Friday, August 21, 2009

Elections could take Burma ‘in unexpected directions’

(DVB)–The elections in Burma next year will herald a complete transformation of the country’s political landscape, with an opportunity to influence Burma’s future direction, says a think tank report.

While many Burma observers have criticised the looming elections as a means to entrench military rule, an International Crisis Group (ICG) report, Myanmar: Toward the elections, says the outcome is unpredictable.

The elections, scheduled for March next year, are “significant because the controversial constitution on which they are based involves a complete reconfiguration of the political structure”, says the report.

The introduction of a presidential system and fourteen regional governments constitutes the “most wide-ranging shake-up in a generation”, it says.

The constitution, ratified in May 2008 only weeks after cyclone Nargis hit Burma, appears to guarantee 25 per cent of parliamentary seats to the military even prior to voting.

The government claimed that 92 per cent of the Burmese population backed the constitution, although reports of voter intimidation and vote rigging have been documented.

“The change will not inevitably be for the better, but it offers an opportunity to influence the future direction of the country,” says ICG.

“Ultimately, even assuming that the intention of the regime is to consolidate military rule rather than begin a transition away from it, such processes often lead in unexpected directions.”

Last week’s sentencing of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to 18 months under house arrest means she will not be able to participate in the elections, with many seeing her trial as a ploy to ensure this.

The sentencing “further undermined what little credibility the [elections] may have had,” said the report, adding however that “All stakeholders should be alert to opportunities that may arise to push the new government toward reform and reconciliation”.

Senior officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) today agreed to urge regional foreign ministers to appeal to the Burmese junta for the release of Suu Kyi, marking a break with its policy of non-interference in internal affairs of member countries.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Elections could take Burma ‘in unexpected directions’...

30 More Karens Flee Hlinebwe

The Irrawaddy News

Some 30 Karen people from Hlinebwe District in Pa-an Township have fled to the Thai-Burmese border recently to escape forced recruitment and other abuses by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), according to the refugee camp leader in Nu Po on the Thai side of the border.

Camp leader Saw Ta Su Mya told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the 30 new arrivals makes a total of 517 Karens that have fled from that area in the last two months and are now sheltering at Mae Salit, a village near Nu Po.

“Sometimes two or three people arrive a day. Other times, the women and children flee first and are followed by their male relatives later,” he said. “They are careful to keep out of sight of the DKBA on the way,” he added.

The DKBA has reportedly been forcing Karen villagers to work as porters and on other duties since a joint force of its troops and the Burmese army attacked and subsequently took over the rebel Karen National Liberation Army headquarters (Brigade 7) in June.

The pro-junta Karen army ordered headmen in local villages to conscript workers and threatened them if they didn’t comply, according to a source close to the DKBA.

The source said that the group extorts money—often more than 50,000 kyat (US $50)—from anyone who refuses to comply.

According to the sources, the Thai border authorities have been reluctant to allow the displaced Karens to stay in Mae Salit and are encouraging them to return home.

In the meantime, several relief teams from Mae Sot are providing emergency aid to the new arrivals, Saw Ta Su Mya said. “But they [the 517 Karens] may be pressured to return to Karen State soon,” he added.

Since the attacks by the Burmese army and the DKBA on the KNLA in June, some 4,000 villagers from northern Karen state have fled to the Thai-Burmese border.

Many people are worried that the joint force will resume its offensive in northern Karen State in September after the rainy season.

The Karen sources said they believed that if another offensive breaks out, thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in northern Karen State and the more than 4,000 Karen refugees in Ei Tu Hta, a temporary camp on the Salween River, will be forced to flee to Thai soil.

Meanwhile, Karen monks in Thaton Township in Mon State have sent an open letter to the monk who formed the DKBA, U Thuzana, calling on him to instruct the Buddhist Karen army to cease fighting their Karen brothers, the KNLA, as the refugee crisis is escalating.

READ MORE---> 30 More Karens Flee Hlinebwe...

The Story of a Child Soldier

The Irrawaddy News

PAPUN, Karen State—Sixteen-year-old Htun Htun Oo, looked relieved and happy when he learned he would be leaving the conflict zone controlled by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) soldiers on the Burmese bank of the Salween River, opposite Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province.

The prospect of going to study instead of facing more military duties gave him new hope.

