Burmese Chess

Outrage, but what can be done?

Kenji Nagai, 50, a journalist for Tokyo- based video and photo agency APF News, is the first foreign victim of the crackdown. The death prompted Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to say: "Something deplorable is happening there." The Associated Press said soldiers fired automatic weapons into a crowd of protesters.

In scenes of naked defiance and anger that the heavy-handed tactics have failed to crush, ordinary people screamed abuse at soldiers and cried openly as they exchanged news of deaths and injuries. "You are eating food given to you by the people. Yet you kill people and you kill the monks!" an elderly man screamed at soldiers downtown".

We are deeply troubled by reports that security forces have fired on and attacked peaceful demonstrators and arrested many Buddhist monks and others. We condemn all violence against peaceful demonstrators and remind the country's leaders of their personal responsibility for their actions. We call on the authorities to stop violence and to open a process of dialogue with pro democracy leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of ethnic minorities. We urge China, India, Asean and others in the region to use their influence in support of the people of Burma. We urge the country's authorities to receive an early visit by the UN Secretary General's envoy Ibrahim Gambari. We call on the Security Council to discuss this situation urgently and consider further steps including sanctions.

Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear. The United States will tighten economic sanctions on the leaders of the regime and their financial backers. We will impose and expand a visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights, as well as their family members. We will continue to support the efforts of humanitarian groups working to alleviate suffering in Burma, and I urge the United Nations and all nations to use their diplomatic and economic leverage to help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom.

I hope the Security Council will meet immediately, meet today, discuss this issue, and look at what can be done. And the first thing that can be done is that the UN envoy should be sent to Burma and I hope he is in a position to go, and make sure the Burmese regime directly is aware that any trampling of human rights that takes place will have the whole eyes of the world upon them and will not be acceptable in the future.

I will show France's support. We do not accept violent repression. I am following the situation in Burma with great concern. I call for spontaneous, peaceful protests, which are expressing fair social and political demands, not to be repressed by force.

The fact that the protests are visible is already a measure of protection... These demonstrations have attracted much more media coverage than in the past and that gives hope that there will not be completely unacceptable reprisals.

We want this situation to stop. We would like the get a process of negotiation and normalisation of the life of Burma. And we already have sanctions imposed on the authorities and we will be in a position to increase the level of sanctions when the situation deteriorates.

China has consistently implemented a policy of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs. As Burma's neighbours, we hope to see stability and economic development in Burma. We hope and believe that the government and people of Burma will properly deal with the current problem.

We consider any attempts to use the latest developments to exercise outside pressure or interference in the domestic affairs of this sovereign state to be counterproductive. We still believe that the processes under way in Myanmar do not threaten international and regional peace and security. We expect the country's authorities, as well as the participants in protest marches, to exercise mutual constraint not to allow further destabilisation of the situation.

The government of India is concerned at, and is closely monitoring, the situation in Myanmar [Burma]. It is our hope that all sides will resolve their issues peacefully through dialogue. India has always believed that Myanmar's process of political reform and national reconciliation should be more inclusive and broad-based.

I'm trying my best to convince the Burmese: "Don't use the harsh measures." At the least they should try to avoid the violent action from the government side. As a Buddhist and as a soldier, I can say that it will be very difficult for the Burmese government to use violence to crack down on the monks. It will be against the way of life of the Buddhists.

Singapore is deeply concerned by reports of clashes between protesters and security forces in Yangon [Rangoon]. We urge the Myanmar authorities to exercise utmost restraint. We call upon all parties to avoid provocative actions and to work towards reconciliation and a peaceful resolution of the situation.

We urge the government of Myanmar to respond calmly to the demonstrations. We also strongly urge that the government of Myanmar take seriously the wishes of the people as evidenced by the demonstrations and begin talks with a view to achieving reconciliation and democratisation.

We are seriously following these developments very closely. We are concerned by it. We are calling on the authorities to exercise maximum restraint and desist from any acts that could cause further violence. Indonesia's approach has always been one of engagement, not necessarily meaning that we are less concerned about the situation therein. We are just convinced that the best way to go is through engagement and encouragement.

I don't think the United Nations is likely to be the vehicle for change, for international change on Burma. I think really you have to work through China and the Chinese, because China is the country that has the greatest degree of influence over the Burmese leadership.

The international community must mobilise to uphold respect for human rights everywhere in the world and to ensure liberty to express people's own opinions and dissent in a peaceful way.

We join those who have asked the authorities in Myanmar to exercise maximum control because violent repression of the recent protests could have very serious consequences.

"The Burmese government should not stand in the way of its people's desire for freedom," said White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

The Main Chess Players:

China, Burma's biggest trading partner and chief ally, issued its first public call for the regime to show restraint. ASEAN foreign ministers demanded the junta immediately stop using violence. India has joined in to voice displeasure but has been supplying military aid to the junta. Russia and Thailand are also major players.

