonic attempt. Power Politics couple with Geo-strategic factors is the order of the day.
The international community should reconsider giving a credit to the Genocide Beijing Olympic next year, when Liu Shaowu, the Deputy Director of the Olympic Security Command Center, said the security forces would stop any form of demonstration at or around venues and would be snuffed out far from Olympic sites. With 28,000 journalists expected to attend, the Aug. 8-24 Olympics offer a rare chance for protesters to express grievances against China’s Communist Government on issues of human rights including supporting dictatorial regimes and religious freedom. Will the international community stay with folded arms, as Beijing will use heavy-handed policing at the games and prevent the expression of democracy and human rights is still to be seen. Perhaps the reminiscence of Berlin Olympics should be considered (when Jessie Owens won four Gold medals and Hitler never claps once) for the aim and ideals of the world’s Olympic.
Some local activist construe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has prolonged the lifespan of Burma ’s repressive Junta to manipulate events to its advantage and cited examples of 1994, where the butcher Than Shwe met Daw Su for the first time where with much media highlight she was released. She was arrested again in 2000 for making a trip to Mandalay and later released in 2002 where the world thought that there will be a political breakthrough as the Junta slyly released a statement, titled “Turning of a New Page, and looking forward to a better future, in improving the social welfare of our diverse people.” But the “Depaeyin Massacre,” showed the true color of the Burmese Generals. Even though Razali did nothing except for his company Gambari has initiated breakthrough, “In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the government in order to make this process of dialogue a success and welcome the necessary good offices’ role of the United Nations to help facilitate our efforts in this regard,” soured the hopes and aspirations of the people of Burma and the world.
Daw Suu has sacrificed herself to be used to see if there’s a chance that will benefit the people of Burma . What a noble, Nobel lady? To engage in dialogue with the most hideous and cruel Burmese army generals, who are bent on maintaining their power either by hook or by crook which may or may not lead to genuine dialogue, is really a risky business. In view of the fact that the Junta’s self-appointed National Convention one and half decade to accomplish, Daw Suu, has called for a ‘meaningful and time-bound dialogue’, which will provide the right framework for the Junta to find a way forward to this very serious situation. Obviously there is more skepticism and everybody takes it with a pinch of salt of what the Junta says and does as “lying the very concept of truth,” is their norm. Knowing full well that the Junta has a good record of playing dialogue only long enough to allow international attention to drift away is compounded with the broken promise to Gambari that the Junta has promised not to arrest any more. Perhaps the Burmese saying of “Min Hmar Thit Sar Lu Hmar Ga Té” literally translated as the government without adhering to its word of honor is equal to man that does not keep a promise, is anathema to the Junta
But the small steps are still welcome said Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to the UN who warned that the Junta should not use the process of talks and invitations to Mr. Gambari as a substitute for substantive progress on ending military repression and moving the country toward democracy. “A process for process’s sake will not be acceptable,” he said. In the Security Council only China and Russia highlight the positive elements as they themselves are great liars as far as democracy and human rights are concerned.
Even as Daw Suu was allowed to meet with her advisers for the first time in years, the regime was frantically dishing out promotions to riot police officers while also reshuffling top military ranks that tend to disobey their order to shoot. This is a response to discontent in the ranks. One should recollect that the members of the security forces are just as able as any ordinary person to see that the regime has committed violence against the heart and soul of Burma . By exploiting this conflicting set of loyalties among soldiers—to the regime who in most cases has conscripted them on one hand, and to their Buddhist and human values on the other—the movement is showing signs that they have been able to effectively sever most of the remaining ties between the regime and the people. The security forces and the monks were victims of the system, and there was no reason to have a war between victims and victims. One victim wears yellow and the other green uniforms and there was no reason for blood to be shed. Hannah Arendt asserted, “Where commands are no longer obeyed, the means of violence are of no use.”
From this perspective, the regime may be closer than it dares to acknowledge to its final days. Once the security forces begin to join the side of the people en masse refusing to carry out unjust orders the system will no longer be capable of sustaining itself. With no moral authority or political legitimacy remaining, the only thing holding the regime in place is the threat of force. But with every bullet or baton used against the people of Burma , the regime reveals that their ‘strength’ will in fact be their undoing. And now with sustained pressure from the international community, an increasingly tenuous hold on the country’s remaining sources of economic support, and more signs that its own defenders may be less willing to risk being on the losing side of the actual—as well as moral—conflict, the issue is becoming not whether this regime will disappear, but when.
Many tend to believe that the mission of the UN Special Envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, was a failure as he could not meet Senior-General Than Shwe. And prior to Gambari’s visit, the SPDC expelled the head of the UN Country Team in Burma for criticizing the regime. The SPDC is being defiant and aggressive, showing that it does not care what the world thinks. But a meticulous study according to Sao Harn Yawnhwe, the negatives seem to outweigh the positives. He pointed out, why in the first place did Than Shwe agree to talk with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, albeit under certain conditions? He need not even have addressed the question of talking to her if it was really a non-issue. Why did he appoint a ‘Relations Minister’ even before she agreed to cooperate? What was he trying to prove? And to whom? “he reasoned.
