Australian government rejects
Burmese authorities target
Burmese regime arrests UN
Burmese major and son
flee into Thailand
Thailand a key to new Myanmar
Burma's junta hunting
Monks fear government raids on
Swedish and Danish news
correspondents told to leave
Burma road goes through
Generals extend blood-stained
hands to Gambari
No clean hands for foreign
What next for the
government rejects Burmese ambassador
Oct 4, 2007 (DVB)The Australian
government has refused the appointment of a Burmese general as ambassador to
Australia because of the brutality of the military regime.
The decision to reject the appointment was
made around two months ago, but was not made public at the time. Australian
Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer gave his reasons for the refusal
at a media conference on 2 October.
Burma has a very brutal military regime and I
refused to accept a general from that regime, who has had command in a couple of
provinces in Burma over the years, said Mr Downer.
The Minister said that a civilian and
professional diplomat should be sent as a representative.
We will not be accepting anybody from the
military regime in Burma as a representative of Burma in Australia. That is
completely unacceptable, he said.
Mr Downer went on to express his concerns
about the recent brutal crackdowns on protestors, citing estimates of at least
30 deaths and 1,400 arrests.
Reporting by DVB
Government authorities are initiating a
media campaign targeting citizen journalists who took footage of government
brutality during the recent protests in Rangoon and distributed it to foreign
media, according to journalists and reporters in Burmas former
The government has
called upon state-run media agencies and government supporters to publish
photographs of citizen journalists and take action against them.
Reporters said that the governments campaign against
citizen journalists is being carried out by photographers and cameramen from the
News and Press department of the Ministry of Information and reporters from the
state-run Myanmar News Agency, in cooperation with the army, government guards
and Swan Arr Shin members.
The MNA, whose office is located in front of the Interior
Ministers Office on Theinphyu road, is also working with the Special
Information Unit of the Burmese police, according to a veteran journalist in
Burmese regime arrests UN
New York (dpa) - The UN Development Programme (UNDP) in
Rangoon was seeking information early Thursday about one of its local workers
arrested by the military regime, a UN spokesperson said.
The worker's husband was also arrested, and the UNDP
office in the Burmese capital was trying to obtain more information about the
incident, Michelle Montas said.
Authorities said the Burmese dictators waiting until
after the departure of UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari from Rangoon to pounce on the UN
Gambari left on Tuesday to return to New York to report
of his discussions with government military leaders and political leaders,
including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest for more
10 years for advocating democracy.
The Burmese military has mounted widespread search for
demonstrators after successfully cracking down on the largest anti-government
protests in 19 years. Western diplomatic sources said thousands of people may
have been arrested during nightly raids on homes.
Burmese major and son flee into Thailand
Officer slams junta's crackdown on
BANGKOK POST and
October 4, 2007
A senior Burmese military officer has fled to Thailand saying he refused
orders to attack Buddhist monks in last week's anti-junta protests and
denouncing the military regime. Major Htay Win, 42, and his 17-year-old son say
they rowed over a river separating Burma and Thailand. They were aided by Karen
who live in the area and have been persecuted by the military junta.
They hope to get asylum in Norway or Sweden. Their story was reported by
Norwegian radio and newspapers yesterday.
''As a Buddhist myself, when I heard that monks had been shot dead on the
streets and that other people had been shot dead, I felt very upset,'' the major
said in a video interview.
''As a Buddhist, I did not want to see such killing.''
He told the Norwegian media he had heard rumours of about 200 killed during
the protests, but had not witnessed any killings and could not confirm the
''If he had refused to obey orders, he would have been killed,'' the
major's son said in the interview printed in Norway.
It is the first known case of a military officer fleeing Burma since the
junta ordered the crackdown that left at least 13 people dead, with more than
1,000 people detained.
Speaking through an interpreter, the major said the monks who led the
largest anti-government protests in Burma in almost 20 years were ''very
''Later, when I heard they were shot and killed and the armed forces used
tear gas, I was really, really upset and thought the army should stand for their
own people,'' he said.
He did not know which commanders had ordered troops to shoot or who had
fired at the monks and demonstrators.
