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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 105

A Battle is Lost but not the War

By Prof. Kanbawza Win

Russia and China have blocked the inclusion of Burma's political and human rights situation in the UN Security Council's agenda. In a war against evil regime, unlike the Junta we dare to admit that we have lost one battle but we will never give up for even though our heads our bloody yet we are unbowed. It is just a step backward to go forwards with accelerated speed. But the target has been hit because in pressing the vote, the international community vividly realizes that things are not improving. Of course we will have to reconsider our position, correct our mistakes and then off we go several steps forward to reach our avowed goal of democracy, human rights and self determination.

The United Nations Charter signed more than half a century ago begins with the grand words "We the peoples,” but in reality was controlled by five vetoing major powers of which two of them are clearly against democracy and human rights as their actions indicates. This act also reveals the national characters and ruthlessness of the Russian and the Chinese. It seems to be an international joke that these two vetoing members aspire to be world leaders, when they were protecting the notorious military regime known for its gross human rights violation, ethnic cleansing, arbitrarily arrests, tortures, rapes, extra judicial killings and builds itself new cities while looking the other way as refugee flows increase, narcotics and human trafficking grow, and communicable diseases remain untreated

Perhaps the United Nations needs to achieve a better balance between the wish of the peoples and the will of governments; between the aspirations for a better world and its performance in the real world; between the suffocating political reality and the vision of an uplifting world that has inspired generations of dreamers and idealists to work for the betterment of humanity across cultural, religious and political borders. The causes and consequences of public policy challenges and decisions are international, but the authority for addressing them is still in the states and in the case of Burma, the vested interest of the two undemocratic states have overrule the conscience of the world. The case of Burma indicates that the organization has played a discernible role in keeping the peace, promoting successful development or defeating the worst enemies of freedom and human rights and that moral clarity, the backbone for courage of convictions, do not sit easily alongside institutional timidity and instinctive risk-aversion.

No doubt the UN has many failings and flaws and is often used and abused by governments for finger-pointing, not problem-solving as the Burmese case indicates. But for the ethno democratic people of Burma, the world organization remains the focus of international expectations and the locus of collective action. Despite bureaucratic rigidity, institutional timidity and intergovernmental trench warfare, we sincerely believe that the UN is the one body that houses the divided fragments of humanity. It is an idea, a symbol of an imagined and constructed community of strangers that bring the world where fear has changed to hope, want gives way to dignity and apprehensions are turned into aspirations.

Though. China and Russia cast a rare historical double veto, Wang Guangy, urged Burma, to move toward "inclusive democracy" and "speed up the process of dialogue and reform, while the Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin expressed "deep concern at the slow pace of tangible progress in the process towards national reconciliation." It called on the government "to begin without delay a substantive political dialogue, which would lead to a genuine democratic transition." It also called on the Junta to cease military attacks against civilians in ethnic minority regions, including widespread sexual violence.

Let us see whether the Junta will listen to the words of their savior and if not, what. Will the two vetoing powers take the responsibility to enforce it on their protégé? Belgium, France, Ghana, Italy, Panama, Peru, Slovakia, the UK and the US voted in favor. Indonesia, Qatar and Republic of Congo obtained while, South Africa join China and Russia in vetoing. Nelson Mandella and Desmond Tu Tu would be secretly shedding their tears realizing that the morality of the South Africans has fallen into a deep abyss to vote the continuation of keeping a fellow Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under lock and key.

Lamentably, South Africa has not learnt its lessons which they get under a repressive regime and seem to have forgotten that the oppressed people were not freed only by the efforts of those who were under the brutal suppression but also because of enormous help from the outside. This also will be the case of Burma.

