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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2586

Will Sergio Paulo Pinheiro be another Ibrahim Gambari?

By Prof. Kanbawza Win

Sergio Paulo Pinheiro has repeatedly requested several times to gain access to the country, but has been refused entry since 2003 and now the sly Junta had agree to his visit, when Foreign Minister Nay Win wrote to that he should arrive in mid-November - before a meeting of the Association of South-East Asian Nations just to forestall criticism of the Junta handling of the protests from ASEAN leaders. If this is a positive desire of the Burmese Army then the Junta should release the real figures of arrest and detention and stop arresting more monks and laymen and at once stop the ethnic cleansing in Karen and Karenni states? What kind of logic is it? “Actions speak louder than words.”

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari's mission to Burma is to encourage military rulers to talk to Daw Suu Kyi and include her pro-democracy party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), in discussions on the new constitution, and is carrying personal messages from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and US President George W Bush. To be candid this is his fourth visit to the country within the last 18 months _ and the second since the government's brutal crackdown on anti-inflation demonstrations at the end of September that left more than hundreds dead. To this the Junta responded as a big power bully and Than Shwe refused to see him.

The fact that Charles PETRIES was made persona non grata on the eve of Gambari visit clearly indicates that that the top generals are not the least interested in the international community's efforts to encourage democratic change and are intent on introducing a political system that will consolidate the military's power in the future. Than Shwe and his hard line supporters have no intentions of including Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD in talks about Burma's political future. They are pressing on with their own road map and are not interested in having any UN involvement. Will the latest ploy to side-track Gambari pay off? If so Pinherio has little or no hope of success. Burma's military rulers had originally invited the UN envoy to return to the country in the latter part of November because that fitted neatly into their plans. They wanted to finish drafting the new constitution, which effectively legitimized their grasp on political power, and have the summit of ASEAB leaders, in Singapore in two weeks' time, endorse it.

"Burma will not bow to outside pressure. It will never allow any outside interference to infringe on the sovereignty of the state," state-run MRTV quoted. Minister Kyaw Hsan warned that tougher international sanctions on the former Burma would only make matters worse. This indicate that the more punitive action the international community use the more repressive will the regime become on its own people, which in Burmese we called it Ka Lar Ma Naing Ra Khaing Mae literally translated as because he cannot vanquished the Indian he beats up the nearest person, who happens to be an Arakanese; implying that because the Junta being in the wrong cannot do anything against the international’s punitive actions become more harsh on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the people. Perhaps this is the logic of the Burmese army.

Ibrahim Gambari's bid for three-way talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, himself and the Junta’s representative has been rejected and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was concerned by the lack of progress. It is clear that Gambari seek to carry out his mandate to launch a dialogue between Suu Kyi and the generals, including Than Shwe, and to have Myanmar free all detained monks, students and demonstrators and "take necessary democratic measures" But none of it is achieved. Viewing from this perspective it is not much of a success but it give the junta a way out if they are interested in finding an inclusive solution to their economic and political problems, and in this aspect it was the lady that come to their rescue.

“In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the Government in order to make this process of dialogue a success and welcome the necessary good offices role of the United Nations to help facilitate our efforts in this regard. In full awareness of the essential role of political parties in democratic societies, in deep appreciation of the sacrifices …. it is my duty to give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races. To that end, I am committed to pursue the path of dialogue constructively…..I believe that stability, prosperity and democracy for my country, living at peace with itself and with full respect for human rights, offers the best prospect for my country to fully contribute to the development and stability of the region in close partnership with its neighbors and fellow ASEAN members, and to play a positive role as a respected member of the international community.”

Sso from this aspect it was successful as Gambari said to the reporters in Singapore, “We now have a process going which will lead to a dialogue.” In a Burmese military culture where Dialogue is anathema, credit should be given to the UN and one at once recollect the latest photo, flashing over the internet of Than Shwe wearing a women panties over his head.(not necessary SK’s). Isn’t it ironical when the name Suu Kyi is taboo even to the high diplomat who sees him is now anxious that the lady will not respond positively? What a ridiculous aspect when Daw Suu has not committed any of the Junta’s accusations and has no influence over any government. It seems that they were so obsessed in the holding of power that logic has gone out of their sense and construe Daw Suu as King of Kings who can order a government to do this and that

Any way now there is a glimmer of home for the Dialogue to start, one could not rest on the laurels as the Junta would try every step to derail the Dialogue process as it had no choice but grudgingly accepted it. One might as well agree with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel when he said that “ the entire international community to make sure that it is pushing the regime to begin this genuine dialogue to move towards national reconciliation and freedom of political prisoners” The UN and the international must be very careful in this process as the situation in Burma is unique and cannot be compared to other countries in view of the fact that the big neighboring countries including Russia are still backing the Junta and a leave has to be taken out of the lessons of the League of Nations.

The League of Nations formed after World War I to promote international peace and security utterly failed because the League was very slow at making decisions is just what like the UN today when there is no armed force to impose decisions. Japan's occupation of Manchuria in 1931, Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-36, and Germany's seizure of Austria in 1938 are just examples. Britain and France along with other members were more concerned about their own interests and were reluctant to get involved in collective security and the League could not make powerful countries obey their rulings. So also the dictatorial countries of China and Russia are bent on sustaining the Burmese Military Junta and the UN cannot do anything.

