Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


May 19, 2004

Note: Please see www.dictatorwatch.org/chrono.html for links to two new posts. The first, which includes photography, contains three summary reports of Free Burma Rangers humanitarian relief missions into the Mergui-Tavoy, Muthraw and Paan areas. The missions provided medical care to over two-thousand internally displaced persons.

The second post is an article about the Russian dictator, Stalin, titled “You Die Today, So I Can Live Tomorrow: Confronting the Stalin Myth,” by Hamilton Walters. This analysis should also provide a strong note of warning about how we – local populations, and the world – deal with other dictators, including those of Burma.

The National League for Democracy has decided not to attend the State Peace and Development Council’s National Convention. They took this courageous step, to do the right thing, in the face of intense pressure from foreign supporters of engagement with the regime, and also with the risk, even the likelihood, that it will expose them to the most severe forms of abuse. We on the outside who support democracy in Burma must now ensure that their act does not go to waste.

The NLD’s decision, their rejection of a forum designed to perpetuate dictatorship and the slavery of the people of Burma – for all time, was immediately labeled in a media account as “a major blow to efforts aimed at ending the political deadlock.” This was a completely inaccurate statement, propaganda produced by a lazy journalist (and spread by such supporters of engagement). Burma is not experiencing “political deadlock.” It is suffering genocidal repression at the hands of a gang of mass murderers.

The NLD decision was a major achievement. The entire Burma democracy movement, meaning the NLD and the ethnic nationalities, and the international activist community, is now unified in its strategy: to isolate the regime and press for real change.

Only a few countries, their politicians (not citizens), now promote the doomed approach of engagement. Such parties can be categorized into three groups.

1. European Union, Australia, and also the United Nations
2. India, Bangladesh, and Japan
3. China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore

The parties in the first group, for varying reasons, will not take a strong stand on behalf of democracy. For the first, action by the E.U. as a group is reportedly being held up by Germany and France, who seek to protect unethical business interests and also to earn geopolitical points against the United States. Certain member nations, though, including the U.K., the Netherlands and Italy, do appear to favor stronger action.

The European Union, starting with Bertie Ahern, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Shroeder, should be persuaded to match the NLD’s courage and to take the following steps:

- Do not participate in the upcoming ASEM meeting if Burma is invited.
- Extend sanctions against the SPDC to include the measures already imposed by the U.S.
- Do not allow the SWIFT system to be expanded to Burma to enable the settlement of transactions in euros.
- Demand that E.U. diplomatic personnel be given access to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

These steps can be initiated at the upcoming June E.C. meeting, but if they are not, the U.K., the Netherlands and Italy should act on their own (or in concert).

Australia’s reticence seems to be based on its desire to promote economic relationships with the SPDC’s Asian supporters. It must surely be galling to the average Aussie, for whom it is a point of pride to be forthright and to do the right thing, to see their leaders abandon their principles and kowtow.

The Australian government, starting with John Howard, should:

- End its “humanitarian” training programs for the SPDC, in particular the program for Military Intelligence and Burma Army border guards.
- Impose sanctions against the SPDC similar to the measures already passed by the U.S.
- Demand that Australian diplomatic personnel be given access to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

For the United Nations, because of its composition and structure, it is unable to address satisfactorily the most severe international concerns (large scale conflict, including civil war, dictatorial repression and genocide), which actually comprise its most important responsibility. The specific reason for this is that with so many participants, many of whom have conflicting objectives and positions, it is unable to achieve a consensus. (This occurs with the E.U. as well.) This is exacerbated by the fact that a number of its members are also criminal regimes, who would never bring pressure to bear on one of their own.

The U.N. is structurally flawed, because it includes among its members the worst dictatorships on earth. This reflects the fact that in the post-World War II period, at its formation, dictatorship enjoyed such legitimacy worldwide that no one even thought to forbid such regimes’ participation. We now know better, though, and this failing must be corrected.

The U.N. is presently conducting a major self-assessment, in part in recognition of such failings. The logical outcome should be a complete organizational reconfiguration. All such regimes should be expelled, and the nations barred from renewed membership until such time as democratically elected representatives are able to attend. In other words, the U.N. should regroup as a club of democratic nations (the United Democratic Nations), to which only nations that meet a prescribed set of standards can join. The standards would begin with democratic stability, as defined by the holding of periodic and open and fair elections, and the nonviolent transfer of power.

The U.N. also suffers due to the limitations of its current leader, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is now in his second term. He was appointed to reform the organization, in recognition that it is bloated and inefficient, and also hostage to politics. But the Secretary-General, while he has made some progress in improving efficiency, is clearly the wrong man where crises are concerned. As a long-term insider, the archetypal “organization man,” he lacks the vision and temperament, one could even say the courage, for this responsibility.

In Burma, Annan was desperate for a last minute deal, and even pressed the NLD to attend the National Convention. This way, the U.N. wouldn’t have to act. He wouldn’t have to display real leadership.

His judgment is also flawed, which could not be illustrated better than with his appointment of Razali Ismail as Special Envoy, even though Razali has active business interests with the dictators. Razali has just stated that the U.N. would be willing to give the SPDC humanitarian and economic aid in exchange for talking to the NLD. The best he and the U.N. can do, it seems, is submit to the blackmail of a group of savage thugs.

For Kofi Annan to do the right thing, he must:

- Appoint a new Special Envoy.
- In recognition of the fact that the repression of the people of Burma by the SPDC effectively constitutes a civil war, by the government against the people, which war is characterized by the regular and widespread commission of crimes against humanity, organize an international peacekeeping force to enter the nation and defend at-risk populations from such crimes.
- Demand in the Security Council the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
- Introduce a resolution in the General Assembly to expel Burma from the United Nations until such time as the nation’s elected leaders are able to send representatives.

For its overall strategy, the Burma democracy movement should concentrate on this group. Our numbers, resources and media coverage are limited. This is where our chances of success are best.

The second group, India, Bangladesh and Japan, will be more difficult to convince. They perceive that the SPDC will never be defeated, and have therefore decided that the path of engagement is their best approach. (We should push for a go-slow policy, though, and in India’s case this may be facilitated now that there is a new government.)

The third group, China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, are the SPDC’s regional cronies. They are actively working to ensure that the regime never loses power.

The reward for the NLD’s bravery should be a complete reappraisal of policy followed by the implementation of new, strong action by the European Union, Australia and the United Nations. The time for “wait and see” is over.

Once we have accomplished this, the job with the second group should be easier, since they will see that the writing on the wall. Lastly, we can pressure the cronies, until they are forced to abandon the sinking ship of the SPDC.

(Closing Note: Please forward this to Burma and related lists.)