Told he could leave, Htun Htun Oo quickly packed his clothes in a sling bag, put on a watch, applied some Thanaka (Burmese traditional makeup) to his cheeks and said goodbye to the Karen soldiers who had temporarily taken care of him.
A young soldier with the Burmese army (Not Htun Htun Oo)

Speaking quietly against a background of birdsong and eddying water in the fast flowing Salween River, he told us his story before he left.

Htun Htun Oo escaped from the Burmese Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 341 in Papun District in northern Karen State in July, making his way through the forest eastwards, even though he was not sure whether he would be killed when he reached KNLA-controlled territory.

Before he escaped, senior officers had regularly warned the troops that they would be tortured and killed if they surrendered to Karen rebels.

“Whether I lived or died didn’t matter anymore,” Htun Htun Oo said, “All I wanted to do was escape. I was ready for anything so long as I didn’t have to stay another day in that battalion.”

He said that he had to sleep rough in the jungle for three days before he reached the KNLA area.

“When I arrived on the Burmese side of the Salween River, I started to swim across,” he said, pointing to the waters swollen with monsoon rain streaming by.

“The water was too fast and I was drifting downstream, trying to swim,” he said, “Luckily a boat came along and picked me up.

“The Burmese officers would continually punish us and order us to do additional duties—we were no better than slaves,” he said.

“They didn’t give us enough food, and when we were too exhausted to follow orders, they liked to beat us. I was beaten three times for falling asleep when I was on guard duty at night.

“Every morning we had to get up at five and do military exercises,” Htun Htun Oo said. “Around three in the afternoon we would be ordered into the jungle to cut bamboo and collect leaves to make temporary shelters.

“We didn’t get enough time to sleep as we had guard duty at night. I couldn’t take it any more and decided to run away,” he said.

Htun Htun Oo earned 21,000 kyat [US $19] a month, but said he only got about 7,000 kyat [$6.40] after senior officers made deductions.

Htun Htun Oo said he saw child soldiers in other Burmese battalions, and he knew of eight other child soldiers in LIB 341 alone.

During military training, he said he spoke with a younger comrade called Ye Thew, who told him he had been sexually abused by higher ranking officers on several occasions.

Htun Htun Oo was seized by the Burmese army at a railway station in June 2007 while he was on his way to visit his uncle, who was a policeman in Rangoon,.

“A Burmese soldier asked me for my ID card, but I didn’t have one because I hadn’t applied for one by then. So they took me away,” he said.

Htun Htun Oo’s case is not untypical. The recruitment of child soldiers in Burma is still widely practiced by the Burmese army, according to Aye Myint, a leader of Guiding Star, a Burma-based social and labor rights group.

In the last three months, more than 20 children who say they were forced by Burmese officials to serve as soldiers were helped by Aye Myint’s group and the International Labour Organization to return to their families.

Commenting in early August on reports that the Burmese government had released some children from the military, the UN’s special representative for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, was quoted by Reuters as saying: “We still are not sure how comprehensive that is and the extent of it. And so I am dispatching a team [to Burma] at the end of this month.”

The team would hold talks with the Burmese regime and rebel groups, said Coomaraswamy.
In a report in June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the Burmese military government and “ethnic rebel militias” of recruiting children to serve as fighters, saying that there had been “grave violations” against children in Burma.

According to a 2002 report by the Washington-based Human Rights Watch, there is no precise figure of the number of child soldiers serving in the Burmese army, but it was estimated that 35-45 percent of new recruits were children, some as young as 11, who were forcibly conscripted and brutally treated during training.

The report estimated that as many as 70,000 recruits were under the age of 18.
Htun Htun Oo said, “I have only one message for the youth of Burma—don’t even think about joining the Burmese army. It is like being in a living hell. You will go so far from home that you will forget it even exists.”

Asked about the Burmese regime’s announcement that the military did not recruit child soldiers, he said, “They are lying.”

READ MORE---> The Story of a Child Soldier...

Yettaw: The Swimmer Speaks

John Yettaw, the American whose release from a Burmese prison was negotiated by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, arrives at a military airbase in Thailand on August 16, 2009.

John Yettaw, just back from his Burmese prison odyssey, explains how he unwittingly created an international diplomatic crisis.

