The foreign ministers of France, Great Britain and the U.S.A. – Bernard Kouchner, David Miliband and Condoleezza Rice – have issued a joint statement on Burmese politics. In an open letter to their colleagues attending the World Economic Forum at Davos they state ((Jotman » UK, US, and French foreign ministers’ joint statement on Burma at Davos)):
The Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos is a unique
event. No other occasion brings together so many of the world’s leaders
from all fields. For over three decades now, these meetings have
provided a global platform for collaboration and action to address
international priorities of concern to us all.
One such priority is the urgent need for progress towards a transition to
democracy and improved human rights in Burma. The fact that we have
chosen to write about this issue, with so many competing priorities,
should underline the strength of our governments’ determination to
support the people of Burma in their pursuit of a peaceful, prosperous
and democratic future. We have repeatedly made clear that the situation
in Burma cannot continue, and that we remain committed to helping the
people of Burma.
It is now more than four months since the world was horrified by the
violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Burma. The dramatic
pictures seen around the world of the brutality directed against peaceful
protestors, including monks and nuns, were truly shocking. We cannot
afford to forget. We must convince the Burmese regime to meet the
demands of the international community and respect the basic rights of
The UN Security Council in October spelled out its expectations and
reiterated those expectations on January 17. First, the early release of
all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and the creation of
conditions for a genuine dialogue between the Government and the
opposition. Second, full co-operation and constructive engagement with
the UN. Third, the need for the regime to address the economic,
humanitarian and human rights concerns of the Burmese people.
Several months on, however, we find the regime has met none of these
The regime claims to be moving ahead with its roadmap to civilian rule.
However the process, already 14 years old, is open-ended, and many
key political actors, not least Aung San Suu Kyi, are excluded. There
can be little doubt that only genuine and inclusive dialogue can deliver
national reconciliation and stability for Burma and its neighbours.
We call on all those attending the World Economic Forum to
demonstrate that, while the regime may be indifferent to the suffering of
the Burmese people, the world is not.
We ask you to support the return to Burma by UN Special Adviser
Gambari as soon as possible, and to urge the regime to cooperate fully
with him and the UN. We call on the regime to act on the
recommendations of UN Human Rights Envoy Pinheiro; to release all
political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi; and to launch a
substantive, time-bound dialogue with democratic leaders and ethnic
minority representatives, as called for in Aung San Suu Kyi’s statement
of November 8.
A unified call for genuine and peaceful political reconciliation and reform
will be heard in Burma. We would not live up to our values if we ignored
DAVID MILIBAND CONDOLEEZZA RICE BERNARD KOUCHNER
Really? Would a unified call of the world’s leaders really be heard in Burma? Kyaw Zwa Moe of the news magazine The Irrawady draws another image in his last comment ((The Irrawady » Who can rescue Nilar Thein?)). Writing about the polical activist Nilar Thein having gone underground, he concludes that only “Rambo” could rescue the young mother.
Meanwhile, Kyaw Zwa Moe points out how powerless UN Special Envoy Gambari is in his Burmese mission:
The UN Special Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, said in a recent interview with Newsweek magazine, “I don’t have the instruments to change the regime.”
Yes, true regime change is hard to imagine. “The UN is not in the business of changing regimes,” Gambari said. Yes that’s true.
So what about one, single issue: the release of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi?
Gambari attempted that, but again, with no success.
“The release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the other political prisoners is long overdue,” the envoy said in the interview.
But the junta hasn’t budged, sticking closely to its “seven-step road map,” which is intended to install the military institution legally as the legitimate government of Burma.
Can you imagine political reconciliation? “It’s long overdue,” said Gambari. Opposition groups and the international community have called for reconciliation since the junta took power 20 years ago, especially after Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won the 1990 election by a landslide.
Gambari again seems helpless – one of the highest ranking diplomats of the world, but rarely vested with powers and even less with political or economical threats to the junta. The U.S.A. as the world’s only superpower are one of the loudest critics of the Burmese regime, just lately the sanctions were again tightened. But these steps do not have any real importance.
The boastful call of Rice, Kouchner and Miliband with the orotund promise of a change in Burma in case the world’s leaders would unify for harsh words against the Burmese regime is nothing but a small light in the darkness of the Burmese people’s situation. It is fine to see that even the mighty leaders of the world sometimes show a feeling for injustice, but these words will result in nothing.
As long as the Burmese junta can count on the hunger of Russians, Indians and Chinese for gas, they wont have to fear the mighty giant U.S.A.; which would rather go to hell than create another focal point beneath the Middle East. In fact, the last decade’s politics show the opposite: It has gotten silent with Libya and North Korea, at least the last one a country where the people suffer even more than in Burma.
On the other site, Burma’s neighbors have a huge economical interest in the country, which works against a change of the situation: China, for example, profits from Burma’s isolation, exploiting its position as the Junta’s nearly sole trading partner to build itself a strong hold at the business with Burmese gas. An overthrow in Burmese politics would be a blow for them: With the opposition not being a friend of the junta’s partners, trade relations would suffer. All the more, as the U.S. or Europe would like to take the place of the People’s Republic…
Its natural gas inventories and the political charisma of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi will preserve Burma from disappearing off the international community’s eyes. On the one hand, the western countries are waiting for a revolution to make an economical profit from it; on the other hand, solidarity with arrested Aung San Suu Kyi makes always good on the media. Great words against an enemy do not cost much, if sentences form nothing but a Potemkin village – fine for the media, but meaningless on a political level.
A change in Burmese politics has to come from the country itself. Twice, the Burmese ventured the revolution, twice they failed. Maybe the end of October’s uprising cannot be compared in its brutality with the massacres of the year 1988, when more than 3000 dissidents were murdered by the junta. But this time, again the protests ended up in blood – and failed.
Two generations have failed at overthrowing the junta – and it will need a third, the current has worn out its powers. Especially, as one cannot expect the junta to demolish itself. Maybe the leadership is old now – General Than Shwe will be 75 by next weeks time – but that does not make it shaky. However, a change of generations in the junta could lead to conflicts, destabilizing the government. But even if Than Shwe would be brought down or simply die, just another dictator would take his place.
Having said that, the Burmese people are in duty to fight for their freedom themselves. Freedom, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said, can never be bestowed, but has to be achieved. The Burmese people can neither hope to be freed through foreign efforts nor will the dictatorship vanish voluntarily. In fact, there may be better and worse times for a revolution, but the decision will be made through the efforts of the Burmese people themselves. To achieve the freedom costs – and that has definitely been shown in the past uprisings – great powers. It is just a question of time, that the Burmese people will stand up against their oppressors again – when they have built up their strength again. But if this third try will be successful and also, if Aung San Suu Kyi will live to see this, is more than doubtful.
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