ASEAN-INDIA-CHINA accepts Democracy or Not?

By: Min Khin Kyaw  

(The author is 88 Generation leader, poet and artist)

Introduction:  

When the saffron revolution started, the whole region seemed taken by surprise; the junta was expected that it would take tough actions unreasonably though. The UNSC (United Nations Security Council) members gathered in immediacy to discuss about the August-September 2007 events; however, it couldn’t persuade the junta not to crack down the demonstrations with violence, as predicted by many Burmese. People from free societies bitterly responded. But we are not really sure what encouraged the junta to dare such way? But we know China was opposing UNSC not to take any tough decision. And India also followed China by signing oil import agreement worth several millions. Both of them have been bluntly opposing any democratic change simply for self-interests sharing the benefits with the military junta. Even though the people of Burma expected peaceful negotiations with the junta, the two countries didn’t even care about this and eventually the crack-down started – many died and 3000 arrested according to the junta, however it didn’t includes figures of arrests in other parts of Burma.     

When the pressures from the west and the intensive efforts of the UN have yielded some results in Burma, we see some progresses, to hope for democracy to come sooner. In this respect, the international sanctions and all other pressures have been significant. We have made some worry to the junta mainly in its financial sector; this worry is certainly a necessary reaction from the junta criticizing west reflecting such pressures. Hence, it’s quite clear we have to keep this momentum.  Therefore, we have to target all incomes and stop them. When we look around, we can only find two major inflows: one from ASEAN and one from China. We have to pursue the withdrawal of China or the pressure of ASEAN. Once any of these happened, the junta will come to the table of dialogue for real. This can be expected as the survival of the generals will become only negotiation when no more money left for keeping themselves in powers. We can only let the junta one choice; that is to start dialogue sincerely.   

So now all we have to pursue is either China’s or ASEAN’s good action. Rather wasting time and delaying real opportunity for changes, both China and ASEAN must work together with the people of Burma decisively.    

Chinese leaders know that Burma issue being related to the image of China is a bad advertisement. Once China accepts reality of Burma and offers real friendship to the people of Burma, China will become a good neighbour. When China provides a good relationship to the people of Burma, Burma will provide it a pathway to the Indian Ocean for its economic interests.   

India’s Dilemma:  

India is in the same position like China. It is true that, once India was a good friend of the people of Burma. But Indians leaders sacrificed this for oil and maintaining good relationship with the junta. Still Indian leaders are hoping that the junta might come to them for support when the pressures increases. But can Indian leaders rescue the junta by all necessary efforts? Do they really believe that, they can ever able to persuade the junta from China? It is true that the junta signed an agreement with India for oil export, but India is still far behind China. And once the junta could ever overcome international pressure with the help of China, then India will have no way to achieve and would be sidelined again. Indian government has yet to learn from ASEAN-Myanmar relationship. So it is important that, Indian government should preserve the past good relationship with the people of Burma rather then engaging with military junta.  

ASEAN’s Role:  

ASEAN is certainly on the transitional line, as it has been drafting for a better change. It has all the rights to pursue its regional and global interests. It knows what best for its image and member countries – this is not the interests of a country or a few countries. ASEAN should not bow to any hijacker or Burma’s junta in this matter; however, ASEAN has yet to show its strength or its good intention for Burmese people. It has become clearer now that ASEAN is part of the answer for democracy, human rights and peace for Burma. ASEAN has become a very important part to take very serious responsibility for the future of Southeast Asia. ASEAN has sided with the junta and helped it in various incidents; and now again ASEAN leaders have using the same tones which were able to buy time for the generals – contrasting their recent condemnation.    

Both China and ASEAN can do whatever they like but this time, it should be for the people of Burma. The military junta has become weaken by the west with tough sanctions. It seems it might not be able to go on all alone without the rescue from ASEAN. Once the financial and diplomatic supports from a few neighbours: China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand evaporates, the generals will certainly have only one choice – to negotiate with the people of Burma. Once again, the UN will be able to achieve another victory the good of the region.   Comprehensively, ASEAN is critical and essential in changing the region. ASEAN has responsibility to do this. ASEAN must force the junta to do a good sincere job – instead, ASEAN has failed by going backward as supporting the junta. Burma has to change for the better future and this must be prioritized as an interest of this region.  ASEAN should concentrate its energy here. ASEAN must provide security of every people in the region. ASEAN leaders can do this and should do this sooner than later. The changes inside Burma are rather to make itself an opportunity for all investments and access of all different countries.    

Obviously, there will be no regrettable outcomes from implementing democracy and peace in Burma. Unfortunately, ASEAN has never met the leaders of the people. Then it’s best not to criticize them and rather not assume that Burma will be worse-off when they get the powers or change toward democracy too fast.    

Is there any better way to convince ASEAN leaders? How should the people Burma provide the proofs that Burma will be better-off? What is the real reason to claim the freedom to grow crops, freedom to sell them with market price and pay income tax to the country will make Burma worse-off? And also how all sorts of freedoms in all parts of Burma will bring the Union of Burma down?    

