Toward Democracy, Human Rights and Federalism

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spotlight on Neigbours-Myanmar: Recent Developments

Wednesday, June 27 2007, 10:11 AM EDT
After the end of Cold War and the 9/11, India and China become globally more influential and as the result Burma happens to be more strategic in the region than before. It is unfortunate that the junta has been in power and two new powers do nothing for democratic change in Burma.

Dr. Tint Swe's presentation at
India International Centre, 25th June 2007 at 6.30 pm

I am really honored to speak a few words at this meeting.

After the end of Cold War and the 9/11, India and China become globally more influential and as the result Burma happens to be more strategic in the region than before. It is unfortunate that the junta has been in power and two new powers do nothing for democratic change in Burma .

On Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday last week, the statement of AIPMC[1] said that Burma ’s junta acted as if it was invincible because of the economical support it gained from countries like China , Russia and India . Laura Bush also wrote: The Burmese regime poses an increasing threat to the security of all nations.[2]

The Failed States Index 2007 released last week said, "The world’s weakest states aren’t just a danger to themselves. They can threaten the progress and stability of countries half a world away." India is not half a world far from Burma but sandwiched between the 12th Pakistan and the 14th Burma .[3] This week, Radio Free Asia got a confidential report circulated at the UN. UNDP country report said humanitarian catastrophe in Burma was because of erroneous and obsolete economic policy.[4]

However Burmese generals have enough money to build a new capitol Naypyidaw. IMF estimated $122 to $244 million for annual running costs. The state-of-the-art military arms from China , Ukraine , Russia , and others cost more than $3 billion. June 8 news came from Bangkok said, " Russia has put a price tag of half a billion dollars on plans to build a nuclear “research” center in Burma ."[5] As a matter of fact the junta has signed the Bangkok Treaty in December 1995.[6]

So the generals are spending the resources of Burma lavishly, but not for its people.[7] HIV/AIDS gets a pathetic $137,000/year for over 50 million people. UNICEF reports that government spending on healthcare in Burma amounts to 40 cents/citizen annually, compared to $61 in Thailand .

Assumption is that China factor and Northeast insurgency propelled MEA to make a U-turn in 1992-93. Need for natural gas reinforced India 's Look East policy. Since then Indian foreign policy toward Burma is one of wooing the military junta, while convincing that the democracy movement is an internal matter to be decided by the Burmese themselves.[8] The fundamental problem is that democracy and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi chosen as well as decided by the people are being apprehended by Burma Army.

A Hong Kong based newspaper wrote last week, "The mainland has been courting Burma in recent months, with leaders in Beijing having decided that the junta is now its most important ally in Asia .[9] It illustrates the current Indian approach to water down the Chinese influence over Burma is unproductive. 15 years is pretty enough to review a policy. I may be wrong. But in the course of current policy, I think the Indian government has achieved none of its realpolitik strategic aims in Burma .

Indian analysts may think any expression of support to Burmese pro-democratic movement may be interpreted by the ASEAN members as interference in its internal affairs. They are also afraid of misapprehension of joining hands with the West on democracy and human rights issues.[10] Interference is merely a tactful diplomatic expression. I think it is will not way. My question is, "Is support for democracy no better than support for military?"

On June 20, a journalist from Bangkok wrote that Burma is in danger of losing out in burgeoning India ’s “Look East” economic growth plan because of a blighted common border, the military junta’s courtship of China and clear signals that New Delhi has mastered the game of leapfrog. But I doubt it because I admire the extreme patience of Indian people.

Indian air force chief, Marshal SP Tyagi, offered a multimillion dollar military aid package during his visit to Burma . The package includes counterinsurgency helicopters, avionics upgrades of Burma 's Russian- and Chinese-made fighter planes, and naval surveillance aircraft. India 's army chief of staff, JJ Singh, also pledged to help train Burma troops in special warfare tactics in early November.[11] The Hundu, yesterday reported that India is stepping up military supplies to Myanmar including training to its military personnel to handle more sophisticated defence equipment such as aircraft.[12] At the same time according to Assam Rifles inspector-general (south) Maj. Gen. B.K. Chengapa, the illicit flow of weapons from Burma is fuelling Manipur’s insurgency.[13] A couple of days ago, the Nagaland Post also said that Assam Rifles, the BSF[14], the CRPF[15], the IRP[16] have seized approximately 39,000 AK series rifles in the last six years in NE of India.[17] So by providing arms to SPDC[18], is India furnishing her own insurgency?

