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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2732

Has the UNSC become a Paper Tiger?

By Prof. Kanbawza Win

The Burmese military thugs have shown their true color, by not showing even the semblance of leading the country to democracy by not releasing, the Burmese democracy icon Daw Suu, not to mention stopping the ethnic cleansing of the Karen and releasing other prominent political prisoners as aging U Win Tin or Ma Suu Suu Nway.

They seem to think that they can lie all the people all the time but their actions speaks louder than words. The day after US Senate unanimously adopted # 484 a resolution on Burma at UN Security Council to take action, General than Shwe stage a diplomatic coup by unraveling the long-heated demand by the world body and international rights group to meet with Suu Kyi within 24 hours. It was a perfect timing and very beneficial to the Junta.

This unprecedented diplomatic showdown signals that the supremo is more than overwhelmed by outside pressure rather than playing his previous old tactics to divert diplomatic pressure and economic sanction.

The Junta had used Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a bargaining chip, releasing her whenever international pressure grows. Right now the regime is very worried about potential action by the UN Security Council. If they release Daw Suu it will be a tactic to try to head off UN action. Clearly renewed UN pressure could prompt Burma's military rulers to loosen restrictions on her. The extension drew swift condemnation from the United States, which has spearheaded efforts to bring Burma before the UN Security Council. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the decision "yet another sign of the regime's intransigence and brutal repression." And issued a new demand for her release, joined by Southeast Asian nations such as Thailand and Malaysia. While Condoleezza Rice "Your dream of democracy is not forgotten, nor is it yours to bear alone." The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan made a direct appeal to the Junta leader General Than Shwe.

President Vaclav Harvel and Bishop Desmond Tu Tu`s report has made it vividly clear, that unlike Nyan Win`s statement, is not an internal affairs but an international affairs. Burma's narco policy of indirectly encouraging the illicit trade (legalizing the drug war lords and the Wa tribe), export of diseases (HIV/AIDS, Bird's flu etc) and trafficking in women and children is not only affecting the region but also that of the international community.

Never mind, having the highest rates of HIV and tuberculosis infection in Asia, and that 40 percent of children malnourished and decades of economic mismanagement have left Burma one of the world's poorest countries may not be the concern of the UN Security Council.

Gambari has already brief the UN Security Council. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan himself expressed deep disappointment at the regime's decision to extend the house arrest of Daw Suu by another year. A resolution on Burma, called for by the United States and Britain, could be adopted afterwards to deplore the general oppression there, including the attacks on Karen refugees along the Thai-Burmese border. It was an entirely different briefing from the one he gave informally last December. For the past 15 years, the Junta has succeeded in stopping the council from putting the Burma situation on its agenda, thanks to the backing of China and Russia.

This is only the second briefing on Burma in history by the Council when it was clear that none of Kofi Annan`s goals have been met. We hope that the Council would move quickly to take necessary action to stop killing and violence against civilians. We recalled that the UN and other bodies have attempted countless times and failed on Burma, such as passing 28 consecutive UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights resolutions that have been ignored by the ruling military regime. The European Union has sent several failed “troika” missions to Burma, while the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ “Bangkok Process” fell apart in 2004. Bilateral efforts at provoking change by Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand have also failed.

Dr. Ibrahim A Gambari who received his Ph.D. in International Relations / Political Science from Columbia University has served as President of UN Security Council in two occasions when Nigeria was Security Council member and holds the record of the longest serving ambassador/permanent representative to United Nations Organization. He had reported to UN Security Council and had succeeded in widening the doors of Burmese diplomacy. But the fact that there was agreement that the UN could play a role in promoting common grounds between the regime and the NLD was the missing point. We do hope and pray the UN Security Council Resolution 1674 adopted in 28/April/2006 will be filled with the most relevant and visible report by Gambari and most beneficial outcome for all the citizens of Burma will be taken before it is too late and the Junta mechanized another assassination attempt on Daw Suu. The United Nations should forgo the Wait-and See this time as it didn’t work out in the past concerning the military rulers in Burma.

Ibrahim Gambari is the right person in the right time to talk with the beauty and the beast in the Union of Burma afterward he explicitly facilitates a view that the regime is willing to engage in a dialogue and brush tarnish image of its human rights abuses as the Junta don't want to face the punishment under Chapter 7.

Gambari had carried with him some very clear messages, including a written formal letter from the Secretary about the progress on human rights and democratization offering his good offices to help facilitate Burma`s transition to democracy, and the need for a more inclusive and credible political process, so that all political parities, their leaders, and ethnic nationalities could be represented and the restrictions on them lifted. He had also carried with him the message that Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders should be released and that the United Nations was concerned about the recent escalation in the military offensive in Karen areas. We agree that it is an important to re-engage for after all, the United Nations had not been able to play that role for a couple of years. Now it is all gone down the drain and there is not much option left.