The writings on the wall are very vivid. On September 17, 2006, right after being put on the UNSC agenda, Burma granted contracts for oil and gas exploration and production at block M-8 in the offshore area of Western Burma, to Russia. It was the first time ever that the Russian Federation won a highly lucrative energy deal from Burma .In the same manner, after China after promising not to proceed further than the informal briefing on Burma at the UN Security Council in December of 2005, two Chinese corporations, (China National Offshore Oil Company Myanmar Ltd. and China Huanqiu Contracting and Engineering Corporation) together with Singapore's Golden Aaron Pvt. Ltd. began exploring for oil in onshore Block M in Arakan State, in the spring of 2006. What more logic do you want, when business always overrule the conscience.

Another hypocrite in waiting in hand is India. India's Air Force chief offered a multimillion-dollar military assistance package, including helicopters, to upgrades the marauding Burmese army with military aircraft, naval surveillance and counter insurgency training, during a visit to Burma, in November of 2006. By December 8, 2006, it was announced that a deal had been signed with India and together with Singaporean consortium jointly drill for oil and gas off the country's west coast. History will be the true judge for Russia, China and India's political values and their economic pursuits, because in the end their record will speak for itself.

ASEAN, now led by Indonesia (abstained in the voting) in order to remain relevant as they try to integrate into the global economy released guidelines on 13th instant, along the line of the European Union, to emphasize the "strengthening of democratic values, good governance, rejection of unconstitutional and undemocratic changes of government, respect of the rule of law, including international humanitarian law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Yet they have only words and not actions. It remained to be seen that these fathers of the Constructive Engagement Policy will react to the Burmese generals who has strongly objected to it.

We hope and pray that we would not be in the state of the New Cold War for even though Moscow and Beijing alerted Washington and London they would veto the motion, the two Western allies nonetheless decided to proceed with the vote to at least bring the deteriorating rights situation of Burma to the world stage. The vote notably came at a time when the US's and UK's own rights records had come under growing scrutiny for their handling of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also came at a time when new questions are being raised about the legality of the recent US-supported Ethiopian invasion of Somalia - a hot-button issue that could likewise appear on the Security Council's agenda. But Russia and China produced few ideas toward a new approach.

More recently, the Junta has upped the tempo of its military campaign against armed ethnic groups using rape as a weapon against women civilians and targeting food supplies of the civilian population to starve armed insurgents out of their jungle redoubts.

The authentic proof is that these brutal actions have caused a surge of refugees into nearby Thailand, where over 145,000 displaced people are now in makeshift camps - lending particular credence to the US's and UK's original assertion that Burma’s poor rights record represented a threat to regional peace and security. So, too, recent independent reports outlining the junta's tacit support and enrichment from the narcotics trade.

Kyaw Tint Swe, Burma’s ambassador to the UN, thanked both Russia and China for their support, referring to resolution references on human-rights abuses, drug cultivation, HIV/AIDS and forced labor in his country as "patently false." This explicitly means that Russia and China are closing their eyes on Burma. Meanwhile, the state newspaper, described the failed vote as a "victory of the people of the international community and the people of Burma and is forcing the cease fire groups to condemn the Anglo-American move " But the harder truth is that the diplomatic win for the Junta is a loss for its own people and promises, for better or worse, to accentuate competition between China, Russia and the US for regional influence.

Even though, the resolution does not go through and we may look like a pawn in the international chess game of affluence we are not disheartened because the Burmese democracy movement is poised to face the coming challenges with dignity and peace. We have Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, elected politicians, leaders of ethnic nationalities, student activists and resilient ordinary citizens who will support the democratic election peacefully and bore their hardship with dignity during the most trying time. To feel the pulse of the people inside Burma, one need only to join the latest peaceful political movement called the Open Heart Campaign by the democracy activists which was organize to give the people of Burma an opportunity to peacefully voice their sufferings to the peace loving international community.. The pursuit for democracy in Burma will continue. The people of Burma have full confidence that their voices will be heard and that their just and democratic struggle will prevail, at the end. Past and present supporters of such a rightful cause will be remembered and Burma will be indebted to its true friends who stand by them in their time of need. Please remember what Martin Luther King said,” even though we face the difficulties today and tomorrow, I still have a dream" for we shall overcome.

- Asian Tribune -

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