Sanctions did not work then (not working on Burma also). Members could not agree and paralyze the League, in as much as Russia and China did not agree and paralyze the UN, in the case of Burma. The more the League failed the less people trusted and was ignored. In the same way if the UN failed in the case of Burma, the people will loose their trust and will be ignored in the long run. Italy and Japan betrayed the League and Britain did nothing. So also today China and Russia had betrayed the UN and the US do nothing. All these reasons gave rise to Hitler and Mussolini. Will the present UN give rise to the rise of new Chinese Hitler and new Russian Mussolini?

On the other hand the failure of the UN will send the wrong message to the Burmese Junta and that message is that it will gain confidence and become more daring. They may cling to the idea that Hitler and Mussolini encourages Franco of Spain to be like themselves who not only outlive these two dictators but carried on to the end, so also Than Shwe will outlive Presidents Hu Jintao and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin to see to it that the next generation of Burmese Generals carry on the torch as he had successfully carry on the torch of General Ne Win?

The Junta’s recent move to expel UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Charles Petrie has proved once again that they lack the political will to address the country’s urgent social problems. A humanitarian disaster has been unfolding in Burma for some time; international aid agencies have been quietly passing warnings to the authorities, hoping for cooperation in order to effectively deliver aid to those in need. Burma’s estimated per capita GDP is less than half of that of Cambodia or Bangladesh. The average household is forced to spend almost three quarters of its budget on food. One in three children under five are suffering from malnutrition, and less than 50% of children are able to complete their primary education. It is estimated that close to 700,000 people each year suffer from malaria and 130,000 from tuberculosis. Among those infected with HIV, an estimated 60,000 people needing anti retroviral do not yet have access to this life-saving treatment.

The Burmese regime is very crafty to hold humanitarian assistance hostage and has imposed tighter restrictions on their activities with the intention of controlling the flow of aid and co-opting them for their own benefit (In 2006, the junta issued highly restrictive guidelines for UN agencies, INGOs/NGOs and International Organizations). The regime’s mouthpiece newspapers, The New Light of Burma, reported that the UN Country Team’s statement neglected the prevailing conditions in Burma and accused “superpowers” of manipulating UN staff into issuing groundless statements which explicitly prove junta is determined to hold on to power at the expense of immense human suffering and that it does not have the political will to address the country’s socioeconomic issues, including the humanitarian crisis.

The military leaders’ reluctance for change is wholly understandable—they have huge vested interests in maintaining the status quo; and they and their cronies are amassing an immense fortune out of the situation. Any attempt to address the humanitarian crisis is doomed to failure due to an absence of political will on the junta’s part. Even if the generals agree to establish a broad-based poverty alleviation commission, as proposed by UN special envoy, it will simply be another of the Junta’s showpieces for foreign and public consumption.

The only way to generate political will with the generals is to launch fundamental reforms to address the country’s urgent socioeconomic issues by hitting them where it hurts—hitting their business interests hard until they realize that maintaining the status quo will no longer benefit them as it had done now. It is in this scenario that Professor Pinheiro will be going to Burma.

It is already being declared that a referendum on the new constitution would then be set for early next year, This would allow the regime to provide the UN envoy with a fait accompli which would prevent any concessions being made to Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. The only issue open for discussion then would be whether the pro-democracy parties and ethnic groups would oppose the constitution at the planned referendum. But we are quite confident that Pinheiro will stand on his ground when he says, "If they don't give me full co-operation, I'll go to the plane, and I'll go out." But he must be very careful with a hoard of human foxes and hyenas all around him.

We hope to see the full delivery of concrete human rights improvements identified by the U.N. Human Rights Council and Security Council, including the fate of additional 700 political prisoners including at least 15 individuals sentenced to prison terms of up to nine and a half years. Check on an official policy of taking family members and friends as "hostages" to force others to turn themselves in and the cases of several deaths in detention due to severe beatings and other forms of torture. We are confident that he will put up the appalling detention conditions including the denial of adequate food, water and sanitary facilities as well as the keeping of detainees in "dog cells"; plus the disappearances of 72 souls since the crackdown and why did the authorities have failed to account for. This does not include the failure to account for the number of people killed during the crackdown. To point out the military marksmen atop military trucks and bridges using live ammunition to target individual demonstrators during the crackdown and why were the ambulances being denied access to victims on the streets and why private medial clinics ordered not to treat the injured. The Special Rapporteur also needs a full list of all those detained and sentenced since the crackdown as well as full and unrestricted access to all detention facilities and crematoria. We just hope and pray that you will not be another Ibrahim Gambari.

Prof. Dr. B T Win, former Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Prime Minister of Burma has served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Menno Simons College of University of Winnipeg and later as a Senior Research Fellow at the European Institute of Asian Studies, Brussels is now the incumbent Dean of the Students of the AEIOU Programme, Chiangmai University Thailand and an Adjunct Professor of the School of International Studies, Simon Fraser University, of British Columbia, Canada.

- Asian Tribune -

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