Contact: Roland Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
THE UNITED STATES AND BURMA
March 19, 2005
Note: This is the second of three related announcements. Please forward.
The recent statements from President George Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, and State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher have reinvigorated the
Burma democracy movement. In American slang, the government is now talking
the talk. The question is: will it also walk the walk?
What hasnt been commented on regarding these statements is that they have
effectively established a deadline. The U.S. must act in the next four years to
bring democracy to another country. Improvements on the ground in Iraq will not
be sufficient to satisfy the expectations of the American people (and of the world).
However, the list of candidates is small. For a variety of reasons Cuba, Saudi
Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe, and China, are unlikely.
This leaves Iran, North Korea and Burma. But the first two will be exceedingly
difficult, as there are all manner of complexities to address. This leaves Burma.
It is also worth noting that Secretary Rice clearly has ambitions beyond State.
She will need a major success to support her Vice-Presidential (and ultimately
No Administration, Republican or Democrat, has ever initiated action on Burma.
The two sanctions bills were organized in Congress. Presidents Clinton and Bush
merely signed them into law. Now is the time to set a new precedent.
The logic for Burma to become a democracy is irrefutable, even to its neighbors
China and Thailand, which presently back the regime. East Asia is committed to
legitimate development and trade. China and Thailand, and also India and Bangladesh,
will yield far greater returns if the country is open and democratic, rather than
a dictatorship and economic cripple.
The benefits for the United States would also be profound. Were it to lead the
solution, which would be a natural role since it is already the international
leader in putting pressure on the regime, it would create a strong and long-lasting
alliance with the people of Burma. Such an alliance, in the nation that lies at
the crossroads of the most populated and rapidly developing region of the world,
would have many positive consequences.
Presently, Americas foremost ally in the area is Thailand. However, under
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand has shifted its allegiance to China.
By leading the way to a free Burma, the U.S. could replace (or augment) its relationship
with Thailand, whose support under the present government is unreliable.
One questions the suitability of an alliance with Thailand under Thaksin in any
case. As the recent Human Rights Report describes, gross human rights violations
are being committed in country, in the South against the Muslim minority and also
along the Thai/Burma border. It is clear that Thaksin, who has gutted the Thai
constitution and its oversight mechanisms; has used his financial resources to
assemble a one-party government; has brought the police and military under family
control; and who has repressed the media and local activists, does not really
understand democracy. He does not grasp that in a democracy the people rule; government
officials are public servants; and that civil liberties and a free press are essential
to maintain the systems vitality. Thaksin is opposed to the establishment
in Thailand of a well-functioning democracy, and with his business and political
allies has done everything in his power to return the nation to its darkest past.
It is appalling that the United States would yield to Thaksins desire for
Burma to remain a dictatorship. Does America really need an ally such as this?
The United States faces two primary challenges with Burma, and neither are the
SPDC. It cannot be put off by Thailand, or China; and it cannot allow itself to
be perpetually distracted by the problems in the Middle East. The U.S. Government
is huge. Furthermore, since World War II the U.S military has been prepared to
be involved in two major conflicts, in different regions of the globe, at the
same time. Surely America can find a way a concrete plan to walk
the walk in Burma, while it continues to pursue its objectives in the Middle East.