Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org
Please see www.dictatorwatch.org for a link to the reports described below.


29 September 2003

(Note: We have posted summary relief mission reports from Free Burma Rangers teams that recently returned from humanitarian missions to Naunglyabin, Dooplaya and Pa-an districts of Karen State, and Lahu areas of Eastern Shan State. The former include information on a village that was burned, a murder, and a rape (and many other severe human rights abuses committed by the Burma Army). The last states that over 100 million methamphetamine tablets are stored in a cave near the Thai/Burma border, and that at least 6 million of these have already been moved successfully into Thailand.)

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is now at home in Rangoon, which is great news, that she is alive. However, she is still under arrest, for doing nothing, other than being a victim of the Depayin massacre on May 30th.

This massacre, the ambush of Daw Suu and her supporters, has been repeatedly described as a “clash.” It was not a clash. In a clash, both sides fight. This was a premeditated assault, using the element of surprise and a large number of specially trained forces, with the goal to kill as many people as possible.

Describing it as a clash (numerous eyewitnesses have confirmed the massacre) benefits the Burmese dictatorship, the SPDC.

The word “clash,” which has appeared in dozens of articles, is an example of the habit that journalists have to repeat what everyone else is saying, even when it is wrong.

In addition, the news media, and also ASEAN, are looking at this latest spell of house arrest as a breakthrough, as getting the Burma democracy “process,” and even the “dialogue,” back on track. For the media this is just one more mistake, and for ASEAN just one more lie. There is no process, or dialogue.

In a press release from June we observed that:

1. The SPDC would not free Daw Suu for a long time, since if they did she would personally be able to confirm the May 30th massacre.
2. The member nations of ASEAN, and the grouping as a whole, would do nothing.
3. The SPDC will never willingly give up power.
4. The anticipated (and now enacted) US sanctions needed to be backed by additional action; we require an overall plan to drive the SPDC out.

Now, four months later:

1. Daw Suu is not free.
2. ASEAN has done nothing. Its words, from politicians from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, were nothing more than that: words. Even worse, they were said as a means to prevent action, to prevent the imposition of additional pressure against the dictatorship.
3. Nothing has changed, except that the SPDC has used the four months to gain additional support, notably from China and India, to strengthen its army and to continue its attacks against the people of Burma, foremost the ethnic nationalities. While ASEAN lied, and the world dithered, more villages were destroyed and more people died.
4. Not one single nation, other than the US, acted against the SPDC. As far as all the other nations of the world are concerned, and the United Nations, it is acceptable for the Burmese generals to get away with murder. Indeed, many nations, including the governments of Germany and Australia, actually worked to prevent the imposition of additional sanctions. That Germany, in particular, with its horrific history of dictatorial abuse, would prevent the European Union from imposing economic sanctions against the SPDC, is nothing short of astonishing.

The people of Burma, both inside and outside the country, should make careful note of this behavior. When your country is free, you should never forget who came to your aid and who stood with your oppressors. When you are free, and when governments send envoys, and promote business representatives, to capitalize on your new economic opportunities, act accordingly. Tell the representatives from Germany, and Australia, and Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, India, Russia and China, thank you but we do not need your help. You did not come when we required assistance, during our hour of greatest need, so we do not need, or want, to have anything to do with you now. We certainly do not want to do business with you, so you can profit from our freedom just as you once profited from our slavery. Tell your businessmen to stay home. We will develop the way we want to develop, on our own, and working together with our real international allies.

In the fight against dictatorship, words are meaningless. Only actions count. We will hear many words in the coming weeks, from United Nations Special Envoy Razali Ismail, following his trip to meet his SPDC business partners; at the ASEAN summit in Bali; and at the APEC meeting in Bangkok. For example, for the second we are likely to hear something along the lines of the following from Indonesia’s Ali Alatas, a former Suharto crony: “Thank you, Prime Minister Lt. General Khin Nyunt [how many countries have prime ministers who are also mass murderers?], you were so kind and generous not to kill or rape Aung San Suu Kyi [only her supporters], nor to torture her in prison [the standard treatment for political prisoners in Burma], but actually to let her serve her [completely unwarranted, indefinite and incommunicado] arrest at home. You truly are worthy of membership in our august forum.”

Such ridiculous nonsense will be repeated again and again, and spread far and wide through media coverage, with the effect that the general public draws the conclusion that progress is being made. But we, in the democracy movement, won’t be fooled again. There is no progress. To move forward the movement needs to organize large-scale protests and boycotts of the SPDC’s foreign supporters, and the US needs to impose additional pressure, in particular on Thailand, to force it to end its repression of democracy groups based at the Thai/Burma border, and in Bangkok. (Right now, there is a new group of four hundred refugees in no man’s land just north of the town of Mae Sot, which the Thais refuse to allow democracy advocates to visit, and the Thais also continue to hold fifteen activists from the Joint Action Committee for Democratic Burma, who were arrested September 18th at the Burma Embassy in Bangkok, while peacefully expressing their desire for freedom from SPDC tyranny.)

We also call upon the US to raise the issue of Burma in the United Nations Security Council this month (October), when the US has the chair, including motivating the Security Council to impose sanctions against the SPDC and also to recommend to the General Assembly that the SPDC be expelled from the UN altogether.

Another individual who believes only in words is Kofi Annan. Dear Secretary-General Annan, please do the right thing. Please fire Razali, the crony of the SPDC, and support the above actions: UN sanctions, and expulsion.

Lastly, serious journalists pride themselves on being objective, on presenting both (or all) sides to a story. Apparently, this means that murderers and their co-conspirators have as much a right to tell their side as their victims. The question is: does this extend to reporting obvious lies as if they were true? Is it legitimate to quote a rapist justifying his crime by saying that the victim deserved it? During World War II, would it have been appropriate to report Nazi propaganda that Jewish people were subhuman and deserved to be exterminated? In other words, are journalists really being fair and objective, particularly in their coverage of Burma, or are they simply willing dupes of criminals and fascist regimes?