Contact: roland@dictatorwatch.org


We respectfully suggest that you consider ending your dialogue with SLORC/SPDC. Since it began, more than a year ago, the dictatorship's crimes against the people of Burma have continued unabated. Also during this period, nations and other organizations that say they are friends of democracy, but are really its foes, have used the existence of the dialogue to justify renewed engagement with the regime.

The costs of the dialogue far outweigh its (presumed) benefits: to-date, the release of some two hundred political prisoners. At this rate, it may take ten years or more for all political prisoners to be released. Also, new individuals are being jailed (e.g., Dr. Salai Tun Than) and current prisoners (student leader Min Ko Naing) have had their sentences lengthened.

The National League for Democracy recently said that the dialogue has not even “started in full.” If the precondition for such an initiation is the release of all prisoners, you will have a long time to wait.

Furthermore, it should be recognized that were the dialogue to yield substantive progress, this would contravene the patterns of history. A negotiated settlement has never served to bring about the end of a murderous military dictatorship. Even more, a “dialogue” between a jailer and his prisoner will always be one-sided. The real issue of power sharing in Burma is not between the democrats and the dictators, which in any case could never work, but between a future democratic central government and the ethnic states.

Although it may not appear this way to you, you should recognize that many people outside Burma, from exiled Burmese to your most faithful non-Burmese activist supporters, view the dialogue as a sham. Whatever optimism about the talks that existed at their outset has dissipated. The dialogue is a ruse that enables the generals to be viewed more positively around the world. Indeed, it is a carefully constructed charade, and this extends to their release of prisoners. They start talking to you, and let a few people go, and their aiders and abettors, the oil companies and the governments of such nations as Japan and Thailand, then say, again and again, to anyone who will listen, that things are getting better inside Burma and it is therefore okay to reengage the generals and ignore such issues as forced labor, ethnic cleansing, and drugs.

Even your release from house arrest will not be a breakthrough, merely a staged political event. Ending your arrest is not the goal of the dialogue. It should not even be the subject.

Because of this lack of sincerity, the dialogue is non-productive. The generals have taken steps to sideline you and render you harmless. And, since everyone looks to you for guidance, this has effectively eliminated internal opposition.

While the dialogue has been underway, Jiang Zemin has visited Burma and China has made massive arms shipments – of guns that will be used against your people. The Russians are supplying jet fighters and nuclear technology, for the same purpose. All of this has been paid for by money from TotalFinaElf, Unocal and Premier. Meanwhile, the Japanese resume their “aid,” and Thailand holds a trade fair in Tachilek, jointly chaired by Chavalit and Khin Nyunt. The powers that be in the region, most of whom oppose the development of democracy in your country, are proceeding along their merry way, cementing their relationships and Burma’s subjugation. It is as if you do not exist. And, since the net effect of the dialogue has been to silence you, they are right.

Burma needs an Active internal opposition. It needs the NLD working, if need be underground, to create a resistance. And, it needs rebellion from the ethnic states, including from those groups that have signed ceasefire agreements. The leaders of such groups are turncoats: they have sold out their cultures. For example, the Kachin leaders are destroying their children’s future by selling the timber in their pristine forest homelands to the Chinese. These agreements must be abandoned; such groups require new leaders.

Would that it were not the case, but it is only through these steps that the transition to democracy will ever be accomplished.

In closing, you might wonder: who is Dictator Watch, and what business is Burma of ours? We believe it is the responsibility of everyone, not only those who suffer repression, to stand up for what is right and to work – to fight – to make the world a better place. Also, we would note that when people say they don’t want to intervene, what this really means is that they are on the side of the oppressors, if not actively involved with them.


Roland Watson
for Dictator Watch