Contact: Roland Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
BURMA: A TURNING POINT TOWARDS DEMOCRACY?
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 militarys involvement in the narcotics trade in Western
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
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 Burmas 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