Saturday, May 23, 2009

Time is Running Out in Burma

The Irrawaddy News

The world is clamoring for the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi as she faces a mockery of a trial in Rangoon’s infamous Insein Prison. But Snr-Gen Than Shwe, the man at the helm of the Burmese junta, remains unmoved. And so it seems increasingly certain that Suu Kyi will be spending the next three to five years behind bars—world opinion be damned.

The people of Burma welcome strong words from world leaders and other prominent figures, including Suu Kyi’s fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates. But what they really want to see is action—action that will set the stage for real change, and not merely perpetuate the status quo. Action that can only come from the United Nations.

On Friday, the UN Security Council finally issued a statement expressing “concern” about the political impact of recent developments relating to Suu Kyi. The statement stressed the “importance of the release of all political prisoners” and the “need for the Government of Myanmar to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue” with the democratic opposition.

This statement was issued soon after UN chief Ban Ki-moon said that he would visit Burma “as soon as possible,” at which point he plans to urge Than Shwe—again—to release Suu Kyi.

In this situation, we believe that “as soon as possible” should mean “now.” But before he flies to remote Naypyidaw to meet Than Shwe, Ban must prepare. Otherwise, he will be manipulated and exposed to ridicule.

If he wants to achieve real results and not just empty concessions, Ban must be prepared to use all the tools at his disposal to press Than Shwe. He should seriously consider the option of imposing UN sanctions and an arms embargo on Burma.

For this, he will need to talk to UN Security Council members and seek the backing of China, Russia and India—the junta’s most powerful allies—and win the full support of the US, other Western nations and Japan.

Ban, who is now in Sri Lanka, must get to work on Burma without delay. He must act quickly and decisively. After he has thoroughly worked out his approach to Burma, he should call on the regime leaders to accept his imminent visit, which will have the objective of laying the groundwork for negotiations and compromise. If Ban goes into Burma empty-handed, he will come out likewise.

Most importantly, Ban must acknowledge the fact that the UN’s past efforts to move Burma in the right direction have always failed because they relied too heavily on the junta’s assurances of cooperation. The UN must have some means of enforcing compliance with its demands that includes the possibility of real punitive action.

Over the past two decades, the UN has released countless reports detailing rampant human rights abuses and political repression in Burma. These have been important testaments to the need for change, but have done nothing to alter the junta’s ways. It is time the UN started paying attention to its own words and acted accordingly.

The trial against Suu Kyi is not only an attempt to silence Burma’s pro-democracy icon; it is also an indictment of the UN’s lack of political will in addressing the problems of a country that has nowhere else to turn for support. There should be no mistake about it: if Suu Kyi is locked away for good, there will be no hope left for Burma, and nobody to blame but the UN.

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too