Thursday, April 2, 2009

Change is needed from the outside

Francis Wade

(DVB)–Last week was a confusing week for the ruling regime in Burma, normally comfortable behind the thick veil woven by its hermit tendencies.

On three separate occasions in as many days the country was catapulted onto the world’s stage, dragging behind it a nearly half-century old record of human rights abuses that would put most tyrannical rulers alive today to shame. The need for the spotlight to be redirected towards Burma couldn’t come sooner, as doubts in the international community about the failure of current policy towards the junta finally start to seep out, and new tactics urgently need addressing.

First came the UN ruling on Tuesday that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s ongoing detention was illegal under the regime’s own stated laws. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 13 of the last 19 years, since her National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in the 1990 general elections. The ruling was unprecedented, and particularly potent given how seldom the UN accuses a state of violating its own law.

Then came a rare visit from a senior US government official the following day, one of only a handful of top-level figures that have visited Burma since the US slapped far-reaching sanctions on the regime following the 1990 elections. The exact intentions, and outcome, of the meeting have been vague; typically, state-run media in Burma spoke of “cordial discussions of mutual interests and promotion of bilateral relations” between the two countries.

Regardless, news outlets around the world leapt to their feet at the prospect of policy change, perhaps spurred on by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comment in February that the US needed to review its stance on Burma in light of the failure of sanctions. While the White House has so far publicly denied that the talks were a sign of a softer approach, Aye Tha Aung, of Burmese parliamentary group the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament, who met with the US official on Thursday, said the two talked of “new types of sanctions that will only cause effect directly on the government and business companies tied to them.”

That would be the hope. Former US deputy secretary of state, Matthew Daley, boasted in 2003 that the package of sanctions imposed in July that year had disrupted much of Burma’s industry to the point where the junta were unable to salvage it. Some 40,000 people from the garment industry, mostly women, lost their jobs, he continued. Internationals NGO’s later reported that many of them ended up in the sex industry.

Similarly, two weeks ago reports surfaced of women crossing from northern Burma into China to work as prostitutes following the collapse of the jade industry. Just days prior to this, the BBC reported that many workers in Burma’s jade industry blamed the collapse of the industry on the ban imposed on imports of Burmese gems to the US, further fuelling allegations that sanctions have been misdirected.

The Burmese government must have raised another eyebrow on Wednesday after the European Union’s special envoy to Burma, Piero Fassino, announced it would consider easing sanctions when they come up for renewal in April “if there are some positive steps in the direction of our goal.”

The ruling State Peace and Development Council have penciled in March 2010 for Burma’s first general election in 20 years, although the rewritten 2008 constitution guarantees entrenchment of military rule. It is a revision of this, and the lifting of crippling restrictions on opposition groups, that would constitute a “positive step” in the EU’s mind, although there has been no hint that the constitution will receive anything but a nudge in the right direction from its authors.

Unsurprisingly, speculations are rife as to what last week’s events mean for Burma. Tuesday’s UN ruling opened the world’s eyes to the impunity under which one of the world’s most isolated regimes freely operates. Alongside arbitrary imprisonments (currently 2,128 political prisoners – activists, journalists and lawyers - languish in Burma’s jails, some with sentences of 65 years), the regime is known to recruit more child soldiers than any government in the world. Amnesty International has condemned the military’s use of rape as a means of intimidation, while widespread use of forced labour in infrastructural ‘development’ projects, previously funded by overseas aid, has been well documented.

In this context, the succession of sanctions packages placed on the country over the past two decades, aimed at financially suffocating the regime, were initially justified. Yet the sudden, and unannounced, visit by a US official last Wednesday, along with the EU’s tentative statement the same day, may finally be an admittance that this method has failed.

No change

What the cocktail of sanctions, disengagement, and vocal condemnation have achieved over a 20-year period is very little. The opposition leader remains under house arrest, her imprisonment continually extended year after year, and opposition party members are locked up on a weekly basis. Anyone deemed guilty of dissent continues to be imprisoned, often under the most spurious of charges (read ‘sedition’ for six students currently on trial for collecting and burying corpses following cyclone Nargis last year). Land seizures, forced displacement, and the government’s hand in the burgeoning opium trade last year earned Burma the penultimate spot, alongside Iraq, in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. In short, state-sponsored abuses, impunity and corruption are as commonplace as they were the day the sanctions arrived.

