Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


5 June 2003

On 30 May, SPDC thugs ambushed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her entourage. Our thoughts are with the families of the individuals who were killed – murdered – on SPDC orders, and with Daw Suu Kyi and all the others who have been imprisoned.

The initial reaction to this and associated events, including the closure of NLD offices, is that it constitutes a major setback for the democracy movement. However, such a view is only partly true, or, more precisely, it is true only if we allow it. There is also a real opportunity now, which we must grasp. The SPDC acted out of fear. The generals saw that they had let the genie out of the bottle, and now they want to put it – Daw Suu Kyi and her popular support – back in. We must prevent this from happening.

To accomplish this it is essential to recognize that the SPDC never intended to have a viable dialogue to facilitate the transition to democracy. The generals’ goal has been – and always will be – that there be no such transition, and that they remain in power forever. Everything they have done has been designed to manipulate public opinion and avoid international diplomatic pressure. And all the while they have been working to increase their military capability so they are strong enough to put down in perpetuity all internal dissent. The SPDC – SLORC – has no intentions, none whatsoever, to allow democracy in Burma.

Dictator Watch believes that there is a flaw in the democracy movement’s strategy. This strategy has as its goal the successful conclusion of a sincere dialogue between the leaders of the NLD and the leaders of the SPDC. But while the NLD is sincere, the SPDC is not. We have based our strategy on an incorrect assumption.

Than Shwe, Maung Aye and Khin Nyunt are scared, but it is not of the NLD, not even of Daw Suu Kyi; instead, it is of popular revolt. The NLD is a means to such revolt, but it is not the only one. The generals are also afraid of outside intervention, hence the “dialogue” which has been designed and drawn out to forestall it.

In a functioning society differences can be resolved through negotiation. And the democracy movement could have no better negotiation leader than Daw Suu Kyi. But Burma is non-functioning. There is no civil order or rule of law. Hence, negotiation alone will be insufficient to bring about democracy.

The recent acts of the SPDC demand the strongest of responses.

- All of the regime’s regional collaborators and co-conspirators must be protested and forced to change their policies. There must be no trade or other constructive engagement, starting with arms transfers, from India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia and China.
- The engagement from Russia must be stopped.
- The US must impose a ban on all imports from Burma and require an operational shutdown by Unocal.
- The EU must impose real sanctions, not only visa and banking restrictions, including an investment ban, an import ban, and the requirement that Total suspend its operations.
- Other interested national parties, including Australia and Japan, must halt their engagement with the SPDC.
- The representatives of the SPDC must be expelled from the United Nations.

Still, even this may not be enough. Outside military intervention may be called for.

Some people have argued that there should be no military intervention in Burma, and such commentators base their judgment on a variety of reasons, including that unwanted cultural influences will soon follow. But, while this may be a legitimate concern, this is not a decision – to put limits on the types of external assistance that are acceptable – that can be imposed. Only the people of Burma have the right to decide their fate.

Dictator Watch believes that the people of Burma should be asked what assistance they require from the international community, up to and including military intervention. This question should be posed through the broadcast services into the country from Radio Free Asia, the Democratic Voice of Burma, the BBC and the Voice of America, and through the free print media, including the New Era Journal and many others. There is a significant underground communications network in the country, and the question will be disseminated.

Of course, the issue remains: how will the response be heard? It is not as if pollsters can go door to door and compile the results.

The people of Burma have already made their voices heard though their coming out in massive groups to hear Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. They can continue to make their desires known, by protesting the SPDC’s new repression. They have many means available at their disposal.

Dictator Watch has no right to ask anyone to put his or her life at risk. When people choose to be active, to fight against their suffering, or the suffering of others, they must make this decision solely on their own. We feel compelled to comment, though, that for the change to democracy to be accomplished, sacrifices will have to be made. The people of Burma have already made many, many sacrifices. Countless individuals have been murdered, imprisoned, tortured and raped. Unfortunately, it seems that this has not been enough.

The generals are playing a game of high stakes poker, and they can lose. The People of Burma are acting courageously and they refuse to be silenced. The reason the great number of sacrifices that have already been made has not been enough is that the world refuses to act. The governments of the world must now respond and come to Burma’s aid. Otherwise they too are responsible for the crimes of the SPDC.