By Tony Dokoupil | Newsweek Web Exclusive

How was a retired bus driver from Missouri able to make a flipper-clad, two-kilometer swim to the heavily guarded house of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, one of the world's most famous dissidents? While John Yettaw languished in Burmese jail during his trial for "illegal swimming," all we could do is speculate. But now, in an exclusive interview with NEWSWEEK, Yettaw has offered an explanation: Burmese security officials let him. "I don't know why they didn't stop me," he says. "The man with the AK-47 shook my hand and let me in."

In his first full-length interview, conducted by telephone from his home in central Missouri, Yettaw addressed the rationale for his undiplomatic dip, responding to critics and speaking at length about his commitment to Burma. "I want to free Myanmar. I want to stop the suffering there. I am anti-junta. I will never be at peace, emotionally or psychologically, until that woman is free, until that nation is free," he said.

Yettaw burst onto the front pages of the world's papers in May, when he had made an uninvited two-day visit to the home of Suu Kyi. "The Lady," as locals call her, trounced opponents in the country's last open election in 1990, but the junta refused to recognize the results and has kept her under arrest for 14 of the past 20 years for trying to topple the regime. She was due to be released on May 27, just weeks after Yettaw showed up, well ahead of next year's landmark national elections—the first in two decades. But earlier this month, Suu Kyi was sentenced to 18 more months of home confinement. On Sunday, Yettaw was freed from seven years of hard labor when U.S. Sen. Jim Webb negotiated for his release; he was deported back to the United States.

A quixotic man who didn't have a passport until last year, Yettaw is an unlikely protagonist on the international political stage. The junta has said it believes that anti-government activists used Yettaw to embarrass its leaders, while Suu Kyi's supporters say that the government used the American as a pretense for keeping their best-known critic under house arrest rather than risk igniting the opposition ahead of the 2010 elections. Yettaw's family, for its part, doesn't know what to believe. After years of questions that have gone unanswered and behavior that doesn't quite add up, they have come to accept Yettaw the way he is—bighearted but unsteady—without asking too many follow-ups.

Late Thursday night, the 53-year-old Missourian remained an enigmatic figure, failing to clarify lingering questions and offering rambling and occasionally contradictory responses. "I have to be careful what I say or it will hurt the people of Myanmar," he explained, using Burma's other name. Echoing his court testimony, he says he traveled to Burma hoping to visit the Nobelist Suu Kyi—and to warn her that he'd learned, in a divine vision, terrorists were planning to assassinate her. He denied that the military junta ruling the country had put him up to the visit. "I've been accused of being CIA, of being on the books of the junta. The idea is just ridiculous," he said.

Still, the question remains: why didn't guards stop Yettaw as he made his way across the lake to the home of the country's most famous prisoner? Yettaw had made a similar aquatic bid for the Suu Kyi house in November 2008, but he was turned away by her on-site companions. He told family that he had been captured by guards at gunpoint on his way back from her house. The guards, he says, apparently unaware of his first attempted visit to Suu Kyi's house, bought his story that he had fallen into the lake while fishing and let him go.

It's not clear why authorities took a harder line this time, putting Yettaw on trial and ultimately sentencing him to jail. He says he doesn't know, but indicates that authorities did not seem too concerned about stopping him: instead, a group of guards languidly threw rocks at him as he paddled along. "I told [the judge at trial], Haul them in here and ask them for yourself." He added: "Maybe they were just lazy, or untrained or so cocky that they didn't think anyone would try to swim by them," Yettaw said. "Maybe they are so used to people being scared that they didn't expect anyone to do something so courageous."

Yettaw declined to say where he initially got the idea to visit Suu Kyi by crossing the lake. But according to one Western diplomat, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, intelligence reports show that senior Burmese officials were told to come up with a way to keep the Lady incarcerated, as her May 27 release date loomed. Around a week before Yettaw's second swim, this person says, two men posing as members of the reform-minded National League for Democracy allegedly approached Yettaw in Mae Sot, an untidy border town in Thailand, and told him that the Lady was ready to receive him. (The Burmese government did not respond to requests for comment.)

Yettaw won't say what he and Suu Kyi discussed once he made it to her house. "It is so personal that I have no right to discuss our conversation with anyone, not with my wife and not with my children," he said, adding that he is "brokenhearted" that she is under house arrest once more. Still, he doesn't see his actions as the cause of her predicament. "I didn't put her there. I didn't imprison that woman."

