NEWS & ANALYSIS: Myanmar’s Saffron Revolution

Bush astounds activists, supports human rights

President Bush implored the United Nations on Tuesday to recommit itself to restoring human decency by liberating oppressed people and ending famine and disease.

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, the president called for renewed efforts to enforce the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a striking point of emphasis for a leader who’s widely accused of violating human rights in waging war against terrorism.

Bush didn’t mention the U.S. prisons in Afghanistan or at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. practice of holding detainees for years without legal charges or access to lawyers, or the CIA’s “rendition” kidnappings of suspects abroad, all issues of concern to human rights activists around the world. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — Bush, the champion of democracy, now the defender of human rights — all he has succeeded in doing is to underline the bankruptcy of American presidential authority and his own ability to devalue language.

Burma’s question

Amid the rhetoric in the outside world, the regime is confident that it can continue to ignore critical world opinion. It is reinforced in this stance by China and India as well its other, smaller neighbours, whose desire to maintain lucrative trade deals and exploit Burma’s natural resources override any interest in the junta’s brutal suppression of its own people.

China lends active political support to the regime, and in 2006 teamed with Russia to shoot down a US initiative to bring the Burma issue to the UN Security Council. India shamed its reputation as the world’s largest democracy by flattering the generals in hope of winning contracts to buy Burmese gas and supply the regime with armaments. [complete article]

Buddha vs the barrel of a gun

US sanctions are just for internal American consumption; they will have absolutely no impact. For starters, Myanmar is not under a military embargo. A really different story, for instance, would be the Bush administration telling the Chinese to drop the junta, otherwise no US athletes will be seen at the Beijing Summer Olympics next year. London bookies wouldn’t even start a bet on it. The French for their part now say they fear a terrible crackdown – but in fact they fear what happens to substantial oil business by French energy giant Total. The European Union should have a unified position, but for the moment that is hazier than sunrise at the sublime Shwedagon Pagoda in the heart of Yangon.

This year China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the junta’s human-rights record. It’s virtually impossible that the collective leadership in Beijing will let one of its neighbors, a key pawn in the 21st-century energy wars, be swamped by non-violent Buddhists and pro-democracy students – as this would constitute a daring precedent for the aspirations of Tibetans, the Uighurs in Xinjiang and, most of all, Falungong militants all over China, the embryo of a true rainbow-revolution push defying the monopoly of the Chinese Communist Party. [complete article]

Monks’ protests put pressure on junta

Gen Than Shwe and Burma’s other rulers have long appeared dangerously out of touch with the sentiments and struggles of the population, heightening the chances of a miscalculation.

Gen Than Shwe is also famously hostile towards Aung San Suu Kyi, making it highly unlikely he would enter into any kind of negotiations with her now.

Some younger Burmese officers are thought to favour an accommodation with Ms Suu Kyi, raising the prospect of an internal military shake-up that could see more flexible, pragmatic leaders come to the fore.

Diplomats say internal army tensions and rivalries are such that any newly emergent leaders may not feel sufficiently confident of their position to deal directly with a figure that the military has so long sought to demonise. Yet ultimately, Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, may hold the only key for the generals to find a peaceful way out.

“It’s very sure that the forthcoming scenario will be a compromise between the military and Aung San Suu Kyi,” says one Burmese scholar, who asked not to be identified. “Whether they like it or not, there is no choice. The situation is demanding it. For their own benefit, they have to compromise with ‘The Lady’, or they will pay the price.” [complete article]

Eyewitness reports from bloggers inside Burma

With the Burmese government restricting visas to foreign journalists, and all internal media controlled by the state, the internet provides one of the few routes left for getting eyewitness reports from inside Burma to the outside world. Despite rumours that the junta intends to close down internet access, a few brave bloggers continue to report their experiences. [complete article]

See also, UN holds emergency talks on Burma (BBC) and Four killed in Myanmar protest crackdown (AFP).

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One thought on “NEWS & ANALYSIS: Myanmar’s Saffron Revolution

  1. Ian Arbuckle

    Hypocrisy and injustice, motivated by the material greed of those who already have the most plus their lust for ever more power on an earth being crusher, chocked and atrophied by these “evil” motives. In China, India, Thailand, France, USA, UK, Russia, or sitting in council at the UN, “leaders” are now calculating the limits of their actions or reactions, in the light of their “national interests” while barefooted Buddhist monks face guns, clubs, and teargas with nothing more than a prayer for the enlightenment of their persecutors and the knowledge that change is inevitable.

    Burma is just another extreme, another blister of our global reality, but in terms of the effects on people it is not so far from: Tibet, Chechnya, Cashmere, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Darfur, (to name but a few places) to realise that we have a long way to go before the interests our leaders meet the level of enlightenment hoped for by ordinary people, let alone the barefoot monks in Rangoon or Mandalay.

    Yet the monks and the democracy supporters march on and with them they carry our fear and the heavy burden of all our hopes around the world as well as some of our prayers. There is little more we can offer them other than a promise to live better on less for the sake of us all and to use what we have to fight this evil with awareness, love and compassion. Also we can sign this petition to the UN Security Council and its members:

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