Burma has been selling all her natural resources to the world through its neighbours for fifty years. Can ASEAN leaders provide any evidence how the people of Burma ever benefited with this trade? And has any neighbour ever provided any good advices to the dictators of Burma how the people of Burma can benefit and improve the living standards? Will ASEAN leaders make a good advice to the junta in the next ASEAN meeting?   There are many examples in world history that with the end of dictatorship people start enjoying freedom and prosperity. This will certainly happen in Burma too and this is what the majority is primarily fighting for? The change is to develop Burma in various ways and once the people have the chance, they will do just that. This can be done with the money equivalent to the income of the junta from selling oil, gems and other natural resources.   

Task of Burmese People:   

What else the people of Burma must do? Off course, one will be building the neediest infrastructure for transportation, such as rail-networks and seaports that will be used by all neighbouring countries – including Laos. This will simply guarantee long-term income, though would be no much, like Suez Canal. China will need this to link to Indian Ocean. ASEAN and India will need this to exchange trade. More importantly, the security and trade paths provided democratic Burma will become a major advantage for all three regions which the current junta cannot. Prosperity will bring stability to Burma. It will educate young and new generations. This can happen within five years if good efforts will be able to make. Then all three regions will be well-connected.     On the other hand, the drug and human trafficking have to be stopped or lowered. Once, the farmers are provided alternative incomes, they will be able to avoid this unclean source. The UN made some efforts but as the junta cannot provide any alternative and initiative, this effort seems already has failed. All neighbouring countries have been silent. They have taken no further actions apart from blaming the farmers and traders. Instead, the region should emphasize the conditions that squeezing out the drugs.    

Now it’s clear that the people of Burma desperately need everything changed – whatever that will do the task, we accept it. It’s not the time to argue – we don’t care whatever our future become after the fall of this military junta. This is our destiny and we have chosen this path. We don’t want any country or any organization arguing against our choice. And we have made clear: we want sanction and sanction alone against the junta. We don’t want any constructive engagement or anything alike that prolonging our suffering.    

Time for Action: 

This is the time for action and we don’t want arguments. All countries having business link with the junta must stop their activities at once. This is the will of all peoples of Burma. The will of the dictators are to gain more supports from China and ASEAN only to hold on power as long as they survive. The differences between the will of the people and the will of the dictators are not compactable. The will of people is to improve the country. The will of the dictators is to make themselves fat. Therefore, all suggestions to provide aids to the junta’s own sake alone can no longer be reasonable.    

Actually, the side of constructive engagement party has never ever had any plan to bring Burma to democracy so far. Apart from their benefits from trading Burma’s natural resources, they have had no significant to claim Burma’s peoples have benefited from their engagement policies. Worst of all, they sold arms that will be used no external enemies but against the peoples of Burma. Hundred of villages have been destroyed and thousands displaced. But the engagement side never ever raises a question or quarry or suggest not doing so. This is the plain truth and it stinks.   

Thailand had come with dialogue plans twice but the first one was well placed-aside and the second was rejected by the military junta in spite of the willingness of the leaders of the people of Burma. Thailand has no prospect to achieve anything politically over the junta as there was no support or pressure from within ASEAN itself.    

As a matter of fact, ASEAN never ever had any plan of its own to make the region a better place. Apart from its rhetoric favouring trade with brutal dictators, ASEAN has never clearly showed its own way of achieving a better future of the group – let alone democracy in Burma. ASEAN has had no plan at all to pursue the freedom of the people of Burma since it made Burma a member but it has only pursued its own objective of economic advantages over other countries, and provided solutions to the junta how to keep powers ever more.   

Result of ASEAN Membership to Burma:  

There was no evidence Burma’s people ever achieved any benefit from the membership. But since Burma became ASEAN member, the people of Burma have to suffer more. This is the truth. Even then (even the group itself has closely evidenced the problems which the peoples of Burma have been unable to avoid) the leading countries of ASEAN which have benefited most from Burma have become the mouthpieces of the junta although they know nothing to back their claims. Even recently, Singapore transmitted that the generals believe Burma has democracy – this is ridiculous. It’s clear that ASEAN would never join the world to pose sanction on the junta the only effect the junta fears. Or is it a fear of ASEAN itself if it wouldn’t be able to monopolize the junta over the resources of Burma? Worse, the ASEAN doesn’t seem to come up with any truthful conversation about Burma at all.    

Whatever words the engagement side had included in their repeating rhetoric, they have no situation to achieve anything politically. Yet the future of this dialogue is not very certain because the junta has been receiving more income supports from its trading partners. Therefore, it has been so far clear evident that the engagement side has utterly failed any political process in Burma in the past and now that these trading partners are undermining the efforts of the UN good office even though they have cooperated with Mr. Gambari however. Imagine how a two-headed horse eats from two stacks grass at the same time.   

Moreover, to make dialogue between the two opposite sides really happen, what else the world should do? What has made the junta to accept Mr. Gambari and Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi for dialogue? This is certainly not any effect of any effort of any engagement but pressures. To make dialogue between the two opposite sides really happen, what else the world should do whence the pressures have yielded some results when engagement policies have just undermined them? One thing we have certainly to do is to take all possible actions against any companies or any countries that support the junta until they abandon their supports.     