Actually, he says, his visit may have even saved Suu Kyi from the terrorists he believes were out to get her. He is not a hero, though: "I don't like titles. You can call me John." He bristles at the suggestion that he is unstable and possibly mentally ill, as some people, including one of his three ex-wives, has suggested. "I am not crazy. I am not insane. I am not bipolar."

Since touching down in Springfield, Mo., on Wednesday, Yettaw has kept a low profile—ducking out of an airport side door without picking up his luggage in order to avoid the waiting scrum of reporters and photographers. "I was really worried that he would be different or changed," Yettaw's 21-year-old daughter Carley, says. "But he wasn't. It was just like seeing my dad regular. It wasn't a big deal." His wife Betty has also downplayed the homecoming, focusing instead on the financial burden of her husband's long trip. Although Webb helped secure his release, Yettaw had to pay his own travel expenses and foot the bill for a nurse assigned to monitor his health. "They are breaking us," says Betty, who is also keen to deflect criticism of John. "Yeah, [Suu Kyi is] back under house arrest, but people who didn't know where the heck Burma was, who couldn't find it on the map for all their life, now know."

For now, Yettaw is taking his return to America "one day at a time." Later this month, he plans to pick up his three youngest children—he has five surviving kids in all—in California, where they stay with their mother every summer. He also intends to spend some time working on his two book projects: a "dissertation" about forgiveness (although he is not enrolled in an academic program) and a book "about a higher power, about recognizing the bitter and the sweet."

Would he go back to Burma? "Not without my family," he said, "and not without an invitation."

With Lennox Samuels In Thailand
Aug 21, 2009

READ MORE---> Yettaw: The Swimmer Speaks...

Campaigners call for commission of inquiry into junta crimes

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Campaigners say now is the time for the international community, particularly the United Nations, to call on the Security Council to establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Burma’s military rulers.

With the recent sentencing of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the continued cleansing of minorities in remote areas of the country, Burma’s military rulers have clearly demonstrated their ruthlessness and stubbornness in ignoring calls for reform, three campaign group said on Wednesday.

Debbie Stothard, coordinator for the Alternative Asean Network on Burma (Altsean Burma), one of the three groups that has called on the Security Council to establish a commission of inquiry, said the international community, while offering condemnation through rhetoric, has done little practical to push the junta to implement changes in Burma.

“It is high time that the international community stop accepting the junta’s actions and stand up,” Stothard told Mizzima on Thursday.

Altsean Burma, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Burma Lawyers Council (BLC) in their statement on Wednesday called on the European Union, which tightened economic sanctions on the junta in the wake of the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi, to support their call in setting up a commission of inquiry.

The statement said the new sanctions imposed by the EU are totally inadequate in the face of the worsening human rights situation and ongoing atrocities against ethnic nationalities in Burma.

“These sanctions reflect the political unwillingness of the EU to take a firm stance on this issue and increase dangerously the risk that the regime will consider this as a green light to continue committing international crimes,” said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH, in the statement.

On August 11, a special court in Rangoon’s Insein Prison announced the verdict of the over two-month trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, finding her guilty and sentencing her to three years of prison with hard labor.

But the country’s military Supremo, Senior General Than Shwe, intervened the court session via a special order and commuted the sentence by half, contingent upon good moral behavior, while also allowing her to serve her time at her lakeside home.

Following the sentencing several countries have issued statements condemning the junta, though a few have hailed the junta for its apparent leniency in commuting Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentence.

“The EU must not be fooled by the SPDC’s [Burma’s military government] phony attempt to show leniency on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The SPDC has fulfilled its strategy to keep Daw Aung San Suu Kyi out of the picture while, at the same time, the SPDC tells the world that Burma is on the path to democracy. How can the SPDC’s planned elections be given any credence when war still rages in Eastern Burma?” Stothard questioned.

Stothard said several thousand ethnic citizens in eastern Burma are currently being displaced as a result of fresh atrocities committed by the junta’s soldiers.

“If the junta is sincere in their plans and want to implement changes, the junta must stop killing the ethnics. Burma’s politics is not just about Aung San Suu Kyi and the regime but it is also the issue of ethnic nationalities,” Stothard emphasized.

Stothard added that the international community, particularly the United Nations, has not been taking effective measures to force the junta to cease their behavior.

