The World Must Not Give Up!

By: Min Khin Kyaw 

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

I have been inspired by the international pressure on the junta so far. More recently, both England and France and the US keeps reminding the dialogue must go ahead and for that the pressure on the junta is not waning. Unfortunately, the junta is still refusing to negotiate with the United Nations – let alone with democratic movement as more arrests have been there. And sending troops to KNU and tensions with others insurgent groups also indicates the resurfacing disagreement of the junta over the political developments – is another rejection of the totalitarian rule.

We have seen in Singapore that, how the junta has tried to treat – Mr. Gambari like other special UN envoys to Burma. Unlike previous envoys, he seems to possess a special quality but he still has to outwit the junta even though the international pressures are supporting his mission.   We certainly have to see the dialogue between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Than Shwe. This is the tasks and main objective. However, he has no motive for dialogue and not even responding to let her see her team again. So it’s sure she will not be released – despite EU and ASEAN has asked in Singapore summit. It’s crystal clear that the junta will not give up its ground even an inch.    

Instead of worry, we only have one condition – to push ahead no matter what. I want to see people more united and trying to do just for that. As long as the general population of Burma can boycott the authorities in various ways or showing defiance, I hope the authorities themselves will become inspired and sometimes in the future they would side with the people. The monks must keep leading the way of defying.   

On the other hand, Mr. Gambari must not give up despite knowing how the scenario between him and the junta will develop. I think both NLD and the generals must give their roadmap plans to Mr. Gambari: what to discuss and how to discuss with a timeframe so he will be able to develop a workable structure; and also he can discuss the plan with the concern parties including ASEAN countries. Even if the junta wouldn’t give its plan to Mr. Gambari, as it’s about to push the seven step roadmap ahead as China seems to be happy with it, Mr. Gambari should get the plans of NLD and develop it into the framework for discussion.   It seems the neighbours of the junta are giving no real pressure, although they warmly welcomed Mr. Gambari. I think he has more works to do with them. If necessary, he should ask them to speak with the junta as far as the region concerns; if they don’t, then there is no real pressure – especially from China  

Apart from above, we need that the international community should ask junta to pardon all activists arrested recently.   

ASEAN with Burma Issue  

It is good that, ASEAN still thinks that there is a chance for good change. However, the idea of giving humanitarian aids to the junta, the Cambodian view as a member of ASEAN, is just another repetition. But the lesson of the past is forgotten, that, if a support is not for itself, the junta simply doesn’t accept?

I think, it appears as ASEAN is still hopeful that humanitarian effort of the good offices would be accepted. As ASEAN insists the junta needs support – then, ASEAN has to push the junta to accept such supports and if it ever happens, this effort of ASEAN will not be forgotten. It’s true the people of Burma need humanitarian aids: medical supply and education about various diseases, especially HIV; and the sooner this happens, the better. Therefore, both UN and ASEAN should insist the junta to do just for this.

However, the forced closure of a monastery that provided HIV patients is a contradiction to this idea unfortunately; and also the effort HIV doctor Ma Phyu Phyu Thin was disrupted and now she is detained despite the wishes of international community to keep restraints in further arrests. Yet, ASEAN can do the push and it will be a good task for ASEAN to seek this through firm realistic commitment. But what if the junta denies again? Before any attempt, ASEAN should have alternative ideas.  

If ASEAN is happy about this idea, it must develop the plan agreed by its members as soon as possible. It must include the consideration of refugees along the borders, Burmese workers in ASEAN countries and political developments with various insurgent groups who will have to give up fighting, when they get peace and security of their peoples.   

And ASEAN should consider how politics of all ethnic groups can be improved by humanitarian efforts; it’s true that the ethnics are desperate to get attention from regional countries. As soon as an agreement for peace between the junta and the ethnic groups, especially the Karens, as a fresh fighting between the two sides is looming, the dream of a democratic country of united ethnics of Burma will become closer to be true.   Politically, ASEAN has to be more careful than ever as the seven step roadmap effort of the junta is a serious issue. As the junta is denying to see and free political leaders to participate in the process of reconciliation and composing future constitution, there people cannot accept any development that made by the junta alone with its 54 misrepresentatives of the people. Hence, ASEAN must not show any gesture that can be interpreted as agreement or support to the foul effort of the junta.   Even though Democracy in Burma and peace in the region will certainly benefit every country that has relationship with Burma, as long as the ASEAN is more content with current situation than to be busy with an attempt for a better future, Burmese people will not have equal share of any good things in the region. 

Business with the Junta  

Once again, the debate of doing business with the ruling military junta has re-emerged that, it is ethical or not? And the case of TOTAL is always remain a good example! Recently the management of TOTAL has argued that, “We feel the country would have evolved much more if more responsible companies had remained… Development of human rights goes along with the development of the economy.”   Then how many people are currently employed by TOTAL and how much do they get paid has to be answered by TOTAL? It is also necessary to know that, how much junta receives every year from TOTAL and how much does the junta spends for the people from that income? In the areas where TOTAL operates, do all people get the similar benefits or how have they been affected because of TOTAL’s operations or are they affected to get worse? Now how can TOTAL calculate it gives better life for the people where it operates?  By the argument ‘Development of human rights goes along with the development of the economy’, TOTAL has to come up with a statement how it can improve the entire Burma with its operations with the junta that the junta will comply with the idea of development. And TOTAL has to provide evidences that the junta is doing just that.   And also, as TOTAL has argued for all business tied with the junta by its statement on economy provides human rights development, TOTAL has to prove that all other companies are doing the same to develop the local communities.

But how long will the people of Burma have to wait for the human right development made by this kind of business-bound efforts. Can TOTAL calculate year-by-year improvement that happened in past few years? How many years have passed and what have happened for the sake of the people and are they sufficient enough to be desirable?   And does TOTAL care about entire Burma or just a local where it operates? It’s clear that by its own words, TOTAL cares only about its operation but ignoring the entire Burma and the concern of wider community.  

We all know that many people were forced to move and lost their livelihoods as consequence of business projects. Now also, the dam projects in Burma will make everything bad luck to the local people. TOTAL cannot deny this. Even in China, dams are causing problems every year. There is no regulation in Burma that the project must conduct properly so it will be worse. As doing business in Burma, anything happening in Burma is directly related to TOTAL whilst the entire country is fighting against the junta which TOTAL is supporting. But not only TOTAL, all other businesses that link with the junta are a main concern of income for the junta. As TOTAL and all other companies in Burma cannot improve Burma in a few years, they must leave; the reason is once there is no income, the junta will fall in a year.   

If TOTAL (and any other companies) is really concerned about human rights, it must work with democratic side and oppose the junta. Unless TOTAL changes side, its argument is only a self-serving rhetoric. TOTAL, as a major gas company has to explain, why the junta imposed the price hikes on fossil fuels that caused the recent political movements?

(The End) 

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