''I don't know if they will be punished by someone or not, but as a
Buddhist, we believe that if you do those things, then bad karma will come back
to them. That is our belief,'' he said.
He added he wanted Burma to be a ''free and prosperous country''.
''I don't mean a rich country, like in Europe, but a country where people
can earn a proper income,'' he said.
''I want to see Burma peaceful and for people to live in freedom.''
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said if the officer's entry into Thailand
was considered under Thai law as seeking political asylum, he would be allowed
to leave for a third country.
Thailand would follow the position of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (Asean) on Burma.
Thai human rights activists will appeal to incoming Asean secretary-general
Surin Pitsuwan today to boost the regional grouping's leading role in defusing
the problem in Burma. They will petition him on the sidelines of a Chulalongkorn
University seminar, asking that Asean support a resolution to be issued tomorrow
by the UN Security Council.
Mr Surin, a former foreign minister, will take up the job next year.
In Chiang Mai, academics and activists urged Thailand and other Asean
member countries, China and India to pressure the Burmese junta to respect human
rights and return democracy to its people.
They called on the government to stop all forms of support for the junta,
including loans, energy investment especially by PTT Plc, and the building of
dams along the Salween river
Thailand a key to new Myanmar
AsiaTimes: Wed 3 Oct 2007
As international condemnation mounts against Myanmars military government
and its recent armed crackdown on street demonstrators, the countrys
money-spinning oil-and-gas sector could soon be the target of new and tighter
Western-led sanctions. Should new bans on energy trade and investment come to
pass, more than any other regional country Thailand will find itself caught
between a diplomatic rock and an economic hard place.
Natural gas exports to Thailand are by far the Myanmar
governments largest source of foreign revenues, accounting for nearly US$160
million per month in take-or-pay contracts negotiated before the 1997-98 Asian
financial crisis - and well before the recent spike in global energy prices.
According to statistics from the Asian Development Bank, gas exports contribute
nearly one-third of Myanmars total official export revenues. And there are
several big new bilateral investment plans underway to pump up further natural
gas and electricity exports from Myanmar to Thailand.
Under former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand came under US
criticism for expanding its business ties with Myanmars junta. His governments
so-called forward engagement policy towards Myanmar was out of line with US-
and European-led trade and investment sanctions, but was in accord with the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which, since admitting Myanmar
into the grouping in 1997, had preferred economic engagement over isolationism
to influence the regime.
After the recent military crackdown, however, ASEAN has been openly critical,
signaling to some analysts that the grouping might try to throw its lot in with
whatever punitive measures Western countries may move to impose. However any
meaningful collective action would need to include Thailand and it seems
doubtful the countrys interim military government would be willing to pull the
plug on crucial energy supplies for moralitys sake.
That means any new sanctions against Myanmars energy industry are likely to
have as marginal an impact on Myanmars ruling juntas staying power as the
punitive measures the US first imposed in 1997. China and India are both bidding
to negotiate greater access to Myanmars untapped energy resources. And both
countries have notably refrained from criticizing the regime after last weeks
crackdown. Energy analysts note that if Thailand were to abandon its contractual
arrangements in Myanmar, China and India would likely move to take up the
Natural gas is Myanmars hotly contested prize, with several regional
countries bidding to explore new blocks up for tender. In the early 20th century
Myanmar, then known as Burma, was an important regional oil producer from its
deep onshore fields. However, oil production had dwindled in recent decades and
large - although not massive - natural gas resources have more recently been
discovered and foreign investments have helped to boost output.
New sanctions targeting existing rather than only new investments in
Myanmars energy industry would at least temporarily dent the regimes ability
to profit from these resources. Potential targets of Western-led and
ASEAN-upheld sanctions could hit some of the largest energy companies in the
world, including Frances Total, the USs Chevron, Malaysias Petronas, South
Koreas Daewoo and Korea Gas Corp, and, hypothetically, Thailands PTT
Exploration and Production (PTTEP).
