Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


August 7, 2008

Please forward.

We have received additional intelligence that both confirms and expands our last report, about how Russia is guiding the SPDC’s nuclear development and more generally its military modernization. This intelligence is from new sources.

In May 2001, at the National Defence College (Rangoon), SPDC Science and Technology Minister U Thaung said that Burma would make an effort to possess nuclear weapons by 2020. Once achieved, this would make the regime the strongest military power in Southeast Asia; the country would be transformed into the “Fourth Burman Empire”; and, it would be able to threaten Thailand militarily.

This statement reveals the SPDC to be a grave threat to international security and peace. The regime's announcement that its new 10 MW reactor is intended for peaceful research purposes is a lie.

Our report further describes the respective roles of China, India, Japan, North Korea and Iran in assisting the SPDC to develop a nuclear capability. It also lists recent purchases of major weapons systems.

George Bush is now touring East Asia. The threat posed by the SPDC, and its relations with other countries in the region, should be at the top of his agenda. This is the true responsibility of a United States President, to help lead the world in addressing its most serious problems, not to participate in an entertainment spectacle and through this to legitimize its totalitarian host.

We would also like to comment on the upcoming visit to Burma by United Nations Special Envoy Gambari, and the new Burma law passed by the United States, the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008. For the first, Gambari should not visit Burma, not now or ever. He was only invited – during the period the Olympics will be held – to deter popular protests. By sending Gambari at this juncture, the United Nations Secretariat, meaning Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, is signaling that he fully supports the SPDC and that he is the enemy of the people of Burma. We recommend that Burmese people everywhere protest Gambari’s visit, and also, in accordance with the new campaign of the National Council of the Union of Burma, that the SPDC be expelled from the U.N. General Assembly.

For the new U.S. law, we welcome the breadth of its coverage, particularly its amendments to the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. The appointing, in Section 7, of a Special Envoy and Policy Coordinator for Burma, who will “promote a comprehensive international effort … to restore civilian democratic rule,” is a very positive step (presuming that the individual selected has more determination and candor than the U.N. special envoys).

We of course also support Section 10, the Report on Military and Intelligence Aid to Burma, which is to include the “provision of weapons of mass destruction and related materials.” We would be pleased to contribute what we know about this subject to the report.

In addition, we note the budget of $5 million for FY 2008 to assist Burma democracy activists who are dedicated to nonviolent opposition. Dictator Watch has a plan to encourage large-scale surrenders from the Burma Army, which would tip it into chaos and collapse. Soliciting surrenders from the enemy has been a tactic in conflict dating back millennia, and it is inherently nonviolent, since it motivates combatants to lay down their arms and not to fight. Our plan has a budget of $1 million. Rather than spend the entire appropriation on such things as conferences, office expenses, and capacity-building and media, which given the intransigence of Than Shwe have little chance of success (of restoring civilian democratic rule), why not devote a portion of the funds to a program that can lead to real change?

Lastly, we want to comment on the new law’s only major failing: its approach to the “Chevron problem.” It is clear that the intent of Section 15, which “urges Yadana investors to consider voluntary divestment,” is not actually to bring about such divestment; rather, it is to protect Chevron. This section is designed to resolve now and for all time the controversy over its business operations in Burma. Congress asked, Chevron declined, so, what else can we do? It is the end of the story.

This is a major defect in what is otherwise an exemplary piece of legislation. We and no doubt other activists will continue to fight to get Chevron, Total and all the other corporate supporters of the SPDC out of Burma.

Interestingly, some supposedly pro-Burma parties actually backed this provision, making the argument that if Chevron divested, its holding would just be sold to another oil company and the money stream to the junta would continue to flow. Hence, there is no need to force it to sell.

This is a specious argument, which if followed generally would invalidate all of the successful corporate pressure campaigns that have been conducted for Burma, or on any other issue. For example, using this rationale there was no need to force Heineken and Pepsi to leave the country, since the Burmese can just buy another beer or soft drink. Indeed, there is no need for anyone to stop doing the business with the SPDC, because in the world of international commerce some company will always be happy to be involved.

This argument conveniently bypasses the main issue, that it is unethical for any foreign company to do business with the SPDC. You simply do not do business with murderers.

Note: We had intended to issue a statement just prior to the opening of the Olympics, but didn’t have time to prepare it because of the need to focus on the nuclear intelligence. In any case, it seems clear that everybody who stands for human rights, freedom and democracy, in Burma, Tibet, East Turkestan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and China itself, is ready to go. Let the protests begin!!!