Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


April 1, 2005

Please forward.

This is not an April Fools joke.

Morten Pedersen of the International Crisis Group and Robert Taylor of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies have released a new report about Burma that states: “The military will remain in power for the foreseeable future.” They call for the name “Myanmar” to be used, high-level diplomatic visits with the dictators, and an end to sanctions.

This report will be discussed at a meeting in Brussels on April 5th. The United Nations resident “do-nothing” in Rangoon, Charles Petrie, and also Derek Tonkin, former U.K. Ambassador, will attend. Groups that are fighting for democracy in Burma have been excluded.

Previously, Dictator Watch characterized the pro-engagement crowd, including the U.N., E.U., Australia, Japan, and academics such as David Steinberg, as supporters of appeasement. Now, there can be no doubt as to their true intentions. For reasons including naiveté bordering on idiocy, and also personal gain (freedom to travel to Burma, funding, and economic spoils), they are calling for nothing less than total surrender. Even worse, this message is not only for the international community in its relationships with the junta: it clearly applies to the people of Burma as well. Pedersen and Taylor want the people of Burma to give up and accept that they will always be subject to mass and arbitrary imprisonment, theft, forced labor, rape and murder.

It is obvious that they have never been political prisoners or had sisters or daughters raped and killed. Their ability to discount human suffering, to act as if it is unimportant, even meaningless, is appalling.

You never surrender to tyrants like Than Shwe and the SPDC. You keep fighting, no matter how long it takes: ten years, fifty years, or more. You never stop until you are free.

Burma will be free!

What is most galling is that the junta is now under greater pressure than any time in the last ten years. ASEAN is pressuring the SPDC, and this will continue. If Burma runs the group next year, there will be a thousand “What is wrong in Southeast Asia” editorials, and to the member nations this must be prevented. Some people believe ASEAN’s position is changing. This is not true. The objective of its other members is to avoid bad press. For years, having Burma in the group diverted attention from them. But now, it is attracting attention; hence the issue must be resolved. Burma cannot be allowed to run ASEAN next year.

We in the Burma democracy movement can use this situation to our advantage, as a foundation on which to create additional pressure. We are close to the tipping point. Pedersen and Taylor want to give up.

The International Crisis Group deserves special condemnation. Its mission is “to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.” How does surrendering to those who are responsible for a conflict resolve it? ICG needs a new Burma “expert.” Please send them an email with your views (I did) to www.crisisgroup.org (in the navigation frame click on Contact Us, and then the email link for Brussels).

The report was commissioned by Europe. It is clear that the E.U. is looking for justification for doing business with the regime, and more deeply it wants to satisfy the interests of China (e.g., Jacques Chirac’s determination to end the arms embargo). Europe does provide significant funding for Burma, for refugees and also to a number of pro-democracy groups. However, some people believe that the latter is a means to buy silence. Europe will not address the real problem, the junta, and such funding gags potential critics.

The worst genocide in history was committed in Europe, by the Germans, and the rest of the Continent allowed it to occur. The French Vichy Regime, and others, even participated in it. Now, Europe likes to suggest that it is the most advanced or civilized part of the world. However, a significant aspect of such civilization is to confront severe wrong doing, wherever it exists. Europe was silent on Bosnia, and Rwanda and Burundi, and the Sudan. It also is not responding to Burma, where at a minimum the SPDC is perpetrating genocide’s precursor, ethnic cleansing. Europe, which experienced genocide, should be a leader in confronting the crime. The hypocrisy is astonishing, and it is made even worse by the fact that most such nations were former European colonies (Rwanda and Burundi – Germany and then Belgium, Sudan – U.K., Burma – U.K.), and that the internal conflicts that led to genocide were abetted by the way in which Europe withdrew.