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Surendra R Devkota: Deplore Burmese junta

Deplore Burmese junta

by Surendra R Devkota

Morning of 3rd May turned into a devastating day for millions of Burmese people specially living on Irrawaddy delta after the cyclone 'Nargis' hit the region. As of one week after the unfortunate natural disaster, global community does not know the magnitude of damage due to indifferent attitude of the military rulers. The best guess estimations are more than one hundred thousand people may have been killed, and over a million lives are at risks because it is expected that more than 2,000 square miles of land are under water.

A global pouring of international generosity is not only denied but also being weighed as a political cost and benefit as well as threat by the junta rulers. These action and reactions of the Burmese top brass armies are condemnable because of their denial of basic humanitarian aids to victims of natural calamities. quotes a diplomat, "Burmese junta government is murdering their own people by letting them die".

While international aid agencies were simply waiting their visa stamps, the Generals were busy on working a so-called referendum (May 10) for the junta drafted constitution that further consolidates the power to military in spite of an appeal by U.N. General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon to cancel the balloting. Further the junta is unwilling to accept the US aid plan – may be a reaction to US sponsored economic embargo!

Meanwhile, the global powers are debating about different options such as diplomatic options and air droppings of foods and relief items. Diplomatic dealing with junta rulers is itself an odd policy, which is also divided between the neighboring countries and the western world.

The neighboring key players are China, India and Thailand (CIT). As of now, the Burmese Generals have a very cozy relation with China. After the junta orchestrated coup in 1988, its relation with China is further cemented. There could be both short and long term strategies for both of them. China’s vital interests could be exploitation of the Burmese resources like it does in Congo. Further, a new silk trade route to reach to the Indian Ocean may also serve a geopolitical counter to South Asia including India’s hegemony in the region.

China’s indifference towards current humanitarian crisis in Burma also indicates that rulers in China are not less cruel then the Generals in Burma. It would have been a golden opportunity to Chinese authority had they been able to influence their counterpart Generals to open their doors for international rescue workers. Well, from Darfur to Rangoon, China does now show mercy, as if all moral values taught by Confucius were buried after Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

India’s role in Burma seems to be propelled as Newton’s third law of motion with respect to China’s increasing influence in junta’s rank and file. India has compromised its democratic values and norms with Burma to counter China. But, both India and China are competing to garner Burma’s natural resources that include oil and gas, and minerals.

Thailand has up and down relations with Burma since 1988, although both have a deep cultural and historical relation. In recent years, when Thaksin Shinawatra became the Thai prime minister in 2001, he deviated from the traditional non-cooperative role with junta and maintained business and political relations with Burma’s State Peace and Development Council - junta’s incarnated name. But after Thaksin was deposed by a military coup in October 2006, relations with Burma changed. Thailand’s interim leaders distanced from the junta. Now, global community is still watching how new Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s role in present crisis will materialize as Bangkok Post reports that the Thai Primer is persuading the Generals to let US in the country for relief works!

The ICT diplomacy seems not so encouraging because of China’s strong ties with junta, and India reactive but complementary positive. Thailand may play effective role but it had missed the boat in past like Thanksin did earlier. In a broader context, the outcome of Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a ‘constructive engagement’ with Burma seems nothing more than back to zero.

The Western diplomacy is also not on the same boat about Burma. Despite European Union’s arm embargo since 1988, the Amnesty International reports that member countries have failed to keep that promise by selling technology through the third country like China and India. For example, Sweden based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reveals that China, India, Serbia and Montenegro were main arm exporters, and parts were supplied from the EU member countries. China was the biggest arm exporter with a value with 2.5 billion US dollars in 2005/2006.

People of Burma have been suffering for a long period of time. Even though Burmese have been raising their voices as they did in September 2007’s Saffron revolution of monks, efforts of global community are yet to reach to them. Further, no words about Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Noble Laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy after the May 2nd Irrawaddy disaster.

At the moment, time is a very crucial factor for Burma. Even one week after the cyclones, people have yet to receive relief goods and services. Save Burma from being another Rwanda in Southeast Asia. What a pity world we have to live – so called international community’s inaction to book the Burmese Generals in a crime against humanity! Are there any global politicians with moral values to save innocent hundreds and thousands of people who are dying due to lack of access to basic human needs?


Dr. Devkota is a US based research scholar. Email: © Scoop Media

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