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Saving a Country Kidnapped by a Terrorist Junta

International Spotlight

Myanmar (Burma): Saving a Country Kidnapped by a Terrorist Junta

by José María Rodríguez González

It has taken 45 shameful years, but the cruel military dictatorship that ousted the legal government of Myanmar is finally coming under international scrutiny. To be sure, the thuggish generals who oppress their own countrymen continue to claim that Myanmar's problems are purely a domestic matter. But the recent arrest and persecution of peaceful Buddhist Monks was so outrageous that it has aroused protest throughout the world. Now, attention is being drawn to the many other issues that make Myanmar's long ordeal a matter of international concern. Murdering political opponents and forcing citizens to sign affidavits pledging not to oppose the government -- both blatant violations of human rights -- is an international issue. Denying visas to foreign journalists is also an international issue. So is cutting-off the internet and banning all dissent in the media. Fifty-five million people now live in a state resembling a large prison. Why do we wait to demand an end to Myanmar's illegal military dictatorship?

Stalin's purges, which killed millions of Russians, were not just a Russian tragedy. Hitler murdered many German opponents along with his other victims, but no one dismissed Nazism as "just a German problem." The world still feels the aftermath of crimes committed by Chairman Mao during China's "Cultural Revolution". Statistically, the Myanmar atrocities are on a smaller scale; nonetheless, the nature of the Junta's crimes poses a serious threat to the values toward which the civilized world is striving. The junta must be challenged.

We do not measure dangers to humanity by the size of the country involved, or the number of victims, but by the character of the conflict. Is our negligence emboldening a radical political front or a radical religious

sect in Myanmar? Are we pressuring the sectarian rivalries in Myanmar and ensuring that armed conflict will be the only way to topple the dictatorial junta? What human disaster are we furthering in Myanmar with our hypocrisy, inaction and complicity?

There is not a single human right that Myanmar’s junta has not ignored. The army has not hesitated to kill, torture, persecute and harass virtually the entire population of the country. Myanmar today is not merely a prison; it has become a concentration camp. The UN Security Council, invoking the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has an obligation to demand that the bloody-booted generals finally walk away from the country they have violated.

Unfortunately, two Security Council members -- Russia and China -- have shown little enthusiasm for confronting the dictatorial junta in Myanmar --- perhaps because of their own past violations of human rights. Their passive complicity with the Myanmar generals may well represent an effort to cover up not only previous sins, but also present behavior.

How much better it would be if China and Russia sought to make amends by supporting a return to democracy in Myanmar! Such a move would not only help both countries economically but would set them on a more promising path for the future.

As for the United States of America, after failure in Darfur, Sudan and Iraq it cannot afford another defeat for democracy in Myanmar. It must demand the dissolution of Burma’s illegal military junta. The influence and power of U.S. in Southeast Asia is not likely to recover from another blunder. The U.S. must succeed in Myanmar or content itself with still another defeat for democracy, and another disaster for its moral influence in the world.

A gang of corrupt, inept and power-hungry maniacs manages Myanmar at present. They distain international opinion and fight only for their own welfare. It’s about time that the angry voice of the world says, "No!" The voice must be loud, unanimous, and, if necessary, a firm prelude to international action.

*************

José María Rodríguez González is a U.S. foreign policy researcher.

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