There are also several small and medium sized Western upstream oil and gas
companies - including so-called larrikin outfits - which currently operate below
the political radar, but if forced to withdraw due to new sanctions on existing
investments would at least temporarily disrupt Myanmars ability to tap offshore
wells, until China, India or another non-Western-aligned country moved in to
fill the technology gap.
The politics of imposing new sanctions against
Myanmar would be highly complex and potentially damaging to the Thai economy if
Bangkok were to take part. Myanmar is already expanding its energy export base,
emerging as a key new supplier to China and possibly also to India and South
Korea. China and India are locked in competition for gas supply from fields now
operated by South Korean companies offshore near western Myanmar.
China has secured at least the initial advantage for a gas pipeline plan
approved by the Myanmar government to send supplies to southwest China and the
idea for another pipeline taking product landed in Myanmar from Africa and the
Middle East - giving China an additional supply route to the congested Malacca
Strait - is also on the table.
India has mooted a similarly ambitious pipeline plan with Myanmar, which
conceivably would send gas through Bangladesh and supply areas in eastern India.
But its still unclear if Dhaka, which has stonewalled other energy projects
with India, would support any India-Myanmar initiative which passes through its
Thailands own supplies of natural gas, which currently fuel 65% of the
countrys total electricity output, are fast diminishing at a time industrial
demand for the resource is simultaneously rapidly rising. According to BP
figures, proven gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand will likely run dry over
the next 17 years. There are still untapped resources in the joint Thai-Malaysia
development area as well as in the contested overlapping claims area with
Cambodia - but even if maximized are not expected to bridge the emerging
Meanwhile, state energy company PTT predicts that national natural gas demand
will grow from 3.32 billion cubic feet per day (cfpd) at present to 6.1 billion
cfpd by 2015. Thailands power generation capacity, meanwhile, is projected to
increase to 58,000 megawatts by 2021 from its current level 28,500 megawatts in
the current power plan. Myanmar gas currently meets over 25% of total Thai
demand and plans to steadily increase those volumes are now on the cards.
Gas is now piped from the offshore Yadana field, operated by Frances Total
in partnership with the USs Chevron, as well as from the offshore Yetagun field
in the eastern Andaman Sea. These two fields alone supply an average of 900
million cfpd to Thailand. Volumes from those same fields are set to increase by
another 300 million cfpd by 2011 in a big new offshore project operated by
Additionally, there are a growing number of joint Thai-Myanmar hydropower
projects planned or under development on the Salween River, which forms part of
the shared border between the two countries. These include the 7,110 megawatt
Tar-Hsan and 1,500 megawatt Hut Gyi dams, both of which were signed by Myanmars
junta and Thai companies, including the state-run monopoly the Electricity
Generating Authority of Thailand.
Both controversial projects are designed specifically to supply power to
Thailand, but analysts say could conceivably be rerouted to China if Bangkok
were to back new Western-led sanctions. China is currently backing other
hydropower projects on the upper reaches of the same river designed to supply
power to its fast growing south-western regions.
So far Thai officials have sent mixed signals about their intentions and have
downplayed Thailands significance to new sanctions imposed against the regime.
Defense Minister Boonrawd Somtas told reporters that the current protests were
unlikely to unseat Myanmars junta and that political change was unlikely unless
China, India and Russia exerted serious pressure.
Meanwhile, top Thai energy official Piyasavati Amranand has said Myanmars
recent troubles have prevented his officials from negotiating any new gas supply
deals and that any planned talks would be delayed until the political situation
stabilizes. At the same time, he said that Thailands intention to secure new
natural gas supplies from Myanmar remains unchanged.
* Andrew Symon is a Singapore-based journalist and analyst specializing
in energy and mining issues.
Rangoon, Burma - Soldiers announced they were hunting
pro-democracy protesters in Burmas largest city Wednesday and the top U.S.
diplomat in the country said she heard that military police were pulling people
out of their homes during the night.
Military vehicles patrolled the streets before dawn with
loudspeakers blaring, We have photographs. We are going to make
Shari Villarosa, the acting U.S. ambassador in Burma, said
in a telephone interview that people in Rangoon were terrified.
