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China Key To A Better Burma - Rights Campaigner

Human Rights Campaigner Says China Key To A Better Burma

By Keira Stephenson

China wants to take over from America as the new super- power, in the dying days of our world. This is the opinion of environmentalist Steve Green who has just returned to Auckland from his 19 year struggle for human rights and democracy in Burma.

Green says China is supporting the Burmese military regime in order to exploit the countries’ natural resources.

It has been 20 years since the world condemned the Burmese military for opening fire and killing more than 3000 mainly student and monk protesters, but in that time, says environmentalist and Burma expert Steve Green, “not enough has changed”. Image: Burmese monks at a protest in Aotea square, asking the government to intervene in Burma.

“It is good to be back and not facing the grim reality in Burma,” says Green, who is in Auckland to visit family and “chill out”, for the first time since 2003.

Green was travelling in the Philippines in 1989 when a friend who knew he was en route to Thailand asked him to look into the situation on the Thai/Burmese border.

At this time Burmese students involved in the 1988 uprising were fleeing from Burma’s military dictators into Thailand.

What was meant to be a short trip for Green turned into almost two decades of working to improve the situation of Burmese refugees.

“I just kind of got stuck. It ended up taking a lot longer than I planned”, he says.

The Burmese rulers are “corrupt oppressors of the people”, says Green, who thinks the New Zealand Government should be doing more to influence China to stop providing funds to the Junta.

In particular he is opposed to China and Thailand building dams in Burma which will displace thousands of people while all the benefits go to Burma’s neighbours.

There are already an estimated million internally displaced people in Burma.

Green believes because New Zealand has far less of an imperialist history than the UK and US, we are in a unique position to open a dialogue with China without sounding hypocritical.

“New Zealand can make its point in a way the US, UK and even Australia can’t do,” he says.

While the US can’t afford to alienate any of its allies, New Zealand has very little vested interest in Thailand and could easily raise the issue of Thailand’s fiscal support for the Junta at Asean, says Green.

Green is giving a talk on Environmental Devastation in Burma alongside Burmese refugee and activist Naing Ko Ko on Thursday the September 25, in room 018 of the Auckland University clock tower from 6-7.30pm.

Charles Mabbett, media adviser for the Asia New Zealand Foundation, thinks it is “unlikely” that New Zealand has much influence over China or Thailand.

He believes a concentrated worldwide effort is needed to bring about change in any regime which other countries are supporting either economically or militarily and says New Zealand takes great pride in working through agencies like the UN.

At the same time he says putting pressure on the government, whether they have the power to do anything or not, prevents Burma from slipping out of the public view.

“If you are a political dissident you do what you can.”

A member of Auckland University’s Burma Support Group who prefers to be known as Rusty, describes Green as “a fascinating guy – he’s a mine of knowledge”.

Rusty has heard Green speak on several occasions and says his knowledge is such that he can tie in many separate issues to give a lucid geopolitical overview of the whole South East Asian region.

“He gives the big picture.”

Green and Naing’s talk is hosted by the New Zealand Institute of Internal Affairs.

For more: Damning the Yin Ta Lai


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