Crucially, amidst the rubble of a crumbling economy brought on both by sanctions and wild financial mismanagement by the government, Burma has tightened its relationship with neighbouring China. Last Thursday China, who in 2008 shielded the regime from scrutiny by vetoing a UN resolution to ease repression and release political prisoners, signed a deal to build cross-border oil and gas pipelines connecting Burma’s vast off-shore natural gas reserves with its energy hungry population. It has been this relationship, along with the help of substantial Indian investment, that has handed the regime a lifeline and held them back from all-out collapse. It is also this factor, not readily addressed when George Bush slapped on another batch of sanctions in 2007, that has made Burma less inclined to bow to outside pressure.

It is also likely that the West’s almost total diplomatic disengagement from Burma has added to the ruling junta’s almost pathological fear of foreign interference. This factor has been the source much of its recent erratic behaviour, for which hundreds of thousands of Burmese citizens have borne the brunt. Perhaps its most shocking manifestation was the refusal of aid following cyclone Nargis last year, with the government claiming it had the situation under control while 138,000 people were left to die. Likewise, press censorship has been strict to the point that foreign journalists are no longer allowed in the country, and Burmese reporters passing information out of the country are handed painfully long prison sentences. Not surprisingly, Burma was placed fourth from bottom in last year’s Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index.

Also, wary of its apparent susceptibility to an invasion, the government moved its capital away from the coast, 350 miles deep into the Burmese jungle where only government officials and amiable foreign diplomats can enter. The analogy this move offers couldn’t be more poignant: total disengagement has pushed Burma further behind its fortifications and denied the outside world access when it is most needed. Sanctions could have brought the walls tumbling down, were it not for the powerful pocket of nations that stepped in to support it.

What is needed is a wholesale review of international policy to Burma. Sanctions do not work when the target is propped up by a country, perhaps equally indifferent to international law and pressure, with the clout that China does. Neither has the softer approach of diplomatic engagement influenced the regime. The US and EU have so far only taken an either/or approach, but recent events show they could be nearing an acknowledgment its failures.

However, the painfully slow bureaucratic process needed to overturn a major foreign policy package could prove costly. Burma’s neighbour may soon become its spokesperson, the only medium through which the international community can access the hermits inside their jungle retreat, and heaven forbid this happening. China’s fiercest criticism of the Burmese government, that they show “restraint” following the shooting of protesting monks in September 2007, is a measure of how high the issue of human rights sits on their policy agenda.

With the flicker of a light from the US and EU, it is now up to the international community to act constructively, and to rid itself of the notion that diplomatic engagement cannot successfully be employed alongside well-targeted sanctions. Unless the outside world learns from recent history, the Burmese government will be forever free to repeat the past at the cost of the millions forced to keep its wheels turning.

READ MORE---> Change is needed from the outside...

KNU demands international community rescue Burma

by Salai Pi Pi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – An armed ethnic Burmese resistance group, Karen National Union (KNU), has urged the international community to take stern action against Burma's military regime in order to restore peace and stability in the volatile Southeast Asian country.

Saw David Takapaw, vice-president of the Karen National Union (KNU), which is waging the world's longest running civil war against the Burmese regime, on Thursday said the international community’s concerted and timely action against the junta is needed in order to address the political deadlock inside the country.

“We made the call as we [opposition groups and the Burmese regime], by ourselves, cannot successfully address the problem at this time,” Takapaw told Mizzima.

Takapaw continued, “For example we [KNU] have been waging war against the Burmese regime for nearly six decades but there has been no tangible result to come of it,” adding, “We think it is better if the international community solves the problem."

The KNU in its statement on the peace effort released on Saturday also said that the widespread use of drugs and the country's poor record on human rights, refugees, human trafficking and illegal migrant workers, have all negatively affected the international community and now threaten global peace.

“Drugs are spreading to the region and there are many illegal migrant workers staying in neighboring countries. Burma has become an international problem,” Takapaw implored.

Moreover, the KNU reminded the international community to be conscious of the true ideology of the Burmese regime when approaching them, warning, “otherwise their good intentions will be easily defeated.”