Inside Burma also the Generals are not having a monolithic unity, the skipping of ASEAN Defense Ministerial Conference was a clear message that the Junta is wrestling itself with both internal and external heavy pressure The tactical switch of regional commanders and the ostensible promotions which actually demoted some two-stars generals who are loyal to Junta No. 2 General Maung Aye to cabinet administration and some to retirements are also factors that contributed to signal the daunting despot is deeply overwhelmed.

Even if diplomatic channel in the past was twisted and hooked on the turning wheel of democratic change, the future Federal Union of Burma is on the prevail of the last pregnancy period pushing uncontrollably from inside to give birth in front of all nations.

The military regime knows that it is inevitable that democracy will be back on track even if they pulled down by using the force of half a million soldiers. Crushing people power by forceful dictatorship is just pressing a rubber-ball, the more you squeeze the stronger power to bounce back. Diplomacy which have been stuck between ignorance and tolerance within the Burmese military political game since 1990s; with the right person as prisoner, the wrong guy as a guard, civilians as scapegoats, and an outsider as fortune-teller, the NLD party was viewed as a foreign conspiracy element. This is the only logic of why the Burmese tatmadaw ( army) believe themselves as safeguarding the nation from another colonization. Even if the bipartisanship policy was introduce between opposition and ruling government, the idea of creating western style democracy to completely overrule the military dominance in Burmese politic misfit the military regime belief of defending the nation politic as ancestral legacy.

The military regime is deeply rooted in their suspicion of political revenge by opposition party if they lose the reign of nation. They may probably be envisioning military battalion like parliament even if they lose the power to inherit both political heritage and material wealth they amassed forever. No leader ever pass away with the full homage paid by all citizens in Burma on the state funeral but they all died like criminals and whisked away to imprison them forever under the earth, a classic example is Ne Win followed by Khin Nyunt. The truth is that military regime expects no respect from the public but they are only making a living for today.

We hope United Nations should not tolerate itself to be the cheated object that fell again inside the Junta deception this time. The UN integrity, honesty and its institutional quality shouldn’t be just a laughing stock often fell in front of criminal governments of the world. The prolonged diplomatic tolerance for devastating and ignorant rulers like in Burma not only give time to prepare themselves to divert international attention but also disfigures to some extent the United Nations’ image by leaving a failed record in the book of the UN diplomacy. Another time consuming process should be meticulously corroborated by the United Nations with the concern of majority Burmese and international body. The military regime has been on the standstill at the point of no return because of their imaginary vindictive opposition party. The most important dialogue between political rivals in Burma to build the nation together has been deadlocking under unnecessary distrust; feuding one another and plunged into deeper long-lasting feeling of political ill-will resulting from the past misrule and the present lack of mutual consensus building within the very family inside our own home nation.

We should recollect that the UN Charter was signed in San Francisco three decades ago with a sense of excitement and romantic adventure. The Charter begins with the grand words "We the peoples." But sometimes the people of the world are served up to the designs of governments. The UNSC 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 vested in states. Set up as a many-splendor forum for realizing humanity's loftiest aspirations, it has often been reduced to a many-splintered organization mired in petty squabbles.

The founders created the General Assembly as the forum of choice for discussing the world's problems and articulating global norms, the Security Council for keeping the peace and enforcing the norms, and the office of secretary general to run this vast machinery smoothly and efficiently. It was on these lines that we want the Burmese problem to be tackled. For critics, the organization has played a scarcely discernible role in keeping the peace, promoting successful development or defeating the worst enemies of freedom and human rights but we should also realize that moral clarity and backbone, essential for courage of convictions, do not sit easily alongside institutional timidity and instinctive risk-aversion.

Yet the UN also can claim many real accomplishments: decolonization, elimination of apartheid, peacekeeping missions, behind-the-scenes peacemaking, the development and extension of the rule of law, the promotion of the norms of human rights, gender empowerment, assistance to refugees, and collective action for such common problems as resource depletion and environmental degradation. On balance, the world has been a better and less bloodier place with the United Nations' help.

The United Nations is universal in membership. It has authority without power.

The United States, on the other hand, is global in reach and power but lacks international authority. It often acts as a de facto world government but disclaims responsibility for the worldwide outcomes of its actions. Even though we knew that the UN has many failings and flaws and often used and abused by governments for finger-pointing and, a politicians' talk shop like a spineless and toothless cop on the beat, the people of Burma still have much hope in the UN. Because we also see that the world organization remains the focus of international expectations and the locus of collective action. Despite bureaucratic rigidity, institutional timidity and intergovernmental trench warfare, 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. It exists to bring about a world where fear is changed to hope, want gives way to dignity and apprehensions are turned into aspirations and it was in this category that the people of Burma want to remember the UN.

Prof. Kanbawza Win (Dr. B.T.Win): Incumbent Dean of Students of AEIOU Programme, Chiangmai University, Thailand. Senior Research Fellow at the European Institute of Asian Studies, Under the European Commission, Brussels, Belgium. Earlier Consultant to National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma. Editorial Consultant, “Asian Tribune.” The learned Professor submitted this article for publication in the Asian Tribune.

- Asian Tribune -

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