“The UN has very little or no pressure at all on the SPDC. And the SPDC knows that they can continue playing around with international politics,” she said, referring to the junta’s official name of State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

Meanwhile, the US-based Global Justice Centre (GJC), in a press statement, denounced UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his reaction over the Burmese junta’s sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi, the only detained Nobel Peace Laureate.

The GJC said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks on the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi are totally at odds with his mandate under the UN Charter.

“As a Representative of the UN, and given these circumstances, international law requires Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to call for an end to impunity, not convey his ‘disappointment’ and call for ‘reconciliation’,” argued the GJC in their statement.

The GJC said instead of calling the verdict “disappointing” and “deplorable”, Ban should refer the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court, concluding that Ban’s remarks “undermine the rule of law.”

READ MORE---> Campaigners call for commission of inquiry into junta crimes...

Webb visit challenges opposition assumptions

by Joseph Ball

Mizzima News
- The fallout from U.S. Senator Jim Webb’s recent visit to Burma sheds light on inherent fissures and miscommunication both internal to Burma’s leading pro-democracy alliance and between the opposition and at least one of its primary international backers. If the country’s pro-democracy opposition, in its existing constitution, is to maximize its chances of success – these cracks in the foundation demand immediate attention.

In short, Burma’s democratic opposition has crippled itself by relying far too heavily on two assumptions: 1) – that it necessarily understands and acts in accordance with the strategic thinking of National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and 2) – concluding that the interests of the United States intrinsically align themselves with those of the democratic opposition.

Taking the second point first, the interests of the United States in Burma have not changed in 20 years and ideologically have their roots in the first half of the 20th century. The Obama administration’s approach to Burma, put succinctly, is a continuation of well-established U.S. policy to the region. The primary goal remains unaltered – containment of possible rival powers on the greater Eurasian landmass.

It should not be lost on interested parties, despite modest success toward Indian national interest, the importance of New Delhi in failing to significantly dent Chinese influence in Burma – for example, two years previously with the inability of India to secure contracts relating to the shipment of natural gas from Burma’s Shwe gas field. Such a counter by a democratic/military U.S. ally to Beijing’s growing clout was viewed by Washington as a critical development, despite New Delhi’s lukewarm support for Burma’s own democracy movement.

What has changed regarding U.S. foreign policy to Burma is the acceptable approaches to achieving America’s overriding goal. While rhetoric relating to “democracy” and “human rights” has been and will remain en vogue – and sanctions are by no means to disappear overnight, the truth is far less idealistic and far more abrasive: the United States is concerned first and foremost with the national interests of the United States, to which democracy and human rights, as with elections, are tools to be used when convenient to confer legitimacy upon a favored policy and/or personality in pursuit of an American agenda.

If Burma’s democratic opposition is solely concerned with the final outcome, then there remains little to differentiate their and U.S. interests. But, for considerable and influential portions of the aforementioned opposition bloc, the means to the end has come to be held just as sacrosanct as the end itself. This is wherein lies the present tension between Burma’s pro-democracy opposition and the United States.

While the Bush administration for eight years – a stretch of time which dominates the recent post-’88 history of involvement by Washington in Burmese affairs and was in accord with the dominant hardline voice of Burma’s democratic opposition – stood content with cries of ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’ and publicly sought the immediate overthrow of Burma’s ruling generals as a means of countering Chinese – and to a lesser extent Russian – influence and presence in Burma, the Obama administration, while promoting the same goals, appears at least willing to explore alternative currents in support of American priorities.

Senator Webb himself is said to have drawn attention, during his tête-è-tête with Aung San Suu Kyi, as to his – and what can reasonably be said to be his country’s – fear of growing Chinese dominance inside Burma. It was a succinct and brutally honest appraisal of U.S. interest in Burma, sounded by a ranking member of the Washington establishment and delivered to Burma’s opposition leader.

Significantly, the affront was reportedly brushed aside by Burma’s democracy icon, who expressed the opinion that there was nothing to fear from China and that the regional hegemon remained vital to the future of Burma and should, accordingly, not be vilified.

The response effectively signals that Suu Kyi is out of step with Washington’s paramount interest in her country – though she may very well have spoken appropriately as a Burmese citizen and to the best interests of her motherland.

