Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


January 15, 2006

Please forward to all Burma lists.

In March 2005, in a statement titled "The Tipping Point," I called for the firing of Special Envoy to Burma Razali Ismail. It is therefore good news that he has resigned. This initiative was doomed from the start. Trying to talk to the SPDC, to Than Shwe, is like trying to reason with the infamous American mass-murderer, Charles Manson. You will get nowhere.

Some Burma commentators are now saying that we must identify another person who will have better luck talking to the Junta. This is ridiculous. More importantly, it is a disservice to the people of the country. If you want someone who can talk to Than Shwe, you will have to choose an individual who already has a relationship with him. For example, you could choose a Chinese teak cutter, heroin distributor and trafficker in ethnic minority women who are forced to become sex slaves. Of course, this will accomplish nothing for democracy.

If the United Nations is to have an envoy who will be effective, who will play a central role in ending the rule of the SPDC and establishing a well-designed and functioning federal democracy, the approach must be changed. We do not need a Special Envoy to the SDPC, whose job is to try to talk to the generals. Rather, we need a Special Envoy for Burma, who does not even visit Rangoon but who instead travels the world, to Beijing, Moscow, Bangkok, Tokyo, Paris, Frankfurt, Washington D.C., and many other places, organizing and unifying pressure for democratic change.

If the position is not redesigned in this way, it would be better off left unfilled.

Also in the earlier statement, I suggested myself as a replacement as Special Envoy. I would like to repeat this offer, now that the position is available.

I have never before published my personal information, as it is not germane to my work. In a real democracy, your credibility derives from the power of your ideas. But for a position such as Special Envoy, the holder must have an appropriate background. I have such a background. I formerly worked in New York City on the executive staff of a major American corporation. Following this, I was an international investment banker, in Stockholm and London, for one of the world's largest banks. My understanding of institutional culture derives in part from these experiences.

After this, I traveled extensively, for what is now fifteen years, and for the most part in rural areas of South and Southeast Asia. I have excellent cultural understanding and strong cultural skills for the region. I have also written a number of books, and many articles, which deal with political and economic development issues, particularly the transition from an authoritarian society to one that is open and democratic.

Most importantly, I am dedicated to democracy for Burma, and have worked continuously for many years to achieve this goal. I have also lobbied the United States on its Burma policy, and the United Nations, extensively. I therefore request that this offer receive serious consideration.

Some people may find it unusual that an individual with my background would become a corporate and supranational (e.g., WTO, IMF and World Bank) activist. The change in my position derives from my travels, where I experienced first hand the environmental and cultural catastrophe that is resulting from commercial globalization. The actual consequence of unregulated capitalism and a focus on economic growth to the exclusion of all other measures is the opposite of the poverty reduction and the other forms of "progress" that we have been promised.

The challenge with filling the Special Envoy position for Burma is analogous to finding a replacement for the United Nations Secretary General. The United Nations is in crisis. The Security Council is unable to function because of its membership and also due to the veto power wielded by the permanent member states. The Human Rights Commission is filled with serial human rights abusers. The oil for food scandal illuminates the organization's desperate need for accountability and skilled management. And as if all this were not enough, the world faces greater challenges now than at any time since the U.N. was established. The organization therefore needs the absolute best individual that can be identified to replace current Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The selection process though has been defined in terms of entitlement and political horse trading. This guarantees that a weak, compromise candidate will be chosen, and that the U.N. will continue to flounder for the next five years. This is terrible news for the world social system.

Similarly for the Burma Special Envoy, the search is concentrating on people who are acceptable to the Junta and who have diplomatic backgrounds. We do not need another diplomat in the job. Professional diplomats are weak! They do everything in their power to avoid confrontation rather than directly address a problem and do what is required to solve it.

The Special Envoy for Burma should be uncompromisingly dedicated to democracy, and have enormous strength of will.

If you support the above ideas, would you please forward this statement, right now, to the United Nations at inquiries@un.org. Please also change the subject line to "Special Envoy-Burma." This statement will likely be read by two thousand people or more, mainly Burmese who are tired of waiting for their country to be free. If one hundred of you would forward it to the U.N, this would send a strong signal to Kofi Annan and his Burma staff to appoint someone who is actually able and determined to get the job done.