From what we understand, military police
around the city in the middle of the night, going into homes and picking up
people, she said.
The U.N.s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, declined to
comment on his four-day mission to Burma, where the military junta last month
crushed mass pro-democracy demonstrations led by the nations revered Buddhist
Hundreds of monks and civilians were carted off to
detention camps during protests last week. The government says 10 people were
killed in the violence, but dissident groups put the death toll at up to 200.
They say 6,000 people were detained.
Villarosa said embassy staff had gone to some monasteries
in recent days and found them completely empty. Others were barricaded by the
military and declared off-limits to outsiders.
There is a significantly reduced number of monks on the
streets. Where are the monks? What has happened to them? she said. The
Democratic Voice of Burma, a dissident radio station based in Norway, said
authorities have released 90 of 400 monks detained in Myitkyina, the capital of
Kachin state, during a midnight raid on monasteries on Sept. 25.
A semblance of normality returned to Rangoon after
daybreak, with some shops opening and light traffic on roads.
However, people are terrified, and the underlying forces
of discontent have not been addressed, Villarosa said. People have been
unhappy for a long time
Since the events of last week, theres now the
unhappiness combined with anger, and fear.
Some people remained hopeful that democracy would
I dont believe the protests have been totally crushed,
said Kin, a 29-year-old language teacher in Rangoon, whose father and brother
had joined a 1988 pro-democracy movement that ended in a crackdown in which at
least 3,000 people were killed.
There is hope, but we fear to hope, she said. We still
dream of rearing our children in a country where everybody would have equal
chances at opportunities.
The military has ruled Burma since 1962, and the current
junta came to power after snuffing out the 1988 pro-democracy movement. The
generals called elections in 1990 but refused to give up power when Suu Kyis
Simmering hatred for the militarys 45-year rule exploded
in mid-August after the regime hiked fuel prices by as much as 500% a crushing
burden in this impoverished nation.
The marches soon ballooned into mass pro-democracy
demonstrations led by the nations revered Buddhist monks.
The military smashed the protests on Sept. 26 and 27 with
live ammunition and tear gas, and by beating up demonstrators.
Among those killed when troops opened fire on unarmed
protesters in Rangoon last week was Japanese television cameraman Kenji Nagai of
the APF news agency.
Nagais body was flown out of Burma on Wednesday to
Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Japan, which is
Burmas biggest aid donor, was considering cutting back donations to protest
Nagais death. Video broadcasts appeared to show a soldier shooting Nagai at
Gambari went to Burma on Saturday to convey the
international communitys outrage at the juntas actions. He also hoped to
persuade the junta to take the peoples aspirations seriously.
He met junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies
and talked to detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi twice.
Gambari avoided the media in Singapore, where he arrived
Tuesday night en route to New York. He was not expected to issue any statement
before briefing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday.
The junta has not commented on Gambaris visit and the
United Nations has only released photos of Gambari and a somber, haggard-looking
Suu Kyi who has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest
shaking hands during their meeting in a state guest house in Rangoon.
In Singapore, Gambari met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien
Loong, the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc of which
Burma is a member.
A Singapore government statement said Lee told Gambari that
ASEAN is fully behind his mission to bring about a political solution for
national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy.
Monks fear government raids
Oct 3, 2007 (DVB)Monks in the Magwe
division town of Pakokku have been taking part in night watches to protect their
monasteries from raids by soldiers.
"We have been taking turns to guard our monastery at
night for five days already. In some wards, people from the local neighborhood
are also joining in night watches to help the monks. We are living in fear as we
don't know when the raid will happen," said an unnamed monk.
Young men in Mandalay division's Moegok township have
also been volunteering for night-guard duties at local monasteries to prevent
the monks from being arrested by authorities and soldiers in midnight
"Youths in many wards in Moegok are guarding local
monasteries to prevent monks from getting detained by authorities. . . They have
about 50 youths guarding each monastery at night. Everyone has been asked to
come and gather at the monasteries to protect monks when they are alerted to any
suspicious characters during night," said a Moegok resident.
