Saturday, May 23, 2009

The hypocrisy of 'being concerned'

By: Atiya Achakulwisut

(Bangkok Post) -So much for being concerned! Yes, I am concerned about the "concern" and "grave concern" being expressed by world leaders concerning the plight of The Lady of Burma, who is being tried for an alleged crime that should not concern her.

I am concerned because I don't think the plethora of "concern" that is being echoed around the world will achieve anything meaningful for the lady in concern.

I am also concerned about the usually vocal members of the foreign press corps. Has one standard dropped and another popped up without us noticing? Their silence on the matter has been deafening.

This is a democratically elected leader of a severely oppressed country whose people have long suffered under the heavy boots of the military junta. A leader who was not only robbed of her election victory but of her basic human rights for decades, who is now facing a real threat of being tried unfairly and put away in jail for five more years. Where is the outcry from the foreign media? Where are the articles and high-minded opinion pieces condemning the undemocratic elements? Where are the lectures and derision?

Has the bad press been reserved for struggling democracies like Thailand? Like, if you try real hard to hold your stuff together and be compliant with Western values, you get slapped when you come up short. But if you are a fully-fledged autocracy that shuts the country off from unwanted relations (and keeps the wanted relations plus profit to yourself) who also could not care less about what the world may think, then you can be left alone. No foreign press would nag that the Burmese prime minister was not elected, that its roadmap to democracy is a coup-produced sham, or that Snr Gen Than Shwe has not been seen smiling or anything.

The Economist, for example, has been harsh on Thailand to the point that its own integrity can be called into question. In its April issue, for example, the magazine took aim at Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's mandate to govern. "He rode to office, unelected, thanks to the yellow shirts," the magazine stated.

The statement would have proven the magazine's theory about Thai democracy being usurped by undemocratic elements - had it not been factually wrong. One has one's own doubts why such an esteemed publication would opt for dispensing false information for the sake of being critical of a country.

The same magazine has this to say when it comes to Burma: "According to this view the top generals are wicked, but not everyone inside the system is. And given the state of Myanmar's economy, the choice may be between working with the government and not working with anyone."

It's probably this kind of attitude (and profit that can be made from natural resources that Burma has to offer to those who please them) which allows the Burmese dictators to feel free to oppress. They know that if they don't care about the world, then the world will have no choice but to work with and through them. They also know that if they would just come up with some absurd charges against their political opponents, the world would not put any pressure on them except to wring their hands and sing the same old global chorus of being "so concerned".

The truth is that democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi should never have been placed under house arrest and no country should be "working" with the military junta that took power by force, save to make them relinquish their grip. It is quite puzzling how the world press is ready to heap scorn and pressure on a half-baked democracy like Thailand's and refrain from applying the same kind of heat to a fully-fledged dictatorship like Burma's. Maybe they think it is an exercise in futility because the Burmese generals won't care. But that would then be an act of hypocrisy.

And the Burmese people can't afford any more hypocrisy from a world that preaches democracy and human rights protection. The country and people have been made to put up with too much for too long. The Lady has been fighting a lonely battle for nearly two decades. She is 63 years old now. She won't be there as the best, brightest and most inspiring symbol of democracy in this wretched country forever. Her unjust and unjustified trial which will probably end in her renewed incarceration is the best chance for the democracy-loving international community to act on what they preach.
China, in particular, can use the occasion to redeem itself from the bloody Tiananmen crackdown.

Stop being so concerned. Save The Lady.

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