Why was Daw Aung San Suu Kyi now the center of attention as show in the Burmese TV regularly if she is a persona non grata as previously describe by the Burmese Generals? Also, why did the Junta agree to let UN Human Rights Rapporteur, Sergio Pinheiro, to visit the country and investigate the recent demonstrations when he had been refused entry for four years? What is the rationale of the Junta making these gestures? One of the clear answers is that they are trying to buy time as usual to get off the pressure off. They are hoping that in time, the world will forget about Burma and the military can continue to do its business as usual.
It would be naïve to assume that the military is trying to find a way to solve the problem. The Burmese generals will not give it up if they can help it. But they also know they need to respond to the public discontent and the international outrage. They have to find a way out. The Generals also knows that the economic problems will not go away soon. Some of them understand that beating up and killing the monks was a fatal error and that they have crossed the line which they cannot return. Besides the international consensus is also proving to be far more sustained than in the past and the end line is that the Burmese Generals and their cronies are hurting and trying to find a way out of this quagmire. Many democracy advocates are afraid that the generals will once again succeed in hoodwinking the international community. They want to step up the pressure with sanctions and get the UN Security Council to pass a binding resolution. In other words they want the generals to admit defeat and ask for mercy which will never happen and as Sao Harn has vividly pointed out and it is also not the best way to bring about a change in Burma .
In any struggle for rights or freedom, a critical variable in a movement’s survival is its ability to adapt; to continue to come up with new and creative tactics that keep the oppressor on notice, and remind the people that the will to resist is shared by their neighbors and countrymen. Observers of nonviolent resistance will sometimes point to the extreme use of violence by a regime as evidence against a movement’s potential success. But an oppressor’s willingness to use repression is not necessarily a determinant of nonviolent success or failure (refer to the cases of Chile and South Africa ) because it is not up to the members of the regime themselves to do the shooting, but those in the security forces whose job is to carry out their orders.
The Burmese Junta derives its sustenance from the crucial support it receives from China who is trying to project its military power in its southward movement into the Indian Ocean . India has no principle, and shamelessly the world’s biggest democracy is not promoting democracy in its neighboring country as it could view things through the lens of national interest. If India , China and ASEAN were to put some teeth in the negotiations of the beauty and the beast there could be some hope. But it is far fledged. Many lessons are learned with the latest Yellow Revolution. The Social Gospel with the Burmese Buddhist became prominent, the clear line between Bama and Mahar Bama (against the Union Spirit) in as much the Ethnic and the Mahar Ethnics (separatist racist) were clearly drawn not to mention that the megaphone diplomacy which the Diaspora is so cherished lead to nowhere. The clear leaders come out with their silent and correct works such as Daw Suu of inside Burma and Sao Harn Yawnhwe of Diaspora and it is to be seen whether the self appointed little Bogyoke Aung San (unwittingly becoming Bo Shu Maung) would follow their lead is for the future to decide.
Even as the UN officials are busy congratulating themselves and preparing for more visits, while other countries happily name new envoys and core groups and discussion panels, let all the people who are involved put up the much needed pressure. The UN Security Council should implement an arms embargo. The Bush administration, which announced targeted banking sanctions against top officials and tycoons, needs to accelerate their implementation, Canada , France has followed suit and the European Union should do more. The censure forms the international community although bellows from the Junta as being bullied by the big powers, the Junta has to make concession to the UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur Professor Pinherio who confirmed that he found no improvements in the human rights situation and reiterated concerns over the harsh detention conditions faced by political prisoners. “Regional governments, individually and as members of the United Nations, have an important role in working for the improvement of human rights in Burma.” was his message and regional human rights activists welcomed Prof. Pinheiro’s statement and urged leaders at the ASEAN Summit not to backslide on pressure for the Burmese military regime. The signs of little progress are welcome but there remain major steps that need to be taken to ensure that the people of Burma have their voice heard about their own future.
Sao Harn has wisely pointed out that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has give up everything to better the lot of the people of Burma . She has patiently endured all hardships. Can we let her take the lead in this matter? She is continuing to meet the Junta’s representative working out some modalities including a time frame and consulting with the National League for Democracy, and has invited others, including the ethnic nationalities, to join her in making the dialogue process a success. Do we not believe that she knows what she is doing? But a close reading of Daw Suu’s note shows that she is hardly naive or sanguine about success. Let us allow Daw Suu to speak for herself. Let her determine the timing and set the agenda and don’t rock the boat.
All these consultations will take time. There is a reasonable chance that, in spite of themselves, the generals will have to enter into a substantive dialogue. The key is for the outside world to give the process a chance. Gambari’s mission was to help establish a dialogue, in that he has been successful. It is a much larger achievement than it seems given that the generals do not want a dialogue. Now there is a slight chance that the peaceful uprising of the people and the monks, which the junta brutally crushed, might yet lead to a negotiated political process for long-suffering Burma and its 50 million people. These are things Daw Suu is not free to say, negotiating as she is from isolation and confinement. But having saved the U.N.’s bacon, the least she is owed is some tangible support to strengthen her position — and the chances that dialogue might succeed.
Dr. B T Win, former Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Prime Minister of Burma has served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Menno Simons College of University of Winnipeg and later as a Senior Research Fellow at the European Institute of Asian Studies, Brussels is now the incumbent Dean of the Students of the AEIOU Programme, Chiangmai University Thailand and an Adjunct Professor of the School of International Studies, Simon Fraser University, of British Columbia, Canada filed this report from Brussels. Can be reached at [email protected]
By Kanbawza Win
November 23, 2007