This leads to the second critical misstep of Burma’s democratic opposition: convincing itself that it can speak for Aung San Suu Kyi.

Though recent months have seen a slight uptick in opposition interest to positively engage China, the by far dominant message to be taken from opposition activists and organizations during Suu Kyi’s lengthy detention has been one of unabated condemnation and ridicule of Beijing and its policies.

It then follows that the attention, time and money directed at demonizing China has been used counter to the wishes of Burma’s democracy icon and, accordingly, against what she perceives as in the best long-term interests of Burma. This is not to say that Burmese and Chinese interests are one and the same, but that the sowing of an antagonistic relationship between Rangoon/Naypyitaw and Beijing is counterproductive to the interests of the Burmese people.

China, as with the United States, is concerned with Chinese interests. By outwardly threatening Chinese investment and interests in Burma, the country’s democratic opposition has served to diminish its own leverage.

Not of coincidence, the strong vitriol directed against Beijing by Burmese opposition parties does serve the stated interests of one country in particular – the United States. This is a fact not lost in the halls of Beijing or Naypyitaw, assisting – rightly or not – in painting the opposition as an arm of U.S. foreign policy and thereby an enemy to Burmese nationalism, the principle purview of Burma’s men in arms.

Perhaps even more telling than the exchange regarding China, however, was the revelation at a press conference in Bangkok by Senator Webb following his visit, during which he inferred Suu Kyi may be accepting to the loosening of the sanctions noose. This sentiment sent shock waves through the opposition community as sanctions remain the cornerstone of their policy in confronting the junta.

It is unlikely that Senator Webb attempted to falsely misrepresent Suu Kyi on the issue of sanctions. What is far more likely is that opposition elements sought immediate word to the contrary from The Lady herself in order to patch over a potential momentous gap in the opposition’s foundation.

Yet, tellingly, Suu Kyi’s apparently unequivocal rebuttal of Senator Webb’s assessment of China was again evidently accompanied by language of nuanced ambiguity as to the issue of sanctions – a choice of words then regurgitated and spun by the international media as proof that she stands firmly behind a sanctions regime.

The truth, as is usually the case, is not so simple.

As related via second-hand quotes, her sentiment that sanctions cannot be addressed until the regime first interacts “inside the country” can easily be interpreted as either accepting of an inevitable softening in sanctions as political reconciliation progresses or as steadfast support for an ongoing sanctions policy until opposition victory is relatively assured.

Both Webb and the democratic opposition took from Suu Kyi’s musings what they wanted, the former as a convenience to providing flexibility in United States policy and the latter as necessitated by its already having invested so much in upholding an unbending sanctions policy attributed to be in agreement with the thinking of Suu Kyi.

Barring the advent of the acceptable means to the end of Burma’s political deadlock as envisioned by Burma’s pro-democracy opposition, is the community capable of reorienting itself to alternative strategies to secure the same end result if both its assumptions of internal leadership and external relationships prove compromised? Will the legacy of Aung San Suu Kyi be formed by The Lady herself or held hostage to those, as well-intentioned as may be the case, purporting to speak and act in her name? Can tough decisions be made in the name of and prioritizing national interest and realpolitik as opposed to “international norms” and moral absolutes?

In suggesting that Senator Webb’s visit was ill-founded due to the “imperfect” nature of the 2008 Burma Constitution, the letter by three opposition groups directed to Webb and questioning his decision to visit Burma held but the latest indications of an opposition anchored to an irreconcilable, absolutist project. Constitutional perfection, as remarked upon by Thomas Jefferson, is a project in futility – which is far from saying that the constitutional process is not just that, an evolutionary cycle demanding of regular reassessment in the construction of a better constitution than the last.

What is urgently needed from Burma’s opposition community is a substantive policy and strategic review, reflective of international relations and power politics as practiced, respective of existing avenues of communication and sensitive to the fact that the means to the end demands flexibility in order to maximize the chance of success.

Austere adherence to doctrinal rigidity – especially that premised on dubious assumptions – is ultimately a sign of weakness, not strength.

also read
Opposition Leader On Continued Sanctions

The Opposition NEVER had any interest in Webb's visit:
Possibly reflecting a similar wariness, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy said the party "has no interest in Jim Webb because he is not known to have any interest in Myanmar affairs."

READ MORE---> Webb visit challenges opposition assumptions...

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