Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org
Please see www.dictatorwatch.org for links to the reports and photography described below.


23 June 2003

Dictator Watch has posted a report, with photography, of a May/June relief mission into Paan District, Karen State, Burma, which among other things brought medical aid to over 1,200 internally displaced persons. This report also describes, including through interviews with twenty IDPs, the Burmese army’s ongoing campaign of murder, torture and destruction of homes and villages; its use of forced labor; and its involvement in the narcotics trade.

We also have a report, with photography, about a Karen man from Tenasserim Division who in April stepped on a landmine set by the Burmese army (to prevent displaced villagers from returning home and also to disrupt the little commercial trade that survives in Karen State). This man, who was fleeing forced labor, survived the explosion, a field amputation, and two subsequent hospital amputations. He is separated from his wife and children, unlikely ever to be reunited with them, and he must now, somehow, rebuild his life. (Donations are welcome.)

Lastly, we wish to comment further on the ongoing crisis – which we believe is also an historic opportunity – precipitated by the Burmese dictatorship (SPDC) through its ambush and attempted assassination of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Our view is that there are four critical points that must now be recognized.

1. The SPDC will wait as long as possible, perhaps years, before it releases Daw Suu Kyi. This is because, when it does, its lies about what happened on Black Friday will be irrefutably revealed.

2. While the support given the SPDC by India, Bangladesh, Japan, Australia and the United Nations is significant (the last through Special Envoy Razali, who is effectively the dictatorship’s international voice), it is the aid provided by China and the members of Asean that is most critical to its ongoing survival. We have little hope that China’s position can be changed. Also, we believe that Asean will never voluntarily support democracy in Burma. This is because it prefers that the country remain a dictatorship. Asean itself is a club of dictators, and it will never turn against one of its own. (One wonders why the Philippines, the only nation in the group that is even close to a functioning democracy, has anything to do with it.)

Because of this, we believe that Asean should become the target of a worldwide boycott, of its tourism centers and its other goods and services.

We do not make this suggestion lightly. We have no wish to harm in any way the ordinary people in any of the Asean member nations. However, the rulers of these nations are recalcitrant in the extreme. They will only change their policy on the SPDC if they are forced to do so. (Similarly, we reiterate our long-standing call for a boycott of China.)

3. The SPDC will never willingly give up power. This is not a situation where the techniques of activism and diplomacy will be sufficient to yield democracy. It demands internal rebellion and/or foreign intervention.

4. For the latter, we applaud the new sanctions now being legislated by the US. However, we note that sanctions should never be implemented in isolation; rather, they should form part of an overall plan to effect the transition to democracy. We therefore call on the US and all other nations that want to demonstrate that they truly do support democracy in Burma, through actions not only words, to: recognize the National League for Democracy as the legitimate government of Burma; designate the SPDC as a terrorist regime; and hold an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to devise and implement such a plan.

Further, we would ask the UN to commit to the defense of the people of Burma, and prepare for military intervention in the event that the people of Burma rise up and the dictatorship reacts as it did in 1988. It must be noted that were the SPDC to be confronted militarily, they would likely surrender (or flee) immediately, because the bulk of the Burmese army would lay down their arms and refuse to fight.

We would also comment that for such resistance inside Burma to develop the psychology of the people must change. The people of Burma are cowed and they believe that they are powerless. But this is not true! They have power, even power sufficient to expel the dictators on their own. To recognize this they need only begin to fight back. Everyone inside Burma, on their own or in small groups, has the ability to do something to oppose the regime, with minimal risk, even if it is just defacing the ridiculous SPDC propaganda billboards that dot the cities and countryside. Further, through such steps the people of Burma will realize that they do have power and that larger actions, involving more people, also are possible.

To promote this psychological shift, we implore the leaders of the democracy movement who are outside Burma, in their interviews on Radio Free Asia, the Democratic Voice of Burma, the BBC and VOA, to talk to the people in the country and encourage such empowerment.