After double veto at UNSC[19], the 88 Generation Students called on the President Hu Jintao and President Vladimir Putin to join together with international community. They believe that with their close relationship with the SPDC and their leading roles in the international community, China and Russia are now in the best position to help realizing of national reconciliation and democratization in Burma .[20] This is message from inside.

Four days ago we had Burma hearing at UK Parliament. My colleagues and I have been participating in the hearings at US Congress, Senate and etc. I really appreciate India for allowing me alive here. But my stay in India for 17 years cannot bring me any closer to Lok Sabah. Dr. Sein Win is received as the Prime Minister of the government in exile by many democratic governments. Regrettably his pilgrimage to India is still impossible.

US and EU have imposed different degrees of economic and political sanctions while all neighbors are doing more business with the junta. If capitalism is, apart from private ownership and free market, referred to profit orientation and investment, then China, India and ASEAN countries are more capitalistic than Americans and Europeans.

Indeed sanction is a hot debate among scholars. But without sanctions and the worldwide attention, the Burmese regime would have boundless hand to oppress and brutalize its people. Thus, the threat of sanctions against the Burmese regime is both obligatory and advantageous. This may not be scholarly view but of the people of Burma . In the face of the democracy movement, the regime has survived because of brutality, secrecy and the failure of most countries to cease investing in and trading with Burma .

Doodarshan's Defence watch program of last night explains us that India is not thinking of any change when it comes to Burma . So I must recognize the power of military junta's propaganda machine, which is able to win over not only some of its own people but also Indian high level bureaucrats who have faith in the national convention and roadmap and agree with disintegration theory of the regime. The national convention, as it is, is not what to decide the destiny of Burma . Even the UN accepted that. To that National Convention the invited elected MPs comprise only 1.38%. No NLD! No ethnic parties! At UNSC when veto power was exercised to include Burma into the formal agenda, Chinese ambassador Wang Guangya said, " China therefore supports continuing efforts on the part of the Myanmar Government and all parties in the country aimed at inclusive dialogue and national reconciliation." I agree with him. The NC of SPDC is not inclusive. I wonder the logic of those who blame NLD for walk-out from NC.

I should not point the finger at who bet the winning horse. But the judgment on NLD's popularity by my Indian friends is disappointing. I am not sure if India is concerned about the day a popular government comes to power in Burma . One Indian analyst recently wrote: If India is serious about developing a strategic partnership with Burma , it must decide on a more proactive approach to Burma . I don't know what dose his proactive mean.

Alternatively, instead of Look East, I honestly propose Look Peoples' policy. Wherever I go around and whoever I met with, Indian people support our struggle. So what I mean is to heed the views of Indian people and Burmese people. I wish for another good U-turn!

Thank you very much!


[1] ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Burma Caucus
[3] Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Chad, Ivory Cost, Congo, Afghanistan, Guinea, Central African Republic, Haiti, Pakistan, and North Korea, Burma
[4] UNAIDS estimates that 620,000 people in Burma ages 15 to 49 are HIV-positive.
[6] In December 1995, the junta signed the Bangkok Treaty, banning the development, manufacture, possession, control, stationing, transport, testing or use of nuclear weapons under the terms of the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
[8] During a recent visit to Myanmar on January 19, 2007, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that India had to deal with governments “as they exist … We are not interested in exporting our own ideology. We are a democracy and we would like democracy to flourish everywhere. But this is for every country to decide for itself.”
[11] AFP 7.12.06
[12] The Hindu 24-6-07
[13] The Telegraph (Calcutta): 1 June 2007
[14] BSF = Border Security Force
[15] CRPF = Central Reserve Police Force
[16] IRP = Indian Reserve Police
[17] Nagaland Post, 4-6-07
[18] SPDC = State Peace and Development Council
[19] UNSC = United Nations Security Council
[20] On 6th June 2007 the 88 Generation Students call on China and Russia to help national reconciliation and democratization in Burma

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