Wednesday, July 8, 2009

‘SOS BURMA,’ time for UN to do the right thing

by May Ng
Mizzima News

Unlike in the past visit, this time there was no real expectation that the United Nations General Secretary’s visit to Burma would change anything.

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) wanted Ban Ki-moon only to see a sterile and desolate Naypyidaw and forget the long suffering Karen and Shan people living in armed conflict areas, or the hellish lives of exiled Rohingyas, or the Chin, Kachin, Arkan, Mon, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Chinese who lack citizenships or human rights, and the revered Buddhist monks living under severe oppression.

But one thing is certain that conflicts are only between the SPDC and the rest of Burma. Be it among ethnic nationalities or people of different shade of skin or faith it is only when SPDC enters the picture sparks of resentment ignite and even the same ethnic brothers are persuaded to take up arms against each other.

The generals may consider Naypyidaw their spanking modern Kyan-sit-thar fantasy land. But in reality they are surrounded by enemies they have created. They are digging tunnels deeper underground and they do desperately seek nuclear and missile capability. There is every reason to assume that the latest North Korean ship which has turned back might have been carrying suspicious weapons for the military junta in Burma.

In 1952 the great traveler Norman Lewis wrote that to cross the Burmese frontier was to pass behind a curtain excluding all news of the outside world. And he said that while in Vietnam the established authority was challenged by a united opposition with a single ideology, in Burma the government was opposed by countless band of oppositions and ideologies. He also wrote that unlike Vietnam in the 50’s where even after the years of Japanese occupation and the war with the French, much of the ordinary routine of life had survived, Burma in comparison had remained isolated and mysterious.

The military in Burma therefore came to power by default rather than by its ability. Its intention now is to hold Burma a hostage to its past. But things have changed since the internet generation came of age as seen in the 2007 Saffron Revolution.

Without true liberty and equality, small minorities even while oppressed by the mighty military or invaded by a major ethnicity, will continue to rebel. Political turmoil across the globe from Baghdad to Urumqi in Xinjiang clearly suggests that the use of force alone gains very little. No matter how large the military force the ghost of discontent will continue to circle unseen, only to show its anger and ferocity in another unexpected corner.

The battle ground will shift but Generals in Naypyidaw will continue to be haunted by ghosts of yesterday’s rebels long after their tunnel complexes are built and their arsenals fully assembled.

The Shan State armed movement initiated first by a small band of July 7th student rebels after the 1962 coup, has evolved into today’s Shan State Army South. Its present chairman Colonel Yawd Serk said that a political party without an army is similar to a tiger without claws and fangs; nevertheless he also believes that it is the political force which must lead the army. And to be able to lead, the political force must have a good competitive constitution, rules and regulations and clear political policy. The humanitarian wing of the SSA organization, the Shan Health Committee member Sai Khur Hseng has been trying to procure funds to provide political and democracy lessons to its fighters. The priority and the frontline of Burma’s fight for freedom have moved on and now traverse across linguistic, cultural, political and racial barriers. It is now expected that uniting the efforts of all political and ethnic movement is more possible than ever.

Besides, with the electronic speed of traversing borders, Burma is now clearly visible on the world’s stage. The challenge for Ban ki-moon is what can the United Nations do to stop the overt hostility of the Burmese military junta against their own people, and to help end the political persecution and military aggression on ethnic areas in Burma? For a start Ban should press the UNSC to forbid all arms sale to the military regime. The Saffron Revolution central leader U Pyinya Zawta urged that to be effective President Obama, ASEAN and EU must all work together to continue to pressure the Burmese military. It is right that Ban Ki moon asked for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners to make clear to the regime of Naypyidaw that the 2010 election will be a sham without freedom for the people in Burma.

The Burmese people will never forget their leaders in junta’s jails. Not withstanding what James George Scott wrote in 1886 that ‘Pohn-gyee’ or Burmese monk’s person is sacred and inviolable and nothing he does can subject him to the civil law. U Pyinya Zawta, a Saffron commander in exile confirmed that Ashin U Gambira, the spokesperson and a distinguished monk leader of the ABMA during the Saffron Revolution is now sick in prison from torture and severe punishment by the military in Burma.

Min Ko Naing’s poem written in 2007,

Slavery by foreigners
Or slavery by military dictators
No slavery will be tolerated
Flag of the Peacock!
Atop the student union
We shall resurrect ‘Daun A Larn’ the Peacock flag

and the traffic volume on Ko Moethee Zun’s web blog are evidences that, even in the aftermath of the bloody show of force against the young leaders during the 2007 Saffron Revolution, nothing will stop the anti-government activities continuing in the shadow of bloody oppression in Burma. The new generation leaders believe that the freedom prize they seek is not worth anything if it isn’t worth dying for.

(May Ng is a member of Justice for Human Rights in Burma.)

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