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


11 July 2003

If you cannot speak the truth, there is no freedom.

Dictator Watch has posted a report of a June Free Burma Rangers mission to bring relief to internally displaced persons in the Eastern Shan State. This report describes: five cases of rape; forced prostitution; murdered children; forced labor; a new program, begun in June, to press gang 4,000 villagers to join the Wa Army; the expropriation and sale of village houses and land near the Thai border, for USD 2 million, by Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt to the Wa, to facilitate the latter’s drug operations; and the names and village addresses of involved Wa drug kingpins.

We also have four new photo essays. The first, Life on the Run in the Karen State of Burma, provides additional evidence of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Tenasserim Division. The rest, from FBR, include very strong images of burned villages, wounded children, and murder victims, from a number of locations in Eastern Burma. These images illustrate the scorched earth policy of the SPDC, which policy demands the strongest of international responses. The United States, the European Union and the United Nations must put an end, once and for all, to the SPDC and its reign of terror.

If the situations in Liberia, and the Congo and the Solomon Islands, justify foreign intervention, Burma certainly does as well.

Lastly, we feel compelled to ask the question: is Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand actively conspiring with the generals of the Burmese junta to help perpetuate their rule? After all, he is first and foremost a telecommunications tycoon (how, exactly, did he establish his fortune?), and Senior General Than Shwe and Lt. General Khin Nyunt are only a phone call away.

Unfortunately, all the available evidence suggests that such a conspiracy is already well underway. This evidence includes the ongoing crackdown, now in its second year, of activists in the Burma democracy movement who reside in Thailand (Burmese activists who have been given UNHCR Person of Concern status are now effectively under house arrest, and plans are being prepared to move them to internment camps - what irony - these individuals who faced prison in Burma will instead be imprisoned in Thailand); a campaign to pressure and discredit the UNHCR itself; a bar on new admissions to refugee camps (or the establishment of new refugee camps, particularly for Shan refugees); and tacit approval of the enslavement and murder of Burmese migrant workers.

Burmese individuals in Thailand, in all such situations, are locked up and denied their basic human rights of freedom of expression and association. Indeed, this extends even to the witnesses of great crimes (e.g., of Black Friday – May 30, when the SPDC murdered dozens of members and supporters of the National League for Democracy). Thaksin is trying to silence these witnesses, to prevent the people of the world from learning about the crimes.

The overall effect is one of institutionalized persecution, of an entire people. It is frighteningly reminiscent of the early stages of Nazi persecution of the Jews.

The question remains, though, why would he act this way, when it is in direct opposition to Thailand’s real interests: to strengthen its own democracy; to help Burma become a democracy; and then to establish friendly relations between the two nations?

Through his business deal with the son of Khin Nyunt, Thaksin has a foothold in Burma’s telecommunications and media industries, which though presently small have great potential when the nation, with the twenty-seventh largest population in the world, modernizes. There will be billions of dollars to be made in satellite services, mobile phones, television stations and cable, and the Internet.

However, if Burma – when Burma – becomes democratic, his prospective gains will disappear. Burmese democrats are hardly likely to favor bids from a former oppressor. Thaksin’s solution, therefore, is simple. The Burmese dictators must be given all aid necessary to ensure that democracy never takes hold. After all, if he can shove gas pipelines; dams; a political takeover of the military; “legal” extrajudicial execution (during the “war” on drugs); an excise tax break for his companies; the transfer of temple land (the Alpine land scandal); and a corrupted Constitutional Court (which reportedly succumbed to pressure to find him not guilty of making a false assets declaration), down the throats of the Thai people, why not help shove dictatorship down the throats of the Burmese.

And he has the audacity to call this “non-interference.”

If Thaksin wants to identify the number one source of dark influence in Thailand, he need only look in the mirror.

The Burma democracy movement has to-date refused to confront him. Partly this is due to disbelief, that Thai policy could change so quickly and dramatically, and partly due to fear, that it would be inviting an even greater crackdown. But once again the movement has engaged in false hopes: the repression came anyway. When will we learn that you cannot hide from problems, that if you do not stand up to them they will only get worse?

We must resist him. Just as Thaksin has the right to say and do as he pleases, so we have the right, the legal right, to oppose him.

One potential means to influence Thaksin is through the United States. Thailand has a long-standing alliance with the US, and we must highlight this issue. The US must choose. Does it support Burma democracy, or its key Southeast Asian ally? To resolve this, it will be necessary for the US to make a distinction, between Thaksin and Thailand. Thaksin is not Thailand! The US must oppose this man who is an egomaniac and who seemingly has a lust for money and power so great that it can never be satisfied; who rules through a gang of sycophants; who will return Thailand to its dark old days; and who clearly wants to be East Asia’s next Big Man.

Were the US to do this, it would demonstrate that it truly is an ally to Thailand, to the people of Thailand, and it will ensure a strong, positive relationship with the nation at the meeting point of South and Southeast Asia, Burma, for the foreseeable future.

As is occurring now with Australia and the Solomon Islands, the US should form a “coalition of the willing” and take control of the troubled former British colony. (The Solomons, like Burma, are also a former British colony.) All organizations and elected individuals that represent publics inside Burma, including the NLD (members who are not imprisoned), other elected Members of Parliament, the NCGUB, NCUB, DAB and NDF should vote on and then officially request such intervention.

Lastly, for Prime Minister Thaksin, we call upon you to demonstrate that the above conclusions are not true. Please reverse your course on Burma. It is not too late to do the right thing, and if you do, the people of Burma will remember that in the end you did come to their aid. And in Thailand, please listen to the public. Democracy does not mean that you have the right to decide everything. Consensus is essential. Democracy actually means self-rule, or rule by the people. If the public says that they want the Pak Moon dam gates permanently opened, or that they do not want the Thai/Malaysian gas pipeline, do not oppose them. Your historical legacy will be determined by what you do now. Also, democracy does not mean “One Party.” And, it requires separation of powers. Even though it may appear to be inconvenient for you, you actually should want a vibrant opposition, an independent Parliament and judiciary, and a professional, non-political military.