Reporting by Aye Nai and DVB
Danish news correspondents told to leave
Rangoon - Burma's military junta eased a curfew on the
main city of Rangoon on Tuesday, as the suffocating security presence was scaled
back slightly following the suppression of mass anti-government protests.
Loudspeakers mounted on trucks drove through
downtown Yangon and residential townships, announcing that the curfew would from
now on run from 10pm to 4am, two hours shorter than the 9pm to 5am period
announced a week ago. The restrictions, which included
the designation of Rangoon as a 'restricted area', were announced last Tuesday
just before the government launched a bloody crackdown on the protests, leaving
at least 13 dead and 1,000 in detention. People, cars
and buses were returning to the streets of the former capitalon Tuesday, as
residents tried to get back to work, but the atmosphere remained tense and key
monasteries continued to be blockaded.
Although the security presence has dropped off
since Monday, soldiers were still stationed at the main rallying points.
Soldiers stood guard outside the Shwedagon Pagoda, while at a
nearby monastery, security forces could be seen within the compound.
In the northeastern township of South Okkalapa, one of
the monasteries raided there last week remained under heavy security with six
military trucks parked outside.
Meanwhile Swedish and Danish media reported
that Burmese officials are allegedly urging several Swedish and Danish news
media outlets to withdraw their correspondents from the country for their own
safety, AHN online reported Tuesday. According to Swedish and Danish reporters,
they have been contacted by a man who introduced himself as Burmese's police
authority representative. They said that a man
named Hay Chu, offered tabloid journalists a "safe passage home." The man who
identifies himself as Chu said, "Police can no longer guarantee the safety of
Meanwhile, Danish news media said they have
been receiving calls of a similar nature.
However, both Swedish and Danish news media
have not confirmed if they have journalists inside Myanmar. They claim their
journalists reporting on the recent massive anti-regime protests in the troubled
country are all stationed elsewhere, the online said.
goes through Beijing
Three hard facts are setting the
boundaries for the talks United Nations negotiator Ibrahim Gambari is
undertaking as he shuttles between Burma's ruling generals and the detained
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Nation October 3, 2007
First, despite the heroic leadership of the Buddhist clergy
and the pro-democracy community, almost 50 years of military misrule and terror
tactics have worn down Burma's people, who will likely find it hard to maintain
their defiance without obvious splits among the ruling generals or widespread
desertions among ordinary soldiers.
Second, Burma's generals know that they face a stark
choice: either maintain power or risk imprisonment, exile, and possible death.
In their eyes, this leaves them with virtually no choice but to hold on to power
at all costs.
Finally, as long as China provides political, financial,
and military support for Burma's rulers, it will be all but impossible for any
meaningful change to occur. Until China decides that it has more to gain from a
more legitimate government in Burma than it does from the current incompetent
military regime, little can happen.
China's decision to block the UN Security Council from
condemning the Burmese regime's assault on the Buddhist monks and other peaceful
protestors underscores its long-standing political support for the junta. This
past January, China, alongside Russia, vetoed a Security Council resolution that
condemned Burma's human rights record and called on the government to stop
attacks on ethnic minorities, release political prisoners, and begin a
transition towards national reconciliation and democracy. For years, China has
also blocked meaningful sanctions against Burma.
China's economic ties to Burma's rulers are strategically
important for both sides. Annual bilateral trade, estimated at $1.1 billion - a
huge figure, given Burma's total GDP of $9.6 billion - provides an economic
lifeline for the Burmese government. China is also Burma's largest military
At the same time, the $2 billion oil pipeline that China is
seeking to build from Burma's southern coast to China's Yunnan province will
allow China to get Middle East oil to its southern provinces more easily and
securely. When completed, the pipeline will make China much less susceptible to
foreign military pressure in the event of international conflict.
So the stakes in Burma are high for China, as are Chinese
fears of about how any future "national reconciliation" government might react
to China's record of complicity with the corrupt military rulers.