The KNU, and its armed wing the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), has held talks with the Burmese regime on five previous occasions since launching their campaign for self-determination in 1948.

The two sides were able to reach a verbal ceasefire agreement, commonly known as the “Gentlemen's Agreement," after the last round of formal talks between the KNU’s late leader, General Bo Mya, and former military intelligence chief, General Khin Nyunt, in the former capital of Rangoon in 2004. The talks, however, came to a standstill after Khin Nyunt was purged from the military hierarchy.

The KNU, in Thursday's statement, said, “Peace negotiations between the KNU and successive Burmese regimes have consistently failed because sincerity was lacking on the side of the regimes in power.”

Last month, the Burmese military, during Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya’s two-day visit to Burma, asked Thailand to persuade the KNU to contest the upcoming 2010 election.

However, Takapaw last month said the KNU will only hold talks with the Burmese regime if they are genuinely aimed at addressing the ongoing conflict in Burma.

“If the regime is willing to solve problems in peaceful ways, we are ready to talk with them,” said Takapaw, adding that the KNU will insist the regime first convene a tripartite dialogue and amend the constitution.

The KNU in their statement further reiterated that the government, without reform, will continue to violate the democratic rights of the people and commit human rights violations in the country well after the culmination of the 2010 elections. As a result, argues the KNU, the ethnic resistance will continue and the country will remain unstable – politically, socially and economically.

READ MORE---> KNU demands international community rescue Burma...

Bangladesh to throw beggars in jail

From correspondents in Dhaka France-Presse

BANGLADESH has made begging illegal and intends to eliminate the practice from the streets of the impoverished country within five years, an official said.

Hundreds of thousands of people depend on begging to survive in Bangladesh, where 40 per cent of the 144 million population earn less than a $US1 ($1.43) a day.

An official, who declined to be named, told AFP that a Bill had been passed in Parliament this week outlawing begging.

"Anyone caught begging will be put in jail for a month. This includes people who pretend to be ill or use a disability to get money," the official said.

Finance Minister A M A Muhith said in February that his Government, which came to power in December, would eliminate begging within five years.

According to a 2005 survey, a beggar in the capital Dhaka, home to around 27,000 beggars, earns an average 100 taka ($2.08) a day. Beggars in regional towns earn much less.

Read Also
Parliament passed Anti-Beggar Bill

That is the most brilliant idea from the Finance Minister A M A Muhith to take the beggars off the street.

Beggars are on the street due to the high unemployment, due to bad coffers administration therefore poor economy in the country to provide for the needed in this case, the beggar.

The beggars go on the street wanting to survive and the very generous parliament has made beggars suffering lesser for a month as they will have a roof over their heads and fishheads soup for a whole month... that is called abundance on earth to a beggar.

Bravo to all the Parliament members you have found the solution to eradicate beggars, I just wonder if your jails will be able to cope otherwise Human Rights will be on your backs as from now...

There is generosity, love and affection for the poor after all in the Bangladesh enactment. Long live the Beggarhood now they got 1 month free survival on government's / wealthy taxpayers' account.

Instead of focusing on embarrassment, focus on solution, there are plenty of jobs for exchange of food and some wages to help the beggars to survive even in this financial crisis the globe is going through...

Imagination is required from the High Thinkers in Parliament...

READ MORE---> Bangladesh to throw beggars in jail...

Murder near China-Burma border being linked to child trafficking

(DVB)–Locals in a Chinese border town have said there could be a link between a young Burmese boy found murdered on Monday and increased incidences of child trafficking on the China-Burma border.

Nine year-old Myo Ko Ko and his younger brother went missing on 27 March after begging on the streets of Jiang Phong in China, near the border with Burma. Myo Ko Ko was found with his hands tied and fatal head wounds.

“The corpse was found by the bank of Ruili river near the bridge,” said an eye-witness.

“His mother said they were collecting drinking water bottles.”

Chinese authorities are questioning other children begging on the street, another resident said, adding that police believe it was fellow Burmese beggars who were responsible for the murder.

The same day the corpse was found, however, police from Muse, a town on the Burmese side of the border where Myo Ko Ko’s parents live, seized two children who had been kidnapped from nearby Lashio, he said.

This has led to suspicions that Myo Ko Ko’s death is also linked to trafficking.

