ASEAN: ASEAN Chief’s Burma Perspective seems to be a Daydream

  • By Tammy, Thai Intel’s humanity journalist
  • Thai Intel reported earlier of the Thai prime minister Abhisit’s plans to help Burma develop a port area worth about US$13 billion in what Thai Intel calls: “Gifts to the Emperor.”
  • However, what is striking is not that Thailand is openly trying to gain favor with the Burmese junta-but the similarity between Thailand and Burma themselves-where here in Thailand the Red Shirts, a movement for democracy, have in fact been singled out as a group of people and subjected to extreme prejudices. And in Burma there is the minority races-long prejudiced against by the military junta-and in fact-the elite rulers of Thailand have actually said the Red Shirts are not Thai people.
  • Things have gotten so bad here in Thailand, the royalist elite rulers of Thailand have a saying that, “If you do not love dad, leave Thailand, because Thailand belongs to dad.”
As ugly as that utterance in Thailand sounds, in Burma, the minorities are now threatened very much the same way-and thus in both Thailand and Burma-if the opposition to the junta, Thai or Burma, does not fall into the military powers-they are or will be called insurgence or terrorist-and dealt with accordingly.
  • Please read the following article from Asian Tribune-and ask yourself of the many similarities between Thailand and Burma-There seems to be an odd “Convergence” going on. For instance, Burma-is putting on a democratic face but the core is a dictator and in Thailand-that is very much the situation-just an appearance of democracy.

  • The following is from the Asian Tribune:
By Zin Linn

The secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has called on Burma’s government to ensure the coming elections help lead to national reconciliation. Surin Pitsuwan hopes Burma’s conflicts with the international community over its human rights record may also be resolved after the vote, according to VOA’s Ron Corben from Bangkok.

When Burma became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian nations in 1997, many countries criticized ASEAN leaders because of Burma’s questionable human rights record.

Burma has suffered under military boots since 1962. The regime has earned a reputation as one of the world’s worst human rights violators. It brutally suppressed pro-democracy movements in 1988, during the Depayin conspiracy on May 30, 2003, and the Saffron Revolution in September 2007, as well as many other sporadic crackdowns.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said on 13 October that he hopes the elections will offer a chance for national reconciliation and help end Burma’s international isolation.

However, last July, Burma’s ethnic Karen communities and rights groups said Burma’s armed forces stepped up attacks on villages in eastern Karen state, including the torching of several homes forcing hundreds to escape into the jungles. Rights groups fear the attacks may be the start of a campaign ahead of upcoming elections this year.

The military forces later torched the villages forcing more than 900 people to flee into the nearby jungles. Zipporah Sein, general-secretary of the Karen National Union, fears the attacks are part of a new campaign of intimidation by the military ahead of national elections scheduled for later this year, as reported by VOA last July.

The junta has arrested over 2,200 political dissidents, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been confined to her residence for 15 of the last 21 years. The secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has called on Burma’s junta to guarantee the coming polls help lead to national reconciliation. However, dreaming of reconciliation without releasing political prisoners is building castles in the air.

Burma has even created disagreement within ASEAN, because some members, such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, have hard-pressed the military regime for political change. Other members, particularly Laos and Cambodia, are different.

After years of pressure, Burma is holding elections on November 7, the first time in 20 years.

“Myanmar has been a major issue for ASEAN in its cooperation, interaction with the global community,” Surin said. “We would like to see this issue behind us. And the only way that that can be done is to make sure that this election is going to be a relatively effective mechanism for national reconciliation.”

Coincidentally, a landmine blasted in Kachin State on 13 October, leaving two dead and one wounded. Five villagers from Pinkyaing Village, Pinball Village-tract Mogaung Township stepped on a mine planted by KIA insurgents while climbing Nwalabo, the New Light of Myanmar said today.

Two who hunt animals were killed and one was injured in the blast which occurred 10 miles en route for the west of their village. The injured was then sent to Pinbaw Station Hospital for medical treatment.

From 1st January to 14th October, 11 men and three women, altogether 14 have fallen to victims of mine attacks by insurgents across the nation. Figures also show that 52 men and seven women; altogether 59 were injured in the mine blasts according to the New Light of Myanmar.

This is the first time that the junta has used the term “insurgent” to describe the ethnic Kachin Independence Army since the group signed a cease-fire agreement with the junta in 1994 that ended a decades-long struggle against the government for autonomy. Using the term “insurgent”is not a good sign.

Tensions between the Burma Army and ceasefire groups, the UWSA, Kachin Independence Army (KIA), SSA ‘North’ and the NDAA have soared after the junta’s latest deadline for the groups to disarm expired on September 1. Both sides have been reinforcing their troops on heightened alert after none of them accepted the junta’s plan.

The Burmese Junta’s radio and television said the Union Election Commission had decided that the election in a number of townships in five states would not be free and fair.

On 16 September, the UEC announced that the elections will not be held in some areas in Kayin State, Kachin State, Kayah State, Shan State and Mon State as they are in no position to host free and fair elections in the Multiparty Democracy General Elections to be held on 7 November 2010. The announcements did not clarify how many constituencies have been removed from the election.

The states are home to armed ethnic groups, which defend against the Burmese junta‘s attempts to assimilate them into a border guard force. Hence, several ethnic leaders asserted that they don’t have faith in the planned 2010 election where they could have little space. For, it will not create a real peaceful federal union as the Burmese armed-forces take not only 25 percent of all seats but also seize additional 50 percent via junta-backed party in the upcoming parliaments as set by the 2008 Constitution.

The junta’s planned election setting can be seen evidently as a wonderful structure of grabbing power incessantly. Persons may be changeable but military dictatorship will hold on power for many more decades.

Recently, incidents between the Burmese Army and ceasefire groups, the UWSA, Kachin Independence Army (KIA), SSA ‘North’ and the NDAA, have increased after the junta’s latest deadline for the groups to disarm expired on September 1. Both sides have been reinforcing their troops who are on heightened alert with none accepting the junta’s demand.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) said that the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has had “basic discussions” with Beijing over the contours of a “genuine union” within Burma in which the ethnic groups would have autonomy, possibly similar to the Special Administrative Regions in China¬Hong Kong and Macao.

However, many critics are skeptical, saying the regime has made promises of reconciliation in the past without honoring them. Kraisak Choonhavan, president of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), said the junta has often stated that it would respect democratic values, but has constantly refused to let its opponents participate freely in the political process.

Analysts say the 2008 Constitution and the junta’s unyielding adherence to its seven-step roadmap in the direction of the 2010 elections will create a highly unstable political climate. Without an agreement on national reconciliation, the elections will only lead to further political mayhem.

The Burmese Generals’ intentions are clearly visible. Their practices are rooted in disrespect for human rights. Political prisoners, who stand on principle, including Aung San Suu Kyi, are not likely to be released before November polls.

Moreover, Burma’s junta said any group failing to surrender by the deadline will automatically become an unlawful association. The nation seems to be tumbled into a horrified tragedy due to negligence of national reconciliation and ethnic self-determination aftermath of the planned polls.

Although, Mr. Surin Pitsuwan would like to see national reconciliation in Burma after November elections, the down-to-earth circumstances will not let his dream to come true.