It should be remembered that America and its allies, faced
with strategic fears of a similar type during the Cold War, also supported
repugnant and oppressive regimes in places like Zaire, Chile and Indonesia. But
America and the West did, at key turning points, realise that times had changed
so much that these dictators had outlived their usefulness. Thus, despots like
Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Chun Doo-hwan in Korea were jettisoned,
because the price of supporting their despicable regimes became greater than the
In today's Internet age, the costs of China's support for
Burma's generals are rising fast. Just as in Darfur, where China's perceived
support for the Sudanese government translated into harsh criticism and threats
to brand the 2008 Olympics the "Genocide Games", China's backing of the Burmese
generals, particularly if the death toll rises, could cause similar problems.
Indeed, an Olympic boycott will become more likely if scenes of murdered or
brutalised Buddhist monks are flashed around the world. Moreover, Burma's public
health woes and drug and human trafficking are increasingly being exported to
Although China has expressed some vague concerns over the
crisis to the Burmese government, it has not taken any action that could
meaningfully affect the regime's calculations, despite its singularly unique
To encourage China to take the lead in fostering national
reconciliation in Burma, the international community must convince China that
pushing for reform and change can be a win-win proposition. The international
community must make clear that China's interests would be protected during a
transition to a more open society in Burma, and that some version of the oil
pipeline project will be supported by any new regime.
Because China has been competing with India for access to
Burma's natural resources, India also needs to be actively included in efforts
to pressure the Burmese regime, a process that the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations might effectively coordinate. In a statement issued on September
27, Asean foreign ministers expressed a surprising degree of condemnation of the
crackdown in Burma. They could play an essential leading role in a process
including the Burmese parties, China, India, the European Union, Russia and the
United States that could devise a roadmap for change in Burma.
Such an international process simply cannot happen without
China. The road to change in Burma runs through Beijing.
* Jamie F Metzl, who served on President Bill Clinton's
National Security Council, is executive vice president of the Asia Society.
UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari ended his mission to
Burma on Tuesday, leaving the Burmese people still helpless before a ruthless
regime determined to stamp out opposition no matter how much abhorrence it
arouses in the international community.
What did he achieve? Well have to wait for a day or two more,
probably until Friday, before knowing the answer to that question.
But already an answer is forming. Just look at the
pictorial clues. The UN released a collection of official photographs that
resemble a family snapshot album.
After an absence from the public scene of some weeks, the
top generals line up for a photocell with their distinguished guest from New
York. Than Shwe and the othersMaung Aye, Thura Shwe Mann and acting Prime
Minister Thein Seinseem almost smug in their freshly-laundered uniforms. Than
Shwe has reason to be satisfiedhe looks considerably younger than his advanced
age, officially given as 74.
They all seem blissfully unaware of the carnage they have
caused in the streets and monasteries of their country.
Newsreel footage of the photo call shows Gambari giving a
slight bow as he firmly shakes hand with the generals. He smilesbut is there
really anything to smile about? Did he have problems removing the stains left by
the press of the generals blood-soaked palms?
Contrast this bizarre scene with the photographs of an
unsmiling Aung San Suu Kyi meeting Gambari at a government guesthouse near her
home, where she has spent nearly 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest. She
certainly had nothing to smile about.
Its deplorable that Gambari allowed himself to be used
as a propaganda tool by the regime, who had already humiliated him and the
organization he represented by keeping him waiting two days before summoning him
to a meeting. On the first day of Gambaris urgent mission to Burma he was
sent off on a sightseeing tour of remote areas of northern Burma, which included
a visit to a rally of regime supporters paid or pressed to
Again, the contrast is staggeringbetween these
stage-managed photographs and the pictures of the bloody events in
Even as Gambari was meeting the generals, security forces
in Rangoon, nearly 400 km to the south, were tightening their steel grip over
the city, continuing their raids on city homes and reportedly sending arrested
monks to detention camps far removed from the former capital.
At least 2,000 monks and protesters are being detained in
detention centers and jails. No one knows their fate. Many could already have
died from abuse, torture and from the wounds they received during their clash
with troops and police. Secret military courts have sentenced an unknown number
of monks to long terms of imprisonment.