“Now that the trafficking of adult girls is becoming harder due to intensive arrests, the sales of children are becoming very profitable," the resident said.

The director of Thailand-based Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, Aung Myo Min, said there has been an increase in child trafficking on the China-Burma border.

“This kind of thing used to be abundant on the Thai-Burma border,” he said.

“But as the fight against child trafficking inside Thailand had increased [along with] an increase in protection among the public, child trafficking moved to the China-Burma border.

Aung Myo Min pointed to the deaths of tens of thousands of children during the 2008 China earthquake as perhaps being part responsible for the rise in child trafficking.

“In order to fill this gap, a new market emerged for adopting other children, some suggested, so and it needs to be dealt with seriously," he said.

“The reasons why children are stolen and trafficked these days are the lack of concise and firm prosecution, and bribe-taking among people responsible.

Chinese and Burmese officials were not available for comments. (JEG's: hiding under the table boys?...)

Reporting by Naw Say Paw

READ MORE---> Murder near China-Burma border being linked to child trafficking...

US wants common Burma strategy with Asia

(DVB-AFP)—The United States wants to forge a common strategy with Asia to coax military-run Burma out of isolation, a senior official said Wednesday, suggesting six-way talks with North Korea could be a model.

President Barack Obama's administration has launched a review of policy on Burma, where a US official last week paid the first visit by a senior envoy in more than seven years.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg said the United States wanted a "collaborative and constructive" approach on Burma, saying nations with sway over the junta should avoid "recreating a mini version of the Great Game."

"Viewing relations with a notorious authoritarian regime like Burma as a zero-sum game is in no nation's interest," Steinberg told the National Bureau of Asian Research, a think-tank.

"We want to discuss a common approach with ASEAN, with China, with India and with Japan to find a policy that will improve the lives of the people of Burma and promote stability in this key region," he said.

Asian nations including those in ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have mostly tried to engage with Burma. China is the key trade and military partner of the junta, which crushed 2007 protests led by Buddhist monks.

The Asian approach contrasts with that of the United States and the European Union, which have slapped sanctions on the regime to pressure it to improve human rights and free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Steinberg said the US "core objectives" would remain the same after the review -- to seek a "more open" Burma that respects the rights of its people and integrates into the global economy.

"We all have a common interest in working together to get a constructive solution that convinces the junta that the path they are pursuing is not in their interest," he said.

He said Burma was an issue on which the United States was open to setting up new "flexible" frameworks similar to the six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear program.

"The solution to many global problems will not always be in creating new formal institutions or new bureaucracies," he said.

READ MORE---> US wants common Burma strategy with Asia...

Philippines urges Burma to Protect Human Rights

The Irrawaddy News

MANILA, Philippines — Burma should free all political detainees and fulfill a long-standing pledge to democratize, the Philippine foreign secretary said on Thursday.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations plans to launch a landmark human rights body in October during its annual summit. But diplomats have acknowledged it will have no power to investigate and punish violators.

Constrained by the 10-member bloc's policy of noninterference in each other's domestic affairs, the body cannot force compliance. Still, its creation has been hailed as a milestone for a region with a long history of human rights abuses.

Romulo singled out military-ruled Burma for its dismal rights record and said Asean must recognize that it has human rights problems and think about how it can protect "basic freedoms" to give the regional rights body "an auspicious beginning."

Myanmar has long been a source of embarrassment for Asean, which has repeatedly criticized its ruling generals but chose to engage it politically rather than ostracize it. The Philippines, along with Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, is among the most vocal critics of the junta within the grouping, which was founded in 1967.

"Since its acceptance into the Asean family in 1997, Myanmar has stated its commitment to democracy and to embark on a national reconciliation process," Romulo said in a statement. "Fulfilling these commitments would be showing true progress."

Carrying out its promise before the rights body's launch would make the body "credible not only to the world community but more importantly to our own peoples," said Romulo.

Romulo also reiterated his call for Burma’s ruling junta to free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and allow the unconditional participation of her party, the National League for Democracy, in free national elections to be held in 2010.

Asean includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It admitted Burma in 1997, despite strong opposition from Western nations.

READ MORE---> Philippines urges Burma to Protect Human Rights...

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