The result of 19 years rule of the junta with kleptomaniac economic activities of its generals and their supporters is obvious. Nothing else can ever make Burmese people into a state like this. ASEAN should congratulate the junta for such achievement as it wants such recognition. It’s true that Burma has now more refugees, significant brain-drains, more political prisoners, more deaths in jails, severer poverty, more uprising and also more denials from the supporters of the junta.   

What Burmese achieved in Present Scenario?    

What have the people of Burma achieved from ongoing tension caused by recent uprising against the military? We get supports from many countries with tough sanction against the junta, the pressure from the UNSC and mass arrests in Burma. What has the junta received from their brutality against the peaceful population? Serious sanctions from the west and Australia, verbal revulsion from ASEAN and more economic supports from its trading partners. What have the people of Burma got from ASEAN? Nothing! Not even the right to demonstrate in Singapore in front of Burmese embassy! Double taxation is still there!    It’s clear that the problem of political and economic crises in Burma seem to be necessary to go on like this so that the beneficiaries can exploit the situation as usual. They will do whatever they can to keep this. Well, do we still have to wait and see what might change in the 13th ASEAN Summit and East Asia summit? This is not acceptable. Therefore, all peoples of Burma have to oppose all the supporters of their common enemy in all forms. The voice of the people of Burma is clear, whether the military junta and its trading partners can accept this or not? ‘We Want Democracy!’ And human rights and human dignity all together in one package! So we must fight on against the witty kleptomaniac junta.    

ASEAN misinformed about National Convention and Facts?     

ASEAN has been never ever informed, how the National Convention (NC) was held and how it was democratic? ASEAN never ever questioned the generals how the NC was democratic but supported it anyway. Even then the ASEAN argued the generals made some progresses so engagement worked somehow when sanction and pressures have failed. Further, ASEAN never ever explained why they said, that the generals were making progresses? However, the people of Burma claimed that, the NC was a sham, as it was done with undemocratic process. But ASEAN failed to hear the people of Burma let alone to support us.    

Now the military junta has started drafting new constitution for Burma. Certainly, the people of Burma will not be able to have a say. But ASEAN might again claim a new progress being started. ASEAN has yet to explain how its economic engagement is really achieving goals toward genuine democracy? 

On the other hand, the ASEAN leading countries have claimed direct progress to democracy in Burma might make a chaos the way it happens in Iraq. Those who oppose the change in Burma cannot clearly explain why – and they also failed to accept the reality of 1990 election results and the leadership of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi. Again, the people of Burma have shown their unity and plans how they can keep peace and stability. Even then, ASEAN has failed to support this and find ways to improve the lives of the people of Burma. And ASEAN leaders would never dream of meeting any ethnic leaders even though they pretend to worry if chaos be there when the junta falls.   

In contrast, the ASEAN leaders didn’t fail to attend the funeral of a murderer Mr. Soe Win to say how he was their close friend – indeed, this must be true. It happened just after Singapore’s condemnation to the junta for its killing of the monks and peaceful demonstrators. This truly has proved ASEAN is a true friend of the most brutal regime against its own people but not a friend of the people of Burma. This kind of approach against the Burmese people is outrageous and obviously one-sided.  It’s true the involvement of ASEAN in human rights issues in Burma is limited but it has hurt the people of Burma significantly for more than a decade by prolonging the misrule of the junta.  

India’s Mistakes:  

Indian government is also making its own reputation over the bloodshed in Burma. Whilst China signaled they’d nothing against the junta, India was fast enough to sign with the junta for oil supply – and sooner, ten people were killed and many monasteries were raged. Indian government is thus also responsible as it has encouraged the junta for another massacre to take place in Burma. Since then, Indian government has never supported democracy in Burma – apart from a meeting with Mr. Gambari. It seems it has silently declared war against democracy in Burma. Definitely, the people of Burma will not forget this. We will keep our belief that India and China triggered the military junta to kill the monks and peaceful people, including a Japanese reporter.

Once some of top ASEAN leaders were supreme pro-Burma’s military junta but now most of them are retired; however, their legacies will go along the history of Burma’s democratic struggles. Nothing last forever, it’s true but the good actions of the leaders last longer than anything else in human history with gratitude from the people who were looked after; and also the powerful villains parallel to these good leaders will be known all along for their villainy. This is what the junta and its supporters have to know. We don’t want the follow kind of democracy.   

But we want True Freedoms! True Democracy! Government run by the people; especially by the rule of majority wishes. A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections. A political unit that has a democratic government, which should capitalized: the principles and policies of the successful Democratic Party of the U.S, Where the common people, especially when constituting the source of political authority finds absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.   We want this kind of Democracy! And we want it now. We don’t want any country or any company prolonging the lifespan of the kleptomaniac cunning junta. Yes, we know Afghanistan, East Timor, Iraq and Bali. The ethnics of Burma will unite and share the union peacefully.     

(THE END)   

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