Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


April 25, 2004

Note: Please see www.dictatorwatch.org/chrono.html for links to three new posts. The first, which includes photography, is a report of a Free Burma Rangers humanitarian relief mission into Arakhan State. One of the photos is of a woman who was tortured by a soldier from the Burma Army and who died of her injuries. The report also provides documentation of the conditions faced by internally displaced persons in the State (estimated to number 180,000), and discusses the military’s involvement in the narcotics trade in Western Burma.

The second report is of a Lahu Free Burma Rangers relief mission into the Eastern Shan States. This documents a massive internal migration now underway of individuals of the Wa ethnic group from the China border to the Thai border; a medical care crisis in the area; and large-scale deforestation. The report also states that huge shipments into Thailand of heroin and methamphetamines are now in progress.

The last post is of a photo essay of the program just implemented by Green Empowerment, to provide solar energy training and installations for eleven Karen medical clinics.

As the first two posts demonstrate, the horrific crimes of the Burmese dictators, the SPDC, continue without relief. However, there is now an opportunity to increase greatly the pressure they are under and even to initiate the steps to force them from power. In recent days the SPDC have abandoned the diplomatic forum in Thailand, the Bangkok Process, and also their ceasefire negotiations with the Karen National Union. They are focusing all of their attention on their upcoming National Convention, the objective of which is to draft a constitution that ensures that they remain in power.

Without the participation of the democratic opposition in Burma, many elements of which have already rejected the Convention as a sham, any constitution that results from it will be completely illegitimate. What this means is that the strategy of engagement that some parties have followed has failed. It could not be clearer: with Than Shwe, Khin Nyunt and Maung Aye, engagement does not work! Such a policy will never free the people of Burma and lead to a true democracy.

The SPDC say that the National Convention is the turning point to democracy. The real turning point, though, would be the abandonment of the policy of engagement by those members of the international community that promote it, foremost the European Union, Australia, and the United Nations. Were such parties to join with the United States in a strong and unified approach, including from the EU and Australia by legislating economic sanctions against both investment and trade, this would greatly increase the isolation of the regime and cut its funding sources. Even more importantly, it would ratchet the pressure on Burma’s neighbors and other regional supporters, who would then understand that having the nation remain a murderous military dictatorship is not only a minor inconvenience, it constitutes an insurmountable barrier to trade and other relations with the West. Faced with such an impasse, it would be interesting to see whose side they would choose.