Their Interests:

Gas Pipeline, Natural Resources & Militaristic Control - Both India and China want access to Burma's gas. Based on experience from previous oil and gas projects in Burma, the construction of overland pipelines to transport the gas will involve the use of forced labor, and usually result in illegal land confiscation, forced displacement, and unnecessary use of force against villagers. Revenue from gas sales would also serve to entrench the brutal military rule in the country.

Do China, India or the foreign companies involved care about the process, they just want the gas. Some of the foreign companies involved include: ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), which is a subsidiary of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Co. (ONGC); the Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL); and Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS) of South Korea.

Burma’s gas business helps sustain military rule in the country and currently comprise at least 30 percent of the country’s exports. Estimates of the gas yield of the Shwe deposits range between US$37-52 billion, and could lead to a gain in revenues to the Burmese government of US$12-17 billion, or US$580-824 million per year over 20 years. In 2006, government revenue was US$2.18 billion. The junta spends the bulk of Burma’s resources to maintain its enormous army, and has some of the lowest social spending of any country in the world.

In landmark lawsuits, Burmese villagers sued the US oil and gas company UNOCAL (now Chevron) and France’s Total for complicity in gross human rights abuses committed by the Burmese military. The lawsuits centered on charges that the companies knew about and benefited from the Burmese army’s use of torture, rape, and unlawful land seizures to remove villagers from areas slated for development, and also the military’s use of forced labor to facilitate the pipeline construction. The lawsuits were settled after the companies agreed to make large payments.

The major actors involved in the current development of Burma’s gas fields are also among the junta’s main military backers. These include: China, which has sold over US$2 billion worth of weapons since 1989; India, which has recently sold artillery pieces and offered helicopters and special forces training; and Russia, which has supplied Burma with fighter jets, helicopters and other military hardware. Earlier this year, China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution which would have addressed the grave human rights situation in Burma.

ASEAN / India - What kind of grouping is this? Its like a grouping of gangsters if you look at their non-interference policy in each country's political affairs. Gangster groups have alliances just like ASEAN, they acknowledge each other's territory but please don't cross the line, no matter what we do - be it pillaging or raping or random killings. The so call engagement policy or gentle diplomacy have yielded zilch results. No more high-level visits or persuasions. Its been more than 10 years, the people of Burma who voted for a separate government deserves better. Why do we still go to bed with 'Hitler'? How can we keep talking to the junta when they have such appalling human rights abuse track record?

And you would think that India would be a much more enlightened nation with their record in social justice, why are you working with the junta still? For ASEAN and India in particular, its NOT ENOUGH to voice displeasure, you owe it to your conscience and the wishes of your countrymen to do more. There cannot be such dastardly and despicable acts in our own backyard, and for us to pretend nothing is wrong.

A Proper Road Map - All should pressure the junta to resolve the Burmese problem. You need an exact timeline for democratic election, and a proper platform for elected representative, plus a reduced role for the military. It needs a proper schedule of release of political prisoners, and relief plans for the minorities. The Burmese government has broken every significant promise of transition to democracy that it has made in the past. The international community should insist on concrete actions, not words.

In order for the junta to back down, sanctions are a start, not just from the US or EU but especially from ASEAN. You won't be able to get China, Russia or India to agree on this, so forget about them. Of course there are valid arguments against sanctions as it will alienate the Burmese people from proper aid. Still, it will have to get worse for the innocents before its going to get better.



Moola said…
Great write!!

What had been done in this country is simply not acceptable!
jasonred79 said…
At the end of the day, the junta are in power.

Why should they relinquish power?

Just because of "peer pressure" or that other world leaders ask them to?

Do you think that sanctions which make the people suffer will... motivate the junta to end the people's suffering?

Ha. At the end of the day, the junta enjoy their power, money, and lifestyle.

They are willing to resort to force to maintain their position.

They ALSO know that no one else is going to reply against them using force.

... Junta are here to stay. It's too bad, despite all the lights and sounds and a nice show, nothing is actually done, nothing will be done. That's the harsh reality.
jasonred79 said…

Look at that. So recently, 25th September 2007... Britain was APPLAUDING Myanmar's military for how it was handling things.

You warn them once, you warn them twice. *They brought in people to argue religious teachings with the monks*
Fuel and gas prices rise. Well, it's not like myanmar produces the stuff, the price rose WORLDWIDE. Despite the "peaceful" label, shops schools and such are forced to close, and things are generally being disrupted.
You fire tear gas, you baton charge... well, when all else fails, how do you stop these things?

You get the military to open fire.

On the whole, I'd say that if only 4 people were killed, the military is still showing some level of restraint.

If they really WERE out and out butchers, imagine what a few rounds of high explosives and machine gun fire would do to a tightly packed mass of tens of thousands. Well... then again, they already did that back in 1988...

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