Its clear that Gambari was in no position, and possessed
no real authority, to challenge the generals directly. He is just the latest in
a line of UN special envoys who, between then, have achieved absolutely
By sending them on futile missions to Burma, the UN has
only raised false hopes and has contributed to the generals grip on
On a previous visit to Burma, Gambari said the junta
appeared ready to turn a new page. It must have been a blank page. Arousing
false hope in this way only helps the generals survive.
The Burmese people are crushed by the junta and powerless
to resist. But must this mean that the UN is to remain powerless to help
Betrayed by their own government, the Burmese people are
now betrayed by the UN, from whom they can expect no help. Instead of being part
of the solution to the Burmese crisis, the UN is in reality part of the
But the Burmese peoples struggle is not yet over. More
blood will inevitably flow. And Gambari, or whoever the UN sends on a next
junket to Burma, will again be seen shaking the blood-soaked hands of the
Leave Burma Now: ITUC Tells
Brussels,: The ITUC is writing to several hundred companies
known or suspected of having business links to Burma to pull out of the country
and stop propping up the brutal regime, and is calling on governments to
extend economic sanctions to cover all economic sectors. While numerous
foreign companies have ceased doing business with Burma, under pressure from the
international trade union movement and human rights and democracy groups, many
multinational companies still have relations with the military
No company can claim to have clean hands if it is doing
business in or with Burma, since the Generals take their cut out of every deal.
We have been calling for several years on companies to disinvest, and those who
have refused to do so will now be exposed to the full weight of public
condemnation for effectively supporting a ruthless, corrupt and bloody
dictatorship, said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.
Burmas economy is built on absolute repression of its
workforce, with the use of forced labour still rife in the country despite
international pressure on the regime to respect fundamental rights. The case for
full and effective sanctions is now absolutely compelling, and any company which
does not withdraw voluntarily must be made to do so by governments and
international and regional organisations including the United
Nations and the
European Union. The international trade union movement and the European
Trade Union Confederation have for many years called on the EU to include
Burmese state monopolies covering gas, oil, mining, tropical woods and precious
stones in the list of companies with which EU-based multinationals are forbidden
to do business.
The juntas murderous reaction to the demonstrations in
recent days shows how far they will go to maintain total power, and continue
lining their own pockets at the expense of the massive majority who are deprived
of access to proper healthcare, education, decent food and other
essentials. Only a tiny few benefit from Burmas links to foreign
business, and they are the very authors of the murder, torture and
violence which is still going on, said Ryder.
Top of the ITUC list are several key multinationals with
well-documented business links to Burma, including Caterpillar (USA), China
National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), China National Offshore Oil Corporation
(CNOOC), Daewoo International Corporation (Korea), Siemens (Germany), Gas
Authority of India (GAIL), GlaxoSmithKline (UK ), Hyundai (Korea), ONGC Videsh
Ltd (India), Swift (Belgium), and Total (France). Several hundred other
companies are currently being investigated for links to Burma, and the results
will be published shortly. Military aid will be a special focus of the
trade union campaign, which will also look closely at the juntas growing
economic links with India, China and several other countries. Indias
trade for example has grown from some US$ 341 million in 2004-5 to $650 million
the following year, with a target of US$ 1billion set for 2006-7.
Companies which think they can continue to pretend that
their business with Burma somehow helps ordinary people there are seriously
mistaken. They will come under unprecedented pressure to pull out, said
A meeting of the global trade union committee on Workers
Capital this week in Madrid will also examine shareholder and investment
strategies in support of the worldwide campaign.
The ITUC is asking its affiliates to join worldwide Burma
democracy and human rights demonstrations this Saturday.
Founded on 1 November 2006, the ITUC represents 168 million
workers in 153 countries and territories and has 305 national affiliates.
For more information, please contact the ITUC Press
Department on: +32 2224 0204 or +32 476 621 018.
What next for the
Neighbouring countries can no longer
turn a blind eye to the repression in Burma, now that the UN Security Council is
primed to frame further resolutions pressuring the ruling military
By MICHAEL VATIKIOTIS and LEON DE
Now that the military junta in Burma has brutally cracked down on
the protesters in the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay, beating up monks and
hauling them off in horrific scenes that have shocked the world, the big
question is: What next for this country's long suffering people? Can the army,
which has ruled the country for 45 years, force all this popular anger back into
the bottle? What will they do this time to keep the cork in place?
The army managed to do just this in 1988 after killing at
least 3,000 people. But that was then. Today might be different for several
Two common assumptions about Burma are slowly becoming less
valid. The first is that powerful regional neighbours like India and China can
be relied upon to shore up the military regime with critical political and
The second is that the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations, which Burma joined in 1997, will act as a secondary shield against
sanction and global opprobrium.
China and India have been forced by the violent crackdown
on peaceful protesters, many of them Buddhist monks, to go beyond the usual
plaintive pleas for respect of stability and sovereignty.
Beijing has said it ''whole-heartedly hopes Burma will push
forward a democracy process that is appropriate for the country''.
India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has
expressed concern and called for dialogue and a ''broad-based process of
national reconciliation and political reform''.
Meanwhile, Asean has broken a long tradition of refraining
from commenting on the internal affairs of member states and expressed revulsion
at the bloody military crackdown, which few diplomats believe has killed only a
handful of people.
Overly cautious as these statements are, they point the way
to a more proactive role by Burma's neighbours, small and big, that could help
prevent further bloodshed. For assuming that this confrontation between the
unarmed populace and soldiers is irreversible, the only way to stem the
senseless shedding of blood on the streets is for some kind of dialogue process
and compromise, with the help and encouragement of the international community.
Neighbouring countries can no longer turn a blind eye to
the repression in Burma, now that the UN Security Council is primed to frame
further resolutions pressuring the ruling military junta. And as Asean prepares
to frame a new charter, it looks likely that new measures will be tabled by the
end of the year to sanction member states for human rights and other abuses.
In this time of crisis, it is important to remember that
serious issues need to be resolved so Burma can move forward. These issues
include continued ethnic conflict within the country's borders, severe economic
failure, and humanitarian decline.
Even before the protests began a few weeks ago, sparked by
a steep fuel price increase, there was unhappiness among ethnic minority groups
over the new constitution framed by the military rulers.
Many of the cease-fire agreements that persuaded rebel
groups on the country's margins to put aside their weapons, have shown an
inclination to reach for them again.
This leaves the question of how the present stand-off might
be defused. The effectiveness of the crackdown and images of deserted streets in
the country's two main cities suggests that ''people power'' alone will not
bring about political change.
There has been some speculation about a split within the
ranks of the military, with some junior officers reluctant to fire on unarmed
civilians and monks. This has given rise to hopes of a more progressive faction
of the army taking over, perhaps by way of a coup.
Should this be the case, hopefully more progressive
officers will link up with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, in the
interests of reconciliation and national unity.
Certainly it would be naive to assume that the military
will simply give up its grip on power without a managed, transitional phase.
The question, then, becomes who will manage this
transition? This is uncharted territory in today's Southeast Asia. The severe
problems facing the country would suggest a role for an international consortium
of donors and agencies. Something, perhaps, like the Cambodian experience, which
involved the United Nations in a brief but successful exercise in political
transition through a supervised national election.
But intensely felt national sentiment would suggest that
the Burmese people may not be as willing as the Cambodians to tolerate such an
intrusive presence on the ground.
Burma, after all, was once the most advanced nation in the
region. So, much like the Philippines in the mid-1980s, it will be up to the
people of Burma to design and execute their own reform programme. Democracy, as
examples like Iraq suggest, cannot be imposed.
Understandably, the people of Burma, supported by the
international community, would like to see a swift return to civilian rule and
Few countries in the world have endured so much deprivation
and debilitating isolation for so long. The trick will be how this can be
managed without making it look like the army has surrendered to popular protest.
Just as the military in Indonesia was gradually eased out of politics, with very
few of its officers held accountable for abuses, so it can be assumed that
Burma's generals will be looking for a soft landing.
* Michael Vatikiotis and Leon de Rietmadden work for
the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Southeast Asia.